Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Food Test With No Bitter Aftertaste

Francis Lam, who has an awesome column on food subjects at, has tested a product that blocks the ability to taste bitterness. The results of the experiment:
Bitter blockers: Like antidepressants for your tongue
Francis Lam
Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011

The iPhone: Up in Smoke

No doubt the iPhone for Verizon is big news for fans of Apple's telecom device. But a new app, Roll Your Own, is pretty cool in its own right. It educates its users on how to roll the skadankiest joints possible. The best app since

Weed Rolling App Attracts 25K Users Overnight
Ray Basile

The Minivan: No Longer Just for Soccer Moms

"In marketing campaigns featuring heavy-metal theme songs, rapping parents, secret agents in cat masks, pyrotechnics and even Godzilla, minivan makers are trying to recast the much-ridiculed mom-mobile as something that parents can be proud — or at least unashamed — of driving."
Mocked as Uncool, the Minivan Rises Again
January 3, 2011

GM Meets Segway: The EN-V

"General Motors brought several of its EN-V 'electric networked vehicles' to CES. Built on Segway platforms, they're intended for efficient use in crowded urban centers... It may be cute, with cuddly Chinese names that translate to Pride, Magic and Laugh, but it's a very serious attempt by GM to deal with urban congestion, pollution and resource use... It should be able to travel up to 25 miles at 25 mph on a single charge. Christopher Borroni-Bird, its inventor, says that's plenty to cover the needs of most people in dense cities, who he said research shows rarely drive more than that each day."
CES: Automated two-wheeler aims to be the car of the future
M. Alex Johnson

The Electric Chevy Volt Wins Car of the Year

"What an interesting year for the coveted COTY! Normally, the contest pits automakers for who rolled out the nicest sheet metal, the most compelling package for car buyers. But this year, the industry's most prestigious award was driven by technology. General Motors' Volt is the first plug-in car from a major automaker -- with a backup engine to give it unlimited range."

Chevrolet Volt wins coveted North American Car of the Year
Chris Woodyard
Jan 10, 2011

The Coca Leaf Is Not a Drug

"The coca leaf and cocaine are not the same. Most people view the coca leaf only as a refining process input in the production of cocaine. In the US, this incorrect view is influenced by the government-pushed media attention given to cocaine over the past 30 years, the same time period of the US Drug War. Cocaine is to the coca plant as paper is to the pine tree: cocaine and paper are products created by humans through extractive chemical processing."

The coca leaf is not a drug
Carlos Greene
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Learn more:

Artificial Rain in Abu Dhabi

From the UK Daily Mail:

"For centuries people living in the Middle East have dreamed of turning the sandy desert into land fit for growing crops with fresh water on tap.

Now that holy grail is a step closer after scientists employed by the ruler of Abu Dhabi claim to have generated a series of downpours.

Fifty rainstorms were created last year in the state's eastern Al Ain region using technology designed to control the weather.

Most of the storms were at the height of the summer in July and August when there is no rain at all.

People living in Abu Dhabi were baffled by the rainfall which sometimes turned into hail and included gales and lightening.

The Metro System scientists used ionisers to produce negatively charged particles called electrons."

Have scientists discovered how to create downpours in the desert?
3rd January 2011

The Great Caltech Rose Bowl Prank

Here's a nice LA Times story about one of the greatest pranks in history: during the 1961 Rose Bowl, a group of Caltech students managed to change the halftime flip cards so it spelled out their school name...

Fifty years ago, Caltech pulled off a prank for the memory banks at Rose Bowl
Jerry Crowe
December 26, 2010,0,2769472.column

Lancet Vaccine Study: Elaborate Scam Or Vaccine Industry Victim?

The news cycle has been ecstatic over a British Medical Journal report charging that Andrew Wakefield (the medical researcher who co-authored a 1998 Lancet study questioning the safety of vaccines) is a fraud:
How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed
Brian Deer
5 January 2011

This seems to provide extra confirmation of a 2009 report by the London Times alleging the same. After all, two independent reports from respectable sources coming up with the same conclusion is pretty hard to dismiss:

Hidden records show MMR truth
Brian Deer
February 8, 2009

Of course, the problem with this line of thinking, as anyone paying attention may have already noticed, is that both reports have the same author. So this isn't exactly two different reports, it's more like one reporter repeating himself in two places.

Meanwhile, the actual story by Deer has two primary areas of attack. One, that Wakefield made mistakes that were not mere honest accidents but part of an intentional, elaborate hoax. (On his blog, Deer compares the Lancet study to the infamous Piltdown Man fraud.) Two, that Wakefield's intentional fraud was partly inspired by greed. As reports, "Wakefield was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as a medical expert in a class-action suit against the MMR manufacturers — and the doctor never disclosed that information."

Controversial autism doc: ‘I’m not going away’
Michael Inbar
A BMJ editorial concludes: "We hope that declaring the paper a fraud will close that door for good."

It would be easy to dismiss Deer as a hack attack artist for the pharmaceutical industry. And that's precisely what Wakefield has done, calling Deer "a hitman" on CNN. (For the record, the BMJ declares: "Brian Deer’s investigation was funded by the Sunday Times of London and the Channel 4 television network. Reports by Deer in the BMJ were commissioned and paid for by the journal. No other funding was received, apart from legal costs paid to Deer by the Medical Protection Society on behalf of Andrew Wakefield.") Still, after reading Deer's piece, this writer has to admit he makes a very strong case attacking the credibility of Wakefield. If Deer is a hitman, he sure is a good one. When Wakefield responds to the charges in writing, The Konformist will be sure to report his answers. In the meantime, it seems there are legitimate questions raised about Wakefield's work. Certainly pressure from the vaccine industry is intense, but perhaps the retraction of the study by the Lancet and 10 of the 12 co-authors has less to do with professional cowardice and more to do with a refusal to defend what they couldn't defend any longer.

That said, questions over the safety of vaccines neither begins nor ends with Wakefield's report. Former Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy (who may deserve more recognition for her advocacy of autistic children than looking awesome naked, which is saying quite a bit, since she looks really awesome naked) had this to say on her Website

"For years, the media has mischaracterized Wakefield's work as implicating the MMR vaccine in the autism epidemic. This was never true, as Wakefield himself wrote in the conclusion to his paper:

'We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.'

We hope the media will take the time to read the actual Lancet study, rather than repeating the message of a vaccine-industry funded media circus."

To read the actual Lancet study:

So ironically, Wakefield has been demonized even though his own study came to no firm conclusions. But by just making it respectable to question the safety of vaccines on children, he opened a door the vaccine industry wanted to keep shut, which probably has more to do with his Public Enemy Number One status by the medical establishment than any errors in his work.

Elsewhere on, it is noted:

"The growth in the number of vaccines given to our children in the last 20 years is rarely discussed in the media, despite a 260% increase in vaccines administered (were millions of children dying from deadly diseases 25 years ago?). Parents should know that vaccines are never tested for their "combination risk", despite the fact that children may get as many as 6 vaccines in a single visit to the doctor. And, when it comes to vaccines, how can it be possible that one size fits all? What may present as no risks for one child may present enormous risks for another...

Vaccines have risks and parents are rarely told about these risks. Any pediatrician who represents that vaccines are "completely safe" is not presenting the facts. Many vaccines contain other toxic substances including ethylene glycol (antifreeze), phenol (a disinfectant dye), benzethonium chloride (a disinfectant), formaldehyde (a preservative and disinfectant), and aluminum (another known neuro-toxin). Further, some viruses used in vaccines are cultured in animal tissue including chicken albumin and monkey liver...

