Monday, April 24, 2017

From the Archives: Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 24, 2011. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party
April 24, 2011 12:34 AM MST

Radio host Joe Thomas Charlottesville Tea Party
Since its first rally on April 15, 2009, the Jefferson Area Tea Party has sponsored two more Tax Day rallies, in addition to events on Independence Day and regular meetings for its members and supporter at various locations in and around Charlottesville.

The group’s latest Tax Day event took place on Friday, April 15, at the Free Speech Monument near Charlottesville’s City Hall. The emcee was WCHV radio talk-show host Joe Thomas, bedecked in colonial-era costume.

After the rally ended and the crowd began to disperse – or to stick around and attend the first Fridays After Five concert of 2011 – Thomas spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the state of the Tea Party movement, the issues that have persisted for the past two years, and the release of Atlas Shrugged-Part One.

Tea Party rhetoric
Thomas worries that the Tea Party movement could be co-opted by professional political consultants.

"There’s been a change in the rhetoric” since the Tea Party first surfaced in early 2009, Thomas said, “but remember, politics, as we have it right now, is driven by a very, very smart group of consultants. They see the 1,500 people we had at the first Tax Day Tea Party rally [and] every Tea Party rally across the country, and they say, ‘We have to work the language of the Tea Party into the rhetoric.’”

The economy is uppermost in Thomas’ mind, as it is with many Tea Party activists.

“Something that was said here is very important: one month’s worth of interest on the debt covers seven or eight very major departments’ entire budgets,” he pointed out.

“We need to realize that the borrowing is what’s going to kill the country,” Thomas explained. “This country is strong because it was one of the great marketplaces. The citizens of this country consume goods from around the world and other countries want to sell here. If our dollar stops being valuable, as it will if they continue to print [more money], that’s when we fail.”

Core focus
Thomas believes there has been consistency in the Tea Party’s ability to focus on a few central issues and not be distracted.

radio host Joe Thomas Charlottesville Tea Party
“The core is still about the taxing and the spending,” he said.

“How many groups,” he asked, “have libertarians and Moral Majority crowds in the same group?”

That may engender some “friction that the Tea Party feels sometime,” Thomas suggested. “Do they go to the social right or to the libertarian right?”

Despite this source of potential conflict, he said, the Tea Party has “stayed focused on the economic ground,” echoing the advice James Carville gave to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

With regard to the possible social/fiscal split, Thomas counseled: “If we can afford to live and we can afford to pay our bills, the rest can be handled between adults.”

‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the movie
Thomas suggested that the growth and success of the Tea Party may have been partially responsible for the long-awaited release of a movie based on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.

“I know that they had been working on [the movie] for some time,” he said, noting that he had interviewed Objectivist philosopher David Kelley of the Atlas Society, who had been an advisor to the producers of the film.

Kelley told him, he said, that the project “really started to move forward when they started to see the interest in the libertarian mindset of the Tea Party.”

Seeing that, he said, the producers thought, “‘Now may be the time to get this moving.’”

Joe Thomas can be heard weekdays from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. on WCHV radio (1260 AM and 107.5 FM). He also cohosts “The Afternoon Constitutional,” on WCHV-FM in Charlottesville and on WFJX-AM in Roanoke.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From the Archives: UVA professor reacts to critics of 'Why are liberals so condescending?'

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 23, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

UVA professor reacts to critics of 'Why are liberals so condescending?'
April 23, 2010 5:47 PM MST

Gerard Alexander is an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The author of The Sources of Democratic Consolidation (2002), his specialty is Western Europe, but that does not prevent him from commenting on trends and events in American politics, as well.

Gerard Alexander UVA liberals condescending Examiner.com Rick Sincere
On February 7, the Washington Post published an article by Alexander in its Outlook section headlined “Why are liberals so condescending?,” which provoked quite a reaction from readers, with 4,079 of them posting links to the article on Facebook, 486 of them Tweeting about it on Twitter, and 54 of them Digging it on Digg. In addition, there were 3,164 comments posted before the Post closed the comments section and Alexander himself received “over a thousand emails.”

He told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in an interview on April 15 that, of those thousand messages, they were “surprisingly enough, split about 50/50 between people who were generally appreciative and people who were critical or skeptical.”

Only Two Death Threats

“Interestingly,” Alexander noted, “I would say that maybe half of those who were supportive said, ‘I’m writing because I bet you’ll get almost no one being supportive.’ In other words, they do have a sense of beleaguerment and marginalization that I think is not justified by their numbers.”

Professor Alexander added, smiling, “Only two people wished me dead. That’s not bad [coming out of] 1,100 emails. We’ve all had worse.”

Asked to summarize, in about one sentence, the theme of his Washington Post article, Alexander paused, then quipped, “I’m a college professor, I don’t do anything in a single sentence. How about 50 minutes? That’s my usual sound bite.”

