Adopt an African Hottie’s Clitoris!

Rael is back.

A few years ago, the "UFO cult" leader claimed to have cloned human beings, and was widely dismissed as a crass self-publicizer and hoaxster.

"Once we can clone exact replicas of ourselves," he says on the Clonaid website, "the next step will be to transfer our memories and personality into our newly cloned brains, which will allow us to truly live forever."

His latest achievement is only slightly less ambitious. He has undertaken to single-handedly restore the clitorises (clitori?) of African women disfigured by the tribal ritual of clitoral excision. Rael is passionate in this cause, since the beneficiaries "now have the possibility to regain sexual pleasure and be whole once again."

There is, of course, a website, and the first impression given is that, wow, there are a lot of hot, genitally-disfigured African women out there!

One testimonial on the website reads:
I am XXX, a 23 year old Somali refugee now residing in America. I was circumcised as a young girl while still residing in Somalia. Even until very recently i was made to beleive that it was 'good' to be circumcised and as i result i had never fully understood the consequences of this evil practice. Recently i started my university education and have moved out of my parents' house. As a result of this new found freedom i started exploring my sexuality. I thought sex was supposed to be this amazing experience but for me it was extremely uncomfortable and unsatisfactory.

Desirable women in the marketing materials must make it easier for possible donors to pony up; after all, denying these smiling, bright-eyed specimens the capacity for clitoral pleasure is certainly a waste! (And let's face it, if you're a cult leader, it can't hurt your image to literally bestow blessings upon the genitalia of nubile females.)

The Raelians are notorious for using sex as a major inducement into their movement. According to this web page, former Raelian Pete Cooke was recruited into the cult by a dancer in Montreal's Kit Kat strip bar.

"I didn't like all the opening of genitals or all the focusing on the anus," he says.

I may be reaching here, but guys, if you find yourself in a nightclub and a hot chick with an African accent approaches you and starts telling you about how alien scientists incubated life on Earth, you might want to clench your butt cheeks and walk quickly in the opposite direction.

See also: California Cults 2006

California Cults 2006

Cults of California!

In his fascinating new book (with photos by Michael Rauner) Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape, Erik Davis writes, "When the United States seized the territory from Mexico in 1848 California became the stage for a strange and steady parade of utopian sects, bohemian mystics, cult leaders, psychospiritual healers, holy poets, sex magicians, fringe Christians, and psychedelic warriors."

Visionary State documents an eclectic mix of these magical, mystical scenes from across Californian history, ranging from loose, anarchic configurations of independent seekers who reject doctrine; to authoritarian fringe cults that cobble together their own strange doctrinaire cosmologies based on the possibly schizophrenic revelations and prophecies of their visionary leaders and gurus.  Theosophists, nature mystics, Zen Buddhists, 19th Century spiritual snake oil hustlers, various Hindu sects, the Merry Pranksters, Scientologists, Mansonoids, Burning Man Burners — all are enclosed in Davis' rich spiritual gumbo.

His intention is not to judge. "California consciousness", he writes, is "an imaginative, experimental, and hedonistic quest for human transformation by any means necessary." Davis rightfully suggests that California's "theme park of the gods", in all its chaos and contradiction, is so fecund that it is inherently valuable. Our spiritual nuts, fruits and flakes are, he says, an important part of the richness of California's dynamic psycho-social, economic, and even physical landscape.

Doubtless, California's relative tolerance for deviation from the conventional and the mainstream provides opportunities for both liberatory, free-thinking self-experimentation; and for pathological, neo-conformist head-fucking. The presence of trippy and sometimes destructive fringe cults across California history might be thought of as an inevitable side-effect of the state's position as post-modernism's early adopter.

But while weird cults may be inevitable, very few of them could be considered benign. And though the depredations of the Manson Family, the horrors of Jonestown, and the pathetic futility of Heaven's Gate's attempt to hitch themselves to a comet may have afforded our culture a series of black humor bonanzas, nobody really wants to see their friends and family get sucked into the orbit of the latest power-mad cult leader. 

So, for your edification and amusement, and as a warning, I am here presenting a very brief guide to some contemporary California cults:

Miracle Of Love

Miracle of Love is an ambitious Marin County based cult that, according to a March 2006 expose by Jill Kramer for The Pacific Sun, has plans to expand to Seattle, Vancouver, Sacramento, San Diego, Colorado, Australia and South America. Around 1995, their leader, "Kalindi" (real name: Carol Seidman) declared herself "the voice of the latest incarnation of God." (Actually, God originally started speaking through her husband, but he died, and rather than except the obvious implication — "God is dead" — Seidman caught the spirit.)

In a six-day long session called "The Intensive," the group employs classic techniques employed by brainwashers and kidnappers everywhere (famously adopted by Werner Erhard's est group in the ''70s and ''80s). Attendees are deprived of sleep, forced to dredge up psychic pains, verbally abused and embarrassed, and then finally given a warm, comforting love bath to cement their attachment to the group. What's the attraction? Apparently, there is a kind of high associated with completing this type of ordeal, and cult members get their targets to associate this feeling with "God's energy" and that old cult standby: "unconditional love."

For those who become members, classic cult brainwashing techniques continue. To the greatest extent possible, members are isolated from family and other non-believers and give complete control of their lives to cult leaders. According to Kramer, "Devotees are given new names. They're told when to wake, when to meditate, when to do service work for the mission, how much time to allot for chores, what time to go to bed. Everything is dictated, down to which toilet paper to buy."

"Kalinda" and her cohorts seem to be largely motivated by financial gain. Kramer reports that followers are told they can "come home to God within this lifetime" by "letting go of attachments to the material world — the world of illusion. The handiest way to let go of their attachments to money is, of course, to donate it to the Miracle of Love mission."

On the back cover of her book, Ultimate Freedom: Union With God, Kalindi/Seidman poses provocatively in a thong and fishnet stockings. Underneath the picture, are the words "Don't you want to break free?" Spot the irony?

Oneness Movement

Guru Sri Bhagavan and his partner, Sri Amma are the founders of the Oneness University, which is centered in India, but has a growing California following, particularly in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  They claim that the "solution to humanity's suffering can only be found through our awakening to Oneness." And, of course, there is a particular one who can lead us toward that oneness. Bhagavan offers followers the opportunity to experience "Deeksha," "a transfer of divine energy" that produces enlightenment. The group aims to enlighten 64,000 people and thus transform the world by — you guessed it — 2012.

According to a private correspondence published by Guruphiliac, "this cult is pressurizing its INDIAN devotees to donate large sums of wealth, if they want to remain in the good books of the disciples (dasas) who run the show, and progress further. We have even been asked to take loans (the last case was Rs 100,000 [$2,220.50 US] which is a large amount), and donate, if we don't have the money. We have been told that we can repay the loans over a few years!

"From the day we join we are pressurized to bring in new people and send them for the initial 3-day deeksha (costing Rs 5000 [$110 US])." A 21-day workshop, according to the Guruphiliac correspondent, costs $5,500.

The guru and his followers also use pseudo-scientific flim flam to claim that they have been able to measure neurological changes that result from the "deeksha" experience. Guruphiliac quotes someone they call "a major university neuroscience researcher," saying this about the gurus claims: "The most questionable aspect" is the author's claim that he has tested alterations in neurotransmitters, hormones, and receptors via electromagnetic signature testing. There is no scientific data to support that this technique is viable."


This is the religion that was formed by Adi Da. Da was born Franklin Jones and later changed his name to Bubba Free John and then Da Free John. I must confess to a soft spot (probably it's just my fontanelle) for Da. He's witty and smart and seems like he might be in on the cosmic joke, assuming that there is in fact a cosmic joke. Imagine if Alan Watts decided to declare himself "the complete manifestation of the divine in human form" and you've sort of got the picture. A 1985 San Francisco Examiner article by Don Lattin reported on secret "drunken sex orgies and luxurious lifestyles among the guru's inner circle in Hawaii and their Fijian island of Naitauba," and quotes one former follower as saying, "We took peyote, psilocybin, marijuana and an unbelievable amount of alcohol. The two of us would sit down and drink two bottles of whiskey. A lot of the people who came in were young women, and he'd loosen them up with alcohol and drugs."

