Friday, October 31, 2003

Christmas Reminder

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Good blogging advice

Here's one way to get an Insta-lanche. It has worked before.
Kathy Boudin

Good op-ed piece on the new book which clears away some of the myths and lies surrounding her case. It's based on the new book that just came out. Too late, unfortunately, since she has got her parole.

HT: Powerline
Putin and Khodorkovsky

The New York Times,Wall Street Journal (subscriber link) and the LA Times think that we should be deeply concerned about the arrest of the richest man in Russia. They also think that the matter is one Bush should not ignore. In fact, they believe that this is a serious matter for US-Russia relations.

Why the US wants to antagonize Putin over this domestic matter escapes me. We are looking for allies in the war on terror and international support on Iraq and North Korea. Russia is a great power whose assistance we welcome. Now is not the time to meddle in their internal affairs.

Right now in this country former CEOs are appearing in courtrooms. We accept that the excesses of the Clinton Bubble included illegal activities. Why is it hard to believe that some of the men who got rich in Russia's "privatisations" are not honest businessmen? The arrest of Khodorkovsky is a matter of grave concern, but Ken Layne and Bernie Ebbers deserve to rot in jail?

All the accounts agree that Khodorkovsky broke the tacit agreement that the oligarchs would stay out of politics. He was funding multiple parties (including the Communists) and probably aspired to become president himself. It is difficult to fault Putin for striking at this overweening ambition. Putin may not be a liberal, but on this matter he is behaving in a way that Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt would understand and approve. Both men knew that big money can corrupt politics and in Russia money does not get bigger than Khodorkovsky.

One would think that a paper like the Times, which is a steadfast supporter of campaign finance reform in the US, would see the danger to Russia's nascent democracy.

In his obituary for Madam Chiang Kaishek John Derbyshire made a relevant point:

Chiang did not even bother much with advertising his regime to the peasantry. His main propaganda efforts were addressed to the urban middle classes and foreign sources of finance and military aid. He seems to have thought of the peasants, in his own mind, as a kind of livestock. His wife shows little sign of having thought about them at all.

Khodorkovsky seems to have made the same mistake. He worked assiduously to woo Western bankers and investors. But he and the other oligarchs did little to earn the respect of their fellow Russians.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Looking for a Vietnam, media misses the real stories in Iraq

Good article in NRO on the war coverage.

It seems a media gospel that every conflict must be compared to Vietnam sooner or later, so anything that could prompt the analogy triggers a flashback to the '60s. Forget that the size of the conflict, the global context, the weapons, doctrine, force structure, domestic context, terrain, motivation, and practically every other point of comparison are different. The key variable is the same — reporters looking for a storyline, a hook, something to say when they've run out of critiques. A Vietnam story is a form of analytical autopilot, usually negative, almost always misguided.

Back in April i suggested that more than laziness was involved:

What is not often discussed is how professional ambitions make journalists defeatists. When wars go well, the uniformed military receives the praise. It is they who enter into history. We remember Nimitz and Patton, not the correspondents who wrote dispatches about the victories at Midway and Bastogne.

In contrast, Vietnam made the careers of David Halberstam, Seymour Hersh, and Neil Sheehan. Exposing military failure and atrocities makes the journalist the hero not the chronicler. It is a powerful temptation, one which could cause a reporter to lose proportion and distort the meaning of events. Yet this is not something that seems to get discussed much.
The opposite of Pundititis

Julie Neidlinger has another good post on mega-hog farms in North Dakota and Canada. She has a whole series of posts on the subject-- heavy on info, light on punditry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Lucky Finds

This is dead-on

This is definitely a case of Pundititis here - a superficial, snappy retort on a complex issue.

And so is this

but Elizabeth Smart's parents just creep the ever-lovin' shit out of me. I don't make watching the Today show a habit, but I happened to be watching Friday morning for the teaser interview with Katie and Young, Dewy Elizabeth, and even though I'd just stepped out of the shower, I felt like I needed another.
Cheapshot at Rush

Buzzmachine offers

And so what does Rush Limbaugh face for acquiring thousands of the same pills?
Howard Stern said this morning that Jeb Bush can't exactly be out there saying he's tough on drugs but light on Rush.


The Limbaugh investigation is an odd one. Usually, the police try to get the user to cooperate in order to arrest and convict the dealers. But in this case the dealer is trying to get off the hook by offering up a customer. And Jarvis approves. If there is hypocrisy here, I don't think it is being displayed by Limbaugh fans.

Did Robert Downey, Jr. go to jail for his first offense? Did Whitney Houston?
Scoring on Sex and the City

Terrific article over at City Journal

The show also pretends that girlfriends can satisfy your need for a family, should you not find a suitable husband. Our girls rarely fight, they are never envious, and, most unlikely of all, they just about never put their boyfriends—or husbands and babies—first. We used to tell fairy tales about happily-ever-after marriages; today, it seems, we tell myths about happily-ever-after girlfriends.


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Bush, WMDs, and the Dems

It's not my job to advise Democratic candidates, but here goes.

If I was a candidate who voted for the Iraq war, i wouldn't run from my vote. I wouldn't waste time coming up with a Dean-lite formulation.

I would not fall into the "Bush lied about WMDs" trap.

Instead I would say that Bush failed. That Saddam had WMDs and Bush lost them. That the warplan allowed WMDs to slip into Syria and Iran and into the hands of terrorists.

