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Money For Nothing. Chicks For Free.

[ 80 ] May 22, 2015 |

This calls for a more complete response:

Oh for crying out loud. Loomis, I get and enjoy your belligerent whimsy, but this is just silly. This is the Sarah Palin School of Law definition of freedom of speech.

If you don’t get that what Loomis was doing with this post was 90% belligerent whimsy, then you’ve dreadfully missed the point. The other 10% of what Loomis was doing was a coherent and quite correct argument that Google’s policy was being badly misapplied in this particular case.

Why the fuck are you guys running adsense anyway? You’re making what, 50-100 bucks a month from that? Get rid of the stupid ads (which are irrelevant at best to your readers’ interests, completely contrary to their political and moral beliefs at worst (no, I do not want to purchase a Russian bride or see Newsmax’s “one weird cure for diabetes”), frequently crash or redirect their browsers, and make the site slower. Choosing this as your hill to die on is pretty absurd given that I can’t even load this site half the time with my adblocker off.

Adsense returns about 50% of LGM’s monthly revenue. The estimate in this comment (of Adsense alone) is off by more than an order of magnitude; I don’t feel like opening up the books for the world to see, but Four Krustys either had little understanding of the traffic the site enjoys, or of how that traffic translates into revenue.

Moreover, Adsense (and Sovrn, the other provider you see in the right sidebars) has only rarely been the problem. The recent redirects to gogarden were caused by Sitemeter (now eliminated); the mobile redirects to porn sites have been due to problems with WordPress updates. The slowness of the site is much more often caused by the social media tabs (which clearly remain a problem), than with the ads on the right sidebars.

Bleg for money. We’ll pay. OK? Do a dildos-in-dead-horses-in-American-history series or something. I’ll be the first to donate.

We do. Donations last year (which I considered *extraordinarily* generous) constituted roughly 13% of site revenue. Thus, LGM readers would need to become approximately 7.7 times as generous as they have been in their most generous year on record in order to replace the revenue lost from advertising. It’s possible that we could approach *something* along these lines, if we turned the site into a semi-permanent pledge drive, but to my mind this is considerably more annoying than any problems created by the ads. If an angel donor decided to effectively bankroll the site for a year, we certainly consider reducing advertising, but barring that it’s difficult to replace.

Frankly, if your concern is Google deciding what is appropriate or inappropriate for people to see, why have you *chosen* to be part of that system? The same system that has basically destroyed journalism because sites are just trying to get clicks rather than do actual reporting? Don’t be a part of that. Don’t put your labor towards perpetuating a shitty system. There are a lot of other ad networks, and there are a lot of other ways to make money that don’t piss off your readers and sell out your values.

Right. Most of the other ad networks that can produce revenue as reliably as Google have similar effects on side readability. Most of them (Google Adsense included) place limitations on the extent of advertising allowed, meaning that you need to use more than one in order to generate the revenue you need. And many of them have similar restrictions on content.

It’s also worth pointing out that the internet advertising provision industry, as it were, has a bit of the fly by night to it. LGM has, over its history, lost *thousands* of dollars to vendors who ceased to exist between advertisement and payment. Say what you will about Google, they pay in American dollars, they pay on time, and I have reason to expect that they’ll be around for a while. This doesn’t mean that we give up our right to complain about their most annoying (or poorly applied) policies.

I should also note that LGM turns down most of the ad requests that it receives from vendors. These vendors are normally looking for three things; sponsored posts, pop-up ads, and in-post image ads. We could make a *lot* more money if we embraced a full revenue maximization model and allowed these three kinds of ads, but we decided a long time ago that there were limits to how much readability we’d sacrifice. LGM receives 3-5 requests of this sort every day; most of them go straight into the trash.

BUT WHERE DOES ALL THE MONEY GO? Several places. Our server fees have recently gone up, partially as a response to all of the problems we’ve suffered from hacks and redirects and what nots. The site, like any complex machine, requires maintenance now and again from professionals who like to be paid.

Once a site has been monetized, a variety of complications ensue. We pay taxes to a variety of different Caesars. We pay licensing fees to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and public school fees to Fayette County. We have legal representation (thank you, Goldberg Simpson!), and a Certified Public Accountant (Jesse at Fister, Williams and Oberlander, you’re a hero to me).

But most of all, we pay our writers. Since we’ve had enough money to actually spread it around, Scott and I have been committed to ensuring that everyone who writes for LGM receives some (usually meager) compensation. This includes guest posters. Regular posters receive more, based on an ill-defined formula involving magnitude of recent contribution, and long-term tenure at the site. Part of the reason for compensation is a principled belief that we shouldn’t profit off of people working for free. A bigger part is that everyone who regularly posts at LGM could write, for money, somewhere else. LGM usually can’t compete with the cash that other outlets can offer, but the combination of near-complete editorial freedom, an outstanding commentariat, and beer money is apparently enough to inspire consistently outstanding work.

And the term “writers” really short-changes the work that LGM front-pagers do. The administrative work isn’t evenly distributed, but most of the contributors do their share of behind-the-scenes work necessary to keep the site going. This includes sharing on social media, sharing on listservs, hunting and expunging trolls in the comment section, managing site hacks, keeping the twitter feed and Facebook page updated and functional, responding to e-mail requests, putting together ESPN groups, and a host of other activities too numerous to mention. None of that is easy to see on the site, but would be badly missed if the work wasn’t done.

And since we’re all already here, let’s take this one on, too:

OK, that’s a surprising amount. I still think you could do better. (Or you know, just go whole hog and become a mesothelioma blog)

Yep.  It’s entirely possible that we could do better, and we’re trying to do better all the time.  Unfortunately, none of us have the ability to commit full time to the site in a 40-hour-per-week, professional sense of the term.  This kind of commitment is necessary to fully work out the implications of different ad strategies, and different providers.  In the absence of this sort of commitment, we default to reliable, easy to use advertisers such as Google Adsense.

I’m referring to the Cracker Barrel/Chik fil A/Mozila/etc. definition of censorship. What I’m equating is you saying that a private company making a business decision is a violation of your freedom of speech. You entered into a voluntary contract with Google AdSense. If you want to violate the agreed-upon terms of that contract (even if they’re silly!) and they don’t want to do business with you as a result of that, that’s not a violation of your freedom of speech.

And there is nothing whatsoever in Erik’s post that could even faintly be interpreted as an argument along these lines.  Rather, he’s complaining (in pointed language!) about the silly implementation of the terms of the contract. And once we grasp this, the next three paragraphs of the comment are nonsense.

When you load a page on LGM, over 3MB of bandwidth is used. 2.7MB of that bandwidth is advertising bullshit, add this, twitter widgets, etc. That sucks, especially if you’re on mobile and paying by the MB.

If you’re on a mobile phone, you’re using the mobile site, which demands far less bandwidth. And I think we can all agree that the social media buttons and the twitter feed are categorically different than the advertising that has formed the core of the complaint in these comments.

Looking Forward to the Weekend, Weekend

[ 22 ] May 22, 2015 |

Starting mine out right by taking in a Jason Isbell gig. Don’t tell ‘em you’re bigger than Jesus and give it away while I’m gone…

Unionization and Income Inequality

[ 18 ] May 22, 2015 |

union_yes

The Maoists at the International Monetary Fund are out with more evidence that lower unionization rates lead to greater income inequality.

We examine the causes of the rise in inequality and focus on the relationship between labor market institutions and the distribution of incomes, by analyzing the experience of advanced economies since the early 1980s. The widely held view is that changes in unionization or the minimum wage affect low- and middle-wage workers but are unlikely to have a direct impact on top income earners.

While our findings are consistent with prior views about the effects of the minimum wage, we find strong evidence that lower unionization is associated with an increase in top income shares in advanced economies during the period 1980–2010 (for example, see Chart 2), thus challenging preconceptions about the channels through which union density affects income distribution. This is the most novel aspect of our analysis, which sets the stage for further research on the link between the erosion of unions and the rise of inequality at the top.

You can read the whole report. There’s really no reason for anyone to deny the connection. Greater income inequality is the open goal of the Republican Party and that’s why they attack unions. Higher unionization rates are necessary to reduce income inequality, which is why there is a war to eliminate the last of them in the United States.

Blarg

[ 3 ] May 22, 2015 |

Still having trouble with the mobile site.  Once again, I blame Loomis.  Thanks for being patient.

Management

This Is What’s the Matter With Kansas

[ 70 ] May 22, 2015 |

49024-SOS-ATM

I mentioned this briefly in my recent column about Kansas, but the $25 — i.e. de facto $20 — limit on daily withdrawals for TANF recipients merits more sustained attention. Max Ehrenfreund does so:

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this action. Many households without enough money to maintain a minimum balance in a conventional checking account will pay their rent and their utility bills in cash. A single mother with two children seeking to withdraw just $200 in cash could incur $30 or more in fees, which is a big chunk of the roughly $400 such a family would receive under the program in Kansas.

“The complexity of functioning in that cash economy as a very poor family is just not a reality that most of us experience day to day,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, the president of Kansas Action for Children in Topeka. “I pay my bills online.”

Since most banking machines are stocked only with $20 bills, the $25 limit is effectively a $20 limit. A family seeking to withdraw even $200 in cash would have to visit an ATM 10 times a month, a real burden for a parent who might not have a car and might not live in a neighborhood where ATMs are easy to find.

“Banks have traditionally not located themselves in neighborhoods that they perceive either to be unsafe, or where there’s no customer base,” said Kristin Seefeldt, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the lives of low-income Americans. “If that’s the way they’re getting cash, that can be a real chore and a challenge.”

