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Late Night: Grammatical Goofing

By: Tuesday July 22, 2014 7:54 pm

I could of maybe found some other video, but this one,  its really accurate about mistakes people make in there writings. Plus I drunk a lot of expresso and surprise!!

Actually tonight  I’m prepping for ArtExpoSD — I leave tomorrow at 8am–where I’m showing five artists in my booth, plus wrangling another curator, an artist and a company that makes limited edition prints. And I organized a book and CD signing for one of the artists I’m showing. My section focuses on Dark Progressivism, a specific genre that originated in Los Angeles, and this is a taste for the bigger show I’m co-curating that opens August 2. Expect to hear more about that later.

But for now, let’s enjoy Weird Al’s interpretation of grammatical errors. And me personally I appreciate and use the Oxford/serial comma! What grammar issues bug/plague/annoy you? Do you agree with everything in the video?

And do you think a preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with?

HBO Doc “The Newburgh Sting” Asks Terrorism or Entrapment?

By: Sunday July 20, 2014 4:14 pm


“The Newburgh Sting” HBO

In 2009, with television cameras rolling, the FBI triumphantly busted a domestic terrorist ring from Newburgh, NY. The men, known as the Newburgh Four, are each serving a 25-year sentence for plotting to blow up two synagogues and shoot down military supply planes. FDL reported on the story and case; read Kevin’s take on it for more background information.

What happened in Newburgh continues to attract attention although perhaps not in the way the FBI intended. Instead, it serves as a cautionary tale in post-9/11 America. An uneasy story about what happened when the FBI went into an impoverished community and offered a large sum of money to people in exchange for their agreement to participate in a fake bombing plot. This case inevitably raises questions about our rights as Americans, what constitutes terrorism, and the definition of entrapment.

Monday night at 9PM HBO will air The Newburgh Sting. Veteran filmmakers David Heilbroner and Kate Davis direct this unsettling and provocative documentary. The film provides a disturbing window into the FBI’s role in the case and methodically explores the idea that the Newburgh Four, whatever else they may be, are victims of entrapment.

It’s around dinnertime when I call The Newburgh Sting’s co-director, David Heilbroner, to discuss the film. He tells me, “I want people to understand that this case is emblematic, it’s not an aberration. The FBI believes that this case was a success and they want it replicated. If we approve of these tactics then it won’t be long before they appear in other contexts.”

David, what was it about the Newburgh Four that originally called to you? 

“This is really a case about the FBI committing fraud on Congress and the American people. This was a case that the FBI created using taxpayer dollars to go to Congress and the public and say, ‘Look at what a great job we’re doing.’ So it called to me because before I became a filmmaker I was a prosecutor. I was an Assistant DA in Manhattan. I worked for the federal court and I believe in the system. Most law enforcers are genuinely honorable people, but something has been going on at the FBI that is deeply disturbing.”

This documentary lays out the case that the Newburgh Four are victims of entrapment. In order to achieve this, what elements did you see as critical to include in the film and how did you secure access to them? 

“One of the reasons we focused on the Newburgh Four, as opposed to other cases where similar tricks were employed, was that the Newburgh Four went to trial. And, due to this, all of the FBI’s undercover tapes were introduced as evidence. These then became available to journalists who were willing to sift through hundreds of hours of material. So, all of a sudden, low and behold, we have the FBI’s home movie available to those who will go through the trouble of getting it. So we got all of the tapes, transcripts, photographs, wiretaps- and it actually wasn’t that easy to get. Lawyers wouldn’t talk to us, prosecutors wouldn’t talk to us, and the FBI wouldn’t talk to us. We eventually got them, sifted through everything, and you can see for yourself what went down.”

Talk about the role race & poverty played in this case. 

