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Jon Ronson: The Men Who Stare At Goats

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The Men Who Stare At Goats is a hilarious new film starring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately, the true story it's based on is no laughing matter, especially if you happen to be a de-bleated goat housed in the U.S. Army's top secret Goat Lab or a guest of our government at Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.

The screenplay for the movie is woven around cold, hard -- and quite frankly bizarre -- facts uncovered by British author, journalist and documentarian Jon Ronson during his investigation into the U.S. Army's all too real paranormal activities, which he chronicled in a book first published in 2005. Though fictionalized, the script features whole chunks of dialog lifted directly from actual interviews Ronson conducted for the book with high ranking army officials and those who were trained by them as psychic spies.

Major General Albert Stubblebine III, who in the early '80s headed up the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command, a joint Army and N.S.A. clearing house responsible for gathering and disseminating intelligence, was one of the military's highest ranking proponents of supernatural techniques. Stubblebine, who was frequently frustrated by his lack of aptitude in the walking through walls department, was eventually forced out, but his dream of creating a superpowered army to defend the world's greatest superpower lived on thanks to the work of a Lieutenant Colonel called Jim Channon.

Disillusioned by what he'd seen and experienced in Vietnam, Channon had wanted to find a better, less lethal way of engaging in war. In 1977 he persuaded the Pentagon to fund a two year fact finding mission. During this time he visited numerous establishments that claimed to offer methods for enhancing human potential (including one in Big Sur that did this with naked hot tub encounter sessions). Upon his return, Channon wrote a blueprint for the next generation of soldier, or "warrior monks" as he called them, in a document entitled The First Earth Battalion Operations Manual.

The report detailed his ideas for the military application of a variety of new age techniques including telepathy, remote viewing, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, and the use of music and subliminal sounds to alter mood. Channon's hippified vision of how to go about war, which included the use of special "sparkly eyes" greetings to disarm the enemy, was intended to create positive change. However many of the more tangible mind-bending techniques that Channon outlined were ultimately subverted by the military and used for torture and psychological warfare.

One of the army's more laughable attempts at co-opting Channon's ideas for darker purposes was their program to create telepathic assassins. The soldiers selected to hone their psychic powers in this way practiced their skills on a covert goat herd based at Fort Bragg that had been de-bleated to avoid rousing the suspicions of the local branch of the ASPCA. Though killing with a stare proved to be a somewhat challenging task, legend has it that a man named Guy Savelli did actually down a goat. But when Ronson caught up with Savelli, a civilian who was initially contracted by Special Forces to teach the mind over body martial art Kun Tao, the only proof of his skills he was able to offer was a somewhat dubious DIY hamster snuff video.

However, disturbing images leaked from inside Abu Ghraib and news reports of interrogation tactics used in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay, involving loud music and fit-inducing strobe light inflicted over excessive periods of time, indicate that other psi ops methods, originally presented in a far different light by the likes of Stubblebine and Channon, have caused very real harm. Highly experimental mind-targeted tactics have also been deployed in a shockingly disorganized, cavalier and ad-hoc manner during various domestic sieges including the ill-fated 51-day stand off at Waco which resulted in 76 deaths. And it's not just terrorists and religious extremists that are a casualty of our rogue psychological warfare, which has caused a crisis of conscience at home that has over-shadowed the Bush presidency and threatens even that of Obama's.

I caught up with The Men Who Stare At Goats author and psychic spy expert by phone to find out more. Read my exclusive interview with Jon Ronson at

He's a lumberjack and it's OK,
Seems anyone can run for office - as long as they're not gay!

If you think the election's not quite silly enough yet, click HERE to sign up and show your support for Michael Palin's presidential candidacy, and get a free fuzzy thing.

Sarah Palin: A Disgrace To Beauty Queens

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I'm not exactly a fan of traditional beauty pageants, but the upside is they're supposed to provide a steady legion of Stepford women who are supposed to enjoy travel and looking after animals and children. John McTainted's newly announced vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin is the exception to this rule. Palin won the Miss Wasilla title in 1984 and placed second in the Miss Alaska competition, but she's no ordinary beauty queen....

Click HERE to continue...

Why I'm Voting For John McTaint

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Well how can you refuse an offer of free oil? Show your support for the man with a message you can approve of by visiting

PP_Codipendance Day.jpgBeing English in America is a rather strange experience come July 4th. After all the whole union is busy inviting each other to barbecues, waving flags, setting off fireworks, and rather ironically singing "This Land Is Your Land" in celebration of the declaration of independence from of us Brits back in 1776. As you can imagine, attending one of these affairs feels like being Guy Fawkes at a bonfire (which is the anniversary we Brits save our fireworks for).

A relationship that has lasted, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for 231 years after it was officially annulled hardly smacks of independence. Like a divorced couple who still can't break the ties, the lives of Britain and America remain intertwined. I would argue that July 4th doesn't really mark independence at all, but a transformation of the relationship, bringing a greater choice into the equation. It's like now Britain and America aren't forced to live together they find they seek out each other's company because they actually want to hang out. And so, as we head towards two and a half centuries since our two great nations' relationship was last redefined, we should define it again, get real, and start celebrating American and British Codependence Day.

