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  • Reefer Madness

    Three long essays, and an extensive notes and bibliography section, make up this book that looks at the US’ illegal and semi-legal economy. Eric Schlosser studies the politics and economics of marijuana, the growing illegal immigrant worker army and one man’s domination of the porn industry.

    For over a century American politicians and moralisers have demonised cannabis and all who smoke it. The emphasis has always been on the harmful effects of the demon weed could have on middle class white kids. Senences for handling, or aiding the handling of, marijuana have escalated to the point where you can get a smaller sentence for murdering someone than for dealing a little dope. Meanwhile the system of paying informants and seizing assets has encouraged massive corruption.
    As with any ill thought out, reactionary policy it’s the poor who suffer the mostwhilst the wealthy get away with their crimes and the powerful demonise those least able to fight back. The US prison system is underfunded and incapable of coping and the whole war on drugs is failing.

    Per acre, strawberries are second only to marijuana. It is also one of the few cash crops that still cannot be effectively mechanically picked. So the strawberry farms of California rely on Mexican workers, many illegal, to harvest the berries and keep the costs down.

    Conditions today are almost worse than thosefor the Okies in Grapes of Wrath. Unions have been broken up and pickers and sharecroppers exploited by unscrupulous farmers and combines.

    The last essay traces the career of Reuben Sturman, a Cleveland comic salesman turned smut peddler who, at his peak, was the most powerful individual in the US porn industry. Consistently the obscenity cases brought against Sturman collapsed. In one ruling the jury produced a multi-page response berating the government for wasting time and money.

    Such high profile embarrassments made Sturman a target for the authorities and in the end they got him for tax evasion. Not wanting to give money to the system that was trying to put him out of business, Sturman operated through increasingly complex series of shell companies and off shore accounts. Only by alleging, based on evidence it still won’t release, that Sturman had connections to the Mafia could the IRS get access to his Swiss accounts and make their case.

    Throughout the essays it is clear that Schlosser is exasperated by successive governments’ inability to set the right priorities and hypocrisy in ignoring the behaviour of Enron et al. He seems to have warmed less to Sturman than his other subjects, but it is harder to feel for a tax cheat who resorted to strong arm tactics at the end than a man who could die in prison because he tried to supply somne medical marijuana.

    Like Fast Food Nation, Schlosser’s look at junk food culture, this book makes you despair for the state of the US. However, unlike the expanding waistline, it looks like some of the problems aren’t going to exported, as other countries, including Britain, adopt more civilised drugs laws and others can manage to be grown up about sex.

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  • Heavy Plant

    I only got one suggestion for an addition to my hundred things list. Damian thought I should get an allotment. I like the idea, but it’s a bit too long term for now. So I’m going to modify it. Thing 103 will be Go Guerilla Planting in and around Manchester. Next Spring I’m going to potter around Manchester’s car parks and other spaces with a stick and some seeds. The stick makes the hole, I drop the seed in, and then I use the stick again to cover the hole up. I’m reckoning peas, herbs and other food plants. Though if I can find somewhere that sells marijuana seeds…….


  • Are you giving what you know?

    Although I must admit to being a bit over the edge the past few days, I finally found something worth investing in. In last weeks Computer Weekly there is an article about a charity which provides IT help to other charities around the UK. Ian might have touched on this before, but there are still over 300 identified charities with IT needs ranging from design, development, strategy and programme management. The website address is www.it4communities.org.uk and it is well worth a visit to see if you have any transferable skills.

    Less important:

    Ok. Fazed.net has provided me with three great sites and I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost, people have been doing interesting things with flash for the past few years, but the crew over at boohbah have created an interactive trippy environment that is pretty impressive not only for creativity but the amount of spacecakes eaten to come up with such an outrageously cool concept!.

    The second thing fazed delivered was a highly impressive PacMan game. I know everyone has seen it before but this version mirrors the arcade version. I haven’t been able to waste so much time in a while!.

    The last link I have found is to something which should prove extremely popular in some neighborhoods in the North such as Bradford, all of Sheffield, Oldham and all of Manchester. Probably most of Wales as well. Screw playing Monopoly – you really want to play GHETTOPOLY!!!!!

    “Contents:

    Game Board, Loan Shark Tray, 40 Crack Houses, 17 Projects, Pink Slip Cards, Ghetto Stash and Hustle Cards, 7 Game pieces (Pimp, Hoe, 40 oz, Machine Gun, Marijuana Leaf, Basket Ball and Crack), Counterfeit Money, and 2 Dice ( non metallic ).”


    It’s the game pieces that do it for me…..

    Even less important news:

    Ok. I finally have a website, but as I yet I have absolutely no clue what to do with it. In the meantime whilst I try and figure out if there is anything in my life worthy of posting to a website, I believe it will become a spoof site of the day. Let me explain, on the website now it has a joke corporate statement, but I am thinking of making johnnytheo.com a virtual company which attempts to sell different products daily. Like today I think johnnytheo.com will attempt to sell Hello Kitty branded vibrator cosies. And tomorrow maybe Johnnytheo.com will sell universal business adapters (complete with European business adapter). I don’t know, if anyone has any ideas, let me know.

    The other thing I have thought of doing is an international blog. Due to my dubious breeding I am lucky enough to have some American pals willing to participate and can rope in a couple of Scandinavians and Europeans. In the end, it could work to have an international competition for blogging rights and trying to get a good mix from across the world. Pipe dreams maybe, but still an idea.