“Reefer Madness” Is What Happens When People Smoke Bullshit Instead of Reefer

The story of marijuana prohibition is an object lesson in what happens when bullshit triumphs over truth. That should matter to us right here, right now — because we’re facing a similar situation with the Mueller Report. Truth exists within its pages — yet there are people insisting that the diametric opposite is true. Too bad they have power — and the power to push their lies hard.

Republican Representative Justin Amash from Michigan held a town hall to explain to his constituents why he broke ranks with every other Republican to demand Donald Trump’s impeachment. Representative Amash had the audacity to actually read The Mueller Report. By contrast, it seems, not a single other republican has even cracked it. Wonder why…

Instead, the Republicans have relied on AG Bill Barr’s fraudulent characterizations of the Mueller Report, its findings and its tortured reasoning for why it couldn’t “do” more. And therein lies the historical comparison. Bill Barr is the new Harry Anslinger.

Anslinger was America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. A lot has been written about Anslinger recently, not all of it correct. For a more detailed analysis of Anslinger and his impact on America and the world, check out my series Blunt Truths over at Weedmaps News. Bottom line — Anslinger was a racist, top to bottom, who invested his racism in American laws. The reason we still live in Anslinger’s racist shadow is that, in addition to being a racist, Anslinger was a very good bureaucrat. He understood how the system worked and therefore how to work it.

In 1930, when Anslinger first took office, marijuana was a non-entity to most Americans. They had no idea what it was and didn’t care about it. Why would they? Prior to 1910 — when the Mexican Revolution sent Mexican war refugees heading north — Americans thought of cannabis as 1) medicine and 2) hemp. The influx of Mexicans meant an influx of Mexican culture — which included marijuana (the way WASP culture includes cocktails).

Apparently the sight of Mexicans blissing out horrified white people (and their abuse of alcohol).

Cannabis does what cannabis does. It doesn’t do what it doesn’t do. There are behaviors it “causes” and behaviors it doesn’t — because of how it works biochemically in peoples’ brains. Fact — if the crowds at football games (soccer games) all smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there’d be no lager louts rioting, setting cars and shops afire after matches. They’d all be hugging each other more likely. Or asleep. Happily. With no hangover in their future.

But people being happy and snoozing doesn’t “sell” anything. The first anti-cannabis laws were passed in California in 1915 — pushed hard by the Pharmacists. Funny thing? Though they were pharmacists, they weren’t thinking about whether or not cannabis could or would hurt its users. They were thinking only of its users — Mexicans. THAT, California’s pharmacists decided, was the problem.

Every single anti-cannabis measure ever passed — EVER — has been born of racism and nothing but. FACT.

As late as 1935, Harry Anslinger still didn’t give a damn about cannabis. But then something changed. Word began to filter toward Anslinger that white people were now using marijuana. During the 1920’s, cannabis use spread from the American Southwest to New Orleans where it found a very happy home amongst black jazz musicians. Musicians discovered that cannabis unleashed their creativity (whereas alcohol killed it).

Our thoughts are electrical currents flowing across the synapses in our brains. Our synapses are like digital circuits — they’re either open or closed. THC causes more of those synapses to be open. More thoughts flow through our brains. It’s not that we see more or hear more, we just become more aware of all the things we’re seeing and hearing. THC makes our brains more cognizant. That additional information flow can feel intimidating. It can feel like paranoia. But it can also make food taste incredible. It can make music sound sublime. It can make things funnier than you realized.

The truth about cannabis (and yes, yes — it’s not all positive — so what; people abuse EVERYTHING including chocolate and love) is that it’s a perfectly good product that, used responsibly by adults, produces a host of positive effects. That was not the story Harry Anslinger told about it however. The thought of white people acting like black or brown people horrified Anslinger. He leapt into action.

There is absolutely no basis in our Constitution to outlaw cannabis. None. When Anslinger bumped into that problem, he circumvented the spirit of the law by pushing through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Very cleverly, the Tax Act imposed an onorous tax on every purchase and every sale of marijuana or hemp. To prove that you paid the tax, you had to have a stamp. The stamps were impossible to get. Therefore, everyone who thereafter bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) was a tax cheat.

Anslinger, in addition to being a very good bureaucrat, was an astute purveyor of public relations. He knew that Americans were completely ignorant about marijuana. Anything they were going to know about it would be what he told them about it. And that’s where Anslinger’s lesson about how to manipulate the American Public leaps forward in time.

The first two men arrested and convicted because of marijuana were sent away for not paying taxes. I bet that made Al Capone laugh.

Harry Anslinger lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what cannabis was. AG Bill Barr lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what the Mueller Report says.

Anslinger’s lies about cannabis have cost this country dearly — in lost money, manpower and justice. When racism’s juice began to falter in the 1950’s, Anslinger invented the “Gateway Theory” to suggest that cannabis use led to heroin use or worse. The same statistical horse shit could be used to suggest a link between coffee drinking and heroin use. Or tobacco use and heroin. Or breathing and heroin. It was dishonest and intentional. And racist.

