Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tech: Microsoft Forced by EU to Release Filesharing Code

A positive development for interoperability:
Open-source software project Samba has signed an agreement with Microsoft to receive protocol documentation for the software giant's Windows workgroup server products.

The deal will enable the organisation to build software that will interoperate with those products.

The non-disclosure agreement was brokered on behalf of Samba by the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), an organisation that seeks to facilitate the exchange of free and open-source software information. PFIF, which is paying a one-off fee of €10,000 (£7,240) for the documentation, is part of the Software Freedom Law Center.

Samba's software, used for sharing files over a network and controlling networked printers, is designed to facilitate interoperability between Linux/Unix servers and Windows-based clients.

Andrew Tridgell, creator of Samba, said in a statement: "We are very pleased to be able to get access to the technical information necessary to continue to develop Samba as a free software project."

Samba expects that the agreement will allow the project to add features including full support for Microsoft's Active Directory, encrypted files, a better search interface and support for "SMB2", a new version of Microsoft's Server Message Block protocol from which the Samba project took its name. SMB2 is built into Windows Server 2008.

How to Spam a Poll

Ron Paul supporters and their techniques.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Google Goes to Washington

The Atlantic has a short, interesting article about Google's Washington presence:

At the same time, many businesses overshadowed by Google have begun looking for political arguments that might slow its seemingly unstoppable ascent. “There is no company on the face of the planet that scares as many businesses as Google,” says Blair Levin, a telecom and media analyst at the financial-services firm Stifel Nicolaus. The most popular and potentially effective argument against Google is the charge that it has become a monopoly that needs reining in. (The political power of this criticism is increased by fears that Google will misuse the vast amount of personal data it has accumulated.) In late September, Congress held the first antitrust hearings concerning Google—the opening salvo in what is likely to be one of the most important business and policy stories of the next few years.

The computer world is in the midst of its next great transition, as many applications and services—word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, data storage—migrate from the personal computer to the Internet. Success for all sorts of businesses will soon depend on whether customers have easy and fast access to these Internet-based applications. Because gaining primacy will involve winning battles over regulation and federal oversight, companies like Microsoft and the major cable and telephone companies are now squaring off against Google in an arena where it has never competed and they have: Washington.

Until recently, a company’s Washington strategy tended to evolve at the same pace as its business. As the company grew larger, it would add lobbyists and advisers to protect its interests. But as Microsoft grew more powerful in the 1990s, it mostly ignored politics. It had gotten to the top of the new economy without aid or interference from Washington—why change? Microsoft assumed the government posed no threat—until its competitors persuaded the Justice Department to launch an antitrust suit. Though the company avoided a breakup, its stock price stagnated for years.

Microsoft’s example illustrates a pro­blem that can plague any fast-growing tech company: You can control vast markets and terrify your competitors, but still be a Washington rookie. As the government focuses on Google, the city’s familiar machinery is gearing up for battle on the question of whether the company is the large but benign force for innovation its corporate slogan, “Don’t be evil,” suggests—or whether, like Stan [Google's T-rex corporate mascot], it’s a carnivore on the loose.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Spambots for Ron Paul

Interesting stuff:
In a report published this week by security firm SecureWorks, researchers reveal that the recent flurry of Ron Paul spam originated from a Reactor botnet controlled by a commercial spammer through a colocation facility in the US.

The researchers analyzed header elements of the spam e-mails to trace them back to zombie systems that were infected with the Srizbi trojan, an unusual piece of malware with highly advanced features. According to Symantec research, which has independently studied Srizbi, the trojan is one of the first pieces of malware found in the wild to operate fully in kernel mode with no userspace code. Srizbi bypasses firewalls and packet sniffers by directly manipulating the kernel-level TCP/IP stack. The Srizbi trojan is largely propagated by the well-known site, which is paid by spammers to deploy viruses and trojans for spam botnets.

SecureWorks collaborated with network administrators to analyze the traffic from some of the computers infected with Srizbi that were responsible for sending the Ron Paul spam. This allowed the researchers to discover the location from which the botnet was operated—a colocation facility in the US. The researchers collaborated with Spamhaus to get the server shut down and then obtained the source code used on the control system, a Python-based spam botnet management tool known as the Reactor Mailer. The logs present on the system prove that it was indeed the origin of the Ron Paul spam. Further research showed that other systems in the same colocation facility were also controlling various segments of the Srizbi botnet, and using it to transmit spam advertising replica watches and enlargement pills.

The evidence leads researchers to conclude that the Ron Paul spam was transmitted by a spammer called nenastnyj who operated a single node in a colocation facility and was likely affiliated with or renting access from the Reactor syndicate. The messages were transmitted by approximately 3,000 bots using a 3.4GB e-mail database file with over 160,000,000 addresses.

"While the total count of Ron Paul spam messages that actually landed in peoples' inboxes can't be known, it certainly was received by millions of recipients," writes the author of the SecureWorks report. "All this was done using around 3,000 bots—this speaks to the efficiency of the template-based spam botnet model over the older proxy-based methods. The front-end also plays a part in the efficiency, by allowing the spammer to check the message's SpamAssassin score before hitting send, simplifying the process of filter evasion and ensuring maximum delivery for the message."

Although it's likely that somebody paid nenastnyj to transmit the Ron Paul spam, there is no evidence to indicate that it was anyone directly associated with the Ron Paul campaign.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Paintball for Terrorists? BBC Paid Islamic Radicals

If you thought media bias was bad in this country, flip around the international channels on your cable/satellite box and you'll see it could be much worse:

The BBC funded a paintballing trip for men later accused of Islamic terrorism and didn't pass on information about the 21/7 bombers to police, a court heard yesterday.

The organisation gave Mohammed Hamid, an Islamic preacher accused of radicalising British Muslims, a £300 fee and paid for fellow defendants to go and be filmed for a documentary.

After the botched July attacks Hamid told a BBC reporter he had worked with on the programme 'Don't Panic, I'm Islamic' that he knew the identities of the culprits - but she felt 'no obligation' to tell police, the court heard.

The journalist informed her boss and the information was passed on up to senior executives but a decision was taken not to pass it on.

The claims emerged during the trial of Mr Hamid who, along with four others, is accused of running a two-year radicalisation programme to groom London Muslims for jihad.

The court was told Mr Hamid was first approached by BBC researcher Nasreen Suleaman in late 2004 when she was making a documentary before the July 2005 attacks.

It was shown on June 12, 2005 on BBC2.

The BBC paid for Hamid, fellow defendants Mohammed Al Figari and Mousa Brown and others to go on a paintballing trip at the Delta Force centre in Tonbridge, Kent, in February 2005.

The court was told that July 21 bombers Ramzi Mohammed and Hussein Osman also went on a trip to the same centre before the 7/7 attacks. Ms Suleaman said she was unaware that they were on the trip.
Sick stuff. Makes you wonder how many New York Times editors would act if they were in a similar situation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Double Standards at YouTube?

As YouTube is gearing up with CNN to host a Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, the video-sharing service is finding itself embroiled in another censorship controversy with an Egyptian blogger named Wael Abbas:

The video-sharing Web site YouTube has suspended the account of a prominent Egyptian anti-torture activist who posted videos of what he said was brutal behaviour by some Egyptian policemen, the activist said.

Wael Abbas said close to 100 images he had sent to YouTube were no longer accessible, including clips depicting purported police brutality, voting irregularities and anti-government demonstrations. YouTube, owned by search engine giant Google Inc, did not respond to a written request for comment. A message on Abbas's YouTube user page,, read: "This account is suspended."

"They closed it (the account) and they sent me an e-mail saying that it will be suspended because there were lots of complaints about the content, especially the content of torture," Abbas told Reuters in a telephone interview. Abbas, who won an international journalism award for his work this year, said that of the images he had posted to YouTube, 12 or 13 depicted violence in Egyptian police stations.

Abbas was a key player last year in distributing a clip of an Egyptian bus driver, his hands bound, being sodomised with a stick by a police officer -- imagery that sparked an uproar in a country where rights groups say torture is commonplace.

That tape prompted an investigation that led to a rare conviction of two policemen, who were sentenced to three years in prison for torture.

Abbas's videos and pictures are admittedly very graphic depictions of disturbing violence. My guess is they also feature nudity as well, both of which are violations of YouTube's terms of use. For that reason, YouTube's removal of the clips isn't necessarily wrong (although I personally would make exceptions to such policies if the content in question is news reports). What is wrong is the site's apparent double-standard when it comes to offensive content.

