Thursday, June 07, 2018

Respected editor (NY Times alum) both defends and condemns doxxing


Is she too stupid to understand simple words and concepts?

Does she really think she lives in a quasi-feudal system where her class has special privileges?

Or is she a thorough-going SJW who thinks impartial rules need to be replaced with Lenin's "Who-whom"?

Yes, the HuffPo is a sleazy left-wing click-bait site. But:

1. It is a Popular click-bait site and it is not treated as sleazy by the MSM guild.

2. It's editor-in-chief is a former reporter and editor at the New York Times. Which may tell us something about the ethics/ideology of the Times.

3. It is owned by Verizon. It is not a fly-by-night operation.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Brooks-Sailer boundary


How the Deciders decide what you should read:

This explains why David Brooks writes for the New York Times and Steve Sailer does not

William Rusher to William F. Buckley:

I recently read somewhere a little homily to the effect that if a person makes us think we're thinking, we love him; but if he he makes us think, we hate him. Take your choice-- and then make up your mind to take the consequences.

Why the Times editors like David Brooks:

In 2003, Brooks got a call from New York Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins inviting him to lunch. Collins was looking for a conservative to replace outgoing columnist William Safire, but one who understood how liberals think. “I was looking for the kind of conservative writer that wouldn’t make our readers shriek and throw the paper out the window,” says Collins. “He was perfect.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

More Tom Wolfe


This is from the commencement address at Boston University he delivered in 2000.

It has one of the best dissections of modern intellectuals you will ever read:

It's the fact that we live in an age in which ideas, important ideas, are worn like articles of fashion - and for precisely the same reason articles of fashion are worn, which is to make the wearer look better and to feel à la mode.

Now, we must be careful to make a distinction between the intellectual and the person of intellectual achievement. The two are very very different animals. There are people of intellectual achievement, who increase the sum of human knowledge, the powers of human insight, and analysis. And then there are the intellectuals. An intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who speaks out only in others.

If you become indignant, this elevates you to the plane of "intellectual." No mental activity is required. It is a rule, to which there has never been an exception, that when an actor or a television performer rises up to the microphone at one of these awards ceremonies and expresses moral indignation over something, he illustrates Marshall McLuhan's dictum that "moral indignation is a standard strategy for endowing the idiot with dignity."
I also liked this:

This university has been a shining lighthouse of independent thought and of liberal democracy in the classical meaning of "liberal" as John Silber has so wonderfully defined it over the years. I choose the image of a lighthouse very carefully, John and Jon, because lighthouses are built to stand alone and to bear the brunt of the storm, no matter what that storm may be.
We cannot all be geniuses like Tom Wolfe. But we can strive to be lighthouses.

Related:

Tom Wolfe, RIP

What a difference a year makes

The mark of a great editor

Sauce/Goose/Gander

Virginia Woolf: Nietzsche on the fainting couch


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Kaus-Reynolds Paradox


Instapundit had a good question after the Parkland school shooting:

Looking for 'solutions' to mass killings? Start with punishing failure.

Law enforcement keeps failing, and people keep dying. Where are the consequences? Where is the accountability?

And yet these repeated failures among others keep getting swept under the rug as we look for “solutions” to the problem of violence.
“Accountability” for government died in the fires of Waco.

Mickey Kaus was really on point on this at the time.

Am I alone in thinking there's something perverse, even a bit obscene about the current lionization of Attorney General Janet Reno?

She made a disastrous decision that resulted in the loss of more than 70 lives. Then she accepted ''responsibility.'' In a bizarre bit of political alchemy, this somehow protected her from suffering any of the consequences that normally attend disastrously handled responsibilities. Far from restoring accountability, Reno seems to have hit on the formula for avoiding it. Make a dreadful mistake? Go immediately on "Nightline." Say the buck stops with you. Recount in moving human terms the agony of your decision. And watch your polls rise. Truman plus Donahue equals Absolution.
Over and over we see the Kaus-Reynolds paradox play out:

1. A government agency fails.

2. When it finally ‘fesses up, the failure is immediately consigned to the memory hole.

3. The consequences of its failure are then used as a justification for giving that agency more power over ordinary citizens who had nothing to do with the failed policies and botched operations.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wargames that really mattered


Good article article on the role wargaming played in the Royal Navy's anti-Uboat campaign.

Wargaming the Atlantic War (.pdf)
After Hitler lost the Battle of Britain, the Atlantic Campaign was his only real hope to force Great Britain out of the war.

The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.... Our lifeline, even across the broad oceans and especially in the entrances to the island was endangered. I was even more anxious about this battle than I had been about the glorious air fight called the Battle of Britain....

So we poised and pondered together on this problem. It did not take the form of flaring battles and glittering achievements. It manifested itself through statistics, diagrams, and curves unknown to the nation, incomprehensible to the public.
Winston Churchill,
Their Finest Hour
The Royal Navy did a remarkable job exploiting wargaming in this case. The combined games and after action reports from combat to solve problems and improved doctrine and tactics while the campaign was raging.

