December 31, 2009

For the Damned Ignorant Pedants

There are some out there who don't believe that this is the end of a decade. The technical term for these people is "wrong." Not to be pedantic about it, but they are completely, totally, and unequivocally wrong.

For these poor deluded fools who mistakenly cling to the notion that we start counting at "1", I will point out that you weren't one year old until a year after you were born. We measure our very lives starting with "0!" And that kind of drives a stake through the argument that "no one starts counting at zero." Sorry 'genius,' but it seems that everyone actually does exactly that.

Thus, the 80's began in 1980, don't let anyone tell you different.

And if these poor misguided idiots think they can change that, I invite them to start by telling Granny she's really a year older than she's been saying. We'll send flowers.

Happy "Lead Rain" Day!

It's been ten years since the world didn't come crashing to a halt because the computer in your car thought it was 1900.  No, the machinery of civilization didn't even shudder, but one thing remains constant; the nimrods in South Florida who forgo fireworks in favor of firearms fired into the sky. Yessiree, nothing says "Happy New Year" like a bullet in the head.
In 2008, celebratory gunshots took the life of 11-year-old Joshua Arroliga. The Opa-locka boy was playing hide-and-seek next to a discarded sofa at his apartment building when one of his neighbors emptied a 9mm Glock's magazine into the furniture -- not realizing Joshua was hiding behind it.  - Miami Herald, 12/31/2009
Just remember, the Right to Bear Arms isn't a license to be stupid.  If you insist on using your firearm to celebrate New Year's - or anything else - make sure it's pointed at something impenetrable, like your own skull.

December 20, 2009


An interesting list of stories appeared on my RSS feed from the Sun-Sentinel.

My brain is telling me that a comedian who is a UM alumni got tired and cranky, and shot the man who was searching for lost boaters, who apparently were disposed of in a gruesome manner.

Silly brain!

Miami Herald; Everything but the Facts.

First, the Herald incorrectly reports about a show at the Broward Center. That's bad enough. The lack of research conducted by reporter Jose Pagliery was quickly pointed out by Herald readers, who left corrections - and a link to an accurate story - in the comments section.

But if that wasn't enough, the Herald re-posted the exact same story the very next day verbatim, all errors intact.

Pagliery reported that no performances were scheduled in the Broward Center's Amaturo Theatre, although Christine Dolen wrote about the show - and comedian Steve Solomon - in great detail on her Herald Blog "The Drama Queen." A Google search using the keywords AMATURO "DECEMBER 19" returned 400 hits identifying the performance and its star. It's also listed on the South Florida Theatre Scene.

Pagliery didn't even get the circumstances of the emergency right - that was left to the Sun-Sentinel and the South Florida Theatre Scene. At least the Palm Beach Post story was updated to include the performers name, as gleaned from the Sun-Sentinel.

Anyone still curious about why newspaper sales are plummeting?

December 13, 2009

All, or Nothing At All.

Delray Beach has had a tradition of decorating Old School Square for the holidays, a display of lights, a Christmas Tree, and a Menorah.  But this year, it was missing the menorah that stood for the faith of its Jewish citizens.

According the the Palm Beach Post, Delray city commissioner Adam Frankel noticed it, and contacted City Manager David Harden. The response isn't what he expected:
Harden wrote that a temple had sponsored a menorah in past years but had not contacted the city this year. He also attached a 2006 legal opinion from a city attorney. And Harden added that the city's tree-only display "has kept us out of any litigation on the matter and has avoided Old School Square having to allow things on their grounds they would prefer not to have there."
You see, David Harden had read a Supreme Court decision that ruled that once a city puts up a religious display is legally obligated to let other religious symbols up, such as the Ku Klux Klan erecting a cross.
Having only a secular display, such as the tree, puts the city at less risk, Harden maintained.

"I have no personal objection to menorahs whatsoever," he said. "But Christmas displays have been the subject of litigation, and the city needs to be cautious about how it handles the issue."
To muddy up the situation, the Palm Beach Post talked to a lawyer who cited a Supreme Court decision, but the Post didn't follow up and read the actual decision:
One legal expert said Delray Beach can legally have a Christmas tree without a menorah. That's because the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that a Christmas tree is not a religious symbol, said David Barkey, Miami-based attorney for the Anti-Defamation League.
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of the County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, that putting up a Nativity was a violation because of the specific manner it was displayed:
 ...the creche sits on the Grand Staircase, the "main" and "most beautiful part" of the building that is the seat of county government. No viewer could reasonably think that it occupies this location without the support and approval of the government.

Thus, by permitting the display of the creche in this particular physical setting, the county sends an unmistakable message that it supports and promotes the Christian praise to God that is the creche's religious message... The Establishment Clause does not limit only the religious content of the government's own communications. It also prohibits the government's support and promotion of religious communications by religious organizations.
As for Christmas Trees, while it is correct that the the court decided that a Christmas tree "does not endorse a specific Christian belief,"  the same decision also ruled that the menorah display alongside of it was acceptable:
The Christmas tree alone in the Pittsburgh location does not endorse Christian belief; and, on the facts before us, the addition of the menorah "cannot fairly be understood to" result in the simultaneous endorsement of Christian and Jewish faiths. On the contrary, for purposes of the Establishment Clause, the city's overall display must be understood as conveying the city's secular recognition of different traditions for celebrating the winter-holiday season.
The court did not adequately address the issue of how a Christmas Tree, which was created expressly to celebrate Christianity, could at the same time be said not to endorse the religion which created it.  The tree is intrinsically Christian, even the NAME binds it to Christianity.  It's a "CHRIST'S MASS tree", not a "secular tradition of wanton consumerism tree". The decision is full of weaselly phrases and half-considered arguments; it is not one of the Court's better moments, although not as bad as Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Is Harden correct in his belief that allowing two religious displays might invite other religions to demand decorations in Old School Square?  Yes.  But while he uses the worst case scenario - a racist hate-group - he ignores the opportunity for the community to unite in recognition that we all hold the winter season to be a time of celebration.  Personally, I think that outweighs the possibility that a hate group might have to be allowed to participate, too.

