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Let the Wookiee tweet

   For filing in the You're Just Jealous You Didn't Think Of It First folder:

 WikiLeaks may or may not have revealed secrets, outed spies, helped democracy or hurt the war effort. [WikiLeaks case prompts calls from some intelligence veterans for tighter access to US secrets - AP/Buffalo News] 

But it has spawned one wonderful Internet offering.


   A few of the better ones:

- "Death Star power core vent shaft vulnerability was a construction fault! Sienar Fleet Systems product Chewbacca recall imminent" 

- "John Yoo authors legal memo approving Vader's use of torture droids during 'enhanced interrogation'. "

- "Those WERE the droids they were looking for."

- "Reports of 'large reactor leak'; suspiciously coinciding with massive security personnel presence on Detention Block AA-23"

- "Han shot first."

   Tips of the Imperial Helmet to Wired and The Atlantic Wire

- Are Jedi Knights Libertarian or Socialist? - Max Fisher/The Atlantic Wire

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

Lessons learned

   Deep editorial thoughts, from the Buffalo News Opinion shop, about teaching in school and learning in politics.

- Sherrod in the vortex - Buffalo News Editorial
   The Shirley Sherrod moment was one that had to come -- for better and for worse. The lunatic frenzy of false accusation, gutless overreaction and shame-faced comprehension represents the inevitable collision of some of the most powerful and elemental forces of American society: racism; the media; broken Adamneitherami politics; and the power of the federal government, reaching right into the White House, home of the nation's first black president.
   Sherrod was dragged into a vortex of insanity not of her own making. An African-American and an official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sherrod was portrayed as a racist in a maliciously truncated video that made it appear as though she had once denied her full energies to a white farmer in difficulty. ...
   Yet in between release of the edited version and the full one, Sherrod was fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, criticized by the likes of Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and even the NAACP chapter to which Sherrod had made her speech. Vilsack, O'Reilly and the NAACP have since apologized -- as has President Obama -- and Vilsack has offered Sherrod a new job in the Agriculture Department. He said he wants his agency "to learn from this experience."
- Public expects 'gotcha' reporting - Dubuque [Iowa] Telegraph Herald Editorial
- Faster Than a Speeding Blog - New York Times Editorial  
- Another lie from the right - Leonard Pitts/Miami Herald/Buffalo News
- You’ll Never Believe What This White House Is Missing - Maureen Dowd/The New York Times
- Civil Disagreement: The Sherrod affair - The Seattle Times  
After Shirley Sherrod, who needs context? - Alexandra Petri/The Washington Post
   How does the saying go? "A little knowledge is a ... thing." I'd look it up, but I'm on deadline.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

It's a jungle out there...

   Oh, brave new world, that has such awful, racist, sexist, violent, sniping creatures in it.

- End of anonymous commenting stirs debate - Margaret Sullivan/The Buffalo News
   A few weeks ago, I wrote about The News' plans to change our policy on readers' online comments. The gist is this: Beginning Aug. 2, we will no longer post anonymous comments. If you want to comment in TheLogo-comments News — both in print and online — you'll have to give us your real name and hometown.
   Since then, the response has come fast and furious. The New York Times, CNN, the Boston Globe and Canada's CBC radio network have covered the decision, which seems to be the first of its kind for a metropolitan daily paper in the United States. ...
   The move has touched off the hot topic of anonymous Web flaming.
   Plenty of criticism has come our way — and some kudos, as well.
   The naysayers (many of whom, interestingly, prefer to remain anonymous) are blasting us for what they see as noxious free-speech violations and an effort to protect our evil political agenda. The Internet, as they see it, is a place where anything goes. Limiting that is a sin against free expression.
   The supporters, by contrast, are relieved that the astonishingly hateful and venomous commentary on news stories ("It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots," writes Gene Weingarten in a column that ran today) will likely be restrained once people have to identify themselves. They are hoping for a measure of civility, without the loss of wide-ranging discussion and diverse viewpoints....
   Those who are working on the project here recognize that there will be some bumps along the way. We also know that, like so many ventures on the Internet, this one is something of an experiment. We've tried the other way, living in the anonymous Wild West world, for more than a year, and are ready for something else.

 - Policing the Web’s Lurid Precincts - Brad Stone/The New York Times
   Ricky Bess spends eight hours a day in front of a computer near Orlando, Fla., viewing some of the worst depravities harbored on the Internet. He has seen photographs of graphic gang killings, animal abuse and twisted forms of pornography. One recent sighting was a photo of two teenage boys gleefully pointing guns at another boy, who is crying. ...
   David Graham, president of Telecommunications On Demand, the company near Orlando where Mr. Bess works, compared the reviewers to “combat veterans, completely desensitized to all kinds of imagery.” The company’s roughly 50 workers view a combined average of 20 million photos a week.

