SocraticGadfly: 10/13/13 - 10/20/13

October 19, 2013

The sad fall of Bora Zivkovic

Science geeks know Zivkovic as the head of blogging at Scientific American, as well as being a good sciencce bloger there, and in previous stops, himself. Many know him as the "blogfather," a term of endearment, or more, that he apparently encouraged.

So, too, did many of his charges as young bloggers. Young bloggers who apparently forgot that he was also their boss, and who maybe didn't stop to consider that a "term of endearment" can also be a tool of manipulation. After all, he supposedly is charming, and tries to give that impression on his blog's about page.

And that leads us to the stunning (but not quite shocking) story of problems of the now-former SciAm blogging chief. As in "sexual harassment" problems. Problems alleged my multiple women, which has led to his resigning as the "blogfather."

Several issues here. 

First, though the drinking smartly didn't go too far, in a couple of instances, alcohol at least lowered inhibitions. Per what I blogged about on this issue earlier this week, fortunately, the women in this case recognized the potential peril before getting too much in their cups. (Per that link, and other things, there's a sidebar or two near the bottom of this post.)

Second, on his Twitter feed, Bora says ... he's learning. How much slack do we cut him for being from pre-implosion Yugoslavia? While noting that he's spent the great majority of his adult life in the U.S.?

Not a lot, I'd say. In fact, due to things like him allegedly using the "sexual problems at home" line as a play for sexual sympathy, the "I'm learning," while possibly genuine, possibly is not. I just don't know. Especially if we don't know what he's learning. What he thinks he should learn. Etc.

Third. Bora is a good science writer. I hope he gets a new position. He could be a good mentor of younger science writers. But, I don't know that. As one of his accusers noted, in essence: Did Bora take young women science writers under his wing because he saw their potential, or was he "grooming"?

Fourth, I'm not totally disinterested in at least tangential issues related to this. I think Bora is a good science writer, and a good scientist. As a journalist overall? He buys too blankly into claims of Gnu Media gurus about how traditional journalism is dead without doing his own critical thought. I know that's in part because of where his financial bread is buttered, even though SciAm's ultimate parent owner is one of the largest "old media" companies in the world. But still.

And, while the journalistic ethics problem was at Scientific American the magazine, and not his online blogging stable, he doesn't recognize journalistic ethics problems when they arise. Re teh publication as a whole, there's been journalistic ethics with  an advertorial special section not labeled as such, with him not seeing that as a problem, Or here, a lack of critical thinking on claiming agriculture was invented for beer, and also use of wrong data. (These things go back to my previous paragraph; SciAm as well as Discover seem to be getting more and more social media focused.) I've not seen this spill over into what passes by his blogging radar screen yet, but...

I hope that whatever writing world is in his future, he's "learning" in this area, too.

And, per what else I said, let's hope young female science bloggers, without getting cynical, learn to be more skeptical as needed.

Finally, as promised, sidebars.

Allegedly, that's Atheism Plus darling Rebecca Watson
at left. (Link of photo implies no consent to all content.)
First sidebar. Bora, on his own Facebook timeline, recently had a picture of him with notorious Atheism Pluser/nth-wave feminist or something Rebecca Watson. (It's my blog, and I get to say "notorious" instead of "relatively well known" or anything else.) Given that, per what I mentioned above about a blog post of mine, a blog post on women being careful about drinking situations, and other things, like allegations of Bora's hug-friendliness, this picture has massive new irony levels.

(Since Bora's FB feed is not set to "public," even though I downloaded the pic, I can't post it here, as I describe in another blog post of mine about my stance on online privacy issues. So far, a brief Google Images search hasn't turned it up on a public venue.) 

Anyway, back to the irony of said picture, which was at a public "con" of some sort, one of the movement skepticism conferences or something.

That includes the fact that Watson herself has been accused of Sarah Palin-type winks, of having her own problems with drinking and intimate behavior, per the photo, and more. (There's another graphic, a screen capture of Watson's comments over the years about drinking and manipulativeness, at the blog link. And more on Gnu Atheism and the Atheism Plus submovement within it's issues on drinking and manipulativeness here.

That leads to sidebar two. And here, it's even clearer there are other dynamics at play among the nth-wave feminist crowd et al. Zvan rightfully notes, in the motorboat wake of this, that harassment can be done by women, too (I'm shocked to hear that out of her mouth) but, then goes on to do what is arguably "slut shaming." She'd surely call it that if someone else did it. It's also possibly a form of online bullying to keep non nth-ers in line. 

And, that leads to another "sad" observation. What Bora did was sad. What certain people are doing to "appropriate" that issue is at least equally sad.

To sum up:
1. I want more women science writers;
2. I want sexual harassment, manipulation, etc. of women to stop;
3. I want women to accept responsibility for what they can do in the way of "harm reduction" or whatever;
4. I want Bora to learn from this, to help No. 1, to help fight No. 2, and also, to become a better science blogger in terms of promoting better science content;
5. And, I want nth-wave feminists to stop acting like they have the final word on these issues. 

I also want Bora's replacement at SciAm to become a better promoter of better science content. A good one-third of blogging there in the past year or two has seemed like little more than social media oriented clickbait.

October 18, 2013

Abbott sued Obama, went home, and lost 2 out of 3

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.
Doesn't like to talk about all the times he LOSES those suits.

Why? Because it happens a lot.

As in, it's happened again.