Bill Barr is working from the exact same playbook. We The People — having been fooled once by White Bamboozlement syndrome — need to avoid a sequel. Lies need to be shot down the instant they land among us. They don’t ever go away of their own volition.

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We Live In Remarkable Times… That’s Not A Good Thing

I write movies & TV shows for a living (and a book, too, which I just finished!) It’s not the most reliable way to pay the rent but when I do make a buck, I make it by making stuff up, writing it down and selling it. I take great pride in the fact that my imagination can go just about anywhere.

But no writer could possibly have made up the Time we live in. That’s not a revelation of course; I’m hardly the first person or writer to say that. But I might be the first writer to say out loud how much I resent that fact. It’s damned hard to come up with stories these days half as compelling as what’s on the news. A 240 year old experiment in self-government teeters on the brink of destruction. And we’ve got a front row seat.

There’s a famous scene in a great movie called “The Third Man”. Joseph Cotton stars as a Holly Martin, writer who goes to Vienna just after WWII because he believes his friend Harry Lime has died. Vienna is a divided city with a free side and a side behind Russian control. Harry Lime may have committed a crime — which explains the mystery surrounding whether or not Harry is really dead. Turns out (Spoiler Alert!) he’s not dead — he IS a criminal and he did fake his death so that he could hide out in the Soviet sector.

Orson Welles plays Harry who finally comes out of hiding to confront Holly — and to seduce Holly into coming over to the dark side and going into the black market with him. Holly turns him down which sets up the climax later when Holly tries (working with the British authorities) to lure Harry into a trap. But, before Holly says no, Harry delivers a great monologue (written by the book & screenplay’s author, Graham Greene). Write

Chaos seems to produce greatness in addition to chaos. An argument can be made that war itself has inspired some of the greatest statements of human artistic genius. Picasso’s Guernica comes to mind…

War movies, war literature, war art, war music (Beethoven’s Eroica — written with Napoleon in mind, that dedication was later withdrawn however), war everything — it makes us look deep inside ourselves for a few thoughtful seconds before we go back to killing and wholesale slaughter.

Another argument can be made that American comedy hasn’t been this robust since Richard Nixon was president. My point — there are benefits to living in Remarkable Times. There are laughs to be had — bitter ones, perhaps but — laughs all the same. There’s that feeling of “chumminess” we all feel when we hear the latest stupider-than-stupid thing Donald Trump said on TV or via Twitter and we all think “What an asshole!” at the very same time.

I didn’t used to be a news junkie. I was a daily consumer of news product but my diet was a lot more balanced back then before Trump “won” in 2016. I used to be a regular Howard Stern listener. I was hard core. But Trump winning changed everything for me. I couldn’t listen to characters I loved anymore because they were worried about trivial shit (funny but trivial) while the world was ending around us all. I have been news 24/7 ever since.

This is not good for us but the answer isn’t sticking our heads in the sand. The 75th anniversary of D-Day brought Tom Brokaw out into the light again — and his book The Greatest Generation. I grew up in the war’s shadow; my parents were the Greatest Generation’s children. A baby boomer, I grew up in the 1960’s, part of a generation that was, in a way, the diametric opposite of the Greatest Generation. We weren’t fighting a war, we were protesting it (well, to be fair, by the time I got to college, the Vietnam war was 5 years over and done with. We were still deep into our wound-licking phase.

Baby boomers, Gen-X-ers, Millennials — we’ve all lived through interesting times but not very interesting times. Yeah, yeah, the Soviet Union died — but it didn’t die spectacularly like Nazi Germany did. Until Donald Trump ran for president — and “won” (he didn’t — fact o’ life — he lost both the popular and he absolutely lost the EC too.) That’s what Robert Mueller’s report teases us with.

The Donald Trump story — and the corrupt Republicans story — and the we’re under cyber attack right now story — these are all remarkable stories all by themselves. Lucky us for getting gang-tackled by them all. This will get far, far worse before it starts to get better. When we get to the part where ALL the shit starts flying from ALL the nooks & crannies, this will get exponentially more ugly. Never mind the awful, treasonous things the republicans have all done, when the American public get a firm grip on what this story is — how deep, dark & horrible it is — and how the republicans continue to play them for suckers and rubes — this will turn thermo-nuclear.

Bill Barr and Donald Trump have succeeded in muddying a narrative they desperately needed to muddy. The Truth will not set them free. It will however send them to prison for the rest of their lives. It may even expose them to execution — still one of the punishments for treason. And, yes — this IS treason because ARE at war. We’re at Cyber War.

