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Marijuana Laws Cost Taxpayers Billions

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:12 PM EDT

A new study finds the marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers $41.8 billion a year in law enforcement, diverts $113 billion from the legal economy, and loses a whopping $31.1 billion in revenue annually. The Marijuana Policy Project reports the sad numbers. I mean, think how many wars we could fund with that kind of money. Not to mention the cost of all the enviro-damage from growing in national parks and supposedly pristine wilderness areas. Not to mention the good medicine never taken.

And—shhh—don't tell the boozers, but was Lawrence Welk—or Myron Floren—on the toke many, many moons ago? Clearly the weed's been mainstream forever. Check out the video, sans bubbles:

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

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It's a Curse but is it Really That Bad?

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:08 PM EDT

I'm not sure my eyes are working properly. Can it really be that a British mom wants to give her severely disabled 15 year old daughter a hysterectomy to "save her the pain and discomfort of menstruation"? One can only imagine how difficult caring for such a disabled child must be but major surgery to avoid four or five days each month?

The mom defends her decision (which is far from settled) saying,

"Katie wouldn't understand menstruation at all. She has no comprehension about what will be happening to her body. All she would feel is the discomfort, the stomach cramps and the headaches, the mood swings, the tears, and wonder what is going on."

If Katie doesn't understand menstruation, I doubt she understands defecation, the flu she's probably gotten lots of in sunny old England or the conversations going on around her either. I know this sounds cruel and cavalier but there seems a big difference between this case and the "pillow angel" case from earlier this year. In that case, the brain damaged child was immobile; having her reach full growth would certainly have made it much harder for her parents to include her in activities, especially outside the home. I don't know what the right answer was, but choosing to stunt her growth can certainly be seen as the best of only bad options. That one didn't seem nearly as disturbing as this one where they have the option of just dealing with her periods along with the myriad other issues already burdening them.

Given the mother's word choice, Katie hasn't begun to menstruate yet; why not at least wait to see if she has easy periods or the kind that send women round the bend?

Trading Unqualified Support for Qualified Skepticism

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Amidst all the outrage expressed after last Thursday's new torture revelations (for those who missed it, the New York Times reported more ex post facto legalization of abhorrent practices and the continued operation of secret overseas prisons), Glenn Greenwald's excellent essay on Salon was one of the only media responses to point out that "outrage" is hardly an acceptable emotional response to something you've known about for years. "None of this is new," he writes. "And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that." Our indignance at the front-page announcement of each new atrocity seems based less on our objection to the policies themselves than on our annoyance at being left in the dark.

If anything, our representatives have eagerly sought to legalize broad swaths of moral gray area, offering not only future endorsement but retroactive immunity to the perpetrators of crimes for which other countries enact Truth Commissions. Eager to demonstrate patriotism during wartime, we fail to notice how the doubt sown by secrecy gradually shifts our assumptions away from rational discourse. This cycle represents the Administration's greatest psychological triumph. Each new layer of secrecy imposed on the "War on Terror" has made it easier to believe that we, the people, don't understand what's at stake, don't realize how dangerous the situation is, and therefore, don't have the expertise to devise a democratic way to deal with it. Demanding answers doesn't just show respect for American values; it proves we respect ourselves as skeptics and patriots alike.

—Casey Miner

Nine Inch Nails Leave Universal

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 6:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nintrent.jpgAfter Radiohead announced last week it would sell variably-priced digital copies of its new album through the band's own website, without the help of a record label, many predicted this would be the death knell for the music industry, since any artist with an established following could easily follow this model. Well, apparently another shoe has dropped: as expected, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor has posted a message on his official website that he has left Universal and is now a "free agent, free of any recording contract with any label." Reznor has been outspoken in criticizing his label and has even encouraged fans to download the music illegally, so the move comes as no real surprise.

Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor: two idiosyncratic, anti-establishment musicians whose always-tenuous relationships to the music industry have just now reached a logical conclusion, or the leaders of an inevitable and snowballing trend that will turn the entertainment industry upside down? All eyes on inrainbows.com this Wednesday...

All Bryan Adams Is Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 5:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bryanadams.jpgBryan Adams is set to headline a concert to promote peace in the Middle East. The show will take place October 18 on Israel's West Bank, and will be broadcast via satellite to London, Washington DC and Ottawa. The objective of the concert is to collect one million signatures from Israelis and Palestinians demanding that their leaders finalize an agreement on a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.
- NME

Milli Vanilli have decided to reunite in order to help bring together North and South Korea, the Riff has learned. The duo, who disbanded in disgrace after it turned out they did not sing on their Grammy-winning album, explained in halting, heavily-accented English that the objective of their concert, to be held in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, is to undo nearly 60 years of post-war tensions. "We think we can handle it," said Rob Pilatus, "if 'Girl You Know It's True' doesn't bring them together, what will?"

It has also been revealed that Limp Bizkit will perform a series of concerts in Spain to bring an end to the conflict with Basque separatists. Speaking to a group of officials in the Basque language of Euskara, lead singer Fred Durst explained that the group's musical history can be read as a metatextual companion to the conflict's history, wittily punning on song titles like "Break Stuff" and "Re-Arranged" in ways too complex to be translated into English.

Not to be outdone, beloved saxophonist Kenny G is planning to headline a concert series to promote good things and help stop bad things. The concerts will be broadcast via satellite on all channels at all times forever. Their objective will be to stop people from doing bad things, and finalize agreements on how to do more good things. The performances will continue, says G, until the objective has been reached.

Swiss Elections Unmask Bigotry

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 5:10 PM EDT

For most of us, Switzerland evokes images of green hillsides, rotund dairy cows, and Julie Andrews, not rock-throwing protesters and tear gas. But that was the scene in Bern this weekend when demonstrators from the country's ultra-right wing party clashed with counter-protesters and riot police.

Tensions in Switzerland have been escalating in the run-up to the October 21 general elections. At the center of the debate are the country's immigration policies. A campaign poster for the powerful right-wing Swiss People's Party shows three white sheep kicking away a single black sheep, with the caption, "To Create Security." Twenty percent of Switzerland's population is foreign born (many newcomers are from war-torn countries like Kosovo and Rwanda), and a staggering 70% of its prison population is as well. The Swiss People's Party, which holds the most seats in the country's Parliament, claims these figures are an indication that immigrants are prone to criminality and should be kicked out of Switzerland. But this simplistic logic brings about a chicken-before-the-egg question: Is the bigotry that is fueling Switzerland's current political climate also what is sending an inordinate amount of its immigrants to jail?

The U.N. has condemned the inflammatory poster and the Swiss People's Party proposal to deport foreign-born criminals and their families. All of this is set against the backdrop of pristine perfection for which Switzerland is famous. Zurich and Geneva rank first and second for cities with the best quality of life worldwide.

—Celia Perry

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Bill Kristol Says We Should Bomb Burma. Seriously

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 4:18 PM EDT

Bill Kristol is the editor of a major magazine, a regular guest on weekend talk shows, a columnist for a major newsweekly, and generally considered to be one of the most influential conservatives in Washington. Because of all that, he's invited to write op-eds for major newspapers where he writes crazy things like this:

What about limited military actions [in Burma], overt or covert, against the regime's infrastructure -- its military headquarters, its intelligence apparatus, its rulers' lavish palaces? Couldn't such actions have a deterrent effect, or might not they help open up fissures in the regime?

I'd like to make sure no one misses the hilarious neocon habit of suggesting regime change not based on local factors in the countries they would like to strike, but instead based on whenever they happen to start paying attention. The ruling junta in Burma has been in power for 19 years — they didn't get nasty three weeks ago. If Kristol is going to advocate military action against Burma, doesn't he have a responsibility to keep track of the situation in that country before and after it hits American newsstands?