But if one flatly rejects the notion that Christmas Trees somehow are not a symbol of Christian faith, then Harden's real options is either to allow everything, and respect the numerous faiths and practices that comprise our melting-pot nation, or to allow nothing at all.

I say 'go for the dazzle.'

December 12, 2009

FPL Executives are F***ing Stupid

The Miami Herald story makes it pretty clear; the greedy sleazebags that run FPL are too stupid to realize that we actually fully understand why they're seeking a rate hike: it's because they want to make more money than they've made with their record profits to date. They've been raking in the dough while a large percentage of the population are either losing their jobs, or losing wages due to reductions in salaries, fighting foreclosures on homes whose mortgages now exceed the value of their homes, or declaring bankruptcy because of all that, but FPL executives want to add insult to injury by jacking up your rates.

OK, that's not the only reason. They also want a new jet.  From the Herald:
Florida Power & Light, embroiled in a controversial hearing to raise electric rates, says part of the 30 percent increase would pay for a new $31 million corporate jet to replace a 10-year-old jet in its three-aircraft fleet.
A handful of FPL executives are allowed to use the corporate jet for personal use, company officials said. Among them is CEO Armando Olivera, who told regulators that he used the plane for the Tallahassee hearing and often uses the company helicopter to travel between his hometown of Miami and his company's headquarters in Juno Beach.
So, FPL wants to ream us up the wazoo because Armando Olivera is too fucking stupid to move closer to his office.

Their stupidity is starting to hurt their employees:
"Most of my team see this as something of our company's own fault,'' said one FPL manager, who reported being among dozens of employees who were briefed on the plan orally to avoid a paper trail. "We failed to appreciate the plight of customers and yet we still are seeking to raise their rates, all in the name of long-term investment, when it is our shareholders who will benefit from all of this. A lot of my employees are demoralized and embarrassed before our customers.''
I bet.  When I was working for an idiot, I was demoralized, too.

So does FPL man-up, suck it in, and save their unreasonable requests for a time when people aren't losing their jobs and their homes and going into debt?  Fuck, no! 
FPL... has assigned James Ratchford, its director of development communications, to "plan and execute opposition research, media countermeasures and a social media campaign,'' according to an internal FPL document obtained by the Herald/Times.
That's lie, cheat, and smear to those of us who don't speak Sleazebag.
An FPL manager told the Herald/Times that ``under the watchful eye of my supervisors and management,'' Ratchford used computers untraceable to FPL to post blog comments about commissioners and the governor using aliases. Ratchford also conducted, or worked with others to conduct credit, property-records and criminal-background checks on commissioners Argenziano and Nathan Skop, along with Crist's new appointees, David Klement and Benjamin "Steve'' Stevens, the FPL manager said.
You know what?  I think at this point I am willing to pay more - to anyone who isn't FPL.  Let's give these morons the boot.

So here's how to tell if a commenter is an employee of FPL:
  • They indicate they support the rate hike.
  • They disparage those who don't support the rate hike.
  • They claim that raising your rate will save you money.
When you see comments that fit the above profile, call'em out on it. 

December 4, 2009

Notable Quote

From WFOR News:
Student: "Have you ever thought about legalizing prostitution, gambling, drugs, and non-violent crimes in order to stimulate some of the economy?

Obama: "That will not be my job strategy."

November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

From Bloom County, Milo's Thanksgiving day grace:

"Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the turkey before us. A turkey, which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird. A social being, capable of actual affection. . . nuzzling its young with almost human-like compassion. Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family."
Chow down!

November 10, 2009

Sun-Sentinel: Shoddy work, poorly done.

It's been four months since the Sun-Sentinel re-vamped its website. While an overhaul was desperately needed, the initial response was largely negative. Website navigation was haphazard, and the layout of the sections made little sense: it was like the newspaper had hired a webmaster who had never seen a newspaper. Worse, a lot of the content was old: new content somehow evaporated with the new layout.

So, have they fixed it?


It seems like they still haven't grasped very basic concepts necessary to the basic production of a news source. Like the definintion of "news." Or the difference between sports and arts. Or that the Florida Keys are not in Broward County.

Let's take a peak at the Culture section. The good news is that they dropped the stupid title they initially chose for the page: "Going Out." And that's it for the good news.

Here's the top half of the page for November 10:

Initially, it doesn't look too bad. Wait, let me fix something for you:

Yeah, they recycled the Legally Blonde story from March, when it played at the Kravis Center. Isn't news supposed to be, well, NEW?

So Four out of the five stories are current. Oh, didn't you notice? There are FIVE stories, not four. Take a closer look at the right hand column. I know that it looks like it's a title, followed by a lead-in, and then another title followed by another lead-in, but it's not.

It's actually:

It's the kind of sloppy layout that would embarrass a high school newspaper in Podunk, but it's what passes for "style" at the stinking corpse of what was once a mediocre metropolitan newspaper.

So, four out of the five stories are... wait a minute... I almost forgot:

So, it turns out the Sun Sentinel is leading its Culture section with five four three current Sun Sentinel articles.

