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Parsing the Post’s Obama Endorsement

That New York Post Obama endorsement sure was a jaw-dropper this morning, when you consider the months Post owner Rupert Murdoch and Hillary Clinton spent a-courtin’ each other. The good senator attended the ten-year anniversary party for Fox News, and Murdoch returned the favor by hosting a fat fundraiser for her. In addition, Fox anchors notoriously and erroneously reported that Obama attended a madrassa in Indonesia in his youth. But that was so, you know, not 2008.

Could the editors at the New York Post actually be free to come up with their own endorsements without getting their marching orders from the Murdoch yacht? Did Obama offer News Corporation exclusive satellite feeds from CIA spybots? Is Rupert just feeling grumpy?

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Good for What Ailes You

Although it’s been giving up ground to CNN this election season, the Fox News Network is still a target of derision by liberals who never fail to be exasperated by its “fair and balanced” motto. But for Fox haters, there’s a delicious (if uncorroborated) new look behind the scenes at the network’s startup now appearing online, courtesy of one of the people who helped birth it.

Dan Cooper, a former Fox News managing editor who helped conceptualize and design the channel in its first six months, has written a book dishing dirt on Fox News guru Roger Ailes. Cooper worked at the Fox network from 1994 to 1996, and claims to have been a critical part of the “brain team” that put the news channel together; he helped design the studios, the layout of the newsroom, and the program schedule. After six months—and countless titanic fights with Ailes—Cooper was made redundant and left to chase jobs producing television shows and managing talent in Los Angeles. But his subsequent divorce was so brutal that Cooper returned to his native New York to figure out what to do with his life. “The divorce was emotionally and financially shattering,” he says. “I had to rebuild, and the idea came to me that writing a memoir about the birth of the Fox News Channel could be very lucrative.”

According to Cooper, he titled his manuscript Naked Launch, snagged an agent, and shopped the project around town. But, he claims, publishers who showed interest were worried about alienating Ailes. So Cooper decided to serialize the book on his website (www.caos.us) and see if he could drum up publicity. He posted the prologue early last month.

Cooper spends most of his time guttersniping about Ailes’s alleged swaggering, vindictiveness, and casual abuse of underlings. Near the prologue’s conclusion, he recounts a story in which an Australian transplant named Ian stuck his head in Ailes’s office and asked a question in an accent so thick no one could understand him. Ailes, Cooper wrote, always liked to imagine this employee as a pig with an anus for a mouth.

“Instantly, Roger’s face was overcome with devilish glee,” Cooper wrote. “Roger had no idea what he was talking about, and he didn’t care. Roger made a fist and put it up to his mouth . . . ‘Oim Eeyan Rye!!’ Roger shouted. ‘An oim tawkin troo me arse!!’ This was supposed to be riotously funny. The
other boys howled in hysteria. I sat down
and slumped. Roger: ‘Eeooo cayn’t mike out what oim sighin, becawz oim tawking troo me arse!’ . . . This was the man who created the Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch.”

In another chapter, Cooper writes that Ailes allegedly demanded that bomb-proof windows be installed in his office, because he was concerned that homosexual activists might bomb Fox News when it debuted. As Cooper scrambled to find bomb-proof glass—which doesn’t exist, as it happens—Ailes also demanded that he get the city to chop down a line of trees outside his office. Every few days, Cooper wrote, Ailes would grab him and scream, “They’re still fucking there! Don’t you have any balls? Chop them fucking down!”

When Cooper isn’t trashing Ailes, he’s writing about the female employee he lusted after, or the men he believed his wife was sleeping with behind his back. The result is a hilariously idiosyncratic account of a flawed man and the terrible people he worked under. I may be an asshole, Cooper is saying, but you should see Roger Ailes.

