Profiles in Cur-age

[NOTE: Good thing I started this draft two days ago — after seeing the documentary on Tommy Chong on Sundance by accident in the wee hours of the morning. Guess it was timelier than I thought.]



NOUN: 1. A dog considered to be inferior or undesirable; a mongrel. 2. A base or cowardly person.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English curre, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.

[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.]

Among the many mangy curs expected to depart the Department of Justice in the Bushian Exodus 47 days hence, none looms mangier than legal beagle Mary Beth Buchanan. But, today, it appears that Buchanan believes herself to be indispensable. According to Think Progress:

Faiz Shakir / Think Progress: A New Attorney Scandal? Bush-Appointed U.S. Attorney Won’t Vacate Office Under Obama

… Just last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Buchanan’s reign was expected to end. Indeed, when a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally submit their resignations to make way for the new appointees. But Buchanan has other plans:

Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

“It doesn’t serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time,” she said yesterday. […]

More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney’s office.

“I am open to considering further service to the United States,” Ms. Buchanan said.

She’s been described by colleagues as the quintessential loyal Bushie. “She is very focused to the department first of all,” said one assistant U.S. attorney, who asked not to be named. “She’s not independent, and I don’t think she wants to be.”

During her tenure, Buchanan has been criticized for bringing politically-motivated investigations and charges against politicians in Western Pennsylvania, none more famous than the public corruption case against a local high-profile Democrat Dr. Cyril H. Wecht. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh told Congress that the Wecht prosecution is “not the type of case normally constituting a federal ‘corruption’ case brought against a local official.”

Buchanan hired Monica Goodling, and she hand-picked a Pittsburgh attorney to serve as the U.S. prosecutor in Alaska, going over the heads of Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski. She also had a peripheral role in the U.S. attorney scandal

Sad to say, Faiz Shakir’s piece misses the extraordinary point: Mary Beth Buchanan is the Poster Girl for Bushian excesses and Inquisitorial attacks on civil liberties. Remember the imprisonment of Tommy Chong (for selling glass bongs and pipes, and not for any directly drug-related charges)?


That’s right: it was Mary Beth Buchanan who brought that case, having had her operatives purchase said stuff in Western Pennsylvania — her baliwick — so that she could prosecute Chong in HER home, not his.

Chong went to Federal prison for what could, arguably, be the equivalent of imprisoning Lizzy Borden’s hardware store owner for selling axes — i.e. an axe may have been used in the crime.*

[* And, the rationale was contained this bizarre sorites:

  • some drug dealers are funding terrorism
  • selling marijuana is being a drug dealer
  • marijuana dealing funds terrorism
  • you smoke marijuana in a pipe, and therefore
  • selling marijuana pipes funds terrorism

[I know it sounds insane. In fact … it is.]

Tommy Chong released from prison
by Brooke Thorsteinson (03 Nov, 2004)

Celluloid stoner freed after serving time for selling bongs.

Pot comedian and stoner icon Tommy Chong of the classic Cheech and Chong movies was released from the Taft Correctional Facility in California on July 7, 2004.

As we reported back in September 2003, Tommy Chong was sent to prison for nine months, had to pay a fine of $20,000, and was forced to forfeit $120,000 in assets after being busted for selling mail order bongs (CC#47, Tommy Chong goes to jail).

Chong’s business, Nice Dreams, was investigated during the Operation Pipe Dreams witch-hunt (CC#43, Bong shops under attack!). Federal agents in Pittsburgh — one of only two states which consider bongs themselves to be illegal — ordered his bongs over the Internet, snaring the stoner star.


[Jay] Leno inquired as to why Chong would have been busted for selling a bong when anyone could easily buy one off the street. Chong explained that a bong with his picture on it was ordered over the internet and then “sent to Pennsylvania to a little headshop run by the DEA.”

Leno pointed out the questionable legality of the arrest by asking, “They’ve asked you to send it, isn’t that entrapment?”

Chong humorously answered, “Yeah, but this is America — there’s no such thing as entrapment anymore.”

Yeah. Funny as hell.


Buchanan in her Pittsburg office

On December 4, 2003 Dean Kupiers wrote in LA City Beat:

… Sitting in the visitation area inside Taft Correctional Institution, a privately run federal prison plunked in the Iraq-like oilfields of California’s Central Valley, Tommy Chong found out the hard way that Ashcroft’s Department of Justice is now busting thoughtcrime. The 65-year-old writer and director is astonished to find that his movies, in part, earned him nine months in the federal pen.

