Politics & Social Justice Archive

“The End of the American Dream” – Anya Kamenetz on Thom Hartmann

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Anya Kamenetz talks to Thom Hartmann about the problems of rapidly rising college tuition costs and student loan debt.

Anya is the author of Generation Debt and, most recently, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. She is also a staff writer for Fast Company magazine.

Thom asks Anya to delve into the subject of DIY U with the question: as the costs of higher education continue to soar, what innovative and alternative ways are there for Americans to obtain a quality education at an affordable price?

Watch the show, and find out why Thom thinks the situation in higher education represents “the end of the American Dream.”

The New York Times: Madeleine Kunin “is almost unimpeachably right”

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The New York Times Sunday Book Review features — on its cover no less — a glowing review of Madeleine M. Kunin’s forthcoming title The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family.

Judith Warner’s review of Kunin’s book is juxtaposed against the new book by Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. One book is “right” and the other is “wrong,” and we’re pleased to report that Kunin’s book is the right one.

“[W]hereas Badin­ter’s argument is beautiful and essentially wrong, Kunin — Pollyanna-ish faith in the family-friendly nature of female politicians aside — is almost unimpeachably right, as she diagnoses what we in Ameri­ca need, why we’ve never gotten it, and how we may have some hope of achieving change in the future,” writes  Warner, the author of We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Warner lauds Kunin’s use of ample details and examples of what states — or countries — are enacting family-friendly policies that empower parents and support children.

But, as Warner observes, while there may be public support for much of what Kunin proposes as solutions to the work-family balance that is out of whack, how to get there?

“[T]here has to be a way to turn public opinion — which according to Kunin is overwhelmingly favorable to paid sick days and family and medical leave — into something like a movement. A movement as motivating, gut-­compelling and passionate as the forces now arrayed for and against abortion rights. She acknowledges this is a tall order. ‘Could we hold a march for family­/work policies in Washington? Would anybody come?’ she asks shrewdly. ‘Or would they be too tired, too busy, too scared of losing their jobs to attend?’

“It’s a good question,” Warner posits. “How do you get today’s moms, and all their equally overtaxed potential allies, to show up for a revolution? Perhaps we need a 21st-century Gloria Steinem, a multi­tasking, minivan-driving, media-savvy soccer mom (or dad) with just enough of a hint of glamour to make protest as appealing a prospect as Girls’ Night Out.”

Indeed. Any takers?

If so, chime in on Madeleine Kunin’s Facebook page. Or, send her a note on Twitter.

The New Feminist Agenda is available in stores now and officially launches Sunday, which is, appropriately, Mother’s Day.

Speaking of Sunday, Madeleine Kunin will be the featured author on the Firedoglake Book Salon, with a discussion led by author Amanda Marcotte. Be sure to log in and join the chat.

Provocative Book Presents Stark Reality for the Next 40 Years

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Forty years ago Limits to Growth addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth while in pursuit of limitless growth.

Next month, Chelsea Green will publish 2052, a provocative new book that examines what our future will look like in the next forty years. Written by Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of Limits, as well as its subsequent updates (Beyond the Limits and Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update), the book probes what the world will actually be like in forty years.

Guess what? It’s not looking good for humanity. That’s what happens when you ignore the warnings first issued in Limits. As in, you can’t push an economic model fueled by limitless profits and resources when, in fact, we live on a finite planet. Mix that in with dysfunctional democracies — such as ours in the United States — that are bought and sold by corporations who profit from our addiction to fossil fuels and the conflicts that erupt as a result (war, etc.)

Earlier this week, the Club of Rome — which commissioned the original report that culminated in Limits to Growth as well as the report that has culminated in 2052 – presented the book’s key findings at the annual conference of the World Wildlife Fund.

In his introduction (video linked here and embedded below) to delivering some of the book’s key findings, Randers  related the current work, and warnings, to those issued four decades ago.

“The big question at the outset, was: ‘Will the world overshoot and collapse?’ This was the warning that my friends and I made in 1972 in the Limits to Growth book where we basically said because of the decision delays in international governance systems, the world will be allowed to expand beyond its sustainable capacity, and then sooner or later it will be forced back down to sustainable territory and this will an unpleasant development. We are now forty years down the line and it is perfectly obvious that world has already overshot. At the time, in 1972, our critics said that human society is not going to be so stupid as to let the world move into non-sustainable territory. Well, we now are in unsustainable territory.”