Needless to say, Fox News representatives did not return calls seeking comment for this story. But Cooper’s memoir is drawing more and more Internet buzz, and the legions of people who love to hate Fox News are feasting on the kind of gossip that almost never manages to leak out of the channel. Meanwhile, Cooper promises even more salacious dirt to come. As for whether he worries that Ailes will somehow retaliate, he says: “I’m staying away from skating rinks this winter. You never know who’s driving the Zamboni machine.”

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Who’s Wall Street’s Candidate in the Presidential Race?

Last week, the suits were working hard on their booze intake at Ulysses’ pub, a tony bar and oyster joint just south of Wall Street. And no wonder: Following a global panic, the Dow Jones plunged more than 400 points before settling into a 128-point mini-meltdown. The Federal Reserve may have stanched the bleeding by announcing the largest interest-rate cut in 20 years, but the smell of fear was in the air, mingling with the Guinness fumes. But while everyone else was busy drowning their sorrows, 15 Wall Street professionals gathered at a table to ask themselves a question rarely heard this far south in Manhattan: How can we help Hillary Clinton get into the White House?

The notion of stockbrokers and commodity traders phonebanking for a Democrat was so counterintuitive, so bizarre, that members of the foreign press jumped all over the event, which had been posted on Clinton’s campaign website. As the small herd of Hillary supporters huddled to the thump of house music and discussed fundraisers they could nag their friends to attend, a reporter from Le Figaro scribbled furiously on his notepad. A German radio reporter stuck her microphone in every face she could, gawking as if she’d just found an exotic species of snow leopard. As a Russian television crew set up a camera and blasted lights at the table, the Clinton supporters shifted in their chairs, wondering how they had suddenly become such a spectacle. “Who the fuck knew there’d be so much media here?” said one flabbergasted woman.

After all, Hillary Clinton hasn’t exactly been making nice with high finance lately. In response to the subprime meltdown, the senator recently proposed freezing all home foreclosures for 90 days, as well as locking the interest rates of adjustable-rate mortgages into place for five years. Clinton joined Barack Obama and John Edwards in demanding that the tax rates of hedge-fund and private-equity managers be more than doubled, to 35 percent. Any way you look at it, that’s hardly welcome news to some of the other folks leaning against the bar.

“I’m not a big fan of socialized health care, I don’t believe in big government, I’m a fan of free enterprise—so I’m a fan of Mitt Romney,” said Jay Smelcer, an insurance broker who nursed his beer a few yards from the Clinton crew. In fact, the only thing he likes about Hillary Clinton is how thoroughly so many people despise her: “I’d prefer Hillary wins [the primary], because she’s not as electable. But on the other hand, she spins everything so well!” Another Wall Street professional, a bullet-headed, broad-shouldered man who refused to give his name, is backing Rudy all the way and vowed to sabotage the Clinton cabal. “I’ve had a couple of people come up to me and say, ‘Is this the Hillary Clinton thing?’ ” he joked. “I’m like, ‘No!’ ”

But as strange as it may sound, the numbers don’t lie: Wall Street loves Hillary. According to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, professionals from the securities and investment industry around the nation have given the Clinton campaign more than $4.7 million, compared with $4.5 million each for Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani. Mitt Romney, the establishment Republican candidate, has raised some $1 million less in securities and investment money than Clinton. And when you look at the New York figures alone, the comparison is even starker: According to a Bloomberg analysis of the most recent campaign-finance records, Clinton raised four times more Wall Street cash than Obama, and more than the entire Republican field combined.

According to Republican political consultant Jim Innocenzi, the financial sector’s remarkable generosity is simply a case of money chasing power. Wall Street contributions simply act like a futures market; it’s always smart to get on the good side of the frontrunner, no matter their politics. “I can promise you that if Mike Huckabee is the nominee, there will be people on Wall Street that will give him money,” Innocenzi said. Take John McCain, for example. Seven months ago, observers were writing off his chances, and his campaign was nearly broke. But now that he’s won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, New York moneymen are flocking to his side. Even as Clinton’s stockbrokers were schmoozing downtown, McCain was hosting a $2,300-per-head private fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel; the event’s co-chairs included private-equity giant Henry Kravis and hedge-fund bigwig Ray Dalio.

