Sunday, February 29, 2004

Gibson's Future

One Hand Clapping says "Mel Gibson, blacklisted? Never happen. "

Gibson's movie made $26 million just last Wednesday, more than twice as much as Scorcese's flick made total. You betcha movie producers of all faiths or no faith at all are paying careful attention. I have no doubt that come Monday, producers' inboxes will be filled with 20-page screenplay treatments of the next great Jesus movie. "Jesus Returns" anyone? Maybe "Son of Ben Hur - bar Judah's Revenge."

On the other hand you have this from Steve Sailor

The point of all this inside baseball is that Hollywood is not the do-anything-for-a-profit machine as it is often depicted. There's much the studios won't do, even though the profit opportunities are obvious -- make pro-Christian or anti-Communist or anti-illegal immigration films, to pick some obvious examples.

I tend to agree with Sailor simply because corporate managers tend not to be profit maximizers. Instead, they satisfy the perceived profit requirement and pursue more congenial activities.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Good review of an important book

"It's a Disgrace This Book Had to Be Written"

There are very few books on Americans who long for Hitler, mainly because there never was a significant segment of Nazis in America, but unfortunately there is a significant number of Americans who still think that Joe Stalin was an idealistic reformer, and some of these Americans are in control of history departments of important universities -- and virtually no books are available that document and explain this peculiar situation. "In Denial" fills this gap.
The FCC, Stern, etc.

I think Instapundit has a good point here.

My challenge to those who think that Stern being dropped from 6 stations is an example of Bush Administration crushing of dissent -- see if you can get Kerry and Edwards to adopt a platform of ending all FCC regulation of broadcast content. Take it to the people!

As i noted here, the anti-regulation side is playing a little fast and loose with the facts. We have always had rules on acceptable broadcast content. Stern, Jarvis, and Karmazin want to eliminate those rules by regulatory inaction (while maintaining the cozy oligopoly made possible by licensing).

If the Pinkertons and others want to remove the rules against indecency, go to it. Get a Congressman to introduce the bill to remove restrictions on what goes out over the airwaves. Let's have a debate. (Watch your side lose 355-80).

But, at least, be honest. Don't pretend that Powell is the bad guy or that the "Repressive Right" is trying to impose new restrictions. Admit that you want the current rules changed. And tell us how much nudity, cursing, and rutting you are willing to permit on broadcast TV.


Scott Chaffin also provides the needed reminder that the Stern kerfuffle is about business and lucre.

Let me take a short minute to work this out from a bidness perspective. My understanding is that Clear Channel is #1, and Infinity is #2 in the radio biz. Infinity is the employer of Howie. Clear Channel, then, was in the business of providing sustenance to the bunch most likely to take them down. If you think that doesn't stick in the craw of even the most ruthless, bottom-line businesspeep, you're very mistaken. Only an idiot would NOT go try to find a way out of that situation. That's like McDonald's importing Breakfast Croissants from Burger King. Even if it's a short-term loss, it's worth doing. All that New Economy bullshit about coopetition is fine, as long as you're not direct competitors.
Under the cover of Janet's boob and Mike Powell's FCC whining, Clear Channel gets to "make a stand" against indecency, which will very definitely garner them some good will, and most likely, cause them little to no economic harm. I know the coastals think Howard Stern is the stone-cold nuts, but he ain't, not everywhere.
Speaking of the Passion

Here is Rev. Sensing's review. I doubt i have many readers who do not read him first, but if i do, make sure you read this.
New Finds

OK. So blog -wars sometimes do have positive results. For example, i found this blog

You Big Mouth, You

I agree with him about some of the commentaray that has flowed around Gibson's movie. There has been a steady stream of abuse and mockery aimed at the underlying story and those who believe it.

Also, this site covers crime in Canada. (Yes, Canada). The author's own sister was murdered in 1978 and his own loss makes this a site that never forgets that crime is about victims as well as cops and criminals.

Who Killed Theresa?
Are We All Episcopalians Now?

Ned Flanders is the most prominent Christian on series television. That, in itself, is strong evidence of the profound secularism of the medium and, also, of its fundamental unreality But that is old news.

What i find interesting is that Flanders has become something of a role model for Christians. Flanders, for all his effete fussiness and moralistic obtuseness, is nice. While they might want to be more hip, most Christian spokesmen want always to be nice. For many, inoffensiveness is Godliness.

Part of this surely grows out of a need to be a good witness. Harsh words undermine any talk of Christian love. Also important is the need to counteract the common caricatures of Christians as hateful Puritans and Inquisitors eager to bring back the stake and scarlet letter.

This emphasis on niceness presents a difficulty when confronting our history, For example, the great reformers were many things, but nice is not one of their cardinal qualities. Luther and Knox, especially, were masters of invective. Neither of them had a problem with unloading torrents of crude humor to make a point.

So here is the question: Was Luther a bad Christian? Are we to be ashamed of the men who led the Reformation? Should we value inoffensive niceness more highly than the men who created a central pillar of our civilization?
Or is this just a matter of different mores for different times?

Friday, February 27, 2004

Luck

Business Pundit has a good post asking Does Luck Matter in Business?

Napoleon, when evaluating generals for promotion, would often ask, "is he lucky?" Not a perverse question at all when you consider what he said about battle in his Maxims:

#95
War is composed of nothing but accidents, and, although holding to general principles, a general should never lose sight of everything to enable him to profit from these accidents; that is the mark of genius.
In war there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it.


