It was time for a change, I thought. The Statue of Liberty is a bit overused, so I thought I’d give the theme a bit of a wash and brush-up, as Group Captain Mandrake would say. Switch the old columns around, change the typography a bit. You know, the whole works.
A question about typography, by the way. Is anyone working on any screen fonts other than Georgia or Verdana that look as good as far as readability at all different sizes goes? I really don’t like the new ClearType fonts–Calibri, Candara, etc.–because their readibility sucks at anything under 10 points. As does Arial or Helvetica, for that matter. They really are best suited as header fonts, not body text.
We really need to find some way of getting out font preferences over the web to the readers in some way. Right now, Verdana and Georgia really are the only two fonts that have 98%+ penetration for both PC and Mac Users, and look really good on screen for pretty much everybody. What we really need is a way to embed whatever fonts we want to use into the site in some sort of lightweight fashion that can be transmitted to the users, in much the same way that the CSS styles are, and provide nice readability.
Somebody needs to be working on this. I’d love to Book Antiqua this mother.
We finally got a mixed bag on the employment front this month, a welcome change from the purely awful. However, with everyone focused on “creating” jobs I think this quick synopsis attacking the unrealistic expectations of when and where jobs will come from is well worth reading. This chart gives you an idea of how bad it really has been (click image for larger version)
Yves Smith looks at the problem of how to handle the prospect of the financially weaker members of the European Union possibly defaulting. neither the PIIGS nor their colleague states want to take the steps they may need to take. Markets however are sending a clear message, “Do Something!” The risk goes beyond the direct damage from the potential losses from holding these countries debts. European banks are already shaky, with shaky assets and still a lot more leverage than is safe. I believe Europe’s bear market is likely back on.
European banks are shaky? How provincial of me not to mention our own banks. The coming wave of defaults in the Alt-A and Prime mortgage space are not getting enough attention, Yves helps out there as well. Not only are the losses coming (pretending loans are good only works until they actually default) but the banks are in for some serious lawsuits from all kinds of parties that bought the toxic loans. First in line are Freddie and Fannie. They will still lose at least 400 billion, but they’ll take a good chunk out of the banks hide on the way down.
the phrase “credit specialists at Citi” is not exactly the kind of thing which instills enormous confidence in analysts and investors these days
I think that is an understatement. They want to sell another fancy derivative designed to remove all risk if there is a systemic crisis when, of course, those supposed to pay up will certainly have the money to do so….Right?
Please imagine me banging my head against the keyboard. And no, the response of the Citi Spokesman doesn’t make me feel any different, in fact, it makes me feel worse.
The term liquidity is the pixie dust the financial commentariat uses to obscure what is really going on. I maintain, and have throughout the last few years, that our difficulties have not been a liquidity crisis (though many who had no business exposing themselves individually to liquidity drying up for them certain had a liquidity crisis) but a solvency crisis. David Merkel points out that liquidity always exists, it just goes where the marginal credit buyer has gone. Where insolvency risk seems to be increasing, the marginal buyer can become very scarce and will provide it to areas seemingly exposed to less risk. At the end of the day it is solvency that is our problem, and until we solve that liquidity will go to those perceived to be least at risk. Right now that is the government and those they are backing. Hence a credit crunch for much of the economy.
Speaking of credit, consumer credit has now declined for 11 straight months. A record, and by a long shot. (Click image for a larger version.)
In the “no big surprise department,” and paralleling the argument I made at the time, it has now been shown that the ban on short selling during the crisis did not help support prices and damaged stock market liquidity. In the no surprise at all department the biggest complainers turned out to have fundamental problems that short sellers were pointing out accurately (much better than our regulators.) The loudest complainer of all, Overstock.com and their bizarre CEO, Patrick Byrne. The upshot, they have been cooking their books for years, just like the short sellers were claiming.