The Supreme Court has rejected hearing two of three lawsuits Texas, and other states, had filed against the Environmental Protection Agency over greenhouse gas emissions regulation:
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Texas' challenge of federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants and factories, the court announced Tuesday. But it declined to hear the state's appeals of two other decisions, effectively upholding rules that limit such emissions from vehicles and maintaining the Environmental Protection Agency's assertion that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.
Team Abbott and polluting deep pockets are trying to spin this as a "win." Even though it's clearly not:

David Spence, a professor of law and business at the University of Texas at Austin, said it wasn't likely that the Supreme Court would forbid the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources altogether. But the justices could say it must do so based on different standards, threatening the years of work that have gone into proposing the current rules for limiting emissions from power plants and other facilities.
"The worst that could happen is they make EPA go back and do things again," Spence said.

That said, this isn't new from our state's money-waster in chief (and Ted Cruz spawner).

Abbott lost some of this at appellete level back in July. This is his suit over the EPA taking over TCEQ's pollution permitting because the state simply refused to do any real regulating. This was lost at the D.C. Court of Appeals, and there's no chance SCOTUS will even want to hear it, let alone reverse. And yet, Texas' Head.Legal.Moron is talking about appealing.

Here's comment showing that Abbott isn't alone, or even close to it, in today's Texas GOP.:
Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who has fiercely opposed the EPA’s rules, said it was ”remarkable” that the courts have repeatedly denied the state’s appeals. 

In response to the latest Circuit Court decision, Shaw issued a statement that claimed that ”the EPA has effectively re-written the Clean Air Act to impose its new standards, imposed severely restrictive timelines on the states to implement its new requirements, and then twisted the act to immediately impose its agenda on Texas.” 
No, what's "remarkable" is that you're dumb enough to believe this was winnable. And, the only re-writing has been done by your agency. What's more remarkable is that you and Suer-in-Chief aren't just dumb, you're childishly stubborn enough to hold y our breath and refuse to get this.

Once the appellate court slapped you down, you refused to take "no" for an answer. This is the same attitude that Cruz took to Washington.

And, this is an opening for Wendy Davis. Lets her come off as a fiscal conservative, someone who won't waste state money.

So, when will she start talking about it? I mean, we have to be talking about several million dollars.

Update, June 24, 2014: He's now lost to the EPA on greenhouse gas regulations, too.

October 17, 2013

#UK #UMass #Memphis hoops fans: A #Calipari joke for you

What's the difference between a calamari and a (John) Calipari?

One is tasty, inoffensive and has tentacles.

The other?

Has tentacles.

(rim shot)

Hey, don't blame me! The NCAA already said that twice.

Yeah, I know, "not personally implicated."

Anyway ...

Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk!

I know, I know. The University of Calipari is No. 1 in preseason polling, but, let's see.

Debt deal revitalizes the Catfood Commission; nothing "clean" here

Or, some sort of surrogate for it.

As part of the deal on the Senate's bill that ended the federal government shutdown and pushed back the debt ceiling limit, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to fast track discussions on  what sure sounds like it will lead to "entitlement reforms:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday that under his agreement with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, the two leaders would name members to a bicameral budget conference committee “that will set our country on a long-term path to fiscal sustainability.” ...

The ultimate deal may end up looking like the one that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., proposed last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.”
So, while the Democratic Party may have gotten a "clean" win in yesterday's votes, we the non-neoliberal people did not. Cue up the Catfood Commission theme music.

And, it will be harder for non-neoliberals to slow this down in the Senate:
“Probably the most important part of budget reconciliation is that a reconciliation bill can approve policy reforms with only 51 votes in the Senate,” said Loren Adler, the research director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. This fast-track process “could be critical in increasing the chances for tax reform” and reform of entitlement programs to succeed.

That's even though the Gipper himself knew that entitlements (theoretically, per Al Gore's "lockbox") weren't connected to the deficit:

Beyond that, some economists say the deficit is being reduced too quickly right now.

October 16, 2013

Once more, second-guessing Cardinals and Matheny on Shelby Miller, and Mattingly on lefties

Oct 21: OK, somebody's now lying in St. Louis. The claim that Shelby Miller isn't under an innings limit has to be seen as bogus.
Cardinals officials have said that Miller, 23, is not in danger of eclipsing any innings limit they placed on his young shoulder and that he is not injured.
Uhh, yeah. right.

Yes, Lance Lynn won game 4 against the Dodgers, contra my desire to see Shelby Miller. That doesn't negate the issue of what the heck is Miller then doing on the roster at all, if the innings count is a real worry?

I mean, the Cards themselves discussed it this year, per Derrick Gould. at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which means, as manager has shown, like Stephen Strasburg, there was apparently some sort of "shutdown" talk, even if the Cards, unlike the Nationals, didn't do this loudly and publicly.. And, at 173.1, he's near that top edge of 180.

Assuming Miller is THAT gassed or the arm is that much of a worry, even if Cards' management said the innings limit was "flexible," then we're at more second-guessing in Game 5. Mike Matheny could have pinch-hit for Kelly in the top of the 5th — IF Miller were available for long relief. But, he apparently ain't. So, again, why's he on the roster? Even if you didn't want to start Jake Westbrook in Game 4, he still would have been available for long relief as needed.

I won't second-guess Matheny as much for pitching Edward Mujica, and to four batters, too. But, I will second-guess to the degree this demonstrates Miller is more than "gassed," basically. Again, pull him off the roster. (Hopefully, we get to the World Series and you finally realize you're fooling nobody.) And, given the Cards' nice but falling-short rally in the ninth, second guessing is in order, at some level.

