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August 1st, 2002 by

Corporate Fanmail
Poor Ol’ Timmy

Tim Horton's

Dear Tim Horton’s:
I live in Buffalo and often go to the Timmy’s (as my friends and I call it) on Main Street. I used to live down south where there was no Timmy’s and my Canadian friend and I use to argue over who had the best coffee, Timmy’s or Dunkin’ Donuts. Now I definitely feel that Timmy’s is the best. The girls that work there are great but sometimes our conversations in the drive-thru speaker can be confusing like that TV show where the guy says who’s on first, I don’t know who’s on second and so forth. I went there yesterday and asked if they have cinnimon buns and she said yes but when I got to the window the girl pointed at one of the girls behind her, who had crumbs on her face, and said “Sherry ate the last one”. Sherry looked like she probably ate every one. None of them were small. Anyway, it seems like some of them are also “slow” if that’s the word you’re supposed to say. I was wondering if you hire them through a program with the city or just find them yourselves. Do they get paid as much as the manager? I think that’s really nice. Also, I heard Tim Horton was a hockey player. Is he good?

Thank You
Slidell Montglomery
Buffalo, NY

Dear Slidell,
Thank you for your recent email regarding our Main and Capen store. We appreciate the kind words and compliments on our coffee. We strive to serve the freshest and best cup of coffee that money can buy. I am sorry to hear we let you down regarding the Cinnamon Bun, we hope to be able to complete your order on future visits. Thank you for your patronage.

As far as Tim Horton, he was unfortunately killed in a car accident back in 1972, on the way home home from a hockey game between Buffalo and Toronto.

Again we thank you for your interest and comments and I will forward them on to the owners of that particular location.

Joseph Ippolito
District Manager


Dear Kraft,
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Have you considered making a Malt Liquor beverage out of Cool Whip? I WOULD BUY IT!!! I even put my Cool Whip on steak!

Please count me among the many friends of COOL WHIP!

Sincerely, Matt Taibbi
Queen City Church of Christ
Buffalo, NY

Thanks for visiting our Web site to tell us how pleased you are with our product.

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We hope you’ll continue to enjoy our product. Please add our site to your bookmarks, and visit us again soon!

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Lack of Drugs Poorly Timed

August 1st, 2002 by

Lack of Drugs Poorly Timed

A mirageJust last week, the news broke that federal indictments were about to be handed down against the Rigas family. It was news of paramount importance to all of us citizens of Buffalo, and yet, even in light of this news, the question remained: why are there no drugs in the BEAST offices?

As far as the BEAST is concerned, we are having no luck whatsoever in finding drugs of any kind. There are no little paper packets stashed with powder hidden in the most obvious of hiding-places, like our desk drawers; we are no longer suffering, as we have for most of our adult lives, bouts of impotence, heart palpitations, or sweats so uncontrollable that we have to wear wool ski hats to keep it all in, and keep bandanas in our pockets for mopping our foreheads; nor have we been able to pump out consistently subpar work while being absolutely sure, on the other hand, that the marks of genius are present on every un-spell-checked, poorly researched page of our hideous newspaper. Without drugs, the truth is laid bare, and what’s our consolation? Beer? Jesus Christ!

In short, there are no drugs anywhere. Wads of money in hand and ready to buy at any price, we have been ripped off here, promised the world, morally chastised, offered beer instead, offered more beer, given leads that went nowhere, and most offensive of all, given advice on where to find a good dentist to correct the cosmetic damage to our faces caused by the many binge periods we’ve gone through over the years.

It makes no sense: here we are, in a border city, a place where, if you believe police, the price of heroin is plummeting to unprecedented lows, yet we, the most solvent, polite, punctual, compliant buyers a drug dealer could ever want, cannot score. This is embarrassing, like being a gay man in 1970s San Francisco unable to procure even for money so much as a hand-job in a public bathhouse.

On the surface, it may seem as though this has nothing to do with the collapse of the Adelphia empire, and the telling news of the imminent arrest of the Rigases. And of course, this is true—there is no real connection. But that does not prevent us from insisting that the whole thing really is connected, that this city’s petty dealer network’s repeated failure to obtain drugs for BEAST employees is but one symptom of a widespread societal malaise that even SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt—a well-known speed freak, incidentally—could not fail to recognize.

The recent spate of forest fires that raged across the American Southwest was yet another result of the failure to keep a steady flow of drugs into this office. On the night when an 8,600-acre fire approached the California-Nevada border, inching close to homes in sleepy Topaz Lake, Nevada , we thought we had a deal set to buy 20 grams of speed from some junkie out in Cheektowaga. The punk never showed. The next day, there was this news that the fires had pulled back just short of residential properties.

We at the BEAST are certain that if we’d had all the speed we needed that night, we could have done nothing to assist in fighting those fires. In fact, even if we’d been at the very fire site, with our fingers just inches way from a button which, when pressed, could have extinguished every last flicker, we would have been too stupid and too busy chatting and wired to figure it out. But we would at the very least been up all night talking to each other. Then, the next morning, when we learned that the fires had advanced, we would have said, “Gosh, what a bummer.”

But we didn’t say that. What we said when we woke up was, “That little asshole. He PROMISED! He PROMISED!” You see, our social consciences are now seriously impaired, which means trouble for everyone. When the youth of this nation lose their sense of idealism, it is not long before the whole country follows suit. And then where will we be? We ask you, then where will we be?

If everyone would just work a little harder to get us the drugs we need, then we would, finally, have all the drugs we need. That’s the real issue here.

This editorial led off with something about Adelphia, so in closing, let us just say, forget about Adelphia, find some drugs, and call us. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. What are we, lepers? We’ve got money, for Christ’s sake. The number’s listed right here in the paper. Call us anytime. And, damn it, hurry.

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Terrible P.R.

August 1st, 2002 by

Sports Crimewatch

Terrible P.R.

It’s a little early to tell yet, but it looks like a new statute is getting ready to leapfrog the open can of beer on the passenger seat, the unregistered pistol found in the hotel room during a soliciting arrest, and the simple assault of a pregnant wife to become the infraction du jour among professional athletes. As is appropriate given the theme of this issue, the new fad is the charge of “making terroristic threats,” which has more and more often been lumped in with the standard litany of multiple felony charges police generally bring when a recreating athlete short-circuits and goes haywire in a public place. In the past week, no fewer than two well-known professional athletes have been racked up on the terroristic threat charge— with one of them being Buffalo’s own Charlie Rogers, that once-promising wide receiver/kick returner pickup who may soon be calling for faircatches in the shower room of a New Jersey prison.

Probably not even God himself really understands what “making a terroristic threat” really entails, but according to government spokesmen close to God, the law reads, in New York State, something like this:


“1. A person is guilty of making a terroristic threat when with intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping, he or she threatens to commit or cause to be committed a specified offense and thereby causes a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission of such offense.

“2. It shall be no defense to a prosecution pursuant to this section that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of committing the specified offense or that the threat was not made to a person who was a subject thereof. Making a terroristic threat is a class D felony.”

There was no doubt that the “reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission” clause applied to former NBA MVP Allen Iverson, who among other things was charged with making terroristic threats following the soap opera of ambiguous armed confrontations and embarrassing marital hijinks that left him on the front pages of every paper in the country last week. Clearly, Tawanna Iverson knew the Answer well enough to believe him fully capable of carrying out a threat to menace a civilian population (though it is questionable whether the Philadephia population really qualifies as civil). After all, he said he’d put out a rap album once, and he did that. No one knows exactly what threats Iverson made, but they must have fallen short of exploding Tawanna with a thermonuclear device, as the terroristic threat charge Pennsylvania brought was only a misdemeanor.

Rogers, meanwhile, had an excellent night out last Tuesday. Things started off in cliché fashion, with Rogers refusing to leave the scene (failure to leave the scene being another very common athlete arrest; ironically, leaving the scene of a traffic accident is another) after police ordered patrons of a nightclub out of the parking lot. Rogers shouted at police, which was also so far within accepted athlete norms, but then things got completely out of control and he ended up punching a policeman in the shoulder and hitting him in the chest with an elbow… a loyal girlfriend held the officer down during this process in attempt to allow Rogers to use his open-field speed to escape, but she failed when police played the pepper spray card and soaked them both. Subsequently, Rogers allegedly spit at one of the policemen and made his mysterious “terroristic threat,” which presumably involved the attempt to “influence the policy of a unit of government”— probably asking police to roll up the windows when they drove past Elizabeth. The charges seem bogus to us. For one thing, after you’ve been sprayed with pepper spray, what else can you do but spit?

