Author: Patrick Non-White

Coming Soon, To A Theater Near You

Cue MPAA PG-13 Rating Screen. Cue Dreamworks logo, in association with Disney.

Close up of Matt Damon from behind and over right shoulder, clad in black leather jacket, wearing VR glasses, typing furiously at a keyboard before a monitor displaying mulitcolored images of geometric figures.

Announcer: "Meet Case. He's a hacker."

Tracking shot to close-up of Damon, on a night-time Tokyo street corner, the sky lit by images of Anime figures and [K-Pop singer the studio's parent company needs to promote at time of release], handing a compact disc to a Gunjin [see source novelization], and receiving a credit chip in return.

Cut to medium shot of Emily Blount, wearing Versace leather, Prada shoes, and mirrored sunglasses, performing a disarming martial arts move on [affordable character actor resembling Ray Liotta, or Liotta if negotiable].

Announcer: "Meet Molly. She's a career girl, hiding a secret behind those mirrored sunglasses."

Cut to close-up of Blount, emerging from shower, strategic mist around her body, raising her hands in a motion resembling prayer. Blount's lacquered fingernails morph from red to liquid silver [instruct FX library to lease T-1000 FX from Cameron], revealing them to be knives.

Cut to distance telephoto shot of Will Smith walking forward, clad in hair extension dreadlocks, a ripped sweater revealing Smith's abs, jeans, and motorcycle boots. Smith holds a sawed-off shotgun in each hand, elbows turned upwards. Greenscreen behind Smith shows [Gothic Spaceship Interior #9], with a neon sign behind Smith, flashing the word "ZION".

Announcer: "And Malcolm, her best friend."

Musical Cue: [Standard THWOP-THWOP noise #7]. Fade to black.

Interior shot of 1957 Cadillac El Dorado on night-lit LA freeway, Smith driving, Blount, in passenger seat, extended from window firing AK-47 at unseen object behind, Damon in rear compartment, wearing VR goggles, typing furiously at laptop.

Announcer: "They're about to commit the greatest theft of all time."

Cut to medium shot of a bar, with two patrons and a robot bartender. First patron is John Malkovich, clad in [Corrupt Businessman Heavy Three Piece Suit #6]. Second is [Generic German heavy actor resembling Rutger Hauer, or Hauer if affordable].

Malkovich, in German accent: "I want them in the games, until they die playing!"

Hauer: "Ja!"

Announcer: "If they don't get killed first."

Cut to medium-close [Gothic Spaceship interior #12], Damon, not wearing VR goggles, speaking to Smith.

Damon: "Still, she's got spirit. You think, a razorgirl and guy like me?"

Smith: "Don't worry, be happy mon."

Cut to [Alpine Lake Hotel Vista # 2], semi-close shot, Damon and Blount seated close at [Intimate Dinner Table #5], [prop steak #4] before Damon, [prop salad #2] before Blount.

Damon: "I love you, Molly."

Blount: "We've got business, Case."

Close-up, same set: Damon and Blount embrace, and kiss across the table.

Cut to shot of [Starfighter #4], pursued by [Starcruiser #3], panning to [Midtechlevel Space Station #11], draw back wide to Greenscreen starfield.

Announcer: "This Holiday Season, Steven Spielberg presents NEUROMANCER, in theaters across the Matrix!"

Fade to black.

Screwtape Embraces The Internet

My Dear Wormwood,

Your suggestion that I "sign up" for something called "Twitter" is noted, and rejected. I gather from your rapturous description of the thing that "tweeting" is one of the ephemera through which the humans chatter with one another using their internet. Having been promoted from the front lines to a policy-making position some centuries ago, I no longer have interest in corresponding with the vermin through physical means. On the occasions when I do desire the society of humans there is no shortage of them here in Hell, where one can communicate with them in terms rather more frank than is possible on Earth.

In your enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of the humans' technology, you seem to miss the opportunities it offers.  For example, you boast that your patient, in discussing the most recent controversy occupying the humans' fleeting attention, rebuked another of the beasts in terms profane and sacrilegious, as though this was some great sin. While it is always pleasing to Our Father Below when the man utters a sacrilege, we long ago degraded their speech, particularly in America, to a level barely more articulate than the hoots and grunts of the apes from which they claim to descend.

