Saturday, May 31, 2003

This is amazing

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum on Lieberman's campaign.

political insiders don't give him much chance of winning the nomination. There are several reasons for this, but one big one is rarely discussed in public: Lieberman is a Jew.

The nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a survey last year showing that anti-Jewish sentiment was on the rise. It found that 17% of Americans, or about 35 million adults, "hold views about Jews that are unquestionably anti-Semitic." That represented an increase from 12% in 1998.

Ahh, those neo nazi skin-heads in the GOP right?

Not quite.

the ADL found, 35% of African Americans held strong anti-Semitic opinions.

This is one subject that my diversity sessions overlooked.
Just some interesting information

Amazon Sales Ranks

Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal, 41,281

Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, 139,320

Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality, 262,006

Rick Bragg Ava's Man (paperback) 5,197

Rick Bragg Ava's Man (hardback) 4,436

Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin' 1,017

Friday, May 30, 2003

Andrew Sullivan must be smoking crack

He printed an email from a former Bragg intern who defends Bragg and discusses his normal working methods. (Surprise, Bragg did most of the reporting on his stories). Then she writes:

You've painted him as a low life, abusive jerk - allegations that couldn't be further from the truth. He never ripped me off or mistreated me. Yoder has never made such a claim. It was clear from the beginning that the internship was unpaid, and that the NY Times would not give bylines or credits to interns or stringers. It wasn't Rick's policy, it was the Times. If I had a problem with that I wouldn't have accepted the position. What I got out of it was valuable experience researching and doing interviews for a top reporter.

To which AS replies

In my defense, I haven't characterized Bragg's character in this way. I don't know him from Adam. I've merely characterised his reporting methods. They remain dubious, to my mind, however kind or supportive he was to young and impressionable interns.

AS called Bragg a "suck-up" and a "crony" who "ripped off unpaid stringers" and passed off their work as his own. That goes beyond discussing his reporting methods.

And wasn't that a nice dig-- "young and impressionable interns"-- when someone confronts him with first hand information which contradicts the picture he is trying to paint?

NB. Those who actually worked with Bragg on stories keep saying that he did reporting on his own and their contributions were usually only a small part of the final stories. They also describe the experience as a valuable opportunity to learn and deny that there was exploitation involved. Yet Sullivan, Kaus, et. al. keep writing as though Bragg was only a rewrite guy who held onto his position only because he and Raines were from Alabama.
Good Point by Virgina Postrel

Which brings me to the mostly-unrelated question of why so many Times watchers are harping on Rick Bragg's relation to Howell Raines as a "fellow southerner." Are there really only two southerners at the Times? If so, there's something wrong with the paper. (Southerners have, if anything, a disproportionate tendency to pursue journalism careers.) If not, there's something wrong with the people who harp on that connection. Would they have written "fellow Jew" or "fellow Irish Catholic," or "fellow Harvard grad"? Ethnicity can be a common bond, but only to a limited degree. There are millions of people in the South. They don't all know each other or even get along.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Can Someone Please Explain

why Andrew Sullivan is getting a free pass as he rages against Howell Raines and Rick Bragg?

He is sitting in judgment and passing harsh sentences. Yet he never mentions that---

As editor of the New Republic he was conned by both Ruth Shalit (plagiarism) and Stephen Glass (mean spirited fabulist).

He wrote in defense of Slate when Michael Kinsley and Jack Shafer were conned by Jay Forman ("Monkey Fishing", etc). When it was his pal Mike he wrote

"I have to say I found the original piece--which conjured up images somewhere between Curious George and Mad Max--highly entertaining. I assumed it was probably a tall tale, but it was told so well I didn't really give a damn. And, since it wasn't addressing earthshaking matters like Republican-sponsored tax breaks for shipbuilders or a patients' bill of rights, I wasn't exactly scouring the prose for evidence of malfeasance. It was a jolly piece of colorful and clearly inebriated reminiscence. So what if it was embroidered a little, or even a lot? How many jolly tales aren't livened up a bit in the retelling, especially when the original expedition was conducted with a fair amount of mental lubrication?

"Turns out I was wrong. This was a grave and terrible offense. All the usual journalistic pooh-bahs descended from their pedestals to tsk-tsk. Suddenly, spanking the monkey took on a whole new meaning. The story merited a front-page, above-the-fold 'expose' in the business section of The New York Times and an apologia from one of the most talented journalists around (and a former writer of this column), Michael Kinsley. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that magazines or newspapers should publish fibs. Kinsley wouldn't either. (Tedious full disclosure: I revere and like Kinsley, and he helped give me my start in American journalism.) But this absurd non-scandal is a symptom of something now sadly endemic in the culture: the forest/trees issue. Or, to put it another way: Can we please get a sense of perspective?"

Hard to believe that this is coming from the man now frothing about Raines, cronyism, and datelines.

And in light of the contradictions he has shown over time, shouldn't we pay a little more attention to the fact that Raines canceled his contract to write lucrative essays for the Times Magazine?
I'm so sick of the New York Times

which is probably why i have "I'm So Bored with the USA" stuck in my head.

But, no use complaining. Some one has to do the dirty work. We have a feeding frenzy and it is drenched in hypocricy. Might as well as some questions.
Sympathy for the Devil

An IRA terrorist comes to this country on a tourist visa and then overstayed it while seeking a change in status due to hs marriage to an American citizen. The INS arrested him. The Rocky Mountain News thinks this is mean. The Hard Press sets them straight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

More on Bragg and the Times

Reading the reaction to the Rick Bragg story, it appears that we have a corollary for Jane's Law

A. Powerful established media are smug and arrogant.

B. Journalists at lesser outlets go completely crazy when they have the chance to score points against a powerful established media organ.

Here is what Andrew Sullivan has had to say:

"Bragg has a long history of faking by-lines, and ripping off unpaid stringers."

