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The Magic and Beauty of Hiding Behind Front Groups

By: spocko Friday November 19, 2010 1:30 pm

From a great diary at Daily Kos, ”Industry Expert Says StopRush Has Destroyed Limbaugh’s Business For Good“ by Proglegs:

Speaking yesterday on the Ed Schultz radio show, industry insider Holland Cooke credited a persistent online activist movement with completely destroying right wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s business model by using the very free speech that El Rushbo claims gives him carte blanche to do what he does.

The piece quotes Cooke on the Ed Show and discusses the lower ratings, Rush’s move to smaller stations and the impact of less income for Rush’s distributors and radio stations.
Cover up False Front
Being the self-important Vulcan I am, I commented on the piece and my role in the process that lead to this.

Discussing the article with my friend Jeff Tiedrich of the Smirking Chimp there was some confusion.

Wait, how does losing advertisers result in fewer listeners? Seems to me they’re two different problems.

I explained they they were indeed separate issues. I created the Spocko Method specifically to reduce revenue in an environment where the ratings wouldn’t necessarily be impacted by an action and could even increase the ratings because of controversy.

I know that when KSFO, Savage, Beck or Limbaugh lost advertisers that didn’t necessarily mean they would lose ratings. In fact. they would keep bragging about the ratings because people were tuning in to hear the controversy. See the Streisand Effect

Higher ratings usually translate to higher ad rates. But if no one wants to advertise or sponsor the show, then high ratings are moot, especially to the people wanting to make money off of ratings. However, the ratings are still useful to people who want to push a message.

People who like a message, and want it to continue, needed to find new sponsors who love the message but are not vulnerable to pressure the way customer facing advertisers are. These new sponsors could stand behind someone who would normally be sanctioned or be fired for violating the normal HR policies found in most corporations. The groups could even support views that a huge percent of the population find offensive.

Front Groups are Magical

Front groups like the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works and Americans For Prosperity can deflect connection and responsibility from individuals, corporations or brands who love a “no regulations ever” message, but can’t be seen supporting a sick and twisted host or his comments.

When you don’t want your brand tainted by association, you find or create a group of anonymous donors and ask them to pass money through to the messenger they don’t want to be associated with anymore.

Front groups funding right wing radio isn’t new, Politico did a piece on them funding right wing radio back in 2011. Here is another from this week. There are still reasons people and companies hide. There are marketing and brand considerations that remain. If you, as the person driving a message, find that activists have developed and harnessed a customer facing advertiser alert programs that challenges their brand, you work to remove those sponsors identities from the equation. Then you give them the option of funding you via the ‘cut out’ front group, like the Chamber of Commerce does. The other option is to reform the messenger, and that isn’t going to happen.

Customer facing advertisers, like the ones listed here at StopRush.net, had a hard time justifying sponsoring a sexist bigot who would be fired for violating all their own HR policies. But a front group doesn’t have to answer to HR policies, brand managers, customers or shareholders.

The people who want the money to keep rolling in do suggest the host change or tone down his views to appease the sponsors, and some of that does happen behind the scenes, although they will never admit it. The current procedure is to embrace the offensive comments and look for other sponsors.

The consumer facing advertisers were, (and some still are) a weak link in the game. They could be convinced to move away from Limbaugh. However dark money doesn’t care about what anyone thinks. They can “lose” money for decades on an influential narrative shaper, because they ARE getting an ROI. The advertisers could measure their short term ROI with new sales. But the front groups don’t have those short horizon metrics.

They are earning the money that they beg for every year from donors by pointing to their cultural impact.  They have:

Russia with Love: Alaska Gas Scandal Is Out-of-Country, Not Out-of-State

By: Steve Horn Friday April 18, 2014 12:25 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A legal controversy — critics would say scandal — has erupted in Alaska’s statehouse over the future of its natural gas bounty.

It’s not so much an issue of the gas itself, but who gets to decide how it gets to market and where he or she resides.

The question of who owns Alaska’s natural gas and where they’re from, at least for now, has been off the table. More on that later.

At its core, the controversy centers around a public-private entity called the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) created on April 18, 2010 via House Bill 369 for the “purpose of planning, constructing, and financing in-state natural gas pipeline projects.”AGDC has a $400 million budget funded by taxpayers.

