Saturday, March 31, 2007

12 Angry Men revisited

The American Thinker has an outstanding consideration of Sidney Lumet’s famous movie. As he says, it is agitprop, but it is also “it's also a terrific film, full ofgreat dialogue, drama, intensity, and superb acting, so tightly produced that there is not a moment or shot wasted.”

Margolies Sees 12 Angry Men as “a precusor and contributor to liberal reforms of court procedure that transformed the justice system in the 1960s and beyond, accompanied by a vast increase in violent crime rates.” What struck me, however, is how the dishonest methods he criticizes in the movie now permeate our criminal justice system and the tabloid media.

For instance, he does not like how Henry Fonda handled the evidence:
Fonda was not saying the boy didn't stab his father, but it's possible he didn't. Fonda was not saying the woman didn't see the boy stab his father, but it's possible she really didn't. Fonda was not saying the old man didn't hear the boy shout "I'll kill you" to his father and then see him running down the stairs, but it's possible he was mistaken or lying. Fonda's juror # 8 no doubt could have said with similar ease, "I'm not saying it wasn't Islamic terrorists who plowed two planes into the WTC, but it's possible." With jurors like Fonda, forget DNA, just open up the prison doors and let everybody out.

There were plenty of echoes of Fonda’s methods in the defense of DA Nifong in the Duke lacrosse case. For months a cadre of ex-prosecutors like Georgia Goslee and Wendy Murphy made the same sort of suggestion as the evidence of innocence piled up.

“It’s possible they wore condoms.”

“It’s possible she was given a date rape drug.”

“It’s possible the cab driver was paid off.”

“It’s possible the lawyers lied in their motions.”

“It’s possible the nurse did not notice her injuries.”

“It’s possible that one of the lax players has flipped and cut a deal.”

“It’s possible the DA has held back his best evidence.”

Yadda yadda yadda.

Nancy Grace and Bill O’Reilly are determined to make us a nation of angry men and women. They paint a picture of America where children are under siege and homicidal predators lurk behind every tree. Judges and lawyers conspire to protect evil-doers while innocent kids suffer.

Grace, of course, boasts of being an ex-prosecutor. BO’R is happy to give a platform to Murphy and Goslee. None of them care that the facts contradict their picture. Would Margolies call what they do agitprop?

Friday, March 30, 2007

OK, Joe Theismann deserved to get fired

How can he put Dallas and Baltimore on this list? Dallas has a great history but the last several years have not been kind.

Baltimore has neither a great history nor an outstanding recent record. One playoff appearance in the last three years. No play-off wins in the period.

New England is clearly number one. Denver and Indy belong on the list. The Steelers have a claim to be number 2 (them or Indy, flip a coin). Then the Eagles or Seatle. I can't think of any other teams that have been consistently good over the last three or five years. Surely that is the mark of a good organization.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why did Robert Lipsyte become a sportwriter?

It’s a strange career choice for someone with deep-seated issues about athletes.

College basketball coaches tend to be big guys with the confident patter of televangelists; just the kind of mouthy jocks who were allowed to dominate the dorks in high school because their personal goals, winning games to advance their careers, complemented the principal's goal, putting the school on the happy map.
The rest of his article is a screed against college basketball. Good points are mixed with laughable posturing. Logic is in short supply.

Bobby Knight is a “bully” and a “symptom” of the problem in college ball even though “his players actually graduated at far higher rates than the national average for big-time athletes and few of them complained about their treatment.”

Lipsyte tosses the R-word around freely which further illustrates that for many liberals “racism” has become a synonym for “stuff I don’t like.”

Fuzzy features or exposés or straight game detail are okay, but you can't weave the systemic corruption, commercialization, and racism into every story--and yet once you stop the stories aren't true anymore. How many times can you write that 56 percent of varsity basketball players are black compared to 7 percent of the student bodies of the schools they represent? Those numbers are from the last time I wrote it, in the early 1990s. Watching games now, I often see eight black players on the floor being cheered by a sea of white (often painted) faces.
He sees that as evidence of systemic racism. Yet, if white fans demanded white players, that, too, would be racist. Not long ago the sports scribblers were ga-ga over the movie “Glory Road”. The victory of an all black team from a mostly white school was claimed as a great milestone in civil rights. Today, according to Lipsyte, such teams are racist. Like I said, logic is in short supply.

Lipsyte has a good point about the exploitation of athletes but his analysis is colored by a Marxian view of commerce. He acts as though college arenas are filled solely because of the players. He dreams of a time that the Masses rise and get their fair share.

That seemed like an invitation to tell him my longtime Final Four fantasy: Just before the title game, the opposing captains demand $50,000 per player from the TV producer. No cash, no game.
Nice thought. Doubt if it will work. For one thing, most of the players would have to go along. Why would a superstar waste his shot on a national stage for a measly $50,000? He will make many times that when he turns pro. Why would the less talented toss away a shot at glory for $50,000? It’s not a life-changing amount of money.

