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Toe-Sucker Morris weighs in (Barf-bag warning)

This is what a Dick looks like


She fired his ass and he’s still pissed:

Hillary Is Up to Her Old Tricks

The Wikileaks documents show that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has, as Voltaire said about the Bourbon kings of France, learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

Her request that American diplomats at foreign postings and the United Nations gather personal data about their foreign counterparts is eerily reminiscent of her use of private detectives to unearth negative information on those who were politically inconvenient during the husband’s campaigns for president and his White House tenure.

At the time, I called these operatives the “secret police.” Now, apparently, we call them the “diplomatic corps.”

The Wikileaks documents show that you cannot only not teach an old dog new tricks, but you can’t stop her from doing the ones she has always done.

[…]

Seems like old times. In the 1992 presidential campaign, the Clintons retained private detectives to learn negative information about the women who were accusing Bill of improper conduct so as to provide blackmail material to cow them into silence. During his White House tenure, FBI files on prominent Republicans somehow ended up on the desk of an operative who was hired pursuant to Hillary’s recommendation after a career as a bar bouncer.

Linda Tripp, whose efforts led to the denouement of the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, found the details of her personnel file splashed all over the newspapers. A subsequent federal lawsuit found that her file information had been released improperly, and a U.S. district court judge levied a heavy fine on the government for the violation.

The fact that this current State Department covert operation was initiated under Rice does not lessen Hillary’s guilt for having pursued it. Clinton, not Rice, has run for president and is presumed to continue to be interested in the job. Her addiction to spies, dumpster divers, sleuths and negative research operatives has always been a cause for concern.

The jury has been out on how well Hillary is performing as secretary of state. I have always been critical of her riding on her husband’s name to achieve fame and power. But when she was appointed secretary of state, clearly despite her husband rather than because of him, I felt it prudent to withhold judgment. This is, after all, the first real job she has ever gotten on her own.

If you need someone to talk trash about the Clintons Dick(head) Morris is the guy. Like Levi Johnston he’s made a career out of biting the hand that once fed him.

He *knows* all this stuff even though he wasn’t there when it allegedly happened and he took no part in any of it.

I’d call him a sleaze bag but that would be an insult to sleaze bags.



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Flashback – “Christmas, New Years and Hanukkah rolled into one”


It’s been almost two years since this notorious Ms. Magazine cover. So how’s it working out?

Who was right?

Who was wrong?

Discuss



A Warning to Facebook Users

Yesterday, Julie Zhou, a product design manager at Facebook, wrote a proposal in the NYTimes titled, Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt.  This is the latest salvo in the Civility Wars meme that has been floating around the internet but this one has more severe consequences for free speech than any proposition passed by the righteous Christian voters of Oklahoma.

Zhou’s premise is that the online world is populated by trolls, which almost seems like an idea for a fantasy series world.  We all know what trolling is, although Zhou’s definition, “defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums”, is rather broad.  Trolls come in many flavors.  Some of them definitely have an agenda and use carefully crafted tools of the marketing trade to manipulate readers, all of this without raising the voice.  Yes, trolls are nasty and unpleasant and sometimes downright creepy.  That’s what spam filters and septic tanks are for.

They are also anonymous.  Zhou has a problem with anonymity.  In Zhou’s world, anonymity is the scourge that must be eliminated so that we can all speak openly and harmoniously, where users can get a friction free experience and share their Farmville produce with each other.  All very *nice* and completely soporific.  But Zhou’s explanation of the perils of anonymity had my tinfoil antenna twitching:

Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.

Many forums and online communities are looking for ways to strike back. Back in February, Engadget, a popular technology review blog, shut down its commenting systemfor a few days after it received a barrage of trollish comments on its iPad coverage.

Many victims are turning to legislation. All 50 states now have stalking, bullying or harassment laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication. Last year, Liskula Cohen, a former model, persuaded a New York judge to require Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who she felt had defamed her, and she has now filed a suit against the blogger. Last month, another former model, Carla Franklin, persuaded a judge to force YouTube to reveal the identity of a troll who made a disparaging comment about her on the video-sharing site.

