Sunday, November 30, 2003

Advertising as a commodity

Once the heads of advertising agencies dealt with the CEOs of their clients. They were seen as counselors, not merely people who wrote ads. Bill Bernbach did not just make clever commercials for VW. More than anyone, he defined the whole marketing position for the Beetle and allowed VW to compete with General Motors on GM's home turf. (Mary Wells's A Big Life in Advertising gives an insider's' view of the era.)

Paradoxically, despite the fact that "building strong brands" has become a key strategic initiative for most businesses, the role of the agency inside the client company had been downgraded. Senior management rarely confers with anyone at the agency. According to Ad Age 3 out of 4 top advertisers now involve their procurement people in the purchase of advertising. Apparently, they no longer look to agencies for strategic advice; today, they see ad creation as analogous to buying gasoline and janitorial services.

It has always been difficult to measure the return on advertising. It seems that corporations have decided to simply focus on cost reduction and hope that equates to improved performance.

Wal*mart Shoppers

Some interesting demographic information in the 6 October Ad Age.

The average consumer has a household income of $45,245. For Wal*mart shoppers the figure is $41,847.

Wal*mart shoppers are slightly older (45.0 versus 44.6 for all shoppers) and slightly less educated (13.9 years vs 14.1). Nearly a quarter of Wal*mart shoppers have four year degrees.

So the stereotype of the typical Wal*mart shopper doesn't fit. They really are not that different from the average consumer. No surprise given that over 100 million of us go to Wal*mart each week.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Shooters' Carnival

In addition to general advice, they have begun to include product reviews. So if you are thinking about buying a handgun or rifle, or are wondering about ammo brands, check them out.
Wolves and Sheep

Check this out at Backroads Blog.

98% of the population bemoans violence. 2% are okay with it. Of this 2%, half are wolves, ready to prey on the sheep. The other half are sheepdogs, which will keep the wolves at bay.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Anti-Saudi Bashing

I'll admit it, a lot of conservatives bug me with how they attack Saudi Arabia. It's not that i think that the Saudi royal family is a positive force in the middle East. Rather, i think they betray a double standard at work.

Case in point, this bit from the Corner:

There’s much about the piece that is deeply, deeply flawed (hey, it’s Albright), not least the failure to draw a distinction between the need to deal with the Saudis in the years of the Soviet threat and the situation after the Soviet collapse. Perhaps this was inevitable – the failure to grasp that things had changed (and to realize that the strategic significance of Saudi Arabia was now completely different)

So, the French are always to be grateful for our liberation in World War II, but America should have no residual gratitude to our allies in the Cold War? How cynical can you get?
Mark Steyn

Poor old Easterbrook was criticizing Jewish execs for not behaving Jewish enough (as he sees it), and wound up getting fired for “anti-semitism” from his other gig at the ESPN. Which, if you were Dr Mahathir, would sort of confirm the point you were making. Maureen Dowd can criticize Clarence Thomas for not behaving black enough, and nobody ever demands her pretty little head. Excessive ethnic touchiness is bad enough, but excessive ethnic touchiness inconsistently applied is worse. No wonder it's reduced a big macho sports network into a bunch of shying geldings at a ladies’ trotting race.

Read the rest here.
That could explain it

Last week i noted the how easily it seems for intelligence sources to link terror attacks back to al-Qaeda. In this article Laurie Mylroie offers one reason why:

one indication of a "false flag" operation is that the investigation is too easy. Authorities are immediately led down one track, away from the real culprits. Thus, the passport of one suicide bomber in the first set of attacks, on the synagogues, was found amid the wreckage. He was easily identified and the link to al Qaeda quickly established.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

How Smart was Clinton?

Aaron over at God of the Machine writes

Terry claims, as if it were an established fact, that Clinton is "known to be unusually smart," for which I can discern no evidence whatever. He is justly famed for many acts, none of which, except getting himself elected, could remotely be classified as intelligent.

It's part of a long post that deserves to be read.

See also this, which i wrote when no one read this blog.
Salam Pax

The JunkYard Blog has a great post on the Blogosphere's pet Iraqi. As he notes JYB was onto Salam long before Baghdad fell. He caught some flack for it at the time, but he was right as SP's post-war comments make clear.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Light blogging ahead

Holidays, etc.

Getting Hip to Squareness

This is one of the best things Michael Kelly ever wrote. In all these states we were, first and above all, not-square. Everything was a variation on that; to be seen as clever and even profound you had to be not much more than not square. ******* Knowingness, of course, is not knowledge—indeed, is the rebuttal of knowledge. Knowledge was what squares had, or thought they had, and they thought that it was the secret of life. Knowingness is a celebration of the conceit that what the squares knew, or thought they knew, was worthless. In The Graduate the career advice ("Plastics") of a family friend, Mr. McGuire, to Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is classic square knowledge. Benjamin's mute disdain toward that advice—and his elaborately played out disdain for all that McGuire and the Robinsons represent—is classic anti-square knowingness. You can see in this example the problem that a return to square poses: anti-square is so much easier and more fun. Knowledge, even on McGuire's level, is notoriously difficult to acquire. Sixteen years of hard, slogging schoolwork, and what do you know? Not enough to carry on ten minutes of intelligent conversation on any subject in the world with any person who actually knows something about the subject. Knowingness, though—a child can master that. (Can and does: there is an obvious inverse relationship between age and knowingness; the absolute life peak of knowingness generally arrives between the ages of twelve and sixteen for females, fourteen and eighteen for males—whereas, as these cohorts can attest, grown-ups don't know anything.) This is why Benjamin Braddock had to ignore, with prejudice, Mr. McGuire. McGuire may have been a fool, but he was, in the limited area of business and economic trends, probably a knowledgeable fool. Had Benjamin been obliged to respond to McGuire's advice in terms of knowledge, he would have been utterly lost—he would have been the one exposed as a fool. But for Ben—and more to the point, for the movie's audience—knowingness offered a lovely way to not only counter McGuire's knowledge but also trump it. Ben didn't have to know anything about McGuire to show himself intellectually (and aesthetically, and even morally) superior to McGuire. He only had to know that what McGuire thought he knew was a joke and McGuire was a joke because—because the McGuires of the world are definitionally jokes, and if you don't understand that, I can't explain it to you, because you are a McGuire. That's knowingness, and for no-sweat self-satisfaction you can't beat it. Kelly was more right than he may have known. In matters big and small knowingness plagues us. If you want a small example, take a look at VH1's "I Love the ...." programs. As this blogger noted, they are just a series of snide, bitchy comments by people who really know little about the subject they are discussing. Everything is just fodder for a snarky joke. In the latest New Criterion, Mark Steyn gives a common example: In the days after September 11, I ran into no end of college students eager to lecture me on the "root causes"-- poverty breeds despair, despair breeds anger, anger breeds terrorism, terrorism breeds generalizations-- yet unable to name the capital of Saudi Arabia or find Afghanistan on a map. Knowingness is a key element in many (most?) of the deleterious movements which have swept through the humanities over the last four decades. Graduate students did not have to master a subject in the old-fashioned way. They could just pick a short-cut-- racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia-- and go cherry-picking for facts that fit. For example, the history of the Northwest Territory used to be a complex matter of competing empires, tribes, religions, classes, and ethnicities. Now you just have to illustrate the genocidal attitudes of greedy settlers and you're home free. Why really try to read Eliot or Pound carefully? Just pick out the lines and phrases that show fascist sympathies or anti-Semitic attitudes and be done with it. These types of scholarly movements are a sham because they minimize the element of discovery in the research. The "scholar" knows what s/he will find when the s/he sets out. The footnotes are just a charming convention that serves as a smokescreen. As Kelly wrote, the problem is figuring out how to go back to attitudes that are not as easy to pull off and not as much fun.