I also had no idea that the Women's Reserve Naval Service played such a critical role.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Understanding MAGA and Trumpland


This is one of the best discussions of Trump and his appeal that I've read. From Charles Kesler and the Claremont Review of Books:

THINKING ABOUT TRUMP


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tom Wolfe, RIP

I still stand by this from 2006:

The Great American Novelists

Missing from the list is Tom Wolfe. That is no surprise. Wolfe does not win literary prizes and is despised by many of the biggest names in the literary pantheon. (Check out "My Three Stooges" in Hooking Up). But Wolfe has this going for him: if the mark of greatness is having something to say about "where we are and where we are going", he trumps everybody on the list. Does anyone in Denver look up from her Sunday paper and say "this sounds just like a John Updike novel"? How many people turn on the cable news programs and think "Is Philip Roth scripting this"? Yet from Tawana Brawley to the Duke Lacrosse case, Tom Wolfe scouted the territory before anyone else.

So we were wrong. We are sorry, I guess. But we really don't care and will do it again.


I find these stories maddening.

Everyone Got The Pulse Massacre Story Completely Wrong
Sure, it's nice that some reporters note incorrect stories. But i doubt the guild's commitment to the truth because they never change their behavior.

They keep playing their pointless and stupid reporter games:

The profession plays by a set of rules which add excitement and permit score-keeping. The former is superficial and the latter is spurious, BUT THE PRACTITIONERS NO LONGER RECOGNIZE THIS. They think such things matter in the larger scheme of things.
And they do not recognize that their "Get it fast even if it if is wrong" mindset has long-lasting consequences to public discourse.

A few months ago I wrote a review of Changing Minds by Howard Gardner for Strategy and Leadership. He is especially pessimistic on our capacity to change our own minds. We do not, on the whole, accept new facts and revise our theories. Rather, we interpret or disregard the new information to make it fit our theories. This is not a matter of IQ or lack of education. He points out that intellectuals are "particularly susceptible" to removing cognitive dissonance by "reinterpreting" the facts.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Proverbs 4

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.
 vv: 14-16

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Understanding intelligence


Robin Winks:

[There are] no secret documents in the romantic sense of the words. On any important subject, there is no single document or even group of documents that contain "the secret." No spy could know enough to spot such a document if it existed, and no vacuum cleaner approach to espionage, even should it gather up two or three documents of the highest importance, would lead without all the analytical skills of the humanists to any valid conclusions. Documents do not speak: they do not declare that they are "the offbeat thoughts and recommendations of a highly-placed but erratic advisor," not a draft intended only for discussion, not a record of a decision rescinded orally the next day.
******
Research and analysis are at the core of intelligence . . . . [Most] `facts' are without meaning; someone must analyze even the most easily obtained data.
Cloak and Gown
William Millward:

'Intelligence' refers to both a skill and end-product. As a meaningful concept it has been spoilt by Fleming, le Carre, and many other less talented writers. In the present context I would define it as the method employed by Sherlock Holmes; not the sleuth on the trail with his magnifying glass, but the intellectual sitting quietly and consuming his ounce of shag. It means reviewing known facts, sorting out significant from insignificant, assessing them severally and jointly, and arriving at a conclusion by the exercise of judgment: part induction, part deduction. Absolute intellectual honestly is essential. The process must not be muddied by emotion or prejudice, nor by a desire to please. The skill is largely innate, but can be sharpened by a course of rigorous academic training. The Americans talk about 'intelligence analysis' and 'analysts' and the terminology is crossing the Atlantic. It is not ideal, since the process is as much synthesis as analysis.
"Life in and out of Hut 3"
Code Breakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park
John Keegan:

There is no such thing as the golden secret, the piece of 'pure intelligence', which will resolve all doubt and guide a general or admiral to an infallible solution of his operational problems. Not only is all intelligence less than completely accurate; its value is altered by the unrolling of events.
Intelligence in War


Friday, May 11, 2018

Coping with a VUCA world


VUCA= Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous

Found here:
Want to Be a Better Leader? Follow Satya Nadella’s 3 Rules for Disruption
While we may give lip service to the idea that the world is VUCA, our actions say that we are liars.

1. Our business and public policy schools still rely heavily on traditional case studies. The meta-lesson of nearly every case study is that the world and its problems are easily and quickly understood.

Case Studies

One of the real problems with business education is the heavy use of prepackaged case studies. While they purport to hone critical thinking skills, they also impart false lessons. Future managers come to believe that the information in front of them is complete, reliable, and predictive. The only thing left to do is exercise some thinking and then make a decision.

In real life it will never be that simple. Numbers are shaky and dirty data is a persistent problem. In the beginning there won't be enough critical information on the matter at hand. At the same time , there will be a flood of trivial and irrelevant material that demands attention.

It is tempting to wait until more data and better data can be obtained. Unfortunately, time is often a critical competitive dimension.
2. Our leading business and management thinkers proffer theories which make the world look more predictable and malleable than it really is:

Clausewitz vs. Porter

Clausewitz presents descriptive theories, his aim is to help the future commander prepare himself for the challenges he will face. In contrast, Porter's work is intensely prescriptive. His Five-factor framework and generic strategies are templates waiting for the executive's implementation.

Porter's, then, implies that the key to business strategy is "knowing". The doing will almost take care of itself. Clausewitz never presumed that the science of war (which gets studied in peacetime) could ever supplant the art of war (which wins actual battles and campaigns).
See also:
Waiting for our Clausewitz
3. Our public institutions are ill-prepared to deal with the inevitable jolts and crises of a VUCA world:

What was the Fed thinking in the summer of 2008?

