Playing along

One evening a little while ago I was driving home and encountered a Police ‘booze bus’ breath-test checkpoint.

image: BOP sunlive (click)

Cars queued up in a funnel pattern set up with cones and flashing lights … when it was my turn, the police officer reached in through my car window, held the breath screening thingy in front of my face and said:
“Please say your name and address.”

I replied (into the machine) “You don’t really want my name and address, you just need enough breath for a sample.”

This was not well received.

“Look here. It’s the law that when a police officer asks for your name and address, you must supply them,” he said sternly and scanned the display of the breathalyser.

“Well yes,” I said. “That’s if the question is being asked as part of an inquiry. Not just when you need some breath for a blood alcohol screening device.”

He looked at me hard.
He looked at my car and who else was in it.
He looked again at the reading on the breath-testing thingy.

Then he frowned at the queue of cars building up behind me, thought about it, and waved me on without another word.

I was reminded of that episode by a blog post I Am Detained By The Feds For Not Answering Questions from Paul Karl Lukacs about his experience refusing to answer questions at a US Customs and Border Patrol…

“Why were you in China?” asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.

“None of your business,” I said.

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

“I’m not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country,” I said.

This did not go over well. She asked a series of questions, such as how long I had been in China, whether I was there on personal business or commercial business, etc. I stood silently. She said that her questions were mandated by Congress and that I should complain to Congress instead of refusing to cooperate with her. …

Paul’s post, and his follow-up 10 Brief Responses To 700 Comments About Refusing To Answer Questions At Passport Control are well worth a read in their entirety.


image: TV3 (click)

Now, look, I’m all for getting drunk drivers off the road, and if these ‘booze bus’ checkpoint campaigns work, GREAT. I’ll also be the first to concede that maybe Paul and I were being pedantic and uncooperative — even oppositional. But haven’t we each got a point?

Paul: the U.S. government does not have the power to prevent a citizen’s re-entry. You have the right to remain silent.

Me: A person in NZ must tell a police officer their name and address if asked — but only if there’s an actual purpose in the question.

Any thoughts?

Creative genius

I’ve been thinking about the Shepard Fairey vs AP copyright dispute I referred to yesterday. As clever as Mr Fairley is, there’s no doubt his Obama HOPE image rests as if on a foundation on the Mannie Garcia photo (copyright owned by AP, it transpires).

As the side-by-side comparison demonstrates, without the Garcia photo, what would Fairley have? The original deserved to be acknowledged/credited/licenced it seems to me.

For fun, consider my original ‘art work’ of Auckland supercity mayoral candidate Len Brown (who I had a brief chat with at the opening of the Going West literary festival at Titirangi last Friday.)

What do you think?
Am I a creative genius or what?

But how does your appreciation of my staggering artistic powers change when you see my source material?

Continue reading →

Propaganda?

Shepard Fairey 'painted' Olivia Wilde for the ACLU. (Click to enlarge)

Here’s a ‘new’ poster, designed by Shepard Fairey, the guy who adapted an AP photo of Barack Obama into a HOPE poster etc which sold gazillions, sparking AP to come after him for using their intellectual property without acknowledgment or royalties. (I personally think they had a point. Fairey’s unacknowledged use of the AP image went beyond ‘fair use’.)

Mannie Garcia's photo and Fairey's treatment

Anyway, this new poster features a gorgeous actress/model Olivia Wilde) dressed reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty holding a bullhorn and a clipboard — to promote the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU is an organisation whose courageous activists/whiste-blowers have been at the forefront of the civil right movement for decades.

‘Leading freedom forward’ — yeah it’s propaganda, but sometimes we need the encouragement of a slogan. Good on them.

The actress who acted as model for the poster, Olivia Wilde said this:

I believe we have to judge our society not by how we treat the privileged and the empowered, but by how we treat the silenced, the condemned, the undocumented, and all those whose views and rights are deemed inconvenient. The ACLU works tirelessly to uphold the promise of the Constitution, and I am proud to support their courageous and necessary work.

A friend of mine, and fellow inconvenient truthteller, recently copped a nasty, threatening curse-filled phonecall from someone who feels aggrieved by having a whistle blown on their dodgy activities. As I said elsewhere, it takes guts — “courageous and necessary work” to use Olivia Wilde’s epithet.

(Thanks to Huffington Post.)

Nasty and devious

From the New York TImes:

Above the Law

Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY | New York Times | September 11, 2010

Surveillance video shot by the police shows plainclothes officers confiscating computers from Baikal Environmental Wave. (NY Times)

IRKUTSK, Russia — It was late one afternoon in January when a squad of plainclothes police officers arrived at the headquarters of a prominent environmental group here.

They brushed past the staff with barely a word and instead set upon the computers before carting them away. Taken were files that chronicled a generation’s worth of efforts to protect the Siberian wilderness.

The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, was organizing protests against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal, a natural wonder that by some estimates holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software.

Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy groups or news organizations that back the government.