But down at Ulysses’, Clinton’s Wall Street volunteers said all they cared about was the direction of this country under George W. Bush. Marcus Relthford, who works in account management at the RiskMetrics Group, organized the Clinton event and walked around passing out Hillary buttons. “Here you are,” he said. “Show your pride!” According to Relthford, his line of work will just have to suffer if that’s what it takes to help the little guy.

“Hillary has spent a lot of time working as a senator in New York, and now as a candidate, trying to find ways to work together with the business community,” Relthford said. “On the other hand, Hillary is somebody that wants to be a defender of the average American citizen. You know, when we have crises like the foreclosures, when we look at subprime mortgages, I think she feels—and I think most of us who are Democrats feel—that we have to do the things that are going to protect the average American.” But Relthford admitted that Clinton’s stand on taxes made her a tough sell among his colleagues. “I can tell you that most of my friends in hedge funds are not supporting the same candidate I am,” he laughed sheepishly.

Rick Reynecs, another RiskMetrics account manager, sipped from a glass of beer as he watched the Russian camera team roll tape. Reynecs used to be “your classic Wall Street Republican,” he said, but eight years of Bush changed his politics forever. “It was this administration’s lack of leadership in world affairs” that put him over the edge, he added. “One thing I don’t like is faith-based politics. I don’t like George Bush justifying a decision by saying that he talked to God.” Unlike his colleague Relthford, Reynecs claimed that there are a lot more folks like him down Wall Street way than people think. “I think it’s a sign of things to come,” he said. “I think Hillary Clinton is definitely going to get a lot of support from some more conservative circles. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only former Republican disillusioned with George Bush.”

Christina, who works in statistical analysis at the Federal Reserve Bank and refused to give her last name, agreed that the financial sector was going to have to accept that under a Clinton presidency, more regulation would be inevitable. “I think that Wall Street is going to be fine,” she said. “So I’m not worried about some CEO losing his job.”

But what kind of regulation would there be under Clinton? After all, that’s partly what Wall Street’s paying all that money to help decide. According to Keith Leggett, a senior economist with the American Bankers Association, a Wall Street lobbying group, the Democratic Congress is already moving on several fronts: predatory lending in the housing market; credit-card marketing practices and fees; credit-rating agencies that gave junk-mortgage-backed securities triple-A ratings and convinced investment firms to dig their own graves. But in his own understated way, Leggett promised that the housing market had already taken care of a lot of the problems, and argued that the feds would just screw things up if they went too fast.

“When we look at these markets, they have for the large part—the subprime market, and the securitization of subprime loans—largely disappeared,” Leggett said. “This gives policy-makers the ability to go forward in a prudent and thoughtful fashion, to ensure that if you are going to engage in legislation, you do it in a manner that does not create unintended consequences.”

This being an election year, Congress only has until the summer to work out the legislation before its members fly back to hit the stump. Many of these issues will simply have to wait until the next president shows up for work. And assuming Clinton makes it all the way, that’s when she’ll show her gaggle of earnest Wall Street volunteers what she’s made of. As Relthford and his new friends confabbed about the next campaign event, three foreign-born Wall Street traders—from London, Mexico, and India—sucked down the suds a few feet away and doubted that anything would really change. “George Bush is on his way out, so anything else makes me happy,” sniffed the Brit, who refused to give his name. “But it’s interesting how much like Pakistan your politics have become. The family name is all that matters—a few more cycles and then Chelsea can run things.”

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Roger Kimball is One Off in the NY Post

Look, we’re not exactly in the business of pointing out other writers’ stupid mistakes. Glass houses and all that, you dig? But when a guardian of high culture pens an essay bemoaning the erosion of standards in the art world, and caps it off with a bonehead error—well, it’s just too good to pass up.

So step up to the plate, Roger Kimball!

