Every Story May Have Two Points Of View, But It Doesn’t Necessarily Have Two “Sides”

“Both Sides Do It” journalism (an oxymoron really) wants to insist that truth & lies have the same weight; it’s not for them to tell their readers which to believe — lies or truth.

That’s not journalism, it’s malpractice justifying its intellectual laziness and lack of moral conviction.

A thief and his victim both have “points of view” on their interaction. But — if the thief gets caught and both thief & victim tell their stories, the thief lying about how he ended up with his victim’s possessions should not get the same respect as the victim’s version — especially if the thief’s lies are apparent. The thief stole for whatever his reasons were — greed probably. There aren’t many Jean Valjean’s stealing bread out there because of hunger.

Yes, yes — we can’t rush to judgment. We need to know the whole story first. But when we say “the whole story”, we don’t mean every last detail.

There may be two points of view in everything Donald Trump says — his and everyone else’s — but there aren’t two “sides”. Having a “side” assumes you have a legitimate argument and having a legitimate argument assumes you’re sincere. Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick, for instance, is not sincere and does not have a legitimate argument when he says wearing face masks during a pandemic that is eating through his state is unnecessary because the virus isn’t really a problem. People eschewing science and insisting herd immunity will eventually, some day shut down the coronavirus aren’t even espousing a legitimate, fact-based point of view. It doesn’t represent a “side” in any argument.

The man who molested me twice when I was fourteen had a point of view. What he wanted to do to me as I walked in the door wan’t his “side” of our relationship. It was a crime he intended to commit upon me.

Our press — in reporting this story — would drop into its “Well, we have to hear both sides first” stance. Fair enough. But then, look at who you’re talking to — a middle aged man and a 14 year old boy. The only defense the man has is “the boy is lying”.

One side aches to tell the truth. The other aches to cover it up. Two points of view.

Not two “sides” however.

Imagine For A Moment If They Stopped Selling Alcohol At Sporting Events & Sold Cannabis Instead

Someday — probably not soon but some day — Americans will get to attend live sporting events again. There’s something about watching sports and drinking that — maybe it’s habit more than anything — goes together.

Or maybe we just think it does because we’ve never considered doing it another way. Human beings are like that — we get stuck thinking things will be how they are forever because they’ve always been that way. Not true and not true. Baseball didn’t always exist. Even within baseball, the designated hitter didn’t always exist (and it breaks my heart that it’s coming to the National League this coronavirus-shortened season). Things change and evolve.

People around the world drink alcohol at sporting events because that’s the only legal choice we have. We know from experience that alcohol prohibition doesn’t work (and it makes organized criminals happy). We also know from experience that drug prohibition doesn’t work but, again, human beings are slow on the uptake. We also know from experience that selling alcohol at sporting events can turn ugly.

Violent.

Destructive.

Alcohol does this to people. Cannabis doesn’t. THC doesn’t effect our brains the way alcohol does. THC may alter our perceptions — it refines & focuses mine — but it does not impact our motor skills. It can make us sleepy and hungry and a little dopey but it does not make anyone violent. And, please, let’s not go down the rabbit hole of “but some do”. Pick a subject and “but some do”.

If everyone at a soccer or football or baseball or basketball game was using cannabis instead of drinking, there would NEVER be violence at the end of a game. Fans from competing teams wouldn’t go at each other — they’d be too busy hugging (when that’s allowed again) or telling each other what a great game it was or laughing or sleeping even. But no one would be fighting because the whole reason one does cannabis in the first place is for the euphoria it delivers.

People experiencing euphoria together (as they would at a sporting event) do not fight with each other. It’s not how euphoria works.

When those sports fans head out into the streets — they won’t be violent there either. They won’t fight police, won’t riot or loot, won’t set fire to cars.

Cannabis is proof that selling lies is easy. Selling the truth — much, much harder. We may never completely clear the racist lies first Commissioner of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger invented while trying to justify marijuana prohibition. While Anslinger, as far as we know, didn’t coin the actual term “Reefer Madness”, the “gore files” Anslinger collected and used — all lies and misinformation about cannabis, some of it overtly racist — captured the spirit of “Reefer Madness”.

Not only does using cannabis (instead of alcohol) make watching sports better, as more and more athletes are realizing, using cannabis makes PLAYING sports better. That is, with some THC in your brain, you become capable of performing better. I play tennis using cannabis — I take a hit of Durban Poison just before I play and about halfway through. The DP slows my brain down just a little while also focusing it. I’m bi-polar and very hypomanic. My mind races along most of the time at a fairly supersonic pace.

But the THC in a bowl of DP helps me with that. As I said, the cannabis slows down my thoughts so I have a chance to consider them. I become better able to coach myself. When I tell myself “eyes on the ball” or “put the ball there” or “attack the ball now”, I do it more consistently than if I hadn’t smoked cannabis. Not only do I play with more technical finesse (I’ll flatter myself that I play with “finesse”), but I’m more consistent — and consistency is my biggest bugaboo of all on a tennis court.

I drive better with THC in me, too. I’m not delusional. And I’m not alone.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority and the National Institute of Health — the keepers of transportation & drug safety data — want desperately to prove that using cannabis makes you a bad driver deserving of punishment — just like with people who drink and drive. But alcohol and THC work differently in our brains. The data simply will not cooperate.

The data backs up what we know: drinking alcohol — even a little — impacts your motor skills, decision-making and ability to drive. Cannabis doesn’t impact them the same way.

