Saturday, December 29, 2007

Duke lacrosse

The indispensable KC Johnson has gone on hiatus. He did, however, give us a useful guide through the case as he covered it on his blog:

Glossary
The perfect starting point for anyone coming late to the story as well as a great reference for those who have followed the case from the beginning.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


Luke 2:8-14

Fear and dread in Steeler Nation

So the Steelers are 10-5 and won their division. They are in the play-offs for the third time in four years. Yet, we fans are worried and cranky. If you didn't know better, you'd think the team was 6-9.

Part of the reason is that the five losses were ugly. Good teams dominated us (Jax and the Patriots) and we made bad teams look good (Denver and the J-E-T-S- Jets Jets Jets). Not much glory in being a paper champion who makes the playoffs and then gets bounced in the first game.

I think the larger reason is that the team that wins does not look like the Steelers teams we are used to watching. No longer do we pound the ball on the ground and play suffocating defense. Now our victories are keyed to big plays in the passing game and a desperate hope that the defense can make a couple of stops. Classic Steerlers football was a 20-7 game that never felt close. This years version is perfectly captured by the second Cleveland game and the win over the Rams. No lead felt safe because no lead was safe.

What makes this concern especially worrisome is that the defense lacks young players who have shown promise. Our good players are mostly old while our recent draft choices have failed to make an impact. The defensive problems could get worse before they get better.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

This is a high holiday in Steeler nation

Thirty-five years ago, Franco made the Immaculate Reception and a dynasty was born.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Steve Sailer is the best

He knows and sees things your typical reviewer cannot fathom. Vide his review of No Country for Old Men:

Developing video games is consuming more and more of today's creative talent, with little benefit to show for it in the broader culture. Traditional art forms such as poetry, music, and painting tended to inspire each other forward in a virtuous cycle, but video gaming, a solitary vice, has been a cultural black hole. Game-inspired films, for instance, have mostly failed, because watching a movie star frenetically shoot bad guys is missing the point of playing, which is to shoot them yourself.


How about this for a throw-away insight?

For reasons I don't fully understand (and am not sure I really want to think about), most of us guys, no matter how blameless our lives, enjoy doing some contingency planning about how we'd handle it if we ever had to climb into that white Bronco and make a run for the border. Thus, many men hated the great Chick Flick "Thelma and Louise" less for its supposed feminism than for how dopily Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon let their feelings botch up their escape from Arkansas to Mexico. I quickly worked out for them an itinerary for their getaway over the Rio Grande to Matamoros, but they weren't equally serious about route selection and ended up in northern Arizona, where they fell, deservedly, into the Grand Canyon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The real value of simplicity

Analysis of Paralysis

If your strategy doesn't help employees act, it's not a strategy.

"Keep it simple, stupid." That's the advice every executive has received on how to share strategy with employees. The subtext is often, "Keep it simple, because your people are stupid." But you don't need to embrace simplicity just so your people can comprehend your message. The point of simplicity is more fundamental: Simplicity allows people to act
.

This might be the the number one cause of strategic failure in business. A major reason for this is the overly intellectual approach that B-schools take toward strategy.

See more here:

GWB and his MBA


Waiting for our Clausewitz


Clausewitz (II)
Vietnam: What we know now that we didn't know then

Who Owns the Vietnam War?

Above all, antiwar activists and critics of American policy in the media denied their own moral responsibility for what happened in Vietnam and Indochina once the policy they themselves had vociferously advocated—namely, withdrawal and disengagement—was carried out. When, four years after the fall of Saigon, Joan Baez, Richard John Neuhaus, and other former antiwar activists tried to draw attention to the plight of Vietnam’s boat people and the brutal tyranny that had been established in that country, their former comrades, led by celebrities like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, denounced them as “stooges” and CIA agents. “Even if the [North] Vietnamese had chosen the course of mass executions and plunder,” one of these former comrades stated in a letter, “it would have been our own strategies of terror and brutality that drove them to it.”

This collapse of ethical and intellectual integrity would have consequences far beyond Vietnam. In the decades to come, the Vietnam myth would justify the Left’s instinctual opposition to America’s efforts to contain Communist aggression in Latin America in the 1980’s, its characterization of the 1991 Gulf war as a campaign of “blood for oil,” and its denunciations of our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. The need to prop up the same myth in the face of a contradictory reality would fuel the “paranoid style” of leftist conspiracy-mongering in films like Oliver Stone’s JFK, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, and most recently and blatantly Loose Change, which argues that the Twin Towers were brought down by agents of the Bush administration. And, as President Bush discovered last August, it remains potent enough to trigger the most irrational and rhetorically violent responses when anyone dares challenge its proprietary construction of what the Vietnam war was in fact all about, and what are its lessons.

Historical analogies are never entirely accurate. They may not even be useful. But it remains true that our present and future actions are always based, to some extent, on our evaluation of past experience. Generals are often accused of fighting the last war. This is something that, when it comes to Vietnam, liberals and leftists have been doing for more than three decades, by refusing to confront (in words Peter Marin once flung in the face of American authorities) “their own culpability” and “their own capacity for error and excess.” Whatever the differences or similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, or between Vietnam and our global war with Islamic radicalism, the real analogy between then and now may lie in this tenacious refusal of self-examination by the liberal Left—especially when the facts utterly contravene its reflexive indictment of the motives, purposes, and actions of the American government.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The truth about criminal profiling

Malcolm Gladwell has a fascinating and important article on criminal profiling:


Dangerous Minds
He is not impressed by the "science" or the results:

In the case of Derrick Todd Lee, the Baton Rouge serial killer, the F.B.I. profile described the offender as a white male blue-collar worker, between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, who “wants to be seen as someone who is attractive and appealing to women.” The profile went on, “However, his level of sophistication in interacting with women, especially women who are above him in the social strata, is low. Any contact he has had with women he has found attractive would be described by these women as ‘awkward.’ ” The F.B.I. was right about the killer being a blue-collar male between twenty-five and thirty-five. But Lee turned out to be charming and outgoing, the sort to put on a cowboy hat and snakeskin boots and head for the bars. He was an extrovert with a number of girlfriends and a reputation as a ladies’ man. And he wasn’t white. He was black.

A profile isn’t a test, where you pass if you get most of the answers right. It’s a portrait, and all the details have to cohere in some way if the image is to be helpful. In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent, which makes sense if you consider the position of the detective on the receiving end of a profiler’s list of conjectures. Do you believe the stuttering part? Or do you believe the thirty-year-old part? Or do you throw up your hands in frustration?
[snip]
A few years ago, Alison went back to the case of the teacher who was murdered on the roof of her building in the Bronx. He wanted to know why, if the F.B.I.’s approach to criminal profiling was based on such simplistic psychology, it continues to have such a sterling reputation. The answer, he suspected, lay in the way the profiles were written, and, sure enough, when he broke down the rooftop-killer analysis, sentence by sentence, he found that it was so full of unverifiable and contradictory and ambiguous language that it could support virtually any interpretation.

Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading,” itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse—the “statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.” (“I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.”) The Jacques Statement, named for the character in “As You Like It” who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.” There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that “leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.” (“I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?”) And that’s only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess—all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The television audience keeps leaving the broadcast networks

According to Turner Research, the average American viewed 32.6 hours of television a week this year, up ever-so-slightly from 32.5 last year. More significantly, Americans are watching two more hours of television now than they were five years ago.

That growth has come at the expense of broadcast. Five years ago, viewers spent an average of 11.7 hours a week with broadcast and 13.2 hours a week with cable; this year, viewers spent 9.6 hours with broadcast and 15.3 with cable
.


Source

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Duke lacrosse: KC Johnson sums up

KC Johnson's indispensable Durham in Wonderland is going on hiatus. His last post is a terrific summary of the case and its implications.

