The Times Against Abortion?

Not quite, but William Saletan says,"It's time for the abortion rights movement to declare war on abortion." [via Kottke]

It's definitely worth a read, but necessitates further commentary. I'll be updating this post with more.

The Making of Copper

Kazu Kibuishi over at Bolt City has finally published the step-by-step process he takes to create his comic Copper (which, by the way, is amazing).

If you have never seen Kazu's work, you really ought to check this out. He is a one-of-a-kind animator/illustrator who deserves much, much more recognition. The guy is phenomenal.

In other comic news, the Penny Arcade book is finally available for pre-order on

"Rape of the Marlboro Man"

I've been intrigued by dynamic "popular" lists for a while now. First it was BlogDex, then came, and lately I've even been glancing at Technorati's 'Today's Most Popular.

That said, I've noticed that on their popular movies page, Brokeback Mountain has been topping the list by over double the blog mentions for the past few days. I haven't taken the time to discern whether a majority of these blogs are in favor of the movie or if they are recognizing it as propaganda, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents, regardless.

Actually, just about everything I want to say about this movie has been said by David Kupelian in his article 'Brokeback Mountain': Rape of the Marlboro Man. Please read this article in its entirety. In the meantime, here are some important excerpts:
"Brokeback Mountain," the controversial "gay cowboy" film that has garnered seven Golden Globe nominations and breathless media reviews – and has now emerged as a front-runner for the Oscars – is a brilliant propaganda film, reportedly causing viewers to change the way they feel about homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage.

And how do the movie-makers pull off such a dazzling feat? Simple. They do it by raping the "Marlboro Man," that revered American symbol of rugged individualism and masculinity.

We all know the Marlboro Man. In "The Marketing of Evil," I show how the Philip Morris Company made marketing history by taking one of the most positive American images of all time – the cowboy – and attaching it to a negative, death-oriented product – cigarettes.

Hit the pause button for a moment so this idea can completely sink in: Cigarette marketers cleverly attached, in the public's mind, two utterly unrelated things: 1) the American cowboy, with all of the powerful feelings that image evokes in us, of independence, self-confidence, wide-open spaces and authentic Americanism, and 2) cigarettes, a stinky, health-destroying waste of money. This legendary advertising campaign targeting men succeeded in transforming market underdog Marlboro (up until then, sold as a women's cigarette with the slogan "Mild as May") into the world's best-selling cigarette.

It was all part of the modern marketing revolution, which meant that, instead of touting a product's actual benefits, marketers instead would psychologically manipulate the public by associating their product with the fulfillment of people's deepest, unconscious needs and desires. (Want to sell liquor? Put a seductive woman in the ad.) Obviously, the marketers could never actually deliver on that promise – but emotional manipulation sure is an effective way to sell a lot of products.

. . .

Yes, the talents of Hollywood's finest are brought together in a successful attempt at making us experience Ennis's suffering, supposedly inflicted by a homophobic society. Heath Ledger's performance is brilliant and devastating. We do indeed leave the theater feeling Ennis's pain. Mission accomplished.

Lost in all of this, however, are towering, life-and-death realities concerning sex and morality and the sanctity of marriage and the preciousness of children and the direction of our civilization itself. So please, you moviemakers, how about easing off that tight camera shot of Ennis's suffering and doing a slow pan over the massive wreckage all around him? What about the years of silent anguish and loneliness Alma stoically endures for the sake of keeping her family together, or the terrible betrayal, suffering and tears of the children, bereft of a father? None of this merits more than a brief acknowledgment in "Brokeback Mountain."

What is important to the moviemakers, rather, is that the viewer be made to feel, and feel, and feel again as deeply as possible the exquisitely painful loneliness and heartache of the homosexual cowboys – denied their truest happiness because of an ignorant and homophobic society.

Thus are the Judeo-Christian moral values that formed the very foundation and substance of Western culture for the past three millennia all swept away on a delicious tide of manufactured emotion. And believe me, skilled directors and actors can manufacture emotion by the truckload. It's what they do for a living.

Here's something I think we need to truly think about. Masterfully produced propaganda could serve to tie us emotionally to just about any behavior, no matter how deviant or gruesome.
Do we understand that Hollywood could easily produce a similar movie to "Brokeback Mountain," only this time glorifying an incest relationship, or even an adult-child sexual relationship? Like "Brokeback," it too would serve to desensitize us to the immoral and destructive reality of what we're seeing, while fervently coaxing us into embracing that which we once rightly shunned.

All the filmmakers would need to do is skillfully make viewers experience the actors' powerful emotions of loneliness and emptiness – juxtaposed with feelings of joy and fulfillment when the two "lovers" are together – to bring us to a new level of "understanding" for any forbidden "love." Alongside this, of course, they would necessarily portray those opposed to this unorthodox "love" as Nazis or thugs.

It's interesting to consider that even Jake Gyllenhaal was uncomfortable as an actor simulating homosexual sex with Heath Ledger.
I was super uncomfortable … [but] what made me most courageous was that I realized I had to try to let go of that stereotype I had in my mind, that bit of homophobia, and try for a second to be vulnerable and sensitive. It was f---in' hard, man. I succeeded only for milliseconds.

The terms "homophobia" and "stereotype" have been used and overused to mask what's really going on in the majority of American minds. It's the truth, most people are innately uncomfortable with homosexual relationships. Period. Kupelian rightly asks, "Could it be, rather, that his conflict resulted from putting himself in a position, having agreed to do the film, where he was required to violate his own conscience? As so often happens, he was tricked into pushing past invisible internal barriers – crossing a line he wasn't meant to cross. It's called seduction."

It's truly scary to step back and observe how this works. Human beings innately react negatively to an unnatural situation or corrupt behavior. Yet, when such a situation is desirable for some, people must be coaxed into ignoring that natural reacton. How is that accomplished? The definition of what is "natural" is slowly changed, and what is correct is subtley transformed into "evil." Then, opposition is easily painted as ignorance or bigotry or weakness.
As I said at the outset, Hollywood has now raped the Marlboro Man. It has taken a revered symbol of America – the cowboy – with all the powerful emotions and associations that are rooted deep down in the pioneering American soul, and grafted onto it a self-destructive lifestyle it wants to force down Americans' throats. The result is a brazen propaganda vehicle designed to replace the reservations most Americans still have toward homosexuality with powerful feelings of sympathy, guilt over past "homophobia" – and ultimately the complete and utter acceptance of homosexuality as equivalent in every way to heterosexuality.

If and when that day comes, America will have totally abandoned its core biblical principles – as well as the Author of those principles. The radical secularists will have gotten their wish, and this nation – like the traditional cowboy characters corrupted in "Brokeback Mountain" – will have stumbled down a sad, self-destructive and ultimately disastrous road.
Thanks David, you're spot-on.

Who killed Junior?

An interesting Pro-Life comic book from 1973. It's the earliest known mass-produced handout against abortion. It was produced and distributed by Right To Life (then only 2 months old). Read it. It's the truth most people have since chosen to ignore.

One part I found particularly interesting was Page 21 which lists a few facts about abortion. One of the most significant (and one that has been largely ignored or denied) is that "more than one-third of mothers who have aborted babies have mental problems later." In the 1970s this was based on Japanese research that showed that 59% of women who had abortions were "seriously troubled" or were in "less than good health" following the procedure. Even recent research affirms the same:
New Research Links Abortion With Depression, Other Mental Health Problems

A New Zealand researcher who identifies himself as "pro-choice," an atheist and a rationalist has published a study linking abortion with an increased risk for mental health problems and he criticized the American Psychological Association for its absolutist stance claiming no link between abortion and mental health.

Dr. David M. Fergusson's study, published in the widely respected Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that compared to women who had never been pregnant and women who had been pregnant but never had an abortion, women who had abortions were at a higher risk for suicide, major depression, anxiety disorder and drug dependence.

