Sports: it’s how America deals with big social issues

SEC-football-modern-plantation-systemAhhhh sports. For whatever reason, we’ve decided that the best way to deal with our most pressing national issues isn’t directly through our elected representatives, but metaphorically, through sports.

Guns, drugs, income inequality, violence against women, gender identification, homosexual rights—you name it, our sports venues are where those issues are debated.

This week end was a big one on the metaphorical battlefront. Continue reading


SuperShuttle satisfaction survey: you people need to get your act together

SuperShuttle is a smoldering dumpster fire.

I returned home from vacation this morning. I had reserved a lift with SuperShuttle to save a few bucks on airport parking. Never again.

As we landed I flipped on my phone. I had an e-mail from SuperShuttle explaining how to check in on the mobile. Sweet. I followed the instructions and proceeded to the baggage claim. I was to select “Downtown” or “Not Downtown” and submit once I had my bag. Here’s where it went sideways.

  • I was instructed to go out door 505 on the east side and head over to the shuttles on island 5. I did. Found SS there, gave the guy my reservation number, he says cool, and I hop in.
  • Once in we got into the “where are you going?” process. Turns out I was in the wrong van. Continue reading

Stranded Assets and the Bank of England

41ECa85N+ILMark Carney, the former Goldman Sachs banker and head of the Bank of Canada who now heads up the Bank of England, threw the City of London financial community into a bit of a tizzy recently. Carney picked up on a line of argument that a number of NGOs have been pushing for several years now—that investing in fossil fuels carries some potentially serious financial risks that investors should be giving some thought to. Carney simply pointed out the obvious, or what has been increasingly obvious to a number of investors for a while now. And that is the notion that if governments really do stick to adopting measures that will help to insure that global temperatures rise only 2 degrees Centigrade, many of the carbon assets currently on the books of fossil fuel companies—coal in particular, but other fossil fuels as well— will be “unburnable.”

This is not a new issue. A number of NGOs have spent the past several years leading the charge to “de-carbonize portfolios.” This portfolio de-carbonization effort is based on the perception that, aside from whatever “ethical” concerns may justify this, there is also a high likelihood of increased financial risk associated with carbon ownership—the exact point that Carney made. Much of this effort has been led by Carbon Tracker, a UK organization, but the original argument actually goes back to a presentation by environmental activist Bill McKibbin. Continue reading

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

Before you put it to work for you, don’t forget to incorporate your robot!

The upside and downside of incorporating robots.

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You’ve heard about e-trading, or high-frequency trading — the use of algorithms to react instantly and reflexively to the market. And you may have heard about robo-advisors, in which software manages your portfolio. Also, as Jerry Kaplan writes in his new book, Humans Need Not Apply (Yale University Press, 2015), of Amazon, etc.:

Super-human omniscient systems observe our individual and group behavior, then guide us to what we purchase, listen to, watch, and read— while the profits quietly pile up elsewhere.

In fact, the day may come when robots will own assets.   Continue reading


Chill, baby, chill: Arctic oil exploration and climate security


image courtesy of

My wife’s engagement ring contains a marquis cut diamond appraised at $2000. I bought it at a pawn shop for $600. The pawn broker was ready to shoot me dead if I tried to steal it. When I paid him the $600 he was asking, he got teary eyed, ransacked his back room for a jewelry box, admitted he would have taken $550 because he could tell I am a good man, and promised that she would have no choice but to marry me in the face of that sparkling gem. It is a thing of beauty, no doubt.