On the other hand, the Sun-Sentinel IS the only regional news outlet reviewing shows at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. They do deserve credit for that. Kudos to Special Correspondent Bill Hirschman, who makes that effort to cover them.

Do we dare peak below the fold? We do.

Shockingly, most of the articles in the BOOKS section are less than a week old, with only two dating to November 1. Not bad. How many were written by Sun-Sentinel writers? Only one.

Did they do any better in the STAGE section? Of course not!

So, one third of the STAGE section is old, stale stuff. LOCAL stuff, but STALE stuff.

Another sad fact: they dropped some current theatre reviews to hold on to a month old review and a two month old "breaking news" article. And they knocked out more current stories from the top to regurgitate the March article about Legally Blonde.

But that's not the worst of it! The ART section is so unbelievably bad, it's impossible to conclude that the Sun-Sentinel is paying anyone to oversee the page!

Maybe I'm missing something with the Rodeo story; let's take a peak at it:
The event features 96 cowboys from nine states competing in seven events — steer wrestling, team roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing — for $100,000 in prize money.
Nope. Sounds like a sport to me. Only a drooling idiot would stick this story in the ART section. An ART section with only one ART story. And worse,that one art story is over a month old. It was news back in September.

No, the Sun-Sentinel still lacks competent editors and a strong guiding hand.

October 22, 2009

When Did Terrorists Take Over Colorado?

Seriously, what the hell is going on in Colorado?  The cops are having a field day beating the crap out of people:

I love the bit where the police spokesthug Sonny Jackson saying "it would be a rush to judgement" to say that Michael Cordova unquestionably violated the law by lying under oath about Heeney's arrest. No, Mr. Jackson, it would NOT be a rush to judgment to say that these cops violated the law and their oaths. But it shows poor judgment on your part that you're not harshly criticizing these uniformed criminals.

But that's probably because all the cops in Colorado may be as twisted as the ones that beat up Heeney.

Like this gang of reprobates:

She's not sure if she's going to sue.  I say she should absolutely sue the crap out of them; the cops AND the city for employing them.

And then there's the case of Marc Johnson:
...he saw two officers holding someone down, the lawsuit states.

"One officer was hitting the individual in the face, and the other officer started kicking him in the face," documents state. "The individual was also tased by the officers."

Johnson started to film the incident and made the officers aware by shouting, "I believe you are kicking that guy in the face with your boot," the lawsuit states.
The cops then beat up Johnson, too.  They claim they have nothing to hide, but refuse to release the police reports.

I guess they were too busy watching Adams County deputies beating up
three generations
of a Denver family.  Taka Fushima saw cops roughing
up his son on the street outside his home.  He told the deputies that
we was going to get his video camera to record their brutality.
That was when one of the Adams County (Colorado) deputies pounced on him, threatening to arrest him before pushing him into a glass window of his home.
Fushima's 85 year old father stepped outside to see what all that noise was:
Fushimi Sr. said he was just coming out of the house to find out what was going on. He bent down to pick up his son’s wallet when officers twisted his arm and pushed him to the concrete.
A neighbor witnessed the entire thing.

I finally have to say that maybe we DO need to get out of Afghanistan, so we can free the citizens of Colorado from the wild-eyed horde terrorizing them: Colorado law officers.

Thanks to Carlos Miller for pointing out these stories.

October 19, 2009

Altogether Ooky Obituary

Vic Mizzy, composer of the Addams Family theme song, has passed at the age of 93.

Miami Herald Sucks at Geography

First, they put Palm Beach County in Broward County

Now, they've put the entire state of New Jersey into Florida:

No matter how you spin this, this really isn't a Florida news story.  Is it of interest to Floridians?  Sure.  But it takes place entirely outside of Florida.
The manatee... has since disappeared from the Arthur Kill, a waterway between New Jersey and Staten Island, N.Y.
Sure, manatees are native to Florida, but they don't know that.  Manatees are animals.  Coyotes have been sighted in The Bronx, but do you think Texas papers put that story in the LOCAL section?  Of course not.

This is a NATIONAL story, because it takes place out in the NATION.  And that's where a competent editor would have put the story.

Every time they layoff people, they keep the worst editors.  No wonder people aren't reading newspapers anymore.

Honorable Mention

South Florida Daily Blog has me on their sidebar:

October 18, 2009

FAIL: Miami Herald Broward Section

Palm Beach is not now nor has it ever been a part of Broward County, even if you want to find a good place for the "Horshack as teacher" story.

Sunday Morning Sunshine

It's a gorgeous day in South Florida. Rather than face the stack of dirty dishes in the sink, I headed down to my local coffee shop, for caffeine and wireless.

Two young women were sipping lattes and reading books; the one in the peach top was reading a Kindle, and occasionally texting on her cel phone. I suspect she's tweeting.

The is the first time I've seen a kindle "in the wild," and she enthusiastically answered questions about it. It gets like over a week on a charge, can hold about 400 books, which cost between 4.99 and 6.99. You can read blogs and email on it. She left it on last night, and it's still got 95% charge left.

She and her girlfriend started talking about lunch possibilities, and she consulted the recipe book in her Kindle about tomato bisque. She then realized she didn't have a Wine book, and downloaded one.

Show off.

I feel almost like a dinosaur on m Lenovo Y510. On the other hand, my laptop has kick-ass sound and a subwoofer, so I can't complain to much. On the gripping hand, I went from full charge to 89% in about 20 minutes, unlike the week or so with the Kindle.

