Apr 26

Creed: the Best Swan Song for the Rocky Franchise

Creed Would Be the Best Song Song for the Rocky FranchiseOver the weekend, I watched the 2015 hit Creed. This is not surprising. Since I saw the first Rocky in early 1977, I’ve been a fan of it. That first film remains a great cinematic accomplishment. Although utterly genre, John Avildsen’s direction makes the film seem almost cinéma vérité. It was the first film to make major use of the steadicam — but primarily for financial reasons. Thus, it adds to the film rather than distracting as it did in many films to follow, most notably Goodfellas. The acting was exceptional, and the script establish Sylvester Stallone as one of the best genre writers in Hollywood.

I was almost as happy with Rocky II. Although Stallone directed it, he did his best to imitate Avildsen. I remember going to see Rocky III on opening day and being crushed. It was clear at that point that any art in the Rocky franchise was gone and that it was now commodity. Rocky IV was an offense of epic proportions. Even without getting into the politics of it, the casting of Dolph Lundgren was rediculous. Rocky V is an odd film. It is Stallone’s weakest script, but it manages to succeed more than it deserves with the return of Avildsen as director. Finally, Rocky Balboa managed to charm, but the boxing was ancillary and even more unbelievable than usual.

Creed Is a Reboot

I just don’t think Creed could have been a hit four decades ago, which is all the more reason it makes a fine bookend to the Rocky franchise.

Creed is distinct in many ways. Primarily, it is a reboot — essentially a remake of the first film. It is the only one in the Rocky universe in which the title character does no boxing. Unlike all the other films that you could say were Stallone’s, this one is writer-director Ryan Coogler’s. (It was co-written with Aaron Covington.) And there is much to like about him. I think he has a fine career ahead of him. But Creed is hardly a great film, even though only the original Rocky is clearly superior.

The biggest problem with the film is that it tries to do far too much in what is, after all, a simple genre picture. The film is based on the same “give a nobody the chance of a lifetime” plot that the original was based on. I have no problem with that. But I’m not sure how a writer could create a story based on that kernel and then expect us to take seriously the chemotherapy treatments of the trainer. But more than that, this is a film that is cluttered with too many subplots and a lead character that doesn’t have much in the way of a personality.

Creed Washes Racist Tint of Original

Still, I’m very glad the film was made, because it makes up from what I always saw as a problem with the first film: its implicit racism. By this, I’m not talking about the film itself. Rather, I’m talking about what I discussed in Zulu and the Racism We Bring to It. I simply don’t think that Rocky would have been a hit had the races of the fighters been swapped. That’s just a fact of American life. Maybe its more accurate to say that the problem is ethnocentrism: whites want to see a white man win — especially in the mid-1970s — when whites in the US were still in their migration from the cities to the suburbs to escape the “horrors” of busing.

Creed does manage to reverse the races of the characters. And it does it effectively and affectingly. Just the same, Tony Bellew as the “bad” British boxer Ricky Conlan isn’t quite the threat that Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was. Creed was a stand-in for the ultimate white terror: an intelligent and powerful black man. In fact, that’s one of the high points of the original movie where Creed is working on his various business dealings while we watch Rocky punching raw frozen beef on the television.

Let Creed Be the Franchise’s End

I find it impossible not to see Creed in political terms — and very positives ones at that. The first was a huge hit, and I just don’t think Creed could have been a hit four decades ago. And it makes a fine bookend to the Rocky franchise. Unfortunately, a sequel was in development and may become a film. I doubt that Coogler would be much involved, given he is finishing Black Panther and seems generally of a mind to make films of some substance.

My hope is that Creed is the end of the franchise. It is the way to go out. What would a sequel offer us anyway? It would almost certainly be a combination of Rocky II and Rocky III. Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan) would marry Bianca (Tessa Thompson). And Rocky would die — but probably much later in the film than Mickey (Burgess Meredith) did in Rocky III. And Creed would become the champion. I just can’t see it being anything but filmmaking by the numbers.

Creed would be the best swan song for this very uneven franchise. I dearly hope that it is.