There was no real planning or preparation for crisis. They did not have contingency plans for the post-Lehamn fallout just has they did not have a clear understanding of what the failure of a TBTF institution would mean.
See also:
A catastrophic failure of imagination
*****

Fortunately, we have ways of coping with these challenges. If we cannot predict the future, we can become more resilient when surprised.

We know how to study the past to prepare for (not predict) the future.

The historian Michael Howard wrote a brilliant article ("The Use and Abuse of Military History")* on the right way for officers to study military history. He offered up three general rules:

1. Study in breadth. Look at wars and campaigns over a long sweep of time. Look for both similarities and discontinuities.

Only by seeing what does change can one deduce what does not.

2. Study in depth. Look at a single campaign by reading a variety of histories, memoirs, letters, diaries, etc. Recognize the confusion, chaos and varying perspectives at work. (Clearly, this is the antithesis of the classic business case study.)

3. Study in context. Do not just look at the military action, study the sociology and politics of the nations involved. Again, these are perspectives that are usually absent in the analysis of strategy foisted on executives and students.
See also:
Wargames in the classroom

Wargames and crisis management


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rational actors choosing self-destruction


Germany almost won WWI in 1917. Russia collapsed into revolution and surrender. Italy was propped up only with difficulty. The US had entered the war but could not yet contribute significant forces.

The critical moment came in the spring of 1917 when morale in the French armies collapsed after the failure of the Nivelle offensives. Some divisions mutinied and refused to obey orders. Both London and Paris worried that the mutinies presaged revolution in France and the end of the Third Republic.

Part of the panic was due to shock and dashed hopes. The year began with Gen. Robert Nivelle taking over as supreme commander of the French armies. He was a man with a plan to win the war with one more big push. The Allies gained a little ground but the butcher’s bill was unbearably high. It pushed the French Army past its breaking point.

Neville was not an obvious choice to lead the French armies. He was an artillery officer who only took command of the 2d Army in May 1916 when Gen. Petain was promoted to command Army Group Center during the Battle of Verdun.

The French government chose Nivelle as C-in-C in December over the heads of more senior generals such as Petain, Foch, and Castelnau.

Neville was a charismatic figure with a soaring reputation after the victory at Verdun. The critical factor in his rise, however was ideological. The French government was vehemently anti-clerical and Nivelle was not Catholic.
David Murphy:

All officers were discouraged from going to mass or having other church associations. To the disgust of many officers, the army was used in the forcible expropriation of church property. More insidiously, André encouraged republican officers to spy on their brother officers and a system of files, or ‘fiches’, was compiled in order to record the activities of officers with church sympathies. André also made use of groups of Freemasons within the army to carry out the necessary surveillance and reporting.8 Church-going or other outward signs of devoutness were recorded and officers who displayed such tendencies found themselves passed over for promotion. One such was Colonel Ferdinand Foch, who, after a mixed wartime career, would later serve as the supreme Allied commander from 1918.

Nivelle had only limited experience as an army commander, having commanded Second Army since May 1916.10 To an objective eye, there were other more senior general officers who were potential choices. The chief of staff at the GQG, General Castelnau, seemed to many to be an obvious choice to succeed Joffre but his long association with Joffre meant politicians doubted his ability. He was also a devout Catholic, which increased doubts among the more radical factions within government.
As absurd as it sounds, the political and intellectual classes in France feared the Catholic church more than the armies of the Kaiser.

A great reminder that ideological blinders are hard to shed.

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
Saul Bellow


Saturday, April 21, 2018

A great man


No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of common sense.
Lord Salisbury, 1877



Saturday, April 14, 2018

#MeToo: The MSM refuses to take its own medicine


In the wake of the Tailhook scandal, the US Navy underwent something resembling a purge. Careers were ended. War heroes were driven from the service on the basis of media reports which ‘raised suspicions’ or left ‘lingering questions.’ To be named was to be usually enough to overshadow everything else an officer had done.

This expansive view of scandal apparently still prevails in the Navy:

Fat Leonard: the Rolling Blob’s Frag Pattern
Once again, a career is ended on the basis of tangential associations, lingering suspicions, and fear of media reaction.

Or take the damage done to the reputation of Joe Paterno in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The case against JoePa breaks down something like this.

1. Bad things happened in State College
2. Joe Paterno lived in State College and wielded great influence there.
3. Therefore Paterno must have known about these bad things and should have stopped them.
The logic of this case is shaky and the facts are not as clear as press reports portray them. (See Framing Paterno for more). Yet many of the MSM’s best and brightest looked at this argument and called for the end of football at Penn State and a thorough house-cleaning of the coaches and administrators.

We haven’t seen the same moral fervor directed toward the news/entertainment industry. The standards applied to Penn State and Paterno have not been applied to Hollywood or the MSM in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer revelations.

All those people who worked with Weinstein are permitted to issue pro-forma denials “I had no idea” and no more questions are raised.

Jeff Zucker worked with Matt Lauer for years. Yet all he had to do was play Sgt. Schultz “I knew nothing” and everybody was happy to move on.

Zucker wants us to believe he is blind and profoundly uncurious. He also wants us to believe that this is no bar to leading “the most trusted name in news.”