In an interview on Australian radio Fergusson said he is pro-abortion but thinks it is important to have as much information about the effects of abortion as possible. "My view is I'm pro-choice, and I believe that women do have the right to have a choice to abortion. So I don't see these results as being against that position, but it does show, as with any surgical procedure, or any procedure of any form, that there are risks and benefits that need to be taken into account and to be weighed up very carefully."

Fergusson said he conducted the research because he did not think there had been enough study on the subject. "The whole topic has been remarkably under-researched . . . there's been a lot of debate about whether abortion does or does not have harmful effects, but the amount of research into the harms of abortion, or its benefits for that matter, has been very limited."

The report examined a group of more than 500 girls who have been studied from birth to age 25. While it has long been acknowledged that women who have had abortions have higher rates of depression and other mental health problems, there has been dispute over whether or not this was because abortion caused mental health problems or because women with mental health problems were more likely to have abortions. By studying such a large cohort of women over such a long period of time, Fergusson said he was able to take into account and eliminate factors like socio-economic background, family life and previous history

Fergusson noted that his findings were at odds with many in the mainstream of psychology who have steadfastly rejected a link between abortion and depression. "In particular, in its 2005 statement on abortion, the American Psychological Association concluded that ‘well designed studies of psychological responses following abortion have consistently shown that risk of psychological harm is low . . . the percentage of women who experience clinically relevant distress is small and appears to be no greater than in general samples of women of reproductive age’ . . . This relatively strong conclusion about the absence of harm from abortion was based on a relatively small number of studies which had one or more of the following limitations: a) absence of comprehensive assessment of mental disorders; b) lack of comparison groups; and c) limited statistical controls. Furthermore, the statement appears to disregard the findings of a number of studies that had claimed to show negative effects for abortion."

Copyright 2005 --- Culture of Life Foundation. Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

Though I typically can't stand Newsweek for their obvious bias and often sloppy journalism, they have a decent story up right now about the U.S. Government's top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). Newsweek calls it The Other Big Brother.
Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.

I'm going to do a little more personal research on the organization, but this article certainly undergirds what I keep saying about personal privacy.
It isn't clear how many groups and individuals were snagged by CIFA's dragnet. Details about the program, including its size and budget, are classified. In December, NBC News obtained a 400-page compilation of reports that detailed a portion of TALON's surveillance efforts. It showed the unit had collected information on nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, including one at a Quaker meetinghouse in Lake Worth, Fla., and a Students Against War demonstration at a military recruiting fair at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Granted, it's all about what you share with whom, but the fact of the matter is (particularly with social networking websites), young people are using the Internet as a tool to organize political protests and share controversial political ideas. I think this is great; it's what our country is all about. That's also why I'm concerned that the government is examining this information and using it to pursue certain groups and activities. Don't tell me that privacy isn't important.
An internal CIFA PowerPoint slide presentation recently obtained by William Arkin, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who writes widely about military affairs, gives some idea how the group operated. The presentation, which Arkin provided to NEWSWEEK, shows that CIFA analysts had access to law-enforcement reports and sensitive military and U.S. intelligence documents. (The group's motto appears at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide: "Counterintelligence 'to the Edge'.") But the organization also gleaned data from "open source Internet monitoring." In other words, they surfed the Web.
No big deal? Read on:
Arkin says a close reading of internal CIFA documents suggests the agency may be expanding its Internet monitoring, and wants to be as surreptitious as possible. CIFA has contracted to buy "identity masking" software that would allow the agency to create phony Web identities and let them appear to be located in foreign countries, according to a copy of the contract with Computer Sciences Corp.

In trademark Orwellian style, Cheney told the Manhattan Institute (a conservative think tank), "Either we are serious about fighting this war on terror or not." In other words, if you oppose such spying, then you must be tolerant of terrorism.

"This is a significant Pandora's box [Pentagon officials] don't want opened," says Arkin. "What we're looking at is hints of what they're doing." That's what I've been concerned about from the get-go. That is, if certain tactics are making it to the surface enough to be apparent to observant citizens, then we must assume that we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. As Newsweek wrapped it up: "As far as the Pentagon is concerned, that means we've already seen too much."

