August 10, 2013

Jeff Bezos and the death of print: Hypocrite, or right?

In the wake of Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post, Tech Crunch and others are pointing to an interview he did in 2012 with a German magazine saying that print newspapers are going to be dead in 20 years.

Now, with his buy of the Post, some critics are saying he was hypocritical. More yet are saying he was, and is, clueless. Yet others are talking about papers as playtoys for the rich, implying that's all Bezos wants.

Let's briefly address those observations, then go on to discussing his original interview.

First, in response to all three critiques: Did Bezos promise he'd keep the Post open 20 years as a print paper? No. Has he retracted his interview comments? No.

Now, on to each individual one.

Hypocrite? Why? Even if he bought the post to get inside-the-Beltway access to politicos, lobbyists, etc., owners of all major metropolitan papers trade off access, at least to some degree, and have for decades. Some get too chummy at it. But, it's not hypocritical to do that, or at least  not in the way critics mean.

Clueless? I talked in my original post about all sorts of Amazon-Post synchronicities, even though it's Bezos as an individual, not as Amazon CEO, buying. The obvious, since the Post finally has a paywall running, is to ramp up a mobile version of the Post. It's obvious from the Amazon side, too; e-book sales have been basically flat for a year or so, and a number of publishing analysts think that's more than a short-term issue. So, Bezos needs more "product" on those Kindles. Not a bit clueless.

Playtoy? Again, don't think so. This is a man who has serious long-term money sunk in a private spaceport. With that, and surely with the Post, he wants concrete returns.

So, now that I've dismissed the carpers, what about his claim? Is he right?

If we narrow his focus, both for the sake of argument and the assumption that he probably meant this anyway, and confine his comment to major metropolitan seven-day dailies, I think he's spot on. That's even more true for larger dailies that, unlike the New York Times, Post, and McClatchy chain, don't have good in-house non-AP news bureaus for national and international news.

Take a look at, say, a metro as big as the Dallas Morning News. Sorry, "The" ...

Belo doesn't have that much of a "bureau" between its three biggies in Dallas, Riverside, Calif., and Providence, R.I. The Snooze itself has greatly trimmed its DC bureau and cut back its one in Mexico City over the past decade.

So, most national news, all international news, and a fair chunk of state news outside the Metroplex area or Austin is off the wires. Half or more of hard news in the paper is wire. It's already dumped some things like sending its high school sports coverage to a third-party website. And, until Google, Yahoo, et al are forced by rates being high enough for AP and Reuters stuff to paywall their news sites, the need to look at a paper for most hard news coverage will continue to decline. Ditto for non-local sports, which isn't profitable from an ad perspective anyway, as sports pages in hardcopy continue to get looser, even with need for all that white space for agate.

Let's take a fairly busy weekday, say, Fridays, because you have local society news, local society event previews, etc. Even then, in Dallas, you could put your locally generated news, feature, opinion and sports content, with current ad inches, on a 16-page paper. Maybe less, if you kill some use, or overuse, of white space.

Will younger readers (or today's readers, cohorted up in age) pay $1 for that, or a buck, inflation-adjusted, in 20 years? Doubt it. So, today's print readership decline will only continue, as will print ad dollars. (This despite newspaper execs who talk about booming auto sales while not looking at their own industry to see still-slumping auto ad sales. And, if/as auto execs see sales boom even as they cut their print ads, well, they're not dumb.)

Anyway, Friday was generous. A Tuesday or Wednesday Snooze of the type I mentioned might only be an 12-pager, unless  you're storing up a bunch of enterprise stories. (I didn't take Monday as an example because of the extra sports volume then, at least during football, for pro stuff.)

Related to this is newspapers finding a niche in the Internet world. In what's a pretty good column, the Times' Ross Douthat notes how British newspapers had their niches pre-Net, and how the Post blew its, post-Net, by letting Politico get started.

Next big question:

How does a Bezos, or somebody else, get there?

Look at Advance. Whether or not one agrees with its methodology, or the brutality of its implementation, or the details of its judgment, it's making some Bezos-like assumption and deciding to act now.

My take: I'm not sure what methodology might be best, but its isn't totally right; Advance is too brutal; it's cutting in the wrong areas.

The methodology is wrong because of its "hybrid" ideas of printing every day, but just not doing home delivery every day, as Advance is doing in most, but not all, places where it's transitioning. If Advance is trying that "split" to hang on to ad dollars, soon enough, advertisers will start wanting discounts on non-delivery days, if Advance isn't already offering them.

Rather, if a seven-day daily would simply junk, say, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday entirely, it could focus future cuts on copy editors and pressmen. If you're cutting hardcopy product specific days, that's the "easy" cuts. Gives you a five-day work week for both, with Thursdays for designing, building and printing special sections and such.

That said, per a throwaway line in this Tech Crunch piece, if the Post under Bezos is like Amazon under Bezos, he will be Advance-level ruthless once he decides on a goal and a path. We all know the crap level of Amazon warehouses.

Now, smaller seven-day dailies, in older, often more white, smaller cities? They can probably hang on past the 20-year mark by going to six-day, or eventually, five-day operation but still remain daily.

Definitely so for the six-day dailies that, along with non-dailies, Warren Buffet likes. They can survive past Bezos' deadline, but part of the price will likely  be dropping another day of print.

The non-dailies? They'll stay around but diminish as the old, mainly white, less-computer owning, less-Internet using, rural and small town core reader cohort ages out to death. But, 20 years from now? A lot of triweeklies will be semiweeklies and a lot of semiweeklies will be weeklies.

And, arguably, papers big enough to run separate digital and hardcopy/legacy operations should do so. Beyond the production benefits alleged in this piece, it makes easier to continue the trims, or whacks, on the legacy side as or when they're perceived to be needed.

August 09, 2013

PGA: It's still 'Glory's Last Shot,' but who will win?

I don't care if Tim Finchen pushed the PGA to shit-can the title, and I don't care if it's only 15 years old.

Before the FedEx Cup, which is what Timmeh is worried about, it WAS "Glory's Last Shot," a fitting title for golf's last major tournament of the year.

That said, who's going to win it?

NOT Tiger Woods.

Yes, it was when he was between Butch Harmon and Hank Haney, but he had his worst performance ever in a major here in the 2003 PGA. (Oops, I'm sorry. It WAS his worst, until this year's U.S. Open.)

Add in that he was complaining about the greens earlier, and that he's now saying that it doesn't take a win at a major to make it a great year for him, and we can write him off.

Philly Mick? Write off his performance at Firestone; that track's never hugely favored him. He's a sentimental favorite, and being a lefty, may get a different perspective on a couple of those strong doglegs on longer par-4s. He's also using the no-driver and five-wedge bag that got him the win at Muirfield and oh-so-close at Merion.

It wouldn't surprise me, at the least.

Adam Scott? Had a solid PGA in 2011. Won this year's Master's and was in the hunt at the other two majors. Besides Phil, he's the one other golfer with a serious chance to unseat Tiger.

But, we've had a lot of first-time winners recently.

And, it's time for another "breakthrough" player, but not a fluke.

So, why not Jason Day?

I almost nailed the Open, taking a mix of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, with Westwood ending as runner-up.

So, I offer the threesome mix above, as an odds-on Cerberus to win.

===

And, Tiger looked like he was headed for glory, until he chunked a double bogey on No. 9, his last hole for the day and what's playing as second-toughest so far. He's in at +1.

Hah! He does it again. Bogey on 18 to close round 2. He's even for the round and still +1 for the tournament, with Scott at -7, Rose at -6 and Day at -2. Of course, Philly Mick is also at +1. Too bad he came in much sooner, or Tiger could challenge him by being paired with him.

So, Woodsaholics? Time to head back again to your golfing 12-step program. May be a "great" year for TW, by his own words, but it's gonna be yet another majorless one.

