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Keith Evans on Drugs

by David Mcdonagh

Part III

Part I | Part II


Hemp is Outlawed

Anslinger wrote other similar articles, with many statements of how dire marijuana was, and of how one dose might be enough to make almost anyone insane, and that all the experts agreed that continued use of it was bound to end up in insanity. The Hearst press followed this up, almost daily, with headlines like “Murders due to Killer Drug” and “Marijuana Sweeping the United States” in a sustained campaign throughout the year.

Evans feels that the economic depression added to the campaign against marijuana. He cites a similar depression in the 1870s, that might have aided the campaign against opium. But whether it was owing to opium or not, the Chinese had a reputation for hard work, and many whites did put it down to the smoking of opium. Many white workers rightly regarded them as great competitors for their jobs, Evans talks as if the potential work to be done were not infinite. Evans is a bit weak on the basic economic facts in seeing the threat as real, but he is haply right on the motivation.

Racism played a big part in the moves to outlaw opium in the 1870s, says Evans, and it also played a part in the 1930s too, but this time it was the Hispanics that were targeted. He says that there were thousands of Mexican immigrants in the South West of the USA and that they were providing real job competition. This tended to lead to ill will amongst the whites there. The American Federation of Labour made demands for protection from the immigrants. This anti-Hispanic outlook found acceptable what the Hearst press had to say on the drugs the immigrants used. The Hearst press largely dodged the older term of cannabis, that might have been familiar, and kept to the more alien sounding name of marijuana, associated with the Mexican immigrants. Nor did they often use the even better known name of hemp.

By the time Congress responded to the public campaign of the Hearst press, it was in 1937. One doctor, Dr Woodward, on behalf of the American Medical Association [AMA], confessed to the Congressional hearings that he had not realised, till just a few days before, that marijuana was simply the harmless drug cannabis. Like the rest of the public, he had assumed that the notorious killer drug was something completely new and that it did need to be banned. He did not think it ought to be banned once he knew what it was, but he was the sole representative from the AMA at the Congressional hearing. Yet it was said that the AMA was in complete support of the resulting ban, and that Evans holds this to be a deliberate lie in the final report.

No charge at law was ever brought against the Hearst press, or Du Pont, or Henry J. Anslinger at the FNB, so there has been no official answer as to whether it was a conspiracy on the part of all three to mislead the American public or not, says Evans. Anslinger must have been aware of the findings of Canal Zone Report, and thus of the main facts about hemp. Yet he never once mentioned that report. He must have known about the 1915 findings too. Similarly, the editors of Hearst's newspapers must have known something of the past reports on hemp, but they too went along with the new campaign against it throughout 1936. Evans feels that it is clear that skulduggery was involved in the banning of hemp in 1937. But, as nothing was decided in court, he feels he needs to be cautious about the circumstances. In any case, thousands of lives have been ruined by the drug laws, and money was also lost in an expensive war on drugs. We can also add the opportunity cost of losing out on the Decorticator and the benefits of refined hemp over its rivals, cotton, synthetic fabrics and newsprint.

After hemp was outlawed in 1937, the press moved on to other topics and things went dormant for a few decades on illegal drugs, as far as Evans can see.

In the rest of the world, the League of Nations [the forerunner of the United Nations] set up a body to regulate opium and other dangerous drugs, called the Permanent Central Board (1925), but this was the year of the Canal Zone Report, and things went quiet in the aftermath. In the UK, the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed to comply with the obligations under the treaty of Versailles in 1920. But when the press ignored the topic of drugs, the demand for them also seems to fall off somewhat. When the 1939 world war breaks out, smuggling tended to become more risky. Martial law tends to lead to soldiers guarding points of entry better as a consequence of their general watchfulness.

The Second World War brought increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco, but the illegal drugs seem to have been forgotten. They may well have been consumed as much as ever, but there is next to no mention of them in the press. Until the film Man with a Golden Arm (1955), where Frank Sinatra played a heroin addict, there was nothing in the cinema either. This film seemed to coincide with a rise in demand for illegal drugs. Congress tightened up the laws on drugs and recommended the death penalty for supplying heroin to a minor. But the idea in many minds today, that the laws against drugs began in the 1960s is haply owing to this lull during the war and its aftermath, says Evans.

