Saturday, January 26, 2008

Scumbags of the Week

Scumbag Senators who Voted To Let Government Spies Snoop on Americans Without Warrant or Oversight:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Norman Coleman (R-MN)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Larry Craig (R-ID)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Pete Domenici (R-NM)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Charles Hagel (R-NE)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Joseph Lieberman (Me, Myself and I-CT)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
John D. Rockefeller the Fourth, Esquire (D-WV)
Ken Salazar (D-CO)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
John Sununu (R-NH)
John Thune (R-SD)
David Vitter (R-LA)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
John Warner (R-VA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Non-Scumbag Senators who voted for constitutional standards and the rule of law in surveillance

Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Joseph Biden (D-DE)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Robert Casey (D-PA)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
James Webb (D-VA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Major Scumbag Senators who couldn't be bothered to show up and vote

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (promised to oppose immunity provision, but didn't)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Barack Obama (D-IL) (promised to oppose immunity provision, but didn't)

Here's a weekend task:

1. Find the Senators from your state, and click through the link to find information on how to contact them.

2. Do it. Make that phone call.

3. Congratulate or berate your Senators (as appropriate) for their vote yesterday. Let them know that you're aware of the constitutional issues involved.

4. Tell them you're aware that there will be a vote on "cloture" (stopping debate and moving on to a vote) for the Intelligence Committee version of the FISA Amendments Act. Ask them to vote to continue debate on the bill. Ask them further to support Senator Christopher Dodd's filibuster of the bill, if it should come to that.

5. Tell them you're a registered voter and that you'll be writing a letter to the editor about their conduct next week, either to congratulate or to berate depending on their conduct.

- From Irregular Times -

Friday, January 25, 2008

How to Cheat

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The World's Largest Prison Break

Mutant super-cockroaches from space

"It's nice to see that one of the staple plot devices of science fiction is actually true. Apparently, a trip to space can give you superpowers; at least if you're a cockroach.

"According to Russian news agency Novosti, baby cockroaches conceived aboard a satellite in September have apparently grown up to be faster and tougher than their terrestrial brethren.

"The first creatures ever conceived in space also grew more quickly than ordinary Earth-bred cockroaches.

"Could these positive effects be due somehow to the effectively weightless environment during conception, or to a healthy dose of radiation?

"The report does not reveal whether any of the 33 new super-roaches have yet attempted to destroy the Earth, or taken to writing free verse.

"Nor are we told any details of how the conception took place, but perhaps it's a good thing that the world is denied a full account of free-fall cockroach sex."

- Stephen Battersby: Mutant super-cockroaches from space -

St. Pinocchio Memorial - Where politicians go for career health care

Robert Caldwell arrived and hastily took a seat with his new support group just as the testimonial phase got underway. "My name is Cindy Mathews and I'm a councilwoman from Des Moines," began the pleasant looking young woman at the podium, "and I'm also suffering from a rare strain of the politically life threatening disease known as, An Inability to Lie or Deny."
The room went silent for quite some time, aside from those, that is, who upon hearing the news were moved to weep openly.

"She's so young!" blubbered a visibly shaken female senator, whose Kleenex was rapidly turning mascara saturated purple.

"But wait, there's good news!" added miss Mathews, causing the crowd to immediately perk-up in their seats. "Thanks to Dr. Burns and the staff here at Pinocchio Memorial, I'm happy to say that my disease is now in full remission!"

- D.W. Steep: St. Pinocchio Memorial - Where politicians go for career health care -

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger's Video of Ben Harper's "Morning Yearning"

Mazel tov! Israel provides medical marijuana.

The medical use of marijuana is legal for licensed patients in Israel, but only recently has the Health Ministry begun to provide pot at one clinic in Tel Aviv.
Patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and Crohn's disease can purchase Israeli-grown cannabis at the clinic. On patient called it "a blessing."
The Israel Cancer Association is considering offering information about medijuana's beneficial effects on its website.
Israel has long been ahead of the marijuana curve. In 1964, Dr. Habib Edery and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered THC.

