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!"