Posts Tagged ‘Russ Buchanan’

When April 20 (4/20) comes around each year it should be a punishable offense not to at least pay some sort of homage to the Waldos of 1971 San Rafael, California–the originators of the term “420.”

Ignite a joint in their honor; hum a Grateful Dead tune or something. 

Or imagine, if only for a minute or two, their storied treks into the wilderness in search of the green El Dorado known as the Lost Pot Farm of Point Reyes. Pay tribute to the fact that a dozen teenagers with varying degrees of THC coursing through their blood-brain barriers were even capable of meeting at a designated time (4:20 p.m.) and place (the statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High School) to prepare for the day’s expedition by smoking even more dope. Then it was off to the Point Reyes Peninsula where they just knew they’d find the weed wonderland.  They never did.  But still, the Waldos’ story is a tale of adventure, camaraderie and balls-out motivation.

Pot Goes Legit

I was writing a story about the influx of marijuana vocational schools popping up like marmosets across America when nostalgia and dread suddenly gripped me.  It seems for every step marijuana takes toward the mainstream, it takes two steps away from the mystique and craziness that inspired the Waldos and other pot legends. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the owners of these pot trade schools are all mercenary MBAs with anchorman hair-dos. In fact, I’ve heard that some of these schools are actually quite helpful and, unlike many trade schools, charge reasonable tuition.  Still, institutions that advertise themselves as “California’s premier marijuana school,” and promise students “the training it takes to become a medical marijuana professional” sound about as Waldo as a Kenny G album.  And, even if these owners aren‘t profit-mad weed weasels, make no mistake; the weasels are out there, frothing for the Great Commodification of Cannabis.

The Numbers

In 1969 a miniscule 12% favored the legalization of marijuana.  Fast-forward 40 years to March 2010 and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press tells us that 41% of our countrymen now favor the out-and-out legalization of the stuff.  Generally speaking, public attitudes tend to change at a sub-glacial rate, so this 39% change over 41 years represents a super-collider of attitudinal change.

There are still a few demographic pockets that remain vehemently opposed to legalization, however.  Guess who those folks are.  Here’s a hint: In 15 years, most of the people belonging to the largest bloc of naysayers will have ceased to have opinions on anything.  The others are self-described social conservatives, the folks who long for the days of back-alley abortions and quiet minorities.  As adamant as conservatives are about keeping pot illegal, they are clearly fighting a juggernaut of opposition.

Here in California, the pro-legalization numbers far exceed the rest of the nation, so it is possible (be still, my heart) that voters will legalize marijuana in California by passing Proposition 19 this November.

Of course, even if pot does becomes legal in California, there will still be the ever-present DEA looking to throw every pot smoker, grower and seller in prison for the rest of his or her natural life on federal charges. But, if enough grease finds the right congressional campaigns, who knows, this damned prohibition could actually fade into history for good.

And, where might that grease come from?

Rumor has it that large tobacco corporations—the Weasel Kings of the Universe– have already staked out acres of prime pot-growing land throughout the country, just waiting for the green light. If they haven’t, something is seriously amiss with that industry’s R&D departments.

Whispers of, “Hey dude, you got any smoke?” will be replaced with advertising slogans like, “Buzzos–The Best Bud You Ever Had” and “Say Goodbye to Cottonmouth with ‘SmootheDoobs ®’ From Philip Morris.”


It all reminds me  of Henry Drummond’s (Spencer Tracy) speech about progress in the movie, “Inherit the Wind.” “Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, “Alright, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.” “Madam, you may vote, but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder-puff or your petticoat.” “Mr., you may conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.”

All things considered, it will be a good bargain: We will sacrifice the mystique of marijuana for the end of this silly, cruel and destructive prohibition, and we’ll be better off for it.

But, somewhere in the back of my brain I hear Henry Drummond saying, “Californians, you may win the right to smoke marijuana, but you’ll never again have a group of kids called the Waldos, bonded in secrecy and coolness, trudging out into the wilderness to find the Lost Pot Farm of Point Reyes.”

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My determination to find out why and when Republicans decided to lop off the “ic” from “Democratic” and begin referring to the loyal opposition as the “Democrat Party” led me to discover the minutes of a secret strategy session held by the Republican elite a few days after the party’s dramatic defeat at the polls in 2008.

Strangely, the minutes were written in verse.