Legacies
I think he is dead on about the coverage by the drive-by media:
It is difficult to offer an explanation other than the obvious for the records of figures such as Wilson, Feinstein, or Ashley—namely, that this was a story that some in the intelligentsia so much wanted to be true that they blinded themselves to reality.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ranger Ray on civilian reponse

I discussed the role of civilian response in the Texas Tower sniper case here.

One of the men who went up the Tower that day was officer Ramiro Martinez. In his memoirs he has some interesting things to say about the actions of the civilians in Austin.

I was and am still upset that more recognition has not been given to the citizens who pulled out their hunting rifles and returned the sniper's fire. The City of Austin and the State of Texas should be forever thankful and grateful to them because of the many lives they saved that day. The sniper did a lot of damage when he could fire freely, but when the armed citizens began to return fire the sniper had to take cover. He had to shoot out of the rainspouts and that limited his targets. I am grateful to the citizens because they made my job easier.
The Huckabee beat down

I don't know what to make of the Wayne Dumond story. Maybe it is Willie Horton redux. Or, perhaps, it is a Duke lacrosse case with a tragic ending.

A couple of stories are important background because they show how the case looked when Huckabee had to deal with it.

The Castration of Wayne DuMond

Talk Left on Wayne Dumond
One thing is for certain. Right-wing pundits are as hypocritical as their left-wing brethren. In the case of "Scooter" Libby and (late) in the Duke lacrosse hoax, right-wing opinion-mongers professed a deep concern about due process, the presumption of innocence, and the danger of out-of-control prosecutors. All of that has been tossed aside in the attacks on Huckabee.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This is how the new media revolution ends

Not with a bang but a simper

It’s come to this: Mary Katharine Ham talks MILFs on O’Reilly

MKH plays earnest straight man to O'Reilly's sleazy, sniggering, tabloid major domo.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The problem with wiki's

Inside Wikipedia’s Inner Circle

If there’s a flaw in the Wikipedia model, it isn’t that the site relies on the wisdom of crowds too much, it’s that the site’s highest-volume contributors and editors—the people who effectively run the place—could succumb to the gravitational pull of groupthink.

The problem is that it’s difficult to engineer a way to allow for group-driven creation of content while dispersing certain responsibilities and decision-making tasks among the masses. It’s impossible to create a system that’s completely open to everyone without getting overrun by malicious vandals, so it’s hard to see how the site could avoid issuing bans or using some other form of group-imposed censorship
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I always knew Steven A. Smith was an idiot

Stephen A. Smith Q-and-A Part 3: Internet writers have "sabotaged" newspapers

"And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here's one for "The Law is an Ass" files

Mom who killed son may still get alimony

Court rules dad's payments could resume when his ex-wife is released from prison

A father whose ex-wife killed their son in a drunken rage does not have to pay alimony while she is in prison, but may have to resume payments when she gets out, a state appeals court ruled yesterday.

A three-judge Appellate Division panel found there is nothing in the law that would automatically stop alimony payments to a former spouse who killed a child
.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A harrowing account of an honor killing

Sins of the father

In a suburban McDonald’s a father begged his wayward daughter to come home... so he and the men of her family could have her beaten, raped and murdered. Fearing violence, but moved by his tears, she relented – and died. Our correspondent investigates how a man can choose the death of a daughter above dishonour


RTWT

Friday, November 16, 2007

Facts don't lie

From Cold Hard Football Facts

Icy Issue: How come nobody talks about Ben Roethlisberger as an elite NFL quarterback?

Icier Response: Apparently people just can't believe it's possible to be so good so young.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another atomic spy is revealed

This one is pretty important:

George Koval also had a secret. During World War II, he was a top Soviet spy, code named Delmar and trained by Stalin’s ruthless bureau of military intelligence.

Atomic spies are old stuff. But historians say Dr. Koval, who died in his 90s last year in Moscow and whose name is just coming to light publicly, was probably one of the most important spies of the 20th century
.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!

From Michelle Malkin:

The document of the day is a press release from the Justice Department announcing, “Former Employee of CIA and FBI Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy, Unauthorized Computer Access and Naturalization Fraud.” A Lebanese illegal alien was working for the Bush FBI and CIA, got into our computer systems, got access to info about her Lebanese relatives and the terrorist group Hezbollah, arranged a sham marriage (where have we seen that before), and nosed around in bribery and extortion conspiracy probes. Debbie Schlussel, Jihad Watch, and Allah have full coverage of Nada Nadim Prouty’s guilty plea and the appalling security lapses involved.

RTWT but it carries a blood pressure alert.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peter King is an idiot

Sports Illustrated actually pays him to write this garbage:

None of those items, however, was the story of the day. Ben Roethlisberger was. When I watched Roethlisberger last year, I thought, "Flawed quarterback.'' When I watched Roethlisberger on Sunday, I thought, "Franchise quarterback.''

I didn't like his lackadaisical decision-making last year, or his declining accuracy, or what I'd heard his teammates say about his work ethic. Maybe it was right, and maybe it wasn't. But Roethlisberger wasn't the most popular guy in his own locker room last year, and he needed a change. He got it
.
Gee, i wonder if it occurred to him that Roethlisberger's poor 2006 performance might have something to do with a NEAR FATAL MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT? Think that might be enough to throw him off his game?

The fat poseur ignores that elephant in the living room. Instead, he spins a grand theory out of locker-room gossip.

He also ignores a highly relevant comparison:

Peyton Manning in four post-season games (2006)

70.8 QB rating
3 Touchdowns
7 Interceptions


Ben Roethlisberger in four post-season games (2005)

101.7 QB rating
7 Touchdowns
3 interceptions

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Confusing ends and means

Vic Carucci on NFL.com

I was as impressed as anyone with the way Ben Roethlisberger moved and threw his way to a franchise-record five touchdowns. But that's what a good quarterback with above-average receivers should do against a team missing both starting cornerbacks. I was as impressed as anyone with the very convincing Jack Lambert imitation that James Harrison gave in the first half. But that's part of what the league's top-ranked defense should do against an offense, and especially a quarterback, that can't out of its own way. What troubled me was seeing the Steelers' No. 2-ranked rushing attack struggle to move the ball on the ground, even if it didn't have to.

Why should a team beat their head against a wall. The Ravens sold out to stop the run and left their inexperienced DBs exposed. The Steelers made them pay for that. (Big time).

What, exactly, would be gained by running the ball into the teeth of the defense? The Steelers were already reaping the benefits of a running game.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Clash of titans

The barbarians are at the gates in Indy. All of us who believe in Truth, Justice, and the American Way are Colt's fans this week-end.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Failing upward

Editor Melanie Sill is leaving the Raleigh News and Observer


Melanie Sill is named The Bee's new top editor

Of course, the PR flacks and internal spin-meisters want to put the best face on it:


Sill was in the thick of one of the most explosive stories to hit North Carolina in recent years, the accusations of rape against a group of Duke University lacrosse players.

After the players were eventually exonerated, the national media were roundly criticized for taking the rape allegations at face value
.That may be how it looks inside the media bubble. For those of us who followed the case, The N&O’s performance was abysmal on many, many levels. In fact, I’d argue that the paper’s performance won it the coveted title of “most embarrassing screw up in the annals of daily journalism.”

Previous high-profile scandals (Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair) involved individual malfeasance and slipshod editorial oversight. The Washington Post and New York Times also deserve credit for how they handled their screw-ups. When questions arose about their stories, the bosses investigated, took action, and told the public what went wrong.

Contrast that with how the N&O handled the lacrosse case. Their attacks on the players was not the work of a single rogue reporters. The editors pushed the story hard and flooded the zone to trash the team. In short, the paper failed to get the story right when they were trying very hard to get the story.

What really hurts the N&O is not that they made mistakes. Rather, it is their obstinate refusal to acknowledge those mistakes. Unlike the Times and the Post, they have refused to give a full explanation of what went wrong and how they intend to prevent future errors.

