Monday, December 27, 2010

Time for an old idea?

Jerry Pournelle has an interesting discussion (if not quite an endorsement) of Distributism:

Spreading the Wealth

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 2:8-14

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Have to admit it: Paul Krugman has a point

When Zombies Win

When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.

How did that happen? How, after runaway banks brought the economy to its knees, did we end up with Ron Paul, who says “I don’t think we need regulators,” about to take over a key House panel overseeing the Fed

He’s right about nearly every thing he said about “free-market fundamentalists”. (In fact, I think he could go farther in his indictment.) On the other hand, Krugman lets the Obama administration off too easy. Nor does he address those zombie ideas that enjoy bi-partisan support.

Krugman argues that President Obama was too cautious on policy, too quick to compromise with his political opponents, and too passive in defense of his principles.

There is some truth in this assessment. I would also argue that the administration stumbled because it was too cynical, too insular, too high-handed, and too partisan.

If ever there was a president with the opportunity to become a second FDR, it was Barack Obama in January, 2009.

Yet the administration rejected Roosevelt’s focus of his first 100 days: relief, recovery, reform. Nor did it follow his example and rally broad national support for his programs. Instead, the tone and direction were set by the hyper-partisan Rahm Emmanuel: “never let a crisis go to waste.”

The administration was almost eager to move the economic crisis to the back burner while they and the liberal Congress pushed forward with long-standing items on their wish list (cap and trade, health care reform, immigration reform, etc.). Inside Washington, it might seem smart to see a crisis as an opportunity to pass progressive legislation. To the people who are bearing the brunt of the recession, it seems like an abdication of leadership or a heartless betrayal of trust.

No surprise, then, that the stubborn economic weakness has been a drag on Obama’s approval numbers. It is not just that the public is impatient; many voters rightly sense that the White House felt little urgency to fix what was obviously broken.

If I am right about this, then what Krugman sees as inexplicable passivity, is really the result of a cynical calculation to play down the economic debate. In effect, the White House surrendered the field to the “zombie ideas” of the GOP so that it could concentrate its efforts on pushing through its other agenda items.

Even when the White House tackled critical economic problems, we see the same interplay of passivity, cynicism, and partisanship.

As Krugman notes, the US is still paying a grievous price for the excesses and mistakes of Wall Street and the big banks. Yet, the Obama administration was happy to outsource the crafting of the financial services reform bill to the Democrats in Congress. Instead of a vigorous public debate and quick passage of a law that brings about positive reform, we got Dodd-Frank: a bill that passed quietly two years after the financial meltdown. (See here for the maneuvering behind this “reform”.)

Dodd-Frank is a perverse caricature of reform. How could it be otherwise when its two authors are hopelessly entangled in the policy missteps and legal corruption that produced the economic catastrophe?

It is almost shameful that the Obama administration acquiesced to this betrayal of real and necessary reform. “Hope and change” proved to be less important than partisan solidarity and Congressional politics.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trouble in the charmed circle

A criminal probe complicates realtions among Democrats at the intersection of Wall Street and politics

A story in which the mistress of disaster makes an appearance.

Great article in the New York Times on Andrew Cuomo's investigation into car czar Steven Rattner.

Cuomo Pension Inquiry on Financier Grows Nasty

This doesn't build confidence in the FBI's Anthrax investigation

FBI interferes with release of NAS report on the scientific aspects of the Amerithrax case

For the sake of history

Cliff May recounts the inconvenient facts that "Fair Game" ignores.

Vanity Fair Game

I'm not surprised that Hollywood fictionalized the story. They are more interested in drama than truth.

It is much more troubling that the Washington Post and other news outlets keep pushing an outdated and largely discredited narrative.

When Irish bankers went Galt

It sounds like a recipe for a new Dark Ages. Instead, the Irish survived quite nicely.

The Irish Banking Crisis: A Parable


Chesterton 1
Ayn Rand 0

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Times is still proving Irving Kristol's point

Black and White and Red All Over

The ‘New York Times’ can’t handle the truth.

The New York Times may be the paper of record, but its record leaves much to be desired when the issue is Soviet espionage in the United States. Where the Times is not obscuring the historical record, it is willfully obtuse.

Irving Kristol:
For there is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy: he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing. And with some justification.

"Civil Liberties 1952—A Study in Confusion"

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Like a bad case of athlete's foot

We just can't get rid of David Frum.

Like his old buddy Excitable Andy, he is often wrong but Rarely in doubt. And he never doubts that the public needs the brilliance of David Frum.

Now he wants to be the arbiter of acceptable political rhetoric.

Apparently, calling some one a socialist is out of bounds, but it is just fine to label people "unpatriotic" if they disagree with the foreign adventures promoted by David Frum.

Stanley Kurtz treats Frum with more respect than he deserves.

David Frum, Speech Policeman

Frum desperately wants to be seen as a serious conservative leader. Yet his stock-in-trade are strident attacks on other conservatives. His treatment of Kurtz's book is bizarre even by Frum's standards.

The announcement made it clear that my book was the result of more than two years of empirical and historical research into Barack Obama’s political past, and would marshal “a wide array of never-before-seen evidence to establish that the president of the United States is indeed a socialist.” Frum, however, didn’t wait to consider my evidence or argument, or even bother to read my book. Instead, he invited a self-described Democratic activist who writes under the pseudonym “Eugene Victor Debs” to attack the very idea of my book — before either had read it.

Frum's actions stand as stellar examples of the hypocrisy and feline thuggishness of the Obamacons.

Is there a better example of "epistemic closure" than attacking a book before you read it?

UPDATE: Kurtz and Jonah Goldberg continue the discussion:

David Frum’s Wrong Direction

Politics Without Labels? What a Silly Concept

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They hate to say 'i told you so'

Well, actually, the gang at Cold Hard Football Facts love to say it when the topic is Brett Favre.

Childress the latest victim of Old Yeller Fever

The Vikings, from our perspective, have nobody to blame but themselves for the disaster of 2010. We told everybody, including the Vikings and their fans before the 2009 season, not to get consumed by Old Yeller Fever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sad but true

From a comment at the Post-Gazette:

The quarterback needs to adjust his style of play to match the circumstances. I used to blame Arians for poor play calling but it was fine when Rothlisberger was out. We won games. The running game worked. But now its back to all about Ben. Stand in the pocket for an eternity with a patchwork offensive line. Constantly looking for a highlight reel play dowin the field instead of first downs. Brady gave a clinic on how to lead a young, inexperienced team to a win. Another example of why he is an elite quarterback and Rothlisberger is not. Watch the film Ben, even you might learn something.

