Sunday, December 29, 2013

Various news sites and Internet services try to clean up user comments

Major news and Internet service sites are trying to “clean up” the quality of user comments, according to a story in the Washington Post Saturday by Barbara Ortutay, link here
Facebook may have enjoyed an edge in this area by requiring real names as user-ids.  YouTube has started requiring Google+ accounts and being signed on to make comments, which then show up in the Google+ feed, with the videos often embedded automatically.  This seems to have been working for the past two months or so.  It is true that it makes Google+ an effective way to publish some viewpoints to an already interested audience.
Many customers of shared hosting services find that they do attract enormous amounts of spam comments, which requires bulk moderation.  Blogger already pre-screens comments as likely to be spam, particularly anonymous comments, to the point that they don’t show upon the Blogger’s screen at all; on the other hand, comments made by those signed on with Google accounts are much more likely to pass preliminary screening and wind up in the Blogger’s moderation queue.  
The article notes that some sites, like Popular Science, no longer accept comments at all.
On my older sites (see posting Dec. 26), comments could be made only my sending me emails, which many people did; and practically all of these emails did get published in a separate directory, including those critical of me.
The tone of comments on controversial stories is quite interesting.  Of they are quite blunt, particularly on crime stories or dealing with issues like gun control.  Many Internet visitors do seem concerned with inequality as an existential issue and seem to feel it is an area where personal action matters.  Comments on characters in soap operas (like “Revenge” and “Days of our Lives”) are often interesting to me.   The series of comments last winter on the New York Times about Social Security and the debt ceiling were instructive, as a couple of California law professors explained how the Trust Fund really works.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Federal Judge in New York rules in favor of NSA, contradicting earlier federal court ruling in DC

A federal judge in New York has issued a ruling opposite (more or less) of a previous ruling from the DC court, on the issue of NSA meta-data spying based on the “pen register” concept for telephone (and possibly other electronic) communications. The New York Times story by Adam Liptak and Michael S, Schmidt is here

The New York case is called ACLU v. Clapper (filed against the NSA head).
The pen register idea goes back to a 1979 case before the Supreme Court, Smith v. Maryland (Findlaw link ).
Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that an pen register system had to be omnipotent to be effective, and needed a record of all “degrees of separation” to find genuinely suspicious activity.  He noted that before 9/11, the NSA had intercepted calls to a safe house in Yemen by Khalid al-Mihdhar, but did not have the capability to determine that the potential terrorist was in San Diego rather than overseas.
Pauley referred to a 2012 opinion on U.S.  v. Jones, which had considered the limits of technology in tracking drug dealers or other criminals, link here.
The White House has a paper “Liberty and Security in a Changing World: Report and Recommendations of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies”, link here
Jim Scuitto and Evan Perez of CNN write “Review: NSA snooping program should stay in place”, link here.
The Pauley court opinion is here and the link was provided by attorney Paul Volokh.  

On CNN Saturday, the "Legal Guys" said that the New York opinion (rendered in a courtroom near the World Trade Center) applies to many more people.  Appeals courts will hear both cases next.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Did Rap Genius cross the line with its search engine games? It's a potential trap for any site

Search engine strategy is always an important issue for me.  Today, the media reports how Google "punished” Rap Genius by pushing it way down in its search engine results, putting articles about it ahead. 
For example. Tech Crunch has a story here. ABC News has a story by John Chang yesterday here
Actually, the Wikipedia listing scores pretty high, and you can go to the URL from there, but you won’t see security company ratings then first.  Here’s the link  It calls itself a “Wikipedia of hip-hop”. Slate has a story that says, "if you have a lot of traffic from one source, it's not yours," link
The problem reminds me of another issue, “link farming”, a practice which can cause blogs to be classified as spam. 
One potential issue is that individuals often have different sites and blogs with different vendors. A person could use Blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, maybe even all of these.  He or she could also have multiple domains, on different platforms (especially Windows v. Unix) in order to get different technical features.  I do that, as I explained yesterday, because the effectiveness of service providers and ISP’s and of various technologies varies with time.  It’s often necessary to cross-link between these entities to help users navigate.  That’s not done to improve search engine ranking; it’s done for users.  One idea would be for Google (or Bing, Ask, or Yahoo) to provide a way for an entity to list all of its sites in order to tell search engines that it will not try to unfairly game the system with links.
I get automated emails offering SEO all the time, and I ignore them. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Meta-Blogging 101": I start restructuring, with two new Wordpress blogs

I am gradually restructuring my websites to guide the visitor’s focus on two major areas.  This activity is commensurate with the process to publish my “Do Ask. Do Tell III”, which I discussed on my Books blog on Dec. 12.   

