SocraticGadfly: 2/6/11 - 2/13/11

February 12, 2011

A note to Examiner — and HuffPost/AOL — serfs

Examiner serfs (and a heads-up for HuffPost/Aol serfs): Don't you get irritated, apprehensive and anxious to see your parent company advertising all the time for YET MORE WRITERS?
People who would like to use the Internet with less spam: Doesn't the oncoming SEO deluge worry you? What next — "Examiners" from India? The Philippines? Any place where English has reasonable standing as a second language?

And, whether it's being paid on a piecework basis, like Demand does, or paid on a page hit count/visits, like Examiner and others, I still can't see how payment is going to go anywhere but down.

The NYT has a good overview on SEO websites and writing for them here.

As for my claims that we're due for a tech bubble bursting, CNN has a story on how Demand Media was able to raise $151M in an IPO despite losing nearly $10M last year, $22M in 2009, and countless millions in the years before. It's crazy; these companies are overvalued and someday the piper will be paid.

As for me? Yes, I make a few bucks off the Google ads, and a few bucks off click-throughs. Not much, but it could be more if serf-spammers who write about crap, rather than people who write about ideas and issues, weren't so prevalent on the Net.

But, I started this blog before I was offered the chance for click-through money and before I looked at activating AdSense, which I don't think was even available to me then.

Clemens subpoenas Congress

Oh, this is going to be good for plenty a punch line and more.

Roger Clemens
, the clown price of white steroid users, has subpoeanaed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee over alleged stonewalling of documents.

There's irony here 15 ways from Sunday.

We have:
  • Roger the Dodger pretending to have the law-abiding high ground;
  • The committee claiming that it couldn't turn over the requested documents because of legislative vs. judicial branch separation of powers;
  • A guarantee of this itself going before a judge, with yet more posturing by both sides.

Hell, Andy Pettitte could unretire and re-retire from the Yankees half a dozen times before this plays out.

February 11, 2011

Tony La Russa, you're No. 1!

Well, not in managerial genius, perhaps.

But ...

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussais now the longest-tenured major pro sports manager or head coach, with Jerry Sloan's resignation from the Utah Jazz. A month ago, La Russa was No. 3. Then, Jeff Fisher left the Tennessee Titans, and now this.

Let's just hope TLR doesn't expand his cult of personality.

Hamilton, Rangers, come to terms

Two years, $24M for Josh Hamilton? This deal sounds about right for both sides.

For Hamilton, it's a chance to just perform without having to worry about arbitration numbers. For the Rangers, it's a chance to not be concerned if Hamilton stays hot and healthy.

More on Palestine Papers and Israeli & TPM hypocrisy

Truthout notes they spell out not the terms of the peace process but the terms of surrender.

Waving the white flag was Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, speaking for the PA. Dictating the terms of surrender were various Israeli governments, from Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni to Benyamin Netanyahu. And pushing along the process with humiliating prods were American negotiators like Condoleezza Rice and George Mitchell.
Contra semi-Zionists like Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Israelis from both sides of the Israeli bipartisan foreign policy establishment were "dictating," as noted with Kadima leader Lipni listed too.
As Livni said in May 2008 when she asked Palestinian negotiators why they insisted on a maximum of two percentage points of the West Bank to be given to Israel in any settlement, "Why do you insist on 98 percent? Why not 92 percent? ... My question is why you cannot have a state that represents most of your aspirations?"
Marshall claims I "don't understand." No, Josh, after an exchange of e-mails, on Palestinian issues, I now understand you all too well. I know you're not ignorant. Therefore, you're a willing dupe; while I won't (yet) label you a Zionist, you've earned the semi-Zionist tag.

Here's more on the Tzipi Livni whom I allegedly don't understand:
As Livni said in November 2007, when Palestinian negotiators threw up their hands in frustration at the impossibility of dealing with their Israeli counterparts and said they'd just fight for one state, "There is also two states, with one on the other side of the Jordan." Livni also said that Israel was making its fair share of negotiations, in particular reprising the Palestinian "historic compromise" of 1988 in which it recognized Israel. "We did not want to say that there is a 'Palestinian people," she said. Israeli negotiators were clearly willing to cross theretofore uncrossable lines at Annapolis.
And, as I told you, Josh, any "linkage" comments Lipni has made recently are solely in fear of what's happening in Egypt:
Indeed, Israel and the PA still pine for a negotiated outcome, even as they conflict on the particulars of borders, refugees and Jerusalem, but it's probably too late. That's why, as Cairo is awash in tear gas, aflame with Mubarak's Molotov cocktails and teeming with military tanks massing on its streets, Israel is asking its regional allies to tone down criticism of the Mubarak government. And that's why Netanyahu told his ministers, "We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability." He knows that a dictatorial Egypt guarding Israel's southern flank is the best insurance for continuing the occupation or coddling the PA into selling out its people.
And, speaking of selling out, were Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Authority figures ultimately looking for nothing more than a bigger fig leaf for a semi-state? Truthout suggests that, too.