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Apr 26

Corporate Tax Cut Would Destroy Government

George CallasI want to pick up on… the constraints of reconciliation rules as well as [the possibility that] the White House might come out with a plan that has no offsets. It is a very, very important point here. A plan of business tax cuts that has no offsets… is not a thing. It’s not a real thing and people can come up with whatever plans they want. Not only can that not pass Congress, it cannot even begin to move through Congress day one.

There are political reasons for that. Number one, members wouldn’t vote for it. But there are also statutory procedural legal reasons why that can’t happen… There is this magic unicorn running around, and I think one of the biggest threats to the timeline on tax reform is the continued survival of magic unicorns — people saying “Why don’t we do this instead?” when this is actually something that cannot be done. And as long as that exists, it’s hard to move forward by getting people to go through what the Speaker refers to as the stages of grief for tax reform where you have to come to the realization that there are tough choices that have to be made. And you cannot escape those tough choices.

[The reconciliation rules] don’t say that tax cuts have to sunset in 10 years. They say that you cannot have the deficit increase beyond the 10 year window… If your permanent tax reform that is fully offset with the base broadening forever, you are fine. You don’t have to make anything sunset under the reconciliation rules. You can have permanent tax cuts that are paid for in the out years. You have legislation that has no offsets, no base broadening, so it’s just tax cuts. You either have to get Democrats to support it, which they will not. Or you have to do it through reconciliation so you can do it on a partisan basis with only Republican votes.

Again, reconciliation says you cannot increase the deficit after 10 years… Here is a data point for folks. A corporate rate cut that is sunset after three years will increase the deficit in the second decade. We know this. Not 10 years. Three years. You could not do a straight-up offset three-year corporate rate cut in reconciliation. The rules prohibit it.

You might be able to do two years. A two year corporate rate cut would have virtually no growth effect. It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would not stop any inversions or acquisitions of US companies by foreign companies. It would not cause anyone to restructure their supply chain. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.

–George Callas
Institute of International Finance Policy Summit, Tax Policy

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/26/george-callas/

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Apr 25

Sick and Tired and Over-Worked

Frank MoraesHave you missed me? I’m sick and tired and over-worked. Really. I have some awful kind of flu. I’m not sleeping well. And I have various obligations that are making attention to this blog very difficult. But I thought I could spend a few minutes ranting to you about stuff that’s on my mind. But note that throughout this week, I will post what I can, I’m just not sure what I’ll be able to post. (Maybe stuff like this.)

Politics

I know most of the regulars around here come for the politics. To be honest, I don’t know why. None of you seem to agree with me. And more and more I’m seeing myself as an old fashioned socialist. You know: like George Bernard Shaw. But you know, without the brilliance. Anyway, I wanted to say something about politics — keep you all interested.

I hear that our man from whine country, Josh Barro, thinks that the Republicans won’t agree on cutting taxes. You know: because a lot of Republicans want tax reform and Trump simply wants to cut taxes. It always amazes me that a man with all Barro’s advantages can be so amazingly ignorant. Who thinks the Republicans aren’t going to come together to cut the taxes of the rich? That’s their raison d’etre. Give me a break!

Spider Baby

I might be doing great when you read this. Or terrible. But I’ll be busy. I hope by this weekend, I’ll be back writing the kind of considered nonfiction that you’ve come to expect of me.

In 1967, Jack Hill made a horror-comedy called Spider Baby. I’ve been obsessing about it. I can’t believe that I had never seen the film until about a week ago. It stars Lon Chaney as a very caring and sympathetic chauffeur and caretaker of three children who are, well, insane — if that’s the right word. It is laugh-out-loud funny and hide-your-eyes scary.

Not that I expect any of you to care. Oh, a few you will, I suppose. In fact, I can even imagine someone commenting that it’s their favorite film. Of course, no one commented on the quote I posted about Jill Banner, so maybe not. My taste in film has change, and as with most things in my life, it’s just pushed we further into isolation. But if you get a chance to see the film, give a view for me.