Lipsyte writes as though college arenas are filled solely because of the players. He completely ignores the relationship between fan interest and institutional loyalties. Cameron Arena is filled because it is Duke basketball not just winning basketball. You could take the top 20 players out of the ACC and have them form the Great Ballers Collective. They could tour the Carolinas and display their awesome talent. They would be lucky to fill high school gyms and clear gas money from the gate. Meanwhile, Duke and North Carolina would still play in front of sold out houses.

He also has a weird grasp of the dynamics on college campuses.

No matter who you think causes the problems here--fans, players, boosters, coaches, presidents, or shoe salespeople -- the only group that could begin to solve them are the faculty of the schools in question, at once victims and accomplices when it comes to sports. They are intimidated by the jock bullies, easily bought off by them, and protective of their own little campus deals--why risk blowing the whistle on the altered or eased grades of athletes when someone could knock off your summer-in-Prague Kafka scam?
(Again with the mean athlete thing, what exactly is his problem?)

Lipsyte worries that student-athletes are not real students. Somehow, he expects that the faculty will want to change that for the benefit of the players. The behavior of the Duke’s Gang of 88 makes me wonder. The lacrosse team was made up of accomplished athletes and good students. Many on the faculty have used Nifong’s frame up as an excuse to de-emphasize athletics at Duke. Their main concern is not with athletes who are poor students; they have a problem with good students who are also good athletes.

I suspect that Lipsyte does, too. All his false piety about the exploitation of big time college sports sounds like a convenient way to get back at the jocks who traumatized him high school.

The New York Times actually gave this guy a sports column. I can only imagine what the water cooler chatter was like when he and Selena Roberts got going.
Important article

Terrorists Targeting Students: The Kids are not alright

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Duke lacrosse: Columnist's silence is sickening

John in Carolina looks at Ruth Sheehan and her role in starting this witch hunt.
Sheehan's opportunity

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Shoot! They fired the wrong guy

Theismann blindsided by ESPN

The last thing Joe Theismann expected when he showed up for a meeting Friday in New York was that it would be his final one as a "Monday Night Football" analyst.
Why, oh why, did they keep Kornheiser?
A sad commentary on out junk food pop culture

Real genius loses out to celebrities

If John Backus had been a buxom model who married an old guy, or if he had been a cartoon, would you know of him?

Or, put another way, if Anna Nicole Smith had invented the Fortran computer programming language, would her death have been widespread news?

I resisted weighing in after Smith died last month. It seemed pointless to add to the ceaseless coverage of her sad life. But Backus died recently, and I got to thinking why I knew details about Smith but knew little of the computer genius who changed our lives
Important read

A President All Alone

With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress -- not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.

See also:
GWB and his MBA redux

Monday, March 26, 2007

Jim Webb's gun

Hypocrisy is bi-partisan.

No. Not Senator Webb.

Remember how right-wingers excoriated the Gang of 88 and the New York Times for presuming guilt in the Duke lacrosse case? Remember how we criticized the rush to judgement? Remember when we were opposed to scoring political points based on an incomplete investigation?

Yeah. I remember, too. So why can't they?
Newsbusters on Selena Roberts

NY Times Sports Columnist Slurs Innocent Duke Lacrosse Players, Again
Fighting the revisionists: The Swift Boaters

On Reliable Sources this weekend, Jeff Jarvis referred to the Swift Boaters as "obnoxious." It was just an aside and so he did not have to explain what he meant or offer any evidence.

This attitude is becoming the conventional wisdom within the MSM. The Swifties were bad. End of story.

In light of that, this post is a useful refresher.
Swift Boating the Swift Boaters
Anger chic

Good George Will column:

Anger Is All The Rage
HT: Betsy's Page

As usual Tom Wolfe had something interesting to say on the subject:
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.'

That helps to explain why people are willing to rant, but why is there an "appreciative audience" for such displays?

Is it that they make for better television and more quotable punditry? How large is that appreciative audience, anyway? Is this another case where the margins get the attention while the middle is ignored?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More "fake but accurate" journalism

I'm shocked to see that it is from the New York Times. Sara Corbett and Selena Roberts, birds of a feather. Always ready to choose the useful lie over the inconvenient fact.
Say it ain't so!

You mean to tell me that the Chinese character for "crisis" is not written by combining the symbols for "danger" and "opportunity"?

Shoot, i've liked that bit ever since i read it in Kissinger's memoirs. I've even been known to repeat it. Now, i find out that it is just another one of those myths and lies that float around in the culture. I'm going to miss this one.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Duke lacrosse: Bigots with big vocabularies

From the very beginning of the case there were those who tried to use the events in Durham in the same way that racist websites use crimes committed by minorities. Both use sensational headlines to drive home their ideological point.

