Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hefner protection racket


Previously:

"Hugh Hefner is one in a long line of preachy perverts"

Whitewashing porn
This is an old article but there is a jaw-dropping passage that destroys the Mr. Playboy's carefully crafted image:

Hugh Hefner’s Hollow Victory

Hiding in plain sight in the June 2001 issue of Philadelphia magazine is Ben Wallace’s essay “The Prodigy and the Playmate.” In it Sandy Bentley, the Playboy cover girl and former Hefner girlfriend (along with her twin sister Mandy), describes Hefner’s current sexual practices in just enough detail to give you a good long pause:

“The heterosexual icon [Hugh Hefner] … had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn.”

This statement may seem either shocking or trivial. But it points to that which Hefner’s detractors have been saying for years: Pornography stifles the development of genuine human relationships. Pornography is a manifestation of arrested development. Pornography reduces spiritual desire to Newtonian mechanics. Pornography, indulged long enough, hollows out sex to the point where even the horniest old goat is unable to physically enjoy the bodies of nubile young females.
We are left, then, to ponder the original question: Why does the MSM protect and promote Hefner and Playboy? If journalists truly were the iconoclastic skeptics they claim to be, then, debunking the Playboy myth would be a thriving enterprise for the MSM.

Instead we get puff pieces that even Parson Weems would find overly sycophantic.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Flashman


A wonderful appreciation of George Macdonald Fraser's entertaining anti-hero.

Flashman and the Greatest Chronicler of the Victorian Age

Unlike Flashman, there was nothing affected about his heroism. I’d recommend his memoir Quartered Safe Out Here (1992) of his time fighting the Japanese in Burma. But he was more than a good soldier and sage commentator on the futility of modern warfare: he built his writing career, despite having no educational qualifications, to become through the Flashman novels one of the foremost experts on the Victorian era. History is never dull in the Flashman Papers.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No justice, no peace


The federal trial of the [LAPD] officers was as political as any trial of radicals during the Cold War.

Lou Cannon, Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD,

Yet the same MSM that never tires of telling the story of the poor "victims of McCarthyism" is happy to encourage even greater injustices if the target is a cop or other enemy of the left. (See Duke lacrosse hoax)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Watergate: Beyond the Standard Version


A couple of interesting items on Watergate.

Unified Theory on Watergate

The 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation just passed. The myths around the Watergate scandal are many and deep. Like all bits of American history, there is the official version and the truth. We will never know the truth, but the official version looks shakier with each year. The reason for pushing him out looks quaint as our elected and unelected elite commit far more heinous acts and far greater abuses of power. Members of his team bugged an office? Heh, how simple. Bug the world like Bush-Obama.

John Dean: Behind the Mask of Sanity
It is really rather astonishing. We are 40 years past Nixon's resignation and yet the MSM is still promoting the crude "first draft of history" crafted by Woodward, Bernstein, and Redford.

The MSM does not just ignore the many interesting questions surrounding Watergate, they actively work to shutdown discussion of them.

Related:

An inconvenient book (Part One)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“I” is for “Impeachment”… and for “Idiots”


Why conservatives lose

Thomas Sowell gets it

LAWSUITS AND IMPEACHMENT

Whenever Democrats are in real trouble politically, the Republicans seem to come up with something new that distracts the public’s attention from the Democrats’ problems. Who says Republicans are not compassionate?

With public opinion polls showing President Obama’s sinking approval rate, in the wake of his administration’s multiple fiascoes and scandals the disgraceful treatment of veterans who need medical care, the Internal Revenue Service coverups, the tens of thousands of children flooding across our open border Republicans have created two new distractions that may yet draw attention away from the Democrats’ troubles.

From the Republican establishment, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced plans to sue Barack Obama for exceeding his authority. And from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, former Governor Sarah Palin has called for impeachment of the president.
Calling for impeachment is a great way to fire up parts of the base. As Dr. Sowell points out, it only helps the administration and their allies with the public at large.

Carl Bernstein tells an interesting story from the fall of 1972 when Nixon was cruising to his landslide:

As recounted in All the President’s Men, during this period Bob and I would often meet for coffee in a little vending machine room off the newsroom floor. These were our strategy sessions. Just the two of us, and really bad cups of coffee. We reviewed the status of where we were on each story, and discussed what kind of presentation we would make that day to our editors. Sometimes, we thought, they were awfully slow to recognize the value of a particular piece of our work. We had elaborate good-cop/bad-cop routines that we more or less rehearsed over the coffee. Usually I was the bad cop.

One of our conversations in the vending machine room was intentionally left out of All the President’s Men.