The Plays

You know, I’ve written a couple dozen plays, but none of them are “feature” length: one and a half to two hours. And so I’ve been working really hard to turn a 45 minute play into a full length one. And after much painful work, I’ve decided to screw it. I probably mentioned that I was working on a play where the cast and crew (the same thing in my plays) divide into two factions and go to war with each other.

I haven’t been able to make it work. But I know that I can — I just have to spend the time on it. But it occurred to me the other day that it made no sense to do that in that play. And that got me thinking that it’s madness to try to make any of my plays this long. They aren’t truly plays but theatrical essays. I get over a half an hour on a very wacky comedy about MP3 compression. That in itself is a herculean accomplishment.

Turn the Water Off

The whole thing reminded me that one of my favorite plays when I was a kid (and now too) is Robert Anderson’s 1967 smash Broadway play You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running. And what is that? It’s just 4 short plays put together. Now I’m no Anderson. But it did occur to me that I could make a play where the first act is two 30 minute plays and the second act is a 45 minute play.

And then I can take the play around to theater people and show it them. That will provide the high point of my life were the head of some theater company says, “Haven’t you ever seen a play?!” That would be delicious!

Because that’s all I’ve got: I’m weird. Yes, I’ve seen many plays. And I’ve read hundreds. And the things that I’ve taken from them are different than what most people have taken from then. I really do know what I’m doing. But I’m not Shaw. I’m not Anderson. That’s probably why Psychotronic Review is so important to me. You might hate my play “MP3” (I’m not that fond of it myself, although it has 10 minutes that are magic). But it would be different from what you expect. And you wouldn’t know how it was going to end.

(Am I alone in this? Does it bother any of you that you know how almost every play and film is going to end? There’s a reason for that: the play wouldn’t work otherwise. At least it wouldn’t in a traditional story. But good God: have we learned nothing since Homer?!)

So the idea of knowledgeable people hating my work is wonderful. I’ve always felt much better as an outsider. It’s easier to be hated than loved. (There is, of course, the small chance that there is an audience for my work — but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.)

That’s All Folks

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write this week. But I’m not going anywhere. In fact, as I sit here, drinking my Theraflu, I’ve gotten kind of excited. I might be doing great when you read this. Or terrible. But I’ll be busy. I hope by this weekend, I’ll be back writing the kind of considered nonfiction that you’ve come to expect of me. (Note: “considered” was added to that sentence as a joke.) Although I really have about 3,000 pent up words on Spider Baby, and you know I’m not going to be publishing it here.

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Apr 24

Trump’s Big Week

Brian Beutler - Trump's Big WeekIt’s hard to imagine a better metaphor for Donald Trump’s presidency than if, backed by a Republican-controlled Congress, he celebrates his 100th day in office by shutting down his own government. This outcome is by no means inevitable, but the odds of it are astonishingly high: Government funding runs out on Friday, and Trump hits the 100-day mark on Saturday.

It is unprecedented in the modern era for an appropriations fight to end in a government shutdown when one party has full control — or really under any configuration other than when the president is a Democrat and Republicans control at least one chamber in Congress. The current partisan alignment should effectively preclude a shutdown, but Trump’s particular mix of incompetence, narcissism, and poor judgment is potent enough to confound basic game theory. As in so many realms of public affairs, Trump’s mere presence creates massive amounts of uncertainty.

To see how Trump changes the normal calculation, consider what the appropriations process would look like in a more generic case, where Republicans enjoyed identical congressional majorities but under a president who behaved rationally.

In that case, we would expect the president and GOP leaders to work backwards from a desire to avoid a shutdown, toward an optimal outcome in which appropriations did not lapse and Congress funded as many of their priorities as possible. The hard fact that funding the government almost always requires a measure of bipartisanship places a fairly firm limit on what’s possible in that context. The minority party has a disproportionate amount of power over annual appropriations, but you go to the spending fight with the army you have, not the army you might want, or wish to have at a later time. If Democrats were horribly recalcitrant, they could reject every single Republican bid, leaving Republicans a choice between simply extending existing funds or shutting down the government — in which case a rational party would harrumph and agree to extend the funds.

