Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Authorities were right to bust-up Texas polygamist cult

In the aftermath of the recent raid on a polygamist cult in Texas, I have been shocked and dismayed by some of the comments I've been reading on various social media sites and blogs by people who feel that the children should not have been removed from the compound or separated from their parents.

I came across the following comment today in a story at Mixx about the aftermath of the raid: "they are lying about their age in order to protect their husbands. Poor people. Yes, they are brainwashed, but if they are happy, why can't they be left alone?"

The person went on to say: "they are being accused, and frankly, I don't believe for a second that they were raped. But that's my opinion. For a variety of reasons I don't judge lifestyles I don't understand."

It is a shame that the rest of this post even needs to be stated. However, some people apparently still do not understand why authorities in Texas had to do what they did - get those poor children away from the cult leaders, and try to separate them for as long as is possible under the law.

For those of you in Eldorado, and for those who prefer not to judge other people's lifestyles; I am more than happy to pick up the slack and do it for you - at least as it pertains to this particular cult in Texas.

Girls between 13-17 are children under the law
A 15 or 16 year old girl is not old enough to consent to marriage or sex with a 50 year old man. Additionally, the author of the comments that set me off conceded that these children have been brainwashed. How can one object to something for which there are no known alternatives? If these girls were brought up thinking that this lifestyle was normal and acceptable, that is a serious enough problem, and they cannot be expected to know inherently that everything they'd ever been taught was a load of BS.

What happened to all the boys?
Furthermore, where are all the boys from the "congregation"? Has anyone else noticed that there were far more girls than boys? Were they killed? Were they banished? One thing I'm sure of is that the probability of a "y" chromosome at conception is the same or close to the same as it would be for any other couple trying conceive. These pedophiles were obviously orchestrating the removal of the boys from their cult so that they could have all the teen and pre-teen girls as their own personal sex toys.

Some things are just wrong
That kind of stuff is not cultural and cannot be explained away with moral relativity. Rape, incest and pedophelia are not acceptable if the third-party bystander has an open mind. These are not quirky personality traits. These are the manifestations of evil incarnate. People who would knowingly, willingly and systematically abuse children in this manner are not fit to live in civilized society, and to leave children in the custody of these people would be a crime in and of itself. In any case, that's my two-cents on the matter.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Don't count your Diggs before they hatch

This post began as a comment I was writing in response to an article on Jason Calcanis' blog entitled "Who should Digg sell to: Newscorp, Microsoft, or Google?".

It's one thing for two opposite sides of a negotiation to have reached an agreement in principle over a proposed sale -- one in which the price is off-the-table and only the final details are left to be worked out. It is a completely different situation when there are ongoing negotiations with occasional figures being tossed around, but where the two sides have not reached an agreement on price, in principle or otherwise.

I mention this because I see in Calcanis' article the potential here for a classic reminder of why you should never count your eggs before they're hatched. Admittedly I'm no industry insider, however amid all the hype that came with the recent announcement of Digg's rumored sale, there are a few details that stand out like a sore thumb.

The first and most glaring of these is the fact that the rumored price of $200 million is $100 million less than the figure that was circulating when these rumors popped up just over a year ago.

The second has to do with Digg's traffic and site usage patterns. Digg's traffic has been steadily declining for the last year and a half, as has the amount of time its users are spending on the site (source: Alexa).

Finally, the kicker in all of this is the new competitor that according to Alexa appears to be snatching up the majority of Digg's lost users and traffic while establishing themselves as the innovative leader within the social news realm, and generating ridiculous amounts of press coverage while doing so. For those new to the subject, I am referring to a six-month-old site that goes by the name of Mixx.

In just six months, Mixx has developed a thriving community on a site that is already serving a half-million unique visits each month.

Mixx has made no secret of its plans to attack and attempt to compete with Digg head-on; and the early returns on these efforts show an unprecedented success. Mixx continues to grow while Digg and Reddit are busy trying to find a way to stop the bleeding. Head-to-head gains aside, Mixx has been extremely successful in convincing people that it is for real, in a way marginalizing the other horses in the race.

As far as this pertains to Google or the others rumored to be interested in the social news giant, Mixx is a dangerous competitor that dramatically changes the dynamic of the competitive field, even before its traffic and user-base is large enough to justify the attention. Why is this? Because of Chris McGill.

McGill is not your typical college-student-turned-millionaire president of a popular web 2.0 site. In a field that is ripe with rich amateurs, McGill is unmistakably qualified to be competing at this level.

From Wikipedia: "The former head of strategy at USA TODAY, McGill previously served as the general manager of Yahoo! News where he oversaw the transformation of that site into the world’s largest online news outlet."

Make no mistake about it, Digg's prospective buyers are well-aware of this fact. They know the investment they are looking at will run well in excess of the actual sales price. Unfortunately for Digg, they have been unable demonstrate an ability to retain their existing users while putting a stop to Mixx's steady growth. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons the asking price has been slashed by 1/3, or $100 million.

To its credit, Digg did at least make an effort to retake the fort, but the algorithm changes intended to do just that blew up in its face by angering both the "power users" and the rest of the community without really motivating anyone to spend more time at Digg.

On top of all of these hurdles, Digg still has to contend with all of the many niche social media sites popping up left and right. Every day, sites like BigEasyLinks.com and HealthandWellnessArticles.com pop up in hopes of attracting a mere fraction of the communities found at sites like Digg and Mixx. For every one of these such sites that enters the marketplace, the uniqueness of the Digg concept deteriorates just a little.

From my outsider's perspective, it appears Google is expecting further price concessions. And why shouldn't they? Until Digg can show that the bleeding has stopped, their position within the market is secure, and that it is not just a matter of time until they are replaced by Mixx as top-dog; Google and the others would be wise to simply sit back and wait to see how far Digg's traffic will fall.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Waltz Rumor Part of Google's Negotiating Strategy with Digg

The social media world was recently rocked by the news/rumor that Google may be planning to punish websites and blogs that are frequently linked to by social media sites. For those not yet familiar with the situation, here are a couple of links to write-ups covering this recent development:

It took me awhile, but I think I've nailed down what this whole thing was really about. The key to understanding this is to bear in mind that these two companies (Google and Digg) have been actively involved in negotiations over a proposed sale of Digg to Google for somewhere in the hundreds of millions. Allow me to elaborate:

Extremely odd timing
The timing of this thing is too perfect to have been a sheer coincidence. This story has gotten a LOT of coverage over the past three weeks. That sort of thing doesn't just happen by accident when Digg and Google are involved.

Jeff Waltz never mentioned Digg by name --- but everyone else did
The first thing that stuck me as odd was the fact that nowhere in the alleged statement by the mysterious Jeff Waltz mention Digg by name, but seemingly all of the coverage by bloggers and journalists alike centered around this one particular social media site. Why could that be? I've seen no less than a dozen examples of this personally. The actual statement made by the person claiming to be Waltz was unmistakably vague and offered not a bit of suggestion that Digg or any other site was being specifically targeted.

Did the Jeff Waltz statement really appear on Google's blog?
Of course, the oddities don't end there. There is still much confusion over whether or not the statement signed Jeff Waltz ever actually appeared on the Google blog. According to bloggers' claims, the statement remained on the blog for about an hour before it was removed. If this claim is accurate, the overwhelming likelihood is that the Google had every intention of publishing the statement. Whether or not the decision to remove it was as calculated remains to be seen. How do I know this? I know this because Google is a larger and more powerful entity than most countries, and there is simply no way one of the company's primary publicly accessible communication mechanisms would be hijacked by fun-loving employees looking to spread serious rumors.

To muddy the water even further, Matt Cutts has publicly stated in the time since this story broke that he has no knowledge of any Google employee by the name of Jeff Waltz.

