A Monday mix of noteworthy posts from around the site:

Here's a question for a Monday morning: How dope are you? Find out with our drug-war quiz

Those meowing manipulators: Kevin Drum on the recent finding that we unknowingly cater to our cats' every whim. (This, of course, falls squarely under the heading of no-duh for anyone who has spent any time around felines.)

This just in from the supermarket checkout aisle: The tabloids are reporting that a) George W. Bush is suicidally depressed because of his tarnished legacy and b) Laura is worried he has Alzheimer's. Just sayin'.

How soon is now: Climate change deniers are all, "It's cool. We can just wait till global warming actually causes problems to pay to fix it." Well, look no further than Pakistan for evidence of said problems. Like, now.

He's baaaack: Remember Libertarian hedge funder Cliff Asness? He's popped up again, this time to rehash some tired old points about health care. MoJo assistant editor Nick Baumann offers a response.

The pAper chAse
Someday This Could All Be Yours Vol. 1
(Kill Rock Stars, 2009)

Did you hear that Marilyn Manson put out a new record? Guess what? Nobody cares. That shtick isn't scary anymore. No one is shocked by a pale dude named Brian from Florida who calls himself Antichrist Superstar. With the world falling apart around us, all we have to do is turn on the news to get a little freaked out.
In contrast with His Freakiness, the Dallas, Texas-based quartet known as the pAper chAse takes its cues from things that actually scare people, and to each song title on this sixth release appends a mildly unsettling parenthetical, such as, "What Should We Do With Your Body (The Lightning)." These guys don't exactly break new sonic ground on this album—then again, when you specialize in highly unique nightmare soundtracks, reinventing yourself probably isn't a top priority.

The group's sound is dark, but not goth. Abrasive, but not punk. Not pop, but surprisingly…catchy? The rhythm section is massive here, creating spine-jerking grooves, with songs that shudder and shake as singer John Congleton—best known for his production work for acts like Explosions in the Sky and the Polyphonic Spree—wails over the cacophony like a soapbox preacher: I'll have you pictured in my head / All of you butchered in your beds / 'Cause God is everywhere / God is everywhere. (All this while wringing damaged notes from the neck of his guitar.) 

My least favorite track is "The Common Cold (The Epidemic)," whose weird circus vibe makes it feel out of place. That one aside, Someday This Could All Be Yours Vol. 1 is a solid addition to the band's growing discography. This music is definitely not for everyone, but if it strikes a chord with you, you should check out the band's earlier stuff, too (Hide the Kitchen Knives being my personal favorite). As the title indicates, Someday is the first part of a double album. With the economy what it is, I suppose you can't blame an artist for releasing a CD in two parts. Besides, it gives you the time you'll need to fully digest these songs.

Follow MoJo music reviews on Twitter via #musicmonday or at @MotherJones.

A teenager in a mohawk crooning barbershop tunes.

That's what greets me as I enter the Hilton in Anaheim, California, host city for this year's big international barbershop convention/competition. The spiky-haired troubadour (who, I come to find out, has a barbershopping grandma) is among 10,000 faithful who have converged on Disneyland's hometown to watch the world's masters of four-part harmony have it out. At the Honda Center, where the competitions take place, a scrolling billboard ticks off the venue's billings: Beyoncé...Metallica...The Barbershop Harmony Society.

Frank McCourt died on Sunday.

He was best known as the author of Angela's Ashes. But in everything that he did--teaching, writing, reciting limericks--he was a wonderfully delightful entertainer. I was fortunate to spend a week on a cruise ship with him a few years ago. I don't think I ever laughed so hard. It was a pleasure to listen to him tell tales for as long as he could. One amusing anecdote involved the time he met the Pope. Despite his best efforts to not be overwhelmed, McCourt reverted to a slobbering Catholic schoolboy and kissed the ring. He told me that he had a whole collection of obscene lullabies but said he had stopped reciting them ever since he had given up drinking. (Darn, I thought.)

But the funniest story was about the time McCourt, who had been a much-celebrated creative writing teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, ran into a past student of his. I'm blanking on the student's name (so I'll make one up), and it went something like this:

One day I was walking down Second Avenue, and this young man stopped me. "Mr. McCourt, Mr. McCourt," he said excitedly. "It's me, Rocky Malone."

"Yes, hello, Rocky."

"Rocky Malone. Do you remember me, Mr. McCourt?"

"I do, Rocky. I do."

"Do you remember I was in your class, Mr. McCourt?"

"I do, Rocky, I do."

"Do you remember I was in your class?"

"Yes, Yes, Rocky. I remember."

"Do you remember that I wrote poetry in that class? Do you, Mr. McCourt?

"Yes, I do, Rocky."

"And you liked the poetry, Mr. McCourt. You liked it."

"Yes, I remember that, Rocky. It was very good."