"More evidence of Raines favoritism."

"Bragg is "a Raines crony" and a "Raines suck-up" who was "pampered and protected by the big guy"

Bragg had a history of " cutting corners, passing off others' work as his own, and getting special treatment."

"Bragg regularly ripped off stringers for his pieces (with no credit)"

And Mickey Kaus tells us that:

"I suspect that what Bragg did was a worse case of stringer abuse than is typical"

"what you are reading is really the work of random, unknown 'legs' and stringers."

He also mocks Bragg's health problems: "Why not let poor, diabetic Bragg stay at home, conserve his energy, and work his 'magic' in comfort."

An emailer to Instapundit compares Bragg to Milli Vanilli for "passing off the work of someone else as your own."

Even Lileks (LILEKS!) takes a shot

"Yes, you can take some stringer’s notes and compose a story, but the difference between that an a piece you wrote from your own research is the difference between a Penthouse Forum letter and your recollection of your wedding night."

Interestingly enough, these claims are not based on original reporting but are commentary on long stories that appear in other powerful media outlets. The latter, however, paint a more complex and nuanced picture of the Bragg situation. In some cases, they contradict the charges leveled by our champions of journalistic integrity.

A. On the question of ripping off or abusing stringers:

According to this Wall Street Journal report Wes Yoder, the intern at the center of the controversy, did not feel ripped off or abused. He volunteered to help Bragg for free in order to learn from him. Of his work with Bragg he says "it was an honor to do it for Rick." Another Bragg intern (Childs Walker) says "I never felt cheated for my efforts."

B. On the "work"

Research is not reporting. The writing is more than half of the value. Research is just a pile of notes-- the organization and writing is not just a matter of style, it involves thought, judgement and talent. That is why a Ph D. with a published book is viewed as a more accomplished scholar than an ABD. Yet the critics seem to ignore this in general and as it relates to Bragg.

Even the intern who was critical of Bragg in the Journal story admitted that "he was able to capture the feeling, the essence, the aura of stories." Lileks should know this-- he is a blog-legend not because he discovers stuff none of the rest of us know, but because he can write about the common fodder and add insight, clarity, and a memorable phrase. Anyone who has read Bragg can see that he possesses similar talents.

Hundreds of reporters filed stories about Timothy McVeigh's trial and conviction. Many of them spent more hours observing the trial. But Bragg's opening sentences pack a wallop that most of their's did not:

After the explosion, people learned to write left-handed, to tie just one shoe. They learned to endure the pieces of metal and glass embedded in their flesh.

And also note that the actual interns stated that Bragg did more than take their notes and write. Yoder was on the phone with him receiving guidance while doing the intervierws. Childs Walker stated that Bragg usually conducted his own interviews after Walker had done the preliminary interview.

C. On Bragg as evidence of cronyism

This is the most laughable charge. Bragg may have been a Raines favorite, but that is hardly evidence of cronyism. He does, after all, have a Pulitzer Prize and two best selling books to his credit. Raines may have liked him simply because he was a star who added luster to the Times.

But while the charge is laughable, it is also revealing. It suggests that many of those condemning Bragg are unfamiliar with his work and are simply using it to bash Raines and the Times. Isn't that a lazy form of journalism more suitable for the posters on than a sophisticated, ethical journalist?

D. On Truth and Process

The facts are all inside baseball-- datelines, bylines, etc. The critics infer that Bragg's violation of "standard practices" was dishonest and resulted in dishonest stories (hence the comparisons to Jayson Blair). But that is a big leap. To date, no one has produced anything from Bragg's Florida story which was inaccurate. In contrast, some Blair's stories were checked and easily shown to be false (e.g. the view from Jessica Lynch's house). Similarly, Robert Fisk can have a completely honest dateline and yet produce a story that is disingenuous or factually wrong.

If our concern is only honest, truthful journalism (or journalistic processes) why the hyperfocus on Bragg and the Times. As BuzzMachine, and the the junkyard blog pointed out, Bragg's practice is standard practice on television. Since more people see 60 Minutes than read one of Bragg's feature pieces, that is a much more important matter. CNN's reporting on gun control and assault weapons was misleading and factualy inaccurate. But Sullivan and Kaus devoted almost no space to that.

See more here
Help Jay

become a mammal
Guilty Pleasures



i wonder if this is the first time anyone linked them in the same post?

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Are Blogs a Disruptive Technology?

This article thinks maybe they are.

It doesn't really offer a lot of insight into how blogs can be used to redefine the competitive landscape. His advice won't impress many experienced bloggers.

I think that he is too optimistic about the ability of blogs to unleash an authentic human voice in communications.

Often, when information goes through a formal marketing or PR process, the end result is an attractive, expensive, stale, diluted document written in corporatespeak. This result is generally due not to any incompetence or malevolence on the part of corporate communicators but to the processes that have evolved to accommodate the costs and standards of print technology. As a result, the edge, the authenticity, and the voice of the professional speaking to his fellow professionals are lost.

He conflates two forces here. Blogs do have economic advantages compared to print which allows for faster and more varied communication. But the stale, diluted style comes from management oversight that has nothing to do with quality control or cost containment. There is a fear of clear statements and a love of weasel words that is separate from the media used.

Blogs may have marketing applications. But i think they have even more usefulness as an internal forum for strategic planning and competitive analysis. There they can have a major impact if implemented right.

Found via Business Pundit
What Rick Bragg did was no cause for suspension or the sliming of his career.

So says Buzz Machine making several of the points i made Saturday.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Great Luck

I get my first mention by Instapundit at a time when Blogspot is hosed.

That is funny in a way.

But the really sad part is that if the full Instalanche came through it probably would have helped Jay Solo's Verbosity get the hits he needed.
Lost a Blog Entry Due to a Software Hiccup?

God of the Machine is not buying it.