Don't try anything sneaky...

I really didn't consider privacy that big of an issue until I first started researching social networking. Now that my eyes have been opened a bit, I am seeing serious threats to privacy everywhere. Not only that, but violating privacy is apparently a lucrative business. Companies like the UK's World Tracker plan to make a pretty penny by revealing your exact location to any interested party with your phone number.

For just 16 pounds ($28), World Tracker will allow you to view the location of just about any GSM cellphone. Just enter the number you want to track into the service's Google Maps-based interface, and you'll be able to zoom in on the device's location, with accuracy somewhere between 50 and 500 meters.

Thankfully it's not (yet) full-on spying; a text message is sent to the party being tracked, who must then respond in order to enable the service. That's a relief - but then again - this technology is clearly available to anyone, these folks are just charging for it. Currently the service is only available in the UK, but they plan to expand to Germany, Spain, Norway and the US.

Government Requests User Data From Google

From the The Mercury News:
The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.
Scary, eh? There is hope, however. Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government's effort "vigorously."

With the recent writings I've been doing on Internet use and privacy, I've been surprised by the number of commenters who say "so what?" to this matter. Privacy is an extremely important part of this (and any) free country.
This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared,'' said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. ``The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court document is the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives.
I do have high hopes for Google and their "Don't be evil" mantra. According to the news story, other search engines have agreed to release search records, but Google still refuses. That's 46% of U.S. searches that they continue to guard. Let's hope they can hold their ground.

Update: Almost a $40 drop in one day (Friday). That stinks.

New Study: Mobile phones not linked to brain cancer:
British researchers say they have found no evidence to support fears that mobile phones cause brain cancer.

The new study, published online on Friday by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), covers mobile phone use by 966 Britons aged 18-69 who were diagnosed between 2000 and 2004 with glioma, a rare but highly malignant brain tumour.

The researchers compared these results with similar interviews conducted among 1,700 healthy people, AFP reports.

The probe found that there was no additional risk from mobile phones, as determined by the number of years the phone had been in use; the age at which it was first used; the number of calls made; and the number of hours a person spent talking on it.

The team did note that there was a significant tendency for a brain tumour to occur on the same side of the head where the user said he had usually placed the phone.

But, they suggest, this figure could be 'recall bias' -- cancer patients, aware of the scare about mobile phones, may have been prompted to attribute their tumour to the gadget.

The study only covers use of mobile phones for up to 10 years. It does not apply to longer-term use.

However, some individual studies have suggested there could be a cancer risk from using mobile phones in rural areas, where electromagnetic signals are stronger in order to compensate for the greater distance between relay stations, and from using older-generation analogue phones.

Via Drudge.

This is London:
Veteran actor Christopher Lee has criticised the new wave of young Hollywood stars, claiming they are chosen for their looks rather than their talent.

This is so refreshing to hear, and I completely agree. Not only do I think this cricitism is spot-on with regard to Hollywood, but it's sadly true for the Music industry as well. All of the great singer/songwriters of our generation (Rufus Wainwright, Chris Stills, etc.) are relegated to the "indie" scene because mainstream audiences are being sold a pretty, studio-engineered package that is far from what it should be about: talent. I hadn't thought about the same ringing true for Hollywood, but I must say I agree.

Lee does take the time to praise one of the great young actors of our generation:
The number one actor in the world as far as I'm concerned is Johnny Depp. He's not afraid of a challenge, he's not afraid of anything.

Once again, I agree. Read the whole article. It's good.

Give me some feedback: Who do you feel like the most talented and under-appreciated artists are in music and film? I'm particularly interested to hear what musicians you love and wish more people knew about.

Google Robot FAQ

Google Blogoscoped has an interesting Google spoof up. It's The Google Robot FAQ (Last updated November 1st, 2030), and it's humorous, fascinating, exciting and scary all at the same time.
What are Google Robots?

