Friday, June 26, 2020

Paltrow Power Puffs in "The Politician"

Gwyneth Paltrow Plays a Candidate Who Definitely Does Inhale in The Politician
Taking a break from weightier and fascinating shows like Who Killed Malcolm X, The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, and Who Shot the Sheriff on Netflix, I've been watching Season 2 of The Politician, starring the talented Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) in the title role as the ambitious young candidate Payton Hobart, this time up against seasoned state Senator Dede Standish played by Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") at her brittle best, and Bette Midler as her wily campaign manager for an extra comedic cherry on top. 

Paton's mother Georgina, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is coming into her power this season, with Paltrow perfectly spoofing the public perception of her as an entitled Hollywood princess for whom everything comes too easily. Georgina languidly smokes from a hookah in one scene as she mounts a Marianne Williams–style campaign for California's Governor, during which she proposes seceding from the union, arguing that, "Most of our federal tax dollars go out of state to people who think that we are pot-smoking, Satan-worshipping abortion doctors or something." Elsewhere, she utters lines like, "Sorry sweetheart, I don't remember young people, it's a tic I have," and "I'm going to get stoned and have a bath."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

RIP Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Marijuana Reform Pioneer

Dr. Grinspoon's pioneering book, from
back when "marijuana" was spelled with an "h"
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a pioneering advocate for marijuana reform, has passed away one day after his 92nd birthday, aka "Lester Grinspoon day."

A Harvard professor, Dr. Grinspoon "started out investigating what he expected to be the dangers of marijuana and ended up writing the classic Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), a scholarly debunking of then-current myths about the herb's supposed evils," writes Cal NORML's Dale Gieringer.  "Lester became an influential force for enlightenment in the 1970s decrim movement and was one of NORML's earliest supporters. Later, he published Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, about the medical benefits of marijuana, which he had witnessed first hand through his son Danny's struggle with cancer chemotherapy."

As well as his many accomplishments, Dr. Grinspoon’s work inspired my VeryImportantPotheads website (which spun off into this blog), starting with a stirring speech he gave at the April 2001 NORML conference “outing” himself as a marijuana user, saying, "I was 44 years old in 1972 when I experienced my first marijuana high. Because I found it both useful and benign, I have used it ever since.” As High Times reported, "He called for people in the business, academic and professional worlds to come out of the closet regarding marijuana. To that end, he's pursuing what he calls the 'Uses of Marijuana Project' (, an ethnographic exercise on how pot has enhanced users' lives."

Monday, June 22, 2020

50 Years Ago: Barbara Streisand Turns On The Owl

In the 1970 film The Owl and the Pussycat, Barbra Streisand plays Doris, a struggling model/actress living in New York who turns a few tricks to get by. When nerdy would-be writer and bookstore clerk Felix (George Segal) reports her activities to their landlord, she confronts him and rocks his world.

Leading up to the film's climax, Doris pulls out a joint and says, “Now I’m going to make you happy. It’s gonna put you in a very good mood.” Felix resists, telling her he’ll do it only after she whispers a bribe into his ear, announcing he was doing so to demonstrate that, “I have a certain free will, I am not a square person, and I am if I wish to be, perfectly hep.” She replies, “I’m hip you’re hep.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow

I watched Michelle Alexander's 2010 book The New Jim Crow change the debate about drug policy and racism in the US. This year, on its 10th anniversary, we have a chance for a greater transformation. 

At the time when the book was first published, much of the African-American community and its leaders were lock-step in line with the drug war. But Alexander made her case so well for the role of the War on Drugs in the mass incarceration and marginalization of people of color that today leaders like Rep. Karen Bass (chair of the Congressional Black Caucus) and Sen. Kamala Harris (California's former DA) have joined to advance police reform at the federal level (though some say it doesn't go far enough.)

As Alexander lays it out, "When the gains and goals of the Civil Rights Movement began to require real sacrifices on the part of white Americans, conservative politicians found they could mobilize white racial resentment by vowing to crack down on crime....Beginning in the 1970s, researchers found that racial attitudes—not crime rates of likelihood of victimization—are an important determinant of white support for 'getting tough on crime' and antiwelfare measures. The War on Drugs, cloaked in race-neutral language, offered whites opposed to racial reform a unique opportunity to express their hostility toward blacks and black progress, without being exposed to the charge of racism."

Ronald Reagan and his successor George Bush, Sr. helped convince the US population that drugs were the most significant problem in the country through policy pronouncements, rather than facts. "The results were immediate," Alexander writes. "As law enforcement budgets exploded, so did prison and jail populations. In 1991, the Sentencing Project reported that the number of people behind bars in the US was unprecedented in world history, and that one fourth of young African American men were now under the control of the criminal justice system."

