Monday, January 31, 2005

Saddam and Terrorism

Every now and then it is worthwhile to review the facts about the links between Saddam and various terror groups. This one looks at Iraq and Abu Nidal.

It is especially important to repeat the facts because the conventional wisdom holds that such ties were either non-existent or trivial. Unfortunately, the CW was given a powerful boost by the 9-11 Commission Report. Joscelyn makes this telling comment:
The 9/11 Commission was either unaware or ignored all of these reports, as they are not even mentioned in the Commission's much-heralded report.
That's one way to get around contrary evidence, just ignore it.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Exit Polls

The Mystery Pollster has a couple of good posts on the exit polls.

Turns out that they were as inaccurate in 1992 as in 2004.

Also, Mr. Exit Poll himself-- Warren Mitofsky-- leaked early returns to the Clinton campaign.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Shafer and the bloggers

Captain's Quarters disagrees about the merit of the Jack Shafer column discussed below.

Shafer Misses The Revolution

The good Captain Ed makes a very strong point but pushes it too far, IMHO.
Shafer likens the advent of the blogosphere with the same kind of fervor for portable video, and in an entertaining but fundamentally flawed analysis, concludes that the changes will be minor and evolutionary. Unfortunately, Shafer misses the one important point in the lesson. The video evolution failed to become a revolution because the technological change focused on production and not distribution. Portable video did indeed free the masses to produce their own material, but CBS, Paramount, and the like still controlled the means of distribution, and in most areas they still do.

The Internet, especially cheap broadband access, changed all of that
If we think of distribution as a matter of pushing content to the public, he is dead-on. The Internet has dropped those costs dramatically.

However, creating demand-the pull side-remains expensive. Garnering links, building awareness, creating buzz, gaining hits-all of these are vital to success and their cost remains substantial. Nor can they be redefined so that costs=merit.

Powerline and Captain's Quarters represent the best case for the blogging revolution. They are thoughtful blogs that post meaty, analytical pieces. They richly deserve their traffic and high ecosystem rankings. On the other hand, we can't ignore Wonkette-a prefab concoction harvested hits and links with marketing dollars and sex jokes.

The Captain may be right that "the revolution has already been blogged." But it is also true that the blogging revolution is being co-opted.

On another point we agree about the facts but disagree about their implications.
The distribution, not the product, is the revolution -- and bloggers thrive off of their ability to out-pace and out-react the mainstream media, which for the most part remains stuck on the notion of a full-day news cycle.
Will this mean the end of the New York Times, as Crichton predicted thirteen years ago? Probably not, but it will mean the end of the full-day news cycle. Those who don't recognize that fact will die a slow death in the fast-paced market for news that the blogosphere demands.
First, I think this pace represents a substantial "cost" of distribution. Maintaining high traffic requires writing a lot and writing fast. Moreover, I think this frenetic environment lowers over-all quality in the blogosphere and creates our own set of biases. (See previous post and the links therein.)

The Junk Yard Blog makes the same point.
It is absolutely nuts, and demonstrates one of the most frustrating things about the blogosphere, which is its tendency toward groupthink. We see a headline and we see who can be the first to post, the first to react and the first to charge, never considering the possibility that we may be charging straight over a cliff.
He is discussing the Maggie Gallagher and James Dobson controversies. But it shows up time and again. For example, it morphed the whole question of the NY Times's and its biases into a vendetta against Howell Raines. Now that Raines is gone, is the Times unbiased? Hardly. It was a liberal, insular paper pre-Raines and it is a liberal, insular paper today. All the anti-Raines blogging did nothing to make the paper better.

Update: Off to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blog Overkill

I was surprised at this Slate piece on blogs. It is thoughtful and even-handed. It is easy to mock "blogger triumphalism", but Jack Shafer goes beyond that. RTWT.

Two quick points.

First, the problem of speed in the blogosphere. Shafer calls himself a "slow blogger" and wears it as a badge of honor. There are many other slow bloggers out there, but the blogosphere as a whole does tend to reward speed too much. I discussed that here.

Second, Shafer uses Michael Shamberg as an example of a techno-visionary who ends up as a pillar of the existing media establishment. I think it is telling that some of the most over the top blogthusiasts (e.g. Jarvis, Sullivan) were already part of the media world, but were trapped at its periphery. As noted here and here, being blogbastic was just a smart career move.
Steve Rodrick nails it

Unpardonable Interruptions
How television killed the newspaper sports column
For the Stephen A. Smiths of the world, sports television turns their columns into shrill, non-reported versions of their televised rants.
He also takes down Tony Kornheiser
Kornheiser plugged his life-inspired sitcom, Listen Up, on Sept. 14 but hasn't quoted an actual person since Sept. 1.
I really hate Kornheiser but was beginning to think that that was a character flaw on my part.

UPDATE: This is also very good:

Pardon the Quite Frankly
America's sports columnists are mutating into shouting-head pundits--and it's ESPN's fault.

Steve Sailer weighs in on three big issues: Larry Summers, the dirty secret of the music industry, and trend-happy pundits.

Go here and scroll down.

