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Driving around Vermont, Thinking

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photo by Tony Hisgett

Friday and Saturday, I spent a lot of time driving around Vermont. I also spent a lot of time thinking while driving. I was thinking about whether to expand on my most recent blog post and what it is safe to say. These were the most beautiful drives I have ever taken in Vermont.

The leaves were at peak and the air was still, so there were many reflections. (Unfortunatly, I didn't stop to take pictures.)

Continue reading "Driving around Vermont, Thinking" »


New GOP Anthem!

I did this partly as an update to the previous entry, but really, for purely aesthetic reasons -- if your Internet connection can handle two YouTube videos at one -- you must absolutely must listen to this Talking Points Memo video of today's John McCain with Die Partei hat immer Recht (Lied der Partei) going in the background. (The McCain video is a little longer than the song, so let it start before starting Die Partei.) This makes a truly beautiful mashup.

Who knew that the GOP would converge with the East German Communists? The 21st century is a really wild place!

(Any minute now, the GOP talking points will converge with "Wir sind der Moor Soldaten" or perhaps "Die Internationale.")

McCain seems to have suddenly discovered the Base and the Superstructure and all that.


McCain campaign rep says "who cares" and "I'm going back to bed" when asked when and if Sarah Palin will respond to media questions

A must-watch moment:

From Jay Carney at TIME:

According to Nicole Wallace of the McCain campaign, the American people don't care whether Sarah Palin can answer specific questions about foreign and domestic policy. According to Wallace -- in an appearance I did with her this morning on Joe Scarborough's show -- the American people will learn all they need to know (and all they deserve to know) from Palin's scripted speeches and choreographed appearances on the campaign trail and in campaign ads.
Jay Carney is TIME's Washington bureau chief. Amazing, just amazing what these McCain people think the voters will swallow.

A commentor at YouTube responding to the video clip remarks, quite rightly:

She can't face the press, but if something happens to McCain, she'll be facing Putin.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

(Via Mark Nickolas & DailyKos.)


McPalin Culture Wars Round-Up

A couple of favorite pieces:

First, there's the New York Times op-ed Running Against Themselves:

The difficulty for the Republican ticket in talking about change and reform and acting like insurgents is that they have been running Washington — the White House and Congress — for most of the last eight years.

Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News: Palin isn't making this easy
I don't think John McCain understood exactly what he was doing picking Palin. He was looking for a new face in a party dominated by old faces, a Republican who wasn't tied to the rest of the Republicans (read: George W. Bush). But what he also got was another battle in the culture wars.

I leave it to Rudy Giuliani, of all people, to give us the lesson.

It's Giuliani - not your typical Republican on issues such as abortion and gay rights and wearing dresses at New York balls - who was Palin's warmup act. And in fact, he did about 20 minutes of standup, mostly mocking - and that's the right word - Barack Obama to the delight of the crowd, but in way that had to be cringe-making for much of the rest of America watching at home on TV.

Indeed, I don't think the political strategist who have brought us to this point understand how complex and unpredictable the politics of mommyhood are. (And no, Sarah, your family doesn't have "the same ups and downs as any other.") To work full or part time or to stay home with ones kids are complex decisions about which American women pronounce judgement upon each other every day. Every school PTA is split between the stay-at-home and part-timer moms who do most of the PTA work, and the full-time working moms who (despite Palin's PTA credentials) mostly don't.

Every employed mother has decisions to make about when to work and when to drop everything and take care of the needs of a child, and mothers pass judgement on each others' choices every day. New baby, special needs child, pregnant teenage daughter, five kids -- each of these individually might cause even a suburban upper-middle class mother in a left-leaning community to be subjected to peer pressure to surrender her ambitions in favor of taking care of her family. How can this fly?

Are questions about whether Sarah Palin should be spending more time taking care of her family fair? Perhaps not, but our culture isn't fair to mothers, and worse, mothers are not fair to other mothers.

Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail has an interesting piece entitled The culture wars are baaack!:

For a while back there, I thought the culture wars would not be a big deal in this election. We had two serious men of substance who had vowed to grapple with the serious issues of the day - the staggering economy, America's shattered moral leadership in the world, the health-care mess, loose nukes, stuff like that. Silly me! It turns out the real issues are abortion, evolution v. creationism, the role of God in public life, why Sarah tried to get her no-good ex-brother-in-law fired, what's up with her mother-in-law, and whether she herself was pregnant when she got married.
In it she quotes a McCain adviser:
"Frankly, I can't imagine that question being asked of a man," snapped John McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. "A lot of women will find it offensive."
Oh, were Sisterhood that power! Wouldn't it be nice if women didn't say terrible things about other women's mothering choices all the time?

In his speech last night Rudy Guiliani asked, "How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her child and be vice president?" They dare, Rudy. They dare. They dare all the time.

She is apparently breastfeeding. Wouldn't it have been fascinating if Sarah Palin gave last night's speech while breastfeeding her infant? (I have nursed an infant from the podium, though out of necessity, not for fun; it's a good way to keep a baby quiet while mommy talks to the audience when the expected convention childcare does not materialize.) Having her pregnant daughter hold the baby doesn't deflect the scrutiny that a new mother out in the world is subject to. And Palin hasn't really explained who is taking care of the kids. The implication of what is left unsaid is partly that the kids will take care of themselves and each other, an impression I wouldn't dare give at the World Science Fiction Convention, let alone the national convention of a political party.

Jonathan Freeland, The Guardian also discusses the culture wars theme: Who knows if Palin will bring victory or defeat? But the culture wars are back

In his stirring speech last week, Obama urged America not to "make a big election about small things". Yet here we are, discussing not Sarah Palin's record or programme but Jesus, guns, and as one feminist blogger put it yesterday, "the uterine activity of her family". This is a setback for women, especially in a year that seemed to promise a breakthrough, but it is also a setback for America itself.
For obvious reasons, conservatives would like to see this mess in a different light. Janice Shaw Crouse of the conservative think-tank Concerened Women for America writes,
The media’s frenzy over the Palin nomination contrasts negatively with the positive way that the Palin family is coping with their daughter’s pregnancy; it shows how out-of-touch the media is with the rest of America and how distorted their view is of pro-life Americans who put feet on their policy stances. . . . The media frenzy also demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of social conservatives and the importance of the social issues for most Americans.
Is the fuss all about whether Palin is alienating the very conservative base she was supposed to lock in? I don't think so.