But the law by itself cannot do enough to disarm the Internet’s trolls. Content providers, social networking platforms and community sites must also do their part by rethinking the systems they have in place for user commentary so as to discourage — or disallow — anonymity. Reuters, for example, announced that it would start to block anonymous comments and require users to register with their names and e-mail addresses in an effort to curb “uncivil behavior.”

Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.

Others point out that there’s no way to truly rid the Internet of anonymity. After all, names and e-mail addresses can be faked. And in any case many commenters write things that are rude or inflammatory under their real names.

I have a problem with the idea that anonymity on the internet should be denied to the casual user in a thread or that anonymity is a scourge on the internet, a necessary EEEEVVVVIL.  I suspect that few commenters who post to blogs or pages on sensitive subjects such as politics, religion, homosexuality or just sex in general, would feel that anonymity is a problem that needs a solution.  Without anonymity, many online personalities would stay trapped in their heads, unable to find an outlet to express their opinions, dissent or eccentricities.

And then there is the issue of what constitutes trolling.  One person’s harrassment may be another person’s vigorous attempts at debate.  Long time readers of The Confluence will recall that this blog was created as a result of being kicked off of DailyKos in the early stages of the primary wars of 2008.  The peaceful and genteel, law abiding citizens of DailyKos ran me out of town on a rail because I had the temerity to question their consensus reality about Barack Obama and challenged them to look at their behavior as moblike, forcing Kossacks to convert to Obama or die.  (See Obamaphiles carry out Jihad on DailyKos)

Zhou’s recommendations for *fixing* the troll problem are remarkably (uncannily?) similar to the DailyKos model.  She would have ‘trusted users’ among other tools:

The technology blog Gizmodo is trying an audition system for new commenters, under which their first few comments would be approved by a moderator or a trusted commenter to ensure quality before anybody else could see them. After a successful audition, commenters can freely post. If over time they impress other trusted commenters with their contributions, they’d be promoted to trusted commenters, too, and their comments would henceforth be featured.

Disqus, a comments platform for bloggers, has experimented with allowing users to rate one another’s comments and feed those ratings into a global reputation system called Clout. Moderators can use a commenter’s Clout score to “help separate top commenters from trolls.”

At Facebook, where I’ve worked on the design of the public commenting widget, the approach is to try to replicate real-world social norms by emphasizing the human qualities of conversation. People’s faces, real names and brief biographies (“John Doe from Lexington”) are placed next to their public comments, to establish a baseline of responsibility.

Facebook also encourages you to share your comments with your friends. Though you’re free to opt out, the knowledge that what you say may be seen by the people you know is a big deterrent to trollish behavior.

This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.

I have to give her credit for admitting that social pressure is the goal because that is exactly what happened at DailyKos.  But in this case, the trolls gained “clout” through recommendations from other users, some of whom may have been brother trolls-in-arms.  After a certain amount of clout, those trolls became trusted users with the minor but utlimately significant power to upgrade or degrade another user’s clout.  This became a very effective method of social control, one that David Axelrod was going to use for all it was worth.  And he undoubtably did.

The result was a takeover of DailyKos through a very effective troll campaign.  Here’s how it worked and how it will work on Facebook:

1.) A user writes a conversion diary or page.  It has quasi religious overtones.

2.) The conversion diary is hit with massive mojo or “clout”.  The diary moves up the recommended or “like” list.  Those of us who were frequent DailyKos users couldn’t help but notice that the same people immediately recommended these diaries.

3.) Social pressure is used to reinforce consensus reality by rewarding the desired expression and by punishing undesirable expressions. The term used for this when referring to cultlike behavior is “love bombing“.  The good user is praised, told how smart and attractive he/she is and how different they are from the rest of the world. The undesired users become targets for a campaign of decremation of their trusted user status.  Yes, friends, I was a trusted user on DailyKos up until the day I wrote my last post.