As Stephen Hayes points out, YouTube hasn't touched videos featuring full nudity when the topic in question is the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Why the disparity when it comes to "inappropriate" content? I think it's mainly a matter of who's complaining about it. In my experience with YouTube, I've noticed a few things:

  • There are fewer conservatives and libertarians who have registered YouTube accounts.
  • There are more videos on YouTube than its staff can possibly monitor.
  • Liberals are far more likely to misuse YouTube's "rate" and "flag" tools to downgrade videos they personally dislike such as the famous anti-Democrat ad which angry liberals managed to get classified as "inappropriate," despite the fact that it is completely nonviolent and nonsexual.
  • People who feel very passionately about their religion also seem to downgrade videos which attack their faiths. We've previously reported how this happens among Muslims.

Throw in a little ideological uniformity among YouTube employees and you get the mess we currently have.

Some suggestions to fix this situation:

  • More conservatives and libertarians need to get signed up for YouTube. It is part of MSM 2.0 and unlike MSM 1.0, anyone can help decide what gets put there.
  • YouTube should give "moderation points" to users to allow them only a certain number of votes.After that margin has been reached, they should not be allowed to vote on videos until the next week.
  • Users who consistently vote one-star or five stars should receive fewer points.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Avoiding Annoying Website Registration

As the internet ages, more and more companies are trying to work harder at turning a profit from their online operations. This in turn has led to an increase in web sites that force you to register before reading their content.

I don't believe in that type of restriction and consider it an annoyance. Fortunately, there are a few nice tools available if you happen to agree with me. My favorite two are Firefox extensions:
  • BugMeNot: This extension taps into the extremely useful password aggregator web site, allowing you to simply right-click in a site's login box and automatically get user login information. It works with most non-discussion sites.
  • Web Developer: A very handy Firefox add-on with a host of useful features, including the ability to shut off "referrers," the information that your browser sends to web servers about how you found their pages. This ability allows you to freely surf sites like the Washington Post without ever even seeing the login box.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hillary Front Group Media Matters Issues "Don'ts" for Blitzer

The Clinton machine has spoken. Wolf Blitzer in moderating tonight's Democrat debate must follow the Media Matters approved script

Greg Pollowitz at NRO Media has the full list. Here's just a few. The arrogance of these folks still continues to surprise. The funny thing is now that the groups strong ties to Hillary Clinton have become common knowledge, the list leads off with requirements related to her rival Barack Obama:

  • Don't contradict your own reporting and suggest that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "cash[ed] in" on a stock deal in which he lost $13,000.
  • Don't say that Obama's position on Pakistan is "very much in line with what" President Bush says regarding Pakistan.
  • Don't contradict your own reporting — again — and say that Obama, in following legal requirements to count purchasers of his campaign merchandise as campaign contributors, is "apparently using some creative math" and "overselling his grassroots support."
  • Don't misleadingly crop quotes when challenging a candidate's consistency on a particular issue, as NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert did on the November 11 broadcast of Meet the Press, when he suggested that Obama has "not been a leader against the [Iraq] war."
  • Don't tell Obama that "[i]t's difficult to say that you're against the war and at the same time not say that you're against the troops."
  • Don't suggest that former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) work "for financial markets" might "contradict his anti-poverty message."
  • Don't adopt GOP framing and ask Edwards about his "flip-flop" on Iraq "to win the vote."
Be sure and join me tonight for the live NewsBusters chat of the debate. Note: you must be registered and logged in to do so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nothing Is Ever Enough for Fringe Environmentalists

Reading this HuffPo entry from "Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David and environmental activist Gene Karpinski, it's hard to not come up with the impression that these two are a bunch of whiners.

Both are outraged (!) that NBC host and former Democratic strategist Tim Russert is not as obsessed with global warming as they are.

What's even funnier (unintentionally of course) is that David and Karpinski frame their outrage around the recent NBC Universal PR campaign "Green Is Universal," which was nothing more than a corporate-driven shillfest designed to drum up interest in parent company General Electric's non-fossil fuel offerings. (So much for the left-wing lie about corporate "conservatism.")

Tim Russert's real sin was that he didn't parrot the company line like a good liberal media hack. The arrogance is stunning. A billion-dollar media empire devotes an entire week to promoting their pet issue and yet it's still not enough for David and Karpinski:

This past week, NBC completed its Green Is Universal campaign -- a week-long effort to educate and engage the public by infusing its programming with environmental themes. The effort resulted in everything from Matt Lauer reporting from the Arctic circle to Al Gore making a cameo appearance on 30 Rock parodying himself. Throughout the week, global warming was front and center. And then there was Tim Russert.

As the network's Washington Bureau Chief, Mr. Russert was surely alerted to the broadly publicized campaign. The emerald green tie he donned in Sunday's Meet the Press interview with Senator Barack Obama would seem to confirm that. But if you watched the interview, you probably noticed that Tim Russert didn't actually get the memo. Instead, Russert continued his long-running pattern of ignoring an issue that the American voters, the international community and the world's scientists have all identified as one of our most pressing challenges. Not to mention one of the most consequential. [...]

So here we are at the tail-end of an unprecedented year-long primary campaign and the media has largely failed to ask difficult and direct questions about one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.
In light of this failure, several groups have partnered with Grist to host a presidential forum -- Global Warming & America's Energy Future -- this Saturday in Los Angeles. This will be the first event exclusively devoted to questioning the candidates on their policies and vision for tackling our growing energy problems. But with dozens more candidate forums, debates and interviews, the real question is this:

As interesting as it is to ponder whether we are alone in the universe, when on Earth will Mr. Russert cover global warming as a political issue?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Political Video Buzz

A new feature here at Virtual Scratchpad, a look at how well non-candidate political shows on YouTube are doing, measured best by the number of people who are subscribing per day to a given program.

The data here was gathered on Nov. 11, 2007.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

U.N. Scientist Rejects Nobel Prize Share, Denounces Climate Alarmism

Has the global warming alarmism movement hit its apex? Maybe so.

In recent weeks, we've seen a resurgence of hard scientists who have come out strongly against the warm-mongers, the latest of which is Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change member John R. Christy. In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, Christy tells the world that not only does he believe it's unproven that humans cause global warming, he's refusing his "share" of the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded because it was based on a misunderstanding of science.

An excerpt from this must-read op-ed:

I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume.

The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that's another story. Large icebergs in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Winter sea ice around the continent set a record maximum last month.

Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth's temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.

I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don't find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming -- around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)

It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated-confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system's behavior over the next five days.

Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, "Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with 'At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'"

I haven't seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.

Others of us scratch our heads and try to understand the real causes behind what we see. We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we've seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.

One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Falling Housing Market Creates Superstition

These types of stories are one reason that a lot of people have no regard for journalism. Do Wall Street Journal readers really need to know about some silly superstition about St. Joseph statues helping to sell homes?
Cari Luna is Jewish by heritage and Buddhist by religion. She meditates regularly. Yet when she and her husband put their Brooklyn, N.Y., house on the market this year and offers kept falling through, Ms. Luna turned to an unlikely source for help: St. Joseph.

The Catholic saint has long been believed to help with home-related matters. And according to lore now spreading on the Internet and among desperate home-sellers, burying St. Joseph in the yard of a home for sale promises a prompt bid. After Ms. Luna and her husband held five open houses, even baking cookies for one of them, she ordered a St. Joseph "real estate kit" online and buried the three-inch white statue in her yard.

"I wasn't sure if it would be disrespectful for me, a Jewish Buddhist, to co-opt this saint for my real-estate purposes," says Ms. Luna, a writer. She figured, "Well, could it hurt?"

With the worst housing market in recent years, St. Joseph is enjoying a flurry of attention. Some vendors of religious supplies say St. Joseph statues are flying off the shelves as an increasing number of skeptics and non-Catholics look for some saintly intervention to help them sell their houses.

Some Realtors, too, swear by the practice. Ardell DellaLoggia, a Seattle-area Realtor, buried a statue beneath the "For Sale" sign on a property that she thought was overpriced. She didn't tell the owner until after it had sold. "He was an atheist," she explains. "But he thanked me."

Statues of St. Joseph sold online can be as tall as 12 inches. One, made of colored resin, portrays St. Joseph cradling the baby Jesus. Yet most home sellers favor the simpler three- or four- inch replicas -- most of which are made in China and often depict St. Joseph as a carpenter.

Most statues come in a "Home Sale Kit" that is priced at around $5 and includes burial instructions and a prayer. One site, Good Fortune Online, recently added another kit with a statue of St. Jude -- known as the patron saint of hopeless causes -- "to help those with a difficult property to sell," the site says.

