Monday, May 31, 2004

Carnival of the Capitalists

The May 30th edition is here.
Congratulations!

Jeff at Alphecca got picked at the "Website we love" in the summer issue of Outdoor Life. Love to see a blogger get credit for his hard work.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

FWIW

"Scotland the Brave" is the greatest march ever played.
Hey, I just remembered i like baseball

Pittsburgh 5, Chi Cubs 4, 10 innings

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Rob Mackowiak became a father for the first time, hit a game-winning grand slam and tied another game with a two-run homer.

It's been a grim decade for Pirate fans. But i've caught a couple of games recently and the team is playing good ball. Not playoff contenders, but competitive. I caught most of each game yesterday. Two walk-off homeruns in a double-header plus a bottom of the ninth homer to send the game into extra innings. It doesn't get better than that.

Friday, May 28, 2004

"Offshoring the Audience"

The movie business is booming abroad precisely because Hollywood is making pictures for the world market —at the expense of customers in America, where, not surprisingly, business is tanking. It's that hoariest of economic clichés, a zero-sum game.
****
If France makes movies for the French, and America makes movies for the world, who's left to make movies for America?
****
For decades the tacit transatlantic understanding about film has gone roughly like this: America sends France movies, and France sends America theory. French movies, brilliant though they can be, tend not to make much impact at American theaters, but French theory —like a proliferating non-native plant—has driven out any domestic attempt at a poetics of American film.

B-School and MBAs

Two bloggers weigh in with some telling criticisms.

My MBA Experience

B-School Issues

FWIW: There are two inconsistencies that stand out about business schools. First, they offer a practical degree taught by tenured academics. Second, they provide an education which is put to use in a corporate environment but the schools are run by academic institutions.

Related: Compared to other disciplines, business studies suffer from a dearth of research materials. A scholar writing about the Clinton administration's trade policies, for instance, already has dozens of books and monographs, hundreds of public documents, and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles to work with. You won't find 10% of that volume available for even a high profile company like GE. It's also hard to get at the really important material inside a company.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

What is al Qaeda?

Here is a good article on al Qaeda. The author argues that it " is less an organization than an ideology" and that bin Laden "functioned like a venture capital firm—providing funding, contacts, and expert advice to many different militant groups and individuals from all over the Islamic world."

A couple of thoughts/questions.

1. While it is true that the founder of al Qaeda was Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden murdered him in a dispute over the direction the group should take. Citing Azzam's vision of al Qaeda tells us little about the current operations and aims of the group.

2. It is comforting to think that the typical terrorist is too unsophisticated to build a dirty bomb or unleash WMDs. While it may be true that " alleged attempts by a British group to develop ricin poison, but for the apparent seriousness of the intent, could be dismissed as farcical," the same thing could have been said about the initial bombs of the New York terror cell and Timothy McVeigh as well as Atta's dreams of weaponized crop dusters. All three groups learned from their mistakes. In two of those cases, the learning was made possible by al Qaeda.

No, it is not a tightly controlled global network and bin Laden is not the Napoleonic mastermind behind all terrorist operations. But the extreme danger from al Qaeda grows from its organizational and operational capabilities. For a decade it has functioned as a highly effective combination of general staff and think tank for Islamic terrorists.

For instance, it gave the terrorists an institutional memory which prolonged the danger even after key players were imprisoned or killed. We see this with the 9-11 attacks. Ramzi Yousef conceived of the idea and worked out some of the details. Then he was arrested and jailed in a Supermax prison. But al Qaeda (especially Khalid Sheik Mohammad) was able to keep the plan alive and then recruit Atta. In addition, al Qaeda provided Atta with money and recruits to bring the attack off six years after Yousef's capture.

By transferring its knowledge to sympathetic local groups, al Qaeda enabled them to increase their capabilities faster and let them avoid trial and error methods than can draw police attention. (See how Yousef helped the first WTC bomb group). Modern law enforcement pits the collective experience of the police department against the individual learning curve of the criminal. Usually, this makes for short criminal careers. Al Qaeda shifted this balance with systematic training and planning for terrorists.

Even if we capture or kill bin Laden, this new model will remain a danger. On the other hand, the model has vulnerabilities beyond those of conventional terrorists. They need safe harbors, bases to train, compliant or non-functioning states to hide in and travel from. All of these vulnerabilities can be exploited by our law enforcement and military forces.
Brian Chontosh

That's a name your should know.

At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.

Go read how he got it.

HT: Mike
FWIW

I think Michelle Malkin is superior to Wonkette in every meaningful way.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Shopping Malls

Interesting review in the latest Atlantic on the history, operations, and future of the shopping mall. This point goes far to explain urban sprawl and the failure of a lot of local economic renewal efforts.

