The Fifth Estate

The relations which exist between the social and political condition of a people and the genius of its authors are always numerous; whoever knows the one, is never completely ignorant of the other. - Alexis de Tocqueville

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Maybe Clarke should submit his resume

The United Nations has created a new counter-terrorism post.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council has created a new post for director of its counter-terrorism committee as the United Nations tries to take a bigger role in the global fight against terror.

"The United Nations cannot remain passive, cannot play a secondary role in such a big threat as terrorism," said Spanish ambassador Inocencio Arias, who heads the committee.

posted by Ileana  # 12:09 PM

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Someone thanks Bush, praises Allah

This is not from The Onion.

posted by Ileana  # 4:45 PM

Details from Down Under

This simply struck me as odd. I mean, how is it all this info about this dude gets printed, yet the last time I saw anything come out of Saddam's mouth it was a tongue depressor checking his tonsils?

It makes a chilling picture. The mastermind behind the September 11 attacks has told interrogators that he and his terrorist nephew leafed through almanacs of US skyscrapers when planning the operation.

Sears Tower in Chicago and Library Tower in Los Angeles – which was "blown up" in the film Independence Day – were both potential targets, according to transcripts of interrogations of al-Qa'ida operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. "We were looking for symbols of economic might," he told his captors.

He recounted sitting looking at the books with Ramzi Yusuf, his nephew by marriage, who was the man behind the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. In that attack Yusuf succeeded only in ripping a crater into the foundations with a van bomb.

"We knew from that experience that explosives could be problematic," Khalid said, "so we started thinking about using planes."

When he was captured last March in the house of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the paunchy 37-year-old was unshaven and wearing a baggy vest. He looked more like a down-and-out than one of the most dangerous men in the world.

The interrogation reports make clear, however, that he was not only the chief planner for September 11 but also introduced Osama bin Laden to Hambali, the Indonesian militant accused of orchestrating the Bali bombing 13 months later.

To date, Khalid is the most senior al-Qa'ida member to have been caught. Until now there has been no word of where he is being held or what, if anything, he is saying.

Although the interrogation transcripts are prefaced with the warning that "the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead", it is clear that he is talking – and that the September 11 conspiracy was much more extensive than has previously been revealed.

posted by Ileana  # 4:00 PM

Duck, Duck, Goose!

While we're still busy being infuriated over Scalia's refusal to recuse himself from a case involving his duck-hunting pal Dick Cheney, we might want to take a looksy at other judges who are just as disgusting. Is there one in your hometown?

Corporate special interests are wining and dining judges at fancy resorts under the pretext of "educating" them about complicated legal issues. Nothing for FREE , a July 2000 report by Community Rights Counsel (CRC), showed that these junkets appear to be working as their sponsors intend, encouraging rulings that strike down environmental protections and line the pockets of junket sponsors.
posted by Ileana  # 3:53 PM

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Meet General Donald Kerrick, corroborator

If you don't know about Richard Clarke's book and his recent numerous interviews yet, I implore you to come out of the cave. It's Spring, you know. Stretch those muscles, pick up a paper, watch C-Span, read blogs and talk to people. And if all the information is too much to digest, and you're thinking it's a he said, she said type of situation, think again.

Please think. Exercise those critical thinking skills. For the love of the truth and all that is right. Why would every one who has fled screaming into the night from their government positions be saying the same thing? How many fat ladies can sing before Americans wake up and realize they've been lied to, again and again and again. Clarke, like Paul O'Neill, has nothing to lose by revealing the truth.

But his account need not stand on his reputation alone. Clarke was not the only national security professional who spanned both the Clinton and Bush administrations. General Donald Kerrick served as deputy national security adviser under Clinton and remained on the NSC into the Bush administration. He wrote his replacement, Stephen Hadley, a two-page memo. "It was classified," Kerrick told me. "I said they needed to pay attention to al-Qaida and counterterrorism. I said we were going to be struck again. They never once asked me a question, nor did I see them having a serious discussion about it ... I agree with Dick that they saw those problems through an Iraqi prism. But the evidence, the intelligence, wasn't there."
posted by Ileana  # 4:08 PM

World leader Colin Powell?

I wish these headline writers would read the copy before they start throwing together subjects and verbs.