“They came after me because of the movies, Up in Smoke, Cheech & Chong, and because of my act since 1968,” says Chong. “They took my character to be my real persona.”

Is it your real persona? I have to ask.

“No,” Chong chuckles. “It’s a character. It’s like the Furry Freak Bros. Cheech & Chong are like comic-strip characters. Everybody knows that the real Cheech isn’t the Cheech from Up in Smoke, and the real Tommy Chong isn’t the Tommy Chong from the ‘Hey man’ dude.

“But I was selling bongs with my picture on ’em. And they said, ‘Well, this is Tommy Chong.’ But I was like Christopher Reeve doing a Superman promotion. They [U.S. Attorneys] never saw it that way. And they wanted to make an example of me. Really, what they wanted to do was to shut down the whole culture.”

Clearly, Chong’s playing both sides. He’s not the headbanded, acid-guitar-wielding ur-stoner from the movies, but he is sometimes indistinguishable from that character, and he has embraced that image in public. Just like a lot of other performers. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, used quotes from his ultra-violent Terminator movies, like “Hasta la vista, baby,” when campaigning for governor. Chong was right to assume that this was not a crime.

Until now. The current U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), unlike any in the last 30 years, has changed the rules. Since 9/11, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has run ads equating marijuana use with supporting terrorism, and the DOJ has taken that outrageous pronouncement to the next level, equating glassware sales with drug dealing.


On February 24, federal agents launched two simultaneous national sweeps for purveyors of drug paraphernalia, Operation Pipe Dreams out of the U.S. Attorney’s office in western Pennsylvania, and Operation Headhunter out of the Northern District of Iowa. Under an apparently little-used 1980s federal law, they scooped up umpteen thousand bongs, pipes, roach clips, and even rolling papers from mail-order and Internet suppliers whose shipments crossed state lines. One of those was the Gardena, California, business run by Chong’s son Paris, called Nice Dreams Enterprises, doing business as Tommy Chong Glass.

Fifty-five individuals and companies were busted across the country that day. A few others got prison time. The one who got the longest sentence was Tommy Chong. He reported to prison on October 8, and he’ll be there until July 2004. A judge recently rejected requests for home detention or early release.

“Tommy’s the only one that’s gotten a federal sentence,” says Allen St. Pierre, spokesperson for the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML.


And as for Tommy’s sentence being longer than any of the other 55 individuals and entities popped on February 24, [Mary Beth] Buchanan says that happened precisely because Chong was so cooperative.

“It’s inaccurate for him to state that he was singled out,” she says, “because what’s different about the Chong case are that his charges were by ‘information’ – which means that the matter wasn’t presented to a grand jury. Thomas Chong waived indictment to the grand jury and pleaded guilty to the charges. So he came forward and admitted his guilt.”

So much for being a nice guy. Even Chong now admits it was a mistake to plead guilty. “They really ambushed me,” says Chong. “Had I known that I was gonna get jail time, I would have fought it.

“The DEA agent that busted me said, ‘We don’t want your son or your wife, although we could indict them, too. But if you just give yourself up, don’t make it a political or a publicity thing, then nothing will happen to you,’” Chong adds. “And the last thing that he said to me was, ‘You don’t want to be a martyr.’”

Chalk one up to Mary Beth Buchanan. Or, speaking of Lizzy Borden (the original of which was acquitted of the crime that inspired the rhyme), remember the Rob Black and Lizzy Borden (different Lizzy) bust for extreme pornography? The one that was later thrown out by the Federal appeals court?


The one that again used entrapment in Western Pennsylvania to try and convict two California residents?

Mary Beth Buchanan again.

There’s a wealth of information on her, but the core is this: she has engaged in political cases for the Bush Administration from day one under John Ashcroft, she HIRED Monica Goodling (and may well end up subpoenaed herself in the ongoing Gonzogate Investigation), was a participant in the whole firing of US attorneys mess, up to her eyeballs. She was in on the ground floor in the setup of anti-porn, anti-pot and anti-everything else stuff in the Justice Department, including the decision to revive the Evil Old Memphis “Miller v. California” style trials that allowed Federal persecutors [sic] to try Harry Reems for Deep Throat, and Larry Flynt for HUSTLER (which was where Flynt was shot, emerging from the courthouse).

