Sunday, April 30, 2006

The perfect way to show your displeasure with Neil Young

read about it at Resistance is Futile.

(Thanks to Donkey Cons which is another good blog to add to your daily read list.)

UPDATE: Political gestures aside, i am in total agreement with Scott Chaffin.
Frankly, if you don’t have them all on your iPod already, I weep for your lame ass.
Does good debate=bad blogging?

The best advice I ever received about constructing a persuasive, fruitful argument:

Seldom affirm
Never deny
Always distinguish

I heard it from a bank executive in Chicago. He was taught it by Jesuits. I wonder, though, if their advice makes for low blog traffic.

I say this because one of my favorite bloggers-Rev. Donald Sensing-has a post up at Winds of Change on the dismal prospects on solo blogging.


His core argument is a good one. It takes a lot of time and effort to craft nuance, well-researched posts. It takes a steady flow of posts to build and maintain a high blog readership. Group blogs hold a real advantage here.

There is a short-cut to popularity. It begins by ignoring those three rules of argument. There are plenty of blogs that have good traffic and run on autopilot. They start out with the premise that Rummy is always right or that Bush is the worst president in history. They make liberal use of "wingnut' and "moonbat". They link to other sites just like their own blogs. Each community of blogs has a ready-made readership of intense partisans who like shallow arguments.

In his book The Fifth Discipline Peter Senge distinguishes between discussion and dialogue. Discussion (which is linguistically related to concussion and percussion) is about scoring points, winning, having our viewpoint prevail. Dialogue is a means of learning together. The blogosphere is increasingly about discussion and not dialogue.

I'll have a couple of follow-up posts on Rev. Sensing's post later.
Fault lines

This op-ed in the NYT is a rambling mess and morally obtuse.

Films of Infamy

Of course, it is about United 93. He claims he likes the movie, but he wishes for more.

But I can imagine a film other than "Munich" or "United 93," a greater film, a film about different kinds of courage. In this film, the courage of the passengers would be shown and honored, but there would be an equal effort to show the courage of the terrorists (without calling them simply "evil" or "insane"). You can feel already, I know, that that film is less likely. It has a kind of moral ambivalence not settled by giving 5 percent of the proceeds to families of the lost.

Ooh. How shockingly sophisticated. Thomson has opened my eyes. The cognitive dissonance is too much.

Yeah, right.

Does he really think that bravery is the only thing that matters? The German soldiers were brave in WWII. They were also supremely competent in battle. Does Thomson want to see more movies about the heroes of the Third Reich? Or what about the Confederate soldiers? They, too, were brave. Is Thomson endorsing the display of the Stars and Bars?

I have to ask, though, what was the nature of the hijackers bravery? Was it equivalent to that shown by the passengers on United 93? Or was it more like the bleak nihilism of Columbine? That is an important distinction, isn’t it?

Here’s a really shocking thought for Mr. Thomson. Maybe they weren’t brave at all. Maybe they were just sex criminals like Ted Bundy
To the suicide-murderers, those waiting virgins are real as dirt. The killers call themselves "martyrs," but in their own minds they are the next thing to sex criminals. "Pardon me, sir or madam, do you know why I plan to murder your child? Because the authorities are offering me great sex--and, after all, I don't get many opportunities."

Wonder what our film historian would make of a movie that tried to portray that reality.

This post from Confederate Yankee offers a view from the other side of the fault line. I wish David Thomson would read it. I’m not holding my breath.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

United 93

David Gelernter gave the best defense of movies like United 93 long before the events of 9-11-01. This is from his 1997 book Drawing Life:

History is inspiring. Bravery is inspiring. It is shameful we no longer teach this to our children.
These quotes are from a 1998 article in the Weekly Standard, "Unresolved Evil":

What matters is our communal response to the crime. Evil is easy, good is hard, temptation is a given; therefore, a healthy society talks to itself.

Such ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones. We need to hear them, and hear good acts praised, too. We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.

Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on

Yehudit at Winds of Change and Kesher Talk addresses some of the critics of the film in "United 93: Mars and Venus".

Yehudit treats the critics firmly but fairly. I wonder, though, if that gives them too much credit. I cannot shake the feeling that the arguments made against United 93 would never be made in other contexts.

For example, can you imagine reading this in the Washington Post Style section?

No one knows what happened in those dark hours in Mississippi. Mamie Till-Mobley, the NAACP, and Life magazine want to use the shocking pictures to force us to fill in the blanks. A crime so horrible demands punishment and if punishment is not imminent it can only be because there is a conspiracy to protect the guilty. Faced with the harrowing results of homicide, they know that we will forget all about due process and the Rashomon nature of criminal investigations.
Do you think that the New York Times would ever run something like this in its "Week in Review" section?

Matthew Shepherd's family and the gay rights movement want to make his death symbolic of something larger. The facts of the case, however, can be seen in many different ways. Sadly, the basic outlines of the story-a night of drug use, hours spent drinking squalid bars, a casual pick-up gone bad-are all too familiar to any police reporter. You do not need homophobia to get a corpse on the bad side of the tracks. It maybe presumptuous to believe that homophobia is the only reason that this gay man is dead.
I do not expect to see any such debunking of conventional pieties even when there is a clear agenda at work. So why is there such a rush to revise, demur, admonish, and caution when the vehicle is United 93? Nearly everyone agrees that Greenglass was careful to focus only on the details of that day. Others will use the movie for their various agendas, but the movie itself is neutral on the political questions.

Yehudit hit on something important with this:
I had predicted that the fault line would be one's understanding of the terrorist threat: People who believe we need to counter this threat aggressively, with war if necessary, are using the film to strengthen their resolve. Those who think war is a wrongheaded response understand the role the film plays for "warmongers," and want to undermine its power by finding fault with its fidelity to facts and its treatment of heroism.
I wrote this three years ago:
The divide between the Chicks and Toby (who i like only half the time), highlights a fault line in the country at large after 9-11. Col. Jeff Cooper put it best: what happened wasn't a "tragedy" , it was an "atrocity." This distinction is important because, as he noted, the proper reaction to a tragedy is sadness, but for an atrocity it is rage.

The post-911 consensus is that we can be sad. If we are angry, our betters in the media want no part of it or us. That is the attitude reflected by the Chicks. For those who agree with Col Cooper, the Chicks and their LA friends are an annoyance and an irritant.

"Fault line" is a good metaphor. There is something deep and hidden at work here. Every so often something comes along like United 93 or The Sum of All Fears. Think of them as tremblers that alert us to the existence of the forces far beneath of surface of journalism.

Here, maybe, are a couple more tremblers:

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

9/11 wasn't just a recent national trauma, it's also a trauma for which we have no analogue. There's no template yet for what it all meant or where to put it. So, while I am not always sympathetic to claims that this trauma is a different sort of trauma, and these survivors and relatives of victims are a different sort of survivor and relative, I do think we need to concede that 9/11 really is different.

