Monday, April 30, 2012

Post-Star to go behind paywall


In news predicted on this blog last month, The Post-Star announced that starting tomorrow, it was putting most of its online contentbehind a metered paywall, similar to the system used by The New York Times. According to the daily, readers will be to access for free 15 articles a month. Further articles will require an online subscription, whose cost varies depending on length and whether the user is also a print subscriber.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Latin America considers legalization of drugs

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here.

The always worth reading Alma Guilermoprieto has an excellent piece in The New York Review of Books on the increasing resistance in Latin America toward the American driven so-called "War on Drugs." It notes that the gargantuan sums spent on drug interdiction has not only resulted in a huge amount of carnage in the region but has also had precious little effect on the global supply of drugs. If anything, the drugs trafficking industry is expanding... particularly into failed/weak states in Africa like Guinea-Bissau.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Iran not a threat to Israel, but olive trees are

The former head of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet has denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy PM Ehud Barak for misleading the public on the threat posed by Iran and for having their feelings clouded by "messianic judgment." He also said that "I don't have faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us in an event of this magnitude."

A few days earlier, the current head of the Israeli armed forces also veered from the militaristic Script and said he doubts Iran will really try to build a nuclear bomb. He rightly described the Iranian regime as vile but not suicidal.

I assume both of these men are anti-Semitic and hope for the death of the Israeli state, like we're told all critics of the Israeli government's policies supposedly are.

Meanwhile, fanatical settlers launched an operation against an apparent grave threat to their security: olive trees. Or perhaps their real enemy is rationality and civilized behavior.

Update: Former justice and foreign minister Tzipi Livni recently resigned Israel's Knesset (parliament) denouncing the country's leadership. She said that the 'existential threat' to Jewish state comes not from Iran but from Israel's own government.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'Radical feminist' nuns

It's no secret that the Catholic Church is hemorrhaging members in much of the western world and it being an out of touch organization run exclusively by theoretically celibate old men, it's little wonder why.

A good example of this came recently when the Vatican slammed a group for promoting 'radical feminism.' The organization slammed was not Planned Parenthood or NOW but... a group of nuns.

The nuns' grave sin is related to social issues. It's not that they are promoting women's or gay rights, but  it seems that they are complicit in promoting decent treatment for such pariahs. The nuns argue such 'radical' positions as in favor of the ordination of women and ministering to gay people.

In an NPR interview, Sister Simone Campbell chastised the priorities men running the institution, pointing out that those things "are big issues, but they aren't at the heart of the faith." In other words (my words), Church leaders are obsessed with sex and keeping women submissive.

And Sister Campbell offered wise counsel to her judgmental co-religioners: "When you don't work every day with people who live on the margins of our society, it's much easier to make easy statements about who's right and who's wrong."

Update: As Garry Wills opines in The New York Review of Books, the nuns are interested in the powerless. The bishops are just interested in power. 

Further update: A reader pointed out this story where a Catholic school teacher was fired for receiving fertility treatments. So it's not enough to pro-create within the bounds of a faithful heterosexual marriage. Apparently there is a 'right' and 'wrong' way to do it... just like everything else the Church tries to micromanage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How theft by newspapers affects professional writers

guest essay by Lawrence Gooley

I make my living selling what I write and publishing books for others as well. If you have a job, your healthcare, gas money, mortgage, heating, electricity, phone, internet, TV, groceries … all of it and more comes from your paycheck. My “paycheck” comes from stories and books that I sell. I create each one and have to sell each one.

Many of my stories appear in full or are excerpted on Adirondack Almanack and NY History Blog as per my agreement with those entities, and those works also appear as chapters in my books. My recent book, Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love, is an example, containing 51 of my original works. Before summer, I’ll be releasing a similar collection of true murder stories. When those stories appear online, it is not for public reuse. It is copyright protected material, and is my livelihood.

A few years ago, I exchanged emails for two months with a newspaper editor (representing several newspapers and editors). The discussion was about hiring me to write history stories for their publications on a weekly basis. They reviewed samples and expressed great interest (and I retain copies of those communications). However, in the end, the economic downturn was given as the reason they couldn’t hire at that time.