The first of these is “primary content navigation”, which is best followed from a single link on my main site, here.

The various books and essay collections that I view as primary content (going back to 1996) can be tracked to footnotes.  Newer materials (the “III” book above will be maintained with a new “Do Ask, Do Tell Footnotes” blog, which I have created today with Wordpress, with “Blue Host”, primary link here.
The general concept is that one should be able to navigate through my writings and drill down to detailed supporting notes, and that these notes on newer materials will be maintained on this blog.  Most issues of concern to me have been addressed in one of my books or primary issues, so this view of navigating my work should take the visitor through most of my issues in quite a lot of detail.  I have one post to introduce the blog, and the domain is here.

The other blog will give me the ability to correlate books, movies, television series, musical works, and various other live performance events by issue topic.  Starting in January 2014, many films or books that are heavily topical (as to political or social issues) will be reviewed here instead of on Blogger.  A webpage will be provided (on doaskdotell) to enable to visitor to easily correlate posts by topic or label among the various blogs and sites.  I expect to cover the “treatments” of my own new media projects (music and video, and “the novel”) on this blog, also, link here.   

 Since I have so many different domains and sites, I find it is necessary to organize material “logically” rather than physically (much like a database, especially the old IMS mainframe product).  There is no one vendor that is optimal in all parameters (stability, speed, ease of use, reputation, etc) at all times in all circumstances, and different services and vendors have opposing strengths and weaknesses.  So I find I need to take this approach.

I spent a couple hours today setting this up on Wordpress with the BlueHost service (in Utah).  There are some teething problems, and there is a learning curve, because Wordpress (as implemented by webhosts) has quite a different look and feel than Blogger.  For example, on the “Notes” blog, the first post title doesn’t appear because of some issue with the WP “aside” feature which I don’t get right now. It looks like I have to download the stats package from the “Jetpack” plugin set (link).

I will have more details on how to use this once I have done a couple of “meat and potato” postings and ironed out some issues.  I’ll spread a little good cheer about this on Twitter, Facebook and Google-plus soon, too. 

Over time, I expect fewer “small” postings on Blogger, and more use of the “Book Navigation” concept to cover all the issues.  One reason is, frankly, pressure to work better with the commercial side of the media industry which does have to make money, even from me. 

So, "Oh, No-no", more blogs?  The fix for talking too much is more speech?  Be careful what you wish for, and be careful of what you try to remove.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Do book self-publishers want to distribute through a Netflix-like service?

New publishing services may do for books what Netflix does for movies:  allow readers e-book or pdf access to a catalogue of books for a subscription fee, and sometimes send authors or publishers feedback on which sections of a book were actually read or loaded.  The New York Times has a story by David Streitfeld Christmas Day, “As new services track habits, the e-books are reading you”, link here

Self-publishers, the article says, will love this.  Something like Urchin statistics or Google Analytics on e-books!
It’s always been assumed that when you publish a book through public distribution companies, you have no right to know who bought or read it.  Advertisers, though, seem to want authors, on both the web and in print, to know their audiences.

Smashwords looks like an interesting service and I’ll probably get into it later on my Books blog.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Edward Snowden claims a "won position" in his own chess game

Edward Snowden appears in a garish front-page picture in the Washington Post Christmas Eve, with the headline “I already won”.  He has a silver laptop open with an Electronic Frontier Foundation banner “I support online rights”.  He reclines, his coat jacket retreated to reveal a hairless forearm.  Perhaps he has already paid his price. How ironic!
Barton Gellman’s big story today in the Washington Post is, “His leaks have fundamentally altered the U.S. government’s relationships with its citizens, the rest of the world.”  The link is here. That revealing photo was taken in Russia.
Gellman talks about the PRISM program that developed after 9/11, and how major tech companies had to share user communications with government agencies.  But the special metadata analysis of NSA went even beyond what PRISM does, and apparently was illegal within the US without FISA supervision. The NSA did not most of this snooping overseas but apparently couldn’t resist doing so at home.  And it’s dubious, given the experience of the Bush years, that FISA provided much real supervision.

