Category: culture

The Two Bummer Reasons why Jeff Sessions loves Pot Prohibition

by Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Published at LA Progressive on January 5, 2017

Published at TruthDig on January 11, 2018

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The announcement by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money.

Financially, of course, the Republican party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry”and of Pot Prohibition.

The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and all the other operatives whose livelihood depends on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions cannabis customers.

Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense.

Then there’s the power.

As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality give police the ability to bust whoever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state.

In fact, Pot Prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican Regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts and beyond.

The key is disenfranchisement.

Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principle focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has an Hispanic twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population.

While promoting films like “Reefer Madness” to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace.

But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities, and depriving them of the vote.

In 1972 his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against Prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Governor Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign.

Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed Drugs to be America’s most serious problem.

His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote.

Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have since been busted. And independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41,000,000. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the US could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead.

Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Hispanic communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Hispanic communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right.

Sessions occasionally make absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage it has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable.

Pot Prohibition has worked wonders for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections and fatten its pockets.

Anyone that says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke.

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Harvey Wasserman hosts California Solartopia at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7FM in Los Angeles, and the Green Power & Wellness podcast at prn.fm.

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He is author or co-author of about 20 books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth atwww.solartopia.org.

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

“Call Me Sluggo”: A Life-long Activist Sheds His Slave Name

by Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Originally published by the LA Progressive on December 30, 2017

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Enough is enough. Especially when it comes to a name.

Many of you have undoubtedly faced a crisis or two about your own. It can come from anywhere, like changing (or NOT) your family name when getting married. Or dumping the curse of one you never liked.

Famous examples abound. The great Texas-born classical pianist Van Cliburn was in fact Harvey Lavan Cliburn. Lady Gaga is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Kirk Douglas was Issur Danielovitch. Marilyn Monroe came from Norma Jean Mortenson. Tony Curtis had been Bernard Schwartz. John Wayne was Marion Mitchell Morrison.

You get the picture.

When I was born in Boston 72 years ago this New Year’s Eve, my mom made my father promise not to name me “Harvey.” Dad’s father, who’d just passed away, was Herschel. So the “H” was unavoidable. But there were certainly better choices. She never forgave him. Me either.

My middle name is Franklin, as my parents were big FDR fans.  As an historian, I like it for Ben.

But “Harvey”?

The rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie was in fact a real-life “Pooka”, a Celtic spirit.

But in light of recent history, now that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, being introduced to new friends comes with “NOT the Hurricane, NOT Weinstein, NO relation to Debbie Schultz.”

Enough!

So I am shedding my slave name. Instead, where viable, we go with my hippie logo: Sluggo.

That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity.

That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity.

The name’s best feature is that little kids love it. It always morphs into “Swuggo”, prompting an instant smile.

It’s also a decent WTF radio name, quick to say, puzzling, memorable, at home in Solartopia on KPFK and PRN.

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It stuck on the hippie farm in part because I was also a baseball player (see photo). Now in my early seventies, I remember myself in my early twenties as being a spectacular athlete. And, of course, the older I get, the better I was.

Ask me after a few more brain cells disappear and I’ll tell you about my Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox, my banner years with the Celtics and my singles championships at Wimbledon and the US Open.

But in the interim, “Harvey Wasserman” will stick around for bylines. “Sluggo” will pop up mysteriously in the middle, when an editor will let it ride.

Like a Pooka, he’ll get ink on random name tags, along with “No Nukes” or “Solartopia”.

He is ALWAYS the only Sluggo in the room. It’s a great ice breaker. And no hurricane, Weinstein or Debbie Schultz.

So how about you? Got a name you HATE? One a parent stuck you with you NEVER forgave them for?

Or one you LOVE but never had the nerve to adopt?

Sure you do. Now take the leap!! You’ll be glad you did.

Just be sure to pick one that makes you smile when kids mis-pronounce it.

Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

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Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman has many grandchildren who call him “Boppa” and/or “Harby.” “Swuggo” will now be added to the mix.

Follow Harvey on Twitter @Solartopia

Hear California Solartopia on KPFK 90.7 fm Los Angeles on Thursdays at 6:30 PM Pacific.

 

Fighting the Assaults on Net Neutrality and Our Economy

by Harvey Wasserman

originally published by TruthDig

A net neutrality protester near the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

 

Let’s all take a moment to savor this great grass-roots U.S. Senate victory in Alabama of Democrat Doug Jones over accused child molester Roy Moore. Let’s also celebrate the victory of the moderate Ralph Northam over the extremist Republican Ed Gillespie to be governor of Virginia, and a possible flip of the Virginia legislature, with the influx of a strong contingent of progressive women.

Breathe deep. Stretch up your arms. Shout for joy.

Okay?

Now let’s use all that great new energy to fend off Donald Trump’s twin assaults on net neutrality and our core economy.

Losing could leave us blind and impoverished. So don’t even think about it.

On net neutrality, the fight is ongoing and long-term.

On Trump’s tax scam, we have at best a few days.

A mass movement already is in place to save the internet.

Thursday’s vile 3-2 FCC vote to end net neutrality has long been expected. Mass demonstrations, community organizing, court challenges, an attempt at a congressional reversal and much more are in motion.

This is new territory, a fight for control of humankind’s central nervous system. The alternative to winning is brain death.

As for the GOP tax scam, the clock is ticking.

The Senate version passed 51-49 on Dec. 1. The House-Senate reconciliation committee wants a new version rubber-stamped next week. Despite the bill’s immense impact, there’s been a complete lack of public hearings orsane scrutiny.

It’s not likely there’ll be enough Republican votes in the House to stop it.

In the Senate, we need just three.

The likeliest is Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the only Republican to vote no last time. Trump has punked him with a stream of personal insults. Corker is not running for re-election. Like all other potential swing votes, he is no doubt being promised the world to vote yes.

Next might be Maine’s Susan Collins. She voted against gutting Obamacare. Her first yes vote on the tax bill reportedly was based on promises from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Medicare and Social Security would be protected. But co-perpetrator and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s life mission has been to destroy both. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, among others, proudly proclaims that this will start the process.

Why anyone would believe anything the GOP leadership says is hard to fathom. Maine’s struggling elder community, among others, has displayed great anger, including heated demonstrations at Collins’ office and her public appearances. She must know that if she votes yes again, she will drown forever in an unforgiving grass-roots tsunami.

Arizona’s Jeff Flake has been yet another target of Trump’s venal abuse. Flake dramatically announced he won’t run for re-election. But then he voted for the tax bill. Why?

Arizona’s John McCain did the same. The “Great Maverick” cast the decisive vote to save Obamacare. He’s been undergoing what must be a hugely expensive course of treatment for brain cancer.

This may be among the last votes McCain casts, and it’s likely a death sentence for millions of Americans who can’t afford the kind of health care he’s been getting. Does he care?

Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted at opposing the first draft based on its rough treatment of small business. But apparently his good friend Paul Ryan found Johnson’s price.

Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski voted against destroying Obamacare. But she’s ecstatic about this bill’s death sentence for the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, where her biggest donors want to drill for oil and further heat the planet.

Maybe other Republicans can be turned. Trump’s minions surely have scoured every GOP wish list. And they have no intention of waiting for Doug Jones to take his seat.

But somewhere, somehow, amidst the warm glow of the Alabama turn, we must find a way to stop this bill.

Here are just a few reasons why:

● It enacts one of history’s most blatant thefts of essential resources from working- and middle-class Americans to the rich and super-rich. Trump himself would profit.

● It worsens the kind of wealth gap that fed the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

● It guts Obamacare, leaving tens of millions without medical coverage while facing needless disease—and possibly death—for themselves and their children.

● It opens the all-out GOP assault on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, with the impoverishment of millions sure to follow.

