Thursday, December 30, 2004

Rerun season

Originally posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004

On leaks, bias and truth

Justoneminute notes that the Plame/Wilson leak investigation hasn't turned out like the press had hoped. Safire lays on the bombast and trots out the usual justifications.

The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before.
Leaks, for good or ill, are an integral part of modern journalism. Without them the Times, CBS, and Newsweek would publish fewer stories of much shorter length. Investigative journalism as it is now practiced could not exist. So leaks make news and, thus, generate information.

But, as Edward Jay Epstein* noted his book Deception, they do so while withholding critical information about context, the motivations for the disclosure, and the professional competence of the person making the statements.

In short, while they generate information, they may not add anything to the store of knowledge; they may, in fact, subtract from it. Amb. Wilson's leaks, after all, created a false picture of pre-war intelligence and the honesty of the current administration. We do not know if the "Pentagon sources" telling Hersh that Iraq is the new Vietnam are the same people who told him in October 2001 that Afghanistan was the new Vietnam.

As Epstein also points out, journalism's reliance on leaks separates it from traditional scholarly disciplines where the search for truth is inextricably tied to the explicit discussion of sources and methods.

Only two forms of knowledge cross this principle: gossip and journalism. The gossip purposely obscures his sources, saying in effect, 'Don't ask who I heard it from,' to make the story more titillating. The journalist obscures his sources out of self-interest, claiming that unless he hides their identities, they will not provide him with further information. This claim assumes the sources are acting out of altruistic motives. If, however, they are providing the information out of self-interest-- and much information comes from publicists and other paid agents-- then their motive is part of the story.

I've never understood the journalistic argument for concealing sources except that it is self-serving. While a source might talk more freely if he need take no responsibility for what he says, he also has far less incentive to be completely truthful. The only check on the source's license to commit hyperbole, if not slander, under these rules is the journalist himself. But the very premise of concealing sources is that the journalist needs the cooperation of the source in the future. This makes the journalist himself an interested party.

One of the ways the ideological bias of journalists manifests itself is in their decision to focus on either the leak or the story. They care about the disclosure of Plame's status as a CIA officer; they didn't care about the illegal release of Linda Tripp's personnel records by a Clinton political appointee. The timing of the Berger revelations is a matter of grave concern; the motivation of those who gave the Abu Ghraib photos to Seymour Hersh is a matter of indifference. The Pentagon sources warning us of a new Vietnam are treated as pure truth-tellers; no one asks if they are evidence of a defeatist coterie who are mired in the mindset of 1968.

Bias can also be a factor in how other journalists treat the "scoop." Both Bill Gertz and Sy Hersh have many talkative contacts in the Pentagon. The rest of the MSM is ignorant about those source's identity, credibility, and competence. Nevertheless, ABC or the LA Times are far more likely to run with a Hersh story that one by Gertz.

Why? How can the reader/viewer be certain that this has nothing to do with Hersh's reflexive anti-Rumsfeld slant or Gertz's pro-brass slant?

Epstein also hones in on some murky ethical questions.

By concealing the machinations and politics behind a leak, journalists suppress part of the truth surrounding a story. Thus, the means by which the medical records of Senator Thomas Eagleton were acquired and passed on to the Knight newspapers (which won the 1973 Pulitizer Prize for disclosing information contained in these records) seems no less important than the senator's medical history itself, especially since copies of the illegally obtained records were later found in the White House safe of John Ehrlichman.
We agree that it was wrong for Ehrlichman to possess the records and wrong for him to share them with ANYONE. Yet, the journalism profession celebrated the reporters who told millions about Eagleton's psychiatric history. Reconciling those positions requires a level of sophisticated (and sophistic) reasoning that makes angels dancing on pins look like child's play by comparison.

In many cases, acceptance of leaked material compromises reporters. To protect their source and to ensure future scoops, they tacitly agree to ignore part of the story. They have the privilege of revealing that Candidate A had a mistress who bore him a son and that Candidate B was addicted to cocaine. What they cannot reveal is that Candidate C is employing a stable of private detectives to dig up dirt on the opposition. Those detectives, after all, are the source of the headline-grabbing stories.

When a reporter uses an anonymous source, it is implied that it is dangerous for him/her to speak out publicly. This usually casts the other side-- the nonleaker-- in an unfavorable light. The target of the leak is not just wrong-- they are engaged in a cover-up and are prepared to retaliate against their opponents. However, we have only the source's word for this. A crucial part of the story-- the part that adds drama-- has to be accepted on faith.

Increasingly we see another type of murkiness from the widespread use of leaks. They are defended because they help the pursuit of truth. But when the leak itself becomes the issue, journalist's refusal to reveal sources becomes a barrier to truth: it prolongs a controversy that could be put to bed quickly.

In the Plame 'outing' or the revelation of the Berger investigation the big question is "who told?" This might be more important than the specific information conveyed to reporters. The conventions of journalism are a huge obstacle to answering that question.

Former Army intelligence officer Col. Stuart A. Herrington made an astute observation in his book Traitor's Among Us:
In the unique world occupied by our media colleagues, trusted government civil servants who betray sensitive information are First Amendment heroes.
He speaks from experience. He nearly had a years-long investigation blown apart because some one leaked news of it to the New York Times.

It is another strange bit of reasoning: A reliable and trustworthy source is someone willing to break trust with his or her colleagues and betray the confidences of their friends.

* Epstein's book, Between Fact and Fiction: The Problem of Journalism is out of print. It is well worth picking up a used copy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


The New Criterion has a lengthy consideration of her career here.

The only thing they left out was Tom Wolfe's assessment in Hooking Up:
Actually she was just another scribbler who spent her life signing up for protest meetings and lumbering to the podium encumbered by her prose style, which had a handicapped parking sticker valid at partisan Review

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Another fake hate crime

Man Admits Hate Crime Attack Was False

HT: Michelle Malkin

Steve Sailer noted the outcome of another hoax a few days ago:

Justice is served:
A former Claremont McKenna College visiting professor, who spray-painted her car with racist and anti-Semitic slurs and then reported a hate crime on campus, was sentenced today to a year in state prison. Pomona Superior Court Judge Charles Horan said Kerri Dunn "terrorized" minority students at the college and turned the rest of the students into suspects, adding that her actions could have sparked major racial violence. He likened her actions to calling in a fake bomb threat, saying it had the effect of terrorizing people.

Reggie White

I think Colby Cosh does the best job summing up his pro career and his "controversial" statement after his first retirement.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I heartily agree

Spoons and Xrlq think The Corner sucks. This fault is especially irritating:

Lack of Hat Tips: This may be the most annoying fault of all. Certain bloggers over at the Corner (again, especially KLo), don't seem to understand the rules of tipping where you got a story from. I swear sometimes it seems like some Cornerites just stare at Michelle Malkin's page all day, and then crib from those posts (a little too closely, at times), for their own material. Come on, guys. You can do all sorts of referencing and quoting as long as you give proper credit. What's so hard?

See also here.

Rerun season

Originally posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Credit Where Due

Many posts and articles on the Berger matter quote Richard Clarke's verdict that the Millennium plot to bomb LAX was foiled by luck. Luck, in the sense of a fluke occurrence, had nothing to do with it. A vigilant U.S. Customs Inspector followed up on her suspicions and searched the trunk of a car trying to enter the US at the Canadian border. She expected to find drugs but, instead, found the makings of one or more big bombs.

Her name is Diana Dean and she deserves to have her name remembered and get credit for her good work.

This just isn't a matter of giving Ms. Dean her rightful credit. It also points to an important lesson going forward in the WoT. No number of principals meetings in Washington or action plans by Homeland Security will protect a single American. The rubber meets the road at the street level where alert LEOs and dedicated investigators do their job.

It is easy to forget that. Journalists, historians, analysts and planners have a tendency to over-emphasize the paper that gets generated, the options selected, and the secrets uncovered. But as John Keegan noted about intelligence in WWII--"ULTRA did not sink a single U-boat."

Or, as Col. Harry Summers pointed out, in the end every (military) strategic plan always comes down to a single soldier walking point.

I quoted Adm. Nimitz before on the question luck but it is relevant here as well.
Luck can be attributed to a well-conceived plan carried out by a well-trained and indoctrinated task group.
Luck isn't just fluke events..... good training and discipline at the front line can make a unit very lucky.

UPDATE: See Michelle Malkin's post on Dean here. One of her commenters mentions that Dean was not called to testify before the 9/11 Commission. That strikes me as a serious oversight.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rerun Season

Originally posted Thursday, May 27, 2004

What is al Qaeda?

Here is a good article on al Qaeda. The author argues that it " is less an organization than an ideology" and that bin Laden "functioned like a venture capital firm—providing funding, contacts, and expert advice to many different militant groups and individuals from all over the Islamic world."

A couple of thoughts/questions.

1. While it is true that the founder of al Qaeda was Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden murdered him in a dispute over the direction the group should take. Citing Azzam's vision of al Qaeda tells us little about the current operations and aims of the group.

2. It is comforting to think that the typical terrorist is too unsophisticated to build a dirty bomb or unleash WMDs. While it may be true that " alleged attempts by a British group to develop ricin poison, but for the apparent seriousness of the intent, could be dismissed as farcical," the same thing could have been said about the initial bombs of the New York terror cell and Timothy McVeigh as well as Atta's dreams of weaponized crop dusters. All three groups learned from their mistakes. In two of those cases, the learning was made possible by al Qaeda.

No, it is not a tightly controlled global network and bin Laden is not the Napoleonic mastermind behind all terrorist operations. But the extreme danger from al Qaeda grows from its organizational and operational capabilities. For a decade it has functioned as a highly effective combination of general staff and think tank for Islamic terrorists.

For instance, it gave the terrorists an institutional memory which prolonged the danger even after key players were imprisoned or killed. We see this with the 9-11 attacks. Ramzi Yousef conceived of the idea and worked out some of the details. Then he was arrested and jailed in a Supermax prison. But al Qaeda (especially Khalid Sheik Mohammad) was able to keep the plan alive and then recruit Atta. In addition, al Qaeda provided Atta with money and recruits to bring the attack off six years after Yousef's capture.

By transferring its knowledge to sympathetic local groups, al Qaeda enabled them to increase their capabilities faster and let them avoid trial and error methods than can draw police attention. (See how Yousef helped the first WTC bomb group). Modern law enforcement pits the collective experience of the police department against the individual learning curve of the criminal. Usually, this makes for short criminal careers. Al Qaeda shifted this balance with systematic training and planning for terrorists.

Even if we capture or kill bin Laden, this new model will remain a danger. On the other hand, the model has vulnerabilities beyond those of conventional terrorists. They need safe harbors, bases to train, compliant or non-functioning states to hide in and travel from. All of these vulnerabilities can be exploited by our law enforcement and military forces.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Rerun season

Originally posted Saturday, April 24, 2004

Doctrine and Fad Surfing

I've lost count of the number of "change efforts" i've been involved with, participated in, and been subject to in the course of my corporate career. Most of them failed to yield the results they promised. Truth be told, some were actually harmful.

This experience is common, maybe even typical. Books have been written about the propensity of corporations to to seize on the idea du jour.

When i read the Marine Corps FMFM-1 "Warfighting" i was struck by the difference between the Marine Corps approach to instilling a common doctrine and the usual methods inside of corporations.

From FMFM-1:
Doctrine is a teaching advanced as the fundamental beliefs of the Marine Corps on the subject of war, from its nature and theory to its preparation and conduct Doctrine establishes a particular way of thinking about war and a way of fighting, a philosophy for leading Marines in combat, a mandate for professionalism, and a common language. In short, it establishes the way we practice our profession. In this manner, doctrine provides the basis for harmonious actions and mutual understanding.

Marine Corps doctrine is made official by the Commandant and is established in this manual. Our doctrine does not consist of procedures to be applied in specific situations so much as it establishes general guidance that requires judgment in application. Therefore, while authoritative, doctrine is not prescriptive.
The majority of corporate initiatives are just the opposite: they are prescriptive without being authoritative. They often demand that detailed templates be followed yet they end up being compartmentalized. Processes will be mapped and reengineered but the results don't translate into changes in the expense budget; managers will focus on delighting the customer in Wednesday's workshop then figure out ways to cut quality on Thursday because they are facing an earnings shortfall. Instead of a holistic approach to strategy, the firm ends up schizophrenic.

A broader problem is that the corporate method suggests that business success is simple and that there is a magic bullet-- reengineering, TQM, an ERP system-- that will make success easy and inevitable. In contrast, the Marines say war is complex and ever-changing. Not only are there no simple answers, even the questions keep shifting. The only way to succeed is for officers to study their profession for their whole lives.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Ace has a few questions

about those snarkfests on cable. Here's a good one:
2) Why are none of them funny?

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

"A Lobbyist's Progress"

A very long, very good article on the bi-partisan lobbyist culture of D. C.

Ferguson covers the ins and outs of money, access, and manipulation very thoroughly. But he misses another aspect of lobbyist culture: its influence on journalism.
By law anyone who spends at least 20 percent of his billable hours meeting with government officials on behalf of a client is a lobbyist. (Hence the wry Washington axiom: A lobbyist spends 20 percent of his time lobbying the government, 80 percent lobbying his client.) Lobbyists must publicly disclose their clients and fees. Abramoff is a lobbyist.

But Scanlon is not. He is a "political consultant," a "public affairs strategist," a "media relations specialist"--in Washington these phony-baloney job titles are interchangeable. As such he doesn't have to disclose his fees and clients. By directing Abramoff's clients to hire Scanlon, who then charged them enormous fees, the two men could make as much money as possible without having to disclose anything
Watch the cable news channels and you will see a stream of talking heads identified as GOP strategists or Democratic consultants. They are rarely full-time employees of the national parties or important leaders in key states. They are, instead, quasi-lobbyists with undisclosed financial stakes in the subject at hand. These "phone-baloney" activist/strategists also provide truckloads of quotes (often anonymously) for the insider stories that fill the Times and Post.
Blogs and brands

Justin Katz:
That's not a small consideration. No longer is "good press" an adequate term to escribe the imaging work that is necessary in that area. To put it in paper-world terms, imagine if every catalogue had to have every criticism of each product appended, and imagine if those bits of criticism were ranked according to the number of average folk who thought particular items worth considering.

Tupac and the nativity scene

Joe Carter makes a good point:
The same secularists who think that playing Grand Theft Auto:Vice City while listening to gansta rap has no affect on children act as if hearing “Merry Christmas” will turn little Johnny into a Pat Robertson clone.
He is also ambivalent about the battle to keep Christian symbols as part of the holiday observance. I share that ambivalence. I think we would be better off if Christmas became a purely Christian holiday that occurs at the same time as the (secular) Winter Festival of Getting and Spending. What's the point of providing a fig leaf (a creche, a cross, singing "O Come All Ye Faithful") for a celebration rife with greed, envy, and selfishness?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I just wish he wouldn't sugar-coat it

Had Mrs. Woolf survived to our time, however, she would at least have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind—shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, and ultimately brutal—had triumphed among the elites of the Western world.