Conversational Short-Circuit

He pressed on, however, and explained:

“The argument was that there are a number of narratives about conservatism prominent and prevalent among liberals that all converge on the assumption, often unspoken, that how conservatives think the world works is invalid, that they are really the results of bigotry or other mental habits and world views rather than interaction with reason and evidence.”

Continuing, Alexander said that “when one side systematically believes that the way the other side thinks about the world is not connected or ultimately animated by reason and evidence, it short-circuits conversations that we ought to be having as a country.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

From the Archives: Two views on breaking the free-trade policy logjam

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 22, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Two views on breaking the free-trade policy logjam
April 22, 2010 6:35 PM MST

There are three major free-trade agreements pending in Congress: one each with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

free trade Examiner.com Obama Rick Sincere
Congressional approval is necessary to implement the agreements, which are intended to reduce tariffs and quotas and smooth the way for the United States to increase its exports to those countries while also allowing the three trading partners to export more products to the United States.

Brink Lindsey, now vice president for research at the Cato Institute in Washington, formerly served as director of that organization’s Center for Trade Policy Studies. He is the author of The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture and, with Daniel Ikenson, Antidumping Exposed: The Devilish Details of Unfair Trade Law.

Trade Policy in the Mud
Lindsey spoke about the prospect of ratification for the three free-trade agreements when he was in Charlottesville on April 15. He told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner that “they are all stuck in the mud for the foreseeable future.”

In order to get them out of the mud, Lindsey said, “we would need President Obama to see that his credentials as a multilateralist would be burnished by getting these bills through Congress.” At the moment, he continued, Obama is “not putting pressure on Congress.”

Moreover, Democratic control of Congress “means they are very sensitive to the interests of organized labor, it doesn’t want to move on them. That logjam has to be broken.”

Breaking the Logjam
Lindsey went on to say that “it’s possible now that [since] Obama is well to the left of public opinion and is suffering in the polls as a result,” the president will be “looking for things to make him seem more moderate, make him seem more pro-business, more pro-market”

In other words, Lindsey suggests that “this is one possibility for him to buck the interest groups in his party and push sound trade policy. It’s possible, [but] I’m not holding my breath.”

Would any one of the agreements be more likely than the others to be approved first? Lindsey thinks not. “They’ll all rise or fall together,” he said.

A Candidate’s View
GOP congressional candidate Matthew Berry explained the importance of free trade policy during an interview on April 17.

“We need free trade agreements for two reasons,” Berry said. First, “more American exports mean more American jobs… a billion dollars worth of exports creates about 15,000 American jobs.”

Second, he said, “Trade increases competition, which means lower prices for American consumers, so your dollar goes farther.”

Obama’s Willing Partners
To break the logjam that Lindsey identified, Berry argued that if Republican candidates do well in 2010, President Obama will have “more willing partners in Congress” because even though the President says that he favors ratification, “he hasn’t been willing to expend any political capital to get them ratified.”

Berry concluded that, “if the Republicans could retake Congress, it will be easier for President Obama to put these on the table and [get them] passed.”

Friday, April 21, 2017

From the Archives: Va. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke hopes her message resonates with libertarians

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 21, 2011. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Va. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke hopes her message resonates with libertarians
April 21, 2011 2:17 PM MST

U.S. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke is carrying her message that “something has to be done” about spending and the debt to Republican unit committees, Kiwanis clubs, Tea Parties, and Rotaries around Virginia where, she says, “people get it. I don’t know if politicians get it, but people get it.”

Radtke was campaigning April 20 at the 63rd Annual Shad Planking in Wakefield, along with two of her opponents for the 2012 GOP Senate nomination, George Allen and David McCormick. Standing at her campaign’s booth in unusually warm spring weather, she answered questions from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the issues she is emphasizing and what she would do to attract the votes of Virginia libertarians.

In her campaign, she explained, “we’re talking about a constitutionally limited government [and] what is the role of the federal government.”


'Right in line' with libertarians

Jamie Radtke Virginia politics libertarians Fair Tax Shad Planking
“Our message is right in line with the libertarian vote,” Radtke said, especially “as far as the spending and the debt and getting the fiscal house in order. The PATRIOT Act is another one that really irritates the libertarian people. Infringing on civil rights is an issue with me, as well. All those things are important.”

She said that when talking about the budget, “you’ve got to look at entitlements” and, from a libertarian point of view, entitlements “should be consumer-driven. People should have skin in the game.”

Things like that, Radtke explained, “resonate with people in the Libertarian Party.”

Even defense spending should be on the table, she said.

“The priority, the absolute priority, 100 percent should be our military and our veterans,” she said, “but the size of the Defense budget is so astronomical that even the Department of Defense is talking about places where there can be savings” without adversely impacting current troops or veterans.

“All of those things,” she concluded, “are things that we have in common” with libertarian voters.

Budget deal 'horrible,' 'sham'
The budget deal worked out in Congress earlier this month is “horrible,” Radtke said.

“I think that promising $100 billion in cuts and then ending up at $68 billion and then saying it’s $38 billion and then it really being $353 million is a complete sham,” she complained.

