Friday, June 23, 2023

Citing Alice Johnson, Baier Trips Up Trump on Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

It's rare to find a hero on Fox News, but Bret Baier did a surprisingly great job tripping up Donald Trump on his repeated call for the death penalty for drug dealers. In an interview with Baier this week, Trump first confirmed his position, citing China and Singapore who (he says) have "zero drug problems" because of their death penalty policies.

Trump claimed that China lost territory to other countries in the past because they were "all drugged out" (due to the Opium Wars, presumably) and said that drug dealers—adding there are "plenty of female drug dealers too"—kill an average of 500 people in their lifetime (as usual without any factual basis for his "truth").

Baier then brought up Trump's support of the First Step Act, which released (mostly) nonviolent offenders including Alice Johnson, a black grandmother who had served almost 22 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug crime until she was advocated for by Kim Kardashian. (On her reality show, Kim is shown meeting about Johnson with Trump, who only wanted to talk about her suck-up husband Kanye West.)

Trump made a public spectacle of granting clemency to Johnson at the 2019 State of the Union speech, and she appeared a SuperBowl ad to tout Trump's criminal justice record.

During the interview with Baier, Trump brought up Johnson, who Trump said “got treated terribly” and “unfairly,” equating her treatment to his own. He said that Johnson’s trafficking activity was “mostly marijuana”—though her convictions largely concerned alleged cocaine sales, reports Marijuana Moment

“But she’d be killed under your plan,” Baier pointed out. 

 “Huh?” Trump replied. 

 “As a drug dealer,” Baier said. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Willie's Weed-Filled 90th Birthday Concert on Film

Margo Price performs with Bob Weir at the concert. 

UPDATE 12/23: The concert (or parts of it) is now viewable on CBS

The concert at the Hollywood Bowl celebrating Willie Nelson's 90th birthday is the subject of a film now in limited release across the country. It's the next best thing to having been there, with crowd shots and a good theatre's sound system recreating that concert vibe, although lacking the doobies that were smoked at the event, both by the crowd and the performers (offstage). Not all of the performances from the two-day concert are included, but there's plenty to enjoy for pot lovers, music lovers, and the many who appreciate Willie Nelson. 

Billy Strings started it off by getting the crowd rocking and demonstrating his amazing virtuosity on the guitar, which he also displayed and backing up Bob Weir on “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” Strings joined Nelson toward the end to perform his song "California Sober," which he recorded with Willie earlier this year. 

Marijuana is first mentioned by Willie's son Micah, who sang his song inspired by a statement his Dad made: "If I Die When I'm High I'm Halfway to Heaven." Jack Johnson, wearing a "Have a Willie Nice Day" T-shirt, sang his song "Willie Got Me High and Took All My Money" about a poker game gone wrong. 

Intros for the acts were provided by Helen Mirren, Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Garner, and Owen Wilson. Wilson, a Texas native, spoke about how popular Nelson was in Austin, bringing together hippies and rednecks alike, and thanked Willie for "always inspiring us to take the HIGH road." A seriously stoned, grinning Woody Harrelson got to effusively introduce Nelson, acknowledging his inspiring humanitarian work for farmers and "our blessed Saint Mary Jane." 

Nelson started his set with Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" before dueting with Sheryl Crow, who noted that Willie was the only person to ever offer her dad a joint, and recently said from the stage that vinyl and weed would save music.

Margo Price was a High-light, rocking out wearing white go-go boots and a green jacket adorned with silver pot leaves. Price introduced a marijuana line with Nelson's Willie's Reserve in 2019, and recently launched a CBG line in conjunction with Mom Grass. On Day 2 of the concert, she dueted with Nathaniel Rateliff on "I Can Get Off on You." 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Of Cicely and Sinéad, and Marijuana

Browsing in the biography section of my local library, I came upon two somewhat bald-faced books published in 2021 by shaved-headed women: Cicely Tyson and Sinéad O'Connor. Both books address marijuana. 

