Archive for October, 2010

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Gulf Oil Spill Weather Report

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on October 31, 2010 by admin in Clean & Green

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

The forecast calls for widely scattered blamestorming, with high-pressure greenwashing continuing through 2050.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the only global media operation that’s covering the tragic aftermath of BP’s use of toxic dispersants is Al Jazeera. In spite of local news reports of illness from the chemicals as early as May, 2010, mainstream American media sources like MSNBC assured us back in August that the 1.8 million gallons of toxic dispersants dumped in the gulf were less toxic than the oil itself. And there’s not a lot of incentive to dig into this story, when BP and the NOAA have partnered for a propaganda campaign aimed at middle schoolers, in which they use cooking oil and detergent to show how safe the use of dispersants was. I’m no scientist, but detergent seems like a poor analogy for a chemical that causes heart trouble, organ damage, and rectal bleeding . And while major news sources like the WSJ were questioning the cleanup figures back in August, most media sources have since gone silent on the topic, except to acknowledge that Greenpeace is still looking into things. Or to talk about the Halliburton Blamestorm about the concrete used in the well. In fact, they’re telling us things are fine. Eat the fish. The fish that have been swimming in the water that just months ago would explode in the lab when tested for toxicity. Read the rest of this entry »

U Flattr Me

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 30, 2010 by admin in Technology

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

What if there were a “Like” button that let you put your money where your “Like” was? Flattr is a cool new micropayment service that lets you do just that.

We’ve pointed out the limited usefulness of the Facebook “Like” button before; in fact we offered a set of alternatives. Although I have no metrics to prove it, I personally think that the “Like” button significantly diminished the quality of interaction on Facebook. I’d guess the amusing banter on my “wall” dropped by about 60-80% as people suddenly found it easier to simply ‘like” something than actually use their brain for a moment and add a witty comment. But what if when you liked something, you could put your money where your mouth was, and actually know that in a small way you were financially supporting the thing you liked? We’ve talked about the new frictionless, wireless economy before, but one service we missed was Flattr. Flattr is an ingenious new service brought to us by some of the people that created The Pirate Bay, the occasionally controversial BitTorrent tracker. A little ironic that the people who brought the world so much stuff that might not be properly paid for would dream up a way for lots of people to legitimately give money to content creators they like. But it really is a brilliant idea, and could be a great thing for anyone from bloggers, to musicians, to social causes and non-profits. Although the concept has what I consider a few small barriers to broad acceptance, I think this is one of the coolest social networking ideas in a while. It’s like a tip jar for the internet! The barriers I’m referring to? First of all, the site frames all the payments in Euros as of this writing, and we all know how intimidating non-US currency can be to an American! And I have to confess that when I signed up, even though I was well aware that the 2 Euros required was about 2.80USD, I spaced out and paid 2 *dollars, then had to go back and add another buck to bring it over 2 Euros. But that’s really just my attention disorder at work, no fault of Flattr’s. It would also probably be cool if they plugged into more virtual currencies; for now you can use PayPal and most major credit cards, but if you’re building a new economy, you might want to open up the market as wide as possible. And the last thing? I have to admit that I had a weensy bit of trepidation about turning my credit card info over to people who were famous for starting a thing called the Pirate Bay, but quickly got over it. Ultimately, if this caught on it would be a fantastic new paradigm of payment, and a solution to a lot of the woes of undercompensated content creators. Like me. So here’s your chance. Sign up and Flattr me:

Flattr this

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2010 Elections: O Voter, Where Art Thou?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 29, 2010 by admin in Politics

Friday, October 29th, 2010

While the line between real politics and satire continues to blur with serious media outlets pondering the “platform” of a comedy show event, the 2010 elections give birth to a Michigan politician with the interesting name Rob Steele.

What an apt name for a politician

This is shaping up to be one of the most entertaining elections since Homer Stokes ran against Pappy O’Daniel in the Coen brothers’ film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The big news this weekend is of course the Stephen Colbert & Jon Stewart rally in DC. We’ve already explained why we’re not falling for Nazi Vampire Stephen Colbert’s ruse, but the media in general is eating this up. We’re still struggling with the idea that no-one perceives Glenn Beck as deadpan satire, while serious media sources are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the country’s new political heavyweights will frame their “platform” this weekend. This thing is being staged by a comedy network, right? Someone should point that out to Richard Pollock over at Pajamas Media, who’s all pouty that he doesn’t have a press pass. Why on Earth should a comedy show follow the same “access whore” protocol as a DC political machine? Pollock’s piece is comedy gold in itself; you can almost hear him stamping his feet as his verbal tantrum unfolds. I personally have no interest in attending the rally, if only because I hate using porta-potties. Besides, I have plenty of political comedy right here in the little college town I live in. Last summer we had Pat from Saturday Night Live running against Hannibal Lecter for mayor, and now we have a guy running for congress named – no joke – Dr. Rob Steele. For some reason I can only say his name as a series of verbs separated with periods, as in “Doctor. Rob. Steal.” This guy is a master of astroturfing; on his site he cleverly leaves out any proclamation of being a Republican, with his main pitch being that he supports Social Security. This means he’s either a liar or a retard really bad Republican; dismantling Social Security is – as we all know – the most important chapter of Frank Luntz’s GOP Playbook. Whatever weirdness comes out of this guy’s mouth shouldn’t be surprising though, his media firm takes great pride in the work they did for Christine O’Donnell, the Delaware candidate who demands to know “Where in the Constitution is the Separation of Church and State?” Doctor Rob Steele’s candidacy has also raised in my mind the question: who wants a doctor as a politician? Isn’t a doctor’s personal job security based on a constant stream of sick people and being in bed with the insurance industry? Doctor. Rob. Steele. For Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Confessions Of A Plum Market Paparazzi

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 28, 2010 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

OR: How taking innocuous photos at Plum Market can lead to veiled accusations of corporate espionage.