The problem, Underhill argues, is that there's rot in the mall's very DNA. Mall owners, far from being merchants who want to creatively engage our acquisitive urges, are simply real-estate developers trying to maximize every rental dollar, mostly by minimizing their overhead. Which is not a good thing. To begin with, the resulting architecture is a horror ("A big wall with a little mouse hole" is the way one top mall designer describes it). And now these blank, lifeless exteriors are gradually decaying, with an almost Michael Jackson-like weirdness.
"An Intelligence Failure"

From the Belmont Club:

The problem with the media is it cannot accurately keep track of the facts. It is not institutionally equipped to grade the reliability of information brought to its front pages. It has no organized method of collaterally confirming stories based on sources that are unlikely to collude. It has no analysis cells to follow a story and continuously reevaluate the reliability of initial information based on subsequent developments.
Happy blogiversary

To the Blog from the Core which turns two today. Congratulations are definitely in order.
Don't Miss These

Nature's Narcissist

Denton’s Folly

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Life Intrudes

Light blogging for the next couple of days.
The Power of Superbowl Ads

Ad Age notes that 19 of the 20 biggest brands at Procter and Gamble showed increased sales volume in Q1 2004. The only one which did not go up was Charmin, which was the one P&G brand to advertise on the Superbowl

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Guardians

Interesting new book on Kingman Brewster (once president of Yale) and his friends (Cy Vance, Elliott Richardson, John Lindsay). From the review in The Atlantic:

Why did these men, who were convinced of their own brilliance, so often make such a hash of things? It turns out that although they were all quick, clever, and poised, their intellectual attainments were negligible. Brewster and Richardson admitted that they didn't like to read—they preferred to get their ideas from schmoozing. Richardson—about whose book the most Kabaservice can muster is that it contained "high-minded ideas about government and citizenship expressed in elaborate prose"—may have held more Cabinet posts than any other man in history, but he failed to make a lasting mark in any of them (Bundy certainly left his mark as National Security Adviser, but probably he wouldn't be pleased to be remembered as the pseudo-tough guy advocate of the "graduated escalation" of the Vietnam War).

Friday, May 21, 2004

Bush and preemption

Last Sunday, CSPAN's Booknotes interviewed John Lewis Gaddis (the dean of Cold War historians) on his new book. The whole interview can be found here. This excerpt is worth noting:


LAMB: Where do you find yourself, looking at this from your own vantage point, saying -- is this is a good idea, what he`s [i.e. Bush] doing?

GADDIS: I think the strategy itself, which was most clearly laid out in the national strategy statement of September, 2002, makes a lot of sense because I do take very seriously the new kind of danger that confronts us. The fact that just this small gang starting from caves in Afghanistan were able to organize an attack that did so much damage, that killed more people than Pearl Harbor did, indicates a new kind of vulnerability that not just we but the entire world now confronts, whether from weapons of mass destruction or what we saw on September 11, which was just instruments of conventional life used for the purpose of mass destruction -- box cutters and airplanes. I think that`s a new situation which really does require a new strategy. And I think there`s little question that where you confront that kind of danger, preemption is the option that you have to think about.

I don`t think this means a repudiation of containment and deterrence. And the Bush strategy statement has been pretty explicit, that you still want to practice those strategies when you`re dealing with states. But the problem is, states are no longer the only problem we face. Non-state actors, gangs, are the problem, as well. And to try to contain someone who is invisible or to try to deter somebody who is prepared to commit suicide doesn`t make much sense. So something more is needed, and that`s been the argument of the administration.


Friday Hot Five

If I Were King

Not Only Anti-War. On The Other Side.

COVERUP AT THE BOSTON GLOBE

After the Crowds Went Home

Fist City, Minnesota...Population 1
"Where moms get their news about the war"

From The Tennessean:

Endless days of big headlines and lead stories on prisoner abuse make one believe Iraq is just one big holding pen instead of a place where people can now protest openly and hold religious observances once banned. If any one of the 200,000 members of our armed forces is doing something right in Iraq, the average viewer and reader would be hard pressed to find out. Yet if there is even speculation of something wrong, it leads the newscasts and makes the front page.

HT: One Hand Clapping

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Hersh, Hitchens, etc.

The latest New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh is both insubstantial and revelatory. Insubstantial because, as James Joyner points out, the causal connection between Rumsfeld's aggressive use of special operations and Abu Ghraib is not really made. Further, the heavy use of unnamed sources makes it impossible to assess the validity of the criticisms or the personal agendas at work.

On this last point, Hersh quotes, by name, Kenneth deGraffenreid who was a former Navy aviator who worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency and on Reagan's National Security Council where he worked on intelligence matters. By the conventions of investigative reporting, deGraffenreid could also be Hersh's "former high-level intelligence official", "government consultant", and "Pentagon consultant". For all we know, two people provided all of Hersh's telling quotes.

