BLOGGERS: “Gird Your Loins” and Guard Your Data. Change.gov Scrubbing is a Red Flag

The Washington Timesstory yesterday regarding how the Change.gov website was “scrubbed” sometime over the weekend is a red flag to all those who wish to see truth preserved.

The Times reported that the Obama agenda previously listed there, largely copied over from the Obama campaign site, has been replaced with vague statements.

As many bloggers, and even some reporters know; this is not the first time information has evaporated from the internet regarding Barack Obama. In fact, the scrubbing of unflattering and questionable data intensified in the last months of the campaign. Any question regarding whether this practice would be routine during an Obama Presidency, have now been answered.

Bloggers need to be cognizant of this fact and act accordingly since there are few news outlets who will not plead amnesia in the future should an issue arise referencing documented information that has disappeared.

Further, it’s obvious that President-elect Barack Obama’s penchant for saying, “I’ve consistently said….” or “this has always been my position…” or “I’ve always said….” or “I have said so repeatedly….” would be a lot easier to back up if there is no proof of prior statements or contrary information available.

The Obama campaign, transition team staff, and coming administration have had a great deal of help in “protecting” information. Besides things disappearing off the ‘net, there have been things that have “disappeared”, difficult to access, withheld, or even altered in the “terrestrial” world. There are several incidents of which bloggers are likely aware that include the removal of the “Obama Youth” video from Youtube which was only re-posted because some shrewd blogger had permanently downloaded it and put it back up on the site. Besides that video on Youtube, there have been reports of disappearing Jeremiah Wright videos and NBC’s aggressively monitoring and immediately demanding videos including any NBC footage be pulled, such as Barney Frank’s appearance on CNBC in July of this year when he stated that Fannie Mae was a sound investment. This video was the basis for the Bill O’Reilly ambush of Frank in October.

Besides the video pulls, there are a number of people who were disturbed by a trend on the Real Clear Politics site, wherein negative Obama reader articles would mysteriously disappear and the user accounts deleted. It’s unclear at this date whether that issue was ever resolved. All inquiries to the webmaster, even by prominent blogger Roger Gardner of Radarsite, went unanswered.

There are some scrubbing incidents which I personally discovered in the last six to eight weeks of the campaign, primarily involving ACORN. On October 10, I had a post regarding Barack Obama having been a member of the legal team that sued Citibank in Chicago for allegedly “red-lining“. I assert that this is yet another Obama connection to ACORN. The two plaintiffs were likely referred to Obama’s firm by that group. These kinds of suits, which bullied banks to grant unprofitable and non-viable mortgages to people in areas with historically high rates of default, contributed to the “Sub-prime mortgage meltdown”. Citibank ultimately settled that suit.

In researching ACORN, I found a site called Tax Exempt World, where a large amount of data on tax exempt entities is available to the public. Some of the information is available for free, some for a fee. On October 9 amd 10, when I was doing this research, I pulled up an ACORN detail page on Tax Exempt World, using this link:


Trouble is, the page didn’t look exactly like it does now. There was further detail below the the Google ads, stating where ACORN’s funds were held, which was an account in the British Virgin Islands. Below is an image I prepared showing where the information existed on the page as of October 10, but disappeared within about a week, when I went back to look more carefully:


Certainly it’s easy to make an assertion like I’ve just done without any back up. Besides the fact that I had no real reason for doing so, I referenced the fact in my article, intending to go back and do further research:

“Further, the tax-exempt database I linked for the ACORN address above displays that ACORN keeps its money in an offshore bank account in the Virgin Islands, which I find just plain odd.”

Perhaps the Tax Exempt site had a glitch and was displaying information that was meant for the paid part of their service only. Of course that is a possibility, but considering that it was not the only web page that disappeared, was scrubbed, or was significantly edited that I used when researching for my post, I find it awfully suspicious.

It doesn’t look like I linked to the ACORN home page within the article, but I quoted from it. Several days later, when I went back to do some more research on their site, I kept getting the following result:


This went on for several days, and then mysteriously, the site reappeared and had clearly been scrubbed and edited. The edits included a rabid defense of the organization. In visiting the site today, one can find the full-fledged effort continues the self-defense measures. Today’s front page has a big button featured entitled “Fight Back: The Truth About ACORN”.

Perhaps this disappearance and re-emergence of a site is just another coincidence, but I don’t think so.

More recently, I was researching the issue of Barack Obama’s connection to Sal Alinksy’s theories and the book Rules for Radicals. I discovered the following page:


This was apparently from an online version of the book After Alinksy: Community Organizing in Illinois, which had been published by the University of Illinois at Springfield. Obama had written an essay entitled “Why Organize? Problems and Progress in the Inner City” at an earlier time. This essay was later included as a chapter in After Alinksy. Some enterprising person had the foresight to apparently copy the page source code and loaded the page back up to the web. It’s a good thing, because if one clicks on the link “The Complete book After Alinksy home page” on the above page, this is what comes up:


Since all of the other links on the reloaded page are connected to the University’s site and those work, it is hard to believe that this, too is another coincidence or something created out of whole cloth. One thing is definitely true, the book does exist. The ISBN number is valid. The book is listed for sale on Amazon, although it is obviously in very short supply; the current price is $150+.

