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Introducing Ms. Ashley Alexandra Dupré, a/k/a “Kristen”, a/k/a Ashley Youmans, a/k/a Ashley Rae Maika DiPietro, a/k/a Nina Venetta

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Ashley  Alexandra Dupre (from her myspace.com page)

We are a firm believer in the one-name-per-person rule. Two, tops.

Ashley Youmans (birth name)

Ashley Rae Maika DiPietro (legal name change)

Ashley Alexandra Dupre (stage name?)

Nina Venetta (myspace page name)

“Kristen” (Spitzer scandal original identity)

… and that’s just the ones we know about.

In her song, “What We Want”, posted on her myspace page, she asks “Can you handle me, boy?”. For Eliot Spitzer, we believe the answer to her interrogatory is a most definite “NO”.

Almost prophetically, the “tag” she has posted on her myspace page is “what destroys me, strengthens me“. If history is any gauge, this will certainly be true for her.

You would think a powerful man like Eliot Spitzer could do much better than a 22-year-old self-described sometimes homeless, penniless, drug infested, high school dropout prostitute from a broken home, with a penchant for passing out (probably from alcohol or drugs or both). The following photo, caption and self-description are taken directly from the myspace page of “Ashley Alexandra Dupre”. She has been identified in this New York Times article as Ashley Youmans, the 22-year-old call girl at the center of the Spitzer scandal. See our previous posts on the Spitzer scandal, “Dead Man Walking” and “New York Governor Eliot Spitzer Involved With A Prostitution Ring“.

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me pas​sed​ out​…​i do tha​t oft​en.​ 200​7
(photo and caption from Ms. “Dupre’s” myspace.com page)

 

 

About Ashley Alexandra Dupré

I am all about my music, and my music is all about me… It flows from what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and how I feel. I live in New York and am on top of the world. Been here since 2004 and I love this city, I love my life here. But, my path has not been easy. When I was 17, I left home. It was my decision and I’ve never looked back. Left my hometown. Left a broken family. Left abuse. Left an older brother who had already split. Left and learned what it was like to have everything, and lose it, again and again. Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone. I have been alone. I have abused drugs. I have been broke and homeless. But, I survived, on my own. I am here, in NY because of my music. It started when I moved in with a musician during my odyssey to New York. One day, I was in the shower singing “respect.” He and his lead guitarist burst in, had me repeat it and it started. We wrote, rehearsed and toured. After recording a bit with them, I decided to move to Manhattan to pursue my music career. I spent the first two years getting to know the music scene, networking in clubs and connecting with the industry. Now, it’s all about my music. It’s all about expressing me. I can sit here now, and knowingly tell you that life’s hard sometimes. But, I made it. I’m still here and I love who I am. If I never went through the hard times, I would not be able to appreciate the good ones. Cliché, yes, but I know it’s true. I have experienced just how hard it can be. I can honestly tell you to never dwell on the past, but build from it and keep moving forward. Don’t let anyone hold you back or tell you that you can’t…because you can. I didn’t and here I am, just listen to it…. What we Want is my latest track. It’s really about trust, something my past has made very difficult for me to feel. This one was inspired by a guy, who taught me not to confuse my dreams with the sounds of the city…I hope you like it.

Monica Lewinsky, move over. There’s a new girl in town.

According to counters on her myspace page, over 1 million visitors listened to her song, “What We Want” today alone, and over 2.5 million visitors have viewed the page, most of them, presumably, in the last few hours. When I checked back a few hours later, she had almost 5 million hits. We wonder if that’s a one-day record for a myspace page.

I smell a record deal coming real soon. Girl, you need a manager.

We predict that you’ll be able to buy “Ms. Dupre’s” latest album on Apple’s iTunes store before you know it, and if you have a video iPod, her latest music video.

No, Ashley, you won’t have any trouble paying the rent from now on.

