Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Business don't ask don't tell

FTC floats Drudge tax

The Washington Times Online Edition

Journalism can reinvent itself without government 'help'

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking ways to "reinvent" journalism, and that's a cause for concern. According to a May 24 draft proposal, the agency thinks government should be at the center of a media overhaul. The bureaucracy sees it as a problem that the Internet has introduced a wealth of information options to consumers, forcing media companies to adapt and experiment to meet changing market needs. FTC's policy staff fears this new reality.

"There are reasons for concern that experimentation may not produce a robust and sustainable business model for commercial journalism," the report states. With no faith that the market will work things out for the better, government thinks it must come to the rescue.

The ideas being batted around to save the industry share a common theme: They are designed to empower bureaucrats, not consumers. For instance, one proposal would, "Allow news organizations to agree jointly on a mechanism to require news aggregators and others to pay for the use of online content, perhaps through the use of copyright licenses."

In other words, government policy would encourage a tax on websites like the Drudge Report, a must-read source for the news links of the day, so that the agency can redistribute the funds collected to various newspapers. Such a tax would hit other news aggregators, such as Digg, Fark and Reddit, which not only gather links, but provide a forum for a lively and entertaining discussion of the issues raised by the stories. Fostering a robust public-policy debate, not saving a particular business model, should be the goal of journalism in the first place.

The report also discusses the possibility of offering tax exemptions to news organizations, establishing an AmeriCorps for reporters and creating a national fund for local news organizations. The money for those benefits would come from a suite of new taxes. A 5 percent tax on consumer electronic devices such as iPads, Kindles and laptops that let consumers read the news could be used to encourage people to keep reading the dead-tree version of the news. Other taxes might be levied on the radio and television spectrum, advertising and cell phones.

The conflict of interest in having the government pay or contribute to a newsman's salary could not be more obvious.

'The Rig's on Fire! I Told You This Was Gonna Happen!'
A prominent Houston attorney with a long record of winning settlements from oil companies says he has new evidence suggesting that the Deepwater Horizon's top managers knew of problems with the rig before it exploded last month, causing the worst oil spill in US history. Tony Buzbee, a lawyer representing 15 rig workers and dozens of shrimpers, seafood restaurants, and dock workers, says he has obtained a three-page signed statement from a crew member on the boat that rescued the burning rig's workers. The sailor, who Buzbee refuses to name for fear of costing him his job, was on the ship's bridge when Deepwater Horizon installation manager Jimmy Harrell, a top employee of rig owner Transocean, was speaking with someone in Houston via satellite phone. Buzbee told Mother Jones that, according to this witness account, Harrell was screaming, "Are you fucking happy? Are you fucking happy? The rig's on fire! I told you this was gonna happen."

Whoever was on the other end of the line was apparently trying to calm Harrell down. "I am fucking calm," he went on, according to Buzbee. "You realize the rig is burning?"

At that point, the boat's captain asked Harrell to leave the bridge. It wasn't clear whether Harrell had been talking to Transocean, BP, or someone else.

On Friday a spokesman for Transocean said he couldn't confirm or deny whether the conversation took place. He was unable to make Harrell available for an interview.

Obama Monty Hall To Give Lovely Parting Gifts To BP Death Victims
By bmaz
The title pretty much tells the tale. It was just stated on The Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC that:

"Family of 11 victims of the Deep Horizon explosion to visit White House next week."

Well, that is just swell.

On the day a forlorn paucity of the media belatedly report on the deceptive collusion that the US Government and BP have been sitting on physical evidence, and factual conclusions drawn there from, contained in the full set of video feeds they both have been viewing from the outset of the BP Macondo/Deepwater Horizon blow out, we learn the White House is suddenly going to submit to external pressure and grant the victims of the BP/Deepwater Horizon homicides a walkby meet and greet ceremonial dog and pony show. After nearly two weeks of the victims screaming they have been forgotten, the audience has been approved from on high.

How refreshing. I hope the bereaved at least get an official White House coffee cup and Presidential keychain for their participation.

