Gauging TechCrunch’s Moral Fiber In One Sentence

15 07 2009

The study of microexpressions has long been fascinating to me.  If you’re really paying attention, you can learn a great deal about a person in fleeting, unguarded moments.  I think this is true about language as well.  In written and spoken conversation, passing remarks – let’s call them “microprose” – can often give a far more realistic depiction of what’s really going on than what is presented as the main course.  This is, of course, because they are less thought out – and thus less guarded – than the rest of it.

When Arrington posted his rant back in December about how TechCrunch was no longer going to honor embargoes, I stayed out of that fray.  I did that for many reasons: mostly because I think they have every right to refuse to honor embargoes, partially because I didn’t really care enough, and also because the issue was already getting a lot more treatment than it deserved.  But at the time, one little piece of it stood out to me:

“We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that.”

I remember being troubled by that.  It’s one thing to say you won’t honor embargoes and NDAs.  It’s quite another to say you will agree to them and then break them.  The former describes someone doing what they feel is best for their business in an increasingly competitive space; the latter describes someone running a serious ethical deficit.

Last night the news broke that Arrington is in receipt of several hundred confidential Twitter documents forwarded to him by a hacker who broke into some of the company’s email accounts.  I won’t get into it all here; it’s being covered ad nauseam by the usual suspects.  Last night, Arrington publicly feigned moral contemplation about an “ethical line” he didn’t want to cross, then closed the same article with “more posts coming soon.”  Bring me the vomit bag.

I would conservatively estimate that the feedback loop of mutual-Web2.0-masturbation that goes on with Arrington and the toadys immediately around him might evacuate 40% of the oxygen from the social media ecosphere.  And that’s fine; jerk each other off all you want – it’s America.  But when you decide to participate on the buy side of a market for the fruits of criminal labor, I object – and I hope your readers do, too.



Michael Phelps Should Not Be Sorry

6 02 2009

This Product Contains Cannabis [by me]

ZOMG, this product contains cannabis!


Michael Phelps has nothing to apologize for.  I understand the reality he faces, however, and why he has to say what he said.  But let’s go beyond the breathless theatrics and think about the core issue.  “He broke the law,” the pundits are saying, as if that is necessarily the end of the conversation.  Sorry, but Phelps was not wrong; our marijuana laws are wrong.  Really wrong.

Does anybody alive even remember why it was outlawed?  No, of course you don’t – but you’ll do yourself well to look over the historical – and hysterical – record.

Let’s take a few choice quotes from the era of marijuana criminalization, shall we?

“Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”
[1934 newspaper editorial in favor of criminalization]

“All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”
[Texas legislator arguing for criminalization]

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Be The Change – Don’t Be The Ass

25 01 2009

I found this new video very disturbing:

Britney Spears was [rightly] excoriated for saying “I think we should just support our President in everything he does.” I expect to hear at least as much criticism of this stupidity – which brings Oval Office hero-worshiping to a new and nauseous level.

I totally agree with the “be the change” concept – nothing new (although still very rare).

But Ashton Kutcher (not the world’s brightest sociopolitical bulb) and Demi Moore pledge to be “servants” to President Obama. What the fuck are they talking about? Kutcher is the same moron who recently referred to President Bush as our “commander”.  Is he channeling jungsturm or something?

Who are these people?

And how many of them do you think could actually sit down and engage in a substantive, nuanced conversation about the important issues they’re pledging about?  Two, three, maybe?

This new Harpo Productions video feels right out of a 1930s propaganda machine. I truly sympathize with President Obama – a human facing inhuman expectations. He will have a very hard time living up to the high-style, breathless absurdity of fluff like this.

Hey idiots: pledge loyalty to ideals, or goals, or foundational principles that stir your heart and soul. Respect others, hope for the best for them, empower them, agree and disagree with them, but don’t worship them.  Pledging to be a “servant” to a single person is called a cult.

Hollywood needs political cluefulness, not a new branch of Scientology.

Here’s my pledge: I pledge to fight against blind, unquestioning loyalty of any kind. It’s what got us into the mess we’re in – and it’s certainly not going to get us out.



