Saturday, February 26, 2005

Unclear on the concept

Over at Dakota Pundit there is an interesting exchange with a journalism student on the blogger/journalist question. (HT: Julie Neidlinger who also comments on her blog.)

One comment by the student stood out:
But my question is: who polices the bloggers?
Funny thing. Here i thought the whole point of the First Amendment was to keep the police far away from citizens who discuss the news and issues of the day. And last time i checked there is nothing that prevented CBS from fact-checking Power Line.
Not a helpless bystander

In Tyler, Texas, a man came to the courthouse to kill his ex-wife, his son, and anyone else who got in his way. Mark Wilson saw what was happening and intervened. (He was a CCW holder.) He was killed but authorities believe that his action saved the son's life.

The murderer broke off his attack and escaped in his truck. A few minutes later he was shot by police.

First, let me say that Mark Wilson is a hero. He saw trouble and did not run away from it. He ran to it and tried to stop it. His sacrifice saved lives.

Second, I think this shows that immediate civilian response can completely change the dynamic of a mass shooting. (A point discussed at length here with regard to Richard Clarke's views on future terrorism.)

Third, the killer wore body armor just as in Tom Maguire's nightmare scenario. Yet that protection only let him extend his spree by a few minutes.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Two things cracked me up about Gorman's anti-blogger vapors

He snidely suggests that bloggers don't (can't?) read serious scholarly books:
Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.
First, how can he generalize so easily about a class of people that numbers in the millions?

Second, with all his concern about "complex texts" and scholarly books you would think that is what the ALA and its memebers promote. Check out the "most borrowed list" in the upper right corner.
The Books Most Borrowed in U.S. Libraries


Fiction
1. London Bridges, James Patterson
2. The Da Vinci Code, Brown, Dan
3. The Broker, Grisham, John

Nonfiction
1. America (The Book), Jon Stewart
2. My Life, Bill Clinton
3. He's Just Not That into You, Greg Behrendt
Don't Worry: She's a trained professional

Chief Suspended After Forgetting Gun

Reynoldsburg's chief of police is being punished for leaving her gun at a public library.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"What Lies Beneath the Titillation"

Justin Katz has a good post up on Alfred Kinsey's continued popularity and asks "why?".

One line from Justin jumped off the page:
Rather, it has seemed to me, as I've grown older, that much of the sexual revolution is built on personal lies
He may or may not be correct. But as his Kinsey discussion shows, the revolution was heavily dependent on public lies and still is today.

One example is perfectly illustrated in this review of "Inside Deep Throat" from the New Yorker
It is now clear that what mattered, in 1972, was not so much seeing Deep Throat as saying that you had seen Deep Throat. In so doing, you bid farewell to any traces of inhibition that hung slack around your soul and equipped yourself to join in the bracing new conversation on which society had embarked. The possibility that such conversation was no less likely to bore and stultify than what came before would, of course, not occur to the makers of Inside Deep Throat, who are so enamored of "porno chic" (as it was then labelled in the Times) that they fail to recognize it as just another brand of self-obsession. The one thing we can say for certain of adult entertainment is that it is never adult; in its very eagerness to fence off sexual abandonment from other forms of lived experience, it betrays its origins in the hearts of the perpetually and perspiringly adolescent.
How did we come to describe pornography as "adult entertainment" when, as Anthony Lane notes, it appeals to what is adolescent in all of us.

Dawn Eden touches on a darker lie in this post. Most discussions of teen sexuality (including abortion and parental notification laws) treat the subject as though it is only about frisky sixteen year olds getting it on together. What is never admitted is that a non-trivial number of "sexually active" girls are victims of statutory rape at the hands of much older men.


(Two other interesting pieces one Kinsey are here and here. I posted about the continued influence of the cult here.)
New blog

Edward Jay Epstein (whose books and website i reference alot on this blog) now has his own weblog. Great stuff on the business workings of Hollywood.

Here he poses a really good question:
why entertainment journalists, instead of challenging these preposterous claims, act as the star’s smiling attendants on this organized flight from reality? The answer: deception is a cooperative enterprise. By suspending their disbelief, the entertainment journalists get the stars on their programs.
Maybe someday the founder of Entertainment Weekly could answer that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Army to cut back on education?

OTB has the story here. I think this is a bad, bad idea.

I've posted a lot on military education (links here). It is not a substitute for experience, but neither can experience substitute for Leavenworth.

James correctly points out that we did this in World War II but is not supportive of Rumsfeld's move.

The World War II experience shows the danger of this move. This is what Lieutenant General Leonard D. Holder, Jr., and historian Williamson Murray wrote in the Spring 1998 issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly:


Despite the tributes U.S. military leaders lavished on the role of PME in preparing them for World War II, education fell into decline after the war. The Cold War with its monolithic dependence on nuclear weapons, which required little adaptation, was one reason. With a constant threat, there was less cause to study the complexities of strategy and war, particularly given the fact that America emphasized deterrence rather than combat. More-over, a generational shift in the l950s brought the junior officers of World War II to command positions. They had joined the military in the 1930s and gone to war as lieutenants and captains with-out
receiving PME and returned home as colonels and generals. As a result, many discounted the role of PME in military professionalism. By the late l950s the services had allowed professional military education to drift
.


It should be no surprise, then, that we struggled with the strategic challenges posed by North Vietnam in SE Asia. The senior leadership of the army had not schooled themselves or their officer corps as the WWII generation had. Moreover, they were not prepared to meet the arguments of the Whiz Kids when the quagmire was born.
More open source training for terrorists

Michelle Malkin has an important post on Tom Quinn and the Air Marshall Service. She rightly points out that his PR offensive (and fan-boy behavior) give too much information to future terrorists. (A general worry i discussed here: Open Source Training Tips?).
More 24

I do like the way 24 has handled the issue of torture this season. Tasering an innocent suspect and then covering up with bureaucratic CYA-- that is going to happen when you accept torture as a legitimate tool.

