Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sometimes it takes a mole to catch a mole


The Mysterious Cuban Spy at the Center of Obama’s Havana Rapprochement

Little is known about the Cuban who is now headed toward what will likely be a comfortable retirement in the United States. But what little U.S. officials disclosed on Wednesday make him one of the United States’ most important Cold War spies. “Information provided by this person was instrumental in the identification and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States and ultimately led to a series of successful federal espionage prosecutions,” Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement, a highly unusual acknowledgement of a U.S. intelligence asset’s contributions.

Among the Cuban spies he helped take down were Montes; the former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, and members of the so-called “Wasp Network,” which infiltrated the Cuban exile community. Taken together, Montes and Myers are probably the most damaging turncoats in the history of the U.S. intelligence community, rivaled only by Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker, who compromised an immense portion of American encryption systems.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pearl Harbor and the path to war


Two interesting articles on the run-up to the Pacific War.

A Strategy has to be able to work to be masteful
The author has made an in-depth study of the Japanese plans and actual attack. He is less than enthralled with the "genius" of Commander Minoru Genda and Admiral Yammaoto.

Japan's Decision for War in 1941: Some Enduring Lessons

Still, it cannot be denied that, in threatening Japan's economic destruction (and consequent military impoverishment), the United States placed the Japanese in a position in which the only choices open to them were war or subservience. "Never inflict upon another major military power a policy which would cause you yourself to go to war unless you are fully prepared to engage that power militarily," cautions Roland Worth, Jr., in his No Choice But War: The United States Embargo against Japan and the Eruption of War in the Pacific. "And don't be surprised that if they do decide to retaliate, that they seek out a time and a place that inflicts maximum harm and humiliation upon your cause."
The key lesson for today is to recognize that a policy can be morally right but strategically obtuse.

The U.S. insistence, after Japanese forces moved into southern Indochina, that Japan evacuate China as well as Indochina, as a condition for the restoration of trade relations, thus made no sense as a means of dissuading the Japanese from moving south. On the contrary, the demand that Japan quit China killed any prospect of a negotiated alternative to Japan's conquest of Southeast Asia (e.g., restored trade in exchange for Japan's withdrawal from Indochina). In effect, the United States went to war over China rather than Southeast Asia -- a volte-face of enormous strategic consequence since it propelled the United States into a war with Japan over a remote country for which the United States had never been prepared to fight. The fate of China, even of Southeast Asia, did not engage core U.S. security interests, especially at a time when Europe's fate hung in the balance. A war with Japan was, of course, a war the United States was always going to win, but Japan was not the enemy the Roosevelt administration wanted to fight. The United States could have settled its accounts with Japan after Hitler's defeat had been assured. Was denying Japan an expanded empire in Southeast Asia more important, in 1941, than defeating Hitler?


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joe Biden: Senile or psychopath? One of a continuing series


Ayaan Hirsi Ali fights radical Islam's real war on women

In her speech to the dinner guests in Washington, Hirsi Ali recalled meeting Vice President Joe Biden. He informed her that “ISIS had nothing to do with Islam.” When she disagreed with him, Biden actually responded: “Let me tell you one or two things about Islam.
HT: Patterico

Funny how no one is upset about Biden manspaining to Hirsi Ali.

Previously:

The MSM still hates Dick Cheney

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The New Republic meltdown without the piety


Zero piety.

Less than zero. Iconoclastic. Nasty.

A thing of beauty.

Standing Athwart The New Republic, Yelling ‘Stop’

So where does this leave us? If I have to pick sides between liberal policy journalists insisting they are immune to the reality of business economics and a Silicon Valley enfant terrible who tried to buy his hapless husband a Congressional seat, I’m afraid I’m left rooting for injuries.
++++++


Given that Hughes was fabulously gay in addition to fabulously wealthy, it seems he was concerned about his staff putting the hetero in heterodoxy. According to the Washington Post, Hughes “lashed out” after senior editor “Alec MacGillis had dared to propose writing a piece about Apple avoiding taxes just after Apple’s Tim Cook had come out of the closet.” Should gay politics trump progressive concerns about tax avoidance, or vice versa? I sure as hell can’t sort it out, and I’m certainly uninterested in a magazine that would have been consumed by such ridiculous debates.
RTWT

Related:

Do magazines have DNA?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Why Eric Garner Died


Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies
Balzac:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
attributed to Einstein

The Right doesn't like to acknowledge that the power and authority of government can be a good thing, up to a point, in the hands of a genius. The Left doesn't like to acknowledge that geniuses are few and far between.
David Gelernter

Great deals


Highly recommended.

I'm enjoying both collections.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Why twitter?


The Message of the Medium Why the left loves Twitter

It is not the sequence of adoption, or as Gibson suggests the intellect of the users but rather the nature of the medium that makes Twitter so beloved of the left. You see to write a political blog post you generally have to take an idea and develop it in some detail. It wouldn’t be enough to simply report the news with your spin on it, as this is well covered by the traditional media organizations. And because these blogs are usually open to comments from readers you tend to find that huge leaps or flawed logic are challenged. Although high profile commentators have blogs, most bloggers tend to be hobbyists writing about what interests them.

Then along comes Twitter a running commentary on events as they happen, in 140 characters of fewer. Not enough of course to actually develop a point or idea, and because it’s fast moving little room to challenge fallacious ideas.
(HT: S. T. Karnick)

I blogged on this a while back:

Why do journalists love twitter and hate blogging?
Two additional points:

On Twitter, ideas succeed [not] on their merit but on their instant appeal.
So true. The Twitterverse is dominated by people who refuse to heed Mencken’s warning that “There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Maybe I should tweet Mecken’s quote as a warning three times a day.