Friday, November 21, 2003

More Wal*Mart

Business Pundit linked to this Fast Company article on the difficulties of being a Wal*Mart supplier. It's well worth reading but like much business journalism the narrative elements crowd out context and important questions are neither asked not answered.

Early on the author announces:

Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company--bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.

This sounds scary, but later on we find this:

believe it or not, American business has been through this before. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., the grocery-store chain, stood astride the U.S. market in the 1920s and 1930s with a dominance that has likely never been duplicated. At its peak, A&P had five times the number of stores Wal-Mart has now (although much smaller ones), and at one point, it owned 80% of the supermarket business.

There is another example in the more recent past: Circa 1960, Sears (yes, Sears) was larger than its five largest competitors combined.

So we shouldn't take Wal*mart's market dominance as a permanent feature of the business landscape. Business empires have a way of crashing.

More importantly, suppliers found a away to survive and prosper even when giants roamed the retail landscape.

The problem of Wal*mart squeezing margins of "branded" goods were discussed here. Both Vlasic and Levi Strauss seem to fit that mold: they wanted the sales growth and didn't think too much about profits. That isn't Wal*mart's fault: that is a failure of strategy by the brand owner.

Over twenty years ago Michael Port wrote Competitive Strategy. How can any business think that the way to high profits is to sell most of its product through a single large outlet? The Five-Forces Model will tell you that the profits are going to accrue to the buyer (in this case Wal*mart) not the seller (Vlasic, Levi's, etc).

Often a brand is defined by saying "no." Now that Levi's sells jeans at Wal*mart for $20, it is more difficult to sell their established versions at other stores for $45. This famous brand is being devalued by a management searching for a quick fix to long-standing problems.

As noted here, part of the problem for suppliers of branded-products is that retailers inherently commoditize the product simply by offering it in their store. Which is why some luxury brands have experimented with opening their own outlets.
Lileks, Lileks, Lileks!

The last part of this Bleat is priceless.

But since his target is Salam Pax, a pet of some in the blogosphere, he'll probably receive more than his usual allotment of abuse. Still, he is right.

Cut the clever café pose; drop the sneer. That “Rambo” crap is old. Iraq needs grown-ups. Be one.

UPDATE: Not everyone agrees with Lileks. Outside the Beltway has links (and be sure to read the comments).

Nonetheless, Scott's right that Salam is a war profiteer of a very modern sort. About what you would expect from one of the "smart-alec kids of the nomenklatura."

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Prague Connection

The redoubtable Edward Jay Epstein looks at the evidence again and does a little reporting as well.

It really seems that the Atta-Iraq connection is still an open question. While evidence for it is slim, it is clear that it has not been disproved.

What is troubling is that the FBI seems unwilling to work with the Czech's to investigate it.

Czech intelligence services could not solve this puzzle without access to crucial information about Atta's movements in the United States, Germany, and other countries in which the plot unfolded, but it soon became clear that such cooperation would not be forthcoming. Even after al-Ani was taken prisoner by U.S. forces in Iraq in July 2003 and presumably questioned about Atta, no report was furnished to the Czech side of the investigation. "It was anything but a two-way street," a top Czech government official overseeing the case explained. "The FBI wanted complete control. The FBI agents provided us with nothing from their side of the investigation."

The JunkYard Blog asks a lot of questions about the FBI's unwillingness to pursue these leads.

Maybe the FBI is just the captive of its own theories. For over a decade they have downplayed the dangers of state-sponsored terrorism and traditional espionage. Instead, the Bureau has focused on loose networks of criminals. It is a view that sees al-Qaeda as a law enforcement problem (like the Russian mafia) rather than an instrument of statecraft.

That might be a valid theory, but I would feel better about it if the chief author of the doctrine had been someone other than Robert Hanssen. Anything touched by a traitor seems suspect until revalidated by fresh and critical eyes.

The indispensable Mark Reibling has a lengthy post that looks at the broader question of al- Qaeda-Iraq links.

One other thing-- do intelligence "sources" and journalists use a consistent standard for determining "linkage"? A few hours after a terror attack it is common for the group to be identified and often we are told that they are "linked" to al-Qaeda or UBL. But these groups are shadowy, they don't publish org charts, and are a "loose-network". So how good is our evidence? And how strong is the link? Is it that much stronger than the connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam?

I suspect that many reporters and pundits demand a higher standard of proof about Saddam-UBL links than they do for UBL-Bali or UBL-Turkey.
More on the DVC

Dan Brown has sold over three million copies of a thriller that essentially charges the Roman Catholic Church with being a 2,000 year conspiracy that knowingly perpetuates a fraudulent history of Christ, his ministry and his message.

