Thursday, January 31, 2008
And BTW, isn't this story just a little more newsworthy than documenting that a couple of illegal Guatemalan immigrants were cutting Mitt Romney's lawn?
Bill Clinton's temper and tone reminded people of everything they disliked about the Clinton years.Temper and tone plus one other thing, his complete "lack of candor" (to use an overly polite term). It is not merely a matter of tone. His corruption is substantial and not his alone.
Cute, but sadly it sucks.
It is a 2008 version of Suck.com. It’s lame most importantly because nobody really enjoys having their choices in such a feature filtered by the opinion of some wretch at boston.com. My own personal favorite Super Bowl commercial wasn't chosen at all by boston.com. The alternative? A Jeff Jarvis maxim: “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” For Super Bowl commercials, it serves the audience better to just link here. The New York Times Corporation (the Boston Globe included) has barely a clue about this concept.
One thing I have discovered in almost 4 years of blogging is that traditional media is averse to the culture of the link. I think this comes from the newspaper, radio, and TV mentality of not sharing one’s captive audience. My opinion is based only on a few exchanges with talk radio personalities, but I believe it is correct. In traditional newspaper, radio, and TV one would rarely even mention alternative media organs (let alone provide a conduit to them for your own audience with something as subversive as a link). Why? Because they represent competition, and there was no point in reminding your customers about their available alternatives to your own content.
Jeff Jarvis is a media critic and blogger at Buzzmachine. Like many journalists, Jeff is ideophoric to the point of yammering. Just the mention of his name is like fingernails on a chalkboard to many media people. Yet I enjoy reading Jeff because I find his thoughts about the media world very honest, and because Jeff can be honestly self-depreciating. He wrote this last September in an essay entitled “Newspapers in 2020”:
I am reminded of a moment at the 2007 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. In a session of the International Media Council, a leading newspaper publisher beseeched the young founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, for advice on how his newspaper could create a community, as Facebook had. The famously laconic Zuckerberg’s response: “You can’t.” Full stop. Later, Zuckerberg explained that communities already exist and are already doing what they want to do, so the question we should ask is how we can help them do that better. Zuckerberg’s prescription: Bring them “elegant organization.” That is what he did with Facebook and Harvard, then college communities, and next the world. And when you think about it, that is the essence of what journalism has tried to do since its birth: It helps organize a community’s knowledge so that a better-informed society can accomplish the goals it sets for itself. So how can we do that now with the new tools available to us?
Well, first, we have to assure that news organizations survive, and to do that we must exploit the new efficiencies made possible by the internet, by the new architecture of news in the era of the link. The link frees us from the need to waste our ever-dwindling resources on commodity information the community already knows. We no longer need to recreate the same news everyone else has. We can link to it. We no longer need to be all things to all people. We can link to niche coverage that is better than what we could have afforded to offer ourselves. We also no longer need to waste resources on ego, on all having our own television critics or golf columnists, on sending one-too-many reporters to the big story that is all over TV just so we can say we have our byline there.
We need to do what we do best and link to the rest.
There is a problem here that Jeff doesn't mention, though -- the Long Tail phenomenon. Inevitably this means fewer eyeballs for the established high-volume media organs, and that threatens their existing business model. Thus their desperate need to restructure and their plummeting stock prices in the face of their inability to do so quickly (above is a 5-year price trend of New York Times - Class A stock).
And here is more Jarvis-speak on the concept of enabling your audience rather than of controlling it. This concept pertains to the lame Boston.com Super Bowl commercial feature:
Time Warner has decided it wants to own content instead. But I’ve argued that owning content also has no real future. For that matter, owning isn’t a verb with value. Enabling is what you want to do. Google doesn’t own. It enables. MySpace enables — and its vulnerability is that it still owns and controls. Craigs List enables. YouTube, Flickr, FaceBook enable. Pure enablement is the model of the future, I think.
So what media should a media conglomerate own, if not cable? Newspapers? Ha! TV stations? You have to be kidding. Magazines? Stop, you’re killing me. Networks? Nope; they all accrued their value by controlling a scarcity that no longer exists.
So I’ll repeat the question: What should they own? AOL? Oh, that was below the belt. No, I wouldn’t want to own AOL or Yahoo or even MySpace. They try to control. And controlling will not work in an economy that is based on handing over control, of distributed control.
What enables instead? Hmmmm. Google. YouTube. DoubleClick. Blogger. What they have in common is as obvious as Google’s strategy: They enable. No more trees.
The media organs that figure out how to do this will have stock trends that look like the reverse of the New York Times Corporation.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
This ad is probably becoming wallpaper in one Super Bowl locker room, no doubt to the irritation of Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. Amazon notes that there is “No Image Available” since the book’s cover photo, at least, will have to be delayed until after the small matter of actually playing the game. Even Yankee fans never had the chutzpah to do something quite this foolish.
This book takes its place alongside these other possible premature classics by Boston Globe reporters:
Unlikely Triumph: The Road to Washington of President Mike Dukakis
John Kerry – From Cambodia to the White House
Hillary Clinton: We Know She is Inevitable, Why Don't the Voters?
18-1: How Astounding Media Hubris Changed Pro Football History
UPDATE: Hey, Coach Belichick, here is a page for you to post in the Patriots locker room. Sports Publishing now has a forthcoming book on Amazon entitled New York Giants: 2008 Super Bowl Champions. Heh.