Then this:

The message of this banal medium is ‘Don’t think, we’ve done that for you. Don’t analyze as that’s all been done. Like Retweet. And show the world that you’re trendy and with it.” A message made by and for the left.
From Robert Conquest’s Reflections on a Ravaged Century:

The Australian poet James McAuley wrote penetratingly of the pro-Communist phenomenon: 'During the thirties and forties Australian intellectual life became subjected to an alarming extent to the magnetic field of Communism. All sorts of people who would regard themselves as being non-Communist, and even opposed to Communism, in practice were dominated by the themes and modes of discussion proposed by the Communists, danced to the Communist tune, and had serious emotional resistances to being identified with any position or institution which was denounced by the Communists as "reactionary".' He adds that 'one reason for all this was that schools of thought genuinely independent of and opposed to Communist suggestion were in this country not well organized and publicly present. They lacked prestige, that magical aura which captures the minds of the young in advance of argument and establishes compelling fashions'
Stephen Koch on Stalinist propaganda in the Thirties:

Munzenberg wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility.
+++++++ Munzenberg provided two generations of people on the left with what we might call the forum of righteousness. More than any other person of his era, he developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is politics. He was the unseen organizer of that variety of politics, indispensable to the adversary culture, which we might call Righteousness Politics. 'Innocents Clubs': The very phrase suggests how the political issues Munzenberg manipulated came for many to serve as a substitute for religious belief. He offered everyone, anyone, a role in the search for justice in our century. By defining guilt, he offered his followers innocence, and they seized upon it by the millions.
Related:

Radical chic in its dotage

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remember Pearl Harbor


A recent book that challenges conventional history, paranoid conspiracy theories, and ill-informed revisionism. Highly recommended.


The defeat at Pearl Harbor was temporary. What we need to remember is the courage shown on that day and the determination and skill that let the US Navy recover so quickly. The Japanese were confounded and defeated because of that quick recovery.




Saturday, December 06, 2014

Book learning and crime reporting


The best take i've seen on the Rolling Stone U Va story:

A Rape Hoax for Book Lovers
Key point:

As a work of journalism, it’s most interesting for what it inadvertently reveals about the bizarre legends that seem plausible to American media consumers in 2014.
Of course, the key consumer of stories like this is television news operations. And they are gullible when a juicy story fits their ideological blinders.

Sailer is also a charter member of the Tom Wolfe is a Prophet Club:

Like most 21st-century brouhahas, “A Rape on Campus” recapitulates many themes of Wolfe’s novels.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

When big is bad


The Core Incompetencies of the Corporation

Large organizations of all types suffer from an assortment of congenital disabilities that no amount of incremental therapy can cure. First, they are inertial. They are frequently caught out by the future and seldom change in the absence of a crisis. Deep change, when it happens, is belated and convulsive, and typically requires an overhaul of the leadership team. Absent the bloodshed, the dynamics of change in the world’s largest companies aren’t much different from what one sees in a poorly-governed, authoritarian regime – and for the same reason: there are few, if any, mechanisms that facilitate proactive bottom-up renewal.

Second, large organizations are incremental. Despite their resource advantages, incumbents are seldom the authors of game-changing innovation. It’s not that veteran CEOs discount the value of innovation; rather, they’ve inherited organizational structures and processes that are inherently toxic to break-out thinking and relentless experimentation. Strangely, most CEOs seem resigned to this fact, since few, if any, have tackled the challenge of innovation with the sort of zeal and persistence they’ve devoted to the pursuit of operational efficiency. Their preferred strategy seems to be to acquire young companies that haven’t yet lost their own innovation mojo (but upon acquisition most likely will).
A topic i've covered at length on this blog:

Diseconomies of scale

Why corporate change is hard and failure almost inevitable

Fad-surfing and corralled rebellion

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Knowledge sharing as the ultimate killer app


Sharing is our competitive advantage

What made Homo sapiens different from the Neanderthals was most likely our social abilities and behaviors, how we behave as a collective. As a human species we have always been very focused on communicating and transferring knowledge. Not only from one person to another, but also parent to child. This way, the next generation can build further on the collective knowledge of the previous generation.

During the 400 000 years that the Neanderthals lived on the earth, they didn’t develop their tools very much. In fact, the tools they used at the end of their time were similar to the ones they used in the early years. If we compare that to Homo sapiens, the tools we used in the early years cannot be compared with the tools and technologies we have developed since. From creating simple stone tools we have created spaceships that can send people into space and digital communication technology that has the potential to connect all human beings on the earth. What made this possible is our innate drive and ability to share what we know with each other.
I think there is an important insight in this line of thought. An important point that the Rand-infected Right ignores.

Humans, at our core, are social apes.

We mock the sheeple and the Grubers with the 'a pack not a herd' meme. Yet, we too often forget that selfishness is not a pack virtue.

In short, a pack not a herd. Nor a collection of pathological narcissists.

Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one
G. K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday


All the best people hate gridlock


Leninism was a hard realistic philosophy for hard, realistic men. It dealt with power struggles and in crude terms and justified the natural impatience of the brilliant intellectual with the slow, tentative, and wasteful motion of the political democracy. To a 'born bolshevik'-- and this is how Whittaker Chambers later described Alger Hiss-- the flabby morality of bourgeois democracy was fine for the herd, but something for the 'superior' man to cut across.

Ralph de Toledano,
The Seeds of Treason



Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Defining strategy


Good post:

Strategic Thinking and Thinking Strategy: The Strategist's Core Mental Competency
Especially liked this:

To unpack what exactly a "strategic thought" is, a useful starting point would be to describe strategy - which Emile Simpson calls "a dialogue between possibility and desire."