There aren't a lot of groups you can get away with defaming like that. You can do it to Texas oilmen and the Pentagon like Oliver Stone did in JFK. But there aren't a lot of other easy targets out there. Clearly, our concern about "hate speech" and love of diversity has limits.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Hitting back at comment spammers

She sounds like she means it. I hope it works.
Local soldier killed in Iraq

Timothy Hayslett, the father of two, had hoped to make the Army his career.

Hayslett went to the same high school as Randy Shughart, one of the two Delta team snipers who were killed in Mogadishu and were awarded the Medal of Honor for their bravery.

Sgt. Hayslett leaves a wife and two children. God be with them in their time of grief.
Polish Joke in the Atlantic

They published a letter here (it's at the bottom of the page) in response to the cartoon discussed here.

The Da Vinci Code's Shaky Foundation

A good piece by James Hitchcock.

For l50 years people have been calling the historical reliability of the New Testament into question. But now the Gnostic gospels, which were written later and were never taken as historical documents, are treated as at last giving us a true picture of the early Church. For example, Elaine Pagels, a scholar of Gnosticism, theorizes that Thomas is presented as a doubter in the New Testament in order to discredit the spurious Gospel of Thomas, a theory which is guesswork at best, not scholarship.

Found via Open Book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Stop telling me what to do!

The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy

That's the title of a new book by the good folks at RoperASW. Who will, for the right fee, show your company how to harness "influentials" and their word of mouth recommendations to build better brands.

I doubt that these influentials are monolithic enough to be a "controllable" part of the advertising mix.

But i really doubt that 90% of us go to the same 10% for advice on everything. It just sounds absurd: who talks to the same one or two people about a wine recommendation, a 401(k) rollover question, and car shopping?
History? More like Historical Fiction

I'm really disappointed that the History Channel is using the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination to air this tripe: The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Just a whole bunch of conspiracy theory, new witnesses who tell their story after thirty-five years, "facts" that are newly revealed.

They never once admit that the single bullet theory has strong scientific evidence to support it.

Further, I'm no fan of LBJ, but accusing the guy of murder should take some serious evidence. You'd better have something more than some spotlight-craving fantasists telling tales about dead people.

It's not often ABC is more level-headed and honest that Fox or the History Channel.
Credit where credit is due

Coyote at the Dogshow has been a posting machine of late. Quoting Phil Ochs when he is not nailing the Justice Department for violating the Brady Law.

James at Hell in a Handbasket always posts frequently and he digs up interesting stuff way off the beaten path. Sharks, orcas, and a movie review. There is also a discussion on a new round for the M-16 rifle.

Scott has evidence that the technological revolution marches on and now in a meaningful way: cracker-cut cheese!

Monday, November 17, 2003

Iraq and post-war Europe

I originally posted this back in March because i think it is good strategic planning advise. But the current talk about our "failure" to plan for Iraq's reconstruction and the danger that entails makes it pertinent for other reasons.

The Best Strategic Planning Advice Ever

"Avoid Trivia"

That was the only advice George Marshall offered George Kennan in 28 April 1947 when he gave him two weeks to create the State Department's Policy Planning Staff and formulate an American response to the European economic crisis.

Kennan had the staff in place by 5 May. He presented Marshall with the recommendations on 23 May. They were accepted and became the basis for the Marshal Plan.

Not a bad month's work.

Now, note the dates--- 1947! The Marshall Plan, the most successful initiative in State Department history, was put together TWO YEARS after the Nazis surrendered.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Those cozy bloggers

It's a Little Too Cozy in the Blogosphere

"The sassier the voice, the more successful the blog is likely to be."

Or maybe the writer just happens to like blogs whose authors tend to write cute, snarky, or sassy things. When i look at my blogroll i don't see a lot of blogs that sound like those Jennifer Howard is writing about. Has she ever heard of Steven den Beste? One Hand Clapping? In fact, not a single one of the bloggers listed here typically posts in the sort of chummy, cutesy tone she complains about.

It's sort of like watching only the VH1 and E! networks and deciding that TV journalism has been taken over by bitchy fashion designers and third-tier comedians.

One thing about bloggers: in most cases their friendships and group loyalties are presented right along with their commentary. That is much different than print or television.

The same sort of flirting, mentorship, clubbiness, and lobbying takes place with old media journalists. But it is invisible to the reader of a piece. Sid Blumenthal didn't just promote Bill Clinton in his articles in 1991-92, he also argued the Clinton case to other reporters on the bus covering the campaign. But most readers didn't know about that jockeying when they read about the 92 campaign in their local paper. How many people knew Todd Purdum was trying to score with Dee Dee Myers while he covered the White House and she was press secretary?

Outside the Beltway has a good analysis as well.

Terry Teachout, one of the bloggers mentioned in the Post article, comments here.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Kagan, Rumsfeld, and the RMA

Rev. Sensing links to a critique of the Kagan article on Rumsfeld's efforts to transform our military. Owen Johnson read Kagan completely differently than i did.

It seems to me that Kagan's main fear is that Rumsfeld will impose a narrow vision when exploiting the current RMA which will leave the US military unbalanced and poorly positioned to cope with future threats and missions.

Kagan is explicitly in favor of the "noisy, messy and apparently disorderly fashion" the services do things. He worries that Rumsfeld is trying to change that and impose a business-oriented, "one best way" mindset that over-values efficiency, assumes that the future is highly predictable, and understates our enemies's ability to adapt to and reduce our asymmetrical advantages.

I don't know if Kagan is correct or not. But, as i noted before, we also don't know if Rumsfeld is John Scully or Jack Welch either.
Alfred Kinsey

Terrific article at NRO on the pioneer sex "researcher."

Kinsey’s Kids

Indiana University, which has the dubious distinction of being home to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, is hosting a yearlong 50th-anniversary celebration of Alfred Kinsey's controversial 1953 book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. The festivities ignore the serious exposés of Kinsey's work and maintain the fiction that his research methods and findings are legitimate.

Working at the Post Office

Julie Neidlinger has some reflections and offers advice to us postal customers. I've never understood why people think being a customer gives them carte blanche to be rude, demanding, and petty.