Gellman also reports that Snowden says that he did try to work through the system at first. 
The Washington Times used the AP version of the story here
It appears that the NSA can triangulate with almost any electronic communication made by anyone in the world, including domestically.  The mathematical process ferrets out unusual patterns that could show terrorist activity.  It works on a “degrees of separation” concept.  Is this process likely to stop a catastrophic EMP attack plot if one ever develops?  Probably so.  Could it catch an innocent civilian with unusual but legal and harmless connections?  As my own father would have said, “Highly unlikely”, but, like so many things in life, “it can happen to you.”  The fear of the snooping could have a big effect on the business models of social media, as has come out in recent meetings at the White House between Obama and tech companies.

All the linear programming (hint: my first job in 1970, at RCA) and data collection in the world doesn’t change the fact that to solve crimes and stop potential attacks, you have to interpret “human” behavior ad hoc.  Many clues are hidden in plain sight, in social media available to all, without snooping.  There’s a 2008 case involving a national security employee where I still don’t think police fully understood the clues available on Myspace and even Blogger (I’ve actually discussed it with them, can’t say more here).  You have to do more than collect metadata and run it through supercomputers; you have to know about controversies and understand how people behave.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Affluenza" raises deeper questions about commitment, to family and only then to something else

James McAuley has a commentary on “affluenza” (and its conceptual use as a defense of a teen in a tragic DWI homicide and maiming by a spoiled teen near Ft. Worth, TX) in the New York Times today. The pundits have moralized enough, but there’s one interesting point that McAuley adds.  That was about the white flight to the suburbs. His link is here
I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988, and the whole time worked in or near the Oak Lawn area.  That was lucky and fortunate enough, but precarious. Employers felt the constant pull of the far north suburbs.  In Texas, school districts did not have to lie within city limits.  Some of “far North Dallas”, above I-635, had been annexed to the City, but was in the Richardson School district.  Parents felt an incentive to move north of I-635 for presumably better schools.  Your kids come first, right?  How’s that for socialization?  It cuts both ways.  
In fact, EDS, which had been a bastion of military-style social conservatism when Ross Perot founded it, had been located in Exchange Park, near Oak Lawn and Love Field, then moved to a campus on Forest Lane, but still within the LBJ Freeway.  (Even the woman who leased my first apartment there, on Cedar Springs, said to me that she wouldn’t live below LBJ, back in early 1979.)  Eventually, EDS built a bigger data center in Plano,   the next suburb north of Richardson,  with an even more prosperous school district.  It seemed odd that in Dallas, prosperity increased as the distance to Oklahoma decreased.
McAuley paints a picture of suburban Dallas that sounds accurate, an area of conformity and conservatism, where strictly religious sexual values (which have certainly loosened in recent years there just as everywhere else as times change) cover up economic inequality and seem to provide an excuse for it.  It doesn’t seem that putting “family first” will teach you everything.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas sermon brings back the "other peoples' children" issue

Today, the advent service before Christmas, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington, offered a sermon by Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt, “Season of Longing: for the Child”.  The sermon brought back a topic at First Baptist a few Christmases ago: Joseph, betrothed to Mary, had some explaining to do when Mary was with child.  Either he had broken his vows, or Mary had, or something miraculous had certainly happened.
There’s a moral lesson in this we sometimes gloss over.  People wind up being responsible for children they didn’t bring into the world.  Is that what it means to “be a community”?  This year, on the soap opera “Days of our Lives”, we say gay character Sonny (Freddie Smith) deliver the baby of bad girl Gabi in the wilderness in an escape situation, and wind up acting in many ways as the baby’s father anyway.  And in a whimsical twist this past week, it really “cost him” (on my TV blog). 
We often talk about the problems of the poor and of inequality as if they could be solved by public policy changes and money “above us”, when we all know solution comes down to earth, like upper level jet stream winds brought to the ground by heavy rain, with personal involvement.  I talked about that today a little on the Issues Blog (in response to a Fareed Zakaria article) and a previous event at Trinity.
My biggest concern in all of these blog postings (or a big concern) has been, how those of us who are “different” (oh, we all are) should behave with respect to these problems.  Now, to me a discussion of “personal ethics” makes sense when the surrounding society is stable enough and serious enough about human rights that personal actions really become relevant.  Yes, American society certainly “qualifies”, for me at least.  But if I lived in a society with “real persecution” (say, Uganda, or of course North Korea or tribal Pakistan or Afghanistan) I don’t think these musings would have much relevance.  I find it hard to contemplate “eternal reward” if the surrounding society is so evil as to make any creative endeavor irrelevant.  I’ve talked about my own idea of afterlife before elsewhere, but I think sometimes we have to start over. 
Once the surrounding society “passes”, then I think the idea that someone us may have benefited from the sacrifices of others without realizing that, and enjoy “ill-gotten comforts” starts to become relevant.  If we don’t deal with that, we can wind up paying a price – that is, paying for the sins of others. 
This follows up on a discussion I had started last Sunday (Dec 15) here while in North Carolina.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Local news blogs seem to do well for "amateurs"