Turkey Torture

19 11 2008

How about for Thanksgiving, we give thanks that we’re not being tortured to death?



Breadlines and Battlecries

30 09 2008

Scoble Blames You

Valleywag picked up a FriendFeed discussion between a few of us yesterday regarding the bailout bill within which Scoble blames “people like [me]” for the coming “breadlines”.  It rings a little hollow considering where I’ve been on all this and where he’s been (i.e. nowhere), but it brings a much more important issue to the fore.

To the thread in particular, I realize how acerbic my tone can be when discussing such things and try to be cognizant of that every time I write.  Sometimes my frustration – the result of a bit too much anguish about our national slumber – gets the best of me.  But Americans sat mostly silent as international and domestic crimes were perpetrated in their names and their economy was wrecked – choosing to glide along as if they had far more important things to think about.

Robert is right to describe the financial mess as the result of our collective idiocy.  The bill for one or two generations of stupidity has now come due and our remaining credit cards have been declined.  And for the moment, the social media characters participating in the specific tendril of web masturbation that is Robert’s “what to do” post have come up substantially empty.  So, I’ll see what I can come up with.

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From Iraq to our Pocketbooks

21 09 2008

I can’t help but notice some chilling similarities between the Bush Administration’s approach on the financial crisis and the Iraqi War Resolution.  I literally sat awake until almost 5:00 this morning fretting about this.
Let’s look at a few of them:

  • We were told that calamity was imminent, and a failure to act and do exactly what Bush asked of us would result in a disaster;
  • Congress was strongarmed into doing something big and something fast, without time for proper analysis;
  • We were conned into spending hundreds of billions of our hard-earned dollars (much for the benefit of corporate malfeasants) – only to take a giant step backward;
  • We handed legal immunity and absolute control to the very authorities who demanded the actions;
  • We were lied to every step of the way.

And eventually the majority came around to see it as a colossal blunder.  So, I think Congress would serve itself and the People well if it took a much more measured approach to this, or even refused the bailout.  I know, I’m asking for cajones of steel here, but I can dream.

If this goes through, it will be the swindle of the century.

I’ll close with a few words from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That is fascism; ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

How did we get here?  Is it too late to stop it?



Andrew Bacevich on the American Empire

22 08 2008

Every American should sit through (and actually digest) this interview in its entirety [Part 1] | [Part 2].  Whether you watch or listen, please take the time to do so with open ears and an open mind.  It is probably the most powerful and sobering assessment of the American condition I have heard in years.


Bacevich’s 2007 op ed in the Washington Post provides some sad but interesting background.  His new book is here.



The State Murder of Peter McWilliams

17 08 2008

Growing up, there was a book that first got me excited about computers.  I’d never really forgotten it, but over the years it had faded deep into memory.  And fond memories they were – the book was whimsical, full of strange artwork and far-out metaphors.  It really helped me – a middle-school kid in the middle of nowhere trying desperately to think big – to see outside my small world and into a universe of infinite technological possibility.  I was probably 12 or 13, just starting to tinker with TRS-80s and early Apples and really having my mind opened up by these strange little boxes.

A few months ago – for some reason – that book popped back into my mind.  Who was that guyWhat was that book?  And off I went to figure it out.

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FriendFeed, Blogging, and Crossing the Streams

15 08 2008

I’ve often whined in these pages about various modalities I enjoy online and, also, my frustrations with some of them.  A couple of years ago, right after the great big anorexia brouhaha of 2006, I remarked that folks seemed to be starving for conversation, and online tools hadn’t matured to the point where it could happen very well.

What I really love about blogging – other than getting my opinion out there and pissing people off – is curating.  I love finding cool, random things that inspire or touch me in some way and sharing them with all of you.  My hope is that you see, read, or feel things you would not have otherwise.

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Scoble’s No Internet Anonymity Rule

19 07 2008

Robert Scoble suggested today that if he could make one rule about the Internet, it would be “no anonymity.”  I like Robert but I don’t like his idea.

Laura Fitton asked: “What one ‘rule’ would you make about the Internet?”, and in the thread that resulted, Robert replied that he’d eliminate anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »