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i left my car at the “public, you-don’t-have-to-pay-for-a-parking space” near the baseball stadium on the west side of the tracks, and wandered for an hour or so before showing up at westlake mall, which is where the “walk” was going to take place. it turned out that the woman who was monitoring the cameras had a rehearsal this evening, so instead of being a 5 hour walk, it was only 3 hours… they positively hurried compared to the pace they would have taken if it had been 5 hours. i took a whole bunch of pictures – which are linked behind this picture, which is one of my favourites:


this picture was taken as i was leaving. i think i broke ezra’s concentration, but they had been walking for around 2 hours at that point, so i think it was justified.

ron hammond
ron hammond

also, i saw my father, who was taking pictures. i took several pictures of him without him noticing who i was… then i came up behind him and said his name, he turned, and recognised me immediately. i’m not really too surprised, considering that i haven’t even spoken with him in over 2 years, but at the same time, i took 5 pictures of him, and i was fairly obvious about it, but he didn’t realise it was me until the last one, where i actually said his name before clicking the shutter.

i also found a whole bunch of interesting stickers, grafitti, another glove, a wig… ?

blurdge blurdge blurdge
blurdge blurdge blurdge

i also made an empirical discovery while driving home that was significant enough to me that i had to take a picture of it, despite the fact that i was driving on the freeway at the time. while i was driving, i drove into a squall, and right at the north edge of it, there was a rainbow that was so bright that i could actually see “the end” of the rainbow, except that it was a circle. unfortunately i couldn’t get a picture of the entire circle, because it was at street level, at the edge of my car… which was hurtling south on I-5 at the speed of traffic at the time, so give me a break. but my discovery that “the end” of the rainbow doesn’t exist solves a mystery that i have wondered about my whole life.


ezra just called. apparently he is participating in a 5-hour walk between 5th and pine, and 4th and pine, in downtown seattle today. they’re going to take 5 hours – from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm – to walk 1 block, without interacting with anybody.

this is definitely my kid.

i’m going to take pictures. should be interesting.


microsoft, among others, sees the invention and popularization of the general-purpose computer as a historical mistake.

ALL of the things you can currently do with computers (write text, do mathematical computations, edit graphics, edit sound, manipulate financial records, statistically analyze data) are things that the general public should not have access to for free. period. all these things should be rented to consumers, with ultimate control of the data involved residing in the renting corporations, not the individual users.

if windows vista’s control mechanisms become established, linux will become, by default, useless, and shortly thereafter, illegal. after all, of what use is a computer that can’t communicate with any public or corporate data (i.e. if ALL commercial content is protected, including commercial websites)? and if this is the case, any attempt by non-“trusted” computers to access this data will be definition be illegal cracking.

which is why this article is particularly scary…

Researchers Explore Scrapping Internet
April 13, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) – Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the federal government’s blessing want to scrap all that and start over.

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a “clean slate” approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on Sept. 2, 1969.

The Internet “works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions,” said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. “It’s sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today.”

No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the Internet’s underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.

Even Vinton Cerf, one of the Internet’s founding fathers as co- developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was “generally healthy” because the current technology “does not satisfy all needs.”

One challenge in any reconstruction, though, will be balancing the interests of various constituencies. The first time around, researchers were able to toil away in their labs quietly. Industry is playing a bigger role this time, and law enforcement is bound to make its needs for wiretapping known.

There’s no evidence they are meddling yet, but once any research looks promising, “a number of people (will) want to be in the drawing room,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor affiliated with Oxford and Harvard universities. “They’ll be wearing coats and ties and spilling out of the venue.”

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Rutgers, Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the universities pursuing individual projects. Other government agencies, including the Defense Department, have also been exploring the concept.

The European Union has also backed research on such initiatives, through a program known as Future Internet Research and Experimentation, or FIRE. Government officials and researchers met last month in Zurich to discuss early findings and goals.

A new network could run parallel with the current Internet and eventually replace it, or perhaps aspects of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture.

These clean-slate efforts are still in their early stages, though, and aren’t expected to bear fruit for another 10 or 15 years—assuming Congress comes through with funding.

Guru Parulkar, who will become executive director of Stanford’s initiative after heading NSF’s clean-slate programs, estimated that GENI alone could cost $350 million, while government, university and industry spending on the individual projects could collectively reach $300 million. Spending so far has been in the tens of millions of dollars.

And it could take billions of dollars to replace all the software and hardware deep in the legacy systems.

Clean-slate advocates say the cozy world of researchers in the 1970s and 1980s doesn’t necessarily mesh with the realities and needs of the commercial Internet.

“The network is now mission critical for too many people, when in the (early days) it was just experimental,” Zittrain said.

The Internet’s early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible—qualities that proved key to its rapid growth.

But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the Internet doesn’t have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what.

The network’s designers also assumed that computers are in fixed locations and always connected. That’s no longer the case with the proliferation of laptops, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices, all hopping from one wireless access point to another, losing their signals here and there.

Engineers tacked on improvements to support mobility and improved security, but researchers say all that adds complexity, reduces performance and, in the case of security, amounts at most to bandages in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

Workarounds for mobile devices “can work quite well if a small fraction of the traffic is of that type,” but could overwhelm computer processors and create security holes when 90 percent or more of the traffic is mobile, said Nick McKeown, co-director of Stanford’s clean- slate program.

The Internet will continue to face new challenges as applications require guaranteed transmissions—not the “best effort” approach that works better for e-mail and other tasks with less time sensitivity.

Think of a doctor using teleconferencing to perform a surgery remotely, or a customer of an Internet-based phone service needing to make an emergency call. In such cases, even small delays in relaying data can be deadly.

And one day, sensors of all sorts will likely be Internet capable.

Rather than create workarounds each time, clean-slate researchers want to redesign the system to easily accommodate any future technologies, said Larry Peterson, chairman of computer science at Princeton and head of the planning group for the NSF’s GENI.

Even if the original designers had the benefit of hindsight, they might not have been able to incorporate these features from the get- go. Computers, for instance, were much slower then, possibly too weak for the computations needed for robust authentication.

“We made decisions based on a very different technical landscape,” said Bruce Davie, a fellow with network-equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc., which stands to gain from selling new products and incorporating research findings into its existing line.

“Now, we have the ability to do all sorts of things at very high speeds,” he said. “Why don’t we start thinking about how we take advantage of those things and not be constrained by the current legacy we have?”

Of course, a key question is how to make any transition—and researchers are largely punting for now.

“Let’s try to define where we think we should end up, what we think the Internet should look like in 15 years’ time, and only then would we decide the path,” McKeown said. “We acknowledge it’s going to be really hard but I think it will be a mistake to be deterred by that.”

Kleinrock, the Internet pioneer at UCLA, questioned the need for a transition at all, but said such efforts are useful for their out-of- the-box thinking.

“A thing called GENI will almost surely not become the Internet, but pieces of it might fold into the Internet as it advances,” he said.

Think evolution, not revolution.

Princeton already runs a smaller experimental network called PlanetLab, while Carnegie Mellon has a clean-slate project called 100 x 100.

These days, Carnegie Mellon professor Hui Zhang said he no longer feels like “the outcast of the community” as a champion of clean-slate designs.

Construction on GENI could start by 2010 and take about five years to complete. Once operational, it should have a decade-long lifespan.

FIND, meanwhile, funded about two dozen projects last year and is evaluating a second round of grants for research that could ultimately be tested on GENI.

These go beyond projects like Internet2 and National LambdaRail, both of which focus on next-generation needs for speed.

Any redesign may incorporate mechanisms, known as virtualization, for multiple networks to operate over the same pipes, making further transitions much easier. Also possible are new structures for data packets and a replacement of Cerf’s TCP/IP communications protocols.

“Almost every assumption going into the current design of the Internet is open to reconsideration and challenge,” said Parulkar, the NSF official heading to Stanford. “Researchers may come up with wild ideas and very innovative ideas that may not have a lot to do with the current Internet.”

Board requires pharmacies to fill all orders
April 12, 2007

TUMWATER — After years of debate, the state has made it official: Patients must get prescriptions filled even if pharmacists are opposed to the drugs for religious or moral reasons.

The Washington State Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a policy that applies to all kinds of medications, although it clearly was aimed at Plan B, a birth control measure that critics say is tantamount to abortion. Most health experts refute that claim.

Druggists with personal objections to a drug still could have a limited escape by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that would apply only if the patient is able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

Essentially, the regulations require pharmacies either to dispense legally prescribed drugs or make sure customers could get the medication elsewhere in a timely fashion.

The issue has been debated since 2004, when the state board began receiving complaints that pharmacists were refusing to fill some prescriptions for moral, religious or ethical reasons — primarily prescriptions for Plan B, sometimes known as the morning-after pill. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

The rule-making process began in January 2006 and resulted in more than a year of workshops, drafts, amended drafts and public hearings.

Last year, the state Pharmacy Board declared that pharmacists might be able to deny prescriptions for personal reasons.

That was the pharmacy association’s preferred route, but the policy angered Gov. Chris Gregoire, women’s groups and some state lawmakers.

The rule adopted Thursday is a compromise worked out last year by Gregoire, women’s advocates and the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

Pharmacy board member Rosemarie Duffy said Thursday the new rule is about more than the Plan B drug. It’s about antibiotics that have to be taken within four hours or supplies for diabetics.

But it was the morning-after pill that caused opponents to refer to proponents as “baby killers” and proponents to point out that when a person’s doctor fills out a prescription, that prescription should be filled in a timely manner.

According to its manufacturer, Plan B works like a regular birth control pill. It prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg. It may also work by preventing the egg from attaching to the uterus.

Because Plan B is used to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it will not affect an existing pregnancy. It is different from the abortion pill RU-486.

The new rule is likely to go into effect by mid-June.

What happens if a pharmacist or pharmacy refuses a prescription? Board member Gary Harris said once the board receives a complaint, the pharmacist or pharmacy will come before the board for disciplinary action. Each individual case will be reviewed by a board member, who could recommend a fine or probation, for example.

That recommendation would then be reviewed by a panel before action is taken.


Twilight Zone
Pass through the portal to the alternate reality of the War Party’s propagandists.
by Gregory Cochran
April 9, 2007

I think almost everybody has wondered what would have happened if they had made a different choice in life, taken a different path. If you didn’t think of it by yourself, seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life” a few hundred times has probably driven the point home by now.

Many authors have applied this idea to big turning points, writing about alternative histories in which Hitler won World War II (Fatherland) or the South won the Civil War (Bring the Jubilee). The notion may not be pure fantasy: the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that these Worlds-of-If may really exist, although forever unreachable.

Or maybe not so unreachable. A very odd pattern of statements by prominent supporters and members of the Bush administration suggests that we may have some truly unusual visitors—literally out-of-this-world.

You see, the president and his associates keep referring to historical events that never happened, at least not as they did in the fields we know. And they keep referring to the same historical events. Over and over, the secretary of state and the (now former) secretary of defense have referred to guerrilla warfare in Germany after the Nazi surrender. But there just wasn’t any. You can’t find it in the history books or in the memories of people who were there at the time. My uncle was in Bavaria in the summer of 1945: no trouble. Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly talked about the similarities between today’s Iraq and America after the Revolutionary War, but again, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any. I don’t believe we found tortured corpses in the streets of Philadelphia every morning back in 1784. And why does President Bush keep saying that Saddam refused to admit those UN arms inspectors back in 2002 and early 2003? Why did Condoleezza Rice, in 2000, say that Iran was probably backing the Taliban, when in fact the two had almost gone to war in 1998?

Now some might say that these statements were just talking points—that is, lies—but I sure wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of lying. More to the point, there have been many a historical statements that are just strange and don’t seem to advance any particular political agenda. For example, when President Bush said that the Japanese lost two carriers sunk and one damaged at the Battle of Midway (instead of losing all four, which is what actually happened), who gained? When POTUS said that Sweden has no army (it does), what political argument was advanced?

We’re talking about the rulers of the most powerful nation on earth. It can’t be that they’re just pig-ignorant—of their own history, yet. There has to be a deeper, more subtle explanation.

We can learn more by examining these statements in detail, including those of the administration’s close supporters. They too keep diverging from the history we know. Recently, Rep. Don Young of Alaska quoted Lincoln as saying, “Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.” Lincoln never said that, of course. Cliff May, at National Review, said “President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor.” Pretty fly for a dead guy: FDR passed on just before Germany surrendered, well before the Japanese quit. And anyhow, the first of many Pearl Harbor investigations—the Roberts Commission—started only 11 days after the sneak attack.

More and more, I get the feeling that Bush and his friends come from one of the Worlds-of-If—a sad place, even worse than the one we actually live in, a world in which their odd statements are true.

When tired or stressed, they refer to the history that they lived and learned in school. But their briefing books recount an alternate history in which Iraq in 2002 was not a poor and backward country but the coming threat, as our Germany was in 1938. A history in which America, after the Revolution, was a flaming cesspool like Iraq today, a world in which Lincoln executed unruly legislators. One in which World War II dragged on long after the indecisive Battle of Midway. One in which our occupation of Germany was plagued by guerrilla warfare. One in which we’ve been fighting World War IV with Iran and Syria for 25 years, as Jim Woolsey has repeatedly said. One in which a hostile Islamic Caliphate has bothered to go through the formality of coming into existence.

Close study of such statements might eventually give a rough sketch of that other world’s history. This would be of immense value, for it would allow us to learn much about the inner workings of the historical process, just as the discovery of a different kind of life on Mars would be an epochal event in biology. The fact that a history that diverged from ours at least 200 years ago, judging from the differences in the Revolution, still bears some resemblance to ours—still had a battle of Midway, just not the same battle—suggests that unknown overarching forces constrain the course of events. But the story is never the same in detail.

The casual mention of World War IV strongly implies that these interlopers also had a World War III. They must have suffered greatly—maybe bombed out, likely short on resources such as oil. I would guess that those disasters irretrievably darkened their political perspective, just as our World War I left an entire generation embittered and disaffected. Certainly some kind of civilizational blight is needed to explain Vice President Cheney’s “Dark Lord” shtick.

Somehow they came here, so there must be a gate or portal. Judging from the spatial clustering of identifiable visitors, it’s somewhere in Washington, probably very close to the AEI building. Possibly inside. It may be an accident of nature, or it might be a scientific wonder used for judicial exile, just as bad Kryptonians were sent to the Phantom Zone. You have to wonder about that when you consider the kind of guys they’re sending.

If two-way transfer is possible, there could be vast business opportunities. There are reasons to suspect that science and engineering took a very different path over there: their limited understanding of nuclear weapons—they seem to think that nukes are roughly as easy to build as bottle rockets—suggests that nuclear fission may never have been developed on their timeline. But even if they’re behind us in some areas, they’re likely to be ahead in others. I’d guess that they know far more about torture than we do. Practice makes perfect.

Even if they’ve never split the atom, they have much to offer. The very existence of such a portal is the most significant new scientific result in a century, far more important than any result expected from the most advanced accelerator. The sheer physical presence of Condoleezza Rice on this plane suggests, indeed demands, new physics that may lead to the long-desired marriage of quantum mechanics and general relativity. It’s either this or string theory.

Of course this means that we need to corral some or all of these visitors for study and experimentation. Such experiments would, I suppose, interfere with their civil liberties, if they had any, but they’re obviously not citizens of these United States. Technically they’re illegal aliens. Gitmo’s a-waitin’.

And perhaps we can do more. Obviously this other world is in a sorry state and could stand some saving. They’re our closer-than-brothers—our other selves living in a world gone bad, a world in which the toast always falls butter-side down, a world where Mr. Potter owns the Building and Loan. Undoubtedly an irrepressible desire for freedom burns in every heart there. As soon as possible, we should begin preparing for their liberation.

It will be a cakewalk.


[email protected], which is the administrative authority for blogspot, is apparently refusing to accept reports from spamcop concerning spammers who set up their spamvertisements at blogspot dot com.

which is one of the reasons why i don’t subscribe to blogs on blogspot – the other reason is because for some reason, blogspot won’t let me comment, even anonymously. i think it has to do with the fact that my policy is to reject any cookies from them, but i’m not sure.


i took my car to get it emission tested. it passed. in fact, according to the guy at the emissions testing place, it monitors the emissions automatically, so they don’t actually have to do anything – for which i paid them $15 – although it did have an error that wasn’t related to emissions, which is P1195. anybody know what a P1195 error on a ’96 mazda protegé means?

then i went to Re-PC to get another $5 CD-RW drive, because the external one that i have connected to my mac died yesterday and instead of buying a new external drive i decided that it would be a lot easier to replace the drive part in the external drive i’ve already got. it was. it was a matter of breaking the “WARRANTY VOID IF THIS SEAL IS BROKEN” seal, taking out 6 screws, replacing the drive with one that i got for $5, and putting everything back together again. it works. all i had to do was spend $5 and take a little time. why isn’t everything having to do with a computer this easy to fix?

after that, i went to the utilikilts store for my free kilt. it turns out that we were comped “up to a workmen’s”, which, for me, meant $225.10. based on the kilt i was wearing when i went in, the guy said that he would give me a 24.5″ hem, and they’ll ship it to me when it has been hemmed – they make all their kilts with a 26″ hem, and then charge you extra for a shorter hem, $25 for 2½" of cloth… but what am i complaining about? i don’t have to pay for it!


Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84
April 11, 2007


i wanted to just post that, since it is so appropriate, but then i thought better of it and i’ll go ahead and post the rest of the article, and the picture as well.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of vernacular writing, science fiction, jokes and philosophy, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago “filled with bittersweet lies,” a narrator says).

The defining moment of Mr. Vonnegut’s life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. “The firebombing of Dresden,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”

His experience in Dresden was the basis of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval. The novel, wrote the critic Jerome Klinkowitz, “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.”

To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

Mr. Vonnegut eschewed traditional structure and punctuation. His books were a mixture of fiction and autobiography, prone to one-sentence paragraphs, exclamation points and italics. Graham Greene called him “one of the most able of living American writers.” Some critics said he had invented a new literary type, infusing the science-fiction form with humor and moral relevance and elevating it to serious literature.

He was also accused of repeating himself, of recycling themes and characters. Some readers found his work incoherent. His harshest critics called him no more than a comic book philosopher, a purveyor of empty aphorisms.

With his curly hair askew, deep pouches under his eyes and rumpled clothes, he often looked like an out-of-work philosophy professor, typically chain smoking, his conversation punctuated with coughs and wheezes. But he also maintained a certain celebrity, as a regular on panels and at literary parties in Manhattan and on the East End of Long Island, where he lived near his friend and fellow war veteran Joseph Heller, another darkly comic literary hero of the age.

Mr. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, a fourth-generation German-American and the youngest of three children. His father, Kurt Sr., was an architect. His mother, Edith, came from a wealthy brewery family. Mr. Vonnegut’s brother, Bernard, who died in 1997, was a physicist and an expert on thunderstorms.

During the Depression, the elder Vonnegut went for long stretches without work, and Mrs. Vonnegut suffered from episodes of mental illness. “When my mother went off her rocker late at night, the hatred and contempt she sprayed on my father, as gentle and innocent a man as ever lived, was without limit and pure, untainted by ideas or information,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote. She committed suicide, an act that haunted her son for the rest of his life.

He had, he said, a lifelong difficulty with women. He remembered an aunt once telling him, “ ‘All Vonnegut men are scared to death of women.’ ”

“My theory is that all women have hydrofluoric acid bottled up inside,” he wrote.

Mr. Vonnegut went east to attend Cornell University, but he enlisted in the Army before he could get a degree. The Army initially sent him to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon) in Pittsburgh and the University of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering.

In 1944 he was shipped to Europe with the 106th Infantry Division and shortly saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge. With his unit nearly destroyed, he wandered behind enemy lines for several days until he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Dresden, the architectural jewel of Germany.

Assigned by his captors to make vitamin supplements, he was working with other prisoners in an underground meat locker when British and American war planes started carpet bombing the city, creating a firestorm above him. The work detail saved his life.

Afterward, he and his fellow prisoners were assigned to remove the dead.

“The corpses, most of them in ordinary cellars, were so numerous and represented such a health hazard that they were cremated on huge funeral pyres, or by flamethrowers whose nozzles were thrust into the cellars, without being counted or identified,” he wrote in “Fates Worse Than Death.” When the war ended, Mr. Vonnegut returned to the United States and married his high school sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox. They settled in Chicago in 1945. The couple had three children: Mark, Edith and Nanette. In 1958, Mr. Vonnegut’s sister, Alice, and her husband died within a day of each other, she of cancer and he in a train crash. The Vonneguts adopted their children, Tiger, Jim and Steven.

In Chicago, Mr. Vonnegut worked as a police reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau. He also studied for a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Chicago, writing a thesis on “The Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tales.” It was rejected unanimously by the faculty. (The university finally awarded him a degree almost a quarter of a century later, allowing him to use his novel “Cat’s Cradle” as his thesis.)

In 1947, he moved to Schenectady, N.Y., and took a job in public relations for the General Electric Company. Three years later he sold his first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” to Collier’s magazine and decided to move his family to Cape Cod, Mass., where he wrote fiction for magazines like Argosy and The Saturday Evening Post. To bolster his income, he taught emotionally disturbed children, worked at an advertising agency and at one point started an auto dealership.

His first novel was “Player Piano,” published in 1952. A satire on corporate life — the meetings, the pep talks, the cultivation of bosses — it also carries echoes of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” It concerns an engineer, Paul Proteus, who is employed by the Ilium Works, a company similar to General Electric. Proteus becomes the leader of a band of revolutionaries who destroy machines that they think are taking over the world.

“Player Piano” was followed in 1959 by “The Sirens of Titan,” a science fiction novel featuring the Church of God of the Utterly Indifferent. In 1961 he published “Mother Night,” involving an American writer awaiting trial in Israel on charges of war crimes in Nazi Germany. Like Mr. Vonnegut’s other early novels, they were published as paperback originals. And like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” in 1972, and a number of other Vonnegut novels, “Mother Night” was adapted for film, in 1996, starring Nick Nolte.

In 1963, Mr. Vonnegut published “Cat’s Cradle.” Though it initially sold only about 500 copies, it is widely read today in high school English classes. The novel, which takes its title from an Eskimo game in which children try to snare the sun with string, is an autobiographical work about a family named Hoenikker. The narrator, an adherent of the religion Bokononism, is writing a book about the bombing of Hiroshima and comes to witness the destruction of the world by something called Ice-Nine, which, on contact, causes all water to freeze at room temperature.

Mr. Vonnegut shed the label of science fiction writer with “Slaughterhouse-Five.” It tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an infantry scout (as Mr. Vonnegut was), who discovers the horror of war. “You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves,” an English colonel says in the book. “We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. My God, my God — I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.’ ”

As Mr. Vonnegut was, Billy is captured and assigned to manufacture vitamin supplements in an underground meat locker, where the prisoners take refuge from Allied bombing.

In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Mr. Vonnegut introduced the recurring character of Kilgore Trout, his fictional alter ego. The novel also featured a signature Vonnegut phrase.

“Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote at the end of the book, “was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes.

“Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes. And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.”

One of many Zen-like words and phrases that run through Mr. Vonnegut’s books, “so it goes” became a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam war.

“Slaughterhouse-Five” reached No.1 on best-seller lists, making Mr. Vonnegut a cult hero. Some schools and libraries have banned it because of its sexual content, rough language and scenes of violence.

After the book was published, Mr. Vonnegut went into severe depression and vowed never to write another novel. Suicide was always a temptation, he wrote. In 1984, he tried to take his life with sleeping pills and alcohol.

“The child of a suicide will naturally think of death, the big one, as a logical solution to any problem,” he wrote. His son Mark also suffered a breakdown, in the 1970s, from which he recovered, writing about it in a book, “Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity.”

Forsaking novels, Mr. Vonnegut decided to become a playwright. His first effort, “Happy Birthday, Wanda June,” opened Off Broadway in 1970 to mixed reviews. Around this time he separated from his wife, Jane, and moved to New York. (She remarried and died in 1986.)

In 1979 Mr. Vonnegut married the photographer Jill Krementz. They have a daughter, Lily. They survive him, as do all his other children.

Mr. Vonnegut returned to novels with “Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday” (1973), calling it a “tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.” This time his alter ego is Philboyd Sludge, who is writing a book about Dwayne Hoover, a wealthy auto dealer. Hoover has a breakdown after reading a novel written by Kilgore Trout, who reappears in this book, and begins to believe that everyone around him is a robot.

In 1997, Mr. Vonnegut published “Timequake,” a tale of the millennium in which a wrinkle in space-time compels the world to relive the 1990s. The book, based on an earlier failed novel of his, was, in his own words, “a stew” of plot summaries and autobiographical writings. Once again, Kilgore Trout is a character. “If I’d wasted my time creating characters,” Mr. Vonnegut said in defense of his “recycling,” “I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter.”

Though it was a bestseller, it also met with mixed reviews. “Having a novelist’s free hand to write what you will does not mean you are entitled to a free ride,” R. Z. Sheppard wrote in Time. But the novelist Valerie Sayers, in The New York Times Book Review, wrote: “The real pleasure lies in Vonnegut’s transforming his continuing interest in the highly suspicious relationship between fact and fiction into the neatest trick yet played on a publishing world consumed with the furor over novel versus memoir.”

Mr. Vonnegut said in the prologue to “Timequake” that it would be his last novel. And so it was.

His last book, in 2005, was a collection of biographical essays, “A Man Without a Country.” It, too, was a best seller.

In concludes with a poem written by Mr. Vonnegut called “Requiem,” which has these closing lines:

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.


the moisture festival ended more than a week ago, and i am still recovering… and it’s not just my ankle, i’ve been sleeping a lot, even though i’ve been doing relatively normal stuff. i’ve had two rehearsals, of the banda gozona last week, and one of the ballard sedentary sousa band last night. the BSSB is rehearsing in the sanctuary of the crown lutheran church these days – a step up from the “tree frog room” at small faces – which is slightly bizarre, but the accoustics are excellent. we haven’t had a fremont philharmonic rehearsal since the moisture festival ended, but we’d better get on the ball, because we’ve got a late night cabaret with shackjack on the 28th. we’ve heard from fred, for the first time since the cirque show that we had to put off last year because he decided to bail on us at the last minute. fred has decided that he wants to “license” his music to fremonstor for $700 a year, which he’s not going to get. personally, i think we should out-and-out buy a few characteristic pieces, like meteor ballade, pyros on parade, widow’s lament, and so forth, for an agreed upon price, and then just not play anything else of fred’s. we’ve got plenty of other music and between kiki, stuart and i we should be able to come up with enough new music to keep us going, besides learning standard covers, which we were unable to do when fred was in charge of the band.

i’ve planned on going in for my kilt-fitting on friday. i haven’t decided, but i am torn between black and something else. my tendency is to think black, but i may get inspired before it actually happens. if nothing else, i’ll consider it payment for having to perform on buckets (not to mention wearing a diaper) after having sprained my ankle.


a long time ago, i pestered a friend of mine into loaning me 4 albums by gentle giant, whereupon i spent almost the whole day playing gentle giant, and recording the albums to cassette, a task which i enjoyed quite a bit, but the friend got annoyed with and eventually left because he “couldn’t take any more gentle giant”.

i am in the process of downloading bit torrents of, and listening to those four gentle giant albums, getting stoned, and feeling nostalgic…

EDIT: i just found a more reliable bit torrent that contains 15 gentle giant albums and a whole bunch of other stuff… bit torrent rocks, and mininova FTW!


Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.
By Gene Weingarten
April 8, 2007

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.

The acoustics proved surprisingly kind. Though the arcade is of utilitarian design, a buffer between the Metro escalator and the outdoors, it somehow caught the sound and bounced it back round and resonant. The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician’s masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang — ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.

So, what do you think happened?


Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?

“Let’s assume,” Slatkin said, “that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

So, a crowd would gather?

“Oh, yes.”

And how much will he make?

“About $150.”

Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.

“How’d I do?”

We’ll tell you in a minute.

“Well, who was the musician?”

Joshua Bell.


A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Bell was first pitched this idea shortly before Christmas, over coffee at a sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. A New Yorker, he was in town to perform at the Library of Congress and to visit the library’s vaults to examine an unusual treasure: an 18th-century violin that once belonged to the great Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. The curators invited Bell to play it; good sound, still.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Bell confided, as he sipped his coffee. “I’m thinking that I could do a tour where I’d play Kreisler’s music . . .”

He smiled.

“. . . on Kreisler’s violin.”

It was a snazzy, sequined idea — part inspiration and part gimmick — and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship even as his concert career has become more and more august. He’s soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad, but he’s also appeared on “Sesame Street,” done late-night talk TV and performed in feature films. That was Bell playing the soundtrack on the 1998 movie “The Red Violin.” (He body-doubled, too, playing to a naked Greta Scacchi.) As composer John Corigliano accepted the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, he credited Bell, who, he said, “plays like a god.”

When Bell was asked if he’d be willing to don street clothes and perform at rush hour, he said:

“Uh, a stunt?”

Well, yes. A stunt. Would he think it . . . unseemly?

Bell drained his cup.

“Sounds like fun,” he said.

Bell’s a heartthrob. Tall and handsome, he’s got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott. When he performs, he is usually the only man under the lights who is not in white tie and tails — he walks out to a standing O, looking like Zorro, in black pants and an untucked black dress shirt, shirttail dangling. That cute Beatles-style mop top is also a strategic asset: Because his technique is full of body — athletic and passionate — he’s almost dancing with the instrument, and his hair flies.

He’s single and straight, a fact not lost on some of his fans. In Boston, as he performed Max Bruch’s dour Violin Concerto in G Minor, the very few young women in the audience nearly disappeared in the deep sea of silver heads. But seemingly every single one of them — a distillate of the young and pretty — coalesced at the stage door after the performance, seeking an autograph. It’s like that always, with Bell.

Bell’s been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing “does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” He’s learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified “pshaw.”

For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: “I’m not comfortable if you call this genius.” “Genius” is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.

It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.

It would be breaking no rules, however, to note that the term in question, particularly as applied in the field of music, refers to a congenital brilliance — an elite, innate, preternatural ability that manifests itself early, and often in dramatic fashion.

One biographically intriguing fact about Bell is that he got his first music lessons when he was a 4-year-old in Bloomington, Ind. His parents, both psychologists, decided formal training might be a good idea after they saw that their son had strung rubber bands across his dresser drawers and was replicating classical tunes by ear, moving drawers in and out to vary the pitch.

TO GET TO THE METRO FROM HIS HOTEL, a distance of three blocks, Bell took a taxi. He’s neither lame nor lazy: He did it for his violin.

Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master’s “golden period,” toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.

“Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete,” Bell said, “but he, he just . . . knew.”

Bell doesn’t mention Stradivari by name. Just “he.” When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. “He made this to perfect thickness at all parts,” Bell says, pivoting it. “If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound.” No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.

The front of Bell’s violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood.

“This has never been refinished,” Bell said. “That’s his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula.” Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.

Like the instrument in “The Red Violin,” this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman’s hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief — a minor New York violinist — made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument.

Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.

All of which is a long explanation for why, in the early morning chill of a day in January, Josh Bell took a three-block cab ride to the Orange Line, and rode one stop to L’Enfant.

AS METRO STATIONS GO, L’ENFANT PLAZA IS MORE PLEBEIAN THAN MOST. Even before you arrive, it gets no respect. Metro conductors never seem to get it right: “Leh-fahn.” “Layfont.” “El’phant.”

At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it’s that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers’ bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be “hot.” They sell briskly. There’s also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you’ve won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.

On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break — a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world’s most famous musicians — but only if they were of a mind to take note.

Bell decided to begin with “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won’t be cheating with some half-assed version.”

Bell didn’t say it, but Bach’s “Chaconne” is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. It’s exhaustingly long — 14 minutes — and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.

If Bell’s encomium to “Chaconne” seems overly effusive, consider this from the 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann: “On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”

So, that’s the piece Bell started with.

He’d clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

No, Mr. Slatkin, there was never a crowd, not even for a second.

It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler’s movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience — unseen, unheard, otherworldly — that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.


It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?

We’ll go with Kant, because he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.

“At the beginning,” Bell says, “I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn’t really watching what was happening around me . . .”

Playing the violin looks all-consuming, mentally and physically, but Bell says that for him the mechanics of it are partly second nature, cemented by practice and muscle memory: It’s like a juggler, he says, who can keep those balls in play while interacting with a crowd. What he’s mostly thinking about as he plays, Bell says, is capturing emotion as a narrative: “When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.”

With “Chaconne,” the opening is filled with a building sense of awe. That kept him busy for a while. Eventually, though, he began to steal a sidelong glance.

“It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . .”

The word doesn’t come easily.

“. . . ignoring me.”

Bell is laughing. It’s at himself.

“At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

He was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened — or, more precisely, what didn’t happen — on January 12.

MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.

“Let’s say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It’s a $5 million painting. And it’s one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: ‘Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'”

Leithauser’s point is that we shouldn’t be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.

Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.

“Optimal,” Guyer said, “doesn’t mean heading to work, focusing on your report to the boss, maybe your shoes don’t fit right.”

So, if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby?

“He would have inferred about them,” Guyer said, “absolutely nothing.”

And that’s that.

Except it isn’t. To really understand what happened, you have to rewind that video and play it back from the beginning, from the moment Bell’s bow first touched the strings.

White guy, khakis, leather jacket, briefcase. Early 30s. John David Mortensen is on the final leg of his daily bus-to-Metro commute from Reston. He’s heading up the escalator. It’s a long ride — 1 minute and 15 seconds if you don’t walk. So, like most everyone who passes Bell this day, Mortensen gets a good earful of music before he has his first look at the musician. Like most of them, he notes that it sounds pretty good. But like very few of them, when he gets to the top, he doesn’t race past as though Bell were some nuisance to be avoided. Mortensen is that first person to stop, that guy at the six-minute mark.

It’s not that he has nothing else to do. He’s a project manager for an international program at the Department of Energy; on this day, Mortensen has to participate in a monthly budget exercise, not the most exciting part of his job: “You review the past month’s expenditures,” he says, “forecast spending for the next month, if you have X dollars, where will it go, that sort of thing.”

On the video, you can see Mortensen get off the escalator and look around. He locates the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his cellphone — he’s three minutes early for work — then settles against a wall to listen.

Mortensen doesn’t know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there’s something about what he’s hearing that he really likes.

As it happens, he’s arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of “Chaconne.” (“It’s the point,” Bell says, “where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There’s a religious, exalted feeling to it.”) The violinist’s bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big.

Mortensen doesn’t know about major or minor keys: “Whatever it was,” he says, “it made me feel at peace.”

So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there’s another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money.

THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: “The awkward times,” he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord — the embarrassed musician’s equivalent of, “Er, okay, moving right along . . .” — and begins the next piece.

After “Chaconne,” it is Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” which surprised some music critics when it debuted in 1825: Schubert seldom showed religious feeling in his compositions, yet “Ave Maria” is a breathtaking work of adoration of the Virgin Mary. What was with the sudden piety? Schubert dryly answered: “I think this is due to the fact that I never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers of that kind unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion.” This musical prayer became among the most familiar and enduring religious pieces in history.

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She’s got his hand.

“I had a time crunch,” recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. “I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement.”

Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.

You can see Evan clearly on the video. He’s the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.

“There was a musician,” Parker says, “and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time.”

So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan’s and Bell’s, cutting off her son’s line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.

“Evan is very smart!”

The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

IF THERE WAS ONE PERSON ON THAT DAY WHO WAS TOO BUSY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE VIOLINIST, it was George Tindley. Tindley wasn’t hurrying to get to work. He was at work.

The glass doors through which most people exit the L’Enfant station lead into an indoor shopping mall, from which there are exits to the street and elevators to office buildings. The first store in the mall is an Au Bon Pain, the croissant and coffee shop where Tindley, in his 40s, works in a white uniform busing the tables, restocking the salt and pepper packets, taking out the garbage. Tindley labors under the watchful eye of his bosses, and he’s supposed to be hopping, and he was.

But every minute or so, as though drawn by something not entirely within his control, Tindley would walk to the very edge of the Au Bon Pain property, keeping his toes inside the line, still on the job. Then he’d lean forward, as far out into the hallway as he could, watching the fiddler on the other side of the glass doors. The foot traffic was steady, so the doors were usually open. The sound came through pretty well.

“You could tell in one second that this guy was good, that he was clearly a professional,” Tindley says. He plays the guitar, loves the sound of strings, and has no respect for a certain kind of musician.

“Most people, they play music; they don’t feel it,” Tindley says. “Well, that man was feeling it. That man was moving. Moving into the sound.”

A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view of Bell than Tindley did, if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.

J.T. Tillman was in that line. A computer specialist for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he remembers every single number he played that day — 10 of them, $2 apiece, for a total of $20. He doesn’t recall what the violinist was playing, though. He says it sounded like generic classical music, the kind the ship’s band was playing in “Titanic,” before the iceberg.

“I didn’t think nothing of it,” Tillman says, “just a guy trying to make a couple of bucks.” Tillman would have given him one or two, he said, but he spent all his cash on lotto.

When he is told that he stiffed one of the best musicians in the world, he laughs.

“Is he ever going to play around here again?”

“Yeah, but you’re going to have to pay a lot to hear him.”


Tillman didn’t win the lottery, either.

BELL ENDS “AVE MARIA” TO ANOTHER THUNDEROUS SILENCE, plays Manuel Ponce’s sentimental “Estrellita,” then a piece by Jules Massenet, and then begins a Bach gavotte, a joyful, frolicsome, lyrical dance. It’s got an Old World delicacy to it; you can imagine it entertaining bewigged dancers at a Versailles ball, or — in a lute, fiddle and fife version — the boot-kicking peasants of a Pieter Bruegel painting.

Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he’s not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: “I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t pay attention at all, as if I’m invisible. Because, you know what? I’m makin’ a lot of noise!”

He is. You don’t need to know music at all to appreciate the simple fact that there’s a guy there, playing a violin that’s throwing out a whole bucket of sound; at times, Bell’s bowing is so intricate that you seem to be hearing two instruments playing in harmony. So those head-forward, quick-stepping passersby are a remarkable phenomenon.

Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don’t take visible note of the musician, you don’t have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you’re not complicit in a rip-off.

It may be true, but no one gave that explanation. People just said they were busy, had other things on their mind. Some who were on cellphones spoke louder as they passed Bell, to compete with that infernal racket.

And then there was Calvin Myint. Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight.

“Where was he, in relation to me?”

“About four feet away.”


There’s nothing wrong with Myint’s hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.

For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was “Just Like Heaven,” by the British rock band The Cure. It’s a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It’s about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can’t express the depth of his feeling for her until she’s gone. It’s about failing to see the beauty of what’s plainly in front of your eyes.

“YES, I SAW THE VIOLINIST,” Jackie Hessian says, “but nothing about him struck me as much of anything.”

You couldn’t tell that by watching her. Hessian was one of those people who gave Bell a long, hard look before walking on. It turns out that she wasn’t noticing the music at all.

“I really didn’t hear that much,” she said. “I was just trying to figure out what he was doing there, how does this work for him, can he make much money, would it be better to start with some money in the case, or for it to be empty, so people feel sorry for you? I was analyzing it financially.”

What do you do, Jackie?

“I’m a lawyer in labor relations with the United States Postal Service. I just negotiated a national contract.”

THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE WERE UPHOLSTERED. In the balcony, more or less. On that day, for $5, you’d get a lot more than just a nice shine on your shoes.

Only one person occupied one of those seats when Bell played. Terence Holmes is a consultant for the Department of Transportation, and he liked the music just fine, but it was really about a shoeshine: “My father told me never to wear a suit with your shoes not cleaned and shined.”

Holmes wears suits often, so he is up in that perch a lot, and he’s got a good relationship with the shoeshine lady. Holmes is a good tipper and a good talker, which is a skill that came in handy that day. The shoeshine lady was upset about something, and the music got her more upset. She complained, Holmes said, that the music was too loud, and he tried to calm her down.

Edna Souza is from Brazil. She’s been shining shoes at L’Enfant Plaza for six years, and she’s had her fill of street musicians there; when they play, she can’t hear her customers, and that’s bad for business. So she fights.

Souza points to the dividing line between the Metro property, at the top of the escalator, and the arcade, which is under control of the management company that runs the mall. Sometimes, Souza says, a musician will stand on the Metro side, sometimes on the mall side. Either way, she’s got him. On her speed dial, she has phone numbers for both the mall cops and the Metro cops. The musicians seldom last long.

What about Joshua Bell?

He was too loud, too, Souza says. Then she looks down at her rag, sniffs. She hates to say anything positive about these damned musicians, but: “He was pretty good, that guy. It was the first time I didn’t call the police.”

Souza was surprised to learn he was a famous musician, but not that people rushed blindly by him. That, she said, was predictable. “If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here.”

Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: “Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.

“People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?”

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
— from Leisure by W.H. Davies

Let’s say Kant is right. Let’s accept that we can’t look at what happened on January 12 and make any judgment whatever about people’s sophistication or their ability to appreciate beauty. But what about their ability to appreciate life?

We’re busy. Americans have been busy, as a people, since at least 1831, when a young French sociologist named Alexis de Tocqueville visited the States and found himself impressed, bemused and slightly dismayed at the degree to which people were driven, to the exclusion of everything else, by hard work and the accumulation of wealth.

Not much has changed. Pop in a DVD of “Koyaanisqatsi,” the wordless, darkly brilliant, avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life. Backed by the minimalist music of Philip Glass, director Godfrey Reggio takes film clips of Americans going about their daily business, but speeds them up until they resemble assembly-line machines, robots marching lockstep to nowhere. Now look at the video from L’Enfant Plaza, in fast-forward. The Philip Glass soundtrack fits it perfectly.

“Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi word. It means “life out of balance.”

In his 2003 book, Timeless Beauty: In the Arts and Everyday Life, British author John Lane writes about the loss of the appreciation for beauty in the modern world. The experiment at L’Enfant Plaza may be symptomatic of that, he said — not because people didn’t have the capacity to understand beauty, but because it was irrelevant to them.

“This is about having the wrong priorities,” Lane said.

If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?

That’s what the Welsh poet W.H. Davies meant in 1911 when he published those two lines that begin this section. They made him famous. The thought was simple, even primitive, but somehow no one had put it quite that way before.

Of course, Davies had an advantage — an advantage of perception. He wasn’t a tradesman or a laborer or a bureaucrat or a consultant or a policy analyst or a labor lawyer or a program manager. He was a hobo.

THE CULTURAL HERO OF THE DAY ARRIVED AT L’ENFANT PLAZA PRETTY LATE, in the unprepossessing figure of one John Picarello, a smallish man with a baldish head.

Picarello hit the top of the escalator just after Bell began his final piece, a reprise of “Chaconne.” In the video, you see Picarello stop dead in his tracks, locate the source of the music, and then retreat to the other end of the arcade. He takes up a position past the shoeshine stand, across from that lottery line, and he will not budge for the next nine minutes.

Like all the passersby interviewed for this article, Picarello was stopped by a reporter after he left the building, and was asked for his phone number. Like everyone, he was told only that this was to be an article about commuting. When he was called later in the day, like everyone else, he was first asked if anything unusual had happened to him on his trip into work. Of the more than 40 people contacted, Picarello was the only one who immediately mentioned the violinist.

“There was a musician playing at the top of the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza.”

Haven’t you seen musicians there before?

“Not like this one.”

What do you mean?

“This was a superb violinist. I’ve never heard anyone of that caliber. He was technically proficient, with very good phrasing. He had a good fiddle, too, with a big, lush sound. I walked a distance away, to hear him. I didn’t want to be intrusive on his space.”


“Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.”

Picarello knows classical music. He is a fan of Joshua Bell but didn’t recognize him; he hadn’t seen a recent photo, and besides, for most of the time Picarello was pretty far away. But he knew this was not a run-of-the-mill guy out there, performing. On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.

“Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn’t registering. That was baffling to me.”

When Picarello was growing up in New York, he studied violin seriously, intending to be a concert musician. But he gave it up at 18, when he decided he’d never be good enough to make it pay. Life does that to you sometimes. Sometimes, you have to do the prudent thing. So he went into another line of work. He’s a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Doesn’t play the violin much, anymore.

When he left, Picarello says, “I humbly threw in $5.” It was humble: You can actually see that on the video. Picarello walks up, barely looking at Bell, and tosses in the money. Then, as if embarrassed, he quickly walks away from the man he once wanted to be.

Does he have regrets about how things worked out?

The postal supervisor considers this.

“No. If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it’s not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever.”

BELL THINKS HE DID HIS BEST WORK OF THE DAY IN THOSE FINAL FEW MINUTES, in the second “Chaconne.” And that also was the first time more than one person at a time was listening. As Picarello stood in the back, Janice Olu arrived and took up a position a few feet away from Bell. Olu, a public trust officer with HUD, also played the violin as a kid. She didn’t know the name of the piece she was hearing, but she knew the man playing it has a gift.

Olu was on a coffee break and stayed as long as she dared. As she turned to go, she whispered to the stranger next to her, “I really don’t want to leave.” The stranger standing next to her happened to be working for The Washington Post.

In preparing for this event, editors at The Post Magazine discussed how to deal with likely outcomes. The most widely held assumption was that there could well be a problem with crowd control: In a demographic as sophisticated as Washington, the thinking went, several people would surely recognize Bell. Nervous “what-if” scenarios abounded. As people gathered, what if others stopped just to see what the attraction was? Word would spread through the crowd. Cameras would flash. More people flock to the scene; rush-hour pedestrian traffic backs up; tempers flare; the National Guard is called; tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn’t arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn’t know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell’s free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn’t about to miss it.

Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.

“It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington,” Furukawa says. “Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?”

When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that — it was tainted by recognition — the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

“Actually,” Bell said with a laugh, “that’s not so bad, considering. That’s 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn’t have to pay an agent.”

These days, at L’Enfant Plaza, lotto ticket sales remain brisk. Musicians still show up from time to time, and they still tick off Edna Souza. Joshua Bell’s latest album, “The Voice of the Violin,” has received the usual critical acclaim. (“Delicate urgency.” “Masterful intimacy.” “Unfailingly exquisite.” “A musical summit.” “. . . will make your heart thump and weep at the same time.”)

Bell headed off on a concert tour of European capitals. But he is back in the States this week. He has to be. On Tuesday, he will be accepting the Avery Fisher prize, recognizing the Flop of L’Enfant Plaza as the best classical musician in America.


thanks to my awesome web stats, i know that at least 7 people have logged into Hybrid Elephant during the past week as a direct result of my posting a link in my blog, and that post appearing in various peoples’ friends pages. this is to let those 7 of you know, and anybody else who is interested, that i am investigating how to give you a code that will give you 10% off your order if you hit my web site from a livejournal link. stay tuned for further details.


i had a very nice conversation with the other day, and i wanted to write down some things related to that, so as to help me solidify them in my brain:

religion is like an infinitely multifaceted jewel. you hold the jewel in front of you, and light reflects off of certain facets and dazzles your eye. at the same time, there are facets on the opposite side of the jewel that you can’t even see. but that doesn’t mean that the facets that dazzle your eye are any more important, or that the facets that you can’t see are any less important.

in fact, if one facet or the other ceased to exist, the whole jewel would vanish.


i put an announcement to the effect on the page which gets the most traffic of any page on my web site. no, i’m not going to tell you which page it is, if you want to know, figure it out for yourself. it’s not the index page, and it’s probably not one of the pages that you might think – it certainly was a surprise to me. it’s now got the following text on it, at the bottom of the page: “Congratulations, you have chosen the page of this web site that has the most traffic. Aren’t you proud? Your partipation makes this page great!”. it got 8 new hits since noon… 8)


blog against theocracy

Holy Hypocrite!: TV Preacher Pat Robertson Worries About Religious Takeover Of U.S. Government
By Rob Boston
March 20th 2007

TV preacher Pat Robertson is worried about a Muslim takeover of the United States.

Such a thing would seem remote, at best. While hard numbers are difficult to come by, most demographers say there are about 3 million Muslims in America. In a country of 300 million, they haven’t made a huge dent.

But last year, the first Muslim was elected to Congress, and Muslims have been elected to a few state and local offices as well. Recently, a Muslim group announced plans to register more Muslims to vote and encourage civic activity. All of this has Robertson worried.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you’ve got it,” Robertson said on his “700 Club” today. “It’s interesting, isn’t it? You know, the Protestant churches, there’s no doctrine of faith that I know in any Protestant denomination that calls for the takeover of the government and making other people second-class citizens. I don’t know of one denomination, Protestant or Catholic, that has that agenda. But yet, Islam has just that agenda, that they want to take over the government and that everybody else is a second-class citizen. That is the primary doctrine of Islam.”

Having Pat Robertson lecture you on the dangers of a religious takeover of government is simply too much. The man’s hypocrisy is staggering. Taking over the government, implementing a “moral” agenda according to his interpretation of the Bible and relegating millions to second-class citizenship has been Robertson’s goal from day one.

In a 1997 speech to the Christian Coalition, Robertson outlined a secret plan to secure control of Congress by conservative Republicans and put a “born-again” president in the White House in 2000. He made it clear he would then insist that they toe the line.

“We just tell these guys, ‘Look, we put you in power in 1994, and we want you to deliver,’” Robertson told the crowd. “‘We’re tired of temporizing. Don’t give us all this stuff about you’ve got a different agenda. This is what you’re going to do this year. And we’re going to hold your feet to the fire while you do it.’”

What was that agenda? Robertson outlined it: No more legal abortion, a rollback of gay rights and passage of a constitutional amendment to put coercive forms of prayer in public schools, foster tax funding of Christian projects and merge fundamentalist Christianity and government in other ways.

Hmmm. That sounds like a takeover of government! It’s important to remember that Robertson was not aware he was being recorded at the time and thus spoke with extreme frankness. (Americans United later released a tape of the closed-door session, and news media outlets across the country reported the information.) He put his goals right out there before a friendly crowd. It sure sounded like a theocratic platform to many.

Of course we don’t want a merger of mosque and state in America. But we don’t want a merger of Robertson’s brand of Christianity and state either. We need to protect religious liberty for all but with the understanding that the power of government will back no particular sectarian view. The best way to do that is to maintain a high and firm wall of separation between church and state.

During today’s rant, Robertson even found a way to take a shot at Americans United. Speaking of conservative Christians, he carped, “We’ve been harassed by People For the American Way, we have been harassed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, we have been harassed by the federal court system.”

Please. Pat, take a look at the studios of your multi-million dollar televangelism empire (all tax free!). Ponder the political influence you have. (U.S. Sen. John McCain was on the show today.) Consider your daily TV audience. (It’s just under 1 million.) No one is harassing you.

And, Pat, if you really are worried about a possible takeover of the American government by a religious group, there is a way to prevent that. It’s called the First Amendment. Why don’t you try supporting it for a change?


A fundamental wrong in letting some marry
By Lisa Pryor
March 31, 2007

The views I am about to express are not very fashionable. They are certainly not politically correct. But I believe what I am about to say must be expressed to protect the institution of marriage.

Too often in the media, currency is given to the theory that everyone should be allowed to marry regardless of gender, outlook and whether the two people are creating a suitable family environment in which to bring up children.

Well, it is time to ask some hard questions about this attitude. The only way we will save marriage is to reclaim the institution for the mainstream. Marriage is for normal people who want to raise children in a healthy and secure environment. This is why we should ban religious fundamentalists from marrying.

Fundamentalists of all religions engage in unnatural practices. The unconventional views they hold inevitably lead to their children being teased in the playground and, no matter what studies may show, there is surely a greater risk they will grow up to be fundamentalist themselves if they are exposed to dangerous ideas from a tender age.

No matter what fundamentalist propaganda may claim, fundamentalism is not sanctioned by nature. There is not a single species in the animal kingdom which stresses the infallibility of the Bible or adheres to the teachings of the Koran. Even in the higher orders of primate, no species has conclusively shown faith in the virgin birth or the second coming. Animals tend to be atheist, pagan or animist, which shows that these views are surely instinctive, normal, natural and right.

Maybe you think it is OK for humans to differ from animals. Maybe you think consenting adults should be able to do what they like regardless of whether the average person agrees with their views.

Such a liberal approach is a slippery slope. When we allow fundamentalists to marry it says that fundamentalism is OK. It encourages these people to foist the fundamentalist agenda on the rest of the community. Before long they will be trying to “convert” people to their “religions”. Should we risk this? Fundamentalists are a small minority of the population, so only a small number of people would be inconvenienced by a ban. It would not even be discriminatory as fundamentalists would still have the right to marry – so long as they renounced their religion.

Let’s not forget that we are not just talking about consenting adults. When you allow fundamentalists to marry it encourages them to have children. Sure, they might still have kids even if they cannot marry in the eyes of the law, but why legitimise it? Children are the true victims of fundamentalist marriages. Children don’t get a say when they are born into a household practising a fundamentalist lifestyle. Tiny children should not be subjected to cultural experiments and social engineering. Imagine how confused and guilty children would feel when they were indoctrinated with the bizarre idea that they were born with the stain of original sin and were in fact so inherently bad that a man had to bleed to death to make it all OK.

Imagine also the teasing that children who have grown up in these “families” would be subjected to in the playground when other kids find out about their unusual views and practices. What are normal parents supposed to do when their children arrive home asking uncomfortable questions because they have been exposed to these groups at an age when they are too young to understand?

Before you know it, fundamentalist parents will be insisting preschool children read storybooks about the fundamentalist lifestyle in order to better understand it. There will be colouring books directed at four-year-olds showing Jesus turning water into wine and walking on water, as if it were gospel.

What hope does a child indoctrinated with this sort of propaganda have of growing up to be normal? Can you really tell me they will not be more likely to grow up fundamentalist themselves?

Before you accuse me of hate speech, I should point out that I bear no grudge against fundamentalists personally. “Love the fundamentalist, hate the fundamentalism” is my policy.

I suppose one chink in this argument is that banning a minority from marrying is utterly unfair, inhumane and intolerant. Kind of like the ban on gay marriage.

and, if we didn’t already have enough to say that intelligent design is a bunch of crap…

Primordial Soup’s On: Scientists Repeat Evolution’s Most Famous Experiment
Their results could change the way we imagine life arose on early Earth
By Douglas Fox
March 28, 2007

A Frankensteinesque contraption of glass bulbs and crackling electrodes has produced yet another revelation about the origin of life.

The results suggest that Earth’s early atmosphere could have produced chemicals necessary for life—contradicting the view that life’s building blocks had to come from comets and meteors. “Maybe we’re over-optimistic, but I think this is a paradigm shift,” says chemist Jeffrey Bada, whose team performed the experiment at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Bada was revisiting the famous experiment first done by his mentor, chemist Stanley Miller, at the University of Chicago in 1953. Miller, along with his colleague Harold Urey, used a sparking device to mimic a lightning storm on early Earth. Their experiment produced a brown broth rich in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The disclosure made the pages of national magazines and showed that theories about the origin of life could actually be tested in the laboratory.

But the Miller-Urey results were later questioned: It turns out that the gases he used (a reactive mixture of methane and ammonia) did not exist in large amounts on early Earth. Scientists now believe the primeval atmosphere contained an inert mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen—a change that made a world of difference.

When Miller repeated the experiment using the correct combo in 1983, the brown broth failed to materialize. Instead, the mix created a colorless brew, containing few amino acids. It seemed to refute a long-cherished icon of evolution—and creationists quickly seized on it as supposed evidence of evolution’s wobbly foundations.

But Bada’s repeat of the experiment—armed with a new insight—seems likely to turn the tables once again.

Bada discovered that the reactions were producing chemicals called nitrites, which destroy amino acids as quickly as they form. They were also turning the water acidic—which prevents amino acids from forming. Yet primitive Earth would have contained iron and carbonate minerals that neutralized nitrites and acids. So Bada added chemicals to the experiment to duplicate these functions. When he reran it, he still got the same watery liquid as Miller did in 1983, but this time it was chock-full of amino acids. Bada presented his results this week at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Chicago.

“It’s important work,” says Christopher McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “This is a move toward more realism in terms of what the conditions were on early Earth.”

Most researchers believe that the origin of life depended heavily on chemicals delivered to Earth by comets and meteorites. But if the new work holds up, it could tilt that equation, says Christopher Chyba, an astrobiologist at Princeton University. “That would be a terrific result for understanding the origin of life,” he says, “and for understanding the prospects for life elsewhere.”

But James Ferris, a prebiotic chemist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., doubts that atmospheric electricity could have been the only source of organic molecules. “You get a fair amount of amino acids,” he says. “What you don’t get are things like building blocks of nucleic acids.” Meteors, comets or primordial ponds of hydrogen cyanide would still need to provide those molecules.

Bada’s experiment could also have implications for life on Mars, because the Red Planet may have been swaddled in nitrogen and carbon dioxide early in its life. Bada intends to test this extrapolation by doing experiments with lower-pressure mixes of those gases.

Chyba is cautious: “We don’t know,” he says, “whether Mars really ever had that atmosphere.” That’s because Mars today has carbon dioxide, but hardly any nitrogen—which is also needed for making amino acids. Some scientists suspect that nitrogen gas existed on Mars, but was blasted away by asteroid impacts billions of years ago.

and then, a 180° turn into bizarre sex land, just for good measure…

Authorities: Fifth-graders posted lookout, had sex in class
April 4, 2007

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — Five fifth-grade students face criminal charges after authorities said four of them had sex in front of other students in an unsupervised classroom and kept a classmate posted as a lookout for teachers.

The students were arrested Tuesday at the Spearsville school in rural north Louisiana, authorities said. Two 11-year-old girls, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year old boy were charged with obscenity, a felony. An 11-year-old boy, the alleged lookout, was charged with being an accessory.

“After 44 years of doing this work, nothing shocks me anymore,” said Union Parish Sheriff Bob Buckley. “But this comes pretty close.”

Authorities said the incident happened March 27 at the school, which houses students from kindergarten through 12th grade. A high school teacher normally watches the fifth-grade class at the time, but went to an assembly for older students and the class was inadvertently left unattended, Buckley said.

The class, which had around 10 other students, was alone for about 15 minutes, he said.

“When no teacher showed up, the four began to have sex in the classroom with the other elementary students in the classroom with them,” he said.

It took a day for authorities to find out about the incident. A student who had been in the class told a high school student about it the next day, Buckley said. The student told a teacher, and school officials notified the sheriff’s office. Detectives began questioning students Thursday.

School officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The students, who were not identified because of their age, were released to their parents after their arrests, Buckley said. They will next be arraigned in juvenile court.

A message seeking comment from the district attorney was not immediately returned.

Buckley said it was unclear what penalties the children could face.


immediately after i posted that last one, my cell phone rang, and caller ID identified it as “UNAVAILABLE”, which usually means that it’s a spam-call of some kind. so i dug out my counterscript, answered… and it was a sales call from someone who wanted to sell me investments! so i turned the tables on her. boy that felt good! 8)


ever since i first learned of it, i have suspected that i might have Asperger’s Syndrome. i have also come to realise that it is very unlikely that i will ever get a valid diagnosis as having AS because the syndrome wasn’t identified until i was already more-or-less an adult (is 20 an adult? i thought it was when i was 20, but now i’m not so sure). but thanks to , i was pointed to this article about the first u.s. online autism survey, which lead me to the Interactive Autism Network, where i discovered this article about very late diagnosis of asperger syndrome, which has a link to the web site that has all of the screening questionaires… i’m seeing ned today. we’ll see what happens next.


Call that humiliation?
No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch
March 31, 2007
By Terry Jones

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this – allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world – have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with putting a bag over her head? That’s what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it’s hard to breathe. Then it’s perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can’t be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn’t be able to talk at all. Of course they’d probably find it even harder to breathe – especially with a bag over their head – but at least they wouldn’t be humiliated.

And what’s all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It’s time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That’s one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn’t rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it’s just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What’s more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting “stress positions”, which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It’s all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is “unhappy and stressed”.

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her “unhappy and stressed”. She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer – whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.


Storm in US over chocolate Jesus
A New York gallery has angered a US Catholic group with its decision to exhibit a milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ.
30 March 2007

chocolate jesus!
Chocolate Jesus!

The six-foot (1.8m) sculpture, entitled “My Sweet Lord”, depicts Jesus Christ naked on the cross.

Catholic League head Bill Donohue called it “one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever”.

The sculpture, by artist Cosimo Cavallaro, will be displayed from Monday at Manhattan’s Lab Gallery.

The Catholic League, which describes itself as the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organisation, also criticised the timing of the exhibition.

“The fact that they chose Holy Week shows this is calculated, and the timing is deliberate,” Mr Donohue said.

He called for a boycott of the gallery and the hotel which houses it.

‘Overwhelming response’
The gallery’s creative director, Matt Semler, said the gallery was considering its options in the wake of angry e-mails and telephone calls.

“We’re obviously surprised by the overwhelming response and offence people have taken,” he said. “We are certainly in the process of trying to figure out what we’re going to do next.”

Mr Semler said the timing of the exhibition was coincidental.

Mr Cavallaro, the Canadian-born artist, is known for using food ingredients in his art, on one occasion painting a hotel room in mozzarella cheese.

He used 200 pounds (90 kg) of chocolate to make the sculpture which, unusually, depicts Jesus without a loincloth.


A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection makes me very glad indeed that i gave up on windoesn’t 7 years ago. apparently DRM and “content protection” is costing the entire PC community, giving the ability to view HD-DVDs, blue-ray disks, and a variety of other multimedia, but leaving everyone (not just windoesn’t users) with issues that include system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. as a friend of mine says, “it looks like if you have any interest in multimedia, windows vista offers you the power of a radio shack Trash-80″…


Mind-Control Microbe
parasitic infection can give you schizophrenia, make you have a car crash, or determine the sex of your child.
by Kathy A. Svitil

Five years ago, Oxford University zoologists showed that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii alters the brain chemistry of rats so that they are more likely to seek out cats. Infection thus makes a rat more likely to be killed and the parasite more likely to end up in a cat—the only host in which it can complete the reproductive step of its life cycle. The parasite also lives in the brain cells of thousands of species, including about 60 million supposedly symptom-free Americans. Studies over the past few years have suggested that toxoplasmosis infections in humans, too, may cause behavioral changes—from subtle shifts to outright schizophrenia. Two studies this year add even weirder twists.

U.S. Geological Survey biologist Kevin Lafferty has linked high rates of toxoplasmosis infection in 39 countries with elevated incidences of neuroticism, suggesting the mind-altering organism may be affecting the cultures of nations.

Stranger still, parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague thinks T. gondii could also be skewing our sex ratios. When he looked at the clinical records of more than 1,800 babies born from 1996 to 2004, he noted a distinct trend: The normal sex ratio is 104 boys born for every 100 girls, but in women with high levels of antibodies against the parasite, the ratio was 260 boys for every 100 girls. Exactly how the parasite might be tipping the odds in favor of males isn’t understood, but Flegr points out that it is known to suppress the immune system of its hosts, and because the maternal immune system sometimes attacks male fetuses in very early pregnancy, the parasite’s ability to inhibit the immune response might protect future boys as well as itself.

"Our present study was rejected by eight journals, usually without any formal review," says Flegr, who had the same problem publishing an earlier one showing that infection more than doubles the odds of a person having a traffic accident. "People don’t like the possibility that their behavior and life are manipulated by a parasite," he says.

If altering our culture and causing car crashes weren’t bad enough, toxoplasma may actually wheedle their genes into our genomes.

There are plenty of other theories about what affects the reproductive sex ratio. Some of them are actually true.


the moisture festival is over for another year. unofficially, the marathon time to beat is now 5½ hours, but i don’t know what it is officially, because i left fairly quickly last night. moe had to sleep… 8)

the official time, thanks the phone call mentioned below, was 5 hours 17 minutes, and the pool was won by misha from nanda.

BBWP opened the show last night, which was very cool. even more cool was that i was introduced to moz wright, a fire eater and sword swallower(!) who is also a reiki practitioner, and he did his “magic-woogie-thing” on my ankle – sat me in a chair and walked around me making swishing noises, motioning with his hands, and “muscle testing” himself – before BBWP went on, and now my ankle is well on it’s way to being all better. it’s still slightly sore, but the bruising has completely disappeared, and it has gone from being swollen the size of a small pumpkin to being slightly larger than a lime, and it feels a lot stronger and more stable than i would have suspected. i’m not discounting the ibuprophen, ice and elevation that happened yesterday, but even still, it’s not what i expected, seeing that i just sprained it two days ago.

i just got a phone call from john c., who found my popgun at the palladium.


at first, he said that he would take parts of it, and stuart would take parts of it, and they’d get it back to me eventually, but then he relented and said he’s going to give it to stuart who is (hopefully) going to return it to me at the bacon bunny roast at chris’ place on saturday. i say “hopefully” because most of the cirque people in general put up with my popgun with thinly veiled distaste that borders on revulsion… even though (or, possibly, because of which) it’s one of my favourite musical instruments of all time. stuart puts up with it somewhat better than most other folks – in fact, it could be that he wants one himself, but two orchestral-quality popguns in one band would be interesting. thinking about the sanity of other people, however, it is a bit excessive. the first time i popped it was at the cirque show up at magnuson park a few years ago, which is an old helicopter landing pad with a huge hangar at one end. it was an incredible sound, and i distinctly remember hearing simon (matches), who was across the parking lot, saying, with admiration, “that’s a clown noise!”… but since then he has been one of the most irritable people when he even sees me with the popgun… 8)


yesterday was the busiest day i’ve had in a long time. i left the house at 1:00 and was performing (SW3D for the last time) at 2:30. then i went to pioneer square to perform with BBWP for the utilikilts party, at 8:00, and on the way i sprained my ankle. i performed with BBWP anyway, buckets and all, despite the fact that my ankle was swollen to the size of a small pumpkin – “the show must go on” and all of that crap – and then i went back to the palladium for the late night show, from which i didn’t arrive home until 3:00 am, when i – finally – put an elastic bandage on it. when i woke up at 8:00 this morning, my ankle had turned 8 different shades of purple and green. i took the “anti-inflammatory” dose of ibuprophen, elevated my ankle and went back to sleep. i just woke up again, it’s almost noon, and i’ve got one more performance with the moisture festival, which is – of course – the “marathon”… of course, BBWP is performing again, as well as the fact that i’ve got almost 5 hours of performing with the band, where i can’t elevate my ankle anyway.

and on top of that, i don’t have any pot. i ran out about a week ago, and haven’t been able to get a fresh supply, because i’ve been so busy. today is gonna be wonderful… 8/

now i’m going to ice my ankle, take more ibuprophen, and sleep more.

but, you know, i wouldn’t have it any other way…


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 +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, 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 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!