Oddly (and fortunately) i have no postal worker horror stories. After living in nine places in five states my experience with the USPS has been almost universally positive. More than just positive; there have been numerous times where the people at the PO have been helpful and friendly beyond the job requirements.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Old Media Blog

World Magazine now has a blog. A couple of months ago they added a feature in their paper magazine that covers what blogs are saying. This column discusses blogs and what World plans to do with their blog.

Ia Drang

On 14 November 1965 the US First Cavalry division launched an offensive in the Ia Drang valley in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. This marked the first time that American regular forces met North Vietnamese army units in combat.

The first engagement as at LZ X-ray where an understrength battalion led by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry with approx.. 450 men) was attacked by over 3,000 NVA troops. In a three day battle the US force held their perimeter with the help of around the clock air and artillery support. American losses were 79 dead and 121 wounded; NVA casualties were many times that.

LtC Moore went on to become a Lt. General. His book on the battle-- We Were Soldiers Once... and Young became a best-seller and later was made into a movie starring Mel Gibson.

LZ X-ray was only the beginning of a 34 for day campaign. (Read more here) On 17 November 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry fought off the further attacks at LZ Albany suffering 155 killed and 121 wounded.

All told the 7th Cavalry suffered 234 killed in action. As Moore and Galloway wrote in their books prologue: "That is more Americans than were killed in any regiment, north or south, at the Battle of Gettysburg, and far more than were killed in combat in the entire Persian Gulf War."

General Moore distilled three lessons of leadership from his experience:

First, never quit. Three strikes and you're not out. Put that on your refrigerator.
Number two - there's always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favor. There's always a way.
Number three - trust your instincts.
The cover of We Were Soldiers had a picture of a young officer--Lt. Rick Rescorla who was a platoon leader in the 2/7 Cav. Rescorla survived the war and later went on to become vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. He died in the WTC attacks as he worked to get his people out of the tower. His story is here.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

More on Jarvis

Justin at Dust in the Light has a series of posts on Jeff Jarvis, populism, and new-media. (Just start here and follow his links).

I think it indicates an importance in remembering that folks like Jeff Jarvis are old-media types dabbling in — and differentiating themselves using — new media.

My post on the subject is here.

The Boob Tube

Coyote at the Dog Show says it best:

Don't like the TV programming you're watching? Well, there's a really easy way to solve that. Get up off the couch and go do something.

But don't sit there on the couch watching and then complain that the programming people watch is turning them into pussies, warping their minds, or whatever. Do the manly thing: Turn it off.


The JunkYard Blog has a good post on the this rhetorical tripe:

But the "chickenhawk" label has been a persistent plague in this war. Anyone who supported war but didn't rush down to the recruiter to sign on has been slapped with it by liberal pundits and bloggers and generally by the anti-war crowd. It's obviously nothing more than one of many canards the anti-war crowd has tossed up to try and squelch the pro-war side of the debate--they figure calling us names or calling out our courage quotient will make us think twice about publicly opining in favor of a war we're not actually fighting in.


Those who toss the term around usually don't have a problem with the "chicken" part-- many of them went down the line with Clinton and are solidly behind Dean. They had no problem with Madeline Albright taunting Colin Powell about his unwillingness to commit troops into murky conflicts. It's the hawk part that bothers them and the conservative/republican thing.
Men Marriage and Advertising-- Follow-up

Several bloggers commented on this post and they make interesting points:

Snooze Button Dreams is one of those who are watching less TV because of "men are dumb" stereotype:

I don't watch things that irritate me and the ever growing "guys are lovable losers/bumbling idots" thing has pretty much trashed television as an entertainment vehicle for me.

The Desert Light Journal is another blog that thinks the portrayal of men on TV could account for the decline of male viewership

Snippy offers a woman's perspective that cuts to the heart of the matter:

That second one is, in fact, far more important to me. I'm in the middle (or possibly by some definition near the end) of trying to raise my sons to be men who are valuable and cherished members of our society. These insidious attacks on their value as human beings, and on the images I've tried to present to them of worthwhile manhood, mean more time spent fighting negativity and less time spent building important values like respect, self-reliance, confidence, generosity, and kindness.

The Man without Qualities makes a provocative point:

But there seems to be another force at work: American television increasingly presents a tolerant view of homosexuality, and increasingly presents images of gay interaction itself. I am not interested in condemning or condoning that development here. But it is simply a fact that the development has happened and is continuing to happen.

In my opinion, while tolerance of gay lifestyles may (or may not) be increasing in the United States, it is also a fact that the great majority of American men do not feel comfortable being directly or indirectly involved in or witnessing or having their attention drawn to any aspect of gay interaction.

I'm not sure i agree completely. I don't doubt that the increasing gay presence on TV may turn off some viewers. But gays on TV are themselves often caricatures--- urban, swishy, smart, bitchy, witty, girly. Will on Will and Grace is simply the other side of the coin, the antithesis of the doofus clod husband on a dozen sitcoms. On Queer Eye the opposition of gay to straight men is made explicit. But all of it is rather a set-up, the gay characters are used to mock conventional males.
How not to do it

If possible, do not get linked by Instapundit just as you head out of town for several days. Or at least try to make sure you have access to your email and blog. All those new visitors and no new posts.... i wasted an opportunity.

But i do have new stuff coming over the next couple days including a couple of things that continue the discussion on men, media, and advertising.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Someday maybe i can write something this succinct and on-target

Too many bloggers confuse civilization, or culture, with Zeitgeist, which is white noise. Culture does not consist, and never did, of what is taught in college, or what appears on television or in the newspapers. It is an underground stream, the product of a few dozen of the most intelligent people of each generation, and it always appears sounder retrospectively because time takes out the trash.

God of the Machine

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Welcome Instapundit Readers!

And thanks for stopping in.

Since this is your first visit here, why not check out some of the archives?

And take a look at the blogroll as well. You might find a couple blogs that are new to you, and they certainly are worth a look.

Thanks again.
Men Marriage and Advertising

One of the targets of Kim du Toit's now famous rant was the way men are portrayed in commercials. On this he was absolutely right. The middle class guy as doofus is one of the most popular themes in advertising. Chevy uses it to sell cars, Circuit City to sell electronics. Frozen pizza, cereal, cleaning supplies-- all of them use men as the butt of their jokes.

