Only the Best People


“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
— Maya Angelou

In a recent poll conducted by Civic Science, 56% of Americans responded “No” when asked if Arabic numerals should be taught in the nation’s schools. Such breathtaking ignorance, as well as presumed bigotry, is enough to make the other 44% of Americans take to alcohol. Algebra would be more difficult without using Arabic numerals, even if there are a lot of letters mixed into the formulas. Substituting Roman numerals would only make the subject more confusing.

Civic Science also asked if the “creation theory of Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre” should be taught in science classes, and 53% said “No”, and of that percentage 73% were Democrats. That theory is actually the basis of the Big Bang theory. While the responses of the majority to both questions point up biases, the two questions do not do it in exactly the same way and therefore the responses are not entirely equivalent.

Arabic Numerals origin
The evolution of Arabic numerals, from top to bottom. Rendering by Vispec.

The key word in the first question is “Arabic”, a term for people living predominantly in North Africa and the Middle East, most of whom are Muslim. By itself, the term describes only an ethnic group. Loading “Arabic” with negative bias is entirely the work of those responding to the term. The wording of the poll question does a good job of not giving anything away to tilt respondents’ attitudes toward the term.

The wording of the other question does not do as good a job since it includes the loaded phrase “creation theory”. It is most likely the case that most respondents had never heard of Georges Lemaitre and his “creation theory”. It is also most likely the case, however, that they had heard the phrase “creation theory” before, a phrase freighted with associations to fundamentalist Christian pseudo-science, even if it was more widely known as “Creationism”.

In as much as the respondents to both questions were reacting with knee jerk tribalism to a word or phrase embedded in each question without really understanding the question, then they are equivalent in their wrong-headedness. In both cases, a more truthful response would have been “Don’t know”, although apparently the poll takers offered only “No opinion” as a third option, a slightly different idea in logic, and not in mere semantics. In that way, both questions tease out the victory of tribalism over knowledge, but it is only the majority responses to the question about “Arabic numerals” that betray bigotry as well as ignorance, much as some might say they are part of the same continuum.

A clip from the “Primacy of Number” section of the 2002 meditative documentary Naqoyqatsi: Life as War. Philip Glass wrote the music, Godfrey Reggio directed the film, and Jon Kane did the editing.

There are a fair amount of assumptions here in parsing the answers to these two deceptively simple polling questions, and assumptions after all play a big part in bigotry. There are also the words of wisdom from the poet Maya Angelou which led this post. We can make educated inferences based on our experience and not have them fall into the well of roiling, unreasoning emotional assumptions and inferences that is bigotry. We can wake up and smell the coffee, as it were, to what only the best people, as they would have us believe they are, are up to in their bad faith quest to subvert the best intentions and best efforts of many, many others to improve human and animal lives and conserve the gifts of the Earth.
— Ed.


The Ginger Kick


There are some cocktails gaining popularity the past few years which get a kick from ginger beer, among them the vodka-based Moscow Mule and the rum-based Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Ginger beer doesn’t deliver its kick by way of alcohol, since nearly all ginger beer available commercially now is non-alcoholic, but from the spiciness of ginger, which is more pronounced in ginger beer than in its tamer cousin, ginger ale. People almost never confuse ginger ale with any kind of alcoholic brew, probably because of their long familiarity with the product. They know it’s just soda pop, the one they often drink to settle their stomach when they’re not well.

"Mush-Fakers" and Ginger-Beer Makers (6795271398)
From Volume 1 of Street Life in London, published in 1877, with photographs by John Thomson and articles by Adolphe Smith. The man on the left is a street vendor peddling ginger beer, among other items. The man on the right is a “mush faker”, or umbrella mender.


Ironically, the ingredients in ginger that people count on for settling their stomach, the gingerols, are present in the most popular ginger ales only in vanishingly small homeopathic quantities. Stronger flavored ginger ales, and especially ginger beers, are more likely to have gingerols in quantities sufficient for an effective dose. Whatever people are gaining by drinking most ginger ales medicinally, they are getting it from some factor other than the amount of actual ginger in the drink. This is a turnabout from where things stood between ginger ale and ginger beer over on hundred years ago.

