Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Warren Commission Redux


Commission Confidential

In a revelation bound to cast a pall over the 9/11 Commission, Philip Shenon will report in a forthcoming book that the panel’s executive director, Philip Zelikow, engaged in “surreptitious” communications with presidential adviser Karl Rove and other Bush administration officials during the commission’s 20-month investigation into the 9/11 attacks.

Shenon, who led The New York Times’ coverage of the 9/11 panel, reveals the Zelikow-Rove connection in a new book entitled The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, to be published next month by Twelve Books. The Commission is under an embargo until its February 5 publication, but Washington DeCoded managed to purchase a copy of the abridged audio version from a New York bookstore.

In what’s termed an “investigation of the investigation,” Shenon purports to tell the story of the commission from start to finish. The book’s critical revelations, however, revolve almost entirely around the figure of Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor and director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs prior to his service as the commission’s executive director. Shenon delivers a blistering account of Zelikow’s role and leadership, and an implicit criticism of the commissioners for appointing Zelikow in the first place—and then allowing him to stay on after his myriad conflicts-of-interest were revealed under oath
Stupid, stupid, stupid. How did Karl Rove ever get the genius tag anyway?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tennessee Women End Duke Home Streak

DURHAM, N.C. — The Tennessee men’s basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, showed his school spirit last season, baring his chest and painting it with a white “V” when the Lady Vols faced Duke in Knoxville. There was no such display Monday night from Pearl’s Duke counterpart, Mike Krzyzewski, when Tennessee played at Duke.

Instead, the Cameron Indoor Stadium fans greeted Tennessee with the kind of vitriol that Coach Pat Summitt has warned could end the series between two of the elite teams in women’s college basketball. But amid the chants and jeers, Tennessee held off the Blue Devils, 67-64, to end Duke’s 24-game home winning streak

Sometimes the good guys win one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wendy's comes to its senses

Wendy’s: No Longer Red All Over

A new rule at Wendy’s: only Wendy can be coiffed like Wendy.

Wendy’s, the third largest hamburger chain, is jettisoning a campaign it introduced amid much hoopla last May. The fast-paced campaign showed consumers in pigtailed red wigs that emulated the hairstyle of the chain’s familiar female mascot

See also:

Marketing Malpractice
Brian Nichols and the high price of death

The New Yorker as a very interesting article on Brian Nichols-- the man who murdered four people in a jail escape turned rampage in Atlanta in 2005.

Death In Georgia

The high price of trying to save an infamous killer’s life.
His trial is at a standstill because the state of Georgia does not want to pay for his defense. It's become a political issue and that is never good for justice. Nichols's escape provided a log of blog fodder for a couple of days in 2005. (See here and here). Then we moved on.

That's too bad because there were some serious issues raised about the procedures in the jail that allowed this crime to happen.

This blew my mind when i read it in the article.

The response by law-enforcement officials to Nichols’s crimes was marred by terrible errors. After the shanks were discovered, Judge Barnes said he wanted the sheriff’s department, which handles security in the courthouse, to provide Nichols with additional guards, yet he was escorted to court by a single female deputy sheriff. Part of his attack on the deputy was captured by surveillance cameras, but no one was monitoring them. The Atlanta police, who did not begin searching for Nichols until forty minutes after the first shootings, failed to seal off access to two parking garages where Nichols had been seen; he escaped from both. During a subsequent investigation, five sheriff’s deputies were found to have lied about their actions with regard to Nichols. Eight deputies were fired for misconduct, all but two of whom were later rehired.

Four people dead and most of those involved escape consequences.
Forty-five years in Dallas: Time to put the conspiracy theories in their place

OK. So we know Oswald did it. Why do so many people believe otherwise?

That, in my mind, is the only important question left when it comes to the JFK assassination.

Bryan Burrough, in his review of Bugliosi's Reclaiming History describes the appropriate response to the conspiracy theorists:

What Bugliosi has done is a public service; these people should be ridiculed, even shunned. It’s time we marginalized Kennedy conspiracy theorists the way we’ve marginalized smokers; next time one of your co-workers starts in about Oswald and the C.I.A., make him stand in the rain with the other outcasts.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What is killing newspapers?

Great piece in Slate by Jack Shafer:

Simple Simon

What the auteur of The Wire doesn't (and does) understand about the newspaper business.

See also:

The newspaper today and tomorrow

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fear and loathing in Arizona

Until this season, I was not a Patriot-hater. To the contrary, I found a lot to admire in the way they played and how they won. They were smart and flexible on defense. One week they could shut down a high-powered passing offense like the Colts and then the next week they would stuff a physical running team like the Steelers. No team was better at halftime adjustments. Few teams hustled more or executed as crisply.

