Legal High

The last time I got high, it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t tried to do it legally.

Lords, hang on for this one. But where to begin? I guess you could say it all started at a gas station in Arlington, Texas. But, let me start over.

So, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the prohibition of marijuana. A lot of talk in favor, too. It seems that in today’s America, nearly half of my fellow citizens would agree when I say: it’s about time.

In the last three years alone American demographics have seen a nearly 10 percent shift in favor of legalization — more than at almost any other time since it was first prohibited.

I thank George W. Bush for this. Things got so raw so fast, a lot of us just couldn’t help but get high and stare hopelessly at Fox News in the soaking darkness of 4:20 a.m.

But, California helped. Since medical marijuana became legal there, many states have realized that it’s not really so bad and actually rather profitable. It’s even looking like full legalization will be up for grabs on the 2010 ballot. Count on Oakland’s economy to boom if it’s legalized. We will all bear witness to America’s first “green rush” as billions of dollars are made in mere months.

Oh, and did you see it? Conservative icon George Will, a Pulitzer-winning journalist and longtime columnist, said on ABC News recently that the United States is “in the process” of legalizing marijuana, though he seemed to hedge his bets as to whether that would be an across-the-board approval for recreational use or patches of voter approval for medical use.

And then there’s the cartels. In Mexico, more have died in the drug war than in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year. That’s some serious shit — serious — and American media pays little attention to it, perhaps because it’s just too scary. Or because it’s just another linchpin in the drug war establishment.

Keeping pot illegal just guarantees a financial wellspring for anyone who’s bad enough to run it. At the core of the thing, one has to admit the hypocrisy of a law once it become apparent that those it’s meant to hurt are the most ardent supporters of its continued enforcement.

When I was a newspaper reporter in north Texas, covering the Denton County area at-large, some months I’d see kids drop like flies in my communities, almost always from drug overdoses.

A 15-year-old snorting Oxycontin turns around and drinks some Houston Soda (codeine and grape drink) then turns green and pukes bile so acidic that it dissolves part of the carpet. He was dead by the time medics arrived.

A 17-year-old kills himself with a speedball shot strait between his toes in the bathroom of a goddamned grocery store. The Styrofoam-cup memorial on the school’s chain-link fence remained for weeks.

During a Christmas party, a local cop recounts a story, as he’s sipping strong alcohol, of how he once had to take down an 18-year-old who was so blitzed on meth he wasn’t even speaking a discernible language. They hosed the shirtless kid down with pepper spray but he didn’t seem affected, so he got body-slammed into the pavement and dragged into the car, coating said cop with a layer of burning repellent in the process.

(He leans over to me and whispers, “And then there was the time I rushed a kid to the hospital after he took like 15 or 20 of those, whaddya call ’em, Yellow Jackets? [Ephedra.] Little bastard looked like he’d coated his eyes with glue.” Nice.)

To this day I still feel a tinge of guilt about what happened in that school district after I parted ways with my writing post. After I’d published a series of anonymous interviews with local students, each detailing some of their experiences eating, smoking, snorting, shooting and even selling some hardcore shit, parents writing to the letters page were wigging out.

Meetings were called. Random people accused me of making the stories up. Someone demanded I release the tapes of those kids saying that. (I didn’t, but the editor heard them.) It culminated with the mayors of Highland Village, Flower Mound and Lewisville, along with the school district president, meeting in my office to discuss what to do about the drug problem.

Kind of a mea-culpa for the paper, but otherwise meaningless considering their response. They sent a letter to parents, reassuring them that the schools are drug free zones.

Then, months after I’d moved away to far more musical pastures in Austin, Texas, I heard that the Lewisville Independent School District was going to mandate random drug tests. That left me feeling pretty bad. For one, it’s going to cost an ass-load of money. What’s more, it only encourages kids to do harder drugs and move away from pot which, by comparison, is relatively benign.

(Coke, meth and many pharmaceuticals flush from your system in a matter of days, whereas the THC from marijuana remains in fat cells for weeks or months, depending on one’s metabolism. Thereby, if you’re worried about a drug test, don’t smoke weed, but do snort Oxycontin or smoke ice, that way you don’t get caught. In other words, this rule of random drug testing, by the nature of the substances and the limits of the test itself, merely encourages kids who want to get fucked up to experiment with stronger highs.)

