a long time ago, some friends of mine and i decided that we were going to secede from the united states and form our own country, Normidia, which would be 500 yards surrounding wherever we were. inside Normidia, all US laws would be null and void, and, instead, the laws of the Principality of Normidia would be obeyed. this meant, among other, significantly less important things, that we could smoke pot with impunity, regardless of where we were, as cannabis was not illegal, but was actually the official currency of Normidia – as in the Illuminatus trilogy, we traded in hempscript.

as the years went by, we developed the country even further. we had a flag, a coat of arms, an official state religion, a constitution, and even a bill of rights. as princes of Normidia, we were able to recruit a number of citizens of Normidia, but as the country was defined as existing within a 500 yard radius from wherever we were at the moment, we were unable to do much more than that. then one of us died, and another one was lost to the ravages of alcohol (the last time i heard about where he lived, he was staying at the shetler for homeless drunks in a small town near the canadian border), and the only one left was me… and i’m considering reviving Normidia, especially after reading this:

Executive Branch Secedes from the Union
by Devilstower
March 24, 2007

When Tony Snow made the rounds of talk shows this week, some might have been surprised at his message.

Snow to CNN: “There’s another principle, which is Congress doesn’t have the legislative — I mean oversight authority over the White House.”

Snow to NBC: “Congress doesn’t have any legitimate oversight and responsibilities to the White House.”

Snow to NBC: “First, the White House is under no compulsion to do anything. The legislative branch doesn’t have oversight.”

Snow to ABC: “The executive branch is under no compulsion to testify to Congress, because Congress in fact doesn’t have oversight ability.”

Just in case you missed it the first time, Snow repeated himself to make sure the public gets the message: the White House has declared itself, a law unto itself, beholden to no other authority. This goes quite a bit beyond the already massive expansions of “executive privilege” previously claimed by this administration.

Congress has the enumerated authority under the constitution to pass laws, to raise a military, to declare war, and to impeach and remove members of the executive branch. Does the word “oversight” appear? It doesn’t, but it’s so clearly implied in the powers designated to Congress that there’s been really little doubt of this power since 1787. The Supreme Court has agreed with Congress’ role in overseeing the White House on any number of occasions. After all, how can Congress have impeachment authority over the executive if any investigation can be stonewalled by an uncooperative administration? The judicial equivalent would be making a defendant the judge at his own trial.

Under the Snow interpretation, the executive could get away with anything. Anything at all. Absolutely anything. Like Tony, I wanted to repeat so you would be sure I meant what I said. A lack of congressional oversight would not just place the White House above the law, but completely beyond it.

Though it may have passed as just another incidence of Snow being trotted forth to distribute the day’s right wing talking points, what was said on Friday should not go without notice. This is the single more amazing declaration in an administration that has already produced more extraordinary claims than the fountain at Lourdes.

For the last forty years, there has been only a single Republican administration. That may seem an odd idea. After all, at least a couple of Republicans have been elected over that period — and a couple more have found their way to the White House through other means. No matter the name on the Oval Office door, the philosophy promoted by the White House has remained. This the Imperial Presidency of Richard M. Nixon, now brought to inglorious summer by the (adopted) son of Crawford. It was under Nixon that the philosophy of a supreme executive was gestated. It was under Nixon that the men who populate the current administration were taught their love for tyranny over justice. From Watergate, to Iran-Contra, to Iraq, Nixon’s heirs have worked to chisel away the rule of law. With Snow’s blunt declaration of independence, any remaining illusion that the executive branch continues to act as part of the government is removed. If this interpretation holds, if the congress can not exert authority over the executive, then we are a democracy in name only.

In a high school history book, the fall of the Roman Republic is usually dated to the point were Julius Caesar, in defiance of Senate “micromanagement,” ordered his legions across the Rubicon to end effective representative oversight. However, at the time, the Romans didn’t see it that way. They continued to call themselves a republic for years. Decades. Long after Caesar, they kept up the hollow pretense of a senate, marching in each day to pass laws that the executive of their day did not follow, and direct armies that moved only at the emperor’s command.

The Bush administration is waist deep in the Rubicon. The only question now is whether we will drive them back to the bank, or admit that we are only play-acting at democracy.

Operation Bite: April 6 sneak attack by US forces against Iran planned, Russian military sources warn
By Webster G. Tarpley
26 March, 2007

WASHINGTON DC, — The long awaited US military attack on Iran is now on track for the first week of April, specifically for 4 am on April 6, the Good Friday opening of Easter weekend, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli.” Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.

The attack is slated to last for 12 hours, according to Uglanov, from 4 am until 4 pm local time. Friday is the sabbath in Iran. In the course of the attack, code named Operation Bite, about 20 targets are marked for bombing; the list includes uranium enrichment facilities, research centers, and laboratories.

The first reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant, where Russian engineers are working, is supposed to be spared from destruction. The US attack plan reportedly calls for the Iranian air defense system to be degraded, for numerous Iranian warships to be sunk in the Persian Gulf, and for the most important headquarters of the Iranian armed forces to be wiped out.

The attacks will be mounted from a number of bases, including the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia is currently home to B-52 bombers equipped with standoff missiles. Also participating in the air strikes will be US naval aviation from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, as well as from those of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Additional cruise missiles will be fired from submarines in the Indian Ocean and off the coast of the Arabian peninsula. The goal is allegedly to set back Iran’s nuclear program by several years, writes Uglanov, whose article was reissued by RIA-Novosti in various languages, but apparently not English, several days ago. The story is the top item on numerous Italian and German blogs, but so far appears to have been ignored by US websites.

Observers comment that this dispatch represents a high-level orchestrated leak from the Kremlin, in effect a war warning, which draws on the formidable resources of the Russian intelligence services, and which deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness by pro-peace forces around the world.

Asked by RIA-Novosti to comment on the Uglanov report, retired Colonel General Leonid Ivashov confirmed its essential features in a March 21 interview: “I have no doubt that there will be an operation, or more precisely a violent action against Iran.” Ivashov, who has reportedly served at various times as an informal advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is currently the vice president of the Moscow Academy for Geopolitical Sciences.

Ivashov attributed decisive importance to the decision of the Democratic leadership of the US House of Representatives to remove language from the just-passed Iraq supplemental military appropriations bill that would have demanded that Bush come to Congress before launching an attack on Iran. Ivashov pointed out that the language was eliminated under pressure from AIPAC, the lobbing group representing the Israeli extreme right, and from Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni.

“We have drawn the unmistakable conclusion that this operation will take place,” said Ivashov. In his opinion, the US planning does not include a land operation: “ Most probably there will be no ground attack, but rather massive air attacks with the goal of annihilating Iran’s capacity for military resistance, the centers of administration, the key economic assets, and quite possibly the Iranian political leadership, or at least part of it,” he continued.

Ivashov noted that it was not to be excluded that the Pentagon would use smaller tactical nuclear weapons against targets of the Iranian nuclear industry. These attacks could paralyze everyday life, create panic in the population, and generally produce an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty all over Iran, Ivashov told RIA-Novosti. “This will unleash a struggle for power inside Iran, and then there will be a peace delegation sent in to install a pro-American government in Teheran,” Ivashov continued. One of the US goals was, in his estimation, to burnish the image of the current Republican administration, which would now be able to boast that they had wiped out the Iranian nuclear program.

Among the other outcomes, General Ivashov pointed to a partition of Iran along the same lines as Iraq, and a subsequent carving up of the Near and Middle East into smaller regions. “This concept worked well for them in the Balkans and will now be applied to the greater Middle East,” he commented.

“Moscow must exert Russia’s influence by demanding an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to deal with the current preparations for an illegal use of force against Iran and the destruction of the basis of the United Nations Charter,” said General Ivashov. “In this context Russia could cooperate with China, France and the non-permanent members of the Security Council. We need this kind of preventive action to ward off the use of force,” he concluded.

ITT fined $100 million for illegal exports
Manufacturer admits to exporting night vision materials to China, Singapore and Britain without U.S. authorization.
March 27 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The leading manufacturer of night vision gear for the Defense Department has admitted sending classified materials overseas and will pay a $100 million penalty, according to federal prosecutors, who say the actions of ITT Corp. have jeopardized the security of U.S. soldiers.

ITT, based in Roanoke, Va., exported classified or sensitive technical data to China, Singapore and Britain without having obtained authorization from the United States, prosecutors said.

The conviction is the first involving a major defense contractor violating the Arms Export Control Act, prosecutors said.

Saying that American soldiers are “the principal victims of ITT’s crimes,” U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said he has structured the $100 million penalty so that half of the money is spent by ITT to develop a next-generation night vision system and “ensure that our soldiers have the best night vision equipment in the world.”

Safety gizmos that aren’t worth the cost
ITT must invest the $50 million over five years to accelerate development of night vision technology, and the government will maintain rights to all technology that is developed under the agreement.

The arrangement will also allow the government to share any technology developed by ITT under the agreement with ITT’s competitors, Brownlee said.

Prosecutors said the probe began Aug. 1, 2001, when Defense Department investigators discovered that ITT night vision employees sent a classified military document to Britain.

The company engaged in a “regular pattern of export violations and misrepresentation” to the U.S. government from 1980 to 2005, prosecutors said.

In some cases, information was transferred because the manufacture of laser gear could be done cheaper overseas.

ITT “went to significant lengths to set up an end run” around State Department licensing systems, prosecutors said, including enlisting a front company to export the systems.

The company also fought the government’s investigation, Brownlee said, and attempted “to essentially run out the clock on the statute of limitations.” He said the company’s posture changed in 2005 with the hiring of a new CEO, Steven Loranger, who hired new outside corporate attorneys and instructed the company to cooperate with the investigation.

101 Dumbest Moments in Business
ITT Corp., whose competitors include Lockheed Martin (up $0.08 to $98.50, Charts) and United Technologies (down $0.34 to $66.07, Charts), has agreed to plead guilty to a count of violating the Arms Export Control Act by illegally sending classified and/or export-controlled information relating to night vision materials to foreign countries. It also will plead guilty to a count of knowingly or willfully omitting material facts from required reports with intent to obstruct a State Department investigation.

