SocraticGadfly: 1/17/16 - 1/24/16

January 23, 2016

Splat Goes Blatt!

I Tweeted the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but too late Friday night for them to use that header, based on Eastern time. The Saturday morning paper, describing how the Cleveland Cavaliers dumped head coach David Blatt in mid-season, was surely already in bed.

That said, hoops fans know the basics, as broken by ESPN, it appears. Cleveland, despite leading the Eastern Conference and despite injuries to several players at the start of the season, above all Kyrie Irving rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, and Iman Shumpert also starting the year on IR, decided to can second-year head coach Blatt. (Timofey Mozgov and some guy named LeBron James also were dinged at the start of the year, but were on the opening roster.)


In a word, the King wanted him out, though he'd not talked to GM David Griffiin recently, and he wanted assistant head coach Tyronn Lue in. And, as a friend reminds me, ESPN's Mark Stein called out LBJ for coach-undermining last July.

All hail the King-tyrant?
As soon as I heard the backstory, I was reminded of middle of the 1981-82 season, in Los Angeles, when Magic Johnson got Jerry Buss to can Paul Westhead for some guy named Pat Riley. Per Stein, LBJ could and should, at a minimum, "man up" and say this was exactly what he wanted. Especially since Magic in 1982 was a third-year player and not even the established leader of the Lakers yet, still often considered second dog to Kareem. And, the Riles-Magic age gap was bigger than this one, which makes one wonder how Lue will keep James under control.

If this move works half that well, the James comes off smelling like a rose. (Half that well, I mean that technically — Lue winning two NBA titles to the four Riles won in LA.)

Anything short of an NBA title, if not this year, then next year, starts raising eyebrows. And not just at LBJ. Griffin will also come in the gunsights.

And, on the "losing control" theme? Sometimes one loses control, and sometimes, one has control ripped away. Per that, and per an ESPN follow-up, LBJ was bad-mouthing Blatt to other teams, as were other players. You just don't do that. Well, you shouldn't. However, outside of places like San Antonio and Golden State, this may, more and more, be today's NBA. But, players can't be fired when they undercut coaches and it goes wrong.

Per that, Tweeters, especially those with a modicum of Photoshopping skills, were eating this up.

Owner Dan Gilbert apparently had Blatt's back to near the end, but Griffin didn't. Yes, Blatt had screwups, or potential ones, at times last year, and James saved him once or twice, but James was overriding his coach too much, I think.

That ESPN follow-up has a lot on this, too. Gilbert didn't want a "retread," but when going out in free agency after hiring Blatt, the King and his Court were upset that they wouldn't have input.

Then, James took weeks to meet Blatt, while Blatt assumed that based on his past international coaching experience, he'd get respect that didn't come his way.

At the same time, the learning curve was steeper than Blatt expected, and perhaps he shouldn't have taken so much slight at Irving calling him an "NBA virgin" with his first coaching victory.

I think he'll learn from those mistakes, though, will Blatt, and per Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, he'll land another head job. But, he's got learning on both the player management as well as game management sides, especially if he goes to another veteran team.

Adrian Wojnarowski follows up with this on Yahoo. He also notes that for all the alleged love for Lue, the King and his Court originally wanted Mark Jackson as coach, who IS, as Bob Ryan recognized, a Bible-pounding phony who also, as Ryan recognizes, isn't even a legit Bible pounder.

If everybody is in the crosshairs, per Griffin's video at the second link, I'm guessing J.R. Smith and Kevin Love are probably the first two. Indeed, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who broke the story, when players first heard about a team meeting, they thought it was to announce the trade of Love.

That said, the Cavs should trade love, per Cleveland bloggers, if Lue can't fit him into the lineup, with whatever tweaks he plans — if they can get a decent return for him. Of course, that begs the question of what "decent return" means, especially if one is looking for chemistry, and for leadership if he's not a second banana, and not just stats.

Next then, is Griffin's worry about keeping the King, since next year is a player option for him, which makes Griffin next under the spotlight after Smith and Love, or maybe even before. I think LeBron will stay — but for  more money.

And, of course Griffin is going to deny the King forced Blatt out. It makes it look like Griffin doesn't have a lot of GM power.

Back to the Mavs. While the firing was weird, Mark Cuban canned Avery Johnson the year after he took them to the Finals but lost two the Heat. The guy who replaced him? Rick Carlisle, who went on to beat Heat five years later.

January 21, 2016

Green Party fields five presidential nominees

Truly liberal voters who think outside the two-party box know the name of Dr. Jill Stein, 2012 Green Party nominee.

She's back in the race this time, but, it's important to note, as does one of her challengers, that's she's not been coronated.

In fact, the party has five nominees, including her. I have a bit of knowledge of Kent Mesplay, but know nothing about the other three. I hope to remedy that before this year's state caucus, let alone Green Party national convention, which will be here in Texas this year, in Houston, on Aug. 4-7.

The five candidates are:
Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry ( )
Jill Stein ( )
Darryl Cherney ( )
William P. Kreml ( )
Kent Mesplay ( )
For contact information, see the candidates' web sites or the Green Party's Presidential Candidates page ( ). 

One of the five, Jill Stein, the 2012 nominee, who has qualified already for federal campaign funds, was on CNN on Saturday. Here's a transcript.

Oh, and visit the party newsletter. And, if you want to be involved, give some election issues insight here.

Update, Jan. 26: I've seen initial campaign videos, here, of three of the "other" four candidates, all but Moyowasifza-Curry. Of them, Kreml caught my eye intellectually the most, with his constitutional theorizing, but none have caught my eye yet vs. Stein. Moyowasifza-Curry, as a woman and a person of color, interests me in knowing more about her. At the same time, if you're running for president, even with a third party, having nothing more than a Facebook page for your "campaign website" isn't impressing.

Major daily newspapers — run by snide, arrogant elitists

David Chavern, the CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, the trade and lobbying organization for the major dailies (it does represent some others, but the National Newspaper Association is the primary group for "community" newspapers) wrote a howler op-ed piece last week for Digiday, an online magazine that covers issues in digital advertising and publishing.

The header should tell you just how snide, arrogant and elitist this is:
Ad blocking threatens democracy.
First, democracy was around before modern newspapers were, whether in its classical Athenian version, the Roman Republic, or the first modern gropings toward it of American founding fathers, the British realms, or the Swiss Confederation.

If one wants to claim that Athens and Rome with slaves weren't truly democratic, neither was America before 1865, and American newspapers, primarily but not only in the South, supported that slavery.

So, we should add both "historically inaccurate" and "histrionic" to the debunking of this nonsense.

That said, here’s Chavern’s nut graf, as far as I can tell:
People who download ad-blocking software may be looking for a faster browsing experience in the short-term, but they are also knowingly or unknowingly participating in the longer-term destruction of our ad-supported system for free and low-cost news and other content. As ad-blockers proliferate, the inevitable result will be either much higher subscription rates or a deterioration in the quality and availability of thoughtful, reliable news as news media and content creators are forced out of business. This, in turn, will put us on a dangerous path toward information inequality. News content will be reserved for those who can pay high subscription fees, and everyone else will be left without access to valuable information — with disastrous implications for our democracy.

But wait, it gets better!

Like this:

Are we really willing to exchange exposure to digital ads for significantly higher prices for everyone, where reliable information is only available to the elite? 

So, newspapers that use paywalls as part of their digital stream, not just the elitist Wall Street Journal and semi-elite New York Times, but the Gannett chain, are actually read only by elites? European papers, who long relied more on higher circulation prices and less in ads in print editions, are read only by elites?

Arrogant and elitist is what this piece is.

First, Mr. Chavern, as you either DO know or else SHOULD know, most newspapers were slow to jump on paywalls in the first place because Deano Singleton and other AP board members drank the "TV model" Kool-Aid, ignoring that pay cable channels like HBO existed already in the 1970s.

Second, "elitist"? From big metro dailies that run BOTH real estate ads AND puff pieces for McMansions, or BOTH auto ads AND puff review pieces for Beemers, Lexuses, etc. THAT's elitist.

Even more elitist is the "style" columnists and shutterbugs showing up at black-tie events for the locally rich and famous, and the name-dropping that goes with that.

Third? Newspapers who may have written about growing income inequality without tackling the causes of it, and without really wanting to do that too much (I'll plead a small mea culpa myself, at least on being afraid to rock corporate boats on op-ed pages) are elitist.

Fourth? On the technical side? Besides craptacular web ads? Let's not even get into the abuse of tracking cookies. Some websites, sometimes newspapers, sometimes others, Ghostery shows me it's blocking 30 cookies.

But let us please get into what Chavern calls "native advertising" and I still call good old "advertorial."

Chavern says:
Part of (improving digital ad experience) may also involve better “native ads” that are more fully integrated into the overall experience of visiting a news site. 
First, the Federal Trade Commission has already ixnayed that, publishing guidelines that it wants advertorial less "integrated," not more. So, we have an industry trade group CEO who's either making up shit and hoping people don't pay attention, or else one who's not paying attention himself. (Speaking of, I use the browser extension called Ad Detector, folks. It can't block advertorial, and it's not perfect at what it catches, but what it does catch, it flags with a bright red bar.)

He then points to TV native ads. Well, IMO, a lot of his comparison is apples to oranges, and the apples to apples part needs ....

More FTC regulation.

That leads me to Steve Brill, who writes the perfect antidote to Chavern and his member newspapers.

That's because, in part, he said that at American Lawyer, he resisted urges to put lipstick on the advertorial pig to make it look more editorial.

But, that's down low on the piece.

The starter is calling out papers for their timidity and cluelessness on paywalls, saying stuff I totally agree with about use of the paywall, where to set the "meter" and much more.

It gets better from there. He says many newspaper publishers inherited their businesses, sometimes through multiple generations, and were and are clueless about running them well as businesses because of that.

(And, although the publisher of THE Dallas Morning News is not a Belo family member, nonetheless, Monroney is arguably a snide, arrogant elitist, as it continues to slouch toward Gomorrah.)

January 20, 2016

The foreign policy ideas Bernie Sanders misses with his 1-note trumpet

First, whether Bernie Sanders likes it or not, presidents have to make foreign policy decisions. They're often unanticipated issues, which underlines even more needing to have some articulated policy stances.

Second, at the same time, because of the evolution of the American presidency and other things, foreign policy has less Congressional oversight, for better and for worse both.

Third, a number of foreign policy issues offer opportunities to play, in part, your same 1-note trumpet for foreign as well as domestic issues.

Take the Trans Pacific Partnership, the latest attempt to foist "free" trade on the US, and perhaps increase income inequality not just domestically but internationally.

"Income inequality," Bernie. There's your 1-note trumpet. But, not just domestic income inequality.

Related? Rights to unionization, again, not just domestically but internationally.

Related to this is the modern neoliberal version of Coca-Colonialism.

Hypercapitalism, Clinton Foundation style, and neoliberalism, Obama Administration style, have teamed up in foreign policy to apparently continue to foist corrupt government on Haiti. That's even as, to the degree the government isn't corrupt, many services in Haiti are actually delivered by NGOs (many of them neoliberal or corporatist ones), not the government itself.

There's the Honduras coup, backed by both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There's the attempt to privatize things like water supplies in much of Latin America. There's the exploitation of workers by oil companies, and the fouling of the environment, in both Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

See, there's plenty of foreign policy issues that have an economic angle and that also allow you to avoid the "War on Terror." That's not to mention all of her problems that ARE part of the "War on Terror."

Which is good for you, because that's kind of a problem. itself.

You're a warhawk, lusting after the F-35 and other military-industrial complex items, a drones-light guy on using drones like Obama, only with "more review," and probably a harder-core Zionist than many know.

Really, though, you don't need to avoid this as much as you need to reformulate your thoughts on the Middle East.

There's our drones in Yemen making us a proxy for the Saudis. There's, erm, Palestine, if you'd be less of a Middle East warhawk, less of a Zionist, and actually dare to touch the third rail of foreign policy. There's plenty of foreign policy issues where you could break outside the current Democratic mold, if only you'd actually say something. Like, where do you stand on Boycott, Divest, Sanctions? It seems, from his past history on Israel issues, Sanders would oppose — but his own brother is a supporter.

So, do it.

Make it so.

Yeah, right. Per that "Sanders would oppose" link, we're reminded that Bernie lived on a kibbutz and probably has a romanticized view of the foundation of the state of Israel.

Is the GOP down to a Cruz-Trump two-horse race?

The mainstream is starting to claim that. That said, the mainstream media in the US likes to reduce political campaigns to issues of "narratives," "chess matches" and "horse races" as quickly as possible.

First, let's look at these two.

Trump is not a lifelong Republican, let alone not a Republican insider. Though he's softpedaled some of his past stances, past statements that would put him outside the GOP pale include support for at least marijuana legalization, if not more, opposing "free trade," being pro-life at one time, having former Democratic affiliation, and being a serial married person, among other things, mean that he's open to attacks.

Especially on Religious Right issues.

Since the fading of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and the disappearance of Rick Santorum, Rafael Edward Cruz, with his Dominionist Daddy, is theoretically the top candidate of the Religious Right. If anybody is to bell the cat named Trump on RR issues, then, theoretically, it should be Cruz. But, in his oleaginous approach, or vulture-like one, to Trump's candidacy, he's so far refused to do so. However, his own New York values slippage, with two undeclared campaign loans from New York banks, and Trump not seeing any huge decline, means that Havana Ted's probably going to have to do some trigger pulling at some point.

Cruz himself, though an insider in name, is nothing but an arsonist on establishment GOP bridge-building, so insiders have little more use for him.

And as far as Sarah Palin endorsing The Real Donald? Maybe she's angling to leave the former First Dude of Alaska, after all their rumored sexual dalliances away from home. And, if so, does Glen Rice become part of the campaign team, with her alleged fun with him, including a few white lines? Does Bristol Palin get to play a surrogate Chelsea Clinton wannabe?

Some of the punditocracy, like Matthew Dowd, thinks this is a boost:
Does it really hurt Cruz badly?

Jokes above, I don't think it does. And neither do a lot of other Twitter respondents.

Ted Cruz's camp thinks it hurts Palin worse, hurting her standing with the Religious Right per Trump's past stance on some social issues as noted above.

That said, how a person who probably had an affair to produce her last child (hence insisting she give birth, not just back in Alaska, but in Hooterville, aka Whazzup, aka Wasilla), and who had a dalliance with NBA star Rice long before that, and whose daughter Bristol has claimed to be a spokeswoman for sexual purity after getting knocked up without benefit, and whose son Track (Marks?) Palin has now been arrested for family violence, after knocking his wife up outside wedlock, ever got to be a spokeswoman or icon for the Religious Right anyway?

The reality is that this is a marginalized Sarah Palin, knowing she can never be elected to any political office greater than Dogcatcher of Wasilla, sidelined even by Faux News, unhappy with the still-wedlocked First Dude, desperately greedy for the limelight. Nothing more.

I otherwise can't put it better than 538: Trump IS Palin 2.0, though that piece forgot to mention the biggest comp factor: both suck ALL the oxygen out of a room.

And, given that, contra Havana Ted, it may hurt Trump more than it hurts Palin OR Cruz (for not getting it). She'll do everything she can, for as long as she can, to turn the limelight from The Donald to her.

That said, back to the big picture, per the header.

On the horse race, at some point, Cruz is going to have to stop hoping for Trump slippage and to take up the cudgels himself. Whether he's calling his own strategic big shots or staff are, he's getting bad advice.

But, that said, is it a two-person race? I'm still not convinced.

Theoretically, this means it should be a three-person horse race between Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, to become the establishment's horse to make it a three-horse race overall. (I'm not counting Chris Christie, as I think he's not got a chance.)

There's a couple of problems, though.

While the GOP has something kind of like Democratic superdelegates, and they even make up a higher proportion of total delegates, they don't at all function in the same way. GOP delegates are more rightly called unpledged delegates because, after their respective state's primaries, they must vote in accordance with primary results. What this really is, is a quasi-winner take all without being a full winner take all.

What this means is that the GOP establishment can't build a firewall against Trump and/or Cruz.

One of the three establishmentarian candidates must push ahead of the other two enough to get tabbed by estalishmentarian figures, who would then work behind the scenes.

I say this has to happen no later than the South Carolina primary. If it doesn't happen by then, some establishment types may get together on their own.

Marco Rubio still looks the best on paper, but he's going to have to up his game yet more at the next GOP debate. That said, per the Guardian, he's above 10 percent in Iowa, as confirmed by other pollling, so his foot is in the door, unless Ken Silverstein's kicking him in the nuts causes that foot to reflexively withdraw.

Jeb may punch his check-out ticket by South Carolina, and become this year's Phil Gramm, so scratch him, though CNN has him and Rubio tied for third at 10 percent each in New Hampshire. Kasich brings the most appealing policy package, plus gubernatorial experience, to the table. Can he pick up steam?

Update, Jan. 26: In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza tangentially explains why this isn't really a two-horse race, and related issues about both Trump and Cruz.

Makes you wonder if the GOP won't consider creating something like Democratic superdelegates before they hit the 2020 campaign.