When neo-nazis use the "Wichita Massacre" to promote their racist views, thinking people recognize their flawed logic. Paula Zahn does not give them a respectful hearing on her show. Yet those who used the lacrosse case to underline the evils of "white skin privilege" and the "misogynistic attitudes of the patriarchy" were sought out as commentators in the early days of the Duke case.

How can the same method be despicable in one case and perfectly respectable in another?

D. W. Griffith's lurid depictions of black rapacity in "Birth of a Nation" is a permanent stain on his reputation as a filmmaker. Wendy Murphy's lurid fictions have not kept her off TV.

At Duke, a criminal investigation became the launching pad for hundreds of sociological animadversions. That was apparently A-OK. The New York Times was happy to let Selena Roberts weigh in. Dahlia Lithwick in Slate fretted that "the Duke lacrosse team's rape scandal cuts too deeply into this country's most tender places: race and class and gender "but she seemed to accept that the punditry on those issues was as valid as the criminal investigation.

Apparently, though, you need a special decoder ring to play the pundit game. Back in 1995 Newt Gingrich tried his hand at extrapolating from specific crimes to sociological generalizations. His musings generated howls of outrage.

At least Gingrich was discussing a real crime and the actual criminals. With the lacrosse case a torrent of words poured forth about the deeper societal meaning of events that never happened. Then, like a snake swallowing its tail, the hoax enablers used these sweeping conclusions about privilege, widespread racism, and endemic sexism to attack those who questioned the hoax.

Andrew Cohen of the Washington Post, for example, dismissed the evidence of innocence last year and maintained that Nifong still had a strong case. Why did anyone think otherwise? They were bigots, of course:
I suspect race and money and access to the media have a lot to do with it. I have often wondered how media coverage might be different -- how the cynical, skeptical skew would turn -- if the alleged victim in the case were white and the alleged defendants black.
Cohen's piece was a prime example of the totalitarian echoes that sounded throughout the commentary on the case. The accused were excoriated for who they were-white, male, privileged. Those who brought up inconvenient facts about DNA or alibis were quickly accused of being rape apologists, paid mouthpieces, or racists.

UPDATE: Selena Roberts just does not know when to fold. She helps make my point with her latest pathetic and hateful column on the Duke case.
There is a tendency to conflate the alleged crime at the Duke lacrosse team kegger on March 13, 2006, with the irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night.
"Irrefutable"? More like systematically refuted. Each point of her litany grew out of the lurid reports in the early days of the hoax. Subsequent investigations have shown that they were wildly off the mark. Yet, here she is, still trying to sell the same old snake oil.

Hey, i wonder if i can blame her problems with the truth on the "culture of dishonesty" the prevails at the NY Times? Seems to me that there is more evidence of that (Jayson Blair, Walter Duranty) than there is against the lax team.

See also:
From the cone of silence to Emily Litella

That Ace is a really smart guy

Incidentally, it's this habit of Sullivan's -- eternally engaging in a "philosophical inquiry" that seems to be little more than a childish attempt to discover "objective rules" that favor him over his opponents -- that makes his thinking so muddied, and made his book sell so poorly.

And that's the real reason The Corner and, yeah, even Instapundit are so reluctant to toss Andrew Sullivan links. No matter what the ostensible subject, he never seems to be discussing anything except Andrew Sullivan

Here's hoping

If only all American Idol fans would starve themselves to death. The average IQ of the world would go up by at least 25 points.

From Jessica's Well

HT: Scott Chaffin

I've never watched AI, but i am now intrigued by the whole "vote for the worst" effort. I wonder if they can pull it off.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Novak on the Plame hearings

Novak's column on the Plame hearings is outstanding.

Was She Covert?
He raises issues that the White House could have made three years ago:

Waxman and Democratic colleagues did not ask these pertinent questions: Had not Plame been outed years ago by a Soviet agent? Was she not on an administrative, not operational, track at Langley? How could she be covert if, in public view, she drove to work each day at Langley? What about comments to me by then CIA spokesman Bill Harlow that Plame never would be given another foreign assignment? What about testimony to the FBI that her CIA employment was common knowledge in Washington?

But more to the point there is this, which highlights once again, the odd nature of the relationship between this White house and CIA:

Instead of posing such questions, Waxman said flatly that Plame was covert and cited Hayden as proof. Hayden's endorsement of Waxman's statement astounded Republicans whose queries about her had been rebuffed by the agency. That confirmed Republican suspicions that Hayden is too close to Democrats.

