SocraticGadfly: 8/18/13 - 8/25/13

August 23, 2013

Dear small Texas counties: Blame Abbott for your #VoterID bills

As I blogged yesterday, the state of Texas and its "sue Obama" attorney general, Greg Abbott, are now being sued BY Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice over both Texas new voter ID law and over redistricting.

Well, the local county clerk is complaining about the cost of running a legal notice for the details of the new voter ID law. It would cost, unless she can get the Secretary of State to let it be trimmed, about $250 to run bilingually.

Hey, I don't want to soak the county unnecessarily, but, if that's what the state says is needed, that's what's needed. (And, I don't know if it's a required posting, but I sure got that indication.)

Once again, Texas' money-waster in chief rears his head. And, with DOJ officially involved, the voter ID bill may at least face an injunction before this November's constitutional amendments election. If so, more money wasted.

Oh, and ain't it funny, or "funny," that the law does nothing to address vote fraud, actual as well as alleged, in voting by mail? Why? Because in the past, that's been the provenance of old, white, rural Republicans, in many cases, though that's probably changing.

(I'm waiting for the GOP to try to figure out how to "cage" voters by mail.)

#Coffitivity: Stupider than the #MozartEffect

And snobbier, too!

A Facebook friend sent me a link to Coffitivity, which makes the Mozart Effect sound like actual science!

Quoting from the website:
Coffee shop sounds boost creativity, now those sounds are at your fingertips!
And, the hints of impeccable social science studies backing this up follow.

First, recognizing true junk science combined with true Nice Polite Republican Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Meyer-lemon-squeezing, Obama-loving sales pitches is the key to this.

As for that research? They link to one study, which looks at ambient noise in general, not one particular type of ambient noise, and that doesn't actually claim to prove anything. Here:
Based on the above research, we predict that the distraction caused by a moderate (vs. low) level of noise will induce processing difficulty, leading to abstract processing and, consequently, to greater creativity.
Predict ain't the same as prove. Fail. And, it's not called The Journal of Consumer Research for nothing. Sorry, but why doesn't the University of Chicago actually get empirical behavioral economics rolling more and more?

Next, the study did say that moderately varying ambient sound isn't the only way to possibly boost creativity. It said colors of moderate intensity with moderate changes could do the same.

Like .... being out in nature!

And, because we're more modern than the Mozart Effect, there's no CDs. There's apps! And even an employee called a "growth hacker"!

Now, to riff on my stereotypical neoliberal rant from above.

Of course, Coffitivity's targeted only to Mac users, because we know you PC types still buy fucking No. 1-selling Folgers from the can at the grocery store.

That rant about Folgers, etc., is sparked by something Kai Rissdahl had on Marketplace on NPR yesterday. I wrote the following brief snark.
Your Kai Rissdahl + Marketplace teh stupid + dog whistle, perhaps, for today: "Coffee snobs, you may want to shut off your radios for the next 2 minutes and 10 seconds." He then says, Did you know the best selling coffee in America at the grocery store is ...... (long ellipsis)


No shit, Sherlock? Folgers, or Maxwell House as No. 2, were brainless guesses. Why? They're cheap and they've been around for a century longer than Starbucks.

That said, although not as bad as 20 years ago, since they do use all Arabica beans now, they're still semi-dreck compared to real coffees.

That said, the best Robustas are better than the worst Arabicas, but our coffee snob balloon buster didn't tell us that.
So, of course, something like this is geared to iPods and iPads. A little more come-on to Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Meyer-lemon-squeezing types that only Mac users are really creative? Your iPad or iPhone is fine, but Android coffee drinkers need not apply? See that subtle dogwhistle in there, too? Yes, halfway down the page it has a blurb for non-Mac smartphone users, but right below the banner, it says: 
Available for Mac, iPhone, and iPad in the App Store!
Sorry, even if you talk about generic smartphones later, that's still a dogwhistle in my book.

Anyway, had to email the Coffitivity folks this:
Coffee research shows drinking six or more cups a day shortens your life span. A more serious than anything you've done, in-depth, longitudinal study shows that.

More coffee research shows that the stress from wondering what 'growth hacker' to buy, how much money one can afford for it, and worrying about the high prices of Starbucks plus the health effects of all the sugar and fats from non-coffee 'coffee drinks' further shortens one's lifespan.
And, I'm not joking.

