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Archive | December, 2014

Troll hunter

imageThere is an interesting-sounding Swedish TV series called “Troll Hunter.” The show tracks down Internet trolls and confronts them on camera. Now that’s my kind of reality TV.

A new story in the MIT Technology Review by Adrian Chen talks about the show and also journalistic efforts to expose racists in high places through their anonymous Internet comments. It talks about the tension this creates between free speech and privacy.

It is generally no longer acceptable in public life to hurl slurs at women or minorities, to rally around the idea that some humans are inherently worth less than others, or to terrorize vulnerable people. But old-school hate is having a sort of renaissance online, and in the countries thought to be furthest beyond it. The anonymity provided by the Internet fosters communities where people can feed on each other’s hate without consequence. They can easily form into mobs and terrify victims. Individual trolls can hide behind dozens of screen names to multiply their effect.

The story of how the Discus commenting system was reverse-engineered to disclose real email addresses was particularly interesting.1

I’m interested in what readers here think about the ethics of private citizens or journalists using legal technical means to determine the identities of anonymous posters on the Internet, and then publishing the results. What if we were talking about birthers at Birther Report, or commenters here?

I recommend the article.

1Disqus was including an MD5 hash of the real email address a part of the information provided by its public API (intended for use by Gravatar). All one had to do was to take a known email address (and lots of email addresses are known), and compare their MD5 hash to the one reported by Disqus. According to Disqus, the MD5 hash is no longer provided by the API.


Missing comments

This happens to me a lot. I have alerts set on some web sites, including Gerbil Report™, that send me an email when someone replies to a comment I made. It’s not unusual for the comment to disappear before I can reply to it. Here’s an example where I was replying to bluecat6 who had claimed that the images of Obama’s birth certificate were coordinated with their release on the Daily KOS and (all within a 2-day period), and that artifacts proved that document a fake:

Dr. Conspiracy – How are you competent to say what artifacts are normal and which indicate forgery? The short answer is that you, and all of your birther kin, are not.

This is why birtherism has not made any difference. You’re wrong.

You are also wrong about the date when the document was published at FactCheck. It was August 211, not June 13. So rather than FactCheck coordinating with the release, it was responding months later to the criticism.

Now here’s the deleted response:

TrumpetsBlowing – To Kevin Wayne Davidson : you wanna know how you got caught, genius? You’re insane. You made mistakes. And best of all, we have the dna now. CHECKMATE

Obviously, I would want clarification of exactly what I got caught at, and who had whose DNA. Oh well. I couldn’t find “TrumpetsBlowing” as a commenter anywhere on the Internet. Thematically, the name is current for Pastor Carl Gallups, who posted at the PPSIMMONS web site on December 20:


and this theme is featured on the cover of Gallups new book, “Final Warning.”


Could the comment have been made by Gallups himself? That would certainly make sense given its retraction. Gallups sometimes is a bit of a loose canon.

1I was actually mistaken here, citing the date where FactCheck’s own images were published. FactCheck actually referenced the certificate and image released by the Obama Campaign on June 16 (still not the 13th), sufficient time to be responding to the release, rather than coordinating with it.


Universe-shattering: Decision in Judy v. Obama

If I receive a favorable decision this could be the universe shattering decision we have been patiently waiting for.

— Cody Robert Judy

That’s a big Large image of the word IF!

Judy writes about his case in an editorial at the Post & Email and his own web site. He’s has been around the judicial track a few times (not to mention his incarceration) with Obama lawsuits, including a trip (unsuccessful) to the Supreme Court. This time it’s the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (case 14-4136) where he says that his case1 has been distributed.

The argument before the Court is laid out in Judy’s brief, a document that is somewhat difficult to follow through it’s near page-long sentences and twisted thought process. Still we can glean that Judy (a candidate for President in 2008 somewhere) claims that his civil rights were damaged by Obama’s “Campaign vehicle” because Obama was ineligible and the political parties ganged up to marginalize him.