“I don’t think that that’s what people are looking for” in terms of congressional action on the budget, she added.

“When you look at Standard & Poors coming out and downgrading our outlook to negative, saying you have two years to do something, [but] our big idea is to cut $353 million and start talking about raising the debt ceiling, that is the absolutely wrong message to be sending.”

Radtke also believes there needs to be fundamental tax reform.

“We have a tax system that’s all about special interest loopholes,” she explaind. “We need to get to a place where everyone has skin in the game, not only half of America.”

Prefers Fair Tax
The options she sees are a flat tax or the Fair Tax. “One or the other. Not this optional flat tax thing where [you] try to make everyone happy and straddle the fence. You’re going to have to have a flat tax, or have a Fair Tax.”

Jamie Radtke Senate candidate Shad Planking taxes budget
Radtke’s preference is for the Fair Tax. “I think it’s good to tax consumption and not tax income,” she said, but added that she has talked to economists “who say that you can structure a flat tax that sort of acts as a consumption tax. My preference is taxing consumption.”

She worries, however, that politicians cannot be trusted to do the job right.

“My fear with the Fair Tax is politicians,” she explained. “That’s my fear with the Fair Tax, because you know you have to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment in order for the Fair Tax to work. I don’t trust politicians that they’ll pass the Fair Tax” without first repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and the result that “all of a sudden we’ve got a consumption tax and an income tax, combined.”

Radtke acknowledged that the original Fair Tax bill, which was introduced by former Congressman John Linder of Georgia, has sequential requirements of first repealing the income tax amendment in the Constitution and then instituting a consumption tax, but that does not allay her fears.

“Knowing how deals get made and things get added to the bill at the last minute,” she is concerned that Congress “would pass the Fair Tax [while] the income tax was still in existence.”

Radtke reiterated that, as she talks to voters around the state, “the key issues are spending and the debt, talking about entitlement reform and what has to be done.”

Her warning to Congress is this: “You can talk about spending and debt all you want but if you’re not going to talk about entitlements, then you’re really not serious about spending and the debt.”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Guest Post: Caffeine, the Law, and Me


by Eileen L. Wittig

I was talking with a non-coffee-drinking friend recently, and mentioned that I was probably going to have to bring caffeinated tea with me on an upcoming trip because there wasn’t going to be a coffeemaker there.

“Addict,” he said. “Nuh uh,” I responded brilliantly. “When’s the last time you went two days without coffee?” he countered. “Two weeks ago,” I shot back. “Three days?” he asked. “… It happened, I just don’t take note of when I do and don’t drink coffee.” Which was a perfectly reasonable response. “Uh huh,” he rolled his eyes.

burundi coffee caffeine“I am not addicted to coffee. I will prove it to you … later.” And I finished my cup of coffee. “But,” I said, “I do function better with it, and that is because of science. Black coffee is objectively healthy. In fact, here is an article citing 53 scientific studies saying that coffee is healthy. So even if I am addicted, at least the addiction is to something healthy.”

The article is actually extremely interesting, and by the end you realize that caffeine is surprisingly healthy, definitely a drug, and truly potentially addictive. (But only black coffee is healthy. Sorry, latté lovers.)

The Science of Caffeine
Chemically, caffeine blocks another naturally-occurring chemical, Adenosine, from being received in the brain. When Adenosine isn’t as active, chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine get the chance to be more active.

Dopamine is a feel-good chemical, released by the brain in response to good behavior as a kind of Pavlovian training exercise. Norepinephrine is an energy chemical, working to wake the body, trigger the fight-or-flight response, and increase awareness, memory, and attention – but also restlessness and anxiety. Everything in moderation, right?

But wait, there’s more: caffeine can boost your metabolism and burn fat. True story.

Does this not sound like the definition of a drug?

(Answer: it is. According to the Oxford English dictionary, a drug is “a medicine or substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced to the body.”)

So there’s the science for why drinkers of black coffee have a reason to tell the haters to take a long walk off a short pier, as my mother would say. But there’s a fun screw-you-government aspect to it as well, which is where things really get interesting.

The Legal Drug
“Caffeine is legal,” I told my friend. “It’s even more legal than alcohol. I can’t be arrested for driving while on a caffeine kick, so even if I am addicted, leave me alone.”

Which makes you wonder: if caffeine is an enhancing drug, and it’s legal, why aren’t the others?

“Illegal drugs are addictive, so they’re bad. Caffeine is addictive too, but not, like, addictive,” the government says. “If you’re addicted to a bad drug, you spend all your money on it and it ruins your life.” Do y’all think caffeine is free? Or that caffeine withdrawal headaches are fun?

“Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug,” they argue. Neither is marijuana, yet that’s illegal.

“Coffee is healthy, it does good things for your brain and body.” So do drugs. Which is why doctors, you know, prescribe them. When I told my friend that I function better after I’ve had caffeine, I could have been talking about any number of things, legal and illegal.

