Monday, December 14, 2009

Washington Post paints Catholic Church as Anti-Gay

Willful misrepresentation of another's position is a standard of politics, not news coverage.

However, the Washington Post has gone a step further in their war on the Archdiocese of Washington: consistent willful misrepresentation of facts.

The basic post portrayal is - Catholic institution threatens to cancel social services in protest of new law.

The fact is - new law goes farther than other gay marriage laws to force recognition of gay marriage onto an organization fundamentally opposed to the "institution."  No exemptions are given.

But don't let the facts get in the way of the Post's advocacy of allowing the state to force gay marriage down the church's throat. More on that later.

But first, Metro Columnist Robert McCarthy gets the prize for ignoring much of his own logic within his anti-church rant.
The council is open to a concession on one issue, adoptions. It's reportedly willing to amend the bill to allow Catholic Charities to handle privately funded adoptions even if the church refuses to place children with same-sex couples. The church would have to give up involvement in city-funded adoptions, but there is a relatively low number of those.
So ... the city is interested in extending its influence to fully-private legal transactions?

How benevolent.

The Post's Editorial Page put it another way, "If Catholic Charities wants to exclude gay and lesbian couples from its adoption services, then it should do so without receiving taxpayer money."

But if the city is also considering regulating all adoptions ... .  I guess we'll know the answer tomorrow.

McCarthy continues:
On the issue where the most is at stake, the archdiocese wants a religious exemption so it can enter into city contracts without having to certify that it grants spousal benefits to employees' same-sex spouses. Catholic Charities has city contracts worth $18 million to $20 million a year to operate nine homeless shelters and a health clinic, and provide other welfare services.
Earlier McCarthy suggested the church wants to shed this income because the services provided are too costly.

Never took Latin, and I forgot the name of this little logical fallacy, but just because something isn't happening in practice doesn't mean the Archdiocese wouldn't be wide open and vulnerable to abuse:
The benefits issue is about principle rather than practice. Few if any of Catholic Charities' employees are likely to be same-sex spouses. No such spouse has applied for benefits, the archdiocese said, and it doesn't ask the sexual orientation of its workforce.
If logic fails, caricature the opposing viewpoint to ensure no squelch any exchange of ideas:

"George Weigel, a prominent conservative Catholic thinker at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, sniffed that Georgetown" – which McCarthy notes already recognizes benefits for "legally domiciled adults" – "was a Catholic university 'at the very best . . . in a vestigial sense'."

So, did you hear that sniff?  Was it uttered?  Or was that a convenient way to downplay and make ridiculous the Catholic thinker's argument that the Church is not willing to compromise its principles in the way Church-affiliated institutions were?

Back to the church-state thing
I have no principled argument against same-sex unions, and one of my dear friends and the best supervisor I ever worked for is so wed. But I also recognize the Church's stand - that marriage is a God-ordained institution - "Male and female he created them ... "  and that secular institutions have no grounds to impose redefinitions of religious sacraments on the church.

We wouldn't require a Muslim or Jewish soup kitchen to handle or serve pork - though I recognize that's a sour comparison to the human lives involved in this issue.

The bigger problem is the broadening social and legal ostracization of religious people and organizations that is helping radicalize the religious right in this country.

Tim Craig and Hamil R. Harris pointed this out in an insightful November article titled Church's influence on politics shifting: D.C.'s same-sex marriage debate pushes some clergy further to the sidelines.
It wasn't that long ago that "there was no such thing as putting a pastor on hold" when the leader of a D.C. church called city hall, said the Rev. Patrick J. Walker of the New Macedonia Baptist Church in Southeast.

"This city certainly is no longer church-friendly," Walker said.
Post columnist and American University Law professor Nancy D. Polikoff argues that the church can simply opt in to federal ERISA protection and be exempt from the city law.

