When This Is All Done, Can We All Agree That Anyone Who Says “Nobody Coulda Seen It Coming!” Is An Idiot?

Nobody coulda seen a worldwide pandemic coming? Wrong. People like Laurie Garrett have been predicting it for years. Nobody coulda seen Donald Trump coming? Oh, please.

Fusion GPS c-founder Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Intel Committee in August 2017 about what happened when Fusion did their due diligence before commencing the opposition research the Washington Free Beacon had hired them to do on Donald Trump. Simpson testified (to a Republican-led committee trying to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity), that what they found in publicly available material convinced them that Donald Trump had laundered Russian mob money through his Atlantic City casinos — which was why they sought out and hired Christopher Steele. Steele — former head of Britain’s MI6’s Moscow desk. No one had Steele’s contacts or deep background knowledge of how Russia worked.

Chris Steele certainly saw Trump coming. Even after no one was paying him anymore, Steele was still desperate to get someone — anyone — to look at his work (including, I bet, the very people who’d just hired him). It was Steele’s persistence that (eventually) got his raw intel into the hands of the late Senator John McCain.

Plenty of people saw Trump coming — and accurately predicted what would be the outcome of having Trump (literally) occupy the White House.

And nobody saw the explosive rage against racism coming? You’d have to be blind or conservative to think that way. This has been coming at us since the Republic’s founding because we thought slavery wasn’t heinous enough to banish from our shores. We compromised with evil. It was only a matter of time before the costs came due.

“Nobody coulda seen it coming” is what lazy-assed people say to themselves. It’s absolution by ignorance — and it’s bullshit.

In A Way, The Rule Of Law Is “Do Unto Others” With Teeth

The genius of our Constitution for all its failings — and it’s got some serious failings (it gave all the political power to white men and we’re still dealing with slavery ffs) — is its establishment of the Rule Of Law as its organizing principle. The bottom line for law-making isn’t the whim of some Donald-Trump-like king, it’s a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that go to great lengths to spell out what we can — and cannot — do to each other.

Put another way, the Rule Of Law describes what we can and cannot “do unto each other”.

Do something unto your neighbor that you legally shouldn’t (like, say, murder her?) — the Law will do unto you. The Law — striving for fairness (and wanting to give each of us the chance to do the right thing) — doesn’t look to see what’s in our hearts unless we violate the Rule Of Law. And then it wants to know “why?”

In asking “why” we broke the Rule Of Law, the Law wants to prescribe a cure — not just for the crime itself but for the motivation. Did you kill someone deliberately or accidentally? That’s an important distinction. And if you killed someone deliberately, was violating their rights part of your goal — because violating someone else’s rights is as bad as stealing from their house. You took something of theirs that was theirs. In other words — killing someone is one crime and killing them because of who they are — a thing they have the right to be — is another crime.

You didn’t just kill them, you killed their right to be them.

The overwhelming majority of us want the Rule Of Law standing between us. Our problem isn’t with the Rule Of Law after all, it’s with its unequal application. Like integrity, the Rule Of Law is an all or nothing proposition. You can walk around with 99% of your integrity intact, but eventually that 1% will catch up to you. It won’t say 1%. Corruption grows with coronavirus ferocity. Just like a virus, corruption reproduces inside of us; it needs to infect our cells so completely that we spew its darkness, infecting others.

And a lot of that infection goes on undetected. It’s the most dangerous part of the iceberg, lurking under the surface.

The majority of us want others to do unto us as we do unto them. We want to be treated fairly because we want everyone to be treated fairly and we want everyone to be treated fairly because we want to be treated fairly.

As I often say here, devout atheist though I am, I consider myself a big Fan Of Jesus. He is not the church that Paul built out of the idea of Jesus — the idea of Jesus as Messiah as opposed to Jesus as Teacher with a simple but profound message (Do Unto Others). Even a simple atheist like myself can manage to Do Unto Others without hurting ourselves — or compromising ourselves.

