April 23, 2010

Limbaugh cites a BarackObama.com sponsored link on Google as evidence of collusion between the White House and the SEC.

On Wednesday's show, Rush Limbaugh was talking to a former Google employee — "John Doe" — about the way sponsored links on Google work. Rush was unusually thick trying to understand, and I found that pretty annoying considering that he'd been riffing this week about how a sponsored link to BarackObama.com — Obama's campaign site — comes up on a Google search for: goldman sachs sec. (It still does. Try it. You get "Help Change Wall Street/www.BarackObama.com/It's Time for Financial Reform that Protects Main Street. Act Now!")

Rush has been saying things like:
So this is pure Alinsky on steroids. This guy is incompetent to run the private sector but, boy, does he know how to agitate and community organize. They had no advance knowledge this was happening, but they happened to get hold of Google and they said, "Look, we want to buy the search terms 'Goldman Sachs SEC,' we want you to direct the first hit to our website where we are going to raise campaign funds and awareness of the effort to demonize Wall Street." Meanwhile, the White House continues to deny that there's any link between the timing of the SEC suit and its push for regulatory reform.
Okay. Interesting conspiracy theory — collusion between the White House and the SEC. That's something to consider. It was pretty convenient that the SEC moved against Goldman Sachs just as Obama was presenting his finance reform bill. But what kind of evidence is the Google ad?

Back to the colloquy with John Doe:
CALLER: The way it works is that, for instance, with the Goldman Sachs SEC key word, a company or a political campaign can put in a bid on that key word or that phrase so that when someone does a Google search for that phrase an online auction is conducted instantaneously, and the highest bidding organization has its advertisement displayed there. So if you were the Obama campaign, you would bid enough so that the very top result would be the one that you want people to see, namely the anti-Goldman Sachs advertising campaign.... [I]t can cost anywhere from five to ten cents a click or it can cost upwards of two to five or ten dollars a click depending on how popular and how much in demand those key words are. And so, for instance, every time you click on that ad, the campaign is charged anywhere from 25 to 50 cents....
I'm editing out the parts where Rush struggles to understand this description. You can read the whole dialogue at the first link in this post. It's possible that Rush pretends to have trouble understanding to help radio listeners keep up with something that might be a little challenging.

Now, the funny thing is that John Doe didn't call in to help us weigh the evidence of collusion. (What would motivate the Obama campaign to bid for the "goldman sachs sec" search term? How likely is that bid to a result of advance knowledge that the SEC was going to charge Goldman Sachs with fraud?) Instead, John Doe has an idea that will waste the Obama campaign's money:
CALLER: [W]hat your audience might be interested to know, sir, is that each time somebody clicks on that link, the campaign is charged anywhere from 25 to 50 cents or greater. And so I don't want to tell anybody what to do, but again, your audience of millions of people might be interested to know that each time they click on that link, the campaign is charged a small fractional amount, but with millions of listeners, sir, that can end up having --

RUSH: Snerdley, do you know what he's talking about? I have no idea what he's talking about here?
Ha. Is Rush pretending not to understand?
CALLER: Sir --

RUSH: John Doe from somewhere in the country, uhhh, sometimes I'm pretty thick.... So if the 20 million people in this audience all entered "Goldman Sachs SEC" and then clicked on the first result that came up at the top of the list, the person responsible behind that link -- in this case the campaign -- would be charged 25 to 50 cents.

CALLER: That's correct, sir.

RUSH: That can add up to a lot of money if I'm hearing you right.

CALLER: It can, sir, and in many cases the organization will establish a daily budget of maybe $50 or $100 or $10,000 or $100,000 dollars. But in any case, each time there is a click, there is a charge against that organization, and when they reach their maximum budget for the day, their ad disappears.

RUSH: Oh, is that right?

CALLER: Yes, sir.

RUSH: Oh! Oh! So the White House -- I'm sorry -- the campaign here has agreed to a maximum daily financial exposure, and whenever that limit is reached per day, that link then disappears from any further searches?
Oh, too bad! Because 20 million clicks at 50¢ each... talk about pure Alinsky on steroids! But it's still pretty good Alinsky stuff to get people who don't like Obama to go max out the clicks, use up the campaign's allotted money for that sponsored link, and make it go away so it can't reach anyone the campaign was hoping to reach.