AGDC was intially built to facilitate opening up the jointly-owned ExxonMobil-TransCanada Alaska Pipeline Project for business. That project was set to be both a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export pipeline coupled with a pipeline set to bring Alaskan gas to the Lower 48.

TransCanada

Things have changed drastically since 2010 in the U.S. gas market though, largely due to the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom. And with that, the Lower 48 segment of the Alaska Pipeline Project has become essentially obsolete.

Dreams of exporting massive amounts of Alaskan LNG to Asia, however, still remain. They were made much easier on April 14, when the Kenai LNG export facility received authorization to export gas from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Enter the latest iteration of AGDC. This phase began in January 2014 after Governor Sean Parnell, formerly a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips, signed Senate Bill 138 into law.

The bill served as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Alaska, the AGDC, ConocoPhillips, BP, ExxonMobil, and TransCanada, with the four companies now serving as co-owners of the South Central LNG Pipeline Project.

Gov. Parnell also announced who would serve on the AGDC Board of Directors in September 2013, which began meeting in October 2013. And that’s where the story starts to get more interesting.

Meet Richard “Dick” Rabinow

Under Alaska state law, you have to be a state citizen to serve on state commissions like AGDC. But one of the seven Board members, Richard “Dick” Rabinow, is a citizen of a state far from Alaska: Texas.

War Is Good for Us, Dumb New Book Claims

By: David Swanson Thursday May 12, 2011 5:28 am

Ian Morris has stuck his dog’s ear in his mouth, snapped a selfie, and proclaimed “Man Bites Dog.” His new book War: What Is It Good For? Conflict and Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots is intended to prove that war is good for children and other living things.  It actually proves that defenders of war are growing desperate for arguments.

War What Is It Good For cover

A new book claims that war benefits civilization.

Morris maintains that the only way to make peace is to make large societies, and the only way to make large societies is through war. Ultimately, he believes, the only way to protect peace is through a single global policeman.  Once you’ve made peace, he believes, prosperity follows. And from that prosperity flows happiness. Therefore, war creates happiness. But the one thing you must never stop engaging in if you hope to have peace, prosperity, and joy is — you guessed it — war.

This thesis becomes an excuse for hundreds of pages of a sort of Monty Python history of the technologies of war, not to mention the evolution of chimpanzees, and various even less relevant excursions.  These pages are packed with bad history and guesswork, and I’m greatly tempted to get caught up in the details. But none of it has much impact on the book’s conclusions. All of Morris’s history, accurate and otherwise, is put to mythological use. He’s telling a simplistic story about where safety and happiness originated, and advocating highly destructive misery-inducing behavior as a result.

When small, medium, and large societies have been and are peaceful, Morris ignores them. There are lots of ways to define peaceful, but none of them put the leading war maker at the top, and none of them place at the top only nations that could be imagined to fall under a Pax Americana.

When societies have been enlarged peacefully, as in the formation of the European Union, Morris applauds (he thinks the E.U. earned its peace prize, and no doubt all the more so for its extensive war making as deputy globocop) but he just skips over the fact that war wasn’t used in the E.U.’s formation. (He avoids the United Nations entirely.)

When the globocop brings death and destruction and disorder to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen, Morris sticks his fingers in his ears and hums. “Interstate wars” he informs us (like most of his other claims, without any footnotes) have “almost disappeared.” Well isn’t that great news?! (Morris grotesquely minimizes Iraqi deaths from the recent [nonexistent?] war, and of course supplies no footnote.)

In a culture that has long waged wars, it has been possible to say that wars bring courage, wars bring heroism, wars bring slaves, wars bring cultural exchange. One could have asserted at various points that wars were the only way to a great many ends, not just large societies that reduce small-scale murders. Barely a century ago William James was worried there was no way to build character without war, and defenders of war were advertising it as good for its participants in a much more direct way than Morris has been reduced to. Has war been the means of building empires and nations? Sure, but that neither means that empires are the only way to peace, nor that war was the only nation-building tool available, nor that we must keep waging wars in an age in which we aren’t forming empires or nations any longer. That ancient pyramids may have been built by slaves hardly makes slavery the best or only way to preserve the pyramids.

