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Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday April 16, 2014 8:22 pm

 

Tonight’s music video is “Canadian Cowboy” from Arc Iris, on her self-titled album.

A hand holding a rainbow spiral image cut into squares -- a sheet of blotter acid (LSD)

“Hey man, can I bum a square?”

In the 1960s, research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs was commonplace. That era is slowly returning – Discover reports that the first LSD study in 40 years reveals the therapeutic potential of the drug.

The study, published in Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, found evidence that LSD, when administered in a medically-based therapeutic environment, lowers the anxiety experienced by individuals facing life-threatening illnesses. Although the sample size—just 12 people—was small, the findings offer compelling rationale for further study of the illegal, often stigmatized drug.

‘This study is historic and marks a rebirth of investigation into LSD-assisted psychotherapy,’ said Rick Doblin in a news release, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which sponsored the study. ‘The positive results and evidence of safety clearly show why additional, larger studies are needed.’

That LSD—lysergic acid diethylamide—can be therapeutically beneficial has been known for decades. Studies of the chemical substance began back in 1949 as a way to simulate mental illness. But researchers soon discovered beneficial effects of the drug. By 1965, over 1,000 studies were published that heralded the therapeutic efficacy of LSD. The substance was used to treat alcoholism, and in several studies from the 60s, the drug was found to reduce anxiety, depression and pain—when used in conjunction with counseling—in cancer patients. Similar benefits were also discovered from other psychedelics such as hallucinogenic mushrooms.

[...]

The new study reaffirms many of the findings from 40 years ago. Researchers recruited 12 patients who were coping with anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses. Eight patients were then randomly selected to receive drug-free psychotherapy sessions as well as two LSD-assisted sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart. Four participants were given a placebo during therapy and they served as the control. LSD helped stimulate a deep psychedelic state, allowing the participants to reach what they described as an emotionally intensified dream-like state.

‘My LSD experience brought back some lost emotions and ability to trust, lots of psychological insights, and a timeless moment when the universe didn’t seem like a trap, but like a revelation of utter beauty,’ said Peter, an Austrian subject who participated in the study.

You can download a .pdf of the study.

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VIDEO: Jazree’s Court Unpacks How Mass Incarceration Impacts America’s Youth

By: Jordan Melograna Wednesday April 16, 2014 2:13 pm

Eight years ago, Jazree was like any other eight-year-old hanging out with friends and experiencing important milestones of her youth. She finished Elementary school and started the emotional rollercoaster called puberty. She even started having crushes — crushes on girls. All of these experiences impacted Jazree’s future, but one experience overshadowed all others. Jazree’s dad was sentenced to seven years in prison for possession of an unloaded firearm by a felon.

Jazree says her and her dad had been like two peas in a pod, like twins. But her mom — that was different story. They don’t get along. In eighth grade, when Jazree came out, her mom broke down crying. She still can’t get used to Jazree being a lesbian.

Jazree is one of 2.7 million American kids growing up forcibly separated from an incarcerated parent, another terrible consequence of America’s system of mass incarceration. At Brave New Films, we’ve seen countless stories of unnecessary suffering caused by our country’s obsession with long prison sentences. Our producers’ work hard to find stories most people haven’t heard and put a face to this tough issue.

We found Jazree through the non-profit who has been working with her in the Bay Area Project WHAT (We’re Here And Talking) is a youth-led organization that raises awareness for these children of parents in jail and prison. With their help, we were able to find and interview Jazree and her family.

Our producer, Brittany Washington, talked on the phone with Jazree weeks before the shoot began last Thanksgiving. She took Brittany to the basketball court – her home away from home and the inspiration for the film’s title. She started to warm up. She told the camera how she was bullied in school because she had a crush on a female classmate. Her mom said she should have expected it, after she told her friends she was “different.” She couldn’t talk to her dad — he was “away.”

Every teenager wrestles with her own issues. But most are lucky enough to have parents there to help them and understand their problems. But not Jazree. Like millions of others, she was forced to deal with the grief that comes with a parent’s absence. In her case, it was compounded by the complications of coming out.

