Thursday, April 24, 2008


Sorry, can't help it.

Barack Obama had it right when he pegged small-town Pennsyltuckians. They just didn't like hearing it. They're poorer than the average, less educated, and they don't like those who tell them so in any form. Like many Americans, they can't take criticism. If one calls it as you seen, as they used to say in PA Dutchland, you're "too big for your britches" or "uppity."

But the codger vote isn't much of a winning hand. The young college-educated didn't vote for him in the Pennsy hinterland (with one exception) because they don't live there. When they can, they move out to places like Research Triangle Park in North Carolina ...

See that big splotch for Obama in the middle of Pennsyltucky? That's the Penn State University/State College vote, the young and middle-aged educated and over-educated vote. No heevahavas allowed!

See the Obama splotch near Harrisburg? That's Dauphin County, specifically the voters in Steelton (who are African American) and Hershey, the educated core built around the Penn State School of Medicine.

They didn't go for Obama in any of the counties DD outlined in past weeks. It was always a waste of time to expect much in such locales. And maybe the Democrats just don't need much of that vote to win a general election. Maybe they just need every bit of the core voting now for Barack Obama.

The mainstream media made a big deal of Obama dissing what they call "lunch pail" Americans. It was quite a presumption to see evening news pundits on network and cable TV, supposedly sticking up for the Pennsyltucky commoner, a citizenry they've never had anything in common with.

Although DD has spent more than half of his life in the hinterlands of Pennsy, I have nothing in common with the people who live there. That was made abundantly clear forty years ago.

However, forty years ago Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley was still humming. And ALCOA's aluminun extrusion plant in Cressona, Schuylkill County, was the largest in the world. And Pine Grove, PA, had a garment industry. If you worked in any of these you could raise a middle-class family without the benefit of a college education. That was where there were "lunch pail" Americans.

But there have been no lunch pails in Pennsy for a long time. They were gone before DD left. And they'll never be coming back. And no stipends or government grants for educations at local community colleges, as John McCain intimated in Youngstown, Ohio, later in the week will fix it. Community college educations don't get you worthwhile jobs in any new economy. Four year college degrees, the kind of which many cannot afford, are the only ticket out. Chits from community college education don't hack it.

(Example: Let's say someone is angling for a job in the health professions because this is where they have read demand is solid. If you have a four-year nursing degree, a four-year biotech or medical tech B.S., you can do something. If you have a two-year chit from a community college, you can be an "assistant" in the medical and health professions. This translates as: Poorly paid "bedpan technician." DD taught introductory microbiology for a short time at a community college in Pennsyltucky. No one who went through that program would be considered qualified to even take up any menial lab tech job open to those with training stemming from a Bachelor of Science degree. This was harsh but it was the way the professions worked in the late Eighties and it isn't any different now.)

Pennsy is in the rearview mirror.

It is almost the equivalent of a benign Third World nation, one where the middle-aged are still allowed to own property. This is their only non-depreciating asset. And living is not too bad around a couple big centers of education and urban development.

It's possible that Pennsylvania might be a metaphor for the upcoming general election. Will the people looking to the comfort of the past outnumber in vote those who are looking to the future? Are the codger-n-Republicrat-barfly vote the hinge?

Maybe not this time.

As for not being down enough with huntin' and fishin' and religion and patriotism, these were all just rationalizations for the mainstream Pennsy voter to say what he or she really thought -- that a black guy scares them.

Hunting was an excuse to go out and get drunk while away from the wife, to shoot your dog if you were overzealous and trigger happy, to pawn off some crappy venison sausage on your non-hunting neighbor if you got lucky and bagged a deer. Wow, yeah, bring on the pheasants filled with pellets! Tasty!

Gunning in Pennsy was about neat stuff like the Hegins Pigeon Shoot. The shoot was all about gambling and drinking and beating up animal rights protestors. (See here and here for first-hand accounts. DD was so there!

As for religion, in Pennsyltucky they often practice their faith superficially. Faith is not a blanket indication of richness in spiritual matters.

In Schuylkill County, with its Catholics (of which DD is one) and Protestants of varied denominations, Sunday meeting was an exercise in attendance. The more you went the more gold stars you earned. And with enough gold stars, by golly, maybe Jesus will take notice!

