Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy

Wild Ride"Children develop along four streams: intellectual, physical, emotional (psychological) and social. In classrooms, the smartest kids tend to be left out of more activities by other children than they are included in. They are 'odd,' they are the geeks, they are social outsiders. In other words, they do not develop socially as well as they may develop intellectually or even physically where opportunities may exist for more progress."

Here's the rest

Friday, March 30, 2007

Interesting Drug

Watson and Crick copy Like Newton's falling apple or Archimedes' naked, dripping run through the streets of Syracuse, it has become one of those celebrated images in science, Watson and Cricks' immortal sprint from their laboratory to a nearby pub where they declared they've discovered the secret of life. What James Watson and Francis Crick were referring to, of course, was the newly-identified shape of DNA, the double-helix, which has proved to be the most valuable finding in modern science.

What is not so well known is the chemical half of the pioneering duo, Francis Crick, had consumed before the famed discovery. At the time, LSD was used in controlled, Government experiments. Similar to Freud's thoughts about cocaine's potential to be a miracle cure-all, LSD was thought to boost one's mental capacity. Take, for instance, this sketch test conducted by the government in the 1950s. A patient was administered two injections of LSD and told to sketch the presiding doctor.

After 20 minutes the patient drew this:

He said his perception had not changed and maintained perfect control of the pencil.

After 85 minutes the patient produced another sketch:

Euphoria sets in and the patient claims a lack of control, but also states he's experiencing heightened clarity.

After 2.5 hours of the initial dose the patient draws this:

He says this of his experience: "I feel as if my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active - my hand, my elbow... my tongue."

After 2 hours and 32 mintues the patient makes another drawing:

After 2 hours and 35 mintues renders yet another sketch:

The patient breaks into uncontrollable laughter, but stops abruptly when he is startled by the floor.

After 2 hours and 45 minutes he draws this:

The patient says nothing, but does hum a tune to himself while drawing.

After 4 hours and 25 minutes:

My favorite of the series, the patient said while drawing it: "This will be the best drawing. Like the first one, only better. If I'm not careful I'll lose control of my movements, but I won't, because I know. I know."

After 5 hours and 45 minutes under observation:

The effects have mostly worn off, however, a lack of fine motor articulation remain.

After 8 hours the patient submits his final sketch:

"I have nothing to say about this last drawing," the patient comments, "it is bad and uninteresting, I want to go home now."

So the attitude toward the drug at the time was one of optimistic curiousity. Later MDMA, otherwise known as "ecstasy," would be thought to have the same therapeutic properties. In the coming years, as hippies and counter-culture heroes like Timothy Leary lauded LSD for its mind-bending qualities, it became stigmatized and Crick, always quick to protect his legacy, threatened to sue anyone who wrote about his flirtations with the chemical.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Carl Sagan: Professional Toker

Carl Sagan copy"In the essay he describes a wide variety of experiences and observations he had under the influence of pot. He explains that marijuana increased his appreciation and understanding of art and music, as well as his sensitivity to tastes, aromas, and sexual pleasure. He also describes how marijuana led to insights 'on a wide range of social, political, philosophical and human biological topics.'"

Here's the rest

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gonzales connected to Texas sex scandal

GonzalesIf Alberto Gonzales thought he was in deep with his freshly-unearthed firing spree just wait until the public gets a load of this. While the termination of serveral U.S. Attorneys is probably a bit too nuanced for anybody other than political wonks, sex scandal cover-ups involving teenage boys doesn't leave a lot to the imagination.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already
under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute
officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation
documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the
institution's teenage boy inmates.


The investigation revealed key employees at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Texas, were systematically abusing youth inmates in their custody.


Gonzales is under heavy congressional pressure in the controversy over the recent forced resignations of eight U.S. attorneys. At issue is whether the Bush administration is directing the Justice Department to pursue politically motivated prosecutions at the expense of fair or even-handed law enforcement.

