Sunday, October 21, 2007

Paul Bird Spins More Than Baseballs

> Sometimes, I really love my job. Here's what I wrote today about the breaking Paul Byrd scandal:
Paul Byrd, the pitcher who's been critical in the Cleveland Indians' successful playoff run this season, bought almost $25,000 worth of human growth hormone between 2002 and 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle learned today. Byrd admitted taking HGH, but told Fox Sports he was using it legally with a prescription. The Chronicle report, however, says two of Byrd’s prescriptions came from a dentist whose license was suspended in 2003 for fraud.
Now, obviously this is interesting to sports fans in general, and Red Sox fans in particular. But it's also interesting to anyone interested in how the news cycle works. See that last sentence there? The one where I blow a nice little hole in his story? That didn't make it into a single story I read that was published after the Fox Sports piece.

In other words, Byrd successfully executed a perfect spin. Ninety percent of the time, the media is in the business of saying who said what. As soon as Byrd said everything was on the up-and-up, everyone went with that new "nut." It didn't take a genius to look through the Chronicle article and notice the dentist factoid, or to notice that Byrd bought the drugs from a network that's been busted for selling illegal PEDs with doctored prescriptions (all of which is in the second half of my write up.) But no one mentioned these things in the same breath, because they were from the "old" story, the one titled "Byrd Took HGH." Byrd didn't like that old story, so he manufactured a new one.

This is the exact same technique politicians use all the time. Byrd fed the beast. Once the media catches the scent of a story, it's desperate for any angle it can get. Toss it new information to chew on, and it'll fall all over itself doing so. So when an unflattering news story like "Byrd Took HGH" crops up, all an enterprising bull-shitter has to do is say something contrary, and suddenly the media launches into an insane he-said, she-said ping-pong match.

If someone, right now, were to post a "new" report saying "Byrd Prescription from Fraudulent Dentist!" a whole new wave of "updates" would be published by every site out there. And Byrd knows that. That's why he declined to comment for the Chronicle, where the headline would remain "Byrd Took HGH." Instead he patiently waited a couple hours, then called Ken Rosenthal, producing a new headline: "Byrd Says He Took HGH Legally." Much better. Throws a nice layer of "Who the hell knows?" on the whole thing. Did you know, by the way, that Global Warming is a hoax? Someone said so.

Look, I can't say for sure that Paul Byrd knowingly used HGH to improve his performance. I can't say for sure that he's lying through his teeth. But I can say for sure that if he was lying through his teeth, he picked the savviest possible way of doing it. I can say for sure that Mr. Byrd would be a great politician. He's even got the religious part down.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Future of Media, also Brownback

Short, feel-good day of news:

> The Daily Show's new site isn't just a good idea. It's the future of TV online.

Companies have been pulling their hair out over how to fight YouTube pirating all their shows. Comedy Central is showing us it's easy: You just offer a better product.

Short Version: The new Daily Show site has every minute of every episode the show has ever aired, archived, tagged, and searchable by date and topic. That's dramatically better than the YouTube hodgepodge. Better yet, Viacom has all the masters, so they can make their content look better to boot.

Basically, Viacom is moving with the phenomenon instead of against it. It realizes there's a demand for the clips, so it seeks to be the best place to get them, and monetize with advertising. You know, like television has done since always.

How long can it possibly be before all TV, hell almost all media, is handled this way? You can't stop people from getting your content for free online. You just can't. But you can be the best, easiest place to get your own content online, then monetize the resulting traffic. The content providers have the resources to offer dramatically better options than the pirates, as long as they can figure out how to make money on it without seeming evil or cumbersome.

Television has always been a free medium. It's shocking that it's taking this long for them to figure out the web.

> Hey, while we're on the topic, check this out. Every relevant document in world history, in one ultimately credible, free searchable database. How do you say badass in seven languages?

Note the Google funding. This seems exactly in line with Google's larger plan to index and organize all the world's information. The books are the main hurdle to that goal, and don't think Google's not working on that.

And as ever, I feel compelled to point out, if you index, organize and essentially control all the world's information... isn't that sort of a plan for world domination? There's something kind of weirdly nefarious in Google's awesome mission statement. They may be supervillains at Google, that's all I'm saying.

> And finally, as my editor said when she assigned it, "One fewer candidate who doesn't believe in evolution..."

And okay, yeah, so Brownback only had 1.4% of the vote. That was still too close for my liking.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Flying Saucers! Also, French Justice, and Bad Trips

Let's get right to this, shall we?

> Flying fucking saucer! Okay, so yesterday we had the car that turns into a plane. That was cool. This is maybe even cooler - hell, it's so terrifying-cool that it makes me giddy. To recap: A group has already designed, built and tested a robot flying saucer. These babies rise vertically into the air, and can hover or motor around. They're safer, cheaper and more maneuverable than a helicopter. These already exist and work.

So of course, the Pentagon is interested. They think they might want to use them for, say, urban warfare. Very, very soon my friends, we could be living in a world in which the US army uses flying saucers. In cities. They can land and takeoff from virtually anywhere, so we're not talking about distant UAV drone planes. Contemplate that image for a second. Imagine you're on the streets of Baghdad and there are fucking UFOs in the air, some bringing supplies or soldiers, but others just cruising by... watching.