I recall that a woman tried to start a local LGBT newspaper in Minneapolis around 2002 and pleaded, from writers, for strictly local stories.   I even covered the LGBT content in a Twin Cities film festival in a submission.
Amateur bloggers are turning to local news and providing a tremendous amount of coverage. According to a news story on the Switch Blog of the Washington Post on Thursday morning by Timothy B. Lee, list here.    An example is the “Prince of Petworth” blog by Dan Silverman, link here.
I sometimes cover local stories in my blogs when they illustrate issues that can occur anywhere.  For example there have been stories in Washington DC about closing bars (usually “straight”) after violent acts occur on the premises or nearby, and there have been stories about resistance of neighborhoods to new liquor licenses.  These could obviously have an effect on clubs that I do go to in the future.  Another issue of concern to many residents is redevelopment – the eviction of tenants when leases end so that buildings can be converted to condos for people with “more money”. 
Can someone make a living off a “local blog”?  That would be hard to tell from what I see, but it seems that local advertisers (especially real estate agents) like them.  
I don't agree that all news is local.  But "morality" starts with the individual and moves out. 
Picture: Not the greatest, but it's a new McDonalds (shot to not get people in the picture) off I-95 near Thornburg VA, north of Richmond, from a recent trip.  The chain has been rebuilding a lot of its restaurants.  Why?  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Forensic psychiatrist warns that young men need "resilience" in the face of hardship even when caused by others

Monday night, forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, MD, appeared on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 to talk about what motivates young men into particular kinds of violence such as school or public space shootings or terror.   Welner runs a “Depravity Scale” website and is not inclined to use mental illness as a reason not to punish destructive or criminal behavior.

Welner made a comment about the recent perpetrators, particularly for the Dec. 13, 2013 incident in Colorado.  He said that these young men actually have “high self-esteem” but do not have the “resilience” necessary to bounce back from adversity or challenge.  Welner said specifically that some of the need for resilience derives from bad luck caused by the wrongful actions of others.  People should not use the fact that others can stiff them or cause them harm as an excuse for turning to nihilism, which seems to be a pattern in terrorism.  Welmer extended this comment also with respect to the elder Tsarnaev brother, although other factors (and possibly schizophrenia, as reported in the media Tuesday) may have contributed to his “radicalization”.  The Boston Marathon incident seems like the school or theater incidents in that individuals were attacked directly, rather than “decadent western society”, as in 9/11 or with scenarios involving WMD use.   So the personal motives really do vary quite a bit.   
The comment on resilience in the face of adversity seems to link, logically, to my discussion of aloofness and insularity Sunday. When I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, I "dated" a forensic clinical psychologist, who always said one could be guilty and crazy at the same time. (when speaking about John Hinckley).   