After the break, Rush goes into a related riff that is horribly ignorant about Google. Rush either doesn't know or pretends he doesn't know the difference between a sponsored link and a "Google bomb":
RUSH: You remember late in the second term of George W. Bush, if you entered the search term "miserable failure" in the Google search field you would come up with stories on George W. Bush. And Google said, "There's nothing we can do about that, that's just the way it happens." But then when it began to hurt Obama -- 'cause after Obama was elected you put in "miserable failure" or whatever the algorithm was, it defaulted to whoever the president was. That was a way of hiding it being a direct default to George W. Bush. There was a time you could enter "miserable failure" in a Google search field and you would end up with Obama. They found a way to fix it then.
But it's incredibly easy to find out that Google fixed the Google bomb problem by January 29, 2007 — before Obama had even announced his candidacy for President. I Googled "Google bomb" and got the Wikipedia article on the subject. It has a section on the "miserable failure" incident, and that got me to the NYT article, dated January 29, 2007, which makes it obvious that Google responded to the problem Bush had:
It has been a bad month for anti-Bush snarkiness.... 
[A] favored online tactic to mock the president — altering the Google search engine so the words “miserable failure” lead to President Bush’s home page at the White House — has been neutralized.

Google announced on Thursday on its official blog that “by improving our analysis of the link structure of the Web” such mischief would instead “typically return commentary, discussions, and articles” about the tactic itself.

Indeed, a search on Saturday of “miserable failure” on Google leads to a now-outdated BBC News article from 2003 about the “miserable failure” search, rather than the previous first result, President Bush’s portal at whitehouse.gov/president.

Such gamesmanship has been termed “Google bombing,” and is not unique to President Bush, or even politics. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was linked to the search “waffles,” while other Google bombs have been elaborate jokes or personal vendettas.
So, note: Google didn't respond to the problem when it affected Kerry. So Rush's they're-all-against-us pose is ridiculous. Yet it's unlikely his millions of listeners will notice. It happened to jump out at me. I think Rush Limbaugh reads my blog, by the way — I have my evidence — so Rush, I'm talking to you.

Back to Rush's Wednesday show:
"Miserable failure" at Google was linked to the White House page, the official WhiteHouse.gov page. And so when Bush was president, "miserable failure," took you there. But when Obama assumed office it still took you there, and then Google found a way to change it. They said they didn't know how it was happening. So when Obama was elected, it went to him, and Google said, "Oh, no, no, we can't have that," so they changed it. So now "miserable failure" does not take you to the White House website ever since Obama has been immaculated.
That's just plain not true. And even if it were true, it wouldn't have anything to do with the suspicions about the sponsored link and the question whether there was collusion between the White House and the SEC.

49 comments:

David said...

Rush not perfect? Damn.

It's not your usual pithy explanation though Althouse. Rush probably won't understand that either.

Perhaps, like Michelle, he was just tired.

Joe said...

Enough with shouting Alinksy about everything. It's like saying girls have cooties.

Quite often people do dumb shit that happens to work out in their favor. Ascribing deep thought intention to this is folly.

Glenn Howes said...

Rush is not an all around expert on everything; few of us are. I recall once watching his late night TV show, back in the day, and he didn't know the difference between a shotgun shell and a rifle cartridge.

It just amazes me that anybody can speak extemporaneously for 12 hours a week and make comparatively few mistakes. I was on a podcast last year for an hour and I made 6 errors (or at least near errors) in fact, and that was on a subject I am well versed in.

Kirstin said...

So Rush was a bit clueless. What about the oral argument in City of Ontario v. Quon, where the Supreme Court justices didn't seem to understand how text messaging works?

Peter V. Bella said...

I do not think Rush or anyone else has read a recent copy of Alinsky. Most just cut and paste the rules off of Wiki and think they discovered the Holy Grail.

Alinsky had nothing but disdain for many of the tactics of the new left and their horrendous misappropriation of his rules.

I just reread Rules for Radicals. What he advocates is not what is practiced today, nor was it practiced in the late Sixties.

The rules are not just about tactics. They are about tactics with a positive purpose and a positive end. One needs to read the whole book.