The moral outrage we all feel now like our skin was on fire is our “Do Unto Other” way of thinking colliding with hypocrisy. The people clutching onto power have always preached “Do Unto Others” without every practicing it themselves. Actually, they practice their own perverse offshoot — “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

One place where the Rule Of Law differs slightly with Jesus is in its approach to “turning the other cheek”. The Rule Of Law says that if someone violated the Rule Of Law at your expense, you don’t have to turn the other cheek. You don’t get to seek revenge on them but you do get to instruct them — by pointing out in great detail what they did wrong — what that will cost them in time and heartache and financial loss — and how they might get better (so as not to do it again). Being human, we haven’t gotten everything about the Rule Of Law right.

As we know — we still haven’t gotten anywehre close to applying it equally.

But, as Jesus would have us do — we strive to be better. No one — Jesus included — ever said doing unto others was easy.

Why (Unfortunately) Twitter Matters

In a logical world, social media shouldn’t matter the way it does. In a logical world, everyone would have access to the same information. We all might judge it differently but at least we’d all be starting from the same place: a reality based on what we all agree we know.

I canceled my Facebook account a few years ago. I do not trust Mark Zuckerberg with my private information. I regret he has what he already has of it. I suspect Zuckerberg is compromised to a degree by the Russian money he took in to help keep Facebook afloat early on. I suspect Russia — and organized crime — have more sway than we know.

Facebook and its sister platform Instagram are designed like a neighborhood — in that one has to be “invited into it” in order to contribute to it. One can’t just walk in on someone else’s page; you have to be invited; you have to be friends. Twitter is structurally different. It’s almost exactly like a town square where everybody enters carrying a soap box. There are famous people — verified people — already standing on their soap boxes yapping away. In Twitter, one can follow anyone (until or unless they block you) and either listen to them quietly (having all their tweets in your feed) or answer back. If you answer back smartly, the person on the soap box might even follow you — and get all your tweets in their feed.

That’s the goal, of course — to attract as many followers so that every time you get up on your soap box to spew, you spew to thousands, tens of thousands… millions. One can dream, can’t one?

That town square structure — or think of it like Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park — is what makes Twitter truly dynamic. One can go there and simply “orate”. If one has zero followers, one is orating to oneself. But once you begin to build followers, once you begin to build that community — where you’re part of others’ communities while they’re part of yours — there’s a feeling of collective togetherness that I never experienced on FB. Yes, sure, there’s an echo chamber quality and one almost always preaches to the choir. And Twitter is toxic as hell — because some of the people in the town square are toxic.

All true. But the Twitter experience is unique and uniquely addictive. One can walk up to any other person on Twitter and tap them on the shoulder. They might not respond. They probably won’t. But then, they might.

Ask any Twitter user what their proudest moments have been on Twitter and, betcha, it will involve having a tweet liked by someone they respect and follow or, better yet, having that person re-tweet them. Or — best of all — getting followed back by that person they respect and follow. While FB made catching up with your high school homies easier (and boy, was that fun for about ten minutes), it doesn’t satisfy beyond that. At least, it didn’t for me.

Twitter’s founder, Jack Dorsey, said that his three guiding principles — which, he says, the company shares, are “simplicity, constraint and craftsmanship”. You can’t argue with Twitter’s simplicity. Christ, the only way to stress anything is via capitalization (shouting) or by using *s or “s. The saving grace is that photo or video attachments don’t count against your 280 character limit. That brings us to craftsmanship. Back when the limit was 140 characters, one really had to get an idea buttoned down tightly before tweeting. Tweets back then were way more cryptic.

But the limitation forced people to use craftsmanship. The 280 limit made tweeting easier. One didn’t have to rely on so many tweet threads to convey a simple point. Still — there’s something really satisfying about a great tweet. If we go back to the 140 character limit, it asks a question — what can you say completely in that amount of space?

You can tell a joke in 140 characters.

You can have a set up and a punch line — or a slightly complicated set up and a punch line or even a slightly complicated set up — with one more small, key detail — then a punch line. That’s it. 280 characters lets you add more details. Sometimes too many details. Though 280 characters still isn’t the endless page that FB gives you, people still tend to ramble.

Twitter’s town hall structure is exactly why news goes to Twitter to break. Tweets are news. While only 22% of Americans say they use Twitter, a good chunk of that 22% are the people who make news in one way or another. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter as his principle means of communication as president pretty much changed the game — and made having a Twitter account more or less imperative. That’s if you care to know what’s going on in the world.

