Category Archives: Science and Technology

On the road


 

Kickstarter update on the road away from prohibition.

This is an account of a one-day side-trip on the road in pursuit of the “Tales of Mary Jane”. Every day of that year-ending five-weeks was as interesting and satisfactory as (I hope you will agree) this one.

The first four chapters of the book have been distributed to the backers, and I’m polishing chapter 5 for posting soon.

Here’s to 2015 being better for you, and more productive for me.

Sincere best wishes,
Jack Large

PS to backers of either or both of my Kickstarter projects: Forgive the appearance of multiple identical updates, if you will. It takes a lot less time to apologize in advance than it does to forestall it when your tech skills are as sketchy as mine.

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Prohibition of Marijuana


The Korea Times “report” that triggered this letter is poorly written and a waste of your time. but you can track it down if you want to see why I felt I had to respond.

Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition


A year ago, I took my first step into the world of crowd funding. A success, the backing I received enabled me to present a collection of photographs I took while living in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as a gift to the Seattle Public Library. In return for their help, I promised backers a “reward” in the form of a book with information about the images in the collection, including a narrative about the period (1966-’68), places, people and cultural context portrayed.

Today, minutes ago, I launched a second appeal titled, “Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition”. The campaign will run for 14 days. The money goal is modest, far less than will be required to produce the best quality outcome. I may be over-optimistic in thinking the project will capture the interest of anyone who marvels, as I still do from afar, that states of Washington and Colorado (two of my favorites), have legalized recreational use of marijuana since I launched the first campaign.

This is significant because it shapes my perspective on the first Kickstarter effort (“KS1”). Some, a few dozen, of the images in the slide collection show people engaged in various activities associated with casual or habitual use of marijuana. Because this was a criminal activity then (and in most places still is today) the photographs, like the drugs, might have been considered contraband, or at the very least, evidence to support prosecution and, upon conviction, incarceration if we had been so careless as to be caught, as many have been, and are still.

In writing the story of the slide show while poring over the pages of slides in the collection for the purpose of tagging and logging them before sending them on to Seattle, a small but prominent group of images expanded in my mind. They are shots of the small children whose parents were the adults shown smoking pot. The adults were a light-hearted group then and now, and the photos suggest nothing sinister or fear inducing, contrary to the expectations of what at the time was called “straight society”, before the more explicitly sexual connotation attached to the phrase.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned more and more to those children. I wondered, what became of them? A few of them, I know today. For the most part, they grew strong, intelligent, worldly, capable, even accomplished citizens. To all appearances, they were wholly unimpaired by the conditions of their childhood. I can’t say, nor do I have any basis to speculate, what has been the fate of the others. The questions that have grown in my consciousness while writint of them are intensified by not knowing.

Is it possible to predict the mindset of one who grows up gradually more aware that those closest are, crudely put, habitual criminals? How does such knowledge shape one’s interaction with the contrastive world beyond the front door of the family home? Does it influence their choice of friends? Does it make them more or less likely to indulge in a subculture of marijuana use or other proscribed behavior themselves? Are they more sophisticated about the whole range of substances and their abuse? Do they form coteries of peer support outside the traditional systems in their communities.

I intend to gather and tell these “Tales of Mary Jane”. I will find these possessors of unique insight, elicit their stories, and share the stories with a world several generations behind them in its awareness of what, although illegal, has been pervasive. All those having deep familiarity with marijuana and its use, and effects on users are in a position to help inform those who lack it.

A majority of US citizens now agree that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. I will present the evidence I find for and against that conclusion, through the personal narratives and detailed accomplishments of those who understand the much-maligned herb better than can any other, in their way: the children of prohibition. I will need all the help I can get, to do it justice, and justice is really what it’s all about.

Cannabis is coming; can Korea catch the wave?


