February 19, 2011

We're No. 31!

Among 33 "advanced" nations, as noted by the International Monetary Fund, we're ahead of only tiny Singapore and Hong Kong on the Gini inequality coefficient. We're in the middle of the pack on level of democracy.

And, in this land of theoretical abundance, we're tied for the bottom on lack of food security. We incarcerate more than twice as high a percentage of people as France.

Charles Blow's column is short but sweet, and provocatively titled: "Empire at the End of Decadence."

Don't fret over Watson too much?

Wired reminds us that Ken Jennings' human brain used as much energy as a 12-watt light bulb on Jeopardy, while Watson needed special cooling equipment, and that the Deep Blue computer that beat Gary Kasparov at chess was a fire hazard.

And, does Watson have "metaknowledge"? Can it recognize that it can't quite remember something but knows that it's on the tip of its cybertongue? Does it have the emotional power of "knowing"?

Not yet. Watson's interesting. Is it intelligent? No.

Emotions, especially when understood as value judgments, are part of the package of intelligence.

So, while Watson may have been hot under the cybercollar from the heat of his circuits, he never really was sweating, so to speak, because he couldn't.

US Middle East hypocrisy alert

Really? Calling illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank "illegal" will jeopardize a peace process that the U.S., by refusing to stand up to Israeli intransigence, has silently wrecked for years? Please. Better excuses, less transparent lies.

As the story notes, Israel claims the West Bank allegedly belonged to "nobody" in the 1948-67 period, and therefore isn't currently "occupied."

The lies really aren't unexpected ... since the bipartisan foreign policy establishment simply can't tell the truth on Israel-Palestine issues to save its reputation. (And it may be a matter of life, or closer to it, in the future.)

As for the promises? We've seen just how well the U.S. keeps its promises in the Middle East.

Elba Garcia, your Dallas Hispanic Congresswoman?

Texas will get FOUR new Congressional seats. And, because almost all the population growth in Texas in the past decade was Hispanic, not all those four seats are going to be nice white Republicans.
In the district held by the top Texas Republican fundraiser and organizer in Congress — U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, (there's been a lot of ethnic change). In 2000, the district was 50.1 percent white. Now it's a majority minority district, with more than 42 percent of them Hispanic and 9 percent black.

"The Republicans do have to react," said Cal Jillson, political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "I think they will first look at that Pete Sessions district and move him a little bit north, and take some Anglos out of ... the adjoining districts to make him safe." ...

The racial breakdown suggests that a Hispanic-dominated seat in north Texas could help shore up districts held by Republican incumbents such as Sessions because the minorities could be taken out of the Republican's district and put into a new one. U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, also from the Dallas suburbs, had a district that was 64 percent white but has now dropped to 47 percent white, figures show.

North Texas Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess also saw significant declines in white voters and large increases in Hispanic clout. State Sen. Kel Seliger, chairman of the Senate redistricting panel, told The Associated Press that it "looks like there's going to be a new congressional seat in North Texas. Because civil rights laws generally mandate the protection of minority voting interests Seliger said it's possible that the seat would be a "minority or Hispanic influence district."
That said, neither the Democratic Party in general nor Hispanic Democrats in general should start counting their eggs.

First, as the story notes, Hispanics have a generally younger population and are less likely to be eligible to vote. Second, as the story notes, two strongly Hispanic Congressional seats shifted GOP in November. And, in the state legislature, we've seen some party-switching out of the likes of State Rep. Aaron Peña and other "tacos" or whatever "oreo" takeoff you prefer. Third, not all those Hispanics are here legally. (That said, ardent hardliner anti-immigration activists in Texas and Arizona aren't about to "return" Congressional district gains that came from counting illegals.)

State Democrats in general, and Hispanic ones in particular, need to get out the vote and find leaders of all ethnicities to reinvigorate the party. No more Chris Bells and John Sharps from Anglos. No more rich but apathetic Tony Sanchezes from Hispanics. And, blacks willing to run for Congressional seats at all, especially black men.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is expected to get one, if not two, counting exurban areas, of the two new Congressional seats Texas picks up from redistricting after the 2010 Census.

It’s very possible to make a Hispanic-friendly, if not Hispanic-safe, district out of that.

Include much of his west Dallas state House district, and pieces of east central Dallas near downtown. Go into Southwest Dallas and perhaps the suburb of Duncanville, the most Hispanic of the south Dallas suburbs. Include most of Grand Prairie and all of south Irving. Find any other bits and pieces necessary to get to the population total for the district and there you go.

In 2009, a a D Mag story notes Anchia has been rumored to have an eye on Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat.

And, the last page notes that not all Dallas Hispanics consider him a “Hispanic’s Hispanic.”