At the same time, this is another opportunity to second-guess Don Mattingly, too. Knowing that the Cards have struggled against lefties all year, why is J.P. Howell the only lefty reliever on the Dodger roster this round?

Paco Rodriguez did a good job in limited opportunity this year as a reliever. Why ain't he there?

Meanwhile, with Game 5 in the Dodger bag, yes, the Cards could blow a 3-1 LCS lead the second year in a row.  True, the Birds have the pleasantly astounding Michael Wacha for Game 6 and Adam Wainwright for Game 7 if needed.

On the other hand, the Dodgers bring up Clayton Kershaw — not just the likely National League Cy Young winner, but a lefty — in Game 6. Followed by Hyun-jin Ryu, winner of Game 3, and a lefty, in Game 7 if we go there.

So, while I hope the Cards can win on Friday, or on Saturday, if not, none of this is in the bag.

#PZ, #FTB, #GnuAtheism, booze, assault, and privilege

Update, Oct. 16: At Slate, Emily Yoffe absolutely nails this issue of how young women need to take responsibility and stop getting so drunk in the first place, as part of reducing sexual assault.

And, before Gnus and Atheism Plusers flame me (or others, or Yoffe) here, on Twitter, or elsewhere, she has all the disclaimers about not blaming the victim, etc. She notes what I've said in other links, namely that:
1. Women metabolize alcohol differently and get drunk faster than men;
2. College sexual assaults usually aren't by strangers, but fellow students;
And goes beyond that to note:
1. Yes means yes and no means no aside, there's no bright line on how drunk is too drunk to influence consent;
2. A rape reported by someone who was drunk is harder to prosecute, for obvious memory reasons;
3. Rohypnol or other "spiking" of drinks isn't the problem; it's women getting this drunk, whether encouraged by a predatory male, as part of a party where both men and women drink to the point of loss of control, or a bit of both.
So, click the link and read, please.

Because, as expected, a possible nth-wave feminist has now done the flaming, on Talking Points Memo (ugh), with me saying she's a possible nth-wave feminist by a look at her blog. Or that she writes that everyday gender inequality could cause the next war. Or, the name of that just-linked URL.

That said, to my original post:

There's two types of drunkenness: Literal and metaphorical.

And, good critical thinkers, whether they prefer the term "skeptic" for themselves, are fine with "critical thinker," or something else, should be wary of both.

However, in the latest brouhaha over actual or alleged sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or general sexism launched by the clique and claque, or rather, cadre of Gnu Atheism (since P.Z. Myers, the grand poohbah of Gnu Atheism outrage on the march, prefers that term, which went out of date with Chairman Mao), it appears we have both in play.

P.Z. upped the ante on this by throwing out what he called a live hand grenade.

Well, the title of his blog post is disingenuous as best.

And, it's strange how that word, in the "spirit of charity," keeps coming up.

He says: "What Do You Do When Someone Pulls the Pin and Hands You a Grenade?"

Well, first, one asks if it's a real grenade, and a live one.

P.Z. would tut-tut back, in the War on Terra "ticking time bomb" converted to Gnu Atheism, "there's no time for that!"

Well, then one asks, or should ask, if one is a critical thinker and has a modicum of self-reflectiveness do you have the right metaphor?

Probably not. Especially when you double down on anonymity.

Here's why, from Der Gruppenführer's own words:
It’s been a few years, so no law agency is going to do anything about it now; she reported it to an organization at the time, and it was dismissed. Swept under the rug. Ignored. I can imagine her sense of futility. She’s also afraid that the person who assaulted her before could try to hurt her again.
We're not told why it was dismissed. We're not told why this person didn't go to legal officials, and I'm going to tackle that more in a minute.

What does this sound like, though? Oh, maybe the National Enquirer, as Al Stefanelli reminds us that the potential libel not only applies to the overarching claim, but details of how it allegedly happened. Don't worry, PZ; Ophelia Benson, of the lovely Butterflies and Bull--, has your back. (And, if he's right about PZ doing this in part for blog hits, Do Not Follow is a simple way to stop that.)

And now, Shermer's lawyer's thrown the grenade back. And, PZ's gone scrambling to PopeHat lead blogger Ken White for possible legal protection, even though White agrees with many others and thinks PZ is a fundamentalist atheist moron.

(Update, Aug. 20: Greta Christina gives me another laugh-my-ass off moment, claiming this is NOT an "anonymous complaint," then implies that PZ is Woodward and Bernstein! This ignores that Woodward, at least, eventually became a whore to power and was worried about Mark Felt coming out as Deep Throat in part because of how much potential he had to show how Woodward, or Woodstein, "skated the edge" on truthfulness in details, and occasionally in big picture, at times.)

Given the whole situation, to be honest? I hope PZ's wrong, and Shermer sues his ass off. He's being disingenuous about having "no choice." Maybe we'll get about 10-20 dueling suits and countersuits over these allegations before we're all done.

Unfortunately, Shermer's lawyer, in throwing the grenade back, seems to have kind of neutered it first. The likelihood of an actual suit is slim at this point. Of course, it's arguable Shermer has more to lose by suing than he does by accepting any legalistically narrow apology.

But, there's now a legal fund for Shermer! Set up by an outside party, but Shermer knows and approves.

And, if he follows through with a suit, the fact that PZ did multiple rewrites could blow up in his face, essentially leaving him testifying against himself.

