Wednesday, October 21

The Continuing Cultural Fallout From That Frank Gorshin "Half Black/Half White" Star Trek Episode

Charles Lane, WaPo: "Medical marihuana is an insult to our intelligence". October 20

LIKE all men, I have been given bad times in which to live; live most weeks, it's a good week for avoiding the News altogether (with apologies to that blind Argentinian librarian).

Memo to the Times: God knows I don't ask for much--the public plucking of every last hennaed hair from MoDo's head, in Times Square, right after The Ball falls next January 1 isn't a personal request, but our due as Americans--but look: could we please stop the fucking charades over US interventionism already, sixty years after Korea? Public Divided! Obama at a Crossroads! McChrystal at a Crossroads! Dueling Vietnam books, one of them, favored by the Pentagon and blessed by an appearance on your Op-Ed pages last Sunday, written by a certifiable Lt. Colonel who apparently thinks our real problem in Nam was that we didn't lie enough. Like fuck we're trying to reason this out. Reason is clear. It's the goddam mission that's a complete mystery.

Here's the list, again, of where we've been, officially, since the Korean War ended paused, with the domestic interventions (Detroit, multiple locations following the King assassination, Wounded Knee, the US Virgin Islands, Los Angeles following the King beating verdicts, and the whole damn country after 9/11) redacted for the sake of praeteritio: Vietnam, Guatemala, Lebanon, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Panama, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Cambodia, Laos, Cambodia, Iran, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Lebanon, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Bolivia, Iran, Libya, Philippines, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Philippines, Colombia, Iraq, Haiti, Pakistan, and Somalia.

That's forty-four in fifty-five years, meaning the real question is who Obama's going to invade by next March. And in all that time there's one, (1), uno, occasion where we decided "Y'know, on second thought, maybe not," and that was Lebanon, post-disaster Lebanon, and the Gipper, and the Gipper's free pass. If Zombie Ronald Reagan [redundancy intended] announced on FOX that it was time to come home it might create 48 hours of confusion, but that's it. Maybe it's escaped your notice (like you thought, maybe, the Yankees were finally giving box-seat holders some much-deserved elbow room?) but we can't even stop building stadiums at taxpayer expense so rich guys can sniff jocks. Are we really supposed to wonder whether Barack Obama will remove American troops from Afghanistan just because there's no good reason for them to be there beyond the bad headlines that'll haunt the final three years of his Presidency? Because Rahm Emanuel read a book about Vietnam? (And thanks, for that, really. You were born in 1959. Maybe while it was the major news story for the entire period of your entire secondary education would have been a better time to learn about it. Than, apparently, one weekend last month.)

(And, hey, how much fucking shit was aimed at George Herbert Walker Tiberius Prescott Bush I for leaving Iraq when the mission was finished, instead of fucking around for another generation?)

And that's assuming a level playing field in the President's mind, despite the tilted one in public. But this is the guy who made Afghanistan his Badge of Commander-in-Chiefyness. Hot Pursuit! Which has, to date, achieved his being backhanded by his hand-picked, recently-bestarred theatre commander (assuming you actually believe that; at any rate, it sure hasn't won him a whole lot of post-partisan pals on the Right). Just shut up. Short of outright disaster we will continue to send enough troops to prop up Karzai, who we just had to threaten to get to agree to a run-off election, and who will promise to follow the sterling example of Nguyen Van Thieu, at least through 2012. Enjoy the box seats, and the $15 nachos.

Y'know, I'm not sure there's any way out of the problem without a fundamental acknowledgement of more than the mere existence of the problem, straight through, that is, the trite recognition that not only are we a nation of facile liars, we've become a nation which values dishonesty, the more facile the better, above all else, to the point where we will shortly have to decide between becoming a purely cashless society or having one-third to one-half of our change-making retail transactions end in gunplay. Straight through, I say, to admitting that we are, in fact, and just twelve months after a half-dozen "Free" Marketeers nearly collapsed the global financial markets to cover a Call, still speeding in the opposite direction with bankrupt brakes and more interest in the cell phone conversation we're having than watching the road.