So yeah, sorry for that, LISD students. I may have influenced that decision. My bad. But seriously, your classmates do a lot of drugs, you don’t even realize it.

Anyway.

A while back I was following Barry Cooper around. Barry, you may know of: he’s the former drug cop-turned activist filmmaker who produced and directed “Never Get Busted,” a two-DVD series about how to buy, grow, sell and transport pot without getting caught. I’ve seen the man in action with live police. It’s quite … Something.

So, we were in Arlington, Texas this particular afternoon about to rendezvous with a SWAT team that was planning to raid the home of a former police chief accused of doing rather Greek things with young boys. As we waited for word from the officers, I dropped into a gas station cemented to a local Walmart parking lot.

That’s where I saw it.

I’m pretty sure I had read about “Drank,” something very hype-ish, almost like ad copy, calling this purple beverage “liquid weed.” I kinda laughed, but there it was, the bullshit-soda market’s first “relaxation beverage.”

Contains: rose hips, melatonin and Valerian root. And, it’s purple. Like, a purple drank.

Maybe you’ve got to be under 35 to get that one.

I bought it — actually, I bought several, and towed them along for my afternoon SWAT adventure. (More on that here.)

Later that evening, as I rushed to Lewisville in an effort to get online and be at work on time, I pulled in to a Valero station to fuel up. Out of curiosity I paroozed the energy drink stockade to see if there were any other unusual relics to be found. There’s the Drank, but then I found … This:

purple_dranks_sm

Purple Stuff and Sippin’ Syrup? You’ve got to be kidding me.

To all those over 35, the reason this is absurd is because of a Houston rapper named Big Mo who made himself famous by singing about getting fucked up on codeine, then crashing his car. It’s brilliant, really. The video even incorporates a whole “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” theme. It’s called “Purple Stuff” and needs to be seen to be believed. Just watch …

Once again, that was:

Now.. now.. now..
That ‘Purple Stuff’, that Houston soda in my cup
Now I’m behind the wheel, catch the wood, I’m done
Under the influence of bar (?)
Drank stains on my FUBU and I still feel like a star
Now I’ma go up behind the wheel cause I done woke up
Wrapped around a pole and took a sip from my cup

And I’m like, yeah, I’ve got to write about this.

So I snag the Sippin’ Syrup and the Purple Stuff and amuse myself with the text on their labels. One says there’s actually “LEAN with it,” which could be taken to mean that it will discombobulate your inner-ear to the point of making you lean like Benicio del Toro in that casino in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” … Or that there’s actually some fuck-up juice commonly known as Lean included with this beverage. I was willing to bet it’s just catchy advertising.

Speaking of catchy advertising, get a load of this intoxicating ad copy taken from the back of the Purple Stuff can:

CAVEAT:
Purple Stuff induces a quiescent mind. Feelings of well being and euphoria are common. Always begin use by sipping to assess tolerance for self control. Purple Stuff is healthy, fun, and the taste is out of this Purple World!

The Purple Stuff Story:
Several years ago, The Purple Muse entered the High Temple of Mixology and stole the Relaxation Elixir (TM) of the gods. We sinned and bought the recipe for a Rap song. Although the song turned out to be a hit; we got the better of the deal. This masterpiece is made to enjoy, so please try to sip it. Do not down too many or your will fail the tolerance-level test. Quench your thirst with some casual glamour as you sniff the aroma of purity. If you can take it Eazy… you will be calm, focused and wide awake. Be sophisticated and approachable, and enter the perfect destination for the mind and body; and then… LEAN WITH IT. (TM)

Wow. Taste “glamour” and sniff the aroma of purity? I’m stoned just reading that.

Needless to say, I bought all of them.

That night, I only had one Drank. Didn’t want to rush into the madhouse, just taste what I was getting myself into. It’s not so bad, really. And actually, it’s got a heady sort-of mellowing effect. Not bad at all — kind of like drinking a caffeine-free tea with Valerian root. Each of these three drinks appear pretty much the same. They’re all grape-soda with melatonin, which I knew would probably knock me out or cause hallucinations if I forced myself to stay awake. Then, an idea hit me.