A key example is global greenhouse gas emissions, and the rising temperature of the planet.

Reaction to the report’s findings and the media event has been swift, and rightly so, including this nice synopsis from New Zealand.

The book challenges the US-dominated belief that we can continue to tap the planet’s limited resources to fuel unlimited growth. In fact, the ecological footprint created by this type of economic activity is likely to do just the opposite.

In short, the US will see a general stagnation of growth for decades to come because our dysfunctional democracy — which bends to the needs of the private market rather than the social good — hinders us from focusing on solutions. I mean, let’s face it — members of Congress,  media pundits, and even the current administration continue to talk  up the need to increase our dependence on fossil fuels by drilling in the Arctic, boosting domestic oil production, or allowing tar sands to be imported from Canada.

Already critics are crying foul — this is some grand socialist, environmental whacko experiment to enslave us all to some UN colony. For some critics, Randers isn’t alarmist enough and they believe he is underestimating how quickly the planet will heat up, and the consequences of it — including poverty, famine and increasingly low birth rates as more families are forced to choose between survival and bringing new lives into the world.
Below is a video from Randers’ presentation at the WWF forum. Watch and determine for yourself whether you believe Randers is over, or under, estimating what could happen in the future.

Keep in mind as you listen: One of the original schematics laid out in Limits to Growth — rapid growth followed by what is called “overshoot” of resources and then a decline — has largely played out as predicted as this Smithsonian article demonstrates.

With such potentially depressing news, it’s nice to see the younger generation taking up the call to arms and suing their elders for screwing up things to badly. Maybe there is hope that change can be forced more rapidly than our failing democratic systems allow.

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

George Lakoff, is a cognitive linguist and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant; Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

This excerpt from the book offers concise advice to progressives about how to win debates in the public realm. In it, Lakoff explains the notion of “framing”, and points out that even when you negate a frame you reinforce it by implicitly accepting the worldview behind it.

One example is the typical debate about abortion. The conservative frame is “pro-life”, not “anti-abortion”. Arguably, the latter is more descriptive, but the former is far more evocative, and the liberal reply of “pro-choice” is not nearly as attractive—linguistically that is.

Read up and get ready progressives! We’ve got a Presidential election year battle ahead and we need to be prepared!

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, An Excerpt from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition.” – Madeleine M. Kunin

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

From the Burlington Free Press.

MONTPELIER — Madeleine Kunin said she never dreamed that in the year 2012 she would find herself speaking out in defense of contraception and giving credit to Rush Limbaugh.

But there she was on the Statehouse steps Saturday, exhorting a crowd of about two hundred people to stand up for hard-won women’s rights that are suddenly under assault around the country.

“Progress is not a straight line,” said Kunin, former governor and author of The New Feminist Agenda, published this month. Rather, she said, it’s “like a Vermont dirt road,” filled with bumps and troughs.

The occasion was a rally under the theme, “United against the war on women,” one of more than 50 marches and demonstrations staged across the country by members of UniteWomen.org. The aim was to counter an array of legislative and political initiatives — from invasive ultrasound mandates to “personhood” bills and pay-equity repeals — that women’s-rights advocates regard as regressive.

There was the Republican effort in Congress to allow employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives. And of course, there was Limbaugh’s incendiary comment on his talk show (he called a student advocate of contraceptive coverage “a slut,”) that angered many people and helped mobilize the opposition, Kunin acknowledged.

“We are not going backward,” insisted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., another speaker. “We are not returning to the day of backroom abortions.”

“We have all got to stand together.”

Erin Narey of Peacham decided to organize the event about a month ago when she realized, after going to UniteWomen.org’s Facebook page, that no one else was doing so in Vermont. She didn’t want her state to be the only state without a rally April 28.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, but with the help of other volunteers she managed to pull together 15 speakers, including singers Neko Case, Anais Mitchell and Tammy Fletcher, who warmed the crowd up with both song and chant (“Not on our watch!”)

Narey noted that while variants of “scary legislation” — such as the decriminalization of domestic violence in Topeka, Kan. — have not been introduced here, Vermont still has a ways to go.