But since then, not a peep about his future

On the other hand, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia has to carry the stuffed to the gills baggage of her husband, state Rep. Domingo Garcia. But, that didn't stop her from getting elected to the Dallas County Commissioners Court. And, her commission precinct overlaps much of Marchant's current congressional district.

On the flip side to that, she, albeit at the local level, has probably actually gotten a better record of accomplishments than Anchia.

Pujols, $35M and Cubs — call it a deal?

Why would Albert Pujols go to Chicago? And, how can the Cubbies land him?

Michael Wilbon says start with the financials.

Maybe Prince Albert would take "just" eight years on a contract if you paid him $35M a year. I'll bet $33M, if you want to start a tad lower, might do it. 8/$260 would be $32.5 per year.

He says the Cubs can easily go that high:
And the Cubs, not coincidentally, are poised to get out from under contractual obligations to Kosuke Fukodome, Carlos Silva, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, which would amount to more than $45 million. Pena, the ex-Ray, signed a $10 million free-agent deal to play first base this season; but conveniently enough, his contract is for 2011 only.
He adds that Wrigley has fallen to "only" 92 percent capacity in the last couple of years. Add up 250K fans spending, if only $20 a person, and a full Wrigley recoups back $5M of the spending on Pujols.

As for why Pujols would leave St. Louis, Wilbon has it right. The lowball offer is a measuring stick, a cojones-size issue.
(I)f the Cardinals insist on offering something closer to $21 million a year than $30 million, chances are they've got no realistic shot at keeping Pujols, who isn't about to take less money than fellow first basemen Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera. If that continues to be the Cardinals' negotiating tack, they might as well wave goodbye even before the five-day exclusive negotiating period starts this fall.
As for why he'd go to Chicago? Wilbon mentions, for lack of a better word,the "savior" factor. If the Cubbies win the World Series, even once, Albert Pujols is the god of Waveland Avenue.

Wilbon also adds the stats angle — the Friendly Confines didn't get its name from pitchers.

I'll add in one thing he doesn't — the revenge factor. L.A. and San Francisco don't offer that to the same degree in the regular season. The Yankees, Red Sox or Angels could only offer that in a postseason matchup. And, frankly, that's the angle that scares me.

Two other ESPN staffers argue the wisdom of signing him on a pro-con page. Jon Greenberg does have the best counterpoint to Wilbon —if Pujols isn't the "savior," the fans never totally embrace him.

February 18, 2011

A wet climate change smoking gun

Or, at least close to it.

A study just printed in Nature has some fairly strong linkage between anthropogenic climate change and specific severe precipitation events.

Eventually, enough of these studies will push insurers and re-insurers, even in the U.S., to raise rates more and more — maybe enough for both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the denialist Republican Party to be forced into some sort of action.

Good news/bad news in Four Corners

Good news? The Navajo Tribe preliminarily keeps 1,000 jobs for what is about as close as you can get to a Third World country in the United States.

Bad news? It does that by extending for 30 years the lifespan of the single largest nitrogen oxides emitter in the United States — the Four Corners Power Plant.

The good news? The lease was upped from $1.5M a year to $7M a year.

The bad news? Nothing in the contract about improved scrubbers or other environmental actions.

Now, the tribe has its own EPA, and says that any changes in federal standards on either NOx or SO2 will be incorporated into its standards. But, with Team Obama making nice to big business, is there any guarantee the U.S. EPA will keep its bureaucratic nose to the grindstone? Stay tuned.

'New normal' on Colorado Plateau starts having results

As most environmentalists know, the "drought" in the Colorado River watershed is really closer to the basin's long-term normal. Now, the lack of water in the overappropriated, overdammed river is starting to have fallout.

Boulder City, Nev.,and other smaller communities south of Vegas are finding hydropower from Hoover Dam is harder to come by. At the same time, they're finding that their current supplemental supplier is too expensive.

Of course, the real story is the explosive growth of Boulder City, Laughlin and other cities that are in the middle of a freaking desert! The city's use of dam power has dropped from 80 percent to 50 percent in the last 15 years.

And so, you white folks retirees slumming at small-town casino cities are getting hoist by your own capitalist petard.

Once again, I quote Ed Abbey: "The desert always wins."

Retire in Mississippi, where there's water, and hit one of the oceanfront floating casinos if you have to. (And, get more schadenfreude from more Class 4-5 hurricanes, maybe.)

Schweiter is really, really anti-enviro

A day after blocking hungry bison from leaving Yellowstone National Park, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer promoted to ranchers that they should shoot wolves on sight, even where and when not allowed:
Livestock owners in southern Montana and Idaho have authority to defend their property by shooting wolves that attack their cattle, sheep or other domestic animals. And federal agents regularly kill problem wolves, with more than 1,000 shot over the past decade.

