SocraticGadfly: 1/10/10 - 1/17/10

January 16, 2010

MediaNews - The latest old media woes

MediaNews, one of the nation's largest newspaper companies, is also the latest to file Chapter 11. As I e-mailed a friend, Dean Singleton may have done a great job of building up MediaNews, but as chairman of AP, he was pretty clueless about how to monetize online newspapers, and related matters.

Paywalling, for example, is one matter.

Point No. 1, even before Deano became AP's chair? When newspapers said look at the "TV model for online papers, did they forget there was such a thing as cable TV? Let alone premium cable?

Point No. 2, on specific, why didn't AP jack rates for Yahoo, Google, MSN, et al high enough to potentially force them to paywall content, therefore giving member newspapers protection to paywall?

Point No. 3 - As both owner of a major newspaper company and AP chairman, why didn't he recognize that, on this issue, AP and its member newspapers are somewhat at cross interests?

Issue No. 2 is general business management.

Point No. 1? If you're not going to paywall locally generated content as well as AP written news, why do you post it online even before your print newspapers come out? (This is not specific to Singleton, BTW.) If online newspapers aren't "monetized" yet, this is a handout. It's like if Campbell's started selling its soup in plastic bottles as well as cans, and said that because the plastic bottles were made more quickly, it would give them away for free.

Anyway, that's a few thoughts for now.

FDA seeing the light on bisphenol-A?

Well, at least, it looks open to taking a new look at what the light might show about the plastics hardener.

Bacon in a test tube?

Well, getting closer, at least. And, human bacon lovers' jokes aside, this could, if it can be ramped up, be a huge benefit to our environment.

Should France pay Hait reparations?

As detailed here, considering that France gouged Haiti for 150 years of "reparations" itself for having the temerity to fight for independence, then confiscate French property, I would say the answer is yes. (Haiti did demand reverse reparations under Aristide, one reason France shed no tears at his overthrow.)

January 15, 2010

'First, we kill all the bankers'

Per Paul Krugman's latest column, about top bankers claiming their innocence in the financial meltdown, maybe it's time to update Shakespeare's quote.

January 14, 2010

The 'majority' no longer is, in US schools

In both the 15 former slave states of 1860, and in several western states, whites, while still perhaps a plurality, are no longer a majority in public schools. Other than perhaps driving the Glenn Becks of the world ballistic, as the story notes, this is serious food for thought on the future of our education system. (That includes here in majority-minority Texas, home of Gov. Asshat Perry turning down federal education money.)

Your Texas Green Party candidates

Remember, we have more than two political parties!

Bart Boyce Governor
Deb Shafto Governor
Herb Gonzales, Jr Lieutenant Governor
Edward Lindsay Comptroller of Public Accounts
Art Browning RR Commissioner
George Reiter US Congressional Representative, District 9
Jim Howe US Congressional Representative, District 11
Ed Scharf US Congressional Representative, District 23
Phil Snyder, PhD State Board of Education, District 4
Paul Cardwell State Board of Education, District 9
J D Porter State Board of Education, District 10
Ryan Seward State Representative, District 94
Joel West State Representative, District 144
Don Cook County Clerk, Harris County
Roger Baker County Clerk, Travis County
Earl Lyons County Clerk, Bexar County
kat swift County Commissioner, Pct 2, Bexar County
Chuck Robinson Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1, Bexar County
Joy Vidheecharoen-Glatz Justice of the Peace, Pct 3, Dallas County
Jeffrey Dale Glatz County Surveyor, Dallas County
Esther Choi County Clerk, Dallas County

'A movement is a terrible thing to waste,' Obama

One year into his presidency, that's the bottom-line takeaway that Micah Sifry has for Barack Obama.

Of course, Sifry, elsewhere in his column, is smart enough to recognize that Obama and his top staff never cared about the mass of volunteers as a dynamic movement, but rather, per David Plouffe, as a new sort of a TV channel to be turned on at Team Obama's whim.