Modern Times: The New War on Drugs

Around the time J.F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the drug war loomed large once again. Earlier, it was a religious idea that opium was evil that motivated the war against drugs. Drugs might ruin the work ethic by supplying instantaneous joy on the way to ruin. This was oddly joined by a more political fear, almost the opposite in outlook, of opium enabling the Chinese to work long hours, thereby providing unfair competition, and taking jobs off ordinary workers. This latter motivation lives on today in the fear of cheating by the use of drugs in sport. The two ideas clearly clash, but the fear of unfair superiority and also the fear of insidious ruin both feature in the syndrome of opposition against drugs. The rise of the new wave of rock and roll with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, soon bought the idea that a drugs culture was developing in its wake. Viewed by the older people, it was all long hair, promiscuous sex and the road to ruin, whilst the younger generation felt that modern medicine had removed disease from promiscuity, and the contraception pill the fear of early responsibility for offspring. AIDS would later end that carefree outlook in the 1980s for some. The big 1920s generation gap opened up again, and many older people once more thought the youth were deplorable. “They have respect for no persons, not even their own persons,” wrote Saul Bellow of the 1960s' youth. To the religious motive, involving fear of Dionysian ruin, was added the quasi-political motive of the destination of the new youth and their new rites. They were often seen as alien in outlook if not in ethnic group, or race. Evans does not seem to notice that those two motives are almost opposites. Prima facie one might expect them to cancel each other out, at least in the short run affects, but an unnoticed contradiction can continue, indefinitely in the human mind and in books too [in what Popper would call World 2 and in World 3]. But this is only so long as the absurdity is not spotted, and there is always the chance that it will be. The idea that taking drugs is so unfair in sport is the idea that it might also lead to long run decline and here the quasi-political motivation links up with the quasi-religious motivation in the long run, despite the short run opposite effect being held.

Evans feels there were two catalysts to aid the war on drugs: the media, made up of the press and broadcasting, and the actively committed anti-propagandists who brought their polemic on drugs to the media. However, his idea of an unaffected catalyst as an analogy is haply inept here. The anti-drug parties seemed to be emotionally involved and affected, whereas a catalyst is supposed to be unaffected by what it causes, like Aristotle's unmoved mover that he holds to be God.

That the anti-propagandists, or impropagandists, were unaffected by a sound knowledge of what they were about, does seem to be the case. Bishop Brent never seemed to know much about the opium that he held to be so evil. He did not know that it is not so easy to become addicted to it, for example. Hobson and Anslinger lied to the Congress of the USA and to its general public, says Evans.

Evans thinks that adverts can get people to believe in almost anything, so he thinks that a press campaign, such as that of 1936 against marijuana, can hardly fail. This is a very naïve idea, and it is ironic in that it holds others to be exceedingly naïve. He thus thinks that the adverts aimed to discredit the opponents in elections are particularly cynical, but why he thinks people ever vote if they see the dirt thrown by both sides, is not clear. It is clear enough that the affects of adverts are way less cogent than Evans thinks to be the case. Most of them have an effect next to zero on most people. Evans feels when the politicians push for solutions to crime in political adverts, they mostly play on the old, who feel vulnerable. The fact that the old are often ill treated, that knowledge of this has more of an effect on the public than the political adverts could have, does not occur to Evans. That the old may fear drugs make people thuggish might well be the case, for they may think it a bit of a mystery otherwise, why so many of the youth are so gratuitously thuggish. That the thugs might be on drugs is a message that might explain things to their elders better than the idea that it is simply fun to do what they do.

Evans feels that it is an irony that it was the virtues of the USA democracy, the free press and the free market that created the war on drugs, but he cannot quite be right on the last, as the ban of drugs is a restriction on trade, ipso facto , and thus not quite a free market. He feels that those virtues not only began the war on drugs, but that they also make it next to impossible to end. And where the USA leads the rest of the world tends to follow.