Cross posted at The View from the Bluff
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos is finishing up a book about Republicans he’s decided to entitle “American Taliban”. Yeah, no poisoning of the well there – it ought to be a real page-turner, no? One problem. He wasn’t sure what he’d written was based on anything factual. That may not come as a big surprise to most who’ve watched and read Kos over the years:
…I’m putting the finishing touches on my new book, American Taliban, which catalogues the ways in which modern-day conservatives share the same agenda as radical Jihadists in the Islamic world. But I found myself making certain claims about Republicans that I didn’t know if they could be backed up. So I thought, “why don’t we ask them directly?” And so, this massive poll, by non-partisan independent pollster Research 2000 of over 2,000 self-identified Republicans, was born.
The results are nothing short of startling.
Those startling results? Well, leave it to Steve Benen, even more clueless than Kos, to give us the “startling results” that “catalogues” (sic) “modern day conservatives” (notice the interchangability of words “conservative” and “republican”) as “shar[ing] the same agenda as radical Jihadists in the Islamic world” (notice too the rather loony premise of all “conservatives” and “republicans” being driven by radical religious beliefs).
The findings? Benen distills those most useful to the “Republicans are nutters” left (poll results here):
A plurality of rank-and-file Republicans wants to see President Obama impeached. More than a third of self-identified Republicans believe he wasn’t born in the United States. A 63% majority is convinced the president is a socialist, about a fourth believe he wants terrorists to be successful, and about a third think Obama is a racist who hates white people.
Now as I recall, the majority of the left not only wanted Bush impeached, they wanted him frog-marched before a court and tried as a “war criminal”. Most Democrats (I’m borrowing the broad brush that these two are using) believed Bush had been AWOL from his military duty and had stolen the 2000 election. A good plurality of Democrats thought (and still think) 9/11 was an inside job. And it goes without saying that a vast majority of them where convinced Bush was a tyrant, a “Nazi” and a significant number of them thought he’d declare a “national emergency” near the end of his 2nd term in order hold onto power.
And a majority of them wanted Bush to fail in Iraq and actively worked against that war – which to most people would handily translate into “they wanted the terrorists to be successful”. Racism, of course, has been a charge the left slings with impunity whenever it has nothing real to complain about. A third of Republicans think Obama’s a racist? Well if we want to play that game, I’m sure it wouldn’t be at all difficult to find a third of Democrats who think George Bush is a homophobe that hates gay people.
Does that make the Democratic party “crazy”?
Nearly a third of Republicans think contraceptive use should be outlawed.
And over two thirds don’t. But at least a third of Democrats think that abortion should be allowed in every possible situation without exception and enshrined in law too boot. So both sides want laws that the government really has no business making – what’s new?
More than three-quarters of Republicans want public schools to teach children that the book of Genesis “explains how God created the world.”
As opposed to a good majority of Democrats who already have their religion of environmentalism being taught in public schools and the have completely bought into the religious zealotry of man-made global warming even while the myth crumbles around them. Gaia is their god, Al Gore is their high priest and man is the sinner.
A third of Southern Republicans want to see their state secede from the union.
This is my favorite “startling” find (the result for “all” was 58% no/23% yes). Perfectly insignificant (a third of “Southern” Republicans), however the implied stereotype was just too useful to ignore (just as were all the others). Let me translate – “Southern” is a code word for “redneck racist religious zealots”. Thus the broad tarring of an entire region is accomplished and they can safely ignore a place they can never have electorally.
Of course, the secession claim is no different than the constant threats we heard from liberals that they’d leave the country if George Bush won the presidency. They didn’t, but I can’t imagine the usefulness of the Kos poll question that would have determined “one third of Hollywood liberals would leave the country if a Republican won the presidency” except to try cast the left in a poor light.
And that’s the point, of course. To demonize. Had Benen (and most of the left) not been so focused on trying to make the Republicans seem “crazy”, he could have said “significant majorities said they didn’t want to secede, thought openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military, teach in schools and be allowed to marry and receive federal benefits. They believe sex education should be taught in schools and that marriages are equal partnerships. They don’t believe the “pill” is “abortion” but do believe that abortion is murder and they support the death penalty. They also overwhelmingly believe that women have the right to work outside the home and, as a group, are overwhelmingly Christian.”
But if Kos and Benen had said that, then they’d be hard pressed to use these results to claim Republicans are the “American Taliban” wouldn’t they? Because everyone knows that the Taliban are a bunch of gay and women’s rights supporting fellows, don’t they?