The revelation is the aggressive actions by military lawyers to undermine the war on terror (not just black ops in Iraq). Hersh admits that the some of the impetus behind Rumsfeld's decision to use special operations began in Afghanistan when a military lawyer refused to OK an air strike against a convoy believed to include Mullah Omar in October 7, 2001. JAG lawyers began to fume about "being cut out of the policy formulation process." But here is the kicker:

In 2003, Rumsfeld’s apparent disregard for the requirements of the Geneva Conventions while carrying out the war on terror had led a group of senior military legal officers from the Judge Advocate General’s (jag) Corps to pay two surprise visits within five months to Scott Horton, who was then chairman of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Human Rights. “They wanted us to challenge the Bush Administration about its standards for detentions and interrogation,” Horton told me. “They were urging us to get involved and speak in a very loud voice. It came pretty much out of the blue. The message was that conditions are ripe for abuse, and it’s going to occur.”

A bunch of JAG lawyers went to an outside group to encourage them to agitate against our actions in the war on terror. They had no specific examples of abuse, just a belief that "it's going to occur." They did not raise their voices publically or go up the chain of command: they opted for behind the scenes manipulation. Is that the conduct of an officer or a gentleman? Moreover, is it possible that the some of these JAG lawyers are assigned to the Abu Ghraib cases? If so,they are primed to paint the abuse by the guards as a systemic problem and to go public with the pictures. This both helps their clients and makes their case against the special operations tactics employed against al Qaeda?

Hitchens, as always, is good on this story.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Powell, the DOD and the Officers

In his analysis of the first Persian Gulf war (On Strategy II), Col. Harry Summers wrote this dedication:

In honor of General Colin L. Powell ,Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Friend, Leavenworth Classmate, and Outstanding Soldier
whose strategic guidance led the way to victory in the Persian Gulf war


This is the first time since George Marshall that the Secretary of State enjoys the professional respect of the officers in the military. Similarly, it isn't often that the civilian leadership of the State Department are more sympathetic to the officers than are the top civilians at DoD. I don't know what effect this has on anything, but it is probably worth noting.
Forgotten Men: Harvey Haddix


As Michele says

There is nothing in all of sports more beautiful than a perfect game.

This might be a good time to remember Harvey Haddix. If the perfect game- retiring 27 consecutive batters-- is the most difficult feat in sports, what should we say about retiring 36 straight in a single game?

That's what Haddix did on May 26, 1959. Sadly, he lost in the 13th.

Thirteen innings. Both starters went the distance. It was a different world back then.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Tuesday's Hot Five


Slandering the Troops in Order to Defeat Them

I Snob on Thee

Clueless Movie Marketing

Troy

Anna Quindlen's Great Obligation
Blogs and Project Management

I posted before on this, but it sort of fits with the blogs and business article mentioned below.

Blogs may have limited use as a marketing tool and they have more potential for effective knowledge management than current methods. But they are close to ideal for project management.

Compared to email, they are vastly better at supplying context; the previous messages are on the same page for easy reference. Their built-in archive function makes it easy for new members of the team to come up to speed. (One of the biggest problems most project teams face is the turnover in personnel and consequent loss of knowledge.)

They also make it easy for managers to gauge progress with out demanding meetings and briefings which suck up everyone's time to no good purpose.

If the project is for outside clients (like advertising or IT services), a blog provides a level of transparency and customer intimacy that is a value-enhancing differentiator.
In defense of specialization

I found this post via the CotC.

IDEO? DOH!

What you do, what most people do, is based on the fact that some guy figured he could grow his company by creating a hierarchical, departmentalized structure... (How Alfred Sloan Chose Your Career). Educational Institutions feed this by having someone major in a certain subject, and b-schools, from what I understand, are supposed to give people a taste of all of them, with a focus on management.
In other words: The rise of specialists, the death of problem solving generalists.

And we all happily follow this neat and tidy little way of doing business. Marketers Market. Accountants Count. And so on.


Up to a point, specialization creates efficiencies which translate into profits. When firms all offer the same basic value proposition, efficiency wins.

In theory, a firm can offer a new, different value proposition. But it has to be one that customers really truly want (i.e. are willing to pay for) and that the company can deliver at a profit. Often, customers will claim they want better service or higher quality, but they are unwilling to pay even a little more for them. (Hence, the continued rise of Wal*mart at the expense of more "customer friendly" small store.)

As for the academy, i'll just note that Howard Gardner of Harvard believes that the development of scholarly disciplines (i.e. academic specialization) is the most important invention of the last 2000 years. As he puts it, "The disciplines represent the most advanced and best ways to think about consequential issues to human beings" and they turned what had been "idiosyncratic human functions" that occurred only in rare individuals into something that could be studied and taught thus dispersed more widely through the population.