4.) Bait Ball frenzies result where gangs of now motivated users decry the dissenters lack of civility, driving the user and entire modes of thought out of the public domain.

If this is the way Facebook is trending, and I see it in their ubiquitous “like” buttons, I don’t want any part of it.  Zhou’s piece reads like an attempt to exert social control.  But I don’t know whether Facebook will cooperate with the people who want to shape consensus reality.  To the Facebook user, these entities may remain ‘anonymous’.  But their force may be deployed throughout Facebook’s domain and that is where there is real danger.  Because for many people, especially older or less technologically savvy users, Facebook is the entry point and the internet space where they spend most of their time.  If they are exposed to the sophisticated marketing techniques that we saw in the 2008 election season, they may be unaware of how their views and opinions are being shaped and reinforced, all in the name of civility.

I don’t need Zhou to tell me how utterly obnoxious trolls are.  They can be particularly hard on women who are conditioned to take insults personally.  To female bloggers I have always emphasized that trolls are nothing more than black pixels on your monitor- they can not hurt you.  As a blogger, you have time to formulate a snappy response to bring them to their trollish knees.  But we have other tools to be used judiciously.  We can filter comments automatically using trigger words, throw people into moderation or the spam filter and moderate threads to keep people from harrassing other users.  But harrassment is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder.  The concept of bullying can itself be used to bully people into silence.  I don’t want any part of that.

I want the internet to be free to users whether they choose to remain anonymous.  I have found that anonymous users are no more trollish than the identifiable user.  It is through anonymity that unconventional but good ideas enter the public debate.  Anonymity gives users the freedom to express themselves without exposure to real world friends and families and without social pressure to keep their fcuking mouths shut.

(Hey! Leo Laporte!  this would be a great topic for This Week In Tech.)

Last week Booman, this week Kid Pareene

Micheal Bloomberg


(I really hate it when these guys agree with me)

Alex Pareene (formerly of Gawker) opines on the latest tumescence of High Broderism:

Sanctimonious self-appointed “centrists” with no constituency outside of their social circles to launch meaningless-but-well-funded campaign in support of their admiration for themselves, Howard Fineman reports.

WASHINGTON — TV’s Joe Scarborough, who today dismissed Sarah Palin as a symbol of “anti-intellectualism” with a “dopey dream” of being president, will help headline the launch next month of a new national group dedicated to restoring civility in politics.
[…]
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also expected to take part, along with an array of other self-described centrists, including retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.), former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), Los Angeles’s Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sen. Deb Stabenow (D-Mich.), former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (R-N.J.) and former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.)

What can you even say about that lineup besides “where’s Harold Ford”?

It gets even more ridiculous: The “No Labels” organization (I’m not sure whether to blame Naomi Klein or feel bad for her) was founded, of course, by longtime Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson — the wife of pollster grifter Mark Penn — and Bush and McCain media guru Mark McKinnon. The group — which promises that its not a stalking-horse for a third party — demands that everyone in politics just civilly solve problems from the “pragmatic center,” which is, if you’ll permit me to be briefly uncivil, childish and stupid.

This is boilerplate that I plan on adding to all posts I write about this organization from now on: There is not a secret majority of fed-up Americans that agrees, politically, with center-right “reasonable” Republicans like Scarborough and Bloomberg and Lieberman. Lieberman doesn’t have a shot at reelection and Bloomberg is disliked by most Americans. “Civility” is a meaningless buzzword, though they seem to define “incivility” as “disagreeing that vague center-right policy proposals will solve America’s problems.”

The key name in the list is Michael Bloomberg, a man who wants to be POTUS so bad he can taste it. He’s funding this “No Labels” thingie in hopes of using it as a launching pad for a third party run for the White House.

