from the indeed dept
And, of course, how could Oliver resist responding to that challenge.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 16th 2014 8:35pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 14th 2014 10:12am
AM: According to your research, blackouts occur not just in middle age alcoholics, but in young college students who may not have built up much tolerance for alcohol. Their drinking often ended up in unprotected sex, vandalism, and fights, of which they had no memory until cued by a friend. What was their response to their memory? Regret? Horror? Delight? Glee? A little of each?Following this, AddictionMyth posted a bogus mocking satirical cease-and-desist, which pretends to be angry about the satirical interview. This too, is obvious satire. I mean, the letter includes this line:
AW: I wasn’t the author of the research. But I would say a little of each, at least based on my own experience. I suspect they remembered more than they wanted to admit. Though one time I got really drunk at a party and my friend told me that I was talking to his sister in French, and I had absolutely no recollection of that. It was surprising to me as a brain scientist because alcohol has been shown to suppress activation of the inferior frontal region (Broca’s area also known as the ‘language center’). I probably shouldn’t have been able to talk at all, let alone French, given my BAC. But what was really weird was that I don’t even know French!
Do you realize how psychotically insane that sounds? In my field we have a term for it: CRAY-CRAY!Either way, this bogus cease-and-desist appears to have stirred up the attention of a lawyer at the real US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which apparently has some extra time on its hands now that Healthcare.gov's website is kinda, sorta working. Lawyer Dale Berkley sent a cease-and-desist in which he argues both that (1) the interview is clearly not true and (2) that it might be defamatory. You can't really have both of those things be true.
We recently became aware of two items that you posted on your website directed to two employees of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (“NIAAA”)--one which purports to be an interview with NIAAA Project Manager Dr. Aaron White, and the other a letter from NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob.As noted above, by admitting it's obviously fake, Berkley undermines his own legal argument. Ken White summarizes it nicely:
Of course Dr. White did not in fact participate in the interview and Dr. Koob did not write the letter attributed to him.
We are concerned that, especially with respect to the mock interview, the public could be deceived and misled into believing that Dr. White in fact contributed to the interview. Those items are defamatory, and expose you to potential liability.
We therefore request that you either remove the articles from your website, or provide a prominent disclaimer indicating that Dr. White and Dr. Koob did not participate in the interview or write the letter.
When the target of satire complains that it is defamatory, the relevant question is whether the satire can reasonably be taken as a statement of fact about its subject. Dr. Berkley, by saying that "of course" the satirical articles do not reflect the actual words of the subjects, has just proclaimed that the satire he is complaining about cannot be taken as a statement of fact.White goes into a more in-depth legal analysis of just how preposterously bogus the letter from HHS is, and questions if Berkley was even remotely aware of the law before sending the letter, or if any other lawyer at HHS bothered to look it over. In the meantime, we're wondering if HHS has any programs for helping with the tragically satire-impaired?
You paid taxes for that.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Apr 24th 2014 7:38am
As we recently covered, Jim Ardis, the absurdly thin-skinned mayor of Peoria, IL, got the boys in blue to raid a house over a parody Twitter account that portrayed him as a.) a possible drug user, b.) a possible patron of the world's oldest profession and c.) "trill as fuck." Peoria's Finest have never been finer, deploying seven plainclothes officers to nail a dangerous tweeter whose Ardis-mocking account had been shut down by Twitter weeks before. Bonus: drugs were discovered during the raid, which meant the cops could at least declare victory over marijuana use, if not the internet itself.
Now, the fact that the account was already suspended suggests Ardis had previously contacted Twitter about the unflattering parody. So, this next move was overkill. Why would a mayor do such a thing? Because Mayor Jim Ardis believes the First Amendment is zero sum.
"I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right," Ardis said in an interview with the Journal Star before the council meeting.Presumably prior to this awesome show of force, the mayor had been forced to sit quietly with his hands folded on his desk. But now that he's stomped on someone else's First Amendment rights, he can finally freely speak.
"Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to?" Ardis said. "You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech."