Brittany spent three intimate days with Jazree and her family, filming or just talking. Her camera was there when Jazree and her dad Gordon were reunited after his release, two years after they last saw each other in the prison visiting room.

Zoe Willmont of Project WHAT tells me that the filming has been one of the best experiences Jazree has ever had. But there are so many other kids out there just like her. The United States locks up more of its citizens than any other country on Earth, and nearly two-thirds of them committed non-violent offenses. Now, one out of twenty-eight children in America have an incarcerated parent. We wanted viewers to think about our system differently. Is it worth it to warehouse millions of parents away from their kids? Isn’t there a better way?

Her dad may always carry the label “criminal,” but her love for him serves as a reminder that the incarcerated are more than just the sum of their mistakes. To many kids like Jazree, they are family, and sometimes the one person they need the most.

Thompson Knew in ’72

By: Anthony Noel
Hunter S. Thompson in sunglasses & Hawaiian shirt

It’s a mistake to focus on Hunter Thompson’s debauchery while ignoring his political wisdom.

Go to GoodReads, search on Hunter S. Thompson, and you’ll get first-page results like this:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

And this:

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Thanks to quotes like those, the efforts of Bill Murray, Johnny Depp, and Garry Trudeau — and the fact that Thompson was every bit as wild as they portrayed him — his name will probably forever conjure Raoul Duke, the outsize self-portrait he wove in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — a.k.a. “Uncle Duke” in Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

But remembering Thompson only as a Ralph Steadman caricature is a mistake. Immeasurably more important — more even than that “expensive little twister rising up from the Great Red Shark” — is Thompson’s gift for keen social and political analysis. In a single presidential election, he taught us more about who controls America than the combined work of all those who pounded the same beat for entire lifetimes.

Nonetheless, since stumbling upon Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shortly after its publication, I — like legions of others — had been most enamored of Thompson’s scathing wit; most engaged by his Sixties sentimentalism; most vicariously thrilled (right!) by his dedication to mind-altering substances — and, as a writer, wholly envious of his ability to smite even the jumbo-est mumbo-ers in 10 words or less.

There’s not much of that Thompson I haven’t read, along with his (more or less) straight reporting (Hell’s Angels), fiction (The Rum Diary), and the vast collection of letters and essays he banged out on his IBM Selectric.

The excellence of it all should have convinced me years ago, but until two recent, ridiculously long experiences “in the system” (as the air travel monopoly now calls it), and for reasons I’ve resigned myself to never fully knowing – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, which I now consider Thompson’s masterwork, was a blip on the radar I chose to ignore.

*ping*

Maybe its half-borrowed, ungainly title had me thinking it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of that other Fear and Loathing.

*ping*

Maybe it was the age of the story itself.

*ping*

Or maybe, rather than ignored, I avoided Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 for the same reason others have: The depression I knew reading it would cause, thanks to the story’s already-known, fateful ending.

Whatever the reasons, not reading it until now was a mistake.

LIVE STREAM: Thomas Piketty — Is Inequality Inevitable?

By: Elliott Thursday March 1, 2012 9:30 am

Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century will be the Sunday May 11 Book Salon here at FDL, but tonight he’s with economists Paul Krugman, Steven Durlauf and Joseph Stiglitz.

Watch live streaming video from cunytv2 at livestream.com

In a review, Krugman, who will appear on Moyers & Company this week, calls the book “magnificent” in part because it will “change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics,” adding that the French economist’s influence “runs deep.”

“The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”

Picketty’s book’s been quite the topic around the blogosphere of late and here is a chance to hear from the man directly – that is if you can get past the horror that he’s French.

Thanks to Bill Moyers for the live stream. (As noted, Moyers interviews Krugman for his show this week, so look for that).

NY Times vs RT at Kramatorsk: Mob of militants or local citizens?

By: fairleft Saturday April 23, 2011 7:27 am
Three soldiers guard a cement roadblock.

What’s happening in Ukraine? Depends on which reporters you ask.