The Truthout story also makes clear that Israel wants to hold onto any settlement that isolates East Jerusalem. And, an East Jerusalem nearly surrounded by a mix of West Jerusalem and Israeli settlements would be no fig leaf at all as a Palestinian capital.

Besides writing nothing about the Palestine papers, Josh hasn't written a huge amount about the Muslim Brotherhood in the current Egypt situation. Coincidence? Probably not.

Will the feds ever try Barry Bonds?

It's a quite legitimate question now, since federal prosecutors have cut from 11 to five,0,3610011.story the number of charges they're holding against alleged roider Barry Bonds

All perjury charges based on the claimed doping calendar of Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, were dropped.

I wonder if the case will ever go to trial now.

Bonds has even more incentive to dig in his heels. The government, at some point, will surely deliberate the possibility of cutting its losses.

Abe Lincoln, proto-socialist

First federal income tax? Check? First "greenback" money? Check. Yep, that's the Honest Abe that Krugman says makes today's GOP cringe.

Hey, Paul, don't forget all the socialist railroad subsidies! I'm waiting for the first GOp wingnut, in the Civil War sesquicentennial, to claim the South was sueceding from "creeping socialism."

Will the feds ever try Barry Bonds?

It's a quite legitimate question now, since federal prosecutors have cut from 11 to five the number of charges they're holding against alleged roider Bonds.

All perjury charges based on the claimed doping calendar of Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, were dropped.

I wonder if the case will ever go to trial now.

Bonds has even more incentive to dig in his heels. The remaining five charges will be harder to prove. The government, at some point, will surely deliberate the possibility of cutting its losses.

Pujols to KC?

Sorry, Jeff Gordon, but I'm not even going to think about Photoshopping Albert Pujols into a Kansas City Royals uniform.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Gordon says, Sure! on the idea Pujols could take a drive west on I-70 in free agency. He says the tightwad Royals can afford him, and that he would make a transformational difference.

No doubt the Royals would be in the hunt in the AL West AND would draw fans, partially financing the move. And, yes, Pujols' American start in life was in the KC area. But, won't happen.

Speaking of, if there is no contract by Feb. 16, how will the Cards and Pujols handle it in the media? Some speculations here.

February 10, 2011

Sierr Club dos what TCEQ won't

It is hugely clear, from a story like this, that he Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has the resources to regulate petrochemical plants but simply refuses to do so. So, Rick perry, you're (once again) simply full of shit when you complain about federal interference, in this case the EPA taking over the permitting process.

Just what does a Muslim democracy entail?

I appreciate that the Muslim Brotherhood claims it represents a third option, neither secular democracy nor authoritarian theocracy.

But, what does that mean? We still don't know in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the Taliban would win elections today; it won acclamations or whatever in the past. We had a brief Muslim democracy in Algeria in the past.

I mean, I'm not Faux News paranoid about the Muslim Brotherhood, or even close to it. But, I'm not buying that it's all sweetness and light, either; there's a PR line that's being told to us.

Let's put it this way: If I said "Christian democracy" I could go one of two ways. Were I in Europe, I'd be thinking Angela Merkel. Were I in the U.S., I'd be thinking Sarah Palin.

While I don't think the Muslim Brotherhood is Sarah Palin, I don't think it's Angela Merkel either. And, it's at least as close to Palin as it is to Merkel, I'm guessing.

Auggie Busch, this Bud's for you!

Looks like August Busch IV, former head of the Anheuser-Busch brewing empire before it was acquired by South Africa's InBev, has a potential new spot of trouble with the law.

As in a GF dead of an "accidental" OD of OxyContin. With coke in her bloodstream, too. At his home. (And, no, contra the story, I don't believe Heath Ledger's OD was accidental, either. No more and no less than deaths from alcohol poisoning are.)

Anyway, note the "new." Another GF of his died in the early 1980s in a car crash, in a vehicle Busch IV drove.

Add in the fact that, last year, Busch went into rehab for depression and unspecified other issues.

Of course people are interested!

This is St. Louis royalty, in essence. Other than McDonnell family, Ralston-Purina heirs or Stan Musial, nobody else is in the same camp.

Cards pitching looks good going into spring training

Per one St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals staff, Adam Wainwright, is not worried about his elbow. I really wasn't, either, but it's good to hear. And Jake Westbrook is ready to start throwing off a mound.

Speaking of elbows, a P-D roundtable expects Jaime Garcia to avoid any sophomore slump this year.