Up until the late nineteenth century, there was only ginger beer, all of it alcoholic to some extent, and especially popular for centuries in England after that country had secured supplies of ginger, a subtropical plant. When pharmacists started producing soft drinks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ostensibly for the medicinal benefits, one of the first flavors they produced was ginger ale, a toned down version of ginger beer. Ginger ale really took off in popularity during Prohibition, when people naturally drank quite a lot of spirits and they discovered what a wonderful mixer ginger ale made. In the United States at least, ginger beer was all but forgotten.

The Ladies' home journal (1948) (14767191365) (cropped)
A 1948 advertisement for Canada Dry Ginger Ale in The Ladies’ Home Journal. The nightclub scene depicted in the inset emphasizes the popular use of the product as a mixer for cocktails.

Consumers have rediscovered ginger beer in the last ten to twenty years as they have also opened themselves up to alternatives to other mass produced products like the sodas and beers of multi-national corporations. Ginger has also generated interest as an anti-inflammatory home remedy, for treating arthritis and, again, for digestive complaints. The difference now is that many consumers recognize the amount of ginger in the typical mass market ginger ale is not enough to be medicinally worthwhile, homeopaths excepted. This has driven some consumers to the niche market of ginger beers, with their higher amounts of actual ginger, sometimes mixed with other spices, and consequently stronger flavors. Along the way, the drinkers of alcohol among them, unmoved by the lack of alcohol in their newly discovered ginger drink of choice, have found that mixing it in cocktails and punches which would normally call for ginger ale can deliver a more flavorful kick than ginger ale, and maybe a healthier benefit, which if negligible when mixed with alcohol, could perhaps come into play the next day if the drinker is out of sorts.
— Izzy


The Price of Natural


The word “natural” on packaged foods does not mean much anymore since there are no standards to uphold it, unlike the case with “organic” on a label, but one area where consumers have been paying attention and making their preference known over the past 20 years is in the labeling of vanilla extract. A significant enough number of consumers have come to prefer vanilla extracted from real, natural vanilla pods that agribusinesses like Nestlé have switched from synthetic to natural vanilla. Synthetic vanilla is a chemistry laboratory product isolated from compounds in wood pulp or petroleum, and for decades in the latter half of the twentieth century it was the preferred choice of most consumers because it was cheap relative to natural vanilla extract, it’s flavor was at least acceptable, and for the most part consumers were not paying attention and didn’t make a distinction between the synthetically derived product and the natural one.


Food ingredient and nutrition labels provide more information to the consumer now, and more people are becoming label readers. Not all of them may know the provenance of synthetic vanilla extract, but a large segment decided they would prefer the natural stuff, and they voted with their dollars. The result was an increase in demand, something growers, the majority of them in Madagascar, were not prepared for since demand for their product had steadily dwindled for decades and they had cut back production or gotten out of the business altogether. Natural vanilla had always been an expensive spice, typically second only to saffron in price on the world market. Competition from synthetic vanilla producers had depressed prices, however, and combined with the drop in demand many farmers saw little profit in the lean decades.

Vanilla planifolia112686509
Vanilla planifolia flowers. Photo by Michael Doss.

Vanilla plantation in wood dsc00190
Vanilla planifolia vine growing up a tree on a plantation on the island of Réunion, which is east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and is a major producer of natural vanilla. Photo by David Monniaux.

The rather sudden spike in demand for natural vanilla in the past 20 years caused a scramble to reinvest in production, a process which lagged behind demand by as much as five years because of the the time and labor involved in growing and processing marketable vanilla pods. The type of vanilla most popular around the world is Vanilla planifolia, a climbing vine orchid native to Mexico and Central America. Oddly, even though the plant is native to Mexico, and Mexico continues as a big producer of natural vanilla, the place that grows the vanilla most people prefer is Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa. Soil and other environmental factors must play a role in the end result, because while the type of vanilla orchid is the same in both parts of the world, consumers express a definite preference based on variations they can detect in taste. At any rate, Madagascar currently produces up to 80% of the world’s natural vanilla.