As part of the $100 million penalty, ITT will pay a $2 million criminal fine and a $50 million deferred prosecution penalty – to be invested in night vision technology – and will forfeit $28 million to the U.S. government as the proceeds of its illegal actions. ITT will also pay a $20 million penalty to the State Department.


i had come into possession of a humongous recreational-vehicle-type-thing, which was being stored at my parents’ house… in fact, there’s a possibility that i was staying at my parents’ house as well, but i don’t remember.

anyway, i was at the service station up the street from my parents’ house, having some minor repairs done to the enormous behemoth (a “juggernaut”?), which was taking a much longer time to complete than they at the service station had originally told me, so i decided that i would make the repairs myself – changing the oil, replacing a hose, and something else relatively minor – but the guys at the service station were not into letting a “big” job like that go without a fight, so two of the service station guys actually got on the “bus” as i was driving it out of the parking lot, and refused to get off until i went back to the service station. they were actually acting as though they owned the bus, and i was “taking” it without their permission. i was driving through the neighbourhood near my parents’ house – i knew that if i went directly to my parents’ house that they would know where to find it, and just come back at night to “repossess” it – and somehow i convinced the two guys to vacate the bus relatively far away from where i was going to end up, but that is where the dream took a really weird turn.

somehow, after “dropping off” the guys from the service station, i found myself in a part of town with which i was completely unfamiliar, although it was a place i knew i had been before. and, somehow, the bus sort of faded out the more unfamiliar/familiar the streets became, until i was in front of this large residential house which was in between the road and the beach(?) near the end of the road through a very rich neighbourhood of extremely large residential houses, which i recognised as a sufi(?) spiritual centre/school. i went in without knocking, as though it was my own house (because i knew i would be welcome?), and was immediately greeted by a tall, middle-eastern man with a long greyish-black beard and a plaid button down shirt (majid? it would make the whole dream even weirder if it was, but who knows…) who welcomed me as though they had been expecting me. there were a large number of people in the house, doing various tasks the details of which were out of my view, and there were a fair number of small children (it was a school as well as a spiritual centre). they said that they were muslim, but i got the impression that they were not “normal” muslims, in very much the same way that sufis say they’re muslims, but are, in fact, quite different, in many significant ways from “normal” muslims. eventually i began to see signs that disturbed me, like a hook on a wall that held many whips, and a whole “classroom” of children being taught the right way to do “penance” which involved the teacher (who was a guy i recognised, although at this point, i don’t remeber who he was) whipping himself, while the children watched. it was at this point that i decided to leave, but there was something unspoken that gave me the impression that it was impossible to leave. nevertheless, i somehow escaped from the house, and was climbing over rocks on the beach, heading for the very-rich-looking house in the very-rich-looking neighbourhood when i realised that i had somehow found myself in bellingham, on the south side – which, i figured, would be a good way to hide the bus (remember?) from the people who wanted to take it from me.

but then i couldn’t find the bus, and i couldn’t find my way back to where i had last seen the bus (in bellevue) because i was in bellingham. and the tall middle-eastern guy (who might have been majid) was there, saying something i don’t know, because i was deliberately not hearing what he was saying… and somehow it transformed into the neighbourhood around lake sammammish, near my parents’ house, which frustrated me so much that i woke up.

i distinctly remember, at least twice, trying, and succeeding to a certain extent, to go back to sleep and pick up the dream where i left off, but i always seemed to pick up on the dream in the middle, where there were signs that disturbed me in the house, and i couldn’t change the dream, which disturbed me even more.


An elderly man came to Reb Israel and told him that he was on the verge of dying, he wanted Israel to recite his confession with him. The old man was yellow as wax. He supported himself on two canes. Those who had brought him had half-carried him inside. He was followed by his daughters and daughters-in-law, who lamented as if it were his funeral. Reb Abraham Gershon’s wife, the rebbetzin, feared lest the old man die in her house. But the Baal Shem said to the old man: “How do you know that you are about to die? Did you make an agreement with the Angel of Death? Were you called up to judgment, and did you watch as you were erased from the Book of Life? How old are you, may the evil eye spare you?”


“You call that old? At your age, Methuselah was still a boy. They first began offering him matches.”

“Rabbi, what shall I do?”

“Have a glass of vodka, and let us drink to life.”

Laughter broke out among the assembled. Those who had been crying just a moment before now laughed through tearful eyes. The old man himself smiled. The Baal Shem pored two glasses of aquavit, one for the old man and one for himself, and to everyone’s amazement, the old men drank his down. He even chewed along on a cookie.

from Reaches of Heaven by Isaac Bashevis Singer
about Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, called Baal Shem Tov


i said that the fremont phil should play the burlesque nights months ago. i distinctly remember when the phil was discussing what nights we wanted to play, and saying that we should definitely play the burlesque nights when we first discussed it, in the latter part of last year. i also distinctly remember saying, in my artist’s “application” for the moisture festival, which was submitted in november of last year, that i did more than just play tuba, and if the fremont phil, for some reason, was not needed to play the burlesque nights, that i was very interested in playing them anyway, and if they had to “hire” a band, that i wanted to be part of it. on the 8th of march, this year, i received an email asking if anyone was interested in playing the burlesque nights, and i responded that i was. i even put them on my schedule. then, 3 days ago, i received another email saying that we “were not needed” for the burlesque nights.

i had already got a comp for moe for the late night show last night, because i thought i was playing, so i went anyway, and bought a ticket. i was surprised to discover that out of the musicians that i could see, i knew 3 of them… four if you count RB, who didn’t actually play, but was there as a “producer of the show”: 2 (or 3) zebra kings, and one person who has been sitting in with the fremont phil. i know that they’re also playing tonight, when the phil has “their own night” at the palladium at exactly the same time – which will mean that the phil will have to forgo doing one of their most characteristic pieces of music because we don’t have a trombone player. not only that, but they played 1 piece that the phil actually rehearsed as recently as monday, this week, for a vocalist that rehearsed it with us, and as far as i’ve been able to tell, is not going to be performed again, and they played another piece that has a tuba solo at the beginning, which wasn’t there last night, because there was no tuba player.


i wanted to play the burlesque nights, and i didn’t, because there was no communication… same as there has been no communication throughout the process of creating the program, and, i get the impression that it’s been the same situation as last year and the year before that… and, possibly, the year before that, and the year before that as well.

and i’m not the only one that’s pissed off about it as well, but i still don’t know what is to be done about it, which pisses me off even more. i don’t care if they are paying me, they can’t pay me enough to make up for the anger that i feel that the producers of this show are as unconscious as they are. i don’t understand how this can be the longest running show of it’s kind in the world with this kind of lack of communication going on from the very beginning.


i was pointed this direction by a post in the community. it doesn’t exactly tell my story, but the story it does tell is appalling enough that i would probably have posted it under the "i am a terrorist" tag. but what it does tell matches my outcome to a T. i haven’t really considered whether or not i really have PTSD before now, just taking other peoples’ word for it. but particularly with this (admittedly “non-medical”) description of someone who does have PTSD – “his emotions are all over the place. He’ll get so angry at things, and it’s not toward anybody. It’s toward himself. He blames himself for everything.” He has a hard time sleeping and doesn’t spend as much time as he used to with the kids. “They get rowdy when they play, and he just has to be alone. It’s almost like his nerves can’t handle it… He kind of… zones out, almost like he’s in a daze.” – it really hits home how much i’ve been deluding myself. so here it is anyway, under the PTSD tag as well:

How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits
March 22, 2007
By Joshua Kors

Jon Town has spent the last few years fighting two battles, one against his body, the other against the US Army. Both began in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was standing in the doorway of his battalion’s headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble.

“The next thing I remember is waking up on the ground.” Men from his unit had gathered around his body and were screaming his name. “They started shaking me. But I was numb all over,” he says. “And it’s weird because… because for a few minutes you feel like you’re not really there. I could see them, but I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t hear anything. I started shaking because I thought I was dead.”

Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town’s neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town’s wounds were actually caused by a “personality disorder.” Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans’ rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.

They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it’s doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.

The Fine Print
In the Army’s separations manual it’s called Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder.” It’s an alluring choice for a cash-strapped military because enacting it is quick and cheap. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have to provide medical care to soldiers dismissed with personality disorder. That’s because under Chapter 5-13, personality disorder is a pre-existing condition. The VA is only required to treat wounds sustained during service.

Soldiers discharged under 5-13 can’t collect disability pay either. To receive those benefits, a soldier must be evaluated by a medical board, which must confirm that he is wounded and that his wounds stem from combat. The process takes several months, in contrast with a 5-13 discharge, which can be wrapped up in a few days.

If a soldier dismissed under 5-13 hasn’t served out his contract, he has to give back a slice of his re-enlistment bonus as well. That amount is often larger than the soldier’s final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.

One military official says doctors at his base are doing more than withholding this information from wounded soldiers; they’re actually telling them the opposite: that if they go along with a 5-13, they’ll get to keep their bonus and receive disability and medical benefits. The official, who demanded anonymity, handles discharge papers at a prominent Army facility. He says the soldiers he works with know they don’t have a personality disorder. “But the doctors are telling them, this will get you out quicker, and the VA will take care of you. To stay out of Iraq, a soldier will take that in a heartbeat. What they don’t realize is, those things are lies. The soldiers, they don’t read the fine print,” he says. “They don’t know to ask for a med board. They’re taking the word of the doctors. Then they sit down with me and find out what a 5-13 really means–they’re shocked.”

Russell Terry, founder of the Iraq War Veterans Organization (IWVO), says he’s watched this scenario play itself out many times. For more than a year, his veterans’ rights group has been receiving calls from distraught soldiers discharged under Chapter 5-13. Most, he says, say their military doctors pushed the personality disorder diagnosis, strained to prove that their problems existed before their service in Iraq and refused to acknowledge evidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and physical traumas, which would allow them to collect disability and medical benefits.

“These soldiers are coming home from Iraq with all kinds of problems,” Terry says. “They go to the VA for treatment, and they’re turned away. They’re told, ‘No, you have a pre-existing condition, something from childhood.'” That leap in logic boils Terry’s blood. “Everybody receives a psychological screening when they join the military. What I want to know is, if all these soldiers really did have a severe pre-existing condition, how did they get into the military in the first place?”

Terry says that trying to reverse a 5-13 discharge is a frustrating process. A soldier has to claw through a thicket of paperwork, appeals panels and backstage political dealing, and even with the guidance of an experienced advocate, few are successful. “The 5-13,” he says, “it’s like a scarlet letter you can’t get taken off.”

In the last six years the Army has diagnosed and discharged more than 5,600 soldiers because of personality disorder, according to the Defense Department. And the numbers keep rising: 805 cases in 2001, 980 cases in 2003, 1,086 from January to November 2006. “It’s getting worse and worse every day,” says the official who handles discharge papers. “At my office the numbers started out normal. Now it’s up to three or four soldiers each day. It’s like, suddenly everybody has a personality disorder.”

The reason is simple, he says. “They’re saving a buck. And they’re saving the VA money too. It’s all about money.”

Exactly how much money is difficult to calculate. Defense Department records show that across the entire armed forces, more than 22,500 soldiers have been dismissed due to personality disorder in the last six years. How much those soldiers would have collected in disability pay would have been determined by a medical board, which evaluates just how disabled a veteran is. A completely disabled soldier receives about $44,000 a year. In a recent study on the cost of veterans’ benefits for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimates an average disability payout of $8,890 per year and a future life expectancy of forty years for soldiers returning from service.

Using those figures, by discharging soldiers under Chapter 5-13, the military could be saving upwards of $8 billion in disability pay. Add to that savings the cost of medical care over the soldiers’ lifetimes. Bilmes estimates that each year the VA spends an average of $5,000 in medical care per veteran. Applying those numbers, by discharging 22,500 soldiers because of personality disorder, the military saves $4.5 billion in medical care over their lifetimes.

Town says Fort Carson psychologist Mark Wexler assured him that he would receive disability benefits, VA medical care and that he’d get to keep his bonus–good news he discussed with Christian Fields and Brandon Murray, two soldiers in his unit at Fort Carson. “We talked about it many times,” Murray says. “Jon said the doctor there promised him benefits, and he was happy about it. Who wouldn’t be?” Town shared that excitement with his wife, Kristy, shortly after his appointment with Wexler. “He said that Wexler had explained to him that he’d get to keep his benefits,” Kristy says, “that the doctor had looked into it, and it was all coming with the chapter he was getting.”