The Rage of Virginia Woolf by Theodore Dalrymple

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This is interesting

From The Weekly Standard:
Among well-known liberal senators, John Kerry had an adjusted ADA rating of 88, close to Ted Kennedy's 89. On the conservative side, Bill Frist had 10, whereas John McCain had 13. Results closer to the center were Joe Lieberman's 74, John Breaux's 60, Arlen Specter's 51, and Olympia Snowe's 43.
So Specter is too liberal for the kids in the Corner even though he has an ADA rating of 51. Joe Lieberman is close to Ted Kennedy and is objectively more liberal than Specter. Yet NRO covers him with slobbery kisses.

Down from the peak

After the big victories over new England and Philly, the Steelers have just done enough to win. The defense is still good but not dominating. The offense has been anemic (10 points against the Bengals). The coaching has been so clever they outsmart themselves.

This last one is particularly galling. At least six times in the last three games the Steelers have been taken out of field goal range by sacks. Running the ball might not have gotten first downs, but it would have left them in position to kick for three.

Against the Patriots and Eagles, Pittsburgh ran even when the defense knew they were going to do so. The Steelers ate up the clock and moved the chains. Now, the coaches seem afraid to put the game in the hands of the o-line and Stacey/Bettis.

Right now they let teams hang close which puts pressure on the defense.

Playing like we are, we will have trouble against Indy or New England. This week’s game with the Jets could be an ugly surprise.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest edition of the best econo-blogging is here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

"Obstacles to military-media relations"

Rev. Donald Sensing posts on an important topic that doesn't get the attention it deserves.

See also:

Exactly right

Journalists and criticism
Riddle me this

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a better record than the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers's defense is better than the Ravens's. James Farrior is having a better year than Ray Lewis. Farrior has made more big plays-4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. Lewis has 1 sack, 0 interceptions, and 0 forced fumbles (ZERO!)

So why do the TV talking heads keep referring to Lewis as the best inside linebacker in the NFL? Why is ESPN functioning as his personal PR firm?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The always interesting Steve Sailer

writes about The Decline and Fall of the American Teenybopper

UPDATE: I am the reader who emailed this to Sailer:

My personal theory about the decline of rock-- record company profits are not perfectly correlated with record sales. If a group becomes too popular (say Led Zepplin circa 1976) they can get a better deal for themselves and reduce the margins of the companies. Ergo, record companies pursue a series of disposable acts rather than nurture those of the highest quality. (Nothing wrong with it, just smart business.) Disco, boy bands, and rap are producer driven and hence ideal forms for the record execs. The Clash, Stones, and Grateful Dead are bad investments.

And on the decline of the sitcom in favor of "reality" shows:

Wouldn't the economics also explain why cable loves criminal trials? Pretty cheap TV to put four lawyers in a studio talking about Scott Peterson.

Blogs and Brands

Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek has a letter in the 22 November 2004 Ad Age that discusses the impact of blogs on conventional branding:
Far beyond their role in various forms of journalism, blogs are empowering real consumers to offer real-time narratives about issues and themes that touch their lives-narratives often grounded in real, meaningful experiences with branded products and services. Consider the tens of thousands of blog entries on LiveJournal by women and teens talking about buying their first car. Did somebody say "who needs a focus group?"

And deep consumer insights are just the beginning. The 'archiving' of consumer opinion on blogs is having a major, unmistakable 'advertising effect', and most marketers and PR professionals are dangerously oblivious to it. Blogs represent one of the fastest-growing sources of indexed content on search engines-a growing percentage of which now includes high-impact 'reason to believe' photos, video and audio.

See also

Another butler throws a hissy fit

Nothing to see, just move along

MSM pilot fish strike back

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Forgotten men-Weeb Ewbank

If you asked 100 sportswriters to list the five most important milestones in the evolution of the NFL, I'd bet good money that all 100 would agree that two games belong on the list: the Colts's sudden death victory over the Giants for the 1958 championship and the Jets win over the Colts in Super Bowl III. Almost every football fan knows about those two games. What many do not know is that the same man coached the winning team each time.

Strange. Maybe Weeb Ewbank was just too quiet in the era of Lombardi, too self-effacing to get noticed during the let-it-all-hang-out 60s. Celebrity is about providing good copy to lazy journalists. Reputation is built on something more substantial.

Ewbank won three titles in his career. (Don Shula, Tom Landry and Bill Parcells each won two.) His team pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. He mentored two of the best QBs ever seen (Unitas and Namath) while rebuilding two horrible teams.

Coaching great QBs is a subtle art. Legendary coaches find it difficult. Don Shula could never win a title with Unitas or Marino. Chuck Noll never managed to form a true partnership with Terry Bradshaw. George Allen preferred to grind it out in 13-10 games with Billy Kilmer (life time passer rating- 71.6) rather than exploit the passing talents of Sonny Jurgensen (lifetime rating- 82.6).

Ewbanks's work with Namath is especially notable because he had figure out schemes to protect an immobile, gimpy passer while still getting receivers open. The Jets depended on Namath's arm but Joe Willie's knees were just one hit away from a season-- (or career--) ending injury. Ewbank had to adjust to his superstar; he could not coach the Jets as he had Unitas and the Colts.

Not many coaches can bend like that. Noll, after Bradshaw retired, found it difficult to adjust his offense to fit the less-gifted passers who replaced the blond bomber. For that reason alone Ewbank has to be considered a great coach. If I was an NFL assistant who aspired to be a good head coach, I'd start researching Weeb Ewbank's career, methods, and character.

Previous Forgotten Men

Jim Ryun

L. C. Greenwood

Chuck Bednarik

Harvey Haddix

Friday, November 26, 2004

Like tasteless cotton candy

Some TV news stories are pointless but appear like clockwork. Reporter on a beach as a hurricane approaches, reporter standing outside a polling place on election day, reporter at a mall on Black Friday. It fills air time but the beach is the worst place to track the hurricane, 20 minutes at one polling place tells you nothing about turnout, and crowded malls on Black Friday is not evidence that spending is up for the Christmas season.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Rerun season

Originally posted 15 February 2004

Two ways to plan

Most large corporations seem to operate under the assumption that the best strategic plan is detailed, heavy on numbers, and tightly integrated to the expense budget. Although strategic planning was invented by the military a century before its adoption by corporations, very little of the insight into military planning has made it into the office tower.

Von Moltke wrote that "no plan survives contact with the enemy" and that strategy is "a system of expedients." This flexibility and acceptance of the unpredictable is anathema to the typical business planning process. All too often, we plan as though the we can determine what sales will be eighteen months from now, what expenses and what programs will produce those sales (by product and market).

In short, we think that the point of planning is to produce a plan that can be followed as though the organization is on auto-pilot. We want details, accountability, and milestones. And then we spend the rest of the year interpreting performance based on variance to plan.

This is not what effective planning is in the military. Colin Gray writes:

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once observed, the principal value of military planning is not to produce ahead of time the perfect plan, but rather to train planners who can adjust and adapt to changing circumstances as they emerge.
Any business which wants to be more resilient and flexible would be smart to adopt the Eisenhower approach: planning as an educational process for people rather than a process for the production of the perfect plan.

Another problem with traditional planning is that it treats strategic problems as though they are entirely a matter of detail complexity. Yet, in reality, making and implementing strategy is a matter largely of dynamic complexity.

From Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline:

The answer lies in the same reason that sophisticated tools of forecasting and business analysis, as well as elegant strategic plans, usually fail to produce dramatic breakthroughs in managing a business. They are all designed to handle the sort of complexity in which there are many variables: detail complexity. But there are two types of complexity. The second type is dynamic complexity, situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious. Conventional forecasting, planning, and analysis methods are not equipped to deal with dynamic complexity. Mixing many ingredients in a stew involves detail complexity, as does following a complex set of instructions to assemble a machine, or taking inventory in a discount retail store. But none of these situations is especially complex dynamically.
From John Sterman, Business Dynamics:

Most people think of complexity in terms of the number of components in a system or the number of combinations one must consider in making a decision. The problem of optimally scheduling an airline's flights and crews is highly complex, but the complexity lies in finding the best solution out of an astronomical number of possibilities. Such needle-in-a-haystack problems have high levels of combinatorial complexity (also known as detail complexity). Dynamic complexity, in contrast, can arise even in simple systems with low combinatorial complexity. ... Dynamic complexity arises from the interactions of the agents over time."
Competitive strategy is inherently dynamic: competitors react to each other's initiatives. Treating it as a matter of static analysis and programmed implementation is a recipe for failure.