All of this is still true, but now it is overshadowed by the baggage. Or, to be blunt about it, the cheating and the Patriots’s arrogant response when they were caught.

Videogate is a big deal. To me, it did taint the Patriots legacy. It was a big illegal edge that is especially important in light of the narrow winning margin New England racked up in their first three Super Bowls. It was supremely relevant to Belichick’s ability to beat teams the second time around.

Sadly, the NFL blinked when they confronted the issue when they confronted the issue. While they dished out some fines, they also moved quickly to sweep the matter under the rug and to destroy the evidence.

Sports media played along. Instead of investigating the matter, jock-pundits assured us that “everyone steals signals” and it was no big deal. (If it was no big deal and if the Patriots did nothing wrong, then why even bother with the fines?)

The “every one does it” defense of the Patriots stands to in stark contrast to the on-going crusade by sportwriters against Barry Bonds. To be fair, shouldn’t they admit that his home run mark is A-OK because pitchers were juicing too?

The Patriots response was telling. Belichick churlishly refused to admit that he did anything wrong. He just copped to an inaccurate interpretation of the rules. Right after the fines were levied, his boss gave him a big raise and contract extension. His bank account never felt the pain of his “punishment.”

This is in keeping with the Patriot way. Belichick does not like the NFL’s injury reporting requirements. So he makes a mockery of it by listing Tom Brady on it by for over 50 straight weeks (4 seasons). In that time, Brady never missed a start. Belichick does not like the coaches game day dress code, so he manages to comply while at the same time looking like a tramp.

The NFL, to its shame, has tolerated this willful defiance. The new commissioner was John Wayne when it came to players and their off-field behavior. When Roger Goodell has to go nose to nose with Robert Kraft or Bill Belichick the tough talking lawman turns into Barney Fife.

This official cowardice makes its way onto the playing field. In big games, the Patriots get to push the envelope. TMQ has made this point many times but the problem continues.

Once again, not only did the weather (stiff winds died down just before kickoff) seem to be under Belichick's control, but so did the officials. Disciplined teams commit fewer penalties, and Belichick teams are disciplined -- but there's a difference between discipline and seeming to get a free pass from the officials. A few years ago, New England won an AFC championship when repeated obvious pass-interference penalties by the Patriots against the Colts went uncalled in the fourth quarter; that year, New England won the Super Bowl without ever being called for pass interference or offensive holding in the postseason. On Sunday, the Pats were flagged just twice, for 19 yards. With 11 minutes remaining and San Diego driving, Richard Seymour, after the whistle, shoved Philip Rivers to the ground directly in front of referee Jeff Triplette -- no flag. During a play, linebacker Mike Vrabel spun around his blocker, then leg-whipped Rivers, causing him to fall and throw an interception -- no flag. Reader Jacob Robertson of Rock Hill, S.C., writes, "Tripping is a penalty in the NFL, yet not only was this not called, the announcers praise New England linebackers when they cheat."

I fully expect the Patriots to win SB XLII. That will make them the greatest team in the Super Bowl-era. I’m just sorry that an extraordinary season comes with so much baggage.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oswald’s Ghost After watching it and thinking about it a few days, I have three big problems with the documentary. While it does, finally seem to come down on the side of Oswald as Lone Gunman, it does so subtly and quietly. I wish the director had been more clear and forthright about the manifest problems with the conspiracy theories. The film uses Tom Hayden and Todd Gittlin as talking heads who spend most of their time talking about the impact the “unanswered questions” surrounding the assassination on the politics. Since both men were leaders in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) we get a heavy does of New Left perspective and apologetics. Hayden is especially problematic because he is more propagandist and activist rather than sober historian. Morevover, the famed socialist Irving Howe said of him: “Tom Hayden gives opportunism a bad name.” I can’t help wondering if Gitlin’s and Hayden’s explanation is the whole story. The New Left was quite willing to seize an issue and use it to their own end: From The Roots of Radicalism by Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter: (1982)
Quoting Mark Rudd (SDS president at Columbia): "We manufactured the issues. The Institute of Defense Analysis is nothing at Columbia. And the gym issue is bull. It doesn't mean anything to anybody. I had never been to the gym site before the demonstration began. I didn't even know how to get there." "Even Berkeley had a slogan that "the issue is not the issue," meaning that the real issue was not free speech on campus but thoroughgoing social change." Mike Goldfield in New Left Notes (1966): "You have to realize that the issue didn't matter. The issues were never the issues....It was the revolution that was everything. The only thing that mattered was what you were doing for the revolution. That is why dope was good. Anything that undermined the system contributed to the revolution and was therefore good."
Hayden and Gittlin’s narrative is debatable. Maybe the New left was energized by the conspiracy theories. OTOH, maybe The Movement promoted the theories because they fit their preconceived ideas about a corrupt power structure and also helped undermine the authority of the Establishment. That’s a key question for historians. Are we looking at an honest attempt to grapple with unanswered questions, or a species of “popular delusion”, or a cynical exercise in agit-prop. “Oswald’s Ghost” treats the conspiracy theorists and promoters as honest and never addresses the other possibilities. The movie basically ignores the toxic, noxious, consequences of the Grassy Knoll cult. Very little time is spent on Clay Shaw, the innocent man that Jim Garrison indicted in New Orleans as part of his crude, demagogic charade. Shaw was bankrupted and died a few years after the jury exonerated him. Or take the case of Dallas police officer J D Tippett. He was shot by Oswald shortly after the assassination. His murder is a problem for the conspiracy theorists. Rather than revise their opinion that Oswald was innocent, they perform contortions to exonerate LHO on this murder as well. Many of them suggest that Tippett was part of the plot (i.e. he helped kill JFK or helped those who did). Thus, the “buffs” smear a policeman who died in the line of duty so that they can still pretend that Oswald was a patsy. They have no evidence, of course, but that has never stopped the Church of the Grassy Knoll.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ernie Holmes, RIP