Monday, May 17, 2004

This is how you stifle dissent

From Katyn; Unfinished Historical Business? by Adam Scrupski

No one who was not alive and aware in the United States during the war can imagine the deference to the Soviet Union and its war effort exhibited by Franklin D. Roosevelt's war-time administration and the American media. For example, not only did the Office of War Information blame the Katyn executions on the German army; OWI also implicitly threatened to remove licensure from the Polish language radio stations in Detroit and Buffalo if they did not cease broadcasting the details of the executions. In all the long years when Alan Cranston served as U.S. Senator from California no one mentioned his part as an OWI functionary in the intimidation of the Polish-American radio station managers. The London-based Polish government-in-exile, whose leaders had requested a Red Cross investigation of the affair, was characterized as having "stupidly walked into Goebbels' trap". Was that the initial manifestation of what later became America's favorite ethnic stereotype?
"Contagious Media"

Interesting interview here with John Patrick from CIO Insight magazine. His discussion of blogs and knowledge management is especially on-target:

You could call it knowledge management, but that's sort of a hackneyed term, and a lot of people, as soon as they hear KM, they immediately tune out. Actually, I think KM is going to come back again. It never left, it really is important. It's just never been able to work very effectively. Some people have said it was overhyped, but I say it was underdelivered. Nobody argued with the potential of it, it's just that it didn't really happen. Why? For the most part, it was based on the idea of imposed collaboration: Making it work required centralized control over the knowledge and the sharing of it. It's a good theory, but it simply hasn't worked...

So where does blogging fit in? It's a way to energize the expertise from the bottom—in other words, to allow people who want to share, who are good at sharing, who know who the experts are, who talk to the experts or who may, in fact, be one of those experts, to participate more fully.


Carnival of the Capitalists

The May 17th edition is here.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Katrina Leung Case

The FBI agent who became involved with the accused Chinese spy has struck a deal and will cooperate with investigators. See more from NY Times, LA Times and Washington Post.

For background see this post from last year and this from a Frontline special on the subject.

This from the Post gives a taste of the defense strategy:

In a written statement yesterday, Leung's attorneys, Janet Levine and John Vandevelde, said: "Although we may have to fight to the end because the FBI has tried to protect its own and shift blame for their mistakes to Katrina, an outsider, a Chinese American and a woman, we are confident that this case is much ado about nothing and Katrina Leung will be vindicated."

Leung is charged with copying national security documents and unauthorized possession of those documents. Her attorneys have said they plan to take advantage of limitations imposed on the government by national security concerns.

"We expect the government will have to make hard decisions about whether to publicly disclose 20 years worth of spying secrets in order to pursue an ill-advised prosecution," the defense team said in a statement last year.
"Schizoblogophrenia"

"I know that bloggers say they want original content, but that’s not what they link."

From Electric Venom.

My blogroll skews toward bloggers who post original content. The upside, for me, is that i learn something new every day as i read them. The downside is that because i am learning something new, i usually don't have any contribution to make, so i don't blog about the topics they discuss. Result: no links to them.

Which doesn't mean i don't value original content. It means that the prevailing medium of exchange among blogs (links) is inefficient for measuring the full value a reader places on a given post.

UPDATE: Absinthe & Cookies discusses the same subject here.
Journalistic "Ethics"


From Time:

Another day, another unmasked East German spy. That ho-hum attitude greeted news that Bernd Runge, the head of U.S. magazine publisher Condé Nast's German business, worked for the hated Stasi secret police as a young East German journalist in the 1980s. Last week two German magazines, Focus and Der Spiegel, revealed that Runge, now 43, informed on fellow students and his own family, and spied on Western journalists.

His boss thinks that it's no big deal:

Conde Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse believes Runge’s past is “irrelevant” to his current jobs and has “full confidence” in him, said a statement from the publisher’s German headquarters in Munich.

The magazine that broke the story has a different perspective:

It is almost embarrassing to read Runge's ruminations on "principles of a democratic journalism." Such posturing is totally unbelievable coming from a person who systematically abused our profession, who masked himself as a journalist when he approached colleagues, members of the opposition in the GDR or private persons, all the while spying on them and denouncing them.

Journalists do research and gather information for publication, not to create dossiers and incriminating materials to be given to secret services.


Incidentally, Conde Nast owns the New Yorker which is currently flogging the Iraqi prison story. Funny, i guess, that they are so tolerant of secret police informers in house.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

"How about a cursory look at the UN's record?"

