Friday, July 30, 2010

A Conspiracy By Any Other Name...

 With all due respect to two of my favorite Alaskan bloggers, and I say that sincerely, their discussion with Nicole Sandler made me grit my teeth.  I am speaking of AKM (Jeanne Devon), and Shannyn Moore. AKM is, of course, the brilliant writer behind The Mudflats, and Shannyn's got a widely-read blog, Moore Up North, and a topical daily radio show. I've corresponded with Jeanne by e-mail and called into Shannyn's show at least twice. I met them both in person, right after last year's Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh, PA. Their warmth and humor were delightful.  Their disappointment in and disagreements with the former half-term Alaska governor are well-known.

Shannyn (L) and AKM (R) at Pittsburgh Mudstock
Why teeth-gritting, though?  Here's why.  It's one thing to make a personal or political decision about whether or not to cover a particular story, and I'm talking about babygate—the pregnancy that Sarah Palin faked in order to boost her pro-life cred with evangelical Christians and parlay her thin resume into a shot to become the Vice President of these United States.  It's another to disparage, however off-handedly, those who do address, research and endeavor to cover that same story.  If you listen to the Nicole Sandler interview (in the first link of this post), you'll learn that Nicole was able to interview Jeanne and Shannyn just as the two intrepid Alaskans concluded their second Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. Nicole had recently interviewed Patrick, one of the chief authors of the Palin watchdog blog Palingates, twice: see here and here for the details. As a result of her education about the babygate topic, Nicole asked some followup questions of the Alaskan bloggers on her segment.  Their responses were, to my ear, condescending and disparaging.

When you use words like conspiracy theory and tin-foil hats in conjunction with describing why you are not writing or talking about a potential story, you trigger a response in listeners, to wit: "Watch your step here, this is la-la land!"  Both these accomplished ladies seemed to "pooh-pooh" any efforts to get to the bottom of the clearly impossible stories Mrs. Todd Palin has given concerning the birth of the child she calls her son, Trig.

Like I said, I can understand why someone would not want to touch a story that the "mainstream media" decided to let lay fallow.  One only has to read the recently released e-mails from the Journolist group to find some sort of justification for this.  Is the justification valid?  I don't happen to think so, but then, that's me, and I have a day job. My future life plans do not depend on whether or not I blog about the right topics, or the safe topics, or the approved topics.  Running for political office is not in my future.  Cozying up to Marcos Moulitsas or any other notable in the Democratic Party is not one of my goals.

Let's face it. though.  Labels have meaning to people.  Label something a conspiracy theory and red flags shoot up everywhere.  BEWARE, BEWARE!

So fine, don't touch the story, but don't label it in such a way that I, and many of my blogging and commenting friends are made out to be kooks.  It's obvious from some of the details that AKM and Shannyn provided during the interview with Nicole that they are not very well read on the subject of babygate.  There is now a mountain of detailed evidence that makes it clear why not one of us, those who did choose to follow this story, have been threatened with a lawsuit for claiming that Mrs. Todd Palin defrauded the country with her impossible Wild Ride tale and imagined magical birth of Trig.  It is because it is NOT TRUE.

For an excellent overview/summary, I implore you to view these newly released videos:

Videos are courtesy of lidia17 who published them at Palingates, and summarize the indisputable evidence that disproves the assertion that Mrs. Todd Palin was actually ever pregnant with the child she claims as her own son, Trig.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comment of the Day

This, one of 55 comments as of now, appears under a Politico story about GOP House members rejecting a plan to help 9/11 responders who still suffer from chronic illness as a result of their rescue and cleanup efforts:
Why should I werk for others to sit on their behinds pretending to be sick years after an event? Can they prove they were their? I think not. I cant wait for Nov so we can take back our contry from freeloaders and illigals. We need more real Amercans in charge not Socialists who want a free ride paid by my hard eared money.

Posted By: Sarah4Pres2012 | July 29, 2010 at 09:04 PM

It has to be a put-on, doesn't it? Either way, it's the best comment I've read all day.  :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Activision-Blizzard, Privacy and Me

If you've read the "about me" you will have learned that one of my interests is gaming.  In particular, for the last several years, I've devoted some of my anonymous time on the 'net to Blizzard's wildly popular World of Warcraft game.  This is an MMORPG -- massive multiplayer online role playing game, for those who don't know the acronym.

Gathering herbs in World of Warcraft, Burning Crusade
Activision merged with Blizzard some months ago. Since then, the powers that be at Activision-Blizzard have veered off onto a path they must think will increase their revenue.  It all started with, an entity established to register players who participate in the MMO aspect of Blizzard's games.  If you wanted to test your skills against someone else on the other side of town or the continent or even the ocean, you could play Starcraft or Diablo (which are single player games too) by logging in to and competing online.   World of Warcraft (WoW) players found, shortly after the entity was upgraded, that in order to continue their adventures in the world of Azeroth (WoW's fantasy world), they too had to have a ID.