In fact, Town would not get disability pay or receive long-term VA medical care. And he would have to give back the bulk of his $15,000 bonus. Returning that money meant Town would leave Fort Carson less than empty-handed: He now owed the Army more than $3,000. “We had this on our heads the whole way, driving home to Ohio,” says Town. Wexler made him promises, he says, about what would happen if he went along with the diagnosis. “The final day, we find out, none of it was true. It was a total shock. I felt like I’d been betrayed by the Army.”

Wexler denies discussing benefits with Town. In a statement, the psychologist writes, “I have never discussed benefits with my patients as that is not my area of expertise. The only thing I said to Spc. Town was that the Chapter 5-13 is an honorable discharge…. I assure you, after over 15 years in my position, both as active duty and now civilian, I don’t presume to know all the details about benefits and therefore do not discuss them with my patients.”

Wexler’s boss, Col. Steven Knorr, chief of the Department of Behavioral Health at Evans Army Hospital, declined to speak about Town’s case. When asked if doctors at Fort Carson were assuring patients set for a 5-13 discharge that they’ll receive disability benefits and keep their bonuses, Knorr said, “I don’t believe they’re doing that.”

Not the Man He Used to Be
Interviews with soldiers diagnosed with personality disorder suggest that the military is using the psychological condition as a catch-all diagnosis, encompassing symptoms as diverse as deafness, headaches and schizophrenic delusions. That flies in the face of the Army’s own regulations.

According to those regulations, to be classified a personality disorder, a soldier’s symptoms had to exist before he joined the military. And they have to match the “personality disorder” described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the national standard for psychiatric diagnosis. Town’s case provides a clear window into how these personality disorder diagnoses are being used because even a cursory examination of his case casts grave doubt as to whether he fits either criterion.

Town’s wife, for one, laughs in disbelief at the idea that her husband was suffering from hearing loss before he headed to Iraq. But since returning, she says, he can’t watch TV unless the volume is full-blast, can’t use the phone unless its volume is set to high. Medical papers from Fort Carson list Town as having no health problems before serving in Iraq; after, a Fort Carson audiologist documents “functional (non-organic) hearing loss.” Town says his right ear, his “good” ear, has lost 50 percent of its hearing; his left is still essentially useless.

He is more disturbed by how his memory has eroded. Since the rocket blast, he has struggled to retain new information. “Like, I’ll be driving places, and then I totally forget where I’m going,” he says. “Numbers, names, dates–unless I knew them before, I pretty much don’t remember.” When Town returned to his desk job at Fort Carson, he found himself straining to recall the Army’s regulations. “People were like, ‘What are you, dumb?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m probably smarter than you. I just can’t remember stuff,'” he says, his melancholy suddenly replaced by anger. “They don’t understand–I got hit by a rocket.”

Those bursts of rage mark the biggest change, says Kristy Town. She says the man she married four years ago was “a real goofball. He’d do funny voices and faces–a great Jim Carrey imitation. When the kids would get a boo-boo, he’d fall on the ground and pretend he got a boo-boo too.” Now, she says, “his emotions are all over the place. He’ll get so angry at things, and it’s not toward anybody. It’s toward himself. He blames himself for everything.” He has a hard time sleeping and doesn’t spend as much time as he used to with the kids. “They get rowdy when they play, and he just has to be alone. It’s almost like his nerves can’t handle it.”

Kristy begins to cry, pauses, before forcing herself to continue. She’s been watching him when he’s alone, she says. “He kind of… zones out, almost like he’s in a daze.”

In May 2006 Town tried to electrocute himself, dropping his wife’s hair dryer into the bathtub. The dryer short-circuited before it could electrify the water. Fort Carson officials put Town in an off-post hospital that specializes in suicidal depression. Town had been promoted to corporal after returning from Iraq; he was stripped of that rank and reduced back to specialist. “When he came back, I tried to be the same,” Kristy says. “He just can’t. He’s definitely not the man he used to be.”

Town says his dreams have changed too. They keep taking him back to Ramadi, to the death of a good friend who’d been too near an explosion, taken too much shrapnel to the face. In his dreams Town returns there night after night to soak up the blood.

He stops his description for a rare moment of levity. “Sleep didn’t use to be like that,” he says. “I used to sleep just fine.”

How the Army determined then that Town’s behavioral problems existed before his military service is unclear. Wexler, the Fort Carson psychologist who made the diagnosis, didn’t interview any of Town’s family or friends. It’s unclear whether he even questioned Town’s fellow soldiers in 2-17 Field Artillery, men like Fields, Murray and Michael Forbus, who could have testified to his stability and award-winning performance before the October 2004 rocket attack. As Forbus puts it, before the attack Town was “one of the best in our unit”; after, “the son of a gun was deaf in one ear. He seemed lost and disoriented. It just took the life out of him.”

Town finds his diagnosis especially strange because the Diagnostic Manual appears to preclude cases like his. It says that a pattern of erratic behavior cannot be labeled a “personality disorder” if it’s from a head injury. The specialist asserts that his hearing loss, headaches and anger all began with the rocket attack that knocked him unconscious.

Wexler did not reply to repeated requests seeking comment on Town’s diagnosis. But Col. Knorr of Fort Carson’s Evans hospital says he’s confident his doctors are properly diagnosing personality disorder. The colonel says there is a simple explanation as to why in so many cases the lifelong condition of personality disorder isn’t apparent until after serving in Iraq. Traumatic experiences, Knorr says, can trigger a condition that has lain dormant for years. “They may have done fine in high school and before, but it comes out during the stress of service.”

“I’ve never heard of that occurring,” says Keith Armstrong, a clinical professor with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Armstrong has been counseling traumatized veterans for more than twenty years at the San Francisco VA; most recently he is the co-author of Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families. “Personality disorder is a diagnosis I’m very cautious about,” he says. “My question would be, has PTSD been ruled out? It seems to me that if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, let’s see if it’s a duck before other factors are implicated.”

Knorr admits that in most cases, before making a diagnosis, his doctors only interview the soldier. But he adds that interviewing family members, untrained to recognize signs of personality disorder, would be of limited value. “The soldier’s perception and their parents’ perception is that they were fine. But maybe they didn’t or weren’t able to see that wasn’t the case.”

Armstrong takes a very different approach. He says family is a “crucial part” of the diagnosis and treatment of soldiers returning from war. The professor sees parents and wives as so important, he encourages his soldiers to invite their families into the counseling sessions. “They bring in particular information that can be helpful,” he says. “By not taking advantage of their knowledge and support, I think we’re doing soldiers a disservice.”

Knorr would not discuss the specifics of Town’s case. He did note, however, that his department treats thousands of soldiers each year and says within that population, there are bound to be a small fraction of misdiagnosed cases and dissatisfied soldiers. He adds that the soldiers he’s seen diagnosed and discharged with personality disorder are “usually quite pleased.”

The Army holds soldiers’ medical records and contact information strictly confidential. But The Nation was able to locate a half-dozen soldiers from bases across the country who were diagnosed with personality disorder. All of them rejected that diagnosis. Most said military doctors tried to force the diagnosis upon them and turned a blind eye to symptoms of PTSD and physical injury.

One such veteran, Richard Dykstra, went to the hospital at Fort Stewart, Georgia, complaining of flashbacks, anger and stomach pains. The doctor there diagnosed personality disorder. Dykstra thinks the symptoms actually stem from PTSD and a bilateral hernia he suffered in Iraq. “When I told her my symptoms, she said, ‘Oh, it looks like you’ve been reading up on PTSD.’ Then she basically said I was making it all up,” he says.

In her report on Dykstra, Col. Ana Parodi, head of Behavioral Health at Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Hospital, writes that the soldier gives a clear description of PTSD symptoms but lays them out with such detail, it’s “as if he had memorized the criteria.” She concludes that Dykstra has personality disorder, not PTSD, though her report also notes that Dykstra has had “no previous psychiatric history” and that she confirmed the validity of his symptoms with the soldier’s wife.

Parodi is currently on leave and could not be reached for comment. Speaking for Fort Stewart, Public Affairs Officer Lieut. Col. Randy Martin says that the Army’s diagnosis procedures “have been developed over time, and they are accepted as being fair.” Martin said he could not address Dykstra’s case specifically because his files have been moved to a storage facility in St. Louis.

William Wooldridge had a similar fight with the Army. The specialist was hauling missiles and tank ammunition outside Baghdad when, he says, a man standing at the side of the road grabbed hold of a young girl and pushed her in front of his truck. “The little girl,” Wooldridge says, his voice suddenly quiet, “she looked like one of my daughters.”

When he returned to Fort Polk, Louisiana, Wooldridge told his doctor that he was now hearing voices and seeing visions, hallucinations of a mangled girl who would ask him why he had killed her. His doctor told him he had personality disorder. “When I heard that, I flew off the handle because I said, ‘Hey, that ain’t me. Before I went over there, I was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy.'” Wooldridge says his psychologist, Capt. Patrick Brady of Baynes-Jones Army Community Hospital, saw him for thirty minutes before making his diagnosis. Soon after, Wooldridge was discharged from Fort Polk under Chapter 5-13.

He began to fight that discharge immediately, without success. Then in March 2005, eighteen months after Wooldridge’s dismissal, his psychiatrist at the Memphis VA filed papers rejecting Brady’s diagnosis and asserting that Wooldridge suffered from PTSD so severe, it made him “totally disabled.” Weeks later the Army Discharge Review Board voided Wooldridge’s 5-13 dismissal, but the eighteen months he’d spent lingering without benefits had already taken its toll.

“They put me out on the street to rot, and if I had left things like they were, there would have been no way I could have survived. I would have had to take myself out or had someone do it for me,” he says. The way they use personality disorder to diagnose and discharge, he says, “it’s like a mental rape. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Captain Brady has since left Fort Polk and is now on staff at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; recently he deployed to Iraq and was unavailable for comment. In a statement, Maj. Byron Strother, chief of the Department of Behavioral Health at Baynes-Jones hospital, writes that allegations that soldiers at Fort Polk are being misdiagnosed “are not true.” Strother says diagnoses at his hospital are made “only after careful consideration of all relevant clinical observation, direct examination [and] appropriate testing.”

If there are dissatisfied soldiers, says Knorr, the Fort Carson official, “I’ll bet not a single one of them has been diagnosed with conditions that are clear-cut and makes them medically unfit, like schizophrenia.”

Linda Mosier disputes that. When her son Chris left for Iraq in 2004, he was a “normal kid,” she says, who’d call her long-­distance and joke about the strange food and expensive taxis overseas. When he returned home for Christmas 2005, “he wouldn’t sit down for a meal with us. He just kept walking around. I took him to the department store for slacks, and he was inside rushing around saying, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ He wouldn’t sleep, and the one time he did, he woke up screaming.”

Mosier told his mother of a breaking point in Iraq: a roadside bomb that blew up the truck in front of his. “He said his buddies were screaming. They were on fire,” she says, her voice trailing off. “He was there at the end to pick up the hands and arms.” After that Mosier started having delusions. Dr. Wexler of Fort Carson diagnosed personality disorder. Soon after, Mosier was discharged under Chapter 5-13.