Both Truman and Johnson were hurt by the defection of left-wing anti-war voters. But they were destroyed by the perception that they were waging war ineptly and indecisively. (Popular history tends to treat all anti-war opinion as Joan Baez-style pacifism. But the Goldwater-Lemay brand of criticism was also a potent electoral force.)

I think Bush really is vulnerable on this score. The war in Iraq hasn't solved the North Korean nuke problem or the looming Iran nuke problem. The administration can be criticized for adopting the messianic objective of remaking the Middle East and, in the process, downplaying their duty to safeguard the security of the United States. (The continuing problems with TSA is another vulnerable flank for the right Democrat to attack on this theme).


Christmas Reminder

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What Creates Buzz?

And does it have anything to do with merit or importance?

Case in point: Details magazine is seen as buzz-worthy. It is both beneficiary and evangelist for the metrosexual phenomenon which it helped drive into the public consciousness. Its circulation is 418,000 and is flat compared to last year.

The Atlantic Monthly is not buzzworthy. Yet its circulation is 520,000 and increased 3.6% this year.

So why does a larger, growing magazine get less attention than a smaller magazine that is just holding its own?

I'm tempted to make the same point about Woodstock. Hundreds of thousands of kids go to a concert in upstate New York and give birth to Woodstock Nation and the Woodstock Generation. Yet hundred of thousands of people go to Daytona EVERY YEAR for Speedweek and no one (except maybe Tom Wolfe) talks about Daytona Nation or NASCAR Nation.

(Until now, maybe. The Dems are at least talking about the need to appeal to "NASCAR Dads.")
Aphecca has the latest gun bias report

up here. Always worth checking out.
Defender of the Faith

Here is an excellent article on Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, of Nigeria. He is the leader of what is probably the largest Anglican community in the world. (Nigeria has around 18 million Anglicans; North America has only 4 million).
Right-Of-Center Bloggers Select The Books That Have Had The Biggest Impact On Their Thinking

A new survey over at Rightwing News.

FWIW here were my selections (in no particular order):

Wm Buckley ed. Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking

G.k. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

William Simon, A Time for Truth

Francis Schaefer, The Christian Manifesto

Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History

Chilton Williamson, The Immigration Mystique

Theodore White, In Search of History

Albert Murray, The Omni-Americans

Tom Wolfe, The Purple Decades

David Gelernter, 1939: The Lost World of the Fair

Samuel Eliot Morrison, The Oxford History of the American People

Charles Murray, Losing Ground

Forrest MacDondald, Alexander Hamilton

Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors

Milton Freeman, Free to Choose


I guess i really am out of step since only one of these titles made the RWN list

Monday, October 27, 2003

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Forget James Bond

This article by John Keegan is outstanding

Forget about James Bond – intelligence never wins wars


intelligence never wins wars. As the American David Kahn, the supreme intelligence historian, puts it: "There is an elemental point about intelligence - it is a secondary factor in war."
****
Cipher intelligence was crucial in winning the Battle of the Atlantic and many of the Pacific battles. It palliated, though it did not avert, the flying bomb and rocket menace. It contributed to success in the desert and Normandy, but it did not win the war.
****
Hans Blix, the UN inspector, may be seen as a legalised intelligence agent. He had the authority to go where he chose, seek what he would and speak to whomsoever he wanted. Even so, he declared himself baffled and demanded more time.
****
In reality, intelligence is muddled, partial, contradictory, often proving not very secret at all and always confusing.

Television ratings are down

and TV exec's are in denial.


Network executives are baffled by a season unlike any seen before. Returning hit shows like "Friends" and "E.R." are losing significant numbers of viewers from previous years. New shows have performed far worse than almost anyone expected, a result capped off Monday night when the Fox network started two shows that had received huge promotional pushes during the baseball playoffs, "The Next Joe Millionaire" and "Skin," and they posted crushingly disappointing numbers.
****
The drop-off in these viewing figures tabulated by Nielsen Media Research is inexplicable to industry executives. "Frankly what we're seeing strains credulity," said Alan Wurtzel, the president of research for NBC.
****
"You can't explain a 12 percent decline in men 18 to 34 or close to 20 percent in men 18 to 24 by saying they're playing a lot more video games," said David F. Poltrack, the executive vice president for research at CBS.


While the network guys play ostrich, one man asks the right question:

One possible factor is more basic, Mr. Sternberg said — the quality of the new shows. "I've always noticed that we never hear anybody talking about the programming." He noted that the networks, which still tend to drive the overall viewing figures, have suffered though a grim start to their new prime-time season. "What has anybody put on that's going to appeal to young men?" Mr. Sternberg asked.

Whatever their other merits, it is hard to argue that "Joe Millionaire" or "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" are good shows to draw 18-34 year old male eyeballs.

And why is it so hard to believe that the increasing numbers of DVD players, game consoles, and broadband connections are cutting into TV watching?

I also wonder if the long rerun season doesn't play a role. When nearly half the year is nothing but repeats, viewing habits get disrupted and broken. There is no switch networks can throw to bring those viewers back when the new season begins.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Kecksburg

So Bryant Gumble is a serious journalist? Then what's he doing hosting junk like this?

Yeah, i watched it. Not often my former neck of the woods ends up on a cable special with a big name journalist fronting the whole deal.