“Women still make less money than men,” she said, “and we still don’t have paid maternity leave, and we still don’t have statewide standards for child care.”

Lydia Lulkin, a senior at the University of Vermont and a member of the Voices for Planned Parenthood student club, showed up with fellow students to register voters and “to stand up for women across the country.”

“I’m here because I follow Neko Case on Twitter,” said Quincy Campbell of Montpelier. “I think this is a wonderful cause. I have great admiration for everyone” on the list of speakers.

“It really does feel like a war on women,” said Lorna Edmundson of New York City, who was in Vermont to attend a meeting of the Norwich University Board of Trustees but who heard about the rally and made a point of attending. A woman’s child-bearing decision “is not something the government should be controlling,” she said. “It’s very distressing.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who did not attend, issued a statement for the rally that read in part: “We must all stand up for women when we find that their most basic rights are under attack.”

Kunin said repeal of the federal health-reform law would have an adverse effect on women, because they would wind up paying differentially more for health insurance.

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition,” she said, drawing laughter.

“One of the most important things we can do is be at the table when decisions are made,” she said, observing that the political power structure is dominated by a male majority. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

“Our voices have to be raised,” she said. “Be ready to fight the fight that we began and can’t afford to lose.”

Studen Loan Debt, Not Loan Rates, Is the Bigger Issue

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

As politicians stumble over themselves to agree on a legislative no-brainer — keeping student loan rates low — they are missing a bigger issue for many students and recent graduates: Student loan debt.

In a compelling new opinion piece posted on CNN.com, DIY U author Anya Kamenetz (Chelsea Green, 2010) argues that politicians should be focusing on debt forgiveness, not just keeping loan rates low.

She notes:

Some recent polls have shown that support for Obama among young voters, once Obama’s enthusiastic fans, may be waning in this election compared with four years ago. Student loans are seen by some as the president’s chosen key to regaining their hearts. But really, the issue has been raised for him by the Occupy movement, gearing up this May 1 with a new set of actions focusing on the cost of college and the depredations of the student loan industry.

Additionally, almost 700,000 people have signed a petition sponsored by MoveOn.org for student loan forgiveness, started by lawyer and student-loan debtor Robert Applebaum. And the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, introduced by U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Michigan, last month, is aimed at offering relief.

What’s at stake here is the basic equation of the American dream: Hard work plus merit equals opportunity. As usually happens, hard times have led to cuts in support to public education and attendant tuition hikes. Young people are graduating into a dismal job market with an average of more than $25,000 in debt. Loan default rates were up sharply last year, and many graduates are questioning the value of their education. In eight years of covering and advocating for student debtors, I’ve never seen such a level of public outcry.

In lieu of this renewed, election year interest in young folks (ahem) we here at Chelsea Green are offering a free download of a particularly salient chapter from Kamenetz’s 2010 book that leads off with – ironically enough – candidate Barack Obama at a Hofstra University forum on the rising cost of higher education.

Kamenetz then walks readers through just how this generation of students is facing some of the most crushing debtloads in order to attend post-secondary institutions. She also expertly lays out a three-part plan to reduce the overall cost of higher ed in the United States, including a call to restore free college tuition. Colleges didn’t always cost so much, and there are even some out there today where students graduate debt-free. What a concept.

Chapter 3 – Economics, An Excerpt from DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Highe…

How Did We Get Here? The Roots of Pot Prohibition

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The following is an excerpt from Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert. It has been adapted for the Web.

Why is it that our state and federal laws embrace alcohol—a drug that is a known cause of a frightening array of adverse health effects and behaviors— while criminalizing the use of marijuana, which is seldom associated with such problems?”

Good question. After all, it wasn’t always like this. Throughout most of America’s history, marijuana and alcohol were both legal. In 1920, the federal government decided to outlaw booze, yet members of Congress had yet to enact any legal restrictions on the consumption of cannabis. However, by the 1930s the political climate had changed dramatically. In 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified, repealing alcohol prohibition. Yet just four years later, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax Act into law, ushering in a new form of prohibition—one that remains with us to this day.

So what the hell happened?

