Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Duke lacrosse

Two outstanding articles:

Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson
Dirty Game
William Anderson
Duke and the Politics of Rape

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 2:8-14

Cowher limted Roethisberger's playing time in pre-season to protect him against injury. Yet he rushed him back into the line-up against Jax and Oakland because he needed to "get rid of the rust." It seems to me that we sacrificed two games and risked our franchise QB's health when there was no good reason. If getting "rid of the rust" is a consideration, does that not also apply to pre-season and training camp?

It is one of those might have beens about this disappointing season. If Batch had started two or three more games we could easily be 9-5 instead of 7-7.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"The Good Shepherd"

I've seen the ads for the movie and wondered if it is worth seeing. It sounds surprisingly good good based on this review by Stephen Hunter. Hunter, along with Steve Sailer, are the two movie critics i trust. (I never considered seeing Big Fishuntil i read Sailer's review. Turned out to be a great movie.)

Sailer has some thoughts about Hunter and his work here.

I still have some misgivings about "The Good Shepherd". As Hunter notes, "the film is a roman a clef loosely linked to a CIA officer of some fame named James Jesus Angleton." That leaves a lot of wiggle room for a film-maker to play the "it's true/ it's a movie; it's history/ it's drama" game. It is even worse when the subject is Angleton whose existing biographies seem to be only "loosely linked" to the man and his work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rightwing journalists: the accent is on journalists

Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard defends Joseph Rago.

I think this supports a point i made here by using this quote by David Gelernter from Drawing Life:
But an American Middle East watcher made a fascinating comment, years ago, about the Islamic revolution in Iran: To the Iranians, he said, Americans and Soviets looked pretty much the same. There were big philosophical differences between them, but they all wore pants. Orthodox Islam peels away from the West closer to the ground than the point where communism and democratic capitalism branch apart. The divide between the elite and the public might likewise be more basic than Republican-Democrat differences. Leading Republicans speak the elite's language just as the Democrats do.
Duke lacrosse: Bombshell!

Rape Charges Dropped in Duke Lacrosse Case

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong moved Friday to drop rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players.

Nifong said he plans to proceed with kidnapping and sexual assault charges against the three players
So how can he go forward with the other charges in light of this?

Nifong's investigator interviewed the woman Thursday, and she told the investigator that she couldn't testify "with certainty" that she was raped.

UPDATE: LaShawn Barber has a round-up of blogger reactions.

Durham lawyer John Bourlon always shows up on the cable shows when Nifong takes a body blow like today's developments. Although he is a defense attorney he makes the most laughable arguments FOR the prosecution in this travesty. That is puzzling but noted defense attorney William Costopoulos gives us a clue to the motivation in his book Murder Is the Charge:

Some lawyers make careers out of plea bargaining, specializing in the art of negotiation and understanding the wants and needs of the prosecution. Many of these lawyers rarely try a case, are politically connected, and excel at selling their influence.
So "defense attorney" Bourlon goes on TV and spouts nonsense. In the process he ingratiates himself with the DA. Opens the door to more "fruitful" negotiations when he has a client looking for a deal in Durham county.

In short, the cable shows are being used by Bourlon to troll for business in Durham at the expense of the defendants in this case. The "journalists" who give him the forum should be ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One of those funny sad things

Cam Edwards notes:

Anybody else amused by the fact that the “Gun Guys” blog is arguing that the names of right to carry holders should be public while they’re blogging anonymously?
But it all makes sense after he explains it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bloggers beware!

An assistant editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal doesn’t like you. Surprisingly, his paper decided to give him space to vent. (I guess there was no serious news that could have used the space in the paper.)

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.
Like most of the jeremiads by professional journalists the piece is redolent of smug hypocrisy. It is guilty of most of the charges it levels at bloggers. It applauds rigor but trades only in generalities. It bemoans the low standards of the blogosphere but defends the MSM establishment as “not wholly imperfect.” Bloggers “traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion” he pronounces and trusts that the reader will take his word for it because he provides neither specifics nor sustained argument.

That is the first point that stands out. His argument rings true, because the blogosphere is a big place. It is easy to come up with a list of blogs that are guilty of all the sins he enumerates. It is just as easy to come up with a list that defies his generalizations. So his fervent declarations are both true and false. Hardly the sort of rigorous, careful writing that Mr. Rago claims to champion.

Second, it is easy enough to find examples in the MSM of the sins he pretends are restricted to bloggers.

Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.
Mr. Rago apparently does not spend much time reading the MSM he defends. If he does, how could he miss the “panics and manias” that sweep through his professional brethren? Look at the coverage of Barak Obama, or the Foley scandal, or the early stories on the Durham rape hoax.

Let’s note, as well, that in the last case it was bloggers and other web-participants who ran rings around the prestige press. The MSMers fell for the hoax hook, line, and sinker and used their megaphone to encourage a gross miscarriage of justice.

It is also worth pondering why Mr. Rago chose to go after bloggers for their love of opinion over fact. Did he miss the story about Time magazine and its reinvention? Why does Time’s decision to become more blog-like pass without notice?

Finally, there is this statement that is so laughable that only a permanent resident of the MSM echo chamber could make it:

The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

Originality? Newspapers across the country are filled with columns by Ellen Goodman, Maureen Dowd, George Will, and Tony Kornheiser. When was the last time any of them said something original? Expertise? A reporter’s primary expertise is writing down what experts tell him. On the internet, we can cut out the middleman. Seriousness? Depends on what he means. Journalists take themselves seriously. On the other hand, they can be pretty cavalier about little things like facts. Just look at how most of the profession went into the tank for Mary Mapes and her “fake but accurate” documents.

These “journalists versus bloggers” grudge matches are old and tiresome. The blogosphere is here. The MSM cannot expect to wall it off from their readers. I wish some big brains in the media would take a hard look at what it means instead of bemoaning the fact that change happened.
Why isn't this as big a story as Enron?

Clarice Feldman looks at the scandal at Fannie Mae over at the American Thinker.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time, Inc.: Fumbling around the problem, no solution in sight

Howard Kurtz writes about Time magazine's umpteenth attempt to reinvent itself. As with all such efforts, its leader is filled with bold pronouncements:

"We're going from a 19th-century factory model to a 21st-century Internet model," [managing editor Rick] Stengel says. "Some of the things we were doing were anachronistic," he says, and often produced a "monolithic" tone.
But as Kurtz describes it, the new new Time has an odd plan to achieve their bold goals:

"One great writer-reporter who has a point of view about a subject important to our lives -- what's better than that?"

The new structure will clearly mean fewer original facts and more massaging of old facts. The question is whether that provides more value for readers or defaults on the core mission of newsgathering.
So, Time's new thing is that they will be the print home to a lot of highly paid, recycled pundits-- Michael Kinsley, Ana Marie (Wonkette) Cox, Bill Kristol, Andrew Sullivan, etc.

Remember when MSMers like Stengel ripped bloggers because we were all opinion and no reporting? Guess now the new party line is that if you can't beat them, copy them.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Foley Mess: If the other shoe drops after an election, can the MSM hear it?

The American Thinker has a report on the House Ethics investigation. Turns out a Democratic operative knew about the emails for a year. He did not inform the authorities, but he did try to shop the story to the press for partisan advantage.

The hypocrisy on the Foley scandal just got ranker.

This non-story also underlines a point made here:

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rosenhan revisited: The persistence of error and the impotence of facts

Two items that provide a follow-up to the Rosenhan post.

First, there is this point made by Patterico in 2004 about appeals courts and their ability to correct injustices.

The system doesn’t work. Innocents who have been released from Death Row have almost never gained their freedom through the orderly workings of the system. In many cases, the defendant’s innocence has been established due to the efforts of activists who have no official role in the criminal justice system. The fact that innocents have left Death Row is no tribute to the criminal justice system.
That’s a sobering statement coming from a big city prosecutor.

