High Times

On Thursday out came a column by conservative David Brooks about Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana use. Soon followed the inevitable mocking on Twitter and elsewhere.

The mocking and ridicule was the result, I think, of the tone Brooks used in order to persuade us that smoking a doobie isn’t exactly on a cultural par with, say, listening to Chopin. He put his objections in terms of a hierarchy of “pleasures,” and you can guess that things like “enjoying the arts or being in nature” are higher pleasures than “being stoned.” He didn’t explain why one can’t enjoy all of those things, even possibly at the same time, but you get the point.

He mentioned getting stoned in school and mucking up a presentation in English class as “still one of those embarrassing memories that pop up unbidden at 4 in the morning.” He said having such “embarrassing incidents” is one of the reasons he quit dope. He suggested that “the point” of getting stoned was to “do stupid things.” I’m glad I never shared a reefer with him. I’ve smoked pot with several people in my time, but I am pretty sure I never smoked it with anyone whose goal at the end was to do stupid things, even though some of them did do stupid things.

In any case, after reading the piece, you come away with the idea that Brooks and the “friends” he frequently references are just better people than the rest of us. He and his friends, after all, no longer have a need for such mind-altering activities like lighting up and mellowing out.  “Most of us developed higher pleasures,” he says presumably without blushing.

He is right, though, to point out that “usage is bound to increase.” Of course it will. That’s common sense, even if it weren’t backed up by some understanding of economics. The whole thing is a social experiment. None of us, not David Brooks, not me, not you, know how the experiment will unfold, what the long-term repercussions will be. Time will tell us more.

But there’s something else about Brooks’ piece that we should note:

Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? 

Those are good questions. Brooks, and other sober-minded conservatives, have their answers. Tea Party types have theirs. And liberals have ours. The problem is that Brooks, as thoughtful a conservative as you are likely to encounter, ignores the systemic racism tied to our drug laws (for instance: while marijuana use among blacks and whites is fairly similar, the incarceration rate for blacks is astoundingly higher). He ignores how a drug conviction can haunt you the rest of your life. Thus, having asked some good questions about the kind of community “we want our laws to nurture,” it is curious that he couldn’t squeeze in a word or two about what kind of community our drug laws are in fact nurturing.

I wanted to say more about the column, but in reading the comment section (so far there is 1637 of them) I found one that pretty much captures what is wrong (from my point of view) with Brooks’ column particularly and conservative thinking generally. The comment was submitted by “gemli” from Boston:

It’s fortunate that Mr. Brooks and his friends had the option to pursue higher pleasures, and were not consigned by poverty, poor schools, absent parents and dismal futures to take their pleasures where they could find them. For these kids, a poor presentation in English class some forty years earlier doesn’t have the power to disturb their sleep. 

This first-person confession of casual pot smoking is designed to make us think that everyone is equally susceptible to temptations, and equally capable of brushing them aside to develop passions for science and literature and enlargements of the heart. But nothing demonstrates more clearly the tone-deafness of Brooks and his like-minded conservative friends who think that everyone starts out on equal footing. This is a favorite theme of Mr. Brooks: People of Quality rise to the top, while lesser sorts wallow in a despair of their own making. He argued once that it’s pointless to pour money into poor (“chaotic”) neighborhoods, because People of Quality would rise above their lowly station without such help, while the rest would flounder no matter how much public money was wasted on them.

Instead of mollycoddling the disadvantaged by making jobs available, or raising the minimum wage or providing better schools in poor neighborhoods, Brooks thinks the role of government should be to enforce conservative moral values.

See what happens when stoners grow up to write columns in the Times? Kids, please, don’t smoke!


Guns, God, Hemp, And Ozark Billy

The local wingnuts have been busy.