So, what's the problem here? Jody Radzik at Guruphiliac writes, "We've always wanted to like Adi Da. First because Ken Wilber liked him, and then because he was so out in the open with his craziness. Gurus, drugs and group sex just get us so hot! But once he started with his 'world teacher' shtick, he went from being a tantric engine of transformation to just another wackadoo guru."

And, of course, like all of our other gurus, Da scams as much money from his followers to keep the party going. I wouldn't want to be one of Da's followers, but Oh to be Da.

The Helzer Brothers Transform America

The Helzer Brothers' activities were a tawdry and pallid expression of Manson family values. After being excommunicated from the Mormon Church for taking drugs, Glenn Helzer, from Contra Costa County (a San Francisco suburb) decided to form a self-awareness group to stop Satan and hasten the return of Jesus. He got himself two members, his own brother Justin and a young woman named Dawn Goldman. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Glenn Helzer's plans "included a bizarre plot to train Brazilian orphans to slaughter the leaders of the Mormon Church so he could become its prophet; and 'Transform America,' a self-help group to foster 'a state of peace and joy.'"

In order to raise money, the Helzer's sold ecstasy and Glenn got his onetime girlfriend, Keri Mendoza, to pose for Playboy. (She appeared as Kerissa Fare, Miss September 2000). But when drugs and sex didn't produce enough money fast enough, Helzer's mind turned towards robbery and murder. The group extorted $100,000 from an elderly couple, Ivan and Annette Stineman, and then killed them, returning the next day to dismember them. (Peace and joy can be such hard work!)

Helzer next planned to incorporate his friend, Selina Bishop (daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop) into his plot by getting her to cash the check.  But he decided that she knew too much, so he and his brother bludgeoned her to death and then eviscerated her body.  Fearing that Bishop's stepfather and mother would finger him as a suspect in the murder of their daughter, Helzer dispatched them the following day.  On August 7, 2000 the three conspirators were arrested.  Glenn Helzer received five death sentences. Brother Justin got only one and Dawn Godman was sentenced to 38 years-to-life.


As someone who socializes at times on the periphery of "new age" circles, it is my personal observation that most spiritual seekers stopped giving themselves up to charismatic leaders and gurus by the end of the 1980s.  But it is clear that there are still enough lost souls out there to fulfill the financial needs and psychopathic fantasies of cult leaders for years to come. My advice: If you feel a need to be part of a group, join a bowling league.

Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ever – Vernon Robinson, N.C.

Helms & Robinson

"Brad Miller even spent your tax dollars to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia."

That's from a TV campaign ad by Vernon Robinson, who's trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Miller for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 13th District of North Carolina. In the process, he's created some of the most amusing campaign messages in recent memory.

Here's another, from the same ad:

"Brad Miller spent your money to study the masturbation habits of old men."

Robinson is an African-American and a rabid conservative Republican. In 2004, he lost a bid for the 5th District, but not before providing the locals with some high-concept political cabaret. He's so far to the right that the Winston-Salem Journal declared in an editorial about Robinson, "Jesse Helms is back! And this time, he's black." Robinson's campaign then adopted it as a slogan. A radio campaign ad was so controversial and borderline illegal that local station WSJS felt it had to pull all ads for the 5th District Primary.

His current campaign is wonderfully absurd and offensive, which makes it a joyful slapstick take on national politics. One radio ad uses a Mariachi soundtrack while claiming, "If Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals." And another, with banjo music in the background: "Hey all you illegals, put your shoes on. Go home. Don't come back now, y'hear?"

Beyond ads, Robinson pulled an old trick of his and suggested that since Miller is middle-aged and childless, he must be homosexual. Miller then felt he had to explain that his wife is unable to bear children due to the fact she had a hysterectomy and suffers from endometriosis.

Robinson's media savvy is matched only by his massive set of huevos. But the meanness is almost enough to feel sorry for Miller. Certainly, if they weren't both public figures, Robinson would be giving the keynote address at the yet-to-be-announced First Annual Griefer's Convention.

See also:
5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
5 More Nasty Campaigns
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality.

Jason Fortuny Speaks

Jason Fortuny

He's not sorry, he'd do it again, and he's buying a gun.

Jason Fortuny became notorious after posting nearly 150 explicit photos he'd received for a fake sex ad on Craig's List. Three weeks later he discusses the aftermath in a 29-minute online interview.

But is he really as cocky as he pretends to be? A close look at the footage reveals that behind the bravado is genuine fear. Although he remains unapologetic and bemused, his internet infamy has left him worrying about an unseen army of invisible enemies.

At one point they even have to stop the filming, because they'd inadvertently said someone's name.

"If you don't know who's stalking you," says Fortuny, "you don't know who's going to come after you in the middle of the night and, uh, kill you."


"The internet is serious business," the cameraman jokes, noting later that the web page received over one million visits in two and a half weeks.

When reminded that there's a new Jet Li movie called Fearless," Fortuny admits it's "something that I am not."

"How many people told you to kill yourself?"

"I lost count after, like, 20."

A friend even asked an FBI contact about Jason's situation. "What's my recourse here, if I am being stalked, if I am being harassed. What can we proactively do to protect me?" He says their answer was that he could call 911.

"So when are you getting your gun?"

"Probably this weekend."

Fortuny concedes he's never taken a gun class, "but I had a Nintendo for a while so I got pretty good... I need everyone who's going to come kill me to please dress up as an 8-bit duck."

Some people genuinely wondered if he had a deathwish, "because some people are under the impression that if you piss off the BDSM crowd, they'll kill you." Instead he jokes that the BDSM crowd is probably more about consensual pain — then playfully slaps the thigh of the woman next to him.


"So how many pizzas did you get delivered to your home?"

"I wasn't at home when it happened," he answers, although he does an impression of a pizza deliveryman's voicemail, then promises more updates on his web page. "Eventually I'll get all the hate mail up that I've received."

He claims he also got a few women offering him tail, "and I got lots of people who told me I would be getting some after going to jail. Which — how am I going to go to jail over this?"

The cameraman offers to film Fortuny turning himself in at the police station. But the truth is, no one has gone after him.

"I'm still waiting for a cease and desist letter to arrive — or an actual lawsuit!"

He remembers a blustery comment on his LiveJournal page claiming to have hired a lawyer. But so far all it's generated is a prank by another poster, who described leaving a taunting sign on that lawyer's office which read "ON UR CREGZLST POSTIN UR N00DZ!!!" under a drawing of the LiveJournal icon. (The poster added that while delivering the sign, "I spotted at least three Mexican transsexual prostitutes!")

Fortuny also laughs at the 20 "internet lawyers" who aren't actual lawyers, but "play them on the internets."

"If you're out there and you're making the whole 'illegal' judgment thing, just cite some law. I know some of you out there have gone after the whole privacy and 'intentional infliction of emotional distress', but even that's a little murky."

At one point he even seems to bait the online audience. When jokingly asked if he could swap some of the naked pictures he received, he stares starkly at the camera and replies "Considering that it's my property now, what the hell!"

But later he concedes that "If some good privacy law came from this, I'd actually be really pleased."


The woman next to him adds an interesting observation from a Seattle blog. "Despite all the publicity about your ad, there were still all sorts of people posting all sorts of no-strings-attached sex ads with sometimes personal information and pictures right in the ad... So I don't think even you can stop people from trying to get their rocks off."

When asked about future experiments, he smiles. "I think it's only fair we go after women — and I should get what, two replies?"

He discusses the idea of posting an equally too-good-to-be-true ad aimed at women — maybe one pretending to be a sugar daddy. But Fortuny doubts it would have the same impact.

"Women don't reply to ads. What would be very telling would be to get replies from women to an ad like that and watch that none of them put up personally identifiable information or any of their photos or anything like that. Or if they do put up a photo, it's something that's going to be hard to identify."

But even he was surprised by the copycat prankster who lures victims into additional online conversations and researches their lives before publishing all their embarrasing details.

"I didn't even verify that the information is real," Fortuny notes.

"For all I know it could be the joke of the universe on me."

Also surprising were some of the positive reactions he received. "There's a feminist out there who went absolutely nuts, thinks I'm some kind of hero, exposing all these perverts who want to beat up women."

"Did you invite her over for a spanking?" his female companion jokes. "You should have."

Earlier this week syndicated columnist Dan Savage argued that the only villain was Fortuny himself. The men who responded "were doing the decent, responsible thing" - assuring a woman who was seeking a connection based on a trust, Savage writes. "They shouldn't be punished for doing the right and honorable thing."