In essence, it's like the Gnu Atheists are drunk on power. Mix in one apparently legitimate claim about sexual harassment and now, any years-old claim is fair game.

But, the booze of inflated self-empowerment is not all that's at stake here.

Allegedly, that's Atheism Plus darling Rebecca Watson
at left. (Link of photo implies no consent to all content.)
There's the literal booze, too. Indeed, it appears that the Atheism Plusers may actually have no problems drinking to excess at various cons, then, possibly (who knows) leaving it to others in attendance to make judgments if their flirting or worse means anything, if they've had too much to drink to give consent to sexual activity or not, and more.

In short, reverse victimization.

With that said, just as this post expanded off a previous one, and because my initial contretemps with Stephanie Zvan started over the apparently alcohol-fueled sexual interaction between Julian Assange and two women in Sweden, with that case being closed then re-opened, it's about time to start a new blog post off of this one.

With that in mind, let's note that many of the current over the transom allegations include drinking to near, or well past, excess.

And, here's the ultimate. I didn't know that Atheism Plus women were so physically or mentally weak. Apparently, they're incapable of refraining from drinking more alcohol if some man pours it in a glass.

So, let's put it simply.

If you're starting to get drunk, and about to enter a "situation,"  fucking drinking for the night. And watch your future consumption. Any good skeptic, critical thinker or intelligent person by another name should know this. And should know, per Assange's case and more, that booze always adds to the "he said, she said" issue on assault claims, because ...

If you've had too much, you can't fucking remember. You can't remember whether a "yes" eventually became a "no" or you're backwardly projecting a regret. Or, in cases of alcohol and sex, just like alcohol and drunk driving, if it does lead to something potentially criminal, then there's sidebar issues of trying to minimize how much you drank to try to spiffy up how reliable your memory should be regarded.

And, this is not a "blame the woman" issue, namely that one issue involves no women and no straight sexuality. It applies to straight women, gay women, straight men and gay men. (Although I'm sure any thinking along this line IS considered "blame the victim" at Freethought Blogs.)

Beyond that, there's sociological research that indicates women tend to underestimate the effects booze will have on lowering their sexual impulse control and leading to casual sex. 

And, then, watch this video.

Start at about the 12-minute mark, where a college woman has drunk but consensual sex with a man. She then goes back to her place, texts him to ask if he has a condom, then goes back and has more sex, despite attempts of friends to stop her. She then "cried wolf" the next day claiming lack of memory. The college eventually took no action, saying, in essence, she was too drunk to even know at the time whether or not she was in a state of being able to consent, and the man was too drunk to know that she was that drunk. Tavris goes on to note that the type of feminism that, even in the light of text messages, undercut the claim of "I couldn't help stop drinking," is not the type of feminism she believes in.
I also noted the issue of "why didn't this person go to legal officials?"

First, someone may object that harassment, unlike assault, is not a crime. Not true.

Laws, and the details of them, vary from state to state, but harassment can indeed be a crime, and even before it rises to the level of stalking. (And, since Stephanie Zvan's falsely accused me of that, let me state that as a newspaper editor, I have some actual knowledge of the issue.)

Beyond that, harassment is certainly a matter of civil tort lawsuit.

And, that leads me to the nth-wave feminism of Zvan, Greta Christina, and others like them, most of them under a new movement of Atheism Plus, who felt that good old Gnu Atheism wasn't confrontational enough on enough different issues.

If you're about actually self-empowering women, then why aren't you, instead of making semi-anonymous to fully anonymous allegations over the transom, encouraging any actually harassed women to sue? And certainly, why aren't you encouraging them to file criminal charges if possible?

And, all of this applies in spades to sexual assault.

Women's first step has to be reporting sexual assaults to the police. If we're going to talk about female empowerment, in the case of sexual assault, society's first step has to be supporting them doing that, not being brave about anonymous allegations being made in public.

Meanwhile, let's note that not all sexual harassment, or sexual assault is by a man on a woman. The reverse is the minority, but women do harass or even assault men, both sexually and otherwise. Of course, a Greta Christina doesn't want to talk about this, but I can't say that, because I'm blocked on her blog.

There's also gay and lesbian assault and harassment.

As a newspaper editor, I have reported, off police report and arrest lists, women assaulting men. (I'm now talking non-sexual physical assault.) Yes, it's still a lot less common than men assaulting women, but it does happen. The idea, let alone spoken claim, that women can never do such things is more than "reverse sexism," It's simply sexism, period, and like all sexism, perpetuates stereotypes about both sexes, not just one.

Beyond that is the Manichean issue. You either fully accept the nth-wave feminist stance or you're an enemy. And, wirth anybody who dares present a more nuanced picture, they're labeled as men's righters or worse.

That's not to say that such people aren't out there, and it's certainly not to condone them. However, it's not fair to lump everybody in such a group.

But, when you're drunk on trying to claim scalps, you don't care about fairness.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to think nobody there has a conception of what libel is, in its actual legal sense. I thought Ed Brayton knew better, but he either doesn't, or, as he showed with Block Bot, doesn't care.

And, should a Michael Shermer or anybody else ever sue, Ed, you'd be liable, because in the past, you promised more top-down control.

And, for a blog site that was explicitly formed in part for commercial reasons, that's not a good attitude to have.

That said?