One real, longitudinal study, from the Mayo Clinic, though kind of iffy on its follow-up questions, says six or more cups a day can shorten lifespan due to increasing cardiovascular problems. Another, lesser study says that six or more cups a day may increase metabolic syndrome, a diabetes precursor.

And I Tweeted them this:
Coffitivity sounds like another typical American "magic bullet" fail. Euclid: There is no #MozartEffect route to learning.
Because that's exactly what it sounds like. Of course, Euclid didn't have Starbucks, or coffee in general, so I'm riffing on his famous "there is no royal road to learning" comments to Alexander the Great.

What's next? Sounding like coffee snobs about different coffeehouse ambient noises? But of course, I'm sure.
"Our 'Afternoon Enchantment' is a medium-light roast of noise, perfect for those midday times when your mind, like your body, craves a siesta but you know you must do work."
Also, misspelling the root word in a mash-up, i.e., "coffee" in this case, will get you an extra spanking from me as an editor.

August 22, 2013

Why Walter Johnson is greater than Cy Young — or other oldsters

Some fan votes on the ELO player ratings Baseball-Reference are stupid. How is Dennis Eckersley the 11th-best pitcher ever? (Answer: He's not.)

The big debate about pitchers, though, has always been, though, where Cy Young should stand, despite those 511 wins.

And, at least second to the Big Train, Walter Johnson, is right. (If even that high.)

Why? It's all about the rules, and the relevant ages and eras of the two greats.

First, the "dead ball" era of 1900-1920 wasn't totally that way.

The modern, or modern-like, cork-center ball was introduced in 1910. But, let's start from the beginning, noting that Young started pitching in 1890 and Johnson in 1907.

Let's look at pitching-related rules changes in general, by year.

*** 1890: Young starts career ***

1893: Mound is moved back to 60-6", its current distance. Pitching rubber is introduced. So, Young's first three seasons weren't under modern rules, dead or live ball.

1897: Pitchers (and other players) are barred from deliberately discoloring or injuring the ball. Yes, after the fatal beaning of Ray Chapman by Carl Mays, rotating out balls more regularly became part of the solution. But, this change, even, helped a bit. Young had pitched seven seasons while being allowed to be "Black and Decker," whether he did it that much or not. (See 1908, too.)

1904: Mound height set at 15 inches. Not sure how much some teams before that tried to make it higher.

*** 1907: Johnson starts career ***

1908: Pitchers are specifically forbidden from scuffing or discoloring a ball.

1910: The cork-center ball is adopted. (Arguably, we should talk about "semi-dead ball era after this. Note that home run totals picked up to a decent degree from here on out, even before the "live-ball era." (1918 is an outlier due to the enforced shortening of the season for WWI and I therefore don't count it.)

*** 1911: Young retires at end of season ***

1920: The "lively ball" is introduced.

1925: The rosin bag is introduced.

*** 1927: Johnson retires after season ***

So, Young basically played in a totally different era than Johnson. Hall of Famer? Sure. But, maybe he shouldn't even be in the top five in pitchers. Who knows?

Add in the anecdotal tales that Johnson (after hitting a few people early in his career) was afraid to throw too far inside, lest he possibly kill somebody himself, and some batters knowing this about him, and I think we could well call him the best of all time.

How would he have done today?

Well, his sidearm-type motion would have kept low stress on his arm today, just like then. And, while not conducive to a good curve, I have no doubt he could have thrown devastating versions of a slider and a cutter out of that same arm slot.

And, before Don Drysdale broke it in the pitching-heavy 1968, Johnson had the record for a scoreless-innings streak at 55 2/3.

My thoughts on other pitchers who were at least in part in the dead-ball era, or the true 1910-1909 dead ball era and the 1910-1919 semi-dead era?

Pete Alexander I think was third-best. Christy Mathewson had a slightly lower ERA+ and benefited from being on better teams. And, he retired at a relatively young 35 and his arm was gone before that.

 The one I have trouble with is a totally live-ball era pitcher. Yeah, Lefty Grove won 300, with a fantastic winning percentage, and a great ERA+, but retiring somewhat younger colors things a bit. Even allowing for him being in the liveliest of live-ball eras (at least before steroids), his WHIP being above 1.25 also is a bit of a ding.

