Sunday, June 15, 2008

Send In The Lorax

Because the California Bar Exam is only weeks away, I don't have time to do a proper post.  But I did want to take a minute to note the disgusting irony of the Bush administration declaring polar bears a threatened species as a result of global warming, and only a month later issuing what are in essence grants of immunity to oil companies searching for oil and gas off northwestern Alaska. 

In addition to the obvious link between oil/gas and global warming, the regulations provide five years of legal protections for the named companies if Pacific walruses or the 'threatened' polar bears are harmed by the companies drilling or pipeline activities.  

Guess declaring a species to be threatened doesn't imply we want the threats to cease. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Victims Forever

There are a lot of reports of Clinton supporters pledging to support John McCain this fall. This is ironic for a few reasons.

First, they know that McCain would almost certainly appoint a pro life justice to the Supreme Court in the next four years, likely overturning Roe v. Wade, something that's supposedly dear to Clinton and certainly most feminists.

Second, Obama's policies are almost identical to Clinton's substantively, and McCain's are virtually opposite. This shows that the decision to abandon Obama is largely emotional - and is most likely driven by a feeling that somehow Hillary was wronged, or cheated out of the election. This idea of Hillary's victimhood first at the hands of an unfaithful husband and then by a right-wing attack machine and finally a sexist press and an unfair primary process, the latter ideas stoked by Clinton herself, has driven some supporters to reject Obama - even though he hasn't done anything sexist and certainly won fair and square despite long odds.

But the final and most striking irony is that because of this, some Clinton supporters are pledging to vote for McCain who abandoned his first wife (who had been disfigured in a car accident) for a younger, healthier woman! I mean of all the people to support - these lost Clinton supporters are choosing someone who actually ditched and cheated on his wife to punish Obama, who is by all accounts faithful to his!

Think about that for a moment - all those people who identify with Hillary as a victim are voting for a victimizer to spite a man whose campaign for the most part took the high road. It's almost as if they resent Obama's lack of identification with black victimhood more than McCain's willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade and his abandoning his wife because she was no longer attractive.

But I suppose that's what the mentality of victimhood is - not merely someone who's been wronged, but one who ensures that the wrong repeats itself and perpetuates one's identity as a victim. And come to think of it, Obama's more of a threat to their identity than McCain is. Obama is a counterexample to them - he shows there's another way to proceed. McCain is the other side of the same coin - he commits the outrages that they feed on. So if McCain gets elected, they can continue to whine and complain. If Obama gets elected, and asks blacks to rise above victimhood, those women are going to have to go along, too - or look feeble and pathetic by contrast. What a nightmare - to have to take responsibility for your own lives!

Clinton Should Not Get Help for Her Campaign Debt

The NYTimes reported today that Clinton has a debt of about $21 million and talks about her options for retiring it, one of which was raising more money from her supporters, another of which was having Obama's supporters help raise money. Both options strike me as ridiculous.

First off, the Clintons' net worth was more than $100 million before the campaign started. Why should people struggling to make ends meet give them a dime? (I'd presume most people who aren't struggling gave the $2300 maximum). The Clintons can retire the debt personally and still have $75 million or so in the bank, with plenty more to come now that Bill's free to continue speaking and having other undisclosed business dealings.

The idea of Obama supporters giving Clinton money is laughable. Clinton was throwing good money at bad long after her only hope for winning was an Obama meltdown. While people have given her credit for "grit" and "determination," in most other endeavors this would just be considered poor judgment - racking up debt in pursuit of a lost cause. And that's fine if she's going to take responsibility for that poor judgment and pay for it out of pocket. But to ask people for money in a bad economy to free her from its consequences is bad form.

The one option not discussed that I'd find reasonable is not to pay Mark Penn the millions he's owed, and when he sues her, to countersue for malpractice - after all, not only did he run a terrible campaign, he was on the Columbian government's payroll, lobbying for a trade deal that Clinton was criticizing. That's a conflict of interest that might void the obligation.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rehabilitation for Hillary Clinton

This post by "Sean" on pretty much articulated my feelings toward Hillary Clinton to a tee.

He wrote this before she made her speech, which ever-so-slightly exceeded my expectations of what she would actually do, but surely fell short of what Sean would deem necessary for her rehabilitation. I tend to agree with him.

The argument is that Clinton poisoned Obama's image in the minds of her supporters by acting like his campaign was dirty, sexist and disrespectful. So even though she's ostensibly thrown her support behind Obama and asked her faithful to do the same, she's done so without healing the perceived wounds. In other words, her supporters still believe that she (and by extension they) were somehow wronged by the process. In that case, they might feel that Hillary has to do this because she's being bullied by Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi et. al., but that they have still been wronged.

Therefore Sean's argument was for Clinton to heal those wounds by acknowledging that the outrage and emotion she stirred up in her followers were based on lies. And that she wasn't robbed, nor were FLA and MICH and that Obama's not by any means an elitist or a Muslim or a sexist. And that her campaign was the one fighting dirty, while his largely took the high road.

If she were to come clean about that, Sean argues, then maybe, possibly, he could see her in a different light.

But she didn't. And so now it's left to Obama himself to reach out to her supporters, and that's going to be far more difficult because she didn't come completely clean.

The more I think about it - it seems that this really isn't over, and she might, over the next six months, subtly undermine him with an eye on 2012. I hope I'm wrong - and that this wasn't a calculated half measure - but instead the best that she could do given who she is.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Get Lost Carl Icahn

I don't know a whole lot about the business of large company mergers and proxy fights, but it strikes me that Icahn should mind his own business and leave Yahoo and its board alone. Who is Icahn - some entitled billionaire who feels the need to buy a large stake and force yahoo to sell Microsoft? Apart from Yahoo shareholders, who stand to see their stock get a bump in the short term, who does that really benefit? Do we need more consolidation of the search business at the top? Are consumers really that ill-served by Google's dominance of the search market? How so?