Monday, December 16, 2013

Federal judge says NSA "meta-data" surveillance on cell phones and Internet contacts violated 4th Amendment

Federal Judge Richard J. Leon of the Washington DC circuit has ruled, on Klayman v. Obama, that the NSA “metadata” surveillance program based on citizen phone records is an unconstitutional abuse of the Fourth Amendment. He ruled that it was an unreasonable extension of an earlier 1979 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the government to keep “pen registers”.  The concept is no longer reasonable in the age of mobile communications and Internet. 
The link for the opinion is here.
The judge stayed the implementation of his ruling during the appeals process (for six months).
 The ruling seems to have been influenced by the enormous volume of material released by Edward Snowden, and the trivial nature of almost all of it.
The judge said that he was not persuaded that the government had stopped any terrorist attacks that wouldn’t have been detected by more conventional “pre-crime” investigation methods. 
It does seem reasonable, though, that metadata might find an attack in possible planning, such as a recent plot to explode a truck bomb at the Wichita, KS airport, which was stopped by an FBI sting.   Imagine a plot to detonate an EMP device!  How would it be detected in advance?
As for my own low-volume phone calls, the NSA is too sinful to notice.  So was Snowden. 

On Dec. 18, various media outlets reported long meetings at the White House between Obama and CEO's of telecommunications and web hosting companies, who warned that surveillance (and government's expecting complicity in doing so) can undermine business models.  IBM, ATT, Verizon and Cisco were particularly vocal according to reports.  I haven's seen much yet in my interaction with these busiensses.  
(First) picture: Bizarre purple color in clouds in sunset Dec. 15 near Raleigh, NC. (25 miles east of town). Second picture: Hawaii (estate photo). 

Update: Dec. 27

A federal judge in New York has made a ruling contradicting the DC court ruling.  CNN story is here.  I've have more detailed coverage (with links to new court opinions) on a new posting soon.  This looks headed for the Supreme Court, pronto.   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Philosophy 101, revisited: Is pure meritocracy ethical at all?

Here are some thoughts I’m trying to put into logical sequence.

I don’t get the “joy” out of “helping others” for its own sake that others would like to see me experience. I can’t stand being recruited to other peoples’ causes unless I have already made a chice to have a direct stake in them.  If anyone can be a victim then no one is.  There are so many pleading for dire needs, that no one need seems more urgent than another.

I agree my attitude is a bit Calvinistic, but that seems to come from logic, not faith.

We say we are different from most other animals because we want to regard every human life as intrinsically sacred.  But to carry out that belief, we need rules.  True, in a democracy people make the rules, indirectly.  But someone needs the power to enforce the rules.  Therefore there is a risk of corruption.   So we say that the law should do as little as possible, be hands off.  That is essentially the basis of libertarianism.

Inevitably, in any system, some people do better (or at least “look better”) than others.  A Calvinist says that’s because some people are intrinsically better than others, as a simple mathematical postulate – any finite or countable set with a measure or metric can be well-ordered.  What we don’t like to admit is that fortune and luck (sometimes turning on small incidents) play a much bigger part in how people turn out than we (libertarians) want to admit.  And we don't like to see that some of us who are better off depended on the unseen sacrifices of others, sometimes under coercion, and possibly inviting huge payback.  The pure libertarian position would let the weaker ones die off, which creates a cultural, although not legal, impulse and obligation from others to step up, even when it costs something.  Such a capacity is supposed to comport with the permanent complementarity of traditional marriage. The alternative could be an accidental redirection toward fascism.  Religious systems try to get around this paradox by just claiming some rules of human behavior (especially with regards to sexuality and family) are simply scriptural edicts, determined to please a higher power, a God or Allah.
 Logic alone could make pure individual meritocracy seem moral, but that would seem to contradict a dedication to the value of human life. Anyone could suddenly be in need, and need to accept attention from others that could have previously been unwanted/ 

While inequality, unfairness and poor "performance" of many people does have roots in public policy choices (particularly encouragement of extreme capitalism, or sometimes the opposite in collectivism) ultimately the only place we can start addressing all this is with out own attitudes and behavior choices, and values.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Corporate sponsorship is the rule in the think tank and policy writing world