Also, and sorry Dodgers and 1960s fans, Sandy Koufax shouldn't be No. 8. Even at his peak, he never had an ERA+ of above 200, among other things. (His best was a 190; Bob Gibson had a 258 in his incredible 1968, and Johnson, even with the low scoring of his era, broke 200 four times.) Also, arguably, besides finding his control in LA, he found Dodger Stadium, after it was built. Yes, I know B-R's ERA+ ratings are park-adjusted as default, but still, keep that in mind. Even more with Don Drysdale, who probably should not be a HOFer, and who definitely shouldn't be ranked No. 16 among pitchers, just one step behind Gibby. Doubly even more with Don Sutton, who shouldn't be ranked a spot ahead of Gibby at No. 14. Makes me wonder if this is younger, less nuanced fans, or its just Dodger fans crashing the boards.

Is there an "Obama effect" like the "Bradley effect"?

The Bradley effect is named after former long-term Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a bid for governor in California even while polls showed him leading.

As Wikipedia explains, the gist of it is that, even though polls are anonymous, a certain number of white voters will tell pollsters they intend to vote for a black candidate, because that's what they think they should say, even though they have no such actual intention.

In more recent years, it appears to have lessened, which is itself a sign of progress.

However, it may have been replaced by what I will call the "Obama effect."

I finally tumbled on that based on this Gallup poll (graphic at left), which shows whites' and blacks' views on whether or not the criminal justice system is biased against blacks, are widening.

The percentage of blacks believing there's bias hasn't changed for years, while the percentage of whites believing that there is bias has dropped significantly in recent years.

And, when did those "recent years" start?

Well, in 2009.

Hence, the "Obama effect."

Update, Aug. 22: Half of America, fortunately, sees through the Obama effect and sees no new progress on black-white racial equality. 

Here's the nut graf:
Overall, 49 percent of Americans say "a lot more" remains to be done to achieve racial equality. Among blacks, the share climbs to 79 percent, compared with 44 percent for whites and 48 percent for Hispanics.
Lemme see ... Dear Leader got somewhere around 44 percent of white vote in 2012, didn't he? Yep, 43 percent. That means all the GOPers, from the five men in black who overthrew Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on down conveniently happen to disagree with the idea, and let the Obama effect flood their minds.

Other findings.
—By political party, about 56 percent of Republicans say the U.S. has made a lot of progress toward racial equality, compared with just 38 percent of Democrats. When asked how much more needs to be done, 35 percent of Republicans say "a lot" compared with 63 percent of Democrats.

—About 7 in 10 blacks say they are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with police (70 percent) or in the courts (68 percent). And the Pew report shows that in 2010, black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated. That's up from 1960, when black men were five times more likely to be in a federal or state prison, or local jail.
The first just further underscores the idea of an Obama effect. The second? DWB still happens. And, don't forget Trayvon Martin.

Meanwhile, Hispanics continue to feel, on average, less out of the loop than blacks. Word to the wise there, the hopefully wise including the Texas Democratic Party and Battleground Texas.

That said, why?

Assuming not all Republicans, or conservative independents, are John Roberts, let alone Nino Scalias, why?

As the excellent book "Blind Spot" points out, a lot of people have hidden biases on race (or sex, sexual orientation, or age). Per the book's title, these are unconscious, and are often held by people who proudly present and profess themselves as liberal, including on racial relations.

So, some of the white decline may be blind-spotters who sincerely, and consciously, believe Obama's election "proves something" while unconsciously letting themselves off the hook at the same time.

Others may be more consciously letting themselves off the hook.

And a few may have little unconscious bias, let alone conscious bias, but they just think we are making progress.

That said, this issue applies to far more than widening gaps in viewing our criminal justice system. However, that particular issue is perfectly illustrative of what's at hand.

And, even with allowance for his Trayvon Martin speech, one wonders if Dear Leader himself has been a victim of the Obama effect.

Dear #antivaxxer Kenneth Copeland — can't you pray the measles away?

Now, I'm not generally like Gnu Atheists, poking wanton fun at religion.

But, when there's low-hanging fruit, such as a church run by one of the scions of success gospel guru (and IRS-trimming) Kenneth Copeland getting an outbreak of the measles, it's too rich to pass up.