Vaccine manufacturers are no different from other corporations: they want to sell more of whatever it is they make. Unfortunately, there is a revolving door between the policy-makers who determine the vaccine schedule and the pharmaceutical companies who make vaccines..."

Bees Are Dying, Too

In recent years, some populations of bees in the US have dropped by over 90 percent. National Geographic cites a study that puts the blame on viruses spread by flower pollen. An interesting theory, if a convenient one, as it replaces theories linking the deaths to GMOs or pesticides, as mentioned in a recent Times of Malta article...
Bee Viruses Spread via Flower Pollen
Rachel Kaufman
December 29, 2010

To bee or not to bee
Anne Zammit
Sunday, 2nd January 2011

Aflockalypse Now

Probably the strangest story of the new year is the pattern of mass deaths around the world of birds, fish and other creatures. It is so perplexing, CNN's Anderson Cooper brought on his show noted scientist Kirk Cameron to answer questions about this wacky fad. The cases are so bizarre, has as a headline for it's report on the subject: "Is This the End of the World?"

Here are some of the examples:

"Up to 5,000 birds fell from the sky New Year's Eve in Beebe, Arkansas"

"500 birds found dead in southern Louisiana in seemingly separate incident"

Falling birds likely died from massive trauma
January 4, 2011

"As officials worked to figure out the cause of death of some 5,000 blackbirds that fell from the Arkansas sky this weekend, some 100 miles away another disaster was unfolding: The discovery of 100,000 dead drum fish in the Arkansas River..."

100,000 dead fish join thousands of dead birds in Arkansas
Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Hundreds More Dead Birds Fall From Sky In Kentucky

Dead Birds Found In Sweden

"Thousands of dead fish were floating in Volusia County Tuesday. They were all in Spruce Creek in Port Orange. The fish kill is unusual because it is warm, according to people who live along the creek.

It's been a week since there were freezing temperatures, but there are fish lining the banks. Some said it's the worst kill they've ever seen; thousands of fish lined the twists and turns of Spruce Creek."

Thousands Of Fish Dead In Spruce Creek
January 4, 2011

"To add more to the mystery, a report came out today that around 1,500 endangered and protected ‘Sooty Shearwater’ (Puffinus griseus) birds have been found dead in the coast of Chile."

Arkansas & Chile: Dead Birds & Fish
Javier Ortega
January 4, 2011

"Countless turtle doves were found scattered in the streets, in flower beds and hanging tragically from trees 'like Christmas balls' in the town of Faenza. Many of the birds that fell dead from the sky were discovered with a mysterious blue stain in their beaks."

Birds Dying In Italy: Thousands Of Turtle Doves Fall Dead From Sky
Travis Walter Donovan

"The Thanet shoreline is littered with the crabs, along with dead starfish, lobsters, sponges and anemones."

40,000 crabs join slew of animal-death mysteries
Jenni Dunning
Jan 6, 2011

2 million fish found dead in Maryland
January 7, 2011

Major, Bizarre Fish Die-Off Along Lakefront
January 11, 2011

The more popular explanations for these mass deaths on the Internet have been the testing of biological weapons and/or HAARP technologies. One Website,, linked the mystery death of John P. Wheeler III, an aide to Reagan and both Bushes, to the mass animal deaths. While the mainstream media focused in its obits on his fundraising for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the site noted his "military career included writing one of the most important manuals on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons." Wheeler certainly fits the profile of an honest whistleblower, and this may explain why he was found dead in a Delaware landfill in a style more fitting of a Mafia squealer than a Washington insider.

Top US Official Murdered After Arkansas Weapons Test Causes Mass Death
Sorcha Faal
January 4, 2011

Review: Science Was Wrong

Kenn Thomas,

Stanton Friedman is a very similar personality, a long-time UFO investigator who has outlasted his many critics in the public arena. Friedman spent the mid 1950s getting degrees in Physics from the University of Chicago--a classmate to Carl Sagan!-- and fourteen years working as a nuclear physicist. His interest in UFOs began in the late 1950s and has spent decades rooting out information from witnesses and archives, famously coining the situation as "the cosmic Watergate," a catch phrase the dates the era of his largest popularity. Newbies to UFOlogy may yet still be impressed by his hard science background, but he's more impressive to enthusiasts of the subject for his long list of hard-researched UFO books. Among them: Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience; TOP SECRET/MAJIC, and Crash At Corona: The Definitive Study of the Roswell Incident. His last most recent book was entitled Flying Saucers and Science, and this current one, co-authored with educator Kathleen Marden, niece of the earliest of modern abductees, Betty and Barney Hill, is called Science Was Wrong.

The book catalogs in an almost Fortean way the long list of scientific developments initially derided and dismissed by the scientific community. This includes air travel itself, of course, but also meteors, X-Rays, the telegraph, space exploration, germ theory--it's a long, sad list. Friedman, in fact, underscores the damage done not only from neglect of new discoveries, such as the slow governmental response to HIV/AIDS, but also by misguided official response to notions such as Social Darwinism, which led to the Eugenics movement in Germany and America. The connection to UFOs is obvious, of course, but the book does not get bogged down in, say, the particulars of the Roswell debate where Friedman often finds himself. Rather, it draws broader conclusions about the responsibility of scientists to get ahead of the UFO phenom, whatever it is. Whether one is a UFO believer or not, this is an essential ethical argument connected to that topic, science in general and the necessity of historical review. Whether or not the Roswell crash story breaks open one day, Friedman's role in bringing this debate before audiences for decades makes him an indispensable public figure.


Review: Twilight of The Gods

Kenn Thomas,

"And in December 2012, the gods will return from their long journey and appear again here on Earth. At least that is what the Mayan calendar, and Mayan written and oral lore, would have us believe. The so-called gods-in other words, the extraterrestrials-will come again. We're in store for a 'god shock' of major proportions."

Ah, it's good to have Erich Von Daniken still out there promoting his "paleocontact" theory. Chariots of the Gods? First appeared in 1968 and since then entire generations of enthusiasts for this material, as well as many Carl Sagan skeptical scientist types condemning it, have come and gone. Von Daniken himself suffered years in jail on tax fraud charges-- not pursued in court until after the publication of his first book-- and over the years has been caught up short over several projects promising proof of the idea that primitive man encountered advanced extraterrestrials. About these things these days he seems contrite, even self-deprecating, while still standing four-square behind the overall thesis.

In Twilight of The Gods, von Daniken sets out again to offer proof of it in the strata of the Puma Punku remains in the Bolivian Andes, a few miles southwest of the city of Tiwanaku, by legend constructed in a single night by space gods. The place contains enormous, precision cut stone blocks, apparently machine tooled by a culture that created an astronomical calendar reflecting 15,000 years of history.

Why do few people know about this, asks Von Daniken? "Is there some sort of conspiracy going on?" As a matter of fact, the space gods theory lately has been getting much more attention with the appearance of cable TV shows like Ancient Aliens, upon which Von Daniken has recently appeared, along with the likes of Christopher Dunn, the engineer who has done much work pointing out similar anomalies in the ruins of ancient Egypt; and David Hatcher Childress, whose publishing house for this kind of thing virtually makes him Von Daniken squared. Von Daniken's endurance in the popular paraculture does, in fact, speaks to the ongoing value of the questions he raises, and he does underscore again in this book the question mark in the title of his most famous.