It is understandable that a young reporter got conned by a sob story. It is embarrassing that her editors bought the same story that ignited the firestorm. It is ludicrous that the paper still defends their early reporting and tries to shift the blame to “national media.”

OTOH, it paid off for Sill who gets a nice promotion and a ticket out of Raleigh.

Two other points:

We see again how “public editors” work mainly as PR flacks for their paper:

The News & Observer's public editor said the paper did a far better job than most of digging beneath the surface but committed some "serious missteps" in the first few weeks, including making references to the accuser as "a victim."
Once again, they praise themselves with faint damns.

Also, this is worth a laugh to those who followed Sill’s blog and her testy relationship with internet readers:

Hailed as a risk taker who will push the newspaper further into the Internet age

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prepare to be inspired and enraged at the same time

This column is a must read.


G.I. Joe was just a toy, wasn't he?

Hollywood now proposes that in a new live-action movie based on the G.I. Joe toy line, Joe's -- well, "G.I." -- identity needs to be replaced by membership in an "international force based in Brussels." The IGN Entertainment news site reports Paramount is considering replacing our "real American hero" with "Action Man," member of an "international operations team."

I'm not surprised that Paramount feels the need to lessen Joe's American identity. Hollywood's slavish pursuit of the oversea's box office is not news. (See here.)

What deserves attention is the arrogant hypocrisy of their political ambitions. One one hand, they are global citizens eager to make a buck anywhere they can. At the same time, they aspire to to be kingmakers in the good ole US of A (something they would never dream of doing in Yemen or China or Venezuela).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A good review of a bad book

Artist as Hero

So what looked from the distance to be a charmed life was, viewed from closer up, a complicated, in some ways even a quite sad, life. But possibly the saddest thing to have happened to Ralph Ellison came after he died, when the assignment of writing his biography was given to Arnold Rampersad. The author of two previous biographies--one of Jackie Robinson, another of Langston Hughes--Rampersad is an academic (a teacher at Princeton, now at Stanford), a writer one thinks of as reverential and hence quite uncritical toward his subjects. But in Ralph Ellison, far from being reverential or uncritical, he is unrelenting in the persistence of his pinpoint attacks on his subject's character and politics and highly critical of much of his writing, only rarely giving his subject the least hint of the benefit of any possible doubt.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Debunking some myths about the Jena 6

Media myths about the Jena 6

There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning
.
Sounds like another case where the media picked a narrative before they established what the facts were.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Outstanding article

The Pornography of Misery Memoirs

An argument repeated by publishers to me when justifying the harrowing detail is that “the readers of these books are less well educated and need graphic detail to make them understand the impact of abuse”.

Oh, please! How stupid does a person have to be if they don’t understand the terrible impact of sexual abuse without having to read the horrific detail?

The chief reason to include detail that borders on pornographic is to entertain a prurient readership which would otherwise be reading about Fred and Rose West in the kind of True Crime books upmarket publishers like to sneer at.

Publishers churn out these misery tales for one reason: they ell
.

See also:
The Other Pornography

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Further evidence of the pointlessness of public editors

I have to admit that the ESPN ombudsman sometimes makes a lot of sense. Le Anne Schreiber told the Southern Pines Pilot

One of the most satisfying things about being the ESPN ombudsman is that it provides a very good perch for watching what is happening to journalism in general.
She is on to something there. I had the same thought and was going to use the Mike Gundy/ Jenni Carlson dust-up to illustrate the pernicious attitudes that hurt the Dinosaur Media. The public editor, though, beat me to it in her most recent letter.


The instigator of Gundy's Saturday rage was an opinion column couching itself as fact. I am not ombudsman for the Oklahoman, but through a week's ridicule of Gundy on ESPN, I never heard or read a clear account of the column that ticked him off. In what was supposed to be a balanced, give-both-sides-of-the-story report on ESPNEWS, I saw the full three-minute, 20-second videotape of Gundy's news conference for the umpteenth time, followed by a videotape of reporter Jenni Carlson's response on "Good Morning America," in which she says, calmly, "I stand firmly on the facts of the column." He looked bad. She looked good.

"What facts?" somebody at ESPN should have asked before ridiculing the coach while giving the columnist a pass. In building her case against the benched quarterback, Carlson introduces her evidence of his no-can-do attitude with these phrases: "If you believe the rumors and the rumblings …", "Tile up the back stories told on the sly over the past few years …", "Word is …" and "Insiders say …". In my book, those are not phrases from the realm of fact; they barely count even as speculation by anonymous sources.

Several commentators faulted Carlson for criticizing an amateur athlete so harshly, and ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski raised questions about the accuracy of her observations But why did I hear no one at ESPN explicitly note that the column that so enraged Gundy was based on rumors and rumblings and the sayings of "insiders"? Because they want to be allowed to take those same liberties? Because they didn't bother to read the column? Because all that mattered was milking that videotape for a week's worth of commentary? Because the boundaries between fact, opinion and rumor have become so porous that nobody noticed rumor crossing the border with a fake passport
?
All of this is true. Moreover, it came from ESPN’s internal conscience. How can a mere blogger compete?

Actually, it’s pretty easy. Schreiber comments on espn.com and my non-post on an unread blog had exactly the same effect on the World Wide Leader:

ZERO. Nada. Zip.

Despite Schreiber’s trenchant criticism, the same clueless blowhards hold forth on ESPN. Bayless, Lupica, Forde, et. al. still cough up their fact-lite punditry on subjects they are too lazy to study.

It’s a perfect case study of corralled rebellion.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

“The most righteous of all the possessors of the Right Stuff”

First Mach flight propels Yeager, Air Force into history

It was just another test mission for Capt. Chuck Yeager.

Captain Yeager arrived at Muroc Air Force Base, Calif., the morning of Oct. 14, 1947, for what would be his ninth powered flight piloting the Bell X-1
.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

On to the trial!

Civil suit in lacrosse case filed

The city of Durham, former District Attorney Mike Nifong and the DNA laboratory hired by the disbarred ex-prosecutor conspired to falsely charge three Duke lacrosse players with rape, a federal civil lawsuit filed Friday alleges.

The 162-page document, a detailed account of every step of alleged misconduct that drips with indignation, sets the stage for a high-profile, high-stakes legal battle
.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The old boys club at work


I'll admit that I don't have high expectations for ombudsmen or "public editors". An interesting example of the problems inherent in the role shows up in this story:

Schreiber Keeps an Eye on ESPN 'Monolith'

Schreiber actually has a good grasp of the basic problems at ESPN:


Schreiber has been quite critical of ... the loud, talking heads who shout too much
***
Schreiber criticizes some of the anchors of the "Sports Center" shows throughout each day, complaining that those people make themselves more important than the news.
***
Schreiber wrote a strong and excellent column claiming that sportscasters doing a game should "keep their eye on the ball."
***
She said, "The most consistent complaint I get from viewers is that the announcing team is not sufficiently focused on the game." She explained that game announcers often digress from the game "by discussing topics near and far from the game at hand".

So far so good. But how can she believe such things and then do something like this?

Throughout her critiques, Schreiber lauds some ESPN talking heads such as Tony Kornheiser...

Come on now. Kornheiser is one of the most high profile figures at ESPN and he is guilty of every talking head sin that Schreiber condemns. He is loud, lazy, ill-informed, and self-indulgent. His primary role on Monday Night Football is to divert attention away from the game and onto some subject he like more.

Maybe i am the suspicious sort, but i wonder if this is the reason Kornheiser gets a pass:

Throughout her critiques, Schreiber lauds some ESPN talking heads such as Tony Kornheiser, for his work on "Pardon The Interruption." Tony was on the Times sports staff as a reporter with me when Schreiber was the sports editor.

It's easy for Schreiber, with her "postgraduate degree in literature" and her tenure at the NEW YORK TIMES, to chastise ex-jocks and reporters from lesser papers. But she just can't quite say a mean word about litle Tony who worked with her at THE TIMES.