All the more reason to re-read Rev. Sensing's post-- There is no but.
24: Stein's law at work?

Steve Sailer give credit to Ben Stein for noting that the stereotypical Hollywood/TV villain is now the powerful, rich, white guy.

Absolutely true. But i'm still sorry that 24 seems to be going down that route again this season.

Hollywood desperately wants to make anti-terror action movies and TV shows. It knows there an audience for such fare. But it is so scared of PC sensibilities that it has to concoct imaginary villains.

The desire not to offend is finite, though. Scriptwriters know they can always put a couple of rednecks in a pick-up with an NRA sticker when they need a murderous heavy on a cop show.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Stephen Schwartz dances on HST's grave

In The Weekly Standard.

I'm not going to defend Thompson because i never cared for his stuff. (If you want to read more favorable views check out Tom Wolfe and Michael Bane.

No. Here i only want to defend my generation-- those awful baby boomers.

In his opening paragraph Schwartz hopes that HST's death "may definitively mark the conclusion of the chaotic 'baby-boomer' rebellion that began in the 1950s and crested in the 1960s, and which was dignified with the title of 'the counter-culture.'"

How exactly did the boomers start a revolution before most of us entered grade school?

The list of counter-cultural villains-- Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Thompson-- are far too old to be boomers.

Instead of blaming boomers for the counter-cultural rebellion, shouldn't we look at their elders who praised and promoted the Beats and their progeny? The sainted Lionel Trilling, after all, was instrumental in keeping Ginsberg out of jail when he was arrested for possession of stolen property while at Columbia.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Just some things that bug me

About the way the MSM covers bloggers in the wake of Eason and Rather

1. They discuss bloggers as an undifferentiated mass. Sullivan, Wonkette, LGF, Powerline, Kos, or Hugh Hewitt-they are treated as interchangeable. They all blog and, therefore, no distinctions need to be made. More importantly, a Hewitt is expected to defend the behavior of all blogs, not just his own.

No one, however, demands that Bill Keller defend the practices of the National Enquirer even though both use paid reporters to produce a newspaper.

Nor does anyone equate Gwen Ifill with Jerry Springer just because they both interview people on TV.

2. They never give credit to blogs for the depth they sometimes bring to a story or issue. For example, this week on the News Hour they devoted a segment to blogs and Jordan Eason. I did a word count on the transcript for that segment and it was just less than 2,000. Den Beste or Beldar write 2,000 words when they are just warming up to their main argument. When the best bloggers really sink their teeth into a subject, they go deeper and at greater length than any television news show ever can or most print outlets usually do. (See Just One Minute on Plame/Wilson,Beldar on Brinkley's Kerry book, Powerline on "60 Minutes" or Captain's Quarters on Eason Jordan.)

Are these typical of all blogs? No, of course not. But the New Yorker isn't the norm for print journalism and Nightline isn't typical of television news.

One key difference between blogs and traditional journalism favors blogs. Blog traffic tends to flow to the most in-depth or wide-ranging treatment of a hot topic. Television ratings flow to celebrity news and other sensational content. Dateline beats out Frontline in the ratings. Even print suffers from that problem-more readers pick up People than The Atlantic.

3. I'm tired of seeing Wonkette used as an example of blogging. Cox is a hired hand for a corporate product. That is decidedly not typical.

Face it-if blogging is rock and roll, Wonkette is the Partridge Family.

4. I know that bloggers can't be journalists because they don't do real reporting. Does the press maintain the same distinction in house? Many, (most?) of the people who put together the New York Times do not do "reporting". They assign stories, they write background pieces using government statistics, they review books, plays, and movies. Are they not journalists?

All these non-reporting tasks are things that bloggers do as well.*

The "journalists must report" definition is even harder to maintain when it comes to the people on television. The people on camera do not do most of the reporting; that is what researchers and producers do.

So-is Peter Jennings not a journalist? Does the Columbia School of Journalism pull the membership card from graduates who work on TV?

5. It is true that bloggers don't do much "investigative journalism" as the MSM understands it. But I am not certain that this is a failing for reasons discussed here.


* Except for Kaus and his tongue-in-cheek assignment desk, bloggers don't assign stories like traditional editors. But that is because the Times and the blogosphere work on two radically different models. The Times is vertically-integrated and resource-constrained (they have a finite number of paid reporters.) The blogosphere is networked and has vastly more resources (both numbers and expertise). Instapundit does not have to commission a piece on nanotechnology to bring it to his readers' attention as a traditional editor does; some blogger has already written it. But Instapundit and the traditional assignment editor both perform exactly the same function for readers-pointing them toward a piece of writing that is important and interesting.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest round-up of econ and business blogging is up at the Raw Prawn.
Steyn on Miller

As it is, Miller’s play is an early example of the distinguishing characteristic of the modern Western Left: its hermetically sealed parochialism. His genius was to give his fellow lefties what’s become their most cherished article of faith — that any kind of urgent national defence is, by definition, paranoid and hysterical. It was untrue in the Fifties and it’s untrue today. Indeed, the hysteria about hysteria — the ‘criminalisation’ of ‘dissent’ — is far more hysterical than the hysteria about Reds.