What Palin and her complications represent is a social conservative running against a broad personalized non-political type of social conservatism concerning childbearing and childrearing; she presents an entirely new model of conservative motherhood that bears a lot of explaining in order to seem like responsible behavior.

UPDATE: See also Nancyy Gibbs in TIME: Can Palin Escape the Parent Trap? and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Making Light: Pay attention to the little man behind the curtain.


What Were McCain's Advisers Thinking? The Republican Party Just Gets Wilder!

When I was in elementary school (in maybe 1970?), my mother ran for the Washington State Legislature and I door-belled for her campaign. She would take one side of the street and I would take another. I remember distinctly being told by one lady on a front porch that I was a smart and beautiful little girl and that she wasn't going to vote for my mommy because my mommy should be at home with me and that I should tell her so. And so despite the strong odor of Reality Show that Sarah Palin brings to the presidential election, I am deeply uncomfortable with what I see being said about her.

I was particularly uncomfortable about Maureen Dowd's breast pump remark, because there is a significant minority in our country who feel that lactating women should be completely invisible. Women are such easy targets for vicious Internet memes.

Who knew that the news coverage of the Republican National Convention would be all about how McCain's Veep choice is HOT and her daughters are easy? Culminating in the oh-so-tasteful comparison between Britney Spears's little sister Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin?

TeenpregnancyI wonder how the editors of the Christian Science Monitor can with a straight face publish the headline McCain pick of Palin helps win over party's conservative base; it begins:

Moments after Senator John McCain announced his running mate - Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, an outspoken abortion opponent - his campaign sprang into action to fan flames of enthusiasm among his party's demoralized conservative supporters.

At a lunch in Minneapolis, two of his top advisers - Charlie Black, a veteran political operative, and Dan Coates, a former senator from Indiana - were extolling Palin's virtues to about 150 influential evangelicals as evidence of McCain's ideological commitments.

Charlie Black, what were you thinking?

I have a really odd connection to Charlie Black, though we've never actually met or spoken: We were both conned by the professional con artist Joseph A. Cafasso during the same time period during the summer of 2005. There used to be more about this on my blog, but I took it down after legal threats seemingly made on his behalf by one of his close associates who is ironically a former CNN exec. On January 15, 2007, she wrote:

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE WITH ME OR CHARLIE OR ANYONE ELSE WHO IS AFFECTED! TAKE THAT STUFF DOWN NOW! . . . Cramer -Take this shit off the Internet! No one wants to have a conversation with you. We would rather you vanish as fast as you invaded our lives! Either take this crap down or you will be sued!

So. All right then. (Quoting from private email? Absolutely. Fair use? Yup.)

In any case, what I wonder -- as I see the Palin PR disaster unfold -- is whether Black was fooled again as he was fooled by Cafasso. Or whether he's just fooling himself.

PalinwatchthumbnailIn February, Firedog Lake's Christy Hardin Smith wrote an interesting profile of Black which mentions his association with international con man Ahmed Chalabi. Yesterday, Firedog Lake posted a "Sarah Palin Goodbye Watch."

Put down your best guesses for when, why, and how Sarah Palin will bail from the GOP ticket.

So far the blog entry has 360 comments. (Their server seems to be having some problems, so be patient if the links don't work.)

Meanwhile, the Financial Times editors, presumably also with a straight face, publish the following headline: McCain counts on character to clinch it while at the same time running an image of McCain with Bristol Palin and her boyfriend, Levi Johnston.

Looks like the Republican Party is in full swing, and the party is getting wilder and wilder. What's next? These are not your daddy's Republicans!

Fortune reports that there is an online prediction market on "whether Palin will be dropped from the ticket": Betting on a Palin withdrawal.

Intrade, an online prediction market based in Dublin, created a contract Tuesday morning on the likelihood that John McCain will drop Palin as his running mate. After opening at a probability of just 3%, the odds on Palin being cut from the ticket hovered around 14% yesterday. Predictions plateaued today at 10%, perhaps in response to yesterday's speeches by Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman. Both praised the governor for her reformist qualities.

. . . Placing a Palin withdrawal at even 12% seems bullish; no presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP selection since Thomas Eagleton left Democratic candidate George McGovern's ticket in 1972.

See also The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

I am not placing any bets. I am just rubbernecking at how fast Bristol Palin has become an instant Pop Tart and Sarah Palin the new Victoria Principal. One message for the rest of us is, Don't aim too high. Don't let this happen to you.

CNN's current at 7:52 PM 9/3/08: Palin to slam Obama in convention speech. What an awful political spectacle it will be to see if she can conceal her anger at what has happened to her over the past few days. Will she be saccharine or Janis Joplin? Or will she not be able to contain the anger? Can we look away? And don't you feel like a voyeur?

So. Sarah Palin: Victoria Principal, Harriet Miers, or Janis Joplin? What do you bet? Watching this shows just how tough Hillary is.


Why hasn't Google/Blogger Pulled the plug on the "Megan Had it Coming" Blog?

There are no two ways about this one: a blog attacking the reputation of a 13-year-old girl who killed herself after a neighborhood online romance scam at least partly instigated by a neighbor girl's mom. In the past 48 hours -- after prosecutor's declined to prosecute the MySpace-savvy neighbor mom, Lori Drew -- the persona on the World's Most Loathsome Blog identified itself as Lori Drew.

I will not pass judgement on whether the blogger really is Lori Drew, but I will pass judgement on the ISP, Blogspot aka Blogger aka "don't be evil" Google: THERE IS NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for Blogspot not to pull the plug. The blog is under investigation by the local cops and the real Lori Drew claims she has nothing to do with it. If she has nothing do do with it, then it is a violation of the Terms of Service. QED.

If we don't believe Lori Drew because of her past history of sockpuppetry (at least as alleged by the media to have been told by Lori Drew to the cops), then she is harassing the surviving members of Megan Meier's family, which has got to be one of the most egregious ToS violations I have ever heard of. QED.

There are no other possibilities.

I link to THE WORLD'S MOST LOATHSOME BLOG so that you can all click on the FLAG BLOG tag in order to flag it for "objectionable content."

Either way you cut it, what's on that blog isn't covered by Free Speech. It's criminal.


Background to the Stuart Pivar Lawsuit: Money as "a Form of Behavior"

I've been following with some puzzlement the strange tale of millionaire businessman and art collector Stuart Pivar's lawsuit against science blogger PZ Myers claiming "Assault, Libel, and Slander" over Myers' negative review of Pivar's foray into evolutionary theory, a book entitled Lifecode:The Theory of Biological Self Organization, the only book published by one "Ryland Press, Inc."

