Saturday, May 17, 2003

Wacht am Rhein
Reuters amuses with Germans slap "pleasure tax" on brothels:
With the German economy on the brink of recession, cash-strapped cities are resorting to slapping a "pleasure tax" on brothels to help balance budgets.

Berlin and Cologne said on Friday they may broaden their existing pleasure tax -- which already applies to casinos and public events -- to brothels, sex shows and erotic trade fairs.

The cities of Gelsenkirchen and Dorsten have already done so, but with only modest success. Only about a tenth of brothels have paid up since the tax was broadened in January.
"Our tax inspectors are combing through sex adverts in local newspapers and then paying visits, but equipped with measuring tapes," said Martin Schulmann, spokesman for Gelsenkirchen.
Measuring tapes? Dare I ask?
Tax officials are checking out sex venues and prostitutes working from home to see if they are eligible for the tax, which amounts to 5.60 euros (3.5 pounds) per 10 square metres (107 sq ft) of business space per day.
Prostitutes' lobby group Hydra said in a statement the tax was "pretty absurd".

"Are we going to measure tax payments by the size of the brothel? If so Berlin's clients will have to satisfy their needs in cramped cubbyholes or standing up. Does this city need this?"
That will certainly give new meaning to a "bargain quickie".

But there is somewhat related good news - they got their bratwurst back at the Brandenburg gate:
Bratwurst sizzled near Berlin's historic Brandenburg gate again on Friday, months after the city's most famous sausage stand was closed because it was deemed smelly and an eyesore.
Bratwurst smelly? What's come over the Germans?
It's so hard to choose!
From the Enemy of the Week Column at the American Prowler - Tough Love:
First Bill Bennett, now a former JKF intern falls victim to privacy looters. What did Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. know, and when did he know it? They called her Mimi, back when she was 19 as part of a White House jobs program that taught typing to recent graduates of New England private schools too penurious to prepare its young women for secretarial work. Mimi currently figures in Robert Dallek's new biography of John F. Kennedy, though who's to say its portrait is definitive? On the one hand we learn that JFK was the sickliest human being in America, carrying inside him more emasculating steroids and meds than the entire NFL; on the other, we're told he had a bigger appetite for women than the rampaging Red Army of 1945. He remains a paradox.
Or better yet, so Blumenthalian. To those in the dark, that's a reference to the leading expositor of Democratic-Leninism, or, if you prefer, Marxism-Clintonism or BillHill-Centralism. He's now published a memoir of the Clinton Glory that most liberal reviewers of sane or even insane disposition are finding an embarrassment of sycophantic and posturing riches. Its subtext: Sid loved Bill more than Monica ever could. He just wasn't as attractive.
Now to solve the nation's most pressing problem. What is to be done with Howell Raines? We warned him not to marry into the former Polish nomenklatura, but he didn't listen. Now he has more diversity than anyone growing up in Alabama ever dreamed off, including a Polish daughter of a Polish friend of his new Polish wife who stands accused of providing incriminating photographs from the Times portfolio to inventive scribe Jayson Blair. This could make a Flannery O'Connor story.
In case the last reference is a tad obscure, check out Times Gal: I Didn't Aid Beau Blair:
The gal pal of disgraced ex-New York Times reporter Jayson Blair said she had no role in helping him in his deception.

"I was in no way aware nor did I assist Jayson in anything that contributed to his current problems," said Zuza Glowacka, a 23-year-old clerk who was a temp for The Times.
Glowacka's mom, Ewa Zadrzynska, was a close friend of Krystyna Stachowiak, the wife of Times executive editor Howell Raines.
It's all in the family!

Friday, May 16, 2003

Clean ha0Xring fu|\| alert!
Kevin Poulsen in The Register - Matrix Sequel Has Hacker Cred:
The average American moviegoer taking in the Matrix Reloaded this weekend will likely be wowed by the elaborate action sequences and dazzling special effects. But hackers who've seen the blockbuster are crediting it with a more subtle cinematic milestone: it's the first major motion picture to accurately portray a hack.

