Sarah Palin Photos and a Moose

There's many strange facts emerging online today in the uproar over Alaska governor Sarah Palin...

Enthusiastic bloggers have already uncovered these 2007 photos from Vogue magazine (plus a fake cover photo, pictured above-left) — and this 1984 beauty pageant photo. Her Wikipedia page was even edited to identify her as "the hot governor of Alaska" until editors increased the security on her page. (Vandals had swapped in a photograph of Hulk Hogan to represent the female governor, while another committed a major revision they described as simply "Replaced content with 'tacos'.") And the corrected entry still points to a URL describing Palin's smoking of pot — when it was legal in Alaska, though illegal under U.S. law. (According to an Alaska newspaper, Palin says she didn't like it and doesn't smoke it, but "I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled.")

She's drawing lots of comments online. ("For some reason she looks like Kermit the Frog in this picture to me," wrote on Digg user about Sarah Palin.) But one user on Fark was more enthusiastic — "Jesus Christ. This campaign has turned into a Viagra commercial" — and within a few hours, Fark users had posted a whopping 2,700 comments. The snarky discussion continued on Metafilter, joking about how Sarah named her children Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper. ("Dear GOD! Vice Presidents don't get to NAME anything, do they?!")

But Palin could also be the center of the biggest controversy for McCain's vice presidential pick. Dubbed "Trooper-gate," the potential vice president is currently being investigated by the Alaska legislature over charges that she pushed for the firing of a state official after they refused to fire her sister's ex-husband. (The couple was locked in a bitter custody battle.) It's been an especially messy divorce, according to Alaska newspapers. Her ex-husband "admitted to using the Taser on his stepson in a 'training capacity' and said he shot a moose on his wife's tag, but didn't think the act was illegal."

Governor Palin actually wrote a letter to his superior saying Molly's trooper spouse had drunk a beer at her house and then drove off in a state patrol car, "waving with beer in hand." And after an investigation, Alaska's Public Safety Employees found her ex-husband threatened Molly "with shooting her father if he hired a lawyer to represent her. Wooten denied making the statement, but [Sarah] Palin, McCann and Palin's son all confirmed that he did."

Sarah Palin joins McCain's campaign at a crucial time. According to one focus group, after viewing Obama's Thursday speech, more than 25% of swing voters switched from undecided to supporting Obama — or from supporting John McCain to undecided. Politically it's hoped that Palin can help McCain with conservative voters. (The Christian Coalition has already issued a statement praising Palin, who has said she believes schools should teach creationism.) Though ironically, Palin has also expressed her support for Barack Obama's energy plan.)

And she's currently taking some heat for an interview she gave with the CNBC.
As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day...? We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.

But today, it's the online world that's providing her first vetting. And many of the comments have been strongly unfavorable. ("My third grade teacher had more gravitas," wrote a user at Wonkette.) U.S. News and World Report asked "Will Palin Stand Up to Scrutiny?" on one of their blogs — and received a withering critique from a user named "Educated Female from FL."
She's is essentially a beauty queen....a housewife....that became Governor of Alaska.

We are one heart attack away from her as commander in cheif. [sic] Just like when Dubya picked Harriet Miers for Supreme Court Justice.

Why is it that Republicans always pick inexperienced females? Is it that they are trying to be equality minded, but can't get away from choosing someone that is really unqualified, because their insecurities won't let them have a female sharpie next to them? Their idea of women is hilarious...they are stuck on mommy.

Not every online voice is critical. A U.S. News blogger argues that she's a real asset for the McCain ticket. "[T]hough she comes from far-off Alaska, she will help—big time—in Montana, Colorado, and other western states that McCain has to lock up quickly. She can talk guns, and energy, and wildlife, and make conservative dogma sound reasonable."

But after watching McCain's press conference, Politico's Jonathan Martin saw her rural background as a negative — and put his finger on yet-another strange oddity about the life of Sarah Palin.

"There are more people in that arena than in the town she was mayor of."

See Also:
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
20 Wildest Reactions to Obama's Victory
Can Senator Lieberman Be Recalled?
Here Comes the Judge's Porn
War of the Candidate Music Videos
Is It Legal Porn or Illegal Porn?