Secession in Ukraine Accelerates: Ukrainian Army Units Refuse Orders from Kiev

By: Ohio Barbarian Thursday April 17, 2014 6:55 pm

In spite of all of the bluster from the neo-Fascist regime in Kiev, the Obama Administration in Washington, and, to a lesser extent, several Western European governments, it seems that some ordinary Ukrainians themselves, and probably ethnic Ukrainians at that,  just really, REALLY,  don’t want a war with Russia. Or, even worse, a civil war with their neighbors the ethnic Russians.

Ukraine's seat of parliament, Verkhovna Rada

Kiev’s current regime is in “deep trouble.”

I can’t really blame them. Anyway, the World Socialist Web Site has an excellent little piece of real journalism on the subject, there’s not even any Trotskite rhetoric or theory, it’s just the story.

In short, in spite of heated rhetoric from Kiev about “annihilation” of its domestic foes, the Ukrainian soldiers sent to do the job just…didn’t. They don’t recognize the authority of the current government to order them to kill their fellow citizens. But our American government does, and no doubt considers the inactions of those Ukrainian soldiers to be committing mutiny.  So, they’re going to do,

What?

I suppose they can tell the Kiev folks to crack down now before this spreads, and the latter may try, but it may not succeed. When a government loses the support of a good portion of its military, as is happening right now in Ukraine, it’s in serious trouble.  It can possibly survive by appeasing the military,  as the British did their navy in 1798, or by taking the hard line and waging civil war, as Lincoln did to American army soldiers who joined the Confederacy starting in 1861.

The Kiev government is definitely not in Lincoln’s position. There was a good chance that foreign powers would not intervene on behalf of the secessionist slave states. Slavery just wasn’t that popular in most of the rest of the world back then. Lincoln gambled on that predominant global sentiment and won.

But what, exactly, does the Kiev government stand for? Ethnic Ukrainian nationalism? Definitely. With maybe a little ethnic cleansing on the side?  Part of it, anyway. I’m sure Ukrainians of all ethnicities are quite familiar with the example of Yugoslavia’s breakup. It should come as no surprise if most of them decide they’re just not going to go down that road. It’s also very possible that they will choose to take a different path, one that gives their children a better chance of growing up.

Or does the Kiev government stand with joining the European Union and thereby subjecting their people to the joys of EU and IMF austerity? Well, yes it does. And all in the name of nationalism and fear of the big, bad Russian Empire. While both are understandable, is either one of them worth a civil war and Russian intervention?

Again, it should come as no surprise if most Ukrainians decided that “No” was the correct answer to that question.

If that happens, and I think it is a strong possibility, then the eastern Ukraine will simply go the way of Crimea and not very many people will get hurt.

As for the current Kiev regime, it’s in deep trouble either way. If it chooses the path of civil war, Russia invades and the West will do nothing militarily to help it because the West will not risk a nuclear war with Russia. Even the more fanatical NATO enthusiasts in Poland and the Baltic States are not willing to risk that over Ukraine, not if push comes to shove. Oh, there’ll be lots of dire rhetoric, vetoed UN Security Council resolutions, and maybe some weapons that will come too little, too late. But no troops. Count on it.

If the regime lets the ethnic Russian provinces go relatively peacefully, then it will be more dependent than ever on the financial aristocracy which dominates the governments of Western Europe and America. It’ll go full tilt towards austerity and whatever else the latter want. Maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what some of our financial aristocracy want. Let part of Ukraine secede, then mercilessly exploit what remains.

After that, my little crystal ball goes dark. I just don’t know how the western, ethnic Ukrainians will react to that after all of the crap and stress that they have lived and will live through before they ever reach that point. Thanks for reading, and have a nice night.

HB 445: Welfare for the rich

By: Danny Mayer Wednesday April 16, 2014 6:44 pm

Image by Christopher Epling. See more at christopherepling.com/

Lexington, Kentucky’s Main Street development, probably like development in your cities, has proceeded mainly through public subsidies paid out to the already-well-off. Though they are local projects, the subsidies extend beyond local coffers; they also de-fund state and federal coffers. In effect, taxpayers in Paducah or Wichita are in some way working to support a good part of our urban Lexington developments. It’s one of many ways local decisions have real effects in making the world beyond Lexington.