There are several other superstitious people quoted in the piece. I have to wonder where Journal reporter Sara Schaefer Muñoz dug them up from, one hopes that there isn't an online forum catering to them.

I can understand the human interest angle here but at the very least, Muñoz ought to have held their silly beliefs up to just a little bit of scrutiny.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ann Coulter Loves NewsBusters

Earlier this month, Karl Rove said he was a fan of NewsBusters. Count Ann Coulter, author and humorist, as another prominent conservative who is a fan.

Moments ago, I spoke with her during a conference call for bloggers in which I asked her for her thoughts on MSNBC host Chris Matthews.

Before I got to my question, however, Coulter interrupted. "I love NewsBusters," she said and then turned to my question.

"Chris Matthews is the perfect example of the media's 'it girl' mentality. He's been on TV forever and been shoved into America's face for years and what does he have like 26 or 27 viewers?

"The media is always trying to pawn these 'it girls' of the moment off on us, I mean look at Ashleigh Banfield who was talked about as if she were the Second Coming. But no one watched. I have no idea where she is today. The same thing applies to Matthews."

At the end of the call, I asked Coulter if she'd be interested in doing an interview with NB. She readily agreed so expect one in the coming days.

NewsBusted 115

Monday, October 29, 2007

An Opportunity for Center-Right Journalists, Bloggers

Are you a journalist or writer or interested in furthering your career in the media? If so, consider applying for the 2008 Phillips Foundation's fellowship program.

This year, the foundation is expanding its program to make it so anyone with 10 years or less of professional journalistic experience, up from 5 years or less. Winning participants will receive grants of $75,000, $50,000 or $25,000.

Here are the details:

The Phillips Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2008 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship Program. Print and online journalists with less than ten years of professional experience are eligible. The Foundation created this program to provide fellowships for projects to be undertaken by journalists who share the Foundation's mission to advance constitutional principles, a democratic society and a vibrant free enterprise system.

The Phillips Foundation awards $75,000 and $50,000 full-time fellowships and $25,000 part-time fellowships to undertake and complete a one-year project of the applicant's choosing focusing on journalism supportive of American culture and a free society. In addition to the regular fellowships, the Foundation awards separate fellowships in specific topic areas: The Environmental Fellowship for a project on the environment from a free market perspective; The Shelby Cullom Davis Fellowship for a project on the impact of free enterprise on society; and The Law Enforcement Fellowship for a project focusing on law enforcement in the United States.

Three Phillips Foundation Trustees serve as judges: Thomas L. Phillips, Chairman of Eagle Publishing, Inc.; Robert D. Novak, prominent national journalist and syndicated columnist; and Alfred S. Regnery, Publisher of The American Spectator.

The Foundation is looking for journalism projects which are both original and publishable. The winning projects will be delivered in four installments with the potential to be published sequentially in a periodical or as a book.

Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2008. The winners will be announced next May at an awards dinner at the National Press Club in Washington. The starting date for the fellowships will be September 1, 2008. Applicants must be citizens of the United States.

Go to the link above if you are interested in applying.

Boston Globe Actually Notices 'The View' Is Biased Against the Right

Most everyone on the center-right knows the media are biased in a leftward direction, much fewer on the left are able to see this phenenomenon--they are just saying the truth. Because of this, it's always refreshing to see a liberal news organization sit down and notice something that's left-biased such as the Boston Globe did recently when it correctly observed that ABC's "View" is skewed against conservatives and religious people.

The paper made this observation in a profile of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, "View's" sole conservative who is going to be leaving the show for two months' maternity leave.The profile is also remarkable in that it notices the sheer amount of hatred that is heaped upon a woman who is by anyone's standard a soft-spoken and nice person:

When Elisabeth Hasselbeck bade farewell to her cohosts on "The View" Tuesday, it was all hugs, well-wishes, and baby-product endorsements. But as Hasselbeck begins her 2 1/2-month maternity leave, the political landscape is shifting, as well. America's most dangerous conservative - or so some liberals see it - is leaving TV for a while.

Hasselbeck, the apple-cheeked blonde with the football-player husband, consistently draws a brand of hatred from the left that Hillary Clinton generates from the right; "screechmonger" is one of the more printable slurs hurled at her from the blogosphere. Barry Manilow has called her "offensive." Alicia Silverstone once refused to touch her. And that an America's sweetheart-type would generate such vitriol says a lot about the state of debate in a polarized country.

Hasselbeck is a far cry from the most prominent conservative women on the cable talk-show circuit, the ones who deal in slick sarcasm, publish books that vilify liberals ("Godless" and "Slander" both by Ann Coulter, "Unhinged" by Michelle Malkin) and take obvious pleasure in a claws-out fight. The youngest member of "The View" lineup is hardly a master debater; she's always outnumbered and usually outargued. But she has a prominent daily forum for her antiabortion, pro-war views - "The View" often reaches more than 3 million viewers each day.

And Hasselbeck represents "an audience that the left just can't crack: traditional, God-fearing red state women, well-intended, who have made up their minds and won't hear it. Won't hear otherwise," said Matthew Felling, editor of Public Eye, the media commentary site.

To her like-minded fans, Felling said, Hasselbeck's lack of slickness is a strength. "Regardless of how much effort or thought she puts into her views or stances, it comes across as just from the heart. Or from the gut. Which is one of the strengths of the conservative conversation."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Facebook Provides Fascinating Glimpse Into Society's, Media's Demographics

As the popularity of personal web spaces continues to skyrocket, their usefulness as a demographic research tool has increased dramatically, both as a means of studying the general public but also to study the ideological bent of the self-described mainstream media.

On the second point (see below for a very interesting discussion of the first) a recent study of Facebook profiles of BBC employees finds, surprise surprise, that Britain's taxpayer-funded network is utterly dominated by socialists:

A survey of BBC employees with profiles on the site [Facebook] showed that 11 times more of them class themselves as "liberal" than "conservative."

Critics seized on the figures as evidence that the supposedly impartial corporation, paid for by the licence fee, is dominated by liberals. [...]

Research by the conservativehome. com website showed that 1,340 staff put themselves in the "liberal" or "very liberal" category, compared with just 120 who were "conservative" or "very conservative". Some 340 regard themselves as "moderate." [...]

[S]eparate research revealed that nearly 80 per cent of those who describe themselves as "liberal" on Facebook either vote Lib- Dem (49.9 per cent) or Labour (38.5 per cent).

Just 3.9 per cent in the liberal category said they vote Tory. The research was carried out by Samuel Coates, the deputy editor of conservativehome, a Tory grassroots Internet site.

On the general demographic angle, Republican political consultant Patrick Ruffini has been doing some interesting analysis of American Facebook profiles.

According to Ruffini's research, liberals are far more likely to be taking advantage of Facebook than conservatives, except for the younger generation of righties. For the political right, this is both a strategic difficulty in the present internet age but also an opportunity:

Out of idle curiosity, I started running an ideological breakdown of Facebook users by age, starting at Facebook’s minimum age of 14 and working my way up. The spreadsheet is here so you can follow along.

It was after I started reached the mid-20s that I stumbled upon something that may help quantify the early adopter bias. High school and college users were pretty consistently about 4-8 points more liberal than conservative. That’s sort of where you’d expect them to be given the 18-29 year old vote. And Facebook’s market penetration with this cohort is such that this is likely to be a highly representative sample of Americans that age.

But the older you got, through users in their 20s, the more liberal the user base became. It was inexorable. Each year, liberals picked up a couple of points on conservatives. My fellow 29-year olds on Facebook are +25.3% liberal. The 20-year old bracket is +4.5% liberal.

Given how stable the numbers were for college/high school users, with much higher numbers, this seemed unlikely to suggest an actual demographic shift in Generation Y.

But something else was going on. As liberals were picking up steam, the number of Facebook users were getting progressively smaller with each age cohort. [...]

This is pretty strong evidence of a liberal/early adopter correlation. Non-college Facebook users in their late twenties are two to one liberal where their college age counterparts are pretty closely matched.

That two-to-one ratio probably correlates with usage of other high-end web services and even traffic to the candidate sites themselves. It also gives quantifiable backing to the idea that Republicans stand to gain as the universe is widened entering the general election, as I’ve long suspected. [...]

Most campaign sites are probably getting visitorship in the tens of thousands of visitors per day, if that. That’s still within the early adopter universe. As politics online becomes more mainstream, the Democrats’ potential for growth is considerably constrained. Actual online engagement among people who are fully comfortable with the medium (the Millenials) is no worse than the D/R split in voting. That’s still a problem for Republicans given our challenging numbers with 18-29 voters, but the problem then becomes merged with the electoral one rather than being compounded by online-specific trends. As the popularity of the tools grows and the Millenials go mainstream, the 2-to-1 split Democrats have counted on could be a thing of the past.

