a very good friend of moe’s and mine unexpectedly died yesterday. apparently, his wife, moe’s friend trudy, woke up yesterday morning and found him dead in the kitchen. it was very traumatic for everyone, including me, surprisingly enough, despite the fact that i didn’t know him that well. he was relatively young, healthy and strong, literally had everything a man could want, and yet he’s dead.

i spent all day yesterday in a fog, wondering why him and not me. in spite of the fact that i was terrifically tired, and slept through the night, i woke up in the same fog this morning.


Jesus: Tales from the Crypt
February 23, 2007
by Tim McGirk

Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you ‘The Titanic’ is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he’s sinking is Christianity.

In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn’t resurrected –the cornerstone of Christian faith– and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.

No, it’s not a re-make of “The Da Vinci Codes’. It’s supposed to be true.

Let’s go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.
Israel’s prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn’t associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn’t afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names.

There was also this little inconvenience that a few miles away, in the old city of Jerusalem, Christians for centuries had been worshipping the empty tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christ’s resurrection, after all, is the main foundation of the faith, proof that a boy born to a carpenter’s wife in a manger is the Son of God.

But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.

Ever the showman, (Why does this remind me of the impresario in another movie,”King Kong”, whose hubris blinds him to the dangers of an angry and very large ape?) Cameron is holding a New York press conference on Monday at which he will reveal three coffins, supposedly those of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. News about the film, which will be shown soon on Discovery Channel, Britain’s Channel 4, Canada’s Vision, and Israel’s Channel 8, has been a hot blog topic in the Middle East (check out a personal favorite: Israelity Bites) Here in the Holy Land, Biblical Archeology is a dangerous profession. This 90-minute documentary is bound to outrage Christians and stir up a titanic debate between believers and skeptics. Stay tuned.

The myth of Muslim support for terror
The common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews.
February 23, 2007
By Kenneth Ballen

WASHINGTON – Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland’s prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world’s most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are “never justified”; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?

Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that’s an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts – and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as authentic religious practice.

Terror Free Tomorrow’s 20-plus surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries – not exactly the profile of hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of “protest vote” against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore, the enemy is the violence they exalt.

Our surveys show that not only do Muslims reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.

America’s goal, in partnership with Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as Americans do.

and yet…

Poll shows U.S. views on Muslim-Americans
Nearly half of those surveyed say some rights should be restricted
Dec. 17, 2004

ITHACA, N.Y. – Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans, according to a nationwide poll.

The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims’ civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Disturbing news
Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim-Americans.

“It’s sad news. It’s disturbing news. But it’s not unpredictable,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society. “The nation is at war, even if it’s not a traditional war. We just have to remain vigilant and continue to interface.”

The survey found 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted in any way.

The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim-Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.

Cornell student researchers questioned 715 people in the nationwide telephone poll conducted this fall. The margin of error was 3.6 percentage points.

37 percent believe terrorist attack likely
James Shanahan, an associate professor of communications who helped organize the survey, said the results indicate “the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties” in a time of war.

While researchers said they were not surprised by the overall level of support for curtailing civil liberties, they were startled by the correlation with religion and exposure to television news.

“We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding,” Shanahan said.

According to the survey, 37 percent believe a terrorist attack in the United States is still likely within the next 12 months. In a similar poll conducted by Cornell in November 2002, that number stood at 90 percent.


again, i worked on the moisture festival program all day, but i’m getting somewhere today. i completed the artwork for the cover, which is going to the printer tomorrow. also i had to totally reorganise the layout for the black and white pages: i originally estimated that it was going to be 16 pages, but they’ve got 16 pages of advertising, so i had to make it 24 pages, which means carefully taking apart the 16-page layout and pasting it into the 24-page layout, and then tweaking things until everything fits. now that i’ve actually got a working dummy, i’ve been able to finallise the layout for each page, and discover where i need to make filler. they’ve still got 20 ads to place, but they’re allegedly in my inbox (i haven’t checked mail all day, because i was too busy doing other things), so if everything goes well, there will be a finished program by tomorrow evening, or tuesday at the latest. then it’s just a matter of printing, which i’m making arrangements for, and, if everything goes well, i’ll hand off the artwork to troy, the printer, on wednesday or thereabouts. then there’s the matter of folding, collating and stapling, but that doesn’t happen until the printing is finished, and, to be honest, at that point it’s SEP.



yesterday, i worked most of the day on the program for the Moisture Festival. in spite of the fact that sandy and i agreed a month and a half ago that yesterday would be the last day we would accept materials from advertisers, there were only 6 out of 27 ads in the program. i got an email this morning that said that most of the program ads would be in no later than tuesday, but some of the advertisers hadn’t even been contacted yet.

we’ve got a little more than 3 weeks until the moisture festival starts, and we agreed a month and a half ago that we would have all of the ads by yesterday. plus the person responsible for putting the program together (me) has drunk puppet night performances, fremont philharmonic rehearsals, moisture festival rehearsals, ballard sedentary sousa band rehearsals and banda gozona rehearsals, which have started in the past month and a half.

a month and a half ago, i was eager to do the program, because it would give me something to do, but nobody seemed to be interested in kicking some ass and getting ads to me. now, when i’ve got more than i can handle already, they’re saying “what about the program?” because of the fact that this is very likely the last year i will be involved with the moisture festival (we’re moving to some as-yet-to-be-determined location at the end of the year), i don’t want peoples’ last impression of me to be “he didn’t get the programs for the moisture festival finished in time”, i’m doing them despite the fact that i don’t really have either the time or the energy to do them.

and even if the artwork gets completed next week (as currently hoped-for), there still hasn’t been any sign of money for printing, which i have to have before any printing gets done – currently around $1,000 for 5,000 programs, or $1,500 for 10,000 programs – and i’m not going to be able to do any programs without this money… and that’s not to mention the time to fold, collate and staple 5,000 to 10,000 programs…

meanwhile, drunk puppet night started last night. i’m REALLY glad the fremont phil is only playing the first weekend, because running back and forth from the bandstand to the lighting booth several hundred times during the evening, along with playing and running lights (both of which are surprisingly athletic activites), really takes it out of me, especially when i’ve been dealing with moisture festival program stuff all day.

despite the fact that i was running all night, drunk puppet night went surprisingly well. it’s at least in part because the owners of the venue acutely missed DPN6 last year, and when DPN7 was announced at the rebar this year, many people came to it because of it’s previous reputation.

in spite of that, however, this has got to be one of the tamest drunk puppet nights i have ever seen. there were a few reasonably risqué acts (“Queen Schmooquan” and “Stunt Dick” immediately spring to mind), along with the standard alien abduction/nazi experimentation and people either doing, or having done to them, some horrible nasties, but nothing like the show i was involved in for DPN3, which involved a young boy being eaten alive by a larger-than-life squirrel, or the johnny jetpack propulsion labs production, which was a pair of cattle copulating while falling into a container of liquid nitrogen. there is one show by a guy who has written for south park and spongebob squarepants, “The Passion Of The Hair Plugs” which is excellent, however, and worth the $15 cover charge all on it’s own.

so anyway… back to work on the program. <yawn>


By CAPT Doug Traversa

Just when I think nothing will surprise me, Afghanistan throws me a curve ball. Let me set the stage. Maj Apple, Wali, Hamid (our interpreters) and I were sitting in our office having a Deep Discussion about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Somehow the topic of gays serving in the military came up, and Maj Apple and I both think they will be able to openly serve in the military very soon. (I mention this to set the stage, not to start a debate. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me. If they want to come over and fight for their country, it’s fine with me. Welcome.)

Once this topic came up, Wali asked why people were allowed to be openly gay in our country. We explained that in a free society, people are allowed to do pretty much what they please, as long as they are not hurting others, etc.

“But it is so revolting. A man would shame himself to do this.”

“Wali,” I asked, “What would happen to a man in Afghanistan if he openly declared he was gay?”

“That would never happen,” replied Wali, acting as though that was as likely as the Pope converting to Islam.

“I know. But let’s just pretend. For instance, let’s say a famous TV personality decided he wanted to try to change things here, so he announced on TV that he was gay.”

Wali interrupted. “But that would never happen.”

“Maybe it would. Just tell me what you think would happen.”

“His family would kill him immediately,” he said without batting an eye. Remember, Wali represents moderate, westernized, Islam in Afghanistan.

“Why would you kill someone just for being gay?” I pressed.

“Because my religion says so.” Again, as matter-of-fact as though he was explaining why a rock falls to the ground if you pick it up and then let go.

“Let’s suppose he escaped from his family. What would the government do? Would they arrest him?”


“And would they then kill him?”

“Yes. This is an Islamic Republic. Our religion says to.”

“And if someone wanted to leave Islam and join another religion, they would be executed for that too, right?”


The sad thing is, we could have been talking about football scores or the weather. He was not remotely embarrassed or hesitant in any of this. Hamid, however, was very quiet the whole time. I wonder what was going through his head.

“Well, if you believe all this, why would you want to move to America? We allow people to switch religions if they wish, or believe in nothing at all.”

“Do you have people from different religions marry each other?” he asked.

“Yes, all the time,” replied Maj Apple.

“What do they teach the children?”

“Usually they teach them both religions, and let them decide for themselves,” said Maj Apple.

Wali seemed a bit surprised by this. Steam was starting to come out his ears.

“America is not like Afghanistan,” I continued. “Our government does not tell us what to believe. We are free to believe whatever we wish. That is our greatness. We can say whatever we wish, as long as we aren’t threatening to kill someone or violently overthrow the government. We can get on TV and say we think the government is awful, and no one will arrest us.”

Maj Apple gave a brief explanation of how our country was founded by people who wished to worship in their own way. Once this was done, I asked again, “Do you think you could be happy in America? Muslims can leave the faith there, and no one will kill them.”

“That’s okay, as long as I can worship my way, I don’t mind what others do.”

So there you have it, the incongruity of a man who thinks it is perfectly normal to execute gays and apostates in this country, but doesn’t think it’s a big deal if he’s living in the US. No matter what your views on homosexuality, I doubt any readers of The Sandbox want to execute gays (well, maybe some Taliban reading this trying to gather intel). Same thing with people who leave your particular faith. Would you kill them? (Hopefully that’s a rhetorical question). Yet I live with seemingly normal, pleasant, hard-working people who would think nothing of doing this. This is not an isolated incident either. Other Americans have heard the same thing from their interpreters.

Now take this mindset, set temperature to high, and nuke for ten minutes, and you have some idea of the hatred and violence in the hearts of the men we are fighting against. Do you think diplomacy is going to work?

Do you think you can reason with them?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Lafayette judge steps down: Frieling won’t enforce new marijuana law
By Eric Schmidt
February 13, 2007

An associate municipal court judge in Lafayette resigned Monday in protest of stiffer penalties for marijuana possession in the city.

Leonard Frieling, a Boulder criminal-defense lawyer, said he is resigning out of principle after more than eight years as a backup to Lafayette Municipal Judge Roger Buchholz.

“I cannot in good conscience sit on the bench while being unwilling to enforce the municipal ordinances,” Frieling said in a resignation letter to city officials. “Specifically, since you have seen fit to increase the penalty for cannabis possession from a $100 fine (which matches the state penalty) to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail, I find that I am morally and ethically unable to sit as a judge for the city.”

The Lafayette City Council last week passed a first reading of an ordinance increasing the possible penalty for possession of cannabis or drug paraphernalia, which now carries a maximum $100 fine. The change is pending final approval next week.