And, I know Tiger's got five non-majors wins this year, but ... there may be one particular reason Scott's now often playing better than him at the big time.

#NationalGeographic jumps the shark, claims #AA has scientific proof

National Geographic has officially jumped the shark, claiming that science supports the 12-step model. Apparently, not only does NG not recognize that there's no real research supporting this, it's unaware of alternatives like Lifering Secular Recovery, SMART or SOS.

 Now, to make things look "sciency," it has, among people interviewed, not only the usual suspects of 12-step only rehab clinic owners, but the famous Andrew Newberg! Pop neuroscience in the name of religion leading to support for AA. Given that Newberg hasn't had the highest of scientific standards, but has a name for research, or "research," into neuroscience proving, or "proving," the value of religion, it's no wonder he's quoted.

At the same time, by his being quoted, it's proof that "spiritual but not religious"  actually is indeed religious, if we want to talk about what's being proven or not.

August 07, 2013

Greg Abbott's latest lawsuit

We all know the self-identified job description of Texas' chief money-waster, a chewer of even more cash than Rick Perry and his special sessions.

As  Greg Abbott perceives his job as attorney general:
During his tenure as Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott has developed a bit of a routine: "I go into the office," he told a GOP audience in San Angelo in Februrary, "I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." It's a line he uses in virtually every speech he gives and it has the benefit of being basically true.
 Of course, now that he's running for governor, this is part of his stump speech everywhere: "Obamacare is bad for 'X'." He keeps this up, and he's going to have to sue himself for talking about Obama too much.

Two sidebars to this, too.

One is that he may actually get a few people so perked or piqued, even self-declared Republicans, that they check out the truth of a few of his claims and find them wanting.

The second is that he gives a ready-made slogan to his primary opponent, Tom Pauken. "There's two candidates in this race, and Barack Obama isn't one of them. I'm not sure Greg Abbott is one, either."

August 05, 2013

Jeff Bezos of #Amazon + #WaPost = Dark Side of the Internet

I've run a semi-regular series of blog post about "the dark side of the Internet."

It features on the drive for a few big companies, not just financially big in general, but big in how much online data they seek to gather about customers, for advertising, marketing and related purposes, and how manipulative they may be.

My focus has generally been on three or four companies in this aera, including Facebook, Google and ...

Amazon. (Click here, or the tag below, for all posts on this theme.)

So, that's why the announcement that Amazon's founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, was buying the Washington Post raised my eyebrows.

Yeah, yeah, the Post is saying it's Bezos personally, not Amazon, but ...

Do you really believe there will be zero "leakage" of consumer/reader data between the two? If you do, I have a profitable newspaper in DC to sell you.

Oops, NONE of them are, at least not any of the three dailies.

Second, even if leakage is minimal, Bezos will be bringing new ideas. Allan Mutter presents a few of these right away; he's on the same page as me about some "bundling."

Anyway, the buy by Bezos alone means he doesn't have to report to Amazon's board, and it lets him take the company private. He can experiment away with its editorial and its business sides as he wants.

With that in mind, a couple of questions right off the bat.

How will this affect the Post's tentative, foot-dragging work to finally enter the world of paywalls?

Related to that, will any Amazon ads be "bundled" as part of online subscription offers? What about, per Mutter, any Amazon products?

Now, some more off the wall speculation and questions:

Update, and top question — Jay Rosen reminds me that Amazon booted Wikileaks off its servers when Team Obama and Dear Leader started putting heat on the organization and Julian Assange. Given how pliant mainstream media in general, and the Washington Post in particular (especially its editorial page) has been on this issue at times, this is not good.

Now, on to other thoughts.

Will Amazon and the Post partner to produce an online "TV" news channel, kind of like the San Diego Union Tribune is doing? (Don't tell me the paper's been renamed.)

Will Bezos pull an "Advance" and end daily home delivery?

Will he reshape the digital version to focus on mobile first?

