Friday, June 28, 2013

I probably should have tried Marijuana

In a daring raid in 1948, Robert Mitchum got caught smoking marijuana in Hollywood:
Sept. 1, 1948: Actor Robert Mitchum and starlet Lila Leeds were reportedly caught smoking marijuana during a police raid at the actress' Hollywood Hills home. Two others were also arrested.

Mitchum told police that he and another friend were in the neighborhood looking to buy a house when they stopped to visit Leeds and her roommate, dancer Vickie Evans.

The actor said he had trouble finding the home on
Ridpath Drive, which one narcotics agent described as "ideally situated to be a 'reefer resort.' It is perched on a hillside, with no near neighbors, and well-screened by shrubbery," The [Los Angeles] Times reported.
It was reported in the Times but I lived in Michigan, we didn’t yet have the tabloids (or the internet), and I was not quite 11 years old, so it got right past me. (Hedda Hopper might have hinted about it in the movie mags but her hints weren’t always clear.  In her juiciest scoops, the principals remained nameless.  (“What handsome, dark-haired bad boy was caught smoking dope with a blond starlet who wasn’t his wife?” )

Fortunately, a few years later a magazine called Confidential surfaced; a juicy, slimy precursor to the tabloids, and eventually they got around to the story about the not-so-current arrest of that bad boy, Bob Mitchum.  I remember reading it as a teenager, thinking that man is treading on some dangerous ground there.  (Maybe not in those words, exactly.  I probably didn’t talk like that. The point is, I was a teenager, I had seen Reefer Madness!, and I was shocked!)

The article about Mitchum is long gone, but I’m remembering his picture this way:  He’s leaning toward the camera as if he’s trying to get up but can’t.  His eyes are half-closed, the famous Mitchum sneer is all over his face.  His hair is damp and matted and probably dirty.  It might have been the picture of a drunk, but it wasn’t.  It was much worse.  Robert Mitchum was stoned. On Reefer.  And it wasn’t the first time.

The shock of it must have marked me for life.  Marijuana was a terrible drug.  It was bad.  The baddest of the bad.  Normal people didn’t go in for it, they went in for alcohol.

In Michigan in the 50s the drinking age was 21.   In Wisconsin, it was 18, so I had my first legitimate drink while we were on our honeymoon at the Wisconsin Dells.  It was a Tom Collins and it was delicious.  No doubt I would have liked it just as well without the alcohol, but in Wisconsin, anyway, I was a grown up!.  We ran around with a drinking crowd most of our young lives but I was never much of a drinker.  The few times I got drunk my body let me know in the most violent ways that there were some things it would not tolerate and an overabundance of alcohol was one of them.  So be it.

Until around the early 70s I didn’t know anyone who had ever smoked pot.  We had new neighbors move in right next door and the guy immediately started a pot garden in the back yard.  When his plants were mature, he started selling his crop.  Their house was close enough so that at all hours of the night we could hear knocking on their door and the low rumble of short conversation.  I gave up thinking poorly of them when I grew to like them for the crazy, dear people they were.  I felt incredibly sophisticated.  I knew pot people!

Then our neighbor two doors over found out that we had never smoked pot.  It was our anniversary and we were going away for the weekend to celebrate, so she decided this would be the perfect time to experiment.  She brought over a gaily wrapped package of pot brownies and insisted I pack them in our suitcase.

They went with us but neither of us wanted to indulge.  Truth is, I was scared to death of them.  (Reefer Madness!) I shoved them way in the back of my underwear drawer and forgot about them.

So last week my daughter and I were talking about how silly it was that marijuana hasn’t yet been legalized.  I said, “I can’t really understand the effects of pot since I never tried it.  I probably should have, at least once in my life.”  Then I dropped the bombshell on her:  I told about the time I had a whole package of pot brownies in our house. 

I waited for her reaction.  She looked at me, startled, and then she began to laugh.  “I know you did, mom.  I ate them!”

Turns out I had told my teenaged daughter about the brownies, never once thinking that it would be anything that would interest her so much she would be stealing them out of my drawer, little by little so I wouldn’t notice, and sharing them with her friends.

I know nothing about life.  Nothing.  Pay no attention to me.  I know nothing.

(Cross-posted at dagblog, as always.)


Friday, June 14, 2013

If Ed Snowden is a Hero, we're a Nation Bereft

There is nothing wrong with being young. Nothing wrong with not having a high school diploma. Nothing wrong with being idealistic.  Nothing wrong with distrusting the government if something they're doing doesn't strike you right.

There is something wrong with taking a job so sensitive to national security it requires a solemn oath to keep what you've seen secret, and within three months of your starting date you've already disregarded the oath and have stolen the very secrets you promised to protect.

Edward Snowden, through his top security clearance, had access to our most sensitive materials.  He worked on government contracts assigned to a private contractor--an arrangement common in this country.  Depending on the job, these private contractors are often privy to state secrets.

Candidates for top security clearances are vetted and investigated through a process worked out by the government.  The FBI is involved and, often, so is the CIA.  It isn't an overnight process and any dark mark in the candidate's past can stop the process dead.  At the end of the process, every employee awarded a high security clearance signs an oath and is warned that a security breach is against the law.  They will be prosecuted.  That warning is repeated every six months. It takes time and much footwork to make sure the candidate will live up to such serious responsibilities, and that's the way it should be.  We put our nation's secrets in their hands.  We give them an enormous responsibility and we expect them to honor it.