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By CAPT Doug Traversa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wali interrupted. “But that would never happen.”

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

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

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

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

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


“And would they then kill him?”

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

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


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

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

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

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

“What do they teach the children?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think you can reason with them?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


four-legged duck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab presents Drunk Puppet Nite #7!

At Re-Bar 1114 Howell Street at Boren, Seattle

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

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

Tickets $15 at the door; NO reservations!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridges denied writing or authorizing the memo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and then, to top it all off…

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

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

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

Tasha Childress said it’s discrimination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Link: The Politics Test written by brainpolice on OkCupid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

— Swami Vivekananda

sheesh… 8/


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

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

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


Iranian hackers possess Windows Vista

Windows Pirated!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Thoughts on Music
By Steve Jobs
February 6, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tyreol Gardner first smoked marijuana when he was 13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Military: No Gitmo guard abuse evident
February 7, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Haggard now "completely heterosexual"
February 6, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silbert said Newsom had contacted her Saturday about getting help.

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


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

hi sally… i’m watching you! 8)


January 26, 2007

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

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

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

If passed by Washington voters, I-957 would:

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Well, bully for you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rome? Britain? Spain?

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

Cleric seeks end to sectarian violence
February 3, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importance: High
January 30, 2007

SUBJECT:     Federal Human Capital Survey Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


i’m back…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

more shaligram spam!

a couple days ago i posted about some unusual spam i have been receiving, which advertises shaligram shilas.

today, i received a comment by an anonymous poster (which was screened, so that you guys can’t see it), the subject line of which was “hello sir“, and contained… you guessed it – spam advertising shaligram shilas.


u can see our site and tell us or call us to

kismat 09323505262 or rajiv 09322646421

that was one of the reasons why i posted a “guest map” yesterday. and, sure enough, there’s a “guest” from india on that map:

Location Time
Bethpage, NY, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 13:24:40 -0600
Wharton, NJ, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 11:44:45 -0600
Seattle, WA, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 11:41:46 -0600
, United Kingdom Wed, 31 Jan 2007 11:19:05 -0600
Seattle, WA, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 11:13:08 -0600
Walla Walla, WA, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 10:41:36 -0600
Auberry, CA, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 08:52:07 -0600
Downsview, ON, Canada Wed, 31 Jan 2007 07:27:20 -0600
Studley, United Kingdom Wed, 31 Jan 2007 06:57:34 -0600
Bombay, India Wed, 31 Jan 2007 02:03:38 -0600
San Leandro, CA, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 01:36:12 -0600
Ann Arbor, MI, United States Wed, 31 Jan 2007 00:46:15 -0600
Silver Spring, MD, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 23:42:45 -0600
Seattle, WA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 23:36:17 -0600
Redwood City, CA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 22:08:59 -0600
Concord, Australia Tue, 30 Jan 2007 21:42:28 -0600
, United Kingdom Tue, 30 Jan 2007 21:30:44 -0600
Houston, TX, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 20:54:46 -0600
Bellingham, WA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 20:32:53 -0600
Universal City, TX, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 20:31:00 -0600
, , Canada Tue, 30 Jan 2007 20:27:20 -0600
Marlborough, MA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 20:02:15 -0600
Easthampton, MA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 19:47:55 -0600
Redwood City, CA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 19:41:11 -0600
San Diego, CA, United States Tue, 30 Jan 2007 19:13:44 -0600

this post is specifically directed to that “visitor” from bombay, india:


the way to get people to advertise for the DESTRUCTION OF YOUR BUSINESS is to send them unsolicited email. and for me, personally, the only thing worse than an unsolicited email is an “anonymous” comment advertising your sleaze in my blog! fortunately, i was too smart for that, this time. if you don’t want me to wreak as terrible a vengance as i can think of (giving me your phone numbers and your IP address was a good idea), you’ll take your spam, and your business elsewhere, because I DON’T DO BUSINESS WITH SPAMMERS!


US answer to global warming: smoke and giant space mirrors
January 27, 2007
By David Adam

The US government wants the world’s scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming, the Guardian has learned. It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be “important insurance” against rising emissions, and has lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a major UN report on climate change, the first part of which will be published on Friday.

The US has also attempted to steer the UN report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), away from conclusions that would support a new worldwide climate treaty based on binding targets to reduce emissions – as sought by Tony Blair. It has demanded a draft of the report be changed to emphasise the benefits of voluntary agreements and to include criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing treaty which the US administration opposes.

The final IPCC report, written by experts from across the world, will underpin international negotiations to devise a new emissions treaty to succeed Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft of the report last year and invited to comment.

The US response, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, says the idea of interfering with sunlight should be included in the summary for policymakers, the prominent chapter at the front of each IPCC report. It says: “Modifying solar radiance may be an important strategy if mitigation of emissions fails. Doing the R&D to estimate the consequences of applying such a strategy is important insurance that should be taken out. This is a very important possibility that should be considered.”

Scientists have previously estimated that reflecting less than 1% of sunlight back into space could compensate for the warming generated by all greenhouse gases emitted since the industrial revolution. Possible techniques include putting a giant screen into orbit, thousands of tiny, shiny balloons, or microscopic sulphate droplets pumped into the high atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption. The IPCC draft said such ideas were “speculative, uncosted and with potential unknown side-effects”.

The US submission is based on the views of dozens of government officials and is accompanied by a letter signed by Harlan Watson, senior climate negotiator at the US state department. It complains the IPCC draft report is “Kyoto-centric” and it wants to include the work of economists who have reported “the degree to which the Kyoto framework is found wanting”. It takes issue with a statement that “one weakness of the [Kyoto] protocol, however, is its non-ratificiation by some significant greenhouse gas emitters” and asks: “Is this the only weakness worth mentioning? Are there others?”

It also insists the wording on the ineffectiveness of voluntary agreements be altered to include “a number of them have had significant impacts” and complains that overall “the report tends to overstate or focus on the negative effects of climate change.” It also wants more emphasis on responsibilities of the developing world.

The IPCC report is made up of three sections. The first, on the science of climate change, will be launched on Friday. Sections on the impact and mitigation of climate change – in which the US wants to include references to the sun-blocking technology – will follow later this year.

The likely contents of the report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. Next week’s science report will say there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise another 1.5C to 5.8C this century depending on emissions. The US response shows it accepts these statements, but it disagrees with a more tentative conclusion that rising temperatures have made hurricanes more powerful.


Visitor Map
Create your own visitor map!

that should make those of you who are paranoid about such things (including myself) go into a paroxysm… 8)

You scored as Otherkin.

You are Otherkin. You identify with otherworldy beings and feel you are truly something other than human. You are only biding your time here until you can return to where you truly belong. You seek others who share your yearnings and spend your time commiserating with those you like and mocking the ones you don’t.







White Lighter


True Alternative






Aimless Eclectic


What Subversive Alternative Paradigm Are You?
created with QuizFarm


does anybody else get spam advertising shaligram shilas? i don’t believe that they’re actually in business selling shaligram shilas, but that’s what the spam says, and it spamvertises a web site that is shaligram dot com… if they’re really in the business of selling shaligrams i would be very surprised, but i deliberately haven’t looked because i don’t do business with spammers regardless of what their business is, but at the same time… shaligram shilas are sort of specialised, and would only be interesting to a few people… why me?

journey to the center of the universe

today i took the incense part of Hybrid Elephant to the Fremont Sunday Market. next time i’ll dress more appropriately… and wear a warmer hat, ’cause it was COLD today.

despite that fact, i made $57, $22 of which i gave to ganesha, so i came out with $35. not too bad for standing out in the cold all day. next time i’ll bring a chair. the people i saw that i knew weren’t people who read this blog, and they didn’t buy incense, but it didn’t matter because several people that i didn’t know did buy incense, so it all worked out in the end.


Canada compensates man U.S. deported to Syria
January 26, 2007

OTTAWA, Canada (AP) — Canada’s prime minister apologized to Maher Arar on Friday and announced the government would compensate him C$10.5 million (US$8.9 million) for its role in his deportation from the U.S. to Syria, where he was tortured while held in prison for nearly a year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper again called on the U.S. government to remove the Ottawa telecoms engineer from any of its no-fly or terrorist watchlists and reiterated that Ottawa would keep pressing Washington to clear Arar’s name.

“We think the evidence is absolutely clear and that the United States should in good faith remove Mr. Arar from the list,” Harper told a news conference in Ottawa. “We don’t intend to either change or drop our position.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly insisted it has reasons to leave the 37-year-old on its watchlists. The issue has grown into an unpleasant diplomatic row between the world’s largest trading partners and closest allies.

The Syrian-born Arar, who moved to Canada with his family when he was 17, is the best-known case of rendition, a practice in which the U.S. government sends foreign terror suspects to third countries for interrogation.

Arar thanked the Canadian government at a news conference Friday.

“The struggle to clear my name has been long and hard; my kids have suffered silently and I feel that I owe them a lot,” said Arar, who also thanked Canadians for standing by him. (Watch Arar tell of family’s heartache Video)

“Without the support of the Canadian people, I may never have come home and I would not have been able to stay strong and push for the truth,” he said.

A ‘terrible ordeal’
Arar was detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in 2002 during a stopover on his way home to Canada from a vacation with his family in Tunisia.

He said he was chained and shackled by U.S. authorities for 11 days during interrogation and then flown to Syria, where he was tortured and forced to make false confessions.

He was released 10 months later, with Syrian officials saying they had no reason to hold him further.

“On behalf of the government of Canada, I want to extend a full apology to you and Monia as well as your family for the role played by Canadian officials in the terrible ordeal that you experienced in 2002 and 2003,” Harper said. Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, and their young son and daughter now live in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“I sincerely hope that these words and actions will assist you and your family in your efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in your lives,” Harper said, adding the compensation package would also pay for his estimated $1 million in legal fees.

Arar was exonerated last September after a two-year public inquiry led by Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O’Connor.

It found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrongly labeled Arar as an Islamic fundamentalist and passed misleading and inaccurate information to U.S. authorities, which very likely led to Arar’s arrest and deportation.

The report pointed out that Arar’s inability to find work since his return from Syria has had a devastating economic and psychological impact on him and his family.

O’Connor urged the RCMP to usher in a raft of policy changes on information sharing, training and monitoring of security probes. In the aftermath, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned over his handling of the file.

Cross-border tensions
The U.S. District Court of Appeals last February dismissed Arar’s lawsuit against U.S. government officials, ruling the deportation of the dual Syrian-Canadian citizen was protected on national security grounds. His attorneys with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed an appeal in December.

“We are grateful that the Canadian government has had the humanity to try to right the terrible wrong that was done to Maher,” CCR Attorney Maria LaHood said in a statement Friday. “We still hope the U.S. government will follow Canada’s lead.”

The new Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, earlier this month publicly scolded U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for refusing to explain why the United States had sent a Canadian citizen to Syria.

“The Canadian government now has taken several steps to accept responsibility for its role in sending Mr. Arar to Syria, where he was tortured,” Leahy said in a statement Friday. “The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the U.S. government shipped him to Syria where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution.”

He said the U.S. Justice Department intended to respond to his demands next week.

U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, on Wednesday chastised Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day for continuing to press Washington on the Arar matter.

“It’s a little presumptuous of him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country,” Wilkins said.

In a recent letter to Day, U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and Gonzales said U.S. files on Arar indicate the decision to keep Arar on watchlists is “appropriate.”

“Our conclusion in this regard is supported by information developed by U.S. law enforcement agencies that is independent of that provided to us by Canada with regard to Mr. Arar,” the letter said, adding that they wished to thank Canada for its cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Arar said his case has forced some Canadians to question their relationship to the United States, noting U.S. authorities declined to participate in Canada’s federal inquiry.

“It’s a question that touches all Canadians,” Arar said. “Can we really trust the Americans to be our partners in the fight against terrorism?”

Garden of Weedin’
Oregon’s medical marijuana growers want to win respect, help the sick…and grow the kindest bud on the planet.
January 24th, 2004

A miniature version of Eden grows in Chris Duback’s deep-Southeast Portland basement. But there is trouble in paradise.

Visitors wouldn’t notice the danger. Everything in this small, white-walled room looks fantastic. The 1,000-watt metal-halide lights and two-headed sets of 100-watt fluorescent bulbs shower 18 marijuana plants with a downpour of artificial light. The blaze makes every shade of green glow with radioactive intensity.

The plants seem happy. This is pampered, boutique dope, rooted in calcium-rich dirt imported from Australia. Their tidy green plastic buckets bear the trademark of Monrovia, a national yuppie-chic garden-supply company. Today, though, this verdant, Zen-tidy cannabis colony faces potentially mortal threats—threats that have nothing to do with cops or prosecutors eager to stamp out Demon Weed. No, Duback’s problems are botanical.

“I’ve got myself a little fungus outbreak there,” Duback says over the soothing whir of an electric dehumidifier. “And—ooh.” He stoops over one plant and gently turns over one serrated leaf. “There’s a little spider mite outbreak here.”

The underside of the leaf is speckled with tiny white spots.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” Duback says. “If I neglected this for 72 hours, I might as well cut my plants down.”

Invaders. Parasites. Bloom cycles. Feeding and watering schedules. Electrical wiring. Security. Airflow. Genetics and crossbreeding. Flavor. Aroma. Potency….

These are the concerns Duback tangles with during the 90-day artificial growing cycle he imposes on his cannabis plants. “It is a wizardry thing,” he says. “That aspect of it is a great motivator. It really does inspire.”

One thing he doesn’t need to worry about is the law, because—at least as far as the state of Oregon is concerned—his little THC factory is as legal as Sunday school. Duback is a registered medical-marijuana grower; he supplies three patients, who help cover his expenses with small donations. Duback is just one of 6,190 growers (sometimes called “caregivers”) who provide Oregon’s more than 12,800 medical-marijuana cardholders with their state-approved medicine.

Oregon voters just said yes to medical marijuana by a landslide in 1998. Today, the otherwise-verboten plant is used to treat a variety of ailments, including AIDS, cancer, spasms, glaucoma and chronic pain. Of course, no pharmacy will sell you an ounce. So the task of growing Oregon’s medical crop falls to independent gardeners like Chris Duback.

Duback happens to be among the best: His marijuana wins prizes at the annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards. He is part of a whole new class of Oregon farmer: a sub-subculture of gardening nerds, freelance pharmacologists, pro-legalization activists and good Samaritans. They are openly allowed to grow, study and attempt to perfect the nation’s most illicit crop.

And like other forms of agriculture, medical marijuana cultivation is becoming of interest to Oregon’s political leaders. A bill just introduced in the Legislature would pave the way for a state-run experimental garden, to help the medical-marijuana community solve the drug’s mysteries.

“I’m told there are something like 250 varieties of cannabis, and they all have their special efficacies,” says Sen. Bill Morrisette, the Springfield Democrat sponsoring the as-yet-unnumbered bill. “It would be great for someone to study them.”

Besides the OMC Awards and the legislative attention, a whole array of resources is springing up to serve Oregon’s green thumbs. Growers can enroll in classes (“Making Medical Grade Hashish”), trade tips in online forums and kibbitz at packed monthly meetings in Portland. Gardeners have access to a genetic treasure trove of cannabis strains—distinct varieties, ready for creative crossbreeding—mostly for free.

Meanwhile, firsthand reports suggest that some of the marijuana grown by people like Duback is very, very good indeed. Crops are small and handcrafted; the law’s restrictions keep the profit motive largely out of the picture.

“It’s like the difference between microbrew and Anheuser-Busch,” says one national marijuana-rights activist. “In Oregon, you have individuals or little groups caring for small gardens. The attention to detail creates a better product by far.”

So—are you ready for artisanal weed?

The craft of medical marijuana cultivation is a far-flung subject, but the airy, 5,000-square-foot offices of The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation are a good place to start. The national nonprofit is based just off East Burnside Street in inner Southeast Portland. It provides would-be patients a chance to talk to sympathetic doctors. And it is here that registered growers can take classes like “Advanced Gardening” and “Administering Medical Marijuana Safely.”

Paul Stanford, a soft-spoken 46-year-old, is THCF’s executive director, and one of the George Washingtons of Oregon’s medical-marijuana system. He also helps grow some prize-winning bud.

In 1985, Stanford—an Army vet who went to Olympia’s structure-light Evergreen State College after the service—rented a Portland house, ripped out the floor, broke open the foundation and dug deep trenches for his first indoor crop. He learned his techniques from some legendary local masters. John Sajo, for example, had his signature growing style published in High Times as “the Jaso Method.” An author named Jorge Cervantes lived in Portland while working on the soon-to-be-legendary Indoor Marijuana Horticulture.

“That was my bible,” Stanford says now.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the Northwest was a hotbed of cannabis research and development. “All that work was done by underground pioneers,” Stanford says. “A lot of them found themselves persecuted.”

Stanford himself nearly landed in federal prison for cultivation and possession in the late ’80s. His close-shave trial prompted him to give up gardening, if not pro-hemp activism. Two years after he helped lead the charge for 1998’s historic Measure 68 (see sidebar, page 20), he founded THCF, and it now operates in five states. (According to public records, the nonprofit took in over $350,000 in 2004, mostly by charging fees to patients who see doctors at the foundation’s offices.) The foundation also grows marijuana for about two dozen patients.

The foundation employs a couple of gardeners to tend its crops. One of them, writing under the name The Medicine Man, published a how-to article called “The Pot Whisperer” in the latest issue of High Times. Some of their methods are striking even to a non-gardener.

“A friend of ours has a tortoise,” Stanford says. “A big tortoise. And the manure from that tortoise—it was very productive for these plants.”

Even though humans have grown cannabis since the dawn of agriculture, scientists are only now coming to grips with the dynamic between talking primates and the ugly herb. Not to get all intelligent-design or anything, but we are ideally wired for marijuana use. Our brains are laced with a network of chemical receptors that bond specifically with cannabinoids, the plant’s various psychoactive compounds. (THC is marijuana’s best-known active chemical, but there are others.)

That “special relationship” helps explain why therapeutic uses of marijuana date back thousands of years—and why major pharmaceutical companies are currently racing to invent and market cannabis-based prescription drugs.

Because cannabis plants are either male or female, it’s very easy to create new hybrid strains. In the ’70s, illegal growers crossbred two subspecies, Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, which diverged thousands of years before. The result was an explosion of more potent, more exotic and more complex new hybrids.

“All of our plants originally come from the black market,” Stanford says. “When the program first started, there was no other source. We wanted to get the best, so we sought out those Afghan strains—the skunky ones. Now, though, the breeding process can take place openly. Caregivers can get together and exchange cuttings. The quality and variety have increased over time.”

It may not be exactly wh at a young Paul Stanford had in mind when he was organizing Reefer Madness screenings at college campuses. But, he says, it’s all pretty remarkable. “This is the first time since cannabis was outlawed in the ’30s that any of this has become possible.”

It is both somewhat disappointing and very telling that during the month I spent reporting this story, nobody offered to get me high.

Oh, my face came within inches of the—what do the kids say?—dankest marijuana I’ve seen or smelled. At December’s Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards, I sat next to a vacuum-seal canister packed with tiny, sample-size Ziploc bags. At one point, I was surrounded by hundreds of people partaking.

But no one—not Chris Duback, not “The Medicine Man,” not “Sister Sativa,” another pot whisperer I met at the awards—tried to “broaden my mind,” so to speak. That highlights a paradox of Oregon’s medical-use laws: They created the most law-abiding marijuana-based subculture ever.

Illegal weed is, of course, mammoth. A December report in the pro-legalization Bulletin of Cannabis Reform estimated U.S.-grown cannabis’s value at $35 billion, which would make it the nation’s largest cash crop. The same report estimated Oregon’s contribution to that total at about $2.6 billion, or more than 7 percent.

The medical growing community, in comparison, is tiny. Growers are allowed to cultivate up to 24 plants for every patient they serve, but only six plants can be mature enough to harvest at a time. Patients technically own the marijuana throughout the growing process. While growers can collect money to cover their expenses and time, the weed itself can’t be bought or sold. In practice, that means medical gardens tend to be frugal, semi-pro operations.

Oregon’s growers want to draw a bright line between themselves and illegal dope farmers. And that’s a challenge—in part because of public perceptions.

“People always want to treat us like we’re a joke, but this isn’t a game,” says Madeline Martinez, executive director of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “People are in pain. If they can’t work through a legitimate system to get what they need, what do they do?”

Martinez herself is both a cardholder and a gardener. At NORML-sponsored events, she maintains a presence that combines den mother, civil-rights firebrand and drill sergeant. She helped steer 2005’s legislative reforms allowing bigger gardens—through Oregon’s Republican-run state House, no less. Now, she and other activists want to push for the proposed state-run experimental garden. (Other legislators and a spokesman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski declined to comment, saying they haven’t yet read Morrisette’s bill, which would direct the state’s Department of Human Services to study the possibility of a garden. Martinez, for one, sees money for such a project coming straight out of the Oregon medical marijuana program itself. Patients must pay fees when they register, and the program runs a six-figure surplus.)

Such ambitions make legitimacy key.

“We make sure everyone follows the rules at our events,” Martinez says. “If someone makes trouble, we call the police. And the police come, walk right through the event, past all this medical marijuana, and throw the people out. We’re above board, and we want to keep it that way.”

The fifth annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards were held in December in a drab building next to Portland’s Convention Center. The event was as notable for its banality as its oddity.

Yes, the Awards are the only major non-clandestine cannabis competition in the United States. And yes, 28 different strains were evaluated for flavor, aroma, potency and other qualities, with prizes in every category. The judges—all cardholding patients—filled out elaborate score sheets, complete with Wine Spectator-style comments (“A very pine-like smell…”).

And yes, you could see a Buddhist monk line up behind a NASCAR-dad type in a camo ball cap to buy tickets to a raffle for a glass bong autographed by Tommy Chong.

Mostly, though, the Awards comprised a businesslike tradeshow and buffet banquet. The biggest prizes were reserved for the strains determined to pack the most potent medicinal punch.

The idea is to figure out which strains work best for particular illnesses. Prizewinners are quickly disseminated through the growers’ network.

The festivities also give people whose pride and joy grows in basements and behind high fences a moment of quasi-celebrity. During the tradeshow, I met a man named Bobby B., a towering, gray-haired Vietnam vet. Bobby B. grows Sellwood Thunder, a venerable Portland strain featured in High Times twice. He handed me a business card. A photo on the card’s reverse side showed Bobby posing by a luxurious green bush. The front of the card read: “Look for Bobby B.’s new hybrid, Thunder Jack.”

“I started growing Sellwood Thunder because it was known for being rich, full-bodied herb,” Bobby B. told me. “But most importantly, it had low smell, so it was hard for cops to detect. There would be times that you couldn’t even get a crop in because of law enforcement.

“Now, everything’s changed. I would say we have some of the best growers in the world here in Oregon, doing it legitimately. I still grow the same way I grew 20 years ago. But now I can show people what I do.”

On a cold January afternoon, the Mount Tabor Theater is a DEA agent’s vision of hell.

The dim, cavernous old nightclub on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard is packed with more than 200 medical-marijuana cardholders and growers. (The monthly meeting always draws a capacity crowd.) As soon as the place is full, the front doors are locked. An inferno of joints and pipes erupts. Within minutes, a dense fog of aromatic smoke fills the club’s high, arched ceilings.

The meeting is primarily a networking opportunity. Would-be gardeners hook up with patients in search of suppliers. Old men hobble behind walkers; electric wheelchairs slowly navigate the crowd. Pale, drawn faces suck avidly at pipes. A chair-bound woman rolls past, her hands shaking so badly she can barely slide a tiny baby cannabis plant into a brown paper bag.

A long table holds a veritable bazaar of midget starter plants, free for the taking. Blueberry God sits next to a “Hawaiian/KGB cross.” The strain called Medicine Woman, which won the overall championship at this year’s Awards, is going fast. (Medicine Woman’s developer, a near-legendary Eastern Oregon grower named Dave Verstoppen, gets a huge ovation later.) G13, Mango, Cush, Shibah, Juicy Fruit—the genetic variation on display puts the Westminster Kennel Club in the shade.

A young guy who introduces himself as “Reverend Rob Remedy of the Church of Cognitive Therapy” is passing out a strain called Alien Trainwreck.

“Trainwreck is from Texas,” Reverend Rob explains. “It’s a 50-50 cross between a sativa and an indica. It’s used for pain relief and sleeplessness, Crohn’s disease and other digestive problems. The indica gives a narcotic, drowsy-making effect, so Trainwreck is really good for cancer patients and people with low appetites.

“Now, Cali Mist—that’s the polar opposite. It’s a pure sativa, so it’s really good for anxiety and depression. Sativas in general give a more cerebral, up, happy high.” (Word to the wise: Marijuana is not approved for insomnia, anxiety or depression in Oregon.)

Other states, of course, have approved medical marijuana in various guises. But Oregon’s particular laws encourage this kind of open exchange of information (and plant DNA) in a way other states do not.

“In Washington state, you probably would never see an event like this,” says Dominic Holden, a member of NORML’s national board of directors in town for the meeting. “Under the law there, medical use is just an affirmative defense, so you can still be arrested and have your life ruined, even if you’re acquitted. People would be extremely reluctant to assemble like this. In California, the medical gardens are huge. You don’t see this hands-on feel.”

As the meeting approaches its smoke-choked conclusion, I run into The Medicine Man, full-time gardener for The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation and author of the growing treatise just published by High Times. He’s an intense, focused guy in his 50s.

“I can’t say we’re better or worse than anyone else,” he says of Oregon’s legalized pot whisperers. “But I can say that techniques we’ve developed here have come a long way, and so have the strains. And we’re continually trying to improve.”

Chris Duback keeps his emerald-green Medical Cannabis Awards trophy (he took second overall in 2003) on an end table in his immaculate living room. The ribbon he won this year hangs from the frame of the door between his dining room and kitchen.

Duback supports himself through a jack-of-all-trades career: construction and (yes) gardening jobs, property management, hauling firewood, whatever. To see him in his basement garden, though, is to know that his true calling is encoded in the beguiling chemistry and life cycle of the cannabis plant.

Like other Oregon medical marijuana growers, Duback is proud of helping his patients. He’s happy the law is on his side. Most of all, though, he seems hungry for the horticultural “wizardry” he practices downstairs to be recognized as a contribution to the greater good.

“We’re legitimate in the eyes of the law, but there’s a lack of legitimacy at the dinner table,” he says. “I’ve had people in my life who are like, ‘Oh, there’s this terrible thing about Christopher, and it involves marijuana.’ It really should be, ‘Oh, there’s this great thing about Christopher. And it involves marijuana.'”

Altered States
“A lot of people are involved in some pretty major criminal activity, and they’re using state law to traffic in drugs.” So said a federal Drug Enforcement Agency spokeswoman in the Los Angeles Times last week, after agents raided 11 medical-marijuana “dispensaries” in Los Angeles.

The raids enraged local officials and underscored the political tensions surrounding medical marijuana and the significant differences among states that embrace it.

Twelve states have approved some form of medicinal marijuana use. California was the first in 1996. In Oregon, after two decades of unsuccessful legalization proposals (one would have allowed pot sales at state liquor stores) and fights about just how decriminalized marijuana should be, voters approved medical use by a 55-45 margin in 1998.

The feds don’t recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana, leading to a cold war of sorts between the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration and the states. The dispute sees occasional hot flashes: In addition to the L.A. raids, a cannabis-advocacy group in Everett, Wash., was busted last week.

Meanwhile, states have very distinct laws. Since voters approved medical marijuana, Oregon has amended its rules to be more specific on how patients and growers must register and how much marijuana can be cultivated and possessed. Other states aren’t as clear, or provide less oversight and protection. Washington, for example, does not maintain a state registry of qualified patients—its law only exempts doctor-certified patients from state prosecution (provided their possession is under a certain limit) if they’re arrested.

In California, large, quasi-commercial dispensaries (or “collectives”) dominate cultivation. Some provide marijuana to hundreds of patients and grow thousands of plants. According to Madeline Martinez of Oregon NORML, California dispensaries often charge high prices (and skirt laws against selling medical marijuana). That’s one reason, she says, for Oregon to create a state-run garden: In addition to testing different strains, a publicly owned garden could guarantee a permanent source of low-cost “medicine.”


i’m taking the incense part of Hybrid Elephant to the fremont sunday market tomorrow. if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hi… or something (which means, i suppose, that if you also buy some incense, i wouldn’t mind, but even if you don’t want any incense, it wouldn’t matter as long as you say hi) i don’t know how well it’s going to do, but it can’t hurt to try.


last night i “found” a web site in india that has all kinds of CDs, rudraksha, narmada sivalinga, shaligram shilas and other stuff that i really want to resell on Hybrid Elephant. i put “found” in quotation marks because i have actually had their site bookmarked for a few years, but the part of their site that i have had bookmarked is their “spiritual library”, which is where they have 108 upanishads and a whole bunch of sivaite literature, and i never bothered to click their “spiritual store” link before, because i had no reason to.

i ordered a bunch of stuff to check out their quality, but if it’s anything like i think it is, there’s a good chance that it’s basically a done deal, because the most expensive cd that i ordered was $4.65 for Pradosha Shiva Pooja. not only that, but originally i had some difficulty navigating their site, so i hit the “contact us” link and explained my problem, and this morning i had 2 emails from them saying that the problem was fixed, and offering me other methods to get to the same result. i haven’t gotten that level of customer service from hardly any other web site, particularly one in india, so these people have made a great impression on me. if their delivery is as good as their customer service, i’ll be listening to CDs from india in a week or so.


Bush’s legacy: The president who cried wolf
Bush’s strategy fails because it depends on his credibility
By Keith Olbermann
Jan 11, 2007

Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude, could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran.

Only this president could look out over a vista of 3,008 dead and 22,834 wounded in Iraq, and finally say, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me” — only to follow that by proposing to repeat the identical mistake … in Iran.

Only this president could extol the “thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group,” and then take its most far-sighted recommendation — “engage Syria and Iran” — and transform it into “threaten Syria and Iran” — when al-Qaida would like nothing better than for us to threaten Syria, and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to be threatened by us.

This is diplomacy by skimming; it is internationalism by drawing pictures of Superman in the margins of the text books; it is a presidency of Cliff Notes.

And to Iran and Syria — and, yes, also to the insurgents in Iraq — we must look like a country run by the equivalent of the drunken pest who gets battered to the floor of the saloon by one punch, then staggers to his feet, and shouts at the other guy’s friends, “Ok, which one of you is next?”

Mr. Bush, the question is no longer “what are you thinking?,” but rather “are you thinking at all?”

“I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended,” you said last night.

And yet — without any authorization from the public, which spoke so loudly and clearly to you in November’s elections — without any consultation with a Congress (in which key members of your own party, including Sens. Sam Brownback, Norm Coleman and Chuck Hagel, are fleeing for higher ground) — without any awareness that you are doing exactly the opposite of what Baker-Hamilton urged you to do — you seem to be ready to make an open-ended commitment (on America’s behalf) to do whatever you want, in Iran.

Our military, Mr. Bush, is already stretched so thin by this bogus adventure in Iraq that even a majority of serving personnel are willing to tell pollsters that they are dissatisfied with your prosecution of the war.

It is so weary that many of the troops you have just consigned to Iraq will be on their second tours or their third tours or their fourth tours — and now you’re going to make them take on Iran and Syria as well?

Who is left to go and fight, sir?

Who are you going to send to “interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria”?

Laura and Barney?

The line is from the movie “Chinatown” and I quote it often: “Middle of a drought,” the mortician chuckles, “and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.!”