The great sin, which your patient failed as thoroughly as you to appreciate, was that he entered the discussion in the first place. Think of it, Wormwood, at the moment your patient "clicked the upvote button" in the expectation that his demand would grant the girl a long life, he arrogated to himself that power which belongs solely to the Enemy. In his pride, the fool presumes that he is as qualified to decide the best use of the lung as a transplant surgeon, when in fact he has no medical training and his sense of ethics is limited to parroting platitudes he was taught by older parrots in his half-forgotten school days.

This misplaced pride is particularly common among the American humans. Make no mistake: The idea on which their republic was founded, that all men are born equal in the Enemy's sight, is a noxious and pestilential notion which, if the humans properly understood and followed it, would be the ruin of many of our plans. We want every man to think of himself as better or worse than his brother. If a man thinks himself his brother's superior (whether he actually is or not is of little concern to us), we can foster the pleasing sins of pride, wrath, tyranny, and at the best of times the mass murders and genocides which brought so many to Our Father's House in the last century. If he knows himself to be his brother's inferior, we may reap a crop of envy, resentment, false humility, deceit, despair, and suicide.

But as to equality, under the guidance of the Low Command we have largely nullified the meaning of the word, as the Enemy understands it. Rather than the (self-evident) truth that before the Enemy all men are fallen, and so low in His sight as to deserve none of the gifts He has given them through grace alone, in modern parlance equality is understood to mean that each man is actually the equal of his fellow. Thus the fool thinks it virtuous to blather in the company of the wise man, and the ignorant feel it an injustice when rebuked by their betters for empty-headed prattle. This trend has only accelerated since humans created the internet.

And so we come to the events of yesterday, when a herd of cattle, your patient among them, lowed so loudly at being shown a picture of a young girl denied an organ transplant that it now appears the girl will receive the cast-off lung, whether or not she was of suitable age to receive the organ, and in disregard of longstanding rules on which others of the vermin based their expectations. You can be sure that not a one of the brutes considered that in "giving" life to the object of his fancy, he was just as surely taking it from another. In the Roman colosseum, the plebs knew full well that their roars condemned Christians to death. In the modern arena, the plebs dupe themselves that their roaring is righteous.

Thanks to seeds planted long ago by the Lowerarchy, we can expect more such harvests in the future. As the number of the humans increases, their competition for finite resources will grow keener. We have taught mankind to believe that such resources should be allocated arbitrarily, to she who is most popular or to he who cries most loudly of his need, rather than according to rules, laws, or anything approaching such rationality as their little minds can muster. The so-called leaders of their societies, whom we have well in hand, will be only too happy to appease the mob.

Finally, I concur with your facile observation that it benefits our cause for the girl get her lung (the death of a child, while pleasing to the senses, does us no good since we probably cannot get her soul), but the disposition of a piece of dead tissue is of no importance in the long run. What matters is we are fast approaching the day when, by showing the humans a picture of a wounded puppy or a homeless kitten, we can provoke in them such squalls of outrage that they will abandon their laws, their morals, and their reason.

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape

Lesson Plan And Syllabus For Second Semester Seniors, Princeton High School

Week 12.

Period One: Advanced Placement English. Discussion continues on Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Students will consider the moral ramifications of Adolf Eichmann's defense that he participated in genocide on orders from higher authority. The instructor is expected to question students on the distinction between lawful action and moral action, with emphasis on agency and personal responsibility. The lesson should lead into issues raised by the following reading assignments, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, and Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Period Two: American History. The study of the life of George Washington continues. Having concluded examination of Washington's policies as President, students will discuss the popular history and lore surrounding our nation's founding father. Parson Weems' story of the cherry tree, in which Washington honestly admitted to wrongdoing, will be discussed. Questions students should consider include: Was Washington's father right to forgive his son for cutting the cherry tree in light of the son's forthright admission? Is Washington to be admired for his integrity and honesty, or to be condemned as a tree killer? And how did this episode affect Washington's  future development as a general and statesman?

Period Three: Advanced Placement Mathematics. Symbolic logic is introduced. Through word problems, students will reduce complex concepts to mathematical formulae, with allowance for variables and contingencies. Sample problem:

North Carolina General Statute 14-269.2 makes it a Class I Felony to knowingly possess a weapon on school property. However, the charge shall be reduced to a Misdemeanor when the weapon is unloaded, is in a vehicle, and is kept locked. Cole mistakenly brings an unloaded shotgun to school after a weekend of sport shooting, in a vehicle which is locked. When Cole discovers his mistake, he confesses and asks for permission to return the shotgun to his home. Explain, in logical terms, why it is appropriate to charge Cole with a crime at all, and why it is appropriate to charge Cole with a Class I Felony, rather than a Misdemeanor?