Copeland, the father of Eagle Mountain International Church Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons is also a faith healer PLUS an antivaxxer of sorts.

And, per the link, Rev. Pearsons is tap-dancing:
There are a lot of people that think the Bible — we talk about walking by faith — it leaves out things such as, I don't know, people just get strange. But when you read the Old Testament, you find that it is full of precautionary measures, and it is full of the law. 

Why did the Jewish people, why did they not die out during the plague? Because the Bible told them how to be clean, told them how to disinfect, told them there was something contagious. And the interesting thing of it, it wasn't a medical doctor per se who took care of those things, it was the priesthood. It was the ministers, it was those who knew how to take the promises of God as well as the commandments of God to take care of things like disinfection and so forth....

Many of the things that we have in medical practice now actually are things you can trace back into scripture. It's when we find out what's in the scripture that we have wisdom.
She's also tap-dancing another way.

Isn't it always "interesting" that literalist or semiliteralist women ministers ALWAYS ignore what pseudo-Paul said about them in 2 Timothy?

How bad is it?

Ten people in Tarrant County have come down with measles, and the vector's been traced to the church.

And, at that link, Pearsons shows more science ignorance:
“What we’re going to be doing tonight, after church, is there will be a massive disinfecting of the entire church, this whole building, the whole campus, everything,” Pearsons said.
Measles isn't something you spray away with a can of Lysol or wash away with a bottle of Clorox. It's a virus, not a bacterium, and a hardy one. When an outbreak happens, the solution is vaccination in social rings around the ground zero.

A "massive disinfecting of the entire church" is as useful as an exorcism, or per daddy's success gospel, praying for a new airplane from him while laying hands on the TV while he's on the air.

Just ugh.

That said, the church is also hosting vaccination clinics.

(That's a friendly thing to remember, especially when people deny the theory of evolution. Vaccines, and how they work, and when they actually don't work, are all related to that, folks!)

This would be an opportunity for a religious leader to argue for the god-given brilliance of humans creating vaccines, if Copeland had more theological common sense. Of course, there would still be that pesky problem of evil about why vaccines exist in the first place.

Hey, Abbott: It's Obama's turn to sue YOU

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has said he perceives his job as attorney general thusly:
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.
Is now on the other end of the stick.

President Barack Obama's Department of Justice and AG Eric Holder is suing the state over its voter ID law.

But not just that. DOJ's also intervening in the redistricting lawsuit.

As I've said before, Abbott, now running for governor, is arguably the state's chief elected money-waster. That said, he headlines a pack of conservatives in the Lege who pass bills that lead to lawsuits like this.

And now, Tricky Ricky Perry speaks of "the will of the people." I guess he forgot the words "rich" and "white" in there.

Did Dewhurst just kill his political career?

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, aka Dudley Dewless, may have put the final nail in his political coffin when pulling the "don't you know who I am" card when trying to spring his wife's niece out of jail.

Now, as the jail sergeant with the Allen PD notes, such calls are relatively normal. Until they involve the "don't you know who I am," and want numbers of judges or something.

Nothing illegal, just a massive ethics lapse.

Is this enough for his Three Blind Mice opposition of Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and numbnuts state Sen. Dan Patrick, to be able to topple him? Like fellow blogger Brains and Eggs, I've thought all along that Dewless is in the wrong race for 2014, that either challenging John Cornyn of the Senate or else finding a safe Congressional seat was his right move.

(Update, Aug. 23: And don't you think that Patterson's announcement that the Veteran Land Board would treat the spouses victims of Maj. Nidal Hasan's Fort Hood shootings as if their loved ones were combat casualties won't boost his standing? I'm not saying it's not a decent thing to do, but, it also looks good politically.) 

That said, I partially disagree with Brains when he says Patrick's probably the best challenger, then Patterson. I expect Patrick to implode at some point, including pissing off some of his own wingnut supporter types. Also, Staples as well as Patterson has a state office that puts his name before a lot of rural voters that are still key in GOP primaries. Even if Patrick doesn't actually implode, he still will have name recognition problems. Also, per the Observer's roundup, Staples has some religious right cred, just like Patrick. Brains reminds me, though, that Patrick's radio show airs in Dallas as well as Houston. That said, he doesn't have a statewide office.