On the one hand, it’s madness. On the other hand, it’s just efficient. Back in the good old days, news would break by means of a complex process of those making the news describing it for the news media who would then disseminate the light via newspapers & broadcast media to the plebeians out here in the dark. Back in the day, one would have to read a newspaper or catch the news when it was being broadcast in order to stay informed. Now, one only need open Twitter and scroll through your feed for a few moments (provided you’ve got a good, well-chosen feed representing both your Twitter community & the news/information voices you want to hear from) in order to feel informed.

What Twitter’s structure allows one to do — if one’s of a mind — is to create a network of voices you can trust. These days, one can’t simply “watch the news” to get informed. Our news media simply isn’t up to the task of covering Donald Trump. They’ve failed us terribly. To find the truth in anything one must triangulate it. One must approach it from three directions simultaneously. As chaotic as Twitter seems, one can do that. One can build a community of trustworthy voices.

One can build a community.

To his credit, Jack Dorsey invented a thing that never existed before — a virtual town square. And as crazy as it drives many of us, we can’t quit Twitter.

There’s greatness there. There’s putrescence. There’s beauty and compassion and there’s extreme cruelty, too.

There’s Donald Trump.

Twitter’s problem is it thinks it needs Donald Trump. It doesn’t. Hey — I’ve lost Twitter accounts. If I’m honest with myself, I went too far. That’s if I ask myself if I always used “constraint” — that other feature Jack Dorsey believes is part of Twitter. I once posted a movie image of a vampire being staked & said the GOP deserved to be staked like a vampire. That account? Gone.

I also told someone I hoped that they died in prison. That account? Gone.

For the past few days, Donald Trump — the POTUS — has been lying about vote-by-mail, he’s been smearing people — causing them or their families considerable heartache, he’s been lying in ways that are demonstrably bad for the public and its health. Constraint? Not a drop.

But Donald Trump’s Twitter account lives.

Having a virtual meeting place where one doesn’t have to be “friends” first before engaging with each other — where one can go and sample what others are thinking (perhaps even heckling respectfully or shouting encouragement) — works on multiple levels. That’s why Twitter works.

Twitter can never be a “respectful” place. But it can be a safer place if management would simply apply its rules equally.

Perhaps what’s needed is political leadership that will help Twitter rather than take advantage of it.

Maybe It’s Time To Make “Stupid” A Verb — As In “Donald Trump & The GOP Are ‘Stupiding’ America To Death”

The very worst part about going down the shitter the way we are is how stupid we are for going down the shitter. Watching other countries not go down the shitter because they weren’t as stupid — it’s salt in the wound.

But, Republicans aren’t just being stupid here. They’re being very deliberate. They still hold most of the political power; they’re stealing even more as we watch. Ironically, even with all their thievery up to this point, had the Republicans seized the marketing high road — and demonstrated incredible efficiency at knocking the coronavirus down, they would have made it much harder for Joe Biden to clean their clock the way he’s going to. To have seized that high road however, Republicans would have had to have acted like Democrats — and cared more about people than profits.

The Trump White House knew it was profiting from our failing pandemic response. That was the point. Helping anyone? If that happened, too, okay. Whatevs.

On the one hand, Donald Trump is not even remotely stupid. He’s got the smarts any bully has — for terrorizing people. He knows a thousand ways to get you to do what he wants you to do. None of them are good for you. Like he cares. But, on the other hand, Donald Trump knows nothing. Being a sociopath, he’s incapable of learning anything from another human being. He simply can’t relate to us enough to do it. But Trump also is genetically predisposed toward criminality. Google the Trump family. I ain’t lying.

Trump lives to serve his own greed. End of story. Everyone else, everything else he comes across is just a means to his end. Do what he wants — even if what he wants is stupid. Donald Trump has forced America to be stupid. He has stupided us into where we are. He’s also treasoned us into where are but one could argue that committing treason is stupid so — can we stick a pin in that?

Donald Trump responded politically to the pandemic. He didn’t see it as a public health crisis, he saw it as a political crisis – for him. That’s actually more than stupid, it’s ignorant (stupid on steroids) but for our purposes — let’s just say that was a really stupid thing to do regardless of what the motivation was.

Donald Trump committing treason — in addition to being greedy and criminal — was stupid. He was going to get caught at it eventually if only because he’s bad at it. If not for the complicity of the entire Republican Party, this dumpster fire of treachery would be out already. The entire Republican Party is stupid — for thinking they would get away with this. For still thinking they’ll get away with it.

They’re stupidity blinds them — as stupidity does. We can say therefore that any Republicans stupidity will, ironically, stupid them even as they stupid other people.

For the moment, Donald trump stupids us every day. He has stupided us every day up until now. He will stupid us again tomorrow regardless of how much he already stupided us today.

We would have to be stupid — to stupid ourselves — to let this go on.

Capitalism Doesn’t Have To Crush People — Only CRONY Capitalism Does That

Like all ideas, capitalism itself is neither good nor bad. It’s just an idea — a foundational notion of how a society might live, using capital as a motivator for innovation. Capitalism, by its nature, looks to the future. It depends on tomorrow being better than today — it needs new ideas, new inventions, new ways of doing things constantly churning in order to succeed. Money chases ideas because a good idea can make someone rich but also benefit a wide swath of humanity because capitalism has also innovated how to mass produce, market and distribute that good idea.

The trick, as always, is who is at the helm of the idea. Who’s driving it?

Capitalism plus greed — unfortunately the easiest combination of all — produces chaos and corruption and blight. Greed — the compulsive getting of money (or anything) for its own sake — though it seems to run alongside capitalism — actually is an impediment to it. Greed kills innovation. It’s rarely the greedy people who do any of the actual innovating. But damn if they’re not first in line when the money starts flowing. And damn if they don’t refuse to budge when it happens.

We associate capitalism with conservatism — the getting of huge piles of money seems like something old people, landed people, already-wealthy people, greedy people would associate with happiness. But conservatism never thinks about the future. Conservatism wants to conserve — just like it’s name says. It wants to conserve the past (what else?) and the present (because the present still contains elements of the past). Innovation poses a direct threat to that way of thinking. How could it not? Innovation innovates because it sees problems in how we do things now. How can we improve upon past ways? How can change them?

See the problem for conservatives?

The truth is, capitalism and progressivism have far more common purpose than capitalism and conservatism. Crony capitalism is greed perverting markets. It isn’t actually a form of capitalism, it’s a distortion of it.

The more fair capitalism is, the better it is — because it gives more people the chance to both innovate and benefit. That means regulating it. Over-regulation can stifle capitalism as much as corruption does — there is a fine balance. Ain’t nothing perfect in this world — not if humans are involved. Let’s stop thinking it exists.

Social democracies resting upon the Rule Of law (so that everyone is indeed treated equally before the law) and a reasonably regulated capitalism would give more people the chance to live better, happier, healthier lives.

Regulated capitalism puts more money into peoples’ hands. When more people have money — a healthy, functioning middle class — they spend that money on goods and services — the basis for a consumer driven market economy. They may even save a buck or two. Our version of capitalism here in America hasn’t done that. As we know — it’s done the opposite. The rich have gotten way richer, the poor can’t even afford to go to a hospital if they have Covid-19.

And — ironically? That fact is what makes the pandemic so much worse here in America. Our health system is a giant billboard advertising everything wrong with crony capitalism. It’s not a health CARE system, it’s a health INSURANCE system. The first question we ask anyone walking in the door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s wrong every which way you look at it.

Think of all the people who lose their houses, go bankrupt, destroy their family’s finances for generations all because they got sick. That doesn’t happen anywhere else but here. It’s because capitalism sits inside our health “care” system — where it does not belong. Capitalism can innovate myriad ways to do health CARE better, more efficiently, more effectively.

That’s if we use capitalism — this idea — as a tool. To help as many human beings around the globe as possible. Capitalism has been good for mankind. It has made life better for us as a species. We’ve prospered under it. That’s just historical fact speaking.

It’s caused profound misery too.

But — if we’re fair — little of that was capitalism’s fault.

Hey, America, Don’t Forget: Republicans Are A Minority Party — By A Lot

Americans either can’t bear talking about politics or it’s what we obsess on. Politics are fraught wherever you go — in our time especially — but politics are especially fraught here in America. The divide seems more intractable than ever.