However, if you're an elitist you better not have the temerity to question anyone's faith.

Additional notes:

Bebe Blazfemi added a comment during our Blogger black hole moment. It came in over the transome and addressed a past write up on Hazleton, the town in Pennsyltucky from whence Obama Girl comes. It's in Luzerne County. Luzerne didn't go for Obama.

"Wow, I don't think I could have summed it up better," write the commenter. I 'did time,' as I call it, in Schuylkill County - my high school years, and 'be different and be damned' was definitely the motto. I don't know anyone that doesn't still live there who doesn't share my, (and your,) view about it. My relatives are from there, but I'd been moved there from NE Philly. I now live in 'Center City' Philly and couldn't be happier."

The latest from the Reg.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that some American scientists think terrorism can be defined by equations and a priori vulnerability factors. Close study of terrorist action and behavior is too dull for many in the US counter-terror business, so it's better to have numbers; insurance men, newspaper reporters and government officials like them, and Benchmark Analysis for Quantifying Urban Vulnerability to Terrorist Incidents delivers plenty.

Written by University of Arizona math professor Walter W. Piegorsch and two others colleagues and published in a recent edition of the journal Risk Analysis, the study came with a ready-made hook. Boise, Idaho, it is claimed, is among the ten cities in the US most vulnerable to terror. This guaranteed some terror beat coverage in the US newsmedia and, as is usual when some study claims to spot deficiencies in terror defense, thrilled local government officials interested in dunning more taxpayer money from the Feds.

See here for the full read.
BLOGGER TARPIT: World famous app killed DD blog for two weeks

In case you have been wondering why your host has been idle for so long: I was being held incommunicado by the Blogger application.

Through the month of April, Blogger's FTP publishing to domains outside its own blogspot failed for many. The blog application simply quit working when the user hit the "publish post" button and the system hung in a circular loop displaying the message: Your publish is taking longer than expected."

The troubleshooting forum for problems like this consists of unpaid astro-turfers and apple-polishers, fans of the service who hang around dispensing advice, directions which -- in this case -- had nothing to do with the fault ailing FTP publishing. And company staffers do not respond to e-mails describing faults and asking for direction or assistance.

To say it's been annoying is an understatement. But you get what you pay for, right? so it's all the sucker's fault for using a "free" service.

Naturally, during the same time frame anyone who posted comments saw that they did not appear. No, it wasn't sneaky and mean ol' DD censoring your freedom of speech. They just went into the blackhole. I saw 'em but they didn't go anywhere. Maybe they're somewhere now! Are we anywhere?

In any case, this adventure -- which has happened before but not lasted weeks -- exposes a thorny issue. I like to post when the whim arises, not when someone's blogging application magically decides what its schedule of working and failing will be. Why it worked five minutes ago is a complete mystery! No amount of fiddling in the past two weeks made any difference at all. And then, lo, it worked!

To dispense with it entails thinking about how to migrate the blog at DickDestiny to another platform without giving up all the archived content which now generates a considerable amount of daily traffic.

How to do this? If you know of something that can help, please feel free to drop me a line. I'm all ears, for once.

Of course, you may never see this explanation. In that case, publishing just failed again!

In the meantime:

The recent arrest and jailing of Roger Von Bergendorff afforded an opportunity to go through my files of ricin indictments and convictions in the US since ca. 2004. The nature of the perpetrators in the criminal complaints required something a bit more descriptive than ricin maker/would-be bioterrorist, so for the sake of variety and entertainment value, I've dubbed them "the ricin crackpots."

Read the entire analysis and summary at The Reg here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

PENNSYLTUCKY MEXI-FRAID TOWN NOT FOR OBAMA: Apparently -- but home of Obama Girl

The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader ran an unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny story on Hazleton's famous celebrity-via-YouTube export, Amber Ettinger, aka "Obama Girl."

Technically, Hazleton is more famous for being a place of formerly closeted bigots now in the open in their desire to criminalize illegal immigrants, a menace or threat they believe to have ruined their town.