Other athletes long before this week had set the tone for the making of terroristic threats. Jim Brown has always been a trend-setter; once upon a time, he was the first black actor to perform in an interracial love scene for a major Hollywood movie. Three years ago, he became the first high-profile athlete to go to jail for making a terroristic threat, in this case against his wife Anita. He got out not long ago. We like Jim Brown and hope someone else can pick up the slack for him from now on. Where’s O.J. when you need him? Can he really be that far behind?

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August 1st, 2002 by


Letter We can’t seem to stay out of the Artvoice letters page. Take the first letter from each sentence in the body of the letter, and see what word is spelled…

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Wimble-do’s and Wimble-don’t’s

July 4th, 2002 by

Wide RightWimble-do’s and Wimble-don’t's
by James R. Miller

As the competitive fortnight at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club heads reluctantly into its final weekend, we would do well to catch our breath for a second and reflect on the whirlwind of tennis intrigue we have seen thus far.

On the women’s side of the draw, we have seen Anna Kournikova publicly chastised by John McEnroe of all people after she lost her cool during the press conference after her habitual first-round exit. Beyond that we have seen groundless accusations of steroid abuse bandied about between players (usually directed by the losing player in the direction of the winner, it should be noted). And, as yet another Venus-Serena major final appears to be more and more of an inevitability, there has been the usual press ponderings of collusion between the Williams sisters in the event they should end up in the final together.

Meanwhile, on the men’s side, we have seen something like 97% of the seeded players bow out by the quarterfinals, leaving tennis fans with a decimated field and leaving British tennis fans with the sense that they might actually bring home a winner this year.

So, in the interest of cooler heads prevailing, here then are a few Wimble-do’s and Wimble-don’t's for both the betting and non-betting man as the tournament goes through its final pairings.

DO bet on Anna Kournikova retaining her status as the women’s tennis tour’s reigning sexpot vixen, despite ongoing speculation as to whether she’ll ever actually win a tourney and foolish talk about the impressive physical attributes of the batch of up-and-coming young tennis players from former Soviet-bloc countries. Slovak Daniela Hantuchova may have longer legs than Anna, but her face is definitely a stumbling point and besides, she’s all but helpless against Serena as well. Even more importantly, last I checked Anna still had Daniela beat by a helluva lot more than a mile on the all-important internet download scale (overpowering the Slovak upstart by a score of something like 11,000 to 341 on Google Image Search hits alone).

DON’T bet on local favorite Tim Henman finally capturing a home-court title for the long-suffering British fans just because just about every other likely challenger has already lost under mysterious circumstances. By my reckoning, he’s still going to have to get through the dreaded Lleyton Hewitt and a Richard Krajicek who’s playing at or very near his 1996 championship form. Henman might get lucky and take one of those two, but there’s no way in hell he’ll get them both. Suffice it to say that Pat Cash has vowed to wear a dress on BBC television if Henman manages to pull it off, and as a former champion, he probably knows a thing or two about how things are likely to turn out.

DO bet on Venus going through her sister like a knife through butter in the inevitable Williams-on-Williams final. The elder sibling has lost something like 5 points in the past several weeks after all. Serena caught a bit of break in that she won’t face Capriati in the semis, but she’ll still not be in good enough form to top her over-achieving sister.

DON’T bet on the aging Sampras retiring just yet, notwithstanding statements to the contrary from the likes of former champions such as Boris Becker. Pete may in fact be finished in terms of competitive tennis at the very top level (indeed, some would point to his heart-breaking U.S. Open loss to Hewitt last year as the final straw that broke the champion’s back), but a competitor of Sampras’s caliber will not be willing to hang it up for good without giving it at least one more go.

DO, however, bet on Monica Seles finally hanging up her tennis dress with the thoroughly-stretched-out midriff section. She’s finished and she knows it.

But whatever you do, DON’T come crying to me when you lose your nest-egg after placing some foolish bet based on the advice provided herein. Any wishy-washy nitwit who bets serious money on professional tennis deserves everything he gets.

Born and raised in Hamburg, James R. Miller is currently completing post-doctoral work at London School of Economics.