How about: Most world leaders attend state funeral in Spain

British Prime Mininster Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac showed up, even Prince Charles, for God's sake.
posted by Ileana  # 3:53 PM

Boldly asserted, plausibly maintained

US Supreme Court Justice Scalia sure can spin it. I'm almost convinced. Aaron Burr once said that the law is simply whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained. Scalia provides what may be deemed a plausible argument by any reasonable person. But I respectfully disagree. And since I don't have to worry about offending a subscription base, I have one more thing to add: fucking elitists! More on this from findlaw columnist Michael Dorf:

The not-so-subtle subtext of the opinion goes something like this: "We Supreme Court Justices are part of the ruling elite and we're entitled to live like it. How dare you commoners question our integrity!"

Indeed, these sentiments are not just in the subtext. Without a hint of apology, Justice Scalia writes that "[m]any Justices have reached this Court precisely because they were friends of the incumbent President or other senior officials." Having friends in high places is, in other words, a qualification for the job, the Justice suggests--and it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise.

To be clear, I believe that Justice Scalia made the right call and I do not mean to single him out among his colleagues. The elitism I detect in his memorandum could have emanated from any of the Justices. Even Justice Thomas, who grew up poor, is by this point part of the Washington establishment.

The problem the Sierra Club thought it saw in Justice Scalia's hunting trip was that he was too closely connected to the Bush Administration. Ultimately, that's exactly backwards.

The real problem with the Court is not its connection to the other powerful elites that run the country. The problem is the collective disconnection of all of these elites, taken together, from the masses of ordinary citizens. And that's something to think about as you decide which Skull and Bones man to vote for in November.

posted by Ileana  # 3:37 PM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Maybe they should go back to using payphones

The Columbian Journalism Review spotlights a glitch in the US Dept. of Justice's investigation of a Newsweek reporter's phone records.

Guidelines adopted by the Department of Justice after Watergate establish a clear procedure for subpoenaing a journalist’s phone records. First, the government must take all other reasonable steps to obtain the desired information. Once it has exhausted those options, the department may seek a subpoena of the reporter’s phone records from a court, but must notify the reporter so that he may oppose the request. Under extraordinary circumstances, and with the direct authorization of the attorney general, federal agents may subpoena a reporter’s records from the phone company without the reporter’s knowledge, but are still required to inform the reporter within forty-five days that it has done so. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Yet another example of this administration making up the rules as they go along.
posted by Ileana  # 4:38 PM

Monday, March 22, 2004

Keeping folks all doped up

Forbes does a round-up of the world's top selling drugs, complete with chart. Once upon a time, the only commercials for drugs on TV were Pepto Bismal, Ben Gay and St. Joseph's aspirin for children. Now, we're splayed with ads all the time, which extoll the benefits of some "little purple pill" to new-agey music, while, at the end, an auctioneer spits out the side effects.

Global pharmaceutical sales tallied in at $500 billion. Of that revenue, $230 billion was in North America. That's more than double the dollar sales booked in the European Union. But cost differences become even more striking when one looks at the nine top-selling medicines in the world. Comparing the global sales figures released yesterday with the U.S. sales figures released last month reveals that all but one of these medicines won most of its dollar sales in the United States. The reason is not likely merely that people in the U.S. use more medicine, but also that they are more expensive.

It is worth noting some caveats. First, some medicines could have most of their sales in the U.S. because they are off-patent elsewhere. Second, the IMS doesn't reach all sales channels, but its estimates of total sales actually seem to be higher than those released by the drug makers themselves. For instance, Pfizer (nyse: PFE -news -people ) puts sales of Lipitor--a cholesterol drug that is the world's top-selling medicine--at $1 billion less than IMS does. But the differences look similar for all of these medicines, and IMS provides a source in which the sales are all counted in exactly the same way, not according to different company accounting procedures.

But the amount of money being poured by the U.S. into brand-name drugs is striking, and can be expected to drive the political debate about drug costs in America. Expect drug companies to continue to argue that the rest of the world is simply too cheap to pay a fair price for its medicines.

posted by Ileana  # 2:09 PM

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I should say so!

The 9-11 Family Steering Committee is demanding the immediate resignation or the firing of the 9-11 Commission's Executive Director Philip Zelikow. Information has come to light that he was directly involved with failing to heed warnings on al Qaeda in the months preceding the attack.

It is clear that Dr. Zelikow should never have been permitted to be a member
of the Commission, since it is the mandate of the Commission to identify the
source of 9/11 failures. Dr. Zelikow has a conflict of interest that extends
beyond just the transition. It is now apparent why there has been so little
effort to assign individual culpability. We now can see that trail would
lead directly to the staff director himself.

posted by Ileana  # 4:09 PM

How did the war affect you?

The Arizona Daily Sun asks folks how the war has affected them?