On Summers, Gregg Easterbrook discussed in in his most recent TMQ.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The elephant in the Steelers living room

Bill Cowher has coached Pittsburgh for 13 years. In that time, he has won a lot of games, but we are still waiting for that Super Bowl trophy. That doesn't make him a bad coach. But winning the Lombardi trophy is the point, after all.

Leaving emotion out of it, the numbers are scary for Steelers fans.

Twenty-two men have won Super Bowls. On average, they won their first one in their fourth season with the team. The longest any coach waited was 12 years (Tom Landry). Apparently, if lightning strikes, it strikes early in a coaches tenure.

Even when it strikes, it doesn't stay long. Coaches who win multiple rings win their last one around year eight. (Again, Landry is the outlier with a win in his eighteenth season.) Chuck Noll won his last championship win his eleventh season. Don Shula won his in only his fourth year at Miami.

One thing that is interesting is that before 1998 every coach except Shula won his first championship with the first team he headed. Since then, four coaches won on their second time around as head coach. That's six out of seven of the last winners.

Now the speculation.

One theory is that over time a winning coach becomes too successful at refining his system and imposing it on a team. He gets "his kind" of players who run his offense and defense. For example, Chuck Noll liked smart, disciplined, tough players. But in the great years some of his best players-Bradshaw, Greene, Harris-were not perfect fits for his system. They were tough and smart, but they were sometimes undisciplined. That tension created something special.

The same thing happens with assistant coaches. Over time, the best ones move on to bigger jobs and are replaced by acolytes. I don't think this is due to a conscious decision; it is just the nature of the process. A young head coach is more open to his staff and they are more vocal. After five or ten years, there is a gap in age and stature which makes assistants hesitant to speak up and coaches less willing to listen. Also, a head coach is less aware of the young talent in the league's coaching ranks: he doesn't have the time to follow those matters closely.

Another possible explanation is that winning it all requires a relentless intensity that burns good coaches out. Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh walked away at their peak. Maybe the even-keel, which leads to longevity, also works against attaining the prize.

One thing about Cowher has puzzled me in recent years. For a fiery guy, he sure gives his coordinators a lot of latitude. After the 2003 season, he admitted that the Steelers had become too pass-oriented. That was obvious during the season, but he was unwilling to force Mularkey to change.

Update: Off to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.
"Fourth estate or fifth column"

Thomas Sowell:

One of the biggest American victories during the Second World War was called "the great Marianas turkey shoot" because American fighter pilots shot down more than 340 Japanese planes over the Marianas islands while losing just 30 American planes. But what if our current reporting practices had been used back then?

The story, as printed and broadcast, could have been: "Today eighteen American pilots were killed and five more severely wounded, as the Japanese blasted more than two dozen American planes out of the sky." A steady diet of that kind of one-sided reporting and our whole war effort against Japan might have collapsed.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TMQ looks at the conference championship games

Some keypoints about the New England-Pittsburgh game:

Flying Elvii leading 3-0 in the first quarter, Pittsburgh faced fourth-and-a-foot on the New England 39. This is the Maroon Zone, where it's too close to punt but too far for a field-goal attempt. The Steelers, properly, went for it. Before the play, Bill Belichick motioned Ted Johnson over and whispered something to him. TMQ bets what Belichick whispered -- okay, this was at Heinz Field, actually Belichick shouted this at the top of his lungs -- was to forget the sneak, the ball was going to Bettis. Belichick would have known from film study that although it's nearly impossible to stop a quarterback sneak for a foot, the Steelers rarely sneak. Belichick even seemed to be able to tell Johnson which direction the handoff would go. Sure enough the ball was handed to Bettis, and something went badly wrong. Bettis ran toward the left guard position, behind the Steelers' best blocker, Alan Faneca. But Faneca pulled right, leaving no blocker in the very place Bettis was headed. Sometimes a guard pulls away from the action as a misdirection tactic -- but a guard would never pull from the very place a runner was going on short yardage. Bettis was hit in the backfield and fumbled, an omen of the Pittsburgh collapse that was to follow.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback's Rule of Comebacks: Defense starts them, offense stops them. Down 24-3 at halftime, Pittsburgh had a fighting chance in the second half -- the Steelers had as much time available to come back as the Patriots used to get ahead. But it was essential the No. 1-ranked Steelers defense not allow New England to score again. Instead, after the Steelers made it 24-10 and Ketchup Field was shaking, the No. 1-ranked Steelers defense allowed New England to drive the length of the field for the touchdown that put the home team in deep trouble. Then in the fourth quarter, score 31-20, the No. 1-ranked Steelers defense allowed New England to stage a clock-killing 10-play drive that made it 34-20 with eight minutes remaining. The Steelers defense saved its worst game of the year for last.
The Flying Elvii knew Ben Roethlisberger was shaky, and expected Pittsburgh to run. So New England spent the first half in an obvious run "overstack," daring Roethlisberger to throw. Again and again the Steelers ran straight at the overstack, with scant results. When Roethlisberger came to the line and saw a rush defense, he didn't audible to a play-fake -- for instance on one second-and-9 in the first half, New England was in a run overstack, Roethlisberger didn't audible to a pass, Jerome Bettis went straight ahead for just one yard. Pittsburgh coaches did not react to the New England defensive strategy by calling passes on first down. To the point at which the Steelers fell behind 24-3 and had to start passing, Pittsburgh ran 10 times on first down for a total of 31 yards, and passed twice on first down for a total of 47 yards. Coaches have good or bad games just like players, and Pittsburgh coaches had a terrible game -- they did not adjust to what New England was doing, endlessly calling first-down rushes. If Pittsburgh coaches had lost confidence in Roethlisberger, then he should not have been on the field. If he was going to be the quarterback, he needed the green light to take what New England was offering. Instead through the first half, Roethlisberger kept handing off into run defenses on first and second downs, then passing from the shotgun on third down. This was a coaching failure, not Roethlisberger's fault.