Luzerne County, Schuylkill County, the entire Pennsy coal country was fouled up decades ago. Mexicans had nothing to do with wrecking it.

"Standing outside city hall in the gathering dark, Norman Tarantino felt, for once, that he was lucky to live in Hazleton," wrote the Los Angeles Times months ago.

"Most of his friends had moved away over the years, convinced that the old coal city's best days were behind it. But as of Thursday night, Tarentino said, Hazleton once again has something to be proud of. It is the most hostile environment in America for illegal immigrants."

"When John Quigley, a Democrat mayor, lost his reelection bid in 1995, it was amid rumors that he had rented billboards in New York to recruit Latinos to town in exchange for government payments of $1,000 a head," read the newspaper. "Quigley called that rumor 'an urban legend . . . ' but many in Hazleton believe it."

We're supercilious toward Hazelton because in soCal, DD still knows the old coal region in Pennsylvania.

More illegal immigrants probably shop at small markets, cheap eateries and liquor stores within twenty minutes walking distance of DD's house than live in all of the decrepit and brokedown towns of the eastern coal counties of Pennsyltucky. Hazleton, freaked out over outdoor ads in Spanish. Convinced that small businesses which cater to Spanish-speakers are corrupting the quality of their civic infrastructure.

Because things stink economically in Pennsylvania and they're not experienced with a real multi-culti environment, illegals are a good scapegoat for the locals.

"Hazleton occupies a unique perch in this year’s presidential contest," reported the Times Leader. Somewhere around 23,000 people live in the town.

"It’s the hometown of 'Obama Girl,' the New York City model of YouTube fame whose racy videos proclaiming her crush on Barack Obama are definitely not campaign-sanctioned," informed the newspaper. "Her parents still live here, and her unlikely career break has gotten older, working-class whites talking more than they otherwise might have about the young black politician from Chicago."

The idea of Democrats as anything more than tokens in Hazleton, even if they pretend to be for Hillary Clinton, is a laughable one from the standpoint of a Pennsy-expat in soCal. (The newspaper insists in the same article they outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in Hazleton.) Even slightly progressive people leave places like Luzerne County when and if they can. Or wish they could leave.

"Then, too, there’s Hazleton’s place on the front line of the illegal immigration debate," continued the newspaper. "When an influx of undocumented workers changed the city’s character and took a toll on school, hospital and public safety budgets, Hazleton adopted headline-grabbing measures to punish companies that employ illegal immigrants and fine landlords who house them. Other cities followed, but last year a federal court threw out the law. The ruling’s under appeal."

"If this slice of hard-times country mirrors how Pennsylvania ends up voting, there’s hope for Clinton."

The newspaper proceeds to interview the locals who profess they're not bigots, tripping themselves over Freudian slips in the same interview.

Sez one: "I’m not crazy about voting for a colored guy, but that’s not why I don’t support Obama. I’m not prejudiced. I just like Hillary."

Sure, whatever ya say.

The baleful spectre of Jeremiah Wright is still eating some of them, too.

"Hearing about Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, makes ['Obama Girl's dad, Terry Ettinger] mad. "It’s the black philosophy of the white people holding them back ... That they can just say one side of it and have the congregation cheering — when I don’t think it’s true!"

The newspaper informs 'Obama Girl' "rents a place in New Jersey but still considers Hazleton home. Her parents say she plans to vote in Pennsylvania’s primary. But her dad says nobody should confuse her public persona with how she’ll vote — which he says is nobody’s business."

It's all the fault of others, folks in the Pennsy heartland! Blame illegals for lousy pay, poor jobs and no health insurance. Blame "the black philosophy of white people holding them back..." Blame others for having been cheated of something -- anything -- you thought you were entitled to.

"Democrats ... outnumber Republicans by close to 2 to 1 here," claims the newspaper, profiling people who only seem to fit the description of "Democrats" as those who may vote for Clinton in the primary, so Democratic they also freely indicate a desire to vote for McCain in the general election.

"But McCain’s sympathetic approach toward immigration may cost him Republican support too, perhaps even from the city’s mayor, Lou Barletta, who’s using his activist role in the immigration debate to challenge the local Democratic congressman, Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke," adds the newspaper.