How a Barack Obama Site Made Me Famous

Image via

Mat Honan worked for two failed dotcoms before becoming a contributing editor at Wired magazine — but his luck changed in February when he created a funny site about Barack Obama in just a few hours. 7 million pageviews later, it's landed him a book deal, a slew of interviews, and even a mention in the New York Times.

The success grew from a personal catchphrase whispered teasingly to his wife: "Barack Obama is your new bicycle." (Her excitement about the candidate matched her previous enthusiasm for cycling.) But it soon exploded, proving once again the strange fame-making power of the web. Mat's publisher had also conjured books out of viral web sites like Chuck Norris facts and the LOL Cats. Is the internet changing the world of publishing as well as the presidential race — and maybe even democracy itself?

A funny thing happened when I tried to buy Mat's book — I couldn't. It had already sold out at my local store, and there were only two copies left at the Borders superstore. ("It's been really popular," the floor clerk said.) But Mat's a friend of mine, so I tracked him down for an honest answer about the role of the internet in 2008, and how it's changing the way we argue about politics.

And the way we argue about Barack Obama....

LOU CABRON: Are you surprised by the runaway success of your site?

MAT HONAN: The thing you have to keep in mind is that I got the idea for the site on a bus ride home, and between 5 p.m. and when the site went live at 9 p.m. — nothing was done after that!

I didn't have any expectation that something I created in a few hours was going to take off like it did. I've worked on a lot of online and writing projects for weeks and months, and sometimes you create things that you think are going to be insanely popular — that people will like — but you can never predict that kind of stuff. And those things you spend a few hours on — I don't know what happened. I basically tapped into some sort of Zeitgeist, and people really related to it!

I think most people who like it are pro-Obama, and it's fundamentally sort of sweet. I was trying to come up with ideas that your wife or your boyfriend or your best friend or something would do for you. That was my criteria.

LC: Like "Barack Obama bought you candy. Barack Obama baked you a pie. Barack Obama folded you an origami crane. Barack Obama built you a robot." For some reason, these non sequitors you came up with resonated with the online world.

MH: I really am sort of amazed by it. Even though I've thought about it a lot, I can't really put my finger on whatever made it take off like it did.

If you had told me 10,000 people would see it, I just wouldn't have thought that was very likely, or that if they did, it might've been if some big blog linked to it — I might've gotten a one-day bump in traffic. I certainly wouldn't have thought it was going to result in a book deal!

LC: It's been said that online media also helped Obama build the "net roots" backbone for his Presidential bid. Is the role of technology in this campaign being overblown?

MH: I don't think it's overblown. I think if anything, there's probably not enough made of it.

I have in the past couple of months become an unintentional and unwitting spokesman for what's right or wrong about the Obama campaign and I just — I'm not an expert on it. But he is internet savvy, and what made me put some of those references in the book — "Barack Obama favorited your photo" and "Barack Obama friended you on Facebook" — is that his campaign did have those internet presences. That was certainly one of the things that led me to include those.

LC: Your web site immediately inspired several other viral sites — about Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, and even Steve Jobs. But at the same time, political blogs have started to play a real role in fundraising and disseminating campaign information. Is that a good thing?

MH: I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, because it leads to us not talking to each other as we once did. I think the more that we splinter into little groups, the worse it is for society as a whole. It becomes very easy for me to forget that there are people out there who have some political opinion that's very different than my own, because I just don't go to those web sites. I don't know what people are talking about on Little Green Footballs today. I don't know if it's still around, and if it went away — I wouldn't know.

I tend to avoid political web sites like I do somebody who's got a hacking cough. Whether they're left wing or right wing, I think they just tend to be so consumed with anger — I have a hard time getting into it. I don't think it's constructive. It's really easy to get yourself into a feedback loop...

Maybe I don't have enough spare time to be hanging out on the hardcore political sites.

LC: Does it seem like there's too much cynicism — online, and in the real world?