Period Four: Film Criticism Elective. This week's material is Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film, Do The Right Thing. Parental consent is required to view the assignment. Matters to be explored include Lee's use of contemporary hip hop music as a leitmotif, Lee's cinematography as an exemplar of the early "New York independent" school of film editing, and the moral implications of the death of Radio Raheem and the burning of Sal's Pizzeria. Students should discuss how these tragedies could have been avoided, had the characters embraced the spirit of neighborhood and compromise that formerly characterized relations between the people who inhabit this city block.

Lunch Break: This week's cafeteria offerings: Monday, Salisbury Steak. Tuesday, Stuffed Cabbage. Wednesday, Ham Loaf. Thursday (in honor of National Sweet Potato Week), Yam Surprise. Friday, Salisbury Steak.

Period Five: Physical Education. Dodge Ball.

Period Six: Student Assembly and Study Hall. This week's assembly will feature an address from Principal Kirk Denning, on the topic, "With Actions Come Consequences." Principal Denning will also discuss our school's longstanding "zero tolerance" policy toward drugs, as applied to cough syrup.

Period Seven: Earth Science. Students will study metals, and their uses in technology and industry. The instructor will discuss the characteristics of iron as an exemplar metal, explaining its properties as the most rigid, unbending, inelastic, unyielding, obdurate, stern, unchanging, obstinate, stubborn, unswayable, hard, inflexible, and stupid of metals.

A Day Reading Popehat Is Like A Day At The Farm. Every Post Is A Banquet! Every Amazon Purchase A Fortune! Every Comment Thread A Parade! I Love Popehat!

But we don't love a few of you.

This is to advise that I have conducted our first mass banning, for intolerable rudeness to other commenters, ninnyhammery, and general jackanapery. If you can read this, congratulations! You have survived to fight another day.

I shan't name names. The guilty know who they are, or will soon. As for the innocent, keep fighting the good fight! Politely.

You may review our comment policies here. You may discuss my decision below.

Politely.

Be Aware That You Have Threatened, Tried To Blackmail And Accused Our Company Of SCAM With Your E-mail!

We get letters.

This week we heard from a reader who, to protect her privacy, I'll refer to as Rapunzel. Rapunzel had a bad experience with a piece of jewelry she'd ordered from an online merchant. It seems that Rapunzel had ordered a necklace, which she expected to look like this:

Television Whopper

What actually arrived looked like this:

Actual Whopper

But by the time this reached me, the necklace was not Rapunzel's problem. This is not a post about cheap cosmetic jewelry.

This is a post about baseless threats of suit to suppress a dissatisfied customer's speech, spurious allegations of crime, stalking, and  the most bone-headedly aggressive  customer service department on the entire world wide web.

"A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes." — Douglas Adams.

This is a post about alwaysinfashion.com, the "Online Store of Polish & Russian Amber and Murano Glass Jewelry," whatever that is.

Now ordinarily I would not lift a finger to assist someone who had purchased a trinket online and found its appearance … something less than what was advertised. I would politely commiserate, then point out that I charge more to make one telephone call than the trinket is worth.

To her credit, Rapunzel did not seek my assistance in getting a refund. She had dealt with that herself. After sending an inquiry, she found that the company's return terms (a refund only if the offending merchandise is shipped first-class mail to Italy, at the buyer's expense) were unsatisfactory, and advised the company that she would write a negative review of the product, and her experience with the company.

That's when things got weird. That's when Rapunzel received this email, from "sales" at alwaysinfashion.com:

Mrs. Rapunzel,

We are a reliable and well known company and people on the internet talk about Us very positively.

You have received the items that You have ordered and paid for, that is it.

Thousands of customers are happy for the quality of our products and for our professionalism and We must suppose that You agreed with them since You have decided to place on order from our company.

Be aware that You have threatened, tried to blackmail and accused our company of Scam with your e-mail. This something really serious and inacceptable therefore We will send a copy of your e-mail and all your data to our lawyers.

If You keep on with your defamations and write anything on blogs, forums or social networks, We will immediately start a lawsuit against You.

Sales Department
Alwaysinfashion.com (Emphasis in original)

This email brings several thoughts to mind.

First, it's good to know that Ignatius J. Reilly is alive and well, and working in customer service.

Second, the circular logic that leads alwaysinfashion.com to suppose that Rapunzel, a first time customer, "must have agreed" with the thousands of customers happy for the quality of its products and professionalism, before she ever received a product, is breathtaking.

Third, my co-blogger Ken has said, rightly, that vagueness is one of the hallmarks of a poor legal demand. When the threatening party cannot identify a specific defamatory statement, that's a sign of bullying and bluster. In this case, alwaysinfashion.com goes one better: The company threatened Rapunzel with litigation before she wrote a single word about its product.

Fourth, well, you'll see…

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." — Hunter S. Thompson.

After receiving alwaysinfashion's thug-missive, Rapunzel replied, stating she would communicate with the company no more, but asserting her right to express her honest opinion of the product, as well as the fact that alwaysinfashion had threatened to sue her, to others. I believe she has done so at this point.

Later this week, unsolicited, this popped into Rapunzel's in-box.

Mrs. Rapunzel,

These are the facts:

1)You placed an order of two Amber necklaces ATN002 (realized with irregular beads softly rounded in matte and cognac color) promptly shipped and delivered to You.

2)You liked so much Our Amber necklaces that You have tried to get another couple for free adducing unfounded reasons.

3)After Our denial, your opinion about Our products and Our company suddenly changed:  Our necklaces became “sub par” items and We became scammers.

Objectively if You feel yourself victim of a scam, the only logical thing to do is to ask for product return instructions and surely not to ask for other two pieces of the same item. You also asked for an expedited shipping since you:” really wanted to have this amber for the trip”.

Moreover your scam allegations are based on your personal idea that beads color is  an evidence of Amber quality. Please show Us your credentials as jewelry expert or send Us a copy of the  documentation that certify your statements.

Mrs. Rapunzel You can be sure that We will leave reviews and post on social networks about your blackmail and threatens and We surely inform about this matter all the companies You work for in Oklahoma [REDACTED BY PATRICK]

This is our last warning to You Mrs. Rapunzel: If You keep on with your defamations and write false reviews or lies on blogs, forums or social networks, We will immediately start a lawsuit against You.

This is our last e-mail and We assure You, Mrs. Rapunzel that the next communication will be sent from Our lawyers along to a claim for damages.

Sales Department

Alwaysinfashion.com

Believe it or not, there is a charitable interpretation of this email.

I will assume, charitably, that the mastermind behind alwaysinfashion.com's sales team learned English as a second language.

And one could assume, charitably, that alwaysinfashion's threat to "leave reviews and post on social networks about your blackmail and threatens" is a poorly phrased way of stating, "We will post detailed rebuttals of your online criticisms of our products."

If one were charitable.

I'm not charitable, because the following threat, to contact Rapunzel's employer concerning her "blackmail and threatens," showing that alwaysinfashion had gone so far as to google Rapunzel and name an employer, is extortion in the moral sense of the word if not the legal: a threat to accuse Rapunzel falsely of a crime, and to jeopardize her livelihood, all in order to suppress her speech.

"This aggression will not stand, Dude." — Walter Sobchak.

By this time Rapunzel had contacted Popehat. Where initially she had considered alwaysinfashion's threats to be bluster, that the company had taken the trouble to search her employment history, in a dispute over a cheap piece of jewelry, was so off-the-rails scary that she felt she needed help.

Yesterday I sent the following email to "sales" at alwaysinfashion.com:

Dear Sir or Ma'am.

I am writing to inquire whether a series of threatening emails sent to your customer Ms. Rapunzel concerning Ms. Rapunzel's request to return an amber necklace represent your company's typical customer service.

As I believe you are aware, Ms. Rapunzel recently purchased an amber necklace from your website. She was dissatisfied with the quality of the product. She asked to return the necklace for a full refund. When you informed that she would have to pay shipping costs to return the product at her own expense, Ms. Rapunzel advised she would mention that fact, and her overall dissatisfaction with the quality of your merchandise, in a review of the product.

In response, you sent Ms. Rapunzel an email which contained the following threat:

Be aware that You have threatened, tried to blackmail and accused our company of Scam with your e-mail. This something really serious and inacceptable therefore We will send a copy of your e-mail and all your data to our lawyers.If You keep on with your defamations and write anything on blogs, forums or social networks, We will immediately start a lawsuit against You.