"And you told me I'd make a good poet. Do you remember that, Mr. McCourt?"

"I do, Rocky. Yes, I do."

"Well, because of you I went on to become a poet, Mr. McCourt....And now I have no money, Mr. McCourt. No money. So, fuck you, Mr. McCourt! Fuck you!"

And Rocky stormed off.

McCourt laughed deeply when he told that anecdote, and he flashed his mischievous smile. He loved his stories. He really did.

This was first posted at www.davidcorn.com. You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

Hey, it's Laura. Kevin was oddly optimistic on health care reform in this week's podcast, and for David Corn's reaction alone I hope you'll listen. Also, Kevin chuckled twice. About Cheney and Canada, of all things.

Listen to Kevin and David also talk Friday about Sonia Sotomayor's excellent deadpan, secret vs. not-so-secret CIA assassinations, and the two most undercovered stories this week.

For more free Mother Jones podcasts, subscribe here, or in our iTunes store.

Laura McClure hosts podcasts, writes the MoJo Mix, and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

I confess. When the seventh and final Harry Potter book was released I donned a Gryffindor scarf and was in line to get my copy at midnight. Any book that can move readers of all ages to devour tomes 600-800 pages long gets my respect. But, it seems the Harry Potter series has spurred fans to do more than organize wizarding conventions and start wrock bands (aka: "wizard rock"). The books have also inspired a philanthropic organization, The Harry Potter Alliance.
With over 100,000 members world wide, The Harry Potter Alliance models itself on the themes of human rights (and that of house-elves and warewolves) and social justice within the series, asking "What would Dumbledore do?" Chapters across the globe raise funds for aid in Darfur and Burma, book drives, voter registration and other "magical acts of kindness."

The organization's founder, 29-year-old Andrew Slack, began the registered nonprofit because he believes that, just as in the Harry Potter world, we are living in "dark and dangerous times."  The organization seeks to overcome the "Muggle" mindset by working to fight genocide, poverty, torture, global warming, and discrimination, including marriage inequality—and not just because (spoiler alert?) Dumbledore is gay.

The HP Alliance also asserts that just as the wizarding media and government ignored the return of Lord Voldemort in the books, our institutions choose to ignore the existence of the Dark Arts in our world. Hopefully they think Mother Jones is doing better than the rest of the Muggle media.

Listen to Kevin and David talk Friday about Sonia Sotomayor's excellent deadpan, secret vs. not-so-secret CIA assassinations, and the two most undercovered stories this week.

For more free Mother Jones podcasts, subscribe here, or in our iTunes store.

Laura McClure hosts podcasts, writes the MoJo Mix, and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

The world of journalism takes another hit. Walter Cronkite was the voice of a generation, maybe not mine, but he shaped media for decades, not in the anchor chair necessarily, but in people's living rooms. From what I remember, and from what my grandfather would tell me (he just passed away at the age of nearly 101), Cronkite made people feel a part of the news as it unfolded. "He was right there," he'd say, "giving you the straight scoop!"
Cronikite shaped what people cared about at a time when there weren't the Twittering masses to do the telling. And he knew what he was talking about, all the time. Not that we necessarily want to return to such a narrow sieve through which we hear the day's truths, but he did a fine job with such a weighty task.
And that's the way it was.

The Case for a Water Tax

Despite the summertime fun that ensues when a burst pipe transforms a neighborhood street into a water park, the problem has gotten a bit out of hand. Last year alone, America experienced 240,000 water main breaks, resulting in the loss of billions of gallons of water. And it's only going to get worse. In the next 20 years, the EPA predicts a shortfall of more than $500 billion in needed drinking and wastewater infrastructure investments. We're headed towards a future of sputtering faucets and overflowing sewage plants.

This week, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed an interesting solution: funding the repair of America's water works with a tax on products that burden it. He'd extract funds from cosmetics, toothpaste, and pharmaceuticals--they're often difficult to remove in wastewater plants and can harm the environment--and bottled beverages, which have a carbon and water footprint that goes far beyond the liquids that they contain.

The tax might be a tough sell in Congress (see the gas tax), but it begins to lay the groundwork for a more logical approach to regulating water. Scientists now have the tools to calculate the water footprints of a wide range of businesses and products. I explore how crunching those numbers could help solve the water crisis in our current issue.


In an attempt to scare the public regarding the Dem's health reform bill, Republican leaders have been pushing this chart. (That's not all they've released. Oh, and remember Harry and Louse? They're baaaack!)

Liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America struck back yesterday with this attempt to scare the public regarding the GOP's easy media manipulation.

So who wins? Gotta say, my money is on the GOP. It's easy to sit back and do nothing except scare people about changing our current healthcare system, which, by god, is the thing people need to be scared of.

As far as the media is concerned, well, I'd say the public is already pretty jaded.

Follow Michael Mechanic on Twitter.