Here’s what the National Institute of Health study says:

Driving and simulator studies show that detrimental effects vary in a dose-related fashion, and are more pronounced with highly automatic driving functions, but more complex tasks that require conscious control are less affected, which is the opposite pattern from that seen with alcohol. Because of both this and an increased awareness that they are impaired, marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively for their impairment by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies such as driving more slowly, passing less, and leaving more space between themselves and cars in front of them. Combining marijuana with alcohol eliminates the ability to use such strategies effectively, however, and results in impairment even at doses that would be insignificant were they of either drug alone. Case-control studies are inconsistent, but suggest that while low concentrations of THC do not increase the rate of accidents, [they] may even decrease them…

The data says having THC in them causes drivers to follow the speed limit, stay in their lanes and maintain safe following distances — the opposite of what alcohol would cause.

My brother-in-law called me the other day with his 17 year old son on the line. I’ve written a lot about pot. I’ve done research in order to write about it. My brother-in-law figured I’d tell my nephew how much marijuana impacted your decision-making and especially your driving skills. I told my brother-in-law before I responded that I probably wasn’t going to answer his question the way he wanted or expected.

After walking him through the data, I shared one final anecdote about cannabis. Just after the first cannabis cafe opened here in LA, a good friend and I went to it. We made reservations — we had to if we wanted to get in. The deal was 90 minutes then the table went to someone else.

There was a line to get in (even with reservations and timed tables). There was even a line of people wanting to work there.

Inside, it looked like a regular fern bar: lots of wood and warm touches. Ceiling fans whirred constantly, drawing the smoke upward. That was the first strange thing — though everyone at virtually every table was smoking cannabis, the room didn’t stink and it wasn’t smoky and acrid like a bar filled with tobacco smoke.

Second strange thing: the sound of the place. First — because alcohol wasn’t being served, the sound of glass was greatly reduced — the sound of glasses being clinked while toasting — of bottle necks clinking against cocktail glasses as the bartenders mixed away.

Third strange thing: also the sound of the place. When people drink alcohol — and lose their inhibitions — they get louder. The more they drink, the louder they get. Put a bunch of drinkers in a crowded bar and you get a distinct sound signature that only comes from people drinking.

Now throw in the glass sounds and the sight of everyone smoking dope at every table and you begin to sense what an unusual experience this was. The food was great — the perfect, snnacky, salty-sweet bites that the munchies crave.

After 90 minutes (including a gigantic cigar-sized, mostly sativa joint that my friend and I shared — back in the day when one shared a joint), we paid our bill and headed out the door. So did everyone else we came in with. Now, here’s strange thing number four: while my friend and I parked on the street, most everyone else pulled into the lot and handed their car keys to the valet.

Now that they were finished smoking dope and eating, these same people were now getting their car keys BACK from the valet guy, climbing into their cars and driving away — either back to work or home or wherever. If cannabis was like alcohol, there would have been a non-stop pileup of cars right in their driveway — of people just trying to get to the street.

And at the street? An even bigger pileup.

Except there wasn’t. Think about it. If we had spent 90 minute drinking steadily — instead of smoking cannabis steadily — there would have been accidents everywhere in and around that parking lot. But there wasn’t a one.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…

It will take a while before we stop treating cannabis like alcohol — certainly where driving is concerned. Have I mentioned how slow human beings can be to adapt to new information?

In CA, I hope we have the smarts to allow people to consume cannabis at sporting events the same way they allow alcohol consumption. I hope we have the smarts to take notes when we do — so we can compare how cannabis effects people vs how alcohol does.

If the people making those decisions are all smoking dope when they make the decision? It’ll be dope.

Stuff Life Teaches You — California Earthquake Edition

Every time a temblor rumbles somewhere other than where you are in California, something inside heaves a sigh of relief. And disappointment.

The 5.8 temblor that rattled California today struck mostly remote wilderness out in the Owens Valley, not far from Mr. Witney (California’s highest peak). A storekeeper in Lone Pine — the closest town to the epicenter — described it as sounding like an explosion. He went outside to see if a truck hadn’t hit the building.

Earthquakes are like no other natural disaster. Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions even — they ll announce themselves well ahead of their arrival. Earthquakes hit the ground running as it were. That’s pretty much what they feel like — like the ground was “running”.

My first quake was the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake. Measuring in at 5.9 on the Richter Scale, it struck at 7:42 in the morning. My wife and I were renting a bungalow in West Hollywood — off the street and hidden behind a high fence with a swimming pool even. My German shepherd Sophie heard it first and ran outside, acting strangely.

As I went to ask her what was wrong, the temblor struck.

Every earthquake, I’ve learned, has its own sound signature. There’s a low, gutteral growl the earth makes. The shaking depends on a lot of factors: how strong the quake is, where the quake is (relative to where you are) and what the earth is like beneath your feet. A little rock beneath your feet is good. Too much sand is not. Structures, too, have a sound signature as they heave and vibrate.

There’s some famous footage of local NBC News anchor Kent Shockneck — on the air during one of the larger aftershocks — diving for cover —

Brings back memories… Throw in the sound of things falling, some breaking. You really can’t compare the experience to anything else. Then, finally the shaking stops.

Our WeHo bungalow did okay. No discernible damage aside from plenty of water lapping over the sides of the pool.