A meeting was held in the town of DC
The Party’s elite were invited
There was Palin and Cheney and Sean Hannity
Their leader Rush Limbaugh presided
Rush called to the crowd, “We’re in trouble, my friends
We’re shrinking with each day that passes
We need new ideas for two thousand ten
Or the Dems will again kick our asses
We can’t argue issues – they win at that game
And just saying ‘no’ has grown old
Drowning them out makes us look quite insane
We need something clever and bold”
“How ‘bout a catchy new phrase?” Palin said
“That says what we’re really about
Like, ‘If you’re not worth millions you oughta be dead!'”
“Sarah, sit down!” yelled the crowd.

So they thought and they thought ‘til their heads throbbed with pain
You see, thinking – for them – was exotic
Then a pudgy guy called out, “Karl Rove is my name
And by George the Second, I’ve got it!”
He ran down the aisle like a man on a mission
And snatched the mic from Limbaugh’s hand
The people fell silent – when Rove speaks, they listen
He smiled a big smile then began
“That name, ‘Democratic’ is simply unfair!
It gives such an edge to our rival
As a name, sure it’s only a noun – fair and square  –
But the voters think it’s adjectival
It makes them sound more democratic than us
A typical liberal plot
The fact that they’re commies is hidden because
Their name makes them sound like they’re not

Well, I’ve got a plan that will end all of that
And recharge the great GOP
We’ll change ‘Democratic’ to just ‘Democrat’
We’ll chop off their ‘ic’ at the ‘T’”
The crowd was ecstatic, and shouted “Hooray”
“You’ve done it again, Mr. Rove
You’ve given to us a sure-fire way
To get back the voters in droves”
Yes, that’s how the “ic” was removed from our name
Believe it or not, you still hear it
It seems everyone to the right of McCain
Is completely insane, or darned near it
They’re down to just one out of five voters now
Soon it will be one of seven
And those who remain will be in Idaho
Storing food for Armageddon

So, when you hear “Democrat” Party these days
Please try to restrain your laughter
It’s just a Republican’s final hooray
On the way to his party’s hereafter

When not playing footsie with men in next stalls
Or at presidential talks, yelling
They campaign with tea-bagging Neanderthals
Who don’t like black folk…or good spelling
They ran Sarah Palin, they outed Ms. Plame
They green-lighted torture to our lasting shame
Compared to all that, the mere change of our name
Is not something to go to war on

We’ll just put our “ic” back where it’s always been
And hope for their sake that this childishness ends
Then as a gift to our Republican friends
We’ll shorten “Moronic” to “Moron.”
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When a lawmaker is found to have a few thousand ill-gained bucks stashed behind packages of Ore-Ida hash browns and a half-eaten pint of Cherry Garcia in his freezer at home, we call it bribery.”

When Democratic lawmakers take money from private health insurers, and then proceed to fight their own party, president and constituents by trying to undermine, hijack, maim, and vaporize the only hope we have of making American health care more Hippocratic than plutocratic – we call it “politics.”

Of course, this is nothing new.  Politicians throughout history have been on the take in varying degrees of legality.  From 54 B.C – when every single candidate for Roman consulship was indicted on charges of bribery – to Boss Tweed’s Tammany Machine, to Representative Jefferson’s Frigidaire, the violation of public trust in exchange for money has been the engorged leech on the body politic.  But as the cost of modern American campaigning continues to soar (and the idea of meaningful campaign finance reform has become a quaint artifact of a bygone era), the once discreet tit-for-tat collusion between “special interests” and our leaders has oozed from the smoke-filled back rooms of yesteryear into a full-blown yard sale of political influence and favor.  By now, selling votes to the highest corporate bidder is no doubt a rider on American legislators’ oaths of office.

But, as commonplace as the ownership of our elected officials has become, the positions on the “public option” taken by the House Blue Dogs and centrist-conservative Democrats in the Senate are – even by today’s standards – nauseating in their blatant toadyism, shining the brightest spotlight yet on the Turkish bazaar we call the United States Government.