Cannabis, the Drug of the 1960s

Youth Culture in the 1960s

Henry J. Anslinger later confessed that the 1960s drug explosion took him by surprise, says Evans, and Professor Musto puts the fad down to an affluent society demanding greater comfort. Evans feels that it was more down to the rise of youth culture, boosted by post-war full employment and the teenage wage. He notes that the word “teenager” first emerged for youth at this time. Youth stars arise not only in popular music but also, as with James Dean, in the cinema, and many, like Elvis Presley, soon straggle both pop' music and the cinema. All this, claims Evans, brings into being a new sort of citizen and a new political force. Youth now sees that it ought to rebel, and maybe also try to remain young, rather than to adapt and to grow up as soon as possible, as was earlier the desire. What began as a new niche in the market for entrepreneurs to cater to ends up as a social revolution, says Evans. By the time the Beatles emerged, a widespread trying out of forbidden drugs was bound to occur; part of the rebellion that was the new youth culture. The way was led by hemp, which does tend to reduce respect for authority, and thus widened the generation gap still further.

Soon many of the drug taking teenagers were in court. The judges had no idea what marijuana was, apart from the fact that it was an illegal drug. But they felt sure that it was evil and dangerous to society, or it would not be against the law to use it. They usually said as much in summing up and Evans fears that they were seen to be plainly ignorant by the teenagers, as the real affect of drugs was common knowledge in youth culture. The law was brought into contempt as a result, and this is the aspect of the problem that Evans dreads most. As the police often perjured themselves in such cases, the respect for the law fell faster. It was only the fear of the law that counted with the teenagers as all respect for the law had ebbed away. The case the older people made against the drugs was seen as hopelessly ignorant by the youth. The real fear of dangerous drugs that their parents felt were taken by the offspring as mere vindictiveness. When LSD arrived, the teenagers were keen to try it out, says Evans. Amphetamines were later similarly embraced. The use of heroin rises also.

When the war in Vietnam broke out, a further reason to revolt against the adults emerged for the teenagers. Evans feels that President Johnson escalated that war for his own advantage. The youth of the USA were being drafted into a war that they did not agree with, and soon the nation was divided over the war, and the flower power girls put flowers in the barrels of guns.

The estimate of half a million heroin users in the USA was maybe not an exaggeration at the end of the 1960s, says Evans, and he feels that quite a few of them might well have become addicts. Many reported bad LSD trips around that time. Laws were regularly passed to ban drugs as the authorities become aware of them. But there was not much of a push for the gaol sentences to increase. Later, the division that opened up over the Vietnam war stimulated a demand for tougher action and longer sentences. Richard Nixon was willing to cater to this new demand. He soon took measures that even tended to flout the USA constitution in his quest to stamp out the use of illegal drugs, such as in his 1970 law of “no knock” searches of private houses. He set up the 1972 Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse , but it came up with the conclusion that marijuana was more or less harmless. It recommend that marijuana to be legalised! But that was not the result that Nixon wanted. He refused to have anything to do with the report and set up the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] to enforce the law more forcefully. His successors, Ford and Carter, were much more relaxed on drugs. But, says Evans, there was a feeling of a loss of confidence in the 1970s' USA that later Ronald Reagan tackled. The USA, under Nixon, had pulled out of the Vietnam war in what was widely accepted as a defeat, and then came Watergate. That made things feel worse to many people, and it increased the national sense of shame. Reagan reversed all that. He built up the armed forces, that tend to slowly run down under normal conditions unless some special effort is made to renew them. He made the USA feel as if it could walk tall again. He was seen to stand up to the USSR and this triggered the Gorbachev reforms which in turn led to the end of the USSR while Reagan was still in office.

Ronald Reagan and after

But Reagan also declared war on drugs; as had so many of his forerunners. He was for zero tolerance on illegal drug use. Nancy Reagan, as First Lady, saw illegal drugs as a thing she might help to eradicate, and, in 1980, she came up with her “Just Say No” campaign; a campaign she renewed and maintained while she was at the White House. By 1984, the Omnibus Drug Bill led to stiffer sentences and an even greater disregard for the Fourth Amendment than the Nixon campaign of “no knock” searches had done The assets of drug dealers were taken without due process of law. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 almost doubled the money used on the war against drugs, allowing the USA to persecute drug growers around the world.

