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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Groupthink at News Corp

July 31st, 2012 - 2:27 pm

More high-tech layoffs:

The Daily, News Corp.’s attempt to create a digital newspaper for the iPad age, is laying off nearly a third of its staff.

The publisher plans to tell its workers today that it will fire 50 of its 170 employees, according to people familiar with The Daily’s plans.

The initial release version of the app was so buggy and slow that I never did get around to giving the content a fair chance. I suspect that happened with a lot of people.

But calling it a “digital newspaper” is a bit of a misnomer. The Daily reads like a newsweekly, but with timelier articles — a strange hybrid beast which, apparently, has been unable to develop much of an audience.

And let’s think about why that might be.

If you want headlines, you hit your Twitter feed. For bloggy stuff, you go to your blogs. If there are longer pieces you want to read in full, you click on the links in your Twitter feed or from your bloggy buddies. The tech-savviest of all just get everything in RSS. Hardcore tablet readers might — might — have e-subscriptions to a major newspaper, such as the WSJ or the NYT. But mostly, we find our news socially.

So at what point in this process does it make sense to launch a tablet app, wait for it to load the most recent entires, work your way through its cumbersome interface, and then hunt down the stories you might want to read? Oh, good luck sharing the stories trapped behind the paywall.

The newsweeklies have been on a decades-long Bataan Death March. The newspapers aren’t far behind. Where did anyone get the notion that an electric hybrid of them could find a profitable audience?

Newsweek Puts the Weak in Newsweekly

July 31st, 2012 - 1:51 pm

Trifecta: Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1987.

Fill it to the RIM — With Fail

July 31st, 2012 - 12:47 pm

A big round of layoffs coming to the phone maker:

Research in Motion (RIMM) in June reported the worst quarter in the company’s history, and announced plans to reduce its global workforce by 5,000 people. According to Cantech Letter, the troubled smartphone manufacturer will let go of 3,000 workers on August 13th, mainly from its customer service, human resources, marketing, non-enterprise sales and Global Repair Services departments. Employees who are working on the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system and those in an enterprise sales position are reportedly “safe” from the layoffs, which the company hopes to complete before the end of its second quarter on August 31st.

You’ve got to feel sorry for these people, losing their jobs because management lost its way.

Going Boldly

July 31st, 2012 - 10:10 am

The rocket you see above is 25 feet tall. Upon launch near Pueblo on Saturday morning, it reached an altitude of 9,000 feet — a ceiling imposed by the FAA. It carried 18 scientific payloads, 17 deployable. It accelerated from zero to 300 miles per hour in just five seconds. The second stage reached nearly 350 miles per hour, and ended up so far downrange you needed binoculars to see it. The N-class solid-fuel engines powering it produce 24,000 times more thrust than an A-class engine you might buy at your local hobby shop.

I was there. It was inspiring.

It’s called the “FUTURE,” and it was built entirely by students and United Launch Alliance interns.

So when somebody tells you American kids can’t do science, you show them how the private sector can teach our kids.

That DNC agenda is shaping up… interestingly:

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren announced late Monday that she is slated to open for former President Bill Clinton at this summer’s Democratic National Convention.

“It will be an honor to share the convention stage with President Clinton on Wednesday, and to talk about what is happening to America’s families,” Warren said in a statement released by the Democratic National Convention Committee.

Oh, it will be an honor, all right — like Spinal Tap opening for Led Zeppelin. You might be wondering just what the heck a near-laughingstock like Warren brings to the stage, and the answer is: Very little.

Putting Warren up there isn’t about introducing Clinton or helping to reelect President Obama. It’s about giving Warren enough exposure to help her win back “Ted Kennedy’s seat.” And the Democrats are desperate enough to risk it.

