Friday, February 29, 2008

A different time

One of the most striking scenes from the aftermath of the JFK assassination occurred after Oswald's arrest.

The police had a home address from LHO's employment records and went out to Irving to search it. Today, we'd expect a massive show of force-- SWAT teams, snipers, maybe a "dynamic entry".

In 1963 two Dallas police officers and one sheriff's deputy went to the front door and knocked. They waited until the owner of the house answered and then explained their business Then they searched the house and began to question Oswald's wife.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Waco: Fifteen years later

The first time I watched Waco: The Rules of Engagement it was a revelation. Up until that point I had not paid a lot of attention to the matter. I accepted the conventional wisdom that a bunch of dangerous religious nuts killed themselves and their families after a stand-off with law enforcement. Just a bunch of crazies like the Aryan Brotherhood or The Order.

W:TROE called most of that into question. It turned out that the Branch Davidians were multi-racial with many educated adults as members. They had nothing in common with racists like the Aryan Nation. Then there was the 911 call. Wayne Martin called 911 when the raid started. That just seemed like an odd action for someone who was eager to fight the federal government in an apocalyptic battle.

But most of all, I was struck by the videotapes. Planning for the raid might have been haphazard, but the ATF made certain that they had plenty of videotapes so they could record their big bust at Mount Carmel. It made you wonder: was the “dynamic entry” search a law enforcement necessity or was it a PR move by an embattled agency?

The aftermath was weird. I think Mickey Kaus summed it up best in a column he wrote for The New Republic:

Am I alone in thinking there’s something perverse, even a bit obscene, about the current lionization of Attorney General Janet Reno? She made a disastrous decision that resulted in the loss of more than seventy lives. In a bizarre bit of political alchemy, this somehow protected her from suffering any of the consequences that normally attend disastrously handled responsibilities. Far from restoring accountability, Reno seems to have hit on the formula for avoiding it. Make a dreadful mistake? Go immediately on ‘Nightline’. Say the buck stops with you. Recount in moving terms the agony of your decision. And watch you polls rise.
It was classic Washington. CYA. “Mistakes were made.” “We are sorry”. “Let’s move on.”

Kopel and Blackman understood the problem with the Reno passive accountability:

There is perhaps no institution in the United States government with more unchecked power than the Department of Justice. The job of attorney general is therefore one of the most difficult in the entire cabinet. It cannot be performed effectively by an attorney general who looks the other way at misconduct by her own employees. Nor can it performed effectively by an attorney general who, having been deceived into approving a plan which directly led to the unnecessary death of seventy-six persons, fails to discipline a single one of the persons who deceived her.

The MSM was surprisingly complacent about the big questions raised by Waco. By and large, they did not challenge the government. Instead, they served as its mouthpiece. As Kaus notes, it was strange to see reporters fawning over Reno after she presided over a catastrophic failure that left twenty-six children dead.

The MSM was amazingly happy to accept government statements at face value. They continued to do so even after it was clear that some of those statements were wrong, misleading, or outright lies.

Moreover, the press helped to demonize those who raised questions. Critics were lumped together with “far-right militias”, “conspiracy theorists”, and other kooks.

(There is an interesting side note on this point. Kooks who believed conspiracy theories about the Clintons were called “right-wing kooks” by the MSM. Lefties who believed conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination were labeled “buffs”, “critics”, and “researchers”.)

At the time, Waco raised three serious questions that deserved debate. The first was the use of paramilitary tactics in law enforcement. They have become commonplace but Waco showed that they can have tragic consequences. The second issue was one of simple honesty. ATF and the FBI tried to cover-up the truth after the tragedy. Even if their actions were justified, they had no right to spin and lie as they did. The third issue was the use of the press by law enforcement to demonize suspected criminals before they come to trial.

Those issues remain relevant today. Unfortunately, few seem interested in raising them.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is turning into a sad bleak day

William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82

George Will got it right:

All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
Myron Cope, RIP

Legendary broadcaster Myron Cope dies at 79

Cope's voice-- that unmistakable, nasal Pittsburgh voice-- is the essential soundtrack of the Steelers's dynasty. It shot out of the radio during the games-- excited, goofy, yet also astute and erudite.

He was a homer. He grew up in Pittsburgh. He pulled for the Steelers. He suffered when they lost and exulted when they won. Yet, he did not hesitate to point out poor play during the game.

Yoi, we didn't block anyone on that play!
He was a homer, but he was not blind. And he was happy to tell us what he saw.

He invented the Terrible Towel and gave away the rights. All the proceeds now go to charity.

Cope liked players. He was not the type to rip a guy just to create controversy and build ratings. He was the antithesis of the loud shock jocks who dominate sports radio today.

Any fool can argue and insult. It takes real talent to hold an audience by being informative, insightful, and interesting. For three decades in Pittsburgh Cope held his audience doing just that.

Before he went into radio Cope was a sportswriter. Actually, he was one of the best. His profiles of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell stand up well after forty years and still make it into anthologies. The writing sparkles and the insight still shines through. Here is a bit of the Cosell profile that ran in Sports Illustrated in 1967:

''Oh, this horizontal ladder of mediocrity,'' sighs Howard Cosell, ruminating on the people who make up the radio-television industry, which pays him roughly $175,000 a year. ''There's one thing about this business: There is no place in it for talent. That's why I don't belong. I lack sufficient mediocrity.''