That's what One Hand Clapping offers. As expected, it is a fairly ugly picture. UN "peacekeepers" and administators have a pretty long rap sheet as pimps, pornographers, rapists, swindlers, and racketeers. But somehow, they will do a better job in Iraq than we will.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Frasier

From Slate:

There has been much gnashing of teeth over the fact that television producers have begun to desert the sitcom form and retreat into the comfortable world of reality programming, with its low overhead and even lower expectations. There's no question that if you make stupidity your scriptwriter and greed your casting director, you can draw a lot of viewers for very little money. But, as the long life of a grown-up show like Frasier attests, nuanced characters and well-crafted scripts can sometimes pull off the same trick—a thought I hope at least a few network execs can hold on to through the length of their next pitch meeting.
Kosovo and the UN

There are some who think that getting the UN involved in Iraq will make all the problems go away. This brief report from NRO gives multiple reasons to doubt that:

How the U.N. does it. The Kosovo adventure, in which NATO bombed the civilian population of Serbia in order to protect Kosovar nationalists, then handed over the province to the U.N. and NATO for "peacekeeping" — which turned out to mean allowing the Kosovars to slaughter Serbs and burn their ancient churches and monasteries, reached a low point a month ago when the U.N. forces were ordered to withdraw instead of defending Serbs against Kosovar mobs. But then it went even lower a couple of weeks ago when the peacekeepers started shooting at each other. Now, according to the BBC, the U.N.'s heroes in Kosovo are involved in sex trafficking, selling girls as young as 11 into sexual servitude. An Amnesty International report "includes harrowing testimonies of abduction, deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement, torture and ill-treatment, including psychological threats, beatings and rape." No wonder the French want to turn over Iraqi prisons to the U.N.

The Mudville Gazette notes that the US press is oddly silent about problems in prisons when the UN runs them (and even if Americans are killed in them by possible terrorist sympathizers).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

14:59

Joe Wilson's time in the spotlight is almost up. This profile is devastating largely because it let him talk and talk about his favorite subject.

See also, here, here, and here.
"There is no but"

From One Hand Clapping:

Sorry, I am not willing to admit there are circumstances where torture is admissible. And yes, I am familiar with the arguments, including, for example, Alan Dershowitz's.
AWOL Artists?

No Watermelons asks "did our newspapers ever publish flattering pictures of Adolf Hitler?"

See also Hollywood: AWOL in the War on Terror

Monday, May 10, 2004

Since 1993 NBC Nightly News has lost 18% of its viewers.

But that performance is good enough to move them into first place among the three networks. ABC dropped 29% and CBS fell 37%.

See more here.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The May 10th edition is hosted by Clay Whittaker.
IQ and Politics

Steve Sailer strangles an urban myth in its cradle.

"IQ by state hoax crumbling"

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Exactly

From A Small Victory

After 9/11, we were told time and time again by the righteous left not to brand all Muslims as terrorists, as the works of a few should not be held agains the whole.

***

I'm not in any way saying all Muslims are terrorists. I'm just wondering why you don't afford your own armed forces the same respect you afforded Muslims after 9/11?

See also Pictures Shown and Pictures Avoided
A Quiz

Check out THE SATIRICAL POLITICAL BELIEFS ASSESSMENT TEST. It's an equal-opportunity satire.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Military Education IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

Up till now, I've discussed the long-term benefits the military receives from its established education system. But there can be powerful short-term benefits even with newly formed schools.

Ideas don't just move though an organization on their own: they are carried by people. Even when an organization has no formal apparatus for knowledge transfers, they go on. Lessons are learned and imparted but, often, they are the wrong lessons.

When an organization starts a formal education system, it sends a message that this is important-- not just learning but the specific subjects and viewpoints being taught. And, in some cases, the person doing the teaching becomes a person to be listened to in the larger organization.

That is exactly what happened in 1947 when Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal had George Kennan made the Deputy Director of the new National War College.

In February 1946 Kennan was the number 2 man in the Moscow embassy. In response to a query from Washington he wrote a lengthy analysis of Kremlin foreign policy (the famous Long Telegram). Kennan was a realist, not a romantic, when it came to Stalin, a viewpoint Forrestal shared. The Navy Secretary became an advocate for both Kennan and his views.

The appointment to the National War College was a highly visible symbol of Kennan's new importance. As Forrestal's biographers wrote: "The result of such sponsorship from a ranking Cabinet officer was to lift George Kennan out of bureaucratic anonymity to a high place in the policy-making elite."

Symbolically, Forrestal gave Kennan a megaphone. As Kennan acknowledged: "My reputation was made. My voice now carried."

The high profile post also positioned Kennan to take over the State Department's Policy Planning Staff when George Marshall became Secretary of State. From that spot he was at the center of the critical foreign policy debates that defined America's stance in the Cold War. He and his staff created the Marshall Plan. Kennan himself was the intellectual architect of containment and gave it an Atlantic/European emphasis that lasted for the life of the conflict.