Odd omission

At the close of 2004 everyone is debating the role religion played in a hotly contested election that confirmed that the nation is deeply divided. The year opened with another controversy about religion and media that mirrored the red-blue split on the electoral map.

Yet, I've not seen one article or column on the election that mentioned Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

At a minimum, the success of the movie showed that the legacy media had lost touch with a huge swath of the populace. I also think that the coastal elites's reaction to the film's potential consequences-their fear of how Christians would react to seeing it-was not lost on Red America. They noticed that the usual liberal suspects thought they were stupid, ignorant and prone to violence.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Truly asymmetrical information

Cathy Seipp makes a point that deserves serious attention:
One of the election lessons for Democrats is that while the Left doesn't understand the Right, the Right can't help but understand the Left, because the Left is in charge of pop culture. Urban blue staters can go their entire lives happily innocent of the world of church socials and duck hunting and Boy Scout meetings, but small-town red staters are exposed to big-city blue-state values every time they turn on the TV.
Mystery writer Harry Kemelman put it another way:
Ask anyone in the city how far out Farmer Brown lives, and if he knows him, he will say, 'Three or four miles.' But ask Farmer Brown how far he lives from the city and he will tell you, 'three and six-tenths miles-measured it on my speedometer many a time.
["The Nine-mile Walk"]
But Seipp is wrong to limit this only to pop culture and values. The same is true about day-to-day news and this hurts the Democrats. Those of us who live in the exurbs and rural areas still get a healthy dose of information about city life. Our local radio and television stations are based in cities. Tune in for highlights of the Eagles or Steelers and you hear about the latest corruption scandal in Philadelphia or the abject failure of the Harrisburg schools or the disastrous fiscal situation in Pittsburgh. By and large, Democrats govern the cities and many of those cities are governed poorly by our lights.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Exactly right

The Wall Street Journal on modern war reporting and the battle in Fallujah:
In a more grateful age, this would be hailed as one of the great battles in Marine history--with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Hue City and the Chosin Reservoir. We'd know the names of these military units, and of many of the soldiers too. Instead, the name we know belongs to the NBC correspondent, Kevin Sites.
Admittedly, this point is something of a hobbyhorse for me. But it does shape war reporting whether journalists want to admit it or not.
Target and the Salvation Army

Captain's Quarters has the argument in favor of the SA. I especially liked how he dispatched Targets "a rule is a rule" canard.
The notion that Target finds it "difficult" to make exceptions to their own internal policy is absurd. Management gets paid to make value judgments all the time -- they don't hire seven-figure executives just to have them rely on zero-tolerance policies.
Hugh Hewitt will be doing a round-up of other blogger reactions.

An interesting bit of history. The Salvation Army has never been popular with the intellectual or economic elites. In nineteenth century Britain it was hated by the Darwinists and viewed with suspicion by the real-life Scrooges. Did not matter to the "fanatics" who had a mission to help the poor. Here is Jacques Barzun on the whole matter (from Darwin, Marx and Wagner):
Huxley's denunciation of it for fanaticism and regimentation hindered it no more than did the disdain of professional men, who seemed to think that spirit seances and Theosophical jargon were worthier expressions of their feelings. It was not until George Bernard Shaw made the point in Major Barbara that the so-called elite began to appreciate what General Booth's movement had done for the uneducated, pauperized, and drink-sodden masses which Social Darwinism had complacently allowed to find their place under the heel of fitter men. Then it was seen that neither the fatalism of biological evolution nor the fatalism of 'scientific' socialism could withstand a vigorous assault by people who believed in the power of the human will and had the wits to combine religion, social work, army discipline, and rousing tunes.

The downside of participatory management

In my favorite Dilbert strip, Dilbert goes to pick up his date. The woman launches into a monologue about her hobby.

"I collect crystals. I don't know of any scientific evidence that they can heal, but it's my point of view that they do"

Dilbert, ever the engineer blurts out, "When did ignorance become a point of view."

Bad thing to say on a date. But an important point nonetheless.

Everybody can come up with an opinion on anything if you ask them. It takes a special kind of willful innocence to think that they all are equally valuable, even the ones grounded on ignorance.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Rerun season

Originally posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Journalists and criticism

Instapundit makes a very good point:"Is there any profession that's worse at admitting mistakes and taking criticism than the journalistic profession? "

The stereotype of the military is that they are constantly fighting the last war and are resistant to change. Yet, the various war colleges and service schools set to work analyzing Vietnam while the fighting was still going on. The mistakes and lessons were not swept under the rug. New doctrine was developed and all officers educated accordingly. All this happened while the draft was ended and the defense budget reduced in real terms.

My question is, how many J-schools focus on what went right and wrong with war reporting in SE Asia? Do any of them discuss how the military victory of Tet '68 was portrayed as a military defeat for the US and why this mistake was made? Do any of them remind students that it was an armored blitzkrieg from NV, not a peasant uprising which doomed Saigon in 1975?

I sometimes think that the biggest danger of war reporting is the journalist's selfish motive to be defeatist. Back in April i put it this way:

What is not often discussed is how professional ambitions make journalists defeatists. When wars go well, the uniformed military receives the praise. It is they who enter into history. We remember Nimitz and Patton, not the correspondents who wrote dispatches about the victories at Midway and Bastogne.

In contrast, Vietnam made the careers of David Halberstam, Seymour Hersh, and Neil Sheehan. Exposing military failure and atrocities makes the journalist the hero not the chronicler. It is a powerful temptation, one which could cause a reporter to lose proportion and distort the meaning of events. Yet this is not something that seems to get discussed much.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rerun Season

Originally posted Monday, January 05, 2004

Central Staffs

Corporate staffs, especially central planning staffs, have few defenders anymore. Since In Search of Excellence most businesses writers have come down in favor of decentralization and line units. GE used to have a large and powerful planning staff, but Jack Welch dismantled and dispersed it. Most turnaround CEOs have followed suit.

The critique of planning staffs argues that they just generate paper, distract line managers, and generally make the business slow to respond. Nearly every indictment of GM and Ford notes that they were hamstrung by the power of their Finance department while the Japanese ate their lunch.

This critique is largely correct in my experience. The plans and projects are bureaucratic exercises, not courses of action which yield marketplace gains.

But what i find intriguing is that it is a different story in the military sphere. The rise of the staff-- especially the general staff-- is a critical element in operational prowess and military effectiveness.

The German experience is the most studied. A strong general staff was a key part of the Prussian military reforms which revived the army after Napoleon crushed Prussia in 1805-06. It played a key role in the rapid victories in the wars of unification (1864-1871) and was the critical instrument in the development of the Blitzkrieg.

The importance of a general staff is almost universally accepted by military historians. Lee's failure to develop a modern staff is one of the causes for the CSA's defeat. Patton had a good staff which was why he could respond so quickly in the relief of Bastogne. The French general staff was the antithesis of their German opponents which explains many of their failures between 1914 and 1940.

I'll hazard a few reasons for the difference in performance of military and corporate staffs.

1. The best military staffs are made up of officers who previously served in line positions and know they will return to such positions. The worst corporate horrors seem to come from companies where the staff world can provide a career path (Finance, Audit, HR, etc.). Staff-line rotation serves to broaden perspectives and as a reality check.