“Well, if you take too much of an illegal drug you could hurt someone!” the government says. Fine, but you can say that about pretty much anything. If I don’t sleep enough, my ability to drive is severely impaired. Thus why I sleep more than three hours a night. If I drink too much coffee, my hands get shaky, my attention span shrinks, and I don’t shut up. Talking someone’s ear off would hurt them as much as being asked a literally dopey question, and not being able to focus in traffic could also hurt someone. Thus why I don’t drink that much coffee. There is a line, and I don’t cross it. None of my self-proclaimed coffee addict friends do, either.

coffee Uganda caffeine“Yeah but it’s so easy to take too much of an illegal drug!” the government argues back. True, but it’s not as if every person takes the exact same amount of everything they consume. If I consumed the same amount of liquor that I do protein or carbs or chocolate, I would be dead. People are capable of adjusting intake. If it’s possible for something to be fine, shouldn’t we just focus on teaching people not to take too much of it and work on rehabilitation instead of locking people away in prison for years and years?

“Well, if it’s illegal, we can avoid the whole problem of people taking too much, because fewer people will do it.” Oh sure, because that worked well during Prohibition. But suppose there would be a short-term spike in drug use if something was suddenly legalized. I bet usage would trail off like it did in Colorado and Portugal, as the excitement of having a new drug readily available wore off. People get bored easily, and I doubt the drugs would be as cheap as coffee.

“It’s just different,” the government finally says. But why is it different? Because caffeine is more socially acceptable? Because there would literally be riots with torches and pitchforks in the streets if it was banned? Because Washington couldn’t function without it?

Kind of, but no: it’s because every race consumes caffeine daily, and always has. The war on drugs began as a racist tactic, and it just never went away.

Racist War
If you have 15 minutes, you can watch John Oliver explain it here. If not, here’s the short version:
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created in 1930, and racist Henry J. Anslinger was appointed its first commissioner. Anslinger used his new position to attack all the people he didn’t like: mostly African-Americans, Mexicans, and anyone associated with jazz music (proof he was not only racist, but also an uncultured swine).

Anslinger decided to associate drugs – especially marijuana, because it was easiest – with minority criminals in order to gain popular support. He popularized the re-naming of “cannabis” to the Mexican’s name for it – “marihuana” – to make it sound less American and, following, acceptable. 

He spread stories of black men seducing white girls after smoking it. He said Asians were coming out of opium dens with “a liking for the charms of Caucasian girls … from good families” and bringing these girls into terrible lives. And he was convinced that “marihuana” was the reason jazz music was so awful, making the musicians “hopelessly confused and playing horribly” and inspiring them to make music sounding “like the jungles in the dead of night.” (Apparently that was a bad thing, assuming he was correct.)

His tactic worked. Nearly 90 years later, it’s still working, and drug arrests are still predominantly minorities even though studies have shown that whites abuse drugs more. Marijuana is still legally as bad as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD (all stereotypically “minority” drugs) – making weed worse than crystal meth, cocaine, and opium (all stereotypically “white” drugs). If marijuana is worse than crystal meth, where should caffeine be in this classification?

If I decided to be racist against hipsters, I could claim that caffeine makes people enjoy all that lame coffee shop music. I could say that baristas and coffee shop owners sell you caffeine so they can control your mind and own you. I could tell you that people come out of coffee shops with wild eyes and running mouths, throwing themselves in front of passing cars as they focus solely on the cups they’re carrying. I could announce that caffeine leads people to lives of dependency and poverty, and that it makes its users inbreed with each other, only to continue the cycle with their own children.

You’d laugh at me, but only until I got Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times on my side. Then I’d suddenly seem way more believable, wouldn’t I? That worked for Anslinger.

The Convenience of Hypocrisy
You cannot reasonably deny that caffeine is a drug. Same with alcohol. But here we are, living our lives with both of them all over the streets, legal.

Assume the war on drugs is not and never was racist, and that it isn’t even remotely a business venture to raise money for the government, or anything other than pure people truly looking out for the common good. Even if that was the case, shouldn’t they be consistent about it and ban *all* drugs, from crystal meth to caffeine to alcohol to ibuprofen?

The war on drugs is led by flawed human beings for flawed purposes, and their hypocrisy is hurting thousands of people every day by putting non-dangerous offenders behind bars, breaking up their families, and leaving violent crimes unsolved. If the war on drugs is truly a moral issue as they claim, then perhaps they should consider the morality of what they choose to ban, how it’s classified, and what the consequences of their actions are. And they should discuss it over a cup of coffee.




Eileen L. Wittig FEE.org caffeine cannabis

Eileen L. Wittig
is an Associate Editor and author of the Lazy Millennial column at FEE. You can follow the Lazy Millennial on Twitter.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.





Guest Post: Ella Fitzgerald's flirtation with reefer songs

Adam Gustafson, Pennsylvania State University

“The First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald would have turned 100 on April 25: institutions from the Library of Congress to the Grammy Museum will be honoring her amazing contributions to the jazz canon. The Conversation

It will be interesting to see if any tributes mention Fitzgerald’s “Wacky Dust,” her song about cocaine.




