Various bits of flotsam that washed up on our computers, before we moved to a better blog system in November 2004. Now a repository for YouTube videos and testing new tools. Go to for more recent content.

Friday, October 29, 2004

NAACP Faces IRS Investigation (

Another crock. How about the Moonie organization? how about Pat Robertson? and a million other 'tax-exempt' organizations, who happen to support Republicans? Can we throw these bums out already?

NAACP Faces IRS Investigation (

The Internal Revenue Service has threatened to revoke the NAACP's tax-exempt status because the civil rights group's chairman, Julian Bond, "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush" during a speech this summer, according to documents the group provided yesterday.

The NAACP, which is based in Baltimore and is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, is incorporated under a tax-code section that prohibits participation in a political campaign. The group has long had a strained relationship with the Bush administration.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Arts news | Eminem song puts Bush in the dock

I think, if you watch the video, there is a moment about tax cuts, but not raising taxes. I'm sure the Guardian will fix this error, eventually.

Guardian Unlimited | Arts news | Eminem song puts Bush in the dock:

Eminem has become the latest music star to weigh in on this year's presidential election. In a video for his new single, Mosh, the singer takes George Bush to task for raising taxes and waging the war in Iraq.

"Strap him with AK-47, let him go/Fight his own war, let him impress daddy that way," a cartoon version of the rapper sings of the president, as he mobilises a mob of young voters.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wired Sampler

As mentioned herewired_rip_sampler is out, on newstands or wherever.

Now Get Busy Beastie Boys
My Fair Lady Byrne, David
Wadidyusay? Zap Mama
One Big Holiday My Morning Jacket
Revenge! Spoon
Oslodum Gil, Gilberto
Relaxation Spa Treatment Dan The Automator
Dc 3000 Thievery Corporation
Fake French Le Tigre
Looking Up In Heaven Westerberg, Paul
No Meaning No Chuck D With Fine Arts Militia
Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix) Rapture, The
Wataridori 2 Cornelius
What U Sittin' On? (Starring Cee Lo And Tha Alkaholiks) Danger Mouse & Jemini
Oslodum 2004 DJ Dolores
Action At A Distance Matmos


Click for larger size.

Wired CD sampler (titled Wired: Rip. Sample. Mash. Share), cover art to copy to iTunes

Champion of budding rock stars dies

Champion of budding rock stars dies:

John Peel, 1939-2004: Tributes pour in for the veteran Radio 1 DJ and national institution who has died aged 65.

Some of the country's most successful rock musicians yesterday paid tribute to John Peel, the veteran Radio 1 DJ, whom they credited with having played a crucial part in their rise to fame.

Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur, said: "John Peel's patronage was for me, like countless other musicians, one of the most significant things that happened to us in our careers."

His sentiments were echoed by Feargal Sharkey, former lead singer of the Undertones, one of whose songs was Peel's favourite. "In the autumn of 1978 something happened that was to change my life forever - John Peel played Teenage Kicks on the radio for the very first time. Today, it just changed again, forever. We have just lost the single most important broadcaster we have ever known."

Peel, who was 65, died of a heart attack in the Peruvian city of Cuzco where he was enjoying a working holiday with his wife Sheila.

He was having pre-dinner drinks at the lobby bar of the Monasterio Hotel, when he suffered a coronary attack at around 9pm local time on Monday evening. He received cardio-pulmonary resuscitation at the scene but died later in hospital.

In a telephone interview, Peel's wife said he had been "perfectly fine" before the attack: "We'd been walking around and he was okay until it happened."

They were on a three-week holiday and had planned to visit the ruins at Machu Picchu before returning to London on Sunday.