As with most public editors, Schreiber is, first and foremost, a member of the journalist s guild. Further, she is a member of its most exalted order-- New York Times alums. That shapes her thinking and her criticism. What she calls "perspective" we in the gret unwashed call "blinders."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not just in Durham

Bar tape refutes cops

Video of '04 raid casts new doubts on city's elite police unit

The arrest report filed by two Chicago police officers claimed they searched Raymundo Martinez outside a Southwest Side bar because he threw a bottle of Corona down on the sidewalk when he saw them coming.

The officers, members of the special operations section, saw a plastic bag that turned out to contain cocaine poking from his sleeve and arrested him, their report states.

But cameras on the bar's ceiling and outside caught a very different scene that night in 2004 at Caballo's, 3748 W. 63rd St. Instead of two officers approaching a man drinking on a public street, the video shows more than two dozen police from the SOS unit raiding the bar and searching everyone, and arresting Martinez inside the bar
.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Richard Jewell

Outstanding post over at the Autonomist

Richard Jewell, 1962-2007

Part I: Ray Cleere Seizes an Opportunity

This is the story of Richard Jewell, the hero who saved countless lives, and of Ray Cleere, the first of many heels who sought to railroad him for another man’s crime
.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This is terribly depressing

Another Round of Reform in the FBI-Will it Make a Difference

A new book and depressing book by Amy Zegart, Spying Blind, argues that there were 12 major intelligence reform studies from 1991 and the end of the Cold War, to just before 9/11.

Out of those, she finds 340 terrorism-related reforms, almost all of them the major themes of the 9/11 Commission, where most were recommended again.

Of those 340 recommendations, mostly directed to the CIA and FBI, only 35 were fully implemented. Another 30 were partially implemented and seven were implemented to an unmeasurable extent, meaning that 79 percent of the total-268 recommendations-were not acted on at all.

Many of those that were implemented, she notes, were “minor recommendations that urged continued study of a problem rather than adoption of a particular solution
.”


RTWT
Two good reviews of an important book

The Oswald Effect

The True Politics of the Paranoid Style


HT: Milt's File



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

He joked his way to an important truth

ESPN's Mike Greenberg talks about an emotionally devastating experience-- Googling himself :
Golic: So you didn’t receive the negative criticism well?
Greeny: Well, at first, it was just sort of mesmerizing. I was just like, wow.
Golic: Did you think everybody loved you?
Greeny: You know, you can sort of live in this world where you think most people like you
.
I think most big-time media personalities labor under the same delusion. They think they are smart, funny, and wildly popular. The horrible thing about the new media is that they (sometimes) find out that it just ain't so.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A stand up guy

I saw the "rant" by OSU's Mike Gundy on ESPN. They positioned it as a "meltdown" but i thought it was sweet payback to a clueless sports pundit. I like that he stood up for his player who was unfairly attacked. And the guy was not even a star on the team.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why OJ?

Why is O. J. Simpson a symbol of all that is wrong with the justice system, but Mary Winkler is almost forgotten?

In both cases a killer is walking the streets after spending a few months in jail.

UPDATE: Check out this from Dr. Helen:

Kill Your Husband--Get a House and Car

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Duke lacrosse: The News and Observer hopes we are stupid

They apparently want credit for being "the first major publication to pick apart the prosecution’s case".

That claim is laughable to anyone who read what the N&O was printing in the summer of 2006.

In this post from January, i wrote:

But the truth is, they ran alot of stories on the Duke lacrosse travesty, however their coverage has not been fair, accurate, comprehensive, or exhaustive. They began with vicious attacks on the lacrosse team , a sanitized interview with the dancer/escort, and a docile acceptance of Nifong's statements. Since then they have made grudging attempts to cover the new developments fairly (Joseph Neff has done stand-out work) but they have also made many missteps. Most importantly, their coverage has not been comprehensive because they have never "exhaustively" examined their coverage nor owned up to their mistakes.

I think that is still a fair assessment.

If you read through these posts, you can see that the N&O was a Nifong-enabler long after they claim that they became an important critic.

Their culpability continues to this day. They know that the DPD lied in the early days of the case. Yet, they are unwilling to address those lies for the record. The reason is simple: those liars were important sources for the N&O.
The NFL: The Big Four and the other 28

The truth is that, for more than a decade now, the NFL has been dominated by the AFC and, more specifically, it’s been dominated by the modern Fearsome Foursome: Denver, Indy, New England and Pittsburgh.
RTWT at Cold, Hard Football Facts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Quality fade" hits TMQ

It's not just Chinese manufacturers who dilute their product. This week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback spends more time on the gas mileage of cars, crazy over-priced restaurants, and Sci-Fi movies blunders than it does on football.
Duke lacrosse: Until Proven Innocent

I’ve waited for months to read Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson’s Until Proven Innocent. Having finished it, I can say that it is worth the wait. The book is well-written and filled with new details. Even though I read KC’s blog every day, the book was still highly informative. For those who did not follow the case closely, UPI provides a clear, concise narrative of hoax and a thorough analysis of the issues that it raised.

Now that the lax players have been exonerated, it is easy for pundits to minimize the harm done by Nifong, Duke, the Durham police, and the MSM. Brian Loftus, a retired New York fire fighter, puts the lie to such revisionism:

I spent thirty-six hours in the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. I thought that was the worst day of my life. But seeing what is happening to my son and his friends is worse.

The Duke case was, in some ways, a perfect storm. Radical professors, an ambitious and unethical prosecutor, agenda-driven journalists, and tabloid-cable sleaze-merchants exploited the case for their own ends. The Duke administration (with a few notable exceptions like Peter Lange) caved under the pressure. Taylor and Johnson document all of this in detail.

The striking thing about this injustice is that the Left-Right political spectrum was irrelevant in many ways. The Gang of 88 were on the Left and their actions were reprehensible in numerous levels. Yet, the most frightening “totalitarian whiff” from the whole affair came from Bob Steele--Wall Street plutocrat and under secretary of Treasure in the Bush administration:

Bob Steele also defended the firing of Pressler and everything else that Duke had done, while telling Trumpbour (as he had told Peter Boyer of the New Yorker) that 'even though it is not fair, people have to be sacrificed for the good of the organization.'

“People have to be sacrificed for the good of the organization”. At least left-wingers justify their actions in the name of utopian revolution. Bureaucrats like Steele and Burness sacrifice justice and integrity for a little positive PR.

I thought one of the most telling points in the book concerned the dashed hopes of James Coleman. Coleman, one of the genuine heroes of this sorry saga, thought the Duke case

provided a 'chance to engage' groups that ordinarily are little concerned with the rights of defendants and civil liberties, and perhaps create a multiracial coalition across ideological lines to seek fundamental reforms of North Carolina's criminal justice system.
Sadly, the “Right” flunked this test just as much as the “Left”. Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck still use Wendy Murphy as a “legal analyst” on their cable shows. O'Reilly even wrote the forward to her new book. This despite her disgusting performance during the lacrosse case:

In her Duke lacrosse case commentary on Fox, MSNBC, CBS, and CNN, Murphy compiled a record of demonstrably untrue statements, wholly unfounded speculation, and disregard for due process.





Friday, September 14, 2007

Patriots-gate

David Halberstam’s book on Belichick makes for interesting reading in light of recent events:

Damon Hack, a writer for the New York Times, noted that since Belichick had come to the Patriots, there were fourteen occasions when Belichick had had a seconde shot in a season against a given team. His record in these second-chance encounters was a striking one: fourteen victories, no defeats.

That seems like circumstantial evidence for the effectiveness of the Belichick method.

In the short-term, this also hurts Tom Brady’s image. His coolness under pressure was a marvel. Now, we know he had help.

Does this mean Charlie Weis isn’t quite the offensive genius we thought he was? Wonder if Notre Dame boosters are having second thoughts?