This morning, the conservative art critic and publisher of the New Criterion published an essay in the New York Post, in which he laments the imminent retirement of Met director Philippe de Montebello and frets over the “debased elitism of a socially enfranchised pseudo avant-garde” that is sure to prevail in his wake. After running through de Montebello’s disapproval of the Brooklyn Museum’s infamous 1999 “Sensation” exhibit, Kimball glumly predicts that some fashionably post-modern schmuck will surely replace him and fill the Met with Madonnas made out of elephant shit or something. “How disquieting it must be for de Montebello, who has spent more than 30 years holding the line and upholding high standards,” Kimball concludes. “Like Louis XIV, he has reason to mutter, ‘Apres moi, le deluge.’”

Hate to break it to you, Roger, but it was actually Louis XV who uttered that particular obituary. But again, what do we care? It’s not like we have standards or anything.

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NYPD Seeks an Air Monitor Crackdown for New Yorkers

Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here’s another rotten thing you’ve done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn’t work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.

OK, none of that has actually happened. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it’s just a matter of time. That’s why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it’s not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,” the first draft of the law states.

Last week, Falkenrath made his case for the new law before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, where Councilman Peter Vallone introduced the bill and chaired the hearing. Dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers sat in the crowd, horrified by the prospect that if this law passes, their work detecting and warning the public about airborne pollutants will become next to impossible. But Falkenrath pressed on, saying that unless the police can determine who gets to look for nasty stuff floating in the air, the city would be paralyzed by fear.

“There are currently no guidelines regulating the private acquisition of biological, chemical, and radiological detectors,” warned Falkenrath, adding that this law was suggested by officials within the Department of Homeland Security. “There are no consistent standards for the type of detectors used, no requirement that they be reported to the police department—or anyone else, for that matter—and no mechanism for coordinating these devices. . . . Our mutual goal is to prevent false alarms . . . by making sure we know where these detectors are located, and that they conform to standards of quality and reliability.”

Vallone nodded his head, duly moved by Falkenrath’s presentation. Nevertheless, he had a few concerns. When the Environmental Protection Agency promised that the air surrounding Ground Zero was safe, Vallone said, independent testers proved that such assurances were utterly false. Would these groups really have to get a permit before they started working? “It’s a good question, and it has come up prior to this hearing,” Falkenrath replied. “What I can assure you is that we will look extremely carefully at this issue of the independent groups, and get the opinion of the other city agencies on how to handle that, and craft an appropriate response.” And if people use these detectors without a permit, Vallone asked, do we really have to put them in jail? Afraid so, Falkenrath answered.

Councilman John Liu was considerably less impressed. Why, he asked, should a community group like Asthma-Free School Zones have to tell anyone, much less the police department, that they’re testing for air pollution? “We have no interest in regulating air-quality sensors around schools,” Falkenrath promised. “That’s not what this is about.”

“But then can’t we just get that in the legislation from the outset, as opposed to putting it in the regulations afterwards?” asked Liu.

That, said Falkenrath, was asking too much. “It becomes a very slippery slope, and it would then be possible for many other entities to sort of drive things through that loophole.”

And Liu was just the start of the critics’ parade. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the bill aims to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist. “I cannot think of evidence or events in our recent past involving false alarms that would create any urgency for this sweeping legislation,” he said. “If Manhattanites have any anxiety related to this bill, it is the very marked anxiety that residents have about their air quality.”

Dave Newman, an industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, claimed that under this law, the West Virginia air-quality experts who tested the air after 9/11 would have been a bunch of criminals. Dave Kotelchuck, deputy director of the New York/New Jersey Education and Research Center, pointed out the absurdity of having police regulate and permit research science. “Think about industrial-hygiene folks who are going from Boston to Atlanta to measure, and have atmospheric detectors,” he said. “They land in LaGuardia and JFK. As soon as they land, because possession is a misdemeanor, they’ve committed a misdemeanor. They’re not going to test in New York City; they’re just travelling through. But possession, which is the way the law has stated it, alone is a misdemeanor—not use. Not attempting to make measurements—just possession. That is just unwarranted.”

