CityBeat Blogs - Internet <![CDATA[Curmudgeon Notes 11.14.2012]]> •    Monday’s Enquirer carries a sanitized obit for Larry Beaupre, the fine, aggressive Enquirer editor whose career was destroyed by a trusted reporter during the Chiquita scandal.    

Larry’s genius was motivating his staff to take chances and go the extra step. No one wanted to admit not making the last phone call to check something in a story. We made those calls.

As part of that, Larry brought the “woodshed” to the Enquirer newsroom on Elm Street. It was the perfect walk to his corner office overlooking the Ohio and Licking Rivers. There, Larry would privately discuss some failing or pratfall in that morning’s paper.

My favorite Larry story — there is no way I’ll call him Beaupre — is Lucasville. I was involved in coverage of that prison riot and occupation from its start on Easter, 1993. Larry was part of Pulitzer-winning coverage of the bloody Attica prison revolt in New York. He gave us everything we asked for at Lucasville. In the middle of that deadly mess — 24/7 for 11 days in Scioto County red clay mud outside the prison on what became press row — he drove down to deliver Sunday papers and thank his bleary staff. That’s leadership.

“I will never forget the Sunday morning when Beaupre showed up,” then-reporter Howard Wilkinson recalled for an earlier column. “He asked me what we needed. ‘Cash, and lots of it,’ I said, explaining that we had to buy food and clothing for the crew, most of whom came unprepared for 11 days in the mud. Larry pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and start counting out a wad of $50s . . . gave me $500 on the spot, which I ended up spending at Big Bear and the Subway in Lucasville. ‘There’s more where that came from,’ Beaupre said.”

Larry didn’t meddle when things went right. There always were questions about why we didn’t have some Lucasville story that someone else did. Larry always accepted “we checked it out and it’s not true.” We got it right and he honored that.    

A year later, he made sure we knew that a routine Lucasville anniversary story wasn’t acceptable. Kristen DelGuzzi and I spent weeks on race, religion and crowding in prisons around the country and Lucasville. The ordinary was not acceptable to Larry or his editors.

Not long ago, I sent Howard Wilkinson’s comment to Larry, along with that column anticipating the 20th anniversary of Lucasville in 2013. Larry responded warmly, saying it’s nice to be remembered for something beyond Chiquita.

However, it’s the nature of our trade that we’re remembered for our biggest screwups. Ask Dan Rather. So it is with Larry: the year-long investigative effort and special 18-page section describing what reporters Mike Gallagher and Cam McWhirter learned about Chiquita operations here and abroad. Typically, Larry gave two trusted reporters all of the resources they needed. He and Gallagher had worked together before Larry brought him to Cincinnati. Gallagher’s decision to eavesdrop on Chiquita voice mails doomed the project and cost Larry his career.

They gave us a dark view of Chiquita operations, especially in Central America. The project blew up in our faces and Larry was the scapegoat even though the stories had gone all of the way up the corporate chain and back again.

Readers noted that despite the three page 1 apologies and curious renunciation of the stories that followed revelation of Gallagher’s dishonest reporting methods, the Enquirer did not retract the facts.

Larry and the Enquirer had challenged the most powerful man in Cincinnati, Carl Lindner. Gallagher’s dishonesty gave Lindner his opening and Lindner crippled the paper for years. As part of the deal with Lindner and Chiquita, the paper paid $14 million.

More devastating was the condition that Larry had to go. He did. McWhirter was moved to a top reporting job at the Gannett paper in Detroit. David Wells was removed as local editor — the one job he always wanted at the Enquirer - but stayed to become opinion page editor.

Gallagher — who lied to everyone about how he got those voice mails and included his lies in the published stories — was fired. He stayed around to plead guilty to tapping Chiquita voice mail system and stayed out of prison by naming his Chiquita-related sources.

The Enquirer lost the passion and editing talents of Larry and David Wells and Cam McWhirter’s reporting skills. Other colleagues began leaving; the Enquirer was tainted goods. Job applications from similarly talented journalists dried up, I’m told, for years. I’m not sure the Enquirer ever recovered.

•    Larry (above) and his family moved to Mt. Lookout from West Chester when he came from New York.  No matter what landscapers planted in his garden overlooking Ault Park, deer ate them. Then there were the raccoons. Larry came to my desk in distress, wondering what he could do. I suggested a nonlethal Havahart trap. Let the critter loose in another park. Larry tried it. Bait would be gone, the trapdoors closed and no ‘coon. One night he stayed up to see what was going on. The critter went in, ate the bait, and when the doors dropped, other raccoons tipped over the trap. Doors opened and “prisoner” walked free. I think he gave up; Midwestern deer and raccoons were more than his New York smarts could conquer.

•    If you missed it, go back to last Tuesday’s Enquirer opinion page and read mediator Bob Rack’s essay on civility in public life. It’s broader than elections and is more practical than the typical admonishment to behave.

•    Thursday’s Enquirer started a page 1 watch on the Pride of the Tristate, naysaying obstructionists Mitch and John. I hope Enquirer reporters tell us what Mitch and John and their House and Senate colleagues do in the name of “bipartisanship.” Skip their words. Watch what they do.  

