On The Internet You Are Always A God

On The Internet Nobody Knows You Are A dog
On The Internet Nobody Knows You Are A Dog – Peter Steiner, The New Yorker. Wiki

Three stories I read yesterday, exhibiting a common theme. These aren’t wrapped together as a neat thread, but if you think about it a bit, perhaps they are related after all.

First, and the most newsworthy by far was Glenn Greenwald’s latest amazing story about our National Security apparatus. There are Power Point documents created instructing how to ruin an enemy’s online reputation. You should read his article if you read nothing else today, and this adjunct tale of this process in action:

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.


(click here to continue reading How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept.)

 God Is Ugly

God Is Ugly

Second, did you notice that the still-Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, Tea Party and Koch Brother favorite, paid his staff to write comments on newspaper articles? If you were a resident of Milwaukee, or later, of anywhere in Wisconsin, your taxpayer money was spent thus1. Doesn’t that make you pleased? Have you ever waded through comments on a news article?Yeah, nasty stuff most usually. Makes you wonder who the author of that sycophantic comment really is, or more precisely, who his employer is. 

Madison — In the heat of the 2010 governor’s race, Scott Walker urged both county employees and campaign aides to go to news websites and post comments promoting him and his record, newly unsealed documents show.

It was just such anonymous posts by a county worker on campaign issues that prompted prosecutors to expand a secret “John Doe” investigation — launched to probe into missing money in a veterans fund — to also examine whether taxpayer dollars were being used illegally to finance political operations.

In one instance in May 2010, for example, a close ally posted online a portion of a Walker email almost verbatim on a Journal Sentinel story just minutes after receiving the directive. Walker had sent the note to an inner circle that included county administrators as well as campaign operatives.

Tapping out a message on his campaign Blackberry on the afternoon of May 4, 2010, Walker urged county aides, campaign staffers and other trusted volunteers to go to an online Journal Sentinel business story and respond to critics of his plan to privatize the airport in the comments section below the story.

“Someone should comment on the fact that the only way for the county to benefit from that success is to contract out operations,” Walker wrote in an email. “Having a well performing airport increases the value that the county could receive.”

A half-hour later, Brian Pierick — the boyfriend of Walker aide Timothy D. Russell — posted a comment on the story under the alias “WI_Calvin,” calling rising airport traffic “another example of Scott Walker’s outstanding leadership.”

“The only way the county can to (sic) benefit from that success is to contract out operations. Having a well performing airport increases the value that the county could receive,” Pierick wrote, adding only a single word to Walker’s phrasing. Pierick and Russell were both later convicted of other activities in the secret probe.

(click here to continue reading Scott Walker urged county staff, campaign aides to promote him online.)

Elevator to Gallows
Elevator to Gallows

Lastly, and probably least, there was an anonymous tweeter by the name of @GSElevator who got a book deal, based mostly on what he tweeted, things allegedly overheard in the elevator of Goldman Sachs. Except the author only briefly even came close to working for Goldman, years ago, and so made up most of what he quoted.  He still got a lot of publicity though.

A three-year parlor game has been taking place on Wall Street to identify the Goldman Sachs employee behind a Twitter account that purports to reveal the uncensored comments overheard in the firm’s elevators.

The Twitter account, @GSElevator, reports overheard remarks like, “I never give money to homeless people. I can’t reward failure in good conscience,” and “Groupon…Food stamps for the middle class.”

The Twitter account, which has an audience of more than 600,000 followers, has been the subject of an internal inquiry at Goldman to find the rogue employee. The tweets, often laced with insider references to deals in the news, appeal to both Wall Street bankers and outsiders who mock the industry. Late last month, the writer sold a book about Wall Street culture based on the tweets for a six-figure sum.

 There is a good reason Goldman Sachs has been unable to uncover its Twitter-happy employee: He doesn’t work at the firm. And he never did.

The author is a 34-year-old former bond executive who lives in Texas. His name is John Lefevre.

(click here to continue reading @GSElevator Tattletale Exposed (He Was Not in the Goldman Elevator) – NYTimes.com.)

  1. or is it thusly? []

Reading Around on July 15th through July 19th

A few interesting links collected July 15th through July 19th:

Reading Around on July 7th


Some additional reading July 7th from 09:36 to 13:27:

  • Booze quotes: shaking with style


    The important thing is the rhythm. You should always have rhythm when you’re shaking. Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox trots. A Bronx, to two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time. —Nick Charles, The Thin Man


  • ScienceBlogs, we have a problem | Science | guardian.co.uk – •


    Should ScienceBlogs.com have agreed to host a controversial blog on nutrition, written by PepsiCo? No, say the site’s readers, as some of its star bloggers stop their blogs in protest


  • Say hello to…PepsiCo??!? WTF? : Pharyngula


    So what’s with the corporate drones moving in next door? They aren’t going to be doing any scienceblogging — this is straight-up commercial propaganda. You won’t be seeing much criticism of Pepsico corporate policies, or the bad nutritional habits spread by cheap fast food, or even any behind-the-scenes stories about the lives of Pepsico employees that paints a picture of the place as anything less than Edenesque. Do you think any of the ‘bloggers’ will express any controversial opinions that might annoy any potential customers?