"Practical joke" theory not believable
That blog is Google's public relations mouthpiece. Nothing goes in to or comes out of that blog that is not extremely calculated, and any employee working for Google is going to be smart enough to know that the blog isn't a toy. If the statement in question did appear on the Google blog, it is because someone at Google wanted it to get out and reach whoever its intended audience happens to be.

This begs the question of why Google would start a rumor like this if the threats of algorithmic changes to punish social media participants didn't actually hold water to begin with? To find the answer, one must remember back until roughly a week or two before the Jeff Waltz story hit the headlines. At that time (just over a month ago), the social media sphere was abuzz with rumors that Google may be close to finalizing a deal to buy Digg.

Big-money negotiations between Google and Digg
The important thing to pay attention to here is that these two corporations are and have been in the midst of a negotiations over a potential transaction that would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Why is this relevant? This is relevant because in this mystery statement and more so in the subsequent media and blog coverage, Google was able to effectively communicate to Digg that it not only had all the power in the relationship, but also that Digg's asking price was still unacceptable; and that Google can and will play hardball if Digg refuses to make further price concessions.

The whole thing was a very thinly veiled threat from Google to Digg, and a reminder that a site's value can fall rapidly if suddenly it were to disappear from search.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kudos to Nancy Pelosi for standing-up to China's thuggery

I wish more of America's so-called leaders would stand up and join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in condemning the Chinese communist government and calling for an American boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. China's oligarchy and the bloodthirsty regime it controls makes the late Fidel Castro look like Mr. Rogers by comparison. Castro was what he was when he was alive (see footnote), but he treated his neighbors far better than China has Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Vietnam.

There is no way of knowing the full extent of the human atrocities to occur at the hands of the Chinese government over the past 25 years. There is no independent press in China, so except for on rare occasions, the rest of the world hears only what the fascist regime in Beijing wants us to hear.

A little more than a year ago, a story broke that barely even registered as a blip on the radar in which the Chinese military was raiding people's homes and killing their dogs for one sociopathic reason or another.

This history of violent abuse and murder inflicted by the tyrannical Chinese government onto its people and their pets earns this military-ruled society the notorious honor of sharing the same historical grouping with the likes of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Castro's Cuba and Stalin's Russia. Yet while America remains firm in its trade embargo against Cuba, and while President Bush is still out defending the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, China is still the #1 supplier of American consumer goods and is a mega-holder of U.S. currency.

When I consider the many horrors of the Chinese government, and add to it the fact that China has been openly practicing and preparing for an attack on U.S. troops and airbases in the region; I feel compelled to extend my deepest and most heartfelt kudos, praise and support to House Speaker Pelosi for having the courage, to not only speak out against China's recent massacre of holy men in Tibet, but to call for President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies in an effort to shame China into reversing its belligerent position on the Tibet massacres that stemmed from recent protests by Tibetans over China's strictly controlled police state.

Another extremely disturbing development is beginning to surface as new information is just beginning to trickle down to the western media strongly suggesting that undercover Chinese secret police were orchestrating and engineering the violence that was reported as "rioting" in hopes of creating enough chaos that the police could go in and kill everyone they feared may be involved with the kind of peaceful protests one might expect from the Dalai Lama and his followers. To the Chinese oligarchy, peaceful protesting is as serious a crime as treason is here in the United States. The main difference is that in China, the whole concept of a trial by jury is too time-consuming and bad for public relations. The attitude seems to be that the government is infallible, and that a shoot-first, ask questions later approach to law enforcement will ultimately result in less controversy and embarrassment than if the monks were allowed to live and potentially keep causing trouble.

If the United States wishes to maintain any credibility as the world's self-proclaimed moral authority, spreader of democracy, and arch-nemesis of tyranny; more of our country's leaders from both sides of the political isle should join Speaker Pelosi and stand strong with her as she takes on both Chinese thuggery and this glaring and all-too-unfortunate double-standard in American foreign policy.

For the record, I am well aware of the fact that officially, Fidel Castro is still alive. I don't believe this to be true. My suspicion is that Castro died back in the Summer of 2006.

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