Recently, two of my pieces in their entirety appeared in those same newspapers, both in print and online. My name is mentioned with the articles, but there were no links to me in the online version and there was no other mention of my input. Nothing … just “by Lawrence P. Gooley.” I received no payment, and wouldn’t even know I had been “robbed” had I not found it myself by searching online. The editor obviously knew that Lawrence P. Gooley had not sent them that article for publication, and they in fact include mention of the person who sent it to them. Due diligence, and it’s quite simple, is to contact the author. His name, after all, was on the piece. In this case, the person who alerted them to the piece received as much credit as the actual author who did all the research and writing.

In an instance like that, I’ll contact the source, explain my position, and open the possibility of paying me. If that doesn’t work, I’m prepared to go to small claims court, where I will present the evidence and ask for damages encompassing payment for the article, PLUS the time required to communicate in sometimes lengthy emails, and the cost of gas to travel back and forth to court. I often work 12-18 hour days, and time is money. Dealing with theft of materials carries a financial cost for me.

Taking my material for their own use is no different from taking $200 out of my wallet. It is my work, and considerable expense is involved in producing it, including memberships to a number of newspaper archives, genealogical sites, and history sites. For one story, often 50 or more sources provide bits of information, after which the story has to be composed and written professionally. It’s then up to me to market, sell, and protect my work, a very time-consuming and difficult process.

I have three such cases to deal with at the moment. I’ve worked at various jobs over the years, and this is nothing different than someone else getting paid for work that they did not do. What’s worse is that often the people doing this are writers and editors, the very people who are fully aware that it is wrong and illegal. They KNOW a particular piece is not theirs, but decide to take it anyway, and it is used in their publication for financial gain, whether by selling the newspaper or selling advertising. There’s a word for that: theft. Sometimes it’s called “an accident,” which actually means the editor didn’t bother to check the source. In my case, I’m pretty easy to find. In other cases, it’s intentional, which is just plain wrong.


Lawrence Gooley operates Bloated Toe Enterprises, offering book publishing and web design, and features the North Country Store, an online vendor of regional books and other products. An award-winning author, he will soon release his eleventh book, and is a weekly contributor to the Adirondack Almanack and New York History blogs.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Piracy is not the sincerest form of flattery (or: quit stealing our stuff)

Plagiarism, n.: an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author. (From: dictionary.com)

The above is an example of how one properly attributes work created by another. This straight forward action is something one is typically taught in high school English class.

Yet for the second time in less than a year, a local newspaper has plagiarized work from this blog. Last June, the Glens Falls Chronicle ripped off a Mark Wilson contribution regarding the Post-Star.When confronted, the weekly's boss Mark Frost agreed to credit Wilson.

Last week, Denton Publications (which publishes the Adirondack Journal and several other hyperlocal weeklies) did the exact same thing.

On March 29, Wilson published this piece breaking the news about the Glens Falls' dailies culling of editorial staff.

On April 3, a source made me aware of this online article from Denton that looked astonishingly similar to Wilson's piece... except for one key attribute: Wilson's name. The print edition ran the same article.

To make matters worse, The Chronicle ran a piece by Mark Frost entirely based on (unattributed) Denton's article, unwittingly echoing the fiction that it was their work. In an email, Frost said he didn't know Wilson had anything to do with it (which surely would've been true if he only read the print edition or not seen the updated online piece) and that he'd run a clarification as well.

(Update: today's edition of The Chronicle does NOT appear to have the promised clarification)

After much wrangling, Denton finally agreed to properly attribute its online article. In an email, Denton's Thom Randall assured me a correction would run in the print edition as well.

The policy of this blog is stated very clearly on the main page: Essays are available for re-print only with the explicit permission of the publisher. Contact mofycbsj @ yahoo.com 

Excerpts of blog posts can be used, but they *must*, with no exceptions, contain proper attribution. Proper attribution consists of the author (by default: me, Brian, except where indicated otherwise) and the name and URL of this blog (Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian: mofyc.blogspot.com)

What's most interesting is this. Both Frost and Randall accepted to give attribution, but only once they were confronted. Were these honest mistakes or did they think they wouldn't get caught? Only they can answer.


Regardless, these incidents of piracy represent black eyes for the sort of local, independent journalism many want. It's ironic: on the public media programs about journalism, a common complaint is about bloggers  stealing stuff from newspapers and other mainstream media outlets. They never talk much about newspapers stealing stuff from blogs. I'm starting to suspect it happens more often than most people realize... or care to admit.