Mosier returned home, still plagued by visions. In October he put a note on the front door of their Des Moines, Iowa, home saying the Iraqis were after him and he had to protect the family, then shot himself.

Mosier’s mother is furious that doctors at Fort Carson treated her son for such a brief period of time and that Wexler, citing confidentiality, refused to tell her anything about that treatment or give her family any direction on how to help Chris upon his return home. She does not believe her son had a personality disorder. “They take a normal kid, he comes back messed up, then nobody was there for him when he came back,” Linda says. “They discharged him so they didn’t have to treat him.”

Wexler did not reply to a written request seeking comment on Mosier’s case.

Thrown to the Wolves
Today Jon Town is home, in small-town Findlay, Ohio, with no job, no prospects and plenty of time to reflect on how he got there. Diagnosing him with personality disorder may have saved the Army thousands of dollars, he says, but what did Wexler have to gain?

Quite a lot, says Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, a Washington, DC-based soldiers’ rights group. Since the Iraq War began, he says, doctors have been facing an overflow of wounded soldiers and a shortage of rooms, supplies and time to treat them. By calling PTSD a personality disorder, they usher one soldier out quickly, freeing up space for the three or four who are waiting.

Terry, the veterans’ advocate from IWVO, notes that unlike doctors in the private sector, Army doctors who give questionable diagnoses face no danger of malpractice suits due to Feres v. U.S., a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that bars soldiers from suing for negligence. To maintain that protection, Terry says, most doctors will diagnose personality disorder when prodded to do so by military officials.

That’s precisely how the system works, says one military official familiar with the discharge process. The official, who requested anonymity, is a lawyer with Trial Defense Services (TDS), a unit of the Army that guides soldiers through their 5-13 discharge. “Commanders want to get these guys out the door and get it done fast. Even if the next soldier isn’t as good, at least he’s good to go. He’s deployable. So they’re telling the docs what diagnosis to give to get what discharge.”

The lawyer says he knows this is happening because commanders have told him that they’re doing it. “Some have come to me and talked about doing this. They’re saying, ‘Give me a specific diagnosis. It’ll support a certain chapter.'”

Colonel Martin of Fort Stewart said the prospect of commanders pressuring doctors to diagnose personality disorder is “highly unlikely.” “Doctors are making these determinations themselves,” Martin says. In a statement, Col. William Statz, commander at Fort Polk’s Baynes-Jones hospital, says, “Any allegations that clinical decisions are influenced by either political considerations or command pressures, at any level, are untrue.”

But a second TDS lawyer, who also demanded anonymity, says he’s watched the same process play out at his base. “What I’ve noticed is right before a unit deploys, we see a spike in 5-13s, as if the commanders are trying to clean house, get rid of the soldiers they don’t really need,” he says. “The chain of command just wants to eliminate them and get a new body in there fast to plug up the holes.” If anyone shows even moderate signs of psychological distress, he says, “they’re kicking them to the curb instead of treating them.”

Both lawyers say that once a commander steps in and pushes for a 5-13, the diagnosis and discharge are carved in stone fairly fast. After that happens, one lawyer says he points soldiers toward the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, where a 5-13 label could be overturned, and failing that, advises them to seek redress from their representative in Congress. Town did that, contacting Republican Representative Michael Oxley of Ohio, with little success. Oxley, who has since retired, did not return calls seeking comment.

Few cases are challenged successfully or overturned later, say the TDS lawyers. The system, says one, is essentially broken. “Right now, the Army is eating its own. What I want to see is these soldiers getting the right diagnosis, so they can get the right help, not be thrown to the wolves right away. That is what they’re doing.”

Still, Town tries to remain undaunted. He got his story to Robinson of Veterans for America, who brought papers on his case to an October meeting with several top Washington officials, including Deputy Surgeon General Gale Pollock, Assistant Surgeon General Bernard DeKoning and Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. There Robinson laid out the larger 5-13 problem and submitted a briefing specifically on Town.

“We got a very positive response,” Robinson says. “After we presented, they were almost appalled, like we are every day. They said, ‘We didn’t know this was happening.'” Robinson says the deputy surgeon general promised to look into Town’s case and the others presented to her. Senator Bond, whose son has served in Iraq, floated the idea of a Congressional hearing if the 5-13 issue isn’t resolved. The senator did not return calls seeking comment.

In the meantime, Town is doing his best to keep his head in check. He says his nightmares have been waning in recent weeks, but most of his problems persist. He’s thinking of going to a veterans support group in Toledo, forty-five miles north of Findlay. There will be guys there who have been through this, he says, vets who understand.

Town hesitates, his voice suddenly much softer. “I have my good days and my bad days,” he says. “It all depends on whether I wake up in Findlay or Iraq.”


The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga
There’s nothing worse than narcissism posing as humility.
March 21, 2007
By Ron Rosenbaum

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against yoga—or Eastern disciplines in general. In fact, I’ve done tai chi exercises for many years.

No, it’s the commodification and rhetorical dumbing-down of yoga culture that gets to me. The way something that once was—and still can be—pure and purifying has been larded with mystical schlock. Once a counterweight to our sweaty striving for ego gratification, yoga has become an unctuous adjunct to it.

There is the exploitative and ever-proliferating “yoga media.” The advent of yoga fashion (the yoga mat, the yoga-mat carrier, and yoga-class ensembles). And worst of all, the yoga rhetoric, that soothing syrupy “yoga-speak” that we all know and loathe.

It all adds up to what a friend recently called the “hostile New Age takeover of yoga.” “New Age” culture being those scented-candle shrines to self-worship, the love-oneself lit of The Secret, the “applied kinesiology“-type medical and metaphysical quackery used to support a vast array of alternative-this or alternative-that magical-thinking workshops and spa weekends. At its best, it’s harmless mental self-massage. At its worst, it’s the kind of thinking that blames cancer victims for their disease because they didn’t “manifest” enough positive vibes.

One “manifestation” of this takeover is the shameless enlistment of yoga and elevated Eastern yogic philosophy for shamelessly material Western goals. Rather than an alternative, it’s become an enabler. “Power yoga”! Yoga for success! Yoga for regime change! (Kidding.)

And then there’s what you might call “Yoga for Supermarket Checkout Line Goals.” Or as the cover story of Rodale’s downmarket magazine YogaLife put it, yoga to: “BURN FAT FASTER!” (Subsidiary stories bannered on the YogaLife cover: “4 WAYS TO LOSE 5 POUNDS”; “ZEN SECRETS TO: HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS … INSTANT CALM.”)

Gotta love “Zen Secrets to Instant Calm,” right? It goes right along with other cover lines like “Double Your Flexibility Today!” and “Heal Winter Skin Now!”

Clearly what the ancient inventors of yogic wisdom had in mind: Now! Instant! Today! Very Eastern, calm, and meditative right?

But even more insidious than the easily satirizable but at least down-to-earth and honest magazines like YogaLife—or ethereally serious ones like Yoga + Joyful Living (which coaches readers in “The Breath of Self-Understanding”)—are the mainstream yoga publications such as Yoga Journal, one of the most popular, prosperous, and respectable yoga magazines.

In fact, my impetus for this examination of yoga media came from a sharp-witted woman I know who practices yoga but frankly concedes that—for her, anyway—it’s less about Inner Peace than Outer Hotness. She called my attention to what she called an amazingly clueless—and ultimately cruel (to the writer)—decision by the editors of Yoga Journal to print a first-person story that was ostensibly about the yogic wisdom on forgiveness in relationships.

The story, which appeared in the December 2006 issue, was titled “Forgive Yourself.” It’s by this woman who tells us about an “intense” friendship she once had with a guy nearly 20 years ago, when they were 16. She says it was “never romantic,” and it clearly wasn’t—on his part.

Somehow she picked a fight with him—remember, this was 20 years ago. She defaced some “artwork” he’d done on the back of her jean jacket and danced with some other boys in an attempt to make him jealous.

She claims he gave her a “stricken” look.

Then, 20 years later, she starts to hound the guy. She claims she just happened to be going through some boxes and found a journal of his. She claims the journal convinced her that what she needed to do was apologize and ask his forgiveness. So she Google-stalks him, or, as she puts it: “With the help of an Internet search engine, I tracked him down and sent an e-mail. I told him I was sorry and that I hoped we could talk.”

She “got no response but figured the e-mail address was out of date.” Right.

Anyway she doesn’t let that stop her. “After more digging”—by what methods we’re not told—”I found a phone number and left a message on his machine.”

Her message: “Wow, what a trip to hear your voice! … I missed you!”

He didn’t call back.

But no response doesn’t really mean no, to her. So, “a month later, in desperation, I sent him a short letter,” in which she tells him, “You deserved better. I betrayed your love and friendship and I’m sorry. I made life worse for you and I regret it.”

Doesn’t regret it enough to stop pestering him now though. And notice how at first she’d disclaimed there was anything romantic, but now she’s all “I betrayed your love.” And then there’s the poem: “I hope you can forgive me,” she concludes the note, adding: “I included a poem I’d written for him some years earlier.”

Restraining order time!

Instead he makes the mistake of responding. “About a month later an envelope arrived,” she writes, “addressed in that familiar handwriting. I opened it with trembling hands and found a short note wrapped around my letter and poem.”

“What part of no don’t you understand?” his note said. “I never want to hear from you again.” Cruel, true, but maybe “cruel to be kind.”

“What part of no” does she not understand? Just about every single part of no there is.

What does this have to do with yoga wisdom and its Western use? One might think yoga would counsel acceptance of his feelings. Instead, she takes it as an invitation for further intense inward gazing. Her interpretation: He’s afraid of being hurt again. He just doesn’t understand her: He thought “I clearly hadn’t changed if I was expecting him to give me something (forgiveness) along with everything I’d taken from him.” (Don’t worry, it took me several readings to figure this out too.)

“I sat down and started to cry. I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. What could I do now? How would I ever be able to move on?”

So, using her deep yogic intuition again she decides there is one way of “moving on”: She can write a several-thousand-word article for Yoga Journal about him and her and how we all can learn something from this about “forgiveness.”

“Moving on”? Somehow one wonders if she sent the article to him, perhaps with another poem. And an invitation to “journal” their way to a mutual understanding. Or maybe meet to discuss “closure”?

But look, it’s not really her fault; we’ve all been there. As my sharp-witted friend, who is herself an editor, points out, it is here one has to question the deep yogic wisdom of the editors of Yoga Journal who don’t seem to be able to—or want to—see what is going on and instead encourage the writer’s “journey”—her quest, her stalking—of “self-discovery.”

Thus, we get the classic Western women’s magazine “relationship story” translated into Eastern yoga-speak. Indeed they give it prominent placement in the issue and subject their readers to the endless New Age clichés of pablum-dispensing yoga-wisdom “experts” who further encourage the hapless writer not to move on but to dwell endlessly, excruciatingly, on the microanalysis of the situation.

Instead of counseling her just to leave the poor guy alone, they direct her to dwell on her need to forgive herself: Some “research associate” at Stanford tells her “when people can’t forgive, their stress levels increase which can contribute to cardiovascular problems.”

The poor young woman! All she wants is help, and now she’s told she’s going to have a heart attack.

