Sunday, April 30, 2006

worst election ever?

the good news about this week's indiana primary election is that the state has certified microvote macines! that means counties will not have to break state law by having voters use uncertified machines, nor will poll workers have to hand-count thousands of paper ballots (at least, we hope not). however, as doug notes, it sounds like the equipment was certified because it would've been awkward not to, not because the software was actually ready. here's how mary beth schneider explained it in the indy star:

Commission member Tom John stressed that the commission did not certify the equipment to help MicroVote.

The action was taken, he said, "for the sake of hundreds of thousands of voters who otherwise would have voted on pieces of paper" and would have had to wait weeks while the ballots were counted to learn the results.

that's all well and good, but there's only one good reason to certify the machines: if the machines work, they should be certified. if they don't, they shouldn't. maybe john thought that was implied in his statement, but it wasn't.

however, just because one issue seems to be resolved doesn't mean other problems aren't cropping up. the latest foul-up involves school board elections (again) in pike township, where voters are supposed to vote for three candidates but the ballot instructions say they should vote for four. oops. poll workers will put up signs telling people to only vote for three board members, and hope to configure voting machines to sound an alarm if people vote for too many candidates. matt tully has a column in today's star mocking the story. as tully says:

This one should have been caught. Election officials "proofread" and signed off on the ballot before it was sent out, and so did Pike Township Schools Superintendent Nathaniel Jones.

With the foul-up, there is now talk of post-election legal challenges. All because people couldn't count to three. People including the superintendent of schools. Is it any wonder Johnny can't count?

no wonder the job market for editing is so tough: everybody seems to think they can do it themselves. then we end up with ballots with the wrong candidates listed or other blatant errors like this. but enough about my job-hunting troubles; we're talking about the elections here.

marion county clerk doris anne sadler, who has overseen two or three screwed-up elections now and is tiring of it, will be looking for a new job, too:

5. You've said you're not running again for clerk. Are you getting out of politics to find saner work? And how much does the clerk's job pay?

Yes. At least for now. I love doing this job, despite everything and as crazy as that sounds. I love doing public service. At some point, if the offer was right, I might come back into politics. But for a while, I would like to get out in the real world and make some money. The clerk gets $78,000.

how my heart breaks thinking of sadler trying to scrape by on that meager $78k salary. let's hope she finds a job in the real world and starts making some money soon.

Friday, April 28, 2006

kiser vs. bilerico

yesterday, marla stevens wrote a post on bilerico called "Kiser revisited or Here's a real "Word" for the wise..."

what did it say? i don't know; it's been deleted:

Editor's Note: This post has been removed under threat of litigation by the Kiser campaign. We're a small independent blog that doesn't even sell ad space. We have no means to fight the litigation. While we're big believers in the right to free speech and the author has credible sources, until those sources will go on the record officially, this post has been removed.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

-Bil Browning

note that one of her older posts is still there, so either that one wasn't as objectionable to kiser, or kiser didn't realize/remember it was still there.

i tried finding a copy of this post in the google cache, but it's not there. i guess it was deleted early enough to be kept out of the index.

update: steph has a rundown of the whole story here, along with a copy of the deleted bilerico post, which she pulled from the RSS feed.

2nd update: bilerico editors jerame davis and bil browning discuss their meeting with the kiser campaign and decision to delete the post. advance indiana details some of the kiser campaign's financial troubles.

watergate 2: electric boogaloo?

since the media likes to add the suffix "-gate" to the name of any scandal, what do we do now that there's a new scandal involving the watergate hotel?

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement. In an interview, the assistant general manager of the Watergate Hotel confirmed that federal investigators had requested, and been given, records relating to the investigation and rooms in the hotel. But he declined to disclose what the records show. A spokeswoman for Starwood Inc., Westin's parent company, said she wasn't immediately able to get information on whether the Westin Grand had been contacted by investigators.

Mr. Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, was sentenced March 3 to more than eight years in federal prison after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes. The bribes were taken in exchange for helping executives obtain large contracts with the Defense Department and other federal agencies. Mr. Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in November, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, one of tax evasion and one of conspiracy.

i first posted about deposed rep. cunningham back in july when his bribery scandals were first coming out. since then, he's been convicted and gone to prison, but the story keeps on giving.

it's hardly surprising that someone as notoriously crooked as the duke would want to dally with a prostitute now and again. but a congressional prostitution ring that involved some half a dozen congressmen and lasted for 15 years?

there are also rumors that CIA director porter goss was involved, and that he might have met his new third in command, who nobody had heard of before goss appointed him, at duke's hooker parties.

and what about the limousines? ken silverstein at harper's makes some interesting revelations:

It gets even more interesting: the man who has been identified as the CEO of Shirlington has a 62-page rap sheet (I recently obtained a copy) that runs from at least 1979 through 1989 and lists charges of petit larceny, robbery, receiving stolen goods, assault, and more. Curiously—or perhaps not so curiously given the company's connections—Shirlington Limousine is also a Department of Homeland Security contractor; according to the Washington Post, last fall it won a $21.2 million contract for shuttle services and transportation support. (I tried to contact Shirlington but was unable to get past their answering service.)

the CEO in question is a man named christopher baker, who is not only the CEO, but was apparently a personal chauffer:

Two of Wilkes' former business associates say they were present on several occasions when Shirlington Limousine & Transportation Service of northern Virginia brought prostitutes to the suite. They say they did not see lawmakers in the suites on those occasions, though both had heard rumors of congressmen bringing women to the rooms.

Shirlington's attorney, Bobby S. Stafford, confirmed in a letter that from the company's founding in 1990 through the early 2000s, Shirlington President Christopher Baker "provided limousine services for Mr. Wilkes for whatever entertainment he had in the Watergate."

Stafford's letter stated that Baker was "never in attendance in any party where any women were being used for prostitution purposes."

note that the phrasing: "never in attendance in any party" means that black could have driven and/or slept with any number of female prostitutes, but he didn't attend the parties. (maybe he wasn't invited?) and what about this phrase: "women... being used for prostitution purposes"? what about men being used for such purposes? digby reminds us of an old story suggesting that cunningham, who is publicly very anti-gay, "has admitted to romantic, loving relationships with men." so what gender were the prostitutes? i imagine at least some, probably most of them were female. but were there any males in the mix? this scandal will be that much bigger if the public finds out there were, since the republican base tends to be disgusted by such things. (the poor man hopes one of the prostitutes was jeff gannon.)

how opal mehta got cancelled

kaavya viswanathan's career, soaring high just a few days ago, is in freefall. it might not be ruined forever, but it is severely damaged for the time being. her first novel, which apparently plagiarized from megan mccafferty, is being pulled from the shelves:

Just weeks after her book was released with a first printing of 100,000 and a wave of favorable attention, publisher Little, Brown and Company announced Thursday that it would be pulled from store shelves and that retailers had been asked to return unsold copies, CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports.

Viswanathan, 19, has apologized repeatedly to author Megan McCafferty, saying she had read McCafferty's books voraciously in high school and unintentionally mimicked them.

Similarities to McCafferty's books, which include "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings," were first spotted by readers. They alerted McCafferty, who then notified her publisher. Crown alleges that at least 40 passages "contain identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure."

Little, Brown has said the book will be revised as quickly as possible, but in its statement made no reference to a new edition. In its statement, Little, Brown did not say how many passages would be changed.