The Computer Ate My Blog Entry

You're kidding, right? This is actually lamer than "The dog ate my homework": there was an antediluvian era when you couldn't save your homework to your hard drive

He offers some useful advice. But he forgot to mention Info Select for all your research and writing needs. It's what all the smart kids use.
WARNING: I'm about to do the unthinkable

I'm going to defend a Timesman in the face of rightwing attacks.

Andrew Sullivan
has picked up on this NY Daily News piece about problems with this story written by Rick Bragg last year.

Sullivan describes Bragg as one of Howell Raines's "cronies" accused of "fabricating by-lines or inventing color or falsely appropriating other people's reporting" and speaks of "Blair-like" errors."

But when you read what the Times admitted it doesn't sound Blair-like at all.

The Times has reviewed the article. It found that while Mr. Bragg indeed visited Apalachicola briefly and wrote the article, the interviewing and reporting on the scene were done by a freelance journalist, J. Wes Yoder. The article should have carried Mr. Yoder's byline with Mr. Bragg's.

It sounds like Bragg may have big-footed the story and not shared credit with MR. Yoder. But note, he did not plagiarize or make stuff up a la Mr. Blair-- he wrote the story and the facts don't seem to be in question.

And note what Mr. Yoder told the Washington Post:

Yoder, now a reporter at the Anniston (Ala.) Star, said in an interview yesterday that he had volunteered to be an assistant to Bragg and was never an official Times stringer. "I just told him I wanted to come learn from him," said Yoder, who moved to New Orleans to be near Bragg.

He did interviews and other reporting for Bragg on 15 stories, with the oystermen yarn involving the most work, and didn't feel exploited when Bragg got all the credit. "We have nothing to hide," Yoder said. "We didn't do anything wrong."

While the stint was supposed to be unpaid, Bragg "probably felt sorry for me" and wound up "paying my rent and got my lunch every day and sometimes my dinner," Yoder said. "He was very generous," Yoder added, saying he believed Bragg paid these expenses out of his own pocket.

It is ironic that Sullivan-- one of the stingiest linkers among big-name bloggers-- should slam Bragg because he did not share credit with an intern. (Maybe the word I am really looking for is hypocritical).

Bragg is not the first big-name journalist to write a story based on someone else's uncredited research. As i've noted before, Goldberg and Lowery are constantly asking Corner readers for help and yet never acknowledge those who helped them in the resulting column. I know for a fact that other reporters put their by-lines on stories whose core ideas come from (nameless) others.

Looking beyond print, doesn't this happen with every installment of 60 Minutes? Mike and the gang really don't do the digging-- is it a scandal that they are called reporters? And why haven't we jumped on Fox News which clearly uses blogs to dig up interesting stuff which they then turn into segments for their network.

It is mendacious for Sullivan to imply that Bragg might get special treatment only because he is a "crony" of Howell Raines and a fellow native of Alabama. Bragg is a great writer with a Pulitzer Prize. "All Over But the Shoutin'" and "Ava's Man" are moving, eloquent, critically acclaimed, and best sellers. In short, Bragg is a star.

I also believe that Bragg, who does features after all, not hard news or investigative work, is a great reporter. He possesses an empathy for his subjects who often are poor or working class. My guess is that Bobby Varnes, the oysterman, is happy that Rick Bragg told his story rather than Paul D. Colford of the Daily News. When Bragg wrote the story he pictured a man working at his father's trade not a "colorful rustic" in his "environs." And that, in the end, was at least as important as the onsite footwork.
Check these out

Hell In a Handbasket-- who is still posting great stuff about life on a warship.

Jay Solo's Verbosity-- who appears to be posting this long weekend.

The Rattler-- who dared to compare American Idol to the NIT

The Hard Press-- Brand new blog that deserves a look.

Donald Sensing is going off

to Indiana for some race-- guess he couldn't get tickets to the big race in Charlotte.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Fresh Bloggage

It's a holiday weekend. All your favorite bloggers are going to be posting infrequently if at all.

What to do?

Come to Lead and Gold, of course.

Thanks to weather that is nothing like spring and a miserable cold, i have no excuse not to finish some of the posts i keep procrastinating on. They'll be going up all weekend and Monday too!

Plus, I will throw in a bunch of links to good bloggers who are (like me) far down on the food chain.

What a deal.

No, it's not Instapundit or SDB or ASV. But then, do you expect filet mignon when you go into the Waffle House at 3.30 am?
The Problem at the Times

Going through my old files, I came upon this story from February.

The Court of Public Fiction

When he’s not busy prosecuting sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan plays media critic. The side job consists of chronicling the myths spun by reporters covering the country’s hottest crime story. And according to Horan, there’s been a lot of work on that front.

“I must confess that I have seen more incorrect reports in this investigation than in any I’ve dealt with in the last 36 years I’ve been doing it,” Horan says. Bad information has cropped up everywhere in sniper-case coverage, like a fleet of white panel trucks: Fictional doozies have included revelations that the sniper wrote multiple tarot cards to authorities,that he was an olive-skinned man, and that he may have fled the scene of a shooting via bicycle.

When Horan spots nonsense in news accounts about Malvo and fellow suspect John Muhammad, he often laughs it off as the inevitable byproduct of overly aggressive reporters. In recent months, though, Horan has gone public with rebuttals of Page One stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Yes, the Times story was by Mr. Blair. But this is what caught my eye:

In so doing, Horan has thrown into stark relief how the dailies respond when challenged on their facts: the Post, openly and humbly; the Times, secretively and arrogantly.

UN troops wait behind razor-wire as Congo's streets run with blood

The Country Store takes a look at war-crimes and peace-keeping and rightly asks:

What's wrong with this picture?
Six Quick Thoughts on Buffy

1. In the last number of seasons, there was more sex on Buffy than in Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer novels.

