Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fad-surfing and corralled rebellion

One of the big banks I worked for built a brand new campus for our division. At the time, we were growing but faced many strategic challenges: aggressive competitors were forcing prices down, our credit management area was struggling, our cost structure was higher than the industry leaders, and we were “blessed” with antiquated IT systems.

Yet for six months the new campus was the hot management topic. There would be no offices. Just small cubicles with low walls and lots of open space. There would be all these tables and the tables had rollers so people could just slide them together and collaborate. That was going to spark creativity and innovation and make us a great company.

The whole thing looked like a giant call center that was having a yard sale.

After it was completed, senior managers and visitors came by for tours. They admired the radical design and heard about all the benefits. This was The Bank of the Future. No hierarchy. No department boundaries. Easy collaboration. The dawning of a new age.

Unfortunately, the radical space did not help us address the strategic issues. Competitive pressures increased; credit problems got ugly. Still, we got a fair amount of publicity for our innovative office design. Executives were always happy to talk about that.

The same thing happened with Chiat/Day, the advertising agency. There was a time when they got more press for office space than they did for the ad campaigns they produced for clients.

During the dot-com boom, corporate types were inordinately proud of their internet rebels. All sorts of stodgy companies started bragging about their counter-cultural web geeks housed in funky spaces. For those who did not want to buy their own rebels, consultants like Scient were happy to rent them out.

Much of the impetus for this behavior was just the usual cluelessness and fad surfing. A lot of it was PR: “ACME Widgets isn’t your father’s boring old widget-maker. We get the Web. Look! See there? Our web-designer has a shaved head and wears a nose ring. Check out the goth chick who does our online advertising.”

I think that something else was happening as well. Dig a little bit and you can see the denial hiding behind the radicalism. Executives realized that their company needed to change. They sense that real change, fundamental change, is hard. So they opted for something softer. They would do something that appeared radical, but they would fence it off from the rest of the company. Or they would make dramatic changes but only in superficial matters like desk arrangement.

In short, they would corral the rebellion while they talked of revolution. That way, they never had to change much of anything that really mattered. All the while they could reassure each other that they were bold, and innovative, and cutting edge.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Pirates fans should be angry


For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill. Baseball is a game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging-out. Irrelevance—since the reference point of most individual games is remote and statistical—always threatens its interest, which can be maintained not by the occasional heroics that sportswriters feed upon but by players who always care; who care, that is to say, about themselves and their art.

"Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" by John Updike© 1960
This gets to the issue for Pirates fans. The fifteen years of losing is bad, very bad. That’s a chronic condition. Something a city has to live with. It’s no way to win new fans but old fans are bludgeoned into weary acceptance. In Pittsburgh, loving baseball means watching your team lose most of the time every year.

Still, as Updike says, any particular game is relatively detached from the season’s inevitable disappointment.

The acute problem, the ugly fact that jolts the baseball lover from bitter acceptance to boiling anger, goes back to Updike’s “tissue-thin difference.” This team is filled with players who do not care. Or at least do not care enough to do things well.

Lack of talent is a given for small market teams. Our lineup will never rival the Yankees; our pitching won’t make anyone forget the ’71 Orioles.

Yet, in each game a mediocre player has the same choice as a superstar: to take pains or go through the motions. In Pittsburgh there are too many who just go through the motions. What we see over and over is a group of millionaires who don’t give a damn about the game. Poor base running, bad fielding, and sloppy play all contribute to the general malaise hangs over this team.

UPDATE: I’d love to see a local paper do something gutsy with regard to the Pirates. In my dream scenario I’d love to see a sports editor announce that they are reassigning the reporters on the Pirates beat to “big-time sports” and using AP recaps for Pirates’s games. That would be a sweet statement:

“In a time of constrained resources for newspapers, we can no longer justify assigning full time reporters to a minor league team.”

