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Friday, January 23, 2004

ALF & ELF in Need of a "Google Bomb?"

It has been well documented that Google, America's top search engine, can be used for political machinations -- early on it was revealed that Google had a special relationship with blogs (and now owns Blogger), giving blog posts extremely high rankings over even well established sites and thereby providing a sort of soapbox for those otherwise lost faces in the crowd. Suddenly joe american idiot could potentially out propagandize a large transnational in this forum.

Meanwhile, in the web site business, promotion has always been the #2 game (after design) -- with the logic that it doesn't matter how nice or informative or cool your site is if nobody online knows how to find it. As the large majority of people find websites via search engines, like Google, and then usually only look at something like the top 5 sites (universally assuming that the site which is #1 has to be the best, or most relevant), having a high Google rank is mandatory for online popular effectiveness.

Anyhow, for whatever reason I typed "ALF" into Google today to find this: that the Animal Liberation Front is #4, behind two ALF TV show sites and the American Liver Foundation. I then proceeded to type in "ELF" to see what results I would get there: only to find the Earth Liberation Front all the way down at #10 and behind a variety of Will Farrell movie sites, a page that just says "This site is closed down...", a Scientific American children's abacus page, a comic strip, and the sketchbooks of James Kochalka!

I think there is a project here that may require some work on a couple of different fronts (forgive the pun) to get these two rankings higher, and ideally to #1. The main reason is not that, for example, those looking for news on Every Night is an Earth Night! won't find the website down at #10; but rather -- how great would it be if every fool looking for information on a hollywood seasonal comedy or annoying cat eating muppet puppet, or every person looking for information on hepatitis or james kochalka information, was instead presented with information and the existence of these groups. Again, while studies show that websites really need to be in at least the top 5, it has also been shown that each place higher that a site is ranked drives in a whole other level worth of traffic, with #1 sites getting clicked far and away more often than even #4 or 5s, much less 10s. That is to say, based on the theory of web site promotion, simply getting the ALF or ELF higher in google would increase their public visibility, and drive the signification of ALF/ELF away from Hollywood and towards the fight for animals and the Earth.

It seems weird to say but based on what I've tried to demonstrate here, there appears to be a way in which large numbers of people could be educated about the ALF / ELF simply by a campaign to increase their google ranks.

Now, here's the rub: Google is not a pay-per-click search engine (many still are, with unsuspecting consumers clicking on top-ranked listings unknowing that the only reason the listing is there is b/c someone PAID for it to be there). As the bloggers discovered, Google has its own algorithms for deciding (on a constant basis) which sites are most important. Part of this has to do with how much the keyword (in this case "ALF" or "ELF") being looked for is located on the page itself. Another part has to do with the number of websites or blogs that have linked to it. And another part has to do with the quality and Google-importance of the sites linking.

So the strategy seems clear:

1) to get the homepages of ALF and ELF to increase the keywords (as text, not images or buttons) on their homepages -- this can be done as invisible text too, coloring the text the same color of the background (a trick porn sites love to use); and the title of the page can include up to 10 keywords as well -- right now it only says "Animal Liberation Front." Looking at the page itself "ALF" is mentioned twice -- once in Steve Best's article and once as ALF Mistakes.

2) to get as many people as possible to link to the homepages -- this can be a blog campaign, which i could lead, but also would be good if we targeted activists generally and encouraged everyone to make sure to get the link onto their most popular page; and

3) to make sure that the most popular and highest ranked people, orgs, and sites all have the link on their best pages to the organizations.

Posted by Richard
1/23/2004 06:20:39 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Food News on Canada's CBC

Canada's national nightly news show, The National, has been running an ongoing special expose into the nation's food habits and their consequences. Quite an eye opener to see what a national media source will broadcast that is beyond the borders of the United States. Remember, provinces in Canada -- like Alberta -- are power players much akin to the state of Texas, driving the national economy through oil and gas exploration and cattle futures. Yet, the National has been hard-hitting on a variety of fronts -- showing a three minute video compliation of the realities of meat-rendering plants and factory farms in their BSE/Mad Cow piece and in having nutritionists on to answer viewer questions who are anything but corporate/state lackeys. Yesterday's nutritionist made the case for buying locally and in getting into the habit of putting faces and dialogue behind the food that is bought and consumed. Today's, not only did not shy away from the question of can children be raised as vegetarian -- she said they absolutely can -- but she went on to describe the various forms of vegetarianism (and that vegetarians comprise 4% of the populace) and was clear that in her opinion all of these were appropriate food choices nutritionally as long as the proper planning and understanding of the diet was involved. In response to a question about organics, it was pointed out that in Canada, organic produce is a booming market and that while such produce does tend to have less pesticide residue, national organics there are uncertified and the label is merely voluntary -- important news. Finally, as part of their series, the National is allowing Canadians to offer up their own video testimonials about their culinary choices and food culture generally. Today, they aired a male vegan who not only described his diet but eloquently articulated his reasoning in a 20 second slot. Without endorsing every aspect of The National's series, I did want to call attention to the progressive media goings-on to our border's north.

Posted by Richard
1/22/2004 11:04:20 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Election Becomes A Fight Over Over Sierra Club's Future

I'm not an expert on the political intrigues of the Sierra Club board, so please do not take my comments as such. However, this article raises a number of concerns.

In effect, the piece below attempts to chart how anti-immigration ideologues are taking over the Sierra directorial board; but it then links this additionally to the damnation of an animal rightists takeover as well; I presume through the election of Paul Watson to the board last year. But Watson, in the article, is not quoted as promoting anti-immigration policies; instead, he describes how the Sierra Club should support a sustainable low-impact vegetarian based diet as part of the defense of wild places. As such, this piece of journalism is a hatchet job that describes what remains to my mind an imagined anti-immigration/animal rights coup against the traditional values and direction of John Muir's august club.

Sierra's Executive Director Carl Pope's comments are noteworthy as well for those who tend to think of the Club as a defender of nature and animals generally -- he is quite clear: the "dominant perspective has been to protect nature FOR PEOPLE (emphasis mine)." It is an anthropocentric politics that is reactionary and hysterical when considering that protecting nature, for people or otherwise, would include checks on human relationships and uses of nature. Again, Pope is telling when he reveals the cause of such hysteria -- that a solid 18% of the group's membership is comprised by the kind of gaming sportsman who may very well also belong to groups like Bassmasters and the National Rifle Association.

This said as a critique of the Sierra Club's traditional base and direction, I would like to point out that I do think that the politics of immigration is of questionable value to the organization and either deserves to be shelved or of receiving a debate that goes well beyond the pro/con propaganda campaigns that are taking place in articles such as this or the following piece by Brenda Walker. That issues should be seriously debated and not just smeared is true in general of course, but this is especially true of cases in which suppossedly leftist or liberal organizations are supporting causes that tend to be supported by right-wing neoconservatives.

In the article below UCLA Astronomy professor Ben Zuckerman, a member of the board, paints a picture of a highly overpopulated America that has far surpassed the limits to growth. In truth, the issue is more complex. While I would agree that the Earth is overpopulated, and that large areas of America have certainly urbanized or suburbanly subdivided themselves into a largely unsustainable ecological habitat -- so the question of population is relevant for the United States -- the fact of the matter is that American (and other advanced developed nations') populations are both falling and below the target of the 2.1 children per family that is deemed necessary planetwide to end the population bomb and trend in a conserving direction. The notion that America can't support the number of people it has and that the number of people in the world generally is itself the problem for nature is part of a neo-Malthusiansim (Malthus was the ideologue who believed we would literally procreate ourselves to death) that misapprehends that the number of people is the primary problem, and not their behavior.

Thus, a more important concern for Zuckerman (and other Sierra Club board members in solidarity with him) should be the economics of production and the culture of consumption in the United States that causes urban and suburban zoning and development, along with the resulting transportation infrastructure and resource wasting. Which is not to say that national open door policies don't have an affect on regions and don't deserve to be evaluated vis a vis the de-legitimation of traditions and ideas of place -- to what degree is nomadic border crossing an effect of transnational capitalism and imperialism generally?

So it may be that large-scale immigration deserves to be evaluated from an ecological standpoint -- however, to paint the problem as one arising from the immigrants themselves and not the national and planetary socio-economic and political institutional structures that generate the sort of potentially unsustainable displacement of peoples and nature that it is charged immigration represents is conceptually wrong and politically reactionary.

Via: LA Times
An unusual alliance of anti-immigration advocates and animal rights activists is attempting to take over the leadership of the Sierra Club, America's oldest national environmental group, in what is emerging as a bitter fight over the future of the 112-year-old organization founded by Scottish immigrant John Muir.

Leaders of a faction that failed to persuade the club to take a stand against immigration in 1998 are seeking to win majority control of the group's 15-member governing board in a spring election -- this time, as part of a broader coalition that includes vegetarians, who want the club to denounce hunting, fishing and raising animals for human consumption.

In response, 11 former Sierra Club presidents have written a letter expressing "extreme concern for the continuing viability of the club," protesting what they see as a concerted effort by outside organizations to hijack the mainstream conservationist group and its $95-million annual budget.