I first read about the lawsuit on Making Light, but it has also been written up on Scientific American's blog, where Myers comments,

Huh. I'd heard some noise from Pivar threatening to sue, but this is the first I've heard of any formal action being taken. Since I'm a defendant (one who hasn't been notified of his status!) I suppose I should just shut up at this point and let justice run its course.

Since I'm a blogger, though, I can't completely shut up. I will just say that this is Pivar's attempt to squash a negative review of his book, which I posted here. Nothing in the review was motivated by personal malice, and I actually am inclined to favor structuralist arguments in evolution ... but I'm afraid my honest assessment of Pivar's work is that it does not support his conclusions. I still stand by my review, and now I'm a bit disturbed that someone would think criticism of a scientific hypothesis must be defended by silencing its critics.

One of the very first things I was ever told when my first book came out was never to respond to negative reviews. I have not entirely resisted the temptation, but have (I think) managed to limit myself to polite notes making what I felt were factual corrections. My first reaction, when reading about this lawsuit on Making Light was how much it reminded my of the Monty Python skit containing the line, He used sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.

Of course, life is stranger than fiction; stranger, even, than Monty Python. I've spent most of the day reading for our Year's Best volumes, but spent a few minutes looking further into the discussion of the lawsuit, and found some really odd stuff.

Pivar, it seems, is used to being noticed and making waves, though in very different circles than biology or blogging. According to The New York Times (2004) he has a "long-running feud" with the New York Academy of Art which he helped found and where he alledges  that "organized crime" has taken over.

In 2006, he alleged that Sotheby's showed negligence to its stockholders in relation a refund given a Japanese collector for a statue for which Pivar had obtained a 1 million dollar appraisal.

But  the most interesting material relates to his friendship with Andy Warhol, which he wrote about for the Sotheby's Andy Warhol Collection 1988 auction catalog. The Warhol-Pivar relationship merited a really startling passage in an essay published by Artnet entitled "What Art Says about Money" by Charlie Finch:

That is the call of money, the fear of art as exchange value. Conversely, Claude Monet, the original Andy, would crank out his haystacks, take a small number to Marseilles, telling his buyers, "There are only a few, buy them while you can." Then he'd float another dozen stacks back in Paris.

This is more than making a living, or refusing to: It is the love call of currency at its most fetishistic. Steve Rubell famously showered Andy Warhol with buckets of bills at Andy's birthday bash. No artist was more the victim, and yet exploiter, of money lust than Warhol, wandering the souks of Soho with Stuart Pivar buying up everything in sight then dumping the unopened packages in his closets at night, full of unsatisfied shame. The pull of mammon was murderous even on someone so intelligent. For money is a form of behavior, abstract, hidden and irrational.

Here's more on the Andy and Stuart social scene from accounts by Heli Vaaranen, a Finnish model:

What united Stuart and Andy was that they appreciated success, and only it. If someone tried to get started with his or her career, Stuart and Andy were certainly the wrong persons to try to use. Stuart Pivar had a very exclusive taste in his social life. For instance, he used to arrange classical concerts once a week in his home, in which artists like members of the New York Philharmonic performed. Only the best was good enough for Stuart.

Both Andy and Stuart selected the company they associated with. Very carefully. Andy used to say that 'It's great to buy friends'. Vaaranen agrees that Andy's famous friends were bought with his fame.

In the past few days, there are any number of people who have called Pivar an idiot for filing this lawsuit. That seems to me too easy an assessment.

The truth seems to be much more novelistic in a Jamesian sort of way: Pivar strikes me as a feisty, confident man, a fighter, who has honed his tactics in intellectually and aesthetically complex circles, who is unable to understand why his visual sophistication is not taking him where he wants to go, and why money can't take him the rest of the way if visual sophistication isn't enough. (I hope for the sake of everyone involved that he is a quick learner.)


CIA Got Too Cozy with the Bad Guys

There's a really intriguing story in The New York Times concerning the CIA's relationship to a major figure in the Afghanistan drug trade, Haji Bashir Noorzai: An Afghan's Path From Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect by James Risen.

The best line: "In Afghanistan, finding terrorists has always trumped chasing drug traffickers," said Bobby Charles, the former top counternarcotics official at the State Department.

At times, there was confusion within the government about what to do with Mr. Noorzai. In 2002, while he was talking to the American officials in Afghanistan, a team at C.I.A. headquarters assigned to identify targets to capture or kill in Afghanistan wanted to put him on its list, one former intelligence official said. Like others, he would only speak on condition of anonymity because such discussions were classified.

The C.I.A. team was blocked, the former official recalled. Although he never received an explanation, the former official said that the Defense Department officials and American military commanders viewed counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan at the time as a form of “mission creep” that would distract from the fight against terrorism. . . .

D.E.A. officials say . . . Mr. Noorzai was a major figure in the Afghan drug trade, controlling poppy fields that supplied a significant share of the world’s heroin.

. . . in January 2004, Mr. Charles, the State Department official, proposed placing him on President Bush’s list of foreign narcotics kingpins, for the most wanted drug lords around the world.

At that time, Mr. Charles recalled in an interview, no Afghan heroin traffickers were on the list, which he thought was a glaring omission. He suggested three names, including Mr. Noorzai’s, but said his recommendation was met with an awkward silence during an interagency meeting.

There is a subtext of symbiosis here; a deeply mutualistic relationship between the CIA and the Afghan (and even world) drug trade. The development of such relationships was obviously a big mistake.

Oh, by the way, this is Ground Hog Day.


Has Wikipedia Declared the Death of Print?

So, the story continues. . . .   After the initial shock of encountering what goes by the name of editing at Wikipedia, and formulating my plan to reinstate the SF author bios on ISFDB because the Wikipedia editors actively discourage those with expertise from contributing, I had some further discussions with this particular batch of Wikipedians concerning the nature of evidence acceptable as citation for Wikipedia.

I have a strong vested interest in there being a collecting of good sf writer bios out there, especially for obscure but talented writers. Professionally, I use such resources extensively, and in our recent round of  author bio writing for our two year's best volumes, David Hartwell and I found very little useful material in the Wikipedia bios because for the most part it was material we already had and didn't cover the people we really needed more info on. The only cases in which Wikipedia bios proved use useful were in cases like Gardner Dozois, whom we know very well but who declines to have a web page of his own. (Wikipedia's policies claim that they are not there to provide people with space for their personal web pages, but that was precisely where it was most useful.)

