Patterico's Pontifications


Doing Anything for Hannah Montana Tickets (Updated)

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 9:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Hannah Montana is a wildly popular Disney Channel TV show and the name of the lead character played by Miley Cyrus, the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus:

“Miley Cyrus stars as Hannah Montana, a preteen who lives a secret life as a pop star. Cyrus’s real life dad, country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus, plays her dad and manager. Miley just moved from Tennessee as a country singer and now has to adapt to life in Malibu.”

Fans are desperate for tickets to the 54-city Hannah Montana tour. It’s so hot that tickets have sold out in as little as 4 minutes. In fact, fans are so desperate, they will do anything:

“An essay that won a 6-year-old girl four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert began with the powerful line: “My daddy died this year in Iraq.” While gripping, it wasn’t true — and now the girl may lose her tickets after her mom acknowledged to contest organizers it was all a lie.

The sponsor of the contest was Club Libby Lu, a Chicago-based store that sells clothes, accessories and games intended for young girls. The saga began Friday with company officials surprising the girl at a Club Libby Lu at a mall in suburban Garland, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas. The girl won a makeover that included a blonde Hannah Montana wig, as well as the grand prize: airfare for four to Albany, N.Y., and four tickets to the sold-out Hannah Montana concert on Jan. 9.

The mother had told company officials that the girl’s father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said. She had identified the soldier as Sgt. Jonathon Menjivar, but the Department of Defense has no record of anyone with that name dying in Iraq. Caulfield said the mother has admitted to the deception.

“We regret that the original intent of the contest, which was to make a little girl’s holiday extra special, has not been realized in the way we anticipated,” said Mary Drolet, the CEO of Club Libby Lu. Drolet said the company is reviewing the matter, and is considering taking away the girl’s tickets.”

I don’t have words for this but I’m sure some of you do.

UPDATE 12/29/2007 – Libby Lu pulled the tickets but presumably the little girl gets to keep the makeover, and here’s more about the Mom:

“The girl’s mother had told Club Libby Lu officials that the girl’s father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said. But the mother, Priscilla Ceballos, admitted later Friday that the essay and the military information she provided about her daughter’s father were untrue.

“We did the essay and that’s what we did to win. We did whatever we could do to win,” Ceballos said in an interview Friday with Dallas’ KDFW-TV. “But when (Caulfield) asked me if this essay is true, I said `No, this essay is not true.'”

I hope the little girl learned it’s a bad idea to lie but, given her mother’s example, the only thing she may have learned is it’s bad to get caught.


Is This Entrapment? You Be the Judge (Updated)

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 9:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Let’s start with what we know: It’s legal to sunbathe topless in the Columbus, Ohio, city parks. Beyond that, it gets complicated:

“Robin Garrison, an off-duty 42-year-old firefighter, was walking in Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio, in May when he saw a woman sunbathing topless under a tree.

He approached her and they started talking and getting comfortable, the woman smiling and resting her foot on his shoulder at one point. [Note: Photo at the link. — DRJ]

Eventually, she asked to see Garrison’s penis; he unzipped his pants and complied. Seconds later, undercover police officers pulled up in a van and arrested Garrison; he was later charged with public indecency, a misdemeanor, based on video footage taken by cops who were targeting men having sex or masturbating in the park.

While topless sunbathing is legal in the city’s parks, exposing more than that is against the law.”

It’s no surprise that the police and defense counsel view this sting operation in different lights:

Law enforcement officials say that such sting operations are an extremely effective means of lowering crime rates and stopping the criminally minded before they commit worse offenses. From early 2006 to the spring of 2007, there were 160 citations for public indecency in the city, according to an investigation by 10TV News. Among those who were caught in the stings: an Ohio State University doctor, government employees and a retired highway trooper.

But such operations veer dangerously close to entrapment, say lawyers, civil libertarians and defendants who’ve been caught in sting operations. At Garrison’s trial, his attorney argued that it was a case of entrapment. “Columbus police utilized this topless woman to snare this man,” said Sam Shamansky. “He sees her day after day. He’s not some seedy pervert.”

The argument failed to sway a Franklin County Municipal Court jury that found Garrison guilty of public indecency last month. He was ordered to stay away from the park, placed on a year’s probation and fined $250. Currently, Garrison remains on paid desk duty while the fire department conducts an internal investigation into his behavior.”

What is the legal standard for entrapment?

The definition of entrapment is police activity that induces somebody to commit a crime that they otherwise wouldn’t do,” said Gabriel Chin, law professor at the University of Arizona. “It’s not entrapment to give somebody an opportunity to commit a crime.”

Chin explains that entrapment involves an officer cajoling and persuading someone who’s resistant to the idea of committing a crime. “Just preying on a predisposition is not necessarily entrapment.”

UPDATE 12/29/2007: An article from the Columbus Dispatch has more detail that makes me believe this woman was not a police agent. See this comment.