But for anyone who saw it and thinks there's fire beneath the smoke... especially the stuff about the men in black.... please take a look at this and this. The MIB thing is a hoax and the hoaxer's friend spills the story.

And another thing while i am at it--- why didn't Bryant track down one of the 75-100 soldiers who were in those woods?
On The New Yorker

This struck me as dead-on:

When Harold Ross launched the New Yorker in 1925, the line was that it is not edited for the little lady in Dubuque. In fact, it was edited precisely for her, and for myriad other middlebrow Americans who felt themselves to be in exile from New York, from the center of fashion, the arts, and clever opinion. On coffee tables throughout Middle America, the display of the New Yorker was a statement that the people who live here are not defined by the hinterland to which fate has consigned them; they are in touch with the larger world.
Easterbrook

This is one of the best discussions on the whole matter that i've seen.

Gregg Easterbrook's not an anti-Semite...

It is too long to excerpt and still do it justice. But here are a couple snippets to whet the appetite:


This is because Easterbrook's post was not, as Leon Wieseltier assessed it, "objectively anti-Semitic."

Neither's statement was particularly well-argued or added much to understanding Easterbrook; in this sense, they were about as useful as, say, television pundits. And the interesting thing here is that their value is very much akin to television pundits. Yourish is the screaming hysteric who provides more entertainment than coherence, and Simon is the screenwriter-of-a-Holocaust-movie whom some might think would have something unique or interesting to say, but when stumped, a network executive will rationalize his appearance by saying "it makes good television."

I also liked this point at The Ambler on Postrel's comments:

So Easterbrook’s criticism of certain aspects of quasi-monopoly capitalism equals "hating commerce"—which practically outfits him in an SS uniform. How very interesting that to Postrel Easterbrook’s mortal sin is not his putative hatred of Jews but rather his blasphemy against her jealous god, Capitalism.


On the downside, we have this comment over at Buzzmachine in response to the pro-Easterbrook column by Krauthammer (it is third in the thread)


it's a minor scalp, but at least its a start... and we got the pentagon's chaplain advisor (who just happened to be a radical terrorist supporter)
scalp them all, from easterbrook on up... so he's a friend or a colleague, he helped contribute to the atmosphere that allows widespread attacks and libels against jews, he deserves everything he got
it's time, and I'm a big fan of John Brown and the uncomprising school of dealing with evil. Just as slavery was an unalloyed evil, so is terrorism (in all its guises) and anti-semitism. Let's hope we can soon hang Patty B and Al Sharpton up along Easterbrook on our trophy wall, quickly followed by Chirac, Arafat, et al...
no quarter, no quarter, and no sympathy


Our brave warrior commented anonymously course. But i think that he makes a point that he didn't intend to make. There is no way in the world that the blogosphere or traditional media can get Sharpton or Buchanan in the way they got Easterbrook-- they, unlike him, have no trouble trucking with anti-semites. And there is a political and market niche that supports them that is indifferent to the sort of criticism leveled at Easterbrook. Chirac and Arafat are even more immune. (Remember, Chirac was re-elected as the least anti-semitic candidate in round two).

All of which is to Easterbrook's credit and undercuts the rationale for the full-out assault directed at him.
Scott Chaffin is not happy

with his local government. His mayor (liberal D) is on a crusade against immoral living. But here is the most telling point he makes:


Just think about this, you Lefties in the crowd...what if it were a solid-citizen, Republican-type, white-bidnessman Mr. Mayor -- you know, the kind we used to elect that built this city into a truly great place to live and work -- that was doing all this banning? Somehow, right here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, in the city that the MOST churches per capita in the nation, a hotbed of the so-called Radical Religous Right that wants everyone to be the Church Lady...no one has ever gone so far in restricting what a man or woman can do on their own dime and with their own property in the 8th largest city in the nation. It took a yellow-journalist, faux-populist Democrat. You loons who think that the "fringe elements" are driving the Republican Party chew on that a little bit, and get back to me.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Selective Outrage

I originally posted this on September 6.


Unbelievable Stereotype

I just received my October issue of The Atlantic Monthly. I love the magazine but the cartoon by Barry Blitt brought me up short.

It is called "Proposed Designs for the New Iraqi Dinar." The first three poke fun at our failed attempts to locate and kill Saddam, the looting of antiquities, and Geraldo's map drawing stunt. That's all fair criticism. But the fourth is a serious problem.

It is captioned "Thank you, Poland, proud member of the Coalition of the Willing." The drawing shows a bunch of soldiers staring quizzically at a light bulb. Obviously, the "artist" is trafficking in the dumb Polack stereotype.

Apparently, the cartoonist believes that joining the Coalition of the Willing makes a nation and its citizens fair game for cruel ethnic humor. Imagine, if you will, National Review showing Chirac bribing Kofi Anon with watermelons. The outrage would be deafening. (Rightly so.)


Others agreed with me but nearly every bit of the blogosphere and the traditional media never made a peep. That's understandable-- the Atlantic only has a circulation of 500,000, so most people never saw the cartoon. And Instapundit gets thousands of emails. Not his fault that he didn't notice mine but did Simon's and Yourish's.

But it is some sort of problem when Easterbrook becomes the target of Insta-amplified outrage, but Blitt and Cho get a free pass.

