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Thursday, October 17, 2002

 
SERPENTINE, SHEL! SERPENTINE!

Apparently, Peter Falk is now working for the police in the Washington, DC, area:

D.C.-area police began recommending ways to avoid becoming the sniper's next victim.

The advice includes reminding pedestrians to keep moving in a zigzag fashion.

And if you're fueling your car, cops recommend that you crouch and keep your body hidden behind the vehicle.


The good news is that authorities are remaining calm and not saying anything that might cause area residents to panic.




posted by Fred Clark 2:17 PM


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

 
WHITE VAN. WHITE GUY.

From USA Today:

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — For the first time since the Washington-area sniper shootings began, more than one witness saw a man fire and flee in a white van, but investigators said Wednesday that the accounts from the latest slaying weren't clear enough to produce a sketch.

But one thing we can be pretty sure of: the sniper isn't a black man.

Yes, I realize, as Montgomery County (Md.) Police Capt. Nancy Demme said, "... distance and darkness and perhaps adrenaline have made [witnesses] unable to give a clear composite." And there's some debate as to whether the shooter is "olive-skinned," or "dark-skinned" or possibly "Middle Eastern."

But he's almost certainly not a black man. How can we be sure of that?

The killer's vehicle is described as "a white, Chevy Astro van with a burned-out or broken left tail light."

No black man could drive around for two weeks with a busted tail light without getting pulled over by police.

That's more of a punch line than an actual argument, but it's still true. Here in America, a white driver may get pulled over for a busted tail light, for which a police officer may issue a ticket or, more likely, a warning. A black man will get pulled over and he will get a ticket.

UPDATE #1: The story of the busted tail-light turns out to be bogus, which kind of erases the whole point above.

UPDATE #2: Not a white van either. (Or a white box truck, for that matter.)

UPDATE #3: They caught the guy! Thank God. (That's not an interjection, it's an imperative.) And he ain't white either -- meaning my offhand joke is as off-base as the considered and highly paid opinions of all those professional "profilers" who've been hanging out on CNN.

posted by Fred Clark 2:19 PM

 
SELF-AFFIRMING PROPHECIES.

Chip-maker Intel's earnings for the third quarter were much better than its third-quarter earnings last year. But apparently, the vague and unnamed "analysts" of the vague and impersonal "Wall Street" had guessed Intel's earnings would be much, much better. Here's yesterday's AP report by Matthew Fordahl:

Chip giant Intel Corp.'s third-quarter earnings failed to meet Wall Street expectations Tuesday.

Note that "Wall Street" is not wrong. Wall Street is never wrong. It's reality that's the problem. You'll never open to the business section and read:

Wall Street analysts were proven wrong yesterday by Intel's third quarter reports. Wall Street had miscalculated, predicting the chipmaker's profits would be much higher than they, in fact, really are.

Nope. Wall Street's predictions were infallible as always. Intel just "failed to meet" them.

This self-affirming construct can be so reassuring. I will no longer feel like an idiot for having predicted that the 2002 New York Mets would challenge Atlanta for the division title. My prediction was sound. The Mets simply failed to meet it.
posted by Fred Clark 1:41 PM


Tuesday, October 15, 2002

 
A MATTER OF JUSTICE.

Via CNN:

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- In the next week and a half, Illinois will hold clemency hearings for almost every inmate on death row in what is likely the most sweeping review of capital punishment in U.S. history.

Illinois' Republican governor, George Ryan, declared a moratorium on executions in the state after two men on the state's death row were proven innocent shortly before their executions. Those cases seem to have jarred Ryan into a deeply felt determination to safeguard against the execution of the innocent.

There has been speculation that if the hearings turn up a hint of just one more innocent person, Ryan will grant clemency to all.

"He fears there is another Anthony Porter case or another Rolando Cruz case out there," Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton said, referring to two death row inmates who were exonerated in new trials.


Ryan does not oppose capital punishment in the name of mercy, but in the name of justice.

