Thursday, December 29, 2005


My PC crashed big time so blogging will be light for the next several days.

It's pretty surprising: in sixteen months i've had more trouble with this Dell equipment (two junk printers, a DVD drive, and now a compound problem) than i had with the previous four computers and three printers i've owned (combined).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14
i'll miss him

Lane Core is going on hiatus.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Remember the Anthrax Attacks?

Four years later and the case is still open. I've just finished an interesting book on the subject: Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks by Edward G. Lake. (Lake also has a website: ). Both are a useful compendium of the known facts an do a good job of debunking the false leads that crept into the media narrative.

There were a lot of false leads that the media trumpeted. In some cases the reporting on the anthrax letters looks like an overture for the MSM meltdowns over Niger, WMDs, Abu Ghraib, and the false TANG documents. For instance, before Nick Kristoff signed up as Joe Wilson's PR flack, he was doing the same for Barbara Hatch Rosenberg in her vendetta against Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill. In both cases, Kristoff combined a preening moral passion with gullibility, obtuseness, and laziness. He went into a a dudgeon, but could not get his facts straight.

Before it botched the Koran/toilet story, Newsweek printed a harebrained story about bloodhounds identifying Hatfill from scents found on the envelopes. (Lake argues persuasively that the FBI used the bloodhounds after they lost Hatfill while he was under surveillance and had nothing to do with the envelopes.)

Lake believes Hatfill is innocent based on some pretty powerful evidence. The case against him, in contrast, relies heavily on innuendo, speculation, and misinformation.

It is telling, but wholly unsurprising that the voices raised over the NSA/al Qaeda wiretaps were silent during the highly publicized pursuit of Hatfill.

(Hatfill, like Richard Jewell, is an example of the how the free press can sell out the presumption of innocence for a few scraps of leaks from law enforcement.)

The Anthrax case is also a rebuke to Greta and Nancy Grace and all the other Holloway obsessives. For six months they've croaked about sending the FBI to Aruba. They act as if the Bureau has magical powers that let them solve every case they are assigned. The anthrax letters, like the Unabomber and Chandra Levy cases, are a standing rebuke to that conceit.

Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks
Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"Those who can't, don't know"

Incompetence, the study demonstrated, represents a dismaying troika of of cluelessness: Incompetant people don't perform up to speed, don't recognize their lack of competence, and don't recognize the competence of others.

Marc Abrahams, Harvard Business Review, December 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Business Education

Photon Courier discussed an interesting new book in this post:


PC makes an astute point:

This critique of an excessive reliance on contextless technique in business is, I believe, also applicable to the current excessive dominance of "theory"--ie, specific techniques for things like textual criticism--in the teaching of the humanities.

See also:



Military education and business

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sobering thoughts on the dead tree media

Knight Ridder is the second-largest newspaper chain in the country, behind Gannett, although perhaps not for long. The company's single largest investor, Private Capital Management, sent an ultimatum to the board last month demanding an imminent sale or breakup so it could realize some sort of premium on its 20 percent holding considering the stagnant stock price. The announcement that CEO Tony Ridder had dutifully hired Goldman Sachs to begin looking around prompted those newly romantic journos to suggest nominating a slate of their retired colleagues to the board or inspiring communities to buy their local papers, as if they were Green Bay and Knight Ridder were the Packers. They have nothing but disdain for PCM, the institutional shareholders who care about nothing other than the share price, and the Wall Street analysts who approve of radical cost cutting to justify the deal. (Morgan Stanley's Douglas Arthur, whose "scorched earth" recommendation would pare $350 million in costs, was denounced in the pages of Knight Ridder's Philadelphia Daily News, which under Arthur's plan would be the first thing to go.)

Of course, if these same journalists were writing about any industry besides newspapers, they might be less soft-hearted and more hard-headed. They'd point out that newspapers are losing their main reason for being in business -- their readers. They'd point out how websites are draining away lucrative classified advertising. They might even applaud PCM for shaking up management.

They don't, of course, because they're hopeless romantics about the business they're in. Investors like PCM are realists and figure that newspapers are no longer growth properties. They're not even value properties. They're cash cows to be milked -- a trick that private equity funds do best. What's fascinating in Knight Ridder's case is how its leaders -- who have been less willing to cut costs than their peers at Gannett or Tribune Co. -- have been upstaged by presumably savvier investors who want out of the stock right now.
Is the Romance Gone From Newspapers?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Worse than Jayson Blair

Patterico points to these two articles on LAPD corruption, the murder of Biggie Smalls, and the L. A. Times.

The Front Page Magazine piece seems to pull no punches in going after the LAT:

the once venerable paper faces a scandal of Jayson Blair proportions, one that may topple key players-including a Pulitzer Prize winner-and permanently sully its reputation.

But I have to disagree. When compared to the actions of the LAT, the Jayson Blair scandal pales in comparison. Blair lied, but he lied about matters of slight consequence. It was a grubby little inside baseball affair that served, mainly, to let Andrew Sullivan even some scores. The LAT stands accused of covering up for a murderous mélange of gangster cops, gansta rappers, and just plain gangsters.

The Rolling Stone piece lets Randall Sullivan update his reporting in LAbyrinth (a highly, highly recommended book). The civil case brought by Voletta Wallace is turning over rocks and Sullivan is taking careful inventory of what scuttles out from underneath.

It is more than a little puzzling that our crime-obsessed cable channels have ignored this case and the on-going litigation. They have hours to devote to Aruba, Natalie Holloway, Michael Jackson, and Robert Blake. Yet they have no interest in this juicy story.

One reason for the silence is the role played by Johnny Cochran in the scandals and in the media. He was deeply involved in parts of the cover-up (the Kevin Gaines shooting) and played the race card to buffalo the city into dropping its investigation into Gaines, Death Row Records, and Suge Knoght. Cochran was also a friend and colleague of Dan Abrams and Nancy Grace at Court TV.

Another reason for the media's failure is that the story does not fit their template. The Smalls murder and the real Ramparts scandals upset their simplistic formula of old LAPD=bad and Reno-sanctioned reforms=good. I discussed that aspect here last year.

A final factor is the MSM's pathological reluctance to admit mistakes. Taking a hard look at the LAPD scandals in light of the new information would reveal that the media got it very wrong the first time.

Off to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam

Bud Carson, RIP

The father of the Steel Curtain has died.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Nice stiletto work

The Singing Journalist

Today’s award for skimpiest journalistic credentials for an expert source goes to Dateline NBC.
Stupid bloggers

A lot of pro-war bloggers are pouring their trademark invective on Rep. Murtha. Sorry, I'm not buying it. The man may be wrong, but he is no "moonbat".

I grew up in Murtha's district. I volunteered in the campaigns of a couple of his opponents and I also voted for him a few times. He was liberal on domestic policy, but always was solid on national defense. He gave crucial support to Reagan in some tough fights during the end-game of the Cold War.

Murtha's plan may be (probably is) flawed. Certainly that is a legitimate matter of debate. But the pointless name-calling says more about the war-bloggers than it does about Murtha.

I believe Murtha reflects the views of his district. It is not Cambridge, Mass., But there is a growing unease and war-weariness in solidly-red areas like Somerset. The root cause is the course of the war and the public conduct of it by the Bush administration.