DM_Mr Ms Jolie 2.jpgA Los Angeles man has won the right to use his wife's last name following a lawsuit against the State of California that lasted two and a half years.

After he married, 31-year old Michael Bijon wanted to use his wife's last name, but found that though it was a relatively simple process for a married woman to adopt her husband's last name, with the roles reversed, he would be subject to an entirely different process involving a $350 fee, a court appearance, a public announcement, and a whole pile of paperwork.

After getting stuck in a mountain of red tape, Michael and his wife Diana Bijon called on the California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for a little help with their problem. Following their successful lawsuit, California changed its laws, making it possible for married couples and domestic partners to put their preferred name on marriage and DMV paperwork, irrespective of sex.

This is certainly a change that's long overdue. To quote the ACLU's SoCal legal director, Mark Rosenbaum, "This disposes of the rule in California that the male surname is the marital name to the same trash bin where dowries were once tossed out."

As a writer, I'd used a pen name for almost a decade before I got married, so changing my name after my husband and I tied the knot just didn't make sense. Being a feminist, it also rankled that it was the woman who was asked to sacrifice part of her identity, unnecessarily, and by default.

I've been married now for the better part of a decade, and find the seemingly old-fashioned attitudes and expectations of people and institutions with regards to my surname choice quite bemusing. Much of my family still insists on calling me Mrs. X on correspondence. They know full well that I never changed my name, in part to make a point. I also use Ms. rather Mrs., since I think that the change in courtesy title according to marital status, which is another women only thing, is also anachronistic. I figure that those who persistently call me Mrs. X are making a point of their own about the traditional values to which I refuse to subscribe.

Personally, I've always liked the double-barreled option, which literally brings both sides together with a new family name. Michael and Diana Bijan could have gone this route without a change in the law, but in their case, Michael felt far closer to his wife's father, which is why he wanted to use her last name only. For me, the double-barreled choice didn’t make sense, since my name was also my trademark (and our names joined with a hyphen sounded a little too convoluted).

The current humorous Hollywood fashion for combining names (as in TomKat and Brangelina) actually seems rather sensible to me. If John Mayer marries Jennifer Aniston, they could go by the name Mayerston or Anistayer. Similarly, if George Clooney ever decides to get hitched to Sarah Larson, they have an option of adopting Larsooney or Cloonson as their new mutual family name. At least it'd make for a plethora of interesting new hybrid names (though probably some unfortunate ones too, what if Helen Hunt marries Cameron Crowe?).

Then again, I like that other Hollywood tradition of getting married and keeping the name people actually know you by. That option certainly made the most sense to me. What do you think?

Poke: Wanna Be Our Friend?

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We may want to consider re-writing the old adage “you can never have too many friends,” especially when in comes to social networking websites. This short video clip from British comedy group Idiots of Ants highlights the many perils of online friendships on services such as MySpace and Facebook.

Having said that, we’ve yet to meet a Daily Mantra reader we didn’t like (though that could change). If you’d like to become our friend, you can hit us up on both MySpace and Facebook.

If player fails to load, click HERE to view video.

In a year when womens' pay has actually gone down relative to men’s, John McCain voted against the Equal Pay bill, which was killed in the senate on Wednesday night. To add insult to injury, he said that what women really needed was “education and training." Tell that to the many woman with strings of letters after their names, that are still getting paid less than their equally, or lesser qualified male counterparts for similar work.

On the up side, listen to Chelsea Clinton's incredibly erudite thoughts on the subject, which she gave in an off-the-cuff response to a tough audience question during an Open Thread campaign appearance in support of her mom at Duke University. Has Hillary sold-out her feminist principles? McCain has certainly sold out his (that's if he ever had any in the first place.) Given the values Hillary’s obviously instilled in her daughter, we think her feminist heart is in the right place.

Real Time host Bill Maher called the Roman Catholic Church "the Bear Stearns of Pedophilia," in the New Rules section of the latest episode of his HBO show (click HERE to view). "If you have a few hundred followers and you let some of them molest children they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion, they call you Pope. It's like if you can't pay your mortgage, you're a deadbeat, but if you can't pay a million mortgages you're Bear Stearns, and we bail you out."

Certainly, it does seem to be a question of volume. To misquote Joseph Stalin, "one case of child abuse is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." After all, it's hard to explain why the Yearning for Zion Ranch in the Texas was raided, and its leaders arrested for child abuse, while Pope Benedict XVI is set to receive the red carpet treatment on his forthcoming trip to the U.S. .

During a BBC special investigation for the documentary series Panorama, reporters revealed the existence of an updated version of the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis (Latin for "The Crime of Solicitation"), which was authored by Pope Benedict XVI in 2001 while he was working under the former Pope John Paul II. In the missive, the then Cardinal, ordered bishops to put the interests of the church above those of the victims, and demanded that they keep quiet about the abuse under threat of excommunication.

In addition, under his policy of "Exclusive Competence," all abuse issues were to be handled directly by Rome, which dealt with the issue by systematically shuffling known perpetrators to fresh dioceses. This means the buck directly stopped at the Pontiff's office. Yet still, we're rolling out the red carpet rather than getting our handcuffs ready.