Justice does not require the death penalty -- it can be served through alternatives such as life without parole. But justice does demand that the death penalty must be administered by an absolutely impartial, infallible and all-knowing justice system. Only One can claim such a position. (Viewed in this light, the decision to execute is akin to the blasphemous claim attributed to the Maryland sniper: "I am God.")

Here's the scariest part of the story:

"[Several] cases the board will hear rest upon unreliable evidence," said Thomas Geraghty, a law school professor at Northwestern University who is handling three cases.

Geraghty will claim, for example, that Ronald Kitchen confessed to the 1988 drug-related murders of five people only after he was beaten by detectives, whose tactics allegedly ranged from pummeling suspects to putting guns into their mouths and plastic bags over their heads.


This past weekend, we watched In the Name of the Father, the harrowing story of Gerry Conlon, who was sentenced to life in a British prison on the basis of a coerced confession resulting from his torture at the hands of police officers who ultimately knew him to be innocent. Corin Redgrave is chilling in that film as the fictional/composite character "Dixon," who embodies the pathological -- there's no other word for it -- drive that motivates law enforcement and prosecutors to zealously pursue scapegoats they know to be innocent.

Watching Jim Sheridan's retelling of Conlon's story, you wonder if such miscarriages of justice can happen here.

They can. They do. They are happening now.

In any event, as John Paul II, writes in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 56):

The principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

That is what justice demands in Illinois.

That is what justice demands in Iraq.














posted by Fred Clark 2:57 PM

 
DOMESTIC TERRORISM.

The honorable conspiracy theorist Zizka comments on William Safire's recent speculative column in which he considers whether the Maryland maniac might be in league with al-Qaida -- something which, like most people, I've wondered/worried about myself.

Safire, with misplaced self-congratulation, says that this "possibility is rarely mentioned." This possibility is rarely mentioned by journalists since it is purely and wholly speculative at this point. But off-the-record, I think everybody I have talked with about the sniper attacks has expressed some version of the fear that these killings are terror-related.

Zizka thinks it's more likely the maniac is a homegrown racist extremist, unrelated to al-Qaida. Even so, Safire, argues:

... then surely the plotters of last year's devastating strikes at the Pentagon and New York's twin towers are saying: What a perfect follow-up, cheap and simple and maddening. Why didn't we think of that?

Zizka notes that both theories are speculative, but he asks a kicker of a question:

If the sniper turns out to be al-Qaeda, there will be tremendous hysteria and a flurry of activity. But if the gunman turns out to be a standard racist loner, everyone will relax. Why?

The Ku Klux Klan was founded nearly 140 years ago. Domestic terrorism is not really all that new. Want to fight it? Support these guys.
posted by Fred Clark 12:09 PM

 
NEVERMIND THE BUZZCOCKS.

OK. For those new to this story, Larry Miller, the comedian/actor who was very good as the Mayor of Blaine in Waiting for Guffman, has lately been exercising his comic inventiveness and flair for improvisational creativity as a columnist for the Weekly Standard.

In its online form, the Standard comes out more than weekly -- which is helpful in that it allows them to print frequent corrections and retractions of Miller's column.

Miller recently selected an urban legend, embellished it with a few wishful details, and published it as fact. The original column is no longer on the Standard's site, but here's a bit from the original article via the Google archive. Miller describes how his friend "Jack" has accompanied his teen daughter to KROQ's Inland Invasion "punk festival" (oxymoron?). An event notable for its headliners: the reunited (minus Sid, of course) Sex Pistols. Here's Jack's/Miller's tale:

Jack sits ... through the perfect idiocy of five hours of these wandering minstrels, these things of shreds and patches, and then a band called "Buzzcocks" comes on. ...