Bottom line, the blogosphere is not now a debating society or a conversation in a salon; it is a mob in cyberspace. Expecting it to behave rationally or consistently is asking too much. But to ignore the mob-like attributes when posting is irresponsible.
The Corner

It was never one of my favorite blogs, but now it is becoming almost impossible to read. I know they think they are clever and funny with the pitches for Legacy, etc., but that has become so repetitive that it is tiresome.

The only reason i keep checking them out is that so many other blogs are down due to the DoS attacks at Hosting Matters.

And come to think of it The Corner is completely uninterested in that subject as is the rest of the traditional media. UBL supporters using DoS to take down sites they disagree with-- it's a non-story.

UPDATE: Justin Katz comments over at Dust in the Light:

the promotions for books and other goods have become absolutely ridiculous, to the point of mocking the central illusion of blogs — that the reader is raised in standing in the interaction. It's like being invited to a private dinner party for an author who proceeds to pitch his book after every other mouthful.

Which made me think that the Corner is to blogs what a Tupperware party is to a real party.
Advertising and H-1B

The 13 October Ad Age carried a "Viewpoint" column by Mark Koestler, an immigration lawyer specializing in the advertising industry. He complains that the business is being hindered by the restrictions on H-1B visas.

US advertising agencies have to be able to hire the best and the brightest talent, regardless of an employee's nationality.

This is an odd time to argue that US advertising is suffering from a dearth of prospective employees. In July 2000 the industry employed over 500,000. That number has dropped to 428,000 as of July 2003.

Mr. Koestler's clients are not frustrated because they can't bring in the next David Ogilvy or Bill Bernbach. The positions he complains about-- account managers, art directors, account planners-- are not senior executives. They are typical advertising jobs that range from entry level to middle management.

It is also a little odd that large agency groups like Omnicom (one of Mr. Koestler's clients) think that they can't compete in the US if they must rely on only American citizens to staff their agencies. Omnicom normally argues that Coke et. al. needs an agency that has offices in Lisbon and Tokyo staffed by Spaniards and Japanese. Only then will the advertising be appropriately tailored to the local market. Yet for the largest market in the world Omnicom believes expatriates do a better job than natives.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Plame/Wilson

Reuel Marc Gerecht in The Weekly Standard

And if Plame, as has been suggested, was overseas as a non-official cover officer, known in the trade as a NOC, her associations are even less at risk, since foreigners have vastly more plausible deniability with NOCs, who are not as easy to identify as officially covered officers. It is important to note that if Plame was ever a NOC, her associations overseas were jeopardized long ago by the Agency's decision to allow her to come "inside"--that is, become a headquarters-based officer (even one with a poorly "backstopped" business cover like Plame's Boston front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates).

This officially sanctioned "outing" of NOCs is a longstanding problem in the CIA, where non-official cover officers regularly tire of their "outsider" existence ("inside" officers dominate the Directorate of Operations). It is not uncommon to find former NOCs serving inside CIA stations and bases in geographic regions where they once served non-officially, which of course immediately destroys the cover legend they used as a NOC. Foreign counterintelligence services naturally assume once a spook always a spook. Since foreign counterespionage organizations often share information about the CIA, this outside-inside transformation of NOCs can readily become known beyond one country's borders.


So the CIA agent wife probably was outed by Aldrich Ames. Or she may have been compromised by agency proceedure and her ambition. So it's not obvious that the leak to Novak would have been an effective punishment as Wilson alleges.
Reminder

It's not too late to help save Christmas. (Click here or here).

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Kind of Blue

Terry Teachout writes about this, the greatest of all popular records:

Miles Davis and his colleagues were young men when they recorded Kind of Blue, but the muse visited them that day and brought with her the gift of essential simplicity, causing every note and rest they played to pulse with life. That’s why we listen to them a half-century later—and why, if I live another half-century, I expect to be listening to them still.
Stone of Hope

The review i mentioned earlier is now up on the Atlantic website. Click here.
Carnival Burnout?

Amish Tech Support thinks "this whole meta-blogging thing has gotten out of control."

But as Rob of BusinessPundit comments

Didn't you expect more meta-blogging stuff to arise as the number of blogs increased? The Carnival of the Capitalists was started because people like myself were already burned out on the blogosphere in general. I can only read so much about the California recall and Iraq before I wonder if there is anything else going on in the world.

Exactly.

As the number of blogs keep growing, readers (including other bloggers) need some way to sort through them and discover new ones-- especially blogs that tackle subjects not covered by Instapundit and blogs that weren't around two years ago.

Carnival of the Capitalists is great for those of us interested in business and economics. I applaud Jay and Rob for all the work they have put into it.

Shooters' Carnival covers the nonpolitical aspects of gun ownership and shooting. Currently the blogosphere is great on CCW and 2d Amendment issues, but lacking in simple how-to information for new or prospective gun owners.

The American Mind

has several strong posts up. Here he discusses blogger responsibility in light of Easterbrook.

Here he discusses the possible Eisner vendetta.

Here he goes after Margaret Cho's hideous posts. I didn't know she had once guest-blogged for Dean.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Easterbrook II

Jeff Jarvis announces:

I'm officially bored with the Easterbrook flap now.

He has commenters who disagree.

The American Mind has additional thoughts on the matter that deserve a reading.

As i read the new posts about the fallout i couldn't help remembering this quote from The Great Gatsby:

"I couldn't forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done, was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy-- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made...."