The Tide Turns

For the first three hundred years of our nation’s history American farmers cultivated cannabis—then known exclusively as either “hemp” or “Indian hemp”—for its cordage fiber content. Some historians believe that colonists harvested America’s first hemp crop in 1611 near Jamestown, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, The British Crown ordered settlers to engage in wide-scale hemp farming1—a practice that continued in earnest up until the turn of the twentieth century. Even into the early part of the 1900s, the United States Department of Agriculture extolled the virtues of hemp as a high-yield, low-maintenance crop.2 At that time, Americans no more considered the plant to be a recreational drug than someone today would label corn or soy an intoxicant. Domestically grown cannabis possessed very little THC content and was not consumed recreationally. In fact, the term marijuana was not yet a part of the American lexicon.

In addition to its industrial uses, much of the public was also familiar with the plant’s utility as a medicine. While practicing in India in the early 1800s, Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy first began documenting the medical uses of cannabis, which he later introduced into Western medicine in 1839. By the 1850s, the preparation of oral cannabis extracts became available in U.S. pharmacies, where they remained a staple for the next sixty years.3 Typically these products were marketed under the plant’s alternative botanical name, cannabis indica. (Unlike industrial varieties of the crop that were grown domestically, pharmaceutical supplies of cannabis were often imported from other countries, like India.4) Despite the drug’s widespread availability as a medicine, reported recreational abuses of cannabis were virtually nonexistent in the literature of that time. In fact, during Congressional hearings leading up to the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914—the nation’s first federal antidrug act—witnesses argued against prohibiting cannabis, stating that “as a habit forming drug its use is almost nil.”5 Congress heeded their advice and excluded marijuana from the statute.

By the early 1920s, however, public and political acceptance of cannabis had changed significantly. The plant’s popularity as both a commercial crop and folk remedy was on the wane, as competing commercial products like cotton-based textiles and opiate-based medications began to gain a wider share of the market. At the same time, newspapers and law enforcement personnel, primarily in the American Southwest, began reporting on the use of a new, highly dangerous “narcotic” called marijuana (or as it was typically spelled then, marihuana). From the papers’ and police officers’ salacious accounts of the drug’s purported effects, it’s unlikely that most Americans had any idea that the so-called “loco weed” and cannabis hemp were actually one and the same.

The Rise of “Reefer Madness”

Aside from infrequent accounts of hash smoking by East Indian and Lebanese immigrants, there is little, if any, evidence that the recreational use of marijuana had any cultural foothold in America prior to the influx of Mexican laborers in the early 1900s.6 However, the Mexicans’ custom of smoking the flowering tops of the female plant almost immediately drew concern from public officials and law enforcement—who alleged that inhaling the drug empowered users with “superhuman strength and turned them into bloodthirsty murderers.”7

As early as 1913, a handful of cities and states in the American south began prohibiting the use of marijuana, and by the early 1920s, numerous western states—including California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming—had outlawed possessing pot.8 In many of these states, the public rationale for this crackdown was as racially motivated as it was transparent: “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (referring to marijuana) is what makes them crazy.”9 Other regions of the country followed suit—including many states that had virtually no Mexican immigrant population and virtually no reported incidents of marijuana use to speak of—arguing that legislation was necessary to preemptively stop the spread of “the Devil’s Weed” before it reached their borders.

By the late 1920s, lurid newspaper headlines and editorials promoting the alleged dangers of marijuana began sweeping the nation. This excerpt, taken from a July 6, 1927, New York Times story, epitomizes the content and tone of much of the reporting of this era:

Mexican Family Go Insane

Five Said To Have Been Stricken By Eating Marihuana

A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life.
. . . Two hours after the mother and children had eaten the plants, they were stricken. Neighbors, hearing outbursts of crazed laughter, rushed to the house to find the entire family insane. Examination revealed that the narcotic marihuana was growing among the garden vegetables.10

The public’s concern over the supposed marijuana menace grew, and in 1930 Congress responded by establishing the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Selected to head this new agency was a “law and order” evangelist named Harry J. Anslinger. For the next three decades, Anslinger would single-handedly dictate U.S. drug policy. Many of his highly sensationalized views on weed linger in the public mind to this day.