Google Robots are our human-like machines that walk the earth to record information. They do no harm, and they do not invade your privacy. ...

So what about the My Public Life™ program?

The My Public Life™ program is still in Beta. It enables subscribers to earn money through our AdSense for Life program. If you agree to make your personal talks with friends, your diary entries, your living room and such public, you can in return earn a percentage of the money we make by putting ads onto this information on our public websites. Google Robots at all time know who is a subsriber to the My Public Life™ program, and who isn't. Consequently, they will only follow those humans who are. ...

How many languages do Google Robots speak?

At the moment, Google Robots – thanks to our machine translation efforts – speak 95 different languages fluently, including English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many more. We are updating our Google Robots with new "street lingo" every 1-2 weeks. ...

I want to talk to a Google Robot and tell him of my problems and more. May I?

Yes! We appreciate it if you share information with a Google Robot. Please note that anything you directly tell to a Google Robot will be automatically indexed in our Google Life search program and be made publicly available. ...

Is a Google Robot stronger than a human?

Technically, no. E.g., a Google Robot cannot lift very heavy objects at this time. However, if a Google Robot is ever forced to fight a human – which only happens when the Google Robot's self-defense program is activated by malicious use – the Google Robot would easily win by activating its self-defense devices. Please understand that for security reasons, we do not list these self-defense devices in detail here. ...

I still feel like a Google Robot invaded my privacy or breached a copyright. Where do I go to?

You can send privacy or copyright complaints to the following address:

Google, Inc.
Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Complaints
220 Far Earth District
Moonlake, Moon 105

Please include the Google Robot serial number (a Google Robot will always tell you his 16-digit serial number upon being asked), and if possible, the time when this happened. It is not necessary to give us further details about the location or setting, as naturally our Google Robot already recorded this information. ...

Under the Patriot Act IV, are you forced to share information crawled by Google Robots with agencies such as the CIA or NSA?

We are sorry, but at this moment we cannot comment on government relationships. We hope you understand. Note that as part of our company motto, "Don't be too evil," we take your privacy concerns very seriously.


Facebook Responds

It's been right at one month since I posted the article What would Orwell do?. It was a sort of investigative exposé (and conspiracy theory) regarding the VCs who are currently funding Facebook.

I knew that the article would garner some attention; after all, Facebook has over 8 million users (and is growing by the day). After it was linked to by Andy Baio and briefly showed up on, I realized that it might garner a bit more attention than I had originally thought. Traffic has been steadily rising, and about a week ago Blogger threw my name up there as a "Blog of Note", bringing in thousands and thousands of international readers a day. A lot more attention than I'm used to. I knew it was only a matter of time before the actual subjects of the article caught wind of it (if they hadn't already). I just wasn't sure who would respond - Facebook? its investors? I even wondered if a black suburban was going to show up at my office to make me "disappear."

Well, today I finally heard something from Facebook. I got an e-mail from Chris Hughes, Facebook's spokesman. He said:
I ran across your blog today and I’m contacting you to clarify some of your claims.

Firstly, the clause you reference in the privacy agreement is leftover from an outdated version of the privacy policy which is currently being updated. We used to have a couple features on the site that aren’t still there, such as collecting users’ away messages from AIM (if they said they wanted it) and displaying mentions of their names in campus newspapers (again, upon request). That clause will not be included in the upcoming version of the privacy policy which will be released in the next couple of weeks.

Secondly, quite simply put, we have absolutely no relationship with any government agency. Contrary to these rumors, we are not harvesting data for the CIA or any other group.

I really appreciate the candor of his response (I suppose that's his job), and it's encouraging to hear these clarifications. I think the most imporant part of what he has to say is that the creepy privacy clauses were for features that no longer exist and that the features could be enabled and disabled by users. I'm anxious to see the new policy, and I'm sure I'll put something up about it.

In his comment, he also invited any more questions "about Facebook or the way [they] manage information." This is interesting and encouraging. I'm considering sending him some questions about Facebook and exactly how they manage all the data they've got. Not only that, but I'm just really interested to know about the future of the service. It's growth over these short 2 years is really remarkable (which is why the information I discovered was so disconcerting).