One would think the numbers alone would be enough to scare the Blue Dogs and Democratic Senators like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln into line.  Recent polls show that most Americans continue to believe a strong, non-triggered, public option is a good idea.  Among Democrats and health professionals the pro-public option numbers are overwhelming.  One can only imagine how Democratic doctors feel about it.  Yet, these lawmakers have tried to crush the public option at every turn.  To be fair, a few of these centrist-conservatives may have a little honest-though-misguided ideology prompting their party apostasy, and it’s true that Landrieu will soon be facing a tough re-election in her conservative Louisiana.  But she needs Democratic votes and the party’s good will.  She is – despite all recent evidence to the contrary – a Democrat.  Civil rights groups have been airing TV ads pressing her on the issue, and unions are following suit with letter-writing campaigns.  If she and her fellow flies in the ointment continue in their current direction, the Mark of Cain shall be upon them, friendless in the party and at the polls.

What could possibly make these folks behave in such a seemingly politically self-destructive way?  What could make them side with the universally loathed health insurance industry – the industry that views their customers as medicine-grubbing pests?  Will the half-million Landrieu’s gotten from insurance and health sectors, the million Nelson has received, the million and a half tossed to Bayh, and the nearly two million heaped upon Lincoln buy enough TV time to overcome the party alienation and livid voters created by their obstruction?  They must think so.

Then, there’s the morality – the decency of it all.  Thanks to Rep. Alan Grayson and a recent Harvard study (, it is now widely known that 45,000 Americans per year die because of lack of health insurance.  That’s die – as in spouses and children left to grieve, or parents left to endure what psychologists cite as the most profoundly excruciating experience life can dish out to a human psyche.  Why?  Because they could not afford–or were denied access to–the care that might have detected that tiny tumor long before it became inoperable, or that irregular heartbeat that eventually killed an otherwise healthy little kid.  And, if 45,000 of us are dying of “lack of insurance,” and related causes, like suddenly discovered “preexisting conditions” and “denied experimental procedures,” how many of us are being blinded and crippled by the same conditions?

For many voters, this takes the public option issue out of the political realm and plants it firmly in personal, deeply-felt territory.  The Blue Dogs’ in-boxes must be exploding with emails asking, “Are you really going to sit there with an American flag pinned to your lapel while you condemn Americans to death for being sick or poor?”  “Yes,” is their implied answer, as they continue to sideswipe hope into a ditch.  Surely, they must realize all the television time in the world will not erase the sense of betrayal these voters are feeling, or the blame these lawmakers will share if the public option goes up in smoke or turns out to be a combination of the spineless, industry-friendly versions currently being spewed by the Senate and the House.

Maybe they just don’t get it.  Maybe they’re looking at the public option as just another bit of politics, to be wheeled and dealt with as their corporate sponsors see fit.  It wouldn’t be too surprising.  When “Independent” Joe Lieberman announced his plan to join the planned Republican filibuster, the TV news reporter explained matter-of-factly that Senator Lieberman has a number of private health insurers based in his state – as if it’s understood that a senator-host to large insurance corporations is somehow required to hold American’s health hostage to please his guests.

Or maybe there’s something larger going on here.   For the first time in a long time, our government is considering a move that could deeply affect the bottom line of one of the wealthiest industries in the world.  CEOs in every sector must be watching the public option debate like slave owners fearing an uprising.  The Corporate Word has gone out to lawmakers everywhere: “Hey, if we can’t trust you on this health care thing, what’s gonna happen when my defense, energy, finance or transportation bill comes up before you guys?  Are you gonna go Grayson and Kucinich on us?”

The implied threat of having his corporate spigots not only turned off, but also opened wide for his more “trustworthy” opponent in the next election, puts the poodle right back in the yard; that is, if the poodle was even thinking about jumping the fence in the first place.

Obama is wrong when he downplays the public option as a mere “sliver” of overall health care reform.  It is the centerpiece, and he knows it.  A government-run insurance option is the only way – short of a politically unattainable single-payer, European-type system – to help make health care more affordable and accessible to Americans.  But more importantly, it has become a crucible in American politics.  The implementation of a real public option will show that reports of our democracy’s demise have been somewhat premature.

Now that we’ve seen congress’ embarrassing, whittled down versions of the plan, it is clear Obama’s influence and veto power – along with lawmakers who actually use their office to help Americans – are our last and only hope.  Will the oligarchy emerge triumphant, once again?   Or will Obama use the power we gave him and start effecting real change, making the adoption of the public option an historic bellwether that saved our lives and our government – when the common good went up against some of the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in the world, and despite their propaganda, their staged “grassroots” protests, their TV ads and the tireless efforts of their very own politicians – the American people won.