Will he, like many newspapers have gone to Facebook-moderated comment systems on stories, try to integrate Amazon's commenting system into Post stories online?

What will this possibly do to the Post's book reviews?

I'll add more thoughts as they come to me.


====

 I'm also rounding up web reaction.

Henry Blodgett talks about synchronicities and symmetries that Bezos brings. Plus side? Readership on mobile devices like the Kindle Fire is zooming. Downside? Ebook readership is flat.

Megan McArdle predicts not even a Bezos can save a print version of the Post, and she's probably right. (And, note to Post CEO Don Graham: DeNial is not a river in Egypt, if you think you could have survived for years to come under current ownership. You've been leaking money like a sieve, and been belated in addressing how to fix that. You're also a liar; your own paper says you were shopping it, not that Bezos approached you unsolicited.)

And, don't forget that Bezos is no lead-pipe cinch genius; buying the now-shuttered Pets.com and trying to compete with eBay show that.

Gregory Ferenstein notes that, in fact, Bezos said that himself, predicting print papers would be totally dead in 20 years. Bring on the KindlePost!

John F. Harris of Tiger Beat on the Potomac  notes that the Post has winged it for years on a business model, stranded between "metro newspaper" and "national interest newspaper." Bezos indicated he may continue the winging it for a while. Harris adds that the Graham family may have sold, in part, because they're tired of trying to figure out an online business model.

Emily Bell wonders how the KindlePost will actually cover Amazon news, and how Bezos will handle that. Per that, and per other info in her column, did Bezos buy a would-be lobbying agency?

She, and others, also note the question of, when the Boston Globe sold on the same day for just $70 million, did Bezos overpay? Is he paying for "brand"? Is he paying for what I just hinted — lobbying or other forms of "inside-the-Beltway" influence?

(That said, Jeff Henry got the Times to keep the Globe's pension obligations.)

Andrew Ross Sorkin calls newspapers billionaires' trophies. For people worried about the Koch Bros' buying the L.A. Times and/or other Tribune properties, that, and the recent pricings of the Post and Globe, should be worrisome.

====

These last couple of commenters also bring another issue to mind.

Just what is Bezos' politics? We know it's anti-union, and not very egalitarian, per recent stories about his company's warehouses.

And, that leads us to a couple of politics-based commenters.

Laura Bennett of The New Republic says he probably did want to buy a political "in," but doesn't offer many details about what specific issues might concern him, other than (possibly) Internet sales taxes. Bezos supports such a tax. Arguably, in part, his reasoning it's less of a burden for him than smaller online-focused companies.

Harris, linked above points out that Bezos has supported things like gay marriage.Bell, above, notes that he is providing cloud computing for the CIA, so, on snooping-related stuff, he's Beltway-stereotype friendly.

Add that to my observations of the obvious, and, we could say Bezos is some type of neoliberal. Exactly where he is on that spectrum may take a while to shake out. But, he'll likely be similar to Silicon Valley neolibs. He's pretty much that mindset.

In other words, he's somewhat of a libertarian, but neolib Dems will continue to claim him as one of theirs.

Of course, this should no surprise. He worked at a NYC hedge fund, and his parents were rich enough to lend him the money to start Amazon, per more info from the Post's story on the sale. At the same time, his refusal to look to short-term profits separates him from at least the Randian CEO-type libertarians.

#ARod officially #AFraud to Bud Selig - what's next?

Well, the performance-enhancing drugs moment we've all been expecting in Major League Baseball is officially here, as Commissioner Bud Selig has suspended Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the rest of this year and all of next.

Unfortunately, per reports earlier this morning, it appears AFraud gets to stay in uniform while appealing. That's because Selig decided not to use his best interests of baseball clause. Why not, I don't know, other than maybe he thought not doing so would be enough to placate players' union head Michael Weiner, which, sadly, it wasn't.

So, a few questions.