Roethlisberger has had a lot of great games in his career. but he has turned in a surprising number of bad games. As the commenter noted, he seems to lack situational awareness. He goes for big plays when cold efficiency is the better choice. Against New England, the offense sputtered when the game was close. BR seemed unable or unwilling to take what the defense gave him and threw a slew of deep incompletions.

It was even worse against the Bengals. The Steelers had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. The only way Cinncinnati can make a comeback is if Pittsburgh gave them a turnover and a short-field. Roethlisberger promptly threw an unnecessary interception and the Bengals stormed back into the game. (In fairness, the head coach helped the Bengals out by trying for a long-field goal with a struggling kicker.)

I have to say that the Steelers were also out-coached. The team was missing quality starters on both sides of the ball. Yet, i saw very little creativity in the play selection or formations. The coaches just seemed content to use their basic game plan and hope that the substitutes could play as well as the starters they replaced.

Behind the subprime crash

Outstanding article on the sequence of of bad decisions that led to Merrill Lynch's near-destruction:

The Blundering Herd

For nearly a century of solid profitability, Merrill Lynch was the company that brought Wall Street to Main Street, turning tens of millions of Americans into investors. But by the early 2000s, under C.E.O. Stanley O'Neal, it had developed a raging case of Goldman Sachs envy and began a blind stampede into unprecedented risk. In an excerpt from their new book, Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera chart the evisceration of the “Mother Merrill” culture as the firm crashed head-on with the mortgage meltdown.

The author's (Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera) are outstanding financial journalists.

You can see McLean on CSPAN's Q&A here.

Fair game and the Libby case

Stan Crock fights the good fight against Hollywood's false history:

'Fair Game' Glamorizes Distortions and Perpetuates Myths

The movie conforms to a pure and simple Hollywood story line complete with hero (Wilson), villain (Libby), and innocent, distressed damsel (Plame). That story line is gospel for the Left. A corollary story line is gospel for the Right: that Libby took the fall for Cheney.

Both are wrong. The fundamental problem is that Hollywood’s narrative needs and political leanings often conflict with reality. Hollywood needs a straightforward story line. Washington is more complicated. The usual explanation for bad outcomes inside the Beltway is not evil or corruption but incompetence or poor judgment. And there are rarely heroes

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The essence of "Mad Men"

I think Michael Prescott nails it:

Why I'm not mad about Mad Men

And that gets us to the heart of my objections. Mad Men is a show written by young people about an era they never knew, and their attitude seems to include a large element of mockery and derision. In almost every scene, I can hear some smug twentysomething or thirtysomething scriptwriter whispering, "Look at these idiots. They didn't know smoking was bad for you. They didn't know liquor can cause health problems. They didn't think women had minds of their own. They didn't know there were gay people in the world. They were so stupid!"

Followed by: "See how much smarter, more worldly-wise, and enlightened we are?"

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Remembering David Frum

I probably should have saved the Leo Amery quote for a "how's that crow taste" smackdown of David Frum. Sort of like this one:

Sliding Further Down the Path of Irrelevance

They all predicted that the GOP was headed towards extinction unless it embraced a more moderate agenda. For the most part the opposite happened, and the result is an electoral “bloodbath” the likes of which none of us has ever seen in our lifetime – just not the one anticipated by Frum and his ilk.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Christine O'Donnell in a nutshell


And let’s remember that many of O’Donnell’s problems had nothing to do with her political beliefs, and had everything to do with her personal shortcomings. The fact is years ago O’Donnell decided she wanted to be a celebrity conservative. So she went on MTV and on Bill Maher, and behaved in ways that drew attention to herself. And a lot of what she did came back to bite her in the hindquarters. Not to mention her resume problems, consisting of 1) not very much political or practical experience, and 2) she lied at least once (that we know of) about her resume. Eventually her reputation for flakiness got so bad that when she correctly stated something about the constitution, half the world laughed at her before the truth got its boots on.

RTWT at Patterico's place.

UPDATE: Ace has run out of patience:
O'Donnell, Who Lost By 17 Points, Still Sending Out Press Releases Attacking People

In the immortal word of Leo Amery:

This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barone on Juan Williams and the NPR audience

NPR’s intolerant firing of Juan Williams

Reading between the lines of Juan’s statement and those of NPR officials, it’s apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: while many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Barney Frank: The Man in Full

Fannie, Freddie, Frank, and fiction

BARNEY FRANK can be ruthless in debate, especially when laying into opponents who try to evade the historical record. But as he pursues a 16th term in the US House, Frank seems to be attempting a little evasion of his own.

Dude, show some respect

Frank belittles members of Congress. He berates Capitol Hill staffers. It’s not that he doesn’t suffer fools; he doesn’t really suffer anyone.

Now that he’s in his first competitive reelection campaign in 28 years, fending off justifiable questions over his role in the collapse of the housing market and a candidate good at asking them, Frank has toned down his act.

Is Barney Frank?

You would be hard pressed to find a politician who is less frank than Congressman Barney Frank. Even in an occupation where truth and candor are often lacking, Congressman Frank is in a class by himself when it comes to rewriting history in creative ways. Moreover, he has a lot of history to rewrite in his re-election campaign this year.

No one contributed more to the policies behind the housing boom and bust, which led to the economic disaster we are now in, than Congressman Barney Frank.

Is Barney Frank?: Part II

Among long-time politicians who are being seriously challenged for the first time this election year, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts best epitomizes the cynical ruthlessness which hides behind their lofty rhetoric.

Having been a key figure in promoting the risky mortgage lending practices imposed by the federal government on lenders, and on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy these risky mortgages from the lenders, Barney Frank blamed the resulting collapse of financial markets and the economy on everybody except Barney Frank.

This one is a two-fer: Frank as greenhouse gas hypocrite and Frank the "financial reformer" cadging rides on the private jet of a hedge fund plutocrat:


That's just the new stuff. There is plenty more in these older posts and their links:
Barney Frank

An unsurprising headline that should shock us all

Frank has been a walking disaster for some time and not just on the financial system. He also managed to hinder out anti-terror efforts:

From Gerald Posner's Why America Slept

"[In March 1987], the ABCC [Alien Border Control Committee] had its first notable success. The CIA tipped off the FBI to a group of suspected Palestinian terrorists in Los Angeles. The Bureau arrested eight men. But instead of being lauded, the Bureau and the Agency came under harsh attack from civil liberties groups who argued that the ABCC should be banned from using any information the CIA gained from the government's routine processing of visa requests. Congressman Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who was a strong advocate of protecting civil liberties, led a successful effort to amend the Immigration and Nationality Acts so that membership in a terrorist group was no longer sufficient to deny a visa. Under Frank's amendment, which seems unthinkable post-9/11, a visa could only bedenied if the government could prove that the applicant had committed an act of terrorism. Rendered toothless by the Frank amendment, the Reagan administration had virtually no way to block entry visas even when there was information linking the individuals to terrorist groups."