  • PepsiCo blog, Food Frontiers, is an affront to those who built the reputation of ScienceBlogs : Terra Sigillata


    I wish to focus my objections specifically on the breach of ethics and community represented by ScienceBlogs hosting this blog and accepting an undisclosed amount of sponsorship funds to do so


The Nation versus Buzzflash

I received1 this same email solicitation from The Nation as Mark Karlin did. I’ve been a subscriber to The Nation since before there was such a thing as a browser, but I’ve been a reader of BuzzFlash for nearly their entire existence as well. The Nation’s attack seems a bit odd, why attack fellow progressives when there are so many other, juicier targets?

Lower Congress Parkway

In the meantime, we were a bit astonished to receive a mass solicitation e-mail on December 16 from Katrina vanden Heuvel (the editorial and marketing genius currently publishing “The Nation”) — whom we deeply admire — accusing BuzzFlash, among others, of running “Nation” stories “without contributing a penny to support and produce the journalism we invest in.”

We don’t mind being called out by name by people who have a different opinion, but it’s another story when a publication you deeply admire slanders you. The fact is that we post headline links to “The Nation” stories from which they derive more hits because of our size, and they then can charge more money to the likes of Coca Cola and Discover Card for running ads for those corporations. BuzzFlash has never reproduced, copied, nor violated the copyright of any “Nation” article, and many of “The Nation” writers, including Jeremy Scahill whom vanden Heuvel mentions, read BuzzFlash and have been interviewed by BuzzFlash.

In short, as far as BuzzFlash is concerned, Katrina vanden Heuvel is defaming our proud and unblemished heritage.

Furthermore, BuzzFlash is probably the largest non-bookstore seller of Nation Books on the Web and plans to continue selling Nation Books, just as we plan continuing linking to “Nation” articles.

Vanden Heuvel, with whom we have communicated positively and admiringly in our early years (including an interview we did and posted about her book “Dictionary of Republicanisms”; BuzzFlash also sold her tome, “Meltdown”), also should know that BuzzFlash has a staff, posts much of its own original content on our blog, runs advocacy campaigns such as Turn Off Fox, and has created a marketplace for progressive writers, musicians, actors, Fair Trade (living wage), and eco-products. Our staff has broken and brought to the forefront many a story over the years.

In fact, BuzzFlash has played an instrumental role in publicizing and distributing Nation Books such as “Blackwater” and “Republican Gomorrah” and many others. Katrina vanden Heuvel sits on the Board of the Nation Institute, which publishes Nation Books (through Perseus), and the Nation Institute is strongly affiliated with “The Nation.”

In short, when vanden Heuvel writes in her e-mail fundraising plea, “While I suspect you may have read Scahill or Roston or Jones — and other Nation investigations — on Common Dreams, Alternet or Buzzflash, please remember that these ‘aggregator’ websites use our work without contributing a penny to support and produce the journalism we invest in.”

I can’t speak for Common Dreams or Alternet, but vanden Heuvel is making the same argument that Rupert Murdoch does, which makes them a very odd couple indeed. Let’s see: BuzzFlash links directly to Nation articles, which drives up their “hits” and page views, which means that they can charge Coca Cola more money to greenwash itself! And BuzzFlash promotes “The Nation” writers and books through interviews.

[Click to continue reading In Desperation for Funds, “The Nation” Slanders BuzzFlash: Progressive Sites Need More Financial Support So This Doesn’t Happen | BuzzFlash.org]

Daily News

I tried to find an example of a Scahill article lifted from The Nation, and could not find one. There are links like:

Who will mete out justice for America’s merchants of death? Jeremy Scahaill brilliantly analyzes Blackwater USA after their deadly shootout in the streets of Baghdad. This article will be printed in the Oct. 15th, 2007 edition of the Nation.

[Click to continue reading BuzzFlash.net – Progressive News and Commentary with an Attitude | Fight Ignorance: Read BuzzFlash]

but that’s pretty clearly a link to The Nation’s website, and is no more than a teaser. BuzzFlash does post a lot of links to other places, but they don’t excerpt much of the original story; if a reader was interested in the topic, they would click through the link to read the rest at the original publisher.