As I finish my coffee (Guatemalan beans, mmmm) I watch a woman walk by wrapped up in a heavy if fashionable wool coat.

It's 65 degrees out, people. You won't die of exposure between the car and your front door. Although, I confess, I'm wearing socks and a corduroy shirt.

So much for the morning; it's afternoon, and I'm off to enjoy the day....

October 12, 2009

October 9, 2009

WWJD about the stripper and the priest?

WFOR's Jim Defede reports that Father David Dueppen, disgraced Catholic priest, wants custody of the out-of-wedlock child he had with former stripper Beatrice Hernandez.

On the plus side, he's admitted paternity.

But here's the dilemma: who would make the better parent; the woman who worked for awhile as a stripper to support her family, or an oath-breaking priest who betrayed everything he claimed to hold sacred?

Sure, we could argue that she tempted him into it, but who made the oath, here; the priest, or the stripper? I'm pretty sure that strip-club owners don't make you swear not to fuck a priest. But I'm positive that the Catholic Church is still making priests, monks, and nuns take vows of celibacy.

Frankly, I think that strippers have a better morale fiber than this oath-breaking, stripper-screwing disgraced priest. I seem to recall that even Jesus had issues with priests.


He'd let the mother keep her daughter, and give Dueppen a good chewing out, that's what I think.

Ripped from the Headlines

So here are the headlines:
Obama awarded 2009 Nobel Peace Prize
NASA crashes on the moon -- twice

And here's the story I expect to find on Fox News:


(h/t to Tom the Alien Cat, on alt.callahans)

October 4, 2009

Wendell Potter Comes Clean

A lot of people have been citing various studies in the discussion of health care.  The studies all show that Nationalized Health Care is bad for America.

And they were all manufactured by Wendell Potter.  Bill Moyers interviewed Potter, who comes clean about his complicity.  Wendell was head of corporate communications for Cigna, one of the largest private health insurers in the country.

He finally had an epiphany when he was visiting family, and attended a "health care fair" in rural Virginia.  Instead of providers handing out literature, he found people lining up in the rain to receive treatments in animal stalls at the local fairgrounds.  They had come from as far as Georgia.

He discusses his part in the highly publicized case of Nataline Sarkisyan, a young woman whose liver transplant was denied, resulting in her death days later.

He also details how he cherry-picked from all sorts of studies to make it appear that countries with national health systems didn't perform as well as our system.  He created the term "socialized medicine" in order to cast a negative image of what are actually superior health care systems.

He made sure that everything you know about government run health care is false.

October 1, 2009

Another Link.

This sketch shows what a 4 million-year-old hominid, nicknamed Ardi, may have looked like.The hominid line has been pushed back to some 4 million years.

According to CNN:
Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed "Ardi," is a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Aramis, Ethiopia. That makes Ardi more than a million years older than the celebrated Lucy, the partial ape-human skeleton found in Africa in 1974.
One of the findings that surprised me is that she was less of a tree climber than chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans, and was more of a true omnivore.
Many scientists hypothesize that humans took a different evolutionary
trajectory from those of chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. Ardi's
findings help challenge earlier beliefs that humans evolved from
chimpanzees, their closest genetic relatives, scientists say.
That should make the Inherit the Wind crowd happy.  Of course, no one ever really claimed that humans evolved from chimpanzees.  The story all along has been only that we shared a common ancestor. But it's not Ardi; at 4.4 million years old, she's little more than halfway back to the 8 million year old divide between us and apes.

September 24, 2009

Some Fibbing Guy

I have no problem with anyone expressing their opinions; we all have them, and we all think they're wonderful.

But when you have to lie to support your opinions, well, I have to wonder what kind of broken mind is at work.

A local blogger took some photos on his trip home.  And down towards the bottom of the page, he rants and raves about the express lanes on I-95 in Dade County"
And see those two totally empty lanes to the left? Yeah, that’s the key – empty.
And here's the photo he uses to support his rant:

So you read his rant, you take a cursory glance at the picture, and you think - 'wow, those lanes ARE a waste!'

But you have to realize two things: first, this is a STILL photo not a video, and second, there are at least four cars in the lane at the moment in time caught in the photo.  Don't see them?  Let me help you:

See them there at the left?  You've got a pickup truck, a van, and SUV, and some smaller car.  They're about 12 or so car-lengths ahead.  You can place them by the lamp-posts in the photo - they are at the third post away from the camera.

So why is it important that this is a still and not a video?  Because you can't gauge the relative speeds, or how long the lanes are really "empty."  The four cars in that lane are likely only a few seconds ahead.  Another grouping of cars could be on the verge of coming into view, but we'll never know.  If this fibbing guy wants to prove something, video is the way to go.

The truth is that the I-95 Express lane has improved traffic flow on this section of I-95.  If you're using the lane, you're zipping by the fibber taking this picture.  But don't feel to bad for him: his average speed on this section has sped up, too.  Just not as much.

September 15, 2009

FPL's Full Page Lie

[fp&L.JPG]Eye On Miami posted an image of a full page add that FPL Group shareholders ran in the Miami Herald on September 14, 2009.

In it, FPL bravely hints that people are opposed to its proposed rate hike because FPL is "too cozy" with the Public Service Commission.

And of course that's a lie; most of us feel that it is the Public Service Commission that is too chummy with FPL. But that's only a minor fib that they glibly pass off in the hopes of making themselves look like a victim instead of a very profitable company that pays healthy dividends every quarter.