Also, i believe that many bloggers proved McLuhans point: " Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity."

I was rather surprised that so many in the blogosphere now endorse the theory behind the Hollywood blacklist. For example, Daniel Drezner wrote:

Maybe the cost of Easterbrook's speech in this incident was excessive. But to extend his analogy, if a bookstore has the right to not promote a book, then ESPN has the right to not promote Easterbrook.

Not everyone agrees with the "serves him right" view. Outside the Beltway got it right:

But we, of course, have the right to criticize them for the decision. For a journalistic enterprise to fire someone for ideas expressed in a column is rather dubious; this is all the more true when it's at another venue on a topic other than for which he's employed to write there.

And since we now have a zero tolerance approach to careless speech, let's return to Virginia Postrel. Early in this controversy she wrote:

Of course, the slope from hating commerce to hating (or killing) Jews is one of history's most slippery.

This was a cruel thing to write about Easterbrook on the basis of one poor argument. But it also over the top. Are all of us who do not worship at the alter of Tarjay potential murders? That is a rather hideous libel to introduce into a discussion of bigotry.

The Junk Yard Blog was also on the mark:

I cannot express strongly enough my outrage at ESPN for firing him, and pushing his great TMQ columns down the memory hole. Bastards. They've lost this viewer for good. Due probably to Disney's totalitarian ways, ESPN has become a bastion of thought police. I am also plenty annoyed with lots of bloggers right now. The bandwagon mentality, the hunt 'em till we bleed 'em ethos that permeates much of the blogosphere, has cost a decent man his job. I hope you're happy. I'm sure not.

Oh, and one more thing. If you folks want to play this game, fine. I demand an apology from Andrew Sullivan and anyone else who has ever used the term theocrat or any other perjorative to describe evangelical Christians as a group. You folks who talk about us as though were some form of American Taliban may not realize it, but you sound far more bigoted than Gregg Easterbrook ever did. Really. So fess up, or I might just start chronicling your offenses. How would you like that?


On his second point check out Margaret Cho's blog entry for 10/10/2003 (you'll have to scroll down, she doesn't seem to have permalinks)"

Abstinence

The Pope is one press release away from selling indulgences to buy space in heaven, like in the days of Martin Luther - not the King, the father of Lutheranism, Catholicism Lite. I am so angry, I don't want to just rip up a picture of the pope. I want to rip him a new asshole, wearing a condom, and I don't even have a dick, but this is the one time I wish I did.


It gets worse from there. I choose not to quote further because i don't need the traffic that will result from loading this entry with the f-word. But, nonetheless, i doubt that the blogosphere will go out of its way to make sure that Cho is vilified, fired, or condemned.
David Warsh on Enron and the Press

Boxing the Compass of News

Enron is an especially interesting case for many reasons, not least because the press was so deeply complicit in its rise to prominence as "America’s seventh-biggest company." Early in its fifteen-year history, Enron recognized that glowing press clips, as much as analysts’ recommendations and business school cases, were the royal road to success.

The New Carnival of the Capitalists is Up

Find it here. Another strong batch of posts on business and economic topics.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Easterbrook

I was a fan of TMQ and think his firing is a wildly outsized punishment for his mistake.

The American Mind: "Easterbrook has no history of anti-semitic comments, writes for a magazine run by a Jew, and he gets canned."

Feaful Symmetry: "Let's be blunt here: everybody who said Gregg Easterbrook was a racist or an anti-Semite in reaction to his post got the man fired. Roger has apologized, but he's not the only one who went over the top during the attack on Easterbrook. "

"Roger Simon may be shocked about the whole situation, but his comments look like they're running 9-1 in favor of Easterbrook being fired. These little sessions of two-minutes' hate are making a mockery of fighting real anti-Semitism."

He has a good point there: The comment threads at LGF and Roger Simon were eye-opening. Too many of the commenters seemed to model themselves after Mao's Red Guards-- eager to hunt down thought crimes and determined to force abject capitulation from those who offend them.

Deas Esmay: "This man now has a career forever smeared by people who say he got fired for "saying anti-semitic things," the kind of stain that follows someone forever, like the claim of being a rapist, a sexual harasser, a racist, or a wife-beater. I can't say I'm surprised, given the way the PC police work these days, but I am utterly appalled."

Colby Cosh:"Simon says "I don’t think anybody who attacked Easterbrook wanted to see him fired". Well, gee, Roger, if you shot him, would you be surprised to see a new hole suddenly appear in his head? Anti-Semitism is no longer remotely acceptable in polite North American society, and is a capital offence for someone who has a media career. And this is as it should be. But since we don't have a litmus test for Jew-hatred, or a useful concept of due process that is applicable to inquiries into it, and since we don't expect people who are hostile to Jews to be up-front about it, such an accusation ought to be made in the expectation that it will, at the very least, cause pain and embarrassment. "

All of these posts deserve to be read in full.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Want to Have a Great Christmas?

Wish you could grab just a little piece of that good will and good cheer that floods in at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life"?

You can.

Go here and sponsor a family facing a Christmas without presents. You don't have to worry about your money being wasted by overhead-- you buy and wrap the presents yourself and then CAP delivers them. So 100% of your contribution goes where it was intended.

You get to select the gifts (CAP will send you a wish/need list). Shopping is never more enjoyable than when done in a good cause.