Many scoff at the idea as unscientific, although scientists as respected as DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick have accepted and even championed the idea of "directed panspermia" as scientifically sound. Von Daniken's critics also have called him racist, or at least willfully ignorant of the authentic accomplishments of ancient human civilizations. Few doubt, however, that space god theory is at least an entertaining way to speculate. Witness, for instance, the enormous hardback reprint of Jack Kirby's comics series The Eternals, originally called Return of the Gods before legal fears stepped in. Kirby took Von Daniken's ideas in directions never intended, as do almost all of Von Daniken's readers and supporters.

More than just entertainment, Von Daniken's ongoing presence in pop culture is an occasion to learn and review little known facts about parapolitical history. Von Daniken begins Twilight of the Gods with "World Ice Theory" the proto- Nazi occult belief of Hans Horbiger Welteislehre. In 1894 Welteishire invented a new type of valve essential for compressors still in widespread use today, no small accomplishment in the history of technology. But Von Daniken condemns Nazi racism and describes moon hoax theories as "anti-Americanism", but mentioning that Paperclip Nazis he knew like Werner Von Braun who worked on the moon program as all "honorable men." Thus, Twilight of the Gods returns students of conspiracy to a familiar modern moral quagmire, giving the book a dimension not found in the discussion it renews on the mysteries of Tiwanaku and other aspects panspermia that academia just wants to ignore.


The Artificial Ape

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution
Timothy Taylor

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Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Published: July 20, 2010

"By the time I had finished reading the first few pages of The Artificial Ape I was breathless with excitement, by the time I had finished the last pages I was sure that Taylor's understanding of how humans have evolved, and what makes them unique in the material world changes the debate about human evolution forever. And as if that were not enough, the book is beautifully written.”
-- Christopher Potter, author of You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe

"Our lives depend on houses, water pipes, clothes; but Taylor argues that we have been technologically dependent for two million years, from spears and fire onward. Unlike all other creatures, our evolutionary fitness is measured non-biologically: we are an intrinsically artificial species, and have been from the start. A sharp and unsettling argument and a provocative book."
-- Richard Granger, author of Big Brain

“The uniqueness of humankind is obvious everywhere we look, from our unlimited creativeness to our appalling destructiveness. This book lays out the biological basis for our species and takes us on a compelling journey of our rapid cultural development that has far outstripped the glacially slow changes of traditional genetic change. Could our highly flexible adaptation called culture, ultimately be the cause of our demise?”
-— Donald Johanson, Discoverer of Lucy

“Timothy Taylor's The Artificial Ape is a rollercoaster along the technological tracks of mankind's trajectory that reaffirms tool-making as one key to what it is to be human. This book will serve as an invaluable toolbox for artists, architects and curators for many years to come.”

-- Hans-Ulrich Obrist, author of The Interview Project

Praise for The Buried Soul

“Perceptive, radical and elegantly written,”
-- The Times of London

Praise for The Prehistory of Sex
“A stimulating catalog of erotic ancient history.”
-- Entertainment Weekly

A breakthrough theory that tools and technology are the real drivers of human evolution

Although humans are one of the great apes, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, we are remarkably different from them. Unlike our cousins who subsist on raw food, spend their days and nights outdoors, and wear a thick coat of hair, humans are entirely dependent on artificial things, such as clothing, shelter, and the use of tools, and would die in nature without them. Yet, despite our status as the weakest ape, we are the masters of this planet. Given these inherent deficits, how did humans come out on top?

In this fascinating new account of our origins, leading archaeologist Timothy Taylor proposes a new way of thinking about human evolution through our relationship with objects. Drawing on the latest fossil evidence, Taylor argues that at each step of our species’ development, humans made choices that caused us to assume greater control of our evolution. Our appropriation of objects allowed us to walk upright, lose our body hair, and grow significantly larger brains. As we push the frontiers of scientific technology, creating prosthetics, intelligent implants, and artificially modified genes, we continue a process that started in the prehistoric past, when we first began to extend our powers through objects.

Weaving together lively discussions of major discoveries of human skeletons and artifacts with a reexamination of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Taylor takes us on an exciting and challenging journey that begins to answer the fundamental question about our existence: what makes humans unique, and what does that mean for our future?

About the Author

Timothy Taylor, PhD is the author of The Buried Soul and The Prehistory of Sex. He has appeared on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and National Geographic specials. He contributes to such publications as Nature, Scientific American, and World Archaeology, and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of World Prehistory. He teaches archaeology at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

You Can't Win

Author: Jack Black
Publisher: Macmillan

You Can't Win (ISBN 1-902593-02-2) is an autobiography by Jack Black. The book tells of his experiences in the hobo underworld, freight hopping around the still Wild West of the United States and Canada, becoming a burglar and member of the yegg brotherhood, getting hooked on opium, doing stints in jail, and escaping, often with the assistance of crooked cops or judges. The book was a best seller in 1926. It has been republished in 2000 in the Nabat series of radical autobiographies, by AK Press. William S. Burroughs cited it as an extremely influential book in his life, and lifts the book's style and stories in his 1953 book Junkie. Burroughs himself wrote the introduction to the AK Press reissue of the book. On the copyright page is a message from the publishers that any convict can obtain a copy of the book by mailing them ten dollars and a contact address (the list price is sixteen US dollars or eleven British pounds).

Publication history

Black, Jack. You Can't Win. New York: Macmillan Company, 1926. Foreword by Robert Herrick. OCLC 238829961
_____. You Can't Win: the Autobiography of Jack Black. New York: Amok Press, 1988. Foreword by William S. Burroughs. ISBN 0941693074 OCLC 153562506
_____. Du kommst nicht durch. Berlin : Kramer, 1998. ISBN 3879562407 OCLC 75910135
_____. You Can't Win. 2nd edition. Edinburgh: AK Press/Nabat books, 2000. ISBN 1902593022 OCLC 44737608
_____. You Can't Win. [S.l.] : BN Publishing, 2007. ISBN 9562915093 OCLC 187421471


Roger Goodell's Message to NFL Players and Fans: Drop Dead
Roger Goodell's Message to NFL Players and Fans: Drop Dead
by Dave Zirin | January 3, 2011

Leave it to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to end a thrilling NFL regular season on a sour, ugly note. As football fans, sports radio devotees and chat-room obsessives gathered Monday to discuss the playoff seedings, Goodell issued an ill-timed letter [1]laying out the state of negotiations with the NFL Players Association. Both sides are striving to secure a new collective bargaining agreement and avoid labor Armageddon, but based on Goodell's letter, that's where the similarities end.

In the letter, Goodell seems to be following a tried-and-true strategy: blame the union and sow resentment between the fans and the players they pay to watch. But in taking a closer look at his musty missive, Goodell also establishes himself as a stalking horse for a broader, systemic strategy being used by governors and captains of industry across the country. It’s a strategy that for all the focus-tested language has one end-goal: getting workers to work harder for less.

First, blame the economy: Goodell writes: "Economic conditions have changed dramatically inside and outside the NFL since 2006 when we negotiated the last CBA. A 10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all. Fans have limited budgets and rightly want the most for their money. I get it." Does he get it? There is nothing about lowering prices for tickets, concessions or parking. Instead he goes on to blame the greedy unions for making decent wages and benefits as the reason there may be no football in 2011. As Goodell writes, "Yes, NFL players deserve to be paid well. Unfortunately, economic realities are forcing everyone to make tough choices and the NFL is no different." This is the sporting version of something far broader and more pernicious, as public sector workers are becoming the Willie Hortons of our economy. They have become the 2011 scapegoat of choice as politicians impose the coming austerity. AFSCME has even started a campaign called "No More Lies [2]" to counter the myths of the greedy unionists destroying state budgets.