***** Click MORE for additional entrapment stories. *****
[Edited to add the MORE code. — DRJ]


Al Qaeda on Bhutto: “We’ve Terminated the Most Precious American Asset”

Filed under: International,War — DRJ @ 4:55 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

An Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto:

“Confirming the worst fears of governments and anti-terror agencies worldwide, an al-Qaida leader on Friday claimed responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto, whom he described as “the most precious American asset”.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat (the) mujahideen,” al-Qaida commander and spokesman Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location. Al-Yazid was described by AKI as the “main al-Qaida commander in Afghanistan”. It reported that the decision to kill Bhutto was made by al-Qaida No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

The report said death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and a cell comprising a “Punjabi volunteer” of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi killed Bhutto. President Pervez Musharraf had blamed the al-Qaida when he survived two assassination attempts in 2003 in Rawalpindi.

The Qaida claim coincided with a new theory about the exact cause of Bhutto’s death. Pakistan interior minstry spokesman, Javed Cheema, said on Friday that she was killed by shrapnel in the wake of the explosion triggered by the suicide bomber.

Cheema told Times Now that a man shot at Bhutto as she waved to her supporters from the sun-roof of her bulletproof car. But the bullets missed the slain leader. He then blew himself up and it was a splinter unleashed in the explosion that hit her and killed her. Agencies quoted Cheema as saying that Bhutto died after she was injured by the lever of the car in which she was travelling.

Doctors at Rawalpindi general hospital who tried to save Bhutto’s life also said that there were no bullet wounds in her body. PPP leaders had said on Thursday that she had been hit by shots fired by the suicide attacker while she was waving to supporters from her armoured vehicle.”

The Sydney Morning Herald filed this report about the Pakistani government’s statement on Bhutto’s injuries:

“Pakistan’s interior ministry said today Benazir Bhutto died after smashing her head on her car’s sunroof while trying to duck, and that no bullet or shrapnel was found inside her.
“If she had not come out of the vehicle, she would have been unhurt, as all the other occupants of the vehicle did not receive any injuries,” ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said. He said the post-mortem on the populist opposition leader, whose funeral earlier today was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners, found her mortal wound came when she tried to duck after the bomber attacked.

The bomber also apparently fired three times at her but missed, Cheema said. When she ducked, she hit the lever of the sunroof of the car that was to speed her away from a campaign rally as she was gearing up to contest parliamentary elections set for January 8. “The lever struck near her right ear and fractured her skull,” Cheema said. “There was no bullet or metal shrapnel found in the injury.”

Bhutto’s lawyer disputed the government account as “a pack of lies”:

“But a top aide to Benazir Bhutto rejected the government’s explanation of her death as a “pack of lies”. “It is baseless. It is a pack of lies,” Farooq Naik, Bhutto’s top lawyer and a senior official in her Pakistan People’s Party, said.

“Two bullets hit her, one in the abdomen and one in the head,” Naik said. “Bhutto’s personal secretary Naheed Khan and party official Makhdoom Amin Fahim were in the car and they saw what happened,” he said.

“It is an irreparable loss and they are turning it into a joke with such claims. The country is heading towards civil war.”

It’s not a promising sign that the groups can’t agree on Bhutto’s injuries and what caused her death. I understand that prompt burials are culturally required but it works against the public interest in this case and will undoubtedly result in future disputes and conspiracy theories.

Cheema also claimed that the government had intercepted a congratulatory telephone call from Baitullah Mehsud, a South Waziristan (tribal area) Taliban who reportedly also has links to Al Qaeda:

Mr Cheeema said intelligence services had intercepted a call today from the man considered to be a top al-Qaeda figure for Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, congratulating a militant after Bhutto’s death.

He said there was “irrefutable evidence that al-Qaeda, its networks and cohorts are trying to destabilise Pakistan”. “We have recorded his conversation in which he is congratulating a militant for the attack,” Cheema said, adding that Mehsud was also behind the suicide attack on Bhutto’s homecoming rally in October that killed 140 people.

“He is responsible for most of the attacks that have taken place in the country,” the spokesman said, calling for national unity “to eliminate the proponents of death and destruction who are trying to destabilise Pakistan.”

Pakistani authorities say Mehsud is based in the troubled tribal region of South Waziristan, where troops have been battling Islamist rebels since the fall of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001. Mehsud had until recently been described by officials as the top pro-Taliban militant commander in the region but is increasingly said to have links to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group.”

The Pakistani government obviously has an interest in blaming Bhutto’s assassination on Al Qaeda and Taliban interests and it may be that’s what happened. However, it’s not enough to show that extremists were responsible for Bhutto’s assassination. Musharraf also has to take steps to show the extremists did not have assistance from his government. That may be impossible to prove, for many reasons, but especially if it is not true.

It will be especially difficult to convince Bhutto’s supporters that Musharraf wasn’t responsible after reading Bhutto’s message to Wolf Blitzer:

Bhutto, who was assassinated on Thursday, wrote to Blitzer that if anything happened to her, “I would hold (Pakistani President Pervez) Musharraf responsible.”

