Saturday, December 24, 2011

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

Monday, December 05, 2011

Good Point

Tebow’s Religion, and Ours

In short, people aren’t upset at Tebow’s God talk. They’re upset that he might actually believe it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wisdom in 140 characters

 'The Kim Kardashian definition of 'forever' is 'when the check is cashed. '

Quoted here.
Tweeted here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What is the lesson of Libya?

Jerry Pournelle:
One lesson to be learned is, DO NOT LOSE if you are in the dictator business. The US will borrow money to furnish the Brits, French, and Italians with the means to kill you. Understand that, and be sure that you have the means for defending yourself. The more strategic your country the more important it will be to have defenses including personal defenses. Another lesson is, do not renounce your nukes. Get some. Get at least one and let it be known that it will detonate if you don’t talk to it at daily intervals.

Verum Serum made this point back in July:
Why, for instance, would Iran give up its nuclear program if the result is to wind up the focus of a Libya-style bombing spree once they’ve capitulated?

"The most tragic figure ever to wear a Major League uniform"

also had one of the greatest World Series ever. 

Joe Guzzardi has the story.

"Old Pete” Handcuffs the Yankees

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"I never want to say the word 'I should have'"

Words to live by.

Found here:
Boatlifters: The unknown story of 9/11
The captains and crew of the fleet of boats who rescued so many on 9/11 came together with no idea what they would be getting into and no idea whether Manhattan would be attacked again let alone their very own boats. All they knew were that desperate people were in need of help and they couldn’t turn their backs on them, even if that meant putting their own lives at risk

The boatlift was larger than Dunkirk. It is a mystery to me why it is almost unknown.

History is inspiring. Bravery is inspiring. It is shameful we no longer teach this to our children.
David Gelernter, Drawing Life

Honest and astute

R.I.P., America’s liberal-media elite

Someday, cultural historians will look back on the early 21st century and speculate about what killed the credibility of America’s so-called liberal-media elite.

They will ask, Were the wounds self-inflicted or the product of a methodical plot?

Make no mistake about it. We did this to ourselves


"What do you call a man who wants to embrace the chimney-sweep?"

"A saint," said Father Brown.

G. K. Chesterton, "The Flying Stars"

A point that cannot be repeated too often

From the Columbia Journalism Review:
The Democratic Party has had it both ways for nearly two decades since the ascendance of Rubinomics turned Wall Street into a powerful constituency for both political parties. Not coincidentally, Bill Clinton's installation of a Wall Street-friendly economic team also resulted in weakened Wall Street oversight, the actual prevention of oversight, and even an abandonment of it altogether in the case of Traveler's merger with Citigroup (which would go on to pay Robert Rubin $115 million for doing... well, not much).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A catastrophic failure of imagination

Joseph Lawler makes a critical point about the October 2008 crash and Henry Paulson's handling of it:
Why did Treasury and the Fed allow Lehman Bros. to collapse after they'd bailed out Fannie and Freddie and facilitated the sale of Bear Stearns?

Paulson does not say. The line at the time was that Treasury had no legal authority to intervene, but that was the extent of the information officials gave out. Paulson tells a long story (which has its own problems) about his efforts to coax different banks into buying Lehman, and then concludes with this: "Some in the group asked if we should revisit the idea of putting public money into Lehman, but Tim said there was no authority to do that."

Again, note the reduction of an impossibly complicated issue -- whether regulators had the legal authority to bail out Lehman -- into a impromptu conversation with a first-name-basis friend.
This is one example of a recurrent theme in the financial crisis: a handful of men (in Washington and New York) grappling with the crisis on an ad hoc basis. As Lawler puts it:
huge decisions determining the fates of endlessly complex institutions are gamed out in the crudest of terms by two pals in conversations depicted with a level of detail, dramatic tension, and moral awareness that would be better suited for a Sesame Street segment about cooperation.
The common rationalization is that the mortgage and derivative meltdown was a "black swan event" that surprised the key players and caught them unprepared.

This excuse calls to mind the 9/11 Commission's words:
Across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.

The most important failure was one of imagination.