Viswanathan's misdeeds could be blamed on inexperience, or her involvement with a book packager, 17th Street Productions, which helped her shape the story.

i had wondered about the involvement of 17th street productions, which is some kind of youth marketing firm that was brought in to mold the book into something they thought would be more marketable. viswanathan could have pulled a domenech and blamed 17th street for the plagiarized text making it into her novel, but she did the mature thing and admitted culpability. of course, she said it was all subconscious, which sounds rather like a cop-out, but it is possible that she had simply read the books so many times that she didn't realize all those words were coming from her memory rather than her muse.

also atrios points out an aspect of the story i hadn't picked up on. viswanathan got her publishing deal because she showed her novel-in-progress to her college counselor, who happened to have contacts in publishing. i had assumed that this was simply her high school guidance counselor, and thought it unusual but believable that this counselor happened to know important publishing people. but that's not quite what happened:

Her parents were not immune to the competitive pressure, however. Because they had never applied to an American educational institution, they hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counseling service, and author of "Rock Hard Apps: How to Write the Killer College Application." At the time IvyWise charged $10,000 to $20,000 for two years of college- preparation services, spread over a student's junior and senior years.

But they did have limits. "I don't think she did our platinum package, which is now over $30,000," Cohen said of Viswanathan.

so a rich girl's family buys around $20,000 in college counseling and gets a $500,000 book deal. sounds like a good investment. it must be nice to be rich and have these kinds of opportunities handed to you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

the year of the plagiarist

2006 could shape up to be a scandalous year in the writing field. the year began with the dual revelations that oprah-acclaimed author james frey's so-called memoirs were in fact a failed novel and that hot novelist jt leroy doesn't exist at all. (these stories, primarily frey's, were parodied in this week's otherwise-forgettable episode of south park.)

then there was last month's embarrassment at the washington post, when the post hired a new conservative blogger named ben domenech. liberal bloggers, who already felt that conservatives far outbalanced liberals at the post blog, started digging into domenech's past writing and immediately turned up evidence that he was a plagiarist. domenech confessed and resigned, and the post's red america blog was dead within four days of its birth.

now there's a new scandal brewing around hot young indian-american author kaavya viswanthan. viswanthan is a freshman at harvard, who started writing her just-published novel how opal mehta got kissed, got wild, and got a life while still in high school. thanks in part to her massive $500,000 book deal, viswanath has been generating a lot of buzz, especially among the indian-american community.

with her book just out and attracting attention (like this fluffy profile that appeared in yesterday's indy star), this should have been a happy time for viswanthan. but then the harvard crimson, viswanthan's school paper, published that how opal mehta got kissed contains a number of passages that are strikingly similar to passages from two novels by megan mccafferty. the crimson also published examples of these similarities, giving nine examples of material similar to mccafferty's first novel and four examples from mccafferty's second novel.

taken together, these examples are convincing. the first is definitely the strongest:

From page 6 of McCafferty’s first novel: "Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart. Guess which one I got. You’ll see where it's gotten me."

From page 39 of Viswanathan's novel: "Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. I had long resigned myself to category one, and as long as it got me to Harvard, I was happy. Except, it hadn't gotten me to Harvard. Clearly, it was time to switch to category two."

both contain the exact same string: "Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart." of course, one or two examples could be a fluke, as the more banal a sentence, the more likely that someone else already wrote it. but 13 examples, several sharing very specific images or turns of a phrase? that's a clear indication of a pattern of literary dishonesty.

i suspect that viswanath's rising star will fall fast with these revelations.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

a yacht rock moment

virago & i were driving around the other day listening to the radio when virago flipped to a station playing warren g and nate dogg's "regulate". i'm not sure what station it was: WZPL maybe? really it's irrelevant; it was some pop station, and definitely wasn't jack—it was a station that has actual djs (presumably local).

i've always found warren g to be one of the most unintentionally ironic artists of the '90s: warren epitomizes the '90s trend (arguably started by his cousin dr. dre) of talking about how tough and badass you are on top of the softest backing music possible. as such i've never been able to take him seriously. but this time we cranked it up and rocked out, largely because the song had been featured not too long ago on yacht rock.

yacht rock is a wonderful webshow that centers around the untrue adventures of michael mcdonald and kenny loggins and their friends & rivals as they wrote and recorded the "smooth music" of the '70s and '80s. episode 7 revolves around how warren g and nate dogg's #1 hip-hop single "regulate" samples from mcdonald's "i keep forgettin'", so we were pleased at the chance to listen to the song again, with a new perspective. i commented to virago that i was amused by all the lyrics about forming a new "g funk era" considering where the music had been sampled from.

mere seconds after i made this comment, the dj cut in. apparently someone had called in saying she couldn't listen to "regulate" without thinking about michael mcdonald. she never used the words "yacht rock" and as far as i know she'd never seen the show, but here she was on the radio talking about sampling michael mcdonald. the dj seemed surprised by the revelation, saying he'd never thought of it before. (and in fairness, i'm not sure i'd ever thought of it before yacht rock.) then the dj started playing "i keep forgettin'" for comparison, and i'll be damned if he didn't let the whole song play out afterward.

it was a surreal moment of synchronicity where subversive internet entertainment jibed with corporate pop radio. i'd like to think koko's ghost was smiling on us at that moment.

Friday, April 21, 2006

catch and release, or should i be a thief or an immigrant?

the indy star has more on the undocumented immigrants who were arrested wednesday and then given court dates and released:

With no prospects for work in Mexico, Arturo Cuagtle figured he had two choices: turn to robbery or leave his family and emigrate north.

So, seven years ago, he left Mexico for Indiana. He was working at IFCO Systems on Wednesday, assembling wooden pallets for 30 cents apiece, he said, when federal agents arrived and began arresting people.

At IFCO, he said, he averaged $600 to $700 a week if he made about 600 pallets a day. He said he pays taxes, and the money he earns supports his family -- a wife and three children, ages 6, 5 and 4, who live in Mexico.

"It was a necessity to leave them," Cuagtle said after his release Thursday afternoon. "It's hard in our country, and there's nothing else to do unless you rob someone, and it's more shameful to rob people than it is to be an immigrant."

i wonder if those who are so angry about immigration would be happier if people like arturo had remained in mexico and become thieves instead.

anyway, it looks like indy's ifco employees were making more than those in san antonio:

$0.30/pallet × 600 pallets/day = $180/day
and let's assume he's working the same 10-hour days, to keep the math easy:
$180/day ÷ 10 hours/day = $18/hour. can this be right?

the article mentions $600 to $700 a week, which would have to after taxes for the math to make any sense: remember that, despite what the people on the star message boards think, these workers were all paying income taxes, having the normal taxes withheld from their paychecks just like the rest of us do. but because they are using fake social security numbers, they can't file tax returns or else they could get caught. this means they don't get their refunds, and in essence, many undocumented immigrants are actuallly paying more taxes than US citizens are.

moving on:

As for the workers, immigration officials said they did not have the facilities to hold them indefinitely.

With 20,000 detention beds nationwide, Immigration and Customs spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said the agency has to prioritize. It focuses on holding illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. She said the system is not set up to detain every immigrant found to be in the country illegally.