In Frankfort last week, Kentucky Democrat Governor Steve Beshear passed HB 445, a series of tax breaks designed to reinforce the state’s already-booming urban, bourbon, and equine industries. The new bill, to take one nearby example, will allow the Louisville owners of the future 21C modern art hotel located on Main Street to recoup (and then apparently re-sell) up to $6 million in tax breaks from their $38 million investment.

Armed Standoff Tests Limits of Government Power and Resolve

By: cobernicus

[This is a totally hypothetical story. I wonder how it would play on Fox News]

I wonder how it would play on Fox News

[New York] The situation remains tense this morning in West Harlem as city, state and federal officials face off with an armed and angry populace at 142ndStreet and Fifth Avenue. It is unclear how this problem will be resolved.

The story began ten years ago when neighborhood residents turned a block of West Harlem into a community garden. The block had been the site of the 369th Regiment Armory until it burned down [it didn’t] in 1998. Over the past decade the Regimental Garden has become a center of pride and activity for the area.

Five years ago, the General Services Administration announced plans to erect a federal office building on the site to house various agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration. They ordered the garden removed from the site. When the local residents refused, multiple summonses were issued.

Last week, bulldozers appearing at the site to raze the garden were met by hundreds of protesters, who chained themselves together to block their path. They returned the next day with armed policemen, but were still unable to gain entry. After the story was picked up by news outlets, particularly MSNBC, armed members of the Black Panther Party, from New York and nationwide began pouring into Harlem and took up sniper positions on surrounding rooftops.

When interviewed by the media, the leader of the Regimental Garden group, Amir Abdul-Jabbar, said:

This is about freedom. We are the patriots who built this country, including the national capitol.  We do not recognize the Federal government in Harlem as anything other than an occupying force. This is our land. We settled it and it is ours. We demand that all federal, state and local law enforcement officers abandon the site and remain at least five blocks away. Any attempt to enter the garden will be met with force. We suspect that the official powers are planning a raid under the darkness of night which will result in a repeat of the attacks on MOVE in Philadelphia and against the Black Panthers in Oakland.

UPDATE: In an attempt to reduce tensions, police forces and the bulldozers have been pulled back from the site. Despite this gesture, armed snipers remain in place.

Fed Scientists Choose Deception, Because Young People

By: patrick devlin Thursday April 17, 2014 8:27 pm

cross posted at mLaw

Brain image

When will a study examine the effect of federal anti-drug money on scientist’s brains?

A recent study of the how funding sources of scientific studies impact the emotional honesty and decision making abilities of scientists revealed that researchers make fantastical presumptions, unfounded deductions and engage in deceptive conflations that are not supported by scientific evidence when speaking to the media about studies performed using monies provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center.

Recent research funded by America’s drug warring law enforcement/scientific agencies found that 20 casual cannabis users brains had measurable differences when reflected against a group of 20 subjects who were not casual cannabis smokers.

The scientists did not seek to discover if the differences that were measured resulted in any behavioral changes in the subjects, whether for good or for bad. The scientists did not attempt to understand if the changes measured equated in any way scientifically with addictive or criminal behaviors. The study did not attempt to qualify or quantify how the measured differences effected the study’s subjects decision making or emotional reactions or even if the measured changes were transitory or permanent – the researchers simply did not seek answers to these questions.

Analysts reviewed the statements of the doctors who performed the research to find, strikingly, that although the scientists (from well-respected medical learning institutions including Harvard, Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts) had not sought in any way in their study to understand the implications of the different brain measurements or the possible consequences for casual cannabis users whose brains reflected the different measurements from non-cannabis users brains in their study, reported in their statements to major US media outlets that their study demonstrates the dangers of even casual cannabis use – especially in young people.

The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Jodi Gilman told the media outlet the Boston Globe that her review of the results of the study led her to conclude that America should be concerned because, as the Globe reports, though the “researchers did not study whether (the) changes (found in the tested subjects brains) were linked to corresponding declines in brain function,” we have to be worried because: young people.

