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.