That's right: Trinity uses a 'sploit.
Basically, instead of some cinematic hocus pocus, Trinity uses a well known tool of today called Nmap to scan the target and find an opening for an exploit.
"I was definitely pretty excited when I saw it," says "Fyodor," the 25-year-old author of Nmap. "I think compared to previous movies that had any kind of hacking content, you could generally assume it's going to be some kind of stupid 3D graphics show."
Fyodor notes that the filmmakers changed the text of Nmap's output slightly "to make it fit on the screen better," but he's not quibbling over the details. The white hat hacker's stardom even gave him new appreciation for the speed of the Internet's underground. After seeing the film late Wednesday night, Fyodor put out a request to an Nmap mailing list asking for someone to get him a digital still of the program's three-seconds of fame. He expected it to take hours, or days.

"Twenty minutes after I send it, I'm getting a bunch of screens shots, some of them have suspicious Windows Media Player outlines to them," he says. "Now I've got screen shots, Divx copies of the movie, all sorts of stuff." If the Matrix borrows from real life, the Internet, it seems, already has the Matrix.
There's more by following the link.
More whine and cheese
Dominique de Villepin (who is a man) wants some too:
PARIS - Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in an interview aired Friday that France wants "lies and calumny" published in both the U.S. and British press to stop.
Golly! I wouldn't want to upset a violet sniffer!

Screw off Dominique!
I haven't joined in the extensive comment about the Jayson Blair debacle at the NY Times, but I thought this item from Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post was a nice vingette in the overall story. It really gives the measure of the man - Blair Doctored My Work, Writer Says:
Lisa Suhay, a contract writer for the New York Times, was stunned when she saw what Jayson Blair had done with her work.

It was the summer of 2000, and Blair had asked her to interview some people about the recently announced Firestone tire recall. Suhay discovered a neighborhood man named Michael Matha in his New Jersey driveway who said he had just gotten replacement tires from Firestone for his Ford Explorer. She e-mailed his comments to Blair.

The next day's story opened with Matha having been transported to "a Firestone tire and service center." In Blair's version, the man had not yet gotten his tires. "I've heard that they're putting people off because there's a shortage of replacement tires, but I'm not taking no for an answer," Matha was quoted as saying.
But to Suhay, Blair's story was "fiction." What she found "didn't fit the premise in Jayson's mind, which is that people were upset about getting a raw deal from Firestone. . . . There was no Sturm und Drang, so he created it."
"I was livid," Suhay said yesterday. "I was beyond livid." She said she complained to editors on the Times metro desk, and clerks on the business desk, but they brushed her off. Blair refused to run a correction, she said, and at one point threatened her.

"Jayson told me that if I was tired of working for the Times, he would make sure my name was taken off the assignment list," Suhay said. "He made it clear that he was in the office every day while I was just a voice on the phone. Who would editorial listen to if he told them not to use me because I was difficult to work with? I backed off."
What a guy! I don't think anything this punk is going to get is even half of enough.
They're on to us!
Somehow the Frenchies found out about the secret instructions I receive regularly on my clandestine radio fishing reel - France to Monitor U.S. Media for Untruths:
France, which led opposition to the Iraq war, has instructed its diplomats to monitor U.S. media for signs of an orchestrated campaign of misinformation to discredit it, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Brian Knowlton elaborates in the IHT - France protests 'plot' by U.S.:
The administration's frustration with France has had a clear, and sometimes troubling, public echo. Web sites, conservative columnists and late-night television hosts have mercilessly mocked the French. A Time magazine cartoon depicts a U.S. invasion of France that puts Humvees on streets and an American flag over the Arc de Triomphe, and installs an "'administrator' who isn't always attuned to local sensitivities" - Ronald McDonald.
Poor babies!

Bite me, Jacakanapes!

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Road Trips!
High school class trip to Seattle includes stop at strip club
SPRAGUE — When nine students at Sprague High School took their senior trip to the big city recently, the stops in Seattle included Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and a strip club.