Here's one:


This year of war has made me, for the first time, afraid for my country and afraid of my government. I was shocked by the extent to which our 'leaders' are willing to use fear-mongering, deception and denial in order to promote an agenda not in the interests of our people or the people of the world -- and at any cost. I was even more disheartened by the seeming willingness of much of our citizenry to ignore, deny or accept all of this. Has 60 years of propaganda finally destroyed our ability to think?

posted by Ileana  # 4:04 PM

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Suburban Guerrilla is pissed!!!

I have nothing to add. Go read the whole thing.

I think my outrage meter may be broken. I mean, I sit here every day, reading the latest from the Regime, and I'm numb. Like this: when I first read it, I thought, "Oh, there's a big surprise."

They're so fucking insidious, these people. Such lying, hypocritical bastards. Unfortunately, too many voters are so busy trying to figure out how to live on 30% less than they did three years ago, they're not paying attention.

And what I really, really hate is what they've done to a perfectly good religion: Christianity. (As G.K. Chesterton said, "It's not that it's badly practiced so much as that it's rarely practiced at all." [UPDATE - From Melanie over at Bump in the Beltway: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.")

These Fascists are not Christians. They're some mutant breed, like the three-eyed fish that live downstream from Mr. Burn's nuclear power plant.

Jesus was approached by the religious leaders of his day (previous incarnations of Russert, Kurtz and Stephanopoulous, no doubt) and in a attempt to trick him into starting a controversy, they asked him, "What is the greatest commandment?"

posted by Ileana  # 10:35 PM

Free it up!

Freecycle in Philadelphia has been great! Giving and receiving, meeting interesting people, hearing their stories. I met this guy who picked up a computer monitor I offered who was homeschooling his kid and endeavoring to open up a democratic charter school in West Philly. Another one I got my bed frame from is this cute, cool guy who's looking to open a some sort of resort in Vietnam. He's become very Siddhartha-like, giving away his possessions.

Here's some homage to freecycling by the New York Times.

Dusty but new exercise equipment, a five-person hot tub, and enough white Ikea bookshelves to furnish a small college town have been posted online through a new group that practices freecycling, the giving away of useful but unwanted goods to keep them out of landfills and maybe help someone less fortunate in the process.
posted by Ileana  # 10:18 PM

As we expected

Scalia defends himself on not recusing from Cheney's case

"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined," Scalia said.

Sorry, Scalia, the events of the past few years say otherwise.
posted by Ileana  # 10:03 PM

Take a sec, sign a worthy petition

The world's second largest rainforest — in the Congo — is being threatened.

The World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are stealthily seeking to increase logging by sixty times in the world's second largest intact rainforest found mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to World Bank documents, they intend to "create a favorable climate for industrial logging" by subsidizing the development of comprehensive new forestry laws in the Congo, as well as the 'zoning' of the country’s entire forest area. Joseph Bobia, spokesperson for the Congolese development organization CENADEP, fears that as a result of industrial logging "much of the country [will be] turned into a vast logging concession.” More than 100 environment, development, and human rights groups in the Congo have called on the World Bank to stop these plans. Please demand the World Bank and FAO immediately halt plans for the expansion of industrial logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo and remaining ancient primary forests around the World [more information].
posted by Ileana  # 9:48 PM

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Oh Make-up, my forehead's shining

Only an hour each for the 9-11 Commission is about all the time Bush and Ashcroft have for 3,000 people who died. However, from "deep inside the bowels of the Department of Homeland Security" comes a new TV show, with plenty of time for sound bites from our White Houise officials. (Funny, I always pictured DHS Director Tom Ridge, sitting at a big, empty desk with a dusty red phone, bored and lonely.)

Now it just so happens that the president has been generous with his time, along with Secretary of Justice John Ashcroft, when dealing with Hollywood helpers such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network. TBN is co-producing a show called D.H.S, which bills itself as a behind-the-scenes look at the war on terror from deep inside the bowels of the Department of Homeland Security. Having gotten a whiff of what the show’s all about, the pair are said to be delighted to offer authoritative soundbytes- not surprising, considering that TBN is:

“…a Christian faith channel where the biggest star is bible-thumper Jan Crouch, a big haired gal with a grim smile that would wither flowers. Ms. Crouch is related to Mathew Crouch, an executive producer of the pilot for D.H.S.”

According to the Globe & Mail, on-line discussions of the show’s pilot have noted the underlying “Christian message.” The Christian connection seems to have influenced the casting. The paper reports that among the show’s “noted thespians” we find leading lady Alison Heruth Waterbury, a “businesswoman-actor” committed to Christian charities as well as to the LA County Sheriff’s “…quest to have an extra state tax to help fund the fight against terrorism.”

