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Rich People Have Problems, Too

Women tend to resent paying alimony and it can hurt a man’s pride to receive it, according to an October 30 piece in The Times. The first example is singer Kelly Clarkson, who has to pay her ex, a Hollywood agent,  $150,000/month plus $45,000/month in child support (although she has primary custody). “Ms. Clarkson’s monthly income is $1.9 million,” we learn. “She follows in the wake of other female stars whose settlements were way steeper: Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Rosanne Barr, Kirstie Alley and Janet Jackson have all paid hugely in their divorces.”

What did Jane Fonda pay Tom Hayden, I wondered? (The Atlanta Braves are in the World Series, the fans still do their offensive “Tomahawk chop war chant,” and just last night I flashed on Jane and Ted Turner a-hooing in their box seats with the rest of the morons.) According to online sources, Tom got between $10 and $30 million when he and Jane split in ‘89. Twelve years later she got between $40 and $100 million from Ted. 

This how the Times piece ended: “Some think the entire support system is flawed. ‘No one wants to pay alimony, but women hate it times 10,’ said Emma Johnson, the author of ‘The Kick-Ass Single Mom’ whose blog, Wealthysinglemommy, addresses economic issues for divorced women. Ms. Johnson believes spousal support prolongs problems for everyone involved.

“It’s hard to move on when there’s a monthly reminder of your resentment,” she said. “Equal rights mean equal responsibilities, why is anybody in this day and age paying anyone else’s rent?”

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Judge Judys Career Move

Judge Judy Sheindlin’s net worth is $440 million and rising. After 25 years with CBS, she has cut a deal with Amazon, which will produce a new version of her show. It will be called “Judy Justice” and stream on a platform called IMDb TV.

Accompanying an October 25 piece about Sheindlin’s career move, the Times ran an extremely flattering photo of her, four columns wide by half a page deep. She’s wearing a maroon robe, her typically nasty scowl is replaced by the smile of a satisfied woman, and the background is a shelf full of never-opened “West’s Annotated Codes.” (Sheindlin does not lack authenticity. After a brief stint as a corporate lawyer she became a prosecutor in New York City’s family court system in 1972, She was appointed to the bench in ‘82 and show business beckoned a decade later.)

I’d been thinking about her, too, in the wake of the Dave Chappelle brouhaha. In 2000, while promoting a book in Australia, Judge Judy gave a speech in which she described needle exchange as a project of “liberal morons.” Asked how she would deal with AIDS patients and heroin addicts, the renowned jurist replied  “Give ‘em dirty needles and let ‘em die... I don’t understand why we think it’s important to keep them alive.” The episode was reported by the Brisbane Courier Mail, and Arianna Huffington blogged about it, but their sites have been scrubbed. (The book she was promoting was called “Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.”)

Times reporter Brooks Barnes notes respectfully that Judge Sheindlin “declined to discuss her ‘Judy Justice’ salary.” We infer that Amazon will pay her about 40% more per episode than CBS, and a role has been created for her granddaughter, Sarah Rose, who will play a stenographer. Each episode will end with this young woman in Judge Judy’s chambers, discussing the day’s cases. 

Scheindlin is ditching Petri Hawkins-Byrd, who played her subtly expressive bailiff for 25 years (and actually had been a bailiff in the NYC courts). Back in the ‘80s he had left law enforcement and moved out to Los Angeles, where he was working as a high school counselor. In ‘93 he read an article in the LA Times about Scheindlin’s plan to do a TV show based on her courtroom schtick. He wrote her a congratulatory letter with a PS: “If you ever need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.” Scheindlin had the good sense to hire him.

A few weeks ago Hawkins-Byrd expressed disappointment on a daytime talkshow called The Real: “Back in April when we ended the show I wasn’t told anything. It was ‘Good luck and goodbye.’ The next day my wife was going to have brain surgery so my concentration was on looking after her.” After a few months he contacted Sheindlin, who told him he was being replaced. “She told me I had priced myself out of the job,” he said. “That’s basically a quote.” The ladies of The Real murmured “Wow!” Hawkins-Byrd went on: “But how could I have priced myself out of it? This being a new show, and we had never discussed it, I mean whatever happened to good-faith negotiation?”

The ex-bailiff told the ladies that although his relations with Scheindlin had always been cordial, the popular impression that they were close friends was inaccurate. “In 25 years I never had dinner at her house, we never went out to lunch together. It was more like the guy in the mailroom at Microsoft —his relationship to Bill Gates.” 

