Tag: internet

“This is America …” – a memorable observation, but it’s by Allen Ginsberg, as recounted by Mark Shields

January 18, 2011

Ah, the internet, so democratizing, yet so capable of the almost-instantaneous propagation of a non-fact, even with well meaning intentions.

Take this nugget going around Facebook yesterday and today like wildfire:

“This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.” ~Mark Shields, PBS

Except this is not a quote by Mark Shields, at least not exactly. He did say those words, but they were proceeded by a few others that are getting left out of the meme.

There was one observation that was made this week I just have to pass on to you by a friend of mine, Allen Ginsberg, who is an historian up in Maine. And he said, this week, we saw a white, Catholic, Republican federal judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic woman, member of Congress, who was his friend and was Jewish. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American college student, who saved her, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon.

I found this out by going to the PBS web site and finding the transcript of the program where the words were uttered. Something all of us need to do more often, before making that too-easy click on “Share This.” (And, as I so often have to tell my email correspondents, just because an email forwarded from a trusted friend says that the content was checked at Snopes.com, it would behoove you to make sure before hitting ‘Forward’ yourself.)

A couple of months ago, a local school got tarred by an inaccurate or exaggerated accusation of GLBT discrimination because we (myself included) all jumped on the bandwagon of decrying the discrimination before we found out whether it was indeed true. It was a national scandal — those bigots in Oklahoma were at it again! It was on Daily Kos and countless other lefty blogs, sent out by Alternet, etc. etc. The Advocate deserves a lot of the blame for that, since it did some very poor (or you might say negligible) reporting on the matter, and silly readers thought they could trust a GLBT news magazine. I hope we all learned otherwise.

You know Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify” and that’s good advice. But we live in the fast food and quick copy age now, so let’s shorten that to “verify.”

In either version the quote recounted by Shields is wonderful, and I’m glad it’s getting shared widely, because this example of diversity, achievement and common cause is America. But I would prefer it get spread accurately. It’s too late, I fear, for this one to get corrected, but, while we are all committing ourselves, quite rightly, to more civil language, let’s also try to be more accurate.

Emailing 101 for activists

February 9, 2009

This morning I got a phone call from an activist friend because her Internet service provider was not letting her send out emails to 200 addresses at a time from within her own personal email account.

Um, yeah they do that, because, as far as they are concerned you are spamming! They really don’t care if you have a coffee-stained form where folks printed out their address for you at that big rally in 2003. Oh, they might care, if you could just explain it to them — but that office is in India somewhere, and I don’t think it’s been staffed since 1999. Closed tight without a forwarding address, or a farewell wave or anything. AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, are notoriously unavailable for such issues. I doubt Cox or ATT, etc.  are much better.

Recently another Oklahoma activist got their email account completely shut off by a large ISP without warning for this very behavior. So that list of thousands of addresses is … who knows where? Maybe India? No, it wasn’t backed up locally — ever.


Look, thanks for your hard work on keeping people connected and informed,  organizing events for change, and sacrificing your personal life for the betterment of your community and world, but please be smart about it!

Any list of people (over say, 20 of your closest friends) that you send to regularly, should NOT be mailed to individually, not from your home computer with Outlook Express, not with your laptop using your Yahoo/Gmail account, etc. etc. Instead, you make a listserve, and send to the list’s email address, and everyone on that list gets the message and everybody’s happy — especially the business providing you with email service.

(I don’t want to get too technical here, but just because it’s quick and easy to send email, and it feels like it’s just freely flying off into the air towards its intended recipient, that “air” or bandwidth, is not free. Every typed character sent takes up room in that “air” and somebody pays for that.)

Fortunately, there are free listserv services available, notably Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. Riseup also provides free lists for progressive activists.  All of these also provide list owners the ability to download and store, in a safe location (i.e. on your hard drive AND a CD-ROM), the names and addresses of your group members. (By the way, your personal address book should also be backed up regularly.)

If you or your organization has a hosted account for your Web site, then chances are you have an install of Mailman or some other list manager available (check your control panel — in cPanel, for instance, look for “Mailing Lists” under the Mail section). This is a good option if you are concerned about privacy (but know that only operating your own highly secured server will really address all those concerns). If your host doesn’t have it available pre-installed, Mailman is a free download and can be installed on your account by your favorite techie.