Steven Pinker on elite tastes:

Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, "Give us schmaltz!" They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing.

G. K. Chesterton, As I Was Saying:

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.

And to close, Gelernter again:

Don't be surprised, don't be upset, don't be judgmental. Be passive: morally, spiritually. Our 'resilience', our 'practicality' (another word from the Journal), our unsurprise, our noble disdain for 'being judgmental'-- how could all that possibly be just the effect of violence and no part of the cause?

Between lawmen and reporters on the whole it is impossible, however, not to notice this difference: Most lawmen seem to hate criminals, and most reporters couldn't care less.

Drawing Life

Paris, 1893: A terrorist bomb explodes in the Chamber of Deputies. No one is killed but forty-seven people are hurt. The anarchist intellectual Laurent Tailhade is asked to comment. He speaks prophetically for the 20th century intelligentsia and for Harvard University circa 1998: 'Qu'importe les victimes si le geste est beau?' What difference do the victims make if the gesture is beautiful?

When a terrorist murders a man, it is a meaningless act. There are evil men in every society, and they do evil things; that's all

"Unresolved Evil"

It's like Bigfoot just strolled onto the Today Show and gave an interview

I had heard of these strange creatures. I never really expected to see one. Well, i guess i should say knowingly see one. Obviously they exist, but who would ever admit it in public.

And then, there it was. On Galley Slaves, men who watch the Gilmore Girls.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A recent column on Rescorla

Remembering a true hero
United 93

Everyone. of course, should try to see it this weekend.

Michelle Malkin points out that the website for the movie has an interesting perspective.

I am all for providing accurate historical background material for a movie. But the U93 site isn't just slanted, it is historically inaccurate. Take this example:

Islam rebounded and expanded with the creation of the Ottoman Empire. They won back Constantinople (which changed hands several times before the modern day name change of Istanbul) and took Serbia in the key Battle of Kosovo where the Ottoman army met the Serb’s Christian forces. The year was 1389. Then, in 1683, the Ottomans went on the offensive again and took Austria in the decisive Battle of Vienna. This resulted in even more influence given to the Ottoman Empire in the state of European politics. There were now two equally powerful sides and a widening gulf between what would later be called the East and West.
I'll skip over that laugher about Constantinople changing hands several times. Instead, here's what i wrote in 2003 about the 1683 war between the Hapsburgs and Ottomans.:
Siege of Vienna

In the summer of 1683 the Ottoman Turks advanced up the Danube, occupied Hungary, and, in July, laid siege to Vienna. They had 200,00 men and over 300 cannon. The defenders of the city numbered less than 22,000 only 6,000 of whom were regular soldiers; the remainder were civilians pressed into service at the start of the siege.

The relief of the city was complicated by European politics. Louis XIV of France hoped to gain German territory on the Rhine while the Hapsburgs were occupied in the east. To that end, he worked to create am anti-Hapsburg alliance with Hungary and Poland which would deny Austria aid against the Turks. (Incidentally, the Ottoman artillery were commanded by a Frenchman, a former Capuchin no less).

By September, conditions were desperate inside the city- low supplies, disease, and weakening defenses. The Hapsburgs had raised a relief army of only 21,000. But, fortunately, Poland had spurned Louis's maneuvers and sent an army of 24,000 under their King John Sobieski.

On September 12, the two relief armies and the forces inside the city attacked the besiegers. The critical moment came in mid-afternoon when Sobieski sent his cavalry into the heart of the Ottoman camp. The battle became a rout. The next day the Polish king wrote his wife: "the Vizer took such hurried flight that he had time to escape with only one horse."

He also noted the Turks "left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could." Separate from that slaughter, the Ottomans had sent 67,000 Austrians east as slaves and 14,000 girls to the harems of Constantinople.

Sobieski's troops captured the Ottoman battle flag ("The green standard of the Prophet") in the fighting. This he sent to the Pope with the message "Veni vidi, Deus Vicit" ("I came, I saw, God conquered").

The lifting of the siege is usually marked as the turning point for the Ottoman empire. For centuries they had advanced against Europe, conquering the Byzantium empire, capturing lands in the Balkans and islands in the Mediterranean. After 1683 they began 250 years of retreat. (Funny how many of these critical turning points find the Poles fighting on the right side)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Credit where due

A couple of outstanding things to read

The Yellowcake Connection

Baby Daddy

Never Yield (and he's right. How about a movie about Col Rick Rescorla.)
Time for an update

John Miller in National Review(2002):
In 1982, Susan Sontag sparked a bristling controversy on the left with this confession: "Imagine, if you will, someone who read only Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?"

I now propose that we concede that those who read the novels and journalism of Tom Wolfe have a far better understanding of modern America than those who spent the last two decades reading the New York Times.

Black nationalists provide security for rape accuser

DURHAM -- An official with the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense said the black nationalist organization is providing security for the woman who has accused Duke lacrosse players of raping her.

UPDATE: The odd intersections of extremism. It's worth noting that the second KKK grew out of the lynching of Leo Frank for the rape-murder of Mary Phagan. The press loved that case, too. So the NBPP follows in the footsteps of the Klan.
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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Clinton, the Balkans, and al Qaeda

The Bosnian story mentioned below touches on an important historical issue.

Police also confirmed they are keeping close tabs on dozens of mujahedeen _ Islamic fighters who came to Bosnia to fight on the Muslim side in the 1992-95 war. Although most left for other conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and elsewhere, some stayed and married local women.

The vast majority of Bosnia's Muslims rejects the mujahedeen's fiery brand of Islam. Yet young, restless men frustrated with 40 percent joblessness and angered by real or perceived insults to Islam can be open to hard-line dogma, the Prague-based think tank Transitions Online said in a recent re

The U.S.-Croatian report says infiltration actually dates back long before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It says Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have been crisscrossing the Balkans for more than 15 years, financed in part with cash from narcotics smuggling and coming from Afghanistan and points further east via Turkey, Kosovo and Albania.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, evidence has emerged that extremists have been trying to carve out a beachhead in the Balkans. The region is home to 8 million Muslims, roughly a third of Europe's Islamic faithful, and arms and explosives are easily obtained in what Lukac calls "a kind of El Dorado" for criminals
When Clinton went to war against the Serbs, he brought the US into a tacit alliance with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. That was not his intention, but it was the messy reality given the facts on the ground. It is one more reason why the Balkan war was not the clear-cut Good War II that CNN thought it was.

Let's also be clear on this. CNN covered the Balkans with all the objectivity that Hearst displayed in Cuba in 1898.
People with too much time on their hands

"Mother of three" -- relevant?

A reader complains:

"This barren spinster is getting really annoyed by the overuse of the reproductive status of individuals in N&O news stories. It's always lurked on the periphery, but it's getting worse, and by far the most offenses are in defining women for no reason whatsoever as mothers, especially on first reference
Ethnic profiling

I'm no fan. Last year I asked:

When it comes to ethnic profiling, why do some conservatives insist on playing Charlie Brown to the MSM's Lucy? Why, when the issue is ethnic profiling, do they insist on defending the ineffective while pretending that it in no way deepens the impression that conservative=racist?