Beyond that, Patrick has some 'splaining to do to pro-lifers, as he until recently owned stock in a company that makes the Plan B "morning after pill." (His explanation of this is usual political boilerplate, and will only lead the far right to further scrutinize other investments of his.)

But, back to Dewless himself.

Staples is already comparing him to Ron Burgundy of "Anchorman" fame. Cute, but probably won't push the GOP needles that much. Patrick is likely to be the biggest pit bull on this one. And, per his style, Patterson will quietly pick up the pieces at the end.

From Dewless' POV, it's not that many GOPers don't know who the Lite Guv is. It's that they know him all too well. This will be seen as another example of a pre-Tea Party patrician conservative trying to throw his weight, his name, and his moneyed past around.

Part of the question is, will GOP insider types coalesce around one particular candidate between now and, say, the end of this year? And if so, whom?

Related a bit to that: Let's note that said incident actually happened three weeks before public airing. Why it got that public airing is part of the issue.

August 21, 2013

#Pujols weighs in on end of his season, and so do I

The Machine himself, Albert Pujols, of course had been hitting on much fewer than all eight cylinders throughout the season this year, long before he decided to accept the wisdom of the higher-ups, from GM Jerry DiPoto in the front office through manager Mike Scioscia, and not try to come back this year from his plantar fascia foot tear.

I agreed with Yahoo's Tim Brown in June that Pujols probably came back too early from his offseason knee surgery. So, contra the ESPN link above, I'm still not going to call it possibly "one of the worst contracts of all time," with a hint it might be the worst.

Here's what I said at that time:
In other words, if he could bat like his 2011 St. Louis lines, albeit with fewer HRs and more doubles, and do so through 2015, the Angels would take it. Even Prince Albert might grudgingly accept it.
I think that's still reasonable. More than that doesn't seem likely.
So, not close to worst, IF Pujols can bounce back, with a thorough offseason of rest, I still think this is possible.

Will the Angels "accept" two year of .300 BA, 100-105 runs and RBIs, 40 2B, 30-35 HRs, .540 slugging and .900 OPS, with 3 WAA? You bet they will. They'll take 3 percent slippage a year after that on the final six years of his contract, and at the end, "accept" a Pujols playing at 41 the way Alex Rodriguez did in 2011 at 35 or last year at 36.

The contract will still be an overpay, but not a catastrophic one. On the other hand, the contract is backloaded. The team only paid him $12M last year and $16M this. The rest of the contract is better than $25M a year, on average. That said, Tim Keown agrees that from owner Arte Moreno's point of view, at least, this isn't horrific.

This all said, I don't know for sure how much rushing the return from knee surgery contributed to the fascitis problem, but it's indeed possible there's some connection.

And, Pujols is honest in saying Arte Moreno and Angels fans shouldn't have expected the 2008 Pujols in 2018 or whatever anyway.
"I knew that I wouldn't hit exactly the same like I did during the first 11 seasons in St. Louis. If I could bat .340 for 20 years, I would be something from another planet. But I train really hard, and I'm sure that I'll keep on hitting.
He also noted, speaking of future years, and training, that the shutdown decision was made with those remaining eight years in mind.

There's one or two other pluses.

First, while his strikeouts outnumber his walks for the second straight year, he had been taking more pitches than he did last year.

Second, the rest will help his knee, and any nagging arm problems or other issues he has. Knowing how much he does train in the offseason, it will probably allow for some overall muscle healing.

So, if the fascitis itself heals OK, I'll stand by my expectation that the Angels will get the 2011 Pujols next year. And, take him.

It's still arguably less of an overpay than the Phils have with Ryan Howard, even if his contract is shorter. He looks older and slower than Pujols, even without any specific injury.

Meanwhile, as Miguel Cabrera racks up nagging injuries, and looks ahead toward free agency in two years, the Tigers have to figure how much of a bank they want to break for him.

My smart money says the Tigers lock him up this offseason with a 3-4 year extension, plus rewrite of the two years left on his contract, if they can.

Meanwhile, as a Cardinals fan, I still miss him. But, from a mid-market team's point of view, even one with packed attendance and great souvenir sales, the Cards were smart to pass, even without the injuries that they know happened. They simply don't have the local TV dollars the Angels do.