Peel had always acknowledged that there was a history of early death in his family and he had been diagnosed as suffering from diabetes in September 2001.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Vonage account

Internet phone service pioneer Vonage, in a tough battle to maintain market share in the emerging market, said it has awarded its estimated $50 million to $75 million advertising account to Havas-owned agencies, including MPG and Arnold One

Monday, October 25, 2004

Debt collection tips from WSJ - Once-Ignored Consumer Debts Are Focus of Booming Industry:

In 1996, when Heather Scott's marriage split up, she defaulted on $3,000 she owed on her Discover credit card. "It was either that or feed my kids," the Phoenix woman says. Until recently, she probably could have walked away from her credit-card debt with little more than a damaged credit report. But an increasingly aggressive debt-collection industry is going after people, like Ms. Scott, who used to fly below the radar.For six years, she heard nothing about her Discover debt. Then, in 2002, she was sued in small-claims court in Phoenix. A company called Asset Acceptance Capital Corp. had bought her Discover debt and wanted to collect. The 35-year-old single mother of two, who says she couldn't afford a lawyer, didn't show up in court. Asset won a default judgment of about $9,500, including more than $2,000 for the company's legal fees. For the past year, the company has been taking about $100 out of the $625 paycheck she receives every two weeks as an administrative worker for the state of Arizona.
Six years after her divorce and default on her credit-card debt, Ms. Scott of Phoenix heard from an Asset lawyer that she was about to be sued. Unable to pay for her own lawyer, she says she went to a free legal-services agency where a lawyer told her there was no point in showing up in small-claims court. That was bad advice, which Ms. Scott says she followed.

Asset won a default judgment of $7,731 in February 2002, a sum that included interest costs and $2,035 for Asset's legal expenses and court fees. Two months later, Asset offered to settle for $3,290. Ms. Scott says she didn't have it. By August, Asset had withdrawn the offer, and the total bill had risen to $9,537. Then, last month, Ms. Scott offered to pay the company another $3,000 that a relative agreed to lend her. Asset accepted the settlement. "I had to get it behind me," Ms. Scott says.

Some former debtors and lawyers who have skirmished with Asset say Ms. Scott may not have had to pay the company anything if she had gone to court and contested its claims.

Asset acknowledges that, when buying a pool of debt, it typically gets a bare-bones list of debtors' names, their social security numbers, the amounts creditors were owed and the date of last activity. To acquire more information would require creditors to dig deep into their files, which would cost Asset dearly. In many instances, where debts have already changed hands, industry executives say it is very difficult to obtain definitive documentation.

As a result, if a debtor can plausibly argue in court that the amount Asset is seeking may be incorrect, a judge may dismiss the case for lack of evidence, some consumer attorneys say. "They usually don't have the documentation," says Glen Chulsky, an attorney in Dover, N.J., who now represents individuals but previously did work for debt-collection firms.

Jason David Fregeau, a lawyer in Longmeadow, Mass., says he has faced off against Asset seven times in recent years, and each time the company has settled because it lacked documentation. "I have yet to see them prove their case," he says.

Asked about these assertions, the company says it has acted appropriately. Asset confirms that it is often hard to prove old debts and that consumers are challenging its documentation more often.

Asset executives say the vast majority of debtors know they owe money, and those complaining about court proceedings are merely trying to escape from paying. "If a person has a plausible or legitimate reason why they cannot pay, or if the debt is fraudulent, then we will work with them to resolve the issue," the company said in its written statement. "However, from our experience, we find that most people accept their responsibility and pay their past obligations."

Paul Zecchino says Asset appeared out of the blue, suing him three years ago in connection with an old Citibank credit-card debt for $6,000. Astonished by the amount Asset was demanding, Mr. Zecchino, a freelance writer in Englewood, Fla., consulted with lawyers and responded to the court that he lacked knowledge of Asset's claims. He asked that the company provide evidence. Asset never responded, Mr. Zecchino says, even when he offered to settle the case for a smaller amount. The suit was eventually dismissed.

Idalberto de la Torre appeared in a Miami small-claims court in November 2003 to contest Asset's suit against him. The company demanded $1,800 in old Providian Financial Corp. credit-card debt, plus another $900 in legal fees. Mr. de la Torre, an administrator for Delmonte Fresh Produce Inc., hired an attorney and was able to produce copies of credit reports that he says showed that Asset's records were wrong. Asset agreed to drop its suit.

Asset farms out legal cases to an army of lawyers who earn a percentage of everything they collect. The company is one of the few debt buyers to maintain a big in-house legal staff, as well.