"[There] is a small Obama campaign headquarters, opened last month. Some locals drive by just to see if it’s real."

Obama Girl for who and from where?

Republicrat barflies for who? In Pennsyltucky.

Back to Pennsyltucky.

Pennsyltucky life from the archives.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Do these look like Democrats? The white-men-in-dive-bar political constituency. Of this we can be certain: 'Pro' diabetes, smoking, booze and wearing baseball caps indoors.

Leave it to some upper-middle-class snob writing for the Sunday New York Times magazine to plumb one of the nicer-looking dive bars in southeastern Pennsy for Dem voters.

DD spent almost two decades playing rock 'n' roll in such places in Bethlehem and Allentown. Only someone writing for the New York Times would think to look in them for signs of Democratic life. Normally, one would look in them for signs of fights and aggressive power alcholism. If you let on you had slightly progressive opinions, you kept your pie hole shut about them or were in for a hard night.

Michael Sokolove had returned to his old home 'burg, Levittown, in Pennsyltucky. As everywhere in the state, it's "whiter, older and less educated than the rest of the nation."

There is mention of Reagan Democrats, white men who turn into Republicans the instant they find a candidate on the other side of the fence who seems like a strong and manly daddy-figure. Maybe John McCain in the general election.

They'll be union workers come upon hard times by the closing of a local steelworks, in Levittown -- US Steel's Fairless Works, as opposed to Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley. The same kind of union workers, who more often than not, voted for Republicans and social and economic policies inimical to their standard of living and chosen livelihood.

In the great wasteland between Philly and Pittsburgh, Democrats can get elected. And it is why areas like the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County can shape up to be swing areas within the state during a general election. Democrats from the Pennsy hinterlands get into office by being Dems only in name. And if you're a national candidate, you just do the Republican-lite thing when campaigning in the state.

Anyway, the out-of-work blue-collar cultural conservatives will often vote GOP, anyway. During the Eighties in the Lehigh Valley, they famously went for arch-conservative Don Ritter. Ritter was one of the most common Pennsylvania Dutch names in the region and so the locals voted for him en masse, even though he wasn't Pennsy Dutch. And they never really figured that one out.

They also loved Paul McHale, one of the Democrats who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton.

"I drove over to Gleason's Bar, around the corner from my house," wrote Sokolove for the magazine. "That, too, was a sort of reality check after spending a few days dwelling with Obama's devout enthusiasts. Eight men sat around the bar, and not one of them supported Obama."

What a scintillating observation.

Sokolove found a couple who professed to be Democrats. Perhaps they were. Perhaps they were telling him what they thought he wanted to hear. Perhaps they had no intention of voting at all, like most of those I was familiar with in the Eighties and Nineties while doing the rock 'n' roll thing.

Clinton strategist Mark Penn's conflict-of-interest job in support of a trade agreement for Colombia may not matter at all for the blue-collar hard cases in Pennsyltucky. They have voted for people who've greased the dissolution of their industries in the past.

Take, for example, this Levittown "Democrat" dug up by the New York Times magazine.

"[One white guy] sat drinking a Coors Light and talking with his buddies," wrote Sokolove. "A Philadelphia Phillies spring-training game was on TV, and he glanced up at it every time the audio picked up the crack of the bat. I asked him if the presidential campaign interested him. 'Absolutely,' he said. Rapid fire, he told me the issues he cared about: 'No. 1 -- gas prices. It’s killing everybody. No. 2, immigrants. They should go back to Mexico. Three, guns. Everybody should have the right to bear arms. In fact, everyone should have a gun in this day and age.' "

"I wondered if he was a Republican. 'Are you kidding?' he said. "I’m a Democrat all the way. I hate Republicans.' "

Indeed this fellow may have been a Democrat -- a Democrat in the way Strom Thurmond was prior to 1963-64. Or a mealy-mouthed drunk.

The concern with illegal immigrants in a place like Bucks County, Pennsyltucky, is emblematic of the confusion which describes and characterizes the state's voters.

Southern California has illegal immigrants. Pasadena probably has more Mexicans in it than all of Bucks County and its surrounding neighbor shires.