The strategy for victory seems to be "endure". To my ears that sounds too much like the generals in 1916-17. They have no solution-just the promise to keep doing what they have been doing in the hope that it will eventually work.

Even worse, the administration operates as though the war is over. Too much business as usual on domestic issues-too little focus on the war. FDR understood that "Dr. Win the War" had to take center stage after Pearl Harbor while "Dr. New Deal" exited for the duration. This administration passes out Medals of Freedom to Aretha Franklin and Muhammad Ali while the fighting rages in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Drucker, Core Functions, and Economic Development

Peter Drucker's point about real business functions (see below) and cost centers is of crucial significance for local officials concerned about business development. New call centers, logistics terminals, or assembly plants provide a one-time boost to employment. However, they suffer from two signal weaknesses in Drucknerian terms. First, because they are expenses, not functions, they are under constant threat of outsourcing and retrenchment. Smart companies always try to manage expenses lower.

Second, they lack the vital "DNA" to create spin-offs and start-ups. That resides in the marketing and innovation functions. Where this DNA is present and concentrated, a self-sustaining industry cluster can take shape (e.g. Silicon Valley). If it is absent, new business creation will be limited.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Weekend reading

The best place to catch up on your blog reading is over at Lane Core's place. He has his latest Blogworthies up.
Peter Drucker

There is something paradoxical about Drucker's career and influence. He was an acute thinker and often prescient. He was a prophet showered with honors. Yet there was a Cassandra element in his pronouncements as well.

For instance, in 1954 he wrote in The Practice of Management:

It is the customer who determines what a business is. For it is the customer, and he alone, who through being willing to pay for a good or service, converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance- especially not to the future of the business and to its success. What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers "value," is decisive- it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it prospers.


Because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two- and only two- basic functions: marketing and innovation.

A half century later, few corporations have internalized this crucial point. We still spend an inordinate amount of time on the expense side, and never come to grips with the central questions of creating customer value.

In fact, marketing is still treated as something less than a core function. A recent article in the Sloan Management Review concluded:

In many companies, there has been a marked fall-off in the influence, stature and significance of the corporate marketing department. Today, marketing is often less of a corporate function and more a diaspora of skills and capabilities spread across the organization.

The Decline and Dispersion of Marketing Competence
Frederick E. Webster Jr., Alan J. Malter and Shankar Ganesan

Similarly, Drucker was a voice in the wilderness during the Internet bubble. He understood that most dot-coms were not businesses in a real sense and said so forcefully. Yet the business press continued to laud these dot bombs even as they praised Drucker and published his articles.

Steve Sailer pointed to another inconvenient observation the guru made:

But the immigrants have a mismatch of skills: They are qualified for yesterday's jobs, which are the kinds of jobs that are going away.

This is manifestly true and yet it rarely is discussed in the great immigration non-debate.

Photon Courier has several good posts on Drucker.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rerun Season

Originally posted Monday, April 28, 2003

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Carl von Clausewitz died in 1831 leaving an unfinished manuscript and other papers that his wife edited and published between 1832 and 1837. The most important of these was On War. That work was not an instant success, but it has been an enduring work. Even today articles and books continue to analyze Clausewitz's work and, most interestingly, use that work to analyze military problems in the present. See here for examples.

Clausewitz holds a position that is striking. Not only is he esteemed by scholars, he is read by current practitioners. In business studies few hold an analogous position. There are scholars whose work gets taught in B-schools but these are rarely the books that executives recommend. Further, these latter are often examples of the fad de jure (reengineering, discipline of market leaders, Tom Peters, etc.) and lack staying power.

The only exception i can think of is Michael Porter. His work is used in B-schools and also in corporate strategic planning. Porter, however, differs radically in his approach. Clausewitz presents descriptive theories, his aim is to help the future commander prepare himself for the challenges he will face. In contrast, Porter's work is intensely prescriptive. His Five-factor framework and generic strategies are templates waiting for the executive's implementation.

Porter's, then, implies that the key to business strategy is "knowing". The doing will almost take care of itself. Clausewitz never presumed that the science of war (which gets studied in peacetime) could ever supplant the art of war (which wins actual battles and campaigns).

One big reason why command remained an art was "friction" one of Clausewitz's signal contributions to military theory:

In war, "everything looks simple; the knowledge required does not look remarkable, the strategic options are so obvious that by comparison the simplest problem of higher mathematics has an impressive scientific dignity."

"Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war."

"The military machine-- the army and everything related to it-- is basically very simple and therefore seems easy to manage. But we should bear in mind that none of its components is of one piece: each part is composed of individual, everyone of whom retains his potential of friction."

See also:

Clausewitz (II)

Central Staffs

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Misplaced blame

I found this over at the American Spectator blog:

the media, as it slowly became colonized by Boomers in their “long march through the institutions,” forced peace and reconciliation with Ali onto the rest of us. Read the press reaction to Ali in the 1960s from some of the old guard of the sporting press. Easily dismissed as narrow-minded or racist today (and with reason in some cases), their outrage at Ali’s behavior was nevertheless justified. You don’t hear so much as a mild reservation expressed today.

Once again i have to stand up for my generation. A host of per-boomer media people (Schaap, Mailer, Cosell) made Ali a hero before we boomers had any influence.

I don't understand why right-wingers like to bash the boomers so much that they will distort history to do so.

See this for another example:

Stephen Schwartz dances on HST's grave

Beautifully said

The Christmas Truce Leaves Living Memory

A Scotsman named Alfred Anderson was the last person alive who could remember the Christmas Truce of 1914. With his death on Sunday at the age of 109, that definitive moment of the Great War leaves memory and enters history.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

I loved this

CBS Cruises, but SpongeBob Sops Up Viewers

We interrupt this tedious TV ratings report to bring you an important bulletin about SpongeBob SquarePants, whose search for his beloved pet snail -- missing-and-presumed-escargot on the mean streets of Bikini Bottom -- attracted a colossal 8 million mollusk lovers to Nickelodeon. That's nearly 6 million more than caught Greta Van Susteren's effort to find missing white chick Natalee Holloway in Aruba on Fox News Channel and more than 7 million more than watched Nancy Grace shed big crocodile tears for the missing Holloway on CNN Headline News in July.

Friday, November 11, 2005

T. O.: Mixed Emotions

TMQ has the concensus view here:
In other football news, He Who Must Not Be Named is now He Who Need Not Be Named. This gentleman continued to throw selfish temper tantrums because there was never a cost associated with such behavior. Every time he denounced teammates or demanded special treatment, he got away with it. Now there has finally been a cost. The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance, but NFL players have a stake in making sure the discipline sticks -- because they will benefit. The descent from team play to selfishness is what started the NBA's tumble from charmed sport to vanishing ratings. It is imperative the me-first virus, busily destroying the financial structure of pro basketball, not be allowed to catch on in the NFL. Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie should be lauded for taking a stand for the whole league; players will benefit too, as keeping the me-first contagion out of the NFL will preserve the league's ability to provide handsome income to the majority on NFL rosters. Now, sports media -- let's see a little more attention for the majority of players who bust their busts, never complain and behave with dignity in public, a little less 24-hour coverage of a guy who deserves to be traded to a day-care center.

I'm no fan of TO and players like him. (See here and here for my take from two years ago. But I have mixed emotions watching Owens crash and burn.

TMQ touched on part of the reason in a comment unrelated to the trouble in Philly.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Game scoreless, Cleveland threw deep along the sideline. Dennis Northcutt caught the ball at the Tennessee 22, where rookie corner Raynaldo Hill was in position to make the tackle. Instead, Hill attempted to snatch the ball out of Northcutt's hands -- and missed him entirely, allowing the Browns' receiver to stroll the rest of the way for a 58-yard touchdown. Yours truly blames this on ESPN's Sportscenter. Defensive backs now take silly risks in the hopes of creating highlight plays that will be shown on Sportscenter, instead of just making a routine tackle that ends the down.

The sports media now pours obloquy on Owens, but for years they were his enablers as he pursued his narcissistic path to career destruction. Their willful amnesia calls to mind C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man:
And all the time-- such is the tragicomedy of our situation-- we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that our civilization needs more 'drive' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful.

Drew Rosenhaus, Owens's agent, failed his client. He, too, was an enabler. The "journalists" who cover the NFL are now criticizing him. But Rosenhaus is a "high profile" agent largely because those same journalists raised that profile. Rosenhaus was good copy. He gave provocative interviews.

Rosenhaus's methods were good for the agent and good for the journalists. Too bad they were so harmful for his most famous client.

At Tuesday's press conference, Rosenhaus refused to answer many questions. One of the best was "what have you done for TO other than get him fired." His refusal to answer was wholly expected. But I wonder if the guys at ESPN will keep asking it? Or will they forget about it in a few weeks. Will they let Rosenhaus come on PTI and do his spin for other clients with TO forgotten and unmentioned?

I'm not convinced that the Eagles are as principled as TMQ lets on. The assessment at Galley Slaves may be more realistic:

The Eagles were right to keep TO around and not trade him, because the poor value they would have gotten (a future second round pick, at best) would not have compensated them for having TO playing against them.

So, the Eagles took a chance which almost paid off and have now moved on. Where are they going from here? Nowhere, obviously. I'll be very surprised if they sneak into the playoffs. (If I ran the team, I would have sent McNabb in for the surgery after week two; when you play hurt, you tend to get hurt.)

I wonder if Philly would have done more to defuse the situation if they were 6-1 in a weak division?

As it is, the Eagles have a banged-up quarterback in a pass-happy offense, a suspect defense, and play in the toughest division in football. They were not going back to the Super Bowl-not even if TO said nothing and caught a hundred balls.

Now they have shifted all the attention to bad, evil, selfish TO. Andy Reid gets to play the tough, old-school coach. Quite a relief after all the questions about his refusal to run the football and his defense's inability to stop Denver.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

On Wisconsin? Not this weekend.

Pittsburgh 20, Green Bay 10

Penn St. 35, Wisconsin 14

Fitzmas turned out to be less decisive than most hoped. I wonder what the next phase holds?

Tow straws in the wind are op-eds by Victoria Toensing and Zell Miller. Now that Fitzgerald came up dry in terms of an immense White House conspiracy to "punish" Wilson, maybe a few reporters will look into Wilson, his lies and the unanswered questions about his mission.

Macsmind and AJ Strata are still the two must read sites. Frankly, each speculates more than I would, but they are unearthing a lot of interesting information. To my eye, they have uncovered more dots and better connections than were found in the Phoenix memo or on Moussoui's laptop.

Clarice at American Thinker has some good questions that an enterprising reporter could ask. Some of those questions have been bothering me since 2004.

I doubt there will be many volunteers from the MSM for reasons set out here:
The rotten heart of investigative journalism

Clinton Taylor made a vital point here when he noted:

While the CIA may back Wilson's account to reporters, it has now twice contradicted him when the chips were down and the threat of perjury loomed.
Whether Libby is guilty or innocent, the activities of some in CIA have been disturbing. Time after time anonymous CIA sources have fed lies to journalists. Such active disinformation operations in the US are supposed to be strictly off-limits to Langley. Nor are CIA personnel permitted to lie or stonewall Congressional investigators.

From Just One Minute:
Among other things, the Senator discussed the question of whether Valerie Plame was involved in the selection of Wilson for the trip. The Senate staff had asked her that very question in January; the Senator asked them to check the transcript, and he was astonished by her answer - "I honestly do not recall if I suggested it to my boss".
I do not fully share his surprise at her conveniently lapsed memory. Ms. Plame is a highly trained covert operator, schooled in techniques that will enable her to resist the most vigourous of interrogations by Russkies and other baddies (not that the Russkies are baddies now, but... oh, forget it). We did not know that the training technique included listening to old Steve Martin routines, but it is still impressive to see a top pro in action

From The Weekly Standard:
"Some CPD [Counterproliferation Division] officials could not recall how the office decided to contact [Wilson]," its report says. "However, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip." There's more: "The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife 'offered up his name,' and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife, says, 'my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.'"

See also these two Powerline posts which discuss the disinformation spread about Curveball and the INC:
The Cloak of Anonymity

The media's curveball

Under normal circumstances this would have the MSM in a frenzy over the actions of "rogue elephants" at CIA. Instead we get this odd piece on the Washington Post op-ed page:
It is not surprising that your White House distrusts and/or despises the media, the CIA, the State Department's career officers, the United Nations and a host of other institutions that you could not control, but that you could not accept that you could not control. Like most paranoia, yours is not totally unfounded: People in those institutions were out to defy and/or get you.

But you and yours helped them accomplish the mission. One lesson available in this story is that amateurs are no match for the CIA in disinformation campaigns. The spies are far better at operating in the shadows than you politicians will ever be. They have a license to dissemble.

The hidden management of the criminal justice process and the news media practiced by spooks in Wilson-Rove-Libbygate is nothing short of brilliant. So you were right to fear the agency. Where else do you think the one-page crime report that triggered the investigation and then the pressure-building leaks disclosing its existence came from?
Fear probably caused you to keep the Clinton-appointed leadership in place at the CIA long after some of its top operatives mounted a rebellion against the White House, in part to shift attention from their failures to yours. I know that George Tenet charmed you, and the rest of us. That's what spies and spymasters do, sir. You should have been taking that into account

The raw cynicism takes your breath away. Apparently, it is OK for rogue elements of CIA to undermine an elected government if that government does not play the game the way reporters want it to play. Hoagland's piece also gives lie to the idea that shield laws protect our freedoms. All too often, the press and unelected insiders use anonymous leaks to undermine our elected officials.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Catch up on your reading

Lane Core helps you out with his latest Blogworthies.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pictures, icons, and brands

Pro football is America's game. It is the most popular sport with fans. It dominates television ratings. Every year the Super Bowl is the most watched show on TV. Until television came along, the NFL was less popular than baseball. Television and the NFL Films changed that.

The NFL mystique transcends any particular season. The league defines its brand through video. The clips are repeated so often that even casual fans recognize them in just a second or two.

Dwight Clark flashing open in the end zone for The Catch.

The Packer sweep grinding through the mud toward the end zone.

Unitas picking apart the Giants in Yankee Stadium.