Wikipedia's algorithmic ideas of how to figure out if someone is notable enough for inclusions are also a significant impairment to its value as a biographic source. It is precisely bios of increasingly important but little known figures that are of the most value. We don't really need to read Wikipedia's bio of Stephen King when there are so many other, better biographical sketches of him out there. Certainly there needs to be gate-keeping involving vanity-published authors and such, and that would require skill and tact. But the Naomi Kritzers and M. Rickerts and Daryl Gregorys of the world are the biographical additions to such a collection that would be of most value. (Gregory is writing some breathtakingly good sf stories and David says has just sold a novel to Del Rey.)

Why this would be the state of affairs there became evident when I was told that if I wanted to write and edit as an "expert," that  Wikipedia was not the place for me.

If you want to edit as an "expert" there are other most suitable wikis such as Citizendium . . .

Examples of things that didn't fly:

  • Photographic evidence in support of a cited news article:

    Deciding that a persona is an alias for a person is original research. Yes, it may look like the same guy, it may sound like the same guy, but we can't rely on our own judgment to decide that it is the same guy.

    In the photos in question, insignias or logos of the organizations mentioned in the articles were clearly visible in the photos.

  • Criminal case citations, because they are not on the web from an official source.

  • Items on the web, but requiring registration.

  • My own claim as to my own paternity. (Web citation required, apparently. Does some reliable source out there publish birth certificates on the web???)

  • But most interestingly, published print sources not on the web were not acceptable according to my officious informants. Citations of myself and Patrick Nielsen Hayden as members of The Little Magazine editorial board were deemed to require citation. When we founded the The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1998, we sold The Little Magazine to SUNY Albany. There are a few mentions of the Little Magazine under 20+ year David Hartwell's ownership, but because of when we sold it, most of the references are to the SUNY Albany incarnation. I did find an online auction catalog listing me as one of The Little Magazine's editors, but that was pure luck.

So have the Wikipedian's declared the death of print? Or at least that print doesn't matter unless it's on the web? Disallowing print sources seems to me clear evidence that some kind of collective insanity has gripped the Wikipedian Hive Mind. What could it possibly be thinking?

UPDATE: Here's a new item. I was told that it was inappropriate to correct bibliographic errors replicted from ISFDB, since "verifiability", not "truth" was the point. I have pointed out the the title pages of actual books trump an ISFDB listing, something I'm sure ISFDB would agree with.


Why Did My New Sprint Phone Come with Match.com Preloaded?

I was playing with my new phone in the car the other day when we were driving home from a trip into Manhattan and I noticed a really odd item on the Messaging list. The menu goes like this:

  1. Send Message
  2. Text
  3. Picture Mail
  4. IM & Email
  5. Chat & Dating
  6. Voicemail
Dating? Dating? So, if I'm, like, lonely, my new phone will get dates for me? How futuristic. I followed the menu, and it turns out that Sprint seems to have some kind of joint venture with Match.com, an online dating service.

Meeting people through online dating services is one of the more dangerous things you can do on the Internet, in my humble opinion. Even if I were single, online dating is not something I would do. But I hear from those what have used them that they are crawling with married creeps on the make and con artists looking for their next mark who have 15 accounts spanning ten different services.

SO, when this phone wears out and I get my next one in two years, will there be a menu item offering me the opportunity to help get ten million dollars out of Nigeria? Sprint execs, what were you thinking?

UPDATE: Don't miss Aldra Robinson's hilarious Internet Dating: The Costco of Romance:

I decided to contact the hottest guy on my list. He was totally committed to finding a relationship. So committed, in fact, that he was moving to the other side of the continent in a few weeks. His commitment to commitment was so fierce, he wondered if I wouldn’t mind having some kinky sex, since one of the predetermined questions (step one in the contact process—you can’t just send an email. Eharmony controls every aspect of what is exchanged, including at times the very verbiage sent) hinted that we both might be into it.

Read the whole thing even if you would never consider using an online dating service.

(Via Exposing Online Predators and Cyberpaths.)


Advanced Marketing Services in Chapter 11 Shortly After 3rd Exec Is Convicted in Fraud Case

Grinchbrand Just before the end of the year, Advanced Marketing Services (Pink Sheets: MKTS), a major book distributor (and owner of Publishers Group West), went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking with it a big chunk of US publishing's Christmas receipts. This household has been watching it closely, and this was something I didn't blog because I didn't want to spook anyone with half-baked info.

The New York Times finally got round to running a story on January 5th. Our Year's Best SF series is published by HarperCollins, so I pay particular attention to the line in the NYT piece:

“We’re exploring ways to keep working with them,” a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Erin Crum, said.

Uuummm. Ooohhkaayy.

Of course everyone caught in this has one big question: Are we going to get paid?

But my bigger question, once I looked into the situation was not whether HarperCollins and a whole laundry list of publishers were going to be able to find a way to continue working with AMS, but rather why they were working with them in the first place.

The New York Times remarks, a little too tactfully:

Advanced Marketing Services’ financial difficulties were widely known in the industry, after an accounting scandal in 2003 resulted in the ouster of several senior managers.

Ouster? Ouster? Try criminal conviction! From the San Diego Union Tribune, dateline December 12, 2006: Former AMS exec sentenced to 3 years for role in fraud case

A federal judge yesterday sentenced the former vice president of advertising at Advanced Marketing Services to 36 months in prison for her role in falsifying earnings at the San Diego company.

Sandra Miller Christie pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges that she conspired with other former employees to defraud AMS clients and inflate the profitability of the company's advertising department. The scheme occurred from 1999 through 2003. . . . Two other former AMS employees were sentenced by Burns earlier this year.

So WHY OH WHY were so many publishers caught short using a company that has just had three employees criminally convicted of cooking the books? The NYT article suggests a possible reason:

The distributor has near-exclusive access to the discount retailers known as price clubs, including Costco and Sam’s Club.

In other words, the problem here is Monopoly Capitalism: there has been so much consolidation of the once-diverse distribution system that publishers are forced to use a distributor known to have major issues with cooking the books in order to reach significant portions of the market.

Hello? Department of Justice? Can we get some anti-trust litigation going here? (Well, at least the FBI is still interested!)

AMS has been in turmoil since 2003, when agents from the FBI raided its Sorrento Mesa headquarters.

Three former AMS executives were sentenced last year to prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges. The executives defrauded publishers of funds that were intended to market books, but retained to boost company revenues, according to federal indictments.