- From Celebstoner -

Free Speech Zone #3: Free Cloverfield

My favorite scene in Cloverfield is the one where the guy with the video camera wanders into a Cineplex where Cloverfield is playing and makes an illegal copy of the film which he posts to the internet so people can see a shaky video version of a shaky video version of a monster movie that deconstructs monster movies to such an extent it virtually contains not one single cliché of the genre, a film made by elimination, that refuses to show you what you want to see because the guy with the camera is much more interested in the girl than the monster, so it's in fact a doomed love story with a monster in the background. Critics are lambasting the film for using imagery right out of 9/11, buildings falling down in New York City, without actually making any sort of comment on the event itself, but they don't seem to get the concept of deconstruction. It's exactly like 9/11. The terrorist is a monster that is never explained, the official story is certainly a sham, we'll never know what really happened because all we've got are video remnants picked up by future archeologists who have to piece together the event through the eyes of observers with something else on their mind. And it will certainly be used as an excuse to start a "war on monsters" in Cloverfield II. Like your standard terrorist cell, you never see the whole monster, just bits and pieces, but artists are posting their versions of what they think it looks like here. Hasbro's coming out with a $100 toy of the monster but it's not bin Laden, it's a hideous multi-limbed beast with a lot of teeth, more like al Qaeda, perfect for placing under the Christmas tree so your kids can play with it, pretending to be terrorists themselves, knocking down New York with sound effects in their heads, every viewer a new al Qaeda cell, ready to inflict meaningless damage on whatever's nearby in the name of amusement. Yeah, it's food for thought because, not despite, what's left out of the film. See it but don't pay for it. Use this torrent. That's what a real terrorist would do.

If you're new to this, you'll need a bittorrent program and a player.

T-Shirt of the Week

Order from T-Shirt Hell

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Don't Take My Word for It

"The spiritual path ruins the body, but subsequently restores it to health. It ruins the house to reveal the treasure, and with that treasure it builds better than before."
- Rumi: Mathnawi -

"While Judaism in its entirety is for the Jew, its creed and its ethics are for mankind."
- Morris Joseph: Judaism as Creed and Life -

"Forming a new world religion is difficult and not particularly desirable. However, in that love is essential to all religions, one could speak of the universal religion of love."
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama -

"Art is making something out of nothing and selling it."
- Frank Zappa -

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."
- Samuel Johnson -

"Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand, just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk."
- Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider: Northern Exposure, Three Doctors -

"As a person acts, so he becomes in life. Those who do good become good; those who do harm become bad. Good deeds make one pure; bad deeds make one impure. So we are said to be what our desire is. As our desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so are our acts. As we act, so we become."
- Bihadaranyaka Upanishad -

I Feel So Much Safe Now

"Mike Huckabee has been widely criticized for his overt religious appeals to win votes. One of the most criticized aspects of his campaign was a television ad he ran in Iowa and South Carolina pointedly describing himself as a 'Christian leader':

"Today, Greg Sargent posted a brochure which the Obama campaign is distributing in South Carolina which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims - in the largest letters on the page - that Obama is a 'COMMITTED CHRISTIAN,' and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is 'guided by his Christian faith' and quotes Obama saying: 'We do what we do because God is with us.'

Why We Won World War II


Free Speech Zone #2: Free Joanna Newsom

Can we just put a word in here about the cocksuckers at the RIAA? Mankind finally learns to share and what do they do? Try to put a halt to sharing in the name of commerce. How dare there be transactions in which nobody gets a cut because there's nothing to cut, no money changing hands, a simple and kindly act of sharing, one of mankind's good points that, sharing, one worth pointing out, something we should be proud of, something we teach our children, we shout at them "share," the opposite of greed, the joy of passing something along for no reason other than joy shared is joy multiplied, it actually feels good to turn people on to new things, hell, if your best pal came by and you had just heard some fantastic new performer, wouldn't you just sit them down and play it for them, like I'm doing with you, pretending you're my best pal, c'mon buddy, park it and listen to this.