Now, if Kyle Lohse can find something in the tank, although I'm certainly not holding my breath there, we've got a great rotation. Or, good trade bait on either Lohse or Westbrook.

(No news is good news on the Chris Carpenter front, I figure.)

More seriously, do you trade any starters? With Lohse and Carpenter, especially, there's financial issues for the team. I'm not just talking Albert Pujols; I'm also talking the cost of signing Wainwright to a contract that will befit his pitching status. There's also the question, related, of whether the team picks up Carp's option for next year. Unless he's lights-out, I'd say no; either earlier or later, the team makes a two-, maybe three-year offer, unless this year's team falls apart; then Carpenter becomes trade bait.

Or, it could work the other way around; anybody expect Wainwright or Garcia could become available if the Cards are doing well, but are wanting a middle infield boost at midseason.

February 09, 2011

Jim Webb not seeking re-election; why not?

He doesn't say why, at least not in this story, but it doesn't really surprise me. And, yeah, I'd agree that Tim Kaine is the likely Dem frontrunner — if he's interested. He may well not be.

I suspect that, although he doesn't expressly identify as a Blue Dog, the former Republican has some social issues with Obama, and, at the same time, he may have some civil libertarian issues with him, too. After all, that was a part of his 2006 campaign.

The latest craptacular MRI hype

No, it's not MRIs as lie detectors. If anything, it's even more "out there" than that.

An MRI can supposedly predict your success at quitting smoking. Hmm, if this extrapolates to alcohol and drug addiction, it opens many cans of worms. Do we target treatment dollars and efforts at the more likely to succeed? Does this become a criminal defense option? And, of course, just how accurate is this? That said, it's a typical small-scale research designed for a big news splash. Just 28 people? I think reputable science mags should refuse to publish such small studies.

New life for the old EEG?

A couple of Toronto doctors say yes, that they can make it worth more than fMRIs, PET scans, etc.

Two Toronto doctors are claiming to have written software to generate real-time 3D brain images from the venerable EEG. Let's stay tuned!
One significant advantage of the Doidge/Mocanu invention – dubbed dynamic electrical cortical imaging (DECI) – is speed. Other imaging technologies snap pictures of the brain once every few seconds. DECI takes visual impressions less than 1/1,000 of a second apart – in virtual real-time.
If this bears up, maybe neuroscience moves out of the Neolithic, or Early Bronze Age, or whatever.

That said, Dr. Mark Doidge is, as the story notes, brother to writer and psychiatrist Norman Doidge, author of the bestselling "The Brain That Changes Itself." I'm not saying that that gives his research an edge, but it may.

On the other hand, I find it hard to believe this will add much to neuroscience. And, why can't similar software improve CTs or PET scans? And, given that the biggest complaint on Amazon about Norman Doidge's book is that he fills pages with sales and marketing "pushes" of often costly programs and treatments that will allegedly boost brain plasticity, we might want to be skeptical about the Toronto doctors' findings for other reasons. Can anyone give me an "Amen," as in Dr. Daniel Amen, and his overblown claims about single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)?

Neuroscience roundup - brains, guts, meds

Antipsychotic drugs could be shrinking brains. A large study seems to offer a fair degree of confirmation. I think, among other things, we should look more carefully at off-label use of these drugs. Smaller brains may not be bad, but ...

Meanwhile, about 50 percent of people prescribed antidepressants are off-label users. It's stuff like this that leads to "Big Pharma" cries.

You not only have a "second brain" in your gut, but your intestinal microbes may influence both that and the actual brain, through effects on neurotransmitters. Woo-ers running wild with this aside, how could this affect antibiotics prescriptions? What is antibiotic resistance going to do to this?

Academia — hotbed of liberal bias? Or conservative isolation?

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says yes, and, if Michael Shermer is Twittering about this — AND getting info wrong ... the 6-1 ratio is among general faculty, not social scientists! with Shermer thereby bringing his rush-job Tweeting into question — it's going to spread to Palinista land by tomorrow afternoon.

The reality? Probably a bit different.

First, upon what in-depth research did he make this observation?
He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal.
Let's now enumerate all that's wrong with this.

First, political labels are notoriously imprecise among the American populace. Among the 40 percent that label themselves conservatives, many favor more moderate political positions. Prime example: Tea Party grandmas and grandpas telling the government to keep its hands off their Medicare.

Second, short of a position-by-position poll, both among the general public and among academia, there's no telling how you can label people's positions consistently.

Related to that is this:
The politics of the professoriate has been studied by the economists Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein and the sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. They’ve independently found that Democrats typically outnumber Republicans at elite universities by at least six to one among the general faculty, and by higher ratios in the humanities and social sciences.
Is "liberal" 100 percent correlative to "Democrat" and "conservative" to "Republican"? Assuming they're not, how close is the relationship? Do we even know? Are people using a party label for a political stance label?