Alinksy would probably laugh at Rush, the Tea Party, the leftists, and Obama and his people.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Enough with shouting Alinksy about everything. It's like saying girls have cooties.

Well...?

master cylinder said...

That's Entertainment!

MadisonMan said...

I suspect Rush says many things that are plain not true. So? It's not a news show.

It does undermine his credibility at some point, I guess. But will his listeners care?

The Drill SGT said...

he'd been riffing this week about how a sponsored link to BarackObama.com — Obama's campaign site — comes up on a Google search for: goldman sachs sec. (It still does. Try it. You get "Help Change Wall Street/www.BarackObama.com/It's Time for Financial Reform that Protects Main Street. Act Now!")

actually, right now, the query shows the sponsored link belonging to Goldman Sachs, where they respond to the SEC suit.

OT: I don't know whether there was advance warning, collusion, or just happenstance, but I think it's slimy for the President to try to make money off of government actions regardless.

Obama campaigned on changing the tone of Washington, reaching across the aisle, civility, etc.

Some of us didn't believe it, but the tone he has set in this area has to be a new low.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't so much mind him being slow on the uptake when something technical and unfamiliar is explained. I don't even mind the confident assertion of theories. My main problem is with saying 2 things are the same when they are different and the confident assertion of facts that are not true. He wasn't just confused about what Google bombs are and what Google did. He was cocksure about something that simply wasn't true. Listeners were left thinking that Google is in league with Obama, etc. etc.

BTW, have you heard the nonsense from Rush about net neutrality. He does not know what he's talking about. People email him to try to get him to adjust to the, you know, truth, and he'll note the email on the air, but go back to his just-plain-wrong theory because it's a source of exciting monologues.

Alex said...

Ann - it's well known that the Google founders(Brin & Page) are Obama-tards.

kathleen said...

This SEC action is obviously PR window-dressing. GS is very concerned about public perception and would be happy to pay a big old fine to the government, esp. when said fine is dwarfed by bailout money GS received indirectly through AIG etc. The intricacies of the Google business model are truly beside the point.

Alex said...

Obama & Google a love story

Alex said...

Google managers and employees were some of the strongest supporters of candidate Obama, donating around $803,000 to his presidential campaign, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. Among corporate employees, only staffers at Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) gave more.

Alex said...

Considering how Obama & Google are such good buddies, why is it so far beyond the realm of possibility that they would adjust their algorithms to favor him?

buster said...

Ann Althouse said:

"My main problem is with saying 2 things are the same when they are different and the confident assertion of facts that are not true."

I think any Obama speech on health care reform has many more examples of "saying 2 things are the same when they are different and the confident assertion of facts that are not true" than any 3-hour monologue by Limbaugh.

I know that POTUS and Limbaugh are not straightforwardly comparable, but still... Who has the greater obligation to speak truthfully to the public: the President or a talk show host?

bagoh20 said...

I believe that Rush's point is inaccurate, but even such simple questions of fact use evidence from Wikipedia and the NYT. It's unfortunate that I would never make a bet on evidence from those sources. Both have demonstrated serious bias inaccuracy so many times that you can just never be confident.

I don't expect Rush to be unbiased, but I sure wish someone was. The truth seems more elusive than ever nowadays due to the preponderance of sources on any subject that consist of total purposeful bullshit from one side or the other. Many of these people contribute to sources that everyone uses, leaving everything to opinion determined by which liars you choose to believe.

We never have to really face our misconceptions, because we can always find sourced support for them and damning evidence against those who disagree.

I'd also like to add: "... deep dark depression, excessive misery, gloom, despair and agony on me."

Glen said...

Rush has always runs a deficit when it comes to knowledge of the internet and computer technology.

He was a CompuServe advocate (and internet detractor) long past the point of embarrassment. His ongoing analysis of the tech issues involved in the Microsoft anti-trust suit was ignorant at best. And his appreciation of the blogosphere's impact on political and cultural discourse came late and grudgingly.

Last but not least, after the collapse of CompuServe and a series of mishaps with his studio computers (mid-late 1990's), Rush became an Apple user and fanboi.

His dedication to closed systems like Apple and Compuserve divorced him from participation in the best emerging technologies and trends.