Vanilla planifolia needs to grow three or more years before it will flower, and then each flower remains open for only one day, at which time in Madagascar it must be hand pollinated because of the lack of resident animal or insect pollinators. In Mexico, there is a species of bee that tends to the vanilla flowers. After pollination, nearly a year passes before the pods containing the seeds develop, and after that there is washing, sun curing, sorting, and other handling that goes into producing the dried black pods which have the tiny, flavorful seeds that are the ultimate object of all this careful tending. The labor intensiveness of producing natural vanilla, added to the time involved, drives its price up. It would be a mistake, though, to think individual laborers are well-paid for their work on such an expensive agricultural product; as always, it is typically the people in the middle, the traders, who reap the greatest rewards.

Vanille - La Réunion
Dried, cured vanilla pods in a basket on the island of Réunion. Photo by tirados joselito.

A year ago in March, a cyclone made landfall on Madagascar with the force of a category four hurricane. Dozens of people were killed, and it was feared damage to the vanilla crop would worsen the worldwide shortage which had driven prices up to a record $600 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) in 2017. The most recent low point in the price was 2002, when dried vanilla pods sold for $20 per kilogram. That’s the price for the agricultural product, of course, not the price after it has been further processed into the vanilla extract available to consumers at supermarkets. It turned out damage to the vanilla crop in Madagascar was not as bad as commodity brokers originally expected.

The opening of the 1984 David Lynch film Dune, with Virginia Madsen as Princess Irulan.

Still, for individual consumers living in cool climates outside the natural growing range of Vanilla planifolia, hedging against a volatile, expensive world market for natural vanilla, with too many of its bets placed on the crop in one place, Madagascar, hedging against all that by growing this orchid in a pot by a windowsill may be a bit of a stretch, considering the advice of some growers who say the plant needs to grow more than ten feet before it will produce flowers, and even then there’s no guarantee of getting pods that will yield recognizably tasty vanilla seeds. It might be a better bet to buy a lot when the market is low, or in other words, hoard it. Vanilla extract always contains a hefty percentage of alcohol, after all, as people who are apt to sneak a drink now and then have always known, and the alcohol is an excellent, natural preservative.
— Izzy


A Spoonful of Honey


In 1964 when the Walt Disney Studio made Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar may have helped the medicine go down in the most delightful way, but today honey has proven healthier and more effective in treating the symptoms of the common cold. Cough drops made with honey for soothing the throat, and mint or eucalyptus to clear sinuses are popular, as are herbal teas with a spoonful of honey added. Unlike sugar then, honey is a soothing remedy as well as a sweetener.

Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling in 1954.

Vitamin C is for many people another component of fighting off the effects of a cold, despite evidence it has no specific role in the fight. Being otherwise healthy and well nourished, a person with a cold has no need of supplementing their diet with extra vitamin C. Linus Pauling, an American who won two Nobel prizes in the mid twentieth century, the first for chemistry and the second for peace, exerted tremendous influence from the 1960s until his death in 1994 in asserting the value of vitamin C in alleviating cold symptoms or preventing the onset of a cold altogether. Pauling’s influence was so great that he not only boosted sales of vitamin C supplements, but inadvertently set the ball rolling for the entire nutritional supplement industry, resulting in the enormous sales displays at today’s grocery stores and drug stores.

Considering the variety of foods now available year round to consumers in wealthier countries, it’s questionable whether most nutritional supplements are necessary. Many people will nonetheless take a multi-vitamin every day on the grounds that it can’t hurt, as insurance. In addition to the outsized influence wielded by Linus Pauling, it could be that the idea of combating a cold with vitamin C is a holdover from the time when people in colder countries did not have ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter cold and flu season. Poorer people in particular would have seen their health deteriorate in the winter due to poor nutrition and a consequently weakened immune system.

A store vitamin supplement sales display. Photo by Raysonho.

Canja de galinha
A bowl of Canja de galinha, or Portuguese chicken soup. Photo by Flickr user Sebástian Freire.

At such a time, the gift of an orange in a sick person’s Christmas stocking would have been most welcome. As long as the difficulties of transport to the north could be overcome, oranges, one of the few fruits available fresh after November, could supplement diets starved for fresh fruit all winter, not just at Christmas. Oranges are higher in vitamin C than other fruits commonly available in temperate countries, and therefore people might naturally jump to the conclusion that it was the lack of vitamin C, rather than poor nutrition generally, that contributed to susceptibility to colds.