The Pennsyltucky voter simply hasn't even the vaguest notion, informed from a daily reality, about what the issue means.

Mexicans are scapegoats for some lily-white Pennsylvanians, maybe a significant portion of them, a growing threat or menace they may have heard about on Fox News when Bill O'Reilly rants about Los Angeles being out-of-control or, alternatively, Lou Dobbs on CNN, uttering similar things about illegal immigrants contributing to the destruction of the middle class, day after dreary day.

It's all the fault of the Mexicans! Blame Mexicans for lousy pay and poor jobs. Blame Mexicans for having been cheated out of a share of the so-called American dream. Blame Mexicans as contributors to any crummy national state of affairs. Blame the illegals because you came home drunk again, slapped your girlfriend, causing her to move out, thus depriving you of sex. (See Hazleton, a town in Pennsyltucky, for more of the same.)

Who can win such voters? They're too mixed-up to predict with any precision. They will startle you, frequently in a fashion deadly to their own interests.

"In the latest CNN 'poll of polls' conducted March 26 through Saturday, Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a 7-percentage point lead over Sen. Barack Obama -- 49 percent to 42 percent," reported the news network today. "Nine percent remain unsure, the surveys found.

"That gap is 4 percentage points narrower than a similar CNN poll of polls conducted March 26 through Wednesday. In that average, Clinton led the senator from Illinois 51percent to 40 percent. Nine percent also were unsure then."

Update: On Tuesday the LA Times editorial board accused Obama and Clinton of pandering to Pennsylvania voters.

"For Clinton and Obama, there can be no happy ending to this story," wrote the Times. "As president, they could either break their promises and embrace trade deals with the likes of Mexico and Colombia, thus disillusioning a key part of their base, or keep their word, thus badly harming foreign relations, damaging the U.S. economy and ultimately reducing job prospects for the very workers they purport to be trying to protect."

Per capita income in Colombia is $7,200/year according to the CIA Factbook. It is not the poorest of nations. However, from the US census, the average income in Pennsylvania is $45,000. Practically speaking, it's probably about $10,000 lower than that in the great green wasteland between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Certainly, average incomes in places like Schuylkill and Luzerne counties don't get close to $45,000.

Still, if one takes a handicapper's average income in the Pennsyltucky heartland of $35,000, that puts the average family around six to seven times wealthier than the average Colombian. That's still very poor by any US standard.

Los Angeles Times editorial board members have probably never lived in the Pennsyltucky hinterland, a region hurt badly by globalization and free trade. And it is safe to say that a trade pact with Colombia is neither here nor there with respect to Pennsyltuckians. It is certainly not a "win-win" prospect for them, as the Times insisted in its piece.

Irrespective of whether politicians are pandering to the state's voters or not, no one in Colombia is going to be buying whatever products Pennsyltucky's Republicrats are making these days. They don't have the money to afford US labor. They might have the cash to afford old US junker automobiles and trucks.

Differently said, no one in Pennsylvania much needs Colombia to buy stuff unless they work in the part of the US military or military support industry tasked with the job of selling arms and training to that country's government in the name of the war on drugs.

Correction: Oof, pardon our error! The first edition of this post stupidly mentioned the fictitious Bristol County. Levittown is in Bucks County. There is no Bristol County in Pennsyltucky.

Back to Pennsyltucky

Pennsyltucky life from the DD archives.
SHOCK & AWE THE HOOKER: Sure this is gratuitous. So?

An instrument of freedom thrusts and penetrates deep into the enemy in Iraq, delivering a spurt of democracy.

"Jury selection began this morning in the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, who is charged in federal court with prostitution-related racketeering offenses," reported the Washington Post today.

"Prosecutors and defense lawyers signaled plans to call former clients of Palfrey's escort business as witnesses in a trial that could last four weeks. Prosecutors contend that the business was a front for prostitution activities; the defense argues that Palfrey never authorized any illegal conduct ... Among witnesses listed by the prosecution: Harlan K. Ullman, an academic whose main claim to fame was a scholarly paper he wrote more than a decade ago on the military strategy of shock and awe.