As I said above, none of this is a "blame the woman" issue, namely that one issue involves no women and no straight sexuality. First, drinking aside, it applies to straight women, gay women, straight men and gay men. And yes, straight men vis-a-vis gay women can be, if in the minority of the times, harassed, propositioned, and more.

That said, nth-wave feminists and Atheist Plusers like to trot out the word "privilege." As in white males have a "privilege" that, in today's world, means their stances and statements deserve an extra level of scrutiny.

To that I say: Check your own "privilege" in calling "privilege"; your mileage may vary. Overuse of this word is like sticking your fingers in your ears. It's also often invoked in defense of privilege itself.

That includes:
1. the suggestion that your statements are worthy of a lower standard of scrutiny — unskeptical;
2. The suggestion that questioning No. 1, or whether you are exercising privilege yourself is antifeminist — unskeptical
3. The suggestion that the degree of broader support for your claim should not be questioned — unskeptical.

Back to the privilege issue. This is where privilege conflicts with privilege at times.

And, as far as getting fucking drunk? As I said, that's metaphorical as well as literal. That includes not getting drunk on power trips. And, overuse of the word "privilege" has the potential to become one of those.

None of this is to suggest that legitimate problems don't deserve legitimate investigation.

But this is ridiculous.

At the same time, to look at the accused? If you have been disciplined for harassment, or assault, and you claim that things are being overstated? All you have to do is give the present or previous employer a legal waiver to open the files.

True, that risk a further escalation of s/he said, s/he said. But, if what you did is relatively not that bad compared to the allegations, it seems like a fairly low risk.

That also said, in the future, if you have even one ounce of bad record in the past, and it occurred due to one reason?

I suggest to you, too:

Stop getting fucking drunk!

I mean, use common sense, everybody.

You're jet-lagged, up late, and eating crappy or overly rich conventioneering food, since a lot of these incidents, if one-offs, appear to be at a "con." So, you're tired, loggy, and alcohol-vulnerable anyway.

It's called Coke Zero. Or iced tea. Or plain old water. Give it a shot.

And, this isn't something new. Secular Organizations for Sobriety, the first organized non-12-step alternative to AA, is under CFI's wing. It has, or did at the time of this, non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic board members. Well, at one annual meeting, there was enough wine on the table that it's likely at least one non-alcoholic (putatively) surely got tipsy.

Per my first pull quote, being a skeptic, or an atheist, also is no guarantor that you won't become a full-on alcoholic, or at least, an alcohol abuser in the borderlands. Nor, per halo effects and whatnot, will it guarantee that, if you have a drinking problem, you won't go into denial about it.

Next, to look at the defenders of the institutions involved? Is it just possible that there's at least some fire behind the smoke? Hell, yes. Neither CFI or JREF, nor their founders James Randi and Paul Kurtz, are anywhere near immune from the halo effect, founder's syndrome, or other issues. In fact, both Randi and Kurtz have personally illustrated that.

I'm sorry, but, while I see Gnu Atheists in general and Atheist Plusers in particular as nutbars, and fundamentalist-like ones, nonetheless, there's issues of "tolerance" of such things in the past in both organizations. And, with Randi with Carlos and Kurtz with Al Seckel, there's non-sexuality issues of less than critical thinking, and less than critical-thinking fueled behavior.

As I said earlier this week, I have no doubt CFI needs to clean house in some way. JREF probably does too.

Finally, a thought or two otherwise, as I get ready to detach from this all again.

Gnu Atheism, Atheism Plus, Professional Skepticism, and many individual participants? Are we all getting a bit puffed up, not so much over this issue per se, or not only it, but alleged societal importance and many other things?

(Hell, for that matter, I probably puff up how astounding my insights are and how much anybody is going to listen to them.)

I came to both atheism and skepticism without the help of any outside group, or any conventions. I also came to more liberal and humanistic political thought the same way. I accept that skeptical groups, and atheist ones, have had some value in things like battling creationism in public schools, where a concerted effort has been needed.

But, organized atheism's probably changed very little otherwise, and organized skepticism hasn't done a lot more.

And, deliberately using a sexual word in an acceptable metaphorical way: Isn't there some incestuousness in all of this?

#NLCS — I still don't get #Cardinals and Miller, and here's why

Update: Yes, Lance Lynn won game 4 against the Dodgers. That doesn't negate the issue of what the heck is Shelby Miller then doing on the roster at all, if the innings count is a real worry. 

Update 2, Oct. 16: Assuming Miller is THAT gassed or the arm is that much of a worry, more second-guessing in Game 5. Matheny could have pinch-hit for Kelly in the top of the 5th — IF Miller were available for long relief. But, he apparently ain't. So, again, why's he on the roster? 

At the same time, this is another opportunity to second-guess Don Mattingly, too. Knowing that the Cards have struggled against lefties all year, why is J.P. Howell the only lefty reliever on the Dodger roster this round?

Paco Rodriguez did a good job in limited opportunity this year as a reliever.

OK, back to my original post.

Great pitching job by Adam Wainwright to close out the Pirates. And now, onto the Dodgers.

Tentative rotation for first three games?

That means, per whisperings that a good sports friend of mine has heard, that Shelby Miller's gotta be on the shelf, doesn't it? Like Stephen Strasburg was last year with the Nationals, only a more "stealth" version? I've not seen anything that's pretty "hard" in the rumor department on this, but it could well be true. I mean, the Cards themselves discussed it this year, per Gould. And, at 173.1, he's near that top edge of 180.