There are also other means of mass communicating to folks for activists, and those options are expanding rapidly; I’ll write about some of those options later.

Sgt. Woods writes me from Iraq

February 6, 2009

Well, it’s good to know that the phishers are keeping up with world events.

I think.


I know you would be surprised to read from someone relatively unknown to
you before now. My name is Sgt. Denzel Woods of the 1st Battalion,
18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq,
which is now part of the Germany-based 172nd Infantry Brigade.
deployed to Iraq.

I would like to share some highly personal classified
information about my personal experience and role which I played in the
pursuit of my career serving under the 172nd Infantry Brigade which was
the fore-front of the war in Iraq.

Though, I would like to hold back certain information for security reasons
for now until you have found time to visit the website stated below to
enable you have insight regarding what I intend to share with you,
believing that it would be of your desired interest in one way or the
other. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2988455.stm

Also, could you get back to me having visited the above website to enable
us discus in a more vivid manner to the best of your understanding. I
must say that I’m very uncomfortable sending this message to you without
knowing truly if you would misconstrue the importance and decide to go
public. In this regards, I will not hold back to say that the essence of
this letter is strictly for mutual benefit of you and I and nothing more.
I will be more explicit and coherent in my next email in this regards.

Meanwhile, could you send me a mail through this email address
denzelwoods@ubbi.com confirming you have visited the site and you want to
know my intentions on sending you this message. Standing by for your

Sgt. Denzel Woods

Yeah, you stand by, Sgt. Woods.

Peace Arena nominated for Best Political Blog

January 21, 2009

2008 Okie Blog AwardsWow, very cool. It really is an honor, just to be considered… of course I’d like to win it too!

Voting open to Okie bloggers. Please take time to visit and read all the nominees. It’s great that we have so many compelling voices, that the Internet allows us to share them with each other so readily, and that we live in a country where free speech is one of our highest ideals.

And if you would like to start a blog so you could be considered for the 2009 awards, let me know, I will help you with the tech part. The ideas you gotta bring yourself.

Update: I think that, technically, the voting should be based on the posts of 2008, rather than current ones (the awards are happening a little late this year for reasons Mike explained a while back). Anyway, you can peruse Peace Arena’s 2008 archive, or go month by month during the year.

Idle amusements

December 15, 2008

Sites I have bookmarked for those times when I need to distract or hearten myself, such as days when, say, the whole world laughs at the American President for getting shoes lobbed at his head during a surprise visit to the country he invaded and destroyed.

  • English Fail and Wordsplosion! – I don’t think you have to be an English major to find this kind of thing entertaining
  • InstructablesHow to Remove A Fishing Hook Using Fishing line, you want video. An upscale version of this is Video Jug.
  • Gaping Void – Cartoons drawn on the back of business cards. This guy is talented! Yet settles for amusing me for free. Ain’t America great? (Actually, he has a day job — a really good one. He just manages to look like he goofs off all day. Neat trick, that.)
  • Free Video Games Project
  • The Open Directory Project – always good for wasting a few minutes … or hours.

What sites do you use for creative exploit or slothful recreation?

5 year blogiversary, or, my Thanksgiving story

November 27, 2008

I started blogging on Thanksgiving weekend in 2003. I was inspired by an Oklahoma blog I started reading shortly after moving to the state in January. That blog: JMBzine and its owner is now a friend and colleague of mine in several social service and political projects.

Of course, I have blogged very sporatically, and using at least five different URLs and using the following blog tools

  • Movable Type
  • Blogger
  • WordPress
  • Xoops
  • Wordress again
  • Drupal
  • WordPress again

What have I learned? Unless something revolutionary happens in open-source software for running blogs, I’m sticking with WordPress.

If I had it all to do over, I would just use Blogger. The main reason is that it doesn’t require any software upgrading, and — a factor getting more and more important to me as I start to recognize my own mortality — it will exist after my domain registration expires, my hosting account is closed, and I am no longer able to drag myself to the keyboard. If Blogger decided to finally add an import feature for non-Blogger formats, I’d probably use it.

There are several downsides to Blogger, and for some projects it’s not the way to go. I’m just talking about a personal blog.