I had considered writing some kind of review, a list-like short story, the sort of thing that always gets really popular on sites like Digg for no apparent reason. But this crazy beverage allotment presented too much of an opportunity. I resolved to get legally high on this new liquid weed … But, I’d need a day off and time to prepare. I am not Hunter S. Thompson.

Last week, I saw a commercial that told me, Nothing is more real than Cool Whip. An ad that followed used John Lennon’s “All You Need is Love” to sell Blackberries (the phone, not the fruit). Before the box would put Jon Stewart back on, a friendly-sounding voice added that Happiness begins with French’s (mustard).

After almost two weeks of wrangling with how I’d write about getting legally high, that was the trigger. I figure, what else do I have to live for now? If all I need is a Blackberry, some mustard and Cool Whip to be happy and in love with something real, what else did I really have to live for? This must be how rich kids feel.

That night, I resolved to just do it. Tape recorder at the ready, I combined all three drinks into one giant football mug (the most obnoxious cup I’ve ever seen), tossed in a double-shot of Wild Turkey 101 and begin sippin’ my syrup.

It tastes pretty good. I’m not ashamed to admit it: grape soda is pretty alright (but Sunny D can go suck it). Definitely better than orange soda. I don’t know why there’s even a market for orange soda. If you’re going to do a fruit flavor, grape is good, and so is cherry. I’m definitely a confirmed fan of the cranberry too. But you know, orange cream may be another story …

Oh, but my thoughts are getting floaty, and it seems like, seems like my shoulders are kinda slouched. About 14, 15 minutes into it, roughly one third of the drink gone. Yeah, baby, kinda of, of a headrish, uh, a head rush. Like, things are kinda slowed down and …

I’m not sure how much time went by there, I was … Well I’m finished with the drinks or drank or whatever, purple stew, I’m just so goddamn tired. Just an amazing amount of lethargy, like a hand pushing me into the couch. When my eyes are open there’s an intense buzzing in my head, like a fog machine on full throttle somewhere below my skullcap. Oh, but I’ve discovered how darkly hilarious CNBC is. Now I’m gripped with the inspiration to listen to death metal and watch Fox News. I must find a robe and some sunglasses.

Tried to act on that inspiration, but my legs aren’t really cooperating. I feel much heavier than I really am. Or am I really this heavy and I’ve just not noticed it until now? My god, I should work out more, take a spinning class or something. Oh, holy shit, its Shepard Smith! I don’t want to take that spinning class anymore. There’s a remote, just, over, there … I can do this, just reach, push mute, change the channel … Gods! Larry King in HD? Back to Fox, extend, come on reach for it, and … ah, thank God, that shut them up. Let’s see, there’s a music control somewhere on my computer. Dethklok seems fitting. Maybe add a little Ministry, definitely their last three albums about the Bush administration. Annnd, play.

For one sacred moment, my world makes sense.

A wave of angry vibrations, mean, reptilian-looking people, something about Iran, too much scrolling text, the sudden urge to embrace Jesus and … nothing. I cannot remember what happened next.

That is when I finally gave up trying to fight the invisible force that wanted me to lay down. I couldn’t really hear the audio I recorded after that point because the music was really loud and I’m pretty sure I’d fallen asleep. I do not remember my dreams with any specificity, but they were very active and my mind was not rested when I awoke some 10 hours later.

The experience left me with a strangely nagging desire to hold a tea party. The hangover was thick, too. I felt like I’d absorbed so much sugar I was going to piss blood, and I realized that when Purple Stuff promised there was “LEAN with it,” they really meant it! I could hardly walk and my inner-ear was completely wonked. I had to balance against a wall to hobble into my kitchen.

Just another thing I’ll never do again.

Reminded me of the story one Lewisville kid told me about how he and his friends used to pop 12-24 tabs of Dramamine and go to math class.

Or that friend of mine in college who couldn’t score any speed one night so he took a fistful of Coricidin cold and cough and watched evil tentacles grow out of his mom’s back porch for three hours.