Perhaps Ashley should hire Eliot Spitzer as her lawyer/manager. We hear he’s looking for a job, and with his law background, he would certainly know how to write a recording or movie contract . Besides, he already knows her. It’s the least she could do for him, considering all that he’s done for her career.

Talk about the power of the Web.

When I just checked on the top Google searches (www.google.com/trends/hottrends), searches on “Ashley Youmans”, or one of her other names, hold five of the top 10 spots for the most-searched-for terms today. This is the type of ranking that SEO experts can only dream about.

Talk about your 15 minutes of fame.

Incredible.

…Now how do I get a million people to read my blog?

– Routing By Rumor

P.S. – When we checked Ashley’s myspace page at noon on 3/13/2008, it had been taken down, apparently by myspace administrators. We’re guessing that the amount of traffic it was generating was causing problems for myspace.com. Either that, or it was hacked.

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You Have The Right To Remain Silent

…But it might not do you any good.

Forget about rounding up the usual suspects. Now, every one of us are suspects.

This story is about what you get when you cross George Orwell’s 1948 novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1984), with Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie, “Minority Report“. This, however, is not about science fiction. What I’m going to discuss is happening today, in the United States. It’s scarier than any movie, and it affects every American.

In “Nineteen Eighty-Four“, Big Brother was watching you. It was a totalitarian society, with the “Thought Police” and the “Ministry of Truth”. There was the inescapable network of telescreens. Resistance was futile. “Thoughtcrime” was punishable by death.

In “Minority Report“, which was a look at law enforcement in the year 2054, a computer decided who the suspects were. Since it was incapable of making mistakes, it was a foregone conclusion that the suspects would be found guilty. The Police “Pre-Crime Division” would not arrest you after you committed a crime. They would arrest you before you committed a crime. Not willing to go quietly? No problem. They’ll just “halo” you. If you have any doubt, just ask John Anderton (aka Tom Cruise).

Fast forward (or rewind) to the year 2008. I just read a newspaper article (here’s another article) about a relatively new tool that police departments around the United States are using (also see article from Wired Magazine). It is called the”Mobile Plate Hunter 900“. The MPH-900 can be used in a fixed location, or mounted in a police vehicle. The system records the license plates of vehicles that pass, or are passed by the police vehicle containing it’s set of cameras. The system identifies the vehicle tag, and does a lookup of the vehicle tags against data in FBI, state and local databases. It will alert the police to something as innocuous as an expired vehicle registration, to more serious things like stolen vehicles and vehicles associated with wanted persons.

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The “Mobile Plate Hunter 900”

In my opinion, what we have here, plain and simple, is a high-tech fishing expedition. Not that this tactic is anything new, though. I suspect that ever since police departments started installing data terminals in police cars in the last few years, many police officers with nothing better to do have “run” tags through the system with no cause for suspicion, but rather just to see if they could catch some fish. The “Mobile Plate Hunter 900” simply automates the process, allowing as many as ten thousand tags to be checked during an officer’s shift. Of course, if you’re not a criminal, you have nothing to fear. Or do you?

Perhaps the most troubling part of what I’ve read (see newspaper article), is that the police are building historical databases from the data gathered by this system. They are mining that data to identify suspects to crimes that might have not even been committed at the time the system recorded the vehicle tag! Talk about Pre-Crime!

According to Remington ELSAG, the manufacturer of the MPH-900…

This system reads plates from a stationary location or at highway speeds and cross references them against an onboard hotlist. The system alarms within a second of identifying a plate on the hotlist and can process hundreds of plates per minute. An onboard image and GPS coordinates of every plate scanned are stored and can be referenced later.

Here’s an excerpt from the newspaper article I referenced earlier…

The plate hunter had success in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where a State Police car using the cameras in January of last year identified a tag linked to a vehicle owned by a man who committed a quadruple homicide.

Once Mark Serrano emerged as a suspect, authorities were able to search the system and determined his vehicle was near the scene on the morning of the murders, said Sgt. Ira Promisel of the New York State Police. A jury convicted Serrano of first-degree murder last year, based in part on information the cameras gathered.