After an hour of this, poor Peter Vallone looked shell-shocked. He had planned to fast-track this legislation—in fact, the law was supposed to have been voted on last week—but that was before the critics had heard about it. As the opposition mounted, Vallone pulled the proposed legislation just before the meeting’s end and agreed to give it a second look. “When I was first given a briefing only weeks ago, the potential problems did occur to me,” he said in a later interview. “But the extent of the opposition, on such short notice, was a bit surprising.”

But don’t think Vallone has given up or anything. He and his colleagues will try to accommodate all the concerns when they redraft the bill, he said, but one way or another, the cops are going to have this new power. “No one’s going to be completely happy in the end,” Vallone said, “but I think the police department gave some very impressive testimony on the stand, and also expressed a willingness to listen to concerns.” After all, if you let research scientists and community groups do their jobs, the terrorists will have already won.

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New NYT Columnist Lives Up to (Bad) Expectations

How many ways can Bill Kristol make Arthur Sulzberger want to crawl in a hole and die quietly? We’re up to at least three as of today. When word broke that the New York Times had hired the neoconservative pundit and editor of the Weekly Standard for a year-long stint as an op-ed columnist, nearly everyone who isn’t a partisan hack for a tragically bungled war thought he’ll just use the space to be, well, a partisan hack for a tragically bungled war.

Then this morning, when his first column hit the stands, reason number two reared its ugly head: Kristol can’t write, as Atlantic writer and blogger James Fallows was the first to notice. “I am saying nothing about the content here,” Fallows wrote. “I am talking instead about the breathtaking banality of expression.”

But let a few hours pass, and up pops reason number three: he can’t get his facts straight! Kristol wrote this morning, “as the conservative writer Michelle Malkin put it, ‘For the work-hard-to-get-ahead strivers who represent the heart and soul of the GOP…” But as the aforementioned Malkin bemusedly noted on her blog, she never wrote anything of the sort. Kristol confused her with conservative radio host Michael Medved.

Any takers on reason number four? Will Kristol call Barack Obama a Muslim apostate, as Daniel Pipes has been doing lately? Dedicate the next four columns to how conservatives like him can’t get slots on the Times’s op-ed page? The reader with the first correct answer wins a free prediction that the U.S. will achieve a historic victory in Iraq.

P.S.: for more fun-filled moments with Mr. Kristol, you can’t go wrong with George Packer’s imaginary diary. Scroll down to the December 17 entry and feel the love.

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Staten Island Firm Fined in Boiler Room Scam

What better way to start the new year than with another round of fraud, insider trading and greed? A Manhattan federal judge certainly didn’t disappoint, slapping the Staten Island commodities trading company Richmond Global Entities with $3.4 million in fines and sanctions.

It seems that starting in 2001, the boys over at Richmond Global were running a boiler room and hawking shoddy foreign exchange contracts to at least 160 gullible investors. According to press release from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Richmond’s scamsters promised lucrative returns on what were in fact highly risky investments, lied about their experience in trading foreign exchange contracts, racked up big commissions they never told their customers about, and even buried the commissions in loss statements.

Altogether, the Commission claimed that Richmond bilked customers out of more than $1.7 million. But now they have to give all back. Sorry, fellas.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a bad, bad day for Mitchell Drucker and his dad Ronald, as a Manhattan federal court dropped the hammer on them. Once upon a time, Ronald Drucker was a New York City police detective, and his son was an associate general counsel of NBTY, Inc., a nutritional supplements manufacturer.