Another yogic savant, a “clinical psychologist with Elemental Yoga in Boston” even disses the poor guy and further encourages the writer’s obsession, clearly getting the whole thing wrong: “He’s the one that can’t let go,” the “yoga therapist” opines. Right. I guess he wrote that poem to himself.

More yogic “experts” are brought in to prescribe even more “work” on herself. Instead of advising her to leave the whole thing behind, and perhaps perform some act of compassion for someone who needs real help (the admirable Eastern tradition), the yoga experts advise her to enmesh herself in a tediously obsessive spiral of self-examination, which the magazine compounds by prescribing a five-step forgiveness ritual for achieving—you guessed it!—”closure.”

The interminable ritual, which is the work of the purportedly steeped-in-yogic-wisdom editors, not the unfortunate writer, begins with “a ritual bath” complete with “scents” and “candles.”

Then there’s the inevitable “journal” in which you must write down all your “thoughts, feelings and memories.” … “What you learned … what you’ll change … anything that comes into your head.” It’s a full-time job!

But that’s not all there is to the endless forgiveness ritual (which, remember, is not about forgiving him but forgiving herself because he won’t forgive her), there’s the semi-demi witchcraft aspect: “Write down the patterns you seek to change in yourself; then burn what you’ve written.” (They neglect to add, “Use this as reminder to change the batteries in your smoke detector.”)

But it’s not over, the endless ritual. You must next and last, “Send yourself flowers when you’ve completed letting go.”

No premature floral deliveries, mind you. Only when you’ve “completed” letting go, which sending yourself flowers certainly signals. OK maybe one more poem, but that’s it! This is the kind of misguided narcissism (it’s always all about you; metaphorically, it’s all sending flowers to yourself) that gives yoga, an ancient, honorable tradition, a bad name. This is what is meant by the “hostile New Age takeover of yoga.” All this hectoring about the right way to feel. Yoga and other Eastern disciplines are supposed to work from the inside out and not depend on product placement candles, scented bath oils, and “yoga therapists.”

And it’s still not over! If the ritual bath and flower-sending don’t do the trick, there’s a “four-step practice rooted in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that can take us through the process of making amends.” You could spend a lifetime “moving on” from some imagined 20-year-old incident. Then move on to the next incredibly elaborate “Moving On” ceremony. You never get to move in, or move out.

The final step in the great journey of self-understanding the Yoga Journal editors have force-marched her on is realizing it’s all about her “relationship with herself.” Whitney Houston yoga: I found the greatest love of all—Me! It’s the return of New Age Me-generation narcissism. And there’s nothing worse than narcissism posing as humility.

Hey, if Buddhism and other Eastern traditions are about compassion, why not skip the scented bath, skip making amends with the self, skip realization of “the opportunity to embrace aparigraha or non-grasping.” Instead, go down to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help some people who don’t have the resources to send flowers to themselves, people who actually need help. Rather than continuing the endless processes of anointing yourself with overly scented candlelit self-love.

After all this self-indulgence, it’s almost refreshing to turn to a yoga magazine that offers stuff like, “BURN FAT FASTER!”

Anti-rape device to hit market – and rapists
March 20 2007
By Sivuyile Mangxamba

A controversial South African invention, a female condom-like anti-rape device, is almost ready to hit the market after months of waiting for patent verification.

The device, known as Rapex, has stirred controversy around the world but its inventor, Sonnet Ehlers, is preparing the final pre-production phase after seven years of waiting.

The controversy has raged over whether the device, which has fish-like teeth that attach to the head and shaft of the penis, is a medieval device built on a hatred of men or whether it is an easy-to-use invention that could free millions of South African women from fear of rape.

In the latest crime statistics, South Africa recorded a staggering 54 926 rape cases, giving it one of the worst sexual assault records in the world.

“This product can enter the market anytime now.

“The process of checking if there are any patent infringements will be up on April 10,” said Ehlers from her Kleinmond home.

Since publicly announcing her invention one-and-half years ago, Ehlers has shot to international fame, stirring a worldwide debate about the merits of her anti-rape device.

She has been on talk radio shows in England and Australia and even South American journalists have descended on Kleinmond to interview her.

“I am not a male hater, but why must the woman always be the one degraded by rape?” said Ehlers.

Even Rape Crisis Cape Town argues that Rapex is not a solution to the social problem of rape.

They have argued that such a device increases women’s vulnerability to violence.

But for Ehlers this device, which is inserted in the vagina, could give women vital seconds to escape the rapist while he was busy dealing with his pain.

“The surprise factor will give women a chance to escape,” says Ehlers, explaining that the rapist would be in great pain as the 25 teeth attach themselves to the shaft of the penis.

The rapist also has to contend with the fact that only a doctor can remove the fish-like teeth.

“I want this guy to be identified. I want a way that will prove that penetration took place,” said Ehlers.

With production scheduled for next month, Ehlers said the product will be mass-produced in China to keep costs down.


i’m still a little annoyed that they’ve disabled telnet access to my server, but as long as they’re willing to execute shell commands for me (like chmod members.pl +x for example) when i call them, everything will be cool. the new server has a whole bunch of new stats that the old server didn’t have, and a bunch of new interfaces for things like .htaccess, robots.txt and spamassassin that make me very happy. i still haven’t figured out how to password-protect something (8/), and i’ve had to get rid of my logo on the error pages, but i think that may be just a “relative-versus-absolute” addressing problem (it was. the error pages have graphics again). all in all, the new server is very cool, and $50 a year cheaper than the old server.

oh, and since the change from the old server, when they straightened out all of my miscellaneous email address issues, i haven’t gotten more than 5 spams in a day, and there have been two days (including today) where i didn’t get any spam at all. 8)


Will a New Study Force Changes in Drug Law?
A two-year study from a British commission is recommending a reality-based approach to drug law, rooted in science and focused on reducing harm. Americans should take note.
March 15, 2007
By Bruce Mirken

On March 8, a high-powered British commission recommended tossing that country’s law on illegal drugs onto the scrap heap and starting over again. Given that the U.S. Controlled Substances Act parallels the British Misuse of Drugs Act in important ways, the suggestion deserves attention in America as well.

Indeed, it would be a fine start if Americans could simply begin the sort of rational, thoughtful debate on drug policy that the British seem to be having. If we could manage such a thing, we might start changing illogical and unscientific laws that now lead to more U.S. arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.

The RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy, was convened by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, a respected think tank with a 250-year history. After two years of research, this panel of experts and laypeople came to a number of conclusions so sensible and so obvious that it’s astonishing how consistently our elected leaders have avoided confronting them. In particular:

  • The notion of a drug-free society is “almost certainly a chimera. … People have always used substances to change the way they see the world and how they feel, and there is every reason to think they always will.” Therefore, “[t]he main aim of public policy should be to reduce the amount of harms that drugs cause.” A policy based on total prohibition “is bound to fail.”
  • The concept of “drugs” should include tobacco and alcohol. “Indeed, in their different ways, alcohol and tobacco cause far more harm than illegal drugs.” These substances should be brought into a unified regulatory framework “capable of treating substances according to the harm they cause.”
  • The heart of this new regulatory framework must be an index of substance-related harms. “The index should be based on the best available evidence and should be able to be modified in light of new evidence.”
  • We need a new way of evaluating the efficacy of drug policies. “In our view, the success of drugs policy should be measured not in terms of the amounts of drugs seized or in the number of dealers imprisoned, but in terms of the amount of harms reduced.”

As an example of the sort of harms index they envision, the RSA Commission points to an index developed by a pair of British scientists, David Nutt and Colin Blakemore, and published in a House of Commons report last year.

Based on scientific evaluations of physical harms (e.g., acute and chronic toxicity), likelihood of dependence, and social harms (including damage done to others, health care costs, etc.), Nutt and Blakemore ranked 20 different classes of drugs, both legal and illegal. Not surprisingly, heroin was at the top of the harm scale, followed by cocaine and barbiturates. Alcohol and tobacco were rated as significantly more harmful than marijuana and several other illegal substances.

While not specifically endorsing the Nutt/Blakemore index, the RSA Commission clearly considered these rankings a good example of what they have in mind, using them as a starting point for illustrations of how such an index might translate into law. Marijuana, they wrote, “should continue to be controlled. But its position on the harms index suggests that the form this control takes might have to correspond far more closely with the way in which alcohol and tobacco are regulated.”

Both the United States and Britain now have drug laws that rank drugs into a series of classifications. The problem — well, at least one problem — is that these classifications have little connection to what the science actually tells us about the dangers (or lack thereof) of different substances. Britain’s version, the commission noted, “is driven more by ‘moral panic’ than a practical desire to reduce harm. … It sends people to prison who should not be there. It forces people into treatment who do not need it (while, in effect, denying treatment to people who do need it).”

And Britain’s law is, on at least one key point, far more rational than the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. The British classify marijuana in the lowest of three classes of illicit drugs — still illegal, but treated as less dangerous than cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. Simple possession, without aggravating circumstances, is generally a “nonarrestable” offense.

Our CSA ranks marijuana in Schedule I, the worst class of drugs — considered not only to be at high risk of abuse but also to be unsafe for use even under medical supervision — along with heroin and LSD. Amazingly, cocaine and meth are in Schedule II — considered acceptable for use under medical supervision. That such a ranking is insane should not need to be stated.

There are plenty of specifics in the RSA report about which reasonable people can disagree. But the important thing is not what they say about any specific drug — and indeed, the report is careful not to advocate specific legal changes for particular drugs. What’s important is that it suggests a framework that’s far more rational than what now exists in the United States, Britain and most other countries: A reality-based approach rooted in sound science, focusing on how to reduce harm.

Even more encouraging is the generally level-headed reaction thus far. Some commentators are arguing with parts of the report and disagreeing with some suggestions, but even critics seem to be acknowledging that the RSA has raised important issues that need serious discussion.

As a commentary in the March 9 edition of the London paper the Mirror put it, “Hasn’t the time now come to hold a public debate on whether our current drug prohibition is working any better than the alcohol prohibition of Al Capone’s day? Aren’t we now adult enough to discuss whether a legally regulated drug trade would work better than our gangster-run market? We think we are.”

Sadly, it’s hard to imagine such a rational discussion taking place on the national stage in the United States. Meanwhile, in the time it took you to read this, 12 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges.


Shooting Pain
The future of heat-beaming weapons.
Feb. 17, 2007
By William Saletan

If you’re worried about terrorism, upset about the war in Iraq, and depressed by global chaos, violence, and death, cheer up. We’ve just invented a weapon that fires a beam of searing pain.

Three weeks ago, the U.S. armed forces tested it on volunteers at an Air Force base in Georgia. You can watch the video on a military Web site. Three colonels get zapped, along with an Associated Press reporter. The beam is invisible, but its effects are vivid. Two dozen airmen scatter. The AP guy shrieks and bolts out of the target zone. He says it felt like heat all over his body, as though his jacket were on fire.

The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed. The beam’s energy waves penetrate just one-sixty-fourth of an inch into your body, heating your skin like microwaves. They inflame your nerve endings without actually burning you. This could be the future of warfare: less bloodshed, more pain.