Exploiting accidents is the "mark of genius". To the outsider it will often look like luck.

As BP says:

It seems that luck, by definition, should be random, but I have to second guess that when I hear comments like "that guy has all the luck." Maybe that guy was just well prepared when the right opportunity came along.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Varieties of Liberalism

Cella's Review discusses an essay by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn on the subject. As he rightly notes, K-L "exudes erudition and wisdom." (Plus he discusses Poland's repeated role as savior of Western Civilization.)

Two interesting posts on liberalism

Here and here at Unqualified Offerings. This was especially good:

Unqualified Offerings long since became convinced that among the things "liberalism" has become is revenge. A lot of the bicoastal policy class actually come from flyover country, but they leave mad. They're gay or brainy or ugly or bad athletes, or all at once. They have rough childhoods and come to the government or the media with a grudge. UO attended many parties with such people in its youth, so it knows what it's talking about here. (UO also fits snugly in two or three of the adduced categories.)

Monday, February 23, 2004

48% Yankee

According to this quiz.
When metaphors blind

Jacob Levy over at Volokh has a really perverse analysis on bubble candidates.

I was actually thinking about this over the weekend, after reading the NYT's Week in Review retrospective of the Dean bubble, with the recent Kerry-bubble debate in mind as well.

Because W was a bubble candidate, in just the same way.


He then goes on a long, entertaining jaunt about how voters just sort of fumbled into supporting GWB because they were confused, desperate, misled. For example,

That earlier President was named George Bush. And it appears that a fair number of the people who expressed support for George Bush in the polls didn't understand that there were two of them

It's a classic piece of punditry-- plausible analysis, entertaining conclusion, lacking some critical facts.

First, GWB impressed a lot of his fellow governors. That was a crucial part of his early support. They certainly didn't confuse him with his father. Plus, Bush's victory in 1998 was crushing and deep: his electoral prowess was not simply a matter of polling numbers. (Bush also was generous with his fund-raising apparatus in 1998 and helped other Republicans raise money. That's a big plus for someone who aspires to lead the party).

Second, McCain squandered his chance for the nomination; it wasn't just GWB's war chest. McCain decided to pander to the media bus by sticking his thumb in the eye of conservative voters: gun owners, born-again Christians, pro-lifers. In contrast, Bush was willing to take the heat and stand by them on their issues. Again, it is hard to reconcile that with bubble behavior-- those groups knew what they wanted in a candidate and where the candidates stood on the issue. Their choice was both rational and well-informed.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest blogging on business and economics is here.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Kerry in the Atlantic

John Kerry got a tremendous boost to his candidacy late last year when Douglas Brinkley brought out his book and excerpts ended up as the cover story in The Atlantic. The current issue has several letters in response. Two, I thought, were pretty interesting.

I was struck by the ending of Douglas Brinkley's piece on John Kerry's Vietnam combat experience, a passage that was apparently taken from Kerry's war diary. Having jumped into a ditch with the mutilated body of a comrade, and with AK-47 bullets whizzing over his head, Kerry recorded the following dissociative episode:
I just lay in the ditch, not firing because I wanted to save ammo and because I couldn't see what I was firing at and I thought about what was happening in New York at that very moment and if people really felt that I was doing something worthwhile while they went down to Schrafft's and had another ice cream sundae or while some fat little old man who made another million in the past months off defense contracts was charging another $100 call girl to his expense account. And then, when the shooting stopped, I came back to where I was.
To anyone who grew up reading Hemingway and Fitzgerald, the style and sense of the passage is familiar, especially the references to Schrafft's ice-cream sundaes and fat little old defense contractors with their expense-account "call girls"?images that sound about right for 1920 or 1935, but to my ears are very dated if ostensibly reflecting the thoughts of a young American under fire circa 1969.

Which is not to say the account is not perfectly true. I've heard a story about an intoxicated reporter who got thrown in jail and, feeling that some dramatic response was called for, removed one shoe and pounded it against the bars of his cell, only later realizing that he had borrowed the scene wholesale from a gangster movie.

However, there is no apparent irony in Kerry's story, and since Hemingway himself was big on bullshit detection, I can't help wondering if an American soldier in 1969 in a Vietnamese ditch under AK-47 fire would truly ponder New Yorkers eating Schrafft's ice-cream sundaes and fat little old defense contractors charging their expense accounts for call girls. Having never been in combat, I have no basis for judging, but it would be most edifying to learn if the passage rings true according to the bullshit detectors of other combat veterans.

Thomas Martin Pflaum
Micanopy, Fla.

According to an excerpt from John Kerry's war diary, when pinned down by enemy fire, Kerry wondered about fat-cat war profiteers who charge call girls' fees to the cost of war materiel. Ordinary combat officers, when pinned down by enemy fire, tighten their sphincters and wonder 1) How the hell am I going to get out of this? and 2) What's the best thing I can do now for my men and my mission?

One wonders what Lieutenant Kerry's men wondered while he wondered about higher matters.

Joseph R. Owen
First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
Skaneateles, N.Y.
Quite Right

From OTB:

Are we really going to take the juvenile position that only people who have earned a Silver Star or higher get to talk about national security issues? And that whatever they say is, by definition, right because they once got shot at? If so, what if they disagree? How can they conduct a debate, since they are all, by definition, right?

Funny the Democrats didn't talk that way when Clinton ran against two decorated veterans. And they had no problem having Patricia Schroeder act as one of their leaders on the House Armed Services Committee. (WHat right did she have to question generals who had served in combat?)
Vietnam, AWOL, etc. etc.