And let's note this gem from the always astute (he is, really, just ask him) David Frum:

I say "aye" to the proposed national debt bailout - and a big shout out to Rep. Barney Frank, one of its early authors, who has been a prescient early voice on the need for a big solution to a big problem.

Why libertarians fail

Two posts on the problem. The first raises honest questions:

Why Does Liberty Lose?

There is a good discussion going in the comments.

But maybe the real problem is not the ideas or ideals but the people espousing them. Say for example, the bozo who kicked of this little discussion at

disagreeing with the guys at

HT:View From The Porch (Read her comments too).

Sometimes it seems to me that what passes for libertarian activism is often little more than a snotty juvenile sense of entitlement.

This also probably explains part of the problem as well:

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 inseparable 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.'

Tom Wolfe, Hooking Up

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New job, same old Howie

Ace of Spades has a couple of posts on that barely critical press critic Howard Kurtz:

As Usual, Howard Kurtz Very Nearly Says Something Interesting, Then Restrains Himself From Making So Great An Error

Howard Kurtz occasionally writes media bias pieces, but in the end, he can't bring himself to actually criticize the MFM. Here, though, he goes right up to the line of being interesting and accurate before once again shying away.

And Howard Kurtz Misses The Point, Besides

First of all, note how that is put: the overheated hyperbole did him no favors. It's interesting that Kurtz lapses into this sort of Freudian slip where he laments the press' having done Obama a bad turn -- that is, he proceeds (unknown even to himself, I'd bet) from the premise that the press was supposed to prop up Obama, but, by claiming he could walk on water, overpromised, which now leaves their Precious in a bad spot.

Related posts:

What is the true function of a public editor

Media criticism and corralled rebellion

Straws in the wind

Friday, October 15, 2010

The cornerstone of the dynasty

Steelers' Greene to receive Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award

Greene is in the discussion for greatest defensive tackle in history. But what made him the greatest Steeler was his selfless commitment to winning. He was a superstar but not a diva.

This is from an old post:

The clincher, to my mind, is that Greene was the acknowledged leader on that team. As Rocky Blier puts it: "If Joe didn't like something, none of us liked it. If Joe says we should do this, we all did it." It was Greene who kept the Bradshaw/Gilliam controversy from becoming a black-white issue in the locker room. Greene's ferocious desire to win helped Chuck Noll change the culture of losing that surrounded the franchise. Joe's influence kept the team together when the WFL started raiding players.

The selection of Joe Greene in 1969 changed the fortunes of the franchise. Other great players followed, but Joe was first then, and he is first-among-almost-equals today

Monday, October 11, 2010

How good is the Giants's ace?

Will Tim Lincecum Be the 21st Century Bob Gibson? Time Will Tell

Cause for concern?

Toby Harnden thinks so:

10 reasons to be worried as Tom Donilon, Afghan war sceptic & desk-bound foe of US military, gets top foreign policy job

I find number 9 especially interesting:

9. Donilon is a former lobbyist. Remember how Obama was going to change how Washington worked and rid the city of lobbyists? Well now his top foreign policy adviser is a former lobbyist for Fannie Mae who consulted for Goldman Sachs.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Is it something in Pittsburgh's water?

The Pirates added to their record for losing seasons by losing a hundred games this year. Not surprisingly, they just fired their manager. Maybe John Russell was the only thing standing between the Pirates and winning.

Somehow i doubt that. The guy they fired before they hired JR ended up in Colorado and somehow managed to get them into the playoffs last year. Even with an epic September collapse, the Rockies finished with a winning record this season. Pirates fans would die if we finished above .500 and chased a wild card spot into the fall.

Ron Cook suspects that Russell was not entirely blame.

Joe Guzzardi touches on another aspect of the Pirates futility. How come some of the bad players we trade away, turn out to be good players at their new clubs?

Baseball’s Most Fortunate Player: Matt Capps

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Remembering a great one

Double the fun: Koufax Delivers the 1966 Pennant to the Dodgers, Then Retires

After the 1966 season ended, Sandy Koufax shocked the baseball world when he announced his retirement. Koufax, only 30, pitched 323 innings and posted a 27-9, 1.79 ERA that season.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I love it when good guys do good

A consummate pro makes time stand still

"We have a lot of confidence in Charlie," Keisel said of the team's mindset heading into the Baltimore game. "To see him rise up like he did today just shows the character of the man. Never once did he complain about his situation. He just kept coming to work. Even when he was hurt and on [injured-reserve], he came to work. He watched tape. He was there to help Ben ... ."

It's worth repeating about Batch: the consummate team player; just a great pro

Batch tries to make his dream last one more week

A month ago, Charlie Batch was the Steelers' fourth quarterback. He faced an uncertain future, even with Roethlisberger suspended for the first four weeks, because the Steelers might have chosen to start the season with only Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon as quarterbacks, leaving him on the street. One of the most philanthropic players in the league, Batch runs a summer basketball league for the kids in the hardscrabble, gang-ridden area of town where he grew up, trying to keep kids from meeting the same fate his sister met in 1997 -- when she was murdered as an innocent bystander in the crossfire between rival gangs.

All Batch wanted, really, was one chance to shine for the team he grew up worshiping. Sunday in Tampa, he got it. Taking advantage of an injury to Leftwich to stick on the opening day roster, and then an injury to Dixon last week to become the starter, Batch used the entire playbook instead of the slimmed-down game plan Dixon had been using. He threw deep to Mike Wallace twice, connecting on 46- and 41-yard touchdowns --once beating the son of former Steeler assistant Russ Grimm, rookie safety Cody Grimm -- among his three scoring passes

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bing Crosby's Secret Pirate Tapes

by The Last Hollywood Star

Great story in the New York Times about a tape made by Pirate owner Bing Crosby of the seventh WS game versus Yankees. Possibly the only favorable story written by the Times about the Pirates in ten years!

In Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar, Vintage Baseball

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bradshaw and Big Ben

Jealousy likely trigger for Bradshaw's anti-Ben rant

View all related imagesIs it possible that Terry Bradshaw's repeated attacks on Ben Roethlisberger are rooted in jealousy and the likelihood that Roethlisberger will be remembered one day as the greatest quarterback in Steelers history?