1. Yankee manager Joe Girardi says, if he's there, I'm penciling him in the lineup. What's the reaction going to be whether in Yankee Stadium, or on the road, of fans? Boos? Batteries and other objects thrown at him? Worse? Nothing?

2. What about Yankee GM Brian Cashman? Will he look for loopholes to try to keep him out? Will he push for A-Rod's appeal to be heard within the next 48 hours? How little support will he offer during the appeal process or at the actual appeal? Indeed, will he try to kneecap AFraud?

3. What will happen at that appeal? Will the full 214 games stick? Will Bud negotiate? As if an AFraud offer to negotiate will be that sincere?

My guess? Arbitrator throws out something around 150. Cashman has those games plus the offseason to talk to Hank Steinbrenner and Yankee legal brass about voiding the rest of his contract.

And, in turn, this all depends in part on how long AFraud's appeal takes, and how much he continues to fight, as to how much Bud is going to likely want to be in the least bit nice in the arbitration hearing.

And, how long will it take the arbitration? The ESPN story linked above, about Bud not using his kryptonite powers, says it could take 45 days, but maybe even longer.

4. Given that Weiner said this:
We’re not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the (drug) program out there. Most of the players aren’t interested in that. We’d like to have a clean program.
Why is he fighting for A-Rod?

Yeah, the 214 is beyond the normal escalators, but, if all that's been leaked is clear, Bud could have used the "best interests" clause and really wrong-footed Weiner.

Frankly, I'd be OK with an even-longer suspension. Remaining with his cousin Yuri, using Yuri to recruit others to Biogenesis, being an absolute moral fraud to the Tyler Hooton Foundation and other things just scratches the surface.
 
Especially if AFraud resists, can the arbitrator go beyond even Bud's penalty?

And, is that legit, other than a cheap pun, to keep calling him that? Per Johnette Howard, I'd say yes:
Unlike Armstrong or Bonds, naked ambition never seemed to drive Rodriguez or transform him into one of those alpha-dog athletes who wants to grind rivals into dust.

His repeated return to PED use is more reminiscent of Hollywood stars who can't stop having plastic surgery until they've completely disfigured themselves and their careers -- despite nearly everyone they'd ever met who told them what beautiful, gifted creatures they are.

No matter how terrific everyone said he was as a ballplayer (if not as a person), Rodriguez rarely behaved as if he believed it. Or that he trusted it. From the day he arrived in New York, Rodriguez always seemed to be on an endless search for affection, approval and attention.

It's never really been clear who the authentic A-Rod is -- or if one even exists at all.
Well, to the degree we find an authentic A-Rod, greed is part of it. I mean, his worries about what's left of his contract and everything else are all about money, as his language makes clear. It's not really about the Yankees, or even baseball in general. If somebody paid him to shoot iPhone pics of centaurs in mirrors for $61 million, he'd leave the Yankees in a heartbeat.

I also agree with Ian O'Connor, that he's not like Bonds in another way.

I think it is quite possible, via cousin Yuri or whomever, that, just as O'Connor says, he's roided all of his pro career.

If Bonds gave us an honest confession, including the details of how he did it, I'd vote for him for Cooperstown, if I had a vote. I don't want him to grovel, but I want an honest confession that he did it, and how he beat testing.

That aside, it's clear that there was a pre-roiding part of his career, and one that would have gotten him in the Hall on its own. He still likely would have broke 500 home runs, almost certainly. And, with fewer intentional walks, would have passed 3,000 hits.

With A-Rod? Especially if O'Connor's right, we simply don't know what he could have done without chemicals.
Finally, for all the angst over the MLB suspensions, the main Biogenesis whistleblower says he also has info on NBA players, MMA fighters, boxers and more. BUT ... MLB was the only sports organization to actually approach him. If anything, because of tougher standards, baseball is probably cleaner than a lot of other US pro sports. In fact, just to spoil David Stern's retirement, I'd love to see some other way to get those NBA names made public.

St. Louis #Cardinals - looking ahead, initial offseason thoughts

No, no, no, I'm not worried about the Birds not making the playoffs.