And, fuck, is there anything more fitting than a nation's attention caught last week by an actual bright shiny object? Okay, maybe it's a tie with the fact that the local cops at first believed the parents because their two body-language experts confirmed the couple was telling the truth. And okay, maybe it's that a professional writer of what used to be called "think pieces" carves off a chunk of Washington Post real estate to warn us of the dangers of…Medical Marihuana! Yes, it's 2009. I double-checked.
I don't think the federal government should be spending a whole lot of time on small-time druggies, and I'm undecided about legalizing pot, which enjoys 44 percent support among the general public, according to a recent poll. Recreational use is not the wisest thing -- and if my 12-year-old son is reading this, that means you! -- but it's no more harmful than other drugs (e.g., alcohol) and impossible to eradicate. On the other hand, I worry it's a gateway to harder stuff. So I think we probably should have an open debate about decriminalization.

Sure. Let's pencil that in after "open debate on Afghanistan" and "factual discussion of health care."

Gateway drug! No more harmful than, e.g., alcohol! Listen, Rube, the only way The Marihuana is anywhere near as dangerous as your third Dirty Martini is if you nod off briefly and accidentally set the couch on fire. And then try to put it out with alcohol.

So look: No. We can't have an open debate, because we're surrounded by a bunch of goddam fucking liars who've been conditioned to genuflect at the first mention of someone else enjoying himself. The opportunity for honest debate passed thirty years ago. I believe the final opportunity can be clocked to the minute, in fact, when John Chancellor, at the NBC anchor desk, solemnly intoned that a recent study had proven pot smoking caused gynecomastia in males, which, given the amount of pot being smoked in this country, would have turned every trip to the beach into one of those nudist volleyball film loops. Not that anyone by that point was much interested, let alone hopeful, about the "openness" and "honesty" any public debate would have involved. Thanks, in no small part, to that Gateway Drug mentality.
Usually, drugs have to pass exacting testing by the Food and Drug Administration before they go on the market. There's a good reason for this: we don't want people spending money on products that might be ineffective or actually harmful. In California and elsewhere, however, snake oil -- sorry, "medical marijuana" -- got on the market via a different route: popular referendum. The pot for sale in dispensaries is subject to none of the purity controls that actual pharmaceutical drugs must meet. Indeed, the new DOJ policy essentially recognizes a gray market for pot, leaving these supposedly seriously ill people at the mercy of their dealers -- I mean caregivers -- with respect to quality and efficacy.

Okay, first, abusus non tollit usum. What some people say, or do, or claim about a thing has nothing to do with its legitimate use. The idea's at least as old as Pliny, and that's Pliny the Elder.

Second, what do people get dispensary cards for? As an anodyne for the effect of AIDS or cancer treatments, bone pain, eating disorders. Not to cure any of them, no matter what Captain Haze said on the internets. You mutter some obligatory "oh, I'm not opposed to sick people using if it helps" to start off with, the old Establish Your Reasonableness Before Being Totally Unreasonable routine--another reason we can't have an open discussion--so why should pot be treated more harshly than the couple hundred "nutritional supplements" on sale at your local grocers? Because we owe it to Harry Anslinger? Pfffft. In a just world there wouldn't be any impediment to such people getting pot to relieve the pain. Or even just for fun. A few states have recognized the first half of the equation, and now the Feds recognize they've got better things to do, though not always so lucrative. But ooooh, let's wait for Congress to move The Marihuana off the same schedule as heroin. That'd be the Congress we elected in 2006 to end the Iraq war.

Finally, while the air quotes around "caregivers" speak for themselves, let's take a brief moment to howl at that "efficacy and quality" bit. Good Lord, there's more "efficacy and quality" in a dime bag today than there was in a quarter pound in my day. It's the government that adulterates the stuff, you Human Paraquat. And if it came to it, and I had to leave my baby, or my wallet, with a dope dealer, I mean "caregiver", a Congresscritter, or a Washington Post writer, well…I already listed 'em in order.

By the way, Steve Alford called. He's sending over a van to pick up his hairdo. *


* Obligatory semi-annual joke only Hoosiers will get. Just ignore it.


Sator Arepo said...

"We can't have an open debate, because we're surrounded by a bunch of goddam fucking liars who've been conditioned to genuflect at the first mention of someone else enjoying himself."

This is an essential and often overlooked point. The idea that The Other might be enjoying themselves in a way unavailable to Us is intolerable; at the same time, if you really want to piss people off at a basic level, gp ahead and fuck with the way they structure Their Enjoyment.

This is merely another level of control. Mari-ja-wana is dangerous! Dangerous, I tell you! Next: Those People will start having Sex for Pleasure! Gaah!

