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Saturday, July 12, 2008

SAVING CINCINNATI

I came across an interesting story in Editor& Publisher, the web site that keeps track of the newspaper business. It seems a little free alternative weekly, CityBeat” published every Thursday in Cincinnati, Ohio (circulation about 323,000 each month) has filed suit in Federal Court alleging a right-wing political/religious conspiracy to restrain trade and violate the paper’s freedom of speech, committed by 39 defendants acting under the coordination of the “Citizens for Community Values” (“Protecting Families since 1983”). It looks likely to turn into quite the little legal contretemps.
The case as laid out in CCV’s press conference is pretty straight forward. “The majority of ads in CityBeat’s adult classified section clearly appear to be outright or thinly veiled advertisements for prostitution or other sexual services, many which are in violation of state criminal laws. The Organized Crime Division of the Hamilton Country Sheriff’s Department and the Vice Control section of the Cincinnati Police Department report that many of the arrests made relating to prostitution, solicitation and promoting prostitution offenses result from phone calls placed to numbers listed under the adult services…of CityBeat and CityBeat.com. These ads are promoting illegal activity and are contributing to the exploitation and trafficking of women. Responsible corporate citizenship demands that they be eliminated. And that’s what we’re asking for…we, the undersigned….”
In fact, according to a letter from the C.P.D.’s Organized Crime Division, over the past five years the total number of prostitution cases connected to ads in CityBeat is twenty – or an average of five per year. But it is not the facts of the case against CityBeat that make this letter significant, it is the undersigned. Beyond the eleven openly avowed pastors, bishops and other religious and pseudo-religious figures, and various community activists and professional guardians of public morality who endorsed the letter there is also the Hamilton County Ohio Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., the attorney for Campbell County, Kentucky, Justin Verst, the attorney for Kenton County, Kentucky, Garry Edmondson, the attorney for Dearborn County, Indiana, Aaron Negangard, the Cincinnati Chief of Police, Thomas H. Streigher, Jr., and Cincinnati city councilman Chris Monze. And the press conference at which the letter was released was held right in the middle of City Hall in Cincinnati.
Now, there are a couple of interesting things about the CCV letter. First, no where in the letter does it claim that any of the editorial content of CityBeat encourages or endorses prostitution. The content of CityBeat has been pretty merciless in attacking several of the signers of the letter (in particular Simon Leis, the Hamilton County Sheriff, Thomas Streicher, the Police Chief of Cincinnati and Garry Edmondson, the Kenton County Attorney) for their alleged political shenanigans, but that is what any good newspapers would be expected to do. And although the letter alleges that “many” of the phone numbers listed in advertisements in CityBeat do promote and encourage prostitution, the letter fails to identify so much as a single one, or even to define how many constitute “many”. Also none of the politicians who signed the letter hold statewide offices. That’s important because the letter specifically accuses CityBeat ads of violating “state criminal law”. But if the Chief of Police of Cincinnati thinks CityBeat is encouraging or promoting prostitution, why doesn’t he just arrest the publisher and editor and charge them with pimping? Their offices are at 23 East Seventh Street, Suite 617, in Cincinnati, and their telephone number is 513-665-4700. I’m sure if the Chief called they would be happy to give him directions. But the signers of the letter did not do that, either.
And that is the second interesting element to the story. It appears the much ballyhooed letter was never actually sent. When the editor of CityBeat, John Fox, mentioned this at his own press conference the CCV dismissed the charge out of hand and then announced they had sent CitiBeat an e-mail copy. But that still begs the question: where is the original letter? Perhaps they should have sent it via registered mail. But what are the details of how this letter was allegedly sent? Who actually addressed the envelope? Did they take it to the Post Office or just drop it in a mail box? Did they check to make sure the letter was inside? Did they check to make certain they had the correct address? I have a suggestion; why don’t we simply address a letter to “CityBeat, Cincinnati” and see if the Post Office delivers it. It may take them a couple of extra days, but I’ll bet they do. People who work in the Post Office know how to do their jobs. I wonder if the Chief Streigher does.
