How The Sacramento Bee resembles Omaha Steaks

I know a widower who occasionally buys meat from Omaha Steaks. Now that they have him on their radar screen, Glenn is constantly bombarded with online ads and emails urging him to buy more.

I chuckled when he first told me the story, and said to myself that will never happen to me. Then The Sacramento Bee hired a new editor.

Lauren Gustus, who apparently worked for the current publisher in Texas, was brought on board in January. She has a reputation for being a whiz at using social media to sell dead-tree media.

I didn’t notice any changes until about two weeks ago, when I started receiving a constant bombardment of emails from The Bee: Breaking news, newspaper promotions, and other miscellany.

Instead of just deleting them, I decided to let them pile up for 24 hours to get a sense of how many there really are. From 10 a.m. Friday until 10 a.m. this morning, I received 18 messages in addition to the online edition of the paper.

But thanks to two handy-dandy emails I get every day, I don’t even have to bother reading the paper. First, I received an Afternoon Update at 4:10 p.m. Friday providing me with links to 12 stories that appeared in Saturday’s edition. Their deadlines must be a lot earlier than I thought they were.

Then I got a Morning News update–admittedly at 4:05 a.m., while I was asleep–that gave me another rundown on the articles in today’s paper. Other than gushin’ Joe Davidson’s breathless dispatches about the high school basketball championships, I had everything I needed. Why read the paper?

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t need constant news update during the day. Unless there’s a wild-fire threatening Lake of the Pines, I’m content to wait for the news.

And I certainly don’t need special offers and exclusive promotions because–lucky fellow that I am–I’m a subscriber to the paper. If this keeps up, I may dump my subscription and sign up for the San Francisco Chronicle.

I can subscribe to the Chron for just 12 percent of the regular price! They’re practically giving it away!

Posted in Media, The Sacramento Bee, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

QUICK HITS: When everything looks like a gun

Apparently anything held by a suspect looks like a gun to a cop, as the recent shooting in Sacramento shows once again.

Friday was a bad day for Bay Area sports teams: Stephen Curry injured his knee and Madison Bumgarner broke his pitching hand. I hope Jimmy Garoppolo is safe and secure.

Even the bots are turning against Trump: Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham called him “President Schumer” after he signed the new budget bill.

The newest indictments–this time, it’s nine Iranians–show once again that cyber security in this country is a farce. Nobody needs to bomb us; all they have to do is take down the power grid.

John “Bombs Away” Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser, is a typical Republican war hawk. He enlisted in the National Guard during the Vietnam War to avoid active duty and attend law school.

Posted in Donald Trump, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Facebook is ‘shocked’ people are abusing its social platform

Founder Mark Zuckerberg insisted the notion that people used Facebook to spread false news was “crazy” after the 2016 presidential election.

Then the company denied Russian interests used the social media platform to meddle in the election. That was before they unearthed thousands of fake accounts and over $100,000 worth of ads paid for by a shady outfit.

What, me worry?

How come nobody at the company noticed some of those ads were paid for with rubles? “A serious oversight,” intoned a company lawyer.

Now we’re learning that Cambridge Analytica, bankrolled by conservative money bags Robert Mercer and promoted by former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, used data gleaned from millions of Facebook users to help guide Donald Trump’s campaign.

Like Captain Louis Renault in the movie “Casablanca,” officials at Facebook are “shocked” that such activity occurred, but Claude Rains sounded a lot more convincing than what’s coming out of Menlo Park these days.

“We are in the process of conducting a comprehensive internal and external review as we work to determine the accuracy of the claims that the Facebook data in question still exists,” a company lawyer said in a prepared statement. “That is where our focus lies as we remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information.”

Facebook executives spent much of Saturday arguing what happened didn’t constitute a data breach, even as they acknowledge Cambridge and others used data that was provided openly to third parties.

That would include the 2012 reelection campaign of President Barack Obama, which created a voter-outreach app that plugged into the Facebook platform to find potential supporters among a user’s friends.

All of this dates back to 2007, when Facebook decided to give outsiders access to friend lists, interests and likes that tied user together. The company reversed course in 2014 after users complained about their data being shared with outsiders without their knowledge.