By bringing Kennan to the National War College, Forrestal did not just ensure that his ideas would influence the next generation of generals and admirals. He also made it possible for Kennan to shape American strategy in the short-term. The War College proved to be a powerful lever in 1947. Similar leverage is available today to every CEO.
Speaking of James Ellroy

This quote from Max Allan Collins is too good not to pass along:

As you may have surmised, I am not an Ellroy fan. I can't read him. I avoided his Black Dahlia because I knew I would eventually write the story myself, but I've never been able to get more than halfway through an Ellroy novel (though I liked the movie L.A. Confidential very much). His pseudo-Kerouac writing style annoys me, and the overwrought ersatz-darkness of his characters embarrasses me almost as much as his claims that he is superior to [Jim] Thompson and Chandler, and his dragging his dead mother by her heels into every interview he gives. On the other hand, a lot of people I respect like his work, so I may just be envious of his success. James and I are friendly acquaintances, which may come as a surprise to those who know how much I dislike his work; he's always been very decent to me, personally.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Abu Ghraib

The Mudville Gazette has a couple of posts that fill in a lot of gaps with the current story. (And, incidentally, suggest that the Ramparts scenario i discussed below may be coming to pass.)

First, this post discusses Seymour Hersh's veracity and his sources:

Seymour Hersh has had an amazing story dropped into his lap. A group of American GIs, caught on camera, abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners. Heinous acts. The wheels of justice were certainly turning, but nailing the abusive guards is not enough for the intrepid reporter. Indeed, since evidence indicates that one of those guard's attorneys most likely provided that information to Hersh, it follows that getting the higher ups was likely part of the deal.

This timeline of the abuse, investigation, and media stories is absolutely invaluable. Example:

Jan 14: SSG Frederick began writing his journal on Jan. 14, only a few hours after Army authorities fetched him for questioning and searched his quarters at 2:30 a.m. that day. He mailed copies to his mother, father, uncle and sister, and decided not to send it by e-mail for fear that the Army would see it first.

In January Army SSG Frederick began letters and e-mails to family members, and repeatedly noted that the military-intelligence teams, which included C.I.A. officers and linguists and interrogation specialists from private defense contractors, were the dominant force inside Abu Ghraib.


Blaming his superiors appears to be Frederick's defense and his lawyer is using a sometimes gullible and often ideological reporter to build his case.
LAPD

When i was growing up, the LAPD represented the best of the best when it came to law enforcement. Now, it's image is probably something along the lines of "corrupt white men using their power to oppress brown people."

That formulation is a paraphrase of James Ellroy whose novels play on that theme like a nine year old plays a drum-- loudly, incessantly, without subtlety or reflection.

A decade of headlines seemed to confirm the image:
--- The OJ Simpson Trial
---Rodney king
---The LA Riots
---Ramparts CRASH Scandal
---The shooting of an off-duty black police officer by a white cop.

Anyone who want to know the story beyond the headlines ought to read two book: Lou Cannon's Official Negligence and Randall Sullivan's LAbyrinth. They are eye-opening. It's a little like that old comedy bit, "everything you know, is wrong."

Far from being the corrupt department of Ellroy's nightmares, both writers agree that Chief Parker reformed it in the 1950s and made the LAPD an honest, efficient force that probably was the finest in the world by the 1960s. Parker was undoubtedly a prejudiced hard-ass with a drinking problem and a genius for PR. But as Lou Cannon writes, "while advancing through the ranks during the most violent and corrupt period in the department's history, Parker was never touched by any scandal."

Daryl Gates was chief when the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots shook the city and he received most of the blame for the LAPD's failures. But both writers agree that the these incidents were exploited by multiple players with their own agendas. Cannon notes, "mayor [Tom Bradley] had decided that the King incident had handed him an opportunity to oust a police chief he lacked the authority to fire, and the mayor's aides fed a flow of disparaging information about Gates to the media, some of it demonstrably false." One of those aids was Mark Fabiani who "was orchestrating the effort to "turn up the heat" on the chief and pressure him to resign." Inside the LAPD there were senior officers who hoped to succeed Gates and had no problem making the department look bad in order to clear the way. Lawyers like Johnny Cochran were happy to stir the pot because it lined their pockets.

The Ramparts "scandal" is an even more disturbing story. When authorities closed in on a dirty cop-- Rafael Perez-- he spun a tale of wide-spread corruption and abuse by the special anti-gang CRASH unit in Ramparts division.

The media and politicians had a field day with the lurid allegations. It was a perfect scandal- anti-LAPD, anti-Gates, tinged with racism, proof of deep, systemic corruption.

The only problem is that Perez made nearly all of it up out of whole cloth to cover his own criminality. As the New Yorker put it:

In creating and, to some degree, directing the course of the Rampart scandal, Rafael Perez may have overtly lied or withheld the whole truth, and he may have protected his friends and settled old scores by implicating his enemies. Few now believe that the wrongdoing was as widespread as Perez once suggested—of the seventy officers eventually implicated by Perez, five were fired by the department and eight more resigned. What has been verified in Perez's allegations is nowhere near as serious as the crimes that he himself confessed to.

Ramparts is just an example of the excesses that can grow out of the media's love for sensation and their anti-authority bias. The initial headlines promise more than later stories can confirm.