•    “Gravitas” apparently is so 2010. The new word favored by many politics writers is “meme.” A wise editor once told me to avoid foreign words unless they’re so common that even an editor would know them. Meme — from the Greek — fails.

• attributes this famous aphorism to department store merchant John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” I wonder if that’s true about campaign ads. Billionaire right-winger Sheldon Abelson helped poison the well but the New York Times says only his candidates drank; they all lost. I haven’t seen a similar analysis of libertarian Koch brothers spending but it reportedly was far greater than even Abelson’s. Democrats countered by raising and spending zillions. The only difference was the far greater number of Democratic donors needed to reach the magic totals. Great for TV stations but brain damaging for the rest of us.
•    There is no “financial cliff.” We’re not going to go over it on Jan. 1. An end to Bush tax cuts won’t pitch us in a recession on Jan. 2.  Sequestration won’t suck zillions out of the economy in one day. Yes, there is a downward economic slope if Congress and Obama don’t sort out the tax/deficit mess. So, why do journalists continue to parrot bipartisan “over the cliff” rhetoric when the facts they report make it clear that no such precipice exists?
•    My nomination for a “Useless” award is the New York Times telephone people who are supposed to help with home delivery problems. Twice last week, the Times wasn’t there in the morning and replacement papers weren’t delivered that day or the next. That included Wednesday’s paper with the election results. More aggravating was the blue-wrapped Times on my neighbor’s drive, giving lie to the Times’ “problem resolution” staff’s explanation that there were problems at the printing plant. Times’ operators  and clueless supervisors were in Iowa: dim bulbs who sounded like they read from an all-purposes script.

•    I finally used the New York Times website to email their vp/circulation. A reply came quickly, promising to contact the Enquirer whose carriers deliver the Times. A prompt call from Enquirer circulation on Elm Street promised replacement papers and a personal delivery. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t, a week later. A perfect union of ignorance and interstate bullshit.

•    Last week’s CityBeat cover story was the annual Project Censored; the most underreported major stories in the major news media. The list misses my No. 1 most underreported story of the year: third-party candidates for the presidency and their platforms.

About the only time the major news media noted Third Party existence was to wonder if a third party might get enough votes to deny victory to a Democrat or Republican in any state(s). Affecting a state’s vote totals would be bad for democracy, those news media anxieties imply.

So I’d offer two suggestions to my 24/7 news media colleagues. First, voting one’s principles is not bad for democracy and it has the potential for great news stories. Second, third party platforms suggest ingredients in whatever becomes conventional wisdom in 2016 or 2020.

That’s what third parties do; hopeful but realistic, they do the thinking that seems to escape mainstream Democrats and Republicans. If you doubt me, look at what came out of the Progressive era 100 years ago and what might come out of Tea Party initiative and energy.

•    Are news media short of photos of Petraeus in civvies? He’s no longer a general. Most images I saw after his surprise resignation had him in uniform. Also, the developing story of how his affair was discovered is fascinating. The FBI stumbled on Petraeus when it was investigating a complaint of online harassment against Paula Broadwell, the adoring graduate student who became author of the new Petraeus biography and his lover. The complaint came from another woman, a frightened friend of the Petraeus family. Agents looking at Broadwell’s emails found  classified information and romantic emails between Petraeus and Broadwell. Tacky as this is, it fell to Jay Leno to sum it up: Guys, Leno said, if the head of the CIA can’t keep an affair  secret, don’t you try it because if you do, “You’re screwed.”

•    BBC’s sex scandal — knighted entertainer Jimmy Savile and others at BBC abused hundreds of girls for years — continues to spread. So far, it hasn’t touched the BBC World Service which Americans get on WVXU/WMUB and other FM stations.

Last week, however, it cost BBC’s new top exec his job. He quit after one of his reporters suggested during a TV interview that he should “go” and a former Cabinet minister responsible for BBC said  Winnie the Pooh would have been a more effective curb on careless, defamatory reporting.

The latest mess involves BBC’s top domestic current affairs/investigative TV program, Newsnight and the broader issue of child abuse by prominent and powerful figures in British public life.

BBC’s Newsnight broadcast Steve Messham’s claim that a top Conservative politician was among men who molested him in a state children’s home during the 1980s. Newsnight didn’t name the Tory but others did on social media: Lord Alistair McAlpine. He came forward last week and denied wrongdoing.

When Messham saw a photo of McAlpine after the broadcast, Messham recanted and apologized. His abuser wasn’t McAlpine. No one showed Messham a photo of McAlpine before broadcasting his accusation. BBC last week apologized “unreservedly.” That phrase usually means a libel suit is anticipated.

Meanwhile, BBC officials canceled Newsnight investigations. Newsnight already is under investigation for killing an program that would have outed Savile as a serial abuser. Savile is dead but three colleagues have been arrested so far.