For more on that point see:
Do we know there's a war on?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

He used to be a Steeler

Now he's part of America's Team

Former Steeler Staat deployed to Iraq
Duke lacrosse: The arrogance of the unaccountable

See Durham in Wonderland and John in Carolina
Thomas Sowell looks at the decline of the talk show

Talk, Talk, Talk

today the listener or viewer is not likely to get much interaction on issues. Instead, there are far more likely to be parallel and prepackaged talking points.
I fear that he is too optimistic on one point:
Usually the best roundtable programs on television are about sports. This is probably because there are no predetermined positions or prepackaged partisan talking points.
Sports talk may not have partisan talking points, but it is filled with mindless soundbites.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Duke lacrosse: That "Blue Wall of Silence"

A great thread underway over at Lie Stoppers. This part is telling:

If you go back and watch Nifong's March 29, 2006 interview (the famous choke hold interview) on the Abrams Report he makes a very revealing comment on Bill Anderson's point. Abrams asks him if the statement by Lax player Zash's attorney is true that he is cooperating with police. Nifong begins by saying yes Zash has talked to police but then goes out of his way to point out that if Zash made an untrue statement to police then "that would not be cooperation". Abrams follows up with the question.."did he make a false statement?"

Nifong's answer... "well if you assert that nothing happened then that would be an untrue statement." He goes on to pompously explain :"it is the position of the State that there was a rape."

This speaks volumes. First he was not conducting an investigation he was seeking confirmation of his charges. Any statement from anyone to the contrary would be "non cooperative". So the only way in his view a player could be cooperative if he admitted "something happened" even if the player offered to take a lie detector test to establish that nothing happened
The police and DA were not doing an investigation, they were only looking for evidence to confirm their belief that a rape occurred. (And why were they so certain of that when they had next to no evidence?)

This also sheds a lot of light on why the players "lawyered up." The police were not interested in the truth, so what was the point in talking to them. Moreover, in Nifong's world, telling the truth was dangerously close to obstruction of justice.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Again, the question of competence

Bumbling Into a 'Scandal'
Duke lacrosse: One year into the hoax

KC Johnson is looking at the highlights (i.e. the worst) of the journalism on the case. He has a lot to choose from.
I figure the guy who created Dilbert

has a pretty good BS detecter. So this post is worth reading:

Fossils are Bullshit
OK, that wasn't so bad

Blogroll is screwed up, but i can work on that.
Here goes nothing

Friday, March 16, 2007

More too clever by half

Patterico has been excellent on the firings of the U. S. Attorney's and the press distortions of the matter. He is also willing to call the Admsinistration on their missteps.
The Indefensible Aspects of the U.S. Attorney Firings
Kyle Sampson got burned for the same reason Rove and Libby got burned on Plame/Wilson.
The Kyle Sampson plan to sneak in U.S. Attorneys under a little-known Patriot Act provision had a weaselly appearance to it. It had the immature feel of a little boy saying; “Hey, look! A new bike! Let’s ride it on the freeway!” And I am very upset with his scheming to lie to Congress about it.
It is really hard to defend an administration that plays games like that.
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Cold Hard Football Facts looks at the bias in HoF voting. defensive players do not get a fair break.

One of the deserving players they highlight is Steeler L. C. Greenwood who is very, very deserving.

How's this for irony: in his four SuperBowls, Greenwood lined up opposite three offensive tackles-- Ron Yary, Rayfield Wright, and Jackie Slater. All three of them made it into the Hall. But Greenwood is still waiting even though he dominated Yary in SB IX and beat Wright three times to sack Staubach in SuperBowl X.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I thought the guys at The Economist were supposed to be smart

They have a brief item on the trouble at Starbucks.

Trouble brewing
The Starbucks chairman seems to have a clear idea about the brand and why its position has eroded. Starbucks has always been about more than a cup of expensive coffee. It was a comfortable place to hang out while drinking that coffee.

The Economist mentions that McDonald's coffee won a taste test conducted by Consumer Reports. Big Deal. That does not meant that Mickey D's is a threat to Starbucks because the rest of the package is just not there.

Starbucks has comfortable chairs. McDonald's seating is designed to be uncomfortable so that customers eat fast and leave. Besides, who wants to linger over a cup of coffee surrounded by screaming kids with their Happy Meals and by surly stoner/slackers. (Those are McDonald's core markets.)

The Economist also trots out that favorite of business journalists-- the quotable consultant.

Now both companies are at risk from a growing sense that their products are indeed just commodities, says Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, a brand consultancy.

Of course he would say that. You could ask him about any one of a thousand companies and he would mention commoditization. That is what he does; his livelihood depends on highlighting those dangers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jefferson Street Joe: The creation of a modern myth

As part of their programming for Black History Month, ESPN ran “Third and a Mile” a look at the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL. (It is a tie-in with William C. Rhoden’s book of the same title.) I watched with interest because a portion of the program dealt with Steeler’s quarterback Joe Gilliam.

As expected for a network that should call itself ESPC, racism was the star of the show. It was the easy story: the big bad, prejudiced NFL keeping the poor black man down. In the Gilliam segment, the obsession with race resulted in a disjointed, scattershot narrative that sounded superficial and forced. Sportwriters talked about the racism he faced; teammates, family, and Gilliam himself talked about his personal demons and his struggles with drug addiction.

It is hard to fit Gilliam’s story into any pre-fab template. He was a gifted athlete who squandered those gifts and his opportunities. That is a tragedy but it is a more complex story than a simple fable of white racism and black suffering.

That has not stopped the sportswriters from trying. In “Third and a Mile” a pundit named Brad Pye said that “ “Joe was not strong enough to overcome racism.”

During the Limbaugh/McNabb controversy Lonnie White of the LA Times wrote:

The days when black quarterbacks didn't get opportunities to play because teams felt safer playing white quarterbacks, even if they were overrated, are over.

If today a black quarterback led his team to a 4-1-1 record, there's no way he would be replaced. Yet that's what happened in 1974, when [Joe] Gilliam started for the Pittsburgh Steelers but was benched in favor of Terry Bradshaw.

But that's the way it was back then, when black quarterbacks were judged more by their skin color than their performance on the field.
In the current Wikipedia we read:

He became the Steelers' starting Quarterback in 1974 but lost the job when Terry Bradshaw was chosen to lead the team after the first six games of the season, fueling speculation years later that Gilliam was removed because he was black.

The unforgiving facts tell a much different story. Neither Gilliam nor Bradshaw were good quarterbacks in 1974. Both were long on potential but short on performance. While it is true that Gilliam had a 4-1-1 record that year, Bradshaw was 5-2 and had led the Steelers into the playoffs in the previous two seasons.

It is hard to fault coach Chuck Noll for going with Bradshaw because he did choose a quarterback that went on to win four SuperBowls. Are we to believe that with Gilliam the Steelers would have won five or six?

That is what Rhoden and Co. want us to believe. If Gillaim was better than Bradshaw (four rings) then he was also better than Montana (four rings). Where is the evidence for this greatness? It cannot be found in his on-field performance in the NFL.

Rhoden and ESPN do a lot of stretching, blame-shifting, and gaze-averting to make the story about race. It makes “Third and a Mile” feel more like propaganda than honest history.

See also:
America’s Game

ESPN's Sports Nation: A republic of idiots and stoners
Dr. Helen asks a provocative question

Should Adolescence be Abolished?

We do seem to treat teen-agers and twenty-somethings as irresponsible and hapless which is a break from past experience. The why is the interesting question.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Duke lacrosse: How important is the Gang of 88?

The American Conservative looks at the intellectual foundations of the Gang of 88.
Rotten in Durham
How Duke’s academic mandarins became a lynch mob

They take the same tack as the Weekly Standard in concentrating on the actions of the faculty and administration in the perpetuation of the travesty in Durham.
Duke's Tenured Vigilantes
The scandalous rush to judgment in the lacrosse "rape" case.
I think that putting the Gang of 88 at the front and center of the story creates grave distortions. It is both true and interesting that a bunch of college professors decided to use a criminal case to advance their ideological agenda. KC Johnson is right that by encouraging Nifong they betrayed the ideals of the academy.

It is odd to see vigilantes with tenure; it is not odd at all to see a high-profile case draw vigilantes. At Duke the professors behaved badly but they behaved badly by acting like us.

A point John Grisham makes in his most recent book is directly relevant:
The journey also exposed me to the world of wrongful convictions. Something that I, even as a former lawyer, had never spent much time thinking about. This is not a problem peculiar to Oklahoma, far from it. Wrongful convictions occur every month in every state in this country, and the reasons are all varied and all the same-- bad police work, junk science, faulty eyewitness identifications, bad defense lawyers, lazy prosecutors, arrogant prosecutors.
This is an aspect of the case that many commentators on the right brush aside. Mike Nifong and Durham are not unique in trying to railroad innocent men.

A coterie of commentators have entertained themselves for months over at the News and Observer blog: taunting the paper for its early coverage of the case. In particular, they are rightly critical of the March 25 story that was based on an interview with the accuser. (“Dancer gives details of ordeal”)

It was a bad story, but it was not bad because the N&O made a special effort to get the lax team. It was bad for the same reason most crime reporting is bad: the reporters were trying to grab headlines with a touching story when they were operating with limited knowledge and were dependent on their sources in the police department and the DA’s office.

That’s the thing. In many ways the media handled this story like they do most crime stories. The shaky logic, the reliance on rumors, and the lachrymose posturing about the suffering of the victim is nothing new to anyone who has ever watched Nancy Grace. The lax players were denied the presumption of innocence by the media, but hey, that is the way of the tabloid media. Innocent until proven guilty makes for bad television and boring news copy.

See also:
Atticus Finch doesn't work here

A crime the press doesn't care about

The Libby case

One thing puzzles me about the White House’s handling of the whole Wilson imbroglio: Why did they choose to fight such a sneaky, shadow war against Wilson when they could have presented a powerful rebuttal in public?

Why were Rove, Fleischer, and Libby leaking and gossiping with Judith Miller, Matt Cooper, et. al. when they could have gone on the record and said:

The sixteen words were and remain accurate. British intelligence stands by their report and the Butler Commission supports their position.