Ella Fitzgerald Wacky Dust cocaine marijuana reefer 4/20


Nick Lehr/The Conversation via Wikimedia Commons



In the 1930s – just as Fitzgerald was getting her start – jazz was under fire for its purported ties to drug culture. The 1936 anti-drug film “Reefer Madness” featured party scenes of young people listening to jazz and ragtime while smoking marijuana. A year later, Harry Anslinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, published “Marijuana, Assassin of Youth,” which pinned the use of drugs on a culture of unscrupulous partying – with big band jazz as its soundtrack.

In this climate, an ascendant singer named Ella Fitzgerald sought to take the opposite tack and cultivated a reputation as the “girl next door.” Fitzgerald walked the fine line between being understood as a jazz artist and an entertainer. Two recordings from the beginning of her career signal this tension. “A-Tisket, a-Tasket” and “Wacky Dust” were both released in 1938. One tune would go on to become a signature hit. The other would be largely forgotten, a side note to an otherwise squeaky-clean career.

A dressed-up nursery rhyme?


By 1938, Fitzgerald had established herself as the primary vocalist for Chick Webb’s orchestra at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Under Webb, Fitzgerald began recording for Decca Records and in May 1938, Decca released Fitzgerald’s first major hit, “A-Tisket, a-Tasket.”

It was a song that perfectly encapsulates Fitzgerald’s girl-next-door image. It opens with Webb leading the orchestra through a stock series of simple chord changes. When Fitzgerald enters, listeners are treated to a reworked nursery rhyme that asks little of them other than to sit back and enjoy. There is no moral value, no hint of the singer’s inner life and no mention of drug use.





Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘A-Tisket, a-Tasket.’



In fact, “A-Tisket, a-Tasket” is barely jazz. As with Goodman and so many other bandleaders in the late 1930s, Webb and Fitzgerald seem more interested in creating a pop tune that fit the 78 RPM format than in staying true to their genre. Yet it became so popular that she and Webb recorded a follow-up track, “I Found My Yellow Basket,” that same year.

But then – just a few months after “A-Tisket, a-Tasket” – Webb and Fitzgerald recorded “Wacky Dust,” a song about the allure and dangers of cocaine use.

Ella’s reefer song


How Fitzgerald moved from a nursery rhyme to a song about cocaine says more about jazz culture than it does Fitzgerald’s own tastes. And while songs about drugs were common in jazz, “Wacky Dust” put Fitzgerald in the awkward position of recording a song that ran contrary to the image that she was trying to cultivate.





Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Wacky Dust.’



The release of “Wacky Dust” coincided with a massive shift in cultural opinion taking place in the U.S. about the use of drugs like cocaine and marijuana. Once a relatively uncontroversial social issue, drug use in the 1930s increasingly came to be seen as a societal ill that was especially (and incorrectly) tied to African-Americans and jazz musicians. Even sympathetic artists couldn’t help but buy into the stereotype. George Gershwin’s operatic adaptation of DuBose Heyward’s novel “Porgy,” for example, was revolutionary for its diverse cast, but the story, written and adapted by two men of European descent, reinforced the popular perception of prevalent drug use among African-Americans.

Jazz artists in the early 1930s didn’t do much to help this view. Just as big band jazz was coming to dominate the music scene, two of the era’s biggest names released songs with direct references to drug use.

In 1933, Cab Calloway’s “Reefer Man” was used in the film “International House.” A year later, Benny Goodman released “Texas Tea Party,” a reference to both marijuana and to the trombonist on the recording, Jack Teagarden. These were not subtle works, and most jazz artists of the era produced what have since become known as “reefer songs.” Even Louis Armstrong – who, like Fitzgerald, cultivated a rather benign image – was arrested for smoking marijuana and recorded several tunes that allude to drug use.

So when “Wacky Dust” was released, the idea of one of the great New York City house bands recording a jazz tune about drugs wasn’t all that surprising. (Fitzgerald and Webb had experimented with a similar subject a couple of years earlier with the release of “When I Get Low I Get High.”)

Like “A-Tisket, a-Tasket,” Wacky Dust opens with Webb’s orchestra. Fitzgerald doesn’t enter until nearly one-third of the way through the song. The first verse aligns cocaine with jazz and describes how easy it is for musicians to access the drug. The second verse and bridge section describe its wonders, but the final verse takes a turn, with Fitzgerald warning that the drug can’t be trusted and might kill you.

While “A-Tisket, a-Tasket” went on to become one of Fitzgerald’s signature pieces, “Wacky Dust” has faded into relative obscurity outside of specialty albums that feature songs about drug culture. And this makes sense. Fitzgerald was extremely careful about her image, and “Wacky Dust” didn’t fit. In fact, after “Wacky Dust,” Fitzgerald moved entirely away from songs that alluded to drugs.

By the 1950s, she had embarked on a recording career that displayed an unrivaled musicianship and joy for singing. Nonetheless, one has to wonder what her career would have looked like had “Wacky Dust” been the hit of 1938, rather than “A-Tisket, a-Tasket.”