Also see: a prominent regional writer and author recounts his experiences of newspapers trying to steal his stuff.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Post-Star war on underage drinking (part 2)

by contributor Mark Wilson

Also see part 1



New York State keeps detailed motor vehicle accident statistics, compiling them year-to-year and county-by-county. Those data as well as the aggregate state figures compiled since 2001 are available online at safeNY.gov. The standards for data collecting and reporting have remained consistent since 2003, the year New York lowered the blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving, and the year the Glens Falls Post-Star initiated its policy on publishing names of teenagers busted for drinking.

Data in the following comparison are derived from police-reported accidents—collisions resulting in fatalities, personal injury or property damage. These records are more uniform within each region and over time than DWI ticketing, for example (another standard measure), which varies regionally and seasonally, skewed by periodic local crack-downs, check points, etc.

To get a sense of how the Glens Falls region’s statistics for underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents stacked up against the average statistics across New York, we set the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers aged twenty and younger both regionally and statewide against the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers from all age groups and compared the resulting percentages. A consistent drop in the regional percentage against the statewide percentage would suggest that the campaign was influencing underage drinking trends favorably.

The results
While eight years of data form no solid basis for statistical analysis, the regional numbers—despite countervailing swings in the middle years of the range—seem to track overall with the statewide norms (even to the point of convergence with state figures in 2009 and 2010, the most recent years evaluated). While this may not be enough of a statistical sample to determine failure of the Post-Star’s policy and overall campaign, there is nothing here to encourage their advocates, either.

Not surprisingly Post-Star editors have not brought statistical analysis to bear on their policy of shaming teenage drinkers. Nor have they cited the statistics in their periodic recommitment to the campaign. If anything they seem to be spurred onward by their own often overheated editorial rhetoric on the subject: “Underage drinking is dangerous and if you don’t believe me, I will show you the headstones.”

Ken Tingley publicly declared his own immeasurable standard for continuing the crusade:

“If there is one young person who learns the lesson, if there is one young person who gets grounded for life for embarrassing their parents, if there is one young person who pauses to consider whether to accept a beer at the next party because they don’t want to see their name in the newspaper, then it is worth it.”

There is little doubt, given the power and range of the Post-Star’s editorial voice, that the shaming policy and Mr. Tingley’s angry bluster have successfully reached any number of kids (and/or their parents). On the same token, given the contrary nature of so many adolescents, can anyone doubt that as many kids may have reacted (sadly) predictably to Mr. Tingley’s bullying and ignored the grim statistics, or worse, headed defiantly in the opposite direction?

The lack of movement of the underage drunk driving numbers against the backdrop of statewide figures suggests, at the very least, that some neutralizing backlash may be at work here.

The broader picture
One of the more troubling aspects of the Post-Star policy is its selective and asymmetric targeting of underage drinkers for the sake of reducing the deaths of young people in motor vehicle accidents.

In 2010 alcohol was the primary cause of 30.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout all upstate counties across all age groups. Speed, by comparison, was the primary cause of 29.2%. The statistics in the three counties served by the Post-Star were quite different: In Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties alcohol was responsible for 20.6% of motor vehicle fatalities, claiming seven lives, while speeding was responsible for 35.3% of motor vehicle fatalities claiming twelve lives. Moreover, in 2010 speed caused 439 injuries across the three counties (31.9%), while alcohol caused only 174 (11.3%).

When you add to that the fact that teenagers are far less likely to drive drunk (accounting for 9.3% of all drivers in alcohol-related accidents statewide) and far more likely to speed (accounting for 22% of all speeding-caused accidents statewide), the math becomes clear: speeding—and not drinking—is by far the deadliest behavior by drivers young and old on our roadways. It comes as no surprise that the Post-Star is devoting none of its diminishing resources to publishing the names of speeders in an effort to embarrass them and their families in a misguided effort—no matter how well-intentioned—to alter their behavior.

Two final thoughts on this subject
This challenge to (and argument against) the Post-Star’s policy of publishing names of teenagers fined for drinking should not be interpreted in any way as condoning the behavior. While it may be a rite of passage—as even Ken Tingley concedes—it remains reckless as it ever was. When combined with driving it has abundant potential to be life-destroying. The sole concern of this post is that the approach undertaken nine years ago by the editor of the Post-Star to combat the issue may simply have made matters worse.

The Post-Star is in many respects a fine newspaper. It is, to be sure, a troubled newspaper belonging to a troubled corporation in a troubled industry in a weak economy. The last thing the editors and publisher of the paper should be doing at this stage is alienating its future readers and subscribers in a way that from any angle looks like a double standard. The Post-Star needs to descend from the bully pulpit and get back to its number one responsibility to the community: reporting news.