However, a recent post in ESPN's SweetSpot, plus one or two recent lineup issues, got my creative juices flowing on a few things. Those creative juices had started a week or two ago, but this led them to a new stage.

First, going to the ESPN piece, which focused on the Cards' near-sweep by the Pirates and why.

Why?

Among other things, speed kills, and so does lack of it, in baseball.

Not that I totally disagree, or totally agree, with Earl Weaver's ideas about small ball in general, but the Cards have only about 30 stolen bases on the year, last in the league, and that may be part of what hurt them against the Pirates. They're horrible on double plays. Of course, not all of those are due to lack of speed. There's been a couple of DPs on bad baserunning ideas on fly balls, just as there's been a lot of poor baserunning outs on the bases after outfield hits. Hello again, Matheny; that's your baby. Baseball-Reference doesn't have a rank on GIDPs, but the total of 104 ain't great.

And, as ESPN notes, the (lack of) speed kills elsewhere:
That team speed spread shows up in the defensive numbers as well. The Pirates are third in the majors with 48 Defensive Runs Saved (entering Wednesday's action) while the Cardinals rank 26th at minus-33. (Matt) Holliday, who botched a fly ball into a home run on Tuesday, has been the biggest liability at -11 runs, but center fielder Jon Jay also grades poorly at -10. 
And, with Carlos Beltran both getting older, and a free-agent to be, the Birds could be facing a major OF overhaul sooner rather than later. It may be time to trade Holliday in the offseason, presumably to an AL team. And some Birds fans will probably need to stop the love affair with Jay (and David Freese).

And, that ties to my main earlier thought.

I had been thinking that this offseason might be a good time to trade Holliday, presumably to an AL team where he can get at least an occasional day at DH. And I was thinking that even before his hamstring injury.

Look, he isn't going to get any better, or quicker, as an outfielder, and he's already in the "safest" OF spot. I can't see him learning 1B, and in St. Louis, that wouldn't do a lot of good anyway. Yes, you could move Allen Craig to left, but that still blocks out Matt Adams from becoming the new regular at first.

So, if Holliday can rebound from the dip that started before his injury, and get his end-of-season BA to near .290, slugging to .480 and OPS to .850, and he does well in a decent postseason run, without "pushing" him, the team needs to drop a hint or two, or more, as a run-up to Hot Stove League time.

Beltran? If Holliday gets traded early enough, and depending on what comes in return and what positions the Cardinals might want, maybe they won't let him walk. He'll certainly get the one-year "tender" offer, so the Cards will get the compensatory draft picks if he does move on.

But, maybe the Cards should look to keep him on two years plus an option. (I wouldn't write him a straight three-year contract, though.)

His future depends not just on the Cards trying to move Holliday if they're smart and being successful if the team gets the right offer, but what it decides to do with Jay. Even in his previous seasons, he was not THAT much above replacement level offensively, nor was he THAT great of a defensive center fielder. This year, he's below average on both sides of the coin.

He's not tradeable for a lot of return right now, but, if you do move Holliday and get back all non-OF parts, it might be better to keep Beltran. Craig still goes to left, if Adams is to be the full-time 1B, and Jay then has to beat out Oscar Taveras in spring training. Besides that, given that in somewhat limited, but not too limited, time, Shane Robinson last year was as good as Jay is this year, and Robinson this year is better than Jay this year, the Birds have yet other outfield options. That's not to mention that Taveras isn't the only good OF prospect in Memphis. So, I see no reason to have any specific pre-spring training commitment to Jay as the team's starting center fielder for 2014.

So, for a certain segment of Redbird fans, that's one love affair you need to get over.

The other is David Freese. I blogged last offseason that the team should have considered making him part of a package for the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia, knowing their infield needs. Even with CC's recent struggles, I stand by that idea. On OPS+, he's exactly at replacement level right now. And, he's not that good of a fielder. Plus he's headed toward his second year of arbitration. If the Cards are lucky he, like Holliday, will have a late-season push and that plus his 2011 heroics will make him attractive to bidders.

