SocraticGadfly: 5/11/14 - 5/18/14

May 17, 2014

Austin American-Statesman — another paper making errors in #digital

Update, Jan. 13, 2015: Six months after passing me by,  possibly for age-related reasons, the Bastrop Advertiser's managing editor has spit the bit, and it's hiring again. I may apply again, but if I do, I'm going to insist on some information up front, related to the original version of this post.

Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman, running second to the Dallas Morning News in digital world idiocy among major Texas papers, has almost totally folded the Advertiser's website into its own. 

I don't like it for two reasons.

First, it undercuts what's left of the "community newspaper" idea.

Second, I do NOT like the "Microsoft Surface/Windows 8" type website layout in general.

Now, back to the original post.

Due to some unintentional misassumptions on my part, I've learned that the Statesman has a few IT/web errors that I know of with its community papers.  And, due to why these misassumptions came about, it's led me to look at more of the Statesman's other digital problems, and ....

To wonder if "social media skills" as a hiring tipping point is related to intentional, or unintentional, age bias or discrimination.

Why this happened, the website errors? I have some reasonable speculation. (I'll then get to my missamptions, etc.)

On the websites of six of its seven community papers — the Bastrop Advertiser, Pflugerville Pflag, Lake Travis View, Round Rock Leader, Westlake Picayune, Smithville Times — their Facebook, Twitter and G+ links are all for the Austin American-Statesman social media sites.

I later was shown that the Bastrop Advertiser has a Twitter feed. And, per a friend on a Facebook conversation, a Twitter feed, too. I'll assume that all the other papers above have their own social media pages. But their websites don't link to them.

These papers all had their own websites until just over a year ago, when they were rolled under the Statesman's umbrella as subsites.

Here's my guess as to what Statesman web staff probably did. They took the Statesman "main" site pages as a template 1 year ago when doing the rollover/wrap-in, and never replaced the Statesman links. The fact that this switch took place for all on the same date reinforces that in my mind. That's doubly so since this is less than six months after a major change at the Statesman, that may be connected.

First, if I'm the first person to both notice this and point it out in a full year, how much are people going to the community papers' social media feeds via the community papers' websites? Notta lotta? At least not among people new to Bastrop since the May 8, 2013, switchover.

So, Statesman? If you're going to emphasize social media, perhaps you need to further comb through the community papers and make sure there aren't other bugs. The reason I did what I did, and a rabbit hole of apparently, unintentionally, misguided thinking in doing so, has left me frustrated. And, if you want an ME focused on that, you probably should ask about that more in "conversation."

(That said, per what I found out about their online subscriptions, I'm not sure this is even true. Instead, the Statesman may be dumb enough to actually want Statesman social media feeds on its suburban papers' websites. And, it's been five days since I directed a query to this end to, er, somebody, and haven't heard back. So, I'll keep connecting dots in my mind, and blogging about them as desired, including a possible follow-up post.)

Beyond that, if either the Statesman, or its Cox Communications parent, is so dumb as to say it will, and I quote, "never" have paywalls for the web versions of its community newspapers? If you want to piss money away, that doesn't help the financial bottom line.

As to why this happened, beyond the speculation of a copied, and incompletely edited, template?

As part of its money-saving, Cox canned the entire Statesman copy desk late in 2012. All of its sections are paginated at other Cox papers. As far as I know, despite Austin being the Silicon Valley of Texas, they may do some Web and IT stuff for the Statesman elsewhere. I mean, I've been in Texas long enough; I know Cox was trying to unload the Statesman, along with all its other Texas holdings, for a few years. (And, from what I've seen, without eyeballing the Statesman on too regular of a basis, I'm not a total fan of over-consolidation. Besides, if you have to still have a "bridge desk," how much money are you really saving?) That said, with the over-consolidation, Cox will never be able to sell any of its large dailies individually now. Nobody wants to buy one daily paper and start off by hunting up copy desk staff.

And, beyond that, it looks like the Statesman isn't sure what to do with its outlying editions. All of them except Bastrop and Smithville are suburban, not exurban, now, and most of them are suburban. And, because Bastrop and Smithville are exurban, not suburban, their websites, unlike the other four, shouldn't have been rolled up into new Statesman versions, IMO. The other four? Given that they, in print, may be nothing more than zoned-like pages inside the Statesman within a decade, that's different. But, those two should have been kept separate. Again, whether a Statesman decision or a Cox one, not smart.

Who knows? Maybe Cox is doing its own version of what newspaper analysts rumor is Advance's endgame ... spending out to the finish line. 

Update, May 18: Jeeesuhus H. Christ on a crutch, it gets worse.

Try to subscribe to one of their suburban papers from that suburban paper's website, and you can't. Even if you enter the zip code appropriate to that suburban or exurban area. It tries to sign you up for the Statesman itself, and it offers the web option first.

What idiocy. Is this related to my first guesstimate of why they have Statesman social media links on suburban pages? I'm not sure. I know the Statesman went to an online paywall shortly after the roll-up. That said, given the "never" quote about paywalls for online versions, that wouldn't matter.

So, the Statesman's web staff could have been dumb enough not to do a switchover here, either, but that seems highly unlikely.

Instead, per the Zip code entry observation, and per my earlier comparing Cox to the Advance group (New Orleans Times-Picayune and all its stupidities being the closest Advance paper, Texas readers), it seems like this is just another "write-off" of the suburban papers.

It's also another write-off of print papers in general, it seems.

Beyond that, selling subscriptions to an e-edition for a Nook/Kindle? Not quite as bad as doing that for an iPhone, but, as I've blogged before, nobody in his or her right mind is going to read newspaper-page PDFs on an e-book reader. They're not even likely to do it on a full-size tablet, but on an e-book reader, forget it?)

As for their level, and particulars, of use of social media, I'm not that impressed at Bastrop. It's nothing really out of my pay grade, and not bad for a paper that size, but nothing to set the world on fire. If I were to be managing editor at a place like that, I might be a bit short on video skills, but  that's about it.