Super Bowl

I completely agree with these sentiments from The Corner:
Rich, as a hardcore football fan who also has trouble remembering from year to year who won the last one, I have two observations -- one personal, one general.

I am a Jet fan (had season tix back in the good old Shea days), so it may be that if your team hasn't won (or even been in the game) since 1969, it's a little hard to keep track of the 36 or so years in between.

But overall, I think it's harder to remember now because it's become -- since the late 80s or so -- less of a game and more of a pageant or a national entertainment. Over the nearly 40 years, the games as a rule have not been that good, so they are not that memorable as games. In the last five or so years, there have been some terrific games (e.g., Rams-Titans, Rams-Patriots, and last year's Patriots-Panthers), but most of the hullabalo people remember turns out to be over Janet Jackson, or Bono, or the Bob Dole commercial, or the 6-hour pregame shows -- and the game just gets lost. And the networks are now going more and more the route that is killing baseball: every year the game starts a little later and with all the commercials takes longer and longer to play. Less kids can hang in there and watch it. I'm a big fan and I have trouble watching it as it drags on for 4+ hours with tons of downtime. It becomes less a father-and-son sports event (which by and large is what served to sear sports events into the national memory). It ends up being like every other over-hyped celebrity drama in America. Who won the last academy award? The last grammy, or emmy? Who knows, and who cares. It's too bad, though -- it used to be a great sports event; like the world series was when they played it in the daytime.
Posted at 02:32 PM

Monday, January 24, 2005

Random thoughts on the loss

Toward the end of Chuck Noll's tenure in Pittsburgh, the Steelers pulled out an unexpected win in Cincinnati against Sam Wyche's Bengals. After the game a Steeler's assistant was overheard to say, "that's just like Wicky-Wacky. Best talent in the division and he always finds a way to lose."

I'm not sure Pittsburgh had the best talent in the big games they've lost, but they certainly mirror the wicky-wacky Bengals of the mid-1980s: we keep losing on badly executed finesse plays. As Michael Irvin said Sunday night about Cowher's repeated failures in big games- "it's possible to out-think yourself."

With a shaky rookie QB in the biggest game of his life, a couple of gadget plays early might have made sense. An end around, a reverse, a flea-flicker, a bootleg. (Note: I am not contradicting myself-I think a gadget play early in a non-critical situation is entirely different from a sideline pass on 3d and three in the fourth quarter.)

The Steelers defense was burned deep over the middle twice. The Patriots were selling out to stop the run but were never exposed deep. Was that great defense, poor play calling, or a bad quarterback?

I wish just one Steeler had as much pride as Don Beebe. Two long interceptions returns in the playoffs and not a single Black and Gold jersey in sight in pursuit.

Speaking of pride. The Patriots have it by the truck load. They have a special intensity in the play-offs that other teams don't show.

For all the talk of Blitzburgh, the Steelers defense had been close to average in terms of sacks and takeaways the last two months.

Cowher blamed the QB for the interceptions that led to the loss. I'm not buying it. To paraphrase Goldfinger: One big game lost to interceptions; that's poor play at QB. Two big games lost that way is a bad break. Five big games lost on interceptions by three different QBs-that's play-calling and coaching.

Going back to the Washington game, the Steelers have struggled early in games due to interceptions and sacks. Yet, the game plan never changed. That strikes me as evidence of rigidity and arrogance.

After watching the Patriots play with their injury-wracked line-up, how can any coach plead lack of talent as an excuse? When Hank Poteat played for Pittsburgh he got burned in coverage. New England pulls him out of the classroom, drops him into a big game, and the defense does not miss a step.

New find

C came across this blog that has plenty of good stuff. Check out this analysis of the unanswered questions in the CBS report. There are points made there i've not seen anywhere else.

These two posts take a hard look at media darling Micheal Scheuer (Imperial Hubris) and his changing view of the connnection between Saddam and Al Qaeda.
Carnival of the Capitalists

Check out the latest in econ and business blogging at Business Opportunities Weblog.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Parting is such sweet sorrow

We are at the end of the football season. Two great games on tap and then it's over. (The Super Bowl isn't about football anymore-the game is almost incidental to the hype, the half-time show, the cross-promotional opportunities and the commercials.)

Television made pro football the most popular sport in America. But it is ruining the post-season games. For the second year in a row, the AFC championship game will be played on a Sunday night in frigid temperatures. Not exactly the best way to find the team best suited to win in warm Jacksonville two weeks from now.

Football is supposed to be a cold weather sport, but this is ridiculous. There is a world of difference between playing on a sunny 25 degree day and playing in the dark when the temperature drops to 8.