2. In the end, Xander was the bravest Scoobie, since he had to face all the dangers with no mystical powers.

3. Making Willow a Wiccan was probably a mistake. There are real life Wiccans. The writers could not be as freely allegorical with Willow as the could with other plotlines and characters.

4. While Buffy was all about female empowerment, the original Dracula was both a buddy story and a model of Anglophone cooperation. (IIR the Count is destroyed, not by a stake, but by a Bowie knife wielded by an American.)

5. While Buffy generated critical raves because of its "girl power" sensibility, it is highly unlikely that the same would be true of a story where boys became men in the old fashioned Louis L'Amour/Richard Hannay mode.

6. The best Buffy tribute/follow-up/sequel/exploitation would by Buffy on Ice.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Stanley Crouch

Via Media Minded

Stanley Crouch says a controversial article led to a dismissal from Jazz Times.

Like MM i like Crouch's essays alot. He is bold and blustery and often wrong. But he is usually interesting, and fair-minded. It's too bad that several of his collections are out of print.

IMO the article did not give clear picture of his thinking. This is from the All American Skin Game:

In this climate, obnoxious, vulgar and anti-social behavior has been confused with black authenticity. This has led to blaxploitation in politics, in higher education, and in art-- to Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, and the Black Panthers, to black students at San Francisco State demanding that pimps be recruited to teach psychology classes, to the least inventive and most offensive work of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy; to the angry cartoonish coons of Spike Lee and the flat misogynist gutter verse of Ice-T and racist rap groups like Public Enemy.

And this is from Always in Pursuit:

the way feminists turned up their noses at the charges against Bill Clinton made by Paula Jones or joked about her 'white trash' looks and manner or failed to attack those who judged he merits on class and taste. I guess this means that if one is lower ranked or lower born abuse is not abuse, a kiss is not a kiss. Seems like uncolorized plantation logic to me.
Salam Pax

So i grant you that it isn't likely that his blog is a disinformation conduit for Saddam's secret police. As interesting as that theory is, the evidence just isn't conclusive. At the same time, there is a lot of evidence that he is the child of the privileged elite.

Shouldn't that matter?

Shouldn't we be deeply skeptical of the information he provides?

And shouldn't we expect that a lot of positive developments in Iraq will make him unhappy and will, therefore, be portrayed in an unfavorable manner?
Carnival of the Vanities

Is up over at Cut on the Bias. Check it out--- you're guaranteed to find good blogs to add to your favorites.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Who is Suzy Whaley?

She is the woman whose glory Annika Sorenstam stole by using a sponsor's exemption to play in the Colonial. If you thought the only issue was sexist male golfers, read this great post for the background.
In my opinion

anyone who was "rattled" by the "Blair Witch Project" forfeits any right to be taken seriously as a geopolitical strategist, political theorist, or wingman.
Wal-Mart and the NY Times

Cut on the Bias
and Ben Domenech have some very astute observations. Also, the author of this blog actually worked for the people who make Veggie Tales for a short time and gives us an inside perspective on the conspiracy to shape popular culture.

Side note: the French really should be worried. I have only limited exposure to Veggie Tales but it seems the bad guys are often represented as French Peas, complete with sneering accents. Just think, in a few years we will have millions of new voters subliminally programmed to distrust France.

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Wal*Mart Conspiracy

A couple of days ago i noted that Wal*Mart's marketpower was sometimes a good thing since it brought red-state sensibilities to the cultural marketplace. Now the New York Times has weighed in and they concur in part (red-state sensibilities) and dissent in part (a good thing).

The article tries to sound the alarm (the Philistines are coming) but it is not tightly argued and shows how urban elitism can distort a reporter's vision.

Until five years ago, few people other than devoted evangelical Christians had heard of VeggieTales, a small company's series of cartoon videos about talking cucumbers and tomatoes learning biblical lessons.

Those evangelicals, just a tiny little demographic hardly worth noticing. Except the Times's own Nicholas Kristof noted a few weeks ago that evangelicals make up 46% of the population.

Music executives say the chains have helped turn country performers like the Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith and Faith Hill into superstars.

Ah, yes, those boys in Bentonville stoking the star-making machinery. What Wal*Mart did was make record buying more convenient (and cheaper) for its customer base. This probably helped sell country records. However, it is record buyers, not the seller, who make specific artists popular. Moreover, in the specific cases of the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill (and Shania Twain as well), they probably owe their superstardom to a handful of music video channels headquartered in New York.

The growing clout of Wal-Mart and the other big discount chains — they now often account for more than 50 percent of the sales of a best-selling album, more than 40 percent for a best-selling book, and more than 60 percent for a best-selling DVD — has bent American popular culture toward the tastes of their relatively traditionalist customers.

Sounds scary doesn't it. Another way to look at the matter is that "traditionalist" consumers are a market segment. Profit-motivated media companies sell stuff these consumers like through a channel they find convenient.

But with the chains' power has come criticism from authors, musicians and civil liberties groups who argue that the stores are in effect censoring and homogenizing popular culture.

I can't quite figure out how selling Veggie Tale videos or Ann Coulter books censors anything. South Park DVDs and Eric Alterman's books are still available-- you can find 50 Cent or Nelly on multiple cable channels and in thousands of stores. Similarly, adding a Coulter to an Alterman sounds like diversifying opinion not homogenizing popular culture.

"It is going to hurt sales of anything that is at all controversial, and if the stores are not going to put the CD's on the shelves, then the record companies are not going to make them," said Jay Rosenthal, a lawyer who represents the Recording Artists Coalition, a lobbying organization whose founders included the performers Don Henley and Sheryl Crow. (Wal-Mart banned one of Ms. Crow's albums because it criticized the chain for selling guns.)

I doubt many devoted Sheryl Crow fans passed on her album after Wal*Mart dropped it. After all, even in the boonies, there are places to buy CDs other than Wal*Mart.