That said, Cards' GM John Mozeliak, I still say, didn't negotiate in good faith in the 2010 offseason. In hindsight, it's clear that, already then, he was going to sell short on Pujols, period.

Now, what if I'm wrong about Prince Albert, 2014 version?

In that case, I say, I wouldn't be surprised if the discussion over his actual age starts up again.

#Parkland looks like it could be a great movie

Here's the Dallas Morning News' Guide section's take on it, with still photos here, and here's a trailer (also at the first link):

It could be great, because, as the Snooze notes, it's based on Vincent Bugliosi's book.

However, it could schwaffle enough to give fuel to conspiracy theorists:
Though Vincent Bugliosi’s book makes the (very long) case for Oswald as Kennedy’s killer, (scriptwriter and director Peter) Landesman tells Variety the movie doesn’t pick sides between lone gunman or vast conspiracy.

“What we’re looking to do is start a different conversation about historical events,” he told Variety. “Fifty years later, people are still very emotional about that day.”
Uhh, then why do you claim it's adapted from Bugliosi's book? Bugliosi, a great lawyer, makes an even more forceful, more in-depth argument for Oswald acting alone than does "Case Closed" by Gerald Posner, and with less baggage than later-in-life journalism ethics crack-ups by Posner. (Interesting tidbit: Posner hired JFK conspiracy theorist lawyer Mark Lane to represent him over that!)

Variety says that producer Tom Hanks gave Bugliosi vetting over scripts, so, let's hope that Landesman's making more a "tease" statement than anything else.

But, until I hear more, I'm going to emphasize that word "could." If the film winds up giving conspiracy theorists bits of ammo while at the same time not steering that "different conversation" to facts on the ground, it could be good drama but a factual narrative flop.

That said, as Salon notes, because it focuses on what happened after the shooting, it could be giving conspiracy theorists little to peg themselves to.

But, having been at Dealey Plaza before, including on a Nov. 22, trust me — if one "I" isn't dotted on this baby, it will be a field day, even if it's only a low-budget indie flick.

Manning not guilty (sort of); take THAT, Obama (updated with sentencing)

Army Private Bradley Manning has beaten the rap on the most serious charges against him in the Wikileaks case. A military judge has found him not guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy.

The charge was fucking ridiculous, and Dear Leader, our constitutional law scholar president knew that then and knows that now. Invoking the Espionage Act was ridiculous enough. That legislation should be repealed and join the Alien and Sedition Acts on the dustbin of bad American legislative history.
Ben Wizner, director of the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed relief that Private Manning was acquitted of the “most dangerous charge” brought against him, but criticized the espionage charges. 

“While we’re relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the A.C.L.U. has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” he said. “Since Manning already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information — which carry significant punishment — it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.” 
That's about right.

And, although this was a military court, not a civilian one, Dear Leader is nonetheless the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States. He could have told prosecutors to drop the "traitor" language.

He could also have told the Army not to have him confined in semi-Supermax solitary confinement, etc.

He did not.

That said, I'm not going to deny that Manning deservedly faced some charges. He did leak classified information. The counts of stealing government property were arguably legit. The leaking of information had already been pled to.

But, remember, this is the Dear Leader who was pursuing Manning:
Private Manning is one of seven people who have been charged with leaking information to the press for public consumption under the Obama administration. Under all previous presidents combined, there were only three such cases.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Wikileaks in the U.S., has weighed in with a news release:
While the 'aiding the enemy' charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.
We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country?  What is the future of the First Amendment?
Manning's treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve.
We stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and call for the government to take heed and end its assault on the First Amendment.
Amen to that last graf.

I'll update this post again when D.L. reacts.


Update, Aug. 21: Well, the judge has reacted, or acted. Manning's going to serve 35 years. Given that the prosecution wanted 60, and other things, and the minimum, per sentencing guidelines, is 25 years, this isn't "that bad," all things speaking. Of course, let's wait and see, to make sure Dear Leader and the What-A-Gon don't put him in a military supermax with 23 hours a day of solitary.

That worry aside, the story says that with credit for time served, and good behavior while in the stir, he could get out on parole in less than seven years. Of course, this is assuming the next administration is any more tender-hearted about leaking about such issues than is Dear Leader's.