Adam Gustafson, Instructor in Music, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Guest Post: The Racist Roots of Marijuana Prohibition

by David McDonald

The history of marijuana (or cannabis/THC) stems back over 10,000 years and is widely recognized as one of the most useful plants on the planet. Yet it was made illegal in the United States in the early 20th century due to political and economic factors.

History of The Drug
Let’s get one thing clear: marijuana was not made illegal because it caused “insanity, criminality, and death” as was claimed by Harry J. Anslinger. It was made illegal in an attempt to control Mexican immigration into the United States and to help boost the profits of large pharmaceutical companies.

Humans have been using the plant for almost 10,000 years to make necessary items such as clothing and pottery. But the first direct reference to a cannabis product as a “psychoactive agent” dates back to 2737 BC in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.

The focus was on its healing powers, primarily how it healed diseases such as malaria and even "absent-mindlessness." The plant was used recreationally by Indians and Muslims as well.

Marijuana in America
The drug was introduced into America by the Spanish in 1545, where it became a major commercial force and was grown alongside tobacco. Farmers mostly grew hemp instead of cannabis (a form of the plant that is very low in THC), and by 1890 it had replaced cotton as the major cash crop in southern states.

marijuana prohibition poster Grateful DeadHemp continued to flourish in the States until the 1910s when Mexicans began popularizing the recreational use of cannabis.

At the time, cannabis was not primarily used for its psychoactive effects. However, and quite frankly, many "white" Americans did not like the fact that Mexicans were smoking the plant, and they soon demonized the drug.

Around 1910, the Mexican Revolution was starting to boil over, and many Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. to escape the conflict. This Mexican population had its own uses for cannabis, and they referred to it as "marihuana." Not only did they use it for medicinal purposes, but they smoked it recreationally – a new concept for white Americans. U.S. politicians quickly jumped on the opportunity to label cannabis “marihuana” in order to give it a bad rep by making it sound more authentically Mexican at a time of extreme prejudice.

It worked. Southern states became worried about the dangers this drug would bring, and newspapers began calling Mexican cannabis use a “marijuana menace.”

During the 1920s, many anti-marijuana campaigns were conducted to raise awareness about the many harmful effects the drug caused. These campaigns included radical claims stating that marijuana turned users into killers and drug addicts. They were all obviously fake, made up in an attempt to get rid of Mexican immigrants.

"A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say that there is no hope of saving the children's lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life," read a New York Times story from 1927. It was clear the newspapers and tabloids were building a campaign against the plant, and much of it has been said to be based on racist ideologies against Mexican immigrants.

The "war against marijuana" arguably began in 1930, where a new division in the Treasury Department was established — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — and Harry J. Anslinger was named director. This, if anything, marked the beginning of the all-out war against marijuana.

Anslinger realized that opiates and cocaine would not be enough to build his new agency, so he turned towards marijuana and worked relentlessly to make it illegal on a federal level. Some anti-marijuana quotes from Anslinger’s agency read:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

Yes, every single one of these claims is outrageous, but the strategy worked.

(Harry Anslinger got some additional help from William Randolph Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. First, he hated Mexicans. Second, he had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. Third, he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa and blamed Mexicans. Fourth, telling lurid lies about Mexicans [and the devil marijuana weed causing violence] sold newspapers, making him rich.)

The two were then supported by the Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. Pharmaceutical companies were on board with the idea because they could not standardize cannabis dosages, and people could grow it themselves. They knew how versatile the plant was in treating a wide range of medical conditions and that meant a potentially massive loss of profits.

So, these U.S. economic and political powerhouses teamed up to form a great little act called The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

This act testified to the many harmful effects of marijuana and was obviously opposed by many. But it was ultimately the committee chairman who got this act passed in congress. 

The chairman decided that

“high school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity of harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity. This is a national problem, and it must have national attention. The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug, and American children must be protected against it.”
And there you have it: 1937 marks the year where marijuana became illegal in the United States of America.

Epilogue 
A man by the name of Harry Anslinger became the director of the newly established department — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Anslinger teamed up with William Randolph Hearst (a newspaper company owner) and some big-time pharmaceutical companies, and together they launched an anti-marijuana campaign to profit off of manufactured medicine and deport thousands of Mexicans.

Marijuana was not made illegal because of its negative health impacts. It was these men who manipulated the public into believing the herb was deadly, and their impacts are still felt even today.
The war against marijuana intensified in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed.

marijuana t-shirt American flagDuring this time, marijuana, heroin, and LSD were listed as "schedule 1" drugs (having the highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use). Obviously, this goes against thousands of years of human knowledge where it was widely known that cannabis was one of the most beneficial herbs on the face of the planet.

Congress has repeatedly decided to ignore history to the benefit of big pharmaceutical companies, which bring in billions of dollars annually from selling cheaply manufactured medicine.

The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush years resulted in the passage of stricter laws, mandatory minimum sentencing for possession of marijuana, and heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation.