If that isn’t straight from the Pre-Crime Division in Minority Report, my name isn’t RoutingByRumor. What does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have to say about something like this? I don’t know. But here’s what the New York Civil Liberties Union said…

…such efficiency comes at the expense of every motorist’s civil right to avoid police surveillance unless a law has been violated, officials with the New York Civil Liberties Union argue.

“Police really should be in the business of investigating crimes, not tracking law-abiding citizens,” said Barrie Gewanter, executive director of the Central New York Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“When we are driving and we are always having our licenses plates examined, then everybody on the road is being treated as a suspect,” she said.

In 2008, we may not have George Orwell’s telescreens everywhere, but we do have video iPods, camera phones, and surveillance cameras everywhere. I find it amazing how many crimes are recorded on video these days, whether by law enforcement, businesses or private citizens. The police may not have the Halo yet, but they do have the Taser. Are you scared yet?

Don’t Tase Me, Bro

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I think the closest thing the police have to Minority Report’s “Halo” is the Taser. The police use of the Taser received wide coverage in September 2007, after Andrew Meyer, a 21 year old University of Florida student uttered the phrase heard around the world, “Don’t Tase Me, Bro”, and was promptly tasered by police (see this youtube video). His crime? Attempting to ask a question at a UF town hall meeting featuring (U.S.) Senator John Kerry (see Kerry’s bio), and as some have accused him, being obnoxious. Unfortunately, I searched the Florida criminal statutes hoping to find the specific statute that covers obnoxious college students, but I couldn’t find one. I find it quite disturbing then, that the University of Florida Police were able to use potentially lethal force against Mr. Meyer, since his crime does not appear to warrant the death penalty.

I have watched a couple of videos of the UF tasing event, and read some of the police reports on the Meyer incident that were posted to the Web. Mr. Meyer is not some thug or terrorist. He graduated from Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. He is (or was) a journalism major, and on the staff of the UF student newspaper. But I also think he was a self-appointed agent provocateur, who appears to have been out of order when he commandeered a microphone to ask Senator Kerry a couple of loaded questions, after the Q&A session was closed. Perhaps Mr. Meyer was seeking his 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps he just wanted to embarrass Senator Kerry. Perhaps he has some mental health issues. I don’t really know what his motivation was.

What I am quite certain of is that there was absolutely no reason for the Goon Squad to treat Mr. Meyer to an electroshock therapy session, or the audience to a horror show. The police report states that Mr. Meyer was “arrested and transported to AC/DC”, which it later indicates is the “Alachua County Detention Center”. Then again, perhaps “AC/DC” refers to the electrical waveform of the electroshock torture they administered.

If you watch this video of the arrest from The Gainesville Sun, it is clear that there were a half-dozen goons piled on top of Mr. Meyer. Yes, he was yelling. Yes, he probably should have just gone limp and let the goons drag him away. But he clearly was not going anywhere, and was not a threat to the members of the audience or the police officers.

My opinion is that he was tasered to punish him, and possibly just so the goons could get their jollies and assert their authority. Police do not have the latitude to determine guilt or decide on a punishment. It was an unnecessary use of force and an abuse of police power. But I think it was also exactly what Mr. Meyer wanted. His intention was to create a scene. The more controversial, the better. The messier, the better. The more publicity it generated, the better. He has certainly gotten his 15 minutes, and then some. He has appeared on NBC’s Today show.

RoutingByRumor awards Andrew William Meyer it’s 2007 “Most Memorable Quote Of The Year” award, for his contribution of “Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” to the American lexicon, and for unwittingly bringing the Taser issue to the forefront. The incident has caused the University of Florida to reconsider whether to arm it’s police department with Tasers. Sometimes, good things result from bad situations.