But when Mitchell learned that the company was about to announce lower than expected quarterly earnings, he called up his dad, and the two of them dumped their stock just before the announcement, avoiding $197,243 in losses. In her preliminary finding on December 20, federal judge Colleen McMahon sniffed that Mitchell Drucker lied on the stand and was insufferably unrepentant – never a strategic attitude when the feds have the goods on you. McMahon concluded that she was “convinced, by the brazenness of misconduct and by his cocky refusal to own up to it … is not fit to participate in the governance of any public company.” Maybe all those nutritional supplements went to his head.

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Ron Paul’s Bloody Victory

Lettuce B-Free won’t give out her real name; she prefers her World of Warcraft moniker. She grew up on Staten Island and moved to Florida, where she shares an apartment with a friend and works in retail. There are two things that get her up in the morning: online gaming and the maverick libertarian politics of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. “He’s an amazing man, and I agree with almost every one of his positions,” she says. “I was raised to have a deep respect for the Constitution, and wow, he wants to bring it back!” On December 26, Lettuce B-Free found a way to bring the two together: organizing a Ron Paul rally in the World of Warcraft universe.

“One of our members, who went by the name of whoisronpaul, came up with the idea,” Lettuce B-Free says. “And we just jumped on it. . . . So at like three in the morning, me and a bunch of people got together and signed a group charter. And it’s been really fun chaos ever since.”

Ron Paul’s supporters have already distinguished themselves by their unorthodox campaigning—the blimp that’s been floating around the South for the last month, the Guy Fawkes Day fundraising blitz. But running a virtual-campaign rally in an Internet gaming site must surely rank as one of the highlights of the season. The word went out through the online magazine
World of Warcraft Insider, ronpaulforums.org, and the Wired blog. Soon, hundreds of people pledged to don their chain mail and shake their broadswords for Paul.

Unfortunately, there was one small complication one rarely encounters on the campaign trail: In World of Warcraft, you can get killed, usually by slavering beasts eager to rip you to shreds. Since all the Paul supporters would be playing new characters, they would be weak and all-too-vulnerable to monsters waiting to ambush them on the way to the rally point. In the days before the rally, Lettuce B-Free and a few other organizers hit the World of Warcraft universe, frantically fighting zombies and ogres in order to beef up enough characters to protect the newbies and act as bodyguards during the rally. Meanwhile, other players who hate Ron Paul’s politics followed them around, taunting them and spitting on them (virtually).

Finally, the hour arrived: 8 p.m., New Year’s Day. Almost 300 characters—barbarians, elves, gnomes, and green, mottled things—assembled at the small town of Kharanos, near the great dwarven city of Ironforge. They had to pick a rally point outside the big cities, because assembling so many characters in a crowded environment would slow the server down. Just before the march, Paul supporters milled around and typed snippets from the Constitution into their computers, where their characters bellowed them as text bubbles in the game.

Dozens of Ron Paul opponents donned characters of their own and milled around the edge of the crowd, where they challenged players to fight to the death.

“Unfortunately, there were folks who were there to harass us and try to stop the march,” says Lettuce B-Free. “They were trying to get us to flag for [player vs. player mode], so they could kill us. They were spouting negative things, but we had already decided that we were going to be quiet and respectful and stay focused.”

At 8:30, the march began, and Paul’s supporters lined up single-file and tramped into Ironforge. Hecklers dogged them along the way, twirling their battleaxes and typing text bubbles like “He can’t win,” “He’s going to ruin the economy,” and “A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for socialism.” The marchers chanted slogans as they boarded the tram for the human city Stormwind, and then it was on to the hamlet of Goldshare. Because she had pumped up her character to level 19, Lettuce B-Free was too busy fighting off flesh-rippers and other random beasties to look back on the crowd. But in Goldshare, she turned and gawked at what she’d created. “There was just this sea of names,” she says. “The entire town was filled. That’s when I realized how huge this was.”