• excerpts from Into the Fire, a book by Dakota Meyer, the Kentuckian who won the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan. It’s a toy chest of news tips for reporters. Here’s part of the excerpt:

When I got home in December, I felt like I had landed on the moon. Kentucky is pretty much what you think: cheerful bluegrass music like Bill Monroe, rolling countryside, good moonshine, great bourbon and pretty girls. Greenery, lakes, the creeks and rolling hills, forests, birds, other critters and all the farms. There’s that genuine friendliness that comes with small towns and close-knit families. You don’t want to act like an asshole because it will get back to your grandmother by supper.

“Something like: ‘Well, Dakota, I hear you had some words today with that neighbor of Ellen’s sister’s boy.’

“Dad, of course, was happy to see me, as were my grandparents, so that was a good feeling. Dad didn’t give me a hard time about Ganjigal, and neither did my leatherneck Grandpa. We just didn’t talk much about it. It was great seeing my family and friends, but they had their own lives. Everyone around me was excited about football, Christmas, and other normal things; I was looking at the clapboard houses and the cars and thinking, man — so flimsy. They wouldn’t give cover worth shit in a firefight.

“It was an exposed feeling. And where were my machine guns? I found my old pistol and kept it around like a rabbit’s foot, but I missed my 240s and my .50-cals something awful. It seems weird, I’m sure, but I really just wasn’t buying it that there wasn’t some enemy about to come over the green hills, and I felt so unprepared—I wouldn’t be any good to protect anybody.

“I was set to soon go off to Fort Thomas, Kentucky, for PTSD therapy . .  . “

•    Next year, we’ll commemorate the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. It wasn’t the last time we underestimated the resilience of a far weaker “enemy.” JFK reportedly told the Times that he would have aborted the invasion if the Times had had the cajones to publish what it knew about preparations in Florida and Central America. However, during the two weeks before the invasion, the Times published stories about the preparations.

•    Next year, we’ll also commemorate JFK’s murder. I watched demonstrators at our London Grosvenor Square Embassy vilify the U.S. for its role in the Cuban missile crisis. The night of JFK’s death, crowds were back . . . to sign a book of condolences.

•    A federal judge ordered the FBI to pay journalist Seth Rosenfeld $479,459 for court costs and lawyers’ fees. He sued the FBI after it ignored his appropriate requests under the Freedom of Information Act. says Rosenfeld will donate the money to the First Amendment Project Project in Oakland, Calif. It handled his case pro bono for 20 years. That’s chump change to the bureau and it costs individual agents nothing for blowing him off. Meanwhile, news organizations say broad resistance to FOIA requests has worsened throughout the federal government under Obama.

•    Newsweek is going digital-only next year, in keeping with boss Tina Brown’s changing reading habits. She says she doesn’t even look at newsstands any longer; everything she wants is on her Kindle. Of course, she’ll fire people. Newsweek always was No. 2 to Time Magazine which continues its print edition. I’ve ignored giveaway offers from both magazines for years. It isn’t print, it’s their content. My choice? The Economist’s weekly U.S. print edition.

•    ABC said his family was unaware of film director Tony Scott’s brain cancer when he jumped off a bridge in August and died. Now, ABC admits its original unverified and uncorroborated story was wrong. There was no brain cancer. It only took two months to admit and correct the error.

<![CDATA[Paul Ryan Is Totally Ripped]]>

Anybody who’s familiar with the Internet knows that it’s a great place for looking at pictures of people without their clothes.

Apparently a lot of people want to do that to vice presidential candidates as well.

According to Google Politics & Elections, the No. 2 most-searched term connected to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s name is “shirtless.”

Ryan is known for a proposed budget that would offer massive tax cuts to the rich while attempting to reduce the deficit by gutting Medicare.

If one is to believe TMZ’s absclusive titled “Paul Ryan: He’s Hiding A Six Pack,” then one could see why.

An intrepid CityBeat intern spent most of Monday morning searching for pictures of said abs, but was only able to turn up the vice presidential candidate waving ironically from his yacht.

According to TMZ’s unnamed Hill source, Ryan hits the gym every morning at 6 a.m., and his routine is “fierce.” The source, who talks like a stereotype, says Ryan is kind of on the skinny side, but “totally ripped and has a six pack.”

Ryan’s press camp responded to the news by challenging Joe Biden to a sit-up contest in lieu of a vice presidential debate.

Google’s top four related search terms for Paul Ryan:

  1. Vice President
  2. Shirtless
  3. Wiki
  4. Budget
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.

Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.

Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.

In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.

President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.

The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.

As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.

The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> One of the biggest attractions at The Banks shopping and residential district opens to the public today. The Moerlein Lager House restaurant and microbrewery, next to the still under-development Smale Riverfront Park, features 19th Century-inspired food and a large selection of beers including craft brews and more than 100 international beers, all meant to evoke Cincinnati's rich brewing history.

Frustrated about dog owners who won't clean up after their pooches, managers at an apartment complex in West Chester Township are going all Forensic Files to stop the problem. The Lakes at West Chester Village told residents all dogs must submit a mouth swab so managers have a DNA database to use so it can match up poo left on the lawns with the rightful dog and its owner.