The Crucible will survive because it’s the modular furniture of left-wing agitprop: whatever the cause du jour, you can attach it to and it functions no better or worse than to anything else, mainly because it’s perfectly pitched to the narcissism of the Left. As for Salesman, I agree with the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout that it works because, underneath its pretensions to forensic realism, it’s grossly sentimental. What else is that ‘attention must be paid’ moment about?


The rest is here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Echo chamber

Ad Age columnist Bob serves up a nice dose of politics and slander in his year-end wrap-up (12-20-04)

"10 Ads I Hated"

1. John Kerry

Let's see. George Bush created crippling deficits and abridged civil liberties on the path to a catastrophic war that has created enemies worldwide. And Kerry lost. A lot of blame goes to his ads, which neither established him as a leader nor exploited the president's glaring vulnerabilities.

2. Swift Boat Vets for Truth

The classic smear, GOP partisans spinning revisionist history and accusing decorated veteran John Kerry of treason for the crime of wartime dissent. Their rationale: Kerry's testimony about war crimes gave aid and comfort to the enemy. A compelling point, the solution for which would be not to commit war crimes.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Here, here

Powerline weighs in on the Jeff Gannon scandal. Except the scandal is not Gannon, it's the behavior of his critics.
The Problem with Fourth-Generation War

A good short piece by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II. (PDF here)

For theorists of Fourth Generation War (4GW), there’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that there is only one problem with the notion of 4GW. The bad news is that the theory itself is the problem. Like the fabled emperor who had no clothes, 4GW is bereft of any intellectual garments: the concept itself is fundamentally and hopelessly flawed. It is based on poor history and only obscures what other theorists and analysts have already clarified.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Fear of blogs

The blogosphere did a pretty good job chewing over this NYTimes story on blogs. I was left with a couple of questions though.

Katherine Seelye writes:
At the same time, some in the traditional media are growing alarmed as they watch careers being destroyed by what they see as the growing power of rampant, unedited dialogue.
1. Did journalistic ethicists worry about the career prospects of people targeted by "60 minutes", "Dateline," or "20/20"?

2. Is it not hypocritical to defend Ward Churchill and then worry about "rampant, unedited dialogue"?
The Florida Hypothesis

Steve Sailer takes a look at the professors latest book, Cities and the Creative Class.

And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida's footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys?

In the 1970s, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston's unhip oil companies rich for a decade.

In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas ("Sin City") rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida's talent tables because his kind of folks can't make much money in either. So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

My two favorite comments on Arthur Miller

Steve Sailer

Nobody is more scorned in theory than the salesman, especially since Miller's 1949 drama, in which Bernard, the straight-A nerd next door who is Miller's alter ego, gets his revenge on the all-American (and thus doomed) Loman family by becoming a Supreme Court litigator while the Lomans' sports and business ambitions shatter. Yet, nobody is more popular in real life than the successful jock-turned-salesman. To make it in his ego-crushing profession, he must possess the self-confidence, optimism, and wit that the rest of us hope will somehow rub off on us if we buy what he's selling.

Colby Cosh

When I think about the man who wrote plays about how capitalism thwarts human aspirations, and then got married to Marilyn Monroe, I'm afraid about all I can do is giggle.
FBI Software

I recieved an email from a fellow blogger that was critical of SAICs role in the FBI software mess. In my original post i ignored their responsibility. While they now point to the flood of spec-changes forced on them, the OIG report does not indicate that they did much to fight those changes while the meter was running and the project fell behind schedule. So they deserve a good share of the blame.

i think that the major mistake was made by the senior leadership of the FBI and the Congress. Faced with a complex, daunting task they pinned their hopes on a simple solution-computers, templates, and some rudimentary training.

I’ve seen that mistake made repeatedly in the private sector. Executives think that computers and templates can replace strategy, doctrine, and education.

I've addressed this general problem many times here on this blog. Check out the following:

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)

Doctrine and Fad Surfing

Why corporate change is hard and failure almost inevitable

Military Education
More on the stolen Border Patrol laptop

The TV station that broke the story has received a response from the Border Patrol and the navy command. The latter state that no secret information was at risk and that laptop was taken for its "intrinsic value".

It's bad enough that some one in a law enforcement agency would steal computer hardware. And it is rather odd to steal from a "secure" office when there are so many other, easier targets .

I wonder why the BP would not provide a written statement and simply dictated one over the phone.

It looks like the original homeland security concerns of the original story were overstated.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Anti-terrorism software

I noted this Photon Courier post on Monday. But the failure of the FBI's information-sharing software deserves much more attention than it is getting.

It clear that one problem with the project is that many people are involved, but no one was responsible for its success. The evidence is right here:
SAIC has said it believes the problem was caused largely by the FBI: specifically, too many specification changes during the development process...an SAIC executive asserted that there were an average of 1.3 changes per day during the development.
When you are processing that many spec-changes, no one is driving the bus. This is common with software projects and is a big reason why so many of them fail. They keep expanding and morphing.
This huge complexity is responsible for software's permanent crisis: if you build a big enough program, it is almost impossible to make it come out right. Studies show that the average commercial software project takes 50% longer that it was supposed to, and one project in four is abandoned.... The 'beta test' is the industry's admission of failure-- the procedure whereby a product that is known to be flawed, but is nonetheless as good as the manufacturer can make it, is handed to expert users in the hopes they will find some of the remaining bugs. [ David Gelernter, Machine Beauty, 1998]
I wrote about this and other problems with software development here.

The complexity problem also stands out when you examine the success story highlighted by Photon Courier. The counter-sniper system had a very specific objective and, hence, the developers and engineers had a very focused mission.