Maybe Wall Street and the Treasury accept the frenzied search for ad hoc stop gaps as the best way to hand a crisis. Not every organization shares this tolerance for hyperkinetic amateurism.

The military has a well stocked toolbox that they use to anticipate the unexpected and to build resilience for when anticipation fails. As Colin Gray put it:
General Dwight D. Eisenhower once observed, the principal value of military planning is not to produce ahead of time the perfect plan, but rather to train planners who can adjust and adapt to changing circumstances as they emerge.
I hope some one at Treasury is gaming out some of the doomsday scenarios that stalk our nightmares. I said hope, because i've not seen any reports of such proactive preparations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gary Hamel via twitter:
Both Tea Partiers and the Occupy rabble have a point. Politicians built the debt bomb (via SEC and Fannie) & then the bankers detonated it.

Numbers that should scare Mitt Romney and the tools at Fox News (Updated)

New Yorkers support anti-Wall Street protests
The relentless campaign of demonization isn't working. Even 35% of republicans in New York say they support the protesters.
These numbers also suggest that Romney could be terribly vulnerable to Obama in the general election. Big donors might like his resume, but voters might find it repellent. His personal connections to outsourcing, Wall Street, and management snake oil could prove fatal.

I think we might have seen a a preview of the problem here in Pennsylvania in 2010. At the end of the campaign, the Sestak campaign hit Pat Toomey hard on the "jobs to China" issue. It seemed to get traction. Toomey ran 3.5 percentage points behind Corbett (the Republican candidate for governor). He squeaked out a win (51%-49%) against an underfunded candidate in a profoundly Republican year.

So it looks like Pennsylvania is out of reach for Romney.

Even more scary for the GOP is the way that Toomey under-performed across the board. He trailed Corbett in blue-collar Democratic counties like Allegheny and Beaver. He also saw a similar drop-off in hard-core conservative areas like Adams and Armstrong counties.

That suggests to me that Romney might have a problem recapturing all the Bush states that flipped in 2008 (like Ohio).

Ben Stein :

On the way home from the doctor today, though, on the radio news, I heard President Obama dropping the "g" sound at the end of his sentences the way he does when he thinks he's addressing working people. When he thinks he's addressing business people, he keeps in the "g" sound. That's politics. He could be a lot worse.

Just so you know, we don't have anyone who can beat him. Get used to him.
HT: Sense of Events

Monday, October 17, 2011

A one per center advises OWS

Unlike the glib and stupid "get a job you dirty hippie" refrain of the professional right, Mark Cuban shares the frustrations of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.  Even better, his ideas should make sense to a lot of Main Street conservatives.


Insty on Herman Cain's MTP appearance:

what I noticed is that David Gregory doesn’t seem to understand the difference between state taxes and federal taxes....

If Sarah Palin made such an error, it would be seen as proof that she was unfit for the national stage. For Gregory, well . . . draw your own conclusions.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And now for something completely different

Boy friends as positional goods

 Steve Sailer

Similarly, the gay male writers behind Sex and the City started with Fielding's spoof of "urban families" of stylish single women who undermine each other's chances of landing a husband by constantly gathering over drinks to nitpick their boyfriends, and turned these mutually-destructive circles into a fantasy about friendship.

It was never actually about female solidarity, but about female competition for alpha males like Mr. Big. Nevertheless, women hate to be seen as competitive, so "Sex and the City" displayed the nice side of cliquishness, minus the nasty side: these social X-rays wouldn't be seen dead in the company of 99 percent of their fans.

All Dreher all the time

Given my pessimism about the economy and the cynical politics that co-opts popular discontent and diverts political action into a morass of pointless food-fights, i've grown tired of most poli-blogging and conventional nano-punditry.

Actually, i've been tired of it for a long time. I wrote this five and half year ago:

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

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

What was once boring is almost intolerable now given the monumental problems the nation faces.

A bright exception to this situation is Rod Dreher. In his blogging he is honestly trying to find workable solutions to the crisis that besets us. Although he is a conservative, he is willing to engage the arguments of liberal and left thinkers. Even more admirable is his willingness to understand those (like the public faces of Occupy Wall Street) whose solutions are wrong-headed but who are honestly dealing with real issues.