Goodell goes on to lay out his vision for a brighter future. This brighter future includes players not only playing for less but also working more. As Goodell writes, "An enhanced season of 18 regular season and two preseason games would not add a single game for the players collectively, but would give fans more meaningful, high-quality football." Then without irony and with no transition, Goodell leaps right into his deep care and concern for players' health, writing, "Our emphasis on player health and safety is absolutely essential to the future of our game." Yes, play longer but nothing is more essential than the health of the players. As Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Hines Ward said in comments aimed at Goodell [3], "If you were so concerned about the safety, why are you adding two more games? They don't care about the safety of the game.... They're hypocrites."

Then Goodell goes after the salaries of rookies, calling for a "rookie pay scale." He writes, "All we're asking for is a return to common sense in paying our rookies. Other leagues have done this and we can too." This is also ridiculous if not immoral. Any sport where each play can be your last should reject any notion of a pay scale. Players in this most violent of games should be able to make as much as the market will bear and not a penny less.

Goodell finally ends with some blather about wanting to achieve this kind of "forward looking CBA" and "protecting the integrity of the game." But there is no integrity in Goodell's vision: only the same blueprint for workers we are seeing across the country: work more, take less. I am sure that there are many who would read this with little sympathy for NFL players as workers. But please consider: a typical NFL career is three and a half years, and as NFL player Scott Fujita said to me, "We're the only business with a 100 percent injury rate." The ratings for the NFL this season have never been higher and no one ever paid hundreds of dollars to see Jerry Jones stalk the sidelines.

But it's even bigger than all of that. Goodell finishes this ill-timed screed by writing, "This is about more than a labor agreement. It's about the future of the NFL." It's also about the future of this country. We are living in a time of severe economic crisis. Whether the bosses or workers are made to pay for this crisis will be decided in battles large and small taking place around the country. But for all of these conflicts, there will be no greater stage or more amplified battleground than that between NFL owners and players. The vast majority of fans have a side in this fight. And it's not with Roger Goodell.

Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at



Humor Break: Classic Peanuts

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

Here's a great review by of a new documentary on folk singer and songwriter Phil Ochs. Among those interviewed: Sean Penn, Paul Krassner, Ed Sanders, Van Dyke Parks, Abbie Hoffman, Christopher Hitchens, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, and Tom Hayden...
Phil Ochs Lives!
Michael Simmons
Monday, January 3, 2011

YouTube Song of the Day: Ice-T, "Reckless"

Stoner Cooking: Veggie Edition

Thanks to Aunt Shlee for the following...

West African Vegetable Stew

From: Campbell's Kitchen
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Tired of making the same old meat and potatoes stew? Here's a delicious different vegetable stew that features an usual combination of sweet and savory ingredients that blend together beautifully with mouthwatering results.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Chicken Broth
1/2 cup water
1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
4 coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
Hot cooked rice or couscous


Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.
Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, cinnamon, red pepper, broth and water and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Stir in the chickpeas and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Serve with the rice, if desired.


Sutéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins Recipe

Collards and kale lose less of their volume when cooked than do spinach or turnip greens, so if cooking them, chop them a bit smaller than you would the spinach or turnip greens.


1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 bunch kale, chard, collards, or turnip greens, etc., about 1 pound, tough stem centers removed (if any) and discarded, greens chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Roughly 1/2 cup white wine or water
Salt and pepper to taste


1 Heat a large sauté pan hot on medium-high heat and add the pine nuts. Toast them until they are fragrant and begin to brown. Pay attention as pine nuts burn easily. Stir or toss the nuts frequently. Once they are toasted, remove from pan and set aside.

2 Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl it around. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds; the pan should already be hot, so it won't take long for the garlic to begin to brown. Add back the pine nuts, add the raisins and the greens and mix well. Sauté, stirring often, until the greens wilt and begin to give up some of their water, anywhere from 1-2 minutes for spinach to 4-5 minutes for collards or kale.

3 Sprinkle a little salt and red pepper flakes on the greens. Add the white wine (can substitute water)—use a little more wine if you are cooking collards, a little less if you are cooking spinach. Toss to combine and let the liquid boil away. Once the liquid boils off, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2, can easily be doubled


Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Sage Butter


4 thick slices crusty baguette sliced on an angle
1 pint or about 12-14 large Brussels sprouts -- if the sprouts are not looking good, substitute a bundle of Tuscan or dinosaur kale, stemmed and sliced
1 large, starchy potato
1 pound whole wheat, farro or whole grain spaghetti or other long-cut pasta
6 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, grated or thinly sliced
12 leaves fresh sage
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Yields: Serves 4


Preheat oven to 325°F. Toast bread in hot oven to golden brown. Pulse the bread in food processor to make fresh, large breadcrumbs.

Using the tip of a very sharp paring knife, remove the core of the Brussels sprouts and separate leaves. You should yield 3 cups loosely packed leaves.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water.

Peel the potato and cut into thirds horizontally, then slice the thirds of potato across lengthwise, into about 1/4-inch slices. Boil potatoes 5 minutes, add Brussels sprouts leaves after 2 minutes. Remove potatoes and cabbage from water with a spider or strainer and transfer to a serving bowl.

Peel the potato and cut into thirds horizontally, then slice the thirds of potato across lengthwise, into about 1/4-inch slices. Boil potatoes 5 minutes, add Brussels sprouts leaves after 2 minutes. Remove potatoes and cabbage from water with a spider or strainer and transfer to a serving bowl.

Cook pasta in boiling water to al dente in the same water. Reserve a little starchy cooking water just before draining.

Meanwhile, heat butter, garlic and sage in small pot over low heat, do not brown.

Add pasta to potatoes and cabbage in the serving bowl. Pour butter and sage over top and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add some cheese – a couple of handfuls, toss pasta to combine and taste to adjust seasonings. Use a splash of starchy cooking water if pasta gets too tight while tossing.

Serve spaghetti in shallow bowls topped with more cheese and the breadcrumbs.


Chili Red Lentil Soup


About 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Fresno chili pepper, unseeded, very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cumin, a scant palmful
1 tablespoon turmeric, a scant palmful
1 tablespoon coriander, a scant palmful
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/3 palmful
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups red lentils
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 pound spinach leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, a couple of handfuls
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, a generous handful
1 cup thick Greek plain yogurt
Plain or garlic Naan bread or other flat bread, brushed
Melted butter, for brushing

Yields: Serves 4


Heat oil, a couple of turns of the pan, or butter in a soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onions, garlic and chili pepper, and season liberally with salt and lightly with black pepper. Cook to soften, 8-10 minutes.

Add spices and stir a minute or 2 then stir in tomato paste and cook a minute more. Add lentils and stock, and bring soup to a boil. Cook until lentils are very tender, 40 minutes or so, wilt in spinach, turn off heat.

While soup cooks, process mint, cilantro and yogurt in food processor or blender into a sauce. Add salt to taste.

Griddle-toast the bread according to package directions then brush bread with melted butter.

Serve soup in shallow bowls topped with cool yogurt sauce and buttered Naan bread alongside.

Censoring Huck Finn: A History

The recent news that Huckleberry Finn would be republished without the 219 uses of the word "nigger" (used by Mark Twain in a context to condemn racism and slavery, incidentally) brings up the history of censoring and suppression involved with the Samuel Clemens literary classic. How old is this history? Mary M. Alward has the answer:
The question, “Should Huckleberry Finn be banned?” was first posed in 1885 – the year the book about an interracial friendship was first published - when official committee members of the Public Library of Concord, Massachusetts said, "rough, coarse and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums that to intelligent, respectable people."