Ernie Holmes, part of Steelers Steel Curtain, dies

Ernie Holmes, a defensive lineman and member of the famed Steel Curtain for the Steelers in their dynasty years in the 1970s, died last night in a traffic accident in Texas.
He was one of my favorites from the 70s Steelers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oswald's Ghost

PSB Frontline ran an interesting documentary on the JFK assassination and the conspiracy theories that surround it.

Oswald's Ghost

Washington Decoded has an incisive review.


According to the movie, 70% of the American public believes that the assassination was carried out by a conspiracy. That should be fairly sobering to those who are full-throated proponents of the "wisdom of crowds".

After all, here we have the most investigated crime in history. And yet, more people believe fairy tales than the honest, messy historical truth.


Just found a great example: Here is a journalist and true crime blogger who refuses to accept that the Lone Gunman was a Lone Gunman. Even more unbelievable is that he thinks Jim Garrison was a poor victim who was "hounded to his grave" for trying to find the truth. How can history stand a chance against such arrogant and invincible ignorance?

See also:

Bill Whittle takes on conspiracy thinking

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Portait of the artist as a cowardly clown

Grayson Perry serves as the ideal poster boy — or perhaps poster girl — for this discomfiting trend. A Turner Prize recipient and England’s most famous cross-dressing potter, Perry has been heralded for his controversial explorations of religious imagery, which include a vase entitled “Transvestite Brides of Christ” and a portrayal of the Virgin Mary that is best left to the imagination. Yet apparently there are some boundaries that even groundbreaking artists dare not cross.

“I’ve censored myself,” Perry told the Times, admitting that he treads lightly around radical Islam. “With other targets you’ve got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don’t know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time.” Self-censorship thus boils down to self-preservation. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat

Beldar is talking sense

and taking no prisoners.

The fat lady has barely begun her warm-ups

Most of the mainstream media, and large chunks of the blogosphere, are behaving like children — more specifically, like children who have not yet completed third-grade arithmetic.

Network anchors, national columnists, and prominent bloggers (left and right) have pronounced both the Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani campaigns either dead outright or else on life-support (with Do Not Resuscitate toe-tags).

But only three of fifty states have determined their delegates — three very small states, at least two of which (the ones everyone has paid attention to) are arguably pretty unrepresentative of the Republican Party nationally
Happy Birthday

to Lane Core.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A dissenting opinion on the Genarlow Wilson case

A different view on '07 Newsmaker

Genarlow was not a young man who got caught having oral sex with his slightly younger girlfriend; Genarlow and his friends took advantage of two young women in an environment that reeked of male dominance and exploitation. The jury knew that, that is why it deadlocked for a day and half before reaching a verdict. There were jurors who were crying about the mandatory minimum sentence, but there were also jurors who were furious that they were unable to convict Genarlow for the gang rape he committed. No paper, yours included, bothered to write about those jurors.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How Reagan became Reagan: The Texas Earthquake of 1976

When conservatives set to work to remake the Republican party (1960-1980) they faced two distinct battles. One was against the liberal Rockefeller Republicans of the Northeast. The other was with the Republican rump in the Sunbelt.

It is difficult to remember now just how hard the GOP establishment in the South and Southwest fought against Goldwater and Reagan. They were keen to hold on to their own power even if that meant their party was nonviable in their state.

There are many perks for party leaders even if their party is unsuccessful. In a rump party, the leadership gets to keep their perks without challenge. Who cares if the GOP can’t win Georgia? The rump establishment still gets courted during the run-up to the convention. They get to make speeches and bestow patronage. And they get to do all this without working too hard to earn their position.