We must have transparency say the same news organizations that are using NDAs to hide the predations of their one-time stars.

'Terrified' CBS executives 'warn employees about violating NDAs ahead of Charlie Rose sexual misconduct expose as they fear being named for ignoring misconduct complaints'
No one in the MSM seems interested in examining how Weinstein was able to use the respectable media to intimidate his accusers and deflect attention away from his behavior.

Harvey Weinstein counted on a complicit media


Friday, April 13, 2018

Sad truth


We obviously are going through an interesting period of semi-literacy, where everybody can write, but few people will or can read.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited (1990)
And he wrote that before the internet, smartphones or Twitter. Imagine how much worse it is today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lest we forget


Colin Gray:

So What! The Meaning of Strategy

You probably will not prove able to fight your way out of the waging of the wrong war. To be fair to bold policymakers, one must conclude that often it will not be at all obvious ahead of time just how fickle the gods of war can prove themselves to be. However, it can surely be no secret that a decision to wage war, almost any war at any time and in any environment, will be a gamble. Also, war is different from all else in the human historical narrative.
More from Gray:

Why strategy is difficult

Competence cannot offset folly along the means-ends axis of strategy. Military history is littered with armies that won campaigns in the wrong wars.

Since the future is unforeseeable--do not put faith in the phrase "foreseeable future"--we must use only assets that can be trusted. Specifically, we plan to behave strategically in an uncertain future on the basis of three sources of practical advice: historical experience, the golden rule of prudence (we do not allow hopes to govern plans), and common sense. We can educate our common sense by reading history. But because the future has not happened, our expectations of it can only be guesswork. Historically guided guesswork should perform better than one that knows no yesterdays. Nonetheless, planning for the future, like deciding to fight, is always a gamble.
And always, Clausewitz:

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgement that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test [of war as an instrument of policy] the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.
...
No one starts a war-- or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-- without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

WMD redux


Interesting piece by David Warsh:

Cloak and… Megaphone

The Skripal affair is obviously different. The attempt on the lives of a former Russian spy and his daughter, on British soil, using some variant of a nerve gas developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s, has been condemned around the world. It seems to echo the 2006 assassination in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian Secret Service specialist in organized crime who had defected.

But while the British prime minister Theresa May has accused the Russian government of “almost certainly” perpetrating the crime, details of her government’s investigation have been skimpy and, so far, unconvincing. Knowledgeable skeptics have been busy, especially the blogger Moon of Alabama.

Even less apparent has been a plausible motive. Why further sabotage relations with the West on the eve of the showcase soccer matches? Are there no other powerful factions, in Moscow or elsewhere, who might benefit from the further rupture of relations that has ensued? The Russians, of course, have claimed they were framed.
The same question of motive arises in the case of Syria's alleged use of poison gas in Ghouta last week.

From all appearances Assad's fortunes were on the rise. His forces were gaining ground and the Trump admin signalled that they were not ready to add Syria to the list misbegotten foreign adventures. Moreover, he was about to gain a powerful propaganda win as Syrian Christians returned to their churches to worship on Easter Sunday in areas his forces liberated from ISIS.

If he used gas, then he threw all that away all that. For what gain?

The western media will happily traffic in conspiracy theories when they attack their preferred targets. Hence, Russian "experts" like Masha Gessen are allowed to speculate that Putin and his allies were responsible for terrorist outrages in Moscow. But no one dares suggest that an anti-Assad group would mount a false flag attack in a last-ditch attempt to provoke US intervention.

Grand strategy


I've linked to this lecture several times. It is a great introduction to grand strategy as both a discipline and a feature in US foreign policy.



No surprise then that i am pretty excited about this new book.




Thursday, April 05, 2018

The big Sinclair freakout


Good take here:

The Freakout Over Sinclair Isn’t About Bias. It’s About The Wrong Bias
All the usual suspects (hey Tater!) are up in arms about Sinclair’s rather anodyne branding exercise.

When Dan Rather denounces you and Dick Durbin threatens you… you’re probably doing something right.

I almost expect Team Mueller to leak that they’ve opened up an investigation on Sinclair for conspiracy to undermine the Deciders.

It is telling that this mass freakout began when Deadspin that miserable spawn of Gawker rang the bell. The herd of independent minds that make up the respectable chattering classes immediately started their Pavlovian barking.


The keepers of media ethics had no real problem with Journolist but a short promotional video is the end of free thought.

Well, actually, the Sinclair statement does present a real threat. Narratives are sustained by endless repetition. If local stations stop mindlessly parroting CNN-approved tropes, then the battle for explanation space could be lost.

Sinclair understands that what is good for the journalist guild and the New York Times is NOT good for Sinclair or their viewers. Sinclair has no desire to emulate Newsweek:

This is a case study in agency theory. The stockholders want Newsweek to maximize the returns it pays to them. The best way to do that is to write a high-quality publication that appeals to a broad audience. The writers and editors are seeking career advancement. You don’t get that appealing to the morons in flyover territory with simplistic bourgeois truth. You get ahead in the media by impressing the media elites, the unofficial campaigners, the reality-based community.

So Newsweek, like many publications, increasingly focused on appealing to a very narrow K-Street/Upper East Side/90210 crowd. That trashed the magazine’s reader base and ruined the company, but it made a lot of journolists into Big Names.