What questions would you ask Facebook? What would you like to know more about if I were to conduct an interview? Feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas, or e-mail me if you prefer.

Once again, thanks to Chris Hughes for responding. As I told him in an e-mail response:
This is the clarification I was hoping for. I was hoping to hear it from someone like you in clear terms like these. I am not typically a rumor mill, and my intentions were not to cause any trouble. On the other hand, I do feel like any free service which is made more usable by its users should be able to withstand such inquiry and remain transparent without fear.

Check back for more information about Facebook, its policies and its future.

Chuck Norris Responds...

I suppose it was bound to happen. Chuck Norris has finally issued a response to all of the off-the-wall "facts" about him circulating on the web. From his website:

I'm aware of the made up declarations about me that have recently begun to appear on the Internet and in emails as "Chuck Norris facts." I've seen some of them. Some are funny. Some are pretty far out. Being more a student of the Wild West than the wild world of the Internet, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It's quite surprising. I do know that boys will be boys, and I neither take offense nor take these things too seriously. Who knows, maybe these made up one-liners will prompt young people to seek out the real facts as found in my recent autobiographical book, "Against All Odds?" They may even be interested enough to check out my novels set in the Old West, "The Justice Riders," released this month. I'm very proud of these literary efforts. ~ Chuck Norris
[via waxy]

BBC's 'Power of Nightmares'

I was just browsing the documentaries on Netflix, and I found a title that seems to suit my new-found penchant for conspiracy theorizing. It's the BBC's Power of Nightmares Series, and unfortunately, it's one of the few documentaries on Netflix for which there's a waiting list.

But wait! Ben Metcalf, Project Lead for (and a kind chap, for recently linking to me) points to the fact that these 3 films are available for viewing (or if you're sneaky, downloading) on Google Video. Not sure where they came from, but have at it.

Get 'em while they're hot!

That said, I would like to point out that I don't necessarily agree with these documentaries. I feel like - to a certain extent - our fears are exploited by the government and the media. However, the statistics are clear, history is clear that fundamental Islam (including Muslim scripture) is the source of a majority of terrorism? Why? Because Mohammed himself encouraged it, and the Qu'ran does the same. Not only that, but the BBC is blatantly pro-Muslim, anti-Christian. That's more than clear. I'll be discussing this in more detail (with references and statistics) in the future. In the meantime, get what you can out of these documentaries, even if it is just a glimpse at the BBC's allegiance(s).

UPDATE: Below are links to direct downloads.

Before you download, keep in mind that these are over 200 MB each. Then, right-click > "save link as" > change the file extension to .flv. Enjoy.

Oh, ok.

My friend Anderson pointed out that my posts are kind of depressing. He asked, "Why can't you just post something about bunny rabbits? Touché.

[via Cute Overload]

According to a press release yesterday by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, PBDEs, used as fire retardants, and phthalates, used primarily to soften PVC plastics (partly responsible for "new car smell"), were found in dangerous amounts in dust and windshield film samples.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants added in large amounts to many products such as fabrics, plastics, furniture, mattresses, electronics, automobiles, and computers. These groups of chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems.

According to the PBDE Factsheet (.doc):
PBDE’s are not chemically bound to plastic or fabric, so they are released as dust or vapors over the lifetime of the product. There is strong scientific evidence that levels of PBDEs are rising rapidly in the environment, in the food chain and in human bodies. They are highly toxic even at low levels in laboratory animals.
The study found that concentrations of PBDEs in dust and windshield film samples were up to five times higher than those found in homes and offices in previous studies. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day breathing in these chemicals, the inside of a car is a significant source of indoor air pollution. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is currently one of the top five environmental risks to public health.

Man. I love that smell.

Photos from Japan

Jeremy, a good friend of mine (and talented photographer), just came back from Japan with some nice photos.

You should go check them out. Keep checking, I'm sure he'll be adding more soon.