Another reason for the failure could be that the FBI over-estimated what data-sharing could accomplish. Too many people treat data, information, knowledge, and intelligence as though they are roughly the same thing. Thus, they belive, that if police agencies share data they will automatically generate better intelligence.

I think that it is much more fruitful to think in terms of Haeckel's Hierarchy which distinguishes between these terms in very useful ways. (The Hierarchy is discussed in this PDF.)

The first thing that stands out is that the elements that separate data from information (context) or intelligence from information (inference) are elements that computers do not handle well. This is even more true with "knowledge" which Haeckel explicitly describes as "subjective and [which] resides in humans, not in databases or books."

In short, you cannot get rid of the human element by substituting hard drives, high-speed networks, and a template. Computers are a blunt tool for generating better intelligence. No amount of money, time, or effort can change that.

UPDATE: See additional thoughts here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Why i called Geraghty a lap dog

The transcript for the News Hour segment on blogs and Eason Jordan is now online.

I think Jim Geraghty let Terence Smith get away with some very slanted reporting about blogs and the MSM.

1. Here is how Smith described the Rather mess:
Dan Rather, whose faulty reporting on documents purportedly dealing with the president's National Guard service led to his impending departure from the CBS anchor chair.
Makes it sound like ol' Dan failed to dot a few "i"s and cross a few "t"s. No mention that the documents were fraudulent or that they were central to the "60 Minutes" story.

2. Terence Smith described bloggers as a "digital lynch mob" and spoke of the hunt for "scalps". JG did not challenge this blatant attempt to stack the deck. Instead he played right along--
I do kind of wonder if to a certain extent we ended up in sort of a situation of like an old western in which, you know, Black Bart comes into town. Everybody wants to be the one who shot Black Bart. As soon as Eason Jordan ended up in this controversy there was a certain extent some bloggers wanted to be the one who took down Eason Jordan.
Michael Moore

A Valentine to Michael Moore

Moore loves to describe himself as a working class kind of guy. He reminds people he was born in the blue collar town of Flint Michigan. When asked about all the money he has made he says, "A guy like me, with a high school education, who is suppose to be working in a factory," he muses, "that chance to reach as many people as I have, that's something I do not take for granted." Sounds good, but the truth is that although he was born in Flint, he grew up in nearby Davison, a mostly white, middle-class community. And although Moore's father did work on the assembly line of a G.M. plant, he managed to send his three kids to college. Moore dropped out of college at the University of Michigan after one year. So it was Moore's choice to only have a "high school education," not because he couldn't have a college education.

Michael Moore Unravels Before the Oscars

What happened behind the scenes at "TV Nation" gives a glimpse of the real Michael Moore. "He disliked sharing credit with his writers" like Merrill Markoe, wrote MacFarquhar. And he disliked sharing money, as well.

When two of the show's young writers, who had been given the title Associate Producer, took steps to join the Writers Guild (the powerful union for movie and TV writers), Moore took them aside. "I'm getting a lot of heat from the union to call you guys writers and pay you under the union rules," Eric Zicklin recounted Moore's words for MacFarquhar. "I don't have the budget for that," Moore threatened them, "But if they keep coming down on me that'll mean I'll only be able to afford one of you and the other one's gotta go."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Lapdog

Geraghty on the News Hour was like some yappy pomeranian trying to show a rottweiler that he meant no harm. I've seen six pound yorkies with more courage.
Today's WTF? moment

Top Secret Laptop Missing From Border Patrol Station
Terrorism and software

Photon Courier has today's must read blog post.

SOFTWARE VERSUS TERRORISM

A key part of the FBI's efforts to improve information sharing-- the Virtual Case File system-- does not work. I agree with Photon Courier that the key issue is not the $170 million spent on the system, it is the wasted time.
This issue has been covered in a pretty low-key manner in the media, and in the blogosphere not much at all. What coverage there has been has tended to focus on the $170MM...but I am much more concerned about the loss of time. $170MM may sound like a big number, but it is pretty small compared with the cost of a single large-scale terror incident.
When i get time later today i intend to post some additional thoughts. In the meantime head on over and RTWT.
Carnival

Check out the latest econblogging at the Carnival of the Capitalists.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lynn Stweart

The Counterterrorism blog has a round-up of her history and the key issues at her trial.
Dr. Summers and the women

Stuant Taylor has a powerful article on the Harvard president's mau-mauing:

Why Feminist Careerists Neutered Larry Summers

The hysteria about Summers furthers the career agendas of feminists who seek quotas for themselves and their friends.
.....

Like religious fundamentalists seeking to stamp out the teaching of evolution, feminists stomped Harvard University President Lawrence Summers for mentioning at a January 14 academic conference the entirely reasonable theory that innate male-female differences might possibly help explain why so many mathematics, engineering, and hard-science faculties remain so heavily male.

Unlike most religious fundamentalists, these feminists were pursuing a careerist, self-serving agenda. This cause can put money in their pockets
.

This quite is telling in light of the knee-jerk defense of War Churchill
Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate placed this episode in its larger context in a piece in the Boston Phoenix:

"The modern university is the culmination of a 20-year trend of irrationalism marked by an increasingly totalitarian approach to highly politicized issues. Students are subjected to mandatory gender-and racial-sensitivity training akin to thought reform.... Faculty members and administrators are made to understand that their careers are at risk if they deviate from the accepted viewpoint
."


Academic freedom for me, but not for thee

Thursday, February 10, 2005

"But Richard Clarke was a wimp"

Tom Maguire thinks that Richard Clarke understated the threat to malls. He cites the North Hollywood shootout as an example of the ability of body armor to make shooters invulnerable to civilian handguns.