An investigation into the company’s operations remains open, federal prosecutors said.

In addition to the criminal probe, AMS hasn’t reported financial results for more than three years, and has yet to restate its financial results dating back to its 2003 fiscal year.

Publishers Weekly reports:

Several of the largest publishers feel betrayed by AMS—just days before the Chapter 11 filing, AMS had assured the major New York houses that everything was fine.

HypnotizePublishers Weekly relays Costco's advice on the current situation:

A Costco spokesperson said that until further notice, publishers should operate "on a business as usual basis."

Pay no attention to those men behind the curtain. You are growing sleepy, very sleepy. These are not the accountants you are looking for . . .

Meanwhile, Costco's profits are up:

Costco, the nation's largest wholesale club operator, said Thursday its first-quarter profit rose 10 percent and said it would take a second-quarter charge related to stock option grants.

For the quarter ending Nov. 26, net income totaled $236.9 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $215.8 million, or 45 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue climbed 9 percent to $14.15 billion from $12.93 billion last year. . . . In October, Costco said an internal committee and independent experts reviewing the company's stock option grant practices found no evidence of fraud, but did find "imprecisions" related to certain grants.

The distributors are much bigger businesses than the publishers and the big box club stores are in turn much bigger businesses than the distributors.

Does ANYONE at Costco or Sam's Club care that they are and have been forcing the entire publishing industry to do business with crooks? It would appear that the answer is no: that's how Costco keeps its prices down.  Business as usual is business with crooks.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best we can hope for the Christmas publishing revenues is that they are having a nice holiday in the Cayman Islands.


The Missouri Breaks in the 21st Century: "All bounty hunters push the limits and break the rules - that's how you get the job done,"

D63607_1 This AP article sums up just about everything that is wrong with the crazy US system of using bounty hunters as an adjunct to law enforcement. The bounty hunter system is a hangover from 19th-century Wild West days.

You get nutcases running around thinking that they are the Feds or the CIA or something: Calif. Man Accused of Impersonating Feds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A bounty hunter charged with impersonating federal agents says he was only doing the government's work - arresting fugitives wanted for immigration violations.

Federal agents say Jeremy Christian Brickner went too far, identifying himself as a U.S. immigration agent when he captured three people earlier this year.

Brickner, 30, now faces up to six years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and was released Friday from jail after posting a $100,000 bond, federal authorities said on Monday.

``All bounty hunters push the limits and break the rules - that's how you get the job done,'' Brickner said Monday in a telephone interview.

Brickner operates ICE Warrant Detail from his Sacramento home, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Sacramento by an agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Francisco.

Brickner is charged with falsely identifying himself while detaining one immigrant overnight Oct. 23 and while holding a mother and her 10-year-old daughter on May 11. The woman's estranged husband was trying to have her deported so he could keep custody of their son, according to the affidavit.

Brickner is charged with carrying a gun, handcuffs, a badge and business cards identifying him as a ``deportation agent.''

Brickner said he has worked cooperatively with federal immigration authorities for three years, turning over 188 fugitives in at least eight states. He said, ``We're serving them up on a silver platter.''

Brickner has been in trouble previously. Twice last year, he pleaded guilty to carrying weapons illegally, the affidavit said. In one instance, he was carrying a loaded gun and a Taser while using an illegal red flashing light to pull over a motorist in California.

On the two occasions last year, he flashed identification saying he was a fugitive-recovery agent, the affidavit said.

The use of bounty hunters by law enforcement should be banned. Anyone who thinks the use of bounty hunters is still a good idea should see Marlon Brandon in The Missouri Breaks, again.

The Missouri Breaks [DVD] (1976)
Violent, offbeat western with Marlon Brando as a bizarre hired gunslinger who employs any means necessary to quash a band of horse thieves terrorizing a rancher. Along the way he tangles with the rustlers' former leader (Jack Nicholson), who has given up his life of crime for the rancher's daughter. Co-stars Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton; Arthur Penn directs. 126 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, French.
Category: Westerns    Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Luana Anders, Richard Bradford, Marlon Brando, Frederic Forrest, Sam Gilman, James Greene, Kathleen Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, John P. Ryan, Harry Dean Stanton


Joseph A. Cafasso: A Call for Information

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004)

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004) about 34 minutes in.

I am interested in receiving information concerning the life and activities of former Fox News Military & Counterterrorism Editor Joseph A. Cafasso aka Joe Cafasso, Jay Cafasso, Gerry Blackwood, Gerard Pal Blackwood, Jay Mosca, J. Mosca, James Mosca, Joseph Mosca, Jay Anthony, Tom Adams, Jake Adams, Robert Stormer, Robin Storm, Rob Stormer, Bob Stormer.

He stole my computer and owes me about twenty grand.

Of particular interest are:

  • other known aliases
  • information concerning debts & unpaid financial obligations
  • incidents involving computer equipment or credit cards
  • medical conditions
  • employment history
  • documentation such as photographs, videotapes, audiotapes
  • transcripts or other documentation concerning public events he attended
  • documents he presented

Information can be provided to me via the comment section below, or via email to kathryn.cramer@gmail.com.

UPDATE: Many thanks to those of you who have written to me already. Your help is much appreciated.

Cafasso as Jay Mosca

Cafasso as Jay Mosca


Good News! Let's send the reporter flowers!

UPDATE, September 2008: Cafasso's latest known aliases are Robin Storm aka Robert Stormer; he's also on dating sights as Shipdude -- "Sailing into your arms... or is it went aground on your front lawn?" -- and probably another 15 aliases on 10 other sites.

UPDATE, Feburary 1, 2009: I have confirmed reports that Joseph A. Cafasso is in jail in Indiana after failing to show up for a court appearance. There are a number of mostly minor charges against him. The most significant of them is "giving false information" to a cop: My understanding is that it took a while, after Cafasso was pulled over for allegedly speeding, for him to admit to law enforcement that his name was Jospeh Cafasso and not Robert Stormer.

I have some hopes that the various charges will stick and that this information shows up on any future criminal background checks on the man. As far as I know, none of the charges against carry enough heft to put him away for any significant period of time. But one can hope.

UPDATE, Feburary 2, 2009: The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Times' police blotter reports that Cafasso was arrested on Thursday, January 22, 2009. It lists the reason for his arrest as "Failure to appear, theft," but I am so far unable to confirm that a theft charge exists, though I would be delighted if that were the case.

