September 28, 2011

Media Watch: Gold Star for Larry Beil & KGO ABC 7 News


Hi my name is Roy and I have a problem. I’m a prolific agitator, and I email politicians, members of the media, activists, and businesses, to express my opinion about the issues of the day.

While I was watching the evening news last night, on KGO ABC 7, local sportscaster Larry Beil was doing a story about the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors just announced that they hired Rick Welts, an openly gay NBA executive, with 36 years of experience, to be their President and Chief Executive Officer.

Rick Welts had been the President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns, and resigned three weeks ago, to move to the Bay Area to be with his partner. Welts said "It's an opportunity probably for the first time for me to align my personal and professional lives."

Toward the end of the segment, Larry Beil said Rick Welts made a “personal lifestyle choice” to move to the bay area. I found that characterization to be offensive. If Rick Welts moved to be with his wife, “lifestyle” would have never entered the conversation.

I took to my computer and emailed Larry Beil, to explain that I felt the characterization was homophobic. I said if Giant’s manager Bruce Bochy moved to Seattle to follow his wife, that no one would say he made a “personal lifestyle choice.” Being gay is not a lifestyle, nor is it a choice.

Larry has been at KGO ABC 7 news for 10 years. A former ESPN Sportscenter anchor, he is affable, professional, has a good sense of humor, and I have always enjoyed his reporting.

Larry responded to my email within minutes. He said:

“I think you misunderstood what I was saying…the phrase “personal lifestyle choice” was not a description of whether Welts is gay or straight…the choice was to come out openly, quit his job and move to the Bay Area to be with his partner. It was his choice to do all of those things and took a great deal of courage.”

“Perhaps I need to explain that more clearly on our 9 and 11pm newscasts.”

I didn’t watch the 9pm newscast, but I did catch the 11:00pm news. Larry’s story aired, and he was direct, and talked about Rick moving to the Bay Area matter of factly, to be with his partner. There was no reference to a lifestyle choice, and no one would have blinked.

I have to applaud Larry Beil. I believe most news professionals would have dismissed my email. Larry Beil isn’t a rookie, he is a professional with nearly 20 years of broadcast experience. And he is sensitive to how words affect perceptions, and was open to trying something different.

You might not think it’s a big deal - but I do. While I thought talking about a “personal lifestyle choice” was homophobic, I knew that based on my years of watching KGO ABC7 news, that Larry Beil was not. I have to give Larry big props, a heartfelt thanks, and a gold star, for being open and sensitive to how misleading and hurtful statements about “lifestyle choices” can be.

PS: Congratulations and welcome home Rick - I’m confident that you and the new owners of the Warriors will bring glory back to the Bay Area sports scene!

September 27, 2011

Hate Watch: My Email Reply To Mickey Mathis


I’m sure that other bloggers can attest to the fact that when you take a stand on controversial issues, whether written or spoken, our democratic system encourages the public to be engaged. I post my name and email address so that if anyone wants to contact me - that they can do so.

I get some lovely emails - and since I started calling for a boycott, and taken on the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, the tone changed considerably. I get many emails from anonymous people - who hide behind a screen name - and I get called names, and worse. I dismiss them all, because the individuals emailing me are hiding. In my view that fact negates whatever message they have.

When I searched for Mickey Mathis online, to see if she left comments on other blogs, I found a few. I learned that she is an active tea-party member living in Brownwood, Texas. It made me sad when I learned that she is 78 years old. It makes me wonder how someone can be filled with so much hate? I learned all of this just by searching google and her name and email address.

When someone sends me an email and uses their real name, I try to reply. I felt a little guilty because she’s an elderly woman, and I don’t want to pick on an elderly woman - even if she is a tea-bagger. When I reviewed her comments that litter the internet - and saw that she has picked on immigrants, unions, teachers, and the LGBT community - I decided to reply.

I still feel guilty about responding - but whether someone is 78 years old, or 35 years old - we have to stand up for what is right. And Mickey Mathis is wrong.

I wrote:


Dear Ms. Mathis:

Thank you so much for contributing to the dialogue about the intersection of business and commerce. I have taken your puerile comment on board, and posted it on my blog, so that the community at-large can participate in formulating a cogent response to your assertion.

The Central Texas Mental Health Center can be found at 3401 Milam Drive in Brownwood, Texas. You can reach them by calling (325) 643-3526. If you would like me to call them to make an appointment for you, I would be happy to do so.


With Best Wishes, I remain


Sincerely Yours,


Roy Steele

The Christian Post: Edits Article To Reflect The Truth

I just had a telephone conversation with Nicola Menzie at the Christian Post. The Christian Post has not only amended the story to reflect exactly what I said, but they also apologized for the error.