Rush is still behind the curve. He's just beginning to address that deficit.

Methadras said...

OMG!!! Rush is a little thick about technology? Well, he is an Apple user after all. [nudge nudge wink wink]

veni vidi vici said...

I've listened on and off to his show since 1988 and it long ago became amply clear that he frequently plays "slow" to allow a knowledgeable caller to explain a point of interest in a way in which other listeners will be able to keep up.

Additionally, it's clear from the part of the exchange you quoted that he's trying to get the caller to spell out the click-thru scam thing in sufficient detail so that he doesn't have to.

No one knows how the talk radio game is played better than Rush. He is one of the only guys out there that really effectively synthesizes caller contributions into the flow of the program. This appears to have been an example of that.

As for the "miserable failure" google bomb, etc., interesting that it "ended" in 2007. I know they caught an awful lot of heat about that over at google, so why is anyone surprised? p.s. does anyone seriously hold "waffles" as equivalent to "miserable failure"? Jeez, one's said with a smile, the other's a sneering snarler. Let's be a little less disingenuous when equivocating, shall we?

For the record, I'm confident that Kerry, Bush and Obama are all big boys that don't need me to defend or stick up for them, so if that's what anyone takes away from the foregoing, oh well's to them.


wv: "gented" -- slang for F-to-M transsexual surgery: "Man, hear about Betty? She went to the hospital in Detroit and got gented, and now goes by 'Bill'."

Montagne Montaigne said...

Limbaugh lies throughout every show. If you use Rush as a source of information and not simply to entertain yourself, you are a dolt. He says it himself-- he is an entertainer. He makes millions off of people's bitterness and grievances-- and by people I mean old conservative men. He tells his audience what they want to hear.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Listeners were left thinking that Google is in league with Obama."

Really? And how would you know this?

The fact of the matter is that Google is in league with Barack Obama. He's their customer. They are his advertising agency. How is that not "in league?" They are working together to advance his message, are they not?

Google is making millions of dollars on their unique relationship with Barack Obama. How is that not "in league?"

Google employees donate extremely one-sidedly heavily in Obama's favor. How are Google and their employees NOT in league with Barack Obama?

Google gives Obama first dibs on keywords that it then refuses to sell to other organizations for any amount of money. How is that not "in league" with Barack Obama?

You need to get your facts straight, Ann.

You're asserting a false fact. You're asserting (without proof) that Google is not in league with Barack Obama, when by every discernable measure other than someone's hearsay, they are demonstrably in league with him.

bagoh20 said...

"He makes millions off of people's bitterness and grievances-- and by people I mean old conservative men."

As part of another one of your numerous bitter, grievance mongering comments

You're a bit of a bigot huh? You probably consider being old and white a choice.

SteveR said...

I have no problem with Rush's factual challenges being pointed out. Whether that changes him doesn't matter, but as consumers of information we must be careful about what we absorb, from all sources.

Bottom line on this situation is the links between GS and the Obama administration/campaign make the Enron/GWB connection look noexistent. Drives another nail in the coffin of transparent Hopey Change, as well. I have to think that was the only thing Rush was trying to do.

HDHouse said...

Wow...now we have had our lesson in "simple".

Given about 3 hours for an adwords phrase to find its way through the maze, I'd fairly wager that I could put up a set of keywords that would easily go to a series of redirect pages and end up at Rush's page, Bush's page or Ann's blog for that matter. If you want to spend the time and money there are no aha experiences here although turning on a light bulb may seem like the dawn of a new day to Rush.

Montagne Montaigne said...

Ha ha, bag0, I didn't say "white." Freudian slip on your part, I suppose. Very revealing.

bagoh20 said...

Ham has a point.

I suggest that many organizations including Google that have large percentages of employees favorable to one political side can not help but provide biased service. There are likely many instances when some partisan programmer sneaks in code that he knows supports his beliefs. This is just human nature, especially if you are a strong believer and consider yourself a "warrior" which many people do.

If an organization is strongly unbalanced in employee opinion the result can't help but be such and such an organization is less likely to see it or do anything about it when it does.

It's naive to think such an organization would be balanced and fair. People are not, why would our combined efforts be?

bagoh20 said...