The latter was not on the original itinerary.
But that was just the tykes having a little fun. How about Students Left On Bus While Chaperones Gambled In Casino:
The Oklahoma City School Board said it is investigating after several Capitol Hill High School students were allegedly left in a casino parking lot during a non-sanctioned field trip while the adult chaperones gambled inside, Eyewitness News 5 reported Wednesday.

The students were left with a bus driver in a casino parking lot on two occasions, said Brittany Taylor, who paid $250 for the field trip, which was promoted as a six-day college recruitment and recreational outing.

The trip's itinerary included a professional basketball game, a New York Yankee's baseball game, and a tour of colleges in three states.
The students said they attended the basketball game, but missed the baseball game, and only visited one of the colleges they were scheduled to tour.

"On the sheet there was a bunch we were supposed to go to, but Mrs. Leggins said we were a day behind," Taylor said.
Mrs. Leggins?
The field trip was organized and led by Capitol Hill High School Principal Herlena Leggins, but was not approved by the district superintendent.
Capitol Hill High School activity funds helped finance the trip, but the expenditures were made without board approval, officials said.
A copy of an audit of the trip completed by the school board indicates thousands of dollars were spent on the field trip out of the school's activity fund.

It also identifies several people, including the principal and the principal's family, who went on the trip, but were not required to pay the $250 that the students were required to pay.

Leggins could not be reached for comment.
Can you say "revised career path"? I knew you could!
Sid Vicious Alert!
Janet Maslin in the NY Times - Clintons' 'Good Soldier' Explains All Those Messes:
When her book "It Takes a Village" was published in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton was assailed for not mentioning the ghostwriter who had been paid $120,000 to help. Her aide and confidant Sidney Blumenthal is now ready to set the record straight on this Clinton contretemps and hundreds of others. His most often repeated assertion, throughout an 800-plus-page memoir and political treatise, is this: "The charge was, of course, completely false."

Writing throughout "The Clinton Wars" with the patience of a schoolteacher aiding the benighted, Mr. Blumenthal explains that Mrs. Clinton has proof that she wrote the book herself. But why no mention of a hired collaborator? "Because, she decided, no matter how endless the list, some of the many, many people who had helped her were bound to feel that they had been left off."
Small problem Sid - as we explained last week, Barbara Feinman Todd's "contract to help Clinton with It Takes a Village called for an expression of thanks and a payment of $120,000". And aside from not getting the thanks, Hillary tried to stiff her out of the final $30,000.

It's no surprise that Sid's 'splaining in his new book needs to be taken with a boxcar of salt. On the other hand, I wasn't exactly burning up the wires to Amazon to order a copy. Good thing:
Beyond his intention to set the record straight on controversies that plagued the Clinton presidency, Mr. Blumenthal has a more personal agenda. Barely mentioning others close to the Clintons, and illustrating this memoir with smiling, convivial photographs of himself in their company (though much of the book is about others, like the less lovable Kenneth W. Starr), Mr. Blumenthal sends a clear message to his administration colleagues: Mom liked me best.
Just like the Wicked Witch of the West and the head flying monkey.
They've got to be kidding!
Ananova reports One third of people suffer from celebrity worship:
One in three people in Britain is suffering from Celebrity Worship Syndrome after becoming obsessed with their screen idol, according to new research.

Extreme sufferers of the newly identified condition admit they would lie, steal or worse if the object of their admiration asked them.

Kylie Minogue, David Beckham and even Tony Blair are among the most popular celebrities idolised by participants in the study.

Psychologists at the University of Leicester carried out the research and found celebrity worship is not just for teenage girls or science fiction fans.