Joanna Newsom plays harp and harpsichord and sings, sometimes backed by orchestral arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, the album wise spelled "Ys," but that's not what's strange about her. Like Victoria Williams, she passed through puberty without her voice changing. You'll hear amazing, multi-rhythm, totally original harp playing and then suddenly it's like Joanna invited her seven-year-old daughter to sing along, it's a kid's voice, totally unprofessional, irritating, they'd bounce her out at the first round of American Idol, the opposite of what they're looking for, and at first you think that's nice, now shut up and let your mom sing, but it IS the mom, she actually sounds like that, so you sit and listen some more and you get over it, the voice, like Dylan's, you put it behind you, the lyrics, the melodies, adult and sophisticated and childlike and magical, full of hooks and iridescent meandering, powerful stuff, a cartoon voice perfect for Pixar, they've got to get on it and you've got to hear her before they turn her into a mouse or a squirrel, which brings me to the cocksuckers at the RIAA who at this very moment are considering arresting me for offering to you free of charge a song by Joanna Newsom, one solo, The Book of Right-On, and what the hell, another, Cosmia, backed by Van Dyke Parks at his best, both downloaded for free with Limewire from some other generous soul who felt like sharing.

And why am I doing this? Am I a thief? Do you have any moral compunction NOT to download these free MP3s? Have you been brainwashed into thinking that sharing, just sharing, just letting you in on the secret, is bad, makes you bad person, a thief robbing candy from the mouths of Joanna Newsom's real kids, if she has them, which would be weird because until they hit puberty, they would sound exactly like her? Hell, what's to stop you from buying something from her or just sending her a check if you prefer. Don't let me get in the way, hell, go ahead if you've got scratch to burn, I don't, I'm just turning you on to her the best way I know how, by playing her for you, and it'll never occur to you to buy her or go to one of her concerts unless you hear her first so repeat after me, like I'm your mom, sharing is good, in all its manifestations, Limewire and Bittorrent, the darkside of the web, let's shed some light, so share, okay, pass these along unless you think they're crap in which case fuck off. Sharing is a good thing except for the fear of getting raped by Bubba when the cocksuckers from the RIAA call the cops on you.

Steal This Film II
Don't miss this incredible documentary, free for the taking, about the wonderful world of sharing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Attend the Missing Songs of Sweeney Todd

The Ballad of Sweeney Todd
(Tim Burton version)
by Michael Dare (with apologies to Stephen Sondheim)

Defend the film of Sweeney Todd
You made some choices that were quite odd
You cut this song. There's no defense.
And now the whole thing doesn't make any sense.
You might deserve a firing squad
for Sweeney Todd.
The demon barber of Fleet Street.

Johnny Depp was your casting choice
His acting's good but not his voice
I know he's got a pretty face
but he is a baritone and not a bass
like Sweeney
Like Sweeney Todd
the demon barber of Fleet Street

Raise your budget high, Burton
Build a lovely set
Get a nice percent of gross
but never net

You cast your wife, so what's the sin?
Her breasts are heavy, her voice is thin
It's madness that her makeup warps
a beautiful woman right into a corpse
It's really quite a strange facade
for Sweeney Todd
and necrophilia on Fleet Street

Art direction rules, Burton
Cut it and revise
Freely flows the blood of those
Who criticize!

Untranslatable Sweeney was
to the cinema screen 'e was
Lyrics condensed, really absurd
Half of the priest song that nobody heard

Art directed and nicely shot
but no chorus explains the plot
Kiss Me was gone, so was the coda
Still it went nice with popcorn and soda
did Sweeney
did Sweeney Todd
the demon barber of Fleet...

Killjoy of the Week

Leaving The Ballad of Sweeney Todd out of the film of Sweeney Todd is like leaving the song Oklahoma out of the film of Oklahoma or the song Hello Dolly out of the film of Hello Dolly. It's the TITLE SONG for Christ sake, and if it takes an extraordinary effort to squeeze it into the confines of the cinematographic concept, you do it, for no other reason than it's the fucking TITLE SONG.

The chorus in Sweeney Todd served many purposes. It's not just a catchy ditty but a constant commentary upon the goings on. In the play, the chorus consists not just of anonymous passersby but actual cast members. If you're in the cast of Sweeney Todd and you play one of his victims, you don't get to go home after your death, you join the chorus. One of the coolest things in the play is that the percentage of dead to living characters in the chorus grows as Sweeney's carnage increases.