The Center for American Progress is downplaying the importance of corporate donors, particularly regarding its papers on healthcare, even there is concern about the role of subsidy of think tanks on both the left and particularly the right, according to a New York Times article Saturday on p. A13 in the New York Times, link here
Journalists are supposed to be objective, and syndicated columnists have some leeway on the right or left, according to the newspapers that run their op-eds.  But most think-tanks and lobbying support research companies have to depend on biases sources for funding.
When I worked for Lewin ICF in 1989, most of the reports were sponsored by lobbying groups and trade associations.  At the time, we worked on a shoestring (it’s different now), but I got the idea that one could produce a lot of important output with few resources.
Typically, all of this means that if you are paid opinion consultant (even for a libertarian place like Cato), you really can’t just express your own personal views.  The very most prominent journalists do get to inject their own moral tone into the coverage of issues (Anderson Cooper likes to do this, having scolded a couple guests on not having “moral compass” before).  It does seem to me that the work from Pew seems very objective. 
I don’t advocate that writers follow the path that I did, putting out reams of material that can’t pay for itself.  But I do have an unusual, or “a different life” to report, one with particular paradoxes and ironies that span decades and that map to important policy issues. 
It’s hard to see, for example, how corporate sponsorship of research could bear on an issue like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, an issue that spoke to the capability (and permission from society) to participate in some shared risk-taking and possible sacrifice to protect others, and particularly future generations. The same might go for the marriage issue.
In the speech areas, though, it’s clear that there are different corporate stakes, even within the technology world, when it comes to issues like piracy, downstream liability, and tort reform (encompassing abuses by trolls).  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Entertainment site showing Prince Harry's South Pole "walkabout" actually requests permission to install tracking cookies

For the first time that I can recall, a website has asked me for permission to install tracking cookies.  It did so in all three of my browsers in Windows 8 (Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer 10).  On all three, I got a message that I had to approve the site’s use of its cookies.  Webroot Secure Anywhere did not object.  The message refers to a government rule passed in 2011 (I think from the UK).   
The site was Entertainmentwise, an article by Esi Mensah on Prince Harry’s blog of his fund-raising hike to the South Pole in Antarctica.  The link is here
The purpose of the trip is to raise money for disabled British military veterans.

Does this example show how a stricter implementation of "do not track" would work in practice?  Do US webmasters need to look at this now? 

You can try the site, to see if you get the “opt in” permission.  You will be bombarded with ads and sound, even though this looks like a perfectly legitimate and wholesome news story.  

By the way, I just found a trove of my late mother's pictures of her trips to Panama, Hawaii, Northern Ireland, London, Copemhagen, and Madrid, all in the 1990s.  Tomorrow, Dec. 14, marks the third anniversary of her passing on 2010.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NSA exploitation of user cookies might be bad for Internet business models

The National Security Agency has been using web “cookies” planted by advertisers to track potential targets, especially those for government hacking.  Recently, more information has appeared that the FBI plants malware on target computers and the NSA or other clandestine services do so with targets, mostly overseas.   There is a major “Switch blog” story in the Washington Post on Wednesday December 11, 2013, front page, by Askhan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman, link here
There could be a practical effect on companies like Google and Facebook whose revenues and enormous profit generation come from advertisers, and whose business models would seem to be threatened if consumers are even more wary of allowing tracking.
But some of the cookies used don’t contain personal information but do identify a browser and computer or mobile address.
What is the practical effect of all this on ordinary home users and small business owners, or especially bloggers or other artists who publish adventurously on the Web? 

It sounds mixed.  The tracking perhaps does reduce the risk of foreign terrorism and some kinds of domestic crime.  But it might increase the risk, however slight, that an ordinary person could be wrongfully accused of a crime.  The risk is mixed, as it could be mitigated by even more surveillance.  But if it “happens to me” it’s over.    

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Journalist reporting on Holmes case tests how shield laws work going among states

The New York State Supreme Court sided with a Fox News journalist, Jana Winter, and ruled that the reporter does not have to reveal her sources to Colorado authorities trying James Holmes for his July 2012 rampage at a theater in Aurora. 
New York state law is more protective of professional journalists than is Colorado, but here there seems to be a “Full Faith and Credit” issue, as to whether another state could use its own laws to force an out of state journalist to disclose sources inside the state.
The Fox version of the story, involving drawings that Holmes had shared with a university psychiatrist about his destructive fantasies, is here
An “amateur” blogger in New York would not have been protected by the ruling.  
It seems that there is a real issue here, in that a state in Colorado’s position needs extreme deference from the (other states’) courts in subpoenas for critical evidence in murder or death penalty cases, to prevent any possibility of wrongful conviction, a subject I have covered on my movies and TV blogs lately.   