Fortuny also had some responses that were just plain awkward. His parents laughed, he says, but he also had to explain his notoriety to the men he'd identified in a search for his biological father. What would he have done if a paternity test candidate had answered the ad? "Oh god," he groans. "See? I have my limits."


The interview takes place during a rambly conversationally while eating noodles at a Pho restaurant in Seattle's university district. But all conversations ultimately lead back to Jason's stunt of September 4.

"Why do my noodles hate me?" the woman next to him asks.

"Because you're not treating them nicely. You're stringing them along and teasing them. Which is what you and all women do... Which fully justifies me posting as a woman... I strung them along. Teased them."

"So basically you gave them the same experience they would've gotten anyways."

"Yeah, pretty much. I teased their cocks."

He deep throats his spring roll. The camera zooms in, as he mock-viciously bites off the end. He points at the viewer, then the roll, and then makes a "think about it" gesture. Then continues eating.

"We'll put this on a DVD, mail it as a free consolation gift to everyone who participated."

By the end of the interview, he's taunting his online viewers. "I'm still alive... No one's killed me, no one's tried to kill me.

"If pizzas are the best you can do," he jokes, "oh my, this is sad. I got on the BBC, and the best you can do is pizzas?!"

See Also:
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
In The Company of Jerkoffs

Death? No, Thank You

Aubrey de Grey The founder of PayPal just gave "mad scientist" Aubrey de Grey $3.5 million to research immortality.

It's unclear whether former PayPal CEO Peter A. Thiel did this for all of us, or just so he can guarantee his place at the front of the line for the eventual treatment. Regardless, a better way to spend excess millions is difficult to conjure.

"Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries this century," said Thiel. "I'm backing Dr. de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones."

Right on. I always knew I was meant to live forever. How? Because, when I really think about it, it's totally unfair that there will come a day when the universe won't include me and my little world. It just doesn't make any sense. On the other hand, it makes all the sense in the world that, just as others have died before me, so shall I.

Please, o' mighty Science, deliver me from this paradox! I blame evolution and DNA for this cruel joke, for an imagination able to contemplate forever, coupled with a body that cannot. I blame religion for making humans complacent with a fairy tale promise.

And I blame science.

If the scientists hadn't spent so much time just accepting the premise that we all have to die someday, we might be living forever already. They have worked hand-in-hand with industry and capitalism to provide nearly enough useless consumer goods to allow us to occasionally forget our mortal condition; but really, I could do without about half a billion of those products in order to not have to die.

I'm not the only one. A group calling itself The Coalition to Extend Life recently issued a press release promoting "immortality as a national priority." They want people to sign a petition they hope will eventually be a million strong. "Our elected officials must be made aware there is massive support for immortality now!" it says on their website. You can also become a member for $30 a year, or just buy a $15 t-shirt that says, "REFUSE TO DIE."

On the other hand, metaphorical immortality has been around for a long time. It has been said repeatedly down the ages that fame or greatness, for instance, provides an existence beyond one's physical longevity. Children also offer this legacy benefit.

One can even attain a type of afterlife online. When 19-year-old college student Alicia Kay Castaneda was brutally murdered by her boyfriend with a baseball bat in Orange County, Florida, her website persona, "Enamored," continued to live through her Myspace page. It contains some of her thoughts and experiences, including a poem to the man who killed her, along with animated photo montages. The pages also serve as a memorial and ongoing conversation for the bereaved.

But how long will these artifacts remain online? "Digital immortality comes through these remnants of a person's online life," said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster and professor at Stanford University, "but that immortality terminates piece by piece when some tech person somewhere shuts down an account."

It seems that, ultimately, a legacy is not a viable substitute for immortality. And so, allegedly brilliant people like scientiest Ray Kurzweil push the idea of truly living forever. Ray holds audience with U.S. presidents and other very influential folks. He was even recently featured on "The Daily Show" beside Samantha Bee — how much more credibility could a scientist ask for?

Scientific immortality as seen through the public eye may still be an idea worth laughing at, but for how long? When the looming biotech boom starts making real advances, how fast will people's sentiments change, along with their demands? What is it worth to cheat your own death, and further, to imagine your parents and children being able to do the same thing? It could be dangerous to have the masses pondering this thought, and we can safely assume that the almighty leaders of business and state are aware of the possibility for unrest.

Think about people like Magic Johnson and Michael J. Fox and, before he died, Christopher Reeves — how overnight they became memebots for their respective afflictions once they were stricken, in the desperate hope that they could use their celebrity to channel the research and money needed for a cure.

The rest of us walk around sharing a delusion that we'll never die because at our cores, we know that we will. When something like cancer is cured, though, we'll start to imagine that it might be safe to throw off that delusion and replace it with a sense of real possibility. Then watch one of the fastest thought contagions history has ever seen, as each of us in our own way become advocates of curing the "disease" that is mortality. Who deserves to get that cure?

Kurzweil believes the "eternal divide" between haves and have nots is not going to be a fatal issue for the immortalist movement. He cites trends in bringing new technologies to market: at first, the technology is super expensive, doesn't work very well, and is rare; then it is expensive, works OK, and is more widely available; finally, it is super cheap or free, works great, and is everywhere. (Think cell phones or internet access.)

But this scenario assumes that society makes it through the first phase. Fear of death and knowledge of our own demise have driven humankind's deepest desires and anxieties since we appeared. To have that framework suddenly and fundamentally displaced by the promise of a real immortality will have psychological effects we cannot possibly predict.

I can predict one thing with certainty — when the day arrives (if it hasn't already) that I can flip the reaper the finger just by getting gene therapy (and you can bet it'll be covered by health insurance, because gene therapy increases an account's longevity along with an individual's), I'll be willing to do a lot more to make it happen than simply sign some lame petition.

My notion of what constitutes fairness and injustice will be radically altered if some capitalist douchebags get to live forever and the rest of us don't. Sure, it may be that all that's in our future is the death of the planet anyway (thanks to the same douchebags), but dammit, I'd at least like to watch my species' Final Act.

Willie Nelson’s ‘Narcotic’ Shrooms

Psilocybin Shroom
Willie Nelson and four others were issued misdemeanor citations for possession of narcotic mushrooms and marijuana after a traffic stop Monday morning on a Louisiana highway, state police said. — Associated Press, September 18, 2005

Webster's Dictionary defines a narcotic as "a drug that produces numbness or stupor; often taken for pleasure or to reduce pain; extensive use can lead to addiction."

According to, the word narcotic comes from the Greek word "narke" which means "numbness or torpor." A second definition from the same site acknowledges that the word narcotic has slipped into common usage and has come to mean "A drug such as marijuana which is subject to regulatory restrictions comparable to those for addictive narcotics." Wikipedia tells us that, "A narcotic is an addictive drug derived from opium, that reduces pain, induces sleep and may alter mood or behavior. The derivation of the word is from the Greek word narkotikos, meaning 'benumbing or deadening,' and originally referred to a variety of substances that induce sleep (such state is narcosis)." From there, the Wikipedia entry goes on to acknowledge that "Many police in the United States use the word 'narcotic' to refer to any illegal drug or any unlawfully possessed drug." (Actually, nearly all narcotics are legal with a prescription, unlike Willie's shrooms)

The misuse of the word narcotic by America's legal system began early in the 20th Century.  Legendary psychedelic chemist/researcher Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin told me...

The original meaning of narcotic was to define something that would cause narcosis — a numbing dopy state where there wasn't much feeling, and pain was lessened and sleep came easily. The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed into law in about 1915 give or take a couple of years, [ed: 1914] and it was basically a law making opium (and morphine) and coca (and cocaine) illegal.These were collectively called narcotics, and the term came to represent those two drugs (and their allies) for years. Illegal drugs were called narcotics, and the people who were employed by the Bureau of Narcotics were called Narks. In 1936 a super ego called Anslinger moved to put marijuana into the law and it was called by all the police, "another narcotic. " This was the status of Federal drug law until the sixties when the hippie movement took off. Clearly LSD and mescaline and STP (DOM) weren't like opium (the focal definition of a narcotic) so the Bureau of Narcotics weren't the right people to go after the users. So a new group was created, associated with the FDA, and called the BNDD or Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.The B of N and the FDA wore difference hats and competed for attention in the anti-drug fight. It all was resolved in about 1970 with the passage of the Controlled Substance Act bill and the creation of the DEA. It is quite a story.