New York Times: ”Ukraine Military Clashes With Pro-Russia Militants in East

RT: “Those who don’t lay arms, will be destroyed – Ukrainian military op commander

The Ukraine military finally swung into action and took over a military airbase in eastern Ukraine near Kramatorsk. RT chose to emphasize a statement by the general leading the operation:

A Ukrainian general leading the operation against protesters in the east of the country has warned that activists who refuse to lay down their arms will be ‘destroyed.’

‘They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed,’ General Vasily Krutov, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) told reporters, as cited by AFP.

While NYT preferred a more traditional gung ho “storming” lead:

The Ukrainian military stormed an airport 25 miles north of this city on Tuesday, beginning what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.

RT: “protesters,” “activists”
NYT: “pro-Russian militants”

Both publications also reported on a confrontation between Krutov and a crowd at the base:

NYT:

At length the commander of the Ukranian operation, Gen. Vasily Krutov, approached the crowd of about 500 gathered behind a barbed wire fence to urge the militants to disperse, to little or no effect. As he was walking away he was roughed up, people in the crowd said, shoved hard enough that his hat fell off.

The situation, described by local reporters as a ‘mob scene,’ persisted throughout the afternoon …

RT:

On Tuesday evening, Krutov, who personally supervised the operation in Kramatorsk, appeared before local residents gathered on the airfield. According to RIA Novosti, the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] official attempted to explain to them that the military had arrived at the site to protect them from ‘terrorists.’ However, the crowd responded shouting they were ‘peaceful citizens.’ The activists then pushed Krutov several times, but were stopped by special forces troops who fired warning shots into the air.

NYT: It’s a “mob scene,” and Krutov simply wants “militants” to disperse, but is “roughed up” and victimized, shoved so hard “his hat fell off.” The reporter reports all of this second-hand, he apparently wasn’t there.
RT: Tells what the crowd said, that they are “peaceful citizens” and not “terrorists.” Apparently a first-hand account.

RT:

According to activists, four people were killed and two others injured on Tuesday as troops seized an airfield in the city of Kramatorsk, which had earlier been controlled by protesters.

NYT:

Russian news media, citing members of the armed opposition to Kiev, reported that several members of a pro-Russian militia had been injured at the airfield in firefights with the Ukrainian military. Later, Russian news media reported four fatalities in the vicinity of the airport.

RT: Straightforward: says four people were killed and two injured, “according to activists.”

NYT: Buries the lead (four people allegedly killed), and apparently the reporter decided not to ask at the scene about deaths and injuries. Instead he chose to watch or read the Russian news media (that most NYT readers, he knows, will consider unreliable), which cited “members of the armed opposition to Kiev.”

Same As It Ever Was: War, Peace, Wall Street, and the Smothers Brothers

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday April 16, 2014 1:45 pm

 

The Smothers Brothers dressed in Roman outfits as centurion and statesman

The Smothers Brothers. The work of the best jesters is timeless.

Firedoglake’s Elliott recently reminded me of the immortal humor of the Smothers Brothers. Though this duo was before my time, their humor resonates today in political satirists and jesters like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. From a lengthy discussion between David Bianculli, well known media critic and author of Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and Fresh Air’s Terry Gross:

I think that it’s most visible right now in places like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live and Bill Maher. All of them are outside of prime time, but they’re all sort of doing elements of what the Smothers Brothers did.

Stephen Colbert tried very briefly to throw himself into the presidential race, just as Pat Paulsen had. A lot of Jon Stewart’s humor is very much what the Smothers was, and he admits that they were a very strong influence. Bill Maher says the Smothers were a very strong influence. And Saturday Night Live I sort of see as what the Smothers Brothers almost had the chance to become.

Their appeal was cross-generational:

GROSS: And that’s one of the things that makes the story so interesting. You know, it’s the second half of the ’60s. The youth culture has become the counter-culture. Youth culture has also become, a lot of it, the anti-war movement. The country is, like, divided, people are going wild, and television is reflecting somewhere between very little and none of that.

Mr. BIANCULLI: Yeah, it’s almost – there are so many parallels to today that it amazes me, in that now you think of red state, blue state, and we have this giant divide, and the parties are divided, and the whole country seems, you know, ideologically divided.

[...]