While this data seems to indicate a natural increase in the online audience for right-oriented publications, it also means that there is a large, untapped market out there for existing conservative and libertarian readers. Activating this audience to take the next step beyond just doing email would be another great opportunity. It will also be necessary if the right wants to keep those new potential online political news consumers engaged and active in the future who would take to the web anyway. Here's hoping that the conservative think tanks, policy and activist groups realize this trend and act accordingly. This effort will also require conservative online activists (such as 97% of you reading this) to educate and motivate their friends and family to start taking part in the political and social web.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Republic: We Still Believe!

After weeks of saying nothing, the editors of the New Republic magazine have stepped out of their batcave to inform the world that they still believe in Scott Beauchamp's "reports" from Iraq.

For his part, Beauchamp is starting to look more and more like Memogate's Bill Burkett, the Texas moonbat who repeatedly told different versions of his story to Dan Rather and Mary Mapes:

Beauchamp’s refusal to defend himself certainly raised serious doubts. That said, Beauchamp’s words were being monitored: His squad leader was in the room as he spoke to us, as was a public affairs specialist, and it is now clear that the Army was recording the conversation for its files.

The next day, via his wife, we learned that Beauchamp did want to stand by his stories and wanted to communicate with us again. Two-and-a-half weeks later, Beauchamp telephoned Foer at home and, in an unmonitored conversation, told him that he continued to stand by every aspect of his story, except for the one inaccuracy he had previously admitted. He also told Foer that in the September 6 call he had spoken under duress, with the implicit threat that he would lose all the freedoms and privileges that his commanding officer had recently restored if he discussed the story with us.

The magazine's editors, meanwhile are getting all Ratherian, demanding the Army to completely disprove Beauchamp's "reports" instead of the other way around:

The New Republic is deeply frustrated by the Army’s behavior. TNR has endeavored with good faith to discover whether Beauchamp’s article contained inaccuracies and has repeatedly requested that the Army provide us with documentary evidence that it was fabricated or embellished. Instead of doing this, the Army leaked selective parts of the record—including a conversation that Beauchamp had with his lawyer—continuing a months-long pattern by which the Army has leaked information and misinformation to conservative bloggers while failing to help us with simple requests for documents.

We have worked hard to re-report this piece and will continue to do so. But this process has involved maddening delays compounded by bad faith on the part of at least some officials in the Army. Our investigation has taken far longer than we would like, but it is our obligation and promise to deliver a full account of our findings.

Peggy Noonan has a good column in today's OpinionJournal that pretty much sums up the situation here:

Everyone in journalism thought first of Stephen Glass. I actually remember the day I read his New Republic piece on the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in 1997, a profile of young Republicans as crude and ignorant pot-smoking alcoholics in search of an orgy. It, um, startled me. After years of observation, I was inclined toward the view that there's no such thing as a young Republican. More to the point, I'd been to the kind of convention Mr. Glass wrote about, and I thought it not remotely possible that the people he painted were real. I also thought: Man, this is way too convenient. The New Republic tends to think Republicans are hateful, and this reporter just happened to be welcomed into the private world of the most hateful Republicans in history.

On the Thomas stories, which I read not when they came out but when they began to come under scrutiny, I had a similar thought, or a variation of it. I thought: That's not Iraq, that's a Vietnam War movie. That's not life as it's being lived on the ground right now, that's life as an editor absorbed it through media. That's the dark world of Kubrick and Coppola and Oliver Stone, of the great Vietnam movies of the '70s and '80s.

If that's what you absorbed during the past 20 or 30 years, it just might make sense to you, it would actually seem believable, if a fellow in Iraq wrote for you about taunting scarred women, shooting dogs, and wearing skulls as helmets. This is the offhand brutality of war. You know. You saw it in a movie.

Bryan Preston at Hot Air also nails it:

[New Republic editor Franklin] Foer can spin and twist his conversations with Beauchamp and various Army officers all he wants. He can suggest that the Army is being devious with him, that it’s strong arming Beauchamp, whatever. But if he can’t verify, after all this time, the existence of that mass grave, and since he now has official records documenting that his reporter has lied to somebody, Foer has no choice but to consider Beauchamp’s credibility as beyond repair and his stories as fatally flawed.

But he’s not going to do that. He’s going to continue to focus on the leak and make the Army out to be the villain. That’s been his standard tactic throughout, and that attitude probably contributed to TNR’s publishing Beauchamp’s fables in the first place.

NYT: Nepotism Is Wrong

Sometimes chronicling media bias and hypocrisy is just too easy. You couldn't have asked for better material than what was provided Wednesday by the New York Times which ran a thousand-word-plus article discussing the alleged nepotism of Commentary’s hiring of John Podhoretz to run the magazine. (Hat tip: Ace.)

I’ll grant that this type of character assassination article is typical when it comes to the liberal press’s normal gorillas-in-the-mist view of conservatism. Still, you’d think that the Times might be a little more inclined to avoid such journalism when its prestige and profits have been on a downward spiral ever since publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. was handed the reins to the New York Times in 1992 by his father.

That’s not the case, however. Instead, Times reporter Patricia Cohen finds a former Commentary writer who accuses the magazine of violating its foundational ethical principles. She finds others to grouse about the Podhoretz appointment, quotes author Adam Bellow speaking of “the new nepotism” and then ends—after a few pro forma quotes praising Podhoretz—with nary a mention of her boss.

And these are the same folks who accuse President Bush of being intellectually incurious? Surely, an article with the phrase “new nepotism” in it ought to have a mention of young Pinch. Sadly, no.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

To some within the neoconservative movement, the announcement of John Podhoretz as the next editor of Commentary magazine — the same job his father, Norman, held for 35 years — is the best of all possible choices. It is a model of what Adam Bellow (son of the Nobel-winning novelist Saul) called the “new nepotism,” combining the “privileges of birth with the iron rule of merit.”

But to others the decision reeks of the “old nepotism,” in which the only credential that matters is the identity of your father — in Mr. Bellow’s cosmology, less like the Roosevelts than like Tori Spelling getting an acting job because her father was Aaron Spelling.

“I think some people are pretty shocked,” said Jacob Heilbrunn, whose book “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons” is coming out in January. John Podhoretz, movie critic for The Weekly Standard magazine and a political columnist for The New York Post, “isn’t seen as a heavyweight intellectual,” said Mr. Heilbrunn, who has discussed the appointment with several neoconservatives. Rather, “he is seen as being a beneficiary of his parents’ fame in the George W. Bush mold.” [...]

As for charges of favoritism, Mr. Podhoretz said: “It’s silly for me to respond because I don’t accept the premise. I have a professional career that’s dated back 25 years. I’ve started two magazines, worked at three others. I am who I am. I have millions of words that you can read on Nexis.” He has also written three books.

Mr. Podhoretz’s supporters agree. “John happens to be in the family,” said Tamar Jacoby, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has written for Commentary, “but he is also more than qualified to carry the tradition forward. John is a serious person and takes ideas personally.”

Still, of the more than 30 people contacted for this article, several who have written for the magazine or have contributed money to the Commentary Fund said they were troubled by the family connection, the lack of an open search process and what they consider to be Mr. Podhoretz’s lack of intellectual credentials for such a highbrow journal, partly because he has written so much about popular culture. A former writer for Commentary said the appointment repudiated one of neoconservatism’s founding principles, a commitment to meritocracy.

The hypocrisy is almost palpable. Here we have a newspaper that is forever insisting that despite the fact that it’s run by a bunch of pampered Manhattanites and headed by the unqualified offspring of the former publisher, it really is a true advocate for the poor, the dispossessed and the little guy turning around and accusing another publication of violating its own principles.

You really have to wonder if the editors at the Times are even trying nowadays. An editor with even half a brain would’ve put the kibosh on this article the moment it crossed his desk.

The fact of the matter is that John Podhoretz is eminently qualified to edit Commentary. He has a long record as a political journalist and essayist. He helped start the Weekly Standard and turn it into a must-read in the political world. He’s written three books. That’s a lot more than you can say for Pinch Sulzberger who was appointed assistant publisher of the New York Times just 13 years out of college and publisher just 5 years later.