But Schweitzer is moving to expand those killings beyond what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has so far allowed, including to parts of Montana where ranchers are not allowed to shoot the predators.
And this was the type of Democrat that Kos, Markos Moulitsas was promoting a couple of years ago, and probably still is.


Time for somebody like the Center for Biological Diversity to haul Schweitzer's ass into court.

The heck with Watson and jobs — here comes iPad!

Long before the Jeopardy! carpet-munching, scene-stealing computer takes over customer service jobs, the iPad may take over plenty of others.

One casual sit-down restaurant chain is using iPads to partially replace service staff. Patrons will order off an iPad menu and pay,if on credit, with a built-in card swiper. The story notes plenty of ways in which this might not work so well, but, other restaurants will certainly be eyeing BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.

An obvious location for something like this could be drive-through lanes of fast food restaurants, or drive-ins ... if an iPad is encased against theft, first, and second, can be made to swivel or pull out enough to be usable from a car window.

Especially at a drive-in, with multiple stations, like a Sonic, rather than a single-lane drive-through, yes, this could be tempting.

Or a White Castle, where you can get long lines inside, but the menu's simple.

Pujols — D-Day plus 2

According to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, Albert Pujols did just what he needed to do in Jupiter, Fla. Thursday: Go on the PR offensive.

Passan seems to give him a good grade:
It’s not a side Pujols reveals often. He is notoriously focused and routine-oriented. Media means nothing to him. As free agency beckons, though, Pujols needs a conduit to deliver his message, especially since he will balance reaching for high dollars with staying in the good graces of St. Louis fans who naturally side with the team.
Meanwhile, Prince Albert seemed at his best at deflecting guesses on specific numbers tossed around before the deadline:
“That’s so funny,” Pujols said. “Me and my agent talk every other day about you guys throwing numbers out, assuming the Cardinals offered me this, Albert asking for 10 years. We just laugh about it, and I’m pretty sure the Cardinals are, too. You guys don’t have any clue. You’re way off about the numbers you’re throwing out there.”
That said, ESPN has a source confirm that the average salary, more than total years, was allegedly a big deal.

Pujols also spoke, indirectly, to Tony La Russa's claims he was a "tool" of the players union:
Pujols said neither he nor Lozano had been pressured by anyone, and said only five people knew the details of the talks: Him, his wife, Lozano, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, and Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr.
More light on why the tight lips? Pujols specifically cited how recent talks between the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter spilled into public, with acrimony at times.

Yahoo offers its latest take on where he might go, if he leaves, too. As it mentions, I haven't counted the Dodgers in the mix before, because of ownership issues. But with Commissioner Bud "Bud" Selig pushing the McCourts to settle up on their divorce, maybe even jointly selling the team, who knows, nine months from now?

Is Gary Sheffield a HOFer? Is Crime Dog?

Long-time OF/DH slugger Gary Sheffield has officially announced his retirement.

Re the Hall of Fame, first issue/question is of course roiding. Mentioned in both the BALCO investigation and the Mitchell Report, sans a confession by him, voters will likely hold that against him.

Rob Neyer says Sheff has HOF numbers. But Neyer is a huge "Big Hall" guy and turns a blind eye to effects of roiding.

If we knock him back to 450 HRs, and 1,500 RBIs and runs scored, cut his OBP to .385, his slugging to .495 and his OPS to .880, we'd call him ... borderline? Well, no, if he played a decade earlier, we'd call him Fred McGriff, because that's almost exactly his career numbers. Also, don't forget Sheff's HUGE negatives in fielding.

So, my call? Sheff not only will hit a backlog of even better plays in 2014, but, even if you don't think he needs a steroid-using "confession," he needs to take a back seat to McGriff.

February 17, 2011

Unemployment not so rosy after all

A new Gallup poll says the few new jobs numbers of the last two months should be taken more seriously than the sharply falling unemployment numbers, perhaps.

Gallup's numbers are not seasonally adjusted, but say that unemployment, larger (U6) underemployment, and part-timing are all up.

As the GOP in Congress looks at shutting down the government if "necessary" for its politics and Obama plays footsie, this is disheartening.

Clarence Thomas — 20 years and counting

It's not just five years of silence from Clarence Thomas. It's the full 20 years, now, of his time on the Supreme Court, without authoring a single significant majority decision.

Do us a favor, and quit, if you're one-tenth as ethical as you claim to be.

Pujols, D-Day plus 1 — offers and PR

So, there's no Albert Pujols signing in St. Louis, and he's down in Jupiter, Fla.