The Post commits a standard newspaperly error of omission. Ullman was often the man of the hour on news broadcasts during the opening days of the glorious war.

His Complete Idiot's Guide to War, formally entitled Shock & Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance in 1996, and referred to as a "scholarly paper" by the Post, included many fine howlers, bromides and aphorisms to delight the newsmedia in March and April of 2003. One which has especially withstood the weathering of time: "Rapid Dominance might conceivably achieve [victory] in a matter of days (or perhaps hours)..."

See here for a recentremembrance.

And here for "The Weapon of the Week" installment concerning Shock & Awe.

Sun-tzu! Gesundheit!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

GUANTANAMO BAY PUBLICICISTS VIGILANT FOR MISPERCEPTIONS: Famous American gulag library has 5,000 books, not just 2,000

Around a week ago the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the US military's gulag, Guantanamo Bay, here.

It pricked up the attention of this blog by stating one of the favorite pieces of reading material in a section of the compound was Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," an inspirational book on how to be good worker bee in the US of A.

On Saturday, the Times ran a medium long list of trivial corrections to the original story, pointed out by "Pentagon officials and officers of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo," obviously ever-alert to misperceptions whicy may arise as a result of coverage of their prison. America's reputation may be shit in the rest of the world, George W. Bush a hated figure, and Guantanamo Bay a place where the citizens of other nations believe prisoners -- ah, detainees -- are tortured ... but ... but ... but ... it'll be a cold day in Hell before military publicists and minders let an article in the LA Times get away without immediate correction, lemme tellya.

"The article [on Guantanamo] said that lights were kept on in the cells 24 hours a day for security reasons, and that some prisoners grew their hair long to shield their eyes to sleep," read the Times' corrections page. "Since September, all detainees have been issued sleep masks."

Are they like the ones you used to see in old movies about Hollywood starlets?

"The article said that detainees at Camps 5 and 6 could see each other only during prayer time when an aperture in their cell doors was opened," continued the correction. "The prisoners can also see each other when being escorted to showers or interrogation, during recreation time and when the aperture is opened for meal delivery. The article referred to 'the hour for rec time'; in fact, prisoners are allowed at least two hours of recreation daily."

Now that's a big difference, ain't it?!

The original article said the Guantanamo prisoner's library had only 2,000 books. It has 5,000 corrected the Pentagon. This includes "multiple copies of many titles"!

Multiple copies of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"! Hallelujah!

"The article said that once a prisoner had skipped nine meals he was considered to be on a hunger strike and taken to the medical center where he was force-fed," stated the Times. Medical officials from Guantanamo "[said] hunger strikers are force-fed [with a nasal tube shoved into them] only when their weight has fallen to 85 percent of their ideal body weight and a doctor recommends it."

Now that's one helluva an error. Shame on that newspaper.

The LATimes report on Guantanamo was constructed from information "as gleaned from reporting trips over the last three years" because, um, the US military has an elaborate set of rules governing reporting on the site, rules made to hinder reporting.
FAT GUY IN WEDDING DRESS, FRONT & BACK: Cream-of-the-crop music journalism

"Besides, the flow of new music is so daunting that critics find themselves buried beneath piles of 'important' new stuff," Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times boldly proclaimed a couple weeks ago. "The channels that help determine which artists 'matter' have multiplied as well. There's no consensus. Established critics need to be knocked from their pedestals."

If "no consensus" now means "knee-jerk consensus" this is exactly true.

Music journalists -- rock critics -- are at their very best when being phony about the true state of affairs in their profession. They never like to admit the obvious. Ignore the people behind the curtain who, in a world with an overwhelming number of outlets for publishing, choose to run with the same subject, often on the very same day, in many places.

Excellent groupthinkers, they march in lockstep to the schedule of record releases even when it exposes them as tools in the tank for record companies and publicists. Instead they pretend it's something deeper, like starting a dialogue about an artist or the putting of a new release in its proper context.