That will never happen, of course. The local press is made up of wimpy little lapdogs who defend the owners and think that doing so is somehow principled. MSM delusions reign even on the sports pages as this column shows:

Fans waging fight against way Nuttings do business

We're not talking about a boycott, which some people are calling for. There's a movement afoot to boycott not only the Pirates but all of Nutting's business ventures. That's mean-spirited and wrong.

Nutting is not a bad person. He is not dispensing social injustice. What he is doing is not illegal, unethical or immoral. What he is guilty of -- in the eyes of most people -- is running his business in a fan-unfriendly manner. He does not deserve to be boycotted and most certainly the people who work for him, be it at PNC Park, Seven Springs or his many newspapers do not deserve to have their jobs placed in jeopardy because the Pirates stink
.

I have to disagree strongly on this. First, when a business antagonizes its customers, it should pay a price. Mr. Smizek believes that Nutting should not worry about social justice, but apparently the paying customers must make that uppermost in their minds. (Buy tickets or some poor ticket-taker will lose his job). That is so silly that it boggles the mind.

Further, I do consider Pirate ownership unethical and immoral because lying is immoral and unethical. When tax payers put up millions for a new ball park, they did not do it so Bob Nutting could have a profitable, bad baseball team in Pittsburgh. They were told that the new park would make the Pirates competitive on the field, not just on the income statement. For the owner to take the money and not follow through is most definitely immoral and unethical.

The usual justification for keeping the Pirates was that big league sports enhanced Pittsburgh image. Maybe the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review should start putting some tough questions to the “civic boosters” and politicians who led the charge to spend tax money on PNC Park. How does the city’s image look now? Is it a good thing for the national press to refer to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a “glorified triple A team”? Is “fifteen years of losing” really the best brand message for a struggling city?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Remember kids-- bloggers aren't journalists

We don't have fact-checkers, editors, special training, or professional ethics.

We are about as far from the Columbia School of Journalism and The New Yorker as you can get.

If you don't believe me, check this out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lesson in leadership

Everything your MBA classes should have taught you, but probably didn't:


Robin Olds, R.I.P.


General Olds will also be remembered as a leader who was unafraid to take risks, and took care of his men. As commander of the 8th Wing, he flew 152 combat missions during a 12-month tour, 105 of those over North Vietnam (his predecessor had flown on 10 missions over a one-year period). After the triumph of Operation Bolo, he ensured that everyone involved in planning and executing the mission--including maintenance personnel and intel specialists--received recognition for their contributions.

But another, lesser-known anecdote from his Ubon days also speaks volumes about Olds' leadership and character. Shortly after taking command of the 8th Wing, Olds appeared at the base finance office for in-processing. He discovered a long line of waiting airmen, who told him that the office operated on "bankers' hours," making it difficult for them to complete pay transactions.

Olds summoned the Major in charge of the organization, and ordered him to put the office on 24/7 operations, even if it meant the Major had to pull a shift at the pay window. Olds then waited until all the other airmen had been served before completing his in-processing. Word of the incident quickly spread, and the airmen of the 8th Wing understood that their new commander was genuinely concerned about their welfare. Their dedication to Olds was returned three months later, when hundreds of airmen lined the ramp at Ubon to congratulate the wing commander and his fellow pilots, returning from Operation Bolo
.
RTWT
An interesting example of disintermediation

Gregg Olsen is a successful author of true crime books. He is also a blogger. His latest post is deeply pessimistic about the future of the genre in terms of sales and popularity.
WTF TC or TC RIP?
He points to cable TV as one of the culprits.