Monday, December 01, 2014

Easy way for reporters to be less stupid


If the MSM would spend 20 minutes with Michael Bane or Massad Ayoob, they would sound less stupid when it comes to Second Amendment and self-defense issues.

On this podcast Bane clearly explains why the Colorado gun laws were/are a direct threat to the rights of honest gun-owners.

Downrange Radio #306
As I listened to it, I was reminded of Mark Steyn's point that in our current criminal juatice system "the process is the punishment".

Ayoob, one of the pre-eminent experts on self-defense, has several great posts on Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown. They start here:

Ferguson Part 1

Related

Who are you going to believe?

Why journalism sucks and the MSM is beyond saving


They don’t see their grievous flaws, they don’t understand what they get paid for, and they blame the readers for their problems.

Shot:

Why Serial is important for journalism
Chaser:

Newspapers, mental blinders, and business models

Q: What is the greatest public service news papers perform?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Juarez femicide myth


An interesting interview with a scholar who has demolished the MSM narrative on murder in Juarez

Q&A with Molly Molloy: The Story of the Juarez Femicides is a ‘Myth’

It’s almost like we’re fetishizing these dead women. To always be looking back at these women as if their bodies are this kind of sacrificial host—I find that to be troubling, in terms of our culture and our focus on life and death and what it means. In other words, if you’re constantly focusing on women as if they’re this symbol for suffering, you never move beyond that particular death to look at the social conditions that gave that kind of life, and that kind of death, for so, so many people...

I’ve read things by some feminist scholars talking about the “harvest” of young, nubile women. I mean, the terminology becomes kind of sensual, or sexual. Some of the writing about these cases I find to be pushing over into the extreme and eroticizing the victims
This recent book is the best examination of the gap between the facts on the ground and the MSM narrative.



See also:

How fake narratives get made

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Saving Christmas

Nothing will be done until we have realized that charity is not giving rewards to the deserving, but happiness to the unhappy.

G. K. Chesterton
Today-the day formerly known as Thanksgiving-marks the beginning of the Winter Festival of Getting and Spending.

For those who still yearn for the Spirit of Christmas a couple of ideas.

1. Watch the Greatest Christmas commercial ever:


Then remember Toys for Tots while doing your Christmas shopping.

2. Watch George C. Scott in the best version of A Christmas Carol.



3. The Salvation Army has done good work longer than any of us has been alive.

Huxley's denunciation of it for fanaticism and regimentation hindered it no more than did the disdain of professional men, who seemed to think that spirit seances and Theosophical jargon were worthier expressions of their feelings. It was not until George Bernard Shaw made the point in Major Barbara that the so-called elite began to appreciate what General Booth's movement had done for the uneducated, pauperized, and drink-sodden masses which Social Darwinism had complacently allowed to find their place under the heel of fitter men. Then it was seen that neither the fatalism of biological evolution nor the fatalism of 'scientific' socialism could withstand a vigorous assault by people who believed in the power of the human will and had the wits to combine religion, social work, army discipline, and rousing tunes.

Jacues Barzun, Dawin, Marx, and Wagner
Hit the kettles early and often. Cyber shoppers can go here.

4. Two more charities that do good work

Christian Appalachian Project

Charlotte Rescue Mission


Of gold she would not wear so much as a seal-ring, choosing to store her money in the stomachs of the poor rather than to keep it at her own disposal.

Saint Jerome: Letter 127

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tarawa

First posted 11/20/2013


On this day in 1943 the US Marines invaded the Tarawa atoll in the Gilbert Islands. For the Marines and Navy, this was the first great battle in the Central Pacific offensive.

Col. Joseph H. Alexander:

The vast oceanic expanses of Micronesia also dictated a change in naval tactics. Most of the previous amphibious assaults in the Solomons and New Guinea had been executed against large land masses which offered penetration by surprise at undefended points. These scenarios featured relatively short distances between launch bases and target objectives, often short enough to enable a shore-to-shore landing without amphibious transports. After Guadalcanal, American commanders in the South and Southwest Pacific theaters conducted every amphibious landing fully within the protective umbrella of land-based air support.

These conditions were generally absent in the Central Pacific. Operation Galvanic, the campaign to seize the Gilberts, would feature unprecedented advancves in long-range, fast carrier strike forces; large-scale, self-sustaining amphibious expeditionary units; and mobile logistic squadrons designed to sustain the momentum of those new forces. Admiral Nimitz was forming the elements of a 'sea-going blitzkrieg' that would hold tremendous significance for the outcome of the Pacific War. But much would ride on the amphibious seizure of Tarawa.
The main island, Betio, was heavily fortified. No larger than Central Park, the 4,500 defenders had constructed a dense network of pillboxes and trenches. As Alexander notes, “Yard for yard, Betio was the toughest fortified position the Marines would ever face." The Japanese commander, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki announced to his men "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years"

The 2d Marines took Betio in four days.

It was no cake walk. One thousand Americans died and another 2,100 were wounded. The American public was shocked at the high cost of taking such a small speck of land.

Shocked, but not deterred. Alexander:

Once the American public came to deal with the shock of the bodies floating in the shallows along Red Beach, the national mood became one of grim determination.
That resolution represented doom for Japan. Her war strategy was premised entirely on the idea the Americans would tire of the war and refuse to pay the price to roll back Tokyo’s conquests. This, in turn, would open the way to a negotiated settlement. Tarawa demonstrated that this premise was a pipe dream.

Later invasions in the Marshalls and Marianas benefited greatly from the lessons learned at Tarawa. At those battles, the Navy and Marines went into action with better doctrine, better weapons, and superior numbers. On Betio, they depended on guts, courage, and the initiative of enlisted men and junior officers.