The Immaculate Reception.

The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and the Ice Bowl.

John Elway breaking Cleveland's heart with The Drive.

The Chiefs matriculating the ball down the field.

Namath trotting off the field waving his arm with one finger extended

For many fans, these images have become iconic. They are the NFL.

These brand-defining film clips have several things in common. They mark big moments in big games. But beyond that they are great images. They have a quality that let them stand on their own beyond their role as a historical record.

They have two other traits in common. First, they come from games that were played outdoors in the daytime. Video and photographs have a sharpness, depth and richness that is lost when stadium lights replace sunshine. The game situations might be the same, but the resulting pictures are far different. (The cinematographers and photographers of NFL Films are adamant on this point and can demonstrate their point with hundreds of examples.)

The other trait they share is that most of the clips are old. This is directly related to the previous point. The NFL has chosen to play most of its recent big games at night and/or indoors.

Doing so helps television ratings and increases league revenue. But I wonder what the implications are for the long-term image-brand-of the NFL.

Does the scarcity of new images insinuate that the game is old-fashioned? Does that turn off young fans? Does it imply that (unintentionally) that the modern NFL is inferior to the old school game?

Nostalgia is a dangerous brand attribute for pro football. Baseball has owned it for nearly a half century. Yet it is not so simple as promoting clips from recent games. The game setting automatically yields inferior images, which only adds to the problem.

Monday, October 31, 2005

MoDo: Sad and embarrassing

Pretty much everything that can be said about her article has been blogged. My two favorites are from the Anchoress and Steve Sailer.

Steve Sailer

One thing I would like to point out is how desperate Maureen is to conform. She wants society to tell her, the Modern Girl, what to do, and is angry that it has given her mixed messages over the years. The notion that she should have figured out for herself how to live her life is not one that naturally occurs to her. But that hasn't stopped her from giving enormous amounts of advice, most of it bad, to other women on how they should live their lives. That's because she wants to lessen the discomfort she feels when she notices that other women have made other choices.

The Anchoress

And now you’re cringing because some women are entering college with the idea of actually having children and part-time careers, instead of careers with part-time children! What a waste, eh? I bet you’re glad you didn’t do that!
But you sound pret-ty teed off at these gals, all the same, which is surprising, because…I thought the feminist movement was all about “respecting women’s life-choices.” Now if YOU, a leading feminist - I guess - can’t respect women’s choices, how in the world will anyone else

For my money, MoDo went of the rails pretty early in life:

In the universe of Eros, I longed for style and wit. I loved the Art Deco glamour of 30's movies. I wanted to dance the Continental like Fred and Ginger in white hotel suites; drink martinis like Myrna Loy and William Powell; live the life of a screwball heroine like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a gold lamé gown cut on the bias, cavorting with Cary Grant, strolling along Fifth Avenue with my pet leopard.

So basically, in MoDo's world, if life does not turn out like your favorite movies, then you are a victim of the patriarchy.
Putin's Russia

Interesting article in the Spectator (London):

The return of White Russia
Paul Robinson
Issue: 29 October 2005

The most prevalent narrative of Russian affairs in the Western press talks of a return to dictatorship under a former KGB colonel. The Russian President is repeatedly portrayed as a closet communist, eager to suppress freedom of speech and jail any political opponents.

My journalist friend laughs at the suggestion that Putin has suppressed all independent political thought. He should know; he has twice been sacked from newspapers for writing pro-Putin articles. The problem, he tells me, is that Westerners listen too much to the likes of the former oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Incidentally, he adds, Berezovsky still owns a newspaper in Russia — so much for there being no anti-Putin voices. In fact, my friend suggests, there may even be more freedom of expression in Russia than in the West, because there are fewer social and legal constraints on ‘politically incorrect’ and extremist points of view. If you want to be racist, sexist or anything else-ist, you’ll find it easier to get a publisher in Moscow than in London or New York.

This article makes it easy to understand why many Russians hate the Oligarchs. (HT: Steve Sailer)

New Retreat for the Russian Rich: London
Wealthiest Flooding 'Moscow on the Thames' With Cash

I've posted before on the Putin and Russia:

Putin and Khodorkovsky

Putin and the oligarchs

Putin vs. Khodorkovsky

"The Passion of the Putin"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Truth is also a casualty when the caring professions decide to wage war

XRLQ points to this eye-opening article in the LA Times

McMartin Pre-Schooler: 'I Lied'
A long-delayed apology from one of the accusers in the notorious McMartin Pre-School molestation case

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Essential reading

Another edition of Blogworthies is up at Lane Core's place.

If it wasn't for his round-up i would have missed this outrage:

Muslim Students Shut Down Exhibit at Harper College

When Muslim students at a community college in Illinois complained about an art exhibit that criticized the repressive symbol of radical Islam known as the hijab, the school promptly removed the offending artwork.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My favorite reactions to Miers

Scott Chaffin:
The opposition was, from the get-go, some weirdo intersection of the Hearty Republican bloggers, and the egghead lawyers & academics. Subset C was highly populated, given the tendency of eggheads to bloviate endlessly. Bottom line, though — there will be much jackassery, but this one will bite the instant experts in the ass.

AJ Strata:
And that is what is left of the conservative movement. We now have two factions who will never trust each other, and where name calling skirmishes will break out more and more often. It has already started. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in now.

Hugh Hewitt:
Now, however, a big slice of conservative punditry has decided that the long march back isn't worth the risk that Harriet Miers isn't who the president and her close associates say she is. On the basis of a very thin set of papers --some of them distorted, and all of them cherry-picked-- and with an absolute refusal to entertain any of the many arguments and testimonies on her behalf, this caucus has seized on the very tactics most conservatives have long denounced in order to do what?

To deny Harriet Miers a hearing and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

To accomplish this objective, a group of high profile conservative pundits and activists have gone so far as to raises hundreds of thousands of doallrs from secret sources to run hit ads on the nominee in prime time. George Will has taken to denouncing high profile evangelical leaders as "crude." National Review, the oldest brand on the right, allowed its cyber pages to be used to brand the nominee the worst since Caligula's horse and to suggest the president might send up Barney next
Pretty average

At least according to this. (I matched 13 of 15)

HT: Absinthe and Cookies
Not sure if this is creepy or funny

BTK Website Developer Arrested for Stalking

Right after Dennis Rader was arrested many people noticed Catch BTK website creator Tom Voight was nowhere to be found. That's because he was serving a jail sentence for stalking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Plame/Wilson: Loose Ends

A few nagging questions while we wait for Fitzgerald to wrap up.

1. Maybe where there’s smoke there is fire. Many conservatives have argued that no crime was committed because Plame’s employment at CIA was widely known in DC before the Novak column. If this is true, why haven’t we seen a flood of on-the-record interviews by people who knew her and knew where she worked.

2. Is Rove that stupid? If you look at the reporters at the center of the storm—Miller, Cooper, Novak—they are odd vessels for a “neocon smear campaign.” Miller is married to an iconic figure of the leftish New York literary scene. Cooper is married to a Democratic operative. Novak opposed the Iraq War. Why would the White House use them for nefarious purposes?