But TV also stabbed the heart of the TC publishing industry. Think about it. All of the Gretas and Nancys and Geraldos have humped the life out of so many great TC stories, that splendidly crafted and well-researched books were never written about some of the greatest cases of our time. Thank goodness TV sniffed and turned up its nose at wall-to-wall coverage of the great crime cases of the recent past. There'd be no Small Sacrifices, Fatal Vision or In Cold Blood if TV existed as it does in its current state.
At first, I thought this an odd argument. After all, two of cable's great obsessions-O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson-spawned a flood of books. In the comments he addresses this and clarifies his point:

The OJ and Peterson books were were written for the most part by people associated with the cases. I really can't think of one book that was written by an outsider (which is what most crime journalists are) that did much on the list. Instead, we had the constant parade of Laci's mother, Scott's sister, OJ's ex-girlfriend, the lawyers, the jurors... Each one popped on the Today Show then moved over to the cable junk and shilled their books. Trash, most of it.
This strikes me as one more case where intermediaries lose out as information becomes more democratic. The people in Kansas had to talk to Truman Capote in order to tell their story. Now, however, cable news can raise enough interest in certain stories that the insiders are the people who get book deals. The writer/outsider is left behind. The best sources won't talk because they have their own deal; the book-buying public wants new information, which only insiders can provide.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Steve Sailer gives us the thought for today

A general lesson for our era is that cyberspace is far overrated as a way to influence events compared to personal contacts and behind the scenes machinations.
More here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

News, monopolies, and cross-subsidies

Patterico has an interesting take on the subject previously noted here:

The Internet: Aiding the Race to Appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator
I think he overstates the point because he does not distinguish between paying customers (subscribers) and the free-riders who read the paper on the internet. There might be an audience for for tabloid stuff but that does not make it a market.

Tthe cubicle rats killing time by surfing for Paris Hilton headlines have a vast appetite for this bilge as long as it's free.

Why should the LA Times, or any other paper, chase a non-paying audience. That's pretty poor decision-making on the business side.
This story is moving on so many levels

Inmate built Ruth and Billy Grahams' coffins

NEW ORLEANS -- One of the most meaningful events of his life came near the end, when convicted murdered Richard Liggett was asked to make two of the simple plywood coffins he meticulously crafted for fellow prisoners for evangelists Ruth and Billy Graham.

"Humbled? He was honored, he was honored," Burl Cain, the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, said Saturday. " ... He told me, of everything that ever happened in his life, the most profound thing was to build this coffin for Billy Graham and his family
."
Michael Savage takes on Brian Lamb and CSPAN?

See the details here.

CSPAN is simply a treasure. Michael Savage? Not so much.

For those who think he is some sort of conservative, this article makes for interesting reading:

Inside the Savage Nation
This is a telling picture of the chameleon who now calls himself Michael Savage:

Savage recounts walking past it one evening to discover a photo of Ginsberg in the window shortly after the legendary Beat poet's death in 1997. Although not naming Ginsberg directly, he refers to "one of the last reigning beatnik poets" — whom he once adored — as "latrine slime," and writes, "I clasped my hands together and prayed to God. I said, 'Thank you, God, for answering my prayers. One of the blights of the human race is gone.'"

It's a far cry from his apparent eagerness to impress Ginsberg in the early '70s, when he sent the poet press clippings about his work as a student doing botanical research in the South Pacific, and repeatedly implored him to come and visit. Some of Weiner's purported communications with the openly gay poet, as contained in the Stanford collection, seem strangely homoerotic.

Among them is an undated postcard, signed "Michael Weiner," [Savage's real name] that says, "Watched a tourist from New Zealand taking pictures of Fijian people in the marketplace [and] thought of inserting my camera's lens in your A-hole to photograph the walls of your rectum. I really do apologize, but the thought did occur
."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Duke lacrosse: End of Act II

Real life legal cases rarely offer the drama of TV and movies. The Bar hearing for Durham DA Mike Nifong has been an exception. Today's session saw him announce his resignation from office while on the witness stand.

KC Johnson has been blogging from the hearings and he is, as usual, the best guide for all the developments.

Durham in Wonderland

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What is going on?

Stuart Taylor's column from last left me even more puzzled about the Bush administration.


How Not to Make Terrorism Policy
His main point (and it is a very good one) is that Bush and Gonzalez approached the question of torture solely from a legal perspective. That is, they seem never to ask "what is right" or "what works"; only "what does the law permit?"