But more than that, I'd like to echo something Kevin Drum points out: "Why is it that a guy who thinks U.S. military action is always the answer is any more credible than the peacenik who thinks it never is?" He's completely right. Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul* will never be regular panelists on major weekend talk shows. They aren't getting a column in Time. But they are Bill Kristol's functional equivalents.

While we're on the topic, here's why Kristol bugs me more than almost any other conservative or neocon. Most of that crowd doesn't take seriously enough the repercussions of military action. They see a simple moral calculus: the few lives lost in the course of our military actions are worth the freedom and liberation we bring to hundreds of thousands of people. But there are innumerable repercussions in the region and around the globe that are never taken into account: the fact that a neighboring country that is even nastier may suddenly become empowered; the fact that the tumultuous period between the fall of one stable government and the erection of the next is a gift to terrorists and other evil-doers; the fact that WMD capability and intelligence is suddenly on the loose and possibly on the black market; the fact that we can get bogged down and then be less responsive to more dire threats; the fact that we can't control who takes over after we leave.

Because of the Iraq War, many hawks in Washington have to come to appreciate these factors. But not Bill Kristol. He wants war in every international hot spot. Eventually, there would be nothing to distinguish our freedom-spreading efforts from World War III, the one where it's everybody versus us.

* Someone put out the Ron Paul bat signal and I'm getting hit in the comments for misconstruing his stance on the use of the military. I probably should have just stuck with Kucinich; his philosophical opposition to the use of force is the best mirror to Kristol's philosophical preference for it.

Live Review: Detour Festival, Los Angeles

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 3:52 PM EDT

Say you're the LA Weekly, and you like the Coachella music festival a lot, and you want to throw a slightly smaller, edgier version of the multi-stage concert. Where could you have it that's even more deserted than a polo field in the middle of nowhere? Why, downtown Los Angeles on a weekend, of course. And so, Saturday saw the streets around LA's City Hall fill with hipsters and music, and me with a camera.

Scissors for LeftyFirst, I stumbled across the Bay Area's Scissors for Lefty, who seem to have painted themselves gold for the occasion. It's still pretty early in the afternoon and with the crowds still a bit thin, that seems like a lot of effort. But the band are putting just as much energy into their performance, and like a quirkier, buzzier Strokes, they're livening up the early arrivals.

Cool KidsOver at the main stage, Chicago's Cool Kids are testing the limits of the sound system with some bass-heavy '80s-inflected beats. With their cardigans and Beastie Boys references, they're not only a throwback to a kinder, gentler era of hip-hop, but perhaps approach a new level of MIA-style cultural (re-) appropriation. Who knows. Either way, the duo are themselves evidencing a new fashion trend: the return of day-glo. Everywhere I turn, kids are wearing fluorescent-colored sunglasses, pink and yellow baseball caps, a traffic-cone-orange dress. If only I'd kept my pink Culture Club T-shirt…

Shout out LoudsSweden's Shout Out Louds are doing anything but over at the side stage; when the bassist grabs castanets, you have no problem hearing them. Their bright, upbeat tunes are tempered by lead singer Adan Olenius, whose Robert Smith-style laments over lost love start to seem a little too self-indulgent, and I begin to sympathize with whoever dumped him. But "The Comeback," off their 2005 album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, is a great tune, even if it's lamenting lost love.

AutoluxI hear Mexican disco-punkers Kinky make a noisy entrance down the street, but I'm sticking around for Autolux (right). With the stage standing right next to the Morphosis-designed CalTrans building, it's an unlikely opportunity to see two of LA's great modernist projects at the same time, and the band acknowledge this by dedicating a song to the structure. But most of the time they stick to the music, and while the guitar fuzz brings easy comparison's to My Bloody Valentine, the 'Lux seem more interested in bending and twisting the notes than flooding them in distortion. It's an experimental set, even for them, and they seem off their game a little.