Monday, December 09, 2013

"Upworthy" does have an interesting way to get attention -- play up karma

I saw tweet from a music friend about a curious  and venturesome site called Upworthy last night during the “ice storm” – everything for me stayed up, but it ddn’t for some people, so life is “unfair”. These are "things that matter", to be passed along. 
Upworthy trolls the Web for good motives, it seems.  It looks for morally compelling content, tests it on an audience, and then blasts the best “performers” onto social media, attracting visitors to its own site. 
I looked at a couple of the Vimeo videos.  One of them was about children under 12 working in produce fields in Mexico, and has a headline to make us believe that when we buy and eat healthful fresh vegetables, we are exploiting the slave labor of children overseas.  Another video took off on the theme of the movie “Inequality for All” (Movies, June 24, 2013), showing that the skewing of wealth is much greater than people either know it to be or believe it should be. 
The site is also using funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to distribute content on global poverty.
Atlantic has an article (by Derek Thompson) describing how the site works. 
I must say here that, given the pressure I get from bean-counters to try harder to “sell” my own issue-oriented content, the concept of the site is interesting,
I just did a “Like” on Upworthy on Facebook, so I guess their selected stories will show up in my newsfeed.   I’ll see how it really works. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Online bullying case in Texas stirs debate on legal (criminal and civil) liability -- (Sharkeisha)

Legal questions about photographing bullying and then posting it online have arisen after an incident where a teenage girl “Sharkeisha” beat “ShaMichael Manual”. 
There are questions as to whether the person who photographed the incident, which occurred in Texas, could face criminal and civil liability, as well as those who posted the video online on many sites.  Most major sites like YouTube took the video down as TOS violations, for fortunately there is no legitimate link to give.  But the legal question is troubling.  What if someone links to it?  What if someone embeds it in a blog?
The question was discussed on CNN and the general impression was that a person would have to be an intentional participant in the original bullying to be criminally liable, at least in most states.
The comments was offered that every viewing of the incident online was like another “sucker punch”. Embedding it could be viewed as “intentional infliction of emotional distress”. Yet I found many legitimate news sites had apparently embedded videos of the incident.

The incident could be related to the “knockout game” where people are punched in public and videotaped.  The comment was made that, in the Internet world, some people crave attention and “fame” so much they will do anything “bad” to get it.  
Huffington Post has a story (Dec. 6) and video about the incident here. Rolling Out has a story “5 facts” that seems helpful here.
It’s obvious that this will cause more questions about Section 230. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Ethical controversy over "paying" for book and even movie reviews continues

Is it all right for self-published authors to pay for reviews?  Some companies sell the service.  The same question could be posed for small independent filmmakers, too.

There’s another question, should you review authors or filmmakers you know?  I sometimes do that, by only on my own initiative, in my “informal” blogs.  More often, I pick content to review based on the importance or timeliness of any issues the media takes up.  It really doesn’t matter whether I “know” or “like” the creator or not, but sometimes I do.
I should mention that I do get invited to watch screeners from a few independent film distributors.  I always note if I reviewed a screener, and the invitation does not affect what I will say about the film.
The Alliance of Independent Artists (AIA) hosts a debate between Amy Edelman from Indie Reader (IR) and Orna Ross, link here
And here’s a column from “Lit Reactor”, by Erick Wecks, from Dec. 7, 2012, “Why I Paid for a Book Review and Why I Won’t Do It Again”, link

A quick check on previous reports on this issue (back in 2012), suggest that Yelp and Amazon have indeed tried cracking down on "opinion fraud".
I know the “DADT III” book coming down the pike (a lot more details soon) is dense.  It has to be, for the record.  I know a lot of reviewers would question my “motives”.  We’ll see. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Case of Washington DC cop pimping with backpage might put more pressure on Section 230

An incident with an apparently bad cop in Washington DC has probably put a little more future on Congress to pay attention to the proposal of state attorneys general to exempt state criminal laws from the downstream liability exemptions provided by Section 230.  Of course, Washington DC law is essentially “federal law” and is prosecuted by United States attorneys, rather than county DA’s as in “real life”. 
A copy was apparently helping run prostitution ring or pimping girls from his SE Washington DC apartment.  WJLA reports he was using “” for ads, and Backpage is one of the sites that many DA’s claims hides unfairly under Section 230. 
If the girls were not of legal age, however, there might be other ways to involve a web operator in prosecution, particularly if the operator knew they were underage.
ABC Affiliate WJLA’s story is here. It just aired on television a few minute ago.
Remember Ashton Kutcher’s campaign. “Real men don’t buy girls” or anyone. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Facebook will allow friends to "unfollow" pseudo-blog posts, making news posting on Facebook (and Twitter feeds) less effective as a "broadcast" technique