My only experience with Yahoo is in our business dealings with them at RotoWire, and they're one of the best, easiest and least pretentious big companies we deal with. It would be a shame if they were sold to a company widely reviled as a bully that puts out a mediocre product.

Short-term shareholder value shouldn't be the be-all, end-all of business. I own Yahoo shares, and I don't care about the short-term profit I'd get if Icahn's plan were to go through. I'd rather see the company stay independent.

Perhaps I'm naive here, but hearing Icahn rip Yahoo's management and try to force them to accept Microsoft's since withdrawn takeover bid rubs me the wrong way. What does he even care? The guy is a billionaire already - what good does this do? As usual in mergers, people will lose jobs, and sometimes that's necessary in situations where the underlying business makes no sense, or the merger is highly beneficial to both companies. In this case, Yahoo doesn't want to merge, unless they're blown away by the offer, so why force it?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting Views on YouTube

I recently uploaded a six-minute excerpt from my feature length documentary, and I figured by sending it out to all of my friends and business colleagues, as well as posting it on the RotoWire blogs I'd get enough traffic for the clip to go viral. I was wrong - at least for now, and the clip is stuck at about 885 views with more trickling in slowly each day. This was a far cry from the 200,000 I had hoped to get in order to attract the attention of potential distributors.

So I did some looking around the web to find good sites to send the clip to, better search tags to add to it and whatever else I hadn't thought of. And I found this site, Tech Crunch, which no doubt offers sound advice if boosting your views is your main objective.

Suggestions on Tech Crunch include: logging in under many different YouTube usernames and generating fake commentary about your own clip, logging onto message boards with several different usernames and getting into heated discussions about your own clip, etc.

And I thought this was funny because I was feeling guilty at clicking on the video from different browsers and thereby generating multiple page views myself. My naive idea had been that my clip and documentary were actually good, and so once I sent it out to a few hundred people, naturally they would forward it along, and it would blow up. But Tech Crunch pointed out that:

There are tens of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube each day (I’ve heard estimates between 10-65,000 videos per day). I don’t care how “viral” you think your video is; no one is going to find it and no one is going to watch it.

And so you have to game the system to get your video to the top of YouTube or onto key lists where it will be recognized. Which I thought about doing for about 10 seconds and then rejected. It's fake! It's cheating. It's fundamentally not merit based.

But what if through cheating you're able to get something you genuinely believe is good and worked very hard on for years into public view. Surely, the end justifies the means?

It's a fair argument, but I just can't get behind it. Pretending people like your clip is bad for the system, and while plenty of other people do it, it's fundamentally because they lack faith in their creative ability and their ability to adapt and market in an honest way. I'd be thrilled for instance if some big-time blogger picked it up and it spread that way. The key is that people send it along because they genuinely enjoy it.

Sundays Are for Football

Excerpt from the 68-minute feature length documentary on the Hollyweird Fantasy Football League.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Letter to the NY Times re: Clinton's Kennedy Gaffe

While friends of mine worried that this unstable person would destroy the democratic party in her own pursuit of power, I reassured them that like Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby, she would push it too far, and her campaign would have to be euthanized on the track. I didn't foresee this specific gaffe - only that as her hopes dimmed, the inner sociopath would emerge, and that all but her most committed supporters, people who were dug in beyond all reason would jump ship. The folks at compared her to Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick in "Election," but I always felt the far more apt analogy was to Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings." "The ring is mine!" she seemed to say with every outrageous tactic and divisive maneuvering.

It seemed so strange that the NY Times and other mainstream media didn't see what was so apparent to so many. Perhaps Frank Rich saw it, and Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic, but so many others kept saying: "We have two great candidates" no matter what kind of campaign she ran, no matter what kind of vitriol her petty and vindictive advisors and increasingly unhinged husband shouted. The Times endorsed this person, and didn't retract it in the face of so much evidence. And now, it's plain as day, thankfully, but this was there all along.

Whether people out of political correctness due to the historic nature of her campaign didn't want to point out that the empress had no clothes, or whether people were really that cynical about politics to be duped into believing that just about anything goes, it's hard to say. But, and I've made this point many times - just because she's a woman does mean she's not a sociopath, and her supporters do a disservice to the many genuinely wonderful female candidates who will surely come after her by sticking with her this doggedly. Clinton and her supporters are making it more difficult for female candidates to get their due by allowing identity politics to cloud their character judgment. As Martin Luther King dreamt, people will one day be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, and I believe the same thing can be said about the configuration of their chromosomes.

Surely we only want a quality African American candidate like Obama, and just are surely we want a decent female candidate, not just the first available one.

May Clinton's campaign rest in peace, and may we look forward to a female president whose ambition is balanced by decency and integrity.

Just Say Yes: The Moral of the Bush Legacy

One unintended moral of the Bush presidency is that for certain people, it's better to booze hard and snort cocaine than to get clean and find Jesus. Because had Bush remained a fuck-up, he would merely have destroyed his own life and hurt his loved ones. Instead, he got clean, and 4,000 US soldiers and half a million Iraqis are dead.

If the ghost of Christmas past came down and showed George Bush his alternate life - one where, homeless, he pisses himself on a park bench before expiring quietly, and meanwhile, the United States is prosperous, and the world a safer place - I think he'd be morally obligated to go back and choose that fate.