Buried in its claims is the whopper:
Our rate proposal would result in electric bills for the typical residential customers and small businesses going down, not up.
Say what? They're going to charge us more, but they claim that's going to cost us less? Maybe in that crazy bearded Spock universe, but in this universe, when you charge more for something, it always means that your customers pay more to get it.

So how can they even attempt to spew this whopping lie with a straight face? Well, here's the very next sentence that follows the quote above:
That's because a base rate increase would be more than offset by lower fuel prices and gains in fuel efficiency.
But that still works out to be a lie; if, as they claim, the cost of fuel going down and increased efficiency means that they won't be buying as much of it in the future so they will be spending less on it, it means that it is the lower cost of fuel and increased efficiency that's lowering our bill, not the rate increase as they claim in their advertisements.

And of course, if fuel costs rise, we, the consumer, will end up paying more, because we're not only paying for the increase, but the nearly one-third increase they are hoping to get.

The smarmy ad concludes:
Let's stop playing politics with our energy future and stick to the facts.
OK. Let's.

FACT: in the aftermath of hurricans Katrina and Wilma, tens of thousands of FPL customers sat in the dark for days, and in many cases weeks, waiting for FPL and emergency teams to replace rotted poles and powerlines knocked down by tropical storm and hurricane winds. People lost money because they couldn't go to work; businesses lost money because they couldn't open. And how much did FPL lose, considering that the lost revenue for weeks on end? Not a cent. They got the state to reimburse them for the lost revenue. They didn't even lose money on the damaged equipment. In fact, that fiscal quarter was a very profitable one for their stockholders.

FACT: FPL has asked for this raise in order to increase its profit margin. Why? To make MORE money. And what that means is that FPL is currently very profitable; they are not losing money. They are making profits. They've just decided that, in an economy where people are losing their jobs and homes and health care coverage, they need to be making much more money than the money they are already making.

The only party to benefit from FPL's proposed rate increase are FPL Group shareholders. This rate increase is to feed FPL's greed, nothing more.

September 11, 2009

In Remembrance

The towers fell; the eagle yet flies
Our blood was spilt; the eagle yet flies
Our mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters perished; the eagle yet flies.
The puppet king danced to the lying rhymes of the puppet master; the eagle yet flies
The lies came, and the eagle yet flies.
The world changed, and the the eagle yet flies.
The sun set, and the eagle yet flies.

Men rise and fall, nations rise and fall, banners wave and fall, but the eagle yet flies in the evening skies.

September 1, 2009

Sun-Sentinel: Another Lesson in Pissing Off Customers

Another lesson in how NOT to run a newspaper, courtesy of the Worst Daily News Source in South Florida, the Sun-Sentinel. 

Today's lesson: contradict yourself every time you are in contact with the customer.

Step 1: client asks about a database that has long been a resource on the site:

Step 2: Tell Client that the resource has been dropped:

Step 3: Advertise the discontinued resource in your print version:

Step 4: Ignore the question, and describe the resource you're supposed to have, but don't:

To summarize, they HAD a tool, they are actively ADVERTISING the tool, but they don't actually have the tool they are advertising.  When questioned about that, tersely ignore the question by stating that providing the advertised service is "a priority" and that they are "working on it."

As always, remember the mission statement...

...but don't feel bound by it.

August 31, 2009

GetSatisfaction: Worse than I thought!

I've not been impressed by GetSatisfactions' basic premise - a feedback site that doesn't allow complaints, and is designed to make customer feedback seem positive even when it isn't.

But apparently, in the past, they've been a little shady in gathering clients.
They’ll use your logo, title the page “Customer service & support for [COMPANY NAME HERE]” and generally make it feel like an officially sanctioned place to get official support from the company in question. The problem: It’s not official at all. That’s misleading.

The heavy handed tactics used by Get Satisfaction seem to indicate that their long term plan is to own every company’s customer support experience – whether it has your permission or not. Google searches for “[COMPANY NAME] support” will end up linking people to a Get Satisfaction page. If that’s not the offical support home for that company, who winds up winning? It’s not the company. It’s not the customer. It’s really only in the best interest of Get Satisfaction.
-, an apparent victim of GetSatisfaction.
Here's the scam; they build a peer-support forum for your company on their website.  It identifies your company, including your logo, but it has no other links to your existing support sites.  There is a link for you to "claim" the support forum they started.  If you don't, they smear you with this lovely little disclaimer:

Pretty sleazy, huh?  You don't even know about this site, and you're getting blamed for not participating.

In the meantime, they will run ads from your competitor on "your" support forum until you cough up money.

Now, once 37signals caught them at it, GetSatisfaction claimed that it was a mistake;
Gosh, we messed up on the wording of that badge and are changing it pronto. The wording on that badge was actually intended to explicitly state that the space was NOT OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED by the company, but that doesn’t come off at all.
That's right, company co-founder Thor Muller actually said "Gosh."  And worse, a company professing to facilitate clear communication failed to see how the wording of their disclaimer appeared to blame whatever company the support page was dealing with for not cooperating.  Or so they say, anyway.  Personally, I don't buy it.

So they re-write their little badge:
“No one from [COMPANY NAME ] has sponsored, endorsed, or joined the conversation yet. ”
Note that it still appears to place the onus on the company, who very likely isn't aware that GetSatisfaction has put up a support forum for the company in question.

If there's one thing that GetSatisfaction is good at, it's spin. But as one GS user said on the GS weblog:
If you employ professional copy editors, it makes it more likely that the original language was calculated.
In a follow-up post, Jason Fried dissects the problems with the GetSatisfaction experience from the standpoint of a company that didn't know about this unauthorized support center.  It clearly illustrates the careful thought that went in to the design to convince the user that they were in a sanctioned support site.