The official excuse for leaving it out is perfectly rational. The song is theatrical, sung by a chorus to the audience, which doesn't fit Burton's decision that the songs come from character and plot. But who says the Ballad needed to be sung directly to the audience? Who is every other song sung to? No one. The entire concept of people singing in the midst of a drama is nothing but theatrical, so what we're talking about is levels of theatricality. Yes, it would have ripped the audience out of the film for a standard Broadway chorus to appear out of nowhere and start singing directly to them, so why couldn't the chorus have sung to the ether just like everyone else?

The song The Impossible Dream doesn't really advance the plot of Man of la Mancha. The play, and the film, basically stop while Don Quixote sits there and sings. But leaving it out of the film would have been insane. It was arguably the best song in the play and certainly the only hit that became a standard for lounge singers everywhere. One of the most powerful examples of how a chorus can work in a film is the song Skid Row from Little Shop of Horrors, and anyone who suggests the film would be better without it is out of their mind. And then there's Mighty Aphrodite, one of Woody Allen's finest, which makes constant use of an actual Greek chorus right out of Aristophanes. To suggest the chorus in any way detracts from the story is totally nuts. The chorus augments the story in every possible way, just like The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.

Chicago got away with big theatrical choruses by making them fantasy numbers only taking place in the heads of the participants, a technique Burton actually used in the Soliloquy number in Sweeney Todd. Todd goes nuts after Judge Turpin escapes from his grasp, singing "Why did I wait? You told me to wait" to Mrs. Lovett in his apartment. Suddenly he's outside singing "I will have vengeance. I will have salvation" to pedestrians who are completely oblivious to the madman singing in their midst, then at the end, he's back in the apartment, he was never actually out in the street, it was all in his head, he's still with Mrs. Lovett. If it worked there, why wouldn't it have worked throughout with the Ballad of Sweeney Todd? It needn't have broken the fourth wall like it did on the stage. Pedestrians in the chorus could have simply sang to air, just like everybody else in every other song.

Where it's missed the most is at the end. Everyone agrees Sweeney Todd ends abruptly and the only reason is that's not where it ends. There's the final verse of the Ballad of Sweeney Todd that brings everything to a satisfactory conclusion.

Of course people who never saw the play don't miss it. Those of us who revere the play not only miss it but suffer a strange form of songus interruptus every time the opening chords appear throughout the film but the song is never sung.

The song Ah, Miss (AKA Kiss Me), while it might not seem to further the plot, has character development up the wazoo. In it, Joanna and Anthony plot to run away together but there's no harmony, literally, the verses they sing to each other are two different songs in counterpoint, one of Sondheim's specialties, two, three, even four songs that somehow mesh into one, in this case, coming together in the chorus when Joanna and Anthony sing "kiss me" to each other. The song reveals its sinister purpose in the last verse, a classic of Sondheim cynicism where it's revealed the ingénue, Joanna, the lovely girl the whole plot revolves around, is a total airhead, barely worth fighting over, a ditsy ninny, like Ophelia gone mad with hints of Orpheus and Eurydice, she can only think of her... reticule (a drawstring handbag). Here are the lyrics.

I'll take my reticule.
I need my reticule.
You mustn't think
Me a fool
But my reticule
Never leaves my side...

Why take your reticule?
We'll buy a reticule.
I'd never think
You a fool,
But a reticule
Leave it all aside...

The audience realizes she's a ditz right before Anthony, who seems to give a momentary consideration to ditching her for someone more coherent, but realizes the play would be over and simply repeats "kiss me," and of course they kiss, the physical attraction being the only thing they really have in common. Only Sondheim would dare to reveal the hollow center of the traditional relationship between leading man and ingénue, mirroring the genuine love Mrs. Lovett has for Sweeney Todd, a love that necessitates a lie about his wife that becomes her downfall.

Name another songwriter where it's even possible to analyze the lyrics so deeply. The only modern songwriter who even comes close to exploring Sondheim's magical world of interior rhymes is Eminem, of all people, who has probably never even heard of Stephen Sondheim. In any case, Ah, Miss, and especially Ah, Miss Part II, might be the most disposable songs in the play but that's not saying much. They're still masterpieces of modern song construction.

