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FBI Paranerds

Agency's dossier on Lennon is a lemon

By Bob Harris

IT TOOK ONLY 16 YEARS of lawsuits, but the FBI has finally released almost all of its files concerning that great threat to American democracy, John Lennon. Until now, the FBI has claimed that the files had to remain secret on grounds of "national security." Never mind that pieces of the Berlin Wall are for sale in strip-mall novelty shops across America. Never mind that the Vietnam War John Lennon protested has been over for two decades. Never mind that the former Beatle was assassinated back when Carter was still president.

What's the FBI's big secret, then?

Apparently "national security" would be compromised if you and I found out that the FBI spends our money spying on pop singers engaged in perfectly constitutional speech.

In fact, there's not a single word in any of the FBI's dossier indicating John Lennon was seriously suspected of breaking the law in his political activities. But that didn't stop the FBI from briefing the Nixon White House--albeit presumably not during the president's drug-policy meetings with Elvis.

Most of the FBI file is just paranoid innuendo, rehashed gossip, and laughably dense memoranda from field agents desperately in need of hipness replacement surgery, generally along the lines of: "Subject overheard stating he 'was the walrus.' Subject also couldn't buy him love but wanted to hold agent's hand. Further investigation required."

Sixteen years of lawsuits to recover 25-year-old documents concerning FBI surveillance of perfectly legal activity. That's what they call national security.

And the feds wonder why John Lennon was protesting.

DID YOU SEE the reports about antioxidants in green tea? Almost every major paper and many national TV news shows told you the following:

A recent study by a guy named Lester in Kansas found that green tea contains an antioxidant 25 times as powerful as vitamin E and 100 times more potent than vitamin C.

The magic ingredient is called EGCG, an abbreviation for epigallocatechin gallate. (The full chemical name provides most of us with no more information than the initials did; however, it does provide the reporter with a false veneer of authority.)

Exciting, right? Stuff that tastes pretty good might actually be a great way to prevent cancer. Let's hope it turns out to be true.

However . . .

Lester admits bluntly that the amount of tea that you have to drink is, so far, "not really . . . firmly established." Which means the amount you need to chug down might be a thimbleful or it might be a gallon or more.

Granted, people in China drink more tea than we do, and they get less cancer. Cause and effect? Maybe, maybe not. There are other factors--the minor fact that they live in China, for example.

Who funded this state-of-the-art research, anyway? A company called Pharmanex. Pharmanex makes plant-based health products. Which means Pharmanex just might, logically, stand to profit from a boom in sales of green tea. You want to avoid cancer? Green tea won't hurt you. It probably even helps. But you knew that yesterday.

The real lesson here: Press releases aren't the same as news.

IT TURNS OUT Mother Nature, like all smart women, knows that we guys can be idiots. Throughout most of human history, when one batch of guys got together under a big purple flag and started shouting at another batch of guys under a big green flag, the vast majority of the resulting casualties were . . . those two groups of guys.

Seems fair enough.

Now that we've gotten civilized and developed things like chemical weapons and hydrogen bombs, that isn't the case anymore. But until this century or so, you could pretty much figure that women and children would be the ones left cleaning up the mess.

Given the number of wars in our history, it's actually fairly surprising that there have always been as many men as there are women. How exactly did that work out, anyway? The answer is remarkably elegant.

Demographic research shows that after a major war, the age difference between married couples increases. Basically, the young fighting men get killed off, resulting in a lack of suitors for young women, who form unions with older men. Makes sense, right?

So now check this out: A new study from the University of Liverpool indicates that when a husband is more than five years older than his wife, their first-born is usually a boy. What that means is this: Whenever we guys go ballistic and start wiping each other out, Mother Nature is fully prepared for the situation and immediately begins replacing us.

Isn't that cool?

I don't know why, but it's strangely comforting to know that nature replaces our more violent citizens without even batting an eye.

Here's the only scary part: This also means that Bob Dornan is a natural phenomenon.

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From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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