With Opening Day about a month away, the Cincinnati Reds are poised to win the division title this season, according to the Associated Press. With a revamped pitching staff and star first baseman Joey Votto, the team's prospects look better than they have in years, said AP sports writer Tom Withers. The season opener against the Miami Marlins will begin at 4:10 p.m. on April 5, after the annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade through Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

Budget cuts at the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) could mean the end for Hamilton County's 4-H program. County commissioners have ordered MSD to cut 10 percent of its budget, and some of that probably will come from the $400,000 the agency gives to programs like 4-H, which helps young people learn animal husbandry and life sciences activities like raising sheep and cattle. Some critics, however, question why sewer funds were being used to support an unrelated program in the first place.

In news elsewhere, hometown boy George Clooney largely was shut out of winning awards at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony. Clooney was nominated as Best Actor for The Descendants and for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March, but lost in both categories – to Jean Dujardin for The Artist and to the writers of The Descendants, respectively. Remember, George: It's an honor just to be nominated, and you still have that gorgeous hair. Other big winners last night included Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer.

In more of his over-the-top invective, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum dropped a couple of doozies over the weekend while campaigning in Michigan. First, Santorum said President Obama was “a snob” for saying he wanted all Americans to go to college. Then, he disparaged a 1960 speech by President Kennedy on the separation of church and state by saying he “almost threw up” while reading it. Oh, Republicans: Please nominate this guy, so we can all bet on just how many states he will lose in November.

WikiLeaks has begun publishing more than five million confidential emails from Stratfor, a U.S.-based security firm. Stratfor's computers were hacked by the activist group Anonymous in December. The company provides analysis of world affairs to subscribers which include major corporations, military officials and international government agencies.

Two people were arrested in a foiled plot to kill Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after next week's presidential election, according to Russian state TV. The men said they prepared the attack in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and were planning to carry it out in Moscow. Meanwhile, Putin warned Western leaders against a military strike on Iran. He said if such an attack happens, “the fallout would be truly catastrophic.”
<![CDATA[Online Pirating: An Old-School Gamer's Only Option?]]> Last week I blogged about SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in Congress that, if passed, would allow both copyright holders as well as the US Department of Justice to severely restrict access to and advertising on any website accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Needless to say the bill’s sparked a huge controversy on the web. Many sites such as blacked out their services on Jan. 18 in protest, and those against the bill are saying the bill inhibits free speech and will effectively “ruin the Internet” if passed.---

But I already talked about that all in my last blog. This week I wanted to cover another subject related to SOPA; namely, online piracy.

It’s obviously become a big problem, or else Congress wouldn’t have bothered proposing a bill as extreme as SOPA in the first place. And I can certainly understand why media companies are rallying in support of it. Every time a TV show, song, movie or video game is either streamed or downloaded illegally, they’re losing money.

But why do people pirate in the first place? The most obvious answer is to save money. Hell, why pay for something you can get for free, even if it means bending the rules? However, as an avid gamer and internet users…I know for a fact there are other reasons gamers such as myself might be tempted to pirate as well.

I personally love old-school video games. I grew up in the era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. And I still think some of the best games ever made exist for those consoles. The problem is, these days you’d probably be hard pressed to find a Snes for sale in your average game or toy store. It’s old technology. There’s no money in it anymore.

Any games made before the era of Sony’s Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox or Nintendo’s Gamecube are becoming increasingly hard to find. And even those are getting out of date with the newer consoles nearing on five or six years since their release. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a whole slew of ‘next-gen’ consoles within the next year.

So what’s all this got to do with online piracy? Simple: It’s pretty much impossible to find old video games anywhere but online these days. There’s myriad sites out there dedicated to ‘emulation’…or, to put it in layman’s terms, the distribution of programs that will allow you to play video games on your computer.

Given, there’s absolutely no excuse for the pirating of more recently released games. But in the case of some of the older games from the 1990s, and even the early 2000s, emulation’s pretty much the only option. Companies aren’t distributing these games anymore. The only alternative to pirating is trolling antique shops and the inventories of game collectors - and even then it’s a shot in the dark. Even if you find the game you’re looking for, you’d better be willing to pay an outrageous price for it. Hard copies of Earthbound, a popular role-playing game for the Super Nintendo, can go for over $100. And it’s not the only one, I assure you.

Fortunately, Nintendo, at the very least, seems to be sympathetic to the plight of a gamer seeking to relive the nostalgia of older-era games. Owners of the Wii can download older games to play using the ‘Virtual Console’ feature, given they’re willing to pay (typically $5-$20 depending on the game). It’s a nice feature, but the inventory’s still quite limited. Popular games like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda are easy to find, but several more obscure titles remain unavailable.

Unfortunate as it is, emulation is the easiest and cheapest method for a gamer looking to find and play older games. Unless you’ve held on to your old consoles and copies, you’re pretty much out of luck. Stores have begun to stop stocking games for consoles even as recent as the Playstation 2 and Xbox. As I mentioned before, companies no longer care to distribute new copies - there’s simply not enough of a market for it.

And admittedly, it is a small market. But not small enough to stop gamers from pirating hacked copies to play on their computer. It may not be the main concern of the organizations dedicated to stopping piracy, but with SOPA and other similar bills being proposed and voted on, it probably won’t be long before sites dedicated to video game emulation are targeted as well.