So, just how much did the St. Louis Cardinals offer him?

SI says it was 8 years, and speculates it was more than $200M.

Ken Rosenthal says it fell well short of $200M.

No wonder SI continues to lose relevance. It sounds like Rosenthal is better sourced then Heyman.

Most the rest of big name sports sites are following Rosenthal. Thus, the Cards offered him a contract that pays less than Mauer's in Minnesota, and would put him at an estimated 10th on numbers. Allegedly, an equity stake in the team was mentioned at some point, but we don't know the value of that.

That said, what will the market bear? Mark Kriegel thinks Pujols and Dan Lozano may be barking up the wrong tree.

On the PR side, should Pujols drop any hints of Rosenthal confirmation or not? I say yes. The club has said, in essence, we're willing to see what you think you can get in free agency, so we're going to lowball you. If this is a PR issue, then Albert needs to act accordingly.

Schweitzer still anti-enviro

I'm talking about Montana Gov. Brian, and not saintly Albert, in case you didn't guess.
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The Montana governor has not only blocked bison from leaving Yellowstone, he says the Park Service should feed them hay.

Well, that's what created the current elk overpopulation, governor. That would be the same elk that, much as your hunters don't like to admit, are more likely than bison to be transmitting brucellosis.

Scratch Giants from Pujols teams?

OK, now that bigger blogs and sports sites than mine are playing the "Where could Albert Pujols go" game, maybe we need to scratch one team, or at least treat them a bit more tentatively.

Although it's understandable, for arbitration issues down the road, that the San Francisco Giants would want to "sit on" top 1B prospect Brandon Belt at some point this year, they have to call him up, to see what he can do in the bigs, and to see if they should or should not get in the Pujols derby.

February 16, 2011

Passan: Pujols made right decision

Yahoo's Jeff Passan notes that, ultimately, Albert Pujols had to answer to one person over his contract negotiations — himself. And that's why, Passan says, the current situation is the right decision for him.

Cardinal fans — you got Matt Holliday because the A's didn't think they could resign him. And, the Cards management did. Even if negotiating against itself more than anything.

And, he's right about Pujols being in control. That said, DeWitt had more control, like a year ago.

Passan's right about one other thing, too. In another column, he notes Tony La Russa is baseball's great enabler. Nailed that one.

He also notes that, although the players union doesn't have a special "play" in this contract, agent Dan Lozano does. He left his former representation company and set up shop on his own. This is a "defining moment" for him. How much that is affecting negotiations, I don't know. But, Pujols can make the call on any contract details himself, at end of day.

Internet freedom meets strong-arm governments

Here's more on why Teapot Tommy Friedman is full of baloney when he talks about crowds of Tweeters in Cairo: It's easy, no, very easy in some cases, for an authoritarian government to shut down Internet access.

Start with this, re Egypt:
One of the government’s strongest levers is Telecom Egypt, a state-owned company that engineers say owns virtually all the country’s fiber-optic cables; other Internet service providers are forced to lease bandwidth on those cables in order to do business.
Or, hell, Friedman ... look at the U.S. If the Bush Administration was able to get AT&T to roll over so easily like a dead dog and put in that Internet splitter, even in a allegedly free country .... what else could be done here in the USofA under the name of "War on Terror"?

Back to Egypt. Some people could claim Mubarak's shutdown didn't work, but many cyberexperts, without passing political judgment, say rather it was that he waited too long.

But, what about the "decentralized" Internet? Not so fast:
Yet despite this decentralized design, the reality is that most traffic passes through vast centralized exchanges — potential choke points that allow many nations to monitor, filter or in dire cases completely stop the flow of Internet data
.
What about Western media in Egypt?

If they were based on wired broadband, Egypt could cut them off, too, if it wanted, I'll venture. On wireless? If those networks were state-controlled, ditto. If on a satellite-type system, like a satellite cell phone, the government might be able to try jamming that.

Now, Egypt might not be able to pull that off. But China? Or our USofA?

Obama sells out to Big Ag

Not only do we have GMO sugar beets, alfalfa and ethanol corn, but GMO farm-raised salmon is apparently next, with Team Obama buying the corporate farm's (aqua-CAFO?) arguments hook, line and sinker.

The real problem is the refusal of USDA and FDA to require labeling of GMO-containing foodstuffs:
Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?

A majority of our food already contains G.M.O.’s, and there’s little reason to think more isn’t on the way. It seems our “regulators” are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever.
We have no say because we have no corporate dollars, especially as both mainstream parties whore after farm state votes.