–Brian Beutler
Trump Will Provoke a Crisis or Be Humiliated This Week

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/24/trumps-big-week/

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Apr 23

The Short Life of Jill Banner

Jill BannerI don’t know how we found out about Jill Banner. Somebody must have told us about her. She just came into the office for an interview and I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to get any kind of a leading role. We just chatted with her and she admitted she hadn’t had any experience. But she said, “I’m a lot of fun to have around.” And the way she said that, all of us in the room suddenly felt that this strange girl was just right for the picture. She just had this kind of presence.

It wasn’t until not too many years ago I had been trying to locate Jill Banner. I had a phone number on her, and I had no idea that she had died. And I learned that she had died in a terrible, terrible automobile accident on the Pacific Coast Highway. She was at that time living with Marlon Brando and, in fact, working on a screenplay with him. And I also heard from Jill’s manager that Brando that told someone that Jill was the only woman he had ever really loved. At her funeral, he remained long after everybody else had left — standing over her grave. So it must have been quite a relationship. And she was quite a remarkable girl, so I could understand very much why Brando would be fascinated by her.

–Jack Hill
Interviewed in The Hatching of Spider Baby

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/23/jill-banner/

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Apr 22

Professor Moore Is Dead

Will H Moore - Professor Moore Is DeadWill H Moore was a professor of Political Science at Arizona State University. On Wednesday, he posted Punched Out on his blog Will Opines. It was a shockingly calm and rational suicide note. I wasn’t even sure it was for real, but Inside Higher Ed confirmed that he had, Professor Shares Suicide Note on Blog. A friend sent it to me saying that she feared that it read rather too much like me and that I might some day do this.

It’s interesting to read the blog post because it is neither whiny nor sad. I suppose there is a certain amount of resignation in it. But it shows how a person’s situation isn’t what matters but how they experience it. Professor Moore even seems to understand that his suicide is the act of a privileged man. The blog post would be less ambiguously titled “clocked out,” because that’s what he’s doing — he’s done with life in the same way that a factory worker is done with a day of work. (He is explicit about this.)

To Write Is to Live

But the suicide note itself shows how different Moore is from me. I can’t imagine writing a suicide note. If I still have the will to communicate, then I will keep on. Just the same, much of what he wrote was chillingly familiar. But it seemed to be more me of a couple of decades ago. I spent a good decade of my life trying to kill myself through other means. And I survived in a way that has made me, I think, a better person. At least I can say this: I like myself more than the man I used to be. And more important: I like myself more now and I liked myself then.

Professor Moore mentions that on the Meyer-Briggs test, he always scored (IE)NTJ. That is: he was sometimes introverted and sometimes extroverted. N stands for intuition (vs sensing). T is for thinking (vs feeling). And J is for judgement (vs perception). When I was younger, I was a solid INTP, but over the years, my T score fell to the point where I am now solidly INFP. But I feel certain that I would have liked Moore. I have had a lot of (IE)NTJ friends over the years. They’re more grounded than I am. I suppose I add a little color to their lives and they add a little stability to mine.

Why Did Professor Moore Do It?

Put simply, Moore’s reason for suicide is that he needs to produce or he falls into depression. But in order to produce, he must interact with people, which he finds painful. He said that he was borderline autistic — having great difficulty understanding why other people acted as they do. This is the one place where I feel most distant from him. To me, the abyss is my friend. I think I’m somewhat like Emily Dickinson. I’d love to be well known and widely read; but I’m fine just producing for me, and when I’m gone, the abyss.

Of course, I don’t believe that this is why Professor Moore killed himself. I don’t think there are reasons. The drive is there and then we make up the reasons. But it certainly doesn’t seem like this is a momentary fancy on his part. Whatever private suffering he was experiencing, it is gone now. It’s sad for those who loved him. But the old Christian platitude is one that I fully accept because I think that death is simply the absence of suffering: he is in a better place now.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/22/professor-moore/

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Apr 22

CBP Investigated for Abuse of @ALT_USCIS

Sam Biddle - CBP Investigated for Abuse of @ALT_USCISIn the first week of April, Twitter revealed that the US Customs and Border Protection agency was trying to force the company to reveal the identity of @ALT_USCIS, an anonymous, deeply anti-Trump account claiming to be run from within US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of Homeland Security is now formally investigating whether the attempted unmasking was an abuse of power.