Here's the rest

From the Congressional page scandal to Walter Reed this batch of Republicans have demonstrated their hypocrisy on every front. I'm looking forward to what the Democrats have in store for Gonzales, Rove and - fingers crossed - Bush himself. This administration is running on fumes and even third-rate political hacks like the Democrats are capable of dismantling them.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Adam Corolla and Ann Coulter

Adam Corolla conducts the shortest interview ever with Fox News darling and conservative fluffer, Ann Coulter.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Charlie Rose - Tom Wolfe / Kurt Vonnegut / Michael Johnson

Halliburton provided contaminated water to Soldiers

If only gay sex caused global warming

Global WarmingAlthough all human societies have moral rules about food and sex, none has a moral rule about atmospheric chemistry. And so we are outraged about every breach of protocol except Kyoto. Yes, global warming is bad, but it doesn't make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don't feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning. The fact is that if climate change were caused by gay sex, or by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Holy BLEEP: Life in the Digital Age

Copyright LawI don't care what anyone says Justin Timberlake's best, and if you ask my brother only tolerable, song is "Dick in a box." The subtlety-be-damned Christmas spoof may have been too hot for TV, but aired minus the BLEEPs on NBC's website. This sparked an internet frenzy (who knew SNL could still be funny!), spawning parodies which bought their giggling creators fifteen minutes in the spotlight.

As the paranoid sphincter of the FCC tightens around traditional broadcast media the internet has emerged as a tenable sidestep. Even though there are strides toward a blog registry, any American-based blog with a readership of over 500 people per day would be obliged to list their site, this wild, digital frontier won't be tamed by such a measure. With little expense to the speaker speech has little to no limitations in cyberspace - hate groups and holocaust deniers circulate their messages unmitigated as can anyone with a modicum of creativity. Middle Eastern countries, Bahrain specifically, maintain a subversive online community under the nose of the disapproving nobility. Like the popular worker's press which thrived in the early part of the last century, the internet is being used as a tool to unite people who share common goals to achieve a common good.

The prickly aspect of the new digital age, or if you prefer the active buzzword, Web 2.0, is when intellectual property gets involved. The greatest advancement to the written word since the printing press is for everyday folk to wield the ability to incorporate audio, video and hypertext into the body of their work. Nothing will replace the tactile delight of dog-earing a bona fide page-turner, as far as interactivity goes, however, the flow of information is unilateral. With this new model ideas evolve quicker, user participation is broader, comprehension is greater. Concepts can be cross-referenced through links, people can criticize wayward notions by leaving comments or posting a response on their site, points are reinforced through a multimedia presentation.

Trouble arrives when the same media users wish to appropriate is protected. Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit against Google is evidence of this disharmony. This case has its roots in the '80s where a Betamax ruling shifted all responsiblity for creative licensing decisions to the Congress. Years later Congress passed The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998, simply put this shielded providers, such as Google, from lawsuits as long as they removed copyrighted material in a timely fashion at the owner's request. In 2005, MGM Studios v. Grokster, Ltd. maintained that peer-to-peer services were held liable for the copyright infringement they facilitated. Matters of this variety would then be heard by the Supreme Court, not the Congress, and, as has been the current trajectory, this Court appears to be on the side of corporations, not the people.

Another maddening power play is being waged on the musical front as well. The RIAA has collected the IP addresses of college students across the country and has sent letters demanding each offender make a choice: settlement or suit. Because the only legal information the RIAA can obtain are IP addresses, they passed these threats to the students' campuses asking for their complicity and so far it's been a disaster for the RIAA. I'm proud to report the University of Wisconsin system refused the RIAA's bullying, stating the campus would need subpoenas before continuing, which defeats the cost-reducing point of the letters in the first place.

All of this seems to be a waste of time. Do a small experiment: go to google video, type in "Elegant Universe" and note what comes back. The fact that String Theory is so well understood by so many people so fast was assisted in no small part by the internet. You can download theoretical physicists explaining how multiple universes work, rewind episodes of NOVA, available free on Google, to help elucidate some of the more convoluted principles. And why stop there at educational programming? Wilco just streamed its forthcoming album to interested fans for an entire day.

Here's a message to the RIAA and Viacom and whoever else - don't get mad, get creative. Make your product irresistible, use the internet to tease us. Don't restrict the availability of the product, increase it. Work in synchronicity with orthodox channels of communication to seduce our hard-fought money from our grip. In this new digital age the crusty idea of copyright needs to be reconsidered.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Lucifer Principle

The Yes Men

Anti-globalization activists engage in guerrilla satire by infiltrating top corporate seminars and present odious projects, such as profit maximization through child slavery, with the expectation of being thrown out on their ears. Outrageous and truthful, the golden leisure suit alone is worth the price of admission.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"The Power of Nightmares" pts. 1, 2 & 3

This is a three-part documentary produced by the BBC examining the intimate connections between radical Islam and the neoconservative movement. It's well-researched and clearly details how Leo Strauss took his malice toward progressive policies of the 1960s and forged the monolith of modern neoconservatism with his small band of acolytes (Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc.). The information contained in these three hours is so damning it comes as no shock that this presentation has been banned in the United States.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Listen to Wilco NOW!

wilco_dclinch_01_hiWilco's forthcoming long player, Sky blue Sky, is being broadcast live on their official website all day today. Check it out, quick! Viva la Tweedy.