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Naked Appeal For Tobacco Ads

July 4th, 2002 by

Naked Appeal For Tobacco Ads

naked appeal for tabacco ads

tabacco1.jpgLike most decent, God-fearing people, we here at the BEAST were horrified when we saw for the first time the gruesome warning labels on the outside of Canadian cigarette packs. Those pictures of open bleeding brains are a real drag, so to speak, on the smoking experience. Not only that, but it seemed to us that they represented a terrible offense against fact. After all, everyone knows that smoking is not only not bad for you, but that studies have shown it increases the average human life span by up to 26 years. Here at the BEAST, far from banning smoking in our office, we actually require our employees to smoke, knowing full well that a healthy worker is a productive worker. Our new policy resulted in a 483% reduction in sick days in just our second month, and one of our interns, Lucas Fox, even grew two inches in June after beginning our four-pack-a-day regimen of Camel non-filters.

So what were the Canadians thinking? How could they be so callously indifferent to the health of their citizenry? We at the BEAST decided to investigate. We called sources in Ottawa and learned that the warning labels we now see on Canadian packs of cigarettes are actually much milder than the ones they had planned to force on the tobacco industry. It turns out that it was only due to the heroic efforts of industry lawyers that the Canadian government was forced to settle on the bloody-brains photo as a political compromise.

We did some string-pulling and obtained copies of Canada’s original cigarette-pack warning photos. As you can see, they make pictures of human strokes look like Harry Potter posters:

tabacco2.jpg tabacco3.jpg tabacco4.jpg tabacco5.jpg

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July 4th, 2002 by


Dear Beast,
I was happily reading your little paper for the first time, pretty much enjoying it until I came to the Bar-Dak. Most of it is pretty accurate except for the jeers comment made about Desiderios. I was there for that cover of Billy Joel’s “Pressure” and thought it was pretty good. Now, I may be biased because I know the band and know how hard they work to play in this shitty city with all it’s shitty bars filled with nothing but POOP! It’s just a shame you had to go and ruin a perfectly good reading experience with a shallow, idiotic comment such as that. I may have to be forced to use this issue as liner for my cat’s litter box so they can defecate on it.

Rachel West

Dear Rachel,
Uh-uh, no way. We’d like to go along with this defending-your-boyfriend’s-honor thing, but seriously… If we start giving a thumbs up to Rage Against the Machine versions of Billy Joel, what’s next? Ice Cube versions of Kenny G? Black Flag plays “Songs of the Humpback Whale?” No way. There’s a line in the kitty litter, baby, and beyond it– neither thou nor thine shitty band shalt cross. Have another doughnut and leave us alone.



Dear [sic],
Bravo on bringing a soviet intelligence trick to the American indie newspaper business. Your vicious skewing of Moses takes advantage of Artvoice‘s predictable strategy to ignore you in print.

Entities at war become more like their adversaries.

Adam Mauler

Dear Adam,
Trust us: if Russian intelligence ever got around to taking on the American indie newspaper business, we’d end up with some pretty strange goddamn newspapers. But we appreciate the compliment. Incidentally, Artvoice hasn’t completely ignored us in print (see inside).



This is just what Buffalo needs!

Call an ace an ace and a spade a spade. I’m sure with the way things are in Buffalo you will have subject matter for the rest of your life.

Don’t be lured in by that whacko phony Frank Parlotto. I’m sure he’ll be knocking on your door soon.

Keep up the great work!

Former Buffalonian now down south.

P.S. Do you have any connections at HBO? I’ve got a great idea for an un-reality show….

Dear Former Buffalonian,
Can we call an unsolicited inquiry an unsolicited inquiry? We don’t have any friends at HBO and we’re not TV producers. Too many people out there ruin perfectly good letters by asking us for something at the end. Here is the proper way to end a letter to the Beast: “P.S. I own a chain of lingerie stores and would like to buy a full-page ad.” You see the difference? It just leaps off the page, doesn’t it?



Dear Sic,
First off, thanks for the plug. For the young and struggling literary pornographer, Beast bests Oprah every time. In token of my sincere appreciation I’d like to offer you a comped signed review copy of “Lofting.”

(I’m sure you’d prefer a transfer of funds to your Bahamian account, and I’d like a Charlie Rose interview; life’s a bitch.) As you no doubt suspect, my novel’s larded with obnoxiously obscure literary references. On the other hand, it’s also chock full of lovingly rendered scenes of debauch, each ending with a graphically portrayed facial jizz pop–and so should appeal to your refined Just-East-of-Middle-European sensibilities. And, yes, my biography is a total fabrication.

Most Sincerely,
Alma Marceau
Fat, Frustrated, and Pathologically Hirsute in Cleveland

Dear Alma,
We’re not sure in what capacity, but we’re pretty sure we need to have you working for us. Give us a call sometime and we’ll work something out. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Incidentally, how did you know about our account in the Bahamas?