Second, Court TV recently illustrated how journalists and the popular media can disseminate a fallacious initial narrative long after new information destroys the factual underpinnings of that narrative. It was a wonderful example of how difficult it is for journalists and investigators to revise their conclusions even in the face of powerful new evidence.

As part of their “Murder by the Book” series, Court TV covered the 1979 murder of Susan Reinert. The case was the made famous in Joseph Wambough’s best seller Echoes in the Darkness which became a prime time mini-series. The general thrust of the Court TV program followed Wambaugh’s narrative and the prosecution’s case in the criminal trial: teacher William Bradfield and principal Jay C. Smith conspired to kill Susan Reinert and her two children so that Bradfield could collect $750,000 in life insurance.

The program did note that Jay Smith was later released from Death Row by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Author Lisa Scottoline (the featured commentator) made it clear that this decision was one more example of guilty men getting off because of “legal technicalities”. That is, the police got the right man, but a clever lawyer helped him escape justice.

The program left out much of the newer information that has come to light since the trial. For example, the police hid exculpatory evidence, planted incriminating evidence, and lied about the deal given to their star witness (a jail house snitch). Moreover, several investigators accepted large sums of money from Wambaugh while the investigation was on-going and his book was unwritten and without a satisfying ending.

The lead prosecutor (who did not appear on the Court TV program) later went to jail on drug charges but only after he turned in many of his friends, colleagues, and lovers. Finally, the Pa. Supreme Court found that much of the Commonwealth’s case at trial consisted of inadmissible hearsay by self-interested witnesses who were given immunity early on in the investigation.

In short, it is grossly unfair and intellectually dishonest to say that Jay Smith was freed on a legal technicality. A more accurate assessment is that Jay Smith was sent to Death Row because over-zealous investigators were so eager for “closure” that they cut corners, ignored important evidence, and trusted that emotion and hysteria would smother the jurors’s nagging doubts. After all, two children were dead; someone had to pay. They also knew that the right kind of closure would make them famous.

Smith’s attorney wrote a book on the case after he won the landmark decision that freed his client. It lacks the novelistic flashes of Echoes in the Darkness, but it lays out the manifold problems with the investigation and prosecution. Costopoulos was interviewed for the documentary, but the producers studiously ignored the evidence he had assembled in both his appellate briefs and his book.

Once again we see that the desire for ratings and the need for a good story simply overpower critical thought and diligent research. Thus is error propagated and multiplied. By dismissing inconvenient evidence as “legal technicalities” Court TV closed its eyes to the problem of wrongful conviction. Like John Ford’s newspaperman in “The Man who shot Liberty Valence”, they decided it was easier to go with the legend.

See also:
Atticus Finch doesn't work here

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rerun Season

Originally posted Thursday, April 27, 2006

Criminal justice and the Rosenhan Experiment

In his famous experiment, David Rosenhan raised serious questions about the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. Sane people were admitted into psychiatric hospitals because they claimed that they heard voices saying "empty", "hollow" and "thud". Once admitted they no longer claimed to hear voices and behaved normally. Moreover, they made no attempt to falsify their family history or other relevant biographical details in order to appear unstable. Nonetheless, these pseudopatients were admitted and diagnosed as mentally ill. In no case were they caught as imposters-not even when their symptoms quickly disappeared.

Rosenhan made a couple of telling observations in his 1973 paper in Science ("On Being Sane in Insane Places").

Once a person is designated abnormal, all of his other behaviors and characteristics are colored by that label. Indeed, that label is so powerful that many of the pseudopatients' normal behaviors were overlooked entirely or profoundly misinterpreted. Some examples may clarify this issue.

As far as I can determine, diagnoses were in no way affected by the relative health of the circumstances of a pseudopatient's life. Rather, the reverse occurred: the perception of his circumstances was shaped entirely by the diagnosis.
The medical professionals were primed to see abnormality. Once they thought they saw it, that perception distorted every thing they learned about the patient.

It seems to me that something similar can happen when a genuinely innocent person is caught in the criminal justice system. The police, the prosecutors, and (maybe) even the defense attorneys are accustomed to dealing with guilty people. There is a temptation to shape any and all evidence into a mosaic that proves guilt. Was the subject nervous at the interview? Evidence of a guilty conscience. Was he calm? The brazen act of a born manipulator. Did he hire a lawyer? Only the guilty lawyer-up. Did he come in with no attorney? The bold gambit of a practiced liar.

If the suspect offers exculpatory evidence the prosecutors can simply revise their theory of the crime. Does she have an alibi for 5.00 PM? Well, then, the crime must have occurred earlier.

There seems to be no inherent dynamic in the investigation to find the best "explanatory fit". Rather it appears that once an explanation is chosen, nearly all the effort goes to defending it. Since the fallacy of the ad hoc hypothesis is encouraged ("on-going investigation") the prevailing prosecution theory is almost impossible to falsify.*

It goes without saying that these problems are magnified when the investigation becomes fodder for the MSM. The fundamental weakness in the system becomes evidence of things as yet unseen. The obstinate reliance on the initial diagnosis is taken as proof that investigators know more than they are saying. When public information raises questions about the state's case, crime pundits will rush forward to assure us that the prosecutor must have evidence that he is holding back.

As someone with an unbecoming interest in epistemology, historiography, and methodology, this bothers me. As a conservative, it also bothers me that my fellow right-wingers only get riled up on these issues when they can use them to attack their traditional enemies-Al Sharpton, feminists, campus leftists-- as in the Duke lacrosse case.

*UPDATE and clarification. What i was trying to say was this: Once a suspect is picked, the investigation slips from "who did it?" to "how did X do it?". Further, the process does not easily return to the first question even when new evidence appears.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rerun Season

Originally posted Thursday, April 14, 2005

The "crisis" in the Roman Catholic Church

The MSM template for stories about the Catholic church in America is simple and clear-cut: The Church is in crisis because it refuses to modernize. Traditional teachings on sexual morals drives worshipers away and makes it impossible to find priests. "Liberalizing" will cure this problem. Therefore, the new Pope should listen to the American leadership, jettison those outdated rules, and be less authoritarian. Andrew Sullivan is always available to say what the MSM wants said.

One question I'd like to see a talking head ask is this: Why will this prescription work for the Roman Catholic church when it has failed for all the mainline Protestant denominations who tried it first? The liberal denominations are losing members while the conservative congregations are growing. Shouldn't the liberalizers be asked to explain why their "solutions" will work now when they have not worked before?

There are other voices out there besides Sullivan and Matthews. They argue that the "vocation crisis" is the result of too little orthodoxy in America, not too much. I think the pundits should spend a little time talking to them.

For example, Michael Rose wrote a book on the Subject. Read the introduction to Goodbye, Good Men here.

Blogger Fr. Rob Johansen wrote a review of the book here. While he is critical of Rose for over-reaching to bolster his thesis, he still finds merit in some of the arguments. He also wrote a long article on the general subject that deserves thoughtful consideration.

What's Wrong with our Seminaries? An Insider Speaks Out

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

David Maister has some thoughts about his own experiecence.
I've Stopped Reading

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Knowledge management waves the white flag

The December Harvard Business Review runs a brief piece on knowledge management titled What’s Your Return on Knowledge?

KM once promised gargantuan cost savings and enormous gains in productivity. The kind of thing that corporations are good at measuring. But now, the bloom is off the rose and the KMers do not like those hard numbers that determine the ROI of their panacea.

