Wisdom of Charlie Manson-Karamazov

October 29, 2010

This  biography of Timothy Leary I’m reading is alternately tedious and fascinating.  Leary’s tolerance for vast quantities of industrial grade  LSD is astonishing.  (I mean that literally – he had access to shipments from Sandoz, Inc.) The book reads as an endless series of orgies, police entanglements, fugitive exits, psychedelic ecstasies that have no effect on anything but their subject, and bizarre pseudo-intellectual jibberish.  Leary’s narcissism, egotism, and total disregard for the welfare of those around him is monumental.  It’s amazing he wasn’t killed somewhere along the line.

As I skim about the narrative, I come upon this gem of a situation:  Leary is confined to solitary confinement in Folsom State Prison in California in 1973.  His next door neighbor is Charles Manson.  (How time passes.   Not everyone will know who he is…)  They communicate via the airshafts.  Their dialog, as recalled by Leary, pits them as equals and total opposites.  The good angel of LSD vs. the bad angel of Helter Skelter.  A passage reminded me vividly of the story of The Grand Inquisitor from Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.

Leary: Hey, did you send me The Bugler and food?  Thanks.

Manson:  I love everyone and try to share what I have.  I’ve been waiting to talk to you for years…Now we have plenty of time.  We were all your students, you know.  You had everyone looking up to you.  You could have led people anywhere you wanted … And you didn’t tell them what to do.  That’s what I could never figure out… Why didn’t you?  I ‘ve wanted to ask you that for years.

L:  That was the  point.  I didn’t want to impose my realities.  The idea is that everybody takes responsibility for his nervous system, creates his own reality.  Anything else is brainwashing.

M: That was your mistake.  No one wants responsibility.  Everyone wants to be told what to do, what to believe, what’s really true and really real.

L: And you’ve got the answers for them?

Charlie goes on to say that he has it all figured out, it’s in the Bible.  It’s all the fault of the women. 

Does it matter?  One line is just as good as another, right?


Land of the Free Redux

October 23, 2010

iStock_000002975766XSmall1Well, what do you know?  Sometimes a little bit of truth creeps into the pages of our respectable media!  Today’s  column by Charles Blow on arrest rates for marijuana use was an example of truth-by-the-numbers.  It brought to mind an old post of mine on the prison-industrial complex in America, prompted by the graph that is shown above.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.

According to a report released Friday … “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”

For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”

This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.

One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.

How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you’ll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.

…  No one knows all the repercussions of legalizing marijuana, but it is clear that criminalizing it has made it a life-ruining racial weapon. As Ms. Alexander told me, “Our failed war on drugs has done incalculable damage.”