Kuhl (and the D&C Blog) Frontpage the HuffPo

Well, as Rottenchester pointed out in RT comments recently, it’s amazing what can happen when you don’t pay attention to what you’re writing in blogs. The Tobin/Lawrence piece in the D&C blogs seems to have made it all the way to the HuffPo:

GOP Congressman “Thought About Packing” Firearm To Fend Off War Protesters – Politics on The Huffington Post

Conservative Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY) has been under intense pressure for months over his continued support for President Bush’s war policy. In an interview yesterday with the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Kuhl said he has “thought about packing” firearms to fend off protesters

Exile has been covering this whole brew-haha for the entirety, and seems to think that this is good news for the D&C. Well, it may sell papers, as he points out, but this still doesn’t look good for their editorial staff. There’s a difference between intentionally reporting salient facts and simply saying something inadvertently illuminating. The more so when it starts getting picked up by the main stream, and believe me, the HuffPo is probably only the tip of the iceberg:

Pistol-gate a positive development for the D&C || rochesterturning.com: turning the tide upstate

You know how the public thinks of these meetings between candidates between editorial boards and politicians: as a bunch of old men blowing smoke up each others’ behinds while knocking back a few highballs. I’m not saying that’s accurate, but that’s the perception.But now, with the citizen members of the board and the power of the blogosphere, you’ve got an exciting new element. Now, when the politician busts out some crazy talk about packing heat around the office, instead of it getting chuckled away amidst back slaps, it ends up on a blog where people like us pick it up and milk it for a seemingly endless series of posts.

Right, but guys slapping each other on the back in between high-balls is precisely what happened here. The reporters let something slip that probably was taken in confidence. Exile knows as well as anybody what confidence means and why you might not want to break it if you’re interested in maintaining relationships with politicians. This article does exactly that, and seemingly entirely unintentionally. As much as the outcome might be good for Progressive candidates and as much as this does make for interesting theatre, I think Exile’s take is a bit over-generous. Sorry, dude.

I have my problems with the chumminess of reporters and politicians, same as just about every other thinking person these days, but this is a very bad social development for both of these reporters. It is not a question of breaking a story. It is not a changing of the rules at all. Far from being the rebel journalists, breaking rules for the good of the people, this is a case of someone farting at the promenade.

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Kuhl (and the D&C Blog) Frontpage the HuffPo

Well, as Rottenchester pointed out in RT comments recently, it’s amazing what can happen when you don’t pay attention to what you’re writing in blogs. The Tobin/Lawrence piece in the D&C blogs seems to have made it all the way to the HuffPo:

GOP Congressman “Thought About Packing” Firearm To Fend Off War Protesters – Politics on The Huffington Post

Conservative Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY) has been under intense pressure for months over his continued support for President Bush’s war policy. In an interview yesterday with the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Kuhl said he has “thought about packing” firearms to fend off protesters

Exile has been covering this whole brew-haha for the entirety, and seems to think that this is good news for the D&C. Well, it may sell papers, as he points out, but this still doesn’t look good for their editorial staff. There’s a difference between intentionally reporting salient facts and simply saying something inadvertently illuminating. The more so when it starts getting picked up by the main stream, and believe me, the HuffPo is probably only the tip of the iceberg:

Pistol-gate a positive development for the D&C || rochesterturning.com: turning the tide upstate

You know how the public thinks of these meetings between candidates between editorial boards and politicians: as a bunch of old men blowing smoke up each others’ behinds while knocking back a few highballs. I’m not saying that’s accurate, but that’s the perception.But now, with the citizen members of the board and the power of the blogosphere, you’ve got an exciting new element. Now, when the politician busts out some crazy talk about packing heat around the office, instead of it getting chuckled away amidst back slaps, it ends up on a blog where people like us pick it up and milk it for a seemingly endless series of posts.

Right, but guys slapping each other on the back in between high-balls is precisely what happened here. The reporters let something slip that probably was taken in confidence. Exile knows as well as anybody what confidence means and why you might not want to break it if you’re interested in maintaining relationships with politicians. This article does exactly that, and seemingly entirely unintentionally. As much as the outcome might be good for Progressive candidates and as much as this does make for interesting theatre, I think Exile’s take is a bit over-generous. Sorry, dude.