At its headquarters, one group of workers does nothing but manage lawsuits. "We're making sure the attorneys are getting things done," says President Brad Bradley, gesturing to workers typing busily in their cubicles. The company won't say how many suits it files, but industry veterans estimate that the figure reaches into the tens of thousands a year. Asset says the suits it files are only a fraction of the 16 million accounts it is currently processing. The company added in a written statement that it believes itself to be "at the low end of the industry when it comes to legal collections."

The debt-buying industry suffered a big setback in the late 1990s, when the then-biggest player Commercial Financial Services Inc., collapsed in an accounting scandal. But the industry bounced back as consumer debt continued to increase.

A doctor's son from Mount Clements, Mich., Asset's Mr. Reitzel, 70, started a finance company in 1962 that loaned people money to buy carpets and vacuum cleaners. He visited borrowers' homes every Friday for payments. In the 1970s, he began buying bad debts from other companies but struggled to find sellers. "We'd go around to karate schools, I'm not kidding you," says the businessman. The savings-and-loan debacle of the late 1980s gave him his first big break. With his wife helping out in the office, Mr. Reitzel and Mr. Bradley, his son-in-law, drove around the country, buying up S&L loan portfolios and loading boxes of documents into a U-Haul truck.

While today the company says it sues only recalcitrant debtors, Asset has internal quotas to encourage employees to refer cases to the lawyers. Newer collectors are expected to refer two or three debtors a month, while the quota for those with more than a year's experience is 12, a former employee says. Asset said in a written statement that collectors are asked to turn over accounts because otherwise they would tend to continue working on them, decreasing the overall efficiency of Asset's collections efforts.

WSJ on Zarqawi

The summary of the following article could be stated thusly: Bush didn't want to distract the world from concentrating on Iraq, so ignored Zarqawi's Al Qaeda camp. I say impeachment proceedings should - Questions Mount Over Failure to Hit Zarqawi's Camp:

As the toll of mayhem inspired by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi mounts in Iraq, some former officials and military officers increasingly wonder whether the Bush administration made a mistake months before the start of the war by stopping the military from attacking his camp in the northeastern part of that country.

The Pentagon drew up detailed plans in June 2002, giving the administration a series of options for a military strike on the camp Mr. Zarqawi was running then in remote northeastern Iraq, according to generals who were involved directly in planning the attack and several former White House staffers. They said the camp, near the town of Khurmal, was known to contain Mr. Zarqawi and his supporters as well as al Qaeda fighters, all of whom had fled from Afghanistan. Intelligence indicated the camp was training recruits and making poisons for attacks against the West.

Senior Pentagon officials who were involved in planning the attack said that even by spring 2002 Mr. Zarqawi had been identified as a significant terrorist target, based in part on intelligence that the camp he earlier ran in Afghanistan had been attempting to make chemical weapons, and because he was known as the head of a group that was plotting, and training for, attacks against the West. He already was identified as the ringleader in several failed terrorist plots against Israeli and European targets. In addition, by late 2002, while the White House still was deliberating over attacking the camp, Mr. Zarqawi was known to have been behind the October 2002 assassination of a senior American diplomat in Amman, Jordan.

But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq. Ultimately, the camp was hit just after the invasion of Iraq began.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who was in the White House as the National Security Council's director for combatting terrorism at the time, said an NSC working group, led by the Defense Department, had been in charge of reviewing the plans to target the camp. She said the camp was "definitely a stronghold, and we knew that certain individuals were there including Zarqawi." Ms. Gordon-Hagerty said she wasn't part of the working group and never learned the reason why the camp wasn't hit. But she said that much later, when reports surfaced that Mr. Zarqawi was behind a series of bloody attacks in Iraq, she said "I remember my response," adding, "I said why didn't we get that ['son of a b-'] when we could."

Administration officials say the attack was set aside for a variety of reasons, including uncertain intelligence reports on Mr. Zarqawi's whereabouts and the difficulties of hitting him within a large complex.

"Because there was never any real-time, actionable intelligence that placed Zarqawi at Khurmal, action taken against the facility would have been ineffective," said Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the NSC. "It was more effective to deal with the facility as part of the broader strategy, and in fact, the facility was destroyed early in the war."