Some may ask, “what’s the big deal about the removal of the book from the University site”? In some respects, it’s not that big of a deal. While the article may make my skin crawl because I understand the subtext and it’s implications, it is not particularly radical, per se. But apparently someone was bothered by the notion that the information existed on the University’s site. It would not be flattering to have any clear connections between Alinksy doctrine and Barack Obama. Despite many radical leftist’s denials, Alinksy is nothing but a Marxist radical, his tactics were not “peaceful” as some leftist pinheads on TV have said or many radical “community organizing groups” worshipping at Alinksy’s feet state in their “About Us” pages. His goal was revolution of American society; revolution to a Marxist state.

Despite the obvious implications of Obama granting permission to include his essay in a book about Alinksy, his other connections to the Alinksy philosophy, and what all of it means for an Obama, there is something more bothersome about the information being pulled off the Univeristy site.

It’s the Orwellian aspect of it all, of course. How can history be so easily re-written in what is supposed to be an open society? Who is doing all of this scrubbing, editing, and pulling? One could obviously make suppositions all day long about how the University of Illinois fits into all of this, considering the many tentacles of connections to Barack Obama there. At the very least, there are apparently a lot of people and organizations in our country who are very protective of President-elect Obama and whose ethics are questionable, to say the least.

Regardless of who is “scrubbing”, editing, and pulling, and why, the moral of the story is obvious: bloggers and others doing research need to protect the information they discover and they need to do so NOW. How many among us have had fleeting thoughts of going back over links, etc., discovered throughout the election, and doing something about downloading or taking a screenshot, but have as of yet to do so? I know for a while now, I’ve been intermittently capturing and downloading, but I haven’t done it consistently or gone back over things I’d found in the past.

It seems important going forward that we all adopt these practices as a normal part of the way we do things.

In pondering the best ways to preserve information, I recall the controversy that occurred over the ages of the members of the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics team. I recall a blog post by an author who is also an investigator. He employed the use of a cache search and turned up a Chinese government report that revealed discrepancies about the girls’ ages. The government had pulled the report off the net, leaving its discovery open only to those skilled in cache searches.

Certainly there are many others out there much savvier than myself. I’ve got some learning to do about this; I briefly tried this out on some of the links for pages I mentioned having disappeared, but clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing yet, or they are just gone. For those who might be reading this who are good at cache searching, I would ask you to leave comments to instruct the rest of us how it is best done.

For now, I can share what I’m going to be looking at myself:

Google Guide about Cached Pages
(the Google guide itself, which I’ve not “stumbled upon” before looks like it might have some handy information to generally improve searching techniques)

Search Engine Showdown
Includes a listing of many free services that archive pages from the web. Google is there, of course, but many others that may include information that Google doesn’t have.

One of those listed, “Way Back Machine”, doesn’t carry the archives for at least six months after the fact. However, since none of the others have worked for me so far and may not ever, I will wait patiently and try Way Back Machine for some of these pages.

Very likely many have already thought out how to archive data and have the tools handy to do so. Maybe you’ve done it or are doing it already. Although I’m admittedly new to blogging, I’m not new to the internet. Of course, I’ve experienced some dead links here and there over the years when going back to an old bookmark, but the number of things vanishing lately seems to have a creepy Orwellian bent. I wonder if that’s true for many others. Am I just naive?

In any case, in the event that anyone coming across this post is either also new to blogging or new to preserving the information they’ve found, I’m going to go list the steps I plan to use. If you have suggestions for improving upon my list, I invite any and all suggestions. (Unless, of course, your suggestion is for me to go suck an egg because I’m archiving information on Barack Obama. If so, please don’t bother. It will just be deleted, anyway.)

So, here are the steps I’m personally going to take:
1) Spend some time everyday for the next few days reviewing past posts for web page references and video files that are only linked at this point. If they seem likely candidates for removal, I’m going to archive them using steps I’ll go through below.

Youtube videos:
Download permanently using Youtube Downloader. In addition to handy downloading, this program also converts videos for use on multiple platforms like Ipods, Windows Media Player, etc.

Web pages and graphics:
Take screenshots of sites using MWSnap. This is much more flexible than simply using the “print screen” function in Windows.
Depending upon the perceived importance of the website or page, save the page source by going to the “View” menu at the top of the browser and pasting into notepad, saving as html.

Of course, this data could really rack up in size fairly quickly. So there are storage needs to consider. Maybe it’s time to invest in another external hard drive or a big pack of CDs.

2) I will be noting the importance of information I find going forward and take the above steps on ongoing basis as necessary.

Like I said, others more experienced in these matters than myself are very welcome to leave suggested improvements.

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