They say CWS affected around 36% of the people sampled and one in four respondents was so obsessed with their idol that it affected their daily life.
My journal article on Celebrity Distaste Syndrome is in preparation - I'm the prime subject.
Hanky Panky Alert!
Celeste Katz and Dave Goldiner have the scoop in The Daily News - JFK intern admits all:

Hey baby!
The then-Mimi Beardsley was a senior at Miss Porter's School in Connecticut when she came to the White House in 1961, months after Kennedy became the youngest elected President in history.

The editor of her school paper, Mimi was invited to Washington to interview Jacqueline Kennedy, who had graduated from the exclusive girls' boarding school.

She never met the First Lady but quickly captured the attention of the world's most powerful man.

A year later, Mimi was awarded a prestigious internship in the White House, though she couldn't even type.
The striking teenager was invited to White House pool parties with a handful of other young women and flown on Air Force jets to secret liaisons with Kennedy at resorts and summit meetings, Gamarekian said.

Once, presidential aides caught her hiding on the floor of a limousine in JFK's entourage in the Bahamas moments after the President left.
Ruh Oh!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Today's Hoot!
Actually there are two, but both are via The Corner. First Christopher Buckley has his way with John Le Kerry in the New Yorker:
In a sign that the Bush campaign plans to portray Senator John Kerry as an aloof, anti-American snob who doodles on legal pads during Senate committee hearings by conjugating French irregular verbs, Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon unveiled a half-dozen thirty-second spots designed to emphasize Mr. Kerry’s “alarming and unapologetic Francophilia.”

The ads, which McKinnon admits have been “somewhat” computer-enhanced, variously depict the Senator singing the “Marseillaise” on the floor of the U.S. Senate during a filibuster in the discussion of Bush judicial appointees, raising the French tricolor over the U.S. Capitol, and groping French actress Sophie Marceau during an anti-Iraq-war protest march on the Mall in Washington.
Then there is the shock of the century - Tommy Chong Pleads Guilty in Bong Sales:
Tommy Chong, who played one half of the dope-smoking duo in Cheech and Chong movies, pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia.

Chong also pleaded guilty on behalf of his business, Nice Dreams Enterprises, which made a line of marijuana bongs and pipes. Doing business as Chong Glass, Nice Dreams Enterprises sold glass pipes and bongs that Chong acknowledged were used to smoke marijuana.
But the best part is the picture of Tommy, all duded up.
I sense a trend
First it was the Senate Democrats filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees that they knew would be approved on a floor vote. Then it was the Texas Democrats abandoning their legislative posts when they saw they were going to lose on a redistricting vote. Now this from Jeff Johnson at CNS - Liberal Democrats Threaten Filibuster of Gun Suit Bill:
Six liberal Senate Democrats threatened Tuesday to filibuster a bill that would prohibit lawsuits against gun makers, dealers, sellers and importers for the illegal actions of criminals who misuse their products.

An identical bill blocking such suits has already passed the House of Representatives by a two-to-one vote, and the Senate proposal already had 52 cosponsors when it was introduced.

"We're going to work and do all we can to make sure that this legislation does not become law," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) warned Tuesday.
The Republicans in the Senate need to stop being so gentlemanly and start holding the Democrats' feet to the fire. I want to see Jack Reed crapping in a Hefty bag at the podium in the Senate while on a 48 hour drone. After all, it's sweeps month.
Film at 11!
Out here in the sticks there aren't really any local TV stations unless you count the big town which is a ways up the road. But I can still enjoy the hijinks of "sweeps" months from afar. For those unclear on the concept, there is an old article by Dave Zornow that explains it:
The sweeps, Nielsen’s February, May, July and November surveys of all DMA markets, were designed to provide media buyers with representative TV ratings in all local markets. But over time they have been turned into an atypical, stunt- and star-studded spectacle by broadcasters, networks and syndicators which inflate prime time program ratings by as much as fifty percent.
By now, just about every TV viewer in American knows when a sweep is taking place. Regularly scheduled prime time programs don’t run as scheduled. Local newscasts are filled with more-than-usually captivating stories and "news" features which coincidentally relate to their movie lead-ins. During the rest of the year, viewers know they have less than a fifty-fifty chance of seeing a new episode, but during February, May and November the re-runs are few and far between.
My favorite sweeps story took place some years ago and involved a local news promo which went something like "Teenage prostitutes on our streets! Film at 11!". That presumably got the viewers' juices flowing.