Facebook will soon announce a change to allow members to “unfollow” specific friends whose posts they don’t want to see in their own tailored newsfeeds.  They could still keep them as “friends”. 
This could pose an issue for bloggers who stream their tweets to Facebook.  I do that, as well as streaming them to the home page of my own site (  I find that doing this puts my own news items before a large number of persons, companies and org’s each day, even if they don’t find me by search engines (which is how it had worked in the past before Facebook re-invented the news streaming business). 
My own practice with Facebook is that when I sign on, I typically see about 30-50 new items.  Usually, I can thumb through them very quickly on a computer and read the two or three that are most interesting, all in two or three minutes.  Sometimes I do “like” posts and comment on them.  It’s also possible to contact some media entities (like NBC’s SNL) with Facebook messaging more easily than with normal email. 
Facebook seems to limit the length of a post (to about 450 characters), more than Twitter (140).  In the past, some people blogged on both Myspace and Facebook, but put longer postings on Myspace.  Ashton Kutcher, in his pre-twitter days, often did this, and had a very interesting blog on Myspsace.
I plan to create another newsfeed, as a simple HTML table, on my “” site as part of my restructuring.  This will be very simple to access, have no advertising, load very fast, and allow any user to see the recent news items that I think are the most important.  It would have the author, title, periodical or website, and url, and date, and label classification of the story only.  This should be available in about a week. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

"Politically incorrect" post on another's Facebook page viewed as "hate speech", results in temporary suspension of account

Maria King’s Facebook post, essentially saying that people with certain physical attributes (have to do with body mass index) should not be proud of their bodies, created quite a furor over political correctness – or inversely, when political incorrectness gets perceived as hate speech.
King wrote a comment to that effect on the page of Curvy Girl Lingerie.  There seemed to be an issue that CGL objected to the comment on its page, even of the comment would have been acceptable elsewhere, as on King’s own page.  Nevertheless, King’s Facebook was suspended for two days.  It was restored, but the comment was removed. But she was told she could post it on her own page if she wished.

The Examiner has a story about the incident here
My own sentiments would be with King.  But I have found in my own life, that once I have “broadcast myself”, others tend to take insularity or indifference as hostility.  An unwillingness to consider a person with some surface attribute as a potential intimate person is itself seen by some as a kind of disapproval or even indirect “hate”.  

Sunday, December 01, 2013

More dire warnings about state attorneys general and proposal to weaken Section 230 appear - but still aren't noticed much

Derek Khana has a dire warning about the possible consequences of the proposal by state attorneys general to exempt state laws from Section 230 protection (most recently discussed here Aug. 13, 2013, but first mentioned Aug. 9).  The article appears Sept. 20, 2013 in Slate.  It says bluntly “By trying to hold service providers responsible for the actions of their users, these exceptions would effectively eliminate public space on the Internet”, link here.  The article adds “It may take only two words to bring down an empire.”
This article may represent a bit of hyperbole.  Civil liability is not included (that’s the main risk), and to some extent service providers are already exposed to some liability, as in cases of child pornography and perhaps trafficking even now.  The key would be, in today’s law, whether they abet “knowingly” in violation of laws.

But I do see the point.  Service providers could not know in advance whether a particular posting could break a law in one state. However, there would exist a risk of downstream liability in a state only when that state passes a law saying so, and, as just noted, most states use the word "knowing" (like the movie title) when passing laws like this. Some states (Virginia) have many fewer problems with opportunistic prosecutors than others (North Carolina), and a lot hinges on how criminal procedures are spelled out in each state.    
The writer also makes the point that innovation that doesn’t exist doesn’t get represented by lobbyists.

I have not heard much about this issue lately in the major media. I haven't seen any mention of a bill's being introduced.  If it does get written up, will it stoke an outcry like SOPA did?  The idea has gotten overshadowed by a case in the 6th Circuit.
I rather expect to hear a loud fight over this “modest proposal” soon.