What about Alabama? Nick Saban was a Belichick acolyte. Think any SEC teams are going to be extra-security conscious this season?

Long-term, I don’t think this affects the Patriot “legacy”. The Raiders of the 70s were outlaws and cheapshot artists. There is no asterisk on their Super Bowl wins. John Madden coached them and then slid easily into a long television career.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Siege of Vienna

Originally posted 9-12-2003

In the summer of 1683 the Ottoman Turks advanced up the Danube, occupied Hungary, and, in July, laid siege to Vienna. They had 200,00 men and over 300 cannon. The defenders of the city numbered less than 22,000 only 6,000 of whom were regular soldiers; the remainder were civilians pressed into service at the start of the siege.

The relief of the city was complicated by European politics. Louis XIV of France hoped to gain German territory on the Rhine while the Hapsburgs were occupied in the east. To that end, he worked to create am anti-Hapsburg alliance with Hungary and Poland which would deny Austria aid against the Turks. (Incidentally, the Ottoman artillery were commanded by a Frenchman, a former Capuchin no less).

By September, conditions were desperate inside the city- low supplies, disease, and weakening defenses. The Hapsburgs had raised a relief army of only 21,000. But, fortunately, Poland had spurned Louis's maneuvers and sent an army of 24,000 under their King John Sobieski.

On September 12, the two relief armies and the forces inside the city attacked the besiegers. The critical moment came in mid-afternoon when Sobieski sent his cavalry into the heart of the Ottoman camp. The battle became a rout. The next day the Polish king wrote his wife: "the Vizer took such hurried flight that he had time to escape with only one horse."

He also noted the Turks "left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could." Separate from that slaughter, the Ottomans had sent 67,000 Austrians east as slaves and 14,000 girls to the harems of Constantinople.

Sobieski's troops captured the Ottoman battle flag ("The green standard of the Prophet") in the fighting. This he sent to the Pope with the message "Veni, vidi, Deus Vicit" ("I came, I saw, God conquered").

The lifting of the siege is usually marked as the turning point for the Ottoman empire. For centuries they had advanced against Europe, conquering the Byzantium empire, capturing lands in the Balkans and islands in the Mediterranean. After 1683 they began 250 years of retreat. (Funny how many of these critical turning points find the Poles fighting on the right side).

Today is the 324th anniversary of the lifting of the siege.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9-11-01: Remembrance

There are so many images from that day. There is one picture that deserves iconic status like the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

Firefighter Richard Rattazzi snapped it shortly after the first tower fell. The street is choked with the white dust cloud. A firefighter, his back to the camera, is walking to Ground Zero to look for survivors. You can see the picture here and read about the firefighters.

Rick Rescorla’s story can’t be repeated too many times. His actions saved hundreds of lives that day. By all means let’s remember the old warrior in the stairwell singing his own version of “Men of Harlech” as he saw to the evacuation. But let’s remember the real reason he saved so many lives: For eight years he insisted that Morgan Stanley practice its evacuation plans.

In a crisis, you don’t rise to the occasion; you default to your training.
Thanks to Rick Rescorla’s stubbornness, the people he worked with had training to default to.

Mark Steyn understands what was at stake on United 93. This column is one of his best:

When an opinion-former’s caught unawares, he retreats to his tropes, however lame, as Lahr did, and Pilger, Chomsky et al. But the clearest way to understand the meaning of the day is to look at those who were called upon to act rather than theorise. We now know that the fourth plane, United Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, was heading for the White House. Had they made it, it would have been the strike of the day. It might have killed the Vice-President and who knows who else, but, even if it hadn’t, think of the symbolism: the shattered fa├žade, smoke billowing from a pile of rubble on Pennsylvania Avenue, just like the money shot in Independence Day. Those delirious Palestinians and Danes and Montrealers would have danced all night.

That they were denied their jubilation is because the dopey hijackers assigned by al-Qa’eda to Flight 93 were halfway across the continent before they made their move and started meandering back east. By the time the passengers began calling home on their cellphones, their families knew what had happened in New York. Unlike those on the earlier flights, the hostages on 93 understood they were aboard a flying bomb intended to kill thousands of their fellow citizens. They knew there would be no happy ending. So they gave us the next best thing, a hopeful ending. Todd Beamer couldn’t get through to anyone except a telephone company operator, Lisa Jefferson. She told him about the planes that had smashed into the World Trade Center. Mr Beamer said they had a plan to jump the guys and asked her if she would pray with him, so they recited the 23rd Psalm: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me....’

Then he and the others rushed the hijackers. At 9.58 a.m., the plane crashed, not into the White House, but in some pasture outside Pittsburgh. As UPI’s James Robbins wrote, ‘The Era of Osama lasted about an hour and half or so, from the time the first plane hit the tower to the moment the General Militia of Flight 93 reported for duty.’

Exactly. The most significant development of 11 September is that it marks the day America began to fight back: 9/11 is not just Pearl Harbor but also the Doolittle Raid, all wrapped up in 90 minutes. No one will ever again hijack an American airliner with boxcutters, or, I’ll bet, with anything else not because of predictably idiotic new Federal regulations, but because of the example of Todd Beamer’s ad hoc platoon. Faced with a novel and unprecedented form of terror, American technology (cellphones) combined with the oldest American virtue (self-reliance) to stop it cold in little more than an hour. The passengers of Flight 93 were the only victims who knew what the hijackers had in store for them, and so they rose up, and began the transformation of Osama into a has-bin Laden
.

Oliver Stone based his movie “World Trade Center” on the rescue of Port Authority Policeman Will Jimeno. The reality is even more inspiring than anything Hollywood can crank out. Dennis Smith included Jimeno’s first person account in his book Report from Ground Zero:

I say “Hey Sarge, I don’t know if we can make it overnight.” I am thinking of my wife Allison, and my daughter, Bianca. She’s just 4, and I want to see them again. And my wife is having a baby, a girl. We’re going to call her Olivia. I ask God to let me see my little unborn Olivia, and somehow, in the future, to let me touch the baby.

Suddenly, now I hear a voice. “This is the United States Marine Corps. Is anybody here: can anybody hear us?” This is Staff Sergeant David Karnes and a Sergeant Thomas. I start wailing, “PAPD Officers down, 8-13.”

Before I know it, he is on the pile above us, and I ask him, I say, “Please don’t leave us. This is Officer Jimeno, who has a little girl and another on the way, and Sergeant McLoughlin down here; he has four kids. Please don’t leave us!”

And he says, “Buddy, I am not leaving you
.”
Karnes’ story is covered in two must read Slate articles:


An Unlikely Hero

Only 12 survivors were pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the towers fell on Sept. 11, despite intense rescue efforts. Two of the last three to be located and saved were Port Authority police officers. They were not discovered by a heroic firefighter, or a rescue worker, or a cop. They were discovered by Dave Karnes.

Karnes hadn't been near the World Trade Center. He wasn't even in New York when the planes hit the towers. He was in Wilton, Conn., working in his job as a senior accountant with Deloitte Touche. When the second plane hit, Karnes told his colleagues, "We're at war." He had spent 23 years in the Marine Corps infantry and felt it was his duty to help. Karnes told his boss he might not see him for a while
.

How the rescue really happened

As for Dave Karnes, his role as one of two Marines to locate McLaughlin and Jimeno by searching the pile when the professional rescuers had backed off is based on reported accounts and fictionalization, since he didn't cooperate with the film's producers. Rather than work on a picture in Hollywood, Karnes re-enlisted in the Marines at age 45 "to go after the people who did this so it never happens again," as he told me. (When his first tour of duty didn't take him to Iraq, he re-upped for a second tour and made it to the combat zone, serving 17 months there.) In the movie, Karnes leaves his Wilton, Conn., office, dons his old Marine fatigues, stops to get a Marine Corps haircut, and visits his pastor on his way to Ground Zero. While these events are mostly accurate, the film seems to overplay his zeal without conveying his motivations and reasoning. In reality Karnes wanted to dress the part of a Marine for access to an all-but-sealed Lower Manhattan. In the movie, many of Karnes' lines are cryptic religious references that make him seem like a robotic soldier of Christ- a little wacky and simplistic. This may be why test audiences didn't believe he existed, according a report in Newsweek. The man I interviewed, while he embodied extraordinary inner conviction, was a real human being who took risks that most of us didn't.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The FBI in the summer of 2001

John Ashcroft's memoirs made barely a ripple when they were published last year. That is unfortunate because they provide an invaluable perspective on the crucial summer of 2001 and the events after 9/11.