In some instances, the Taser has become a weapon of torture, used to inflict pain, punish, and in some cases, unintentially kill suspects. More than 300 individuals have died as a result of being tasered. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has said that Taser use “constituted a form of torture” (see this article). Amnesty International USA has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers by police, saying “The penalty for resisting arrest should not be death” (see this article). Read Amnesty’s Taser abuse article here.

Because it is viewed as a less-lethal weapon, police are much more likely to use it, as opposed to a firearm. But because of it’s potential for abuse, including being used to torture, and the potential to cause death, the Taser is much more dangerous than Minority Report’s “Halo”. Police feel free to use the Taser in situations where they would never consider shooting an individual. Watch this youtube video (viewer discretion advised) of a Utah Highway Patrol officer tasering 28 year-old Jared Massey, who was suspected of nothing more than speeding. His most serious crime, it seems, was asking the officer how fast he was speeding.

The Utah Office of Tourism might want to use Jared Massey as it’s spokesman.  Under a heading of “Come See Utah, Close Up”, they can show Jared face down on the asphalt, eating gravel and writhing in pain, as Utah Highway Patrol’s Trooper John Gardner repeatedly sends 50,000 volts through his body, while Mr. Massey’s wife screams hysterically in the background.  Oh yeah… that horror show should draw tourists to the great state of Utah.

Why am I digressing the discussion of the “Mobile Plate Hunter 900” into a discussion about misuse of the Taser? I don’t think it’s too far fetched to assume that sometime in the not-too-distant future, if it hasn’t happened already, something similar to the following scenario might play out…

A police officer on patrol is alerted by his “Mobile Plate Hunter 900” to the presence of a stolen vehicle. The officer approaches the vehicle, but because of a language barrier, the occupants do not understand the officer’s instructions. A confrontation ensues that causes the officer to use his Taser on one of the suspects, who goes into cardiac arrest and dies.

It turns out that the vehicle was not stolen. The license plate number of a stolen vehicle had been entered into a police computer incorrectly. The dead suspect had done nothing wrong. He was, as they say, just “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. If police were not going on high-tech fishing expeditions, the fellow would still be alive.

Of course, I’m ignoring all the cases where criminals are caught, and stolen vehicles are recovered, thanks to tools like the “Mobile Plate Hunter 900”. The issue I am raising is whether Americans are well served by the use of such technology, or whether it infringes on our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.

You have reason to be concerned if your local police use either Tasers, or the “Mobile Plate Hunter 900”. If they close your municipal swimming pool so that Agatha, Arthur and Daschle can take a dip, you’re really in trouble. You’ll need to talk to Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith).

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Agatha (Samantha Morton), one of the three “precogs” in Minority Report

…To be continued

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Filed under Apple, Cars, Cellphones, iPod, Law Enforcement, Life, Movies, News, Politics, Routing by Rumor, Science Fiction, Technology

Sandisk Sansa vs Apple iPod – And The Winner Is…

We purchased an identical set of Sandisk Sansa m240 (1GB) MP3 players in November, 2005. These alternatives to the iPods that most of the world has fallen in love with were less expensive than an iPod of the same capacity, and had some nice features such as an FM radio and voice recorder.

I had problems with the m240s as soon as I started loading music onto them. There were two issues in particular that were particularly problematic. Some album tracks would play in the wrong order (with shuffle turned off), and when I loaded a large number of albums or audiobooks, many files would disappear. They were there when you viewed the contents of the players via a PC, but once you disconnected the sansa from the computer, it could not find the tracks. The shuffled track issue might not be the end of the world when you’re listening to your favorite album, but it is unacceptable when you are listening to audiobooks. Some audiobooks have more than 1,000 tracks, each of which are a few minutes long.

I communicated the problems I was having to Sandisk’s tech support people, who assured me that firmware updates would solve my problems. They did not. I went back and forth with Sandisk via their website, via e-mails and by phone over a period of about six months. I spent hours upon hours editing the ID3 tags in the albums, podcasts and audiobooks I was loading onto the Sansa, to no avail. It did not matter whether files were .mp3 or other formats. The Sansa would still shuffle some tracks. I tried applying several firmware updates. I tried resetting the Sansa. I tried loading different files. I tried using a different USB cable. Nothing helped.