3. The other, other shoe. No matter what Fitzgerald does, Bob Novak still has not told his whole story. He could change our understanding of the matter when he does.
I wish i had said that

Cable drenched in speculation -- and rain, rain, rain

Nancy Grace, the hyperventilating legal commentator and heat-seeking missile for CNN Headline News and Court TV, is best consumed in small doses. But because Grace lately has been all over the Pamela Vitale murder case, she has been all over the TV screen.

No wonder my head is aching, my ears are ringing and my blood is boiling.

See also here and here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Good, very good

And true:
One could write a big article on how the minicons, particularly Podhoretz, constantly get details like this wrong. But maybe Podhoretz can be excused in this instance since all those western states seem the same to him.

Why the Times is stoning its own reporter
Questions for CIA

Originally posted Monday, July 19, 2004

A. Is it a common practice to use private citizens who are also "international business consultants" as investigators on delicate missions such as the Niger matter?

B. What steps are taken to ensure that there are no potential conflicts of interest when assigning private citizens to such missions?

C. What steps are taken to ensure that those selected for such missions do not have partisan commitments which could politicize their intelligence gathering mission?

D. Why did CIA not take steps to ensure that the Niger mission would remain confidential?

E. Why was Amb. Wilson not required to submit a written report?

E(1). Didn't the reliance on oral briefings risk losing valuable intelligence?

F. Did any officials of CIA discuss the Niger-Iraq question with Amb. Wilson after March 2002?

F(1). Did anyone at CIA discuss the forged Niger documents with Amb. Wilson after they were received in October 2002?

G. In the period May-July 2003 Amb. Wilson provided numerous pieces of misinformation to the press (both openly and on background). What steps did CIA take to correct these dangerous and slanderous assertions?

G(1). Did CIA attempt to correct the false assertion that the forged Niger documents came to CIA from the office of the Vice President?

G(2). Did CIA attempt to correct the false impression that the Niger forgeries were received prior to Feb. 2002?

G(3). Did CIA attempt to correct the false assertion that Amb. Wilson's report went to the office of the Vice President?

H. Why did a "senior intelligence official" tell Newsday that Amb. Wilson's report was "widely disseminated" through the administration when this was not so?

I. CIA officials provided false information to the New York Times about intelligence source codenamed CURVEBALL and his relationship with the INC. What steps are being taken to prevent future cases of such disinformation activities against the American press and the American people?

I(1). Is CIA concerned that those officials harmed intelligence-sharing arrangements with Germany-- the country that provided access to CURVEBALL's intelligence?


The Cloak of Anonymity

Joseph Wilson, Liar

Our Man in Niger

The Rise and Decline of Joe Wilson

A Little Literary Flair

Mark Steyn

See also
Mission to Niger and a Cautionary Tale from Vietnam

Conned big time which reminds us that the "Bush lied about nukes" thing has taken some odd twists before. Remember Terrance J. Wilkinson?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Spike Lee is making sense

WaPo piece on the NBA's dress code:

Opinions on the NBA's Dress Code Are Far From Uniform

Lee tells the reporter:
"I think David Stern was right on this issue," Lee said in a telephone interview. "What are all those kids wearing the night they're drafted and they shake David Stern's hand? Suits. In corporate America, you have dress codes. Let's be honest: Image is everything. And they're trying to change the image of the league. Between the fight in Detroit last year and other perceptions, they've realized they have a public relations issue. They've set out to change it."
I've seen more than one sports hack (e.g. the egrgious Kornheiser) blame the dress code on out-of-touch old white men who are in charge of the NBA. The Post reporter confirms Lee's point that the NBA faces some serious issues with fans.

Recent public opinion polls, as well as some of the NBA's own focus groups, ranked basketball players as the least popular athletes among the major professional sports leagues, according to NBA officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Television ratings for June's NBA Finals plunged 29 percent from the year before.
Joe Wilson's Mission

Macsmind has a post that should finish Wilson's posturing as a truth-teller who tried to warn the president:

Plame Game - What Happened Joe?

I say should. The evidence of Wilson's hedging and lying has been before us for two year. But most of the media just avert their eyes.

See also:


Joe Wilson's carefully calibrated "courage"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Catch up on your blog reading

Lane Core has made it easy with his latest Blogworthies-- a roundup of some of the best blogging this week.
Civil war in the blogosphere

You thought the Miers nomination was divisive? It can't match the passions unleashed by the the issue of barbeque. Scott deserves the last word because, well, he's right.

Now i'm hungry.

I weighed in on the question a couple years ago: BBQ

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I have not blogged recently about the Plame/Wilson scandal, but I have been reading the posts at Just One Minute, The Strata-Sphere, and Macsmind. For my money, they have just the right balance of analysis and speculation.

This post by AJ Strata caught my eye because it hearkens back to my firs post on Joe Wilson. Strata quotes Wilson's friends in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS):
We appeal to those still working inside the Intelligence Community to consider turning state's evidence. Daniel Ellsberg, one who knows, recently noted that truth telling, in time, can stop a misguided march to war. Ellsberg and our former CIA colleague, Sam Adams, spoke out courageously to expose the lies of the Johnson administration and to put the brakes on the war in Vietnam-but, sadly, not in time. Sam is now deceased, but Ellsberg recently appealed to insiders at intelligence agencies "to tell the truth and save many, many lives." We Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity join in that urgent appeal.

Back when I thought Wilson might be an honest whistle-blower, I offered Sam Adams as a cautionary example of what happens when an analyst falls in love with their conclusions and confuses disagreement with a cover-up. You can read the whole thing here.

Mission to Niger and a Cautionary Tale from Vietnam

Bottom line: Sam Adams "exposed" no "lies". On the critical issue of the enemy order-of-battle, Sam Adams got it wrong. The "liars" were right in 1967.

It is somewhat scary that VIPS still thinks the CIA was right on a matter where history has refuted the Agency's analysis. It is disgusting that they think a correct assessment was a pack of lies.

Sidenote: VIPS's citation of Ellsberg-" Daniel Ellsberg, one who knows, recently noted that truth telling, in time, can stop a misguided march to war "-- is interesting in light of Joe Wilson's behavior in 2003. See: Joe Wilson's carefully calibrated '"courage".

UPDATE: Off to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.
Luck and Randomness

This week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback makes a provocative point:
Defending champion New England is struggling, having dropped two of three; oxygen-depleted Denver is soaring, having won five straight. Reasons include injuries to Patriots and strong play by the Broncos -- but a central factor is simply luck. We'd like to think sports outcomes are determined by merit, and usually the better team wins. But luck plays far more of a role than is generally acknowledged.

Consider that red-hot Denver hasn't committed a turnover in four consecutive games, while beleaguered New England hasn't gotten a takeaway in three consecutive outings. Skill and tactics are aspects of limiting turnovers and obtaining takeaways -- but luck is a huge aspect too, especially when it comes to fumbles. Skill may protect the ball and hard hits may cause it to pop out; whether a loose ball bounces toward you or the opponent is sheer luck. Lately, New England hasn't had much luck, and lately Denver has had a lot.