Despite the haters, the book has its deserved defenders. Margaret Norris, an African American teacher from San Francisco, describes the book best: “This is how you are, like it or not and that’s why the book is so painful and important, because he is still telling us today.” Or maybe even is Ernest Hemingway in 1935, who said that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: A History of Censorship for the Banned American Literature Classic
Mary M. Alward
Jan 13, 2001

End of Year Awards

Late December and early January are a time where a slew of end-of-the-year awards are released. Here are some of the more well-noted.
While Taylor Swift won Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of the Year, the AP (who picked Swift in 2009) went with Betty White, star of an instant classic Snickers bar Super Bowl commercial, the most popular SNL episode of the year (which followed a huge Facebook campaign to get her on the show and earned her a seventh Emmy) and now the star of TV Land's most popular series Hot in Cleveland. She also won a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild. Not bad for an 88-year-old woman. She beat out the cast of Glee, and tied for third were Conan O'Brien, James Cameron and Apple's iPad. My pick would've been Cameron, but it's hard to be bitter about any victory by Betty White.

Betty White voted AP entertainer of the year
Jake Coyle
Mon Dec 20, 2010

Drew Brees, who are also won the Sportsman of the Year prize from Sports Illustrated, was named AP Male Athlete of the Year. Following him in the top five were NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, boxer Manny Pacquiao, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Brees was a deserved pick, not only for leading the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory with his passing (he set a completion percentage record for a season in 2009) but for basically saving a franchise in the Katrina-thrashed city that seemed almost certainly headed to Los Angeles when he came to town...

Drew Brees is the AP's Male Athlete of the Year
Dec 17, 2010

Sporting News, meanwhile, gave its pro athlete prize to Halladay, who won the Cy Young Award and pitched both a perfect game in the regular season and a no-hitter in the playoffs. A good pick, but Brees was the better choice in my book...

2010 SN Pro Athlete of the Year: Roy Halladay
Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010

Lindsey Vonn, who won a Gold and Bronze Medal at the Winter Olympics and a third straight skiing World Cup, won AP's Female Athlete of the Year. She beat out racehorse Zenyatta and UConn's Maya Moore...

Lindsey Vonn is 2010 AP Female Athlete of Year
Dec 18, 2010

Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven made Cooperstown, Alomar getting the nod in his second year of eligibility, Blyleven in his 14th. They will be joined by Pat Gillick, the general manager executive who built the Toronto Blue Jays into World Series champs in 1992-93 (teams that included Alomar) and the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Dave Van Horne, play-by-play man for the Florida Marlins after a 32-year-run with the Montreal Expos, will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, and Bill Conlin, Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, will receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing. Technically, both Van Horne and Conlin won't be HOF members for their lifetime achievement awards, but The Konformist isn't into technicalities.

Alomar, who will likely wear Toronto Blue Jays cap at induction, was a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman during a 17-year-career. His lifetime stats: 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 474 stolen bases and a .300 average in 2,379 games. Blyleven, who will likely wear a Minnesota Twins cap, was 287-250 as a pitcher with 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and a career ERA of 3.31 in 23 seasons, winning World Series with the '79 Pittsburgh Pirates and the '87 Twins.

Shortstop Barry Larkin, in his second year of eligibility, received 62.1 percent of the vote, and will likely get in sooner rather than later. Starting pitcher Jack Morris, in his 12th year, received 53.5, and he has three more years to reach the 75 percent needed for HOF induction. Relief pitcher Lee Morris received 45.3 and has six years of eligibility left, so he's a fairly good bet. Meanwhile, Rafael Palmeiro became the Steroid Era's second test case and didn't do to well, only getting 11 percent of the vote in his first year. Mark McGwire, in his fifth year, only received 19.8 percent...

Alomar, Blyleven elected to Hall of Fame
Barry M. Bloom

Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of banished words. Here's the winners:


The annual list of most popular baby names in America was released. Count me as someone confused by the popularity of some choices...


1. Aiden
2. Jacob
3. Jackson
4. Ethan
5. Jayden
6. Noah
7. Logan
8. Caden
9. Lucas
10. Liam


1. Sophia
2. Isabella
3. Olivia
4. Emma
5. Chloe
6. Ava
7. Lily
8. Madison
9. Addison
10. Abigal

100 most popular baby names of 2010

Humor: Truther Toys


Here are a few toy concepts I had fun creating. it's my little way of getting the truth out with a bit of humor. New toys are added all the time...

The 10 best films of 2010

Chris Halverson, Konformist Movie Critic

Hey film buffs - looking back at all the films that were released in 2010 these are what I think are the 10 best from 2010...

10) Shutter Island (Director: Martin Scorsese) It has gotten overlooked since it came out so early in the year, but this was still Scorsese at his Hitchcockian best with great performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley.

9) The Social Network (Director: David Fincher) Not Fincher’s best film (that would still be Zodiac or Fight Club) and slightly overrated by critics who are calling it the film of a generation, but still a well made film that is deserving of praise. And kudos to Jesse Eisenberg for playing the asshole of all assholes and still making him a fascinating character.

8) Black Swan (Director: Darren Aronofsky) Yes, that film about the Bi-Polar/Bi-Sexual ballerina is a major head-trip. But no one can deny it’s topnotch filmmaking. Only Darren Aronofsky can blend together genres (melodrama/thriller/horror/musical/softcore porn) so effortlessly.

7) The Kings Speech (Director: Tom Hooper) The true story of King George VI snuck up me. Gracefully executed and brilliant acting all around.

6) The Fighter (Director: David O. Russell) Hollywood has made a lot of classic boxing films in the past. Surprising it took almost a decade for Mark Wahlberg to get this film about “Irish” Mickey Ward and his crazy brother Dickey made. The wait was well worth it for director David O. Russell and Christian Bale to come on board. A film that is sure to join those great boxing films of Hollywood’s past.

5) Blue Valentine (Director: Derek Cianfrance) A gritty but beautiful film about the beginning and ending of a relationship with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling giving two of the best performances of the year. This is low budget; independent filmmaking at it’s very best.

4) Inception (Director: Christopher Nolan) Everything about Inception is completely original and brilliant. Name another film that has as many layers going as Inception does. The Academy CANNOT snub Christopher Nolan of a best Direction nomination again. He has to get a nomination.

3) The Town (Director: Ben Affleck) Ben Affleck is the comeback story of the year. A very tight film all around. The chase sequence of the crew getting back into Charlestown and involving the Charlestown Bridge is as good as any chase scene put on film and the final “heist” of a certain Boston landmark just may be the ultimate “heist” that has ever been put on film. This is proof that as he ages, Ben Affleck could have a similar career pattern to Clint Eastwood.

2) Toy Story 3 (Director: Lee Unkrich) Pixar has made yet another gem and has also done something that hasn’t been done since The Shawshank Redemption. A film that, in the end, can bring a grown man to tears.

1) True Grit (Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen) The Coen brothers have pulled of something that has never been pulled off before. Remaking a classic film that is every bit as good and in many ways better then the original. Roger Deakins cinematography is absolutely stunning, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are perfect, and Jeff Bridges gives another iconic performance. But the two standouts are the criminally underrated Berry Pepper and the young Hailee Steinfeld who gives a star making performance. This is proof that the great American Western still has plenty of life left on the big screen.

Scalia Kills Corporate Personhood

"In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that... But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society."

So said Antonin Scalia recently in a highly controversial speech.