The Agents succeed by gutting the Principals. Tis a twice-told tale
.


Harvey Weinstein counted on a complicit media


That's why we need a different sort of #MeToo

The Frontline investigation into Weinstein and his behavior did not have a lot of revelations, but it did give a voice to several women he preyed upon. Worth a watch.

Watch here.

One very interesting thing did come up. There is a short interview with gossip-monger A. J. Benza who admits that he, in effect, facilitated Weinstein's cover-ups. (He claims that he knew nothing of the sexual assaults, just your usual consensual adultery).

"The gossip industry is run on the barter system. If I've got a story about you and you don't want it printed you say 'Hold it. I'll give you something better' and I'll print the other story and save you."
Benza admits that he engaged in these trades with HW. It seems likely that he was not the only gossip-monger who did so.

This suggests that HW reaped two benefits from his private network of spies. Not only could he use them to unearth dirt with which to intimidate his victims or nosy reporters, he could also use dirt on uninvolved parties. This he could trade to gossip-mongers and throw them off his scent.

HW did not invent this technique. The old Hollywood studios were masters of this game. Rock Hudson's agent played the game to keep his client's personal life private.

So gossip is a sleazy business. Yet, nearly all MSM outlets end up involved in that business. They might be corporate siblings of a gossip-merchant (e.g. NBC and E! networks). Or they might use gossip-mongers as talking heads and "reporters" when they cover entertainment news (see every network morning news show).

Yet this never seems to upset the media critics. Nor have those critics demanded an accounting from those gossip purveyors who helped Weinstein deflect and conceal during his reign of terror. Whose reputation was trashed with information provided by HW's private Stasi?

According to William Safire, the intelligence world has a phrase: "walking back the cat". It means "examining old analyses in light of new information." It might be a good time to walk back the cat when it comes to some of the women whose reputations and careers were damaged in unexpected tabloid firestorms.

How many of those firestorms were started by HW to deflect or deter?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Rejoice! He is risen!


Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

And they remembered his words,

And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Luke 24: 1-12


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Defending the indefensible


This may be the worst thing written in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The lesson of the 'Broward Coward'
A myriad of journalists have said many stupid and dishonest things in the wake of the shooting. Leave it to the Boston Globe to defend the School Resource Officer who refused to intervene and then double down by mounting a full-throated defense of cowardice in general.
He begins by using discredited research which he then distorts to defame the Greatest Generation.

IN 1947, SAMUEL Lyman Atwood Marshall published a small book with shocking findings about the citizen-soldiers that had just helped save the world. Only one in four infantrymen in the Greatest Generation had actually fired their weapons during combat, the journalist-turned-soldier declared in the book "Men Against Fire." The book set off a scandal: Why were there so many cowards?
So much dishonesty in one short paragraph.

To begin, SLA Marshall was a fraud who falsified his research. (Kingsbury admits this far down in his column but then treats it as no big deal). Second, Marshall's famous "1 in 4" factoid relates to individual engagements not the entire wartime experience of the soldiers involved. Lastly, not even Marshall and his acolytes ascribed the failure to shoot entirely, or even largely to "cowardice".

While he has a soft spot for cowards, Kinsbury really, really hates the idea of an armed citizenry.

Indeed, if the country's weapons makers had their way, we'd all carry guns that we might - or might not - bring ourselves to use if the moment came. Maybe students, too.

Would universal lock-and-load empower heroics? Surely. But would the fear of being labeled a coward compel reckless shooting? Just as certainly. Trump's plan would also make it the duty of classroom teachers to open fire, with the implicit threat that they'd be branded cowards if they did not.

Arming teachers or average citizens forces them to sign the same social contract - protect society or die trying. Should it be the duty of every teacher to shoot down an armed intruder if the situation arises? Would teachers be heroes if they succeeded in their counterattack? Would they be cowards if they wouldn't or couldn't?
Like so many in the MSM Kingsbury condescends to those who believe in armed self-defense. They are not rational men and women who have made a considered decision to be armed. No, they are dolts who are at the mercy of gun-makers and their advertising.

He also presents a false choice. Ending the "gun-free zone" absurdity does not compel teachers to become nascent SWAT operators who must " protect society or die trying." It simply allows teachers so inclined to have the option of defending themselves and their students if trouble finds them. Fewer defenseless soft targets. More hard targets.

And note that he cites that favorite trope of the Eloi - more armed citizens will mean more "reckless shooting." They've been trotting this idea out since Florida started the renaissance in CCW back in the 1990s. And yet, as the number of CCW-holders increased over the decades, the violent crime rate dropped.

A few observations from David Gelernter:

This is from his 1997 book Drawing Life:

History is inspiring. Bravery is inspiring. It is shameful we no longer teach this to our children.
These quotes are from a 1998 article in the Weekly Standard, "Unresolved Evil":

What matters is our communal response to the crime. Evil is easy, good is hard, temptation is a given; therefore, a healthy society talks to itself.

Such ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones. We need to hear them, and hear good acts praised, too. We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.

Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on.


Related:
Mass Murder: What can be done?




Monday, March 26, 2018

The MSM succumbs to mass psychosis


Or, perhaps, shameless propaganda. It’s hard to be sure.