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there is a high degree of correlation and that Haidt's observations reflect that, let's ask why this ratio exists.

In a sentence? Christian fundamentalism and evolution. In other words, many Christians are not going to go to mainstream universities, especially top-tier ones, in the hard sciences. (Remember, Shermer, the 6:1 ratio was for general faculty, not just social sciences.)

In a second sentence? Alternative takes on the social sciences.

Especially for fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, the mainstream psychological take on things from gay marriage to what is appropriate child discipline are going to keep conservative Xns away from those disciplines at mainstream universities, too.

In a third sentence? It's the political wars.

With the Federalist Society, the best entree is a JD at a non-mainstream school, like Regent University's law school. Places like that are starting their own political science and public policy graduate schools in more numbers, too, for similar reasons

If Haidt went to private colleges, what would he find there?

As I Tweeted Shermer:
What if Haidt went to Xn colleges? Would you be shocked/offended at 6:1 conservative ratio?
I wouldn't be shocked, myself. And I'm not shocked.

I am a bit shocked, though honestly, not at all surprised, at the cheapness of Micheal Shermer's thought.

As for Haidt, I'll bet I know dollars to donuts there's evangelical Christian parallel psychological and sociological organizations. Why don't you go there, and ask for some handraising? Then, go to the universities most represented there and check faculty ratios?

For that matter, why don't YOU do that, Shermer?

US should make like Germany on jobs

Germany pays employees of companies that cut workers to part-time rather than lay them off, making up about 60 percent of the different in salary.

That would be even better than layoffs and extended unemployment benefits. Workers would "stay employed" on their resumes, in their mindsets and psychologies, companies wouldn't have to train new hires when the economy bounces back, transitions would be smoother and everybody would be less stressed.

Rick Perry accuses media of telling the truth

In his annual State of the State address, Tricky Ricky said (among other things):
"As this session gets rolling, some folks are painting a pretty grim picture of our situation, so we need to balance their pessimism with the good news that continues to flow from our comparatively strong economy,” Perry said. ... In his speech, Perry called such criticism by interest groups and the media an effort “to convince us that we’re facing a budget Armageddon. Texans don’t believe it, and they shouldn’t because it’s not true.”
The truth, from a "doomsdayer":
“The governor may live in a political fantasy world, but the people he was elected to represent are facing the hard realities of closed schools, educator pink slips and a future work force that will be less prepared to fuel Texas’ economy,” said Texas State Teachers Association president Rita Haecker.
Which Perry just can't accept.

The reality? This has been a LONG time coming:
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said the speech showed Perry is out of touch with the crisis facing the state.
“Schools are closing, teachers are losing their jobs and state support for public education, already among the lowest in the entire nation, is facing dramatic cuts,” she said.
Davis also noted that Texas has a bigger share of its workforce holding down minimum wage jobs than any other state. It scrapes bottom in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas, and only one in five returning military veterans can find a job, she said.

is Toyota officially the new Audi?

A government report seems to make it official, in that Toyota sudden acceleration problems are NOT due to vehicle electronics.

Now, the floormat issue that Toyota dealt with earlier? I think that was a legitimate problem. Many people, and not just on the Toyotas in question, have had problems with unanchored driver's floormats.

But, surely, that wasn't all the problem. Nor was the accelerator pedal.

Instead, as with Audi, in all likelihood, we had a meme, if you will. (I don't believe in memes in a "robust" sense, but it's a handy talking point.) And, with a much more Net-wired America than when Audi had its problems, plus social networks, social media, etc., Toyota had more of a PR issue on its hands.

It did in another way. Toyota had a quality reputation that could face damage; knowledgeable consumers didn't rank Audi of 20 years ago that high on quality in the first place.

That said, in the aftermath, Toyota still has a customer relations issue of some degree. Let's see how it handles it.

Quo vadis Pujols?

It would be sad to see this sight. Will we?
First, as Yahoo's Scott Brown notes, despite the silence on both sides, it seems Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals are nowhere near a deal. And, as Steve Henson notes ,that's got other Cards wheeling and dealing possibilities, like for Michael Young, on hold.

Brown, per my poll on these pages, lists possible teams to whom Prince Albert could go. Commenters here rank "another team" first. I'm guessing most of that vote is for the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs are a strong No. 2. The Mets' worries about the Madoff suit I think have to take them out of the running. The Rangers, maybe, could jump in. But, I'm still doubtful right now.