Frieling said he was willing to enforce the old ordinance despite a personal belief that the war on marijuana is “ridiculous.” He said it makes no sense for cannabis to be illegal for adults who are allowed to drink alcohol, and the proposed penalty in Lafayette would set a bad precedent.

“The state of Colorado has somewhat decriminalized small amounts for personal possession by making it a petty offense with maximum $100 fine,” he said. “I think that it is inappropriate for a municipality that a crime is so much more serious within their city limits than it is statewide.”

Lafayette Mayor Chris Berry said Monday night that he had not seen Frieling’s letter and could not comment on its contents.

Berry said the new pot penalties were among several changes supported by the city’s law enforcement. The idea was to increase the maximum penalty to give judges more discretion when sentencing marijuana offenders under different circumstances, he said.

“My interpretation was that it would be up to the judge,” Berry said. “A sitting judge could still make (the fine) $100.”

Mayor Pro Tem David Strungis — who cast the sole vote against the ordinance — said the police chief and sitting judge showed “no evidence that we have a pandemic of marijuana-possession arrests in Lafayette.”

“My feeling was that punishments have to be within reason, and the punishment has to fit the crime,” Strungis said. “To put someone in jail for a year for less than an ounce of marijuana — I couldn’t justify that.”


four-legged duck

Tiny duckling has rare mutation: 4 legs
February 18, 2007

LONDON – Webbed feet run in Stumpy’s family, but he’s the first to have four of them.

A rare mutation has left the eight-day-old duckling with two nearly full-sized legs behind the two he runs on. Nicky Janaway, a duck farmer in New Forest, Hampshire, 95 miles southwest of London, showed the duckling to reporters Saturday.

“It was absolutely bizarre. I was thinking ‘he’s got too many legs’ and I kept counting ‘one, two, three, four,'” Janaway said.

Stumpy would probably not survive in the wild, but Janaway, who runs the Warrawee Duck Farm in New Forest, says he is doing well.

“He’s eating and surviving so far, and he is running about with those extra legs acting like stabilizers,” Janaway said.

The mutation is rare, but cases have been recorded across the world. One duckling named Jake was born in Queensland, Australia, in 2002 with four legs but died soon after.


Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab presents Drunk Puppet Nite #7!

At Re-Bar 1114 Howell Street at Boren, Seattle

Friday & Saturday. February 23 & 24; March 2 & 3; 9 & 10

Show at 8:00 SHARP; Door open at 7:00 21 and over only w/ID

Tickets $15 at the door; NO reservations!

For info call Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab (206) 528-7799

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the 7th Drunk Puppet Nite! And the talented freaks at Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab are inviting our favorite puppeteers to expose themselves in public!

Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab is once again hosting the outrageous mix of puke, politics, porn, poetry and puppets that we call Drunk Puppet Nite! This is an evening of puppetry from beyond the pale; a chancefor Seattle’s best, and most notorious, puppeteers to expose their ids in public. We dare to enter the nether realms of puppetry. Drunk Puppet Nite is subversive; it’s ugly, it’s ridiculous, it’s sublime, it’s controversial, it’s lovely, it’s righteously political, it’s literary.

This year, by popular demand, we are moving back to the Re-Bar at the base of Capitol Hill. No one knows what to expect from Drunk Puppet Nite. Over these three weekends, our puppeteers have no boundaries. Performers include Queen Shmooquan; Johnny Jetpack; members of Circus Contraption, Cry of the Rooster, Islewilde, Naked Puppets, Tears of Joy, and all of your Monkey Wrench favorites! Musical guests include Miles & Karina and The Fremont Philharmonic! No two evenings are the same.

Monkey Wrench is a cluster of Seattle area puppeteers who are working to expand the public’s definition of puppetry by bringing their blend of the surprising, the bizarre and the artistically excellent to audiences around the Puget Sound. Monkey Wrench is the group responsible for Frankenocchio, The Mermaid who Broke my F*cking Heart, Halfpenny Opera and the upcoming Dracula.

For more information call Monkey Wrench at (206) 528-7799 or email producer Josh Okrent at [email protected]


the four CDs worth of Holy Modal Rounders mp3s that i was waiting for yesterday didn’t come through for some, unknown reason (which is very sad indeed), but the other stuff did.

except some of them were mp3s and some of them were FLAC files, and the only player i have that understands FLAC is on windoesn’t – only this time it’s the only thing that does for a change. is there a way to convert FLAC to mp3, or something that is compatible with my ipod? i realise that FLAC is infinitely preferable (yes, i have ears), but as far as i can tell, i can’t put FLACs in my ipod, and i really would like to take this music with me, rather than having to carry around my windows box for one album…


i stayed awake last night for mahasivaratri. in between bouts of internet activity (i downloaded about 15 CDs worth of music, and there’s four more that are currently downloading with an ETA of about an hour), and another art project that i got started (think multiple, big stencils), i actually spent some time meditating as well, which is the first time i’ve been able to meditate for more than 10 minutes or so since my injury. oddly enough, i don’t feel tired, but my body feels tired: i’m as mentally alert as i am at lunch time pretty much daily, but i’m having extreme difficulty typing, for example, because both my hands are so tired that they’re hitting the wrong letters about 90% of the time. my mind is sort of fuzzy and it takes me longer to form a sentance than it would normally. my vision, especially close up, is extremely blurred…

i can’t decide whether i want to give my body a rest, or whether i want to go for a bike ride… it’s such a gorgeous day… 8)


Research Supports Medicinal Marijuana
AIDS Patients in Controlled Study Had Significant Pain Relief
By Rick Weiss
February 13, 2007

AIDS patients suffering from debilitating nerve pain got as much or more relief by smoking marijuana as they would typically get from prescription drugs — and with fewer side effects — according to a study conducted under rigorously controlled conditions with government-grown pot.

In a five-day study performed in a specially ventilated hospital ward where patients smoked three marijuana cigarettes a day, more than half the participants tallied significant reductions in pain.

By contrast, less than one-quarter of those who smoked “placebo” pot, which had its primary psychoactive ingredients removed, reported benefits, as measured by subjective pain reports and standardized neurological tests.

The White House belittled the study as “a smoke screen,” short on proof of efficacy and flawed because it did not consider the health impacts of inhaling smoke.

But other doctors and advocates of marijuana policy reform said the findings, in today’s issue of the journal Neurology, offer powerful evidence that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification of cannabis as having “no currently accepted medical use” is outdated.

“This should be a wake-up call for Congress to hold hearings to investigate the therapeutic use of cannabis and to encourage more research,” said Barbara T. Roberts, a former interim associate deputy director in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, now with Americans for Safe Access, which promotes access to marijuana for therapies and research.

Countless anecdotal reports have suggested that smoking marijuana can help relieve the pain, nausea and muscular spasticity that often accompany cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other ailments. But few well-controlled studies have been conducted.

The new study enrolled 50 AIDS patients with severe foot pain caused by their disease or by the medicines they take.

The team first measured baseline pain, both subjectively (patients ranked their pain on a scale of 1 to 100) and with two standardized tests, one involving a small hot iron held to the skin and another involving hot chili pepper cream.

Then, for five days, patients lit up at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. using a calibrated puff method that calls for inhaling for five seconds, holding one’s breath for 10, then waiting 45 seconds before the next.

The cigarettes were kept frozen and locked in a safe, then thawed and humidified one day before use. Cigarette butts and other debris were collected, weighed and returned to the safe to ensure no diversion for recreational purposes.

Grown on the government’s official pot farm in Mississippi, the drug was about one-quarter the potency of quality street marijuana. The inactive version was chemically cleansed of cannabinoids, the drug’s main active ingredients.

“It smelled like and looked like” normal marijuana, said study leader Donald I. Abrams, a physician at San Francisco General Hospital, where the smoking ward was located. Like the patients, Abrams was not told who had the active pot until the study was over.

Thirteen of 25 patients who smoked the regular marijuana achieved pain reduction of at least 30 percent, compared with six of 25 who smoked placebo pot. The average pain reduction for the real cannabis was 34 percent, compared with17 percent for the placebo.

Opioids and other pills can reduce nerve pain by 20 to 30 percent but can cause drowsiness and confusion, Abrams said. And many patients complain that a prescription version of pot’s main ingredient in pill form does not work for them.

That was true for Diana Dodson, 50, who received an AIDS diagnosis in 1997 after a blood transfusion.

“I have so many layers of pain I can hardly walk,” said Dodson, who was in the new study. Prescription drugs made her feel worse. “But inhaled cannabis works,” she said.

Patients in the study — all of whom had smoked pot previously — reported no notable side effects, though the researchers acknowledged that people unfamiliar with the drug may not fare as well.

Igor Grant, director of the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which funded the research, said the study was probably the best-designed U.S. test of marijuana’s medical potential in decades. He called the results “highly believable.”

But David Murray, chief scientist at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called the findings “not particularly persuasive.” The study was relatively small, he said, and it is likely that those who received the real pot were aware of that, introducing a bias of expected efficacy.

“We’re very much supportive of any effort to ameliorate the suffering of AIDS patients,” Murray said. But even if ingredients in marijuana prove useful, he added, they ought to be synthesized in a pill to make dosing more accurate and to minimize lung damage.

Separately, ending a six-year effort, a Massachusetts group learned yesterday that it had won a legal victory against the DEA in its battle for federal permission to grow its own cannabis for federally approved studies, instead of relying on government pot.

In an 87-page opinion, administrative law judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled that it “would be in the public interest” to allow a University of Massachusetts researcher to cultivate marijuana under contract to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which sponsors medical research on marijuana and other drugs.

The DEA is not obligated to follow the advice of its law judges, but the detailed decision should make it difficult for the agency to balk, said MAPS President Rick Doblin.


Anti-evolution memo stirs controversy
By Jeremy Redmon
February 15, 2007

The Anti-Defamation League is calling on state Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect.

Bridges (R-Cleveland) denies having anything to do with the memo. But one of his constituents said he wrote the memo with Bridges’ approval before it was recently distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” the memo says. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is “a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.”

It also directs readers to a Web site www.fixedearth.com, which includes model legislation that calls the Kabbala “a mystic, anti-Christ ‘holy book’ of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism.” The Web site also declares “the earth is not rotating … nor is it going around the sun.”

The Anti-Defamation League says the assertions in the memo border on anti-Semitism.

“Your memo conjures up repugnant images of Judaism used for thousands of years to smear the Jewish people as cult-like and manipulative,” Bill Nigut, the ADL’s Southeast regional director, wrote in an e-mail to Bridges Thursday. “I am shocked and appalled that you would send this anti-Semitic material to colleagues and friends, and call upon you to repudiate and apologize for distributing this highly offensive memo.”

Bridges denied writing or authorizing the memo.

“I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out,” Bridges said. “I’m not defending it or taking up for it.”

The memo directs supporters to call Marshall Hall, president of the Fair Education Foundation Inc., a Cornelia, Ga.-based organization that seeks to show evolution is a myth. Hall said he showed Bridges the text of the memo and got his permission to distribute it.

“I gave him a copy of it months ago,” said Hall, a retired high school teacher. “I had already written this up as an idea to present to him so he could see what it was and what we were thinking.”

Hall said his wife Bonnie has served as Bridges’ campaign manager since 1996.

Bridges acknowledged that he talked to Hall about filing legislation this year that would end the teaching of evolution in Georgia’s public schools. Bridges said the views in the memo belong to Hall, though Bridges said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with them.

“I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory,” Bridges said. “I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”

Bridges sponsored unsuccessful legislation in 2005 that would have required Georgia’s teachers to introduce scientific evidence challenging evolution.