You all know the drill here. Matt Carpenter goes to third and Kolten Wong gets called up to play second. The infield in general gets stabilized.

And, that's especially true if, in one of these deals, Pete Kozma gets replaced by a better SS. Hell, a 36-year-old post-surgery Rafael Furcal would possibly still be better, depending on how much he wants in free agency.

He would also offer more speed than Kozma, a sad reflection indeed.

And speaking of, Taveras would offer a minor speed upgrade over Jay, and Wong a definite one over anybody on the current Cardinal roster.

But, as I noted above, a number of the Cards' baserunning problems, especially earlier in the season, have been or were due to boneheadedness. There's no rookies among the position regulars, and they all have enough experience this shouldn't happen.

So, in the offseason, besides wheeling and dealing players, maybe John Mozeliak needs to ask if manager Mike Matheny needs a better coach or two. Hey, he's only in his second year, but, it's not too early to criticize him here and there. Bernie Miklasz is spot-on about him overplaying Yadier Molina, and he said this for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

So, trading to boost speed, boost infield defense, and get younger in a couple of spots, all at the same time, doesn't have to be too hard.

And, if Furcal can be signed on the cheap and nobody wants to let go of a shortstop, the trades can focus on further bolstering the pitching staff. Especially if Jaime Garcia's comeback is iffy, I certainly wouldn't mind another left-handed starter. And, to dream high, if his name isn't Sabathia, maybe it's Cliff Lee.

Tyler Lyons has not impressed so far, and I don't expect that to change the rest of this year, or next year. John Gast will be coming off surgery, like Garcia.

So, there you go, Mo. Get us a better SS if  Furcal's not OK, and not brought back. Get us a lefty starter. And, get Matheny to the next level. (To be honest, I had wanted Terry Francona to replace LaRussa.)

None of this is rocket science, and the trades can be win-win, or at least win-not lose.

August 04, 2013

Evolutionary psych finds Texas tiny-penis syndrome

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm not too much of a fan of evolutionary psychology. Many of its claims, even in its more staid versions, sound like "just-so" stories, and the baggage of its even more wild-eyed sibling, Pop Evolutionary Psychology, adds to the problems of even more legitimate evolutionary psychology.

However, at times, something that sounds like a just-so story may not be.

And, one of the most exciting pronouncements is that evolutionary psychology seems to have documented shortened penises in many Texas males, and to have shown how specific types of Texas boastfulness are related to this, in what may be the most significant finding of sexual selection and evolutionary psychology since Charles Darwin himself postulated that peacock tail feathers were a sexual selection device to attract females. (NOT!)

(And, no this is no joke. Condom company research shows that one male thing is smaller indeed in the Lone Star State.)

Herr Dr. Paul von Schlippenschtupper, professor of evolutionary psychology at Lower East Texas State University in Vidor, explained how this fit in with psychological theories of compensation.

"First, we had to postulate what some common compensatory mechanisms might be," von Schlippenschtupper said. "Then we had to show a correlation between penis length, or lack thereof, and these compensatory mechanisms. Third, we had to in some way show that this correlation is causal and not just statistical."

Von Schlippenschtupper said that for the first item, Texas males were compared with non-Texas males to determine some common sociological and psychological differences.

A few immediately stood out. They included:
1. The phrase "everything's bigger in Texas."
2. The phrase "Don't mess with Texas."
3. Large belt buckles
4. Fake bull testicles on pickup back bumpers.

Von Schlippenschtupper said the first item seemed clear.

"Only someone who did not believe everything in his life was bigger would loudly shout that everything is bigger," he said.

The second item, he said, might also have a second component.

"If this were correlated with penis size, it might also have other sexual issues," he said. "This would include an element of overt homophobia, with the verb 'mess' often being used in the sense of 'touch' or 'fondle.' Then, this overt homophobia might reflect a repression of one's own homosexuality, and combined with penis shortening, actually have two compensatory issues fused together."