This is just wrong. It is not wrong for Obama to meet with the relatives and next of kin to the wrongfully deceased of an American natural disaster. It is wrong they had to beg for it, wrong it is being sold like a new product release, and wrong it is used as a convenient image makeover for an Obama Administration recalcitrant to treat mass scale criminal, and wholesale recklessly wanton environmental behavior as what it really is.

Whale Killing, Inc.

The international vote that could legalize commercial whale hunting is just weeks away. Let's run an ad campaign that governments won't miss, telling them the world won't accept a legal whale killing industry -- click to chip in:

Donate now!
In two weeks, the International Whaling Commission will hold its final vote on a proposal to legalize commercial whale hunting for the first time in a generation.

The outcome rests on whose voices are heard most clearly in the final hours: the pro-whaling lobby -- or the world's people?

We've signed the petitions -- now it's time to mount a massive final push to make our voices heard, and protect the whales. Avaaz has scoped out a giant billboard outside of Morocco's Agadir airport, a front-page advertisement in the newspapers given to attendees, street posters to line the walkways, and hand-bills to pass to delegates. From the moment they step off the plane in Agadir until they cast their deciding votes, delegates will be constantly reminded that the world won't accept legal whale slaughter.

Click here to see the impossible-to-ignore billboard, and donate to fuel this campaign... even $5 or $10 or euros makes a difference:

Thanks to the outcry of 650,000 Avaaz members, along with partners everywhere, many governments have pledged to oppose the proposal. Each time the Avaaz whale petition added 100,000 signatures, it was sent again to the IWC and key governments -- and some, like New Zealand, thanked all of us who had signed on.

But pressure from the other side has been relentless -- and now other governments, especially in Europe and Latin America, may abstain... or even support the proposal. The vote could go either way.

Citizen pressure is our best hope. After all, it was an explosive worldwide social movement in the 1980s that led to the commercial whaling ban we're now trying to protect. When the International Whaling Commission meets in Morocco this June 22, let's make sure the world's voices are there to greet them:

After the global ban was first implemented on commercial whaling, the number of whales killed each year plummeted from 38,000 per year to just a couple of thousand. It's a testament to the power of humanity to move forward. As we move to confront the other crises of the modern age, let's cherish this legacy of progress -- by joining together now to protect our majestic and intelligent neighbors on this fragile planet.

With hope,

Ben, Ben M, Maria Paz, Benjamin, David, Graziela, Iain, Luis, Ricken, and the whole Avaaz team

P.S.: Despite the ban, Japan, Norway, and Iceland have continued whaling -- and are now pushing to make the IWC proposal as lenient as possible. Expecting permission to catch more whales than ever, Japan is reportedly planning to buy its largest whaling ship yet. Click here to fund an advertising blitz and campaign at the IWC meeting to oppose commercial whaling.


"IWC whaling proposal 'offensive'", New Zealand Herald:

"Conservationists condemn 'peace plan' allowing for limited whaling", Guardian:

The other side: IWC Chairman defends whaling proposal

Know someone who hasn't signed the petition? Send them this link:

Blanche Lincoln Win Sparks Furious Sniping Between White House, Labor

The loss of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate Democratic primary runoff election resulted in a rare outburst of intense, sometimes nasty, griping between the White House and the organized labor community on Tuesday night.

Shortly after Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) emerged victorious, an anonymous White House aide began spreading word that the President Obama's political team thought that the money unions had spent on Halter's candidacy was a massive waste and damaging to the party.

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise," the unnamed official said to Politico's Ben Smith. "If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November."

Another senior Democrat (who also would not be quoted by name) echoed the point in an exchange with the Huffington Post. "Labor is humiliated," the source said. "$10 million flushed down the toilet at a time when Democrats across the country are fighting for their lives, they look like absolute idiots."

It was a remarkably blunt dumping on the unions. And, in the process, it provided one of the most telling revelations as to how frayed the relationship between Obama and the modern labor movement truly is. Up until now the two parties have generally aired their disagreements over policy and politics in private, with scant public acknowledgment that friction was building below the surface.

But it clearly is there, in part because of legislative disappointments, but mainly because of labor's decision to go after moderate and conservative Democrats.

