The shallow end; All the news that fits; Heart of darkness

Maybe Hicks forgot their names after she left that church. If she had spoken to them, they might have pointed out that the difference in how much it costs to build a road between the levees and outside them is much smaller if you take into account how much extra dirt will have to be dug from the river channel, and the new bridges that all that excavation will require.

Actually, Buzz prefers having it go this way. We can sit by idly and count the moments, waiting to see whether the Morning News makes it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Running Refusal to Cover An Unmistakably Significant Story.

Heart of darkness

In our head, Buzz knows that James J. Doolin, convicted criminal and Dallas author of How to Change Your Identity and Erase Bad Credit, is doing A Very Bad Thing -- the sort of thing any responsible editorialist would condemn for encouraging lawlessness and corrupting the youth and harrumph, harrumph, harrumph.

But in our heart -- flinty, irresponsible organ that it is -- we kind of admire anyone as openly amoral and grasping as Doolin appears to be. We're not alone, are we? Otherwise, why is The Sopranos so popular?

Doolin describes his self-published 56-page manual as a step-by-step instruction guide to obtaining counterfeit birth certificates and other documents, erasing bad credit without actually paying your bills, and profiting on the exchange of Canadian travelers checks.

At least one of those acts, counterfeiting, is undoubtedly illegal, Doolin says. He should know; he was twice convicted of trafficking in counterfeit documents and is in the middle of serving three years' probation.

Several people asked him how he created the fake documents, and while there are several how-to books out there, Doolin says he believed he "could write a better book."

"Write what you know" is always good advice for an aspiring author to follow, though Doolin's federal probation officer apparently disagrees. In fact, Doolin had a little chat with her last week. "She didn't hassle me as much as I thought she would," Doolin says. "She read it, and she didn't approve. They'll probably pass it on to the U.S. Attorney's Office."

It all sounds pretty ballsy for a man who has seen the inside of a federal pen. Is he some sort of live-free-or-die libertarian? Buzz asked him. A revolutionary anarchist trying to stick it to The Man?

No and no. He's only doing it for the money. Doolin is an old-fashioned American capitalist. "I'm not getting rich off it," he says of the book. "It's worth my while. Let's put it like that."

Doolin says he's "kind of like a gun dealer. Once he makes a sale and the guy goes and kills somebody, he's [the dealer] not responsible for the murder."

Many people, several states' attorneys general among them, might quibble with Doolin on that, but he doesn't seem to care. He wanted to know whether Buzz would put his story on the front page and could we please include his phone number? He had some books to move.

Our head found the request appalling, but our heart...Well, let's just say we can empathize with anyone who writes appalling things for money: His book costs $25 and is available at local spy shops and on the Internet. Find it yourself and use it wisely.

óCompiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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