Leaders of the knowledge-based organizations that have the most vibrant KM programs approach the measurement problem by accepting soft indicators that knowledge management is earning its keep rather than demanding hard numbers that may be misleading. They do insist that the programs be evaluated, but they accept anecdotes about successful (or failed) knowledge reuse, stories of productive (or unproductive) collaborative projects, and surveys of employee and customer satisfaction as the best indicators of value.
Program evaluation by anecdote. At the same time consultants are scrutinizing marketing programs in great detail with hard numbers, their brethern want their pet internal projects to get by with soft metrics.

One more example of the problem noted in #8 below.
Management f-LAWS

That's the title of a new book co-authored by Russell Ackoff. It has a website here and should be published in January 2007. I was struck by one of the f-LAWS which fits nicely with #10 in the post below:
Everyone is an expert on trivia. So everyone can discuss trivialities with equal authority and at great length.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rerun Season

Originally posted Friday, April 22, 2005

10 things i've learned about business strategy and planning

1. Drucker was right*. There really are only two business functions: marketing and innovation. I doubt that one company in 20 incorporates this bedrock fact into their culture or mindset or strategy.

2. Given #1, strategy should spend 80% of its time on marketing and innovation. If this is not happening, the firm is not leveraging the time it spends on strategic planning. Even worse, it is a strong indication that the firm is operating as a business-manqué.

3. The best marketing has nothing to do with gimmicks or bold advertising. It is all about communicating real value to the right audience. #2 is not an invitation for accountants to play copywriter.

4. Often, strategic success does not look like marketing. During Coke's great years in the 1980s and 90s, they focused on logistics and distribution. However, this was in service of a profound strategic insight and a clear marketing objective.

5. Most corporate data are close to useless for strategic planning. It is inward-looking and does not focus on customers, markets, or innovation.

6. Very little of the experience gained in internal operations is applicable to marketing challenges. Thus, participatory strategic planning runs into a problem: the participants are inexperienced and not apt.

7. The biggest, most important strategy questions require hard thinking. There are not easy answers.

8. Many people will try to make money by convincing you that #7 is not so. Consultants, software vendors, even internal advocates will argue that they have the magic bullet that will make the hard work disappear.

9. "A will to system is a lack of integrity". Shortcuts require templates that can create false expectations and analytical blinders. Surprise and disappointment are the inevitable results.

10. The devil is not in the details of the plan. It is in the big issues that are ignored while tinkering with the minutia.

* The Practice of Management, (1954).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rerun Season

Originally posted Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Meaning of Defeat and the Utility of Victory

An interesting discussion on US military prowess and how it shapes post-war outcomes is going on. It was kicked off with this post by Vodka Pundit and then this response by One Hand Clapping.

I find myself agreeing with Vodka Pundit when he says:

Need to understand why West Germany gave up on Nazism? Because it got every single one of their major cities reduced to rubble, courtesy of the 8th Air Force and the RAF.
The high price Germans paid for Hitler's adventures drove a wedge between the Nazis and the German people. It was not just that the Nazis were evil (Germans managed to ignore that in 1941), it was that they betrayed the German people and allowed them to be crushed, starved and raped.

But he loses me when he writes

Want to know why West Germans feared Soviet tanks? Because they saw firsthand what Patton's tanks could do.
Sorry, the Germans feared Soviet tanks because they had firsthand knowledge about the Red Army. They saw more Russian tanks than American tanks. Berlin, after all, did fall to Zhukov, not Patton.

OHC rightly points out that the

Fighting the modern way is certainly not more difficult than before. It is not easy - Stephen is right that war is never easy - but to imply that this year's Iraq campaign was somehow more difficult than, say, the Normandy invasion or the Battle for Manila is just plain wrong. America's modern way of war enables us to defeat the enemy much faster than ever, and there is no way that means war is more difficult than it was, oh, at the Battle of Gettysburg.
But modern US commanders do face one factor that was not present in World War Two or the Civil War. Patton and Nimitz did not have worry about the political fallout of operational victory. During the August 1944 breakout, the German army tried to escape from the Falaise pocket before Allied armies encircled them. Tactical air power and artillery pounded the retreating Germans. Yet there was no domestic outcry in the US about the uneven combat with a retreating enemy. This is in stark contrast to the "Highway of Death" hysteria in 1991.

The American way of war calls for the deployment of overwhelming firepower at the decisive point to win rapid victory with a minimum of casualties. That used to mean American and civilian casualties. Today it means enemy combatants as well. This is a complexity the World War Two and Civil War generals did not face.

OHC also writes that

The Iraqi soldiers who survived the war this year are not claiming that they were not really defeated. Many of them have been beaten by the US twice - 1991 and 2003. They know they were beaten badly and could not have prevailed even with better generalship. Modern technology enabled us to defeat Iraq's military without killing enormous casualties among Iraqis.
As i read this i was reminded of an incident Col. Harry Summers related in On Strategy. After the ceasefire in South Vietnam, an American officer said to an NVA officer, you never defeated us on the battlefield. His counterpart replied, that is true, but it is also irrelevant. (Paraphrasing from memory here).

Victory on the battlefield does not automatically mean that we gain our strategic objectives.

Clausewitz wrote that "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will" . In Iraq I, our victory compelled the Iraqi's to leave Kuwait and also allowed us to destroy much of their WMD program. However, in Iraq II, we have the much more difficult challenge of creating a functioning polity that is stable and somewhat liberal. Decisive military victory against Saddam's conventional forces was a necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve this.

One factor needed is a patriotic rallying point for Iraqis that is untainted by the Saddam regime. In West Germany, for example, Adenauer was an anti-Nazi and thus an acceptable politician to lead them during and after the occupation. Perhaps more important, though, were the officers who tried to kill Hitler in 1944. Though they failed, they preserved the "honor" of the army. A German patriot could admire their bravery, repudiate Hitler, and still take some pride in his country's history.

DeGaulle and the French Resistence served similar roles in the restoration of French pride and confidence. French soldiers helped liberate Paris and that helped ease the pain of the defeat in 1940 and the shame of Vichy.

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee served a symbol for reconciliation and stability. The North and South could agree that he was a good general and honorable man. By accepting defeat and repudiating guerrilla war in 1865 he brought the bloodshed to an end and opened the possibility for a better civil society in the post-war South. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of Adenauer-types to lead the states and insufficient troops to police the occupied South.

At this point, unfortunately, we don't seem to have either type of rallying point in Iraq. They are beaten, liberated, and occupied. But all of that is due to an external power. I worry that if a heroic, patriotic figure emerges, he will do so by fighting or opposing the US. Sort of the way the Communists emerged in China and Vietnam as both anti-colonial and anti-Japanese.

See also:
"Defining and Achieving Decisive Victory "

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nancy Grace: Insight into the PR offensive

Rebecca Dana has a piece in the NY Observer that is not to be missed.

Nancy Grace’s Unmanageable Crisis

In the days after Melinda Duckett’s suicide, Ms. Grace utilized the services of Anna Cordasco, who is the managing director of the New York firm Citigate Sard Verbinnen, which specializes in below-the-radar corporate-image resuscitation.

Ms. Cordasco, who has Martha Stewart as another high-profile TV client, is old friends with Ms. Grace’s executive producer at Headline News, Dean Sicoli. Ms. Cordasco and her colleagues immediately set to work restoring the fire-breathing former prosecutor to her pre-Duckett level of dignity and national esteem.

Except, according to three sources close to Ms. Grace, once the crisis manager stepped in, the crisis just got worse

Well, as Nancy herself would say, "you can put lipstick on a pig....."

I find it interesting, though, that Ms. Straight Shooting Former Prosecutor opted for a PR firm that "specializes in below-the-radar corporate-image resuscitation."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rerun season

Originally posted Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Agency Integration

Ad Age (6-16-03) reports on a recent survey of big advertisers. One key finding is that on 43% of the clients think it is "very important" that "a single agency offer fully integrated services." This presents a problem for big agencies which have spent the last couple of decades acquiring a variety of firms in order to become a "one-stop shop" for big clients. Those agencies paid a premium to develop capabilities that most of their clients do not see as valuable.

