When my friend Karoli at Crooks and Liars broke the the Mark Williams story by tweeting his "let's all infiltrate the SEIU, and do to them what they do to us" page, I immediately smelled a stunt and told her that I felt we should ignore it.  Great reporter that she is, she basically agreed, but would still casually denounce it, and  watch it for further developments. 

Why would I say to ignore it? Because disgraced Teaparty blowhards like Williams are always looking to be heros on the right, and they come up with overly ambitious battle plans, or more often, these "punk the left" stunts all the time. While they're rarely very well executed, these ploys capture the narrative for many news cycles, often denying the left its own message traction when it needs some the most. (There are few events in modern times that have so awakened and galvanized the left (and Obama's base)  as the Wisconsin budget crisis. And just in time.)

The relative success of James O'keefe and his ACORN stunt has brought forth a small battalion of these political pranksters and assorted opportunists, most of them incompetent, but all looking for a few minutes of fame, and any power they can squeak out over some Tea Party faction, if they can get it.  To succeed at all, they rely mostly on luck, a very slow news cycle, a sloppy, but sympathetic corporate media, and an irrationally excitable left blogosphere and Twitterville.

Without those ingredients, most of their evil seedlings would sprout like a weed for about 15 seconds, and then whither and die from lack of planning, strategic coherence, or competent execution.  When they do succeed, it's almost always the left giving them far more traction than they deserved. And of course, there are often cranks who do these things on the left, as well. And that fact, as it turns out, was more than relevant to what happened here. But more on this later.

Because as it also turns out, my instincts had nailed this one to a very wall that I suspected from the start.  Today, Williams updated his new post, and gloated that it was a stunt. In typical uppercase stylelessness, he brags that:


Williams had merely taken some lefty flake's website from last year, and changed a few words around.  He figured he could embarrass the left by getting them all worked up and spewing threats and profanity over what he would later reveal to be one of their very own tactics. And lookee here! He had the website printout to prove it!

At the same time, he fantasized, he'd drive all the organizers into a paranoid frenzy of distrust of one another, no doubt relying on the well established and entirely predictable left echo chamber to run wild with the story once he had planted his demon seed. 

While he certainly did make a lot of noise, and rattle a few union people on email lists, it's arguable whether he embarrassed anyone on the left in any operationally meaningful way.  But for his self-promotional purposes, and the sycophantic,  lightweight drones he so often appeals to, it was an overwhelming success.  More than a few channels on Twitter, and around the right-o-sphere are buzzing about Williams as the tri-cornered general he insists he is; an excommunicated Tea Party big dog who has delivered a wealth of new empty rhetoric and talking points to throw around when they need some.  Any time the left brings up misspellings, violence, racism, holocaust references, or a wide number of other common outrages heard on the left about the Tea Parties, the freedom lovin', god fearin', constitooshunalist brothers and their 50 state spin machine will be armed and ready for 'em… you betcha. They will, almost in unison, blither forth with their usual conventional wisdom kibble like, "Oh, c'mon… Everyone knows the left does this stuff all the time. Hell, Mark Williams exposed that one, right?"

So fine, Williams's little ploy was marginally effective. It wasn't very hard—but he knew that it wouldn't be. All he had to do was lure a few noisy blogs with a fair Twitter following into his trap, and he knew they'd lose their shit and go batshit crazy as they so often do. In the 4 hours since Karoli tweeted it (but never blogged it), William's site had 127 retweets. Perhaps other bloggers felt Karoli had just missed the importance, rather than choosing to deliberately underplay it.

All it took was a few dozen well connected retweets using the #seiu and other Wisconsin related twitter hashtags, and Mother Jones, Huffpo, and a few other major league left blogs were all off to the races with the "SEIU being infiltrated by Tea Party" meme.  An hour later, Mark Williams's page had over 1,000 retweets, and he was basking in the warmth of his own flowing semen. He had tossed a little chum in the water, and the link-baiting lefty sharks wolfed the bait and ran with it as one of the big stories of the day. By 9pm, it seemed like everyone but me was convinced it was the biggest story since James O'keefe broke into a phone closet. Ho hum.

The moral of this story for the Left? Stop the knee jerk reactions to predictably contrived set-ups and focus on our own message. Unless we do, we will never have nice things.

Note: I am not faulting anyone for retweeting what they see that they think is important. It's natural to punch the button when our friends pass things along. It's the bloggers and publications prone to link baiting who pass them along initially I have issues with. All too often they run around with their hair on fire without much regard for details or proportionality, nor care to pause long enough to let the facts of a story unfold. They just run with it because its in their interests to run with it.

And for the right? Step on the cockroaches like Williams—swiftly and forcefully. While they may get a lot of high-fives from the primitives who like to dress up in colonial outfits and scream 10th amendment clauses at passing cars, they also come up with really stupid stunts like this one that present a double-edged blade that can cut them to pieces. This stunt has already backfired on the national Tea Party. Why? Because any future "outrage" at progressive events will be easily dismissed as a set-up by one of the Mark Williams-type Poser Brigades. It will be such a common undercurrent of future narratives, it's easy to imagine the Tea Party Federation bosses once again hoping Mr. Williams will be texting while staring at his face in a hand mirror as he steps off a busy curb.

Well done, Mr. Williams. On second thought, don't consider this a morality tale that can be of any use to your contemptible efforts to ruin America for present and future generations.

Just consider it a splendid chance to present foot.




UPDATE/NOTE:  Twitter has a very poorly-timed bug. If you're having trouble changing your avatar, see note below.


I so rarely do this, but as I wrote in a post last week, and detailed in my primer on the crisis, what is happening in Wisconsin is too important to not do everything that we can to show support for the demonstrators there; locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, and on Twitter, Facebook, or the back of your damned car.  

Last night, filmmaker Michael Moore asked everyone to wear red to show our solidarity. And this morning, my old friend @hankronan messaged me and suggested Wisconsin Badger Red for our Twitter dress, also known as our avatars.

Now given Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's faux-fixation with communism lately, the color red might not have been the best idea, but screw 'em all. Wingnuts don't own the color wheel, eh?

Look my progressive/liberal friends and neighbors: this is our Stonewall, Waterloo, and <historical name your battle of choice>.

But win or lose, it cannot be our Last Stand.  So please don't just sit on your ass and watch. Do something; anything. Send yourself, your money, some pizza, or call a union and ask what you can do. If nothing else, just make a Tributar like mine shown at upper right. (I've provided some tools to help you make one below.) 

If you want to be subtle, just stick a red square or dot in the corner of  your avatar. As with much in life (except some of my posts), it just doesn't have to be complicated to be effective.

It's the least you can do. The very least. You only have one country, and you may not have it for much longer. So fight for what you have, and fight as hard as you are able, while you still have a country to fight for.

As always, please use the Tweet button to distribute this post to anyone that should care. Thanks. (Note: When you use the button, you increase the #tally, and that encourages others to do the same. This has greater impact than simply retweeting the message that brought you here.)

Tributar Tools

Avatars with some special image, color or text signifying some event or cause are often called "twibbons." I never like terms that are twitter-centric, or for that matter, dedicated to any one social media service, unless they are only applicable to that service. So last year, I coined the term "tributar" at Urbandictionary,com, after seeing Keith Olbermann make one to honor his late-father last year.

Tributar Editors

  • Twibbon.com — is probably your fastest and easiest option. It's very easy, and the site has instructions. Or if you enjoy tutorials, here are some video guides.
  • Photobucket.com — is very easy to use, according to @angryBlackLady.
  • I really never use these tools — because I really don't do many Tributars, personally, so if you know a better tool, please tweet it to me at: @shoq. I will post here.

Image Editors

If you're not a Photoshop wizard and you want to do it yourself, here are some web-based tools you can use. While it may seem like a lot of work to learn the basics of image editing, it won't take more than 15 minutes to change a color the first time if you have no experience whatsoever. And then you'll know how to do it for the next big thing.

Human Editors

  • Just look for someone with a cool red avatar, and ask them how they made it, or if they will make one for you.
  • If you want to volunteer to make them for others, I will be happy to post your twitter handle here. Just tweet me at: @shoq.

Computer Code For "Badger Red"

One of the code(s) below will render a shade of red in your editor:

The PRECISE WISCONSIN BADGER color is: (Hat Tip to @gaborger)

  • RGB: R 191 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: BF0000

My Tributar above uses a slightly brighter value, for contrast with a darker image like the @Shoq panther:

  • RGB:  R 254 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: FE0000

If you don't know what these codes mean, it doesn't matter. You can probably figure out where to put them in your editor. If not, just pick a nice red from the editor's palette and move on :)

Twitter Avatar Bug

UPDATE/NOTE:  With their usual perfect timing, Twitter has a bug and it's not displaying the "Change Profile Image" button on Settings/profile screen.  They claim it's resolved, but it's not.  To work around this, just hold down SHIFT key and press your browser's reload button. After a few times, the button should appear. If it doesn't, try clearing your browser cache first  (Google-it for your browser) and try again.



"Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most respected." Samuel Gompers


The Wisconsin budget showdown might be the Stonewall moment of this generation. A time when the middle class finally wakes up and decides to take action, trying to save their jobs, their lives, and their nation.  This primer will try to provide key resources that I discover as the story unfolds. If you have things to contribute, please tweet them to @shoq (using hashtag #wiPrimer). As always, using the Tweet button below will help get this where it needs to go: to the people.

Be SURE to show solidarity. Wear red. Sport a red tributar. Details at: http://bit.ly/tributarWI

Latest News

 Thursday, March 3rd


Continuing Coverage

Local & National Event Info

Key Issues


Importance and Impact

Photos From Demonstration Sites


   America, February 26th

  Madison, Week of February 21st

History and Background

  Labor Movement History

The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.

  Right Wing Strategy and Tactics


This video will tell you just about everything you need to know about what Wisconsin is all about.

If the left doesn't rise to this challenge, this nation is a lost cause. Just book a flight to Australia, New Zealand, or some other nation where there is still a shred of decency left in their cultural plasma.

"If you break the public unions in Wisconsin you can break them everywhere." — Rachel Maddow




BREAKING: Julian Assange Parachutes Into Wisconsin Union Protests

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs' Plan to Break Labor's Back

"If you break the public unions in Wisconsin you can break them everywhere." — Rachel Maddow

Ok, maybe Julian Assange didn't exactly parachute into Wisconsin. But he might have! And the pathetic fact is, that link-baiting baloney is what got you here. And that was my mission.

Why? Because with Gov. Scott Walker's outrageous effort to crush collective bargaining for state workers, the right wing has effectively declared war against unions, progressivism, and the American middle class, while most of the left is still sitting on the side of the road, like a brooding Rent-A-Wreck, with its ass stuck in neutral.

My good friend @karoli can bring you quickly up to speed.

With her usual knack for cutting through all the clutter, via Crooks and Liars:

Conservatives Declare War on Unions While National Media Snores

But my mission here….

Is to point out that while this issue has been building for well over a week, the American left has been mostly asleep until yesterday.  Naturally, the mainstream media did its best to help it snooze for as long as possible.  Only yesterday did CNN even show up in Wisconsin. And until last night, Twitter and Facebook were mostly abuzz with the usual updates about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Glenn Beck, a dwindling bit of Egypt, the Chris Christie Minstrels, and the usual celebrity cacophony of moronic blither-blather.

No one was expecting this Battle of the Bulge for the Democratic party and our fading unions to come up in this way, or this suddenly. But here it is. And now, the big question is, will progressives finally fight hard, or just die quickly?  If you can't see what the GOP is doing with this issue, you simply don't get anything that's happened to  this nation over the past 30 years in general, and certainly in the past five years since Fox News became the steering gear for the Republican Party's ship to nowhere. So just shut the fuck up and get out of the way.

But if you do get it, then you realize that this can and should be a magic moment in our history. A moment where we can rise up and show this fetid teaparty army and their plutocratic puppet masters like David Koch and Sheldon Adelson that there is still a strong majority of sensible people in this country who know that a fair society is the only one that will ever survive long term.  And this generation of wrecking crew Republicans won't just delay that fair and just society. They will crush out any possibility of there ever being one. At least in this country.

And that would be a sad fail of unparalleled dimension. An easy win will have passed us right by due to our own apathetic lethargy and a mass delusion that all the horrible things happening to us were never quite as bad as they seemed. Our collective will to resist an obvious insurrection of selfishness will have failed to come alive at the very moment that it must, and the American experiment will probably die right here in the lab.

So maybe we needed a Julian Assange to land in Wisconsin. We shouldn't have needed anything that dramatic to smack us out of our cynical slumber. But now something even better is on the ground our there in cheesehead country. Something very big and very beautiful. We only have to get behind this moment and push it with all our might… and we can win.

We really can win.

Yes we can.

Vital View

Rachel Maddow: Wisconsin Is About The Survival of The Democratic Party

Vital Read

Labor's Last Stand, By John Nichols (The Nation)

Related Reading

Angry Wisconsin workers occupy Capitol (Peoplesworld.org)

DNC Expands Role In Labor Protests To Ohio, Indiana, by Amanda Terkel (Huffington Post)

George Carlin on the American Dream (with transcript)

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

In Taking Stock of WikiLeaks, by George Friedman (Stratfor Consulting), a well known geopolicy analyst, provides the best snapshot yet of the overall panorama of the big Wikileaks facts and issues. It frames them from the perspective of someone who deals with geopolitical people and realities every day, as opposed to the legions of journalists, pundits, bloggers and entertainers who have saturated the Internet with every conceivable position, posture, and permutation on this interesting—but which might not ultimately prove all that significant of a—moment in our global digital history.

