September 6, 2003

Down and down the memory hole

I remember the old Bloom County strip that ended with all the characters staring at the reader, giant grins abound, with the caption, "We have a scandal."

Well, we've pretty much got one now, with Tom Tomorrow, the Agonist, and Metafilter all in on the latest from Snopes and their complete memory wipe of a year-old hit piece on Michael Moore.

I'm still waiting for my response from the Snopes people, but here's the e-mail I just sent them (as I noted, I e-mailed Snopes over a year ago to complain about the Moore attack; now they want to pretend it never happened.) Most glaring is the final paragraph of Snopes' updated page, which, to be honest, flat-out contradicts everything they originally said.

[On Snopes' current page, their final paragraph is as follows. Emphasis mine:]
"This page should be read for what it is: an analysis of some of the commonly-circulated claims about a complex issue (many of which are factually correct or misleading), not a denial of the larger arc of the story. Clearly bin Laden family members were indeed allowed to leave the U.S., with government approval and assistance, shortly after the September 11 attacks (an event which was reported in major newspapers within days of its occurrence), but issues such as whether the decision to let them leave was appropriate are subjective political issues outside the scope of this page."
Then why did you originally declare this "false-" in other words, a denial of the larger arc of the story? And why did you originally decide political issues- such as a blanket attack on Michael Moore at a level of partisan invective seen on no other section of this site- were appropriate for the scope of this page?

And most importantly, why have you wiped all of that from existence without acknowledgement? Obviously you are aware this information was inaccurate, hence why you deleted it- yet you had in on your site for over a year- something you of all people should know is more than enough to saturate it into public discourse. I find it insulting to your readers, myself included, that your site devoted to clarifying misconceptions chooses to hide a blatant misconception it propogated for over a year without any attempt to clarify it.

So, there you have it. Snopes is now no longer just covering their tracks in an attempt to hide from an honest, though partisan, mistake. Snopes is now lying.

On a side note, props to Mefi user duckstab (no homepage for me to link to, duckstab, sorry) for this interesting bit of information:

From a snopes.com article:

[meta NAME="robots" CONTENT="NOARCHIVE,INDEX,FOLLOW"]

From google.com's faq:

How can I prevent Googlebot from following links from a particular page or archiving a copy of a page?

Googlebot obeys the noindex, nofollow, and noarchive meta-tags. If you place these tags in the head of your HTML document, you can cause Google to not index, not follow, and/or not archive particular documents on your site.

Another Mefi member, NortonDC, adds this poignant comment about Snopes' credibility:

The "why" of snopes' trust from the internet is simple: the Mikkelsons' earned it. They earned it back in the myst-shrouded pre-web history of the internet on Usenet's alt.folklore.urban newsgroup. They earned it by diligently backing up what they said against the continuous scrutiny of a community that placed finding truth among rumor at the top of their priorities.

They earned it by not pulling this shit.

Where things go from here is hard to tell.

Indeed.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:53 AM

September 5, 2003

This is an inside joke.

Look, Josh! I've updated more frequently than last time! YOU SHOULD BE SUFFICIENTLY ENTERTAINED NOW.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:32 PM

Jesus H. Smack-Flappity Tap-Dancing Christ.

This is a photo of six candidates for governor of California who are going to appear on the Game Show Network's television special Who Wants to be Governor of California? The Debating Game.

In case anyone happened to forget, an election is a fucking demonstration of American Democracy, you assholes.

Next week: Pope John John Paul II hosts a special edition of Who Wants to Get Into Heaven? where the contestant to complete the water-themed stunt challenges and outsmart all others will be absolved of all sin by a Papal Decree.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:54 AM

September 4, 2003

Rumors of credibility greatly exaggerated

If I may, a personal story.

I caught a link from a right-leaning weblog a year or so ago that went to a thread on the psychotically-right wing Free Republic. Basically, the posters there were gloating about a Snopes article that debunked a notion Michael Moore made in a Daily Show interview a few weeks earlier about an American jet flying bin Laden family members out of the country after the 9/11 attacks.

This is personal because I wrote an e-mail to Snopes about that, in which I took a slight offense at the unabashedly partisan tone the operators of the anti-rumor site took with this one particular case. More important, many of the "reasons" Snopes cited as proof Moore was lying were, at the most, exaggerations and/or overinterpretations of the actual truth: there was a jet, it did contain bin Laden family, it did flee the nation after the attacks.