Well that's nothing compared to San Francisco as Peter Heartlaub reports in the San Francisco Chronicle - A titillating take on San Francisco's history: KRON documentary traces city's past as seen through its sex industry:
The story of San Francisco has been told many ways -- through its politicians, peace marches, immigrants and industry.

"San Francisco: Sex and the City" takes a more lascivious approach, defining the city by its porn, pleasure palaces, leather bars and lusty ladies.

"The genesis of this thing didn't come from 'Well, let's go have some fun with sex.' There was real history to it," said Ken Swartz, who created the KRON documentary. "The Barbary Coast and the bordellos and Gold Rush prostitutes. My God, the city comes alive because of that."

The documentary premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday, which may have been lost on viewers focusing on the half-naked thrusting bodies in KRON's not-so-subtle promotions.

"So sexy. So erotic. So raw," a narrator says during one KRON advertisement, each sentence punctuated by a leather-clad clown cracking a whip.
Ah yes, it must be sweeps month.
Calm Down, Trekkies!
The AP reports Multnomah County calls off job for Klingon interpreter:
PORTLAND - Sorry, potential Klingon interpreters.

Officials have said they won't be needing your services, after all.

The office that treats mental health patients in Multnomah County had included Klingon on a list of 55 languages that could be spoken by incoming patients.

But the inclusion of the Star Trek language drew a spate of tongue-in-cheek headlines.

And now the county has rescinded its call, stressing that it hasn't spent a penny of public money on Klingon interpretation.

"It was a mistake, and a result of an overzealous attempt to ensure that our safety net systems can respond to all customers and clients," Multnomah County chair Diane Linn said in a news release.
Ah, the old "safety net" ploy for separating the suckers taxpayers from their money. Only in America would the taxpayers provide interpreters for 55, er, 54 languages that possible hospital patients might speak.
County officials had previously said that no patient had ever come in speaking only Klingon, but that the county would pay a Klingon interpreter in the unlikely case one was actually needed.
I'm sure "the county" would. I love to see tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Today's Hoot
John Kelso in the Austin American-Statesman - Boo Hoo Flu drives out Democrats:
Let's see. In 1979, when 12 unhappy state senators boycotted work at the Capitol and hid out in a West Austin garage apartment, they were dubbed the Killer Bees.

So what do we call this latest bunch of disappearing Dems? Doggett's Dung Beetles — best I can do on short notice.

On Monday, 59 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives did not show up for work at the state Capitol. And now 53 of them seem to be hiding out from the law. The Department of Public Safety was sent to look for them.
For those of you not familiar with Texas, the DPS is the modern euphemism for the Texas Rangers.
Like Elvis, the Democrats have left the building. Unlike Elvis, the Democrats aren't dead. But they might as well be. Turns out the bulk of them are just across the border in Oklahoma.

Conjecture had these lawmakers as far away as Mexico at one point. Heck, from all the talk, you might've thought they found Dick Cheney at his undisclosed location.

Oklahoma? Of all the options these lawmakers have on places to chill, why would they pick Oklahoma? Who is the travel agent for these people? The Three Stooges?

With Louisiana and good gumbo so close by, why would anyone want to hole up in Oklahoma, especially during tornado season? At least these guys weren't stuck in a doublewide in Enid.

And how do you hide state Rep. Elliott Naishtat of Austin in Oklahoma? He'd be the only guy in the state using big words.
You know folks at the Legislature aren't getting along real great if usually discerning people voluntarily leave an air-conditioned building in Texas to do time in Oklahoma. But it shows the Democrats have a sense of dedication and self-sacrifice — and that they don't get the Travel Channel.
Time for some Okies to weigh in with comments about Baja Oklahoma.
Thanks Mom and Dad!
Chinese couple name their baby son Saddam SARS

Monday, May 12, 2003

Don't let the garage door hit your butt on the way out!
Clare Short resigns from government:
Clare Short, the international development secretary, has resigned from Tony Blair's government after weeks of speculation about her position.

