The Miracle O’ Nice: Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8

In an earlier post on the importance of organizational fit to being successful, I wrote about Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll:

Pete Carroll, the head coach and executive vice-president of the Seattle Seahawks, has for the past several years been implementing his dream of fundamentally changing the team environment by changing the way players are coached. He’s adopting a people-positive approach: “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” His strategy includes an interesting mix of sports psychology, brain performance testing, meditation and visualization, yoga, and an overall focus on the mental as well as physical well-being of the players. It’s an unorthodox, Moneyball-style fresh-thinking approach that I’m betting will have a big payoff.

Many had doubted that Carroll’s approach would pay off. Some thought it was coddling the players – that successful teams were fueled by fear, anger, and aggression.

But here we are, at the end of Super Bowl XLVIII, and it’s pretty damn near a blowout: the Seahawks beat the famed Denver Broncos, 43-8.

During the Winter Olympics in 1980, coach Herb Brooks led a team of amateur and collegiate hockey players to an upset victory over the Soviet team that came to be known as the Miracle On Ice. Brooks did rely heavily on aggressive challenges and confrontation to toughen the team, but also worked to unite them into a cohesive yet flexible team “that could grab whatever opportunities came its way”. Carroll’s positive approach to getting the best out of people and uniting them under his vision has achieved a similar miracle.

Let’s call it the Miracle O’ Nice.

NY1’s Michael Scotto should have followed TWC’s Jim Cantore’s example & given NY Rep. Michael Grimm a “kneeded” lesson in respect

It could have been – should have been – a simple post-State of the Union interview: young reporter from local hometown cable news station interviews US congressman. But at the end of the interview, Michael Scotto, Washington reporter for Time Warner Cable’s 24-hour newschannel NY1, attempted to ask a question on another topic. We never got to hear the question, though, because Representative Michael Grimm (R – Staten Island and Brooklyn) apparently anticipated the content of the question, and immediately cut Scotto off and walked away. But after it appeared that Scotto had finished his on-camera report and signed off, Grimm came barreling back to threaten him.


Needless to say, the camera was still on. Needless to say, the video has gone viral.

Grimm released a statement following the incident:

“I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.”

Uh, pal? If you were in so much of a hurry, why did you have time to come back and physically intimidate Scotto and threaten to “throw [him] off this f**king balcony” and Continue reading

The moniker “Bridgegate” may end up being a very appropriate one

There is and always has been tension regarding the allocation of resources at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said Chris Christie in today’s press conference on the Fort Lee scandal.

THAT is the real issue here. This Bridgegate isn’t really about retribution for the failure of Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich to endorse Chris Christie’s candidacy.

From the reading of the emails “there was other stuff going on that” Christie says he “knew nothing about”. That was this email to Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien:

Wildstein capture

The public and media jumped to the the wrong conclusion regarding retribution. It’s not campaign retribution, it’s internecine retribution within the Port Authority.

Now Christie will probably do his best to spin the story as “problem solved”, distance himself from the Port Authority and keep the attention on himself. Yes, himself. Why? Because if the press keeps digging, they will focus more on the hidden Continue reading

9 reasons why numbering the reasons for your assertion drives more web traffic to your site

This first paragraph is a snappy little emcee, breezily providing the briefest of background on the problem of all those people out there on the internet not clicking through to your little backwater of a blog, or to your huge content farm with ads flashing like carnival barkers, but you already think you know what I’ve written here anyway and have skipped right over this text to skim the neat list of 9 reasons below.

Numerals stop the eye. Eyetracking studies done in the early days of the internet showed that numbers “attract fixations, even when they’re embedded within a mass of words that users otherwise ignore”, such as search results or their Twitter timeline.

Numbering establishes you as an expert. You must have done your research, or at least sat around brainstorming and repeatedly ticking off the list on your fingers, in order to come up with enough reasons to justify numbering them.

Numbering creates a list. Lists are easily scanned for highlights. An old but surprisingly still-cited study found that users don’t read on the web – they scan. No one has time to actually read your content; help them pretend that they did.

Numbers = bullet points. Bullet points = succinct. Succinct = good.

Numbering promises easy answers. Answers to the burning question that your numerically Pavlovian readers didn’t even realize Continue reading

Al Jazeera America asks: Shouldn’t news just give the facts? The false god of utter objectivity

In a promoted tweet today, Al Jazeera America asked “Shouldn’t news just give the facts?”

The problem is with that word “just”. It implies a pure, no-additives-here neutral objectivity. Real news, untainted by bias. It reduces the news organization to “just” a fact-checker and news reader. But given limited time and resources, choices must be made: which news items will be aired? Which facts will be presented? What to leave in, what to leave out…those are editorial judgments.

Those choices are increasingly perceived to be driven in some news organizations by ratings or ideology, rather than the public interest.  In a 2010 opinion published by the Washington Post, Ted Koppel decried the death of real news, calling cable news biased and calling for a return to facts:

We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly – individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

and,

What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor.

Actually, the op-ed piece was more about Koppel’s slightly bitter opinion that news organizations had transitioned “from a public service to a profitable commodity”, and that “company bean-counters” trimmed, cut, and eliminated Continue reading

Sounds like a staged leak: Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul caught on hot mic (via @Politico)

Ah, the “gotcha” of inadvertent eavesdropping. A microphone left live, picking up a confidential strategic conversation. We lean in gleefully, listening over and over again to the supposedly unvarnished truth.

Really? The brief conversation between Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul sounds more like a carefully staged leak designed to get some movement on the impasse over the Obamacare-for-government hostage situation. And that’s a good thing.

Listen to Rand Paul at :23 talk about compromise on Obamacare:

“I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for that, and now we’re willing to compromise on this….”

The Politico article is here.