Reading the random anecdotes the lawmakers relied on underscores the last point. The fact that lawmakers seem to think that if a poor person uses an ATM at a given location they must be using the cash there as an illustration of one problem that arises from a legislature consisting exclusively of affluent people. But this one time someone allegedly took out $102 at Coors Field so all poor people in the state should pay a huge tax to banks! Can’t argue with that logic!

The welfare reform bill Clinton signed in 1996 is bad, and at the core of its badness is that it gave much more discretion to our glorious laboratories of democracy. Controls were not entirely absent, however, and in this case the policy change is illegal. HHS needs to step up here.

How Much Sex is Acceptable for Google?

[ 81 ] May 22, 2015 |

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Above: Google approved Gilded Age courting chair.

 

So evidently images from Gilded Age medical journals of what are today known as vibrators are too risque for Google, so horrible that LGM is threatened by a company that has pledged to never be evil. You can see the offending image here. You can understand how it would be considered too scary for grandma. Note that no one in 1904 thought of the Chattanooga Vibrator as a sexual toy. It provided medical relief for neurasthenic women, replacing doctors who hated doing this service manually. Of course, orgasms gave these women relief, but again, this is not seen as sexual at the time. But it’s too sexy and scary today.

So I have some questions. First, is this too risque for Google?

prostate-simulator-header

What you see above is a robotic butt that helps train medical students to conduct prostate exams. In other words, there is hardly any difference between this and the Chattanooga Vibrator, especially because the above image makes me want to stick my finger up someone’s ass. See, this is why we can’t have anything having to do with the medicine or the human body available on the internet. Won’t somebody think about the children?

And what about history? Isn’t the past full of things like the Chattanooga Vibrator that we need protection from? Such as medieval cats eating a dick?

YH3mfHh

Now that I know this image exists, I want to commit bestiality with a cat. Or at least trade it a fish for that penis it has in its mouth, I’m not really sure here.

And doesn’t it seem to you that these early 20th century intracervical and intrauterine pessaries make you realize that people sometimes have sex and that this knowledge must be suppressed by our overlords at Google in order that little Bobby doesn’t get weird dreams at night?

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In fact, as this World War II poster suggests, it’s probably best to keep anything having to do with women or women’s bodies off the internet. She might infect you, be it your cock or your brain.

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For that matter, we need to repress the knowledge that men in the 18th century may have visited brothels. Our Founding Fathers conformed precisely to the moral standards of modern conservatism and if they didn’t we have to say they did.

451px-1787-prostitutes-caricature

In conclusion, I’d like to thank Google for serving as the moral deciders of the internet. I can’t imagine what harm seeing a medical image of a woman receiving a medical procedure caused 21st century people. If I was in control of this website, I’d ban me from the entire internet for my smut and filth. I have sullied LGM and I have sullied America. And I hope to do it again tomorrow.

Friends, I’m in Love

[ 11 ] May 22, 2015 |

Don’t mind me, I’m over here, making out with this gallery

Read more…

My Theory of Organizing and Social Change

[ 16 ] May 22, 2015 |

stonewallii

In the comments to my Poor People’s Campaign post yesterday, JL asked:

Is there anything that you think could have moved the movement forward? I don’t mean in terms of labor’s participation, I mean in terms of what the involved people (who would be more in number with labor’s participation) could have done. Tactics. Effecting social change through a protest in DC, however well-done, seems like it would be really difficult to me, unless it was large enough to shut down the city. DC is used to protests. Though since it was a campaign I assume it wouldn’t have just been that one ongoing protest in one city if it had sustained, and protests in DC as part of a larger mass movement are a different case.

In terms of the Poor People’s Campaign, probably not. Like King’s 1966 housing campaign in Chicago, the times had changed. White liberals were turning away from supporting both economic and racial justice and the votes just weren’t there in Congress anymore. With Johnson fully focused on Vietnam, I don’t think there’s anything real that could have changed history. I mean, if a real progressive is the head of the AFL-CIO instead of George Meany and that person really committed the labor movement, maybe. But that’s getting into really crazy counterfactuals.

But this issue brings up a larger point about why movements succeed and why they don’t. And the answer, after 15 years of being a professional historian is that I have no idea. That’s perhaps a slight overstatement, after all, social movements follow larger societal shifts. But you just never know what is going to spark something. Why did Rosa Parks refusing to change seats on a bus spark the Montgomery movement in 1955 when many other African-Americans had done the same thing around the South in previous years? Why did the Stonewall Riot in 1969 do so much to create the gay rights movement after all these years of police and societal brutality against gays? Why did the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 help define the environmental movement when the 1952 fire did nothing? Why did Occupy flare up at that place and time and why did it change the way so many Americans think about economic inequality in the 21st century?