August 20, 2013

What is the Dallas Morning News worth as a brand?

We'll soon find out, I guess.

D Magazine reports that the Snooze will abandon its online paywall in September and instead put up a premium website.

(Update, Sept. 30: The Snooze has announced details of the premium website. Here's my take on what sounds even stupider than I thought when I first wrote this post.)

The San Francisco Chronicle, after dumping its current paywall, may do the same. 

But, what's a premium website going to sell?

Let's take the Snooze as an example.

Will we get more "who's being seen" pictures and write-ups of snooty parties in Highland Park or Preston Hollow? Who's sitting with Jerry Jones in a luxury suite in AT&T Bubbaville in Arlington?

That's fine, if that's what the Snooze wants to do. I'm waiting on other details. But Dallas as a news "commodity" source doesn't really have a lot of "premium" content besides snooty people in Highland Park and the Cowboys. (Well, OK, you have JFK assassination and 50th anniversary coverage, too. But that's it.)

It's not like the Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times, even, or the Economist, where by their nature a fair amount of the news can be treated as a premium. Or, if the Washington Post did it right, national politics coverage as a "premium" might still sell, even in today's post-Politico world.

Also, depending on the exact nature of what content is in a premium section, and if it gets to be too puffery, a premium site like the Snooze's might raise ethics issues.

And, on Cowboys issues, it would be tough for the Snooze to make people pay for premium coverage, given how many people the paper has cut from its sports section staff in the past several years. Heck, it was their availability that was part of what led ESPN to create a separate sub-site for Dallas sports.

Anyway, I am curious to find out more, so as to make more of a judgment. But, I'm betting that the Snooze will eventually find this is a step backward.

Or, the only way it becomes a step forward is if it does separate premium sites at all Belo papers, then, along the lines of splitting broadcast and newspapers last year, next splits premium and non-premium versions of its newspapers.

That said, with me having lived in Dallas in the past, I have no problem if the Snooze wants to give away normal Metroplex news for free again. Or if the Observer, the local alt-weekly, wants to continue giving away its take on local news. 

The whole "branded premium content" idea seems to me to be yet another one of those newspaer-Internet ideas that's about ... oh, five years too late. If not more? Exhibit A: The San Francisco Chronicle, which was actually running a badly-managed version of a premium website. Even a well-managed one, what will that do? I mean, the tech world is really as much the beat of the San Jose Mercury News, if not more so. And McClatchey halfway bungled the opportunity to make that a "premium" several years ago, though not totaly.

See, a Jeff Bezos can pull this off at the Washington Post, and not necessarily trying to make a "new" post old enough to end-run Politico. He can do it with Amazon swag and other things. But I just don't see the traditional metropolitan daily having that much premium content to offer.

Big hair and Cowboys. (Plus JFK getting whacked.) Well, for better or worse, the Snooze is at least one up on the Houston Chronicle.

August 19, 2013

A new #ethics low for a #newspaper: #OCRegister fail

Initially, the purchase of the core of old Freedom Communications (disclosure: I once worked for the Odessa American), above all, the Orange County Register, sounded great.

New owner Aaron Kushner talked about making a stronger explicit commitment to print publishing, among other things.

Then, we found out that a lot of the expanded print copy was going to be advertorial. Now, it wasn't going to be with traditional big business, but instead, with colleges and universities in the area. But, they're still institutions needing news coverage, and $825,000 per year might dissuade a lot of negative coverage, especially since the advertorial stuff was supposed to be about PR for the three colleges in question.

Now, the OCR has taken the next step into an ethical swampland,

The Register is "brokering" the process of selling naming rights to a city of Anaheim transportation hub.
Kushner defended the arrangement as just a new twist to traditional advertising sponsorships that speaks to the media company's commitment to the region's future.

Freedom Communications would have the exclusive right for 12 months to solicit corporations for the opportunity to display their names on the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center or ARTIC, a nearly $200-million structure that would house the city's train station, a letter of intent from the city states.

In order for the deal to be complete, the City Council must approve it.

Kushner acknowledged that the company would receive a cut of the revenue from any successful sponsorships.

"Effectively, we are acting as an additional source of marketing muscle to try and bring private support to this project, because our mission, we believe, is to help Orange County grow," Kushner said. "We believe this is an important project."
How can a paper objectively cover whatever biz wins the bid? That's even without it taking a cut of the marketing sales pie.

