Thursday, February 23, 2006

An Eventful Morning-I Meet Alberto

If you're just now finding this blog, the #1 blog on the web according to my mother, then chances are you've read my article on MSNBC today, Fly The Cell-Free Skies... While You Still Can. It's my second MSNBC article, and the first time anyone's mentioned Tamagachis in well over 4 years.

I also mentioned a song in the first paragraph, which presumably got cut for space. I'd like to promote it here. "In The Sun," an excellent Joseph Arthur song in its own right, has been rerecorded by Joseph, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, and that guy who named his kid Apple. The "In The Sun" EP is available on iTunes, and it's for a good cause-- money goes to Hurricane Katrina relief. It remains vital that we pay attention to New Orleans and continue to aid in the recovery of the city and the rest of the gulf coast. Mardi Gras may be coming up, but there's still not a lot to celebrate in the Big Easy. (Like toxic sludge.)

Now to today's momentous and ironic event. I met Alberto Gonzales.

For those of you who read this blog (hey mom, hey dad!), you know that me and Alberto don't exactly see eye to eye. I like playing Madden, he likes listening to phone calls. I'm a big Jets fan, Alberto enjoys torture. To each his own.

I attended a round-table discussion about Human Trafficking, hosted by Alberto and the Office of Public Affairs. The report they gave us is embargoed until March 16th, so I can't really talk about it. But in general, the report shows the efforts and progress the Bush administration has made in fighting this modern form of slavery, in which young, impoverished girls are lured to the U.S. with the promise of jobs, love, or safety and are then turned into indentured servants, sweatshop workers and prostitutes.

After passing through a metal detector, I entered the main conference room. It was not a large crowd.

There were 4 other reporters there. From Glamour, Parents Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and People. Not exactly your "hard news" lineup.

They were there for the same reason I was. Human Trafficking is a "hot" story, like Blackberrys and MySpace. The woman from People was practically drooling as she asked Alberto if he could help her "get in touch" with some of the victims. "We've been trying to get a victim for a long time," she said. Ah, People. In what other magazine can you learn Britney Spears loves K-Fed soooo much and also read about a sexually abused illegal immigrant? What was Glamour's angle... "This month, we give a victim of human trafficking a makeover she'll never forget!!!"?

The other reporters were all women. Alberto entered and said, "Welcome Ladies." Then he saw me. A few seconds passed. "And gentleman."

In this intimate setting, Alberto sat across from me at the conference room table. From my vantage point, I observed a funny little mannerism.

Alberto does this thing with his hands. He rests his wrists on the table, and just sort of pushes out with his fingers while he's speaking:

Alberto's Finger Thrusting

Sometimes he thrusts downward instead of up.

More Hand Hijinx

The wrists never leave the table. At one point, he played with a napkin. Just a funny little quirk.

He mentioned his how being a Mexican-American made the issue of Human Trafficking especially important to him. A large number of women are lured into the states from Mexico. Apparently, this is a growing problem that the government is taking seriously. Alberto seemed sincere when he said this was a priority of the administration. Where it ranks compared to the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Hurricane relief and banning gay marriage, he didn't say. But I find it hard to hate on Alberto. He was quiet and unassuming, shook hands with everybody, answered most of our questions (although he said he'd have to get back to me on how the government is supporting non-governmental organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking)

Now you're probably wondering. Did you hit him with any hard questions? Did you reem him out for defending the policies of torture and unaccountable spying?

Well. No. I couldn't. For the sole reason that I was there representing a magazine, and the magazine has no political interests. So it would have been unprofessional to go off topic. Fun, but unprofessional.

He did say his priorities were to "Promote the American dream" and "Assure protection of civil rights." I have no reason to doubt him on this. He seemed sincere. He didn't say anything, however, about how torture and unauthorized spying play into those priorities.

Afterward, I called my mom. "The attorney general? Of the United States?" she said, surprised, when I called to tell her about my morning. "I thought you were meeting the attorney general of New York!"

"They don't send reporters from such prestigious news outlets as Glamour and Ladies Home Journal to cover the attorney general of New York, Mom," I said.

We'll have to wait and see which magazine writes the Human Trafficking "scoop" first. In the meantime, tell your impoverished friends in other countries that it may not be such a swell idea to take that guy up on his offer of free travel to the U.S. in exchange for some... services. And visit to find out what you can do.

And please, give my MSNBC article a 5 dammit. I work hard for your sake. Don't be a hater!


Big Mac said...

i gave you a 5! nice work

Anonymous said...


In the cell phone on airplanes article which I enjoyed, you spelled descent, decent.

Alan said...