This Boston Globe Op Ed column claimed that citizens of Gaza consume over 900 lbs of flour per day per person. No kidding. Blogger Martin Kramer noted this Globe editorial blunder.
Although Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.
Gaza has a population of only 1.5 million people. Kramer then traces the origin of the error.
Note how an absurd and impossible "statistic" has made its way up the media feeding chain. It begins in an Egyptian newspaper, is cycled through a Palestinian activist, is submitted under the shared byline of a Harvard "research scholar," and finally appears in the Boston Globe, whose editors apparently can't do basic math. Now, in a viral contagion, this spreads across the Internet, where that "reduction of 99 percent" becomes a well-attested fact.
For a good time, read Kramer’s whole post, “Gaza buried in flour” where he traces the origin of this typically slanted Globe Op Ed piece.
Regarding creeping respectability of Gazan-originated Globe Op Ed columns, in 2006 this blog noted a Gazan Globe columnist whose work made a similar pilgrimage to the supposed respectability of the Globe Op Ed page. As for innumeracy of Globe editors, the above error takes the cake (intended). It even surpasses the old record, an obvious 1000X error of Globe columnist Derrick Jackson that also sailed right past his equally innumerate editors.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Too harsh an analogy? Well, consider this: in all its depravity, the Third Reich lasted little more than a decade. America's subjugation of black people lasted many times longer. Indeed, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of freed slaves still lived in fear of being lynched if they failed to observe a code of racial etiquette that forced them to bow and scrape at every turn. During the despicable reign of Jim Crow, most blacks were not only denied their inalienable rights but prevented from receiving a meaningful education or earning a decent living…We'll never know how many black lives perished in racial violence. A University of Illinois study suggests that, between 1882 and 1930, white mobs murdered a black man, woman or child somewhere in America nearly once a week, every week.
Yes, Mr. Gay, it is an analogy far too harsh and so inappropriate that only a deluded or unsubtle mind could make it, let alone approve it for publication in a major newspaper.
Not to excuse the Jim Crow era, which fundamentally was a system to disenfranchise blacks, strip them of civil rights, and keep them economically dependent on whites. It was enforced through a corrupted legal system and vigilante terrorism, and left blacks with no realistic avenues of redress.
By contrast, the Third Reich sought the complete extermination, not merely the subjugation, of those it judged inferior. These included Jews, people with birth defects, the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, homosexuals, gypsies, and anyone who actively tried to interfere with this process of the Nazi state.
By the way, Mr. Gay, the Nazi Holocaust lasted roughly 6 years, and murdered roughly 20,000 people per week. In other words, the Nazi Holocaust killed more people in an average 2 days than Jim Crow terrorism murdered in the entire 48 year period Mr. Gay mentions.
Yes, I would say such an analogy is not only “too harsh”, but plainly foolish and inappropriate. Why was it published in the Globe?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Under the current Beacon Hill culture, "It seems like a radical thing to ask that your proposals be debated and voted on," he complained.
Deval Patrick speaking of the marriage initiative petition (which was signed by over 170,000 registered Massachusetts voters), Bay Windows 1/2/2007:
I favor ending this petition initiative promptly. If adjournment can accomplish that, so be it.
Here we see a Clintonian legal mind at work.
"I left the White House, but I'm still here!" Clinton told the crowd. "We're not going anywhere!"…"He means it," I wrote at the time. "He isn't going anywhere. Yes, he packed his bags, zipped his pants, and turned the White House keys over to the new tenants - but he's still here. There are more grotesqueries to come from our ex-president. There will be more truth-twisting, more money-grubbing, more scandal. Even out of office, he will find seamy new ways to degrade the presidency. Just wait."
Sadly, the Clintons are still not going anywhere.
Democrats who might be feeling heady over Obama’s huge victory in South Carolina should recall the scorched earth left behind by the Clintons in Washington; especially the all-nighter spent signing last minute pardons, including one for Marc Rich.
The Clintons will not go away quietly but will fight to their political death. I would estimate Obama’s present odds of winning the Democratic nomination as 50-50 at best. Having power means literally everything to the Clintons. They will stop at nothing to recapture it, just as 10 years ago they stopped at nothing to hold on to it. The struggle for the Democratic nomination is shaping up to be a political Iwo Jima.
[Hillary] CLINTON: … I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this. They have popped up in other settings. This is—the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it….
[Today show host Matt] LAUER: Let me take you and your husband out of this for a second. Bill and Hillary Clinton aren’t involved in this story. If an American president had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?
CLINTON: Well, they should certainly be concerned about it.
LAUER: Should they ask for his resignation?
CLINTON: Well, I think that—if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true.Poor Hillary was still a deceived wife at this point, not a co-conspirator in her husband's coverup, right?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The fury and narrowed eyes when asked about an uncomfortable matter of fact, along with the utter lies (there is not one lie here, but several) is reminiscent of Bill Clinton's recent encounters with unwelcome questions. He hasn't changed. Have we forgotten?
The first New York Times story of this event notes a familiar presence:
Mr. Clinton, who issued his denial with Hillary Rodham Clinton at his side, did not answer questions, and some of his longstanding allies on Capitol Hill said they were not reassured by his remarks.Of course, at this point in time Hillary Clinton believed what Bill Clinton said. She was not a party to this deception, but a victim, or so she says. You wanna buy a bridge in Brooklyn?