VP Cheney did not send Joe Wilson to Niger nor did he receive a report from Mr. Wilson on his investigation
Had they taken the high road, we could have had an honest public debate on pre-war intelligence. Instead, we have had this distraction of an investigation clouding the issue for over three years.

From outside the Beltway, it appears that Rove and Libby helped their enemies because they were too clever by half. I cannot work up a lot of outrage on their behalf because their cleverness hurt the country.

The jury found that Libby lied to investigators and grand jurors. How can anyone excuse that and then support Bill Clinton’s impeachment? Since I believe that Clinton deserved to be impeached and that Martha Stewart deserved her jail sentence, I have to accept that Libby deserves punishment as well.

Beldar has several good posts on the subject that I find persuasive.

Joseph Bottum has a poignant portrait of Libby before he went into the White House.

As hard as Bottum tries, I still find it hard to like or respect Libby. Beyond his missteps with Wilson, there is also the fact that he pocketed huge fees working for Marc Rich during the 1990s and called to congratulate the traitor when Clinton pardoned him.
I hate this time of year

I don't follow basketball in any form. So the 24/7 obsession with the NCAA tournament is lost on me. Not much going on in football. Baseball won't be interesting for two and a half months.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Good news about the news audience

Forget the tabloid stuff; substance sells

Hard news and in-depth journalism on public TV and radio and in print are successfully drawing audiences while cable news audiences shrink.

So why do all four cable networks chase the shrinking tabloid audience?
Michael Barone on Berger and Libby

Berger & Libby: A Tale of Two Crimes

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Peter Lance and Triple Cross

I found this old blog post by Peter Lance that covers much of the material he discussed on CSPAN.

Al Qaeda and The Mob: How the FBI Blew It on 9/11
I am even more interested in reading his new book now. When I first heard of his findings I speculated that Ali Mohamed could be a key link for the ABLE DANGER network analysis. But now it is clear that he is also Kryptonite to almost every organization involved. A senior FBI agent vouched for him to get Mohamed out of RCMP custody. The DOJ (especially Patrick Fiztgerald) let him roam free for months which allowed Mohamed to go to Africa and recon the Kenyan embassy for bin Laden. The Army let him into the Special Forces where he obtained classified information for the al Qaeda cell that plotted the first WTC attack and the Day of Terror bombings. It is easy to see why no one wanted to connect any dots that included Ali Mohamed.

Lance has another explosive revelation.

in July of 2001, Khalid al-Midhar and Salem al-Hazmi got their fake I.D.'s delivered to them in a mailbox at the identical location the FBI had been onto in the decade since El Sayyid Nosair had killed Meier Kahane. The man who supplied those fake ID's that allowed al-Midhar and al-Hazmi to board A.A. Flight #77 that hit the Pentagon, was none other than Mohammed El-Attriss the co-incorporator of Sphinx with Waleed al-Noor - whom Patrick Fitzgerald had put on the unindicted co-conspirators list along with bin Laden and Ali Mohamed in 1995.
Al-Midhar was one of the 9/11 hijackers who attended the terror meeting in Malaysia and then slipped into the this country. The FBI blamed CIA for not informing them of the meeting or his presence here. That is a valid complaint, but it also ignores an FBI/DOJ failure.

A 9/11 hijacker met up with an unindicted co-conspirator from the 1994 Day of Terror plot and then slipped away unnoticed. Seven years after the DOJ and FBI supposedly smashed the New York cell, their compatriots were still in a position to aid al-Qaeda. How was that possible?
An outstanding defense of religious conservatives

By Steven M. Warshawsky who describes himself thusly:

I am Jewish. I am not religious. While I hesitate to call myself an atheist, due to the philosophical impossibility of "knowing" that there is no God, I certainly am agnostic. Perhaps more importantly, religious ritual plays no role in my life. I certainly am more of a non-believer than John Derbyshire who is one of the "skeptical" conservatives identified by Orlet as suffering the "enmity" of the theocons. Indeed, if one were to evaluate my "lifestyle" (non-religious, married to a doctor, no children, living in New York City), one likely would conclude that I should side with the atheists in this debate. I don't.

Atheists, Conservatives, and Christianity
Duke lacrosse: Another ethically challenged legal expert

Lie Stoppers has an eye-opening post on Sports Illustrated's Lester Munson.

Why does that SI rely on an attorney who was forced to surrender his law licence after being disciplined by his state's Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission? Surely there are competent lawyers out there who are willing to research the cases they opine on and who professional behavior is not scandalous.

What am i saying? CNN still has Nancy Grace on its roster. In the MSM, ethics do not matter.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Scott Peterson in a Space Suit"

Good column by Glenn Sacks on the Lisa Nowak (AKA Fatal Attraction in Depends).
A successful married man with young children at home pursues a romantic liaison with a co-worker. When the co-worker doesn’t sufficiently reciprocate his affections, he stalks her boyfriend for two months, and devises a plan to kill him. He collects weapons, disguises himself, packs up some garbage bags to dispose of the body, and drives 900 miles to attack his rival. He launches the assault but the boyfriend manages to escape and notify the police, and the man is arrested and charged with attempted murder.