The NewsBusters Interview: Evan Maloney

This week I introduced a new feature to NewsBusters, a regular interview series with various figures in the media and political worlds. My first subject is Evan Maloney, creator of "Indoctrinate U," the important documentary on academic censorship.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Karl Rove, NewsBusters Fan

Living in DC has its interesting moments. Flying into town from Atlanta Sunday night, I happened to bump into former White House adviser Karl Rove. In the process I learned two things: Karl Rove flies coach class now that he's left the White House and that he also is a fan of NewsBusters.

The story:

My girlfriend and I had gone down to Atlanta to visit some friends for the weekend. On our way back Sunday night, we flew into Reagan National in coach class. After the plane landed, I realized that we'd been sitting not to far away from Rove. I only realized this, however, after some guy (a short, reporterish-looking fellow) started accosting Rove on the plane badgering him with questions about his post-White House career.

As a national figure, I'm sure Rove's gotten used to strangers coming up to him on the street but it's got to get annoying. He seemed irritated but was being nice to the guy--not answering the questions and hinting that he'd just like to be left alone.

Finally, the guy blurted out "Can't you at least give me your email address? I promise I won't give it to anyone."

I'd had enough of the idiocy at that point and interjected: "Because it's not like anyone else is overhearing this conversation. I'm sure your address would be completely confidential."

That provided enough distraction for Rove to blow the guy off--he left soon after. As we exited the plane, I mentioned that I ran NewsBusters, the blog of the Media Research Center.

"Thanks for doing that," Rove said. "You guys do great work there." He also said he was a fan of MRC president Brent Bozell.

After that, I left Rove to his Sunday evening.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Announcing 'NewsBusted' Comedy Webcast

Today I'm pleased to announce the launch of "NewsBusted," a comedy vlog we're launching over at NewsBusters.

The premise is simple: Most of what we call "news" is absurd so why not have a few laughs about it?

The setup is simple (at least from the outside): My production team and I select the best jokes submitted by pro comedy writers and we have our comedian Mark Ellis deliver them.

Here's the premier:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Craiglist: Prostitution Central?

Further proof that technology is no respecter of persons:

Nassau County has made more than 70 arrests since it began focusing on Craigslist last year, one of numerous crackdowns by vice squads from Hawaii to New Hampshire that have lately been monitoring the Web site closely, sometimes placing decoy ads to catch would-be customers.

“Craigslist has become the high-tech 42nd Street, where much of the solicitation takes place now,” said Richard McGuire, Nassau’s assistant chief of detectives. “Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest.”

Augmenting traditional surveillance of street walkers, massage parlors, brothels and escort services, investigators are now hunching over computer screens to scroll through provocative cyber-ads in search of solicitors.

In July raids, the sheriff of Cook County, Ill., rounded up 43 women working on the streets — and 60 who advertised on Craigslist. In Seattle, a covert police ad on Craigslist in November resulted in the arrests of 71 men, including a bank officer, a construction worker and a surgeon.

And in Jacksonville, Fla., a single ad the police posted for three days in August netted 33 men, among them a teacher and a firefighter. “We got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hits” in phone calls and e-mail messages, said John P. Hartley, the assistant chief sheriff there.

Sex and the Internet have been intertwined almost since the first Web site, but the authorities say that prostitution is flourishing online as never before. And while prostitutes also advertise on other sites, the police here and across the country say Craigslist is by far the favorite. On one recent day, for example, some 9,000 listings were added to the site’s “Erotic Services” category in the New York region alone: Most offered massage and escorts, often hinting at more.

Law enforcement officials have accused Craigslist of enabling prostitution. But the company’s president, Jim Buckmaster, said its 24-member staff cannot patrol the multitude of constantly changing listings — some 20 million per month — and counts on viewers to flag objectionable ads, which are promptly removed.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Microsoft Loses ISO Vote

Microsoft's gambit to position its pseudo open-format document language in the International Standards Organization aren't working as of yet, ISO rejected a motion to consider it an approved international document format:

Microsoft Corp. has failed in its attempt to have its Office Open XML document format fast-tracked straight to the status of an international standard by the International Organization for Standardization.

The proposal must now be revised to take into account the negative comments made during the voting process.

Microsoft expects that a second vote early next year will result in approval, it said Tuesday. That is by no means certain, however, given the objections raised by some national standards bodies.

A proposal must pass two voting hurdles in order to be approved as an ISO standard: it must win the support of two-thirds of voting national standards bodies that participated in work on the proposal, known as P-members, and also of three-quarters of all voting members.

OOXML failed on both counts, ISO announced, as the working day ended in its Geneva offices.

The proposal won the support of 74 percent of voting members -- just shy of the required number. But only 53 percent of the voting P-members supported the proposal, well short of the required 67 percent.

Many of the national standard bodies voting against the OOXML proposal accompanied their votes with comments on what must be changed before they will vote in favor. ISO committee JTC1 must now reconcile those objections with the text, and find a compromise that will win enough votes to get through.

That will be difficult, as the French Association for Standardization, Afnor, wants to tear the proposal into two parts: a "core" part, which it wants to see converged over the course of three years with the competing Open Document Format (ODF), already an ISO standard, and an "extensions" part dealing with compatibility with legacy documents in proprietary formats.

France is not alone in suggesting modifications to the standard: Brazil raised over 60 objections, including issues of support for different languages and date formats, while the standards body in India was concerned that OOXML is incompatible with the ODF standard.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Larry Craig and Abuse of Power--By the Media

The Larry Craig kerfuffle has led to some interesting reversals. Many have argued that Craig was hypocritical for being gay (though he denies it) and voting for the Defense of Marriage Act which made it so that gay marriage in one state would not have to mean gay marriage in another. I don't think that's a persuasive argument since there are plenty of openly gay people who do not support gay marriage.

Unquestionably one group of people has been hypocritical here. Not the Republicans or the Democrats. The most hypocritical group in all this has been the self-described mainstream (actually liberal) media. In her column today, Linda Chavez is right on the money:

There is something more than a little bizarre with the latest Washington feeding frenzy over Sen. Larry Craig. Don't get me wrong. I think what Sen. Craig did in the men's bathroom in Minneapolis was gross and sleazy. But is it really worthy of the press attention it has received this week? I just can't imagine a Democratic member of Congress being subjected to the same treatment if the facts, as we know them so far, were identical. [...]

If Democratic Sen. X's hypothetical arrest ever made it into the papers — doubtful, unless the senator chose to make it public — I suspect the tone of the coverage would be rather different than Sen. Craig's treatment.

I can just imagine the Washington Post inveighing against police entrapment and homophobia and demanding that the private sex lives of politicians remain private unless their behavior involved an abuse of their official duties.

Of course, it isn't just the media who are going after Sen. Craig. His fellow Republicans are piling on, calling for ethics investigations and, understandably, trying to distance themselves from him. Some are even asking him to resign. This has been a disaster for Republicans, whose base is far more concerned about morality and traditional values than are most Democrats. But this is all the more reason you might expect the press to be calling for a little perspective here. [...]

On the one hand, the media generally regards sexual orientation as a private matter, moreover one that is morally neutral. But because Sen. Craig is a conservative, although not someone who has had a history of gay-bashing, the media have had no qualms about violating his privacy. Indeed, Craig's home newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, spent five months delving into the senator's sex life.

Sen. Craig's political career is probably over. The abuse of power, however, was not Sen. Craig's but the media's, who pick and choose whose privacy they will violate on a partisan basis.

This is not merely a hypothetical. The same liberal elite who are today denouncing the "deviant" Larry Craig were also the same ones who excused the aberrant sexual behavior of former president Bill Clinton. How many times were we subjected to self-righteous harangues about how investigations into whether Clinton solicited sex from subordinates (thereby cheating on his wife) were intrusions into his "personal life?"

Where were today's guardians of moral and political rectitude back in 1969 when Democrat Ted Kennedy drove a car off a bridge with Mary Jo Kopechne in it? Where were the liberal media outcries to kick Democrat Barney Frank out of the Congress when he solicited a gay prostitute who in turn set up shop in his apartment?

This litany could go on and on. The point remains: Democratic sexual indiscretions are OK while Republicans' are not. This double standard should not exist in a media that is as fair as it pretends to be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Surge Success Causes Democrats to Recalibrate Iraq Strategy

If you've been wondering lately why defeatist media outlets like the New York Times have suddenly been bullish on Iraq, here's the payoff: Democrats have begun to shift their political strategy in light of the success of the surge. While I have to give the Washington Post credit for reporting on the Democrats' failure to spin reality into defeat, I have to note that the following article came on page A4 of today's edition:

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

Advisers to both said theirs were political as well as substantive statements, part of a broader Democratic effort to frame Petraeus's report before it is released next month by preemptively acknowledging some military success in the region. Aides to several Senate Democrats said they expect that to be a recurring theme in the coming weeks, as lawmakers return to hear Petraeus's testimony and to possibly take up a defense authorization bill and related amendments on the war.