What is it with these billionaires and their Ozymandian dreams? Ross Perot, Meg Whitman and Mayor Bloomberg all seem to think they can buy their way into high office. I guess when you surround yourself with sycophantic suck-ups who tell you how wonderful you are all the time you start to believe it. Unfortunately for them, reality bites:

PPP Poll: Bloomberg Unpopular With Republicans, Democrats And Independents

A national survey released Monday from Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) would not start out with any broad national appeal if he were to mount a third-party run for president in 2012.

Perot spent $90 million in 1992 and finished a distant third. Meg Whitman spent $140 million this year and finished just as far behind the winner as cash-poor Christine O’Donnell.

If Bloomberg runs he can prove once again that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Lucky for me that I’m a blogger, because I have plenty of people eager to tell me how badly I suck. It’s cheaper that way.




Spies R U.S.

God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out, or look secretly at, the land of Canaan so that they would know what kind of people lived there, what kind of houses the people lived in, and whether the land was good for growing things. One of the spies was named Joshua; he was a special helper to Moses. Another man’s name was Caleb.

The twelve spies left the camp and went into Canaan. They climbed the mountains and looked down at the cities and the fields. They saw some the people of Canaan. They cut down a very big bunch of grapes and put it on a pole to carry back to the camp to show the people what good food could be grown in the land God had promised them. Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies were gone 40 days.

When they come back to the camp, though, all the spies except Joshua and Caleb said to Moses and the people, “This is a very rich land with much grass and water and food, but the people there are very big and strong. Their cities have great high walls. Some of the men are like giants and make us feel like grasshoppers beside them. We cannot fight them and win the land.”

But Joshua and Caleb said, “The men are strong; that is true. But God has promised us this good land and we can win it, for God is with us and will help us.” Numbers 13:1-30

Thanks to Julian Assange and Wikileaks there are a lot of people with their panties in a wad.

From Time:

Hillary Clinton, Julian Assange said, “should resign.” Speaking over Skype from an undisclosed location on Tuesday, the WikiLeaks founder was replying to a question by TIME managing editor Richard Stengel over the diplomatic-cable dump that Assange’s organization loosed on the world this past weekend. Stengel had said the U.S. Secretary of State was looking like “the fall guy” in the ensuing controversy, and had asked whether her firing or resignation was an outcome that Assange wanted. “I don’t think it would make much of a difference either way,” Assange said. “But she should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that.”


Do we spy on other countries? Hell yes.

Friends and allies too? Damn straight!

We spy on them, and they spy on us. Literally, “everybody does it.” Everybody also denies doing it too.

Spying is the old fashioned term for what is now called “intelligence gathering.” It is in our nation’s best interest that our leaders know what the rest of the world is up to. We need to know what their capabilities are as well as their intentions. We also need to verify if what they tell us is the truth.

So we spy on them.

Of course everybody tries to keep secrets. They also try to spread misinformation to confuse everyone else. It’s kinda like poker – you keep your cards close to your chest and occasionally run a bluff.

Well now we got caught sneaking a peek at everybody else’s cards. Big deal. Ignore the fauxrage cuz nobody really cares. The only thing that is gonna change is we’ll be more careful in the future.

As for Hillary Clinton I don’t think she should resign. I think Barack Obama should fire her.

Seriously.

If he fires her then she can pack her suitcase and head for Iowa.



Truth by Consensus and the Value of Secrecy

I used to have this professor who would go on and on about how awesome post-modernism was. But what he liked wasn’t really post-modernism, it was simply the devaluing of the idea of objective truth because he liked his version better. Honestly, that perspective is pretty popular nowadays. People talk about what is true for them, about the limited value of science, and about truth by consensus. It’s what Colbert was mocking when he coined “Truthiness”. And it’s what lies behind the wiki phenomenon.