God bless us all, America's going straight to hell.
posted by Ileana  # 7:01 PM

Are the 9-11 victims the enemy of the right-wing?

A USA Today op-ed piece gives us the skinny.

On March 10th I wrote an article titled A Not-So-Mighty Wind: Limbaugh Blows It Once Again about how Rush Limbaugh had bashed two 9-11 widows along with the group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows for having the audacity to criticize the Bush Campaign ads for using 9-11 footage.

On his radio show, Limbaugh rushed to judgment and accused the family members of being manipulated by the Democrats and insinuated that Peaceful Tomorrows was being funded by Teresa Heinz Kerry. I then documented how a series of articles in the press over a period of a week had been spun by the right wing into what appears to be an orchestrated disinformation campaign to discredit the 9-11 Families who were critical of the ads in the press. To read the article you can go to the URL below and verify what I reported.

posted by Ileana  # 6:57 PM

What jobless recovery?

No, it's not manufacturing this time.

Bank of America Corp. plans to cut as many as 13,000 jobs as it completes its $47 billion acquisition of FleetBoston Financial Corp., according to a newspaper report.

The cuts will coincide with the expected completion of the purchase next month, The Wall Street Journal reported in Wednesday editions, citing unidentified people familiar with the plans.

The cuts would come through layoffs and attrition from the operations of both banks and amount to about 7 percent of their combined work force of 181,000, the report said.

posted by Ileana  # 6:50 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Walter Annenberg lives here

When Bush came to Pennsylvania today, he was in my former stomping ground. Ardmore, you see, is on the Main Line, the western suburbs, a tony Republican stronghold in Montgomery County. Picture petite, sculpted soccer moms in Expeditions or Escalades. Botox and country clubs. Lexus and Range Rover car dealers. Lots of Starbucks. High-end shops and attitudes. Plenty of self-entitlement to go around. Except in a small section of Ardmore.

But this ain't no North Philly, folks.

It's Lower Merion School District, for chrissakes! You know, swimming pools, basketball stars...

The article neglected to mention the 50 protesters that were there; my kid was one of them, holding a sign that told Bush to go to some real projects, not the new, affordable housing units in a small enclave in Ardmore.

Bush spewed strong home ownership rhetoric while there, but failed to mention that foreclosures and bankruptcies were at an all-time high. He probably just forgot.

posted by Ileana  # 12:23 AM

Mystique? Mystique?

I would not have ever chosen to put the word "Mystique" anywhere near Bush, not even an A/P headline.

Damn, Bush is as transparent, vacant and predictable as they come. There's no mystery, folks, perhaps just an awe of the depths of his ignorance.

With the election still nearly eight months away, Bush has surrendered some of the mystique of the presidency to take on a very public role as candidate for re-election. After spending months steadily building up campaign cash, he now is taking on Democrat John Kerry directly by name both in speeches and in a huge first burst of campaign ads.

Many think the president had no choice but to shift into an overtly political role early, given his deteriorating poll numbers, the speedy selection of a Democratic presidential candidate and continuing public concern about the state of the economy. Plus, he's got all that money burning a hole in his pocket.

"And so, off you go," said presidential scholar Calvin Mackenzie of Colby College in Maine. "It's a trade-off. You're not going to look as presidential. You're going to be down in the gutter slinging mud. And I assume somebody smart in the Republican strategy sessions has said, 'We've got to do this.'"

But Democratic consultant Paul Begala, a former chief political adviser to President Clinton, said Bush has turned himself into "politician in chief," giving up one of his greatest assets - the mystique and power of incumbency.

posted by Ileana  # 12:09 AM

Getting 'screwed'

A new book by David Cay Johnston shows how the middle class are paying the rich's tax share.

We already knew this:

...from 1983 to 1999 corporate profits stocked away in tax havens increased by 735 percent.
posted by Ileana  # 12:01 AM

Monday, March 15, 2004

This is not just about Pakistanti suicides post 9-11.
posted by Ileana  # 11:52 PM

Making the case for monopolies

Forbes reports that the US house of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (391-22) to pass the "Decency Act." The General Accounting Office may be required to study a link between indecency and media ownership concentration.

Even without such a study, it would seem clear that that risqué or indecent programming thrives where there is a wider range of media outlets. The major media companies like Time Warner (nyse: TWX -news -people ) and The Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS -news -people ) have grown through merger, and Comcast 's (nasdaq: CMCSA -news -people ) bid for Disney, if successful, would be another step in that direction. But wider trends in communication have been fueled by the growth of new media over the last several decades like cable television, satellite television, new broadcast networks and the Internet.