NewsBusters Featured on 'ABC World News'

And since NewsBusters is conservative, the treatment was hardly fair. I couldn't help but notice that in the segment which compared NB to the left-wing Media Matters (a really bad comparison considering they want to eradicated all conservatism from the airwaves whereas we just want balance), ABC didn't bother talking to me or any of the other NB staff.

Mark Finkelstein has more details and a video.

Friday, August 10, 2007

NYT's Linda Greenhouse Bans Cameras from Public Appearance

Notoriously left-wing New York Times court reporter Linda Greenhouse, famous for her 2006 rant against Republicans, "religious fundamentalism," and illegal immigration opponents has apparently learned from her mistake.

No, she hasn't decided that someone with such fervently liberal positions needs a conservative counterpart on the beat. Instead, she decided that television cameras need to be banned from her public appearances:

For Supreme Court buffs who watch C-SPAN, yesterday morning was one of disappointment. A promising panel discussion, “Covering the Court(s): Reporters on the Supreme Court Beat,” that included a bevy of court reporting superstars -- like Charles Lane from The Washington Post and Dahlia Lithwick from Slate -- was to be televised. But, at the last minute, the plug was pulled on the C-SPAN cameras because the queen bee of Supreme Court reporters, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times refused to join the panel if the event was going to be covered by the wonky news channel.

According to people who were there, Greenhouse walked in, took one look at the lights and the camera equipment, and, “became infuriated,” said one person who was standing near her. As Greenhouse herself told me yesterday following the event, she then gave the organizer of the panel an ultimatum. “I told her she had a choice, either she could have me on the panel speaking candidly or she could have C-SPAN there.”

Greenhouse said that she had come prepared to speak to a “room of academics.” She added, “I didn’t want to have to modulate my comments for a national audience.” [...]

Sending a C-SPAN crew is a big outlay for the low-budget network. The Vice-President of programming at C-SPAN, Terence Murphy, fired off an angry letter yesterday evening at the organization that put on the discussion, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. “I must say, it’s perplexing as to why Ms. Greenhouse didn’t want to permit C-SPAN to cover her remarks, since our program archive lists 51 different events where we’ve covered her over the years,” wrote Murphy. “But the larger concern is why AEJMC organizers allowed Ms. Greenhouse’s view to prevail. If professors of journalism and working journalists taking part in a journalism education conference don’t stand up for open media access to public policy discussions, who will?”

Perhaps the longtime Times reporter has grown wary of too much public attention because of the bad press she received last summer after a speech she gave at Radcliffe College. Critiquing the actions of the Bush administration, she seemed to declare herself anti-war and against the pro-life movement, lamenting, among other things, the “hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.”

C-SPAN's Murphy is right on the money. As the self-appointed "fourth branch" of government ostensibly entrusted by the public with exposing the activities of the other branches, journalists should never ban others from covering their own activities. Then again, we should hardly expect professional behavior from a SCOTUS reporter who marched in a pro-choice protest while covering abortion for her paper.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Beat the Press: Google to Allow People Mentioned in News to Respond

An interesting development from Google today. Starting now, the search engine is going to allow people who are mentioned in a news story to respond to it and have their responses posted within Google News (h/t Brian Clark):

Here's how the new system will work: people or organizations that are mentioned in news stories can submit comments to the Google News team, which will then display those comments—unedited—alongside the Google News links to those stories.

The new system will at first be deployed only within the U.S., but Google is open to expanding it to other regions if the trial goes well.

This raises a number of questions that the announcement does not attempt to answer, such as how Google will vet the comments to ensure they come from the claimed source (watch this space for the first "Google News punked!" stories in the following weeks). Google is also a backer of algorithm-driven solutions as opposed to those which require human interaction and don't scale as well. Vetting comments and verifying identities doesn't sound like the sort of thing which lends itself to an algorithm, but we'll assume Google has thought this through and has some sort of plan. Let's turn instead to the most interesting implication.

Once the new system is in place, Google News will feature something it has never had before: original content. There's a certain amount of "originality" in aggregating news sources from around the world and organizing them into easy-to-click topics, of course, but the content has all been owned by others, and some of those others have been less than happy about their inclusion in Google News.

If the new comments feature takes off and Google News becomes a central clearinghouse for those who want to respond to pieces in which they appear, the site's popularity would no doubt skyrocket. News junkies would have to visit Google News—and not any particular newspaper—to find out if, say, Barry Bonds objected to a characterization of him on the USA Today sports page.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Facebook Not Useful for Advertisers?

Filed away this earlier today:
Facebook is the website du jour, but in Reach Students’ experience it delivers appalling ad clickthroughs.

We’ve run four targeted campaigns this year using its flyer ads, and each time the results have been disappointing.

Our most recent campaign saw 1.4 million page impressions delivered at specific universities – and only a 0.04% clickthrough rate. Ouch.

When we first experienced poor results earlier this year we looked carefully at creative and planning. Further experimentation saw a variety of quite different offers and creative approaches. What kept us going was the fact that others had anecdotally mentioned good returns from Facebook ads.

Yet our results did not improve.

Baffled, we did some research and discovered that actually we are not alone.

Valleywag finds that 0.04% is pretty much the average when it comes Facebook clickthroughs - note that they are talking about banners as well as flyers.

There is varied speculation as to why the clickthroughs are so shockingly poor on Facebook. Some have cited the fact the site is essentially messaging orientated – rather than content orientated - meaning that therefore users are in no frame of mind to slope off down trails.

The linked site disagrees with that thesis but I believe it is correct. The value in social network sites like Facebook for an advertiser is in the permanence of their presence. Unlike a normal web site where you will occasionally get something interesting enough that popular sites will link in, Facebook cannot be accessed without a login, immediately limiting popular sites from linking.

That's why consistency and quality matter more for an organization trying hard to use Facebook for promotion.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Jihad, The Musical

Been super busy of late but couldn't help but post this:
A satirical musical about Islamist terrorism and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has sparked protests in Britain, with critics blasting it as tasteless.

"Jihad: The Musical," which features songs including "I wanna be like Osama" and is described as "a madcap gallop through the wacky world of international terrorism," is on at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this month.

But a petition has been launched on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street website.

"We the undersigned petition the prime minister to condemn the tasteless portrayal of terrorism and its victims in 'Jihad The Musical,' says the online protest.

The musical, by the Silk Circle Production company, had its world premier this week in the Scottish capital's Fringe festival, famous for satirical and off-the-wall shows.

It tells the story of a young Afghan peasant, Sayid, who dreams of making it as a flower farmer selling poppies to the West.

But his plans are thwarted by a jihadi cell seeking to blow up Western targets, in particular one known as the "Unidentified, Very Prestigious Landmark."

The story comes to a head on the night of the attack, when Sayid has to decide whose side he is on.

Producer James Lawler sought to downplay the protest. "We have no intention of causing offence or insult with this show. It is simply a musical comedy," he said.
The next "Producers?"

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Microsoft Converts Works Suite to Ad-supported Freeware

Looks like Microsoft is feeling the profusion of open-source and online office software. It's set to release the next version of Microsoft Works as ad-supported freeware:
Microsoft’s next version of its small-business/home productivity suite, due imminently, will be free and ad-funded.

Microsoft Works 9.0 — which will be the new product’s name, if Microsoft opts to stick with its current nomenclature — might also debut at some point as Microsoft-hosted low-end productivity service, as many have been speculating. A hosted version of Works would give Microsoft a head-to-head competitor with Google Docs & Spreadsheets and other consumer- and small-business focused services, analysts have said.

For the time being, however, the new version of Works will be ad-funded, according to Satya Nadella, the newly minted Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Search & Advertising Platform Group. Nadella told me during an interview on July 27 that Microsoft recently released the new ad-funded version of Microsoft Works.

If Works 9.0 is out, I haven’t found it yet — other than a couple download links on torrents and other sharing sites. Anyone else seen it?

(I’ve asked Microsoft for more information on the new ad-funded Works suite. No word back yet. Update: Even though Microsoft’s own vice president discussed the product, no one will talk. The official comment, via a Microsoft spokeswoman: “We’re always looking at innovative ways to provide the best productivity tools to our customers, but have nothing to announce at this time.”)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Thought Only Red State People Do This!

At least that's what the liberal stereotype tells me:
A Sherborn teen was charged yesterday with having sex with sheep at a farm near his home, and police reports suggest the encounters may have gone on for nearly a year.