Chuck Norris Facts

Many of you probably know why I put Chuck Norris on my blog header. Even if you don't know, you may have laughed because hey, something about Chuck Norris is funny.

Whatever it is, Chuck Norris has developed a true (and bizarre) cult following. If you are unfamiliar, this Washington Post Article will serve as a primer. Once you're primed, you're ready for this new little gem:

Quite a nice collection of facts about our favorite super-human.

I'm feeling noteworthy...

I looked at my site stats this morning, and continued clicking refresh through lunchtime absolutely baffled as to why my traffic had increased so much. Typically I would just look at my referrer log and that would answer the question; however, today it was a long list of visitors referred from:

I thought, surely, there aren't thousands of people typing my address directly into Google to get here, so I was left confused.

I posted an entry a short while ago asking "where are you all coming from?!" and two kind readers said "You're a Blog of Note!" Oh. That explains it. Thanks Blogger, and thanks for stopping by!

The most popular article on this blog - by far - is What Would Orwell Do?, an investigative essay about Facebook and its investor's ties to the CIA.

Also, check out my other blog, VIA CRUCIS.

Data Mining is so hot right now.

Man, have I been on a conspiracy kick lately. Timing is strange. I published my exposé on Facebook, then it broke that the NSA was spying with no balance of power. Since then it has been one thing after another, making my first few entries on this blog all about possible conspiracies.

Well, today a couple of interesting tid-bits hit the web.

1. Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists:
Amazon wishlists lets anyone bookmark books for later purchase. By default these lists are public and available to anybody who searches by name. If the wishlist creator specifies a shipping address, someone else can even purchase the book on Amazon and have it shipped directly as a gift. The wishlist creator's city and state are made public on the wishlist, but the street address remains private. Amazon's popularity has created a vast database of wishlists. No index of all wishlists is available, but it remains possible to view all wishlists by people of a particular first name. A recent search for people named Mark returned 124,887 publicly viewable wishlists.

For an all inclusive search by name, you could compile a comprehensive list of first names and nicknames from the baby names databases available on the internet. Armed with this list, and by recording the search results for each first name, it is possible for you to retrieve the vast majority of public wishlists on Amazon.

2. Trent Lapinksi's 'MySpace Report', a culmination of various research he's been doing to answer the question "Who is running MySpace?". See also, The Truth about MySpace and Why Doesn't Anyone Ask Who Actually Runs MySpace?. Apparently Trent has been threatened with legal action in response to his snooping.
I know the site was bought by Fox, but Fox didn't start the site, plus much of the original staff still appears to be employed. For reasons unknown, no one seems to ask who Tom Anderson is, and most of all no one asks who Chris DeWolfe is (MySpace's CEO). When I looked into who these guys pasts I found a web of issues ranging from rumors of running porn websites to possible connections to investment fraud. When I simply asked MySpace about these allegations they threatened to sue me.

MySpace is now just over 2 years old and is one of the biggest websites on the internet yet no one knows where or how it came to be. Isn't it of millions of people's concern to know who runs the website they confide so much in? Why hasn't the media or blogosphere asked this question?

This brings me full circle to the problem I see with Facebook and its eerie "privacy" policy. People sign up for things because they are fun and free and never think twice to read the fine print. At best, you're providing information that can be sold and you might run into a spam problem. Worse, you're voluntarily indexing your interests and contacts for the easy perusal of security agencies (or, anyone else that is interested).

On that note, I have had a lot of comments and e-mails saying "Who cares?" or "Facebook is just your favorite music!" That simply isn't true. Facebook has already been used to arrest students for questionable behavior at some colleges. Perhaps most useful to security agencies are the "Party" and "Event" planning features in Facebook. This keeps a calendar of events, linked to all students who have RSVP'd. Many of these events are political in nature (click here for an example).

That said, government spying and data mining will ultimately only affect those who are "up to no good." But is that the point? How free are we if we are constantly being watched? Not only that, but once we accept surveillance as normal, where will the slippery slope carry us?

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