CheezWhiz Beasts, the very least you could do is turn your vile, mean-spirited, rag into a daily. I mean… really… what do you want me to do… read the Buffalo News?

Annoyed… but happily so,
R. Knight

Dear R.,
Yes. We want you to read the Buffalo News. Where the fuck is the hate mail? Get with it, Buffalo!



Hey There,
I work for a local Buffalo nonprofit, a great deal many political types are in and out of our doors. I am an avid Onion reader. I Love the Beast. Wanted to do a story on the “crucifixion” actors that have been gracing our highways and skyways, but needed an outlet. How can i get involved? Writing, reporting, or any other form of malarky i can offer, just let me know.

Fervently Yours,

Dear Jess,
You ever think about opening a chain of lingerie stores?



Dear Sirs-
Congratulations on your new sheet. Nicely done, gentleman. Yet I must admit that you are remiss in that your first issue completely ignored Buffalo’s Serb Community. Not one fucking piece on Serbs in Buffalo. Not a feature. Not an editorial. Not even a bloody restaurant review.

I know from reading your other sheet, that you are not typical Shqiptar loving American Ustashe. So I am waiting here for an explanation. Patiently.

May i remind you that one of the direct descendants of Gavrilo Princip was Buffalo’s first Serbian orthodoxpriest? But will you write an article about that? Probably not. No, you would be sooner to write some item about Catholic priests buggering children without mercy. Wouldn’t you?

I am a busy, busy man, however if you need me to contribute the occasional contribution to your sheet, I would not refuse to consider it. I expect more from you men. Don’t make the same mistakes I made.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand Jr.

Dear Archduke,
Hard not to like a letter that totally insane! We promise, we’ll extensively cover the Buffalo/Serb angle in the next issue. Thanks for the heads-up, Duke!

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July 4th, 2002 by


SlugName:   Limax Maximus

Length:   2-5 inches

Turn-ons:   Grottoes, basements, Red Clover, twisting around other slugs as part of a hermaphroditic mating ritual, squeals of human revulsion

Turn-offs:   Salt, boots, robins; slugs who talk too much about their careers

How I became the BEAST page 3 gastropod:   Completely by accident. I was moving along through a crack on a sidewalk in East Buffalo when I run into this girl I know who used to date Vincent Gallo. We get to talking, and next thing I know she’s telling me that Vince knows these guys who’ve got a new newspaper going and need a page 3 gastropod. We exchange numbers and a few phone calls later, I’m setting up a shoot in Allentown. To be honest, I never thought I’d get the job, because I heard from pretty good sources that they were also interviewing Arion lusitanicus. But hey, here I am.

Future plans:   I’d like to get into mime. It’s something I developed a passion for as a child and would really love to get back to. I do a great “invisible wall” routine. But if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll probably just go back to doing catalogue work and eating shingle fungus.

How I want to be remembered:   As a slug that gave its all. Buffalo, I did it for you. And when it’s over, I’ll have no regrets. You can count on that.

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Jose, Interrupted

July 4th, 2002 by

Jose, Interrupted
Forget the Pledge of Allegiance. Forget Elizabeth Smart. Where in the world is Jose Padilla?
Matt Taibbi

In a sequence of events that should turn every American literally white with terror before the awesome power of our media apparatus, a former gang member-turned-would-be terrorist was dug up out of a pit after being held illegally for a month, offered to the entire world as public enemy number one for about ten minutes, and then tossed back into purgatory, apparently to be officially forgotten for the rest of eternity.

Gone in 15 seconds.Ask anyone, even the people you’re sitting with right now, what associations come to mind when you mention the name Jose Padilla. In 100 cases out of 100, the answer you’ll get will run along the following lines: terrorist, suspected Al-Qaeda member, ringleader in a plot to explode a “dirty bomb” in Washington. As for visual images, the only one ever offered for anyone to recall later on was the notorious mugshot, a single grainy picture of a clearly nonwhite person that on June 11th was plastered on the front page of every major daily newspaper in America, as a crude but chilling portrait of the Dark Threat looming over our good society.

All of this is the frightening result of the continuing union between a ruthless, space-age propaganda machine and a pliant consumer population with an attention span of about eight seconds. Because the Padilla story will never be revisited, neither the accusations we associate with his name, nor the emotional effect of the mugshot image, will ever be undone. We all bought the story– but should we have?