An old post on Myron Cope's take on Bradshaw.

Friday, September 17, 2010

He who laughs last

Tom Wolfe to get lifetime achievement award

Wolfe will be the 20th recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Previous recipients include novelists Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston and John Updike, as well as fellow crossover new journalists Norman Mailer and Joan Didion.

I blogged about Wolfe here and here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Battle of Britain Day

Remembering The Few

On this day 70 years ago, RAF Fighter Command claimed victory over the Luftwaffe. A day of heavy bombing raids over London and the south coast ended in big losses for the German air force: the Battle of Britain had been won. As a long, hot summer gave way to the gales of autumn, Hitler cancelled his plans to invade Britain; and while the bombs would continue to rain down on our cities for months to come, the threat to the nation's independence had been averted. There are days in our national story that should always be remembered: the defeat of the Armada, the triumphs at Trafalgar and Waterloo. Battle of Britain Day is among them – and no words, however familiar they have become, better capture the significance of what happened in the summer of 1940 than those uttered by Winston Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."


Six Weeks that Saved the World

Six Weeks that Saved the World (II)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men"

OK, call me weird, but i found this utterly fascinating:

The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men

The result is this look at how 20 famous men used their pocket notebooks. The list is hardly comprehensive; the practice was so widespread among eminent men that it would likely be easier to compile a list of famous men who did not use them, than did. And the choices are a bit eccentric; men who were famous for their interesting and numerous notebooks are well-represented but also included are a few from the past and present that just happened to cross our path during the course of our research. Where images of the notebooks were available they have been shown; in their absence a description will have to do. These caveats aside, we hope you will find reading about this manly practice as inspiring and fascinating as researching and writing about it was for us.

HT to The Munchkin Wrangler who share his own thoughts here:

your brain on paper.

One point he makes is something i've found to be true in my case as well:

There’s something about writing down an idea on paper that makes the mind get a hold of it better.

Here's a thought to warm the heart of luddites and techno-skeptics: Historians can go to the archives and read the notebooks of Isaac Newton or Mark Twain. Will future historians be able to do the same for modern figures? Is Bill Gates going to archive his PDA files?

On Bill James and steroids

Steve Sailer:

Let me propose a more relevant counterfactual. If Mr. James had been intellectually honest and had spoken out about steroids, as, say, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post did as early as 1988, then Mr. James would not have been hired as a senior executive of the Boston Red Sox in 2003 and capped his career by helping them win their first World Series since Babe Ruth's time in 2004. Why not? Because the Red Sox's two biggest hitters, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, were juicers.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The story behind the Quran burning story

Good stuff over at Just One Minute:

What If They Gave A Quran Burning And Nobody Came?

President Obama follows Sarah Palin's lead in condemning the Quran burning slated for Sept 11.

Left unremarked in the Times coverage - just what is the culpability and responsibility of the media in covering this stunt? The church hosting the Quran bonfire has all of fifty members and is not anyone's idea of mainstream. Why are these Quran crackpots being given a platform to hold our national security hostage and endanger our troops

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Annals of bad strategy: Newsweek is a well that never runs dry

Jack Shafer has a smart piece on the non-synergistic relationship between print and cable news:

TV or Not TV?

Newsweek makes the publisher's case for not sending print journalists onto TV news shows.

I've hit this point a number of times.

Newspaper killers mourn the passing of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

ESPN is killing newspapers in other ways. For instance, they, like many primetime cable news programs, “cover a story” by talking to the beat reporters who are actually covering the story. In essence, they let newspapers bear the cost while ESPN or Nancy Grace shares in the benefit.

(I’ve long found it puzzling that publishers and editors let their reporters give away their expensive product to the competition. Don’t they know about unsold cows and free milk?)

Cable news: get it fast, get it wrong

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

It is cost-effective because it is so cheap.

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

Media's Shifting Business Model

There is a bleed-over for print journalism. Newsweeklies like Time will find it harder to maintain their niche-slower but more knowledgeable-when their reporters show up cheek-by-jowl with pundits and spinners on shows that specialize in raw talk.

Looking toward November

With apologies to Antoine Batiste and Davis McAlary....

Always remember that a Republican consultant could screw up a wet dream.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Annals of bad strategy: The MSM creates new competitors and alienates paying customers

Andrew Ferguson’s take on Jon Meacham and the sale of Newsweek is a sharp piece of press criticism. If A. J. Liebling is the gold standard for the genre, then Ferguson is pure 24K.

Don’t Give the Readers What They Want

Ferguson has no patience for the histrionic pity party Meacham threw for himself. (He’s been onto Meacham for quite some time.) What he sees clearly is that Newsweek’s woes have a lot to do with the poor decisions of the editors, most especially top editor Jon Meacham.

That Meacham went on the Daily Show in search of tea and sympathy is just more evidence that the MSM mandarins really do not understand their business or the nation they pretend to serve.

Like many of the dying dinosaurs of the Old Media, Meacham explains away his failure to save Newsweek by pointing to big external trends that are beyond his control. People do not want to pay for quality journalism anymore he whimpers. (As Ferguson notes, Meacham was happy to jettison half his subscribers who were still paying for Newsweek’s journalism.) That old evil internet is killing the institutions that stand between ignorance and democracy.

There is another big external trend that Meacham did not bring up on The Daily Show. A large chunk of the population thinks it can stay informed about the world without reading any thing at all. Among the younger demographics, The Daily Show and Colbert Report now stand in for newspapers, Newsweek, and Walter Cronkite.

If Meacham really cared about the battle between “ignorance and democracy”, this trend should scare the daylights out of him. As a simple matter of marketing, newsweeklies should draw sharp distinctions between themselves and these infotainment competitors. Instead, Meacham actually adds to TDS’s image as a legitimate journalistic outlet.

It’s not just his latest appearance that Ferguson analyzed. Newsweek has been hyping Jon Stewart as our new Ed Murrow for years. (See here ). Some wise guy even had the brilliant idea to let Stephen Colbert edit an issue of their magazine.

It’s hard to convince people to pay for your product when you yourself talk up the advantages of that competitor who charges less.

Any guy running a two pump gas station knows that. Why has that wisdom escaped the best minds of the traditional MSM?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Food for thought

Brett Favre and Roger Clemens: Not The Odd Couple

There are a lot of parallels in the careers of Roger Clemens and Brett Favre. Both of them are good 'ol Southern Boys with right arms capable of throwing fireballs. While Favre got his championship out of the way early, Clemens had to wait 15 years for his first taste of title glory, however neither man has ever been mistaken for a reliable "CLUTZ" postseason performer. But the interesting parallels begin as both men entered the late 30s/early 40s portions of their careers.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Poland: First to Fight

The popular image of Poland in WWII is of a small nation that became the first victim of the Nazi blitzkrieg and the proximate cause of the war when Great Britain and France rallied to its side.