And, while everybody claims the Yankees and Red Sox, even, would jump in, I'm not so sure. That would push the Yankees to $250M a year PLUS having to dump Mark Texeira while eating a fair chunk of his contract. If Pujols agreed to a sign-and-trade as part of that, it could happen, but even then, not likely. And, assuming I'm right on the Yankees, I don't see the Red Sox getting in the fray either.

So, other than eliminating the Mets from consideration, which I think you voters have done (if you're picking me up on RSS, stop by and vote on my polls!), I'm not changing the list of "likely teams."

Oh, and if my Photoshopping of Prince Albert at bat, in baby blue pinstripes at the Friendly Confines isn't enough, Fox Sports has put mugshots of him in the unis of all the top signing contenders.

Michael Young to the Cards?

Sure, I'm interested.

Michael Young says he won't waive his eight-team restriction on trades.;_ylt=AtVeo96m2UeyMzYk3OW7IUY5nYcB?slug=ti-youngrangersfollow020711 The Cards are among those eight teams. Would they entertain getting him to move to 2B and then making Skip Schumaker part of what's traded back? But, as Steve Henson notes , even if the Rangers eat part of Young's contract, the Cards may be reluctant to do such a trade until they determine they can't sign Albert Pujols

Ken Rosenthal has more on where Young-Rangers issues stand.

Michael Young to the Cards? At what price? Schumaker?

Sure, I'm interested.

Michael Young says he won't waive his eight-team restriction on trades. But the Cards are among those eight teams. Would they entertain getting him to move to 2B and then making Skip Schumaker part of what's traded back? But, as Steve Henson notes, even if the Rangers eat part of Young's contract, the Cards may be reluctant to do such a trade until they determine they can't sign Albert Pujols.

And, if Pujols is gone, Young could move to !B instead of Lance Berkman.

Ken Rosenthal has more on where Young-Rangers issues stand.

Anyway, I think Skip can still be an above-average, if not necessarily great, defensive outfielder. He'd fit well with the Rangers. Could be a win-win, if this deal came off.

Now, who else the stRangers might want, or the Cards might need to include, I'm not sure. Actually, if Texas thinks Berkman at $8M for one year is worth more than the not-resigned Vladimir Guerrero at the same price now in Baltimore, Fat Elvis plus Skip for Young might be doable.

February 07, 2011

Young wants out of Texas

Rangers star player Michael Young has decided he does NOT want to be a DH/utility infielder type.

First, he'll have to waive trade vetos, since his contract restricts the Rangers to trading him to just eight teams. Second, the Rangers will probably have to eat $15M or so, at a minimum, of the $48M he's due the next 3 years. Third, the Rangers will still have to accept niblets, and Young will have to deal with that humiliation, unless both sides agree to wait a bit and not push a trade right now.

Given the glut of good 1B people, and the fact that his range isn't fantastic anymore, either, he's probably going to have to move to 2B. I don't see SS or 3B except for a team really lacking there.

That said, a team like the Rockies would fit the bill. How much will they give back for him? And, given what he's likely to draw, if you're the Rangers, what do you look for in return? AAA-level pitching prospects, maybe?

Besides the Rockies, let's assume you don't trade him in the division, and you don't trade him to other AL-likely playoff teams. Cleveland and KC aren't ponying up, and Baltimore and Toronto are unlikely.

So, if not the Rockies, it's another NL team. I've got a couple of crazy ideas on my head ...

Tzipi Livni, full of PR smoke

Oh, NOOOOOWWWWW Kadima's leader and Israel's former foreign minister is wanting to do more, including "linkage," to a genuine two-state solution in the Middle East.

Rather than kicking Mahmoud Abbas in the nuts like she did a year ago, per Al Jazeera's Palestine papers.

What this is is the "fear of Egypt's future" fallout starting to hit Israel.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is on full bipartisan foreign policy establishment suck-up mode on this one, saying she's been saying the same thing in public for years.

He still said that, with a straight face, AFTER I e-mailed him links and comments from two Guardian stories based on the Palestine papers.

From one of the Guardian stories:
In an emotional – and apparently humiliating – outburst to Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in Washington in October 2009, the senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat complained that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership wasn't even being offered a "figleaf". ...

(W)hen Palestinian leaders balked at the prospect of an entirely demilitarised state, Livni made clear where the negotiating power lay. In May 2008, Erekat asked (Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister): "Short of your jet fighters in my sky and your army on my territory, can I choose where I secure external defence?"

"No," Livni replied. "In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you choose not to have the right of choice afterwards."
And more ...

Here’s Lipni, again from the Guardian, favoring “transfer:”
In several areas, (then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) pressed for Israeli Arab citizens to be moved into a Palestinian state in a land-swap deal, raising the spectre of "transfer" - in other words, moving Palestinians from one state to another without consent. The issue is controversial in Israel and backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists such as the Yisrael Beiteinu party of the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
Seems pretty clear, Josh, if you want to open your eyes.