Middle of a debate over the lives and deaths of another 21,500 of our citizens in Iraq, and the president wants to saddle up against Iran and Syria.

Maybe that’s the point — to shift the attention away from just how absurd and childish this latest war strategy is, (strategy, that is, for the war already under way, and not the one on deck).

We are going to put 17,500 more troops into Baghdad and 4,000 more into Anbar Province to give the Iraqi government “breathing space.”

In and of itself that is an awful and insulting term.

The lives of 21,500 more Americans endangered, to give “breathing space” to a government that just turned the first and perhaps the most sober act of any democracy — the capital punishment of an ousted dictator — into a vengeance lynching so barbaric and so lacking in the solemnities necessary for credible authority, that it might have offended the Ku Klux Klan of the 19th century.

And what will our men and women in Iraq do?

The ones who will truly live — and die — during what Mr. Bush said last night will be a “year ahead” that “will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve”?

They will try to seal Sadr City and other parts of Baghdad where the civil war is worst.

Mr. Bush did not mention that while our people are trying to do that, the factions in the civil war will no longer have to focus on killing each other, but rather they can focus anew on killing our people.

Because last night the president foolishly all but announced that we will be sending these 21,500 poor souls, but no more after that, and if the whole thing fizzles out, we’re going home.

The plan fails militarily.

The plan fails symbolically.

The plan fails politically.

Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility.

You speak of mistakes and of the responsibility “resting” with you.

But you do not admit to making those mistakes.

And you offer us nothing to justify this clenched fist toward Iran and Syria.

In fact, when you briefed news correspondents off-the-record before the speech, they were told, once again, “if you knew what we knew … if you saw what we saw … ”

“If you knew what we knew” was how we got into this morass in Iraq in the first place.

The problem arose when it turned out that the question wasn’t whether we knew what you knew, but whether you knew what you knew.

You, sir, have become the president who cried wolf.

All that you say about Iraq now could be gospel.

All that you say about Iran and Syria now could be prescient and essential.

We no longer have a clue, sir.

We have heard too many stories.

Many of us are as inclined to believe you just shuffled the director of national intelligence over to the State Department because he thought you were wrong about Iran.

Many of us are as inclined to believe you just put a pilot in charge of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because he would be truly useful in an air war next door in Iran.

Your assurances, sir, and your demands that we trust you, have lost all shape and texture.

They are now merely fertilizer for conspiracy theories.

They are now fertilizer, indeed.

The pile has been built slowly and with seeming care.

I read this list last night, before the president’s speech, and it bears repeating because its shape and texture are perceptible only in such a context.

Before Mr. Bush was elected, he said nation-building was wrong for America.

Now he says it is vital.

He said he would never put U.S. troops under foreign control.

Last night he promised to embed them in Iraqi units.

He told us about WMD.

Mobile labs.

Secret sources.

Aluminum tubes.


He has told us the war is necessary:

Because Saddam was a material threat.

Because of 9/11.

Because of Osama Bin Laden. Al-Qaida. Terrorism in general.

To liberate Iraq. To spread freedom. To spread Democracy. To prevent terrorism by gas price increases.

Because this was a guy who tried to kill his dad.

Because — 439 words in to the speech last night — he trotted out 9/11 again.

In advocating and prosecuting this war he passed on a chance to get Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

To get Muqtada Al-Sadr. To get Bin Laden.

He sent in fewer troops than the generals told him to. He ordered the Iraqi army disbanded and the Iraqi government “de-Baathified.”

He short-changed Iraqi training. He neglected to plan for widespread looting. He did not anticipate sectarian violence.

He sent in troops without life-saving equipment. He gave jobs to foreign contractors, and not Iraqis. He staffed U.S. positions there, based on partisanship, not professionalism.

He and his government told us: America had prevailed, mission accomplished, the resistance was in its last throes.

He has insisted more troops were not necessary. He has now insisted more troops are necessary.

He has insisted it’s up to the generals, and then removed some of the generals who said more troops would not be necessary.

He has trumpeted the turning points:

The fall of Baghdad, the death of Uday and Qusay, the capture of Saddam. A provisional government, a charter, a constitution, the trial of Saddam. Elections, purple fingers, another government, the death of Saddam.

He has assured us: We would be greeted as liberators — with flowers;

As they stood up, we would stand down. We would stay the course; we were never about “stay the course.”

We would never have to go door-to-door in Baghdad. And, last night, that to gain Iraqis’ trust, we would go door-to-door in Baghdad.

He told us the enemy was al-Qaida, foreign fighters, terrorists, Baathists, and now Iran and Syria.

He told us the war would pay for itself. It would cost $1.7 billion. $100 billion. $400 billion. Half a trillion. Last night’s speech alone cost another $6 billion.

And after all of that, now it is his credibility versus that of generals, diplomats, allies, Democrats, Republicans, the Iraq Study Group, past presidents, voters last November and the majority of the American people.

Oh, and one more to add, tonight: Oceania has always been at war with East Asia.

Mr. Bush, this is madness.

You have lost the military. You have lost the Congress to the Democrats. You have lost most of the Iraqis. You have lost many of the Republicans. You have lost our allies.

You are losing the credibility, not just of your presidency, but more importantly of the office itself.

And most imperatively, you are guaranteeing that more American troops will be losing their lives, and more families their loved ones. You are guaranteeing it!

This becomes your legacy, sir: How many of those you addressed last night as your “fellow citizens” you just sent to their deaths.

And for what, Mr. Bush?

So the next president has to pull the survivors out of Iraq instead of you?

Cheney: Senate Resolution "Won’t Stop Us"
Vice President Says It’s “Hogwash” To Say Bush’s Credibility Is At Stake In Iraq
Jan. 25, 2007

The White House reaction to the Senate resolution opposing President Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq came from Vice President Dick Cheney. In a word, he was defiant, saying about the general idea of a resolution, “It won’t stop us.”

“We are moving forward. The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding,” Cheney said Wednesday in an occasionally testy CNN interview.

“But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision. We’ve consulted extensively with them. We’ll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done.”

If the president was almost humbly pleading with Congress in Tuesday’s State of the Union address to give his plan a chance, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod says the vice president played what has come to be his typical role: the enforcer.

He dismissed suggestions that the Bush administration’s credibility is on the line because of mistakes in Iraq as “hogwash.”

And he railed at critics for not coming up with a plan of their own for Iraq.

“The critics have not suggested a policy — they haven’t put anything in place,” Cheney said. “All they’ve recommended is to redeploy or to withdraw our forces. The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We’re going to do it. We’ve got (Lt. Gen. David) Petraeus — Gen. Petraeus taking over. It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task.”

Cheney acknowledged the situation in Iraq was very unstable but said toppling Saddam Hussein had been the right thing to do. He said he trusted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who he said had demonstrated a willingness to take on lawbreakers regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations.

The vice president said the biggest mistake the United States has made in the war was underestimating the psychological effect Saddam’s regime had on Iraqi citizens.

“I think we underestimated the extent to which 30 years of Saddam’s rule had really hammered the population, especially the Shia population, into submissiveness,” he said. “It was very hard for them to stand up and take responsibility in part because anybody who had done that in the past had had their heads chopped off.”

Asked about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, Cheney said he believes bin Laden is alive, but would not speculate about whether he might be hiding in Afghanistan, Pakistan or along their shared border. “I don’t want to be that precise,” Cheney said.

On other topics, the vice president said he does not think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would make a very good president “because she’s a Democrat.”

“I don’t agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint,” he said.

Cheney bristled when asked to respond to critics who question his daughter Mary’s decision to have a baby and raise it with her female partner. “I think you’re out of line with that question,” replied Cheney, who said he was delighted about having a sixth grandchild.

Portable Personal Cell Phone Jammer/Blocker


today has been a really depressing day.

i was told that i’m not needed for tech stuff in portland, but only for performances, and that the performances are only going to be two of the three nights of drunk puppet night in portland.

i used up a quarter tank of gas driving up to bellevue to get paper, which it turns out i won’t need until wednesday, and it turns out that i’m going to have to drive up to bellevue again on wednesday to deliver it to the printer. that’s money that i could have spent on the holy vegetable, which i have been totally out of for almost 3 weeks.

if someone wants to get me stoned, i will gladly go pretty much anywhere, but it would be a lot better if i could obtain my own vegetable material, because that way i could potentially get stoned tomorrow as well.

it appears that, once again, there is “something” wrong with the CD-ROM drive on my linux box, which means that, until i determine what it is, and probably replace it again, i’m not going to be able to upgrade my system.

it turns out that i don’t have a rehearsal tonight, which means that i won’t have anywhere to go, or anything to do to take my mind off of how depressed i am until at least wednesday.

it turns out that we might be moving again, but we’re not sure where (the possibility of moving to philadelphia was suggested, but is turning out to be less of a possibility, because the program that moe wants to get into is recently defunct in philadelphia) or when, and if we do have to move somewhere else, i’m not sure what’s going to happen to the business that i have been building for the past 5 years, specifically what’s going to happen to my fifteen 12″x12″x24″ boxes of incense, and i don’t know when and/or if i’m going to be able to unpack and set up a workshop.

i ended up watching television for most of the day, because i don’t have anything else to do, and, because of the fact that i probably won’t have anything else to do tomorrow, the probability that i’m going to end up watching television again tomorrow is very high, and i really dislike watching television.


(this is primarily for .) i just received notification that the meat play is only going to be friday and saturday, and they’ve already got a tech crew so they won’t be needing me in portand for anything other than the meat show. therefore i won’t be there thursday.

(this part is primarily for .) however, they do need a tech crew for seattle, and the fremont philharmonic is scheduled to play the first weekend, so i’m going to be earning my title of “Professional New Age Renaissance Man” in a big way.


for those of you in the area, The Fremont Philharmonic is playing today at Nervous Nellie’s Espresso Company, 1556 NW 56th street in ballard.

also today is moe’s birthday. she’d kill me if i actually posted how old she’s is now, but it’s one of those “momentous” birthdays that signifies “something”. i’ll let you figure it out for yourselves.


now that i’ve actually got a kubuntu disk – i downloaded the kubuntu iso, but for some weird reason, it wouldn’t fit on the 700mb disk that i prepared to burn it on, despite the fact that it was only 690mb, so i ordered a free one from “canonical ltd.” which is located on the isle of man – and a CD drive that actually works, i started it up, and it does, indeed, appear to work a lot better than my current distro… so much so that i am posting this from konqueror on the live CD and noticing that it looks more like i expect it to, and not so cramped and “all over on the left side” like it does where i usually post from. it does have a weird thing where it only lets me login to my LJ once, and after i logout, it won’t let me login again, and it won’t let me login to my email account via the web, and i’ve got to figure out a whole bunch of stuff, like figuring out where my .ics file is located, figuring out where kmail is (it’s probably fairly obvious, but i’m not sure), figuring out how to upgrade without wiping out all my data, and other suchlike stuff.

i’m now in the last stages of deciding whether i really should bite the bullet and upgrade to something more current. any final comments are entirely welcome. i probably won’t actually upgrade until next week, if i decide to, so take your time.


some new stuff to add to the Vegateble Sacrifice page…

Lay Down Your Arms
Why former narcs say the drug war is futile
January 18, 2007
Radley Balko

It’s understandable why when many people first see Howard Wooldridge, they might at first think he’s a crank.

The slender, mustachioed man of middle-age frequently wears a cowboy hat, and has been known to get around town on a horse. He also wears a black shirt with loud, conspicuous lettering on both the front and back. You’d be forgiven to dismiss him as a religious zealot proclaiming the coming apocalypse, or a disciple of Lyndon Larouche.

But look closer. The shirt reads: “COPS SAY LEGALIZE DRUGS: ASK ME WHY.”

And people do.

“I get stopped just about everywhere,” he says. “The shirt works. I have several different for different occasions – I can get my point across in 30 seconds in an elevator, a few minutes in a restaurant, or full-blown speech at a Rotary Club.”

If he doesn’t leave people convinced, he at least leaves them asking the right questions.

So does Norm Stamper, former police chief for the city of Seattle.

“People ask how a former cop could say drugs should be legalized, but it’s precisely because I love police and love police work that I’m saying it. The drug war stops real cops from doing real police work. It’s corrupting. It’s wasteful. And it has wrecked communities.”

Wooldridge and Stamper are featured speakers for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a relatively new but powerfully motivated group of current and former police officers, judges, prosecutors, and politicians who have come out against America’s failed war on drugs.

LEAP was founded in 2002 by Jack Cole, a 26-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police. Cole spent 12 of those years as an undercover narcotics detective. According to his bio, it was his post-retirement struggle with the “emotional residue” left over from his work as a narcotics officer that led him to the realization that the war on drugs has failed.

After forming LEAP, Cole, Wooldridge, and three other founding members hit the public speaking circuit, talking to government classes, Rotary Clubs, and campus organizations. They wrote op-eds for local newspapers, and they debated on radio programs. In just under five years, LEAP now claims more than 6,500 members.

Proponents of drug prohibition tend to dismiss reform groups like NORML or the Drug Policy Alliance as fringe ideologues (politicians seem fond of dismissing the latter group for no other reason than that it gets its funding from George Soros). But when decorated police officers, former police chiefs, and ex-judges and prosecutors speak up, audiences can’t help but take notice.

These aren’t stoners. They’re former public servants, and many risked their lives for a cause they now say is mistaken.

That’s powerful stuff. When a guy tells you he regrets what he’s done for most of his career — and what he could well have died for — his words take on a unique credibility and urgency.

One common characteristic you’ll find in many members of LEAP is guilt. Most of these former officers lug around a weighty burden. Many concede they realized early in their careers that the drug war was a failure, and would always be a failure. They regret now that they didn’t speak up sooner.

Stamper says in LEAP’s promotional video, “Even though I knew that the drug war was harmful financially and psychically and spiritually . . . I should have been saying much more of that, much more strenuously.”

One thing LEAP’s members can attest to that other drug war critics can’t is the drug war’s corrupting influence on police officers.

Tony Ryan, one of LEAP’s newest member and a well-decorated, 36-year Denver police officer recently wrote in an op-ed, “the huge lure of money is always there, either through bribes by drug dealers, or during busts where piles of money are lying around. Corruption of law enforcement was at its highest during alcohol prohibition and we see it now with drug prohibition.”

Any Lexis or Google News search will confirm Ryan’s warning about corruption a dozen times over. That’s not an indictment of police officers. Rather, it’s an indictment of policy that puts police officers in situations where temptation and corruption come begging. But it’s still a difficult argument for someone without law enforcement experience to make. Coming from a retired cop – in fact from dozens of them affiliated with LEAP – it becomes impossible for drug war proponents to ignore.

LEAP’s message is powerful. I’ve now heard or seen four of its speakers’ presentations. They use tales from the front lines to illustrate their broader points on public policy. Their delivery is authentic and gently persuasive, not didactic. They come from all political stripes, from hippy-ish liberals to live-and-let-live libertarians to law-and-order conservatives, the latter having come to the realization that the drug war consists of bad laws that cause much disorder.

For several years now, LEAP has been looking for a debate with the country’s top drug policymakers – anyone from DEA Administrator Karen Tandy to Drug Czar John Walters to powerful prohibition politicians like Indiana Rep. Mark Souder.

So far, they’ve had little luck. That’s too bad. If the drug war is still as important and necessary as our leaders in government say it is, it’s champions should be able to defend it–especially against the law enforcement officers they’ve asked to fight it.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

how the RIAA is like the button-makers of 17th century france

from sound-scavengers:

The question has come up whether a guild master of the weaving industry should be allowed to try an innovation in his product. The verdict: ‘If a cloth weaver intends to process a piece according to his own invention, he must not set it on the loom, but should obtain permission from the judges of the town to employ the number and length of threads that he desires, after the question has been considered by four of the oldest merchants and four of the oldest weavers of the guild.’ One can imagine how many suggestions for change were tolerated.

Shortly after the matter of cloth weaving has been disposed of, the button makers guild raises a cry of outrage; the tailors are beginning to make buttons out of cloth, an unheard-of thing. The government, indignant that an innovation should threaten a settled industry, imposes a fine on the cloth-button makers. But the wardens of the button guild are not yet satisfied. They demand the right to search people’s homes and wardrobes and fine and even arrest them on the streets if they are seen wearing these subversive goods.

Requiring permission to innovate? Feeling entitled to search others’ property? Getting the power to act like law enforcement in order to fine or arrest those who are taking part in activities that challenge your business model? Don’t these all sound quite familiar?

Centuries from now (hopefully much, much sooner), the actions of the RIAA, MPAA and others that match those of the weavers and button-makers of 17th century France will seem just as ridiculous.


mcafee no longer makes virus protection that is compatible with W2K. their recommendation is to “upgrade your computer to WXP” and then buy the latest mcafee product which is compatible with that…

the problem is that i have no intention of “upgrading” a product that i don’t like to a product that i actually despise in order to have the “priveledge” of buying a product that supposedly “protects” me from getting infected.

i’m de-installing mcafee virus scan from my windoesn’t computer at this very moment. i wonder how long it will be until i have to throw my computer away because it is crawling with virii… 8/


i just got notification from the head drunk puppet that we will be performing the meat play in portland on friday and saturday, february 2 & 3, but they still haven’t said yet whether or not they will need someone to run lights and sound.



i woke up this morning with a neck cramp so bad that i can barely look to either side without a good deal of pain… and my acupuncture appointment isn’t until wednesday… and i have to drive an hour in either direction to make it to my rehearsal this evening…



1 Gallon Bubbles
3 quarts plain, clear dishwashing liquid (palmolive…)
8 oz. glycerine
5 to 10 drops oil

you can fill the rest of the jug up with water if you want to, or if it gets too viscous.

They never scream
They never shout
They only twitch
And flail about.

Why does a pygmy
Indulge in polygmy?
His tribal dogma
Frowns on monogma.
Monogma’s a stigma
For any pygma.
If he sticks to monogmy
A pygmy’s a hogmy.

— Ogden Nash

more sketchbook uploads… that’s it for what i have immediately accessible, and this week is probably going to be busy enough that i won’t have time to dig the originals out of the pile, so you’re just going to have to wait.

murdge murdge murdge murdge murdge

why do i have so much time to spend scanning stuff? it’s because we still have all of this goddamn snow everywhere, and i couldn’t get the car up the driveway to load the boxes so that i could go to the fremont sunday market this morning. next sunday is moe’s birthday, so i’m probably not going to get chance to go until sunday the 28th… 8/


Pseudomamma on the foot: An unusual presentation of supernumerary breast tissue
Délio Marques Conde MD, PhD1, Eiji Kashimoto MD1, Renato Zocchio Torresan MD, PhD1, Marcelo Alvarenga MD, PhD2
Dermatology Online Journal: 12 (4): 7

1. Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Hospital Estadual Sumaré, Universidade Estadual de Campinas. [email protected]
2. Department of Pathology, Universidade Estadual de Campinas

A 22-year-old woman sought medical care for a lesion in the plantar region of her left foot, a well-formed nipple surrounded by areola and hair. Microscopic examination of the dermis showed hair follicles, eccrine glands, and sebaceous glands. Fat tissue was noted at the base of the lesion. Clinical and histopathologic findings were consistent with the diagnosis of supernumerary breast tissue, also known as pseudomamma. To our knowledge, this is the first report of supernumerary breast tissue on the foot.

Clinical synopsis
A 22-year-old woman sought medical care due to a lesion in the plantar region of her left foot present since birth. She had no complaints of pain, pruritus, or alterations in volume or color. During her pregnancy or postpartum period, there had been no change in the lesion. Family history for similar conditions was negative.

The woman had the following gynecological and obstetric history: menarche and thelarche beginning at the age of 12; gravida 1, para 1; birth of her first child at the age of 20.

On physical examination, the breasts were symmetrical having no nodes or retractions. In the plantar region of the patient’s left foot, there was a well-formed nipple was surrounded by areola and hair on the surface, measuring 4.0 cm in diameter, with no palpable nodes (Figs. 1 and 2). The remaining physical examination was normal, including the mammary line. Results of the following laboratory tests were normal: complete blood count, fasting serum glucose level, urine exam, electrolytes, serum urea and creatinine. No alterations were found during ultrasound of the lesion and urinary tract.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 1. Pseudomamma on the plantar region of the left foot in a 22 year-old woman.

Figure 2. Close-up of supernumerary nipple surrounded by an obvious areola on the plantar region of the left foot (pseudomamma). Hair is observed on the surface.

The patient underwent an incisional biopsy of the lesion. Histologic findings were squamous epithelium with hyperkeratosis, epithelial hyperplasia without atypia, epithelial cytoplasmic vacuolation, and hyperpigmentation of the epidermal basal membrane. In the dermis there were hair follicles, eccrine glands, and sebaceous glands. Fibrosis and fat tissue were noted at the base of the lesion. No glandular tissue was identified.

Anomalies associated with breast development are not uncommon. Supernumerary nipples, and less frequently supernumerary breasts, are present in about 1-5 percent of the population [1]. Such alterations are more common in women, usually occurring along the embryonic milk line, which extends from the axilla to the groin [1, 2].

Supernumerary breast tissue (SBT) is rarely found beyond the mammary line. However, the back [3], shoulder [4], face [5], and thigh [6] have been described as sites of SBT development. When glandular tissue is present, SBT may be affected by the same disease processes that occur in normally positioned breast tissue [7, 8, 9]. To our knowledge, this is the first report of SBT on the foot.

The classification established by Kajava [10] is based on the presence or absence of nipple, areola and breast glandular tissue, and is divided into eight categories:

  1. Complete breast tissue with glandular tissue, nipple and areola
  2. Glandular tissue and nipple
  3. Glandular tissue and areola
  4. Glandular tissue only
  5. Nipple and areola, and fat tissue that replaces the glandular tissue, also known as pseudomamma
  6. Nipple only, also known as polythelia
  7. Areola only, also known as polythelia areolaris
  8. Patch of hair only, also known as polythelia pilosa

The current case reported is included in the fifth category, i.e., presence of nipple and areola but no glandular tissue. Polythelia and pseudomamma are the two most common forms of SBT [11].
The study of SBT merits special attention because of some aspects. Initially, the patient seeks medical care for cosmetic reasons, expressing desire to have the lesion surgically removed, particularly if it is located in a visible area [5]. The presence of glandular tissue in the lesion should be investigated, because SBT is not exempt from the same diseases and physiologic processes that can affect normally positioned breasts, including the cyclical alterations induced by hormone action [2, 9]. Usually, the presence of glandular tissue is suggested after the onset of puberty, first childbirth, or lactation, at times when a woman may complain of an increase in size, pain and discomfort, as well as milk secretion [2]. In the current case, the patient was asymptomatic, even after pregnancy, suggesting a lack of glandular tissue. However, despite the clinical picture, it was necessary to perform a histologic examination to rule out the presence of glandular tissue.

Another aspect that should be kept in mind is the association between SBT and renal malformations [12, 13, 14]. Some authors describe a close association between both conditions, reporting that patients with SBT should be investigated for the presence of urinary tract malformations [13]. However, other authors found no evidence to support such an association, suggesting that routine investigation for renal anomalies is not indicated in patients with supernumerary nipple [15]. In the present case, ultrasonography of the urinary tract identified no malformations. In fact, there is still uncertainty as to the best approach in these patients.

Apart from renal anomalies, other organ system anomalies have been described in association with SBT, including abnormalities of the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems, as well as hematologic disorders [12, 16, 17]. The limited number of cases makes it difficult to establish these relationships in a clear and definite manner.

Despite the difficulties in establishing relationships between SBT and other diseases, the identification of SBT should draw the attention of the physician to these possible associations and to the occurrence of malignancy, when breast glandular tissue is present. In cases in which it is clinically impossible to rule out the presence of breast glandular tissue, we believe that a histologic examination of the lesion is required.

1. Dixon JM, Mansel RE. ABC of breast diseases. Congenital problems and aberrations of normal breast development and involution. BMJ 1994;309:797-800.

2. Grossl NA. Supernumerary breast tissue: historical perspectives and clinical features. South Med J 2000;93:29-32.

3. Bhatnagar KP, Ramsaroop L, Bhatnagar KP, Satyapal KS, Singh B. Dorsal scapular breast in a woman. Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;112:571-4.

4. Schewach-Millet M, Fisher BK. Supernumerary nipple on the shoulder. Cutis 1976;17:384-5.

5. Koltuksuz U, Aydin E. Supernumerary breast tissue: a case of pseudomamma on the face. J Pediatr Surg 1997;32:1377-8.

6. Boivin S, Segard M, Delaporte E, Cotten H, Piette F, Thomas P. Complete supernumerary breast on the thigh in a male patient. Ann Dermatol Venereol 2001;128:144-6.

7. Shin S, Sheikh S, Allenby A, Rosen P. Invasive secretory (juvenile) carcinoma arising in ectopic breast tissue of the axilla. Arch Pathol Lab Med 2001;125:1372-4.

8. Gendler LS, Joseph KA. Breast cancer of an accessory nipple. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1835.

9. Conde DM, Torresan RZ, Kashimoto E, Carvalho LEC, Cardo Filho C. Fibroadenoma in axillary supernumerary breast: case report. Sao Paulo Med J 2005;123: 253-5.

10. Kajava Y. The proportions of supernumerary nipples in the Finnish population. Duodecim 1915;1:143-70.

11. Newman M. Supernumerary nipples. Am Fam Physician 1988;38:183-8.

12. Pellegrini JR, Wagner RF Jr. Polythelia and associated conditions. Am Fam Physician 1983;28:129-32.

13. Urbani CE, Betti R. Accessory mammary tissue associated with congenital and hereditary nephrourinary malformations. Int J Dermatol 1996;35:349-52.

14. Brown J, Schwartz RA. Supernumerary nipples and renal malformations: a family study. J Cutan Med Surg 2004;8:170-2.

15. Grotto I, Browner-Elhanan K, Mimouni D, Varsano I, Cohen HA, Mimouni M. Occurrence of supernumerary nipples in children with kidney and urinary tract malformations. Pediatr Dermatol 2001;18:291-4.

16. Cohen PR, Kurzrock R. Miscellaneous genodermatoses: Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome, hereditary tylosis, incontinentia pigmenti, and supernumerary nipples. Dermatol Clin 1995;13:211-29.

17. Aslan D, Gursel T, Kaya Z. Supernumerary nipples in children with hematologic disorders. Pediatr Hematol Oncol 2004;21:461-3.


Doomsday clock ticks
Nuke programs push world to ‘perilous period’
January 12, 2007

Warning that the world has entered “the most perilous period since Hiroshima,” the keepers of the famed nuclear Doomsday Clock plan to move it closer to midnight.

The symbolic clock now stands at 7 minutes to midnight, with midnight representing global catastrophe.

Board members of the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine cite nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere and 25,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia, including 2,000 that are ready to launch.

Also, the threat of global warming is helping to revive the nuclear energy industry. Nuclear plants don’t release carbon dioxide believed to cause global warming. But the reactors could increase the risk of nuclear proliferation.

Bulletin officials signaled the change in a media advisory. They plan a joint announcement Wednesday in Washington and London to announce the exact time change.

The Bulletin covers global security issues, especially nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It was founded after World War II by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bombs.

Last moved in 2002
The Doomsday Clock first appeared on the Bulletin’s cover in 1947 and has since moved closer or farther from midnight 17 times.

The closest was 2 minutes to midnight in 1953, after the United States and Soviet Union tested thermonuclear bombs. The farthest was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, after the United States and Soviet Union signed an arms-reduction treaty.

In its most recent movement in 2002, the clock ticked ahead two minutes after little progress was made on global nuclear disarmament and terrorists sought nuclear and biological weapons.


Just look at that face. Jesus.
January 12th, 2007


That’s the face of a desperate man. That’s the face of the fellow who’s taken his family hostage, in the 18th hour of negotiations. He’s sitting in the darkness of the kitchen, hands on his M-16, right across from his terrified wife, children, and the UPS guy who thought he was just delivering a package that day before that face, staring at him from the other end of the M-16, answered the door, asking, “Are you him? Are you the guy!?! Get in here!”

“Please, George, just give yourself up. You’re scaring the kids…” his wife begs.

“Shut up!” George screams. “Shutupshutupshutup! This is NOT how it was supposed to go! They should have LISTENED to me! Now it’s all going straight to HELL!”

“Mister… I got a wife and kids at home too,” says the UPS guy. “Please, they’re worried about me, and I miss them. I…”

George seizes the M-16 and lifts it up, pressing the barrel against the UPS guy’s forehead.

“Don’t TALK! Don’t TALK! You think I’m fooled? You think I don’t know what they’re trying to do through you?” George puts down the gun and walks over to the drawn blinds. He peers through the cracks and sees the police cars, cherry-red and icy blue strobes flickering atop their roofs. He knows they’re out there, ready to burst in and take him back to their secret torture chambers… try to make him talk… rip apart the life he’s built for himself… Them. They. They’re out there.

He can’t let that happen.

“Daddy?” says his daughter. “Daddy, I’m scared.”

“Shshshshshshshhhhhhhh…” he tells her turning to them. He cradles the M-16, massaging it almost, feeling its power, it’s protection, it’s safety. It stopped that one agent, disguised as a cop, during the first hour of the siege. “It’s all right to be scared. It’s smart to be scared. The world is a very scary place. And they’re trying to get you.”

His daughter whimpers.

“Yes, they want to come in here and get you, and your brother, AND YOUR MOTHER, AND ME… AND THEY WANT TO KILL US AND RAPE US AND EAT OUR FLESH AND AGGGGHHHHHH!!!” George runs to the window and lays down a burst of automatic gunfire. The night is seared by the brightness of the muzzle flash, the quietude rent by the harsh barkings of the rifle. The cops outside hit the dirt, the captain barking orders not to engage. “Maybe he’s getting tired. We’ll just have to wait and see.”


George manages to shoot another cop dead as he leans against his squad car.

“Damn, that’s a shame. But I think he’s running out of steam,” says the captain drinking his coffee. “Let’s wait a little more and see.”

Inside, the UPS guy whispers to the woman, “Why won’t the fucking police do something?”

“I don’t know…” she says. “I don’t know. It’s like some nightmare that won’t end. I just keep waking up again and again, and things never get better.”

“Mommy, what’s wrong with Daddy?” asks the little boy.

“Daddy’s very sick, sweetie,” she says. “Daddy is sick in the head. He can’t understand that what he’s doing isn’t very safe or nice. He thinks he’s protecting us, but he’s not.”

“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN I’M NOT!?!” George says, grabbing her arm and roughly lifting her up. “I DO THIS FOR YOU, DAMMIT! I DO THIS FOR THEM! I’LL BURN THIS HOUSE DOWN TO THE GROUND AND PUT A ROUND INTO EACH OF YOUR HEADS BEFORE I’LL ALLOW THEM TO HARM ONE HAIR ON YOUR HEADS. DAMN, WOMAN!” He throws her down to the floor and goes back to the window. “Hey!” he shouts to the cops. “Where the hell is that pizza I ordered?”

The captain looks startled, and he turns to the lieutenant. “Hey, did the pizza arrive yet?” The lieutenant sadly shakes his head no. “Damn. He’s not gonna like that.”

Talking through the megaphone, the captain says, “Sir, please be patient. We’re doing all we can. In the meantime, how is that electric blanket you requested working out for you?”

“Fine! A little scratchy though…” George screams back.

“Sorry about that,” says the captain. “What about the bouillabaisse? Was it to your liking?”

“IT WAS TOO SALTY!” bellows George. He shoots down another cop. “SEE!?! YOU DID THAT!!! THAT WAS YOU!”

“Sorry, sir. Is there anything else we can do?”

“I want a treadmill in here, stat! And six of those Fabergé eggs so I can smash ’em! Then I want another hostage, a bazooka, and ALL CHARGES DROPPED WHEN I LEAVE HERE!”

“Anything you say, sir. Johnson!” says the captain with a military snap.

“Yes sir?”

“The governor send that pardon yet?”

“He sent three, sir. We won’t be able to touch him after this!”

“Excellent!” the captain chuckled. “He’ll never see it coming… How are we doing with that escape vehicle and unrestricted path to the airport. Are all highways shut down for him?”

“Yessir!” said Johnson, proudly.

“Good! Now, why don’t you run up to the house? Make sure you’re out in the open,” says the captain.

Johnson hesitates.

“Something, Johnson?”

“Well, sir…” Johnson says, stammering. “If I were to do that… He’d be able to shoot me.”


“And I’d die, sir,” says Johnson, a little more forcefully.”


“And I don’t want to die, sir. In fact, I’m not sure why we’re doing this? We have a SWAT team that could extract the suspect within minutes. In fact…” Johnson looks up to see George at the window, fully exposed, sticking out his tongue while waggling his fingers like moose horns from both sides of his head. “Sir, I could take him out right now. I wouldn’t even have to kill him.” Johnson lifts his service revolver and aims. But the captain knocks it from his hands, enraged.