But I'm really looking forward to the two games coming up. After that, it's just NASCAR to hold me over until training camp opens.
Blah, blah, blah

Apparently, you can get paid to write about football without having to do much research or know much about the game. You can be on ESPN with even less preparation.

The guy who irritates me most is Sean Salisbury. He defines pomposity. He doesn't analyze; he makes pronouncements. It really gets me when he talks about QBs. No one with his career stats should speak so definitively about other player's abilities. Kordell Stewart threw more touchdown passes in 1997 than Salisbury did in his whole career. Quite simply, Salisbury was not a good quarterback, never played with a great quarterback, and never played on a great team. He lacks credibility when he issues his hanging judge verdicts.

(That's why I find Salisbury far more irritating than Sterling Sharpe or Michael Irwin. When they call out a receiver, they have authority.)

(OTOH, I'm not sure receivers make the best analysts-they are the most self-absorbed players on a team, and are removed from 90% of the action.)

Sportswriters should be better, but too many of them want to spout one-liners on TV. (Curse you Tony Kornheiser for ruining a formerly respectable craft.) And too many seem to just repeat the conventional wisdom tarted up with a new anecdote.

WOW. That was a lot of venting to get to my main point. The storyline for Sunday's game is that Brady played great last week while Big Ben played horribly. Therefore, the Patriots will win in a walk.

I don't dispute that Brady is a better QB than Rothlisberger and that is especially so under play-off pressure. But there is more at work here than the quarterbacks. Our O-line is better, our run defense is better, our run offense is at least as good. So maybe Pittsburgh has a chance?

Further, how much better was Brady last week? He did not throw an interception, while BR threw two. Big advantage Patriots. But, look at the other numbers. Brady comes in second in total yards, yards per attempt, yards per completion, sacks, and longest completion. Plus, the Jets defense is much tougher than the Colts.

The Brady/Rothlisberger narrative is bolstered by the final scores and the Steelers's narrow escape against the Jets. But boiling it down to the QBs ignores too many factors that have nothing to do with them. Brady did not tear the ball away from Dominic Rhodes, BR did not let Moss run back the punt for a score, BR did not make Bettis fumble in Jets territory, nor did he let the DB take the ball back 86 yards for a score. Avoid any one of those breakdowns and the whole dynamic of the game changes. BR is being blamed for things that have nothing to do with his play at quarterback.

All that said, I'm not brimming with confidence. Hopeful? Yes, but I know New England is a very, very good team. But, my worry is not about Ben Rothlisberger. It is about special teams (nightmare flashbacks from the 2001 season), play calling (too many passes too early), and plain bad breaks.

Four things I would like to see the Steelers try:

1. A bootleg early in the game to make the defense respect BR's mobility.
2. A couple deep shots to Burris in the first half to set the tone.
3. A gadget play. Cowher has used relatively few of these in the last month. Something, anything to not be predictable.
4. An early series in the hurry up offense with three wide receivers. Try a couple runs from this set. We had good success on second down running out of this formation against the Jets.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Journalists and class
I bring this up because becoming a political writer has had the perverse effect of radicalizing me, emotionally, about class matters. I followed what now seems like a pretty singular path into this job; the enormous majority of my colleagues, on all points of the political spectrum, seem to have backgrounds that can safely be described as affluent. There are exceptions, but very few. And while I wouldn't quite say as a rule that the most strident protectors of the working class were raised the furthest from it--well, golly, it sometimes seems that way
From Colby Cosh
Ron Rosenbaum on Dan Rather

Mr. Rather wants it both ways: He wants to be credited as a hard-nosed, hard-charging newsman, which in many ways he is—but when something goes wrong with his storytelling, with his hard-charging investigative "hunches," and he pushes his staff beyond the limits of credulity (and alert bloggers expose him), suddenly, no, he’s not involved with the details, he’s too busy with other important stuff, like the Florida hurricane. And if you read his defense by the CBS outside panel, he’s basically a heavily made-up face put on other people’s work. He’s a stuffed shirt, a talking head; he’s not responsible.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Exit Polls

See this terrific analysis of the exit poll foul-up.

Exit Polls: What Went Wrong?

Powerline comments here:
Which makes one wonder whether liberal groups like and ACT got their people hired as exit pollsters for the purpose of distorting the early results and thereby depressing Republican turnout.
Before the election i posted a couple of times on the potential problem of exit polls, the MSM's use of them on election day, and the distortions that can influence turnout in a close election.

Poll games: one last card to play


Later i posted this round-up and commented

On the Exit Poll Debacle
FWIW, it think Michael Barone's "slamming" theory is plausible. Polling places in all the battleground states were crawling with observers from the DNC, the Kerry campaign, MoveOn, ACT, etc. It makes sense that activists saw the exit pollsters and the word got around.

No top down conspiracy is required. Just as Rove did not tell bloggers to go after the Rather documents, Mike McCurry did not have to call his minions to send them to the right polling places. Leftists, too, can operate as a pack instead of a herd
Remember, as well, that SDB returned to blogging briefly to point out problems with the polls in September/October.
Excellent point by Michelle Malkin

Much of my work is spent pointing out the failures and shortcomings of homeland security officials. These files offer a much-needed reminder to all of us that every day, dedicated homeland security officials are working successfully under the radar screen to keep us safe from harm. They deserve our thanks.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

More on newsroom diversity

The Raving Heretic discusses the subject here.
Why was this article written?