A May-November Romance

July 31st, 2012 - 7:07 am

We knew the White House was in bed with the Complicit Media, but this is ridiculous:

A deputy press secretary for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign married an ABC reporter over the weekend. The ABC reporter, Matthew Jaffe, “covering the 2012 presidential campaign,” according to his biography on the website of ABC News. “For the past year he traveled around the country covering the Republican primary, from the Iowa Straw Poll to the various debates to this year’s primaries and caucuses.”

The deputy press secretary Jaffe married is Katie Hogan. Many members of Obama’s reelection team and the press celebrated the wedding together Saturday.

The happy couple are accepting donations to the President’s reelection campaign in lieu of gifts.

UPDATE: S’yeah, right.

This is Totally Your Father’s Oldsmobile

July 31st, 2012 - 5:11 am

They’re digging mass graves behind the Renaissance Center:

It’s not that people are leaving GM. It’s how they leave. Two weeks ago, Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke presented numbers to Dan Akerson. Akerson fires him. Opel gets two interim chiefs in a week. Last Thursday, Opel’s new design chief Dave Lyon doesn’t even start his job. Today, media in the U.S. and Germany report that Lyon had been escorted from the building and to a waiting car by GM’s head of personnel. A day later, global marketing chief Joel Ewanick suddenly leaves. Instead of wishing him all the best for his future endeavors, GM spokesman Greg Martin puts a knife in Ewanick’s back: “He failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee.”

Read the whole thing. I’m betting there’s going to be a Hitler’s Bunker video on YouTube covering the Second Fall of GM — and it might not be too long from now.

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With a headline like that, it must be time for a little Hair of the Dog.

Elizabeth Warren on Elizabeth Warren:

“Every now and again, I meet with someone who’s been very successful on Wall Street, who says, ‘I want to support your campaign because I believe you will save capitalism. I believe in capitalism, and I understand there have to be rules. And they have to be consistently enforced.’ That’s what I think is at stake in this election.”

That’s a hefty assignment, the salvation of capitalism, but Democratic strategists, while cringing at the grandiosity of the statement, say she articulates her vision for the assignment as well as any candidate.

That’s unpossible. Not one person has ever told Warren she’s the savior of capitalism, because it’s impossible to speak while in the depths of an alcoholic coma.

Hat tip, Michael Warren, who reminds us Warren “has said she ‘created much of the intellectual foundation‘ for the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Sheesh — pick a side, lady.

Shooting Blanks, Washington Style

July 30th, 2012 - 1:27 pm

What does a big cash advantage and nine figures of relentless (and extremely early) negative advertising buy you? Meh, not much:

Mitt Romney holds thin advantages over President Obama on leadership, personal values and honesty, according to a new poll for The Hill.

The poll, conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research, suggests voters see little difference between the candidates on character issues that Democrats have cited as key to Obama’s appeal.

It found 48 percent of voters consider Romney the stronger leader, compared to 44 percent who favored Obama.

Similarly, 47 percent of likely voters also said Romney most shares their values while 44 percent picked Obama.

When asked which candidate voters considered more honest and trustworthy, 46 percent said Romney and 44 percent said Obama — a result within the poll’s 3 percentage point margin of error.

Whatever will Team Obama have left to fire during the real campaign season?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

“You feel that sting, big boy, huh?”

July 30th, 2012 - 12:19 pm

The Dallas Fed measure of business activity just took a dive:

With expectations for a muddle-through slight positive print, the headline Dallas Fed index just printed at -13.2 (exp. 1.9). This is its lowest level since September of last year and the biggest miss of expectations since May of last year. The headline index is teetering on the edge of its worst levels since 2009 as the month to month change in the general business activity index dropped a massive 19pts – its largest drop since April 2005. Specifically it appears the outlook for capital expenditures was among the largest sub-index to have its hope crushed.

We might be in the double dip already.

Listen for the fog horn of the good ship QE3 any time now.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown made a campaign commercial staring himself and a Chevy Cruze. He should have stuck to the script:

In the new ad, Brown shows off specific Cruze components, rattling off a few parts and where they were made.

“The engine block’s made in Defiance,” says Brown, head under the hood.

