Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Question for US Senator Ted Cruz

Are you stupid, Ted? Or is it that you think I'm stupid? Because you either have no idea what you're talking about or you're trying to put one over on me.

In a fundraising email for the National Republican Congressional Committee today, you tell me that:

It's crunch time in the midterm elections and control of Congress is hanging in the balance .... Nancy Pelosi has declared all-out war on us conservatives, and if we don't fight back, they will be in a strong position to win the 17 seats needed to send Pelosi back to the Speaker's Chair.

The US House of Representatives currently comprises 233 Republican and 199 Democratic seats.

It's a mid-term election. In mid-term elections the president's party doesn't win seats, it loses seats -- even in non-"wave" years (but I hear a lot of Republicans projecting a "wave" election in which Republicans pretty much break the Democratic bank).

Of the top 25 "mostly likely to change parties" House seats, as ranked by RealClearPolitics, 16 are currently held by Democrats and are at least somewhat likely to be won by Republicans in November. Only nine (as those of us who can do arithmetic know) are leaning the other way.

If Republicans lose every one of the House races ranked as "tossups" by RCP, they'll still come out of the election with 230 seats (12 more than they need to retain their majority), so long as they win all the "leans/likely GOP" contests.

So which is it, Ted? Are you too dumb to handle even the most basic math, or are you intentionally blowing smoke up my ass to jiggle a buck out of me (not that I would ever consider donating to any Republican cause)? Because it's got to be one or the other.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ello? Ello? Is This Thing On?

I try to keep up with the social networking milieu, but somehow I missed Ello entirely until Google News popped up a Huffington Post article by Michael Morgenstern on why it isn't going to work (in fairness, the piece is actually about things Morgenstern thinks the site needs to address if it wants to work -- I suspect the HuffPo editors came up with the more provocative title). It takes quite a bit to get me to even click on a link to Huffington (ever since the writers' strike), but this was interesting enough to check out.

Morgenstern noted that he had invites for people who asked, so I asked. In the spirit of paying it forward, hit Ye Aulde Contact Form if you'd like an invite yourself (first come, first served, when they're gone they're gone). My own impressions:

  • It's in beta, so there's still plenty of running room for Ello to address the problems Morgenstern sees. Right now it's pretty bare-bones but it has a working friend/follow/post system. It's usable. Whether or not it will be catching is anyone's guess.
  • The one big problem Morgenstern doesn't mention is: Revenue model. Ello's main claim to fame at the moment is "ad-free now, ad-free forever." The only revenue source mentioned in the FAQ is the sale of optional special user features. They're pretty humble about their goals, but if the site catches on it's not obvious to me that that revenue source will keep up with the costs of running a social network. Then again, I'm not an expert on that kind of thing.
  • A lot of what goes into a social network's success or lack thereof is up to third parties,and while pushing Ello posts to other networks is on the "coming features" list, what I'm not seeing yet is any mention of an API to facilitate sending stuff in the opposite direction. You know -- sharing something interesting you found elsewhere with the push of a button ("Share on Ello"), automatically pushing your blog posts to Ello (via IFTTT and so forth), that kind of thing. That may just be because they're not ready for lots of incoming traffic yet ... but it's important.
Anyway, I'm tentatively impressed. See you there (I'm @thomaslknapp there, don't be a stranger!).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Holder is Stepping Down

Actually, more to the point, why Holder is stepping down at this exact point in time.

Short answer: Politics.

Long answer:

Holder had previously indicated he'd be resigning as US Attorney General by the end of the year.

By announcing his resignation at this particular point in time, he makes confirmation of his successor a political issue just as a major election approaches.

As the Reuters story on his resignation ever so blandly notes:

Republicans ... hinted at the difficulties Obama will face in getting a successor confirmed.
If anyone was wondering what contribution the rather unpopular president could make to Democratic efforts to hold the US Senate, this is that contribution.

For the next two months, we're going to hear all about "obstructionist Republicans" blocking presidential appointments.

And if he's really smart about it he will pick an appointee from one of the states where the Democrats are in tight races to hold Senate seats ... or perhaps from Georgia or Kansas, where the Democrats have real chances of picking up both a US Senate seat and a governorship (yes, I know the Kansas candidate is a Perot-type "pragmatic" "independent" who's playing it cagey, but you know he will jump right onto the "confirm presidential appointees, we need to get things done" wagon on the issue).

Probably not a massive game-changer, but it could affect several close races in the Democrats' favor.

So now you know why ... or at least why now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

If ISIS Hates Germany for its Freedom ...

... then Germany just surrendered to ISIS:

Anyone caught displaying the black flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, whether in public or over the Internet, will face charges in Germany .... By making it illegal to support the group, instead of seeking to ban ISIS in Germany outright, the police will be able to react immediately, without needing to involve the often cumbersome judicial system.

The idea of casting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Sophie Scholl  is a near-perfect combination of evil, stupidity (if you're fighting a group like ISIS you want its supporters to publicly identify themselves instead of hiding in the shadows) and hubris. But the German state is giving the project the old college try.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Things Not to Say When You Are a Cell Phone Company

Came across this in my inbox earlier:

Turned out to be nothing sinister -- just an invitation to take part in a customer satisfaction survey. But from a PR standpoint? Not a very good subject line at all in the age of rampant wiretapping, Tracfone.

Monday, September 08, 2014

What's Wrong With America in a Nutshell

For several days there's been an ad at the bottom of each email edition of Sayfie Review: "How Washington Opened the Floodgates to Online Poker, Dealing Parents a Bad Hand." It links to an article in Newsweek. Three quick quotes:

"This is just the beginning," predicts Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representative from Utah, the only state other than Hawaii that prohibits all forms of gambling, even the lottery. "I am afraid that if we don’t move quickly and get some decent regulations in place, which we really don't have right now, it will be too late to stop [online gambling] from reaching all the states."

In March, Chaffetz signed on as lead sponsor of bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives that is challenging the spread of online gambling, the Restoration of America's Wire Act. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, introduced a similar bill in the Senate. In a statement, Graham, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, observed that his state outlawed video poker machines back in 1999, ultimately removing more than 33,000 units from use. "Now, because of the Obama administration's decision, virtually any cellphone or computer can again become a video poker machine," he said. "It's simply not right."

Without strong rules in place, Chaffetz fears young people will be able to log on and start placing bets without much trouble.

What bothers me is not so much that Chaffetz and Graham believe online gambling is any of their business. The world in general and Washington in particular is full of sociopaths who believe you (and your wallet -- especially your wallet) -- belong to them.

The troubling part isn't the existence of these chuckleheads. The troubling part is that "news" media takes them seriously and portrays their obsessions as "issues" and "concerns."

Gambling as an "issue" is really quite simple: If you don't like it, don't do it. If you don't like other people doing it, well, tough. Other people are not your property. And the "news" media shouldn't humor your delusion that they are.