Beginning in the mid-1930s, Anslinger and the FBN launched an unprecedented (for the time) media campaign warning Americans of the alleged perils of pot. By this time, the drug’s use was not only popular among Mexican immigrants, but it had also become vogue among certain segments of the African American community, most notably southern jazz musicians. The Bureau warned that smoking marijuana inspired blacks and Hispanics to commit rape and engage in other acts of uninhibited violence. “His sex desires are aroused and some of the most horrible crimes result,” one widely disseminated FBN news bulletin reported. “He hears light and sees sound. To get away from it, he suddenly becomes violent and may kill.”11 Seizing upon many white Americans’ preexisting racial prejudices, Anslinger often emphasized that these alleged acts of violence were primarily directed toward Caucasian women.

Anslinger further claimed that Mexican “dope peddlers” frequently offered free samples of marijuana cigarettes to children on their way home from school. “Parents beware! Your children . . . are being introduced to a new danger in the form of a drugged cigarette, marijuana,” Anslinger warned in a prominent FBN radio address. “Young [people] are slaves to the narcotic, continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, [and] turn to violent crime and murder.”12

Possessing a flair for the theatrical, Anslinger bragged about keeping a “gore file” consisting of outrageous, unsubstantiated, and sometimes fraudulent newspaper stories that detailed pot’s supposedly mind-altering and behavioral effects. One such account read, “While under the influence of the drug, the subject thrust his hand through his hair, and found that his fingers passed through his crackling skull and into his warm, cheesy brain.”13

Predictably, Anslinger’s and the FBN’s antipot diatribes fueled national headlines and prompted legislative action. By 1935, most states in the country had enacted laws criminalizing the possession and use of pot, and newspaper editors were frequently opining in favor of stiffer and stiffer penalties for marijuana users. As Anslinger’s rhetoric became prominent, he found additional allies who were willing to carry his crusading message to the general public. Among these were the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Hearst newspaper chain—the latter of which luridly editorialized against the “insidious and insanity producing marihuana” in papers across the country.14

Members of state and local law enforcement also joined the FBN’s antimarijuana crusade. Writing in The Journal of Criminology, Wichita, Kansas, police officer L. E. Bowery asserted that the cannabis user is capable of “great feats of strength and endurance, during which no fatigue is felt.” Bowery’s overwrought screed, which for years thereafter would be hailed by advocates of prohibition as the definitive “study” of the drug, concluded: “Sexual desires are stimulated and may lead to unnatural acts, such as indecent exposure and rape. . . . [Marijuana use] ends in the destruction of brain tissues and nerve centers, and does irreparable damage. If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”15

The Marihuana Tax Act

By 1937, Congress—which had resisted efforts to clamp down on the drug some two decades earlier—was poised to act, and act quickly, to enact blanket federal prohibition. Ironically, by this time virtually every state had already ratified laws against cannabis possession. Nonetheless, local authorities argued that the marijuana threat was so great that federal intervention was also necessary.

On April 14, 1937, Representative Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced House Bill 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive tax on the drug. The measure was the brainchild of the U.S. Treasury Department, and mandated a $100 per ounce tax on the transfer of cannabis to members of the general public. Interestingly, a separate antimarijuana measure introduced that same year sought to directly outlaw possession and use of the drug. However, this proposal was assumed at that time to have been beyond the constitutional authority of Congress.

Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of Doughton’s bill. The federal government’s chief witness, Harry

Anslinger, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that “traffic in marijuana is increasing to such an extent that it has come to be the cause for the greatest national concern. . . . This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.”16 Other witnesses included a pair of veterinarians who testified that dogs were particularly susceptible to marijuana’s effects. “Over a period of six months or a year (of exposure to marijuana), . . . the animal must be discarded because it is no longer serviceable,” one doctor testified.17 This would be the extent of “scientific” testimony presented to the committee.

The American Medical Association (AMA) represented the most vocal opposition against the bill. Speaking before Congress, the AMA’s legislative counsel Dr. William C. Woodward challenged the legitimacy of the alleged “Demon Weed.”

We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.

You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.