That flaw was the almost exclusive focus on what could be done to captives as a matter of law—as interpreted by aggressive advocates of virtually unlimited presidential war powers—rather than on what should be done as a matter of morality and policy, taking account of careful cost-benefit analysis and past experience.

The result was that while approving in 2002 and 2003 the use of "extreme physical pressure on captives" during interrogations, the CIA and the White House not only disregarded the lessons of history but also engaged in "little substantive policy analysis or interagency consideration."


The puzzle, to me, is two-headed.

1. They did this at the behest of CIA.

Though former CIA officials dispute this, the CIA had little experience in questioning captives before 9/11, and the White House brushed aside the reservations of many officials at the FBI and in the military, which had far more experience.
[and]

A study to which the White House should pay close attention is well under way. A panel of experts commissioned by the advisory Intelligence Science Board suggested in "Educing Information," a 325-page initial public report completed in December, that the harsh methods Bush authorized after 9/11 are unreliable and that CIA interrogators are ill-trained in subtler techniques. Meanwhile, the military's successful use of such subtle techniques to crack the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's inner circle in Iraq is chronicled in riveting detail by Mark Bowden in the May issue of The Atlantic.
Question: Why were they so solicitous of CIA and so dismissive of the FBI and armed forces?

2. They continue to take the political hit on the torture question while CIA skates. In repayment, CIA leaks like a sieve to embarrass the administration. Nevertheless, the White House shows no appetite to rein in an agency that is playing this double-game.

Like i said, it is a puzzlement
Home grown terrorist

Sobering reading on the intentions and mindset of the Rockford, Illinois terrorist suspect

The Illinois Shopping Mall Plot (.pdf)
Litvinenko

Edward Jay Epstein has a highly informative post:
The Smuggled Polonium

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Time to change the name

In the 1970s, the city of Pittsburgh became known as the 'City of Champions". It's image was enhanced by the titles won by the Steelers and Pirates. Now, the city's image, its "brand" is tarnished by the link to a pathetic baseball team.

It just seems unfair. The people of Pittsburgh held up their end of the bargain. They put up boatloads of money for a beautiful new stadium. They still sit in the stands to watch a bad team lose. What they get in return is the linking of "Pittsburgh" with "losers", "futility", and "joke".

Justice demands that something be done. Pittsburgh deserves a winner. At a minimum, Pittsburgh should not be tied to constant losing.

The Pirates are bad, not because the fans willnot support baseball, but because the team owners like steady profits more than winning.

The fair thing to do, it seems to me, is to stop calling this team the Pittsburgh Pirates. Call them what they are; make the name reflect who is calling the shots. When ESPN mocks the Pirates as a "glorified minor league team", it should be the "Nutting-McClatchey Pirates" being lampooned.

Why should the owners count their money in the shadows while the city takes the hit to its reputation? Maybe they would care more about winning if losing reflected poorly on their name instead of the city's

Monday, June 11, 2007

Duke lacrosse: The books start coming


KC Johnson has a post up on two of the new books set to hit the shelves.

I reviewed the Yaeger book several weeks ago, but it makes sense to run it again.



Duke lacrosse: Most of the story is still untold


Millions of words have been written about the Duke lacrosse case. The players have been exonerated by North Carolina’s Attorney General. The casually jaded among us might wonder if there is anything left to say.

Judging by It’s Not About the Truth by Don Yaeger (with Mike Pressler) the answer is a resounding “Yes”. This sorry saga began with a flood of lies, spin, and bias. There is still a lot of truth to uncover from beneath that slimy rubble.

Yaeger is a writer for Sport Illustrated. Pressler, of course, was the coach of the lacrosse team when the hoax got off the ground. This book marks the first time that we hear Pressler’s side of the story. For that reason alone It's Not About the Truth is essential reading for anyone interested in the disaster that swept through Durham and Duke.

The story of the Pressler family is compelling. Their lives were thrown into turmoil; Mike Pressler lost his job. Yet, they displayed grace and integrity throughout the ordeal. After all the public whining by the Gang of 88, the Presslers a dramatic and refreshing change. Unfortunately, Duke kept the Chafes and the Farreds while driving the Presslers away. It takes a special, twisted institution to discard the wheat and hoard the chaff.