“Transmission from Toledo,” he adds seconds later, from the driver’s seat. “And it’s all assembled in Lordstown.”

But in between the engine block and the transmission, Brown improvises.

“Aluminum wheels,” he says as he kicks one for effect and a split-screen close-up emerges. “Cleveland.”

If you’ve seen one car commercial, you’ve seen them all. There’s always a catch.

The wheels? Not aluminum. And not made in Cleveland.

The campaign’s communications director claims, “He was speaking generically.”

Aluminum. Cleveland. Generic.

Good to know.

The Best Thing You’ll See All Week

July 30th, 2012 - 10:29 am
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The cuff makes it.

Yet another unintended consequence of ObamaCare:

In the Inland Empire, an economically depressed region in Southern California, President Obama’s health care law is expected to extend insurance coverage to more than 300,000 people by 2014. But coverage will not necessarily translate into care: Local health experts doubt there will be enough doctors to meet the area’s needs. There are not enough now.

You’ll see this situation replicated all over the nation, as our medical corps doesn’t grow fast enough to meet the needs of an aging population. Hell, the overall number of doctors might shrink in absolute terms, as our best-and-brightest seek more remunerative fields as ObamaCare squeezes doctors’ paychecks.

Congratulations: You have coverage. The bad news is, you don’t have care.

Too Big to Fail Again

July 29th, 2012 - 2:15 pm

The new cars coming from GM are so awesome, they sell themselves! Only… not so much:

The automaker is relying increasingly on subprime loans, 10-Q financial reports shows.

Potential borrowers of car loans are rated on FICO scores that range from 300 to 850. Anything under 660 is generally deemed subprime.

GM Financial auto loans to customers with FICO scores below 660 rose from 87% of total loans in Q4 2010 to 93% in Q1 2012.

I’m so glad to be an involuntary shareholder in a company with such sterling…

…oh, I can’t finish it, not even in weary jest.

Ayn Rand with Johnny Carson

July 29th, 2012 - 11:50 am
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I’d seen her on Tom Snyder’s show, but this Carson appearance is totally new to me. What a treat, seeing two of my role models together.

Jazz and Cocktails

July 28th, 2012 - 3:00 pm
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Poncho Sanchez requires a mojito, natch. This track from Conga Blue one of my favorites, but he may never make a better album than Afro-Caribbean Fantasy. Really, both of them belong in your collection.

While you play the song and maybe pull up Amazon, let’s make a mojito.

You’ll need:

Several mint leaves
One sprig of mint
The juice of one-half lime
2 ounces of your favorite light rum
1 tablespoon sugar
Club soda
Ice

Put the leaves, lime juice, and sugar in the bottom of a highball glass, then muddle it. Fill the glass halfway with ice, add the rum, and stir quickly. Fill the glass the rest of the way with ice, then top off with club soda. Give it one last stir, and garnish with the sprig.

Here’s the one I just made.

Cheers.

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

July 28th, 2012 - 11:56 am
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Politics Makes for Strange… Everything

July 28th, 2012 - 7:25 am

Trifecta: You’ll never guess who is Scott Brown’s most important ally in his reelection bid against Elizabeth Warren.

Nope, not in a million years.

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Friday Night Videos

July 27th, 2012 - 10:19 pm
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Before they went all new wave, Adam & The Ants were pure punk. Here’s an early demo version of my favorite recording of theirs.

SQUIRREL!

July 27th, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Trifecta: Let’s talk about the Olympics for a change, instead of the lousy economy.

The 2002 Olympics, I mean.

So. First, the vile progs claimed that quoting the President at length amounted to taking him out of context. When that — quelle horreur! — didn’t produce the desired effect on public perception of “you didn’t build that,” can you guess where the vile progs are going next? Let’s play this Jeopardy style, where you answer in the form of a question.

I’ll wait here while you think about it.

(((JEOPARDY THEME MUSIC)))

Did you answer, “What is racism?”