As I read the poll, it doesn’t at all support the contention clear in the title of Kos’s book. In fact, his title is hyperbole to the highest degree possible. I also find it interesting that he wrote the book based on stereotypes he’d developed and then wondered if what he wrote was true. Now, given this poll, he’s trying to try to make the results fit the premise. His problem, however, is they don’t fit at all, if, in fact, his intent is to prove the premise of the title (i.e. Republicans = Taliban). Square peg, round hole.
Result? Epic fail.
Given that, I’d say the book is a definite miss, nothing more than a poorly researched political pot boiler and most likely won’t be showing up on the reading list of many thinking people. Of course that means it will get glowing reviews from the likes of Benen and other lefty blogs. But then, that’s not unexpected at all, and we certainly don’t need a poll to know that will happen, do we?
My blogging credentials (such as they are) run back to 2002, and I can remember when Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs site was just a blip on the blogospheric map. After Rathergate, of course, that blip turned into a giant shining beacon. As you might expect, that sort of attention led to plenty of caterwauling from the lefties, and some pretty unfair accusations. At one point, I brilliantly defended Johnson from completely unjustified attacks by none other than everyone’s favorite harlequin, GreenSox Glennwald (seriously, go read this one just for the comments where I get into it with everyone’s favorite sycophant Mona; good stuff). Johnson was the king of the anti-anti-war right at that time, and the left’s long knives were emblazoned with his name.
Since the election of Barack Obama, however, Johnson has had an … er, falling out with his former brethren. For whatever reason, he’s taken to sniping at his former comrades in arms and resorted to that favorite tactic of the left in calling everyone a racist who doesn’t agree with him.
Such is life. Coalitions rarely last for very long, and divorces are typically nasty affairs where rude epithets are common. That Charles no longer wants to associate with those whom he once treated as his band of blogo-brothers is sad, but not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Strange bedfellows abound in times of perceived danger.
Nevertheless, there was a time (called the “Bush Presidency”) when Johnson was the posterchild for all that was deemed wrong with the political right, especially the left’s fervent fantasies about racism run amuck. To be fair, such accusations typically found their quarry ruminating around LGF’s prodigious comment sections, but that was enough for the lords of tolerance to tar all non-statists as racist, warmongering, dead-enders with no sense of compassion or grace. That is, until Johnson decided to part ways with his former comrades.
Considering LGF’s place amongst the pantheon of the left’s most hated sites on Earth, you can imagine my surprise upon reading a paean to Charles Johnson in, of all places, the New York Times:
Charles Johnson has been writing a blog for almost as long as the word “blog” has existed. A bearish, gentle-voiced, ponytailed man who for three decades enjoyed a successful career as a jazz guitarist accompanying the likes of Al Jarreau and Stanley Clarke, Johnson has always had a geek’s penchant for self-education, and in that spirit he cultivated a side interest, and ultimately an expertise, in writing computer code. His Web log, which he named “Little Green Footballs” (a private joke whose derivation he has always refused to divulge), was begun in February 2001 mostly as a way to share advice and information with fellow code jockeys — his approach was similar in outlook, if vastly larger in its reach, to the guiding spirit in the days of ham radio. His final post on Sept. 10, 2001, was titled “Placement of Web Page Elements.” It read, in its entirety: “Here’s a well-executed academic study of where users expect things to be on a typical Web page.” It linked to, well, exactly what it said. The post attracted one comment, which read, in its entirety, “Fantastic article.”
He’s cute! He’s cuddly! He’s just a code monkey who likes Tab and Mountain Dew! Nothing to fear here!
By virtue of his willingness to do and share research, his personal embrace of a hawkish, populist anger and his extraordinary Web savvy, Johnson quickly turned Little Green Footballs (or L.G.F., as it is commonly known) into one of the most popular personal sites on the Web, and himself — the very model of a Los Angeles bohemian — into an avatar of the American right wing. With a daily audience in the hundreds of thousands, the career sideman had moved to the center of the stage.