Meanwhile, HERE (via Picasa) is his spiffy logo for his fake corporation "Subsea Marine." (Gotta love the use of clip art!)

For independent visual confimation of Cafasso's appearance, consult Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, available from Amazon: book or DVD.

UPDATE, Feburary 3, 2009: I am please to report that Cafasso is still in jail! (I checked.) After several years of wanting to see him go to jail, I am finding this very uplifting.

UPDATE, Feburary 4, 2009: Cafasso in the news!  The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Newspaper, February 4, 2009.

Woman learns beau is apparent con artist

CHESTERTON | A 63-year-old Tefft, Ind. woman, whose son lives in Chesterton, told Chesterton police on Monday a man she met through an online dating service claimed to be Robert Stormer, but really was Joe Cafasso, a con artist of such renown he is mentioned on a Wikipedia Web page.

Chesterton police are involved in the case because they took possession of a computer the woman and her son wanted to get rid of because one of Cafasso's enemies apparently wants it.

Police reports state Cafasso took over some of the woman's finances. The investigation into Cafasso continues.

And meanwhile -- oh, joy! -- Cafasso is still in jail!

UPDATE, Feburary 7, 2009: The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana has a new article out on Cafasso's arrest, this one mentioning his rival Jack Idema.

The woman, who resides in Tefft, in northeastern Jasper County, met "Stormer" about a year ago through an online dating service. They later moved in together. According to the police report, he took control over some of the woman's finances before she learned he was a fraud.

According to the Chesterton police report, the woman and her son believe that Cafasso built a case against a man named Jack Idema, who also has a Wikipedia page.

The police report continues: "Idema is allegedly a Special Forces soldier who went rogue and tortured people in Afghanistan without approval from his superiors. He was jailed in a military prison for this and he blames Cafasso for his troubles."

Police say Idema knew about Cafasso's laptop. Idema contacted the Chesterton man through a phone search and told him he wanted the computer.

So he and his mother brought it to Chesterton Police.

(See note on Jack Idema and his cult followers below.)

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that Cafasso remains in jail.

UPDATE, February 19, 2009: The Chesterton Tribune, in Chesterton, Indiana, has run an article on Cafasso's arrest.

The subject, who identified himself as Robert Stormer, 58, advised Cauffman that he did not have his Rhode Island-issued driver's license with him. Cauffman stated that when he ran the name Robert Stormer, it “came back not on file” in both Indiana and Rhode Island. Cauffman further stated that when he ran the Social Security number provided by Stormer, it returned to a 13-year-old Rhode Island girl.

Although the subject repeatedly insisted that his name is Robert Stormer and that there must be a problem with the computers, he eventually admitted to being Joseph Cafasso, 52, Cauffman stated. A second computer check listed his driver’s license in Rhode Island as suspended.

“During this conversation he stated he was hiding from members of the CIA and FBI along with several other stories,” Cauffman stated.

Always, always tell the cop who has pulled you over that you are hiding from the FBI! Cafasso deserves some kind of prize for that one.

UPDATE, February 20, 2009: New article -- FBI now investigating 'spy' arrested at Dunes, Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, February 20, 2009.

UPDATE, February 24, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail! They've had him for more than a month now! Yay!

UPDATE, February 27, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, March 1, 2009: There are two new news stories out, both from the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana:

The second one has Cafasso's Indiana mug shot. Enjoy!

Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. mug shot, 1/22/09

What I found most interesting in the text of the articles is the interview with Cafasso's sometime side-kick, the minister John Johnson:

Cafasso has declined requests for an interview by the Post-Tribune, but he reportedly has talked to Ello, and to John Johnson, a Tucson, Ariz., minister who said he met Cafasso in the early 1990s when [Johnson] was selling marine equipment and Cafasso was working for a marine salvage company in New York.

The two stayed in touch over the years, with Johnson gathering that Cafasso had an engineering degree and may have been in the Delta Force, an elite military unit. Johnson said he never thought to question Cafasso, who attended Johnson's wife's funeral in 1999 and has remained in occasional contact. That year, Johnson had dinner at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, with Cafasso and a man who was a retired CIA officer.

"I don't know anything about his military experience, I don't know how you confirm that," Johnson said. "But it's pretty hard to fool the CIA."

In 2006, [Johnson] said Cafasso was using the name "Jay" and occasionally a last name of "Black or Black-something," to avoid followers of Jonathan Idema. Idema was accused of operating an illegal prison in Afghanistan who also had apparently wildly overstated his military experience, and reportedly believes he was wronged by Cafasso. . . .

Johnson put Cafasso in touch with a church in Mendenhall, Miss., where Cafasso would spend several weeks working with the congregation and even helping the church secure a $250,000 grant.

"He didn't make a dime," said Johnson. "He got roof over his head and what passed for food. And he worked incredibly hard."

But Cafasso clashed with church leaders, who eventually found the Times article and the many anti-Cafasso sites on the Internet. Cafasso left town soon after. Church leaders and Mendenhall Police Chief Bruce Barlow did not return calls from the Post-Tribune.

Johnson said he would not hesitate to recommend Cafasso to another church, and he worries about why DNR officers seemed intent on investigating Cafasso. "Knowing the guy, I just don't want to see him get the shaft," Johnson said.

Just how many of Cafasso's victims does Johnson have to hear from and about before he wouldn't provide Cafasso with a reference? When I tried to talk to him about the man, he hung up on me. 

I certainly hope the FBI is evaluating the finances of Mendenhall Ministries during Cafasso's tenure as Director of Development. As I recall, there were allegations that money had disappeared, and Johnson has done nothing about Cafasso except cover for him. From my brief correspondence with Johnson some time ago, it was my impression that Cafasso borrowed $4,000 $2,000 from him and never paid it back, but Johnson doesn't get that he was ripped off, apparently. I just hope that Johnson doesn't bail him out.

And the Reverend would still recommend even now

UPDATE, March 25, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, April 14, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.


NOTE: For the record, I have no connection with the various Jack Idema-connected attack blogs devoted to the subject of Cafasso. They display an alarming lack of empathy for both Cafasso's targets and his family and have a history of harassment of both. These sites are, to the best of my knowledge, administered and primarily authored by a strange woman named Lynn Thomas aka "Cao" aka "Caoilfhionn" who, by day, works as a Process Re-Engineering Analyst for Allstate Insurance in Northbrook, Illinois, and by night is a far-rightwing blogger & conspiracy theorist. She has harassed me over the Internet for a number of years, including writing endless harassing nonsense about Terry Bisson, an author my husband publishes, because she spotted a photo of him standing next to me. While some of the information on her many interconnected sites is true, I cannot recommend them. 