I have my problems with the chumminess of reporters and politicians, same as just about every other thinking person these days, but this is a very bad social development for both of these reporters. It is not a question of breaking a story. It is not a changing of the rules at all. Far from being the rebel journalists, breaking rules for the good of the people, this is a case of someone farting at the promenade.

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DFE on WHAM13 Tonight!

UPDATE: Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the airing of the piece, as it turned out to be aired at 5pm instead of 6pm. I guess that makes me the “Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Blogger.” They don’t have the video posted, at least not yet, but they do have the print article for your edification:

Many Constituents Disappointed with County Dems – 13WHAM.com

Local bloggers on the political left wonder about Democrats’ decision not to run against the Brooks’ political machine.

Kyle Clark of WHAM13 got in touch with me, looking for reaction to the Democrat’s failure to post a candidate for Monroe County Executive. I went out at lunch time and did a quick ten minute interview with him which I presume will be appearing on the 6 o’clock news tonight. Be sure to watch me look like an idiot!

Actually, I don’t think I did all that bad. He’d asked what I thought of the failure to produce a Democratic challenger. I responded that I don’t think it’s good for local democracy not to have an opponent from the Democratic Party, that I’m disappointed not to see a Democratic voice for change in the race, and that as a practical matter, I think it’s an electoral mistake to leave Maggie’s money out there to challenge the Legislative races the Dems are so confident in taking.

I also mentioned that the Dems should probably at least endorse Andrew Stainton and let him run on the Democratic slate. BTW, RochesterTurning.com has a great interview with Stainton posted today.

Speaking of RT, Kyle asked about the local blogging community. I told him that I certainly cannot do what I do without all the other contributors to the community, and I’m sure others feel the same way. He asked about other blogs, both Progressive and Conservative. I mentioned RT, WPB, Fighting 29th and Mustard Street as good resources. Here’s hoping that didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. Sorry to anyone who didn’t get a mention, but I didn’t expect the question.

Well, we shall see how it all comes out around 6:30pm at the latest. . . .

CNN: I Want An Apology, Too.

I was fortunate enough to have been watching CNN at one of the few times that it was worth watching. If you’d have said yesterday afternoon that such a thing would happen during Wolf Blitzer’s segment, I’d have laughed in your face.

But lo! It came to pass that on this day, Michael Moore finally shoved the crap CNN has been dishing out straight into their smug, ill-informed faces. Moments before, I sat in my couch watching Sanjay Gupta’s pathetic hit-job report, practically jumping out of my skin at the misinformation. Fortunately, Moore didn’t back down, but got pissed instead. Moore’s web group has since refuted many of the claims, some of which didn’t even properly cite his movie, on his website.

I think that this may be sort of a “Katrina Moment” for both the health care industry and for CNN. People are waking up to the fact – not that everyone else has a better health care system, but that America has an intentionally abusive system. We are noticing that, contrary to the claims of the Reagan Administration, we do not have the world’s #1 health care system. That Cuba is 39th and we’re 37th doesn’t alert us to the fact that we’re better than Cuba, it alerts us to the fact that we’re worse than 36 other countries.

For god’s sake, we’ve been told for fifty years that Communism sucks, and now we’re being told that we should be proud of the fact that we’re two states ahead of the Cuban health care system?!?!?!?!? And we’re being told that not by Glaxo Smith-Klein, not by Pfizer, not by our HMO. We’re being told these things by CNN.

So, watch the video and demand an apology from CNN. I’ll include my letter to CNN after the flip below:

SiCKO Leaked: News Media Apoplectic

Editor’s Note:  I regret to inform you that am unable at the present time to disguise my snarkiness over this story.  My sincerest apologies to all of you who are looking for higher-minded discourse, but this is just fucking stupid and irritating, especially since I can count on seeing this non-story all over my local news, network news and CNN.  For those of you who cannot deal with anger, I suggest you look elsewhere.  For the rest, you might want to employ some sort of splash guard before continuing on, lest you get a bit of vitriol on you. . .

Nothing like watching the media go nuts over a story.  Nothing like watching the media prove itself to be the tool of corporate interests.  Yeah, I love that.

To whit, the latest scandal in the SiCKO saga: the film (clutch the pearls!) has been leaked on them Innernets:

Advertising Age – Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ Leaked Onto Web

If the breach is as wide as it appears — and this reporter downloaded a copy and watched it late Thursday night with ease — Moore, and his distributor, The Weinstein Company, have a every film maker’s worst marketing nightmare on their hands — how to persuade people to go to the theater to see a show that’s available free on the Internet. (Officials at the Weinstein Company were unavailable for comment late Thursday evening.)