● It attacks public education with massive supports for private schools that will profit Trump cronies like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

● It ends teachers’ ability to deduct what they spend on supplies for their students.

● It taxes graduate students’ scholarships, tuition waivers and other essential steps to advanced degrees, slashing what’s left of our professional education system.

● It lets tax-free churches engage in partisan campaigns, allowing mega-rich donors to launder “purchases” of “pious” candidates.

● It slashes support for wind power, solar energy, electric cars and other “Solartopian” advances while funding massive new tax breaks for obsolete, planet-destroying King CONG (coal, oil, nukes and gas).

There’s much, much more.

Trump’s “tax reform” and internet assault are at the cutting edge of a suicidal war being waged by the psychotic rich against the rest of us—and the planet.

We are in Koyaanisqatsi; life out of balance. The center is not holding. Our social and ecological fabric is giving way. Our survival is at stake.

These turning-point elections in Virginia and Alabama give us hope.

Now the gritty substance of the war for our ability to communicate, and for the core of our life support systems, is in a different kind of play.

Like those elections, these are conflicts we cannot afford to lose.

So let’s win. Again.

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman co-wrote THE STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS at www.freepress.org, along with Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES.  Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA!OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org.His LIFE & DEATH SPIRAL OF US HISTORY will be out in 2018.

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

We Need a New National Anthem

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published by The Progressive on September 25, 2017

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The magnificent and historic protests of our nation’s athletes during The Star-Spangled Banner at their sports games are not merely appropriate—they’re long overdue.

The protests rightly focus on the travesties perpetrated against our citizens of color. That highly-paid professional athletes would risk their careers to take this stand is a powerful tribute to the devastating impact racial injustice is having on our society, and to their courage as individuals. The National Football League owners’ blacklisting of the superbly talented Colin Kaepernick is hard evidence of what such an exercise of free speech can cost in today’s America.

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But there’s also another dimension here. The fact is that our national anthem is a terrible song, with racist and militaristic overtones. It needs to be replaced, maybe by a single more appropriate anthem…or maybe by many.

The lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He was celebrating the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812. The Brits had just burned our nation’s capital, partly in response to our burning their Canadian headquarters at York, now Toronto.

The song as it’s sung in public is not explicitly racist. But as Jason Johnson describes in his piece “Star-Spangled Bigotry,” buried in the unsung lyrics was a nasty put-down of freed slaves fighting for the English. A brigade of black soldiers had just humiliated Key and he was not happy about it. The words were set To Anacreon in Heaven, an awkward tune appropriate for inebriation, which is how it was usually sung.

The Navy adopted the song as a military hymn in 1889. Then Woodrow Wilson adopted it in 1916, via executive order, amidst his campaign to stir martial fervor for U.S. entry into World War I. A strong majority of Americans bitterly opposed the war, but Wilson forced it through with an ugly propaganda campaign against Germans as a race.

It took Congress fifteen years—until 1931—to officially make The Star-Spangled Banner the U.S. national anthem.

And it’s always been an ode to war. Nobody made that clearer than Jimi Hendrix. When he played it at Woodstock, 1969, he inserted a devastating version of Taps. Right-wingers piously branded him “unpatriotic,” but Jimi had served in the 101st Airborne.

Today’s professional sports events—especially the NFL—are tainted with militaristic overtones. Air Force flyovers and armed soldiers in formation are everywhere. Those “bombs bursting in air” have been imposed on what should be peaceful pastimes. Those “patriots” who say politics should not be part of sports should first remove the military presence from our stadiums.

In an era so thoroughly plagued by martial madness, we need a new anthem, one that celebrates peace, social justice and diverse expression. Candidates include Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, sung by radical farmers and workers throughout the 1930s. Other possible songs range from Oh Freedom, America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace to Buffy Sainte Marie’s My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying and Johnny Cash’s As Long as the Grass Shall Grow.

Or maybe it’s time we moved beyond a single national song altogether. In an age and nation so thoroughly defined by diversity, we should be celebrating a multitude of verses.

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Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter: @Solartopia

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