Archive for April 9th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

There was a recent spate of talk about a post by tech blogger Kathy Sierra, which revealed the death threats she’s received on her blog and her feelings dealing with them. Unfortunately, such virtual cruelty is common in the ‘sphere – h*ll, I’ve received a few myself. Sierra’s threats were meet with widespread condemnation and plenty of media scrutiny. Threats are scary, and I’d love to live in a world where I – or any other blogger – didn’t have to live in fear of her life in order to state opinions, even the puerile found here.

But that these threats have spawned a “blogger code of conduct”…yech. What a terrible idea.

Oh, the proposed conduct code is harmless enough at first glance, a promise for civility, a vow to contact folks privately first before taking their disputes public, some guarantee for not publishing libel, etc. A closer look, however – like this one taken by Tristan Louis — shows the myriad possible legal entanglements bloggers may encounter by following such a code of conduct.

Louis may be overreaching or seeing trouble where there is none, but to me the important part of this story is that this signals the potential death-knell of blogging, an end I’ve been predicting ever since I started blogging. The political activity represented and encouraged by blogs since the early stages of the 2004 election has been staggering and encouraging – but I think we won’t see much influence beyond 2008. In fact, 2008 may be both our biggest triumph and the end to the vitality of the form.

Here’s the thing. Once blogs get enough attention and respected, they will be assimilated by big-money media. Already “citizen” bloggers have seen competition from the likes of Joe Klein and other pundits-turned-bloggers, who are given instant credibility and an audience by their corporations. Still, there’s enough distrust of traditional media to keep the smaller blogs alive. But as soon as big business finds a way to isolate or discourage bloggers, they’ll implement it.

One way would be to use the proposed pay-for-bandwidth scheme the telecomm companies are cooking up. All they’d have to do is jack the prices up for bandwidth high enough so that only the monsters of the ‘sphere – Kos, C&L, TPM, say – can afford to provide high-speed performance to their users, and the amateurs would be shunted off into their little virtual alleyways.

Another way would be to exploit the self-created “blogger code” to create a small, select group of blogs who control entry or exit into the group. Any blog denied a certificate deeming them responsible or ethical, or whatever ,would be denied links, references, exposure. Such a small group isn’t hard to imagine, too. Who wouldn’t take up the money, exposure, and influence of being a sitting member of the “board of blogs”? And then the ‘sphere devolves into a few online Broders and Friedmans featured on the websites of Disney, Qualcomm, and GM Motors. (What makes this code of conduct scenario more plausible is that something similar happened to the comic and movie industries.)

Combine the two – the lack of exposure and bandwidth — and you can kiss the vitality, originality, and, yes, the crudity of blogs good-bye.



A great profile of Jon Tester in this Sunday’s Missoulian

And from the pages of the profile, Matt Singer points out Jon’s thoughts about the war and wonders how we can push both him and Max Baucus towards a more firm stance against Bush.

Montana’s Congressional delegation to fight the removal of 50 missiles from Malmstrom’s mission. IMHO, they should be looking for new, forward-looking missions instead.

Tester co-sponsors the allocation of $315 million for research on carbon-dioxide sequestration. Which the Good Guv needs, if his coal-to-gas scheme is to work.

Watch Max grill an EPA representative over the allocation of funds for cleaning up Libby.

Former state Senator, Jeff Mangan, calls for Republican leadership in the Senate to step forward and salvage the budget process.

Mike Dennison has a point about the Good Guv’s energy plan: it’s not terribly coherent.

So…just why are servers going to be excluded from Montana’s minimum wage?

Here’s a report on “New West” versus “Old West” economies from New West — gee, I wonder towards which side the online journal gavitates.

The LA Times mulls the new-found political power of Native American communities in places like Montana.

The Washington Post agrees with Iran on the proper role of women, and is worried that the Muslim world thinks we’re all gay.

John McCain “explains” his stroll through Baghdad on “60 Minutes.” Shall we set the over-under for when McCain drops out of the presidential race?

And you wonder why Democrats want to boycott Fox? This hit piece almost makes me want to support Clinton.

Josh Marshall scrutinizes Rachel Paulose and the resignation of four Minneapolis-based US attorneys. The incident may provide more evidence of misconduct on behalf of the administration.

And in Wisconsin, we find out that the state GOP pressured the DoJ through Rove to prosecute Democratic voter fraud just before a tight gubernatorial election.

Michael J. Strickings on the uncomfortable breach of church and state that the administration hiring of Regent-University-educated lawyers represents.

Kevin Drum describes how unqualified Regent University grads get plum appointments in the DoJ.

Now even Newt wants Alberto to resign.

How a retired Marine colonel and renowned professor can be put on the terrorist watch list.

Hometown Baghdad,” a series of Iraqi-made YouTube videos depicting the lives of young people in Baghdad.

Why asking presidential hopefuls for their Iraq plan is pointless.

It doesn’t matter who wins in 2008, US troops are in Iraq to stay, says NYTimes Magazine writer Noah Feldman.

Who supports the troops? Apparently not the administration, which is sending unfit troops back to battle and maltreats the wounded who stay behind.

The beginning of the end: the blogger code of conduct. Reminds me of the comics code of a half century ago, and a nice gateway into the legitimizing of a handful of officially sanctioned blogs and pushing the rest to the periphery.

Another possibility of the future of blogs: in Japan, all political content is banned from online sources 12 days prior to an election.

by Jay Stevens

The big issue swirling around campus is the University student government – ASUM – has banned the Pickle Barrel from using Griz cards to pay for meals over an incident where a Saudi exchange student was denied service at the store. The store manager, Ryan Dutton, claimed he had gotten into a late-night drunken altercation with the student, Abdulaziz Aljama, and refused to serve him. The owner backed him up, saying the store has the right to refuse service to anyone. Aljama felt it was his skin color that got him booted. ASUM agreed and created the controversy. Missoula police investigated and found no evidence of discrimination. Mayor Engen is now leading a review of the case because of its sensitivity.

The only thing that’s clear is that there’s no definitive conclusion that can be taken away from the incident. Considering Dutton was probably intoxicated at the time of his original altercation, it’s altogether possible he confused Aljama with someone else. It’s also likely that Aljama felt that his skin color was used as the basis of Dutton’s claim.

What is clear is that the reaction to the incident was overblown. ASUM was way to hasty in its condemnation of the store. But then ASUM’s action is more than offset by stuff like this:

I didn’t think the admission of Saudi exchange students to the University of Montana would pass without an incident of some kind, but one would think Abdulaziz Aljama could perhaps find a better target than The Pickle Barrel, though for Saudi’s I suppose we should be grateful they chose The Pickle Barrel rather than the Sears Tower.

It’s paranoid fantasies about Saudi operatives “disguised” as students that make a strong statement against discrimination necessary.

Still, I think our mayor is doing the right thing by reviewing the case. It’s a tense situation, and everyone involved deserves the scrutiny the case is going to receive. I suspect the mayor won’t find that racism was the driving force behind the incident; I hope when he does, that ASUM backs down from its stance. (What is it doing battling off-campus issues anyway?) As for the other folks…well…bigotry is pretty deep-rooted. Not much you can do for them.

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