"One stop shopping" is a convenience, and convenient channels are valuable only when the underlying good or service is unimportant or similar across outlets. Coke is Coke, so it makes sense to buy it where you shop for groceries or gas instead of making another stop. Has anyone every chosen a college solely because the campus was closer to the airport? "Gee, Oberlin is a great school, but Ohio State is much easier to get to. Guess I'll go there instead."

As one survey respondent said, "I go to a specialist; I don't go to the same doctor for everything."

For key business services, convenience is not a big concern. Marketers after all have people on staff whose job is to manage the programs and vendors. One mega-agency or three small one, it is not really big deal in the scheme of things. It is also not a differentiator that can be used in decision-making either. "Hey, Mr. Senior Vice President of Marketing, I think we should select WPP because I'm kind of sick of juggling three different agencies for this project." Saying that out loud would be a CLM-- "career limiting move."

Clients worry that the one-stop shops end up having second-rate services. While media buying might be first-class, the creative could be ho-hum, or the direct marketing unsophisticated. It is worth a little aggravation to get all the parts right for a marketing campaign.

I suspect that one of the key reasons agencies prefer integration is that they do not want to play with their competitors. While understandable, this concern is the agency's problem, not the clients. As such, clients will be unsympathetic.

These findings offer hope to smaller agencies who focus on a single niche (interactive services, say, or cutting-edge creative). If they are willing to play well with others, they still have a shot at working for large clients.

If they really wanted to set themselves apart, they could embrace the disaggregated approach and show that they are eager to work with competitors. If they developed tools and a methodology to provide integrated campaigns even when they did not control all aspects of the marketing, they could get clients attention.

Blogs, it seems to me, should be an integral part of that effort. They are superior to email or meetings for keeping a whole team up to speed and for thrashing out differences.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nancy Grace: Still trying to ride the dead mother bounce

Sadly, some local cops are willing to help her. From an outstanding column by Lauren Ritchie:

Marion officials jump on Grace's bandwagon

Having Nancy Grace come to town is bad enough.

The CNN Headline News host last week put on two fast-moving, error-laced, psycho-babble shows that consisted of repetitive speculation on what happened to Trenton Duckett, the 2-year-old missing from his Leesburg home since late August.

But to have law enforcement wallow in Grace's theatrical caldron of gossip is just plain bizarre. It is unprofessional. It cheapens the life -- and perhaps the death -- of a child whose destiny seems to be as a victim

Rerun Season

Originally posted on Friday, November 26, 2004

Like tasteless cotton candy

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

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pondering W

Joe Katzman is puzzled by the Gates nomination.

Rev. Donald Sensing wonders if there is any "organizing principal" to the Bush administration. David Foster offers one in the comments.

I've tackled facets of the question here:

Five quick points about the conservative tantrum

The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy

GWB and his MBA

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Duke lacrosse: The incentive structure of the the hoax

Dr. William L. Anderson has an interesting article that applies economic theory to prosecutorial misconduct.

Why the Duke Hoax Continues
Part III: Courts of the State – and the State of Justice
See also.

Another look at Nancy Grace

Atticus Finch doesn't work here

Criminal justice and the Rosenhan Experiment
The Cold War we lost

David Horowitz has a long review of Bettina Aptheker's memoirs. (Aptheker is the daughter of Herbert Aptheker, a historian and long-time leader in the Communist Party USA).

The daughter followed iun her father's footsteps and was deeply involved in the radical causes of the 60s and 70s.

The striking thing about her history is the ease with which Communists moved into the academy and advanced each other's careers.

In 1974, after the publication of her book, Aptheker had joined a major migration of radical activists from the streets of protest to the faculties of American universities. She signed up for a masters program at San Jose State in “speech-communication,” one of the fields leftists were busily re-defining to accommodate their political agendas. Because other leftists had preceded her, the department offered her a job as well, “a position as a ‘graduate teaching associate,’ a title they invented for me since there were no provisions for teaching assistantships at the universities.” While some university officials viewed her arrest record and non-scholarly career skeptically and opposed her appointment, others were “enthusiastic about my arrival,” and with the help of the Communist Party’s civil liberties lawyer they prevailed. She received her masters in June 1976 and began teaching a course on the “History of Black Women,” which was jointly offered by two of the politicized departments radicals had recently created, Women’s Studies and Afro-American Studies.
To pursue a university career she would need a Ph.D. credential, so she enrolled in the “History of Consciousness” graduate program, which had been created by the historian Page Smith, as he told an interviewer, in order “to prove the Ph.D. was a fraud.”[76] Aptheker’s political alter ego, Angela Davis, was already a professor on the faculty and, as if, to validate Smith’s hypothesis, the department awarded the cocaine-addicted felon and Black Panther leader, Huey Newton, a doctorate for a self-serving political tract titled, “War Against the Panthers: Repression in America.” In Aptheker’s own description, the “History of Consciousness” major was “an interdisciplinary program with an emphasis in twentieth century radical and Marxist philosophies.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy

Assessing presidential legacies is risky. They evolve over time as events unfold long after the actors leave the stage. Ronald Reagan’s legacy was in doubt when he left office in January of 1989. The collapse of of the Soviet Union and then the performance of the military in Gulf War I ratified his most controversial foreign policies and turned a former actor into a visionary statesman.

Often legacies hinge on decisions that have little to do with the matters that leaders are most remembered for. Lincoln is the Great Emancipatorthe man who ended slavery after a terrible war. Yet he is remembered as such only because he found Grant in 1863. With Grant he got Sherman. Grant was the strategic genius who won the war, but Sherman was the general who took Atlanta in 1864 and secured Lincoln’s re-election.

It is quite possible that without Sherman’s victories Lincoln would have lost to McClellan. We (in the North) might remember Lincoln as the divisive, ineffective bumpkin whose ineptitude and meddling wasted hundreds of thousands of lives in an ill-considered war that ruined all chances of a political settlement.

The Bush-Rumsfeld years hinge on two similar failures. First, they could never define the strategic-military key to the situation in Iraq. They never found the equivalent of Vicksburg and Atlanta: those battles that made victory inevitable. Second, Bush never found his Sherman or Grant: the generals who could win those decisive battles.

Those two tasksdefining the key to victory and finding the men to win it-- are crucial but they are also inter-related and messy. Roosevelt found Marshall and it was with Marshall’s advice that he forged the grand strategy for World War II. Lincoln shuffled through a half dozen generals before he found Grant. Churchill appointed and relieved more than that before he found the right men and had them in the right place.

Bush has been notably quiescent on that score. He stuck with Rumsfeld and Rice and treated his military commanders as though they were interchangeable functionaries.

That, too, may be a result of his MBA training. Harvard case studies are big on analysis and decision. They ratify the conventional wisdom and promote a safe uniformity of opinion. What they do not do is capture the importance of the singular individual. A good pre-HAPW MBA will select Bradley over Patton every time; Grant and Sherman will never make the cut if a Burnside or McClellan is available.

See also:
Eating our seed corn
So now Martinez?

More evidence of the nature and form of Bush's loyalty.

I really thought Michael Steele would be a great RNC chair.

Remember, it was Martinez's office that completely changed the terms of debate during the Terri Schiavo case. The best spin he could come up with was that the memo was "unauthorized" meaning he, Martinez, was inept in staffing and running his small Senate staff. This is the guy who is supposed to rebuild a defeated party?

Steve Sailer has been posting a lot of interesting thoughts on the movie and the comedian who stars in it. Scroll down through here for more.