Judy’s case apparently was dismissed because he did not effect service on President Obama, but Judy disputes this saying that service was valid and that he should have received a default judgment:

At issue is the cold hearted perpetration of criminal wrongdoing or actions of maliciousness being given the wink-wink by those in seats of authority; Federal Rules of Service of Process being violated by the Court’s refusal to recognize a validated witnessed and proof of and in a ‘Return of Service’ and ‘Affidavit’,  actually getting out of its seat of judgment to act as an attorney for the Defendants because the defendants/Appellee’s failed to answer the Courts own demanded 20 Day Summons to file an answer or judgment by default would be taken against them as is stated in the 20 Day Court issued Summons. (sic)

The original lawsuit was based on a number of legal theories and allegations, including a violation of the Sherman antitrust act, which he applies to political parties. Still at the heart it was an eligibility complaint that said:

Defendant Obama is not a natural born citizen having declared from various documents he was born in Kenya and his father was a Kenyan at the time of his birth.

Further allegations in the suit were:

  • Obama is an Indonesian citizen named Barry Soetoro
  • Obama’s long form birth certificate is fraudulent or forged
  • Obama’s draft registration is fraudulent or forged
  • Defendants labeled Judy’s previous lawsuit a “birther action”
  • Obama is not a natural born citizen according to the “definition” in Minor v. Happersett

Maybe I need to buy universe shattering insurance from Mutual of Steve.

Cody v. Obama also names as defendants:

  • Obama for America
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Mitch Stewart
  • Jeremy Bird
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz
  • Jim Dabaki
  • Matt Lyon
  • Harry Reid

Poll: Obama most admired man–7 years running

imageIn what must be the occasion of immeasurable consternation for the birthers, a Gallup Poll of Americans conducted December 8-11, 2012, found Barack Obama to the most admired man in the world (followed by Pope Francis). This the 7th year in a row that Obama topped the list (incumbent presidents almost always win).

Who knew?


Obama makes 10 big government lies list

In a list of 10 big government lies, published by Moyers & company last June, Barack Obama heads the list with his infamous 2009 statement about the proposed Affordable Care Act:

If you like the [health care] plan you have, you can keep it.

Of all the government lies I can think of, this one seems ill-suited for the most notable list, as it was actually true for 95% of people1, hardly in the same league with Nixon denying that the White House was involved in the Watergate break-in, or George W. Bush announcing that we had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But quibbles aside, the government does lie sometimes, and birtherism holds the premise that the Obama administration lies about everything, along with the State of Hawaii when it comes to birth records.

I think that it is beyond the resources of most people to verify everything the government says to them. This leaves the individual to decide who to trust. I take the “innocent until proven guilty” stance towards government pronouncements and leave it to investigative journalists to set the record straight when necessary. While I think my approach is practical and usually works, it is not without chance of error. What is the alternative? For those who lack confidence in both the press and the government, they can choose to believe whatever matches their personal preference and is in line with their prejudices. Police violence would seem to be one topic where facts  are taking second place to prejudice on both sides (this is a “reserve judgment” issue for me).

imageThe book that prompted the Moyers & company story is 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity by Chuck Lewis. Lewis makes the point that facts become irrelevant in a democracy when most people don’t believe them. His example for this is weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I would cite Republicans and birtherism, or conservatives and climate change. We are in a sad state when facts become matters of opinion.

I’m reading the book.

1It was PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year.


Obama says in video: “surrender your rights to an all-powerful sovereign”

Here’s the video posted on YouTube last May:

The sound track goes:

As for the international order that we have worked for generations to build, [camera cut to audience] ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs. That order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.

I tried to punctuate that transcript so as to follow what I think the video maker intended people to hear, but it doesn’t quite match the vocal inflection that would dictate a period following the word “build,” creating an incomplete first sentence. Indeed the camera cuts to the audience shot at just that point and the video cuts out an entire paragraph of the actual speech. Rather than praising authoritarian government, Obama is actually critiquing that idea.

More, including the full text of what Obama said, is at