Keep in mind, music journalists aren't exactly like reporters on the national desks at major newspapers and networks. Covering some ludicrous-looking fat guy named Cee-Lo Green and "THe Odd Couple," the latest release by Gnarls Barkley, isn't the same as covering the President's latest embarrassments and atrocities. With elections coming, it's helpful to civic life in America to see that the outgoing leader of the GOP is adequately covered in hundreds of newspapers. But no one would be hurt if deprived of hundreds of pics of the tattooed obese fellow in a wedding dress just because he has a new record.

DD subscribes to the Los Angeles Times and the Sunday New York Times. On opposite sides of the continent and the top standard-bearers in newspaperland, they have a readership that's a little bit beyond that of whatever local shopper passes for the town daily in thousands of 'burgs 'cross the land. They can afford to show a little latitude.

So what do they do in their arts sections for the biggest edition of the week? The great pop music journalists and editors cover exactly the same thing, almost as if they worked it out between themselves.

To illustrate:

Tough-looking fat guy, Cee-Lo, in wedding dress -- front view. In the Los Angeles Times, article by Richard Cromelin.

Tough-looking fat guy, Cee-Lo, in wedding dress -- aft view. In the New York Times, article by Jeff Chang, same day.

Of course, reporters and free-lancers generally don't pick the pics or art for their pieces. But the brain-dead choices on display in the country's flagship Sunday editions undo any impression that a reader is about to get some hot scoop. (Well, maybe a different kind of steaming hot scoop.)

Instead, it says: "This is the promo art to go with the cattle-call interview, done in Beverly Hills, where the stars consented to grant an audience to the corps of professional suck-ups."

" 'Those images of the marriage and the name 'Odd Couple' are symbolic of our commitment to [Gnarls Barkley]' says [Cee-Lo Green], sitting in a Beverly Hills hotel suite with Danger Mouse during a recent round of pre-release interviews," reports Cromelin for the LATimes.

"[Cee-Lo] is the bride," Danger Mouse told Cromelin, who told readers, in case they couldn't tell.

"When [Gnarls Barkley] performed [their previous single] 'Crazy' at the MTV Movie Awards in 2006, Cee-Lo dressed as Darth Vader and Danger Mouse as Obi-Wan Kenobi," reports Jeff Chang for the NYTimes.

"During the interview, Cee-Lo wore a white T-shirt and black polo sweat pants, a diamond-encrusted necklace and a sparking Rolex beneath a tattoo of a laughing clown. Danger Mouse wore a thick camouflage jacket and an ironic rock T-shirt."

Hey, more more more!

Gnarls Barkley wedding-dress shtick -- at the LA Times.

Gnarls Barkley wedding-dress shtick -- at the NYTimes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

THE RICIN CRACKPOTS: White American nut accused of fibbing to authorities

"The cousin of a man who may have been sickened by the deadly toxin ricin has been accused of failing to report that the substance was being illegally produced," reported Associated Press today.

"Thomas Tholen, 54, was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of misprision of felony — having knowledge of a crime but failing to report it."

US district attorney Brett Tolman told news agencies that Tholen, Roger Bergendorff's cousin, knew more than he has let on when telling the FBI about how he came into possession of his relative's ricin powder. "Tholen, who lives in suburban Salt Lake City, was collecting Roger Bergendorff's belongings from [a Las Vegas] motel room on Feb. 28 when he gave a motel manager a plastic bag containing several vials ... of ricin powder," reported AP.

Bergendorff has not yet been charged but your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has predicted he will be as soon as authorities can pinpoint which of the men, or if both of them, produced the ricin powder. Mashing castor seeds into castor pomace exposes the masher to a criminal charge of attempting to produce a biological weapon.

"Both men contemplated production of this for criminal purposes," said Tolman to AP. A motive is still unknown.

Las Vegas ricin crackpot wakes up -- talks to Feds.

Castor seeds & ricin -- not much of a threat.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

BRITAIN'S WAR ON TERROR: Gareth Peirce on justice denied

The London Review of Books has published a long piece on Muslims swept up and tried in British courts for the sake of the war on terror here.

Written by Gareth Peirce, "a lawyer who has since the 1970s represented individuals accused of involvement in terrorism from both the Irish and the Muslim communities," it brings an inside view to many cases which have been in the news in the past half-decade. Pierce's firm was involved in the defense of the alleged London ricin gang and her essay uses that as a benchmark. After it, the British government undertook measures to ensure Muslims caught up in counter-terror dragnets would not enjoy any due processes of law as the rest of the populace understood them.