That said, the EU may lessen its zero-tolerance policy on GMOs. Even if it is too strict, I hope it isn't lessened. Here, as in many other cases, we need the EU as a counterweight to the USofA.

This is your Geithner on drugs

The New Republic has a long profile on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Most of the article shows us he has inside-the-Beltway political chops unimaginable two years ago.

The last page shows he's inside-the-Beltway in other ways.

This is your Treasury Secretary on D.C. Village drugs, the drugs of self-infatuation:
Geithner hunched his shoulders, pressed his knees together, and lifted his heels up off the ground—an almost childlike expression of glee. “We’re going, like, existential,” he said. He told me he subscribes to the view that the world is on the cusp of a major “financial deepening”: As developing economies in the most populous countries mature, they will demand more and increasingly sophisticated financial services, the same way they demand cars for their growing middle classes and information technology for their corporations. If that’s true, then we should want U.S. banks positioned to compete abroad.

“I don’t have any enthusiasm for ... trying to shrink the relative importance of the financial system in our economy as a test of reform, because we have to think about the fact that we operate in the broader world,” he said. “It’s the same thing for Microsoft or anything else. We want U.S. firms to benefit from that.” He continued: “Now financial firms are different because of the risk, but you can contain that through regulation.” This was the purpose of the recent financial reform, he said. In effect, Geithner was arguing that we should be as comfortable linking the fate of our economy to Wall Street as to automakers or Silicon Valley.

One can disagree with this substantively. Financial reform is a good start, with its stricter rules and new authority for regulators. But whether Wall Street can be made to behave like a normal industry rather than a source of economy-wide instability remains very much open to debate.
Ugh.

Sounds like Little Timmy G. has gone a mix of New Age and messianic guru there.

Even inside the Village, there's limits on reading your own press clippings, dude.

Fortune agrees — social media bubble ahead

Ever since Goddam Sachs announced its big play for Facebook, I've been saying a new Internet/tech financial bubble was coming down the road, probably about 2015. The HuffPost/AOL merger only increased that idea in my mind.

Now Fortune magazine nods in agreement.

Examples are cited:
(R)ecent private market trading of LinkedIn puts its valuation at $3 billion or so. Do you really want to buy shares of a company that did just $18 million in sales in a recent quarter at more than 30 times those sales? Why? Because you think LinkedIn is going to be the next Facebook? Don't try to sell your shares to me.
That's seriously bubbly.

And this:
(T)he only reason that you would ever pay anything approaching the multiples that Facebook and Twitter are currently valued at is if you assume there's a greater fool waiting down the road to take those shares off your hands.
The fool .... is really driven by fantasy product ownership.

Really, just like bloggers at Examiner are driven by an online version of vanity press publishing, it's the same thing — vanity stocks.

A rabbi crossed the line at HuffPost

Or, petard hoisting is still so easy!

I see HuffPost nuttery isn't confined to antivaxxers.

Rabbi Adam Jacobs claims there are no true atheists.

A couple of his comments, with refutation:
. What I have found hard to understand from my new vantage point, however, is why so many of you spend so much time trolling around the comments section of religiously-themed blogs or spend good money to buy billboards on the Jersey Turnpike asserting a negative.
Actually, more of the trolling is by the religious on irreligious blog sites. The billboards assert the positives of not engaging in religious faith.

He then makes the ethical/moral argument for the validity of religious belief, mixed with a cultural one:
To me, however, the crux of the matter is incontrovertible. It is not the product of rational argument, nor expression of faith, but simple historical fact. The faith to which I ascribe has brought substantial light and unique meaning to the world.
OK, this is easy to shoot. First, per a typical monotheist, you must be exclusionist, as you admit. And, much of the world's bloodshed had been over monotheism. That's not just battles between monotheisms, but pogroms, holocausts by them against other groups. Note, dear rabbi, your Yahweh saying that not just the people but even the livestock of the Amalekites needed to be killed.

As for your linked "refutation" of Hume's deflating the argument from design, hand-waving isn't refutation.

And, dear rabbi, that's why we don't troll sites like yours, you're too illogical to bother with argumentation.

Have fun at AOL. Please, don't inflict Talmudic SEO spam on us.

Pujols — worth 10 years, $300M

I have blogged before that St. Louis Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt can afford to pay Albert Pujols a 10-year, $300-million contract even with Redbird fan loyalty, should that loyalty drop from 3.2 million fans a year to 2.4 million without No. 5 at first base.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon, in analyzing financial ramifications, said recently that Cardinal CEO DeWitt can financially afford to let Pujols walk, mentioning the team has drawn at least 2.4 million a year for 15 years straight.