“Dammit, Johnson! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Serving and protecting the community by trying to save people’s lives, sir?”

The captain stared at him long and hard, a measure of disgust in his expression.

“Don’t you understand, Johnson? Haven’t you been listening? HE’S in charge here! HE’S the Decider. Did they teach you NOTHING at the academy?”

“Sir, he’s killed five…”

A shot rings out. A figure in blue falls.

“Six of our men. The neighborhood is being held in a grip of terror. I’ve heard about robberies, kilings, rapes, and more over the radio, but all our units are tied up here. His family… God knows what he’ll do to them if we don’t act soon. I mean, that’s our job, right, sir?”

“Johnson, you’re dismissed…” says the captain with a tired voice.

“Sir, I…” Johnson says.

“I said you were dismissed, lieutenant. Get out of my sight,” says the captain. “You make me sick.”

Johnson begins to say something but sees that it will be fruitless. He takes off his badge and lays it on the hood of the car before walking away.

“OOGA-BOOGA! SURRRRRRRRRGE!!!” screams George from the window. He levels the rifle and takes aim. A shot rings out, and half the captain’s head is sheared off. Johnson rushes to his side.

“Captain! O my captain! What can I do for you?”

“Stay…” says the dying captain. “Stay the course. I have him NOW, by God…”

“Who ordered the pepperoni and garlic pizza?” says the newly arrived pizza delivery dude.

“He’s in there,” says the captain. “Wait…” He reaches for his wallet, withdraws a fifty, and gives it to the pizza dude.

“Keep… the change…” says the captain, smiling with his dying breath.


i just heard it from the “official” source, right from the keyboard of the head drunk puppet, himself: there is going to be a drunk puppet night this year, it is going to be at the rebar in late february and early march, and in portland, in three weeks(!!), as far as i can tell, they will want me to do sound and lights, he is open to the idea of doing the meat play in portland, and they’re probably going to have the fremont philharmonic play for them in portland!


eminentise the eschaton!

1973 War Powers Act:

SEC. 5. (c)
Notwithstanding subsection (b), at any time that United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.

the “democratic” congress could end this war anytime they like by a simple majority vote, yet, they won’t.

this is why i refuse to support them.

meanwhile, which is it, shrubby?

Iraq to give Western companies oil rights
January 8, 2007

The Iraqi government plans to introduce a law that will give Western oil companies rights to the country’s huge oil reserves, a British newspaper says.

The government is drafting a law based on “production sharing agreements [PSAs],” which will allow major oil companies to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq’s oil, the Independent on Sunday reported.

It said it had been given a copy of the draft law from last July, and the draft has not been changed significantly since then.

Under PSAs, a country retains legal ownership of its oil but gives a share of profits to the international companies that invest in infrastructure and operation of the wells, pipelines and refineries, the newspaper said.

Critics say the agreements will be bad news for Iraq because they guarantee profits to the companies while giving little to the country. With 112 billion barrels, Iraq has the second largest reserves in the world, the U.S. government says.

Platform, a London-based pressure group that seeks to minimize the impact of oil companies, says on its website that Iraq endorsed production-sharing agreements last fall, just as Russia sought to undo a similar deal it signed in the period of turmoil after the Communist regime collapsed.

Citing published Russian reports, Platform said Russia has realized it signed a bad deal to develop a gas project, which allocated the risk to the government and the profit to the private sector.

“Russia realized the mistakes it made by signing PSA contracts only when it was too late. It remains to be seen whether Iraq follows the same course,” the group said in October.

Attack on Iraq motivated by oil?
Platform’s Greg Muttitt said the U.S. government, international oil companies and the International Monetary Fund had been asked to comment on the draft Iraqi legislation, but many members of the Iraqi parliament have not seen it.

The Independent said Iraq may adopt PSA contracts because it is in a weak bargaining position.

The legislation, if passed as in the draft the Independent was given, would stoke claims that the U.S.-led attack on Iraq was motivated by oil.

The U.S. has denied that. For example, in 2003, then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld called the idea “utter nonsense.”

Speaking to the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera, he said: “We don’t take our forces, and go around the world and try to take other people’s real estate or other people’s resources, their oil. That’s just not what the United States does.”

The Independent said signing PSA deals would be a first for a major oil-exporting country. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two leading exporters, both control their oil industries tightly through state-owned companies.


To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
January 10, 2007

Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror — and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America’s course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq — particularly in Baghdad — overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people — and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq’s sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad’s nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations — conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I’ve committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them — five brigades — will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we’ll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods — and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: “The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation.”

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad’s residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace — and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq’s constitution.

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists’ plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq’s democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America’s men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan — and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We’re also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

We will use America’s full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq’s unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government’s call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region, to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom, and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists, or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security. Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue — and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world — a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them — and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and our grandchildren.

This new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States, and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq’s borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America’s efforts in Baghdad — or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration; it will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the Armed Forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas, where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us. These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary — and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time. They serve far from their families, who make the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table. They have watched their comrades give their lives to ensure our liberty. We mourn the loss of every fallen American — and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can, and we will, prevail.

when i find one lie in a speech given by someone who says you should trust him, my inclination is to view with mistrust anything else that person says. shrubby has lied to us so often that it’s a wonder to me that anyone takes him seriously any longer… and yet, here he is, the president of the most powerful country in the world, spearheading our drive towards the eschaton like he thinks it’s going to be a good thing.

in my opinion, the sooner somebody assassinates him, the better.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

     — Abraham Lincoln

You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.

     — George W. Bush


Be careful with WMF files

Over the last 24 hours, we’ve seen three different WMF files carrying the zero-day WMF exploit. We currently detect them as W32/PFV-Exploit .A, .B and .C.

Fellow researchers at Sunbelt have also blogged about this. They have discovered more sites that are carrying malicious WMF files. You might want to block these sites at your firewall while waiting for a Microsoft patch:

   Crackz [dot] ws
   unionseek [dot] com
   www.tfcco [dot] com
   Iframeurl [dot] biz
   beehappyy [dot] biz

And funnily enough, according to WHOIS, domain is owned by a previous president of Soviet Union:

   Registrant Name: Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev
   Registrant Address1: Krasnaya ploshad, 1
   Registrant City: Moscow
   Registrant Postal Code: 176098
   Registrant Country: Russian Federation
   Registrant Country Code: RU

“Krasnaya ploshad” is the Red Square in Moscow…

Do note that it’s really easy to get burned by this exploit if you’re analysing it under Windows. All you need to do is to access an infected web site with IE or view a folder with infected files with the Windows Explorer.

You can get burned even while working in a DOS box! This happened on one of our test machines where we simply used the WGET command-line tool to download a malicious WMF file. That’s it, it was enough to download the file. So how on earth did it have a chance to execute?

The test machine had Google Desktop installed. It seems that Google Desktop creates an index of the metadata of all images too, and it issues an API call to the vulnerable Windows component SHIMGVW.DLL to extract this info. This is enough to invoke the exploit and infect the machine. This all happens in realtime as Google Desktop contains a file system filter and will index new files in realtime.

So, be careful out there. And disable indexing of media files (or get rid of Google Desktop) if you’re handling infected files under Windows.

or just use linux…


i’m taking the incense part of Hybrid Elephant to the Fremont Sunday Market this sunday, which means that i’ve been putting everything into reasonably easy to move containers (15 of them), double-checking my inventory and printing out retail price labels – which lead me to the discovery that i’m down to my last ream of printer paper, and i’ve got to get more soon. i bought a calculator with a print function, and now i have to figure out how to make it print, and program it with the proper numbers so that it will automatically add the correct amount of sales tax. that’s one advantage to doing business over internet that selling locally won’t have: most of my customers are out-of-state, so i don’t have to worry about adding state sales tax.

meanwhile, today is the first fremont philharmonic rehearsal. supposedly we’ve got a gig on the 21st, and we also have to start rehearsing for the moisture festival.


moe left for her annual trip to florida this morning, and left me “in charge” of taking care of 4 dogs, 3 cats and a snake while she gets a 4-day “vacation” and then a week of “continuing education”, which is all paid for by her employer. i got up and took her to the airport, and then drove into seattle for an art car cruise that apparently never happened. i waited around at the swedish cultural center for 45 minutes and mine was the only art car in the parking lot, so i left again. no breakfast, which was supposed to be part of the art car cruise, and i only have a $90 gift card for fred meyer’s to last me until moe gets home again, which is supposed to be the 19th. i’m also almost out of The Holy Vegetable, and likely won’t have the money to buy more for several weeks.

now i’m home. the roof is leaking again, in spite of the tarp that covers most of it. there’s no telling where the water is actually getting in, and even if there were, there’s no way we can afford to get the roof replaced. meanwhile, moe’s employer, the person for whom moe works 6 days a week, 12 hours a day because he “can’t afford” to pay another technician, is living in an extremely rich neighbourhood, in a house that’s two or three times as big as ours, and has invested in a new veterinary clinic in renton at which he has no intention of working, simply because “they needed someone with more money”.

it’s not fair. moe is just as valuable a person as her employer – i am just as valuable a person as moe’s employer – but the only time anyone has ever paid for me to go on vacation was right after i “quit” my computer industry job and had to use up my “paid vacation” time – right before i had my injury, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that i live in a house with a leaking roof.


FBI releases files on late judge
5 January 2007

Newly-released FBI files have given more details on William Rehnquist’s dependence on strong painkillers while he was a US Supreme Court judge.

Mr Rehnquist, who later became chief justice, is said to have been taking up to three times the prescribed dosage.

When he stopped taking Placidyl, he suffered withdrawal symptoms. The records say he tried to escape from hospital in his pyjamas.

Mr Rehnquist died in 2005, after 19 years at the head of the Supreme Court.

The FBI files were prepared in 1986 – years after his problems with the prescription drugs had ended – when Mr Rehnquist was nominated to the post of chief justice.

By then, he had been on the Supreme Court bench for 14 years.

CIA ‘plot’
Mr Rehnquist went into hospital in 1981, after his doctor tried to substitute Placidyl with other prescription drugs.

The judge – who appears to have suffered from chronic back pain and insomnia – had said the new medication was not strong enough, his doctor told the FBI.

The doctor is also reported to have said that Mr Rehnquist had taken Placidyl for about 10 years and that his increased consumption may have coincided with his wife’s treatment for cancer.

The FBI files also reveal that his withdrawal symptoms included imagining that the CIA was plotting against him.

Mr Rehnquist’s problems with painkillers were known around the time he went into hospital, but the FBI files released this week give more details.

They were released in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

and now, for something completely different,
Geostationary Banana Over Texas

also, more sketchbook scanning


From the unreal, lead me to the Real
From darkness, lead me to Light
From death, lead me to Eternal Life

— Brihad Upanishad 1.3.28

unreal = worldly
Real = Godly
darkness = worldly
Light = Godly (John 8.12)
death = worldly
Eternal Life = Godly (John 6.47)
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying I am the Light of the world: He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life.

— John 8.12

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath Everlasting Life.

— John 6.47

God has created different religions to suit different aspirants, lives, and countries — all doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God, Himself. Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with wholehearted devotion.

— Sri Ramakrisha
who actually did it!


before my injury i kept a sketchbook to sketch in. these days i keep a sketchbook to remember stuff, because if i don’t write it down, i’ll probably forget it. i don’t sketch as much any more because i can’t do it as well, and it frustrates me. the sketchbooks are currently in a box in deep storage, underneath several other boxes, which all got moved the other day because i was looking for a specific book. i found it, and the book i was looking for as well, with a folder full of copies of what i considered to be “the best” of my sketchbooks back in 1990 or so. so i figured i’d scan them, and see if that will motivate me to dive back into the pile of boxes and dig out the actual sketchbooks. here is a link to my sketchbook gallery. there will be more as time goes on, but for now some of my favourites are linked below:

blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge
blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge

there are also copies of pages with only words on them. instead of scanning them and posting pictures, i will transcribe the words, as i have here.


interview with ryan at chameleon technologies in kirkland today at 10:00 am. i left home at 8:30 and just barely made it, because traffic was still snarled up between renton and blehview. i read through my list of minimum qualifications that a job must have before i will consider doing it, and ryan didn’t kick me out of his office, and, in fact, he suggested a couple of possibilities for once the “holiday season” has settled down a little… which is good, i suppose… but if it screws up my chances of getting disability again i’m gonna be really pissed.


If you wish to escape, the first thing you must realise is that
If you think you are free, you can’t escape!

     — Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff

For absolute control of your life and for destroying prenatal and postnatal root-causes of failure, you must excercise your will in every undertaking, until it shakes off its mortal delusion of being human will and becomes All-Powerful Divine Will. You do not need to acquire this Divine Will, you already posess it in the Image of God within you.

     — Paramhansa Yogananda


my CD-ROM problems now have an interesting twist…

when it comes to IDE devices, i have a 40g hard disk, a zip drive and a CD-ROM on this machine. i have the hard disk connected to the main IDE cable coming from the mother board, and the zip and CD connected to the secondary IDE cable… except that neither the zip drive nor the CD was visible, or mount-able for some as yet unknown reason.

i haven’t used the zip drive since i first installed on the machine (i had some data files that were stored on zips and i wanted them to be more local, since i used them all the time), so i disconnected it…

and, for some unknown reason, the CD-ROM drive suddenly is visible and functioning the way i would expect it to.

as my first computer guru, jim, used to say when i asked him how the computer did something unexplainable: demons!

since i no longer need the zip drive, it will stay disconnected, and i will once again revel in having a CD-ROM drive that works!


okay, i got a “new” (used) CD-RW drive and swapped it out for the old one, and adjusted the BIOS settings so that it showed up. now, when mandrake 9.2 is booting, if i hit “escape” so that i can see all of the text rather than the splash screen, it says “Mount special device: /dev/hdc does not exist”, and when i “su” and do a “mount /dev/hdc /mnt/cdrom”, it says “mount: special device /dev/hdc does not exist”… and when i did a “dmesg|grep cdrom” it didn’t respond at all… 8/

i know there’s got to be some way of doing this, because i originally installed mandrake 9.2 from CD-ROMs. am i really going to have to recompile my kernel in order to do this?


Parasite makes men dumb, women sexy
December 26, 2006

A common parasite can increase a women’s attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says.

About 40 per cent of the world’s population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, including about eight million Australians.

Human infection generally occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite, or accidentally ingest some of the parasite’s eggs excreted by an infected cat.

The parasite is known to be dangerous to pregnant women as it can cause disability or abortion of the unborn child, and can also kill people whose immune systems are weakened.

Until recently it was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney University of Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.

“Interestingly, the effect of infection is different between men and women,” Dr Boulter writes in the latest issue of Australasian Science magazine.

“Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.

“On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.

“In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens”.

Dr Boulter said the recent Czech Republic research was not conclusive, but was backed up by animal studies that found infection also changes the behaviour of mice.

The mice were more likely to take risks that increased their chance of being eaten by cats, which would allow the parasite to continue its life cycle.

Rodents treated with drugs that killed the parasites reversed their behaviour, Dr Boulter said.

Another study showed people who were infected but not showing symptoms were 2.7 times more likely than uninfected people to be involved in a car accident as a driver or pedestrian, while other research has linked the parasite to higher incidences of schizophrenia.

“The increasing body of evidence connecting Toxoplasma infection with changes in personality and mental state, combined with the extremely high incidence of human infection in both developing and developed countries, warrants increased government funding and research, in particular to find safe and effective treatments or vaccines,” Dr Boulter said.

related article

One preacher’s message: Have hotter sex
By Brian Alexander
Dec 4, 2006

SAN DIEGO — About 100 evangelical Christian couples stand in the convention hall of a Four Points Sheraton, bow their heads and thank God for their lives and the new day. Then they sing the old-timey hymn “There’s Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus.”

I have come here expecting exactly this scene. The occasion is a seminar called “Love, Sex and Marriage,” being given by Joe Beam, a Southern preacher out of the old school, a self-described “book-chapter-and-verse guy,” who runs an outfit based in Franklin, Tenn., called Family Dynamics. So I’m anticipating condemnation of American culture — especially America’s sexual culture — that has made conservative Christians feel besieged.

But then Beam, a portly, silver-haired basso profundo dressed in khaki slacks, a sweater vest and brown tasseled loafers that make him look like a retired country-club golf pro, walks to the front of the room and proceeds to tell the men in the audience how to make their semen taste better.

Sweet stuff works, he says, which provides a built-in excuse because “then you can say, ‘I’m eating this cake for you, baby!'”

Welcome to the world of hot Christian love.

The San Diego Church of Christ is Beam’s sponsoring group today, but as far as he is concerned it could be any conservative Christian denomination. The message would be the same: Married Christians ought to be having more — and hotter — sex.

You could be forgiven for thinking “conservative Christian” and “hot sex” are oxymoronic. The missionary position has a real history, after all. But Beam is part of a burgeoning trend among evangelicals to bring sex out of the shadows, educate believers and relieve their guilt.

“For years, Christian publishing would not publish on sex,” says Michael Sytsma, a Christian sex therapist with the Sexual Wholeness Ministry based in Duluth, Ga. “If they did, it was so heavily edited nothing of value was left. Now, more and more pastors are preaching about it on Sunday, though you still do not see classes in seminaries. We are seeking to do that.”

Sytsma thinks preachers like Beam have seen — and even felt themselves — the impact of the sexual revolution, and realize the church has been left behind as a source of sexual information.

“Sex is a sacred subject,” he says. “The church generally prefers not to talk about it. But that has a dual impact. It keeps it shrouded in ignorance and the implication is that since you are not talking about it, it’s bad.”

God’s ‘most wonderful gift’
Beam sees this attitude every day. Women tell him: “I feel like I am sinning when I make love to my husband.”

“They want help,” he tells the assembled crowd at the Sheraton. At least a score of heads nod in recognition. “It’s hard,” he continues, “to make the transition from ‘sex is bad’ when you are young and single to ‘sex is good’ when you are married.” In fact, “sex is the most wonderful gift God ever gave Christians.”

Beam, who is studying for a sexology Ph.D. from the University of Sydney in Australia, is all about shining the light. He and a few others like him have concluded that conservative Christians can cope with America’s hypersexualized culture by being given permission to pluck much of its fruit.

The information he dispenses is a mix of scriptural interpretation and mainstream sexology. He does not speak in euphemisms or metaphors and his plain spokeness makes a few listeners squirm, at first. But Beam is also part entertainer with a patter that is almost vaudevillian in its timing: “Why can women be multiorgasmic and men not? Well, I’ve decided God just likes you better! … What’s the difference between a woman with PMS and a Doberman? Lipstick.”

The humor and the brazen talk, coming from a man who is not only one of them, but a leader who rubs elbows with James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, gives them permission to relax and hear his message.

It’s a simple one: Sex is good. Good sex makes people happy. It deepens relationships. So it helps marriages last and that pleases God and makes society better.

There are rules many in the secular world reject. You have to be married. You have to be heterosexual. Other prohibitions include no sex with animals, no incest, no lust for people other than your spouse, no adultery (and that includes consensual threesomes and group sex) and no porn, rape or prostitution. You can’t harm the body. And you can’t have sex during a woman’s menstrual period.

If that last one seems like an outlier — there is no particular health reason to avoid sex during menstruation among monogamous, disease-free couples — you don’t understand Beam’s world view.

Scripture is his authority. Like other evangelicals, he believes the New Testament is the literal and infallible word of God. So when the book of Acts says, “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality,” that’s all he needs to know.

No inhibitions
This literalist view cuts both ways. Beam has been attacked by some conservative Christians for his liberal take on certain subjects. Much of what he preaches contradicts the teaching of other sects, such as Roman Catholicism. But he argues that if the Bible does not forbid it, you can do it. So bring on masturbation. Try any position in the Kama Sutra (but refer to drawings, please, not pictures of real people). Wife away on business? Have phone sex. Birth control is good. Even anal sex is OK if (and Beam believes this is a big if) it does no harm to the body.

If you are a married Christian, not only can you do all this, but you should be doing it.

“Christians should be having great sex lives! We should be having better sex than anybody else! So drop your inhibitions at the door of your own house,” Beam urges.

The crowd is obviously ready to do just that.

“Our church has tried to be more open about sex, and to be more real about it,” Mary Wadstrom, a member of the San Diego church and, along with her husband, Jeff, one of the organizers of today’s sessions, tells me half-way through Beam’s lecture. “There are lots of hang-ups ingrained on you every day.”

That’s very clear after Beam takes a break, giving time for attendees to fill out question cards. They’re supposed to be free to ask anything that’s been on their minds. When Beam returns he flips through the cards and says, “I am looking at your questions and let me say, you are a sick group of people!”

Everybody cracks up yet again. He begins reading:

Can you give us some techniques for oral sex?

He does, and, using his hand and arm as props, describes it in detail (“…creating suction and warmth with your mouth, your tongue here…”) complete with sound effects.

Is mutual masturbation OK?


Which sex toys are good, and can we use them at all?

“I usually get the question this way,” Beam answers. “‘What does the Bible say about vibrators?” More laughter. “Can we use a vibrator? Sure you can if you want to.”

What can you do if your wife is having trouble reaching orgasm?

“Try having sex doggy-style and simultaneously masturbating.”

He offers another suggestion: “You’ve heard of the proverbial 69?” Some in the audience return blank stares. He stares back, open-mouthed, and gently mocks them. “Huh? Is that in Acts?”

Unburdened — and eager to get home
The explicitness causes some jaws to drop, but not because people are offended.

“What is new for me is not that kind of talk,” Wadstrom says. The church has had some sexual conversations before, but always in classes segregated by gender.

“What was new is having men and women together in the same room,” she says. “That was very helpful because everybody knows what’s being said to the others.”

Beam’s presentation has a liberating effect on these couples. About four hours later, when it’s all over, many appeared unburdened. Either they were experimenting anyway, and feeling miserable about it, or they were restricting themselves to acts they thought were godly, and feeling miserable about that.

“I was raised to think sex was bad,” 23-year-old Kym Blackburn recalls of her religious upbringing. She forced her husband, Matt, a U.S. Navy enlisted man, to attend, but now he is glad he did. He is awaiting a second deployment to Iraq, and thinks their marriage will grow stronger in the weeks before he leaves.

Jose and Marta Ochoa echo that sentiment. “My whole life I thought certain things were wrong, or not Christian,” Marta, 47, tells me as her husband, Jose, 52, nods vigorously in the background.

He’d spent years asking her for more variation but now, finally, “she understands we can share all this freely and it’s not a sin like she thought. It is gonna happen more!”

That, Marta tells me, makes her very happy.

Then they excuse themselves. They’re in a rush to get home.

Even Grandma had premarital sex
Americans weren’t any more chaste in the past
Dec 28, 2006

NEW YORK – More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past.

“This is reality-check research,” said the study’s author, Lawrence Finer. “Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades.”

Finer is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. The study, released Tuesday, appears in the new issue of Public Health Reports.

The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews conducted with more than 38,000 people — about 33,000 of them women — in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey of Family Growth. According to Finer’s analysis, 99 percent of the respondents had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had done so before marriage.

Even among a subgroup of those who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44, the study found.

Sex stable since the ’50s
Finer said the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s, though people now wait longer to get married and thus are sexually active as singles for extensive periods.

The study found women virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex, even those born decades ago. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91 percent had had premarital sex by age 30, he said, while among those born in the 1940s, 88 percent had done so by age 44.

“The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds,” Finer said.

Under the Bush administration, such programs have received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

“It would be more effective,” Finer said, “to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active — which nearly everyone eventually will.”

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the abstinence-only approach for teenagers.

White House: Wait longer, please
“One of its values is to help young people delay the onset of sexual activity,” he said. “The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have, and the less the risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease.”

He insisted there was no federal mission against premarital sex among adults.

“Absolutely not,” Horn said. “The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults.” (except when they’re adults of the same sex who want to get married, and then we’re all for “stigmatizing” them right out of existence)

Horn said he found the high percentages of premarital sex cited in the study to be plausible, and expressed hope that society would not look askance at the small minority that chooses to remain abstinent before marriage.

However, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group which strongly supports abstinence-only education, said she was skeptical of the findings.

“Any time I see numbers that high, I’m a little suspicious,” she said. “The numbers are too pat.”


a terrorist act

another terrorist act

the result of terrorism

in spite of the virgil goode position on immigration, muslims are apparently good for something after all…

Richard Whittle: Uncle Sam wants US Muslims to serve

As US troops battle Islamic extremists abroad, the Pentagon and the armed forces are reaching out to Muslims at home.

[Always stress the difference. Why, some of my best friends are non-Islamic extremist Muslims.]

An underlying goal is to interest more Muslims in the military, which needs officers and troops who can speak Arabic and other relevant languages and understand the culture of places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

[Maybe the military shouldn’t have kicked out those six Arabic translators because they were gay.]

The effort is also part of a larger outreach. Pentagon officials say they are striving for mutual understanding with Muslims at home and abroad and to win their support for US war aims.

[And where I say ‘mutual understanding,’ I mean ‘lip service to superstitious morons so we can make use of them.’ We conned the Christians to get their votes, now let’s work on the Muslims. Allah forbid that any understanding of Islam be based on reading the Quran.]

Among the efforts to attract and retain Muslim cadets:

• West Point and the other service academies have opened Muslim prayer rooms, as have military installations.

[You know, they didn’t really mean it when whoever those guys were wrote the United States government would not establish a state religion, using tax dollars to fund someone else’s superstition. Fucking First Ammendment of the fucking United States Constitution.]

• Imams serve full- and part-time as chaplains at the academies and some bases.

[Now now, why stop there? We need representatives of every major and minor and current and historic religion at the academies and bases. Just in case.]

• Top non-Muslim officers and Pentagon officials have taken to celebrating religious events with Muslims overseas and here in the US.

[Isn’t that kind of like saying DURKA DURKA DURKA JIHAD except instead of being wooden puppets in a satirical movie, you’re putting on supernatural blackface to trick Muslims into… fighting Muslims?]

“There is a message here, and that is that Muslims and the Islamic religion are totally compatible with Western values,” says Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in an interview.

[Secretary England went on to announce the end of banking, democracy, and several other entirely trivial and optional Western values. Accomodating superstition in tax-funded venues is always and forever a mistake.]

Uncle Sam wants US Muslims to serve
December 27, 2006
By Richard Whittle

WASHINGTON – As US troops battle Islamic extremists abroad, the Pentagon and the armed forces are reaching out to Muslims at home.

An underlying goal is to interest more Muslims in the military, which needs officers and troops who can speak Arabic and other relevant languages and understand the culture of places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The effort is also part of a larger outreach. Pentagon officials say they are striving for mutual understanding with Muslims at home and abroad and to win their support for US war aims. Among the efforts to attract and retain Muslim cadets:

  • West Point and the other service academies have opened Muslim prayer rooms, as have military installations.
  • Imams serve full- and part-time as chaplains at the academies and some bases.
  • Top non-Muslim officers and Pentagon officials have taken to celebrating religious events with Muslims overseas and here in the US.

“There is a message here, and that is that Muslims and the Islamic religion are totally compatible with Western values,” says Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in an interview.

For the past two years, Mr. England has hosted an iftar, the feast that ends the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. His guests have included ambassadors, leaders of the Muslim-American community, and Muslims who serve in the US armed forces.

President Bush also hosted an iftar at the White House in October, as he has done for several years. Gen. Robert Magnus, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, held one the same month at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington for defense attachés from predominantly Muslim nations.

The US armed services don’t recruit by religion, but the Pentagon estimates at least 3,386 Muslims were serving in the US military as of September. No precise figures are available because, while US service members are surveyed on their religion, they aren’t required to disclose it. Advocacy groups put the number at 15,000, saying many are reluctant to reveal their religion. African-Americans represent the largest share of Muslims in uniform, they add.

However uncertain the progress, the military is intensifying its outreach.

On June 6 – the anniversary of D-Day, he notes – Mr. England helped dedicate a new Islamic prayer center at the Quantico Marine Corps Base near Washington, whose 6,100 marines include about 24 Muslims, according to Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, a Navy chaplain who serves as their imam.

The Marines also have allowed Muslims in their ranks at Quantico some dispensations to make it easier to practice their religion, says Lieutenant Commander Saifulislam, a US citizen born and raised in Bangladesh. During Ramadan, “they’re allowed to have some time off to prepare for their fasting break and not to go to physical training” while fasting, he says.

Muslim troops say misunderstandings and friction with non-Muslims in uniform arise sometimes, but practicing Islam in a military at war with extremists who profess the same faith isn’t a burden, they add.

Petty Officer Third Class Nicholas Burgos, a Sunni Muslim training to be a Navy SEAL, or commando, says instructors sometimes goad him by calling him “Osama bin Burgos” or asking if he’s training to help the Taliban. But “it’s all in good fun,” he insists.

“It’s all about how much mental stress you can deal with while you’re in training,” Petty Officer Burgos says. “I just laugh or have a smirk on my face.”

His father, Asadullah Burgos, is the part-time imam at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., whose roughly 4,000 cadets include 32 Muslims, 12 of whom are foreign students.

“There’s been some insults and some taunting, but it’s been handled at the cadet level,” Imam Burgos says. “Usually that’s due to ignorance.”

Col. John Cook, the senior chaplain at West Point, says that after media reports about the academy’s new Muslim prayer room, he got a call from a self-described “concerned citizen” who fretted that “the Muslims are taking over the world.”

“I told him, ‘I’m a Christian chaplain, but I have the responsibility to provide for other faith groups,’ ” Colonel Cook says. Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish cadets all have their own chapels at West Point, he notes.

Marine Sgt. Jamil Alkattan, a Sunni Muslim of Syrian heritage from South Bend, Ind., says his religion, his knowledge of Arabic, and his familiarity with Arab culture were major assets during two tours in Iraq.

Not only was he able to teach fellow marines key Arabic phrases and explain that all Muslims aren’t extremists, he says, but he also was able to befriend locals, who brought him vital intelligence. “They would come to me and say, ‘I know where bombs are,’ and this and that,” Sergeant Alkattan says. “I never got to sleep. They would come at night time and tell me, ‘Hey, I think these guys [insurgents] are trying to set you guys up,’ or, ‘I’ve seen these guys with an IED [improvised bomb].’ I think it stopped a lot of things that could have happened.”

Under a new Middle East Cultural Outreach Program created by the Marine Corps, Sergeant Alkattan is one of six Arab-American marines selected to be stationed in major American cities as liaisons to the Arab-American community and advisers to recruiters.

The program was conceived by Gunnery Sgt. Jamal Baadani, a Muslim born in Cairo who emigrated to Michigan when he was 10.

“It is not a direct recruiting program,” says Sergeant Baadani, but its goal is to educate recruiters to avoid cultural no-nos and foster good relations with Arab-American communities. The “overall objective … is to develop solid relationships with the Arab and Muslim communities for the 21st and 22nd centuries. This isn’t something that’s just a Band-Aid treatment.”



there are so many sub-plots to the dysfunction of the family that my wife has escaped from that i’m really glad i’m not still in contact with my own family. when you realise that her father and mother were not married to each other, but that her father was, and currently still is married to the same “other woman”, is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg, you’ll probably get the drift of what i am talking about. at the same time, i also realise that i belong to my own dysfunctional family, but i have – mercifully, i suppose – been purposely, deliberately and repeatedly excluded from family things like the celebration of holidays by my mother and father. i’m certain that, were i actually in contact with them, there would be at least as many sub-plots to my own family’s dysfunction, and very likely i would be portrayed as the antagonist in about 99.8% of them – which is why i say “mercifully” above… 8/

but, at the same time, spending 3 days and 2 nights visiting the in-laws is enough to drive anyone totally batty. actually, the thing that drove me the craziest was when they said they had internet access, but couldn’t get on internet… so i booted up their WXP computer, which automatically logged on to a broadband connection of some sort, automatically started MSN chat and logged into someone’s account (with two unread messages) and automatically opened some sort of IE/browser-like thing to an MSN homepage. when i wondered aloud what they thought the problem was, my mother in law said that they couldn’t “log on to internet” and pointed at the internet explorer icon, so i double-clicked it and internet explorer launched with a yahoo homepage. again, i wondered what they thought the problem was, and i was informed that, somehow, it comes up with a yahoo page, rather than the MSN page that they were expecting…



the irritating part is that nobody who lives in that house had the first clue that, not only were they already “logged on to internet”, but that their only real “problem” was that they had inadvertently changed the home page of probably the worst browser in existence, and the really irritating part is that, because their MSN homepage didn’t come up the way they expected it to, “for some reason” they “couldn’t log on to internet”… as though microsoft owns the internet, and yahoo is something totally unrelated.

that, if nothing else, would not be happening at my family’s gatherings… 8/

oh… also their virus protection is out of date… 8/ i didn’t bother to check and see if they had any virii, because if i had, and they were infected, i probably would have spent the rest of my time there as a free tech support geek trying to get the boneheads straightened out… 8/

i didn’t get anything from my My Wish List, but i wasn’t really expecting them to, considering their level of computer sophistication. if anyone else wants to try, it’s there.