From the MRC: Kerry?s Partisan Partners in Smearing Bush:

The networks followed McAuliffe?s agenda. From Feb. 1-16, ABC, CBS and NBC aired 63 National Guard stories or interview segments on their morning and evening news programs. That?s far more coverage than Bill Clinton?s draft-dodging scandal received in 1992. Back then, the three evening newscasts offered 10 stories on Clinton?s complete evasion of service; this year, those same broadcasts pumped out 25 stories on whether Bush?s acknowledged service was fully documented.

Despite the fact that no Democrat had substantiated their AWOL claims, the networks put the burden on Bush to prove his innocence. After the White House released documents on February 10 showing Bush had satisfied the Guard?s requirements and received an honorable discharge, reporters wanted more evidence (see box). The records showed Bush was never ?AWOL,? exposing the baselessness of the Democrats? original charge, yet none of the networks framed their stories around questionable Democratic tactics. Instead, they kept the onus on Bush: ?The issue is not going to go away,? ABC?s Terry Moran promised.


From Hitchens:

But now, those like Terence McAuliffe who defended every piece of Clintonian mendacity have decided to pin the label of "deserter" on George Bush Jr. This is sordid from at least three points of view. First, in respect of the facts it was self-evidently untrue even before the release of the president's records (and before some of his original accusers began to change their minds, or, in one case, to admit that he was losing same because of early onset Alzheimer's disease). Bush evidently did the gentlemanly minimum, which was itself a good deal more than the average for his college generation. The term "AWOL" is a studied insult and a conscious lie. Second, it's been admitted by the president well before now that the pattern of his youth was not entirely creditable. We've already covered all that, from the boozing to the driving. We don't have to take his word for it that he was "saved," but it's plain enough that he has reformed, thanks largely to his wife, and so it's mean and despicable to revisit that period in such a Pharisaic manner. Third, some Democrats really seem to want to act hawkier than thou. Are they so sure that this is a bright idea?

Sooner or later, Sen. John Kerry is going to have to say which he thought was the noble cause: the war or the antiwar movement. In the later movement, he clearly was not numbered among the "moderates." I remember those "Winter Soldier" hearings very well, and as far as I'm aware the charges made against the U.S. Army in Vietnam were substantially true, even if some of them were laid by shady and suspect characters. However, if the average in the field was tolerance for rape, torture, mass killing, and a depraved indifference to human life, what becomes of the "band of brothers"?
What am i missing

How are Mel Gibson's father's views relevant to the merits of "The Passion"? It seems to me that they have even less relevance than a movie director's membership in the CPUSA.
Sounds Reasonable

A prediction: some time before the November election, Sullivan will formally renounce the GOP and/or George Bush.

Over at Spoons.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

It's Buchan-mania

First, it was an essay in the New Criterian.

Then it was Hitchens in The Atlantic.

Now, we have Steyn dusting off an old column.

And to think, i read Buchan when Buchan wasn't cool.
"A Vet Questions John Kerry's Military Service"

Over at Frontpage Mag.

Definitely worth a read.

One of the criticisms of US officers in Vietnam was that they collected medals they didn't deserve and for actions that were just part of the job for enlisted men. So, if Lt. Kerry had not joined up with the VVAW he would have served as a pretty good example of that.
No one asked me

but i think Blogopoly is good clean fun. And yes, even funny sometimes.

But not everyone agrees.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Passion in the Corner

NRO passed along a weird little email under the heading "A CONTRARIAN VIEW OF THE PASSION". I say weird, but mean-spirited and cynical might be more accurate. Ed Kilgore writes

the heavy marketing of Gibson's film to conservative evangelical Protestants strikes me as theologically perverse, if commercially smart. These are people, for the most part, who don't place much stock in the liturgical calendar, and the particular relevance of the Passion to the annual cycle of meditations about Christ. Moreover, these are people who often think St. Paul's comments on gender relations or homosexuality--or for that matter, the entire Old Testament--are as central to Revealed Truth as the gospels themselves. Presumably, most conservative evangelicals would be as interested in, say, a movie about the cursing of the Cities on the Plain as with anything specifically about the Passion.

And third, I'm a bit concerned, though not surprised, by the sort of Popular Front thinking that has so many conservatives from every religious background expressing total solidarity with Gibson's faith, which is by any standard a bit eccentric, and by Catholic standards specifically, heretical or at least schismatic. I realize that many conservatives share the Left's eagerness to transfer political and cultural ideological labels into every realm of life, including religion…conservatives should beware embracing just anyone who calls himself a conservative
.

First, note that Kilgore assumes that conservative Evangelicals would be happier watching a movie where gays are killed than a movie about Jesus Christ.

Second, he assumes that Evangelicals and traditional Catholics are more divided on essential matters than either are from secularists. (That's how i read "theologically perverse). That sure doesn't leave much room for ecumenicalism.

Similarly, by speaking of "Popular Front thinking" he implies that the Protestants who have praised this movie are forging cynical quasi-political alliances with Gibson. He rules out that they might actually admire the movie.

The late Francis Schaeffer was a prolific writer much admired by Evangelicals. One of his most influential books was The Christian Manifesto which argued that believers could and should become active in politics. One of his key points was that conservative Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and Jews should join together in what he called "an ecumenicalism of orthodoxy." In his view, the matters which divided a conservative Evangelical from a conservative Catholic were smaller than those matters which divided either one from secularists and from many liberals in their own churches.