The 1994 Northridge Quake made much more of an impression. That stuck a little after 4:30 am. We owned a house in Los Feliz — in the hills. And our bedroom window looked out over the LA basin — a very nice view. I remember sitting up as the house started to rock (the initial quake hit a 6.7 on the Richter scale) and seeing most of the lights in the basin suddenly go dark as the power failed.

Our house was a 1927 Spanish that — being mostly stucco — cracked in plenty of places but didn’t fall down the way brick structures do during intense shaking. As the quake itself roared and the house shook, we heard glass breaking in other rooms. Things began to smash to the floor in our bedroom.

That’s when I learned by biggest earthquake lesson. Yes, running for a doorway is important. You don’t want to be sitting in your bed as the roof falls on you. That won’t look good when they go to dig you out later. But, when you leap out of bed, you better know where your shoes are. That broken stuff on the floor? It hurts when you step on it.

Ever since that quake — through all the subsequent ones that have rolled through LA while we’ve been here, — I’ve made it a point to put a pair of shoes by my bed — just in case.

There’s a life lesson in there — about being prepared. Every Californian should have an earthquake kit on hand. I don’t mean one of those silly backpacks filled with useless junk army-navy surplus stores sell for $50 (that “space blanket” is especially useless). I mean 3 – 5 days of food that won’t spoil including pet food. Adequate water. Working flashlights and a hand-crank radio (that you can use also to charge phone, computer & surplus power supplies.

Every Californian also should keep their shoes by their bed.

A confession: as much as earthquakes terrify me, they fascinate me too. The dread I feel for them is matched by the sheer coolness of the whole experience. The earth is shaking beneath your feet. You can feel the planet’s physical power. You are nothing to it.

If I were the earth and humans were messing with me constantly? I might never stop earthquaking.

When Is A Fact Not A Fact?

Let’s start with basic math. We can all agree that one plus one equals two, right? We can all agree that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun. Keep in mind — we can’t actually “see” the moon revolve around the earth — or the earth revolve around the sun. We have to extrapolate these things based on the available evidence.

We’re connecting dots in order to “see” the bigger picture and draw reasonable conclusions. We’re using a bunch of smaller facts to understand a larger fact.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Funny thing? We don’t have to connect any dots to see it. He happily commits plenty of his crimes in plain view. Hell, reliable, informed people keep telling us that Trump’s a criminal — likely a traitor, too. Plenty of dots that a scientist would connect.

Yet, our journalists do not.

In storytelling, if you’re doing it right, each scene adds new information to what the audience knows. Scenes don’t have to add a ton of info to justify being in a story, but they have to at least add a nuance or shading to a character or how the story might break. The point is, the scene that follows? It can’t go back to the story as it was BEFORE the previous scene. The audience knows too much now.

When fictional storytellers do that — keep going back to story points the audience already knows? They lose their audience. Why, unless it’s Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” which deliberately and brilliantly tells its story backwards, would a storyteller do that? Most wouldn’t. It’s horrible storytelling.

So why do our journalists — storytellers albeit of true stories — do it?

Our accumulated picture of Donald Trump — from “Mexicans are rapists” & “pussy-grabbing” all the way through to Trump’s continuing embrace of Confederate flags tells one completely consistent story. Even outside of his presidency, Trump is a study in multi-generational racism. Fred Trump, don’t forget, was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Father and son were nailed for refusing to rent to black people. Everyone with ears on the set of “The Apprentice” has a story of “Donald Trump: Big League Racist”.

If we were telling any other story, the audience would understand (because the storytellers made it explicit) that the subject — in addition to all his other hard, fast biographical data — IS A RACIST. Each story would begin along the lines of “Oh, and here’s what that racist Donald Trump just said on the subject of race…”.

The news audience would begin their understanding of the story from a “Oh, what did the racist-in-chief say now about race?” platform.

Instead, our news media begins their reporting every day as if Trump was a “normal” POTUS saying normal POTUS things. Except he’s saying abnormal things for a POTUS to say so therefore THAT must be the “new normal”. Um, no. There is no “new normal”. That’s the press normalizing what should never be normalized. It’s the storyteller doggedly dragging the story backward, while it kicks and screams all the way.

We’ve seen and heard (the press has reported) ample evidence that Trump is a security risk. That he says things to the Russians in particular that — let’s not tiptoe — are flat out treasonous. Oh, sorry — there I go again, connecting the dots sitting there that clearly connect. Instead, our news media continues to report Trump as a man with an “odd fixation” with Russia or a “different kind of relationship” with Putin.

Oy.

When is a rapist not a rapist?

When is a racist not a racist?

When is a traitor not a traitor?

Apparently when our news media “reports” it.

A scientist looking at the evidence would probably say “Ya know, though a jury’s never said it — they’ve never been asked — the evidence all says clearly, without viable contradiction, that Donald Trump is a rapist/racist/traitor.

In a civil trial, the obligation is 51% — the preponderance of the evidence. I once sat on a jury that decided an ageism case. We had to decide if the preponderance of the evidence said LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired an older employee because he was older. There was no direct evidence — someone saying “Let’s fire the old guy cos he’s old”. We had to deduct it to reach our verdict. Anyone, we felt, would have reached the same conclusion looking at the same evidence.

A journalist, for instance. Nothing we saw at trial was unavailable to the press pre-trial (it wasn’t that big a case; what I mean is — had the victim gone to the media first, they would have had access to most of the same information). The preponderance of the evidence spoke loudly.