For a look at political bribery and health care–set to music (sample): “All-American Suckers”

Dear Max,

I know it’s been a while since we last spoke, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.

Max, I’m gonna get straight to the point.  Lately, there’s been a lot of ugly talk connecting your attempt to torpedo the public option with the millions of dollars you’ve gotten from health insurance honchos.

People see conspiracy in everything these days; have they never heard of coincidence?

But, you’ve got to admit; to those who don’t know the honorable Max Baucus, as I do, your position does emit a certain aroma.  Frankly, it makes you look a lot like one of those corporate poodles we used to point and laugh at in the congressional cafeteria.  Now, I know you called a “moratorium” on any further health sector donations to the Max Baucus campaign, and that was good – but a wee bit late, I’m afraid.  People recognize four million over five years can buy a shitload of influence, and your recent attitude toward the public option and health care reform in general is scorching many a nostril.

As you know, Montanans are among the least health insurance-covered folks in the country.  Hell, out of sheer desperation, Republicans in your state are calling for the public option.  So I’m sure you’re aware that your high profile and adamant objection to it could make life very difficult for you during your next campaign, no matter how much TV time your health industry money buys.

The national scene is even worse. Your party’s leadership and an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters are ape-wild for this option.  Unless you count the remedial class on the other side of the aisle, you and the Blue Doggerels sit alone like lepers at a fashion show.  And now with Obama’s pledge to keep his plan deficit neutral, the rug has been pulled out from the only almost-credible reason you had for objecting to the public option in the first place.

In fact, I was hoping you might have used Obama’s speech as an aha moment – an opportunity to publicly change your mind.  Instead, a few days later you released your committee’s counter proposal, which if enacted would not only put the public option out to pasture and squeeze the middle class like an empty tube of toothpaste, but would also do for private health insurers what HIV did for the latex industry.

Hell, I’m even starting to think something’s up, Max- ha ha.

All quid pro quo aside, guy, you and I both know a government-run health insurance option is the only way to get your pals at Aetna and United to stop the wholesale ripping-off and selective killing and maiming of our countrymen.  The Max I know, cares about stuff like this.  And though you benefit mightily from their dollars, your innate decency must be wreaking havoc on your sleep and that ulcer of yours.

But, don’t despair, my friend; I’ve got a plan.

Remember back in 2002 when you rented your support to the financial sector, and helped make filing personal bankruptcy for Americans more difficult than getting gold at the Olympics?  Or when you voted to lift what was left of those pesky regulations on Wall Street?

How much were you paid for your “help?”  Four million over ten years.  Ten years, Max!  You gave them the green light to own people for life, and greased the way for the investment boys to reap a windfall while destroying our economy in the bargain.  And all you got was a crummy four hundred thousand a year!

You were severely chumped, my friend, and you know it.

And, how about the NRA?  You vote to give Americans their constitutionally guaranteed right to shoot armor-piercing rounds at deer and Kevlar-wearing javelinas, and what do you get in return?  A lousy fifteen grand.  This is madness, kiddo.  These guys are worth zillions!

As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, there are plenty of industries champing at the bit to develop a “stronger relationship” with you.  Energy, telecommunications, defense, transportation, your old pals in finance – the list is endless.  Sure, some of your votes on your new clients’ behalf may stir up a little controversy from time to time, but nothing like this public option landmine your health “friends” have placed neatly in your path.

You’ve given them enough already.  It’s time to scrape them off of your wingtips, and open yourself up to some real dough.

As your folks used to say, “You can have your cake and eat it too.”

Just call a press conference and say something like, “Upon further study, I now believe an efficient, government-run health insurance choice (don’t say “public option”) can be cost-effective, and is in the best interest of Americans.”

With those few words, Mercenary Max becomes a statesman.  You might even get Olympia Snow to go along with you, who knows?

Sure, there will be many nasty calls from health care lobbyists, but what do you care?  You don’t need them. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, you’re alpha-poodle.

Anyhow, I hope I didn’t come on too strong with this thing.  And I’m sure you know that I’m only looking out for your welfare, old chum.  By the way, I know you’re a busy boy of late, but if you’re not doing anything tonight, stop by the house. We’re having a little get-together with some friends from Exxon.  I’m sure they’d be happy to see you.