Roger Henderson II, 18, was arraigned yesterday in Natick District Court on charges of bestiality, cruelty to animals and breaking and entering in connection with an incident police say took place at Boggastow Farm on June 27.

According to a police report, the farm's barn had been the target of at least a dozen break-ins between August 2006 and June 2007, prompting the property owner to install surveillance cameras.

Between 3 and 4 a.m. on June 27, according to police, the camera captured and filmed a person identified as Roger Henderson II.

The man grabbed a sheep by its hind legs and dragged it to the corner of the stall, according to police. The man removed his clothes and appeared to have sexual relations with the sheep. After finishing, the man put his pants back on and left the barn with his shirt in his hand, according to the report.

Following his arraignment yesterday, Henderson was released to the custody of his parents, on the condition he stay at least 30 yards away from the farm, and animals in general.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Watching Democrats Debate

Courtesy of the Media Bloggers Association, I will be attending tonight's Democratic presidential debate sponsored by PBS. Should be an interesting affair.

You can catch my postings over at Ace of Spades HQ.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Struggle Against Islam, Winnable Only by a Democrat?

Glenn Reynolds:
Frankly, I think the best argument for electing a Democrat as President is that as long as a Republican is in office the media powers-that-be will refuse to condemn even the worst atrocities on the part of Islamists, for fear of helping the real enemy in the White House
I'd have to agree. Democrats have been blinded by partisanship so much that they really have lost site of the very real fact that Islamic terrorism will be a world-wide force regardless of which party has the White House. It is the height of stupidity and arrogance to even suggest that Iraq or George Bush have made violent Islamists hate America. Osama bin Laden and his ilk despise the West because we're not Muslim. He feels similarly about Muslims who do not share his particular brand of Wahhabi Islam.

It's arguable whether America's political leadership ought to be stating this fact on a regular basis; it's essential that they operate with this assumption, however.

Just as only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only a Democrat can defeat radical Islam. At this point, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson are the only Democratic candidates who realize this.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Matt TV: Fox and Friends

Last week, I was on FNC's "Fox and Friends" to discuss the fired CNN reporter Jeff Koinange. He was accused (and apparently fired for although CNN hasn't officially commented) of staging a news story and also using company resources to conduct an affair with a woman who was supposed to be a story source.

Here's the video:

Journalism's Faulty Paradigm

Yesterday, OpinionJournal featured an fantastic essay (found via Ace) from critic James Bowman about the faulty paradigm that modern journalism has embraced, the idea that "getting the facts right" ought to be the foremost goal of government.

It's a ridiculous premise, Bowman argues, because that isn't what government is supposed to do. In an imperfect world populated by imperfect humans, mistakes and errors are inevitable. What ought to matter most is how governments learn from miscalculations and their will to pursue the important tasks we expect them to.

This odd prejudice may be partly owing to the huge social premium we put on intelligence in the era of the cognitive elite. People who have no idea on earth what to do about the war or any of the problems we face as a nation think it is some kind of program to ridicule the intelligence of the President. Even the political opposition has fallen into this trap by making mere perspicacity in the anticipation of evils rather than the determined effort to combat them its test of political success. Thus in Sen. Jim Webb's reply to the president's State of the Union Address in January, he had no alternative to suggest to the measures for dealing with Iraq that had been proposed, but he was full of indignation on the grounds that the mistakes of the administration had been foreseeable. He knew that they were foreseeable because he himself had foreseen them. The implication was that he was much cleverer than President Bush--as if that was all that need be said to the credit of the former and the discredit of the latter.

The fact that the opposition and the media frame the debate in this way means that much of the administration's energies have to be expended in defending itself against endless second-guessing, which in turn means that it is even less inclined to recognize and correct mistakes. This is infantile politics. Meanwhile, on the question of what is now to be done about the mistakes, no one seems to know any better than Sen. Webb, whose policy amounts to saying that we ought not to have made them in the first place. This is also the view of much of the Democratic Party, and almost all of the media, who repeat mechanically that we need a "change of course" in Iraq but never get around to telling us what they would change--short of surrendering, which is now becoming the default option.

This problem has its roots in that the press has flip-flopped on how it views war. Before the 20th century, war was something that was glossed over and even glorified by the press. That changed with the Vietnam War. Bowman writes:

There is also a paradox involved in the romance of exposing falsehood, for romance is itself a kind of falsehood. It may be a hopeful and a benign sort of falsehood, but it is still ineluctably false. By its very nature romance amounts to an exaggeration or glorification of what, looked at more closely, is at best mundane and at worst ugly or disreputable. Journalists, like novelists and filmmakers, used to romanticize warfare by closing their eyes to much of the horror of it; now they romanticize the victims of war and so undermine war's foundations by looking at nothing but its horrors. In the media's reporting of war, honor and glory have become at least as invisible as the ghastly flow of blood and viscera once were to their predecessors. Nowadays, any journalist who wants to succeed knows he is in the business not of celebrating honor or trust or heroism but of exposing whatever sordid realities may be found (or invented) beneath the appearances of those things. And if the romantic prize is now awarded to those who tell tales of war's evils, why should we not suppose that the supply of those evils will rise to meet the journalistic demand, just as the supply of heroes rose when the demand was for tales of heroism?

No fearless truth-teller that I know of has ever troubled to ask this question, let alone to answer it, for to do so would be to call into question the one unquestionable article of faith in the journalist's credo, namely his own "objectivity." Never mind the philosophical crudeness of this model of the media as a mirror in which realities are merely reflected. The transparency of the process, the neutrality of the observer in mediating for us the things he has observed must be insisted upon--barring occasional slips like the use of the word "romantic" above--at all costs if the journalist is to retain the authority he needs to be able to say with David Halberstam to the mighty of the earth: "You lie." Without that authority, what hope of joining Halberstam in the Pantheon of celebrity along with Gable and Hepburn? Yet that objectivity and that authority are themselves lies whose foundational nature preserves them from scrutiny even when the part the media play in shaping events--see, for instance, "Biased Sensationalism" in The New Criterion of December 2006--or being manipulated by others to shape events is obvious to anyone without a stake in the pursuit of journalistic glory.

Halberstam's old employer, the New York Times, took the occasion of his death to run a piece by Dexter Filkins, who writes for the paper from Iraq, comparing now with then. "During four years of war in Iraq, American reporters on the ground in Baghdad have often found themselves coming under criticism remarkably similar to that which Mr. Halberstam endured: those journalists in Baghdad, so said the Bush administration and its supporters, only reported the bad news. They were dupes of the insurgents. They were cowardly and unpatriotic." Small wonder then that, before he died, Halberstam himself "did not hesitate to compare America's predicament in Iraq to its defeat in Vietnam. And he was not afraid to admit that his views on Iraq had been influenced by his experience in the earlier war. 'I just never thought it was going to work at all,' Mr. Halberstam said of Iraq during a public appearance in New York in January." Yet neither Halberstam nor Mr. Filkins mentions one crucial difference between Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam, the enemy was militarily formidable even without any assistance from the media. In Iraq, the enemy is militarily weak and can hope to win only by exploiting the media's negativity--and the continuing romance of their role in Vietnam--to make the war seem unwinnable. The role of fearless truth-teller is no longer available, if it ever was. Like it or not, the media are already involved in the action and must pick a side.

Excactly right.

Incidentally, Bowman's piece was originally printed in the New Criterion, a lesser-known but superb conservative journal that is one of my favorite intellectual magazines. Their blog Armavirumque is also an excellent resource and well worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Major Developments in Search War

Two interesting search war developments today, one regarding Microsoft and Google:
Microsoft Corp. has agreed to modify its Windows Vista operating system in response to a complaint that its computer search function put Google Inc. and other potential rivals at a disadvantage, the Justice Department and Microsoft said on Tuesday.

Under an agreement with the department and 17 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia, will build into Vista an option to let users select a default desktop search program on personal computers running Windows.

The function, known as "Instant Search," allows Windows users to enter a search query and get a list of results from their hard drive that contain the search term.

The agreement was made public as part of a joint report that the Justice Department and Microsoft filed late on Tuesday with the court overseeing Microsoft's compliance with a 2002 antitrust consent decree.

As part of the deal, a Microsoft official said the company also had pledged to place links inside the Internet Explorer window and the "Start" navigation menu to make it easier for people to access that default desktop search service.

The changes will be introduced in a service pack, or updated version of Windows Vista software. Microsoft said it anticipates a test version of the Vista Service Pack 1 to be ready by the year-end. [...]