“Newburgh, NY has about 25-30% unemployment. I think the majority of the houses downtown are condemned. It’s mostly African American. The FBI selected this town as a place to launch a terrorism hunt. You have a community that can’t defend itself and is susceptible to inducement into crime. You have people who don’t have any money, who are desperate to survive. In this case, the FBI sent in an undercover agent offering $250,000 as a reward for going along with an attack against a synagogue and an airplane. Now, for Newburgh, NY, $250,000 is an obscene, crazy amount of money. What’s particularly disturbing is that the FBI’s justification for this, although they wouldn’t come forward for an interview, was that this is how Al Qaeda works. Al Qaeda is going to come in and offer destitute and desperate people money to commit horrible terrorist acts. So, we’re just getting there first. Now, let’s say you agree with that. Then the FBI could have just gone in and said, ‘These guys are susceptible to terrorism. Let’s get them out of here on small stuff. It will probably take about a week.’ Instead they created this elaborate terrorist case with stinger missiles and bombs, which were just handed to these guys, and told the public that they busted a terrorist ring. So, not only did they take advantage of this community, they used them as pawns in a fraudulent production that was essentially a PR effort to make the FBI look like they were fighting the war on terror.”

Regarding the American criminal justice system, David, you’ve stated when speaking about the film, “When terrorism is involved the rules break down.” Can you explain?

“I think every now and then society goes through convulsions of fear. It happened during WWII with the Japanese and the internment camps. It happened with Abu Ghraib where Americans were condoning torture. Right after 9/11 terrorism had the entire country transfixed with fear. I lived in NYC. I know very well what happened with the World Trade Center. When that kind of attack happens, there’s a natural circle the wagons defensiveness and the mission among all law enforcement officers becomes this can never happen again. So, nobody cares about the rules anymore. What’s become apparent though in the years since 9/11 is that there really aren’t that many domestic terrorist attacks. There were a handful. But, as the original fear dissipates, you realize the trend isn’t there, and you’ve given power and money to a number of people who don’t want to surrender it.”

Some people will argue this film is one sided. What’s your response?

“The film is not one sided. I interviewed the former director of the FBI, who has nothing to do with this case, and who adores the FBI. I looked for someone very hard who would stand up for the FBI and the FBI’s position on this case very clearly. We tried desperately to get the prosecutors on camera. We tried desperately to get the FBI agents on camera. We were refused every step of the way. As a former prosecutor myself and as a journalist, I really wanted to get this right. And I kept digging for the facts, for the telling case that would show me this was not as bad as it looks. But I couldn’t find it.”

You’ve said you hope the film will spark a congressional investigation. Talk about this idea.

“When federal law enforcement agents spend taxpayer dollars to stage a fake case to make themselves look better in the eyes of the American people that, to me, is an egregious breach of trust. It’s an act of fraud against Congress and the American people. If that is not a good enough reason to have a congressional investigation, I really don’t know what is.”

What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

“I want people to feel a sense of political empowerment. I want people to watch this and really feel that something needs to change in the FBI. I’d like the public to say, ‘I’ve been sold a bill of goods. I need to contact my congressman and my senators. I am not happy with this. If this film is correct, I want to see something changed.’ If they do that, I will not feel like this film was time wasted.”

The Newburgh Sting airs on HBO Monday, July 21 at 9PM EST.

Late Night: Baseball Fan Gets Nuts Busted Snoozing, Sues for $10 Million

By: Tuesday July 15, 2014 7:54 pm

Harps help Morpheus embrace us in his wings….zzzzz. But for Andrew Robert Rector, sleep came before the 7th inning stretch of the April 13th Yankee-Red Sox game. And now he’s suing.

Not because the game was boring, but for defamation. In his $10million suit, Rector alleges that

Yankees, ESPN and its announcers… broadcast photos of him asleep in his chair, calling him “fatty, unintelligent, [and] stupid.” Andrew Robert Rector sued Major League Baseball Advanced Media, ESPN New York, the New York Yankees, and ESPN announcers Dan Shulman and John Kruk, in Bronx County Supreme Court. He demands $10 million in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress…

ESPN focused its cameras on him, Rector says, and then “Announcers like Dan Shulman and John Kruck unleashed avalanche of disparaging words against the person of and concerning the plaintiff. These words, include but not limited to ‘stupor, fatty, unintelligent, stupid’ knowing and intending the same to be heard and listened to by millions of people all over the world …”

Maybe Rector should have stayed in bed. Or had some espresso. Doesn’t it say on tickets to public events that you might be filmed and broadcast? And what, you’re gonna sue Don Rickles for heckling you? In the suit, Rector’s lawyer contends:

Rector claims the commentary and photos showed him in a false light, damaged his reputation, and the fact that he was napping was not an issue of legitimate public concern.