"Federal law does not require employers to recognize same-sex domestic partners or spouses, and therefore private employers cannot be compelled to treat same-sex and different-sex couples equally," she posits.  (I like "posits" – especially for use in paragraphs about lawyers' arguments)

She uses the Portland Maine Catholic Charities lawsuit as an example, but later hints that ERISA can be "enlightened" to "fix" the federal failing.

"That’s a problem with the federal law, and it has nothing to do with religion," she writes.

Unless, of course, the Federal law is changed to mandate recognition of same-sex marriages. Then of course, it would have a lot to do with religion.

Even if there is a federal loophole big enough to squeeze a homeless shelter through, why did San Francisco religious charities need to resort to the "legally domiciled adult" provision to avoid recognizing potential gay marriages in it's benefits language. (Georgetown University - a Jesuit-run school apparently already uses this language - see the Weigel "sniff" above.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When all else fails, fan the flames of hysteria

WaPo's Michael A. Fletcher must live in a different world - I'm wondering if he's flagrantly flogging the administration line on reusing TARP money for job creation or if the world is really a darker place than I realize.

Fletcher can't keep the copy-crack of hyperbole out of his leads this week regarding overselling the bad economy angle. Unemployment fell for the first time in almost two years and Fletcher didn't get the memo - that's all I can figure. 

His article Tuesday referred to "one of the biggest threats to the economy and to his administration: the soaring unemployment rate."

Soaring - Okay, I guess a bird can soar even if it's just maintaining altitude, but when earth-bound mortals use the word, it conjures a ascent into the higher altitudes.

If I'm soaring, I'm not leveling off and enjoying the view, damn it. I'm going higher!!!

Today he doesn't quit, but appears to continue flogging the president's "response to the nation's intensifying job crisis."

Hm.  Crisis, yes. Intensifying?

WaPo's editorial board seems to be tracking current events.

The problem is all too real: The unemployment rate is lower than it was a month ago, but still -- at 10 percent -- far too high. Yet the federal deficit, which hit $1.3 trillion for fiscal 2009 and is projected to be about the same in fiscal 2010, is outside the comfort zone as well.

And the Associated Press - as printed in the Post:

Under law, any paybacks to the bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program must be used to reduce the deficit. But in an economic speech on Tuesday, the president sought to have it both ways. Increased repayments from banks to the Treasury will reduce the deficit all right, but it will give Congress the budgetary room to spend more - and the president encouraged just that.

I have an idea I'd like the administration to try - stop spending imaginary (borrowed (Chinese?)) money we don't have.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Checking my 6

Okay, every once in a while it's good to google yourself.  (not to set up google alerts, unless they really are out to get you). has a good simple breakdown on online brand management - especially if your brand is your name. 

An hour ago, I started this exercise.  Since i'd been a news writer for 10 years there should be a metric f-ton equivalent (FTE) of information out there under "Karl B. Hille."

I was thinking what stories I wish people would find - the one about my own son born blue came to the top of my head.

So on page one of the "Karl B. Hille" google image search, I found this gem.

The story links back to my article about newborns with heart defects, like my own son Brendan, pictured here two and a half years ago - born with transposition of the great arteries. (not from Peru)

Why the caption and comments relate to an intern story about rebuilding "nubbins" with toe bones is beyond me - I can only guess the braintrust at mixed something up in the translation.

Apparently the Nubbins story, written by talented intern Danielle Ulman, now a business Writer at the Maryland Daily Record, has infected a number of properties I wrote, including this story about the University of Maryland's battlefield patient simulator robot, amusingly named Stan.

Ok, so far I'm not showing up on any questionable pages, not that I expected to. 10 years of publishing legitimate news stories kinda does something to one's online persona that one freaked-out ultra-nationalist blogger on Angelfire couldn't overcome. (fortunately there are no links to the "hillbilly crabbers" diatribe - if you find one, email me or post the link in comments below).

And so far, Orly Taitz hasn't come calling about my apparently immigrant boy. 