A review of state law indicates the account holders of now-shutdown Twitter account, @peoriamayor, didn’t break the law because the actual crime alleged, “false personation of a public official,” has to be done in person, not over the Internet or other electronic media, said State’s Attorney Jerry Brady.There are also questions as to whether the unrelated drug charge will stick because, well, it's completely unrelated. The warrant used to raid the house appears to be on legally shaky ground already, and its supposed purpose was to effect arrests and seize evidence related to a Twitter account, not root around until something better presented itself. But it could be weeks before that part is sorted out. The States Attorney says it's not uncommon for search warrants and affidavits to take "several days to weeks" to arrive at his office. (Must send these via trans-Atlantic steamer, I guess...) One imagines documents related to this case will take longer than usual.
"At this time, no, because subsection (b) doesn’t include the use of electronic media," he said.
"You’re the ones responsible for getting full information, but not to spin it in the way you want to spin it," Ardis said to a Journal Star reporter. "To make us look stupid."Hey, Ardis. Only one person can make you look stupid, and he's that person up there claiming the First Amendment can't be evenly divided among several people. The actual information is out there. And it all adds up to Ardis not being able to take a joke, ordering cops to arrest people he doesn't find funny, and complaining about "suddenly" being universally reviled.
"It’s your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didn’t happen. Clearly, that didn’t happen."
Fri, Apr 18th 2014 1:35pm
You would think that, at some point, people are finally going to get that there are such things as satirical news organizations and that they're not serious in what they write. Yet it seems not a week goes by in which someone isn't either fooled by a parody story or railing against it as some kind of funny-demon that ought to be destroyed. The latest to be caught up in this web of barely-veiled humorous deception is the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who has threatened to sue satirical news site News Nerd over a fictional story about Patti LaBelle opening up a can of aged whoop-ass on her.
“The stories were not presented as satire or humor,” Franklin said through her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. “It was presented as a serious news story intended to depict me in a slanderous and derogatory way — defamation of character.”And for that, she's suggested she wants $10 million whole American dollars. The story that was not presented as satire or humor, according to Franklin, included such totally not funny or satirical lines as:
Onlookers say Labelle quickly removed her wig and earrings as she approached Franklin. Aretha, knowing that the removal of earrings is a tell-tale sign that a fight is about to ensue, attempted to prepare herself for the confrontation. Franklin was quickly struck with a Mayweather style right and left and stumbled backwards, landing awkwardly.If you aren't now laughing, check yourself into the nearest mental health center and ask them what happened to your sense of humor. If you don't immediately realize that this is fictional, we, the people, politely request you promise us never to procreate and thereby poison the gene pool with your lack of basic comprehension and common sense. Or you could, you know, just check the bottom of any News Nerd page you might land upon, where it reads:
The stories posted on TheNewsNerd are for entertainment purposes only. The stories may mimic articles found in the headlines, but rest assured they are purely satirical.And that should take care of that. It's worth noting that no actual law suits yet appear to have been filed, so perhaps Franklin's likely-frustrated lawyers have talked some sense into her. On the other hand, Franklin has been known in the past to demand respect, and that you think about what you're trying to do to her. Meanwhile, the story has gone viral because of course it has, countermanding her wish entirely.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 5th 2014 2:21pm
This is, to put it mildly, absolutely hilarious. I imagine that we'll see some traditionalists bitch about a Congressional rep using satire to mock a colleague, but that's just silly. This makes the point better than any boring letter or speech would ever do. And, considering that Rep. Polis has no problem wearing this on the House floor, I get the feeling he really doesn't care at all what "traditionalists" think of his actions around Congress.
I write today to express my concerns about United States dollar bills. The exchange of dollar bills, including high denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss. For the reasons outlined below, I urge regulators to take immediate and appropriate action to limit the use of dollar bills.