In another worrisome trend for the entertainment business, the discount chains' narrow selection is increasing the industry's dependence on hit books, albums and videos, making it harder to call attention to new work and sell older work. "Once a book gets on the best-seller list, it becomes entrenched at the big discounters," Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said. And other bookstores offer discounts on books from the best-seller list, so in that way the chains "help determine what gets sold at traditional bookstores as well," he said.

Huh? No doubt the entertainment industry has become addicted to block-busters. But that is not because of the chain stores-- there are a host of peculiar economic factors and business practices that push the industry in that direction. Given that addiction, the industry is rightly eager to find books and CDs that it can sell through a chain that 100 million Americans visit each week. Reliance on Wal*Mart is a result of, not the cause of the block-buster syndrome.

The stores have pushed best-sellers' sales to new heights by putting deeply discounted blockbusters into the hands of millions of customers.

Read that again. The chains "put" the books and CDs into our hands. We don't buy them, they put them in our carts. Sounds sinister.

Or you could say that stores like Wal*Mart have helped increase over all sales of popular titles by cutting margins.

The mass merchandisers' ability to sell vast quantities of deeply discounted albums has disproportionately benefited performers more likely to appeal to a rural, small-town or suburban audience, generally benefiting country and hurting rap, several music executives said.

It's the Times, after all, so we can't have a story without implying some harm to minorities. But does selling more country "hurt" rap artists in any meaningful way? Isn't it better described as expanding the market for CDs and increasing the variety of available music?

Mr. Kirshbaum of AOL Time Warner's books unit said he decided to start a religious imprint because a book buyer for Wal-Mart told him that more than half its sales were Christian books.

So Wal*Mart provided useful feedback about a potential market and a publisher decided to capitalize on it. Note, Wal*Mart wasn't trying to proselytize, they just pointed out what their customers bought. So they were not actively "shaping the popular culture," just trying to gauge the true shape of it so they could make a buck.

At what point does the discounters' selling prowess combine with their restrictive standards to influence new work from record labels, book publishers and film studios? Their executives all call that possibility remote.

Wow, after all the scary insinuations we get to the end and find this admission.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Very Good Column on the Root Causes over at the NY Times

David Warsh who knows newspapers

All of which must be disappointing to a man who rode into the Times on his enthusiasm for “Total Quality Management.” In fact, Sulzberger has displayed throughout his career a softspot for management fads, “mission statements,” “leadership moments” and the like. In recent years a favorite gimmick around the Times has been to speak of “the moose in the room” – a reference to a cautionary business fable about out-of-bounds problems in which a moose is invited to dinner and no guest is willing to ask why.

Sure enough, when the Times managers held a meeting last week to permit its staff to vent complaints about the Blair affair, there on the stage of the rented movie theater was the mounted head of a moose. Expressed was much anger and dismay about the managerial style of editor Howell Raines. But at The New York Times, the name of the moose is Arthur.

Somebody had to say it

So PrestoPundit did

Well, it's nonsense, of course. Fukuyama has got to be the champion second-hand dealer in ideas of all time. He gets paid the big bucks for saying profound things like this:

The US is built on Lockean principles (derived from the British liberal philosopher John Locke). There’s a contract between state and people, and a belief in limited government. On the Continent their vision of the state owes more to (the French philosopher) Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They see the state as an expression of the ‘general will’.

While reading Fukuyama I always get the urge to scream, "Tell me something I don't know." It's like listening to the David Gergen of the college dorm philosophical bull session.

Well Said

Isntapundit has a fine post on the gun control forces:

Using several million dollars of his pocket change, McKelvey established Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) and pioneered the schistosome approach to disarmament.

Schistosomes are disgusting microscopic parasites which burrow through your skin and lay eggs in your bloodstream, eventually clogging your liver. This condition, called schistosomiasis, kills people by the carload in places like Africa.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

True Must Read

Hell in a Handbasket is posting on his recent Tiger cruise on the USS McFaul. He has pictures and offers a little glimpse of what life is like on one of the warships that defend us.
Nah nu Nah Nah

Hey, Hey, Good Bye.

I am still happy about the Spurs win and Lakers loss. I like the Spurs, esp. Duncan and Robinson. But mostly i wanted the Lakers to lose.

Not that i hate them like i do the Ravens, or Parcells, or Barry Bonds (may he never get a ring).

I just wanted the Lakers to lose so next year no team will think that they can play lousy ball for much of the season, ease into the playoffs, and then turn it on for a championship. Also, it will be nice if the Lakers actually have to play by the same rules as everyone else as they lose that mysterious "break" officials give defending champions.

Check These Out

Good Blogs

A Nickle's Worth of Free Advice

The American Mind

View from the Right
Normalizing pedophilia

It is happening as View for the Core shows.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Missed out on helping Ovid?

You can still be a patron.
Wal*Mart and the Laddie Mags.

I have mixed feelings about Wal*Mart in many ways. But as a social conservative I am glad that they tossed Maxim, FHM, et. al. even though I have been known to read Maxim now and then.

Competition encourages entertainment companies to "push the envelope". HBO puts on Oz and The Sopranos and draws a vocal group of fans. Other networks think they have to follow suit and so violence and sexual content increases even on broadcast networks in the "family hour."

The envelope pushing and taboo breaking takes place within a coastal worldview. TV execs in Manhattan aren't offended by the shows and take pride in tweaking the "puritan" sensibilities in the hinterlands. (Their own sensibilities and those of their friends are rarely tweaked by the scripts they approve.)

Wal*Mart now appears as a counter-veiling force, admittedly for commercial reasons, but a positive force nonetheless. Magazine editors who have never talked with two social conservatives at one meal have to give some thought to red-state sensibilities.
Border Vigilantes

I say: "Go vigilantes!" Hopefully, before things get out of hand, our supposed leaders will realize that they are severely shirking their duty when private citizens are investing in the latest in surveillance equipment to guard the nation's borders.