In your cell phones on airplanes article you mentioned the peaceful time before landing.
Unfortunately, on the last 4 flights I was
on, it is clear that the passengers ignore the turn-it-off instructions, and frequently don't put seat backs up. The cabin crews just ignore it.
Apparently crews don't want to recognize
the active noise cancelling headsets (which have powered electronics in them), nor do they even want to get the folks to put their seats up (and why is one of them always in the seat in front of me...)

Anonymous said...

You got a 5 from me Adam, great sense of humor in authoring that article. The "is it me?" cell phone ringing reference was hilarious and right on point. I don't think there's a faster way to kill a song's life span and make everyone hate it than to make it a ring tone on the phone of an annoying commuter train riding, got no life but I'm going to bore everyone with the menutia of my egregiously dull day anyway passenger!

Ali said...

Definitely a 5! I agree with the no cell-phone rule and hereby establish the initiative for keeping the skies sacred. Next, can you do an investigative report on the moronic mindset that the 'vibrate' mode is any less disturbing that the 'ring' mode, especially in small spaces and classrooms? Thanks, you tech-savvy wordsmith, you.

Anonymous said...

you're a freaking turd...i've lost 4 years of interest in msnbc thanks to your article regarding ipods and airplanes!! douche!!

Hot Mama said...

Slammin' article on MSNBC! I laughed my head off and gave it a 5. Don't be too hard on Alberto Gonzales or you'll never get the REALLY BIG interviews ever again (and I heard a rumor that the Britney Spears remark cost you the job at People!).Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Do ground based cell phones work on airliners at cruising speed? See

Anonymous said...

They'll certainly be a hot market in short-range cell phone interrupters and jammers if this comes to pass! Either that or fighting.

Anonymous said...


Even if cell phones aren't allowed the "chatting thing" will still happen. While flying 35000ft over Iceland a few weeks ago, I spoke with my 5 year old daughter who was climbing into bed in Stockholm. How? By using Skype (VoIP) while connected to the Boeing Connexion WiFi in the Sky.

The days of being unreachable while flying are just about over.

Adam said...

Interesting, I hadn't thought about people using VoIP. An interesting loophole in the whole no-cell-phones allowed rules. I'm sure some flight attendants wouldn't understand the difference though, and probably tell you to hang up anyway.

Anonymous said...

Funny, if they're just now adding cell phone service, why were there cell phone call transcripts from the planes in 9/11?

Adam said...

Read the second to last paragraph of the article. The issue isn't whether cell phones WORK on planes. They DO (albiet, unreliably). The issue is that, as of now, cell phones aren't ALLOWED. On 9/11, the circumstances certainly dictated that rules be broken. Hence, the cell phone transcripts.

Ripper said...

I can't thank you enough for bringing awareness to this annoying issue.

Anonymous said...

Concerning your reference to the FCC's message to kids warning that use of cell phones in planes could be disastrous. The use of cell phones by those on the ill-fated flights of 9/11 did nothing to deter the deadly precision of the hijaker pilots (Flights AA11, UA175, and AA77). Certainly the use of cell phones had nothing to do with Flight AA93 either; the courage of the passengers did. Gotta go now. Time to rate your article a 5!

Anonymous said...

Adam...I also think the skies should be sacred! I took part in the poll attached to your MSNBC article and 86% agreed, there should be no cell phone use in the skies. That seems to be the consensus when I have read other articles/blogs about this topic. The obnoxious talkers and invading ring-tones are always the culprits. Your "is it me?" reference is all too common yes, but that is because all of YOU can't help but flaunting your $4 ring-tone you just bought. It's hard for YOU to wait to make/place a call until you are in a less-intrusive surrounding, because there is no way that YOU would annoy anyone. Anyway, YOU want to show that YOU are just as important as the obnoxious person(on their phone)next to you. Plus you have to show off the $30 skin you just bought for your free phone, so I'm sure no one will mind if YOU do these intrusive behaviors, because YOU are YOU, and people like you, right?
Go home. Hang up.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog. What brought me to it was your airline/cell phone piece. I build cell sites for a living (in the industry 10 years, T-Mobile, Sprint, Nextel, Cingular etc). In their current configuration, using a typical off the shelf phone, you will not get cell phone coverage at 35,000 feet. Maybe through some other piggyback technology but based on simple cell site antennas at 35-60 feet off the ground with a straight out or a downtilt you will not be able to place a call. I fly regularly and know how asinine the "rules" are and simply set my phone to silent while in the air. It does not register any signal/time/etc. while airborn. (and for the record, all channels and frequency are strictly governed by the FCC and cannot cross paths or bleed into each other, any frequency that the cockpit is using is different than a cell phone). I can catch a signal as a plane is taxi-ing (sp?) and takeoff/landing up to a 100 or so feet in the air. And I use every minute of that cell phone coverage time to make plans for departure and arrival or get a start on missed calls/voicemails (hence the being out of coverage in the air thing).

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