Take care,

Russ Buchanan

So, Squeaky Fromme is finally getting out of the big house.

I tried to imagine how she would look after so many years.  Immediately, the spooky, red-hooded killer-dwarf from Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” came to mind.

News of Fromme’s release caught me by surprise.  I figured her intimate association with Charles Manson and her very high profile support of that killer-dwarf would be enough to put her away for a couple centuries.  Not to mention, she had tried to shoot the president of the United States.

Or had she?

Did you know that Ms. Fromme had intentionally removed the cartridge from the chamber of her gun before heading out to intersect with President Ford?

Neither did I; nor did a dozen or so friends I polled.

According to the report, Fromme’s yelling, “It didn’t go off.  It didn’t go off,” while she was being wrestled to the ground — was pure show biz.  She knew damned well it wouldn’t fire.  One of the first admissions she made to police was where she had hidden the round.  A subsequent police search found the cartridge right where she said it was – in her bathroom at home.

OK then, “Squeaky” wasn’t quite as nuts as I thought she was.  Big deal.

But wait, why did it take three decades for me to discover that fact?   I may be nitpicking here, but it seems Ms. Fromme’s intention — or lack thereof — to assassinate the president of the United States would be a rather important part of the story.

Could it be the nation’s news directors and editors of the day didn’t like the idea of a messy mitigating fact screwing up a terrific “good vs evil” story?

Or, as an often-paranoid friend suggests, omitting this pertinent part of the story would provide a little, much-needed political cachet for the Right.  At that time, the Nixon resignation, Vietnam and Watergate were still very much on Americans’ minds.  Anything that could be given an anti-Left spin — no matter how far-fetched — could be somewhat useful.  Imagine the Wall Street Journal faced with the decision whether to run,  “Prominent Member of Counter-Culture Attempts Presidential Assassination” or “Manson Member Makes Clicking Noise and Mean Face at President.”

And, this was back in the relatively innocent, less vertically integrated media of the 70s.  With the decimation of FCC rules prohibiting the concentration of news into too few hands, we’ve wound up with eight corporations controlling eighty-five percent of the news Americans read, listen to, and watch.  Granted, there are plenty of noble-but-broke non-MSM publications — and even a few broadcast organs — that remain pure, choosing stories and topics strictly for their journalistic merit.  But, those are for that endangered species known as the “American News Junky.”  Everybody else gets their opinion-shaping info from the MSM.  And, sadly, everybody‘s vote counts the same.

Remember when “Fair & Balanced — and Apparently On the Take” Fox News pulled an investigative piece about Monsanto Corp’s bovine growth hormone Posilac because Monsanto was a valued Fox advertiser?  Well, Fox kept the Monsanto account, but Fox’ viewers were kept in the dark about Posilac. That was back in ’96.  It’s frightening to think how many stories — or parts of stories — have been kept from us since then.

I’m almost certain the idea for this blog was born the first time I saw Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann on TV, waxing incoherent on her plan to investigate the “Americanism” of her colleagues in the House.

I sat mesmerized by her words and her now famous “perma-smile” —  part Stepford wife, part Cruella deVil — and marveled at the fact that people intelligent enough to find the right polling place actually voted for her when they got there.  This “investigation,” of course, was her fiendishly clever way of keeping in the public consciousness the idea that our new president, Barack Obama, and his supporters in Congress were somehow not really American.  She figured, if the president of the United States was able to get away with this Manchurian Candidate stuff, then almost certainly there were members of the House trying to “pass,” as well.  And doggone it, as a real American, she would expose them–or, at the very least, milk Fox News for a half-dozen news cycles.  I can’t remember how she proposed to get to the truth about her colleagues — waterboard ’em, maybe.  Or maybe just be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, like the correct pronunciation of the word “nuclear.”

The reason I can’t be absolutely sure Michelle Bachmann was this blog’s muse, is the voluminous amount of competition she had from other Republican idiocies during the first few months of the Obama presidency.  They  reminded me of the townsfolk in “Blazing Saddles” when the new sheriff came riding into town.  Come to think of it, they still do.

Regardless of its genesis, “Craving Sense” invites you to check these pages now and then for the latest, jaw-dropping proclamations, pontifications and “good ideas” of the Enthusiastically Stupid and the Proudly Dumb.