Korean national policy regarding the legal status of marijuana as, alternately, an intoxicant and a medication, and their future role in Korean agricultural economy, must undergo change in the near future. Legal recreational use of marijuana in the US states of Washington and Colorado is a done deal, and although attempts to roll it back continue, they appear less likely to succeed with each scintillating report of growing profits and tax yields from sales.
Simply put, the combination of growing interest in utilitarian products made of hemp fiber, and the combination of recreational and medical consumption of an ever-widening range of cannabinol (get you high drug) and cannabidiol (relieves your ailment with no high) drug products has become so robust that when the movement is fully developed, it will transform every society that embraces it.
What is Korea to do, then? The nation bought into the false picture painted by US demonizers of the plant, and lodged marijuana with those natural and pharmaceutical drug substances like opium and amphetamine and their derivatives. Once so grouped, strong legal penalties for use, and the promulgation of cultural taboos such as attach to any forbidden item, were made strong, sweeping and draconian.
Why all this fuss over a plant that over decades of prohibition, despite collecting millions of enthusiastic users, has yet to be blamed directly for the death of a single person? Compare this to the same statistic for alcohol or tobacco and any reasonable person should get a glimpse of marijuana’s future (and explanation of its past) now the facts about it become more widely known.
It’s understandable that, where so much official and press puffery and bombast have been launched against marijuana since its criminalization was urged upon other nations by the US, no Korean policymaker is likely to be the first to come forward and say, “Look, we need to talk about this.” One’s political game is motivated by the urgency of getting reelected. Giving one’s opponents ammunition, in the form of support for changes in Korean anti-drug laws, even if convinced of the wisdom of it, might still cost one the office.
Unless a public movement builds in support of public discussion about the legal status of a common plant that should never have been banned in the first place, Korea stands to miss a golden opportunity to expand its agricultural and medical sectors, and to gain a step on the inevitable global economic movement that will result from the decriminalization of cannabis. It’s economic potential is a big part of what lies at the heart of opposition to it from alcoholic beverage and pharmaceuticals industries. There is no question that legal weed will shrink their bottom lines, and that will be a good thing.
The point of origin for pressure on the Korean political community to do this is the agricultural sector. Even if marijuana continues to be banned for use by Koreans, farmers should be permitted and encouraged to start the process of creating a grow-for-export sector, with strong support for research and development. If we work openly to ensure that Korea becomes one of the earliest advanced producers of top-quality cannabis products, especially medical cannabidiol, and a robust medical research program to go with it, Koreans will benefit economically. There’s no reason for Korea to be left behind. All it will take is the political courage to kick it off.

RIP Whitney Houston


I was already thinking about the death of this tragic young woman  when a Facebook friend posted  the ABC News report of it to me. It had come up on Talking Points Memo when I had launched it minutes earlier. I responded (to the friend) with a complaint against ABC News, that had included in the first line of their report that Houston’s was a career ravaged by drugs. My vehemence rather startled my friend, and I felt a need to clarify to her, and now to the reader, that my discomfort with the whole topic had nothing to do with her, or the appearance of the report on my “Wall”.

What I meant to say was that Whitney Houston’s career, and her talent, were brilliant with or without the drugs.  I understand drugs and drug use about as well as a person can and still be alive. I can think of only three purposes that justify the use of drugs: fun, medicine and self-knowledge. Too much use, regardless of which rationale is operating, produces negative (undesirable) effects that range from defeating the purpose of use, to user fatality. Millions have died as a result of our societies’ sending us, from the time we are old enough to pay attention, a barrage of mixed, hence unreliable, messages about substances available for us to ingest, licit or illicit.

We’re told these substances will make us well, sick, tired, energetic, happy, sad, hungry, appetite-less, ad nauseam. They will make our lives better, or at least endurable. We’ve all been living down this rabbit hole to which “authority” has relocated us for so long that we don’t know up from down any more, when it comes to substances we are offered for consumption. We know marketing well enough to wisely ignore most of the claims it trumpets, if we have more than half-a-wit.

So we trust those closest to us. “This drug hasn’t killed me. I feel great. Have some. Here’s a beer to wash it down” Once it has become a way of life, it’s very hard to change it, because to do so, we would have to push away  the enablers in our life if we if we are to succeed at change. Few of us are ready to let our people go, even if it means saving our lives.

ABC News and the rest piss me off because, top to bottom, they lack either the will or the intellect or the fortitude, or any combination thereof,  to dig deeply enough into our behavior, what’s behind it and what it does to us, to produce the kind of evidence that would empower people to demand change, and see it through to a day when real change has healed our ailing civic bodies.

Every one of these stupid, unnecessary deaths of young people, be they as dull as most, or as brilliant as Whitney Houston, might have been helped,  if what was killing them hadn’t been criminalized, putting it beyond the perimeter of intelligent, sympathetic scrutiny by ABC News and their ilk. Now, like carrion-eaters,  they return to feast on Whitney Houston’s sad remains and to capitalize on her tragedy by “reporting” it in a moralistic tone.

Dogpatch Spy Provocateur: An American Original


There are so many holes in this story, it’s hard to know where to push in the probes. It began, the public part, with an incident Jan. 27, in Lahore, as reported in the New York Times.  An American driver stopped at an intersection, suspected two men on a scooter of being armed, and firing “through his windshield” with a Glock 9mm, killed both. He then emerged from his vehicle to photograph the corpses with his digital camera. Soon afterward, he was arrested by Pakistani police. A search and preliminary interrogation turned up a lot of suspicious gear and eyebrow raising documentation, setting in motion a chain of shadowy exchanges between US and Pakistani officials, and the New York Times.