I think that we should be careful about blaming Islamic extremists for the murder of the Egyptian family in New Jersey. Over the last decade, there have been plenty of seeming hate crimes that turn out to be no such thing.

But this AP article works very hard to dismiss the idea without really pulling together any pertinent facts.

Egyptian relatives blame violence of American society for slaying of NJ family
LUXOR, Egypt -- Relatives of the Egyptian Christian family slain last week in New Jersey blamed the violence of American society for the killings, saying Tuesday that they doubted it was a religious crime.
The reporter doesn't say what these relatives know that makes them believe this. Seeing that they are thousands of miles away they might not have the best insight into an unsolved homicide.
Milad Ibrahim, Armanious' cousin, blamed "the brutality of American society" and complained that the family's neighbors couldn't interfere to stop the crime.

Hosni Armanious, another close relative, said the killings would not have happened in Egypt, where neighbors are more involved in each other's lives.

"If a member of this family was attacked in Egypt, they would have screamed, yelled, and dozens of people would have interfered to protect them," he said.
The reporter takes this claim at face value. Which is surprising since the Coptic Church in Egypt has been under attack by Islamic killers for years.
During the nineties, the group's attacks on the country's Christians increased in both their brutal and indiscriminate nature. Copts, the Christians of Egypt, whose very existence was viewed by the group as a threat to aspirations for a fundamentalist Islamic state, were assaulted, terrorized and murdered.

During this decade, Copts, Jews, and Westerners were systematically targeted as infidels, whose wealth was declared by the group's leaders as forfeit and available for the plundering of the Islamic faithful. Coptic men, women, and children were killed; Coptic businesses ravaged and looted; and Coptic churches bombed and set on fire. This onslaught of violence on Copts in their homes, businesses, and places of worship paralyzed the Coptic community.
To be fair, the slant of the story follows on the official line out of NJ:
mourners in Jersey City on Sunday said the killings may have been religiously motivated. But prosecutors downplayed any religious motive and local Muslims vehemently disputed the claim.
Maybe the prosecutor has a reason to play down the religious aspects of the story. But how can Muslim leaders "vehemently dispute" the possibility until a suspect is captured?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Metrocon redux

Let's keep with the metro retrospective. This is from an old Slate email exchange between Danielle Crittenden and David Frum. DC descrbes why she doesn't like going on CSPAN's morning call-in show:

To be honest, it wasn't so much worse than the more typical exchange, which goes something like this:

Brian Lamb: Caller from One Horse Town, Mo., on our "independent" line. Go ahead please.

Caller: Thanks, Brian. I'd like to know what your guests today think of our governor's position on XXX. We're pretty angry about it up here [sound of gun barrel being polished]. And oh, I have a second question. What do your guests think of the circumstances surrounding Ron Brown's death
Frum and Crittenden might work for conservatives, but they share the cultural disdain for Red America that defines so much of contemporary liberalism.
A timely question

How are the "insurgents" in Iraq different from the KKK in Mississippi circa 1963? And aren't the nameless election workers who are dying everyday in Mosul and Baghdad heroes like Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Cass Sunstein explains the root cause of Rathergate

I know he did not intend to. In fact, this article was written three years before CBS ran their TANG story and Sunstein is most worried about right-wingers on the internet, not the honest liberals who dominate broadcast journalism. Still, this passage explains how good people could run such an embarrassingly bad story:

We can sharpen our understanding of this problem if we attend to the phenomenon of group polarization. The idea is that after deliberating with one another, people are likely to move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which they were previously inclined, as indicated by the median of their predeliberation judgments. With respect to the Internet, the implication is that groups of people, especially if they are like-minded, will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before-but in more extreme form.

Consider some examples of this basic phenomenon, which has been found in over a dozen nations.3 (a) After discussion, citizens of France become more critical of the United States and its intentions with respect to economic aid. (b) After discussion, whites predisposed to show racial prejudice offer more negative responses to questions about whether white racism is responsible for conditions faced by African Americans in American cities. (c) After discussion, whites predisposed not to show racial prejudice offer more positive responses to the same question. (d) A group of moderately profeminist women will become more strongly profeminist after discussion. It follows that, for example, after discussion with one another, those inclined to think that President Clinton was a crook will be quite convinced of this point; that those inclined to favor more aggressive affirmative action programs will become more extreme on the issue if they talk among one another; that those who believe that tax rates are too high will, after talking together, come to think that large, immediate tax reductions are an extremely good idea.

The phenomenon of group polarization has conspicuous importance to the current communications market, where groups with distinctive identities increasingly engage in within-group discussion. If the public is balkanized, and if different groups design their own preferred communications packages, the consequence will be further balkanization, as group members move one another toward more extreme points in line with their initial tendencies. At the same time, different deliberating groups, each consisting of like-minded people, will be driven increasingly far apart, simply because most of their discussions are with one another.

Why does group polarization occur? There have been two main explanations, both of which have been extensively investigated and are strongly supported by the data.