I’m not going to say that Wikipedia has no value. It’s great if you want to know how many seasons of M*A*S*H there were, or what Ricky Martin’s middle name is. It’s probably a great way to meet people and bicker with them. Hell, periodically it even has some extremely useful and accurate material (oddly, often a lot of their more technical material is pretty solid). I don’t particularly care if they engage in and facilitate rampant plagiarism, or that they fundamentally ruin valuable tools by releasing trade secrets. Honestly, if you want to see Wikipedia being torn to tiny pieces, go check out what internet historian Jason Scott has to say. But taking a mob of people selected essentially at random and then taking the sum of their knowledge does not create the Library of Alexandria, any more than a Purple Jesus party results in a fine Bordeaux.

Obviously though my problem is not with Wikipedia, and more with the prominent underlying assumption of what information is and how it should be used. I don’t believe that you can create truth by consensus, that’s just tyranny of the majority writ small. And while I think that everyone has a right to their opinion, not all opinions are of equal value. As a big fan of science (and technically a social scientist myself), I think that most of the time objective truth is pretty damn important.

I have huge problems with intellectual property law as it stands today. I’m all for open-source projects, and I think Richard Stallman’s The Right To Read was borderline prophetic. But I do not by any means think that all information should belong to everyone. It is just as simplistic and naive to suggest that transparency is universally good as it is to suggest that all opinions are equally valid. Information is held under strict control for a variety of reasons.

Privacy: I don’t want people to have unlimited access to my medical records, not even all of my doctors. I don’t want my employers to have access to my therapy records, even if they pay for my insurance, which pays for the therapy. I don’t want people to know my immigration status or marital status or disability status unless it is directly relevant.

Security: I don’t tell random people my credit card number. I don’t tell people I run into on the street that I’m going out of town for the weekend. I don’t tell my boss that I’m calling in sick because I was out late at a concert (although obviously I’d never do that).

Simplicity: While I’m not embarrassed by the fact that I periodically get UTIs, I don’t feel the need to broadcast it. It simply isn’t relevant to most conversations. When I speak to a new acquaintance, I don’t tell them my life story because that would be rude and overwhelming. There’s simply no point. I need to know that I have UTIs, and that my babysitter was named Eva and she used to sing “Do the Locomotion” to me. But nobody else does.

Accuracy: Information that is out in the wild is easily tainted, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Once a falsehood gets out, it gets repeated and takes on the patina of veracity, regardless of how much it may be bullshit underneath. Think about all the totally manufactured Gore slurs that people still believe unquestioningly. This is also the case with true statements that have been taken out of context or twisted. Sometimes it is safer to simply keep mum.

Point being, the State Department is just like everyone else: they make public what they want made public, they streamline communications where they can, and they hide what they must. I for one don’t want people engaging in shady dealings behind closed doors in my name and on my dime. But I also don’t want armed conflicts occurring because someone thought it’d be nice to sit down for a frank chat and let a dictator somewhere play Barbara Walters. There are good reasons to reveal hidden information. But there are plenty of good reasons to protect it, too.

And unlike the directed actions of a whistle-blower, this wikileaks stuff strikes me as pure anarchy. Rather than a heroic attempt to bring ugly and dangerous truths to light, it looks an awful lot like Perez Hilton outing celebrities or an international game of “Look who Farted!”

If the State Department were doing something unprecedented or uncommon or even something that we didn’t all already know was happening, then maybe I’d feel differently. But all of this ‘Hillary should step down because the International Community will never forgive her stuff’ is Bunk. Speaking as non-American, I need to come clean about something: WE ALREADY KNOW. We’ve actually known for years. The international community had in fact already twigged to the fact that the Americans collect foreign intelligence Before these leaks, and it didn’t stop them from being able to work with any previous administration. Hell, Lester B. Pearson was physically assaulted by Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office, and Canada never took their ball and went home. Because we didn’t have the option. The United States is an 800 pound gorilla. It can break international law and say mean things about our world leaders and nobody is going to do much more than get snarky.

Frankly, Clinton is the best liked American leader in the world right now anyway. Which is probably why she’s the one being asked to resign.