The Ashcroft-FBI relationship started on a very sour note. On the very day he was sworn in as AG, Ashcroft learned from Louis Freeh that Robert Hanssen was spying for the Russians.

Then, in May, the FBI revealed that they had failed to turn over material to Timothy McVeigh's defense counsel.

Ashcroft also learned that the FBI had lost or misplaced over 300 lap top computers; some of them contained highly classified material. They had also managed to lose 200 weapons. The AG worried that the FBI had become dangerously sloppy and complacent. He had good reasons for his concern:

It seemed to me that an inordinate number of people at the FBI were biding their time, merely coming to work every day and going through the motions. Shortly after I began as attorney general, i became aware of a number of people with 'retirement clocks' on their desks, literally counting down the years, days, and hours till their retirement from the Bureau. The 'when can I leave' attitudes that accompanied those clocks could paralyze any company's success, but when they existed in the nation's top criminal investigation personnel, they could be deadly.
This says it all

A view from afar: No love lost for most announcers

What was Agassi doing that made him so great? Well, it might be easier to say what he wasn't doing. For one, he wasn't screaming. He wasn't trying hard to be funny. He wasn't trying to be hip or controversial or glib or silly. He didn't try any goofy gimmicks. He did not talk down to us.

I think this is what's missing most. Look, we as fans know more about football than ever before. We've seen enough football and played enough video games that we don't need announcers to tell us about stunts and blitzes like we've never heard the term before. We've watched enough replays that we can make up our own minds about whether or not a call will be reversed. We've seen enough touchdowns that we don't need sound effects. We've heard the cliches
.

Friday, September 07, 2007

9-11: White noise inside the FBI

This article from Time is an important marker. It highlights the problems inside the FBI in the summer of 2001. What makes it invaluable is that it was written before 9-11. Hence, it is not an exercise in 20/20 hindsight.

Botching The Big Case
What stands out is the number of controversies and embarrassments the FBI had to deal with in the spring of 2001. There was the admission that they failed to turnover documents to Timothy McVeigh's defense attorneys. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.


The McVeigh fiasco comes just as the FBI is having to defend itself against charges that it is capable of brutal indifference to individual rights if it feels justified by some larger goal. It's hard even to say which was the worst of the recent crop of federal offenses, though the McVeigh blunder probably doesn't make the top five. Two weeks ago, officials from the Boston FBI field office were hauled before the House Committee on Government Reform to explain why they had allowed Joseph Salvati to spend 30 years in prison for a murder they knew he didn't commit, just to protect one of their informants. "The Federal Government determined that Joe Salvati's life was expendable," said his lawyer Victor Garo. Asked if he felt any remorse for what they had done to Salvati and his family, retired Boston agent H. Paul Rico said: "What do you want, tears?"

That same week, prosecutors in Alabama finally convicted the Klansman who bombed the black church in Birmingham back in 1963, killing four little girls. We could have done this years ago, they said, if the FBI had just handed over their secret tapes that proved his guilt. That conviction came after months of criticism that the FBI had dismissed warnings of a mole in its ranks right up until they tripped over Russian spy Robert Hanssen, an agent for 25 years. Last month the bureau announced a mediation agreement with African-American agents in a long-running class action charging bias in promotions. Last year there was the relentless pursuit of Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist who spent nine months in jail after an immense FBI mole hunt, only to be released by a judge who said his imprisonment had "embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it." To say nothing of Richard Jewell
.
This comment of Freeh's style is also interesting:

"This is not a guy who breeds healthy skepticism and dissent," says a Clinton White House official of Freeh. "He got rid of a lot of people. He surrounded himself with yes men, and he believes in his own righteousness. And therefore people don't stop to think and say, 'Hey Louie? Are we doing this right?' This is a pretty monumental screw-up, and it feels like no one was in charge."

Then there is the problem we became very familiar with post-9/11:

FBI officials blamed an antiquated computer-database system: "Our technology is so old and unreliable, we don't know what we know," said one. Yet a former senior Justice official called it "beyond amazing" that the FBI would commit such a blunder in its most high-profile case in years--especially after similar charges of mishandling evidence were leveled during the investigation of Clinton's campaign-finance scandals and led to a sweeping internal probe. "It's a problem the bureau has had for a long time," the official noted. "Agents are great at acquiring information; they're not great at cataloging it or knowing what they have." What was especially troubling was that the mistakes were so widespread. Fully 46 of 56 FBI field offices, from Houston to Honolulu and Atlanta to Anchorage, failed to turn over everything they had on the case--in some instances it appears that the Special Agents in Charge decided on their own that some dutiful reports were unimportant. "The thing that flabbergasts me--and makes me think that more inquiry is required here--is that this was not just one office," says a Justice veteran. "This was the whole damn bureau. I can't figure out how so many people ignored the rules."


See also:
Robert Hanssen: 9/11's Forgotten Man

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Marketing malpractice

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on the troubles at Wendy’s.

AFTER DAVE ($)
How Wendy's Faltered, Opening Way to Buyout
The latest wave of TV ads for Wendy’s leave me scratching my head. The slacker/stoner dude in red pigtails looks like he belongs in a Saturday Night Live parody of Wendy’s, not in a real commercial. There is smart edgy and then there is stupid and pointless pretending to be edgy. Apparently, the people at Wendy’s and at Saatchi and Saatchi cannot distinguish the two.

The commercials are more than bad. They consciously mock the pillars of the Wendy’s consumer image. Hence, they undermine the brand.

The mind boggles. Companies spend millions to build a brand. Then there is Wendy’s which spends millions to destroy a brand that was cultivated over thirty years.

The CEO is now “embattled”. Big surprise. You have to wonder about her leadership ability and basic people skills. What kind of idiot approves an ad campaign that mocks a family member of the beloved founder? A family member, moreover, that the company is named after.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Richard Jewell (III)

I came across this outstanding article from 1997.

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE- THE BALLAD OF RICHARD JEWELL (.PDF)
It deserves to be read in its entirety. Here are a few points that caught my eye:

A. Louis Freeh might not have told the whole truth in his memoirs. (gasp!). He portrays himself as disengaged from the investigation. Brenner found that some FBI agents thought differently:

The case became an investigative catastrophe, which laid bare long-simmering resentments of many F.B.I. career professionals regarding the micromanagement style and imperious attitude of Louis Freeh and his inner circle of former New York prosecutors, who have worked together since their days at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District. Within the bureau, the beleaguered director now has a new nickname: J. Edgar Hoover with children.
AND

In November and December, the Office of Professional Responsibility conducted an exhaustive investigation into the Jewell affair. Responding to an attempt by headquarters and certain officials to distance themselves, according to F.B.I. sources, several agents, including a senior F.B.I. supervisor in Atlanta, have provided the O.P.R. with signed statements insisting that Freeh himself was responsible for "oversight" during the crisis. These agents "shocked the investigators" because they reiterated, when asked who was in charge of the overall command of the investigation, that it was the director himself.
Moreover, Freeh acts as though leaks were something he deplored but had to live with (“That’s Washington”). Brenner, in contrast, shows that Freeh and those around him were masters at leaking and using the press to make themselves and the Bureau look good.

