The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.
I suppose we all knew they honeymoon had to end sooner or later, but that doesn't make it any easier. The New York Times reports today that those carefree days of free, uncluttered access to Filipino prisoners re-enacting 80s music videos will soon be gone.
After laying low since acquiring YouTube last November "for fear of alientating its audience," Google announced yesterday that it was ready to slap ads onto the free videos.
The ads will appear 15 seconds after the beginning of each clip, in the form of an overlay across the bottom. If the procrastinator, ahem, user, clicks on the ad, the video stops and an advertising video takes over the screen. The overlays last about 10 seconds. For now, it will only use its content partners as video billboards, but if successful, experts are expecting the advertising model to become the industry standard. Advertisers pay $20 per 1,000 times an ad is shown.
Why Bid When You Can Give?
The Washington Post reports on a firm that not only got the government to give it a $579,000 contract without competitive bidding, but showed Department of Homeland Security officials how to do it.
It's simple. A consultant suggested that the government's Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement could avoid competition and get work done quickly under and arrangement in which his firm "approached the government with a 'unique and innovative concept.'" The firm provided such a concept and got the contract without bidding.
The Post admits money involved is small potatoes, but the smarmy culture that led to the deal is exemplary of a sharp rise in federal no-bid contracts since 2000. A recent congressional report estimages that federal spending on no-bid contracts has tripled to $207 billion since then, with $60 billion awarded without competition last year alone.
The result is that taxpayers pay more, and the government increasingly relies on fewer and fewer contractors. The most alarming part? The director of the government office said, "Every step of the way, we followed the advice of our ethics officer."
"The Ultimate Dirty Trick"
The New York Times front page carries a weird and sordid tale of Albany politics that's truly got it all: paranoia, skeletons in closets, alleged burglary, dubious voice-matching technology, leaked letters and -- most shockingly -- an honest-to-goodness curse word. For the always prim Grey Lady, it's positively PG13.
Lawyers for Gov. Eliot Spitzer's father, Bernard Spitzer, claim that Robert Stone Jr., a prominent political consultant who has been working with Senate Republicans to rake Spitzer over the coals in the last few months, threatened the 83-year-old real estate magnate with an "anonymous invective-laced phone message."
The lawyers sent a letter about the message (which the Times got a hold of ) to the committee that's been investigating Spitzer for his aides' use of the State Police to embarrass Republican Senate leader Joe Bruno. Senate Republicans said they were "considering" digging the out the scariest skeleton lurking in the Spitzer family closet: the elder Spitzer's loans to his son's failed campaign for attorney general in 1994, which may or may not have been paid back legitimately.
The doozy of a message relates to that: "There is not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son can do about it. Bernie, your phony loans are about to catch up with you. You will be forced to tell the truth and the fact that your son's a pathological liar will be known to all."
Along with the letter, Bernard Spitzer's lawyers send what would seems to be some pretty good evidence it came from Stone: a private dick's report tracking the number to Stone's wife, recordings of Stone from television and the anonymous call to compare, and of course the circumstantial evidence that Stone was hired by Senate Republicans over the last two months to punch Spitzer in the political guts.
But Stone denies it all, and calls the accusation "the ultimate dirty trick." He suggests that Spitzer's allies broke into his apartment to make the threatening phone call. Not just that! He also suggests that they pieced the words together using clips from his many, many, many television appearances.
"I am on television constantly," Stone told the Times. "As Gore Vidal said, never pass up the chance to have sex or be on television. Putting together a voice tape that sounds like me wouldn't be that hard to do."
In voice, perhaps, but what about in character? Stone's track record in this department isn't exactly sterling. As a teenager, he famously recruited a mole to infiltrate the presidential campaign of George McGovern — indicating he's no stranger to orchestrating dirty tricks.
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