Diamonds are plentiful and relatively indestructible. The second hand market is glutted with diamonds that no one wants because, without the sentimental value, they are comparatively cheap. Oil is not like that. Once it is consumed it exists only as a cloud of excrement. Our collective cloud of excrement has become a life-threatening problem as a result of economic forces set in motion by the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which five companies were convicted of conspiring to destroy electric-powered mass transit in favor of oil-powered transportation. Continue reading


Dear Hy-Vee: why are you supporting pro-slavery talk radio?

by Matthew Grimm

Hy-Vee chain advertises on talk show that advocates immigration internment and slavery, then pretends a corporation its size has no leverage regarding when its ads air…

I want to note before reposting this originally Facebook-posted call for a Righteous Boycott of the Vile Corporate Monster that is Hy-Vee, that it is not that. As America’s uberclass of rapacious loathsome MBA-misdirected corporate douchebags bobsledding the human species towards inevitable doom go, Hy-Vee is not really among them. A Midwestern grocery chain most otherwise notable for being fun to say, it is an employee-owned company (though there are, internally, some semi-contentious limits on which employees make it to employee-owner status), it is also kind of an Iowa institution, like if a supermarket could be comfort food, it would be that.

Which is why it’s actually tough to do this. Continue reading


Land of the free, be brave.


photo credit

I am a proud Democrat. I think the Democratic Party started with a Virginia planter and Renaissance man named Thomas Jefferson. I am not proud of TJ for owning slaves. Slavery is an abomination, the antithesis of everything for which the Democratic Party stands. Jefferson himself was an abolitionist, describing slavery as holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” He also believed that emancipation would result in a large scale race war which would destroy America, his beloved experiment in liberty.

I believe otherwise. I believe that if one allows a man to stop being a wolf and become a fellow Renaissance man, he will do exactly that. I believe this has been proven time and again during the intervening centuries. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I have read Max Weber. I understand that every moment is valuable, not only in the present, but also for the fruits it may bear, properly invested, in the future. Continue reading


My favorite client conversation

Sometimes you have clients who are just fantastic. Other times you have this guy.

Me: So these are the high-value keyword terms on which you’re ranking in the low-hanging fruit tier. By making them the basis for content marketing campaigns you have the potential to drive significant improvements in click-through rates and, resultingly, conversion rates and revenue.

Client: I see. How would we do this? Continue reading


American Exceptionalism: It’s the economy, stupid


Image courtesy of Pew Research

My grandfather was a union-buster at Hanes Dye and Finishing Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He got his degree on the GI bill after World War Two and worked his way up through the company, all the way to executive vice-president. He was one promotion away from the presidency. He could have made Hanes Dye the best chemical company in the world. Instead they made him the straw boss. Continue reading


Iran Deal: open letter to Congress


image courtesy of

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your service to our country. As you know, President Obama’s historic peace accord with Iran is in jeopardy. Granted, we could smash Iran into little pieces without very much effort at all. However, to do so would precipitate a catastrophic descent into world war, destabilizing our military hegemony and costing millions or billions of lives. It would also place America firmly in the historical category of hubristic villain states, and could very well bring about our downfall, if not our complete destruction. A vote against the Iran deal is a vote for that second option. Continue reading

The Arts

Art as production for use turned into art as production for profit

The art world can’t help but be pleased with the efforts of its victims — there’s money to be made, after all. But there are those of us who watch these developments with increasing alarm, wondering if the art world will ever wake up. The saving grace is that art’s machinations generally have little effect on the rest of the globe. That may be the reason that art — especially today’s art — “is the only human activity that does not lead to killing.” Contemporary art has made itself so meaningless that nobody can be bothered to pull the trigger over it. – Alex Melamid

On Kawara (image courtesy Wikimedia)

I am almost finished with Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, but rather than rush through the novel’s ending and write hurriedly about it, I wanted a few days to ponder it since I feel it deserves thoughtful consideration. I’ll write about it in my next essay over the weekend.

That, of course, leaves me with the need to find a topic for this essay. I have two, and after careful consideration (that sound you hear is the coin landing on the table), I’ve decided to write about an interesting piece from Huffington Post that is yet another complaint about the problems facing contemporary art. The piece focuses on visual art, but I think the same is true for literature and music, so much of what the author says applies to art in the broad sense of the term’s usage.