Oh, here’s a tip: If you ever catch your kid with whole nutmeg, check their Web history. Chances are it’s bad news.

All, legal highs.

I like how they don’t bother teaching this stuff in schools. You can get fucked up on a banana peel if it is properly prepared. In the 70’s, American revolutionary Abbie Hoffman once claimed that he and other psychedelic pioneers had discovered a new high: a banana in the rectum. Because the state considered him a legitimate revolutionary threat, FBI scientists went and shoved bananas up their asses, just to make sure.

And that’s just the beginning. Try looking up a recipe book of prison highs. You can juice your senses with even the most meager supplies.

The point is, this has all gotten absurd. Prohibition has become a marketing gimmick.

See also: the Cocaine energy drink.

cocaine_energy

I’ve tried it. Feels just like this …

(God I hope you didn’t sit through that whole thing. Still, a fair approximation.)

For those with more of an oral fixation, there’s chronic candy, which actually tastes like some really expensive, potent pot smells:

chronic_candy_ogchronic

There’s even a new marijuana-flavored energy drink, Chronic Ice. I have not tried this one, but it’s definitely marketed well:

chronic_ice

Or, how’s about this, my personal favorite: Meth coffee!

methcoffee

Take a look at the video ad produced to sell this stuff …

Because of that little bit, the state of Illinois became the first to ban a caffeinated beverage. However, the federal regulation on caffeine simply states that it is safe if produced under good manufacturing standards. It says nothing about marketing.

What’s that old Soviet line? Something about how a capitalist will always sell you the rope with which to hang him? Same is true for drugs, like any massive, unregulated market. In pop culture, prohibition has become a lethal joke, a hook to make a bullshit product seem edgy, worth sinking two or three dollars into. Say what you will about filling a niche market — and there is a legitimate market for turbo coffee and relaxation drinks — but these kind of products fill another of our society’s often unspoken needs: the need to make fun of and profit from our own hypocrisy.

Maybe that’s because it’s just become so damned painful.

We’ve sold the cartels everything they need to turn one of our cities into Ciudad Juarez, which this year became the murder capital of the world.

We’ve sold the government the right to kick in our doors if they so much as claim to have smelled something vaguely drug-like.

We’ve committed our soldiers to uphold the authority of the Afghan government, meanwhile the country’s president has a brother allegedly on CIA payroll who is thought to be steeped in the opium trade.

And we’ve sold our kids up the heroin highway with these random drug tests that encourage students so inclined to abuse harder substances. Meanwhile, school boards completely neglect to require education on what sort of drugs can kill.

… Drugs like nicotine, as delivered by tobacco, the deadliest substance in the world, and one that we happily collect taxes on.

But I’m beginning to think there’s an even deadlier drug that nobody really likes talking about. That would be silence.

Let’s be honest: people like to get fucked up. It is inextricable from the human condition.

Prohibition, which made these people criminal, has ripped apart millions of lives, cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars and given rise to a bloody, growing war on our border and in our streets.

Ignoring the problem, or speaking of it in simple terms in the media, is treachery. Drug abuse affects everyone differently, and almost everyone is on something. Be it a morning cup of coffee, aspirin to stave off a headache, opiates for a hurting tooth or a sore back, or maybe even some Viagra (the freshmaker), people everywhere use and abuse drugs. By ignoring a particular sector of drugs and forcing that market out of legitimacy, a vacuum is left to create a violent, wealthy element eventually able to enforce its will on the public.

In Mexico, that will is to have as many addicts as possible. It has gotten to the point where drug rehab centers are being attacked. Can you even imagine what it must be like to be addicted to meth in one of those cities? Politicians who even dare talk about legalization, regulation and utilizing treatment centers to help people regain their lives are immediately made a target for assassination.

All this, coming soon to major U.S. urban centers.

A day is approaching when a decision on this prohibition will be forced. Are we are prepared to build more prisons, become even more militarized and escalate violence in our own cities, all because we cannot think of some reasonable safety framework for regulation? I was beginning to think that we are, but then I heard that Arizona is about to privatize its death row and almost all its prisons. That’s probably the route we’ll follow as a nation if the drug war establishment is not significantly altered soon. Can you imagine it? One nation, under God, with prisoners held by corporate interests above all.

