by Dean Becker
by Steve Nolin
Judge James D. Gray
Judge Robert Voigt
(Audio Track) Intro – My name is Dean Becker; Steve Nolin is our engineer. We invite you to join us as we examine the unvarnished truth about the drug war.
Dean: Thank you for joining us on this week’s version of Cultural Baggage. Our guest this week is Paul Krassner. ABC newscaster Harry Reasoner wrote in his memoirs, “Krassner not only attacks establishment values, he attacks decency in general.” So Krassner named his one-person show “Attacking Decency in General.” Receiving awards from the L.A. Weekly and Drama Log, he is the only person in the world ever to win awards from both Playboy for satire and the Feminist Party Media Workshop for Journalism. He has a brand new book just hitting the newsstands, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs, From Toad Slime to Ecstasy. We’ll have Paul on the phone here in just a couple of minutes, but first PoppyGate.
Drug czar of the Americas, John Walters: “High-potency marijuana ought not to be considered as marijuana was in the past, it ought to be considered another drug.”
Poppygate, bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway: “Marijuana poses a greater danger to the United States than heroin or cocaine,” said John Walters, U.S. drug czar in an interview in Vancouver. Someone should tell him to listen to this week’s Poppygate update. Esteemed journalist Christian Parente, reports from U.S.-occupied Northern Afghanistan in this week’s The Nation: “Surrounding us in all directions are fields of marijuana on the verge of harvest. The plants are tall, thick, and fragrant; their dark green flowers glistening with potent oils.” In a separate interview, he goes on to add that he had spent the day visiting fields of marijuana as far as the eye can see. One October night, the Asia Times reported vast fields of marijuana in U.S.-occupied Southern Afghanistan. “The makeshift road snakes through miles of pungent cultivated cannabis grown for hashish.” Speaking of fragrance and pungency, cannabis pioneer Wernard Bruining, who created Holland’s first coffee shop nearly 30 years ago, traces the lineage of today’s skunk directly to earlier Afghan strains. Jeepers creepers! Where’s the reefers? Way down yonder in Afghanistan. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Walters. This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.
Yes, that was a Poppygate report talking about marijuana, but if it is so damned dangerous, why are they allowing it to grow in Afghanistan? If you are a regular listener to our programs you have heard many times representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, LEAP.cc. I recently had a chance to talk to the director of LEAP, Mr. Jack Cole, and here is a part of an interview I did with him.
Cole: Spent 26 years in the New Jersey State Police, 14 years undercover in narcotics. And what we are here for is to end the war on drugs and legalize all drugs, legalize them so they can be controlled and regulated and kept out of the hands of our children.
Dean: Jack, ofttimes I see that sticker on the back of my car: “Drugs are Too Dangerous to Leave in the Hands of Criminals.” And that is the underlying principle of LEAP, is it not?
Cole: That is exactly the principle, yes, sir.
Dean: In the northern parts of Mexico now they are starting to have this ongoing drug war. They say they capture a couple of more kingpins, etc. Now, they make it sound as if they are going to make a difference. But does it ever make any difference?
Cole: No, it never makes a difference. But that’s the name of the game for the drug warriors. They have to keep trying to make it sound like it’s going to make a difference so that they can get that next funding proposal in and they will get more money for doing the same thing. And the same thing happens to be pretty much spending over half a trillion dollars already on the war on drugs and guaranteeing that every year we continue, we will lose then another minimum $69 billion to continue that war. And all we have to show for it is every year we arrest over 1.6 million human beings in this country for non-violent drug offenses, incarcerate at the rate of 699 per hundred thousand violations. Yet drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get now than they were 34 years ago when I started buying them undercover on the streets. To me, that is the very essence of the failed public policy.
Dean: Jack Cole and other members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition have attended several national and international conferences for police officers, and Jack says their reception has been amazing.
Cole: Well, they are fairly decent people, you know, and they don’t want to embarrass themselves or be rude, so they listen to us. And we talk and discuss it for a few minutes. And when we are done, we keep track of what their opinions are after they have talked to us – whether they agree with us or disagree. And we are absolutely amazed at what we are finding. We are finding that 6% of them want to continue the war on drugs, 14% are undecided, and a whopping 80% of them agree with us that we need to end the war on drugs and legalize drugs if we are going to change any of this. And you know, Dean, what’s most interesting about this is, I don’t think there’s one of them that knows that anybody else thinks the way they do. It’s amazing – because of the stigma attached to drugs in this country, everyone of these people in law enforcement is afraid to talk to other people about things that they believe. So what we are doing at least is we are sort of – we are giving them an opening, giving them a chance, legitimizing their true beliefs. And toward the end of each conference, after talking with them, if they agreed with us, I showed them these total chicken marks I’m making on here for agree, disagree, and undecided. I say, “Gee, you are in the vast majority of law enforcement in this country. You should get out there and talk to your associates. They agree with you on this.” And they didn’t ever understand that before. So, I think we are going to make some major changes.