This is pretty good, too.
Borat's Attack on the Rural World

Monday, November 13, 2006

Top 10 Reasons you can’t blame Kordell Stewart for the loss in the 2001 AFC Championship Game

Many Steelers fans hate Kordell Stewart. I find that odd since he had a winning record and got us to a couple of AFC Championship games. Hating Neil O’Donnell I understand, but the hostility directed at Kordell puzzles me.

Stewart haters like to point to the upset loss to the Patriots in the 2001 AFC Championship game. Slash threw three interceptions as New England won 24-17. That game essentially ended Stewart’s career in Pittsburgh. Early in the next season the glorious Tommy Maddox era dawned for the Black and Gold.

That’s the history but the history is more fiction than fact. There are many reasons why the Steelers lost to the Patriots and most of them were out of #10’s control.

10. Mike Tomczak. The Steelers back up QB was nothing like Stewart. The offensive playbook could never fully leverage Slash’s skills because the plays had to be run by Tomczak as well as Stewart. We had a Ferrari in the garage but kept low octane fuel in the pumps because our other car was a Sentra.

(After O’Donnell took the money and ran to the Jets, Randall Cunningham was available for a song. Just imagine what the late 90s could have looked like for Pittsburgh if both their QBs had been fast and mobile.)

9. No continuity at offensive coordinator. The AFCC game is seen as proof that Stewart would never fulfill his potential. If so, some of the blame has to go to the Steelers organization. The offensive coordinator’s office had a revolving door during the Stewart era. That’s tough on a young, raw QB. The problem was aggravated because until 2001, the Steelers did not have a quarterback coach.

8. No continuity at receiver. Again, if Stewart looked less than polished in 2001, part of the reason is that there was constant turnover in his receiving corps. His top targets had a way of leaving in free agency (Thigpen, Johnson) to be replaced by highly drafted rookies (Blackwell, Edwards, Buress). Even worse, the coaches kept demoting Hines Ward to get those top picks on the field. Slash never had the chance to find his go-to guy. Manning, Young, Aikman Unitas; Harrison, Rice, Irvin, Berry. QB’s do best when they are part of a deadly tandem.

Even Tom Brady admitted that the loss of Deion Branch knocked him off his stride this season. That’s coming from a guy with three rings.

7. Special teams futility. The Steelers fell behind the Patriots because they gave up two TDs on special teams. This is a recurring theme in the Cowher-era. His special teams put his QBs in a hole in big games.

6. Game plan? Who needs a game plan? For the AFCC loss to really count against Stewart, it would have to be exceptional. Sadly, many different Steelers quarterbacks have lost AFCC games. Maybe this is less a reflection on the guys under center and has more to do with a stubborn coach who can’t prepare and can’t make adjustments against quality opponents.

I think the point I made after the loss in the 2004 AFCCG still stands:

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.
5. The interceptions. Yeah, he threw three interceptions. Two of them were in the last three minutes with his team trailing. Take away the disaster on special teams and he ends the game with just one pick and a trip to the Superbowl.

4. One-dimensional players. The late-Cowher formula on offense relied on very specialized players. The running back ran between the tackles. The fullback and tight end blocked for the running back. None of them figured into the passing game. Against good teams, the offense was predictable and easy to stop. The quarterback never had the element of surprise because personnel and formation tipped-off the defense.

3. Drew Freaking Bledsoe. Tom Brady was injured with two minutes left in the first half and the score 7-3. Bledsoe drove the Patriots 40 yards in one minute to take a 14-3 lead. Kordell Stewart was not on the field when Bledsoe made the defense look like chumps.

2. Troy Brown, the best big game player of his era. Sometimes you lose because the other team has better players. The Patriots had Troy Brown. He returned a punt for a TD. He recovered a blocked field goal and then lateraled which resulted in another TD off a return. He caught 8 passes for 121 yards. On the only touchdown drive by the Patriots offense, he caught a 28 yard pass when the Pats faced 3rd down on their 32 with two minutes left in the half.

It wasn’t a fluke game for Brown. He caught big passes on the winning drives in the Super Bowl against St. Louis and Carolina.

No other player in the Super Bowl era had Brown’s versatility. Returner, receiver, defensive backhe could make big plays in all phases of the game. More importantly, he did make big plays in big games.

1. The Bus broke down. The whole point of the Cowher offense was to push people around and beat teams into submission with Jerome Bettis. But #36 was injured and inactive for the five games prior to the AFC title game. He managed only 8 yards on 9 attempts against the Patriots and the Steelers were held to 58 yards rushing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reaping what you sow

Dean Barnett
First, a little anecdote. Along with a host of other bloggers, I was on a conference call with Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia on Wednesday. I usually don’t write anything about these conference calls because they’re reliably dull as dishwater. But this one actually had an interesting moment. Kingston let on how a bunch of Republican members of the House have grown pretty tired carrying water for the administration, and suggested that the water-carrying days are over. (I’m paraphrasing, but I’m sure the other bloggers on the call can verify the rough sentiment.)

The cracks in the relationships that the Bush administration has with just about everybody are beginning to show. As the administration enters its lame duck phase, it’s going to be pretty short on friends

I wrote this back in May:
Bush's loyalty has been to "his people"-White House staffers, cabinet officers, etc. He shows very little loyalty, sympathy, or understanding for the broader coalition he leads-Republicans, conservatives, the military. He too often treats them as pawns whose only role is to obey the decisions he has made. He was willing to embarrass Senate Republicans by nominating Miers to the Supreme Court, he is willing undercut the Republican House on immigration, he panders on gas prices and was wobbly on the rights of gun owners. He is a wartime president who passes out Medals of Freedom to Muhammad Ali and neocon polemicists.

In sum, I see more reasons for pessimism than Lifson. The last couple of years of any administration are difficult. The habits of mind that GWB formed at HBS might make his especially difficult

Friday, November 10, 2006

The heart of the matter

Michelle Malkin has an interview with a genuine American hero: one of the men who flew with Jimmy Doolittle on his raid on Tokyo in 1942. His thoughts on our current situation:
"We're at war. We ought to get on a war footing and get the job done."
If Red American is disenchanted with Bush (and i think it is) it is not because they disagree that we are at war. Rather, they wonder why he refused to go to a real war footing and are impatient because they suspect that he and his administration does not know how to get the job done.

It was not a choice between cut and run versus winning. It was a choice between cut and run versus stay and hope. That is, a choice between losing fast or losing slow.

I knew Bush and the Republicans were in trouble back in the spring. I was helping out at an American Legion barbeque in the reddest of Red America. Their disgust with the handling of the war was palpable. This was not a group of kumbayah singing pacifists. But they were sick of reading about fighting for the same town over and over again.

Yes, they thought it sounded like Vietnam and they were willing to use the Q-word.
Bush as Party Leader: a solid C

With the mid-terms out of the way, we can see how GWB stacks up as a party leader compared to other post-war presidents. Despite the doom and gloom from Tuesday, it turns out that he has been exceedingly average.

Take his re-election victory in 2004. His 50.8% puts him in the middle of the pack.

Percent of popular vote

Truman 49.8
Eisenhower 57.8
Johnson 61.3
Nixon 61.8
Carter 41.7
Reagan 59.2
Bush '41 37.7
Clinton 49.3
Bush '43 50.8

Same thing for his effecton his party's standing in Congress. Republicans have lost under Bush, but his is not the worst performance by a two term presidency.

Change in Congessional seats

Administration Senate
Truman -9 -9
Eisenhower -13 -46
Nixon +1 -43
Reagan +4 +19
Clinton -11 -52
Bush '43 -6 -23

This measures the change in seats between those held at the time of the president's first election race and those held after the second mid-term. As noted here, the numbers are skewed by the Democratic reliance on the Jim Crow South between 1945 and 1970.

If Bush's performance has not been the worst among recent presidents, neither has it been stellar.