Maybe one day we’ll even get a more efficient system for death row executions — or at least one less expensive than what we have now. Maybe these private firms could recoup some costs by selling broadcast rights, oh, and advertising! This live execution brought to you by Freedomworks, fighting for your freedom on capitol hill. And by Lunesta, get a good night’s sleep tonight! (And you’ll need one or three after watching this sick shit!)

Then comes Wall Street. We could maybe securitize death row futures, package some derivatives on the prisoners, maybe run some put options based on the televised ratings for all the different corporate killings. It’d be like the network wars, but with actual murder. This would of course eventually turn into a sport, but only after the death derivatives market develops into a massive bubble that takes down Goldman Sachs, again.

Well, a guy can dream anyway.

Until marijuana, that safer alternative to alcohol, is available with the flash of an identification and the verification of age, this war is only going to claim more and more lives while bleeding our treasuries dry. Most disconcerting, these prohibition-based products are only going to get more absurd, further tempting me to go on a real legal bender, the tale of which may not make it into a lengthy philosophical rant. No, my sad tale would more likely be relegated to six column inches on the local paper’s obituary page, if I’m lucky. And if not me, then someone else most certainly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a jug of purple drank I’m mixing up with some rye whiskey and three packages of Coricidin cold and cough. Look for my music video to debut around three months after I’m dead.

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The Most Offensive Commercial Ever Produced

It has been years since I have offered my hard-earned dollar to the purveyors of cable television. Years.

Last month I came to an agreement with my housemate, that we would have cable television once again. The sounds of Sunday afternoon football, late-night films on HBO and brain-sucking advertising for the cure to what Wanda Sykes so aptly called “broke dick,” would once again echo through my sanctuary.

Ever so briefly, between spates of addiction to C-Span and the History Channel, I began to not mind so much.

That is when I saw the Most Offensive Commercial Ever Produced.

Dear reader, your humble narrator is not easily offended. No, quite the contrary. It is my business to wade through the unrelenting idiocy of American media and politics, sorting out the bits that require damnation and disseminating flakes of truth amid the mire. This is what pays my bills and keeps me sane. It is my passion.

But this one piece of media literally followed me beyond the veil of sleep. For days now, I have not been able to stop shuddering when it crosses my mind. I am not sure whether to weep or become enraged at this duplicitous, penetrating piece of filmed prose. While I could describe it, these things are best digested on one’s own terms.

I apologize for what follows.

Watch:

The narration you heard in the clip above is purported to be the great poet Walt Whitman himself, carrying his lyrics through time via a wax cylinder recording. The original is kept today by the Whitman Archive, for all to hear and know.

The full poem goes a little something like this

America

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

“A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother” … Depicted here, by Levi Strauss & Co., as a flickering sign in black and white, partially submerged and dying in the dusklight.

The ad rolls on, with a flash of a dilapidated neighborhood, then a car seemingly surrounded by protesters, inside an apparently concerned, well-dressed man deadpanning into the camera. “Centre of equal daughters,” Whitman says. “Equal sons.”

Models run through the night as fireworks silently explode. A child does a backflip. The American flag, framed by a power line. A boy jumps a fence.

“Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,” Whitman continues.

By this point in the ad, I am entertaining the thought of destroying this large, black box that sits in my living room and tells me what to think. Oh, where to begin …

In 2004, Levi Strauss & Co. shut down its last factories in America. This strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich nation was no longer suited to the production of denim wear. No, instead, what was once an American institution and indeed a symbol of our culture was split asunder and divided among 50 other nations, each thrilled to have the pleasure of producing blue jeans.

After 150 years, the last gasp of Levi Strauss & Co. in the United States was the shuttering of two production facilities in San Antonio, Texas, leaving over 800 of those capable and rich American workers with nothing.