An old remedy for cold symptoms that science has found real value in is chicken soup, due to its chemistry and the healthy effects on the respiratory system of steaming liquid both before and after ingestion. Doctors say liquids in all forms except those containing caffeine or alcohol are a good remedy for a cold. Herbal tea, chicken soup, hot chocolate, all are good. An aspirin or other pain reliever now and then for an adult is okay, but not for infants and toddlers, and aspirin not at all for children under 16. Honey also is not recommended for infants. Meanwhile, all the vitamin supplements in the world, vitamin C included, won’t help unless poor nutrition was a problem before the cold came on. The best way to avoid coming down with a cold in the first place? Good hygiene and healthy eating, including when a cold settles in despite everything. Feed a cold, and feed a fever. Starving never helped anyone overcome anything, unless they called the starving fasting, but then that’s a whole other story.
― Izzy


There Oughta Be a Law*

*Hey, whadya know, there is a law:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne may not know the law, but on July 26 at the University of Utah Hospital he was determined to do the bidding of his watch commander, Lieutenant James Tracy, who also does not know the law (making his order illegal), to draw a blood sample from the unconscious victim of a two vehicle crash so that police could determine whether he was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Payne and Tracy were prevented from violating the constitutional rights of patient William Gray by Head Nurse Alex Wubbels, who informed them that it was against hospital policy, which follows the law, to allow police to draw blood from a patient without the patient’s consent, or without a warrant or the patient being under arrest. Ms. Wubbels’s line of legal reasoning did not set well with Mr. Payne, who grew frustrated with not getting his way and finally gave in to the temptation to abuse his authority by arresting the nurse, roughly slapping handcuffs on her, and frog marching her out to his squad car.

University of Utah Hospital in 2009
University of Utah Hospital in 2009. Photo by University of Utah Health Care.

Nurse Wubbels had to sit in the squad car for twenty minutes while police and hospital administrators sorted everything out, and then the cops let her go free. Ms. Wubbels held a press conference on August 31 with her lawyer, Karra Porter, where she showed portions of the police body camera videos from the July incident. The Salt Lake City police department placed Mr. Payne and another officer, probably Mr. Tracy, though they wouldn’t say, on paid administrative leave the following day. A paid vacation for behaving badly, usual police department internal procedure. Apparently the department hadn’t sought to discipline Mr. Payne at all before August 31, beyond temporarily taking him off the blood draw unit. If Wubbels and Porter hadn’t held their press conference and released the body cam videos, the police department and Payne and Tracy would most likely have gone about business as usual in short order. Now, because of all the stir this incident has belatedly created, they’ll have to wait a little longer. Ms. Wubbels has not yet pressed charges for assault and unlawful arrest.

Detective Payne apparently was claiming the right to draw blood without a warrant from the unconscious Mr. Gray under implied consent law, a police procedure which had been disallowed in Utah since 2007, and primarily used by police to gather evidence in drunk driving cases. Additionally, the Supreme Court of the United States in 2016 rolled back the part of implied consent relating to blood samples as too invasive. Police can still take breathalyzer samples without express consent. Payne and Tracy were either unaware of the change in the law or were so accustomed to rolling over hospital staff that the situation of a nurse challenging their authority had never presented itself to them before. In either case, the cops were in the wrong, making Detective Payne’s reaction even more outrageous.

A scene from the early 1960s television series Car 54, Where Are You? The dim witted Officer Gunther Toody, played by Joe E. Ross, is unimpressed by the discussion of high culture between his partner, Officer Francis Muldoon, played by Fred Gwynne, and the ride along cop in the back seat.

As a case of police brutality and abuse of authority this is small potatoes compared to what police perpetrate elsewhere around the country every day and without accountability. What makes this case notable is firstly the video evidence from the cops themselves, and secondly how the obtuseness of Mr. Payne leads him to escalate to violence what should have been a simple administrative procedure. Would it be too far fetched to ask that law enforcement officers know and understand the law? Is it too much to ask that they behave with adult restraint when they don’t always get their way? Who will ultimately pay the price for Mr. Payne’s ignorance and unwarranted belligerence other than the citizens and taxpayers of Salt Lake City?