This book was a huge seller (although it never made the best seller lists because Christian bookstores were not then polled by the list-makers). I'm not certain i knew any Evangelical minister or Sunday School leader who had not read it. Operationally, you see Schaeffer's thinking at work in many grass-roots pro-life groups where Baptists and Catholics work together despite their theological differences.

This type of ecumenicalism is driving a lot of the Evangelical interest in "The Passion". Yes, Gibson is Catholic. But his movie, by following so closely to the Gospel narrative, is orthodox. There is nothing cynical about that.

I also was disappointed that the Cornerites largely let Kilgore's ("an occasional NR/NRO Contributor") charges pass without comment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Freedom Without Responsibility"

Terrific post over at TCS:

When we see leftist ideology statistically predominant among college professors, news reporters, or open-source software advocates, what we are seeing is self selection. What Richard Florida dubbed The Creative Class is a self-selected group that seeks freedom without responsibility in their professional lives. Thus, we should not be surprised that their ideological bent is toward modern liberalism, which translates this personal preference into a political platform.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest edition is available here.

Monday, February 16, 2004

This is a true must read

Have you ever heard that "rule of thumb" was derived from the common law rule that a husband could beat his wife as long as the rod was no thicker than his thumb? Did you know this was an example of the Big Lie? Do you know what connects that lie with the San Francisco marriage ceremonies/civil disobedience?

All this and more is revealed here.
Politics and the Sports Pages

From InstaPundit on the way the AP slipped anti-Bush commentary into its coverage of Daytona:

Message: I don't care! Reader Rick Giovanelli, who sent the link, comments: "Give me a break, I can't even read the sports websites now without seeing this nonsense?" Apparently not. At least until after the election. . . .

Those with good memories will remember that Rush Limbaugh said that sportwriters were infected with political correctness when he was a commentator on ESPN. That part got lost in the controversy about race and Donovan McNabb. But there can be no doubt that the first part was right. (And for the record, i thought Rush was wrong about McNabb and said so at the time).

Several ESPN interviewers spent time asking drivers and journalists about the reaction to the "controversial" movie "The Passion" which was promoted on the hood of Bobby Labonte's car. One of the professional chatters even asked "do sports and religion mix?" (Guess she didn't know about the whole invocation thing at all the Cup races).
Mark Steyn

By contrast, the Kerry narrative is almost impenetrable. If Vietnam bitterly divided a nation, split communities, tore apart families, etc, etc, Sen Kerry somehow managed to wind up on both sides of the fence: in the 1960s, he was John Wayne taking out the gooks in 'Nam; in the 1970s, he was Hanoi Jane Fonda, leading the protest movement; now, after two decades in Congress opposing every new weapons system for America's military, he's campaigning like Bob Hope on a USO tour flanked by wall-to-wall veterans. What story accounts for Senator Flip-Flop these past 40 years?

If character is the issue, Bush can relax. And, if doing your bit for national security is the issue, then John Kerry's been Awol for two decades.


The rest is here.
"12 Questions About Vietnam For John Kerry"

A sample: "It has been said that Vietnam Veterans Against the War encouraged soldiers to desert during the war. Is that true?"

John Hawkins has the rest here.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Two ways to plan

Most large corporations seem to operate under the assumption that the best strategic plan is detailed, heavy on numbers, and tightly integrated to the expense budget. Although strategic planning was invented by the military a century before its adoption by corporations, very little of the insight into military planning has made it into the office tower.

Von Moltke wrote that "no plan survives contact with the enemy" and that strategy is "a system of expedients." This flexibility and acceptance of the unpredictable is anathema to the typical business planning process. All too often, we plan as though the we can determine what sales will be eighteen months from now, what expenses and what programs will produce those sales (by product and market).

In short, we think that the point of planning is to produce a plan that can be followed as though the organization is on auto-pilot. We want details, accountability, and milestones. And then we spend the rest of the year interpreting performance based on variance to plan.

This is not what effective planning is in the military. Colin Gray writes:


As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once observed, the principal value of military planning is not to produce ahead of time the perfect plan, but rather to train planners who can adjust and adapt to changing circumstances as they emerge.


Any business which wants to be more resilient and flexible would be smart to adopt the Eisenhower approach: planning as an educational process for people rather than a process for the production of the perfect plan.

Another problem with traditional planning is that it treats strategic problems as though they are entirely a matter of detail complexity. Yet, in reality, making and implementing strategy is a matter largely of dynamic complexity.

From Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline:


The answer lies in the same reason that sophisticated tools of forecasting and business analysis, as well as elegant strategic plans, usually fail to produce dramatic breakthroughs in managing a business. They are all designed to handle the sort of complexity in which there are many variables: detail complexity. But there are two types of complexity. The second type is dynamic complexity, situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious. Conventional forecasting, planning, and analysis methods are not equipped to deal with dynamic complexity. Mixing many ingredients in a stew involves detail complexity, as does following a complex set of instructions to assemble a machine, or taking inventory in a discount retail store. But none of these situations is especially complex dynamically.


From John Sterman, Business Dynamics:


Most people think of complexity in terms of the number of components in a system or the number of combinations one must consider in making a decision. The problem of optimally scheduling an airline's flights and crews is highly complex, but the complexity lies in finding the best solution out of an astronomical number of possibilities. Such needle-in-a-haystack problems have high levels of combinatorial complexity (also known as detail complexity). Dynamic complexity, in contrast, can arise even in simple systems with low combinatorial complexity. ... Dynamic complexity arises from the interactions of the agents over time.