FOX will eat itself

FoxNewsBill O'Reilly never met a mirror he didn't love. That's probably why he green-lit the newest segment on the Factor where he invites a "body language expert," who's probably just a college intern with glasses, to analyze his previous interview. It, of course, coalesces into a giant, two-minute stroke-off. Scarborough picked up on the bit and, after O'Reilly demeaned MSNBC for the umpteenth time on his show, blasted back with an anaylsis from his own body language guru. Apparently, according to the expert, O'Reilly displays "typical primate behavior." Well, Jiminy Christmas, I could have told you that one. Now that the punditsphere is doing interviews about interviews they've just aired, who needs to hear about Darfur, anyways? That's depressing as hell. This is the equivalent of network news eating itself.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"The Battle of Algiers"

Battle of AlgiersAfter 130 years of occupation the oppressed people of Algeria erupted into violent resistance against the French military forces. In the 1950s and early 1960s the Arabs living in the Casbah, the "Muslim Quarters" of Algiers, formed an alliance to overturn their foreign handlers. The 1966 film, "The Battle of Algiers," provides a gritty examination of life stifled beneath outside coercion.

If Hollywood wanted to make a statement about Iraq or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict simply remake this movie. It's all here - guerrilla combat, legalized torture, manipulation of the media, and mindless escalation of violence by both sides.

Purchase the film and see the conflict through their eyes.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thoughts on Religiosity

praying hands

When my grandma, a woman who, since her conversion to Christianity in her 40s, boasts that the number of times she's missed church on Sundays can be counted on a single hand, heard Bill Maher discussing James Cameron's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" she didn't skip a beat. Instead of mentally engaging in the debate, she began talking in her "prayer language." For the uninitiated, a prayer language or "speaking in tongues" is what she believes to be a secret, untranslatable phrase God gives the faithful to use during times of duress or times of communion.

This typifies a certain variety of troubling behavior religiosity induces. Notice I didn't say religion but specified the fanaticism generated by a strict adherence to a particular spiritual hierarchy. Dialogues which attempt to disprove or discredit God are, in my mind, fruitless. No matter what truths science illuminates it will never grant us complete insight one way or the other into the existence of God. There will always be a distance between the dimensions of logic and the murky ether of the Eternal.

One place science has fixed its gaze is the study of the origins of religion. Although far from conclusive, researchers have devised some exciting answers to the question of why people believe in God. One of the most controversial positions is the proposal that religion is an accidental collision of primary evolutionary adaptations. Not at all a social adhesive, religion is simply a "byproduct" of other, more functional traits. This is a tripartite theory. First emerged our "flight or fight" impulse. Instant reactions would have been rewarded over curiosity to ancient man. This puts into place our ability to imagine a force greater than ourselves animating the functions of the universe. Second, our tendency toward coherence. The human mind detests disorder so it takes events and organizes them into tidy narratives. Even though it may be satisfying this at times fails to produce a realistic picture of our environment. And lastly, and most important, comes the "Theory of Mind." This allows us to anticipate another person's feelings and ultimately their actions. Here we have the component which aids us in forming human bonds. From this springboard we can easily remove the physical form and inflate the remaining invisible presence to create an entity matching the attributes of an infinite Creator.

Does this explain away religion altogether? Not at all. It's just one of several theories to account for people's faith. But suppose it is correct, still it doesn't matter. Religion is a useful set of ideas to help enunciate deep human fears as well as a celebration of the mysterious. It satisfies that need for a really good story. Besides, plenty of honorable movements condensed and gained speed due to the coordinating virtue of a strong religious groundwork. Some of the most famous and politically cogent forces of the Twentieth Century were propelled by belief: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, etc. If not for this reason alone it would be a shame to witness the death of God.