Among the drug hip, the use of the word narcotic to describe mind-active drugs other than opiates carries with it an implicit irony. (Implicit only because irony, by its nature, can't be explicit.) On the other hand, the mainstream media, even the San Francisco Chronicle, from the drug-sophisticated Bay Area, tends to use law enforcement misnomers for illicit drugs, when reporting news around drugs. For instance, one report called the disassociative hallucinogen Ketamine a "date rape drug." There is, of course, no such thing as a date rape drug. There are drugs that were developed to be used — and are used — for other purposes that are, on rare occasions, used for date rape. And then there's alcohol, which has been the more easily available and frequently used substance of choice for date rapists since time immemorial. Unlike some other US papers, The Chronicle, at least, never reported on an LSD overdose, something that is virtually impossible to achieve, however hard some of us may have tried back in the days of heroic dose experimentation.

There are probably a dozen or so regular Chronicle culture and opinion writers who are sufficiently (intimately) knowledgeable regarding mind-altering plants and chemicals to inform the news editors about their mistakes, but who cares? No news agency will ever have a Dan Rather crisis for accepting and passing along drug misinformation. Indeed, nobody... nobody demands accuracy from the news media regarding mind-altering drugs or those who enjoy them.

Meanwhile, back to the concept of "narcotic" shrooms: As far as I've been able to decipher in one day's research, there are no opium-containing mushrooms nor are there any pharmaceutical relaxants or stupefiers that are derived from mushrooms. However, one source, who asked to be nameless, but who is associated with a company that supplies legal highs, told me that the Amanita Mascaria mushroom "can cause a kind of drunken stupor that can last a couple of hours, slowing you down until you pass out." Accoding to Ilsa Jerome, Project Coordinator for MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), "The depressant compound [in amanita] is almost certainly muscimol, a direct GABA agonist, GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) being a major inhibitory transmitter. Other GABA agonists include benzodiazepines, GHB and ethanol." Other compounds in Amanita, however, likely have opposite, excitatory effects, so stupefaction experiences are rare, and most experimenters report mild psychedelic effects, with some disassociative properties. And of course, Psilocybin, the drug that Willie was actually carrying, is a psychedelic (mind-manifesting drug or plant); or as some would have it, an entheogen (drug or plant that causes one to experience the god within); or a hallucinogen (drug or plant that causes one to watch The Dead for five hours without getting bored shitless.)

I asked Jerome if she was aware of any relationship between the activity of psilocybin in the brain and the activity of actual narcotics (i.e. opiates). She noted that, "There are a few studies that describe the effects of psilocybin in people, but none alongside those of opiates." But she added, "We do know that psilocybin, like LSD, mescaline and a host of obscure related drugs, acts to 'switch on' certain serotonin receptors. All these drugs share activity at 5HT2A and 5HT2C receptors; from there, actions vary, but psilocybin also acts to turn on 5HT1A and probably 5HT1B receptors. Opiates act on at least three opioid receptors, those being represented by the Greek letters 'mu', 'sigma', 'delta' and 'kappa'

In other words, "they definitely have different pharmacological activities." (Technically, Dr. Shulgin points out, psilocybin doesn't cross the blood/brain barrier and make it into the brain. Only after digestion is Psilocin produced, which does get across the brain-blood barrier to produce the psychedelic effects. Shulgin says, "This accounts for the time delay from the eating to the turning on.")

Perhaps we should accept the term "narcotic" as a description of any illicit mind-active drug since it is now common usage. But the word still carries more than a whiff of its original connotations. Drug warriors and reductionists do think of all illegal drug effects in terms of stupefaction. Most psychedelic fans would argue that these substances result in the opposite of stupefaction. Indeed, the experience frequently makes trippers painfully hyper-aware. On the other hand, if you're hoping that your buddy who is tripping on a hefty dose of shrooms will help you sort the garbage for tomorrow's recycling pick up, you might consider the slacker — laying on the floor for six hours staring at the back of his eyelids — to be stupified.

Narcotics or no, Willie Nelson will remain an American institution. Universally loved despite his weird-ass mile-long ponytail, lefty politics, and blatant marijuana advocacy, maybe this Willie Nelson bust will help awaken our countrymen to the absurdity of the drug war and the assumptions that are built into it. Probably not, though. For one thing, people find so much entertainment value in celebrity run-ins with the law that they don't want to mess up the fun by making serious politics out of it. Anyway, most people seem to regard this endless game of cops-and-stoners as an irretrievable fact of life.

In the Company of Jerkoffs

Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (pdf) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

As little as we like to encourage these guys, yet another sad member of the "griefer community," Michael Crook, is ambushing men with fake sex ads on Craig's List. Like past incidents, the story ultimately reveals a lot about the man behind it. In this case, he's not only pathetic, but a pathetic copycat.

If sex pranker Jason Fortuny is similar to the "Chad" character from Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men, then Crook is the asshole wannabe, "Howard." Not only is his imagination lacking, capable only of putting a slight spin on his hero's methods, but he also possesses a pathological moralism that seems entirely out of place and hypocritical for the behavior he's engaged in.

Clearly following the [tag]Fortuny[/tag] script, Crook pretended to be a 19-year-old female student at Syracuse university with B-cup breasts, looking to hang out "and maybe enjoy a nice, safe sexual encounter." ("I don't care if you're married, single, engaged, whatever. Life is fun. Sex is natural. Friendship is great.") And naturally, when men responded, Michael published their pictures and emails on — a domain he created Wednesday.

He also visited the "Casual Encounter" listings for five other cities — Las Vegas, Dayton, South Jersey, Kansas City, and Anchorage — publishing variations on his original ad. ("I'm 19, 5'4, 108 lbs, brown hair and eyes, and B cup breasts.") And added the responses to his site.

But he also made the additional effort of replying to his respondents to extract even more-embarrassing emails, and sometimes even instant messaging them. He also did online research, looking up their phone numbers and often claiming to have deduced the identities of his victims. "Check out this magazine article from a couple years ago, where he is in a picture with his wife and the guy whose name he used..." He apparently conned the (possibly married) man into sending a photo of his erection — then sent him one last email asking why he was trolling for girls on the internet and cheating on his wife. "What do you think your wife and co-workers' reaction will be when they find out?" he asks. (Adding that their answers, "along with your pics, will be posted for all to see on")

The extra cities were apparently necessary because his original prank generated less than 50 responses and received almost no attention. (Just two comments and one post in his forum.) He brags that the next day his fake ad got 15 more responses. (Possibly because no one actually reads his web site —-Ed.) He claims he's enjoying "exposing the perverts" and "pathetic men" responding to the ads. "I just wanted to see what kind of people would respond on a site like Craigslist, which is known for carrying ads from prostitutes," he writes. But he's also published the names of their wives, and in one case Googled the name of a respondent, then claimed it appeared on other dating sites "including fag sites."

So who is Michael Crook? His web site describes him as a former Mormon, disillusioned after a dispute about how religious programming was assigned spots on a local cable access show. (And the fact that a flirtatious weather guy was tapped to teach teenaged girls in his ward.) In 1999 he was too underweight to join the army, but even after bulking up was told he was medically unfit for service. Seven years later he composed an essay arguing that members of the military are overpaid. ("Financially speaking, it's the Pacific Avenue hooker of our economy.")

He weasled his way right onto TV in the spring of 2005 for creating a web site called "Forsake the troops," which called attention to his belief thatsoldiers are over-compensated. It also called soldiers "scumbags" and "pukes," asking "What idiots risk their life for a country...? Let 'em die in combat - we don't need their ilk in this country!" This led to an appearance on Fox News where Crook's deer-in-headlights performance drew a standard-issue beatdown from Sean Hannity. ("You're ignorant and you're a disgrace... You are heartless, you are soulless, you are mean and you are cruel....") His site later reported he was beaten to death by angry servicemen — though that was obviously a hoax. Instead Crook created related domains like opposethetroops, disownthetroops, and citizensagainstthetroops - although he was apparently trying to auction them off to cash in on their notoriety.