<![CDATA[SOPA: Stopping Pirating or Needless Censorship?]]>

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I'm a total Internet junkie. I spend a lot of my free time online, browsing various sites like Youtube, chatting in forums with friends and otherwise killing time. As of late, though, one particular subject seems to have pushed itself into the forefront of internet denizens everywhere. That is, SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a censorship bill which was proposed by the US House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011. It's created quite a buzz online, and with all the people talking about it and what it supposedly proposes, it's hard to get one's facts straight. Friends of mine claim that the government's trying to censor the internet, block access to certain sites - that SOPA will cripple the World Wide Web as we know it.--- has even proposed a rally against the bill, encouraging sites to black out their services today in protest. Several other web services and sites have joined, even Internet giants such as Google and Wikipedia have joined the protest. Either way, SOPA's causing a big stir online. But what does it actually propose? Is all the protest warranted? I decided to do a little research into the bill myself. I looked up the bill on Wikipedia in order to read about what it was proposing, in layman’s terms.

In a nutshell, if passed, SOPA would allow both copyright holders and the US Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites either accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on the order, several actions could be taken against the accused website, including barring advertisement, barring search engines from linking to the site, and requesting that Internet providers block access to such sites. The bill would also make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted media a crime punishable by prison sentences.

Those supporting the bill claim it will protect artists' intellectual property, reduce illegal pirating of media and help bolster copyright laws against foreign websites. Those against argue that SOPA violates free speech, will threaten whistle-blowing and otherwise effectively debilitate the web as we know it.

So who's in the right? There's no question that pirating is a major problem these days. There are thousands of websites out there dedicated to the illegal downloading and streaming of copyrighted material.

On the other hand, SOPA doesn't just target these sites in general, but also those accused of "facilitating" said sites. How is this going to affect my internet browsing? Is SOPA going to bar my access to websites I frequent on a daily basis? Just how far does the policy of free use extend to the internet?

Bottom line, there are still too many "what ifs" for me to support such a bill. I prefer my internet uncensored and would appreciate it if things stayed that way.

<![CDATA[Whoops! Not Quite So Fast]]>

Sharp-eyed readers who received an email update this week from Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld got a surprise: At the bottom, it stated the missive came from the “Office of Congressman P.G. Sittenfeld.”

That prompted some observers to wonder if the error was a Freudian slip and whether Sittenfeld, who was just sworn into his first council term three weeks ago, had already set his sights on higher office.---

The answer, according to the freshman councilman, is much simpler. The misnomer is due to simple human error on the part of Constant Contact, the email marketing and social media company hired by Sittenfeld to handle such communications.

“It was an error by Constant Contact,” Sittenfeld said. “We're having them fix it. Our account with them is listed under 'Office of Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld' — maybe someone there is used to doing newsletters for members of Congress and misentered it. I'm very happy in my new position.”

Sittenfeld, 27, is an East Walnut Hills native and Mount Lookout resident who garnered attention when he raised almost $306,000 this year for his first City Council campaign, which is more than any other other candidate including incumbents. His father is noted investment adviser Paul Sittenfeld, while one of his sisters is best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld.

Thanks partially to a series of TV commercials that appeared to air almost nonstop this fall, Sittenfeld finished in second place among 22 candidates in November's elections.

Here is the disclaimer, as it appeared on Sittenfeld's mass email.  


<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The internet is buzzing with kind words for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died yesterday after a lengthy battle with cancer. Jobs is best-known for his involvement in the transition of Xerox's graphical user interface into the first Macintosh computer and his forward-thinking leadership of the company. Jobs in 1986 purchased Lucasfilm's computer graphics division, which later became Pixar and helped Disney lead the animated film industry much in the same way Apple has defined how humans interact with technology. Jobs since 2004 had left Apple during brief periods of time for treatment of pancreatic cancer. He was 56.---

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth also died yesterday, at age 89. Shuttlesworth was a Civil Rights leader who led the fight against segregation in Birmingham, Ala., where resistance to equal rights was as violent as anywhere in the South. From this piece by NPR:

Fred Shuttlesworth had the vision, the determination never to give up, never to give in," Georgia Rep. John Lewis said. "He led an unbelievable children's crusade. It was the children who faced dogs, fire hoses, police billy clubs that moved and shook the nation."

A decade before that infamous standoff between authorities and young protesters in Kelly Ingram Park, Shuttlesworth was already pushing for change in what had come to be called "Bombingham." Dozens of black homes and churches were bombed, the cases rarely investigated by the city's all-white police force. In 1955, the charismatic young pastor of Bethel Baptist Church led a delegation of ministers who petitioned for black police officers.

Historian Horace Huntley of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute said Shuttlesworth personally challenged just about every segregated institution in the city — from schools and parks to buses, even the waiting room at the train station.

"They had a white section and a colored section. Fred and his wife bought tickets, and they sat in the white section," Huntley said. "That was revolutionary for Birmingham of the 1950s.

