Well, I’m going to try to knock this out as quick as possible. I’m expecting a call from a recruiter this morning to discuss job opening possibilities. I also have a form to fill out for unemployment that I need to get mailed back ASAP in order to start getting some money in (and the money’s pretty good, actually, easily enough to pay rent and bills). I think I’m also going to head down to the post office in this shit-ass town because they actually renew passports, and mine expired six years ago (I finally found it while digging through some shit looking for something else over the weeekend). So, this’ll end up being short.
Just one thing before we start: it’s that time of the month again, and this time Microsoft has a boatload of security fixes to install. So either configure Automatic Updates to work or go over to Windows Update right now. Remember, it’s your computer, so surf safe.
And on with the show…
THE PIMP SECTION
Daniels agrees with me about a Styles/Tazz booth for Smackdown, which shows his good taste. Now if he could only get the e-mail filters working…
Lucard reviews the HOTHOTHOT Forza Motorsport. Personally, I’m waiting for Bard’s Tale to finish downloading and I hope it’s not a DVD-9 because I don’t want to end up having to buy the puppy.
Nguyen jumps on the whole Phil Jackson Returns bandwagon. Excuse me, the only place that Phil can return to is Chicago. The stuff that happened with the Lakers didn’t, you know what I mean?
Stevens is still in the DC house.
Campbell and the rest of Movies kind of crosses sections, but it’s for a good reason.
WHAT MARK FELT COULD HAVE DONE WITH E-MAIL
From the Times of London:
Two previously undisclosed memos have emerged which seem to implicate the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the UN’s scandal-ridden oil-for-food programme.
The memos appear to challenge Mr Annan’s assertion that he knew nothing of the award of a lucrative UN contract to a company that employed his son.
Last night, the Independent Inquiry Committee appointed by the UN to investigate corruption in the oil-food-programme said it was launching a fresh investigation into the documents.
Until now, the committee has cleared Mr Annan of any conflict of interest in the award of UN contracts.
The memos are the first evidence from the time to suggest that Cotecna Inspection Services, a Swiss company that employed Mr Annan’s son, Kojo, may have had contact with the Secretary-General before making a successful bid for a UN contract issued under the oil-for-food programme.
The memos describe a meeting between Cotecna and “the SG and his entourage” in Paris in 1998 and say that Cotecna expected “to count on their support.” The company was awarded a multi-million dollar contract a few weeks later.
Speaking in Paris, UN chief spokesman Fred Eckhard said Secretary-General Annan could not remember having had any such meeting.
Last night, the Independent Inquiry Committee appointed to investigate the $65 billion programme, said: “The IIC is urgently reviewing newly disclosed information concerning possible links between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and representatives of Cotecna Inspection S.A., a Swiss contractor based in Geneva that bid for a contract under the Oil-for-Food Programme while the Secretary-General’s son, Kojo Annan, was a consultant for the company.”
Reid Morden, executive director of the IIC, told the Associated Press: “Does this raise a question? Sure.”
The IIC is expected to publish its final report within a few months about the programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003 with the intention of providing humanitarian goods to the people of Iraq in return for oil bought from the Iraqi government.
The two memos came to light this week after the details of one were published in The New York Times. The first memo, written by Michael Wilson, a senior executive at Cotecna and a friend of the Annan family, is dated December 4 1998. The email devotes only two sentences to the UN and refers to a meeting with the “SG” at a summit in Paris:
“We had brief discussions with the SG and his entourage. Their collective advise (sic) was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q&A session of the (sic) 1-12-98 and that we could count on their support.”
The second memo, sent just a few minutes later and also written by Mr Wilson, expresses confidence that through “effective but quiet lobbying”, Cotecna would secure a contract.
It says: “Our chances of getting the contract are very good. We presented a sound technical tender competitively priced. With the active backing of the Swiss Mission in New York and effective but quite (sic) lobbying within the diplomatic circles in New York, we can expect a positive outcome to our efforts.”
Cotecna representatives subsequently went to a question and answer session on bidding for UN contracts in New York, and on December 31 won a $10 million-a-year contract to certify humanitarian goods coming into Iraq under the programme.
The memos also refer to the diplomatic efforts of a “KA”, which may have been Kojo Annan, who was working as a consultant for Cotecna at the time.
