November 26, 2004

Hey! Teacher! Leave us kids alone! (But send a check!)

Greetings. Proving once again that it's never too late to try get that back payment, some of the ex-pupils who (clandestinely) sang the memorable chorus to Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall back in 1979, are now seeking unpaid music royalties.

They may not "need no thought control" ... but apparently the cash wouldn't hurt.


Posted by Lauren at 07:05 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 25, 2004

Brooke Shields vs. Web Traffic

Gobble Gobble -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Web server activity here showed a pair of unusual spikes this morning, exactly three hours apart.

Slashdot effect? No, not this time. In fact, the cause was curious fingers inspired by a Brooke Shields' dance routine in today's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

The clue of course was the precisely timed repetition of the sudden traffic increase, which typically indicates that the "magic word" was used prominently on network television (first for East/Central, then on the delayed Pacific broadcast three hours later).


Posted by Lauren at 07:16 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 16, 2004

"Virgin Mary" Grilled Cheese Sandwich Back Up on eBay

Holy Velveeta, Batman!

Like I've said before, you can't make this stuff up. For a time, eBay pulled down the auction of a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that the owner claims bears an image of the Virgin Mary. But the auction is now back online.

The bidding got to $22K before eBay's original action, with their saying "joke" auctions weren't permitted. But they relented after the holy cheese sandwich owner insisted that it's not a joke. Her proof: In 10 years the sandwich has never gotten moldy!

Now that's a true testament to religious faith if I've ever heard one. Or at least a testament to the longevity of the preservatives in processed cheese products.


(The Holy Grilled Cheese Sandwich)

Posted by Lauren at 03:48 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

New Calif. DMV Chief Promotes GPS Tracking of Vehicles

Greetings. Here's something everyone should be concerned about. Gov. "Arnold" has just appointed a new DMV chief here in California, who is an outspoken advocate of taxing drivers for every mile based on where they drive, by tracking vehicles with GPS. If they get away with it here, other states are likely to be lining up for a piece of the action.

Of course, we're told that the mountains of location data that would be generated by such a system wouldn't be used for any privacy-invasive purposes. But statements by apparent supporters of the new chief -- such as Elizabeth Deakin of the UC Transportation Center, are most illuminating. Says Deakin:

"While some people are concerned about civil liberties, most people are not."

(Let's just see 'em try to get a GPS tracker on my Harley.)


Posted by Lauren at 11:25 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 14, 2004

New Police Tactic: Tasering Children

Greetings. Some police officers appear to be finding their latest toy -- the electrical shocking "Taser" gun -- to be irresistible. And hey, since it works on adults, it's apparently even more effective when used against children with behavioral problems.

In the past few weeks, Miami police used the device on both a 12-year-old truant girl and a 6-year-old boy. In both cases, the officers seemed to claim that "they had no other choice" -- but one wonders what they would have done if they didn't have the Tasers -- shoot the kids with service revolvers? I suspect not.

The Taser represents the "push button" method of child control -- even faster than high doses of Ritalin. The Taser's manufacturer claims the device is safe to use on anyone weighing at least 60 pounds. Tell that to the unarmed man who died recently after police tasered him when he wouldn't come out from a closet where he was hiding.

Mostly "non-lethal" weapons are certainly an improvement over usually lethal ones. But when weapons such as the Taser are used inappropriately, it's still abuse, plain and simple. Tasers and their like are also reportedly used for torture in various quarters, but that's another story.


Posted by Lauren at 09:31 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 12, 2004

Goodbye, John Ashcroft

Greetings. Even on the way out the door, Attorney General John Ashcroft apparently doesn't want anyone to imagine that he's lost his coveted position somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan.

In his lastest public tirade, he declared that judges who question or disagree with President Bush's findings are a risk to national security. Gosh darn it, that pesky judicial branch is just always causing problems isn't it, John? What were those Founding Fathers thinking when they set that up?

Ashcroft will soon be history as far as the White House is concerned of course, and I sincerely wish him well with his ongoing health problems. Most likely oodles of moola will be in his future.

Alberto Gonzales is now in line to succeed him, a man who promoted the view that the Geneva Conventions need not apply in the "war" on terror, quite possibly helping to set the stage for the infamous abuses of Iraqi prisoners under coalition control.

However, it does currently appear that whatever else he may be, Gonzales is no John Ashcroft. For that, we can be thankful.

Say goodnight, John.


Posted by Lauren at 09:40 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

Secret Service Called to School When Band Sings '63 Dylan Song

Greetings. You have to read this one for yourself. When a high school band called "Coalition of the Willing" in Boulder, Colorado rehearsed the classic 1963 Bob Dylan song Masters of War in preparation for the school talent show, some cretins listening decided it was a threat to their beloved President Bush, and called in the Secret Service.

The school's principal was interroga... oops, questioned by Secret Service agents, as was a teacher who had supervised a recent student protest. Agents also took with them a copy of the offending Dylan lyrics, which no doubt will now have a file entry all its very own in the database bowels over at Homeland Security.

This story comes on the heels of word that many ABC-TV affiliates are refusing to air a rerun of the Oscar-nominated film Saving Private Ryan -- supposedly over fears that this time around the FCC would fine them over explicit language. In some quarters though, there are suspicions of concerns that the film with its "war is hell" overtones might offend the powers-that-be for other reasons as well.


Posted by Lauren at 10:24 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 06, 2004

Suckering in the Recruits: The Most Disingenuous Army Commercial Ever? (Video)

Greetings. The U.S. body count continues rising in Iraq, but we're repeatedly assured by Bush and his cohorts that no draft is planned (even while the Selective Service system -- that would run a draft -- appears to be rapidly gearing up behind the scenes).

What secret weapon does the military possess to help meet their recruitment quotas under these conditions? Advertising of course! And there's a real doozy airing right now.

Most commercials for military services traditionally emphasize money for college, job skills, or even travel possibilities. A bare few actually suggest that you might be engaged in fighting -- but these are generally considered to be in bad taste.

But the new approach is not to admit that you're talking about the military at all until the very last cut. A current 30-second Army spot manages to give the impression that it's talking about becoming a teacher, a nurse, a Peace Corps volunteer, or something along those lines. But it's all a come-on -- a disingenuous spiel of a high order indeed.

Take a look for yourself at this Army video gem (Windows Media Format).

It's a long, long way from the "kill for peace" pitch, that's for sure!


Posted by Lauren at 08:33 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

November 03, 2004

Lest We Forget Wally's Election Quote

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

      -- Wally O'Dell, CEO Diebold (August 14, 2003 fundraising letter)
          [ largest electronic voting machine manufacturer ]

Posted by Lauren at 08:44 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein