A Letter from Atwater Federal Prison

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Those in the self-obsessed world of journalism Twitter certainly know, or know of Matthew Keys.

Perhaps never asleep, Keys was once employed by Reuters working in social media. Without retelling the story in too much detail, Keys was fired for “providing the hacking group Anonymous with a user name and password to log in to computers owned by the Tribune Company, parent company of The [Los Angeles] Times.”

Between when he was fired and when he was sentenced to a two-year term in federal prison for hacking charges, Keys ran an extremely active Twitter empire and a website called “The Feed.” Readers should of course decide whether the degree of punishment doled out to Keys was too lenient, too harsh, or just right, but the crime committed by Keys doesn’t negate the fact that his social media work was very useful to journalists and news junkies.

During the Ferguson riots, The Feed helped keep me up to date, as my wife’s family hails from Ferguson.

When I saw the news of Keys’s sentencing and subsequent arrival at Atwater Federal Prison, I decided to send him some reading material and a very brief note. (It was a copy of The Weekly Standard and a copy of Reason, which I had sitting on my desk.)

I don’t know Keys, nor have I met him personally, but we interacted on Twitter over the years and I knew how… addicted he was to it all. The Internet is a hard drug to quit cold turkey, like any drug is. I just figured that, even if not known for being a right winger, he’d appreciate any news and reading material. Coincidentally, our cover story was on the California high speed rail project not too far from where he is currently housed.

To my surprise, Keys wrote me a very nice letter back, thanking me for the reading material. And, I was right. He really misses the Internet.

I thought I might share an excerpt from his letter that those who know of him might find interesting:

I never realized how much I’d miss interacting online—particularly on social media—until I was forced to go without. Although it seems so inconsequential, lack of online access is just one of the many resources that could prepare inmates here for success in their lives and communities beyond their sentences. We really have few resources here to prepare for life beyond prison—for people with short sentences (or hopes through community pressures and/or the appellate process, as I have), this may not be a huge obstacle. For others—well, it’s no wonder the recidivism rate is high. They don’t call it the ‘prison industry’ for nothing.

Hopefully I’ll be able to publish some thoughts and experiences from here. Maybe it’ll make some difference.

Not to say those serving time in prison deserve the right to access to, say, Twitter from prison, but the current access is indeed lacking. Those without willing friends on the outside even pay a woman to run their social media accounts for them while they’re in prison.

Bureaucratically, I suspect the beginnings of a system would likely spiral into a litigious pro se tornado of lawsuits. (Why can’t I look at/access ______?) Perhaps it’s inevitable, as more and more Millennials head to the #BigHouse, that it’ll be a debate our electeds and courts will have to have.

 

This is the Browns’ Year

They said we couldn’t do it, but we proved the haters wrong. The Browns are, against all odds, 2 and 0 at losing their starting quarterback.

RG3 masterfully lived up to expectations and went down in game one. Nobody was sure if McCown was up for the challenge, and he fought hard to the last minute to prove that he, too, could go out.

Now, it’s Cody Kessler’s turn. We’re counting on you, Cody!

Go Browns!

cleveland

Daily Links

Credit: Sean MacEntee

Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5144379598

Friends:

Not all of you are politically active, and many of you hold political views divergent from my own. I’ve heard from some of you that enjoy the random things I share on Facebook and Twitter.

Hard as this may be to believe, I read way more interesting stories than I post on Facebook. (Twitter, on the other hand…) I used to have a newsletter, but it’s in hibernation because….

One of the places those stories are shared, along with stories my colleagues recommend, is in the Weekly Standard‘s Daily Standard newsletter. We send it out to a lot of people. If you like the links I share, you should sign up for that and our other wonderful newsletters we at the Weekly Standard produce, if you’re so inclined, here.

Here’s a preview of what I’ve put together for today:

The latest issue of the magazine is live on our site.

Mother Teresa, Saint.

The hidden book tunnel under the Capitol.

Do Pat Toomey and Donald Trump need each other?

Is movement conservatism dead?

Why conservatism trumped populism.

Florida man can’t stop, won’t stop, pretending to be a doctor.

Earmark some time this weekend for this absolutely crazy tale from Los Angeles about a power couple and a PTA president’s dispute gone way, way, wrong.

The Sims have gone transgender.

Ron Fournier’s farewell advice.

IKEA’s iconic Poang chair turns 40 today.

Gus Inspects WMATA Track Work Inspectors

Gus must have snagged my Washington Post log-on because he was deeply skeptical of the late-night WMATA track inspectors early this morning. (And for good reason!)

I tried taking some pictures with my phone, and that didn’t work out too well, so I busted out the DSLR and got this gem. I love the lighting. The wifi router (at left) is blue, and the lights from the track inspection train are yellow and orange.

And course, there’s Gus’s nose graffiti.

What a rascal.

If you don’t follow him on Instagram, feel free to do so here.

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Will Trump’s War on the Media Work?

A Trump supporters heckles the media.

Earlier today, Donald Trump sent out a push “poll” to his supporters attacking the media, which I covered at The Weekly Standard.

If you missed the story, Trump — who has not, to anyone’s knowledge, spent a dime on internal polling — used a push “poll” to fan the flames of anger against “the media” whom he blames for his dismal general election results.

In my view, his campaign is likely using the clearly non-scientific “poll” for four purposes:

  1. Data mining his supporters’ views.
  2. Something he will seriously cite on national TV as evidence of X. (In any other year, it’d be beyond belief, but alas, it’s 2016…)
  3. Data mining his supporters’ reading/viewing habits. (TWS made the top five!)
  4. To use psychology to further convince them that they’re right and everyone else, including reporters, opinion writers, and outlets they typically read/respect, are wrong.

Zach Hanover, a GOP ad maker, writes in:

I can’t imagine doing anything like that with any of my clients. Easily one of the most pathetic and amateurish displays from this campaign and sadly I have a feeling we aren’t done yet…

Also as you pointed out… seems like the only purpose was data mining with the questions about channel preferences. Not sure what else can be gained from that.

One anonymous pollster I spoke to opined:

Once upon a time, people used to make fun of SurveyMonkey. But they never saw this survey from the Trump campaign’s sophomore-year government class… Direct mail people who send out those fundraising ‘surveys’ are laughing at this until their sides hurt… Trump has no other play than to keep his core supporters on board.

“It’s good to at least see what they’re working on instead of opening campaign offices or running ads…” commented former senate press secretary and communications consultant Michael Freeman. “Each day brings new evidence that this is one man’s ego trip, with a dash of grievance-airing, rather than anything resembling a real campaign”

Charlie Sykes, a prominent Wisconsin-based talk radio host and commentator who has been critical of Trump, has this to say about the Trump push “poll”:

It tells me that he has become rather consumed by his war with the media, even at he expense of talking about Hillary. For Trump, this is consistent. I’m guessing his loudest applause lines at his rallies are his attacks on the media and there is no downside to attacking them, at least when it comes to his own base.

His specific examples of mainstream media bias are likely to resonate with his supporters who have marinated in talk radio over the years.

But this is also now becoming a crucial tactic for his campaign: he lives by the media in the primaries and is dying by the media in the general. The coverage of negative, and it is clearly damaging. Trump’s response isn’t just to push back on negative stories; it is to de-legitimize the media altogether. That way he inoculates himself against stories about his outrageous comments, his phony charitable contributions, his Trump U. fraud case, his taxes, gaffes, or misstatements of fact. He has already benefited from the alternative reality created by friendly conservative media, so he has decided to double down in telling his fan base that they are the only credible sources.

Sykes, in an earlier interview with Business Insider‘s Oliver Darcy suggested that conservative media has “created a monster” as it pertains to their listening base:

We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody. Let’s say that Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that. ‘By the way, you know it’s false.’ And they’ll say, ‘Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I saw it on a Facebook page.’ And I’ll say, ‘The New York Times did a fact check.’ And they’ll say, Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s [a lie].’ There’s nobody — you can’t go to anybody and say, ‘Look, here are the facts.’ And I have to say that’s one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in the alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it. And I swim upstream because if I don’t say these things from some of these websites, then suddenly I have sold out. Then they’ll ask what’s wrong with me for not repeating these stories that I know not to be true.

This might be charitably described as the “Fargo” strategy, from season one. A poster in Lester Nygaard’s basement reads: “What if you’re right and they’re wrong?” A red fish swims against the current of yellow fish.

This is the audience Trump seeks input from: citizens so distrusting of the media / trusting in Trump, they’re willing to suspend all disbelief in support of Trump. This, despite dozens of unfavorable stories on Trump from outlets they once, ostensibly, trusted.

In short, trust no one but … Trump and your own lyin’ eyes. (Read: Please, please, please stay on board the Trump Train.)

Brian Rell, chief of staff to Rep. Robert Aderholt tweets, about the push “poll,” that it is “a reflection of public sentiment being used as campaign tool…”

Indeed, Trump is doubling down on an old talk radio trope that had some truth to it. No longer is it “the mainstream media is biased” as it sometimes is, now it’s “the media is biased.” Writ. Large.

Will it work?

Sykes thinks so:

I’m tempted to say yes, because the media polls just above used car salesmen and hemorrhoids. But in this case, it just tells me that he is (1) off message, (2) blaming somebody other than himself for his lousy poll numbers. Neither is a good sign.

After submitting their responses, respondents, of course, are asked to donate, as is the custom of all fake surveys. But Trump’s push “poll” seems less about donations and more about voter psychology… Confirming their bias that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. #MAGA.

More importantly, when will the Trump campaign get around to doing serious polling, running campaign ads on television, and shoring up the infrastructure necessary to compete in American politics?

And what role does this “poll” play in such a strategy, if any?

The Best Subject Line in the History of Political Fundraising

kerry

There it is.

You cannot beat that, I promise.

(Disclosure: I found it when digging through archived images. I had so many on my work computer that it messed up the hard drive. Thankfully, all backed up in Amazon Cloud Drive…)

The New Media Epidemic

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Philadelphia
This being the “new media” era and all, the Democratic Convention is replete with camera-toting journalists (I tote two) running around the conventional hall like shutterbugs at a rare animal exhibit.

Fortunately, selfie sticks — a modern scourge whose time appears to be waning — have been banned from the secure convention zone. Whether the reason is security or practicality isn’t known, but the ban is useless thanks to Facebook’s newest push: Facebook Live.

The advertising company and sometimes social network has been pushing (read: paying) content producers (née news organizations) to change their pixel orientation from words to video. Everybody loves video, and the statistics do not lie.

Which is why everyone is jumping to adopt Facebook’s new platform, especially at such a newsworthy event like the political conventions. In an effort to be helpful(?), Facebook itself has set up numerous Facebook Live studio outposts, sending out armies of helpful pushers to hand out how-to guides to unsuspecting journalists trying to file stories in their spartan media workspaces.

Mind if I Facebook Live you Facebook Living me?

Mind if I Facebook Live you Facebook Living me?

Given the recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm, the how-to guides are more of a demand letter: come embrace our video-centric future or get left out in the engagement-free cold. One can still pay Facebook to promote stories or content, but the theory is that if one successfully produces free content for Facebook through Live on one’s page, an increase in engagement will hopefully(!) drive more users to their actual website, where they can make money through ads or subscriptions.

Whether the content is any good doesn’t matter much to Facebook, since they get free content, engagement, and, ad impressions.

Remote television setups still have their place, this being a convention, but an increasing number of agile and savvy companies have been rigging smartphones and tablets to tripods and high quality microphones instead. Even the major networks are getting on board, giving cub reporters and producers an opportunity to get their moment in the sun.