You Are 20% Left Brained, 80% Right Brained
The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning. Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others. If you’re left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility. Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way. If you’re right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art. Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and music.


photos from the recent performance of Snow White And The Three Dorfs:


tentative word is that there will be more performances of snow white at the moisture festival this year, but nothing official yet.


happy new year everyone, as you are probably aware at this point, i am a terrorist in the same way Cindy Sheehan is a terrorist, which is why i didn’t watch shrubby junior’s state of the republican “christian” radical-right-wing part of the country that he currently calls “the union”, although i can pretty much guarantee that whatever he said, with the exception of mentioning that coretta scott king died, was 100% lies., i got involved in scanning photos and looked up at 2:58 to realise that i had an appointment at 3:00., hurray, hurray, it’s the first of may, outdoor fornication starts today., May 1st, 2006 will be the 3rd Anniversary of the end of “major combat” in Iraq., Collecting information about every American’s phone calls is an example of data mining., the ballard sedentary sousa band has a performance at the king street station, for something having to do with amtrak today at 10:00 am., 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job, i put in 10 hours on the roof yantra today, and got it almost finished., With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta., His lips are turned up in a slight smile as Bruce salamandir-Feyrecilde swings the chained balls of fire., SNOW WHITE & THE seven THREE DWARVES


Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?
October 17, 2006

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

A complete collapse in Iraq could provide a haven for Al Qaeda operatives within striking distance of Israel, even Europe. And the nature of the threat from Iran, a potential nuclear power with protégés in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

My curiosity about our policymakers’ grasp of Islam’s two major branches was piqued in 2005, when Jon Stewart and other TV comedians made hash out of depositions, taken in a whistleblower case, in which top F.B.I. officials drew blanks when asked basic questions about Islam. One of the bemused officials was Gary Bald, then the bureau’s counterterrorism chief. Such expertise, Mr. Bald maintained, wasn’t as important as being a good manager.

A few months later, I asked the F.B.I.’s spokesman, John Miller, about Mr. Bald’s comments. “A leader needs to drive the organization forward,” Mr. Miller told me. “If he is the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post-9/11 world, he does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu to be effective. … Playing ‘Islamic Trivial Pursuit’ was a cheap shot for the lawyers and a cheaper shot for the journalist. It’s just a gimmick.”

Of course, I hadn’t asked about reading Urdu or Mr. bin Laden’s writings.

A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.’s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.”

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”


Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”


AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.”

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Ms. Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”

It’s not all so grimly humorous. Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.


In Letter, GOP Rep Fears Influx of Muslims
By Paul Kiel
December 19, 2006

In a letter sent out to select supporters earlier this month reacting to the controversy (among certain extreme conservatives, at least) over Muslim representative-elect Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) decision to be sworn in on the Koran, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) warned that the U.S. must close its borders to guard against the influx of still more Muslims. In it, he also proudly recounts his retort to a Muslim student who asked him why he did not include the Koran with The Ten Commandments on his wall. “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office,” he says he told the student.

The letter, which by some horrible error in Goode’s office was sent to the chair of the local Sierra Club chapter, was obtained by Charlottesville’s C-Ville Weekly. Goode’s spokesman, after correcting my pronunciation of his boss’ name (it rhymes with “food”) refused to expand beyond Goode’s comment to the Weekly of “I wrote the letter. I think it speaks for itself,” although I was invited to fax in a question to the congressman.

“[I]f American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran,” the letter reads. “I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The text of the letter:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.


word now is that there is, indeed, going to be a drunk puppet night, and it will be held in the rebar, which is the place it was originally – which is to say that that’s where it has been since i have been involved with it, with the exception of last year, which is going on 4 years now. no word has been heard yet about when, although the phil has been invited to perform as well. i haven’t heard it from josh directly, but i have heard it from several trusted sources.

presumably somebody has communicated with seanjohn, because it is my recollection that the end of march is when he was hoping to resurrect the late night cabaret, and that is also the same time that the moisture festival will be happening. if not, we’re just opening ourselves up to a whole new level of confusion and frustration.

we’re trying to avoid the mass quantities of confusion and frustration with the moisture festival this year by making it more clear what we, as artists, expect from the shows, but judging by what i know of RB, particularly, i’m not holding out much hope that it’s going to be as "organised" as it was last year…

the reason i haven’t posted for the past 3 days

blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge
blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge
blurdge blurdge blurdge blurdge  

we didn’t have any electricity for 4 days. the storm happened thursday night, and they didn’t get around to fixing the electricity until yesterday… but electricity doesn’t do very much good unless there’s also network connectivity, which came about this morning.

we slept in the living room, next to the wood stove. it was cold enough that paddy and allie, who normally won’t sleep anywhere close to another animal, were sleeping in very close proximity to cats and dogs… and our gay cats finally came out of the closet.


i went to miles and karina’s 2nd cd release party yesterday, and there i saw josh, who is responsible for drunk puppet night. i didn’t actually ask him, but the rumour that i have heard is that there will be no drunk puppet night this year. this is not entirely a bad thing, although it will be sad not to have the shows.

i also saw seanjohn, who was dressed in a “rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” fursuit, which immediately reminded me of st. , patron of inflatable reindeer. he was on his way to a paying gig, crashing a corporate party, and the reindeer costume was part of the joke. according to a conversation i had with seanjohn and josh, there is potentially a new “late night cabaret” forming in march or thereabouts. this is a very good thing, and would be even better if it were to start in january or february, which isn’t entirely out of the question.


Is Abandoning the Internet "The Next Big Thing"
May 12th, 2004
by John Walker

Bad Neighbourhood
In 1970-1971 I used to live in a really bad neighbourhood. In the space of two years I was held up three times, twice by the same guy. (One’s sense of etiquette fails in such circumstances–what do you say: “New gun?”) Once I found a discarded sofa cushion outside my apartment building and, being perennially short on seating for guests, rescued it from the trash man. After bringing it inside and whacking it to liberate some of the dust prior to vacuuming, I heard a little “ker-tink” sound on the floor. Three times. These turned out to be caused by .22 calibre bullets whose entry holes were visible upon closer examination of the pillow. I know not whether this ballast was added while it was sitting on the sidewalk or in the apartment of the neighbour who threw it away. The sound of gunfire wasn’t all that rare on Saturday nights there, then.

Getting Out of Dodge
Looking back on that time, I don’t recall any sense of chronic fear or paranoia, but there’s a low level edginess which slowly grinds you down. Now, I could have gotten a large, intimidating dog, put bars on the apartment window and motion detectors inside with triple deadlocks on the door, a concealed carry permit and suitable heat to pack, Kevlar vest for going out after dark, etc., etc. Instead, immediately I received a raise which permitted it, I decided to get out of Dodge, as it were, trading 50% higher rent for a sense of security which freed me to worry about career-related matters instead of whether my career was about to be abruptly truncated due to collision with rapidly moving metallic projectiles.

The Internet Slum
I’ve come to view today’s Internet as much like the bad neighbourhood I used to inhabit. It wasn’t always that way–in fact, as recently as a few years ago, the Internet seemed like a frontier town–a little rough on the edges, with its share of black hats, but also with the sense of open-ended possibility that attracted pioneers of all sorts, exploring and expanding the cutting edge in all directions: technological, economic, social, political, and artistic. But today’s Internet isn’t a frontier any more–it’s a slum. (I use “Internet” here to refer to the culture of the Web, E-mail, newsgroups, and other services based upon the underlying packet transport network. I have nothing against packet switching networks in general nor the Internet infrastructure in particular.)

One Fine Day at Fourmilab
What’s it like living today in the Internet slum? What comes down that pipe into your house from the outside world? Here’s a snapshot, taken on March 31st, 2004, a completely typical day in all regards. The Web site racked up 682,516 hits in 56,412 visits from 44,776 distinct sites (IP addresses), delivering 14.8 gigabytes of content. That’s, of course, not counting the traffic generated by the Distributed Denial of Service Attack underway since late January 2004. Whoever is responsible for this attack bombarded the site with a total of 1,473,602 HTTP request packets originating from 1951 hosts all around the world. These packets were blocked by the Gardol attack detector and packet blocker I spent much of February developing instead of doing productive work. Well, the attack this day was only half as intense as during the first wave in January. Entirely apart from this recent denial of service attack is the routine attack against Earth and Moon Viewer in which robots attempt to overload the server and/or outbound bandwidth by making repeated requests for large custom images. This attack has been underway for several years despite its impact having been entirely mitigated by countermeasures installed in October 2001; still they keep trying. This day a total of 3700 of these attacks originating from 342 distinct hosts were detected and blocked.

Mail and Spam per month: 2000-2004

Moving from the Web to that other Internet mainstay, E-mail, let’s take a peek at the traffic on good old port 25. This day I received 8 E-mail messages from friends and colleagues around the globe. Isn’t E-mail great? But that’s not all that arrived that day. . . . First of all, we have the 629 messages which were blocked as originating at IP addresses known to be open SMTP relays which permit mass junk mailers to forge the origin of their garbage. Open relays, whether due to misconfiguration or operated as a matter of principle by self-described civil libertarians, are the E-mail equivalent of leaving a live hand grenade in an elementary school playground. A peek at the sendmail log shows a total of 6,444 “dictionary spams” attempted that day. These are hosts which connect to your mail server and try names from huge lists of names culled from directories used by spammers in the hope of hitting a valid address which can be sent spam and then re-sold to other spammers. A total of 275 E-mail messages made it past these filters into the hands of sendmail for delivery, being addressed to a valid user name in my domain, usually the E-mail address which I take care not to publish on any of my Web pages. Of these, a total of 259 were correctly identified as spam by Annoyance Filter, the adaptive Bayesian junk mail filter I spent two months developing in 2002 instead of doing productive work. A total of 8 junk mail messages were “false negatives”–misclassified as legitimate mail by Annoyance Filter (in all likelihood because I hadn’t recently re-trained the filter with a collection of contemporary spam) and made it to my mailbox. This day’s collection of junk mail included a total of 74 attempts to corrupt my computer with destructive worm software, thereby to enlist it in further propagating the corruption. Since the machine on which I read mail uses none of the vulnerable Microsoft products these programs exploit, they pose no risk to me, but consider how many people with computers which are at risk without the filtering tools and the more than 35 years of computing experience I bring to the arena withstand this daily assault. This day there wasn’t a single criminal fraud attempt to obtain my credit card number or other financial identity information; this was a light day; usually there’s one or two. Absent the open relay block list and Annoyance Filter, I would be forced to sort through a total of 896 pieces of junk mail to read the 8 messages I wish to receive. Isn’t E-mail great?

Ever since 1996, when a dysfunctional superannuated adolescent exploited a vulnerability in the ancient version of Solaris I then ran on my Web server to break into the server and corrupt my Web site, I’ve kept the local network here at Fourmilab behind a firewall configured with all the (abundant) paranoia I can summon. A firewall not only protects one against the barbarians, but monitoring its log lets you know which tommyknockers are knocking, knocking at your door and what keys they’re trying in the lock. One doesn’t bother logging the boring, repetitive stuff, but it’s wise to keep an eye peeled for new, innovative attacks. On this day, the firewall log recorded a total of 1915 packets dropped–the vast majority attempts to exploit well-known vulnerabilities in Microsoft products by automated “attack robots” operated by people who have nothing better to do with their lives. That’s about one every 45 seconds.

The Tunnel in the Basement
Imagine if there were a tunnel which ran into your basement from the outside world, ending in a sturdy door with four or five high-security locks which anybody could approach completely anonymously. A mail slot in the door allows you to receive messages and news delivered through the tunnel, but isn’t big enough to allow intruders to enter. Now imagine that every time you go down into your basement, you found several hundred letters piled up in a snowdrift extending from the mail slot, and that to find the rare messages from your friends and family you had to sort through reams of pornography of the most disgusting kind, solicitations for criminal schemes, “human engineered” attempts to steal your identity and financial information, and the occasional rat, scorpion, or snake slipped through the slot to attack you if you’re insufficiently wary. You don’t allow your kids into the basement any more for fear of what they may see coming through the slot, and you’re worried by the stories of people like yourself who’ve had their basements filled with sewage or concrete spewed through the mail slot by malicious “pranksters”.

Further, whenever you’re in the basement you not only hear the incessant sound of unwanted letters and worse dropping through the mail slot, but every minute or so you hear somebody trying a key or pick in one of your locks. As a savvy basement tunnel owner, you make a point of regularly reading tunnel security news to learn of “exploits” which compromise the locks you’re using so you can update your locks before miscreants can break in through the tunnel. You may consider it wise to install motion detectors in your basement so you’re notified if an intruder does manage to defeat your locks and gain entry.

As the risks of basement tunnels make the news more and more often, industry and government begin to draw up plans to “do something” about them. A new “trusted door” scheme is proposed, which will replace the existing locks and mail slot with “inherently secure” versions which you’re not allowed to open up and examine, whose master keys are guarded by commercial manufacturers and government agencies entirely deserving of your trust.

You may choose to be patient, put up with the inconveniences and risks of your basement tunnel until you can install that trusted door. Or, you may simply decide that what comes through the tunnel isn’t remotely worth the aggravation it creates and dynamite the whole thing, reclaiming your basement for yourself.

Abandon the Internet?
Is it time to start thinking about abandoning the Internet? Well, I’ve pondered that option at some length, and I’m not alone. Donald Knuth, who’s always at least a decade ahead of everybody else, abandoned E-mail on January 1st, 1990, saying “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.” Harry Schultz, one of the wisest observers of the financial and geopolitical scene, advised abandoning E-mail in favour of FAX more than a year ago. While few people have explicitly announced their retirement from the Internet, I suspect that more and more parents are loath to provide Internet access to their children, knowing that their mailboxes will be filled every day with hundreds of disgusting messages. People of all sorts simply walk away from the Internet after suffering the repellent pop-ups and attacks by spyware installed on their computers. You won’t see this as a downturn in people on the Internet, at least right away, but keep your eye on the second derivative.

Another trend I expect to emerge is an attempt to re-create the Internet of a decade ago by erecting virtual barriers to keep out the rabble. When I’m feeling down I call it “Internet Gated Communities”, when in an optimistic mood, “The Faculty Club”. This may lead to what many observers refer to as “the Balkanisation of the Internet”–a fragmentation of the “goes everywhere, reaches everybody” vision of the global nervous system into disconnected communities. This may not be such a bad thing. Yes, we will not end up with a ubiquitous global wired community. But if you want to get an idea what that might actually look like, here’s a little experiment you can try. Turn off your spam filter and read all the spam you get in a day, including visiting the Web sites they direct you to. Now imagine that, multiplied by a factor of about a hundred. Welcome to the electronic global slum! I am one of those despicable people who believe that IQ not only exists but matters. From the origin of the Internet through the mid 1990s, I’d estimate the mean IQ of Internet users as about 115. Today it’s probably somewhere around 100, the mean in Europe and North America. The difference you see in the Internet of today from that of ten years ago is what one standard deviation (15 points) drop in IQ looks like. But the mean IQ of the world is a tad less than 90 today, and it’s expected to fall to about 86 by 2050. So, when the digital divide is conquered and all ten billion naked apes are wired up, you’re looking at about another standard deviation’s drop in the IQ of the Internet. Just imagine what that will be like.

Optimists point to initiatives underway to address the problems of the Internet: secure operating systems, certificate based authentication, tools for identifying abusers and legal sanctions against them, and the like. But I fear the cure may be worse than the disease, so much so that I penned a 25,000 word screed sketching the transformation of the Internet from an open network of peers to a locked-down medium for delivering commercial content to passive consumers.

I’m not ready to abandon the Internet, at least not right away. But I’m thinking about it, and I suspect I’m not alone. Those who have already abandoned it are, by that very choice, neither publishing Web pages nor posting messages about it; they are silent, visible only by their absence from the online community. Will early adopters of the Internet, who are in the best position to compare what it is today with what they connected to years ago, become early opters-out? Me, I’m keeping an eye on this trend–it could just be the next big thing.


the entire works of mozart have been digitised and made available on internet for “scholarly, personal study and for educational and classroom use”, but not to “make copies for personal use”…

so, if you and your symphony orchestra publically perform a work of mozart, and it is later discovered that you obtained the music from the neue mozart-ausgabe, you can be punished according to copyright law, but private performances are okay…

i’m sure that mozart, were he alive, would have something interesting to say about that…



i encountered this through as “33 Names of Things You Never Knew had Names“, but i was astonished to discover that, in fact, i knew what most of these things are before looking at the list… and being the geek that i am, i thought it would be interesting to find out if there are others like me. thus, i am starting the “33 Names of Things You Never Knew had Names” thing-that-everyone-calls-a-“meme”-but-which-probably-isn’t (because i’m not sure whether it really meets the definition of “meme” or whether it’s just another web quiz, and i’m a geek enough to know that there’s a pretty big difference).

the following list contains 33 unusual words, which are actual words and not things that i made up. put an asterisk (*) next to the ones you know without peeking at the answers, which follow.

then post it in your journal as well, to spread the joy…

  1. AGLET *
  5. DRAGÉES *
  6. FEAT *
  7. FERRULE *
  8. HARP *
  10. JARNS, *
  11. NITTLES, *
  12. GRAWLIX, *
  13. and QUIMP *
  14. KEEPER *
  15. KICK or PUNT *
  17. MINIMUS *
  18. NEF
  22. PEEN *
  26. ROWEL *
  27. SADDLE *
  28. SCROOP
  31. TANG *
  32. WAMBLE *
  33. ZARF *

  1. AGLET – The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.
  2. ARMSAYE – The armhole in clothing.
  3. CHANKING – Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.
  4. COLUMELLA NASI – The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.
  5. DRAGÉES – Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.
  6. FEAT – A dangling curl of hair.
  7. FERRULE – The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.
  8. HARP – The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.
  9. HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER – A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)
  10. JARNS,
  11. NITTLES,
  12. GRAWLIX,
  13. and QUIMP – Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
  14. KEEPER – The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.
  15. KICK or PUNT – The indentation at the bottom of some wine bottles. It gives added strength to the bottle but lessens its holding capacity.
  16. LIRIPIPE – The long tail on a graduate’s academic hood.
  17. MINIMUS – The little finger or toe.
  18. NEF – An ornamental stand in the shape of a ship.
  19. OBDORMITION – The numbness caused by pressure on a nerve; when a limb is `asleep’.
  20. OCTOTHORPE – The symbol `#’ on a telephone handset. Bell Labs’ engineer Don Macpherson created the word in the 1960s by combining octo-, as in eight, with the name of one of his favourite athletes, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion Jim Thorpe.
  21. OPHRYON – The space between the eyebrows on a line with the top of the eye sockets.
  22. PEEN – The end of a hammer head opposite the striking face.
  23. PHOSPHENES – The lights you see when you close your eyes hard. Technically the luminous impressions are due to the excitation of the retina caused by pressure on the eyeball.
  24. PURLICUE – The space between the thumb and extended forefinger.
  25. RASCETA – Creases on the inside of the wrist.
  26. ROWEL – The revolving star on the back of a cowboy’s spurs.
  27. SADDLE – The rounded part on the top of a matchbook (it’s also the rounded part on the back – or “spine” – of a book).
  28. SCROOP – The rustle of silk.
  29. SNORKEL BOX – A mailbox with a protruding receiver to allow people to deposit mail without leaving their cars.
  30. SPRAINTS – Otter dung.
  31. TANG – The projecting prong on a tool or instrument.
  32. WAMBLE – Stomach rumbling.
  33. ZARF – A holder for a handleless coffee cup.


i’ve been keeping track. this month, i have received 1454 spam messages this month, which is an average of 133 a day. it’s getting so that i have to warn potential customers and new contacts to put something distinctive in the subject line so that they don’t get spam-filtered, and frequently they do anyway. i’ve not received (potentially spam filtered) messages from my own wife in the past few days, and i think i may have spam-filtered at least two legitimate customers as well. the biggest culprit has also involved chinese characters in the subject line and something in the message which makes KMail crash when i select it, which is one reason i have been toying with the idea of upgrading to a newer version of linux, as mandrake 9.2 is around three years old now. i haven’t been able to figure out what, though, because the message contains nothing but unescaped unicode characters. these messages, combined with the fact that i don’t get that many email messages anyway, have caused me to think about just not having an email address any longer. the only problem is what to do about the incense business… 8P

Gates: Spam To Be Canned By 2006
January 24, 2004

(AP) A spam-free world by 2006? That’s what Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates is promising.

“Two years from now, spam will be solved,” he told a select group of World Economic Forum participants at this Alpine ski resort. “And a lot of progress this year,” he added at the event late Friday, hosted by U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose.

Gates said Microsoft, where he has the title of chief software designer, is working on a solution based on the concept of “proof,” or identifying the sender of the e-mail.

One method involves a human challenge, or requiring the sender of an electronic pitch to solve a puzzle that only a flesh-and-blood person can handle. Another is a so-called “computational puzzle” that a computer sending only a few messages could easily handle, but that would be prohibitively expensive for a mass-mailer.

But the most promising, Gates said, was a method that would hit the sender of an e-mail in the pocketbook.

People would set a level of monetary risk – low or high, depending on their choice – for receiving e-mail from strangers. If the e-mail turns out to be from a long-lost relative, for example, the recipient would charge nothing. But if it is unwanted spam, the sender would have to fork over the cash.

“In the long run, the monetary (method) will be dominant,” Gates predicted.

He conceded, however, that his prognostications have not always been on the mark. Notable misjudgments include the rising popularity of open-source software, epitomized by Linux, and the success of the Google search engine.

“They kicked our butts,” he said, while promising a better next-generation Internet search engine from Microsoft, due as early as next year.

At the forum itself, Gates announced a partnership with the United Nations to bring computer technology and literacy to developing countries.

Drawing on a $1 billion Microsoft fund, the U.S. software giant will work with the U.N. Development Program to provide software, computer training and cash to establish computer centers in poor communities, starting with pilot projects in Egypt, Mozambique and Morocco.

Gates told a news conference the centers would not have to use only Microsoft products.

Egypt’s minister of communication and information technology, Ahmed Mahmoud Nazif, welcomed the help, noting that about 500 to 600 centers have already been set up in Egypt.

Gates told the smaller group he thought Microsoft’s team of software engineers was outrunning the hackers that have caused havoc by unleashing increasingly destructive viruses to attack networked computers. But he said it was tough to stay ahead. “If only the bad guys would just do the same stuff they did last year,” he moaned.

While the Windows desktop operating system has become a “very powerful standard,” he said Microsoft was more open today about its source code to allow other companies to develop competing products. That was partly due, he said, to the rise of Linux and antitrust actions in the United States and Europe.

Gates said he had not met with European Union antitrust commissioner Mario Monti, who is also attending the forum in Davos, but would be willing to if it would help settle the long-running EU antitrust case against Microsoft.

EU regulators charge that Microsoft’s decision to tie its Media Player into Windows, which runs about 90 percent of desktop computers, “weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”

They are threatening fines that could reach up to $3 billion, as well as a far-reaching order for Microsoft to strip the multimedia application from Windows to give rivals such as RealNetworks’ RealPlayer or Apple’s Quicktime more of a chance.

“We’re doing what we can to come to some amicable settlement,” Gates said.

After three days of hearings last November, the European Commission is expected to issue its decision early this year.

The meaning of spam
By Annalee Newitz

I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why my spam looks the way it does. Until quite recently, I received about 20,000 spam e-mails every day. The poor little Bayesean filter in my Thunderbird e-mail program couldn’t keep up and would routinely barf when confronted with such huge piles of crap from “Nuclear R. Accomplishment” with the subject line “$subject” and a message body full of random quotes from Beowulf.

Before I finally fixed my spam problem — oh blissfully small inbox! — I developed a few vaguely paranoid theories. Briefly, I imagined spammers were spying on my inbox and culling sender names from it that matched those of my friends. In my saner moments, I would wonder why exactly spam evolved to look the way it does. Why do spammers keep sending me pictures of pink, bouncy letters that spell “mortgage,” followed by text from a random Web site? And why, oh why, do they send me e-mails containing nothing but the cryptic line, “he said from the doorway, where she”? How can that be good business sense?

So I called expert Daniel Quinlan, who is an antispam architect at Ironport Systems as well as a contributor to open-source antispam system Spam Assassin. He patiently listened to me rant about my e-mail problems — I think antispam experts are sort of like geek therapists — then explained why I receive spam from random dictionary words strung together into a name like Elephant Q. Thermodynamic. It’s done to fool any spam filter that refuses to receive e-mail from somebody who has already sent you spam in the past. “They want to create a name that your spam filter has never seen before,” Quinlan said. It turns out every weirdness in my spam is “probably there for a good reason,” he said. In the arms race between spammers and antispammers, spammers try every trick they can to circumvent filtering software.

Often, the spam you get is the result of months or years of this arms race. For example, spammers of yesteryear started sending images instead of text, so that spam filters looking for text like “viagra” would be fooled. Instead, the image would contain the word “viagra,” but filters would see only an image and let it through. In response, antispam software began tossing e-mails that contained only an image, since spam containing an image typically has some text with it like “check out my pictures from Hawaii” or whatever. Rarely does a real person send just an image.

Quinlan said spammers figured out their pictures were being chucked, so they started adding a few random words to their mail and got through the filters again. Then antispammers started chucking e-mails with images that also contained random words that didn’t make sentences. And that’s why, today, you get images with chunks of text taken from random books and Web sites. As long as the text fits into sentences and isn’t random words strung together, spam filters have a harder time figuring out if the mail is spam or ham. Spammers also send slightly different images every time, so that spam filters can’t identify the image itself as spam. And they fill the images with bouncy, pink letters advertising their crap because character recognition software can’t read bouncy letters. So any spam filter that uses character recognition software to look at text in images to find spam will be fooled.

OK, so there is a reason behind the madness. But how could Quinlan explain the spam I get that contains no advertisement for anything, no links nor images, and instead merely quotes some random passage from Dostoyevsky? Quinlan said there’s no way to know for sure, but the reigning theory among antispam experts is that it’s part of what’s called a “directory harvest attack” in which the spammer tries to figure out if there’s a real person behind a randomly chosen e-mail address. The spammer sends out millions of innocuous e-mails and may get a slightly different response from the mail server if the mail has reached an actual person. Once the spammer has established that certain addresses are valid, he can send his real spam and be sure that he’s reaching an inbox.

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Spammers are doing bizarro things to get their messages out. But why do I sometimes get a spam with the subject line “$subject”? Why would I ever be fooled into thinking that was a piece of legitimate e-mail? “That’s just some spammer who doesn’t know how to use his spamware,” Quinlan said. “Sometimes spammers do things that are — for lack of a better word — dumb.”


i was in the house that has been a part of many recurring dreams over the years, which is an abandoned house that you reach by “walking to the canadian border” where there is a huge suspension bridge that you have to cross over to get into canada. once you have navigated the maze of inspectors and suchlike to get through the border, the house is the first one you get to once you cross the bridge. it is actually underneath the bridge abutment, and, because of the fact that it is abandoned, you actually have to climb off the bridge and drop down to ground level, and then go down a driveway towards the water, and jump over a fence to reach it.

except that this time i had my bike – a bike i had when i was in high school – and the house was actually occupied by a “family” of hippies who hadn’t cleaned up or repaired anything to make it more habitable. i remember actually telling one of the hippies that i had been to the house before, many times, and it had been abandoned previously. the hippy’s response was to say that they had moved into the house comparatively recently, because there was no place else for them to live. the house was considerably more “messed up” than it had been before, with piles of dirt and garbage all over the place, although they had the beginnings of a really nice garden, and a large grow room full of big, juicy buds that were waiting for harvest, and the kitchen, while not exactly clean, was in far better shape than it had been in my previous dreams about the house. there were around five of these hippies, including at least one woman, who i saw but didn’t talk to. they were all “older” hippies, although they could have been young and just had bad teeth and skin conditions, or something like that. i got stoned with a couple of them, and their buds were, indeed, fat, juicy and potent. i recall being intensely curious about the fact that i had been in the house previously (it was almost like lucid dreaming, but not quite… i was aware of the fact that i had been dreaming my previous visits to the house, but not that i was currently dreaming), before it was inhabited, and poked around quite a bit. one of the places that i poked around in was a place that i recalled having been in previously, was now the “bedroom” for one of the hippies, and a good deal more “messed up” than it had been previously, with a temporary wall built of concrete blocks and boards, with a blanket over them.

finally, i decided to go… back? home? i’m not sure, but wherever it was that i was headed was, ultimately, going to take me back over the bridge to the united states. leaving the house, at this point, involved climbing over enormous piles of trash and garbage that had accumulated outside of the kitchen, and when i had gotten over that, i discovered that my bike was missing. there were several other bikes there, but mine was not. i went back into the house, over the enormous piles of trash, and found one of the hippies, who offered to get me more stoned. i am not one to ever turn down marijuana, but i was a little frustrated when i told him that my bike was missing and he totally ignored me, so i found another hippie, who joined us getting stoned. he said that if my bike was missing, just take one of the other bikes that was there, but my bike was brand new, and the bikes that were there were ones that had “been around the block a few times” and were old, ratty, and not very well maintained.


The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus
Modern Christmas traditions are based on ancient mushroom-using shamans.
18 Dec, 2003
by Dana Larsen

Although most people see Christmas as a Christian holiday, most of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe.

The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as "fly agaric." These mushrooms are now commonly seen in books of fairy tales, and are usually associated with magic and fairies. This is because they contain potent hallucinogenic compounds, and were used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences.

Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of these most sacred mushrooms.

The world tree
These ancient peoples, including the Lapps of modern-day Finland, and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes, believed in the idea of a World Tree. The World Tree was seen as a kind of cosmic axis, onto which the planes of the universe are fixed. The roots of the World Tree stretch down into the underworld, its trunk is the "middle earth" of everyday existence, and its branches reach upwards into the heavenly realm.

The amanita muscaria mushrooms grow only under certain types of trees, mostly firs and evergreens. The mushroom caps are the fruit of the larger mycelium beneath the soil which exists in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. To ancient people, these mushrooms were literally "the fruit of the tree."

The North Star was also considered sacred, since all other stars in the sky revolved around its fixed point. They associated this "Pole Star" with the World Tree and the central axis of the universe. The top of the World Tree touched the North Star, and the spirit of the shaman would climb the metaphorical tree, thereby passing into the realm of the gods. This is the true meaning of the star on top of the modern Christmas tree, and also the reason that the super-shaman Santa makes his home at the North Pole.

Ancient peoples were amazed at how these magical mushrooms sprang from the earth without any visible seed. They considered this "virgin birth" to have been the result of the morning dew, which was seen as the semen of the deity. The silver tinsel we drape onto our modern Christmas tree represents this divine fluid.

Reindeer games
The active ingredients of the amanita mushrooms are not metabolized by the body, and so they remain active in the urine. In fact, it is safer to drink the urine of one who has consumed the mushrooms than to eat the mushrooms directly, as many of the toxic compounds are processed and eliminated on the first pass through the body.

It was common practice among ancient people to recycle the potent effects of the mushroom by drinking each other’s urine. The amanita’s ingredients can remain potent even after six passes through the human body. Some scholars argue that this is the origin of the phrase "to get pissed," as this urine-drinking activity preceded alcohol by thousands of years.

Reindeer were the sacred animals of these semi-nomadic people, as the reindeer provided food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. Reindeer are also fond of eating the amanita mushrooms; they will seek them out, then prance about while under their influence. Often the urine of tripped-out reindeer would be consumed for its psychedelic effects.

This effect goes the other way too, as reindeer also enjoy the urine of a human, especially one who has consumed the mushrooms. In fact, reindeer will seek out human urine to drink, and some tribesmen carry sealskin containers of their own collected piss, which they use to attract stray reindeer back into the herd.

The effects of the amanita mushroom usually include sensations of size distortion and flying. The feeling of flying could account for the legends of flying reindeer, and legends of shamanic journeys included stories of winged reindeer, transporting their riders up to the highest branches of the World Tree.

Santa Claus, super shaman
Although the modern image of Santa Claus was created at least in part by the advertising department of Coca-Cola, in truth his appearance, clothing, mannerisms and companions all mark him as the reincarnation of these ancient mushroom-gathering shamans.

One of the side effects of eating amanita mushrooms is that the skin and facial features take on a flushed, ruddy glow. This is why Santa is always shown with glowing red cheeks and nose. Even Santa’s jolly *quot;Ho, ho, ho!" is the euphoric laugh of one who has indulged in the magic fungus.

Santa also dresses like a mushroom gatherer. When it was time to go out and harvest the magical mushrooms, the ancient shamans would dress much like Santa, wearing red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots.

