Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Thursday, November 01, 2007

  End the war on sense!

"Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages."
Samuel Johnson - 1758


America has been in a war of some kind or another for my entire life.

I see a callous and venal disregard for truth on all sides of every debate between everyone in America. This intellectual poverty astounds everyone I've met from outside the states.

I wish I knew a way out of this mess. I saw a ray of hope the other day - and oh! the irony! The Washington Post's On Faith blog called for a national debate on science policy. In a campaign thus far dominated by moral issues this would come as a welcome relief. Science - the quest for fundamental truths - could use a day in the sun. I'd love to know which national politicians could distinguish their ass from an asteroid.

It's not just truth that people try to sidestep, the framing of opinion around opinion, otherwise known as "guilt by association" gets to me. I'm more aware of it than most, as I use privoxy to eliminate web ads and translate common phrases into their logical equivalent (example - phrases like "cut taxes" gets replaced by "increase deficit spending") Unfortunately filters like this don't work on TV, and I've consumed far too much of that lately.

Ron Paul just got his 9 and a half minutes of screen time on Jay Leno, bracketed by an actor most famous for the Mission Impossible movies and his fringe religion, and a British punk band that never had a hit in the USA.

The youtubers were happy... Yea! We're on Jay Leno! Check out the video!

Most of the people in the audience weren't even born before the Police broke out of the punk sump.

But everybody else - the 10.5 million non-youtubers in middle America who actually watched the whole show - got an ear and eyeful.

As I cringed away from Johnny Rotten's harsh, atonal voice, I could imagine what middle America was feeling. People with mortgages and children in school generally don't dig the idea of anarchy, or revolution. Christians aren't particularly fond of Scientology... or the Sex Pistols for that matter.

Contrast Paul's appearance on Jay Leno with Barack Obama's. Obama got to express far more than his views on the economy - in his 15.5 minutes of screen time - and was bracketed by a pair of saner guests.

My score on Paul's Jay Leno appearance: MSM 20, Ron Paul 1.

Broadcast television has never had a good feedback mechanism. Yelling back at the television accomplishes nothing. Yelling back on youtube or in a blog feels good, but does little. Calling out all sides for reporting on events like this... well... it doesn't even feel good.


Time magazine just published a decent piece on Ron Paul. I wished they'd drop a few adverbs and adjectives, and spent the whole second page on real issues, but hey, it was Time magazine - I had low expectations and they exceeded them. I still had a quibble:

Their characterization of many Ron Paul supporters as nerds is um, er, far more accurate than some other things they've been called. They pegged me - though I'd prefer to call myself a software engineer.

Time doesn't allow open comments on their web pages. Boy, would I love to comment further on that piece.

All the major publications and news media would be far more credible to me if they always linked back to their sources and allowed open comments.

Later, seeing a pundit and Joel Stein, the author of that Time article, making judgements on monetary policy and Paul based on their fashion sense finally did do me in. I lost it entirely. These are the people calling the shots on the economy, showing up on television and writing for the popular press?



Wired published a piece about a botnet that was sending Ron Paul related spam. And - worst of all - the article didn't link directly back to its source.

My blood boiled. Wired: Show us the spam mail, including the headers. Show us the server logs. Tell us about your email setup. Show me the code - I said.

Note: I'd be pissed off if ANY candidate was using botnets, ok? I've been mad about the misuse of the Internet and the insecurity of Microsoft products for over a decade. I loathe spam and spammers. I have lost more time and work and energy to fighting off crackers, worms, and viruses than I care to think about.

So I did a little digging.

It turns out that the original researcher, Gary Warner, had posted the details from which that Wired story sprang on his
First Campaign spamming virus blog posting.

I would have been a lot less ticked off at Wired if they had bothered to publish that link.

The evidence posted there is pretty compelling that someone used a small botnet to send out some Ron Paul related spam. There's zero evidence that it was supported by the Paul campaign. I still resent the slant of the Wired piece
and would like independent verification of the virus/bot's existence. (update - independent verification now exists, and Gary Warner published a nice piece explaining his take on the whole brouhahah and making clear his opinion as to who was behind the botnet)

I asked a few sysadmins of much larger sites than mine to scan their spamboxes for this spam, too, just to see if we can independently verify Warner's results. It really would be news if finally the botnet operators had turned their interests away from sex and scams to politics.

I also sent Mr Warner an email requesting they publish some information about their setup while I did a little more digging on my own servers.

Of 3 email addresses of mine that were once widely published, each still collecting 70+ spams a day - not one has ever had a Ron Paul spam - not before, during, or after any debates. My primary email address (published widely for 5 years now) on gmail has an excellent spam filter, yet there was no political spam in my spam or inbox.

That's just the data I have. The sites that collect this spam for me do do some basic filtering before they hit spamassassin - I subscribe to a realtime blackhole list as one example. I look forward to more results, whatever they may be.

Sure wish Wired had a comments page, too. They've already had to revise that article once.


After that Wired piece appeared, this video alleged - with what appears to be actual links, and screenshots of an actual set of web sites - that a Rudy Guillani supporter paid writer Sarah Lai Stirland to slant that piece on Paul. There's some dodgy looking
pages in there, a real possibility of the video being faked - but perhaps there's a responsible sysadmin out there with a backup handy that can prove one way or the other - that the postings existed, or not. I wish archive.org captured history on a more frequent basis, and I sure hope somebody at wired... or in the MSM... or the government... investigates this claim. On one side or the other someone is due criminal proceedings.


I don't know what to think anymore.

I'm back to the same conclusion I came to earlier this year.

The only way to win is not to play.


I've had to battle with myself to not sink to the level of all sides in election 2008. I've had to delete all kinds of expletives and adverbs and adjectives that didn't add to the facts. (I kind of let myself go on this one, apologies).

I've used links to as many original sources I could find, on all sides, no matter what I thought. I've dug as deep as I care to go. It's been painful, and I don't want to do it anymore. I'm not cut out to be a journalist, and filtering out the effect of television, even in the small dosages I can stand, takes too much effort and energy.

I'm going to delete the flash player from my machine, logout for a good long while, and do something constructive.

See ya.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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