These are all difficult questions to answer. Some have no obvious answer. All you can do with social movements is try. You never know what might transform the world. Probably your movement won’t. But it might. And when it does, the earth truly shifts. All one can do is point out the injustice of the world and try to make it better. Maybe it catches a moment in society when enough everyday Americans find your movement resonates with them and calls for change grow. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. But I’ll never know why it happens at particular times or why movement x makes a larger difference when movement y did not.

This may be unsatisfying and is probably not an answer a political scientist would give (also anyone who measures social movements using equations cannot be trusted), but I think “I don’t know because it’s really complicated” it’s the most honest answer any historian can give.

Undoing a Historical Event

[ 265 ] May 22, 2015 |

index

An interesting hypothetical at Aeon: Which historical event would you undo?

My first thought was that John C. Calhoun was not born. But upon further reflection, it’s fairly obvious from a U.S. history perspective: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The difference between whatever Lincoln would have done from 1865-68 compared to Andrew Johnson would have been so massive as to have probably significantly changed U.S. history. At the very least, you don’t have to wait 2 years for meaningful Reconstruction to be imposed on the South. One wonders whether a reasonably aggressive crackdown on white resistance immediately after the war would have dampened it later. Maybe, maybe not. But I think that’s my choice.

Today in Hollywood Sexism

[ 140 ] May 21, 2015 |

It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:*

Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee getting Emmy buzz for her work on the Sundance miniseries “The Honourable Woman,” reveals that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man.

No kidding.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said during an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Leaving aside the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal being 37 makes me 103, it’s amazing how deeply institutional Hollywood sexism runs. How on earth is 37 too old for a 55 year old man? The only solution for this is to pair up Clint Eastwood and Emma Stone as a couple. Now that makes sense.

*Let’s hope this post isn’t too forthright about sex for Google.

No, You Make It for Me

[ 124 ] May 21, 2015 |

I really really don’t like the he old “Don’t like it? Make it yourself” chestnut. It’s lazy and dumb. Think about this: if a bunch of tall men said to car manufacturers “Your cars are too cramped for us.” No one would say “Make your own cars, freakshows.” No one who designed, say, dishwashers or homes or computers would have that sort of dialogue with consumers. So why are people in the creative arts allowed to say things like that?

I suppose you could argue artists should get special dispensation because artistic vision is sacred, but I think there are two problems with that: 1.) You have to argue that engineers, designers, architects, etc. aren’t artists. But I would argue that a decent amount of artistry goes into designing even something like, say, a refrigerator. 2.) When an artist becomes popular, she’s not creating her art in a vacuum. She’s profiting from it. She is necessarily in a give and take relationship with the people who consume her product.

I understand why people get very sniffy about keeping artistic vision “pure.” People staying absolutely true to their vision sounds right and the idea of our vaunted genius-artists compromising their artistic vision sounds terrible.  But I think that when you become a popular artist, it’s actually quite fair for your fans to make demands as reasonable as “Hey, could you make your make your next episode less rapey?” (Yes, people in the “Princess” thread, I’m looking at you.)

I can afford to stay 100% true to my artistic vision, because I don’t have an audience–no one is reading my erotic slashfic “T-Rex Takes Clippy.” But once I start selling, you’re damn right I’ll listen to my readers. And if they want me to make it clearer that the sex between a dinosaur and computer icon is consensual, I will happily comply, artistic vision be damned, and thank you for your money.

Sometimes, When Something Is Too Good to be True, It Is

[ 14 ] May 21, 2015 |

What would have been a remarkable social science finding turns out to have been based on fraud:

A study claiming that gay people advocating for same-sex marriage can change voters’ minds has been retracted due to fraud.

The study was published last December in Science, and received lots of media attention. It found that a 20-minute, one-on-one conversation with a gay political canvasser could steer voters in favor of same-sex marriage. Not only that, but these changed opinions lasted for at least a year and influenced other people in the voter’s household, the study found.

Donald Green, the lead author on the study, retracted it on Tuesday shortly after learning that his co-author, UCLA graduate student Michael LaCour, had faked the results.

I strongly recommend Kieran Healy’s piece on the subject. In particular, I’d like to emphasize this:

When something like this happens it raises many issues internal to academia, from the relative role of the authors involved, to the importance of available and replicable data, to the often unrecognized importance of simple honesty in science. As a social scientist I worry most about the quality the frauds we don’t spot. Science is often bitterly competitive but it depends on honesty. It is not set up to weed out liars. We simply can’t proceed without a vocational norm of honesty. Imagine what research, or talks, or conferences would be like if you had to routinely question not simply the quality or competence but the actual honesty of speakers. The same goes for supervision. Or consider having to check not just the quality of grad student work, but whether they were lying to you about the data. Much of what we do would become simply impossible.

…Jesse Singal interviews Donald Green.

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