I'm not certain that his example works. The two robbers in California were not trying to hunt down victims; they were trying to escape. They were invulnerable (for a time) but ineffective.

I don't doubt that terrorists could attack malls, schools or other public spaces. I do think that Clarke (and Maguire) overstate how effective the attacks would be and ignore the cost of pulling off a coordinated series of atrocities.

In a comment at Chicagobyz, Shannon Love identifies a big point that Clarke overlooks: what happens after the attacks:
It is unlikely that terrorist could kill and then escape without living at least one of their number behind. This is a big problem for the terrorist because in developed countries, identifying one member of a network will rapidly lead to the roll up of the entire network.

I suspect this is the major reason we have never seen suicide bombers yet in the West. It is hard to pull off a terror campaign when every time you set off a bomb, it cost you a big chunk of your network
.
In Clarke's nightmare, the terrorists strike and then start laying new plans. It seems more likely that a spectacular attack will result in the roll-up of their cells and the loss of much of their domestic infrastructure. That is one of the reasons that Clarke's scenario of escalating assaults seems impossible.

Moreover, the more spectacular the attack, the higher the risk that it will be discovered by law enforcement. Recruiting, training, equipping, and deploying suicide teams is no easy task. There are dozens of opportunities foe LEOs and citizens to become suspicious.

Clarke ignores this factor just as he ignored Diana Dean's role in stopping the LAX bombing. His antipathy to street level policing makes him a suspect guide on this whole question.
How not to succeed as an outside CEO

Ms. Fiorina's cult of personality was immediately visible to even a casual visitor to the company. In the entryway of the corporate headquarters, her portrait hung boldly adjacent to portraits of the company's legendary and revered founders, William Hewlett and David Packard.

Fiorina's Confrontational Tenure at Hewlett Comes to a Close
Academic freedom

Check out these two posts at Photon Courier
No Christians allowed?

From the New york Observer profile of blogger Dawn Eden:
The Post hired her full time in 2003. She loved editing and writing punning headlines. But she landed in hot water after giving an interview to Gilbert, a G.K Chesterton magazine, in which she talked about her faith and working at the Post.

She said her boss, chief copy editor Barry Gross, chided her, telling her, "Some people already think the Post is conservative, and we don’t need New York readers also thinking it’s a Christian paper and that there are Christians working there."

"I don’t recall saying that," said Mr. Gross. "But I can’t swear that I didn’t. I mean, there’s no question people think we’re conservative." He added that he did caution her to cool it a bit in the future
.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ending slavery

Thomas Sowell:

To me the most staggering thing about the long history of slavery -- which encompassed the entire world and every race in it -- is that nowhere before the 18th century was there any serious question raised about whether slavery was right or wrong. In the late 18th century, that question arose in Western civilization, but nowhere else.
Why the Hall of Fame is becoming a joke

Look, if Swann and Stallworth belong in Canton, then Michael Irvin does. Screw the nerdy stat-crunching.-- 3 rings in 4 years. Biggest game-breaking threat on the team.

How many of those 18,000 yards did Emmitt Smith get because no one dared put 8 in the box with MI on the field?

Bob Hayes's exclusion is an even bigger outrage.

Has every one forgotten that Steve Young couldn't win the starting job on the really great 49ers teams? Or that he had a hard time getting past Dallas and Green Bay in the 90s?

And i still think that if Carl Eller is in the HOF, then LC Greenwood should be there, too. (TMQ agrees, calling Greenwood "the sure Canton choice who's been waiting longest.")

i guess we should expect this sort of thing. After all, the cretinous Woody Paige is one of the 39 writers who get a vote. (It only takes eight votes to keep someone out of the HoF.) Paige was one of Steve Rodrick's prime examples of sportwriters who have gone to pot because they spend so much time preening on ESPN.

I wonder how many other HoF voters are talking head or radio shouters.
War daddy?

I had never heard the term before i read this piece in Slate. But this passage is not to be missed:
When Bill Curry was head coach at Georgia Tech in the early 1980s, he instituted a war daddy head count. Before every game his assistants would declare that the Yellow Jackets should be ready for a tough game as they were facing, say, a six-war-daddy defense. Curry says his players would titter during the weekly announcement. But no one was laughing after Tech ran into the war daddy to end all war daddies, Tennessee's Reggie White. After the Minister of Defense tormented Tech's linemen, Curry heard one of his huge tackles weeping. "War daddies can make a grown man cry," he says.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Another reason why i hate comment threads

Last fall i wrote this about comment trolls"

Nit-picking free riders

But nit-picking is nothing compared to the obscene bile aimed at Michelle Malkin.

Note to the MSM: Isn't there is an interesting story here about the racism and sexism at large on such a popular left-wing blog?
Super Bowl thoughts

Jonathan Last has been oddly silent about the game now that it is over.

Karmic justice-- Rodney Harrison caught more balls than Freddie Mitchell.

UPDATE: Last took the defeat so hard that he ran away to sea.

Monday, February 07, 2005

This really hurts

Joe Montana told ESPN's Dan Patrick last week that he wanted to come to the Steelers to finish his career when the left the 49ers after the 1992 season. But the Steelers weren't interested and were happy with a younger Neil O'Donnell.

Think the Steelers would have had a better chance in 1993 when they lost to Montana and his Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs? Think they might have beaten San Diego in the 1994 AFC title game if Montana would have been the quarterback? Think they might have won Super Bowl XXX against Dallas with Montana perhaps hanging around for a final ring shot with his hometown team?