Less wealthy content producers (I meant to say journalists, I swear!) are forced to lock their arms and hold out their phones raised at an angle, turning their two main appendages into… meaty selfie sticks.

On the face of it, people who engage in Facebooking Live look utterly ridiculous, like they’re taking an extended selife but with deleterious effects.

Navigating the already narrow hallways of the Wells Fargo Center becomes much more difficult the second Jerry Springer emerges from the arena, or another B-list celebrity (of which there are many) emerges from a roped off room and into the populace. Live in seconds, herds of human selfie sticks flock like moths to a flame.

The convention floor is considerably worse, since not only does one already have to dodge long telephoto lenses, security details, and traditional TV cameras… but now the locked-arm organic selfie sticks, which easily and quickly swing 360º to get that absolutely perfect angle of, say, Rear Admiral John Hutson giving his remarks or Lenny Kravitz reliving the 1990s.

The future is awesome, isn’t it?

Sadly, this doesn’t end with our bad media: it doesn’t end. Facebook Live is not just for the media set, it’s for everyone. If Pokemon weren’t bad enough already, many delegates or volunteers under the age of 35 with a phone and some free time are sharing their experience with their world of friends.

It doesn’t matter if you have four friends or four thousand: Facebook Live is by you, for you, but brought to you by Facebook and their advertisers.

Stream away, just not near me.

In Senate, Blackberry Era Officially Over

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This is the way the world ends. Not with a clickity keyboard, but with a swipe.

Senate staffers will no longer be issued official Blackberry smartphones.

The reign of the Blackberry lasted a good decade or more in Congress, early on due to the advanced nature of the devices and obsession with email checking. Even when the iPhone and Androids came about, the Blackberry still kept the throne for awhile because typing on those tiny little keys was faster, a mastered skill with which the iPhone could not compete. (This being government, they were slow to adopt other devices and Bring Your Own Device policies.)

Eventually, though, cracks in the dam formed and other devices started eating up Blackberry’s near-exclusive market share. Yet, unlike the rest of the country, which quickly abandoned Blackberry and sent its corporate owner towards the verge of bankruptcy, the devices still endured in zip codes 20510 and 20515. Long battery life, an email heavy focus, and good size (complete with a douchey belt holster) kept this little niche alive in the subterranean halls of the Capitol.

Outside the beltway, the market dried up. Fewer and fewer models were created, and the old models hoarded by Capitol bureaucrats began to dwindle.

The final notice was sent to staffers today.

A pile of Senate Blackberries await secure destruction, 2010.

A pile of Senate Blackberries await secure destruction, 2010.

From: Notice (SAA)
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 3:56 PM
Subject: BlackBerry Discontinuation

This message was sent to Administrative Managers, Chief Clerks, and System Administrators.

BlackBerry Discontinuation

BlackBerry informed Verizon and AT&T that production of all BlackBerry OS 10 devices (Q10, Z10, Z30, Passport, and Classic) has been discontinued. Future carrier order fulfillment will not be guaranteed due to limited remaining stock.

BlackBerry device support will continue for the foreseeable future. BlackBerry is committed to maintaining their support of our devices to include uninterrupted warranty and technical support.

Once we have exhausted our current in-house stock, new device procurements will be limited, while supplies last, to warranty exchanges only.

As of June 29, 2016, our BlackBerry device stock levels are:

RIM Classic Verizon BlackBerry – 275

RIM Z30 Verizon Black BlackBerry – 160

RIM Classic AT&T BlackBerry – 45

RIM Passport AT&T BlackBerry – 45

RIM Z10 AT&T Black BlackBerry – 45

RIM Q10 AT&T Black Blackberry – 40

For offices wishing to make the transition from BlackBerry devices to other platforms, Verizon has agreed to suspend eligibility upgrade requirements for users migrating to Samsung S6 Android devices. Additionally, the $0 16GB iPhone SE has been added to the Technology Catalog, although current eligibility upgrade and mandatory AppleCare+ requirements apply.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Mobile Communications Services.