Ms Short's verbal attack on the prime minister's Iraq strategy before the conflict and threat to quit the cabinet led to suggestions she would not survive the next reshuffle. Last week, she failed to turn up to support the government in a crucial Commons vote on foundation hospitals.

She is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons later on Monday.

Ms Short's move suggests she has decided to pre-empt a possible sacking by going through with her original threat to go. The prime minster had persuaded her to stay in the cabinet to see through the reconstruction of Iraq after the war, but ministers have privately suspected she would be dropped.
If we ever get a president who proposes that the USA have an "Secretary of International Development", we'll know we're in trouble.
'We're teens, we're cute, we're radical to boot!'
Duncan Campbell brings us trendoids up to date with Cheerleaders twirl pom-poms of protest:
Cheerleaders are a wholesome symbol of America. They feature at every major sports event, in films from American Beauty to Bring It On and are the source of a multi-million-dollar industry in costumes and training camps. Yet now cheerleading has become political.
Anyone attending recent political rallies in LA will have noticed the most visible sign of this, a team called Radical Teen Cheer, who chant: 'We're teens, we're cute, we're radical to boot!'

Instead of backing the Oakland Raiders or the LA Lakers, they chant: 'Who trained, who trained, bin Laden? Who armed, who armed, Saddam Hussein?'

Now other radical teams - among them the Dirty Southern Belles in Memphis and the Rocky Mountain Rebels in Colorado - are springing up in dozens of US and Canadian cities, shaking pom-poms for causes from gay and lesbian rights to foreign policy.
Hmm, there are some problems with this approach, not the least of which is that even if you give some wingnuts red t-shirts, they are still wingnuts. It also doesn't help that the cheers are rather lame. From one of the radical cheerleader web sites:
So kiss the back o' my butt Uh!
Kiss the back o' my butt Uh!
Kiss the back o' my
Kiss the back o' my
Kiss the back o' my butt Uh!
My Acka backa, my soda cracker
Your institutions never listen
To the people's needs
It's all about greed --
I Said Beep beep beep
Take your voice to the street Grrrl
Wow, that's entertainment! But back to Duncan Campbell:
Formed last year in LA, Radical Teen Cheer are from a working-class area with a large Latino population. There are around 20 of them, aged between 14 and 18, almost all pupils at Franklin High School.

'Cheerleading is just our way of getting our message across,' said Natalia, who is also in her school team. 'We get a lot of attention, people saying "wow, that's cool".'
Meredith Ryley, a teacher and a team organiser, said demonstrators were stunned by the cheerleaders bursting into action. 'One guy told me it was the coolest thing he'd seen in 20 years.
Apparently he doesn't get out much. I did a little Googling for this particular cast of characters and it turns out that Lonewacko spotted them at a demo in February (pics here) performing their cheer for Uday. That ought to bring in the fans!

And let's hear more from public servant and scholar, Meredith Ryley:
Ryley was thinking of encouraging girls to start a punk cheerleading team when she read about a radical team in Minnesota and decided to form Radical Teen Cheer.
Way to encourage the tykes, Meredith! Although a punk cheerleading team would certainly be, er, interesting. And at least you didn't travel the tired, old sagging nude protest route.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Magicians Sue Brazilian TV Network:
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Magicians claiming they nearly went broke after a television program aired the secrets of their trade have won a legal fight against Brazil's largest television network.

TV Globo must pay damages to 21 magicians in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul because of a program that revealed how magicians perform such tricks as pulling rabbits out of hats and sawing women in half, Judge Eduardo Kothe Werlang ruled recently.

