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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blog for the Pentagon

I answered an add on Craigslist for a writing job. It was vague and I couldn't find a web site connected to email address - two strikes, but what the hell. I got a reply within a couple of hours asking if I had a problem writing about government agencies. I replied not if the story is true.

Next day I got an email asking if I could come in for an interview anytime that day. No web site as I'd asked for. We then spoke by phone. Call me naive, but I never knew this "word of mouth" marketing existed on such a grand scale as what he told me about.

He's doing a startup after working for a "Word of Mouth" company called Newgate that was purchased by iCrossing. His first big customer is the Pentagon. They want stories about all the great things the army is accomplishing in Iraq. It sounded like these stories would appear on clearly identified government sites. But it sounded like we writers would not be identified as Pentagon subcontractors.

His previous work included customers like Motorola, Microsoft, and Oracle. He said they will have people saying positive things about his commercial clients' products, posting the comments in public forums and onto blogs. He said when even two people talk up a product on a forum, it starts to influence others. He said the writers do not identify themselves. He said there is some subterfuge involved but nothing illegal. However, he mentioned that the FTC is trying to force publicly traded companies to disclose their contracts with "word of mouth" marketers.

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Assciation, the code of ethics is very clear about identifying yourself when posting this kind of praise-for-hire. I wonder how many do. Guess I won't be putting too much stock into the reviews I see on public forums anymore.
I took a pass on the job.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Robert Scheer, journalist with a history

Palo Alto's Peace and Justice Center sponsored a talk by journalist Robert Scheer. Many are familiar with the famous Jimmy Carter line admitting to "lust in his heart" from an interview with Scheer. I last heard him thirty two years ago when I would attend his weekly talks in Berkeley with my then-housemate Charlie. The other night, he was still wearing jeans and a "workshirt" but as though someone had hit the fast forward button, he is now a hard-to-believe 70 years old.

Scheer, the former editor of Ramparts Magazine and longtime columnist for the LA Times, is as mesmorizing, entertaining, and information-laden as ever. He runs an online newspaper-blog with his sons, called Truthdig. He spoke about Presidents since his last book is about the five he has interviewed and studied as well as Bush II who he hasn't interviewed. He recounted presidential lies in every administration, but also found some good to report in nearly every case. He reminds us that Nixon was "pink" relative to the current batch of Republicans, what with the wage and price controls he implemented and his trip to China, opening diplomatic relations. (Cheney and Rumsfeld were around then and opposed the visit to China.) Thanks to Gorbachev's proposal, it was Reagan who destroyed a chunk of our nuclear weapons after their summit in Reykovik, Iceland. Carter's experience as Governor of Georgia, with a legislature that only met 60 days a year, wasn't much preparation for president and it really showed. Instead, he became a great ex-president. There just wasn't anything good to say about George II.

Scheer wrote a column in May, 2001 (five months before 9/11) blasting the administration for sending $43 million to the tyrannical, rabidly anti-American Taliban government in Afghanistan. Apparently, because they had outlawed farming opium, they deserved to be propped up with our dollars.

There was some Q & A, but I held my tongue since mostly I wanted to know how he stayed so trim and could retain so many historical facts in his memory.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pekin "Chinks"

I was pleased and surprised that the "Not In Our Town" conference (community responses to hate crimes) was held in Bloomington, Illinois. I grew up 40 miles away in Peoria, Illinois. I don't think of that area as a leader in the realm of diversity awareness. The town next to Peoria is Pekin, named originally after Peking, China. The high school moniker was the "Pekin Chinks!" I remember one year in the late 60's when Pekin High went all the way to the state basketball finals. I imagine newspapers all over the state carried a headline about the "Chinks Victory" without thinking anything about it. At least as a kid, I never thought about it. There was also an ice skating rink in Pekin. You guessed it..... "Chink Rink." They had a local TV commercial that portrayed a simple line drawing of an old Chinese man on ice skates, mixed with their voiceover and maybe some music. "Institutional racism" is the boring term for when racism is so pervasive it is invisible or like wallpaper. I'm sure it wasn't like wallpaper to any Chinese folks who lived around there, but I didn't know any.

I went to Wikipedia and found that there was an attempt to change the high school moniker around 1974, but it didn't actually get changed until 1980. (My family moved around 1969.) Now they are called the Pekin Dragons.

Link to a blog with more detail.