“Both Sides Do It” journalism has put the ludicrous notion in our news media’s head that it must be strictly neutral. Yes, one must report the news from as even-handed a point of view as one can — even-handed in that it represents the facts up to that moment. It’s no good being “even-handed” based on old information. If we’re reporting on a child molester, it would be malpractice to ignore that fact to report on what a fabulous Halloween display he put on.

Both Side Do It journalism ignores facts in favor of the cynical insistence that everyone behaves with the same motives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we were all the same, we’d all be Republicans or Democrats. There’s not much common ground between real conservatives and real progressives. They don’t “do” things the same because they don’t think the same. Socialists who believe in the greater good and that the group’s freedoms always supersede the individual’s do not act the same way as “rugged individual” conservatives who think “you’re not the boss of me” is what freedom’s all about.

And they don’t do things for the same reason.

But, every time an American journalist asks “Are they just being political?” they’re ignoring facts. Odds are the question’s NOT being asked about Mitch McConnell blocking every bit of legislation cos he’s the Grim Reaper but it IS being asked about every Democrat calling him out for it.

Indeed — when are facts not facts? I repeat — OY!

It’s Time To Admit It — Europeans & European Culture Are BULLIES

There are protests now all over the world in support of Black Lives Matter and their mission to end police violence. That’s remarkable if you think about it. Three months ago, Black Lives Matter couldn’t, um, “get arrested”.

What’s even more remarkable? The protests happening outside America aren’t just protesting what happened to George Floyd and everyone who looks like him, they’re protesting their own contributions to the flourishing of racism across the planet.

In Bristol, England, a statue of slaver Edward Colston was torn from its place and pitched into Bristol Harbor. Colston (1636 – 1721) was, by the standards of his time, a great man. He was a merchant and Tory member of Parliament. He got wealthy (per Wikipedia) “initially trading in wine, fruits and cloth, mainly in Spain, Portugal and other European ports.” When he started trading in slaves — after 1680 — as Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company (the English company that held the monopoly on the English trade in African slaves) — that’s when Colston got rich.

But, Colston also was charitable. He (again, per Wikipedia) was also “a philanthropist, donating money to charitable causes which supported those who shared his political and religious views.” Most of those people lived in Bristol. I wonder if any of the slaves Colston bought and sold ever felt touched by Colston’s charity… The people of Bristol on the other hand felt so touched that they put up a statue of Colston after he died. They put it in a very prominent place — right there by the Bristol Harbor.

The kicker to the story is, someone clever moved the statue’s location on Goggle Maps from where it had been on their map to where it now lies — at the bottom of Bristol Harbor.

In Antwerp Belgium, Black Lives Matter protesters (most of the Belgian, I assume because of the lockdown) tore down a statue of Belgian King Leopold II. Leo was notorious as a colonizer for brutalizing the Congo. The city authorities of Antwerp got a jump on the protesters. They took down Leo’s statues before anyone even asked them to.

As we know from European history, the Europeans have always been incredibly competitive with each other. Though they’ve shared the same continent for a thousand years (and before that as all the scrubby little tribes that “became” French people and Italians and Spaniards), most European countries don’t get on that well with their neighbors.

The English have always hated the French. The French have hated the English and everyone else. The Swiss don’t hate anyone — they just don’t want to get involved. The Italians are only a country because we say they are; they’re really a reluctant grouping of Italian tribes who want nothing to do with each other. Jared Diamond in his brilliant Guns, Germs & Steel postulates that Europeans held an advantage over everyone else because Europe had, under it, the material needed for humans to expand successfully beyond their borders: steel.

Steel allowed Europe to industrialize first. And weaponize. Chinese explorer Zheng He set sail to expand China’s view of the world almost 100 years before Columbus did. He sailed ships that, legend had it, would have dwarfed Columbus’ scurvy little armada. He (per Wikipedia) “commanded expeditionary¬†treasure voyages¬†to Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433.

He visited other cultures without dominating them. Without attacking them. Without bullying them.

Chris Columbus? To be fair, Columbus didn’t know he was carrying pathogens more lethal to the people of the New World than any weapon he possessed. Had he have known, he could have saved the brutality — though I bet that wasn’t a bug of European exploration, it was a feature.

Bad enough Europeans brought their germs, guns and steel to the New World (and everywhere else they went exploring). Worse, they brought the faith they’d all taken up — conflicted as they were as to which version was the “true” version. The Europeans didn’t let the supposed core message of their church — “Do Unto Others” — dissuade them from doing unto others what they absolutely did not want being done unto them: massacres.

Europeans massacred native peoples mostly for greed. But also they murdered them because the locals didn’t want to accept the Europeans’ ooga-booga. They had their own ooga-booga, thanks — and it had served them just fine. They didn’t need the Europeans and their hack job on “being good”.

Hey, I grew up Jewish. I know what it’s like to have (European) Christians insist their faith is the superior faith and if you don’t go along, their imaginary friend will beat the living shit out of my imaginary friend. I’ve had those conversations.

Europeans bully because they believe they are divinely entitled to do so. They think their faith — screwy and hostile as it is — is superior to any other faith and that the culture that flowed from their faith — Western Culture — is superior to any other culture. But European Culture started from a false premise — that its faith was “the true faith” and that everything they did was ordained by God himself.

The more intense monotheistic faith gets, the more monotheists seem to think they hear and grasp the word of God. They believe they understand what most others do not. That’s incredibly dangerous because the “God” they’re thinking about exists solely inside their head. There’s a lot of transference that happens there. The ideas of the deity become fused with the self — since the self understands and hears and obeys the deity.