This article was published as part of a collaboration with the AdirondackAlmanack.

The Post-Star's war on underage drinking (part 1)

by contributor Mark Wilson


Ken Tingley is back in his bully pulpit. Two Sundays ago in his weekly column, the Editor of the Post-Star defended his newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of teenagers ticketed for violating underage drinking laws. In blunt and patronizing language, the crusading editor took on a recent South Glens Falls High graduate who had dared to leave a comment on the Post-Star's Facebook page objecting to the policy:

Mr. Mumblo was probably playing video games and reading comics when we reported the death of 17-year-old Jason Daniels in Warrensburg on May 18, 2003, and four months later, the death of 19-year-old Adam Baker, also in Warrensburg.

The policy was best described in a harsh editorial that ran on June 12, 2011, nearly eight years into the campaign:

Underage drinkers get their names in the paper. We publish the names of all kids arrested for consuming alcohol. We hope the embarrassment factor helps serve as a deterrent to parents and their kids. Not only does the kid’s name go in the paper, it goes on our website. And the Internet is permanent. So whatever they get caught doing today will follow them the rest of their lives.

From this it is hard to tell if the editorial board is angrier at the kids or their parents. The editorial proceeds to insult the children it hopes to protect:

Kids fib... Kids are lightweights... Kids are reckless... Kids are terrible drivers.

The final line of the editorial—A dead child is gone forever—reveals that the true target of the editorial (and the policy for that matter) is the parents; the humiliation of the children is merely a baseball bat to the gut to get their parents to pay closer attention.

Some HistoryOn June 15, 2003, as New York State prepared to drop the DWI blood alcohol content standard from .1 to .08 percent, and after a succession of fatal underage drunk driving accidents in the region surrounding Glens Falls, Ken Tingley wrote a column outlining the Post-Star's policy on reporting crimes:

Here is what are (sic) policies are now:

• We don't use the name of the child under age 16 charged with any offense - even if it is a felony - but we include the age, sex and town of residence. One exception: We will publish the name of any minor who is being prosecuted as an adult.

• We don't use the name of the child age 16, 17 and 18 if they are only charged with misdemeanors or violations, but we include their age, sex and town of residence.

• We do use the name of minors age 16, 17 and 18 if they are charged with felonies.

• We do use the name of anyone 19 or older charged with any offense if the crime is deemed newsworthy because of unusual or interesting circumstances.

• We've also left it up to the discretion of the editor to print the name of a minor if major crimes or unusual circumstances are involved.

The column concluded with hints of transition:

With the recent debate over underage drinking in our communities, we debated recently whether it might do some good to start listing the names of teens arrested for underage drinking. We currently do not print those names unless there is a felony charge.One of our editors suggested that we should print the name of all teens arrested, that the embarrassment of arrest might be an appropriate deterrent for a young person, that it might even bring a weightier meaning to some parents who don't seem to take the issue that seriously.It is something we will probably be looking at in the future.

The future arrived less than five weeks later when the Post-Star published the names and ages of six minors from Corinth who were charged with “the noncriminal violation of possession of alcohol by someone under 21.” The policy has remained in effect ever since.

According to data compiled by New York State, in 2003 the number of underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties stood at 19. The number rose to 25 the following year and dropped to 17 in 2004. In both 2005 and 2006 the number of underage drunk drivers involved in accidents shot up to 42 and has been declining steadily toward the 2004 level since. 2010 is the latest year for which the state has compiled statistics.

In June 2008 after another cluster of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involving minors, the Post-Star ran an exasperated editorial under the headline “Message is not getting through.” It began:

We give up.

No one seems to be listening anyway.

Sanctimonious and preachy? Out of touch with reality? OK, we concede. You're right. Underage drinking is a rite of passage. A tradition. We all did it as kids. There's nothing that can be done to stop it. Kids are gonna do what kids are gonna do.So have it your way.

Naturally, the editorial does not give up and charges once more unto the breach to deliver the message. It ends with a poignant appeal to the reader not to let the newspaper abandon the crusade.

By this point, nearly five years along, the policy of outing teenagers charged with non-criminal alcohol violations —despite the absence of any evidence that it was doing any good— was so conflated with the broader cause of stopping underage DWI as to be inseparable. For all practical purposes, under guard of the sharp hyperbole of the Post-Star’s editorial position, unquestionable.