While it never really takes a strong position about the rightness or wrongness, it does appear to find that question irrelevant, as it marks down many extravagant claims by Assange, and others, that the entire affair matters much at all—except perhaps to the people blogging it for hit traffic, and those career government spooks who will be tasked with keeping our future secrets.

I don’t like to give anyone else the final word, but in this case Robert Gates’ view is definitive. One can pretend that WikiLeaks has redefined geopolitics, but it hasn’t come close.

Is this just an insider wonk's pragmatic take on this hyperbolic issue, or another attempt to minimize the entire issue for the benefit of the administration, and those defense industry CEOs in desperate need of pithy poolside remarks that debunk all those shrill civil libertarians? You can decide for yourself.

As for me, while I know it's not stylish to withhold judgment on breaking issues, I've remained relatively agnostic on the whole Wikileaks show.  I think it contains many thorny issues that should not be discussed too cavalierly by the uninformed public, who are quick to make bad decisions about complex things, nor too openly vetted by the really informed professionals for fear that someone can wind up with a lot of scratches—or dead.  It's certainly one of the trickier issues to responsibly parse as we've seen in a very long time.

My working, but still tentative position is that releasing this stuff is a crime, and must be one, but publishing it is perfectly legal, and must remain so. The government's jihad against Assange and Wikileaks is probably far more about looking tough before our allies, and intimidating future leakers, than any  concerns about national security. Michael Moore's passion for drama, notwithstanding, this may not actually be all that big a deal, when you strip away all the hyperbole and what if scenarios. But then again, it might be in ways we can't see yet. I am not Glenn Greenwald, so I don't have to be sure of my position on anything.

It would be absurd to suggest that espionage or treason be legal, just as it would be ridiculous to block the truth once it is released. That's why I've encouraged people to download a copy of the Wikileaks data and keep it safe for history.  The problem I have with it all is "whose truth is it, anyway?"  It's very easy to see future leaks being gamed for their disinformation value, just as it's easy to see even our casual confidences now being hidden more deeply, and our really big secrets getting burrowed so deeply that almost no one will ever know what or where they are.

But as I said, I am still grokking all this, so while I try to figure all this out in my own head, I look for good explainers that help me grasp those nasty nagging nuances. This article, while clearly taking a policy wonk's dismissive tone toward any claims of revolutionary importance, is nonetheless the best overall summary of this fascinating story that I have read.

Pass it on. It's useful.

Read: Taking Stock of WikiLeaks


Clay Shirky: Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Video: NYU's Jay Rosen on Wikileaks


Hat tip to my long time friend @fantomaster for alerting me to this item

Dear friends:

As some know, I am alway hesitant to make charitable appeals, because the Internet is rife with cases of scams, phony dramas,  or attention whores claiming some fender bender caused them serious trauma and need your dollars to survive (or more likely, buy more Spaghettios for their dinner). Few ever try to confirm these things, or confirm them well, and many get stung. Even if they don't know they were stung, it happens far too often.

And almost as irksome, is the fact that it's so hard to decide who is deserving of Internet appeals for charity.  We can't help everyone, but that shouldn't mean helping someone is out of the question. In the end, like much in this life, it's the luck of the draw.  My own rule of thumb is that for someone to really warrant broad-based Internet appeals, the beneficiary must have extended their own life or generosity to others in some measurable way. I feel this case passes that smell test and deserves our generosity.

Since I never accept Internet appeals at face value, I have personally spoken with @chrisWiggins (at his Google number) and confirmed all of this. I hope my word is good, and you can rely on this being completely legitimate.  His mother has a marvelous record of human kindness and generosity, and deserves all the life we can buy for her.

I hope you will help with whatever you can afford. Even a single dollar will count.

Thank you so much.


The story: Please help Karen Wiggins

The donation page: http://karenwiggins.eventbrite.com/

@chriswiggin's  Linked-in Page: http://linkd.in/9vqNsF



Yes, Chris is a recent hire at Google. But they have working stiffs, too.(They're not all Googleaires).  He's no more able to save his mother alone than most of us would be in a similar circumstance.