More here.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest round-up of econ-blogging is over at catallarchy.
"Pacifist Hoax"

We are left with Margaret Mead as an extraordinary myth maker, someone who persistently ignored or distorted the factual record in an effort to advance her theories. During her life, when she was confronted by expert witnesses who contested the accuracy of her ethnography, she succeeded in brushing them aside. In death, she seemingly has even greater authority.

Read more here.
Still tough as nails

Angry Bednarik lashes out at Eagles, 'pussycat football'

Reading the article, i can't say i blame him. I've been surprised that the Eagles seem to have forgotten all about their last championship team and the men who played on it.

HT: Soxblog

Sunday, February 06, 2005

This is why he's the man

Go read this right now. No one has Jeff Jarvis's number like Scott Chaffin.
Tenured Radicals and taboos

Ross Douthat aks the key question:

Pinker is of course right that taboos aren't the exclusive property of tenured radicals. But shouldn't we be holding tenured professors at a major university to a higher standard of intellectual honesty than, say, anti-evolution school board members in Kansas?


RTWT

This double-standard is what i was getting at here:

Give us science, but not too much
Incoherent Criticism

In addition to the Clarke article discussed below, The Atlantic also carries a piece by James Fallows. Like Clarke he is a severe critic of the conduct of the WoT. On close inspection, however, the two articles raise more questions than they answer. They look at the same picture and draw contradictory conclusions.

For example, Clarke points to homeland security and says, We are ignoring our vulnerability in the heartland. A few pages later Fallows proclaims, We are spending too much in the heartland and are doing too little to protect high-risk cities.

Fallows quotes Benjamin Friedman: "U.S. Homeland security policy has embraced the false idea that all American communities are likely targets of terrorism."

Maybe Friedman is right that this is an "expensive myth." But if that is true, then half of Clarke's future history is mythical. One or the other is correct and that question is worthy of rigorous discussion. But both critiques cannot be true.

The Atlantic does not even acknowledge the contradiction. It features both articles on its cover and claims a specious linkage. Clarke's article is hyped as "America Attacked: The Sequel" while Fallow's piece is headlined: "How We Could Have Stopped It."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Richard Clarke in The Atlantic

The cover story in the January/February Atlantic Monthly is piece of "future history" by Richard Clarke that sketches the next five years of the War on Terror. He does not paint a pretty picture. His worst-case scenario has a series of devastating attacks on America- suicide bombers, mass shootings, strikes with biological and nuclear weapons. After each assault, the economy sinks a little lower and we sacrifice a few more civil liberties.

There is a surface plausibility to Clarke's nightmare-he served, after all, on the NSC and his article is amply documented (49 footnotes.) Upon a close reading, however, the surface plausibility morphs into superficiality and worse. Clarke means to scare us, but his tale is hardly an "alternative future history" or a rigorous exercise in scenario analysis. It is not even a fairy tale. It is just a story about a modern bogeyman.

The greatest weakness of his scenario is that it is one-sided. He lays out our vulnerability in great detail but he never discusses the terrorist capabilities required to pull off such a stunning sequence of victories. Derek Reveron made just that point here.
Given Clarke's credentials and former access to intelligence, his fiction should be critically examined. But we should take heart that Clarke has no specific information and his latest prognostication of impending doom is simply the result of his nightmares. Every scenario he presents is just that - a hypothetical driven by existing vulnerabilities, not terrorist capabilities.

While it is important to reduce vulnerabilities to America's critical infrastructure, we should not conflate vulnerability and threat. Just because we can imagine an attack does not mean an attack will occur.

Aggressive U.S. counterterrorism efforts have resulted in significant accomplishments - al Qaeda is on the ropes. Thousands have been captured or killed and its top leadership has been relegated to producing propaganda for the Internet. FDR's wisdom about fear should guide us, but fear is a hard thing to control.

Clarke's terrorism hypothetical seems to be governed more by his worst nightmares than by the real capabilities of any terrorists
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These two points by Reveron are particularly telling:
If a biological attack were as easy as Clarke pretends, surely Tel Aviv or another Israeli city would have been the victim of such an attack. Palestinian militants could simply launch Katyusha rockets from territory they control or infiltrate infected individuals to unleash a plague upon Israel. The militants would not face any of the logistical challenges al Qaeda would face - infiltrating a terrorist cell into the United States, creating a support network, and executing a biological attack.

Likewise, Russian nuclear weapons must be more secure than we fantasize because there is no doubt a Chechen group would have been the first customer
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Not only does Clarke overstate the threat by ignoring terrorist capabilities (or lack thereof), he also grossly overstates our vulnerabilities. Here is his description of an early, low-tech attack.
On December 2, 2005, the Mall of the States became a victim of a low-tech terrorist attack. In the preceding years malls in Israel, Finland, and the Philippines had been attacked; so far, American malls had been spared. As security professionals knew, this was partly luck; such targets are difficult to protect.16 In June of 2004, after learning of intelligence reports indicating that the Madrid train bombers had originally planned to strike a suburban shopping area, Charles Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York, called for increased funding to secure U.S. shopping centers and malls.17 Congress chose instead to focus on defending other targets against more-sophisticated terrorist acts.

The 4.2-million-square-foot mall, located in Minnesota, was globally recognized as the largest entertainment and retail complex in America, welcoming more than 42 million visitors each year, or 117,000 a day. On this day neither the 160 security cameras surveying the mall nor the 150 safety officers guarding it were able to detect, deter, or defend against the terrorists.18 Four men, disguised as private mall-security officers and armed with TEC-9 submachine guns, street-sweeper 12-gauge shotguns, and dynamite, entered the mall at two points and began executing shoppers at will.