And the Smothers Brothers came on, and at a time when there was one television in the house, and everybody watched it; for the first couple of seasons, they pulled this amazing magic act and straddled the chasm of the generation gap. They had Kate Smith and Simon and Garfunkel on the same show. They had Mickey Rooney and The Who on the same show and appealed to both, you know, generations.

As Elliott said, “even my businessman dad liked the Smothers Brothers!”

Censored for years, they kept on satirizing. In the end their uncompromising political message drove them off the air, with CBS firing the duo and the rest of their comedy ensemble under pressure from the White House. Though the Brothers and the ACLU fought a successful legal battle in response, their careers were effectively over. A documentary, Smothered, tells the whole story — but only clips seem to be available online.

Who Goes to Jail?

Compare the lyrics of “Big Time Crime,” the video above, with this story from yesterday’s Democracy Now! In “Who Goes to Jail?” Amy Goodman interviews Matt Taibbi about his new book, The Divide.

The Climate Is Invading the Earth

By: David Swanson Wednesday May 11, 2011 1:38 pm

If an alien invader with a face were attacking the earth, the difficulties that governments have getting populations to support wars on other humans would be multiplied a thousand fold. The most common response to officials calling some petty foreign despot “a new Hitler” would shift from “yeah, right” to “who cares?” The people of the world would unite in common defense against the hostile alien.

If only it had a face. And what’s a face anyway?  Doctors can create faces now. You’d still love your loved ones if they lost their faces. And I hear there’s a movie in which a guy falls in love with his faceless computer.

The point is that there is an alien invader attacking the earth. Its name is climate change. And Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight it, as does Uncle Boris and Aunt Hannah and Cousin Juan and Brother Feng. The whole family is in agreement on this one, and we are a family now all of a sudden.

Climate change breathes fire on our land and roasts it, killing crops, drying up water supplies, breeding dangerous diseases and infestations. Climate change circles over the oceans and blows tidal waves toward our coasts. It melts the icebergs in its evil claws and sinks our beach resorts beneath the sea.

How do we fight back?  We organize quickly, as only humans can. We grab the $2 trillion that we spend on wars among ourselves each year, plus a few trillion more from some multi-billionaires who suddenly realize they don’t have another planet to spend it on. We start coating the rooftops with solar panels, aimed right at the face of the monster. We put up windmills that will turn his nasty breath against himself.

And we hit him where it really hurts, we cut off his supplies with crippling sanctions: we stop buying and making and consuming and discarding such incredible piles of crap every day. Consumerism becomes rapidly understood as planetary treason, support for the Evil One. We put a stop to its worst excesses and begin reining it in systematically — working together as we never have before.

Ah, but the dark lord of the heat is subtle. He has cells of loyalists among us. They push fossil fuels on us and tell us comforting lies. No longer! We will drag them before the House UnEarthly Activities Committee. “Are you now or have you ever been a promoter of oil, gas, or coal consumption?” They’ll crumble under the pressure.

Imagine how we could unite for this battle, what wits and courage and self-sacrifice we could put into it, what inspiring acts of bravery, what stunning creations of intellect!

Ah, but climate change is not a person, so forget the whole thing. Did you ever notice what a funny grin Vladimir Putin has? It’s beginning to get on my nerves.

The Importance of Polks and Pulitzers

By: Barry Eisler

These Polks and Pulitzers matter, and we should be glad when they’re awarded to people who deserve them.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two of the journalists whose reporting just won their organizations Pulitzers based on the Snowden revelations, have been reluctant to return to America because of various official calls for their arrest; the refusal of the Justice Department to provide any assurances that it would not arrest them; and the detention of Greenwald’s spouse David Miranda at Heathrow last August (nor are Greenwald and Poitras alone in being at risk of being arrested by their own governments for acts of journalism). But on Friday, they decided to come home to accept the prestigious George Polk Award they had won for National Security Reporting (and to dedicate the award to their source, Edward Snowden).