Ooh!  Well, that your dumb ass was able to download the movie is, in fact, proof of. . .  something.  Maybe that you bribed your kid into showing you how (or just doing it for you, which is the more likely option).  Fucking Tool.

Every single, solitary movie that has been pre-released on DVDs to advertisers and marketers has been cracked and leaked since there have been commercially-available DVD burners.  How many movies would that be?  All of them.  Guess what?  There is positively no definable evidence whatsoever that leaked movies have prevented even one person from going to the movies.  Certainly, the market for over-priced movies and rape-room prices on popcorn has gone no where.

And in a few weeks, when the movie has positively ablated all previous records for documentary box-office takings including his own – when it’s painfully obvious the media has once again been proven entirely wrong – you’ll see the media come back with, “Whoa!  That was a close one for Micheal Moore!  Incredible that he could make any money at all after that!!”

Don’t believe the hype: they’re trying to pour cold water on the movie by letting everyone know that you can get it for free.  They’re making it seem like a big deal, when in actual fact, the biggest deal is that the media is advertising for bootleggers!  All in the name of higher profits for Big Pharma.  The media is complicit in encouraging bootlegging and stealing the profits of one business because they’re under the thumb of another.

Here’s a joke for you:

Anyone who would know how to get that movie already has, and would doubtless have had it with our without the media’s help.  The rest will still have to pay.  I bet you most who have it for free go see it in the theaters, too.  Nothing’s changed.

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The Onion and The City: Switched at Birth?

Hey, just a stupid observation:

I’m reading The Onion for the first time in a few years and I can’t help but notice how much it looks like City Newspaper’s new website.  I mean, like, almost exactly the same.  Slightly different colors, an additional navigation bar at the top, but that’s about it.

Weird.

Democracy Now! Comes to Rochester

The folks at Metro Justice have scored a victory for independent news in Rochester.  After a long fight, they’ve finally gotten Democracy Now on the air on 950AM, the same channel as Air America.  That’s every weeknight between the hours of 8 and 9pm.

They’re holding a rally to celebrate the victory and also to recognize WROC General Manager Mike Doyle for his leadership in listening to the concerns of the citizens of Rochester.  It’s Monday, June 11th at noon, though the invitation I got doesn’t mention where.  Go check it out if you don’t have to work.

China Joins Russia in the Nuclear Footsie

The president is nearing the end of his term and the games are beginning in earnest already.  Russia’s Vladimir Putin is calling the missile defense system the U.S. government is planning on setting up in Eastern Europe a direct threat to Russia’s security.  He has made it clear that Russia plans to find retaliatory measures should the U.S. government not back down, including aiming missiles at European targets.

But now, just to add to the fun, China has decided to get into the act.  Sino-Russian relations have been improving over the last few years and it seems China is eager to help the Russians in their most recent dangerous game:

China warns US may set off arms race

China joined Russia on Tuesday in criticizing a US plan to build a missile defense system in Europe, saying the system could set off an arms race.
. . .
“China believes that the impact of a missile defense system on strategic defense and stability is not conducive to mutual trust of major nations and regional security,” she said. “It may also give rise to a proliferation problem.”

Just a couple of quick notes on the situation, in no particular order, below the fold. . .   

Shortsightedness at the Democrat and Chronicle

Well, it’s trackbacks all around in the Rochester blogging scene today. . .

Sayhar at RT picked up on my point in an earlier post about the need for permalinking and providing a repository of information on the web.  Looking at that and a recent City Newspaper article, he turns in some good analysis of his own:

rochesterturning.com: turning the tide upstate

This is a big problem. You’d think that with the rise of the net, transcripts of public meetings and a more open government would make it easier for reporters to do their traditional jobs. Oh wait. The County Government is the very antithesis of open government.

That doesn’t excuse our local media. If you want to have a hyper-local focus, fine. But part of local reporting is local politics. Or is a local spelling bee more important than undemocratic, unanimously opposed corporate handouts?