Fine, but, the next step in the still-unrevealed plan was to institute something called Real ID in the WoW game.  What this new coding allowed: players could designate other people as real life friends and thus, see and communicate with all the characters their friends played on any Blizzard game, and be seen and contacted by them as well.  It went further -- friends of friends could also see the real name of anyone who made a neighbor or relative a Real ID friend.  A good friend that I know and trust in real life is one thing, but I do not know who he has friended!

Sentinel Hill at night
 The next step was announced a week ago.  Blizzard would, beginning with its release of a new 3-part Starcraft expansion require anyone who posted on the forums to reveal their real name attached to any forum post they made.  They intended to require this same privacy disclosure for anyone wanting to post on the official Blizzard WoW forums as of the release of the latest upcoming expansion named Cataclysm.  The excuse given was to force the forum trolls into the light… and what, shame them into not posting their garbage?

As a result of the announcement, several thousand players expressed their astonishment, dismay, and rejection of this idea in a huge thread -- nearly 2,500 pages and nearly 50,000 posts.  Most everyone said No - as did I. 

For background, I have respected Blizzard for a dozen years or more.  One reason is they have always made a Mac version of their games, and I refuse to buy a PC just so I can game.  Another reason is their products have been great!  Yet another reason is they have always been relatively responsive to their customer base.  I played the original Warcraft series, the Diablo series and the Starcraft series.  I own collector's editions of the original WoW game and the first two expansions.  I played in the original WoW beta back in 2004.  I have several characters at max level (currently 80), who are fully trained in their professions.  Want a jewelcrafter, blacksmith, alchemist, inscriber, tailor, enchanter, engineer, or leatherworker who can craft any item possible?  I've got one.  Most of my characters are also fully skilled in the lesser professions of cooking, fishing and first aid.

Giving up my legacy characters and the hundreds of hours I've put into their development would be a bitter pill to swallow.  Nevertheless, I cancelled my automatic account subscription as a result of intuiting where Activision-Blizzard was going with their new business plan.  They have deals with Facebook and even Microsoft.  You have to read the updated TOS, EULA, and the Terms of Use darn near daily to catch these significant changes.  Players are now subject to in-game advertising.  It was one thing to see vanity pets representative of other Blizzard games.  But who wants to see the Windows 7 logo (with the blue background) temporarily floating in the sky over Azeroth?  Who wants to have to write on someone's Facebook wall to earn an achievement in game?  I'm not saying this will happen, but I can't believe it's too far off the mark.

Fourth of July Fireworks outside Ironforge
According to Bobby Kotick, mover behind Activision and killer of Infinity Ward, WoW players and Facebook facers can be of mutual benefit to each other.  In other words, he would like to parlay Blizzard's 11 million subscribers into Facebook page holders and along the way get Facebook holders buying and playing WoW, and targeting advertising to both groups along the way.  What he doesn't get is that never the twain shall meet.  Social networking is not what an MMORPG is about, and vice versa. 

I can't speak for everyone who plays WoW, but I will assert, with as much might as I can muster, that I do NOT play wow to network socially.  I play WoW to enjoy a pastime that my non-gamer family and non-gamer friends and non-gamer co-workers don't know about and cannot begin to appreciate.  My sister and my fellow employees don't want to know the names of my characters across all the games and even if they did, I don't care to share that information with them.  I don't necessarily want my closest friends to know that I've started a brand new character on a different server just so I can immerse myself in the role-playing aspect of the game without interruption.

Death Knights can be beautiful, and they can walk on water too
The good news is Blizzard's co-founder Mike Morhaime has stated that they will not "at this time" proceed with insisting that we use a real name when posting on the forums.  I released a huge sigh of relief as a result, but am wounded by the thought that such a notion was ever considered.  I do not intend to renew my subscription or pre-order any new packages until I see where this is going.  Was it because of the huge outcry from current subscribers?  Was it because Blizzard's own employees would be put at risk with their real names visible?  Was it California's or Canada's privacy laws?  Was it the ESRB's threat to remove the friendly rating?

I post on numerous forums, and I blog under a pseudonym.  Nowhere (aside from logging in to my employer's online time sheet) is my real name a requirement.

I am Ennealogic.  I am Ennealogic here, and on Palingates, The Mudflats, Immoral Minority,  Washington Post, Huffington Post, NY Times and even on the Wall Street Journal.  I am Ennealogic on Think Progress and Gawker and Daily Kos, and countless other sites.  What I say becomes part of my cred as Ennealogic.  I do not need to be known as my real name for the same cred to apply.  A rose by any other name… I am Ennealogic when it comes to my political thoughts and opinions.  You can Google Ennealogic and find out what I think.  I do not need to reveal my real name in order to express my thoughts and opinions about anything.