So are they saying that the less media outlets we have will insure less indecency? I'm so confused.

posted by Ileana  # 11:14 AM

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A monthly battle of wits with an unarmed person?

While Kerry was visiting the site of one of seven famed Lincoln/Douglas debates, in Quincy, Illinois, he challenged Bushie to a series of monthly debates.

"I believe the American people are hungry for a genuine conversation about the fundamental questions before us," Kerry said in Quincy, Illinois, site of one of the seven historic Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates.

The 1858 senatorial debates between Douglas and Lincoln, who lost the Senate race but won the presidency two years later, are legendary in U.S. political history for their reasoned discussion of burning issues like slavery and states' rights in the period before the Civil War.

Kerry said modern candidates "find it easier to exchange insults than to face issues" and called for a campaign that "honors the best in America."

posted by Ileana  # 1:51 PM

So, who has them now?

Reuters reports that Japan, "the only country to be attacked with an atomic bomb," sold Libya a uranium conversion plant back in the 1980s.

Libya never managed to convert uranium successfully into uranium hexafluoride, the uranium product fed into centrifuges for the enrichment.

After delivery as six portable modules in 1986, the plant was moved around the country "for security reasons" several times before being dismantled and removed from the country when the disarmament process began in December.

On Wednesday, Libya signed the IAEA Additional Protocol permitting intrusive, snap inspections of its nuclear facilities and vowed it would never pursue an atom bomb. The IAEA board commended its actions to the U.N. Security Council.

Ok, wonderful. But then who did Libya sell them to?
posted by Ileana  # 1:34 PM

Saturday, March 13, 2004

It's called looting!

Rumsfeld and others fancy taking 911 debris to decorate their offices.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday night that Rumsfeld has a shard of metal from the jetliner that struck the Pentagon on a table in his office and shows it to people as a reminder of the tragedy Pentagon workers shared on Sept. 11, 2001.
posted by Ileana  # 11:45 AM

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The case against Bush: Reason No. 3,864,999

He used 9-11 to get us into war, never attended one soldier's grave, yet here Bush is, for yet another photo op, and a pit-stop before a fundraiser. Bastard!

President Bush, caught in a controversy last week over campaign ads using images of Sept. 11, 2001, will attend groundbreaking ceremonies for a 9/11 memorial on New York's Long Island on Thursday, then attend a campaign fund-raising event.

Bush will visit East Meadow, New York, for an Eisenhower Park ceremony breaking ground for the Nassau County 9/11 memorial. Nearly 300 people with ties to Nassau County were killed in the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers.

Fortunately, some of us Americans aren't being quiet about this and rallied at the Park today.
posted by Ileana  # 10:17 PM

Your tax dollars at work

The auto industry uses dummies; the military uses bodies.

Officials at New Orleans' Tulane University say seven human bodies donated to the medical school were sold to the Army and blown up in land mine tests.

This makes me sick.
posted by Ileana  # 10:14 PM

Kerry in a better light

As a "Deaniac" myself, I'm glad that The Nation has laid out a case as to why Kerry is not "Bush lite."

There is, as evidence, his nineteen-year Senate record, during which he has voted consistently in favor of abortion rights and environmental policies, opposed Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, led the effort against drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, pushed for higher fuel economy standards, advocated boosting the minimum wage and pressed for global warming remedies. But what distinguishes Kerry's career are key moments when he displayed guts and took tough actions that few colleagues would imitate. One rap on Kerry is that he is overly cautious and conventional. He's no firebrand on the stump, nor does he come across as the most passionate and exciting force for change. But his history in Washington includes episodes in which he demonstrated a willingness to confront hard issues, to challenge power, to pursue values rather than political advantage, to take risks for the public interest.
posted by Ileana  # 10:03 PM

A day in my life

So I'm at a media event last night in Philly and I'm talking to an entertainment/feature writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. First, he told me he was a republican, later he said he was a libertartian. "Do you know what a libertarian is?" he asked me.


Then he started extolling the virtues of the republicons and began lambasting Clinton, to which I replied, "Yeah, but nobody died because he lied about getting a blow job."

Once he recovered from me saying "blow job", he persisted. Again, I kept repeating that 500-plus soldiers did not die because Clinton lied. Finally, he gave me that. "Ok, yeah."