Some of the insurgent candidates vying for the five available seats on the governing board only recently joined the Sierra Club. If they win, they will control eight of the 15 seats. Members will vote in the board elections in March, with the results tallied in April. People who join the club by the end of January should be able to vote.

The election has attracted the interest of anti-immigration groups, which are encouraging their members to join the club to help elect the insurgent candidates.

"What has outraged Sierra Club leaders is that external organizations would attempt to interfere and manipulate our election to advance their own agendas," said Robert Cox, a past Sierra Club president.

Moreover, club officials argue that members of the two insurgent groups share fundamentally anti-human views, in their opposition to immigration and in their belief that people should take a backseat to other species.

The Sierra Club's "dominant perspective has been to protect nature for people," said Executive Director Carl Pope. "But by pulling up the gangplank on immigration, they are tapping into a strand of misanthropy that says human beings are a problem."

Pope noted that 18% of Sierra Club members like to fish or hunt, and he worried they could be driven out by the new agenda from animal-rights advocates. "It's important to have hunters and fishermen in the Sierra Club," Pope said. "We are a big-tent organization. We want the Sierra Club to be a comfortable place for Americans who want clean air, clean water, and to protect America's open spaces."

The list of insurgent candidates features some high-profile names, including former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, Cornell University entomology professor David Pimentel, and Frank Morris, former director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. All three have been outspoken advocates of controlling population growth or restricting immigration. Lamm is coauthor of "The Immigration Time Bomb: The Fragmenting of America."

Club officials say the campaign got underway quietly with the recent election of three activists, including UCLA astronomy professor Benjamin Zuckerman, a longtime champion of curbs on immigration; and Paul Watson, head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine environmental group perhaps best-known for ramming whaling ships. During their campaigns, the candidates downplayed the views they are now advancing.

Club members who support the insurgent candidates accused the organization's old guard of trying to demonize them as radicals to head off the increasingly popular efforts to win a new majority.

"I really think we ought to be judged on our merits and what we've done in the past, and not divide the Sierra Club," Pimentel said.

Political squabbles are hardly new to the 750,000-member Sierra Club, whose members squared off just last year over whether to take a stand against the war in Iraq. But the dispute over this spring's elections is becoming especially rancorous.

Some longtime Sierrans worry that a takeover by the insurgents would brand the organization as bigoted and xenophobic.

"I don't think that Lamm, Pimentel and Morris are racists," Pope said. "But they are clearly being supported by racists."

Zuckerman and Watson call those claims ludicrous. They argue that the club has a responsibility to take strong positions on the issues affecting the health of the planet.

"Everything else the Sierra Club is doing is doomed to fail if the United States continues on its rapid population growth," said Zuckerman, 50, who was the leading vote-getter in the Sierra Club board election two years ago.

"There are people who are being born today who will see a California that has more people than the entire United States when I was born," he said.

Asked what the Sierra Club could do to curb population growth, Zuckerman said the group must "talk about the numbers -- how much immigration we should have and how many babies -- so the mix of fertility and immigration is debated and we can come to a level where the population will stabilize."

Watson, who was a co-founder of Greenpeace but who broke ranks with that organization because he advocated more aggressive tactics, said he did not expect the Sierra Club to adopt the confrontational methods of Sea Shepherd.

But the club, he said, should promote eating habits that protect Earth's other inhabitants.

"Human beings are literally stealing resources from all the other species on this planet," said Watson, a Canadian immigrant.

In an e-mail response to the letter by the 11 former presidents, Watson wrote, "Is the advocating of low-impact vegetarian diets a cause for concern? I guess it is if you have a vested interest in grazing or the beef or poultry industry. I fail to see how vegetarianism in the age of Mad Cow Disease, E. coli, PCBs in fish, etc., can be considered anything but practical and realistic."

Sierra Club President Larry Fahn and the other prior presidents have pointed out that the club's members already voted to remain neutral on immigration in 1998 after a lengthy public debate, and said that revisiting the divisive dispute would detract from what board members have agreed is the most immediate action needed to protect the environment: unseating President Bush.

The presence of the anti-immigration candidates has led civil rights leader Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks what it considers hate groups, to join the Sierra Club and run for its board. Dees said he decided to throw his hat into the ring to generate publicity after his staff found that anti- immigration groups were urging members to join the Sierra Club and help swing the vote.

"I'm not running to win a seat on the board," Dees said. "I'm running to sound the alarm of an attempt to take over this organization by the radical element of anti-immigration people. They are interested in keeping this country white."