To go further, while men of all types are on the receiving end, husbands are the ones who get it worse

I don't doubt that if you totaled all the spending on these commercials you would conclude that "husbands are dumb" is the most popular advertising message in America. If TV commercials can shape the image of a sneaker or beer, what is it doing to the image of marriage.

Miller's advertising competes with with Budweiser's. But there is very little advertising which portrays the husband/father as an attractive, respected figure.

Women, most of them, should be concerned about this cliche as well. Implicit in the message is the wife as ball and chain. Husbands are clearly guys who have no fun. The only men enjoying life in commercials are single. The point is neither subtle nor nuanced and it is repeated over and over in prime time.

Jane Galt thinks this trend simply reflects the fact that women make the buying decisions for most consumer products. This is unsatisfactory. The anti-husband commercials are not only used to sell cereal, paper towels, and diapers. They also promote cars and beer where the target market includes men.

I wonder if these ads are part of the reason that men are deserting TV, especially broadcast TV. (See here and here). The barrage of disparaging commercials just make it a little less appealing to the male demographic.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Cyber-mob Rule

Jeff Jarvis thinks that the public uproar over the Reagan mini-series and CBS’s reaction is a bad thing. Really bad. The blogosphere is not acting like a pack-- it’s a herd that has become a "mob". Mobs are dangerous-- scary dangerous. All of us should be worried.

Stifle the gloating again, blog mob. For you may think this is good news -- ding, dong, the big media witch is dead... it's melting, it's melting! Or at least: The big guys are listening at last!
But it's not good news. It's bad for media, old and new. It's bad for the republic.

As a conservative, I distrust the mob. As a student of history, I also know that mobs do not appear spontaneously and that not every large gathering is an unthinking mob. Usually, before the herd can become a mob there must be some underlying grievances that those in power are unwilling or unable to address.

The first point Jarvis overlooks is that the uproar was not just pro-Reagan or conservative; it was also pro-truth and anti-lying. Conservatives often criticize liberal programming without calling for boycotts. The West Wing has been pumping out Clinton/Gore talking points for four years. It has been criticized (as I did here)but did not provoke widespread outrage. The Reagan mini-series was a special case because it used fictional events to create a portrait of the Reagans that was contradicted by real events.

If the mob was wrong-- if the mini-series was a well-done, fully rounded portrait with real merit-- then why didn’t CBS stick to its guns and broadcast it? They would have won praise for their courage and would have demonstrated that the critics were just trying to incite the mob.

Jarvis acts as though only the mob can censor or restrict programming. He is not that naive. Networks and studios make decisions everyday that shape what we see on TV. One reason conservatives were angry is that they knew CBS or Miramax will never fund a Clinton mini-series that is as shoddy, exploitive and dishonest as the Reagan drama. No one is going to base a prime time movie on Gary Aldrich’s book or The American Spectator’s reporting.

Terry Teachout was astute to highlight the role of new technology in shaping this controversy and its outcome. Those forces won’t go away just because CBS tossed the program to Showtime. The effects may not always be as visible as the Reagan-fireworks, but they will be real and long-lasting.

Most mass market advertising is designed to build and maintain brand equity. A large part of that equity is in the minds of consumers. It is not just that a car is more reliable or roomier-- it is also more refined, or cool, or the choice of smart buyers.

Much of our thinking about brands is fuzzy and confused. We have a hard time measuring what works, what consumers really think, how much knowledge customers have. Faced with such large unknowns brand marketers simply focus on putting their advertising in front of viewers/readers. In general, the demographic of the audience matter a lot; the nature of the programming does not.

Obviously, networks like this approach: sponsors do not worry too much about the content that surrounded their ads. Counting eyeballs by demo group is the main type of analysis.

This model is not eternal. In the early days of television sponsors owned and produced the programs. (Hence soap operas).

Nor are advertisers always indifferent to the vehicle that carried their message. The New Yorker’s prestige makes it attractive beyond its demographics while Penthouse struggles to draw mainstream advertisers despite its large readership.

Both advertisers and consumers are gaining more awareness about each other. Consumers used to know who advertised on shows they watched; now they know who advertises on shows they hate or which mock their deeply-held beliefs. Ironically, this "media awareness" is promoted by magazines like Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide-- places Jarvis used to work.

Advertisers always have exploited celebrity endorsements to help their brand (Nike-Michael Jordan). They know that when a celebrity gets into trouble there can be negative fallout for their product (Nike-Kobe). Now advertisers have to assess media buying decisions as potential endorsements with upside and downside risks.

For networks the problem is that the risks grow out of consumer's perceptions. Cozy arrangements between ad salesmen and advertising agencies can’t survive if the advertiser pays too much attention to customers and if customers tell advertisers what they think of the shows they sponsor.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The new one is up here. The Accidental Jedi has done a fantastic job organizing and summarizing. And the selection of business/economic posts is good. If you think the blogosphere is just war-blogging and cat-blogging, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Discussion Fodder

Rightwing News has the list of "History's Most Interesting Dinner Companions" as voted on by rightwing blogger.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

What's My Line

Terry Teachout writes about the the show in an essay that really deserves to be read.

Much of the charm of "What’s My Line?" arises from the fact that it is so palpably of another era. The pace was slowish and agreeable, the repartee good-humored but unabashedly urbane. The host and panel all wore formal evening dress; John Daly addressed his female colleagues as "Miss Arlene" and "Miss Dorothy." The set was penny-plain, the guests signed in on a dimestore blackboard, and Daly kept score by flipping cards. The contestants, who were treated with the utmost courtesy, were clearly content to earn a mere $50 for stumping the panel. Even though all 876 episodes were originally broadcast live, it never occurs to you for a moment that anyone on stage would have dreamed of saying anything naughty.

Putin and the oligarchs

A worthwhile point to keep in mind about Putin and his battle with the oligarchs. THEY WERE NOT LIBERALS OR REFORMERS WHEN IT REALLY MATTERED.

Take this quote from a former political prisoner:

"Hey, let's roll a couple of decades back," he said. "We were serving our terms for opposing the regime, and where was Mr. Khodorkovsky? He was first secretary of the Komsomol committee of Moscow's Bauman district in Moscow. I don't feel sorry for him."

HT: Colby Cosh

Friday, November 07, 2003

Miller High Life

Miller spends a lot of money on advertising (over $200 million annually) and they are trying to reinvigorate their High Life brand. But i think their efforts are wasted because of the ads they choose to spend that money on.