Competitive strategy is inherently dynamic: competitors react to each other's initiatives. Treating it as a matter of static analysis and programmed implementation is a recipe for failure.








Saturday, February 14, 2004

A point worth remembering

What's more, we should not forget that containment was failing. The shameful performance of the United Nations Security Council members (particularly France and Germany) in 2002-2003 was final proof that containment would not have lasted much longer; Saddam would eventually have reconstituted his WMD programs, although further in the future than we had thought.

That's from Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong by Kenneth M. Pollack You know, that Atlantic article which is so harsh on the Bush administration's handling of intelligence and the decision for war in Iraq.
Our Friends to the South

I don't know which is more disturbing: that spectators in Mexico taunted the US soccer team by chanting "Osama, Osama" . Or that the major media are determined to play down the matter. Details are at Rantingprofs.
Uncovered Story

Turn on a cable news network this week and you couldn't help hearing about Michael Jackson's finances and the $70 million dollar loan that is coming due. I'm not quite sure what the importance of that is beyond its gossip value.

I didn't see any discussion of John Kerry's impending financial crisis. See the Country Store for details. There are many "unanswered questions" about his campaign financing and the completeness of his financial disclosures. Somehow, those seem more important than what a pop star spends his money on.

Friday, February 13, 2004

That other scandal

Over at Roger L Simon:

I defended Clinton even when his lies got obvious (though I didn’t feel very good about it) and to this day I think Kenneth Starr is a creep out of Dickens.

Over three years after the Starr report and we are still working off the first draft of history as crafted by Carville and Blumenthal.

It probably wouldn't have caught my eye except that i've just finished The Truth at Any Cost which presents a much fuller picture of Starr and shows how wrong the caricatures were. Not that they let him off easy, but they show why he was a respected lawyer and what the OIC was up against.

Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton
Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton

I don't usually read Hugh Hewitt

but this is pretty good:

In short, most of "elite" media in America is practicing a steely resolve not to dignify the Kerry allegations absent some "proof," while relentlessy probing President Bush's ANG record of three decades ago. The hypocrisy is so enormous that it defies categorization, though not explanation: Standards for Beltway media differ when the "scandal" involves a man of the left than when it involves a man of the center-right.

"Gibson's 'Passion' in Very 'Select' Theatres"

That's the title of a very odd post over on Foxnews. Apparently, Roger Friedman thinks Gibson's film should be shown in theaters where it would lose money. Why this special requirement for this movie? Plenty of films open in carefully selected urban markets and never make it to the suburban multi-plexes.

What makes this opening strategy special is that it up-ends convention. Manhattan and LA are supposed to get first crack at all movies-- that's where buzz gets generated, that is where entertainment reporters hang out. For this movie, however, Gibson discovered that the audience was in the hinterlands and that they were primed and ready to go.

Clayton Cramer has a more thorough discussion here.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Right on Target

Who cares who screwed Roger Partridge?

The Bloomsbury group bores me silly. Always has. All hat, no cattle—and that most definitely includes the only marginally readable Virginia Woolf. It’s the highbrow counterpart of the Algonquin Round Table, with better gossip and fewer one-liners. Now they’re all dead, and about time, too. The sooner they’re forgotten, the better for British literature.
Deeply Offensive

Jeff Jarvis plays Joe McCarthy with The Beltway Taliban.

Like Pinkerton, refuses to acknowledge that broadcasters ands cable companies are regulated businesses and always have been. They don't like the law on broadcast decency, so they don't want it enforced. If anyone is being undemocratic, it is the media libertines.

As for cable, while the content is protected by the First Amendment, their monopoly status and pricing policies are not. Forcing cable companies to adopt a la carte pricing, (instead of the prevalent package model), is not much different than allowing cell phone number portability. How does the First Amendment protect the right of Comcast to force a family to pay for MTV in order to get Fox News?

Oh, by the way, Jarvis's employer " has extensive interests in cable television" just in case you thought he was some sort of disinterested party.
Super Bowl Fallout

Ad Age has a couple of reactions to the Super Bowl ads and the half-time show. This one is not surprising:

PR FIRMS PRAISE JANET JACKSON BREAST STUNT
'It Raises the Bar for All of Us,' Says Executive

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For those in the business of masterminding public-relations stunts for marketers, Janet Jackson's big expose during CBS's airing of the Super Bowl has raised a serious issue: how to top it.


I also like this reaction to the ads by Ad Age's editor:

AN ADVERTISING SUPER BOWL OF NON-IDEAS

Sophomoric Humor Fails as Compelling Entertainment

A flatulent horse. Tens of millions of Americans open their doors, and this is what marketers drag into their living rooms. A farting horse.

Yeah, thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Entertainment bowl

The Super Bowl, more entertainment spectacle than sporting event (despite this year's nail-biting finish), is a perfect platform for marketers to demonstrate how their messages can break through in a cluttered, fragmented and viewer-controlled media universe. As advertising moves from unwelcome intruder to invited guest, it is more likely to be cloaked as entertainment, as something viewers choose to spend time with because of a perceived intrinsic value.