B. The immolation of Richard Jewell was not something that just happened. The Bureau lit the match and poured the gasoline. The first tip to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution naming Jewell came from an FBI agent. Brenner’s reporting suggests that the leak may have been part of the G-men’s strategy to break Jewell and that Freeh was partly responsible for setting the plan in motion:

Freeh made a decision: however experienced Montgomery, Fuentes, and Mawn were, this investigation would be run by Division 5 of the F.B.I., the National Security Division, a former counterintelligence unit that has been looking for a purpose since the Cold War ended. Trained in observation, division members rarely made a criminal casetheir strength was intimidation and manipulation rather than the deliberate gathering of evidence to be presented in court. The F.B.I. promptly declared the bombing a terrorism case and placed it under the authority of Bob Bryant, head of the division. David Tubbs of Division 5 was sent to Atlanta to be the spokesman and to augment Woody Johnson, the Atlanta special agent in charge (S.A.C.), who had been trained in hostage rescue and who was awkward in press briefings. Tubbs was not as experienced in criminal cases as Mawn or Montgomery, who returned to Newark and Quantico, respectively, "to get out of the line of fire," according to numerous F.B.I. sources. But Bryant and Freeh were reportedly micromanaging the S.A.C.’s and, later, the case agents Don Johnson and Diader Rosario.
The FBI intimidation of Jewell was by no means subtle. They followed his every move in three and four car caravans. They questioned his friends at their job sites. They sent 40 people to search his mother’s small 2-bedroom apartment.

C. The fruitless and vicious pursuit of Richard Jewell had other consequences. First, the real bomberEric Rudolphwas free to commit other crimes including a fatal bombing in Birmingham. That is a point often overlooked when a case of wrongful prosecution or a police rush to judgment takes place. The innocent suffer while the guilty are free to commit more crimes.

Second, AG Janet Reno and her deputy Jamie Gorelick became concerned with the FBI’s treatment of Jewell and their overall handling of the case. Did the Atlanta bombing and the FBI’s tactics influence subsequent policy for terrorism investigations? It’s hard to tell, I’ve seen no reporting that looks at this point. But it seems like an interesting question.

When it comes to “The Wall” and FISA, we usually tell the story backwards. We start at 9-11-01 and look for the “mistakes” that let it happen. The Jewell story offers us a different perspective. Unfortunately, at this time, no one has dug into the question of how the FBI mingled intelligence and investigation functions in the Atlanta case. Nor have they looked at the internal DOJ reaction to that part of the fiasco.

Brenner does provide us with one telling passage:

But the local U.S. attorney, Kent Alexander, insisted that their phones were not tapped. "There are no wiretap warrants," he said.
Maybe I am just the suspicious type, , but that denial is sounds almost Nifongesque.

D. Brenner is quite good at showing the harm done by the unholy alliance of cops and police reporters. When it comes to crime stories, the press is not the guardian of our rights; they are the compromised junior partners of police. At worst, they become the willing accessories of rogue police and prosecutors.

The page-one story had a double byline: Kathy Scruggs and Ron Martz. Walter had told these two early on that they would be the reporters assigned to any Olympic catastrophe. Martz, who had covered the Gulf War, had been assigned the security beat for the Olympics; Scruggs routinely covered local crime. Scruggs had good contacts in the Atlanta police, and she was tough. She was characterized as "a police groupie" by one former staff member. "Kathy has a hard edge that some people find offensive," one of her editors told me, but he praised her skills. Police reporters are often "dictation pads" for local law enforcement; recently the American Journalism Review sharply criticized The A.J.C. for the scanty confirmation and lack of skepticism in its coverage of Jewell.
Finally, Brenner relates a small, but telling, anecdote about America’s Favorite Failing Newsreader. This takes place after Jewell has to cancel an appearance on the Today Show after he is exonerated by the DOJ:

That evening a very testy Katie Couric tracked Bryant down at Nadya Light’s apartment, where we had gone to watch the news. "I want you to know that I canceled interviewing Barbra Streisand in L.A. for Richard Jewell. Don’t think he is always going to be a news story. No one will care about him in three days," she said, according to Bryant.

So America’s Aging Former Perky Sweetheart is a bitch. She was right about one thing. No one cared about the wrongly accused hero. For weeks the press had made his life a living Hell and passed along every scurrilous rumor and vicious lie. That was called NEWS. The truth, however, did nothing for the ratings and Richard Jewell’s whole story never got the attention it deserved. That’s why they are called the drive-by media.

UPDATE: This is how Katie Couric reported the death of Richard Jewell:

Back in 1996, the FBI investigated Richard Jewell, an Atlanta security guard, in connection with the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Richard Jewell died today of complications from diabetes. He was 44. Jewell was never charged with any crime. There is much more CBS… [FADE-OUT]

Sometimes the MSM just leaves you speechless.
Stellar

Thomas Lifson on Arthur Miller

Death of a Phony
RTWT.

More Miller here and here
New find

Awful Announcing bashes and flays those who really deserve it: sports announcers and commentators on TV. This post is so right it is scary. I especially like this:
Now, I rag on Kornheiser, and I’m aware that a lot of people like him. I just get annoyed that his columns seem to be nudging and winking at me all the time. I get it, he’s wacky. But he’s starting to remind me of Garrison Keillor, in that people now laugh out of reflex, even if something’s not that funny. Here, Tony took a five-minute break from all of his television work to give us 470 words on… himself, Wilbon, Kim Jong Il, basketball, hockey, and golf. It’s like ADD in print, and he covered all of this in under 500 words!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Tough question

Is Libertarianism "applied autism" or something even worse? After this, i'm leaning toward something worse.
News judgement

Maybe someone could explain why the TV is awash with stories about a long-dead one-time royal from across the pond but there will be no mention of Solidarity and what it meant for the world.
Solidarity

Originally posted 31 August 2003

On this day in 1980 the Polish communist government agreed to the demands of the striking workers in the Gdansk shipyard. Workers would have the right to organize freely and independently

The strike marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are, rightly, given the greatest share of credit for winning the Cold War. But Lech Walesa and John Paul II played indispensable roles.

In the 70s many experts believed that continuing the Cold War was pointless-- the Communists weren't so bad, not every society valued Western style freedom, cowed populations accepted what they could not change. Solidarity and the Poles put the lie to such talk.

In the long twilight struggle against Stalinism, the workers of Poland were the first light of sunrise.
Richard Jewell and the FBI

Louis Freeh devotes four pages of his memoirs to the Atlanta bombing and Richard Jewell’s victimization by the FBI and MSM. His account is revealing on several levels.

First there is this:

It wasn't that I was convinced Jewell was the man. If anything, i was unconvinced, then and later. To me, he never quited seemed to fit the facts. But a search warrant isn't an accusation. It's a judicial order to acquire evidence and other information that will help decide whether to move forward toward and indeictment or to move on to other suspects and other lines of inquiry. That's where we were with Richard Jewell when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got wind of the search warrant, added two and two and came up with five, and named Jewell as our prime suspect.
Note the passive voice and the attempt to cover up the FBI’s culpability. The paper “got wind” of the search warrant then jumped to a wrong conclusion in Freeh’s telling of the story. No mention of the FBI leaks and tips that poured into the media and drove the story onto the front pages.

Second, Freeh mentions that three supervisors were officially reprimanded for their handling of Jewell. He does not give their names. It is one thing to destroy an innocent citizen’s reputation; that is just a by-product of modern law enforcement. But the reputation of FBI agents is something to be protected even when they do something wrong.

In Freeh’s view the Bureau was the real victim in the Jewell case:

I was most galled by the fact that the controversy drew attention away from what the FBI does best: exhausting tens of thousands of hours on solvin crimes that no other agency has the training or resources or resolve or corporate culture to take on.