Dean: Jack, when you take out that 14% undecided, it’s a ratio of 15 to 1, approximately.
Cole: Yes, sir. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Dean: It is, indeed. Well, Jack Cole, director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, we appreciate your being with us, and tell the folks your website, if you will.
Cole: Okay, you can find us at www.leap.cc. And it’s a great website. It’s just chock full of great information about the real facts of the war on drugs and the real horrors that we are creating by this war. And it even gives some solutions for – we are one of the only ones out there that tends to give solutions as to how we can stop all this destructive action.
Dean: Jack Cole is absolutely right. I talk to politicians, both state and Federal. I talk to local officials and even policemen out on the street. And I can find no one willing to stand for more drug war, and certainly no one willing to speak of such on the radio. To any member of law enforcement out there patrolling the streets in one of the Drug Truth Network cities, if you would like to have a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition give a speech at your next patrolman’s union meeting, please contact the current and former law enforcement officials at LEAP.cc.
All right, my friends, we’re glad you are with us. We’re sorry about that glitch on the CD a moment ago, but Jack Cole – it’s important that we give him a listen; and we do have online Mr. Paul Krassner. Paul, can you hear me?
Krassner: I can hear you, yes.
Dean: Hello, Paul. Welcome to Cultural Baggage. The more I read up on you – you are into so many things. Paul, you’re a radio man, as well.
Krassner: Oh, yeah, I had my own show in San Francisco that lasted 7 months.
Dean: You have been involved in many of the cultural changes, if you will, in our society over the last several decades. Tell the folks a little bit about yourself.
Krassner: Well, People magazine called me “the father of the underground press,” and I immediately demanded a paternity test. But in 1958 I started a magazine called the Realist, which was a satirical magazine, and I didn’t know it was countercultural because there was no such word yet. But I felt like a Martian and I knew that if I was the only one, there was no hope. And so, the magazine began to attract a lot of Martians. And so then I got involved in what you might call participatory journalism, so when I interviewed Ram Dass – who was then Richard Alpert – and Timothy Leary, I ended up taking 300 acid trips. When I covered the anti-Vietnam war movement as a reporter, I ended up forming the Yippees, the Youth International Party, with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. And when I interviewed – this was in the 60’s when abortion was illegal, I interviewed – an anonymous interview, a doctor who ran a clinic where he performed abortions and never charged more than $5. He was a true humanitarian, and women came to him from all over the country. He was known as “The Saint.” And so I ended up becoming an underground abortion referral service, because after I published the interview, I got a lot of calls. And I got called before two district attorneys in two different cities. So, I never made a distinction between observation and participation, and I also never labeled an article as “investigative journalism” or “satire,” because the line more and more, as you know, has blurred into nothingness.
Dean: People talk about these days of, you know, “don’t hate the media, become the media.” And in some ways you have done that decades in advance of that thought.
Krassner: Yeah, it was just – one of the things I did was I edited Lenny Bruce’s autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. And I had the same goal in print as Lenny had on stage, and it was just the freedom to talk publically with as much freedom as you have in your own living room.
Dean: I was just going to say, the election is today, and many, many battles are being fought across this nation. Any thoughts you would like to relay in that regard?
Krassner: Well, yeah. You want to hear my prediction which I wrote 5 days ago?
Dean: Let’s go.
Krassner: Okay, let’s see here – I’m writing this 5 days before the election. I predict that either it will be a relatively landslide victory for Kerry indicating that the polls were skewed, bypassing cell phones, vote-or-die campaigns, and dissolutioned Christians, or the results will be so close that 50,000 Democratic lawyers will end up battling back and forth in the courts with 50,000 Republican lawyers, dragging out, appealing again and again. Stalling around, for say at least 4 years, until finally John Edwards, his pompadour prematurely gray, argues the case unsuccessfully before the U.S. Supreme Court, which by then will be packed with Bush’s reactionary appointees. Is that the way the world will end? With neither a bang nor a whimper, but with a bloodless bipartisan coup?
Dean: You could be right. That’s the real scary part.
Krassner: Well, that’s a real example of what we just mentioned before, you know, the lines having blurred between satire and reality. It’s getting more and more difficult to satirize what is going on in Washington and Hollywood. And wherever you look, everything is accelerating. Even the rate of acceleration is accelerating.
Dean: Right, kind of like the speed of light is catching up to itself, or something. I’m not sure. Paul, I want to talk about your new book, and again I want to alert folks out there first that Paul has written, I don’t know, dozens of books perhaps. I want to list a couple of them. Let’s see, The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, the Satirical Writings of Paul Krassner, which has an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut. Trilogy, Pot Stories for the Soul, Psychedelic Trips for the Mind. And his latest here, which I have a copy of, and we’ll give you folks out there listening on the network a chance to get a copy a little bit later on. But it’s named Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs, from Toad Slime to Ecstasy. Paul, I’ll tell you want, give us about a one-minute break here. We’re going to try to name that drug by its side effects, and we’ll be right back.