OTOH, i am still surprised at how bad Clinton's performance was. Why do Dems love the guy so much?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On the election

Now it is Republicans turn to learn this lesson.

I think that Mark Tapscott gets the big lesson right in this post:

the essential framing of the GOP congressional campaign would be left to Rove. Rove's strategy was built on the tried-and-true GOP Establishment axiom that "conservatives have no place to go," and therefore the biggest challenge was getting them to turnout on election day in sufficient numbers to overcome the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media.

It was essential for the Rove strategy to create the appearance of sufficient progress on key issues in order to "get the GOP base stirred up." But the "progress" was little more than smoke and mirrors and everybody in Washington knew it, as did millions of conservative voters who had heard the same broken record over and over again in the past
The rewards for loyalty:

The House GOP has been remarkably loyal to GWB. Contrast that with the way the House Republicans treated Bush '41 over the tax increases in 1990. I wonder if this passivity has anything to do with the loss of Tom Delay?

UPDATE: Irish Pennants note that Iraq was not the over-riding issue:
Though I think Iraq was the dominant issue -- a big dog in itself which colored voter perceptions of every other thing -- the exit polls indicated that more voters (42 percent as opposed to 40 percent) said they were most concerned about corruption. This is a wound the Republicans in Congress inflicted upon themselves.
On corruption, he blames Delay first and foremost.

I disagree. For one thing, some of the worst corruption took place in the states (especially Ohio and Illinois.) Oddly enough, the GOP has been wrecked in those two states by "moderate" "pragmatists" who were also morally deficient. (When your prime focus is to compromise and get along with everyone, you end up going along with the wrong kind of people.)

Second, the GOP refused to fight back against the "culture of corruption" charges with their most effective weapons. They hoped the issue would go away instead of bringing up Alcee Hastings and William Jefferson.

One last note. I was on the receiving end of the GOP GOTV efforts. I must have received ten calls in the 72 hours before the elections as well as half a dozen emails. But while i was inundated with admonitions to vote, I never heard a compelling "reason why". Maybe they figured that i was part of the base and that the big matter was to get me to the polls. OTOH, they forfeited the chance to really energize the base and use them as secondary transmitters of their message.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good column on the Steelers's woes

Perfect description for 2-6 Steelers ... Sorry

By the same token, though, the Steelers have earned every bit of 2-6 this season. They keep making the same mistakes week after week, the ones Cowher promises to correct but never does. If there's any injustice, it's that the Cleveland Browns blew a second-half lead against San Diego yesterday. The Steelers deserve to be in last place by themselves.


The Steelers had another bad special-teams game. It wasn't just Holmes' fumble on a kickoff return early in the game that set up the Broncos' second touchdown or Smith's personal foul on a Broncos' punt return. Kicker Jeff Reed missed a 40-yard field goal that would have cut Denver's lead to 14-10. Don't blame special-teams coach Kevin Spencer for the ineptitude. The special teams are Cowher's baby. He has done nothing to rectify their season-long problems.


"I don't know what to tell you. I really don't," Cowher said of the Steelers' woes. "I'm at a loss for words."
I'm not a big fan of most statistical "analysis" when in comes to the NFL. It's too static and ignores the dialectical nature of the competition. It often also ignores the importance of time and the overall game situation. It reminds me of the post-war analysis of the Fall of France in 1940. It did not matter that the Allies had more and better tanks and fighter planes. The crucial fact was that the Germans had local superiorities at the crucial place and time.

In the Steelers case, it would be wrong to treat all of yesterday's turnovers as equal. The last Roethlisberger pick and the Ward fumble came in desperation time.

All season long the critical mistakes are those early (esp. special team) errors that put the Steelers in a big hole. Am i the only person in Steeler Nation who wonders why we can't correct them?

One other echo of 1940. Eventually, the French high command fell into a calm, hopeless acceptance of the disaster. Hopeless acceptance. Sound like any head coach we know?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hmmm. Could this be the problem?

The most recent Steelers Digest ran an interview with Safety Ryan Clark. This Q&A is worrisome.

Q: What are some of the differences between the Steelers and the Redskins?

A: I would definitely say the practice schedule. It’s a lot more player-friendly here. Coach Cowher definitely takes care of us and lets us get some time at home with the family
I’m not sure a family-friendly practice schedule is the right tonic for this team. They were 0-4 in pre-season and are 2-5 in games that count. Most of those losses were due to horrible, sloppy mistakes--fumbles, interceptions, dropped passes, and stupid penalties.

"It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference."

(Bobby Knight, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi)

Maybe that’s what is lacking this year. The team (coaches and players) are relying on their will to win on Sunday while ignoring the need to prepare Monday through Saturday.

Police trainers have a saying that fits in here:

"You won't rise to the occasion - you'll default to your level of training."

Friday, November 03, 2006

NFL: Considering the punt return

A couple of weeks ago Tuesday Morning Quarterback had this interesting tidbit:

A year ago at the Hall of Fame reception in Canton, Ohio I found myself sitting between Bill Walsh and Don Shula. I posed this question: In a day when the Bears line up five-wide and Texas Tech passes 60 times a game, are there any fundamental innovations that have not been tried? Walsh supposed someone might try using trick formations for an entire game. Shula twinkled his eyes and said: "Someday there will be a coach who doesn't punt."
Given the Steelers's problems with punt returns, i wonder about the flipside of this. What if a team did not return punts?

What is gained?

1. No more fumbles on punt returns. Your most sure-handed player is back there calling for a fair catch.

2. More blocked kicks. Since there is no need to set up a return, you can have an effective, relentless rush.

The averages and conventional wisdom says that teams which do this will lose about eight yeards per punt. But that may no be so. Currently, punters still get the kick away on most low or bobbled snaps. In the face of a determined, full-out rush, many or most of those slight miscues will become game-changing blocks or sacks.

Which is better: eight possessions starting on the 30 or seven possessions that start on the 20 PLUS one that begins at the opponents 20?

In addition, it is quite possible that this strategy will force punters to adjust by kicking quicker while sacrificing distance.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Best theory yet for the Steelers's woes

Pro Football Outsiders

Roethlisberger’s life the last four months is worthy of a bad soap opera. In June, he got in a major motorcycle accident. He recovered amazingly, but just before the start of the regular season he had to undergo an appendectomy. After struggling early, he finally started playing well only to suffer a concussion.
As a commenter notes, no soap opera would be complete without the Evil Twin. It is Evil Ben who is throwing all those picks. The real Big Ben is being held somewhere by a Patriots's fan or maybe Archie Manning.

But when did the switch happen? Maybe in the two weeks before the Superbowl. (Come to think of it, Holmgren would make a pretty good criminal mastermind in a soap opera). Except, the plan did not work. It was no match for the Bettis destiny ride.

So maybe the "injuries" are just ploys to explain Evil Ben's performance and to keep Charlie Batch on the bench.

Of course, if this is a soap, the Steelers's season can still be saved. Seems to me that the plot should go something like this......

Twenty minutes before kickoff against the the Broncos, a large bus drives into the end zone at Heinz Field. When #36 opens the door, out steps the real Big Ben suited up and ready to play. 100,000 eyes zoom onto the the other #7 standing on the Steelers sideline. Panicking, he tries to run out of the stadium. Before he can reach the tunnel he is slammed to the ground by a figure in street clothes (Jack Lambert don't need no stinking pads to tackle a quaterback.) Joe Greene rips the mask off the imposter and reveals......

Neil O'Donnell.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Harman versus Hastings

How will this help improve our intelligence organizations?

Pelosi's Unintelligent Choice

If Democrats win control of the House next week, Nancy Pelosi's first test as speaker will arrive long before the 110th Congress convenes. Her choice to head the House intelligence committee -- unlike other House committees, this one is left entirely up to the party leadership -- will speak volumes about whether a Speaker Pelosi will be able to resist a return to paint-by-numbers Democratic Party interest-group politics as usual.

