THE TODAY SHOW[DOWN]
Former President George W. Bush reentered the public sphere on November 8 with an exclusive, seemingly endless interview with Matt Lauer, in order to promote his new memoir Decision Points. Airing as a primetime special and followed by a live segment on the The Today Show two days later, the interview was an odd amalgam: one part revisionist history, one part science fiction, two parts therapy session. With a new president growing less popular each day, perhaps Bush decided that now was as good a time as any to begin reframing his legacy. Lauer and Bush breezed past minor issues—his defense of torture, the co-presidency of Dick Cheney—in order to concentrate on what Bush called the “low point” of his time in office: Kanye West’s comments at a Hurricane Katrina telethon, accusing him of racism.
Did nothing else come to mind? 9-11. Two wars. A recession serious enough to warrant capital letters. And, oh yeah, that hurricane? Lauer suggested Bush’s choice of low points might offend some people. The former president interrupted, “Don’t care.” The next day, during the live segment, Lauer played his previously unaired interview with West, in which the rapper approached an apology but never arrived. “In my moment of frustration, I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist,” West said. “I believe that in a situation of high emotion like that, we as human beings don’t always choose the right words.”
In response to the rapper’s non-apology apology, Bush said, “I appreciate that.” Not yet satisfied, Lauer pushed for the sound byte: “Does your faith allow you to forgive Kanye West?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Bush said, without missing a beat. “I’m not a hater.”
West later accused Lauer of forcing him into his remarks. He later tweeted, “I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused.” The mood lighting of The Today Show cannot heal all wounds, it seems.
As the interview came to an end, Bush said he was not interested in a future under the national spotlight. And you believed him—that he really would prefer the solitude of a Texas ranch to weekly stints on morning shows. “The problem with the arena today is a few loud voices can dominate the discussion,” Bush said. “I don’t intend to be one of the voices in the discussion.”
The nation breathes a sigh of relief.
ARIZONA GOES GREEN
It should be an extra-special Thanksgiving in Arizona this year, as many will now be able to spice up their turkey day feast with some good old-fashioned hippie lettuce. That’s right friends, after a tight race Arizona has officially legalized medical marijuana.
For a while it didn’t seem like the measure was going to pass. Following the November 2 election, the portion of votes counted put the wacky-tobacky measure behind, but by Friday it had inched ahead in the tally, ultimately winning by just over 4,000 votes out of 1.67 million total in the statewide referendum. Apparently there are a lot of stoners in Maricopa County, whose 11,000 outstanding ballots were the last to be tallied in determining the official outcome of the proposition.
The bill will allow people with chronic illnesses to either buy or grow laughing grass with a prescription from their doctor, and will permit the opening of up to 124 green goddess dispensaries in the state.
Unfortunately, not everyone is in line to light up. Carolyn Short, the chairwoman of Keep AZ Drug Free, which opposed the measure, told the New York Times that “All of the political leaders came out and warned Arizonans that this was going to have very dire effects on a number of levels…I don’t think that all Arizonans have heard those dire predictions.” Probably because they’re too busy listening to the Grateful Dead and dreaming about mashed potatoes and gravy.
NO MO LOKO
“Do you think people are gonna start stockpiling Lokos?”
“I hear the prices go up right after they outlaw it. At least that’s what happened with Sparks.”
“Imagine selling cans of Loko for fifteen bucks.”
Variations on this conversation have been dominating the past couple of weeks, as word spread of statewide bans on alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko and Joose: first Michigan, on November 4, followed the next day by Oklahoma. (Utah’s state-controlled liquor market had never allowed the drinks to be sold.) In the midst of this fracas, Phusion Projects, the three Ohio State grads behind Four Loko, found an unlikely spokesman in New York restaurateur--and former corporate lawyer -- Eddie Huang, who took to his blog, thepopchef.blogspot.com, to defend the drink last Monday, November 8.
“So, I drink a lot of four loko and its [sic] dope,” Huang began. “That’s really all there is to it. I like gummy bears and I like alcohol that taste [sic] like malt liquor gummy bears.” He went on: “On some Larry Flynt shit, I think a ban should be opposed. Banning four loko flies in the face of logical legal interpretation and the sole reason there is an argument to ban it is because what four loko promotes culturally (cheap booze) is an indefensible political position...My money says they find a way to ban it and some representative will get cheap votes. Bush league shit. Pun intended. And allowing this to happen is going to set a really shitty precedent that will affect an issue in the future that probably had nothing to do with four loko.” Huang (who goes by the Twitter handle @generalloko) concluded by inviting readers to “Four Loko Thursday” at his Lower East Side restaurant, Xiao Ye.
Though Huang titled his post “Four Loko...once and for all,” it wasn’t so conclusive. On Saturday -- two days after the party, and three days after a Four Loko ban in Washington state -- a post appeared under the title “Goodnight Four Loko,” explaining that the State Liquor Authority had put an end to the party: “We followed the law, we were in line with the SLA requirements, but basically, it was understood that if we kept selling Four Loko, we would be seeing a lot of raids.” On Monday, under pressure from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Phusion Projects agreed to stop shipping Four Loko to New York state. On Wednesday morning they announced that the drink would no longer be made with caffeine. (One industrious Brown student was seen leaving Madeira Liquors with 63 cans and, one presumes, an ‘A’ in ENGN0090.)
In retrospect, Four Loko’s demise was about as predictable as those of Sid Vicious or Kurt Cobain. The drink had only emerged to fill a hole in the market left by Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Extra and MillerCoors’ Sparks, both decaffeinated in response to a threatened lawsuit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The fact that alcoholic energy drinks are still officially legal brings into question the role of government regulation. Prohibition was repealed, and a growing number of states has de-criminalized or legalized marijuana. What’s more, caffeine and alcohol are both readily available to be combined. An online video posted Tuesday to buzzfeed.com teaches users how to “Make Your Own Four Loko Homebrew.”