The changes stem from a complaint Google filed with the Justice Department in December, in which it argued that a feature built into Vista that allows users to search a computer's hard drive did not leave room for competition from other desktop search applications.
The second involves Yahoo, Myspace and News Corp:

News Corporation has discussed swapping MySpace, its internet social networking unit, with Yahoo! in return for a 30 per cent stake in the enlarged group.

The discussions remain tentative and could collapse after the departure of Terry Semel as Yahoo!’s chief executive and his replacement by Jerry Yang this week. Mr Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! and incoming chief executive, yesterday pledged to “dig in” to his new role, and acknowledged the difficult task he faces to arrest the decline in the internet portal’s shares.

News Corp, the parent company of The Times, is interested in a deal even if it means losing some control of MySpace because it would give the media group exposure to a far larger internet-based business.

Other News Corp digital assets, including the games network IGN, bought in 2005 for $650 million (£326 million), are also thought to have been offered to Yahoo!.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ethics Without God

Since leaving Mormonism and religion in general (I am not an atheist however), the topic of morality has been one I've often thought about. Where does morality come from? Why should someone be moral? All questions eminently worth asking.

Back when I was a Mormon, I couldn't grasp the idea that a person could be ethical without a belief in the divine. I was very much a believer in Dostoevsky's idea that removing God from the moral equation would make it completely unsolveable.

I was wrong. God is not an integral variable because morality and ethics are actually fully natural phenomena that have developed over millenia. All animals who are gregarious engage in it to varying degrees.

Not stealing the other animal's piece of the kill is an act of morality within the community, as is leaving another member of the pack alone when it is sleeping. Protecting the pack from violent outside force is also an act of morality.

When you are a solitary animal, there is no morality. When there is no society, anything you can do is permissible since you cannot possibly offend or harm anyone who matters to you. Making someone you like sad or wasting someone's time are impossible when there are no other someones.

There are many advantages of being an amoral, solitary being. However, there are also many disadvantages. Two heads are usually better than one and two clubs fighting an animal trying to kill you are certainly better. That is why natural selection has favored those organisms who are social. Morality is merely the rule book that a particular society agrees to play by, both collectively and individually.

As time has gone by, morality has followed its evolutionary impulse. In other words, humankind has continued to develop more optimal forms of morality. This has led to greater greater altruism and better allocation of scarce resources. All of these things are what people generally term "progress." Others call it the "marketplace of ideas."

Once our lower order needs of safety, food, and reproduction were sufficiently men, eventually, human morality evolved to a point where ideas like universal humanity, ethics, compassion, and justice emerged. These ideas are non-religious although in most societies, their development was associated with the emergence of religion.

Ethically speaking, we as humans generally are operating on a paradigm of ethical increase. The longer we're around and the more advanced we become, the more we have turned our attention to refining what we consider to be moral. Examples of this process has been the emergence of secularism, equality for women, and the destigmatization of homosexuality. In terms of moral progress, some people are objectively more advanced than others just as some societies are similarly more evolved.

In the end, though, there is no absolute reason that you "must" be more moral than the minimum required to keep yourself out of jail; that is because we are all self-directed moral agents. Nonetheless, being what modern societies consider a "good person" has many advantages such as friendship, stability in life, love, self-esteem, sex, and reproduction to name a few. People who have trouble grasping or behaving morally always lack one or more of these things.

Then, of course, there is a certain value in moral behavior itself. To always examine one's life and to think often on what it means to do good can be very inspiring and uplifting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Google, Paper Tiger?

Interesting news:

There was encouraging news for the growing army of Google-haters yesterday when a leading internet advertising researcher suggested that the search engine’s stranglehold on online promotions was looser than he had expected.

Bill Tancer, a research analyst at Hitwise, the internet research firm, said that eBay’s decision to pull all its advertising from Google in the US had had only a small impact on the “traffic” flowing from the search engine to the online auctioneer’s site.

Some 9.6 per cent of eBay visitors came from Google on Tuesday, the first full day that the boycott was in effect, compared with 10.6 per cent on the previous Tuesday, Mr Tancer said.

“Before I pulled the data, I was expecting a bigger drop given the drastic removal of sponsored listing ads by eBay,” he said.

He added that that the impact of eBay’s advertising withdrawal was reduced by the fact that 25 per cent of users visiting the internet auctioneer from Google do so after searching for eBay, rather than by clicking on one of the “sponsored links” that appear next to other search results.

The data suggests that Google may be less powerful than people thought, at a time when the search engine is seeking to widen its empire – and drawing fresh criticism almost every day as a result of its perceived growing dominance.

Overstated somewhat I believe. eBay's traffic from Google comes not from its ads, but from search queries. Were Google to boycott eBay in its search listings by reconfiguring its algorithms to demote eBay listings (in opposite fashion to what it does to promote Wikipedia entries), the auction site's traffic would decrease markedly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Obama's Gender Gap

I wonder to what extent Hillary Clinton's female advantage over Barack Obama will last in the general election:
The consistent lead that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has maintained over Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and others in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is due largely to one factor: her support from women.

In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton led Obama by a 2 to 1 margin among female voters. Her 15-point lead in the poll is entirely attributable to that margin. Clinton drew support from 51 percent of the women surveyed, compared with 24 percent who said they supported Obama and 11 percent who said they backed former senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Clinton is drawing especially strong support from lower-income, lesser-educated women -- voters her campaign strategists describe as "women with needs." Obama, by contrast, is faring better among highly educated women, who his campaign says are interested in elevating the political discourse.

Campaign advisers say they expect Obama to pick up support from all categories of voters once they get to know him better, and that could change the structure of the race. But for now, women appear to be playing an outsized role in shaping it and could tip the scale toward the winner.

In 2004, women made up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate, including between 54 and 59 percent in the early-voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

Wireless Electricity

Mark June 2007 on your calendar as a milestone in technology. It will be remembered as the month when wireless electricity, the holy grail of mobile technology finally started to become a reality:

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lit a 60 watt light bulb from a power source two meters away and with no physical connections between the source and the appliance.

The "WiTricity" device--the term coined by the MIT team to describe the wireless power phenomenon--uses magnetic fields to deliver power to the gadgets remotely.

The charger sends power to the gadget using magnetic induction, which is the ability to change a magnetic field to produce an electrical current.

Various methods of transmitting power wirelessly have been known for some time, such as radio waves or Wi-Fi.

But while such examples are excellent for the wireless transmission of information, it is not feasible for substantial power transmissions because radio waves and Wi-Fi radiation spread in all directions and vast amounts of power end up being wasted into free space.

In contrast, WiTricity synchronizes the charger and gadget to exchange energy efficiently without leaking much power to other objects.

WiTricity does this by getting the charger and power-hungry device to connect using magnetic fields at 'coupled resonant frequencies'.

Further geeky details at this link.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

In Search of Porn 2.0

Ars Technica has an interesting article on how the pornography industry, one of the prime technological innovators in the recent years, is having trouble keeping up with the latest technology:

The industry often credited with being the driving force behind (no pun intended) new technologies is now suffering from them. The pornography industry, which has long been growing alongside the Internet since the early days, has hit a wall in recent years. DVD sales and rentals have dropped by 15 to 25 percent in the last year, according to industry estimates, and some believe that it could fall further if the industry doesn't catch up with new online trends.

What's the driving force behind this change? As more and more of the general public comes online, they are finding newer and cheaper ways to get their adult content fix. Just like the masses have flocked to sites like YouTube to watch professional clips from their favorite TV shows, video blogs, crazy stunts, and amateur movies, the adult audience has ditched DVDs and pay-per-view television to flock to similar sites. For example, PornoTube is a user-submitted video site of growing popularity that functions in the same way that YouTube does, complete with free, streaming videos.

Not just that, but increasing broadband speeds and wider adoption means that folks who once merely watched adult content are now able to create and upload it easily to sites like PornoTube for a fraction—or none—of the cost that it takes to make a professional video. "People are making movies in their houses and dragging and dropping them," CEO of adult payment processing site Harvey Kaplan told the New York Times. "It's killing the marketplace."

While online revenue for the professional adult industry has never been something to sneeze at, AVN Media Network's Paul Fishbein added that growth in the online space isn't happening quickly enough to make up for the drop in video sales—USA Today reports that Internet-based pornography sales grew by only 14 percent in the last year. Professional studios told both publications that they are attempting to catch up with the shift in public consumption trends by selling more online downloads and revamping their web sites to be more useable and professional. Some are hoping that the "quality" of their professional videos will win out with the public over those produced by amateurs. "We use good-quality lighting and very good sound," Red Light District president David Joseph told the New York Times, yet the company reports a sales drop of 30 percent over the last two years.