The more intensely some people believe in God, the more likely they are to think they are God. Maybe not out loud. Maybe not even to themselves. But if you think you have a “personal relationship” with the deity who created everything? That’s not coming from him, it’s coming from you. YOU think you have that relationship. Unless you can provide emails or texts — you are alone in this relationship.

When Donald Trump shoved those peaceful protesters out of his way so he could get to a church he wasn’t invited to, he demonstrated every aspect of European bullying live on TV. He lied about why he was doing it. He lied about how he was doing it. He lied about who he was doing it for.

And then — the icing on the bully cake — HE got all bent out of shape when everyone called him on it.

The best way to deal with a bully is to say “No!” to him. “No, you may not bully me”. Bullies hate that — as the fascists among the Europeans always prove. But “No” is the only way. No is all bullies understand.

But they do understand it. It’s time for the Euro-bullies to get their damned knee off of everyone else’s neck.

Musings On Marijuana

I didn’t start out a pot guy.

When I was in high school back in the 70’s, marijuana was around. A guy I was friendly with was a hard core stoner; he stank of weed in class and watched us all with a strange, pleased detachment I now recognize as euphoria. On the occasions when I was in the same place and time as a lit joint, the stuff put me right to sleep.

In college, my friend Drew convinced me to use a big chunk of my semester’s money (the money my parents put into my bank account to pay for books and other incidentals) to buy a pound of marijuana that, he said, we’d sell, making both of us lots of money. I knew Drew was a fan of marijuana. I didn’t realize his fandom would cost us our profits. I made back my “investment”. Barely.

When I was in college — and in the years afterwards — coke was more appealing. It kicked things into a higher gear. That’s what we told ourselves. Frankly, considering how much that powder we were snorting was stepped on, I’d be shocked if there was anything stronger than aspirin in it. Ecstasy also was appealing. I had lots of great ecstasy trips. And one awesome experience with shrooms and a U2 concert at LA’s Colliseum.

Oh, and I drank. Wine mostly. And gin martinis. And beer. And single malt scotch. Yeah, I drank. Throw a decade-long depression into the mix and daily use of (utterly useless!) over-the-counter sleeping meds and it was probably no wonder that I couldn’t sleep for shit. I was asking too much of my poor brain.

This was about five years ago. I was beside myself for a number of reasons. Lack of sleep wasn’t helping any. I did not want to take anything pharmaceutical. That wouldn’t solve my problem; it would only exacerbate it. Living in California, where pot is legal — pot that always put me to sleep in the past — I figured, what the hell?

Long story short. From the first night where I used marijuana as my sleep aid, my life changed. I began sleeping. Now, I still don’t sleep a ton. If I can do five hours — I’m good for the day (with a couple of brief naps along the way). The mood stabilizer I started using five years ago — that helped cage my darkness, keeping it at bay — has an un-noted side effect: it gives all alcohol an unpleasant aftertaste — like grapefruit skin.

My first visit to my first dispensary put Skywalker in my hand (and in the little glass pipe I bought; I can’t roll a joint to save my or anyone’s life). On my return, I wanted to know what was in all the other glass jars filled to the brim with weed? It turned out the thing I now used every day to sleep was called “indica”. But there was also “sativas” and “hybrids”.

As I wrote about myself in Blunt Truths (the 13 part series I did for Weedmaps News), we were and remain bamboozled by a totally bullshit mythology about marijuana that was invented out of whole cloth by America’s first “drug czar”, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger. We — as a culture — are still almost entirely misinformed about cannabis — what it does to us, how it does to us, why it does to us. The law still treats cannabis like its effects on our brains was the exact same as alcohol’s.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I’ve learned from experience — and what a wonderful experience it’s been — cannabis can be part of your whole day if you want it to be. And I’m talking about highly productive days. Yeah, if I did nothing but smoke Skywalker or King Louis XII or Northern Lights or 9 Lb Hammer (or any of the other indicas in my collection — I like to keep a dozen or so on hand — I really, really like having choices if I can afford to), I would get very little done.

But not nothing. Funny thing about indicas. Yeah, they put me to sleep. Eventually. But I’ve gotten used to a sudden creative blast — usually after I’ve taken my second or third hit. Whatever creative problem I was working on when I quit for the day? Suddenly the answer is there.

I wrote the whole logline and concept premise for the TV show I’m about to take out a few weeks ago moments before I thought I was about to slip into bed. The wooziness was wonderful. And then the idea dropped. I walked calmly to my desk, sat down and wrote the whole thing.

Now, with alcohol, when one returns to the “genius” alcohol inspired the night before, it’s never genius. It’s barely legible ffs. With cannabis it’s the exact opposite. As I also wrote about in Blunt Truths, marijuana use spread slowly in the early 20th century. It started out mostly in the south west (California especially following the surge of people that entered the state fleeing the Mexican Revolution — 1910). By the 1920’s use had reached New Orleans where it was taken up by the mostly black musicians who were creating a new musical form called “jazz”.

Guys like Louis Armstrong (a self-avowed fan who was punished for being a fan) recognized that while you couldn’t create music or play music on booze or opium, you absolutely could on marijuana. Whereas alcohol dulled the senses and opium obliterated them, cannabis “excited” them. While it makes you feel calm and euphoric, marijuana also makes the senses more acute. You can smell more intensely, hear with more clarity and see more detail. Nuance does not get lost to a mind happily soaking in THC. If anything, a mind soaking in THC can get a little too absorbed in nuance.