“Now, Levi-Strauss is a traitor, no better than any of those other one-time bastions of good old Americanism that have sold out American workers in the name of cheap labor,” a Salon blogger wrote at the time. “I’m glad I own as many pairs of Levi’s as I do, and I’m glad they were made to last forever (I still rotate a few pair of 501 and 550s more than 25 years old) — because I won’t be buying another pair. Ever. To hell with you, Levi-Strauss.”

Oh, if only the sickening hypocrisy were the end to the offense struck by this rote polemic on the American condition. If only.

Going out on a limb, I will assume that most avid television viewers are not all too familiar with the life and times of legendary American poet Walt Whitman. For the sake of short attention spans, I shall spare the lecture, save but for the key elements.

For much of his life, Walt Whitman was poor. He worked odd jobs as a journalist, moving from paper to paper. After the publication of “Leaves of Grass,” he was dismissed from a job he held in Washington, apparently due to the book’s unabashed sexuality.

Noted by author W. H. Trimble, one of Whitman’s friends took up for him. William Douglas O’Connor, writing in a pamphlet, had the following to say of Whitman, whom he called “The Good Gray Poet” …

Usually his plan is to pass, with haversack strapped across his shoulder, from cot to cot, distributing small gifts ; his theory is that these men, far from home, lonely, sick at heart, need more than anything some practical token that they are not forsaken ; that someone feels a fatherly or brotherly interest in them ; hence, he gives them what he can ; to particular cases, entirely penniless, he distributes small sums of money, fifteen cents, twenty cents, thirty cents, fifty cents, not much in each case, for there are many ; but under the circumstances these little sums are and mean a great deal. He also distributes and directs envelopes ; gives a letter, paper, postage stamps, tobacco, apples, figs, sweet biscuit, preserves, blackberries ; gets delicate food for special cases ; sometimes a dish of oysters, or a dainty piece of meat, or some savoury morsel for some poor creature who loathes the hospital fare, but whose appetite may be tempted. In the hot weather he buys boxes of oranges, and distributes them, greatful to lips baked with fever……he buys whatever luxuries his limited resources will allow, and he makes them go as far as he can. Where does he get the means for this expenditure? For Walt Whitman is poor ; he is poor, and has a right to be proud of his poverty ; for it is the sacred, the ancient, the immemorial poverty of goodness and genius. He gets the means by writing for newspapers ; he expends all he gets upon his boys, his darlings, the sick and maimed soldiers. He adds to his own earnings the contributions of noble souls, often strangers, who……have heard that such a man walks the hospitals, and who volunteer to send him this assistance ; when at least he gets a place under Government……he has a salary which he spends in the same way ; sometimes his wrung heart gets the better of his prudence, and he spends till he himself is in difficulties. He gives all his money, he gives all his time, he gives all his love.

By the way, he also wants you to buy some Fucking blue jeans. Just $98 through the official Levi’s store!

Oh, but it gets better.

Walt Whitman stood adamant in his opposition to slavery. He was even a delegate to the Free Soil Party, a short-lived American political movement that sought to enforce the idea that anyone living on free soil, American soil, would be free indeed.

And here, today, his timeless voice is used to sell denim produced by the impoverished people of wherever, toiling as they may in shops known for their sweat.

In 2002, the U.S. Fair Labor Association found that Levi’s, along with Nike, Reebok and others, were in violation of fair labor practices at factories they contract through.

In just one example, the labor association found that a factory in Mexico (PDF link) which manufactures Levi’s jeans had neglected to explain to its employees that overtime work is voluntary. Some employees told the association’s inspectors that they were under the impression that overtime was mandatory. The factory was further found to be in violation of Mexican labor laws for neglecting overtime wage calculation.

What’s more, first aid kits were found to be incomplete. There was no fire safety protocol, no fire prevention training, and the factory did not even consider its workers’ lives valuable enough to so much as carry out even one fire drill. Better still, the association found missing and spent fire extinguishers throughout the facility. If so much as a spark caught in that building, it would have been an awful bloody disaster.

Add offense to injury: Safety data sheets at the plant were not even in Spanish.

The U.S. Fair Labor Association further noted similar violations at Levi Strauss-connected factories in China, India, Portugal, the Philippines and Thailand.