. . . Moreover, there is the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service. . . . Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have no record of any marijuana or cannabis addicts.18

Woodward further argued that the proposed legislation would severely hamper physicians’ ability to utilize marijuana’s therapeutic potential. While acknowledging that the drug’s popularity as a prescription medicine had declined, Woodward nonetheless warned that the Marihuana Tax Act “loses sight of the fact that future investigations may show that there are substantial medical uses for cannabis.”19

Woodward’s criticisms of the bill’s intent—as well as his questions regarding whether such legislation was objectively justifiable—drew a stern rebuke from the chairman of the committee. “If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticism, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the federal government is trying to do,” the AMA’s counsel was told. “Is not the fact that you were not consulted your real objection to this bill?”20

Despite the AMA’s protests, the House Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 6385. House members even went so far as to elevate Anslinger’s propaganda to Congressional findings of fact, stating: “Under the influence of this drug the will is destroyed and all power directing and controlling thought is lost. . . . [M]any violent crimes have been and are being committed by persons under the influence of this drug. . . . [S]chool children . . . have been driven to crime and insanity through the use of this drug. Its continued use results many times in impotency and insanity.”21

Anslinger made similar horrific pronouncements before members of the Senate, which spent even less time debating the measure than did the House. By June, less than three months after the bill’s introduction, the House of Representatives voted affirmatively to pass the proposal, which was described by one congressman as having “something to do with something that is called marijuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind.”22

Weeks later, after the Senate had approved its version of the bill, the House was asked to vote once again on the measure. Prior to the House’s final vote, one representative asked whether the American Medical Association had endorsed the proposal, to which a member of the Ways and Means Committee falsely replied that the

AMA’s “Dr. Wharton [sic]” had given the measure his full support.23 Following this brief exchange of inaccurate information, Congress gave its final approval of the Marihuana Tax Act without a recorded vote.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law. The Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect on October 1, 1937—thus setting in motion the federal government’s foray into the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws that continues to this day.


  1. Lester Grinspoon, Marihuana Reconsidered, 2nd ed. (Oakland, Cal.: Quick American Archives, 1994).
  2. United States Department of Agriculture, Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture (Washington, D.C.: USDA, 1913).
  3. Dale Gieringer, The Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California, rev. ed. (San Francisco: NORML, 2006), http://www.canorml.org/background/caloriginsmjproh.pdf
  4. Ibid.
  5. David Musto, “History of the Marihuana Tax Act,” Archives of General Psychiatry 26 (1972): 101–8.
  6. Ron Mann, Grass: The Paged Experience (Toronto: Warwick Publishing, 2001).
  7. Ibid.
  8. Gieringer, The Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California, 35.
  9. Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread, The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States (New York: The Lindesmith Center, 1999).
  10. As cited in Larry Sloman, Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s/Griffin, 1998).
  11. Grinspoon, Marihuana Reconsidered, 17.
  12. Grass: The Movie, directed by Ronn Mann, 2000.
  13. Sloman, Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana, 60.
  14. Bonnie and Whitebread, The Marijuana Conviction, 100–101.
  15. As cited by Rowan Robinson, The Great Book of Hemp: The Complete Guide to the Environmental, Commercial, and Medicinal Uses of the World’s Most Extraordinary Plant (Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1995), 147.
  16. Sloman, Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana, 66.
  17. Ibid., 68.
  18. Bonnie and Whitebread, The Marijuana Conviction, 165–66.
  19. Sloman, Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana, 76.
  20. Bonnie and Whitebread, The Marijuana Conviction, 172.
  21. Ibid., 172–73.
  22. Sloman, Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana, 80.
  23. Bonnie and Whitebread, The Marijuana Conviction, 174.

Dr. Seuss, Petrochemicals, and the War on Bugs

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

While movie-goers recently lined up to see the Disney-fication of The Lorax (replete with marketing tie-ins to dish soap and automobiles … hmm), we here at Chelsea Green were reminded of an unflattering side to that beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss — one you don’t read about very often.

Before I give you the dirt on Dr. Seuss’ dark side, I’ll be the first to say that Dr. Seuss has brought us some of the great allegorical books of the modern age — The Lorax, The Sneetches, The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (OK, maybe not so much the last one) — and each of his tomes is dog-eared and readily recited in my household.

However, before Dr. Seuss emerged as one of the great children’s book authors he toiled away as a cartoonist under his given name — Ted Geisel. Geisel inked cartoons for some of the nation’s major chemical companies who were looking for ways to dump their wartime nasty concoctions on an unsuspecting US public.

Voila! Pesticides and other agro-chemicals were born.

Author and farmer Will Allen (of Cedar Circle Farm here in Vermont) wrote about the rise of chemical farming in his 2007 book, The War on Bugs.