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NOVA Does Cannabis 

“The Cannabis Question,” an hour-long documentary, debuted on PBS Sept. 29 and is now streaming on a screen near you. Pot partisans may find it worth watching because 1) You can put faces to names you’ve been seeing in print, like Daniele Piomelli, Yasmin Hurd, Ryan Vandrey, Nora Volkow, and Steve DeAngelo. 2) It points out that the war on marijuana is ongoing and that it upholds mass incarceration. 3) It reflects and reveals Big Pharma’s strategy as Total Prohibition crumbles: hold the line at the Under-21s and expectant mothers, and maintain the Treatment Racket’s reason for being. 

The Koch Brothers are the main funders of PBS these days, and we’re told up-front, “Major funding for The Cannabis Question was provided by the David H. Koch Foundation For Science.”  The budget was ample and the production values are top-notch.

“The Cannabis Question” pretends to tell a history, but it’s a denatured history devoid of struggle. “Reefer Madness” gets ridiculed, of course, but there is no mention of NIDA-funded researchers upholding 50 years of Prohibition. (All the researchers taking part have been beneficiaries of addictive grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.) There’s no mention of Everybody in Power opposing the 1996 initiative by which California voters legalized marijuana for medical use. No mention of Capital-M Medicine’s longstanding assumption that smoking marijuana causes lung cancer, debunked by Tashkin et al in 2005. 

NOVA’s history is nice and smooth: “Cannabis: a multi-billion-dollar industry is moving from the illicit market into our daily lives, creating a stark divide,” says the Narrator.  “More than 80 years after the US ended prohibition, it’s ending another. A majority of Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal... As a multibillion dollar industry rises... As federal law blocks science, an unintended public health experiment is underway.”

Actually, it was an intended public health experiment, initiated by a Berkeley-based physician, Tod Mikuriya, MD, a San Francisco pot dealer, Dennis Peron, and a crew of allies. By 1995 they had compiled enough evidence to convince them it would succeed. On November 5, 1996 some 5.6 million California voters passed Proposition 215, the ballot measure legalizing marijuana for medical use.  The 25th anniversary is upon us, and on Friday there will be a symposium at Fort Mason devoted to the historic event. 

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The passage of Prop 215 really changed the course of history. It had been strongly opposed by President Bill Clinton, his Republican challenger Bob Dole, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the California Medical Association, Gov. Gray Davis, Attorney General Dan Lungren and every law enforcement official in the state except San Francisco DA Terence Hallinan. NOVA devotes one sentence to it.

NARRATOR: In 1996, cannabis was legalized in California for medical use. But federally, it remains a Schedule I drug, like heroin, making research difficult and leaving patients like Elizabeth Pinkham on their own. To cope with her cancer treatments, Elizabeth has turned to cannabis.

ELIZABETH PINKHAM (Medical cannabis user): When you go through chemotherapy, there are side effects that can be…like nauseousness. You may have loss of appetite. You may have difficulty sleeping. So, I was looking for something that wasn’t another big, heavy duty pharmaceutical.

The scene cuts to a Cannabis dispensary. Note the four-word euphemism for Budtender:

PINKHAM: The effects are pretty immediate. I’ve definitely gotten my appetite back a little bit more. It also helps with neuropathy, which is, like, the numbness in your fingers and your toes.

CANNABIS RETAIL SALES REPRESENTATIVE: This is super medicinal. You see how, like, dark and dense that is? That’s indicating more of the Indica family: good for the body, good for pain.

STEVE DEANGELO (Founder of Harborside, Inc.): My staff needs to do the best that they can to try and guide people to the products that are going to serve them the best. But my staff, they’re not trained doctors, and really we should have is cannabis medicine being taught at every single medical school across the United States. And that’s not happening now, because of federal law.

DeAngelo makes a good point —one that O’Shaughnessy’s had been making before he and his partner Dress (a big, hirsute heterosexual man who wears ladies’ schmatas and changed his name legally) opened their magnificent Oakland dispensary in 2006. In its early years Harborside used to carry thousands of copies of our paper. (Dr. Mikuriya’s business plan was to sell it for $1/per copy to doctors and dispensaries, who would give them away free to patrons.) DeAngelo’s support was much appreciated. Also appreciated was his investment in a lab that would test cannabis for its CBD content (which we had been calling for in O’S). But DeAngelo’s main interest was in ascertaining THC content so he could put a higher price on the more potent buds. By the winter of 2015/16, when he was involved in plotting California’s tax-and-regulate scheme, DeAngelo’s dispensary stopped carrying O’Shaughnessy’s. Our editorial in the issue he wouldn’t distribute was a call for “Adding Cannabis to the Curriculum.” The money-mad crafters of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act would force medical users to pay a 15% excise tax, as if the herb wasn’t really medicine after all. 

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