Then there's the incomplete song A Little Priest, which was pared down to the absolute minimum to deliver the necessary plot progression. Does anybody really think the film of Sweeney Todd would have been worse if A Little Priest was three minutes longer, lengthening the film from 117 minutes to two hours? Is the missing three minutes necessary? Only if you care about some of the greatest lyrics in the funniest song in one of the finest masterpieces ever written for the theatrical stage. It's like leaving out half of Hamlet's soliloquy.

There's no doubt Johnny Depp is a fine actor and endlessly creative, but I wouldn't cast him as Mozart's Don Giovanni because Don Giovanni is a bass, has to be a bass, that's the way Mozart wrote it, and if any opera company transposed the score to make the part singable by a movie star baritone, they'd be quite rightly trashed by everybody who gives a damn about Mozart's original intentions.

It's possible to reject the entire idea that the film version of a Broadway show needs a movie star in the lead anyway. Name the movie star in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There's a whole generation of deviates who thank God every day they didn't recast Tim Curry. Anybody think My Fair Lady would have been worse if Eliza Doolittle had been played by Julie Andrews, the original Broadway actress, instead of the overdubbed movie star Audrey Hepburn? Jack Warner was rightly raked over the coals for that decision. Sometimes the film of a Broadway show is literally ruined because they cast a movie star instead of a singer. (Man of la Mancha, anyone?) Sometimes, and I know this is a stretch, you want to hear a song sung by an incredible voice, not just an adequate one. Nobody will ever sing If Ever I Would Leave You as good as Robert Goulet, and history will never forget and never forgive the moron who cast Franco Nero instead of Goulet as Sir Lancelot in the film of Camelot.

Yes, the film of Sweeney Todd works the way it is. It doesn't just work, it's one of the best films of the year. But it could have been better. Maybe the director's cut with all the missing music will raise it into the rarefied strata of the best films ever made.

Bittorrent of a DVD screener of Sweeney Todd.

Please oh please buy the Original Broadway Cast Album
instead of the soundtrack of the film

Ojibwe saying

"Sometimes I go about in pity for myself,
and all the while,
a great wind carries me across the sky."
- Ojibwe saying -

Bill Maher gives an astonishing answer on Conan O'Brian

When Harry Stalked Sally

Some Questions and Answers

"I used to think that human origins were explained by meat-eating. After all, the idea that meat-eating launched humanity has been the textbook evolutionary story for decades, mooted even before Darwin was born.

"But in a rethinking of conventional wisdom I now think that cooking was the major advance that turned ape into human ... Cooked food is the signature feature of human diet. It not only makes our food safe and easy to eat, but it also grants us large amounts of energy compared to a raw diet, obviating the need to ingest big meals. Cooking softens food too, thereby making eating so speedy that as eaters of cooked food, we are granted many extra hours of free time every day."

- Richard Wrangham, British anthropologist who studied under Jane Goodall, in answer to the question "What was the turning point in human evolution?" -

"I used to think that patterns of sex differences resulted mainly from average differences between men and women in innate talents, tastes and temperaments ... Add to this some bias and barriers - a sexist attitude here, a lack of childcare there - and the sex differences are explained. Or so I thought ... But they alone don't fully explain the differences ... Females are much of a muchness, clustering round the mean. But, among males, the variance - the difference between the most and the least, the best and the worst - can be vast.

"So males are almost bound to be over-represented both at the bottom and at the top. I think of this as 'more dumbbells but more Nobels'... Unfortunately, however, this is not the prevailing perspective in current debates, particularly where policy is concerned."
- Helena Cronin, philosopher at the London School of Economics and director of Darwin@LSE, a research group devoted to what Darwinism can tell us about human nature, in answer to the question "Why do men dominate society?" -

"Flawed as the old ideas about race are, modern genomic studies reveal a surprising, compelling and different picture of human genetic diversity. We are on average about 99.5% similar to each other genetically. This is a new figure, down from the previous estimate of 99.9%. To put what may seem like minuscule differences in perspective, we are somewhere around 98.5% similar, maybe more, to chimpanzees, our nearest evolutionary relatives.

"The new figure for us, then, is significant. It derives from among other things, many small genetic differences that have emerged from studies that compare human populations ... Like it or not, there may be many genetic differences among human populations - including differences that may even correspond to old categories of 'race' - that are real differences in the sense of making one group better than another at responding to some particular environmental problem.