If you’re creating things — a story, a song, an idea — nuance is everything. Creativity and cannabis go together brilliantly.

What scared Harry Anslinger into declaring war on marijuana (he insisted it wasn’t worth worrying about previously) was white people starting to use it.

The story of marijuna in America is another story about racism. The only reason cannabis was ever illegalized was racism. Not for two seconds did Harry Anslinger or any other moral scold determined to prohibit cannabis use ever research cannabis to prove its negative effects. They never cared about what it did to people (positive or negative). They only cared who was using it (originally).

As my wife recently told a friend who wondered what it’s like being married to a guy who’s stoned all the time, “I’ve never seen him ‘high’.”

That’s true. I know what’s meant by “high”. It’s the very real feeling of euphoria just before I fall asleep. In that sense, I get do get high every day. But, until that point, I have no interest in being “high”. I’m only interested in being productive. When I wake & bake, that baking needs to produce product. My creative day starts around 5 am with a cup of joe (I like it take-no-prisoners dark) and a bowl of sativa. In the mix this morning: Durban Poison (always!) Casey Jones, Ghost Train Haze, Willy Wonka & Alaskan Thunderfuck.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of your mind focusing in on something as the first waves of THC roll across your brain. When I really want to focus on the stuff I’m focusing on, I haul out the Trainwreck. Trainwreck’s a hybrid but there’s nothing quite like it.

Before I tried it the first time, I read somewhere that Trainwreck made you feel like cleaning your house. I thought that was funny. It’s goddamned true! Something about Trainwreck makes you super-focused and, yeah, you do get a sudden jones to clean the house. With a toothbrush (someone else’s).

It’s even better when used to write.

At the end of the day, since I no longer drink, the call goes out again to cannabis. It ain’t Miller Time, it’s Hybrids Time. Dutch Treat… Pineapple Express… Bruce Banner… Snowcap… White Widow. A friend gave me some home-grown Apple Fritter that’s awesome! Good hybrids produce feelings of calm. Of perspective.

A friend and I went to ss, LA’s first cannabis cafe not long after it opened. The line to get in was huge (this was pre-pandemic). So, interestingly, was the line to get a job there.

They didn’t serve alcohol then (don’t know if they did when they shut for the pandemic) but it wasn’t needed. The whole vibe inside the cafe was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Because there’s no alcohol, there’s less glass moving around. People aren’t there to drink (though staying hydrated is important). Consequently, there isn’t the constant clinking of glasses. Also missing — that manic edge that alcohol slowly asserts on a room.

Since I stopped drinking I have witnessed rooms filled with my friends (and rooms filled with strangers) as they devolved from easy-going coherence to alcohol-fueled testiness. The laughing gets louder and a little more crazed, uninhibited. There’s plenty of laughter in a room filled with cannabis users. Even more laughter than there is in a room filled with drinkers.

But the sound is different. Whether they were leaning forward or sitting back, everyone in that room was relaxed. Mellow. Their conversations — and their laughter — reflected the mellow more than anything. Being in a room filled with stoned people is nothing like being in a room with drunks.

Then, of course, everyone in that room (being as we were all given a 90 minute time limit after which we were vacating our table by rule), went out to the parking lot, got their keys back from the valet and drove home (or back to the office). If those people had all been drinking, there would have been the constant sound of cars smashing into each other right there where their parking lot met the street.

No such thing happened. I walked back to my car (I parked on the street), my friend walked to his car and we both drove home.

As I’ve also written about, the actual data — there IS data — says cannabis doesn’t effect how we drive under its influence the same way alcohol does. That fact befuddles researchers determined that cannabis does impact our brains the same way. As plenty of athletes already know, cannabis improves focus — which, in turn, improves performance. I smoke Durban Poison before I play tennis. It slows my thoughts down. Gives me time to process them. With DP in my head, my timing improves considerably. Seeing the ball (my bugaboo) becomes easier.

There’s a reason, once the opposition to cannabis started cracking, that the opposition fell to pieces quickly. It’s the same reason LGBTQ rights became viabe so quickly. And the same reason Black Lives suddenly Matter. The Truth has always been apparent.

Like the show X Files used to tell us, the Truth is “out there”.

The Truth also rests inside the bowl of Strawberry Durban Diesel I’m about to smoke. The one thing I know for a fact the Durban Diesel and its truth will do? They will set me free!

Dear Racists — It’s Not Up To YOU Whether Or Not You’re Racist

Does anything say “Donald Trump is a racist” more than Donald Trump proclaiming he’s “the least racist person ever”? Doesn’t it just make you want to shout “Oh, shut the hell up, you bloody, goddamned racist!”?

It’s the first sign that someone’s a racist — that they insist they’re not racist. That they can’t even spell “racism”.

They’re inability to spell isn’t the question. They’re inability to see how deeply, profoundly racist they are is. By the same token, it’s not up to other racists to say whether or not a racist is racist. They’re too racist to judge. And anyway, they think racism’s okay. Their judgment’s crap to begin with.

None of us can say whether or not we personally are racist. We’re too close to the subject matter to judge accurately. Other people have far better perspective on us. If they say we’re racist – maybe they see or know something we don’t.

While racism isn’t built into our genome, it is built into our culture. We pick it up as kids the same way we do other viruses and things we should never bring home. Of course, it’s likely racism is something we learned at home.