And who knows what other facilities the City of Anaheim wants to "brand" in the future, and ask Freedom to handle the branding, for that matter?

Imagine, say, that Dallas or Fort Worth wanted to put a corporate name on its zoo and asked the Star-Telegram or Morning News to handle the marketing hunt, and give itself 10 percent in the meanwhile.

It also makes me wonder why Kusher has started a competitor to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Is it really about news coverage, or it is about siphoning up advertorial $$ from Cal State-Long Beach, naming rights to the Queen Mary and more?

That also makes me wonder what's behind converting the Irvine World News and a couple of other weekly papers to dailies.

Hey, Aaron: Hope the advertorial and marketing $$ offset the cancelled subscriptions.

Meanwhile, contra to his touting of how the expanded OCR, expansion of two if its weeklies, and other things will drive profitability, second quarter profit has slumped. And had been slumping,  enough for the company to stop contributing to employees' 401(k) accounts back in January. Oops.

Circulation's still sliding down there, too. Even with the paywall. Circulation's up at the community newspapers, but I don't know whether that factors in moving from weekly to daily on a couple of them or not.

 Update, June 5, 2014: Kushner's hunt for cheap, and unethical money, have availed him for nought. Ken Doctor notes how the Kushner yellow flags have now become red. The Long Beach rollout cut back to weekly. Community sections cut back in the OC. And, the biggies? Mandatory two-week furloughs, plus late vendor payments.


Meanwhile, serf-and-SEO-driven "hyperlocal" content producer Journatic now has a competitor of sorts, linked to the Sun-Times rather than Journatic's link to the Chicago Trib. Wunderbar.  If Mathew Ingram is for it, that's probably a good reason to be agin it.

And, Groupon is launching an affiliate partner network.

Just an all-around crappy day from the world of Gnu Media.

New #steroid dickery by Lyin Braun unveiled

It takes a lot to bump Alex Rodriguez off the top of the Major League Baseball steroid-using disliked players list.

But, Ryan Braun has managed to do just that.

The latest from Lyin Braun? It includes playing the race/ethnicity card in his original bust that was revoked.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports that Braun reportedly was telling other major leaguers, about his initial suspension that was eventually thrown out, that the collector was an anti-Semite.

That's even worse than calling him a Cubs fan, which Braun also did. 

A couple of weeks ago, ESPN's Buster Olney said what he should be doing:
His first call must go to Dino Laurenzi Jr., the collector whose character and work he called into question when he made his now infamous statement in February of 2012, after he won his appeal.  

But, his first public pronouncement, as a press release, and his first public apology, say Laurenzi's name nowhere near either his lips or his agent's lips and keyboard.

Now, this.

So, yes, Juices Maccabee, the Hebrew Hammer, you've hit yet another new low. And, have even more need than before to apologize. And, folks, if you want to talk about just how bad it is, I still have my poll at top right.

Meanwhile, it looks like you also need to lawyer up. (And, no Lyin Braun there!)
Braun was sued this week by a former friend named Ralph Sasson, who alleges Braun's agent, Nez Balelo, paid him $5,000 to dig up information on Laurenzi. Sasson also said Braun used PEDs throughout his career at the University of Miami.
The college use wouldn't surprise me. Note: Miami. Home of Biogenesis. Pipeline for many Latino players. And, more here on Sasson's claims.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 22, Braun finally has ....

A semi-apology. He admits the roiding was his fault.

BUT ...

No apology to Laurenzi for claiming he tainted the sample from when Braun beat the rap on chain of custody issues, and clearly no apology for playing the ethnicity card. 

Actually, beyond that, it's only a semi-demi apology. Here's why — his claim about what led to his PEDing in the first place:
Here is what happened. During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed, and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately. 
Because, no, Lyin Braun, I don't believe that you reached out to a third party after a calf injury.

What a dick. You're transparently lying. I have no doubt you were associated with Biogenesis for some time, and that given its location in Miami, there's probably a long, long chain here.

In fact, I just Tweeted Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson, who did a big "takedown" series of articles about other problems with University of Miami athletics a couple of years ago, that he probably needed to do a follow-up.

My background blogging on Braun's suspension is here.