It wasn’t until 1996 when California legalized marijuana for medical use. Alaska, Oregon, and Washington eventually followed suit. However, it has taken well over a decade for marijuana to reach recreational legalization in these states. 

With all this being said, the future for marijuana is looking very bright. Marijuana advocates believe there is a chance for at least 11 more states to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future, which would be a huge leap forward in the grand scheme of things.

It has taken far too long to break the stigma attached to marijuana. Yes, like any drug, it can be abused. But to ignore its obvious health benefits in order to maintain large scale pharmaceutical operations and a monopoly on the health industry is ludicrous.

David McDonald is a 20-year-old student at the University Of Guelph.




This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From the Archives: Journalist Christian Caryl investigates Boston's 'lone-wolf' Tsarnaev brothers

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on June 7, 2013. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

In the June 6 [2013] edition of the New York Review of Books, veteran journalist Christian Caryl has contributed an investigative piece about Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.

The article, called “The Bombers' World,” looks into the family background, friendships, neighbors, and remote influences on the Tsarnaev brothers, who came to the United States from the former Soviet Union more than a decade ago but who still had ties to their ancestral homeland of Chechnya.

As Caryl explains the family's arrival in his article:

The Tsarnaevs arrived in the US after a brief stay in Dagestan, another Russian republic that abuts Chechnya, but they had spent most of their lives in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, where Anzor Tsarnaev, the father, had worked for a while in the local prosecutor’s office. But when a new war broke out in Chechnya in 1999, Anzor said, the Kyrgyz authorities (perhaps under pressure from the Kremlin) purged the government’s ranks of anyone with a Chechen background. Anzor lost his job, and for a time, he said, he was even thrown in jail, where his guards subjected him to beatings. It was this abuse that served as the basis for the family’s (ultimately successful) application for refugee status in the US.

The Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner interviewed Christian Caryl about his investigations into the Tsarnaev brothers and their backgrounds after he delivered a lecture about his new book, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, at the Stimson Center in Washington.

'Something of an outlier'


Caryl, who is a fluent Russian speaker, explained that he had “talked to people who knew the Tsarnaevs extremely well – indeed intimately, I would say.”

He also “examined their websites [and] their use of social media in some detail.”

That led him to conclude that “we're dealing with perhaps something of an outlier” among terrorist groups and individuals.

“In many respects,” Caryl said, the Tsarnaevs' “case is so unusual and so different that we may not see exactly this same configuration in the future.”

What he found “quite striking,” he said in the interview, as well as “perhaps very threatening,” is the existence of “lone-wolf terrorists who form their convictions almost in isolation from people around them.”

'The Internet is enough'


Rather than being taught by a mentor or someone with more experience or learning, for these lone wolves “it really has so much to do with the Internet and with” what Caryl calls a “virtual community of jihadis on the Internet.”

As a consequence, he explained, “you almost don't need people around you talking about this stuff anymore. The Internet is enough.”

In the case of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, he said, “What's fascinating really about the Tsarnaevs is the isolation in which they became what they became.”

That, he concluded, “has somewhat ominous significance for the kind of terrorism we're going to see in the future.”

A question that has been asked many times since the Boston terrorist attack is whether both Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his elder brother were both radicalized as jihadists.

Based on his research, Caryl said, “I think the younger brother is very much a story of the influence of the older brother.”

Older brother's influence

This, he explained, is “the one aspect of this story that really is very Chechen, characteristically Chechen,” – that is, “the fact that the older brother had this enormous influence within the family. That's very characteristic. In other ways, the Tsarnaevs had very little to do with Chechen culture and the whole Chechen story.”

Tamerlan's influence on Dzhokar “sticks out” as characteristically Chechen, Caryl continued, because “in Chechen families, it's the oldest son who has enormous authority and wields enormous influence within the family.”

In the case of the Tsarnaevs, he said, “we're dealing with a case where [Tamerlan] lorded it over his younger brother to really an extraordinary degree and ultimately [to a] fateful extent.”

Suggested Links

GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli says no to including Libertarian nominee in debates
Former Congressman Tom Davis comments on IRS scandal with warning for GOP
GOP lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson 'certainly used marijuana'
Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe hosts campaign kickoff event at PVCC
James Robinson discusses 'why nations fail' at George Mason University

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

From the Archives: Reevaluating 'Fiddler on the Roof' from an economic perspective

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 18, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Reevaluating 'Fiddler on the Roof' from an economic perspective
April 18, 2010 9:41 PM MST

Fiddler on the Roof Wauwatosa Rick Sincere John Pernice St. Bernard Studio Theater
It’s time to reassess one of the central claims of the classic American musical play, Fiddler on the Roof. The current engagement at Washington’s National Theatre offers a chance to look at the play with fresh eyes, adding a different sort of vitality to a work that is so familiar that we may have begun taking it and its characters for granted.