But soon Paul’s supporters stumbled into more dangerous territory, and as fish-human hybrids tore the players to pieces, priest characters frantically worked their resurrection spells to keep the crowd from breaking apart. Finally, they reached Orgrimmar, a ghastly, reeking city of the orcs, which Paul supporters had agreed would serve as a stand-in for Washington, D.C. If they could storm its gates, Lettuce B-Free says, they would be symbolically taking their country back from the Beltway elites. Unfortunately, an army of Ron Paul opponents waited for them. They knew that once they got too close to the gates, all the characters would switch to player vs. player mode, and they could slaughter them at their leisure.

The bloodshed was epic. Orgimmar’s guards automatically waded into the crowd and slashed left and right. Poisonous snakes slithered from crevices and sank their fangs into libertarians. Ron Paul opponents charged and struck a blow for the status quo. “I died twice,” says Lettuce B-Free. “There was so much chaos. It was a mass battle.” But Paul’s supporters won the day, as characters breached the gates and stormed the city. The Constitution, it seems, was triumphant.

According to Lettuce B-Free, Paul’s supporters plan to storm World of Warcraft again before the campaign is through. They’ll have to use a different server, because the strain of accommodating so many characters slowed down the game. But they’ll be back, she says. “This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics.” And maybe decapitate a troll or two.

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War On Terror, Inc.

If you haven’t heard of L-3 Communications, you’re not alone. The company, which is located just a few blocks from the United Nations headquarters, didn’t even exist ten years ago. Today, it’s the sixth-largest defense contractor in the nation, with billions of dollars in federal contracts to provide electronic border surveillance and intelligence and interpreter gigs for the occupation of Iraq. The War on Terror has been very, very good to the company.

But sometimes a good deal just goes south. In 2005, L-3 Communications borrowed almost $3 billion to buy Titan, a San Diego-based company that provided all the interpreters and translators for the military in Iraq. The “linguist” business should have made L-3 a nice chunk of change, as the next contract, which was to be renewed in late 2006, was estimated to be worth $4.6 billion.

But as the Abu Ghraib scandal expanded, L-3’s leaders found they had bought something else with the company: liability. Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against Titan for its role in the Abu Ghraib interrogations, and L-3 had to spend a wad on lawyers and deal with a public relations crisis. Then, in December 2006, the Pentagon decided to give the linguist contract to L-3’s rival, the Washington DC-based Dyncorp. Billions of dollars in potential revenue vanished overnight.

Or so you’d think. But what does a good defense contractor do when things don’t go their way? Stall for time.

L-3’s officials immediately protested the decisions with the Government Accountability Office, and Pentagon officials were forced to spend almost a year reviewing the case. Meanwhile, since L-3’s interpreters were already on the ground, they got to keep the contract—and its revenue—on an interim basis. A few weeks ago, the Pentagon’s representatives concluded that their initial decision was perfectly sound and awarded the contract once again to Dyncorp.

Last week, according to the Wall Street Journal, ( ) L-3’s leaders filed yet another protest, which will inevitably drag the case out for months once more, as the company keeps raking in the interim contract’s profits.

Now, that’s you fight the War on Terror!

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Adventures in Google’s Contextual Advertising

Ah, the magical irony that is Google.

The indispensible Internet thingy’s second largest business operation is Adsense, an advertising revenue-sharing arrangement with thousands of bloggers and online news outlets, in which Google’s algorithms scan online content and match it with relevant ads.

A story about mutual funds, for example, would be paired with an ad for Morgan Stanley. But sometimes the company’s spybots go a little haywire. Take the editorial in today’s New York Sun, for example. The authors harumph over the city employee pension plan’s lawsuit against Apple Computers, in which the pension fund has substantial stock. There’s a good deal of righteous indignation over the plague of class-action lawyers that stalk the land and ruin honest businessmen.

And what Google ads pop up right next to the screed? One for class action lawyer James Sokolove’s endless asbestos lawsuits, and one seeking clients for Koskoff Koskoff and Bieder, a Connecticut law firm that specializes in medical malpractice.

Fume all you want, Sun editorial scribes, but those goddamn legal eagles will always win in the end!