A bit of historical perspective for younger readers:
Though asking such questions of a sitting president might seem impertinent, and a lying response entirely excusable, the circumstances of the Clinton administration in January 1998 make the opposite true.
At that time Bill Clinton was being sued in court for sexual harassment in the Paula Jones case (a case which he refused to settle out of court as allegedly demanded by Hillary Rodham Clinton). He had testified in the case 11 days before.
The reason it would be more than uncomfortable for Clinton to admit his dalliance with Lewinsky is that Clinton had just testified under oath that he had never had sex with any subordinate. When asked specifically about Lewinsky during the trial, Clinton testified that “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her." Admitting in public (or even refusing to deny) questions about an affair with Lewinsky opened Bill Clinton to obvious charges of perjury.
Clinton was, of course, charged with and acquitted of perjury in one of the counts of indictment in his impeachment.
Lex gives the timing and the estimated amounts of the trades. Here is the pith of their report (emphasis mine):
..starting on January 7, Mr Kerviel made a series of bets that Germany’s Dax index, the French Cac40, and the Euro Stoxx 50 would rise. He bought futures contracts, as normal, but did not hedge against market falls. (Hedging would usually involve selling the underlying shares, or over-the-counter derivative contracts with clients.)
Eleven days later, internal controls finally identified suspicious activity. By then the Euro Stoxx 50 had fallen by a cumulative 7 per cent, and the position had generated, SocGen has indicated, a loss of between €1.5bn and €2bn. This implies Mr Kerviel had taken a notional long exposure of €21-€29bn. The margin payments on this position might have been more than €1bn. This sounds too big to avoid detection, but may have seemed normal given the desk’s legitimate activity of very high volume and low- risk trades.
On Monday, a shaken SocGen began to liquidate the position over three days, bringing its total loss to €4.9bn. Did it move the market? Over the period the total value of trading in index futures and the cash market for the Euro Stoxx 50 was €544bn. That suggests the unwinding of Mr Kerviel’s rogue position accounted for 5 per cent or less of activity. Clearly a determined seller does not go unnoticed by traders in a jittery market. But it seems likely that the main explanation for the market rout in Europe was earlier sharp declines in Asia, general concerns over the US economy and specific worries about the monoline insurance crisis. One man damaged SocGen severely but it seems unlikely that he moved global equity markets significantly.
The fact that it took 3 days to complete these trades explains why SocGen was silent on Tuesday (and Wednesday) to their own shareholders, their own government, and to central bankers. Actually it has been reported that officials were told Wednesday before the public announcement on Thursday. Wednesday apparently was the first day that SocGen was out of the awkward trading position that young Monsieur Kerviel had put them into.
The 3-day trading period also means that SocGen’s trading volume was much less than on Monday Jan 21 that it would have been based on previous news reports.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Apparently the cause is a story in yesterday's Boston Metro newspaper that "hundreds" of layoffs are imminent at the Globe. Time will tell.
Hat tip: Universal Hub
But Clinton has gone beyond being Senator Hillary Clinton's No. 1 supporter to become her No. 1 pitbull against her chief rival, Senator Barack Obama. If he is not careful, he will forfeit the elevated status he enjoys as an ex-president and leader of philanthropic foundations.
Forfeit his elevated status? Never. Clinton has always been and always will be the No. 1 political pit bull in the country. That is his essence.
And he runs the risk of dividing his own party, which until now had been united in its determination to end the Republicans' grip on the White House.
Perhaps this second point is what the Globe Editorial cloister is actually more worried about…
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Obama has dealt with notably tough opponents in winning their Senate seats, so there is a benefit for Democratic voters in seeing how both respond to the give and take of a hard-fought campaign. But the Clintons' unique situation has steered them - and the country - into uncharted waters. Certainly it is Bill Clinton's right to malign Obama's longstanding opposition to the Iraq war as a "fairy tale." But in making these and other criticisms of the Illinois senator, the former president sounds less like an elder statesman than like a political kidney-puncher.
News from 1992. He hasn’t changed his stripes.
The best contribution that Bill Clinton could make to his wife's campaign is to attest to the achievements and advice she provided during his presidency and to the work she has since done as a senator. Hillary Clinton has made much of what she sees as her advantage in experience over Obama, and no one was a closer witness of the White House years than her husband.
Well, there were probably many occasions when he successfully avoided her collaboration.
But instead of restricting himself to positive statements on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he has taken it upon himself not just to disparage Obama but also to accuse the media of failing to look critically enough at the Illinois senator. These statements by the former president are likely to remind voters of his griping about Republican critics and the press during the darker days of his own administration.
Hmmm. It wasn’t only Bill I’m reminded of here. It was Hillary after all, not Bill, who coined the term “vast right wing conspiracy” complaining on TV about the press and the “untrue” Lewinsky rumors. Poor deceived wife Hillary. She was the last to know the truth, we suppose.
The intensity of his campaigning will also raise questions about how much of a role he would have in the White House if Hillary Clinton does become president.
I see no question here. The answer is way too much of a role, especially for one unelected. Remember Hillary’s role in 1993? Same old, same old.