MH: I feel like cynicism is just such an easy cop out to caring for people — or doing anything. I feel like cynicism is the lazy man's sincerity. It's hard work not to be cynical. Social pressures make you want to be cynical, especially among people who might consider themselves urbane or in some way outside of the mainstream.

I try very hard not to be cynical. I think I'm somebody who used to be a very cynical person... There's a lot of social pressure for you to not be enthusiastic about anything — and to just not like anything, or to act like you don't like anything, to be too cool to like anything, too cool to be a fan. I made a decision a long time ago to not be cynical. And I hope it comes through in the book. And yet there's some part of me that's cynical, deep inside of me.

I feel like so few people are engaged and trying to do anything — to put themselves out there, largely because so many other people are engaged in trying to tear down people who put themselves out there. I think that applies to politics, art, business... I think society has become, and maybe always has been, very cynical, and I think ultimately that's not very constructive or helpful. I think that oddly enough, it's to some extent the creative class that is the most cynical and should also be the group of people who are least likely to be cynical, because they're the ones who are most often negatively affected by the cynicism of others.

LC: Your web site is sweet but sardonic — and it's ultimately hard to guess what your true feelings are about Obama.

MH: The book and the web site certainly were meant to be neither pro or anti-Obama. They almost have nothing to do with each other in that regard. I mean, the book is definitely done from a well-meaning and loving place, but in a way that I think could be open to interpretation, as something that you could see as not pro-Obama. And many people have seen it as an anti-Obama site. I was just trying to make a joke, and I think a lot of times jokes work better if they don't have an agenda. And I didn't have an agenda.

But I also was "taking the piss" a little bit — because I felt like there's a certain zeal to the whole Obama thing. I think that people can have conflated expectations of Obama and not necessarily him as a candidate. I certainly think he's the stronger candidate — he was the stronger candidate in the primary, and he is now. But that doesn't mean he's the perfect candidate or the perfect man. No one is. So I was just making fun of the concept of Obama as the person who's all things to all people, which is how I think people perceive him, not that he's presented himself as such. I kind of think those are two different things. When I made the web site, I was just sort of trying to say the whole country seems to have just fallen in love with Barack Obama.

LC: The McCain campaign is comparing the Barack Obama phenomenon to Paris Hilton.

MH: I wasn't talking about Obama as a celebrity. I was talking about him as a boyfriend. I thought it was kind of a good-natured ribbing about my wife in particular and people in general, being in love with Obama.

I certainly think that the McCain campaign is coming from a place of cynicism, which I think is unfortunate. I think John McCain is a great American and I think he is a person who probably is a statesman and I think he's done a disservice to his campaign by engaging in this kind of Karl Rove "scorched earth" cynical campaign. I feel like he's taking things that Obama has said and making it appear that Obama has created a cult of personality or attempted to create a cult of personality, whereas it's the people who have supported Obama who have generated this zeal for him, when it's Obama's supporters who are enthusiastic for him. Obama can't artificially create something like that. No one can.

LC: But do you think that popularity translates into real political change? Do you really think Barack can bring America together?

MH: I think maybe he can. I don't know why, exactly, but I think maybe he can. I think he can, because I think he's sort of an authentic person, and I think he's a leader. There are certain indefinable traits that leaders have, and I think he's got those indefinable traits.

And I think people will support him as a President. I think it's fundamentally bad to have two camps in the country hating each other, and I think you need somebody that speaks from the middle. And I think unless he can kind of be painted into a corner, I think he can do that.

The government's last eight years have been governing from the edge. I felt Clinton and Bush's dad did a good job of governing from the middle. I think it's something Obama will try to do, and if you're a strong leader you certainly stand a better chance than when you just govern from your base.

LC: But you're not actually a Democrat?

MH: I'd never voted for a major party candidate until John Kerry. And that was because I had a cynical view of both parties, and didn't really necessarily feel that my vote was going to change anything. Not that it wasn't important — I felt that it was important, but I also felt like it wasn't going to change anything, because nobody stood for anything that they were talking about. They just stood for themselves. So John Kerry — it wasn't so much that I was voting for him as I was voting against Bush.