The company apparently has a confused, if not cavalier, approach to protecting its own customers. But even the most innocent information posted on your Facebook page can be used against you, as a recent Wall Street Journal article about scammers targeting people looking for love online revealed.

The real question is becoming: Why would you want to use Facebook for anything as innocent as trying to connect with new and old friends? It’s appearing more and more to be a sucker’s game.

Posted in Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Media, Politics, Public Policy, Steve Bannon, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reflections on the first 2 rounds of March Madness

I left Reno early Sunday, making my final three bets on my way out-of-town. The roads were clear, I wanted to beat the crowds back, and I didn’t want to be late for a family event.

The three favorites I bet Saturday went 1-2, with Kentucky the only one to cover the number. I went with one favorite and two dogs Sunday, and the dogs were barking. If you had bet the dogs in all eight of the Sunday games, you would have gone 7-1.

Huggy Bear’s boys covered the number

I bet the only favorite that covered the number–West Virginia–and took Nevada (+8.5) over Cincinnati and Syracuse (+9.5) over Michigan State, mainly because I thought the favorites were getting too much credit. Image my surprise when they both won, especially Nevada. (Until about 10 years ago, you couldn’t place a legal bet on UNR or Vegas in Nevada.)

That brought my four-day record to 15-9, a solid 62.5 percent win rate that paid my expenses and left me with some walking around money. Beats working for a living, which I don’t do anymore anyway.

Here are some general thoughts on the first two rounds:

–The Pac-12 is an embarrassment. First, they got swamped in the bowl games,  then UCLA and Arizona State lost play-in games for the tournament, and our only seeded representative, Arizona, lost by 21 to Buffalo in the first round. Truly embarrassing.

–While I generally don’t root against teams, I was glad North Carolina got swamped by Texas A&M Sunday, losing 86-65. Coach Roy Williams, using his aw shucks country boy act, insists he knew nothing about his players taking no-work classes. The NCAA, showing its usual deference to elite teams, rolled over on this massive cheating scandal.

–UMBC’s upset of Virginia–the first time a No. 16 seed has beat a No. 1 since the tournament went to the currently format–was not that big a surprise to regular readers of The Wall Street Journal. The Journal, which has one of the sharpest sports sections you’ll find anywhere these days, ran an article last week pointing out that Virginia’s plodding style of play made in vulnerable to an upset.

–One of the attractions of the tournament is that at least a couple of schools from the so-called minor conferences always manage to do well. Three of those schools are still alive, including what are apparently the two best teams in the west–Gonzaga and Nevada. Mark Few is truly a great coach.

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March Madness: Where only the strong survive

Having nothing better to do, I spent three hours on U.S. 80 earlier today driving to Reno to meet two old friends to view the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, aka, March Madness.

Given the crappy weather we’ve had the last few days, the drive wasn’t all that bad even if it was slow and tedious. I owe it all to my 4-wheel drive Highlander.

We met up at the El Dorado hotel/casino, not my preferred venue but Bill and Evan wanted to stay downtown and they outvoted me. It turned out to be good decision because there’s a lot of snow and ice around Reno, making for hazardous driving conditions.

The El Dorado is within easy walking distance of several downtown sports books, making comparison shopping a lot easier. When you ‘re trying to beat the point spread, it always pays to shop around.

Where the action is

March Madness is turning into the biggest sports betting event of the year, mainly because of all of the illegal office pools. It is estimated that $10 billion will be bet on the 63 games to be played between now and April 2.

Very little of the money will be bet in Nevada (about $300 million in Vegas, according to USA Today), but you would never know it from the number of people crowding the sports books around town. If you like college basketball and want to be in the middle of the action, Nevada’s the place to be.

I’ve done this enough times that the novelty has worn off, but I like the challenge of trying to make some money betting on teams I pay little attention to during the season. Then there’s the bragging rights that go with doing better than Bill and Evan–I topped them with a 14-5-1 record last year, and I’m looking to repeat.

I’ve known Bill and Evan since all of us were pre-teens. Bill was a classmate at an elementary school in San Mateo, Hayward Park, that doesn’t exist any more. We met Evan playing basketball there.

All three of us stayed pretty close to San Mateo so it wasn’t hard remaining friends. Bill became an accountant and retired as a partner at one of the major firms. Evan was a regional sales manager for one of the big breweries. All three of us are big sports fans.