It might be worth it if ethnic profiling would make us safer. Unfortunately, terrorists come in all shapes and colors. Law enforcement cannot announce that anyone is immune to scrutiny. The moment you say that people in wheelchairs will not be questioned or searched, you incent the terrorists to find a way to put a bomb in a wheelchair. Give a pass to oriental females and you tell al Qaeda who to recruit, trick, or bribe in their next operation
and also wrote this

I think this whole debate is dangerous. Not just because it pointlessly increases ethnic tension, but also because it helps the terrorists learn how to defeat our defenses. By forcing the police to discuss and defend their screening procedures, the pro-profiling side is providing intelligence fodder for al Qaeda. It would be better if the police just said, "We are using a combination of random checks and behavior profiling" and left it at that.
This story suggests that terrorists are thinking in just those terms:

Terrorists Recruiting 'White Muslims'

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- His code name was Maximus, and he held secret meetings in a shabby room at the Banana City Hotel on the outskirts of Sarajevo.

Bosnian police put him under surveillance, and in a raid last fall on his apartment on Poligonska Street, authorities seized explosives, a suicide bomber belt and a videotape of masked men begging Allah's forgiveness for what they were about to do.

What they planned, investigators believe, was to blow up a European embassy. But compounding their concern, they say, was the ringleader's background: Maximus turned out to be Mirsad Bektasevic, a 19-year-old Swedish citizen of Serbian origin with ties to a senior al-Qaida operative.

Terrorists have been working to recruit non-Arab sympathizers _ so-called "white Muslims" with Western features who theoretically could more easily blend into European cities and execute attacks _ according to classified intelligence documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A 252-page confidential report jointly compiled by Croatian and U.S. intelligence on potentially dangerous Islamic groups in Bosnia suggests the recruitment drive may have begun as long as four years ago, when Arab militants ran up against tough post-9/11 security obstacles.
"They judge that it is high time that their job on this territory should be taken over by new local forces ... people who are born here and live here have an advantage which would make their job easier. By their appearance, they are less obvious," the report reads.

Arabs, it adds, "have become too obvious, which has made their job difficult."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Missed the good part

Jim Pinkerton quoted Steve Sailer in his column on the media and the Duke lacrosse case. But he missed the quote that really pointed out the problem with the coverage by the elite media:

Warning: This news item represents basically the exact opposite of how the world actually works. We are making a big deal about this incident because it is a Man Bites Dog story that is interesting only because it is so unusual. If you rely on stories like this for useful information about the real world to help you live prudently and profitably, you will be sorry.
The presence of the absence

In "Silver Blaze" a key clue was the dog that did not bark. In G. K. Chesterton's "The Blast of the Book", the mystery hinges on a man who was invisible. He was not physically invisible, rather, his social status was such that the other characters took no notice of him: They ignored his presence and were blind to his absence.

Something like that is at work in the Duke lacrosse story. In the early days the story gained momentum because of the demonstrations, the outraged professors demanding action, the indignant student activists who were using the crime to make a larger point. That drew the cameras, filled airtime, generated column inches.

A month, later, however, the press has forgotten these effete lynch mobs. The story is that there is a story. It no longer matters how it became a story or if the core of the story is true.

You can see that in this Fox News article. Susan Estrich is angry at many people it seems and is not afraid to list them. Yet, somehow, she fails to mention those scruffy little crowds banging pots and pans outside of the house. Or the wanted posters. Or the demand that all 46 players speak up when some of the players were nowhere near the party.

Her forgetfulness is useful to her argument. It is so much harder to blame the defense for trying the case in the media when you forget how we arrived at this media frenzy in the first place.
Maybe they are on drugs

I really like The American Thinker. I thought the writers were smart, astute, and knowledgeable.

But now i wonder. Thomas Lifson is still watching "24"? And he seems to like Chloe?

Maybe someone mixed acid with the coffee.
Judge, Jury, and Defendant

I love these thumbsuckers where reporters furrow their brow and ponder ethical problems in the midst of the firestorm the media created.

Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate that the Duke lacrosse case "cuts too deeply into this country's most tender places: race and class and gender".

Big surprise. This story became a big story because it could be framed in term of race, class and gender.
Identifying the heroes

This article on the making of "United 93" discusses the delicate issues faced by director Paul Greenglass.

Do you make all 40 individuals equally heroic? DO you rely on the limited picture provided by the phone calls? Or do you try to imagine what happened based on your knowledge of the people?

Monday, April 24, 2006

What's so bad about swagger?

George W. Bush swaggers and it drives his opponents crazy.

Reporters covering the Duke lacrosse case note that the team is notorious for its bad behavior and its swagger.

A swagger can denote confidence, pride, even arrogance. Is that the problem?

What, then, of Hillary? She does not swagger, but she does not lack for confidence.

Keith Olbermann does the news on MSNBC with a smug disdain that is palpable. The people who hate swagger love Countdown. So it is not a matter of humility versus arrogance.

Maybe we should ask Harvey Mansfield.

In the meantime, this review of Tom Wolfe at the Bothers Judd might offer some clue.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Leaker firing fallout

Ace is the place with the links you need.

It's A Small Liberal Bureacratic/Liberal Media World After All: Dana Priest's husband works at a lefty anti-war outfit that books speaking gigs for Joe Wilson.
Mary McCarthy just got fired. That's not the worst thing that can happen to leakers who help papers win prizes. From Edward Jay Epstein's Between Fact and Fiction:
By concealing the machinations and politics behind a leak, journalists suppress part of the truth surrounding a story. Thus, the means by which the medical records of Senator Thomas Eagleton were acquired and passed on to the Knight newspapers (which won the 1973 Pulitizer Prize for disclosing information contained in these records) seems no less important than the senator's medical history itself, especially since copies of the illegally obtained records were later found in the White House safe of John Ehrlichman.


Leaks, Journalsim, and the Right to Know

The rotten heart of investigative journalism

On leaks, bias and truth

A crime the press doesn't care about
Sleazy, stupid, and clueless are no way to go through life

Every now and then you read something and ask, now why did he write that? Latest example is this Opinion Journal piece by Daniel Henninger.

Mr. Henninger is worried about the internet. He thinks it might be bad for us. He's talked to some psychologists and they agree. They even have some cool sounding names for the problems.

Here's Henninger's big worry:
The power of the Web is obvious and undeniable. We diminish it at our peril. But what if the most potent social effect to spread outward from the Internet turns out to be disinhibition, the breaking down of personal restraints and the endless elevation of oneself? It may be already.

Wow! Everything was just A-OK until people started using the internet. Then we started breaking down those personal restraints that are essential to civilization.

Has Henninger ever heard of the Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, television programmers, TV and movie critics, Quentin Tarantino, Howard Stern, Arnold Worldwide advertising agency, 2Live Crew, "Sensations", Tom Leykis, Janet Jackson Madonna?

