Wednesday, January 10, 2018

No One Stopped Him

Preet Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a post he held for about eight years. In March 2017, AG Sessions ordered Bharara and forty-five other U.S. Attorneys appointed during the Obama era to resign. Bharara would not comply, so Trump canned him.

About a month later Bharara joined the faculty of the New York University School of Law, and soon after that launched a podcast called Stay Tuned with Preet. A promotional video showed up on Facebook last summer, which is how I heard about it, and after listening to just one episode I became a fan.

That’s the background to why I’m writing this post. Last December Bharara interviewed Tina Brown, the writer and former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The Daily Beast, among others. Like most Stay Tuned segments, I found it interesting and informative. But Brown’s comments on Trump were especially riveting.

During her tenure at Vanity Fair, the magazine published a profile on Trump called “After the Gold Rush.” Ostensibly about the breakup of Trump’s first marriage, it also went into his background, and rise as a real estate magnate.

The 1990 article was written by Marie Brenner, but Brown (right) shared some of her own experiences with Stay Tuned listeners. At first, she said, she had liked Trump. She thought of him as a rascal, but fresh – “all those kind of slightly friendly words that imply that somebody is an enjoyable con man, right? But then, as the years go by, he gets less and less enjoyable. And by the end ... I see him as a fraud, a malignant fraud.”

What changed? Bharara asked. Does anything in particular stand out?

“I think it might have been the moment with Marie Brenner, who’s reporting on him for our magazine, saw Hitler’s speeches on his desk,” Brown replied. Brenner included that in the article, “and [Trump] was so outraged that he then poured a drink down her dress at an event.”

Yow.

I hadn’t seen this article before, but found it with the help of Google. Vanity Fair published it on September 1, 1990. It’s quite a read; you should check it out.

Among many other things, Marie Brenner quotes one of Trump’s lawyers: “Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory ... If you say something again and again, people will believe you.” Brenner asked Trump about that and he was furious. He told her if he could identify the lawyer, “I’d fire his ass.”

And those Hitler speeches? Brown told Preet Bharara that Brenner saw them on Trump’s desk. Actually, Brenner wrote that Trump sometimes “reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed.” She asked Trump about that, too. He said it wasn’t My New Order, but a copy of Mein Kampf, given to him by a friend – “And he’s a Jew.”

Brenner tracked the friend down. He confirmed the gift but said it was indeed the book of speeches, “not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”

Trump, Brenner noted, “is no reader or history buff. Perhaps his possession of Hitler’s speeches merely indicates an interest in Hitler’s genius at propaganda. The F├╝hrer often described his defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa as great victories.”

Near the end of this 1990 article, and quite apart from the matter of Hitler, Brenner wrote that as the years went by, “Trump became more than a vulgarian ... [he] appeared to believe that his money gave him a freedom to set the rules. No one stopped him. His exaggerations and baloney were reported, and people laughed ... [everyone] allowed Trump to exist in a universe where all reality had vanished.”




Monday, January 8, 2018

Sour Grape

The governor of my great state says that actions by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions toward reversing the Obama-era policy that, in effect, turns a blind eye to legal recreational marijuana, may be “more bark than bite.”

John Hickenlooper says he has met with Sessions, and “his priority is going to continue to be heroin and hard drugs, the opioid epidemic, [and] sex trafficking.”

Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012, and the new law went into effect at the start of 2014. Other states have enacted similar laws, most recently California. All of them are superseded by Federal law, under which marijuana remains very, very bad. It all led to Obama’s hands-off policy.

So it’s still legal here, for now. As one whose life has been dedicated to truth, and to following that truth to wherever it may lead, I visited a marijuana emporium recently, to report on the experience.

I don’t want to identify the place by name, so let’s call it GoldenBuds. It’s located in a strip mall about half a mile from my home, alongside a credit union, a dry cleaner, an Indian restaurant, a Tae kwon Do place, a hairdresser, and a DMV office. (Remarkably, there are several other such emporiums within the proverbial stone’s throw.)

The first thing I noticed when walking in was its cheerless front anteroom, complete with faded, pale green walls and threadbare carpet. The whole set-up felt temporary, like an election headquarters or a Halloween costume store. But this is no fly-by-night operation. Recreational marijuana is a growth industry.

Nor could I help noticing the security. An employee waited behind a small window covered in thick plexiglass. I shoved my driver’s license through a slot at the bottom to prove I was at least twenty-one (as if there could be any doubt). The guy looked at my ID, shoved it back through the slot, and buzzed me in.

An array of marijuana products awaited in this main room: edibles and drinkables, and the sort of paraphernalia common to what used to be known as head shops. My attention was drawn to a glass case, like in a jeweler’s, which held a dozen or more lidded glass jars. Each contained various strains of marijuana, with names like Purple Haze, AK-47, Agent Orange, Hindu Kush, and Northern Lights.

“May I help you?” asked the guy behind the counter, a young man with the requisite tattoos and piercings of his age group.

I wanted to say: “I’d like a dime bag.” I wanted to say: “A lid of your finest, please.” But he might not have understood these antiquated terms; this is not your father’s marijuana.

Each strain costs the same, he said – twenty dollars per gram. He lifted a few of those jars onto the counter. “What do you want it for? Pain relief, or just ordinary recreational use?”

To get high, you nitwit! Thats what I wanted to say. But good manners prevailed. “Just something I can relax with, and play guitar.”

The guy recommended a strain called Sour Grape. “Very mellow. Good for jamming.” He removed the lid from one of the jars, and the familiar aroma of potent marijuana wafted up to my nostrils. Obviously, this was strong stuff.

Like most produce, you can buy Colorado marijuana in bulk. I had him weigh a tiny amount. GoldenBuds does not accept credit cards, debit cards or checks, so I paid in untraceable cash – just like in the old days.

My Sour Grape came in a white plastic container slightly larger than a film canister, once the preferred means of transporting the evil weed. In addition to the GoldenBuds logo, the label said: “This product is infused with marijuana. Child resistant container. Ingredients: marijuana, water, organic fertilizer, natural additives.”

Outside, I jumped on my bike and rode home. What happened next? Did my dedication to truth insist I sample the purchase? Of course not.

And will Sessions, while he lasts, and in keeping with the trivial pursuits of his boss, forge ahead with re-criminalizing marijuana?





Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Year-Ender 2017

It’s been a brutal year. An illegitimate presidency has loomed over just about everything, casting a toxic, oppressive shadow ... and blah blah blah.

I’ve done what little I can to oppose this monstrous administration. Aside from attending a few rallies and running off at the mouth at inappropriate times, most of this opposition has been focused on a series of LUNG blog posts, a few of which are linked to below.

But we’re in the midst of the holidays. Who wants to think about that charlatan when it isn’t necessary? (It is necessary, most of the time, but that’s an argument for later. In spite of tiny indicators this administration may collapse from its own rot, I’m not overly optimistic this national nightmare will end any time soon.)

Anyway.

Happy New Year!

Here are links to a few of my favorite LUNG blog posts from the last twelve months.