Now, about those weapons of mass destruction, the deficit, 9-11, Bush's desertion/AWOL, Valerie Plame, gay marriage, hacking into democrats files, peace activist subpoenas, Scalia and Cheney, partial birth abortion medical records for Ashcroft, et al.

posted by Ileana  # 9:48 PM

Oh yeah, and you get to kill people - or be killed

Be all that you can be. Go to college on Uncle Sam for a mere three-year tour of duty.

The Montgomery GI Bill offers over $35,000 in tuition in return for a three-year commitment on full-time duty. You contribute $100 a month for a year. You get $985 a month for three years, almost 30 times what you put in. A very handsome return on investment.

Especially if you don't get blown up first.
posted by Ileana  # 9:45 PM

Thank you, Salon!

Usually, Salon only gives you a peek at their articles unless you're a subscriber. This article, however, was too important to keep so they're letting us non-subscribers read the whole thing. Read it and then go subscribe, if only just to say thank you.

The new Pentagon papers
A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.


From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it.

Ashcroft's wet dream

PIZZA HUT - 2008
Operator: "Thank you for calling Pizza Hut. May I have your National ID Number?"
Customer: "Hi, I'd like to place an order."
Operator: "May I have your NIDN first, sir?"
Customer: "My National ID Number, yeah, hold on, uh, it's 6102049998-45-54610." Operator: "Thank you, Mr. Sheehan. I see you live at 1742 Meadowland Drive, and the phone number's 494-2366, your office number over at Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302 and your cell number's 266-2566. Since you're calling from home, would you like your order delivered there, sir?"
Customer: "Huh? Yeah, I'm at home. Where'd ya get all this information?"
Operator: "We're wired into the system, sir."
Customer: (sighs) "Oh, well, I'd like to order a couple of your All-Meat Special pizzas."
Operator: "I don't think that's a good idea, sir."
Customer: "Whaddya mean?"
Operator: "Sir, your medical records indicate that you've got very high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. Your National Health Care provider won't allow such an unhealthy choice."
Customer: "Damn! What do you recommend, then?"
Operator: "You might try our low-fat Soybean Pizza. I'm sure you'll like it."
Customer: "What makes you think I'd like something like that?"
Operator: "Well, you checked out 'Gourmet Soybean Recipes' from your local library last week, sir. That's why I mad the suggestion."
Customer: "All right, all right. Give me two family-sized ones, then."
Operator: "That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four kids, sir. Your total is $49.99."
Customer: "Lemme give you my credit card number."
Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to pay in cash. Your credit card balance is over its limit."
Customer: "I'll run over to the ATM and get some cash before your driver gets here." Operator: "That won't work either, sir. Your checking account's overdrawn."
Customer: "Never mind. Just send the pizzas I'll have the cash ready. How long will it take?" Operator: "We're running a little behind, sir. It'll be about 45 minutes, sir If you're in a hurry you might want to pick 'em up while you're out getting the cash, but carrying pizzas on a motorcycle can be a little awkward."
Customer: "How the hell do you know I'm riding a bike?"
Operator: "It says here you're in arrears on your car payments, so your car got repo'd. But your Harley's paid up.
Customer: "@#%/$@&?#!"
Operator: "I'd advise watching your language, sir. You'vealready got a July 2006 conviction for cussing out a cop."
Customer: (speechless)
Operator: "Will there be anything else, sir?"
Customer: "Yes, I have a coupon for a free 2 liters of Coke".
Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but our ad's exclusionary clause prevents us from offering free soda to diabetics."

Sent via e-mail from someone.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Now there's the pot calling the kettle black

Uh, Bush, Fuck You!

Whatsamatter, think you'll lose?

This is nothing more than a cynical and transparent attempt to intimidate our donors and silence dissenting voices," Jordan said.

The Media Fund is the second outside group to go on the air in as many weeks to counter Bush's multimillion-dollar ad campaign and ensure a Democratic presence on the airwaves. The liberal MoveOn.org Voter Fund also is running ads in swing states. The groups have emerged as "shadow parties" and are nicknamed "527s" for the section of the tax code under which they operate.

The Bush campaign suggests that Media Fund donors may have broken the law by giving to the group, and it wants the FEC to find out whether contributors gave thinking their donations would be used to influence a federal election.

Soros spokesman Michael Vachon accused the Bush campaign of trying to intimidate donors with a "completely bogus" complaint. Asked if Soros would keep writing checks to the Media Fund and other soft-money groups, Vachon said, "Absolutely."

Is there anything left of the First Amendment?

So now they want to put surveillance cameras in cybercafes in Calif. because of some gang activity in or around the cafes.

On appeal, both majority and dissent agreed that cybercafes are entitled to First Amendment protection -- just as bookstores, video arcades, and movie theaters are. But the majority did not see cybercafes as anything more than business establishments, where cameras are often permitted.