There is a third element to this situation that CityBeat lays out in its lawsuit. “,City Beat’s printed classified advertisements have included a section for adult services for more than ten years…None of the advertisements…either explicitly or implicitly offer sexual activity for consideration,…Over the past ten years, City Beat has carried approximately 15,000 such classified ads in print, largely without incident or complaint.” And yet now these 39 community figures feel the need to declare economic warfare against CityBeat in a way they have never done against cigarettes or racism or beer companies that advertise their products specifically toward that market group that is involved in the most traffic fatalities involving alcohol, young male adults.
The problem is you can not get elected or reelected running on a platform of doing something effective to save either lives or souls if it is non-photogenic.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

I have lately noticed a dampening of spirits around the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project. When I last checked there was a Ronald Reagan Parkway in three states, Florida, Georgia and Missouri. There is a Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway in Alabama and Colorado, a Ronald Reagan Road in Arizona, the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California, the Ronald Reagan Memorial Toll Way in Illinois, the Ronald Reagan Expressway in Indiana, the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway in Ohio, Ronald Reagan Drive in Philadelphia, a Ronald Reagan Avenue in Hickory Creek, Texas, even a Ronald Reagan Metro Station in Northern Virginia. But the Ronald Reagan coinage seems to be suffering devaluation because of all this inflation. It would appear there was considerable proof in the childhood warning, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.” And now comes the blowback. As part of what might be called the “Shrub Legacy Project” there is an effort to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant outside of San Francisco as the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant.
Okay, a sewage treatment plant lacks the gravitas of a highway, but you have to start somewhere. Bush the elder has a toll road named after him in Dallas, but so far Shub doesn’t have even have a dead-end street that carries his name. But the sewage treatment plant name change suggested will be on the November ballot in San Francisco after supporters turned in 10,000 signatures in favor of the idea. I would have signed it. One Republican spokesperson called it a “horrible idea” and “stupid”, but the director of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has a different objection. He says naming the sewage treatment plant after President Shrub would be an insult to the plant and the people who work there, not to mention denigrating to the stuff that goes through its pipes. And who would ever vote funds for improvements for the George W. Bush anything? Still, allow me to point out that nobody has even suggested naming a sewer grate after you or me.
But I’ll bet you could get some creative suggestions on how to memorialize Andrew T. Fox the third. Thirty-one year old Andrew lives in Hartland, Maine, a tiny mill town of 1,800 people straddling the Sebasticook River where it runs out of Great Moose Lake. Andrew is a thirty-two year old man, and his pugnacious pride was on display during a family game of croquet on the Sunday evening of the long 4th of July weekend. According to several dozen witnesses, Andrew was playing a lively game of wickets with his wife Lisa and her sixteen year old son. But Andrew lost to his stepson and he was not magnanimous in defeat. There was shouting. There was yelling. And then Andrew punched his stepson in the head. The boy and his mother fled, calling the sheriff’s office from the safety of a neighbor’s trailer.
When Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Logiodice arrived on scene and attempted to interview Andrew, the suspect locked himself inside the trailer’s bathroom. Through the door he told deputy Logiodice that he had weapons with him and if the officer tried to enter the bathroom he would “find out what kind”. At that point Logiodice withdrew and called for backup.
While officer Logiodice waited for reinforcements the neighbors heard smoke alarms going off inside the trailer. After State Trooper Peter Michaud and Somerset County Detective Mathew Cunningham arrived on scene all three officers advanced on the now smoking trailer with guns drawn. Andrew immediately came out and surrendered peacefully. He was handcuffed, placed under arrest, and briefly interviewed by Detective Cunningham at the scene. Once he was in custody firefighters from Hartland and nearby St. Albans extinguished the fire, but not before half the home was badly damaged and several pet cats, fish, hamsters and rabbits were killed. One cat and her kittens were rescued. According to a friend of Mrs. Fox, the damaged trailer was in her name and she had no insurance. I assume Andrew will not be receiving a present from his stepson come next Fathers’ Day.
Neighbors were reluctant to discuss the events out of fear of Andrew, even though he was being held in the Somerset County Jail on $5,000 cash bail. He has been charged with arson, domestic assault and domestic assault terrorizing The arson charge carries a possible penalty of 30 years in prison while the two domestic violence charges are each punishable by up to a year in jail; a whole year. Stay tuned for the blubbering “I’m sorry” defense when Andrew is hauled before a judge. It’s enough to make everybody else named Andrew decide to change their name.
However, it is difficult to think of any name with a lower moral cache then that of the little Austrian paper-hanging anti-Semite dope fiend, Adolf Hitler. But half a century after World War Two der Fuehrer has turned over a new leaf. As portrayed in the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum which just opened on Berlin’s Unter den Linden, a couple of hundred yards from the site of the Fuehrer Bunker where the original Hitler killed himself, this Hitler is not merely a mass murderer and war monger, but also a tourist attraction. Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, played along, urging the so-called museum not to display Adolf as “cult figure”, thus ensuring one more news story about the museum opening. The museum even assigned two security guards to the exhibit. Their primary duty was to stand around as publicity props and to prevent any Neo-Nazi’s from posing for a quick snap shot with their beloved Schicklegrubber. The “museum” could afford the guards because this tour of fake people surrounded by fake artifacts costs $30.00 a ticket. Evidently it never occurred to the museum staff that someone might actually be offended by including Hitler along side Ringo Star, Sophia Loren and Winston Churchill.
Then, last Saturday, when the new museum officially opened for business, the second customer through the door was a forty-one year old ex-policeman known publicly only as Frank L. Frank immediately shoved an actual tourist out of the way, ran to the Hitler exhibit, climbed over the huge desk which was supposed to keep the public at bay, grabbed Adolf by the head and twisted violently, popping der Fuehrer’s head right off der Fuehrer’s shoulders. According to an eyewitness, “The security men closed in to pull him apart from Hitler. When they fell to the floor Frank shouted, "Never again, war!”- which is the most curious part of the entire story. What does that mean? What about the war against Hitler?
One German politician noted, “At last, a successful assassination attempt – sadly 75 years overdue.” Frank L’s girlfriend, Yvonne, said, “I’m really proud of him. I’ve been furious about Hitler for days.” Really? Think how angry the British blitz victims must have been. But maybe my favorite comment on the whole affair came from the German Social Democratic politician Frank Zimmermann. He said, “It’s more of an artwork to rip off Hitler’s head than to put it on display.” The same could probably be said for Andrew Fox III and George Bush II as well.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

COMPUTER GAMES

I was told repeatedly as a child that computers were going to solve all of our problems. And once upon a time I believed that. The problem was I failed to get a definition of what “our” meant in that context.
Since September 9, 1945, when a moth was crushed by a relay in the Mark II Computer at Harvard University, and became the first documented computer bug, these computing machines have shrunk in size while multiplying in function and have been the bane of pseudo-intellectuals and porn net addicts like my self world wide. And, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (known to geeks as the F.B.I.C. Skully), in 2007 there were 200,000 on-line frauds that cheated the naively connected out of $239 million. And yet, in the face of such rampant fraud and selfishness my only reaction is to be impressed that somebody has actually found a way to make this coordinated anarchy function to their benefit; because I sure haven’t.
We invented the internet -and by “we” I don’t so much as mean myself as members of my grandfalloon; Americans. Except some Americans actually understand how and why these machines work. I used to but I don’t anymore. I understood Fortran. Today nobody even remembers Fortran. The young geeks of my middle age are now old rich geeks. They invented the home computer and the Inter and the Ether nets. They built empires out of Microsoft and Apple and Comcast and trashed IBM almost to death, right here in America. And yet the United States ranks a distant 15th in broadband performance, according to the Technology and Innovation Foundation. South Korea ranks first with an average download speed of 49 Million Bytes Per Second, while the average US rate is a blazing 4.9 – 1/10th of the Korean speed. The Japanese pay an average of just $0.13 per megabyte, while we pay an average of $2.83, proving once again that capitalism is really good at producing more capitalists but not necessarily more wealth. The average computer in Sweden downloads four times as fast as the average American Computer, the average Australian pays half of what we do for service (and this was figured in 2007, before the Bush devaluation of the U.S. dollar.)
While we were patting our selves on the back for winning World War Two, the rest of the world was working their behinds off to get around us. Now, being behind, it is not going to be easy for us to catch up. And by “us” I don’t so much mean me as that grandfaloon again: Americans. It took 27 years for the world to produce one billion personal computers. It is expected the world will reach two billion PC’s in the next seven years, by 2015. In fact, today, the U.S. is home to just 24% of the world’s PC’s, and just 238 million out of the 1.3 billion people browsing the World Wide Web every time you try to log on. It is no longer a question of our dominating the world, but just struggling to find space at the feeding trough, an open tit on the sow’s belly, any portal in the information storm. How we fit into the New World Order is the current NO-Complete problem we face.