This week, the down-to-the-last-snap Falcons-Saints, Giants-Cowboys, Jags-Steelers, Redskins-Chiefs and Panthers-Lions games were so close no victor could have taken the day without benefit of luck. Against St. Louis, the Indianapolis defense looked terrible in the first quarter, surrendering 17 points, then looked great for the rest of game, partly because Lady Luck provided takeaways. Luck was not determinant in every game; the Seahawks simply blew the Texans off the field. But you get my point. A dropped pass, a random bounce, a behind-the-ball penalty -- luck heralds many NFL outcomes, and explains the supposedly "baffling" fact that the same team may win big one week and lose big the next. Luck has more to do with many aspects of life than is commonly admitted: For instance, the rich want to believe they got that way based solely on personal worthiness, but luck is often a leading difference between the well-off and the needy. In the NFL, all teams are stocked with big, fast, strong guys, while luck is distributed randomly week-by-week

Up to a point, I agree with Easterbrook. But luck is more than random events.

Napoleon liked lucky generals. He explained why in Maxim #95:
War is composed of nothing but accidents, and, although holding to general principles, a general should never lose sight of everything to enable him to profit from these accidents; that is the mark of genius .
In war there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it.

The ability to profit from accidents is a capacity that can be developed. Adm. Chester Nimitz wrote that:

Luck can be attributed to a well-conceived plan carried out by a well-trained and indoctrinated task group.
The old-fashioned, Lombardi virtues can make a team "lucky". Ball carriers who always protect the ball-even in practice-will fumble less than those who are sometimes sloppy. A well-conditioned team makes fewer mistakes. A receiver who hustles downfield to make a block is also going to be nearer the ball if there is a fumble. Fat, lazy d-linemen don't tip many passes late in the game.

More than luck was at play in the most famous "lucky" play in NFL history. On the Immaculate Reception, Franco Harris was held in to block. When the Raiders did not blitz, Harris went downfield to be an outlet receiver. After Bradshaw threw to Fuqua, Harris headed toward the ball to block. That's how he ended up near the deflected pass and broke John Madden's heart.

It was bad luck and bad play calling that put the ball on the ground in the closing seconds at Meadowlands in the Giants-Eagles game. But it was more than an accident that it was Hermann Edwards who was on the spot to make the miracle.


Credit Where Due


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Steelers, Maddox and the managerial dilemma

It was a tough loss. Worse than the New England games. They should have won and they would have won if Tommy Maddox had not played horribly. In some ways it was a repeat of the Texan nightmare from 2002.

Steelers fans on the radio are irate and are finished with Maddox. We are a fickle bunch. A few years ago Tommy was The Man and we could not wait to throw Kordell Stewart over the side of the boat. Now it is Maddox’s turn.

In fairness, Maddox never performed as well as Kordell did at his best. Nor was he any more consistent than Slash. The Steelers and their fans had simply lost patience with Stewart after the loss to New England in the AFC title game. They were ready for a change and Maddox represented change.

Cowher now faces a common managerial dilemma. He has a team member whose self-assessment is wildly inflated. Listening to Maddox after the game, it is clear that he does not think he played all that poorly.

It would be easy to resolve this if it was clear that Batch is better than Maddox. But we cannot be certain of that.

I bet most managers can sympathize with Cowher. One of the most delicately difficult problems to deal with is a valuable employee who over-estimates their skills. It is not that you want rid of them or that they lack potential. But they stubbornly insist that they are already good at something that is, in reality, an area where they need improvement. You want them to see that need for improvement, but you do not want to break their spirit or antagonize them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Perfect example

Here's the sort of thing i discussed here.

Search for Answers

Fox News did not know what they had or what it meant or if it mattered. But by golly they put it on the air immediately. Greta thinks it's something to be proud of.

The latest Carnival of the Capitalists is here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A true iconoclast

Collapsing the Maya

Let’s take Jared Diamond by the horns.

He would like us to believe that the decline and fall of the Maya was a tragic loss, and a sadly overgrown sculpture in the jungle ornaments the cover of his book Collapse.

But I don’t care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don’t think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell—whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion—but I don’t much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn’t amount to much


I mean it. RTWT

(ht: armavirumque )
AJ Strata does some digging

and offers an interesting perspective on the Miers nomination and the revolt of the conservative "intellectuals."

Frum’s Vendetta?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Media's Shifting Business Model

Shoshana Zuboff made an interesting point in this Fast Company article:

I felt as though I had just stumbled upon the clandestine documents of the elders of Davos. Want to know the secret weapon in America's race for productivity and global competitiveness? It's Althea! The much-touted self-service economy is actually a brilliantly concealed strategy to outsource American jobs. Instead of sending them overseas, though, we are sending them after hours to Althea and the other 54 million of us.

Jobless recovery? Hah! The recovery is throwing off jobs aplenty. They're just unpaid -- no salaries or benefits, only overtime. We join together each evening to complete the work our corporations can no longer afford to pay for

Cable news networks have been eager adopters of this new business model. In conventional journalism, reporters do interviews, assemble, verify, and weigh facts, and then write a story that has some coherence. The story was the public face of the newspaper or news broadcast. On cable, however, the interviews are the public content. The viewers are left with the task of weighing its significance and assessing the credibility of the people on screen.

What was once an unseen activity that was one of the costs of production is now center stage as the product-the content that advertisers pay for.

This is not a matter of left or right. Clinton-defender Greta van Sustren operates this way on Fox but so does Republican Joe Scarborough over on MSNBC. That bastion of journalistic excellence-CNN-has Nancy Grace who is one of the worst offenders.

The profit motive trumps ideology and professional pride.

The new model raises a couple of interesting points. First, this outsourcing to the audience plays into the hands of bloggers and other competitors of the traditional media. If paid media will not weigh and sift, then others will and they will attract readers.

Second, the cable news model undercuts the traditional media's assertion that they engage in a journalism of verification while bloggers and talk radio represent a journalism of assertion. How can NBC News maintain its brand as a serious, verifying news organization when MSNBC has Rita Cosby doing a show that is mostly raw interviews without verification or assessment?

There is a bleed-over for print journalism. Newsweeklies like Time will find it harder to maintain their niche-slower but more knowledgeable-when their reporters show up cheek-by-jowl with pundits and spinners on shows that specialize in raw talk.
Finance geekdom meets football

If you are twisted (like me) this is a great read.

"The Loser’s Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the
National Football League Draft" by Massey and Thaler

For some reason i can't get the link to work from here, but the one over at Finance Professor works just fine.

This point sort of puts a damper on the web-euphoria we've experienced over the last 10 years.
An interesting and important question is how confidence depends on the amount of information available. When people have more information on which to base their judgments their confidence can rationally be greater, but often information increases confidence more than it increases the actual ability to forecast the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

FBI Software

Photon Courier is exactly right: the problems with the FBI's Trilogy project deserve more attention. These two articles provide a pretty good look at the basic story.

Who Killed the Virtual Case File?

Why The G-Men Aren't I.T. Men

Two points jumped out of the second article. First, shouldn't this be red meat for investigative journalists.

Gregoire was offered and accepted the CIO job in September 2003. But within days, Lowery called him at his ranch in Austin, Texas, asking him to send a letter declining the offer, according to Gregoire. (Despite persistent requests for an explanation of why the FBI was withdrawing the offer, Gregoire did not receive any reason for the reversal.)

