The John Hopkin’s researcher who last year claimed that ecstasy can cause Parkinson's-like brain damage is retracting the study. The reason? His lab administered methamphetamine not MDMA to the primates in the study.
As Bjork releases an extraordinary career retrospective, it's time to crown her as the most important pop musician of her generation-Salon

Thomas Bartlett takes a look at the astonishing career of Bjork and finds an artist who is as confounding as she is mesmerizing. Able to navigate through the ever changing whims of hipster music fans, the commercial demands of an increasingly segmented music business, and still make music that is challenging, personal, and complete.

But for all that, Bj?rk remains curiously isolated, her music more loved than influential. Radiohead, probably her closest rival in the intersection of popularity and critical acclaim that makes up at least one definition of greatness, has spawned countless baby Radioheads. Bj?rk has no copycats, no one feeding so obviously off her achievements, because those achievements are so alien. Radiohead is very much of our time, the musical zeitgeist for the millennium, but Bj?rk and her music come from a different time and place. There are two options in placing Bj?rk: Either she is an anomaly, brilliant but finally irrelevant, or she is the most important and forward-looking musician of her generation. In either case, we will need to wait 50 years to really make sense of what she has done, and absorb her influence in any useful way.

What is her music about? And who is she? In a business steeped in the laser-like demographic appeal of Madonna and her offspring, Bjork stands atop the apex of culture and commerce. A point with attackers on all sides.

The world of alternative popular culture is none too tolerant of success, as Wilco, the Strokes and even Radiohead have recently discovered, with waves of faddish discontent emanating from Manhattan, leaving no hipster unaffected. But Bj?rk has enjoyed 10 years of uncommonly smooth sailing with nary a backlash in sight.

A “sonic innovator” whose songs use the non-rhyming technique favored by poets, acutely aware of her every note and yet inclined to disregard musical convention, fans, critics, music execs are left with one question; What kind of music is she making, then?


Even George Orwell wasn't able to hide from the all-seeing camera.


Ashcroft is on tour touting the PATRIOT Act (I&II) and thankfully it's bringing a slew of discussion about liberty along for the ride.
Is deregulation and privatization hitting a wall? Some free-market advocates are beginning to temper their enthusiasm for open systems that, as recently as a decade ago, were heralded as the solution for everything from fledgling democracies, to energy companies, to financial services. Lately there have been more calls for government intervention leading some to believe that Big-Government may be on the rebound.

The latest black eye for deregulation came on Friday. FERC announced settlements with the energy companies involved with California’s blackouts. Paul Krugman calls them a “joke”, and point out they were announced on a Friday so that the media cycle would be more likely to pass over the news. The blackouts (which in no small part contributed to Gov. Davis’ descent into recall territory) and $8.9Billion in associated costs (not including future costs of the long term contracts California signed during the peak of the “crisis”) were found to have been wholly or partially due to manufactured energy shortages that were intended to raise prices and manipulate the newly deregulated market.

Yet the charges energy companies agreed to added up to only a bit more than $1 million. That is, the average Californian was bilked of more than $250, but the state will receive per-capita compensation of about 3 cents.

In instances such as the California energy crisis, where a state jumped headlong into “deregulation”, suffered dire consequences, and then the governmental watchdog agency was so beholden to the industry it was established to police that its judgment was as impotent as it was unreasonable, it clearly speaks to the limits of deregulation. Some still argue that California reiterates the importance of deregulation since what occurred there was partial deregulation, which is the worst of all worlds.

But the larger questions remain. What is the proper mix of private sector autonomy and government oversight? Should the State be charged with making the rules, enforcing the rules, or simply allowing for equal access? What does the future hold for deregulation?
Who should you vote for in the CA recall election? This test can help you find out...
TCS: Tech Central Station - A New Road to Serfdom? is a related piece to our discussion of the spector of socialism haunting the capitalism.
Slate chimes in with a few thoughts on Against Love.


Can capitalism survive? It seems an odd question to ask now that Western liberalism and American hegemony seem ascendant. Galal Amin wants us to take another look. Marx doesn't miss the mark as far as we thought even a decade ago. However, Amin offers capitalism hasn’t imploded in the manner that Marx predicated:

Shareholding companies, a form of collective ownership, became common, giving millions of small shareholders a chance to own capital. Through negotiations with labour unions, capitalists had to increase wages, shorten working hours, and generally improve working conditions. Keynesian economics called for the state to intervene in the market in times of depression. And the welfare state, a post-war concept, entailed income redistribution and the provision of a broader range of basic services.

Monopoly eclipsed competition, state intervention blurred the characteristics of free economy, and skilful advertising overshadowed consumer sovereignty. With giant companies engaged in long-term planning to recoup their extensive investment, what was left of the free market system? One may argue that business ownership is still private and investors continue to look for the highest rate of return. Yet, is the form of ownership (private versus public) more significant or the extent in which ownership has spread and come under public control?

It does raise the questions, what is the current state of capitalism and what is its future? Some have argued the current system more closely resembles mercantilism than capitalism. Some argue that Marxian (if not Marxist) theories about capitalism are coming to bear.