Would CBS commentator Harry Smith express sympathy for this “poor” fellow for “falling in love” and then “crash-landing”? Would Fox News commentator Steve Doocy opine that “love makes you do weird things,” and claim that prosecutors were being too hard on him
I noted the same double standard last year with the handling of Mary Winkler:

The tabloid media (both online and cable) are handling the murder of Matthew Winkler much differently than the murders of Laci Peterson or Rachel Entwistle.

When the wife was the victim they said:

"What a sociopathic brute to kill a delicate, innocent flower like Laci."

But now, when the wife is the killer, they keep trying to frame the story as:

"What did that brute do to make that delicate innocent flower kill him?"

TV shrinks assured us that Scott Peterson wore a mask of normality but was evil underneath. Now they are warming up to explain that Mary Winkler was forced to wear a mask of normality and that is why her killing was not evil.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Russia and the West

A sobering look at attitudes in Russia.

Russia's deep animosity
The Russian people don't like the West and don't want to be like us. This alienation could cause significant problems for us in the future and represents a foreign policy blunder of epic proportions. Yet, it rarely draws any attention in the press or in Congress.

Pfaff focuses his critique on the recent actions that have strained ralations. He could have added many more items so that his list streches back all the way to the early 1990s.

I cannot work up much outrage at Russian attitudes. It is easy to see why they think that "modernization" and "Westernization" are synonyms for corruption and exploitation. After all, under Yeltsin, they saw their country looted under the banner of modernization. When the corpse was picked clean, many of the biggest looters went into comfortable exile in the West.

These David Warsh articles make for interesting reading on that score.

In Which, At Last, We Meet, Perhaps, Andrei Shleifer's Evil Twin

Our adventures in the Balkans and elsewhere have also increased their distrust.

Balkan echoes

Thursday, March 08, 2007

GWB and his MBA redux

Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants writes:

George W. Bush is the first president to have a master's degree in business administration. Let's hope he's the last.

I like President Bush, and I support most of what he’s trying to do. But I'm amazed, astonished and appalled by the stumbling, bumbling way he often goes about it. The friends as well as the critics of this administration have reason to wonder whether these guys can organize a two car funeral

Last year i wrote this about Bush and his training at the HBS:
The last couple of years of any administration are difficult. The habits of mind that GWB formed at HBS might make his especially difficult.
This is one of those times i wish i had been wrong.

See also:
The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy
Triple Cross, ABLE DANGER, and the FBI

CSPAN carried a two hour talk by Peter Lance on Sunday. It was a whirlwind tour of the material covered in his new book Triple Cross. He made an interesting point about the failure of the FBI to connect the dots before 9/11 and the problems with the implementation of the Virtual Case File (VCF) system. (Discussed here and here.) He believes that the Bureau has too many people who have too many secrets and that makes the bureaucracy unwilling to get behind any initiative that promotes sharing information with other agencies or even with other offices within the Bureau.

He may be on to something. As noted here, the FBI has engaged in cover-ups from its earliest days.

Lance emphasized that he is not positing any sort of Oliver Stone-style secret government. Rather, the FBI, like most organizations, tries to hide its mistakes and other embarrassing failures.

Some of this is inherent in any intelligence bureaucracy. Sources will contradict each other. If A is telling the truth, then B is either mistaken or lying. Not surprisingly, those officers who built their careers on their work with B will do their best to discredit A.

Of course, if A is lying, then those intransigent, careerist, naysayers become astute analysts while A’s defenders have some explaining to do…

I wonder if this happened with ABLE DANGER? Did that group’s work undercut some high profile operation? Or did it reveal some important terrorists who had been overlooked by the FBI and DOJ?

I haven’t read Lance’s latest book yet. I thought he did an impressive amount of digging in the first two, but sometimes pushed his data too hard and reached tenuous conclusions. He documented plenty of missteps by the FBI, DOJ, and NYPD, but he never produced the smoking gun that would have allowed the FBI to arrest Atta. Failing that, the mistakes are important, but not that important.

(I discussed Lance’s handling of the Phoenix memo here)

On the other hand, Ali Mohammed is a pretty big dot and his handling by the DOJ and FBI may have denied us valuable intelligence in the years before 9/11. Moreover, it is quite possible that some of those who handled him are less than eager to see the story come out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Recuerden el Alamo!"

From Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory

After lunch a bright red Lincoln Navigator pulled up to Crockett Street and out jumped a Hispanic mother with three girls, ranging in age from eight to twelve. Her husband parked the car in a nearby lot and returned bearing a video camera. The three daughters, dressed in matching white pullovers and Gap skirts, were striking. Their father, a CPA with a Wharton degree, posed his family in front of the limestone walls of the chapel and triggered the camera. They waved on cue but smiled spontaneously, obviously delighted to be where they were. He then told them briefly about the Alamo, delivering the Daughters' version of the battle, and he let his girls know that it stood for courage and integrity, virtues they needed to cultivate in their own lives.