The key problem is the voice over-- it's the same guy VH1 uses for "We Love the 70s" and "We Love the 80s." He uses the same mocking and ironic tone which undercuts the words he speaks.

Miller wants High Life to be the beer of choice for blue-collar men. Their TV spots focus on manly pursuits-- sowing grass, changing oil, grilling steaks. But the ads don't end up as a celebration of the suburban good life. They come off as a joke at the expense of the target market. And that is never a wise move for marketing no matter how much the hip creative guys in New York or San Francisco like it.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Dean and the flag

OTB thinks "Dean has a rather stereotypical view of the average Southerner. " Which may be true, but that is not how i read Dean's initial remarks about guys in pick-up trucks. While it is true that there is more to South than that, what Dean recognized was that the critical GWB swing voter in 2000 was a working class man or woman who voted for values (God, guns, gays) instead of their economic interest. (Remember, he carried West Virginia and needed that state to win).

While i am sure that Dean would accept the vote of the affluent banker in Charlotte or Atlanta, he knows that his best chance is with rural and suburban working class white guys. That's just smart politics.

This C. Dodd Harris post on Dean's backtracking is first rate:

But, of course, it's obvious that he doesn't mean that no-one - not even gays, minorities, atheists and gun-grabbers - should base their votes on those things. Just people with the "wrong" ideas about them. I will forbear to cite the Founders here and just say t we can now consider the debate about whether or not his comments over the weekend about the Confederate flag were just a gaffe or if they were indicative of a truly ignorant, bigoted notion of how Southerners think and act to be settled.
Dean, the flag, and pandering

A couple of days ago i thought Dean was a serious threat to Bush. Appealing to the South, looking moderate as Kerry and Sharpton attacked him for it... smart move. Strong on 2d amendment. Better yet. In my mind, the nightmare ticket for the GOP would have been a South-friendly Dean and Tennessee's Rep. Harold Ford. (He may be the most impressive democratic congressman i've seen on TV.)

But now i agree with Ben Domenech: "I thought Dean came out looking good - he stuck to his position, and the high-falootin pompousity of the other candidates on the issue made him seem positively principled. But then Dean undermined the whole thing by conceding and apologizing on the point today. Geez, where did that backbone go? "

Here's a question on the rebel flag: When did it become wholly a symbol of racism? I know the usual answer is that it has always been offensive, but that is not so. In the 1960s and early 70s, the stars and bars sometimes had a counter-cultural appeal. For example, checkout "The Last Waltz", the documentary of The Band's last concert in 1976. In the background for some of the interviews is a large rebel flag. The Band was mostly Canadian and never slurred as a racists outfit. In 1976 the flag drew no comment-- although it is jarring to see today.

In the same vein--- Joan Baez recorded "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and no one accused her of being an apologists for slavery.

The hyper-sensitivity to all things southern and confederate is new. That's why it's wrong to assume that everyone with the rebel flag on their truck put it there because they are racist.

The meterosexual Jesus

Rev. Donald Sensing has a long post up that really does deserve to be read in full.

In the tame, domesticated and frankly feminine images of Jesus we use, we suppress Jesus’ masculinity, of which shepherding is one example. It’s a cultural thing, you see. Boys and men find it overwhelmingly important to be seen as manly men, independent, confident and self-assured, but Christian faith is culturally seen as a sort of wimpy crutch for people who can’t handle life on their own. Such stereotypes are reinforced by artistic and verbal images of Jesus that I think would make his first apostles wonder just whom we are talking about.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Rumsfeld and Transformation

From the latest New Criterion by Frederick W. Kagan.

The issues of transformation and military overstretch are inextricably linked. The Secretary of Defense has adopted a vision of transformation that relies on high-technology weapons systems rather than on soldiers. He has continued to pursue this program even as the armed forces have been stretched thinner and thinner. He has even resisted efforts by Congress to expand the military—a virtually unimaginable stance for a sitting Secretary of Defense—in order to preserve his program of military transformation. As a result, the U.S. is now attempting to transform its military in ways that hinder the conduct of current operations, even as those operations literally rip it apart. Worst of all, the current program of transformation turns its back on the approach that had brought America success so far, and flies in the face of the historical lessons about how to transform a military. If these problems remain unacknowledged and unaddressed, the U.S. may lose its predominance and endanger its security.

America achieved military dominance in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since no other state or group of states had been attempting to compete directly with the two superpowers, U.S. preeminence arrived unexpectedly and by default. The roots of the dominant position America holds today lie, therefore, in efforts American leaders made in the period from the late 1960s through the early 1980s to transform the military in order the better to face the U.S.S.R.

See also this and this.
Unfriendly fire

He survived hostilities in Iran, Colombia, and Somalia, but can Gen. Boykin get out of the culture war alive?

By Edward E. Plowman
Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin is one of America's super heroes. Fresh out of college, he started out as a U.S. Army officer in 1971, was a Delta Force operations officer in the 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, became commander of Delta Force (1992-1995) and led the Delta team that went after narcotics czar Pablo Escobar in Colombia in 1992, commanded the ill-fated 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, to quell violence there, and went on to become commanding general of the Army's Special Forces units at Ft. Bragg, N.C. His body bears scars from gunshot and mortar wounds suffered along the way; a mortar blast in Somalia almost blew off an arm. But he kept coming back. A committed warrior in the defense of his country, he is one of the most decorated soldiers on active duty.

He also is a committed Christian, one who prayed with his men before every mission.

Therein lies the rub. Committed Christians talk about their faith, and Gen. Boykin has been doing that as an invited guest at various churches and conferences for years. But in this era of political correctness, what evangelicals in prominent positions say in public is under ever-increasing scrutiny.
CMO Describes Breast Cancer Insult by Rosie O'Donnell

NEW YORK ( -- In the most dramatic moment so far in the Rosie O'Donnell trial, Judge Ira Gammerman temporarily adjourned the proceeding this morning after a top executive at Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA broke down while describing how she had been the target of a breast cancer insult by Ms. O'Donnell.

Today is the fourth day of the acrimonious legal battle between Gruner & Jahr and Ms. O'Donnell, its former publishing partner in Rosie magazine.