Two telling sketches from Robert Leckie. The first from the day of the invasion:

In another Amtrack was a stocky corporal named John Joseph Spillane, a youngster who had a big-league throwing arm and the fielding ability which had brought Yankee and Cardinal scouts around to talk to his father. The Old Lady and Corporal Spillane went into Betio in the first wave, a load of riflemen crouching below her gunwales, a thick coat of hand-fashioned steel armor around her unlovely hull. Then she came under the sea wall and the Japanese began lobbing grenades into her.

The first came in hissing and smoking and Corporal Spillane dove for it. He trapped it and pegged it in a single, swift practiced motion. Another. Spillane picked it off in mid-air and hurled it back. There were screams. There were no more machine-gun bullets rattling against The Old Lady's sides. Two more smoking grenades end-over-ended into the amtrack. Spillane nailed both and flipped them on the sea wall. The assault troops watched him in fascination. And then the sixth one came in and Spillane again fielded and threw.

But this one exploded.

Johnny Spillane was hammered to his knees. His helmet was dented. There was shrapnel in his right side, his neck, his right hip, and there was crimson spouting from the pulp that had been his right hand.

But the assault troops had vaulted onto the beach and were scrambling for the sea wall. Though Johnny Spillane's baseball career was over, he had bought these riflemen precious time, and he was satisfied to know it as he called, 'Let's get outta here,' to his driver and the squat gray amphibian backed out into the water to take him out to the transport where the doctor would amputate his right hand at the wrist.
On 24 November, Marine Generals Holland Smith and Julian Smith toured Tarawa:

The generals Smith began to tour the island. Even Julian Smith, who had been on Betio since November 22, was stunned by what he saw. Both generals understood at last why pillboxes and blockhouses which had withstood bombs and shells had eventually fallen. Within each of them lay a half-dozen or more dead Japanese, their bodies sprawled around those of three or four Marines. Julian Smith's men had jumped inside to fight it out at muzzle range.

Many of the pillboxes were made of five sides, each ten feet long, with a pair of entrances shielded against shrapnel by buffer tiers. Each side was made of two layers of coconut logs eight inches in diameter, hooked together with clamps and railroad spikes, with sand poured between each layer. The roof was built of two similar layers of coconut logs. Over this was a double steel turret, two sheathings of quarter-inch steel rounded off to deflect shells. Over this was three feet of sand.

'By God!' Howlin' Mad exclaimed. 'The Germans never built anything like this in France. No wonder these bastards were sitting back here laughing at us. They never dreamed the marines could take this island, and they were laughing at what would happen to us when we tried it'. Howlin' Mad shook his head in disbelief. 'How did they do it, Julian?', he began, and then, below and above the sea wall he found his answer.

Below it as many as 300 American bodies floated on that abundant tide. Above it, leaning against it in death, was the body of a young Marine. His right arm was still flung across the top of the sea wall. A few inches from his fingers stood a little blue-and-white flag. It was a beach marker. It told succeeding waves where they should land. The Marine had planted it there with his life, and now it spoke such eloquent reply to that question of a moment ago that both generals turned away from it in tears.

'Julian,' Howlin' Mad Smith went on in soft amendment-- 'how can such men be defeated?'


Sunday, November 16, 2014

We still need better press critics


First, an honest journalist pushes back against a media myth.

Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says

An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof. That old dictum ought to hang on the walls of every journalism school in America. It is the salient lesson of the Gary Webb affair. It might have saved his journalism career, though it would have precluded his canonization in the new film “Kill the Messenger.”

The Hollywood version of his story a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media is pure fiction. But Webb was a real person who wrote a real story, a three-part series called “Dark Alliance,” in August 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News, one of the flagship newspapers of the then-mighty Knight Ridder chain. Webb’s story made the extraordinary claim that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in America. What he lacked was the extraordinary proof. But at first, the claim was enough. Webb’s story became notable as the first major journalism cause celebre on the newly emerging Internet. The black community roiled in anger at the supposed CIA perfidy.

Then it all began to come apart. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.
Next, CNN’s so-called press critic decides to promote the myth and the movie.

Brian Stelter is far more critical of the media outlets who tried to get the story right than the troubled reporter who got all the big things wrong.

It’s also a little weird that he cannot tell the difference between a couple of Hollywood-types and serious scholars or reporters.

After watching Stelter since he took over from Howard Kurtz, I think I’ve gotten a fair idea of his MO.

--- He gives lip-service to the idea of objective, non-partisan journalism. This is not a firm conviction so much as it is spin designed to advance CNN’s brand positioning.

--- When Stelter praises traditional standards he does so as a PR flack helping his employer and disparaging its competitors.

--- The real Stelter has no time for such niceties. He is most critical of the press when it strays off the left-wing reservation. He sees the role of the media critic as that of PC kommissar and SJW.

Thus, Gary Webb was right because he attacked CIA and the Contras, the rest of the media was wrong because they placed facts above press solidarity, and movies are good when they ignore history in favor of myths and legends.

Friday, November 14, 2014

IRS, Lois Lerner, and the end of the Republic


This piece from 2013 is still astute about the issues at stake in the IRS scandal:

Mark Steyn: The Lois Lerner Defense
He makes an important point about the power of weaponized justice:

When the most lavishly funded government on the planet comes after you, eventual guilt or innocence is irrelevant: The process is the punishment.
Plus, here is an insight hidden in plain sight that completely escaped the best minds in the MSM:

Americans are fearless if some guy pulls some stunt in a shopping mall, but an IRS assault is brutal and unending. Many activists faded away, and the media began writing stories about how the Tea Party had peaked; they were over; they wouldn’t be a factor in 2012. And so it proved. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out the other day, the plan worked.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Some times we need to read something more important than political ephemera



From the reviews: "A delightful and witty book."