Military technology has always sought greater precision from longer range. In the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, we exploited the increasing accuracy of laser-guided bombs. In the post-9/11 terrorist hunt and the occupation of Iraq, we’ve sent hundreds of remotely piloted aerial drones to spy and kill. But the lives protected by drones are ours. The pain beam is more ambitious: It can spare civilians and even the enemy. Precision isn’t just the ability to kill. Sometimes, it’s ability to disperse and deter without killing.

That kind of precision is becoming more important. Twelve years ago, the Department of Defense observed that our armed forces were increasingly being used for peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and protection of civil society. More of our enemies were blending in with, or disguising themselves as, civilians. Through the media, more eyeballs, hearts, and minds could see the infrastructure we destroyed. The DOD proposed the development of weapons “to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment.”

Like lethal weapons, nonlethal weapons have evolved from short- to long-range. Batons and pepper spray required hand-to-hand combat. Water cannons, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and sting ball grenades have extended our reach, but not far enough to keep soldiers clear of rocks or small-arms fire. Some of our weapons are insufficiently discriminate. Tear gas torments a whole crowd, not just the miscreants using it for cover.

Projectiles are also unpredictable. At long range, particularly in crosswinds, rubber bullets can hit the wrong people, or the right people in the wrong places. At close range, they can kill. Look at the absurdly named "FN303 less lethal launcher." It’s supposed to fire "non-lethal projectiles at established non-lethal ranges." But when you’re launching things, less lethal is the best you can do.

That’s where the pain beam comes in. Unlike projectiles, beams are "directed energy." They travel in a straight line over long distances, ignoring gravity and wind. They cause no more damage at 10 feet than at 1,000. Unlike gas, they’re discriminate. Raytheon, the pain beam’s manufacturer, points out that the weapon "allows precise targeting of specific individuals" and that the pain "ceases immediately" when the beam is diverted or the target flees.

The shift from hardware to software, from matter to energy, can do more than control the unpredictability of weapons. It can control the unpredictability of the people who fire them. Early nonlethal devices, such as rubber bullets and Mace, often caused injuries due to abuse by hotheads. When the pain beam was initially being developed, somebody accidentally fired it on a high setting, inflicting a second-degree burn. The designers responded by programming limits on the beam’s power and duration.

Years of work have gone into making the beam safe. It’s been tested thousands of times on 600 volunteers. It’s been reviewed and revised by a human-effects review board, a human-effects advisory panel, and military surgeons general. It’s been tested for effects on skin cancer, fertility, jewelry, and drunks. The results have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Never has an organization licensed to kill jumped through so many hoops to make sure nobody gets injured.

The nonlethal weapons program is a pacifist’s dream. Its “vehicle lightweight arresting devices” are built to stop cars with minimal damage, allowing minor injuries only if you’re “not wearing a seatbelt.” Its “acoustic hailing devices” are engineered to deliver sound waves “below Occupational Safety and Health Administration hearing limits for prolonged exposure.” Its founding directive pledges to avoid environmental damage. Even the less lethal launcher projectiles are “non-toxic.”

But the ability to inflict pain without injury doesn’t just make injury less necessary. It makes pain more essential to military operations—and easier to inflict. To achieve the desired “repel effect,” I have to make you suffer. Knowing that your agony will be brief and leave no physical damage makes the weapon easier to fire. It’s almost as though, like the imagined flames on the AP reporter’s jacket, your pain isn’t real.

That’s the metaphysical gap nonlethal energy weapons exploit. The rain of pain falls mainly in the brain. The long-range acoustic device, for instance, “can target narrow sound beams at excruciating decibel levels, but below the threshold of hearing damage,” according to a military account of a presentation by its project manager. Four months ago, Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation to prosecute torture, defined as intentional infliction of “serious physical or mental pain or suffering.” But that rule applies only in captivity. On the street, pain administration won’t be a crime. It’ll be a policy.

Two weeks from now, military leaders will convene in London to discuss the pain beam and the next generation of directed-energy weapons, including microwaves and lasers. Law enforcement agencies are interested. Raytheon is already advertising the technology for commercial applications. We’re even developing a “personnel halting and stimulation response” system—yes, a PHaSR—to stun targets instead of killing them. But don’t worry, nobody will get hurt. Sort of.


it’s raining really hard.

i went to the post office to mail a package, and on my way, i saw two dogs who have been apparently tethered to a post near a fire hydrant down the street from our house. they have no shelter, no food or water, and the owners are not home. these are dogs that i frequently have to chase out of our yard, because they have been running loose, but i called animal control anyway, because they’re tethered outside with no shelter, and it’s raining really hard. i realise this is not a good way to make friends with the neighbours, but they shouldn’t leave their dogs tethered with no shelter in this kind of weather, and somebody has to say something. of all the people with dogs in our neighbourhood, i would say that we have the largest quantity, and our dogs are treated the best out of all of them, so i don’t even feel guilty about it.

ned cancelled again. he said he was home with a sick kid, which is exactly the same excuse he gave me last time, which was less than a month ago. i would say i’m sorry his kid gets sick so much, but ned has been using the same excuse for long enough that i’m beginning to wonder.

at the same time, it’s probably just as well that he cancelled, because i’m really exhausted, and i’ve got to do an update on the seattle agility center‘s web site and go to a fremont phil rehearsal, and if i had to work seeing ned into the scenario, i probably wouldn’t have the time to do one or the other of those things. sometimes living out in the sticks has its disadvantages… 8/

the first week of the moisture festival came to a close last night. big bois with poise opened last night’s 7:30 show to great acclaim and applause from the audience. we premiered a “new” act, which was more or less the same as the old act, only with new costumes (diapers, bibs, and baby-bottle poi), and a new “twist” at the end, having to do with babies and “moisture”… heh heh heh… 8)


i’ve been averaging around 100 spam messages a day for at least three months. it’s been getting really annoying.

yesterday they completed my move to a different server for Hybrid Elephant, which included straightening out some things that caused me to receive a lot of spam, and cleaned up a bunch of other things relating to my personal account(s) that caused me to get way too much spam.

normally i wake up and have between 30 and 70 spams that i have to process.

today, i woke up and there were two spams in my inbox.

something was wrong… but whatever it was, it appears to be fixed now. massive sigh of relief!


tonight is the opening performance of The Moisture Festival, which will very likely mean that i won’t be posting with the regularity that i usually do until it’s over in three weeks.

for those of you in the seattle area, i encourage you to come see us in action. in spite of all the turmoil and tension surrounding the program, the schedule, etc., etc., (etc., etc… 8/ ), it comes with a guarantee that it is the best show west of the mississippi, as well as being the longest running comedie/varieté showcase IN THE WORLD!

and if you write to me – przxqgl at livejournal dot com – there is a possibility that i can comp you, so don’t let lack of money keep you from a rollicking good time. 8)


the process of moving my server is complete, and other technical issues with my personal account(s) have been taken care off, so that now i will probably receive a lot less spam than i did previously. i’ve been averaging around 100 spam messages a day for the past 3 months. yesterday i only received half of that, and today, so far, i have received no spam messages at all. if nothing else, i like that a lot…

although they’ve disabled telnet on their servers “for security reasons”, which means that i will not be able to symlink deep parts of my site to shallow URIs. i’m not totally sure i understand their “security reasons” (partially because they haven’t told me what they are), but as long as they’re willing to come up with another way to create symbolic links, i won’t complain too much.


on sunday i met with a “project manager” (otherwise known as ian, a guy who i have known for around 30 years) to discuss how to make my business do more of what it’s supposed to do, which is bring in money to support me. he gave me a whole bunch of ideas – significantly, he is the first person to actually say that i do, in fact, need a workshop (and it turns out that he knows a guy who might be able to get a shipping container in which to put said workshop). one of the other things that he suggested was to expand my disk quota on drizzle, so that we would have a place to put documents related to my business that are meaningful to both of us. so i contacted drizzle, and they are changing my DNS, at this very moment, so that i (well, hybridelephant.com) will be located on a different server, so that instead of having 40mb maximum (which is what i have now), it will have 500mb maximum, which should be more than enough. added perquisites to this are that hybridelephant.com will also have a real SQL database for my shopping cart, 60 pop email addresses – real email addresses, not aliases – and it will cost around $50 a year less than it did before the move.

to add to all of this, i got $200 from drunk puppet night, which i was not expecting, and i did business cards for MIVC (one of the places where moe works) which is going to bring in another $200, along with the $280 that is coming in from the MF program and whatever they deign to pay me for actually being a musician in the MF should put me over $500 in the bank, which will be the first time i have ever had that much money in the bank since i first started the business.

maybe this “project manager” thing is going to actually work out… it seems to be doing so so far…


Terrorists Proving Harder to Profile
European Officials Say Traits of Suspected Islamic Extremists Are Constantly Shifting
By Craig Whitlock
March 12, 2007

ZUTPHEN, Netherlands — On the surface, the young Dutch Moroccan mother looked like an immigrant success story: She studied business in college, hung out at the pub with her friends and was known for her fashionable taste in clothes.

So residents of this 900-year-old river town were thrown for a loop last year when Bouchra El-Hor, now 24, appeared in a British courtroom wearing handcuffs under an all-encompassing black veil. Prosecutors said she had covered up plans for a terrorist attack and wrote a letter offering to sacrifice herself and her infant son as martyrs.

“We were flabbergasted to learn that she had become a fanatic,” said Renee Haantjes, a college instructor who recalled her as “a normal Dutch girl.”

People in Zutphen may have been surprised, but terrorism suspects from atypical backgrounds are becoming increasingly common in Western Europe. With new plots surfacing every month, police across Europe are arresting significant numbers of women, teenagers, white-skinned suspects and people baptized as Christians — groups that in the past were considered among the least likely to embrace Islamic radicalism.

The demographics of those being arrested are so diverse that many European counterterrorism officials and analysts say they have given up trying to predict what sorts of people are most likely to become terrorists. Age, sex, ethnicity, education and economic status have become more and more irrelevant.

“It’s very difficult to make a profile of terrorists,” Tjibbe Joustra, the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism, said in an interview. “To have a profile that you can recognize, so that you can predict, ‘This guy is going to be radical, perhaps he will cross the line into terrorism’ — that, I think, is impossible.”

European authorities said the trait patterns of those arrested on terrorism charges are constantly shifting. In the Netherlands, officials said they are seeing an increase in the number of young teenagers and people of Turkish descent, two groups that used to be low on their radar. Among the key players in the Hofstad group, a cell of Islamic radicals that targeted Dutch politicians and cultural figures, was Jason Walters, the teenage son of a U.S. soldier.

In neighboring Belgium, people are still perplexed over what drove Muriel Degauque, 38, a blond, white Catholic, to convert to Islam and travel to Iraq to blow herself up in November 2005. Nizar Trabelsi, convicted two years earlier of plotting to bomb a NATO base in Belgium, had been a European soccer star before going to Afghanistan to attend al-Qaeda training camps.

In Britain, three of the suspects arrested in last summer’s alleged transatlantic airline hijacking plot were religious converts who grew up in north London’s affluent suburbs. One was the well-to-do English son of a Conservative Party activist; he worked in a bar and loved the movie “Team America.”

A recently completed Dutch study of 242 Islamic radicals convicted or accused of planning terrorist attacks in Europe from 2001 to 2006 found that most were men of Arab descent who had been born and raised in Europe and came from lower or middle-class backgrounds. They ranged in age from 16 to 59 at the time of their arrests; the average was 27. About one in four had a criminal record.