Dean: Texas Defense Attorney of the Year, from Tulia, TX, Jeff Blackburn:
“The answer is numbers. They want to make big numbers, because the bigger the numbers, the more money you get. If you make good numbers with good arrests and convictions, not good – just any arrest, any conviction, anything to show that you are running people through the system. You are going to get bigger grants that year, and you are going to get finer cars to drive then, and you are going to get cooler stuff. And bigger guns, and more costumes to wear. And on and on and on. It’s about the numbers.”
It’s time to play “Name that Drug By Its Side Effects”: Itching, a loss of taste, loss of appetite, unusual fatigue, changes in vision, difficulty breathing, liver damage with rapid need for organ transplant, congestive heart failure, and death. Time’s up. The answer: Lamisil. Approved by the FDA for toenail fungus.
All right, we are back with Paul Krassner. You are listing to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica radio. Paul, this new book of yours, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs, I find it to be just hilarious in parts and it kind of gets me to thinking at other times about – you know, you mention 300 trips on acid. I figure I did something like that myself. Probably didn’t get the quality that you did. But let’s talk about your new book. Tell us a little bit about it, what we are likely to find.
Krassner: Okay. Well, the background is that about 5 or 6 years ago, I realized how much propaganda – anti-drug propaganda – there was, and it didn’t match any of my own observations and experience. You know, all my friends had a good time with dope. You know, we would get stoned before going to a movie, or before having a nice dinner, or going to a musical event, and then we would always enhance the experience. I mean, I would even smoke before I rolled the joint to enhance the experience. And so I started collecting what was originally going to be funny dope stories; and I kept collecting them, and they weren’t all funny. Some of them were just bizarre, some of them were weird, some of them had serious information in them, and all different styles. And from all these different drugs, including toad slime. And this guy named Todd McCormick who was recently released from Federal prison after serving 5 years for growing medical marijuana. He contributed two articles to the Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs; one he did on psilocybin and the other he did on ketamine, which he wrote in prison. And I sent him his contributor’s copy in prison, and it came back from the warden. I’ll just read you this one sentence: “The above-named publication is being rejected because on pages 259 to 261 it describes the process of squeezing toads to obtain illicit substances which could be detrimental to the security, good order, and discipline of the institution.” Can you imagine that, Dean, having a prison riot over toad slime?
Dean: How do they pass those around in prison, I would like to know?
Krassner: I didn’t even know they had toads in prison. They must have these accomplices on the other side of the wall catapulting them over.
Dean: I don’t know, the thoughts and words are dangerous anywhere I suppose, especially in prison. Let’s alert folks to the fact that Todd McCormick – he and Peter McWilliams, along with Renee Boje, were busted for growing marijuana under the auspices of the local sheriff and the local community; and yet were kind of set up and sent to prison by the DEA. Todd served 5 years for his part in that, and they were trying to help sick and dying people.
Krassner: Right, and the reason they did that with the book – because I ripped out the three pages that were offensive to the warden and sent it back to him again, saying, “Please give this to Todd now. The offending pages are gone.” And they sent it back to me again, this time stamped “unauthorized.” So they were just punishing him because they could, because he was there. If you extrapolate on that, it was a microcosm of the prison harassment and abuse that goes on throughout the country and onward to Guantanamo Bay, where they kept the prisoners from Afghanistan without letting them get in touch with their lawyers, and in uncomfortable positions. And if you asked Attorney General John Ashcroft how he could permit that, he would say, “Well, you know, those people have more rights than you.” And you would ask, what do you mean? And he would say, “Well they can go to Cuba and you can’t.” But it goes from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq – was just ultimately the desensitization and dehumanization.
Dean: Sure, the somehow “legitimization” of it all.
Krassner: And you know it starts with drugs, illegal drugs. I mean, that’s the thing – as long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs should be illegal and which drugs should be legal, then anyone in prison for drugs is really a political prisoner
Dean: Indeed, I have been saying that we have been fighting this war against illegal combatants who possess chemical weapons since December 17, 1914, with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act.
Krassner: Well, you know, there is one thing that all these illegal drugs have in common – they are not manufactured by corporations. They don’t even have an advertising budget. It’s like, it’s free word of mouth, which is the purest form. We don’t need no stinking Joe Camel.
Dean: And it kind of takes us back to your new book where I think the majority of the stories in there are of people having a good time, perhaps a little bit bizarre encounters along the way, but pretty much enjoying themselves. We just keep in mind that not all drug experiences are wonderful. The setting can have a lot to do with it, the purity of the drug, etc., etc.; and it is the drug war itself that makes those terrible experiences more likely.