Her handprints are all over the 8 years that Max Hardcore has been sentenced to prison for (even though the tapes were purchased from a jurisdiction that Hardcore had explicitly told his fulfillment house NOT to send merchandise to — another sleazy Justice Department case that may well fall apart on appeal).

Libertarian Reason Magazine says this of Buchanan’s decision NOT to leave office:

Mary Gets Quite Contrary

Radley Balko | December 5, 2008, 9:18am

… It was Buchanan, you might remember, who prosecuted Tommy Chong for selling glass-blown bongs over the Internet. Soon after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fighting porn would be a priority during his tenure, Buchanan brought the first federal obscenity case in 20 years, against porn producer Extreme Associates. She also prosecuted Karen Fletcher, believed to be the first person convicted on federal obscenity charges for distributing written material. Despite an embarassing defeat in court, Buchanan is also still pursuing charges against Pennsylvania medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht, a case so reeking in political opportunism that former Bush 41 Attorney General Dick Thornburgh agreed to represent Wecht, and has since publicly accused Buchanan of using her office for baseless, partisan prosecutions of Democrats.

I’ve written pretty extensively of what I think is one of Buchanan’s most outrageous cases. It’s her prosecution of Dr. Bernard Rottschaefer, a Pennsylvania physician Buchanan put in prison for allegedly writing Oxy prescriptions in exchange for sex. Since Rottschaeffer’s conviction, Buchanan’s case has fallen to pieces, as each of the five witnesses who testified to getting illegal prescriptions from Rottschaeffer have since been shown to have lied. Buchanan refuses to reopen the case. She also refuses to pursue perjury charges against her star witness, Jennifer Riggle, who explicitly conceded in letters to her boyfriend that she lied on the witness stand.

Buchanan has made no secret of her ambition for elected office. During her tenure as a federal prosecutor she has actively sought out high-profile, often dubious cases to win favor with her superiors in the Bush administration. It’s mostly worked. She’s been promoted twice. But it also makes it extremely unlikely she’d have a place in an Obama administration….



Actually, this is not so much delusional as it seems a political gambit. She “offers” to continue jackbooting around, and she spins the request to resign in some politically favorable manner. Or, Hallucination-Case Scenario, they actually keep her on.

Since the latter is fundamentally fantasy, and since Buchanan may be evil, but she ain’t dumb, figure this as a way of drumming up publicity for a run for office, perhaps for Pennsylvania Attorney General, or, perhaps for retiring Senator Arlen Spector’s seat, which comes open in 2010. (A quick check shows that Specter is maybe NOT retiring? He would be 80, and has cancer, but what the hell, it’s the Senate.)

Or for potentially DEAD Arlen Specter’s seat in 2010.

How’s that?

Take a look at my essay from a couple weeks back “The Rule of Law” and ask yourself whether or not we need to prosecute those who attempted to politicize the function of “justice” in this society and then ask, instead of worrying about Black and Borden’s RETRIAL in 2009, shouldn’t we be pulling for anything that would REMOVE a partisan hack like Buchanan from the administration of justice?

The Constitution is in parlous condition, and Mary Beth Buchanan is a prime example of why.


Which is the reason for this profile in Cur-age.

But, of course, idiologickal idiocy knows no bounds. Stephen Bainbridge manages to find the silver lining of ‘leftist hypocrisy’ in this turd cloud:

US Attorney Hiring and Firing

A lot of people got very worked up when George Bush fired some US Attorneys for political reasons. Now some of those same people are exercised over the refusal of a Bush-appointed US Attorney to resign so that Obama can replace her.

I don’t think you can have it both ways. Either the US Attorney job is a political one or not.

The tradition of having US Attorneys resign when a new president takes office emerged so that the new president could make political appointments of the key personnel that would be enforcing the new administration’s legal priorities. Firing US Attorneys for failing to advance those priorities differs neither in degree nor kind.

Posted on Friday, December 05 2008

You see what you want to see, I guess.

The only capper I can think of to end this is a physical gesture, difficult to convey in this medium, but I’ll try:




cross-posted from his vorpal sword

Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.