This article was published as part of a collaboration with the MoFYC blog.

Next, Part 2: Questioning the Unquestionable

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The curious intersection of journalism, editorial agenda and loss of faith in the media

It's pretty clear from anyone reading Post-Star editorials is that the paper's agenda is devoted to making people believe that Adirondack Park Agency regulations are suffocating the (human) life out of the Adirondack Park. This is despite the statistical fact that the Park's population is growing *faster* that New York's population as a whole.

However, that agenda is also reflected in its supposedly objective news coverage. I've written about this before so I won't belabor previous points. But more recently, reporter Jon Alexander described Hamilton County as 'on the endangered list.'

Now, this was tagged as 'analysis' (ie: opinion) but it does give some insight into his point of view, which happily corresponds with the editorial board's agenda. In a column in Adirondack Almanack, John Warren took serious issue with Alexander's 'analysis.'

Yet in a purportedly objective news story yesterday (doesn't seem to be available online), Alexander notes that Saratoga County's population is growing while Most of the North Country continues to hemorrhage population...

(Again, don't forget the data you'll never see the daily report on)

But the graphic accompanying the article showed that from 2010 to 2011, Hamilton County lost 0.8% of its population, Essex County lost 0.3% of its population,Washington County lost 0.2% of its population and Warren County actually *gained* population. (And even Saratoga County's 'boom' was a modest 0.4%)

While these numbers aren't stellar, they hardly constitute a 'hemorrhage.' But when there's a narrative to conform to...

Additionally, Hamilton County lost 42 residents last year. If the county continue losing that many people every year, it would take 115 years for the 'endangered' county's population to run out. And there's no indication yet that this decline is a long term trend. Hamilton County *gained* population in every census from 1950 to 2000. And since the county was founded, its population has increased in 14 out of the 20 censuses. The county's population has had modest ups and downs in its history, but mostly ups.

But this is not the only seeming intersection of editorial agenda and journalism.

Another of the daily's agendas is its crusade against school spending, which it attributes to malefic and greedy teachers unions.

In an article on Friday (also not available online), education reporter Omar Ricardo Aquije described a meeting between the Glens Falls school board and residents regarding the district's proposed budget.

According to the article, both in text and graphic, the overall tax levy would remain identical from the current fiscal year to the next.

And yet, the jump headline on the inside page B5 blared "Residents question raises, tax increases."

I questioned this discrepancy in an email; the reporter indicated that his figures were correct and that the headline (typically written by layout people... or copy editors, assuming they still have any) was incorrect. The reporter wrote the story honestly. But the headline writer's mistake, was it incompetence or outright deceit? Neither reflects well on the paper's declining standards.

A correction ran in the following day's issue, as usual in print significantly smaller than the original wrong headline.

I don't have any evidence that this was intentional deceit on the part of the paper's backroom staff (I don't blame the reporter, since his text was correct). But this is a very significant error, given how sensitive a topic school budgets are in this area. It certainly undermines what's left of the paper's credibility when these sorts of significant 'errors' in purportedly objective articles just happen to oh so conveniently jive with the paper's editorial crusades.


But for its faults, at least The Post-Star isn't stealing material from regional blogs and writers. More on that later this week.

Update: Today, managing editor Ken Tingley tells us that credibility is key to what they do. No wonder they're in so much trouble.

Friday, April 06, 2012

When 'Never Again' happened again

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.

They are as follows (yes, I know the images do not work):

-Ten years later (an intro)
-Pre-genocide history
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Thursday, April 05, 2012

What income inequality looks like


I don’t have a good ranking of 2010 data, but according to 2000 census numbers, Orange County, CA was in the top two percent of richest counties in America by median household income (61st out 3145).

Its median household income was comparable to that of the affluent Westchester County, NY and was nearly 50 percent higher than the national average.

It also had the 3rd highest concentration inAmerica of households earning over $200,000 a year.

Yet in 2011, nearly 46 percent or Orange County students came from households poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

Monday, April 02, 2012

NYS budget observers 'heartened' by secrecy


There’s something appropriate about the fact that the New York state budget is due on April Fool’s Day.

Public radio journalist Karen DeWitt reported on the adoption of the budget. She noted that observers “were heartened by the process” immediately before commenting on the nature of “the secretive negotiations”...

The fact that this can be said without apparent irony speaks volumes about NYS government.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The definition of austerity

Austerity, n.: when you identify the problem as insufficient growth and your solution is to starve yourself.