Rent-a-Fed: Consultants Advisory Group is back and they're offering the best US government services money can buy!

Regular readers will remember my adventures earlier this year involving a strange secretive company called the Consultants Advisory Group (CAG). (See also the Noriegaville News: Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti.) The are re-marketing themselves in their new improved website, offering the best US government services money can buy.

Got to love this ad copy:

Established in 1997, CAG INTERNACIONAL S.A. is a privately owned international business corporation closely held by American expatriates and staffed by the finest independent contractors from the CIA, FBI, US and Foreign Military Services, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the Departments of Justice and Commerce.

Wow. Is this going to be a franchise like MacDonald's? Government in a Happy Meal box? One stop shopping for your governmental authority needs? This is a pretty ambitious product line. One wonders if they are also planning to add national parks and a space program!

(I mean really, are they begging to be perceived as a CIA proprietary, or what? And if they were one, would they be on their knees trying to convince you? This is practically a Rent-a-Fed operation according to their copy. I doubt they can deliver that in actuality.)

Countries where they claim to be active include Panama, Kenya, and Somalia. How active is a matter for speculation, but it doesn't look like they are very active yet. And how come they didn't mention Haiti?

Despite CAG's persistent claims, I have a hard time believing that the proprietors of CAG are US ex-pats. CAG tries too hard to push the Americanness of their enterprise without a sense of how Americans do business. Note that their site lacks most of the usual contact info and does not even give an indication of the country in which they are incorporated.

(Thanks GW!)


The Iran Stand-Off: What the Internet Community Can Do

This is the second in a series on Iran. The first was Iran Maneuvers: Of Missile Tests & "Salami Tactics", which discusses Iran's recent military maneuvers and the hardware tested. The third is Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.

Yesterday Seymour Hersh's article The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? came out in the The New Yorker; a more accurate subtite for the article would have been Will president Bush resort to nuclear war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?, since that it really what is at issue in the piece. I do wonder why The New Yorker used such a low-key title given the article's actual argument.

Today, Reuter's published an article, Iran accuses US of "psychological war," labelling the Hersh article as psychological warfare.

There is really a lot to be said about the Hersh piece and the situation with Iran. But for the moment, I'll address just a few points. First of all, I believe that Hersh is probably giving an accurate description of the various opinions about what ought to be done about the Iran nuclear problem. What I found especially striking about reading all the material on the Iran military maneuvers was the extent to which the Iranian military and the US necocons were off on their own little planet fixinging for a fight, and the extent to which the rest of us are really not part of the conversation. So for me the most significant paragraph in the Hersh piece was this one:

[Robert] Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,” the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians.”

It seems to me that the moment the US uses a nuclear weapon in the 21st century, it loses all moral authority for preventing other countries from having nuclear weapos, and that the discourse for this century is very likely to become how to disarm that problem country the United States.

Another key passage thaht indicates to me just how far off the rails the thinking has gone:

The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

Made it in Japan? Made it in Japan when we didn't know any better and didn't know what else to do. I don't think either of those excuses are available on the pulldown menu just now.

It seems to me that there are a few things the Internet community can do to promote peace and stability in the face of what looks to be a dangerously insane stand-off. (And wasn't that piece of deterrence theory only acting crazy? Not being crazy? Have we made the transition from acting to being?)

First of all, get current 1 meter satellite images of the entire country of Iran up on Google Earth. They're out there. It's really just a matter of money. As is obvious from the relentless theme of invisibility in the recent Iranian weapons tests, the feisty Iranian government has its head under the couch and thinks all kinds of things can't be seen. So let the world take a close look at every square inch of Iran, so a housewife in Pleasantville or Tokyo can look at and speculate about the purpose of suspicious looking ventilation shafts. Having such imagery publicly available will also slow down our own warmongers when they realize that that same housewife can do damage assessments on areas they might choose to nuke. And it would be helpful for disaster relief and therefore reduce civilian casualties in the event of an actual attack on Iran. (Good for everyone all around.)

Secondly, the Internet community should be taking on and dismantling the Iranaian censorship apparatus, because the information on the Internet needs to get to those innocent people most likely to get killed in this, and also cultural crosspollenization will reduce the chance of war.

Third, open source, free translation tools too and from Farsi and all the languages of countries on the UN Security Council needs to be easily available as quickly as possible.

While it may not be possible for the rest of us to intrude on the toxic relationship between the Iranian government and the neocons, it seems to me that these three things should be tried.

(See also Greenpeace's site Don't nuke Iran which links to a Google Earth KMZ file with casualty estimates for nuclear strikes at various locations.)

UPDATE: See my new post Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.


Melbourne IT Censors Political Satire at the Request of the Office of Australian Prime Minister John Howard

200406033_p4124003jpg343vSurely, Melbourne IT, home to any number of phishing sites [P O Box 99800, EmeryVille, CA linked to is Melbourne IT's privacy protection address], and the company that allowed the Panix domain hijacking a while back, had to draw the line somewhere. And here's where they drew it: political satire. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

One of the many online newsletters and blogs I consume regularly is written by Richard Neville, a social commentator and, to people of my generation, one of the driving forces of the Australian counter-culture in the 1960s. . . . On March 8, Neville posted a spoof website on the internet, purporting to be a speech by John Howard apologising for Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. It was just the sort of speech Howard might have made if he had apologised and many believed it to be genuine.

That impression was exactly what was intended. That's how satire works. It was greatly heightened by the website (http://www.johnhowardpm.org) being a direct copy of the Prime Minister's website (http://www.pm.gov.au). Neville's spoof immediately received thousands of hits, helped along by his own email marketing and word of mouth.

Then, a day later, the site disappeared. . . . He tried to contacted Yahoo! which had sold him the web hosting package and the domain name for $9.71, but no one got back to him.

    In that email, he asked six questions:

    · Who ordered the closing of the site?

    · On what grounds?

    · By what authority?

    · Through what mechanism?

    · Why in secret?

    · Will I get a refund from Yahoo!?

After a few days Neville found that the problem was not with Yahoo! but with Melbourne IT, the domain name registrar.  . . . Melbourne IT shut down the site after it received calls from the Prime Minister's office and the Australian Federal Police, through its agency called the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. Melbourne IT's chief technology officer, Bruce Tonkin, says the registrar acted only because Neville's site looked like the Prime Minister's real site and infringed on intellectual property rights.