Even the most cursory review of the timeline of the Padilla story reveals that, far from being a simple story of a foiled terrorist plot, this was in fact a masterpiece of orchestrated propaganda, a brilliant manipulation of the biography of a common criminal for a variety of dramatic political objectives. From Willie Horton to Iran-Contra to Watergate, the lessons of almost every major political snow job of the past quarter-century were mined to yield a bag of tricks used flawlessly and compellingly for three short weeks.

Here is a timeline of the Jose Padilla story, stretched out to cover a period slightly longer than fifteen minutes:

May 8: After returning from Pakistan, Padilla, an American of Puerto Rican descent who now calls himself Abdullah al Muhajir, is “detained” by the FBI. No charges are filed, but he is nonetheless transferred to a jail in New York, where, in clear violation of the law, he will remain in custody without a charge until June 9.

No word of Padilla’s arrest is leaked to the media at this time, and there appears to be no hurry to make the matter public. He is simply an anonymous person rotting quietly behind bars. But a few seemingly irrelevant events would soon coincide to push Padilla to the surface.

The first development was an earlier May 1 ruling by a New York Federal Judge named Shira Scheindlin, who on that date released a Jordanian-born college student named Osama Awadallah. Awadallah had been held in jail for three months without a charge on the grounds that he had lied to investigators about knowing one of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Scheindlin ruled that “Relying on the material witness statute to detain people who are presumed innocent under our Constitution in order to prevent potential crimes is an illegitimate use of the statute.”

The judge’s ruling declared Minority Report-style policing illegal. In order to detain someone, even as a witness, Scheindlin ruled that the detention had to be in connection with a crime already committed, not one that the suspect might commit in the future.

This statute applied directly to Padilla, who, as fate would have it, was being held within Scheindlin’s jurisdiction. Whether or not his case would be made public, it was fairly clear that Padilla would eventually have to be moved.

The second thing that took place was a May 30 announcement by John Ashcroft that the Justice Department would now follow new rules in determining how investigations into the lives of individuals might occur. The new set of rules threw out the old standard of “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity, and allowed agents to conduct fishing expeditions for up to a year into the private lives of individuals.

The third thing that happened was the emergence of a whistleblowing FBI agent named Colleen Rowley, who on May 21 sent an open letter to FBI Director Gary Mueller outlining a series of bureaucratic oversights that led to a failure to pursue valid leads on terrorist activity prior to September 11. Rowley would eventually testify before Congress on June 6 and 7– in other words, on the Thursday and Friday before news of Padilla’s arrest was made public.

What Rowley was alleging was that American field intelligence agents were working fine as is (among other things, Rowley described her Minneapolis office’s frantic attempts to obtain permission to arrest would-be shoe-bomber Zacarias Moussaoui as early as August, 2001) , and that the real security gaps were caused by bureaucratic incompetence in the agency’s upper echelons. Her testimony, which made front-page headlines all across America, directly contradicted the earlier assertions by Ashcroft that what was needed were vastly expanded police powers of the type he proposed in his May 30 announcement.

BEAST readers may recall that at the end of that week of June 7, and throughout that weekend of June 8-9, the Bush administration briefly came under fire for apparently failing to act in the face of serious terrorist threats last summer.

All of that ended when, on June 10, John Ashcroft announced from Moscow that the United States had Padilla in custody. On the heels of accusations that it had previously failed to prevent major acts of terrorism, the Bush administration was suddenly announcing… that it just had prevented a major act of terrorism.

It was significant that the foiled plot Ashcroft revealed involved a weapon far worse than a jetliner crashing into a skyscraper; the prevention of a radioactive “dirty bomb” explosion suddenly turned, as Joseph Heller might have called it, the black eye of Rowley into a big fat feather in the administration’s cap. In the blink of an eye, the Rowley story disappeared from the newspapers.

It may seem gratuitous to point out that just thirteen years before, George W. Bush’s father waved the face of a menacing-looking black inmate named Willie Horton at voters at the very moment his poll numbers seemingly approached the point of no return. But I don’t think it is. People like John Ashcroft know exactly what they’re doing when hand out a grainy mugshot of a convicted Puerto Rican murderer to the national press, and announce that this is the face that was plotting to nuke Washington. Not the kind of thing that is going to inspire a reasoned response from most middle-class Americans.