The Joplin Globe reported:

More than 150 residents, local politicians and rally organizers attended what was described as a “peaceful demonstration to support and defend the Second Amendment” Saturday at Landreth Park in Joplin…

One of those residents is a man named John Broom, who the Globe said is trying to start a “permanent group” of locals in order “to support firearm rights.” Apparently for Broom the NRA isn’t doing enough.gun rally in joplin

Broom, I must say, did an excellent job—much better than I could do—of exposing just how misguided gun enthusiasts can be:

We want people to know what we are about and why we support this right. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. It’s not about competition or sport, and it really isn’t about self-defense. It’s about rights of the people to protect themselves from invaders and from tyrants. We have to start educating folks really quick.

Yep, really quick, I mean, quickly: before people figure out how dumb it is to sit around the house with a small arsenal, waiting for invaders and tyrants. In any case, thanks to John Broom for that enlightening interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Last Saturday proved to be a busy day for local reactionaries. The Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Days brought into Joplin none other than Tom Schweich, who is Missouri’s auditor. Schweich told his Republican congregation:

God is a part of the Republican Party.

Yep, he said it. And, as the Joplin Globe reported, he said it “to applause from the crowd.” God always gets an ovation around here, don’t you know.

Apparently, the Globe couldn’t get God to comment on the remark, or, more likely, the paper didn’t bother to ask Him. Maybe next time. Oh, and maybe the Globe could ask God about that ass whippin’ that Barack Obama and the Democrats gave His party last November and just what He intends to do to get even. Democrats would do well to remember: Vengeance is mine, I will repaysaith the Lord.

During his keynote speech, Schweich estimated that 70 percent of the gathered locals were Christian conservatives. He was way off on that one. I doubt you could have found anyone in the crowd who would have courageously testified to being, say, an Allah-loving Republican. It’s GOP Jesus or nothing around here.

And speaking of GOP-Jesus-loving Republicans, Ozark Billy Long was in attendance. My congressman did not disappoint. He gave my president a compliment:

We spent all our time saying Barack Obama was nothing but a community organizer. He organized his community and got out the vote.

That had to hurt the Sarah Palin fans in attendance. The former fractional governor and former Fox babe made a small fortune by making fun of the community organizer. But fearless Billy had more to say, as reported by the Globe’s Susan Redden:

Long, speaking at the local Lincoln Days event, noted that a recent National Journal ranking had placed him as more conservative than Reps. Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan.

Only in Southwest Missouri would a congressman actually brag about being nuttier more conservative than Michele Bachmann. And although Redden didn’t report it this way, I’m guessing that Long made his I’m-crazier-than-Bachmann statement “to applause from the crowd.”

Finally, Ozark Billy has been called out by, uh, The Weed Blog: Marijuana News and Information. It seems one of Billy’s constituents wrote him, asking support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. Yes, there is such a bill, and it has several bipartisan co-sponsors in the House (the Senate version includes Mitch McConnell as a co-sponsor).billy long and hemp

For those of you who don’t touch the stuff, industrial hemp is not marijuana, although both are prepared from Cannabis plants. As Wikipedia points out,

Hemp is refined into products like hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, and fuel.

The stuff in the Cannabis plant that gives you the munchies (THC) is very low or nonexistent in industrial hemp. Thus, when we’re talking about hemp farming we’re not talking about growing pot, as disappointed as that may make some of you out there, and you know who you are.

In any case, Billy Long responded to his constituent with a letter that, as The Weed Blog noted, indicated Long didn’t have the slightest idea what industrial hemp was. In the response letter, Long said,

While I am a strong believer in personal freedom, I do not support the recreational or medical use of illegal drugs regardless of whether the drug is marijuana, cocaine, or any other illegal substance.

The Weed Blog writer, Johnny Green, wrote:

I find it odd that someone who dislikes hemp so much, doesn’t even understand what it is. Is he serious?

Well, it’s hard to answer that question, Johnny. Perhaps Billy Long, somewhere in his past, had a bad experience smoking industrial hemp. Who knows? Smoking industrial hemp may explain a lot about Billy Long.

But I certainly don’t find it “odd” that Long, like so many Bachmannish conservatives, can dislike something without understanding it. That’s how they manage to stay in power in places like Southwest Missouri. From evolution to global warming to hemp farming, the less they understand, the more popular they are.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em, everyone!