There is even a FAQ entry about the practice:

Why just the links?

Our job is made much simpler and legally safer if we point you to the articles, instead of copying, formatting, and posting them to the BuzzFlash site.

So I don’t understand the slam. If The Nation wants to hide itself behind a paywall, just do it already. I hope they don’t, I like directing people who are not subscribers to read articles at the Nation website, but if Ms. Vanden Heuvel is worried about copyright theft, she should take action and stop pointing the finger at fellow travelers like BuzzFlash.

  1. and responded negatively to []

The FTC and the Unreasonable Case of Disclosure

The blogosphere is starting to think about the new FTC regulations we mentioned yesterday. Case in point, Nine reasons why the rules will solve no problem, and just cause headaches:

I'm With Stupid

However, I don’t believe that the new FTC guidelines actually help to further the goals of transparency but rather, instead, the new rules will be rife with abuse and misuse and uneven application. Here’s why:

1. Adversely affects smaller blogs. Small blogs like ours do not have editors. We don’t get paid to review and what we do is truly a labor of love. Yes, we are starting to host ads but we cannot afford a full time editor for our reviews. Blogs without editorial staffs will be subject to the new rules while blogs and mainstream publications, regardless of other issues and relationships, will not. Let me state it this way: the blogs with the highest earning capacity will likely be exempt while the blogs with the lowest earning capacity will not. I found it fascinating that Richard Cleland of the Bureau of Consumer Protection said this:

Cleland said that a disclosure was necessary when it came to an individual blogger, particularly one who is laboring for free. A paid reviewer was in the clear because money was transferred from an institution to the reviewer, and the reviewer was obligated to dispense with the product. I wondered if Cleland was aware of how many paid reviewers held onto their swag.

“I expect that when I read my local newspaper, I may expect that the reviewer got paid,” said Cleland. “His job is to be paid to do reviews. Your economic model is the advertising on the side.”

From Cleland’s standpoint, because the reviewer is an individual, the product becomes “compensation.”

[Click to continue reading The FTC and the Unreasonable Case of Disclosure | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary]

and Number 7, especially as it pertains to Twitter is a bit of a joke:

Eliminating any relationships. § 255.5 requires disclosure of “material connections”.

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

I’m not sure what this pertains to. I have attended luncheons, parties with publishers. Do I need to explain each and every piece of swag I am ever given? Could I even possibly remember every pen and mint tin I picked up? I doubt it.

It’s important to note that in various interviews around the web and in the Guide itself, the FTC contemplates that any comment, tweet, post on a facebook page, participation on a message board, must be accompanied by the relevant disclosure.

As for Twitter, the FTC isn’t letting you get a pass with the excuse that 140 characters–Twitter’s famous text limit–is simply too short. “There are ways to abbreviate a disclosure that fit within 140 characters,” Cleland said. “You may have to say a little bit of something else, but if you can’t make the disclosure, you can’t make the ad.”

I do wonder how long it will take before this policy is attempted to be enforced, and how long before a high-profile case goes before the courts. Do I have to hire an editor now? An advertising manager so there is a wall between “content” and “advertising”? How come celebrity magazines1 are seemingly exempt from the FTC? If I read another positive review about a Michael Bay film, I may ask the FTC to investigate.

  1. print and television []

FTC Says Bloggers Must Disclose Payments

Blog rules have, apparently, changed.

Mictorate Surrogate

– Blogger or flogger? The Federal Trade Commission is taking a tougher line on bloggers who accept cash or gifts to tout a company’s products or services.

Under revised rules announced Monday, the FTC will require bloggers and celebrities to clearly state when they receive cash or “payment in kind” for endorsing a company’s products or services.

The changes, adopted on a 4-0 vote, are the first revisions to federal guidelines on endorsements and testimonial advertising since 1980.

Connections between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed under the revised guidelines. The FTC said the stricter disclosure will apply to comments on talk shows, blog posts and on social media as well as in traditional advertisements.

[Click to continue reading FTC Says Bloggers Must Disclose Payments – WSJ.com]

But this policy, as reported here and in a similar NYT article, is pretty vague as to terms and definitions. How will it be enforced? Who qualifies as a blogger? Does this policy include Yelp and their pay-to-play model?

Or does the policy include low trafficked sites like your humble host? Does Amazon.com’s mildly dirty lucre qualify as “receiving cash”? Amazon pays me approximately 3% of the pre-tax price of any product that you purchase through a B12 Partners affiliate link1, which reaches peaks of nearly $30 some months, but more frequently is in the single digits. Google ads, over on the sidebar, or possibly inserted into your RSS feed or daily email, pay me a few cents for every click-through, which also adds a few dollars to my bank account every month. I pay more for my website than I make, but I’m not doing it for money, I’m doing it for other2 reasons.

