Monthly Archives: September 2013

The NFL is a Non-Profit?! #

Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor of urban planning, calculates that league-wide, 70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums has been provided by taxpayers, not NFL owners. Many cities, counties, and states also pay the stadiums’ ongoing costs, by providing power, sewer services, other infrastructure, and stadium improvements. When ongoing costs are added, Long’s research finds, the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans have turned a profit on stadium subsidies alone—receiving more money from the public than they needed to build their facilities. Long’s estimates show that just three NFL franchises—the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and New York Jets—have paid three-quarters or more of their stadium capital costs.

The insertion of professional football leagues into the definition of not-for-profit organizations was a transparent sellout of public interest. This decision has saved the NFL uncounted millions in tax obligations, which means that ordinary people must pay higher taxes, public spending must decline, or the national debt must increase to make up for the shortfall. Nonprofit status applies to the NFL’s headquarters, which administers the league and its all-important television contracts. Individual teams are for-profit and presumably pay income taxes—though because all except the Green Bay Packers are privately held and do not disclose their finances, it’s impossible to be sure.

[NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell’s windfall has been justified on the grounds that the free market rewards executives whose organizations perform well, and there is no doubt that the NFL performs well as to both product quality—the games are consistently terrific—and the bottom line. But almost nothing about the league’s operations involves the free market. Taxpayers fund most stadium costs; the league itself is tax-exempt; television images made in those publicly funded stadiums are privatized, with all gains kept by the owners; and then the entire organization is walled off behind a moat of antitrust exemptions.

Gregg Easterbrook, “How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers”, The Atlantic, 18 Sep 2013. Via Dave Pell’s NextDraft

I would love to see a deeper investigation of this. The author above is a bit jaded, waving around the word “revenue”, when the important parts are income and salary. The entire article is well-researched, and worth reading though.

I don’t expect a national outcry, unfortunately.

Social Gap in Financial Aid #

ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education describe the new math of higher education. “It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest.”

+ The gap between the top 1% and the rest of Americans is wider than it’s been in more than a century. And it’s growing. “From 2009 to 2012, as the U.S. economy improved, incomes of the top 1% grew more than 31%, while the incomes of the 99% grew 0.4% – less than half a percentage point.”

Dave Pell, “Big Math on Campus”, Next Draft

University apologizes for censoring crypto prof #

Johns Hopkins University has publicly backtracked and apologized for censoring a cryptography professor.

The original post, which is a bit critical of the NSA, is back online, albeit with a new graphic.

One Response

“To my daughter’s high school programming teacher” #

Thoughtful commentary on gender discrimination, both in public schools and technology in general.

One in Five Gov’t Liens in D.C. are Mistakes #

Ninety-five-year-old Daisy Dolsey, living in a nursing home and struggling with Alzheimer’s, wasn’t so lucky: She lost her $300,000 house over a $44.79 tax debt even after she paid her taxes.

“It really is the stereotype of bad government — it’s appalling,” said Amy Mix, a lawyer for AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly,which has turned up numerous errors in tax lien cases. “It’s not enough people doing their jobs and not enough people caring.”

For more than a century, the District has placed liens on properties when owners failed to pay their taxes, then sold them at auctions. The investors buying the liens charge owners interest and often hefty fees on top of the tax debt and can take the properties through foreclosure if the money is not repaid.

But one in every five liens has been sold by mistake, forcing the tax office to later cancel the sales — and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to compensate the investors who bought them.

Debbie Cenziper, Michael Sallah, Steven Rich, “Mistakes put homes in peril”, The Washington Post10 September 2013

Outrageous.

Verizon, FCC Face Off Over Net Neutrality #

At issue is whether the FCC has the right to step in and regulate Internet-related matters. Verizon says it does not and wants the FCC’s net neutrality rules struck down; the FCC says it does have the authority and argues that the rules are necessary to keep ISPs in check.

At a basic level, net neutrality is the concept that everyone should have equal access to the Web. Amazon should not be able to pay to have its website load faster than a mom-and-pop e-commerce site, for example, so that it would have a competitive advantage on the Web. ISPs, meanwhile, can slow down their networks if necessary at peak times in order to manage things more efficiently (“reasonable network management”), but they cannot block a certain application – like BitTorrent – that they believe is hogging too much bandwidth.

Chloe Albanesius, “Verizon, FCC Face Off Over Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know”, PC Magazine, 9 September 2013

More than 400 organizations or individuals weighed in at the F.C.C. when the rules were being considered. More than 60 signed legal briefs supporting the F.C.C., while at least a dozen did so backing Verizon.Edward Wyatt, “Verizon-F.C.C. Court Fight Takes On Regulating Net”, The New York Times, 8 September 2013

The Washington Post has a good article too.

We Are the NSA’s “The Other” #

I am the other because I don’t believe the Security State and its representatives when they say that government spying is reserved for foreign terrorists. In fact, the NSA’s “minimization” techniques — touted as methods for restricting spying to foreign terrorists instead of U.S. citizens — are often transparently and insultingly ridiculous.

I am the other because I don’t believe my government when it tries to convince us that enhanced spying techniques are used to protect us from terrorists. I believe, instead, that the increased powers acquired by my government since 9/11 have been habitually brought to bear for domestic purposes, including such things as the ruinous and amoral War on Drugs.

Ken White, “NSA Codebreaking: I Am The Other”, Popehat, 6 September 2013

Yes, Yahoo!’s logo is that bad #

Much has been said about Yahoo!’s new logo. My two favorite articles thus far:

Currently, Yahoo is not associated with being whimsical or sophisticated, rather it is mostly boring and dull. It doesn’t portray modernity or freshness, it feels obsolete and dated. There is no humanity in the brand identity, it’s computed, impersonal, scattered.

Maybe the Yahoo she sees in the logo is the Yahoo she wants to build. A bizarro Yahoo, the opposite of what it is, a Yahoo that we have yet to see.

Oliver Reichenstein, “Logo, Bullshit & Co., Inc.”, 5 September 2013

The typorati has already made various complaints about the logo, but what distracts me most is how crammed these letters are — and unevenly so. Looking at each of the pairs (‘AH’, ‘HO’, ‘OO’), it’s clear that the designers considered only the extremes of each letter and inserted a mathematically equal space between those extremes, ignoring the holistic space around each letter. It’s a classic mistake made by those who are new to working with type. Stephen Coles, “Yahoo Logo (2013)”, 5 September 2013, via Gruber

All of this in response to some hogwash from Yahoo!’s CEO, describing the new logo process.

Yahoo! logo

My response is simpler. It’s ugly. The letters are too wide and the strokes too narrow to look good at small sizes (e.g., the web). The “features” of the logo Mayer touts are not visible at its most commonly viewed size. The logo is badly pixelated on the home page.

Don’t get me started on the awful animation.

Changing household demographics #

Interesting trends. Strong decline in percentage of married couples with children: 40.3% of households in 1970 compared with 19.6% today.

Via The Loop.

Amazon’s “Kindle MatchBook” #

Steeply discounted e-books ($0–$2.99) with previous print-edition purchases.

Seems very much like what Amazon has done with audiobooks since purchasing audible.com.

Hire Tom! Hire Tom!