Blitzer received the e-mail on Oct. 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and longtime Washington spokesman for Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped another attempt at her life. Bhutto wrote to Blitzer that “I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf’s) minions,” that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the Pakistani leader was responsible.
Bhutto did not necessarily believe that Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.”

These have become Bhutto’s words from the grave and, for many people, they will always ring true.


LA Times Readers’ Rep Journal: We’re Great!

Filed under: Dog Trainer — DRJ @ 1:49 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I apologize for invading the host’s turf but I was browsing through the LA Times Readers’ Representative Journal to see if a response had been posted to my question about a late November immigration story. I didn’t find anything on that but I did notice this entry posted December 19:

A roundup of kudos

Some recent coverage that has brought plaudits:

The Dec. 9 investigative report on runaway trailers, which reported the deadly results when trailers for hauling boats, horses, gardening equipment, household goods and autos come unhooked on the highways, prompted more than 20 e-mails and calls of praise. A number of readers described their own harrowing experiences or called for greater enforcement and government regulation in response to the front-page story by Myron Levin and Alan C. Miller. Wrote emergency medical technician Tracy L. Hannah: “This should be required reading for ANYONE who tows a trailer. I have responded to far too many accidents that involve operator error.” Wrote Harvey Steele of Lancaster, “I think you have made an impact for a safer highway in California.”

The Dec. 7 Column One focused on one man, Reny Cabral, to illustrate what is happening as the state’s prisons are increasingly overwhelmed by inmates in psychiatric crisis. The article by Scott Gold and Lee Romney — one in a series on California’s troubled mental health system — moved social workers and others involved in the issue to thank The Times for shedding light on the subject. Said Tamara Odisho Benjamin of San Francisco: “Excellent article. Although it was very hard to read in one sitting without crying. It’s terrible to know so many people are in Cabral’s situation. Here in San Francisco there are all too many mentally ill people on our streets.” Michelle Robinson of Simi Valley was moved, too: “I was wondering if you had any idea how people can prevent these things from happening again. I want to take some sort of action.”

One of several for David Willman’s front-page piece (and inside article) reporting how lobbying trumped the competition for a better anthrax vaccine (Dec. 2): “Great article. I’m glad to see that this kind of reporting hasn’t completely vanished at The Times.” (From Mark Stegeman, associate professor of economics at the University of Arizona.)

The Dec. 12 story reporting that the Humane Society of the United States had accused a Westside pet store of selling puppies obtained from puppy mills brought numerous notes of concern. While a few readers defended the store that Carla Hall reported on, most readers expressed the sentiments of Barbara Davilman of Studio City: “Thank you for putting this on the front page. It’s unconscionable that, given what we do know about puppy mills and how they operate, we still allow pet stores to sell dogs. If someone wants a dog they can contact one of several hundred rescue organizations, go to the shelters or contact a reputable breeder. If you ask me, puppy millers come in a close second to the Michael Vicks of the world.”

Finally, because the story was mentioned in this journal last week for a grammar goof in the caption, it’s worth noting that Judy Pasternak has won the 2007 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for for “Blighted Homeland,” the series more than a year ago that detailed the deadly effects on Navajo reservations of uranium mining during the Cold War. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has held hearings as a result of the Nov. 2006 articles; more than 1,000 readers have praised it and requests continue to come in for more coverage of the issue. (Readers had reacted to the Dec. 7 story to point out a grammatical gaffe inserted by the editor who wrote the caption — “have drank” instead of “have drunk.”)”

The Readers’ Rep Journal lists recent comments in the sidebar and I noticed the last comment was posted December 14, 2007, by “rukidding” (great online name, by the way). Before that, the last comment was from Jamie Gold, the Readers’ Rep, on November 29 in response to a comment from JD.

Must be a slow month for the Readers’ Rep.


Crab-Grass Blog Obtains Correction from Much-Respected, Widely Esteemed News Outlet — Nine Days After the Fact

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:53 am

With the lightning-quick speed characteristic of the fleet-footed Big Media, the L.A. Times today issues this correction:

Giuliani campaign: An article in Section A on Dec. 19 about the relatives of fallen New York firefighters who are opposing Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential bid said that another organization, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, had been fined for “acting in concert” with 2004 Republican presidential efforts. The Federal Election Commission in 2006 concluded that the group “did not unlawfully coordinate its activities” with individual candidates or political parties. The Swift Boat organization was fined for failing to register as a political committee and for raising millions of dollars over the limits that apply to those committees.

I told you (and the L.A. Times Readers’ Representative) about this error nine days ago — the very day the article came out. I guess it took them nine days to read the link I sent them that spoon-fed them this correction.

Chalk up another victory for the crab-grass blogs.

Tell Us Your Favorite Joke

Filed under: General,Humor — Patterico @ 7:44 am

Commenter nk told a joke last night, and I thought it might be fun for the rest of you to do the same.

What’s your favorite joke?

Let’s hear from everyone, even those of you who usually don’t comment.

Feel free to tell more than one. It’s fine if it’s off-color; just warn us at the beginning of your comment.

Let the joke-telling begin!

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