Which is no surprise to anyone who has read her blog.

Which story is more likely to lead CNN on Wednesday?


Obama suffers historic defeat in midterms
GOP net gains largest in 64 years
Or

Tea Party extremists cost Republicans
GOP loses dog catcher race Cleveland marking another red state defeat

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bob Garfield would make a good poster boy for our Age of Rampant Knowingness


BREAKING NEWS CONSUMER'S HANDBOOK: INFECTIOUS DISEASE EDITION
A life-long C-list hack is suddenly an authority on infectious diseases.

A commenter had the bad form to bring up ancient history:

You know, all of the snark and poo-pooing by Bob would be more bearable if a modicum of humility was shown. Two months ago, on 8/15, you had a segment called “Ebola is not coming to the United States.” Then, 4 weeks ago on 9/26, Laura Seay repeated that “Ebola is not coming to the United States.” Perhaps a humble admission on the day after a doctor who has Ebola went bowling in Brooklyn – or focusing some of that snark on yourselves – would make your listeners a bit more eager to follow your Consumer’s Handbook.
Related:

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts

Knowledge and knowingness

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee, RIP


Legendary editor who led coverage of Watergate scandal dies at 93
Tributes pour in for Ben Bradlee
Transformed the Washington Post into a major national newspaper with an international reputation
Guided the coverage of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that helped bring down President Richard Nixon
Won more than a dozen Pulitzer Prizes for in his 26 years leading the Post
President Barack Obama heralded him as 'a true newspaper man'
His memoirs are an extraordinary read: funny, interesting, and free of pomposity. You can see him interviewed by CSPAN about the book here.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why pop music sucks


#1 RSMcain's Bonham thesis:

Neutral Objective Fact that no genuinely great rock and roll music was recorded after Sept. 25, 1980, the day John Bonham died.
#2

The Rolling Stones lost all claim to the title of "World's Greatest Rock 'n Roll Band" soon after Studio 54 opened.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ukraine crisis without blinders


An astute and succinct analysis by David Warsh:

Two Views of Russia

It was Nuland who in February was secretly taped, probably by the Russians, saying “F— the EU” for dragging its feet in supporting Ukrainian demonstrators seeking to displace its democratically-elected pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, two months after he rejected a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of one with Russia. She made a well-publicized trip to pass out food in the rebels’ encampment on Kiev’s Maidan Square in the days before Yanukovych fled to Moscow.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin said the other day, “Our Western partners, with the support of fairly radically inclined and nationalist-leaning groups, carried out a coup d’état [in Ukraine]. No matter what anyone says, we all understand what happened. There are no fools among us. We all saw the symbolic pies handed out on the Maidan,” Nuland is the pie-giver he had in mind
Victoria Nuland is a character right out of House of Cards or The Honourable Schoolboy.

Before she was nominated to her current job, Nuland was State Department spokesperson under Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Congressional firestorm over the attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

So how did the Obama administration manage to get her confirmed – on a voice vote with no debate? The short answer is that she was stoutly defended by New York Times columnist David Brooks and warmly endorsed by two prominent Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona.
She is also the wife of Robert Kagan, an advisor to GOP presidents and GOP presidential candidates.

I really wonder what went though the mind of Mitt Romney and his closest advisors when they realized that the flack lying about Benghazi and leading the charge against Romney on that issue was married to one of their foreign policy advisors.

Like I said, Politico could not do that scene .justice; it requires the talents of a LeCarre or Evelyn Waugh.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The decline of Britian: From Profumo to Rotherham


In 1963 John Profumo was Secretary of State for War in Great Britian. He was caught up in a sex and spy scandal when it was revealed that he shared a mistress with a Soviet diplomat and presumed intelligence officer.

Because he realized that he had failed in his duties and had embarrassed his party and Prime Minister, Profumo resigned. He left politics completely. He spent the rest of his life doing charity work in London's East End.

In 2014 in was revealed that hundreds of children were raped and abused in Rotherham over a period of twenty years. The town authorities had evidence that this was happening but were slow to take action.

The top policeman Shaun Wright and the head of child services, Joyce Thacker, steadfastly refuse to resign.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Worse than Watergate


Stephen Hayes has a must read piece that should trigger earthquakes in DC.

Al Qaeda Wasn’t ‘on the Run’

Why haven’t we seen the documents retrieved in the bin Laden raid?

In July, Lieutenant General Flynn left his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a year earlier than scheduled. Many intelligence professionals believe he was forced out, in part because heand many who worked for himaggressively challenged the administration’s view that al Qaeda was dying. Flynn’s views were shaped by the intelligence in the bin Laden documents.

Before he left, Flynn spoke to reporter James Kitfield, of Breaking Defense, who asked why he pushed back on the White House’s view that al Qaeda had died with Osama bin Laden. “There’s a political component to that issue, but when bin Laden was killed there was a general sense that maybe this threat would go away. We all had those hopes, including me. But I also remembered my many years in Afghanistan and Iraq. We kept decapitating the leadership of these groups, and more leaders would just appear from the ranks to take their place. That’s when I realized that decapitation alone was a failed strategy.”

Flynn recalled pushing to get information to policymakers with the hope that it might influence their decisions. “We said many times, ‘Hey, we need to get this intelligence in front of the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the national security adviser! The White House needs to see this intelligence picture we have!’?” He added: “We saw all this connective tissue developing between these [proliferating] terrorist groups. So when asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat out lying.
Hayes also gives us another reason why ValJar and Co. where so eager to accept the resignation of Gen. Petraeus:

Officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency and CENTCOM responsible for providing analysis to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan wanted to study the documents. But the CIA had “executive authority” over the collection and blocked any outside access to them.