Most of what this is, both his points, my point and the City News analysis, boils down to typically flat-footed responses to the new medium of the Internet.  I’m not at all convinced that paper news is going away any time soon, though the print media companies seem to have come to that conclusion all by themselves.  Rather, I think that all-around laziness coupled with half-assed attempts at modernization, served over a bed of fatalism leads many news outlets to where they now find themselves. This all might be perhaps a good subject for a wider article, but for now, let me make a few basic points:  

The Litvinenko Spy-Poisoning Saga Continues

Like a story straight out of the pages of a Dostoevsky’s novel, Russian intrigues never really end; they only stay quiet long enough to increase the drama. I’ve been following this story since it’s most recent surfacing, the climatic moment of a mostly-unwritten novel where former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko dies in his British hotel room of Polonium 232 poisoning.

Now, in what seems like a belated and obvious statement, the UK government has signaled that the Litvinenko case is a legal matter. This from the overly-animated and annoying Forbes Magazine webpage. Not to be outdone, CNN picks up on the story:

Ex-KGB spy: UK tried to recruit me – CNN.com

“Britain is making me a scapegoat,” a confident and combative Lugovoi, himself a former KGB agent, told a packed news conference in Moscow Thursday, which was televised live on state-owned television.Lugovoi said he did not know for sure who killed Litvinenko with radioactive polonium in London last November but said there were three possible suspects: British intelligence, the mafia and Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire tycoon who fled Russia for London after falling out with President Vladimir Putin.

“The third theory looks the most likely to me. I am talking about Berezovsky, who is well known as an outstanding master of political intrigues,” Lugovoi said.

Now, this may seem strange to you, but CNN is making a big deal out of it’s own angle on the story for the sake of having any unique angle at all, and that angle is entirely stupid. More upon commencement of flippage. Flip.

In Defense of Your Average “MILF”

Soldiers in the first World War coined an acronym, FUBAR, which means “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.” In Vietnam, the acronym SNAFU was entered into the lexicon, which means “Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.” In a world where Janet Jackson’s nipple can cause lawsuits and Congressional hearings, you would surely have expected these words to lie outside the bounds of polite conversation, but it is not so.

In fact, these two acronyms – entangled as they are with the word “fuck” – have become so much a part of our vocabulary that Washington reporters can’t wait to use the words, uncapitalized, in the middle of serious articles. “Casting Color Snafu Has Parents Seeing Red,” for example. That is despite the fact that these two acronyms are certainly known and understood for their definitions by a goodly number of people in positions of responsibility.

But the newest colloquial acronym which features the dreaded F* Bomb has met with stern resistance and outright, pearl-clutching shock and horror. Citizens reportedly representing women express utter disgust as this vile new word-mashup spreads its foul influence across the Internet. That new acronym is MILF, which means “Mother I‘d Love to Fuck.”

And the fight has reached a fevered pitch for the “Milf Deniers,” or whatever you’d like to call them. Tori Amos recently released her newest album, entitled The American Doll Posse, which includes a track called Big Wheel, that also uses the dreaded “M* Word,” or “M* Acronym,” which ever phrase suits your fancy. Media outlets of all stripes, fearing the repercussions, have vehemently resisted the expression of this word at any time of day or night, and have redoubled their efforts since the release of this repugnant new song. The Tori song is edited on the radio, edited on MTV, and NBC has gone so far as to make her change the whole song for the David Letterman show. I’m sure Dave was depressed by that: Dave *loves* Tori.

But what is it about this new word which makes it so positively verboten? If “snafu” is OK at a White House press conference, why is “milf” not OK for the David Letterman Show, of all things? I’ll explain why I think it is not at all wrong, and actually positive, after the flip. Flip.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: an Open Letter to Close Comments

To the Democrat and Chronicle and it’s readership:

I am now and have always been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the open community that is the Internet. I firmly believe in the democratic nature of this new frontier, fully appreciating the voice that it has allowed me where such opportunities did not previously exist. Blogging, with it’s easy publication and instant reader response, is a big part of democratizing information.

In an effort to appeal to this new sense of democratic information flow – and also to stem what many regard as a limitless loss of revenue and Internet readership – many traditional paper publications including the D&C have made moves to modernize their webspace. Providing RSS feeds has been a big move in the right direction toward reaching an increasingly decentralized audience. Most recently, the Democrat and Chronicle has added commenting to it’s site functionality, seeking to approximate the rapid-response nature of blogs. The D&C has, like many local papers, adopted the “Story Chat” platform.

