Friday, February 24, 2017

Thoughts for today

Whittaker Chambers:

Substituting a good deal of intellectual inbreeding for organic contact with U. S. life, they developed a curious cultural provincialism. The Depression came to them as a refreshing change. Fundamentally benevolent and humane, they loved their fellow countrymen in distress far more than they could ever love them in prosperity. Fundamentally skeptical, maladjusted, defeatist, the intellectual felt themselves thoroughly at home in the chaos and misery of the '30s. Fundamentally benevolent and humane, they loved their fellow countrymen in distress far more than they could ever love them in prosperity. And they particularly enjoyed life when applause began to greet their berating of the robber barons, president makers, economic royalists, malefactors of great wealth.
"Revolt of the Intellectuals", January 1941

Tom Wolfe:

From the outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down on the rest of humanity. And it did not cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: 'Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.
Hooking Up

Ross Douthat:

The ’70s were in many ways dreadful years for America, but they’re remembered much more fondly in the film industry. There’s no surer way to establish your artistic (and political) bona fides than to name-drop a ’70s movie—whether it’s George Clooney bringing up All the President’s Men (1976) while promoting Michael Clayton, or Stephen Gaghan remarking that of course he was “thinking about The Parallax View and also Three Days of the Condor” while making Syriana. The suggestion is always the same—that the age of leisure suits and sideburns was also the high tide of politically engaged filmmaking, before the studios embarked on the relentless pursuit of the blockbuster and the Reagan reaction pushed American culture steadily to the right.
"The Return of the Paranoid Style," Atlantic, April 2008

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Just a couple of dots for future reference

From Deadly Illusions: The KGB Orlov Dossier Reveals Stalin's Master Spy by John Costello and Oleg Tsarev,

The practical tricks of the trade including how to throw off police surveillance by making convuluted journeys-- switching public transport between buses and taxis was a favoured method. When it came to passing documents to contacts, libraries and the dark interiors of cinemas were favoured.. According to Orlov, the OGPU in the 1920s and 1930s favored particularly the use of the surgeries of 'trusted dentists and physicians', which were the preferred sites for really important meetings.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why ‘investigative journalism’ is problematic

Edward Jay Epstein, Between Fact and Fiction:

The problem of journalism in America proceeds from a simple but inescapable bind: journalists are rarely, if ever, in a position to establish the truth about an issue for themselves, and they are, therefore, almost entirely dependent on self-interested 'sources' for versions of reality that they report. p. 3

Indeed, given the voluntary nature of the relationship between a reporter and his source, a continued flow of information can only be assured if the journalist's stories promise to serve the interests of the witness. P. 3

Despite the heroic public claims of the news media, daily journalism is largely concerned with finding and retaining profitable sources of pre-packaged stories. P.7

What is called 'investigative journalism is merely the development of sources within the counter-elite or other dissidents in the government, while 'stenographic reporting' refers to the development of sources among official spokesmen for the government. There is no difference in the basic method of reporting. p. 10

By concealing the machinations and politics behind a leak, journalists suppress part of the truth surrounding a story. Thus, the means by which the medical records of Senator Thomas Eagleton were acquired and passed on to the Knight newspapers (which won the 1973 Pulitizer Prize for disclosing information contained in these records) seems no less important than the senator's medical history itself, especially since copies of the illegally obtained records were later found in the White House safe of John Ehrlichman. p. 17
Max Holland, Leak

As Christopher Hitchen's wrote in his review of The Secret Man, Watergate 'ranks as the single most successful use of the news media by an anonymous unelected official with an agenda of his own. Without a consensus about what that agenda was, there is a gaping hole in the center of the narrative. P. 4

(On Bernstein source John Sears): Backgrounding Watergate stories was a perfect way to exact revenge against those who had twarted his aspirations, chiefly Mitchell, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman. Their decline might even pave the way for him to return to a position of influence and power.