A ‘Just Say No' rally

Judges lost discretion in sentencing and one judge, J. Lawrence Irving, resigned in protest against that. He said: “I couldn't in good conscience impose sentences I felt were Draconian”. But when George Bush Sr. took over from Reagan in 1988, he continued the stiff policy on drugs. This was reacted to by the Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall who said: “Acceptance of dragnet …testing ensures that the first, and worst, casualty of the drug war will be the precious liberties of our citizens.” By 1991, it was declared constitutional to randomly test transport workers for drug usage. This was a clear erosion of liberty in the USA.

It seems unlikely that anyone in high authority, in the major drive against drugs over the hundred years plus, ever tried them out first, though they have converted and recruited many reformed ex-addicts who played a minor part along the way. Neither Brent, Wright, Jennings Bryan, Hobson nor Anslinger is likely to have taken any illegal drugs. Nixon was very odd when he refused to face up to the results of the enquiry he set up. When he was President, Bill Clinton said he puffed at some hemp but did not inhale, and there has been rumours in the UK since that Cameron and Osborne in the Tories had taken some hard drugs in their past, or even of late. Cameron refused to speak about it in his leadership campaign, and he has attempted to maintain that stance since. Later, a few other Tories, including Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude and Lord Strathclyde, have admitted to making some use of hemp in their youth. Vernon Coaker, who had been in charge of drugs at the UK Home Office since 5 May 2006 for Labour, has similarly admitted to dabbling with hemp back in his student days in the early 1970s, and recently, since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, about four members of his new cabinet also boasted about their indulgence, including his new Home Secretary, Jackie Smith. So those in authority may know a bit more about drugs today. But the politicians Evans talks about were relatively ignorant of about drugs. By contrast, the youth of the 1990s, that Evans spoke to in the USA, seemed to have quite a wide knowledge of the various drugs. They think it is no big deal. The fuss the authorities create makes the authorities look ridiculous, to their eyes. That could be what spurred the confessions of recent British politicians. That the police did not arrest them, when they might have arrested others who made such a confession, seems to be sheer privilege.

He puffed but did not inhale cannabis. Bill Clinton at the funeral of John Paul II

Evans feels he learnt a great deal from the teenagers he met in the USA in the 1990s.

Animal Spirits

Evans recommends the work of Terence McKenna, an anthropologist. McKenna holds that many animals use perception-altering plants. There are many sources of alcohol in the wild. Rotting fruit often ferments into pools that are alcoholic and elephants scoop it up. Chimps also consume from such pools. So maybe this sort of thing actually predates mankind rather than just being very old. Opium was used in the first civilisation in Sumer, but maybe it was used way before then too.

McKenna also has a thesis about the psilocybin mushroom, that is called shroom by teenagers, but has also been called the magic mushroom. It is outlawed as a narcotic by the authorities. It effects a religious sort of experience, that makes the user feel grateful and want to give thanks to God; even if he does not normally think there is a God out there. It yields this feeling of a need to say thanks rather than a high of some sort. It only grows where there is cattle, and McKenna holds that it used to be a part of the normal human diet, and thus determined how our pristine brains developed. It is what made people spiritual and gave rise to religion. About ten thousand years ago, we stopped taking it for some reason [not a ban by the primitive authorities, surely], and we have been less calm ever since. As a result, McKenna holds that the present ‘Dominator Society' arose, where men fought wars and made slaves out of women. McKenna thinks we lack psilocybin the way that Linus Pauling holds that we lack Vitamin C. Evans feels that all this is strange, but not preposterous. It could be that McKenna is right on one or both ideas viz. that we do seek to change our perception naturally or that we do lack psilocybin and that if we were to return to it, war might vanish. Evans does not to understand the liberal thesis that war is the result of the institution of the state that gears society towards war via the taxation that is needed to fund it. The liberal idea is that the free market would have no incentive to war as without taxation it could not be funded.

A third idea of McKenna's is that prior to Columbus, honey was about the sweetest thing known to the old world but then sugar arrived from the new world. The explorers had been seeking spices in the first place, and once they found sugar, they soon set up sugar plants throughout the islands of the West Indies and enslaved the local population to work on them. When the local population died off, they replaced them with slaves they bought over from Africa. Evans tends to think the slaves were kidnapped, and maybe a few of them were, but they were mainly bought off African slavers who had traditionally enslaved prisoners of war long before the Europeans discovered sugar. The African slavers continued the institution long after the liberals declared it to be immoral and various states in the West outlawed it where the liberals had an influence. They had no such influence amongst the African slave traders, or their rulers. So slavery was not outlawed in Africa.