Asked about the ADL’s call for an apology, Bridges said: “I regret that these people have been offended, but I didn’t offend them because I didn’t put the memo out.”

A Texas lawmaker says he is now “willing to apologize” for giving fellow legislators the memo Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News reported today.

“The stuff that causes conflicts between religious beliefs, you know, I’d never be a party to that,” Texas House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum told the Morning News Wednesday. “I’m willing to apologize if I’ve offended anyone.”

The newspaper reported Chisum made his comments after he learned the Anti-Defamation League was demanding an apology in a letter to his office.

The National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, said the assertion that evolution is linked to an ancient Jewish sect is “bizarre.”

“Evolution is recognized as a central unifying principle of the biological sciences by the scientific community and the education community,” said Glenn Branch, the center’s deputy director.

The non-moving Earth & anti-evolution web page of The Fair Education Foundation, Inc. – O_o

these people make the NATURE’S HARMONIC SIMULTANEOUS 4-DAY TIME CUBE guy look positively normal…

(by the way, if you hadn’t noticed, both of the web sites above were posted by people who are stark raving lunatics)

but people still believe this crap and think you’re EVIL if you disagree with ’em!! – and they’ve apparently got a guy at the federal level who is responsible for making OUR LAWS who agrees with ’em!!

and people wonder why i’m not sure i wouldn’t be happier dead… 8/

and then, to top it all off…

Christian pediatrician denies child service because parents are tattooed
By Brynn Galindo

BAKERSFIELD – A family is turned away by a local pediatrician, they say because of the way they look.

The doctor said he is just following his beliefs, creating a Christian atmosphere for his patients.

Tasha Childress said it’s discrimination.

She said Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.

The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”

For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.

“She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy,” Tasha Childress said.

Merrill won’t speak on camera, but said based on his values and beliefs, he has standards that he expects in his office.

He does that, he said, to ensure the patients he does accept have a more comfortable atmosphere.

According to the American Medical Association and other doctors, he reserves that right.

“In the same sense that any other business person has the opportunity to decline service, be it a restaurant if they’re not dressed properly, be it any other type of business,” said Dr. Ronald Morton, Kern County Medical Society.

Morton said certain ethics apply if a person’s life is in danger, but besides that, there is no requirement to serve anyone they don’t approve of.

“I felt totally discriminated against, like I wasn’t good enough to talk to,” Tasha Childress said, “like he didn’t have to give me any reason for not wanting to see my daughter because I have tattoos and piercings.”

17 News found other patients who had a different experience with Merrill.

“I have tattoos, actually, and no, nothing’s ever been said about it,” Brandi Stanley said, Merrill’s patient.

Childress’ insurance company, Health Net of California, who referred her to Merrill, said in a statement: “We provide our customers with a wide breadth of doctors that meet certain medical quality standards … If a customer doesn’t feel comfortable with a particular physician, it is our responsibility to provide that customer with access to another doctor who does meet their needs.”

But that’s not enough for Childress who wants the policy changed immediately and an apology from the doctor for making her feel like an outsider.

“Really, it didn’t matter what he didn’t want to see us for. It isn’t right,” she said.

Merrill said he will continue to enforce the rules he has in place, which even include no chewing gum in his office.

He said if they don’t like his beliefs, they can find another doctor.


through some unknown coincidence, i was invited to check out a college that claire petersky was going to be attending, along with bruce borntraeger. it was more-or-less what i remember a typical college was like, with various buildings and dormitories. there was something bruce, claire and i were involved with that took place in one of the dormitories, but i don’t remember that part. there was one place, next to the dormitory, where there was a building and a parking lot and a huge earth berm with a road on the other side of it, and a gap so that the parking lot could be accessed from the road, and at the end of the berm, just before the gap, there was a concrete sign embedded in the berm, with faded writing that appeared to be german, and i realised that this had been an old WWI-era fort before it was a college. there was a large sailboat on a trailer in the parking lot, and i went up to it and started climbing on it as though i knew what i was doing. i found a derby hat that had somehow been forced down on the mast, so that it was ripped through the crown and resting on the deck. somehow i got it off, and, in spite of the fact that it was twisted out of shape and totally useless as a hat, i put it on my head anyway, and said that it didn’t matter to me that it wasn’t a hat any longer.


Civil Libertarian
You scored 86% Personal Liberty and 48% Economic Liberty!
A civil libertarian believes in little to no government intervention on personal matters and moderate government intervention on economic matters. As the name implies, a Civil Libertarian’s main concern is with civil liberties – personal matters. They tend to be strongly opposed to war, police powers, victimless crimes, and foreign intervention. Civil Libertarians may tend to believe in a social safety net, but to a lesser extent then most leftists. Strong Civil Libertarians are somewhat inclined towards supporting capitalism as an economic system, while others believe in a “mixed” system between different aspects of capitalism and socialism. A civil libertarian strongly believes in protecting personal liberty. They strongly support self-ownership and privacy.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

other other
You scored higher than 99% on Personal
other other
You scored higher than 99% onEconomic

Link: The Politics Test written by brainpolice on OkCupid

Partial List of IP Blocks Used by US “Terrorist Surveillance Program”

The following partial list of IP blocks are routinely used by the US government entities (supported by private contractors) to gain access to, to monitor, and in some cases, to destroy IT networks. Such activity is related to the US “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Most of the registrants of the blocks listed below are not aware of these activities. Concerned network admins should examine traffic logs closely. A correlation of traffic from several of these IP blocks likely indicates that a network is under surveillance or has had access attempted by the US intelligence community and affiliated entities.

Another thing to note about the program is that access attempts are usually done through Microsoft service ports 1025-1030. Microsoft OS’s allow remote access via these specific ports. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I’ve converted your list to CIDR notation, it’s much more useful this way:

Ex-Agent Ties Firing to CIA Pressure on WMD
By Chitra Ragavan
February 09, 2007

A federal judge has ruled that a CIA agent identified only as “Doe,” allegedly fired after he gathered prewar intelligence showing that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction, can proceed with his lawsuit against the CIA. The judge has ordered both parties to submit discovery requests–evidence they want for their case–to be completed by March 15, according to the CIA agent’s lawyer and a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is defending the CIA in court.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued her ruling after what Doe’s attorney, Roy Krieger, described as an extraordinary, secret status conference by telephone this afternoon that lasted nearly a half an hour. So concerned was the CIA about the agent’s identity becoming public that the Justice Department prevailed upon the judge to issue a highly restrictive order regarding press contacts by the agent and Krieger. The order barred them from “requesting, allowing, encouraging, or directing” any members of the media from appearing at Krieger’s office or even within a two-block vicinity of the building where he works or of any other location of the status conference, until two hours after the conference was completed.

Krieger and his client were also barred from notifying the media ahead of time about the status conference or its location. The judge sealed her order until 2 p.m. today.

“They are worried about his photograph being taken or his likeness being sketched,” Krieger told U.S. News, “because if his appearance became public, we are told we will lose one of our most valued assets because [the asset has] been publicly associated with him.”

At the hearing, Krieger said, Justice Department attorney Marcia Tiersky told Kessler the department wanted to file a motion for summary judgment, leading to dismissal of the case, before discovery commenced. In response to Kessler’s request for a basis for summary judgment, according to Krieger and the Justice Department, Tiersky said that the department would produce affidavits in support of the move. But the judge, indicating that she viewed this as a delaying tactic, said she would allow the discovery process to begin.

This is the second setback for the government in this case. In January, Kessler decided on technical grounds that the CIA employee’s lawsuit could not be dismissed. However, the judge did not rule on the agent’s central claim that he was fired because he refused to alter intelligence that contradicted the Bush administration’s central rationale for the war in Iraq. In that earlier ruling, Kessler said that the covert agent could plausibly argue that his firing was based on allegedly false information placed in his personnel file. Krieger said that his client had gathered intelligence from several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq.

The intelligence was picked up as the United States began its push for invading Iraq in 2003. As has been widely reported, the Bush administration has since failed to find any weapons of mass destruction. The CIA agent has alleged in his suit that supervisors told him they would notify President Bush that he had found contradictory information but that they failed to follow through on their promise.

boytaur dot net?? – somwhere between ZOMG and ROTFLMAO…


the big bois with poise took Miss Indigo Blue‘s “tassel twirling” class this evening. it was a little weird, being one of only 4 men in a class full of women who were learning how to apply pasties, and various other things that involved taking off our shirts… but nobody seemed too hung up about it, and now i have my very own set of pasties with tassels, and i can even twirl them in a variety of ways. aren’t you impressed?


i got a new cell phone the other day. i didn’t really need a new cell phone, but the ringer in phone i had was being “intermittent” – sometimes it would ring and sometimes it wouldn’t – which meant that i was constantly missing important calls to let me know about schedule changes and suchlike, and i figured it would be easier to just get a new phone instead of battling with verizon to get the old one fixed, especially since the old one is two years old anyway.

the ringtones are midi files. there are a ton of “get it now” web sites that say that they have “500,000 FREE” ringtones, or something like that, but you have to subscribe (pay) to get the “free” ringtones, and they don’t have any frank zappa ringtones, even if you do subscribe.

however, there are another ton of frank zappa midi sites, that have totally free midi files, that you can download without having to subscribe to anything…

so now my cell phone rings with “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance”, except for when it’s moe calling, when it rings with “Dirty Love”.

it is still giving me trouble changing “wallpapers” so that i don’t have the obnoxious verizon advertising though, it turns out that the picture i was sending was “the wrong size”, and instead of telling me that it was the wrong size, it was saying “invalid file” when i tried to set it as wallpaper, even though i was able to see it when i downloaded the message, which is a bug, and the “screensaver” won’t turn off (which is very definitely a bug).

also, the “head man” at the verizon store in the mall didn’t know some stuff about the email software that the phone uses, but instead of saying that he didn’t know, he said the technology was different, which i know for a fact (because of the fact that i used to work for openwave, the company that makes the email server software that is used by verizon) is not true… but i didn’t feel like arguing with him, so i left him feeling smug that he didn’t actually have to replace my phone.



so i drove Ganesha The Car down to target to transfer some photos from a smart-disk (for which i do not have a reader) to a CD, so that moe can give back the camera that the smart-disk is from, and when i came out of target, there were a couple of “business” cards on my windshield advertising jeezis.

i really wonder what whoever left them on my windshield was thinking? i drive a car that is covered with sanskrit, that has a license plate that says GANESHA, and a bumper sticker that says JESUS IS A GATEWAY DRUG… do they think a couple of business cards, left by what i have to assume is an anonymous “christian”, are suddenly going to change my mind?

and one of the cards says “If we meet and you forget me, you have lost nothing. If you meet Jesus and forget him, you have lost everything!” with a bumper sticker that says JESUS IS A GATEWAY DRUG, how do they think that i could possibly have forgotten Jesus? if it were not for Jesus, i would not be where i am now. i was a christian, and a christian minister, long before i ever even thought about hinduism – admittedly, it is primarily because i didn’t know about hinduism, but still, that’s one of the many meanings of my JESUS IS A GATEWAY DRUG sticker.

not only that, but i wonder if they would have given me the cards if they met me in person, rather than the anonymity of leaving them on my windshield? to be honest, i’m not sure i would have accepted them if i had been offered them in person, but at the same time, if my experience with “christians” is anything to go by, they probably would have been scared to approach me if they had seen me in person, if for no other reason than they would think that their “christianity” would be offensive to me or something… and, to be honest, i would be offended if someone who didn’t know me, who assumed that i don’t know Jesus, offered these cards to me. it’s very clear to me why the cards don’t have any personally identifying information that i could use to get in contact with them personally.

Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest that divinity within by controlling nature: external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy — by one, or more, or all of these — and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms are but secondary details.

— Swami Vivekananda

sheesh… 8/


according to the latest news from ezra, katharyn is out of the state loony bin again, but i got a call from darol a few days ago asking if i knew how to get in touch with either ezra or katharyn. apparently he’s experienced a “break in” of sorts: someone went into the madhouse kitchen – which is never locked – and “stole” a bunch of kitchenware, including darol’s favourite cast-iron frying pan, which he’s had for the last 30 years, and he thinks katharyn might have taken stuff that she thought was hers… problem is, all of her stuff was cleared out, boxed up and put in storage (at darol’s expense) two years ago, and he’d like to get paid back for the storage. i doubt katharyn has the money to pay darol back, and even if she does, the probability that she will doesn’t seem particularly likely.

if her routine holds, she’ll get into a snit and, when she can’t find anyone in the community who will step forward and bad-mouth darol in public, thus justifying her negative feelings towards him, she will probably file a lawsuit against him… which will probably be a lot more difficult now that she doesn’t have an attorney (she alienated all three of the ones that she had during my 12-year battle with her over custody of ezra, and very likely has not paid them anything)… but i somehow see her not letting that stand in her way, which probably means that she’ll be representing herself… which, if it were anybody else, i’d like to see just for the pure entertainment value, but as it’s the psycho-hose-beast-from-hell, i think i’ll stay away for fear that i’ll set her off and she’ll go after me again…

why didn’t anyone listen to me 15 years ago, when i was saying that the woman was psychotic, but they still wouldn’t let me have custody of my son? and how do i get paid back for all of the costs of paying for my son’s schooling because she was holding him back in order to be eligible for Aid for Families with Dependent Children welfare handouts, child support that i paid to his mother in spite of the fact that he was in my care, the cost of a last-minute transcontinental flight from boston, and legal fees that i was forced to pay for 15 years during the time i was saying this?


Iranian hackers possess Windows Vista

Windows Pirated!

Tehran, Feb 5, Taliya News – Cracked version of Windows Vista is already available at Iranian software markets.

Less than two months after presentation of last edited version of Microsoft Company’s latest operating system, Windows Vista and despite all anti-crack locks installed by that system’s designers, Iranian hackers managed to beat Microsoft’s anti-copying tricks and present the “fully cracked” version of this new Windows software to their Iranian clients!

The copied version of Vista is presently presented by an Iranian software company and provides the possibility for its owner to have a private “Serial Number” and thus, to “legalize!” his cracked Windows copy. The retail sale price of the Iranian cracked version of Windows Vista is 80,000 Rials (around US $8) while this good’s original version is sold around $650 at world markets!

This version of Windows is the first in its kind that enables the users to register his Windows “fully legally!!” at Microsoft website and take full advantage of that company’s after sale services, thus sacking over $640 of illegal benefit!

We have still received no news on Microsoft officials’ reaction to the cracking of their final version of Windows Vista.


we are writing you about your claim for social security disability benefits. based on a review of your health problems you do not qualify for benefits on this claim. this is because you are not disabled under our rules.

we have determined that your condition is not severe enough to keep you from working.

we realise that your condition prevents you from doing your past work, but it does not prevent you from doing jobs that are less demanding.

if your condition gets worse and keeps you from working, write, call or visit any social security office about filing another appliciation.



Thoughts on Music
By Steve Jobs
February 6, 2007

With the stunning global success of Apple’s iPod music player and iTunes online music store, some have called for Apple to “open” the digital rights management (DRM) system that Apple uses to protect its music against theft, so that music purchased from iTunes can be played on digital devices purchased from other companies, and protected music purchased from other online music stores can play on iPods. Let’s examine the current situation and how we got here, then look at three possible alternatives for the future.

To begin, it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in “open” licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC. iPod users can and do acquire their music from many sources, including CDs they own. Music on CDs can be easily imported into the freely-downloadable iTunes jukebox software which runs on both Macs and Windows PCs, and is automatically encoded into the open AAC or MP3 formats without any DRM. This music can be played on iPods or any other music players that play these open formats.

The rub comes from the music Apple sells on its online iTunes Store. Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time, which include allowing users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods. Obtaining such rights from the music companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today is unmatched by most other digital music services. However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

To prevent illegal copies, DRM systems must allow only authorized devices to play the protected music. If a copy of a DRM protected song is posted on the Internet, it should not be able to play on a downloader’s computer or portable music device. To achieve this, a DRM system employs secrets. There is no theory of protecting content other than keeping secrets. In other words, even if one uses the most sophisticated cryptographic locks to protect the actual music, one must still “hide” the keys which unlock the music on the user’s computer or portable music player. No one has ever implemented a DRM system that does not depend on such secrets for its operation.

The problem, of course, is that there are many smart people in the world, some with a lot of time on their hands, who love to discover such secrets and publish a way for everyone to get free (and stolen) music. They are often successful in doing just that, so any company trying to protect content using a DRM must frequently update it with new and harder to discover secrets. It is a cat-and-mouse game. Apple’s DRM system is called FairPlay. While we have had a few breaches in FairPlay, we have been able to successfully repair them through updating the iTunes store software, the iTunes jukebox software and software in the iPods themselves. So far we have met our commitments to the music companies to protect their music, and we have given users the most liberal usage rights available in the industry for legally downloaded music.

With this background, let’s now explore three different alternatives for the future.

The first alternative is to continue on the current course, with each manufacturer competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music. It is a very competitive market, with major global companies making large investments to develop new music players and online music stores. Apple, Microsoft and Sony all compete with proprietary systems. Music purchased from Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods. This is the current state of affairs in the industry, and customers are being well served with a continuing stream of innovative products and a wide variety of choices.

Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company. Or, if they buy a specific player, they are locked into buying music only from that company’s music store. Is this true? Let’s look at the data for iPods and the iTunes store – they are the industry’s most popular products and we have accurate data for them. Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future. And Apple might benefit by charging a small licensing fee for its FairPlay DRM. However, when we look a bit deeper, problems begin to emerge. The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute. Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the Internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.

An equally serious problem is how to quickly repair the damage caused by such a leak. A successful repair will likely involve enhancing the music store software, the music jukebox software, and the software in the players with new secrets, then transferring this updated software into the tens (or hundreds) of millions of Macs, Windows PCs and players already in use. This must all be done quickly and in a very coordinated way. Such an undertaking is very difficult when just one company controls all of the pieces. It is near impossible if multiple companies control separate pieces of the puzzle, and all of them must quickly act in concert to repair the damage from a leak.

Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies. Perhaps this same conclusion contributed to Microsoft’s recent decision to switch their emphasis from an “open” model of licensing their DRM to others to a “closed” model of offering a proprietary music store, proprietary jukebox software and proprietary players.

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.


Caution: Marijuana may not be lesser evil
By Rita Rubin
February 6, 2007

Tyreol Gardner first smoked marijuana when he was 13.

“The main reason I tried it was curiosity,” Gardner recalls. “I wanted to see what it felt like.”

He liked what it felt like, and by age 15, he was smoking pot every week. He supported his habit with the money his parents gave him for getting straight A’s on his report card. They didn’t have a clue.

“By 16, when I got my license, it turned into a fairly everyday thing,” says Gardner, now 24. “I believe it is very addictive, especially for people with addictive personalities.”

Millions of baby boomers might disagree. After all, they smoked marijuana — the country’s most popular illicit drug — in their youth and quit with little effort.

But studies have shown that when regular pot smokers quit, they do experience withdrawal symptoms, a characteristic used to predict addictiveness. Most users of more addictive drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, started with marijuana, scientists say, and the earlier they started, the greater their risk of becoming addicted.

Many studies have documented a link between smoking marijuana and the later use of “harder” drugs such as heroin and cocaine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean marijuana causes addiction to harder drugs.

“Is marijuana a gateway drug? That question has been debated since the time I was in college in the 1960s and is still being debated today,” says Harvard University psychiatrist Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at Boston’s McLean Hospital. “There’s just no way scientifically to end that argument one way or the other.”

That’s because it’s impossible to separate marijuana from the environment in which it is smoked, short of randomly assigning people to either smoke pot or abstain — a trial that would be grossly unethical to conduct.

“I would bet you that people who start smoking marijuana earlier are more likely to get into using other drugs,” Pope says. Perhaps people who are predisposed to using a variety of drugs start smoking marijuana earlier than others do, he says.

Besides alcohol, often the first drug adolescents abuse, marijuana may simply be the most accessible and least scary choice for a novice susceptible to drug addiction, says Virginia Tech psychologist Bob Stephens.

No matter which side you take in the debate over whether marijuana is a “gateway” to other illicit drugs, you can’t argue with “indisputable data” showing that smoking pot affects neuropsychological functioning, such as hand-eye coordination, reaction time and memory, says H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Adolescents have the greatest rates of marijuana use, and they also have the greatest amount to lose by using marijuana, scientists say.

“Adolescence is about risk-taking, experimentation,” says Yasmin Hurd, professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and biological chemistry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York who last summer published a rat study that found early exposure to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, led to a greater sensitivity to heroin in adulthood.

“All of the studies clearly show the earlier someone starts taking marijuana, the greater their vulnerability to addiction disorders and psychiatric disorders. I’m so shocked still that so many parents are not considering enough the dangers of early drug use.”

Use is more common
Marijuana use by adolescents in the USA declined slightly from 2005 to 2006, but it’s still more common than it was 15 years ago, according to “Monitoring the Future,” an ongoing study by the University of Michigan that tracks people from the eighth grade through young adulthood. It’s paid for by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health.

In 2006, 11.7% of eighth-graders said they had used marijuana during the past year, compared with 6.2% of eighth-graders in 1991. Among 12th-graders, 31.5% said they had used marijuana in the previous year; in 1991, 23.9% said they had.

“You are at school, and your main job as an adolescent is to learn and memorize,” NIDA director Nora Volkow says. But if you keep becoming intoxicated by smoking marijuana, she says, you’ll fall further and further behind in your studies. “How are you going to catch up?”

In a study comparing heavy marijuana users with people who’d had minimal exposure to the drug, Pope found that the former had lower verbal IQ scores than the latter. In a 2003 paper, he and his co-authors postulated three potential reasons: innate differences between the groups in cognitive ability that predated first marijuana use, an actual toxic effect of marijuana on the developing brain or poorer learning of conventional cognitive skills by young marijuana users who skipped school.

Wasted years
By the time Gardner was a junior, he started skipping high school regularly to smoke pot. “I would always find somebody who wasn’t at school that day and get high with them,” he says. Gardner says he missed 50 days in the first semester of his senior year. His parents discovered his stash of marijuana and sent him to a psychiatrist. His grades plummeted; his college plans evaporated.

When he was 16 or 17, Gardner says, he was charged at least twice with possession of marijuana and underage possession of alcohol. The court sent him to a three-month outpatient treatment program. He attended weekly sessions and underwent urine checks.

But it didn’t stick. He celebrated the end of the program by getting high on pot and alcohol. By 18, “I was pretty heavy into cocaine,” Gardner says. Crystal meth and intravenous heroin followed.

“I was always looking for the ultimate high. It was like a constant search, and I never found it. … By the end, it was a living hell for me.”

Finally, Gardner says, his parents persuaded him to enter an inpatient treatment program in Winchester, Va. They spoke from experience. When he was 8, Gardner says, his father stopped using drugs while in prison for possession. “My mom got clean while he was in prison.”