And

The tale might begin with Richard Jewell and a foolish trick in the Bureau's Atlanta office, but that's the background static, not the story itself.
If a criminal defendant offered up these sorts of lame excuses and justifications, all sorts of profilers and psychologists would weigh in and declare that he was a psychopath or sociopath. What should we call an organization that operates like this or the man who led it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Richard Jewell R.I.P

Richard Jewell found dead in home

Olympic security guard suspected but cleared in bombing

There will be a lot of passive voice in the retrospective stories. Very few will face up to the cold fact that the government and media, working hand in glove, ruined an innocent man's life.

See here for more on the injustice done to Jewell.

The sad thing is that the media did not learn from this. The Duke lacrosse case is just a recent, high-profile example.

Jewell still suffers from their reckless action ten years ago. I think this blog got it exactly right:

Two people died; what would the death toll have been had Jewell not discovered the bomb or not moved the crowd away? Yet because of overreaction by the Feds and the national/local media, Jewell is still remembered as "that guy who didn't set the bomb" instead of "that guy who saved all those people from the bomb."
Call me crazy

but i was pleased to see CNN's "God's Warriors" do well in the ratings. I know it was biased, but that is sort of given with CNN.

The encouraging point is that a serious news documentary crushed Fox News and their stable of talk radio rantfests and sleazy tabloid stories.

Let's hope that MSNBC and Fox see this as a wake-up call and decide to fight quality with quality.
It's new! It's bold! It's so 2002!

The Atlantic's editor talks about their site redesign:

A Note on the New Design

Every day online, The Atlantic is pursuing truth through collegial combat among bloggers who have very different points of view but who hold themselves to the same high standard of intellectual honesty.
Somehow, adding a blog page dominated by Yglesias, Sullivan, and McArdle seems a little less than groundbreaking.

Then, of course, there is the laughable idea that Excitable Andy holds himself to a "high standard of intellectual honesty."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Intereresting questions

Kaus asks a couple of provocative questions:


His Pet Gloat: I wish I could say Bill O'Reilly was wrong about Paul Greengrass' Bourne Ultimatum being an anti-American film but I saw it last weekend and O'Reilly's right. It's not just that the script plays on opposition to Bush anti-terror tactics--waterboarding, etc. Or that in a moment of calm hero Matt Damon utters maybe 15 of the 40 words he speaks in the film and explains that he's simply trying to apologize for ... well, the CIA's sins, or maybe America's. Just because you oppose waterboarding and believe the U.S. has a lot to apologize for doesn't make you anti-American. The problem is the film is unredeemed by any sense that America or the American government ever stands for or does anything that is right.

It is a big hit overseas. ...

The film also made me feel guilty, because I watched Greengrass' United 93 and left convinced it was a searing indictment of Bush's behavior in hours after 9/11. (Air controllers spend much of the film trying to locate the AWOL President they can obtain an order to shoot down the hijacked jet.) I didn't know anything about Greengrass, and the film looked like it had been based on actual records by a meticulously dispassionate observer. But Greengrass' Bourne film undermines his credibility and retrospectively dissolves United 93's anti-Bush power. I don't trust anything the man makes. ... P.S.: Has Big Hollywood made a single non-anti-US post-9/11 film I missed? I can't remember one (aside from Team America: World Police, which was a cartoon).. ... And don't say World Trade Center. That passed up several potentially epic patriotic moments (e.g. the Dave Karnes story) in favor of a tribute to the fraternity of New York transit cops. ... Next up: In the Valley of Elah, a well-made version of the Scott Beauchamp Story. ... Is it the international market that makes our studios behave this way? I sense an underserved domestic niche
.

By Jove, i think he hit on something important. See:

Hollywood, the market, and cultural blinders

and

Hollywood and the war on terror
The Bush governing style

Two good recent articles

From Slate

All the President's Flunkies

As a broader management practice, though, Bush has made a fetish of loyalty even when unaccompanied by ability. He saw how disloyal aides undercut his father. To win loyalty, Bush shows it
.
From The Atlantic:

The Rove Presidency

Rove’s greatest shortcoming was not in conceptualizing policies but in failing to understand the process of getting them implemented, a weakness he never seems to have recognized in himself. It’s startling that someone who gave so much thought to redirecting the powers of government evinced so little interest in understanding how it operates. Perhaps because he had never worked in government—or maybe because his standing rested upon his relationship with a single superior—he was often ineffective at bringing into being anything that required more than a presidential signature
.

I disagree on this point:

Rove wouldn’t be Rove, in other words, were Bush not Bush. That Vice President Cheney also hit a historic high-water mark for influence says a lot about how the actual president sees fit to govern. All rhetoric about “leadership” aside, Bush will be viewed as a weak executive who ceded far too much authority.

Many of Bush's leadership failures grow out of the lessons he learned at the Harvard Business School. he is a strong executive but a weak leader because that is the model CEO of management textbooks. In addition, that executive model is especially susceptible to flunkyitis.


See also:


GWB and his MBA


The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy


Five quick points about the conservative tantrum
Roethlisberger gets some credit

Big Ben’s time has come

But few fans truly appreciate the historic productivity that has marked his short career. Like many of the game’s great winners – the Bart Starrs and Tom Bradys of the football world – Roethlisberger is often seen as something of a pigskin perfunctory: a "system" quarterback who simply “manages” the game for his talent-laden teams.

The chorus of Cold, Hard Football Facts sing quite a different tune: Roethlisberger, at this very early point in his career, is poised to join the short list of most ruthlessly efficient quarterbacks in NFL history.

And as history has shown, ruthlessly efficient quarterbacks win more games and sport more rings than the glitzy gunslingers coveted by the faux-fan fantasy-football and video-game crowd. (Amazing that so many "system" quarterbacks wear so many rings, isn't it? Maybe a story for another day.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick: Nagging Thoughts

The end of the Michael Vick case leaves a bad taste. I have far more sympathy for the soon-to-be inmate than I ever did for the overpaid and over-hyped player.

Some of it is the piling on by Big Media. The ritualized denunciations of Vick are all out of proportion to the actual crimes. Do Nancy Grace and Sean Hannity really need to incite their mob of slobbering mouth-breathers day after day?

(Side point: Joining these mobs serves the same function as the Diana memorials Maureen Orth saw in San Francisco. It is a way for a pathetic loser to get close to fame.)

Another troubling question: Were the lurid stories about drowning and electrocuting dogs put into the indictment to taint the jury pool and put public pressure on Vick? I do not think cruelty to animals is a federal crime so why were those stories in a federal indictment?

Were the stories true? They came from people trying to make a deal. Maybe they had an incentive to exaggerate a little. And maybe an ambitious prosecutor will be less than diligent when he scrutinizes those statements if they point to the big fish he is targeting.

Why did this become a federal case anyway? A local drug bust led to allegations and evidence of dog fighting. State authorities moved too slowly for the DOJ, so the federal government brought its full power to bear.

The energetic federal response in Virginia stands in stark contrast to federal indifference to another high profile criminal case in California. When Lindsey Lohan was arrested the last time, traces of cocaine were found in her purse. Local authorities treated the matter as a simple DUI. The Feds deferred to the state.

Is dog-fighting now a higher priority for the DOJ than the “War on Drugs”? If so, maybe they should give this guy his money back. Maybe they should stop funding those SWAT teams that kick in doors in the inner city looking for crack and pot.

If the War on Drugs is still important, why did the DOJ pass on the opportunity to pressure Lohan and her posse into revealing her supplier? Why id a high profile dog fighter a prize worth bagging but the “Hollywood Connection” is a matter of indifference?

Somehow, I don’t see Lohan’s posse as a tougher nut to crack than Vick’s “friends.” So why not break them and find out who the dealers are?

The media mob displays the same double standard. No one is calling for Lohan to lose her career despite the fact that she has flaunted the law and endangered innocent lives. She is treated as a victim (of what?) Vick, however, is evil personified who is denied all chances of redemption.

The pressure on the NFL to ban Vick has no analogue in Hollywood. Dog fighting is wrong, but so is rape. Nonetheless, Roman Polanski is making movies and winning awards. The media mob yawns.