Why does her pic creep me out like that?  I half expect her to start talking about her home-made religion a la "A Mighty Wind" or her close encounter of the 4th kind and how she actually kind of liked it.

And the angelfire post reared it's mighty head again as BrianAdrian continues his campaign against reason and intelligent discussion.

I won't link to it because I don't even want to give him one page view, but I will say inserting spurious drivel like "Let Unemployed Americans Eat Spoiled Claws" into text you copied from another site is just wrong.

Here's the other one I'd like to be remembered for.

"It's My Heart: Dealing with congenital heart defects"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Casual sex with multiple partners - often.

I often wonder what makes people (aside from cheapness) stick with a PC system that's so prone to invasive viruses, malware, spyware and costs extra money to keep healthy?

I love ZDNet's blog about Windows vs. Linux vulnerability in accessing the Web, which I found through

Linux system calls to a Web server

Windows accessing the same URL

Talk about spaghetti programming.

So then you take your PC and download limewire - or whatever.  So you don't have to pay for new music ... because you're a cheap bastard who doesn't want to pay artists their due?

Actually I just read a study (somebody recognize, supply a link?) showing that the biggest downloaders also spend the most money on music, compared to those who don't use file-sharing.

Okay, so my moralistic rant falls apart there, but not on the sex angle.  Talk about good ways to propagate viruses.  I'd like to know what role P2P plays in the rapid transmission of the last/next big worm/trojan/etc.

If you're gonna play on a PC, kinda like refusing to pay more money for condoms, multiple sex partners, sorry, file sharing is a dumb idea.  Especially if you're a low-level congressional staffer who downloads confidential documents to your Limewire compromised home PC hard drive.

I like to download free music.

I generally limit myself to iTunes' free downloads, and I've found some gold there - especially Ojos de Brujo, Sultanas de Mercaillo, Sophie Millman's Home to me and Chrisette Michelle's Your Joy.  (If my daughter ever even thinks of playing that one for me I'll melt in tears.)

And if you aren't comfortable with the iTunes 10,000 pound gorilla, my favorite is, which combines free music, social networking, investment and all kinds of other lovely benefits to help you find music you'll really really like that isn't on everybody else's iPod.

The best thing is, just about everything's free when it first hits "the street." It only gets up to 99 cents if it's really really popular.  (except, I think the big ones come out expensive, Johnny Cash, Dylan, Thelonius Monk - their copyright holders probably negotiate their own deals)

But the most fun part is finding people with exquisite tastes and following their recommendations to some really awesome music!

Screw P2P and find a better way, I say.

Death of ideas

Me: We need live content on our home page.

Cube-mate: You don't know how much bureaucracy we'd have to do to get that.

Me: The bureaucracy already has a solution. We have people producing live updates every day for blogs and Twitter, but you can't find them on our homepage. - - Oh, at least somebody finally moved the cow downstream ... I mean it's a nice cow, but does it have to have top billing for two weeks?

Super: Come up with a comprehensive strategy. Look at other sites' usage of blogs. Consider the purpose of blogs. Wait till the big current mission is over before you get yelled at for bringing things up at a bad time.

Me: ...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Net neutrality ... what?

I've asked several people on both sides of the debate what the big deal is and I'm still looking for the broken wheel here.

Right-wing bloggers are convinced this is a liberal move to solidify their massive lead in all things Web 2.0, but when pushed to explain how "net neutrality" would promote a liberal agenda, most were stumped.  Some offered weakly that it would be government control of private enterprise, and as we all know, or assume, government control is a liberal idea.

From the other side, I hear a chorus of "corporations might consider doing nefarious things ... someday, so we better stop them now."

The idea is to treat every byte that travels over the network equally. 


I agree with that in concept.  I haven't seen evidence that it doesn't work this way now.

Comcast raised hackles by squashing people who leave their P2P access drives open to constant uploading, downloading and streaming of music, video and other content, but I don't disagree with that policy.  If someone in my cul-de-sac of the Web is eating up all the bandwith on my trunk line with the computer-equivalent of random, multiple sex partners at all hours of the day, more power to Comcast.