Dealing with their support people was frustrating and infuriating at times. They seemed to be in denial when it came to the issues I was reporting, despite the fact that I found other Sansa owners on the Web who posted identical issues with their Sansas. I would provide Sandisk with details on how to reproduce the problems I was experiencing, but couldn’t get them to acknowledge the problems. They had me doing things that they should have been doing themselves, like preparing sets of test files and sending them to their tech support people. I also came away from the experience questioning whether Sandisk designed and produced the Sansa product line in-house, or whether they are branding someone else’s players with the Sandisk name. I say this because Sandisk seemed to be unable to address problems with the Sansa. It seemed to me like they may be dependent on a third party for resolving those issues. Overall, I would rate Sandisk’s support as poor.

I guess they finally had enough of my calls and support requests, because a senior technician that I was dealing with finally acknowledged they did not have a fix for the problems. They offered to replace my players with another Sansa model, the e250 (2GB), which they assured me would solve the problem. I took them up on their offer, but while I was waiting for them to send me the replacement Sansas, I found reports that owners of those Sansas had posted to various websites, indicating that there were problems with the
Sansa e200 series also. (Actually, Sandisk doesn’t even handle product returns. They have you send the defective products to a third party.)

When I received the replacement players, I decided to sell both of them rather then open the packages and see for myself whether I’d have the same problems with the e250’s as I did with the m240’s. I had little faith in their tech support, and just wanted to find another brand of MP3 player that worked correctly. I was not impressed with the quality of Sandisk’s support, and upset about the amount of time wasted trying unsuccessfully to resolve the problems with their product.

I’ve always been an IBM-compatible PC and Microsoft DOS/Windows computer user. I’ve never owned or used an Apple Macintosh, but I was aware that Mac devotees consider Windows-based PCs to be inferior to the Mac. Status symbols have never been real important to me. I also tend to root for the underdog, whether it’s in politics or MP3 players. I don’t like to pay a premium just so I can have the most popular brand of anything. On the other hand, I knew there were reasons why people love their iPods, and I knew that the iPod’s popularity wasn’t just because of the Apple mystique, but because of the design superiority of Apple products.

I considered buying one of the Microsoft Zune MP3 players which had just been released, but was unimpressed with them. I thought the (first generation) Zune was expensive, large, ugly, received lukewarm reviews, and it was (at the time) version 1.0 of a Microsoft product, which I’ve previously mentioned should always be avoided.

 

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I ended up buying a second generation Apple iPod nano (2GB) in November, 2006. I feel like kicking myself for not buying an iPod in the first place. I’ve had no significant problems with the nano in the year since I bought it. Sure, there are some minor problems I’ve come across, mostly involving Apple’s iTune’s software, rather than with the software inside the nano (the firmware). To be fair, there are iPod owners that have posted some serious problems on various websites, so the iPod is not completely problem-free. However, everything you read about the iPods are true. They have better user interfaces than the competition, whether it’s a scroll wheel model like the nano, or one of their newer touch screen devices such as the iPod touch. Apple is known for their superior design features and the materials they use in their devices, such as aluminum cases. I did give up the FM radio and voice recorder features of the Sansa, which the nano does not have, but I gained an audio player that works correctly. I would have preferred the nano to have an easily replaceable battery, but none of the iPods have easily user-replaceable batteries. Apple wants you to return the iPods to them for battery replacement, if it becomes necessary. Fortunately, there are alternatives… do-it-yourself replacement battery kits, and third party service companies that do iPod repairs and battery replacements.

Now, I want one of the new third generation iPod nanos that play video, and come in memory capacities up to 8GB. Then again, the iPod touch would be even nicer. Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas. I guess Apple has spoiled me for anything else, because I would probably never consider purchasing another brand of audio or video player.