I'm 35 and about to be 36, but Obama is certainly the first candidate I have ever been excited about and really believed in. I feel like it's not just necessarily young people. I feel fortunate that there's a candidate like that in this election because I think you maybe get one of those in a lifetime — one candidate in a lifetime who you can really truly believe in. I do believe in Barack Obama because I believe he has some essential authenticity. He comes across as a real human being, as someone who wakes up in the morning and goes to sleep at night and has doubts and isn't just saying what needs to be said in order to be elected. I just — that's my take on it. Why do I think that? It's hard to say.

LC: What about John McCain?

MH: McCain is someone who had his own authenticity, and he squandered it by zagging to go after his party's base, by cozying up to the very people he called agents of intolerance.

Obama — you look at some of the things he's done. I think he made a very risky speech on race. He's the first person I think in my lifetime who talked about race to me as if I wasn't an absolute idiot, who talked to me like he would if it were the two of us in the room rather than speaking to a nation of people. Most politicians won't talk to you like that. They'll talk as if there are 100,000 ears listening in, and they're trying to catch them — which they are.

LC: So if Barack is our new bicycle, what was John Kerry? John Edwards? Al Gore?

MH: I don't think it quite works that way. It was very specific. One of the things that was interesting about the book and the web site is that it's all so enigmatic to people. I was almost reluctant to write an introduction because I didn't know if it would kind of ruin the enigmatic title to explain where it came from. But to me, when I say "is your new bicycle" — the your is my wife's.

If you're talking about John Kerry in her terms, I guess maybe he's a MUNI bus Fast Pass. It still beats driving to and from work, but it's not going to be as fun.

LC: So you don't have a metaphor for the Taft administration?

MH: I think even if you went back to Clinton, I'd be dry.

LC: The Democratic Convention is this week. Any plans to capitalize?

MH: I had actually hoped to go to Denver and try to do some book promoting, but I can't afford the hotel rooms. My wife and I had thought about driving out there and maybe setting up a little table. But I think when I last checked, the Super 8 or the Motel 6 cost $350 a night with a four-night minimum...there were virtually no rooms.

LC: So I'll take it you haven't been offered a speaking slot at the convention. But have you heard anything from the Obama campaign?

MH: Nah. Nothing. I don't know if they know about my book or not.

He did favorite a photo of mine on Flickr. That was great, but I assume that was somebody in his campaign. He's way too busy to be messing around with Flickr.

LC: Your book's last non sequitor is "Barack Obama autographed your book."

MH: And it even have a space for him to autograph it there.

LC: Has anyone....?

MH: My hope is that someone will actually do that and send me a picture.

LC: But meanwhile, back in San Francisco, not only is Barack Obama your new bicycle — you wrote the whole book at a bike cafe. Bikes are fuel efficient, and there was even a minor stir over a photo of Barack Obama riding his bicycle. And yet ironically, bicycles have been almost completely absent from this campaign.

MH: There are going to be thousands of bikes at the Democratic convention to get around on — those pick-'em-up, drop-'em-off bikes. I think anything that gets people on bikes is great.

Good for them!

Buy the book here!

See Also:
Is the Net Good For Writers?
An Obama Caucus Story From Idaho
The Bush Administration's Greatest Hits (To Your Face)
The QuestionAuthority Proposal
Can Senator Lieberman Be Recalled?

Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued

Jason Fortuny appeared in Sunday's New York Times magazine — but he may soon be appearing in court.

Nearly two years ago, Jason Fortuny placed a fake sex ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman seeking casual sex, and then published the photographs of anyone who responded. Now one of his victims has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against Fortuny in U.S. District Court, and this summer (after four months of effort) finally obtained a valid address for Fortuny and issued a summons.

Two weeks ago — as the New York Times was preparing their article — Fortuny was writing an eight-page letter to the judge finally defending his "Craigslist experiment" against the legal charges, and offering his own testimony about the event. "I take it back," Fortuny wrote recently on his blog. "You might get sued if you do a Craigslist Experiment..."

But it's still very complicated.