However, as noted on, if he actually believes this, then the whole idea of corporate personhood gaining rights through the 14th Amendment is totally bogus. Thom Hartmann is quoted saying that "before the Supreme Court the Southern Pacific Railroad argued in this case that the 14th amendment which says ‘no person shall be denied equal protection under the law’ should apply to them as a corporation. In other words, that as a corporation they should have rights under the constitution because the 14th amendment, when it was written to free the slaves in the 1870’s, the 14th amendment didn’t say ‘no natural person shall be denied equal protection under the law.’ Instead it says ‘no person.’ And for hundreds of years of common law we had this distinction between natural persons, you and me, and artificial persons: churches, governments, corporations."

Scalia Kills Corporate Personhood
Wednesday January 5, 2011

Robert Reich Blasts Right Wing Lies

Two pieces by Robert Reich help set the record straight on current economic issues.
Item One: Why was MLK in Memphis in 1968 when he was assassinated? To support public workers:

"In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to support them. That was where he lost his life. Eventually Memphis heard the grievances of its sanitation workers. And in subsequent years millions of public employees across the nation have benefited from the job protections they’ve earned.

But now the right is going after public employees.

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

It’s far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public’s work - sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees – to call them 'faceless bureaucrats' and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets..."

The Shameful Attack on Public Employees
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Item Two:

"Republicans are telling Americans a Big Lie, and Obama and the Democrats are letting them. The Big Lie is our economic problems are due to a government that’s too large, and therefore the solution is to shrink it.

The truth is our economic problems stem from the biggest concentration of income and wealth at the top since 1928, combined with stagnant incomes for most of the rest of us. The result: Americans no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full capacity. Since the debt bubble burst, most Americans have had to reduce their spending; they need to repay their debts, can’t borrow as before, and must save for retirement."

The Big Lie
Monday, January 3, 2011

Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know

Video tape: Starting this year, the news stories we produce here at Money Talks have all been shot, edited, and distributed to TV stations without ever being on any kind of tape. Not only that, the tape-less broadcast camera we use today offers much higher quality than anything that could have been imagined 10 years ago -- and cost less than the lens on the camera we were using previously.
Travel agents: While not dead today, this profession is one of many that's been decimated by the Internet. When it's time for their honeymoon, will those born in 2011 be able to find one?

The separation of work and home: When you're carrying an email-equipped computer in your pocket, it's not just your friends who can find you -- so can your boss. For kids born this year, the wall between office and home will be blurry indeed.

Books, magazines, and newspapers: Like video tape, words written on dead trees are on their way out. Sure, there may be books -- but for those born today, stores that exist solely to sell them will be as numerous as record stores are now.

Movie rental stores: You actually got in your car and drove someplace just to rent a movie?

Watches: Maybe as quaint jewelry, but the correct time is on your smartphone, which is pretty much always in your hand.

Paper maps: At one time these were available free at every gas station. They're practically obsolete today, and the next generation will probably have to visit a museum to find one.

Wired phones: Why would you pay $35 every month to have a phone that plugs into a wall? For those born today, this will be a silly concept.

Long distance: Thanks to the Internet, the days of paying more to talk to somebody in the next city, state, or even country are limited.

Newspaper classifieds: The days are gone when you have to buy a bunch of newsprint just to see what's for sale.

Dial-up Internet: While not everyone is on broadband, it won't be long before dial-up Internet goes the way of the plug-in phone.

Encyclopedias: Imagine a time when you had to buy expensive books that were outdated before the ink was dry. This will be a nonsense term for babies born today.

Forgotten friends: Remember when an old friend would bring up someone you went to high school with, and you'd say, "Oh yeah, I forgot about them!" The next generation will automatically be in touch with everyone they've ever known even slightly via Facebook.

Forgotten anything else: Kids born this year will never know what it was like to stand in a bar and incessantly argue the unknowable. Today the world's collective knowledge is on the computer in your pocket or purse. And since you have it with you at all times, why bother remembering anything?

The evening news: The news is on 24/7. And if you're not home to watch it, that's OK -- it's on the smartphone in your pocket.

CDs: First records, then 8-track, then cassette, then CDs -- replacing your music collection used to be an expensive pastime. Now it's cheap(er) and as close as the nearest Internet connection.

Film cameras: For the purist, perhaps, but for kids born today, the word "film" will mean nothing. In fact, even digital cameras -- both video and still -- are in danger of extinction as our pocket computers take over that function too.

Yellow and White Pages: Why in the world would you need a 10-pound book just to find someone?

Catalogs: There's no need to send me a book in the mail when I can see everything you have for sale anywhere, anytime. If you want to remind me to look at it, send me an email.

Fax machines: Can you say "scan," ".pdf" and "email?"

One picture to a frame: Such a waste of wall/counter/desk space to have a separate frame around each picture. Eight gigabytes of pictures and/or video in a digital frame encompassing every person you've ever met and everything you've ever done -- now, that's efficient. Especially compared to what we used to do: put our friends and relatives together in a room and force them to watch what we called a "slide show" or "home movies."

Wires: Wires connecting phones to walls? Wires connecting computers, TVs, stereos, and other electronics to each other? Wires connecting computers to the Internet? To kids born in 2011, that will make as much sense as an electric car trailing an extension cord.

Hand-written letters: For that matter, hand-written anything. When was the last time you wrote cursive? In fact, do you even know what the word "cursive" means? Kids born in 2011 won't -- but they'll put you to shame on a tiny keyboard.

Talking to one person at a time: Remember when it was rude to be with one person while talking to another on the phone? Kids born today will just assume that you're supposed to use texting to maintain contact with five or six other people while pretending to pay attention to the person you happen to be physically next to.

Retirement plans: Yes, Johnny, there was a time when all you had to do was work at the same place for 20 years and they'd send you a check every month for as long as you lived. In fact, some companies would even pay your medical bills, too!

Mail: What's left when you take the mail you receive today, then subtract the bills you could be paying online, the checks you could be having direct-deposited, and the junk mail you could be receiving as junk email? Answer: A bloated bureaucracy that loses billions of taxpayer dollars annually.

Commercials on TV: They're terrifically expensive, easily avoided with DVRs, and inefficiently target mass audiences. Unless somebody comes up with a way to force you to watch them -- as with video on the Internet -- who's going to pay for them?

Commercial music radio: Smartphones with music-streaming programs like Pandora are a better solution that doesn't include ads screaming between every song.

Hiding: Not long ago, if you didn't answer your home phone, that was that -- nobody knew if you were alive or dead, much less where you might be. Now your phone is not only in your pocket, it can potentially tell everyone -- including advertisers -- exactly where you are.

Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know
Stacy Johnson
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

$5 Gas in 2012?

So says a former president of Shell Oil. Maybe he's still lying and shilling for the oil industry, but even if that's the case, his prediction is worth paying attention to...

Ex-Shell president sees $5 gas in 2012
Laurie Segall
December 27, 2010


Contact: Jerry Rubin - (310) 399-1000


Los Angeles, CA - As Mayor Tom Bradley spoke and wished the 1,200 peace marchers well, and singers such as Melissa Manchester and Holly Near sang songs of hope and inspiration to the large crowd gathered that clear March 1, 1986 morning on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, the Great Peace March was officially starting their 3,700 mile, 8 ½ - month cross- country trek for peace and global nuclear disarmament that would conclude November 15 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. But the march was not without many extreme hardships, trials and tribulations. And, certainly, the march was not without much individual and collective commitment as well as hopes, dreams and visions of a world free of nuclear weapons.

So, on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 12:00 Noon, again on the front steps of L.A. City Hall, Great Peace March participants and supporters will gather, hold a 25TH Anniversary Public Rally, and then collectively participate in a short march around the perimeter of City Hall.