You did? That’s absolutely correct. Here’s Jonathan Chait performing what my friend Jimmie Bise calls an Olympic-level shark hurdle:

The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he’s talking not in his normal voice but in a “black dialect.” This strikes at the core of Obama’s entire political identity: a soft-spoken, reasonable African-American with a Kansas accent. From the moment he stepped onto the national stage, Obama’s deepest political fear was being seen as a “traditional” black politician, one who was demanding redistribution from white America on behalf of his fellow African-Americans.

See how that works? It’s raaaaaaaacist to notice that the President is pandering to a black audience.

Hat Tip: Daniel Foster, who asks, “For #$&% sake, man. Really?

Really.

Blogging the Detectives: The Update!

July 27th, 2012 - 10:23 am

We’re moving the whole ObamaWatch operation over to Facebook. Details to follow.

Your Friday Morning Dose of Doom & Gloom

July 27th, 2012 - 9:55 am

Q2 GDP at 1.5% on weakening consumer spending.

We’re at stall speed, folks. I shudder to think what next Friday’s job report might look like.

Maybe from now on I’ll just write about unicorns and rainbows.

The Ensuckification of Facebook Continues

July 27th, 2012 - 8:05 am

It’s official: Facebook is forcing us all to switch our profiles to the new “Timeline” format, whether we want it or not. I can assure you that, empirically, it sucks.

Back when I was studying journalism, rather than making fun of journalists, they taught us that a newspaper or magazine layout should follow a Z pattern. A reader’s eyes quite naturally start at the top left corner, scan right, zip down and to the left, then right again — so your layout should work with human nature to make the sale.

They taught us to put the newest and most important information — the item that would get readers to spend a quarter — on the top left corner. (A quarter? Yeah, I was learning this a long time ago. But it’s a timeless lesson.) If the big item was big enough, give it the whole top line of the Z. The second biggest story follows on the next part of the Z, followed by the third, and then the fourth — if there’s room for four. Three, they told us, was more or less ideal. Too much information, and the reader loses focus before he ponies up the 25¢.

Here’s the layout for Timeline.

What dominates the top third of the screen? Static information. Your name, your banner (I don’t have a banner yet, so just a headshot), and some personal data like job and where you went to school. You know, stuff that doesn’t change very much, or at all. In other words, the first thing a visitor to your profile sees is a bunch of crap they already know. And lots of people are putting up big, busy banners which dominate your eyeballs. Timeline isn’t as bad as MySpace, but only because Facebook doesn’t let you use a zillion different fonts or animated GIFs. But let’s keep that quiet, before Zuckerberg gets any more bright ideas.

The next place your eyeballs travel is to the status update box. That’s fine for you, lousy for visitors. After that, something called “Activity.” Well, I know who I just friended, and you’re probably not all that interested. So… why the prominence?

Finally, in fourth place, we reach my most recent status update. If you’re visiting my Timeline to see, oh I dunno, my freakin’ Timeline, you’ve had to zip all over the page to find it. And I hope you don’t want to see more than one item, because you’re not going to be able to do so without scrolling the page.

And when you do scroll, the Timeline isn’t a line at all. It’s boxes of info to the either side of a line you practically need to squint to see. At a casual glance — and we’re talking Facebook here, not Britannica — it’s just a mess of boxes. You have to look, really look, to figure out the chronology.

Oh, except the second box isn’t a status update after all. It’s a box of eight of my friends, chosen seemingly at random.

All this is an improvement how?

You might complain that it’s not like Facebook’s old profile pages were set up like the famous newspaper Z. True enough. But they were set up like a sensible web page, in three columns. The lefthand column was skinny, and filled with static data. The righthand column was skinny, too, and featured your waiting requests and a tasteful vertical banner ad. The big fat center column, the thing your visitors’ eyeballs were sucked right into, was all of your updates, arranged in one nice vertical stack. You scrolled down to get to the oldest stuff, always easily aware of the chronology.