P2P is stupid, IMHO, but I guess that's a topic for another day.
The only access problems I have is the inability of Verizon to upgrade the ancient copper wire in my neighborhood so that ever time it rains, or thinks of raining, my connection drops to negative bandwidth (it's a miracle I'm online now, come to think of it, though I am getting in the area of Bytes per second).

Which brings me to why am I paying for 3 Mb/s if I never get more than half that? (the last Verizon line worker who assessed my system suggested I pay less by downgrading my service because I'm getting somewhere around 750 bps upload max)

The Philly CityPaper is obviously on the NetNeut bandwagon, as evidenced by Jeffrey C. Billman and Scott Yorko's Department of Public Servants post.

Big telecom companies think the Internet as currently conceived — where people can access just as easily as they can little ol' — is not nearly as profitable as it could be. They'd prefer a system in which they can charge deep-pocketed corporations higher rates for better service, and relegate start-ups, middling companies and your little sister's blog to the Web's back burner, where they'll never be heard from again.
While it's certainly trendy to label anybody "Big anything" and talk about their evil plot to bring down life as we know it, I wish they would have provided some actual reporting and facts to back up their claim.

Sunlight Foundation's Paul Blumenthal reports on the massive amounts of money telecoms are pouring into this fight, so there must be something there.  Still, I would like to see the evidence of this conspiracy.

On the other hand is the argument that free enterprise brought us the system that works so well today (even though it's raining).  Building in artificial shortages would make your service uncompetitive, so all the providers out there would have to collaborate together to implement this evil plan. 

Color me skeptical.

Robert Pepper, senior managing director of global advanced technology policy at Cisco Systems, and former FCC chief of policy development, is quoted in the Wikipedia saying "The supporters of net neutrality regulation believe that more rules are necessary. In their view, without greater regulation, service providers might parcel out bandwidth or services, creating a bifurcated world in which the wealthy enjoy first-class Internet access, while everyone else is left with slow connections and degraded content."

Wait, you mean I don't get better service if I pay for more bandwidth already?  Oh, see above digression.

So people are concerned that access will be available to those with the means to pay.  Unlike today. When access is available ...

I'm leaning toward the anti-position, but don't take my word for it. Check out Enigma Curry's "Net-Neutrality is Bullshit post.

I'm sorry, but when has government regulation EVER made anything more free? We can argue about government programs and regulations making things safer, cheaper, more "accessible" (I don't believe any of this for an instant). But, we cannot argue that government regulations will ever make things more free. Government regulations, by definition, make things less free.
And the home run hit:
There are many, many problems with this analogy. The most glaring to me is this: the cable companies acquired their monopolistic positions today because of government regulation. So, if we want to make the net more "neutral," we should remove these artificial, government created, monopolies. We shouldn't do the opposite. In a free market I can choose whatever content provider I want. If provider X wants to block my access to Google, well, I'll just choose to go to another provider.
But I have another problem with the concept of net neutrality. 

Some uses can't be treated equally.  Do you want the channel between the surgeon at Johns Hopkins, controlling the surgical robot in Bangalore to save somebody's life where superstar surgeons aren't available to have the same treatment as your music piracy rights?

There must be discrimination.

What about police and emergency services communications?

What about sensitive government dispatches?

Facebook updates clearing someone's (good?) name?

Tweets from a war/riot/crisis zone where other communication is cut off?

Where do we draw the line?

Or better yet, who draws the line?

And how long before corruption creeps into the system of control and neutrality assurance?

As long as there is a system to be manipulated, people will be there to manipulate it.  I guess it breaks down to who you want pulling the strings?  In the unregulated marketplace, those with money and savvy biz-entrepreneurs will find ways around the checkpoints.  In the regulated system, those with power or the ability to buy it will manipulate the system to benefit their own interests.

Look at our country.  American democracy is the worst system of government in the world, with the exception of every single other form of government. 