Now it is eight years later, and Johnson, who is 56, sits in the ashes of an epic flame war that has destroyed his relationships with nearly every one of his old right-wing allies. People who have pledged their lives to fighting Islamic extremism, when asked about Charles Johnson now, unsheathe a word they do not throw around lightly: “evil.” Glenn Beck has taken the time to denounce him on air and at length. Johnson himself (Mad King Charles is one of his most frequent, and most printable, Web nicknames) has used his technical know-how to block thousands of his former readers not just from commenting on his site but even, in many cases, from viewing its home page. He recently moved into a gated community, partly out of fear, he said, that the venom directed at him in cyberspace might jump its boundaries and lead someone to do him physical harm. He has turned forcefully against Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, nearly every conservative icon you can name. And answering the question of what, or who, got to Charles Johnson has itself become a kind of boom genre on the Internet.
“It’s just so illogical,” Geller told me heatedly not long ago. “I loved him. I respected him. But the way he went after people was like a mental illness. There’s an evil to that, a maliciousness. He’s a traitor, a turncoat, a plant. We may not know for years what actually happened. You think he changed his mind?”
Poor code monkey. So lonely and misunderstood. How awful those righties are for abandoning such a crafty, neo-hippie (who finally found his way back home to his “bohemian” roots). It really is a shame that the right is so horribly intolerant that they call Johnson bad names like “evil” and “traitor”. What’s wrong with those jerks anyway?
You can read the rest for yourself. Suffice it to say, the irony of that bastion of MSM groupthink called the New York Times writing a glowing 1,000+ word article in defense of Charles Johnson and LGF is so thick I could feed off it for weeks. Recall that LGF was one the prime agents in exposing the fraud of MSM-mainstay Dan Rather and you might just string that irony-stew out for a couple of months.[ad#Banner]
You tell me – an entitlement mentality, an over inflated ego, or just a pathetic moron?
“You’re going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I’m up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years” — Brian Williams, anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” speaking before New York University journalism students on the challenges traditional journalism faces from online media.
Apparently in William’s world, Vinny isn’t entitled to an opinion because he didn’t go to J School and hasn’t spent his life “developing his credentials to cover [his] field of work”, even though old Vinny has more readers than Williams has viewers and more credibility as well.
Words from a dinosaur that hasn’t yet picked up on the heavy impact meteor crash which has occurred in his world and spells eventual extinction for his kind. And, frankly, the sooner the better.
In case you’re wondering why the content around here has been a bit thinner than usual, it’s because the primary progenitor of said content is on an unscheduled leave of absence. His brother fell ill over the weekend, and so McQ went to help him recuperate.
So, please keep McQ and his family in your prayers and the rest of us will do what we can to get some posts up.
Corey Doctorow at Boing Boing has gotten a leaked copy of what is characterized as a “secret treaty” – secret because of so-called “national security” implications (secrecy, as we were told during the last election, is the first refuge of tyrants). In fact, it is a copyright treaty alleged to be a part of the Anti-Counterfitting Trade Agreement. Doctorow distills the treaty’s salient points as he understands them:
* That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.
* That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
* That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.
* Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM).
I’m assuming “DRM” stands for Digital Rights Management.
Read each of those points carefully. If accurate these measures would effectively shut down much of the internet and certainly, at a minimum, change the way political blogs function. And there is no question, given the onus being put on ISPs by this treaty to police copyright infringement, that they would err on the side of caution.
This is being negotiated right now in Seoul, Korea by the administration (and, as this Canadian blogger points out, these provisions are being pushed by the US) which so derisively trashed the “Patriot Act” during the presidential campaign. As Doctorow points out, it’s draconian provisions leave ISPs with little choice but to take down anything about which there is even a hint of doubt. “Chilling effect” doesn’t even begin to describe the effect of such a treaty on free speech.
As for the transparency promised by this administration, this, among a mountain of things since it has taken office, apparently doesn’t fit that category. Being negotiated away in secret is your ability to access the internet and speak out if there’s even a hint (proof is not necessary) that copyrighted material is included in your piece.