Beyond the interests of accurate history, there is an Iraqi connection. The stories coming out of the military prisons have the potential to be a Baghdad Ramparts. Anti-military reporters will have an interest in finding systemic abuses; the perpetrators have an interest in shifting the guilt to their superiors. Reporters want exclusives to big stories and therefore, have a bias against undercutting a source who will point the finger at high-ranking officers.

One more example of reader beware.



Thursday, May 06, 2004

"Fools for Communism"

As Haynes and Klehr note, the world’s final redoubt of communism is not Havana or Pyongyang but American college campuses: "The nostalgic afterlife of communism in the United States has outlived most of the real Communist regimes around the world....A sizable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life."

Read the rest here.
History not Hysteria


Bad News From the Front: 1942 and Today

A spate of propaganda over the past ten years about the "greatest generation" has contributed to a widely-held belief that during World War II Americans accepted such developments stoically, without complaint, and that bad news only intensified their resolve to see the fight through to a successful finish. In fact, the reverse was true; Americans were stunned by these reversals, and were quick to look for someone to blame. For a while the British appeared to be a convenient target; one poll taken after the fall of the North African fortress of Tobruk elicited responses suggesting that there was "too much tea-drinking and not enough fighting." The editors of The New Republic, meanwhile, complained that the British army was underperforming due to a "social rigidity which has kept the best British military ability from coming to the top."

An important side note: The New Republic was not noted for its expertise in military affairs but it was a reliable ally of American Stalinists. When war came, they did not seek to understand events: they simply shoved them into their pre-existing ideological templates. Hence, blaming "social rigidity" for British defeats. This remains a danger for partisan media whether they are pro-war or anti-war.

HT: Blog from the Core.
Pictures Shown and Pictures Avoided

I could be wrong, but it seems the networks are much more willing to show the pictures of the Iraqi prisoner abuse than they were/are to show the pictures of the murder/abuse of the contractors in Fallujah. As noted here the post-9-11 media consensus is that we should be sad, not angry. So they will avoid pictures that inflame red America's indignation, but they are willing to show those that shame us or inflame our enemies.

This is also on point:

Despite their record of complicity in covering up years of brutality and torture in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, CNN has lost no time in running endless reports on the Iraqi prison photos. Besides practically non-stop reports on the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse story, CNN's line up has been stocked with guests booked to discuss the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse story.


UPDATE: On the subject of double standards, ASV writes:

You know, I'm not really into torture from any side of any given war, but I gotta admit, there are an awful lot of people who are going apeshit over these war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers and these same people have been eerily silent about even worse crimes and atrocities committed by the very guy these prisoners are fighting for, and come to think of it, they don't say much about all that torture and criminal activity going on in Iran either.

And Bill Hobbs writes:

Not to condone the abuse of Iraqi prisonors by a few out-of-control American soldiers who, it must be said, deserve severe punishment, but where was the Arab world's sense of outrage over the treatment of four Americans guarding food shipments in Fallujah? Forget that - where was the Arab world's sense of outrage over the murderous rule of Saddam Hussein, the mass graves, the systematic torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by the Hussein regime, the gassing of civilians, the rape rooms, the feeding of dissidents into shredding machines ...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Military Review

Another bridge-building example from the service schools:

Leavenworth produces the bi-monthly journal Military Review. For over a half-century it has been translated into Spanish and Portugese so that it could be distributed to army officers throughout South America.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Theory

Professor Peter C. Rollins

So often, today, the contrasting approach either projects current "methodological models" on past materials or berates the past for not being as well-informed and sophisticated as we think we are. Really serious people today are interested in Theory. As one of the Harvard professors told me at an American Studies Association meeting years ago, the interest in theory "absolves them of doing research." Later, Ray Browne, Founder of the Popular Culture Association, would tell me that "theory is the hiding place for scoundrels."

See also, here.
"Unfit for Office"

John O'Neil in Opinion Journal:

Neither I, nor any man I served with, ever committed any atrocity or war crime in Vietnam. The opposite was the truth. Rather than use excessive force, we suffered casualty after casualty because we chose to refrain from firing rather than risk injuring civilians. More than once, I saw friends die in areas we entered with loudspeakers rather than guns. John Kerry's accusations then and now were an injustice that struck at the soul of anyone who served there.

During my 1971 televised debate with John Kerry, I accused him of lying. I urged him to come forth with affidavits from the soldiers who had claimed to have committed or witnessed atrocities. To date no such affidavits have been filed. Recently, Sen. Kerry has attempted to reframe his comments as youthful or "over the top." Yet always there has been a calculated coolness to the way he has sought to destroy the record of our honorable service in the interest of promoting his political ambitions of the moment.