The memos were discovered by auditors at the company in the last few days. Cotecna has now sent copies to the UN inquiry, which is led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and to three US congressional committees which are also investigating the oil-for-food programme.
An interim report published by the Volcker panel in March said that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the Secretary General used his influence to award oil-for-food contracts.
In a statement, Cotecna defended its tactics in winning the contract but conceded that: “One of these documents may result in speculation about the procurement of its Oil-for-Food authentication contract.
“The company reiterates its statements… that it obtained that contract fairly and on the basis of price. Cotecna once again confirms that it acted at all times appropriately and ethically in its bidding for, winning and performing that contract.”
I will remind people that this is not on the face of things a smoking gun stating that Annan is corrupt. This is a pair of e-mails from some guy who can’t even use a spell checker. Jesus, I’ve seen better spelling, syntax, and clarity from most of the You’re A Moron winners.
But back to the content. Dude doesn’t mention kickbacks, influence peddling, none of the good stuff that’s been thrown into this story so far. All he says is that he supposedly met with Annan and “his entourage” (read: Annan wasn’t there, but some low-level flunky listened to him spout off for a bit), which isn’t saying much. The second e-mail sounds like a follow-up to the presentation, testing the waters as to how the company was doing. “We’re doing fine, just keep up the lobbying efforts and we’re in.” Nothing that doesn’t go on every day at the DOD with military contractors. There’s nothing sinister on the surface of this as far as I can tell, although if totally true, it does dent Annan’s credibility. It doesn’t destroy it, but it does dent it, and at a time when the US is attempting to cut their contribution to the UN, that isn’t good.
I really felt obliged to put this one up more so than wanting to comment on it. It’s really more of a non-story than anything else, but if I don’t put it up, I’m going to get angry e-mails from the right-wingers saying that Annan’s corrupt and I’m giving him a free pass because I’m a lefty one-worlder…well, I am a lefty one-worlder, but I’m not giving him a free pass on this. If nothing, he violated the most important credo of all: don’t get caught.
According to CNN:
The board of directors of the global media giant Viacom said Tuesday they have decided to split Viacom into two publicly traded companies — one of them a “new Viacom” — through a spin-off to stockholders.
As a result of the tax-free transaction, stockholders will hold shares in both companies.
One of the new companies will retain the Viacom name and include MTV Networks, BET, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment and Famous Music.
The other company, to be called CBS Corporation, will combine the CBS and UPN broadcast networks, Viacom Television Stations Group, Infinity Broadcasting, Viacom Outdoor, the CBS, Paramount and King World television production operations, as well as Showtime, Simon & Schuster and Paramount Parks.
Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom, will act as chairman of both companies. Tom Freston will lead Viacom, while Leslie Moonves will head CBS. Both are company insiders.
In March, Viacom announced it was exploring the idea of splitting the company into two entities.
Viacom says it hopes the split will help boost its stock price.
Well, this is really no surprise. After all, they announced the possibility back in March and everything. But there are some things to think about, really, that makes it obvious as to why they’re doing this.
First of all, the leadership…it’s no secret that Freston and Moonves don’t like each other. They were chafing under the current structure as co-Presidents. They tried to divide the spheres of operation in an informal fashion, each sticking to what he knew best, with Freston heavily involved in MTV Networks and Moonves with the television broadcast properties, but that wasn’t working. And each of them were angling to replace Redstone when the time came for that. So they had to have a firewall put between them, and what better than a formal separation? Now their roles are formalized and they have their own little empire.
But how things have been separated seems unusual. Freston gets the basic cable properties, the music properties, home video, and the movie studio. Moonves gets the broadcast TV properties, the pay-cable properties, the radio stations, the TV stations, the TV production facilities, publishing, and theme parks. In other words, Les gets all of the profitable enterprises and Freston gets stuck with the marginal or money-losers. CBS Corporation is a money-printing machine; Viacom is a cash hemmorhage. That means the succession struggle is over. Les is the designated successor, pure and simple. Otherwise they wouldn’t drown Freston with red ink.
But they’re not going to get rid of Freston; they can’t. At MTV Networks, he has a following that’s like that of a rabid cult. Freston has his own people at the heads of each of the networks (witness the reorg at Spike a few months ago that was the final straw in leading WWE to putting its cable stakes back with USA). Moonves knew better than to try to stick his finger in that particular area of Viacom; no one would have listened to him anyway. So the separation was essentially done to give Freston his own little plaything without the spectre of Moonves interfering in it. That’s probably a big reason why The Thing That Doesn’t Fit, Paramount Pictures, is in this particular “division”. Brad Grey has also been the target of rumors saying that he’s on Les’ shit list and that they don’t get along, and Grey has been gravitating toward Freston. So in order to keep peace in the family, Paramount goes in that direction.
But the fact remains that even with the scissions, Viacom is still a media giant. Only time will tell as to how artificial the boundaries really are. The moment Freston leaves (whether of his own will or by stockholder revolt), expect a reconsolidation.
By the way, since this is filed in the Wrestling section, I do have to make references to wrestling sometimes. No, this type of separation would not have saved Smackdown from being put in the Friday death slot. That was Les’ call, and he’s still going to be overseer of UPN.
AS WE GET RIDICULOUS AGAIN
An 18-year-old Michigan man accused of plotting to kill fellow students at his suburban Detroit high school was found guilty on Tuesday of threatening to commit an act of terrorism.
A jury in Macomb County found Andrew Osantowski guilty of “making a terrorist threat” after he wrote messages on the Internet about the possibility of killing students at his Chippewa Valley High School.
Osantowski was also found guilty of possessing a firearm while committing a felony and using a computer to make a terrorist threat, court officials said.
The charges of threatening terrorism and using a computer to make a terrorist threat are felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Sentencing in the case has been set for July 11.
Police arrested Osantowski last September after discovering the Internet messages.
On the final day of testimony in Osantowski’s trial on Monday, Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Steve Kaplan showed the jury a video of the youth firing an AK-47 assault rifle and showing off a cache of weapons to highlight the alleged seriousness of his threatening e-mails.
You have got to be f*cking kidding me, right? This is terrorism?
We’re talking about an eighteen-year-old gun freak who seems to be a little bit antisocial here, not a threat to the world community. You know what normally happens to guys like this? Their gun fetish gets to them, and the moment they graduate from high school, they end up joining the Army or the Marines, in which case they learn some discipline and socialization skills…okay, most people end up learning discipline and socialization skills from the Army. I’m an exception.
You know how this bullshit would have been handled before September 11th? The cops would have found the messages, gone to the school, and Buddy Boy would have had a talk or two with a school counselor or some authority figure to see what was wrong and why he’d say things like that, and it would have gone no further. And that’s how it f*cking should be handled. Not like this.
Look at the goddamn skein of logic here, okay? A kid blogs something about being so pissed at people that he wants to kill them. Nothing that any of us haven’t said or thought when we were high schoolers, you know. No notices about holding anyone for ransom or doing other things that would qualify under the traditional definition of terrorism. The cops see the blog and immediately regard it as a “terrorist threat”, because you kno
w how many terrorist actions have been committed by our nation’s high schoolers recently. It’s a plague, I tell you. So they nail him on that charge. Then, since he did it while blogging, that’s another charge. Then, since he had a gun nearby when he did it, there’s a third charge. They piled it on because even they knew how f*cking nonsensical the original charge was. That’s like being pulled over for a busted taillight and then getting expired plates and an open container of beer in the car added on. Ridiculous.
And a jury bought it.
In the worst case, the kid’s a little psychopathic. But that doesn’t make him a terrorist. Otherwise, as I’ll demonstrate later, I’m a terrorist as well. And I know that’s not the case. Geez, you wonder why other nations consider America to be a laughingstock. It’s because we’re putting eighteen-year-olds into federal pens for making threats in blogs.
What the hell has happened to this country? A kid making a threat that not even he believed he’d go through with, a very common feature of human adolescence since, well, the beginning of f*cking time, and he’s branded a “terrorist” for making it. And there are supposed to be twelve responsible adults on a jury, some of whom are parents, some of whom know adolescent behavior. But because the Patriot Act and other abominable pieces of legislation redefined the word “terrorist” and the craven state legislatures had to go along with it instead of looking at the obvious inconsistencies in the new definition, he has to be treated as a mad bomber by the law.
Of course, it could also be Michigan. This was a state with one of the looniest drug sentencing laws on the books, giving more time to people caught for the first time selling drugs than for manslaughter. Don’t believe me? It was called the 650 Lifer Law, and it was passed in 1978. It mandated “life in prison without parole for offenders convicted of delivery of over 650 grams of heroin or cocaine.”, even if it was a first offense. It wasn’t until 2002 that this law was essentially changed from mandatory to suggested sentencing guideline, this despite intense media scrutiny and public criticism. So that state has proven itself to be zealous assholes before. Why not this time too?
Okay, let me see if I can prove a point. Yesterday, I mentioned that I was fired last week. Now, what would have happened if I’d said this in yesterday’s column?: “I’m pissed off because I was fired for no good reason. So, what I’m going to do is stick a knife through the f*cking throats of my bosses, then I’m going to get on a plane to Washington and stalk and hunt down Mike Johanss, William Smith, and Barbara Masters, and put bullets through their brains like the dogs that they are.” Most people would just blow that off as me letting off some steam and treating my situation in my normal gonzoid fashion. But there’d be some weirdo out there, and it would only take one, who’d call up the Lyon County cops or the Kansas state police. I’d be arrested under two of the three charges that this kid was railroaded on, namely “making a terrorist threat” and “using a computer to make a terrorist threat”, for saying something that no one in their right minds would regard as dangerous. Only the thin sliver of the First Amendment would protect Widro from being treated as an accomplice. Jesus, I wouldn’t even need to do that. The cops could go through my back columns and make a case for me being a terrorist because of what I’ve said about the Junta. Monroe would help them, I’m sure.
And it’s really the First Amendment that’s at the heart of this issue. When does speech cross the line? How much can we actually say? This kid’s going to do time on three felony counts for publishing a threat which any normal human being would consider simply adolescent bluster. Gloomie got fired from a job because of something she put into her blog. This is the true fracture line between the repulsive and disgusting measures put in place by the Junta and the civil liberties that have made this country great.
As always, I’ll side against the Junta. But this time, there’s a First Amendment issue to deal with as well, which only strengthens my convictions. I’m an absolutist when it comes to the First Amendment. And that’s what this boils down to: when this country can’t tell the difference between a terrorist and a kid being an asshole, there’s a severe problem.
WELL, IT’S GOOD TO HAVE CONFIRMATION
The cells of obese women or those who smoke are “older” than those of other women, suggesting that these factors accelerate aging, new research shows.
The age of a cell is indicated by the caps, or “telomeres,” on the ends of chromosomes. With every successive division of the cell, the telomeres get shorter and shorter.
“The difference in telomere length between being lean and being obese corresponds to 8.8 years of aging; smoking (previous or current) corresponds on average to 4.6 years of aging; and smoking a pack per day for 40 years corresponds to 7.4 years of aging,” Dr. Tim Spector, from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, and colleagues report in The Lancet medical journal.
Obesity and smoking are associated with oxidative stress, which, in turn, has been shown to promote telomere erosion. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that obesity and smoking may be linked to shortened telomeres.
To investigate, Spector’s team analyzed telomere length in 1122 white women between the ages of 18 and 76 years.
Telomere length fell steadily with age, as expected, the researchers found.
Further analysis revealed that the telomeres of obese women were significantly shorter than those of lean women. Smoking status was also tied to shortened telomeres and each pack-year of smoking further increased the amount of length lost.
“Our results emphasize the potential wide-ranging effects of the two most important preventable exposures in developed countries — cigarettes and obesity,” the team concludes.
Well, thank God I’m not fat or female, huh? I’ll cop to the smoking part, to about a pack and a half to two packs a day. But, frankly, I don’t think it’s aged me. What’s aged me is age, combined with stress. The signs are strange with me, though. My hair’s still the same ash-blond color it’s always been (in fact, it seems to be growing darker with age), but my beard’s growing in grey. But my face doesn’t show signs of aging…okay, I’m confused. Maybe next time in Chicago I’ll consult with someone at the Lancome makeup counter.
But even so, this is just reiterating stuff that we already know. Being fat takes years off of your life. Smoking takes years off of your life. But, geez, without food, smokes, and booze, is life really worth living? Fuck you, you health freaks. It’s my body, let me abuse it as I wish.
Well, that was rambling and incoherent. Not the greatest of columns, but a column nonetheless, and I did get off one good screed against the abomination known as society in there. What the hell more could you ask for? And I’ll close this one up on that note. Since I have nothing to do, I should be able to get the Short Form done by Friday night/Saturday morning depending on when I can finish downloading it. Until then, enjoy.