Justice Sills, however, argued persuasively in dissent that cybercafes are not just retail establishments. They are also forums for speech and discussion, and broad reading and browsing.

In his view, cybercafes are a sort of mix between a public library (which typically protect borrowers' anonymity), a private home library, a discussion group, and a very effective low-cost desktop publisher. As with a library, Sills opined, there is "an expectation of privacy even as to one's identity when using a cybercafe."

Cybercafes, he explained, "allow people who cannot afford computers (or the high speed connections)" to both read others' postings, and to take advantage of "the freedom of the press," by "post[ing] messages to the whole world." They are thus "the poor man's printing press and private library."

The majority, however, made short shrift of Justice Sills's important "digital divide" point. "Our analysis is independent of the [dissent's] assumption about the customer's wealth," it stated.

It should have paid more attention to this point, though, for the upshot of the opinion is that those in Garden Grove who can buy computers, can use the Internet in privacy, and those who cannot afford to, must submit to surveillance.

Nothing like abrogating the rights of the underclass.

Despite recognizing that the First Amendment was implicated, the majority nevertheless upheld the ordinance (with the exception of the permit requirement, which the court held gave too much discretion to city officials to act, in effect, as censors.)

The city "has a substantial interest in public safety, and in the safety and well being of minors specifically," its opinion explained. It saw the video cameras as an acceptable way to achieve that interest -- no more objectionable than the similar cameras we have grown used to at ATMs, retail stores, and intersections, or than the presence of a shorter-memoried security guard.

But Justice Sills argued persuasively that this safety interest did not justify video surveillance. He contended that the court should have applied "heightened" scrutiny of the ordinance -- requiring that the ordinance must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.

Justice Sills then argued that under this standard, the ordinance failed: Security was an important interest, but video surveillance was not necessary to achieve it. Instead, police patrols could be increased; owners could be supplied with a list of gang-members who could be refused service; and security guards could be posted at those cybercafes (4 of a total of 22) which have actually experienced gang-related violence.

Unlike the majority, Justice Sills saw a dramatic difference between video cameras with the ability to record, and short-memoried security guards. He commented: "A security guard is usually some guy standing around looking bored. A video camera is a permanent record of events, accessible to the police with a proper search warrant."

The case is Vo v. City of Garden Grove (2004) , Cal.App.4th

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Hogwash is shaking hands at a rodeo in Texas

An international Catholic charity, which usually monitors democracy in developing countries, is coming to Florida this November to oversee the election process is four counties that were, uh, under-represented, shall we say?!

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said equating Florida's election system with that of a Third World country was insulting. He also said Florida had put in place machinery and voter education programs that made it a model for the nation.

"This is all part of some politically motivated thing that tries to scare people to somehow think their vote is not going to count," Bush said. "That's hogwash, hogwash."

Reading is fundamental

My sister told me today that her 14-year-old son and some of his friends were discussing politics in class while the substitute teacher was listening in. After class, the sub pulled my nephew aside, exclaiming how she couldn't believe they were talking politics. "How do you know about this stuff?" she asked.

My nephew said, "Unlike our president, we read."

He speaks, he writes, he Thinks!

Ok, so maybe it's because I'm currently reading his book, Unequal Protection, but Tom Hartmann is the man and I'll plug him anywhere I can.

Hartmann is quite a high-voltage personality himself. A bookshelf in the dining room is filled with many of the books he has written or contributed to, including a few that have been translated into German and Japanese. This year alone, he is releasing three new titles. In all, Hartmann is a best-selling author of at least 18 books, both fiction and nonfiction, including several on attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Yes, he's got that challenge, but it, too, has worked to his advantage.

"Oh, there's no doubt about it. I am easily bored," Hartmann confesses. "When you have someone who is relatively unwounded by the system, has any modicum of intellect and ADHD, you have someone who's going to have a very interesting life. When you have someone who is badly wounded by the system or is intellectually challenged and has ADHD, you have someone who is going to wind up in prison."

Plus, Hartmann is one of the living, breathing reasons we don't want to keep people with ADD/ADHD all doped up. Go read Unequal Protection. You'll be glad you did.

Read all about it!

I've been holding onto this. Here's hoping Kerry gives Ellen Mariani a voice when discussing the federal branch's failure to provide for the "common defense" during 9-11.

The case is a real page-turner.

Today's X-Files have been brought to you by the Pentagon

Unfortunately, the truth really is out there and it's name is DARPA.