All too true.
Good discussion Salam Pax

over at Occam's Toothbrush. Read the comments.

Andrew Sullivan on Sid Blumenthal's "memoir"

Which reminds me what The Clinton Wars evoked for me. It has the tone and manner and piety of one of those "Lives of the Saints" books most Catholic school kids were once forced to read at some point or other. It’s not a memoir, or a history. It’s a Gospel. Its facts are assembled, as the facts in the Gospels were assembled, for one purpose only: to affirm the faith, to rally the flock, to spread the further glory of the Church. It’s an allegory of eternal good and evil—a passion narrative with a scriptural past and a resurrection at the end, the first-person narrative of one saint who prevailed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Agony of the Agency (I)

Advertising agencies now confront business challenges that go beyond the cyclical downturn in marketing and advertising expenditures. They face several trends that will force a restructuring of the advertising business and the way agencies operate.

At a recent industry conference a leading advertising executive (predictably) called on agencies to "redefine" and "reposition" themselves. Bob Schmetterer of Havas admitted that clients "don't trust agencies to make strategic business decisions." Nonetheless, he maintains that agencies must move "beyond advertising" and help clients with "core business strategy". (Ad Age 4-14)

He wants the advertising profession to be known for something more substantial than Super Bowl commercials.

It is true that agencies need to reinvent (not just reposition) themselves. They are not held in high esteem by clients. Recently Du Pont decided to use an on-line reverse auction to select a new agency. This suggests that Du Pont thinks advertising work is a commodity service like lawn mowing rather than a professional service like strategic consulting.If other clients follow suit agency margins will shrink.

Ian Brookbanks of Chicago's Roscoe Group, in a letter to Ad Age (4-28) made several telling points on the matter. He noted that agencies are making "the assumption that your problems and your customer's problem are the same." There is no evidence that clients lack for strategic advise givers. Nothing suggests that client executives are begging agencies to step into that role.

As noted, the problem for advertising agencies is pressure on margins in their core business-- producing advertising. The choice faced by each agency comes down to this:

1. accept that they produce a commodity service and restructure internal operations accordingly. That way they can still make a profit on lower margins.

2. Focus on being a great and effective creative agency so that they can justify their higher fees. (This might require that they adapt a different compensation system, one which pays them based on bottom-line results).

Time spent "repositioning" the agency is just wasted time. No matter how impressive the presentation, clients are not going to believe an ad agency is better at strategy than McKinsey. At present most agencies do not have the intellectual capital for strategic work and developing that capital is expensive.

Those Super Bowl ads did one thing fairly well; they showed that clever TV ads are neither necessary nor sufficient to business survival (compare Google to In light of that lesson, simply justifying the value of advertising and doing good ads is enough work for almost any agency.
Useful Reminder

That when it comes to in school harrassment, It Happens To Christians Too

To Outside the Beltway who sent me the code and instructions to place the Sam Adams quote on this blog.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Michael Malone on the Music Industry

There is no little irony to the fact that the music industry, which has made billions celebrating the outlaw life, based in a town founded on movies idolizing Prohibition-era gangsters, is now in the business of suing millions of children for bootlegging.
Salam Pax

Two interesting pieces here and here.
How Things Change

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who often portrays himself as hard-drinking and unpredictable, was on his best behavior as he married his longtime assistant in a ceremony in Aspen.
The Junk Yard Blog has a very interesting post

on aspects of Jayson Blair and the Washington Sniper story that no one else has picked up on.

Metro Cons

The three best discussions of Derbyshires column are found at the Rattler, Josh Claybourn, and Ben Domenech. Read the comments, that's where the action is.

As in so many things, G. K. Chesterton had something wise to say

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing that is really narrow is the clique....The men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment like that which exists in hell." [Heretics pp.180-181]
Missing Lee

I still think Lee Atwater was better. I have a photo of Atwater framed and hung up at home -- I think he understood modern politics better than anyone ever understood anything.

The GOP misses Lee Atwater. It is no surprise that he was demonized by Democrats-- he beat them like a cheap drum. That the GOP has abandoned his play book is the mystery.

Saturday, May 10, 2003


For lunch I had barbecued chicken for the first time this year. Nothing says summer like BBQ chicken.

Growing up in western PA there was a chicken BBQ nearly every Saturday. They were (and are) popular fund-raisers for churches, fire companies, and American Legion posts.

The chicken halves are placed in stainless steel racks and cooked over a charcoal fire. There is no sauce as such-- instead the chicken is sprayed frequently with mixture of salt, vinegar, butter and water. The result is moist chicken with a golden brown skin.

When I grew up and went into the wider world I discovered that some people actually use a tomato-based sauce on chicken when they "barbeque". Why anyone would put glorified catsup on chicken is beyond me. There's just no explaining some things.

One of the advantages of having moved around alot in my career is that I have sampled barbecue all over-- ribs in Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis, pork in North Carolina, etc. As good as it is, (and the ribs in Tuscaloosa were very good) BBQ chicken is still my favorite (with a caveat). Maybe it is just because it is a taste from my childhood.

About that caveat-- i've never had BBQ in Texas-- all the beef BBQ i've eaten has been in place like Alqonquin, Illinois or at chains like Red Hot and Blue. Even then, i liked it alot. So the genuine article must be very good indeed.
Col. Jeff Cooper

"I will always thank my father and mother for cultivating in me an abily to appreciate. The ability to appreciate is what makes life worthwhile, and you owe it to your children, and they owe it to their children to cultivate this quality. If you can appreciate, there is nothing in the world that does not have its grand side. The world is grand."

quoted in Jeff Cooper: The Soul and the Spirit page 132
Clausewitz (II)

Another critical difference between Clausewitz and Michael Porter grows naturally from the descriptive/prescriptive difference. Because Porter has templates, models, and generic strategies, he devotes little attention to the qualities required of a successful strategist. Clausewitz, in contrast, focuses on those qualities which mark the great commander.