I was refuted, and afterwards ignored. And it was around this time I made my first mention of a constant point I reflect with this weblog: websites are not sources of credible information. What websites reference are sources of sometime credible information.

Snopes is second only to SpinSanity is this error that countless web surfers make. The fact that these sites have an archive of facts and recorded information doesn't mean everything they say is true just because of the URL in your address bar. Nice as they are, SpinSanity is just three guys and their website. What holds water is the news articles with tangible proof that they reference in their exposes. If the Smoking Gun announced tomorrow that George Bush and Bill Clinton were gay lovers, a significant portion of people on the web would actually believe it because they have attuned themselves to the concept Smoking Gun=true.

So with that in mind, there's very little I can say about this bin Laden family issue that Tom Tomorrow hasn't in this post. If you are one of those people who hates lots of links, at the very least click the Google cache one and compare it to what Snopes has now with the revelation that, yes, they were completely out of line.

Snopes is a fantastic site that has, for years, been a valuable resource in filtering the overwhelming river of bullshit that flows through the internet. But the "corrections" Snopes has made to a section of their site that was notorious for its aplified invective against Michael Moore is striking in light of its complete lack of ackowledging such.

This was a personal blow to me because as a fan of Moore, I saw him getting unfair treatment from a site I previously admired for its alleged non-partisanship. Depite everything it's done and been, Snopes will lose any sense of even-handedness and credibility if it does not acknowledge it went over the line against Moore, and apologize immediately.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:19 PM

Terrorist. Next question.

I had a discussion yesterday on Metafilter about the execution of Paul Hill, the psychotic ex-minister who killed an abortion doctor and his escort with a shotgun. (Turns out Tom and others have been noticing the same media trend for a while now as well)

There seems to me that there's little argument that Paul Hill was a terrorist. He actively sought out the death of a specific group of people for the purpose of intimidating them and raising awareness to the political/social/religious views of his own organization.

What made Hill's execution so striking was how he not only merited the classification of a terrorist, but his similarity to Al-Qaeda- people we unquestioningly define as terrorists. He openly bragged about his martyrdom and "reward waiting for him in Heaven," and made his dying message one of endorsing others to follow in his lead. He had the backing, and moral support, of several right-wing anti-choice groups, most of which are structured around Christian fundamentalism.

As Tom said earlier, it's strange and saddening that so many outlets in the American media would even consider labelling Hill as an "anti-abortion activist," as if a paper calling Osama bin Laden an "ant-American activist" wouldn't cause a national uproar. At the very least, Hill was a militant extremist, a category given to, for example, Hamas members. Of course, these people become terrorists the minute they, obviously, commit a terrorist act.

So was Hill's act of murder a terrorist act? Without a doubt. And if you don't think that Hill's and so many others' anti-choice fanaticism isn't an attempt to terrorize and intimidate, and of course murder, innocent Americans, then I point you to a set of statistics from NARAL that Mefi-user skallas noted near the end of yesterday's discussion:

Since 1977, there have been over 80,000 acts of violence and/or disruption at clinics, including:
  • 17 attempted murders
  • 41 bombings
  • 166 arsons
  • 82 additional failed bombing and arson attempts
  • 373 physical invasions of personal and business properties
  • 1042 acts of vandalism
  • 100 butyric acid attacks
  • 654 anthrax threats, of which 480 happened since September 11, 2001.
  • 125 assaults
  • 355 death threats
  • 3 kidnappings
The irony is that wheras we're spending billions to hunt down terrorists overseas that may one day attack Americans, these are terrorists who actively seek Americans to kill, and are already within our borders. And far from sufficient resources and funding to hunt them down, we can't even all agree to label them as what they really are.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:53 AM

September 3, 2003

Bad surgery

Josh Marshall's posts are generally always good, but this one about the Iraq funding situation and America's growing display of over-reaching is brilliant, right down to a great analogy which I'm going to remember for its inevitable necessary use in the near future.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:10 PM

New Comic: "Worship the Best!"

Large Format - 800px, 100K

Small Format - 600px, 60K

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:00 AM

September 2, 2003

Various updates

Since I figured I should keep y'all informed: thanks to those of you who reminded me that I'm a complete idiot for forgetting what a root-relative URL is, not like it's the third or fourth thing you learn in first-year web class or anything like that. I'm 99% sure that's going to solve the linking issues with my Flash stuff.

As for the car, thanks to all who gave various bits of sympathy and advice about paint removal, but after trying the less dangerous of some of them I've reahed the conclusion there's little I can do outside of spending several hundred bucks at a body shop. In other words, I hope that the straight week of rain in New Jersey takes the paint off my car, 'cuz other than that it's stuck there for good.