One of the nice displays at Plum Market.
Too bad I’ll never lay eyes on them again.

I had an interesting experience today which – in an indirect way – highlighted the corporate personhood vs individual personhood rights issue. The irony being the fact that it was a fellow personhood that was attempting to assert the corporation’s “rights”, ultimately at some small expense to the corporation. Let me explain. I do a lot of random small business consulting that runs the gamut from point of sale and display advice to web marketing development. Because of my work, and simply because of my nature, I am constantly – in fact almost compulsively – analyzing products, packaging, advertisements, and retail layouts. Today, for the first time amongst many visits to retail stores, I was more or less accused of being a possible corporate spy. I was in a local Plum Market, admiring the spacious, clean displays in their wine section. I ended up taking a few photos for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to show their wine racks to a friend who’s trying to figure out an interesting way to outfit his growing wine cellar. Although Plum’s display racks presented wines in a reasonably attractive way, they also frankly looked like they would be fairly cheap, and suit my friend’s simplistic modern tastes. The other reason I was taking a few photos was because I simply wanted to make a visual note of what I considered less-than-ideal display design that while visually appealing, was oddly flawed in a few ways. I was in fact doing casual research that would probably influence the ideas I would share with a client. It was after I had taken a few photos that an employee walked up to me and said “Excuse me, I noticed you were taking photos”. The camera was already back in my pocket at this point, but I had nothing to hide, and said “Yes, I was. Is that a problem?”, to which he replied: “Well, that depends on WHY you were taking photographs. Are you a competitor?” I replied – quite honestly – that no, I was not a competitor. In spite of being rather annoyed by his accusatory tone, I maintained a brief, courteous dialogue with him in which he explained that “lots of our competitors come in to copy our model, we’re a very successful operation”. There were a number of things that raised my hackles about this interaction. First of all, the simple fact that he approached me with suspicion rather than as a customer. I can understand (within reason) a retail operation’s concern about corporate espionage, but it was immediately obvious that this man’s reason for concern was rather nebulous, and that he was sort of justifying his low-key accusation on the fly. It’s important to note that I’m a fairly distinctive looking person with white hair, wearing a fairly conspicuous vintage grey outfit, taking a couple of pictures, making absolutely no effort to hide the fact. Wouldn’t a “spy” be wearing sweats and discreetly taking pictures with their iPhone, so they could transmit their covert surveillance photos back to headquarters? I’m not the first to raise this question; there are plenty of question & answer posts out there in which people discuss the same topic. And I don’t question a retail store’s right to state a “no photos” policy, as long as they post it. But all the arguments against taking photos while you shop don’t fly with me. Almost anything one could “steal” (i.e., visual presentation) in this context certainly doesn’t require a camera to copy, and if in fact the ideas being “stolen” are somehow a legitimate legal trademark of the store and they get copied and implemented somewhere else, the business can pursue legal action. This article sums up some of my thinking, but this goes deeper for me. Later in the day I asked a barrista at a local cafe how they’d respond to a person randomly taking photos in their cafe, and they said they’d be concerned. When I asked why, they fumbled at a similar answer about competitors. To me, this smacks more of knee-jerk, post 9/11, culture of fear reactions than rational policy. Because I’d bet this month’s Google AdSense revenue that these same stores will let Google take the same kinds of photos without batting a lash, without Google having to resort to these devious methods recommended by The Consumerist. Because you know, a person working for a corporation can’t trust a person, but they can trust another corporation. Watch for a future piece on this topic; I plan to test it out in a variety of stores and present the results. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this though.

This Election Will Be Bought To You By 74 Rich People

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on October 27, 2010 by admin in Politics

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

If you’re so smart, why do you vote?

If you really DO prefer astroturf to grass roots,
you can always buy some on Amazon

If you’re an American who’s angry about joblessness, the cost of living, government spending, and your mortgage payment, I want to ask you to do me a favor. Put down that teacup and that Obama sign with the Hitler moustache drawn on it for a second, and think. When you go to the polls this fall, don’t think about elephants and donkeys, think about power, money, greed, and media. Now that a corporation has the same rights as a person, and a handful of wealthy people who aren’t you control corporations, before you give that person that vote, ask yourself: am I just voting against something again? Because if you are, there’s a pretty good chance you’re being sucker-punched. When less than a hundred people in America make over fifty million dollars, and money wins elections, who do you really think you’re voting for? Ignore for a moment the fact that NPR is a frightening haven for aging hippy liberal academics, and take a look at this interactive graphic that they’ve created that shows the cash flow between allegedly “grass roots” political action groups and GOP or Democrat sources. If you read or listen to the whole article, you’ll find it’s not anti-conservative, it’s anti-public deception. In fact, it compliments conservatives for refining the dirty methods of Democrats. Don’t think partisan when you vote this time, think about whether or not you want a guy that George Bush referred to as Turd Blossom shaping how you think. Because there’s a good chance he is. Read the rest of this entry »

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