3 Ps One: Pot; marijuana

Marijuana-Growing-FieldThe first of our 3 Ps is Pot.

Pot — marijuana, cannabis, grass, weed, call it what you like, has been used by humans since the beginning of recorded history. It is likely that we have been using it for tens of thousands of years.

While there are risks associated with the use of pot, these are vastly overstated and much less than those of using alcohol or tobacco, both of which cause huge numbers of deaths and human suffering and by the way, cost society a vast amount of money. Marijuana prohibition is one of the greatest misuses of state resources and taxpayers’ money in the world today.

Until the 1930s pot use was legal and largely unremarked. William Randolph Hearst, the American media tycoon, changed that. Hearst was the inventor of ‘yellow journalism’ the sensationalising of factually incorrect and often invented stories for political purposes. He was a fanatical right-winger and a friend of Adolph Hitler. Up until the engagement of the United Sates in World War 2, Hearst remained in close contact with Nazi authorities in Germany regularly had his newspapers run anti-Russian, anti-Communist and pro-German articles, which were provided by the Gestapo’s propaganda services.

pearl-harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941

Hearst was anti-British and a fervent ‘isolationist’ who used his media to discourage American entry into the European war. He repeatedly attacked Roosevelt’s attempts to help European states, especially the UK, against the Nazis through schemes like lend-lease and severely restricted the President’s ability to assist in the disaster. Amongst his other crimes, therefore, Hearst may be indicted for being accessory to the murders of millions of Europeans, especially Jews and other minorities like homosexuals. It was only at the point of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that he was forced to backtrack.

At home, Hearst had invested hugely in forestry and other resources to produce wood-based paper. However, making wood-based paper is very damaging to the environment and relatively expensive. Paper made from hemp (the male pot plant) is cheaper, a better product and less damaging. Hearst risked being undercut. Continue reading 3 Ps One: Pot; marijuana

Pot, Porn and Prostitution – 3 Ps

scales-of-justice-pot-porn-protitutionThere are three parameters that I think define the level of freedom we actually enjoy. I call them the ‘3 Ps’.

They are Pot, Porn and Prostitution. Why have I chosen these three? Well, it’s not a recent thing, and I have thought about it for years.

I could use transgender rights, since, as readers will be aware, this is an area that concerns me deeply; but while we will certainly discuss these, the issue is too specific. I could use women’s rights but that’s the opposite: too vague — and in any case the 3Ps allow us to consider this question. I could use taxation but goodness me, everyone has a different view.

Separation of Church and State? Yeah, but again, too vague. Children’s rights? The same. Treatment of ethnic minorities — which ones? And how?

I wanted a small number, not more than three, of very specific measures that had certain things in common.

The first was that they had to be, or have been until recently, illegal. You can’t measure whether a culture is open by measuring what it permits; you measure it by the things it does not. Continue reading Pot, Porn and Prostitution – 3 Ps

Europe’s immigration crisis erupts

calais-tunnel-immigrationA man was killed yesterday during a mass attack as at least 1500 people attempted to board trucks entering the Eurotunnel in Calais. This brings the death toll in the ongoing crisis, which began in June, to nine.

Eurotunnel, the operator, has invested heavily in security fences and personnel at the French end of the Tunnel but it is clearly not enough and they are swamped, daily, as would-be immigrants try to get into the UK.

The crisis has caused reduction in the frequency of freight trains through the Tunnel. Around Dover, the UK terminal, motorways have been closed for weeks as trucks waiting to depart for Europe are parked on them in what is called ‘Operation Stack’.

With the motorways closed, small towns and villages, whose roads are not designed for this weight of traffic, are jammed with cars seeking a way round the blockage. Businesses are reporting a catastrophic drop in revenue.

On the French side, large numbers of extra police and security have been drafted in to the Pas de Calais area to try to secure it, but they are manifestly failing.

While closure of the Tunnel is a drastic option, it may be the only one left. The situation, already catastrophic, can only get worse. Continue reading Europe’s immigration crisis erupts

Reims Bikini Attack: Suspects named

bikini-protest-against-attackThe broader media gave the story of how a young woman was set upon by five other women for sunbathing in a bikini in a park in Reims, France, some attention today and a few new titbits have come out. (I covered this yesterday.)

According to the national newspaper  Le Monde, under the headline ‘Emotions and hasty conclusions’ the woman who was attacked is Angélique Slosse. Three of her alleged attackers have been named, Inès Nouri, Zohra Karim and Hadoune Tadjouri. The other two are minors and their names have not been released. All five  are Muslim.

The newspaper says that one of the alleged attackers was slightly injured and was signed off work for three days. One of Slosse’s friends was also given hospital treatment for injuries received.

Buzzfeed France claims to have contacted one of the alleged attackers, who was not identified by name, but only by her age, 19. She confirmed that she and her friends were Muslims, but that she ‘was tolerant’. According to her, she had, on seeing the victim dressed in shorts and a bikini top, said that she ‘wouldn’t dare dress like that’, to which she claims Slosse retorted ‘If I had a body like yours, I wouldn’t either.’ Continue reading Reims Bikini Attack: Suspects named

An exploration of transgender lives

the-warm-pink-jelly-express-trainThe Warm Pink Jelly Express Train was a very difficult book to write. Compared to my previous one, Poaching the River, it required profound reflection and much research.

Poaching is essentially a romanticised memoir; Warm Pink is nothing like that. It is far deeper and more introspective and writing it, along with the later Why Men Made God, was what shaped my current world view.

My ideas about gender in particular were formed by the research and writing of Warm Pink. Although it is  a breathlessly-paced romantic adventure, it required me to dig deep into the natures of gender and sexuality, something I had never done before.

I spent hours that amounted to weeks on forums where the subject of transgender was discussed and even invented a doppelgänger, MacShreach, to do this. (MacShreach, by the way, just means ‘Son of Shrek,’ which I thought rather fitted the character.)

But I did a great deal of conventional research too. There were precious few books and papers available but I read them all. I think the most useful was Don Kulick’s Travesti, which is a must-read, partly for the insight it gives and partly just because it’s a great book.

I learned Spanish (thanks to the lovely Fabi Pinilla, my longsuffering teacher, who became a real and lasting friend) and enough Portuguese to read interviews in those languages. This was because at the time, there were practically no such resources featuring young transgender women in English. But there were and remain, many published in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and elsewhere in South America, as well as in Spain itself, where there is a long history of transgender cultural integration. The artists Picasso and Dali associated with transgender women, as did the film-makers Luis Bunuel and Pedro Almodovar. Continue reading An exploration of transgender lives

Non-Politically Correct Writing and Photography by Rod Fleming and Guests