Later this week, although Ms. Rapunzel had not contacted you in the meantime, you wrote her again, threatening to contact a former employer about this situation, and to "leave reviews and post on social networks about your blackmail and threatens."

I write for a weblog known as Popehat, which can be read at www.popehat.com. We write occasionally on legal issues, as well as free speech and threats to free speech. I am an attorney, as are several of my fellow writers. Although I do not represent Ms. Rapunzel as her attorney, I do find it troubling that you would threaten a lawsuit against Ms. Rapunzel simply for exercising her right to express her honest opinion.

I plan to write about this situation. Before I do so, I would like to offer you the opportunity to comment on the situation. If my understanding of the facts is incorrect, please let me know. I would also appreciate it if you could answer the following questions:

1) How has Ms. Rapunzel "blackmailed" your company? Has Ms. Rapunzel threatened or attempted any criminal action against you, as opposed to expressing her honest opinion of the product and what appears, to me as well, to be atrociously poor customer service?

2) Is it usual for alwaysinfashion.com to contact employers of customers who complain about the quality of its merchandise?

3) Is it usual for alwaysinfashion.com to threaten to accuse customers who complain about the quality of its merchandise of crimes on "social networks"?

4) Do you understand that, in the United States as in most free nations, Ms. Rapunzel has an absolute right to express honest opinions, and to write honest reviews, of products and of merchants such as alwaysinfashion.com?  If you do understand this, on what basis do you threaten to sue Ms. Rapunzel?

5) Are you familiar with the term "Streisand Effect"?

For your reference, here are some posts we've written in the past at Popehat about people and companies who baselessly threaten litigation against others who, like Ms. Rapunzel, are simply expressing the truth or honest opinion:

[snipped]

Finally, while I do not represent Ms. Rapunzel at this time, I am an attorney. Naturally I know many attorneys, in California (where your company appears to base its American operations) as well as in Ms. Rapunzel's state of Oklahoma, and around the nation. I do want you to know that in the event alwaysinfashion, or any of its affiliates, files a baseless lawsuit against Ms. Rapunzel for exercising her constitutional right to free speech, we will do everything in our power to see that Ms. Rapunzel is afforded counsel who will vigorously protect her rights, including, if necessary, filing motions for sanctions under appropriate state law to recover her attorney's fees and costs.

I look forward to your response.

Patrick at Popehat

I've sent that email multiple times, with and without links. As of today my emails have been returned as undeliverable or have not generated a response.

I can't say whether alwaysinfashion will follow through on its threats to sue Rapunzel, but that isn't the point. By promising a suit, and by promising to contact her employers, alwaysinfashion has already shown it's willing to use the chilling effect of threatened litigation (and worse) to silence her.

All that I can do at this point is to speak for her, and to encourage her to continue to speak. I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about jewelry, but even if I did, and I knew enough to say that alwaysinfashion sells the finest Baltic amber jewelry on the planet, I wouldn't use one of their necklaces to wring a chicken's neck.

Stupid defamation threats like those issued by alwaysinfashion, issued before an aggrieved customer even writes a review, threats of extrajudicial terror such as contacting employers, can and should be publicized far and wide. Alwaysinfashion's customers, and its potential customers, deserve to know that if they have a poor experience with the company and complain about it, they may receive the Rapunzel treatment: threatened litigation and threats to employment.

Caveat emptor.

sirenUPDATE: ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

A representative of Always In Fashion has favored us with a reply.

But the reply raises more questions than it answers and, if possible, makes the company look worse.

 

Let's Have A Conversation About Rodney Moore

It will be worthwhile, I promise you.

This week Democratic Rodney Moore, of Mecklenburg County, introduced a bill that would make thousands of innocent North Carolinians criminals.  It would most definitely make me a criminal, for two reasons.

First, because I own this dog, and will likely own dogs of similar appearance in the future;

Bella

And second, because I would never obey Rodney Moore's command that I submit to a criminal background check and enroll in a four hour course sponsored by the Humane Society on responsible ownership of pit bulls, rottweilers, mastiffs, chows, and similar "aggressive dog breeds."

Three hundred and fifty years ago, King Charles II granted the charter that led to the founding of North Carolina. And for all three hundred and fifty of those years, North Carolinians have enjoyed the fundamental liberty of owning whatever damned breed of dog they please, without submitting to a criminal background check.