That said, Josh is, if not a Zionist, highly uncritical of Israel's current bipartisan foreign policy establishment. Also, he seems to have little love last for Al Jazeera. He's not given it and its coverage Mention No. 1 during the current Egypt crisis. And, on further reflection, I don't think he did a single blog post about the Palestine papers. For lack of a better word or phrase, I'm creating the new tag of "semi-Zionism."

Obama the Big Biz and general sellout

On the Big Biz sellout side ... Obama "can't" cut the Export-Import bank, can't cut other Big Biz subsidies, but, Mr. Community Organizer CAN AND WILL cut community development block grants!
According to Budget Director (Jzcob) Lew, “community service block grants have helped to support community action organizations in cities and towns across the country. These are grassroots groups working in poor communities, dedicated to empowering those living there and helping them with some of life’s basic necessities. These are the kinds of programs that President Obama worked with when he was a community organizer, so this cut is not easy for him.”

What a lie. Cutting grants to grassroots groups assisting the poor is an easy move for the President. The tough and principled move would be to say that cuts to the poor in the current economic environment are off the table, particularly given how small the savings are in actual dollars.

President Obama has not made a single tough decision to help the poor since taking office. He is the ultimate hypocrite when it comes to the contrast between his words about community empowerment and his actions.
I'm sure that Obamiacs will continue to rush to defend him, though.

Meanwhile, not onlhy does Big Biz not take a cut, Obama continues to woo it. As he does the mainstream media inside the D.C. Village.

Let the selling out continue.

AOL buying HuffPost for $315M — ugh

Really? For $315 million?

Ugh in many ways. Among them:
1. This is surely another case of overvaluing a social media-type company. (I'm convinced we're due for Net Bubble 2.0 to crash in about 4-5 years.)
2. AOL + The Greek Goddess? Isn't this going to be like the wedding of a craptacular failure with a still-to-be-realized craptacular failure?

The story says the money was really just a "finder's fee," if you will, to get Arianna Huffington's alleged genius to AOL.

Well, she's about as overvalued, IMO, as is HuffPost.

Beyond value issues, I dread the idea of a B-grade Oprah now having AOL as a vehicle to "brand" herself.

And, this all said, will the bloggers which produce much of HuffPost's comment for free now want to get paid for their work, if the company is worth $315 million?

Eventually, as more and more people realize that the fragmented Internet doesn't guarantee you 15 minutes of fame any more, the novelty of writing online for the hell of it will wear off for at least some.

Per Business Insider, this move is part of a larger AOL master plan. And, that master plan sounds like it involves even more use of Examiner-type writing serfs, probably more efforts to crack/bollix up Google/Bing/Yahoo search rankings, likely some AOL search engine effort and more.

An example from "The AOL Way":
  • AOL tells its editors to decide what topics to cover based on four considerations: traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turn-around time.
  • AOL asks its editors to decide whether to produce content based on "the profitability consideration."he documents reveal that AOL is, when the story calls for it, willing to boost traffic by 5 to 10% with search ads and other "paid media."
  • AOL site leaders are expected to have eight ideas for packages that could generate at least $1 million in revenue on hand at all times.
  • In-house AOL staffers are expected to write five to 10 stories per day.
  • AOL knows its sites are too dependent on traffic from, and it wants its editors to fix the problem by posting more frequently, with more emphasis on getting pageviews.

Some of the topics on that "AOL Way" document make clear it wants to go down some sort of Examiner-type route. So, no, free bloggers at HuffPost, you will NOT get a cut of Arianna's $315 million. That said, it's called WordPress or Blogger. Start your own blog and sign up for Google AdSense. A buck, while working for yourself, isn't that better than zero while working for an ugly corporation?

Salon's Scott Rosenberg has more on this, based on the participants' backgrounds:
Maybe Huffington and Armstrong will prove a great team: The queen of low-cost SEO-driven content paired with the guy who built the Google ad machine that made SEO-driven content pay.
But he goes on to express his doubts:

Fitting in with that? People who think The Greek Goddess is "progressive" (and she really isn't), should note carefully that politics, especially opinion/commentary, will NOT be a big feature with the merger.

Salon spells out the options:
People think of Huffington Post as the leading popular liberal-Democratic news site. Huffington is now at least suggesting that the progressive point of view isn't a part of what she'll be pursuing at AOL. "Ms. Huffington said her politics would have no bearing on how she ran the new business," says the New York Times story. Really? This strikes me as strange, disingenuous, and about as credible as Roger Ailes claiming that Fox is not a partisan-driven institution.