Two so-far neutral Democratic members of Congress, Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, have told the former president, in Clyburn's term, to "chill a little bit." Kennedy, Clyburn, and other party leaders know only too well that a bitterly divisive campaign for the nomination fought over offhand remarks about Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan will cheapen whoever emerges as the nominee. Bill Clinton should take Kennedy's and Clyburn's advice and get back on the high road.
I’m shocked, shocked to see Democrats engaged in negative campaigning when no Republicans are involved. As a veteran Globe reader, I have been so repeatedly informed that the lack of civility in our politics originates with dogmatic Republicans like Newt Gingrich and with right wing talk radio hosts. What’s a gullible Globe reader to think after reading this editorial when in the same Globe a headline covering last night’s Republican presidential debate reads “Civility marks Republican debate”?
Could it be that both political parties are equally capable of incivility?
FT reports in its chronology of the events that the bank first learned of the problem last Friday evening, January 18. SocGen’s investigation continued over the weekend. Before the market meltdown on Monday, SocGen estimated its losses at €1.5B.
SocGen delayed its scheduled earnings announcement and got permission from French regulators to unwind the position before announcing the loss.
Then SocGen unwound rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel’s long position on Monday January 21, which happened to be a day when US markets were closed for the Martin Luther King holiday. Did SocGen’s selling materially contribute to the huge global equity market tumble of 5-7% that day? SocGen says it did not. Here is another FT story:
SocGen, the world’s leading equity derivative trading house – it claims to have invented the instruments – quickly unwound the positions he had amassed, estimated at €40bn - €50bn. SocGen’s firesale contributed to the heavy stock market falls on Monday which provoked the US Federal Reserve’s dramatic interest rate cut the following day. The Fed was informed of the SocGen problem on Wednesday by the Banque de France.
SocGen denied that its operations had caused the market fall because it kept them to about 10 per cent of trading volumes. Analysts pointed out markets had begun to fall before the sell-off, in part because of fears over US bond insurers.
Was SocGen just very unlucky trying to sell into an already panicked market? The FT’s Lex column is not entirely convinced that this is completely a coincidence:
Drawing a line under losses was the only responsible option. But the timing hardly bolsters confidence and the gap between the discovery of the problem at the weekend and yesterday’s disclosure has prompted concerns that SocGen was a cause, as well as a victim, of recent market weakness.
No doubt we will learn more later about exactly what trading SocGen did on Monday and then perhaps be able to estimate how much impact SocGen selling had on the overall conditions in the world markets that day. Certainly SocGen had incentive not to exacerbate any market tumble, since their trading loss swelled from €1.5B to €4.9B while they sold their position during the day (talk about a bad day at the office!).
The really hilarious point one might otherwise overlook in the story above is the quote that “the Fed was informed of the SocGen problem on Wednesday”. This was 1 day after the Fed announced emergency interest rate cuts of 75 basis points. Ben Bernanke and the Fed did not know that SocGen was trading in distress as they reviewed Monday’s panicky trading on global exchanges and decided on an emergency rate cut.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall when that call came in to the Fed from the Banque de France, the French central bank. “Thank you for your swift action, Chairman Bernanke. Oh by the way, Monsieur Ben, il y'a aussi une petite chose we’d like you to know about…”.
You just gotta love the French.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
As he prepared for a heroic entrance to a press conference yesterday in Roxbury, Kennedy wrestled with the stick shift while the large Ford rolled in the wrong direction, backward. The truck seemed more in danger of an accident than helping him accomplish his mission of delivering $800 worth of oil to an elderly woman living a few blocks away.
Joe-4-Oil finally parked the truck on her street, apparently blocking traffic:
A few minutes later, as Kennedy talked about the need to help folks heat their homes, a line of cars idled behind the truck, some driving on the sidewalk to pass.
No amount of inconvenience to the public disturbs Joe Kennedy while performing his core mission of keeping his mug in the news. The real truck driver later got the truck out of the way.
Globe reporter David Abel can’t help but pan the spectacle of such a lame media event. Where is YouTube when we really need it?
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The Boston Globe just ran this AP story which is about Bill Clinton “as he campaigns around the state [of South Carolina] for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.” But as you can see, the picture the Globe ran with the story shows Hillary Clinton campaigning in Pennsylvania.
Elect one, get two (and later guess which one is calling the shots).
Governor Deval Patrick has set up a novel political fund-raising system that allows him to skirt the state's campaign finance law by channeling big contributions through the state Democratic Party, which, in turn, has paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars of the governor's political expenses. Under the unique arrangement, Patrick, who ran for election sharply criticizing the "politics of money and connections," is raising contributions far in excess of the individual limit of $500 for a political candidate. Now, in many cases he is getting as much as $5,500 from individual lobbyists, corporate executives, developers, and other supporters.
And the reason?
Liz Morningstar, executive director of the Deval Patrick Committee, in a statement released by the campaign, did not respond to questions about the apparent circumvention of the state's $500 limit on individual campaign contributions. She said the fund-raising system is one of several tools at Patrick's disposal "to strengthen and grow the Democratic Party in Massachusetts. This program is just one of the ways we're establishing a strong Democratic infrastructure in every precinct across Massachusetts," she said in the statement.