"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." (On War, Page 101)

"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." [page 101]

"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." [page 102]

"Iron will-power can overcome this friction; it pulverizes every obstacle, but of course, it wears down the machine as well." [page 119]

Business is not war. People do not die because of flawed marketing campaigns. As sad as US Air's collapse is, the consequences for the workers are minimal compared to the fate of the Poles after the Nazi victory in 1939.

Still, the qualities Clausewitz identifies are important for executives and managers.

Friction, (in the Clausewitzian sense) exists in every organization. Overcoming it requires will. In the absence of executive will, ambitious efforts gradually bog down-- deadlines are missed, results fall short of promises.

Rather than addressing the need for project managers with the requisite will, American business usually opts for project management templates, project management software, project management certification, etc.

Compare this to how the US Army developed in world war two. There the key was finding the right man with the right talent, not the right template or workshop.

Historians note that one of George Marshall's signal contributions to success was his selection of the generals who would hold high command. Millett and Murray in their book A War to Be Won note that Marshall "had an exceptional eye for talent and over the course of the war he would make few mistakes in the selection and promotion of senior army officers." (page 272)

And this is how they evaluate the US Army's performance in France:

"the American's had barely three years before their troops were committed to combat. Consequently, many units that fought in Normandy displayed a depressing lack of tactical sophistication. Nevertheless, most US formations exhibited greater adaptability than their British counterparts, and their learning curve was steady and steep. Such improvements owed much to the flexibility of a citizen army, as well as to the ruthlessness with which Eisenhower sacked senior officers who failed." (page 417)

In some ways determination is more necessary for managers than military leaders. Not that portion of determination that depends on physical courage, but, rather, the moral courage that is required to handle great responsibilities and decisions. Because business action goes forward at a much slower pace than military operations, executives live in a state of near perpetual indecision: they decide on an action and then must wait, sometimes for months and years, before they know the outcome. This tempts them to tinker, revise, and reverse course.

Most of the time it also take a form of moral courage to face hard facts in business. Until the problem is really bad, there are many ways gloss over the critical problems with irrelevant or trivial facts. Eventually, the truth will out, of course, and the problems will be much worse because of the delay.

Similarly, there are plausible and popular solutions and then there are those that will really work.

"We trained hard... but everytime we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganized. I was learn later in life that we tend to meet new situations by reorganizing... and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."
Petronius Arbiter, Satyricon

Only executives who have both discernment and determination are likely to choose the real solution not the false one.

Determination, however, is not a panacea. Note that Clausewitz warned that "it wears down the machine as well." Just as there are no good one factor economic models, so there is no magic trait that defines military greatness for Clausewitz.

Interestingly enough, the Prussian/German army came to believe that the most dangerous officers were those who were energetic but stupid. There was a place for those who were stupid but lazy, but their energetic brethern were to be weeded out. (The best commanders were seen as those who were brilliant and lazy, smart energetic types being consigned to staff roles.)

See Part I here and the Clausewitz home page here.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Steyn on Bob Hope

Younger comics who for 30 years have despised Hope as a pro-war establishment suck-up forget that he more or less invented the form they work in: the relaxed guy who strolls on and does topical observational gags about the world we live in. When he started eight decades ago, there were no “stand-ups”; it was an age of clowns – weird-looking guys in goofy costumes taking frenzied pratfalls and telling ethnic gags in stage dialects – German, Irish, Negro
Derbyshire on Metropolitan Conservatism

Looking across the pond at the country of my birth, where there are no powerful conservative lobbies — no Second Amendment warriors, no Christian conservatives, no Right-to-Life chapters — I see what happens when conservatism becomes a merely metropolitan cult: conservative politics becomes marginalized and impotent. That's not going to happen here; and it won't be me and my big city pals that prevent it, it'll be the legions of real, authentic conservatives out there in the provinces. God bless them all for keeping America strong, free, and true to her founding principles
That Settles It

Read this on Bush's National Guard Service Record
Good Blogs I Just Discovered


Gaggle of Gals (and One Guy)


Between the Coasts

Wednesday, May 07, 2003


Veteran foreign-service officer Barbara Bodine's appointment as a key player in Iraq's transitional government has angered Defense Department officials and federal law-enforcement authorities who believe that as U.S. ambassador to Yemen, she blocked an FBI investigation into the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Read the whole article
Newspaper Readership

I came across some interesting research in a recent Advertising Age (4-28-03) on media consumption by age group.

People under 55 spend less that 20 minutes a day with a local daily newspaper. They spend 36-46 minutes on the Internet. The over 60 demographic spends 56 minutes with a local paper and less than 14 with the Internet.

Long term this is bad news for newspapers. Their most devoted readers are term-limited by the actuary tables. And it isn't likely that younger groups will fill the gap.

Further, advertising professionals covet those younger groups and discount the value of older reader/viewers. This means that daily newspapers as a channel are going to face pressures on ad rates (their key revenue source).

Right now newspapers are aided by their unchallenged dominance as a local advertising channel-- nothing else can really do the job when it comes to promoting a sale at a local department store store or specials at the grocery and nothing else can match newspapers for classified ads.

This advantage is eroding. Technology, demographics, and business necessity will see to that.

For instance, it makes little sense for Sears, which desperately wants to reach younger shoppers, to continue to pour ad money into newspapers if those young shoppers don't read newspapers.

As on-line and catalogue merchants increase market share, local bricks and mortar stores will represent a smaller portion of the advertising spending in a given category.

The concentrated local audience of the daily newspaper is important if you own one or two grocery stones in one town. You want to get your message to 20,000 people who actually can shop at your store, not 300,000 on the Internet scattered across the country. But if you are Wal*Mart, with thousands of stores, many of those 300,000 can shop at one of your outlets. Suddenly, on-line advertising makes sense even for groceries.