Los Angeles City Hall is located at 200 N. Spring Street. The event is free and open to the public. Speakers and participants at the rally will include marchers, march supporters, elected officials, religious leaders, musicians, and community group representatives who are still working to promote a nuclear-free world.

For further information call Jerry Rubin at 310-399-1000
or e-mail to:


Was John Lennon's murderer Mark Chapman a CIA hitman?
Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The BBC made an excellent documentary about the extensive role US intelligence played in John Lennon's life (and death). They played it here in New Zealand for the 30th anniversary. I doubt if it got air time in the US. It was the first time I had heard Yoko speak out about the assassination. I was astonished to learn of the number of assassination attempts she experienced (starting the day after John was killed). Even more ominous were all the break-ins she experienced to her apartment at the Dakota Hotel. She talks about John's personal stuff being stolen - letters, his diary. The diary was later put back with obvious forgeries in it. She talks about a letter John got from Chapman a month before the murder, where the date was altered and put back in the apartment. All the break-ins, assassination attempts against his mom clearly took a toll on Sean Lennon. Who is utterly convinced the US government killed his dad. I first became aware of the government role in Lennon's assassination in 1987, owing to my own close encounter with US intelligence. I write about this in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE ( I currently live in exile in New Zealand.
WaPo 2010 neologism contest
Pat Myers
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Actually, it's two Style Invitational contests from back in 1998 that are the sources of many of the neologisms in the list above. (But not all: For example, "decafalon" isn't a one-letter change from "decathlon," is it? Or "caterpallor"?)

Much better to see the current Invitational -- every week at We've had more than 600 contests since the ones above! The Style Invitational is published every Saturday in The Post's Style (features) section, and every Friday afternoon at about 3:30 Eastern time. There are neologism contests regularly, and lots of other sources of humor as well.

For example, we asked readers recently to coin a new word or term that was a palindrome (it's spelled the same backward and forward). Here are some of the top winners (results printed Oct. 16):

AHA HAHA: When you finally get the joke. (Tom Flaherty, Culpeper, Va.)

EGADAGE: "Heck," "darn," etc. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

NAMETAG-GATEMAN: The conference organizer who won't let you enter until you've ruined your jacket with adhesive paper. (Dion Black, Washington)

AMENEMA: Blessed relief. (Anne Morgan, Fairfax, a First Offender)

DROWSYSWORD: Impotence. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

See the rest of the winners and learn how to enter the current contest at Or you can become a fan of "Washington Post Style" on Facebook (go to ) and you'll get a link to the Invitational when it's posted. I hope you become a regular reader and maybe even a regular entrant.

Best, The Empress of The Style Invitational
The Washington Post

The BCS: Not Just Bad, It's Illegal

I admit when I joined the college playoff movement in 2007, it was merely about what a bad system the BCS is. But my interest became deeper when I realized it was a blatant violation of federal anti-trust laws.

Apparently, others more respectable than me have come to the same conclusion:

This past week the Department of Justice received a 28-page analysis of the BCS from the Washington law firm Arent Fox, which is representing Boise State and the Mountain West Conference in their quest for reform of the postseason system. Written by attorney Alan Fishel, it's entitled "22 Tall Tales of the BCS." The DOJ is conducting an ongoing review of the bowl scheme, with an eye toward whether it's in violation of antitrust laws. Fishel contends that it is, and more.

"It's illegal, indefensible, unconscionable, and completely at odds with the values that higher education seeks to promote," he says.

Crowning an illegitimate champion
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Also, check out for more info on this subject that is more serious than most realize...

Wikileaks Didn't "Dump" All Cables Received

A recent article in succinctly puts to rest a common claim about Wikileaks:
Spreading the lie that WikiLeaks posted all the cables.

WikiLeaks has posted fewer than 2,000 of the 251,287 cables in its possession. The whistleblower released those documents in tandem with major news outlets including the Guardian, El Pais and Le Monde, and used most of the redactions employed by those papers to protect the identities of people whose lives could be endangered by exposure. The AP detailed this process in a December 3 article, but this did not stop officials and pundits from howling that WikiLeaks "indiscriminately" dumped all the cables online. Much of the media mindlessly repeated the claim.

There's seven more lies in the following article:

8 Smears and Misconceptions About WikiLeaks Spread By the Media
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and Tana Ganeva
December 31, 2010

MK-Ultra in Arizona

"The preliminary profile of Mark Lee Loughner indicates that he may be a person going through genuine programming under MKULTRA by mind control methods and programming by on-the-ground MKULTRA agents designed to disorient the individual mind and turn the individual into a ‘Manchurian candidate’ type assassin."

AZ Congresswoman assassination scenario has MKULTRA profile, drug & space target
Alfred Lambremont Webre
January 8th, 2011

Support Consortium News

Robert Parry,

I understand that times are tough and there are many worthy causes deserving of your attention.

As a longtime investigative journalist, I also realize that our goal at of building an accurate record of what the U.S. government has done – often in secret – can seem abstract at times. How does that help feed the poor or house the homeless?

It’s a reasonable question. But it is my belief that only through the wide dissemination of honest information can the American political process recover its vitality and, yes, its sanity. And only then can some of the intractable problems facing the United States and the world be properly addressed.

As long as propaganda and disinformation reign, the chances that politicians – or mainstream journalists – will take the risks to do what’s right are remote. In my view, today’s media/political environment breeds craziness on one side of the partisan divide and timidity on the other.

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Yet, the need for the information that we produce seems to be at an all-time high. In just the past few weeks, I’ve been asked to post more of our exclusive documents on the Internet and to resurrect some of the investigative journalism that I produced when I worked at the Associated Press, Newsweek and PBS Frontline in the 1980s and 1990s. But all that takes time and money.

Because of the lingering recession, we also reduced our end-of-year fundraising goal to a modest $35,000. However, we have raised less than half that target.

So, I am making one last appeal to readers and others who support what we do to consider a tax-deductible donation to our effort. (And I wish to thank those who have found some way to back our work, either through donations and book purchases, or by forwarding our stories to others.)

Here are three ways you can help us reach our goal:

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Second, if you'd rather spread out your support in smaller amounts, you can sign up for a monthly donation. With contributions of $10 or more a month, you can qualify for war correspondent Don North's new DVD, "Yesterday's Enemies" about the lives of former Salvadoran guerrillas. For details, click here. (If you sign up for a monthly donation and want to get Don's DVD, remember to contact us at

Third, you can take advantage of our deep discount for the three-book set of Robert Parry's Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege, and Neck Deep (co-authored with Sam and Nat Parry). The price for the set is only $29. Our goal is to sell at least five dozen more sets so we can make way for a new book. For details, click here.

Thanks so much.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He founded in 1995 as the Internet's first investigative magazine. He saw it as a way to combine modern technology and old-fashioned journalism to counter the increasing triviality of the mainstream U.S. news media.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ace Hoffman on San Onofre Nukes

December 26th, 2010

Dear Readers,

It always breaks my heart when I hear nuclear workers say they wouldn't be doing it if they thought they were putting their children at risk. These same workers take their children to McDonald's. No risk there, huh? A disproportionate number of them smoke tobacco, and inevitably, their children become smokers more frequently, too. They likewise ignore the dangers from CT scans, x-rays, sunlight and tritium, and they, and their children, get cancer and die, just like the rest of us. Death leaves no voter behind. Even if they "wise up" as they whither and die, it does society no good. Their voting days are done. Today, they might be on the local school board, stopping opinions they don't agree with, and a long-time employee of the nuclear power plant. But tomorrow perhaps, they'll feel a sudden pain that won't stop, or they'll cough up blood, or -- like me -- they'll piss blood, and then their life changes.... but all too often, it's too late by then.