Five Hundred Wi-Fi Networks Walk into a Bar


By Glenn Fleishman

Steve Jobs is known for being cool but not necessary keeping his cool. At the company's announcement of the iPhone 4 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), he looked a little steamed when demonstrations of the new phone's higher-density, more realistic display failed when he was unable to load Web pages over Wi-Fi. He asked reporters and conference attendees to turn off their gear to clear the radio frequency (RF) environment enough to make Wi-Fi work.

Was that a failure of the iPhone 4 to work over Wi-Fi, or a failure of Wi-Fi to be robust enough to handle a room of thousands of people? It might be what you think if you read much of the reporting about this network failure.

But that's not quite what happened. There wasn't one or two Wi-Fi networks running at the Moscone conference center, but several hundred, all beating each other up. According to InfoWorld's consultation with an Apple engineer at the event, over 500 networks were in operation at the same time.

How was this possible? Because so many people—likely a huge percentage of press attendees—were carrying cellular routers, like the MiFi. The MiFi picks up a 3G data signal and relies it over Wi-Fi, acting just like a Wi-Fi router. Some people were instead using a 3G modem plugging into a laptop, and using an easily accessible Mac OS X (or, gasp, Windows) feature to share the 3G connection via the laptop's Wi-Fi card.

There are Wi-Fi networks that have tens of thousands of simultaneous users spread over thousands of routers over a corporate or academic campus. Wi-Fi can handle that. And there are plenty of events at which the host creates a temporary Wi-Fi network with many interconnected routers that can handle hundreds to thousands of devices at once. The Macworld Expo is a notable case: the last time I attended, thousands of iPhones and laptops worked just fine over a unified, well-managed Wi-Fi network that spanned the conference area.

Apple apparently did offer a public Wi-Fi network at the WWDC launch, according to media and attendees I've polled. And those who tried it said that network did work initially. But with so much media in the audience, and the history of conference/event Wi-Fi networks having glitches at peak times—with many people liveblogging and uploading photos from the event—those who had MiFis chose to use those instead.

Wi-Fi can cope with a lot of so-called interference, but the protocol wasn't designed to handle hundreds of overlapping networks in a small space.

The State Department's Worst Nightmare

Philip Shenonby Philip Shenon

An Army intel analyst charged with leaking classified materials also downloaded sensitive diplomatic cables. Are America's foreign policy secrets about to go online? Philip Shenon reports.

The State Department and American embassies around the world are bracing for what officials fear could be the massive, unauthorized release of secret diplomatic cables in which U.S. diplomats harshly evaluate foreign leaders and reveal the inner-workings of American foreign policy.

Diplomatic and law-enforcement officials tell The Daily Beast their alarm stems from the arrest of a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst based in Iraq who has reportedly admitted that he downloaded 260,000 diplomatic cables from government computer networks and was prepared to make them public.

"If he really had access to these cables, we've got a terrible situation on our hands," said an American diplomat.

Specialist Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now under arrest in Kuwait, is also accused of having leaked—to Wikileaks, a secretive Internet site based in Sweden—an explosive video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters. The website released the video in April.

"If he really had access to these cables, we've got a terrible situation on our hands," said an American diplomat. "We're still trying to figure out what he had access to. A lot of my colleagues overseas are sweating this out, given what those cables may contain."

He said Manning apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders.

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.

He added that the State Department and law-enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether, and how, to approach Wikileaks to urge the site not to publish the cables, given the damage they could do to diplomatic efforts involving the United States and its allies.

Wikileaks, a website based in Sweden, that promotes itself as a global champion of whistleblowers, did not reply to emails from The Daily Beast.

Thanks, Helen, for telling it like it is!

Online Journal

By Jerry Mazza

Thanks and hugs from all, Helen Thomas, 89-year old, oft-referred to "dean of the White House press corps," who retired today, Monday, moments after the parroting White House Correspondents Association said it was considering stripping her of her front row press briefing room seat. What brought on their echoing ire?

Well, it was as simple as Helen suggesting back in May that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and return to Germany and Poland "or wherever they came from." Bless you, Helen, for claiming your rights of free speech and the press, constitutionally granted to you, and telling the violent if not psychopathic state of Israel where to go. I personally would have suggested hell, a more fitting place for these lying, two-faced lunatics.