Other than that, B12 Solipsism has not received squat from any product I’ve mentioned, any person I’ve praised or ridiculed, or any event I’ve mentioned. Now and again, someone will suggest a topic to me, but most of the time, I just ignore the PR pitch. Perhaps if there was financial compensation attached to the pitch, or even free tickets, I might pay attention.

Or Else

Besides B12, is the new ruling akin to what television product placement law is? Which is what again? Seem to see a lot of product placement in traditional media, how is a consumer to know which news magazines are running paid-for content, and which are not? How about Congressional leaders? Can the FTC or comparable governmental agency place disclaimers, perhaps in a forehead tattoo form, on health industry shills like Max Baucus for instance?

The FTC Guide, as currently written, seems woefully unenforced. Nearly all of the Sunday Talking Head shows seem to skirt the endorsement guidelines. Will that change too?

For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) which message consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group or institution.

(c) For purposes of this part, the term product includes any product, service, company or industry.

(d) For purposes of this part, an expert is an individual, group or institution possessing, as a result of experience, study or training, knowledge of a particular subject, which knowledge is superior to that generally acquired by ordinary individuals.


Live High aka High Life

Anyway, we’ll probably read more about this in the future, but B12 Solipsism readers can sleep easy tonight knowing that we are not paid blogger shills3 ,4 ,5

  1. such as the images of books-recently-purchased residing on the blog sidebar []
  2. heretofore unknown []
  3. though, Corporate America, our lines of communication are open, hint, hint []
  4. no, not really, we’ll probably just make fun of you. []
  5. but maybe not, if the price is right! []

Reading Around on October 5th

Some additional reading October 5th from 10:44 to 17:11:

  • Study Proposes New Interstate To Link Illinois, Indiana – Chicagoist – The proposed interstate, dubbed The Illiana Expressway, could cut congestion significantly along with providing a surge to the region’s economy. The proposed 25 to 30 mile stretch, operating as a tollway, would connect I-57 in Will County with I-65 in Lake County, Indiana and would cost as much as $1 billion.
  • Kenny Be: “I’d rather be gay than GLAAD” – Denver News – The Latest Word – In this week’s cover story, longtime Westword cartoonist Kenny Be strikes back at GLAAD, which recently named Kenny the “worst” of July. Pick up a copy, or click through here to see the full cartoon.

    It is always nice to be noticed, but for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to name me the “Worst of the National Media” for July of 2009 only reveals GLAAD’s ignorance, not mine.

  • Bloggers Must Disclose Payments for Reviews – NYTimes.com – “The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

    But the commission stopped short Monday of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest.”
    I haven’t gotten any schwagg, other than Amazon affiliate percentages, but I’m open to receiving free stuff in return for reviewing them…

Reading Around on August 9th through August 10th

A few interesting links collected August 9th through August 10th:


  • The Washington Monthly – GLADNEY THE UNINSURED ACTIVIST – I know I should laugh at the misfortunes of others, but…bwha-ha-ha:

    “Wait, the conservative opponent of health care reform, fighting (literally) to defeat a plan that would bring coverage to those who lose their jobs, lost his coverage because he got laid off?

    I’m not in a position to say whether Gladney sustained genuine injuries or whether he’s exaggerating for 15 minutes of Fox News fame and a lucrative out-of-court settlement.

    Either way, the new right-wing cause celebre needs to take up a collection to pay for his medical bills because he doesn’t have health insurance. It’s a fascinating sign of the times.”

  • Newspapers: Shut up and charge already « King Kaufman – “I wish newspapers would quit talking about this stuff and just start charging. They’ll quickly “understand the value” of their content, which, with rare exceptions like the Wall Street Journal, is something very much like zero, and then get to the real business at hand, which isn’t figuring out how to get people to pay for newspaper Web content, it’s how news organizations can generate enough revenue to do the important work they need to do.”
  • anti propaganda hemp anslinger marijuana-girl-reefer-madness-poster.jpg
  • Drug WarRant – “If you’re reading this, you’re at the new location of Drug WarRant.com.

    Our home for the past 6 years was at blogs.salon.com using radio userland software. Radio hasn’t been upgraded in ages, and they’ve announced that the blog hosting will go away in December of this year. This is a big change (and a difficult transition).

    I have moved the blog to a server at DreamHost and adapted a WordPress theme to be close to the old look of Drug WarRant. All 3,500 radio posts were exported to MT and then imported into WordPress relatively intact (with some formatting errors). Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with the old comments — they can’t be retrieved from the Salon server (except manually — over 20,000 of them).”