These peoples lived in dwellings made of birch and reindeer hide, called "yurts." Somewhat similar to a teepee, the yurt’s central smokehole is often also used as an entrance. After gathering the mushrooms from under the sacred trees where they appeared, the shamans would fill their sacks and return home. Climbing down the chimney-entrances, they would share out the mushroom’s gifts with those within.

The amanita mushroom needs to be dried before being consumed; the drying process reduces the mushroom’s toxicity while increasing its potency. The shaman would guide the group in stringing the mushrooms and hanging them around the hearth-fire to dry. This tradition is echoed in the modern stringing of popcorn and other items.

The psychedelic journeys taken under the influence of the amanita were also symbolized by a stick reaching up through the smokehole in the top of the yurt. The smokehole was the portal where the spirit of the shaman exited the physical plane.

Santa’s famous magical journey, where his sleigh takes him around the whole planet in a single night, is developed from the "heavenly chariot," used by the gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended. The chariot of Odin, Thor and even the Egyptian god Osiris is now known as the Big Dipper, which circles around the North Star in a 24-hour period.

In different versions of the ancient story, the chariot was pulled by reindeer or horses. As the animals grow exhausted, their mingled spit and blood falls to the ground, forming the amanita mushrooms.

St Nicholas and Old Nick
Saint Nicholas is a legendary figure who supposedly lived during the fourth Century. His cult spread quickly and Nicholas became the patron saint of many varied groups, including judges, pawnbrokers, criminals, merchants, sailors, bakers, travelers, the poor, and children.

Most religious historians agree that St Nicholas did not actually exist as a real person, and was instead a Christianized version of earlier Pagan gods. Nicholas’ legends were mainly created out of stories about the Teutonic god called Hold Nickar, known as Poseidon to the Greeks. This powerful sea god was known to gallop through the sky during the winter solstice, granting boons to his worshippers below.

When the Catholic Church created the character of St Nicholas, they took his name from "Nickar" and gave him Poseidon’s title of "the Sailor." There are thousands of churches named in St Nicholas’ honor, most of which were converted from temples to Poseidon and Hold Nickar. (As the ancient pagan deities were demonized by the Christian church, Hold Nickar’s name also became associated with Satan, known as "Old Nick!")

Local traditions were incorporated into the new Christian holidays to make them more acceptable to the new converts. To these early Christians, Saint Nicholas became a sort of "super-shaman" who was overlaid upon their own shamanic cultural practices. Many images of Saint Nicholas from these early times show him wearing red and white, or standing in front of a red background with white spots, the design of the amanita mushroom.

St Nicholas also adopted some of the qualities of the legendary "Grandmother Befana" from Italy, who filled children’s stockings with gifts. Her shrine at Bari, Italy, became a shrine to St Nicholas.

Modern world, ancient traditions
Some psychologists have discussed the "cognitive dissonance" which occurs when children are encouraged to believe in the literal existence of Santa Claus, only to have their parents’ lie revealed when they are older. By so deceiving our children we rob them of a richer heritage, for the actual origin of these ancient rituals is rooted deep in our history and our collective unconscious. By better understanding the truths within these popular celebrations, we can better understand the modern world, and our place in it.

Many people in the modern world have rejected Christmas as being too commercial, claiming that this ritual of giving is actually a celebration of materialism and greed. Yet the true spirit of this winter festival lies not in the exchange of plastic toys, but in celebrating a gift from the earth: the fruiting top of a magical mushroom, and the revelatory experiences it can provide.

Instead of perpetuating outdated and confusing holiday myths, it might be more fulfilling to return to the original source of these seasonal celebrations. How about getting back to basics and enjoying some magical mushrooms with your loved ones this solstice? What better gift can a family share than a little piece of love and enlightenment?

and, more-or-less along the same lines:


snow white and the 3 dorfs is now history. as is usually the case, we finally got all of the kinks worked out of the performance in time for the final performance. personally, i’m ready to do another week or two of performances, because now that we have all the kinks worked out, we can play with it and make it really funny… not that it wasn’t funny to begin with: particularly that place where snow white has been discovered (asleep) by the three dorfs, and she says “all i’ve managed to do is lose myself and giggle uncontrollably” and hungry the dorf says “you haven’t been eating those wild forest mushrooms, have you?”. the suggestion i made to chuckles the jester (aka sasha) was well taken, although he didn’t have the time to learn how to pronounce “abgithetzqwrashamenkegadikeshbamratztaghaqamamamnayaglepzeqsheqiayeth” (which is really the “40-lettered Name of G0d” from the qabala) and wasn’t willing to just “make something up on the spur of the moment”, so he modified it a little, and the line became “her real name is something long and unpronouncable, which is why she’s called snow white”…

the next big production is either the moisture festival or drunk puppet night, but if it’s drunk puppet night it’s going to be very different than it has been in the past, and the moisture festival is only going to be two weeks this year, although it will add another year to the longest-running comedie/varieté show in the world’s record, which will just make it that much harder to beat. the philharmonic has a gig at “nervous nellie’s”, a coffee house in ballard, in january, and supposedly we’re going to have at least one rehearsal before that show. i want to start doing something like the late night cabaret again, but there’s not much hope of talking seanjohn into starting his back up again, and i don’t really have the skill to get it started on my own, which, i gather, was one of seanjohn’s major beefs with the whole thing and a major part of the reason he quit doing it. at the same time, i’ve gotten encouragement from a number of people who can “make it happen”, to put together a fremont philharmonic concert at the jewelbox theatre, and as far as i can tell, it is just a matter of scheduling it during a time when everybody can be there.


120-Year-Old Woman Claims Smoking Pot Everyday Is Her Secret To Long Life
By Komfie Manalo
December 4, 2006

New Delhi, India (AHN) – A 120-year-old woman claims that smoking cannabis every day is her secret to long life.

Fulla Nayak, from India, says she reached the age of 120 by smoking pot and drinking strong palm wine in her hut everyday.

She is living with her 92-year-old daughter and 72-year-old grandson.

Nayak told The Sun newspaper, “I don’t know how I’ve survived so long. Many relatives much younger than me have died.”


for some unknown reason, the CD-ROM on my linux box isn’t responding. df lists an ATAPI compatible disk drive, and /dev/hdc is where it’s located, but when i su and mnt /dev/hdc /mnt/cdrom, it tells me there’s “no media available”, in spite of the fact that i distinctly remember putting media in the drive before doing the mnt command – i even remember closing the drawer – but there’s “no media available”. after looking through the CD-ROM HOWTO, i’m afraid that it’s going to mean recompiling my kernel, which i have never done, and don’t have the first clue about how to go about, before i’ll have access to my CD drive… so it may be a while before i get to play around with ubuntu. 8P


today was a very long day that started at 9:00 in the morning with an hour long interview with some lady drone from social security asking me probing, personal questions: yes, i am applying for SSDI again, even though i’m fairly sure i won’t be approved. ned seems to think that i’ll be approved on appeal, but to get to the appeal process i have to go through the application-and-denial process again – i’ve already been through the application-and-denial process twice, but i didn’t appeal because: 1) the application-and-denial process was intensely degrading and depressing, and 2) i was working at the time and it didn’t matter that much anyway. apparently moe makes too much money for me to be eligible for SSI, the lady assured me of that after having only talked to me for five minutes. it seems really odd that my “reward” for being as recovered as i am is that i can’t find a job because of my injury, but i’m not eligible for disability because i’m not injured enough. it’s even more odd because the people who foist this travesty off on me are intensely proud of the fact that it’s a catch-22. 8/

fortunately – (?) for my state of mind anyway – the day ended up with the first real, complete rehearsal for the “Nelson Sings Nilsson” gig, which is happening on friday. it sounds really good – almost exactly like the CD, which i think is precisely what everybody wants. i am also acutely aware of the fact that this gig is several orders of magnitude above what i am used to playing for in terms of the quality of the musical talent, and the fact that i was chosen to play in it as well says very good things about me, in spite of the depressing stuff that’s going on. i’m only playing on 4 songs, out of 15, so i actually get to watch, as well as perform. then i’ve got saturday and sunday performances with snow white and the three dorfs.

from what i understand, the fremont phil is boycotting the fremont winter feast this year, primarily because stuart’s going to be out of state, but also because the only way to get invited is to be a paid member of the fremont arts council, plus donating $10 worth of material goods per person attending, plus donation of time building the space… it apparently doesn’t matter that we are providing at least part of the entertainment, they want all of the other stuff anyway, or we can’t get invitations… so i don’t know what i’m doing for winter solstice this year, for the first year in a very long time indeed. hopefully moe won’t be working, which she was last year, and we can bring back the sun on our own.


question to nobody in general:

i currently use mandrake 9.1 linux, and am interested in checking out ubuntu, on the recommendation of a number of friends. the only real concern i have is email. i use kmail 1.5.3 on KDE 3.1.3, and i want to transfer all my email messages, filters and folders to whatever linux i upgrade to, and i’m not exactly sure how to do it. can you clue me in?


In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep
Dec 1, 2006
By Bernd Debusmann

muslims praying in lafayette park
Muslim men pray in Lafayette Park near the White House August 12, 2006.

WASHINGTON (Reuters)- When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.

The first caller to the station in Washington said that Klein must be “off his rocker.” The second congratulated him and added: “Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country … they are here to kill us.”

Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver’s licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. “What good is identifying them?” he asked. “You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans.”

At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of “the threat in our midst” would alleviate the public’s fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America.

“I can’t believe any of you are sick enough to have agreed for one second with anything I said,” he told his audience on the AM station 630 WMAL (, which covers Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland

“For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people’s bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver’s license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It’s beyond disgusting.

“Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen … We need to separate them, we need to tattoo their arms, we need to make them wear the yellow Star of David, we need to put them in concentration camps, we basically just need to kill them all because they are dangerous.”

The show aired on November 26, the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and Klein said in an interview afterwards he had been surprised by the response.

“The switchboard went from empty to totally jammed within minutes,” said Klein. “There were plenty of callers angry with me, but there were plenty who agreed.”

Those in agreement are not a fringe minority: A Gallup poll this summer of more than 1,000 Americans showed that 39 percent were in favor of requiring Muslims in the United States, including American citizens, to carry special identification.

Roughly a quarter of those polled said they would not want to live next door to a Muslim and a third thought that Muslims in the United States sympathized with al Qaeda, the extremist group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

A poll carried out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group, found that for one in three Americans, the word Islam triggers negative connotations such as “war,” “hatred” and “terrorist.” The war in Iraq has contributed to such perceptions.

Klein’s show followed a week of heated discussions on talk radio, including his own, and online forums over an incident on November 22 involving six Muslim clerics. They were handcuffed and taken off a US Airways flight after passengers reported “suspicious behavior” that included praying in the departure gate area.

The clerics, on their way to a meeting of the North American Imams Federation, were detained in a holding cell, questioned by police and FBI agents, and released. Muslim community leaders saw the incident as yet more evidence of anti-Muslim prejudice.

Several American Muslims interviewed on the subject of prejudice over the past few weeks said ignorance was at the core of the problem.

“The level of knowledge is very, very low,” said Mohamed Esa, a U.S. Muslim of Arab descent who teaches a course on Islam at McDaniel College in Maryland. “There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world and some people think they are all terrorists.”

Hossam Ahmed, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who occasionally leads prayer meetings for the small Muslim congregation at the Pentagon, agreed. “Ignorance is the number one problem. Education is of the essence.”

There are no hard figures on how many Muslims have been subject to harassment or prejudice and community leaders say that ugly incidents can prompt spontaneous expressions of support. Such as the e-mail a Minneapolis woman sent to CAIR after the imams were taken off their flight.

“I would like to … help,” the e-mail said. “While I cannot offer plane tickets, I would be happy to drive at least 2 or 3 of them. My car is small, but at least some of our hearts in this land of the free are large.”

And optimists saw signs of change in the November 4 election of the first Muslim to the U.S. House of Representatives, which has 435 members.

Democrat Keith Ellison, a 43-year-old African-American lawyer, did not stress his religion during his campaign for a Minnesota seat, but said his victory would “signal to people who are not Muslims that Muslims have a lot to offer to the United States and the improvement of our country.”


i was west seattle, sort of, except that it was sort of like alki beach and the block past the beach, and then, instead of going dramatically uphill, it was all flat. i was with a bunch of people i didn’t know, and we happened on this place which i recognised as a place where a cult was setting up: there were large numbers of ordinarily dressed people taking off their shoes and heading into a back room from this sort of store-front-like building. the people i didn’t know all wanted to go in and see what it was all about, like they didn’t recognise it as a cult headquarters, but i didn’t say anything because i wanted to be polite, even though i was feeling a good deal of trepidation about going in. the cult people told us about their “saviour” (they didn’t use that word, and i’m not exactly sure what word they did use, although it was clear to me that was what they were talking about) who had been an ordinary person who had attained “enlightenment” (again, they didn’t use that word, but it was obvious that was what they were talking about) through a series of mystical experiences with a tree… and they “just happened” to have that very tree out in back. at this point, i was getting vaguely interested, so i agreed to go through their “initiation” (again, not that word, but i knew anyway) so that i could be shown into the presence of the tree. i’m not exactly sure what was involved with the initiation, but i do recall that immediately afterwards, i realised that i had lost my shoes, and spent a long time in the front of the shop, embarrassed, looking through huge piles of shoes, trying to find mine, and then realising that i couldn’t remember which shoes were mine anyway (which is odd, because i have worn the same pair of birkenstocks for almost 25 years), before deciding that this tree was more important than my shoes were at the moment anyway. then i went “out back” with the rest of the people, who somehow disappeared as soon as we were through the door, to find an absolutely enormous tree with flights of stone stairs leading up into the inner branches, and surrounded by five equally enormous indian-style columns, so that the tree and the stairs and the columns were all one big conglomeration that made this enormous tower. i wondered why i hadn’t seen it from outside, but not very much, because at that point i started climbing the stairs, and i realised that this was another “Tree Of Being”, like the one i found on sehome hill in bellingham, a tree that justified the existence of everything else in the universe, and i actually started feeling more at peace, and “enlightened” (whatever that feels like) the further up the stairs i climbed… and when i woke up, i realised that i have forgotten where my tree of being is (i’m sure it’s on sehome hill, somewhere, i just don’t know where any longer), but i still felt very peaceful.

that’s two dreams within a week… something has changed…


in honour of the 13th anniversary of his death, i introduce another frank zappa icon. i still consider him to be the most important composer of music of the entirety of human history. the world has become a scary place since he died, and, were he alive, i’m sure that frank would have something important to say about it, musically if in no other way. we miss you, and we remember you, frank…



moe set up a bird feeder in our yard recently. i’ve been having to refill it every day, because it has been so busy. the little birds, sparrows, chickadees and so forth, are not even scared of me. the bigger birds wait until i’m in the house before they come up, but i get the impression that if i wear my cape, and sit in the same position every day at the same time, i’ll probably be able to get some decent shots of the different kinds of birds we have…


Malachi Ritscher: Burn to Death for Peace
Protestor against war immolates self in Chicago
by Reverend Loveshade
December 1, 2006

Malachi Ritscher, covered in gasoline, set his body on fire by the Kennedy Freeway in Chicago on November 3, 2006. By irony or design, this was near the 25-foot-tall sculpture called “Flame of the Millennium.” Rischer, a musician, poet, anti-war protestor, writer, and general Renaissance man, wrote a letter explaining the self-immolation. I think it deserves to be posted here, and is below.

My actions should be self-explanatory, and since in our self-obsessed culture words seldom match the deed, writing a mission statement would seem questionable. So judge me by my actions. Maybe some will be scared enough to wake from their walking dream state – am I therefore a martyr or terrorist? I would prefer to be thought of as a ‘spiritual warrior’. Our so-called leaders are the real terrorists in the world today, responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden.

I have had a wonderful life, both full and full of wonder. I have experienced love and the joy and heartache of raising a child. I have jumped out of an airplane, and escaped a burning building. I have spent the night in jail, and dropped acid during the sixties. I have been privileged to have met many supremely talented musicians and writers, most of whom were extremely generous and gracious. Even during the hard times, I felt charmed. Even the difficult lessons have been like blessed gifts. When I hear about our young men and women who are sent off to war in the name of God and Country, and who give up their lives for no rational cause at all, my heart is crushed. What has happened to my country? we have become worse than the imagined enemy – killing civilians and calling it ‘collateral damage’, torturing and trampling human rights inside and outside our own borders, violating our own Constitution whenever it seems convenient, lying and stealing right and left, more concerned with sports on television and ring-tones on cell-phones than the future of the world…. half the population is taking medication because they cannot face the daily stress of living in the richest nation in the world.

I too love God and Country, and feel called upon to serve. I can only hope my sacrifice is worth more than those brave lives thrown away when we attacked an Arab nation under the deception of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Our interference completely destroyed that country, and destabilized the entire region. Everyone who pays taxes has blood on their hands.

I have had one previous opportunity to serve my country in a meaningful way – at 8:05 one morning in 2002 I passed Donald Rumsfeld on Delaware Avenue and I was acutely aware that slashing his throat would spare the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people. I had a knife clenched in my hand, and there were no bodyguards visible; to my deep shame I hesitated, and the moment was past.

The violent turmoil initiated by the United States military invasion of Iraq will beget future centuries of slaughter, if the human race lasts that long. First we spit on the United Nations, then we expect them to clean up our mess. Our elected representatives are supposed to find diplomatic and benevolent solutions to these situations. Anyone can lash out and retaliate, that is not leadership or vision. Where is the wisdom and honor of the people we delegate our trust to?

To the rest of the world we are cowards – demanding Iraq to disarm, and after they comply, we attack with remote-control high-tech video-game weapons. And then lie about our reasons for invading. We the people bear complete responsibility for all that will follow, and it won’t be pretty.

It is strange that most if not all of this destruction is instigated by people who claim to believe in God, or Allah. Many sane people turn away from religion, faced with the insanity of the ‘true believers’. There is a lot of confusion: many people think that God is like Santa Claus, rewarding good little girls with presents and punishing bad little boys with lumps of coal; actually God functions more like the Easter Bunny, hiding surprises in plain sight. God does not choose the Lottery numbers, God does not make the weather, God does not endorse military actions by the self-righteous, God does not sit on a cloud listening to your prayers for prosperity. God does not smite anybody. If God watches the sparrow fall, you notice that it continues to drop, even to its death. Face the truth folks, God doesn’t care, that’s not what God is or does. If the human race drives itself to extinction, God will be there for another couple million years, ‘watching’ as a new species rises and falls to replace us. It is time to let go of primitive and magical beliefs, and enter the age of personal responsibility. Not telling others what is right for them, but making our own choices, and accepting consequences.

“Who would Jesus bomb?” This question is primarily addressing a Christian audience, but the same issues face the Muslims and the Jews: God’s message is tolerance and love, not self-righteousness and hatred. Please consider “Thou shalt not kill” and “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”. Not a lot of ambiguity there.

What is God? God is the force of life – the spark of creation. We each carry it within us, we share it with each other. Whether we are conscious of the life-force is a choice we make, every minute of every day. If you choose to ignore it, nothing will happen – you are just ‘less conscious’. Maybe you are less happy (maybe not). Maybe you grow able to tap into the universal force, and increase the creativity in the universe. Love is anti-entropy. Please notice that ‘conscious’ and ‘conscience’ are related concepts.

Why God – what is the value? Whether committee consensus of a benevolent power that works through humans, or giant fungus under Oregon, the value of opening up to the concept of God is in coming to the realization that we are not alone, establishing a connection to the universe, the experience of finding completion. As individuals we may exist alone, but we are all alone together as a people. Faith is the answer to fear. Fear opposes love. To manipulate through fear is a betrayal of trust.

What does God want? No big mystery – simply that we try to help each other. We decide to make God-like decisions, rescuing falling sparrows, or putting the poor things out of their misery. Tolerance, giving, acceptance, forgiveness.

If this sounds a lot like pop psychology, that is my exact goal. Never underestimate the value of a pep-talk and a pat on the ass. That is basically all we give to our brave soldiers heading over to Iraq, and more than they receive when they return. I want to state these ideas in their simplest form, reducing all complexity, because each of us has to find our own answers anyway. Start from here…

I am amazed how many people think they know me, even people who I have never talked with. Many people will think that I should not be able to choose the time and manner of my own death. My position is that I only get one death, I want it to be a good one. Wouldn’t it be better to stand for something or make a statement, rather than a fiery collision with some drunk driver? Are not smokers choosing death by lung cancer? Where is the dignity there? Are not the people the people who disregard the environment killing themselves and future generations? Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade – my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade. There might be some who say “it’s a coward’s way out” – that opinion is so idiotic that it requires no response. From my point of view, I am opening a new door.

What is one more life thrown away in this sad and useless national tragedy? If one death can atone for anything, in any small way, to say to the world: I apologize for what we have done to you, I am ashamed for the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country. I was alive when John F. Kennedy instilled hope into a generation, and I was a sorry witness to the final crushing of hope by Dick Cheney’s puppet, himself a pawn of the real rulers, the financial plunderers and looters who profit from every calamity; following the template of Reagan’s idiocracy.

The upcoming elections are not a solution – our two party system is a failure of democracy. Our government has lost its way since our founders tried to build a structure which allowed people to practice their own beliefs, as far as it did not negatively affect others. In this regard, the separation of church and state needs to be reviewed. This is a large part of the way that the world has gone wrong, the endless defining and dividing of things, micro-sub-categorization, sectarianism. The direction we need is a process of unification, integrating all people into a world body, respecting each individual. Business and industry have more power than ever before, and individuals have less. Clearly, the function of government is to protect the individual, from hardship and disease, from zealots, from the exploitation, from monopoly, even from itself. Our leaders are not wise persons with integrity and vision – they are actors reading from teleprompters, whose highest goal is to stir up the mob. Our country slaughters Arabs, abandons New Orleaneans, and ignores the dieing environment. Our economy is a house of cards, as hollow and fragile as our reputation around the world. We as a nation face the abyss of our own design.

A coalition system which includes a Green Party would be an obvious better approach than our winner-take-all system. Direct electronic debate and balloting would be an improvement over our non-representative congress. Consider that the French people actually have a voice, because they are willing to riot when the government doesn’t listen to them.

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government… ” – Abraham Lincoln

With regard to those few who crossed my path carrying the extreme and unnecessary weight of animosity: they seemed by their efforts to be punishing themselves. As they acted out the misery of their lives it is now difficult to feel anything other than pity for them.

Without fear I go now to God – your future is what you will choose today.


i got a phone call from ezra today. he was wasting time before his performance this evening, and working on a 4½’ square portrait using sticker scraps from his bald man project. he is going to europe in a couple weeks, so i probably won’t get to see him before next year. next year, he’s going to new york to perform something or another, and he has been awarded the merce cunningham scholarship at cornish, so his plan is to meet merce cunnningham while he’s there, which makes me very proud and very jealous at the same time. i want to go to new york to perform – okay, so i’ve already performed at the kennedy center, and i’ve met my share of famous people, but he’s getting to meet one of the preeminent choreographers of the 20th-21st century. it doesn’t matter that that puts one degree of separation between me and merce cunningham, and even less of a degree of separation when you realise that i’m his father. it would be very much like me meeting buckminster fuller or john cage, except that they’re both dead and merce cunningham isn’t.

anyway, we don’t have a snow white performance today, which (i think) is a good thing, since there is also a rehearsal for the “Nelson Sings Nilsson” cd release tonight, which i would probably have to miss if there were. i don’t know whether i’ve written about this before (i have, sort of), but i’m doing it again anyway. harry nilsson is the guy who wrote the incredibly popular songs that were performed by other people such as “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”, “Cuddly Toy” and “Me And My Arrow”, but he also wrote a bunch of other, less well known, but equally awesome songs. sean nelson, the singer for Harvey Danger, decided that he’s releasing a CD of these not-so-well-known songs which is recorded by The Really Big Production Company, which is my friend mark nichols. this involves a 4 piece rock band, a 9 piece big band (for which i am playing tuba), a 24-piece orchestra, backup singers and a childrens’ chorus. we’re performing the entire CD – 14 individual songs, and a medley of 15 other songs – live at Town Hall (scroll down to 8 december, or see sean’s blog), on 8 december – which is quite a feat, considering that i had never met most of these people before a few weeks ago. the actual recording took place in a studio and i recorded the tuba parts listening to a recording over headphones.

Nelson Sings Nilsson

i suppose this is what i do instead of going to europe and new york, and meeting merce cunningham…



Fri, Dec 1st 8pm; Sat Dec 2nd, NO SHOW; Sun, Dec 3rd 4pm;
Fri, Dec 8th 8pm; Sat, Dec 9th 8pm; Sun, Dec 10th 4pm.

Hales Palladium,
4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle, WA 98107

A British Panto , musical comedy for all ages.
An English tradition at Christmas time,
bring out the whole family for this interactive theatre form.

Buy tickets here:


before my injury i had bizarre, vivid dreams sometimes as much as 5 or 6 times a week, but since my injury i haven’t dreamed at all, and have only had a dream that is bizarre and vivid enough that i can remember it upon waking only once or twice. then there was the other night, when i had this very vivid dream that i can’t forget…

i was at the oregon country fair, but it was different: it was surrounded by suburban neighbourhoods, the long tom wasn’t there, and the whole thing was more or less square. i was performing with the fremont philharmonic, and i was travelling with a group of people who were dressed as pirates, and i had a couple of “handguns” that were more like paintball guns – extremely low velocity devices that shot a single ball approximately 2cm in diameter, and then had to be reloaded – except that they looked like they were from the 17th century. we were coming in to the fairgrounds from the surrounding neighbourhood and while we were waiting in line, i “shot” my pistols at a group of people further up in line than where we were, but the velocity of the shot was low enough that the ball actually bounced a couple of times before it got to them. i remember them making some comment about the shot being a “soda roll”. then, when we got to the gate, somebody stopped me and took me aside and explained that, because of the fact that i had “shot” someone, i wasn’t going to be allowed in. i explained to them that i was a member of one of the groups that was performing, and i even showed them my pass. i also explained that the velocity of the “shot” was too low to be a danger to anyone, and mentioned the fact that they had commented about the “soda roll” shots that i had taken. there was a good deal of communication between the guy who had taken me aside and some other person or people who were apparently authorities over the guy who had taken me aside, with me insisting that, 1) i couldn’t possibly have hoped to hurt the people that i shot at because they were so low velocity, and 2) i was a member of a performing group and without me, the performance wouldn’t happen. then, for no very obvious reasons, the guy who had taken me aside said that it was okay, that i could get in anyway, but he told me not to load my pistols again. i couldn’t figure out why he had changed his mind all of a sudden like that, but he assured me that everything was okay and i could continue on my way into the fair, so i took off as quickly as possible before he changed his mind again. i ended up catching up with the other pirates and made it back to wherever it was that we were going, but when it was time to get ready for the performance, i couldn’t find my tuba. after about a half hour of frantically looking for it everywhere, i figured out where i had left it, but instead of being my tuba, it was a completely disassembled brass sousaphone: all of the bows, braces and bits had been removed, cleaned and the dents removed, and everything was organised so that it could be put back together fairly easily, but hadn’t yet been soldered back together. then, somehow, the guy who had taken me aside at the front gate was there, and he explained that this was because of the fact that i had “shot” someone at the front gate. he said that i was welcome to do what i wanted to with the sousaphone, but my (fully assembled) tuba was no longer part of the situation…

which frustrated me enough that i woke up…



two reasons for posting: one is that i’ve finally got examples of the Ganesha The Car postcard online –

Ganesha the postcard
Ganesha the postcard

– and the other is to post some prices for printing in full colour:

BUSINESS CARDS – 2″ x 3.5″
full colour on one side, no printing, printing in one colour or printing in full colour on the other side – 100 cards for $25.00
full colour on one side, no printing or printing in one colour on the other side – 1000 cards for $60.00

POSTCARDS – the examples above, and prices are for 4″ x 6″ postcards, but there are other sizes
full colour on one side, no printing, printing in one colour, or printing in full colour on the other side – 100 cards for $40.00
full colour on one side, no printing on the other – 1000 cards for $80.00
full colour on one side, printing in one colour on the other – 1000 cards for $120.00

other sizes are possible. contact me for further details.


You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing, you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man – either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.


Voodoo practitioner tries to jinx Bush
November 16, 2006

BOGOR, Indonesia – A renowned black magic practitioner performed a voodoo ritual Thursday to jinx President George W. Bush and his entourage while he was on a brief visit to Indonesia.

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and broccoli before drank the “potion” and smeared some on his face.

“I don’t hate Americans, but I don’t like Bush,” said Pamungkas, who believed the ritual would succeed as, “the devil is with me today.”

He said the jinx would sent spirits to posses Secret Service personnel guarding Bush and left them in a trance, leading them into falsely thinking the President was under attack, thus eventually causing chaos in Bogor Presidential Palace, where the American leader was scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday.

Indonesia the world’s most populous Muslim country, however many still practicing animist rituals, including black magic, that predate Islam’s arrival in the archipelago.

“I am doing voodoo, because other ritual would not work,” he told reporters after he conducted the gory ritual about 1 kilometers from the palace.

i question the use of the term “voodoo”, which is a tradition that comes to us from africa by way of the carribean, and not related to the traditions of indonesia in any way… either the person reporting it mistranslated some indonesian term, or the indonesian practitioner himself is severely screwed up.


i have a mac again. i bought a converted G4 “yosemite” (converted from a G3 by the clever use of a sonnet processor card) off of ebay, and it arrived today. i immediately put in the extra 500m of ram from the dead mac, reformatted the 20g hard disk that it came with (which is called “cumquat” now), installed the 6g hard disk from the dead mac, “cucumber”, and, voila, it worked with no further difficulties. i still have no way of getting the stuff off of the former secondary hard disk (“pumpkin”) but theoretically, i can install OsX and use the disk tools that come with it to mount the dead disk, but at this point, i can function again.


Elbow Room No Problem in Heaven
Nine in 10 Americans Believe in Heaven, but a Quarter Say It’s Christians Only
Dec. 20, 2005

Belief in Heaven
  Belief in Heaven If Believe, Think They Will Go If Believe, Spiritual Only
All 89% 85% 78%
Evangelical Protestants 99% 94% 78%
Non-evangelical Protestants 96% 84% 83%
Catholics 96% 84% 84%
Very Religious 98% 90% 75%
Somewhat Religious 96% 86% 77%
Not Religious 72% 77% 81%
Have No Religion 51% NA* NA*
*Sample Too Small

Vast majorities of Americans believe in heaven and think they’re headed there. But elbow room won’t be a problem: About eight in 10 believers envision heaven as a place where people exist only spiritually, not physically.

Eighty-nine percent in this ABC News poll believe in heaven, which is consistent with data going back 30 years. Among believers, 85 percent think they’ll personally go there — mainly in spirit, since 78 percent say it’s a place where people exist only spiritually.

Who gets in is another matter. Among people who believe in heaven, one in four thinks access is limited to Christians. More than a third of Protestants feel that way, and this view peaks at 55 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.

Among all adults, 79 percent are Christians, 14 percent have no religion, and the rest, 5 percent, are non-Christians. Among Christian groups, Catholics account for 21 percent of adults; evangelical Protestants, 19 percent; and non-evangelical Protestants, 13 percent.

There are fewer differences among religious groups on the question of whether heaven is a physical or spiritual place. Belief that it’s a physical place peaks at 22 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.

As noted, people without a religion are the least likely to believe in heaven (51 percent do, 46 percent don’t), followed by people who describe themselves as not religious (72 percent of them do believe, 26 percent don’t). Non-religious people who do believe in heaven are slightly less likely than others to think they’ll personally go there, but it’s a still high 77 percent.

Another way to look at views on heaven is among all Americans, rather than just those who believe in heaven. Among all Americans, 75 percent think they’ll go to heaven. The rest include 5 percent who believe in heaven but don’t think they’ll get there; 9 percent who believe but aren’t sure they’ll get in; and 10 percent who don’t believe in heaven.

Christians View Heaven as Exclusive
Similarly, among all Americans, 21 percent think that only people who are Christians can go to heaven. Among the rest, 60 percent think both Christians and non-Christians can get in, 7 percent are unsure and 10 percent don’t believe.

There’s a difference between the sexes: Eighty percent of women think they’re going to heaven, compared with 69 percent of men. That’s both because men are slightly less apt to believe in heaven in the first place, and among those who do believe, slightly less apt to think they’re headed there.

But it’s religion, again, that seems to be the driving force in the difference between the sexes: Women are 12 points more likely than men to describe themselves as religious, and being religious helps fuel belief in heaven, and the expectation of getting there.


i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach. i was in this prematurely air conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had this kind of fourth-of-july plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and i wasn’t tempted to buy one, but i was reminded of the fact that i had been avoiding the beach…



O’Connor details half-baked attempt to kill Supreme Court
November 17, 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Cookies mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court last year contained enough rat poison to kill all nine justices, retired member Sandra Day O’Connor said at a conference last week.