Pelosi is in a box of her own devising. The panel's ranking Democrat is her fellow Californian Jane Harman -- smart and hardworking but also abrasive, ambitious and, in Pelosi's estimation, insufficiently partisan on the committee. So Pelosi, once the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat herself, has made clear that she doesn't intend to name Harman to the chairmanship.

The wrong decision, in my view, but one that's magnified by the unfortunate fact that next in line is Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings. In 1989, after being acquitted in a criminal trial, Hastings was stripped of his position as a federal judge -- impeached by the House in which he now serves and convicted by the Senate -- for conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him, repeatedly lying about it under oath and manufacturing evidence at his trial
Is all publicty good publicty?

Of sketches, Hugh Laurie and 'SNL'

Amy Poehler is wonderful even in sub-par sketches, and her recent Nancy Grace imitation captured that anchor’s condescending monstrousness perfectly.

Commentary: Who needs Halloween? TV is scary enough

We savor the madness of Nancy Grace. (What's scarier than that?)

On the popularity of Freakonomics

David Warsh has interesting things to say:

CSI: Economics

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Duke lacrosse: The hits just keep coming

It is a measure of how things have changed in the last six months that the News and Observer's Ruth Sheehan is now out of patience with DA Mike Nifong:
To most of us, the Duke lacrosse case is such a disaster that Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, up for re-election, should be preparing for a trouncing.
Robert KC Johnson's blog remains essential reading. He has the best on-going analysis of the many parts of this miscarriage of justice.

Johnson's most recent post discusses the most shocking revelation so far: DA Nifong's admission that the case is going forward because Durham needs a political show trial for closure and healing.

Some weeks ago William Anderson suggested that the Duke hoax was a new Reichstag fire. At the time, i thought his analogy was over the top. Now, though, the DA has confirmed that the case is exactly that.

All the more reason for Duke president Brodhead to speak out.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Highly recommended

Forget the Black Dahlia, Wonderland is the LA true crime movie to see.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nancy Grace: Another batch of shameless lies

Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel has the sad details.

Grace's search for Trenton is about ratings

Grace's rantings are stale. So rev up the Trenton ratings machine.

The overblown, error-filled announcement of her arrival is typical of the "it's-all-about-me" way that Grace pathetically clings to the only story that has given her a recent ratings bump.

It's sickening to watch her play on emotions in a real-life tragedy to increase her dwindling viewing audience
Read the article and then read Grace's "response" on her Friday show here.

Note especially how Grace continues to twist the facts (blaming Ritchie for the errors that NG's PR person made in the email.) Beyond that, however, the rambling response-- incoherent, bathetic, belligerent-- is an embarrassment to any news professional. It sounds like the rantings of a drunk in a bar.

It is no longer surprising when Grace is caught distorting the truth. Such revelations have become as predictable as the full moon. The really important question is why she still has a job at CNN. How can that network remain the Most Trusted Name in News when it gives an anchor chair to someone who is so uninterested in getting the facts right or thinking logically.

UPDATE: Lauren Ritchie prints some of the email she recieved after her column.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On deserving to lose

Michelle Malkin on the Webb/Allen race in Virginia

Political strategists in the belt are exulting that "Webb is toast" as a result of this Drudge/Allen bomb. But if this what Republican Senate candidates need to do to win elections, I don't think any of us should be cheering.
I think the recent attacks on Webb's novels are pathetic. Even worse is listening to Republicans justify it. Does anyone remember the outrage at the LA Times when they dredged up accusation against Schwarzenegger at the last minute?

At least the LA Times was reporting stuff that may or may not have happened. Allen is using material from a novel. A freaking novel!

Even worse, in my mind, is their attempt to attack Webb on his stand on women in the military. During the Clinton years, conservatives were very concerned about the attacks on military culture that followed in the wake of Tailhook. Webb was one of the stalwart in that fight and one of the few national figures outside of the uniformed services who stood up and spoke out against the witch hunt and the Great Military Re-education.

So now we see Republicans trying to attack him on the issue. Which means that they (implicitly) endorse the agenda of NOW and Hillary.

What is the point of winning an election if you have to abandon all your important positions to do so?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wrongful Conviction

Here's an old but timely Columbia Journalism review article on wrongful convictions.

Three Books and Ten Lessons for Journalists
The author offers the pious hope that his ten lessons will "encourage realistic investigations into possibly wrongful convictions, and perhaps help prevent wrongful convictions." But his earnest wish is not match for the customs of the journalistic guild and news outlets thirst for ratings and readership. The Nancy Graces of the world still taint jury pools in sensational cases. Crime reporters still protect useful sources and, consequently, enable bad prosecutions.

It is a shame that no one at the News and Observer read this piece. DA Mike Nifong seems determined to go a perfect 10 out of 10 on the wrongful conviction checklist provided in the article. In the Duke lacrosse case we see a miscarriage of justice played out in real time. Except for a few hardy souls like Stuart Taylor, the MSM has played their assigned role of cheerleader and enabler.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Atticus Finch doesn't work here

John Grisham's new book is a terrific read and an important work. It is non-fiction and tells the story of two wrongly convicted men. I hope that Grisham's popularity will bring much needed attention to this issue.

We live in a media world that encourages these type of mistakes. If the police arrest no one, they will be excoriated for days, weeks, even years if the case is high profile. (See Natalie Holloway, Jon Benet Ramsey, etc.) But if they charge and convict the wrong man, his exoneration is a one day local story.

At times, media coverage of criminal matters seems like a reversion to our primitive history. Watching Nancy Grace or Greta van Sustren brings to mind images from the Roman Coliseum. The goal isn't truth or justice, it is closure. Closure demands that someone must pay for the crime. Someone can easily become anyone, guilty or not.

I suspect that this is why the tabloid media continues to bash Aruba, but has lost interest in Chandra Levy. Both crimes are unsolved, but the DC police get a pass. Levy's murder, though, did cost Gary Condit his seat in Congress. Someone paid. That he was innocent of her murder is of little concern.

David Klinhoffer looks at Michael Savage


There is much about him that would suggest, not an ideologue at all, but simply a performer. Then again, sometimes you get the feeling that a refugee from Air America (the failed experiment in liberal talk radio) has been writing scripts for him based on a lefty’s cartoon mental picture of a ranting right-wing caveman.
See also:

The Demented World of Michael Savage

Michael Savage: agent provocateur?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Two good columns by Jack Shafer

Newsbooks:The triumph of a journalism genre

The scoops found in the newsbooks indicate that the competitive pressure of the daily deadline buries as much potential news as it unearths. David Corn tells me that sources on Capitol Hill often won't disclose inside information about what's happening todaywhich every reporter is asking them aboutbut these same sources will be more forthcoming about last week's events, which are no longer the hot subject of the moment. By standing outside of today's news cycle, newsbook authors can recognize patterns and make connections that escape beat reporters filing four or five pieces a week.
Maybe I’m missing something but the same argument can be made in defense of the best bloggers. They add context and offer analysis that is often missing from stories written on deadline.

Having Climbed Out Onto a Limb That Cracks …How should a newspaper crawl back?

So, why are newspapers so hesitant to acknowledge their flawed work? Among other things, no journalist ever got a raise for saying, "I got it wrong." The whole incentive structure encourages journalists to deny or otherwise obfuscate the mistakes and miscues they and their publications commit.
I think there are three forces at work here. The first derives from David Warsh’s concept of “explanation space”:

the lofty region where short-term causal explanations of events are forged.
This is where journalists compete with others in the guild. Admitting errors undercuts their competitive position.