Scott C. said...

After a record-breaking series of cluster (or "suicide") headaches, I'd like to trade skulls with Lane for one day, except I'm pretty sure his is used primarily as a terrarium for keeping snakes, and I don't need the fire marshal hassling me about the overcrowding.

I haven't been a recreational user since college, but when my triptans stopped working, and my doctor was out of town for two weeks and her partner wouldn't prescribe another, which didn't matter because the insurance company would only approve 6 pills per month, which -- at two to three headaches a day, didn't seem to work out mathematically -- I took the desperate-seeming step of getting evaluated for medical marijuana. I figured if migraines are covered, cluster headaches HAD to be, and yes, as it turns out, disabling pain is considered legitimate use.

The cost of triptans without insurance coverage was over $400 (for, and pardon me for the spittle-flecked repetition, 6 pills). The cost of an ounce of medical marijuana was considerably less, and it's the only thing that got me through those six weeks. I don't know if my anecdote trumps Mr. Lane's pre-concieved notions, but I say we drop both in a cockpit and let them fight it out.

Charles Pierce said...

Goddamn, Doghouse.
Steve Fucking Alford?
That's some quality snark, my friend.

Kathy said...

Doghouse, remember this little ditty?

"Round, round, out of your mind
You think you're seeing things
I know you're blind.
A thousand bright colors EXPLODE in your head!
Today you're just HIGH're DEAD!"

from a 6th or 7th grade anti-drug movie. I liked the tune.

LittlePig said...

I tried to come up with an appropriately vindictive comment about Anslinger, but I just can't do that kind of evil justice. Nothing like climbing the ranks of Hooverite hysteria by getting hundreds of thousands of people thrown in jail for smoking a damn weed.

I just hope that if there is a Hell, they keep that fire especially hot for the next couple of millennia.

Whetstone said...

"it's no more harmful than other drugs (e.g., alcohol) and impossible to eradicate. On the other hand, I worry it's a gateway to harder stuff"

In other words: "prohibition is stupid, but so am I."

I'm hurt that you think only Hoosiers get Steve Alford jokes. I collected basketball cards! And still want to stay at his branded hotel.

Christopher said...

Raich listed a cornucopia of potent drugs, from Vicodin to Methadone, that she had tried previously and gotten no satisfaction.

And, why, exactly, is it better to be strung out on legal painkillers? My mother was addicted to 'em for a while, and the result was that she always seemed slightly drunk.

It's funny how an "open debate about decriminalization" sounds just like that anti-drug movie where the Ninja Turtles and Alf come to life and tell a kid to stop with the drugs, and the drugs are voiced by George C. Scott.

charles pierce said...

I was at the 1984 Olympic Trials at which Steve Fucking Alford made his coach's Olympic team -- the one that Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton did not make.
I'm still not over it.

Grace Nearing said...

Oh, god, Scott C, that's awful. I'm a former cluster headache sufferer so I know, I know. Suicide headaches indeed -- the pain drives you mad.

Unknown said...

The Steve Alford All-American Inn, fwiw. Unfortunately, by the time I pass it I might as well go all the way to Chicago:

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Y'know, there were people here who not only booed the Pacers' drafting Reggie Miller over Alford, but griped about it for years afterwards, pretty much until Reg-gie poured in 14 in 8 seconds and killed Spike Lee. After that he was a Hoosier.

The '84 Team vs. NBA Stars inaugurated The Hoosier Dome, later The RCA Dome, later A Pile Of Rubble. And the thing I really remember about that night is Cheryl Miller schooling the women Stars. Nobody out there belonged on the same court. It was like watching Rick Mount in high school. *

Still think that, pound for pound, the '60 Team was the best evah.

* Yeah, saw him three times in high school. Bring the ball across the line, fire 25 footer, all net. Take someone off the dribble, 20 footer from the sideline, falling backwards, all net. Next up: Buckshot O'Brien reference.

Anonymous said...

And, unlike opiate based painkillers, it won't cause horrific constipation.

It's not hard to find decent dope to smoke. Stay under the radar. It's probably more popular now than it was in the 70s.

zencomix said...

Oh, we get the Steve Alford jokes in Iowa City. I can't remember where he went after they ran him out of town. Arizona?

Uncle Omar said...

I agree with you on the 1960 team. Also about Rick Mount. Rick's only real problem was that, like many shooters, he suffered from Defensive Deficit Disorder.