Talking Points Memo Will Expand Staff

Good news, as TPM is one of the best blogs out there, and one of the few that consistently does its own reporting in addition to sifting through the political reporting of others. Very high signal to noise ratio1

The political news Web site Talking Points Memo this weekend completed a round of investment, of $500,000 to $1 million. The move is intended to increase the number of employees, to roughly 20, from the current 11, in the next 10 months.

The financing is the first part of a three-year plan to increase the site’s staff to 60 employees, Joshua Micah Marshall, the site’s founder, said in an interview at his offices on West 20th Street in New York.

He would not identify his investors, who he said were angel investors, not venture capitalists. One name that has been made public is that of Marc Andreessen, who is investing personally, not on behalf of his new venture capital fund.

“We could have gotten a higher dollar amount — I didn’t think we needed it — but it would have come with strings attached,” Mr. Marshall said. “It would not have been best for the site.”

[From Investment Will Expand Staff at Talking Points Memo – NYTimes.com]

  1. as opposed to webzines like the Huffington Post which can’t decide if it wants to be a tabloid or a serious journal []

Dan Froomkin hired by The Huffington Post

As expected, Dan Froomkin, after being unceremoniously fired by the Washington Post, landed a new high-profile gig: The Huffington Post. According to Glenn Greenwald, Dan Froomkin will have a staff of four reporters, an assistant editor, and will publish at least two articles a week for The Huffington Post’s front page section.

Benjamins back

Though the precise reasons for Froomkin’s firing by The Post remain unclear, there’s no question that his penchant for aggressively criticizing establishment media behavior escalated tensions. In recent months, The Post spiked columns of his that contained pointed media critiques. In the wake of his firing, Post defenders misleadingly focused on (and then rebutted) the obvious strawman argument that Froomkin was fired for being “liberal.” But that, in fact, was something virtually nobody claimed.  Instead, it was Froomkin’s practice of exposing the corrupt practices of establishment journalists (both by his words and deeds) that made him such a unique presence at The Post. Pioneering press critic Bob Somerby put it this way:

Dan Froomkin criticizes the press corps. In the press corps, if you’re a liberal, that just isn’t done. . . . If there’s one thing you’ll never see [E.J.] Dionne or [Eugene] Robinson do, it’s criticize their cohort—the coven, the clan. . . But in the mainstream press corps, liberals don’t discuss the mainstream press. That’s the price of getting those (very good) jobs. It’s also the price of holding them.

Indeed, nothing eliminates the possibility of establishment journalist jobs more quickly or decisively than criticizing the establishment media as being too sycophantic to political power, manipulated by the Right, and, in general, slothfully devoted to doing nothing other than uncritically repeating what “both sides” say (by stark contrast, the tired right-wing grievance about The Liberal Media is not just permitted but welcomed; Bill Kristol spent years depicting The New York Times as an anti-American, Terrorist-loving beacon of left-wing bias, only to be hired by them as a full-time columnist, while right-wing polemicists who voice similarly trite claims about the media — Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett — are routinely heard in the very venues they attack). As Brad DeLong documented in a thorough retrospective on Froomkin’s firing, the first attempt at The Post to remove Froomkin from his status as “reporter” was driven by right-wing complaints that the content of his column was inappropriate for a reporter.

[Click to read more Dan Froomkin hired by The Huffington Post – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]


I can’t claim to be an unequivocal fan of the Huffington Post business model, but at least they are trying. I hope Arianna Huffington will allow Froomkin the free reign to criticize the Washington press that his beat requires, despite Ms. Huffington being so chummy with so many of them.

Also, will there be a customized Froomkin RSS feed? I’ve tried subscribing to The Huffington Post’s RSS feed before, and soon was overwhelmed with way more information than my brain could handle.

Reading Around on June 25th

Some additional reading June 25th from 11:50 to 14:04:

  • Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com – "Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool

    Just because you can steal, doesn't make it right. And not something the NYT should allow to be published without at least checking with in-house counsel. I hope Ms. Zjawinski is printing a little tag with the photographers name on every image she steals. And I bet if she left a comment on the photos she borrowed, most often the photographer would be satisfied. Just taking without asking is a bit presumptuous though.

  • UPDATED: Why the Village is so mad at Nico Pitney | Media Matters for America – Within hours of online writer Nico Pitney asking a single question at a WH presser, the WashPost's Milbank swooped into action, loudly mocking Pitney's involvement as being terribly troubling and phony. But please note that in 2005 when it was revealed that right-wing partisan James Guckert had been waved into the WH press room nearly 200 times without proper credentials, wrote under an alias (Jeff Gannon), and asked Bush officials softball questions, Milbank remained mum. (He wasn't alone.)