On July 14th, on an MSNBC Countdown segment about the pending well bore pressure tests of the Macondo well, an oil industry MBA named Bob Cavnar was "confused," saying this was the first he'd heard of an "integrity test," then suggesting that something was "not making any sense," as if some other agenda might be in play. He went on to imply that the entire operation might be some new ruse to somehow help BP to mitigate their liability by distorting that data which might come from the well conditions.

This segment disturbed me greatly, and sure enough, already this morning, I am seeing people tweet about it, implying there *must* be some nefarious doings afoot. I have no love of BP, nor any wish to defend them, but that doesn't mean I want to see such suggestions made without hard information, and especially not when it's said in concert with something said that was just blatantly inaccurate.

I don't know where Cavnar had been vacationing without Internet access, but there was nothing surprising, unusual, nor unmentioned about either the test or the entire operation, which had been in progress for many weeks.

Pressure testing the bore wasn't news to the oil industry, nor anyone following the issue closely. While the words "integrity test" may not have been used verbatim everywhere, the concept of testing the bore casing for deformation, failure, or pressure intolerances has been referred to again and again in Congress, the professional literature, and even by Incident Commander Thad Allen himself in his briefing on July 2 (two weeks ago) where he explained that the tests would help decide whether the well could be "shut in" (oil industry-speak for closed-off completely):

Katie Howell: It was and one quick follow-up. Is there a chance that you can actually shut in the well with this cap? I think someone from BP had mentioned that as an option.

Adm. Thad Allen: There is a chance. It depends on what those pressure readings are if we can get the right pressure reading by – assuming the decision is made, the cap is put on and the pressure readings are taken. If the pressure readings indicate that there is no damage to the well bore we don’t have any leakage at that point you have pretty much contained the outflow of oil.

Source: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/02/96968/transcript-of-thad-allens-briefing.html#ixzz0tkoFXwO7

Also, while now called a stacking cap, or "sealing cap" or "hard cap,"  these novel terms are simply  new and more public relations-friendly descriptions for a second blowout preventer of a marginally different design. BOPs have a bad name of late, and "caps" seem more understandable to lay people. BOPs of any type are always pressure tested after being landed on a wellhead.


Why do I care?

Because cases like this are instructive, and as our media choices get smaller and smaller,  I think we all need to be vigilant about what we see and hear. The Gulf oil crisis is generating a lot of bad information, and often a lot of outright hysteria is being spun from it. It's vital that we all try to address the inaccuracies and  fallacies when and where they appear.

I have great respect for Keith Olbermann and his MSNBC producers. There is no way they can possibly vet or fact check everything said by their guests in real-time, and it isn't reasonable to suggest that they should.  This was just one of many similar examples of such misinformation incidents I've seen over the course of this and other crises, and I think all media and their viewers should be more sensitive toward them. 

Whether it's Fran Townsend distorting national security facts, or some Heritage flack distorting economic data for partisan advantage, these self-proclaimed experts can be consistently wrong, or needlessly hyperbolic, often without offering a shred of evidence  to support their assertions or analysis. In many cases, this never seems to prevent their being invited back again to offer up more of the same.

It all serves to illustrate for me that our Sunday talk shows are not the only things that could benefit from real-time fact checking. Television hosts and producers cannot be expected to know everything about an issue, which is why they use "experts" in the first place. I think it is incumbent on we, "the crowd," (as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen would call us), to keep them as accurate, candid, and honest as we can.  Too much is riding on good information to let the bad information gush out without notice or comment.


"Tadeusz Patzek, a professor who is the chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas, argues that the well bore integrity discussion has been hijacked by people who don't know what they're talking about."

"There is a lot of fast talk, which has little relation sometimes to reality," Patzek said. "And there is jumping to conclusions by the people who have no right to jump to any conclusions because they don't know."

Source: Washington Post

Must Read

Everyone would profit from reading Prof. Patzek's testimony to Congress. It articulates a whole host of issues we must deal with as we go forward with the very risky business of deep sea oil exploration. It can be done safely, but it requires a lot of people with pretty poor science and technical backgrounds to bone up on a lot of things.

"More study of offshore drilling needed to prevent tragedy"

A floating city springs up to contain gulf oil spill (Washington Postl

The endgame is tricky. No one knows the condition of the well bore deep below the gulf. It's conceivable that the bottom of the well has eroded around the steel casing, said Charles West, a geophysicist who has consulted for the petroleum industry and worked on relief wells. If that's the situation, he said, drilling into the casing would be "like trying to chase a strand of spaghetti around with a spoon."

That would force the drillers to back up and aim a bit higher on the well. Finding the target is critical. The drill bit can't turn on a dime; if it misses, it will have to be backed up for another approach.

Read article