At that point, the Anglo graduate student arrived at the chapel door.
He asked, "Why are you even here today? Don't you know what this place stands for? It represents the rape and destruction of your people." Looking just the least bit annoyed, the Hispanic man politely replied, "We're not so bad off, you know." The Anglo student was persistent. "You don't understand, you just don't understand," he continued. "You shouldn't be teaching your kids this stuff." The CPA stopped short. "Escucheme, bolillo [Listen to me, white bread]," he said sharply. "If Santa Anna would have won the war, this whole city would be a shithole just like Reynosa. Soy tejano [I'm a Texan]. Mind your own goddamned business. It's my Alamo too."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Neocon echo chamber

In 2000 the Weekly Standard flacked for John McCain. Now it looks like they've dropped him and moved on to Giuliani.

Let's Make a Deal
Social conservatives, Rudy Giuliani, and the end of the litmus test.
The author thinks that we will see big changes in 2008:

Next year may see the party of the Sunbelt and Reagan, based in the South and in Protestant churches, nominate its first presidential candidate who is Catholic, urban, and ethnic--and socially liberal on a cluster of issues that set him at odds with the party's base. As a result, it may also see the end of the social issues litmus test in the Republican party, done in not by the party's left wing, which is shrunken and powerless, but by a fairly large cadre of social conservatives convinced that, in a time of national peril, the test is a luxury they cannot afford.
Who knows, she could be right. OTOH, she relies heavily on neocon pundits like Frum, Goldberg, and Podhoretz to make her case. And they, after all, are not really representativie of the Southern, Protestant element that she is trying to describe.
The Coulter Mess

They say it better than i can:

Ace: Thanks, Ann!

Bryan Preston: The problem with Ann

Michelle Malkin: The CPAC I saw
Absolute metrocon

From one of the weeines in the Corner:
Part of what happened in that election [1994], as Democrats of the day could tell you, was a reaction to the Clinton administration's fairly modest attempts at gun control

"Fairly modest"-- that's a nice description to use when one is discussing constitutional rights. I wonder how long before someone (JPod maybe) describes a gun control proposal as "fairly modest and somewhat reasonable"?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Joey Porter

Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette gives number 55 a nice send-off:

Porter a terrific teammate
I hope JP gets a nice payday from some NFC team.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Trust Stephen Hunter

to cut to the heart of the matter:

'Zodiac': A Sideways Look At the Pursuit of a Killer

"Zodiac" gets in trouble even before the title -- on its poster! It stumbles, though it tells the truth, with a marketing slogan that reads "There's More Than One Way to Lose Your Life to a Killer."

Actually, there's not. The only way that counts and the only way that's interesting is the old way, which is getting killed by the killer. Everything else is bull and spare change.

And that's exactly the problem with this movie: It's not about a killer, or his victims, or the manhunt, or the cops. They're all in it, of course, more or less. But it's about a writer. It's about a young man named Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), who becomes so obsessed with it he gives up career and family time to pursue endless arcana. For his effort, he's rewarded with a -- nervous breakdown? A descent into hell? A face-to-face with pure evil itself? Er, no. His reward is a couple of bestsellers and a new life as a successful and widely admired crime writer, plus the movie deal that resulted in this very film. A new way to "lose your life to a killer"? It sounds more like a shattering thriller about a good career move
Duke lacrosse: Jack Ford is an idiot

But he does show that not all the blond airheads on that channel are female.

Speaking at Duke a few weeks ago, I was reminded just how divided the people in that area are over the case...and how important balanced media coverage (often notably absent on both sides in this case) is. I've said this before: we don't know exactly what happened that night -- only a few people do -- but we need to refrain from passing judgment, in either direction, until we learn the facts, not just opinions.
I'm not sure why he is telling us that we should "refrain from passing judgement." That is advice better given to his colleague Nancy Grace.

His pathetic attempt at blogging did have one good side effect. It prompted a poster over at Lie Stoppers to ask:

Does being on television make a lawyer stupid or do only stupid lawyers want to be on television? .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The season just isn't going to be the same

Steelers cut Joey Porter

The Steelers today released linebacker Joey Porter, their best overall defensive player in the 21st century whose play helped win them a Super Bowl 13 months ago.

I understand the realities of the salary cap, but i'm going to miss seeing him in black and gold.
Slublog on Bob Woodward

Washed-Up Hack Urges Media "Aggression"

Woodward and Bernstein's stories on Watergate are terrible reporting, full of thin or anonymous sourcing. There's a clear connection between W&B's reporting and the neo-muckraking journalism of today. W&B made it easy for anyone who wants to dish dirt on a political figure to do so, as long as they hide behind titles like "a senior administration official," or "someone close to the intelligence community."