The expectation is there with the Super Bowl that the ads will enhance the experience -- viewers have been conditioned by breathless segments of morning shows, newspaper stories and cable news reports to tune in as much for the ads as for the game. But there's a sense of artificial, forced frivolity that surrounds the event, and the mediocrity of the creative reminds that the ad business won't be saved merely by turning up the volume on 30-second commercials.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Uncovered News

One Hand Clapping notes that the terrorists in Iraq are concerned because our efforts to rebuild he Iraqi police forces are succeeding and that success is making their operations more difficult.
Since Everyone Seems to Be Doing It



create your own visited states map

Monday, February 09, 2004

We are way ahead of the curve

Outside the Beltway discovers that Kucinich is earning the respect of some pretty impressive guys. Hitchens says:

Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics. He thinks long-term, and he doesn’t think that in the short or long term it pays to trade principles for compromises

Hey, that's sort of what we said back on Jan 19:

I feel sorry for Dennis Kucinich and am startled to realize that i feel a certain amount of admiration for the man.

On policy, the man is a complete moonbat. I doubt that there are many issues we agree on. But the man campaigned hard for his positions even though he knew the odds were heavily against him.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest edition is here.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Hunter S. Thompson can die now

We have found his replacement.

Every Winter in Minnesota, 5 or 6 consecutive Friday nights of just ending up somewhere pile up on each other, into one King Hell bitch of a Friday, where a man is forced to make choices, not knowing whether the inevitably poor quality of those choices will haunt him at some odd hour, say 4am on Saturday morning, when he should have been in bed long ago, but is instead standing in a room where he's never been, with people he doesn't know, witnessing things he's only read about in books and seen between 40 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour on "VH1: Behind the Music."

That's Jack Sparks. If you like music you should be reading The Other Side of Country.

I have to thank Scott Chaffin for the pointer. And, by the way, Scott is bucking to be our Kerouac:

Here's how I'm gonna get rich -- I'm gonna organize 3-person trips to Minneapolis, and I'm gonna shove 'em in the truck, and I'm gonna drive them all the way there from Dullass, and we're gonna listen to two of my CDs for every one of theirs, and we're gonna get there early enough for everyone to have a nap, and we're gonna pick Jack up at his house, and we're gonna drink while driving and smoke Marlboro reds, and we're just gonna go and do whatever Jack says.

I wish i had said this

Patterico worries about the possibility that an innocent person might be executed every once in a while. So do I. If it happens, let's put the blame where it belongs: on Mike Farrell, Jesse Jackson, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and all the other little boys grown men who cried wolf.

Xrlq was discussing the posturing and lying going on around the Kevin Cooper case out in California.

On one hand, we are told that our death rows are filled with innocent men. Yet, when the anti-death penalty types bring out examples, the evidence often points to guilt. You would think that in high profile cases they would lead with their strongest examples.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Do Clothes Make the Nation?

What kids wear to school is not a trivial matter. Plenty of thoughtful people (Bill Clinton) think school uniforms are a good idea. Elite private academies and parochial schools have imposed dress codes and uniforms for decades.

The attempt by the French to bar Islamic dress is unsurprising. Since the Dreyfus case France has been relentlessly and aggressively secular. Catholicism was viewed with suspicion by most of the political class which was more anti-clerical than even-handed.

So, in a real sense, the French actions are not an anti-Islamic innovation. They are a continuation of the efforts that ensure that its citizens think of themselves first as Frenchmen, not as Catholic, Jew, or Muslim.

The French actions are not without historical precedent. Ataturk banned Islamic dress in Turkey after the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire in order to strengthen the new republic. Modernizing Tsars like Peter the Great forced Western ways on the Russian nobles (including western clothing) as part of their efforts to link Russia to Europe not Asia.

Habits of dress are often more important than politics and debate. David Gelernter understands this and makes the point repeatedly. In 1939: The Lost World of the Fair he shows how the "ought culture" of the 1930s was reinforced by little things on a daily basis. Among these were neckties which middle class men wore even when they were dining with their families at home.

Gelernter also makes an interesting point about Iran's frustrating diplomacy in the last decade of the Cold War. The mullahs aggravated both the US and USSR. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the atheism of Leninism did not make them pro-American. The CIA coup and on-going support of the Shah did not make them pro-Moscow. A Middle East expert remarked that the first thing an Iranian Mullah noticed about the Americans and Russians is that both wore pants. Whatever the political differences between the two nations, they were united by culture- a culture the Iranian leaders did not share.
Lileks is wrong

I know it doesn't happen often, but it did this week.

Please no. I think I speak for millions when I say that I am deathly sick of the counterculture sixties. The music, the war, the protests, all the hagiography - it's not a reflection of the era’s importance but the self-importance of the generation who hung on the bus as it trundled along down the same old rutted road of history.. I’m tired of hearing about the boomers’ days of whine and neuroses; I’m weary of ritual genuflection to their musical icons; I’m utterly disinterested in most of the pop-cult trivia they hold so dear. We’ll probably be better off when that demographic pig has been excreted from the python so we can see the era clearly without choking on the smoke.

First of all, the 60s had plenty of crap music just like any decade. And plenty of it is over-praised. (Personally, i could live without ever hearing another Beatles song). But Hendrix is the real deal. If he is an icon, he deserves to be. Go pick on a more deserving target.

Second, Lileks is using a pretty broad brush. Yeah, some boomers are nostalgic for the protests. But it is always helps to remember that the guys in the rice paddies were mostly baby boomers. As are most of the generals you see on TV commanding the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were not boomers.

When all the boomers are dead, Lileks still won't get to see the era clearly. Sixties nostalgia isn't a generational thing; it is also political. If you are anti-military today, you think it is really cool that 500,000 people once marched on the Pentagon. There are millions of boomers who never thought it was cool then.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

"Complete Statement from Testimony of Lt. John Kerry to US Senate Foreign Relations Committee"

You can read the whole statement over at The Blog from the Core.
I liked this

From Hobbs Online:

An anonymous blogger might tell you he can't blog because his employer might not like it, or his customers - so just trust him that he is who he says he is. Hogwash. He just wants the freedom to behave badly, slander with impunity, and spread lies.