 


UPDATE: The folks over at Crackberry.com reached out to Blackberry about the Senate’s internal email and the company disputes the email’s claim that Blackberry 10 devices will “cease to be continued.”

Fictional 2016 Trump GOP Convention Agenda

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Preparing for the upcoming GOP convention in my hometown of Cleveland, a thought kept zinging through my head: What if Trump gets to 1,237 delegates before the Convention? 

Having worked the last two GOP conventions in Tampa and St. Paul, I had a hard time imagining what such a convention might be like… Given that much of the so-called GOP Establishment is not backing Trump.

Who would stump for him? What would the agenda look like?

Now, we have an idea:

**
Revised Convention-Week Schedule

Monday, July 18, 2016
2:00 p.m. Chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus
Call to Order/Start Trade Deficit Clocks

2:10 p.m. Announcement of Recess


Tuesday, July 19, 2016
2:00 p.m. Chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus
Color Guard — Breitbart.com Comment Section Honor Guard
Pledge of Allegiance by Gary Busey
National Anthem sung by Jenna Jameson
Invocation by The Most Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Opening procedural steps, appointment of convention committees
Welcoming remarks, and House and Senate candidates and RNC auxiliaries 
RNC Chairman Priebus
RNC Co-Chairman Sharon Day
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson
Convention Chief Executive Officer David Gilbert
Co-Chairman of Cleveland Host Committee Alexander Cutler (EATON Corporation)
Republican Congressional Candidates
State Rep. Michele Fiore (NV)
Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania
Chris Collins of New York
Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee
Renee Ellmers of North Carolina
Duncan D. Hunter of California
Tom Marino of Pennsylvania
Tom Reed of New York
Republican Senate Candidates (CANCELED)
Republican National Committee auxiliaries (CANCELED)
Consideration of convention committee reports, roll call vote on revoking credentials of journalists who have been ‘unfair’ to Mr. Trump, and updated list of banned products
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
Committee on Credentials Chairman Mike Duncan
Committee on Permanent Organization Chairwoman Zoraida Fonalledas
Convention Permanent Chairman Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Presiding
Official Convention Photograph
Committee on Rules Chairman John Sununu
Committee on Resolutions Chairman Governor John Kasich (CANCELED)
Committee on Resolutions Co-Chairman U.S. Senator John Hoeven
Committee on Resolutions Co-Chairman U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Roll Call for Nomination of President of the United States
Roll Call for Nomination of Vice President of the United States
6:40 p.m. Recess
7:00 p.m. Reconvene
Remarks by Former Cleveland Indians John Rocker and Johnny Damon.
Remarks by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
Video and remarks by Hulk Hogan, owner of Hogan Media (Formerly Gawker)
Remarks by Lou Dobbs (FOX Business surrogate)
Remarks by former U.S. Senator Scott Brown
Remarks by Orly Taitz, accompanied by Phyllis Schlafly
Remarks by Vince McMahon (World Wrestling Entertainment)
Remarks by Dennis Rodman, accompanied by Terrell Owens
Remarks by Bob Knight, accompanied by Mike Tyson
Remarks by Jimmie McMillan (Rent is too Damn High)
Remarks by Breitbart.com Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon
10:00 p.m. Remarks by Ann Coulter
Remarks by Mrs. Melania Trump
Remarks by Alicia Watkins (USAF, Say Yes to the Dress, Troops Media)
Benediction by Minister Omarosa Manigault