By all means check him out here.

Fighting the good fight

W. Joseph Campbell wrote an interesting and important book: Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism. Said book demolishes many of the media stories that we all take for granted. For example, there was no widespread panic when Orson Welles broadcast War of the Worlds in 1938. Nor did Woodward and Bernstein "bring down Nixon" with their "Watergate" reporting.

A truth-seekers work is never done. Campbell has a website which catches journalists repeating these "media myths" and corrects the record.

It's kind of disheartening to see the same errors repeated over and over again. But, at least some one is trying to get the truth out.

Media Myth Alert

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What hath Murdoch wrought (II)

One of those eternal media puzzles. How is it that Greg Gutfeld is on Fox News three hours every day? A failed magazine editor is supposed to be FNC's answer to John Stewart? 

The Five is so bad it makes me miss Glenn Beck.


The Case for Right-Wing Tennis Elbow

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Howard Kurtz as perceptive as ever

Kurtz on Sunday's Reliable Sources

You had well-known commentators on the right like David Frum, Kathleen Parker, and others

David Frum on Wednesday

I have to recognize that my views are not very representative of the conservative mainstream.

Three wasted years

I'm deeply pessimistic about the economy for two reasons:

1. President Obama may be re-elected.

2. President Obama may be defeated

I've already discussed the key failure of Obama's economic policies. His administration treated the financial crisis as a political opportunity rather than a grievous problem that demanded their full attention and bold action.

It is now painfully clear that the Republican candidates have no appetite to deal with the serious problems that still weigh on the economy. They are counting on Obama's unpopularity to carry them to victory in 2012. The programs they offer are little more than warmed over talking points.

Pundits on both sides spend their time attacking and mocking their opponents. Precious few voices address the critical issues in an honest fashion; everything is reduced to the thrust and parry of partisan "debate". We can already see the outlines of the 2012 campaign. Fox News will mock Occupy Wall Street as clueless dirty hippies while most of the MSM will portray the Tea Parties as ignorant fanatics who are the tools of the Koch brothers and other dangerous plutocrats.

It seems like a bizarre game. Unfortunately, the stakes are high.

I wonder, if Lincoln gave his Cooper Union speech in a media world like out own, would he have become president? Or is it the fault of the candidates? Is there a Republican in Washington who could write a speech half as good as the one that brought Abe to the White House?

Related:  Megan McArdle suggests that we take an honest look at the impulse behind OWS.  This was especially on point:

When the gap between the number of job openings and the number of people who are out of work is so large, there are going to be a hefty number of unemployed people.  Maybe these people individually could have done more to get themselves out of their situation, but at the macro level, that would just have meant that someone else was out of work and suffering.

HT: To Rod Dreher who has an interesting discussion going in his comment thread.

"Why are we supposed to hate Elizabeth Warren?"

That's the question Rod Dreher asks after reading this Vanity Fair profile.
The Woman Who Knew Too Much

My suggestion: libertarians and libertarian conservatives are ""uneducated, and easy to command."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gee, i wonder which it is?

Racist Republicans Flocking to Cain
Either a lot of Democrats have been slandering millions of American voters as racist, or the Tea Party hasn’t gotten the word that Herman Cain is African American. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn after a slew of recent polls shows that Cain is picking up the ‘teavangelical’ vote as former favorites like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry fade.

CNN's new star gets off on the wrong foot

David Zurawik:
I promised myself I was going to give CNN's new weeknight host Erin Burnett a full week of shows before I reviewed her.

It was hard keeping that promise Monday night when I saw her pay a visit to the Occupy Wall Street encampment so she could look down her nose and mock the folks there. I thought it downright cruel the way she and her producer cut one kid from the herd and then tried to make him look like a fool. This was cool kids mocking outsiders on the playground, and it made me angry
She's even catching fire from the Capitalist's Tool:
Erin Burnett Is Vapid, Occupy Wall Street Matters
I have to question the big brains at CNN. In what altered state did it make sense to have CNBC's material girl take on OWS with snark and mockery? Come to think of it, given her ties on Wall Street and her own career path through some the worst bailout queens (Citicorp, Goldman Sachs), the Occupy Wall Street protests were a story best left to others.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Computer analysis has revealed that more than three quarters of the King James Version can be traced directly to Tyndale (83% of the NT and 76% of the OT)....