Corruption is a force of nature.  No system is immune.

I'm not for or against Net Neutrality, but if you believe it's gonna preserve the liberty we've come to enjoy on the Internet, I'd like you to invest in my anti-social media business. You look like a good mark to me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

E-QIP says filling in their online form should take 30 minutes. That was 2 hours ago.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New gig

 Much of my 'excuse' for not posting relates to getting started with the NASA Goddard Web team in my new role there as a CMS monkey. 

It's really a weak excuse, however, as most of my time is spent Web surfing (albeit doing some legitimate research on Goddard's target audience), and navigating the complex process of getting a gate pass and appeasing the security people.  Apparently this involves convincing some Web program I'm not a terrorist nor have I ever been one. 

In the meantime, it's been a good opportunity to think about continuing my education and catching up on some 60+ blogs focused on Web 2.0, new media, space, science, astronomy, etc.

I probably could have used lots of company time to blog about the process of joining the company, but that would feel kinda hinky - not to mention I'd have to disclaim it as an in-kind contribution or face the Constitution-smoking wrath of the -smokin FTC.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Got H1N1 & didn't even have to renounce my Lord & Savior ... so much for the 'mark of the beast' - Beast Light?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who says whom is the press?

First of all I have no problem with the following statement: "Fox News is not really a news station."


One reason I believe our country has worked so well for so long is that those scrappy, self-publishing revolutionaries who had to create the very thing they just overthrew - government - thought to make sure government never has a say in who can publish what and how.

Sure, it took them a while to get around to the first amendment, but they did it. and they did it right. I love the first amendment ... hell I love just about all of them (except maybe that prohibition thing).

First the FTC, and now Obama?  You guys gotta study up on your first amendment.  It's not long:
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Read it a couple of times.  Take notes if you need to.  You swore to uphold and defend this document, so you at least ought to understand what's in it.

Despite claims from the right that the so-called Mainstream Media (MSM) has been in bed with the administration from it's early campaign days, Obama has managed the white house's relation with the press more like Nixon than any other U.S. president - from staging press conferences to spotlighting Fox News as media enemy number one.

“They’re not really a news station,” Obama advisor David Axelrod told ABC’s This Week. “It’s not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming if you watch, it’s really not news … .The bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way, and we’re not going to treat them that way. We’re going to appear on their shows. We’re going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view.”

"They're not really a news station..."  Okay, so you missed that part about not "regulating" and I'll forgive you for not seeing my earlier post where I point out how by defining what is and what isn't the "press" you are trying to regulate it.

“It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective,” Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN’s State of the Union. “More importantly, is to not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization.”

"The White House must be panicking at the thought that the “legitimate” media will only ignore these stories for so long before the lure of bigger, Foxier ratings finally proves too much," Hot Air's Allahpundit had to say about their opening salvos on the War on Fox. "So here he and Emanuel are, leaning on them not only to ignore Fox but to ignore stories that Fox covers, as if the underlying facts are somehow tainted by association (“Let’s make sure that we keep perspective on what are the most important stories”). Creepy."

As a journalist, any time a government flak uses the word "we" when addressing me, I felt pretty creepy and like maybe I should be wrapping my knuckles in tape.

The People's Cube writer Red Square posted a highly effective satire in Obama's War on Fox News Becomes a Quagmire.
While many observers still agree that the "War on Limbaugh" is a "just and necessary war," even the former supporters of the war effort are now labeling the War on Fox an "unnecessary war of choice" and claim that the cable channel had nothing to do with Obama's falling approval numbers.

But while the President drapes his unpopular policies with concern for the well-being of American journalism, more and more editors, reporters, and even unionized janitorial staff are beginning to oppose their commander-in-chief for trying to "win" an unwinnable war with their hands, instead of just using executive powers to ban all dissenting speech.