"Ha ha, bag0, I didn't say "white." Freudian slip on your part, I suppose. Very revealing."

Freudian? What did it reveal?

The conservative = old white male, is hardly my creation.

My point still stands.

Or as you would say: na na nanana.

Joan said...

I heard this segment of Rush's show, and I was cracking up at his pretended ignorance. It was very obvious that he was asking the caller to elaborate so that it would become crystal clear to the audience what he meant.

Since I was driving at the time, I couldn't check whether the BarackObama.com search result was in the sponsored results at the top (the paid links) or whether it was coming up in the regular search list. There is a big difference.

The BarackObama.com link is a paid link, just as the caller said, and clicking on it costs the Obama people money. Click early, click often, and the link will disappear as the day's budget is used up. I happen to think this is a great idea. The more of their money we force them to spend on this, the less they'll have to spend on something else that pisses me off.

The results that come up in the regular search list are based on information gathered by their spiders (small search programs) that crawl the web and look for keywords and links. Every page (unless you specifically tell the search engines not to index it) is analyzed this way, and information about it is stored in their massive databases. Pages are ranked based on keyword density, placement, links, and content. I know a fair bit about this since I have coded highly-ranked pages and I worked for a brief time for Google as a search engine evaluator. It's really a trip.

I would be a lot more worried about collusion between Google and the Obami if the BarackObama.com link was coming up at the top of the unpaid links. That would be evidence of tampering IMO.

And yeah, Rush is wrong about "Google bombing", he obviously doesn't know anything about SEO (search engine optimization) and how you can code your webpages to boost your page rank, and subsequently where you end up in search engine results.

The Drill SGT said...

The conservative = old white male, is hardly my creation.

They don't call the Founder's = DOWG's for nothing

Dead
Old
White
Guys

Barry said...

What I would like to know is what Limbaugh would like to do about this collusion between Google and the Obama campaign. (And no, I'm not going to listen to his show to find out.)

But isn't this free market at work? Isn't this the individual corporation's right to use it's money and influence (aka speech) in the way it sees fit? If not, is Limbaugh suggesting regulation of some kind?

Doubtful. Especially since the RNC or other conservative organizations have just as much right to purchase Google placement and Adwords, and most likely already do. I would suspect that Google is rather politically agnostic about who it accepts money from, as most corporations are.

Alex said...

Barry - you're pretty ignorant and stupid. It's well known that Brin & Page were licking Obama's asshole during 2008 campaign. It was disgusting.

AJ Lynch said...

Barry:

Rush is not arguing against capitalism. His point was the White House knew in advance that GS was being charged by the SEC.

The advance notice explains how Barackobama.com or Organizing For America was able to buy the ad placement for "goldman sacks sec'.

former law student said...

A hobbyist website I recently visited ran banners dissociating itself from any ads that appeared on the pages.

HDHouse said...

So let me get this straight.

The conjecture now is that Google is in league with Obama and Goldman Sachs for the purpose of something or other and there are people at Google rewriting code and changing stuff all the time all based on a John Doe calling in and telling Rush something that any and I mean any person with about a days worth of knowledge about Google knows? And this grand conspiracy runs because over half of the Google employees probably voted for Obama and, again, a futzing with the source codes and they can do this so selectively that all the other algorhythms stay functional...

hahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahhohohohohohohohohohoohohohohohohohohahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

bagoh20 said...

"So let me get this straight."

Let me help you relate, HDhouse. Imagine the President is G.W. Bush and replace Google with Haliburton.

Now you get it?

Triangle Man said...

You want a conspiracy theory? Rush is playing a part in Microsoft's grassroots/astroturf campaign of Google=Liberal to get market share for Bing.

hdhouse said...

bagoh20 said...
"Let me help you relate, HDhouse. Imagine the President is G.W. Bush and replace Google with Haliburton.
Now you get it?"

hahahhahahhahahahahhahahhaha
hohohohhohohohohohoohohohohohohoh
hahahahhahahhahahahhahahahhahah
hehehhhehhhehhehehehehehh

hdhouse said...

just for the pure fun of it, i started a google campaign just a few minutes or so ago and turned it off after 2 minutes.

It was paid search. I used http://www.gop.com as the traffic target and rushlimbaugh.com as the display. all the rest of the ad was written in gibberish in keeping with the subject.