Saturday, June 6, 2020

"Killer Mike": Nixon-style Villainizing of Hippies & Blacks over Marijuana at Play Today

Rapper and Atlanta-based activist Michael "Killer Mike" Render lit up Real Time with Bill Maher last night, and not just with his million-dollar smile. At one point, he brandished a joint for the cameras.

Maher, noting that both he and Mike “love our pot,” mentioned that AG Barr has employed the DEA on protesters. "I just want to say to some of these protesters: if someone offers you a joint, that might be a narc,” he said.

Mike responded, “The most ironic thing about that is, when Nixon declared the drug war, he declared it on hippies and on blacks. What they’re essentially doing is a new version of that, because hippies were just progressive white people at the time—shouts out to Ben & Jerry. They were people that were progressive enough to say right is right and wrong is wrong and white’s not always right, we’re gonna side with what’s right. And of course black people were pushing the line."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cannabis Used to "Stimulate Ecstasy" Found at Ancient Shrine - To The Goddess Asherah?

Two altars found at the Arad shrine on display at The Israel Museum. 
An altar at a Judahite shrine dating to the 8th century B.C. was used to burn cannabis for ecstatic effect, researchers Eran Arie, Baruch Rosen and Dvory Namdar report. The discovery was made by performing a chemical analysis of residue found on the smaller of two limestone altars found at the entrance to the "Holy of Holies"(the inner sanctum) at the Arad shrine in Southern Israel. The second, larger altar was used to burn frankincense, a widely traded incense that was highly valued at the time (as was, presumably, cannabis). Fifty similar altars have been found in the southern Levant.

The shrine as discovered in 1963.
"It seems feasible to suggest that the use of cannabis on the Arad altar had a deliberate psychoactive role," the researchers state, writing in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. "The frequent use of hallucinogenic materials for cultic purposes in the Ancient Near East and beyond is well known and goes back as early as prehistoric periods (e.g., Rudgley 1995; Merlin 2003; Guerra-Doce 2015*)....These psychoactive ingredients were destined to stimulate ecstasy as part of cultic ceremonies. As shown in this study, 8th century Judah may now be added to the places where these rituals took place." This is some 200 years after the fabled Temple of Solomon with its many incense burners.

The discovery lends credence to Polish anthropologist Dr. Sula Benet's 1936 doctoral thesis ''Hashish in Folk Customs and Beliefs,'' which theorized that the biblical incense kaneh bosm, meaning "aromatic cane" was cannabis, mistranslated as "calamus" in the modern bibles. "Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semitic culture, one is led to believe, that Asia Minor was the original point of expansion for both the society based on the Matriarchal circle and the mass use of hashish," Benet wrote.

Ke(d)eshet, the Egyptian goddess related to Asherah,
standing on a lion. (British Museum.)
"Previous scholars have theorized that the two altars were devoted to two deities who were worshipped at the shrine, possibly a divine couple," Arie, Rosen and Namdarwrite. In other shrines where two incense altars were found together, "the same conclusion about multiple deities worshipped has been drawn."

Shards of pottery with the name "Yahweh" have been found at the shrine; his consort was the Goddess Asherah, to whom incense was burned, described (and decried) in the Hebrew Scriptures. "Inscriptions from two locations in southern Palestine seem to indicate that she was also worshiped as the consort of Yahweh." ( Pictorial evidence has also been found.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Watch How Phyllis Schlafly Waged War on Women in "Mrs. America"

Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan debates Cate
Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America
The FX/Hulu series Mrs. America is an eye-opening, skillfully produced and acted story of the women who advanced womens' rights in the 1970s, and the woman who took them down: Phyllis Schlafly.

I had thought Schlafly was just a wing-nut like the anti-gay Anita Bryant, with a single cause: the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. But in fact, she was a foreign policy expert whose influential book, A Choice Not an Echo is thought to have been instrumental in Barry Goldwater winning the California primary and Republican nomination for president in 1964. A shrewd political strategist, Schlafly parlayed her STOP ERA campaign into enough political power to swing the Republican party so far to the right that it embraced Ronald Reagan and his "Just Say No" wife Nancy and so much more, all the way up to Trump, whom Schlafly supported before she died in 2016.

Portrayed impeccably (as always) by Cate Blanchett, who co-produced the series, we watch Schlafly forming alliances with rabid anti-abortion, anti-gay hate groups whose drivers turn out to be KKK members; finding out that her eldest son is gay and lecturing him about controlling his impulses; crossing swords with fellow Republican Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) and the ultra liberal Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman); and getting a pie thrown in her face just like Bryant did.