It had not been hard for the terrorists to buy all their guns legally, in six different states across the Midwest. A year earlier Congress had failed to reauthorize the assault-weapons ban. Attorney General John Ashcroft had announced a proposal, on July 6, 2001, to have the FBI destroy records of weapons sales and background checks the day after the gun dealer had the sale approved. This meant that if a gun buyer subsequently turned up on the new Integrated Watch List, or was discovered by law-enforcement officials to be a felon or a suspected terrorist, when government authorities tried to investigate the sale, the record of the purchase would already be on the way to the shredder.19

The panic and confusion brought on by the terrorists' opening volleys led many shoppers to run away from one pair of murderers and into the path of the other, leading to more carnage. Two off-duty police officers were cited for bravery after they took down one pair of terrorists with their personal weapons, before the local SWAT team could get to the scene. Meanwhile, one of the other terrorists used his cell phone to remotely detonate the rental van he had driven to the mall; this resulted in even more chaos in the parking garages. Once the SWAT team arrived, it made short work of the two remaining terrorists. By the time the smoke had cleared, more than 300 people were dead and 400 lay wounded. In the confusion of the firefight the SWAT team had killed six mall guards and wounded two police officers.20

At the same moment, at the Tower Place, in Chicago; the Crystal Place, in Dallas; the Rappamassis Mall, in Virginia; and the Beverly Forest Mall, in Los Angeles, the scene was much the same: four shooters and hundreds of dead shoppers. America's holiday mall shopping effectively ended that day, as customers retreated to the safety of online retail.

The December attacks were achieved with a relatively small amount of ammonium nitrate, some Semtex plastic explosive, and a few assault weapons in the hands of twenty people who were willing to die
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The first thing that stands out is the high body count: four men manage to kill 300 and wound 400 more. Even allowing for the car bomb, this is extreme. It dwarfs anything we have every seen before in America.

Note as well how Clarke has his victims stampeding like cattle right into the sights of the gunmen. No one apparently fights backs except two off-duty cops. This stretches credulity and ignores very inconvenient facts.

Clarke consciously echoes the Columbine murders (the TEC-9 and street-sweepers). It gives his "scenario" verisimilitude. Moreover, because at Columbine the students were trapped and slaughtered like lambs, it fits his "theory". But Columbine was merely the worst school shooting, not the only one. That means it is seared into our memory while we have forgotten the details of most of the others. Little details like how in several cases, armed citizens put an end to the killing before the police arrived.

Maybe there would be no armed citizens in Minnisota or LA. But Texas and Virginia are shall issue CCW states. A non-trivial number of people there carry firearms for personal protection. But Clarke's scenario says nothing about their potential to limit the killing: "the scene was much the same: four shooters and hundreds of dead shoppers."

I am not saying that armed citizens can replace SWAT teams or that a grandmother with a .32 automatic would take down a couple of terrorists like Wild Bill in Abilene. But a realistic scenario has to account for the potential effect of armed citizens in states where many citizens are armed. Any civilian response means that the terrorists can no longer "execute shoppers at will" and that, in turn, will reduce the fatalities. Clarke does not account for this factor; he simply ignores it.

Clarke cannot deal honestly with this factor because it runs counter to the liberal pieties at the Kennedy School where he hangs his hat. Clarke is careful to pay obeisance to those pieties throughout his article. He may challenge the Bush administration or the NRA, but he says nothing that will ruffle feathers in Cambridge or Georgetown.

How else can one explain his discussion of the end to Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) in the quoted passage? Does Clarke really think that terrorists who can get Russian nukes and Semtex were incapable of getting firearms when the AWB was in effect?

We see the same mindset at work when he discusses the aftermath of the first wave of bombings. Over a thousand people are dead and thousands more will die in the near future. But what really concerns Clarke is the reaction of his non-Muslim fellow citizens:
The social effect of the attacks was widespread. In Detroit, northern New Jersey, northern Virginia, and southern California armed gangs of local youths attacked mosques and Islamic centers. At the request of local clerics, the governor of Michigan ordered National Guard units into the city of Dearborn and parts of Detroit to stop the vigilante violence against Islamic residents.
This fear has been a recurrent theme since 9/12/01. After three years, we have very little evidence that it is real. Just as few Muslims in America are terrorists, let's finally admit that most Americans are not prone to mob violence even in the wake of horrendous atrocities.

At times as I read the article I wondered if Clarke was really as bright and knowledgeable as everyone insists. The mall attacks are one example where my personal knowledge and experience made me question his scenarios. Another was this quote from an interview with the Atlantic Monthly:
Q: How did you come up with the idea to write an imaginary account of the first ten years of the war on terror?

A: I remembered how influential the 1970s book The Third World War was in stimulating debate over what we should do about the NATO-Soviet Union confrontation that was building in Europe. In that book, a British general named Sir John Hackett jumped ahead about ten years and portrayed what would happen in a war in Europe between these two very modern militaries. It did so in such graphic detail and with such credibility that it really stimulated a great debate and gave us a big impetus towards creating the arms-control measures that largely demilitarized Europe. I thought, What better way to stimulate debate about homeland security than to do the same kind of thing: jump ahead about ten years and show what will happen if we don't improve our homeland-security posture before attacks occur?
Clarke completely misreads the purpose and consequences of The Third World War. The book was a flat-out plea for Nato modernization and rearmament, not a tract proposing that Europe be demilitarized.

This is how the authors put it in 1978:
It must here be strongly emphasized again, however-and it cannot be too often repeated-that the forces of the Western Allies were only in a position to survive onslaught of the Warsaw Pact because, though heavily outnumbered from the outset, they were able to remain in being. Without the sort of improvement effected in the years between 1978 and 1984 this would have been impossible.
The key point of the book was that a strengthened NATO could win a conventional defensive war in Europe. Arms control had nothing to do with it.