The ensuing bureaucratic fight, reminiscent of the intragovernment battles that led to the reorganization of the intelligence community after 9/11, unfolded over the spring and fall of 2011. It was resolved, at least temporarily, when then-CIA director David Petraeus weighed in on behalf of the team from CENTCOM and the DIA, a move that did little to improve his standing with the CIA bureaucracy. Petraeus was angry when he learned that the CIA hadn’t been actively exploiting the documents, and as the former head of CENTCOM, he was sympathetic to the pleas from military intelligence. The dispute made its way to Clapper, who met with representatives of the warring agencies and agreed that DIA and CENTCOM should be allowed to study the documents.

The CIA provided access on a read-only basis, but even that limited look into bin Laden’s world made clear to the military analysts that the Obama administration’s public story on al Qaeda reflected the president’s aspirations more than reality.
Hayes article makes Max Holland’s work on Watergate journalism and Mark Felt/Deep Throat especially relevant. People like David Ignatius and Peter Bergen have some explaining to do.

You can see a talk by Holland here. The whole thing is interesting (as is his book Leak). But there is one point that now has new resonance.

Near the end of his talk Holland says this:

"The idea that Nixon would misuse the CIA for his own political purposes-- that really was the most serious count that led to the bill of impeachment."
Hayes makes the case that this White House found CIA much more helpful than Nixon’s did. Which is why, if Hayes is even half right, then we have a problem much worse than Watergate.

RTWT and share it. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the shame a few journalists for not pursuing this story.

Related:

An Inconvenient Book (review of Max Holland Leak)

An inconvenient book (Part two)

How fake narratives get made


An interesting book by Robert Andrew Powell

The Dead Women of Juárez



Powell lived in Juarez and found that the every day reality did not reflect the stories in the US media.

After I moved to Juárez, I didn’t notice that many women being killed. Or, to be more accurate, I noticed a lot of women being killed, a frightening amount at least 167 women were killed in Juárez by the end of August. It’s just that I noticed a very lot more men being killed, almost 2000 men over the same stretch of time.
The ‘femicide narrative’ so loved by the MSM inverted what was happening in Juarez. The victims were not killed ‘simply because they were women’; they died because they lived in a city where criminals held sway and drug cartels were more powerful than the legimate authorities.

The women who have been killed in Juárez while I’ve been here appear, on the whole, to be as caught up in the drug game as most of the murdered men. I’ve read about women executed in their homes or in cars alongside their husbands, their suddenly orphaned kids running into the street crying. I haven’t read about sadistic bankers from El Paso preying on women. Very few people I’ve talked to in Juárez believe the popular femicide narrative poor factory girls being snatched off the street and killed “just because they are women” -- is the story of their city.
Powell also explores the origins of the false narrative:

While noting that the murders of women, especially in Ciudad Juárez, have received a remarkable amount of attention, the vast amount of literature on the phenomenon originated mostly from “radical scholars, interest groups, international and nongovernmental organizations, and political activists, usually with little regard to the evaluation of the available data,” [Anthropologist Pedro Albuerque: wrote. Specifically he cited “preconceived notions and ad hoc statements not supported by empirical investigation.
...
“I’d argue that it wasn’t the murdered women that the media cared about as much as it was the idea of femicide and the theories of serial killing, conspiracies, and mass male backlash against women,” [Erin] Frey told me when I reached her via e-mail at her current home in Singapore, where she works for an NGO. “I’m sick of seeing articles on the subject that are a solid piece of citationless, uncredible crap.”
Certain types of serial killers are catnip to the MSM. In Juarez, radical scholars exploited that weakness to promote their anti-globalist and feminist agenda.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

China in World War Two


Historian Richard Frank recently spoke at the US Army Heritage and Education Center on China in the Second World War. It was a great lecture filled with new insights about an all but forgotten (or worse, a misremembered) theater.

For instance, how many people knew that when it was fought the Battle for Shanghai was the largest urban battle in history?

Frank is especially good at debunking the myths of Stillwell and also of Mao's Red Army. (Neither was very effective despite the journalistic propaganda on their behalf.)

You can watch the lecture here:

“China in World War II: New History; New Perspectives for Today"

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Who are you going to believe?


Your eyes or Al Sharton's lying mouth?

An expert destroys the narrative:

STEPHEN HUNTER: THOUGHTS ON FERGUSON

Thus any insistence that Michael Brown was shot with his hands up or an inordinate number of times is simply unsupportable by the known facts. It should not be assumed or repeated in any journalism that considers itself informed and unbiased. One of the saddest aspects of contemporary journalism–I worked on great newspapers for 38 years–is that almost no one on staff knows a single fact about things that go bang in the night. Some can’t tell an earplug from a rubber bullet or a semi-automatic from a full-automatic. Thus reportage on shooting incidents is always woefully flawed by ignorance and the public is ill-served, as in this disgraceful case.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Poland: First to Fight


Originally posted 1 September 2010

The popular image of Poland in WWII is of a small nation that became the first victim of the Nazi blitzkrieg and the proximate cause of the war when Great Britain and France rallied to its side.

History records a different story. Poland fought Hitler’s Reich longer than any other nation. Her contributions to the Allied victory were significant and should be reclaimed from the memory hole.

