aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Following civil rights leader Coretta Scott King’s January 7 funeral, numerous media figures highlighted the purportedly “partisan” nature of the event, in some cases describing it as a ”Democratic pep rally,” a “Bush bashathon” and a ”Democratic convention.” The controversy stems primarily from tributes delivered by civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, which included a reference to prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and what many interpreted as Carter’s reference to President Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. But many of those same media figures accusing speakers of politicizing the King funeral did not show the same aversion to the politicization of the 2004 death of a figure of a different political stripe: former President Ronald Reagan. Nor did they apparently think it worth noting that the Reagan funeral included no Democratic speakers, but a long roster of Republicans, including President Bush, who was running for re-election and was reportedly trying to attach himself to the Reagan legacy. READ ON.
World of Warcraft: An apology for Sara
You may recall that a World of Warcraft player received an e-mail citation for “Harassment - Sexual Orientation” after posting that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game. Blizzard has, after what now looks like some initial confusion, issued an apology. From In Newsweekly:
Blizzard Entertainment, makers of the game “World of Warcraft,” after reviewing the incident where a player named Sara Andrews was reprimanded for using the term “GLBT friendly” in the game has reversed their decision and sent a letter of apology to Andrews. [...]
Blizzard has stated that the original incident with Andrews never should have happened and that they will be reviewing policies and procedures and having “sensitivity training” with their 1,000 GMs on staff in North America, Europe, and Korea in the hopes that something like this doesn’t happen again.
The apology letter to Sara Andrews from Blizzard in its entirety:
I’m Thor Biafore, head of Blizzard customer service worldwide. I’d like to thank you for bringing your recent concerns to our attention, and to extend our apologies for any inconvenience this has caused you or your guild. The action that was taken by our customer service representative was an unfortunate interpretation of our current policies, which are currently under review. This was ultimately escalated to my attention, and after reviewing all the details, I have had the warning removed from your account.
Please accept our apologies for the way our staff characterized your conduct, and rest assured that your account will not be penalized in any way for this occurrence. I’d be happy to discuss this with you further, so please feel free to contact me directly at ***.***.****.
Senior Manager of Global Customer Service
In Newsweekly posted the carefully worded apology on the same day that a group of authors and scholars released an open letter to Blizzard Entertainment calling on the company to turn their “privately communicated” assurance into “a formal announcement that they were wrong:”
Beyond this, we also suggest that Blizzard investigate ways of making WoW more inclusive for GLBT guilds and players. WoW is a remarkable place, and we believe that it points to the future of networked communities and communications. Blizzard is supportive of gay players and guilds, and has the difficult job of balancing the interests and playstyles of millions of players. Usually it does an excellent job of this. But its decision in this case was wrong, and as a leader in the development of virtual worlds it should make a public statement to this effect.
It looks like the company is trying to do exactly that.
Capitol Hill Wiki exploits in the WaPo
Growing attention for the latest Wikipedia scandal:
Recent reports about editorial antics taking place on the site—selective erasures of past faux pas, outright insults and dozens of other politically motivated revisions—prompted Wikipedia to block temporarily some addresses on Capitol Hill from being able to edit entries.
At the same time, Wikinews, the affiliated news site about Wikipedia, launched an investigation into changes from Senate offices. Wayne Saewyc, a volunteer Wikinews editor, designed a computer program to match up more than 65,000 possible Internet addresses to offending changes, and it traced them back to various lawmakers’ offices. (A similar gumshoe tactic could not be used on House offices, because those computers share an Internet address, according to Wikipedia and Wikinews).
This crime-scene-style investigation points to staff members of at least five offices: Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
In all cases the edits removed factually accurate but unflattering descriptions of the lawmakers, and in many cases they added some beautifying language describing awards or glorifying legislative records.
Change in China
Web specialists are far more confident that the government will fail in its efforts to reverse a trend toward increasingly free expression that has been reshaping this society with ever more powerful effects for more than two decades.
Last year, China ranked 159th out of 167 countries in a survey of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based international rights group, said. But rankings like this do not reflect the rapid change afoot here, more and more of which is escaping the government’s control. [...]
Microsoft alone carries an estimated 3.3 million blogs in China. Add to that the estimated 10 million blogs on other Internet services, and it becomes clear what a censor’s nightmare China has become. What is more, not a single blog existed in China a little more than three years ago, and thousands upon thousands are being born every day - some run by people whose previous blogs had been banned and merely change their name or switch Internet providers. New technologies, like podcasts, are making things even harder to control.
One of the reasons people pay Verizon, Bell South, and AT&T a monthly fee is so they can use Google.
Google is a value added service that runs on the carrier’s networks. It ADDS VALUE to their networks. Without it, the carriers would have a LESS VALUABLE service. And yet they want Google to pay them for improving their service. This is nuts.
Let’s talk about bit torrent. It sucks up a bunch of bandwidth on the carriers networks. But it sucks up less than video streaming. It’s a more efficient service than what came before it. The carriers should be happy that Bit Torrent showed up. It makes consuming video more popular. It’s going to drive demand for more bandwidth, which at the end of the day is what the carriers sell.
Let’s talk about Skype. It’s a fantastic service. It is more efficient than VOIP services that don’t run on P2P networks. And it is ten times easier and better to use than the crappy plain old telephone service (POTS) that still generates most of the revenues for these carriers. Skype tells me if the person I want to talk to is available BEFORE I make the call. And it lets me IM with the person if they are on another call. Why didn’t the carriers invent this service? Because they were getting fat and happy by charging exorbitant fees for bad services.
If the government lets the carriers get away with this greedy move, I will discontinue Internet service from any carrier who seeks to get paid by the value added services. And I will encourage everyone else I know to do the same.
[D]ata mining is just a technology, neither inherently good nor bad. It’s the details that matter:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What information gets sucked into the system? Public information is fine; personal information that’s supposed to be private isn’t.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ How is the information used? Data mining has a high error rate, which means that it should be used only to produce leads that are followed up by professionals. No one should ever be placed on a watchlist or a no-fly list based solely on what the system spits out.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Does it work? Or, as Hirsh suggests, do these systems become billion-dollar black holes of unworkable technology?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What kind of oversight is there? Security professionals are just doing their jobs when they create data mining systems, but the potential for abuse is high even if they think they’re following the rules. Congress needs to be intimately involved.
This is a hot topic. I expect to see it crop up a lot in the news this year.
Here’s Michael Hirsh in Newsweek, Wanted: Competent Big Brothers.