NO-complete problems, or Big Oh problems, are infinitely complex, meaning they are like the message displayed on one users’ screen: “Error: Keyboard not attached. Press F1 to continue”. In short, you can’t get there from here. So when you got’ta go, how do you go? Where do you go? And where do stay while you’re there? What we need is a Web travel agent, to guide us into the next generation of computers. And I’m your boy. As the saying goes, on fourth down those who can’t do, pundit. So what do we know about the next generation of computers? First we know that computers will always be referred to as she, because a computer always remembers your mistakes and is always ready to remind you of them. Second, we know that computers will always be plagued with viruses because computer viruses are written by bright young geeks who have brains but no sense of social responsibility, which also perfectly describes the creators of the next edition of Grand Theft Auto, which is why having designed the world’s next great computer virus that brings the internet to a screeching halt is a real plus on your average geek resume.
We know that the next generation of computers will probably be designed by somebody other than an American; a Russian, maybe or a Hindu. And given the male social supremacy in those two cultures, the next generation of computers will probably be designed by men. This means that the next generation of computers will have access to much larger data storage systems then today, but will still be largely clueless, and that they will only be able to handle one big problem per night. But on a more practical level, the future computer may very well operate via nano-magnets and quantum tunneling, as developed in Professor Enrique del Barco’s lab at the University of Central Florida. In short the future of computer Geek-dom will be seeking to make faster and smaller the new bigger. And the biggest thing in the future will be virtually invisible, a virtual computer doing your virtual bidding in a virtual world, in which you can enjoy the sensation of being virtually broke.


And that is what the future will look like; much like today, only we’ll be dead.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

DEMOCRATS DO IT IN THE ROAD

I guess it must feel like Christmas for the Republican Bloggers. It appears as if Santa and Jesus Christ himself have together made a special delivery, a sort of domino fed ex, dropping a little gift wrapped package complete with whips and leather restraints right in center of a state oh so red that the few liberals there are generally considered rinos (Republicans-In-Name-Only) by the rest of the liberals in the Democratic party. Out of Durham, North Carolina comes the perfect screw for the right-wing-nut nut cases to turn in this election year, a seeming chimera of their fervently held belief that Democrats are the degenerate tools of Satan. The headlines in the Raleigh “News & Observer” come right out of a Republican reverie; “Official charged in sex case. Democrat faces accessory count”. And, “Another local Democratic official has been charged in a criminal case that includes allegations of sexual assault satanic rituals”. Wow. Thank you, Jesus.
Will God’s bounty never cease? Ah, to see the Godless Democrats naked, bound and gagged on a cross of their own invention, that would be absolutely divine. The Reverend James Dobson, the current surviving Deacon of the Christian right wing - his own group is Focus On the Family - has been predicting this kind of Democratic Party Sex & Sin scandal at every fund raising opportunity since the early 1990’s. What a relief it must be for him to finally have documented facts upon which to base his paranoia. And so far the few details that we know are so juicy as to be described as positively Dobson-ian.
Twenty-five year old Joseph Craig is, or was, a dispatcher at Allied Waste Industries. He also ran an internet site, “theindigodawn.com”, which billed itself as promoting “enlightenment”, “past life reconstruction” and development of “divine potential”, whatever the devil that is. But calm your fleeting fingers children, the site has been taken down. You can't get there from the internet. Joseph Craig has now has been arrested and charged with three counts of second degree rape, three counts of second degree forcible sexual offense, three counts of second degree kidnapping and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
His wife and Indigo partner, thirty year old Joy Suzanne Johnson, has been charged with four counts of aiding and abetting, (instigating and encouraging her husband). And thankfully for the right-wing-nuts Suzanne is, or rather was until recently, the third vice-chairwoman of the Durham County Democratic Party and Chairwoman of the Durham County Young Democrats. She also worked ten hours a week as office manager for the “People’s Alliance”, a liberal action group (read "sons and daughters of Satan"!).