As a result, we here at Chelsea Green are offering —for a limited time — a salient chapter from Will’s book as a free download. In this chapter, Allen delves into Geisel’s early cartooning work replete with pro-pesticide, pro-patriotic toons for the agrichemical industry. In particular, Geisel helped to make Flit — and the Flit gun — a household word in this “war on bugs.”

As Allen notes in his book, many believe the positive, pro-environmental themes of The Lorax stemmed from Geisel’s own attempt to scrub clean his early cartooning legacy that helped to introduce chemicals into the food supply and everyday life.

Allen notes, “Perhaps Dr. Seuss realized his earlier mistakes and indiscretions with Standard Oil’s Flit and tried to make amends with The Lorax. Geisel must have known that Flit’s cartoons and his World War II cartoons for DDT had an enormous impact on the public’s use of pesticides and acceptance of DDT.”

He must have known, right?


PS: Will Allen is also pretty active right now in Vermont’s effort to pass legislation requiring food that contains GMOs to be labeled as such. Check out his AlterNet article detailing Monsanto’s threat to sue if the law is passed, and find out how you can help by chiming in on our Facebook page.

WaronBugs: Pesticides, Household Poisons, and Dr. Seuss

Join Diane Wilson in Houston Oil Refinery Protest! Jail Time Optional.

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

This just in from the special, bright-red, flashing email inbox that lets us know when Diane Wilson is soon to be gettin’ herself into all kinds of interesting trouble again. Hey, we can’t blame her! If “civilized” actions like voting or buying things could help change the game, save the planet, and alleviate the suffering of the exploited we might tell her to just stay home. But is that the case, ladies and gentlemen? I ask you, is that the case?!

I think you know the answer. So if you’re incensed about the crime that is the Keystone XL Pipeline, take a gander at this here protest a-formin’ on the western front…and yes, there are ways for you to help that may not necessitate getting locked up.

In Honor of Struggles Against the Extraction Industry Everywhere, In Memory of the Workers Whose Lives Were Taken By BP Two Years Ago, Join Us In Saying:




  • What: A festival of resistance and alternatives to the fossil fuel economy, in the shadow of the Houston Valero refinery, culminating in a refinery blockade.
  • When: April 19th-24th
  • Where: Hartmann Park, Manchester Neighborhood, Houston, TX
  • Why: The Alberta Tar Sands project is uprooting and poisoning Indigenous people in Canada while destroying the ancient boreal forests that are their home. The huge amount of carbon released will seriously worsen global climate change. The Keystone XL Pipeline will take oil from one of the most ecologically devastating projects on the face of the planet to Houston.

In Houston, the oil will be refined by Valero and other companies. These refineries are surrounded by working-class neighborhoods throughout the Gulf, bringing cancer-causing toxins directly into their backyards. The majority of the Tar Sands oil processed in these refineries will be shipped overseas, ensuring that North American oil workers and those whose rights and lives have been uprooted by these companies won’t even see any long-term benefit for themselves.

Meanwhile, two years after the Deep Water Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and devastated the communities of the Gulf, BP has had a record year of profits. BP has escaped justice yet again in its recent legal victory against the shrimpers and fishermen who they’ve put out of work and the families of the workers who died under their watch.

We invite those who oppose the Tar Sands Project and who want clean air, water and soil for all to come down to Houston for a festival of resistance and alternatives to the fossil fuel economy. Let’s continue to build the power of our communities, amplify the voices of those most affected by companies like Valero, and join together in nonviolent direct action to blockade a refinery.

Friday, April 20th will be the beginning of a historic escalation in the battle for our rights to clean air and water, the struggle to
bring justice to those who wreak havoc on Gulf communities, and the fight to stop these companies from destroying the planet.

We plan to wake up an oil refinery Saturday and Sunday too, escalating our blockade as necessary. And we will use our rights to
public assembly and protest — rights that have been under increasing attack.

Waves of support will be welcome and needed.

How You Can Participate:

We need it all. There are as many levels of involvement and risk as there are individuals, affinity groups, and organizations willing to

Not everyone will want to risk arrest by participating in the refinery blockade. That’s OK. However, many people are willing and able to take that risk. We appreciate all levels of commitment.