"This in no way says one group is in general 'superior' to another ... But it warns us that we must be prepared to discuss genetic differences among human populations."

- Mark Pagel, evolutionary biologist at Reading University, in answer to the question "Are there genetic differences between races?" -

"I've had to question the overall assumption that human evolution pretty much stopped by the time of the agricultural revolution ... New [laboratory] results have suggested that thousands of genes, perhaps as much as 10% of the human genome, have been under strong recent selection, and the selection may even have accelerated during the past several thousand years ... If these results hold up, and apply to psychologically relevant brain function ... then the field of evolutionary psychology might have to reconsider the simplifying assumption that biological evolution was pretty much over and done with 10-000-50,000 years ago."
- Steven Pinker, leading psychologist and language expert at Harvard University, author of The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate, in answer to the question "Are humans still evolving?" -

"Until I was 20 I was sure there was a being who could see everything I did and who didn't like most of it. He seemed to care about minute aspects of my life, like on what day of the week I ate a piece of meat. And yet, he let earthquakes and mudslides take out whole communities, apparently ignoring the saints among them who ate their meat on the assigned days. Eventually, I realised that I didn't believe there was such a being ... I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer."
- Alan Alda, Hawkeye in the 70s series MASH, current host of Scientific American Frontiers, in answer to the question "Does God exist?" -

City Council Clusterfuck in New Orleans

New Bush Coins

Guess which drug is illegal? One deadens nerves, barely works, has foul side effects. The other helps you feel God.

"Over here we have a new drug. It has one particularly unfortunate side effect: It makes you fat. Or rather, fatter, given how most patients who take it are already quite overweight to begin with.

"But that's not all. Other nasty side effects include dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, severe edema (swelling and oozing), among others. What fun. But hey, at least it works, right?

"Well, no, not really. It apparently works only about half the time, if that, and even then it doesn't work very well and it certainly doesn't actually cure anything or treat any of the potential causes of your illness or address any of the deeper biological/psychological issues at hand and, in fact, only "works" (they guess, but don't actually know) by essentially numbing the central nervous system and therefore merely blocking out what your body is trying to tell you. Sort of like saying the light hurts your eyes and then taking a pill to make you go blind. There now, all better.

"This new drug is called Lyrica. It's from Pfizer, and it was just approved by the FDA to treat an awful, inscrutable condition known as fibromyalgia, an is-it-or-isn't-it illness distinguished by all-over bodily pain the causes of which no one can figure and which few are really sure is even a real disease, per se, given that there's no biological test to diagnose it and no way to accurately validate its existence and given that it has all sorts of seemingly unrelated, scattershot symptoms, like irritable bowel (another suspect ailment) and ringing in the ears and, well, just about everything else.

"No matter. After years of doubt as to its effectiveness (and fibromyalgia's existence), Lyrica has been approved, and fibromyalgia has been more or less legitimized. Pfizer stands to make billions, as do the other pharmco titans who are begging the FDA to let them make expensive new drugs to treat this strange condition that no one seems to understand — drugs which may actually exacerbate the condition — but which clearly has enough patients who seem to be suffering from it even though they might very well be suffering from something else entirely.

"Ah, the pharmaceutical industry. Tremendous amounts of good, underscored by giant bolts of shameless, exploitive, predatory evil. Isn't it fascinating?

"Over here, another drug. This one's been around awhile. World famous, beloved by millions, controversial for all the wrong reasons. It is currently very, very illegal. Producing and selling it in any quantity can result in severe punishment, years in prison.

"It has been deemed highly dangerous, potentially toxic, even lethal, and for years the government and the Centers for Disease Control and your own mother have issued all sorts of lies and alarmist B.S. about it, like how it drains spinal fluid, induces brain aneurisms, makes you vote Libertarian. Which is not to say taking it doesn't have its random dangers, but, you know, please.

"This drug is famous for producing incredible feelings of euphoria, openness, warmth and love and happiness in almost everyone who takes it. It is staggeringly effective, non-addictive, and when taken somewhat responsibly and with a slight hint of intelligence, has very few, if any, notable or permanent side effects.