"We need to conserve our detention space for illegal aliens that are dangerous criminals or who have been previously deported," Montenegro said.

If the arrested men don't show up at their hearings at a Chicago immigration court, a judge will order them deported in absentia, she said, and they will be classified as fugitives.

read that again: "the system is not set up to detain every immigrant found to be in the country illegally." we only have 20,000 detention beds, and despite the new halliburton contract to build more, we still have more illegal immigrants than detention beds by a ratio of almost 600-to-1. clearly criminalizing undocumented immigration, making it a felony or misdemeanor like many republicans want, isn't going to do a damn bit of good because enforcing such a rule is laughably unachievable.

but some people are upset that these immigrants aren't being detained indefinitely. i bet you can already guess one name: john hostettler, who wanted to arrest last week's protesters:

But at least one key congressional leader criticized the decision to release the Indianapolis workers.

U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., chairman of the immigration and border security panel on the House Judiciary Committee, blasted federal agents for not doing a better job of enforcing immigration laws after widespread protest marches April 10.

In an e-mail Thursday, he expressed disappointment at the release of the detainees.

"While I was initially encouraged by this apparent change in the administration's policy regarding the enforcement of our immigration laws," the e-mail said, "the return to the failed policy of catch and release leaves me less than optimistic that lessons have been learned."

i guess hostettler missed the ICE memo that these new raids are supposed to be targeted at employers who hire undocumented workers, and are not simply an excuse to round up a bunch of brown people and ship 'em over the border.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

the un-clinics

virago just forwarded me an unsettling story:

An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group -- one that shared a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic, and was designed expressly to lure Planned Parenthood patients and deceive them.

The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their "other office" (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby). When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there -- the "crisis pregnancy center" had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.

The "crisis pregnancy center" staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. Our clinic director reports that she was "scared to death to leave her house." They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.

the story isn't exactly new, and it's hardly exclusive to indiana. you've probably seen the ads for these places on billboards and benches near highways and in poorer communities: pregnant? need help? many of these are actually fake clinics established by religious fundamentalists to browbeat or otherwise scare pregnant women into going to term.

rep. carolyn maloney of new york has sponsored a bill (HR 5052) that would bar these non-clinics from advertising themselves as providing abortion services. the ACLU initially came out in favor, raising the eyebrows of those who see it as a free speech issue. a few days later, the ACLU apparently pulled down its recommendation in light of this dispute.

i'm a bit torn about the free speech issue. is there a first amendment right to be deceitful, to defraud people who are looking for one thing by luring them in and giving them the exact opposite? i might be willing to buy it, but not if people are making arguments like this:

"I am troubled by the assumption in the legislation that abortion services, as a matter of linguistics and a matter of law, cannot include discussing with a woman why she shouldn't have an abortion," said Ms. Kaminer, a Boston attorney and author who described herself as "very strongly pro-choice."

i don't know if ms kaminer is being disingenuous or whether she simply hasn't read the bill and thus doesn't know what she's talking about. either way, the bill says nothing of the sort. the actual language of the bill is:

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall promulgate rules to prohibit any person to advertise with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services.

the bill then defines "abortion services" as "providing surgical and non-surgical procedures to terminate a pregnancy, or providing referrals for such procedures."

in other words, according to the bill, abortion services includes abortion (makes sense, right?), and places that advertise themselves as providing abortion services must actually provide them. it's pretty straightforward. nowhere does it say that the clinic cannot "discuss with a woman why she shouldn't have an abortion". however, if they discuss it with her and she wants one anyway, they need to perform the service or give her a referral.

if anti-abortion activists want to set up clinics for abortion alternatives, more power to them, but i'm inclined to agree that they shouldn't try to fool people into thinking they actually provide abortions when they don't.

primaries in the 7th

i've blogged about some other indiana congressional districts, but haven't said too much about my own, the 7th. in part this is because the incumbent julia carson has a lock on the democratic nomination, and probably the whole election; her challenger kris kiser's campaign is a joke, despite what you might think from his billboard on keystone. and whoever gets the republican nomination will have a hell of a time trying to unseat carson: many have tried and failed.

but things seem to have been heating up in the republican primary between ron franklin and eric dickerson (no relation to the former colts running back). AI alerts us to a post by abdul at indiana barrister regarding some scandalous comments franklin made in a recent interview:

In an interview conducted last month, Franklin was asked about gay rights and social security. On the gay rights issue, Franklin says the Indianapolis city county council was wrong to pass the human rights ordinance. He says marriage should be between a man and a woman, however he concludes the interview by saying "he likes it better when they [gays] kept it in the closet."

Later in the interview after touching on other issues he comments on people on social security disability (SSI). He says he's seen too many people getting disability and tells his office manager to not rent to them. Franklin manages the Mosell Sanders public housing complex on east 38th Street in Indianapolis.

Franklin says he knew he was being set up by his opponents so he gave answers that weren't to be taken seriously.

He blames the entire matter on the Eric Dickerson campaign, which he says has tried to use a number of dirty tricks to derail his campaign. Already the two sides are hinting at legal action against each other over the interview.

if it is true that franklin tells his office manager not to rent to people on disability, that would be a flagrant violation of the fair housing act and the americans with disabilities act and probably a whole bunch of other federal and state laws.

incidentally, is it significant that the first hit when googling "ron franklin indianapolis" is not his campaign website but this 2000 entry in the indy star factfiles?

Former Indianapolis City-County Councilman Ron Franklin was found not guilty of a felony drug charge. It was the second time he was acquitted on drug charges after claiming the drugs belonged to someone else.

sure he was found not guilty (twice!) but it can't help his campaign if the first hit under his name includes the words "felony drug charge". is this some kind of googlewash by the dickerson campaign or other operatives, or just an amusing coincidence? either way, ouch. (though it could be worse; the article could also mention him pleading guilty to misdemeanor criminal recklessness in 2001.)

a thousand arrests

yesterday's raids at ifco systems netted more than 1,000 undocumented workers across the country. that's a lot of people for just one company. so how many managers and executives were arrested?

Seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems, which has offices in several states, were arrested and charged in connection with the employment of illegal immigrants, said U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby in Albany, New York.

Suddaby said two lower level employees were also charged in the case.

seven managers and two "lower level employees". that's it? these nine people are the only ones who knew about undocumented workers and looked the other way? it doesn't seem quite fair or realistic that more than a thousand immigrant grunts are taken away but only seven members of management get arrested. that doesn't sound like much of a crackdown on the employer to me; it sounds like a dog and pony show.

A customs official said federal authorities checked a "sample" of 5,800 IFCO employee records last year and found that 53 percent had faulty Social Security numbers.

"They were using Social Security numbers of people that were dead, of children or just different individuals that did not work at IFCO," Immigration and Customs agency chief Julie Myers told CNN.

"The Social Security Administration had written IFCO over 13 times and told them, 'Listen, You have a problem. You have over a thousand employees that have faulty Social Security numbers. And we consider that to be a big problem.' And IFCO did not do anything about it," Myers said.

Myers said a yearlong investigation revealed that IFCO managers had induced illegal immigrants to work there, telling some of them to doctor W-2 tax forms or saying that they did not need to fill out any documentation at all.

53 percent is a lot. reportedly, these workers were earning 25 cents a pallet:

He said his pay was based on contract — a quarter for every pallet he built. He said he typically put together about 400 pallets a day on nine to 10 hours of work.

this is san antonio, so maybe indy workers were making more (or less), but let's do some math.