Let's say it falls back to 2.4 million instead of 3.2 million, Joe. 800K fans at about $20 a ticket, plus an average of $5 of auxiliary spending on concessions, etc.? (And, those are all surely lowball numbers right there.)

That's $20 million a year. And, Pujols wants just $15 million a year more than he's making now. Add in the possibility of fewer postseason appearances, etc. Even if we factor out business taxes, etc., Joe, the Cards might just lose money by not meeting Pujols' terms.

Now, the Cards reportedly are worried about Pujols tailing off near the end of a long contract, pointing out current Yankees Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, he whom Pujols would supposedly like to surpass in the contract department, as prime examples.

But, there's exceptions to how fast a star ages, as ESPN's Jayson Stark notes at the end of his very good column on the situation:
The Cardinals will simply be making a decision that it's not sound business to keep paying gigundous dollars to any player -- even one as great as Albert -- until age 40 or 41 or 42. And you know what? It's hard to blame them. Except I couldn't help but notice something Tuesday:

Guess which Cardinal hit .330 at age 41 -- and was still hitting third in the lineup at age 42?

Yep. Right you are. That would be Stan Musial. Who else?
Besides, even if he doesn't project out totally well for all 10 years, I think a .285/.365/.550/.915 line isn't at all unrealistic for Pujols at 41. Allowing for 10 years of salary inflation, some team will probably pay $20 million a year straight up for that 10 years from now, no "icon of a city" value attached.

Add in $5-$10M for that, and he's arguably worth $30M even in year 10.

You know how I can say that? Those numbers are roughly what Jayson Werth did last year, and he's now making $20M himself. So, it's just stupid for the team to not make this deal.

With him, Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright surely around for at least five years, and probably Yadier Molina, DeWitt and John Mozeliak would be sure to land a great manager to replace Tony La Russa, too. (And, we can only hope that happens sooner rather than later, perhaps.)

And, adding one thing:

Yahoo's Jeff Passan notes that, ultimately, Pujols had to answer to one person over his contract negotiations — himself. And that's why, Passan says, the current situation is the right decision for him.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan notes that, ultimately, Albert Pujols had to answer to one person over his contract negotiations — himself. And that's why, Passan says, the current situation is the right decision for him.

Cardinal fans — you got Matt Holliday because the A's didn't think they could resign him. And, the Cards management did. Even if negotiating against itself more than anything.

And, he's right about Pujols being in control. That said, DeWitt had more control, like a year ago.

Passan's right about one other thing, too. In another column, he notes Tony La Russa is baseball's great enabler. Nailed that one.

Is Pujols-La Russa feud possible?

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa claims the baseball players union is pressuring Albert Pujols to shoot for the moon on a new contract.

The reality? ESPN's Jayson Stark says La Russa, not any alleged union push, is where the bullshit really is.

At least Cards management and Pujols agree on one thing: Noon Eastern, today, is the deadline.

That said, per what both sides are saying, it seems like they're not close. The Cards don't want to do 10 years, at even reasonably close to $30 million a year.

As for Tony the Red, he's coming close, I think, to either being an accidental or deliberate management stooge. Especially if he doesn't have full poop from both sides on negotiations, I would think he's running the risk of getting under Phat Albert's skin, and, in turn, only increasing the circus atmosphere.

Maybe he'll punch Colby Rasmus out of deflected anger.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan notes that, ultimately, Albert Pujols had to answer to one person over his contract negotiations — himself. And that's why, Passan says, the current situation is the right decision for him.

Cardinal fans — you got Matt Holliday because the A's didn't think they could resign him. And, the Cards management did. Even if negotiating against itself more than anything.

And, he's right about Pujols being in control. That said, DeWitt had more control, like a year ago.

Jeff Passan's right about one other thing related to this. In a Yahoo column, he notes Tony La Russa is baseball's great enabler. Nailed that one. So, he's out of line to be talking now.

HuffPuffers get a clue

HuffPuff is the collective name for the HuffingtonPost bloggers, the serfs, the galley slaves, feeling out in the cold after the HuffPost/AOL merger.

Well, somebody higher up the blogging food chain than I says the same thing, only with detailed numbers.

Five Thirty Eight blogger Nate Silver says, especially with the merger: You just aren't being viewed.

Specifically:
Another reason, perhaps, that the “slave ship” allegation sometimes sticks to The Huffington Post is because there is a discrepancy between the “250 million unique visitors” that Ms. Huffington pitches her bloggers on , and the much, much smaller number who have any realistic chance of encountering, yet alone reading, any given post. Their median blog post, by our estimate, gets only about 550 page views. That equates to about 1 in every 450,000 of the unique visitors that Ms. Huffington says AOL and The Huffington Post will have each month once they combine forces.
Thanks, Nate, for putting pen to paper and calculating some numbers.