The King James Version is sometimes called ‘the greatest book written by committee.’ And I suppose there is something to celebrate about that. Yet, for the most part, those 47 scholars, working in peace and prosperity, could not improve on the work of a young evangelical who gave his liberty and his life for the gospel.

Thank God for William Tyndale.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Anthrax: Scientists push back against the FBI

UW Professors: Accused Anthrax Killer Couldn’t Have Done It

"The scientific evidence clearly shows that the (anthrax) wasn't produced in our laboratory (USAMRIID)," the two UW professors say. "The FBI based part of its case on unusual activity that took place in our lab for one week. There is no way he could produce that amount of spores in our lab during that time."
HT: Dr. Meryl Nass

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Friday, October 07, 2011

"But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!"

The battle of Lepanto was fought and won 440 years ago.

History in need of revising

Think the Middle Ages were drab and dark? Think again.
 A World of Brilliant Colors

In fact, the Middle Ages was the opposite of drab and dreary. It was distinguished for the vivid colors that enriched the streets of the cities, the workplaces and the battlefields.

HT: Thinking Housewife

While we are at it, can we do right by the New England Puritans? In the popular imagination, they are grim, acetic, cruel, and tyrannical. This is an almost complete inversion of the truth. As Samuel Eliot Morison wrote in his Oxford History of the American People,  They "did not dress in black and with steeple-crowned hats; they liked bright colors for clothing, furniture, and hangs." Further:

Puritanism was a cutting edge which hewed liberty, democracy, humanitarianism, and universal education out of the black forest of feudal Europe and the American frontier.

Conservatives are often criticized for romanticizing the past. What is often overlooked is that many thinkers and writers try to romanticize the present by demonizing the past.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Amanda Knox

Not sure that Americans have any room to criticize the Italian justice system:

John Grisham wrote a great book about one travesty of this type. The research proved to be a revelation to him:

The journey also exposed me to the world of wrongful convictions. Something that I, even as a former lawyer, had never spent much time thinking about. This is not a problem peculiar to Oklahoma, far from it. Wrongful convictions occur every month in every state in this country, and the reasons are all varied and all the same-- bad police work, junk science, faulty eyewitness identifications, bad defense lawyers, lazy prosecutors, arrogant prosecutors.
A couple of pieces from the past:
Show some remorse or at least say something .

We law and order types want to see public acts of abject contrition when convicted criminals are about to be sentenced. Not that it does them much good. But if we don't get a loud emotionsl "i'm so sorry" we are ready to lock them away forever.

Or use the needle.

Don't you know that absence of a public acknowledgement of guilt is evidence of irredeemable psychopathology? Or something. I'm sure i heard it on the Nancy Grace show.

Yet, we never seem to apply that standard to the prosecutors who send the innocent to jail. Like Nancy herself, they usually refuse to take any responsibilty for the gross injustice they helped create.  And the public accepts that.
KVUE spoke with Ken Anderson, the prosecutor in this case 25 years ago. He said he has no statement to make about Morton being found innocent and would leave any comments to be made about this case to the D.A.'s office.
This is one of the reasons i can't get behind Rick Perry.

New news about old headlines

Somehow i doubt this story will draw as much attention as the original headlines.
Jamie Leigh Jones Ordered to Pay $145,000 in Court Costs After Failed Rape Claim

The last word should go to the side that was vindicated:

In a statement, KBR said, "Because our fees were substantial in defense of this case, and as the jury found Jones' claims to be without merit, we appropriately exercised our rights to recover our costs, as we would do in any such case where the remedy was available."

"Since 2005, KBR was subjected to a continuing series of lies perpetuated by Jones in front of Congress, in the media and to any audience wishing to lend an ear to this story. The outcome of the jury trial as judged by her peers is the same result that the State Department got in the 2005; that the Justice Department found in 2008. We are deeply gratified that the justice system has worked."