"In December 2001 it was a small group of foreign nationals who paid the price for Blair’s wish to show solidarity with the US; and their predicament has never been widely known or understood beyond the Muslim community," writes Peirce. She tells of the men swept up in Operation Springbourne, the anti-terror operation that led to the trial of the alleged ricin gang. A jury found all of these men innocent except for one, Kamel Bourgass, of whom much has already been said.

"But joining them in prison today are more and more young British men, and occasionally women," Peirce continues. "Many have little or no idea why they are there, although even more disturbingly, the majority were tried by the courts in conventional trials before conventional juries ... The accusations are [inchoate]:defendants are said to be ‘linked to terrorism’ or ‘linked to extremism and/or radical ideology’. In these cases, the evidence before the court has time and again been found after a search on a defendant’s computer or in a notebook; the defendant is charged with possession of a certain item or this item is held to demonstrate the defendant’s desire to incite, encourage or glorify terrorism.

"The relevant provisos, which underpin the right to a fair trial, are that the law should be clear and certain so that individuals can be confident that their behaviour does not transgress the limits society has set; that the application of the law should never be retrospective; and that there are protections intended to preserve freedom of speech, religion, thought and privacy. Young Muslims search the internet in their tens of thousands, as do non-Muslims. Any internet search, however, leaves an ineradicable trace which can and does provide material that puts its searcher now at risk of prosecution for possession of information that might be ‘of use to terrorists’. They even risk arrest for writing anything that could be said to ‘incite’ or ‘encourage’ ‘terrorism’."

"This is the context of many current prosecutions. The fruits of a police search are uncovered, prosecutions mounted for the ‘possession’ of literature, films and pamphlets bought or viewed on websites, even if that viewing was swift and the item discarded or even deleted. The defendants are stigmatised as potential terrorists and their cases considered by juries more often than not without even one Muslim among their ranks to provide what the concept of 12 jurors randomly selected is intended to contribute to the trial process – a reflection of the collective good sense of the community.

"Two young Muslim women were separately tried at the Old Bailey last year for having written works deemed by the prosecution to be for a terrorist objective. One was the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, whose appeal against conviction is due to be heard shortly..."

Peirce describes the present legal reality in which simply thinking about terror, or downloading any electronic materials deemed useful to jihadis by professional witnesses, is enough to have you sent over. See here and here in"These documents gets you jailed."

"This is very dangerous territory," writes Peirce, concluding with the following warning: "We are very far along a destructive path, and if our government continues on that path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours."

The piece is detailed, revealing new information from case histories of current and recent trials in the United Kingdom. It includes news on more prisoners rendered and tortured into confessions as a direct result of the Blair government's decision to vigorously pursue the American way in the war on terror.

Even after jury trial acquittal, those rounded-up in the original counter-terror operation to stop the "ricin gang" were re-arrested. The UK government found the result intolerable even though the gang's existence hung on merely an allegation by Colin Powell "in his attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq to the UN."

"One juror described how for him a moment of truth came early in the trial, when a witness from Porton Down nervously drank three containers of water while in the witness box seeking to explain why an early lab report said to have been conveyed to the police and confirming that there was no trace of ricin, had, curiously, never reached the Cabinet Office," writes Peirce in another tidbit.

DD presumes Peirce is referring to Andrew Gould, the Porton Down official who, instead of informing authorities that the laboratory had found an initial reading to be a false positive -- an error, had instead compounded trouble, informing just the opposite, that ricin had been confirmed. The famous mistake would go uncorrected until the gag order came off at the end of the ricin trial in 2005.

The bureaucratic muddle, made on purpose or by mistake, contributed to an entire raft of distortions made after the trial. The inability to get at the truth until years had passed enabled the UK government to retry the case in the press, overturning the verdict in terms of public perception. Indeed, your blog host still sees a couple references per month, usually from counter-terror experts, on how ricin was made in London by Colin Powell's UK poison gang.


Vanity Fair magazine discovers the UK ricin trial.