$0.25 × 400 pallets/day = $100/day
$100/day ÷ 10 hours/day = $10/hour

not a good wage, but better than working at mcdonald's. so much for the idea that these workers were being paid less than minimum wage. after all, everyone knows that if you want to pay sub-minimum wage, you'd do better just offshoring the whole factory.

i still haven't seen any discussion of this on the indiana blogs. for awhile i was browsing technorati and google blogsearch for raid-blogging but i think i'm going to stop, as it's only led me to hate-filled sites like this one that make me tremble with revulsion. (though i must say i got a big chuckle out of this post... um, that picture doesn't mean what you think it does, buddy.)

update: DHS has posted its announcement:

Yesterday, ICE agents arrested seven current and former manages of IFCO pursuant to criminal complaints issued in the Northern District of New York. All these individuals are charged with conspiring to transport, harbor, and encourage and induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain, in violation of Title 8, USC Section 1324 (a). The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each alien with respect to whom the violation takes place. Two other IFCO employees were arrested on criminal charges relating to fraudulent documents.

In addition to the criminal arrests, ICE agents yesterday conducted "consent" searches or executed criminal search warrants at more than 40 IFCO plants and related locations in 26 states that resulted in the apprehension of approximately 1,187 illegal alien IFCO employees. Three of the criminal search warrants were executed at residences in Guilderland, NY, where IFCO was allegedly housing illegal alien employees.

The consent searches and search warrants were conducted at locations in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

10 years per aliens × a whole bunch of aliens = you will probably die in jail. the arrestee ratio of manager-to-immigrant seems very low, but those token manager arrestees face a lot of hard time.

DHS also offers some details of the investigation:

According to a government affidavit filed in the Northern District of New York, the investigation began in February 2005 when ICE agents received information that IFCO workers in Guilderland, NY, were witnessed ripping up their W-2 tax forms and that an IFCO assistant general manager had explained that these workers were illegal aliens, had fake Social Security cards and did not intend to file tax returns.

According to the affidavit, subsequent investigation indicated that IFCO officials transported illegal aliens to and from work; paid rent for the housing of illegal alien employees; and deducted money from the aliens' monthly paychecks to cover these expenses. Former IFCO employees also said it was common practice for IFCO to hire workers who lacked social security cards or produced bogus identification cards.

The affidavit also alleges that IFCO officials knowingly hired an illegal alien who was an informant for ICE. In numerous recorded conversations, IFCO officials reimbursed this person for obtaining fraudulent identity documents for other illegal alien employees; used the person to recruit other illegal workers; and advised the person and other illegal alien employees on how to avoid law enforcement detection, the affidavit alleges.

there's also a list of the seven managers and two "lower-level employees" along with brief job descriptions, which conveniently saves me from having to google them myself like i've been doing at masson's blog.

2nd update: indy star is reporting that "with one exception", the arrested immigrants are being released and given court dates.

as always, tread carefully before entering the indy star message board. people there are rabid.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

immigration raids?

wish-tv is reporting that "a roundup of dozens of immigrants" has been arrested, handcuffed, and taken downtown on buses to immigration offices, right here in indianapolis. wish reports that, according to a customs spokesman, this raid was part of "an ongoing worksite enforcement investigation" with details forthcoming tomorrow.

wish also names ifco systems as one of the employers that was raided.

i can't find the story on the wish website or elsewhere online, suggesting this story is still breaking. by tomorrow, if not within a couple hours, there should be more info about the indy raids online. however, i did find an article about similar raids today other ifco facilities in evendale, ohio (outside cincinnati), houston, charlotte, and elsewhere.

clearly this isn't an isolated incident but a nationwide crackdown on ifco systems (and possibly other employers). but still i must wonder about the timing. this happened right on the heels of massive, highly successful immigration protests. it's hard to ignore the feeling that this was a stunt to demonstrate that the government is serious about immigration.

update: an AP story about the indy raids has hit the wire. not a lot of new information there.

another factor is that clearly the government is going after ifco systems and not just the undocumented immigrants employed there. apparently a token number of ifco managers have already been arrested:

According to the US Attorney's office, seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems North America were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the company's employment of illegal immigrants. The defendants arrested on charges of conspiracy to transport, harbor, and encourage unlawful aliens to reside in the United States, for commercial advantage and private financial gain include:

* ROBERT BELVIN, 43, of Clifton Park, NY
* DARIO SALZANO, 36, of Amsterdam, NY
* SCOTT DODGE, 43, of Albany, NY
* ABELINO CHICAS, 40, of Houston, TX
* JAMES RICE, 36, of Houston, TX
* WILLIAM HOSKINS, 29, of Cincinnati, OH
* MICHAEL AMES, 44, of Shrewsbury, MA

The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, for each alien with respect to whom the violation takes place. In addition to the arrests, agents executed search warrants at the IFCO plants in Guilderland, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Westborough, Massachusetts; Richmond, Virginia; and Biglerville, Pennsylvania, and at three residences in Guilderland, New York. The IFCO satellite locations within the Target Distribution Centers in Amsterdam, New York and Wilton, New York were also targets of the ICE operation on Wednesday.

we probably won't get much more information until tomorrow after ICE (immigration and customs enforcement, formerly known as INS) lays out its new plan for pursuing companies that hire undocumented workers.

update: the wish story is now up, with a blatant typo in the second sentence. oops. the indy star also has a piece with some good new information.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

the lion can finally sleep tonight

somehow i missed or forgot this story from last month. solomon linda was a south african zulu who wrote a hit song called "mbube" that was eventually adapted into what we know as "the lion sleeps tonight", one of the most popular recorded songs of all time. he went on to become a legend of african music, but he died in 1962 of "a curable kidney disease" and his family continued to live on in poverty, blissfully unaware of the millions and millions of dollars that could have been theirs.

last month, linda's daughters finally won a lawsuit granting them 25% of past and future royalties (going back to 1987) for the mega-smash song, which amounts to somewhere between a shitload and a fuckload of money. not a bad deal, but it would have been better if they'd gotten it a few decades earlier. still, it's good money, especially since the song experienced its biggest surge in popularity after it appeared in the disney film the lion king (and in the many spinoff products, including the stage show).

as the nytimes explains, the suit might never have happened:

The Lindas say they knew no better. Ms. Nsele said she remembered hearing her father's tune on the radio as a teenager in the 1970's and recalled: "I asked my mother, 'Who are those people?' She said she didn't know. She was happy because the husband's song was playing. She didn't know she was supposed to get something."

Indeed, few people knew until Rian Malan, the South African author and songwriter, documented the inequity in 2000 in Rolling Stone magazine. In a telephone interview this month, Mr. Malan said he was stunned "by the degree to which everyone was relying on the Lindas never asking the question" of why they were paid so little.