After speaking with Nicola, I am confident that the Christian Post is committed to reporting the truth. Thank you Nicola!


I’m hoping that the nasty emails will stop flooding my inbox. To the alleged "Christians" informing me of my sinful life, and saying I am not a Christian, that I'm an Islamic terrorist, a deviant, and all the rest - I think you need to devote yourself to studying your scripture a little more closely. If you have trouble reading, there are night schools for adults in communities across our country. Most of them offer courses in remedial reading, and you might want to check that class out.

The Christian Post: Has A Problem Reporting The Truth

I contacted the Christian Post and asked them to correct their article. The reporter Luiza Oleszczuk acknowledged that they changed the quote. She said:

“We decided to take out part of the phrase for the sake of word count. I didn’t think it really changes the meaning.”

What do you think?

"I have a problem with people who wrap themselves in Scripture. That’s not the same Scripture I know."

"I have a problem with people who wrap themselves in scripture, in order to justify hateful speech. That's not the scripture I know."

That’s a HUGE difference in my view. It completely changes the meaning.

They chose to not change the text of the article, but put a correction at the bottom of the article.

Roy Steele claims The Christian Post misquoted him and that what he said in actuality was: "I have a problem with people who wrap themselves in Scripture in order to justify hateful speech. That’s not the same Scripture I know."

I do claim that I was misquoted, and the reporter said she changed what I said for the sake of word count. This isn’t what they indicated in their “correction.” I still have a problem with that.

Why can’t the article be factual, and report the truth?
 

The Christian Post: Misquoted Me & Creates Firestorm

I did a few interviews yesterday after the New York Times article was published. One of the interviews was with the Christian Post. I can understand their interest in the story, as the beneficiary of the Jewish Giving Network and Charity Give Back Group’s affiliate marketing agreement are Christian organizations.

I was quoted in the article as saying:

"I'm a Christian and I object to the views of these organizations. I have a problem with people who wrap themselves in Scripture. That’s not the same Scripture I know."

The quote created a firestorm of comments, and quite a few emails to my inbox. What I actually said was the following:

"I’m a Christian and I object to the views of these organizations. I have a problem with people who wrap themselves in scripture, in order to justify hateful speech. That's not the scripture I know."

I have emailed the reporter, and the Christian Post and asked them to correct the article. There is quite a difference in how you might interpret what I said.

I have written extensively about verbal homicides, and also blogged about what I think about politicians and religious leaders hiding behind the bible to justify vitriolic rhetoric. Anyone is free to review what I’ve written in order to confirm this.

I’m confident that they will correct the record.

The first “hate” email I received yesterday, was from Mickey Mathis, a 78 year old woman, from Brownwood, Texas. Ms Mathis wrote:

“Economic terrorism.  Human garbage and sewer slime.  If a conservative doesn't like something he doesn't buy it. You bastards want to destroy everything that might DISAGREE WITH YOU.  Crawl back in the gutter you scum”

She plagiarized the “economic terrorism” line from former Arkansas Governor Mike Fuckabee. Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but, you know the rest. I can only say bring it on.
 

September 26, 2011

We Should All Work Together To Put Kids First - And End Corporate Financial Support For Hate Speech & Hate Groups




The New York Times published a story today about the ongoing campaign to promote civility and tolerance, and to pressure retailers through a boycott, to not participate in funding anti-gay, and anti-women groups, as well as hate groups that are in the same category as the Klu Klux Klan, and Aryan Nation.

To say that I’m disappointed in many of these retail organizations and travel companies, would be an understatement. How can a company state that they support equality, and promote tolerance, and also hold that they are not anti-gay - and yet fund organizations like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

Not only are many of these organizations anti-gay, but they also believe that a woman’s body and her reproductive organs, should be controlled by the government, and Federal Courts.

Nearly a year ago - Tyler Clementi took his own life after being humiliated and bullied by a roommate. Just last week Jame Rodemayer, a 14 year old in Buffalo, New York committed suicide. The Justice Department announced a rise in LGBT student bullying, while there were 8 student suicides in the Anoka-Henepin School District over the last 2 years. That’s right - the very school system that is Michele ‘Bozo’ Bachmann’s alma mater.

This issue is not about a “biblical view” of marriage, and this is not about gay rights. This is about promoting tolerance, and honoring the kids who might be gay, or are perceived to be gay,  in school systems across this country. This is about civility, embracing diversity, and creating a climate in our cities, states and towns - that is welcoming to all.