Other Drugs

Sugar is very much a drug, declares Evans. It changes the chemical balance of the body and provides energy immediately, thereby giving us a boost. The boom that sugar gives is followed by a slump, rather like in the Mises theory of the trade cycle.

Coffee is similarly a drug. It too was produced by slave labour. Evans feels that it involved a war of conquest to get slaves, but most of the slaves were sold.

Chocolate is a drug too, thinks Evans. It too gives us a boost and was also largely produced by slaves. It is usually taken with lots of sugar, and both can cause diabetes, even making one blind in some cases. Evans feels that we should, therefore, realise that it is a drug!

Evans feels that, to our shame, our crusade for drugs has been a cause of war, and not only in the two bullying Opium wars that Britain had with China, but also the earlier wars that arose out of the crusade for drugs. Legal or illegal, drugs are always going to be big business. The sugar barons made lots of money, as did those who sold chocolate and coffee. There is money in drugs because people, whether they are harming themselves or not, want them. Evans thinks that drugs are so integral to modern society that it would collapse if they were removed.

A Volte Face by Evans

Evans seems to have suddenly joined the moralisers against drugs when he was in the middle of writing a pamphlet against them. And the case he makes against the drugs seems to show all the hyperbole he was moaning about when he criticised the other crusaders against drugs. That the drugs cause slavery, that they cause blindness, that they need to be a cause of war. On the face of it, none of those claims seems to be true Drugs can clearly be grown by free labour. There seems to be no clear reason to think that we need to be involved in war to set up a trade in drugs. Few people who eat sugar or chocolate thereby go blind.

Then, in chapter 11, as if his moralising against legal drugs is not enough, Evans suddenly goes Green and he introduces lots of hyperbole and gloom about modern society in general. I suppose he thinks that all this sort of claptrap is cool, real cool man. He says that society today is in a mess. For most of recorded history, life has been full of hardship, if not itself hard. We have had to face the prospect of premature death, and often very uncomfortable living prior to death. Only the very rich had it easy. In the last hundred years, things have got better in the advanced nations but things remain much as they were before in other parts of the world, says Evans. Recently, owing to technology, progress has been made, he says. By the 1950s, things were good for most in the developed world. Most people since that time have experienced comfort such as only the rich had known for most of the past.

This hyperbole about the past seems too ready to equate being poor with having a hard life. A materially poor life is not, thereby, a hard one, but it is true that we have, in the developed parts of the world, got way richer of late

The recent progress of the developed world was largely based on oil, that all knew was finite, says Evans, In the 1950s it was thought that nuclear power might soon replace it and that progress could go on, but the problems of nuclear waste were underestimated, thinks Evans. Authors like Petr Beckmann, or John Fremlin, might tell him that the problems are exaggerated by the Greens on quasi-religious grounds. The Greens simply seem to hate progress and like people to live in a primitive condition. Acid rain was not realised to be the result of pollution back in the 1950s, says Evans, and although some pollution problems were expected, global warming and the hole in the ozone layer was not. But in the last 50 years, the dire results have emerged for all to see, claims Evans.

Bill Bryson: His parents set a trend in 1950s America.

And Evans thinks that industrialisation has not even made us richer either! Or, at least, we have become worse off just lately. He seems to ignore what he earlier said about many being comfortable for the moment – or is it only just lately he feels we are no longer getting richer? Anyway, he feels that both parents need to work today to create the level of comfort that the male would have achieved as the sole breadwinner in the 1950s. This overlooks that, in absolute terms, almost any single breadwinner could do way better today that most could have done in the 1950s; and it is a clear enough fact that Evans has get things the reverse of the facts on the actual value of a single wage today. It is one thing to want all those little extras, and quite another to say that we cannot do without them with great ease and lots of comfort. Moreover, in Iowa USA, in the 1950s, the fashion for both parents to take a job had already emerged, as Bill Bryson reports in his autobiographical book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (2006), for Bryson's parents, or rather his mother, decided to join the new trend by taking up a second job in the one household. In the December 1951 issue of Harper's Magazine , Nancy B. Mavity wrote that men would soon lament losing their place as the family breadwinner. In fact, Bryson's father was all in favour of his wife's decision to go out to work (p.15f). In many marriages that I have known, it has been the male moaning that the wife should go out to work rather than the woman desiring it. Would Evans think that this 1950s fad for women to go out to work means the people in the USA were worse off than those of the UK back then? It seems,clearly to be not the case. However, Evans feels we are now all struggling, and he thinks that things simply cannot go on as they are. He also thinks that most of us are so wedded to society as it is in the advanced lands, that we simply do not want to face up to this fact. He feels that 82 per cent of our economy is now devoted to making use of fossil fuels in one way or another; and that is another way of saying that we are devoting 82 per cent to destroying the planet!