Gardner says he has been off drugs and alcohol for 14 months. He works in a Winchester factory that makes patio decking. He graduated high school because a teacher took pity on him and let him try to make up the work he had missed. More than six years after graduating, Gardner hopes to go to college to study psychology.

Research shows marijuana users are significantly less satisfied with the quality of their lives than non-users, a revelation “as telling as any very fancy story of molecules,” Volkow says.

Yet, she says, “I think there is a general sense that marijuana is a relatively benign drug and does not produce addiction.” Although over the past decade, “research clearly has provided unequivocal evidence that … some people can become addicted to marijuana.”

Stephens has conducted seven large treatment studies of marijuana dependence, or addiction. “There’s never any shortage of people who meet this definition,” says Stephens, who edited the 2006 book Cannabis Dependence.

Pot as predecessor
Pope has studied heavy marijuana users, whom he defines as having smoked pot at least 5,000 times, or once a day for nearly 14 years. On average, his subjects, ages 30 to 55, reported having smoked marijuana 20,000 times.

Pope required the volunteers to abstain from smoking pot for 28 days and used urine samples for confirmation.

“We had them rate various symptoms on a day-by-day basis,” he says. “We were able to show there is a clear withdrawal syndrome.”

His research found the most common symptom of marijuana withdrawal was irritability, followed by trouble sleeping and loss of appetite. Symptoms began to subside after a week and disappeared by the end of two weeks.

“We’ve had some people in our study who reported quite a lot of craving. They were quite miserable not being allowed to smoke marijuana,” Pope says, although “certainly, one does not see craving even remotely to the degree you would … with heroin or alcohol or cocaine.”

Marijuana today is more potent and therefore more toxic than marijuana grown in the 1970s, Volkow says. Back then, she says, plants typically contained only 2% THC. Today, she says, marijuana plants typically contain 15% THC.

Even if today’s marijuana is more potent, Stephens says, he’s not convinced that makes a difference.

“The evidence of its increased potency is overrated,” he says. Samples of marijuana grown in the 1970s might have appeared to be less potent than they actually were because they weren’t fresh when tested. And, Stephens speculates, marijuana users might just smoke more of less-potent pot, and vice versa.

A family problem
Rachel Kinsey says drug addiction runs in her mother’s family, although not in her immediate family. Kinsey, 24, started drinking alcohol at 14 and smoking marijuana at 15 — “definitely a predecessor for everything else I used.” She began using Ecstasy and cocaine at 17, then heroin at 18.

“I did graduate high school, and I went off to college, but I withdrew after a month,” says Kinsey, of Richmond, Va. She used the diagnosis of mononucleosis she’d received the week before college as an excuse.

“I don’t think I was ready for the responsibility, and I wanted to continue to use while I was in college. I was at the point where I just didn’t care about college. I was already using heroin.”

She moved in with her boyfriend and his father, both of whom used heroin. At 19, she got pregnant. She moved back in with her mother, substituted methadone for heroin and gave the baby up for adoption. Practically as soon as she delivered, she was back to using heroin.

About five months after her son was born in May 2003, Kinsey entered inpatient addiction treatment. During the 30-day program, she became involved with a man who went back to using cocaine after ending treatment. Kinsey says she didn’t want to go back to using cocaine or heroin, “but for some reason I thought it was OK to drink and go back to smoking weed.”

When she turned 21 in fall 2003, “it was off to the races. For some reason, I felt (turning 21) gave me the right to drink if I wanted to.”

From January to August 2004, Kinsey says, she was charged three times with driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.

‘Not worth the risk’
With the help of another stay at a treatment center, Kinsey hasn’t used drugs or alcohol since Aug. 25, 2004, the day after her last DUI arrest. She’s halfway toward graduating from nursing school and works as a nurse tech in a hospital. For the first time, she has signed a lease on an apartment and pays rent.

She can’t drive until September 2008 and then only to work, to school and to 12-step meetings.

If she had to do it all over again, she says, she never would have started smoking marijuana.

“You never know where it’s going to lead you,” she says. “You don’t know that you’re not going to become an addict, so it’s not worth the risk.”

New Study Reveals Marijuana Is Addictive And Users Who Quit Experience Withdrawal
By Richelle Putnam
February 6, 2007

Blacksburg, VA (AHN) – Recent studies have concluded that when users quit smoking pot, they do experience withdrawal systems. In addition, those who abuse harder drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, admitted to using marijuana first. Risk of addiction relates to how early in life the user starts.

Marijuana, a mixture of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, can be smoked as a cigarette or in a pipe. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is its main active chemical.

Bob Stephens, a Virginia Tech psychologist and editor of the book “Cannabis Dependence,” conducted treatment studies of marijuana addiction, and was quoted in a USA Today article as saying, “There’s never any shortage of people who meet this definition.”

A study called “Monitoring the Future,” performed by the University of Michigan, revealed that adolescent use of marijuana in the U.S. decreased from 2005 to 2006. However, in the past 15 years, marijuana use has become more common. This is according to the same “Monitoring the Future” study, which followed a group of eighth graders into adulthood. USA Today stated that a survey among eighth-graders revealed an increase from 6.2% in 1991 to 11.7% in 2006 regarding marijuana use. 31.5% of the surveyed 12th graders admitted to marijuana use in the past year compared to 23.9% in 1991.

Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at Boston’s McLean Hospital, who studied heavy marijuana users for fourteen years, found that those who smoked pot once a day scored lower on their verbal IQ testing.

Research on chronic marijuana smokers and alcoholics performed in 2006 by psychiatry professor, Ronald Kadden, who has run the Health Center’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center for over ten years, showed that marijuana was more addictive that originally thought.

However, past studies claimed that marijuana is still the lesser evil of the very much legal drug, alcohol. In a 1999 Summit Daily article, the U. S. Department of Transportation 1990-91 study revealed that the adverse effect on drivers is “relatively small” to the adverse effects of those under the influence of alcohol and some prescribed drugs.

A 2004 study performed by Alyssa J. Myers and Marion O. Petty of the Department of Psychology at Missouri Western State University, researched the connection of alcohol use to marijuana use. The study revealed that, “the more alcohol someone drinks, the more likely they will be to want to smoke marijuana. We also found that 100% of the people who reported marijuana use were also drinkers. The first drug used by the majority of people who smoke marijuana was alcohol, 67%.”

The report also stated that marijuana, a “gateway” drug, is considered worse than alcohol, because it supposedly prods users to try harder drugs. However, the study stresses the use of marijuana typically comes after alcohol and tobacco use and most people don’t realize that alcohol is the “gateway” drug to the “gateway” marijuana drug.

Atlanta police officer to face murder indictment
Fulton DA seeks charges in shooting of elderly woman in her home
February 7, 2007

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard will seek felony murder charges against at least one of the Atlanta police officers involved in a botched drug raid that resulted in the shooting death of an elderly woman, the officer’s attorney said.

Defense attorney Rand Csehy, who is representing Gregg Junnier, said he had received an e-mail from Howard’s office Wednesday saying the prosecutor would go before a grand jury on Feb. 26 to seek charges against his client.

It was unclear Wednesday evening whether charges were being sought against other police officers. Eight Atlanta officers were put on administrative leave after the shooting. The November incident prompted a multi-jurisdictional investigation that included state and federal authorities.

Csehy responded angrily to the threat of an indictment against his client. “It’s an overbroad indictment,” he said.

He also complained that Howard’s office acted prematurely and had struck out on its own without consulting with the FBI, which is still investigating the circumstances that led to the shooting. “Paul Howard is no longer part of a joint investigation,” he said.

Howard would not comment Wednesday. Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said Howard had not informed his office about any plans to seek indictments.

Csehy conceded that his client may have made mistakes, but he insisted that he didn’t commit a crime.

“There was no malfeasance here, it was sloppy police work,” Csehy said. “It was cutting corners.”

Lyn Vaughn, a spokeswoman for Howard, said the district attorney would not comment on the prospect of seeking any indictments. However, the district attorney expressed outrage over the shooting in a Feb. 6 letter to Markel Hutchins, spokesman for the family of victim Kathryn Johnston.

“The death of Mrs. Johnston constitutes one of the greatest tragedies ever to occur in Fulton County,” Howard wrote. “I will not rest until every person responsible for her death is held accountable. …

“When homicides occur in Fulton County, whether committed by a civilian or a law enforcement official, it is the obligation of the district attorney’s office to take the appropriate legal actions. … The public will not tolerate separate treatment for police officers.”

On Nov. 21, narcotics officers went to Johnston’s home in southwest Atlanta to execute a “no knock” search warrant. Johnston was killed and the three officers were injured in an ensuing shootout.

No-knock warrants are frequently issued so police can get inside before suspects can destroy or dispose of drugs. When the officers kicked in the door, the elderly woman apparently fired five shots from her own revolver.

Her friends and family members contended Johnston, who kept the gun for her protection, was a feeble and frightened woman who rarely ventured outside after dark. And they say that she was never involved in any drug activity. Her family says she was 92, while authorities say she was 88.

Junnier later told federal investigators that officers had lied to a magistrate judge about sending a confidential informant to Johnston’s house to purchase drugs in order to get the warrant.

Atlanta police Sgt. Scott Kreher — who, as president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, has defended the officers’ actions — called the reports that prosecutors would seek an indictment against the officer “sad.”

“I think any time a law enforcement officer is accused of a crime, we all sit back and wonder what went wrong and look within ourselves in what we do day to day,” Kreher said. “And hopefully, if it’s presented to a grand jury and there isn’t enough evidence, they will send back a no bill.”

Atlanta City Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr., a vocal opponent of the use of no-knock warrants, said it’s too early to comment on Howard’s push for murder indictments. “That would be as irresponsible as knocking down a door with allegations of drugs, without proof of drugs.”

A Change in the Weather
Progressive Dennis Kucinich takes over a new House subcommittee, signaling changes in national drug policy
February 01, 2007

Dennis Kucinich
Photo by Steve Appleford
The drug hawk’s worst nightmare: Kucinich’s hearings will raise a ruckus

The Democratic sweep in the 2006 mid-term elections has done more than finally install a woman as speaker of the House. It has also put one of the most vocal critics of the ill-starred “War on Drugs” in a position to affect federal drug policy. On January 18, Ohio Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, one of the most progressive Democratic voices in the House, was appointed as chair of the new House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on domestic policy, causing drug reform organizations coast-to-coast to rejoice in hopes that a moment for significant change may have finally come.

This subcommittee replaces the now-defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources subcommittee, which was headed up by staunch drug warrior, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). Kucinich will assume many of his oversight duties, including policy oversight of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and appointed Drug Czar John Walters. One commentator on Stopthedrugwar.org crowed that “the responsibility of overseeing the ONDCP has effectively been transferred from Congress’s most reckless drug warrior to its most outspoken drug policy reformer” [his emphasis].

“He is certainly the polar opposite of his predecessor, Mark Souder,” says Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “Since the time the [ONDCP] was created in 1988, there have always been friendly people in that subcommittee and the ONDCP has always been able to get what they want under the guise of protecting children and saving America from drugs. But Kucinich doesn’t believe any of that. Any of it!”

For instance, St. Pierre notes, Kucinich is a supporter of industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive product of the cannabis sativa plant. He is also a supporter of medical marijuana and of the federal rescheduling of marijuana, where it is currently illegal as a Schedule I drug, classified as having “no medical value.” This classification clashes with states such as California, which have legalized medical use of marijuana, and leads directly to the current rash of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Kucinich is expected, St. Pierre says, to be a sponsor of a new bill to be introduced in March that would decriminalize pot.