If I were advising a new blogger with limited tech skills who doesn’t care much about the design of their site, I would point them at WordPress.com for a free blog with a very accessible and easy to use interface, that is probably also relatively timeless.

When I started with Movable Type, I didn’t know markup or code of any kind. I downloaded the manual and taught myself how to completely redesign the templates. Although I soon thereafter abandoned MT when its owners revealed hostility towards open-source, I did get a good idea of the general principles that are used by all the php based blog platforms.

In 2004, I got a book on X/HTML and basic CSS, and taught myself the basics. Deconstructing an HTML site design that was contributed to the Oklahoma Green Party(where it’s still in use) in order incorporate it with blogging software, I learned a couple of very useful php commands that make life easier for web-keepers.

That’s about the extent of my code knowledge, but by experimenting with a ridiculous number of open-source software offerings, including (in addition to above) Xoops, B2, Mambo and its derivatives like Joomla, I’ve learned that I don’t need to know how to create what people smarter than I are creating and giving away. I also am constantly scouting out free scripts and services that are available for bloggers and web-keepers.

I believe in the democratic principles behind blogging, the netroots, copyleft and open-source technology. I encourage — and provide hands on help where I can — progressive activists to become bloggers. I read and/or participate in (probably way too) many blogs in the loose leftist confederation that has become known as the Netroots, which I consider the revival of grassroots democracy in this country, and the hope of democracy around the world, lighting even its darkest corners.
That the Internet turned out the way it did (thanks to the corporate entities who didn’t see its potential and passed on buying into it during the early stages), is a miracle. Without the Internet, I think it’s possible that the past eight years would have been the decimation of our beloved form of government in the U.S. Through the instant global communications provided by the Internet, advocacy campaigns were created and activists mobilized in new and powerful ways. And we are only at the beginning of that process.

What’s more, now we will have a president who understands and appreciates this resource, and will use it to improve government and policy. I believe the Internet and the open-source movement and the transparency principles that guide the blogosphere were instrumental in guiding Obama’s political ideology and agenda.

For these amazing tools, and all who have embraced and expanded them, I am eternally grateful. However strange it may be to those who think of Thanksgiving as a time to forgo technology and focus on “real” communication, for me, Thanksgiving has become the tech holiday, a time I think most pointedly about the digital threads that have connected all the world in a global family that 20 years ago was only science fiction, and a time to renew my commitment to use its power for the common good.

In his own words: Anti-McCain ad going viral

September 20, 2008

Transcript in this Daily Kos diary, along with the day-long discussion about getting it on the air in swing states. Truthandhope.org has been helping such grassroots video work get the production assistance and funding to be seen nationally, and they are hoping to do the same for this one (per comments in the links diary).

Naturally, tv advertising takes money, so, if you can, give them a few bucks.

Following the election online

September 19, 2008

I get most of my news about the upcoming election from blogs (as I get most of my news in general). Here are the ones I follow most closely for information and analysis of the campaigns, media coverage and polls. (No particular order, but my top recommendations for those with limited time are indicated with *.)

Obviously, these are left-leaning blogs, so the opinion slants towards the Democrats, though there has been plenty of criticism of the Obama campaign and of downticket candidates published on these blogs, and throughout the netroots — certainly a great deal more of that kind of thing than you’ll find on right-wing blogs.

As with any source, traditional or new media, obtaining information online requires one to use judgment and assess statements against known facts, etc. etc.

To that end, I use Wikipedia, Congresspedia, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Open Secrets to verify things I’ve read, or dig deeper. When necessary, the government sites are available for primary sources of legislation, press releases, etc.

If any readers have further suggestions, or issues with my list, please use comments to share.

Sunday Stroll: 9-7-08 (belated)

September 8, 2008

Yesterday evening I Twittered as I browsed through some Oklahoma sites:

  • peacearena: Continuing the Sunday stroll through online Oklahoma: Chaz moves Dustbury.com to WordPress! http://www.dustbury.com/
  • peacearena: Lots of crazy anti-Obama posts on OKC Craigslist/pol http://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/pol/
  • peacearena: Work on rebuilding the Rock Cafe on Rt. 66 is coming along. Hurrah! http://tinyurl.com/59whek

I’ve decided to do this regularly. I won’t ban politics, but I’ll try to keep it in balance with other interesting stuff that’s being posted.