Just one day after Twitter said that it had been targeted by a CBP summons demanding identifying information about @ALT_USCIS, Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat outspoken on privacy issues, wrote a letter to the agency’s acting commissioner asking for an explanation of what clearly appeared to be a politically motivated attempt to stifle speech critical of the Trump administration. In a response sent today, John Roth, inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, the parent organization of both CBP and USCIS, said that “We have concluded that no classified information was released via the @ALT_USCIS Twitter account,” and that the summons itself is now the subject of an internal review…

–Sam Biddle
Border Agency Under Investigation for Trying to Unmask Anonymous Twitter Account

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/22/alt_uscis/

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Apr 21

Apparently Trump Won’t Protect Julian Assange

Apparently Trump Won't Protect Julian AssangeI just saw this headline at CNN, Sources: US Prepares Charges to Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. I thought it a bit strange because I thought that Assange would be most safe if Donald Trump became president.

Look, I understand that Hillary Clinton lost the election due to a kind of political perfect storm. There are so many single things that could have gone differently that seem like they would have given the presidency to her. But I’m convinced that this isn’t really true. There is one thing alone that assured her defeat. You could take everything else away, but with the WikiLeaks drip, drip, drip of substanceless innuendo, she would have lost regardless.

Julian Assange’s First Problem

So Donald Trump owes his current job title to Julian Assange. Now if Assange had done such a great favor to men as vile as Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich, I firmly believe they would protect him. But there are two major things that stop Trump from doing so. One is that he’s delusional. I doubt that he knows what a huge favor Assange did for him.

Oh sure, Trump said that he loved WikiLeaks. But Trump’s attention span is about that of a gnat. And loving the sabotage that WikiLeaks was doing to Clinton doesn’t mean that Trump had or has any idea of just how much help he was receiving.

And Assange has said he has nothing against Clinton personally. In an interview with Jeremy Scahill, he said, “I think I’d probably like her in person… In some ways she’s a bit like me, She’s a bit wonkish and a bit awkward. So maybe we’d get along.” That certainly can’t endear him to Trump.

(For the record, I don’t think Assange wanted Trump to win so much as he just wanted to mess with the United States. And although I understand that urge, a lot of poor people, who have never had his advantages will die because of his meddling. Power is extremely dangerous in anyone’s hands. I know it would be a bad idea to give it to me.)

Julian Assange’s Second Problem

If Julian Assange rots in a prison for a decade — Or the rest of his life! — I’ll feel bad for him, just like I feel bad for almost everyone in that situation.

The second issue, of course, is that Donald Trump just doesn’t care. I’m sure if he were capable of seeing that Assange made him president, Trump’s response would be, “Yeah, but what have you done for me lately?”

I know that there has been a lot of reporting about how loyal Donald Trump is to his friends. But he’s kind of the anti-me. I find it almost impossible to stay angry at anyone if they are not continuing to make me angry. So I hate you while you’re kicking me but once you stop, I’m not angry for very long.

For Trump, it’s that he likes you as long as you smooch his bottom. But that has to keep going. If you don’t say anything bad about him, he won’t go after you. But if you aren’t actively saying what a great guy he is, he isn’t going help you out. And I don’t think that Julian Assange is inclined to smooch his bottom, nor is he in a position to do so if he were so inclined.

I Used to Feel Sorry for Julian Assange

The truth is that Assange has been treated very badly — especially by the United States and then all the countries that will do its bidding to stay on its good side. And I do think that bad things will happen to Assange and that they will be unjust. But I’ve gotten to the point of not caring. He’s done a lot of good work, but he threw it away in what was nothing but a partisan campaign to keep the media constantly talking about Hillary Clinton’s email, even though there really wasn’t anything of substance there.