Late-night call

On the witness stand, Cindy Spengler, G&J's chief marketing officer and a breast cancer survivor, had been describing a late-night phone call she said she had with Ms. O'Donnell. She said Ms. O'Donnell accused her of being dishonest and said: "Do you know what happens to people who lie? They get sick and they get cancer."
Jonathan Alter doesn't think i should be doing this

It’s a big victory for the “Elephant Echo Chamber,” the unholy trinity of conservative talk radio, conservative Internet sites and the Republican National Committee.

Unholy trinity? I mean, come on, can't we just agree to disagree? No need to drag religion into it or consign me to the pit for all eternity.

But i guess that just proves i'm a mouthpiece for the RNC. Conservative internet sites could never come up with something on their own
Christmas Reminder

Click here.
Great Minds.....

Anthony Daniels in the November New Criterion:

the triumvirate of Germanic gurus who were listened to on all subjects, and whose utterances were considered of a gnomic wisdom so great that they were above contradiction or even analysis. The triumvirate was composed of Albert Schweitzer, and Jung.

They were all helped by their appearance, as well as by their accents, so well suited to wisdom.

Aaron on poets and their reputations:

Yeats looks like a Great Poet, with his piercing gaze, roman nose, and snowy hair. He was exceptionally jealous of his hair. He refers in the letters to the equally fine-maned Bertrand Russell as "bald-pated," and in his poetry frequently employs bald men, as in The Scholars, as a symbol for intellect, which he despised. The reputations of Shelley and Whitman also profit from their looks. Moore, by contrast, looks like the harmless village eccentric. And Yeats is a great man, and no one has heard of Moore.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

scapegoating wal*mart

Bud Phibbs, "The Retail Doctor", had a letter in the 10-20-03 Ad Age on the "Damage Done by the Wal*Mart Model." In it he asks

Have you noticed how all that is left of most major brands is a shell of the greatness marketing and advertising built for them over the past several generations?

He explicitly indicts Wal*Mart:

And as everything from hotel rooms to soap, from fashion to beer loses its unique selling proposition, we'll point back to who led the assault-- and the fingers will point to Wal*Mart.

Phibbs lays the blame at the wrong door. If brand marketers opt to sell in volume at Wal*Mart, even at the expense of their brand identity and USP, then they have already lost faith in their brand. That isn't Wal*Mart's fault; there is no reason they should have more respect for the brand than the brand-owners.

One of the most difficult challenges for brand managers is knowing when a marginal increase in sales does more damage to brand value than it adds in profits. That is partly an intellectual problem, but it is even more a question of will and discipline. You have to be brave enough to say no to revenue today in order to preserve margins next year.

The plain truth is that many "great" brands were and are owned by companies that do not take brands seriously. When times are good, they accept the praise, profits and valuation that comes from having a popular brand. But when times are tough, they will push discounts and ignore the damage to the long-term health of the brand.
On the ever-increasing absurdity of liberal war-bloggers

Buzzmachine on Zell Miller's endorsement of Bush:

And I'm still quite selective about my presidential candidates. I'm still selecting. Just because I'm willing to support the president in this war on terrorism, that doesn't mean that I'm ready to turn into a damned jelly-filled donut like Zell Miller. You have to admit: His valentine to Bush would make a Hallmark writer gag.

The fey Mr. Jarvis thinks that Miller (a marine and author of Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know I learned in the Marines ) is a jelly donut? Reviewing TV shows and founding a magazine devoted to shallow celebrities makes you more serious than the rubes who mean it when they sing Amazing Grace?
More on TV's Missing Men

Ad Age weighs in on the matter previously discussed here.

Key point-While overall viewership by men 18-34 dropped 9%, the decline was 22% at the broadcast networks. Which lends credence to the idea that the broadcast shows just didn't appeal to young men.
Christmas Reminder

Click here.
Moore Better Blues

Another meaty mini-essay up at God of the Machine: Yeats and his literary reputation.
Loose Lips....

On behalf of the Ba'athist dead-enders and jihadis everywhere, i would like to thank the "senior officials" who opined to the New York Times that Saddam might be leading the guerrilla war against Coalition forces.

Thanks because we really want government sources to add to Iraqi fears that Saddam might be back. And it is so much better to have Hussein viewed as an active commander giving orders than as a fleeing coward wearing women's robes.

But one thing i want to know----- is your intelligence on this as good as prior assessments? You know, those "reports" that had him killed, wounded, meeting here, hiding there? The reports that turned out to be wrong so often?

Can we get a leak investigation here? 'Cause this sort of talk undercuts on-going psy-ops and obviously entails the leaking of classified data and confidential reports.

Or does this matter only when we can blame Karl Rove?

Monday, November 03, 2003

Crazy Like a Fox?

I'm beginning to think that Dean is a serious threat to Bush. The confederate flag flap now makes him look more moderate: Sharpton and Kerry are attacking him from the left. And that remark and Vermont's gun control laws won't hurt him in Arkansas, Tennessee or West Virginia.

Midwest Conservative Journal has a good analysis here.
Christmas Reminder

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Ledeen Unhinged

Michael Ledeen. is the Right's answer to Sy Hersh.
No time for a fisking and it is hardly worth the effort. But here are three points to ponder:

1. Ledeen's villains- Powell, Armitage, Hagel-- are all combat veterans of Vietnam. If they are wary of the Wolfowitz/Ledeen enthusiasms, it may be because they have an awareness of military realities that the hawks lack.

2. Powell had good reasons to oppose the meddling on Iran by Ledeen's friends. The last time the government listened to Ledeen on Iran, we got a whopping big scandal. Powell was in the WHite House when Iran-contra was fomented and then became public.

3. Ledeen wants us to move faster, his buddy Wolfowitz wants the army to be lighter and do more with less. The two positions are incompatible. Rapid pacification requires boots on the ground. That was the course Wolfowitz argued against.

See also this post.
California Burning

Gregg Easterbrook points out that

Fire cycles are natural; no form of woodland management could prevent all fires. In addition, people's voluntary choices have, over the last generation, increased the likelihood of wildfires, and the likelihood they will do significant property harm. Recent decades have seen construction of millions of homes too close to forested or brushland areas (sometimes, of course, spectacular vacation homes built by people who consider themselves environmentalists), putting men and women increasingly into the natural paths of wildfires. Also, building expensive homes in places that might burn increases the property-loss consequence of wildfires. The Sierra Club is not to blame for the fact that affluent Americans want fancy homes with spectacular views.