And they don't know if it was the cigarettes or the hamburgers or the x-rays or the CT scans or the sun or their job or something else, but it doesn't really matter, it's over. And if they DO survive, a lot of times, radiation is given in ample quantities before, during, and after treatment, and it's hard to complain about getting too much radiation when the doctor's telling you he thinks he sees a lump... Radiation to find the cancer. Radiation to cure it. Radiation to be sure it remains gone. Radiation to prevent its recurrence. Radiation to keep the hospital's liability down.

The main key to cancer survivability is early detection followed by timely and skilled medical care. No infections, no tools left inside the body, all the holes sewed up nicely. No matter how good it gets, it's not nearly as fun as not getting cancer in the first place.

Many, if not most, cancers are the result of a series of changes in the DNA structure. Although the final initiating event will likely be one random change to the DNA of one cell in the body, out of 10s of trillions of cells, frequently many cells are in the "pre-cancerous" stage by then, which makes "curing" cancer very difficult indeed.

On Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a Special Hearing on San Onofre's ongoing problems with worker honesty, integrity, and related morale issues. The dangers to children from environmental radiation were not discussed, although they should have been. Scores of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station workers showed up at the hearing, wearing "SONGS" dress shirts, polo shirts, jackets, patches, name tags, and/or beepers. The CEO of Edison International (the parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE), which operates the facility (with a lot of sub-contractors such as Bechtel and The Shaw Group)), had flown in, and he sat in the front row along with several other Edison corporate celebrities and NRC mucky-mucks, as well as a couple of recently-retired, 25-year SONGS veterans who are now whistleblowers.

Facing the audience were four SCE executives at one table -- the top one yet another new guy -- and four NRC inspectors at another table. At its peak, there were about 150 people in the room.

During the "formal" part of the meeting, we were told that all the important "metrics" show improvement, and nothing unsafe is happening at the plant. The NRC feels that they are getting the proper feedback from the utility workers so that they can maintain a "Safety-Conscious Work Environment" ("SCWE") and proper regulatory control. We were told that all the workers now carry a "blue book" which tells them how to behave, and many members of the audience held up their "blue books" to show that they carry them all the time, along with their beepers.

However, when the public comment period began and the whistleblowers started speaking out, a completely different picture emerged. Things are, once again, worse than ever at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Regarding the steel I-beam that was dropped into the spent fuel pool last month (which I had written about in a previous newsletter), we were told that it "only" weighed about 40 pounds. The NRC assumes that even if the I-beam had fallen vertically it wouldn't have been able to damage a 1,400-pound reactor fuel assembly, considering that the reactor fuel assemblies are designed to withstand a second reactor fuel assembly falling on top of them vertically at "terminal velocity" through water.

We were told that even if a fuel leakage issue was somehow caused by such an accident, or any "foreseeable" accident, the radiation would be contained inside the spent fuel pool building, which is very large and "negatively pressurized."

Of course. in order to have negative pressure, you have to suck air out, at least somewhat, because everything leaks, at least somewhat, and people have to go in and out through doorways, and fuel has to go in and out.

Fans draw the excess air out, but not to worry: Everything goes through a HEPA filter! HEPA filters were designed for the nuclear industry, and the standards are written by the Department of Energy (DOE).

So just because they can't even stop a 40-pound I-beam from falling, there's nothing to worry about, because they'll still achieve a 99.99% containment of any radioactive crud that is released, thanks to the HEPA filters, right?

Well, not quite.

To use the word "HEPA" when you market your filter, you are required to achieve a 99.97% filtration of particles larger than 0.3 microns in diameter. At 99.97% efficiency, 3 out of every 10,000 large particles gets through, which can quickly add up to trillions of large particles "legally" getting through the filter. Most of the particles that are released above 0.3 microns will be right around the 0.3 micron size.

Anything smaller than 0.3 microns isn't required to be stopped at all, and of course, any accident will release a spectrum of particle sizes, and many accidents are likely to have average particle sizes in the 0.1 micron size. So HEPA filter aren't all they're cracked up to be! And industry standards are three times weaker than what you probably would go buy yourself at the store.

As a HEPA filter is used, the average particle size it can stop will get smaller as material cakes around the filter material, while the pressure to push air through the filter increases accordingly. If the caked material reacts chemically with the filter material, it can damage the fibers and greatly reduce the effectiveness of the filter. Radiation would, of course, damage the filter material, no matter what that material is.

A good eye can discern objects down to about 10 microns in size, so what HEPA filters do let through is, conveniently enough, invisible. HEPA filters do not stop ANY noble gases, which don't clump into large particles. AND is it just a coincidence that noble gases that might be released in an accident aren't normally measured, reported, considered, or believed to be any cause for concern? Noble gases are generally considered "harmless" because the body doesn't utilize them in any way. But the body absorbs them "accidentally" all the time, so they are in the body at a fairly constant rate.

HEPA filters also won't stop tritium. A single gram of tritium will undergo about 370 trillion (370,000,000,000,000) decays per second.

Fortunately, when they dropped the steel I-beam, it didn't get jammed beside a fuel assembly, which then got damaged as they tried to remove it... I'm just saying, it COULD have happened... Nothing went wrong THIS time. And the NRC feels they learned something.

Did they learn that since 40-year-old steel hooks fail (that's the probable age of the part) that perhaps the whole rest of the plant is falling apart, embrittling unexpectedly, deteriorating from the salty air, the radiation, the heat, the humidity, father time, and poor maintenance?


Instead, the utility replaced the hook and the NRC made a generic new rule: Lanyards should be used for lifts over the spent fuel pool.


Which reminds me of the (true story!) guy who was demonstrating safety procedures for a class of young mountain-climbers. He cut his main rope in order to show how the safety rope will catch you safely.

Only it didn't, and he fell 40 feet to his death.

Lanyards break, too.

At the nuclear power plant, the "Standard Operating Procedure" is that there is no such thing as a warning sign of an upcoming catastrophic failure. There are just "lessons learned." So here we sit, at the brink of disaster, and all we have are "lessons learned"!

And actually, we don't even have THAT!

Why not?

Because one lesson learned at San Onofre over and over again is that the records kept by the employees there are NOT ACCURATE! So whatever lessons COULD be learned will soon be forgotten.

I'm sure there are still a lot of good people left at San Onofre.

Let's guess that 90% of the workforce are decent, honest people. That seems kind of high to me, but if that's the case, then about 200 to 300 people, depending on how many contractors are on the staff at any one time, are dishonest at San Onofre. That leaves a lot of room for fraud and deceit!

But even if 99% are honest (a hopelessly optimistic number, judging by the "human factors" problems they are having at the plant) that would still mean that 20 to 30 people are running around the plant faking things, covering up problems, pretending everything went well when it didn't, not finishing jobs... how many screw-ups does it take to cause a meltdown? Just one.

A year ago I heard about problems with integrity in dry fuel cask fabrication, problems of not performing work to specifications. The whistleblower, a long-time San Onofre employee, was also a former Los Alamos technician and a former Marine sniper as well. Now we're hearing that pressure tests (which I assume should normally follow cask fabrication) are being done improperly too.

How DO you spell "recipe for disaster"? SONGS.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, a bladder cancer survivor, has been studying nuclear-related issued independently for about 40 years. He is an educational software developer and author of THE CODE KILLERS (an in-depth look at nuclear power), available as a free download from:
Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Phone: (760) 720-7261
Address: PO Box 1936, Carlsbad, CA 92018
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