So even though it occupies 100% of statewide offices, 100% of Massachusetts congressional and senate seats, and 83% of the state legislature, and most local offices, the party still needs to establish a strong Democratic infrastructure? Was Liz Morningstar joking when she said this? And finally:
The way was cleared for the system four years ago [but] former governor Mitt Romney never set up the sort of operation that Patrick and his aides have created.
I’m so disappointed. I expected that Deval Patrick would be different!
So far this news has provoked no reaction at Blue Mass Group. As Bob Dole said, “Where’s the outrage?”
Hillary Clinton went overboard - and in the end, she left me grimacing.
Get used to it, Scott. You may have to hold that pose until November.
In Scott’s Globe news story today on the campaign in South Carolina, he quotes the Obama campaign:
The Clinton campaign has shown itself willing to say anything, distort anything, and twist anything in order to win an election," Bill Burton, Obama spokesman, said in a statement to reporters.
That’s news from 1992, Scott. Democrats weren’t bothered by it then. This same point is well stated in today’s lead editorial in the WSJ (subscription required):
The Illinois Senator is still a young man, but not so young as to have missed the 1990s. He nonetheless seems to be awakening slowly to what everyone else already knows about the Clintons, which is that they will say and do whatever they "gotta" say or do to win. Listen closely to Mr. Obama, and you can almost hear the echoes of Bob Dole at the end of the 1996 campaign asking, "Where's the outrage?"
The Clinton 2nd term proved they would do anything to keep their own hold on power, too. And Democrats all held their noses and enabled them. Al Gore (and the party) paid the price for this in 2000. Now comes Obama’s turn to pay.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This morning NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report radio program finally had the good sense not to say at 5:45AM:
“The Dow starts the day at…”
So this blogger wrote to them:
Did it finally dawn on you that markets open at the trading point where trading begins, not at the point where trading ended during the prior session? Congratulations. Please use today’s market events as an opportunity to improve your program by eliminating that little piece of mindless banter from your future programs.
If you want to improve your program still more, I suggest that you also lose the snark and tell your listeners far less about what is going on in Hollywood.
…the failure of the private sector to provide broadly inclusive journalism that is both comprehensive and reliable enough to meet the needs of a democracy…Journalism has built audiences for ads. Ads have provided journalism with the bulk of its revenues. But the relationship is looser than it was. On one side, advertisers are pulling away. On the other, journalists don't yet know how to make up for lost revenue.
Yet there is probably more writing and publishing going one now than ever in human history. Parts of it are reliable and in the aggregate it is far more comprehensive than ever before. But it is far less concentrated. Mr. Whitehead’s piece does not address this most fundamental change -- market dispersion. Advertising’s other “vehicles” are competing with major media because they are capturing more of its readers and viewers.
This has resulted from new and far wider consumer choices, and has caused audience loss for leading incumbent media organs. These organs formerly competed in an oligarchic or even outright monopolistic fashion. Forty years ago most consumers had access to 3 TV stations, but now can watch 200 or more. They had access to 3-4 newspapers but today can choose any of hundreds via the Internet or hundreds of Internet news aggregators like Google News and Yahoo!.
The fundamental change is not that media and advertisers have fallen out. It is that formerly established newspapers and TV networks no longer dominate “the media” and its advertising markets. Instead they constitute a smaller and shrinking part of it. The impact of the Long Tail phenomenon on media is that there are fewer consumers for any one publication or screen, and that hurts the major incumbents the most.
That is their tough luck. I cannot see why so much more consumer choice in media creates a crisis for our democracy, or why citizens should have any greater concern for displaced journalists than for displaced factory workers.
Bret Stepthens writes a perceptive column (“American Honor”) on the McCain resurgence in WSJ/OpinionJournal, seeing the election of 2008 as, once again, a debate about what are the actual lessons of Vietnam. He uses Boston Globe columnist James Carroll as his archetype of America’s political left:
Beyond the purely pragmatic argument that the war in Southeast Asia was unwinnable, there was also a sense among opponents of the war that defeat would, in some deep way, be balm for America's soul. "For all the anguish felt over the loss of American lives, can we acknowledge there is something proper in the way that hubristic American power has been thwarted?" asked antiwar writer James Carroll in 2006, explicitly making the connection between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. On the subject of honor, Mr. Carroll added that "the goal of 'peace with honor' assumes the nation's honor has not already been squandered."
Mr. Carroll penned those lines when American fortunes in Iraq were approaching their nadir. Since then, the military balance has shifted dramatically in America's favor, just as it did following Tet with the appointment of a new commander (Creighton Abrams) and the implementation of a new strategy (focused on providing security at the local level). In Vietnam neither of those changes proved sufficient for victory, partly because the moral and strategic case for involvement had become so muddled, partly because the consequences of withdrawal were dimly perceived, and partly because the constellation of political circumstances -- Watergate above all -- conspired against sustaining the gains that had been achieved.
Yet there is no cosmic rule that says that all that will again come to pass with Iraq, and the essence of Mr. McCain's message is that it must not. His case is easier to make because this time Americans do have the benefit of hindsight about the consequences of defeat, and they are not the redemptive ones imagined by Mr. Carroll. Among them: the mass murder of the people who stood with us; the enslavement of entire nations by fanatical and confident ideologues; the blow to U.S. interests and the stain on American prestige.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Head-in-the-clouds Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman fantasizes today of a Democratic ticket containing the 2 front runners, without deciding who gets the top job. She has too much of some medication as she gushes:
Frankly, I think of Hillary as prime minister and Obama as royal philosopher. If Hillary wins the nomination, it's easier to imagine the younger candidate taking the second spot .If Obama wins, it's harder to see Clinton settling for Number One Observatory Circle after eight years in the White House. But at the same time, she has had a whole lot of experience partnering with a president.