By way of background, a physical dollar bill is a printed version of a dollar note issued by the Federal Reserve and backed by the ephemeral “full faith and credit” of the United States. Dollar bills have gained notoriety in relation to illegal transactions; suitcases full of dollars used for illegal transactions were recently featured in popular movies such as American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club, as well as the gangster classic, Scarface, among others. Dollar bills are present in nearly all major drug busts in the United States and many abroad. According to the U.S. Department of Justice study, “Crime in the United States,” more than $1 billion in cash was stolen in 2012, of which less than 3% was recovered. The United States’ Dollar was present by the truck load in Saddam Hussein’s compound, by the carload when Noriega was arrested for drug trafficking, and by the suitcase full in the Watergate case.
Unlike digital currencies, which are carbon neutral allowing us to breathe cleaner air, each dollar bill is manufactured from virgin materials like cotton and linen, which go through extensive treatment and processing. Last year, the Federal Reserve had to destroy $3 billion worth of $100 bills after a “printing error.” Certainly this cannot be the greenest currency.
Printed pieces of paper can fit in a person’s pocket and can be given to another person without any government oversight. Dollar bills are not only a store of value but also a method for transferring that value. This also means that dollar bills allow for anonymous and irreversible transactions.
The very features of dollar bills, such as anonymous transactions, have created ubiquitous uses from drug purchases, to hit men, to prostitutes, as dollar bills are attractive to criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement. Due to the dollar bills’ anonymity, the dollar bill market has been extremely susceptible to forgers, tax fraud, criminal cartels, and armed robbers stealing millions of dollars from their legitimate owners. Anonymity, combined with a dollar bills’ ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions.
Many of our foreign counterparts already understand the wide range of problems that physical currencies can have. Many physical currencies have enormous price fluctuations, and even experience deflation. 20 years ago Brazil had an inflation rate of 6281%. In 4 years (2001 to 2005), the Turkish Lira went from 1,650,000: $1 to 1.29 to $1. In 2009, Zimbabwe discontinued it’s dollar. Before it was eliminated, the Zimbabwe dollar was the least valuable currency in the world and their central bank even issued a $100 trillion dollar banknote. A person would starve on a billion Zimbabwe dollars and it took an entire wheelbarrow full of $100 billion dollars in notes to purchase a loaf of bread.
The clear use of dollar bills for transacting in illegal goods, anonymous transactions, tax fraud, and services or speculative gambling make me wary of their use. Before the United States gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.
Member of Congress
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 24th 2013 7:39pm
The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex series of algorithms to spot any hidden messages.The article includes the history of the program, discusses the ELFCHELON data center in the North Pole, and even discusses how the NSA has "routinely hacked Santa’s Naughty and Nice List for any information on world leaders." As we head into a little break, this seems like an appropriate post to go out on...
Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander had previously testified to Congress in 2011 that the NSA would occasionally collect letters addressed to Santa, but insisted that it was totally accidental and that no one was actually reading or storing them.
The NSA is prohibited from directly monitoring American citizens under both Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, because the letters are addressed to the North Pole, which falls outside of U.S. territory, they are considered potential foreign intelligence signals which the NSA is authorized to intercept.
Mon, Dec 23rd 2013 1:14pm
I used to think a news item going "viral", where everyone forwards it or shares it with roughly everyone else, was kind of a cool thing. What a neat little way the internet can facilitate the spreading of important of interesting information, I thought. Then I discovered that many of my fellow American internet denizens apparently suffer from a combination of being exceptionally gullible and not knowing what Snopes.com is. That combination results in too many people (read: any people) believing that a combination of soda and Mentos will kill you, that our government is building million dollar housing complexes for illegal immigrants with my Social Security money, and that Muslims are getting cities to ban Christmas lights for reasons unknown to anyone. Every single one of those stories is false, but it went viral so the idiotic masses were outraged.
Mix a bit of satire -- designed to fool just enough of the people -- into that viral explosive mix, and things can get weird.
Take the following, for example, where a satirical news story about a student in San Francisco being suspended for wishing an atheist teacher "merry Christmas" spread far and wide and resulted in the taxpayers having to foot the bill for the immensely stupid backlash. The story appeared in the National Report, a satirical news site, and claimed that the above suspension had occurred at Argon Elementary. There is no Argon Elementary in San Francisco. But there sure is an Argonne Elementary, and those parents were pissed.