Nate goes on to note that there's plenty of unpaid bloggers at Kos, etc.

So, HuffPuffers, again, if you don't like being unpaid while contributing, in at least a marginal way, to HuffPost SEO hits, then ...

Start your own freaking blog!

February 15, 2011

US hypocrisy alert — Internet "suppression"

So, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warns other countries, like Egypt of just a week or so ago, not to suppress Internet access.
"There is no silver bullet in the struggle against Internet repression," she says in excerpts released Monday night by the State Department. "There's no 'app' for that. And accordingly, we are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach - one that matches our diplomacy with technology, secure distribution networks for tools, and direct support for those on the front lines."
Spying on citizens Internet transmissions without a warrant?

Allowing industry consolidations and weak regulations that drive up price?

THOSE are OK.

Well, they're OK in the U.S. of A.

Despite the official D.C. Village bullshit party line:
Despite the Obama administration's own problems with an unfettered Internet, most notably the release of hundreds of thousands of sensitive diplomatic documents by the WikiLeaks website, Clinton says that the U.S. is unwavering in its commitment to cyber freedom, even as it seeks to prosecute online criminals and terrorists.

"Our allegiance to the rule of law does not dissipate in cyberspace, neither does our commitment to protecting civil liberties and human rights," she says. "There are times when these principles will raise tensions and pose challenges, but we do not have to choose among them. And we shouldn't. Together they comprise the foundation of a free and open Internet."
And, there's that off-putting hypocritical use of "rule of law" again.

Please.

Another lecture from the U.S., with the laughable follow-up of State Department Twitter feeds in Arabic and Persian, easily monitored, I'll venture, by foreign governments.

Chevron: rule of law for thee but not for me

You know, the phrase "rule of law" is not quite such an irrtant as "the ownership society," and it's not so expressly associated with conservatives, but, it's enough of both that I'm getting tired of it.

Especially when, like "ownership society," its use is hypocritical, class-based, or otherwise two-tiered.

Take Chevron in Ecuador. The original environmental verdict against it by an court-ap0ointed review expert has been upheld, albeit with the amount of judgment knocked down to $9.1B.

And the Chevron response?
In a statement, Chevron called the decision "illegitimate and unenforceable" and said it would appeal. It has long contended it could never get a fair trial in Ecuador and has removed all assets from this politically volatile Andean country, whose leftist president, Rafael Correa, had voiced support for the plaintiffs.

Chevron, which earned $19.1 billion last year, said it did not believe the judgment "enforceable in any court that observes the rule of law."
If you read the rest of the story, you'll read about Chevron using a convicted drug trafficker to try to suborn judicial misconduct from the first trial judge in the case, as one among many aspects of corporate sleaze.

Talking about "rule of law" is the rankest hypocrisy.

Especially since at least one American law school expert thinks the amount of fine was knocked down so much as a signal Ecuador wants to negotiate.

And, let's hope American Big Oil experts like Fadel Gheit are wrong and that Ecuador CAN collect — whether by negotiation or by hardball.

Ecuador can always pull a Venezuela and nationalize Chevron's assets.

Watson, go away — I don't want you

How does IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer, Watson, make you feel? Intrigued? Curious? Diffident? Dismissive because it can't laugh at its mistakes, or at jokes of its human competitors?

Seriously, in that area, while plenty of humans lack senses of humor, we all have the ability to be humorous, short of a mental condition such as autism. And, Watson doesn't have that.

But, that's not the reason we might want to tell Watson to go away.

Rather, what if, with its language recognition capabilities, Watson's "progeny" — Watson II, etc. — start replacing human jobs?

Don't laugh, and don't scoff, either.

Is it theoretically possible that Son of Watson could be the "person" answering the customer service phones at your bank in 20 years? Damn skippy it is.

Sure, you might have one human as backup — to one Watson that could, say, simultaneously handle 50 phone calls. Or 250.

People who have read much about artificial intelligence are familiar with the low-grade software program ELIZA, which did a crude-level mock psychologist — and got people to spill their guts to it!

ELIZA had a limited stock of canned phrases and, to anyone not in need of an ear to bend, if not full-blown counseling, its limited stock phrases and rigid responses were clear to all.

But, substitute Watson II, a machine that can understand language nuance and respond with at least a Level II or Level III canned phrase, if not something more?

What's to stop Fortune 500 companies from making such a machine the front line of their employee assistance programs?

I'm probably just scratching the surface here.

You say, "What if Watson II doesn't understand my call?"

I say, "Could it understand it worse than an outsourced worker in Mumbai?"

And, with that, note that not all customer service jobs Watson replaces will be American.