And then, on Christmas morning, no matter what else the season throws at you, you will know this: that thanks to you, kids facing a bleak winter woke up to Christmas presents.

You can also call them at (606) 256-5822 or 606-256-3010.

Brands, Advertising, and Packaged Goods

A large percentage of the conventional wisdom on brands and advertising comes from consumer packaged goods-- soft drinks, razor blades, toothpaste or detergent. These companies essentially created brand management and have always been heavy advertisers. Moreover, "packaged goods marketing experience" was usually a prerequisite for new marketing executives in industries that adopted brand marketing in the 1980s and 1990s (banking, for example).

What is usually overlooked is that all those brand building efforts took place in a selling context which inherently commoditized products. Coke and Pepsi work hard to create a sense of uniqueness-- yet in Wal*mart or Giant they sit side by side as one of 50 soft drink options.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Plame/Wilson

The Junkyard Blog has another strong post:

Wilson got sent by someone in the CIA on a mission apparently designed to discredit one rationale for war, namely that the Iraqis had tried to obtain uranium to build a nuclear weapon. He was not sent on a serious mission of inquiry, just a junket to provide the CIA with some cover once the question rose to the forefront. Wilson was singularly unqualified for this mission, as he demonstrated in the way he conducted it, the way he reported it to the CIA, and the way he wrote about it after the fact. His sole qualification was that he had connections in the region, which isn't much of a qualification, and secondarily that his wife was a WMD expert for the CIA.

I'm not certain that Wilson is the person who leaked Plame's job to Novak but JYB makes an interesting case for it. I still think the "outing" was inadvertent. The goal was not to "punish" Wilson but to explain why Wilson was chosen for a sensitive mission given his anti-war position.
Time to consider relocation

FAN'S FOLLY FUELS MARLINS' RALLY

The key to the Marlins' eight-run eighth inning may well have been a play made by an overzealous Cubs fan, so eager to take home a keepsake of a historic win that he prevented left fielder Moises Alou from catching a foul popup.

Fan might become part of history

For his part, the man stayed in his seat for another inning, despite taking a large amount of verbal abuse. Several fans were ejected for trying to have a go at the man. For his protection, security guards escorted the man to the holding area during the ninth inning. Cubs security chief Mike Hill refused to give out any details about him, but did say the team gave him a new coat and led him out a different exit after the game so no one could recognize him.

"He was scared to death more than anything," Hill said. "He just wanted to get out of here."


Obviously I agree

TAKE OUT THE GORE AND KILL BILL IS AN EPISODE OF "MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS"

Tarantino does nothing but churn out shabby depictions of slaughter as a form of pleasure--and that, for decades, has been what the least imaginative and least talented of Hollywood churn out. Supposedly it's "revolutionary," or something, that Tarantino films revel in violence to a preposterous degree, but that's like saying it is revolutionary for a presidential candidate to revel in complaints against Washington bureaucrats. Nothing about Hollywood is more hackneyed or trite than preposterous violence--and that's all Tarantino has ever put onto film.

Set aside what it says about contemporary Hollywood culture that the supposed liberal progressives of this city now ceaselessly mass-market presentations of butchering the helpless as a form of entertainment, even, as rewarding self-expression.

Heroes of our Civilization

A couple of weeks ago Lawrence Auster noted that this month marked the hundredth anniversary of the return of Sherlock Holmes. He calls Holmes and Watson "heroes of our civilization."

He's right about that. Great detective stories and mysteries are profoundly moral at their core despite being hugely entertaining Sadly, the "evolution" of the detective and mystery genre in recent years has focused on eroding that core.

In From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques, Barzun wrote of mystery novels:

Later observers psychologized and said that reading the tales purged the lust for mayhem. This showed complete ignorance, since the genre does not dwell on the physical act of murder and the corpse is usually disposed in the first few pages. What the stories satisfied was fascination with method-- an aspect of scientism-- coupled with the pleasure of seeing crime put down; in other words, Reason and Right..... crime fiction stacked the cards against the killer and concentrated on justice and the rare mind endowed with 'ratiocinative power

That discreet disposal of the corpse is largely a thing of the past. Especially on TV and in movies the emphasis is on more gore in bright colors in extreme close-up in super-slow motion. (See any episode of CSI or its imitators). It seems to me that there is a wide gulf between "Carol Greene was stabbed and murdered" and "the blade was heavy and serrated. It sliced the carotid arteries and cut part way through the vertebrae." One is about a moral transgression and a human victim. The other is about skill, technique, and equipment. (See related post here).

Once upon a time a single murder was enough to propel a novel. Many short stores, in fact, had no mayhem at all. Holmes foiled bank robbers, jewel thieves, and blackmailers in many of the stories. Now we seem to be obsessed with serial killers. Without a high body count, a novel gets relegated to "cozy" status.

Figures like Holmes or Peter Wimsey are fictional and bear little resemblance to real detectives. But they are hyper-realistic compared to the serial killers in modern thrillers. Writers like Thomas Harris have turned the detectives into somewhat intelligent bureaucrats while making the killer the one endowed with the rare mind. Philip Marlowe is only the " personification of an attitude, the exaggeration of a possibility;" Hannibal Lector bears no resemblance to real serial killers. He is the personification of an impossibility as a criminal, but the perfect example of moral rot as an "artistic" creation.


Monday, October 13, 2003

Stone of Hope

An interesting new book. A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow by David Chappell.