The third and fourth were obvious, he said.

"The belt buckle is a visual version of George Lakoff's 'framing,' von Schlippenschtupper said. "It attempts to frame a smaller penis in a way to make it look larger than it actually is. It also attempts to substitute a second sexual symbol for the first one, with the size of the belt buckle, and its theoretical skill in reframing a short penis, actually making the false claim that the wearer of a large buckle has a long penis."

"The fake bull testicles are more unconscious. And,  of course, they're technically not compensation for a shorter human penis, but smaller human testicles," von Schlippenschtupper said. "However, it's a similar type of compensation for perceived sexual inadequacy, so we included it."

Von Schlippenschtupper said that he and his postgraduate research assistants would continue to research the issue. Other possible indicators of tiny-penis syndrome could include ornate, overwrought iron gates for fake ranches, double-cab pickup ownership by people who don't even need single-cab pickups and more.

As for the degree of correlation? Von Schlippenschtupper and his staff did the appropriate measurements. With a p-value not just of 0.05, but 0.001, they found a 98 percent correlation with average penis length of 0.91 inches shorter than that of the average American male in general.

Von Schlippenschtupper said proving there's a direct causal element will be more difficult. He noted that the typical tiny-penis Texan refused to admit he suffered from this, let alone saying when he first noticed he suffered from this. Therefore, it's impossible to tell if a sufferer went out and bought fake bull testicles as a direct result of knowing he had a tiny penis.

However, von Schlippenschtupper said he and his staff are looking for various ways to prove the causal angle.

Von Schlippenschtupper also said that tiny-penis syndrome appeared much more likely to be found in those of conservative political beliefs. He said that 42 percent of sufferers identified as being very conservative and 36 percent identified as being conservative. Again, he said he and his postdocs were working to nail down issues of causation.

Is there really an economic recovery in Waco?

Allegedly, unemployment is down and jobs are growing in the Queen City of the Brazos.

But, the world of advertising leads me to question this.

The Waco Tribune-Herald, which continues to show to me, an ink-stained wretch, what many a layperson reader know -- it kind of sucks, surely doesn't give indications of a lively economy.

Yes, I know that early August is a slow time of year. But, just 20 pages in the Saturday paper?

When I was in Odessa, we had 24 for sure, even in late July and early August. And, greater Waco is Odessa plus Midland combined in population. Sure, there's no oil there, and its bounded by Temple to the south and Killeen to the west, but, still, 20 pages is weak.

Of course, it didn't have advertising to justify more than that.

Counting classifieds, but setting aside the almost two pages of obits, which are paid, but not advertising in the narrow sense, the remaining 18 pages would have been lucky to be 25 percent ads.

At the same time, when a lot of smaller seven-day dailies don't have an official editorial page editor anymore, instead having either the editor or the ME oversee that, the Trib has not only an editorial page editor but an assistant!

So, aside from the economics issues, I can understand why laypeople complain about the paper.

That said, it's not just the Trib, bad as it may be in general.

I've seen multiple billboards that have "house" ads from Lamar Outdoor on them. Outside the DFW/Houston/San Antone triangle plus Austin, a lot of east, central and south Texas' urban areas are kind of like Waco .... Beaumont, Longview, Tyler, Corpus, etc.

If Rick Perry's got a Texas economic miracle cooking, the pot's not getting even heat.

Update, Oct. 15: Last Saturday's Waco Trib had more pages than that August one, but boy, it was poor on advertising. My quick-scanned guesstimate? About 20 percent ads, 80 percent copy. If Warren Buffett thinks newspapers are such a good investment, he's apparently not always picking the right ones.

He also hasn't gotten the Trib, in a year-plus of Berkshire Hathaway ownership, to put up a paywall, despite his own admonitions about this. Nor has BH apparently done anything to promote regional clustering with the Bryan-College Station Eagle, which it also owns.