Krassner: Expensive, too.
Dean: Yes, that’s for sure.
Krassner: And you know, when you try to reason why – that fellow from LEAP was very inspiring to hear, that you had on before. In fact, another time you will tell me how to get in touch with him so I can write an article about him.
Dean: You bet you. I’ll be glad to do it.
Krassner: So, anyway, when you examine why, it goes way back to racism in this country, against blacks and Latinos; and the La Guardia Commission in 1937 had a favorable thing about marijuana, but it was ignored. Nixon in ’74 had a commission – the Shafer Commission – that also said marijuana was not harmful at all. Nixon ignored that; Congress ignored it. So they are all responsible. It’s just a lack of compassion, as Lenny Bruce said, for people going behind bars for growing a flower, smoking a flower.
Dean: Indeed. I wanted to go back in history a little bit. You did LSD with Tim Leary, Rom Doss, and Ken Kesey; but the one that really caught my eye because I’ve always admired his humor and his attitude and his outlook – and that was, it says you had the first acid trip with Groucho Marx. Tell us about that.
Krassner: Well, it was his first, not mine.
Dean: I’m sorry, yes.
Krassner: This was like 1967, ‘68. Otto Preminger, the director, was making a movie called “Skidoo” which I would recommend to your listeners if they could rent it sometimes.
Dean: “Skidoo,” all right.
Krassner: S-k-i-d-o-o. Otto Preminger directed it. And it was essentially a pro-acid movie. Tim Leary told me that he had turned on Otto Preminger, so it was propaganda in the best sense of the word. Propaganda has been getting the bad press. Part of it took place in a prison where a hippy got a letter which had been soaked in LSD solution; and he put it into the water supply of the prison, and all the prisoners and guards were tripping. So that was the basis of it. But outside of the prison, there were Mafia figures, and Groucho Marx plays the part of a Mafia chiefton called “God.” And this was before the Godfather. And he was a reader of the Realist, and I had written about taking acid; and so when I was visiting L.A., I had dinner with him and he said he wanted to try some LSD, but did I know anywhere he could get some pure stuff because, you know, everybody doesn’t have on their to-do list to eat some strychnine today. So I said yeah, I could get him some; and then he asked if I would like to accompany him on his trip. And you have to play it cool, when inside you’re dancing up and down and laughing – going woo, woo, woo. You know, I didn’t play hard to get, but I said, sure I would be glad to. So anyway, we met at the home of an actress in Beverly Hills and what I had was – if you know brand names, this was Owsley acid.
Dean: Oh, the purest stuff.
Krassner: Yes, 300 micrograms.
Dean: I had it once.
Krassner: The reason he wanted it, by the way, was because since the movie had to do with pro-acid, he felt a kind of responsibility to his fans, young kids who kind of idolized him. Which was part of his motivation. He had always been curious even before that movie. So at the home – I usually would trip with rock and roll on, but this was at the home of someone who only seemed to have classical music and Broadway show music. And so at one point, we were playing the Bach Cantata No. 7 and at this time we were – I think he was peaking, but he said, “How come if I’m supposed to be Jewish, I can see visions of beautiful Gothic cathedrals?” And I was just seeing – myself, I was seeing photos of combination dinosaur/monkeys, so I told him it was a very individual experience.
Dean: As it always is, you’re absolutely right. Paul, they tell me we’re running out of time here. I want to first off thank you so much for joining us tonight and sharing your thoughts and telling us about your new book Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs from Toad Slime to Ecstasy. You got a website you think folks ought to go visit?
Krassner: Oh, yeah, thanks for asking. It’s paulkrassner – that’s with 2 S’s – paulkrassner @ -- I’m sorry, paulkrassner.com.
Krassner: Also, I have a new album out. I have standup satire CDs, and the latest one is called “The Zen Bastard Rides Again.”
Dean: Paul, I recommend that folks get the new book. It’s very entertaining and I highly recommend it. A couple of program notes as we are headed out of here. For the book giveaway: If you would like a copy of Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick a number between 1 and 2004, the closest or the first one with the right number will get a copy of this book. Be sure to include your name and address. Next week, we are going to do a special featuring medical marijuana patients Allison Mirken and Valerie Coral. Some prerecorded, some fresh, but that’s for the network. We’re going to be doing a pledge drive here at the mother station. I want you to just think about this, if you will. In the election season, when both sides proclaim the need for an eternal war of terror, we should pause and reflect on the fact that we began our war on those who possess chemical weapons long ago on December 14th, 1914, with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act. As always, because of drug prohibition, you don’t know what is in that bag. Please, be careful.
For the Drug Truth Network, and on behalf of my technical producer Steve Nolin, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth. This show is produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston, tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.