I was visiting my native New Jersey for a family event the day of the Polk ceremony, and managed to get a press pass so I could attend (thank you, Polk and Pulitzer winner and Rain fan Bart Gellman!). Greenwald and Poitras arrived together at JFK while the awards assembly was already in progress.  There was a phalanx of reporters and photographers waiting for them in the lobby of Roosevelt Hotel, where the awards were being presented, and outside customs at JFK. The presenters changed the order of award presentation to accommodate their schedule, saving the National Security Reporting awards for last. The whole thing was thrilling and hugely satisfying to see.

More importantly, it was exceptionally widely watched. And this is what I want to talk about here.

Of course I’m just speculating, but I imagine Greenwald and Poitras decided that if they timed their return to coincide with their acceptance of their award, they could make it maximally difficult for the government to do anything excessively vindictive and heavy-handed. It’s not just the sound bite the government would bee up against — “Two Polk Award Winners Arrested En Route to Receiving Journalism Award.” It was the massive attention focused on their return. All those photographers, at JFK and at the Roosevelt.  All those intrepid fellow award-winning journalists, and dozens more covering the event in the gallery and at the press conference afterward.  If the government had tried to move against Greenwald and Poitras just then, it would have faced a remarkable amount of real-time scrutiny. Or, to put it another way, there was never going to be a worse time for the government to act than during the half-day window of exceptional focus and watchfulness the Polk ceremony created.

Why does this matter? Because it suggests that whatever you might think of the substantive value of this or that award (and it’s true that with Tom Friedman using three Pulitzers to mangle his metaphors and Obama launching drone attacks from atop a Nobel Peace Prize, one might reasonably conclude that such awards can be handed out somewhat haphazardly), there’s no doubt the awards still garner great attention, attention that can act as a check on unconstitutional governmental vindictiveness.

For this reason, I was hugely disappointed that Time Magazine made the safe pick of Pope Francis for its Person of the Year, relegating Edward Snowden to #2. Pope Francis isn’t at risk of arrest, disappearance, torture, and murder. Snowden most certainly is.

For this reason, too, I’m pleased that Snowden has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. When I tweeted about this back in January, I was surprised at how many people, citing Nobel Laureate Obama among others, responded along the lines of “The Nobel Prize doesn’t mean anything.” Look, maybe you yourself are not impressed by prizes like the Nobel, but if you care about Edward Snowden (along with journalists and other whistleblowers) and appreciate the sacrifices he’s made for freedom and democracy all over the world, wouldn’t you want to make it more difficult for the government to arrest or mistreat him or worse? And if you do want to make such things more difficult, don’t you see that “US Government Arrests Nobel Peace Prize Winner Snowden” would at least to some extent serve that objective?

I think there are two general reasons people reflexively display their cynicism in the face of awards. One is what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls “The Church of the Savvy,” which consumers of establishment media pick up by osmosis and then begin to ape. The other is an odd form of narcissism, because after all, if an award doesn’t matter to me, then it shouldn’t matter at all.

All of which is weird, when you stop to think about it.  Maybe you don’t care about the Academy Awards, but that doesn’t mean winning one doesn’t enhance an actor’s star power, increase her earning potential, and broaden the scope of roles she’ll be offered. Similarly, whatever else you might think of journalism awards, they can make it harder for the government to interfere with journalists exercising their First Amendment rights, or to throw whistleblowers in prison for espionage.

So those Polks and Pulitzers matter, and we should be glad when they’re awarded to people who deserve them. And here’s hoping the Nobel committee does the right thing in October, and gives Snowden some more of the recognition he deserves and some more of the the protection he needs.

P.S.  Thomas Friedman is so ridiculous and pernicious that I couldn’t possibly link to all the wonderful articles hilariously deconstructing and parodying his unique brand of destructive navel gazing. But here are a few.

No Kidding: The Most Incoherent Tom Friedman Column Ever
Flat N All That: Matt Taibbi Eviscerates Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”
Come Up With the Ultimate Thomas Friedman Porn Title
Surprise Winner in Thomas Friedman Porn-Title Contest
The Definitive Collection of Thomas Friedman Takedowns

Most especially, see the Friedman chapter in Barrett Brown’s marvelous book Keep Rootin’ for Putin — and contribute to Barrett’s defense fund, too.