According to the suit Fortuny "acted with actual malice to harm and deceive the individuals responding to the Craigslist ad." The suit demands a jury trial and seeks a full slate of damages — compensatory, statutory, and punitive, plus attorney's fees and costs.

"Plaintiff has suffered, and continues to suffer, harm arising from the foregoing wrongful conduct by Mr. Fortuny," the lawsuit complains, identifying the victim as John Doe and arguing that the incident affected his private life "and the manner in which he is viewed among family, friends, and colleagues."

Fortuny's prank traumatized John Doe, it argues, causing him to "suffer and continue to suffer from humiliation, embarrassment, lost opportunity of keeping his family together, and emotional distress."

John Doe is asking that Fortuny be enjoined from publishing the photo, that Fortuny destroy his copy of the photo (and sexy email), and to "cooperate in the removal...from any cached sites."

The specific charges?

Count one: Violation of copyright act
Count two: Public disclosure of private facts
Count three: Intrusion upon seclusion
Count four: Injunctive relief


Is he guilty of disclosing personally identifiable private facts? There aren't any, Fortuny argues. "In his communication, Plaintiff does not use his actual name, or provide any method of personal contact," he writes in his motion to dismiss — noting that the victim had used an anonymous email address.

And whatever Fortuny published, the victim had volunteered, the motion claims. "I did not obtain any information by intruding into Plaintiff's personal space, eavesdropping, or illegally intercepting any communication," Fortuny argues. "Thus, the disclosure of Plaintiff's e-mail is not, by its nature, personal or intrusive."

And what about the copyright law? Fortuny's motion says that there's been no violation of copyright law, since the photo he's republished is used "to discuss how DMCA law can be used to be chill free speech." (After the photo was removed from another site, Fortuny had re-published it in October of 2006 in a blog post called "Don't tread on me, or, how I learned to stop worrying and ignore DMCA threats.") Fortuny had filed a counter-notification disputing the copyrighted status of the photo. ("The counter notification basically says 'you're a liar liar pants on fire'," Fortuny wrote on his blog, "and adds that if you don't respond within 14 days, I get to put my shit back up.")

Now his motion adds that "The use of the photo is in reduced form, is transformative, does not affect market value of the original photo, and is for a purpose of education and public interest." The motion also notes that it's a 4-kilobyte image (and not the original 22 kilobytes), and "there is ample case law that protects the fair use of reduced versions of media, especially for the purposes of education and discussion."


Yes, there were sexy shenanigans on Craiglist, but Fortuny adds that while he did re-publish this particular photo, "there was no malicious intent in my actions. This was never a plan to embarrass people or to single out a subset of the population."

The Craigslist griefer writes that he understands the hurt and frustration inflicted on the unsuspecting victims. But Fortuny also cites a clear warning in Craigslist's terms of service that the information on the site might indeed be inaccurate or misleading. "If I made the mistake of telling secrets to someone I didn't know online and it got out...I'd be kicking myself pretty hard. I would most definitely be shouting expletives at my computer screen. But that's the risk we all take online, as well as in life. Whether it's someone's e-mail, picture, or personal ad, there's no guarantee of identity, and no guarantee that you won't be betrayed. And there never will be."

But the plaintiff obviously disagrees. The lawsuit cites a section of Craigslists' privacy policy stating that users "agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available content that includes personal or identifying information about another person without that person's explicit consent." Making an obvious point, the suit notes that the plaintiff intended his sexy photo and email "to be a private communication between himself and the 'woman' who placed the advertisement... The public disclosure of these private facts represents an intrusion upon the privacy of Plaintiff that is objectionable and highly offensive to a reasonable person."

"The foregoing acts of infringement have been willful and intentional, in complete disregard of and with indifference to Plaintiff's rights," the suit argues. "Moreover, the uncertainty of the extent of the intrusions continues to cause Plaintiff a great deal of anguish and suffering." The facts disclosed "were not of any legitimate public concern," it argues, adding that "Mr. Fortuny acted with actual malice."

"Unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, Mr. Fortuny will continue to cause Plaintiff great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money."


Appealing to the court's sympathy, Fortuny shares a personal statement with his own perspective.
I've been asked over and over, "Jason, why did you do it?" To be honest, it was a small act that quickly spun out of control. It's not like I woke up that morning and said, "hey, I think I'll start a controversy today and get my face in the news."

I posted the fake ad with the sole intention to satisfy my curiosity about what kinds of people respond to such overt advertisements. I expected no responses. I didn't believe anyone would fall for such an obviously fake ad on a website that tells its users to exercise caution. When I received those 175 responses to my Craigslist ad, I was blown away by the utter disregard for personal privacy...

When Second Life's user database was hacked, the press coverage was minimal, Fortuny argues, while his own stunt generated a disproportionate huge wave of attention. "That there was so much coverage truly confused me," he writes, adding that "I've struggled to integrate this experience into my life, and to make it productive."

And Fortuny also argues that he doesn't ridicule the individuals who responded, but talks instead about "the larger issue of privacy on the Internet, and how to be proactive in protecting one's private information."

"[B]ringing legal action against me may punish me, but it won't change or even impact online culture in the positive ways that I describe above."

But for the moment, he's left grappling with the legal nuances of his defense. For example, he points out that though both he and his victim live in Washington state, the suit was filed in federal court in Illinois. (The suit argues it's a federal issue, and that Fortuny also spoke about the incident at a "Lulz Con" in Chicago.) There's one more interesting wrinkle. The plaintiff did copyright his photograph — but apparently as an after-thought. (Fortuny published the image on October 6 of 2006, and the plaintiff began his copyright filing on October 12.)
The Plaintiff is seeking to punish my discussion of his DMCA actions by abusing the intent of copyright law, stretching the common law terms of privacy, using unverified e-mail as alternative process, and side stepping personal jurisdiction...

I have never been afraid to answer for my actions and to face anyone who takes exception with me. This case, however, is quite different. This is a case of a person trying to get his pound of flesh out of me for my perceived wrongs.

Fortuny argues that tactics like the victim's frivolous DMCA notice "erode the free speech rights of Internet users everywhere, especially the growing world of bloggers and other self-published groups. When an individual uses copyright law and privacy torts to silence critics or unjustly control publicly relevant discussion, it damages everyone's rights."

Ironically, the day after filing the lawsuit, John Doe's attorney had to ask the court to delete the copyright application because it revealed his embarrassed client's real name.


Almost two years later, more than 180 responses remain online at Encyclopedia Dramatica, including photographs of more than 94 men (and in some cases, close-ups of their genitals).

Fortuny reportedly copied the text verbatim from an actual Craigslist ad, which gave his lure an extra authenticity. "i am 27 yo sexy str8 woman, 5 ft 7 in, 145 lbs..." the ad promised. "send ur stats and a face pic and i'll return mine to you..."
looking 4 ruff man, harley rider... i have a leg spreader, crop, cane and metal cuffs. spit on me, verbally abuse... "i am looking 4 a white or latin only, str8 brutal dom muscular male 30-35 yo who is arrogant, self-centered, nasty, egotistic, sadistic who likes 2 give intense pain and discipline...

But so far the resulting legal actions have been centered on the uses of copyright law. Neither "John Doe" nor his lawyers returned our request for a comment — nor did Craigslist or the EFF. But Jason Fortuny did, urging internet users "protect your free speech rights. Stand up to copyright and DMCA law abuse."

But so far, he's standing alone. ("Let me introduce you to my amazing lawyer," Fortuny wrote on his blog. "Me.") He contacted the Chicago ACLU, according to the post, saying that they replied that handling e-mail was "too complicated, could you please send us a fax." So faced with expensive legal fees and his own counter-arguments about copyright law, "here I am, going Pro Se on this. This is going to be fun."

In an email today, Fortuny conceded that "The case is at a very early stage, and it's not at the forefront of my brain right now." But a hint of his true sense of impunity may have slipped into his letter to the court. "I make no excuses about who I am," he writes in his motion to dismiss. "I am frequently rude, unsympathetic, unempathetic, and politically incorrect, to put it mildly.

"But there's no law against that."

See Also:
Jason Fortuny Speaks
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
In the Company of Jerkoffs