WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Here’s an interesting tidbit of historical knowledge for you: America’s first “Drug Czar” was a guy named Harry J. Anslinger. He was the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics and held that post for an incredible 32 years. Prior to that post, he was deeply involved with the Department of Prohibition, those fun-loving guys responsible for smashing every bottle of bourbon in the country. During America’s brief flirtation with alcohol prohibition, Anslinger dismissed marijuana as a harmless weed, not a problem, harmless, and felt it was absolutely absurd that it caused violence in people. After the U.S. came to its senses and repealed prohibition in favor of getting drunk on the weekends, Anslinger saw his role in the Federal Government might be creeping to a close and did a quick 180 on the chronic. At the time, marijuana was largely the purvue of poorer classes and immigrants, so it was a relatively easy sell to say, “Marijuana users are getting high and raping white women.” Banning it largely impacted people who no one in charge cared about. It was the perfect bogey man. If you wonder why you can’t do a little wake and bake without the Feds busting down your door, you can thank Mr. Anslinger for his tireless devotion to keeping himself relevant and his career afloat by going after weed like it was slashing tires and knocking up little girls.

Another fun fact: In 2017, 1,394,514 people were arrested on various posession charges. Meaning they weren’t trafficking the stuff, just carrying. Not all were incarcerated for posession, but plenty were. All of them now have a record for violating federal narcotics laws, which means jobs can be trickier to come by. This, of course, means people have to settle for lower-paying jobs or no jobs at all. As a result poverty goes up, bringing its good buddy crime along with it. Now, you can conflate Mary Jane with poverty and crime and you’ve got a nice spiral of destruction going on. We won’t even bring up the amount of money the private prison system brings in by incarcerating people for getting stoned and listening to Pink Floyd. Money talks, cages lock. And all because Harry J. Anslinger didn’t feel like getting another job.

Of course, the recent trend – started by Colorado, which is frankly making a killing in taxing weed – is for states to start effectively decriminalizing weed. Thirty three states have effectively said they don’t care: Toke up. The Federal Government has not followed that trend, but it’s probably only a matter of time. So what about the people who got popped before the changes in the laws went into effect? Well, some of them are still in prison and most of them still have a criminal record for carrying a few joints. But all isn’t lost, states and private companies are working together to start puring criminal records for low-level posession crimes. To the tune of possibly hundreds of thousands of convictions being overturned. Cook County in Illinois, for example, is looking at expunging tens of thousands of convictions automatically. And that’s one county.

Now, all this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m saying go get baked or even that I’m planning on getting baked, I’m just saying we tried the exact thing with prohibition and it was a miserable failure. In fact, it could be argued that prohibition alone gave rise to the power of the Italian Mafia just like the war on drugs is giving power to a bunch of Mexican cartels. Too many people have been caught up in Mr. Anslinger’s desperate need to keep his job. Fortunately, that’s looking like it could finally be corrected. Without wasting time on weed, it frees the country up to deal with bigger problems like meth, crack, and opioids.

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Our lovely and talented co-hosts this month are
Susan Scott, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Mary J. Giese and Damyanti Biswas/a>.


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And now your moment of Zen

Dream Big, Sucka

Fun fact: The number one fear in America isn’t death, it’s public speaking.
Back when I was in college I competed on the Speech and Debate circuit. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t a non-stop orgy. Rather, the circuit consisted of some fun and odd people who were just really good at speaking in public. My takeaway from the experience – other than a truckload of trophies – was a complete lack of fear about public speaking, an ability to analyze my audience on the fly, and the ability to think on my feet.
All that experience and a Master’s Degree in Speech Communication with an emphasis in rhetoric and persuasion led me neatly into my career as a programmer.
Anyway, part of competition was judging the state high school speech tournament that was alway held at my college because reasons. Some performances were great, some were abysmal, most were middle of road and fully expected for a bunch of kids that are trying to learn the art. No matter who it was or what they were talking about, I always had to give props to people who were not only willing to ignore their innate fear of public speaking, but to kick its ass and leave it bleeding in alley somewhere. Most performances blend into the background, there were a lot of speeches about banning nuclear weapons or how censorship is bad or the unreported number of people who are maimed or killed by farm equipment every year. I even saw a speech about how we need to change the metal used in keys because people chewing on their keys can get metal poisoning from them. It literally affects five or six people a year. Bad speech, good presentation.
But one of the speeches that stands out in my head was a young woman from some New Mexico high school who wrote a speech on why we should have easy-to-achieve dreams. Her general gist was it made life more interesting when you dream small because then you can achieve those dreams easily.

Interestingly enough, I see a lot of the same philosophy coming out of the indie writing community. We’ve all seen the person who says they’re happy if a handful of people read and enjoy their books and that’s enough of a dream for them.

I write about a book a year. I know it looks like I haven’t written anything in a few years, but that’s just because I’ve got one going through publication and another I’m editing. My average still hits right around a book a year, you’re just going to have to wait until next year to read the new one. A year doesn’t seem all that long, but it takes hundreds of hours to pull a book together, write it, edit it, leave it alone for a while, edit it again, get it read, edit it again, format it, edit it again, and get it out to publishers. After all that work, would you be happy with having a few people read and enjoy it? Of course not. I want the world to read it and enjoy. Preferably multiple worlds. That’s my dream. Having a handful of people read and enjoy something I wrote is great, don’t get me wrong, but having that as your dream is like setting a goal of getting the dishes into the sink every night.
So this is a little shout out to the indie writing community. Y’all are awesome. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Imagine the thrill of writing that best-selling novel instead of the thrill of just getting the dishes done. And don’t tell me it can’t be done or there’s too much competition or piracy or whatever. Quit looking for reasons why you can’t and start looking for reasons why you can.

Dreams are meant to be big. They’re meant to be grandiose and amazing. They’re the things we strive for and, if they’re important enough to us, the things we find a way to make happen. Don’t fret about chewing on keys and don’t waste your time with tiny dreams of getting to work on time or getting a raise or a better house. Dream of your work being you and your book. Dream of owning a drug-dealer-esque mansion filled with samurai armor and a pool with a swim-up bar in your living room. Go nuts. Then find a way to make it happen and instead of this:

You’ll have this:

Now go do it.