The book is not a first person account of the scandal and frame-up. Yaeger has done extensive shoe leather reporting; he interviewed over one hundred people to write this story. His access to Pressler and many lacrosse players enabled him to break new ground in reporting the hoax. But make no mistake, he did a lot of valuable research into all aspects of this case.

For instance, Brodhead and his loyal factotum Burness turn out to be more anti-lax and pro-Gang of 88 than they pretended to be. Burness, says Yaeger, “became famous for ‘off-the-record, not for attribution’, slamming of the players” to reporters.

Yaeger digs into the seamy world of the Platinum Club and Bunnyhole Entertainment. Samiha Khanna’s carefully crafted portrait of a shy student who was new to dancing is now thoroughly and completely discredited. On the very day that story appeared, she was videotaped dancing at the Platinum Club.

It’s Not About the Truth also provides new insight into the activities of the police and players in the crucial first days of the disaster. His reporting should shatter the myth of the “blue wall of silence”. At the same time, it paints an unflattering picture of the key investigators. Well before Nifong entered the picture Gottlieb, Himan, and Clayton were happy to take their shots at some rich Dukies even if that meant ignoring evidence and conducting a sloppy investigation. They are also not above telling a bald-faced lie or two.

I’ve only skimmed the surface of all the new information this book offers. There is much more. In fact, I could blog for a month just on the new perspectives made possible by Yaeger’s reporting. Any one who was interested in this case will want to read it. Every Duke parent and alum should read it.




Saturday, June 09, 2007

National review: The continued decline of a once great magazine

A few days ago I noted that National Review had been far more supportive of GWB than they had been of other GOP presidents. That puzzling trend continues with this piece:

“Conservatives Left Behind”
K-Lo summarizes the main reasons why the Right has lost patience with Bush. Nonetheless, she still is not willing to make a clean break of it. Her “logic” is interesting even if it is not compelling.

She speaks of “Bush Estrangement Syndrome” as though not supporting politicians who don’t support your causes is a form of mental illness. Yet her defense of Bush sounds like nothing so much as the rationalizations of an abused and neglected spouse:

Pre-January 2009, can this marriage be saved? You know, as his luck would have it, staying together is worth it for the kids. And every once in a while say, if there’s a Supreme Court opening this summer, as has been rumored, and he nominates a judge like Alito or Roberts President George W. Bush may just remind us why we fell for him in the first place. It might not be the best marriage, but we share a love a love of country, a love of democracy, a love of the Constitution. Yeah, he created a dubious Cabinet department. But we also haven’t been attacked for six years under his presidency. He’s not perfect, and he may not always know how to express himself, and he may not always know how to appreciate his friends, but he’s our guy, with enough of the right instincts to make us never truly regret the choice. And history may rightly gloss over the mistakes his frustrated friends saved him from in the end, there’s some leadership there. And that makes all the difference.
We’re talking about a president here, a politician, and National Review starts channeling Ladies Home Journal.

Lopez does not address the fundamental issue of a war leader who will not lead us to victory. A war president who, scandalously, pursues an arrogant, wrong-headed, and misbegotten domestic agenda while American troops die in a quagmire of his own making. Peggy Noonan touched on something important when she described the motivation behind the immigration bill.
They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!
This is low, cynical politics. Having FUBARed Iraq, and with no solution to offer, this White House decides to do a little legacy-polishing. I do not remember Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton stooping this low. Yet, Lopez still thinks of him are “her guy”. Somehow, I don’t think it is the estranged conservatives who are pathological; it is the girls and boys at NR who need a shrink.
More unseemly whining by the MSM

Joe Klein of Time magazine thinks that the left blogosphere is being irrational and mean to his favorite politicians and good liberal reporters like himself

Beware the Bloggers's Bile
I'd take his critique to heart if only he had the guts to admit that his employer is guilty of the same sins he condemns.