2. The German staff officers were trained in the totality of war-- history, planning, tactics, leadership. All too often corporate staffs have a limited, specialized toolkit that they apply to every problem. Not every situation can be approached as a question of financial control or process reengineering.

3. General staff officers were selected after a rigorous screening process which looked at intellectual potential, past-military performance, and academic preparation. Combined with their service in line positions, this ensured that they were respected by the officer corps as a whole. Too many corporate staffs fail to win this respect and must rely on executive fiat to gain even minimal cooperation.

4. Business staffers generally operate with the assumption that the world is predictable. Most of their efforts are devoted to measuring, explaining, and eliminating variances. The German General Staff understood that war was unpredictable-- as von Moltke said, "no plan survives contact with the enemy."

5. Business staffs generally assume that they have the answer and success is just a matter of applying the right template. Often those templates and methods come prepackaged by consultants. The best general staffs serve a vital role in creating new doctrine by studying past operations and potential enemies. The US Marine Corps had worked through the problems of amphibious warfare by 1937, The roots of Blitzkrieg are found in von Seeckt's creation of 57 study groups tasked to analyze the 1914-1918 war. He did this in 1919 and assigned nearly 10% of the officer corps to this task.

See also,

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Clinton legacy

Robert Musil doesn't think Clinton did the Dems any favors:
So why the focus on the presidency - and therefore the focus on Mr. Clinton as "the last big Democratic winner" and on Hillary Clinton as potentially "the next big Democratic winner?" The Clintons since 1992 are more responsible than anyone else for putting the Democrats in their current disastrous Congressional position. The Democrats' top imperative should be to make sure that nobody like the Clintons ever gets close to Democratic positions of power again.

Obviously, I agree.
Guilt by association

This quote from the WSJ piece by Daniel Henninger bugged me:
A survey by the Pew Research Center reports that over three years from January 2000, the percentage of people getting candidate and campaign news fell 9% for daily newspapers, 10% for network news and 5% for news magazines. The numbers rose, up to 4%, for cable news, the Internet and comedy TV shows (Jon Stewart's rise as a news authority figure is the court jester displacing the journalistic monarchy).
Why link Jon Stewart with the Internet?

Stewart has much more in common with Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer than he does with PowerLine or Little Green Footballs or Kos. Lumping an unfunny comic playing a newscaster in with the whole Internet is just an esteem-boosting ploy. The MSM may be shrinking, but they are being squeezed out by sources that are just unserious, you see-- intellectual junk food for the lazy and stupid. It's not Dan's fault, or Bill Kellers, or Aaron Brown's.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Mission for the day

Convince Scott Chaffin to write that post about the election and the Scots-Irish that he's promised. In the meantime, make sure you read the comments on Scott's tease post.
Music blogging

Michelle remembers Disco days.

Jack Sparks watches the CMAs.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Another butler throws a hissy fit*

I was going to blog about the Rothenberg column in Ad Age, but Jeff Jarvis has already done so.

I've noted before that Ad Age is oddly dismissive of blogs and bloggers. They seem to be locked into the prevailing model of one-way and don't want to change.

The rise of citizen/consumer media presents challenges for both marketers and advertising agencies. But wishing that it goes away is not a real solution.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why Specter

The tactical

The big bloc of 55 GOP senators contains 4 Northeastern liberals (Snow, Collins, Chaffee, and Specter) and two mavericks (McCain and Hagel). Alienate them and see how much GWB gets done in this Congress

Specter won't be a strong chairman. He is not well-liked or respected by his colleagues. He'll maximize his face-time on TV, but in the end he'll go along with his caucus because being chairman is how he gets on MTP. Don't make him a martyr or a hero in the fight against intolerant right-wingers.

The strategic

The anti-Specter forces are painting the an image of GOP conservatives as intolerant right-wingers. If that image takes hold, Rick Santorum is finished in '06. Specter, after all, ran better here than W.

Further, the Dems are in a bind because they have written off the South. Why should the GOP repeat their mistakes in the Northeast? Don't we want to be competitive in Maryland, PA, or NJ?

Nightmare scenario

Conservative anger builds up, the media covers it, then the six GOP mavericks form a "Moderate Unity Coalition" with Harry Reid's Democrats. They looks like heroes trying to heal the blue/red divide. (Essentially, they triangulate like WJBC). Instant loss of Senate majority, no conservative jurist has a prayer, GWB becomes the lamest of lame ducks.

LOOK: It's not just Hugh Hewitt on the" leave Specter alone" side. The guys at Powerline have come to similar position.

More here.

And here are two posts i wrote about NRO and Specter during the primary fight.



New Blog

A Pittsburgh law-blog written by a Steelers fan. (Some really good posts on start-ups, angel investors, and VCs).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Nice appreciations up at PowerLine and Michelle Malkin. The Ashcroft confirmation was an important battle in the 2004 campaign. An awful lot of evangelical and conservative Christians noticed how the Left attacked the man for his faith and his upbringing as a minister's son.

This is from an article MM linked to:
One thing is clear: While other politicians pick up religion as a fashion accessory, Ashcroft exudes it from his core.

Says Franklin Zimring, law professor at UC Berkeley and a law school classmate of Ashcroft: "You'd learn a heck of a lot more about John Ashcroft researching his church than you would turning the University of Chicago Law School upside down. What's problematic about his career as attorney general is not his technical legal training. It's his values


I wish the kids in The Corner would stop mucking around in my state and do something useful like working to defeat their own Senator Clinton in '06.

Hugh Hewitt has all the facts on his side. The man is a stalwart.

Remember this-- HH understood the politics of the exit polls and did his utmost to reassure and fire up the base. The namby-pambies at NRO girded up their loins and started to draft their "Why Bush Lost" articles.

I know that it is hard to come off the adrenaline rush of an election campaign for political junkies like NRO. And creating a controversy doesn't hurt their hit count. (Nor does picking a fight hurt the response rate for those fund-raising letters they send out each year to pay for the high cost of being a metrocon publication.)

So the Steelers knock off two undefeated teams in consecutive weeks. And the guys at ESPN just want to show TO yapping on the sidelines and come up with excuses for why the win over New England does not count.

Instead of focusing on Mr. Sharpie who did next to nothing on Sunday, how about a little attention to the wide receiver who scored the first two touchdowns. Hines Ward may not hog the spotlight like TO, but he catches, blocks, encourages his teammates, and does not mind sharing the limelight.

And how about the secondary that snapped Owens string of 100 yards games and completely stuffed him on yards after the catch.

Yes, I know that New England had injuries. But we are playing our third string quarterback. Against New England we were without our Pro Bowl nose tackle, a linebacker who was the NFL defensive rookie of the year, and our number one cornerback. Against Philly we were without the NT, the CB and also our number one running back.

Monday, November 08, 2004

"The Banner of Zarqawi"

Belmont Club looks at the importance of bases for terrorists and guerilla bands. Hence, the importance of the Battle of Falluja.

Carnival of the Capitalists

Now that the election is over, check out the round-up of econ and business blogging over at Incite.
Oh no he couldn't

Virginia Postrel:
If he can resist the comic temptation to make wild generalizations, Brooks could spend the next several months explaining the complicated reality of middle America to the parochial readers of the NYT.
To do that, Brooks himself would have to understand "the complicated reality of middle America". And he doesn't. Trust me, I live in the area where Brooks did his "field work" for his famous Atlantic article. He was only marginally more astute than Maureen Dowd.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Clinton Legacy

When WJBC triangulated in 1995-96 to win re-election, he made a conscious decision to leave the conregessional democrats in the lurch. They would continue to be perceived as liberal/left/out-of-touch. He demonized the Republicans as dangerously right-wing claimed the middle for himself.

It worked, but it was a personal victory. Democratic senators and congressmen were left to fend for themselves. Without the WH bully pulpit to demonize their opponents, they twisted in the wind. No problem if you are the incumbent senator of New York or California. Big problem if you are competing for an open seat in Georgia or Oklahoma.