The "misassumptions" and ageism? Read below the fold (an increasingly quaint idea).

May 16, 2014

Tricky Ricky Perry is officially in the legal gunsights

Time to stop looking a bit less smug, Tricky Ricky. Besides,
at The Response, your prayer for rain didn't work either.
Patrick Michaels/Texas Observer
A Travis County grand jury has officially convened to decide whether he should be indicted for one of several possible legal charges, on the matter of vetoing money for the state's Public Integrity Unit because Travis DA Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down after her dumb DWI.

Yeah, between AG Greg Abbott protecting the consumer by carefully overseeing state Sen. Ken Paxton and watching the medical-related spending of CPRIT, not spending on the PIU was guaranteed to insure public integrity, Gov. Helmethair.

Meanwhile, we wait to see just how seriously special prosecutor Michael McCrum takes all of this. Depending on his instructions to and information for grand jurors, Perry could face serious felony indictments. How serious?

Those charges he could face, per the Texas Observer, include coercion of a public servant, bribery, and abuse of official capacity.

Given the amount of money involved with the veto, abuse of official capacity would be a first-degree felony, if the value of the veto is calculated in cash budget $$ since, at $8 million, it's much higher than $200K. On the other two, in the same area of law code, bribery is a felony 2 and coercion is a felony 3.

And, what about you, dear readers? Will Perry face any felony-level charges? Vote in the poll at right.

As for time frame? My guess is that the grand jury takes all of next week and part of the week after that. Just to be thorough, and, if they think something was legally amiss, to debate the exact nature of the charges.

Right now, even though Tricky Ricky has lots of ’splaining to do, he clearly doesn't want to do any.

And, this grand jury is in Travis County, not Brazos County, home of college cheerleaders with sprayed-on hair. Nor is it in Haskell County, where Perry did not go in the early 2000s to secretly divorce his wife, Anita, because he secretly did not have a gay lover.

It's in Travis County. Texas liberaldom. (Though El Paso County votes just as Democratic and may be more liberal in an old New Deal way.)

And, if he is indicted, that trial will also be in Travis County.

This also raises a federal constitutional convention. Under Article II, about the presidency, Section 4 says:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
What if you're a felon before you run?

That said, I do miss Ronnie Earle. Too bad he didn't make the 2010 rumor come true and run for guv himself.  Too bad he didn't have a better successor than Lehmberg.

May 15, 2014

$15? Or $10.10? And how quickly?

After figuring out that Thomas Piketty has written a left-neoliberal book on capitalism's faults that ignores organized labor, and also figuring out that Bill Clinton will never, ever apologize to labor for NAFTA and the WTO, I can sympathize with the international fast-food employees' strike in wanting a higher minimum wage.

(Hat tip to Perry for reminding me of this.)

But, per the header of this piece? That said, in details of the strike, I think $15/hr, without a phase-in of seven or so years, is too high. Even then, it might be a bit much. The $10.10 of Beltway rounds, with a four-year phase-in, AND a COLA clause as part of that, sounds about right to me.

And, that's in part due to strategy reasons — reasons of what's realistic — as well as other considerations. And, I'm not alone:
Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, said Thursday’s protests were an example of “the labor movement reinventing itself. It’s the most experimental thing labor has done in a long time.”

But he characterized the goal of a $15 hourly minimum as overly ambitious.

“They seem to forget you have to take little steps at a time,” he said. “When you don’t have very much, getting a little can mean a lot. You can’t get it all at once.”

And, expecting $15 an hour and almost immediately? Your store managers would put you all on salary and abuse comp time laws. Or try to figure out a way to classify you as independent contractors. Or simply shut down less profitable locations.

Yes, I know big businesses often use threats of closure or cuts as their own negotiating tools. And, I know that McDonald's jobs can't be outsourced to China.

And, I know it's true that wages are a fairly small portion of overhead for fast-food restaurants. Nonetheless, asking for them to be more than doubled off the current US minimum wage of $7.25 is a bit much.

And, if wages get to honestly be too big a portion, businesses will do more than just threats. Besides closures, or cuts, you could have cuts combined with split shifts. Every day of your work week. Or, even more of last-minute call-ins, or last-minute stay-homes, on your work schedule.

We also have to remember that a country as fast, populous and diversified as the US has great regional income disparities. In my current location in Texas, a $15/hr minimum wage would pretty much gut half the jobs here.

I blogged about this a bit before with Seattle's push for a $15 minimum wage. Protesters need to, per Chaison, have some sense of political reality.

They also need to have some sense of economic reality.

And, that's not just at the local level. The movement behind this all, Fast Food Forward is reportedly backed financially by Service Employees International Union.

A $15/hr minimum wage, at a full-time, year-round job, would produce a higher wage than the current individual median income, per the Census Bureau. I can understand (unlike Barack Obama) a deliberate "overshoot" as part of negotiations, but when you're pricing yourself out of the ballpark at the start, you don't sound very realistic. Or very well-informed. And, it's not just small-town Texas. Let's take Maplewood, Mo., a down-on-the-edges, but not totally "out," St. Louis suburb. A minimum wage of $15/hr on a 40-hr week puts you at 95 percent of annual household income there, and at almost 45 percent above per capita income. Nearly the same is true in a nowhere near down-at-the-edges heartland city, Grand Island, Neb. About 40 percent above the per capita median, and while only about 75 percent of the household income, still.

And, given that these protests are being backed or organized to some fair degree by organized labor folks well above the level of individual fast-food workers, that too is sad. Even in the glory days of Eisenhower, when adjusted into real dollars, the minimum wage was never but a sliver above $10 an hour.

So, restaurant workers? Dial back to $10.10, but with unionization rights as part of the deal. As for the $10.10, the Center for American Progress agrees. Its reason? That would be 50 percent of the national mean (not median) per capita. Elsewhere, Dylan Matthews notes than $15 would be 75 percent of the national median. Given the amount of economic diversity I indicated exists in America, I am confident in saying that it would be more than 100 percent of the median for census tracts of 25 percent of America.

Sadly, per Matthews, Felix Salmon is dumb enough to tout the $15 minimum, too. He says it would help the feds by bringing in tax revenue and moving people off the Earned Income Tax Credit. He should know better. He should know that with as high of a hike as I propose, even in northeastern metropolitan areas, some of this will happen.

Of course, about nobody I link above has ever lived in small-town Midwest or South areas.

SEIU? The same for the bulk of the types of workers you represent. Don't overshoot; you won't get sympathy for the broader issues behind this, including ever-increasing judicial hostility. Beyond that, that hostility is backed by Rick Snyder's election as governor of Michigan, Scott Walker's election as governor of Michigan, and more. A lot of Americans think that "union" is a four-letter word.

That said, I know that not a lot of workers are working 40 hours a week on minimum wage and that American unions like to use the minimum wage to bolster employees on the first tier above that. That then said, that's why a $15/hr request is really bad. SEIU? Nobody's going to want to pay janitors and security guards $17/hr in Grand Island, Neb. Simply ain't happening. They'll put up with dirty banks and fewer security guards.

Tocqueville missed noting that America is a land of confrontations, as part of American democracy. Too bad he wasn't here in the 1880s.

Speaking of him, this is part of why the US can't be fully like Western Europe. Lower population density, and more diversity within the various states. Well, maybe Western Europe will learn its lesson that a "Western Europe" that includes places like Greece under the euro umbrella can't be fully like Western Europe, either.

Finally, it's also why I identify myself on this blog as a skeptical left-liberal. I attempt to subject left-liberal ideas to some form of logical and empirical analysis before discussing them.

Update, May 18: Another way to put this, per the comment of Simon, who's non-American, is that the minimum wage, with that much of hike, has a broad parallel to the European Union's Eurozone crisis, to more clearly spell out what I first said. The rural South and Midwest are Greece, and New York City is London. Raise the minimum to $15/hr, and fair chunks of the US become post-eurozone crisis Greece.

And, per Simon's one comment, I noted that at $7.25, wages are a relatively modest part of fast-food overhead; I specifically indicated that likely would not be the same at $15. (Also, per that link to the Washington Post blog about the Center for American Progress, Australia's $16+ minimum wage would only be about $12 at most, here, at least under CAP's sensical idea. Also, Australia's minimum wage has a variety of loopholes, per that same link.

So, with that, and the added links above, can we please stop believing that a $15 minimum would be a painless panacea? I've already knocked down attempts to link it and helping the homeless.

May 14, 2014

The #Slickster is whitewashing his record, likely for #Hillary2016

Thomas Frank takes Bill Clinton to the woodshed for retroactively pretending he actually cared a lot about income inequality when he was president.

Frank links to a New York Times piece in which the Slickster whines that he really did worry about income inequality. Frank speculates that he's afraid of Thomas Piketty's book , and later on gets to the core of the case — that the Slickster is probably worried about his "legacy" for Hillary Clinton's sake in her likely 2016 presidential run.

First, it's funny that Piketty's book is producing this much knee weakness. It's actually a semi-toothless half-loaf, as I noted here, with a conclusion that Frank himself thumbsed-up on Facebook. But, that shows, if anything, that neoliberal Democrats like the Slickster realize that a few people, at least, know they have no clothes.

Here's the facts, both for Clintonistas and their Obamiac cousins, per Frank:
Alan Greenspan, who Clinton twice reappointed to chair the Federal Reserve Board, used to joke back in 2007 that “Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while.” That’s coming from a man who worked for some real Republicans — and who was also one of the greatest culprits in the housing bubble and the financial crisis, because he just didn’t feel like using his power to regulate the way mortgages were done.

But that complete and utter assuredness that we shouldn’t really regulate financial institutions was the prevailing sentiment of the Clinton years. That’s what it was all about. 
That's the bottom line.

And Clinton knew that before even coming to the White House.

As I said in posting the link to Frank's story on Facebook:
The Slickster doesn't like that his ox is getting Pikettyed. What I love is that the Slickster "suddenly" discovered that his budget was "hostage" to the bond market back in 1993. Hell, the Slickster had been friends with Arkansas' finest, Jackson Stephens, the biggest boy in the bond market outside Wall Street, since his first term as governor. And, I think Thomas Frank is about right. This is all a posture for Hillary to run as the candidate of income equality. Folks, the Green Party could run an effing dead dog in 2016 and I wouldn't vote for her.
And, I won't. Period and end of story. Instead of a yellow-dog Democrat, call me a dead-dog Green or something.

Frank does note that not everything Bill did was bad:
Give the man his due. There was a tax increase on the rich in the first Clinton administration. Wages grew in the second Clinton administration, and that was a very good thing. It happened because unemployment was so low, however, not because unions had made a comeback or anything. Clinton also expanded the earned income tax credit, which is probably what he thinks of when he wants to recall what a friend he was to working people.

But the overall feeling of the era was one of complete, unreserved adoration for Wall Street and money and the heroic boss. This was the age of CNBC’s “CEO Wealth Meter,” the years when the Nasdaq soared to 5,000, when you had all those investment books coming out — the Beardstown Ladies, “Dow 36,000″ — when you could follow the adventures of those awesome “day traders,” when you had “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” surely one of the most pungent moments in the long and reeking history of trash culture. Of course Clinton deregulated the banks — they were making us all rich.

This kind of celebrationism was objectionable when Reagan was president, but under Clinton — this jolly man of the people — it looked different somehow. Those CEOs were just regular folks, working to make all of us richer, via our lovable pal the stock market! That’s what Clinton’s cultural function was — to make all this seem human. I called it “market populism.”
But reminds us that even this was ephemeral:
Of course it turned out to be a bubble, and it ended in disaster. As did the housing boom, which got its start in the late ’90s, and as will the next bubble to come down the pike. 
Sure it did, just like Shrub's "compassionate conservativism" twist on all of this. The most charitable statement is that income inequality's rate of growth increased less under Clinton than under Reagan-Bush before him or Bush II after.

And, Frank forgot to mention NAFTA and the WTO, which even in his tear-streaked apologetics, the Slickster is avoiding like the plague. All part of kicking labor in the teeth in various ways.

And the need to re-empower labor, and workers' desire for that, was shown on May 15 by an international fast-food employees' strike. (That said, in details of the strike, I think $15/hr, without a phase-in of seven or so years, is too high. Even then, it might be a bit much. The $10.10 of Beltway rounds, with a four-year phase-in, AND a COLA clause as part of that, sounds about right to me.)

The Slickster could sell ice to Eskimos. That's how he got proclaimed America's first black president even after overseeing and pushing for the execution of a mentally handicapped black man while still governor.

But, don't believe him. He knew that the financial snake oil he was selling was financial snake oil back in Little Rock.

May 13, 2014

#Piketty: A liberal Frenchman ignorant of unions? Or not quite so liberal?

Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman via Salon
(Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau/Anton Golubev)
Or a left-neoliberal trying to pose as an actual liberal?

Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" has gotten a lot of touts. That goes even as far as Counterpunch. So, it has to be true liberal, right?

Well, Thomas Frank notes one big absence. I'd not read the book yet, but in hindsight, his review points out what all the other reviews missed.

Frank, like others, praises the analysis, while astutely noting, although without quite as much depth as Counterpunch, that Piketty's not new, nor alone.
I was puzzled at first by the extraordinary success of Piketty’s book; despite his commitment to cant-free prose, it is not an easy read. Besides, most of what Piketty tells us has been told to us before, many times over, in a three-decade long parade of forgotten treatises and sad New York Times stories on downsizing and deindustrialization.

Going beyond that, he also touts Piketty for slapping around most of his fellow economists.
One of the best things about Piketty’s masterwork is his systematic demolition of his own discipline. Academic economics, especially in the United States, has for decades been gripped by a kind of professional pretentiousness that is close to pathological. From time to time its great minds have grown so impressed by their own didactic awesomeness that they celebrate economics as “the imperial science”— “imperial” not merely because economics is the logic of globalization but because its math-driven might is supposedly capable of defeating and colonizing every other branch of the social sciences. ...

Piketty blasts it all to hell. His fellow economists may have mastered the art of spinning abstract mathematical fantasies, he acknowledges, but they have forgotten that measuring the real world comes first.
However, on the prescriptions side? Frank points out that Piketty's French souffle just fell in the oven.

Yes, he talks about a wealth tax, which all other reviews have noted.

But, in an "emperor has no clothes" moment, Frank also points out that Piketty, a native of a country where even the farmers are unionized, doesn't have bupkis to say about boosting worker organization rights. 

Frank kind of buries the nutgrafs of a critical review three-quarters of the way down. But, I'm moving it up:
Turning to the problem of income inequality here in the United States, there is an even simpler solution (than a wealth tax), by which I mean a more realistic solution, a solution that builds on familiar American traditions,that works by empowering average people, that requires few economists or experts, that would involve a minimum of government interference, and that proceeds by expanding democracy and participation rather than by building some kind of distant and unapproachable global tax authority: Allow workers to organize. Let people have a say on the basic issues affecting their lives.

Piketty’s biggest blind spot is that he has virtually nothing to say about labor unions. He starts Chapter 1 of “Capital” with an anecdote about a bloody strike in South Africa and he returns to that same tragic episode at the very end of the book, but in between he addresses the matter almost not at all. Piketty talks a good game about democracy, but like other economists who have made inequality their subject, he prefers solutions that are handed down from the lofty heights of expertise. (My emphasis.)
As I said, the man's a native of a country where the farmers unionize. It's a blind spot, or worse.

That's why I use the phrase "left-neoliberalism," which I've talked about occasionally before. Click on that tag, at bottom, for more related posts.

Hey, France is full of technocrats. Christine Lagarde runs the International Monetary Fund, one of the holy of holies places of neoliberal technocrats. And, arguably, François Mitterand found the "Third Way" long before Bill Clinton or Tony Blair.

Calling this a blind spot might be charitable — and not just a little. I mean, per the sentence of Frank's that I bolded, isn't this the stereotypical neoliberal approach? Let us technocrats work out the solutions?

Frank then goes on:
It is not a coincidence that labor’s rise in the 1930s happened at the same time as the One Percent’s fall from grace, nor is it a coincidence that labor’s long decline has been almost a mirror image of the One Percent’s recovery of its nineteenth-century heaven. ...

The disappearing middle class? This is labor’s grievance par excellence. The minimum wage? Labor is always the loudest voice calling for an increase.
Frank admits that re-empowering organized labor is not the totality of the solution, either. He does note that it needs to be more of the solution in union-gutted America than in Europe.

Speaking of, Piketty apparently doesn't know a lot about America in general.

Frank also notes that this lack of knowledge is part of a bigger pattern of potholes in the book:
Unfortunately, Piketty’s enthusiasm for disciplines other than economics is more theoretical than anything else.
And, for someone claiming his book is as much history as economics, his American chocolate cake fell in the oven even more than his French souffle.
Whenever Piketty moves away from numbers and tries to describe life in the United States, things go wrong in a hurry. The worst example first: Piketty tells us that, unlike the French, Americans feel “no nostalgia for the postwar period” because our economy didn’t grow rapidly in those years. ...

Piketty’s command of American political history is, quite simply, abysmal. He announces that the U.S. “never became a colonial power,” which would be news to the people of the Philippines, not to mention the Sioux. ...

There are numerous other examples in Piketty’s enormous book of this weird blind spot concerning all things American; indeed, you could write an entire review just cataloguing them.
Bad, indeed.

At Counterpunch, Jack Rasmus gets at some of those same  union-related issues via a back door of sorts. Here's his key point on this issue:
Explaining inequality—not just reporting it—requires an analysis of how these various ‘forms of wages’ have been reduced in recent decades and especially since 2009. That deeper analysis leads to explanations of trends of destruction of unions and thus the higher union wage, the growing trend of outright ‘wage theft’ by businesses, the avoidance of paying overtime pay by reclassifying millions of workers as ‘exempt’ instead of hourly paid, the atrophying of the real minimum wage, the wage reduction effects of free trade, the shift to contingent labor, and all the reasons why the total unemployed (in and out of the labor force) are rising steadily and are chronically longer term jobless. Add to this the analyses of the many government policies introduced in recent years and decades that reduce the deferred, social, and future wage and underestimate the real wage.
Exactly. And, the noted destruction of unions has been part of the cause of the rest of this. But not all of it.

Compared to much of Europe, and especially Piketty's France, the word "union" has become a four-letter word to more and more vanishing middle-class Americans.

Well, folks that didn't happen out of nowhere. Since there is class war in America, the "unions are ebil" meme came out of the mouths of people who had reason to fear unions. And, it was easily sold. You're not middle class if you're in a union, you're working class. Plus, in traditional industrial unions, people who were promoted from line jobs to management were encouraged to leave unions for that reason. Probably, though I don't know for sure, back in the 1960s and ’70s, white folks promoted from line jobs to management were encouraged to leave their unions for other reasons, but that's another story.

In short, by missing the union part of the equation, Piketty is missing half the class warfare part of the issue.

And the need to re-empower labor, and workers' desire for that, was shown on May 15 by an international fast-food employees' strike. (That said, in details of the strike, I think $15/hr, without a phase-in of seven or so years, is too high. Even then, it might be a bit much. The $10.10 of Beltway rounds, with a four-year phase-in, AND a COLA clause as part of that, sounds about right to me.)

And, given that unionized French farmers have driven their tractors into the streets of Paris before, I can't believe this is totally accidental. So, thanks to Thomas Frank triggering some thought, I doubt I'll read Piketty's book.

Enthusiasm gap should favor #Greens and #Libertarians

Seasoned politics-watchers know all about how Democrats have problems with getting people to the polls in midterm elections. The problem seems particularly acute here in Texas, especially given the state's large, theoretically Democratic-leaning, minority population, but it's not unique to the Pointy Abandoned Object State™; the issue occurs elsewhere, too.

Gallup has a very interesting piece on all of this. 

First, the Democrats' "enthusiasm gap" is more in the tank than in 2010. It was at 0 in 2010, Gallup's poll finds, but is -23 this year.

The GOP is at -8 this year, so even with lack of enthusiasm there, they're still ahead of Democrats. (And, by percentages, they have a 37-24 edge on paying attention to the midterms.)

However, the GOP had a +34 in 2010, likely motivated by Obamacare.

So, the Dems have dropped 23 percentage points since last midterm in 2010, while the Republicans have dropped a whopping 42 points. Even with allowances for the "attention gap" as well, this should be precautionary to inside-the-Beltway pundits predicting Democratic problems.

But, that's the minor point.

This enthusiasm gap should favor Greens, above all. Socialists, with less geographic spread, second, though not mentioned in the header, then Libertarians.

It "should," but it won't. Read on.

It should favor Libertarians less than third parties of the left for the same reason that the enthusiasm gap saw a bigger drop among Republicans than Democrats. People are disgusted with wingnuts in Congress. And, yes, some of the wingnuttery in Congress is over social conservative issues. But, a lot of it is over economic issues, like sequestration, cutting unemployment benefits, cutting food stamps in the new farm bill, etc. All issues in which your typical Libertarian Congresscritter candidate is just as wingnut, if not more so, than your typical GOP person currently serving as a Congresscritter.

Unfortunately, definitely here in Texas, but also in less reddish states, Libertarians have a lot more candidates in the field than Greens.

True liberalism, or the American version of left-liberalism, even, has a very, very hard time getting itself sold, even as on financial issues, more and more Democrats act like Nice Polite Republicans. (That's NPR; take notes.)

Organization and professionalism seem to be hallmarks of Libertarian ballot access, as part of this. Greens? To take Will Rogers' old jest about not belonging to organized parties because he was a Democrat, that probably applies in spades to Greens.

How this will actually play out in this election, I don't know.

Gallup doesn't explain the "why" on the GOP enthusiasm gap. Is it more that "establishment" Republicans are tired of the Tea Party types (somewhat a false division, but somewhat true), or more that TP true believers think half of GOP Congresscritters are RINOs? If it's the latter, maybe a Libertarian will actually be seated under the Capitol dome, either the one in Washington, D.C., or the one in Austin, in January. (That is, if he's not a Libertarian true believer, driving without a license!)

Otherwise, as we talk about America being in a new Gilded Age, etc., this is a good parallel to the era that saw various third parties, like the Greenback Labor and the Populists in the late 19th century, win a governorship or two, get a couple of Members of Congress elected, and eventually start forcing major party change, although William Jennings Bryan was 50 percent a sellout.

While Republicans and Democrats of that era differed on tariff protections, the GOP came out firmly for the gold standard as its other "solution" for poverty and income inequality, while "gold Democrats" led by President Grover Cleveland did exactly the same.

To riff on Virginia Slims, for today's Greens: "You've got a long way to go, baby." And, yet another reason why Texas Greens should not ask Brandon Parmer to suspend his gubernatorial campaign.

No, #Cardinals fans, Ozzie Smith is NOT Carlos Gomez

Nor is he to a lot of people, except in the febrile mind of Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports' website.

Calcaterra, who seems to have a history of writing trollish blog posts at times (and I'm far from the first to state that), wanted to give a smackdown to a lot of people complaining about the Brewers' Carlos Gomez standing at the plate recently and admiring his in the park home run triple.

So, he gathered together a bunch of old pictures of "exuberant" ballplayers and said "voila." Actually, his header said:  ' “Respect the Game?” Phooey.' No context was provided of the actions of other players pictured.

Among those pictures? Ozzie Smith's famous start of season backflip. So, I tweeted him and said bullshit.

He, in turn, said, what's the diff?

I said, that, above all, Ozzie wasn't doing it during a game. That's not to mention he only did it on opening day, or home opening day, and again at the start of playoffs. That was it. And, besides, he had a reputation that was not that of Carlos Gomez. (Or Craig Calcaterra.)

Meanwhile, back to Calcaterra's trolling. And, no, I'm not the first person to accuse him of that.

He responded to my second tweet and said:
But you realize, you're just making up rules as you go along, right? There's no standard. Some stuff is good, some bad.
First, you're making up objections to standards you don't like, methinks. Second, there always have been standards. True, not all of them are formal, but there is, jokes aside, an unwritten rulebook of sorts.Third, per my first response to you, you know there's a difference between the Wiz and Goober Gomez, which gets back to the first point.

Fourth, if "some stuff is good, some bad," how do you know what's good and what's bad? If you're not pulling it out of your own backside, you're using a standard!

As I tweeted back, if there are no rules, fine, let's go back there.

That said, back to the Ozzie Smith issue. And other players, like Casey Stengel (bird under his hat in a game, I presume his pic is about), arguably weren't the same:
So color me unimpressed with the latest calls for Carlos Gomez or Yasiel Puig or whoever the talk show warriors’ next punching bag happens to be to respect the game. The game has been disrespected by way better and way more disrespectful than the likes of those guys and will be disrespected by many more in the future.
That said, Ozzie Smith unarguably wasn't the same. Period.

Further proof? Ozzie never had a pitcher woof at him over that. It was just like Anheuser-Busch rolling out the Clydesdales and Craig Troll Calcaterra knows that.

If he really, really believes that's the same, what Ozzie did, or even what Casey did, he's a fucking idiot. If he doesn't, this is the best proof ever Calcaterra's a troll blogger. (I'm not the first to make that accusation by any means.) And sadly, gets paid by NBC.

He also blames only Brian McCann for Gomez's run-in with the Braves last year. 

That said, I'm not justifying the actions of Pirate hurler Gerritt Cole. Instead of f-bombing Gomez at third, he should have plunked either the next Brewer batter or Gomez the next time he came up. 

That's exactly what the unwritten rulebook says, and back in the day, Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal would have planted a pitch in the earhole of Gomez's batting helmet.

Indeed, among his "respect the game" pix, he has the one of Marichal going upside John Roseboro's head with a bat. Lest we forget, that's because Roseboro had reportedly buzzed his head with at least one throw back to the mound.

(Update, May 13: Sadly, Jonah Keri's joined the Calcaterra brigade, even saying he wants pictures of bat flips. I promised to instead send pictures of beanings, and went ahead and sent a link to the Marichal-Roseboro pic.) 

But, I'm sure Craig wouldn't like that, disregarding formal rules against beaning. So, Craig, that's another way in which you do believe there's standards of some sort.

Better yet, to test for standards? And respecting the game? Let's put you in a batting cage, but instead of a pitching machine, you can face Hoot Gibson.  Make contact just once, Craig Troll, then flip your bat.

Calcaterra now claims he was trying to make the point this was relatively minor. I didn't say it wasn't. In terms of respecting the game, I said Ozzie didn't disrespect it at all. Stengel didn't do so in a way that "faced" opponents. And, neither one affected actual play in a game.

Further tweets with Calcaterra indicate that he thinks it's all the same thing, when I think it's pretty clearly not.

I've blogged before that I don't believe in a "Cardinal Way," but that doesn't mean that I don't believe there's certain standards within games. That's even more the case in other sports. Gomez might get a 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct in the NFL.

And, maybe we need an ump or two to start tossing players before fights. Or have the baseball equivalent of soccer's yellow cards.

As for the other pix? I'm not sure what incident or incidents of Babe Ruth Craig means. Eating too many hot dogs is a far cry different from drinking issues or allegedly snorting coke. On Pete Rose, ditto. An underwear ad is far different from betting on one's own team. If it's the former on both of them, nothing was done during play in a game, nor to "face" another team.

So, Craig, if you're trying to make the point that these folks are all like Gomez, you're wrong!

Well, Craig, I'll put a "no follow" on your post, so you won't get any click love from people reading here, whether you troll in part for that or other reasons. But, feel free to Tweet him.

And, the whole issue of links, clicks and web traffic is why I wish somebody would invent some mouse software that would automatically give us a Javascript pop-up window to read the first paragraph or two of text in a piece without actually clicking a link. 


When I grow up, I want to be a pro sportswriter, having millions of people overestimating my importance to society. 

May 12, 2014

Royce West: MIA on #UNT-Dallas and south Dallas development

Jim Schuetze of the Dallas Observer has had a series of pieces on how Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins has refused to pay to run new sewer lines to the vicinity of UNT-Dallas before retail developers officially commit to come there first. The latest, with exposure of some prime Atkins hypocrisy, is here.
He wrote (in the Dallas Morning Snooze): "Evidence of tangible public support is critical to the process of obtaining viable development partners and leveraging other capital sources."

This happens to be exactly the same argument that the same city councilman has consistently rejected for the area in his own district around the new University of North Texas-Dallas campus. There, landholders have been begging Atkins to free up funding already authorized for a sanitary sewer system -- something they have never had before -- so they can lure serious investors to develop much-needed student housing.
And Atkins has repeatedly refused.

First, whether elected officials like it or not, that's not the way said developers work.

Second, where the hell is state Sen. Royce West, the man who pushed for years and years to get UNT-Dallas started? I know that his primary goal was having a university inside the Dallas city limits, but having been in the news biz during that whole run-up time in a Best Southwest suburb just across I-20 from where UNT-Dallas was being built, I always had the assumption that UNT-Dallas was just step 1 in larger development of this area.

That's certainly the impression Schutze has, too:
If you were looking for something in southern Dallas on which to capitalize, it's hard to imagine a better bet than the glamorous new UNT campus that opened four years ago near the intersection of Interstate 35E and I-20. But Atkins has been adamant that he's not going to let the city risk bond money on a sewer system until the developers are already outside his office door with plans rolled up under their arms.

I asked him once about the mayor's "Grow South" initiative to spur economic development in the city's segregated southern hemisphere. He said, "That's the mayor's deal. Ask him."
Unfortunately, Atkins is wedded to the idea of revitalizing the carcass of Southwest Center Mall, aka Red Bird Mall. What an idiot. Even if there are sewer lines there, traditional malls are a dying breed.

As for West?

Who knows? Maybe he's like "our man downtown," Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, with his attempts to get the mayor of Wilmer give his buds some business help in work related to Union Pacific's intermodal facility there, as part of his illustrious alleged history of following the money, including reportedly kicking his own constituents in the nuts for Ross Perot Jr. money, an alleged shakedown which reportedly had friend of JWP trying to cut West in on a piece of the pie.

Maybe West hasn't leaned on any city of Dallas folks because he doesn't have friends involved, or nobody is trying to get friends of his involved. 

I have the distinct impression, though, that if Royce West really wanted to make development happen near his baby, he could make it happen.

Dear #BigOil in #Houston — you have a self-inflicted problem

Actually, you have about 4 feet of self-inflicted problem. That's how much sea level rise is already, apparently, irreversible due to global warming's effect on the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Now, Big Oil is everywhere. It's in San Antonio with the Eagle Ford shale play. As the previous presidential administration of Mutt and Jeff showed, it was in abundance in Dallas.

So why pick on Houston?

Well, I could have picked on Port Arthur, or Beaumont, for similar reasons.

Here's why. Many places along the Gulf Coast are contending with subsidence from oil/gas extraction and groundwater pumping as well as beach erosion.

And, some of those could be at or a touch below sea level already. Indeed, some parts of older Houston, with a longer history of both water and oil extraction, may be at current sea level, or a touch below.

Houston area after a 5-foot sea level rise/NYT graphic
In other words, parts of Houston are in a bowl. Perhaps not as bad as New Orleans' lower Ninth Ward, but bad enough. At left is the scenario in Houston with a sea level rise of just about what the West Antarctic meltdown guarantees.

Other than the Ship Channel, but, schadenfreude, home of the refineries, Houston itself isn't in trouble. Galveston is, though.

And, while the West Antarctic meltdown may take as long as 200 years, ice elsewhere at both poles will also continue to melt.

And, this is just with calm seas, whether a prosperous voyage is also included or not, courtesy of Beethoven's muse or anything else.

Let's add in another thought, also from NOLA.

Katrina. Remember, Houstonians, the somewhat similar degree of pants-shitting happening down there over the precise course of Hurricane Ike?

OK, bring on another Ike, with that shoreline above, and give it a worst-course scenario. I'll not paint a totally black picture; Ike 2.0 will be kept at no larger than Category 3 on hurricane strength.

Anyway, Galveston gets obliterated.

The refineries in the Ship Channel get flooded out of operation for two weeks. The lowest parts of the city of Houston become a bowl of mosquito-infested water for the same length of time.

Houston area after a 12-foot sea level rise/NYT graphic
And, that's just with a rise of a little bit above four feet. The New York Times says the loss of these ice sheets could destabilize others enough to make the ultimate rise hit 10 feet or so.

Add in rising sea level from warmer ocean temperatures and other things, and you get something like the 12-foot rise pictured at left. Goodbye, Galveston Island. The entire Ship Channel is also underwater.

And, without Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula as giant breakwaters, Houston itself stares straight into the teeth of hurricanes hitting the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

How's them apples?

Big Oil doesn't care, or it continues the denialism. That's even as it finds it easier to spend big bucks spreading the denialism rather than doing something. And, note to John Roberts, the alleged "umpire" chief justice who needs to buy MLB's instant replay machinery to check his calls — it's this type of "dark money" spending which is the ultimate philosophy driving campaign finance today. If you can't see corruption, it's because you don't want to see corruption.

Anyway, Big Oil and friends has already helped guarantee this 4-foot rise is baked in. Unavoidable. Contra nutbars in the Senate like Ted Cruz, Jim Imhofe, and Tom Coburn, there's no god magically smiling on the USofA to stop this, either.

That said, Ted Cruz's grandson and Pat Robertson's great-grandson will someday blame this on teh gayz or something. Or else they'll claim it's a sign of the Apocalypse. But, sorry, there will be no god magically rapturing you out of your flooded home, either.

As for Big Oil? What do you expect from an industry in cahoots with the railroad industry that has workers cleaning out tanker cars in abominably unsafe conditions?

A #sabermetrics #WAR need: Managerial Wins Above Replacement (updated)

If you're like me, especially at times like Hall of Fame candidate discussion, besides wanting steroid honesty from folks like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, you also visit a great Internet resource, Baseball-Reference, to refute folks like Tiger homers who continue to argue for the Hall of Fame candidacy of the likes of Jack Morris.

Also, this time of year, you scour its pages during winter meetings to wonder about free agent signings. (And, no, the Cards did not overpay for LOOGY Randy Choate — as long as Mike Matheny remembers he's a LOOGY!)

Anyway, thinking back a month or so, when the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series in three years, all of a sudden, everybody was talking about Bruce Bochy as a possible managerial Hall of Famer. (We know Big Head Bochy wasn't that, as a catcher, per his player stats!)

Problem is, as you look at B-R's managers' home page, and compare it to the player pages of any of those players mentioned above, there's something missing from managerial records.

Wins Above Replacement.

Indeed, it is Bochy that has brought this issue to the forefront — one pennant, but a sub-500 record, with the Padres, and two World Series, but a regular season record just above .500, with the Giants.

So, instead of saying, "Bochy's a good managerial handler of pitchers as a former catcher," or, "Bochy's a good dugout manager," but have zero evidence to back that up, wouldn't it be nice to say, "Bochy was worth three wins more than a replacement-level manager" or similar?

OR, a la Jack Morris, it would be nice to have some such stat and instead say, "oh, Bochy just got lucky with expanded playoffs," or similar?

Again, I'm not sure how managerial WAR could be calculated. But we need it! Not every manager is a slam-dunk HOFer like a Tony La Russa or Joe Torre. (Oh, and B-R, while you're at it? Can't you set up the RSS feed for us linking to managerial as well as player pages? Rather, to be more honest, "won't you"?)

Update, Feb. 20, 2013: A friend of mine, with whom I discuss real and fantasy baseball a lot, has this great idea, on the calculations.

Teams get evaluated all the time on how much they exceed, or underperform, their Pythagorean win factor assessments. And, here's information on Wiki on Pythagorean win calculations.

Surely, part of that over- or under-performance is attributable to the manager, isn't it? We may have a good starting point right there.

Update, March 28, 2014: Another blogger has picked up the ball, looking at the last 10 years of managers. No surprise that La Russa ranks high, as do Bobby Cox and Jim Leyland, though I am surprised about Ron Washington and Don Mattingly. Bochy's neither in the top nor the bottom.

Update, May 13, 2014: Russell Carleton offers more thoughts on trying to evaluate managers, with some specific numbers, at Baseball Prospectus.

And, a friend of mine beat me to the punch on Pythagoreans vs. reality, not only for the Cards' Sub-Genius Skipper but several others. I did Joe Girardi, the rest are his, then decided to look up Torre for his Yankee years only, and La Russa, Cardinal years only:

Matheny has failed to exceed his team's Pythagorean in his first two years by a relatively large margin. Although they won 97 games last year so I'm not crying for you.

Terry Francona
Phillies - 2 of 4 years (exceeding pythagorean)
Red Sox - 8 of 13 years
Indians - 1 of 1 year
Total: 11 of 18 years exceeding.

Mike Scioscia
Angels - 10 of 15 years

Buck Showalter
Yankees - 3 of 4 years
Diamondbacks - 1 of 3 years
Rangers - 2 of 4 years
Orioles - 3 of 4 years
Total: 9 of 15 years
(Of course, three of those teams went to the World Series in short order after he left ... so I'm sure the Orioles can't wait to fire him)

Joe Girardi
Marlins - 0 of 1 years
Yankees - 4 of 7 (incl. one tie as a "not exceeding")

Bruce Bochy
Padres - 8 of 12 years
Giants - 5 of 7
Total: 13 of 19 years

Ned Yost
Brewers - 3 of 6 years
Royals - 0 of 4 years
Total: 3 of 10 years

Doug Melvin
Arizona - 2 of 5 years
Seattle - 0 of 2 years
Oakland - 1 of 2 years

Joe Torre
Yankees - 10 of 12 years (really)

Tony La Russa
Cardinals - 7 of 16 years (incl. two ties)
On Tony the Pony, as a Cardinals fan, I went the next step and totaled how many wins he was above or below each year. He was a total of plus-5. He was a plus-5 in 2004 and a big plus-7 in 2007. He was a minus-6 in 1997, and a minus-5 in 2011.

It confirms the generally good impression of Franconia. On Scioscia, even though he's only won one title, I had no idea he was that good in general. Buck? No real surprise; of course, he normally hits a burnout plateau, and then another manager takes a team to the next level. Bochy? Like Scioscia, a surprise. Yost not as bad in Milwaukee as painted.

May 11, 2014

#Journalists lusting for scoops — #masturbatory, or something beyond?

Felix Salmon, from an international journalism conference recently, called lusting after scoops "masturbatory." Specifically:
“Breaking news is the most masturbatory thing journalists do. The reader couldn’t give a flying fuck who broke it.”
And, he's in the right vein on the first, and totally right on the second, by and large.

Readers, for the most part, unless they're avid news-followers (I refuse to use the word "consumers" in conjunction with news) don't check for a byline. Those of us who do, do so precisely because we're looking for possible bias and accuracy issues, whether on a scoop, investigative journalism, news analysis or whatever.

That said, I'm not sure "masturbatory" is quite right. Yes, it does capture the self-focus of scoop-hunting, but it doesn't get at everything.

I used an even more sexual, and more specifically male, observation, in tweeting back to Salmon. I called scoop lust "dick-swinging."

Because that is what it is. It goes back to the old, almost all male (and all white male) newspapers of pre-World War II at a minimum, and even back to the Spanish-American War days of yellow journalism. A bunch of old white males, overloaded with testosterone, and usually overloaded with booze, too, were prime grounds for swinging dick contests, and hunting for scoops, damn the accuracy of their content, and usually damn the ethics of how they were obtained, was the coin in trade for measuring dick swinging.

He's now blogged about that in more detail, here. Here's what I'd call his nutgraf (speaking of sexually laden journalism):
Outside newswires, on the other hand, chasing after scoops is silly — especially in the 99% of cases where the news is certain to come out soon enough anyway. Many highly-respected newscasts and magazines rarely or never break news; conversely, many low-quality, high-velocity websites are constantly churning out microscoops of zero importance. It seems self-evident to me that all news organizations should decide whether or not to publish information based on the inherent quality of the content in question, and the degree to which that information serves the publication’s readers. Instead, far too many news organizations make their publication decisions based on what other news organizations have already published.
From there, he notes that his promotes solipsism within the journalism profession, then within individuals, hence "masturbatory" as an act of self-satisfaction. Related to that, he says most scoops are written for other journalists, not the general public.

Pretty much so. But, masturbatory doesn't capture the dick-swinging part, which has infected most women in the media, too.

And, per the yellow journalism issue, each advance in electronic communications has only increased the scoops lust. Having telegraph service connected to railroads was the first great accelerator. Then came telephones, letting people dictate more complete information for scoops. Then, print media scoop lusters felt the pressure from radio, the first electromagnetic media. And, so on and so on.

That said, scoops today are also written for bean-counters. This is explicitly true of what Salmon calls "microscoops," especially at papers like The Oregonian, where Advance's bean-counters are counting pageviews of reporters and it's tied to their pay.