The Trump/Russian collusion narrative is an odd thing. It is sustained by screaming headlines and breathless tweets. Most of the time the substance of the stories fail to live up to the hype.

And then there are those stories which seem irreconcilable. While each may be plausible, they seem to contradict one another. That is, while either may be true, it is absurd to believe that both can be true. Yet outlets like CNN expect us to do just that.

On one hand we are supposed to accept that Putin is a bloodthirsty totalitarian who has brought High Stalinism back to the Kremlin. He is a rogue autocrat so bent on political murder that he is willing to kill defectors in the West despite the inevitable repercussions to East-West relations.

At the same time we are expected to believe that people high up in the Russian intelligence apparatus are eager to blab about secret active measures. Despite Putin’s brutal record, these “deeply knowledgeable sources” display so little fear that they are happy to help foreign spies and ex-spies compile dossiers that reveal these active measures.

Those spies, ex-spies, operatives, and ex-operatives also manifest a cavalier disregard for source protection and operational security.

From PowerLine:

Steele reported that the friends of Vladimir Putin apprised him of Russia’s efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. Why, you might ask, would the friends of Vladimir Putin entrust Christopher Steele with the goods on Russia’s alleged efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign?

I have not seen a good answer to that question and Mayer doesn’t really offer one other than that everybody loves Christopher Steele like she does. And of course there are obvious reasons why knowledgable Russians would not deliver true intelligence to Steele. As Eric Felten puts it in the excellent Weekly Standard article “A doozy of a dossier”: “Given the relative trivialities that can get one beaten to death in a Russian prison, these senior officials would seem to have exhibited an extraordinarily cavalier attitude toward their own health and well-being.”
Does anyone at the WaPo or CNN think about issues like this before they start hyping their latest scoop? Do they care about the truth?

Or have they succumbed to the Cult of Truthiness in their Trump Derangement?

Related:

The problem of the press in five tweets

Monday, March 19, 2018

Strategy and management


A brief article on a subject dear to my heart:

Two Worlds of Strategy
There are two worlds of strategy and most people are only aware of one. There is the world of corporate strategy articulated and taught in places like Harvard Business School. There is the world of military strategy articulated and taught in the various service war colleges. These two worlds never interact in any meaningful or sustained manner.
...
One of the primary reasons why so many people are unfamiliar with both worlds of strategy is that intellectual leaders of both worlds studiously ignore each other. Scholars who live in the mainstream of the field of management ignore military strategy. To illustrate this assertion, all one has to do is look at one year’s worth of Academy of Management Review, one of the most prominent management journals. In 2006, for example, Academy published fifty-nine different articles on a broad variety of management topics and these articles cumulatively contained 5,288 citations that were derived from a wide range of academic fields. .... What is interesting in this case is that not one single citation of more than five thousand citations derived from the field of military strategy.
I've tackled this topic a few times.....

Strategic problems and the problem with strategy

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)


The Gawker story and our decadent media


This edition of the Federalist Radio Hour is a revelation. I can't wait to read the author's book.

Unraveling The Insane Story Of Gawker, Hulk Hogan, And Peter Thiel: Author Ryan Holiday examines the nearly unbelievable conspiracy of how Hulk Hogan and few secret individuals were able to dismantle the infamous Gawker.
Also learned something newsworthy while listening:

The lawyer who got the hush money for Stormy Daniels also tried to shake down Hulk Hogan.

AND HE USED THE MEDIA AS PART OF HIS SLEAZY STRATEGY.

Just the Daniels camp is using CNN right now against Trump.

More here:

The Insane Backstory Behind The Lawyer Who Shook Down Donald Trump (and Hulk Hogan)
This would be a great topic for Reliable Sources. But I doubt we will ever see that.



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Polarization, confirmation bias, and media malpractice


The press claims to hate it, so why are they making it worse?

This article makes a key point about modern marketing which has serious implications for political debate and the health of the republic.

How The Principle Of Triage Can Benefit Your Brand

The second group, can be broadly described as rejecters of the brand. Even heavy spend against this group will have minimal effect, because of the problem of confirmation bias.

This bias, first described in 1954 by the psychologists Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, suggests that we interpret messages through a lens of our existing feelings. So if we dislike a brand, any message will be interpreted negatively, through a lens of cynicism.

Advertising, as a relatively weak force, will struggle to over-turn these misconceptions.
An interesting experiment which shows how this plays out in voters’s minds:

Along with Jenny Ridell I ran an experiment in the UK to understand if the bias was still as powerful today. We surveyed 1,004 nationally representative voters about their views on raising sales tax by a penny to fund 10,000 extra nurses.

The results were then split by political affiliation. The twist was that half the respondents were told it was a Conservative policy and half Labour.

When Labour supporters thought the policy came from Labour there was strong support: 14 percent completely agreed. However, support plummeted to 3 percent when it was described as a Conservative policy.

Similarly, among Tories the policy was four times more popular when it was positioned as coming from their party.

The results show that voters interpret policies through a lens of their feelings for the party. If they dislike a party they’ll interpret any policy through a negative filter.

As can be seen from the scale of the effect this is not an insignificant factor: policy is far less influential than existing party affiliation.
So it appears that once an issue is presented within a red/blue, left/right framework, people become locked into their positions and less susceptible to persuasion.