In practical terms, they will not mean much. Just a better helicopter. But if the image of a UFO-wielding army doesn't fill you with glee and dread and apocalypse... I dunno what to tell you. We are the aliens. Someday we will descend on other planets in our flying saucers with our strange weapons. We will want to know who is in charge.

> Elsewhere...

NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Let's see, she was already mentally ill, drunk, and too young to legally buy the things in the first place... Yeah, this seems like a logical response to her death.

The part that boggles my mind is this figure: Out of half a million doses sold a year, Amsterdam police have had 148 mushroom incidents in the past three years.

Can we get some figures comparing that to the number of alcohol incidents? Please?

> The law works very differently in France.

It's a big complicated story, kind of a true crime thing, but the upshot is, this guy just got convicted of a 30-year-old murder of a casino princess in the French Riviera.

Okay, first off, let me say that I'm sure the guy is probably guilty or, if not guilty, at least a scumbag. Probably, the world is going to be peachy fine with him being in jail.

But doesn't this kind of explode your American sense of Justice? Some points:

- They've never found a body, and don't even pretend to know where, when, how or even if a murder took place

- Which by the way, it might not have. The girl attempted suicide twice in the weeks before she disappeared. She wasn't on good terms with her family. There's no reasonable doubt here?

- They've now tried this guy three times for the same crime

- The second trial acquitted him for insufficient proof.

I didn't realize how attached I was to the American conception of justice until I read this article. It genuinely pissed me off. I mean - you can't try someone again - that's double jeopardy! You can't convict someone when you have absolutely no physical evidence or damning first-hand testimony - there's such a thing as reasonable doubt!

I don't know shit about France's justice system, so I can't say for sure what principles it espouses. But clearly, they aren't the same as those in ye olde American Constitution or legal system.

Which got me thinking. A full half of the bill of rights specifically addresses the rights of the accused. Obviously, this shit is deep in America's genetics, despite concerted attacks from Bush and Co. to dislodge some of it. But is our way best?

That French guy is a scumbag. For sure. He had his mistress lie to give him an alibi, which gives you a certain smoke-fire situation. Is the world worse off because French courts hounded this guy and retried him until they got a conviction. Maybe there was no evidence. But come on, they knew. If OJ had been French, he'd be in jail right now. (Well, actually he is in jail right now, but you get my point.) Is this a bad thing?

And you know what? Yeah. It is. Maybe it's not so bad to be able to re-try someone if the evidence changes, like it did here. Maybe. But I can't see myself ever being comfortable with a government being able to punish someone unless it's totally sure he did something wrong. Look at that poor German bastard the CIA tortured. They were pretty sure he was a terrorist, right?

If you're like me, you don't trust people in power, and you really don't trust people who have a mad on to punish other people. And that's why, yeah, I'm sticking with my reasonable doubt standard, thank you very much.

Call me ethnocentric.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm Back! Also, Genocide, Flying Cars

You know, virtually every insignificant blog on the internet's first post is, "Gee, sorry it's been a while between posts." Then, they usually tell you about their dog/mother/girlfriend's kidney transplant/engagement/coke binge and promise it'll never happen again. And that post is usually like a year old. So, I'm going to skip that part okay?


>First up! Never, never, NEVER underestimate the stupidity or sleaziness of legislators. How did this meeting get off the ground? Hey guys, I've got a great idea, why don't we pass a resolution that has absolutely no point except to piss off a major ally in an ongoing war!

Of course, you only need to read the AP version to figure it out. "The committee's vote was a triumph for well-organized Armenian-American interest groups who have lobbied Congress for decades to pass a resolution." Translation: Some Armenians paid someone in congress lots of money to put out this stupid resolution. They also probably bought some votes. But most of the votes probably came because people didn't want to be on record as denying a genocide. And for the same reason, it'll probably pass in the House.

But that won't really matter right? NATO's second-biggest army, which happens to be our main staging point for the Iraq war and safest Mid-East ally wouldn't really forsake us over something that happened 90+ years ago, right?

Take it away again, AP: "
After France voted last year to make it a crime to deny the killings were genocide, the Turkish government ended its military ties with that country."

Lovely.

Maybe some of you are thinking, "Wait a second Kev, wasn't what happened in 1915 actually a genocide? Aren't maybe legislators just following their consciences? Haven't 20 countries already passed legislation like this?"

And yeah, all that is true. And yeah, I admit, I'm kind of prone to idealism too. But think about it like this: Imagine another country's legislators sat down and spent actual time, on their actual public salary and voted to officially recognize America's slaughter of the entire indigenous population of the continental United States as a genocide. How do you think our leaders would react?

You, me, we might shake our head and say, "Well, this nation did participate in maybe the most breathtaking act of genocide on record. Probably it was worse than the Holocaust. Can't deny it." But something tells me mainstream America isn't quite ready for that.

Look, it was 90 years ago. No one who did it is still alive. Why in god's name would you piss off a major ally over something that happened in World War ONE?

Oh right. Because some Armenian paid you to.

Moving on.

> And now for something completely awesome.

Really I have nothing to say about it. Just oggle the cool picture and dream about the future okay?

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