History records a different story. Poland fought Hitler’s Reich longer than any other nation. Her contributions to the Allied victory were significant and should be reclaimed from the memory hole.

First, about the defeat in September 1939:
The Polish Army-- almost completely unmechanized, almost without air support, almost surrounded by the Germans from the outset and, shortly, completely surrounded when the Red Army joined the aggression-- fought more effectively than it has been given credit for. It sustained resistance from September 1 until October 5, five weeks, which compares highly favorably with the six and a half weeks during which France, Britain, Belgium, and Holland kept up the fight in the west the following year
(John Keegan, The Battle for History)

Despite the defeats of 1939, the Polish nation never stopped fighting. Not only did the Home Army resist the Nazis inside of occupied Poland, but Polish forces fought on every major front of the European war.

The existence of a legitimate government in exile and of a strong army abroad--Poland, even in 1944, had the fourth largest number of men fighting German after the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom-- lent a powerful heart to the Poles, who produced few collaborators and no puppet chief, a unique distinction in the record of European response to German aggression.

Polish airmen filled whole squadrons in the Battle of Britain at a time when Britain barely had enough fighter pilots to hold off the Luftwaffe. (The Kosciuszko Squadron shot down more German planes than any other fighter squadron during the battle). Ground units fought heroically in key battles in Italy and France.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Poland made to the final victory was in the realm of intelligence. They played a vital role in breaking the Enigma cipher system used by the German high command and shared their discoveries with the French and British.

The Poles eventually designed a whole array of mechanical aids -- some of which they passes to the British, some of which the British replicated independently, besides inventing others themselves-- but their original attack, which allowed them to understand the logic of Enigma, eas a workd of pure mathematical reasoning. As it was done without any modern computing machinery, but simply by pencil and paper, it must be regarded as one of the most remarkable mathematical exercises known to history.
(John Keegan, Intelligence in War)

In the first desperate years of the war, Engima/ULTRA intelligence enabled Britain to hold off the Luftwaffe and then the U-boat menace.

The Nazis never discovered the ULTRA secret in five years of war. That is an amazing testament to the Poles and the French still on the Continent who knew the secret but never divulged it, not even under Gestopo torture.

The Polish Underground was the number one source of HUMINT in occupied Europe for the British. They provided vast amounts on information on the German V-1 and V-2 secret weapons, the movements of U-boats, and the German military preparations in advance of D-Day.

Witold Pilecki is a name every student should know. He carried out what the Times of London called “perhaps the bravest act of espionage of the Second World War”: he volunteered to go inside of Auschwitz. His reports documented the Nazi’s extermination campaign against the Jews.

Sounds about right


What the press found superlative about its Katrina reporting was the realization — very comforting post-RatherGate — that if they all agreed on a storyline and pushed it, they could still move the polls despite the alternative media. That the reporting was crap didn’t matter at all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Howard Kurtz sounds positively frantic

The poll results on the President's religion has him on the brink of despair.

The ignorance factor: Obama, religion and the media

The chilling chunk of people who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim has caused some serious soul-searching in the news business.

How have journalists failed to adequately communicate that the president is a Christian? Or does it no longer matter what we report if people choose to believe something with no basis in fact

My question on this whole issue is simple: why does this one piece of public ignorance matter so much?

So 18% of the public are wrong about the President's religion. Kurtz and Co. want the MSM to go pedal to the metal to correct this misconception. They also want Republicans to issue ringing testimonies to Obama's faith.

For over forty years, 70-80% of the public has believed that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Something like 30-50% of those people "think" that elements of the government had a hand in killing JFK.

Does Kurtz think that the MSM has a duty to correct this mistake in the public's knowledge of history?

Or what about the idea that the CIA invented AIDs to kill Africans and African-Americans?

I've missed the hyperventilation in the press about these examples of public ignorance and the political opportunists who exploit that ignorance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

Good piece by Nat Hentoff:

Am I also a bigot? Pols clueless on Ground Zero mosque

If you want to join Speaker Pelosi in investigating me, your honor, I'd be glad to oblige. I'm just doing my job as a reporter. I wish more reporters had gone beneath the shouting on both sides. There's another part of the First Amendment in addition to the free exercise of religion: The press is free to investigate the reasons for Imam Rauf's fixation on the 9/11 location of his mosque.

And why does this location make Hamas glow

The last fugitive

Leo Frederick Burt--- Still free (maybe) 40 years after he bombed the Math building at Wisconsin--Madison.

The last radical - dead or alive?

FBI wanted poster here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The problem with newspapers

Howard Owens thinks it might be self-inflicted.

Newspapers: Don't be the web

The effort to move newspapers toward color and fewer words has been destructive to the greatest value proposition of a newspaper: To be a product that thoughtful people spend time with. The endless chasing of "time-starved readers" has done nothing more than alienate core subscribers. And I also believe created a product that is even less interesting to younger generation of readers.

Can't they find a real expert?

With the indictment of Roger Clemens, ESPN has been using Lester Munson as their go to "legal expert".

It's worth remembering just how atrocious Munson's "analysis" was during the Duke lacrosse hoax and legal travesty. KC Johnson has chapter and verse here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Six weeks that saved the world (II)

On the influence of individuals in history

The magnitude of their victory [in France] deceived the Germans. It seemed impossible that the British would consider further resistance. In fact, the change from Chamberlain to Churchill had created a very different atmosphere in London.


Churchill brought extraordinary leadership to the struggle... He nobly gambled the last resources of a fading empire in the belief that the struggle was not yet lost. He was right.

(A War to Be Won)

Seventy years later and it is still frightening to ponder the "what ifs" of 1940. How does our world look today if Churchill is not PM in June 1940? What if Britain follows Halifax's advice to make peace and "save the country from avoidable disaster"?

The revenge of the Beck-bots

A few days ago KC Johnson posted KC Johnson on cable's love affair with Wendy Murphy:

Wendy Murphy's Revival

KC made an altogether obvious and innocuous observation about the media landscape:

While I rarely watch cable news, I’m fully aware that—in the era of Glenn Beck—the medium is more “entertainment” than “news.”

It was not long before the Beck fans appeared in his comments to defend their hero who they felt was unfairly attacked.