Surely he has. Yet, he is worried about the way people comment on blogs.

Another point: Several of the blogs he cites-- Wonkette, HuffPost,-- are not quite the best example of what the Internet enabled. The HuffPost is heavy with old media types, the Wonkette was started by a card-carrying member of the media guild.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"In Defense of Fallacies"

I like how XRLQ handled this: provocative and rigorous at the same time.

UPDATE: If i was ambitious today I would dig out my copy of David Hackett Fischer's Historians's Fallacies and work up a related post. One of his key points is that in the real world, we have to use adductive reasoning, which Fischer describes as the process "of adducing answers to specific questions, so that a satisfactory explanatory 'fit' is obtained."
For the record

I have serious concerns about how the Duke lacrosse scandal is being handled by the DA and the media. But i have no doubt about this: anyone who reveals her name at this time is scum. It was wrong to do it in the Kobe Bryant case. It was wrong when Sharpton's crew did it in the Central Park Jogger case. It is wrong now.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Holy Limburger Batman!

It is getting harder and harder for the actions of the Durham DA to pass the smell test.

The second "dancer" is on probation for embezzlement. She was arrested in March for parole violation. On the day that the indictments were handed up, the DA signed off on a reduction of her bond.

Now she is talking to PR firms:
"I'm worried about letting this opportunity pass me by without making the best of it and was wondering if you had any advice as to how to spin this to my advantage."
HT: Chris Lawrence who the best first stop for updates on the Duke lacrosse spectacle. His commenters are good too. #8 on this thread makes a good point about Kim Roberts "memory" of the players.
Free speech in schools

Interesting discussion at Volokh and Clayton Cramer.

It really does seem that the Ninth Circuit believes that schools can force students to be completely silent in the face of indoctrination... even on subjects where there is no consensus in the larger society.

There are a lot of unintended consequences lurking in these kind of issues.
April 21, 1836

JYB reminds us that this is the anniversary of battle of San Jacinto.

There will be a re-enactment of the battle tomorrow.
Nina Burleigh: A girl's gotta shock

Bill Clinton's favorite girl journalist wrote a piece in Salon. RightwingSparkle takes it apart here.

When she is not trying to create a sensation, Burleigh writes books. I read one and thought it was "A criminal waste of wood pulp."

RWS says "As long as I live I will never understand a woman like Nina Burleigh. I will never understand anything about her." I think that Tom Wolfe's "indignation" and Michael Kelley's "knowingness" explain a lot. Just maybe this takedown of Ruth Shalit provides some insight as well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'll second that

Irish Pennants has a suggestion for press secretary. I like his choice. I've liked his choice for a long time.
Going after Malkin

I was going to write something about the harassment of Michelle Malkin. But now i don't have to. Ace speaks for me.
Hitchens on Joe Wilson

Take that permanent smirk off your face, Ambassador (and the look of martyrdom as well, while you are at it). It seems that your contacts in the Niger Ministry of Mines—the ones that your wife told the CIA made you such a good choice for the trip—didn't rate you highly enough to tell you about the Zahawie visit. It would, interestingly, have been a name you already knew. But you didn't even get as far as having to explain it away—or not until last week—because you were that far in the dark. It was left to Italian, French, and British intelligence to discover the suggestive fact and transmit it to Washington. And it's been left to someone else, most probably in the Niger embassy in Rome, to produce a much later fabrication, either for gain or in order to discredit a true story. The forged account has no bearing at all on the authentic one: It bears the same relationship as a fake $100 bill does to a genuine bill. The rip-off remake movie, "Mr. Wilson Goes to Niger," now playing to packed houses of the credulous everywhere, has precisely the same relationship to its own original.

From Slate: Clueless Joe Wilson

See also this by Hitchens: Sorry everyone, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger.

Gee, i wonder if any of those hard-nosed journalists at ABC will ask Joe about this when they take him to dinner?

UPDATE: Transcript of recent interview with Hitchens.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What a difference a year makes

Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons made quite a stir when it was released in late 2004. In the April Atlantic Mark Bowden takes another look at the book and the critical reaction. One quote jumped out when i read it this week-end:

Reviewers with children or students (or both) the same age as those in the novel reacted defensively. The stuck up for the modern student and the quality of thought at modern universities, and found Wolfe's take on campus life to be shallow, prudish, inaccurate, and unfair. "In the course of a very long 676 pages [Wolfe] serves up the revelation-yikes-that students crave sex and beer, love to party, wear casual clothes, and use four-letter words," wrote Michiko Kakutani, whose reviews in the New York Times are routinely parroted by critics throughout the land.
That journalistic sangfroid about college life is in short supply when it comes to the Duke lacrosse case. Now, beer and parties and strippers count as evidence that the Duke players were racist gang-rapists in training. What was no big deal last year is an outrage-OUTRAGE-today. The players had parties- fire the coach, disband the team, send some of drunken louts straight to jail.

Many have noted that Wolfe's novels have a way of anticipating the headlines. Bonfire of the Vanities seemed like prophesy after Tawana Brawley: so much so that it is hard to remember that Wolfe wrote it before and not after Al Sharpton's coming out party. At Duke we find echoes of all three Wolfe novels- a point noted by many bloggers.

(But few journalists… otherwise they would be camping out on his doorstep trying to get an interview.)

I still prefer his journalism. This quote from Hooking Up might also explain part of what is going on at Duke:

From the outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseperable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down on the rest of humanity. And it did not cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: 'Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.'
On most campuses there is a permanent population of intellectuals-in-training. They search for opportunities to be outraged. When the news of the allegations broke, they seized on the issue. It was tailor-made for their purposes. They could be outraged at all the right targets. They could PROTEST.

They did not need facts; they could bang pots and pans. Due process? That was for Mumia. These were white jocks! They used up their due process just by walking around campus with their patriarchal attitudes and white skin privilege.

The protests drew the cameras. The cameras were an invitation to more protests. A perpetual motion machine fueled by restless indignation, arrogant ignorance, and lazy journalists. The perfect media storm.

The author of "Ambush at Fort Bragg" has to be loving this.

A very useful post

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Duke Lacrosse

Well the DA got his perp walk. I know that TV pressies love it; Nancy Grace was beside herself when she introduced the story on CNN HLN. But i still thing Judge David Sentelle was right when he wrote:

The perp walk would be bad enough if the humiliation of the accused were the only intended or accomplished result. However, the walk, commonly conducted at such time as to achieve maximum media exposure, is displayed not just for family and neighbors of the accused, but for every potential juror who sees the front page of the newspaper or the beginning of the evening news.
(Discussion here.)

MKH blogging at Hugh Hewitt's place was sensible:

It's important to remember that, during this month-long national story, this is the first moment any lacrosse player has been even charged with a crime, though you wouldn't know it from the way people talk. The activists in my hometown have already taken the indictments as confirmation that they were perfectly warranted in smearing and convicting these guys in the court of public opinion before their trial, and they will undoubtedly continue to do it.