Eventually, on-line news sources and communities focused on specific geographic localities may provide a realistic alternative to local newspapers. If so, then they become a potential advertising vehicle.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Like Rachel i always respected John Walsh

and was a fan of AMW. Now I am beginning to wonder.
Bennett, Gambling, Privacy, and Hypocrisy

The three best posts I've read on the whole mess are at Cut on the Bias, One Hand Clapping, and Junk Yard Blog. They don't really agree with each other-- but then i don't know where i come down on the matter.

A Small Victory has a good and very passionate post. I agree with her on the evils of gambling-- i don't like state lotteries let alone video poker. But she and i are in the minority on the question so i don't know how she can condemn WB for pursuing his legal recreation. (Donald Sensing can because he does not argue for live and let live morality as ASV does so vehemently at the beginning of her post.

Monday, May 05, 2003


George Marshall may have been the greatest American of the 20th century. He was the "organizer of victory" and key military strategist/advisor for the US in WWII. Then, as Secretary of State he provide the leadership to keep the US engaged in Europe and to rebuild the shattered economies of both our allies and our defeated enemies. Finally, as the Cold War deepened and rearmament became the order of the day, he took over the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense.

As Army Chief of Staff he had to build up a ground force that numbered only 190,000 when Germany invaded Poland. At war's end, that army numbered over 6,000,000. The Wehrmacht prepared and rearmed for six years before they invaded Poland. Marshall had only three years before the US Army went into action. Six years after Marshall took the helm, the army he built was victorious in Europe.

Our three mid-century presidents admired him though they agreed on very few things. He was FDR's key military advisor, even though the president's heart was with the Navy. Truman appointed him to his Cabinet twice. It was Marshall who saw Eisenhower's potential when Ike was still an obscure officer.

Marshall challenges the our stereotype of military leadership. He was not flamboyant, loud, impulsive, or charismatic. Instead he was austere, rarely raised his voice, and delegated to subordinates with a vengeance. Yet he was truly a leader,-- not a manager or technocrat-- and his effectiveness resulted from his force of character.

"What stands out," said Dean Acheson, "was the loftiness and beauty of his character." And Acheson, who served under and with Marshall, was not an easy man to impress or fool. George Kennan, the scholarly but cold-eyed diplomat who was tasked with creating a plan for European recovery, was effusive about Marshall as he was no other American statesman:

I admired him, and in a sense loved him, for the qualities i saw in him, some of them well known, some less so: for his unshakable integrity; his consistent courtesy and gentlemanliness of conduct; his ironclad sense of duty; his imperturbability of a good conscience-- in the face of harassments, pressures, and criticisms; his deliberateness and conscientiousness of decision; his serene readiness-- once a decision has been made-- to abide by its consequences, whatever they might be; his lack of petty vanity or ambition; his indifference to the whims and moods of public opinion, particularly as manifested in the mass media; and his impeccable fairness and avoidance of favoritism in the treatment of subordinates.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

I wish i could understand why this isn't getting more play

An accused Chinese double-agent has an affair with not one but TWO FBI agents and receives classified information from them. But these are not run of the mill was a key investigator into the Chinese fund-raising scandal the other headed security at a nuclear lab after he retired from the Bureau.
Blogrolls and traffic building

Rightwing news offer advice to newbies. The Three Cardinal Sins Of Blogging

As a newbie, let me say that SDB's approach to blog-rolling is generous for an established star blogger. To take the time to hunt for worthwhile, thoughtful blogs that are off the beaten path, and then to use his blogroll to give them traffic for a period so that they might get traction is above and beyond the call of duty (or hobby).

In a very real sense, traffic and eco-system rankings have elements of multi-level marketing in them. Those who are established receive more benefits from newbies in terms of incoming links than most of us can expect to receive in return. Almost everyone trying to build traffic tries to catch Instapundit's attention and so puts a link to him on their blogroll. As a result, the top blogs solidify their ranking. However, as SDB points out, there is no way it makes sense for the USS Clueless to link to everyone who links to him. Thus, new bloggers are condemned to experience unrequited links.

This, as i say, is inevitable. And there is no moral duty on the part of the big guns to seek out new blogs to blogroll. And that is why SDB's decision to do that is so worthy of praise.
Midwest Conservative Journal Breaks the Bad News to Germany like a True Gentleman

We've had some great times in the past but there comes a point when a country's just got to move on. We're sure you can find another superpower to move into those bases. You're a great catch.
California moves to ban 50 calibre target weapons.

Found this over at Clayton Cramer. This was a choice bit"

During questioning on the floor of the committee, Koretz admitted, "I don’t understand much of this gun stuff, I just think they are bad.

This is the reason why some many gunowners are tired of hearing about "reasonable compromise." What other group is expected to compromise with opponents who are willfully ignorant and and woefully ill-informed.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Real Journalism

Excellant discussion on blogs and the old-line media over at One Hand Clapping. And for those troubled by the lack of credentials on the part of blogger journalist.... read this report on the activities of two vetted professional journalists WHO SOLD SALACIOUS RUMORS TO THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER ON THE ELIZABETH SHORT CASE!

Then, read this rambling mess by Ashleigh Banfield and explain why i should believe her analysis of any situation more than the best bloggers?
Vintage SDB

On the post-modern Academy.
Baseball, financial derivatives, and Hayek all in one post

God of the Machine pulls it off. But before the Austrians made his case, a certain Greek addressed it pretty well...."For it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits, and not to seek exactness when only an approximation is possible." Nicomachean Ethics
Like I Said,

I don't dwell on football defeats in the past. I really am over SB XXX. But the Fat Guy is different. He does dwell.... all the way back to SB XIII