During the fall of 1972 we had established that there was a secret cash slush fund maintained by the Nixon re-election committee CREEP. It had financed the Watergate break-in operation and other campaign espionage and sabotage. The key to discovering the possible involvement by higher-ups was this fund. The CREEP treasurer, Hugh Sloan, and the bookkeeper, Judy Hoback, had after several days of teeth-pulling interview sessions told us that John Mitchell was one of the five who controlled the fund. Deep Throat had confirmed this. Mitchell, Nixon’s former law partner, former campaign manager and former attorney general of the United States, was the ultimate higher-up. The man. And we were about to write a story saying that the man was a criminal.

As we reviewing the story and its implications, I put a coin into the coffee machine and experienced a literal chill going down my neck--a sensation sufficiently vivid, unanticipated and unprecedented that I recall it even now with almost a shudder.

“Oh my God,” I said to Bob. My back was to him. I turned. “The president is going to be impeached.”

Bob sat motionless. He looked at me for a second or two in the strangest way. But it was not a look of skepticism or any sense of dismissing what I had saidnot the look he delivered many times on my occasional flights of fancy.

“Jesus I think you’re right,” said the staid man from the Midwest.

It had not occurred to me that such a thought had crossed his mind too. Even the most partisan Nixon-haters to our knowledge had not suggested such a possibility. It was only three months after the break-in at the Watergate. It would be another twelve months before Congress took up impeachment, and 22 months before Nixon resigned. “We can never us that word in this newsroom,” Bob said.

I saw the point. Our editors might think that we had an agenda or that our reporting was overreaching or even that we had gone around the bend. Any suggestion about the future of the Nixon Presidency could undermine our work and the Post’s efforts to be fair.

We did not tell this story in All the President’s Men because the book was published in April 1974 in the midst of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation of President Nixon. To recount it then might have given might have given the impression that impeachment had been our goal all along.
Woodward understood that the majority of the public would tune out their reporting if they believed it was fueled by an anti-Nixon agenda.

In Watergate, the public was swayed because they were bombarded for two years with facts, evidence, and arguments. Conservatives and Republicans have done nothing of the sort with the Obama scandals.

Historian Alonzo Hamby on the effort that deposed Nixon:

The Ervin and Cox operations shared information extensively and together constituted the most formidable group of investigators that had ever looked into the dark recesses of any administration. Cox gathering evidence for the quiet legal processes of the courtroom, Ervin and his colleagues accumulating information and arguments for the political processes upon which Nixon's ultimate fate depended.
Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, have shown themselves to be something less than “formidable investigators” or persuasive advocates.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Ukraine: Why have we not heard from the “41ers”?


Most Republican criticism of President Obama’s Ukraine policy has come from alumnae and ideological allies of Bush 43. The critics accept the premise of Victoria Nuland’s policies: that Ukraine should be integrated into the EU, that NATO should move its frontiers closer to the Russian homeland, that the struggle with Putin is a zero sum game, and that fomenting a coup against a Putin ally is wise policy.

The critics harp on the need for greater strength, greater resolve, greater confrontation.

The debate is only between imperialist hawks and superhawkish imperialists. The policy differences are small; it is mostly a matter of how loud one rattles the sabers.

I’ve noted before that Bush ’41 had a completely different approach to Moscow and its former satellites. (See here and here).

Here is President George H. W. Bush himself in a speech to the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev in August 1991:

Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based on ethic hatred.
This is a viewpoint that deserves a hearing today.

Morning Chesterton


Not everyone realizes how much of what is called Progress is really procrastination. It is not so much hurrying toward the ideal state; it is rather, hurling the ideal state onwards far in front of us, that it may be a good long time before we catch up with it.
Illustrated London News
4 February 1933


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I wish Ace would tell us how he really feels about Eleanor Holmes Norton

A stupid and impulsive woman who pounds buttons on unfamiliar machinery rather than asking the engineer seated right next to her what the button does is one of the Congressmen dictating every aspect of economic life in the nation.

Here

Friday, June 20, 2014

Harvard versus Harvard UPDATED


Disruption theory and the Genteel Tradition

Disinterested scholar or scared Luddite?

Harvard history professor Jill Lepore has a lengthy article on Clayton Cramer’s theories of innovation and industry disruption.

THE DISRUPTION MACHINE
What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.
These are the two best responses I’ve read:

Will Oremus: The New Yorker Thinks Disruptive Innovation Is a Myth

Steve Denning: The New Yorker: Battle Of The Strategy Titans
Lepore starts out strong. She criticizes Christensen for drawing simplistic conclusions from ambiguous case studies, for overstating the predictive power of his theory, and for ignoring contrary evidence.