The review in the November Atlantic was eye-opening.

This unusually sophisticated and subtle study takes and unconventional approach by examining both sides in the struggle. Chappell asks what strengthened those who fought segregation in the South and what weakened their enemies. His answer in both cases is evangelical Christianity.

In the mid-1950s the Southern Baptists and the Southern Presbyterians each overwhelmingly passed resolutions endorsing desegregation, and appealing to all southerners to accept it peacefully (in the Southern Baptist Convention the vote was staggeringly lopsided-- about 9,000 to 50.

Billy Graham-- a Southern Baptist from North Carolina-- shared a pulpit with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1957 and commended his work. He viewed racism as a modern, secular concept. Most importantly, he insisted that his revival meetings be integrated even in the South. His ushers and choirs were integrated as well, even where this violated local laws.

Because the churches deserted Jim Crow, Chappell argues that "the segregationists' foundations in southern white culture were mushy. The segregationists had popular opinion behind them but not popular conviction."

This completely upsets the conventional stereotype of white churches as Klan-hangouts. I think it has become a must read for me.

Carnival of the Capitalists


The first one is up here. A lot of strong entries on business and economics.
Christopher Hitchens

The most actively colonial of the current European powers, the France of Jacques Chirac continues to intervene in Africa and the Middle East with great promiscuity while ranging itself solidly against regime change in Iraq

In the November Atlantic.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

In Praise of Nepotism

The July Atlantic has an essay on the subject by Adam Bellow (based on his book by the same title).

It of course drew a fair number of letters. I thought the response from Karl Weber (scroll down) was right on the mark.

Adam Bellow argues that "the new nepotism represents a valuable corrective to the excesses of meritocracy." This ignores a huge moral contradiction: that during the past decade affirmative action has been under assault, in the name of meritocracy, by American conservatives—including most of the "neocon family network" that provided the first boost to Bellow's own career.

These neocons insist that the sacred principle of meritocracy must never be compromised when it comes to judging kids from less privileged families. But somehow, when their own flesh and blood stands to benefit from nepotism, meritocracy is suddenly "excessive" and in need of correction. As Dana Carvey's Church Lady used to say, how convenient.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

It don't mean a thing if they can't hear your ping

I almost always ping when i update the blog. The cool thing was, a few minutes after i did that, i could go to the country store or outside the beltway and find this blog at the top of their blogroll and flagged as having new content. My referrer logs indicated that i picked up a few visitors that way.

But in recent days i've noticed that my pings no longer show up on other blogs. I'm like that trading post in the western.... the pass is snowed shut and the telegraph lines are cut....

Friday, October 10, 2003

Plame-Wilson

Two good posts on the Junk Yard Blog (here and here).

David Frum weighs in here.

And, a reminder that this "Bush lied about nukes" thing has taken some odd twists before. Remember Terrance J. Wilkinson?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Why Mark Steyn is the Best

Bigger than Watergate

Choice bits:

Even his original New York Times piece must rank as one of the paper’s weakest efforts to damage Bush: in Niger, Ambassador Wilson says he spent ‘eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business’. He concedes he never filed a written report and most of the rest of the column reads like a travelogue (‘Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger river’). As a claim to expertise, it’s laughable. So why leak his wife’s name? You don’t discredit a vain bumbler by making it look as if he’s got a fast track to the real goods. To insiders, the letters ‘CIA’ may be a byword for an arthritic bureaucracy whose hands have been tied by Congress for a generation, but in the popular mind they’re still the all-knowing spooks who can find out everything one way or the other.

If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up. This is no way to win a terror war.
Mission to Niger and a Cautionary Tale from Vietnam

While nearly all the attention in the Wilson matter is focused on the leak of his wife's CIA employment, his original mission to Niger and the resulting intelligence are accepted as successful and accurate. He, clearly, believes that he has discovered the truth about Iraq's nuclear program and those that disagree are dishonest.

Rep. Peter King is one of the few who who has been willing to address this other critical issue. In an op-ed in the NY Post, he points out that

Wilson's investigation never addressed what the president said in his State of the Union speech, that the British source was separate from the CIA's and that the British stand by their finding to this day. In other words, that despite Wilson's posturing and outrage, everything the president said about Niger was true.

Blogger Lawrence Auster has also addressed this point.

it is evident from Joseph Wilson’s infamous op-ed in the July 6 New York Times that the tempest he stirred lacks any substantive basis. He established to his (patently unprofessional) satisfaction that Iraq could not have succeeded in purchasing uranium from Niger. He did not establish that Iraq did not attempt to purchase uranium from some other African country. Yet that was the assertion made by British intelligence and referenced in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union. So Wilson’s op-ed, supposedly showing that the administration had ignored his intelligence finding in its supposed rush to war, actually shows no such thing.


They are the exceptions. The mainstream press and the pundit class have templated this story as brave whistle-blowing expert versus deceptive bureaucrats. It is one of their favorite themes going back to the Vietnam War.

One of the most famous Honest David/Lying Goliath battles went on for fifteen years. It concerned the 1967 intelligence estimates of Viet Cong strength and the TET offensive of 1968. The TET battles were over by the summer of 1968, but the battle of the estimates lasted far into the post-war period.

CIA analyst Sam Adams became convinced that the military was underestimating the VC Order of Battle. While the Pentagon and Westmoreland's staff put the VC combat strength at around 250,000, Adams insisted that it was nearer to 600,000.