According to prosecutors an unnamed man and woman met the defendants online and the man moved into Craig and Suzanne’s home in November. The unnamed woman joined the trio in December. The man told police he was handcuffed to his bed with a chain around his neck for a day, with no food or water. The police observed bruises on his face, around his neck and abrasions across his back, legs, buttocks and arms. He says he was left in a dog cage and taunted for hours at a time. The unnamed woman backs up that story, and tells her own horror story of beatings with a rattan cane, and also says she was raped by Craig on the living room floor while Johnson watched. Now that is what I call real party, party. And, according to the News & Observer, an unnamed prosecutor has alleged that “… satanic worship was part of the case.” Oh, juicy. Fantastic! I can hear the tippy tap of the Republican bloggers fingers on their keyboards right now, reaching a fever pitch. I’ll bet Suzanne and Joe really know how to whip those North Carolina Democrats into shape. Ah, good times
But the cherry atop this conservative sundae treat is that the authorities have also charged forty-four year old Diane Palmer, the first chairwoman of the Durham Democratic Party, with one count of accessory after the fact of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, because, according to them, she removed evidence from the Craig/Johnson home. What she removed is not clear, but who the hell cares about minor details like that? The important thing is to work the words “Satanic” and “Democrat” into the same story as many times as possible.
However, there are one or two small problems with the case as presented so far by the authorities in Durham. First, on the Satanic front, the News & Observer went to the length of calling the Church of Satan in far off Godless San Francisco to seek a comment on the arrest of their disciples in Durham Country. But the Church of Satan says they never heard of these people. The Satanic official added, “When people break the law in the name of Satan or the devil, we get very angry”.
Huh? Satanists with standards? What kind of Satan worshiping whores are these Satan worshiping whores? But that does bring up one of those little things that always confused me about the Hollywood/Christian portrayal of Satanist; if they really do preach that lying is good, then wouldn’t it be a “good” to lie to them? I mean, if you lie to a Satanist shouldn’t they say, “Good job.” I just have my doubts that only Christianity can lead you to honesty, chastity and charity. But I digress….
Besides, you know, the whole “Satanic” thing and the additional charge against Diana Palmer gives this case the feel of a Nifong job. Mike Nifong was the Durham County D.A. who charged several Duke Lacrosse players with rape. That case held together just long enough for Mike Nifong to get reelected. Then the charges were dropped and Nifong was disbarred and convicted of false prosecution. But surely the people of Durham County would never be so dumb as to fall for a cheap stunt like that again…Would they?
Well, there is this; at the moment the state of North Carolina is a “battle ground state” with very close races for Governor and U.S. Senator. In polls for a possible future leader of the Tar Heel state Lt. Governor Beverly Purdue (Democrat) has a razor thin lead (47% to 46%) over the Republican Mayor of Charlotte, Patrick McCrory. She has also been been endorsed by Andy Griffith, which in North Carolina, is worth about 15 points in any election! On the Senate side, incumbent Elizabeth Dole has just returned to a commanding lead (15 points) over Democrat Kay Hagen -but Hagen’s post primary bump indicates, at lest to me, that Dole’s numbers are soft. And a virtual tie on November 4 in either race could be settled by a single wedge issue, such as the charge that the Democrats are a bunch of sexual deviants… allegedly, of course. So could the prosecutor be blowing brimstone up the public's skirts on this case to sway an election?
One defense lawyer defined the real case against Craig and Johnson as “…a MySpace hookup that went wrong”, and another described it as “…consensual activity that maybe went too far,” which makes this "maybe" the kindest description I ever heard of a rape. But an assistant D.A. seemed to admit at least part of the defense argument when he was quoted as saying of the alleged victims, “This goes well above what they were interested in doing”, implying their were interested in kink until the kink became a rape, and the line between kink and rape may not be so clear a line before the fact, as after.
But the attorney for the alleged accomplice, Diane Palmer, has taken a rather firmer stance. She “denies any knowledge of a crime being perpetrated by the persons previously arrested.” Here’s a hint: when you avoid even using your co-defendants names, it means you will be moving for a separate trial, at which it seems to me very unlikely the whole Satanic thing will be admitted into evidence to stampede a jury, or the press. What the prosecution probably hopes for is a squeeze play on Joy Johnson to get her to implicate her boss. And it might work, if Ms. Palmer is guilty or if she feels the court is stacked against her because she is a Democrat. But will she? Time will tell.
Ah, the nitty gritty details of reality. It just keeps tripping up those who see the world in pure black and white terms; you know, like prosecutors, and Satanist, and ideological fanatics.
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