One possibility is, Huffington is just saying what the corporate script requires and actually the plan is to position AOL as a sort of Democratic alternative to Fox News/Drudge -- which I think would be a really interesting move. I have to assume Arianna has big TV ambitions. ...

The other, more likely possibility is that this whole thing is about the money, the investors needed to cash out, HuffPo's numbers weren't looking good enough for an IPO, and Huffington is basically improvising. She'll spend a couple years at AOL and then move on. This means that, in 2011, Huffington Post will be playing the same role in relation to AOL that AOL played in relation to Time Warner back in 2000.
So, you serfs who've been writing for free on that issue, you've got yet more reason to quit.

A friend of mine pointed out that AOL's Armstrong has been doing this for a year, already. What he gets from HuffPost? The stable of Examiner/Demand Media serfs he didn't have before. Only thing is, the pay, if any, will be Examinder-style and based solely on blog post hits — no advance money.

So, congrats, HuffPost serfs — you just got sold like cattle. At least it's likely you'll be primarily SEO-gaming entertainment news and consumer tech, and what's left of allegedly political commentary at HuffPost will fade further away.

Dan Lyons also doesn't like it, and compares the HuffPost serfs to Ben-Hur's galley slave compadres.

But, it may not be just blog posts.

One other thing, that will make this even more craptactular? With Memeorandum, etc., now aggregating Tweets, not just blog posts ... I think you can follow all the ways in which that could go. And why stop at Twitter? If Ted Armstrong is really going to go balls to the wall, he's either going to:
1. Work with Facebook;
2. Try to "crack" FB in some way;
3. Work with MySpace;
4. Buy MySpace from Murdoch.

Oh, another question about the HuffPost-AOL merger — will this new conglomerate spam CareerBuilder and Monster with as many help wanted ads as does Examiner?

And, finally, a rhetorical question to people like David Dayen at FDL who touts HuffPost's progressive bona fides — how does a company with a business model like that (not to mention its repeated plagiarism) qualify as "progressive"? In a neolib world, where holding the right positions on one or two social issues qualifies, maybe so.

February 06, 2011

Mickey Mantle, JFK and recent book reviews

Here's sneak peeks at some recent Amazon reviews.

First, Mickey Mantle:
"The Last Boy" is a borderline 4/5 star book in my estimation, and, could easily be bumped downward, were it not for all the 1- and 2-star reviews who can't seem to think of Mantle as anything short of God. I was going to 5-star it, but then moved back to 4 ...

Specifically, the one major new thing in this bio -- Mantle's childhood sexual abuse suffering -- is exactly what they most object to, and what I find one of the strengths of the book. That said, because Leavy chooses NOT to write a more traditional, fully chronological biography, we don't get this information until near the end of the book. Too close to the end, in my opinion; Leavy, without a chronological style, could still have introduced it near the start of Mantle's post-playing life, rather than when the book is 90 percent done. And then, she could have built on it more, more thoroughly interweaving it with his womanizing and his alcoholism.

Speaking of, that's her major sociological error. AA is NOT the only way to get support to quit drinking, and I hope that Ms. Leavy doesn't perpetuate that myth in another book about a hero with feet of clay. There are plenty of "secular" sobriety support groups out there. I suspect that AA influenced how Leavy viewed the sober Mantle in general.

On to environmental issues:
I've often thought of the tragedy of Marc Reisner dying fairly young. I have no doubt he would have written a third edition of Cadillac Desert, had he lived long enough to have the hard science on global warming issues that we're getting today.

Well, short of that, we have James Powell writing "Dead Pool," a worthy successor to both that and Donald Worster's "Rivers of Empire."

Finally, refuting JFK assassination conspiracy theories:
First, "The Kennedy Detail" doesn't claim to be a "tell-all."Nor does it claim to be historical in the sense of an exhaustive investigation.

That said, NOTHING, not even a voice from Sinai with two tablets in hand, will satisfy conspiracy theorist. And, Jerry Blaine, in discussing how the rise of the Camelot myth/story is part of what drives many conspiracy theorists - simply being unable to believe a lone gunman could topple Camelot - knows this.

What this book does give you is the most thorough, and most honest, in-depth discussion of the JFK assassination from multiple members of the Presidential Detail.

Jerry Blaine never specifically says he had this book put in the third-person to avoid putting too much spotlight on himself, but that may be part of why.

The "star" of the book is Clint Hill, talking in print in detail for the first time since the assassination. Hill, wracked for years by guilt at a high level even among the Secret Service, had been the chief agent for Jackie Kennedy, and the agent seen leaping, but just too late to save Jack, on the back of the presidential limousine.