Oh — but it’s “undeclared”, you say? Well, it’s just as “undeclared” as the state of war that existed in Japan’s mind when it attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Just because the Americans being bombed by the Japanese didn’t know they were at war didn’t mean the bombs didn’t kill them just as dead. You don’t have to know you’re at war to BE at war.

I used to feel a lot more certain that I knew how this would turn out. I’m a lot less certain now. The pleasures of living in remarkable times have worn thin. I suspect we all long for this to end and for something we used to call “normalcy” to replace it (and reign for a thousand years if it wants to).

There’s a Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times (in other words, may you be inundated with chaos). We’re learning — the Chinese knew what they were talking about.

Not A Revelation: Magical Thinking Is Stupid, Stupid, STUPID!

Everyone — myself included — is guilty, guilty, guilty of Magical Thinking. I may not have an imaginary friend like some or follow rules plucked from my imagination or my ass, but I have, when Tottenham Hotspur (my footie team) is down two goals late in a game, still thought it was possible for them not to lose.  They lost.

My magical thinking led to personal disappointment — unpleasant but survivable.

If I used that magical thinking though as the basis for a belief system — Spurs lost so therefore a whole host of other things (beyond football) must follow “logically” demanding certain actions and counter-actions — and if that belief system’s impact spread beyond my own disappointment (because my team lost a game) — out into everyone else’s lives — that would be a problem.  I would have taken something based in unrealistic nonsense-thinking out into reality — with unrealistic expectations for it.

Gosh – should I be shocked when more disappointment follows?

Today’s ludicrous Magical Thinking headlines (among others) — Trump’s military transgender ban takes effect & there are still “thoughtful” people walking around who think AG Bill Barr isn’t desperately trying to cover up a massive, explosively far-reaching scandal that will consume and destroy the entire Republican Party.

The basis for the military transgender ban, of course, is pure, unadulterated bullshit.  I would love to put all the Magical Thinkers who base their contemporary lives on the knowledge base of uneducated desert-dwellers who thought everything revolved around the earth onto an airplane large enough to accommodate them all.  Then, as we rolled toward the runway, I’d like to introduce them to their pilot.  He knows nothing about flying planes.  But he “believes” he can do it — so off they all go…

Magical Thinking comes with being a homo sapien.  Until such a time as it evolves out of our brains, it will be hard-wired into us.  It’s the first thought that burps from the miasma of our uncertainty.  Magic: the explanation for this wonder must be Magic.  It ain’t.

I could go on and on — I recommend watching this lecture that Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a few years ago.  His point: even the greatest minds in the history of science — Isaac Newton among them — surrendered to Magical Thinking when they reached the end of their knowledge base.  A little while later, some other thinker solved the problem — no more need for Magical Thinking.

The answers to all our questions are out there.  We may not get to them all in our lifetime — but they’re out there once we gain the knowledge or the knowledge to make the instruments we need to “see” the knowledge and the answers they provide.

America has always been fertile territory for Magical Thinking.  Strange, exotic religions (lots of them offshoots of Christianity) have come and gone here.  One of the first groups of Europeans to settle and (more or less) survive — the Pilgrims — were so deep into their offshoot brand of Christianity that none of the other Christians wanted them nearby.  So the Pilgrims came here.  Think about it: one of the foundational European groups to call North America home came here because their brand of ooga-booga was too ooga-booga-y for other believers of the same basic ooga-booga!

It’s not a coincidence that Mormonism and Scientology were American creations.  Jewish mythology is extensive.  By “mythology”, I mean stories that sit squarely outside the provable.  They may have some shadowy echo in the historical record but the echo has been blown up into something it never was.  As it’s the surviving word of these people and their times, we have no way to put these texts into a larger perspective.  We can use our current knowledge base — including our knowledge of germ theory — to figure a guy like Noah could not (and did not) put every animal on the planet on a boat and did not, subsequently, live to some biologically impossible age well into the hundreds.

Magical Thinking allows a person to believe that his foundational texts appeared out of nowhere — the product of divine intervention.  These tenets he lives by — they’re not his idea, their a deity’s.  Therefore they must be the Truth.  Yeah, but — the guy next to you has a whole other mythology in his head — with conflicting details — all based on the very same texts.  Either one of these two has it wrong or their deities are terrible communicators.

Think about that:  Magical Thinking can imagine a deity capable of creating the vastness of EVERYTHING — but can’t put the basics of how & why into a form two people can agree upon.  That’s a deity so flawed, illogical and goofy that only a homo sapien could dream it up.  And then believe that IT created HIM.

Here’s my problem in something larger than a nutshell… If you tell me going in that you’re a person of faith — and you believe in Magical Thinking and its Magical explanations for how and why we’re all here & how and why we need to live together as peacefully as we can — then I’m going to look at you with a shitload of doubt.  I know for a fact because you’ve told me — given a good enough story, you can be made to believe anything.

If you believe in Magical Thinking, your judgment sucks.  I’m simply going along with what you’re telling me.