Meet Raymond Davis, identified as the American at the center of this brewing storm in relations between the two countries, and a figure so enigmatic at this point that one is hard-pressed to think of his equal in international spy fiction. An International (Express) Tribune story has identified him as either a CIA spook, or a US State Department adjunct working out of Lahore, Pakistan. He certainly looks like the sort we became so uncomfortably familiar with in the bad old days before  Blackwater, forced by a growing number of incidents eerily similar in type to the present one, rose Phoenix-like from its own ashes, reincarnated as Xe (pronounced “Kaiser Seozay”).

What is wrong with this picture?
What is wrong with this picture?

David Lindorf, writing on the growing debacle in Truthout,makes it very clear that, although the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post were all slow to seize on this story, perhaps due to pressure from the Obama administration, the story is so far out ahead of the traditional news outlets that, whatever damage it has the potential to do US-Pakistani relations is unlikely to be mitigated anytime before a lot more damage-causing information, and possibly disinformation, has been revealed.

Raymond Davis seems a most unlikely choice to be out in front of the kind of covert shenanigans he is being accused of perpetrating in behalf of whoever his shadowy masters are. At first glance, he seems utterly lacking in either the formal education or cross-cultural sophistication, to pull off anything nearly so tricky. And that is precisely why the story, focusing as it does on dueling spy agencies carrying out leftover missions from the W Bush era, seems so abjectly plausible. Stay tuned. This story is going to get a lot uglier before it goes away.

The Best of the Billionaires


Since I put the idea out there for them to embrace with the alacrity and verve we find so appealing in them, America’s billionaires have been slow to recognize the real opportunity my plan represents. This is hard to explain. After all, who’s better known for seizing an opportunity to become even more financially rotund than the commercial behemoths produced by the US system of trickle down, Hoover up freemarket capitalism.

The plan in a nutshell, you may remember, is a unique combination of reality TV and game show, with an American Idol twist. It starts with a move every billionaire can get behind, and divides up the planet between a number of the most competitive billionaires (weaklings under $2bn net worth need not apply.) Each billionaire is allowed to compete with up to one billion of his or her own money, and whatever profits are gained from their enterprise in the competition are theirs to keep, after all expenses have been settled.

Every day brings new ideas and insights to the scheme, and today’s come from the sale of the Shine Group, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, to the mogul himself, price tag: $672 million. The old fellow wants the company, we are told, because of all the great things it’s goint to add to the content-creation arm of his behemoth media empire. He may envision improvements to his FOX Broadcasting unit, where the need for help with quality content is sorely needed, if we can’t believe what we’re hearing and seeing there, and it seems we can’t. Good luck with that.

So here it is, Ms Murdoch, here is the gem that will help ensure that the new Shine on the Murdoch fortunes is real, and not just a reflection of the stage lights on Dad’s ego. Pick up the option on this program and produce an instant hit. I say start with the 50 states and give one each to a billionaire with no current financial holdings in that state. Charge them with building a team of idea people, researchers, managers and engineers, and public relations and marketing people who are presently unemployed in that state. Start by landing one or more of the many unemployed human resources professionals wandering around looking dazed and confused and go from there.

All they have to do to get started is to verify that they have placed $US one billion in escrow for the project, and the game is on. Round up the local media teams to keep an eye (and a camera) on their their every move, as they begin to shape a new industry for the state, or to improve its existing resources to a level of fiscal productiveness. Make sure they all get exactly the same breaks, in terms of obeying the local laws. Air weekly or even daily reports on the action, answering questions on the minds of local viewers: Who’re the players? What’s the action?; How much is being spent, and on what?

Empanel a group of experts to evaluate the moguls’ projects in terms of whose ideas are generating the most good for the most citizens of each’s respective state. Finally, set up a method, a la American Idol, where the citizens can make their own opinions count, in terms of how they are receiving that which is being put in place for them. Use an algorithm combining the findings of the panel with the votes of the public to allot a number of points per week to each player. The billionaire with the most points for the week is the “Best Billionaire”.

I’m looking your way, Ms Murdoch, for the same reason I first offered the idea to Donald Trump. I figured he’d jump at the chance to do it, and earned a well-deserved Nobel, thus putting him a giant step closer to the US Presidency that he feels so uniquely qualified for. He’s ignoring me, possibly because it’s easier to just keep building projects that shave money off those of his own class. Who can say?

I reckon that, if you know anything at all, Ms Murdoch, you must know media. I think you will see the merits in this plan, if your imagination is as good as we imagine. This project has the potential to produce more media revenue in the first year alone, than Diddums is forking over for your Shine Group. Here’s your chance to build another one, even bigger and better, and in less time, without even breaking a sweat. Call it Spit Shine. Call it whatever you want, once it’s yours. Call me.

Jack Large

Seoul