Unfortunately for them, the facts are on Prof. Johnson's side. That Beck is an entertainer should be obvious to anyone who watches his show more than four or five times. That Fox News provides an outlet for the horrible, ill-informed Murphy is simply a fact.

Sadly, the “Right” flunked this test just as much as the “Left”. Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck still use Wendy Murphy as a “legal analyst” on their cable shows. O'Reilly even wrote the forward to her new book. This despite her disgusting performance during the lacrosse case.

Lastly, as noted years ago, Beck is a lot like Murphy and the Gang of 88. None of them let the truth get in the way of their preferred narrative.

See also:

Duke lacrosse: How important is the Gang of 88?

The smart guys are catching on

Cold Hard Football Facts

Wicker also finds that Hines Ward is one of the great big-game receivers of our time – a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why he’s so beloved in Pittsburgh, despite relatively humble regular-season numbers compared to some of the other great modern receivers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Six weeks that saved the world

In this post, Rev. Donald Sensing makes a powerful case that 6 June 1944 is the most critical day in Western history:

The awful stakes of D-Day

There are many "pivot" days in human history, when the course of human events swung in a new direction because of discrete actions. It is hard to find another moment in all history when so much rested on an outcome of one day as rested on the success of the Allies' landings on Normandy. In military history, no other day in American history compares. The only single day that comes to mind for me right now is the day of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, when an Athenian army repelled a Persian landing force. The entire future of Western civilization and the idea of democracy itself lay in the balance. And yet even that may day not stand alone as D-Day does because the Persians persisted and the later battles of Plataea and Salamis were probably even more important. So there was no "one day" of paramount importance in the Persian War, even though it was almost certainly the most important war of ancient times.

The success at Normandy validated the strategic assessment of Churchill in the dark days of June 1940:
This is not the decisive point and this is not the decisive moment. That moment will come when Hitler hurls his Luftwaffe against Great Britain. If we can keep command of the air and if we can keep the seas open, we will win it all back for you.

It was an astute judgment but it seemed like wishful thinking to the French. Their generals assured the government that "in three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken." France made peace with Hitler and left Britain to stand alone.

There is no D-Day in 1944 unless Britain remains defiant and unconquered in the summer and fall of 1940. As Churchill understood, the first crucial battle in the liberation of Europe would take place in the skies over England.
The great French Army was very largely, for the time being, cast back and disturbed by the onrush of a few thousand armoured vehicles. May it not also be that the cause of civilisation itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen?

(Speech to Parliament 4 June 1940)

On 1 August 1940, Hitler issued Directive No. 17:
The Luftwaffe will use all the forces at its disposal to destroy the British air force as quickly as possible.

The RAF proved equal to the great challenge. Throughout the summer and fall they battled the Luftwaffe in hundreds of actions in the first great air campaign in history. The Germans never attained control of the air over southern England; without air superiority no invasion was possible.

On 15 September, Hitler put Operation Sea Lion-- the invasion of England-- on hold.

Der F├╝hrer had suffered his first strategic setback. Britain remained undefeated and unbowed. The great triumphs that came in the years that followed were only possible because of that momentous victory in 1940.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

Like the battle of Midway, the Battle of Britain stands out from the most other military turning points in the modern era. Sedan, Verdun, Stalingrad and Normandy were struggles contested by armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. The Battle of Britain was on an altogether smaller scale. A few thousand pilots and ground support personnel were the first and mainline of defense against Hitler and his war machine.

As Churchill put it:
The odds were great; our margins small; the stakes infinite

The free world can give thanks that England prevailed against those great odds.

This website let’s you follow the course of the campaign as it unfolded.

Battle of Britain Day by Day

This might be the best thing i've read on the Ground Zero mosque

Let us have a thought experiment...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Babe Ruth

by The Last Hollywood Star

On the 62nd anniversary of Ruth's death, Life Magazine releases several previously unpublished photos.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Distorting history

Great post by Rev. Donald Sensing

"Hiroshima Day" - World Council of Churches gets it wrong again

It's past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan so sympathetically every Aug. 6 and 9.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My favorite post title of the day

Shirley Sherrod’s ill-fitting suit

When seconds count, the police are minutes (sometimes many minutes) away

'Deadly delay': Police wait while mother, sons slain

The District police department policy on forcible entry caused a "deadly delay" as officers waited for a supervisor outside an apartment while a mother and her two young sons were being stabbed to death inside, according to a lawsuit filed by the woman's family.

The policy that led to police taking nearly an hour to finally bust down the door and find the murdered family is at the center of a $60 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers involved

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another triumph for criminal profiling?

If the Maryland police are right, then the FBI missed the boat once again:

Upper Marlboro man who police call a serial killer indicted

An FBI profiler concluded last year that the two slayings weren't connected, but police say Scott masked his crimes to throw off investigators.

The truth about criminal profiling

"Profilers can aid case, but they won't solve it"

I always knew Andrew Cohen was a dishonest hack*

but i had no idea he was such a twisted, self-dramatising jerk.

The Gift of Creepiness, On Your Wedding Day

UPDATE: Cohen doubles down.


Monday, July 26, 2010

When apologies were not in fashion

Since the MSM thinks apologies are the order of the day, Legal Insurrection has a few cases that deserve a mea culpa or three.

Still Waiting For Apologies

It's a lengthy list, but it only scratches the surface.

For example, since we now know that context is everything and editing video foortage is terrible, where are the apologies for the "Collateral Murder" propoganda from Wikileaks?

It's funny, in a sick kind of way, that Shirley Sherrod has become a martyr because she was went through a couple of days of bad press and unfair attacks. In terms of duration and viciousness, her "ordeal" is a day at the spa compared to what happened to the three falsely accused Duke lacrosse players.

So you might ask, how did the MSM handle their apologies back in 2007?

Short answer: grudgingly or not at all.

More than a few actually continued to attack the innocent players in order to cover for the media's failure.

Here is Terry Moran of ABC News
But perhaps the outpouring of sympathy for Reade Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans is just a bit misplaced. They got special treatment in the justice system--both negative and positive. The conduct of the lacrosse team of which they were members was not admirable on the night of the incident, to say the least. And there are so many other victims of prosecutorial misconduct in this country who never get the high-priced legal representation and the high-profile, high-minded vindication that it strikes me as just a bit unseemly to heap praise and sympathy on these particular men
Mike Wise of the Washington Post:

Just because these players aren't felons, let's not instantly transform them into martyrs. It's okay to find middle ground in the good-and-evil spectrum, no matter what a certain D.A. tells you.
Media critic and Breitbart scourge Howard Kurtz:

The three players were not choir boys -- the team had, after all, invited a pair of strippers to a midnight party -- but they hardly deserved the national scorn of being loudly trumpeted as accused rapists.