But an Internet hoax had people across the country believing it did, resulting in e-mail tirades and more than 75 phone complaints and veiled threats of violence against the fictitious teacher or the actual principal. And taxpayers picked up the tab for beefed-up security and staff time to deal with the phony story.Okay, a couple of things. To start off with, if you're the type of person who spreads these kind of "War on Christmas!!!" stories and theories around, I'd like you to do me a quick favor: walk outside. You don't have to go anywhere in particular, just walk outside. Since it's December, assuming you live at least somewhere near other human beings, and I promise you that you won't be able to walk five minutes in any direction without seeing the sickly glow of multi-colored lights, a whole lot of red and green, or that insufferable torture you guys call Christmas music. If there was ever a war on Christmas, which there wasn't, you guys won, mmkay?
Because of the threats, Argonne elementary school administrators called an emergency teacher meeting to review security procedures and district officials assigned an extra security officer to the campus. In addition, police have increased patrols around the school this week, said district Assistant Superintendent Leticia Salinas.
"Thank you for your monumental blunder, it will provide me weeks of material on my show," he wrote to Argonne's real principal, Cami Okubo. "Keep up the terrible work. It makes my job so much easier! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Craig."Donofrio doesn't seem to get that it's satire. It wasn't designed to "agitate people into outrage," but to be funny -- and, having people overreact to it is part of how satire works, highlighting how easily some people can be fooled. Hell, even those of us that should know better can be fooled. In the end, if something is so insane as to get your ire up, there's a half-decent chance that it's too insane to be real. Invest some time in verifying whether a story is real before threatening the kind of holy violence that apparently Jesus was a huge fan of. I mean, I know Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but it isn't meant to be a template, okay?
Only later did Donofrio realize he had been duped.
"It is sad that people make up such stories and agitate others into outrage in such a way," he said in an e-mail to The Chronicle on Tuesday, adding that he had apologized to the principal. "I was very happy that I did fact-checking before going on air with this story, and it has not been discussed on-air."
by Ken White
Wed, Oct 30th 2013 2:12pm
Dateline: Washington, D.C.: Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) was defiant today in the face of accusations that he had installed a small digital camera in the women's bathroom in his office at the Capitol.
"This is just politics," said the ten-term Congressman. "I would argue the fact that we haven't had any women come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right."
When reporters asked how women would know to complain — the spycam, funded by the government, was expertly hidden — Rogers asserted that was the point. "You can't have your privacy violated if you don't know your privacy is violated," said Rogers.
Rogers went on to explain that the nation's Capitol — which has housed figures like former Congressman Bob Filner and former Senator Bob Packwood — presents known dangers to women, and that the spycam is calculated to make certain they are protected from those dangers. "If the women knew exactly what that spycam was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It's a good thing. it keeps the women safe. It keeps the Capitol safe," Rogers asserted.
Rogers then abruptly concluded the interview, threatening to sue reporters if they wrote about it.
Thu, Sep 26th 2013 12:07pm
Dr Mario Vance, a psychological researcher at the Rapture Institute for headline-inspired science, conducted a seven-year longitudinal study that monitored the anger levels of more than a thousand volunteers from gaming communities. The results showed statistically significant increases in overall aggression and violent tendencies that occurred very soon after tenuous mainstream media stories claiming video games cause violence.This is something we've actually seen in our comments about these kinds of tragedies: why are we so focused on the video games, or the guns for that matter, instead of banking that the source of violence might be the violence-training some of these perpetrators receive in our military? This, of course, isn't to say that our military turns people into mass murderers or anything of that nature, but it's a much better direct link than the fact that these guys played Grand Theft Auto.
"Mainstream media have never liked video games, but it's just getting silly lately," said Dr Vance. "Recently, several media sources focused on Aaron Alexis (the Washington naval yard gunman) and his enthusiasm for Call of Duty as a cause for his brutal crimes. Because when wondering what could have made a naval reservist, someone trained by the military to engage in actions with the express intention of killing people, turn to violence, the obvious conclusion is 'video games', apparently.