Example. He gets in the obligatory slap at talk radio:

the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered.
Umm. Ever hear of Nancy Grace, Joe? She works for Time-Warner just like you do. Her show on CNN Headline News makes Rush's radio show sound like a Socratic Dialogue.

Example. He worries about bloggging's tone and mode of discourse:

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed.
Hmm. "Fierce." "Bullying." "Savaged." "Ridiculed." I take it that he is against these sort of things. So tell me why he was (and is) quiet about the bloggers Time hired? Ana Marie (Wonkette) Cox and Andrew Sullivan were and are paragons of the shallow, unthinking, attack post. So why did Time pick the worst of the worst when they brought bloggers in house? Why not pick some of the more level-headed, more substantive bloggers that Klein claims to value?
The advertising business

A couple of key points jump out of this Fast Company post.

First, more evidence that agency consolidation and integration is less appealing to clients than it is to agency CEOs. (See here.)

Second, client loyalty is well and truly dead. If Nike is moving away from Weiden+Kennedy, then no agency can trust that their past performance has earned them the loyalty of the guys who pay the bills.
Here’s something I don’t understand about the blogosphere and the internet in general

I know that speed is one of the things the most notable things about the internet. But why has “speed” (and its cousin “new”) squeezed out all of its other virtues?

We apologize for tardiness if we link to a news story that is three days old. We feel guilty if we link to a blog post from last week.

Getting breaking news fast is a great thing. On the other hand, the internet is also the world’s largest file cabinet. Millions of pages of good stuff are squirreled away. Seems a shame to ignore something because it was not written 90 minutes ago.

I discussed some of the problems with the fast/new obsession here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What is killing journalism?

When discussing the problems with newspapers i think this post makes the most critical point we have to bear in mind:
Should Google Subsidize Journalism?

The newspaper business is based on monopoly control over the distribution of news and information in a given region. The Web destroyed those regional monopolies by making it cheap and easy to distribute any information anywhere in the world instantaneously. The car killed the horse and buggy industry. Digital cameras killed the film industry. Technology happens — but technology itself isn’t destroying journalism. It’s simply destroying the business that subsidized journalism.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Remembering a forgotten hero

Remembering Joe Rochefort
Kaus is remarkably astute

Immigration -- Bush's domestic Iraq

MAINSTREAM editorialists like to praise President Bush's immigration initiative as an expression of his pragmatic, bipartisan, "compassionate conservative" side, in presumed contrast to the inflexible, ideological approach that produced the invasion of Iraq. But far from being a sensible centrist departure from the sort of grandiose, rigid thinking that led Bush into Iraq, "comprehensive immigration reform" is of a piece with that thinking. And it's likely to lead to a parallel outcome.

Here are 10 similarities:

The grandiose element in the Bush style is a big surprise to me. It is something i never suspected in 2000.

It is one of the reasons i found Maurois's description of Peel worth pondering.

Peel split the Tories when he set out to repeal the Corn Laws. He won the battle but lost his party.

Is there a Republican Disraeli who is bold enough to lead the break with Bush?

See also:
Conquest's Law
Duke lacrosse: Ten days in March (II)

LieStoppers has a terrific piece of detective work on the crucial early days of the hoax:

How the Duke Rape Hoax Became the Duke Racial Epithets Crime-of-the-Century Hoax (and Remains So Today)
LieStoppers notes that the lax story exploded into the headlines because of the racial aspect: white-on-black gang rape after a prelude of racial slurs. What this article demonstrates is that this element of the narrative did not appear until 24 March. The early police statements do not contain the allegations of a barrage of slurs. Yet, suddenly, the Duke faculty hears of the epithets, the News and Observer gets an interview with the accuser who then claims, for the first time, that the dancers were the targets of racial epithets, and the Duke police inform the administration about the slurs.

As LieStoppers notes, “it may be coincidental, but it is certainly a notable convergence.” Of course, Goldfinger was more jaundiced: “Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.'”