Washington insiders, however, are not holding their breath for great upheaval in federal drug policy overall. Sources close to the appointment, who asked not to be named, say that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Democratic leadership have effectively embargoed major crime or drug policy legislation for the next two years, to avoid looking soft on crime in the 2008 election.

Kucinich, however, is promising a couple years of entertaining and edifying hearings.

“We’re going to open up the discussion to new hearings,” says Kucinich, interviewed Sunday in Culver City, where he presented his bill for Universal Health Care, which is co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). “We want to explore the federal government’s policies and the Department of Justice’s policies on medical marijuana, for example. We need to also look at the drug laws that have brought about mandatory minimum sentences that have put people in jail for long periods of time. I think it’s an appropriate time to look at the proliferation of drugs in America, and how that fits in with our health care crisis, and how that fits in with law enforcement.”

The ONDCP did not reply to several requests for comment. That office, however, which is a function of the executive branch, has been deeply involved in pushing heavy sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and resisting medical marijuana, buying big-money ad campaigns attacking marijuana in states trying to legalize at the state level. Controlling that ad money could be a key to reform. When asked if his subcommittee has any budget oversight or other muscle, Kucinich shook his head and added, “No, this committee does not have control of the budgets, but it does have control of the policy, and it can ask questions and get documents that others couldn’t get.”

That can make a difference, says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the nation’s biggest drug policy reform organizations. His group plans to push for incremental slices of legislation that can move a progressive agenda while not upsetting Democratic unity, adding that Kucinich can “hold hearings on some of the subjects that haven’t been addressed in, you know, decades. Like a hearing on America having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Or maybe a hearing on why the DEA has jurisdiction over medical issues.

“One can obviously empathize with the democratic leadership’s desire to be cautious when it comes to supporting drug policy reforms and other sentencing reforms,” he adds. “But when you have a growing number of Republicans supporting sentencing reform, this might be a good time for the Democrats to show a little leadership.”

In fact, several activists point out, the new Congress may be the most sympathetic to drug-law reform that America has ever seen. Progressives like Senator Richard Durbin and Reps. Pelosi, George Miller, Conyers, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, Kucinich, and Bobby Scott have all turned up in leadership positions.

“If we had to pick out our 40 best friends in Congress, they’d be disproportionately in leadership positions,” says Nadelmann. He includes Sen. Patrick Leahy on that list, but cautions: “Mind you, seven years ago, Leahy said that sentencing reform was one of the top priorities, but now it’s not even a top-10 priority. Part of that’s because there’s so much other stuff to deal with.”

Still, action on several fronts is expected. Sentencing reform should get some attention, with an aim of reducing the number of non-violent drug offenders currently getting long prison sentences, which has given the U.S. the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. One such change would be to make sentences involving crack cocaine equal to those given for powdered cocaine, as community activists have long contended these simply punish the black and poor who are more likely to use the drug in the form of crack. Hearings might also bring new media scrutiny to decades-long marijuana rescheduling motions and several Data Quality Act petitions, which force bodies like the Food and Drug Administration to make decisions based on science rather than ideology, and which have been roundly ignored by the Bush administration.

St. Pierre points out another potential point of influence: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, or HIDTAs. Congress funnels millions of dollars to local law enforcement for use in these areas, and activists have long argued they are wrongly prioritized.

“That’s a very obscure acronym, but when it comes down to the billions of dollars that get channeled out to local governments and their law enforcement, HIDTA is the battleground. That’s where Dennis can come in and say, ‘Mr. Walters, we the Congress, and, clearly, your own constituents want methamphetamines as the number one priority, not marijuana, and certainly not in the states that have medical marijuana laws.’ A couple of weeks ago, Walters was out in Fresno giving awards away for busting buyers’ clubs. Dennis can clip those wings. It all depends on how he’s going to want to pull the trigger.”


Military: No Gitmo guard abuse evident
February 7, 2007

An Army officer who investigated possible abuse at Guantanamo Bay after some guards purportedly bragged about beating detainees found no evidence they mistreated the prisoners — although he did not interview any of the alleged victims, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Col. Richard Bassett, the chief investigator, recommended no disciplinary action against the Navy guards named by Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, who had said that during a conversation in September they described beating detainees as common practice.

In an affidavit filed to the Pentagon’s inspector general, Cerveny — a member of a detainee’s legal defense team — said a group of more than five men who identified themselves as guards had recounted hitting prisoners. The conversation allegedly took place at a bar inside the base.

“The evidence did not support any of the allegations of mistreatment or harassment,” the Miami-based Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in southeastern Cuba, said in a statement.

Investigators conducted 20 interviews with “suspects and witnesses,” the Southern Command said. Bassett did not interview any detainees, said Jose Ruiz, a Miami-based command spokesman.

“He talked to all the parties he felt he needed to get information about the allegations that were made,” Ruiz said by telephone from Miami.

Bassett’s findings were approved by Adm. James Stavridis, the head of the Southern Command.

The investigation began on Oct. 13 and was expanded ten days later to include a similar allegation from a civilian employee who recounted a conversation between a female guard and a male interrogator, according to the statement. Following Bassett’s recommendations, Stavridis said a “letter of counseling” should be sent to the female guard who allegedly initiated a “fictitious account” of detainee abuse.

Bassett also accused Cerveny of filing a false statement during a brief meeting with her at the Marine base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., her boss, Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, said last week.

Vokey, who had filed the complaint about possible detainee abuse to the inspector general’s office that included Cerveny’s affidavit, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Making an Example of Lt. Ehren Watada
An eloquent voice of “GI resistance” rattles the war machine
By Norman Solomon
February 7th, 2007

The people running the Iraq war are eager to make an example of Ehren Watada. They’ve convened a kangaroo court-martial. But the man on trial is setting a profound example of conscience – helping to undermine the war that the Pentagon’s top officials are so eager to protect.

“The judge in the case against the first U.S. officer court-martialed for refusing to ship out for Iraq barred several experts in international and constitutional law from testifying Monday about the legality of the war,” the Associated Press reported.

While the judge was hopping through the military’s hoops at Fort Lewis in Washington state, an outpouring of support for Watada at the gates reflected just how broad and deep the opposition to this war has become.

The AP dispatch merely stated that “outside the base, a small group that included actor Sean Penn demonstrated in support of Watada.” But several hundred people maintained an antiwar presence Monday at the gates, where a vigil and rally – led by Iraq war veterans and parents of those sent to kill and be killed in this horrific war – mirrored what is happening in communities across the United States.

Many of the most compelling voices against the Iraq war come from the men and women who were ordered into a conflagration that should never have begun. Opinions may be debatable, but experiences are irrefutable. And the devastating slaughter that the U.S. war effort continues to inflict on Iraqi people has a counterpoint in the suffering of Americans who are left with unspeakable grief.

In direct resistance to the depravity of the Bush administration as it escalates this war, Lieutenant Watada is taking a clear and uplifting position. Citing international law and the U.S. Constitution, he points out that the Iraq war is “manifestly illegal.” And he adds: “As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order. It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not to participate in things I find morally reprehensible.”

Watada says: “My participation would make me party to war crimes.”

Outside the fence at Fort Lewis – while the grim farce of Watada’s court-martial proceeded with virtually all substance ruled out of order – the criminality of the war and the pain it has brought were heavy in the air.

Darrell Anderson was a U.S. soldier in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart. Later, he refused orders to return for a second tour of duty. Now, he gives firsthand accounts of the routine killing of Iraqi civilians. He speaks as an eyewitness and a participant in a war that is one long war crime. And he makes a convincing case that “the GI resistance” is emerging and pivotal: “You can’t call yourself antiwar if you’re not supporting the resistance.”

At Fort Lewis, outside the gates, I met Carlos Arredondo. He’s traveling the country in a long black hearse-like station wagon, with big photos and letters from his son Alexander plastered on the sides of the vehicle. At age 20, more than two years ago, Alexander died in Iraq. Now, a conversation with Carlos Arredondo is likely to leave you in tears, feeling his grief and his rage against this war.

“When the Marines came to inform Arredondo of his son’s death and stayed after he asked them to leave, he set their van on fire, burning over a quarter of his body in the process,” the Boston Globe has reported. Carlos and his wife Melida Arredondo are now members of Military Families Speak Out.

Among the speakers at a nearby event the night before Watada’s court-martial began was Helga Aguayo, whose husband Agustin Aguayo is a U.S. Army medic now charged with desertion. After deployment to Iraq in 2004, he applied for recognition as a conscientious objector, without success. During a year in the war zone, he refused to put ammunition in his weapon. Today, he is looking at the prospect of up to seven years in prison.

Many others in uniform are struggling to extricate themselves from the war machine. Information about some of them is available at: www.couragetoresist.org.

Soldiers have to choose from options forced upon them by the commander in chief and Congress. Those who resist this war deserve our gratitude and our support. And our willingness to resist as well.

Ehren Watada faces four years in prison. Half of that potential sentence has to do with the fact that he made public statements against the war. The war-makers want such honest courage to stop. But it is growing every day.


Haggard now "completely heterosexual"
February 6, 2007

DENVER – One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is “completely heterosexual.”

Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday’s edition.

“He is completely heterosexual,” Ralph said. “That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”

Ralph said the board spoke with people close to Haggard while investigating his claim that his only extramarital sexual contact happened with Mike Jones. The board found no evidence to the contrary.

“If we’re going to be proved wrong, somebody else is going to come forward, and that usually happens really quickly,” he said. “We’re into this thing over 90 days and it hasn’t happened.”

Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He was also forced out from the 14,000 New Life Church that he founded years ago in his basement after Jones alleged Haggard paid him for sex and sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together. Haggard, who is married, has publicly admitted to “sexual immorality.”

Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday, his first communication in three months to church members, that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master’s degrees in psychology. The e-mail said the family hasn’t decided where to move but that they were considering Missouri and Iowa.

Another oversight board member, the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, said the group recommended the move out of town and the Haggards agreed.

“This is a good place for Ted,” Ware said. “It’s hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It’s like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed.”

It was also the oversight board that strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work.

… in case he suffers a “relapse” at some point in the future… 8/

Newsom to seek help for alcohol abuse – MAYOR’S ADMISSION: In wake of scandal, he says that he has stopped drinking
February 6, 2007
By Cecilia M. Vega and Heather Knight

Just days after disclosing his affair with a staff member married to one of his top political aides, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom admitted Monday he has a drinking problem and said he would seek treatment for alcohol abuse.

During a regularly scheduled weekly meeting with department leaders in City Hall, Newsom said he has stopped drinking and that he is seeking professional help for his dependency.

In a statement issued by his press office after the meeting, the mayor said he has no plans to step down from his job while he undergoes treatment.

“Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life,” he said in the three-paragraph statement. “I take full responsibility for my personal mistakes, and my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment.”

The announcement comes at a time when Newsom’s 3-year-old administration is in crisis. Last week the 39-year-old mayor admitted to having an affair 1 1/2 years ago with his appointments secretary, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, whose husband is Alex Tourk, who at the time was the mayor’s deputy chief of staff and moved on to manage Newsom’s re-election campaign. Tourk resigned from the campaign last week after confronting the mayor about the affair.

Rumors about Newsom’s drinking have long swirled around his administration. They reached a head in December after the mayor appeared to have been drinking when he arrived at San Francisco General Hospital to pay his respects for a police officer who had been killed in the line of duty.