The lead singer of every band that day had gotten huge cheers in between songs by shouting things like "ANARCHY!" or, "F--- CORPORATIONS!" or just, "S---!" and all fifty thousand kids would scream their approval, whoop, and shove their fists into the air. Typical, I guess. Then, "Buzzcocks" came on, played their first song, and the lead singer stepped forward and shouted this (verbatim from Jack, he wrote it down) into the mike: "F--- GEORGE BUSH! DON'T LISTEN TO HIM. WE HAVE NO BUSINESS BEING IN IRAQ, NO MATTER WHAT HE SAYS." And here comes the good news.

There was a long pause, complete silence. And then they started. The boos. One here, one there. Then everyone. Everyone. Louder and louder. Jack told me how the puzzled singer blinked in surprise, looked at the rest of his band, and then stepped forward again to try to save the moment.

"NO, NO, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND. I SAID F--- GEORGE BUSH. F--- HIM." The boos grew even louder, and then people began shouting back up to the stage, "NO, MAN, F--- YOU!" "YEAH, F--- YOU, A-----E!" More and more, ceaselessly rising, until the shaken band caucused quickly and just blasted into their next song.

Not bad, eh? ...

But that was a heck of a nice surprise from these kids, wasn't it? Black boots and nose rings and tattoos, but they knew, to a person, what was right. ...

By the way, the punk festival was reviewed by Robert Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, September 17, front page of the Calendar Arts and Entertainment section. I'm looking at it now. No mention of any of this. Of course not. Not newsworthy. Not interesting. Not anything.


Miller insinuates that the LA Times didn't mention this spontaneous pro-Bush rally at a Sex Pistols concert because of some liberal media bias. But really, the LAT makes no mention of this because it didn't happen.

Miller's story began crumbling fairly quickly. "Michael Dobson," the creepy killer Miller played on Law & Order knew that to be plausible, a lie needs to include detail -- but it must be detail that can't be easily disproved.

Posters on Metafilter reacted with dismay that the punk scene had turned into the Young Republicans, but eventually people who had been at the show began posting that Miller's story wasn't true. This didn't happen.

The Buzzcocks themselves chimed in. Didn't happen, they said:

[Miller's story] is completely false, and in our opinion, libellous. Neither Pete Shelley nor any other band member said anything of the sort on stage. ... There are so many obvious inaccuracies and outright falsehoods, it would take too much space to point them all out here but there are many reviews online which state that Buzzcocks simply let their music do the talking and barely spoke to the audience during their short, crisp set. The reason that Robert Hilburn and the LA Times did not make any reference to this is that it simply did not happen! How Larry Miller can quote Jack Burditt, who supposedly wrote down - verbatim - what was said, is beyond us. Whatever political views held by Buzzcocks were not espoused publicly at the KROQ/Levi's Inland Invasion 2 concert on September 14, 2002.

Uh-oh -- the band is challenging Larry's story, and they have thousands of witnesses to back them up. Miller offers a prompt "Correction."

ON September 30, I wrote a column where I recounted a story my friend Jack Burditt told me. He had been to a punk rock concert in Los Angeles with his teenage daughter and, while there, one of the punk bands had said some nasty things about President Bush and his Iraq policy. The crowd, Jack told me, promptly booed them. Jack said that the band in question was the Buzzcocks.

The Buzzcocks now deny having said anything about President Bush. I'm happy to take them at their word. I spoke to Jack and he spoke to his daughter and she says it wasn't the Buzzcocks, that it was another band ... As for my friend Jack--he's a sensible adult and he took notes at the concert. ...

My apologies to the Buzzcocks for what was an honest mistake. ...

So: Who was the band that said, "F--- George Bush" and started the astonishing reaction of boos from the audience? I don't know for sure right now, but I promise to get to the bottom of it.


That is soon followed by, unfortunately, this:

This Just In . . .

An update on the punk rock festival that spawned the story that spawned the denial that spawned the correction.

A GREAT GUY and publicist I work with, Michael Hansen, tracked down the manager of blink-182. They were the band who said all those things about President Bush and his Iraqi policies. Their manager confirmed that they said them and, also, that this was followed by huge boos, which didn't upset the band at all. I was thrilled to hear that. I mean, I don't make anything up for these columns. ...