Steve Sailer addresses a point that Easterbrook chooses to ignore:

But the plains of Southern California filled up long ago. So the ever-growing population has been spilling into the more treacherous wild areas.

This is regularly denounced as "sprawl," which implies that individuals are wastefully consuming more and more land per capita. But in California the driver has been population growth . According to a 2003 Center for Immigration Studies report by Roy Beck, Leon Kolankiewicz and Steven A. Camarota, from 1982 to 1997 the total number of developed acres in California grew by 32 percent, but the per capita usage was up only two percent. Essentially all of California's population growth in the 1990s was due to new immigrants or births to foreign-born women. (Indeed, close to 1.5 million more American-born citizens moved out of California during the 1990s than moved in from other states.)

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The New Carnival Of The Capitalists is Up!

Here. Once again, plenty of good blogging on economics and business.
Christmas Reminder

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Err War?

This article from Slate is a severe indictment of the Army's ability to adapt to the realities of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Kaplan's evidence is much too thin to support his sweeping conclusions. Further, his preferred course of action has risks that he does not seem to recognize.

First, Kaplan references an Army report that is critical of our intelligence performance in Iraq. He claims that it has been "suppressed" because the Army took it off its website. This, he concludes, is evidence that the brass is obstinate and unwilling to learn the lessons of our current war.

Another way to look at it is that the brass does not want to provide fodder to a bunch of journalists cherry-picking facts for their "quagmire" stories. Kaplan does not show that the report on lessons learned has been suppressed internally.

As noted below and here and here and here, the military's record of learning the right lessons are quite good. Better, i'd argue, that the typical reporter's. It's not just that journalists opt for the lazy Vietnam analogy. Remember as well that reporters were quick to trumpet the claims of the "military reformers" in the 1980s. They couldn't get enough of the claims that we didn't need the M-1 Abrams tank, the Bradley IFV, big nuclear carriers, the B-1, the B-2,.......

In short, most journalists got the procurement battles of the 1980s almost 100% wrong. What evidence do we have that they are more astute now?

Kaplan writes:

Careers tend to be advanced on the battlefield or in the chain of big-ticket weapons procurement—not in the shadows of conflict or under the green eyeshade of "support analysis."

The Army has long been dominated by armor and artillery, and decisions about its budgets, missions, and priorities tend to be made by officers who rose through the ranks during the Cold War as commanders of armored divisions. A shift has begun to take place, as high-tech munitions and surveillance systems come into the arsenal, and as "rogue regimes" and terrorists replace the Soviet Union and China as the leading threats—but, at least as it affects military institutions, this shift is still in its early phase.

It would be a big mistake for the army to reorient as dramatically as Kaplan thinks necessary. Terrorism can cause civilian casualties, but China or North Korea could trigger a nuclear face-off. We need a strong conventional capability to lessen our reliance on nuclear deterrence. It is better to stumble sometimes in our small wars than to risk losing a big battle.

In the nineteenth century Britain and France gained immense experience fighting small wars. Their officers were trained for them; their armies were good at fighting them. But this expertise had little applicability to the war with Germany in 1914. The British, in particular, lacked the staff expertise to command large formations and manage the logistics of trench warfare.

The same thing happened in the US in both the Civil War and WWI. Our regular army officers were trained and experienced in frontier warfare and counter-insurgency. They were overwhelmed by the demands of large-scale conventional operations at the beginning of both wars.

Kaplan would have us repeat these mistakes in order to pacify Iraq a few weeks or months faster. For the fact is the guerrilla was will be won soon. The Ba'athists and jihadis cannot win: they have neither sanctuaries nor reliable sources of supply. This is not South Vietnam or Lebanon where the guerrillas can dictate the combat tempo; they can be squeezed slowly but inevitably.

That does not mean all of Iraq will become 100% safe and peaceful. By that standard, South Central LA, Compton, and the Bronx are not pacified. Nor are Spain, France, or Sweden.

But we can win this little war in Iraq without completely reorienting our military.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Instapundit comments:

It's possible to disagree with the specifics of Rumsfeld's campaign to shake up the Army brass, but I think the need for such a shakeup is pretty plain, as is the unfortunate tendency of the brass to resist critiques of their performance.

I'm not sure the pro-Rumsfeld/anti-brass case is so obvious.

First, over the last forty years, the military, has shown a substantial ability to transform and reform to cope with changing circumstances. It came out of the post-Vietnam period and created the force that won GW I. Then, in less than 10 years it downsized, modernized, and won Afghanistan and Iraq faster and with less forces than most anyone expected.

That's a record which shames our universities and the journalism profession. Neither of these seem to have moved much beyond 1968.

Second, i think the jury is still out on Rumsfeld as a transformational leader. At this point we don't have enough information to determine if he is John Scully or Jack Welch. Both CEOs talked a good game about transforming their organization. Welch knew how to lead the effort; Scully just made ineffectual pronouncements and flailed around.
Sometimes it hurts to be right

My latest Steelers Digest made for bleak reading-- no surprise given our 2-5 record.

The editor offered us suffering fans this:

It's not like a lot of people saw this coming. With this roster of players, with this coaching staff, with this ownership, 2-5 after seven games is shockingly unacceptable.

I guess that makes me one of the few since i made this assessment back in April:

I'm worried about this season. Our defense had problems last year. Our running game is suspect since Bettis has been injured in the last two seasons and Zeroue is a question mark as a feature back.

The big question is QB. Kordell Stewart is gone to Chicago so it all comes down to Tommy Maddox. He played brilliantly for much of last season-- but that was when he was an unknown quantity for defensive co-ordinators. This year they will know what to prepare for and will have plenty of film to study.

I wish i had been wrong. I also wish that i could now find some ray of hope.

But offenses are picking out secondary apart. Neither Zeroue not Bettis seems ready to get the ground game back on track. Our o-line is cobbled together. Mattox looks average as a QB.

The defense formerly known as Blitzburgh has 13 sacks while we've allowed 22.

Ugly. Just generally ugly.