I am reminded of the time when Mike Doogan outed AKM from The Mudflats.  We had this discussion then, and his excuse was that AKM had no right to express her opinion and also remain anonymous.  I will never forgive that oaf for crudely and gratuitously attempting to damage a real person who provided a real service to so many readers.  AKM's words and stories have not grown better (or worse) now that we know the name that goes with the acronym.  AKM is now and always has been a reliable, responsible, creative, investigative, and indomitable voice ringing out across the country (and the world!).  She neither lost nor gained any credibility with the outing, but she certainly lost the protection of her anonymity.  She does not speak to the question of whether her business ventures were adversely affected or her family threatened.

Flying over Northrend is an incredible experience
Those who troll forums, regardless of their variety, will still troll because it is their wont -- no matter if they post under the name Jack Fisher or Usuckmydingle.  Those who moderate forums can just as easily ban one name or IP address as another.  Those who suffer the trolls can't do anything anyway, except if a real name is provided, then look up that real name and deliver real world consequences.  Is that what Activision-Blizzard intended?  Did they really want their decent, mature, thoughtful posters to gather up torches and pitchforks and clamor outside the apartment (or basement or hovel) of a troll?  And do what, exactly?

Anyway -- my recent absence from all things politics and Sarah Palin in particular is a result of time spent opposing this recent scheme brought to us by yet one more corporatist who thinks selling customer identities is the path to even more financial rewards. 

I have one thing to say in closing:  measure carefully any request/demand to surrender privacy.  Make sure that you can trust those who ask or require it, and make sure that such disclosure is indeed warranted and needed.  In the case of Activision-Blizzard, nobody needs to know that my character name belongs to my real name.  Nobody but those who bill my credit card.  And if they insist on linking that real information with my avatar and character names, I will surely turn my back on their games.  It will pain me immensely to do so, but I will not abide by such a violation of trust.  They promised me they would keep my personal information inviolate.  I expect no less.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Babygate in the Blogs

With a H/T to Palingates' commenter AKSandhills for bringing it to my attention, please make sure to look at both of these posts in turn:
Normally, a skeptic seeks the truth that hides beneath a popularly accepted, "official" story. Not so in Amanda's case, unless she views the Babygate "conspiracy" as the new and now official truth.  But she doesn't.  Instead, she is skeptical about reasons people give for doubting Saint Sarah's holy birth story.  You know, those real good solid reasons like Bristol's cuddling Trig a lot.  If her blog post wasn't so rife with ridiculous statements like
... if you believe the theory, you have to accept Bristol conceived a second time while still pregnant
and warnings like
The Palin conspiracy theory seems tailor-made to rob liberals of our moral authority...
and supporting evidence from an article in the UK Sunday Times about women who don't realize they're pregnant, I could let it pass.

Thankfully, Deborah didn't let it pass -- no doubt because Amanda directly discounts Deborah's statement on the topic: "Litbrit claims it would be impossible to fly during labor, because it’s so painful."  That Sarah was in labor comes from Sarah's own words in both newspaper stories and her book.  (That Sarah slightly changes the story with every telling should be telling, but I doubt Amanda has kept up with the evolution!)  That Amanda disputes the assertion of how difficult it would be to fly for 10 hours while in labor should be enough to totally discredit the rest of her "holiday skepticism" post. Fortunately, Deborah does an outstanding job at rebutting the rebuttal.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy Quitter's Day, Enjoy the Potato Salad!

Goodness gracious, one whole year since the quittah from wasilla quitsied!  Thankfully The Mudflats, Palingates, Immoral Minority and Progressive Alaska among others have reminded us about that happy day by posting videos of her breathless, senseless quitter speech so ...

I'm thinking, with a 4-day weekend, time to smoke some ribs and make some lovely potato salad to go with.  I was Googling about how to make some mouthwatering ribs when I came across Meathead's potato salad recipe.  Now, I make a pretty mean potato salad but it never hurts to compare recipes.  In the process, I found this totally jaw-dropping video.  So!  For something completely different (get to at least the 1-minute mark and beyond!), view at your leisure and enjoy your 4th!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Critical Mass - Reaching for it [UPDATED]

Last August I went to Pittsburgh for a gathering of "mudpuppies" - these are folks who respect and support AKM, the founder and primary author of The Mudflats blog.  Fans across the country have organized several of these gatherings, called "Mudstocks"—a testament to AKM's superb writing on political subjects, but most especially, on Sarah Palin.

On this occasion last August both AKM (now known by her real name, Jeanne Devon) and popular blogger, current radio host, HuffPo contributor, and occasional guest on Countdown, Shannyn Moore were in attendance.  They had just both attended the Netroots Nation convention where Shannyn was surprised and honored to win the Gilliard Grant of Merit, an award named after Steve Gilliard who wrote, "I'm a Fighting Liberal."