If Julian Assange rots in a prison for a decade — Or the rest of his life! — I’ll feel bad for him, just like I feel bad for almost everyone in that situation. But I won’t feel anything special for him. I won’t feel for him the way I did for Chelsea Manning and the way I do feel for Edward Snowden.

(And for the record: Edward Snowden is an American hero. And those who don’t see that have been blinded by the power elite. The arguments against him are so pathetic that I can’t even bear to get into them anymore. But let me say this. For all of you out there who claim that he should come back to the US and stand trial, remember this: he won’t be able to defend himself. The courts will find that everything he wants to use to defend himself will endanger national security. So I don’t want to hear it. All of you can stand up and call for transparency — as long as it is in theory or in the past. Otherwise: blah, blah, blah. Just admit that you don’t believe in transparency — “I believe in the the transparency that the power elite want to provide to me!” — and we’ll get along a lot better.)

The Future Is Unknown

Of course, Julian Assange might make it out of all this without much discomfort. There seems to be more sympathy in this country for the man who gave us the worst president in recent history than the man who informed the nation about the bad actions of our government.

Regardless, I will not be crying any tears for Julian Assange. Just like Donald Trump won’t.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/21/julian-assange-2/

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Apr 21

Bernie Sanders: Forward to the Past

Thomas FrankI don’t think it’s personal towards Sanders. He’s a hard person to hate. I think it’s ideological, but it’s complicated. The Clinton wing of the Democratic Party are the people who I described in Listen, Liberal. These are professional-class liberals. They regard themselves as being experts — as being extremely pragmatic. They know how everything works in Washington. And they look at a guy like Bernie Sanders and the constant criticism of him, that they still use, is that none of his proposals practical — that they wouldn’t get anywhere in Congress. And on that level they are realistic and he is not. By the way, this is ridiculous in a hundred different ways. But it speaks to who these Democrats are that they see themselves as the people who know how to get things done. You know: the experts.

And then there’s this other sense in which Sanders represents really the past of the Democratic Party. He represents a kind of past that these people have thought was done. They thought that Bill Clinton finished it off back in the early 90s. You remember the Democratic Leadership Council. That was the whole idea. The New Democrats, the Third Way — they were breaking with the New Deal. That kind of liberalism was dead and gone forever. And here comes Sanders, advocating this stuff as if nothing has changed. So it’s still the 1940s. That really bothers this kind of Democrat that we’re describing here.

–Thomas Frank
Interview on The Majority Report 20 April 2017

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/21/clinton-wing-fear/

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Apr 20

Marketing Gimmicks Often Destroy Websites

Marketing GimmicksWhen you clicked over to this page, were you unnerved by the lack of a popup advertisement that you had to hunt around to find where the × was hidden to close? Did it make you uncomfortable that the top thing on page is the site’s name and logo and not an ad? Are you terrified at the thought that if you move your mouse out of the window that you will not be offered the chance to sign up for our newsletter? If so, you are suffering from the “Marketing Gimmicks Fad” syndrome.

Don’t worry. It isn’t a disease that you have; it’s a disease that website owners have. The problem is that you and all the rest of us suffer from it. But it’s hard to blame website owners. The truth is that advertising rates on the internet have always been too low and they have only gotten worse. So people are trying to stay in business. I just think that the use of such marketing gimmicks isn’t an effective approach.

Most Marketing Gimmicks Are Fads

What’s more, these things go in waves. You’ll notice almost overnight, a large percentage of websites will start using a new technique. But eventually they go away. I suspect that all of these tricks work at first. But then people get used to them and just close them. They are just one of many of life’s annoyances like the guy next door who plays his television loud enough for people in the parking lot to hear. But I can’t help but think that they do damage to the website’s brand.

My best example of this is Washington Monthly that I slowly stopped reading because there were so many ads that the pages took forever to load. It’s a great compliment to the site that I stayed with it so long. But there’s something more that should terrify website owners. Since that time, the site has been totally redesigned. I wouldn’t exactly call it a fast site, but it’s reasonable: in the middle of the pack. It has been for a while. I know this. Yet I almost never visit the site.