So far, so good. But even this portion of her critique is vulnerable to the Gelernter Rejoinder:

But if you allow carpers to shoo you away from every generalization before you have time to explore it, you have no hope of coming to grips with basic questions of modern America.
There is no doubt that Clayton Christensen has spent the last twenty years exploring some of the most important questions in modern business. Lepore implies that his work is fatuous; thousands of executives and investors disagree.

Harvard history professors are not in the business of writing narrow critiques of business fads and theories. Nor is the New Yorker in the business of publishing them. Lepore piece is supposed to do more than that. She hints that disruptive innovations are bad (likening them and the companies who try to implement them to terrorism and “packs of ravenous hyenas.”)

Why?

First of all, why single out Christensen’s work for its shaky intellectual foundations? The flaws of his case study based research are shared by most social science research. Unliked Freud, Christensen at least used real names in his case studies.
Related:

Give us science but not too much
I think Oremus nailed this point in his article:

At this point I couldn’t help thinking that her thesis boils down to: “Disruptive innovation is a myth, and also please stop doing it to my industry.”
Recently, Christensen has written influential articles on the coming disruptions in higher education and journalism. Lepore, Harvard professor and New Yorker writer, has two oxen being gored by Christensen and his acolytes.

As Oremus notes, Lepore shifts “awkwardly” in mid-article “from questioning the legitimacy of Christensen’s theory to lamenting its impacts on established institutions that she holds dear:

That’s how a smart skeptic becomes a clever Luddite.

Articles like this probably should come with a warning label:

Content only appears to be disinterested scholarship. The writer has large financial interests and larger psychological investments in the material s/he discusses.
Over a century ago George Santayana mocked his Harvard colleagues for their cloistered existence and their blind faith that it could be preserved:

Yet the smoke of trade and battle
Cannot quite be banished hence
And the air-line to Seattle
Whizzes just behind the fence.
It looks like not much has changed in Cambridge.

Lepore:

Doctors have obligations to their patients, teachers to their students, pastors to their congregations, curators to the public, and journalists to their readersobligations that lie outside the realm of earnings, and are fundamentally different from the obligations that a business executive has to employees, partners, and investors. Historically, institutions like museums, hospitals, schools, and universities have been supported by patronage, donations made by individuals or funding from church or state. The press has generally supported itself by charging subscribers and selling advertising. (Underwriting by corporations and foundations is a funding source of more recent vintage.) Charging for admission, membership, subscriptions and, for some, earning profits are similarities these institutions have with businesses. Still, that doesn’t make them industries, which turn things into commodities and sell them for gain.
Journalism has always been an industry in America. The owners wanted a profit and employees wanted higher wages. The rest is just self-serving PR flackery.

Related:

The Newspaper today and tomorrow
In the end, Lepore’s special pleading reveals her ignorance of both innovation and journalism. I’ve read most of Christensen’s published works. I know that he never wrote anything as stupid as this:

The logic of disruptive innovation is the logic of the startup: establish a team of innovators, set a whiteboard under a blue sky, and never ask them to make a profit, because there needs to be a wall of separation between the people whose job is to come up with the best, smartest, and most creative and important ideas and the people whose job is to make money by selling stuff. Interestingly, a similar principle has existed, for more than a century, in the press. The “heavyweight innovation team”? That’s what journalists used to call the “newsroom.”
Scott Shane of the New York Times disagrees that the newsroom represents a “heavyweight innovation team”.

A typical daily reporter on deadline calls a couple of people and slaps something into the paper the next day.
Doesn't sound like the work of Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs

UPDATES:

Lepore a not so careful reader?

David Foster from the comments:

"The logic of disruptive innovation is the logic of the startup: establish a team of innovators, set a whiteboard under a blue sky, and never ask them to make a profit..'

This makes me wonder if she actually *read* Christensen's books. In The Innovator's Sollution, he specifically stated that In a venture dedicated to the introduction of a disruptive technology--whether a start-up business or a division of a larger company--early profitability is more important than early rapid growth. See my review of the book, here:

This John Kirk article is outstanding:

Disruption Corruption: What Disruption Theory Is And What It Isn’t
His point about insiders being blinded by product features is important. It is lies at the heart of incumbent blindness when a disruptive innovation starts up. He uses the iPad as an example. One could also point to Detroit in the 60s and 70s where "car guys" just knew that Toyotas and VWs were not "real cars" and hence no threat to GM and Chrysler.

Christensen has addressed this point when he tells managers to ask "what job do consumers hire my product to do"?  Often, that job has little to do with the features than managers consider important.