It is.

The way our news media reports it, America is split 50-50 between two equal arguments represented by two parties. Our founders did not intend for there to be political parties. But even at the country’s founding, we were split between diametrically opposite ways of approaching power. One favored federalism, the other favored the states. Either or. The first parties split along those lines and have never really wavered.

To assume Republicans (modern Republicans, not Lincoln’s Republican Party — read Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party and you’ll see how the two parties have, in essence, flipped identities) have an argument for power equal to the (modern) Democrats’ argument is to assume that “slavery” vs “no slavery” is an equal argument with equal merit. Of course those arguments aren’t equal. To give slavery any ground is to compromise what cannot be compromised.

It’s a bullshit discussion from the start. We shouldn’t be having it. There’s no possible middle ground.

And yet, we stand on it. Middle Ground that shouldn’t be. We can feel the intense dynamic pressure it creates every single day.

It’s why institutional racism runs so deep. It’s why we have armed men storming state capitols demanding they get to have hair cuts or mani-pedi’s the coronavirus be damned. It’s why women can’t get health care because men want to control their bodies. It’s why we have a health INSURANCE system instead of a health CARE system. It’s why students leave college and university with a mountain of debt on their backs. It’s why the rich keep getting richer while the rest of us struggle harder to make do with less.

It feels not only wrong but… incorrect. Like we’re being forced to live someone else’s life under someone else’s rules. We look around at our communities — all of us feeling the same helplessness — wondering why things don’t change — why the majority never seems to get what IT wants? How can this be.

The real problem is (ironically) what Spiro Agnew called “The Silent Majority”. There is a Silent Majority, it turns out — Democrats. There probably wasn’t even really a “silent majority” of conservative Americans back when Agnew claimed there was. Agnew was only thinking about white people anyway — a silent majority of WHITE PEOPLE. Now, polling says, the “silent majority” of independent voters (38% of us) vote Democratic.

Among voters who don’t regularly vote? The margin’s even bigger.

We can all feel it — the dynamic tension between a minority that somehow has the power and the majority that didn’t vote that way and wouldn’t have if they had showed up at the polls. The majority of Americans either lean Democratic or are Democratic — and that is the Republican Party’s existential problem.

As Donald Trump himself said out loud to Fox News — the problem with mail-in voting is that it compels more Americans to actually vote and when more Americans vote, “It’s bad for Republicans”. If more Americans voted, fewer Republicans would get elected — and America would already be a very different place. If only every American saw voting not just as some right they have but as their moral duty as citizens.

And yet… Americans are not flush with civic pride. We need to ask WHY?

Americans know less about their government and how it works than anyone who comes to this country seeking citizenship. They actually have to study our system.

Not to “both sides do it” but, in this instance, in their own ways, both sides brought us here. The Republicans have deliberately made Americans ignorant. They’ve made voting hard or not impossible for people of color all across America. They’ve fought vote-by-mail while relying upon it — or using it personally. They’ve favored ignorance over science in our classrooms — and made the teaching mantra “get a job, get a job” instead of “get an education, get an education”.

Democrats got smug. They gained national power during the Clinton years and forgot that real power starts on the local level — with school boards. To their credit, right-wingers and evangelicals ran for office at the local level all across the country. They took over the re-drawing of voter districts — and began gerrymandering. They took over statehouses and began making it harder for the Democratic majority to get what they wanted from government. Government began to break down. Changing it got harder — all because the Democrats took their eye off the ball: all elections are local elections and (in America) you have to motivate voters to be engaged every single day.

It’s frustrating to be a majority lorded over by a minority. That’s authoritarianism. At any point, the majority could take to the streets and bring the minority’s “government” down. Even Thomas Jefferson allowed that a little revolution was a good thing from time to time. Clearly a little revolution is what’s needed here.

Royalists have taken over the greatest experiment in human self government ever.

We need to throw these regressive bastards out. We need to restore America and its exceptionalism. That’s a real thing — American Exceptionalism. It isn’t white guys and their money, it’s diversity. Our diversity is what makes us truly unique in the world. Contrary to what Republicans will tell you, America has never been a celebration of the white man and the white man alone. Having decimated the native populations with our germs, we truly created a new country here without a past.