Writing in the January 1995 number of Intelligence and National Security Ronnie Ford wrote of Adams:

Adams's 'gut feeling' was that he knew the enemy strength better than the military intelligence officers at USMACV. Instead of being satisfied that he had made his analysis known (to the White House, in fact), Adams pushed the issue of the enemy order of battle until it eventually consumed the entire US intelligence community, jeopardizing the US war effort.

After TET, Adams was convinced that the strategic surprise was due to the military's dismissal of his analysis of the OOB. As Ford puts it:

A man of honesty, integrity and loyalty to his country, he believed in his analysis so strongly that he became obsessed with being heard when his views were not accepted with the enthusiasm he thought they deserved. The obsession festered until Adams felt compelled to steal hundreds of classified documents from CIA headquarters to support his case when he finally found someone who would listen. Adams ultimately told his story to the House Select Committee on Intelligence, television producers, cheering crowds at the US Army War College, and publishers.

Adams was key source for CBS in its documentary "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception" that aired on 23 January 1982. This led to the (unsuccessful) libel suit against CBS by Gen. Westmoreland.

So far this follows the Hollywood script. Brave analyst using the free press to bring the truth to the nation.

Unfortunately, the story goes of the rails at this point. In the post-war period, North Vietnamese military histories were written and documents released. American historians got a peek on the other side of the curtain. As Ford notes:

The Vietnamese debate their defeat/victory, their strategy, their tactics and timing, but they do not debate their strength.

And that strength was roughly 235,000 Viet Cong. Sam Adams fought ferociously for a flawed analysis that was wrong by 150%. The men he accused of deception were right. The surprise of TET did not flow from underestimating enemy strength. But it may well have been exacerbated by Adam's relentless effort to get his 'gut feeling' accepted. The resources of the intelligence community forced to debate numbers were unavailable to assess enemy intentions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Leaks, Journalsim, and the Right to Know

One Hand Clapping makes a fair point:

Any reporter who works government beats will tell you that 95-percent-plus of the "confidential" information leaked to them by people of either party has no purpose other than to damage the opposition. Why reporters let themselves be used as pawns in political chess quite escapes me.

He answers his own question, but he got me thinking about a book i read years ago: Edward J. Epstein's, Between Fact and Fiction: The Problem of Journalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1975)

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. 7

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. 9

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


Epstein doesn't have a blog, but he does have a very interesting website.
Wilmore Kendall

The Brothers Judd have a good review up of a very interesting book: Willmore Kendall: Maverick of American Conservatives.

Kendall was a key figure in the early years of National Review, a thinker of real substance, and an interesting man. Not many political theorists appear in stories by Nobel Laureates.

Saul Bellow, in "Mosby's Memoirs" describes Mosby/Kendall this way: "erudite, maybe even profound; thought much, accomplished much-- had made some of the most interesting mistakes a man could make in the twentieth century."

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

About time


Maybe since the Junk Yard Blog got instalanched for this post some enterprising reporters will do some further digging. It's a story that has been ignored to long.

INS DEPORTED AL QAEDA-LINKED TERROR SUSPECT WITHIN DAYS OF OKC BOMBING

Monday, October 06, 2003

Rush was wrong.....

at least when it came to specifics. If McNabb is overrated because sports writers want to see black QBs succeed, then that should apply to all black QBs. Yet, in the case of my beloved (but frustrating) Pittsburgh Steelers, the press was hard on Kordell Stewart and have treated Tommy Maddox with kid gloves.

Last year the sportwriters agreed that Maddox was far superior to Kordell and that he won the job as starting QB. But if you check out the stats, you see that for the whole season Maddox had a QB rating of 85.2 while Kordell's was 82.8.

This year Maddox has dropped to 74.5 and he has thrown 8 interceptions and only 5 TDs. Against Tennessee, his turnovers produced more points for the Titans than he generated for the Steelers. That is the sort of performance that made sports writers call for benching Stewart; thus far, no such calls have been directed at Maddox.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Tenet at the CIA

A nice article in Fortune on Tenet and his turnaround of the Agency. Bear in mind, three years ago a couple of dozen CEOs of dot-bombs got the same kind of write-up from Fortune, Forbes, and their brethren.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

DEATH OF THE SITCOM

This article lays out the grim (?) facts: 24 sitcoms on network schedules today versus 46 in 1993.

Outside the Beltway makes the key point:

How many times have we heard this? All our major movie and TV genres--Westerns, cop shows, medical dramas, sitcoms, game shows, etc.--ebb and flow. The entertainment industry loves to beat a dead horse and, eventually, the shows all become alike and interest fades. The sitcom had been pronounced dead many times, until the Cosby Show revitalized the format in the 1980s. Hospital shows were moribund for years until the E.R. revival. Eventually, someone comes up with a new take on the old formula and it seems "fresh" again.

One genre-mix that has seen very limited use is the marriage of the Western to the horror flick. I can't believe that no one has decided to combine "Buffy" and "Lonesome Dove". They've tried almost everything else.
Wilson/Plame Affair

I don't know what to make of this yet. But these posts by Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping are must reads. (Here, here, and here)
Bias

Jeff at Alphecca has his check on gun-bias in the media. I know it must take a lot of work to put it together weekly and it is always interesting. Check it out and why not give him a link?