"I used to enjoy multiplayer gaming. Granted, it expanded my vocabulary for homophobic insults considerably, but I've never felt the urge to travel to war-torn regions and practise my sniper skills for real. But my mother read that I could turn violent so confiscated my Playstation. One dubious article in the Telegraph and she decides I'm too impressionable. She owns four Derek Acorah DVDs and keeps asking her fortune teller what to do about me, so yeah, I'm the main problem here."So, if it's a parody article, what's there to learn here? Well, the problem is that all the made up quotes, claims, and bullshit in this parody article aren't far off from what's being spoon-fed to the public by a mass media that would rather go the lazy self-serving route of scaring the hell out of parents than actually tell the truth about the link between games and violence, which is to say there is none. Sure, this pro-gamer article was pulled out of someone's ass, but if mass media can do it we can too.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 17th 2013 12:13pm
Normally, Daniel Bangert's Facebook posts tend to be of the serious variety. The 28-year-old includes news items and other bits of interest he encounters throughout the day. "I rarely post funny pictures," he says.Few of Bangert's friends took him up on his offer. However, he did receive some queries from some other interested parties. Four days after his post, he received a phone call from the local police who wished to discuss the post. Unfortunately for Bangert, this phone call was interrupted.
Recently, though, he decided to liven up his page with something a bit more amusing -- and decided to focus on the scandal surrounding the vast Internet surveillance perpetrated by the US intelligence service NSA. He invited his friends on an excursion to the top secret US facility known as the Dagger Complex in Griesheim, where Bangert is from.
He described the outing as though it were a nature walk. He wrote on Facebook that its purpose was to undertake "joint research into the threatened habitat of NSA spies." He added: "If we are really lucky, we might actually see a real NSA spy with our own eyes." He suggested that those interested in coming should bring along their cameras and "flowers of all kinds to improve the appearance of the NSA spies' habitat."
Bangert's doorbell rang at almost the exact same time. The police on the telephone told him to talk with the officers outside of his door. Bangert quickly put on a T-shirt -- which had a picture of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on it along with the words "Team Edward" -- and answered the door.So, how did the local police hear of Bangert's "event?" According to the spokesperson, US military police had come across the post first and passed the info along. Apparently, this information wasn't done traveling, resulting in Bangert receiving yet another phone call.
Bangert says he answered all of the questions truthfully, saying that, yes, his intention was that of heading out to watch the spies. "The officers did smirk a bit," he notes.
Not long later, Bangert got another call asking him to report to Central Commissariat 10 of the German federal police. They too then sent an officer to his home. "The wanted to know if I had connections with (anarchist groups) or other violent people," Bangert says. He told the officers that he didn't, repeating over and over that he "just wanted to go for a walk."The federal police were less amused by Bangert's post (he was called *gasp* a "smart aleck"), but unable to find anything damning, they resorted to more bureaucratic forms of dissuasion -- suggesting Bangert secure a permit for his "demonstration." They also told him not to post anything on the web about their visit. Bangert met them halfway.
Bangert took their first piece of advice, registering his "demonstration" even though, as he says, "it wasn't supposed to be one." But he ignored the police's second suggestion and reported on their visit on his Facebook page. "How much more proof do you need," he wrote. "Everyone says that they aren't affected. But then I invite people for a walk and write obvious nonsense in the invitation and suddenly the federal police show up at my home."Bangert's story spread to the local media, resulting in his "nature walk" being joined by another 70 people who wished to view spies in their natural habitat. It also attracted a police "escort" comprised of squad cars bookending Bangert's group. Although attempts were made to coax the spies out of their offices for closer observation, the walk ended without any actual spy sightings.
So is he planning a repeat? "I didn't say that and I didn't write it anywhere," Bangert replies.This particular incident ended amicably, without arrests or conjecture about terrorist activities. But it only takes one overreaction for things to go horribly worse, and the more reponding entities there are, the higher the chance is that this might offcur. It also clearly indicates that American operatives are exercising active surveillance on German citizens' online activities, something German citizens aren't exactly thrilled about, especially when the local US military base has the power to send officials after anyone who offends the "sensibilities" of their permanent visitors.
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