But the fact is they remain innocent until, as the saying goes. They shouldn't be presumed guilty because there are racial tensions in Durham; they are not guilty because they are white and privileged and their alleged victim was black; they are not guilty because there is a "culture of sexual entitlement" in collegiate athletics; they are not guilty because they had a stripper at their party; they are not guilty because making an example of them might "raise awareness" of all these important social issues and might, just might, prevent the rape of one woman.

No, they are guilty if, and only if, they raped this girl. We will have to wait and see, but the evidence to date at least allows for some skepticism.

A William Safire column from 15 October 1973 deserves the last word:

Indictment grammar and etymology are worth studying because they metaphorically preserve truths too soon forgotten: An indictment is an accusation handed up to a high bench where a judge sits, for further adjudication. The derivations in oldest dictionaries gives us the most up-to-the minute political guidance: An indictment means "the writing of a charge", while only a verdict means "the speaking of the truth."
The local perspective on the Ryan conviction

Just compare this column by John Kass with the dry and uninformative article from the NY Times mentioned below.

George Ryan finally lost an election, this time by a 12-0 vote, and the jury that cast that vote formally on Monday did something more than convict a former Republican governor on corruption charges.

They redeemed Illinois, however briefly.

The jury might not want to think of it that way, but they did. The jurors redeemed this state by convicting Ryan and his co-defendant Larry "The Bridge to City Hall" Warner on all counts.

Just imagine if Ryan and Warner had walked, or received a wrist slap on a few tax counts. The political thugs in this state would be thumping their chests over drinks and cigars at the Chicago steakhouses, ready to send their mouthpieces out to bleat a victory hymn, to reassure witnesses in future political corruption prosecutions to keep their mouths shut and stay strong.

But the jury got in the way of that
Countdown-Where Olbie proves Stanley Baldwin right

So Keith Olbermann thinks Michelle Malkin is the worst person in the world because she reprinted parts of a press release sent out by some anti-war protesters.

I wonder if the smug former sports-reader has seen the email Malkin has received during the controversy? Does he worry that he added fuel to the fire?

British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said of the press: "[they seek] "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages. "

Olbie's nonchalance might make him look cool in the eyes of the Kos Kids, but it reveals that he has the soul of a whore.

UPDATE: Here's what the Chancellor, and Campus Provost of UCSC had to say about those poor abused protesters:
On April 11, at the UC Santa Cruz Career Fair, a small group of individuals violated the principles they claimed to embrace – those of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. In using threatening and aggressive tactics to prevent interested students from contacting military recruiters, these protesters infringed on the rights of others and acted with intimidation, intolerance and disrespect. Many did so with their faces covered, unwilling to take public responsibility for their actions.
No wonder they are angry at Malkin for shining a little daylight on them.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ryan Convicted

When Gov. George Ryan commuted all the death sentences for those on Illinois's Death Row, some wondered if it was a desperate bid by a corrupt politician to grab a little glory. Based on this New York Times story, they were right to wonder.

Ex-Governor of Illinois Is Convicted on All Charges

CHICAGO, April 17 — George Ryan, the former governor of Illinois who drew international notice by emptying his state's death row, was convicted today of all charges brought against him in a sweeping federal corruption case

So, he was corrupt, after all, but they still work his opposition to the death penalty into the lede.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wonder if they will do a story on Bill Hobbs

The New York Times ran a a piece on 4-9-06 on the terrible injustice done to John Green the executive producer for the week-end GMA. (It's now behind the subscription wall). He was the guy whose anti-Bush and anti-Albright emails got leaked to Drudge and cost him a one month suspension.

Note who they framed as the bad guys:

The punishment has sparked a discussion within media circles about the proper limits of newsroom repartee and the meaning of objectivity in a polarized and electronically connected environment. Although Mr. Green's private riffs were bipartisan in nature and do not appear to have leeched into news coverage, they come at a time when the mainstream media — whipsawed by a smattering of high-profile misdeeds and an aggressive gotcha police among bloggers and advocacy groups — are striving mightily to appear impartial above all.
Anyone want ot take bets on when the article will appear on the Bill Hobbs outrage? Or is it different when a "newspaper" targets a blogger for political reasons and costs him his job?

More on Hobbs here.
They did not know how right they were

The American Spectator has an article on the Communists attempts to spy on John Paul II. One line cannot help but bring a smile:

The secret police classified Bishop Wojtyla as "an extremely dangerous ideological enemy."

That he was. Extremely dangerous. Wonder how they like their dust heap?
The kids are far from okay

From Critical Mass:

Undergraduates don't become prideful out of nowhere. Arrogance and self-absorption are carefully cultivated in them from their early years by a culture that increasingly mistakes confidence for ability and that increasingly charges schools with making sure kids feel good about themselves--even when it comes at the expense of learning. Learning, in turn, is increasingly feared as something that could be devastatingly difficult. Better to be proud and ignorant than humble and educated--or so the implicit logic goes.
RTWT. (HT: Photon Courier)

Related: Getting Hip to Squareness

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Duke Lacrosse

This FindLaw article addresses the DNA issues in the case. It makes a pretty compelling case that "no match" means "no crime" given the circumstances that are alleged.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Scott Chaffin relays some good news

So if I understand this correctly, the spiritual home of country and western music is rejecting, with great vigor, clear into the tenth row, the crap that Trashville is flushing our way. That’s unfortunate and all I can say is



This was from the article:
The Southwest, if you’re not George Strait, is absolutely the hardest place to start any record, whether it’s an established act or a new artist,says Gator Michaels, senior VP of promotion at Warner Bros. Nashville, home of Faith Hill.”
He says that like it's a bad thing. As if everyone should be racing to get the latest dreck from Kenny Chesney. No one needs bad music just because its new.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Presence of the absence

So i went over to Buzz Machine to see his take on the South Park controversy. I figured any one who went to the mat for Howard Stern and Janet Jackson's nipple had to have an opinion-- maybe a fiery call for artistic freedom or a slapdown of Viacom's blindness or cowardice. Something for sure. Because Jeff Jarvis believes in free expression and is opposed to censorship and mob rule.

What i found was:

Page Six Scandal

Kaus calls this opinion journal op-ed "infuriatingly self-righteous":

Yellow Peril
Kaus is right but it is more than that. It is willfully and falsely naïve. The author pretends that Page Six (i.e. Rupert Murdoch) plays by a different set of rules than the "respectable media." Burkle quotes with approval from the New York Times:

"Keeping a list of reliable sources, of course, means having a list of people who need to be protected somewhat. Those who cooperate--called 'friends of the column,' according to people who work with and at Page Six--are rewarded; those who fight back are punished."
Oh, the horrors of tabloid journalism. But Page Six is operating just like Sy Hersh does. Here's an excerpt from a profile that describes how Sy worked at THE NEW YORK TIMES:

In those years, much attention was focused on Hersh's personality and reporting techniques. One of his editors at the Washington bureau, Robert Phelps, recently recalled, with wry disbelief, the kinds of messages that Hersh would leave. "He would call people and he'd say 'I'm Seymour Hersh, I'm doing a story on this . . . If he doesn't call me, I will get his ass.' They'd call back."