What, after all, will innocent children think if they were to see the Australian Prime Minister satirized in public! We must think of the children!

Neville writes:

The domain name, johnhowardpm.org, is hosted by Melbourne IT. In less than 36 hours of its launch, following 10,500 visits to the site, the plug was pulled. By who? On what grounds? It took three days for Melb IT to make contact with me and help lift the veils of confusion. After receiving a phone call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, Melb IT put the domain name on HOLD, where it remains. This domain cannot be transferred to another, more resilient host, for 60 days. In addition to the complaint from John Howard’s office, Melbourne IT said they had received calls from THREE Federal Police, and provided the name of an agent from the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. As far as I know, my passport has not met the same fate as my domain name.

See also Tim Longhurst.

[Advisory: as a Panix customer, I am unsure why Melboure IT remains in business.]


Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Now HERE's a news article that caused me to create a new tag: What were you thinking? The Chicago Tribune seems to be trying to outdo Bob Novak. Not content to out one CIA agent, they're trying to collect the whole set, or at least want us to think that's what they've done. (This reminds me a bit of the fake reports that Google Earth was being used to spy on our troop positions.) What were they thinking, anyway?

Here's the spin du jour: Forget Scooter Libby, the CIA has bigger problems. The pocket watch swings back and forth. You're getting sleepy, very sleepy: Forget Scooter Libby. Forget Scooter Libby. Got it?

Larry C. Johnson has a really good post on the subject that I'm going to mirror in it's entirety.

Well, the theater of the absurd that tries to pass for journalism has gone to new lows with a goofy story in today's Chicago Tribune. The article, Internet Blows CIA Cover claims, "It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."

Oh really? Okay Mr. Crewdson (the author of this nonsense). Please search the internet and identify 100 CIA officers for me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Oh, I forgot, first you need a name. You do not just enter a random name and come up with a flashing sign that says, "this guy is CIA". So really what you are saying is that if I tell you someone works for the CIA you can do a search and find out that someone, who is a private consultant, once worked for the U.S. State Department? In other words, you first have to be tipped off to look at a particular person.

Well, Valerie Plame was safe until the White House pointed reporters in her direction. Even if Crewdson's assertion that Valerie's cover was "thin" (it was not), what we know for a fact is that her neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. Only those who had a need to know knew.

Crewdson insinuates, but doesn't demonstrate, that a simple search of the internet enables one to easily identify CIA employees. The true story is more complicated. Crewdson's searches were conducted after the names of individuals and companies appeared in the news. He searched on those names and found links to the U.S. Government. Nowhere on the internet will you find a list of undercover folks that says, "they really work for the CIA". Crewdson is right about one point, the CIA has done a lousy job of developing effective cover positions. But that is a failure of leaders like Tenet rather than officers, such as Valerie Plame.

But here is what is really fascinating. Crewdson says he identified 2600 CIA officers but, out of concern for national security, declined to out them. Thank you Mr. Crewdson. At least you understand that blowing someones cover, even a thin one, would be an act of treason. I am in favor of having Crewdson give Bob Novak a lesson in journalistic ethics and responsibility.

There is no such thing as ironclad cover. Whether Valerie Plame's cover was thin or deep, the basic fact remains--she was an undercover intelligence officer and expected senior government officials to protect this secret. Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney, who learned that she was a CIA officer, were obligated to protect that secret. Instead, they betrayed Valerie and helped destroy an intelligence network that was devoted to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the real story that true Americans should be fretting over.

I share Johnson's scepticism that the Chicgo Tribune's reporters have done what they claim. If they really had, they wouldn't have published the article. (And the scenario seems to come from an alternate universe in which the printed phone book was never invented.) But it does seem that this takes the Plame Wars to a whole new level in which our intelligence agents are now to be outed in bulk and not individually. While the agency is not staffed entirely by perfect angels, and while I enjoy a good outing as much as the next blogger, if we are to have intelligence services at all, this kind of political operative gamesmanship has got to stop.


Secure Computing: Fulfilling a Wish for the Censor

189015919001_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_I bought a book this morning for Secure Computing's  SmartFilter censor Tomo Foote-Lennox and videotaped the experience. I was Googling his name to see if my posts mentioning him had been indexed by Google, and I made an interesting discovery.

I noticed that there was a link to a review he'd posted on Amazon and I decided to learn a little more about his tastes, which are apparently very interesting. As it turned out, he'd only ever reviewed that one item.

But he did have a Wish List, which I did have a look at. While it contained only two items, I decided to grant one of his two wishes and buy him a copy of The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl's Guide to Female Dominance, which he had listed. I decided I would buy it for him, and I would videotape myself fulfilling his wish, and then I would blog it.

Imovie_hdscreensnapz001_1My sexual quirk is that I am turned on by intellectual excitement; specifically, I find ferreting out weird facts and then acting upon them sexully exciting. One of Tomo Foote-Lennox's many quirks seems to be masochism. And so the act of publicly fulfilling this wish for him is an odd species of Internet sexual act: a moment is which he and I -- who otherwise would be quite incompatible -- have a strange moment of resonance. I very much enjoyed blowing nineteen bucks to publicly buy him the book he said he wanted; I hope he enjoys receiving it just as much. I made sure Amazon wrapped his present.

I tried uploading the video to YouTube, but it isn't uploading. So probably I need to go back and re-edit to make it shorter. I'll let you know when it's up.

Shifting back into my usual social persona, I want to say that the problem with a fetishist playing censor for millions of people is that the fetsishist's gaze is a sexualizing one, and so much material which is not inherently smut will look dirty to someone viewing the world through that lens. I had an unsatisfactory correspondence with Tomo on the subject of what material about breastfeeding would make it through their censorship. Many things I could do in the lunchroom of my son's elementary school or in broad daylight on the streets of NYC would not have made it. I find this unacceptable, and I attribute part of the problem to the point of view (and arrogance) Tomo brings to the issue.

UPDATE: This Domini person thinks I've been bad, very bad. He thinks that I should have called Tomo to ask — "hey Tomo, do you want me to buy you the Mistress Manual?" — rather than turning a loaded credit card on him. (When Tomo responds to my most recent email message to him, maybe I'll ask. But I don't think he's speaking to me right now.) I gotta say that the credit card purchase, Amazon order # 102-9375069-1924901, is leaving an awfully nice paper trail to Maple Grove, Minnestota.  (Hmm, has Domini go a problem with my lifestyle as a dominant female blogger?)