During that time, North Carolina has suffered the oppressions of King George III.  North Carolina has endured invasion by Sherman, and military rule by occupying federal troops.  North Carolina has been terrrorized by the Ku Klux Klan. North Carolina has been attacked by the dreaded U-Boats of Adolf Hitler.

But neither King George III, nor Sherman, nor any military governor, nor even the Ku Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler ever presumed to require a North Carolinian to submit to a criminal background check to own a dog. Without having to sit through a four hour class.

I daresay that if Rodney Moore's bill were to become law, the people of North Carolina would rise up, march to Raleigh, carry Rodney Moore from his seat in the Capitol, and dunk him into the nearest lake.

If Rodney Moore didn't know that at the beginning of this week, when he introduced his monstrous and intolerable act, he knows it now.

Any person who possesses an aggressive dog breed without passing a criminal background check and obtaining a permit is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Any person who possesses an aggressive dog breed without passing a criminal background check and obtaining a permit is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Stung by public criticism of his insolence, Moore now claims that he never expected the bill to pass.

Moore claims he just wanted to start a "worthwhile conversation."

Well let's have that conversation, Rodney Moore.  I'll start with a few questions.

When you asked the people of Mecklenburg, County, North Carolina to entrust you with legislative power, did you run on a platform that involved outlawing dog breeds you find offensive? Or did you feed them some claptrap about "maximizing the potential of sound policymaking decisions to enhance the opportunities and aspirations of the citizens of the State of North Carolina."

Is filing a bill that has no chance of passing, just because you want to start a "worthwhile conversation," a sound policymaking decision? Do people in Mecklenburg County elect representatives because they want to have conversations, or because they want representatives to propose sound laws that actually have a chance at passage?

As for the bill in question, is giving a Sheriff the power to require criminal background checks of potential dog owners, without specifying what crimes disqualify the applicant, a sound policymaking decision?  Does it "enhance the opportunities and aspirations of the citizens" to give the Sheriff such arbitrary discretion with respect to breeds that are disproportionately owned by the poor and minorities?  Without defining the term "pit bull"?

And should the people of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina evaluate your answers to these questions in deciding whether to return you to the House in 2014?

Government's Opinion Of You, In Thirteen Words

Rarely has a legislator expressed what he thinks of the public with such eloquence and and brevity as Republican Tommy Tucker, Chairman of the North Carolina Senate's State and Local Government Committee.

So honestly.

So powerfully.

Challenged by a reporter to record a voice vote on a bill that would allow city and county governments to post public notices, traditionally published in newspapers, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard solely on government websites, so that the Committee's members would have to own up to their votes, how did Tucker respond?

(more…)

Richard Jewell Cannot Accept Our Apology

After a crime like yesterday's Boston bombings, it can be worthwhile to reflect on how we've reacted to similar tragedies.  Consider the case of Richard Jewell.

A terrorist detonated a bomb at Atlanta's Olympic Park, during the 1996 Olympic games. That terrorist was Eric Robert Rudolph, who pled guilty to the crime along with a number of abortion clinic bombings. Mr. Rudolph is presently a guest at the ADMAX hotel in Florence Colorado.

For nine years, Richard Jewell labored under suspicion that he'd been the bomber. In fact, Richard Jewell was a jewel of a man, a private security guard who spotted the bomb, informed the police of its existence, and escorted park visitors off the site until the bomb exploded. Jewell was a hero.

Such an unlikely hero, it occurred to the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, that he must have planted the bomb. After all, private security guards are losers. Mall cops. And Jewell, for all his common sense and bravery in a crisis, was an odd man. A little weird, a law-enforcement wannabe who'd just happened to be in the right place at the right time, then went on tv talking as though he was an actual cop. And he was fat.

Obviously that weirdo Jewell had planted the bomb so he could take credit for discovering it.

Or so it seemed, for some reason, to the FBI, which leaked Jewell as the primary suspect, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which took the leak, a perfect story after all, and used it to make Jewell's life Hell on Earth.

And to All Of Us, who behaved like beasts toward Jewell, because after all CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the FBI had fingered him as the bomber.

Jewell died 11 years after the bombing, exonerated and a little richer thanks to several settlements against media outlets like CNN, but still a broken man. In its obituary, the New York Times, which had also reported on the allegations against Jewell, eulogized him as the hero of the Atlanta attack.

Which did Richard Jewell no good whatsoever.