Sifry also dissects the myth of Obama the small-money recipient in his campaign finance.

Hey, though, just to remind you, some of us saw this coming, oh, nearly 30 months and counting now.

My plans for 2012?

Vote Green!

January 13, 2010

ProPublica - would it ever bite the hand that fed it?

Nobody has ever said that Golden West Financial Corp. deliberately foisted subprime mortgages on the unwitting. But, what if it did?

Would nonprofit media group ProPublica, most of whose funding comes from the Sandler Foundation, founded by Herbert and Marion Sandler after they sold mortgage lender Golden West to Wachovia Corp. in 2006 for $24 billion, investigate? With Wachovia now rolled into Wells Fargo, will they be tough on it as needed?

Just saying.

Google-China showdown just part of the picture

While Google is the only major American company that could immediately withdraw from China, at least one other company, Adobe, says it has been subject to similar hacking attempts as has Google.

Beyond that, other companies have other complaints: commodities buying restrictions/forced buys, investment restrictions and more. But, the pornography of modern capitalism keeps them still in China.

And, Salon rounds up some web-based takes on Google's action.

Some questions we'd like to see for Wall Street

A group of financial experts convened by the NY Times each offers three questions they wish the Congressionally-established Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission would ask Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, John Mack of Morgan Stanley and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America today.

Most the questions settle around the use of credit default swaps. No surprise there. Nor will it be a surprise if the actual commission asks none of those questions.

Meanwhile, Robert Reich notes both Congress and President Obama continue to dither on taking specific steps to keep our country's financial Rome from burning again.

Once again, Google customer service sucks

Users of Blogger are, of course, not surprised. Now, it's arguable that Blogger and other free platforms... well, you get what you don't pay for.

But, Google's Nexus One cell phone ain't close to free, and its customer service sucks, too! Way to go, Sergey and Larry.

January 12, 2010

Big Mac, deconstructed and translated

Here's why you shouldn't put too much stock into Mark McGwire's "tearful" appearance in front of Bob Costas. This is a great, long, blow-by-blow blog; it's a sarcastic must read!

Jayson Stark says he looked remorseful on Costas' show, but doubts Mac yet gets it, on all the damage he did.

Maybe, per the first link, it took 15 minutes before Mac could force any tears.

Of course, Yahoo's Tim Brown saw through McGwire for offering what he saw as a self-serving, not real, apology even before Big Mac went on Costas.

Oh, and to people like a friend of mine who say they're already tired of the cynics, well, not being cynical enough, in this case, could be seen as "enabling."

SSRIs no better than placebo? Not quite

The truth is, no new study claimed that. Rather, that story last week was based on meta-analysis. Regular readers know my feelings about meta-analysis. Worse yet, the meta-analysis included only 23 original studies, which in turn focused on just two antidepressants.

Hardly scientific.

Not so fast on peak oil?

Hmm, maybe we can stretch the timeline of the blood of industrial economies a few more years, or even a few more decades.

The fact that ever-greater percentages of oil reserves appear to be recoverable doesn't mean that we should stop looking at hybrid cars, all-electric cars, etc., of course. They're part of why oil demand in the West might well have peaked.

But, this story misses some issues. First, will Iraq be stable enough to pump 6 million barrels of oil a day? To deliver to other countries all the oil it pumps, minus domestic use, without sabotage?

It also acts as if people like King Hubbert didn't factor in the likelihood of technological advances into Peak Oil predictions. And, by just quoting somebody from CERA, and not anybody on the Peak Oil side, the story came off as somewhat one-sided. And hagiographic.

January 11, 2010

Genes and epigenetics, nature VIA nurture

If you haven't kept up with recent research on heredity, population genetics or anything similar, the new Time has a GREAT story on epigenetics. Look it up and read it. Then throw away any simplistic ideas you have about "genetic inheritance."