But, among American ones, I'm probably just scratching the surface.

Watson II could call you in the future asking your opinion for a Gallup Poll. For simpler products, Watson II could be your next telemarketer — no sales commissions to be paid, and no hurt feelings over phones slammed in a computer "ear."

And, lest you think I'm joking?

Claims processing is an area where Watson II "employment" is already getting serious discussion.

February 14, 2011

So Feb. 16 is not quite D-Day for Pujols-Cards

Yesterday, USA Today reported St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols reportedly rejected the latest team offer for a new contract AND reiterated that talks will end Tuesday.

Today? The deadline has been mutually extended.

I'm not quite yet to the point of making politics-type "winners" and "losers" calls, especially since this is just a 24-hour extension, special-reason extension. For that, thank your lucky stars, or rather your former Cardinal superstar, Stan Musial:
The Cardinals Hall of Famer will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington on Tuesday and general manager John Mozeliak said Monday the club did not want to distract from Musial’s special day. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak will accompany the 90-year-old Musial to Washington.
But, if we have another extension after that, I will start making such judgment calls, namely as to who wins, who loses, and who will blink first.

I mean, look at this extension. It's not like both sides didn't know what was happening Tuesday. The Redbird spring training circus predicted by Yahoo just got started a bit early, that's all.

And, while I'm not yet m aking judgment calls, other bloggers are. Redbird Rants wonders if Albert isn't a religious phony and worse. (My take: He's less a religious phony than many athletes; he may be more a religious phony than some.)

Anyway, for both laughs and seriousness, visit the Albert Pujols Countdown.

Abbas sacks Palestinian cabinet

I'm not surprised at this, in light of the Palestine Papers and now, the fall of Mubarak in Egypt.

It's not going to do anything to bring Hamas closer, though, and probably won't strengthen the Palestinian Authority's hand within the West Bank that much either. Of course, because the U.S. has warned him not to, and he's afraid of Hamas, there will be no free elections in the West Bank anytime soon, for president.

Shirley Sherrod is suiing Breitbart

It's more than about damn time for this to have happened. Lauwsuits (assuming they're won) is the only way to put a dent in the Breitbarts of the world.

Of course, he's already blathering about his free speech being infringed, and apparently Sherrod's middle name is "institutional left." What a loon.

February 13, 2011

Prince Albert rejects contract offer

It looks like the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols aren't even close. The Cardinals all-world first baseman has reportedly rejected the latest team offer for a new contract AND reiterated that talks will end Tuesday.

Here's one take from another team's management side.
"I read that he's looking for $30 million a year, and I just can't see how that's going to happen," said Andy MacPhail, Baltimore Orioles president of baseball operations.
Wrong. Somebody will pay, and there will be more than one team in the bidding. It may not be a 10-year contract, but he will get $30M.

Demand Media — what happens with it now?

Yesterday, I wrote my latest blog post about the "serfs" at HuffPost becoming part of AOL and a likely even bigger pile of serfdom, and how that might affect other SEO serfs? What got me started?

I wondered whether Examiner serfs get irritated, apprehensive and anxious to see your parent company advertising all the time for YET MORE WRITERS on Monster and Career Builder.

I asked:
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?
Well, what about Demand Media? Is Demand going to be in better shape, since it pays on piecework rather than article hits?

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. Demand is mentioned in the same breath as some others.

Now, some recent Demand news to indicate why I think it won't be too likely to rise above the SEO crowd.

1. Demand gets spammed ... one of its writers somehow made $7K per month writing articles too shoddy for it, with made-up sources, etc. The person probably was busted only due to the egregiousness of the violations. Some Demand higher-up saw some financials and said, "WTF? There's no way this person could make that much money on our system."

2. A Demand writer exposes its lack of quality control.

Re eHow:
The high quality of topic relevance must be why we see: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten different articles on the scintillating and über-complicated topic of peeling a hard boiled egg?
That's why so much content is recycled.

3. Demand also supplied content to corporate blogs — wonder how much it charges for this and how much SEO spamming that generates. Is this increasing or decreasing? How worried should we be about this?

Besides SEO spamming, will the AOLs of the world also do more and more link mining? JC Penney did, and until busted by Google, appears to have profited nicely.

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.

Carpenter waits on Pujols — and his own age

Waiting in the wings for the St. Louis Cardinals after the team makes a decision on whether or not to resign Albert Pujols? One-time Cardinal ace and still 1A starter Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter's contract also runs out after this year, albeit with a $15M club option for 2012 that ain't getting picked up, not at that price. Carpenter discusses his situation here.

Two years at $20-22M total? Third club option year at $8-9M? That sounds about right to me.