Duke PR flack John Burness takes another hit in this piece. Yaeger has already noted that Burness “became famous for ‘off-the-record, not for attribution’, slamming of the players” to reporters.” Here we see that he passed along second-, third-, and fourth-hand accounts of the alleged slurs to faculty members,

In the early days of the hoax, Burness was fanning the flames. He helped turn a manageable PR crisis into a publicity nightmare that has tarnished both his employer and Duke students.

The News and Observer also comes off poorly in the LieStoppers article which shows that they have lied repeatedly about the 24 March interview with Precious. Nor have they ever come clean about the contacts between their reporters and the DPD. LieStoppers dissects both points with great skill.

Yaeger’s book adds one other crucial piece of information on this score. On 23 March the subpoena for the DNA dragnet was issued. The players decided not to fight the broad (overly broad?) request. They even decided to make it easy on the police and go immediately to the crime lab.

[Attorney Wes] Covington telephoned investigators and informed them that the players would arrive voluntarily as a group if it was promised the news would not be leaked to the media. Covington was assured the media would be kept unaware.
It was a lie. When the players arrived at the lab, they found the reporters waiting and the doors locked. The DPD had arranged the perfect perp walk for their media friends. The tabloid frenzy was about to begin.

The next day the story was on the front page of the News and Observer. The day after that came the notorious interview with the accuser. The N&O was leading the pack in pursuit of a story that was really a red herring.

The N&O has done a great job following up on Nifong’s mistakes and ethical lapses. They have shown no such interest in examining the actions of the DPD in the first 10 days of the hoax.

Is it because their reporters and editors were too eager to play the role they were assigned by the rogue cops?

The DPD’s lies and choreographed perp walk is another black mark against Duke. From the beginning of the hoax they knew that the players were cooperating and that the DPD was lying. Yet the administration was silent when the police and prosecutor claimed that there was a “blue wall of silence”. They did nothing while the police tried to run roughshod over their students. At times they even ran with the hounds as when they suspended McFayden for his stupid email.

To date, Duke has not owned up to their miserable cowardice.
Duke lacrosse: integrity and hyprocrisy

In Praise of Ryan McFadyen

McFadyen, to his everlasting credit, told police and the prosecutor he would not lie for them. After all, there had been no rape, no kidnapping, no sexual assault, no "brutal" beating, nothing. He had seen nothing and would not testify to having seen that which did not happen. Unfortunately, because of the state of law in North Carolina, Ryan McFadyen paid a horrific price for showing integrity, something that anyone in authority in Durham or Duke University has yet to show, even more than a year after this affair began.

After McFadyen’s refusal to commit perjury, Judge Ronald Stephens, the former Durham County prosecutor who covered for his one-time employee, Nifong, then released the email, which was given to journalists all over the country. Stephens, a judge who has sworn to uphold the law, ordered that an illegally-obtained email that had nothing to do with the case be released and publicized because the young man who wrote it was refusing to break the law (which Stephens had sworn to uphold) by lying under oath.

John Feinstein, and the Unbearable Lightness of America's Sportswriters

It’s more than ironic to see repeated character assaults on the players and demands that Duke fire several administrators coming from a sportswriter who has not admitted—much less owned up to—his own serious misjudgments about the case.

Do they give Pulitzers for hypocrisy? If so, consider Feinstein a shoo-in
.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sometimes Cinderella doesn't want to go to the ball

Well, she wants to go, but not if it means working too hard. I mean, she's happy to go but not if she has to do her own hair. Or iron her own dress. Or learn anything about etiquette.

That's how the story goes if Cinderella is played by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Playing in a weak division, they find ways to lose. Actually, it is worse than that: they refuse to do the little things that win games. Bad base running, relievers who can't throw strikes, pinch-hitters who can't hit, hitters who strike out with the winning run on on second.

If they played smart baseball, they could be pressing the Brewers in the division race. Instead, they are mired in their fifteenth consecutive season of failure and frustration.