The Junk Yard Blog doesn't think much of anonymous bloggers either.
"NFL reaction to series a factor in cancellation"

ESPN.com

"Playmakers" has been sacked.

After months of speculation about its future, ESPN's originally scripted series about a fictional professional football team will not return, a company official said Wednesday. One of the main reasons for cutting the series after the first season was the reaction from the NFL brass.

"Many considerations went into this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner," said Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive vice president of programming and production. "We are proud of the show on many levels -- it was a creative and critical success, and we are appreciative that viewers clearly embraced this new genre on our network."

***

In its only season, "Playmakers" won critical praise and pulled in a significant audience -- an average of 1.6 million households for each of the show's 11 episodes.

***
ESPN broadcasts NFL games on Sunday night, and ABC -- which, like ESPN, is owned by the Walt Disney Co. -- televises "Monday Night Football." The rights deal for both broadcasts runs through the 2005 season.

Earlier in the just-completed 2003 season, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue admitted to calling Disney CEO Michael Eisner to express his displeasure with what he thought were the show's "one-dimensional" plots.


So the NFL really knows how to make their displeasure known. A series that tarnished the image of the sport (and hence hurt the brand) got Tagliabue involved. Which is a more forceful reaction than they had to the SB half-time show.

Makes me think this guy is right.

NFL must be high-fiving behind closed doors

The NFL is in perfect position here: It gets to tut-tut and claim the high moral ground that such a terrible, depraved thing could ever happen on our dime when in reality the holiness of the $2.5 million commercial spot is not only maintained, it probably is enhanced.

You think anyone is ever going to try to stage a Lingerie Bowl again? You think anyone's going to be stupid enough to take on the greatest god in television, the Super Bowl, with vague promises of pay-per-view titillation? The Super Bowl has already delivered the real thing, Bosco. It gave you The Other Jackson. There will be no one trying to upstage next year's halftime show


What's interesting is that no one suggests that there is an opportunity for clean counter-programming. Inside the little compound of media and advertising, there are no desirable consumers more conservative than Chandler on "Friends". They worry they will lose eyeballs to the Lingerie Bowl, but not that people will click away because of Nelly or Janet Jackson.

And this guy is probably right, too.

Expect more 'oops' on live TV

"There will be lots of public clamor," says Roger Desmond, director of the school of communications at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. And ultimately, nothing will change. "The networks will continue to do more of what they know works, which is big stunts," he says, particularly when they can be "positioned" as an unplanned surprise to everyone.
That Times of the Month

A new issue of The Atlantic.


Mark Steyn on Michael Straghit.

Christopher Hitchens on John Buchan.

Caitlin Flanagan on how serfdom saved the women's movement.

And much, much more. If you don't subscribe you really are missing the best magazine in America.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Rhetorical Three Card Monte

James Pinkerton warns us:

By now you've no doubt seen the implant-enhanced mammary that was exposed during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII -- destined to be known forever as the Boob Bowl. Strange as it may seem in light of the real perils this country confronts, Washington is making a federal case -- two federal cases, in fact -- over Jackson's bit of exhibitionism. Any investigation is farcical, of course, but the lasting damage it could do the First Amendment, and to free expression in general, is not something to laugh about.

To listen to the libertarian blogosphere, you would think that Powell and conservatives are trying to impose scary new rules on television. But that is a crock. The FCC has always forbid obscenity and indecency on broadcast television. Jackson threw down the gauntlet and they have no choice than to respond.

If the Pinkertons and others want to remove the rules against indecency, go to it. Get a Congressman to introduce the bill toremove restrictions on what goes out over the airwaves. Let's have a debate. (Watch your side lose 355-80).

But, at least, be honest. Don't pretend that Powell is the bad guy or that the "Repressive Right" is trying to impose new restrictions. Admit that you want the current rules changed. And tell us how much nudity, cursing, and rutting you are willing to permit on broadcast TV.

This is also good, although it has nothing to do with the SUperbowl.

Justin Katz has a thoughtful post here.

And OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam is here.
Den Beste is Right

The biggest story was the one we didn't read: "Terrorist attack causes 30,000 deaths". It is the deafening silence, the dog not barking in the night. For the third straight year since 9/11, a crowd the size of a small city concentrated itself in a stadium and sat for several hours to watch the most heavily televised live event of the year. And then that crowd dispersed and went home.

RTWT here.
There goes my faith in astrology

Acidman and i have the same birthday.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Humor is over-rated

It's invaded all the important areas of life. I can avoid the snarkfests on VH1 and the E network. I grit my teeth as it seeps into political coverage. (This is non-partisan: i'm as sick of Dennis Miller and the Dean video as I am of AL Franken and Arianna Huffington). I find the whole Wonkette thing lame.

But the breaking point for me was when it invaded sports. I started to avoid the football pre-game shows this season. Lame jokes and lamer skits have displaced reporting and analysis. Howie, Deion, Terry and Boomer crack themselves up but it just leaves me cold. And why have unfunny comics on to joke about something they know little about? If you can't fill an hour, just do a half-hour show and stop trying to be a comedy club.

As Aaron points out, humor is hard work and few do it well. Most of us should just not try.