Tom Freidman, flat-Twitter asshat

Teapot Tommy Friedman, Mr. Earth is Flat, in talking about Twitter, Egypt and related issues, is even dumber, more uninformed, and more American-exceptionalist chauvinistic than usual, and that's hard to imagine!

Here's the nut graf on his stupidity:
The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.
Just one problem. There IS no "diffusion of Twitter." The reality of Iran's failed Green Revolution showed that, as did the reality of Egypt's protests becoming stronger after President Mubarak shut down the country's ISPs.

Fortunately, Friedman's colleague, Frank Rich, knows the truth.
The talking-head invocations of Twitter and Facebook instead take the form of implicit, simplistic Western chauvinism. How fabulous that two great American digital innovations can rescue the downtrodden, unwashed masses. That is indeed impressive if no one points out that, even in the case of the young and relatively wired populace of Egypt, of those masses have Internet access.
Rich also implies that American teevee, as opposed to the effectively banned-from-America Al Jazeera, relies on foreign Tweeters out of collective corporate laziness:
That we often don’t know as much about the people in these countries as we do about their Tweets is a testament to the cutbacks in foreign coverage at many news organizations — and perhaps also to our own desire to escape a war zone that has for so long sapped American energy, resources and patience.
He's not the only person writing for the NYT to know the truth about Twitter, too.

Lee Siegel immediately notes one issue:
Just a few years ago, all anyone could talk about was how to make the Internet more free. Now all anyone can talk about is how to control it.
it's a good start to his review of Evgeny Morozov's “The Net Delusion.”

He shows how American naivete and chauvinism have mixed to worship at the altar of Twitter:
He quotes the political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who proclaimed after protesters took to the streets in Tehran that “the revolution will be Twittered.” The revolution never happened, and the futilely tweeting protesters were broken with an iron hand. But Sullivan was hardly the only one to ignore the Iranian context. Clay Shirky, the media’s favorite quotable expert on all things Internet-related, effused: “This is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.”
The more I read out of Shirky's mouth, the less and less intellectual capacity I will give him credit. It's like he is a fellator of anything called "New Media." But, that's pretty much the case with his whole tribe of Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen types.

Texas, not-so-Super weather, Rick Perry — a $10M clusterfuck?

Yes, the weather is improving now. But, as the story wonders, could the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and Texas as a state, done better?

Short answer? Yes. If nothing else, Texas Gov. Rick Perry should have hired private contractors, including his Trans-Texas Corridor best buds, Zachry Construction, to plow roads. He, Dallas and Tarrant County, and the NFL should all have gotten together to use salt, not just sand, if it were deemed to have made a difference.

If the Super Bowl only brings in $70 million instead of $80 million to the local economy, all the people above will come off as hugely penny-wise and pound-foolish. And, no, those numbers aren't lies. Per this non-hype, non-inflated estimate, the typical Super Bowl generates about that much money.

I doubt the snow and ice cancellations of parties, etc., cost more than that. Nonetheless, $10 million is $10 million.

And Rick Perry, financial genius, along with Jethro Jerry Jones, con artist deluxe, contributed to this.

Since most of the sales tax in Texas goes to the state, not countis or cities, Tricky Ricky may have cost the state a chunk of money. And, that's not all.

Also taking hits:
1. Texas' "can do" reputation Tricky Ricky has pushed.
2. The efficiency of hyperlean governmnet.

Reagan centennial — MSM myth vs. reality

Here's some samplings of the AP's myth-reproducing :
(Many Reagan stories) illustrate what his fans and defenders might call typical Reagan, the mix of determination and optimism that led him to Hollywood, California’s governor’s mansion and the White House, ultimately making him an icon for conservatives.

The region where Reagan grew up — defined by the towns where his salesman father, Jack Reagan, could land a job — gave him a sense of what Reagan biographer Lou Cannon calls rootedness, while his mother, Nelle Reagan, saw to it that he viewed his glass as at least half full.

“Even the experience that was the most searing in his boyhood, which was his father’s drinking, it was almost relentlessly positive what she was saying to him,” said Cannon, who has written five books on Reagan and covered him as White House correspondent for the Washington Post. “‘It’s a sickness, don’t blame your father.’”

The reality? It's in this book, The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America by William Kleinknecht.

From my review:
Since a lot of conservatives like to claim Reagan did so much to help small towns' Main Street, and since Reagan himself pitched myths about that, Kleinknecht starts the book off with a brilliant conceit.

He actually visits Reagan's small-town birthplace of Dixon, Ill., and talks to people there about how it has changed since 1980. That includes people who say they'll only talk to him if not asked to comment negatively on Reagan - which is, itself, an indirect negative comment on Reagan!

Kleinknecht then supplements that with data from the Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, etc., showing just what Reagan did do to, and NOT "for," Dixon and by extension, other small towns.