Earlier this month,, an anti-immigration website founded by former Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow, author of the book "Alien Nation," ran an article discussing the Sierra Club elections. The article referred to Dees as a "left-wing smear artist" and urged immigration-control activists to join the Sierra Club and vote for like-minded candidates in its upcoming elections.

The article in turn was picked up by an anti-Semitic website and topped with a homophobic, anti-Semitic headline. The author of the article, Brenda Walker, said she was dismayed at that, but Sierra Club officials cited the recycled article as evidence of extremist support for the anti-immigration candidates.

Roderick Nash, a retired UC Santa Barbara historian who has tracked the environmental movement, noted that since its early days, the Sierra Club has struggled with tensions over humanity's imprint on the environment.

Gentlemen hikers and climbers -- who wanted to preserve America's beautiful places so the privileged could visit them -- wrote diatribes in the early 20th century about Anglo Americans being overrun by unsavory immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, he said.

Nor is it the first time the Sierra Club has been the target of a supposed takeover. In the late 1970s, when the club was embroiled in a battle with Walt Disney Co. over a proposed ski resort in Mineral King near Sequoia, the ski industry ran a slate of candidates to push for support of more ski resorts, Pope said. Those candidates lost.

Posted by Richard
1/21/2004 08:37:23 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Animal Ethics

The Animal Ethics blog has been up since November, notable for its philosophic posts on analytic treatments of the animal rights theme. Useful.

Posted by Richard
1/20/2004 05:56:57 PM | PermaLink

Monday, January 19, 2004

Looking at Luntz

With Al Gore delivering environmental denunciations of the Bush administration, with Democratic hopefuls uttering new energy platforms, and with progressive personages like Dennis Kucinich promoting as close to a utopian green paradigm as mainstream America has heard in quite some time, we know that a fight is already under way around critical ecological issues. The League of Conservation Voters has recently given the Bush/Cheney team an unprecedented 'F' on its 2003 environmental scorecard, as Americans in record numbers are voting in approval during polls that themes of conservation, stewardship, and animal protection are of utmost importance to them. What is this Bush/Cheney line that is up for so much rebuke? As I have written, we all know it is the neoliberal corporate line. What many people may not know is that, as Iraq's invasion was plotted out by the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz New American Century group before Bush was even in office, so Bush's anti-environmentalism under the banner of cheery reforms like "Healthy Forests" or "Clean Skies" is actually the 1990's Republican Contract With America plan of GOP pollster Frank Luntz. Luntz's memo is quite revealing as a strategy to overturn environmental law while speaking forcefully to the press about the combined intent to conserve and progress economically at once. For the future, it would be worthwhile to monitor Democratic campaigners' use of the same sort of language -- I recently posted examples of such by Gephardt and Dean. In the meantime, I am reposting a link to a thorough 2003 update on Bush's environmental initiatives (or lack thereof) for an Environmental Law & Policy book targeted to educators.

Posted by Richard
1/19/2004 03:56:21 PM | PermaLink

Sunday, January 18, 2004

One Righteous Babe

Ani has a new album coming out in two days and one can listen to it for free now via Quicktime, at her homepage (link below). Selected tracks are also available individually -- of which I point out the very vegan blog friendly Animal.

Via: Ani Difranco


more and more there is this animal
looking out through my eyes
at all the traffic on the road to nowhere
at all the shiny stuff around to buy
at all the wires in the air
at all the people shopping
for the same blank stare
at america the drastic
that isolated geographic
that's become infested with millionaires

when you grow up surrounded
by willful ignorance
you have to believe
mercy has its own country
and that it's round and borderless
and then you have to grow wings
and rise above it all
like there
where that hawk is circling
above that strip mall

more and more there is this animal
looking out through my eyes
seeing that animals only take from this world
what they need to survive
but she is prowling through all the religions of men
seeing that time and time and time again
their gods have made them
special and above
nature's law
and the respect thereof

and i think when you grow up surrounded
by willful ignorance
you have to believe that mercy has its own country
and that it's round and borderless
and then you just grow wings
and rise above it all
like there where that hawk is circling
above that strip mall

ask any eco-system
harm here is harm there
and there and there
and aggression begets aggression
it's a very simple lesson
that long preceded any king of heaven
and there's this brutal imperial power
that my passport says i represent
but it will never represent where my heart lives
only vaguely where it went

cuz i know when you grow up surrounded
by willful ignorance
you learn that mercy has its own country
and that it's round and borderless
and then you just grow wings
and rise above it all
like there
where that hawk is circling
above that strip mall

Posted by Richard
1/18/2004 10:05:54 AM | PermaLink