Its positives border on miraculous. It can effortlessly break down long-held psychological barriers, remove obstacles to communication and stifled emotion, make patients/users feel open and happy and much better able to handle stress, anxiety, all manner of trauma.
"It gets better. Some of the deeper emotional breakthroughs it produces last for weeks, months, or forever. Truly, entire loving relationships have been launched based on the deep bonding and raw emotional honesty a couple discovers while on it, and in many cases, those feelings become the foundation for long-term marriages (or, by way of the same raw honesty, encourage the end of unhappy, dying ones).

"Oh yes — this drug also frequently induces profound, life-changing spiritual awakenings, can eradicate neurosis, increase feelings of empathy and forgiveness and peace and overlay it all with an increased love of music and sensual pleasure.

"Thank God it's illegal.

"This drug, as you've already guessed, is MDMA, or ecstasy."

A Call for a War Crimes Tribunal at the UN

To Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations,

We, Citizens of the United States and of the World, the senders of this petition to you, urge you, as spokesman for the world's peoples, to investigate war crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

President Bush and his Cabinet are guilty of the following crimes against humanity and violations of international laws.

1. Pre-emptive war.
The United Nations was founded after World War Two, in the attempt to stop future wars and create a world body that would be able to peacefully resolve the conflicts among nations and peoples. The United States' attack on Iraq was in complete violation of those laws. Pre-emptive war as a form of self-defense is not permitted. The reasons for starting this illegal war were deliberate lies, the real motivations being for oil and empire. Hundreds of thousands have died, mostly civilian Iraqis in there home country by an invading army from across the sea. Unjustly attacking them for a crime Iraq was not guilty of… The World Trade Center Attacks. The excuse that Saddam Hussein was a mass-murdering dictator that had to be removed from power can be equally applied to George W Bush and his associates who supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons during the war with Iran. This Iraq War II was planned well before 911 as spelled out in the "Project For a New American Century's" manifesto. It had nothing to do with 911. That was yet to happen. If George W. Bush and the people who direct him are allowed to continue unchallenged and not brought to justice, we will find ourselves living on a nightmarish planet in the mists of unending wars against all other nations that oppose us, and possibly, World War Three.

2. Torture.
George W. Bush as Commander in Chief of the United States military is responsible for the torture and prisoner abuse that was allowed to happen under his command, until it became a public disgrace with the revelations of the happenings at Abu Ghraib prison. Furthermore, the Bush Administration refuses to publicly oppose such abuse, not only in the international community, but also within their own country disregarding the Geneva Convention. Torture is a WAR CRIME!

3. Destruction of Religious Temples.
The bombing of Mosques in Falluja is an atrocity that is an insult to every religion on Earth, and is totally against all international laws. This is a WAR CRIME!

4. Napalm.
The Bush Administration is using napalm on the people of Falluja. This is a WAR CRIME! People in the United States are not even aware that we are Napalming Iraq.

5. Killing of Civilians.
Innocent men, women, and children are dying. The controlled American media has been instructed not to refer to them as "civilians" anymore. Deliberate killing of civilians is a WAR CRIME!

6. Radioactive Weapons.
The Bush Administration has used more than 2200 tons of depleted uranium weapons. Depleted Uranium is both chemically toxic and radioactive, and has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome. It is truly a terrorist weapon with horrific effects not only during the war, but also on unborn generations of malformed fetuses. Areas of Iraq are now uninhabitable for very long periods of time. DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. This deliberate radioactive contamination of areas of Iraq is a WAR CRIME.

For all the above stated reasons we ask you to fulfill the United Nations promise for a safer and more peaceful world and begin the indictment process of the criminal that now heads the most dangerous and most powerful country on Earth. George W Bush and his

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
-Edmond Burke

To sign this petition, go to

I Feel So Much Safer Now

"Soldiers who were medically unfit or considered borderline have been sent to the Middle East to meet Army goals for deployable strength, The Denver Post reported Thursday.

"Quoting internal Army e-mails and a Fort Carson soldier, the newspaper said that more than 50 troops were deployed to Kuwait en route to Iraq while they were still getting medical treatment for various conditions. At least two have been sent home.

"Capt. Scot Tebo, the surgeon for Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, wrote in an e-mail obtained by the newspaper that 'We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who we would otherwise have left behind for continued treatment.'"

- AP: Medically 'Unfit' U.S. Troops Sent to Iraq -