Read on at NYTimes.com

Basically, stealing the tools of the trade and archives on a pretext. Nasty and devious.
+
UPDATE 14/9/10

Microsoft condemns use of anti-piracy laws to stifle dissent

NZ Herald

WASHINGTON – US software giant Microsoft has expressed concern over a report that anti-software piracy laws were being used to stifle dissent in Russia and announced steps to try to halt the practice.
Continue reading →

Mortality. Leave a legacy.

My family and I attended Malcolm Smith’s funeral in Howick today.

Chances are you don’t know who Malcolm was. Don’t worry, he wasn’t famous or a celebrity but boy, was he a good man, and boy, did he contribute to his local community. Malcolm was one of those quietly strong, ethical people who make the world a better place.

I’ve been to more than my fair share of funerals, if I can say that without sounding sorry for myself. Today’s was a special one to me, although I wasn’t close to the family, because of the quality of tributes paid to this quiet, humble, self-effacing yet strong (yes, I say it again) and noble man. He set a fine example to us. He has left a legacy.

A friend of Malcolm’s since primary school told us how he was nicknamed (by a teacher!) ‘Machine Gun’ because of his initials MG Smith. If ever there was an ill-appointed nickname, it was that! Quietly-spoken, Malcolm was a man with ‘a small bucket of words’, as his beloved wife Christina said. Malcolm was a doer, not a debater.

Personally, I am grateful for Malcolm’s support and vision for the Maori element in our local community. He was, till the last, a believer in the value and importance to us all of Maori culture. He supported — indeed, with his architecture skills was instrumental in — the reinstatement of the little whare Torere in Howick’s Emilia Maud Nixon Garden of Memories. His logo design for Uxbridge was a bridge … to cross a gulf.

I wish he had lived to see Torere actually rebuilt. His fingerprints are all over the plans. His memory will live on.

Haere ra Malcolm. Go in peace.
A giant has passed this way.

— Peter Aranyi Monday, 13 September 2010

September 11

image: NASA via Boston Globe (click)

I feel I have no words adequate for events like this. – P

Mediagasm

I’m going to come out and say it: I like what I know of Rahm Emanual and I wish him well.

I like him for all sorts of intangiable reasons but mainly because of his role in getting Obama elected; and his crucial (not too strong a word) support in getting the Obama health care reforms implemented in the US. When some in the media were lining him up for the drop — a scapegoat for why the reforms would not be implemented —  he stayed outwardly calm and worked to get them through. He brought those reforms back from the dead.

I also like him because Obama likes him and roasted him with such affection in 2005. Yeah. (See video below the fold.)

It was out there that Rahm Emanuel had said he wanted, someday, to run for mayor of Chicago. I’d heard that before. So when Mayor Daley announced he wasn’t going to stand again, I wondered… but not too much. Unlike some whirling dervishes in the US media.

'Let's get hysterical' — US media adds 2+2 and gets 159 ...

Look at this nicely-captured FRENZY on cable: (video below the fold — prefixed by not a bad ad for HSBC) Continue reading →

No religious bigotry, pornography, or fart apps — OK?

Apple has published some guidelines for software developers — telling them (broadly) how it decides which Apps/programmes can be sold in its App Store. Among them, this:

In the guidelines, Apple draws a line between broader expressions of freedom of speech and the App Store.
“We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app,” the guidelines say.
Apple also says it will block applications that don’t do “something useful or provide some lasting entertainment.”
“We don’t need any more Fart apps,” Apple said, referring to prank programs that let off noise. — AP story at NZ Herald

I don’t have a problem with any of that. They’re not running a kids’ talent show. Even then, they’d have limits.

What am I missing?

I love the casual language of some of the guidelines:

  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps.
  • If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
  • If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
  • We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
  • If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.

And this made me chuckle… Continue reading →

Eight in a row!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has won EIGHT consecutive Emmy awards. Deal with it.

I celebrated last week Jim Parsons winning an Emmy for his role as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Cool.

This news that Jon Stewart and The Daily  Show won an EIGHTH Emmy for Best Variety Show somehow slipped past me. That brilliant, vital show deserves them all.

Dumb sentence of the week award goes to RobotCeleb’s Tim Smith for this timeless prose:

Speculation and shear [sic] animosity is circulating the Internet today, as people are furious that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won this award yet again.

What does that even mean? Speculation and ‘shear’ animosity? (Like clippers? Or like laterally shifted? Er, ‘sheer’, perhaps, Tim? It’s still nonsense IMO.) People are furious?

Actually Tim’s whole story is pretty ungracious if you ask me: “Jon Stewart somehow came out on top and Conan O’Brien got shafted once again.” Riiight. OK, Tim. “Conan O’Brien, the man whom everyone wanted to see win.”

Well, obviously not everyone, huh? Congratulations to Stewart and The Daily Show.

Old and new media romps in…

"Look at your man, now back to me. Now back at your man, now back to me. ... Sadly, he isn't me ..."