That doesn’t mean we know a lot about college basketball. Like most opinionated sports fans, we are frequently wrong but never it doubt. I actually paid close attention to what was going on in the last month, and Bill and Evan claim they’ve also been doing prep work,  so we’ll see if it pays off.

(I should point out that none of us went to a school that’s in the tournament, so we won’t have to contend with that bias.)

Against my better judgement, I’m going to post the bets I make so that anybody who’s interested can follow along. I say “against my better judgement” because I typically don’t do well when I spout off about the teams I’m betting.  We’ll see how it works this time.

The hardest part will be to drink moderately and eat a semi-healthy diet. That gets easier as I get older.

I’m going to bet the early Thursday games that interest me before I go to bed tonight so I don’t have to get up too early tomorrow, and then I’ll post all of my Thursday bets here before noon tomorrow. To get warmed up, I’ve made two NBA bets tonight:

–Wizards (-3.5) over the Celtics;

–Wizards/Celtics over 204.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Some thoughts on the Pennsylvania special election

The vote is still too close to call the winner in Pennsylvania’s special Congressional election, but it’s clear the Democrats are the big winners in a district that voted big time for Donald Trump in 2016.

The result also confirms some trends that don’t look good for Republicans as we approach the mid-term elections. Here are three of the more obvious ones:

–His base may love Trump’s crude, bullying style, but it’s becoming a big turn-off for other people, particularly those who reluctantly voted for Trump because they couldn’t stomach Clinton;

–It’s becoming more obvious that in Trump’s world, it’s all about him and not the Republican party. If he really cared about Tuesday’s election, he would have postponed firing Tillerson and his California-bashing trip until after the votes were in. Did his actions impact the vote? Every little thing matters in a race this close.

–Add Rick Saccone to Roy Moore, Sharron Angle and the other duds Republicans nominated for important races in the last decade. Social conservatives may love these people, but nobody else does.

Does this mean the Democrats are going to be big winners in November? No, but the trend is encouraging. Meanwhile, the Republicans can forget about Coattails Don. They’re stuck with Don the Magician, who can make a 20-point edge disappear in a New York minute.


Listen to Michael Steel, a Republican strategist, on Trump’s visit to his wall prototypes Tuesday:

“Whether or not ‘the wall’ ever gets built, footage of President Trump visiting these prototypes will play over and over again, particularly on Fox News and in campaign ads, as a visual argument that he has kept his promise to his base.”


Posted in Donald Trump, Fox News, Media, Republican Party | Leave a comment

Will California greet Trump with violent protests? Bring it on!

President Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first trip to California Tuesday since he was elected president, and nobody expects him to get a friendly welcome.

The divider-in-chief

Just to make sure, the divider-in-chief threw more red meat to the hungry dogs during his weekly address over the weekend:

“The State of California is sheltering dangerous criminals in a brazen and lawless attack on our Constitutional system of government. (California leaders) don’t care about crime. They don’t care about death and killings. They don’t care about robberies.”

Trump will be inspecting prototypes of the border wall Mexico isn’t going to pay for, and is also scheduled to attend a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills, where I’m sure the steel and aluminum boys will be writing some big checks. The more protesters he encounters, the more he will like it.

Trump knows he’s very unpopular in the Golden State and that he has no chance of winning California in the 202o election. But the state is still useful to him.

California is very unpopular in states that back Trump, and he knows he can keep his base engaged if the protests that greet him here are big and hostile. Overturn cars? Set fires? Break windows? Scuffle with police? Bring it on.

There are more than a few progressives in the state who are willing to help him realize his fondest dreams. With any luck, the antifa people will be out in force.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE NRA?: Well, it turns out Trump is.

During the phony meeting he staged in the White House to discuss gun issues, Trump accused Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and others of being afraid of the NRA, and boasted he could handle the political heat when it comes to raising the age for purchasing an assault weapon from 18 to 21.

That lasted until Sunday, when Trump announced he is appointing a commission to study that and other gun-related issues. In other words, he wants this stuff to die a quiet death while he focuses on an issue the NRA loves, arming school employees.

What a whimp.

Posted in Donald Trump, Politics, Progressives, Public Policy | 1 Comment