Barbara Joan March, a 60-year-old Connecticut woman, was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison. She sent 14 threatening letters in April 2005 — each with a baked good or piece of candy laced with rat poison — to a variety of federal officials: the nine Supreme Court justices; FBI Director Robert Mueller; his deputy; the chief of naval operations; the Air Force chief of staff and the chief of staff of the Army.

March pleaded guilty in March to 14 counts of mailing injurious articles.

March’s plea received little public attention until O’Connor discussed it last week.

“Every member of the Supreme Court received a wonderful package of home-baked cookies, and I don’t know why, (but) the staff decided to analyze them,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted O’Connor as saying at the legal conference November 10 in the Dallas area. “Each one contained enough poison to kill the entire membership of the court.”

The letters did not seem to pose much of a real danger since the threatening note told the recipients the food was poisoned. In court papers submitted with the plea agreement, prosecutors said each of the envelopes contained a one-page typewritten letter stating either “I am” or “We are” followed by “going to kill you. This is poisoned.”

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said the poison packages never reached the chambers of the justices.

All mail sent to the court is screened, and there has been heightened security since anthrax-laced letters were sent to members of Congress and the media in 2001. The Supreme Court also received some suspicious packages at the time, forcing it to shut down for a short period of time. Those packages turned out to be harmless.

Authorities said March included fake handwritten signatures of the purported senders of the letters whose names and return addresses were typed both in the body of the letter and on the envelopes.

Prosecutors said the purported senders live throughout the United States, and were connected to March in various ways, including being classmates, a former co-worker and a former roommate.

Prosecutors said handwritten documents recovered in March’s apartment “reflect that she engaged in considerable planning in order to prepare and send the letters,” including making a detailed list of the purported senders and an apparent to-do list.


this country is going the same way germany went between 1920 and 1940… i mean, think about it: what if this guy had been talking about jews or blacks instead of muslims? would he still have a job after this? i think not.

we’ve got to do something about people’s opinions when their job is to speak them in the public arena. first of all because it is their job, and, secondly, because they might succeed in convincing some innocent person that they’re "right", which will only make the problem worse… 8/

CNN’s Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: “[W]hat I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies'”
Nov 15, 2006

On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could “have five minutes here where we’re just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table.” After Ellison agreed, Beck said: “I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ ” Beck added: “I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”

As Media Matters for America has noted, Beck previously warned that if “Muslims and Arabs” don’t “act now” by “step[ping] to the plate” to condemn terrorism, they “will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West” and declared that “Muslims who have sat on your frickin’ hands the whole time” rather than “lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head” will face dire consequences.

From the November 14 edition of CNN Headline News’ Glenn Beck:

BECK: History was made last Tuesday when Democrat Keith Ellison got elected to Congress, representing the great state of Minnesota. Well, not really unusual that Minnesota would elect a Democrat. What is noteworthy is that Keith is the first Muslim in history to be elected to the House of Representatives. He joins us now.

Congratulations, sir.

ELLISON: How you doing, Glenn? Glad to be here.

BECK: Thank you. I will tell you, may I — may we have five minutes here where we’re just politically incorrect and I play the cards face up on the table?

ELLISON: Go there.

BECK: OK. No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I’ve been to mosques. I really don’t believe that Islam is a religion of evil. I — you know, I think it’s being hijacked, quite frankly.

With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, “Let’s cut and run.” And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There’s no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don’t need to — need to prove my patriotic stripes.

BECK: I understand that. And I’m not asking you to. I’m wondering if you see that. You come from a district that is heavily immigrant with Somalians. And I think it’s wonderful, honestly, I think it is really a good sign that you are a — you could be an icon to show Europe, this is the way you integrate into a country. I think the Somalians coming out and voting is a very good thing. With that —

ELLISON: I’d agree with you.

also, from the mouth of the same glenn beck:
"Muslims who have sat on your frickin’ hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets" will be treated to situations that are "Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen"…
"In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West."
Beck characterized letter criticizing Al Qaeda as “surprising,” because “the man who wrote it is a Muslim”


Al-Qaida ‘planted information to encourage US invasion’
By Richard Norton-Taylor
November 17, 2006

A senior al-Qaida operative deliberately planted information to encourage the US to invade Iraq, a double agent who infiltrated the network and spied for western intelligence agencies claimed last night.

The claim was made by Omar Nasiri, a pseudonym for a Moroccan who says he spent seven years working for European security and intelligence agencies, including MI5. He said Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, who ran training camps in Afghanistan, told his US interrogators that al-Qaida had been training Iraqis.

Libi was captured in November 2001 and taken to Egypt where he was allegedly tortured. Asked on BBC2’s Newsnight whether Libi or other jihadists would have told the truth if they were tortured, Nasiri replies: “Never”.

Asked whether he thought Libi had deliberately planted information to get the US to fight Iraq, Nasiri said: “Exactly”.

Nasiri said Libi “needed the conflict in Iraq because months before I heard him telling us when a question was asked in the mosque after the prayer in the evening, where is the best country to fight the jihad?” Libi said Iraq was chosen because it was the “weakest” Muslim country.

It is known that under interrogation, Libi misled Washington. His claims were seized on by George Bush, vice-president, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell, secretary of state, in his address to the security council in February, 2003, which argued the case for a pre-emptive war against Iraq.

Though he did not name Libi, Mr Powell said “a senior terrorist operative” who “was responsible for one of al-Qaida’s training camps in Afghanistan” had told US agencies that Saddam Hussein had offered to train al-Qaida in the use of “chemical or biological weapons”.

What is new, if Nasiri is to be believed, is that the leading al-Qaida operative wanted to overthrow Saddam and use Iraq as a jihadist base. Nasiri also says that part of al-Qaida training was to withstand interrogation and provide false information.

Nasiri said last night he was later sent to London by his French handlers to infiltrate Finsbury Park mosque and spy on its imam, Abu Hamza, as well as another radical cleric, Abu Qatada.

He said MI5 and French intelligence were watching the two clerics in London from as far back as 1997. He said he told them that Abu Hamza was carrying out combat training and how he listened into conversations relaying messages between Abu Qatada and the training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“At the time we didn’t think that the growing threat from al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden was sufficient to put more resources on it,” Bob Milton, a Metropolitan police special branch officer, told Newsnight. “We were monitoring what he was doing, certainly working with the US and European colleagues to do that. But at that time we were still unsure what the threat would be,” he said.

Abu Hamza was charged in 2003 and convicted this year for incitement to murder and race hate crimes.


Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won’t Call Them Hungry
By Elizabeth Williamson
November 16, 2006

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience “very low food security.”

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans’ access to food, and it has consistently used the word “hunger” to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.


Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said “hungry” is “not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey.” Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, “We don’t have a measure of that condition.”

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans — 35 million people — could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined “very low food security” to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.

Less vexing has been the effort to fix the way hunger is described. Three years ago, the USDA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies “to ensure that the measurement methods USDA uses to assess households’ access — or lack of access — to adequate food and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound.”

Among several recommendations, the panel suggested that the USDA scrap the word hunger, which “should refer to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.”

To measure hunger, the USDA determined, the government would have to ask individual people whether “lack of eating led to these more severe conditions,” as opposed to asking who can afford to keep food in the house, Nord said.

It is not likely that USDA economists will tackle measuring individual hunger. “Hunger is clearly an important issue,” Nord said. “But lacking a widespread consensus on what the word ‘hunger’ should refer to, it’s difficult for research to shed meaningful light on it.”

Anti-hunger advocates say the new words sugarcoat a national shame. “The proposal to remove the word ‘hunger’ from our official reports is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy group. “We . . . cannot hide the reality of hunger among our citizens.”

In assembling its report, the USDA divides Americans into groups with “food security” and those with “food insecurity,” who cannot always afford to keep food on the table. Under the old lexicon, that group — 11 percent of American households last year — was categorized into “food insecurity without hunger,” meaning people who ate, though sometimes not well, and “food insecurity with hunger,” for those who sometimes had no food.

That last group now forms the category “very low food security,” described as experiencing “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” Slightly better-off people who aren’t always sure where their next meal is coming from are labeled “low food security.”

That 35 million people in this wealthy nation feel insecure about their next meal can be hard to believe, even in the highest circles. In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the annual USDA report — which consistently finds his home state one of the hungriest in the nation — was fabricated.

“I’m sure there are some people in my state who are hungry,” Bush said. “I don’t believe 5 percent are hungry.”

Bush said he believed that the statistics were aimed at his candidacy. “Yeah, I’m surprised a report floats out of Washington when I’m running a presidential campaign,” he said.

The agency usually releases the report in the fall, for reasons that “have nothing to do with politics,” Nord said.

This year, when the report failed to appear in October as it usually does, Democrats accused the Bush administration of delaying its release until after the midterm elections. Nord denied the contention, saying, “This is a schedule that was set several months ago.”

U.S. sees reinvigorated al Qaeda in South Asia
By David Morgan
Nov 15, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda is reinvigorating its operations from havens on the Afghan-Pakistani border and poses a growing challenge to U.S. interests in both
Iraq and Afghanistan, American intelligence officials said on Wednesday.

Five years after the September 11 attacks and the fall of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the network led by Osama bin Laden has replaced leaders killed or captured by the United States and its allies with new seasoned militants.

“It has shown resilience,” CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The loss of a series of Al Qaeda leaders since 9/11 has been substantial. But it’s also been mitigated by what is, frankly, a pretty deep bench of low-ranking personnel capable of stepping up to assume leadership positions,” Hayden said.

“These new leaders average over 40 years of age and two decades of involvement in global jihadism.”

Hayden was testifying at a Senate hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan along with Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

Sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq, and increasing attacks by al Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, worry lawmakers about the direction of U.S. policy in the Middle East and South Asia.

Also of growing concern is al Qaeda’s seeming ability to inspire home-grown cells in Western countries including Britain, where authorities thwarted an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound trans-Atlantic airliners in August.


Hayden said bin Laden and his second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, believed holed up on the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, have been able to maintain al Qaeda’s cohesion from a viable safe haven.

“That safe haven gives them the physical and even psychological space they need to meet, train, plan, prepare new attacks,” said Hayden, a four-star Air Force general.

“Without a fundamental comprehensive change in the permissiveness of the border region, al Qaeda will remain a dangerous threat to security in Afghanistan and to U.S. interests around the globe,” Maples told lawmakers.

Despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, the two intelligence officials said the group remained a leading actor in that country’s sectarian violence, which was likely only to increase.

Hayden blamed al Qaeda for spreading “almost satanic terror” among Shi’ite groups whose militias have greatly escalated the violence in Iraq.

A purported audio recording by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the current al Qaeda leader in Iraq, last week taunted the Bush administration and threatened to blow up the White House.

Hayden claimed success at dismantling the hierarchy that orchestrated the September 11 attacks, but said Washington only partly understands links between regional militant groups and al Qaeda and is just beginning to dissect al Qaeda’s effect on so-called home-grown cells inspired by its rhetoric.

“That’s ultimately the war winner: how do you understand the ‘inspired by’ al Qaeda,” he said. “You don’t see the movement of people or money or supplies. You see the movement of ideas.”

the united states is becoming a “third world country” and all the republicans can do is gripe about a supposed threat from osama bin laden, who they, themselves, cancelled the hunt for back in july… it’s well past time for this country to grow up and stop acting a spoiled brat… 8/

Dalai Lama wants Saddam spared
Nov 12, 2006

TOKYO (AFP) – Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has appealed for Saddam Hussein’s life to be spared, saying the deposed Iraqi president was not beyond redemption.

“The death penalty is said to fulfill a preventive function, yet it is clearly a form of revenge,” the Nobel peace laureate told reporters as he ended a two-week visit to Japan.

“However horrible an act a person may have committed, everyone has the potential to improve and correct himself,” he said.

“I hope that in the case of Saddam Hussein, as with all others, that human life will be respected and spared.”

An Iraqi court sentenced Saddam, ousted in a US-led invasion in 2003, to hang on November 5 for the deaths of 148 Shiites in an Iraqi village in 1982, after an attempt to assassinate him.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expected Saddam to be hanged before the end of the year.

The Dalai Lama has been critical of the US-led invasion of Iraq despite his relationship with US President George W. Bush, who has met with him in defiance of China.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, accuses the Buddhist monk of being a “splittist” and opposes his frequent travels overseas.

The Dalai Lama has said he was seeking greater autonomy for the Himalayan region within China and opposed all forms of violence. He fled into exile in India in 1959.


i sent out an order for 1000 postcards today from my customer who had her order ready. i’m still waiting to hear from one other person about artwork (he’s an “art-car-tist”, which probably means that i shouldn’t hold my breath), and i’ve also got a tentative order for the ballard sedentary sousa band, when they get their shit together… but then again, they haven’t gotten their shit together to figure out if they’re going to order T-shirts or not, so i’m not holding my breath. my new computer shipped out from pennsylvania yesterday, and it should arrive here next tuesday. i should be getting a shipment of incense in real soon as well… like today or tomorrow.


this was emailed to me by a very old friend. it may be is probably is unashamedly not safe for a “work” environment, but since i am not in a work environment, i say stick it!


Baghdad’s morgues so full, bodies being turned away
November 12, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Baghdad’s morgues are full.

With no space to store bodies, some victims of the sectarian slaughter are not being kept for relatives to claim, but photographed, numbered and quickly interred in government cemeteries.

Men fearful of an anonymous burial are tattooing their thighs with names and phone numbers.

In October, a particularly bloody month for Iraqi civilians, about 1,600 bodies were turned in at the Baghdad central morgue, said its director, Dr. Abdul-Razaq al-Obaidi.

The city’s network of morgues, built to hold 130 bodies at most, now holds more than 500, he says.(Watch latest carnage and chaos in Baghdad.

Bodies are sent for burial every three or four days just to make room for the daily intake, sometimes making corpse identification impossible.

“We can’t remove all the bodies just so that one can be identified and then put them all back in again,” al-Obaidi said. “We simply don’t have the staff.”

Al-Obaidi said the daily crush of relatives is an emotional and logistical burden.

“Every day, there are crowds of women outside weeping, yelling and flailing in grief. They’re all looking for their dead sons and I don’t know how the computer or we will bear up,” he said.

While no one knows how many Iraqis have died, daily tallies of violent deaths by The Associated Press average nearly 45 a day. About half of them are unidentified bodies discovered on city streets or floating in the Tigris River.

The United Nations estimates about 100 violent deaths daily. The Iraqi health minister last week put civilian deaths over the entire 44 months since the U.S. invasion at about 150,000 — close to the U.N. figure and about three times the previously accepted estimates of 45,000 to 50,000.

In morgues across Iraq where capacity stretches beyond thin, bodies are even being turned away.

“We have to reject them,” Hadi al-Itabi of the morgue in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, said he told men who turned in the bodies of six slain border policeman last week. “We just don’t have enough cold storage.”

Iraq’s bureaucracy of death is overwhelmed.

The task of identifying and interring bodies is all the more difficult because of the clandestine nature of the killings: Increasingly, Iraqis are being killed far from home and in secret, the victims of kidnappers and sectarian death squads.

With nowhere else to look when a friend or loved-one goes missing, family members first check the local morgue.

Abbas Beyat’s joined the line outside Baghdad’s central morgue after his brother Hussein disappeared a month ago while driving through the mainly Sunni town of Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad.

The family had already paid a $60,000 ransom to an intermediary who then disappeared with the money.

“There were three piles, each with about 20 bodies,” Beyat, 56, said, describing the scene inside the morgue.

“The clerk told me to dig through them until I found my brother. I had to lift them off until I found him,” he said. Like many of those abducted, Hussein Beyet bore the marks of torture, with holes from an electrical drill visible in his skull, Beyat said.

Others never find their loved ones’ bodies at all.

The fear of leaving the bereaved without a corpse to bury is so strong that some Iraqi men now tattoo their names, phone numbers and other identifying information on their upper thighs, despite Islam’s strict disapproval against such practices.

On the day he turned away the border policemen’s bodies, Al-Itabi said Kut’s morgue had already buried 15 unidentified corpses pulled from the Tigris River, all of them bound, bullet-riddled, and heavily decomposed.

The government cemetery in Kut, opened on September 24, already holds the graves of 135 unidentified victims.

Hundreds of such bodies have been fished ashore at the town of Suwayrah where they are snagged in nets stretched across the Tigris to prevent river weed spreading into the surrounding canal network.

Most of the dead are mutilated by torture, a practice common on all sides, but especially prevalent among Shiite murder gangs that have snatched thousands of Sunnis from their homes and neighborhoods since the February 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

Health Ministry officials are discussing how to handle the overflow of bodies. One proposal under consideration is the use of refrigerated trucks, manned by staff entrusted specifically to help identify bodies.

“That would solve a big problem for us,” al-Obaidi said.

With government unable to handle the load, the task of burial usually falls to Islamic charities and other social groups that rely on public donations.

One of the biggest, the organization of powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has buried more than 3,000 unidentified bodies outside the southern holy city of Karbala since September 1, according to an al-Sadr aide, Raad al-Karbalaie.

Trucks from the capital arrive several times a month carrying loads of 50 or more bodies each, each says.

“They’ve already been photographed and have numbers attached, so hopefully the families can identify them someday,” al-Obaidi said. “Then they’re free to exhume them for reburial.”

Mosques affiliated with the organization take up special collections at Friday prayers to fund the burials, while the men who inter them donate their time and labor, he said.

Um Amir’s trip to the Baghdad morgue came too late.

One month after her brother Adnan Hussein disappeared while selling plastic sacks in western Baghdad’s Bayaa neighborhood, the 56-year-old Sunni housewife identified him from a picture stored on the Baghdad morgue’s computer.

“The clerk told me he had already been buried,” Amir said. “They needed the space for new bodies.”


i have bought a "new to me" mac, which is actually almost exactly the same as my old, dead mac. it’s good because it means that i can transfer all of my graphic files and stuff directly from one computer to another without having to do anything more than add the old hard disk to the new machine. i may have to reinstall the system on the new machine, and i may have to switch the old hard disk from being "master" to being "slave", neither of those things will take very long at all, and i should have a functioning mac in a very short period of time… which is very good because i’ve already got two "thinking about it" customers who are still coming up with artwork, and 1 "for sure" customer who is sending me a CD with an indesign file, which i can’t open on either windows or linux, and a TIFF which she is apparently too dim to convert to an EPS file herself (but is a simple matter of "save as" with photoshop, which i don’t think she has). hopefully the files she’s sending are the correct resolution… she said “assume the printer can deal w/” indesign files, and that “know all the printers I’ve dealt w/ in the past use Indesign.” which indicates to me that she hasn’t dealt with too many printers outside of the seattle area, but i know for a fact that the wholesale 4 colour printer i’m using deals with .jpg or .eps files only and won’t even look at an indesign file without an $80 "typesetting" fee, to keep costs down… hopefully i’ve got whatever font it is that she’s using, although she sent me a .pdf of both sides, and i might be able to get that to work if nothing else will.


at 7:20 this evening i got a UPS delivery from 4-over, which is a trade printing company that does really high quality 4-colour printing for very cheap prices. the package i received contained two hundred 4×6 postcards, 4 colour on one side and one colour (black) on the other side, and i only had to pay $44 for them… around $20 for 100 cards. if i had wanted to get a larger run, i could have gotten 1000 for around $60, but i wanted to make sure that the printing quality was okay before i jumped in with both feet.

and they arrived just in time for World Art Car Day, which happens tomorrow. i’ll probably have representative pictures to post…

anybody need printing done? i’m the guy to talk to… 8)


i was just accosted at my front door by two gentlemen in suits and black trench coats who tried to convert me to jehovah’s witless-ism… they ignored the hanuman head that’s hanging at eye-level next to the door, they ignored the “NO SOLICITORS OF RELIGION” sign that is also posted at eye-level on the door, and our house is at the end of a gravel road, on which we are the only house… you would think that, since they were on foot, they wouldn’t bother… unless they had an ulterior motive or a specific request to visit me. 8/

after listening to the first part of their obvious conversion script, i told them that we are hindu, and intend to stay that way, and watched, giggling, as they trudged back down the road in the rain… hopefully that will be enough to convince them not to come back.



Bush Approval Ratings
Bush’s approval ratings from 2001 to 2005 as reported by the BBC
Bush Hypothetical Approval Ratings
Bush’s hypothetical approval ratings over the same period if 9/11 hadn’t happened

Bush diminished as world leader
8 November 2006
By Paul Reynolds

The mid-term elections have left President Bush diminished as a world leader.

The word abroad will be that George Bush is on the defensive and has taken a knock. Enemies will be encouraged. Friends will take cover.

To his own publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Iraq has been added voter dissatisfaction with him.

His party is even in danger of losing the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.

As Oscar Wilde might have put it: “To lose one House may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.”

Mr Bush will have to find a way to stop the slow strangulation that Iraq is now exercising on him and his party.

What now for US foreign policy?
And the question being asked now is whether the days of major US foreign policy interventions under this president are over.

Will the United States now conclude that the problems in Iraq and the lack of domestic support for them require a purely diplomatic approach, for example towards Iran and North Korea?

And above all, what will this mean for policy in Iraq itself, the root of his woes?

Vice President Cheney dismissed the election results in advance with a statement that policy in Iraq would go “full speed ahead”.

One should not underestimate George Bush’s determination. He has said proudly that he will stay the course in Iraq even if his wife and dog end up as his only supporters.

And it is the case that since the president controls foreign policy, he need not change course because of cries from the voters.

But he himself has spoken of the need for re-assessment and everyone is waiting for the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group under his father’s secretary of state James Baker. It is likely to report before the end of the year.

Not that the presidential options are many. Even before the election he laid down that the Iraqi government itself must do more, both politically and militarily, to go on justifying American support. That has to be given time to work through.

If there is any comfort in the Democratic party’s successes for Mr Bush, it is that his opponents really have no more idea of what to do in Iraq than he has.

Their constant call is to “change course” but nobody has explained what that means. They cannot, because they do not know.

The American Century
During his first term President Bush bestrode the world like a colossus.

He drew inspiration from the principles of the Project for the New American Century, drawn up in 1997. Among the signatories were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

It asked: “Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests?”

The 9/11 attacks and the “war on terror” he declared in a speech soon afterwards allowed him to use the instruments of US power and diplomacy to topple the Taleban and gather support from around the world.

Then there was the “Forward Strategy of Freedom” announced in November 2003, for democracy in the Middle East. “Promoting democracy and freedom in the Middle East will be a massive and difficult undertaking, but it is worthy of America’s effort and sacrifice, ” he said.

Iraq and the disastrous course of events between Israel and its neighbours have lowered expectations for all that.

And now the mid-term elections, which the Republicans thought earlier this year they had in the bag have confirmed that criticism from fellow Americans has caught up with criticism from around the world.

and yet…

Pelosi: Bush Impeachment `Off the Table’
November 8, 2006
By Susan Ferrechio

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi promised Wednesday that when her party takes over, the new majority will not attempt to remove President Bush from office, despite earlier pledges to the contrary from others in the caucus.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a news conference.

Pelosi also said Democrats, despite complaining about years of unfair treatment by the majority GOP, “are not about getting even” with Republicans.

She said the GOP, which frequently excluded Democrats from conference committee hearings and often blocked attempts to introduce amendments, would not suffer similar treatment.

“Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we pledge partnerships with Congress and the Republicans in Congress, and the president — not partisanship.”

She also extended an olive branch to Bush on the war in Iraq, saying she plans to work with him on a new plan but will not support the current strategy and supports beginning redeployment of troops by the end of the year.

Pelosi also said she supports the idea of a bipartisan summit on the war.

“We know, ‘stay the course,’ is not the way,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she received a brief, early-morning call from Bush, who invited her to lunch on Thursday.

“We both expressed our wish to work in a bipartisan way for the benefit of the American people.”

A handful of Democratic lawmakers who are considered top Pelosi lieutenants said after the news conference that they believe she will be able to keep their traditionally diverse caucus united, despite an influx of new, more moderate Democrats.

“She will force a synergistic union,” of the caucus, said Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman John B. Larson of Connecticut.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said the election has sent a message to Democrats that will foster a sense of unity even among those who agree the least.

But the party must still complete potentially contentious leadership elections before any of that work can begin.

Pelosi was unwilling to discuss those elections Wednesday, saying the votes for all the House seats have not been counted.

“There are people who have ambitions,” Lofgren acknowledged. “A majority of the Democratic members have never served in the majority. There is a lot of pent-up ambition to do something.”


You scored as Stephen Hawking.

While the functions of gravity are sure to raise your spirits, in terms of physicality they always let you down, as you are quite lame.

You are the type of person that develops ground-breaking theories in the realm of science, but you will take them back, and this will displease the church.

Given that you speak through a computerized voice box and are incapable of natural body movement, you are akin to a repulsive bio-tech mutation straight out of Total Recall, but on the plus side, your gifted intellect makes you quite the formidable opponent in games like Chess and Starcraft.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Dante Alighieri
C.G. Jung
Jesus Christ
Friedrich Nietzsche
Charles Manson
Elvis Presley
Sigmund Freud
Mother Teresa
Adolf Hitler
Miyamoto Musashi
Steven Morrissey
Hugh Hefner
O.J. Simpson
What Pseudo Historical Figure Best Suits You?
created with


my mac is now totally dead: recently the auxiliary hard disk died, but the main hard disk was, apparently, okay and, using my network and the hard disk on my laptop as a “stop gap” i was able to struggle and get by… but now nothing shows on the video, and, because of the fact that it’s an “obsolete” machine (which is to say, it’s a G3 running Os9), nobody will look at it to find out what’s wrong. 8(

i just spent the whole day re-organising my “office” to account for the “obsolete” computer moving out. if i get a web site update that contains photos, i’m going to have to do the photo manipulation on moe’s computer, but if i get an incense order, i’m screwed. hopefully i will have figured out a way around this difficulty before it becomes pressing… 8(


Evangelical leader says he bought meth
November 3, 2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Rev. Ted Haggard admitted Friday he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a male prostitute. But the influential Christian evangelist insisted he threw the drugs away and never had sex with the man.

Haggard, who as president of the National Association of Evangelicals wielded influence on Capitol Hill and condemned both gay marriage and homosexuality, resigned on Thursday after a Denver man named Mike Jones claimed that he had many drug-fueled trysts with Haggard.

On Friday, Haggard said that he received a massage from Jones after being referred to him by a Denver hotel, and that he bought meth for himself from the man.

But Haggard said he never had sex with Jones. And as for the drugs, “I was tempted, but I never used it,” the 50-year-old Haggard told reporters from his vehicle while leaving his home with his wife and three of his five children.

Jones, 49, denied selling meth to Haggard. “Never,” he told MSNBC. Haggard “met someone else that I had hooked him up with to buy it.”

Jones also scoffed at the idea that a hotel would have sent Haggard to him.

“No concierge in Denver would have referred me,” he said. He said he had advertised himself as an escort only in gay publications or on gay Web sites.

Jones did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press on Friday.

In addition to resigning his post at the NAE, which claims 30 million members, Haggard stepped aside as leader of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending a church investigation. In a TV interview this week, he said: “Never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I’m steady with my wife, I’m faithful to my wife.”

In Denver, where Jones said his encounters with Haggard took place, police Detective Virginia Quinones said she was checking into whether the alleged drug deal was under investigation.

Jones claims Haggard paid him for sex nearly every month for three years until August. He said Haggard identified himself as “Art.” Jones said that he learned who Haggard really was when he saw the evangelical leader on television.

Jones said he went public with the allegations because Haggard has supported a measure on Tuesday’s ballot that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Jones said he was also angry that Haggard in public condemned gay sex.

Haggard, who had been president since 2003 of the NAE, has participated in conservative Christian leaders’ conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied members of Congress last year on U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said Friday that Haggard had visited the White House once or twice and participated in some of the conference calls. He declined to comment further, calling the matter a personal issue for Haggard.

Corwin Smidt, a political scientist at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and director of the Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics there, said that Haggard’s role with the association gave him some political clout, but that the group’s focus is more on religion than political activism.

“It isn’t necessarily that all evangelicals are paying close attention to what he’s saying and doing, but he is an important leader,” Smidt said.

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, an influential conservative Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, said he was “heartsick” over the allegations. He described Haggard as his close friend and colleague.

Aaron Stern, another pastor at New Life, told Associated Press Television News on Friday that Haggard is a man of integrity and that church members don’t know whether to believe the allegations.

Stern said he has been telling church members seeking his advice: “People do things we don’t expect them to do, but in the midst of all of that our God is faithful, our God is strong.”

Jones took a lie-detector test Friday, and his answers to questions about whether he had sexual contact with Haggard “indicated deception,” said John Kresnick, who administered the test free at the request of a Denver radio station.

Jones told reporters afterward: “I am confused why I failed that, other than the fact that I’m totally exhausted.”


US Citizens to be Required "Clearance" to Leave USA
October 26, 2006

Forget no-fly lists. If Uncle Sam gets its way, beginning on Jan. 14, 2007, we’ll all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave-or re-enter-the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSA) has proposed that all airlines, cruise lines-even fishing boats-be required to obtain clearance for each passenger they propose taking into or out of the United States.

It doesn’t matter if you have a U.S. Passport – a “travel document” that now, absent a court order to the contrary, gives you a virtually unqualified right to enter or leave the United States, any time you want. When the DHS system comes into effect next January, if the agency says “no” to a clearance request, or doesn’t answer the request at all, you won’t be permitted to enter-or leave-the United States.

Consider what might happen if you’re a U.S. passport holder on assignment in a country like Saudi Arabia. Your visa is about to expire, so you board your flight back to the United States. But wait! You can’t get on, because you don’t have permission from the HSA. Saudi immigration officials are on hand to escort you to a squalid detention center, where you and others who are now effectively “stateless persons” are detained, potentially indefinitely, until their immigration status is sorted out.

Why might the HSA deny you permission to leave-or enter-the United States? No one knows, because the entire clearance procedure would be an administrative determination made secretly, with no right of appeal. Naturally, the decision would be made without a warrant, without probable cause and without even any particular degree of suspicion. Basically, if the HSA decides it doesn’t like you, you’re a prisoner – either outside, or inside, the United States, whether or not you hold a U.S. passport.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized there is a constitutional right to travel internationally. Indeed, it has declared that the right to travel is “a virtually unconditional personal right.” The United States has also signed treaties guaranteeing “freedom of travel.” So if these regulations do go into effect, you can expect a lengthy court battle, both nationally and internationally.

Think this can’t happen? Think again. It’s ALREADY happening. Earlier this year, HSA forbade airlines from transporting an 18-year-old a native-born U.S. citizen, back to the United States. The prohibition lasted nearly six months until it was finally lifted a few weeks ago. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are two countries in recent history that didn’t allow their citizens to travel abroad without permission. If these regulations go into effect, you can add the United States to this list.

For more information on this proposed regulation, see

Bush bigger threat than Kim Jong-il
by Julian Glover
November 4, 2006

AMERICA is seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published yesterday.

The survey shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than North Korean leader Kim Jong-il or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by Mr Bush as part of an “axis of evil” but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

The survey was carried out by The Guardian in Britain and newspapers in Israel ( Haaretz), Canada ( La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico ( Reforma), using professional pollsters in each country.

In Britain, 69 per cent of those questioned said they believed US policy has made the world less safe since 2001. Only 7 per cent thought action in Iraq and Afghanistan had improved global security.

The finding was mirrored in Canada and Mexico, with 62 per cent of Canadians and 57 per cent of Mexicans saying the world had become more dangerous because of US policy. In Israel, only one in four said that Mr Bush had made the world safer. Voters in three of the four countries overwhelmingly rejected the decision to invade Iraq, with only Israeli voters in favour, 59 per cent to 34 per cent against.


Former Agent Says Google and CIA in Partnership
Marcus Yam
October 31, 2006

Is Google’s quest to manage the world’s information leading straight to the CIA?

Former CIA clandestine case officer Robert David Steele made some very hot comments on his appearance on the Alex Jones radio show. Steele cites his contacts within the agency with the information that Google and the CIA are involved with one another.

Steele said, “I think that Google has made a very important strategic mistake in dealing with the secret elements of the U.S. government – that is a huge mistake and I’m hoping they’ll work their way out of it and basically cut that relationship off.”

In reference to Google’s fight against the U.S. Department of Justice for the privacy of its users, Steele claims that it was an elaborate charade intended for the public eye.

“Google was a little hypocritical when they were refusing to honor a Department of Justice request for information because they were heavily in bed with the Central Intelligence Agency, the office of research and development,” concluded Steele.

From reports, Steele did not bring evidence to light in order to back up his claims, and neither Google nor the CIA are yet commenting on the matter.