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.