    According to Nexis, Milbank never wrote about the Gannon story.

    But Pitney, the national editor for one of the most-read and widely respected online news outlets? His singular WH presence sent Milbank into an immediate tizzy.

  • Media Recap: Credulous Press Ate Up Spin From Sanford's Office | TPMMuckraker – It feels absurd to have to point this out, but politicians and their staffers frequently have reason to dissemble, about issues far more important than an extra-marital affair. Too often, though, the press treats public statements from elected officials' offices — especially those purporting simply to provide information, like the Appalachian Trail line — as self-evidently accurate. It's as if, despite everything, some in the press can't quite bring themselves to believe that politicians might try to mislead people.

    Part of this is structural. There's almost no acceptable way for a mainstream reporter to explicitly tell readers that the information being put out by a powerful office-holder may be false or misleading. But the only way that this structural flaw will change is if individual reporters are willing to stick out their necks to change it.

    Until then, people will read blogs for stories like these.

Reading Around on February 27th through February 28th

A few interesting links collected February 27th through February 28th:

  • Debunking the Clean Coal Myth : EcoLocalizer – “There is no such thing as “clean coal” in the U.S. today. Coal is responsible for 32% of CO2 emissions in this country and 83% of the CO2 emissions from producing our electricity. In theory, we could retrofit this nation’s coal plants to capture their pollution and store it. Here is my question: If every single coal plant needs to be revamped to be truly “clean,” why not just invest that time and money in truly clean, renewables?” [Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Seth Anderson]
  • April Winchell » Barack Obama is tired of your motherfucking shit – Ray, a fellow classmate of Obama’s, was also bi-racial, and also trying to define himself. But what set him apart was his colorful manner of self-expression. Ray cursed like a motherfucker.

    This would all be snickerworthy enough, but it turns out that Obama actually read the audiobook version of Dreams From My Father.

    And that means he read Ray’s quotes.

    And that means you’re about to hear the President of United States using language that would finish Cheney off once and for all.

  • Chicago Reader Blogs: Chicagoland Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all: The Chicago Journalism Town Hall – “In other words: journalism isn’t dying. (Journalists are dying, of course, but even I don’t blame the Huffington Post for that.) The institutions are dying. That’s it. We’ve isolated the problem!

    Journalists (I will irresponsibly use this as a synonym for “people who work in broadcast or print,” even though we’re all kind of journalists, which I will get to later) blame the bloggers (ditto, for people who work online). Bloggers blame the journalists. Everyone blames the economy, and management. Was it Ben Goldberger in the Blog with the Aggregator? Or was it Eric Zorn in the Newspaper with the Inverted Pyramid, or Sam Zell in the Boardroom with the ESOP?”

  • John Bolton at CPAC: The Benefits of Nuking Chicago | Mother Jones – “Former UN Ambassador John Bolton believes the security of the United States is at dire risk under the Obama administration. And before a gathering of conservatives in Washington on Thursday morning, he suggested, as something of a joke, that President Barack Obama might learn a needed lesson if Chicago were destroyed by a nuclear bomb.”


  • BULLS: Sam Smith: He was always Stormin’ – “Chicago understood Norm because it is known as the Second City. It is in the flyover region. Norm couldn’t crack the big time and run with the big boys, not among the playing elite and not afterward. But he never accepted being less than them and always was sticking his foot in the door to remind them he wasn’t going away.

    Norm was like us. Never really appreciated despite working so hard at it and giving everything he had every time. Norm broadcast harder than some guys played the game, and he let them know it. Someone was speaking up for us, and we loved Norm for that. And he loved us because he understood, if not accepted, rejection.”

  • SLAM ONLINE | » First Person: Norm Van Lier – “It was my dad who helped me let go of my anger. Before he died in 1988, we watched “The Godfather” together. Afterward my dad asked me, “Why do you think the Bulls owe you anything?”

    I told him about this and that, slights and slams, stuff that had grown into huge obstacles in my mind.

    “Did they pay you on time?” Yes, sir. “Were their checks good?” Yes, sir.

    “Well, then they don’t owe you a thing. So get up, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and go to work.”

    I swear, from that moment on, my attitude was completely different. I’ve not looked back since.”