First, about the defeat in September 1939:
The Polish Army-- almost completely unmechanized, almost without air support, almost surrounded by the Germans from the outset and, shortly, completely surrounded when the Red Army joined the aggression-- fought more effectively than it has been given credit for. It sustained resistance from September 1 until October 5, five weeks, which compares highly favorably with the six and a half weeks during which France, Britain, Belgium, and Holland kept up the fight in the west the following year
(John Keegan, The Battle for History)


Despite the defeats of 1939, the Polish nation never stopped fighting. Not only did the Home Army resist the Nazis inside of occupied Poland, but Polish forces fought on every major front of the European war.

The existence of a legitimate government in exile and of a strong army abroad--Poland, even in 1944, had the fourth largest number of men fighting German after the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom-- lent a powerful heart to the Poles, who produced few collaborators and no puppet chief, a unique distinction in the record of European response to German aggression.


Polish airmen filled whole squadrons in the Battle of Britain at a time when Britain barely had enough fighter pilots to hold off the Luftwaffe. (The Kosciuszko Squadron shot down more German planes than any other fighter squadron during the battle). Ground units fought heroically in key battles in Italy and France.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Poland made to the final victory was in the realm of intelligence. They played a vital role in breaking the Enigma cipher system used by the German high command and shared their discoveries with the French and British.


The Poles eventually designed a whole array of mechanical aids -- some of which they passes to the British, some of which the British replicated independently, besides inventing others themselves-- but their original attack, which allowed them to understand the logic of Enigma, eas a workd of pure mathematical reasoning. As it was done without any modern computing machinery, but simply by pencil and paper, it must be regarded as one of the most remarkable mathematical exercises known to history.
(John Keegan, Intelligence in War)

In the first desperate years of the war, Engima/ULTRA intelligence enabled Britain to hold off the Luftwaffe and then the U-boat menace.

The Nazis never discovered the ULTRA secret in five years of war. That is an amazing testament to the Poles and the French still on the Continent who knew the secret but never divulged it, not even under Gestopo torture.


The Polish Underground was the number one source of HUMINT in occupied Europe for the British. They provided vast amounts on information on the German V-1 and V-2 secret weapons, the movements of U-boats, and the German military preparations in advance of D-Day.

Witold Pilecki is a name every student should know. He carried out what the Times of London called “perhaps the bravest act of espionage of the Second World War”: he volunteered to go inside of Auschwitz. His reports documented the Nazi’s extermination campaign against the Jews.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

The echo of the low dishonest decade


Why Was Hollywood at War with Poland?

The Left was very powerful among screenwriters in that period and many of the most unkind representations of Poles or Poland were the product of radical leftists, often members of the Communist Party. We must also remember that the Left had a particular grievance against Poland for several reasons. First, Poland was widely perceived on the Left as a reactionary country still preserving many of the characteristics of a bygone era. Secondly, the Poles had defeated Soviet Russia in the war of 1919-1921-a virtual sin to the pro-Soviet Left. Finally, Poland was the victim of a double assault in September 1939 by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Hence any mention of Poland immediately raised the issue of Communist collaboration with the Nazis and the brief era when Hitler and Stalin were allies. Hence for the Left, Poland was at least an obstacle and at most an object of hatred. There was no pro-Polish element in Hollywood to counter the Left’s powerful animus against Poland.


Reviews here and here

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hefner protection racket


Previously:

"Hugh Hefner is one in a long line of preachy perverts"

Whitewashing porn
This is an old article but there is a jaw-dropping passage that destroys the Mr. Playboy's carefully crafted image:

Hugh Hefner’s Hollow Victory

Hiding in plain sight in the June 2001 issue of Philadelphia magazine is Ben Wallace’s essay “The Prodigy and the Playmate.” In it Sandy Bentley, the Playboy cover girl and former Hefner girlfriend (along with her twin sister Mandy), describes Hefner’s current sexual practices in just enough detail to give you a good long pause:

“The heterosexual icon [Hugh Hefner] … had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn.”

This statement may seem either shocking or trivial. But it points to that which Hefner’s detractors have been saying for years: Pornography stifles the development of genuine human relationships. Pornography is a manifestation of arrested development. Pornography reduces spiritual desire to Newtonian mechanics. Pornography, indulged long enough, hollows out sex to the point where even the horniest old goat is unable to physically enjoy the bodies of nubile young females.
We are left, then, to ponder the original question: Why does the MSM protect and promote Hefner and Playboy? If journalists truly were the iconoclastic skeptics they claim to be, then, debunking the Playboy myth would be a thriving enterprise for the MSM.

Instead we get puff pieces that even Parson Weems would find overly sycophantic.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Flashman


A wonderful appreciation of George Macdonald Fraser's entertaining anti-hero.

Flashman and the Greatest Chronicler of the Victorian Age

Unlike Flashman, there was nothing affected about his heroism. I’d recommend his memoir Quartered Safe Out Here (1992) of his time fighting the Japanese in Burma. But he was more than a good soldier and sage commentator on the futility of modern warfare: he built his writing career, despite having no educational qualifications, to become through the Flashman novels one of the foremost experts on the Victorian era. History is never dull in the Flashman Papers.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No justice, no peace


The federal trial of the [LAPD] officers was as political as any trial of radicals during the Cold War.

Lou Cannon, Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD,

Yet the same MSM that never tires of telling the story of the poor "victims of McCarthyism" is happy to encourage even greater injustices if the target is a cop or other enemy of the left. (See Duke lacrosse hoax)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Watergate: Beyond the Standard Version


A couple of interesting items on Watergate.

Unified Theory on Watergate

The 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation just passed. The myths around the Watergate scandal are many and deep. Like all bits of American history, there is the official version and the truth. We will never know the truth, but the official version looks shakier with each year. The reason for pushing him out looks quaint as our elected and unelected elite commit far more heinous acts and far greater abuses of power. Members of his team bugged an office? Heh, how simple. Bug the world like Bush-Obama.