The trick is to own our own racism — especially the quiet racism we’d rather not talk about — and then work hard as we can every single day to mitigate that racism’s impact on us — and the world. Being a good person is way harder than being a bad person after all. Being rotten means you get to indulge every impulse, say every horrible thing that pops into your head. You get to hurt people with no consequence and never accept responsibility for anything you’re absolutely responsible for.

White people need to own the privilege that advantages us even if we don’t seek that advantage. Leveling the playing field won’t come without costs to some people. That sucks. It really does. But the larger picture will benefit everyone — including those who the leveling leveled.

Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder. So is racism.

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.

This Atheist Has No Quarrel With Jesus; It’s Christians I Have Issues With…

Growing up Jewish in a mostly Christian world (here in America, back in the 60’s) was like living inside a giant non-sequitur. Growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust (I was born in 1959, 14 years after the camps were liberated) added extra non-sequitur-iness. My tribe was hated to the point of genocide by the German tribe because…

Jews owned all the banks? Jews owned all the newspapers? Jews were destroying German culture? Gosh, if German culture was that easily destroyed, there must not have been much to it. By German culture, the Nazis meant their brand of Christian culture. But all Christian cultures seem to have one thing very much in common — Jew hatred.

Considering who Jesus was — born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew (and died because he WAS a Jew) — the first leap every Jew-hating Christian has to make is that Jesus (somewhow) “wasn’t” actually Jewish. Ah, but that assumes most Christians actually care about Jesus. They do — the way McDonald’s cares about Ronald McDonald.

McDonald’s could cut Ronald free tomorrow. And, while it might cause some consternation among the McDonald’s faithful for a few microseconds, no one goes to McDonald’s because they love the clown. No, they love the food. They love the buttons McDonald’s food pushes inside them. And if McDonald’s shitcanned Ronald, after bitching and moaning for ten minutes, they’d be right back in line with their lunch order.

Back in the 1970’s an actual bible scholar (as opposed to the bible college brand of bible scholars whose scholarship is dubious at best) named Robert Funk formed The Jesus Seminar. Their mission — to coax an historical Jesus from the New Testament texts — to apply modern critical thinking so as to find the actual, flesh-and-blood Jesus in the sometimes conflicting stories the early church fathers painted of Jesus.

What, The Jesus Seminar wanted to know, could we reasonably say that Jesus did in fact say? What was Jesus’s actual message to the world.

The majority of the NT is Paul (mostly) creating the mythos of Jesus. We know Paul existed — he wrote letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians and the Ephesians and the Philippians and the Colossians and the Thessalonians. Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus and Philemon and the Hebrews. We have receipts for Paul — in which Paul is literally laying out what this new-fangled church HE invented actually “believes”.

Paul never met Jesus, remember. He met members of Jesus’s family — Jesus’s brother James — who all had profound differences with Paul and what he was doing, using Jesus’s name. They, unlike Paul, had heard Jesus speak and teach. They knew what Jesus said because they’d heard him.

Paul, on the other hand, was trying to make an actual human — who lived a particular life — fit into the story structure required of a prophesied messiah. The messiah prophesied in the Jewish texts “Acts” and “Isiah” has to come from King David’s bloodline and and had to be born in Bethlehem et cetera et cetara. Keep in mind — those prophesies were written by human beings with lots of hope in their hearts but no actual knowledge of events in their heads.

Paul was mythologizing Jesus to make him fit into a pre-existing myth. Read Paul — he’s a genius! He invented a product that we’re still talking about. “Believe in the story I’m telling”, says Paul, “And you can beat Death!” That’s the sales pitch. For real. Eternal Life thru Believing A Story.

And the story has nothing to do with the actual human whose story it supposedly is.

If we could go back in time and look Jesus in the eye — and if we told him what had happened subsequent to his death in his name, he’d be flabbergasted.

That’s because Jesus never, in his wildest imagination, ever set out to invent 1) a religion and 2) a whole church to preach it. Everything about Jesus was Jewish — including the core philosophy the Jesus Seminar concluded was his. Jesus’s ministry can be summed up in three words: “Do Unto Others”.

That’s it. It’s why Jesus’s message has endured despite the myriad ways the church established in Jesus’s name has tried to undermine it. “Do Unto Others” is way bigger than them. Anyone who wants to “do unto others” — an atheist, for instance — doesn’t need a church to help them. They can just “do unto others”.

Cost nothing — feels great!

Jesus recognized this fact about his core philosophy — it started and stopped with each individual person. That’s a very Jewish message by the way. Jews are taught to take responsibility for the world — not to convert it, to look after it. To make it a better place to live in. And because each of us must take responsibility for how we act toward others, we really don’t need a church looking over our shoulder.

In fact, Jesus taught that one doesn’t need churches at all — or the preachers running them. “Speak directly to the father”, Jesus said. Talk directly to God. Well, if the faithful can do that, what do they need a preacher for? Why do they need to pay for that preacher’s church — the physical structure?

What Paul built was genius. Can’t argue. But what Paul built was invented by Paul and the early church fathers who chose to tell one version of events over other versions. I recommend a fantastic book called “The Other Bible” which contains all the texts that didn’t make the cut into either the canonical OT or the canonical NT. Just knowing that there were texts that “didn’t make the cut” raises a shitload of questions about the “veracity” of the NT as a source for “truth”. Not like it should ever have been a question.

Jesus spoke to his followers’ spirituality. The church Paul created aspired to do that — using Jesus as a kind of mascot. To belong to a church, you have to follow its rules & believe what they need you to believe so that the church remains relevant — for instance, that the person your church is built on rose from the dead.