Tony®-winning Broadway actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein is the star of the latest national tour of Fiddler, playing the role of Tevye, the Dairyman, a character created a century ago by Yiddish short-story writer Sholom Aleichem and beloved by millions of readers and playgoers around the world.

'If I Were a Rich Man'

Tevye sings one of Fiddler’s biggest hit songs, “If I Were a Rich Man,” in which he first complains of his own poverty and then daydreams about what it would be like to be a wealthy man.

Tevye’s life, however, belies his plaintive pleas of poverty. Digging deeper into the text reveals that, far from being a poor man, Tevye is a man with assets and means – someone we might call a working-class entrepreneur. Indeed, nearly all of Tevye’s neighbors in Anatevka are working- or middle-class and not at all poor in any objective sense.

Although Tevye’s wife, Golde, tells one of their five daughters “you’re a girl from a poor family” and although Tevye says to God, “it’s no shame to be poor, but it’s no great honor either,” the circumstances of their family are not those of poverty, especially not the sort of poverty one would expect in a pre-industrial, traditional society.

Four Pieces of Evidence

First, Tevye is a self-employed farmer. He owns at least one horse and other livestock –probably several cows. Not only that, he has sufficient cattle to meet his customers’ needs and he can every so often sell a surplus cow. (Tevye assumes that the butcher wants to buy his “new milk cow,” which implies he has old milk cows and that he has enough cash to periodically buy a new one.)

Fiddler on the Roof Playbill
Second, Tevye is sufficiently secure economically that he is able to hire a tutor for his daughters (“food for lessons,” he says to the itinerant Perchik) at a time when girls were expected to stay uneducated. His third-eldest daughter, Chava, has enough pocket money to buy books for pleasure reading.

Third, when the Russian authorities force Tevye and his neighbors to leave Anatevka, he is given three days to sell his property. What does Tevye own? A house, a barn, and a plot of land big enough to feed his livestock. His ownership is clear enough that he has the courage – and the right – to order the constable off his land while he still owns it.

Fourth, Tevye has disposable income above the subsistence level. He husbands his assets so effectively that he can buy luxuries (candlesticks, goose pillows, and a feather bed) as gifts for his daughter on her wedding day and pay for the food and drink and musicians that make a wedding celebration, too.

To return to “If I Were a Rich Man,” Tevye is not so much asking to be a “rich man” as he is expressing his desire to be a “man of leisure” – a person who does not have to work for a living and who can enjoy a mansion, servants, and free time for prayer and contemplation.

There is no question that Tevye is not “rich” in the sense of a Rockefeller or a Rothschild. Neither is he poor. His family has enough food to eat – indeed, they have enough food that they can routinely share it with strangers and friends who visit for the Sabbath.

Tevye works hard, to be sure, and like any dairy farmer must rise before dawn to feed and milk the cows, plus toil through the rest of the day to make cheese and butter and deliver his goods to his customers. This is not a life of impoverishment. It is a life that produces something of value to trade for other things of value. It is essentially middle-class.

Neighbors and Friends

The other characters we meet in Fiddler on the Roof are in similar economic circumstances. Except for Nachum, the beggar, nearly everyone in the play has means and assets.

Mordcha and his wife own a tavern, where they serve anyone from the village, Jew and Gentile alike. Lazar Wolf is a self-employed butcher who could afford to buy strings of pearls for his wife. Motel Kamzoil (Tevye’s eventual son-in-law) owns his own tailor shop and has saved enough money to buy a modern sewing machine. Yussel is a hatmaker. Even the widow, Yente, is an independent woman who provides a service much in demand in a traditional society like Anatevka’s – she is a matchmaker (much like that independent woman of the Broadway season that preceded the premiere of Fiddler on the Roof, Dolly Levi).

We are told, over and over again, that Tevye’s family and the people of Anatevka are poor, but what we see contradicts what we are told.

Tradition Meets Modernity

All that said, it’s not possible to gainsay Fiddler on the Roof’s other theme: what happens when modernity intrudes upon tradition, and the topsy-turvy world that results (or, at least, that is perceived by those who have to engage the intrusion).

Fiddler on the Roof is set in 1905, the time of the first Russian revolution and, consequently, an era of turmoil and upheaval. For centuries Anatevka has been isolated from the outside world and thus, its inhabitants think, the village need not concern itself with the politics of far away. Those politics arrive with a growl and a bite that are unwelcome, and the people of Anatevka are subjected to a pogrom that eventually results in their exile.

Yet the hidden future-story offers a bittersweet life beyond the final curtain.

Bittersweet Future

Through government-induced violence, Tevye and his family lose their home in Anatevka, which, though fictional, in real life would have stood in eastern Poland or western Ukraine.

By being forced to leave their ancestral home in 1905 and emigrating overseas, the people of Anatevka – including Tevye and his family – were spared the scorched-earth battles of World War I. They were spared the horrors of Stalin’s induced starvation of the 1930s. (As a landowner, Tevye would almost certainly have been executed as a capitalist exploiter along with the other kulaks.) They were spared the torture and genocide of the Nazis.

They were, in fact, the lucky ones.