John Dean: Behind the Mask of Sanity
It is really rather astonishing. We are 40 years past Nixon's resignation and yet the MSM is still promoting the crude "first draft of history" crafted by Woodward, Bernstein, and Redford.

The MSM does not just ignore the many interesting questions surrounding Watergate, they actively work to shutdown discussion of them.

Related:

An inconvenient book (Part One)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“I” is for “Impeachment”… and for “Idiots”


Why conservatives lose

Thomas Sowell gets it

LAWSUITS AND IMPEACHMENT

Whenever Democrats are in real trouble politically, the Republicans seem to come up with something new that distracts the public’s attention from the Democrats’ problems. Who says Republicans are not compassionate?

With public opinion polls showing President Obama’s sinking approval rate, in the wake of his administration’s multiple fiascoes and scandals the disgraceful treatment of veterans who need medical care, the Internal Revenue Service coverups, the tens of thousands of children flooding across our open border Republicans have created two new distractions that may yet draw attention away from the Democrats’ troubles.

From the Republican establishment, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced plans to sue Barack Obama for exceeding his authority. And from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, former Governor Sarah Palin has called for impeachment of the president.
Calling for impeachment is a great way to fire up parts of the base. As Dr. Sowell points out, it only helps the administration and their allies with the public at large.

Carl Bernstein tells an interesting story from the fall of 1972 when Nixon was cruising to his landslide:

As recounted in All the President’s Men, during this period Bob and I would often meet for coffee in a little vending machine room off the newsroom floor. These were our strategy sessions. Just the two of us, and really bad cups of coffee. We reviewed the status of where we were on each story, and discussed what kind of presentation we would make that day to our editors. Sometimes, we thought, they were awfully slow to recognize the value of a particular piece of our work. We had elaborate good-cop/bad-cop routines that we more or less rehearsed over the coffee. Usually I was the bad cop.

One of our conversations in the vending machine room was intentionally left out of All the President’s Men.

During the fall of 1972 we had established that there was a secret cash slush fund maintained by the Nixon re-election committee CREEP. It had financed the Watergate break-in operation and other campaign espionage and sabotage. The key to discovering the possible involvement by higher-ups was this fund. The CREEP treasurer, Hugh Sloan, and the bookkeeper, Judy Hoback, had after several days of teeth-pulling interview sessions told us that John Mitchell was one of the five who controlled the fund. Deep Throat had confirmed this. Mitchell, Nixon’s former law partner, former campaign manager and former attorney general of the United States, was the ultimate higher-up. The man. And we were about to write a story saying that the man was a criminal.

As we reviewing the story and its implications, I put a coin into the coffee machine and experienced a literal chill going down my neck--a sensation sufficiently vivid, unanticipated and unprecedented that I recall it even now with almost a shudder.

“Oh my God,” I said to Bob. My back was to him. I turned. “The president is going to be impeached.”

Bob sat motionless. He looked at me for a second or two in the strangest way. But it was not a look of skepticism or any sense of dismissing what I had saidnot the look he delivered many times on my occasional flights of fancy.

“Jesus I think you’re right,” said the staid man from the Midwest.

It had not occurred to me that such a thought had crossed his mind too. Even the most partisan Nixon-haters to our knowledge had not suggested such a possibility. It was only three months after the break-in at the Watergate. It would be another twelve months before Congress took up impeachment, and 22 months before Nixon resigned. “We can never us that word in this newsroom,” Bob said.

I saw the point. Our editors might think that we had an agenda or that our reporting was overreaching or even that we had gone around the bend. Any suggestion about the future of the Nixon Presidency could undermine our work and the Post’s efforts to be fair.

We did not tell this story in All the President’s Men because the book was published in April 1974 in the midst of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation of President Nixon. To recount it then might have given might have given the impression that impeachment had been our goal all along.
Woodward understood that the majority of the public would tune out their reporting if they believed it was fueled by an anti-Nixon agenda.

In Watergate, the public was swayed because they were bombarded for two years with facts, evidence, and arguments. Conservatives and Republicans have done nothing of the sort with the Obama scandals.

Historian Alonzo Hamby on the effort that deposed Nixon:

The Ervin and Cox operations shared information extensively and together constituted the most formidable group of investigators that had ever looked into the dark recesses of any administration. Cox gathering evidence for the quiet legal processes of the courtroom, Ervin and his colleagues accumulating information and arguments for the political processes upon which Nixon's ultimate fate depended.
Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, have shown themselves to be something less than “formidable investigators” or persuasive advocates.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Ukraine: Why have we not heard from the “41ers”?


Most Republican criticism of President Obama’s Ukraine policy has come from alumnae and ideological allies of Bush 43. The critics accept the premise of Victoria Nuland’s policies: that Ukraine should be integrated into the EU, that NATO should move its frontiers closer to the Russian homeland, that the struggle with Putin is a zero sum game, and that fomenting a coup against a Putin ally is wise policy.

The critics harp on the need for greater strength, greater resolve, greater confrontation.

The debate is only between imperialist hawks and superhawkish imperialists. The policy differences are small; it is mostly a matter of how loud one rattles the sabers.

I’ve noted before that Bush ’41 had a completely different approach to Moscow and its former satellites. (See here and here).

Here is President George H. W. Bush himself in a speech to the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev in August 1991:

Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based on ethic hatred.
This is a viewpoint that deserves a hearing today.

Morning Chesterton


Not everyone realizes how much of what is called Progress is really procrastination. It is not so much hurrying toward the ideal state; it is rather, hurling the ideal state onwards far in front of us, that it may be a good long time before we catch up with it.
Illustrated London News
4 February 1933