See additional discussion here:

Changing Minds
This is one more reason why CNN’s “Town Hall” in the wake of the Parkland school shooting was a terrible idea. We had not learned many of the highly relevant facts. CNN made little attempt to provide background information. The ideological framework (“gun grabber” vs. “gun nuts”) ensured that many, if not most, viewers would discount any new information they encountered.

As noted previously, the business model of cable news and internet publishing is a big driver of this High Heat/Low Light “journalism”.

Media's Shifting Business Model
While this sort of programming is good for ratings and cash flow, it seems hazardous to the health of the nation. It increases polarization while at the same time it limits our ability and willingness to understand the complexity of the issues that confront us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rev. Billy Graham, RIP


A bit of history from David Chappell., A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow

There was more than an abstract parallel between the civil right movement and revivalism. In fact, there was a direct relationship between King and the famous revival leader who was his contemporary, Billy Graham. King and his chief of staff, Wyatt Tee Walker, sought advice from Graham and Graham's staff of tactical experts on how to organize large meetings and build publicity. King appeared onstage in one of Graham's 'crusades' in New York City in August 1957. The two men even traveled to Rio de Janiero together to attend the World Baptist Alliance conference in 1960. Graham, whose audiences were not segregated, often preached against racism
In 1965, in Montgomery Alabama he preached to as many as 18,000 people each night. As Chappell notes, despite George Wallace and Jim Crow laws, he refused to segregate his audiences.


Monday, February 19, 2018

The bizarro world inside the aging leftist brain


Interesting video of a fairly recent academic conference on the Venona code-breaking project.


The Q&A session is illuminating. The questions occilate between two poles:

1. "The Russians meddled in the election."

2. "The FBI framed the Rosenbergs!"
"Julius did nothing wrong."
"McCarthyism!."


Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Strategic problems and the problem with strategy


This is very good -- succinct and on-point:

Why Strategies Disappointand How to Fix Them

Indeed, it is hard to criticize the concept of strategic planning. That is, of course, until one actually reads what is ultimately produced.
Every organization would benefit if, at the beginning of their strategic planning process, all participants took these two ideas to heart:

A. strategies disappoint because they fail to be succinct, sharp, and substantive.

B. Good strategies also have an edge to them. They should make some people unhappy; when strategies prioritize resources, not everyone comes out a winner.
But, to be honest, many scholars have noted the latter problem in strategy-making. zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1969 that large bureaucracies do not have strategiesthey have shopping lists. So it is not as if we did not already know this.

C. [Strategies] fail because leaders are unwilling to make difficult decisionsto focus on one threat as opposed to another, prioritize resources accordingly, and then explain their decisions publiclyat risk of being wrong.

D. The real problem is not process; it is the aversion to making decisive and perhaps irrevocable choices.
Or, to quote Clausewitz:

Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and courage to accept responsibility, either before the tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one's own conscience.

If we pursue the demands that war makes on those who practice it, we come to the region dominated by the powers of the intellect. War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.

If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light that leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow the faint light wherever it may lead. The first of these qualities is described by the French term coup d'oeil; the second is determination.
With this in mind we can see that one of the real causes of strategic failure lies in the way we study and teach strategy. In the real world victory is not won by the side with the most elegant strategic concept or the most complex multi-dimensional plan. Rather, winning is more often a matter of avoiding distraction and acting decisively.

As Patton put it:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Gen. George Marshall often admonished his subordinates “Don’t fight the problem, decide it.”

The words he chose are critical. He did not say “solve it.” To solve a problem presupposes “one right answer” or “one best solution”. The search for that one right answer can easily lead to delay and paralysis by analysis.

In the the real world, there sometimes are no good solutions. Only bad, awful, and less bad.

Marshall understood that strategic decisions marked the beginning, not the end of the process. Only after the critical decisions were made could the rest of the organization get on with the vital work of implementation. In almost no case can implementation happen immediately. Usually resources have to be gathered and deployed, men and women trained, etc. etc.

The British Chiefs, especially Sir Alan Brooke, never could seem to understand why the Americans had to have commitments well in advance. They accused us of being rigid and inflexible, not realizing the terrific job of procurement, shipbuilding, troop training and supply necessary to place a million and a half troops in England, with armor, tanks and troop-lift, ready to invade the Continent.
S. E. Morison, Strategy and Compromise

Related:

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)



Saturday, February 03, 2018

If nothing else, the Nunes memo shows that Sir John Keegan was a wise man


More reporters and editors should follow his example.

As readers, we should probably stop respecting reporters with "great contacts" in the intelligence world. Might be more realistic to view said reporters as arrogant dupes who are being used by the professionals.
As defence correspondent, then defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, i decided that entanglement with intelligence organisations was unwise, having concluded, by that stage of my life, through reading, conversation and a little personal observation, that anyone who mingled in the intelligence world, in the belief that he could make use of contacts thus made, would more probably be made use of, to his disadvantage. I continue to believe that to be the case

Friday, February 02, 2018

Something Trump understands that most of his GOP critics do not


To conclude on a positive note, remember that to succeed in strategy you do not have to be distinguished or even particularly competent. All that is required is performing well enough to beat an enemy. You do not have to win elegantly; you just have to win.
Colin S. Gray, Why Strategy is Difficult"


Monday, January 29, 2018

This is still good advice


There is no panacea for peace that can be written out in a formula like a doctor’s prescription. But one can set down a series of practical points—elementary principles drawn from the sum of human experience in all times. Study war and learn from its history. Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding. Cure yourself of two commonly fatal delusions—the idea of victory and the idea that war cannot be limited
B H Liddell-Hart, Deterent or Defense (1960)
Related:

The Thucydides trap and the Korean conundrum



Sad but true





Friday, January 26, 2018

When justice loses to Social Justice


The Netflix series “The Keepers” has brought attention to the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik. In all the commentary on the series and the case I’ve not seen any mention of one particularly salient fact: Sister Cathy’s murder is less likely to be solved because it occurred in Maryland.