The first explanation emphasizes the role of persuasive arguments, and of what is and is not heard within a group of like-minded people. It is based on a common sense intuition: any individual's position on any issue is (fortunately!) a function, at least in part, of which arguments seem convincing. If your position is going to move as a result of group discussion, it is likely to move in the direction of the most persuasive position defended within the group, taken as a collectivity. Of course-and this is the key point-a group whose members are already inclined in a certain direction will offer a disproportionately large number of arguments supporting that same direction, and a disproportionately small number of arguments going the other way. The result of discussion will therefore be to move the group, taken as a collectivity, further in the direction of their initial inclinations. To be sure, individuals with the most extreme views will sometimes move toward a more moderate position. But the group as a whole moves, as a statistical regularity, to a more extreme position consistent with its predeliberation leanings.

The second mechanism, which involves social comparison, begins with the claim that people want to be perceived favorably by other group members (and to perceive themselves favorably). Once they hear what others believe, they adjust their positions in the direction of the dominant position. People may wish, for example, not to seem too enthusiastic, or too restrained, in their enthusiasm for affirmative action, feminism, or an increase in national defense. Hence their views may shift when they see what other people and in particular what other group members think.
Group polarization is a human regularity, but social context can decrease, increase, or even eliminate it. For present purposes, the most important point is that group polarization will significantly increase if people think of themselves, antecedently or otherwise, as part of a group having a shared identity and a degree of solidarity. If, for example, a group of people in an Internet discussion group think of themselves as opponents of high taxes, or advocates of animal rights, their discussions are likely to move toward extreme positions. As this happens to many different groups, polarization is both more likely and more extreme. Hence significant movements should be expected for those who listen to a radio show known to be conservative, or a television program dedicated to traditional religious values or to exposing white racism
Eureka. A non-right-winger explains why ideologically uniform newsrooms create distorted news. All the conditions he points to exist inside CBS news or The New York Times. The people who work there will tend to move to a more "liberal" (or more "urbane") viewpoint. This, in turn, makes it easy to caricature non-liberals and hard to rein in an ideologue on a mission.

What a shame the Thornburg panel did not know about this phenomena.
Remember Metrosexuals?

Steve Sailer has put his essay on metrosexuals on the the web. As with all his stuff, it is worth the read.

I wrote about the metros here and here back in 2003.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A disappointing win

It's hard to root for your team when you know they deserve to lose. That's how i felt in the 4th quarter last night.

In fairness, the team played well-- they ran the ball effectively and they held the Jets offense to 3 points.

But the offensive play-calling sucked. I don't blame a rookie QB for throwing picks; i question the sanity of the coaching staff that tries to win a game by having a rookie QB throw the ball. It did not look like the Jets cold shut down the run, but the Steelers kept throwing early.

The Jets were tired. This was their third crucial road game in a row. The previous two had gone into overtime. Yet Pittsburgh let them control the clock in the first half.

And our post-season special teams problems resurfaced. In 2001 the Patriots beat us thanks to 2 special team touchdowns and a blocked FG. Last night's game was close only because of the punt return TD and the interception return for a TD.

Ugly, stupid. Stupidly ugly.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What a piece of scum

Ersatz-Limbaugh Glenn Beck is having fun and trying to make some point about athletes, i guess. I worry about people who find him funny or informative. (His show is on the only AM station i can get here. Hence, i now have a Sirius radio for the truck).

Check out the rules of his contest:
Welcome sports fans to our first ever football lineup! Today we take a look at the AFC Divisional playoffs and pick the winners. Each team receives one point for every player on their roster that has been accused of or found guilty of a crime or other offense which lead to a police investigation.
See, in order to get enough names and faces, he lumps those who are convicted with those who are merely accused. That is deeply unfair as this example makes clear:
Jerome Bettis was interviewed by Greensburg police regarding a report filed by a 22-year-old woman accusing him of sexual assault. Bettis later passed a lie detector test about the incident and all charges were dismissed.
Not only did Bettis pass a lie detector test, but police discovered that the accuser's uncle had bragged about his plans to entrap and shakedown a Steeler for a payoff.

I'm also not sure about Larry Foote either:
Foote was charged after a fight at a restaurant near the Michigan campus in February. The fight started when the former Michigan player and some friends came to a woman's defense after seeing some other men drop her on the ground inside a restaurant, police said in February.
"Came to a woman's defense" and got into a fight--- sounds like almost every John Wayne movie ever made. But maybe the Duke is a little too rough and tumble for a Dockers and loafers guy like Beck.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This is good

A Steelers fan and a Jets fan blog about Saturday's game. No trash-talking, just meaty pigskin goodness.
More CBS

This Byron York article from last September is an important piece of evidence in the motivations behind the "60 Minutes" story. The narrative promulgated by CBS cast Bush in a purely negative light: George Bush got into a soft position in TANG because his family pulled strings. Then the loser skipped out on the minimal duties required and got away with it because of his father's influence.

But as York shows, this narrative is false because Bush more than met the requirements during most of his time in TANG:

After training, Bush kept flying, racking up hundreds of hours in F-102 jets. As he did, he accumulated points toward his National Guard service requirements. At the time, guardsmen were required to accumulate a minimum of 50 points to meet their yearly obligation.

According to records released earlier this year, Bush earned 253 points in his first year, May 1968 to May 1969 (since he joined in May 1968, his service thereafter was measured on a May-to-May basis).