We've had two incidences in the past few years where young men took it upon themselves to use their clearances to steal classified materials.  (In 2010 I wrote about Bradley Manning in a piece called "Still Looking for the Wikileaks Heroes", which caused a veritable firestorm over at dagblog at the time.  I went back and read it this morning. I believed what I wrote then and I believe it now.)  I wonder how many more wannabees are waiting in the wings, ready to use their high security access to steal more documents?  I can only hope their idealism is coupled with judicious, thoughtful consideration of the implications.  I can only hope they understand what they were told:  that what they're doing is against the law and they will be prosecuted.  Barring that, I can only hope they'll find another line of work.

We are not a country where gulags abound.  Our young men don't disappear into the night because the government fears they will rise up and attempt an overthrow.  We don't have government-led massacres, we don't throw our citizen-dissidents into prisons, we don't punish people for making hateful remarks against the White House or congress.  So far, every prediction about the terrible things the government will do to us if they catch us talking against them hasn't come true.  There is no evidence that our government is coming to get us.

It's chilling to think that these young, untested men are stealing government documents and are picking and choosing which parts of them will be released to the world.  But what's even more chilling is that there are whole factions in this country that so distrust our government they're willing to defend their right to do it. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Post: A New High School Graduate Takes on the Gun Issue

In the 4 1/2 years I've been writing this blog I've never felt inclined to bring in a guest poster.  Today I do, and I couldn't be happier that Briana Morganroth has agreed to let me reprint the essay she wrote about her thoughts on gun control.  

She is the granddaughter of my friend, Ramona Moormann, the publisher of The Marcellus (MI) News (where my own pieces sometimes appear), and I first read this essay in her newspaper a couple of weeks ago.

But here--I'll let Ramona tell you about her granddaughter:
Briana is a 2013 graduate of Stevens Point High School (Wisconsin). She will attend University of Wisconsin/Madison this fall. All during her teen years she was active in the YMCA’s Youth In Government Program. She took part in their  Legislative Conferences in the state capital in Madison annually.
    I read on the group’s website that their mission is to ” help create the next generation of thoughtful, committed and active citizens by teaching them the principles of a democratic society. They also intend to create leaders through their roles in the models of local, state and national government. The premise is that leaders are developed by doing.”
    No doubt, the program has been an influence on Briana. She is very vocal about her political beliefs and ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’.
 Our young people need to know that their opinions count, that their bravery is recognized and supported, and that their voices will be heard.  Young thinkers like Briana are our hope for the future.  Her writing is forceful, articulate and impassioned, and I'm proud to offer it here.

Gun Control: It’s Time 
by Briana Morganroth

It’s time.

It’s time for the hysterical and overdramatic claims that the government is coming for your guns to end.
It’s time to stop worrying about your precious hunting rifles – guns which the government has no plan of banning. It’s time to realize that this isn’t an attempt at taking away the second amendment, but simply a reevaluation of that right which was given by the men who birthed this nation in a time where they couldn’t have imagined our new-age weaponry – weaponry which makes their muskets look like a toy.
It’s time to stop making excuses that “It’s not about the guns” and come to our senses as a nation.
It’s time to open our eyes to someone other than ourselves and places other than our own “safe” community, and think about those who have been permanently shaken and broken by the reckless gun violence that is consuming our country.
It’s time to stop the much-too-early funerals for an ever-growing number of beautiful and innocent children.

It’s time to come to the realistic conclusion that semiautomatic military-grade assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets are in no possible way needed by anyone outside of military or police personnel.
It’s time to think logically about the harm that could be easily prevented by simple, required background checks on weapon purchases.
It’s time to stand up to the NRA, and their out of touch CEO, no matter how hard it may seem. It’s time for Congress to grow a spine for the first time and take charge on this pressing and critical issue.
It’s time to think about what is really important here – the right to own these ridiculous and murderous weapons, or the right to live without fear. 
It’s time to clear our minds, come to terms with the horrible current events, and move forward quickly and effectively to prevent further tragedies.

It’s time for every assault-weapon and high-capacity magazine owner to stop clinging to their weapons that were solely made to kill.
It’s time for them to open their eyes to the fact that their right to own those horrific tools is trumped a million to one by simple American rights: by the right of a moviegoer in Aurora, Colorado to enjoy a movie without watching her boyfriend die right before her eyes as he covers her from the rain of bullets, because of his heart wrenching, undying love; by the right of former Senator Gabby Gifford to live without being permanently disabled by the two point-blank gun shots she received to the head; by the firefighters in Webster, New York to be living heroes remembered for their dangerous-but-heroic job that Christmas Eve, not fallen servicemen who’s tragic end came about from reckless gunfire; and by the rights of those kids at Sandy Hook Elementary to never have to run through the blood of fellow classmate, to never have to hide behind a selfless teacher who moments later is strewn with bullets, and to never suffer such immense pain and loss at such a young age.
It’s time for children to never have their safe haven called school turned into something of the opposite nature: a terrible, nightmare-inducing place.
It’s time to realize that those moviegoers, those police officers, and those kindergartners are gone forever, and their friends, families, communities, and the whole nation are forever scarred.
It’s time for madness and violence to end.

It’s time.


Congratulations, Class of 2013.  No pressure, but we're counting on you.