So, I say, if this is true, then Cardinals manager Mike Matheny should drop him from the roster. Whether you want yet another pitcher, or another batter, fill the spot with somebody else.  Since Allen Craig is dropping hints he might be able to play, if you think you can, put him on the roster.

And, oops:

Well, that option's dead, then.

Beyond that? If pitch or inning limits are serious, then treat them that way, you know? Don't even pitch Miller for an inning in relief, like you did against the Pirates.

Because then, you get second-guessed for not treating them more seriously, if something does happen to his arm. And, if nothing happens, you get second-guessed by the likes of me for not starting him.

And, just maybe, I can stop my second-guessing. At ESPN, Jayson Stark hints that Miller might — might, nothing more definite — get the Game 4 nod over Lance Lynn. And, Lynn pitching out of the bullpen during the extra innings of Game 1 indicates this might be a possibility.

And, dammit, I'm wrong again! Curse you, Matheny.

It's Lynn for Game 4. Yes, he did decently in relief in Game 1. I still don't trust him to start. And, if Miller's not starting because of innings concerns, even if they're flexible, I still don't get why he's on the roster.

And, per that ESPN link, I have good reason not to trust him:
Lynn worked the last two innings of the Cardinals' 3-2, 13-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He took the loss in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Pittsburgh and has failed to pitch five innings in any of his three career postseason starts the last two seasons.
I'm already on record as finding the idea of Lynn starting a post-season game as barf-inducing. Hell, I'd even start Jake Westbrook ahead of him, especially in a road game. And that's saying something. Or beg Chris Carpenter to be Lazarus for five innings, then go to the pen quickly, if there's any way Carp can be eligible for the postseason.

(Yes, I know neither one actually is on the postseason roster. The Carp comment was tongue in cheek. Westbrook not. Sure he semi-imploded in the second half of the year. But he has experience, and some degree of playoff cool or whatever, that Lynn doesn't.)

Or, more seriously, riffing on my Carp comment, just do that with Miller. One five-inning starting slot in both the LCS and the World Series, if you get there, puts him at 183, just a touch over 180. And still avoids Lynn starting. Because, per Gould, GM John Mozeliak said the innings limit idea was "flexible."

But, don't use him in "waste" situations, like you did when Lynn got blown out by the Pirates in Game 2 of the division series. That's just stupid, IMO, as I said at the time. If he is on a semi-shutdown, make it a full shutdown; having him do an inning here and there of mop-up won't help other relievers that much, first of all. Second of all, unlike Wainwright in 2006, he didn't get late regular-season prep to be a reliever. Third, per my suggestion above, two mop-up innings in the LCS is little different than five innings as a starter.

So, again: Keep him off the roster for the LCS, and I don't have to second-guess you. I mean, you're not fooling other teams. Mike, unless you immediately announce that he's part of the rotation, i.e., the game 4 starter, opposing managers will assume he's not. I mean, they know the score and what team management said earlier this year. You're not fooling them otherwise, and you're just wasting roster space.

My preference?
1. Start Miller in Game 4 (announced now) with short limit
2. Start Westbrook in Game 4.

October 15, 2013

Let's have the Oscar voters do the Nobels, and vice versa

Given some of the recent Nobel Prize awards, it can't be a bad idea.

On the Peace Prize, among recent winners, President Obama was a clearly political choice, and hindsight makes clear he's not all that peaceful. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, among 2011 laureates, aren't all the European-American foreign policy consensus cracked them up to be.

The European Union last year was iffy, and it's too soon this year on the UN chemical weapons agency.

Add to this the ridiculousness of this year's Economics Prize winners, whose award is justly and thoroughly sent up here. Besides what the author says, about even Milton Friedman rejecting Eugene Fama's ideas, and adding Robert Schiller as a recipient when he actually significantly undercuts Fama to serve as a "hedge," the Great Recession obliterated Fama's thesis.

Indeed, Schiller attacks Fama here:
"The efficient markets (theory) assumes that everyone is smart all the time -- and that's just wrong,'' he said.

And worries about a new round of irrationality here.

What really drives economics? If anything, it's greed, not rationality, per Schiller.

Beyond that, behavioral economics, from Daniel Kahnemann (a previous Nobelist!) and Dan Ariely to many others, has undercut rational-market ideas, even though the Economics Prize committee explicitly claimed otherwise in its award.

And, beyond that, quantum theory, World War II, the Holocaust and much more have put paid to Enlightenment-era ideas of rational human nature in general.

The Economics committee said in its announcement that its focus was on asset prices. Well, given that Schiller largely refuted Fama, why did he even get a share of the award?

I mean, there have been occasional controversial prizes in the past, but the Peace Prize committee has been more off than on for several years now. And, speaking of Friedman, the Prize in Economics has certainly had its past controversies.

Big newspapers: Too much content? Too dumbed-down of content? Too 2.0?

First, here's the too much content part of the equation.

The Thursday, Oct. 10 Guardian, one of Britain's top newspapers, had more words than James Joyce's Ulysses. You can't get a better explanation of how the a la carte nature of online news (I'm not counting PDF-ed e-editions, which seem more and more like a bastardized hybrid) undercut the mass market forcing of the modern metropolitan daily.

That's via an app that looks at both the online content AND the printed content of the Guardian and its Sunday sister, the Observer. The information then leads to these questions in the piece:
In the last seven days the Guardian, Observer and between them have published 1.3 million words - and the split between print and web is more or less even. Now here are the questions:

-- What was the production cost for the print vs web content?