Any change we make will need to ensure that the elderly are not upset and also that the vested interests of the USA, the industrialists and the owners of the firms, are cared for, says Evans. Those are the two groups that fear change most of all, as they have the most to lose. Evans feels that hemp can replace fossil fuels without industrial decline. But is this just a pipe-dream?

A New Future for Hemp

He says that the technology has been long since known. Henry Ford expected to see biomass innovated back in his time. In the 1920s, Ford thought that his cars would be run on biomass rather than gasoline and this would hardly carry any pollution in its wake. Ford held that all his output could be basically grown, as he held that the car itself could be made of plastics that were a by-product of hemp. Evans claims that recent studies done in Hawaii in 1991 and by General Electric in 1992 concluded that about 90% of the energy that the USA needs could be met in this way almost at once.

The two big pollutants that are causing all the big problems are carbon dioxide and sulphur. Biomass would not be injecting stored up carbon into the atmosphere as fossil fuels do, but only about as much as was put in to allow the fuel to grow. So there is no overall carbon dioxide produced, and there is no sulphur involved at all, says Evans.

The 1992 General Electric study recommended trees for biomass fuel. Evans feels that the plants they recommend grow slowly, but hemp is far more efficient in rapid growth than trees, as it is a hardy plant that can be grown almost anywhere. It can be harvested twice a year rather than once; indeed in warm places, like Southern California, it might be harvested up to four times a year. If 6% of the cultivatable land were devoted to hemp it could make the USA self sufficient in fuel on already existing technology. If more land for hemp was used then the USA could soon export fuel.

Evans feels this would be a big threat to the large firms, but he seems to overlook that firms do regularly update and change things, so such a change is not a fearful thing for them. It would not be too difficult for them to change over to hemp if it is lawful, and if it looks economically viable. But Evans fears that such a readjustment of 82% of the economy would be bound to rub vested interests up the wrong way. Evans also fears that the return of hemp would also be the return of the Decorticator and its threat to newsprint, synthetic fibres and cotton. He sees hemp as the almost complete replacement for oil. He even thinks that hemp can provide the raw materials for plastics and indeed Henry Ford used them back in the 1920s.

Paper made from hemp is also relatively pollution free, says Evans, as it does not need the chemicals that wood pulp does. Evans fears that this will affect the chemical industries and that they will fear it. But the reality is that they adjust all the time.

Whether the soil could support the regular growth of hemp and whether it would be as cheap as Evans thinks it is, I am not competent to judge. Prima facie it would seem the likely cost that hemp imposes, rather than any opposition from vested interests that would be the bar to his grand solution to the problems oil has thrown up.



See Part I of Keith Evans on Drugs

See Part II of Keith Evans on Drugs


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It is clear enough that the affects of adverts are way less cogent than Evans thinks to be the case. Most of them have an effect next to zero on most people. Evans feels when the politicians push for solutions to crime in political adverts, they mostly play on the old, who feel vulnerable. The fact that the old are often ill treated, that knowledge of this has more of an effect on the public than the political adverts could have, does not occur to Evans





































































It is clear enough that the affects of adverts are way less cogent than Evans thinks to be the case. Most of them have an effect next to zero on most people. Evans feels when the politicians push for solutions to crime in political adverts, they mostly play on the old, who feel vulnerable. The fact that the old are often ill treated, that knowledge of this has more of an effect on the public than the political adverts could have, does not occur to Evans