The author of the study, Edwin Bakker, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, tried to examine almost 20 variables concerning the suspects’ social and economic backgrounds. In general, he determined that no reliable profile existed — their traits were merely an accurate reflection of the overall Muslim immigrant population in Europe. “There is no standard jihadi terrorist in Europe,” the study concluded.

In an interview, Bakker said that many local police agencies have been slow to abandon profiling, but that most European intelligence agencies have concluded it is an unreliable tool for spotting potential terrorists. “How can you single them out? You can’t,” he said. “For the secret services, it doesn’t give them a clue. We should focus more on suspicious behavior and not profiling.”

Bakker and other analysts said more attention should be devoted to understanding the personal experiences that motivate people to become radicals. For example, Dutch researchers said they suspect one reason why more young women are becoming involved in radical networks in the Netherlands is that they come under the influence of “Moroccan lover boys.” Authorities use the phrase to describe charismatic Romeos who manipulate emotionally needy women into committing criminal acts. “These are really down-to-earth things that we should not underestimate,” Bakker said.

Indeed, there are clear signs that al-Qaeda cells and affiliates are intentionally recruiting supporters from nontraditional backgrounds as a way to avoid detection, according to European intelligence officials and analysts.

In London, eight male al-Qaeda suspects are currently on trial for an alleged plot to blow up unspecified targets in Britain with bombs made of ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in fertilizers. According to testimony at the trial, which began in March 2006, the defendants persuaded a Canadian woman, whom they had met on the Internet, to wire money on their behalf because she was less likely to attract suspicion.

Zenab Armend Pisheh, a student at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., said a member of the cell asked her to wire more than $5,000 so the defendants could go to Pakistan in 2003 to attend an al-Qaeda training camp. “He said it had to be a woman because sisters don’t get caught — brothers get caught if they send money,” Pisheh said in a statement to British investigators.

According to trial testimony last fall, Pisheh met one of the defendants, Anthony Garcia, of east London, in an Internet chat room and quickly fell in love; they became engaged without ever meeting face to face. He introduced her to other accused conspirators, including the man who asked her to wire the cash.

Garcia is of Algerian descent, but testified in September that he legally changed his name from Rahman Adam to further his ambitions as a fashion model and because the Latin-sounding name “had a better ring to it.” British investigators, however, believe he was trying to conceal his Muslim and Arab background from police.

John Horgan, a senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said terrorist groups are constantly trying to catch law enforcement officials off guard.

“One guiding principle for terrorist groups is to always maintain the psychological edge and the upper hand by doing things that are surprising to the enemy,” he said. “So you’ll see the use of a child, the use of a woman.”

Among those arrested last August in London in the alleged transatlantic hijacking plot, for example, was Cossor Ali, a 24-year-old mother married to another suspect in the case. British investigators suspect that she or her husband planned to smuggle liquid explosives onto a flight in their infant daughter’s bottle.

In the Dutch study of terrorism suspects in Europe, only five of the 242 suspects examined were women. But Dutch counterterrorism officials said they have seen a significant rise in the number of female suspects in the past two years.

“It seems that it will be simply a matter of time before these women also become actively involved in violence,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, known as AIVD, reported a year ago in a unclassified analysis of terrorism trends in the country.

In May 2006, two months after the intelligence analysis was released, British police stopped Hor, the young Dutch Moroccan mother from Zutphen, and her husband at Luton airport outside London. Although it is unclear what prompted the stop, investigators said they found suspicious files on the husband’s laptop computer, including instructions for building a homemade rocket launcher and explosives.

In a search of the couple’s home, police said, they found radical literature, including a document titled “A Training Schedule for Committing Jihad.” They also discovered a letter written by Hor in which she offered herself and their 6-month-old son as martyrs for an unspecified cause.

Hor was later arrested and charged with failing to disclose information to prevent a terrorist attack. Her husband, Yassin Nassari, 27, was charged with possessing documents for terrorism. They are scheduled to go on trial May 23 in London.

Both had been living in Britain, but they frequently traveled back and forth to the Netherlands, authorities said. Dutch police assisted in the investigation, conducting a search of Nassari’s parents’ home in Eindhoven. Prosecutors have disclosed few other details.

Bart Nooitgedagt, a lawyer in Amsterdam who represents Hor, declined to answer questions about the case but said his client was innocent. “I’m pretty convinced she will be cleared of all the accusations that are being made,” he said. “I cannot believe, and will not believe, that this will lead to a conviction.”

In Zutphen, a town of 46,000 people alongside the Ijssel River, former neighbors and friends said they are still struggling to understand how Hor transformed so quickly from a fashion-conscious college student with a secular outlook on life into a burqa-wearing fundamentalist. “She was a modern young girl,” Allal Kaddouri, a friend and owner of a pizzeria in the center of town, told the Apeldoornse Courant newspaper.

Zutphen has had a sizable immigrant population since the early 1970s, when Turks and North Africans began arriving to fill low-wage jobs in the booming Dutch economy. About one-sixth of the town is of Turkish or Arab descent.

Adriaan van Oosten, an alderman responsible for immigration issues, said there have been no overt signs of Islamic radicalism. He said civic and religious leaders met after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States to ensure that there were no problems festering under the surface. “We certainly haven’t had any tensions,” he said.

People who knew Hor speculated that she changed after she married her husband, whom she apparently met in London while on a study-abroad program. Jeroen Ongering, a professor at a nearby community college who taught Hor, said she was a good student but abruptly dropped out in the summer of 2003 without explanation.

“For us, we had no signal at all that there was anything wrong or amiss,” Ongering said in an interview. “She was a Moroccan girl, but she was very Westernized. She knew she was a very beautiful woman. It’s hard for us to understand.”

Your Christian President dot com — even the “christians” are getting upset about shrub… but still, nobody is actually doing anything about him. come on people, your terrorist president needs you!


in spite of my previous hesitance and trepidation, closing night of drunk puppet night went off with only minor hitches that we could easily deal with. for example, the lighting effects (disco ball, follow spots, etc.) blew the breaker on the power strip that they were (all 8/ ) plugged into, which was located on the ceiling and only accessible with a ladder, which wasn’t able to be set up when there were (occupied) chairs in the way, so i had to get by with plain old house lights for the opening, intermission and closing… and i didn’t get a drink ticket, so i had to pay for my own drinks. on the positive side, we got beau in the board, so you could actually understand his “any attempt to make sense of the next 10 minutes would be a profound waste of your time”, “does this incarnation make me look fat” and “normal is just an average of a lot of bizarre behaviour, brought to you by the magic of mathematical averaging”. i got a present from jeppa, aka “Queen Schmooquan”: her “Goatgirl: plum” CD (which is music, i think… i haven’t listened to it yet). she said that she’s got another present for me, as well, but she said that she would give it to me the next time she sees me (whever that is going to be), and she’s not telling me what it is. she was actually able to sneak a piece of music by frank zappa into her show (it was an orchestral interlude from “200 Motels”), without josh noticing, otherwise he probably would have made her change it. i sold all of my buttons. admittedly i only made half as many this year as i did last year, but i also got at least one request for a button that came after they had already sold out. also josh paid me, which is the first time that he’s thought to do that since i got the job, four years ago.

and when i got home, i had 10 albums worth of music by The Residents .ape files downloaded and burned onto CDs. i’m downloading 15 more at this very moment, and i will probably download more later. bit torrent FTW!

i’m going to meet with ian this afternoon to discuss ways to market Hybrid Elephant more effectively. should be interesting. his current business venture brought in $3M last year, and they just sold a bunch of their domains to MTV. i figure if i can get .001% of that, it would be a good thing for my business.

dan’s funeral

my good friend, dan, husband of moe’s friend and compatriot, trudy, died suddenly last week, of a heart attack. his funeral was today.

it was a catholic funeral, but i get the impression that it was catholic more for his family than it was because he wanted it that way, because i didn’t know him as anything like obviously catholic. afterwards they showed a video commemorating him. trudy was in tears, and it looked like she had been that way for at least a week.

why wasn’t it me?

and even worse, if it had been me, it probably wouldn’t have affected dan’s life anyway…

i am going to have to be able to “forget” about this for long enough to do lights and sound for the closing night of drunk puppet night, and then go to a closing night party. at this point, i don’t know whether it’s going to happen or not.



The Everything Test

There are many different types of tests on the internet today. Personality tests, purity tests, stereotype tests, political tests. But now, there is one test to rule them all.

Traditionally, online tests would ask certain questions about your musical tastes or clothing for a stereotype, your experiences for a purity test, or deep questions for a personality test.We’re turning that upside down – all the questions affect all the results, and we’ve got some innovative results too! Enjoy 🙂

You are more emotional than logical, more concerned about self than concerned about others, more religious than atheist, more loner than dependent, more lazy than workaholic, more traditional than rebel, more artistic mind than engineering mind, more idealist than cynical, more leader than follower, and more extroverted than introverted.

As for specific personality traits, you are religious (90%), artistic (90%), romantic (86%), intellectual (80%).

Old Geezer 100%
Punk Rock 73%
Prep 62%
Life Experience
Sex 42%
Substances 22%
Travel 35%

Your political views would best be described as Liberal, whom you agree with around 82% of the time.
Your attitude toward life best associates you with Middle Class. You make more than 0% of those who have taken this test, and 98% less than the U.S. average.

If your life was a movie, it would be rated PG-13.
By the way, your hottness rank is 55%, hotter than 79% of other test takers.

brought to you by thatsurveysite


Drug testing kids a bad idea, doctors say
March 5, 2007

CHICAGO – Subjecting children to drug testing is usually a bad idea for a host of reasons, including often inaccurate results and loss of the child’s trust, a leading pediatricians’ group said on Monday.

Increasingly, schools are embarking on drug testing, particularly of student-athletes, following a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared the practice legal.

Parents may also be tempted by newly available home drug screening kits in an effort to catch the problem early.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics, updating its decade-old policy statement on the issue, said screening for illicit drugs is a complicated process prone to errors and cheating, and has not been shown to curtail youngsters’ drug use.

Drug testing also creates a counterproductive climate of “resentment, distrust and suspicion” between children and their parents or school administrators, a committee of experts wrote in the March issue of the group’s journal, Pediatrics.

False-positive results can arise from eating poppy seeds or ingesting certain cold medications, and test results may need to be confirmed with expensive further testing, it said.

Many students are also likely to be aware of Web sites that offer methods of defeating drug testing.

In addition, several illegal drugs are undetectable in urine more than 72 hours after use, and standard tests do not detect often abused substances such as alcohol, Ecstasy and inhalants. Some youngsters may respond to testing by avoiding drugs such as marijuana and instead abuse less-detectable, but more dangerous, drugs, the statement said.

“A key issue at the heart of the drug-testing dilemma is the lack of developmentally appropriate adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment” in many communities, it said, noting existing programs designed for adults may be unsuitable for children.

The report suggested parents suspicious that a child is abusing drugs or alcohol consult the child’s primary care doctor rather than rely on school-based drug screening or home kits to check their concerns.

Marijuana, the wonder drug
By Lester Grinspoon
March 1, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine that we still need “proof” of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

The study, from the University of California at San Francisco, found that smoked marijuana was effective at relieving the extreme pain of a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy.