I'm still unemployed, single, and living at home. I believe two of those may justify the third, but I don't feel like whining about any of them right now.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:39 PM

No kidding?

Not that I'm unhappy with his speech or anything like that, but I find the whole story of John Kerry "announcing" his candidacy for president a little... well... silly. It's not any less silly when you try to justify it by saying "well, he's just making it official now," which to me means the last few months he's only been... what, casually raising several million dollars for a larf?

"My god, Janet, here I thought he wanted to buy lots and lots of Hostess Snacks and store them for winters to come! And now he's going to use the money I donated to the 'John Kerry for President 2004 fund' to run for president? That monster!"

And who the hell is this Howard Dean guy? I've never heard of him before! You'd think he'd have a website or something.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:12 PM

September 1, 2003

Oh come on.

Won't somebody think of the children:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution apologized to readers Monday for using a picture of Britney Spears kissing Madonna on the front page.

The picture, not much bigger than a postage stamp, was near the top of Friday's front page. It showed Spears and Madonna in an open-mouth kiss they shared at the MTV Video Music Awards the night before. A larger version of the picture was in the Living section.

The sloppy kiss picture elicited a deluge of complaints to the newspaper. In Monday's editions, managing editor Hank Klibanoff apologized, saying the picture should have been inside but not on the front page.

Klibanoff compared the Spears picture to graphic images from the war in Iraq.

"We ran images we otherwise might not have run. But that was war, and war was news. The photo we ran Friday was neither, and I wish I had limited its display to the inside of the Living section," Klibanoff wrote in a response to letters on the opinions page.

Dear Editor: how dare you interrupt the photographs of Saddam Hussein's dead children to print a 2-inch photo of two women with their lips touching each other! If my son had been left unsupervised, he might have been able to examine the photo with a magnifying glass and potentially become exposed to wanton pervasity! For shame.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:51 PM

This will not make the fundraising pamphlet

In a moment of true, non-sarcastic sympathy for the President, I would like to state publicly that I am very glad Barney is fine. To be honest, I like him more than his owner.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:55 AM

Prithee, take haste to ye public service announcment

I spent today with my sister, her boyfriend, and their friends at the New York Renaissance Faire. For those of you unaware of these things, RenFair is an event where you pay a lot of money to walk around a fairground where actors simulate 16th-century medeival England. They wear authentic period dress, sell authentic period wares, and sell authentic period food, plus modern-day beer at roughly the price of, let's say, a Subaru Outback.

Getting in on the act is optional. Though I applaud the numerous people wearing period garb, primarily those who are 18 to 24, female, and cute, I also understand how many, myself included, choose to wear their normal clothes. In either case, there is a feeling of interactivity. Then there's the group that ruins it all for me. As such, I wish to issue this public service announcment on behalf of RenFaire and the standards of public decency:

Goth Kids: Stop wearing Halloween costumes!

Did you get that, you self-deconstructing asshats? I don't hate Goth culture. I don't hate Goth kids. But the point of RenFaire is to imagine a period in 16th century history. That means, if you want to wear a costume, WEAR SOMETHING FROM 16TH FRIGGING CENTURY EUROPE, NOT XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS!

At RenFaire, you'd think the normals- people like me in their T-shirts and jeans- are the ones who stand out among the tunics and kilts and gowns. Nope. It's the fucking Goth kids who think they're so cool because they can add a knife or cape to their all-black, metal-studded ensemble with non-existant plastic armor from the collectible sword store at the mall and somehow... what, blend in with the people dressed THE WAY THEY ACTUALLY EXISTED BACK THEN?

My point is that if you want to wear a costume to RenFaire, wear something that actually fits in with RenFair. Wearing your outfit akin to the 1980's WWF wrestling team Demolition isn't a RenFaire costume. It's a Halloween costume. Save it for Halloween and put on normal clothing. You might as well be dressed as a character from Star Wars; it makes just as much sense.

So, to recap: the Renaissance Faire is a place where people work very hard to simulate the aspects of 16th-century Europe; as such if you wish to participate in the fantasy you should dress like someone from 16th-century Europe. A Sci-Fi convention is a place where people who think fictional and/or magical characters are interesting congregate to participate in activities related to such characters; as such this is where your torn-fishnet, metallic spiked shoulder plates, and other remnants from the Beyond Thunderdome costume budget are welcome. This concludes our public service annoucement.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:43 AM