The keywords "Goldman Sachs, and SEC" on a $100 budget were estimated to get about 86 clicks and the cost range weas estimated at Avg. CPC: $0.81 - $1.92.

hohohohohohohohohohohohohohoohohoh
hahhahahahhahahhahahhahha

Howard said...

Google is a top corporation providing a great service to the whole world for free. It's a tool that helps large and small businesses get shit done better and faster in the history of mankind.

They employ the smartest young people on the planet who are mostly in the tank for Obama.

This makes Obama look bad how?

You 'baggers should go back to the birther meme.

edutcher said...

Given the head of GS has visited the White House four times (that we know of), the idea of collusion is pretty hard to deny, although Alpha, garage, and Montagne will give it their best shot.

Glen said...

Rush has always runs a deficit when it comes to knowledge of the internet and computer technology.

He was a CompuServe advocate (and internet detractor) long past the point of embarrassment.


Compuserve (like AOL) was an internet provider long before cable and phone companies got into the act. I wasn't a daily listener, but I heard him often enough to get the impression he was quite the fan of the Net. Perhaps you were listening to a different Rush - Barbara or Benjamin, MD.

veni vidi vici said...

I've listened on and off to his show since 1988 and it long ago became amply clear that he frequently plays "slow" to allow a knowledgeable caller to explain a point of interest in a way in which other listeners will be able to keep up.

Agreed. A standard ploy when you want to clue the audience in on something a tad arcane, particularly if technical. Phil Donahue's, "Help me out here...", was somewhat similar.

PS Looks like Joe and David are the new names for Ritmo and Alpha.

Trooper York said...

I hate Friday afternoons. hdhouse is on a roll because his home care attendant gets paid so she got drunk and is sleeping it off and hd can get to his computer.

It looks like he discovered the H key on the computer.

bagoh20 said...

"They employ the smartest young people on the planet who are mostly in the tank for OBama.

This makes Obama look bad how?"


It's not the damage to Obama I'm concerned about. But, maybe, I'm just paranoid. Smart partisans never do anything bad.

They dominate the the Internet, education, entertainment, government, public employment and unions, so I need to relax and accept my station like liberals do when they don't like something.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Google is an evil corporation.

They illegally invade the privacy of US internet users and are in league with Chinese officials to corporatize the suppression of free speech and have been helping them round up dissidents to be murdered.

This corporation needs to be broken up, sold off and its executives jailed.

I for one would support financially and with my vote any politician who would agree to lead the fight against this evil company.

They're worse than ENRON.

Paddy O. said...

"This makes Obama look bad how?"

Um, the title of this post starts off the answer. The rest of the post fills it out, while at the same time making Rush Limbaugh look bad too.

Cruel neutrality.

rhhardin said...

It's less Rush making a bad argument than Rush talking about two things at once, one of them opportunistic, and not able to bring them together.

HDHouse said...

edutcher said...
"Given the head of GS has visited the White House four times...."

That pales next to the oil tycoons and what's his name Cheney now doesn't it.

You right wing idiots have got nothin' here. Zip. Nada. Just El Gasbo trying to rev you you. Frankly this has been the silliest display of grabbin' for air that I've seen on here in years.

Hahahahhahahhahaha

jeff said...

"You right wing idiots have got nothin' here. Zip. Nada. Just El Gasbo trying to rev you you. Frankly this has been the silliest display of grabbin' for air that I've seen on here in years."

That IS funny. But is it as funny as you guys and your wet dream of the executive branch being frog marched in cuffs due to the valerie plame mess? I say no. That was MUCH funnier. You guys went on about that for months. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HDHouse said...

Seems like a good pick. Seems also likely that every jerk Republican will scream about a socialist and not give a fine mind any kind of fair hearing.

That Rush Bimbo has anything to do with 1. this and 2. the public discussion and 3. anything that has to do with this planet as we know it, is absurd on face.

I would be willing to listen to the right wing (yes even me) if Rush and some of the other jerk/felons were not in the dabate. Being a felon, by the way, isn't the sin of the ages, you can get over that. Being a felon and continuing to lie like a weasel is...hear that some of you right wing radio talk show booboos?