Eric Robert Rudolph has never apologized to Jewell. Nor, for that matter, have the people of Georgia who spat on him. All Of Us.

If the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and All Of Us, could get the Atlanta bombing so tragically wrong in 1996, they, and we, can do it today. In the days to come, it would behoove All Of Us to take what the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and their ilk, have to say about suspects and motives with a grain of salt.

Lest we find outselves owing someone a Richard Jewell-sized apology.

Perhaps the best apology we, All Of Us, can give to Richard Jewell is to be a little more skeptical of what we're told by the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and their ilk.

It will do Richard Jewell no good whatsoever, but it will make All Of Us better citizens.

Are Harry Warren And Carl Ford Oathbreakers, Or Merely Dangerous Cranks?

You've probably been wondering. It's a valid question. Fortunately, I'm here to answer it for you.

The Constitution of the great State of North Carolina has this to say about North Carolina's standing with respect to the United States:

The people of this State have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof, and of altering or abolishing their Constitution and form of government whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness; but every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States. …

This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation; there is no right on the part of this State to secede; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State. …

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force. …

So it's troubling to see that North Carolina representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford have introduced the Rowan County, North Carolina Defense of  Religion Act of 2013, which proclaims:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Especially in light of repeated holdings by the United States Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (guaranteeing citizens "equal protection of the laws" and preventing states from withholding "liberty … without due process of law") makes the First Amendment's guarantee that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" applicable to the states, including North Carolina.

Representatives Warren and Ford are upset that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the County Commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina, for opening public meetings with prayers to Jesus Christ.  I suppose, if one believes that Jesus Christ is intimately concerned with the goings and comings of the Rowan County Commission, the lawsuit is troubling, because the plaintiffs will be successful. Their solution: that North Carolina, and its subdivisions including Rowan County, should take upon themselves the power to establish a State religion.

Now I'm not a Christian. But if I were, I would suggest to Representatives Warren and Ford, as a Christian, that they should be concerned with their own spiritual welfare rather than that of the Rowan County Commission.

Because the North Carolina Constitution has this to say about oaths:

Each member of the General Assembly, before taking his seat, shall take an oath or affirmation that he will support the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, and will faithfully discharge his duty as a member of the Senate or House of Representatives.

We know what the United States Constitution has to say about a State establishment of religion. What does the North Carolina Constitution say?

All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience. …

No person shall be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the law of the land.  No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Under the plain meaning of the North Carolina Constitution, opening public meetings with a sectarian prayer is "control or interference" with the rights of conscience. It is "discrimination by the State" because of religion.

What constitutional blasphemy is it, then, to propose a law permitting the State to establish a religion? This is not the act of a crank. This is the act of two desperate men, entrusted by the people to hold high office, betraying that trust by attempting to subvert the Constitution. There is, from a constitutional perspective, no difference between Harry Waren and Carl Ford on the one hand, and Aaron Burr on the other. Or Jefferson Davis.

Representatives Warren and Ford, I submit, are oathbreakers.  By introducing the Rowan County, North Carolina Defense of  Religion Act of 2013, they have violated their oaths to support the Constitutions of the United States, and North Carolina.

The remedy for "malpractice in office," under the North Carolina Constitution, is impeachment.

Jesus Christ, in whose name Warren and Ford wish to establish a State Religion in North Carolina, had this to say about oaths:

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

North Carolina Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford should be impeached. They have violated their oaths, before God and man.

From The Desk Of Michael Bloomberg, Gracie Mansion

Friends and fellow citizens:

Almost twelve years ago, you elected me as your Mayor with what I consider a sacred trust: to look out for the health and welfare of all of the citizens of the greatest city on Earth.  As I look back on what we've accomplished together over these twelve years, I'm filled with pride.

Two thousand years ago the Emperor Augustus boasted that he found Rome, the Big Apple of its day, a city made of brick: He left it clad in marble. I like to think that twelve years ago I found New York City fat, wheezing, diabetic, and dependent on addictive chemicals put into our food by the Merchants of Death: I hope to leave New York fit and trim, with clean air and a sensible, healthy diet for all.