I’m sure Facebook spent a lot of time and money developing the Timeline. They don’t seem to have spent any time with any actual users.

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered, quite accidentally, another reason Timeline sucks. If you post a picture cropped in a landscape orientation, Facebook will thoughtfully re-crop it to a portrait orientation. Half of your photos have never looked worse!

Another GM Fail in the Making?

July 27th, 2012 - 7:17 am

The Chevy Spark: Oddly marketed and under-selling.

GM had been counting on the Spark to — ah — spark subcompact sales. I wonder what happened.

The Woodhouse Memo: A Dramatic Reading

July 26th, 2012 - 4:18 pm

There’s an App for the One Percent

July 26th, 2012 - 2:48 pm

Well. This survey is going to get some OWS panties in a wad:

According to a report from Spectrem Group, when it comes to smartphones, 46% of people who make over $100,000 a year own an iPhone. Android only grabs 34% of the marketshare. As wealth increases so too does the likelihood that a person owns an iPhone.

Among users who make more than $1 million, 48% own a iPhone and 33% own an Android. Then when you look at the $5 million mark Apple’s marketshare jumps up considerably to 59% while Android only holds on to 25%.

I’m sure some protestors somewhere are already typing furiously into their MacBook Airs.

Now That’s One Uncomfortable Truth

July 26th, 2012 - 12:29 pm

I could spend the afternoon doing an old-school fisking of this Frisky piece — but I have an extra PJTV segment to tape today on top of the usual Thursday Week in Blogs taping. But something has to be said about Jessica Wakeman’s boneheaded dumbassery — so I’ll just make it quick.

Her response to the Aurora massacre was to argue… well, I’ll let Jessica speak for herself. And please click over and read the whole thing, so you can be sure I haven’t taken her out of context. If you have the stomach for it, that is. Anyway, here we go:

In the days, weeks and months following a national tragedy, myths settle into our national consciousness. Myths are not falsehoods, per se. Rather, myths are the stories that we repeat to explain a complex and unnerving topic and make sense of the confusion — to label something “good” and “evil,” to finger the “bad guy” and the “hero.”

I’m sure we all shudder at the mere suggestion that shooting up 50 or so movie patrons might be labeled “evil,” or that the shooter could be considered a “bad guy.”

Oops — I promised not to do a full-frontal fisking. But Wakeman does have some interesting things to say about heroism, which is what pulled me into her column. Read:

A story coming out of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting — which I have heard again and again these past few days — is of the three boyfriends who saved the lives of their girlfriends by throwing themselves in the line of fire during the “Dark Knight Rises” shooting…

Three men died on Friday; their girlfriends did not die. It seems, from the stories we’re hearing from their loved ones, that they sacrificed their lives to save someone else…

I can respect and be touched by these men’s sacrifices. But I’m also wary of some byproducts of the heroism myth, the idea that a few good men will have courage under fire and put “women and children first…

Heroism has never had a gender: just tell that to Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, or any of the female soldiers who risk their lives daily in our military. But the “white knight in shining armor” narrative is gendered.

You’re goddamn right this particular form of heroism is gendered. It has to be gendered, and it should be gendered. Put simply: women are special, and men ought to treat them as such.

If you had to repopulate the planet, or even just your hunt-and-gather tribe, women can do something men can’t: Grow the babies. If you had to choose between starting that effort with 100 men and just one women, or with 100 women and just one man, you’d choose the latter every time. Neither situation is ideal, obviously — but one man can impregnate a whole lot of women. He might not do such a great job with the last poor gal in the lineup, but we are talking lifeboat rules here.

So it is necessary and right and gender-specific heroism for a man to lay down his life for his woman, because survival beyond the self may require it. A world without such men is, eventually, a world without any men — or women.

We’ve reached such a sorry state in our culture, such a state of politically-correct blindness, that there are people like Wakeman who must deny the obvious while nitpicking our heroes.

I hope for her sake that she’s found, or will someday find, a better man than she seems to deserve.