Hansen mentioned that there was also another tiny, little bit of confirmation on the question: IT'S IN THIS MONTH'S ROLLING STONE. No kidding. The October issue, on the stands now, has a big piece, "Backstage with blink-182." Their reporter was even at the concert with them on the fourteenth of September, the one I wrote about, and it's in the piece, "F--- you, George Bush," and all sorts of predictably cheerful epithets.


Ohhhhhh. It wasn't the Buzzcocks, it was Blink-182. He just got the band's name wrong, that's all. An honest mistake. No big deal.

That's Miller's take, and it's been widely accepted.

But is it true?

The Buzzcock's (who, unlike Miller, were at the show) say no. The blinketeers did, apparently, yell obscenities from the stage (disrespect for authority ... at a punk concert!?!), but no one booed: "there was no large crowd reaction, booing or otherwise."

The kid from Blink is playing with bands like the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, the Circle Jerks, Social Distortion -- people who have been screaming about "Anarchy in the U.K." and flipping off presidents since before he was born. And the kid gets in on the act.

No one reacts. There's no stunned silence. No rising chorus of boos and heckling. No stunned, frightened "No ... you don't understand ... I said ..." That all appears to have been created out of the fevered imaginations of Jack Burditt and Larry Miller.

There are, in fact, dozens of reviews of this show. All of them support the Buzzcocks' version of events. None of them support Miller's.

Here's Billboard:

Blink-182 continues to frustrate in its live show. The band's sets routinely fall apart, destroyed by Travis Barker's way too busy drum work and Tom DeLonge's grating vocal chirp and thin guitar melodies. A shame, since tunes like "Rock Show" and "What's My Age?" are undeniable radio hits, while "The Party Song" offers some thoughtful observations of teenage life, but the group has yet to prove it's capable of anything more than a handful of catchy singles. In the end, the most notable thing about Blink-182's set was that DeLonge gave his guitar to a young fan near the front of the stage.

Not flattering, perhaps, but hey, the kids were toe-to-toe with punk's legends at this gig. But of course the point here is Billboard saw the show as it happened, not Miller's fantasy version.

Here's all that CDNow had to say about the Blink-182 portion of the show:

Meanwhile, New Found Glory, Pennywise, Blink-182, and Bad Religion turned in sets that varied little from their respective spring and summer festival appearances.

The briefest of passing mentions -- why? Because, again, this was a concert headlined by the Sex Pistols. It was not an Up With People half-time show. It was a punk concert. Johnny Rotten has lost a bit over the years, but if the audience had in fact condemned a band for mocking George W. Bush then the Sex Pistols would never have played their set for such a crowd.

What about the Rolling Stone article? You know -- The October issue, on the stands now, has a big piece, "Backstage with blink-182." Their reporter was even at the concert with them on the fourteenth of September ... and it's in the piece, "F--- you, George Bush" ...

The October 17 issue (with a cadaverous Keith Richards on the cover) has a two-page spread on the KROQ show that mentions Blink-182 in passing. But I didn't see the article "Backstage with Blink-182." Maybe I just missed it.

If you were at the KROQ show, let me know what you saw. Or, if you're the nameless-yet-conclusively-authoritative "manager" of Blink-182, drop me a note and clear up for me why you and Mr. Burditt seem to have seen such a different show than everyone else.


posted by Fred Clark 4:07 AM

 
ODDS & ENDS.

Via Judy Watt, another fine resource for buying local here.

From the underemployed Sarah A., this useful site on Suburban Ussualt Vehicles. From the site:

Plenty of people think SUVs are ridiculous, but without advertising money, these people don't get enough airtime to refute the SUV lies. We're arming them with some humor, persuasion and provocation.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

The online exhibit "Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age" is filled with interesting stuff, but even if you don't check out most of the exhibit, make sure you read the pop-up "contract" window when you follow this link.