"I would gladly sacrifice any number of my fellow Americans to advance my agenda - but this is a dumb war and a rash war," Keith Olbermann of MSNBC told The People's Cube outside a congressional office he visited to demand a government crackdown on dissidents. "Why must we in the field put our reputations on the line when this Congress has the power to simply confiscate Rupert Murdoch's assets and put Beck, Hannity, and Coulter in jail?"
Just One Minute put on an ironic smile and presented a "party" button for supporters of the president to show their loyalty.
I imagine this iconic image on buttons, posters, billboards - anywhere loyal journalists want to show their commitment to continuing the Good Fight for Hope and Change:

When we see Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper proudly wearing these buttons we will know that America's opinion leaders are going to Stay The Course To Victory!

I feel safer already.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

FTC regulation 'Insanity and inanity. And danger.' - Jeff Jarvis

... And there is the greatest myth embedded within the FTC’s rules: that the government can and should sanitize the internet for our protection. The internet is the world and the world is messy and I don’t want anyone – not the government, not a newspaper editor – to clean it up for me, for I fear what will go out in the garbage: namely, my rights. - Jeff Jarvis

Howard Kurtz, in his subhead Blogging for Pay appears to miss my point completely when he writes, "At first blush, I like the new FTC rule that bloggers be required to disclose when they're being paid off by the companies they're writing about."

I hesitate to suggest that as the protected class of "press" writers you aren't directly affected by this and are free to like the ruling.

At first blush, who wouldn't. I mean who wouldn't like to see the spammers and pay-for-post rackets get slammed with an $11,000 FTC fine.

Note to FTC: How about you regulate the spammers, and those idiot telemarketers who aren't complying with the federal do not call list?

Jarvis points out more chaff in this regulation:

There are so many bad assumptions inherent in the FTC’s rules.

First, Pay Per Post et al, as I realized late to the game, are not aimed at fooling consumers. Who would read the boring, sycophantic drivel its people write? No, they are aimed at fooling Google and its algorithms. It’s human spam. And it’s Google’s job to regulate that.

Unintended consequences anyone?

And what about automated ads, such as those from Google? I have been writing nice things about my treatment at Sloan Kettering. This has caused ads to come up on my blog, via Google, from the hospital. Presuming someone clicked on them, I’ve made money from the hospital. Does that taint what I say or me if I don’t disclose the payment? That’s the level of absurdity this can reach.

Dan Gillmor, writing in Mediactive finds the whole business A Dangerous Federal Intervention in Social Media.

"Sounds good, doesn’t it. But when you read the FTC’s ruling, published today, you get the sense of a government-gone-wild travesty. Why?" he asks.

First, the new system is unworkable in practice, which is bad enough. Worse, the rules are worryingly vague and wide-ranging. Worse yet, they appear to give traditional print and broadcast journalists a pass while applying harsh regulations to bloggers (and others using conversational media of various kinds). Worst and most important, they are, in the end, an attack on markets and free speech, based on a 20th Century notion of media and advertising that simply doesn’t map to the new era.
But I do predict one outcome of this FTC action: a slew of court cases. This is a full employment act for First Amendment lawyers, who have better things to do.

Thank you!

You can't have the government deciding who is and who isn't covered by the 1st Amendment freedom of the press.

My crotchety former editor loved to point out that "that freedom applies to anybody who owns a press." But today, the Web is my press. The Internet is my sandbox and means of distribution and my audience, and I'll be damned if I'm going to comply with this regulation because the FTC said so.

Let the blogger beware - you're credibility is your own to spend or squander as you please.

Let the reader beware - buying a Buick won't give you mad golfing skills.

In the long run, the 24/7 crush of information about everything but everything will sort out the wheat from the chaff.

I love Edward Champion's (Reluctant Habits) dogged Interview with the FTC's Richard Cleland, not just because it's hardball interviewing goodness, but because you see some of the subjectivity of their own regulation.