The company also successfully fended off a lawsuit filed on behalf of 30,000 workers in the U.S. commonwealth of Saipan — a notorious tax shelter. Levi’s was the lone holdout among some 27 garment makers that settled with the Saipan factory workers, who claimed to have been subjected to abhorrent working conditions. The companies, which included Gap, Inc. and “Gymboree” Corp. (apologies, I cannot write that word without quotations), admitted no wrongdoing in the matter but settled to the tune of $6.4 million. Levi Strauss refused to settle and eventually a U.S. judge ordered them released from the suit.

Lucky, lucky them.

What would Whitman have written about such a uniquely American company?

Would he have joyously celebrated an institution which left its equal daughters and equal sons to rot in the baking Texas sun?

Would the great poet have rejoiced in the servitude of those not fortunate enough to live on allegedly free soil?

Oh yes, perhaps he would have taken up for a company that stitches $5 of cloth together and resells it for nearly $100.

Or would he have beat his breast in bitter sadness and populist fury at what the “grand, sane, towering, seated Mother” America had wrought on her children?

I think Levi’s image of America as a flickering, submerged piece of glowing line art, expiring in the black and white night to the silent sound of flying fireworks is entirely fitting and entirely depressing.

america_according_to_levis

Just what message is this company trying to send to those who made them what they are today?

There is a Web site which accompanies this new ad campaign. It commands the Disciples of Levi to “go forth” and write (I am not kidding) “a new Declaration of the United States of America.” In their best pseudo-poetic tone, this site cheers the “general of the new revolution” to take up a pen.

“Add your words, your images, your voice to a new declaration, refined in the spirit of today’s America,” it proclaims. “An America in which we hold these truths to be self-evident …”

These “truths” are, in fact, user-generated content. In the “gallery” below, that new “declaration” is unfurled.  However, at time of this writing, only one bit of truth can be found therein.

A deadly insightful user writes: “Clever Consumerism:  Profound, Profane, and Provactive [sic] Parcels of Punditry.  Freedom Fighters?  Existent Existentially; Emotional, Eternal.”

Amen, sir or madam. Amen.

So America, “strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich, Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,” do what you do best when provoked. Strike out, generals of the new revolution, and give Levi Strauss a piece of your declaration. By their mockery of your poor, your weak and your huddled masses; by advertising elegies on the demise of your nation, using the very words of your great gray poet against you; and by their own shallow copy, splayed about the Internet seeking without earnest a new “declaration” … They have invited your words, your just anger, your scorn.

I look forward to seeing what this page looks like in a week’s time.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a cable television subscription to cancel.

Rush Limbaugh goes over the moon with new conspiracy

Right-wing radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh must think he’s locked in a dead-eye game of one-upsmanship with Glenn Beck for the crown of crazy.

In a stunning, breathless rant during Thursday’s show, Limbaugh claimed NASA’s mission in search of water on the moon is really a trial run for the 30,000-pound “Massive Ordnance Penetrator” bomb being developed by the Department of Defense.

And this, coming from a man who feels those who question the official theory of the 9/11 attacks are “kooks” in need of “rehab.”

Then again, he would know a thing or two about rehab.

But this diatribe is enough to leave the most jaded, conspiracy-hardened David Icke fan with glazed-over, reptilian eyes.

Responding to one of his callers who suggested that bombing the moon may be viewed as an “aggressive” act by creatures potentially living there, Rush agreed and took the notion 10 steps further, half-way attacking President Obama in the process.

The following is a transcript, copy + pasted directly from Limbaugh’s Web site (yes, even that image), with my emphasis added.

CALLER:  Hey, I want to comment something we don’t hear much about.  We’re getting ready to bomb the moon, and what kind of message does that send not only to the world but to the universe if there is life out there, such — such aggressive action?  It’s really surprising to me. You know, we don’t know actually what is living on the moon.