Tyson, who rose from youthful poverty to a brilliant career as a model and actress, chose an arresting portrait with a shaved head taken by photographer Lord Snowdon in the early 1970’s for the cover of her memoir, Just As I Am. Raised with a strong influence by her church, Tyson married Miles Davis, whose drug use was beyond her reckoning. 

"Whatever he smoked or shot up, he usually reeked of it. I knew the scent of marijuana, but other than that, I couldn't tell the difference between coke or heroin or any other drug," she wrote. "He tried to cover it with cologne (he loved his collection), but I could still smell it. And when I did, I stayed as far away from him as I could, because I knew I wouldn't be having talking to Miles anymore. I'd be having a conversation with the person he became when a substance had taken him over. The drugs. The wandering eye. The outbursts. I dealt with it then by not engaging it. I suppose it was my way of reconciling the Miles I knew, the poor soul bearing a hurt-filled past, with the Miles he became in quelling his pain."

Later Tyson helped him clean up from drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes, but Davis, who she describes as being consistently furious over racism, ultimately succumbed to them. According to Tyson, he altered his autobiography to be critical of her after she refused to reunite with him. She published her book two days before her death at age 96

O'Connor, who suffered physical and sexual abuse growing up in Ireland, chose a shaved-head hairstyle partly as protection against predation. Growing up in a different time than Tyson, she used marijuana and tried other drugs, which she now denounces. 

In the forward to her book Rememberings she claims she can't necessarily remember all the details of her life because she wasn't "present" for them; she blames this in part on weed, writing, "I was actually present before my first album came out. And then I went somewhere else inside myself. And I began to smoke weed. I never finally stopped until mid-2020. So, yeah, I ain't been quite here." 

However, the book is quite detailed, so somehow she remembered much of her life. She adds, "Making music is hard to write about. I was present then. In the place deep inside myself that only I know." And she writes about how much of her music was made while she was on weed.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in May 2023


James Watt
As President Ronald Reagan’s first Interior secretary, Watt "tilted environmental policies sharply toward commercial exploitation, touching off a national debate over the development or preservation of America’s public lands and resources." (Source.) After taking office in 1981, Watt was asked at a hearing of the House Interior Committee if he favored preserving wilderness areas for future generations. The born-again Christian replied, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.” He soon transferred control of many of the nation's resources to private industry, and opened most of the Outer Continental Shelf — nearly all of America’s coastal waters — to drilling leases by oil and gas companies. He widened access to coal on federal lands, eased restrictions on strip-mining, and increased industry access to wilderness areas for drilling, mining and lumbering, among other "reforms." Environmental groups called for his dismissal and some secretly lamented when he resigned because having him in office helped with their fundraising efforts. 

Tina Turner (5/25)
"We don't need another hero, we need more heroines like you," said Oprah Winfrey at the 2005 ceremony featuring Queen LatifahMelissa Etheridge and Beyoncé bestowing Turner with a Kennedy Center Honor. The singing and dancing powerhouse and Queen of Rock and Roll survived a physically abusive relationship with her husband and musical partner Ike Turner before escaping with 36 cents in her pocket and divorcing him in 1978. She gave up all the couple's assets in her divorce settlement so that she could continue to use her stage name launched a solo career. A series of 1980s monster hits like the empowering "Better Be Good to Me" followed, along with a film career and a lucrative modeling contract for Hanes pantyhose after a poll revealed she had the most-admired legs in the US.  Like her fellow dancing/singing phenomenon Josephine Baker, Turner was wildly popular in Europe and expatriated to France, then Switzerland. A devout Buddhist, Tina the Acid Queen believed she was the reincarnation of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who was associated with Seshat, Goddess of Knowledge and Cannabis. Her biography I, Tina says that although the Ikettes were known to sneak an occasional joint, she only tried weed once, but let Ike give her Benzedrine to get through lengthy recording sessions, and they recorded a song called "Contact High." This performance (above) was recorded in 2009, the year she turned 70. We can't wait for her next incarnation.