Further examples can be found here for the Washington Post and here and here for Selena Robert of the New York Times.

Roberts provides another interesting insight into media double standards. Breitbart's mistake apparently puts him beyond the pale now and forever. Roberts's disgracefull performance brought out the protective side of her reporter friends.

A new form of failure laundering*

Many in the MSM are bashing Andrew Breitbart for his handling of the Shirley Sherrod video. Some of the criticism is probably deserved. Others, however, are trying to use this story to retrospectively justify their own mistakes and journalistic failures.

Patterico takes down one such effort here:

James Rainey: Breitbart Was Irresponsible for Doing What I Do All the Time

With this series of embarrassments as background, it’s little wonder that Rainey would seize upon the Sherrod episode as a way to suggest that Breitbart was the villain all along — and Rainey simply the truth-teller battling the wild-eyed partisan.

The fact that Rainey routinely slams his enemies without contacting them for comment (he also did it to Jill Stewart lends a rich layer of irony to this complaint about Breitbart:

[D]idn’t this self-styled truth-teller have an obligation to get the full speech or a response from Sherrod? He apparently did none of those things.

When Breitbart fails to contact someone for a response, that’s unforgivable sloppiness, according to Rainey. But when Rainey fails to contact Giles, or O’Keefe, or Breitbart, or Jill Stewart, that’s tip-top Big Newspaper Journalism

Clarice Feldman takes a broader tour d'horizon on the meaning of the story.

Clarice's Pieces: Know When to Hold 'Em

Feldman actually read what Breitbart wrote when he posted the videos. That puts her ahead of about 90% of the fulminators on the issue.

It appears that the White House is hoping to run this story through the wash cycle a few times. They want Ag. Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Undersecretaty Cheryl Cook to shoulder all the blame for the quick firing of Sherrod. But as Jack Kelly notes, the WH praised the Ag department for their "decisive action" the day after Sherrod was ousted.

*Other examples of failure laundering can be found here, here, and here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Michelle Malkin:

Dealergate, social justice & the Obama job-killing machine

But Neil Barofsky, the federal watchdog overseeing the bank-auto-insurance-all-purpose bailout fund, found that the White House auto industry task force and the Treasury Department “Auto Team” had no basis for ordering the expedited car dealership closure schedules. They relied on a single consulting firm’s internal report recommending that the U.S. companies adopt foreign auto industry models to increase profits — a recommendation hotly disputed by auto experts who questioned whether foreign practices could be applied to domestic American dealership networks.

Team Obama’s government auto mechanics also ignored the economic impact of rushing those closures. According to Barofsky, they discounted counter-testimony from industry officials that “closing dealerships in an environment already disrupted by the recession could result in an even greater crisis in sales.”

MM also points out that the the people responsible for these important decisions were hardly the best qualified to weild such power.

This is no surprise, of course, considering the amount of actual auto business expertise among Obama’s auto czars and key staff. That is: zero. Obama’s first auto czar, Steve Rattner, ran a private equity firm in New York before resigning his position amid a financial ethics cloud.

Rattner’s chief auto expert adviser, Brian Deese, is a 30-something former Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama campaign aide and law school grad with no business experience, who openly boasted that he “never set foot in an automotive assembly plant

I blogged about Rattner (here and here) and Deese (here) last year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Giving Jonathan Alter his due

The whole review is a gem

Friends and Sources

"A mile above sea level," reads the first awful sentence by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter in his prologue to this book, "the thin Denver air refreshed the throngs as they waited in the summer darkness for their man to ascend. It was an electric evening for a nation yearning to believe in something or someone again. Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for president on August 28, 2008, the forty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King's ‘I Have a Dream' speech at the Lincoln Memorial."
As far as we know, no loaves and fishes to feed the hungry multitudes, no water changed to wine. But otherwise, the symbols are all there -- the adoring throngs, the mountaintop, the ascension -- and the tone is set.

Coyne also understands how the guild works and how it takes care of its own:

But don't cry for Jonathan Alter and Jon Meacham. As Patrick Gavin writes in Politico, Meacham "has the great fortune of being part of an elite club of journalists who take care of their own." He quotes Peter Mirijanian, a Washington crisis communications expert: "Within the fraternity and sorority that is the journalist corridor between New York and Washington, I think he's fine..." And so is Alter. After Game Change and The Bridge, his Promise is third in a series of at least three more Obama books this year by that "elite club" of journalist/writers, topping off with Bob Woodward, who creates great fictional characters and will find at least one Deep Throat in the administration, unnamed of course, to pass him secrets in an unlit parking garage.

The story will change, the plot thicken, and Alter will be kept in book contracts for a few more years -- at least up through Year Four -- thus continuing to ensure him a place beside Jon Meacham at Charley Rose's table

The philosophy behind gun control

Great post from Kevin Williamson at NR:

Coyotes in the State of Nature

Ignatius here is remarkably forthcoming: He is not worried about guns in the hands of criminals, but about guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, people who are willing to apply for a permit and jump through the bureaucratic hoops re­quired of gun buyers. His nightmare is not an America in which criminals run amok with Glocks, or even an America in which gun permits are handed out liberally, but an America in which “every American can apply for a gun license.” Never mind the approval of licenses, the mere application gives Mr. Ignatius the howling fantods. It is wonderfully apt that he references the “state of nature” in his criticism, imagining a Hobbesian version of life in these United States: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, permeated by the aroma of cordite. Mr. Ignatius, like Thomas Hobbes, is casting his lot with Leviathan and makes no apology for it.

That is the essence of 21st-century progressivism: In matters ranging from financial derivatives to education to gun control, the Left believes that we face a choice between a masterful state and a Hobbesian war of all against all. For all of the smart set’s vaunted and self-congratulatory nu­ance, it is this absolutist vision, this Manichean horror, that forms the foun­dation of progressivism.....

Just as state schooling is not about education, but about the state, gun control is not about guns: It’s about control. A citizen who can fend for himself when the predators come or the schools fail is less inclined to look to the state for sustenance and oversight in other areas of life. To progressives, that’s an invitation to anarchy. To the men who wrote the Second Amendment, it was a condition of citizenship in a free republic. It’s what free men did, and do

See also Jesse Walker's article on the "paranoid center" from last fall for a smart analysis of another facet of the problem.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Looking for the dark cloud behind the silver lining

When most normal people read that a serial killer has been captured, they view it as an unalloyed good.

A killer off the street, what’s the downside?