That problem is, perhaps explained by using terms that will set of alarm bells for all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons: “production for use” and “production for profit.”

But first a few words about On Kawara who is sort of a poster child for what the title of this essay is on about….

Continue reading


Mirror mirror: Obama is the Democratic Reagan

We love symbolic victories in the culture wars. But what is Obama doing while we’re distracted? Selling us out, just like Ronnie did.

I used to argue that Ronald Reagan was playing the religious right like a wore-out banjo. Sorta. The big social issue of the day, of course, was abortion, and Ronnie did a lot of talking about how it had to be stopped. The thing was, he always talked a lot more than he did. Yes, reproductive freedom was under siege more post-Reagan than pre-, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been a lot worse had he genuinely cared as much as he pretended he did.

What Reagan really cared about was the crowd we now call “1%ers.” It was about further enriching the already rich through any means necessary. Problem was, 1%ers didn’t comprise a voting majority. So the conservative project that had been building since the mid-’60s had developed a brilliant coalition strategy – “movement conservatism” – that pulled together all kinds of people who shared the same “values.” They didn’t really, but this was about getting elected. Continue reading


Do we have a ‘Big Foot’ problem with the news?

When I worked in public relations, we called the process “big footing.”

If we knew some damaging or negative news was likely to break on a given day, we would plan our own announcement and hope it would big enough to divert attention from – or “big foot” – whatever announcement was likely to -play poorly with the press and the public.

Given the convenience of the Internet and social networks, the process of “big footing” is even stronger today, and sometimes it takes place without a push from a PR or communications pro.

Continue reading


Greece votes “No,” leaving us where?

When Yanis Varoufakis left academia to take up his position as Greece’s finance minister after the far-left electoral victory which brought Syriza to power, he said words to the effect that – if things didn’t work out – he could always go back to university.

“I mean, I really don’t want to be in this office … I will go back to my book about Europe, which is half-finished. It’s very difficult to find an ending when I am still in this job.”

I took away from that soundbite that he, akin with many of his ivory-tower colleagues, is unsuited for the real world and would abandon the consequences of his actions as soon as he got bored.

Today, he did just that, saying, “I wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.” Continue reading


CNN’s ‘Courageous’ — recycling an idea that was bad decades ago

Move along, now. There’s nothing new here. Really.

From the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Perlberg:

CNN is creating an in-house studio that will produce news-like content on behalf of advertisers, a move that reflects marketers’ growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work.

CNN calls its foray into “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” by the name “Courageous.” But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Marketers know their ads generally compete with other content. Continue reading


War and economics: where is Bernie Sanders’ 12th step?

There’s much to like about Bernie Sanders, but can he really help us kick the war habit?

Occupy Democrats and US Uncut have a handy macro going around that highlights Bernie’s 11 point economic agenda. It’s big. It’s important. It’s to be lauded. And if we’re not to have Bernie, it’s to be emulated. But we’ve also seen the devastating effect war has had on our economy, to say nothing of the lives lost to our wayward military adventurism. Below you’ll find my own reasons for supporting this 11-point economic plan as well as some serious consideration of his missing 12th point. Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Facebook’s See Less: the new “feature” that DOES. NOT. WORK.

Facebook - UnshareRecently the wizards at Facebook rolled out a new feature: See Less. It allows you, allegedly, to mark certain of your friends so that fewer of their posts show up in your feed. Intended as a polite way of dialing back your exposure to overparticipaters and people that, for whatever reason, you just aren’t as interested in as others.

Great idea. Great idea. If you’re like most people, you’re probably “friends” with all kinds of people you aren’t friends with. In my case, I’m friends with people I don’t know and couldn’t pick out of a lineup and I can’t actually remember how we “met” in the first place. Which is fine – some of these people are really bright and I enjoy what they bring to my news feed. Serendipity, exposure to unexpected viewpoints – these are good things.

But. Continue reading