Gregoire was interviewed a few months after the quick departure of Darwin John, the former CIO for the Mormon Church and Scott Paper. John lasted only 10 months as FBI CIO before leaving due to what he would only describe as a disagreement on "a matter of principle" with Mueller

Second, the turnover in the CIO's office suggests that something structural and cultural is hurting the FBI's attempts to use technology to fight crime and terrorism.

Changing the culture at the FBI will be a gargantuan task, Azmi acknowledges. The job has been so frustrating that many top executives left after only short stints. Between 2002 and 2003 alone, four CIOs came and went. And the $170 million VCF system ground through 10 program managers before it was killed.

Peter Drucker wrote about this problem in Management: Tasks, Responsibility, Practices:

In many companies there are jobs which manage to defeat one good man after another-without any clear reason why. These jobs seem to be logical, seem to be well-constructed, seem to be do-able-yet nobody seems to be able to do them. If a job has defeated, in a row, two men who in their previous assignments have done well, it should be restructured.

Macmind does some interesting reporting and analysis.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The reality of effective information sharing

Some interesting research on how good organizations share knowledge.

Do Talk to Strangers: Encouraging Performative Ties to Create Competitive Advantage

Imagine the following situation: You are a consultant who has just been assigned to a new project at your firm, and your first major presentation is in a week. Unfortunately, your client's problem isn't something you have any expertise in. You know for sure that others at your firm have dealt with this kind of situation before -- in the same industry, even -- but it would take hours to sift through the worldwide knowledge database to find those cases. Besides, you would emerge from that research with only a brief, names-and-numbers-expunged summary of the cases, not the real lowdown you need. What do you do?

Chances are, according to research by Sheen S. Levine, a Singapore Management University professor who recently received his PhD from Wharton, you would pick up the phone and make a call. In a recent study, Levine has found that often, what gives firms competitive advantage isn't just their repository of sheer knowledge, but their use and encouragement of so-called "performative ties" -- those impromptu communications made by colleagues who are strangers in which critical knowledge is transferred with no expectation of a quid pro quo. "Not many managers even understand that this happens, much less why," says Levine. "They think it's just friends helping friends. But it's not. Usually, people will reach out and connect with colleagues whom they have never met or talked to before. It's not dependent on prior or future favors

This article has an interesting real world example.

Who Killed the Virtual Case File?

In the early 1990s, Russian mobsters partnered with Italian Mafia families in Newark, N.J., to skim millions of dollars in federal and New Jersey state gasoline and diesel taxes. Special Agent Larry Depew set up an undercover sting operation under the direction of Robert J. Chiaradio, a supervisor at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Depew collected reams of evidence from wiretaps, interviews, and financial transactions over the course of two and a half years. Unfortunately, the FBI couldn't provide him with a database program that would help organize the information, so Depew wrote one himself. He used it to trace relationships between telephone calls, meetings, surveillance, and interviews, but he could not import information from other investigations that might shed light on his own. So it wasn't until Depew mentioned the name of a suspect to a colleague that he obtained a briefcase that his friend had been holding since 1989.

"When I opened it up, it was a treasure trove of information about who's involved in the conspiracy, including the Gambino family, the Genovese family, and the Russian components. It listed percentages of who got what, when people were supposed to pay, the number of gallons. It became a central piece of evidence," Depew recalled during an interview at the FBI's New Jersey Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory, in Hamilton, where he is the director. "Had I not just picked up the phone and called that agent, I never would have gotten
Another reason to like the guy

I think the six happiest words in English are "Justice Scalia writing for the majority." This article just gave me another reason to admire the guy:
On another issue, Justice Scalia said he is adamantly opposed to televising Supreme Court sessions.
"We don't want to become entertainment," he said. "I think there's something sick about making entertainment out of real people's legal problems. I don't like it in the lower courts, and I don't particularly like it in the Supreme Court."

Since OJ whole cable networks have based their entire business model on manufacturing cheap content out of human tragedy. Nice to see someone willing to call it sick.

Monday, October 10, 2005


The Carnival of the Capitalists is two years old. This weeks edition is back where it first started: Business Pundit.
A new book on an important subject

Phyllis Schlafly's career is one of the most remarkable in post-war America. He campaign against the Equal Right Amendment was a model of successful grassroots activism. Schlafly was remaking the GOP into a populist, majority party while the neoconservatives were still trying to reinvigorate the Democrats. She deserves a serious book like this.


Intellect without will is useless, whereas will without intellect is dangerous.

Han von Seekt

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Good question

Not to take anything away from The Greatest Generation, but the behavior of our soldiers today will stand scrutiny when compared to the performance of those in any past war. The focus of the press on abuse is not due to any relaxation in military discipline or social mores. Why was valor considered front-page news in 1945 and abuse considered front-page news in 2005?

Slighting This Greatest Generation

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Press Speak: "Charging for Columnists"

Jay Rosen analyzes the NY Times decision to charge for access to their columnists. He makes several good points about the wisdom of the move in light of the new media realities.

He cuts to the heart of the issue when he puts himself in the shoes of the NYT editors and executives:

one of my worries would be over-estimating the marketplace value, and misstating the unique selling proposition of a Herbert, a Maureen Dowd, a David Brooks. When I read Dave Anderson in sports he sounds like every other sports columnist, even when he's on target.

From inside the journalistic pyramid, space on the Times op-ed page looks like the pinnacle of the profession. For readers, in Thomas Friedman's flat world, the Times's opinion-mongers compete with dozens of others. How many readers will agree that the NYT scribblers are worth the premium price?

Some readers will pay, but the Times risks long-term brand erosion even while it reaps short-term revenue.

Rosen address that issue here:

If everyone is reading a columnist, that makes the columnist more of a must have. If "everyone" isn't, less of a must. "Exclusive online access" attacks the perception of ubiquity that is part and parcel of a great columnist's power. In his prime Walter Lippmann was called "the name that opened every door." Nick Kristof's brand of human rights journalism, which depends on the mobilization of outrage, is simply less potent if it can't reach widely around the world, and pass by every door.

Two years ago David Warsh wrote that newspapers compete in "explanation space":
the lofty region where short-term causal explanations of events are forged.

Clearly, the two most powerful weapons any newspaper has in this competition are its front page and its op-ed pages. The Times has decided to assign their big guns to garrison duty.

In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit said:
The New York Times thinks it's going to make money selling op-eds, but hard news reporting is the killer ap for news media organizations. If they want to come up with opinion, they're competing with guys like me, and we can kick Paul Krugman's butt any day. If they do hard news gathering, and they actually report what's happening, and they report it straight and fast, they can go toe to toe with blogs pretty darn well.

Rosen is somewhat skeptical of this bit of blogger triumphalism, but makes his case obliquely:
I assure you, they are chuckling in newsrooms about just possibly being able to compete "toe to toe" with bloggers in reporting a big moving story. Maybe they shouldn't be chuckling, but they are.

It may seem funny today, but the MSM might want to skip the laughter. Japanese cars seemed like a joke to Detroit in 1970, but GM is not smiling now. A disruptive innovation usually looks like a joke when it first appears: that is part of the reason that the incumbent firms are slow to respond to it. Journalists should read Clayton Christensen before they write off the threat from the new media.