He claims that the defendants “negligently or maliciously published false, defamatory statement of fact about the plaintiff, a private individual. The false statements include but are not limited to:

“Plaintiff is unintelligent and stupid individual.
“Plaintiff is not worthy to be fan of the New York Yankee.
“Plaintiff is a fatty cow that need two seats at all time and represent symbol of failure.
“Plaintiff is a confused disgusted and socially bankrupt individual.
“Plaintiff is confused individual that neither understands nor knows anything about history and the meaning of rivalry between Red Sox and New York Yankee.
“Plaintiff is so stupid that he cannot differentiate between his house and public place by snoozing throughout the fourth inning of the Yankee game.”

Seriously, instead of a lawyer, Rector should get an agent, and like Levi Johnson–remember him-he knocked up Bristol Palin–do a pistachio commercial.

Pistachios are full of protein to keep you awake through the 7th inning stretch and beyond. Plus, I’d rather crack my own nuts than have ESPN do it for me.

Late Night: My Ding-a-Ling

By: Tuesday July 8, 2014 7:54 pm

Chuck Berry just wants some of that rock’n’roll music while he plays with his ding-a-ling–and really who can blame him? In 1980 at height of punk rock Jet Lag magazine, a punk zine asked Berry for his opinions of some of the biggest punk bands around and the results are hilarious. Dangerous Minds unearthed these [...]

Late Night: Being the Cool Jerk

By: Tuesday July 1, 2014 7:54 pm

A new study from Columbia Business School shows that, in general–at least during negotiations–most people don’t have a clue how they come across. (The study didn’t go into gender splits, that could have be extra interesting.) The setup was pretty simple. Participants were paired up and asked to negotiate a basic licensing agreement, then rate [...]

Late Night: Glow Little Glow Worm

By: Tuesday June 17, 2014 7:54 pm

I love stuff that glows in the dark! How about glow-in-the-dark Jell-O? Yes, you can use it with Jell-O shots, but you need a black light. I recently got glow-in the-dark paint for the garden and felt like the Red Queen having her knights paint the roses red. Years ago, when I was a kid, there [...]

Late Night: Keep Your Stinkin’ Hands Off My Cheese!

By: Tuesday June 10, 2014 7:54 pm

Government cheese was that dreaded phrase from the 1980s meaning welfare, when processed cheese and butter were stockpiled as a dairy subsidy and then passed out to those on government aid via the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program of the Food and Nutrition Service. But now instead of giving away cheese, the government is going after [...]

Late Night: Angst in My Pants

By: Tuesday June 3, 2014 7:54 pm

Actually I don’t have angst in my pants, but fans of the Iceland witch pants may be little sad to learn that their beloved trousers have be usurped in hipsterness by a pair of Chinese slacks that are 3,000 years old, reports the Daily Mail: A pair of trousers found in a Chinese graveyard might just [...]

FDL Under DDoS Attack: We Need Your Help

By: Saturday May 31, 2014 1:18 pm

People keep pinging me on Facebook saying We can’t get onto FDL, what’s up? Well, here’s the deal: For some time now Firedoglake has been under escalating DDoS attacks which knock us off line. These attacks mean you can’t access our site to read our reports on whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Peter Van [...]

Exene Pulls YouTube Channel, Posts Response to “Isla Vista Hoax” Comments

By: Saturday May 31, 2014 1:11 pm

Exene Cervenka, lead singer for the band X, poet, activist, and most recently a conspiracy proponent who posted videos to her tube channel claiming the Isla Vista/UCSB shooting and SandyHook killings were hoaxes has shut down her YouTube channel and posted the following statement on X’s Facebook page. I know that the link I shared [...]

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