One city department leader who attended the Monday afternoon meeting said Newsom appeared pained.

“From my read, the man is actually in physical pain,” said the official said, who like most city employees contacted for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still have to work with Newsom.

At the end of the 1 1/2-hour meeting, Newsom spent more than 10 minutes apologizing for his recent transgressions — including the affair and his betrayal of Tourk — to the more than 50 people convened in a City Hall conference room.

“He said he was solely responsible for causing not only pain to his family and the two people involved that he considers very good friends, but that he knew he had caused pain to a lot of other people, including everybody in the room,” the city official said.

In his statement, Newsom said he would seek treatment from Mimi Silbert, head of San Francisco’s famous Delancey Street Foundation.

“It was very heartfelt,” said another attendee, who asked not to be named because he was not cleared to discuss the matter publicly. “It was also clear that he wasn’t taking a leave from the office.”

Newsom reportedly spent the weekend with family and friends discussing the situation, though insiders said disclosing his alcohol problem probably was a necessary step in his efforts to salvage his political future in the Democratic Party.

Still, the mayor’s disclosure was a shock to department heads and reportedly to some in his closest political circle.

After he apologized, a small smattering of applause erupted in the room, some in attendance said.

Many of those on hand Monday were hired by Newsom or are his close allies. A number of people contacted by The Chronicle either refused to speak about what he said during the meeting or did not return calls seeking comment.

Another department head who was present for the meeting said Newsom appeared to be “getting some clarity” and that he “was pretty courageous.”

Alcohol has been a big part of Newsom’s economic well being. Before taking office in 2004, he built a multimillion-dollar group of wine, restaurant, bar and resort businesses.

He formed PlumpJack Associates in the early 1990s, in part funded by longtime Newsom family friend, oil tycoon Gordon Getty.

It began with a wine shop on Fillmore Street in 1992, and other successful ventures followed, including the PlumpJack Cafe, also on Fillmore Street, the PlumpJack winery in Napa and an online wine outlet.

Newsom also owned a stake in two popular Cow Hollow night spots, Balboa Cafe and the MatrixFillmore bar, a popular club that serves designer cocktails and featured a plasma screen video system and tables shaped as the letters S, E and X.

Reports about the mayor’s after-hours drinking have in recent months become increasingly public and increasingly embarrassing for his administration.

In addition to reports that he had been drinking at a holiday party before visiting the hospital for the police officer, he also was spotted in a restaurant window in North Beach in December, slurping pasta and kissing his girlfriend and appearing to be intoxicated.

In the wake of Newsom’s announcement about seeking treatment for alcohol, those close to him wondered just how much of a problem he really has.

“I honestly had no idea if he did or he didn’t,” said his chief political strategist Eric Jaye. “I don’t know anything about addiction at that level. I know he showed up every morning at work and worked through the day and always was focused, always ready to go.”

Others, however, say Newsom’s affinity for wine was particularly a problem after hours, when he went out socially or attended evening events.

After Newsom admitted to his affair, his spokesman Peter Ragone was hounded by the media with questions about the mayor’s drinking. Ragone said Newsom’s drinking was in no way related to the affair.

In his statement Monday, Newsom said he accepts full responsibility for his personal mistakes and that his problems with alcohol are not an excuse for his errors.

Earlier in the day, Newsom made a round of public appearances, including a visit to the Queen Mary 2 docked at the city’s waterfront. He refused to answer questions from the media about the affair.

After his announcement to department heads, Newsom attended the regular monthly meeting of SF Stat, a program he created to track a variety of city statistics.

As the public meeting progressed, a few members of the media entered, prompting the mayor to shake his head and look down. A Chronicle photographer took pictures of Newsom, who soon exploded.

“Should I just pose for you so you can get your shot?” Newsom asked the photographer, interrupting the meeting. Turning to a Chronicle reporter, he said, “What do you want? What’s the headline in tomorrow’s paper?”

He then lectured the two about the importance of the meeting. “At a point, this becomes almost farcical,” he said. “I know why you’re here — I know what you’re writing about.”

Though the disclosure of Newsom’s affair has not provoked a huge public outcry, it remains to be seen what the new revelations about his problem with alcohol will have on either his chances for higher office or his re-election campaign. He is up for re-election in November.

“I don’t think it bothers him one way or the other if there are political consequences,” Jaye said of the drinking announcement. “He leaves that up to the judgment of the people of San Francisco.”

While Jaye referred to Newsom’s treatment for alcohol dependency as counseling, Silbert disagreed with the characterization.

“I don’t know if I would use the word ‘counseling,’ but I will be helping the mayor,” she said.

Silbert said Newsom had contacted her Saturday about getting help.

“No one comes to me or Delancey Street for any kind of help unless they are deadly serious,” Silbert said. “We are no lightweight or B.S. program.”


one thing i forgot to say about my trip to portland: i drove Ganesha the Car, and i was honked at and followed for a mile or so through downtown portland by a car which had an oregon license plate that said KALI MA, which makes me wonder, among other things, about the possibility of getting a license plate for wherever we move to that says GANESHA, like the current one does… and also, generally, about how many people have license plates that have hindu gods on them…

hi sally… i’m watching you! 8)


January 26, 2007

Seattle, WA – The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance (WA-DOMA) announced on Thursday that their proposed initiative to make procreation a requirement for legal marriage has been accepted by the Secretary of State and assigned the serial number 957. The initiative has been in the planning stages since the Washington Supreme Court ruled last July that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional.

“For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation,” said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement. “The Washington Supreme Court echoed that claim in their lead ruling on Andersen v. King County. The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine. If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who can not or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage. And this is what the Defense of Marriage Initiative will do.”

Mr. Gadow also stated, “Our agenda is to shine a very bright light on the injustice and prejudice that underlie the Andersen decision by giving that decision the full force of law.

If passed by Washington voters, I-957 would:

  • add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
  • require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
  • require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized;”
  • establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
  • make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.

This initiative is the first of three that WA-DOMA has planned for upcoming years. The other two would prohibit divorce or separation when a married couple has children together, and make having a child together the equivalent of marriage.

The text of I-957 and further information about the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance can be found at the group’s website: www.WA-DOMA.org.


i live in washington state. 25 years ago, i had a child with a woman who i never married, and who is now psychotic and in the state mental institution… i subsequently had a vasectomy, and have been legally married to another woman for 10 years, and we don’t plan on having any children. if this law passes, it means that my current marriage will be annulled, and my previous relationship with the psychotic “hose-beast-from-hell” will automatically become a “marriage” for all legal purposes… and if the DOMA gets their way, we would then be made criminals for getting “divorced” after having our son, 25 years after the fact!!! also, i might be guilty of polygamy, because, while “married” to the psychotic hose-beast-from-hell, i carried on an “illegal relationship” with my wife!!! where’s the “justice” in that???

much as i love washington state, it’s time to move elsewhere. the people here are just too stupid for me any more!


Game Over: Thirty-Six Sure-Fire Signs That Your Empire Is Crumbling
February 2, 2007
by David Michael Green

So. You’ve built yourself an empire, eh?

Well, bully for you!

What’s next, you ask? Well, now you’ve got to do what everybody does when they have an empire, of course. You’ve got to worry about it falling apart, mate!

But how to tell for sure? Let me see if I can be helpful. Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind, thirty-six sure-fire indicators that your empire is falling apart:

You know your empire’s crumbling when the folks who are gearing up their empire to replace yours start blowing up satellites in space. And then they don’t bother to return your phone calls when you ring up to ask why.

You know your empire’s crumbling when those same folks are cutting deals left, right and center across Asia, Latin America and Africa, while you, your lousy terms, and your arrogant attitude are no longer welcome.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you’re spending your grandchildren’s money like a drunken sailor, and letting your soon-to-be rivals finance your little splurge (i.e., letting them own your country).

You know your empire’s crumbling when it’s considered an achievement to pretend that you’ve halved the rate at which you’re adding to the massive mountain of debt you’ve already accumulated.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you weaken your currency until it looks as anemic as a Paris runway model, and you’re still setting record trade deficits. (Hint: Because you’re not making anything anymore.)

You know your empire’s crumbling when “the little brown ones” (thank you George H.W. Bush – certainly not me – for that lovely expression) in country after country of “your backyard” blow you off and proudly elect anti-imperialist leftist governments.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you can’t topple those governments and replace them with nice puppet regimes – like in the good old days – even if you wanted to. And you badly want to.

You know your empire’s crumbling when one of their leaders comes to the United Nations and makes fun of your emperor, calling him the devil, and joking about smelling sulphur where he just stood. And though a few folks cringe, everybody laughs.

You know your empire’s crumbling when just about your entire military land force is tied up in a worse-than-useless war launched on the basis of complete fabrications, that every day is actually making you less – not more – secure from external threat.

You know your empire’s crumbling when almost half the soldiers in that war are high-paid mercenaries, and you don’t dare institute a draft.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you send soldiers into war with two weeks training and a lack of armor, and then you keep them there for three, four and five rotations.

You know your empire’s crumbling when a member of the Axis of Evil can test missiles and explode nuclear warheads, and all you can do about it is mumble some pathetic warnings about how they better not do that again or there will be consequences.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you even think that there is an Axis of Evil.

You know your empire’s crumbling when a rag-tag military hodge-podge of irregulars has you pinned down in an endless fight you can’t win, but also can’t lose.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you’re too dumb to even ban Humvees as a first step toward ending your dependency on a foreign-owned crucial resource.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you trade your prior moral leadership on human rights issues for global disgust at your torture, ‘extraordinary rendition’ (a.k.a. kidnaping for torture) and the dismantling of nine centuries worth of civil liberties progress.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you blow off international law that you once helped create, and undermine the institutions of international governance that you once helped build.

You know your empire’s crumbling when opinion polls confirm that every month you’re more and more despised throughout the world.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you can’t even pull off the hanging of a tin-pot murderous former dictator without turning him into a hero.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you’re the richest country in the world, but nearly 50 million of your people don’t have basic health care coverage.

You know your empire’s crumbling when the World Health Organization ranks your healthcare system 37th ‘best’ in the world, just above Slovenia, and just below Costa Rica. (And far below Colombia, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.)

You know your empire’s crumbling when instead of making it easier for citizens to obtain a higher education, you’re making it harder and more expensive.

You know your empire’s crumbling when your government gives tax breaks to industries as a reward for exporting your jobs elsewhere.

You know your empire’s crumbling when the so-called ‘opposition’ party can’t even turn that obscenity into a viable campaign theme and use it to clobber the worst emperor in your history.

You know your empire’s crumbling when your middle class has been stagnant for three decades, while the wealth of the hyper-rich continues to climb through the roof.

You know your empire’s crumbling when your reaction to that is to exacerbate the problem by enacting tax policies that massively increase further still the gap between the rich and the rest.

You know your empire’s crumbling when the predatory class has taken over your government and is stripping the country of everything not bolted down to the floor. And then it sells the floor itself, as well, to your rivals.

You know your empire’s crumbling when you’re spending tens of billions of dollars you don’t own on new nuclear warheads and space weapons that don’t work, to be used against an enemy you don’t have.

You know your empire’s crumbling when one of your cities drowns and your government does next to nothing before, during and after.

You know your empire’s crumbling when a massive environmental nightmare is looming around the corner, and your emperor not only ignores it, but claims it isn’t real while taking steps to exacerbate it.

You know your empire’s crumbling when your emperor is warned by a CIA briefer of an imminent terrorist attack of vast proportions, and responds by remaining on vacation and dismissing the briefer with the words: “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”

You know your empire’s crumbling when the same emperor drops everything to fly across the country from his vacation home in order to sign a bill intervening on the wrong side of a personal medical drama involving a single family.