Which brings me back to the topic at hand. Voltaire said of this sort of thinking: "Fanaticism superstition, what delirium is to fever or rage to anger." It is of little surprise that this mentality is a handy means of control. When the rich and powerful need to direct the population in a particular direction they appeal to that population's zealot class. This is how the neocon movement, birthed by Leo Strauss, sprouted legs. According to Strauss, the perfect anecdote to the '60's failed liberal policies was to inspire nationalism in the people. He intended on accomplishing this through a well-told story. As a country we needed an enemy big enough to appear as an existential threat. We would be the embodiment of good and the enemy would be the embodiment of evil. The only way to protect the world from the diseased fangs of this rabid beast would be through direct confrontation. If you haven't guessed by now the multi-limbed monster of the former Soviet Union became our invented threat. But for the longest time neoconservatism was merely intellectual. It wasn't until its adherents appealed to the "God, guns and gays"-minded community, to be known later as the religious right, did it accumulate any level of note, crystallizing in the '80s with Reagan.

The notion of the "prayer language" is the perfect metaphor for the kind of cerebral arrest religiosity can inflict. When presented with an opposing thought one counters with a torrent of babble to shield their faith. This is the distinguishing feature between Gandhi's religiosity and Jerry Falwell's. The Mahatma approached everything with open-mindedness, he dabbled in meat-eating, western culture and even violence before settling into his own ideas. But he never forgot there was another side, or multiple sides, each airing grievances which warranted understanding. This is my point, the venomous religiosity of neocon Christianity, Wahaabi radicals, etc. is a different species when compared to peace-loving leaders. The former live insular, myopic existences, the latter an informed, all-embracing philosophy. If all forms of religiosity were defined by love then everyone would do well to put it into practice.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Iraq 101


Even after four years of war you still can't tell your burkas from your baba ghanoush? Time to take Iraq 101. For starters, what's the difference between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds? And how can somebody be both Kurdish and Shiite or Sunni?


Shiism is a minority branch of Islam followed by about 10 percent of all Muslims, including nearly all of Iran and Bahrain as well as parts of Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan. The schism began after the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632, when one group of disciples followed his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and a line of imams after him. "Shia" is short for Shiat Ali, or "followers of Ali." Many Shiites believe that the 12th imam, Muhammad al Mahdi, did not die but went into hiding, and will reappear as a messiah. Sunnis often portray Shiites as heretics—a claim that much of Western scholarship has embraced in describing Shiism as a "sect"—but the two branches’ theology differs little, and both read exactly the same Koran. The Shiite branch is more centralized, with a Vatican-like hierarchy of clergymen led by grand ayatollahs. Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, Shiism in the activist mold of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah has developed into a militant force across the Middle East, and that strain is now also evident in Iraq.


Islam’s majority branch is dominant in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, North Africa, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Rather than following Ali, Sunnis (from sunna, "tradition of the prophet") consider Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, to be the prophet’s legitimate successor and the first in a line of caliphs ("commanders of the faithful"); Shiites believe Abu Bakr usurped the post. The vast majority of Sunni clerics are apolitical, moderate, and concerned chiefly with religious law and theology; the minority hardline strains are associated chiefly with the back-tobasics fundamentalism of the Salafi movement and the Saudi-based Wahhabi school. The most militant and political Sunni elements emerged in the 20th century in a string of activist movements starting with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and culminating in Al Qaeda.


An ancient, mountain-dwelling ethnic group numbering perhaps 30 million in all, with 5 million in Iraq, the Kurds—who are mostly Sunnis, but politically align with whomever will support their goals—have revolted numerous times in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Ever since U.S. and British warplanes established a no-fly zone in northeast Iraq in the 1990s, Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed de facto autonomy, a privilege enshrined in the new constitution. But many want full independence, and their political leadership has staked a claim to the mixed Kurdish and Arab city of Kirkuk and its massive oil fields. Seizing Kirkuk could spark civil war with Iraq’s Arabs and provoke an intervention by Turkey, which fears few things more than an oil-rich Kurdish entity on its border.

Just knowing where Iraq is on a map isn't good enough. One needs to understand each tribe's identity, what motivates them and the clashes which emerge as a result. President Bush, on the onset of the Iraq War, didn't even know there were three types of Muslims in Iraq. To him they're just a bunch of funny-talkin' brown folk. Even strategically this is bad policy, why wouldn't you want to know your enemy before engaging them in combat? In order to prevent further conflict it is essential to stem the tide of ethnocentricity and adopt a type of pan-cultural awareness.

Thursday, March 01, 2007