This post looks at how Hersh got the Abu Ghraib photos. Here is Hersh and the New York Times conspiring with John Dean during Watergate.

So tell me again: How is Page Six different than the New York Times or the New Yorker?


On leaks, bias and truth

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Motivating employees

Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation

Most companies have it all wrong. They don't have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them.

The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees' morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward. That finding is based on surveys of about 1.2 million employees at 52 primarily Fortune 1000 companies from 2001 through 2004, conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence (Purchase, New York).

The fault lies squarely at the feet of management—both the policies and procedures companies employ in managing their workforces and in the relationships that individual managers establish with their direct reports

See commentary at:

Management Craft


Random Thoughts from a CTO

My $.02: I have a minor quibble with Rob on this one point--
Motivation is a two way street. The way to look at it isn't to discuss why you are or aren't motivated. The way to look at it is to realize how helpful motivation is to success and then figure out how to get motivated. Building up your own discipline and your own personal internal demand for excellence will get you much farther in life than whining about your work situation.

All that is true, but i think he overlooks other possibilities. "Don't whine" is right. But maybe the right thing to get motivated about is finding a better boss or company.

Max DePree wrote that the best employees of a company are essentially volunteers; they can find a good job elsewhere. When a manager or corporate system demotivates the best employees, they lose them. The intrinsically unmotivated (if they exist) are the ones who stick around and whine.
The elephant in the media living room

The Durham DA appears resolute in the Duke lacrosse case. His DNA dragnet came up empty, but he still maintains that someone at the team party raped the accuser. Time (and maybe the trial) will tell if he has the evidence to support that belief.

The media—those cynical, fearless seekers of truth—display a fascinating naivety about the political aspects of the case. The DA is, after all, in a tough primary fight. Whatever else he is, he is also a politician.

On any other issue the media analysis is heavy with political calculus. They are quick to ascribe self-serving motives to every vote and utterance when it comes to senators, congressmen, governors and presidents. They drop that mode of thought when it comes to prosecutors. That, apparently, is the one office whose occupant is immune to politics. Even when they are running for re-election. Even when they have ambitions to be a congressman or senator or mayor.

This post does not share the MSM’s squeamishness:

District Attorney Mike Nifong is Selling Scandal for Votes

UPDATE:4-12-06. From Betsy's Page:

There is something really hideous about a District Attorney, before he has even charged anyone to be responding to community pressure in such a way. It is appalling to think that some people will be arrested and charged because a DA has a tough primary election coming up. We'd have some more confidence in the objectivity of his investigation if he weren't getting his face all over the TV as soon as the charges hit the media.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

John Leo

has smart and level-headed things to say about the Judas "gospel" and the Duke lacrosse team.
He's the man

After slogging through that paragraph, one begins to understand [Jeff] Jarvis's fondness for machine readers. He writes prose that only a search engine could love.

OK, there are better reasons to read Nicholas Carr than his ability to take down a smug little know-nothing. But anyone interested in technology and business should be reading him.

This is a great article

How Knowledge Helps

"Knowledge is Good." So read the motto of the mythical Faber College in the 1978 movie, Animal House. Those of use who work in education would agree, even if we were unable to express ourselves so eloquently. But why, exactly, is knowledge good? When I've discussed this question with teachers, many have used the metaphor "It's grist for the mill." That is, the goal of education is seen not so much as the accumulation of knowledge, but as the honing of cognitive skills such as thinking critically. Knowledge comes into play mainly because if we want our students to learn how to think critically, they must have something to think about.

It's true that knowledge gives students something to think about, but a reading of the research literature from cognitive science shows that knowledge does much more than just help students hone their thinking skills: It actually makes learning easier. Knowledge is not only cumulative, it grows exponentially. Those with a rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more-the rich get richer. In addition, factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning. The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively these cognitive processes-the very ones that teachers target-operate. So, the more knowledge students accumulate, the smarter they become. We'll begin by exploring how knowledge brings more knowledge and then turn to how knowledge improves the quality and speed of thinking

This passage helps to explain why group problem-solving is so ineffective and why group brainstorming does not work.

A considerable body of research shows that people get better at drawing analogies as they gain experience in a domain. Whereas novices focus on the surface features of a problem, those with more knowledge focus on the underlying structure of a problem. For example, in a classic experiment Michelene Chi and her colleagues (Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser, 1981) asked physics novices and experts to sort physics problems into categories. The novices sorted by the surface features of a problem-whether the problem described springs, an inclined plane, and so on. The experts, however, sorted the problems based on the physical law needed to solve it (e.g., conservation of energy). Experts don't just know more than novices-they actually see problems differently. For many problems, the expert does not need to reason, but rather, can rely on memory of prior solutions.

This also clarifies why Knowledge Management initiatives seem fated to disappoint or doomed to fail. They are chasing a chimera. At their core they seek to separate human knowledge from the human mind.

As the article spells out, knowledge is more than discrete bits of information stored in the brain. It is much more complex than that: Experts are more than people with big mental warehouses. Bits and digital warehouses, however, are the only model Knowledge Management as to offer. The industry is inextricably tied to hardware, programs and systems.

RELATED (really, they are despite the titles) :
More on quitting generals

A general-in-chief cannot exonerate himself from responsibility for his faults by pleading an order of his sovereign or the minister, when the individual from whom it proceeds is at a distance from the field of operations, and but partially, or not at all, acquainted with the actual condition of things. Hence it follows that every general-in-chief who undertakes to execute a plan which he knows to be bad, is culpable. He should communicate his reasons, insist on a change of plan and finally resign his commission rather than become the instrument of his army's ruin.
He beat me to it

See the Confederate Yankee on Ellen Goodman and the Duke lacrosse team.
We support the troops when they support OUR politicians

This attack is a foul piece of work. It is one thing to disagree with Lt. Gen Greg Newbold. It is another to label him a quitter, a loser, and a disgrace because he disagrees with George Bush.

This example is marvelous:

Not every Lt. General gets paid to think about Geo-politics, the broader GWOT, or why Iraq needed to be confronted and why in the end, it will prove smart. No, that is actually often above even a Lt. General's pay grade, Mr. Newbold. The way our government works, those are ultimately civilian decisions, Mr. Newbold, do you by chance wish it wasn't so?

Marine generals are supposed to shut up, but I guess it is OK for bloggers to opine. Even bloggers who built their traffic by flogging the Natalie Holloway story.

Contrary to the impression Riehl creates, Newbold does not propose quitting in Iraq.
And while I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view--at the moment--is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists' message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts.

Moreover, Newbold also raises some points that hawks need to answer.