It’s Hard to Regain a Reader

Once you lose a reader, it’s hard to win them back. The truth is that there are damned few websites that are so great that you will go no matter what. I read Greg Sargent’s The Plum Line every day. It’s mostly because I have a vague fondness for him. And it’s good to get a rundown of the news from a liberal perspective. But it isn’t that great. I could certainly find the same thing elsewhere.

What every website owner wants is to have a site that is so good that people will put up with anything just to get its amazing content. But we all need to understand that we are unlikely to attain that. (We should all strive, though.) And so we should do our best to not annoy our readers. If they are in the habit of visiting, let them keep up the habit. A short-term boost in profit is not worth a long-term loss of traffic.

Two Kinds of Websites

Of course, I’m writing from the Frankly Curious perspective. For websites that depend upon ad revenue, regular readers aren’t that great. They are actually less likely to click on the Google ads that litter the page, because they are focused on the content. It’s the people who just showed up via Google who are more likely to click on a shiny advertisement. And annoying them is not such a big deal. If your regulars (who aren’t making you any money) disappear, so what? Well, for a blog like this, so a lot.

I’ve begun to see the internet as being divided in two: the commercial and the non-commercial sides. And even though Frankly Curious is certainly not the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it falls much closer to the non-commercial side of the internet. I think website owners should decide on this when they start a site. Because I see a lot of sites that clearly aren’t meant to make (much) money that follow along with annoying trends.

Marketing Gimmicks Won’t Make You Rich

But if I’m so smart, why aren’t I rich? Part of it is my overall negativity. But I think there is much too much talk of making money on the internet anyway. A much smarter approach is to use the internet to leverage something else that you can make money off of. But I know that many of these marketing gimmicks are a bad idea because they come and go. If people are serious about making money from their websites, there are tried and true things that can be done. The smartest website owners work on them and don’t worry about these marketing gimmicks.

It’s of note, however, that it is often well established websites that use such marketing gimmicks. And that may be because they are being conned by consultants. That’s a topic for another day. But my advice to website owners is to focus your front-end on being user friendly. And grow your site by getting more people to visit by using the standard techniques of creating good content and developing backlinks. Or you can be like Neil Patel and help make the internet a progressively less useful place.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/20/marketing-gimmicks/

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Apr 20

The Real Lesson of Bill O’Reilly Is Not Rosy

Michael Hiltzik - The Real Lesson of Bill O'Reilly Is Not RosyThe lesson likely to be widely drawn from the eviction of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, announced Wednesday, is that even the biggest of big shots can’t evade their comeuppance forever. Put simply, “What goes around comes around.”

This will no doubt gratify the legions who detest O’Reilly for his politics, his abusive manners, his baleful influence on American public discourse, and his reported history of sexual harassment, the proximate cause of his departure from Fox.

But it’s the wrong lesson. The right lesson is less uplifting. It’s that if you bring in lots of money for your employer and have the right friends in the right places, you can get away with the most egregious conduct almost forever.

O’Reilly, after all, has been at the top of the broadcasting world for at least a couple of decades. He made it all the way to the post-retirement age of 67 before getting fired despite having been publicly accused of sexual harassment, in great detail, by a Fox producer in a quickly settled lawsuit nearly 17 years ago. The terms of his separation from Fox haven’t been disclosed, but it’s a safe bet that it will be measured in the millions of dollars.

–Michael Hiltzik
The Bill O’Reilly Case Shows How Much Fox News and UC Berkeley Have (Horrors!) in Common

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/20/bill-oreilly-firing/

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Apr 19

The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as Outsiders

Paul Wellstone - The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as OutsidersI’ll admit it: I’m an extremist. If I had my druthers, I’d dismantle the capitalist system. It’s morally indefensible. But I’m also a practical guy. So I’m more than willing to accept the Democratic Party. But I want to push it in the right direction. It’s hilarious that Bernie Sanders goes around calling himself a socialist and people don’t slap him. Do words no longer have any meaning?!