In essence, our past begins with the country’s founding. And, while the actual “founding” was done exclusively by white men, the country outside those doors where the founding was being done did not look exactly like them. While it was far whiter then, the innovation and energy demanded to not only found a democracy but keep it running — what kept it running even back then as it was being founded — was diversity. Americans who weren’t “white” and male.

The reason Republicans have to cheat to win elections is because the majority of Americans won’t vote for them. The majority of us want to live in a diverse future where as many Americans as possible prosper. We don’t want to live in a past where white men have all the privilege.

Shocking, right?

Sports & Cannabis — It’s Not A Good Thing, It’s A GREAT Thing

Tennis (with cannabis) anyone?

America’s sports leagues are walking point on some very important realizations we’re all having about cannabis. The NFL, MLB, the NBA and the NHL no longer punish athletes for using cannabis. As ESPN put it, league attitudes — at the rules & regs level — is now officially “whatever”.

The leagues — all still holding onto bits and pieces of our old way of thinking about cannabis (the Harry Anslinger-inspired Reefer Madness way of seeing it) — told themselves that cannabis was good for pain relief. That’s why it was okay if their players tested positive for THC in their swabs or urine samples. For starters, not having to punish their stars for something they might be using themselves (knowing the effects) was a huge load off their, um, consciences. It also absolved them of having to justify test results that can’t tell anything beyond the presence of THC.

THC tests can’t tell you how much THC is in you. Can’t tell how long said THC has been in you. Can’t tell what exactly said THC did to your brain that makes punishment for it so important.

As I wrote in Blunt Truths, a thirteen-part series I did for WeedmapsNews (back when it existed as a thing), the story of cannabis prohibition is a story of racism and nothing but. At no point in our national conversation about cannabis did those trying to prohibit it ever back up their reasoning with science or data or anything remotely connected to them. Don’t you think they would have if they could have?

Oh, there’s “science” but it’s of the climate denying variety that could be picked apart by a kid working on a science fair project. The data — now that we’re collecting it — tells a very different story about (here’s the problem) a very different product. Different, that is, from alcohol. And other drugs that do things cannabis does not do.

Cannabis simply does not do to our brains what alcohol does. Or opiates for that matter. We need to stop acting — well, legislating and law enforcing — like it was. One of the things I wrote about in Blunt Truths was how marijuana became popularized in America. It more or less entered the country via the southwest. It had been used in Mexico for a long time already when the Mexican Revolution (started in 1910) sent a wave of Mexicans fleeing north to escape the violence.

In 1913, the very white California State Board of Pharmacy had noticed that Mexicans sometimes used marijuana to relax. Marijuana being foreign to them, these white guys decided it could only be bad — since Mexicans were already bad cos not white. They helped write the first anti-cannabis legislation. They claimed science but had none on their side. See how that works?

Anyway — in time marijuana use spread to New Orleans. It was taken up there at first by the mostly black musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver who were inventing a new kind of music called jazz. Music was everything to these guys. They lived it and, well, breathed it. And they knew from experience that they couldn’t write music — couldn’t really play it — on alcohol. Opiates? Fuhgeddaboutit.

But, marijuana — that was different. Not “I want it to be different” different, DIFFERENT. On marijuana they felt both relaxed and deeply focused. The relaxed feeling — the euphoria — took the weight of the world from their shoulders. While the marijuana was caressing their brains — and smoking it gives you an hour-and-a-half or so of “prime time” and a few hours of much milder effect — they heard better. They articulated better the abstract musical ideas in their heads — reproducing it as notes on a trumpet or piano or glockenspiel even.

Marijuana really and truly makes its users more creative. Hell, I use indicas for sleep (I use sativas & hybrids the rest of the day). I mix & match from my collection (I like to keep a “rotation” of 8 or 9 different indica strains going) — usually doing two bowls of Skywalker or Hollow point or Paris or King Louis XIII or Afghani directly before bedtime. But, even as the indica’s sleepiness begins to envelope me in its delicious embrace, I can still get creative.

Suddenly, I’m sitting down and writing. Spewing an idea in all its glory as if I hadn’t been sleepy a minute before. I’ll sketch the thing out. Put down the pad or close the computer — and marvel at how the sleepiness, in a moment or two, returns. As if I hadn’t just been experiencing a vibrant, creative outburst.