Most likely he won’t have to pay a price, considering the way police are not held personally accountable. He may even get away with pleading ignorance of the law, an excuse the Supreme Court has recently ruled can be valid for police, even though anyone else who claimed ignorance would get laughed out of court. That’s why cops like Mr. Payne behave the way they do, because at the back of their minds they know they will get away with it. His accomplice in ignorance, Lieutenant Tracy, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia College of Missouri, and he is currently studying to earn a master’s degree in the same subject from the same school. Payne himself attended college at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where he became certified as an emergency medical technician. Maybe these schools are diploma mills, or maybe Payne and Tracy are uneducable beyond passing tests necessary to jump career hoops.

Near the end of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Frank Morgan as The Wizard grants a diploma to The Scarecrow, played by Ray Bolger, while the other members of the adventure look on. Despite his newfound brainpower, The Scarecrow still recites a famous mathematics theorem incorrectly.

Or they could just be stupid. Mr. Payne also works as an emergency medical technician for Gold Cross Ambulance. In one part of the video from Mr. Payne’s body cam, he is chatting amicably with other officers, apparently unconcerned over how his bullying has made Ms. Wubbels distraught as she sits in the police cruiser several feet away, and he remarks “I wonder how this will affect my Gold Cross job. I bring patients here.” And another officer says “Yeah, I don’t think they’re [who? the hospital staff? Gold Cross? probably both] going to be very happy with it.” Mr. Payne then declares “I’ll bring them all the transients and take good patients elsewhere.” There’s a 2012 nonfiction book by the philosopher Aaron James that Mr. Payne could read in order to further his studies and perhaps gain some insights into himself, and it’s called Assholes: A Theory.
― Ed.


Please Leave It at the Door

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

― Excerpt from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887). This is the poem inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.


Summertime is here in the United States, regardless of the timing astronomers would like to impose on it with their solstices and equinoxes. For many of us, summer starts with Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. And for many of us, hot summer weather has us searching for a cooling alcoholic refresher that is light and may even have some beneficial vitamin C floating in it. Sangria!


Sangria is not a kind of wine, though one may get that impression from some bottled varieties at the grocery store. Sangria is in fact a wine punch, and that is what is packaged in the bottles. Most people prefer to make up their own Sangria by combining ingredients from the wine aisle at the grocery store, the produce section (especially citrus), and possibly the soda aisle. Some will make a side trip to the liquor store for brandy, cognac, or other spirits to add depth and punch to their Sangria. The possibilities with Sangria are enormous, and in summertime it seems the rules relax for a lot of things in life. Make a batch that suits you and keep it chilling in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
Ambersweet oranges
‘Ambersweet’ oranges, Citrus sinensis, a new cold-resistant variety; photo by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
There are some problems here that you should be aware of in our times of racial purity, and you would do well to take note of them. Let’s take the last item first – refrigeration. You are probably okay there because while no single person can be acclaimed as the inventor of refrigeration, the numerous contributors all appear to have either Anglo-Saxon or Germanic heritage. So far, so good.

Looking at the liquor store offerings, we get into murkier territory. To begin with, alcohol as a word originates from Arabic, which is strange considering the Islamic prohibition of alcohol. Next, brandy and cognac come from France, so no good there considering the Frenchies reluctance to back us in our military adventures. Unlike the British, the snooty French ask too many uppity questions. If you want to spike your Sangria, stick with Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Mash, or maybe some backwoods Moonshine.

You ought to be okay with soda, but be careful of things like Canada Dry ginger ale and some of the Mexican sodas which are produced with Caribbean sugar cane instead of good old American high fructose corn syrup squeezed from – what else- corn, also known as maize. The Indians introduced us to maize, but let’s not get into all that. We have done them one better at least by introducing Roundup-ready corn into the food supply.

The citrus fruits you may want to include in your Sangria, well now there’s a puzzler. Oranges, while they are currently grown in Florida or California, originated in southern China or southeastern Asia. That’s a thorny problem. The same goes for lemons and limes, which also originated in the same area of the world populated by little yellow and brown people speaking gibberish, possibly anti-American.

If you are to remain racially pure then, there’s not much you can do with Sangria, regardless of the multitude of recipes available. Now we come to the base of the Sangria, which is by definition some sort of Spanish or Portuguese wine. Using anything else, like German wine, would not really be Sangria, at least not in spirit (so to speak). But while the Spanish are pure bred, unlike the Mexicans who are mostly an unholy mix of Spanish and Indian known as Mestizo, with their short stature, brown skin, and Otherness, the Spanish are still not entirely with us. They used to be better, when Generalissimo Francisco Franco was in charge. But since then, not so much. Their wines for Sangria are therefore suspect. Take that under advisement.