The show featured Leonard Montano, an American magician known as "Mister M" who always hid his identity with a scary black mask and was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"Mister M took all the magic out of magic," Paulo Roberto Brito Martins, one of the magicians who sued, said Friday. "It was like depriving a child of happiness and the right to fantasize when you tell him Santa Claus does not exist."
Yes, Virginia!

Wife Held on Using Perfume to Harm Spouse:
STUART, Fla. - A woman was arrested for dousing herself with perfume, spraying the house with bug killer and disinfectant, and burning scented candles in an attempt to seriously injure her chemically sensitive husband, prosecutors said.
David Taylor, 46, is disabled due to allergies that resulted from exposure to toxic mold and hazardous chemicals as a construction worker, his doctors say. That exposure netted him $150,000 in a recent workers compensation settlement.

The fragrant incident occurred on April 4 during a conversation the couple were [having] about separating after three years of marriage. Taylor told investigators that his wife became enraged when he refused to give her half of his settlement.

"Lynda came in the kitchen wearing perfume and applied some to (her daughter). Then went around the house spraying Lysol and even sprayed some in my face," David Taylor wrote in his complaint.
Lynda Taylor's attorney Karen Steger said the charge is a misuse of the criminal justice system.

"The guy's a faker," she said. "He just wants to gain an advantage in the divorce case."
If he's a faker and the wife wants half, what does that make her?
It's too early for this kind of news!
Paul Webster reports in the Observer - Parisians get order to smile:
There won't be much point in asking the waiter to say 'cheese' for those souvenir snaps in Paris this summer. He has already received orders to smile like mad at foreigners as part of a courtesy campaign.

Worried that tension between France and the Anglo-American coalition will lead to hostility at street level, the Ile de France region, which covers the 10 million people in and around the capital, has launched a campaign for locals to be nice to foreigners.

Thousands of posters of happy Parisians in which every figure is decorated with a cartoon 'smiley' have been put up, promising visitors that in the Ile de France, 'our smiles come from the heart'.
Hmmm, why am I suspicious?
There is nothing in the campaign that bans pulling faces behind customers' backs, as Anne Preghon, salesgirl in a big department store, pointed out.

'Why should Parisians be nice to foreigners when they are not even nice to each other?' she said, smiling.
Now that's more like it! Sorry, no poster links, but I'll keep looking. I suspect they are all on eBay as rare collectibles.
Uh Oh!
Brian Willoughby, a senior writer at amuses shocks with MAXIM-UM 'REGRET'? Protesters Don't Buy 'Apology':
A 15-line 'apology' in the April issue of Maxim magazine has done little to quell protests about the magazine's three-page depiction in January of Mahatma Gandhi as a punching bag for a so-called "Kick-Ass Workout."
I suspect the folks at Maxim and deserve each other.
Here's a shocker!
Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald - President of Venezuela deserves free-market award:
It's time to nominate Venezuela's populist President Hugo Chávez to the ''Milton Friedman Award'' for his indefatigable work to advance the cause of free-market policies and political harmony in the developing world.

I'm not kidding. No other head of state has done so much in such a short time to wreck his country's economy, and to discourage his neighbors from engaging in the kind of finger-waving populism that has brought about massive capital flight and record poverty levels in Venezuela.
I guess Hugo's good for something after all.
Vroom, vroom!
Paul Bedard's Washington Whispers column at US News has this gem:
Driving Ms. Hillary
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lot of things, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. she's not. Clinton last week attended the Capitol Hill rollout of General Motors' hydrogen-fueled prototype. But unlike other lawmakers, she begged off an invitation to drive the minivan. It seemed odd that she'd pass up some environmentally correct TV exposure, until GM Veep Beth Lowery told us why: The former first lady fessed up that it's been at least seven years since she last drove and this wasn't the time to start.
I'm not holding my breath for the NY Times to create a big "out of touch" fiesta out of this, just like they did with the completely bogus story in 1992 about the then President Bush and the supermarket scanner. On the other hand, the wags at Free Republic are using it as the inspiration for some japery.