Gilman, careening wildly from scientific researcher to self-appointed cultural custodian opinion maker, responding to questions about the results of her scientific” study reminded the credulous Globe reporter of : young people, when, not speaking about any matter the researchers studied, she told the Globe;

This is when you are making major decisions in your life, when you are choosing a major, starting a career, making long-lasting friendships and relationships.

Of note, the Globe reporter did not ask the doctor if her team actually investigated topics such as selecting college majors or embarking upon long-lasting relationships relating to their discovery regarding brain measurements.

Though, as the Globe points out, the study “did not address whether the brain changes are permanent”, Gilman also made the speculative claim that the changes that the study revealed are related to addictive behavior in cannabis users stating that cannabis is, for the brain, “a sort of learning process” that allows the brain “to make connections that encourage further drug use.”

Another researcher involved in the government funded experiment, Dr. Hans Breiter, told the Washington Post that the research “raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” and, “people think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school, our data directly says this is not the case.”

In actuality the study says nothing of the sort as the scientists admit that they did not study, research or in any way test Breiter’s theories that the measurable differences in the brains of the test’s subjects were related to any changes in the behaviors of the subjects – whether good changes or bad changes, or if the measured changes promote, as Breiter frames it editorially as opposed to scientifically; “bad consequences.”

To his credit, it appears that the effect of receiving monies for the study on Breiter was less significant that it was on Gilman, as Breiter did actually throw a smattering of qualifiers in his answers to the Post. In a down column quote the good doctor drops this hedge to the unequivocal-ish statements he made to the Post’s reporter; “there are still many unanswered questions.”

Over Easy: The Heartbleed OpenSSL Bug

By: msmolly

NO HEARTBLEED 02The OpenSSL security bug known as Heartbleed was a huge technology failure that has opened the door to criminal hackers — and probably the NSA, though they’ve vehemently denied knowing about it.

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.
[...]
We have tested some of our own services from attacker’s perspective. We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving a trace. Without using any privileged information or credentials we were able steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 [public key] certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication.

As of 2014, two-thirds of all web servers use OpenSSL. But its project management team is made up of 4 people, and the entire group has only 11 members, of which 10 are volunteers, with lead developer Stephen Henson the single full-time employee. It is just one recent demonstration of how substandard the USA’s investment in its cybersecurity infrastructure really is. For example, in a typical year, the OpenSSL Software Foundation receives just $2,000 in donations (to support security software on those 2/3 of all web servers).

When researchers announced that they had discovered the Heartbleed bug, it had been present in OpenSSL software for several years, but they did not know whether it had been exploited to launch attacks. Now it is forcing websites to issue new certificates, and is causing a lot of us to change and strengthen passwords on dozens of websites, especially those we access to purchase goods and services, do banking, and pay bills. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given how complacent many of us have been about our passwords.

Bruce Schneier, a security expert, explains a bit about how Heartbleed works on his Schneier On Security blog.

Basically, an attacker can grab 64K of memory from a server. The attack leaves no trace, and can be done multiple times to grab a different random 64K of memory. This means that anything in memory — SSL private keys, user keys, anything — is vulnerable. And you have to assume that it is all compromised. All of it.

On Monday, Canada’s Revenue Agency said private information of 900 people had been compromised, and security experts warned that more attacks are likely to follow. Hackers were able to steal social insurance numbers (like our Social Security numbers) that Canadians use for employment and access to government benefits, and possibly some other data.

From Reuters:

Lior Div, chief executive of the cybersecurity firm Cybereason, said that ‘even non-sophisticated hackers’ will attempt to launch attacks that exploit the vulnerability with the tools that are publicly available.

‘We are in a race,’ Div said. ‘People who hadn’t thought about using this type of attack will use it now.’

A top rated password management company called LastPass provides a Heartbleed Checker tool that allows individuals (not limited to their customers) to enter a website URL and determine whether it used OpenSSL, and if so, whether it has been patched. For example, my investment company website got a green light, as did my credit union, but here’s what the tool showed for Facebook:

WARNING: www.facebook.com was confirmed as vulnerable either publicly via statement or on 4/8/2014 LINK

Assessment:  Change your password on this site if your last password change was more than 1 week ago.

So what do we do now?