It also may seem gratuitous to point out that a) Bush’s father’s administration once withheld documents from Iran-Contra prosecutors on the grounds that they would compromise national security b) Dick Cheney has withheld documents pertaining to the Enron story on the grounds that they would compromise national security, and c) that Bush himself withheld what it said was proof of Osama bin Laden’s guilt in the Sept. 11 bombings, on the grounds that it would compromise national security. But I don’t think so here, either.

On June 14, the Bush administration announced that Padilla– an American citizen– would not be tried in a criminal court, or even given a military tribunal. The reason? Evidence offered in public might compromise national security. If it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck– and the administration’s decision not to try Padilla looked very much like an excuse to avoid admission that there was not much in the way of evidence against their suspect.

Padilla, meanwhile, had been declared an “enemy combatant” by Bush on June 9, and moved from New York to a military detention center at the Charleston Naval Weapons center in South Carolina. Soon after his detention became a public matter, the administration issued a series of seemingly insane statements about their intentions regarding their American suspect.

Donald Rumsfeld came right and made a flat announcement: “We’re not interested in trying him at this time.” Other Bush spokesmen told reporters that Padilla would remain in jail “until we’re done with Al-Qaeda.” Due process, the right to face one’s accuser, all of this was tossed out the window in this series of alarmingly casual statements by Bush officials.

This unprecedented rollback in civil rights scored scarcely a blip in the national media, however. About the strongest statement that the press could muster on the matter was a blase filler line like this one at the end of a June 11 Reuters story:

“Civil rights groups have criticized the way the government was treating [Padilla].”

The lack of uproar over Padilla’s detention was presumably due to the fact that the suspect himself appeared impossible to sympathize with; it was hard to think of Padilla’s experience applying to any of us, since none of us were flying around the world, meeting with Al-Qaeda officials, and plotting to explode radioactive bombs.

Then again, maybe Padilla wasn’t, either. Just days after his detention was made public, the government quietly leaked word through a number of channels that the Padilla threat was maybe not all it was cracked up to be.

On June 11, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz even told CBS: “I don’t think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk.”

A day later, government officials admitted that they had no physical evidence linking Padilla to a bomb plot– no bomb materials or even documented attempts to obtain bomb materials, no diagrams, not even a chemistry textbook.

Soon after that, it came out that most of the government’s case against Padilla rested on information given to them by Abu Zubaydah, a former Al-Qaeda operative who had been feeding U.S. investigators with a steady string of warnings and doomsday predictions– none of which ever came to pass– ever since his capture in late March. Zubaydah’s status as a Guantanomo songbird had become the stuff of such legend that even before the news of the Padilla’s arrest was made public, observers began to question the information he was feeding us.

Even a dumb reactionary glossy like Time magazine was confident enough to be publicly skeptical of Zubdayah. Here is that magazine’s assessment of him on May 24, two weeks before the Padilla story broke:

“How do we know if he’s telling us the truth? This is, after all, Zubaydah’s last dance: as long as he keeps tossing out things, stringing us along, he’s useful, privileged, treated with respect by his interrogators, like a Cold War era captured agent. Once that’s no longer true, his life will turn very, very nasty. Zubaydah has every reason to lie, to throw his captors off the trail, to sow fear and doubt, to poke the U.S. so that his al-Qaeda fellows can observe how we react.”

The Bush administration was now enthusiastically taking the word of admitted Al-Qaeda operatives to throw Americans in jail.

The flimsiness of the case against Padilla did not make the papers much. Not that it would have mattered. They could have given both sides of that story equal time, and Padilla still would have lost out. “Case Against Padilla Called ‘Circumstantial’” is no match, effect-wise, for “Suspect in Dirty-Bomb Plot Held.” Once you let a genie like that out of the bottle, you can’t ever get it back in, even if you want to. And the national press made it clear that nobody wanted to.

The political benefits provided to the Bush administration by the Padilla business were both obvious and not so obvious. The immediate benefit, obviously, was in defusing the Rowley story. But a more abstract benefit was Padilla’s usefulness in providing another excuse to expand police powers. I would bet the Rigas family’s offshore holdings that before this year is over, the Bush administration will use the Padilla story to make an explicit connection between urban American street gangs (read: poor nonwhite criminals) and terrorism.

The mere thought of this should send chills up every black or Hispanic spine in America. After 9/11, the government now has the power, the mandate, and the obvious inclination to make the drug war look like a silly frat prank. And as long as every network and 500 newspapers are lining up to help the cause, they will be unstoppable.