Why do they love Cinton so much? That is the great mystery.

See also:

Clinton Legacy Watch

Clinton and FDR
Credit where due

The smartest reaction to the election by a liberal blogger:

Letter from Gotham

A couple of days after the returns came in she added a quote to the top of her blog:
"Lick 'em tomorrow." Grant to Sherman after Shiloh.

In politics, there are no final victories or final defeats. We do it all over again every two year.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A sure sign they are taking the loss hard

I am getting a lot of hits (i.e. a lot for me) from Google on the search "IQ and politics." Prompted, no doubt, by that old hoax that Bush states have a lower collective IQ than Gore/Kerry states. This has been thoroughly debunked by Steve Sailor.
Blogosphere Blindspot

Check out Evangelical Outpost:

Earlier today I mentioned how rare it is for mainstream journalists to have any personal acquaintance with evangelical Christians and how they must have been shocked to discover that “moral values” was such a prominent issue with those voters. The top-ranks of the blogosphere, though, are probably just as likely to have been surprised by the findings. Even Andrew Sullivan, a usually astute observer, claimed, “What we're seeing, I think, is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well.”

Friday, November 05, 2004

On the Exit Poll Debacle

Ace has some thoughts on why the exit polls were wrong. It is the analysis I've seen so far.

Key point I have not seen anywhere else:
The exit polls have been shown to be utter rubbish, and yet the Democrats and their liberal media Spirit Squad are still quoting from them. The numbers were simply bad-- they showed a coming landslide for Kerry, which was just not what happened. So if the numbers were off on the head-to-head horserace, why are liberals continuing to cite the erroneous polls for the non-horserace data?
FWIW, it think Michael Barone's "slamming" theory is plausible. Polling places in all the battleground states were crawling with observers from the DNC, the Kerry campaign, MoveOn, ACT, etc. It makes sense that activists saw the exit pollsters and the word got around.

No top down conspiracy is required. Just as Rove did not tell bloggers to go after the Rather documents, Mik McCurry did not have to call his minions to send them to the right polling places. Leftists, too, can operate as a pack instead of a herd.

A question: if intra-day poll results are inherently unreliable, why does the MSM want to see them?

Ace also spanks Wm. Saletan of Slate. Like Drudge and NRO, he reported that Kerry was running the table based on exit polls. Unlike Drudge and NRO, he did not report the problems with the internals later in the day.
But it might be worse still. I can't help suspecting that Saletan wasn't especially upset by the thought that the numbers he was publishing -- numbers he had to know by 5:00 were probably bad -- were helping to depress Republican turnout. Whether those numbers were right or wrong.
I wrote about this before Election Day here.

Poll games: one last card to play

UPDATE: Just saw this over at
Outside one polling place, we noticed a stringer (a Frenchman!) working for a pool of several news organizations (CNN, ABC, Fox, MSNBC, etc.) who was doing some exit polling. For most of the day he was frequently caucusing with the Democrat lawyer poll watcher and occasionally with some ACT people. (I think they’re the Soros group.) It was just all too chummy for objective reporting. It occurred to my teammate that this might have been part of the bogus exit polling that was being disseminated throughout Election Day.
I guess we can be pretty sure now

that the Edwards/Kerry mention of Mary Cheney was calculated.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A placeholder for an idea that deserves more time than i have right now

That redneck, Bible-thumping vote on Tuesday was, in part, an anti-imperial vote. It was a peaceful insurgency aimed at preventing a handful of lawyers and politicians in New York, Boston, and San Francisco from disenfranchising a hundred million citizens.
Clinton Legacy Watch

Bill Clinton is one of the big losers in this election. His status as a two-term Democratic president placed him in the company of Wilson and FDR. Had Bush lost, Clinton would have been the guy who turned back the Reagan tide and made the Democrats competitive at the national level.
Now Clinton looks smaller, maybe a dead-end for the Dems.

His two terms are now just part of a series of minority presidencies bracketed by the majority victories of Reagan, Bush 41 and now Bush 43. Perhaps worse for his legacy is the fact that he fumbled away Democratic control of Congress.
Suggestion for MSM election soothsayers

Don't look at a poll for four weeks.

Buy a copy of Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics. Read it cover to cover.

Polls are like a snapshot of the surf near a beach. They tell you nothing about what will happen next week or what is happening 200 miles away. Barone understands the deeper historical currents that matter.

(This advice also applies to the metrocons at NRO who acted like hysterical chickens on Election Day.

Almanac of American Politics, 2004
Almanac of American Politics, 2004

Unsung heroes

My hat is off to the Republican voters in deep-blue-states who went out and voted for Bush even though they knew that the local race was not in doubt. They pushed Bush above the magic 50% and gave him the 3.5 million margin that put the election beyond the limits of litigation.

Voting in such circumstances is an act of defiance. In most circumstances, it does not matter a great deal. This time, it mattered a lot.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Go read Scott Chaffin

Just go. He said it better than i can.
Good advice

Media wants ratings tomorrow night. Nothing creates ratings like a close election.

So now what? Where do you sit? Are you sitting? If the Fox poll showed Bush up twelve, would that change what you know you have to do tomorrow?

From Radio Blogger.
Reason surprises

Desertion In the Field: Twilight of the liberal hawks

Anybody seeking to prove the Kerryan criticism that George W. Bush doesn't know how to build an alliance need look no further than the pan-ideological coalition he built right here at home. In the heat of battle, when their support was most important, the liberal hawks broke ranks and fled the battlefield. Nor will they acknowledge having betrayed the president who gave them what they claimed to wish for: In the minds of the liberal hawks, it is Bush who has betrayed their grand ideals with his "mismanagement" of the postwar situation.
So if the liberal hawks honestly thought the war could be conducted without brutality, they were merely naïve. If, however, they are not so much disappointed in the war as tired of Bush, they are something worse. I'm not going to prescribe how anybody should vote, but are there any issues of greater moment than the invasion of Iraq? What is the case for turning out a president who delivered something of such importance to people who say they wanted it? That Bush supported the Federal Marriage Amendment? That No Child Left Behind is underfunded? That Michael Powell has been too rough on Howard Stern? Are these the same people who spent the last three years reminding me that there's a war on?

Monday, November 01, 2004


Check out Powerline in case you had any delusions that "60 Minutes" cared about journalistic integrity.

Captain's Quarters looks at coverage of the candidates in this and in past campaigns. Many good points but this one deserves mention. In 1984, Ronald Reagan received positive coverage only 9% of the time. The idea that RR was a beloved, bipartisan figure while in office is a lie that has become one of the mythic touchstones for the media. Just wasn't so.

Beldar looks at how media bias shows up in the coverage of politician's secrets. He is right that we have been offered a pig in a poke as a candidate and the press doesn't care.
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest round-up of the best in econ and business blogging is over at

Sunday, October 31, 2004

MSM pilot fish strike back

The October 27 Ad Age is particularly interesting in light of the Fraters Libertas post discussed below. For a trade paper, Ad Age has become stridently partisan during this election cycle. Earlier I noted how they pooh-poohed the Rather/forged documents fraud and engaged in a little fact-challenged Bush-bashing to boot.

This week they are at it again but with in a triple dose.

Their ad reviewer is apparently an acolyte of the Moore school of politics. Here is how he starts his critique of the Ashley advertisement:
This has been the most divisive, polarized and dishonest presidential campaign in recent memory. It has stunk of lies and sleaze and Swiftboat veterans who have long memories but no clue about what democracy is, much less patriotism.
My jaw dropped when I read that. I can understand questioning the conclusions of the Swift Boat veterans. I think an honest voter can disagree with them and believe that Kerry would make a better president than Bush. But to question the patriotism of highly decorated veterans-some of them wounded in action or tortured as POWs-is an egregious libel.