Amin offers some intriguing questions, the fact of which illuminates how indistinct the current state of world economic affairs are:

To what extent were these developments a sign of the triumph of capitalism -- in the Marxist sense -- over socialism? Has free market ended the state monopoly over the means of production and terminated the state monopoly over the decisions of production and investment, or has private monopoly replaced state monopoly? Have consumers won back from the state the right to determine the type and quantity of products, or have they forfeited their rights to private business? Has state-run central planning disappeared, or only been replaced by conglomerate vision? Has the role of the state diminished, or does the state still intervene in the economy to promote the interests of big business, such as arms manufacturers, even to the point of waging wars?


Vivendi and NBC will merge entertainment assets. Both expect EU anti-trust approval.


Jim Hightower, at it again.
The apparent success the international peace keepers are having in Liberia has once again raised an interesting suggestion. Perhaps the U.S., the U.N, and the world should consider privatizing peace-keeping efforts on a broader scale. While most troops currently on the ground are not from private firms, some would like this to change. Currently the U.S. uses private firms for a variety of military related services:

From 1994 to 2002, the Pentagon entered into more than 3,000 contracts with private military firms. Companies like Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, now provide the logistics for every major American military deployment. Corporations have even taken over much of military training and recruiting, including the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at more than 200 American universities. (Yes, private employees now train our military leaders of tomorrow.)
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the industry's growing role than the campaign against Iraq. Private employees worked on everything from feeding and housing coalition troops to maintaining weapons systems like the B-2 bomber. Indeed, there was roughly one private military worker in the region for every 10 soldiers fighting the war (as opposed to one for every 100 troops in the 1991 gulf war).
And companies will play an even greater role in the occupation. In addition to the proposed security force, the new Iraqi military will be trained by corporate consultants. Washington has also contracted DynCorp, whose pilots have long helped the Pentagon destroy coca fields in Colombia, to train the new police force.

In addition, the U.N. contracts their security to a private firm, and another company, Executive Outcomes, demonstrated considerable success in Sierra Leone in the late 90’s. Some are advocating that the “privatized military firms" get even more involved in “hot” peacekeeping efforts. They would be motivated by profit motive, and hence less inclined to be hamstrung by the political machinations of diplomats and bureaucrats. Additionally they typically operate in a relatively efficient, effective, and cost productive manner.

There are serious risks with working with private peacekeepers in future conflicts. Perhaps most importantly is one of perception. Many consider these firms to be nothing more than mercenaries with slick P.R. firms behind them. Additionally there is a concern that when a nation commits its flag to an intervention it will generally be there for the long haul, whereas a private firm is more committed to the cold calculus of profit. P.W. Singer, long an advocate for privatized military firms, also points to other serious risks:

-First, the good of private companies may not always be to the public good.
-Second, just like lawyers, some military contractors work only for ethical clients while others choose to make money from less savory types.
-In addition, foreign and military affairs are the government's domain. Undertaking public policy through private means can mean that some initiatives that might not pass public approval - such as the increasing American involvement, outside Congressional oversight, in Colombia's civil strife - still get carried out.

Regardless of the risks, some say that often privatized military firms are the only ones willing to go into the places the politicians turn their backs on.
Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player ever. This season is special. An emotional season is turning even his most dogged opponent into reluctant fans. A son’s love for his father is proving to be, like baseball, a timeless sentiment too powerful to dismiss.

Barry and the media have had a long and tumultuous relationship. Most of the grudge stemming from a Sports Illustrated interview almost a decade ago. But even the writers at SI are starting to thaw over Barry’s latest feats. Coming off of two of the greatest offensive seasons ever, Barry is once again leading the SF Giants in their quest to win their first championship ever. Leading the majors in a number of offensive categories, including walks, home runs, and slugging percentage, has been especially difficult in light of his father’s illness and death.

Bobby Bonds, also a Giants great, spent much of this season and last battling stomach and lung cancer. The illness of his father weighed heavily on Barry. A guarded man who offers little of himself via the media Bonds was clearly fueled by an emotional fervor through much of the season. A desire drove Barry to play the best game possible in honor of the man who taught him how to play baseball. When Bobby was clearly nearing the end he went to the ballpark to watch Barry play. Apparently realizing that there were few sights as magnificent as watching his son’s sweet swing slap another splash hit, he chose to be at the park rather than a hospital bed. Bobby didn’t die in the box that night, but he did see Barry hit a walk off homer to beat the Atlanta Braves. He died shortly after.

Yesterday Bonds returned to the team after taking six days off to deal with his father’s death. Facing second place Arizona, and their missile-launching pitcher Randy Johnson, Bonds took a fourth inning, 93-MPH 1-0 fastball deep to right field with what would turn out to be the game’s winning run in a 2-1 victory. Barry later said his heart raced as he ran the bases. When he touched home plate he looked towards the sky a bit longer than usual. As he walked back to the dugout he took off his helmet and covered his face, apparently to hide his tears. He was taken out of the game later for an irregular and rapid heartbeat. The emotion and anxiety of the moment too much for even him.

So now the media appears to be warming to the surly slugger, and perhaps from there even the fans in other cities will be able to see that just because a man doesn’t get along with reporters it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have heart. Or perhaps Skip Bayless words it best,

Now maybe they'll realize what a once-a-lifetime privilege it is to watch a man who has come far closer to mastering bashing a baseball than any mortal ever.