It was a study of HIV patients, but a similar type of pain caused by damage to nerves afflicts people with many other illnesses including diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Neuropathic pain is notoriously resistant to treatment with conventional pain drugs. Even powerful and addictive narcotics like morphine and OxyContin often provide little relief. This study leaves no doubt that marijuana can safely ease this type of pain.

As all marijuana research in the United States must be, the new study was conducted with government-supplied marijuana of notoriously poor quality. So it probably underestimated the potential benefit.

This is all good news, but it should not be news at all. In the 40-odd years I have been studying the medicinal uses of marijuana, I have learned that the recorded history of this medicine goes back to ancient times.

In the 19th century it became a well-established Western medicine whose versatility and safety were unquestioned. From 1840 to 1900, American and European medical journals published over 100 papers on the therapeutic uses of marijuana, also known as cannabis.

Our knowledge has advanced greatly over the years. Scientists have identified over 60 unique constituents in marijuana, called cannabinoids, and we have learned much about how they work. We have also learned that our own bodies produce similar chemicals, called endocannabinoids.

The mountain of accumulated anecdotal evidence that pointed the way to the present and other clinical studies also strongly suggests there are a number of other devastating disorders and symptoms for which marijuana has been used for centuries.

They deserve the same careful, methodologically sound research.

While few such studies have so far been completed, all have lent weight to what medicine already knew but had largely forgotten or ignored: Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe — safer than most medicines prescribed every day.

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to isolate cannabinoids and synthesize analogs and to package them in non-smokable forms. In time, companies will almost certainly come up with products and delivery systems that are more useful and less expensive than herbal marijuana.

However, the analogs they have produced so far are more expensive than herbal marijuana, and none has shown any improvement over the plant nature gave us to take orally or to smoke.

We live in an antismoking environment. But as a method of delivering certain medicinal compounds, smoking marijuana has some real advantages: The effect is almost instantaneous, allowing the patient to fine-tune his or her dose to get the needed relief without intoxication.

Smoked marijuana has never been demonstrated to have serious pulmonary consequences, but in any case the technology to inhale these cannabinoids without smoking marijuana already exists as vaporizers that allow for smoke-free inhalation.

Hopefully the UCSF study will add to the pressure on the U.S. government to rethink its irrational ban on the medicinal use of marijuana — and its destructive attacks on patients and caregivers in states that have chosen to allow such use.

Rather than admit they have been mistaken all these years, federal officials can cite “important new data” and start revamping outdated and destructive policies.

Such legislation would bring much-needed relief to millions suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other debilitating illnesses.


i feel slightly better about the whole moisture festival program thing because now it appears that i will actually be paid for the job, even though they’re going to have to toss half of my artwork before printing actually starts… which it hasn’t yet, but they’re on their own at this point… and they readily admit that none if it is my fault, although they don’t offer any assurances that it won’t happen exactly the same way next year – which makes me think that i probably won’t be doing the program next year, regardless of how much they pay me.


it now appears that RB has convinced sandy to do the typesetting for the “real” schedule. she says that she has “identical” fonts, which i doubt – and even if she does, i know for a fact that she doesn’t know how to use them, because she told me so a month and a half ago. but at the same time, apparently the schedule that was delivered to me by RB – two days after the deadline – is dramatically out of date(?!), so even if it was printed, it would be totally wrong. despite the fact that ron lacks several clues when it comes to figuring out the schedule, and dealing with artists, it’s probably just as well that somebody is creating a more up to date one.

i finally convinced my antique scanner to quit crashing my antique mac, so i posted the colour cover, for whatever that’s worth…



the first box of colour covers arrived today. they are a thing of beauty, and i can’t wait to see the complete program…

but i just got a call from RB, who is one of the producers of the show. he’s concerned that the schedule in program isn’t right. yes, the schedule is not right: he neglected to send me the most up-to-date schedule until it was too late, and now he’s paying for it. so, instead, he, himself, wants to typeset the right information, combine them with a screened background and “replace” entire pages of the program during the printing process, so that the schedule will be right. he says “we’re doing this for the artists, and they’re going to want an accurate schedule”, but i think that just about any artist would understand that, after a certain point, changes cannot be made, and i am not going to have time to make the changes myself… which means that someone else (RB?) will be attempting (and, knowing RB and crew, probably failing miserably, but doing it anyway because that’s what RB wants) to match my typography and the line screen on the halftones… which means that the program won’t look as good, even with the colour covers.

he says he appreciates the work i put into it, and that “he’s never produced a shoddy performance”, but i doubt he’s got the typefaces, never mind the time or expertise to combine them with the artwork the way i did. if he appreciates my work so much, why doesn’t he leave it alone, rather than fucking with it? he says “we’re doing this for the artists”, but what about my artwork? doesn’t that matter? if so, why did i even bother in the first place? 8\

i’m starting to agree with chris… the MF is a MF… 8/


a loooooooooooong time ago – i was living in gordy’s house, before i moved up to state street, so… probably 1987 or thereabouts – i had this dream of owning a school bus that was also a dwelling and/or a workshop come one step closer to being a reality than it had been before (or since), when i actually began the process of buying a converted school bus from a woman named mauldiwarp moongate-climber… i say “began the process of buying” because she began the process by sending me the (unsigned) title to the vehicle and then disappearing to lapland (literally) where she was unavailable to do things like actually sign the bill of sale on the opposite side of the title. meanwhile i found out that the engine and transmission, which had originally been a 1959 international diesel school bus engine and the corresponding 5-speed manual transmission, had been “replaced” with a 1972 ford pinto engine and the 3-speed automatic transmission that went along with it, which, of course, made it impossible to move the massive international school bus more than 5 miles without overheating, blowing gaskets and generally leaving me in a much, much worse place than i was before i began the process of buying it. the upshot was that, after i found a series of “technically illegal” places to park the bus, i moved it into the vacant lot next door to gordy’s house, where it stayed until mauldiwarp got back from lapland, at which point she seemingly-successfully sold it to another mangy hippie-type, because i never saw it again.

problem is, the school bus left my life, but the dream of owning a converted school bus got stronger. with the advent of internet, the probability that i was going to run into this site increased dramatically…

this could be dangerous… 8)


i got another order for business cards, another incense order, and a potential for postcards a few weeks down the road. i don’t like doing print brokering as well as i like selling incense, but i make more per job brokering printing than i do selling incense. and that’s not to say that i dislike brokering printing, especially when all i have to do is email the artwork to the printer, but i still like selling incense better.


the second week of drunk puppet night performances are history. while the second week was somewhat more drunk than the first week (inclusion of “The Enablàrs” and Holly Chernobyl pushed it over the edge), it was still rather tame compared to two or three years ago, but we had a full house, so i can’t complain too much. i also sold 17 buttons… they sell so much better when someone actually mentions that they’re for sale (which they haven’t done the past three nights in a row. 8/ )

sandy has apparently found a local printer that will do the inside pages, plus folding, collating and stapling the whole job (plus the colour cover, which should arrive tuesday or wednesday) for $1,400, which is a lot more like what we can afford, so at this point, i can say with relative confidence that we will have finished programs by the time the show opens.


More in U.S. plunge deeper into poverty
The ranks of the severely poor are soaring, study finds.
March 1, 2007
By Tony Pugh

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation’s “haves” and “have-nots” continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 — half the federal poverty line — was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That’s 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind, and the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries.

That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation’s 37 million poor people into deep poverty — the highest rate since at least 1975.

Since 2000, the share of poor Americans in deep poverty has grown “more than any other segment of the population,” according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began,” said Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, who co-authored the study. “We’re not seeing as much moderate poverty as a proportion of the population. What we’re seeing is a dramatic growth of severe poverty.”

McClatchy’s review suggests that the rise in the number of severely poor residents isn’t confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

For Sacramento County, the census estimates that between 60,000 and 76,000 people — roughly 5 percent of the total population — live in deep poverty. County-level data are subject to significant margins of error because of the smaller populations and the smaller geographic areas they cover.

California has an estimated 1.9 million severely poor residents. But the state’s 8 percent growth in the number of severely poor from 2000 to 2005 was one of the nation’s slowest. Only eight states had smaller growth during that time.

The growth nationally, which leveled off in 2005, in part reflects how hard it is for low-skilled workers to earn their way out of poverty in a job market that favors skilled and educated workers. It also suggests that social programs aren’t as effective as they once were at catching those who fall into economic despair.

Female-headed families with children account for a large share of the severely poor. About one in three severely poor people are under age 17, and nearly two out of three are female.

According to census data, nearly two of three people in severe poverty are white (10.3 million) and 6.9 million are non-Hispanic whites. Severely poor blacks (4.3 million) are more than three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be in deep poverty, while extremely poor Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) are more than twice as likely.

The problem of severe poverty is most pronounced in towns near the Mexican border and in some areas of the South, where 6.5 million severely poor residents are struggling to find work as manufacturing jobs in the textile, apparel and furniture-making industries disappear. The Midwestern Rust Belt and areas of the Northeast also have been hard hit as economic restructuring and foreign competition have forced numerous plant closings.

At the same time, low-skilled immigrants with impoverished family members are increasingly drawn to the South and Midwest to work in the meatpacking, food-processing and agriculture industries.

“What appears to be taking place is that, over the long term, you have a significant permanent underclass that is not being impacted by anti-poverty policies,” said Michael Tanner, the director of Health and Welfare Studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Over the past two decades, America has had the highest or near-highest poverty rates for children, individual adults and families among 31 developed countries, according to the Luxembourg Income Study, a 23-year project that compares poverty and income data from 31 industrial nations.

“It’s shameful,” said Timothy Smeeding, the former director of the study and the current head of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. “We’ve been the worst performer every year since we’ve been doing this study.”

42% – Christians First, Americans Second


Among non-Muslim nations, the United States is the outlier in terms of religious self-identification; about four in ten U.S. adults see themselves as Christians first rather than as Americans first, while an additional 7% say they self-identify as both equally according to the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes survey. In this regard, the views of Americans closely parallel those of French Muslims, 46% of whom think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality. By contrast, only a third of German Christians (33%), and fewer than a quarter of British, French and Spanish Christians self-identify primarily with their religion.


the printer that i originally wanted to do the inside (black & white) pages – troy – can’t do it on schedule because the job is too large – 60,000 impressions, 30,000 finished pieces – and we need it in 2 weeks. the printer that did the colour cover (at a very reasonable price, $700) can do it, but wants $4500, and they will only print it on 100# gloss book with an aqueous coating – read “very shiny, durable, high quality printing” – which is way fancier and heavier-duty than we need, and far outside our budget. kinkos can do it on time, and stay inside our budget, plus do the stuff that we thought we were going to have to do outselves (fold, collate, staple), but it’s kinkos… yeeech!



and there was much rejoicing…

but the schedule is already wrong… in fact they sent me two updates since it has been finished… but that’s why they say “schedule is subject to change without notice”.

and the printing hasn’t actually been done yet… or approved yet… or estimated on yet… but i’m confident that i can come up with an estimate that will be more than reasonable, and at this point, if they don’t approve it, they’re screwed… but once that is realised, there’s a good chance that we will have completed programs in time for opening night!