In the Free State the politicians surrendered to the SJWs and rejected useful crime solving tools.

Familial DNA testing has already led to the capture of killers who have long eluded justice. It was instrumental in identifying Lonnie Franklin, Jr. as the Grim Sleeper serial killer in Los Angeles.

Maryland has made it illegal for police to use it.

THE USE OF FAMILIAL DNA EVIDENCE IN CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS IN MARYLAND

Maryland and the District of Columbia are the only United States jurisdictions that have banned the use of familial DNA searches in investigations and prosecutions.5 Maryland was the first jurisdiction to pass the ban in 2008, followed by the District of Columbia. Conversely, California, New York, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia have adopted laws to allow limited use of familial DNA investigations. Many other states allow familial searches without legislative imprimatur.

So why has Maryland outlawed the use of familial DNA when so many other jurisdictions are moving towards the use of familial DNA searching? Maryland's movement to ban familial DNA searches was led by Stephen B. Mercer, then in private practice and now the Chief of the Forensics Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Don’t confuse us with the facts


A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back
I’ve written before about the role respected experts played in the ritual child abuse panic of the 1980s and 1990s. (cf. “They trusted the experts") At the heart of many of these cases were “victims” who “recovered” suppressed memories with the help of therapists. These new “memories” then were recounted in court where judges and juries accepted them as conclusive evidence.

Eventually courts came to realize that recovered memories were dangerously problematic. Serious scholars destroyed what little scientific support the concept once had. Most of the convictions were overturned.

It seemed that rationality had reasserted itself.

I ran across this Weekly Standard article from 2003 which struck exactly that optimistic note:

The End of a Delusion

AT THE END of the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud--ever anxious to present an overarching, universal explanation for mental unrest--suggested that "repressed memories" of childhood sexual abuse are a common cause of adult mental disorders.

He quickly abandoned the idea (replacing it with the concept of infantile sexuality) when he saw that it harmed rather than helped his patients. But such ideas seem to have lives of their own, and a hundred years after Freud first proposed it, the idea of repressed memories rose again in new and even gaudier clothing. Grown beyond Freud's unadorned view of domestic misconduct, it came to include beliefs that many of these sexual traumas--which the troubled patients' shocked minds had repressed--took place during Satanic rituals and experiments aboard alien spacecraft.

It is today almost impossible to understand how anyone ever believed this absurd and ridiculous notion, but it was less than a decade ago that the idea was flourishing in America. The American psychiatric and psychological establishment bears a shame that will be hard ever to wash away. Thousands of patients--thousands of sick, damaged people who had come to medical professionals for help--were destructively misdirected into trolling through their pasts in search of hidden sexual trauma. By the late 1980s, wards and clinics in university psychiatric departments, eminent hospitals, and even the National Institute of Mental Health were devoted to uncovering these repressed memories.

The craze for this psychiatric madness was never universal, and, to their credit, some theorists and practicing psychiatrists resisted the practices and ideas in what Frederick Crews aptly dubbed the "memory wars." The importance of Richard J. McNally's new book "Remembering Trauma" lies not just in the superb and definitive survey McNally makes of the history of repressed memories, but also in what the book stands for: "Remembering Trauma" is the monument built to mark the end of the memory wars. The repressed-memory diagnosis has finally been repressed.
RTWT

Sadly, there are no final victories in the war between rational thought and pseudoscience. Oprah, after all, did more than anyone to promote the Recovered Memory movement and now our cultural elite want to make her president.
Or take the Netflix series “the Keepers” which was nominated for an Emmy in the Documentary category. Ostensibly about the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in Baltimore in 1969, it devotes much of its running time to horrific stories of sexual abuse suffered by students at Keough High School. The perpetrators were an organized ring which included priests, policemen, and other powerful men in the city.

“The Keepers” wants us to believe that Sister Cathy was murdered because she was going to expose the abuse. Her murder is unsolved, of course, because the perpetrators of the abuse included powerful figures who could quash the investigation.

And at the center of the revelations are witnesses who came forward after undergoing recovered memory therapy.

The Dangerously Misleading Narrative Of "The Keepers"
Or, to put it another way, the critics and pundits lavished praise on a TV series that depends solely on pseudoscience for its grand narrative and emotional punch.
They even persist in their praise when physical evidence undercuts the narrative.

Exhumed priest’s DNA doesn’t match evidence in case of ‘Sister Cathy’ slaying from 1969
Some might wonder why the MSM showed such vigor in refuting the conspiracy theories about Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate and yet heaped praise on a TV series that was based on similar conspiracy theories and speculation.

But remember. They are “elite” and expert so shut up and listen.