I know, i know. The fool gets to say things to the king that no one else can. But look around: no king, no secret police, no Inquisition. We don't have to speak obliquely. Why waste time with a cheap joke when we have the ability to really say whatever we want.

Much of the joking around is a weasel's game anyway. It lets the smug but superficial camafloge their ignorance while retaining center stage. They don't have to defend what they say-- they were just joking. But they still are smarter than you.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Whither the Steelers

A 6-10 season is disappointing enough, but Pittsburgh has also racked up three losing seasons in the last six years. Obviously the team is looking as big changes.

Everyone is pretty much in agreement that Maddox disappointed and the running game ran out of gas. But there is a deeper problem. The Steelers roster is filled with one dimensional players. As a result, the play calling is predictable and easy for teams to game plan.

Under Cowher, the fullbacks and tight ends block for the running back. All three positions are unimportant in the passing game and the fullback is not a ball carriers.

When teams prepare for the Steelers they don't have to worry about misdirection in the ground game: Bettis can't get outside and the fullback isn't a threat on a counter play. Cover two isn't much of a problem because neither the TE nor the running backs can take control of the middle of the field.

The lack of break away speed also hurts. A well-executed draw or screen pass goes for 15 yards, not 40. Teams find it easy to bend without breaking.

What's striking is that this over-specialization is not "traditional Steelers football." When you look at the Super Bowl teams they were much more balanced despite the fact that they had greater position players. Nor is the Cowher system consistent with what great teams of this era have done.

This year only 25% of the passes went to RB/TEs. Bradshaw complete 40-50% of his to Harris, Cunningham, et. al. even though he had two Hall of Famers at wide out. The current Steelers have no one on their roster who fills the role that Novacek and Johnston played in the passing game for the Cowboys of the 1990s. Nor do they seem interested in full backs who can catch the ball despite the success the West Coast offenses have had for twenty years.

(Early in his tenure at Pittsburgh, Cowher had a fullback- John L. Williams-- who led the team in receptions. We won twelve games and came within four points and one play--fourth and goal from the three-- of the Super Bowl).

The Steelers also are exemplars of the simplification of the running game. Where teams once looked to have two capable running backs on the field at once (Taylor and Hornung, Czonka and Kiick) the system now calls for a blocking back and a feature back. Again, a uni-dimensional plan of attack that simplifies things for the defense. I've never heard or read a good explanation for why current backs can't learn to both block and run.)
Super Bowl Commercials

Wow. All that money and this is the best Madison Avenue can do? Farting horses and crippled old people? Earnhardt Junior in a football game?

If AARP wanted to do something really useful, they'd highlight advertisers who use senior citizens as objects of mockery. I doubt Frito-Lay or anyone else would want to deal with that counter-brand message.

I did thing the Pepsi/Jimi Hendrix and the Chevy/kids/soap spots were well done.
I would expect that someone got fired

Over the Janet Jackson half-time thing. A costume designer or a production assistant. Some one. Because we know that the executives at MTV and CBS didn't intend for this to happen.

SO who walked the plank?

Because if no one did, it looks fishy, you know. Makes you think the apologies are insincere.
Carnival of the Capitalists

Check out the latest edition here.
Hall of Fame

I don't mean to be greedy, but i think the Hall of Fame voters messed up by not selecting L. C. Greenwood. Then they rubbed salt in the wound by voting Carl Eller in.

Only two tackle/end tandems are in the HOF: Merlin Olsen/Deacon Jones and now Alan Page/Carl Eller. Yet the Fearsome Foursome never played in a Superbowl while the Purple Gang were 0-4. One might think that the 4-0 Steel Curtin deserved a second representative more.

Older players like Greenwood are hurt by sportwriters's obsession with statistics. Greenwood's sack totals are unimpressive by current standards (73.5 career, 11 in his best season.) But he played at a time when teams threw much less. In the early 70s teams passed around 360 times a season against him. Now 500 attempts is more common. Greenwood simply had fewer sack opportunities.

Before the game was opened up, the first job of a D-lineman was to stuff the run. No easy matter against guys like Csonka, Earl Campbell, or O. J. SImpson. Greenwood was a much better run stopper than Eller.

In four Super Bowls the Vikings got pushed around; they gave up an average of 215.5 yards rushing. (Franco Harris set a record with 158 yards against them in IX and Oakland piled up 266 yards in XI). In contrast, Pittsburgh held the Vikings to 17 yards on the ground despite having one D-lineman playing with pneumonia and losing two all-pro linebackers in the second half.

Fran Tarkenton said that Eller "was the dominant outside pass rusher of his day.? I guess Tark has blocked out the trauma of having three passes batted back in his face by number 68 in SB IX.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Scott's Right

No Hall for Bullet Bob

Unreal. I thought this was the year, finally, that the Hall would pull their head out of where ever they have it lodged, but nope.

Like i've said before. Some people play the game well. Others, like Bob Hayes, change how the game is played.
Sharing the Joy

Venomous Kate makes a good point:

The thing is, it takes some bloggers - and non-bloggers, too - a long time to figure out that the more heavily we promote each others' blogs, the more we all succeed.

But this got me to thinking. While most of us bloggers are good at linking to other blogs, how good a job do we do bringing non-blog readers into the fold? I have to admit, i rarely send an email link to a blog post to friends or associates who are non-readers of blogs. Yet that is the bog opportunity. Readers only have time to read so many blogs: passing them back and forth can increase the "pie" only so much. Finding new readers could really juice up the audience for everyone.