Later on he decides to make sure we all understand the reality that the Ashley spot obscures:
That may also be what voters want to see in the heart and soul of their president: a powerful but compassionate father figure, who can hug us all and tell us, don't worry, everything is going to be OK.

But everything's in shambles

Of course, everything isn't OK. Everything, from the economy to the bloody Iraq fiasco to our basic Americans freedoms, is in a shambles. But one thing the polls show is clear: In moments of crisis, the people have a deep-seated psychological need to trust Our Leader, no matter how manifestly untrustworthy he may be. This commercial has seized on that need like no other message in this long, ugly campaign
The main front page story starts with a big scary headline:
Christian group spooks advertisers
It discusses the efforts of the American Family Association to get advertisers to stop funding offensive programs. The story is filled with rhetoric designed to worry Ad Age's readers about those pushy, ignorant Christians.

enlisting marketers in its cause by tapping the fear of its virtual army of believers


SOME RESISTANCE-- Not all marketers wilt under AFA pressure

While the AFA has sent some advertisers scurrying for cover

In their editorial, though, they call for courage:

Marketers must set own agendas

PRESSURE GROUPS ARE FREE to hammer marketers about where they advertise and how they act. It's incumbent on marketers to listen, but they must not let special interests set the agenda.

The big joke is that the advertising business is a special interest in its own right. They like edgy commercials and edgy programming. They like spending their client's money on commercials that their colleagues will see. They don't want to complicate things by having to listen to customers. They get offended when clients wonder if their money is really building the brand and increasing sales.

Ad Age doesn't really dig into the question of why AFA is now having success nor do they ask if there are forces at work that marketers should pay attention to.

The AFA, OTOH, has a good understanding of why they are effective:
While the AFA has been at this for a quarter century, its recent successes stem largely from the power of e-mail to reach supporters and advertisers, said Tim Wildmon, president of the group. "E-mail is instantaneous, and our numbers are growing rapidly," he said. "A lot of people are disgusted with the explicitness on television, and the advertisers I believe are having a hard time defending it. Couple that with the fact that it's a very competitive marketplace. You don't want to offend several hundred thousand people."

Consumers do not get their news just from Dan Rather; they do not form an opinion about Coke just from viewing commercials on their favorite programs. Now they know what other programs Coke supports. That, too, becomes part of the brand message. Formerly, a brand could send separate messages to different segments-be edgy with MTV, be apple pie on broadcast news shows. News, in turn, was perceived as nonpartisan, fair, and patriotic. All these elements have changed.

Marketers face a novel challenge with the rise of new media and the destruction of barriers that formally blocked the flow of information. They no longer can approach brand-building as a matter of one-way messages. They cannot be certain that their market segmentation won't have blow-back.

For marketers, this is a problem. Ford wants truck buyers to have one message "Ford Tough" in mind. They do not want to see "Ford funds Rather's partisan lies" take hold. An attention-grabbing ad on MTV may win an award and move some sales in that demographic. But what happens if millions of conservative customers find out about it and are offended? How does a marketer measure the net ROI on that?

But it is clear that the legacy media, the advertising industry, and the trade papers are determined to hide this danger. Or maybe they are oblivious. They are pretty insular in their deep-blue coastal enclaves.

In any case, for The Elder to see results from his suggestion, heartland consumers have to find a way to make their voices heard where it matters: in the offices of the big companies whose ad budgets keep the MSM fat and happy.

Poll games: one last card to play

Captain Ed looks at the latest polls. I think his assessment is dead-on:
The GOP has to be happy with these results, but it still will take all of their effort in the remaining 70 hours or so to make sure they get voters out to the polls.
They will have to do so against a MSM headwind right up until the polls close in their states. The GOTV efforts in the Midwest battleground states will hold the key in a close election.

Previously, I discussed how campaigns try to use early vote totals in the East to influence late voting in the Midwest and west. In 2000, the networks joined in to help Gore. Bill Sammons's analysis is damning:
The vice president's margin of victory in Michigan was a slim 4 points, the same spread by which Bush had won Ohio thirty minutes earlier. Yet the networks were still mum about the Bush win. The tiers of Democratic bias were now working unmistakably in Gore's favor.

"The fact that we projected Florida and Michigan before we projected Ohio for Bush is very telling;" Tim Russert told NEC viewers, hinting that Bush was lagging in states that should have been his and losing close states far too easily.

Michigan and Ohio were both important battleground states that held large numbers of electoral votes. Both were won by four percentage points. Although all polls closed in Ohio at 7:30 P.M., the networks waited an hour and forty-five minutes to declare Bush the winner. Yet they raced to call Michigan for Gore the instant the first polls there closed-even though voters west of the time line had another hour in which to cast their ballots

The lopsided calls in Gore's favor continued all night. The clarity of the double standard is downright jarring when one examines the calls made by CNN, which was typical of the networks:

Gore won Illinois by 12 points and CNN crowned him the winner in one minute. Bush won Georgia by 12 points and CNN waited thirty-three minutes.

Gore won New Jersey by 15 points and CNN announced it in one minute. Bush won Alabama by 15 points anci CNN waited twenty-six minutes.

Gore won Delaware by 13 points and CNN waited just three minutes. Bush won North Carolina by 13 points and CNN waited thirty-four minutes.

Gore won Minnesota by 2 points and CNN waited thirty-seven minutes. Bush won Tennessee by 3 points and CNN waited twice as long-an hour and sixteen minutes.

Withholding Tennessee from Bush was especially mendacious because news of the vice president's failure to carry his home state would have sent a powerful political message to the rest of the nation. If Gore couldn't carry Tennessee, how could he be expected to win the presidency? Even Walter Mondale managed to carry his home state of Minnesota in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won the other forty-nine states in a landslide.

Similarly, the networks were reluctant to call President Clinton's home state of Arkansas for Bush, which would have sent another potent message. Arkansas was one of the few states in which Gore had given Clinton permission to campaign for him. Timely news of Gore's failure to carry the state would have shocked Democrats and heartened Republicans nationwide. Instead, CNN waited three hours and thirty-three minutes before awarding Arkansas to Bush, who had won the state by six points. This inexplicable delay was even longer than the two hours and forty-one minutes CNN waited before giving Bush West Virginia, which he had also won by six points. By contrast, CNN waited only thirty-six minutes to give Maine to Gore, who had carried the state by only five points.

The pervasiveness of the double standard was shocking. Whenever Gore won a state by double-digit margin, the networks projected him the winner in three minutes or less. But in state after state, Bush posted double-digit victories that the networks refused to acknowledge for at least thirty minutes.

When Bush won Missouri by 4 points, CBS waited two hours and six minutes to hand it over. When Gore won Pennsylvania by the same margin, CBS shortened the lag time to forty-eight minutes. This was an enormously important call because it told America at 8:48 P.M. Eastern Time that Gore had already pulled off the trifecta, which was tantamount to winning the White House
I see no reason to think that 2004 will be different. Besides the speed with which they call states for Bush or Kerry, the Senate races will be a test of their objectivity. If Republicans gain seats, that makes Tom Daschle a weaker candidate in South Dakota. It also could affect turnout in the West, which will matter in states like Oregon, New Mexico, and Hawaii.

Everyone becomes their parents

Jack Sparks has a few words about Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live. (Talk about a fat pitch thrown down the middle of the plate.)
The sad truth of the mainstream music business is that the talentless are rewarded for their good looks (natural and otherwise) and their willingness to whore themselves out to a particular style or schtick. The use of guide vocals, Pro Tools in the studio, and flat-out lip synching is the dirty little secret they don't want anyone to know
I wonder if Lorne Michaels still thinks his show is edgy and unpredictable? In terms of musical guests it has become about as edgy as American Bandstand circa 1974. And the "performances" are every bit as authentic.