The surprising thing is that they still have paying customers in the stands.

Or maybe that is the problem. Why try to put out a good product if people will buy the same old crap you always sell.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I always suspected as much

Steelers putting in the time on special teams

Bill Cowher apparently was all talk about special teams. That’s what the players are saying after getting a taste of what Mike Tomlin means when he says special teams are a third of the game.
He may be right

Scott Chaffin thinks that the flying TB patient sums up Everything Wrong With America Today, All in One Story

For me, i am amazed at how quickly this story went from serious (deadly serious) to Oprah-fied.
Peggy Noonan sounds the trumpet


President Bush has torn the conservative coalition asunder

The whole column is a gem, a hard polished jewel that makes the conservative case against Bush. She wants it known that, however, that conservatives are not deserting Bush. On the contrary, Bush and his White House have decisively broken with conservatives.

What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The immigration bill is the great clarifier. Noonan homes in on the key points-the White House's hubris and its bad temper when faced with opposition.

If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.
****
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed
.
Last year I suggested that the Bush political style was antithetical to party leadership:

The Bush style is to placate his enemies and ignore his base. (It may be a family trait.)

Now we see that in extremis, GWB will go beyond ignoring his base to attacking and demonizing his most loyal supporters. Noonan also wonders if a family style is at work here:

One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked.

Why is this so? One possibility is that the Bush ethos disdains party politics. They do not merely want to rise above politics: in their view, a statesman is the enemy of the politician. A president (as a statesman) is powerless against the politicians of the other party. He can, therefore, only attack his own party and his own core supporters. Political failure and low approval ratings become a mark of moral distinction.

In the case of GWB, his training at the Harvard Business School may have reinforced this attitude.

Noonan overstates one point of her indictment. It is not Bush's fault that the conservative coalition is being ripped apart. Bush's problems only became conservatives's problems because we identified so closely with him and his administration. This was a departure from the past when the Right was frequently and vocally critical of Republican presidents. In his first term Bush was spared the criticism which the Right poured down on the heads of Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and even Reagan. There were good reasons for this truce (see here), but it was unnatural. It was a historical accident.

Bush cannot destroy the "conservative movement" because a principled movement is beyond the reach of political hacks like Karl Rove. Conservatives will still be fighting for their causes long after GWB leaves the Oval Office. We might as well start fighting for them now.


See also:

Bush and his MBA


The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy


Bush as party leader


Bush and conservatives

Friday, June 01, 2007

The mark of a great editor

In his book Hooking Up, Tom Wolfe describes the birth of a new, soon to be famous magazine. In 1963 Wolfe was working at the New York Herald-Tribune and was a part-time writer for its Sunday supplement, Today's Living. The new magazine began with an impertinent question by its editor:

Look… we're coming out once a week, right? And The New Yorker comes out once a week, right? And we start the week the same way they do, with blank paper and a supply of ink. Is there any reason why we can't be as good as The New Yorker? Or better? They're so damned dull.
The supplement changed its name to New York. While it may not have challenged The New Yorker for prestige, it was a remarkable success. It survived as a stand-alone magazine after the newspaper folded. It ran some memorable pieces including Wolfe's masterful "Radical Chic". It certainly was not dull. (The New Yorker tacitly recognized New York's advantage on that score when it made Tina Brown its editor.)

Felker, then, succeeded and his success grew from his willingness to ask an impertinent question.

It is a lesson G.B. Shaw understood very well:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
All progress depends on the unreasonable man. Sometimes I think that one of the key problems for the MSM is that the top editors and executives are exceedingly reasonable men and women. They recognize the hard realities of declining readership and flat revenues. They have accommodated the bean counters and recognize that resources are scarce. Most importantly, as all reasonable people know, fewer resources mean lowered ambitions.

Only an outrageously unreasonable editor like Felker would dare challenge The New Yorker on a shoe string budget. Of course, only an outrageously unreasonable editor could create a new, successful magazine out of the ashes of a dying newspaper.