Former Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, when challenged to offer his professional opinion during prewar congressional testimony, suggested that more troops might be needed for the invasion's aftermath. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense castigated him in public and marginalized him in his remaining months in his post.
Question: Since Shinseki was clearly right and the DSD was wrong, why was Wolfie rewarded with that plumb job at the World Bank? Does this administration prize loyalty more than competence?

Question: Rummy and his aides were successful in squelching the doubters in the pre-war debates. Is that happening now?

Marine Commandant General Mike Hagee steadfastly challenged plans to underfund, understaff and underequip his service as the Corps has struggled to sustain its fighting capability.

Question: Do warbloggers care about this? If it is true, it makes a mockery of the idea that the Bush Administration is giving the troops all the support they need. That seems like an important issue Newbold raised. Something bloggers might want to investigate. But I guess it is just easier to write another post bashing Cindy Sheehan.

Sometimes I understand Matt Welch's frustration.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Sondaggi Elezion
Exit Poll
“Air Force One”
“Yes He Would”
“Jade Seah”
Carnival of the Capitalists

The latest edition is up at the Business Opportunities Weblog.
Org DNA Profiler

Neat little survey here. It was surprisingly accurate when i took it. YMMV.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Nice Geraghty, good doggie

Last year, i said of Jim Geraghty when he appeared on PBS to discuss blogging:
Geraghty on the News Hour was like some yappy pomeranian trying to show a rottweiler that he meant no harm.
Nice to see it worked out for him. At least for a week he gets to blog at the CBS blog. And he still has less fight than a six pound Yorkie.

See also here:

Why i called Geraghty a lap dog
Ellen Goodman still has a column?

Who knew?

One of the nice things about the "new morning paper" is that you don't have to settle for pedestrian, predictable hacks like her.

I like the logic of this column. Because some bloggers said horrible things about Jill Carrol. The whole blogosphere should be ashamed.

Two years later, we have -- ready, fire, aim -- the Jill Carroll affair. These attacks raise the question of what bloggery is going to be when it grows up. An Internet op-ed page? Or a polarized, talk-radio food fight?
By her logic, i could describe print journalists as a cynical pack of liars, charlatans, and scam artists. After all, look at the newspapers with the biggest readership-- The Star, The National Enquirerer, News of the World.

It's also nice how she fails to name the bloggers who specifically cautioned against reading too much into Jill Carroll's interviews before we had the whole story. Or the vast number who said nothing at all.

Which brings up another point. Why did not the MSM highlight the fact that the interviews were suspect? Why, come do think of it, were they so eager to run terrorist propaganda?

The bloggers who attacked Carroll should have known better. On the other hand, the professional media did not provide the critical context when they ran parts of the interview over and over.

And Ellen Goodman thinks the blogger kettle is black?

UPDATE: Compare the way the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) handles its border with bloggers compared to the Washington Post. On the Globes page, you see only the Globe-approved opinion. At the Post, OTOH, you can also see the blogs that react to the story.

Which paper has more respect for their readers, more confidence in their writers, and a better understanding of the changes in "expanation space"?
Listen up!

School is in session and Ace is teaching.

After reading his reviews of Brick, i definitely want to see it.

But let's be accurate here. Hammett did not invent the hard-boiled detective. Before the Continental Op or Sam Spade, there was Race Williams. Which makes it even more clear that the hard-boiled detective story is not a sub-genre of film noir. The HBD came first and existed as a literary type long before movies could talk.

BTW: I once used the Chandler quote ("But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean" as the centerpiece on of an article on re-engineering. It acutally was published in a peer-reviewed journal.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

I hate it when people pull their punches

Jack Sparks on Kenny Chesney:

Johnny Cash couldn't stand you, Waylon Jennings couldn't stand you, Merle Haggard can't stand you and EmmyLou Harris can't stand you. If your only validity is record sales, and arenas full of a fraudulently co-opted demographic, it's a very hollow victory indeed my boy.

And while we're at it, Waylon couldn't stand your buddies at K102 either. Read what he said again...PAYOLA...I live for quotations like that. So while you're all backstage at the Xcel this weekend, eating catered chicken with mixed vegetables, patting yourselves on the back for your "Country Success," realize that the price of your success is an absolute and documented lack of validity with all of the strongest, wisest, and most authoritative persons in the genre

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Matt Welch loses hope

Farewell to Warblogging

But as I look back at December 2001, and prepare to hang up the blogging fun of Reason's Hit & Run for the stodgier print pages of the L.A. Times, I can't shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they'd previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn't predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.

He was one of the first bloggers I started reading after 9/11. I even pulled for the Angels in the Series because he was a fan.

Welch is a libertarian and does not like the Culture War battles. I can understand that. What I don't understand is why he made Reynolds such a target. Malkin is conservative, Hewitt is a Republican apologist, Willis seethes with Bush-hatred 24/7. But Instapundit is usually with Welch on the social issues. So why the venom?

Has Welch fallen into his own partisan trap? Does he feel the need to bash the targets of partisans whether they deserve it or not?

The subhead for the article reads:
I used to think blogs would transform ideologues into nonpartisan truth-seekers.
Man, was I wrong
If that is true, Matt Welch was naïve. If it has taken him this long to wise up then he is a slow learner. The writing was on the wall a long time ago.

When Instapundit speaks

In fact, I think the promise of the blogosphere suffered its first serious set back when so many bloggers joined Sullivan's campaign against Howell Raines and slimed Rick Bragg as a means to that end.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

TV News: Ripping away the curtain

Jonah Goldberg:

Now, as a free-market guy, I have no huge ideological problem with this. Executives at CBS have apparently concluded that they can sell more soap by having Ms. Couric read the news. What bothers me is all the reverence the rest of the media has for the people at the top of their profession and, worse, the grand fiction that there is a high wall between entertainment and news.
Three quick points:

1. Do media writers take TV new seriously because they think it is real news? Or do they think (despite the crashing ratings) that the yahoos in Hicksville still take it seriously.

2. How does a media critic talk about the importance "professional journalistic standards" with a straight face and then include pretty, perky, tanned, and blow-dried newsreaders in the club?

3. Is it possible TV news gets a pass because it is a reliable passive conduit that pushes Manhattan "news judgment" into 20 million homes in the hinterlands? In essence, CBS News is allied with and helps extends the reach of the New York Times in the battle for "explanation space."

OK, four points. Goldberg writes:
Ms. Vieira's official bio touts up front that she won a Daytime Emmy as a game-show host and buries the fact she won five real Emmys for her work as a 60 Minutes reporter.
How does she qualify as a reporter? Haven't we established that the real reporting at "60 Minutes" is dones by producers like Mary Mapes?

Five: Rebecca Dana is all over the Katie Couric story like a real reporter.
Too soon?

I'll admit, i don't understand the "too soon" controversy around the Flight 93 movie. Five years after Pearl Harbor we were occupying Tokyo and Berlin.