That the D&C and others have tried to address the concerns and needs of their audience is a fact deserving of nothing less than respect and gratitude. But sadly the efforts to allow commenting have been – like many modernization efforts at the D&C – clumsy and delinquent, leading to an environment of unrestrained, anarchic abuse and vitriol on the D&C’s website. As one of the largest websites and most visible representations of Rochester, this is a condition that all Rochestarians aught to be alarmed by and ashamed of.

There can be no doubt, nor will I pretend any difference, that a large percentage of the commenters on the D&C are of Conservative mindset and a very small percentage are Liberal/Progressive. Where legitimate socio-political opinions and viewpoints are presented, it is a rare thing when I agree. However, my concern is neither the Liberal nor the Conservative percentage of the population. It is another, rapidly multiplying, segment of the commenters that I hold in mind; one which, as can be clearlydemonstrated, cannot bear rational discussion and have no other agenda but to use the comments sections to spill vitriolic bilge.

I cannot know the minds of the D&C commenting community. It would be unfair and wrong to lump the lot of them in with the “troll set” that has gotten so vociferous of late. Neither will I presume to psychoanalyze anyone or give voice to any presumed notion of their motives. Rather, it is to the Democrat and Chronicle itself that this letter is addressed. The editorial staff of the Democrat and Chronicle needs to take immediate action for the sake of it’s own reputation as well as that of Rochester, generally, and close the comments section, probably permanently.

Everything in Moderation

All of us in the blogging community welcome comments and engaged readers to our blogs. However, we are equally aware that the freedom to voice one’s opinion and have commenters reply back also bears with it the responsibility to moderate those comments when they become abusive. Moderation does not always need to be deleting comments or banning users: often, a respectful reply that discourages hateful retorts will suffice. Such a “cooling pan” of moderation can even help redirect potential “flame” users (hey, we’ve all had our moments) towards a more civil and rational discussion of a type that makes commenting worthwhile.

The Democrat and Chronicle has seen fit to take none of these options. Rather, they have put this “Story Chat” business in place and walked away. With no hands on the wheel, the commenting section has quickly devolved – in less than six months – into a warren for the hate-filled commentary that often goes so far off the deep end that it barely makes grammatical sense.

The editorial staff of the D&C needs to be made aware that, in the absence of moderation, all things found on their website are implicitly endorsed by the company and are a direct reflection upon them. That stands both legally and in the court of public opinion. Moreover, when Rochester news makes it’s way into Google news searches, the comments at the bottom are seen by people the world over and reflect negatively on our entire community.

Do not mistake my objection for prudishness, feigned or otherwise. You can find strong language many places on the Internet, including here. I make no apologies for speaking my mind, nor for offering a place where others are equally welcome. Meanwhile, to be sure, you’ll have no problem finding crudeness all over the Internet — and hate speech is hardly a challenge germane only to the D&C readership. But even private blogs run by novices rarely allow commenting to go so far as to refer to a dead woman’s children as “genetic material,” or openly celebrate the death of a complete stranger. These are things well beyond the pale, and the D&C has an obligation to answer for their inclusion.

The really unfortunate reality is that, like a bar that gets reopened with a different name, changing policies at the D&C are unlikely to significantly alter the clientèle. Perhaps I am mistaken, and indeed I am beginning to see more and more people objecting to the abuse publicly on the comments. I would like to think that I am wrong, for the sake of discourse in Rochester, but I doubt it.

It is reasonable to assume that the trolls that have found a home there will most likely stay for a while, continually changing usernames when they get banned and harrying the efforts to curtail them until the ultimate decision is to turn off the comments permanently. Any much-needed attempt to limit the abusive nature of the comments will require much more effort, time and expense of human resources than it might otherwise have, had the D&C consulted with knowledgeable professionals prior to making this unnecessarily sloppy leap into the Brave New World of blogging and commenting.

Whatever you’re choice, Democrat and Chronicle, I do very much hope that you have the good sense and manners to tell us exactly what you plan to do. Please offer your readership some explanation of how we got to where we are, apologize for what I’m sure is merely an oversight, and help us to move on.

Thank you.

(readers of this post, please note: I’m always up for comments, of course. But this one is really important, I think, so if you agree with the sentiments here, add your comment below so people can see it)