- Judge orders Lynchburg newspaper to divulge poster’s ID - Danville Register Bee

   Speaking of the Wild West:

Continue reading "It's a jungle out there..." »

Comments that get people in trouble

   As of about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, the score was News Editor 489, Hack Writer 0. Comments, that is.
   From the Sunday Viewpoints section:

- Seeking a return to civility in online comments - Margaret Sullivan/The Buffalo News
   Some editors were sitting in a news meeting one morning not long ago, bemoaning the often outrageous,Sullivan_margaret intolerant and hateful online “comments” attached to stories on The News Web site, when News Business Editor Grove Potter uttered a simple but eloquent truth:
   “Let’s face it,” he said. “We’ve created a class of anonymous flamethrowers.”
   He’s right. We have. And shortly, we’re about to change that dramatically
- It’s time for news sites to stop allowing anonymous online comments - Rem Rieder/American Journalism Review
   Comments sections are often packed with profanity and vicious personal attacks. The opportunity to launch brutal assaults from the safety of a computer without attaching a name does wonders for the bravery levels of the angry.
 The anonymous back-stabbing of Internet message boards - Leonard Pitts/Miami Herald/Seattle Times
  It must have seemed like a great idea at the time.
- Anonymous comments part of online life - Michael Silence/The Knoxville News Sentinel
  The sanctimonious, high-brow bloviating by some Ivory Tower types is getting old - like half a decade old.
   On the heals of recently discovering the Internet (sarcasm intended), some are now hyperventilating about anonymous online comments.
   Hello? What do you think has been happening on talk radio for, oh, decades?
- Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster - Neil Swidey/The Boston Globe
   News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan

Continue reading "Comments that get people in trouble" »


As someone whose mother started her on regular gynecology appointments, I had no doubt that had I been in elementary school she would have signed me up for the new HPV inoculation -- which protects against a sexually transmitted virus that is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Just to make sure, I made a quick call to "research" the matter. "Hi, would you have signed me up for that new, controversial vaccine?" Pause. "Yes, probably." Matter resolved.

Just the way in which the situation should be handled. Parental decision. Period. End of story. And that's exactly the tack The Buffalo News took in its Feb. 19 editorial. As the piece stated: "...making the vaccinations mandatory for minor children would be, well, an overdose."

Instead, there's been a push-pull over the matter from politicians who want to mandate the vaccine, which isn't cheap -- a $360, three-injection series -- and the opposition, from religious and cultural conservatives afraid mandatory use would encourage sexual activity by young girls. Hogwash.

But so is a move by Texas Gov. Rick Perry who has issued an order that girls be vaccinated, which some legislators are working to overturn. Oh, and there's an uproar because the governor's former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck, the vaccine's maker. Whether it's Merck's Gardasil or another vaccine that's being developed by GlaxoSmithKline, both appear destined to become household names.

The argument that mandating the vaccine will encourage sexual activity by young girls is specious. My mother knew I was not sexually active, nor would she have condoned such behavior (still doesn't!). But she would have wanted to use every available tool to protect her child and she and my father would have been the ones making the decision for their underage daughter. Not government. Parents should have the final say.

JetBlue's Blues

Not sure how many airline travelers have ever been stuck on the tarmac but this one sure has, though not as long as some poor souls who got stuck over the nasty winter weekend for up to 11 hours on JetBlue. Think dank, airplane air constantly circulating. Babies crying, coughing fits, overfilled toilets with long lines and very little food except peanuts and soft drinks. Not pleasant.

Unfortunately, passengers stuck on planes is not a rare occurence. Remember the January 1999  weekend, when a blizzard left thousands of passengers stranded for hours on Northwest Airlines planes at the airport in Detroit. Nasty scene.

But JetBlue. Whoda' thunk it?

To his credit, founder and chief executive of JetBlue David G. Neeleman has issued supreme apologies, quoted in The New York Times as being "humiliated and mortified." Perhaps passengers will benefit from the amends Neeleman plans to undertake: his company's own "customer bill of rights" that would finanically penalize JetBlue and reward passengers. Discussion is brewing about having Congress step in to pass legislation mandating limits on the time passengers can be kept or, as unlucky passengers might call it, "trapped," on a plane. But Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition makes a good argument against government intervention, or a "Passenger Bill of Rights" such as the one being proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer. As Mitchell said, "It is supreme hubris to think that Congress could divine a set of passenger service standards that would deliver intended benefits without risking safety margins."

Bottom line, as reported in The Buffalo News, low-fare airlines bring a different ballgame. I loved the quote by David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association: "This is the brave new world that has been created in this new low-fare era ... We are getting the kind of airline system that we have paid for."