The Butterfly and the Bastard

Dr. Edward Norton Lorenz, father of the Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect and tonight’s weather report.

Perhaps the Most Important Scientist Since Sir Isaac Newton

Edward Norton Lorenz was a chess player and mathematician with an avid curiosity and the intelligence and perseverance to put it to work. It is largely thanks to Dr. Lorenz that today’s weather forecasts are expressed in probability percentages, or numerical weather prediction. But that’s not all. After an impeccable intellectual formation, passing through Dartmouth and Harvard, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in meteorolgy at MIT, where he was to spend his entire career as a research scientist.

Lorenz’s weather studies led him by a fascinating mathematical route to Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the gist of which is that minute changes in conditions of a process can randomly produce massive variations in the outcome. The best-known expression of this phenomenon is a short story by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury. In Bradbury’s story, “A Sound of Thunder,” a time traveler visiting the Late Cretaceous Period steps on a butterfly. When he returns to his own time he discovers that major historical shifts have resulted from that seemingly insignificant incident. The irony in this case is that Bradbury’s story was published in 1952, 11 years before Lorenz announced his Chaos Theory discovery in a scientific paper in 1963.

Did You Ever Ask Yourself Why the US Has the Largest Prison Population in the World?

America is a country largely dedicated to conspicuous consumption. But to consume you need money. And you do what you have to do to get it. Unable to make big money quickly in hedge fund operations, the American underclasses resort to drug peddling and petty–or not so petty–crime. From there it’s a short hop to jail. This superhighway to the penal system wasn’t always that way. There was a point in the country’s history when they had to choose whether to treat illegal drug usage as a health problem or a matter for the criminal courts. They opted for the hard line and planted the seeds of dramatic changes in American society that have borne strange fruit.

If a Butterfly Can Change History, What Can a Hard-Core Misanthrope Achieve?

Harry J. Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1930-1962)

This random historical decision fell to a particularly brutal, self-serving Washington bureaucrat, Harry J. Anslinger, who was appointed by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 to run the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was to hold that post for 32 years, during the presidencies of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He spent the last two years of his career as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission, where he exported his retrograde racist doctrine around the world.

Anslinger is a prime example of how a single misanthrope can place his stamp on future generations. His anti-marihuana campaign was created in large part in order to criminalize musicians and people of color as well as to expand his own diminishing authority after the end of Prohibition. Whatever the motivation, that decision criminalized an innocuous substance and ruined countless lives.

If the United States today boasts the largest prison population in the world it’s thanks to Anslinger, who began his career in law enforcement as a humble railway cop. His legacy as a ruthless racist addicted to power, lives on today in the justice and penal systems. It was Harry J. Anslinger who advocated mandatory sentences for drug offenders and handcuffed Billy Holiday to her deathbed. There is no doubt that it cost the system a fortune over the years to build the world’s largest prison complex and maintain all those newly-coined felons, but it had to be done in order to keep Anslinger’s star on the rise. He is also on record for uttering these illuminating thoughts:

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.” And “There are 100,000 total marihuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marihuana use. This marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

CBS News

The Enemy is Music

In a revealing article on entitled How a racist hate-monger masterminded America’s War on Drugs, Laura Smith writes that, shortly after Billy Holiday’s death in 1939:

Anslinger went after musicians again by trying to block the union membership of those with drug convictions. The lives of jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.” “Arrests involving a certain type of musician in marihuana cases are on the increase,” he wrote in a draft letter to the president of the American Federation of Musicians. In a hearing with the Ways and Means Committee, Anslinger repeated this refrain: “I am not talking about the good musicians, but the Jazz type.”

Over the years, Anslinger became recognized as the country’s preeminent authority on drugs and had a hand in all of the country’s repressive drug legislation. Though he was retired from his position by President Kennedy in 1962, his retrograde racist policies were passed on to successive administrations. In 1971, President Richard Nixon picked up the ball, declaring his own “war on drugs.” His aide and Watergate co-conspirator John Ehrlichman later revealed that war’s motivations in Harpers:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people … We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

The Butterfly Strikes Back

According to the National Institute of Corrections, of the 9.25 million people currently held in detention the world over, 50 percent are in the United States. Counting only the adult population, about one in 90 people are behind bars, a large proportion of them for drug offenses, many of them unjustly.

But times are changing. Here’s a map of current cannabis legalization progress in the US:

Marijuana, affirms that eight more states are considering legalizing marihuana en 2021. US Senator Chuck Schumer (Dem. NY) says Federal Marihuana Legalization Is A Priority In Democrats’ ‘Big, Bold Agenda:’ “It’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities… It’s time to decriminalize marihuana nationally.”


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