Which is why they keep asking if anyone’s heard the good news?

Why Doesn’t Our Main Stream News Media Ever Ask The Most Important Question Of All: “WHY?”

The difference between good storytellers and bad storytellers is good storytellers know that a satisfying story will always answer the most important question of all about any character: WHY? Why did the character do what they did to propel the story forward?

Important distinction: “Just because” is not an adequate answer.

Funny thing? “Just because” is the answer 90% of our press seems to accept as “why” Donald Trump does what he does. Why does Donald Trump treat Vladimir Putin like a god? “Just because”.

Why do the Republicans let Donald Trump get away with dismantling the Constitution and the Rule Of Law right before our very eyes? “Just because”.

Why did Trump wait almost two months before doing a goddamned thing about the coronavirus pandemic coming at us? Why did he insist on America buying huge quanties of hydroxychloroquine even though we had no hard data that it was efficacious? “Just because”.

Weird, huh, that none of those “just bceauses” feels even remotely satisfying. Or true.

Take it from a professional storyteller — who relies on getting characters right because the instant we get a character wrong, the audience will bail — no one in the whole history of the world has ever done anything “just because”. They may not have been able to articulate what motivated them, but something motivated them. Even existential boredom — as a cause — shouts “motivation!”

There are myriad answers to WHY Donald Trump does what he does. None of it is a mystery. It is ludicrous that even now there are “journalists” who ask themselves, “Hmmm, I wonder why Trump did that?” as if a mountain range of data didn’t answer that question to a very fine point. Trump’s father and grandfather were unsavory men. Everything about Trump’s own personal history is redolent of bullshit and clumsy concoction.

Everyone in Manhattan knows the truth about Donald Trump — what he is (a con man) and what he isn’t (rich). FFS — as Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017 (when the Republicans in control were doing everything they could to undermine the Steele Dossier) — while doing their due diligence BEFORE BEGINNING their formal oppo research on Donald Trump (as they were hired to do by the Republican Washington Free Beacon), what they found in publicly available material (repeat — IN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE MATERIAL — accessible by anyone in the public and everyone in the news media) convinced them that Donald Trump had been laundering Russian mob money through his Atlantic City casinos.

Was anyone who watched Trump’s casinos GO bankrupt at the time thinking anything else? Of course not! We should ask (another time) — WHY did/does our main stream news media LET Donald Trump get away with so much obvious criminality over the course of his lifetime? What’s up with THAT? As I said — another time.

The answer to WHY? where Trump is concerned has always been there. It’s not hard. All one has to do is accept it (hell, Trump’s been confessing it all along!) Donald Trump is corrupt. Always has been. We don’t have to keep proving it. It’s as much a stone cold fact as “we are carbon-based life form”. Yes, we are. That is 100% correct.

Also 100% correct and 100% verifiable — Donald Trump has a long-standing relationship with Russia, Russian mobsters, Russian intelligence and Russian corruption. If we took what we have — in public — and took it to a civil trial (where all we need is the preponderance of the evidence — 51%), we’d win hands down. If we took it to a criminal trial — where we have to be dead certain?

Same result. We’ve got receipts. In our hands. We simply refuse to acknowledge that fact.

WHY, I wonder.

There’s not much the average citizen can do — even if they shout their heads off on Twitter to lots likes. We don’t have the kind of megaphone that MSNBC or CNN has. We don’t, most of us, have the followers that your average mediocre reporter does. Our voices simply don’t “broadcast” as wide as a working journalist’s does.

But, those journalists should know that We The People have deep concerns about how the Fourth Estate is failing to live up to its Constitutionally mandated obligation to be the final check on power and its abuse. Whether it’s lack of imagination, incompetence, lack of talent or curiosity, or just plain cowardice and corruption — they are failing us. And the tell is that strange refusal to ever ask “WHY?”

Why does Trump do what he does? Why did Mitch McConnell violate every “norm” imaginable to hijack the judiciary (oops — just answered my own question — silly me — Mitch did what he did TO HIJACK THE JUDICARY – for the very purpose he’s using it now!)

Why did Lindsey Graham do the strange back flips he did about Trump? Why does Devin Nunes behave the way he does? Why does Bill Barr regularly violate the spirit of the law like Brett Kavanaugh pumped up on beer at a frat party? Why did the Senate refuse to meet its obligation to America and convict Donald Trump of corruption?

“Just because”?

C’mon now. We all know the answers to these questions — even our main stream news media. When we turn off the cameras and get as up close and personal as social distancing allows — I betcha the overwhelming majority of them WILL say out loud what the rest of America has been screaming for years now: Donald Trump is a fully owned asset of Vladimir Putin & Russia.

And Saudi Arabia. And China. And the UAE. And Turkey. And Israel. And who knows who else.

We would have gotten to the end of this awful story we’re all living inside of eons ago if our news media had just asked “Why” and stuck to their guns about getting an answer before moving on to anything else. “WHY are Mexicans rapists?” “Why do you grab pussies?”

Hey, even ask WHY “but her emails” — especially now, in hindsight — with every member of the Trump family using private email servers just like they accused HRC of doing. Yes, please — ask “WHY?”

I’ll answer my own question — WHY does our main stream news media persist in doing this? Because “both sides do it” has distorted everything. If both sides do it, they both do it for the same reason: “politics”. See? Easy? No more worrying about the truth — the real WHY people do what they do.