Royal philosopher? Royal? Sorry, Ellen, but our nation fought a war to avoid that.
As for Hillary’s experience in presidential partnering, more accurately it subjected the electorate to a troubled relationship lacking in mutual respect.
Though come to think of it, Hillary and Obama already respect each other about that much.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Immediately after the publication of the surprising results from the New Hampshire primary, observers noted a so-called “Diebold effect”. Hillary Clinton polled a higher percentage of votes (roughly 5% higher) in precincts that tabulated their votes electronically than in precincts that used paper ballots. The most obvious explanation for the difference that other demographic variables of these precincts and their voters could explain the difference. After analysis of some major demographic variables, CU cognitive neuroscience grad student Chris Chatham writes:
I got a copy of the vote counts, and thanks to Brian London at BlackBoxVoting, the demographic information from each town (most notably, the % holding bachelor's degrees, the median household income, and the total town population). Now, Mike LaBonte at BlackBoxVoting has provided estimates of the [square?] mileage for each district, allowing for the calculation of population density.
To my complete (and continuing) amazement, the "diebold effect" on Hillary's votes remains after controlling for any and all of those demographic variables, with a p-value of <.001: that is, there are less than 1:1000 odds for this difference occurring through chance alone, and that's after adjusting for variability in Hillary's votes due to education, income, total population, and population density.
While this "diebold effect" varies in magnitude depending on the exact covariates used, it seems to center around an additional 5.2% of votes going for Clinton from Diebold machines. The same analysis shows a Diebold disadvantage for Obama of about -4.2%, significant with a p<.001, using the same covariates.
The campaign of Democrat Dennis Kucinich has funded a recount of the New Hampshire vote, but observers ask exactly what the recount will prove. Whether paper or electronic, if poll results have been tampered with, then a recount will likely not uncover the tampering but instead merely duplicate the tampered result because it consists of a recount of tampered ballots.
Most of the questions that will be raised about the results of today's recount (see below for time and place) will have to do with chain of custody issues. For the recount to be reliable, a chain of custody must be established for all of the ballots involved. This means that each ballot must have been either under lock and key or under the watchful eye of a known and trusted list of state officials for every moment of its post-election life. If any point a group of ballots were left unattended, or if it's impossible to list exactly who could've had access to them, then establishing a secure chain of custody for those ballots will be impossible.
In the absence of a secure chain of custody, it's possible that someone could have replaced some of the ballots with counterfeits, or that they could have tried to alter them in some way. That's why establishing such a chain of custody is important—at least, it's important in theory.
What will almost certainly happen in practice is that no one will be able to establish a secure chain of custody for every ballot cast in New Hampshire, but that won't stop the press from reporting the results of the recount as if they're 100 percent reliable. And they may well be reliable; in fact, they probably are. But absent a secure chain of custody, no one can know for sure.
The processes of running elections are left to the 50 states, who each (of course) manage them in their own way with various degrees of ineptitude.
However I’ve heard no one argue that the personal ethics of the Clintons would forbid their participation in ballot tampering. Given their history, such an argument would be unpersuasive if made.
BTW the Boston Globe has made no mention of the Diebold effect. The Globe has only published 2 small AP stories on the NH recount (here and here). These stories contain no mention of the reason why a recount was requested. The Kucinich campaign said specifically that it wants a recount because of “unexplained disparities between hand-counted ballots and machine-counted ballots.”"Move on" I suppose.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
It appears that one key constituency has certainly left the Clinton plantation.
There is hope.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Forget them all for today.
Dick Warren has died.
As a college student, Dick worked at Fours Seas Ice Cream (Centerville, Ma). He met his future wife there. He bought the store in 1960. Dick nurtured and preserved Four Seas as an operating business and a cultural icon through 4 decades before selling the business to his son. In the off season, Dick was an English teacher and guidance counselor at Barnstable High.
People traveled for miles to buy cones at the Four Seas, generation following generation, children reaching up for treats at the same counter where their parents and grandparents had spent many a summer evening in decades past. They went for the ice cream and for Mr. Warren, who could be as sweet as his offerings.
Indeed they did. There is no sweeter place to go on the Cape than the one and only Four Seas. Thanks to Dick, my own children remember it well, as do their parents and grandparents.
Mr. Warren made an immeasurable contribution to this world by his good stewardship of a simple summer ice cream store, by really caring about his customers, and about his employees. It takes no more than that to make a big difference on this planet. Giving your heart as part of what you do each day.
Thank you, Mr. Warren. Rest in peace.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to reach the summit of Mt Everest, has died.
Hillary became world famous for his climb in 1953. However in 1947 Hugh and Dorothy Rodham of Illinois named their baby daughter after Edmund Hillary, who was then an obscure New Zealand beekeeper.
[The New York Times, 1995 via Urban Legends]
For her part, Mrs. Clinton confessed that her mother, Dorothy Rodham, had read an article about the intrepid Edmund Hillary, a one-time beekeeper who had taken to mountain climbing, when she was pregnant with her daughter in 1947 and liked the name.
"It had two l's, which is how she thought she was supposed to spell Hillary," Mrs. Clinton told reporters after the brief meeting on the tarmac, minutes before her Air Force jet flew past the peak of Everest itself. "So when I was born, she called me Hillary, and she always told me it's because of Sir Edmund Hillary."
The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has (as always) questioned the veracity of this report, but loyal Democrats believe it to this very day.
Patrick said his legal team is weighing whether the state could grant the lower rate by passing a regulation, which would require approval by the 11-member Board of Higher Education.
Boston Globe reporters Matt Viser and Maria Sacchetti spin the issue a bit for Deval, though poorly:
But Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the state could benefit by educating immigrants and integrating them into the workforce. In 2006, his organization estimated that the state's public colleges would gain $2.5 million a year in new revenues in tuition and fees by 2009 by allowing illegal immigrant students to pay in-state rates. He estimated that illegal immigrant enrollment would grow from nearly 100 students in 2006 to 600 students in 2009...
Widmer claims the incremental state revenue (not net of cost) is $2.5M. But what is the incremental cost? It certainly costs something to serve 500 more state college students! Funny, but the Globe article doesn’t tell readers the cost side of the equation.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Almost, but not quite.
Now the US Food and Drug administration has approved a plan to offer the drug in a daily dose, eliminating concerns about a “window of effectiveness” for the medication. Manufacturer Eli Lilly said the daily dose is geared to men who anticipate having sex twice a week or more.
A large target market, indeed.
In keeping with their near self-parody marketing theme, Cialis’ US marketing director Shawn Heffern chose a surprising and rich metaphor to describe the advantages of a daily dose of Cialis (emphasis mine):
"They've got a lot of pressure to perform, and the worst thing we can do is then put a shot clock on them or some limited amount of time ... where they need to have sex or otherwise it's out of their system and doesn't work."
“How much time is left on the shot clock, dear?”
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Yesterday's contest clearly won't be enough to resolve either party's nomination battle. The Republican field remains too unsettled. On the Democratic side, the contest between Clinton and Obama is too tight, as New Hampshire showed. And that is for the better. Voters across the country need time. This election year, after all, is barely more than a week old.We need time? Two years isn't enough? This campaign has been on for over a year now, with 10 months to go. The Brits get their campaign over and done with in 6-7 weeks. They are better off for that.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The coffee shop, packed with about 100 members of the media and 16 outnumbered voters…
That must have been judged as “not newsworthy”.
But if media people outnumber voters by 6-1 at an event and that fact is not reported, then how accurate is the story?
Monday, January 07, 2008
…resubjugation [of freed slaves], embodied in a "reconstruction" bargain between North and South, according to which the other purpose of the Civil War, "union," was given priority over "freedom," led to the culture of Jim Crow, radical segregation, and the use of law to keep African-Americans in an assigned place.
Carroll himself is being too simplistic here, using the broader word "freedom" in place of the historical term "emancipation", which represents the smaller and more legal goal of the time. I'm no expert, but I doubt that northern abolitionists of that era expected rapid economic or social equality to follow from emancipation. Unfortunately while pointing to the inadequacy of America’s racial and historical myths, Carroll uses an equally simplistic cliché for today’s Africa, describing it as merely the place “where the bloody legacy of colonialism plays itself out”. He also dates the 42 year old Moynihan report as “a generation ago”.
Perhaps urban yuppies need more time for a generation.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Most people inside the Clinton camp are shrugging off Iowa all together. “Iowa is so small, it’s like a mayor’s race in a medium-sized city,” traveling press secretary Jay Carson said. “It wouldn’t be wise to put too much emphasis on it.”They say that on their way to the tiny state of New Hampshire?
Iowa: 2.9 million peopleSerious reporters should ask the Clinton campaign:
New Hampshire: 1.2 million people
"If, as you say, the Iowa caucuses are like a mayor's race in a medium-sized city, then what is the New Hampshire primary like?"But be sure to get their answer on the record before the polls open next Tuesday!
The Dems have a crazy caucus process in Iowa, but it is crazy like a fox. The process forces voters who support less popular candidates to choose another, with the result that several of the ‘lesser’ Democratic candidates will be embarrassed out of the race after poor showings. Democrats have a 3-person race going into New Hampshire.
Republicans have only one candidate who will (or should be) embarrassed enough to now leave the race – Rudy.
Both parties still have fairly wide-open races. And now that primary voters are beginning to speak, rather than pundits, the winnowing process will be interesting.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Be seated and put down your hot coffee before reading any further. The Globe has discovered that in Massachusetts (!) cronyism is sometimes a factor in competition for public sector jobs.
Horrors. As a faithful Globe reader, I was certain that our nation’s problems with cronyism started and ended with George W Bush.
Last Saturday the Globe ran a story about this Boston firefighter who used an act of the legislature to obtain the top position on the hiring list, despite his poor performance on the civil service exam. Nugget:
A Globe review found that 40 of the 218 state laws passed in 2007 provide benefits to specific individuals by name. Thirty allowed employees of certain state agencies to donate sick days to particular colleagues, and three granted retirement benefits to certain public employees. Six exempted particular police and firefighter applicants from maximum age requirements, allowing them to take civil service tests and apply for municipal jobs at an older age. The Hayhurst law was the only one granting head-of-the-line status on a civil service hiring list.
This type of law is an established Beacon Hill practice. Here is another fine example of such a law, proposed in 2006 to create pension rights for one individual who just happened to be a (former) member of the legislature. The firefighter story led to some startling words in a Globe editorial yesterday entitled Cronyism to the rescue (emphasis mine):
Discretion is running wild on Beacon Hill…Politicians are making case-by-case decisions about disability benefits that belong in the hands of doctors. Lawmakers would serve the public better by crafting legislation that standardizes hiring and benefits practices than by entertaining special constituent requests. Murray, Feeney, and other overly receptive politicians need to remember that their mistakes will often outlast their time in office. "Government workers are like headless nails," goes the public-sector saying. "You can get them in, but you can't get them out."
These sound like the words of Ronald Reagan or even…Mitt Romney! I might add that “When you only have one party, everything looks like a (headless) nail”.
Thus the Boston Globe has now taken a bold editorial stand against legislation passed for the benefit of particular individuals.
It’s a start, at least.
But can the Globe actually hold such a stand and be logically consistent? Where will such radical thoughts end? Might the Globe now have to ask how many individuals it takes to make a “group” and what gives any group legitimacy or claim to legislation? If the Globe keeps up this line of thought could Globe Op Ed writers eventually re-think their own dogmatism regarding issues like affirmative action? They might eventually get carried away to this extent:
No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
They've made a start, but I’m not holding my breath.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Despite the prevailing opinion, Benazir's death may offer new hope for democratic values: rights, the rule of law, and law enforcement.Even reliable fans of the liberal media like Dan Kennedy are gagging on this appalling choice of Globe Op Ed content. Writes Dan:
Maybe it would be a good thing if Bhutto had departed from the Pakistani political scene (or maybe not — I claim zero expertise). But not like this.No kidding.
A leading candidate for election and 20 others are killed in an assassination, and the Globe runs an Op Ed like this days later? What does this say about the quality of the editorial process on Morrissey Boulevard? Nothing good.
The Globe did feature a front page retrospective of Deval Patrick’s first year in office. The article by Frank Phillips treats the Governor’s performance very delicately. Complete with a photo of pensive Patrick staring into a sunset, the headline breathlessly reports:
After a soaring entry, a mixed first year for Patrick
Tally shows victories, but most of agenda stalled in Legislature
Finding reports of these “victories” within this 1700 word article is akin to finding the one small piece of pork in a can of pork and beans.
He has rolled out broad and expensive proposals on economic development, education, the environment, transportation, and public safety…
Exactly none of which have been enacted into law by a legislature utterly dominated by Patrick’s party.
He has lined up some potential victories for 2008. He won a commitment from legislative leaders to get action by February on his $1 billion initiative to boost the state's life sciences industry. After he expressed a willingness to compromise on his goal of closing corporate tax loopholes, he won the support of a special commission and could break a logjam in the Legislature over the issue.
At the same time, Patrick showed he could play political hardball with entrenched powers. This fall, he muscled Stephen Tocco, a Romney appointee with strong ties to powerful Democrats, out as chairman of the University of Massachusetts board of trustees and replaced him with an investment banker. He has been making similar attempts to gain control of commissions and authorities dominated by GOP appointees.
The face of state government has become more diverse under Patrick. Of the management hires in the administration, 19 percent are minorities, more than double the Romney administration's numbers. Patrick has hired a staff that is made up of 27 percent of people of color and more than half have been women.
That’s it? For a whole first year? Big whoop. Plus the Globe credits Patrick for the defeat of the marriage amendment:
…Patrick scored a major victory in June when he helped defeat a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage. Patrick, using the powers of his office and his persuasive charm, worked closely with DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray to kill the proposed amendment that had diverted attention from other issues.
I suspect Patrick did less to change the votes on this issue than DiMasi and Murray. Murray, though a staunch opponent of the amendment assured her opponents that the issue would receive a vote, while Patrick amazingly urged the lege to defeat the amendment by any means necessary, including defiance of the Supreme Judicial Court. And speaking of "diverting attention from other issues", Deval has done this better than anyone in the state through his casino initiative.
Now for the downside:
At times prickly and thin-skinned, Patrick can bristle at the media when it is aggressive and he expresses frustration when confronting an unwieldy political system that he can't control.
Having only 80-85% of the legislature in his own party does not give Patrick enough control, though Mitt Romney was expected to govern with 15-20%? And the Globe has now discovered that their pet Governor is “thin skinned”, as was noted by Squaring the Globe in 2006.
After a year watching him, even some of his allies feel that Patrick, whose professional experience is mostly rooted in the corporate boardrooms of
Patrick’s success on corporate boards had little to do with political skill and more to do with his race shielding companies from charges that their boards lacked diversity, plus his connections to the Clinton administration. Patrick’s former presence on the board of sub-prime lender Ameriquest did seem to shield Ameriquest from much mention in the Globe this year, though. Note that this article also did not mention Deval's service to Ameriquest, though Ameriquest was Deval's major source of income just before he ran for governor.
If the Boston Globe had judged Mitt Romney’s record by this same low and forgiving standard, they would urge Mitt to run for president during his first term as governor!