After all those years of warnings about sinister African killer bees inexorably heading toward the U.S., DARPA decided to draft bees into military service. In 2002, projects examining the performance of honeybees trained to detect explosives and locate other "odors of interest" were launched. Since then, DARPA has been creating insect databases while increasing efforts to "understand how to use endemic insects as collectors of environmental information." DARPA says it has already tested "this endemic insect system in key operational demonstrations here and abroad." How long until they start thinking about weaponizing insects as well? Instead of your plain old, garden variety Stinger missiles, you could have a swarm of missile stingers.

He thinks he's cute!!!

Cheney's off-the-record remarks made last night at the Gridiron dinner included a cute plug for Edwards.

Here's an unsigned question. "Mr. Vice President, don't you think it's time to step down and let someone else add new energy and vitality to the ticket?"

No . . . I don't. And Rudy [Guiliani], you need to do a better job disguising your handwriting.

Oh . . . and Rudy has a follow up. "How can you be so sure you'll be on the ticket?"

Because the CIA told me so! . . .

Dave Broder: "How would you accurately describe
your role in this administration? Be honest."

I would say that I am a dark, insidious force pushing Bush toward war and confrontation. . . .

Helen Thomas wants to know, "How do you justify attacking innocent dictators?"

Helen, let me get back to you on that. I need to talk to Richard Perle.

Terry Hunt of AP wants to know, "Has Senator Kerry had Botox treatments?"

Terry, I have some guidance on that from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:

"The Administration takes this development seriously. Botox, of course, is related to the botulism toxin, which can be processed into high-grade biological weapons. We have dispatched Dr. David Kay . . . to search for the bio-warfare agents we believe hidden in Senator Kerry's forehead. If Senator Kerry has used botox as part of a wrinkle enrichment program, he is in violation of U.N. Resolution 752. Upon receiving Dr. Kay's report, the weapons of mass destruction that Senator Kerry so adamantly insists do not exist . . . may well be above his very nose." End of statement.

Susan Page of USA Today asks, "What do you think of Senator John Edwards?"

I think he's cute as a button. . . .

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Is that the same kind of 'respect' they've shown alter boys?

Only in California.

A state Supreme Court ruling that a Roman Catholic charity must provide employees with birth-control coverage despite its opposition to contraception "shows no respect" to California's religious organizations, a spokeswoman for the church's policy arm said.

The 6-1 decision Monday, the first such ruling by a state's highest court, could open the door to mandated insurance coverage of abortion, said Carol Hogan, spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference, which represents the church's policy position in the state.

While "religious employers" such as churches are exempt from the requirement in California, the high court said Catholic Charities is no different from other businesses.

Catholic Charities had argued that it, too, should be exempt.

But the Supreme Court ruled that the charity is not a religious employer because it offers such secular services as counseling, low-income housing and immigration services to people of all faiths, without directly preaching Catholic values.

In fact, Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote that a "significant majority" of the people served by the charity are not Catholic. The court also noted that the charity employs workers of differing religions.

The California Catholic Conference said it was disappointed with the ruling. "It shows no respect to our religious organizations," Hogan said.

Look for more of that respect the catholic organization has shown to the thousands of boys who have been molested by its entrusted clergy.

How the Idiot will win the election

Nope, not an extraordinary economic rebound or the capture of Osama bin what's-his-name -- not even the intervention of the Supremes. No, it's far more insidious.

Using programs he says a high school student could download off the Internet, they easily found dozens of ways the machines were vulnerable to an attack. Standing at the touch-screen units where voters cast their electronic ballots, "we showed that we could very easily pick the lock that secures the system, and once we were able to open that bay we were showing that we could delete votes, change votes, vote any way we want," he said.

Is anybody conscious out there?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Why are people so surprised?

Well of course Bush is going to run campaign ads featuring the events of 9-11. He's such an oblividiot, with no couth, what did everyone expect?

One of the ads shows the charred wreckage of the twin towers with a flag flying amid the debris. Another ad — and a Spanish-language version of it — use that image as well alongside firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher through the rubble as sirens are heard. Firefighters are shown in all the ads.

Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, on Thursday called the ads disgraceful and said they should be pulled.

"We're not going to stand for him to put his arm around one of our members on top of a pile of rubble at Ground Zero during a tragedy and then stand by and watch him cut money for first responders," Schaitberger said. He said his union is politically independent even though it endorsed Kerry and has donated money to Republicans.

Barbara Minervino, a Republican from Middletown, N.J., who lost her husband, Louis, in the attacks, questioned whether Bush was "capitalizing on the event."

Come on America, why do you think they put the Republican convention in NYC?


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