If Michaels really wanted to rock his audience back on its heels, he'd listen to Jack and book the Drive-by Truckers.

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Kerry's Afghan Amnesia"

Charles Krauthammer:
This election comes down to a choice between one man's evolution and the other man's resolution. With his endlessly repeated Tora Bora charges, Kerry has made Afghanistan a major campaign issue. So be it. Whom do you want as president? The man who conceived the Afghan campaign, carried it through without flinching when it was being called a "quagmire" during its second week and has seen it through to Afghanistan's transition to democracy? Or the retroactive genius, who always knows what needs to be done after it has already happened -- who would have done "everything" differently in Iraq, yet in Afghanistan would have replicated Bush's every correct, courageous, radical and risky decision -- except one. Which, of course, he would have done differently. He says. Now.
As Beldar says:
John Kerry, neatly summed up in three words, nine letters, two punctuation marks: "He says. Now."
"Starve The Beast"

The Elder over at Fraters Libertas is totally out of patience with the legacy media and has some suggestions for a healthier lifestyle.

I would add one suggestions and one caveat. The suggestion is that blog readers help increase the readership of their favorite blogs by emailing posts/links to their friends and acquaintances. Only about 10% of the public read blogs. Increasing that figure undercuts the power of the legacy media.

The caveat is that the MSM and their advertising partners are in such deep denial that they will exlain away the lost viewers as trivial in number and unimportant in buying power. I've blogged on this point before. See:

MSM: Shrinking Audience, Leftward Drift

Agincourt and Bloggerdom

Denial can be a winning strategy

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Bad Press

This side of Dan Rather, no one has more cause for concern about fallout from CBS's scandalous document hoax than Seymour Hersh. For no journalist has benefited more from the decades-old jerry-rigged system of American news reporting now being razed before our eyes.

Seymour Hersh Vs. Richard Perle

Anonymous sources that cannot be checked. Directly reversing what really happened. (One might think Hersh had factual dyslexia if the reversals were not so consistently in the service of his far left ideology.) Dark charges based on a crazy patchwork of suppositions. For anyone familiar with Hersh's earlier work, his article on the Bush administration's being taken in by false documents is especially outlandish because Hersh has repeatedly been taken in by con men peddling sensational phony stories.

Hersh, Hitchens, etc.
Jeff Goldstein has run out of patience with a certain so-called conservative blogger

Nothing more to say except indeed and rtwt.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Lite blogging ahead

Back on Thursday
"Postmodern War"

Victor Hanson Davis wrote this before the invasion of Iraq. It seems eerily prescient.

In hour one of the conflict, we are supposed to expect to see the deployment of weapons of mass destruction — which many in the world community still profess are not there. If the Iraqis use these agents of death, we are culpable for prompting such dangers; if they don't, then there was no real casus belli in the first place and the war will be deemed, post facto, as unnecessary. Americans must be swift, decisive, and victorious in their warmaking — but not to the extent that they should kill too many of the enemy. Our GPS bombs must not just be smart, but rather brilliant — and thus distinguish and target (wounding rather than killing) only 80,000 individual Baathists and Saddamites within a population of 26 million.

We should not lose American soldiers abroad; but, to be fair, we should at least suffer a few dead (preferably white, male, older, and officers) to avoid criticism about the "body bag" syndrome, in which, as in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Americans kill without being killed — and thus appear too much the overdog for the postcolonial guilt of Europeans or the tastes of the "Harper's Index." We expect that Saddam might well blow up oil wells, gas innocents, foul the seas, hit Israel, and worse; but the responsibility will be ours, not his, inasmuch as we expect mass killing from him but demand its instant prevention from us.

There is a Potemkin phoniness to this war to come. We live in a world of images broadcast immediately into our living rooms without commentary — or, indeed, any intellectual context at all. Thus, because a Tariq Aziz — a really murderous, awful man — can get on a plane to the Vatican without his holster, he looks to the ignorant as if he were a jet-setting, press-conference-convening statesman like Tony Blair. Dan Rather sits across from a mass murderer in a Western tie and suit and questions the tyrant as if he is interviewing the head of the local school board.

Text, image, and rhetoric — not the deeds themselves — become reality. Had Mr. Bush, Clinton-like, only bit his lip, apologized to various peoples, talked of "multilateralism," and spun his southern drawl to sound more like the Joads than Sam Houston, then he too might have bombed a thug (in Europe, no less) for two months without congressional, U.N., or Cameroon's approval. Even ANSWER and "Not in Our Name" would have felt his pain and thus stayed home.
Nazi Guerillas

Caught part of a show on the History Channel called "Nazi Guerillas" on Friday night. I was half asleep and fighting a cold so I did not take detailed notes. But a couple of points were directly applicable to the current situation in Iraq.

First, just because a bunch of psychopaths are willing to kill soldiers and civilians, that doesn't mean their cause has popular support. In the case of Germany, the werewolves were active in areas where the populace was eager to see an end to the war even if that meant American occupation.

Second, the U.S. Army put out the word that guerillas caught fighting out of uniform would be subject to summary execution. That threat was sometimes carried out.

Third, the U. S. Army censored all mention of guerilla attacks from press reports because they believed it encouraged the Nazi bitter-enders and provided useful intelligence to the guerilla cells.

War is messy business. It is never as clean as we might hope. Not even WWII ended as cleanly as the MSM thinks it should. This is from Murray and Millett's A War to be Won:
In the wake of liberation, French and Italian partisans-- both rich in dedicated Communists-- murdered as many as 8,000 suspected collaborators, often with Allied troops nearby

Monday, October 25, 2004

"The Daily Dodge"

James Bowman looks at John Stewart on Opinion Journal:

Mr. Stewart sounds in his book as he does on his TV show--not affectionate but arrogant, as if he were way too cool to bother finding out the facts of the real history, or news, that he's sending up. Who can take such stuff seriously?
See this from February:

Humor is over-rated

Much of the joking around is a weasel's game anyway. It lets the smug but superficial camouflage their ignorance while retaining center stage. They don't have to defend what they say-- they were just joking. But they still are smarter than you.
"John Kerry's real record as an antiwar activist"

Never Apologize, Never Explain

JOHN KERRY SAYS HE IS "PROUD" of his activities in opposition to the Vietnam War. Why, then, have he and his spokesmen consistently misrepresented them? Indeed the Kerry camp has been so effective in obscuring this history that both the New York Times and the Washington Post were forced to run corrections on the subject recently because their reporters relied on misinformation that the Kerry camp had succeeded in putting into wide circulation.
Now why did he go and let the secret out?

Why Men Don’t Ask For Directions
Surprisingly confident

Right Wing News polled 85 right-of-center bloggers about the election. They are overwhelmingly positive about the election.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ace smacks down Kerry's favorite conservative blogger

It now appears that many of the people who argued along with me for war were not so serious at all.
Since Mr. Sullivan is so big on demanding apologies, I will demand one in return: I demand your apology for exhorting this nation into a war about which you were never morally serious nor intellectually thorough
Bad week for Andrew. First he gets compared to wax fruit and then this:
Sullivan is not a warhawk. He's a bird of paradise. And that's far worse

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Wait 'til the people of Ohio hear about this

So first, The Guardian UK starts a letter-writing campaign to get Ohio voters to vote Kerry. It doesn't work out so well (no surprise to anyone who understands Jacksonian America). So now they are in favor of direct action.
On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?
The Guardian is considered a respectable paper. Just off hand, name a respectable conservative paper that ever said "Timothy McVeigh, where are you now that we need you?"

HT: A Small Victory. She goes into the fever swamps so the rest of us don't have to. She has a far stronger stomach than i do.

UPDATE: Come to think of it, maybe this is one of the reasons they like Kerry.