Recently he's registered two more domains — ("Coming soon, a website which will explain why racism is actually a good thing...") and ("dedicated to exposing and discussing illegal immigrants.") Both sites, though appear to be little more than their taglines, followed by the words "Coming soon!" But at least some of his anger appears sincere. One blogger claimed earlier Michael had cited anaffiliation with a group to "preserve the rights of white men and women." Recently Michael also created a web page criticizing a 17-year-old drunk driver who killed her friend in a car accident — including what he purports are her phone numbers and address.

But for all his online activity, Michael remains plagued by obscurity. He grew up in small-town Arizona, southern New Jersey, and Las Vegas, according to his web site, and ran a 300-member fan club for an obscure Dutch Eurodance group. He writes that he manages a sports-clothing store and is "pursuing" a criminal justice degree.

Ironically, just four weeks before his Craig's List prank, he'd sent a spate of letters complaining about copyright infringement. It's possible that this article may only further his goal of online infamy, though it remains to be seen whether he can make a career out of pissing people off.

In April a garage band called Permament Ascent uploaded a song about him to their MySpace page. Its lyrics?

"He's a dick. (He's a dick!) Fuck him! (Fuck him!) Asshole. (Asshole!) Fuck hi-i-m. Fuck Michael Crook!"

Perhaps Fortuny and Crook take solace in each other, from within the familiarity of their malicious community. I can foresee a day when this community of nihilistic pranksters hold its first convention, and they spend a week at the Marriott sneaking up on each other, flicking each other's ears and laughing until they drool.

See also:
Crook's Internet Club
EFF and 10 Zen Monkeys vs. Michael Crook
"Dear Internet, I'm Sorry"
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued

9/11 – The Wingnuts v. The Sheeple

RU Sirius 9/11 DebateLeft to right: Joel Schalit, Fred Burks, RU Sirius at the first live recording of The RU Sirius Show.

Those who believe that 9/11 was an inside job are wingnuts -- rank amateur investigators and their sycophantic followers. They can't tell a rumor from a piece of evidence, or a piece of evidence from conclusive proof.

Those who believe that 9/11 was not an inside job are sheeple -- brainwashed dupes who have a psychological block against accepting unpleasant facts.

As a 9/11 conspiracy agnostic, I suppose I can live with both of those characterizations. (Oh wait, I forgot -- agnostics are gutless weasels who are afraid to take a stand.)

Both sides in this hostile exchange follow their own stream of evidence. Both sides say the evidence presented by their opponents is incomplete, misconstrued, or just downright false. Primary representatives of each point of view are characterized as sleazy opportunists with suspect connections. In other words, it's pretty much like all other political debates that happen during polarized times, but a bit weirder.

The weirdness mostly comes from the pro-conspiracy side.

Early theorists focused largely on the connections that always seem to exist between powerful armed gangs with a will to power -- whether they're state-based militarists and intelligence operatives or stateless terrorists. Shadowy possible connections between the CIA and Al Qaeda via Pakistan's Secret Service, the Saudi connections (including the business connections between the Bush's and bin Landen's): all sorts of tantalizing factoids and rumors could be spotted along the guns-and-money trail.

But over the last few years, "inside job" theory has focused mostly on presumed "smoking gun" physical evidence. This has resulted in a hyper-byzantine narrative that might look something like this: Government agents replaced passenger planes with remote-controlled flying something-or-others and also planted explosives in three WTC buildings. They somehow made the explosives go off at a particular time (or maybe the exact time didn't matter), but they made certain to fell not just the two buildings hit by the remote-controlled planes but one extra building, WTC #7. Bringing down this billion dollar building was an irresistibly convenient way of getting rid of some possibly damaging records.

Meanwhile, on the same day, a little while later, the Pentagon fired a missile at itself, making sure to hit the least valued section of their five-sided building, not the one where Donald Rumsfeld was hanging out. They were prepared to claim that the missile was actually a hijacked passenger plane. The people who were supposed to have been flying on these hijacked planes were maybe all packed onto the one plane that was shot down in Pennsylvania (contrary to the report that it was brought down by a struggle between the hijackers and the hijacked) even though everybody wouldn't have fit on the plane… or who the hell knows what happened to them. The many calls from the hijacked planes, particularly the one that went down in Pennsylvania, were faked with technology.

Meanwhile, NORAD was given a "stand down" order not to scramble jets to defend against these planes, or else some conspirators made sure that they didn't scramble the jets fast enough. And all who might have been involved in, or would have known about such a thing, were reliable conspiracy members or were intimidated or bribed into keeping it all secret. Hundreds of people at various levels of the government, the sorts of people who are generally inclined towards patriotism, conspired to destroy or damage the symbols of American financial and military power. Oh, and all those who investigated the debris in the Pentagon and those who witnessed the airplane overhead were either easily tricked or sworn to secrecy. And that's just the short version.

The long version of this narrative would include not just the intentional subversion of operations against Al Qaeda; but the conscious, knowing subversion of investigations into what happened on 9/11 not just by the Bush administration but from all levels of Congress, various police-type agencies, and all who testified before investigative committees. It would also take in the false testimonies of structural engineers and other experts in physical evidence, indeed entire academic conferences were conducted simply to deceive (hmm, come to think of it, that description might apply to a few "Critical Theory" conferences I've attended). This conspiracy involved thousands of Americans from all walks of life.

And then there are a few theorists who think that no planes hit the WTC at all and that it was all done with holography. Most members of the "Truth movement" agree that those people are wingnuts!

As someone who is willing to entertain the idea that I live inside of some sort of Platonic matrix created by a cruel master-species whose general intentions occasionally leaked into the brain of Philip K. Dick, I can hang out with this narrative. But on my agnosto-meter in which everything is possible but most things are improbable, I give it about a .0001% chance of being mostly accurate.

I would give other "inside job" narratives a higher rating. I might even be willing to go up to 15% odds that some world domination-oriented US militarists within the ranks of the powerful decided that the success of rumored upcoming major terror attacks on the US would help them achieve their national and global political goals and that they did some things to increase the likelihood that the attacks would succeed. Hey, sometimes you feel like a wingnut, sometimes you don't.

The book Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts, published by Popular Mechanics, deals entirely with issues around physical evidence. They claim to refute the theories about explosives planted in buildings, missiles in the Pentagon and the claims that Flight 93 was shot down in Pennsylvania, among other popular conspiranoid points. They also publish testimony from people who claim that they were misunderstood or misquoted by theorists -- falsely made to sound like they were supporting the theories. Naturally, those who believe in the conspiracy theories dismiss everything in the book and everyone quoted in the book as dupes and conspirators.

On the whole, the book is pretty impressive, although it's thin and it's not footnoted (most pro-conspiracy tracts are full of footnotes, but if you follow the footnotes you might find less than you bargained for.) The editors, David Dunbar and Brian Reagan, claim to have "consulted with more than 300 experts and sources in such fields as air traffic control, aviation, civil engineering, fire fighting, and metallurgy." Many of them are listed in the back of the book. Of course, quite a few of them do work for the government, which provides all the reason required for those on the conspiracy side of the tracks to dismiss the entire book as an adjunct to the whole nefarious government operation.

A few days ago, my audio podcast, The RU Sirius Show, sponsored a live debate on the subject of "inside job" conspiracy theory. One of my goals in putting together this panel was to include a hardcore anti-conspiracy theory skeptic. I started out by contacting the editors of the Popular Mechanics book, but they made it clear they were not interested in debating the other side. This is sort of understandable. Another person who I contacted, who has written specific skeptical comments about these theories told me she wouldn't participate in any debates because she received thousands of pieces of hate mail and several death threats for her column in a left wing newspaper doubting these theories. She didn't want to deal with that sort of fanaticism.

We wound up unable to come up with a hardcore, detail-oriented conspiracy theory skeptic who was available and willing to appear. So I thought I could incorporate some of the Debunking editors' skeptical views into this piece for 10 Zen Monkeys. Debunking editor Brad Reagan expressed a willingness to answer my email questions, but only if the book publicist reviewed the questions and agreed that it was OK. He explained that they had been "sandbagged by some conspiracy theorists since the book came out." I got the queasy feeling that I would only get a response if I asked nothing but softball questions, which I didn't want to do.

I sent off my questions and the response that I got was a compromise: very brief responses to only a few of my questions, apparently intended not as interview material but to help me with my own research.