-- What's the tangible revenue returns from advertising and copy sales (or digital subscriptions) from both?

-- what on-going overheads are attached to both? So, people whose job it is to solely focus on print vs all that investment in web technology?

-- Is that content mix right, considering that in August The Guardian had an average Monday-Friday print circulation of 140,000 a day (it doubles on Saturday) yet more than 4.5 million daily unique browsers online?

There's no easy answer to this, but what's clear is that running a digital version of a "newspaper" or magazine — in which the exact same publishing model is ported to screens rather than print — will not work in the long run.
Indeed. And, it will work even less if, as is the Guardian, you're bleeding money like the gouts of blood of The Holy Grail's mutilated Black Knight, and you're doing so while still refusing to erect a paywall.

The answer? Put out quality news. Put up that paywall. Stop treating digital and hardcopy as the same, and, like the Economist, start thinking about how to become digital first while still producing serious news. As "Newsosaur" Alan Mutter notes, newspaper ad sales continue to sag. And, per his eight-year timeline, the sag started before the housing bubble really started bursting except in a select few places, so can't even really blame that.

There's other reasons for separating digital and print, and preparing for a digital-first future. Online ads, more and more, look for not just different software skills, but different temperaments, focuses, and angles, for one thing.

And, if you want to be really radical, when you go digital first? Drop those wire service subscriptions. Until the news aggregators have to pay high enough for them to put up paywalls, you simply can't compete.

So drop AP and Reuters.

Now, that said, this would be a nightmare from their point of view. So what. If you're an individual paper, you're not here to subsidize wire services.

(And, at some point in the future, I'm going to blog more specifically about these issues. Because, in addition to copy editors/paginators, printing presses and delivery drivers, for smaller dailies, especially, it's major overhead. If you don't drop the wire services, at least threaten to; bid them off against one another, etc.)

That said, at least the Guardian isn't acting like a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, John Timpane, who seems to be evangelizing for dumbing down via video.

On the dumbing down, we have indications that a number of newspapers are looking to add more video to their websites. But, at TV news length or shorter, contra industry claims, much of this video can't really be that informative. That's in part because at that length, it is just a sound bite, not an actual interview.

But, being more informative is just the stated surface reason, and one that's not true. The real reason? As shouldn't be too hard to guess — Facebook et al.
Streaming video is not about just showing -- it's about getting viewers to share things they like with others, helping content viralize, growing the audience. Andrew Pergam, senior editor of video for the Washington Post, says, "A huge part of our content is being looked at by people away from the site -- that means they're sharing it." Regal of the Journal reports that more than half of WSJ Live's audience sees its content off-site. Pergam says, "I want you to put our stuff on Facebook, link to it on Twitter. That's how we grow audience."
A specific example of that dumbing down? Next graph:
It's also about creating things -- products, features, stuff -- you can't get anywhere else. Pergam refers with pride to Obamacare Explained, in 2 Minutes, in which Wonkblog's Sarah Kliff gives us a swooshy, quick-cutting intro to the huge law. 
Bullshit. You can't explain Obamacare in 2 minutes, especially when only 14 percent of Americans who currently have health insurance say they understand what they now have.

John Timpane got what sounds like a great quote from well-known media analyst Mutter:
"Publishers are trying to grow their audience," says Alan D. Mutter, a consultant in new-media ventures involving journalism and technology. "A lot of people on the go are not going to sit down for a long read. Younger audiences are attuned to the quick hit, the infographic, the video that makes a complex story accessible and vivid."
I wonder if Mutter was asked that without knowing that Obamacare can allegedly be explained in 2 minutes.

And, you can't be explanatory with videos when this is your idea of what they should look like:
The Fourth Estate 2.0 isn't -- because it can't be -- the same as regular old TV. This is the Web. Productions stress brevity, sass, swooshes, quick cuts, clever visuals.
"The Fourth Estate 2.0?" Barf inducing. That said, in an email exchange, though he defended the general ideas of virality, Timpane passed on my "barf inducing" comment in the first email.

That said, this whole idea of "grow audience," and not just for newspapers, but for websites in general talking about "community," has long been refuted. The "pageview" idea for newspapers in particular died long ago. You may be growing an audience for somebody on Facebook who has beaucoup RSS feeds, or follows 5,000 people on Twitter, but you;re not building growing audience for your newspaper.

And this piece from Tech Crunch undercuts the idea of online "communities" in the discussion of whether or not to have online comments.

I think the idea of Internet communities is more bullshit than reality, and that bullshit has gotten worse in recent years, probably fueled by the self-congratulatory epistles of various founders and/or boosters of the social media world, Gnu Media memers, etc. 

That said, browsing the combined website for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, which itself looks like some sort of mashup of a Buzzfeed wannabe and Windows 8 Surface tiles, for Mr. Timpane's writings, I can see how he might be a Gnu Media memer, social media touter, etc.

Beyond that, unless it's something like a natural disaster, news videos don't get shared. Entertainers' videos, "stupid people tricks" stuff, other LOLs stuff? They get shared.

So, on Timpane's "Fourth Estate 2.0?" Pass. And, no, bringing up these ideas isn't "shouting at myself."

That said, I will offer a bit of sympathy for this particular version of devil. Folks like Timpane are trying to make the traditional newspaper "cool" to young people. Well, you can do that. It's called the Daily Mail, which has massive hits on both sides of the pond.