Weird Stuff:

MSNBC’s Morning Joe featured this weird quote during a weird moment of braggadocio from a weird GOP presidential candidate:

NEWT GINGRICH: I did no lobbying of any kind, period. For a practical reason, I was charging $60,000 a speech. And the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more.

Then Morning Joe put up this:

To which I might add this:

JOPLIN PER CAPITA INCOME: $30,292,  which puts Joplin at #328 out of 367 Metropolitan Areas (national average: $42,159).  So, think of this potential Gingrich voters in Joplin: Every time Newt opens his mouth in front of a corporate crowd—provided he’s not munching down on the pre-speech cheese display—he is making twice as much as most folks around here make in a bleeping year.

And this is weird, too:

I don’t know, but I find it weird for “family values” voters in Iowa to pledge their allegiance to a guy who has been married three times—with the previous two marriages ending because of Newt’s extracurricular screwing. If Gingrich wins in Iowa, that will demonstrate that evangelical Christians don’t mind their candidates’ adultery, so long as those candidates repent while trashing The Scary Negro in the White’s House.

And this is weird: After interviewing Ron Paul on Sunday, Candy Crowley, on That Other Fair And Balanced Network, CNN, ended the lackluster segment—I kid you not—by advertising a Ron Paul cookbook:

Ms.Crowley, who used to be a journalist before she played one on TV, said this as her undazzling interview of Ron Paul ended:

Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, thank you for joining us today. And if you want more of Ron Paul, we want you to check out—just in time for Christmas—The Ron Paul Family Cookbook.

As I said, I kid you not.

More weird stuff: Rick Santorum is tied for last in the latest poll from Iowa. He has a three-year-old daughter who is dying. Yet, he said this on ABC’s This Week on Sunday:

AMANPOUR: You are very public about your seven children. You’ve been very public and have been very emotional, of course, talking about your young daughter, Bella, you, you’ve said, has basically a life that’s measured in days and weeks.

SANTORUM: Well, it certainly is according to the medical statistics. But we’ve been very blessed. I mean, she is three-and-a- half years of age, you know, I was with her last night, got a chance to spend some time with her.

SANTORUM: She’s an absolute joy. She’s really the center of our lives. And we feel so blessed to have her.

AMANPOUR: And as a mother, I just wonder how you can keep going and how you justify this with so much personal toll at home?

SANTORUM: Yeah, well, as we all know…

AMANPOUR: Given the polls.

SANTORUM: Yeah, no, I understand. Well, I don’t worry about the — again I don’t worry about the polls, I worry about what I’m trying to do to be the best father and husband I can be. And obviously a big part of that is making sure that we have a country that respects her life and a country that is free and safe and prosperous for all of my children.

And I just felt like given this is really I believe the most critical election in the history of the country that I had to step up and make sacrifices, like everybody does, to make our country a better country.

Isn’t that special? Rick Santorum, who said his dying daughter is “the center” of his life, is spending her last few weeks on earth with Iowa voters, most of whom will not vote for him. If you don’t think that’s weird, then obviously you are an Obama-hating Republican.

Finally, as 60 Minutes pointed out in yet another fantastic piece of  journalism on Sunday night, it is weird that the Obama Justice Department hasn’t prosecuted a single bankster for what was done to the American economy in 2008 and beyond.  What makes that especially weird is that the Obama Justice Department is doing this:

In its effort to shut down California’s booming medical marijuana dispensaries, the Justice Department is seeking to seize the property where the clinics are based, even going after at least one bank that holds the mortgage on a clinic.

If you don’t think it’s weird to go after a bank for holding the mortgage of a legal—legal—dispensary of marijuana in California, while simultaneously allowing dishonest, greedy banksters to get away with lying to investors and nearly killing the economy, then you are obviously a dishonest, greedy bankster who believes the whole economic crisis and Great Recession was the fault of Democrats trying to help poor minorities buy homes they couldn’t afford.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

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