Via Eschaton, here's a site that claims the definitive truth on George W. Bush's military service, or lack thereof.

Also via Eschaton, Talk Left comments on the bizarre murder trial of misogynist former-hippie Ira Einhorn, noting that "Ira's first defense attorney following his arrest in 1979 was Arlen Specter, who is currently a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania."

It's worse than that, really. Arlen Specter was the guy who got Einhorn released on the ridiculously low $40,000 bail because he wasn't, Specter said, a risk to flee. He fled and was a fugitive for the next 25 years.

Sadly, this deprived us of the chance, in 1977, to hear Specter argue that Holly Maddux actually died from a single bullet. This bullet, originally fired in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald, passed through John Connally and President Kennedy, ricocheting into a low-altitude orbit for the next 14 years before plummeting back to earth, striking Ira Einhorn's estranged girlfriend who was, unbeknownst to him, napping in a locked steamer trunk in his locked bedroom closet.

From Einhorn's 1972 "book," "78-187880":

THE CREATION OF A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS IS A STEP TOWARD THE OVERCOMING OF A PREVIOUSLY CONSTRICTING MODE OF ADDRESSING THE WORLD.

THE ALIENATION THAT CHARACTERIZES THE WORLD OF TODAY IS BOUNDED BY MATERIAL SCARCITY. THE AWARENESS OF THESE BOUNDARIES AND THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT TRANSCENDS THEM MUST BE COMBINED WITH A

PRAXIS

WHICH ALLOWS THAT TRANSCENDING TO TAKE ROOT IN REAL MATERIAL MANIFESTATION. ...

THE FUTURE, IN WHICH THE LEPTOID LIVES, WILL ACHIEVE THE PRIMACY OF CONSCIOUSNESS OVER MATERIALITY ...


(Einhorn's entire book is written in ALL CAPS. The homicidal leptoid probably thought this was PROFOUND. He is a hateful fool and deserves to go to jail for a long, long time.)

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.

Dick Cheney helped arm Saddam Hussein.


Someday, perhaps, Arlen Specter will represent Cheney at a bail hearing.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Josh Marshall dug up this memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs, instructing all the department's network directors that, in order to save costs:

... marketing of VA services with such activities as health fairs, veteran open houses to invite new veterans to the facilities, or enrollment displays at VSO meetings are inappropriate. ... I am directing each Network Director to ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks.

So what's up with this, from The News Journal in Wilmington?

The fifth annual Veteran's Homecoming will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct 30 ... Veterans, their dependents and spouses can speak with representatives from 65 federal, state and local agencies about benefits for those who served in the military and their families. ... The even is free and open to the public.

Either the save-money-by-making-sure-veteran's-don't-get-benefits memo has been overturned, or somebody in Delaware has decided not to join in the administration's fund-taxcuts-by-ripping-off-disabled-veterans scheme.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Now, go over to TBogg and read the wonderful list of names suggested for the upcoming war with Iraq.






posted by Fred Clark 2:52 AM


Monday, October 14, 2002

 
REDUX.

Jeanne D'Arc shares a "No blood for oil" update from Democracy Means You.

Incorporating corporate logos, the message from President Bush reads:

We [SHELL] not [EXXON]erate Saddam Hussein for his actions. We will [MOBIL]ize to meet this threat to our vital interests in the Persian [GULF] until an [AMOCO]ble solution is reached. Our plan is to [BP]repared. Failing that, we [ARCO]ming to kick his ass.

(To see the actual image without the lame brackets, click over to Body and Soul, which really, you ought to have bookmarked anyway.)

That rang a bell, so I went digging in an archival file drawer and -- sure enough -- there was a photocopied flyer with the same "mesage from President Bush" from 11 years ago. Same logos, same tyrant, same "vital interests," but a different Bush this time.

In the same drawer, I found an old Sojourners "War Is Not The Answer" button, also from the Gulf War ...



posted by Fred Clark 10:58 PM


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