Discount slightly the gushing, dewy-eyed hype about Facebook and Twitter and this is STILL a real advertising campaign success story. My goodness yes. AND it uses social media in a clever, very deliberate and savvy, self-aware way. Watch this:

Old Spice Social Case Study from Digital Buzz on Vimeo.

The excellent writing (“Look at your man, now back to me. Now back at your man, now back to me. … Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he used Old Spice body wash he could smell like he’s me …”) … wow, clever … and the dreamboat ‘beefcake’ model, the location filming of the commercial and the special effects all work together really well. But cheap, it ain’t. Look at all the extra filming and huge effort that went into the feedback part of the ‘response campaign’.

Just the confident attitude of the television campaign makes it a winner, in my book — and the smart idea of targetting women (who BUY the product, doh!)

Well done, Old Spice. Funky.

(Thanks to reader Matt Stenning for the tip.)

‘Vendetta’ and ‘hate campaign’?

Interesting to see Brian Edwards recently accused of these ‘failings’ with respect to Paul Henry by anonymous commenters on his blog. (Unless ‘Dwossie Bleu-Bleu’ is a name?)

My own views of Paul Henry and his (un)suitability for TV are summed up in Say goodbye to Paul Henry the abusive try-hard. But I’m not running a ‘hate’ campaign either.

In my observation, allegations of ‘vendetta’ are swiftly hurled at any critic with an attention span. – P

Transparency journalism

Using new and old tools to tell the truth.
image: Azerbaijan Media Center (click)

I hadn’t heard this term:

The insider described transparency journalism – a phrase not used by the [WikiLeaks] organisation until today – as ”journalism that tells a true story and then backs it up by publishing source documents that also provide the truth.’

I like it.

Source: WikiLeaks founder to stay – insiderSydney Morning Herald 8 Sept 2010 (last paragraph).

As part of my formal journalism training, then as a professional reporter covering some pretty contentious news rounds … and then as a political reporter at Parliament, I’ve learned to routinely archive information to back up my stories and claims — and to justify my commentary and opinions. I’ve done it for years.

You never know when your ‘recollections’ will be challenged, or you’ll be asked to explain your basis for a conclusion. Our lawyers at Radio NZ News were pretty robust in their encouragement for us to slay dragons — but stressed we should have the facts to back up assertions: from the headline to the smallest details of a news story. It’s a reassuring feeling.

It was SOP for cabinet ministers’ Press Secretaries to record my interviews with their minister — a good practice for keeping both sides honest, frankly.

Some habits die hard and carrying a spiral bound notebook to jot salient facts into is one I still practise. It’s useful to be able to dive back and refresh one’s memory about some matter or the other — if someone used a particular turn of phrase, or details of claims or promises made, relationships, features of past interactions. It’s a good way to do things.

Let’s face it, e-mail has made the whole ‘I said, he said, you said’ game so much easier, and I’ve mentioned before my delight with how valuable the artificial intelligence of DEVONthink makes my collection of data and web archives. Awesomely powerful.

Of course, those (few) who criticise me and accuse me of ‘smear campaigns’ and ‘spreading lies’ etc also sometimes complain that they (really) don’t like how I ‘cross-thread’ and ‘link to old information’ … but I do that — almost as a reflex — quoting sources to prove I’m not making it up. (I couldn’t make up some of the stuff I quote. It’s just too whacky, the marketing claims simply too hyperbolic, or gauche some of it. I don’t have the imagination.)

Well, now, thanks to WikiLeaks, I have a new term for what I’ve aimed to do:

Transparency journalism

(And here I thought I was just blogging… sniff.)

– P

Making things happen

from Liberty - published by Ubuntu (click to enlarge)

I’m reading a book of John F. Kennedy quotes with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and good biographical introduction which touches on Kennedy’s life.

It highlights how his struggles with health and his father’s ambition were part of what led to his aspirational speeches and his call to work for ‘peace’ with ‘courage’ — real encouragement. It’s very good.
This page (right) popped out, last night.

Other big hits for me were:

Too often… we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought

.

We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda;
it is a form of truth.

Look, even if these were penned by bright speechmakers, it’s brilliant that he spoke them out.

Also of note is that, in his own terms, he didn’t go into ‘politics’ he pursued ‘public service’ — often siding with the underprivileged in his society. I don’t care about the Kennedy bashers, I’m still inspired by him.

His Master’s Voice?

Gromit has a sense of history. Click for a laugh (image: BBC)

Cameron Brewer — a fresh face

Not your average aspiring local body politician.

I had the pleasure of Cameron Brewer‘s company at a looong lunch at the Auckland Club a while back — a gaggle organised by David McEwen. (Thanks again, David.)

He’s an ebullient, engaging guy — and pretty clean-cut, it seemed to me. Just like his well-designed billboards, one of which I spotted yesterday.

I may or may not share his politics (I don’t know). But if local body politics is what he wants, good luck to him, I say. We could do a lot worse.