Bush earned 340 points in 1969-1970. He earned 137 points in 1970-1971. And he earned 112 points in 1971-1972. The numbers indicate that in his first four years, Bush not only showed up, he showed up a lot. Did you know that
This raises three questions:

1. Even if what CBS reported was true, their presentation of those facts distorted GWB's career in TANG. Is that good journalism?

2. In preparing the story, CBS had suspect sources and questionable documents that conflicted with the known facts about Bush's time in TANG. How could they choose to rely on them without careful vetting?

3. The distorted narrative presented on "60 Minutes" conflicted with the historical record. But it dovetailed perfectly with the Democrat's "Fortunate Son" ad campaign that broke right after "60 Minutes" aired their story. Shouldn't that set off alarm bells at CBS?

Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.'

Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

Off to OTB's Beltway traffic jam.
Just a question

CBS wants us to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the question of political bias as the motivation for their errors with the TANG story.

If a Mike Wallace segment on "60 Minutes" collected the same mass of evidence against a corporation accused of racial bias, would Wallace accept the CEO's protestations that bias was not a factor?

Would "60 Minutes" hold the story while the company completed an internal review? Would Wallace blithely accept the conclusions of a review that found that the lack of proof of bias meant that no bias existed?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Financially interested blogging

Zonkette is right that this raises ethical questions. But let's make sure that we don't forget that this issue confronts conventional journalism as well.

The largest MSM outlets don't do "pay for coverage". The wall between reporters and advertising is real and substantial.

Speaking from experience, however, that barrier is somewhat more permeable at the local level. As a marketing guy, I quickly learned that when I sent out press releases to local papers or TV/radio stations, I could expect a flurry of phone calls from ad salesmen. The reporters usually did not care about the release, but someone saw fit to pass along the contact information to the business side.

So the "ethical standards" are not as stringent for journalists in their training grounds (small papers, local TV and radio).

When it comes to specialty publications and industry-specific outlets, the standards are non-existent. Some are good and ethical; some are blatant in their shakedowns. I've had "editor/publishers" explicitly promise coverage in return for advertising.

The lack standards at Global Digital Widget is no reflection on Dan Rather. But it should concern readers because specialty publications are part of the food chain for the MSM. Reporters use them for background material and as a filter. The ethical problems lead to distorted information.

The elite media faces the problem directly at one remove. Reporters rely on consultants, researchers, and industry analysts for quotes and soundbites. Nearly all of these sources have financial stakes in the industry the reporters cover. This was a major problem in the market bubble of 1999-2000. Analysts promoted companies while their investment banker colleagues were angling to grab a piece of that company's IPO or bond business.

The reporters were not corrupt, but the information was still distorted. The competitive demands of the media required that they have a story and the easiest way to do that was use suspect sources.
Chesterton on shock and indifference

Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which your are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. ... It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal and that you are a paralytic.

As I Was Saying
Joe Carter asks

Question for Country Music fans: Is it too earlier to begin the backlash against Big and Rich and Gretchen Wilson?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: See Jack Sparks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Well, which is it?

Dawn Eden notes that PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon are going to use their cartoon characters to promote "diversity."

I'm sure that Dawn will catch a lot of flack for quoting the American Family Association. But give Don Wildmon and AFA credit for this: They are consistent. They believe that what kids watch matters.

In contrast, entertainment executives are lying hypocrites and the "We Are Family" video demonstrates this clearly. They want credit for using their programming to promote good things-- love, tolerance, understanding. In this instance, they want us to believe that entertainment can teach kids important lessons.

However, when the discussion turns to violent, amoral video games or the raunchy videos on MTV, it is a different story. Then they argue that entertainment has no power to shape kids's thinking.

How can that be? How can a five minute video make kids tolerant but 20 hours of GTA: Vice City has no effect on their thinking or moral equilibrium?

Another question: why is PBS helping to bolster the image of Disney and Viacom? i thought it was supposed to be an alternative to the commercial media, not a fig leaf to enhance their corporate image.
Rathergate and bias

The Right Curmudgeon points out there were two way for CBS to play the TANG story. One was the way Mary Mapes put it together. Here is the other:
The second way is the following: a well-connected Kerry fundraiser, Ben Barnes, and other Texas Democrats, are peddling stories about President Bush. They present documents to us, the Killian memos, purporting to show that Bush was given preferential treatment in the TANG in the late 1960s, and perhaps disobeyed orders to get a physical, went AWOL, etc. But our document examiners have some problems with them. And other people are telling us that Killian wouldn't have written something like that, including Killian's widow and son. The documents on their face, viewed objectively, don't pass the smell test... dude, they look like they were printed out on my Dell. What gives? Do the Democrats have a dirty tricks operation? Has someone with connections to the Kerry campaign conspired to perpetrate a federal crime, forgery of government documents, in an effort to influence a Presidential election, not 35 years ago, but right now, in 2004? How high up does the conspiracy go?
This is exactly the problem of bias and sourcing discussed here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rathergate report

This email posted at Galley Slaves takes dead aim at an important omission in the CBS report.
I searched the report and could not find any mention of the DNC advertising campaign that began (I think) within one day of the CBS news story. It seems unlikely that the "Fortunate Son" campaign could have been conceived so quickly by the DNC. There is no mention of the campaign or how it was that the DNC had a slick advertising campaign all ready to go right after the CBS story.