That said, at least in web form, I don't consider the Daily Mail to really be a newspaper anymore. It's halfway down the road to the "virality" equivalent of a shopper. 

Beyond that, contra Mr. Timpane and per this piece in the NYT about its own online revenue future, we have:
While media analysts have predicted that video advertising revenue could also soon decline, Mr. Thompson said video would contribute to the company’s broader strategy. 
I'm not a media analyst, but that's certainly possible. It would reflect monetization issues on the Internet in general, where you have the exact reverse of the tragedy of the commons. Until electricity prices go to the moon or server computers become insanely expensive, we have an essentially infinite "space" for both "content" (news, theoretically, in the case of newspapers) and advertising as well. That means fewer eyeballs see YOUR news, even while advertisers pay less to fill your diminishing share of that infinite space.

So, somebody comes along with a new angle. A year or two ago, it was "mobile," and we've seen how much money that generated. And, how much more it's likely to continue not generating. Now it's "video."

Also per Mutter, younger people are skewing away from online videos. Mr. Timpane probably didn't even notice that.

Beyond that, the article is good for noting how, in general, newspapers seem to overvalue the monetization possibilities of new offerings.

Except when they resist the monetization of automated ones, that is. Earlier this week, AdWeek had a story talking about programmatic ad buying, and publishers pushing back against it, insisting that more human element on their sales side is still needed.

Why? Look at Google's personalizing its search algorithm for "you." Or Amazon, as noted here, using an algorithm, not people, to personalize its books recommendations.

Programmatic ad buying and placement is in its infancy. Give it five years. Sorry, but half of ad departments at major newspapers will be either part-time or gone by then, in all likelihood. That's sad, yes, but if you're a publicly traded newspaper company, and your hardcopy ad sales and circ both continue to slip ...

And, at the same time, this is another reason I'm not totally sympatico with the Gnu Media gurus. They tell traditional media that they could do a better job of covering hard news, without explaining how to pay for it. When the issue of paywalls gets raise, their hackles go up. So, a newspaper like the JOA twins in Philly bets on virality (after canning its previous editor, which makes me wonder if Timpane's comment isn't at least a bit PR fluff). But the Gnu Media folks then tell you, like I did above, that the old pageview idiom is dead.

Update, Oct. 24: McClatchy is another company finding enough gold in paywalls to offset continuing hardcopy ad and circulation revenue declines. 

That said, I get the Jay Rosens and Clay Shirkys of the world for not dealing more head-on with newspapers trying to finance news gathering. After all, they're all in academia and have been for decades. I don't get Mathew Ingram or Jeff Jarvis; they both have extensive time in the biz, and know that you find revenue as it is; if a paywall brings in more revenue, especially as part of a larger strategy, than it chases away (and the evidence on that is pretty clear that it does), you do it.

I've not heart Ingram on the "information wants to be free," but I know the other three get it wrong, as part of fighting paywalls.

That said, if hardcopy papers are the equivalent of SUVs facing high gas prices, video won't pay that much freight, and becoming junior versions of the Daily Mail will likely be off-putting (besides not building "communities") what's to be done?

1. Get Wall Street to accept further reality on profit margins
2. Start cutting those corner suite salaries more
3. Take your newspapers private

Meet Texas' latest GOP gubernatorial candidate

Lisa Fritsch, per the story about her official campaign announcement in the Austin American-Statesman, certainly sounds interesting.

First, she's a Republican of African-American background, who like her narrow sliver of compadres, says the GOP needs to diversify.

Second, she calls herself a "reluctant" tea partier, who says she did take pride, as an African-American, in Barack Obama being elected president. And, her announcement speech even had this Obama-like line:
No matter what either party has tried to tell us, we are on the same side. There is no red state, blue state, this is our state. In Texas we value our independence, our freedom, our safety, and our families. Everything we do is because we are striving for an ideal that transcends where we came from.
Add to that a childhood story that sounds like that of Wendy Davis, and it's more interesting.

Plus, she seems more charismatic than Greg Abbott and Tom Pauken combined. Plus, with a degree in Japanese language and literature, she's certainly no dummy.

The field's crowded, though, with Miriam Martinez seeking to become the first Hispanic governor (fat chance, even if you won the GOP primary, as a recent party-switcher, and your nuttery from last year's state House race) and perennial secessionist candidate Larry Kilgore (hey, leave the country if you don't like it).

That said, Fritsch sounds more serious than either of them, though probably with little more chance at the nomination.

October 14, 2013

A few more thoughts on the Occupy movement

A book of essays about the 1960s, written in the 60s or the start of the 70s, has provoked me into a few new thoughts about the "Occupy" movement.

One relates to the myth of "leaderlessness," about which I blogged before. I think many of the "foot soldiers" of the movement wanted to be more a part of a herd, rather than standing out. If that meant accepting the myth of "leaderlessness" as part of this, then that's what it meant.

Also, as part of not questioning that myth, it seems to me that many of those foot soldiers were apparently unaware of the old issue of evolutionary  biology and psychology, that is, the "freeloader" issue. Tit-for-tat altruism has been the primary evolutionary response. I'm sure there were situations were this could have been practiced and probably wasn't. For example: "I'll be a good security person this time, and screen people out of your 'inner circle' meeting, but, you have to tell me honestly, within 72 hours, what that meeting was about."

Maybe, between Occupy and the Internet geeksters who dump overvalued social media sites on us, we should reverse the old 60s slogan to "never trust anybody UNDER 30."