Most of the retail stores who have been willing to speak with me, understand my point of view - because it’s a point of view shared by most Americans. The retailers also recognize that by funding anti-gay, and anti-women groups, that they are contributing to vitriolic rhetoric that these organizations promote on a daily basis.

This is not OK, and this just strengthens my resolve, that I will not rest until this “shopping network” lacks any retailers to offer shoppers. When will we put our kids first?  When are we going to say as a society that we’ve had enough of this bullshit?

Google facilitates the funding of these “hate” groups through Doubleclick. Linkshare and Rakuten with Buy.com funds these hate groups, and ValueClick with Commission Junction, and Publicis Groupe facilitate funding these groups. It’s not just limited to the retailers, and many of these companies are publicly traded companies. I am going to continue to go after them too.

This culture war has just begun.

I’ve had nasty phone calls, threatening phone calls, hate email, death threats - and none of it scares me. I will not give up. I was bullied like a lot of these kids - and I will not rest until this climate of bullying changes. It is not OK to justify hateful rhetoric because you say you’re a Christian. It is not OK to justify hateful speech because you’re a politician.

You might wonder how you can help. You can help by visiting this blog regularly, or by subscribing to my blog by receiving updates via email, and by following me on twitter, and sharing updates and blog posts with your friends and family about what the essence of this campaign is about. You can check out my facebook page and click the like button. It all helps and it’s also greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions - feel free to email me. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.




Technology: Facebook Has Orwellian Plans And It’s Kind Of Creepy


Facebook is not my favorite place to “hang out.” It’s great for becoming reacquainted with long lost friends, and to keep in better touch with friends and relatives who live far and wide. There are some who like to communicate minute details about their life, and many like to play games with other users of the social network. You can upload family photos - or share some of the big exciting milestone’s you want to share, with your friends and family regardless of where they live in proximity to you. It all sounds pretty benevolent - until you kick the tires.

My personal discomfort with Facebook stems from their cavalier attitude about user privacy, as well as their ability to market, and monetize, each person’s “personal” information. Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS) allows them to sell registered user’s information to businesses interested in users online, and offline, activities. Granted, Facebook maintains that they do not sell personally identifiable information, which is terrific. At the same time, I find it difficult to believe that a corporation currently valued at $80 billion dollars, with 800 million registered users, makes the safeguarding of every user’s private information contained within their servers, their top priority.

I understand the positive impact Facebook can have for many people. Various reports in the media have highlighted how the social network can assist in finding a new job. It is also well documented that prospective employers screen applicants by looking at Facebook pages. Spotify, the new music streaming service, uses Facebook to promote their service. Colleges are also using the social network to learn about applicants.

Facebook recently concluded their f8 developer conference in San Francisco, where they announced 2 new features, that they will be rolling out to users on September 30th, 2011. One new feature is called “Timeline.” According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, It's how you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page.” Daniel Terdimen at CNET reports that Timeline is an extremely significant change to the way Facebook looks. With Timeline, users will see several new sections, including visual tiles, ways to get all their apps, and a cover photo.”

CNET’s Terdimen also wrote about the expansion of Open Graph, the map that reflects each registered user’s connection throughout our planet, and how Facebook is expanding upon that. Terdimen wrote:

“When a user shares a post normally, it goes into their news feed. But when that user adds activity through Open Graph, it will go into the Ticker and into the Timeline, but not into the news feed unless that's what's desired. It's a lightweight stream of everything going on around you, Zuckerberg said, and it's the first time Facebook has enabled sharing activities other than simply "liking" something, such as listening to a song, watching a movie, reading a book, or even cooking a meal.

And Zuckerberg said that he expects this will enable people to create "a completely new class of social apps than what was ever possible before," including those about music, movies, TV, books, and any media as well as lifestyle apps that let users express all kinds of things about their lives: their runs, their naps, their moods, and much more.

All told, the new feature will allow "frictionless experiences," "real-time serendipity," and finding patterns and activity, Zuckerberg said.”

So Facebook wants to know what someone cooks for dinner, the wine chosen for a meal, where you vacation, what book you are reading, what films and television shows you enjoy, on top of the fact that we have already shared our names, date of birth, where we work, how many children we have, where we went to school, what social causes we support, who our friends are, and the list goes on and on.

Is Facebook for real? A registered user is supposed to find “real-time serendipity” sharing all of this information, so Facebook’s valuation can hit the stratosphere? Does anyone see through the smoke and mirrors? Sharing this information is a marketing dream - so that more ads and pitches can be tailor made for each person, so that more habits can be chronicled, to sell to the highest bidder. No thank you.