The primary situation is where there’s a link to the sponsoring seller and the blogger,” said Cleland. And if a blogger repeatedly reviewed similar products (say, books or smartphones), then the FTC would raise an eyebrow if the blogger either held onto the product or there was any link to an advertisement.
Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.

“If a blogger received enough books,” said Cleland, “he could open up a used bookstore.”

My crotchety former editor insisted we put all freebies into a communal company yardsale and pay for them - donating the proceeds to a charity of our democratic choosing.

"I put $20 in the yardsale envelope - I have atoned for us all," he declared after the chocolate festival sent a care package of perishables that couldn't wait for the next irregularly scheduled charity sale - juice from the chocolate covered behemoth strawberry dripping down his chin.

So, Mr. Cleland, do we mail the raw fruit back to the festival organizers, or just walk downstairs and hand the whole box to that homeless guy who dressed like a pimp and hung around the Inner Harbor?

Would we have to declare the value - minus the aggregated donation to Frisky's Animal Shelter?

How do you value a bag of dirt, a single shoe, a bra or any of the other bizarro PR stunts we have been mailed over the years? (Oh, I do miss working in a newsroom!)

What if the freebie is from a PR person - vaguely connected to the product or service they are paid to hawk (a care package including single-shot servings of Skyy Vodka for a new spa)?

Is that any different from samples of a product a company is desperate for a health reporter to write about?

What if I drink the Vodka but didn't write about the spa? How do I declare that?

Who declares the inevitable items that "fall off" the yardsale table?

Mashable handicaps the rules:

Beyond straight up pay-per-post systems like Izea, it the new rules would seemingly apply to any situation where something of value changes hands between advertiser and blogger. For example, General Mills and Ford Fiesta bloggers would have to disclose the relationship they have with the advertiser.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Galvanized by the incredible lack of all conviction

Thank you, FTC, for your incredible encroachment on the rights of the citizen journalist.

I mean, have you READ the Constitution?

Did you forget certain parts when you swore your oath to "uphold and defend" this sacred founding document that has successfully run this country for 222 years?

What part of the 1st Amendment gave you trouble?

I'll post it here, in the official language, just in case you need a reference (This is an open book test):
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So. I realize some people say this freedom of the press only applies to those who own a press, but in this age, the press is free - it's called the Internet, and it's journalists are everywhere. If you go about saying - well, the Wall Street Journal is "the press" but you guys, you're just bloggers ... then you have, de facto, regulated the press.

Ed Morrissey points out several other issues with FTC's incredibly vague "regulation."

Also under FTC scrutiny is “word of mouth” marketing, which seems to imply that anyone in any context that receives some sort of material remuneration for talking about a product will come under the FTC’s jurisdiction:

These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Where does the FTC’s jurisdiction end? If I get a free tube of toothpaste in the mail and say nice things about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in a PTA meeting, do I have to disclose it as a freebie or pay the $11,000 fine the FTC imposes? What kind of disclosure can one fit into a 140-character Twitter message, anyway?

The wonderful thing about the press in this country, as opposed to Great Britain, is that we journalists have no special rights not granted every other citizen of our great country. That also means there is no credentialing body, there is no certification, government or otherwise. There is no government agency who can say who is the press and who can be regulated.

This is my strict construction, and I'm sure there are Constitutional scholars who can tell me one way or the other why you're able to pull off your little Constitution-shredding hat trick, but that's the way I read it.

And I'm calling, right now, for bloggers everywhere, not to play along. I for one, refuse. Though to be sure, this is my first blog post, and nobody's given me anything to review (though I'd be happy to review a Blackberry Tour with camera ... Hello ... Verizon?).

But if Verizon did want to send me one to review ($149 with 2-year contract) you can be sure I won't kowtow to your silly regulation.

Anybody feel like donating to my legal defense fund?

The reason I started this with a "thank you," Dear FTC, is that I've been meaning to publish a blog for a long time, but this is what pushed me over the edge.

Perhaps my next post will 'splain why I want to blog.

The Tick

"Gravity is a harsh mistress!"