Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Who Are You Blog

The "Rage" of William Jefferson Clinton
So President Clinton was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News. He was asked by Wallace whether there was more his administration could have done to stop Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. At that point, President Clinton either became hysterically angry, or gave Fox News a long overdue come-uppance, depending on your political point of view. The Drudge Report said he was “purple with rage.” Howard Dean said he was "taking on the right-wing propaganda machine." Various sources also claimed that Clinton was also shamelessly hypocritical, brutally honest, returning to form, bloviating, and shrewd.

Well, I recently saw the interview on YouTube, and I must say, in all honesty, that it looked like Bill Clinton being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News. Move on. Nothing to see here.

Trope of the day
I hear this at least six times a day while listening to public radio: “Going forward.” “Going forward, what are the implications of this policy?” “What do you think will happen, going forward?” “Going forward, value and execution will be rewarded.” Etc.

Where else could we go? Stop it.

Another trope
Pretexting is one of those words that pop up in the culture with no context and no explanation, and suddenly every newscaster and pundit knows what it means, and why it’s a problem. When I first heard the word I thought pretexting was something you had to do before you sent a text message. What that meant, in turn, I hadn’t the foggiest. Gathering your thoughts maybe. Deciding which vowels to eliminate.

But it turned out that pretexting means misrepresenting who you are in order to get something from somebody else. Some of the fine folks at Hewlett Packard seem to be guilty of this. In order to find out who among the mucky mucks at HP was leaking corporate information to the press, those same mucky mucks hired private detectives who then pretended not to be private detectives in order to find out which mucky muck was the leak. Unfortunately, the pretexters were exposed, the heads of various mucky mucks rolled, headlines screamed, the fifth was taken in front of appropriately appalled congresspeople, laws were passed, and we can now once again buy our inkjet cartridges with peace of mind.

But this week, in the San Francisco Chronicle, in the same issue reporting that the state of California had outlawed pretexting, there was an article about parents monitoring their childrens’ activities on myspace. One mother had started a web site called myspaceforparents. In a sidebar, the Chronicle listed some of the web site’s tips, including, “Create your own account. Don’t use your real name or age if you don’t want your child to know you’re spying.”

Wait a second. Isn’t that, you know, pretexting? Isn’t that illegal in California now?

Well, maybe pretexting’s kind of like torture. It’s not torture is we do it, and nobody finds out about it. If Moms pretext, it’s okay. If corporations do it, it’s not. But listen to this: not only is there myspacefor parents, there’s another site called SafeSpacers, run by college students, who will monitor the profiles of children of parents who are too busy to do it. Parker Stech, one of the founders, told the Chronicle, “Parents don’t want to read their kids’ diary, so we do it for them. We’re able to decipher their messages and their lingo. These are things we’re familiar with that parents aren’t.”

So concerned Moms are outsourcing pretexting, in a new creepy America, where everybody’s pretending to be somebody else in order to find out what we’re really up to, even though nobody knows who anybody really is. People used to criticize Americans for being egotistic, now I guess we’d be called alter egotistic. We’re all secret identity, no super power. We can’t keep track of all our nicknames and passwords. Our biographies are pure fiction, and Oprah Winfrey will no longer have us on the program. Who are we? Are we conquering heroes, or idiots waving flags in the rubble? Are we perky teens, or pedophile predators? America wants to know. Whoever America is these days.

In related news…
Second Life is, according to its web site, “a 3D online digital world imagined, created, and owned by its residents.” You can buy “virtual land” with virtual money called “Linden dollars.” You, or your avatar, can also buy virtual products.

NYT Magazine: “…Skoopf is strictly an ‘in world’ brand, not a carry-over from ‘RL’ (real life). It was founded by Lancaster’s virtual-world avatar, Moopf Murray, a Second Life resident since January 2004. One of Lancaster-Murray’s products is the Skoopf Ultra Roller Skate, available in-world for about 50 Linden dollars. (That’s the Second Life currency; one U.S. dollar is worth about 250 Lindens.) Lancaster says he has sold about 50,000 pairs.”

Conclusions, with scare quotes.
So the cartoon “you” uses real dollars to get “dollars” to “buy” “roller skates,” all the while being observed by a “college kid” preparing a report to give to your “mom.”

And, er…
From the blog, Clickable Culture:

“…SL resident Pirate Cotton, boldly goes where I am too timid to tread. His blog post on ‘Sex and Second Life’ summarizes how doin' the humpty-hump evolved in Linden Lab's digital domain. The thing I've found funniest about Second Life's anatomically-spare avatars is that in order to engage in ‘realistic’ sex acts, one must attach the appropriate genitalia.”

Available with your good Linden credit at the genitalia “store.” Careful though. “Mom” is watching.

Conservative scandals
The GOP has known about Representative Mark Foley’s “over-friendly” e-mails to a teenage boy for a couple years. (Sample query: “is your little guy limp… or growing.”)

The Nation claims that the number two editor at the Washington Times and his wife are white supremacists.

The director of human resources at the Washington Times was arrested in a sting operation by the Metropolitan Police. He thought he was hooking up with a 13 year old girl, but when he showed up for the rendezvoux, all he met were cops.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell, "pretexting" is just a new word for what hackers used to call "social engineering."

3:32 PM  
Blogger Merle Kessler said...

In other words pretexting is just a pretext for social engineering?

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I could not agree with you more about the Clinton post. Lost in today's political world is any semblance of objectivity or reality. If people can't take off their ideological lenses to see the world as it is, how can anything ever be fixed? I think the truth of the matter is that no one wants to fix anything but rather only to make him or herself feel better by belittling someone else... anyone else. The Hillary Clinton Time cover was another example of how absurd we have become. Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton - neither the devil nor a saint. This need to build oneself up by association or by tearing the other guy down - whether it be the other political party, the other religion, the other ethnicity, the other city, state or nationality, or whatever group you stand opposite from based on whatever lines you wish to draw - is the biggest barrier to progress. I believe we refuse to acknowledge what we have become, refuse to care, or admittedly enjoy where we are and that the sad truth is people have always been and will forever remain the same. Kevin

9:06 PM  

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