  • The Sports Guy: Bill Simmons Welcome to the No Benjamins Association – ESPN Page 2 – Ru-oh.
    “For once, the league’s problems have nothing to do with talent, drugs, racial issues or how the sport is being played. With the country embroiled in its worst economic crisis in 80 years, the NBA is quietly bracing for its own little D-Day … only outsiders don’t fully realize or care. Clearly, we wouldn’t put this budding debacle on par with the Gulf War, the collapse of American car companies, the real estate quagmire, the implosion of Wall Street, the decline of the American dollar, the shaky footing of previously untouchable media institutions (newspapers, magazines, TV networks, movie studios and publishing companies), or even Vegas and the porn industry caving financially. “
  • Media Matters – Media Matters: In support of shunning – Will has made false claims about the Voting Rights Act and the New Deal. He made a claim about China drilling off the coast of Florida that was so wrong, even then-Vice President Cheney — who cited Will in repeating the claim — acknowledged it wasn’t true. When even Dick Cheney thinks you’ve gone too far in spouting pro-drilling falsehoods, you have a problem. But neither Will nor the Post corrected the error.

    Last year, Will claimed in his Newsweek column and on ABC that Social Security taxes are levied based on household income. Not true. He claimed that McCain won more votes from independents during the primaries than Obama did. Wrong. He claimed most minimum-wage earners are students or part-time employees. False. Will has even lied about Hillary Clinton’s Yankees fandom.

    Basically, George Will routinely makes false claims large and small, holds politicians to disparate standards, and engages in ethically dubious conduct on behalf of his preferred candidates.

  • The George Will Affair : CJR – Undeterred, on Tuesday, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, and Media Matters for America sent a joint letter to the Post reiterating the call for some form of correction or clarification. It cited three key problems with Will’s column: that he misused data on global sea ice levels from the Arctic Climate Research Center; that he misrepresented the World Meteorological Organization’s position on global warming and climate trends; and that he “rehashed the discredited myth that in the 1970s, there was broad scientific consensus that the Earth faced an imminent global cooling threat.”

    “George Will is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts,” the letter concluded. “We respectfully ask that you immediately make your readers aware of the glaring misinformation in Will’s column.” But the Post’s position remains the same.

WordPress Week 29 – plugin overview

Used WordPress for over 6 months now, and am still pleased with it. There are so many plugins available for WordPress that tweaking minor nuances is a fun hobby.

Currently I have these plugins installed and active, in no particular order:

  1. WP-Footnotes – quite useful – adds a numbered footnote to a post. Good for my style of breezy, top of mind writing. Triggered by enclosing text in double parentheses.1
  2. WP Super Cache
    – supposedly speeds access to particular pages, and WordPress blogs in general. Haven’t tested it really, but who wouldn’t want a speedier rendered page?
  3. WP Ajax Edit Comments
    – some Ajax goodness, eases editing of comments for me, and from you. Registered users can edit their comments, non-registered can edit in a certain time frame.
  4. Smart Youtube
    – better YouTube embedding than the default from the YouTube site. Copy and paste a YouTube URL into a post and add the letter v to the URL right before the “://”. Simple, yet useful.
  5. SimplePie Core
    Load the core SimplePie API library for any extension that wants to utilize it.
  6. Postalicious
    – creates the daily links page via delicious.com. Requires SimplePie Core these days, but other than that, seems more reliable than the links post option from delicious.com itself. I’ve started going back in and editing to add quirky images for some reason.
  7. Quotes Collection
    – fuels the Random Quote sidebar widget on the upper right margin. More for me than you probably. Love me some quotes…
  8. AJAXed WordPress
    – don’t use all the options this plugin enables, but some are useful.
  9. Akismet
    – spam comment filter. The last few days quite a number of spam comments have made it past the Akismet filter, but all in all, it does a great job. Occasionally, marks quasi-legitmate comments as spam, but no more than 5 times. According to its statistics, 4,872 spams caught, 18,972 legitimate comments, and an overall accuracy rate of 99.849%. Umm, no, but we’ll keep you anyway.
  10. All in One SEO Pack
    – not so sure about the usefulness of this plugin, but have kept it so far.
  11. Around this date in the past… – Widget Edition
    – testing this (see the lower sidebar), a tip toe through this blog’s history. Of course, a year ago, I was using Movable Type, so only reposted items end up there currently.
  12. Blog Copyright (by BTE)
    – sure, why not. Preemptive move against the splogs.
  13. FD Feedburner Plugin
    – re-directs the default RSS feed over to FeedBurner which has a hell of a lot of more interesting features. FeedBurner also generates the “email of today’s posts” feature, which is pretty useful if you don’t use a newsreader or visit everyday, as it includes Flickr, Digg, and whatever else.
  14. Flickr Photo Album
    – haven’t really used this, might go away.
  15. Google Analyticator
    – Adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google’s Analytics.
  16. Google XML Sitemaps
    -generates a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO. Contributes to good search engine ranking presumedly.
  17. Lightbox 2
    – used to make uploaded images appear in their own “embiggened” window. Am using it less and just using Picasa’s bandwidth instead of my own, but will probably keep this too.
  18. MobilePress
    – just installed this – presumedly creates a mobile friendly version of the blog, suitable for iPhones and the like. Haven’t tested it yet.
  19. WordPress Automatic Upgrade
    – aids in painless upgrade to the WordPress software.
  20. WordPress Popular Posts
    – again, enables archive digging. Currently residing in the sidebar under “Hot Action”.
  21. WordPress.com Stats
    – Tracks views, post/page views, referrers, and clicks.
  22. Twitter for WordPress
    – sometimes fails, but works better than a straight RSS feed. Haven’t given up on Twitter yet, come follow me
  23. Subscribe To Comments
    – useful addition to a comment feed, not that I get many comments, but in the rare instances.
  24. ShareThis
    – for posting to Digg, delicious, FaceBook and various other social media sites. Don’t know if it ever gets used, but its here anyway.
  25. Redirection
    – for those occasions where I make a typo in the URL of a post, and don’t notice until later, this plug-in smoothly re-directs to the proper page.
  26. Random Redirect
    try it!!