While Zuckerberg says Timeline is “the story of your life” - I’m not Abe Lincoln, with biographer’s banging on my door to write the story of my life. While my life and it’s intricacies MIGHT be of interest to those who actually know me, I will not be posting that I had a Vitamin Water this afternoon, after I watched the “Bourne Trilogy” on Blu-ray last week.

Ben Parr at Mashable, in an opinion piece wrote:

Facebook has finally done it. It’s just a few updates away now from euthanizing the concept of privacy, already ailing on its network.

Timelines and Open Graph, introduced at this week’s f8 conference, sit on either edge of the sword that’s just been run through privacy’s heart. It is finished. It is done.”

This raises a larger question, do we have a right to expect some modicum of privacy when we register for social networks? I think registered users should have to “opt in” to features like this, rather than “opt out.”

CNETs Don Reisinger’s article “Facebook Changes Creeping Out Some Customers” details many apprehensions that have been voiced by Facebook users. He wrote that:

“The fear among some users relates to what some say could become a potentially worrisome privacy situation on the social network, led by Timeline and changes to Open Graph.

The headline that caught my attention the most, when I was reading about these new features, was a Computerworld headline that said “Facebook's Timeline will be boon for hackers.” Reporter Gregg Keizer wrote:

“Facebook's new Timeline will make it even easier for criminals and others to mine the social network for personal information they can use to launch malicious attacks and steal passwords, a researcher said today.

Timeline, which Facebook unveiled yesterday at a developer conference and plans to roll out to users in a few weeks, summarizes important past events in a one-page display.”

The Computerworld article cited the student who bragged that it took him 45 minutes of online research to hack Governor Sarah Palin’s yahoo account.

In January of this year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a warning related to the personal information that Facebook users share freely online. A predatory California hacker was able to gain access to hundreds of women’s email accounts and Facebook pages, with information gleaned from Facebook. The Attorney General said:

“George Samuel Bronk, 23, of Citrus Heights, faces six years in state prison after entering guilty pleas today in Sacramento Superior Court to seven felonies including computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography.

From December 2009 through September 2010, Bronk accessed e-mail accounts and Facebook pages of people in 17 states, as well as residents of England. He essentially found answers to the women's e-mail security questions in information they had posted on their Facebook sites.

Bronk targeted his victims by scanning Facebook for women who also posted their e-mail addresses there. He then contacted the woman's e-mail service, pretending he was the legitimate customer, and claimed to have forgotten the password. Bronk was able to correctly answer security questions posed by the e-mail service by finding the answers on victims' Facebook pages.

Some of the security questions posed by e-mail providers included, "What is your high school mascot?" "What is your father's middle name?" "What is your favorite food?" and "What is your favorite color?"

Once Bronk gained access to the e-mail account, he changed the password and the victim was locked out.

Bronk searched the victim's "sent mail" folder for nude or semi-nude photographs and videos, which he often sent to the victim's entire e-mail address book. He also gained access to some victims' Facebook accounts by clicking the "Forgot Your Password?" link and asking for a new password to be sent to the victim's e-mail account, which he now controlled. In many cases, he posted the photographs to victims' Facebook pages and to other Internet sites and made comments on the Facebook sites of friends.

The California hacker was sentenced to 4 years in prison. While we may not hear about these crimes very often, it’s important to be vigilant about the personal information people share online. Since Facebook isn’t a watchdog for it’s users, we all have to watch out for each other.  

Facebook is opening a new chapter in the company’s history, and they have assumed that users will be eager to embrace the change. I will not be using Timeline or Open Graph. If it’s an all or nothing proposition, I guess I’ll be using Google +.

The German government forced Facebook to sign a “voluntary” code of privacy, to protect users data, after Facebook’s “Like” button was found to violate German privacy laws, due to the consumer profile that is created by the social network. How can the average person find out what this “profile” is about?

I believe that Facebook user’s should have access to the information being collected about themselves, and if requested, you should be able to view the data. They should develop a Freedom of Information Act Request, in an “app” format, for Facebook. If I can’t see what personal information about myself, is being bought and sold, then I don’t want to be a part of their scheme.

Maybe it would be helpful for Facebook to appoint an independent Ombudsman, who looks out for the privacy interests of it’s users. The Facebook Ombudsman could independently review the business practices of the company, how private data is collected and handled, handle “Facebook Freedom of Information Act” requests, and develop punitive financial measures for any breach of privacy.

Offering a constructive suggestion will most likely fall on deaf ears, but it’s worth a try. Otherwise I may be taking my bat and ball and heading home.

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