Where do you draw the line? How do you define the difference between a foreign enemy and an American with rights? The answer is that, after Jose Padilla, there is no line anymore– and no one now can really pinpoint when and how it disappeared, since none of our journalists covered its passing.

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CORPORATE FANMAIL – Blood is Bountiful

July 4th, 2002 by

Corporate Fanmail
Blood is Bountiful

The responses to our corporate fan letters keep pouring in. As the Fourth of July weekend approached, it seemed like there was plenty of love to go around on all sides:


Dear Bounty© people,
Thank you ever so much for making such wonderful paper towels for my domestic use. Over the past 18 months, I have used your magnificent products to sop up everything from orange juice to blood to turpentine and have found that THERE REALLY IS NO CLEANUP JOB THAT IT TOO TOUGH FOR BOUNTY©! It really is the Quicker Picker-Upper! Keep up the good work.

Kevin McElwee
Buffalo, NY

P.S. Please pass these comments on to the people directly responsible for designing Bounty© paper towels and continuing to ensure that no finer product is available anywhere. Their important work should not go unrecognized. Were it possible, I should like to shake their hands and say, “Well done,” but for now, these somewhat impersonal electronic words shall have to do.

From: bounty.im@pg.com
Thanks for your nice comments about Bounty, Kevin! We love to hear from our loyal Bounty fans, and I’m sharing your compliments with the rest of the Bounty Team.

I’m sure it’ll make their day!

USA Bounty Team



Dear Haagen-Dazs,
A lot of people are confused about what your name means, but not me! I know it means just one thing– GREAT ICE CREAM!!!

I have been out of jail now for thirteen months and am doing great. Thanks to Haagen-Dazs ice-cream, I know: I WILL NEVER HARM A CHILD AGAIN!!!

Thanks again for making a great product, and don’t ever be ashamed of your wonderful SCANDINAVIAN HERITAGE!

Matt Taibbi
Buffalo, NY

Dear Mr. Taibbi,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Haeagen-Dazs(R) Ice Cream. We appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments.

At Nestle, we are dedicated to you and your family throughout every phase of your lives. Your feedback is valuable to us, as it helps us to improve our products and services.

With more than a century of experience making the food your family loves, we are committed to providing you with products that live up to your high standards for taste, quality, nutrition and enjoyment – in short, “the very best.”

Thank you again for your feedback. We appreciate your loyalty to our products and hope to exceed your expectations in the future.

Maryanne Makowski
Consumer Response Representative



Dear Regal Cinemas!
You make the best moviehouses, and you always show the really good movies too. I love when my mommy takes me. The seats are so comfortable I want to live there. (The poor grades are for when you were out of Jujyfruits!)

Kevin, age 12

[Note: The Regal Cinemas online comment card included 20 separate categories (broken down into four separate subcategories) to be judged on a 4-rating scale from "excellent" to "poor." Our 12-year-old Kevin rated all of the them "excellent," except for two "poor" marks on "Selection of Concessions" and "Availability of Product" under "FOOD SERVICE." Actual comments, however, were restricted to a maximum of just 255 characters. The online comments form for AMC Theatres, meanwhile, asked for a 5-point rating of 13 separate categories and offered no space for individual comments at all.]

Dear Mr. McElwee:
We have received your comments regarding your visit to our Elmwood Regal Center 16 location. I have forwarded your comments to the district manager for his review with and congratulations to the theatre manager.

On behalf of Regal Entertainment Group, I would like to thank you for taking the time to let us know of your pleasant visit to our theatre. It is always a pleasure to hear from happy customers. I am sure the staff at our Elmwood Regal Center 16 will be happy to receive a copy of your comments.

Once again, I thank you for your time and consideration. We value your patronage and look forward to your next visit.

Clint Roberts
Customer Relations Associate


Arm & Hammer

Dear Arm and Hammer,
I’m a loyal customer who’s writing to tell you that you have the coolest logo in the world!!! It’s like an arm with a hammer in it!

I use your baking soda for a variety of purposes, both hygienic and culinary! I use it to make my teeth whiter, and I even use it to make a GLISTENING WHITE CAKE FROSTING!!!

Sometimes I get so happy, I just want to turn over a box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda onto my head!

Thanks for everything!

Matt Taibbi

[Eds. note: Arm and Hammer did not send a written reply, but did send us a coupon for a free box of Baking Soda product--perhaps to turn over onto our heads. See illustration...]

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