The primary documents also proved that several of Felt's statements to Woodward had been false and/or misleading. p183

(Quoting Joan Didion): “Every reporter, in the development of a story, depends on and coddles, or protects, his or her sources. Only when the protection of the source gets in the way of telling the story does the reporter face a professional, even a moral choice: he can blow the source... or he can roll over, [and] shape the story to continue serving the source.” p 191

A Felt-sourced story appeared first in the Post, immediately followed an even better account in Time, which had also been sourced by Felt. Ironically, the Post then ran another story citing the Time article as corroboration. p 225
Renata Adlaer, After the Tall Timber

The whole purpose of the ‘anonymous source has been precisely reversed. The reason there exists a First Amendment protection for journalists’ confidential sources has always been to permit citizensthe weak, the vulnerable, the isolatedto be heard publicly, without fear of retaliation by the strongby their employer, for example, or by the forces of government … Instead, almost every ‘anonymous source’ in the press, in recent years, has been an official of some kind, or a person in the course of a vendetta speaking from a potion of power.

[Using anonymous sources] makes stories almost impossible to verify. It suppresses a major element of almost every investigative story: who wanted it known.
Edward Jay Epstein, The Annals of Unsolved Crime

A third possible conspiracy involved government officials clandestinely distributing protected data, including FBI 201 files, to select journalists in order to weaken, if not destroy, the Nixon Administration. That the release was “deliberately coordinated,” rather than a spontaneous act of whistle-blowing, is suggested by CIA memoranda, written by CIA officers Martin Lukoskie and Eric Eisenstadt (published as an appendix in Jim Hougan’s book Secret Agenda), one “for the record” and the other for the CIA’s deputy director of plans. The memos discuss how Lukoskie’s operation “has now established a ‘back door entry’ to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm, which is representing the Democratic Party in its suit for damages resulting from the Watergate incident,” and had also managed to feed stories to the Washington Post via Bob Woodward on the understanding that there be no attribution to the CIA operation.
Sir John Keegan, Intelligence in War

As defence correspondent, then defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, i decided that entanglement with intelligence organisations was unwise, having concluded, by that stage of my life, through reading, conversation and a little personal observation, that anyone who mingled in the intelligence world, in the belief that he could make use of contacts thus made, would more probably be made use of, to his disadvantage. I continue to believe that to be the case.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Thought for the day

Computers hide mistakes in logic while sanctifying information with an aura of truth.
More here:

Computer Models

Friday, February 03, 2017

Thought for the Day

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Rudi Feistman is gone, but his type is still around and making trouble

From Arthur Koestler, The Invisible Writing:

Rudy Feistman was one of the young intellectuals, or rather eternal adolescents of the Party, who had never done any serious work in their lives, were incapable of standing on their own feet, and therefore regarded themselves as 'professional revolutionaries'. They had become so completely soaked in the atmosphere of the Party and in the dialectics of the smear, that they regarded slander as a natural and legitimate weapon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Point to ponder

Diplomats and intelligence agents, in my experience, are even bigger liars than journalists, and the historians who try to reconstruct the past out of their records are, for the most part, dealing in fantasy
Malcolm Muggeridge

Saturday, January 28, 2017

John Dean's tired act

Good read here:

Why The Press Needs To Stop Comparing Everything To Watergate
By now, John Dean’s pronouncements on the scandals du jour have become one of the most predictable tropes in political journalism.

While Dean did some laudable things to expose Watergate, we’re going on year 42 of his 15 minutes of fame. McKay Coppins is a talented and creditable reporter, and he’s hardly the first to shoot the breeze with Dean in search of a drive-by byline. By now, Dean’s pronouncements on the scandals du jour have become one of the most predictable tropes in political journalism.
More on Dean:

Watergate: The Dean Story and the Standard Account

Watergate and the True Believers

Watergate Curiosity Shop (II)
I whole-heartedly agree with this:

(God forbid we all acknowledge that the only truly, sincerely repentant Nixon aide was Chuck Colson, who spent the rest of his life ministering to prisoners after he became one.)

Facts are stubborn things

Watergate and history

Friday, January 27, 2017

Steelers and Patriots, amateurs and professionals

End of a season and maybe the end of an era as Ben Roethlisberger talks retirement.