Geez, didn’t realize this would turn out to be such a long list.
Do you have any plugins essential to your blog’s functioning and aesthetic?

  1. like this, duh []

End of Blogging

If GateHouse Media succeeds in their lawsuit, this blog, and many others will have to cease existence. What percentage of blog materials is quoted, fair-use information from other sites? Just using B12 as an example, I’d say over 75%.

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement after the NYT-owned Boston Globe frequently posted links containing headlines and the first sentences from articles on GateHouse’s community news sites.

-View the Document: The 25-page lawsuit [PDF]
-View the Document: Request for an injunction [PDF] to stop the Globe from posting GateHouse links.
-View the Document: 35-page support document for the injunction [PDF]
-View the Document: Affidavit by GateHouse Media Metro Editor-in-Chief Gregory Reibman [PDF]
Your Town Newton, one of the Boston Globe’s community sites that sparked the lawsuit. See the news links in the center content gutter.

The lawsuit, if successful, could create a monumental chilling effect for bloggers, news sites, search engines, social media sites and aggregators such as Topix and Techmeme, which link to articles, display headlines and use snippets of copyrighted text from other sites. Initiatives such as the NYTimes.com Times Extra, which displays links to related articles from other sites, could be shut down for fear of copyright lawsuits. It could lead to a repudiation of one of the fundamental principles on which the Internet was built: the discovery and sharing of information.

In its complaint, GateHouse called the article links “deep links” because they do not link to the home page of the site. The “deep link” language in the complaint is meant to invoke cases such as the Supercrosslive.com case, wherein a motorcross news site was successfully prohibited from deep linking to a competing site’s streaming video file, which bypassed the site’s advertising.

GateHouse’s assertion is that the Boston Globe community site’s use of the headlines cannibalizes GateHouse’s content and causes it financial harm because readers gather news from the links and snippets on the Globe’s site rather than visit GateHouse’s sites. Although not explicitly stated in the complaint, this means GateHouse likely believes the loss of readers from possible increased use of the Globe’s site will not be offset by the readers brought in by its competitor’s links.

[From Journalistopia » GateHouse Lawsuit vs. New York Times Co. has Dire Implications | Danny Sanchez]

I had never heard of GateHouse Media before today1, but they put out a lot of publications, mostly weeklies it looks like.

No joke, if this lawsuit is successful, I will have to shut down this blog immediately, as will the majority of other news-related blogs. The risk of liability is just too great.

  1. well except for being mentioned in the Tribune bankruptcy as a debt-ridden newspaper company []

The Real Plumbers

The real plumbers are those few right wingers who will not give up: looking for any filth that might successfully percolate on Drudge or similar places, smearing Obama.

Wading for a few minutes through the sewage of these Web sites reminds me uncannily of the time I’ve spent having political discussions in certain living rooms and coffee shops in Baghdad. The mental atmosphere is exactly the same—the wild fantasies presented as obvious truth, the patterns seen by those few with the courage and wisdom to see, the amused pity for anyone weak-minded enough to be skeptical, the logic that turns counter-evidence into evidence and every random piece of information into a worldwide conspiracy. Above all, the seething resentment, the mix of arrogance and impotent rage that burns at the heart of the paranoid style in politics.

The problem isn’t lack of education—it’s that of a self-isolating political subculture gone rancid.

[From Interesting Times: George Packer: Online Only: The New Yorker]

I shudder to think of what these losers will be doing in the first year of an Obama administration. I thought the Clinton pillory was bad enough.