Adjournment


Wednesday, July 20, 2016
7:00 p.m. Convention convenes
Call to order
Introduction of Colors by Co-Chair of Veterans for Trump Jerry DeLemus* (*=Pending outcome of criminal trial.)
Pledge of Allegiance by Major General Bert Mizusawa, US Army (Ret.)
National Anthem sung by Tiffany Trump (CANCELED)
Invocation by Willie Robertson (Entrepreneur, star of Duck Dynasty)
Trump Infomercial Montage and History of the Donald on Television Video (Narrated by James Woods)
Remarks by Convention Temporary Chairman Corey Lewandowski
Remarks by Senator Jeff Sessions (AL)
Remarks by Carl Paladino and Dan Scavino
8:00 p.m. Remarks by Sheriff Joe Arpaio (AZ), accompanied by Andrea Tantaros (FOX surrogate)
Remarks by Attorney General Pam Bondi (FL) and Governor Rick Scott (FL)
Remarks by Governor Paul LePage (ME)
Video Remarks by Jean-Marie Le Pen (France) and Geert Wilders (Netherlands)
Remarks by Ben Carson
9:00 p.m. Remarks by Former Governor Chris Christie (NJ)
Remarks by Judge Sarah Palin (AK)
Donald and Melania, the Love of a Lifetime Video (Narrated by Sarah and Bristol Palin)
Remarks by Mike Huckabee, accompanied by Sarah Huckabee Sanders
10:00 p.m. Remarks by Sean Hannity (FOX NEWS surrogate)
Remarks by Alex Jones (Prison Planet)
Remarks by vice presidential nominee Mr. Dinesh D’Souza
Special Screening of Hillary’s America
Benediction by Kayleigh McEnany (CNN surrogate)
2:00 a.m. Adjournment

Thursday, July 21, 2016
2:00 p.m. Convention convenes
Five hours of an empty podium to be aired on all national cable networks.
7:00 Call to order and eviction of Code Pink, Black Lives Matter, and Immigration Protesters by Convention Chairman for Life Corey Lewandowski
Introduction of Colors by Breitbart.com Senior Staff (Milo Yiannopoulos, Matthew Boyle, John Nolte, Joel Pollak)
Pledge of Allegiance by John Daly (British Open Champion)
National Anthem sung by Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, ft. Azealia Banks
Invocation by Scottie Nell Hughes (CNN surrogate)
Remarks by Eric Trump
Reagan and Trump: Their Legacy Video (Narrated by Jeffrey Lord –Former Reagan Aide / CNN surrogate)
Remarks by Newt and Callista Gingrich
Remarks by Donald Trump, Jr.
8:00 p.m. Remarks by Ivanka Trump
Remarks by Roy Beck (Founder, NumbersUSA)
Remarks by Jon Voight, accompanied by Bruce Willis
Remarks by Stephen Baldwin (The Last Ship, TNT)
9:00 p.m. Remarks by Carl Icahn
Remarks by Jean-Claude Van Damme
Remarks by Territorial Governor Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands)
Making America Great Again Video (Narrated by Mark Cuban and Robert Davi)
10:00 p.m. Introduction by Mike Ditka
Remarks by presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Benediction by Minister Rafael Cruz.
Corey Lewandowski declares convention adjourned

How Maryland Does its Distance Signs

Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Since a few of you shared my interest in why Pennsylvania and Maryland have different distances to D.C. and Baltimore on their highway signs, I figured I would ask the Maryland State Highway Administration how they measure the distance, and how it might differ from PA’s method.

Here’s what they sent me:

Good Afternoon Mr. Swift:

This email is in response to your question regarding how Maryland determines the mileage for post interchange distance signs.  In the case of Baltimore City, Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) measures from the location of the sign to the Town Hall.  In the case of Washington D.C., the SHA measures from the sign location to the center of the Elipse.   The mileage is generally rounded up so as not to display decimals or fractions, particularly when the distance is great such as the distance from the Maryland / Pennsylvania State Line to the Baltimore and DC destinations.

Interchange guide signs, which do display fractions, are typically rounded down to the nearest ¼ mile so that the motorist is aware that their exit is eminent and that time to make necessary lane changes is limited.

Thank you for allowing the SHA the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Cheryl Schreiber

Asst. Chief, Traffic Engineering Design Division