The publicist explained that Reagan was already over-scheduled, and had magazine deadlines to contend with as well. As a former magazine editor, I can understand this. Still, I must report that my over all experience with conspiracy skeptics has fortified my general impression that neither side in this exchange wants any serious discourse with anyone who doubts their views, even slightly.

Reagan did answer my most important question. The one paragraph that really leaped out at me when reading Debunking blows a pretty big hole in the theories based on the planned demolition of the World Trade Center that seem to dominate most of the conspiracy theories. It reads, "The collapses of the three World Trade Center buildings are among the most extensively studied structural failures in American history. In the five years since 9/11, they have been the subject of lengthy investigations and engineering school symposiums, together involving hundreds of experts from academia and private industry, as well as the government."

I asked Reagan if he could substantiate these claims or provide us with some links that could help us to do so. He sent along the following message, including links: "The American Society of Civil Engineers website has a research library. Search under 'World Trade Center' and you will find numerous papers studying the collapse of the buildings. This link describes the range of experts participating in the NIST investigation. On another site, The Bazant paper is especially instructive. He is one of the world's leading civil engineers."

I'll suggest that those who are in search of The Truth" in this matter would do well to read Debunking with an open mind, and to also follow the leads Mr. Reagan has provided. I would also suggest that those who dismiss all possibilities of government collusion would not be harmed if they admitted to themselves that relegating some of the well-documented fuckups and fiascoes of the American security establishment to incompetence does sometimes seem to stretch the boundaries of credulity.

For example, one of the weaker parts of Debunking is the section where they explain that America was not prepared to defend itself against an attack by hijacked airliners because we'd never dealt with that situation before. But even such mainstream, quasi-Republicanist fare as the recent ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11 showed how, for months, the authorities were getting all kinds of warnings and chatter about "airplanes" and "hijackings" and "a major terrorist attack against the US," and that they were watching suspects who were attending flight schools. And beyond that, this very same TV special echoed the little discussed fact that the revelations about Al Qaeda's plans to use planes to attack the US go back to 1996 with news about "Project Bojinka" and, of course, that the World Trade Center had been targeted before, ad infinitum. Can we really chalk all that up to the glacial pace of government bureaucracy? Definitely maybe, but it does give one pause (or it should).

We live, obviously, in paranoid times. People are quick to conclude that the discursive other -- the person with the opposite point of view -- is "the enemy." And enemies need to be defended against, not learned from. (Actually, one should learn from one's enemies, but I'll leave the Sun Tzu for another occasion.) Thus we see less and less real discourse, not just in terms of the facts and repercussions of 9/11 but across the political board. Maybe we should just split into memetic tribes and have it out in a shooting war. But color me an eternal optimist. I'd like to think that there is still space in public discourse for agnosticism; for uncertainty; and for considering the ideas of the other.

Downfall of “The Seducer”

Ross JeffriesWhat happens when an aging pickup artist of legendary proportions falls from grace and is supplanted by a younger crop of studs? And how does the elder Don Juan deal with seeing his classroom-centered “hypnosis” strategies made obsolete by the bolder, hacker-inspired models of the next generation?

Author Neil Strauss devotes part of his bestselling book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists to just such a real-world changing of the guard. It’s amusing to read the latest in the world of Ross Jeffries, the original “speed seducer,” because I had personally crossed paths with the man back in 1999, and it made a lasting impression.

He’d invited me, as manager of the webzine, to attend one of his weekend-long seminars teaching geeks and losers how to pick up women. It was as absurd and ridiculous as you would imagine such an event should be.

Later, after we published a negative article about the course and the man, he lashed out, threatened to sue, and then backed down. Just a year ago he returned to the comments section of the article and, in an effort to recover his reputation, questioned my journalistic objectivity.

Thanks, Ross, for allowing me to now expand upon my memorable time at your seminar.

I'd attended according to Jeffries' invite, which allowed two people, a male and a female, to sit in. So I brought the zine's sex editor, Cara Bruce, along. She later wrote about the experience here. Sadly for her, she was extremely tired from partying the night before, and soon after swallowing a questionable “wake me up” pill, she fell asleep during Ross' class. About 30 minutes later, he noticed and jarred her awake by screaming at her. When Cara awoke, she was tripping balls, eyes bugging wildly, and the sight of Ross' hideous mug barking in her face was enough to really freak her out. She grabbed my forearm for support and I led her into the hallway for reassurance before we returned to class.

But it was all the other stuff we saw that day that freaked me out. I expected a playful, if sexist presentation of half-baked pickup advice. But when Jeffries' hostility and aggression came whining to the surface, I became shocked that anyone would willingly sit through such treatment.

Nowadays, Ross is in a fight for his career and his relevance. The next generation of pickup artists, like author of “The Game,” Neil Strauss, who mentored under the best PUAs (including Jeffries) before ascending the ranks himself, are blowing Jeffries out of the water with field seminars where they take chumps into clubs, and proceed to demonstrate, guide, and tutor in the skills of macking (or rather, “FMAC”ing — Find, Meet, Attract, Close) on girls.

Indeed, all aspects of “seduction” (even this term has evolved — it’s called “sarging” now) have been profoundly affected by the Internet since the days of Jeffries' initial groundbreaking workshops that cost upwards of $800 per person. PUAs now openly share their best strategies with each other, and they deconstruct social dynamics like superstar computer hackers cracking code on crystal meth.

"Me personally, I’d never spend money on something I can persuade someone else to purchase for me," says nlpimp in the article's comments. "And thank God for the Internet, because it allowed me to attain these skills ABSOLUTELY FREE."

But there are certain types of instruction you simply cannot get online (yet). For a price into the thousands, a peacock of a stud will snatch you from in front of that computer, whisk you off in a limo, and toss you into a thumping night club crawling with HBs (hot babes). They'll watch over your shoulder while you steal the show from the very same alpha males that have always taunted you and banged what should have been YOUR cooter.

Ross Jeffries, on the other hand, has a different focus. He's in his mid-40s, so he sticks mostly to the classroom, and teaches his students scripts to memorize and recite, like this "blow job pattern" found on the Internet:

Yeah well, do you like chocolate? (Or is there a food that when you see it you absolutely have to put it in your mouth?) … And then there’s that moment, that moment when the first molecule of chocolate touches your tongue and you know it’s inside your mouth and you just want to keep it there because it’s so rich and so good. And there’s that extra special warmth when you swallow that sweetness down.

If the above seems like it would not quite yield the speaker a blow job in the real world, keep in mind that Ross puts just as much effort into conquering the men he teaches as he does teaching them how to conquer their fears with women. He has built a cult that specializes in humiliating the guys who come to him, using his students' deep inward pain, and hypnotic suggestion. Ross’ sessions are insulated, intense, and very male-centric.

In Strauss' book (a great read even if you're not desperate to learn Lothario's trade secrets), the author, who was already an established writer of rock star biographies before becoming a pickup artist, tells the story of how he too was invited early on by Jeffries to attend a seminar for free. Strauss accepted but quickly became alarmed by Ross' obsessive need to get him to disparage other pickup artists and pledge exclusive allegiance to him.

"You are being led into the inner sanctum of power, my young apprentice," he said to Strauss, "and the price for betrayal is dark beyond measure of your mortal mind."

The darkness of Jeffries’ dominance-inspired methods often shows itself as dark comedy. At one point, Strauss is cajoled by Jeffries to take him to a Hollywood party so he can hit on "real celebrities." At the party, he initially pretends to be Strauss' gay lover, but ends up following Carmen Electra around on all fours, sniffing her ass as if he were a dog.

"I made a mental note," writes Strauss, "never again to take Ross anywhere cool. It was an embarrassment."

Later in the book, when Strauss' close friend and master PUA, Mystery, has a nervous breakdown and is feeling suicidal, he blubbers that he doesn't want be "another Ross Jeffries." In what can only be a painful irony for Jeffries, what he started as a kind of homoerotic fraternity for geeks has, in the hands of his successors, evolved into a valid toolbox for getting laid, leaving him largely alone, outdated, and struggling desperately to maintain even the moniker of "seducer."

The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny

Jason Fortuny

Jason Fortuny has become famous as an online menace/hero after posting the photos and come-ons he received from nearly 150 men responding to a fake sex ad he placed on Craig's List. He's started an intense debate about the nature of online privacy and dating.

But beyond the practical effects of the experiment, what kind of man would commit such a dastardly prank?