OTOH, MSM pundits and editors seem to take a perverse pleasure in finding the potential downside to every piece of good news.

Case in point--the capture of Lonnie David Franklin who is accused of being South Central LA’s “Grim Sleeper” serial killer. After years of frustration, investigators made their breakthrough when they used familial DNA analysis. Lonnie Franklin was not in the state’s DNA database so earlier searches came up empty. When investigators looked for close matches (i. e. family members of their unknown killer), they got a hit. Further investigation led them to Franklin. Undercover officers snagged his DNA from an discarded slice of pizza. That DNA proved to be to be a match with the evidence from the murders and an arrest was made.

What’s not to like?

MSM pundits and editors have found plenty not to like:

A Yellow Light to DNA Searches (NY Times)

The Grim Sleeper and DNA: There's much to be concerned about (LA Times)

Familial DNA analysis is promising but hazardous (KC Star)

Most of the arguments are either short on logic or light on facts. Or both. For example, the New York Times is fine with how California handled this case and thinks it should be a model for the nation. Yet, Jerry Brown has imposed a couple of bizarre restrictions on police:

Under rules set up by Attorney General Jerry Brown, familial searching cannot be used unless all other investigative leads have been exhausted. The crime must be murder or rape, and the criminal has to be an active threat to public safety still committing crimes.

Why must other, possibly less effective methods be “exhausted” before police turn to familial DNA analysis? In the case of serial murder and serial rapists this give the criminal more time to find more victims.

Similarly, why should cold cases be excluded? Just because a case seems to be cold, that does not mean the killer is no longer a threat. The “Grim Sleeper” got his nickname because he apparently stopped killing for fourteen years. In the case of BTK (Dennis Rader) police thought he stopped killing in 1978, but, in fact, he committed three murders in 2004 and 2005 that police did not link to BTK until Rader confessed to them after his capture.

I not sure what drives this obsessive desire to find a perverse angle to stories in the news. Is it merely a need to look clever and stand apart from crowd? That’s the most likely explanation. But I cannot help thinking about something David Gelernter wrote after he was almost killed by the Unabomber:

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.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Behind the Pirates's woes

by The Last Hollywood Star

For those of you interested in how the Pirates got where they are, this Sports Illustrated article does a good job of explaining.

Not A Pretty Picture

With their rich heritage and jewel of a ballpark, the Pirates could be a major league treasure. Instead they're an object lesson in how a once-proud club can become the most futile franchise in sports

Friday, July 09, 2010

Case in point

There's no statute of limitations on counterespionage, none at all.

William Hood

Nor, is there any statute of limitations on writing about spy puzzles.

For example. Chapman Pincher returns to the "Fifth Man" question in his 2009 book Treachery. Tracking down the Cambridge Ring and their enablers has been good sport for British journalists since 1951.

The thing that amazes me is that Pincher was one of those journalists. The man was born in 1914. And yet, he is still chasing down leads and writing fat books as he nears the century mark. That is a worthy achievement in and of itself.

Pincher is convinced that former MI5 director Roger Hollis was a Russian mole. He has pursued that avenue for thirty years(since Their Trade is Treachery). His latest book has some new information that bolsters the case, but still no smoking gun.

What makes this book fascinating is that Pincher dishes a lot of inside information on how he got his scoops. Like Bob Novak's memoir, we get a close up look at how the sausage is made.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The essence of "Twilight"

Twilight Hit for the Same Reasons Knight and Day Flopped

A weaker novelist than Rowling, Meyer less understands the adolescent girl’s mind than shares it. Her Bella epitomizes teen self-obsession, the ambition to have every boy fight over you and every girl hate you for it.

Unlike Harry Potter’s world, which is so crisply-imagined that it’s a little limiting as metaphor, Meyer’s hazy imagination created a vampire cosmos where everything can symbolize anything. Sex, death, growing up, marriage, religion, race, family, whatever interests you, it will fit into Twilight’s cloudy cosmos

Friday, July 02, 2010

Double standards are the only standards he's got

Last year Howard Kurtz was deeply troubled because ESPN was slow to jump on the sexual assault accusations aimed at Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:

I've got one more ESPN controversy to throw at you, and that's the story involving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suddenly confronted with allegations from a woman who filed a civil suit against him saying that he sexually assaulted her a year ago. She never went to the police. This is a year later. Who knows whether it's true.

Lots of news organization reported it. ESPN initially did not and told its talk show hosts not to talk about it.

Can you really ignore a story like that

Funny thing, he sings a completely different tune when the target is Al Gore:

But, now, you have an accuser who, as I mentioned, her cooperation with the police was spotty. The police did not see any reason to launch an investigation.

Didn't that give you any pause about publishing?

LEVINE: Howard, it did not give us pause in the sense that this was something that had been buried. Was there some type of cover-up involving the police? We don't know.

I mean, I think our job was to bring it to the surface after we were able to corroborate certain facts of the story. And now there's public opinion on this story.

Let's look into the thing. Let's look into the evidence that's at hand. Let's hear from Al Gore in terms of his side of the story. He's officially issued a "no comment" about this, so I think there's still a lot that remains to be seen on this story.

KURTZ: You talk about Gore's side of the story, but you told me this week that "The Enquirer" did not call Al Gore's office for comment because you didn't want to lose the exclusive before your issue hit the newsstands.

Was that fair to the former vice president?

LEVINE: I think it was. You know, this was a competitive story.

You know, he could have gotten out in front of it by putting it in the hands of a news organization, to some degree, more favorable. We felt that we had the facts and we wanted to put that information out. Now is his time to come forward.

We thought our story was very fair in the sense that we said very high that the police had not charged him in any way. We also pointed out some things that we found out about the woman's past, that she had been involved in a previous domestic relations abuse case from 1998.

KURTZ: Right.

LEVINE: So we thought we laid all the information out.

KURTZ: Gore's office has not commented yet, and I put in a request as well. But isn't it possible, Barry Levine, that this woman is making this up and making a charge against a very famous person who is now being victimized

(I discussed the media and the Roethlisberger allegations here)

The MSM puts great stock in the value of its insider status. They know things that we outsiders do not. That allows them to see context and nuance that the dirty masses are blind to. What the public might think is favoritism is just superior knowledge. Because they know that Joe Biden is smart and Sarah Palin is dumb, it is AOK for pundits to mock the latter while ignoring the missteps the of Veep.

Yeah, they know Biden is smart just as they know (knew?) that Al Gore was a good family man.

Uh-oh. In the wake of the divorce and the sexual assault allegations, maybe the insiders aren't so knowledgeable after all.