You are a hero and secular saint in my book. I know in the eyes and ears of honest journalists around the world you are still setting the pace for truth and justice, regardless of consequences. Especially in the wake of Israel's ruthless and illegal attack in international waters on the Turkish Freedom Flotilla, killing nine, wounding 30, beating then imprisoning the others. This as the six ships, which had all been vetted, and 800 passengers sailed to bring medicine, water, food, building materials and hope for Gaza and life back to the people of Palestine.

But then Helen, you were always at least a notch above, a questioner of note: from JFK to Ronald Reagan, through two Bush administrations, and the latest presidential lackey, Barack Obama, you persevered. To your undying credit, GHW would not call on you for three years you rattled him so. Yet you were the only female journalist to accompany Nixon on his historic trip to China. You also traveled with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Reagan, Bill Clinton and both Bushies around the world. Not bad for the kid of Lebanese parents, born on August 4, 1920, in Winchester, Kentucky and moved to Detroit at an early age.

You covered the DOJ, FBI, Health, Education and Welfare, moving on to the Kennedy beat in 1960. You even made it into the movie Dave, appearing with Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Laura Linney and Bonnie Hunt. Add to that several years as White House Bureau Chief for UPI, from which you resigned in 2000, but kept covering the White House as a correspondent for Hearst News Service. You were no lightweight, Helen, like the feathery types floating about today, looking over their shoulders in case some real news should bite them.

When Bush Jr. finally asked you back, your first question was "I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your cabinet, your cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth. What was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?" And a lot of coughing and choking ensued.

Helen added at a later date, "I'm covering the worst president in American history." Though she later wrote Junior a letter of apology, no one could fault her for lying, except perhaps Barack.

Health law could ban low-cost plans

A demonstrator holds up a sign declaring health care for all.
Over one million people could be stripped of their insurance coverage come September. AP

Part of the health care overhaul due to kick in this September could strip more than 1 million people of their insurance coverage, violating a key goal of President Barack Obama's reforms. 

Under the provision, insurance companies will no longer be able to apply broad annual caps on the amount of money they pay out on health policies. Employer groups say the ban could essentially wipe out a niche insurance market that many part-time workers and retail and restaurant employees have come to rely on.

This market's limited-benefit plans, also called mini-med plans, are priced low because they can, among other things, restrict the number of covered doctor visits or impose a maximum on insurance payouts in a year. The plans are commonly offered by retail or restaurant companies to low-wage workers who cannot afford more expensive, comprehensive coverage. 

Depending on how strictly the administration implements the provision, the ban could in effect outlaw the plans or make them so restrictive that insurance companies would raise rates to the point they become unaffordable. 

A cadre of employers and trade associations, including 7-Eleven, Lowe's, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have asked the administration to allow the plans — at least through 2014, when the insurance exchanges are set up and tax credits become available for low-wage workers. 

US Border Patrol union rep: It's okay to shoot Mexican kids who throw stones

mxb.jpgAfter listening to this NPR News piece on a Border Patrol agent shooting a 14-year-old Mexican child near the Juarez/El Paso border, Boing Boing pal Drew Carey noted on Twitter, "I agree the Border Patrol has a tough job, but shooting rock-throwers should be a no-go. Find a non-lethal way to handle it."

Couldn't agree more, and I say that as someone who's aware of what a dangerous and chaotic place that part of the border is. I've spent a lot of time around the border, and on both sides of it, in California/Baja.

According to the NPR News piece, the union rep for Border Patrol agents says it is alright for agents to shoot Mexican children who throw rocks at them.

"There are so many non-lethal weapons available to law enforcement." Drew tweeted, "Has the Border Patrol even considered them?"

The child's body was found on the Ciudad Juarez side of the fence. By all accounts available at the time of this blog post, he never crossed over on to the US side, and was not attempting to do so. He was unarmed, and he was shot in the head.

Debbie Reynolds does Pete Seeger

 You can't sing a protest song without a fabulous gown, a glamorous wig, and matching heels.