But I’m definitely part of the “Sanders wing” of the Democratic Party. I’m willing to accept a party that supports unions and takes care of the poor and doesn’t apologize for the fact that, yes, we have to pay taxes for that. And just to prove it, I just paid over 22 percent of my income last year to the federal government. And I’m proud to do it, even though I don’t make that much money. I assure you that Donald Trump and Mitt Romney both paid a far smaller percentage of their incomes.

Allies Who Disagree

But hey: we’re stuck together for right now. We are on the same side: the side that thinks the government should actually work for the people.

So what I’m saying is that as a practical matter, I’m a good old fashioned New Deal and Great Society Democrat. But I understand that the New Democrats still have enormous power in the party. And I understand that the party is still wedded to neoliberal ideas. It’s always a better idea to give money to the rich so they can give a job to the poor than to just give the money (Or the job!) to the poor. Everything has to be complicated because — Damnit! — Ezra Klein and Bill Clinton are both really smart guys and they don’t cotton to no simple answers!

But I get it. Somethings things are complicated. I’m not against that. But just as Republicans approach every problem with a long list of things they absolutely can’t do because of their ideology, the New Democrat side of the Democratic Party approaches every problem by assuming that simple answers won’t work. I think they’re wrong. And I will argue with them. But I understand that they are on my side.

The problem is: I don’t think they understand that I’m on their side. I think they are like the The People’s Front of Judea:

Intra-Fighting Trumps (!) Inter-Fighting

It seems to be worse in the United Kingdom, where the establishment of the Labour Party (You know: the ones who kept losing elections!) seem happier to see the Tories in control of the government than Labour if scary old Jeremy Corbyn leads the party. And this was always my single biggest concern about Bernie Sanders during the last Democratic primary. For all the bellyaching about Sanders supporters not supporting Clinton in the general election, we did — in a big way.

But I feel certain that had Sanders won the primary, the establishment would have treated him the way they treated George McGovern in 1972. “The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front!”

Democratic Party: Too Big a Tent

And actually, there’s a reason for this. The United States is a one-party country. The Republicans aren’t a political party. They’re just a group of nuts. The only people who are actually interested in how the government is run are now in the Democratic Party. And in that way the New Democrats and the New Deal Democrats really are two parties. But hey: we’re stuck together for right now. We are on the same side: the side that thinks the government should actually work for the people.

Sure, you would think the Republicans would be for that too, but they aren’t. And that’s the reason that the Democratic Party with its far too big a tent needs to stick together. And that is why I was a strong supporter of Hilary Clinton. Because on the issues that are open for discussion in our deeply troubled country, I agreed with her the vast majority of the time.

We’ve Got to Get Along — for Now

My question to the New Democrats is whether they can see that. I got into a big fight with an old friend over Glenn Greenwald, even though I have little doubt that my friend not only agrees with me the vast majority of the time but that he agrees with Greenwald the vast majority of the time.

The only way we save this country is if we hate the “Romans” more than the “fucking Judean People’s Front!” And if we do, we can destroy the Republicans. Then we can dig deeper and disagree enough to have two different political parties. (Actually, all the New Democrats would just become Republicans. Or we would. What’s in a name?) But if the New Democrats think that’s going to happen by brushing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party aside, they are sadly mistaken, and we might all just give up now.

Afterword

That phrase “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is most known from Howard Dean. Other than his stance on the Iraq War, I’m not much of a fan of the man. He is a New Democrat. Dean took the phrase from Paul Wellstone and so I claim it as ours: the people who want more Great Society and less welfare “reform” and education “reform” — the people who want more equality and less of the false promise of “equality of opportunity.”

Another Afterword

And don’t go complaining that there is a tiny group of liberals who won’t vote for the Democratic Party. This has been true my entire life. Just because they liked Bernie Sanders doesn’t mean anything. The vast majority of Sanders supporters voted for Clinton — about the same as the number of Clinton supporters who voted for Obama in 2008. I have one thing to say to anything anyone wants to say on this issue: all Indians walk in single-file, at least the only one I ever saw did.

Learn statistics, folks!

Final Afterword

I’ve more or less changed my mind about who gets to be a dick around here.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/04/19/democratic-party/

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