Mr. Malan's article embarrassed several major players in the American music industry and brought both Mr. Friedrich and Mr. Dean to the family's defense.

i only found out about all this courtesy of this riddim method post by wayne, who explores the story musically with a mashup of four significant recordings of the song. but wayne also links to an online version of the rian malan rolling stone article. it's a bit long by internet standards but it's a fascinating retelling of how the song grew from an african 78 to the mega-hit it is today. the stuff about linda and his family, and their place in musical history is fascinating—african acapella music is now called "mbube music" in tribute to linda—but what most grabbed me was the portrait of bold producers who went about illicitly obtaining copyrights to old folk songs. here's a taste:

Howie and Al shared an apartment in the thirties, when they were ambitious young go-getters on Tin Pan Alley. Howie was tall and handsome, Al was short and fat, but otherwise, they were blood brothers, with shared passions for nightlife and big-band jazz. After World War II, Howie worked as a song promoter before deciding to become a publisher in his own right. He says he found a catchy old music-hall number, had a pal write new lyrics and placed the song with Guy Lombardo, who took it to Number Ten as 'Hop Scotch Polka'. Howie was on his way. Al joined up in 1949, and together they put a whole slew of novelty songs on the hit parade. Then they moved into the burgeoning folk-music sector, where big opportunities were opening up for sharp guys with a shrewd understanding of copyright.

After all, what was a folk song? Who owned it? It was just out there, like a wild horse or a tract of virgin land on an unconquered continent. Fortune awaited the man bold enough to fill out the necessary forms and name himself as the composer of some ancient tune like, say, 'Greensleeves'. A certain Jessie Cavanaugh did exactly that in the early fifties, only it wasn't really Jessie at all - it was Howie Richmond under an alias. This was a common practice on Tin Pan Alley at the time, and it wasn't illegal or anything. The object was to claim writer royalties on new versions of old songs that belonged to no one. The aliases seem to have been a way to avoid potential embarrassment, just in case word got out that Howard S. Richmond was presenting himself as the author of a madrigal from Shakespeare's day.

Much the same happened with 'Frankie & Johnny', the hoary old murder ballad, or 'Rovin' Kind', a ribald ditty from the clipper-ship era. There's no way Al Brackman could really have written such songs, so when he filed royalty claims with the performing rights society BMI, he attributed the compositions to Albert Stanton, a fictitious tunesmith who often worked closely with the imaginary Mr. Cavanaugh, penning such standards as 'John Henry' and 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore'. Cavanaugh even claimed credit for 'Battle Hymn of the Republic', a feat eclipsed only by a certain Harold Leventhal, who copyrighted an obscure whatnot that turned out to be India's national anthem.

highly recommended.

rage against the voting machines

indiana primaries are coming up in a couple weeks, and things are going to be hectic. for starters, indiana recently passed a voter ID bill that was recently upheld on appeal. seems like a recipe for disenfranchisement to me, though republicans naturally disagree (though they only seem to offer anecdotal evidence) and say there was no partisanship in their support for the bill (even while accusing democrats of partisanship for opposing the bill). i guess we'll see what happens.

but ID problems are just the beginning of indiana's election issues this year.

turns out there have been a number of glitches with the ballots and voting machines. last week, news came out that vendor ES&S had not been living up to the terms of its contract:

ES&S delivered the first batch of ballots March 27, more than a week after the deadline to mail absentee ballots to voters. Sadler said proofreading by election officials found they were rife with mistakes.

Subsequent batches have turned up new mistakes, causing election officials to question whether the company could correct the problems in time. Sadler said the name of one Lawrence candidate for state representative was left off the ballot.

another vendor, microvote, is also in trouble, and ES&S is also facing problems in other states.

the next day, marion county realized it had no choice but to give up on touch-screen voting, despite the fact that doing so is probably a violation of federal law:

"This is not a willful announcement of breaking the law," Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler said. "It's a report that we can't physically comply because the vendor hasn't provided what they are supposed to provide."

The Help America Vote Act requires all voters be able to cast a ballot privately and independently, so Marion County spent $3.8 million in 2003 to buy 615 touch-screen machines for people with disabilities.

without the touch-screen machines, those disabled voters will require assistance to use the old-school optical optical scanning machines, in violation of the help america vote act.

on top of all that, TDW reported yesterday about problems with absentee ballots: minor problems like republican candidates showing up on democratic ballots. oops!

the news was flooded last night with reports of successful tests. but the big test of voting machines was this morning. surprise, surprise: they failed, and school board ballots in marion county will need to be counted by hand.

forgive me if i don't buy the spin that ES&S was not at fault for this morning's spectacular failure:

Some of Marion County's votes in the May 2 primary election will have to be counted by hand, but election officials say it is not the fault of voting system vendor Election Systems and Software.

Election workers finished testing the tabulation equipment Tuesday morning. It counted all sample ballots accurately, except those for the Washington and Decatur Township school board races.

Election officials said the school board ballots in those townships are so complicated that the software is unable to handle them, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

hold on a second: if the ballots are too complicated for the software, that suggests there's a problem with the software. indiana needs software that is capable of handling indiana ballots. ES&S clearly did not provide software with this capability. it seems glaringly obvious to me that ES&S is at least partly at fault. now, maybe indiana's ballots are more complicated than they should be. and it's perfectly possible that county clerk doris sadler is also partly to blame. but let's not give ES&S a pass for incompetence.

update: TDW explains the problem with microvote:

Apparently, 47 counties are currently using equipment that hasn't been certified by the State. But, you say, how did this happen? MicroVote, the vendor providing the equipment and software, says they told all these counties that they were updating the machines with uncertified software, but there are some doubts about that.

Regardless of who's at fault, here's what has to happen: The State must certify these machines before May 2, or all 47 counties are going to be left having to hand count their ballots.

The kicker? The only penalty the State can impose on MicroVote (beyond turning over information for possible criminal prosecution) is to prevent them from doing business in Indiana for five years.

i don't know why the counties would agree to let microvote install uncertified software; that sounds like a lie. occam's razor would suggest that microvote installed uncertified software without the counties' knowledge.

a lot of poll workers could be up very late come primary day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


my car seems to have escaped any damage from last night's storm, but as you can see here, my sister's car was riddled with small dents, especially on the hood.

the indy star summarizes some of the damage, with overturned semis, flooding, and plenty hail damage. the photo slideshow is good, too.

the story mentions the stormy excited experienced at victory field during the indianapolis indians' opening game, which was eventually suspended due to rain and threat of tornado. jason was there and shares his experience.

jim at 11am air raid also reports some auto damage, and if you still haven't had enough hail-blogging i recommend searching for "hail" on technorati for a glimpse into how last night's impacted a cross-section of midwesterners. it seems iowa city got hit particularly hard last night. (searching for "tornadoes" should also turn up some good reading.)

here are a couple more photos of hail damage to the cars that were in our back yard last night:

Friday, April 14, 2006


so virago & i are sitting at olive garden when i hear my cellphone beeping in my pocket. in the noisy restaurant, i have missed hearing it ring and am being notified of a new voicemail message. i check the number and it's someone from home, which is strange because i had just left there two hours earlier. the voicemail is a cryptic message asking if we are "safe" and mentioning something about property and auto damage, both at my house and at my parents' house a few blocks away. we had driven through some rain and seen lightning on the drive to castleton, but nothing too severe, so i am puzzled. still, it sounds like everyone is okay so we continue with our meal.

not much later, i hear my phone ringing again. it's my mother, who informs me that the neighborhood has been hit by hail the size of eggs, which has broken a window and dented their cars.

chicken eggs, i ask?

chicken eggs. hail the size of chicken eggs. there had been no such hail in castleton.