RUSH:  Let me give you the details of this.  I actually think what this is is a test of the new weapon that… (laughing) I think it’s a test of the new weapon that we learned about yesterday, the rushoverthemoonMassive Ordnance Penetrator, the MOP. This is a… (interruption) I don’t know, seems like a lot of military weapons sound like tools in a porno movie.  Massive Ordnance Penetrator.” What it is is a bunker-busting bomb.  It’s supposedly being developed to be able to take out Iranian nuke sites 200 feet below ground, and the Pentagon’s working on it and getting ready to deploy it on the B-2 bomber, which is the stealth bomber. So maybe this is a test run for the MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.  We are going to bomb the moon.  NASA,  Friday, tomorrow, we’re going to bomb the moon, no preconditions, no negotiations!

What did the moon do to us?  Is somebody up there on the moon doing things that only Obama knows about? We’re going to bomb the moon. You know why?  The stated reason for bombing the moon near the South Pole of the moon, is they want to find out if in the explosion, the plume, if there’s water.  It’s an unending quest for life.  ‘Cause we’re all gonna die, you know. Leafy green vegetables, yesterday, were reported to be the number one cause of death now from Center for Science in the Public Interest so we’re all going to have to go somewhere eventually.  And maybe the moon’s a rest stop on the way to Alpha Centauri. (interruption) Yeah.  You would think that Obama would try sanctions first to see if the moon would give us the water.

[SNIP]

We have the vanity that makes us believe that improving our standard of living typified by the kind of cars we drive can destroy our climate, and thus, our ability to live.  We are so vain, we actually think we have this ability, this power. At the same time, we have this massive inferiority complex.  “There have to be other people out there! There have to be other life forms,” and naturally, if there are, they are all 25 billion times as smart as we are — and that’s why we must find them! “Because they have learned how to have peace forever: No war, no bombs, no sickness, no pestilence, no insects, no cockroaches.  They are smarter, wherever they are, than we are, and yet we have such vanity that we can destroy our own planet, and we are in the process so we have to find somewhere else to go, someday, and the moon is an inviting target. It’s relatively close. But the guy’s right.  If there are smarter people than us out there — and, of course, goes without saying they would have to be — and they have brought peace throughout the universe except for earth and we’re bombing the moon, this could set up a retaliatory attack! You know, wait ’til the meteorites organize when they hear about this, folks.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Steppenwolf: “Rock me, baby. Rock me, baby. All night long.”  Well, the moon is not going to be pristine, but I really think we ought to drop the MOP on Iran and see if there’s any water underneath there.  If we want to find water, let’s drop the MOP on Iran.

Dizzy yet? Let’s bring this space case back to Earth with a few facts on the very legitimate NASA mission and the DoD’s horrifically large bomb.

NASA is not dropping the “Massive Ordinance Penetrator” on the moon. It is smacking our celestial neighbor with a spent rocket weighing some 2.2 TONS, carrying the destructive force equivalent that of 1.5 TONS of dynamite. The spectacular affair is expected to displace some 350 TONS of moon junk and should be visible to pretty much anyone on Earth equipped with a basic telescope.

The massive plume of rock and soil will be examined by scientists in hopes of proving that water exists on the moon. The mission should provide definitive answers to questions raised by India’s groundbreaking lunar swat last month, which revealed that frozen H20 is indeed present.

This is hardly a trial-run for an unprovoked attack on Iran. It’s more like every nerd’s dream come true … Short of, say, getting laid on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise.

Furthermore, the “Massive Ordinance Penetrator” is much bigger than what NASA is about to drop on our cheesy green friend. The MOP, clocking in at 30,000-pounds, will be the largest bomb America has ever used, if we ever get around to doing such a horrid thing. It does not, however, even hold a candle to the “Divine Strake” bomb — a 700 TON behemoth of heavy ammonium nitrate fuel oil emulsion strapped to a 300-pound C4 charge — which was almost detonated on American soil by the Bush administration. It would have been the largest controlled detonation in military history.

Sadly, we cannot all be as insightful as el Rushbo. When that advanced alien race finally gets around to launching its own brand of shock and awe on planet Earth, let us not forget to cry out in despair and humiliation at how wrong we were for not listening to the warnings of such a wide — I mean, wise — man.

For now, and for posterity’s sake, let’s just listen to our C.S. Lewis, Jr. records and get ready to blow up the moon … In a manner of speaking.

(Unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis, Jr.? Watch this …)