Mayor Mallory has canceled more City Council meetings so its members can't use the meetings to grandstand on campaign issues (or in Leslie Ghiz's case, play “Angry Birds” on her cell phone while constituents are speaking).

Local pastry chef Megan Ketover got the boot from Top Chef: Just Desserts last night, just for putting too much glaze on a donut. Don't worry Megan, nobody back at home is gonna be mad at ya for that!

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is involved in some type of policy punishment of China for manipulating its currency. Sounds complicated.

An Ohio judge has upheld the firing of a teacher for preaching religious stuff in school and keeping a Bible in his desk. “Peace be with you.” “And also with you, Mr. Freshwater!”

Sarah Palin is not going to run for president next year. That sucks — would have been funny.

President Obama was expected to explain his new “millionaire's surtax” at an 11 a.m. press conference today. The 5.6 percent hike on earnings over $1 million is expected to pay for his entire $447 billion jobs bill over the next 10 years. Prepare for the Republican rebellion, Occupiers!

Here's an interesting essay on the Wall Street occupiers using the street as their stage, written by a British historian and lecturer, who compares the protest to the public displays of authority by religious and military elite in England and America during the 18th century.

Producers of The Simpsons have agreed to pay cuts in order to keep the show airing past its current 23rd season. The cast is still thinking about it, though.

Three of Major League Baseball's playoff series are tied at two games each and heading toward a deciding game 5. The New York Yankees will host the Detroit Tigers tonight, with the winner facing the Texas Rangers for the American League championship. Then on Friday the Milwaukee Brewers will host the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Philadelphia Phillies will play the St. Louis Cardinals, each game deciding which teams will play each other for the National League championship. Sports!

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

President Obama came to town yesterday, rolled up his sleeves and told a group of 1,500 supporters to tell Congress to get to work on passing his jobs bill. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell reportedly stayed in Washington, called the speech “political theater” and then ate some steaks. These mopes fact-checked the speech, finding that the major points were accurate, including the fact that all McConnell and Boehner really want to do is defeat Obama and eat steaks.---

In the meantime, on Capitol Hill it's time for another round of everybody's favorite horseshit game: Shutdown or Compromise!

Cincinnati State teachers went on strike today, walking out this morning even though the school was scheduled to formally inaugurate Dr O'dell Owens as its new president. Today was supposed to be Dr. Owens' day!

Here's a collection of reactions to the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” most of which are in support of the repeal. Rick Santorum says allowing gay soldiers to be open about their sexuality is foolish and a distraction to their role of defending the country. In his defense, it would probably have been difficult to offer understanding to someone putting his gay life on the line for America while a bunch of Republicans are booing his video stream from Iraq:

Anyway, if you want to read more about the stupid Republican debate, here's an article about it titled, “Rick Perry's Word Jumble and Mitt Romney's Quiet Attack Strategy.”

Either way, the Obama administration isn't coming off the other half of severance pay that previously discharged gay soldiers aren't receiving.

Some crazy subatomic particle has apparently been measured traveling faster than the speed of light, which has scared the bejeezus out of scientists because it goes against Einstein's E (equals) mc2 equation.

Scientists agree if the results are confirmed, that it would force a fundamental rethink of the laws of nature.

Einstein's special relativity theory that says energy equals mass times the speed of light squared underlies "pretty much everything in modern physics," said John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at CERN who was not involved in the experiment. "It has worked perfectly up until now."

He cautioned that the neutrino researchers would have to explain why similar results weren't detected before.

"This would be such a sensational discovery if it were true that one has to treat it extremely carefully," said Ellis.

If you're a Facebook user then you know how annoyed everyone is about the recent changes to the site. This British guy explains how much more changes are in store, describing the new Facebook timeline as “creepy but cool.” No thank you.

Apple reportedly holds an 89 percent retention rate with iPhone buyers. Some people are so satisfied with the product they're willing to purchase the new model for five times the retail price with no details about what it's like or when it will actually be out. Maybe not.

Brad Pitt's new movie Moneyball opens today. Here's what the pretentious critics are saying about it.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson has some explaining to do after being caught yesterday receiving a shipment of 2.5 points of weed to his home. Authorities found another 6 pounds inside the Crestview Hills house, which Simpson owns. Here's how the incident will affect your fantasy football team, should you have made the mistake of drafting Jerome Simpson.---

The income gap between white and black families in the Cincinnati area is larger than the U.S. average. (Insert racist comment [here].) According to The Enquirer's Mark Curnutte (who formerly covered the Bengals beat but probably got tired of how dumb it was):

In the city, the median household income in 2010 for whites was $46,615 and $22,216 for blacks. In the county, the median household income was $53,967 for whites and $27,619 for blacks. The 2010 federal poverty level for a family of four was $22,050.

City Council yesterday approved $21 million in infrastructure work so there will be sidewalks and roads around the new casino. Chris Bortz was the only dissenter, but he also thinks it's cool to split 3's in Blackjack so no one was really surprised.

East Coast states are apparently very affluent. [Expletive] liberals.

In the meantime, Cincinnati and Cleveland are among America's poorest big cities.