They should follow truth in advertising and call themselves "GetSleazy."

Sun-Sentinel is behind the Curve

A week or so ago, Chris Tiedje of the Sun-Sentinel defended his paper's practice of aggregating news content created by others instead of creating their own content.
Many news providers aggregate content. Media organizations have done this since their inception with Reuters and AP, and it is becoming more prolific in this day and age as local papers struggle to survive.
I pointed out that if everyone is aggregating, and no one is creating, we end up with nothing.

Eric Suesz, a GetSatisfaction moderator chimed in:
...perhaps the answer isn't that aggregating stories is bad, but that aggregating relevant stories is the key to success. Just my opinion as a former newspaperman.
Well, two of the original news aggregators, AOL and Yahoo, have come to the same conclusions I have.
“Suddenly, a whole universe of talented writers were open to work with us,” says Moe. “This accelerated what we already had underway; it poured gas on how fast we could hire the best talent in every content category.”  -Marty Moe, to
This change of heart has led The Daily beast to ask "Can Yahoo Save the News?"

We'd better hope so, because the morons at the Sun-Sentinel won't.  And I'm not all that enthused about the Herald, either.

August 29, 2009

Eric Suesz; with help like this, who needs enemies?

As you know, I've been following the collapse of the Sun-Sentinel, and peering into the feedback from rabidly unhappy readers of the paper.

One complaint got "Buried." And that made me look at it:

This topic was buried on 08/25/09
Buried because: This topic was started by someone using multiple accounts in our system to harass employees, which is against our community guidelines.
And the complaint?

By the way, the original title of this complaint was "second hand news." It was changed by Eric Suesz, and employee of GetSatisfied. About twenty minutes later, he buried the topic.

Here's his immediate response to the user posting the complaint:

This isn't the first time that Suesz has responed to this unhappy Sentinel reader:

Brilliant, Mr. Suesz; the Sun-Sentinel is bleeding readers, and you're telling one reader who cares enough to use your feedback system to kiss off. Hey, why fix the problems so people will stop complaining when you can simply tell them to go away?

At least the Sentinel staffer actually addressed the complaint:

This is where I got involved:
clj replied 5 days ago
If everyone "aggregates," we end up without any news. I don't need to the Sentinel to "aggregate" stories from the Herald or the Post, because I already read those papers. And while it is true that they do include the occasional Sentinel story, the Sun-Sentinel uses more of their content by a very large margin.

You won't survive this way. And frankly, if you can't provide your own content, you don't deserve to.
And Eric did for me what he wouldn't do for Unsatisfied: he responded to the actual complaint:
Eric Suesz replied 5 days ago
clj: This is indeed the challenge that most newspapers face. It's compounded by the fact that newspaper readers more and more prefer to get their news online. And, they don't feel like paying for it anymore. It's a huge struggle. In addition, most readers say they want more local coverage, yet their actual reading habits often run contrary to that.

Some people think the answer may lie in community sourcing the local news. I'm not sure where you live, but where I live there are blogs popping up that are written by my neighbors (even though I don't know them), and they only write about what's going on in my neighborhood, and perhaps the surrounding neighborhoods. Would you agree that this would be a great thing to aggregate? I think it would. That kind of content is perfect for newspaper Web sites to collect and present as "news."

So, perhaps the answer isn't that aggregating stories is bad, but that aggregating relevant stories is the key to success. Just my opinion as a former newspaperman.
So here's my response to Eric Suesz of GetSatisfied, in response to his comment on behalf of the Sun-Sentinel: I'm having to post it here, because apparently once a comment is buried, you can't comment on it any further.
The fact that I'm concerned about the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel should be a small clue as to where I live. A good reporter should be able to take such not-so-subtle clues and make some good deductions.

If I wanted to aggregate my neighbors' blogs, I'd use Google to choose the blogs that I feel do the best job. In fact, I have done exactly that for years. Like most people who follow the news, I also aggregate the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post's news (hey, former newsboy, can you figure out where I live yet?) So when the Sun-Sentinel runs those same stories a day later, of course I'm not even mildly happy about it. No one is. And we're NEVER going to be.

Nobody needs the Sentinel to aggregate local news. I need the Sentinel to find the facts behind the news - something that most bloggers can't do. I want professional writers using their training, specialized tools; and exclsuive database access to bring me what my neighbors can't; ACCURACY. I need them to find out what the Herald and Post missed; because they WILL miss something. Good journalism is driven, like everything else, by competition. If the papers aren't competing with each other to get the best version of the story, then we, the readers, are not getting the entire story. We're probably not getting half of it.

I need the Sun-Sentinel to do its job. And it is failing miserably at that. Sure, the others are also falling down on the job, but they are not pushing as much content from the Sentinel as the Sentinel is from both of its "competitors." It's obvious; management isn't even pretending that they're still in the news business.

And neighborhood blogs? Oh, the blogger next door can tell me that a car was broken into around the corner. But they can't tell me if the guy was caught, or if police catch the guy a couple of weeks later. They can only tell me what they see. And that leads to another point: eyewitness testimony is the worst kind; eyes are notoriously easy to fool.

Journalists, in theory, are trained to be objective. That blogger who rails against the city may be able to inform me that sewers are being dug up, but he's likely to skew the story to suit his opinions. We should not rely on bloggers for news. And for someone working for a newspaper - even in an advisory capacity - to state otherwise, only illustrates how poorly advised newspapers have become. If YOU are who the Sentinel is listening to, no wonder it's in the toilet.