we finish our meal, shop for a while, and head home. at two different points on meridian st there are signs reading "high water", and we are forced to decide whether to caulk up the wagon and ford the river or try to go some other way. we risk it, though some other drivers are not so brave.

at some point the radio gets tuned to WBDG, the radio station run out of ben davis high school, and the dj is freaking out about all the tornadoes and hail he thinks will hit him any second. over and over he insists that this is a "severe situation", and eventually flees the studio to find shelter for himself.

finally we park and get back to virago's apartment. her cat is panicked, hiding in the bathroom. tellingly, the cat that normally can't shut up for 5 minutes is unsettlingly quiet. she knows something freaky is going down.

and then that's about it. it hailed, it was loud for a few minutes, and now it seems to be over. pretty anticlimactic.

info pirates and sneaker-phreakers of afghanistan

remember afghanistan? things haven't been going so well there since the US decided to invade iraq rather than stick around in afghanistan and finish the job. the taliban is effectively back in control, heroin is once again the #1 crop, and now we learn about a new information security crisis.

the bazaars and street markets in afghanistan sell all kinds of stuff. on monday, the la times reported that some of these bazaars are selling flash drives—small USB hard drives about the size of a lighter—stolen from US military bases, complete with classified data:

A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize" Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem makers."

The drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit card accounts in soldiers' names.

After choosing the name of an army captain at random, a reporter using the Internet was able to obtain detailed information on the woman, including her home address in Maryland and the license plate numbers of her 2003 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicle and 1998 Harley Davidson XL883 Hugger motorcycle.

despite military attempts to crack down on the black market sale of these drives, they're still available, and reporters have been buying them up, finding even more alarming data on the drives:

This week, an NBC News producer, using a hidden camera, visited the bazaar and bought a half dozen of the memory drives the size of a thumb known as flash drives. On them, NBC News found highly sensitive military information, some which NBC will not reveal.

Some of the data would be valuable to the enemy, including:
  • Names and personal information for dozens of DOD interrogators;
  • Documents on an "interrogation support cell" and interrogation methods;
  • IDs and photos of U.S. troops.
With information like this, "You could cripple our U.S. intelligence collection capability in Afghanistan," says Francona.

Among the photos of Americans are pictures of individuals who appear to have been tortured and killed, most too graphic to show. NBC News does not know who caused their injuries. The Pentagon would not comment on the photos.

and that's not all:

One flash memory drive, the Times reported Thursday, holds the names, photos and phone numbers of people described as Afghan spies working for the military. The data indicates payments of $50 bounties for each Taliban or al-Qaida fighter caught based on the source’s intelligence.

Other shopkeepers on Wednesday were selling memory drives as well — including one with the Social Security numbers of four American generals.

The surfacing of the stolen computer devices has sparked an urgent American military probe for the source of the embarrassing security breach, which has led to disks with the personal letters and biographies of soldiers and lists of troops who completed nuclear, chemical and biological warfare training going on sale for $20 to $50.

but these pirates are not necessarily 1337 hackers:

One shopkeeper, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears he may be arrested, said he was not interested in the data stored on the memory sticks and was selling them for the value of the hardware.

"They were all stolen from offices inside the base by the Afghans working there," he said. "I get them all the time."

About 2,000 Afghans are employed as cleaners, office staff and laborers at the Bagram base. Though they are searched coming in and out of the base, the flash drives are the size of a finger and can easily be concealed on a body.

The shopkeeper showed an Associated Press reporter a bag of about 15 and allowed them to be reviewed on a laptop computer. Only four contained data. The rest did not work or were blank.

indeed, as bob sullivan explains, the source of the data leak is most likely laziness and weak endpoint security rather than any concerted efforts by afghan hackers to steal military data:

To computer experts, the problem is called endpoint security. Endpoints can be almost anything -- USB drives, iPods, laptop computers, cell phones, even digital cameras with SD cards. They are all ticking time bombs, and they are all keeping information technology folks from sleeping at night. Billions of dollars have been spent making sure brilliant hackers can't attack computers from across the globe. But firewalls generally don't stop anyone from attaching a finger-size drive to a computer and stealing gigabytes worth of secrets from a company or government agency.

That's probably not what happened in Afghanistan. Instead, the data probably landed on those drives through normal, but careless, daily operations. Remember the days before networks, when you would share a file with a friend by copying it onto a floppy disk, jogging across the room, and placing it into the second computer? It's called a sneakernet, and sneakernets are back in vogue. With thumb drives so quick and so small, people often use them to transport files around the office, or to take work home.

it sounds like the perfect anecdote for next year's network security textbooks: tight military security brought down by sneakernets, defeated by a floppy disk mentality.

reacting to the rallies

this past monday saw massive rallies nationwide to protest recent republican attempts to crack down on "the problem" of illegal immigration. in cities throughout the country, immigrants (both legal and illegal) and their friends and supporters filled the streets. indianapolis was no exception: the indy star estimates 20,000 protestors "in what may have been the largest rally in the city's history." (gary welsh at advance indiana estimates 50,000.) i didn't hear about it in advance so i wasn't able to get down there, though we could've seen the whole thing from virago's apartment.

republicans are in crisis over immigration. in december, the house passed a bill that would've made immigrating to the country without authorization—or helping others to do so—into a felony. with an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, that's eight digits of felons, including 1.6 million felonious children. it also would've called for some 700 miles of fences along the mexican border, because let's face it, the only immigrants anyone is worried about are latin immigrants.

the senate wouldn't have anything to do with that bill, and wanted to pass something a bit more realistic. still, there were deep divisions within the party, between those who wanted to give illegals an eventual path to citizenship and those who adamantly opposed the idea, calling it "amnesty"—they don't just want to "solve the problem"; they want to punish immigrants. (as just one example, indiana's own john hostettler was upset that la migra wasn't out in full force during the protests, checking everyone's papers and arresting immigrants en masse. how that could have worked, i'm not sure: does IPD have the capability to run background checks on 20,000-50,000 people in an afternoon? if, for the sake of argument, half of those protesters were undocumented immigrants, where would we put these 10,000-25,000 arrestees while they awaited processing and deportation? and that's just indianapolis, one of many cities to see large rallies.)

eventually the senate came up with a compromise bill that would've allowed some immigrants to move on to citizenship but would've forced many to leave the US. (unlike gary, i definitely think this would be an undue hardship for many who might not have a safe, stable place to go in their home country.) but this bill also would've been impossible to enforce (as stoller points out, how can you tell how long an undocumented immigrant has been in the country?) and never came close to passing, either, so it's all a wash for now.

now that the public has come out resoundingly against plans like the house bill (even republican voters strongly prefer a plan more like the senate's), the republicans who drafted the house bill are backing away from it, spinning faster than black sabbath at 78rpm. james sensenbrenner, who wrote the bill, is now trying to blame democrats for passing his bill (which only 36 democrats voted for). some republicans are even taking out ads on spanish-language radio blaming democrats for the bill's passage. get a load of this logic:

sensenbrenner and other republicans wrote the bill, complete with language making undocumented immigration a felony. sensenbrenner later offered an amendment reducing the penalty from felony to misdemeanor, not because he had a moment of clarity or compassion for immigrants but because misdemeanors are easier to process. democrats voted against the amendment, presumably because they don't want to criminalize undocumented immigration. despite this failure to pass the amendment, republicans proceeded to pass the bill, with the felony language intact. only 36 democrats voted for the bill, and i don't imagine many more would've voted for it if the penalty had been reduced to misdemeanor, so how exactly is it democrats' fault that republicans passed this bill?

now, in the aftermath of the rallies, reports are coming in of protestors losing their jobs for attending the protests. an article in this morning's indy star mentions reports of nearly 20 indianapolis residents losing their jobs, and even confirms two of them. an RTV6 and WTHR mention 8 people being fired by 5 different employers. and that's just in indy: similar incidents happened in seattle, detroit, houston (and elsewhere in texas), fort myers, FL, and probably more. in detroit, the employer has since agreed to give the workers back their jobs, "[b]ut only if they have proof they are in the United States legally." that's nice, i guess, though most of the fired employees probably won't get their jobs back. and in texas, benchmark manufacturing, another company that fired employers for protesting allegedly knew its employees were undocumented and looked the other way. i suspect this is common, though.

this nation was built by immigrants and founded by people whose families had only been here for a few generations. there was no such thing as illegal immigration until the 1930s; before that, people just moved here and that was it. every once in a while, a new group starts moving here in large numbers. some of the people whose families have been here a bit longer get restless, weirded out by the foreign customs and languages of the newcomers. it happened with the irish, poles, and italians (who were once all considered racial underclasses but have since been assimilated into being simply "white") and now it's happening with latin immigrants. a free, multicultural society like ours should have no problem adapting to latin immigrants just like it's adapted in the past.

the current immigration policy is undeniably messed up, but criminalizing undocumented immigration isn't going to fix anything. as it stands, even documented immigrants are forced to jump through ridiculous hoops (see jason's personal anecdote for one local example). people are going to come here regardless; we need to make it easier for them to do so legally and legitimately, not harder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

alan berry discusses mix tapes

longtime readers will recall the story of how local record store berry's music was busted in 2004 for selling mix tapes. mix tapes are recordings of dj mixes, these days generally recorded on cd, and can be a major promotional tool, especially in the world of hip-hop.

record labels secretly love mix tapes because they equate to free promotion. but the major labels can't openly endorse mix tapes because that would expose their hypocrisy regarding intellectual property. the going rate for a sample clearance is in the four-to-six-digit range, which means that releasing a mix tape according to the "rules" could potentially cost millions. obviously, djs aren't paying these fees, which makes mix tapes "illegal" in the eyes of the RIAA.

alan berry has an opinion piece in today's new york times:

POLICE officers in Norfolk, Va., raided a record store called Dappa Don Clothing Company last month, confiscating several thousand dollars' worth of mixtapes and charging the store's owner with illegally "selling certain recorded devices."

The raid was the latest in a nationwide crackdown on retailers who sell mixtapes — collections of hip-hop songs that D.J.'s remix to create new tracks — and it comes less than a year after New York police officers seized hundreds of mixtapes and arrested five employees at an East Village record store, Mondo Kim's.

After the Mondo Kim's raid, Brad Buckles, a Recording Industry Association of America executive, declared, "Retailers who are making money on the backs of musicians and record companies by selling pirated CD's should know that this is absolutely no way to conduct a business."

That sounds reasonable enough. Illegal products should not be sold. But it's disingenuous for the recording industry to compare hip-hop mixtapes to a bootleg recording of, say, a Dave Matthews Band concert. After all, mixes aren't bootlegs at all— they're advertisements.

it's worth a read.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"l'état c'est moi" - bush MMVI

everyone is buzzing about scooter libby's latest testimony in the CIA leak case: apparently cheney told libby that the president had personally authorized him (libby) to leak classified information to the press in an effort to discredit joe wilson. if this is true, if libby didn't perjur himself with this testimony, that makes the president the leaker-in-chief.

a couple years ago, when richard novak first outed plame to the public, bush got all huffy and insisted that he wanted to know as badly as anybody who the leakers were in his administration. he insisted he would get to the bottom of it. now it turns out that he already knew who the leaker was, because he was the leaker himself.

how do you explain the discrepancy? tpm points to an interesting quote in the washington post:

A senior administration official, speaking on background because White House policy prohibits comment on an active investigation, said Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.

in other words, it's not leaking when the president does it. part of this is that the administration is arguing that the president's decision to disclose the information constitutes a de facto declassification. and of course the president can declassify information, though he's supposed to follow certain procedures that seem to have not been followed here.

as josh says in the conclusion of his tpm post:

Setting all that aside, what is most revealing is the attitude suggested by the White House official rather than just the net outcome. Beyond the legal particulars, the president's attitude seems to be that the law just doesn't apply to him -- and that's not surprising since we see so many other instances of that perspective in practice.

Peal back all the individual arguments from Al Gonzales and the president and whomever else they put forward, the underlying idea is not so much that the president is above the law as that he is the law. He embodies it, you might say, even embodies the state itself. And thus what he does can't be illegal. What he does is simply the state cogitating and defending itself.

This is a vision that simply incompatible with any idea of separation of powers because in this view the president's prerogative always trumps the other two branches. And that makes it a grave danger to our constitutional system itself.

i've been wanting to go into civilization iv and pull this screenshot for months. i particularly like the fact that this technology leads to nationalism. the good news is that now we can build versailles over in occupied baghdad, which will substantially reduce the maintenance cost of nearby cities. the bad news is that we were not the first to discover so we didn't get to found islam.

anyway, to get back on track, let's go back to one last quote from the washington post article:

Also, the official said, the president has not been accused of authorizing the release of the name of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA operative whose unmasking in a July 2003 newspaper column prompted the federal investigation.

"There is a clear difference between the two," the official said. "I understand that in politics these two can be conflated. And we're going to have to try to deal with that. But there is an active investigation and that limits our ability to do so."

Still, Bush's action stands in stark contrast to his condemnations of the kind of disclosure that the court filing said he authorized. "Let me just say something about leaks in Washington," Bush told reporters in September 2003. "There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch, there's leaks in the legislative branch, there's just too many leaks. I want -- and if there's a leak out of the administration, I want to know who it is. And if a person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

That statement was one of many Bush has made over the past three years condemning leaks of sensitive information. His strong words may make the distinction between leaks of classified data and what he is alleged to have done difficult for the White House to explain.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

did anything change at notre dame?

back in january i had some harsh words for notre dame university regarding its seeming censorship of a gay film festival and the vagina monologues. back then, i said of revd john jenkins, new ND president:

[...] now rev'd jenkins has taken that step, from not sponsoring things he disagrees with to saying that such things "should not be allowed." he's not quite ready to actually ban these events, but he doesn't have a problem with "scaling them back"... to such a point that the "queer film festival" must be renamed, and the vagina monologues cannot sell tickets and must be held in a classroom rather than an actual theatre. so if you've ever wanted to see the vagina monologues but just don't want to pay for it, you might want to schedule a trip to south bend, because i hear their production of the play will be free of charge.

cut forward to yesterday, when the indy star printed a cheery-sounding AP follow-up on the story:

The University of Notre Dame will allow "The Vagina Monologues" and a gay film festival to continue on campus, the school's president said today.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins 10 weeks ago questioned whether the two events belonged on the campus of a Roman Catholic university.

wait... while it's true that he did question whether they belonged at notre dame 10 weeks ago, he already announced way back then that the shows would be allowed to continue. here is a quote from the original AP/indy star story from 10 weeks ago, dated january 24:

Jenkins' predecessor, the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, allowed "The Vagina Monologues" and a Queer Film Festival on campus, but did not comment about them. He was criticized by Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese for allowing them.