That last sentence is key. The problem with Kerry is that, unlike lefty hero Lillian Hellman, he found that he could cut his (public) conscience to fit any year's fashion.
Ford for Veep

I see the kids in The Corner are discussing Harold Ford as a potential VP nominee.

I think they are too dismissive of his value. But then, i noted last November that he was the best choice for the Democrats.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Carnival of the Capitalists

The May 3d edition is over at Brain Brew Blog.
More 20/20 Hindsight

The Weekly Standard weighs in and takes the FAA to task for not doing more to prevent 9-11. In Jonathan Last's view, they should have revised the hijacking protocols so that planes could not be used as weapons even if that meant passengers were killed in the cabin and the plane risked a crash.

He blames the FAA even though he admits that the pre-9-11 policy worked for nearly 40 years and that there was no US hijackings for a decade.

For Last, agencies must evaluate all threats and implement aggressive counter-measures for all that are plausible.

While that sounds reasonable, a little thought will reveal that it is really a formula for a garrison state and is unworkable in practice.

In fact, i'll wager that Mr. Last doesn't operate in real life in a manner that is consistent with his censure of the FAA.

For example, we know from captured training films that the jihadis have considered using small teams to shoot up public areas like schools, malls, and golf courses. They trained for this in Afghanistan. Further, terror cells in Oregon, Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania actually practiced small group tactics and shooting here in the US. We have the case of Mir Aimal Kasi who killed 2 and wounded 3 on the highway outside of the CIA headquarters in1993, the DC snipers, and the LAX shooter. finally, intelligence agencies have warned of credible threats to shopping malls in recent weeks.

As an individual Mr. Last has to deal with this risk as he goes about his work and recreation. does he avoid malls, crowded highways, and golf courses?

In addition, history is pretty clear that the most effective response for minimizing civilian casualties once an attack starts is vigorous action by armed civilians. Even a rapid police reaction gives the terrorists several minutes of free killing.

So, following Mr. Last's logic that the responsible parties must take aggressive steps to prepare for all plausible threats, i would expect that he does the following:

1. Has a permit for CCW.

2. Carries, at all times, a suitable handgun for an anti-terrorist response. Suitable means a minimum of a 4" barrel and a police caliber. Little revolvers and pocket automatics are not appropriate for engaging terrorists with AK-47s.

3. Has practiced with his handgun so he can hit a 10" plate consistently at 50 yards.

4. Travels with a rifle in his car (but not in the trunk). A handgun is only part of the solution. The terrorists might be 100 yards away or more in which case Mr. Last needs a better tool than his handgun.

I'm sure The Weekly Standard won't have a problem with Mr. Last carrying his rifle to work but malls and golf courses might object. Since he can't leave them in the car (could be stolen and besides, what good is his rifle if it is in his trunk while he is in Home Depot?) he will just have to avoid those places.

This sounds ridiculous and it is. But that is the problem with using only narrow hindsight to assess risks and failures. There are many risks which meet the "plausible and dangerous" threshold. To guard against any failure we must guard against all of them all of the time. That, in itself, becomes unworkable.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Prisoner abuse

Sgt. Stryker says it best here:

The first rule of a coward, when caught, is to play stupid. The second is to blame someone else. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I don't need a superior to tell me that attaching wires to someone's genitals or beating the living shit out of them is unacceptable. What are you, a fucking idiot? This guy's supposed to be a correctional officer at a Virginia prison, but apparently when it comes to performing his job outside the confines of the Commonwealth, he turns into Sergeant Stupid. "Duh, What do I do? What do I do?"
We need a new word

What do you call an anti-war activist who lies about being a combat veteran? If hawks who haven't served are chickenhawks, then what are doves who lie about being soldiers? We saw them during and after Vietnam and now it has happened again. Michele has details on a current example.

See also:


UPDATE: On Micah Wright see this from Mrs. Spoons.

"Outrage at Pitzer College"

This Powerline post shows the near total success the New Left had in their march through the institutions.
"A Massacre in Kosovo"

Did you know a Palestinian terrorist killed three Americans on 17 April?

Probably not. The killing didn't happen in Iraq so it lacked "newsworthiness." And the Palestinian was not fighting with the Iraqi "resistence" so it did not fit the pre-fab reporting template.

This article gives the outline of the story. It also raises some serious issues.

Why does the United Nations police force enjoy "immunity from prosecution"? Isn't that a recipe for thuggery? What is the UN equivalent of the US military justice system?

What genius thought it was a good idea to allow radical Muslims with ties to Hamas to work as "neutral" policemen in Kosovo? For the Serbs, Kosovo is the symbol of their resistance to Islamic conquest. Sending radical Muslims there as policemen is no way to win them over.

Why does the UN impose heavy censorship in Kosovo? More importantly, why does the US media tolerate this? After all the whining about Pentagon news management it turns out that they accept outright censorship from Kofi Annon.

UPDATE: Justin Katz comments here.