So, as you’ve figured out by now, in the Sansa vs iPod contest, as far as I’m concerned, the clear winner is: The Apple iPod.

Who knows… Maybe my next computer will be a Mac.

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Filed under Apple, Consumerism, iPod, iPod nano, iPod touch, Life, Microsoft, Money, mp3 players, Personal, Personal Tidbits, Portable music players, Routing by Rumor, Sandisk, Sandisk Sansa, Shopping, Technology, Your Money, Zune

The Walmartization of America

Wal-mart

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What better way to start my blog than by bashing Wal-mart? After all, they are the retail behemoth that people love to hate. I guess it must be jealousy.

I was never in a Sams Club or Wal-mart store until last year, when a Walmart sprung up about 15 minutes from my home. With their reputation for low wages, poor or non-existent employee benefits and brutal business practices, I wasn’t too eager to become a Wal-mart customer. In fact, the rumor around here is that “Sam’s Club” actually refers to the big stick that Sam Walton would use to beat up his suppliers and the competition. They don’t call us Routing by Rumor for nothing. I did want to check them out, however, to see if their prices were really that good. I consider myself a very savvy shopper. OK, I’ll admit it… I’ve now shopped there several times since they opened.

My first impression was that Wal-mart is K-Mart on steroids. (I hate K-Mart, and won’t shop there.) Wal-mart is very similar to Target stores also. Lots of low-end merchandise. Cheap shoes. Cheap clothes. Not cheap as in inexpensive; cheap as in, well, cheap. I think Target tries to position itself as selling somewhat more upscale clothing. I’ll call it “cheap chic”. And don’t forget that K-Mart has (or had) Martha Stewart. I guess we’re talking higher quality made-in-China merchandise.

Wal-mart does sell many staple items at rock-bottom prices, but many other popular items are priced no lower than other retailers. You can do better on many, perhaps most items at most other chains or supermarkets, especially when an item is on sale, and particularly on grocery items. I felt that some of Wal-mart’s private-label food items I tried were of inferior quality, and not a very good value. Kind of ironic, since one of their private-label grocery brands is called “Great Value”.

Prices seem to jump around a lot at Walmart. Their price “roll backs” come and go, and I’ve seen some items, especially on the last few visits, jump 20%, 25%, or more. I think the bottom line is that you save on one item, but give back what you just saved when you pick up the next item and place it in your basket.

Being the geek that I am, I gravitate to the electronics department of any store I find myself in. I found a few bargains there, but in general, you can do much, much better buying stuff online, a la Amazon or ebay. On some really hot items, like Apple iPods, Wal-mart prices are pretty close to MSRP. I’ve found some small local or regional electronics chains that beat Wal-mart’s prices on electronics by 10% or more.

One thing I’ll concede about Wal-mart, though, is that returns are never a hassle. They seem to be much more consumer-friendly with returns than many large retailers are these days. One other thing that you’ll only find at Wal-mart is that they sell the local newspaper for half-price. I’ve never seen anyone discounting a newspaper at the newsstand, much less selling it for half-price. Obviously, it’s a gimmic, but it is a nice little surprise.

They have gotten a lot of good press lately because of their very low prices for generic prescription drugs. They also have excellent prices on their house-branded OTC drugs. I guess these cheap drugs make up in some small way for the otherwise poor health benefits they offer their employees. Then again, if you can’t afford to see a doctor, you can’t get a prescription for the cheap medicine. Another Wal-mart paradox, I suppose.

What surprises me most about Walmart is how many items are out of stock on each shopping trip. I don’t think it’s so much a case of them having a run on many items, as it is a logistical or management problem. I suppose the really talented, experienced retail people don’t apply for jobs at Walmart. That’s not to say that they don’t have good people working there. They do, and I empathize with anybody that works hard and does not get a decent salary and benefits. Is America better off with the Walmarts, Home Depots and other giants that have decimated virtually all of their retail competition? I think not.

</walmart-bashing-mode>

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Filed under Consumerism, Money, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Walmart