As for blaming the readers: "they don't feel like paying for it anymore" - well, that's another incidence of ignorance paraded as wisdom.

The fact is that readers have never paid for news. Oh, sure, they bought papers. But that wasn't what paid for the news. Advertising paid for that, not the cover price. Ads have paid for the real costs of the paper since Ben Franklin posed as a Puritan widow to write advice to the lovelorn. And if you don't know that, then you never learned much about the business.

And do you know what else advertising pays for? Internet websites.

The problem isn't that people don't want to pay to read the online stories, the problem is that a lot of idiots think that's the problem, so they ignore the actual problem, which is the quality of the content, and the ease of access to it.

Early on, the troglodytes running newspapers thought that only their subscribers should be able to read news online. Or that at the very least, they ought to block non-subscriber's access for a couple of days. Their mistake? The belief that they are the only available place to get news. The mistake still being made by you and the Sun-Sentinel.

Those first few years shaped internet users' preferences: they learned that there were websites that didn't block or limit access, so users went there INSTEAD of waiting for their local news provider to "let" them see current stories. For YEARS, the Sun-Sentinel - and most newspapers - actively drove prospective readers away.

"Aggregating" that content won't save any newspaper anywhere, ever. Only an idiot could think this was a viable plan. And here's why: WE ARE ALREADY GOING TO THE PLACES YOU ARE AGGREGATING. We were there yesterday. Why would the fact that you have it a day later attract us? Can you imagine a restaurant raiding the trash bin of a successful restaurant so it could sell the scraps? "Well, you ate there last night, so we went and got it for you!"

If the Sun-Sentinel is to survive, it must bring me something no other news source is bringing me. And it CANNOT accomplish that by bringing me stuff from the other news sources.

That's just my opinion as one of the millions of people you need to read your newspaper.
Hey, Eric: you miscalculated again. You didn't end comments by "burying" the discussion, you simply forced me to take it somewhere else. It's just the like what the Sun-Sentinel - and you - are doing to its readers; driving us to go someplace where we can get what we need.

Isn't about time you guys started learning from your mistakes, instead of protecting them from criticism?

And you'd better start learning quick. We won't bother with you much longer.

August 25, 2009

One More Time...

I've posted before about blogging and anonymity.  My basic premise is that even if you don't give your actual name, you are not anonymous as long as you have an identifiable blog.  You are identified by your association with your own creation.

There are many kinds of blogs: this one is my soapbox, where I express myself on issues of the day.  Or where I just share whatever it is I want to get out there.  Other blogs serve more specific purposes; news analysis, reviews of plays/books/restaurants/whatever, "how-to" do just about anything, personal journals - there are all kinds of blogs, serving all kinds of purposes.

But a lot of them are just places for people to spew invective about things they hate.

Rosemary Port is one such blogger, according to CNN.  She created a charming blog called "Skanks in NYC," a blog wherein Port made derogatory remarks about fashion models. Of course, she didn't attach her name to the stream of bile she posted.

One of the models, Liskula Cohen, got tired of the verbal abuse, and sued. 

That's when Rosemary Port learned that just because you don't put your name on your blog, it doesn't mean that you can't be found.  Cohen's lawyers got a court order for Google to release information about the blog's owner, and Google complied, handing over Port's email address.
The judge rejected Port's argument that blogs on the Internet "serve as a modern-day forum for conveying personal opinions" and should not be regarded as fact.
- Stephen Samaniego, CNN
The 1st Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us the right to free speech, and to say whatever we like.  But it doesn't absolve us of responsibility for the things we say.

Port, on her own volition, started a blog and used it to insult, harass and defame people.  She was held accountable in a court of law.  She learned a painful and expensive lesson; with great power (free speech), comes great responsibility.

And it's proof, once again, that bloggers are not, and cannot be, anonymous.  We are, at best psuedonymous.  We can be held accountable for the things we say.

And Port?  That twisted skank doofus moron misguided person is suing Google for complying with a court order and otherwise obeying the law.  Yeah, that's going to work well for her.

Google is not obligated to hide your identity.  If you're going to say stuff about other people, you're well advised to be responsible about it.  You can reveal ugly truths about people, but you'd better be able to back up the claims you make.

August 20, 2009


Today we examine Suzanne Levinson's action against a local blog. It's an action that is already drawing ire from other professional journalists. Sadly, Suzanne Levinson is Director Of Operations for the Miami Herald.

It's sad because she's apparently blisteringly stupid.

Here's the story: a blog called Random Pixels posted some pictures he found on the Herald site, buried in a slideshow. He's a photographer and a journalist, and as a journalist, he often offers insight into the news media, and sometimes it's bluntly critical. Other times, not so much, such as the entry in question.

The article in question is titled "Random Pixels Recognizes..." In it, he salutes the Herald for the work of two of their staff photographers, and to make the point, he included the photos from the website (since you can't link directly to a picture embedded in a slide show).

This photo:


and this one:


Frankly, while the subjects are pretty, there is nothing particularly exceptional about these photos. Nobody is going to be winning any awards of any sort for them as photographs. In fact, that's the satirical point that Random Pixels was making. These are just pretty good pictures of very pretty girls. No one is ever going to look back at them to prove who won the game, or if a law was broken, or the state of the union. They're not good candidates for a poster or magazine cover. They aren't even worthy of a postcard. In fact, because they were buried in a slide show, it's unlikely that very many people would ever have seen them - until RP included them in a post.