Another factor, though, was fear that a strike on the camp could stir up opposition while the administration was trying to build an international coalition to launch an invasion of Iraq. Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said in an interview that the reasons for not striking included "the president's decision to engage the international community on Iraq." Mr. Di Rita said the camp was of interest only because it was believed to be producing chemical weapons. He also cited several potential logistical problems in planning a strike, such as getting enough ground troops into the area, and the camp's large size.

Still, after the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, President Bush had said he relentlessly would pursue and attack fleeing al Qaeda fighters regardless of where they went to hide. Mr. Bush also had decided upon a policy of pre-emptive strikes, in which the U.S. wouldn't wait to be struck before hitting enemies who posed a threat. An attack on Mr. Zarqawi would have amounted to such a pre-emptive strike. The story of the debate over his camp shows how difficult the policy can be to carry out; Mr. Zarqawi's subsequent resurgence highlights that while pre-emptive strikes entail considerable risks, the risk of not making them can be significant too, a factor that may weigh in future decisions on when to attack terrorist leaders.

Some former officials said the intelligence on Mr. Zarqawi's whereabouts was sound. In addition, retired Gen. John M. Keane, the U.S. Army's vice chief of staff when the strike was considered, said that because the camp was isolated in the thinly populated, mountainous borderlands of northeastern Iraq, the risk of collateral damage was minimal. Former military officials said that adding to the target's allure was intelligence indicating that Mr. Zarqawi himself was in the camp at the time. A strike at the camp, they believed, meant at least a chance of killing or incapacitating him.

Gen. Keane characterized the camp "as one of the best targets we ever had," and questioned the decision not to attack it. When the U.S. did strike the camp a day after the war started, Mr. Zarqawi, many of his followers and Kurdish extremists belonging to his organization already had fled, people involved with intelligence say.

In recent months, Mr. Zarqawi's group has been blamed for a series of beheadings of foreigners and deadly car bombings in Iraq, as well as the recent kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, the director of CARE International there. According to wire-service reports, Mr. Zarqawi's group, recently renamed the Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq, on Sunday claimed responsibility for the massacre of more than 40 Iraqi army recruits in eastern Iraq.
According to those who were involved during 2002 in planning an attack, the impetus came from Central Intelligence Agency reports that al Qaeda fighters were in the camp and that preparations and training were under way there for attacks on Western interests. Under the aegis of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tentative plans were drawn up and sent to the White House in the last week of June 2002. Officials involved in planning had expected a swift decision, but they said they were surprised when weeks went by with no response from the White House.

Then, in midsummer, word somehow leaked out in the Turkish press that the U.S. was considering targeting the camp, and intelligence reports showed that Mr. Zarqawi's group had fled the camp. But the CIA reported that around the end of 2002 the group had reoccupied the camp. The military's plans for hitting it quickly were revived.

Gen. Tommy Franks, who was commander of the U.S. Central Command and who lately has been campaigning on behalf of Mr. Bush, suggests in his recently published memoir, "American Soldier," that Mr. Zarqawi was known to have been in the camp during the months before the war. Gen. Franks declined to be interviewed or answer written questions for this article. In referring to several camps in northern Iraq occupied by al Qaeda fighters who had fled Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, Gen. Franks wrote: "These camps were examples of the terrorist 'harbors' that President Bush had vowed to crush. One known terrorist, a Jordanian-born Palestinian named Abu Musab Zarqawi who had joined al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- where he specialized in developing chemical and biological weapons -- was now confirmed to operate from one of the camps in Iraq." Gen. Franks's book doesn't mention the plans to target the camp.

Questions about whether the U.S. missed an opportunity to take out Mr. Zarqawi have been enhanced recently by a CIA report on Mr. Zarqawi, commissioned by Vice President Dick Cheney. Individuals who have been briefed on the report's contents say it specifically cites evidence that Mr. Zarqawi was in the camp during those prewar months. They said the CIA's conclusion was based in part on a review of electronic intercepts, which show that Mr. Zarqawi was using a satellite telephone to discuss matters relating to the camp, and that the intercepts indicated the probability that the calls were being made from inside the camp.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

test this bitch

"Maturity is only a short break in adolescence." - Jules Feiffer

Friday, October 22, 2004

Roots and Blues