Researching that question, I stumbled across Jason Fortuny's Amazon reviews. He read and reviewed exactly one book over five years -- and two soundtracks for Star Trek movies. ("Reviews written: 4." Helpful votes: 0.) He also awards 5 stars to National Lampoon's Van Wilder ("Reviewer Matthew K. Minerd totally needs to get laid. Dude, relax! It's just a movie.")

He's also been sexually molested by his grandfather.

"I haven't talked to my parents or the rest of the family in 11 years," he wrote in a post on his LiveJournal account in May. It's one of many suprisingly frank glimpses into the 30-year-old's life. "[I]f you had a family where four different members molested you, your mother tended to the prime molestor instead of you, and your stepfather utterly failed to provide for a future, you'd be pretty pissed, too."

Later he posts that two of the perpetrators are dead, and two were under 18.

While there's no guarantee that his LiveJournal posts are true, they offer intriguing glimpses into the personality behind the prank. When someone suggested in May that he keep his current contact information from his family, he answered, "it's too late for the contact information. It's all available out there. Part of my online persona is to hide nothing. Let the psychos come to my door -- I have a pellet gun and a baseball bat and occasional bad breath." He jokes in a later comment that "I miss the days when it was just trolling and making fun of fat people. Life was so easy back then!"

Another poster advises, "just make sure you have someone you trust who you can rant and freak out to if you need to."

"LiveJournal?" he answers.

Eight weeks ago he split with his fiancee. Seven weeks ago he posted about his difficulties with his thyroid and testosterone levels. ("If it works, one of the first things I should notice is the return of my energy, followed by the return of sexual function, followed by weight gain, followed by increased body hair.") He hints at biochemical depression. In July he began selling his Star Trek trading cards to cover $2600 in debt. "Looks like its time to eBay my stunning collection of original Star Wars and Transformers toys and action figures...," he writes. "There are some heartbreakingly awesome Transformers and Star Wars toys in there. I am profoundly sad..."

He also describes a history of malicious pranks. He apparently once claimed to have put pictures of someone's children on a child rape site. In January of 2005 he'd faked a sudden conversion to born-again Christianity, in a post which received 448 comments. ("I was sitting there, New Year's Eve, drinking alcohol by myself, in my underclothes, abusing my body to images of Rod Serling on the TV... And then, without warning, the flood of emotion I had tried so hard to block forced it's way into my consciousness...") This June he'd tried a Livejournal "whoring" project, "friending everyone".

But on May 8 he posts that a friend commented "I no longer have that annoying 'must be the center of attention' drive anymore." Then adds his own self-analysis about his past motivations. " ability to keep a crowd entertained and charmed was a major pillar of my self-esteem. If nothing else, I could rock a party. I certainly didn't believe in my professional abilities then like I do now. And, I didn't want to admit that it was annoying. All I cared was that I got my boost when I did my thing - friends be damned."

Fortuny's LiveJournal entries detail everything from his search for his biological father to his recent STD test. There's the checklist for the perfect woman, and the poem he'd written for his fiance in December. He even jokes about falling for someone else's prank -- pretending to be fired over a LiveJournal post. He posts downloadable copies of Star Wars, Fight Club, Blade Runner and Batman Begins, and in April he was attacked by a mailbox-flooding bot.

While it doesn't resolve the question of what motivated his sex-ad prank, it at least demonstrates an online persona that can be abrasive and negative. He complains that "friends' private entries have been read by psycho womenz. Psycho womenz that I went out on a date with once and reeled in horror when she bared her five year old and her smoking teeth..." He mockingly rants against the Girl Scouts, adding "I swear to god the only reason I don't shout at every last one of them is that I know all little catholic girls are uninhibited sluts, just waiting to be liberated from oppressive and neglectful fathers and gods, into the arms of a bustling, accepting, healthy porn industry."

But behind it all are the hints of something much darker. He writes of zombie nightmares -- and family nightmares. "While my nightmares of my parents have not returned," he wrote in June, "I have others that bring up similar feelings of righteous anger. We'll see."

See also:
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued
Good Griefers: Fortuny vs. Crook
Jason Fortuny Speaks
In the Company of Jerkoffs

Three Hundred Pound Porn Queen Decimates Oklahoma Town

Doris the Porn QueenOne woman, one very large and apparently out-of-control woman, has caused the resignation of a city councilman, the mayor, and the police chief of Snyder, Oklahoma. Libertarians across the blogosmear were quick to react with support for the First Amendment and condemnation of the religious sensibilities of the town and its churchgoing residents.

Some citizens, perhaps catalyzed by the town's ex-mayor, who has been critical of now-former Police Chief Tod Ozmun, unearthed pictures online of the chief's wife giving blowjobs, which was enough for them to call for his resignation. But something else got revealed as well -- a sizable rift between the moral orientation of the town and its governing officials.

The resulting social distortions are arguably part of the reason that now-former Mayor Dale Moore released an official statement that is philosophically libertarian in a town that is anything but.

"We do not endorse pornography," the statement read. "However, we do endorse an individual's rights under the First Amendment of freedom and expression."

It's strange to consider how elected officials and a top police officer in a small, rural, and very religious town in Oklahoma could suddenly butt heads with fellow citizens and make such radical statements against moralism. Indeed, Councilman Clifford Barnard said of the police chief's dismissal, "I think this is wrong and I won't put up with it. I don't want to work in a community like this." He resigned from the council in protest.

Why did the councilman and the mayor from a small conservative town stand up for the civil liberties of a police chief whose wife is a smut star?

"He's done more drug arrests, solved more crimes than anybody else in town has ever done," Moore said. So, perhaps it is the price they were paying to have law and order in a part of the country that has been unable to get a grip on a seemingly invincible methamphetamine plague.

There may be more clues to this mystery in the past of the Ozmuns.

Tod OzmunIn 2000, while he was director of the Jefferson County Narcotics Enforcement Team, Tod Ozmun was investigated (but never charged) during an internal probe over a meth lab, during which Doris, who was his girlfriend at the time, was arrested. She was convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, sentenced to 10 years in prison, and paroled after a few, even though she claimed she was working as an undercover narc.

In 2001, they married while Doris was incarcerated in Oklahoma County.

It's a common theme in cop films and TV shows that the best way to fight the drug trade is to become part of it. In the corrupt world of narcotics and counter-narcotics, it's not so strange for a cop to fall in love with a drug dealer, right? Or even for him to be one -- maybe just a little?

We don't yet have the full story of the current meltdown in Snyder, Oklahoma. Some further questions beg to be answered: What was the exact association between Doris and Tod and the meth lab? How did Tod avoid prosecution while Doris was convicted? What might their romantic courtship have been like? And how does the Chief of Police feel about coming home after a hard day of fighting "scumbags" -- to his ex-con, porn actress wife?

Perhaps he enjoys following the legacy of another Snyder police chief, Larry Roe, who was charged in 1994 with providing alcohol to minors.

Or maybe this is simply the case of a very strong-willed woman steering an entire town into her hedonist's playground -- consequences be damned!

"My wife is 6ft 3in and weighs 300 pounds," says Ozmun. "If there is somebody that thinks they can control her, have a go at it. I have tried for 11 years and haven't been able to."

Oklahoma was the first state to restrict the availability of pseudoephedrine, a decongestant crucial in making meth, by moving certain non-prescription cold tablets behind the pharmacy counter. The meth lab count in Oklahoma fell dramatically, and the state was promptly hit by a massive wave of cheap Mexican superlab meth. Drug purity and jail populations are at an all-time high.

The Cellphone Murders

They're cathartic, anti-social, and absurdeach capturing a moment in time which ends with someone chasing two giant cellphones down a street. "Run!" a giant cellphone shouts. "Keep running!" These strange, exhiliarating film clips are rather disturbing if you don't know the back story. But the context shifts tremendously when you do.

Cellphones were a strange and alien technology in 1999, with an adoption rate of less than 45%. Talking loudly on your mysterio-techno device provoked annoyance, distrust, and hostility — or a Top 20 hit single.

Ian Aitch reported that weird development for in 1999. The British acid house movement spawned a band called KLF whose rogue provacateur Jimmy Cauty later sampled the ubiquitous ring-tone with a British comedian/musician (and sometime Pink Floyd contributor) named Guy Pratt. They morphed the cellphone jangle into a disturbingly catchy dance track — though according to Wikipedia BBC 1 radio then refused to play it. It was that annoying.

The British are insane, of course - or, they recognize that pop music is essentially a disposable glitz that should be dismissed, de-constructed, re-constructed, and mocked. (The sample-happy track competed with a rival song sampling the Hamster Dance called — what else? — Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia.) But then pumped up cellphone bashers decided it wasn't just a song; it was a movement.

"We have been looking for a fiendish project to get our teeth into for the past six months," they confided maliciously on their web site. It tells the tale of stealing two human-sized cellphone costumes from the filming of the song's music video. "After an evening of heavy drinking a plan was hatched and all concerned decided that this was a cause worth fighting for."

In guerilla movies that are reactionary, subversive, and gloriously futile, we see our heroes — dressed in giant cellphone costumes — surprising British cellphone users by snatching their phones out of their hands. Then stomping the cellphones to bits on the sidewalk. And then running.

And what did the record company think, when their music video's costumes turned up in online cellphone-smashing videos? "They have not recognised our existence," the tribal pranksters at complain. But — graciously — they added that "We have decided to link to them even though they don't explain the true meaning of the song. Not one mention of how shit mobile phones are." This hastily-constructed knock-off web page included a link to the song's official site run by some combination of Virgin Records/EMI. "Very corporate," the cellphone-bashers chide. "All bells and whistles."

But before you cheer, you might want to check the registration for the cellphone-basher's own web site. Its administrative contact is EMI limited, and the site is administered by This site knocking the corporate suits at Virgin Records is in fact owned, run, and incorporated by Virgin Records.

This lends an aura of calculation to the enterprise — but it can't be fully assessed without witnessing one last spectacle. Described as the site's "mission statement" (on a web page named kill.html), it shows an unidentified spokesman for this unique moment in time trying frantically to convey human debasement - theirs, ours, or society's at large. Whether it was underground pranksters, a desperate record company, or just the magical spirit of cellphone-bashers past — they've captured their rage in a powerful five-second clip.

A manic man in a cell phone costume and white ski mask shouts "KILL MOBILE PHONES! KILL MOBILE PHONES!"

The LA Cop Who Became the Leading 9/11 Conspiracy Spokesman

This being the anniversary of 9/11, I thought it might be interesting to dig out this article I wrote on assignment for Rolling Stone in late May of 2002 that they decided to kill. I am hosting a debate this weekend on "9/11 conspiracy theory" for The RU Sirius Show. Next week, I'll post my reflections on that discussion.

We're in the very brain stem of 9/11 "Bush Knew" conspiracy theory. It's the day that the Bushies are confessing to ignored or mishandled intelligence warnings, but here at the From The Wilderness (FTW) office, they're not catching the breaking developments on CNN Headline News. They're busy checking to see if they're under microwave bombardment. Two days ago, a pair of FTW staffers went home sick with nausea, and the boss, Mike Ruppert, felt a tightening around his head "like a vice grip." "Andrea and John are feeling it again!" Michael Leon, a 39-year-old employee, says as he waves around a geiger counter. Ruppert "America's most popular 9/11 Bush conspiracy spokesman" holds his hands to the side of his head. "I think I'm feeling it too." But the geiger counter, which Leon claims showed extremely high gamma ray readings during the previous incident, now reads normal. The paradox is left unexplained and everyone turns back to his or her work.

The FTW office is a humble two room converted apartment in a slightly rundown section of an upscale Los Angeles suburb. Here Michael C. Ruppert, a tall, paunchy ex-cop whose sunny, open-faced demeanor belies a conspiratorial caste of mind, and a five person staff, runs the popular FTW website and newsletter, and sells videotapes of Ruppert's popular lectures. Video orders are flying out the door at a rate of about 250 per week. They claim over a million individual visitors to their website over the past eight months. Russ Kick, who edits a line of books for DisInformation, the chronicler of conspiracy subcultures, says, "Ruppert has become the most well-known of the researchers questioning the official version of 9/11." He is, without a doubt, the go-to guy for conspiracy theory in the post-9/11 world.

After going public with his claims that "the Bush Administration was in possession of sufficient advance intelligence to have prevented the attacks, had it wished to do so" almost immediately after 9/11, this ex-narcotics officer found himself speaking to auditoriums packed with enthusiastic hemp-wearing lefties, paying as much as $25 for the pleasure of having their darkest suspicions confirmed. When he spoke before an overflow crowd at Fort Mason in San Francisco, Ruppert held his audience in thrall for three-and-a-half hours. The nerdy ex-cop paced the stage -- fussily fixing his large black glasses, joking, cajoling, and working up a sweat that would have done James Brown proud. He wove together a convincing narrative about how narcotics money props up the financial markets, which are largely run by former CIA agents; he pointed to overwhelming evidence of insider trading just prior to 9/11 involving only companies hurt by the events. He supplied motivation for the alleged crime by reading damning quotes from a 1997 book by imperial strategist Zbigniew Brzezinsk. It was one hell of a show, and the audience responded with a long and enthusiastic standing ovation.

The FTW website provides an opportunity to examine his evidence more closely. It's a mishmash. Tantalizing clues are sabotaged by giant leaping conclusions. It's obvious that he's onto something. It's just not entirely clear what. About 75% of the material presented on FTW is solid information, culled from valid sources and presented in a straightforward manner. His magnum opus about the alleged 9/11 conspiracy frequently references the New York Times, as well as the Wall Street Journal, and the House International Relations Committee. Ruppert does plenty of what conspiracy theorists do best. He captures those inexplicable bits of information that appear momentarily in the mainstream media, only to escape further attention or investigation. For example: "August 2001 - Russian President Vladimir Putin orders Russian intelligence to warn the U.S. government -- in the strongest possible terms; of imminent attacks on airports and government buildings. [Source: MS-NBC, September 15.]." A collection of these data points are then iterated throughout the conspiracy underground where, like a bad LSD trip, they accumulate ever-more-sinister implications, up until the point where the very gates of hell appear to be opening up.

Of course, a facile glance at today's political reality, shadowed by intensifying global conflicts, nuclear brinksmanship, and terrorists in search of smallpox weapons, suggests those hellgates may, in fact, soon be swinging wide. And say this for Ruppert -- readers of FTW knew the extent of intelligence warnings about terrorist attacks leading up to 9/11 months before most readers of the mainstream press. The night of Ari Fleischer's assertion that "The president did not -- not -- receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers," Ruppert posted evidence that made the claim difficult to believe. "Western intelligence services, including the CIA, learned after arrests in the Philippines that Al Qaeda operatives had planned to crash commercial airliners into the Twin Towers... The plan was called 'Operation Bojinka.' Details of the plot were disclosed publicly in 1997 in the New York trial of Ramsi Youssef for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing." The day after Ruppert posted this, Operation Bojinka was all over the mainstream press.

There are dozens of other examples where Ruppert appears to be accurate and way ahead of the curve. But like Fox Mulder, Ruppert's fatal flaw is that he wants to believe. "The day the attack happened, I went on the air with Joyce Reilly... I was saying that the only way this could happen is if the government wanted it to happen. And I said clearly that I was going from my gut. And any good policeman or detective will tell you that gut hunches are essential to doing good work."

In his rush to present conclusive proof of conspiracy, he makes some very poor choices. Dubious rumors are elevated to fact. For example, the widely circulated piece that appeared in Le Figaro in November, 2001 claiming that Osama bin Laden had been in a hospital in Dubai where he was visited by a CIA agent is presented as prime evidence of collusion. But the rumor has been vigorously denied, and the rest of the French media has found the evidence lacking.

Perhaps Ruppert should be more cautious. But how many people want to buy a video of some guy claiming that he's gathered circumstantial evidence indicating the Bush administration might have intentionally let the attacks happen? Conspiracy fans want a compelling story line with a satisfying conclusion. And really, besides supplying hours of fun and excitement for people who love puzzles and mystery stories, fringe conspiracy investigators perform a valuable function. Long before the timid mainstream press dares to even raise questions, they scatter their shots wildly. They may miss the target as often as they hit it, but they also presented evidence that deserved closer scrutiny. As the sense that the Bushies are hiding something about the 9/11 intelligence failures becoming increasingly pervasive, Ruppert's divinatory research is, in some sense, already vindicated.

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