He didn't claim credit for the photos - they are full attributed. He even provided a link to the Herald photo gallery, so that his readers could go and see more Herald photos. Far from doing any kind of damage to the Herald, he's actually sending traffic their way!

And Levinson's response?
Please remove these photos and any other Miami Herald content present on your site immediately.
It's obvious that the Herald's Director of Site Operations is absolutely clueless; about copyright law, and about how the internet works, either of which is bad news for the Herald.

First, the internet. INTERnet. The INTER stands for interconnectivity. The goal of every website is to have other websites link to it. It increases visibility. It's how search engines work: the website with the most links to matching specific parameters must have the best relevance to the search parameters. The website with the most links is the most likely to have data worth searching for

When I link to other blogs, their traffic goes up, and sometimes I get an email thanking me for the link. In fact, on one of my blogs, I get thank you notes from magazines and news outlets -and even reporters - for driving traffic their way. It's quid-pro-quo.

So stories with content like Random Pixels' works on two levels: first, people will follow the links, which increases traffic at the Herald. Second, it increases the the likelihood that search engines will cite the website in searches, which also drives traffic to the website. It's a win-win situation for the Miami Herald, which is why it's so mind-bogglingly stupid of Levinson to complain about it.

Some of you might be saying "But - he used those pictures! They are protected by copyright!" And yes, he did, and yes, they are. But he didn't violate copyright. When you write an article about copyrighted material, you are permitted to use small samples of that material if it's germain to your article. It's called the Fair Use doctrine, and specifically covers use of copyrighted material in news stories or satire.

It says loads about the Herald that the person in charge of its website not only is apparently unfamiliar with Fair Use, but is so out of touch with the workings of the internet that she'd threaten someone who's actually increasing the visibility of the Miami Herald on the internet. "Stop telling people to read the HERALD" is what she's really saying.

This illustrates one of the worst by-products of the massive layoffs made by the Herald - you end up with a staff consisting of the very best (whom you don't layoff because they bring in revenue) and the very worst (whom you keep because their salaries are lower). Columnists and creators of content associated closely with the Herald, tend to fill the first group. A few advertising execs are in that first group, too.

Since Levinson isn't in sales and doesn't have a byline, this action makes it very apparent which end of the spectrum she falls into.

August 18, 2009

230 mpg? As if!, you're a huge automobile manufacturer, your company is going down the tubes (or actually, gone down them). In a world with a finite supply of fuel, you skirted fuel economy standards by pushing vehicles that fell outside those standards.  The one sensible project you've ever started gets abandoned. 

You're given a chance to redeem yourself.  What do you do?

Well, if you're General Motors, you lie your ass off  tell the world that you've built a car that "gets 230 miles to the gallon," even though it really doesn't.

That's right, despite all their ads, their commercials, and all the hype, the fact is that you can not put a gallon of gasoline into a Volt and then drive for 230 miles before you need more fuel.

Basically, it's true mileage is comparable to the much lower-priced Prius.  The only thing the Volt does that the Prius doesn't is plug into a wall.  That's a critical difference because you can charge the batteries without running the engine.  And that's the key to the GM spin campaign.

Here's how GM is validating the 230 mpg claim:
The vehicle can go 40 miles on a charge.  Your daily commute is 23 miles each way, or a total of 46 miles - 6 miles more than the charge can take you. So the generator kicks in for the last few miles of your trip.  Since you're only using gasoline for a small portion of your trip, it will take you about 5 days to use a gallon of gas, and in that time you will have traveled abut 230 miles.

But that's a far cry from puring in a gallon of gas, and then hitting the highway for 230 miles, which is how most people think of mileage.

That's not to say that the car isn't getting great mileage - it is.  But beyond that first charge, the Volt isn't much better than other hybrids on the market that cost thousands of dollars less.  Its price tag indicates that GM still hasn't learned how to be competitive.

August 16, 2009

A Brit Speaks out on their Healthcare

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Britain John Prescott responds to criticisms of their National Healthcare System:

August 10, 2009

All Righty, Then

flying pig

Conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly said something nice about President Obama. In fact, he absolutely praises him:
...perhaps the greatest lesson the President can teach children: In America, anything is possible
This is something of a cliché, but never has it been more vividly illustrated. Barack Obama, a youngster in Hawaii without his parents around, has toughed it out and become one of history’s great stories, no matter what happens going forward. What he has achieved in his 48 years is simply astounding.
He wrote this for this past Sunday's issue of PARADE Magazine. I have to admit, Bill O'Reilly has surprised me.

August 2, 2009

Don't Pooh-pooh Poo Power

I've always said that using corn to create biofuel was, ahem, a waste. Instead of putting food on the table, we're putting it in the tank! Stupid!

I've always maintained that we'd be better off using by-product to create power; I was thinking along the lines of "use the cobs, not the kernels." But one Pennsylvania dairy farmer has taken it a step father, according to CNN:
With the help of a mechanical scraper in the barn, manure drops into a 19,000-gallon tank. The slurry then moves into the digester, which is 16 feet deep and 70 feet in diameter. It's heated there for about 16 days while the bacteria break down the organic matter in order to produce methane gas. That gas is burned in two engine generators to make electricity.
That's right, Shawn Saylor is using cow-patties to generate the power to run his farm! And there's a side benefit:
Before he installed the system, the pungent smell from the cows could linger for three to four days, Saylor said. "The farm used to get a lot of complaints from motorists, which is understandable. It used to stink a lot."

Now, the digesters reduce 98 percent of all odor, although he admits that if the wind blows, you still "get a whiff."
Now, if only pig farmers would invest in this: pigs are prodigious poopers.