In some respects, the article is deeply dishonest. Clarke posits so many threats and warns of so many attacks, that he is bound to be right about something, sometime. When that happens, his new friends will proclaim, "Richard Clarke tried to warn us." And if the attack happens before January 2009 they will conclude with "but Bush wouldn't listen." In that respect, Clarke has crafted a "sleeper indictment" ready to be activated when some attack somewhere takes place on American soil. Clarke and his allies want to reverse the moral of "the boy who cried wolf."

Make no mistake-Clarke is deeply in the anti-Bush camp. This is from the foreword to the paperback edition of his book:
It pains me that so much of what I wrote in this book is coming to pass. I would rather have been wrong, but the truth is that by the blindly ideological, arrogant, irresponsible way in which the Bush administration responded to 9/11, by enraging the vast majority of the Islamic world and failing to reduce our vulnerabilities to al Qaeda, they have actually managed, incredibly enough, to make us less safe than we were before the attacks.
"Less safe" than we were in the months before 3,000 Americans died? To make this anti-Bush case, Clarke has to craft his scenarios toward the worst conceivable case--more attacks, more bodies, more economic disruption. At some point, the whole exercise becomes a polemic rather than an objective analysis.

Perhaps, Clarke believes all this. If so, that makes him more akin to Chicken Little than to Cassandra. If this is how he went about his government job, I sympathize with the people in the Clinton administration who had to work with him. An undifferentiated mass of warnings is just white noise-it is not intelligence in any real sense nor is it a basis for a winning strategy. It is just pure CYA.

That factor, too, has to be considered. Clarke, after all, was the point man against bin Laden at the time of UBL's greatest victories. It gives him an incentive to overstate the sophistication of al Qaeda and its capabilities. If UBL is the "Napoleon of terrorism" then Clarke's failure to stop him becomes more understandable. Similarly, if winning the WoT is a matter for the 101st Airborne and street-level cops like Diana Dean then Richard Clarke is not very important. Clarke can only be seen as important and competent if we also emphasize AQ's near-limitless capabilities.

Being important is very important to Richard Clarke. One of the most revealing quotes in the interview is this:
if people wanted to use the ID for other purposes on a voluntary basis, what's wrong with that? I would love to be able to move more rapidly through an airport and not have to wait in long security lines. It's ridiculous that I and other people who have top-secret security clearance and are well known not to be security risks have to wait in these long lines and take off our shoes and belts and all of that.
No shared burdens for Mr. Clarke. Why should he have to stand in line like the peons, don't you know who he is?

UPDATE: Check out the posts at Hell in a Handbasket and Chicagoboyz and the comments.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks that Clarke understates the risks. I have further thoughts here.
How quickly we forget

Some Perspective 5 Years After Y2K
By Larry Seltzer
January 3, 2005

Opinion: Did Richard Clarke and all those Y2K remediation efforts avert a disaster? No. Let's keep this experience in mind as we evaluate expert advice.

Jan. 1 was the five-year anniversary of the Y2K "event." It seems so long ago and so supplanted by more recent events as to be irrelevant. But it's not. Y2K taught us lessons that will always be applicable: Don't believe everything the experts tell you, and be especially skeptical of worst-case predictions for technology
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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Were we hoaxed about the Yushchenko poisoning?

This article makes it clear that the facts are more complicated than press reports indicate.

The doctor who diagnosed Mr. Yushchenko’s poisoning admits that he can prove nothing.
And when BHHRG asked how he could therefore say with certainty that Yushchenko had been deliberately poisoned, when the only known precedent for a similar dioxin contamination was believed to have been caused by an industrial accident, Dr Brouwer had to admit that, in fact, he could not say that Yushchenko has definitely been deliberately poisoned. He told BHHRG, “I cannot say how the dioxins got there.” In other words, the deliberate poisoning thesis, so confidently proclaimed in December, and so instrumental in painting Mr. Yushchenko as the victim of a criminal regime, is not even insisted on by the man who himself made it.
Exactly right

From the Claremont Institute blog

And this brings me back to the overriding philosophy of the conservative movement. Conservatives should not embrace every single book that criticizes Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, or Bill Clinton. We embarrass ourselves and do our work a disservice when we promote sloppy scholarship.
Give us science, but not too much

This Weekly Standard piece is shocking without being surprising. We've known for years that Alfred Kinsey and his cult winked at pedophilia and treated criminals as unbiased researchers. Their work was fraudulent from beginning to end.

What I think is more interesting is the lack of outrage over the fact that the Kinsey cult continues to promulgate their teachings and glorify their leader under the guise of science.

Look at it this way: When a school board anywhere promotes Intelligent Design or Creationism, the education establishment, the MSM, and most of the blogosphere react with a combination of indignation and mockery. Fair enough. Bad science is in no one's interest.

But that same education establishment has erected a vast sex-ed structure whose foundations are based on bad science and reckless propaganda. (Not just Kinsey, but also works like Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa.) This, apparently, is OK.

The contrasting reactions tell us that more is at work here than devotion to science. Nor can I explain it in terms of relative importance or utility. Very few high school students will ever "use" Darwinian theory in the real world. But teen-age hormones ensure that the "lessons" kids learn (or don't learn or aren't taught) about sex, marriage, and promiscuity matter a great deal.

It matters, more importantly, to society as a whole, not just the students. Early motherhood, broken homes, never-formed homes-all of these contribute to crime and poverty. But we can't address them effectively because those concerns seem so pre-Kinsey.