You know your empire’s crumbling when gays and immigrants are used as diversionary issues to keep people from thinking about the pillaging of their country and their wallets actually taking place. And it works.

You know your empire’s crumbling when people are getting more religious and less scientific, not the other way around.

You know your empire’s crumbling when your political leaders start to be chosen by dynastic rules of succession.

And you especially know your empire’s crumbling when the most idiotic child of one of the least accomplished leaders in its history is not only crowned as the next emperor, but is even revered for a time by most of the public as a great one.

Rome? Britain? Spain?

At this rate we’ll be lucky to end up like Belgium.

Cleric seeks end to sectarian violence
February 3, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s top Shiite cleric called Saturday for Muslim unity and an end to sectarian conflict, his first public statement in months on the worsening security crisis.

In statement issued by his office, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani noted that differences between Sunnis and Shiites have existed for centuries but should not be the cause for bloodshed.

“Everyone realizes the desperate need for unity and for renouncing divisions, avoiding sectarian fanaticism and avoiding arousing sectarian disputes,” the statement said.

The Iranian-born cleric called on all Muslims to work to overcome sectarian differences and calm the passions, which serve only “those who want to dominate the Islamic country and control its resources to achieve their aims.”

Al-Sistani, who is in his late 70s, has emerged as one of the most influential figures in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 because of his stature within the majority Shiite community.

But his calls for calm following the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra last February proved ineffective in preventing a surge in Shiite-Sunni bloodletting. Since then he has largely refrained from public statements as the wave of sectarian killings has swept the country.

His last public statement was issued Oct. 20, in which he lauded efforts of Sunni and Shiite clerics to stop sectarian violence.

In the latest statement, al-Sistani accused some unspecified individuals and groups of working to widen the schism among Muslims and foment sectarian differences.

Al-Sistani was apparently referring to Abdullah bin Jabrain, a key member of Saudi Arabia’s clerical establishment, who last month joined a chorus of other senior figures from the hardline Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam that considers Shiites as infidels.

Bin Jabrain described Shiites as “the most vicious enemy of Muslims.”

“Regrettably, it has been noticed that some individuals and some groups are working totally contrary to (reconciliation) by strengthening the divisions and deepening the sectarian disputes among Muslims,” The statement said.

“They have increased their efforts in recent days after the escalation of the political conflicts aimed at gaining more authorities in the region.”

He said those groups had sought to tarnish “a specific sect and reduce the rights of its followers and making others afraid of it.”

DHS memo reveals agency personnel are treated like "Human capital"
Jan 31st, 2007
By Bill Conroy

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has brought us the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina, the Star Trek-like terrorism alert scale that seems to move in sync with political calculations, and the House of Death mass murder, to name but a few of its many shortcomings.

Given that track record, if anyone still has some doubt that DHS is a federal agency in disarray, the following memo provided to Narco News should settle the question.

From: [DHS] Broadcast
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Importance: High
January 30, 2007

SUBJECT:     Federal Human Capital Survey Results

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) surveyed federal employees last summer about various measures of job satisfaction and agency performance, and the results will be released today.  Over 10,400 DHS employees responded and, candidly, what you said shows that DHS is not where any of us wants to be.

 The survey results will be posted on the OPM website (www.opm.gov) and our own DHS intranet, and I encourage you to review them in detail. In brief, of 36 peer federal agencies surveyed, DHS ranks as follows:

  • 36th on the job satisfaction index
  • 35th on the leadership and knowledge management index
  • 36th on the results-oriented performance culture index
  • 33rd on the talent management index

These results deliver a clear and jolting message from managers and line employees alike.  On whole, it is not significantly changed since OPM’s 2004 employee survey.  Secretary Chertoff and I discussed these results with concern.

Initial details indicate that we get low marks in basic supervision, management and leadership. Some examples are:

  • Promotion and pay increase based on merit
  • Dealing with poor performance
  • Rewarding creativity and innovation
  • Leadership generating high levels of motivation in the workforce
  • Recognition for doing a good job
  • Lack of satisfaction with various component policies and procedures
  • Lack of information about what is going on with the organization

I am writing to assure you that, starting at the top, the leadership team across DHS is committed to address the underlying reasons for DHS employee dissatisfaction and suggestions for improvement.

Standing up this new and vital Department is clearly not a walk in the park, but our employees bring a passion for this mission, great professionalism and outstanding performance every single day.  DHS employees have shouldered the weight of long hours, complex integration assignments, multiple reorganizations, and no small amount of criticism.  In some cases you’ve had to wait too long for tools you need to succeed.

These are not excuses to rationalize where we stand, rather an acknowledgement on my part of how much our team is doing.  And there are good news items in the survey for DHS.  As chief operating officer of DHS, I commit to improve results.  We will need your help.

Several months ago, the Secretary asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to study and suggest a strategy for creating a stronger common culture. This month, drawing on the experience of top executives in the private sector, the Council has delivered a set of recommendations for promoting a culture of excellence in DHS.

In the days ahead, our Under Secretary for Management, Paul Schneider, will join the Secretary and me in evaluating carefully the details of the OPM survey and the HSAC report.  Our first steps will be to analyze thoroughly the survey data, including specific attention to those government organizations that are recognized for their high performance in these areas, and determine the specific steps to improvement. This process will include the leadership team in each operating component and every headquarters unit to discuss details of the survey with our workforce. We will do so with a sense of urgency and seriousness.

Strengthening core management is one of the Secretary’s highest priorities and the key elements are effective communications and proper recognition of our workforce. You deserve nothing less. We will build on some good work that has already been done to chart a path forward on these issues. We will then go where you point us, to improve job satisfaction for the DHS team.

Along the way, I will continue to ask for your help and guidance.  Thanks in advance for that assistance, and thanks for what you are doing each day for DHS.

One note of “guidance” from this observer would be for DHS to come clean about its agents’ alleged complicity in the House of Death mass murder in Juarez, Mexico. A good start would be to release the Joint Assessment Team review that DHS’ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prepared (in cooperation with the DEA) about the tragedy.

To date, DHS and DEA have refused to release the results of that internal JAT investigation — with the DEA going as far as to claim it is seeking the have portions of the report classified due to national security concerns.

You can’t promote a “culture of excellence” when you fail address a culture of cover-up and corruption.


i’m back…

friday, i drove to portland and met , which was cool. she doesn’t do as well without some previous planning, and we didn’t make any kind of arrangements beforehand. i’m not much of a socialiser myself unless i have some kind of screen (like internet), or if i’ve known you for a while, so we both sat in her living room and discussed this and that. i’ve not met many people i know on the net IRL, and one of them was moe, who is a special case, but meeting was interesting. i’m meeting for lunch on thursday… should be interesting…

i got to the someday lounge at around 5:00, and nobody was there, so i began what would eventually become a two-day extended random wander around PDX. i took a lot of pictures, but they weren’t of the actual performances because they didn’t want me to use a flash and my digital camera isn’t good enough to take decent photos in low light situations without it.

i got back to the someday lounge at 6:00, just as they were just opening. the only people there at that point were one of the owners (i think his name is nick, but there were so many people i didn’t know that i’m not sure), lance the tech guy for TOJT (the sponsors of drunk puppet night in portland), and queen schmooquan, who was rehearsing her wonderfully twisted, bizarre, but very topical piece that featured george w. bush doing obscene things with a massive dildo (complete with two maracas) and a piece of shit.

the meat play was well received but josh and i had some problems reading the script because of low light. it always amazes me that i have to wait for people to get done laughing before i read my next line… to me, it’s just reading a script that i’ve read hundreds of times before, and it always takes me by surprise that other people haven’t read it at all.

i stayed at lance’s house, like i did last year. his wife, kris, is learning HTML because she has become the default webmaster for TOJT, but she’s having only limited success getting HTML to do what she wants – primarily because she should be learning CSS as well, and she was unaware of that. another thing of which she was unaware is validation. i’ve known a lot of people who do web design, but i can count on the fingers of one hand the web designers i have met who understand and take advantage of HTML validation. admittedly, it’s difficult to understand at first, but still… ??? needless to say, i gave her my card and told her to write me with questions as they arise.

saturday, i got up and went to find music millenium, where i purchased the latest CD by The Residents, called Tweedles. then i decided i would see how far i could drive before i got lost, and i discovered that it’s practically impossible to get lost in portland… basically, you have to go “off the grid” before the streets start making no sense, and that’s a long way in just about any direction. i started heading out of town and it wasn’t more than 20 minutes or so later that i was totally in an area that i recognised and knew which direction to go to get back to where i started. so i took the scenic route to get back to where i started, left my car and started wandering on foot. i wandered downriver from the morrison bridge to the steel bridge on the eastbank and crossed on the steel bridge exactly at the same time that a portland fireboat was crossing underneath, so i got to watch the lower level of the bridge (for freight trains) go up for it while the upper level of the bridge continued to carry car and rail (MAX) traffic without interruption (very cool!).

portland is a much friendlier city than seattle. i say that primarily because of two reasons: the people, regardless of who they are, more frequently make eye contact, and say hello or nod or something, and they’re a lot more tolerant of pedestrians when they’re driving. i’m not sure, but i think the latter may be partially a legal thing. i did notice pedestrians getting away with stuff on a regular basis that they would either be getting a ticket, or an ambulance ride for doing if they were in seattle. it doesn’t really have to do with friendliness, but portland also has an impressive array of large sculpture in public places, rather than having one or two big “sculpture gardens” and a whole bunch of smaller sculptures “hidden” in places where you probably won’t see it unless you’re looking for it, like seattle does. i get the impression that it may actually be possible to make a living as an artist/musician in portland, and there are not many ways to do that in seattle.

the saturday performances were outrageous, and only five of thirteen acts(!) were repeats from friday, the piece by queen schmooquan, a piece called “light year” by dan luce, which is about becoming disconnected from this “alien” world, “edward puss”, a modern take on the old story of œdipus that was absolutely hillarious, “el sol de verrano”, a quietly disturbing piece about two kids at the beach who go swimming, but only one comes back, which is based on a spanish folksong, and the meat play.

it turns out i may actually get paid for drunk puppet night again this year. the someday lounge was charging a $15 cover (which is one reason i don’t go out that much, as i consider paying $15 to go to a “bar” outrageous, even if it is something like drunk puppet night), and lana, who was the sponsor’s host this year, actually got personal information, including my SS# and said that it was because i would be getting paid… but i’ll believe it when i see it. she was saying that if it were up to her, there would be a drunk puppet night once a month, and i get the impression that she’s at least partially in a position to make things like that happen. also, somebody whose name i (unfortunately) don’t remember, shot video of the meat play and she’s going to send me a VHS of it, so i can see what it looks like from the audience’s perspective for a change. 8)

and when i got home i had a marble sivalingam and 6 CDs from india waiting for me, i got email saying that my 1″ expansion taper has been shipped, and my sweetie should be home soon, so i’m happy


one step closer to upgrading my linux distro, thanks in large part to who put up with my persistent questions in his journal. now i have installed the CD burning software that allowed me to make a backup of all my personal data, so now i can upgrade to whatever with impunity!

but at the same time, now that i can actually use my system for something other than a data repository and a communication device, i’m going to explore what it can do a little bit before arbitrarily dumping it for something “more modern”.

in other news, i am in portland tomorrow and saturday for drunk puppet night. it’s happening at 7:00 pm at Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th Avenue, for those of you who might be interested.