Oprah Time: The Strength of the Wolf by Douglas Valentine

I chose The Strength of the Wolf as I needed a good paperback to read as I travelled back to Liverpool. It seemed strangely appropriate that I read a book about narcotics travelling there; given that Liverpool’s recent history and cultural renaissance has been intertwined with its association as the UK’s narcotic equivalent of the Square Mile. Characters like Curtis Warren as it’s big swinging dicks as Liars Poker author Michael Lewis would have called them.

The premise of The Strength of the Wolf by Douglas Valentine is that the US and other foreign governments have had their fingers in the drug trafficking pie for hundreds of years.

Indeed Great Britain fought two wars over the opium trade. However, this is thought to be history.

The US as the 20th century empire ‘ruler’ is alleged to have carried on the practice supporting Chinese nationalists running heroin through the golden triangle, right-wing military figures in South America, friendly factions in the Middle East to smuggle opium to the French Connection and allowing the mafia a degree of freedom in return for using their supply.

Valentine also describes how drugs were used as a way of controlling minorities and how politically-motivated drugs laws fanned demand in the US rather than choking it off.

These allegations are made as Valentine tells the story of the FBN (the federal bureau of narcotics), its successes, it’s failures and its politics. How officers trod the line between doing their job, whilst not upsetting the establishment players who most benefited from the drug trade that they combated.

The book covers the inner real politik that tore the FBN apart and the global narcotics market as it evolved from the early 20th century.

Valentine eventually decides to pursue so many leads from Jack Ruby’s involvement with drugs, the CIA and narcotics business associates link with the Kennedy assassination (which sounds only slightly more credible than the Warren Commission finding that Oswald did it on his own with an Italian carbine), DeGaulle’s link with Corsican criminals to fund French intelligence work and Mossad’s alleged involvement with money launderers and Lebanese narco power-brokers.

At times these allegations and avenues come out like a stream of consciousness and the thread of the plot leaps around like an epileptic break dancer. Whilst Valentine has obviously done a very thorough and comprehensive job in researching the book, it seems that he had too much material to work with in too little time.

The book becomes hard to follow because of the huge amount of information and cross-linkages that it tries to convey and not exactly ideal reading material for travelling.

I stuck with the book, not because of the drugs and intelligence drama, but the more human tale of how the agents careers were created and trashed like failed drafts being thrown in the paper basket. The book on balance, deserves the plaudits that have been heaped upon it, but who will recognise the achievements of the reader who pushes through to the end?

Big in Japan

Why do the Japanese get all the coolest stuff?As part of a collaboration with Italian designer Neroli, Stussy have released a Stussy-branded messenger bag made by Porter. Porter are the luggage manufacturer of choice for Tyler Brule so its damn cool whichever way that you come at it.

More in Japanese here.

Links for 2006-11-26 [My Web 2.0]

Family Music – interesting new service

SEO for SMEs

Feels like Siberia

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I have come home to Birkenhead just across the Mersey from Liverpool. I have found it hard to find a decent cup of coffee and a wifi hotspot. In fact I have had to go down the M53 to find a Starbucks at a large retail park in Ellesmere Port.Connectivity is 5GBP for 60 minutes, which reminds me of the old cyber cafe near James Street station that I used to check my emails in nine years ago before moving to London.

Understandably, I won’t be posting again until I get back home, I am still getting email on my phone via a patchy GPRS connection and I am sure that my newsreader will be overflowing by the time I get back online again.

I had a look at 3G data cards, but at the moment they don’t support the ExpressCard socket on the MacBook Pro.

Feels like Siberia.

Links for 2006-11-24 [My Web 2.0]

Kevin Rose Admitting Digg Has Moderators – how very web 1.0 of them, but hopefully it will keep out the spammers and the marketers who don’t pay much attention to the communities that they seek to influence.Newsnight goes UGC