Joe Starkey: Tomlin, Butler should be embarrassed after latest Brady beating

Last year, with an entire offseason to prepare, the Steelers were disorganized and literally did not cover the Patriots’ top weapon (Rob Gronkowski) on several plays. In this game, Brady sat back there like he always does against the Steelers and lit them up for a franchise postseason record 384 yards. He completed 32 of 42 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

His numbers in Foxborough against the Steelers really do seem like fake news. In six games dating to 2002, Brady has completed 171 of 239 passes for 2,147 yards, 21 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Against Mike Tomlin teams, Brady now has 22 touchdowns and no interceptions.

I am defender of Tomlin, and Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer. But it’s hard to win when the other coach and other quarterback are so clearly superior.

Paul Zeise: Patriots outplayed and out-coached the Steelers yet again

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

If that is truly the definition, then my diagnosis for the Steelers today is that they are officially certifiably insane. …
The Patriots don’t beat the Steelers every time because they have better players or more talent; they beat the Steelers because they are much smarter, much more disciplined, tougher and far better coached.

“We do what we do” is silly it worked against the Dolphins and Chiefs because the Steelers are better than those teams, but against the Patriots, you better have more than just empty cliches and chest-pounding nonsense.
What if “empty clichés and chest-pounding nonsense” is the best this coach has to offer?

When Joe Green was asked what made Chuck Noll a great coach he responded that Noll “knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it.” Noll explained the “how to get it” to Rocky Blier once on the sidelines:

When you are out there on the field the thing that gets you through are the habits you create. It's what you do in practice that carries on to the field. All that rah-rah stuff doesn't win ball games.
As a coach Tomlin reminds me of South Park’s Underpants Gnomes. Instead of “???” as step 2 of his plan, he offers portentously delivered clichés about “next man up”, “rise to the occasion”, “unleashing Hell in December”, and “the standard is the standard”.

The special operations world has a saying that applies here:

Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong.
On Sunday there was no doubt who were the amateurs and who were the professionals in Foxborough. The gap between the two teams starts with coaching.

Big Ben’s Real Message

I think, particularly in his post-Kansas City criticism last week of the selfish Antonio Brown, and this week of the team’s lack of maturity and readiness for the game, that Roethlisberger was focusing his frustration on three people: Brown (to be sure), coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The dissing of Brown is easy. He’s too often this year been immature, and if Roethlisberger had to settle him down on the sidelines at Foxborowhich has been reportedit’s an Odell Beckham-like bout of baby behavior that simply has to stop. Brown’s too great a player to be sulking. He’s the major reason why the Steelers won the division in the first place, after his reach over the goal line resulted in the AFC North-winning touchdown on Christmas against Baltimore.

I got the sense, regarding the Roethlisberger/Tomlin situation, that the quarterback is frustrated that Brown is acting up over and over again, and the coach hasn’t stopped it. Good on Tomlin for forcefully going after Brown after the Facebook incident last week, but little things have flared up often this year. I cannot imagine Tom Brady issuing a read-between-the-lines call-out of an offensive teammate; he’d never question how Bill Belichick was handling a player. Maybe Roethlisberger isn’t. But two weeks in a row, when he questions things like players’ maturity and attentiveness, what really is he talking about? Players, yes. But alsoright or wrongthe control of them by the head coach.

Ben Roethlisberger critical of young receivers after AFC title loss

A drop by Cobi Hamilton in the end zone a few plays earlier on the same drive also was costly. Roethlisberger did not refer to Hamilton’s drop specifically, but he alluded to the young players not coming through in big moments throughout the game.

“I don’t know if that’s the one thing, but you have to score when they’re down there,” Roethlisberger said. “There were missed opportunities whether we didn’t execute well enough, whether plays weren’t made by me or other guys. At times it felt like maybe it was too big for some of the young guys.”


“It’s a little frustrating,” Roethlisberger said. “We talk about how sometimes it’s just one play here, one play there. Tonight we didn’t make those plays. Was [the moment] too big? I don’t know. We need to make every single play in a game like this, in a moment like this.
Another relevant lesson from the world of combat training: In critical moments, "you don't rise to the occasion; you default to your training."

And one from Chuck Noll: "You only feel pressure when you don't know what you're doing."