There will be room and plans for those who wish to cooperate with the police, and there will be room and plans for those who do not wish to cooperate with the police that wish to engage in jail solidarity tactics. Come prepared to tell us what you want to do.

Contribute to the Festival: Anyone who has a desire and ability to teach a class or hold a training as part of this event should contact us. Want to present a workshop or training? Please contact our Recruitment, Training, and Personnel Committee at:
[email protected]

Offer Material Support: Donate through our website, offer a rideshare or bring a bus, bring medical supplies, donate or bring food, come prepared to cook food, bring educational materials like zines and books!  Able to contribute materials for this campaign? Please contact the Logistics Committee at: [email protected]  Able to contribute monetary support? Please contact the Fundraising Committee at: [email protected]

Be the Media: Bring your own video camera or audio recording equipment, blog on site, bring portable wireless devices, write
articles, embed reporters with us!  Interested in contributing to the media team? Contact our Communications and Outreach Committee at: [email protected]

Be the Blockade/Bring the Blockade: Come prepared with others to participate in non-violent direct action. Once you arrive, we will train you in the tactics and strategy we plan to use to sustain this blockade. Bring puppets, bring inflatables, bring signs, bring anything that could be useful. Come in caravans, bring your friends. Have questions about joining the blockade? Contact the Recruitment, Training, and Personnel Committee at: [email protected]

–The Occupy the Machine Coalition

Have general questions, comments, or not sure where to direct your query?
Contact us and let us know at: [email protected]!

More information here: http://occupythemachine.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/otmhoustoncampaign/

Vermont Women: Kunin On Public Life

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

From Vermont Public Radio


(Host) In collaboration once again with the Vermont Commission on Women, VPR celebrates Women’s History Month with a week-long examination of the long process of establishing legal rights for women in Vermont, Vermont Women In History. Author, educator and commentator Madeleine Kunin served as Vermont’s first woman governor – and the nation’s fourth. Today she reflects on women in politics, as well as women’s suffrage and some of those who opposed it.

(Kunin) Vermont can be proud of the number of women who have served in public life.

Consuelo Northrop Bailey was the first woman in the nation to be elected Lieutenant Governor – in 1954 — and she was the first woman to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vermont has ranked in the top two or three states in the percentage of female legislators. And I was the fourth woman in the nation to be elected Governor in my own right. But I regret to say that my footsteps have not been followed. Five women have been candidates: Stella Hackel, Ruth Dwyer, Gaye Symington, Deb Markowitz and Susan Bartlett.

This gives us bragging rights. But other chapters of our history reveal a more mixed picture. Vermont was not one of the states to ratify the 19th amendment that guaranteed women’s suffrage in 1920.

The legislature voted for a suffrage bill in 1919, but Governor Percival Clement of Rutland vetoed it. When pro suffrage legislators pleaded with him to call a special session so that Vermont could be the 36th – and final – state to ratify the 19th amendment, he refused. Instead, that honor went to Tennessee.

When I look at Clement’s portrait in the Vermont State House, I see an elegantly attired gentleman. There are few clues to his thinking. We know he was president of a bank, the owner of the Rutland Herald, and the father of nine children. In his farewell speech to the legislature, in 1921, he firmly opposed Constitutional amendments.

Photo: Vermont Historical Society

Consuelo Northrop Bailey


The fight for suffrage was followed by a prolonged battle for the right of women to serve on juries. Thanks to state archivist Gregory Sanford, we gain insight into the pros and cons of that debate, which began in 1923 but did not conclude until 1942, and then only after legislative approval and a state-wide referendum. Supporters wished to give “…the women equal rights and privileges with men.”

Legislator F. Ray Keyser differed: “I, for one, would not like to see my wife serving on a jury. There are things at home to be taken care of.”

Vermont claimed its first female attorney, Jessie Bigwood, in 1902. It took ten years for another female lawyer to hang out her shingle. In 1978 the state celebrated a milestone: 100 women had been admitted to the Bar.

On the minus side, Vermont is one of four states never to elect a woman to Congress.

No doubt our achievements for women’s equality outweigh our lapses, but this is no time to be self-congratulatory. Vermont will become a state that gives equal opportunity and responsibility to women only when political power is equally shared.

Listen to Madeleine’s commentary here.

And be sure to check out her forthcoming book, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family


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