RaveonettesPerry Farrell is helping his new band, Satellite Party, cover Jane's Addiction songs over on the main stage, but I'm on my way to see The Raveonettes (left), who end up being my heroes of the festival. Stuck on the smallest stage, and in front of a minuscule but enthusiastic crowd, the Danish duo (accompanied by a tom-and-snare drummer) knock every song out of the park. Their reverb-y rock is definitely retro, but like the White Stripes, they use the restrictive palette and genre conventions to great effect, and songs like "That Great Love Sound" reach a kind of epic grandeur. The crowd, such as it is, goes nuts.

mojo-photo-dt-teddybears.jpgSwedish big-beat combo Teddybears are super late arriving on the main stage, but this is where everybody is, and when the band emerge in their bear heads, the cheers are deafening. "Different Sound" and "Cobrastyle," with their reggae-style toasting, are crowd-pleasers, but the drummer seems to be having trouble keeping time with the drum machine, and besides, Justice are about to start on the side stage.

mojo-photo-dt-justice.jpgIt's the biggest crowd of the day for the French techno duo, but that's still not saying much; there's probably only a couple thousand people here at best. But with glowsticks at the ready, there's a kind of techno fever sweeping the crowd, and as the lights go down, people are rushing madly towards the stage, screaming how much they love Justice. Weird. The duo open their DJ set with the fanfare from "Also Sprach Zarathustra," blending it into their bass-heavy hit "Let There Be Light," and people are dancing with such abandon I'm being knocked off my feet. But when the set swerves into cheeky references to early rave music, the crowd seems underwhelmed. Los Angeles experienced the excesses of rave culture a little more intensely than Paris, I think, and a track like "Short D*** Man" (that in France might be considered a "lost classic") is just played out in LA. But people stick around, and cheer the set's every transition.

Sadly, prior DJ commitments pulled me away from Detour before Bloc Party's headlining set, but as I walked back to my hotel, brief echoes of their music would bounce off the buildings and find me. People were lined up for some fancy club, a taco stand was doing brisk business, and the air, a comfy 70-ish degrees as always, was sweet with the promise of another Saturday night in LA.

Jenna Bush: Her Mother's Daughter?

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 2:29 PM EDT

Jenna Bush has finally grown up — so claims the American Prospect in its recent review of Jenna's new book, Ana's Story, the biography of an HIV-positive teen mother the president's daughter met while working for UNICEF in Panama. It would be easy to rustle up familiar stories from Jenna's sordid youth or quote from the book's supply of less-than-elegant prose, as others have, but the Prospect instead chose to focus on the incongruity between W.'s policies and those of his more enlightened daughter:

As her father threatens to veto the entire $34 billion 2008 foreign aid budget just because congressional Democrats have finally snuck in loopholes providing condoms and abortion services to women in the developing world, Jenna is on a nationwide book tour and media blitz, spreading the message that safe sex and education are some of the most important tools in fighting disease.

Good for Jenna! I wonder if she inherited a progressive streak from her mother. Laura was a Democrat before marrying a Bush and even veteran leftist Alexander Cockburn once called her "the frail hawser linking G.W. Bush to reality." In Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, Laura is seen obliquely voicing misgivings about the Iraq war. And just this summer, the First Lady publicly broke with her husband when she told CNN that condoms are "absolutely essential." Like mother, like daughter.

—Justin Elliott

2.2 Million People in Prison: Who's Going To Do Something About It?

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

I don't have much to add to this article on prison reform by Bradford Plumer at The New Republic. It's excellent — check it out.

If you're wondering, the only senators with the guts to do something about America's prison problem are Jim Webb (D-Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and maybe Barack Obama (D-Il.). For more on how we became an incarceration nation — we lock up 750 out of every 100,000 people, murdering the world average of 166 per 100,000 — check out Mother Jones' special package "Debt to Society."