The second comes from the hold that sources have over reporters. Warsh again:

What is important to understand is that beneath the glitz, newspapers actually operate as favor banks, to use novelist Tom Wolfe’s phrase from Bonfire of the Vanities. That is to say, newspapers are forever paying favors forward, in expectation of reciprocal acts of kindness from players yet unknown, accepting deposits of information and emphasis, making grants of credit and blame.

Newspapers reward their culture heroes and presidential favorites, penalize those with whom they disagree, further the activities of which they approve and ignore those which they do not, hoping all the while that the intricate web of transactions actually is in the black over time. No accountant could ever hope to make sense of it. That’s what they pay publishers and editors to do
When a story goes wrong, it is often because reporters relied on the wrong sources. Revising the story means challenging those sources or portraying them in a bad light. This is hard because the reporter may still want those sources in the future.

Newsweek’s Susannah Meadow copped to half this charge in a recent media panel on the Duke lacrosse case.

Later, in response to a question about why the media seemed to assume the players were guilty, Meadows made this comment: “You had a public official [Nifong] who said, ‘I am sure!’, and say it to your face. We expect our public officials to know what they’re talking about.”
As noted before, crime reporters need the DA’s office to do their stories. Hence, they grant prosecutors much more credibility than most other officials. Can you imagine Evan Thomas quietly accepting a Rumsfeld pronouncement and then explaining it away by saying “we expect our our public officials to know what they are talking about”?

One last factor is the issue of worldview and explanation space. Important stories are written and published as part of a grand narrative. Journalists remain convinced that the big story is true even if some of the details are wrong. (Dan Rather, “fake but accurate”.) So why correct “trivia” at the risk of obscuring “the big picture”? This tendency has also been on ample display during the Duke lacrosse case.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I was struck by a point made by Andrew McCarthy in his article on Lynne Stewart and her apologists:
According to Preston’s article, Harris has told the judge that the terrorism counts against Ms. Stewart were “unwarranted overkill.” Harris reportedly elaborated that Stewart “didn’t have a clue that the stick she was poking in the government’s eye was going to have consequences beyond her imagination.”
I was curious to know more about this Clinton appointee who rallied to the defense of a terror-supporter. A little googling turned up this old Robert Novak column which is especially interesting:

[Fran] Townsend moved to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan -- notoriously liberal-laden amid a Republican administration. Townsend's boss and patron there was Jo Ann Harris, whose orientation was liberal Democratic.

When Attorney General Reno in 1993 summoned Harris to Washington as assistant attorney general running the Criminal Division, Harris immediately brought Townsend along as her aide. Townsend was promoted to oversee international law enforcement and then became counsel to the attorney general for terrorism and head of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) -- a political Reno appointment for a supposed career slot
See also here and here.
Why Jason Whitlock is the best

His latest AOL column gets to the heart of the matter on Miami (FLA)'s problems, the real reason Howard Cosell's popularity, and the legend of Edgerrin ("Jesse") James.
I've never been a big fan of James. IMO, he was given a pass at Indy while Manning was made the scapegoat for all the post-season failures. Hundreds of columns have been written about Manning's "inability to win the big game" despite "all his offensive weapons."

Without James, the Colts are 5-0. Without Manning, James averaged less than two yards a carry against the Bears and the Cardinals are 1-5. Maybe Manning's weapons weren't all that great. Maybe, just maybe, James racked up big numbers because teams worried more about Archie's boy than they did "the Edge."

One thing is clear to anyone who watched last year's playoffs. The Colts would have beaten the Steelers if James had not been stopped short of the goal line by Larry Foote in the first half. That failure was all James.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

9/11 was a long time ago

The Coast Guard wants to train with machine guns in the Great Lakes. The New York Times finds plenty of people who are opposed to the idea.

We live in strange times. We demand that the government connect every dot and protect us against every contingency. Then, we nitpick every step the government takes to meet these expansive demands.

Andrew McCarthy offers another example: the muted reaction to Lynne Stewart's connivance with terrorists.
Cable news: get it fast, get it wrong

Cable news too fast, not final

The cable news networks, in the hyperdrive of a huge news story, or because of dogfight competition against others with the same technology, air stuff they have not properly checked out. Speed kills... their credibility.
Last year, management theorist Shoshana Zuboff wrote an interesting column for Fast Company. In it she noted that corporations were cutting costs by outsourcing work to their customers.

It seems to me that this is part of the business model cable news has adopted.

In the past, reporters and producers would conduct interviews, verify information and add context, write and edit the story, and then present the audience with a two-minute report. Cable, however, just fills air time with raw interviews. The audience has to do the work of verifying and assessing the information.

It is cost-effective because it is so cheap.

What i don't understand is why the respectable media plays along. Why do real reporters go on shows like "Nancy Grace" and provide grist for the mill? Many of these pseudo-newscasts would wither on the vine if they did not have real reporters doing their work for them.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Yes, indeed, a heartland World Series

No Yankees, no Mets, no Red Sox. Let the whining begin at ESPN.
Citizenship and education

Jeffrey Hart offers a definition given by his old professor Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy:
He also said that the goal of education is the citizen. He defined the 'citizen' in a radical and original way arising out of his own twentieth-century experience. He said that a citizen is a person who, if need be, can re-create his civilization.
Of course, if this is true, then we are doomed. Our institutions of higher learning are in the hands of people who loathe this civilization and are eager to remake it into something else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When you win 45-7,

You get featured in TMQ:

Sweet Play of the Week: Pittsburgh leading 7-0, the Steelers had a first-and-10 on the Chiefs' 47. Pittsburgh ran a sweet-looking play in which Ben Roethlisberger faked the hitch pass right, then faked a handoff up the middle, then threw deep to the unguarded Nate Washington on the skinny post -- touchdown, and the walkover was on. Not only did Kansas City defensive back Greg Wesley let Washington go deep, not even attempting to cover him; not only was Wesley making the high school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play rather than guarding his man; check the tape of what happened once Wesley turned and realized Washington was behind him. Wesley merely stood there and watched the touchdown, jogging a little in the general direction after it was too late. This is the sort of defensive esprit de corps that would later in the game result in Kansas City taking over the mantle of TMQ's Single Worst Play of the Season So Far (see below).
Actually, I think this deserves to be the sweet and sour play of the week. A Chiefs DB had a chance to tackle nate Washington, but instead went for the big hit so beloved by highlight shows. The Pride of Tiffin College took the hit, bounced off, and went into the end zone. Had the DB wrapped up, the Steelers would have had first and ten in the red zone leading 7-0.

Big Ben has a history of costly interceptions down close. He threw pick-sixes to both the Jets and the Patriots in the 2004 playoffs. We squeaked by the Jets, but the interception against the Patriots was a back breaker. (It made the score 24-7 at the half.)

In SuperBowl XL, it was his interception at the goal line that let the Seahawks score their only touchdown. It kept the game close when it might have become a rout. (Blitzburgh loves a 21-3 third quarter lead).

This season the Steelers were leading the Bengals 7-0 and were driving (sound familiar?) Ben threw an interception in the end zone and left the door unlocked for the Bengal’s comeback.

All of this illustrates why the Chiefs’ play was inexcusable. Anything can happen in the red zone. Even if the Chiefs don’t get an interception and 95 yard return, they may have recovered a fumble or blocked a field goal. Even a successful field goal would have made the score only 10-0 and would have let the Chiefs defense keep a little of their confidence.

So it was a sweet play, a sour play, and a hidden play (unplay?). I sometimes wonder if this isn’t one of those areas where hustling teams (cough, Patriots, cough) reap their reward. They don’t give up cheap touchdowns and so have a chance to force the red zone turnover in the first place. Or they hold their opponent to a field goal. Over the course of a season that can translate into 30 or 40 unscored points and one or two extra victories.