The amount of varieties out there serves no other purpose than to test your mettle. It’s hot. You’re sweaty after a long day outdoors. Sangria in its multitude of varieties generously contributed from around the world is not for you. If you were to enjoy it all, you would have to ask that the little brown and yellow skinned peoples leave it at your door, and then scuttle away quietly before the neighbors noticed. Maybe cold lager beer from central Europe is the answer to your summer sweats, if only it weren’t for the fact it’s history can be traced back to beginnings in the Middle East. Those devilish Wogs, at it again!
― Izzy


As High as an Elephant’s Eye

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow.
There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow.
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,
And it looks like it’s climbing right up to the sky.


Oh, what a beautiful morning!
Oh, what a beautiful day!
I’ve got a beautiful feeling
Every thing’s going my way!

― Excerpt from “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma!; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

The hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, has had a tortured history over the past hundred years on account of its close relative, also Cannabis sativa, but more commonly known as marijuana. The variety grown as hemp and renowned throughout history over several continents for its practical uses has a vanishingly small tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of less than 1%, while the variety grown for its psychoactive properties has a THC content over 20%. Smoking hemp would induce a headache rather than relieve one. Why then has hemp been demonized along with its fun-loving and meditative relative?

Like the shreds of fiber running through a stalk of hemp itself, the story has many strands, and they are all entwined within the Cannabis sativa plant as a whole. In the early twentieth century, Mexicans fleeing the chaos of revolution in their country came to the United States in large numbers and brought their recreational and medicinal use of marijuana (their term) with them. Americans had long grown hemp, but they had little interest in its higher THC relative. Americans evidently preferred liquid spirits. The influx of Mexican immigrants with their loco weed coincided with the push toward prohibition of alcohol which culminated in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919.

Americans who were now prohibited alcohol could not be allowed to turn to marijuana for relief, particularly considering its association with poor brown-skinned people and, increasingly, poor black-skinned ones. The demonization began in the southwestern and southern states in the 1920s and spread to the rest of the country by the early 1930s. Government agents would have too much difficulty discerning innocent hemp in the field from devil weed, and therefore it was all to be outlawed. Farmers who still wished to grow hemp had to apply for a license from the government and submit to oversight and red tape. Fewer and fewer farmers wished to put up with the hassle from the 1930s on until, after a brief blip of government encouragement during World War II, no one was growing hemp in this country after about 1956.

Hemp for Victory, a 1942 short film from the United States Department of Agriculture.


There are also possibly self-serving culprits in the demonization of marijuana among the powerful of the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, among them William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, and the DuPont family. Hemp, a useful and unglamorous plant with no psychoactive properties, was difficult to demonize. It’s smoky Jazz Age relative, on the other hand, lent itself more easily to demonization, and then hemp, the real target of powerful business competitors, was more easily tossed by them onto the smoldering pyre of public condemnation as a matter of guilt by association.
Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947) 2
Shemp Howard, in the middle, receives an ironing board rebuke from Moe Howard, on the left, while Larry Fine looks on in Sing a Song of Six Pants, a Three Stooges short from 1947. Shemp should not be confused with hemp, nor with Joe Palma, also known as “Fake Shemp” after he doubled for Shemp following the famous comedian’s untimely demise.
The lowest point was reached in the 1970s and 1980s with the designation of marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the creation of the self-perpetuating Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) a few years later, and in the 1980s the introduction of draconian mandatory, minimum sentencing laws with the promise and encouragement of zealous enforcement by the administration of President Ronald Reagan. The prisons, many of them now privately operated for profit, have been bursting at the seams ever since, mostly with the grandchildren of those poor brown or black people we discussed earlier, a lot of them busted for minor drug offenses. How do you control a population? Start with their customs and particularly target what you can portray as their vices. Have a stiff alcoholic drink then and consider whether your profitable – and even patriotic – plan to grow some useful hemp is worth your while to hassle with the DEA, the ultimate overseer, state laws tendering you encouragement notwithstanding.
― Izzy