That smug chuckling is symptomatic of the first problem conventional media faces. Reynolds spoke of "hard news-gathering" and "straight and fast" reporting. This is a valuable commodity. But too many reporters do not do this kind of journalism. They are tripped up by "knowingness". They are on the scene but they do not see clearly because of ignorance and their ideological blinders. (See here and here.)

Like all new disruptive technologies, the blogosphere's weaknesses are more apparent than its strengths. A newspaper editor can assign reporters to an important story. The blogosphere depends on chance and individual initiative for on-the-scene reporting. This should be a clear and decisive advantage for legacy media. Two factors, however, are eroding this edge.

The first is identified by this ex-newspaperman.
To produce newspapers in this manner requires efficient, repetitive action - papers are scripted in advance, before the news happens; reporters are told how long to write, before they cover the stories; photographers are given dimensions of an illustration, before they take the pictures. This way of working discourages innovation and encourages rote behavior.

The mechanics of conventional deadline journalism reduce the flexibility and responsiveness of traditional media. So does their technology.

Second, blogs are cheap and easy to start., As a consequence, the number of blogs is exploding. As the network grows, the density of reportorial coverage thickens both geographically and in expertise.

When news happens in the future, there will be multiple bloggers on the scene with local knowledge that no network anchor can match. The more complicated the story, the better for the blogosphere because there will be bloggers who are experts in the subject and can, therefore, run rings around the average reporter.

We saw this happens in New Orleans. The posts from Interdictor were special because they live in NOLA. Moreover, it was not just commentary about what happened- they gave us an inside view of the struggle to keep a business running while the city flooded and its government collapsed. Today, they do the same as the city tries to recover.

Similarly, Anderson Cooper looked at the devastation and reacted like a spoiled little rich boy. He stamped his feet and demanded that some one do something. Molten Thoughts, OTOH, explained what the responders were facing and why what is desirable is not always feasible in an emergency.

It is worth noting that the new media challenge encompasses more than just 10 million bloggers blogging. Traditionally, only a few beat reporters covered press conferences, congressional hearings, and think-tank roundtables. Thanks to CSPAN these are now available to all of us. As broadband connections increase, video archives of these events will be even more widely used. Network news programs make their transcripts available on the web within a few hours of their broadcast. We used to depend on press photographers to grab the picture that defined an event. Now, the ubiquity of digital cameras and camera phones means that the photo record of big events is extensive, immediate, and out of the control of any media entity.

All of this undercuts the current production model of traditional media.

As the blogosphere develops, one of its cardinal virtues-its flexibility-will prove to be a crushing advantage in the competition with traditional media. Those bloggers on the spot when news breaks will get attention. For a brief moment, they will be the big dogs. So will those bloggers with specialized expertise. In contrast, a newspaper or cable network will have to send some one in from the outside. They will be locked into their current stock of expertise. It does not matter that most bloggers are sitting at home committing punditry. There are so many bloggers that there will always be a handful whose proximity and particular knowledge give them a decisive advantage in real reporting.

In the evolving battle for explanation space, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, and Hit and Run act like the editors of a newspaper putting together the front page. The professionals at the LA Time are stuck with their in-house talent and the AP. The big blogs can choose form the whole wide, flat world.

Newspapers face one more problem in this competition. In the internal hierarchy of journalism, pundits outrank reporters. Being a columnist is the glamour job. The best and the brightest aspire to be Krugman and Dowd. In essence, the brand of a newspaper emphasizes the area where it is weakest vis-à-vis the blogosphere (punditry) and ignores those that it claims are it greatest strength (reporting).

New information on the cause of the NOLA flood

As usual, the early headlines did not get all of the story. Hence, the danger of hair-trigger punditry.

Floodwall Overtopping May Not Be to Blame

The system of levees and concrete walls that was supposed to protect the New Orleans area from flooding was breached in dozens of places, investigators said Friday, a finding that indicates that the failures were far more widespread than originally thought.

Engineers probing the failures said they are increasingly convinced that floodwaters did not overtop two key floodwalls that collapsed on Aug. 29, swamping large portions of the city

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sounds like an urban legend

But it's true.

Weis grants little boy's dying wish

I'm no fan of Notre Dame. And i know all about their well-oiled publicity and myth-making machines. Still, it's hard to imagine this sort of thing coming out of the University of Miami (FL).
We'll always have newsprint

The indispensable David Warsh looks at the future of newspapers:

Fast Forward

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Here, here

The first thing I've learned from this controversy is that if I were in a foxhole with someone from the National Review crowd, I'd be alone in that foxhole after the first shot was fired. When the going gets tough, they head for the hills, with a few snarky comments.

Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants.
Oklahoma suicide bombing

Gates of Vienna (love that name) is paying attention to the suicide bombing at the University of Oklahoma football game. He has a really good question here.

Here's another one: Why is Foxnews devoting so much time to a couple of missing teenagers and ignoring an important story like this?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

FBI software

Photon Courier has not forgotten about the failure of the FBI's "VCF" software system. The disturbing news is that the Bureau is trying to bury the bad news about the project and to avoid public scrutiny of the problems that plagued its most important information-sharing initiative in the post-9/11 period.

I blogged about this here and here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A dirty bait and switch

If K-mart or Merck tried something like this, Nightline and 20/20 would be all over the story. I guess they feel somewhat constrained by the fact that the victimizer was ABC television and their "Extreme Makeover" program.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Double standard

Patterico touches on one of my pet peeves here :
I would have liked to have seen some reference to Padilla’s adopted name, Abdullah al Muhajir.

Why is it wrong to use Cassius Clay or Lew Alcindor but OK to use Jose Padilla or call Suleyman al-Faris by his old name John Walker Lindh?

Friday, September 09, 2005

This is just wrong.

Very wrong. I think Captain Ed hit the nail on the head:
Can you imagine the outcry from the multiculturalists and the ACLU had the design incorporated a cross or a Star of David in honor of the victims? Why should we tolerate the Crescent that, inadvertently or deliberately, honors the terrorists?

Michelle Malkin has a round-up.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two real news stories on Katrina

This one from the Baltimore Sun shows what a resolute few can do even in the face of the worst adversity:
A do-it-ourselves shelter shines

In the week after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, Anthion and others created a society that defied the local gangs, the National Guard and even the flood.

Inside the school, it was quiet, cool and clean. They converted a classroom into a dining room and, when a reporter arrived Monday, were serving a lunch of spicy red beans and rice. A table nearby overflowed with supplies: canned spaghetti, paper towels, water and Gatorade, salt, hot sauce, pepper.

At its peak last Wednesday, 40 people called the second and third floors home. The bottom floor was under water. Most of those taking up residence at the school were family, friends and neighbors of the poor, forgotten niches of this community.

This story from the New York Times has some facts that, if true, changes the whole picture on the federal response:
"While the situation in the Superdome was nightmarish and not satisfactory to anyone involved," Mr. Knocke said, "it was not a life-and-death situation, and we had to focus our priorities where we could."

Even so, he said relief crews delivered seven trailers filled with water and ready-to-eat meals to the Superdome before the storm hit on Aug. 29, along with another seven trailers on Aug. 30.

So the feds did deliver relief supplies to the Superdome early in the process. How did the media miss that?