If you are familiar with the basic idea of epigenetics, some of the newest findings may still surprise you, such as the rate of influence, the depth of influence, and more. Giraffes' necks aside, maybe Lamarck wasn't so wrong. Certainly, Stan Prusiner looks ever more right on prions, in light of stuff like this.

Obviously, we are nowhere near the end of discovering what epigentic findings mean. But, I think we can put paid to a few of the more outlandishly positivistic ideas of late 20th-century genetics.

Individualized medicines? Not likely to happen, and certainly not any time soon. You'd have to check at least some epigenetic as well as genetic factors. The price for that and an even higher level of individualizing the medications, would seem to pretty much rule that out.

Insurance, insurance, privacy, snooping, pre-existing conditions? All in a new realm now.

Drug testing? Some lawyer will raise an epigenetic argument at some point, whether it's legit or a red herring.

Cyber mini-generation gaps?

This possibility is scary, to me, in so many ways. Sociological disruption. Workforce disruption. More.

Big Mac fesses up to roiding... all's well, right?

So, Mark McGwire has finally confessed to using steroids in his 70-HR 1998, and now all is OK, right?

Well, maybe not.

Yahoo's Tim Brown rips Mark McGwire a new one for a self-serving, not real, apology.

And, I kind of have to agree. The apology came out of nowhere; it nowhere mentioned his influence on kids. It nowhere mentioned details.

And, despite not even giving Tony the pony La Russa an advance heads up, Tony the Red will probably still come up with the nutty idea of pinch-hitting him to reset his HOF clock.

Update: More reactions...

Howard Bryant of ESPN notes not just records or baseball credibility was affected; he says, in essence, show me the money from your roid-driven contracts.

In that line, Jayson Stark says he looked remorseful on Costas' show, but doubts Mac yet gets it, on all the damage he did.

Oh, and Mac's "revelations" are old news at one place: the FBI.

And here's why you shouldn't put too much stock into Mark McGwire's "tearful" appearance in front of Bob Costas.

Nutbar John Cornyn at it again

This time, he's claiming Harry Reid's comment about President Obama is far worse than Trent Lott's about Strom Thurmond.

Ed Meese gets his briefs in a knot over Prop. 8

See how many mistakes he makes in his column. (Like calling attempts to level the playing field an example of judicial bias.)

How the Senate filibuster got screwed up

In cutting the cloture number from 67 to 60, a good thing, the Senate, for compromise or whatever reason, radically redefined the word "filibuster," as detailed here. And, hence, we are at where we are today. But, the next Senate could, as part of start-of-session rules adoption, if nothing else, change that, I think. Why it didn't, this session, I have not a clue.

Robert Reich beats the stimulus drums again

He ties two facts together in his columm, of importance:

1. The Dems will likely not have 60 Senate votes after midterm elections.

2. The jobs issue will likely be relevant for Obama in 2012, not just Congressional Dems this year.

So, get cracking, Mr. Politics of Hope!

Douthat, Brit Hume and cluelessness

Contra Ross Douthat's new column on Brit Hume's comments on Tiger Woods, I never said, myself, that Hume was bigoted. I did think, both then and now, that Hume was clueless in several ways.

First, Tiger was becoming yesterday's news by that point.

Second, it was a simplistic view of Buddhism.

Third, it was open to risibility challenges, on the idea that Christian views of sin and salvation were the only and final answer for Woods' situation.

None of which Douthat addresses.

January 10, 2010

The recession generation

Newsweek has a great, if chilling, special report on what the fallout from the "great recession" might mean in the longer term. I'd agree that it could well mean more cynicism, and, finally, a disillusionment with the myth of upward mobility in American, which, the story notes, simply isn't true, and, compared to a number of "class-laden" European countries, even, hasn't been true for more than 30 years.

And, in some ways, the worst proponents of the myth aren't the captains of industry, or even nutbars within the GOP or on Faux News. Rather, it's the New Agers and the peddlers of the Christian success gospel. Both of them, in various ways, will blame "lack of faith," not "bad luck," when people fail to succeed. Look for a massive guilt trip ahead.