Texans did not wait a generation to "Remember the Alamo." They started at San Jacinto. More telling, Hollywood came out with Wake Island a year after the real battle of Wake Island.

Memories fade. People move on. If we don't honor the heroes of Flight 93 now, are we sure Hollywood will do it in 2016?

After all, how many people remember Wake Island? In 1942 it was a rallying cry alongside "Remember Pearl Harbor". But thiry years afterward it was all but forgotten. Is that what we want to happen with 9/11?

Actually, we don't have to forget Wake Island either. Some people still care:

The aged man appeared to be in his early eighties, but graying and frail were not the first words you would use to describe him. The bounce in his step was still there, and energy shone in his eyes, carrying more than a hint of what a force he once was.
He stood amidst the large gathering of naval and Marine officers, relaxing after a long day's schedule of reunion meetings. They sipped coffee and told tales of their service histories.

"Suddenly, someone spotted him, and in a deep voice barked out above the din, "Attention! Wake Island Marine on deck!"

"Everyone stopped talking," said a naval officer who witnessed the incident. "We stood at attention, faced the Marine, and saluted. Those guys are legendary in the Navy and Marines for what they did, and whenever one is around, you pay him the highest respect."

No wonder, sixty years ago, the old man was one of a tiny band of Marines who staged one of history's most dramatic battles..... that rank with those of the Spartans at Thermopylae, with the British who fought thousands of Zulu at Rorke's Drift in 1879, and with the Texans at the Alamo
From Pacific Alamo by John Wukovits.

Back to Flight 93. I worry that "too soon" will gradually fade into "old news". In 2010 or 2015 it will be just a dim memory. Or worse. As the memory and outrage fades, the historical image of United 93 might be dominated by the conspiracy nuts. Heroes will be reduced to victims killed by their own government.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Exit the Hammer

Tom DeLay is leaving Congress. Bush will miss him. As majority whip and then majority leader he did an amazing job in the House. Even with razor-thin margins, he managed to push through most of the Bush program and kept the restive Republican caucus united.

In 2004 he helped save Bush from himself. When the president announced that he would sign an extension of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban if it passed Congress, he put his re-election in jeopardy. Gun rights voters felt betrayed. DeLay simply let it be known that the AWB was never going to pass the House and the issue went away. GWB was spared a fight with the NRA during his tight re-election fight.

The GOP has had a twelve year run in the majority. Amazing, really, when you remember that they controlled the House for only 4 years between 1932 and 1994. DeLay was a big part of that success. He lasted longer than Gingrich and Lott and has been more effective than Frist over in the Senate. No wonder liberals are ecstatic at his retirement.

DeLay the Hammer because he set out to shatter the underpinnings of the Democratic ascendancy-what Michael Barone called the "House that Phil built". Barone described it well in his Almanac of American Politics, 1996:

To maintain the overall Democratic majority in the House, Burton relied not on the popularity of his issues, about which he entertained no illusions, but on institutional advantages such as redistricting and teaching talented young candidates with superior skills to hold otherwise Republican-leaning seats; he encouraged Democrats to rely on the perquisites of office and pork barrel projects.

Democrats continued to win majorities in every election. They ignored Republicans, routinely used the rules to prevent direct votes on issues on which their stands were unpopular, maintained caucus solidarity and, under the leadership of Tony Coelho in the 1980s, bludgeoned business PACs into contributing to marginal Democrats and not contributing to Republican challengers.

One point that Barone did not mention, was that the House of Phil Burton was also sustained by docile Republicans who accepted their minority status and the way it was maintained. Gingrich and DeLay refused to do that. DeLay, in particular, went after the business PACs and their contributions. Lobbyists could no longer fund their opponents and expect the Republicans to support their cause out of "free market" solidarity. Now Republican challengers to marginal Democrats did not face an insurmountable fund-raising challenge.

It was necessary work that DeLay undertook. Important for the cause and the party. But it is also dirty work at the margins and that proved his undoing. The Abramoff scandal proved an unending embarrassment and burden. Now it has forced him from office.

I just hope he writes a frank memoir of his time in politics. He was in the middle of everything for fifteen years. He has important stories to tell.

Christina Hoff Sommers opens her review of Manliness with a telling bit of dusty history:
ONE OF THE LEAST VISITED memorials in Washington is a waterfront statue commemorating the men who died on the Titanic. Seventy-four percent of the women passengers survived the April 15, 1912, calamity, while 80 percent of the men perished. Why? Because the men followed the principle "women and children first."

The monument, an 18-foot granite male figure with arms outstretched to the side, was erected by "the women of America" in 1931 to show their gratitude. The inscription reads: "To the brave men who perished in the wreck of the Titanic. . . . They gave their lives that women and children might be saved."

Today, almost no one remembers those men. Women no longer bring flowers to the statue on April 15 to honor their chivalry. The idea of male gallantry makes many women nervous, suggesting (as it does) that women require special protection. It implies the sexes are objectively different. It tells us that some things are best left to men. Gallantry is a virtue that dare not speak its name

This used to be the dominant image of the Titanic and the A Night to Remember : cool bravery and self-sacrifice. Today, I'm not so sure.

Hollywood reworked the story in its own inimitable way and puked up a junior high romance coated with class-war pretensions. I guess that is further evidence to support Sommers and Mansfield's point.

Before the Titanic there was the HMS Birkenhead. It, too, is a story that deserves to be remembered. As this site notes, the wreck of the Birkenhead and its aftermath grabbed the world's attention and made "women and children first" the established protocol for maritime disasters.

The soldiers and sailors on board became exemplars of manliness. The King of Prussia had an account of the Birkenhead "read aloud to every regiment in the Prussian Army, as an example of supreme discipline, courage and self-sacrifice"

Kipling referenced it his poem "Soldier an' Sailor Too":

But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill
is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An' they done it, the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies --
soldier an' sailor too

It is easy to understand why the Victorians were awe-struck:

Capt Salmond climbed the rigging and urged all who could swim to abandon ship. But Lt-Col Seton, his sword still drawn, raised his hands above his head and told his men, "You will swamp the cutter containing the women and children. I implore you not to do this thing and I ask you all to stand fast". Seconds later the Birkenhead broke her back, not a man disobeyed Lt-Col Seton's orders and they shook hands and said goodbye as the water closed in over their heads.

Today the Leo DiCaprio version of the Titanic dominates the popular imagination. The older, historical version is not dead, however. Conservative Christian writers still see useful lessons in the events of April 15, 1912. This writer also remembers the Birkenhead.

The chasm between these two versions is more than academic. When an air-head like Nancy Grace interrogates a theologian on men, marriage, women and ministry, she sees and hears only power, patriarchy, and oppression. When she hears "submission" her sleaze-soaked brain can only picture BDSM and wife-beaters. She is deaf to the counter-point-the call for male self-sacrifice and masculine heroism as a virtue. That sounds like bull to her because she only knows Kate, Leo, and the awful rich fiancé. The real Titanic and the Birkenhead are lost to her.