The press played a key role in this situation. They portrayed the rump leaders as pragmatic even though they could not win general elections. The insurgents were painted as foolish kamikazes who did not understand politics. The approval of the New York Times and the Rockefeller wing was a big perk and big asset for the neutered leaders of the old GOP.

The media also overstated the power and influence of the party leaders and were blind to the political realignment that a Reaganite party could carry out.

In May 1976 Gerald Ford was far ahead of Reagan when the campaign moved to Texas. He seemed to be coasting toward the magic number of delegates needed to lock in the nomination. Reagan needed a big win just to keep his campaign alive and stay in the race.

The Ford camp had a strong hand. They had the support of all the leading RepublicansJohn Tower, George H.W. Bush, Jim Baker. They looked to pick up a pile of delegates and maintain their lead over the Gipper. But Texans did not follow the script.

Ronald Reagan won every single one of the 100 delegates. A shut out in a huge state where the rules worked to ensure that the rump leaders always got their seats at the convention. Reagan carried every single county in the state. The win revitalized the Reagan campaign and kept it in the fight right up to the convention. When Ford lost to Carter Reagan became the front runner for 1980.

A funny thing about those pragmatic southern republican leaders--they could not carry their states for Ford. But the kamikazes had no problem in 1980. Alabama went for Carter by 150,000 votes in 1976. He lost by 22,000 to Reagan. Ford lost Texas by 130,000; Reagan carried it by 650,000. Same thing in North Carolina (Ford -180,000, Reagan +40,000). The trend carried across the south and gave Reagan his crushing electoral landslide in 1980.

Conservatives did not just take over the moribund party. They revitalized it, made it first viable and then dominant in the south. Bad for the democrats but bad as well for the rump establishment. The party won, but they lost their leadership positions.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Not to whine or anything

But i think these guys are right

Steelers Notebook: Lack of penalties has LBs outraged
I watched the replay several times and Jax got away with a couple of blatant holds on Garrard's 32 yard run.

That said, i think the coaches lost the game. On the Steelers's next to last drive, they needed a first down to really milk the clock and lengthen the field for the Jags. Instead, they called three unimaginative plays that forced a punt before the two minute warning.

One more example of playing it safe (read predictable) and losing.

Good teams know that the Steelers will play that way and they stop us with regularity.

That is a problem for next season. Right now, i am a Jaguars fan. It will be a glorious football season if they beat the Pats next week.

UPDATE: Apparently, i'm not the only one who feels this way.
And the metrocons think this makes Romney a conservative?

Mitt Romney

As governor, signed into law a permanent ban on assault weapons. Supported the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. Supported the Brady Bill requiring waiting periods for handgun purchases, but says it is no longer needed due to instantaneous background checks. Joined the NRA as a lifetime member in 2006.
Do they really think that the heartland is going to be thrilled by this guy? What's in the coffee at NRO?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Must read

This post by Joe Carter is the best political analysis i've seen in years.

The One-Legged Stool:

How the Elites Misunderstand "Reagan Conservatives"

These rural/suburban Republican-voting conservatives--for the sake of identification let's call them "Reagan conservatives"-- don’t make sharp distinctions between the three branches. You won't find, for instance, many "fiscal conservatives" in rural Oklahoma that are squishy on the life issues or think that we should shrink the Armed Forces. In fact, when you hear someone referring to themselves as a "economic conservative" or a "defense conservative" you can almost be assured that they are (a) a libertarian and (b) live or work in an urban area


Thursday, January 03, 2008

George MacDonald Fraser, RIP

The Telegraph has a very nice write-up

In 1943 he joined the Border Regiment and served as an infantryman in North Africa and with the "Forgotten" Fourteenth Army in Burma. He was eventually commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders. Some of his finest writing is contained in his graphic recollections of his Burma service, Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), in which the affectionate portrait of his Cumbrian comrades demonstrated his keen eye for character and acute ear for dialogue.

John Keegan, in The Sunday Telegraph, justly called it "one of the great personal memoirs of World War II

QSOH is a marvelous book-- insightful, generous, and beautifully written.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Better dead than un-PC?

An interesting footnote to the criminal profiling post.

The profilers blew it when they kept insisting that the Baton Rouge serial killer was a white male. The investigation got back on track thanks to DNA testing. Wired has a story on the company that did the test. Oddly, (or maybe sadly) the DA who prosecuted Derrick Todd Lee says this about the technology:
Tony Clayton, a black man and a prosecutor who tried one of the Baton Rouge murder cases, concedes the benefits of the test: "Had it not been for Frudakis, we would still be looking for the white guy in the white pickup." Nevertheless, Clayton says he dislikes anything that implies we don't all "bleed the same blood." He adds, "If I could push a button and make this technology disappear, I would."