The Sunday Post for March 26, 2016

Legalize It All

Dan Baum exploded the internet with his opening paragraphs of this piece about legalizing drugs, but the rest of it is worth spending time with.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? 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. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The Impossible Task of Writing Historical Fiction

Kelly Kerney cracks open the heart of writing about history with verisimilitude, under that uncomfortable title of "historical fiction".

Too often in literature, history is either romantic background against which human dramas are played out, or a force buffeting helpless characters through a chain of events beyond their control. In reality, our relationship with history — especially for Americans — is much more dynamic. It has shaped us and we have shaped it, from the politicians we elect to the products we buy. History is not consigned to an academic bubble or a genre and it is not in the past. History is all around us, a continuum on which the past, present and the future interact constantly. Bear with me on this. I promise I’m not going to bust out any crystals. When I embarked on this novel a decade ago — a project that explores the surreal and tragic history of American intervention in Guatemala — my goal was to track this continuum and drag this history from the past. I didn’t want my readers’ hearts to merely break for the characters or even for real people who lived fifty years ago. I wanted their hearts to break for an entire nation suffering on their own continuum — now.
Up Against the Centerfold: What It Was Like to Report on Feminism for Playboy in 1969

Susan Braudy was the first woman to write for Playboy, and the job she was hired to write about was the "new feminists".

Jim Goode, Playboy’s articles editor, contacted me that afternoon. Speaking more slowly than I thought a human could, he explained that Playboy wanted an objective account of the entire spectrum of the brand new “women’s lib” movement. “These women have important things to say, and I want our readers to hear them,” he said. “Let yourself go. Write anything you like but don’t pass judgment. Be fair.” He concluded, “Write in a tone that’s amused if the author is amused, but never snide.”
The Things We Do To Promote The Books We Write

Summer Brennan, on undertaking a book tour.

Becoming a professional author can require writers to do strange and unnatural things. These acts against nature can include, but are not limited to: stepping away from the computer screen, leaving the house, and donning garments other than pajamas. Just when we’re feeling most comfortable in our private fug of creativity and creation that has led to the imminent existence of a book by us, the doors of our caffeine-fueled bower are thrown open and the world sweeps in, horns blazing, opportunities whizzing by and out of sight like swallows. I am speaking of course of the book publicity tour.
This Is Our Reality: Why I Couldn't Hold Back About the Bay Area's Real Transit Problem

In a week that saw Seattle's own light rail system expanding, the Twitter account for BART in the Bay Area dedicated itself to frank honesty.

Nearly every major public transit system in America faces a similar laundry list of woes—see the litany of problems in New York and Washington D.C., the latter of which had to shut down its Metro for an entire day last week. But I'm not here to wax nihilistic. Far from doing nothing, the people at BART are working feverishly to fix the system within severe financial constraints and, frankly, an increasingly hostile attitude toward public institutions in America. We've identified funding for most of our new Bombardier-produced rail cars, which are coming next year to replace the original 1972 fleet. We're building a new maintenance complex to repair damaged trains more quickly and are replacing miles of worn rail at a brisk pace. We're not sitting on our hands, and we're certainly not resigned to letting what we have crumble around us.