Sound reasonable? Or are you still a bit of a traditionalist and want to see legal due process and the presumption of innocence remain as the first line defense of your rights? If you enjoy the ‘net as it stands now, you need to speak out against this obvious attempt to control speech. Treaties, even secret ones, still have to be ratified by the Senate. The way to stop this one is to make it not so secret and demand that the Senate vote it down.
UPDATE: Reason’s Jesse Walker:
As the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement enters its sixth round of secret negotiations, rumors are emerging about the provisions under discussion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted the reports it has heard here; if the leaks are true, the treaty will be filled with measures that, in EFF’s words, “have nothing to do with addressing counterfeit products, but are all about imposing a set of copyright industry demands on the global Internet.”
See Michael’s discussion about “corporatism”. It’s like slipping an amendment to build a museum to Ted Kennedy into a defense appropriations bill – hide the desired but unpopular special interest legislation in a more popular and necessary bill.
Well, über defensive and stupid, to be more accurate. At least with its war on Fox News there was some calculated ability to garner sympathy and support from the fevered progressive masses. Taking on one of the most reputable reviewers of the car industry, when it’s giving you good news, is just plain idiotic:
It is an odd, and we’d say regrettable, pattern of this White House that it lets itself get dragged down into fights with specific media outlets.
But in addition to Fox News, now The White House is going after highly-respected and influential car site Edmunds.com.
They’re actually using The White House blog to dispute the site’s analysis of Cash-For-Clunkers (via Detroit News).
The post is snarkily titled: “Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers”
For its part, Edmunds.com responded with a sober yet forceful smackdown. After pointing to the obvious flaws in the White House’s (defensive) thinking, they put the once-venerable office to shame:
With all respect to the White House, Edmunds.com thinks that instead of shooting the messenger, government officials should take heart from the core message of the analysis: the fundamentals of the auto marketplace are improving faster than the current sales numbers suggest.
Isn’t this a piece of good news we can all cheer?
I’m not sure which is more pathetic: the fact that the White House clearly lost a blog war, or that it is stupid enough to get involved in one in the first place.
The Federal Trade Commission has just released a ruling (PDF) that requires bloggers to disclose anything–and I mean anything–they receive as a result of their blogging. Free review copies of books. Trips to oil rigs. Payments. T-shirts. Whatever it is, you better disclose it, or you get slapped with a fine of $11,000 per infraction.
In other words, the government is now putting all web sites, professional or personal, under its thumb for failing to disclose everything they receive from any source. And what are the guidelines for disclosure? Why, none at all. So, assuming you receive a free copy of a book–even if you don’t review it–you must disclose that you received it. How do you disclose it? I dunno. How do you you know if your disclosure is sufficient? I dunno. The FTC, you see, will make those decisions on a “case-by-case” basis.
<sarcasm>I’m sure they’ll be quite fair about it, too. And I’m quite certain that the FTC will never, ever selectively enforce these new rules so that more scrutiny is given to opponents of the current regime than to its supporters.</sarcasm>
The main thing to remember here is that free speech is not nearly as important as protecting the public from some blogger who doesn’t disclose that he got a free review copy of the book to read, in order to write the review. And, of course, you’re all too stupid and venal to protect yourselves from the danger to the republic that freebies to bloggers represent.
But, we already knew that.
More info and quotes here.
I know – there are blogs out there that do 6,000,000 in a year. And we’ve been at it a lot longer than a year. But I’m pretty proud of that number. It took us a long time to turn a million. Not as long to turn 2 million. Then we were turning a million in about a year. Now we’re getting a million visits, per sitemeter, in less than a year.
Readership is up (from about 2,200 visits a day to over 3,000). Page views, which to me are really the key, are over 9,000,000 and the average time spent per visit (which is an even bigger key) is at a minute fifty seconds. That’s pretty darn good in the big scheme of things.
Thanks to all our loyal readers (and yes we do enjoy hearing from you and appreciate all the tips you send – don’t stop doing either) and I especially want to thank our commentariat. We have a good group of intelligent commenters, for the most part, who keep it lively and impart a pretty enjoyable sense of community – especially Ott Scerb.
Heh … anyway, thanks a million, very poor pun intended, for another great QandO year.