And then I slip between the covers and sleep wonderfully. I started using cannabis a few years ago because of insomnia. Because OTC sleep meds weren’t doing anything for me. I had been using them for years and could count the number of “good” nights’ sleep on one hand. I was experiencing memory loss, too — a side effect of those drugs. Living in California, I figured what the hell. Dope had never been my thing when I was a kid — it put me to sleep. If that was the problem I was trying to solve — why not?

After putting my sleep problem to bed, I began to wonder what was in all those other jars at my local dispensary — that weren’t indicas? I had no concept back then what an indica was versus a sativa or hybrid. Like most people, what I knew about cannabis was mostly bullshit colored by Harry Anslinger, America’s first drug czar (he served as first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 all the way to 1962 when JFK shitcanned him). I had no idea that sativas had a very different effect from indicas. And what were these “hybrid” strains?

Then I discovered Durban Poison.

DP is a great working strain because the “high” is so focused but also so “smooth”. Other sativas (or sativa-dominant stains) like Crystal Coma or Green Crack deliver the same mental focus but with a little more edge. It’s kind of like feeling “extra curious” about things. Your mind wants to dig deeper still into whatever you’re thinking about. DP doesn’t prohibit one’s mind from going there, but it doesn’t automatically put your mind there.

Again — what sativas deliver to our brains is focus. It slows everything down. Think of our brains as being like digital circuits: our synapses are either open or closed. A zero or a one. THC causes more of our synapses — our digital circuitry — to be open. It’s not making us see more or hear more, but it is allowing our brains to process more. More visual input. More smell and taste input. That’s why people feel paranoid — their brains are receiving more information in real time. Some people perceive that as threatening. They think the information flowing to them means someone is watching them. It’s not a rational thought, it’s a feeling. But we go with it.

That additional flow of information to our brains also is why food tastes incredible when you’re high. It’s why smells are stronger and things just seem… funnier. That’s why people laugh so much on cannabis. You don’t just see the humor in things, you REALLY see it. And then you really, REALLY laugh.

If the fans attending a sporting event smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there would never be a fight in the stands because one drunk got pissed off at another. There would never be rioting after a match. People would be too busy hugging each other and saying “good match!” And the players?

Yeah — what of the players — and their experience using cannabis on the pitch or field or tennis court.

I’ve played tennis all my life. I hated it most of the time. Not tennis’ fault, that. Mine. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was dealing with a monstrous depression. A few days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. In the long, slow march toward oblivion that I was on, I would torture myself weekly with tennis.

My depression was filled with self-destructive loathing. If I played badly, it was because I sucked. I sucked because I always played badly — and I always played badly because I beat myself up instead of coaching myself. Long story short, my depression’s in remission. My mood stabilizer stops me from beating myself up — especially about tennis.

When I stopped beating myself up and started coaching myself instead — I got better at tennis. Well, I started to live up to my tennis-playing potential and that was awesome. It was fun, too. A shitload of fun.

Imagine it being a revelation that the sport you’ve played all your life can actually be enjoyable to play. Cannabis is the icing on that cake.

As it does with my work, cannabis focuses my brain on tennis. It relaxes me. Slows everything down. “See the ball”, I tell myself — and I find it as my tennis partner hits it and follow it all the way to my racket. “Where’s the ball?” I ask also. The ball needs to be in a specific place for me to attack it — and I need to be attacking it (rather than being attacked by it). I need to have a strategy in mind — and the cannabis does that too. I pick a spot. I attack the ball accordingly (racket back ASAP), stepping into the shot, striking the ball in “the zone” and then (most importantly but too often forgotten) following through.

I wish I was more consistent. But I’m waaaaaay better than I was — and I’m always keenly aware of exactly what I do wrong when I do things wrong.

The advantage cannabis gives me on the tennis court isn’t physical. It’s mental. I’m not being pumped up, I’m being focused. I’m being relaxed into a better performance.

And a fun experience becomes exponentially more fun.

Does cannabis give me an unfair advantage? That’s a science question, really. I sometimes think it does. But then I lose focus momentarily — because I’m still me — and I’m not so sure.