Like I said, I can't even find any mention of the campaign in the report.

I just thought that was interesting

Monday, January 10, 2005

Katrina Leung

A judge has dismissed the charges against the accused spy and blasted the prosecutors for misconduct.

Previous posts on this case:

Spy Story

Katrina Leung Case
The Woodsman

excellent review by James Bowman :
In The Woodsman, apparently somebody?s idea of a Christmas movie, Kevin Bacon plays a pedophile named Walter who has just been released from jail after serving a 12-year sentence for molesting little girls. Walter repeatedly asks his psychiatrist (Michael Shannon) with what I take to be intended as poignant longing, "When will I be normal?" But as both Kinsey and this movie show, he already is normal, at least in Hollywood?s terms. He would not be presented to us as the sympathetic character he is here ? a sad ex-con trying to go straight and being persecuted by his work-mates when they find out his history ? if the film-makers didn't see him as being firmly on the continuum of normality which, for our Kinseyite culture, extends to all but the most extreme perversions, and perhaps even there. For once morality has been medicalized and the process of treating bad people as sick people is well underway, there is no obvious place for it to stop. We are not meant to approve of what Walter has done, but neither are we meant to see it as putting him beyond the pale of decent society.
Carnival of the capitalists

The latest roundup of business and econ posting is here.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Everything we "know" is wrong

Mudville Gazette's quiz on Abu Ghraib is not to be missed.
A discussion of torture is an ugly necessity in the world today, but those who would enter that discourse with the battle cry of "Abu Ghraib" should at least understand their position. It's a house of cards, ugly cards to be sure, and not a foundation for discussion with any intent of serious resolution.
See also this post from May 2004:
Beyond the interests of accurate history, there is an Iraqi connection. The stories coming out of the military prisons have the potential to be a Baghdad Ramparts. Anti-military reporters will have an interest in finding systemic abuses; the perpetrators have an interest in shifting the guilt to their superiors. Reporters want exclusives to big stories and therefore, have a bias against undercutting a source who will point the finger at high-ranking officers.
Michael Savage: agent provocateur?

From Classical Values
If Savage is doing such a great job of making conservatives look bad, well, is it unreasonable to ask just who the hell he's working for?
FromThe Demented World of Michael Savage:
In a weird way, Savage is the creation of media liberalism. He sounds and acts the way liberals think conservatives do. Media planners in Manhattan advertising agencies think that his attitudes are typical of the guys who drive trucks and so they buy time on his show for GM and Ford.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

How much does Pittsburgh love the Steelers?

The Steelers-Ravens game pulled a 78 share in the Pittsburgh market.
Is someone trying to get on Reliable Sources?
Kurtz is a very good reporter. If the blogosphere had any sense of perspective, it would aspire to the standard of work he does, not call for his dismissal.
J.V. Last at Galley Slaves

Friday, January 07, 2005

I Am Charlotte Simmons

Steve Sailer reviews Wolfe's latest.
As with Waugh, who was mostly dismissed as a dyspeptic middlebrow entertainer until after his death, it will likely be several decades before Wolfe's greatness as a novelist is uncontroversial.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Tucker Carlson: Can a reservation conservative boost MSNBC?

So the bow-tied one is being wooed by MSNBC. Couple that with his PBS show and you have a perfect example of failing upward.

He hosts a floundering show on a network that is getting stomped by Fox so the best minds of the MSM decide that he is a hot property. The echo chamber inside the coastal cocoon must be deafening.

MSNBC wants to reach conservatives. But they want only safe, MSM-approved conservative voices. Carlson earned his stripes by flacking for McCain in the 2000 primaries and serving as a willing tackling dummy for Carville and Begala on Crossfire. What he does not possess is proven appeal in Red America.

If it is serious MSNBC needs a conservative host with exactly that. Matthews and Olberman repel red staters. It will take a compelling personality to bring them back at 9.00 pm. A safe choice like Carlson won't do that.

In truth, though, it is hard to think of potential hosts who could pull it off. Let's face it, the formula-a host sitting at a table with a bunch of spinners and glib reporters who rehash the headlines-is tired. It doesn't "break" news and the discussion is all heat and no light.

Instead of coming up with a "new' program using a tapped-out format and a recycled host, MSNBC should be bold-new faces, different approach.

For one thing, why does the show have to be headquartered in Washington or New York? Why not Chicago, Dallas, or Denver?

Second, why does the host have to be "TV friendly"? Charles Kuralt was the antithesis of the modern anchor. Yet he was popular with viewers at CBS, both as a reporter and the host of "Sunday Morning." You get a much deeper talent pool when you get past the idea that viewers demand that their news be read by Brian Williams-types.

Personally, I rarely watch FNC in prime time even though I live in Red America. But I'd tune in to a show on CNN or MSNBC to watch an intelligent hour of discussion hosted by Milt Rosenberg.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Best regular season records since 1972

72 Dolphins 14-0
76 Raiders 13-1
84 49ers 15-1
85 Bears 15-1
98 Vikings 15-1
04 Steelers 15-1

That Viking entry is enough to give Steelers's fans nightmares.
Back to zero

And now the playoffs