Jenkins said he would allow "The Vagina Monologues" to be performed on campus this year, but only in a classroom setting and tickets can't be sold. He said the film festival will go on, but under a new name -- Jenkins said the Queer Film Festival "seems to celebrate homosexual activity" -- and with limited content.

"My understanding is there won't be discussion of morality of sexual behavior or sexual activity but rather a discussion of films about gays and lesbians," he said.

so is this even news? what happened here? i read this story once, wondered about it for a second, then forgot about it until i read this bilerico post praising the free speech victory. and again i wondered: was this a free speech victory at all?

the new star/AP piece doesn't mention that the film fest had to change its name from the punchy queer film festival to the anesthetic gay & lesbian film: filmmakers, narratives, spectatorships. i'm not the kind of person who uses the word "gay" as a synonym for "weak" or "sucks" or "lame" but if i were i would say "that new name is the gayest name i've ever heard!" the name isn't really gay per se; it's just atrociously dull.

yesterday's south bend tribune piece does mention the name change, but neither article mentions that the vagina monologues was indeed held in a classroom this year as well as prohibited from selling tickets and giving the proceeds to women's charities.

the only truly new developments in yesterday's star/AP article are these:

As a result of the debate, students who supported "The Vagina Monologues" have proposed to produce a play, describing their own experiences, titled "Loyal Daughters," he said.

Jenkins also will head a committee of students, faculty and administrators designed to foster a discussion of gender relations, sexuality and ways to prevent violence against women.

Jenkins said he has proposed to the Academic Council that the university adopt guidelines that state that while university departments should sponsor events that promote debate on controversial subjects, academic departments are best suited to decide which subjects should be addressed.

"Chairs, however, must make informed judgments on whether provocative presentations have academic or artistic value, or are gratuitously offensive," the proposal says.

The proposal also says academic departments have a responsibility to make clear that sponsorship does not imply endorsement of the views expressed by a speaker or of an event.

the questions remain: will the vagina monologues actually be allowed to perform in a theatre next year, or will it be held in a classroom forevermore? will they be allowed to sell tickets next year, or fundraise for women's causes?

my reading of the written guidelines is that they cannot do any such fundraising:

D. Following the principle of subsidiarity, departments are best situated to decide what events should and should not be sponsored, and to explain the nature of their sponsorship. Chairs should be an important part of communicating the academic rationale for controversial events. In contentious matters, they should avoid use of framing and language (e.g., festival, celebration, and fundraising) that misleadingly give the impression of endorsing controversial perspectives, especially those directly contrary to Catholic teachings.

they're not even allowed to use the word "fundraising". note that this also explains the name change for the film fest: you're not allowed to celebrate gay film; you may only discuss it at events with stuffy-sounding names.

as for whether the vagina monologues may be performed in a real theatre next year, i haven't been able to figure that out. the guidelines seem to suggest that such a decision would be up to the department chairs, but i'm not really sure. i haven't been able to dig up anything definitive either way, and would appreciate insight from any NDU students or insiders. i really want to believe that this is a major free speech victory, but it seems like a small victory at best.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

more tahoe ads!

now that i've had some sleep, i've been inspired to make more ads.

here is the first one, which i posted last night: travel

and here are two new ones i made this afternoon:

when you drive a tahoe...

best tahoe ever

that's all i have for now. if i'm inspired to make more later, i'll add links to this post. if you've made one, or have a favorite not mentioned on this blog, please post some links in the comments.

update: here's another: so you bought an SUV...

my own private tahoe commercial

chevrolet and nbc's the apprentice have a contest where you can create your own chevy tahoe tv ad using stock clips and a simple point-and-click interface. the process is very simple.

it wasn't long before subversive ads starting turning up, ads with messages that chevrolet and nbc might not like. there were naturally ads that mocked the tahoe over environmental issues. but more than that, subversive ads on a variety of other subjects appeared.

the site has been quietly deleting some such ads when it finds them, so those links could go dead, but people with video capture software have been archiving some ads and submitting them to sites like youtube.

i came in a bit late, but i had to join the fun. here is mine. maybe it's a little obvious, but i made it quickly late at night. maybe i'll be inspired to make more.

apparently nightline aired a segment on this story tonight, according to missannethrope at dkos. i didn't find out about it until after it had aired here in indy, so i haven't seen it, but maybe the video will turn up online. (check the comments on that post for links to more ads.)

i noticed that missannethrope mentions an interview with someone named "gunderson"... though i could be wrong, this sounds like it was almost certainly "trademark" gunderson of the evolution control committee. (no mention on his websites, though.)

update: virago points our attention to the nightline segment on youtube. turns out it wasn't mark gunderson, but some guy named eric gundersen. maybe there's some magical culture-jamming power associated with that name.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

high profile pedophile

this article would seem routine if you didn't read the first paragraph:

... Brian J. Doyle, 55, was arrested at his residence in Maryland on charges of use of a computer to seduce a child and transmission of harmful material to a minor. The charges were issued out of Polk County, Fla.

Doyle, of Silver Spring, Md., had a sexually explicit conversation with what he believed was a 14-year-old girl whose profile he saw on the Internet on March 14, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

The girl was an undercover Polk County Sheriff's Computer Crimes detective, the sheriff's office said.

Doyle sent the girl pornographic movie clips and had sexually explicit conversations via the Internet, the statement said.

you've probably read 20 stories just like that one. sad, sick, but nothing out of the ordinary. let's go back and read that first paragraph.

The deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was arrested Tuesday for using the Internet to seduce what he thought was a teenage girl, authorities said.

not your run-of-the-mill pedophile. maybe he's not as well known as michael jackson or even gary glitter, but as far as i know he's the highest-ranking member of the government ever to be arrested for something like this. crazy.

Doyle, who is the fourth-ranking official in the department's public affairs office, was expected to be placed on administrative leave Wednesday morning.

this guy is a flack so his name is all over the net. in fact, i checked my own blog a post including his name! remember when cat stevens was denied admission to the US?

Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said Islam would be put on the first available flight back to Britain after his Washington D.C.-bound plane was diverted on Tuesday to Maine for security reasons.

"Why is he on the watch lists? Because of his activities that could be potentially linked to terrorism. The intelligence community has come into possession of additional information that further raises our concern (about Islam)," Doyle said.

a google search for brian doyle "homeland security" currently turns up 214,000 hits... and that doesn't include pedophile stories because those are too new to be in the index yet. i'm sure those hits will make some fascinating reading. (john at americablog has already turned up one good example.)

update: holy crap! i hadn't realized that doyle was actually the second DHS official to be accused of such things (and this for a department that's only existed for 4-5 years). from think progress:

Frank Figueroa, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security's program to stop child predators (Operation Predator), today pleaded no contest to charges he exposed himself to a 16-year-old girl. According to the victim, "Figueroa pulled up a leg of his shorts, exposed himself and masturbated for about 10 minutes" in front of her.

that's right: this was the guy who ran the program designed to catch pedophiles.