Troy Davis was killed yesterday by the state of Georgia after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his latest request for a stay of execution. Davis, whose conviction of a 1989 murder has been doubted due to multiple witnesses changing their testimony or alleging that police coerced them, reportedly addressed the victim's family from the gurney, proclaimed his innocence and asked mercy for those about to kill him.

Why Obama and Warren Buffett are bros now.

So, NASA expects a satellite to fall from space one of these days onto Earth. But don't worry — it's not expected to smash into North America.

Annoyed with your new FaceBook layout? There will soon be an iPad app you can complain about. The company is going to meet with some developers and entrepreneurs this week to discuss creating more things for people to hate but still use all the time.

Apparently the world's largest sperm bank, Cryos International, in Denmark, has stopped requesting samples from redheads due to a lack of demand. I bet this Hoyt guy would be disappointed:

<![CDATA[More Layoffs at The Enquirer]]>

Another round of layoffs hit Cincinnati's only remaining daily newspaper this afternoon. Various reports indicate between 12 and 20 people were let go at The Enquirer.---

Among staffers reportedly laid off were Joe Fenton, assistant metro editor; Kenneth Amos, director of news and operations; Sharon Morgan, editorial page assistant and ex-readers representative; and Bruce Holtgren, digital content producer.

Also laid off were Gary Osborne, director of information technology; C.E. Reutter, digital content producer; Jeff Tindall, digital content producer; and Greg Watson, area circulation manager.

The Enquirer is owned by Virginia-based The Gannett Co., which also owns USA Today, more than 100 newspapers nationwide and 23 TV stations.

More than 1,200 employees were laid off at Gannett's newspaper holdings nationwide in 2009, including 101 people at The Enquirer.

Also, Enquirer employees have been required to take several rounds of unpaid leave during the past two years.

Most workers were required to take a five-day furlough in 2011's first quarter. Similar furloughs occurred in the first and second quarters of last year.

Newly-installed Executive Editor Carolyn Washburn announced the layoffs in the newsroom today. According to an item posted by one Enquirer staffer on Facebook, “I've never seen so many newsies cry so openly.”

Like most newspaper publishers nationwide, Gannett has been hit hard by a migration of readers to free content on the Internet and a related drop in advertising revenues.

During 2010's fourth quarter, Gannett reported a 0.4 percent increase in total revenue, to $1.46 billion; and a 30 percent increase in net income, to $174.1 million. Most of the gains, however, were due to the firm's broadcasting and digital operations.

By comparison, Gannett's publishing division had a 4.7 percent drop in revenues during the fourth quarter, to $1.1 billion. Advertising revenue fell by almost 6 percent compared to same quarter a year earlier.

<![CDATA[Hackers Take Down MasterCard, Others]]>

In the latest volley in the escalating cyberwar involving attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, anonymous hackers have blocked access and disrupted service to Web sites for MasterCard, the Swedish prosecutor's office and the attorney representing two women accusing Assange of crimes---.

On Tuesday MasterCard and Visa began blocking donations to WikiLeaks by their cardholders, even though the organization hasn't been charged with any crime. The action prompted Operation Payback, an anonymous group of hackers opposed to Internet censorship, to block access to MasterCard's site and expose it to service disruptions.

Similar actions also have been taken against the Web site for the Swedish prosecutor's office that filed four sex-related criminal charges against Assange, stemming from sexual encounters he had with two women in August. The Web site for the women's attorney has been hacked, too.

Earlier this week Operation Payback struck at the Web site for PostFinance, a Swiss bank that blocked access for a legal defense fund established for Assange. PayPal and Amazon also have stopped transactions involving donations to WikiLeaks, and hackers say those sites might be targeted next.

Interestingly, some of the revelations included in document dumps by WikiLeaks indicate the Chinese government previously attacked the Google site over access issues, and that China also was suspected of possibly attempting to hack Pentagon computers.

Some computer experts are now classifying the chain of events as an all-out cyberwar, which they say amounts to World War IV. According to this school of thought, World War III was the protracted Cold War (1947-91) between the United States and the Soviet Union, which primarily involved conflicts -- violent and otherwise -- through proxies.

A few IT experts worry that the attacks could be used by governments as a pretext for imposing restrictions on access to the Internet.

<![CDATA[Julian Assange Quotes Rupert Murdoch]]>

After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange voluntarily turned himself into British authorities today, he was denied bail and remains in custody until at least Dec. 14, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.

Assange, 39, was told by London Metropolitan police about new charges he faces in connection with two sexual encounters he had in Sweden. "He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," the newspaper reported.---

Supporters maintain the charges are trumped up and part of a political vendetta against Assange pushed by the United States and other governments. Throughout the past year, WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of once-confidential documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S. diplomatic relations around the world.

Also today, Visa and MasterCard blocked donations to WikiLeaks by their customers, alleging the whistleblower Web site was engaged in illegal activity, even though the organization hasn't been charged with a crime. In response, Xipwire, a Philadelphia-based mobile payments firm, set up a Web page to accept donations for WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, Common Dreams, a national, nonprofit group dedicated to organizing for progressive causes, published a column written by Assange. The article, entitled "The Truth Will Always Win," defends WikiLeaks' work as being essential to an open, democratic society and holding governments accountable to people.

"Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media," Assange wrote. "The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

"People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not," the article continued. "Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it."

At the beginning of his column, Assange cites a quote uttered a half-century ago by his fellow Australian, Rupert Murdoch, who now owns the conservative Fox News Channel, as well as numeorus TV stations and newspapers. Fox News is leading the charge to shut down WikiLeaks and imprison Assange.

"In 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's The News, wrote: 'In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.'"

Murdoch might do well to heed his own advice. 

<![CDATA[The Enquirer's Own Special Interest]]>

It’s a trying time for all newspapers, especially daily newspapers and especially The Cincinnati Enquirer.

As more and more readers turn to the Internet for free content and information, advertisers that once relied on print publications instead are flocking to Web sites like Craig’s List. Newspaper companies are left desperately trying to devise a new business model to replace the loss of advertising cash.---

Business analysts are buzzing about The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s parent firm, and rumors it will layoff another 4,500 employees at its U.S. newspaper holdings on July 8. Already this year Gannett has required most of its workers to take two separate, five-day unpaid furloughs.

Also, Gannett had a round of layoffs in December, and offered several employees a voluntary severance package last fall to reduce its payroll.

With that atmosphere in mind, it’s understandable that The Enquirer would want to protect its hold on print and online advertising from possible competition.

The Enquirer published an editorial Thursday opposing a bill (Amended Substitute Ohio House Bill 1) under consideration in the state legislature. The bill, sought by county governments across Ohio, would allow counties to reduce the amount they spent on public notice ads in newspapers and possibly allow them to solicit online advertising for county Web sites.

Counties want the changes to help them cut costs and explore new revenue sources during tight budget times.

Under the headline, “An advertisement for corruption,” the editorial stated,

“But (the bill) would make legislators beholden to a new set of interests, advertisers who buy space on county Web sites. This is wrongly advocated as a painless way for county governments to raise money without raising taxes. What it really does is open the door for conflicts-of-interest, campaign corruption and uncontrolled public spending.”

In its fervor to kill the bill, though, The Enquirer omits important facts.

First, several counties elsewhere across the nation already allow advertising on their Web sites including Cook County, Ill., where Chicago is located. No problems have been reported as a result.

Also, just like those counties, Hamilton County officials have said they would draft rules that would prevent advertisers from having any other business with the county, to avoid conflicts.

Later The Enquirer’s editorial continues,

“Advertising would make public officials dependent on one narrow set of constituents (the advertisers) for a new stream of revenue. Think of the potential conflict of an advertiser who spends tens of thousands of dollars on the county commissioners' Web site coming before the county seeking a zoning variance, a development deal or a tax abatement. If you are a private citizen opposed to the request, will you be confident that your voice carries the same weight as the advertiser?”

The irony, of course, is that readers could ask the same thing of newspapers about their coverage. Are newspaper executives somehow inherently morally superior to politicians? If you think advertisers don’t influence newspapers, ask fired Enquirer business reporter James McNair for his opinion sometime.

Just as newspapers still need readers to increase circulation numbers to justify the rates they charge advertisers, politicians still must convince voters to reelect them. It’s a type of check and balance.

The Ohio Newspaper Association (ONA), the lobbyist for newspapers statewide, sent an “urgent action alert” to its members several days ago, urging them to “editorialize immediately” against the bill. In the alert, the ONA listed several reasons why it should be opposed. They included:

** Government would be creating commercial Web sites in direct competition with private enterprises.

** Government would be soliciting advertising from the same companies and businesses advertising on traditional commercial media, thus taking revenue away from media outlets in Ohio that are already suffering from the recession with massive cutbacks, including layoffs of media employees.

** This concept allows government to operate with non-tax revenue, setting up the potential of avoiding voters whenever additional county revenue is needed.

** This concept is a conflict of interest that violates the separation of government (the public sector) from business (the private sector).

With tax credits, the use of eminent domain to seize land, and the recent federal bailouts, that last point is particularly laughable.

Thursday’s editorial followed the ONA’s suggested talking points on the topic virtually one-by-one, paraphrasing the lobbying group’s line of attack against the bill.

“County governments should concentrate on the business of providing government services,” The Enquirer’s editorial stated. “If they are short on funds, they should cut their expenditures or raise taxes. It is not in the public interest for them to solicit money from a select few outside the control of the voters. We urge the House to delete this proposal from the budget bill.”

That sentiment is at odds with what many newspapers — especially conservative ones like The Enquirer — have editorialized about for years. They’ve often pushed local governments to “do more with less” and find innovative new revenue streams that don’t depend on taxes. What those newspapers didn’t say was, “Just don’t step on our toes when you do.”

In today’s Enquirer, another editorial praised a watered-down version of the bill that would protect newspapers’ revenues. The newer bill would require the first printing of government notices to be done in newspapers, with subsequent printings done online. Further, it doesn’t mention allowing county governments to solicit their own online advertising.

The latest editorial, however, doesn’t mention that it would help newspapers protect their revenues at a higher cost to taxpayers. How disingenuous.