There have been stumbles along the road to a healthy city for sure. While we've made great strides in taking away so-called "choices" such as trans fats and needlessly high sodium, some have claimed that our policies, enacted for the health and safety of all New Yorkers, fail to comply with outdated laws and customs. But over my career I've never let roadblocks like antiquated judges or slanders from the forces of Big Fat, Big Salt, Big Sugar, and Big Tobacco stand in my way. Today I'm as dedicated to improving your health, and that of your children, and leading you to a healthy life as I was when I started.

michael-bloomberg

You probably heard that yesterday we announced a ban on open display of tobacco products in all stores throughout the city. This is a big thing. Make no mistake. When a child sees a pack of cigarettes displayed behind a counter at the local bodega, it tells the child that smoking is a natural and healthy way of life. Nothing could be further from the truth! Cigarettes are killers, and we're going to put a stop to them.

You see, sometimes we need to alter people's behavior. Smoking is just plain disgusting. It provides no benefit whatsoever, and is known to cause harm. Most products are legislated to ensure they are safe, yet cigarettes are allowed to kill with impunity. Even guns have more restriction on them. In Canada this has been the norm for years, and the rates of teen smoking have dropped. I'm hoping that within my lifetime, smoking becomes a footnote in historical textbooks. And for the people who would go on about their freedom of choice I ask you, if it was fashionable to smoke dog dung, would you do that too?

I rest my case.

And yet, as proud as I am of the legacy I'll leave this city, I feel not just pride, but worry. We've done so much, but clearly there is so much more to do. I'd like to give you a preview of forthcoming initiatives, which we'll roll out over the coming months during this, the final year of my term as your Mayor, to bring you the happiness, health, and safety that you, as citizens of the world's greatest metropolis, so desperately need.

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On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A Dog. At The Supreme Court, Nobody Cares.

On the internet nobody knows you're a dog

 

I want to sell you a dog. I call him Aldo. I'm asking $5,000.00.

Aldo doesn't look like anything special. He's not a purebred. He's sort of a mutt. But you're not buying Aldo for his looks. You're buying him because he can detect lies.

With Aldo by your side, you can rely on your spouse, your kids, your business associates, salespeople, you name it, to tell you the truth, every time. Because Aldo has been trained, by proven formulae, to determine when these people are telling the truth, and when they are lying.

Yes, with Aldo in your corner, you'll never need fear that your honey is being unfaithful, that your boss is being disingenuous about that raise, or that the guy on the radio who promises the price of gold will double in the next year is wrong. You don't have to be afraid.

Because Aldo knows.

THIS DOG WARES GLASSES AND WHENT TO A HUGELY ACREDITATED COLLEGE OF CANINE SCINECE!

THIS DOG WARES GLASSES AND WHENT TO A HUGELY ACREDITATED COLLEGE OF CANINE SCINECE!

Science teaches us that dogs are natural masters at reading human body language. Science shows that dogs can tell a good and faithful human from a filthy mendacious deceiver. And Aldo is better than that: He's had 160 hours of training, from the highly accredited Institute for the Science of Canine Accreditation, in the art of detecting lies. He'll never fail you.

Why, just last week, my wife attempted to lie to me. Aldo barked once, the signal for untruth. Later that week, my wife told me the truth. But Aldo, remembering that my wife is a liar, barked once again, alerting me to this possible deception.

Does this sound like the opportunity of a lifetime? Aldo is barking twice, so you know I'm not lying.

I tell you truthfully, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. In this world of falsity, flim flam, and fraud, how can you afford not to have Aldo the lie-detecting-dog in your corner? For a mere $5,000.00, you too can rest assured that the leash to emotional, financial, and personal prosperity is in your hands.

All I'm asking is $5,000.00.  Isn't it time you knew the truth?

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Outline For Cross Examination Of Doctor Anil Potti

In case it ever comes up.

1) Are you now, or have you ever been, a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford?

2) Have you ever applied for a Rhodes Scholarship?

3) If so, were you accepted as a Rhodes Scholar?

4) Have you ever studied, as a student or fellow, at the University of Oxford?

5) Have you ever been a member of the faculty at the University of Oxford?

6) At any time, have you ever claimed to be a Rhodes Scholar or former Rhodes Scholar?

7) At any time, have you ever claimed that you were accepted by the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar?

8) At any time, have you ever claimed that you were a student, fellow, or faculty member at the University of Oxford?

9) [If the answers to questions 1-5 are in the negative, and answers to questions 6-8 are affirmative] Then why do you expect this jury to believe a single word you say?

10) Doctor, I'd like to discuss a phenomenon known as the "Streisand Effect." Are you familiar with that term?

To be supplemented as needed.