Fork you, America: political chess move attacking Obamacare & budget creates win-win for Republicans, big business

In chess, a fork is a tactic whereby a single piece makes two or more direct attacks simultaneously. It’s typically difficult or impossible to defend both attacked pieces.

A core group of conservative Republicans created the political equivalent of a fork: defund or delay Obamacare or we’ll shut down the government. Democrats, and much of the pundit class, have been shaking their heads, wringing their hands, verily clutching their pearls in aghast shock. They have applied all sorts of mannered logical arguments against the tactic, which can be summarized as:

  • Implementation of Obamacare will not be affected by a government shutdown
  • Obama will not give up his “signature achievement”
  • Shutting down the government actually costs money, and thus is wasteful
  • This could hurt the recovery

They tried to reason with those Republicans in much the same way that a parent might use their sing-song “adult” voice when trying to reason with a child in full throttle temper tantrum. And they were about as effective as that parent, which is to say not very.

The Democrats and the pundits are all missing the point, though. The Republicans DON’T CARE what happens, because to them either outcome is a win.

“We have a number of Republican senators and lots of Republican House members who don’t believe in government,” [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said on the Senate floor. “They want to get rid of it, and they’re doing everything they can to get rid of it.”

It’s obvious that delaying or defunding Obamacare would be a win for those Republicans. (It would also set a dangerous precedent: the child would realize that all they have to do is throw a hard enough tantrum, and they will get their way.) What is not immediately obvious – but should be once you Continue reading

SCOTUS decisions and the Wayback Machine: a cure for decision “link rot”?

In SCOTUS Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere http://nyti.ms/1fbtHYU  via @NYTimes

The Supreme Court is increasingly citing in its opinions and decisions hyperlinks to information obtained on the internet. But link rot has become a problem for lawyers and legal scholars accessing them: currently almost half of the hyperlinks in SCOTUS decisions no longer work. Citations and footnotes provide essential background and precedent, and allow lawyers and scholars to drill deeper to understand and assess the court’s evidence and reasoning. In addition to missing cited webpages, there’s also the problem of not having access to the precise content used for the decision, since the web source may have been updated after an opinion has been published. Even its in-house website is inconsistent: many of the links to SCOTUS’s own website no longer work.

We’ve all at some point felt the frustration of getting a 404 message. Ultimately, it would be nice if there were some way that broken or changed links left forwarding information, similar to a forwarding address or new phone number message. But bad links are often a result of content management errors at the website level, and thus – except for its own website – aren’t within the Supreme Court’s control.

If the actual content can’t be mirrored on the Supreme Court’s own website (“retrieved on mm/dd/yyyy”), I’d suggest linking to the page as it is captured on the Internet Archive. That might even be more useful for scholars than content stored on the Supreme Court’s website, because they could see if and how the information had changed before and after the date of retrieval.

Content farms, news aggregators creating Walmart model of media content & shrinking the journalistic middle class

It is no doubt meant to be a breezy New Yorker article (yet with a few hard reportorial straw-man questions) on the development of Bustle.com, a new website for women. It is written by Lizzie Widdicombe in an insider-guide-to-trendy-new-restaurant tone suggesting that the owner, Bryan Goldberg, has insightfully blazed a game-changing trail in the brave new young world of digital media. But the story of Bustle.com is actually a stark example that highlights the financial pressures that are shaping a Walmart model of media content delivery, with the result of dangerously shrinking the journalistic middle class.

Goldberg, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, previously started the sports website bleacherreport.com and sold it to Turner Broadcasting in 2012 for over two hundred million dollars. Widdicombe admiringly notes that its success “was a striking example of the new economics of media: when it began, its articles were written by a network of two thousand unpaid sports fans”. Goldberg is using a similar content farm model – non-experts generating search-engine-optimized opinion-oriented content – to create the “female equivalent of ESPN.com, an advertiser-friendly Web site that appeals to just about all members of one sex”.

The staff consists of four female editors in their mid-twenties, who have been given equity in the company, and “a gaggle of interns—college students or recent graduates, all women”. (Editorial note to writer: “all women” is redundant because at no time in the history of humankind has any group of people that included men been referred to as a gaggle.) Most importantly,

“Goldberg plans to use writers from the group of young women that is Bustle’s intended readership, those aged eighteen to thirty-four. … Writers are paid, but only part-time rates. (Interns get fifty dollars a day, while more established freelancers receive a hundred.)”

That is the first similarity to the Walmart model: employ only Continue reading

GOP House Reps clearly don’t believe in a representative form of government: trying again to kill Obamacare

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

The Republicans are at it again. Undaunted by the failure of their previous 40 attempts to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, Republicans are now trying to tie the raising of the debt ceiling limit to delaying the implementation of Obamacare. Setting aside for a moment arguments about costing money/saving money, job growth/job killer, etc., let me step back and ask two basic questions….

Dear Republicans: what part of “the bill is passed” do you not understand?

Dear Republican House Representatives: what part of “representative democracy” do you not understand?

On March 21, 2010, the House passed the Senate’s bill – their version of the Affordable Care Act – with a vote of 219 to 212. That’s YOU, dear House of Representatives, YOU. You. Passed. The. Bill. It was signed into law on March 23, 2010. That is how our republic works.

Republicans increasingly are being seen as not the party of “limited gummint”, but the party of gumming up the works. That doesn’t save taxpayers money, it costs money. Using the figures from one estimate , this unrelenting, now 41-foot-stomps-and-counting repealing temper tantrum has cost taxpayers around $60 million, and there is nothing to show for it. That figure doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of legislation that hasn’t been worked on, or held-up appointments that are hindering the work of federal agencies.

Wait…legislation not worked on…appointments not confirmed…I’m beginning to believe this quixotic quest (and to say that is glamorizing it far too much) is actually Continue reading