Cosell fondles a martini at a table in the Warwick bar, across the street from the American Broadcasting Company headquarters. Anguish clouds his homely face. His long nose and pointed ears loom over his gin in the fashion of a dive bomber swooping in with fighter escort.

''This is a terrible business,'' he says.

It being the cocktail hour, the darkened room is packed with theatrical and Madison Avenue types. A big blonde, made up like Harlow the day after a bender, dominates a nearby table, encircled by spindly, effete little men. Gentlemen in blue suits, with vests, jam the bar.

A stocky young network man pauses at Cosell's table and cheerfully asks if he might drop by Cosell's office someday soon. Cosell says certainly, whereupon the network man joins a jovial crowd at the bar.

''He just got fired,'' Cosell whispers. ''He doesn't know that I already know.''

The man, he is positive, wants his help, but what is Cosell to do when there are men getting fired every week?

''This is the roughest, toughest, cruelest jungle in the world,'' Cosell grieves.

A waiter brings him a phone, and he orders a limousine and chauffeur from a rental agency. He cannot wait to retreat to his rustic fireside in Pound Ridge up in Westchester County.

It is Monday evening, barely the beginning of another long week in which he, Howard W. Cosell, middle-aged and tiring, must stand against the tidal wave of mediocrity, armed only with his brilliance and integrity
Yes, it is a stupid decision

Is this crazy, or is this crazy?

The decision by Britain, America and certain other European countries to recognise Kosovo as an independent state is mind-blowingly stupid and suicidal and of a piece with their obvious determination to capitulate in the war for civilisation.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

That last line is gonna leave a mark

Steve Sailer on HRC:

Failing the bar exam isn't so bad, except that the media has never explained why she should be President other than that she's so smart. But if she's not so smart, then her main claim to being President is the nationally embarrassing one that nobody is supposed to talk about: that she was married to the last President, that she's Imelda Marcos in sensible shoes.
Today's must read

Snark does not equal wisdom

One of my criticisms of modern America is that we don't understand that sarcasm, wittiness or plain snarkiness don't equal wisdom or profundity. We mistake cleverness for thoughtfulness. This is nowhere more evident than in our political life, where politicians live and die, politically speaking, by the sound bite. Sound bites used to be up to 30 seconds, but nowadays they've shrunk to one or two sentences. Consultants get paid riches to come up with the right one-liner.



Humor is over-rated

Sarcasm is corrosive

Its very purpose "is to dethrone the serious"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another glib fad bites the dust

Maybe hip early-adopters aren't the key to starting trends. That's the gist of this debunking article from Fast Company

Is the Tipping Point Toast?
An island of sanity

Now that the JFK assassination is back in the news, it is worth noting that Dale Myers's has a tremendous website/blog that sorts out the facts from the garbage.

Secrets of a homicide

Saturday, February 16, 2008

JFK: The conspiracy puzzle

The vast majority of Americans believe that JFK was murdered by a conspiracy that may or may not have included Lee Harvey Oswald. This has been true for decades.

That is sad on many levels. It is also puzzling. The belief in conspiracy took hold at a time when the MSM was powerful and trusted and the MSM initially defended the Warren Commission.

For example, CBS News and Walter Cronkite (“the most trusted man in America”) did a four part special report on the assassination in 1967. They rebutted the charges made by Mark Lane and other “critics”, yet the conspiracy train kept moving on and gathering steam.

In that same year, NBC News and The Saturday Evening Post ran big stories that were harshly (and rightly) critical of Jim Garrison and his so-called “investigation”. Once again, the conspiracy theories kept finding adherents.

It is astounding when you think about it. A handful of cranks, frauds, and charlatans managed to convince a majority of the public that there was a conspiracy in Dallas. For some reason, they were more persuasive and more influential than the MSM at the height of its power.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Rosenhan redux

KC Johnson posts on a new Duke lacrosse article in a law review. This point caught my eye:

In Mosteller’s opinion, quite beyond Nifong’s complete lack of ethics, a structural problem exists: “Ethical principles, Brady, and our adversary system require a prosecutor to operate with a type of split personality.” On the one hand, the prosecutor is supposed to do justice and hand over exculpatory material. But “for a prosecutor who has reached the conclusion that the accused is guilty, which obviously should be updated as new evidence is received, there can be no true exculpatory evidence.”

There can be no true exculpatory evidence.

See here for additional commentary.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The problem with Lit Crit today


But I was very pleased when a friend recently sent me a book of literary criticism that he said I would like, and I did. This is rare: I am sick of university teachers treating literature as though it were a branch of something else—Social Studies, Gender Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Political Studies. The book was by Brigid Lowe and is called "Victorian Fiction and the Insights of Sympathy ".

It is a brave book, with one big simple message: all too often literary scholars merely use books (they call them "texts") for the sake of their own agendas and careers. Here's the novel; here's the ideological agenda to which it is to be fitted; and here's the critical mallet to whack it into shape. For example, here is the opening of another recent book on Victorian Sympathy from Stanford University Press which goes something like this: "The Victorians were very interested in sympathy - which was all about consolidating the male sense of identity, and an early example of interpellation in action." So that's what it's all about

HT: Milt's File

See also:

Knowledge and Knowingness

Fraud with Footnotes