Shannyn Moore and AKM, fall 2009, right after their Countdown and Rachel Maddow appearances
I've been a great admirer of AKM since September 2008 when, along with many, I discovered her blog in my quest to find out more about Sarah Palin, this person who was named by John McCain to be his running-mate in the 2008 presidential race.  AKM gave us the inside scoop on Alaska's governor, warts and all, and I was so grateful for her excellent writing, her enduring wit, and her razor-sharp and honest analysis.

I've also admired Shannyn and read her blog, listened to her broadcasts on KUDO Alaska, watched episodes of "Moore up North," and have even phoned in a couple of times to comment and ask questions during her radio show.  During the Pittsburgh Mudstock I shared a brief chat at an outdoor patio table with Shannyn while having a quick cigarette away from the rest of the attendees.

AKM and Shannyn, as far as I saw, are both warm, incredible, lovely, funny, delightful people and nothing I write in this post should be construed to negate that.  The fact remains that they both were building, and now have, reputations as trustworthy voices from the far North, the Alaskan front.

Early on at The Mudflats, AKM determined that discussions about "babygate" would not be allowed.  I imagine this was a rather wise decision at the time, since the rumors that bubbled up were quickly labeled as conspiracy theories. Those who create and propagate labels have an unfair advantage over those who seek the truth in any issue.  Shannyn did speak of and even allowed discussion about Sarah Palin's "wild ride" from time to time, but she resisted going beyond questioning the plausibility of the official scenario.

I don't know AKM's personal feelings on the "babygate" matter.  Shannyn's take is evident in a broadcast you can listen to in audio files included in this post at Phil Munger's Progressive Alaska blog.  Shannyn says the reason Sarah Palin doesn't clear up the questions by once and for all producing a birth certificate for Tri-G or authorizing the release of her own medical records is because holding back "is working for [Sarah]," even though Shannyn is not sure why.  Shannyn tries to make the point that as long as Palin conceals the real truth, she gets to play victim while claiming those evil democrats are out to get her.

Frame from the April 7-8, 2008 video taken by Elan Frank
My take is that a simpler answer to the question "why has Sarah not put an end to the questions?" is because she can't—because she was not pregnant in April '08.  She tries to make it "work for her" as best she can, of course, since she can't make it go away. Any documents related to her pregnancy or the birth of Tri-G would prove she's been lying.

Please take note of the fact that she and her bevy of lawyers have never threatened any of us who have stated publicly that we believe her story is a complete fabrication.  Why is that, when she was so very quick to jump about other things—like Shannyn's reporting about the federal investigation "iceberg" rumors, or Gryphen's Immoral Minority blog reporting about the divorce rumors?

She hasn't even mounted a personal campaign à la the David Letterman joke or the Family Guy criticism.  She simply lets her minions try to marginalize and disparage those who continue to work on the babygate story.  Where are her Facebook entries decrying the efforts made by Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish or RPK of Palingates or several others?  Where is the cease and desist order from Thomas Van Flein?

I suppose if you are trying to build your career as a trusted voice in radio, television or the 'net, you might decide it's best to turn a blind eye to certain topics.  As a result, though, Sarah's dark cloud continues to swirl and spread and even if she never gets elected to another political office, the damage she has done over the past many months and the damage she continues to do will take a long time to repair.

Sarah Palin, 11 days before Tri-G's "birth"
It is my firm conviction that should it be revealed that Sarah never did make an oh-so-righteous choice to have a DS baby, her entire pedestal will crumble. She will no longer have even one leg to stand on.  Her most fervent worshipers will have to reconsider their object of devotion and their support of her.

We need to reach critical mass.  That's the point where enough voices with enough substance and respect finally weigh in with their doubts and questions.  That's the point where it is no longer unseemly to ask the vital questions of someone who has most assuredly been running for high political office since July, 2009 when she quit as governor of Alaska.  We could surely benefit from the now respectable voices of The Mudflats and Shannyn Moore.  But thanks to the tireless dedication and documented research of Palingates and others, more and more people are encouraged to speak out.  Visit the Buckeye Surgeon blog for example.

It's time for others to stop being selfish.

UPDATE: Replaced photo of Shannyn and AKM with one that is much better.  Also, just in case I did not make it clear -- I respect the AK bloggers who have decided not to focus on babygate.  At the same time, I wish they would sanction a broader discussion on this topic.  The reason?  Her abysmal ethics and perpetual idiocy can be and are, regularly, excused by most Palin supporters ("so, she misspoke, so what?").  Sarah's courageous and sanctimonious "walking the walk" is her trademark, though.  It is the central supporting column of her political essence. Once it becomes common knowledge that she made it up, we'll stop seeing every Facebook entry and Twitter from this twit reaching headline status, and nobody will suggest that she has any credibility at all as a future political candidate.