Must read

William Anderson:

Eric Holder: Perjury for me -- but not for thee, Roger

Eric Holder wants to put Roger Clemens in jail lying to Congress. So what price should Holder pay for his lies?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki

Jerry Pournelle has an important and unsettling discussion prompted by the drone strikes in Yemen.

Proscription and Reasons of State


We find ourselves in a complicated and dangerous world and time. The war with al-Qaeda cannot be fought according to the customs and practices of conventional war. That means we are left to swim in murky legal and constitutional waters.
The president (any president) now has the power to single out and order the death of individuals across the globe. Once some one is identified as an important and dangerous AQ leader, the hunt is on.

So far, it is easy to say good riddance to the people we've killed. Al-Awlaki and bin Laden repeatedly declared themselves at war with America. But as Pournelle notes, no one has laid out the boundaries of these new, extraordinary powers now in the hands of the executive.

Meghan McCain: Spoiled brat or censorious thug?

As Deion might say-- "Both!"

Popehat has the details:

Just How Demeaning Is It To Be A Lawyer? Just Ask The One Working For Meghan McCain.

Amanda Knox


The high court ruling upholding his sentence said Guede didn't act alone, though it didn't name Knox or Sollecito as his accomplices.

"The courts agree he wasn't acting alone," the victim's brother, Lyle Kercher, told a news conference Tuesday. "If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?"
For my money, Barbie Latza Nadeau's Angel Face is still the best one stop source on this case.

Moving forward while looking backward

Nicholas Sparks:

The future arrives wearing the clothes of the past. The first book that came off a printing press - Gutenberg's Bible - used a typeface that had been meticulously designed to look like a scribe's handwriting:

The first TV shows were filmed radio broadcasts. The designers of personal computers used the metaphor of a desk for organizing information. The world wide web had "pages." The home pages of online newspapers mimicked the front pages of their print editions. As Richard Goldstein succinctly put it, "every novel technology draws from familiar forms until it establishes its own aesthetic." It's tempting to look at the early form of a new media technology and assume that it will be the ultimate form, but that's a big mistake. The transitional state is never the final state. Eventually, the clothes of the past are shed, and the true nature, the true aesthetic, of the new technology is revealed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What the DOJ really thinks about the 9-11 families

Catherine Herridge of Fox News has recently published a book on al-Qaeda and the threat of home grown terrorism. It is well worth reading for its research in AQ's evolution since 9-11. Herridge also gives us a glimpse of what it is like to cover the national security/ terrorism beat for cable news.

There is one shocking episode in the book that seems to have been ignored by almost everyone. Herridge is working on a story about the 9-11 families who are lobbying the Obama administration to get moving on trials for the plotters of the 9-11 attack.

"Catherine, you've done that story a thousand f------- times!" I never thought I would hear a Justice Department offcial use the f-bomb while discussing the 9/11 families. "They are just whiners," the official explained. I think, though I cannot be sure, that the official added "F------- whiners" to punctuate our conversation.

That some one who could say such things works in the Department of Justice is a terrible reflection on Eric Holder, the team he put in place, and the man who appointed him.

Solving crimes using crowd sourcing

Prof heats up cold cases with student society
A year prior, the students in the course came up with the identity of who they felt was the Grim Sleeper serial killer in Los Angeles. The information was shared with the L.A. police. It may have been coincidence, Arntfield says, but an arrest was made two months later and it was the same man the students suspected to be involved in the case.

I'd like to know more about their work on the Grim Sleeper case. When Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was arrested,  the news reports indicated that he was off the police radar until familial DNA testing linked him to the crimes. Now it sounds like there might have been other evidence that pointed to him.

Or the reporter got a little carried away.

The more things change

G. K. Chesterton:

An enormous amount of modern ingenuity is expended on finding defences for the indefensible conduct of the powerful.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Remembering Borders

Ace's morons are having fun dancing on the grave.
I have mixed feelings about the end of Borders. I was a loyal, even enthusiastic customer when i first started shopping there many, many years ago. They were still independent and had only a handful of stores. For someone who used to making do at mall outlets like Waldenbooks, the first experience of Borders was almost overwhelming. The selection, the ambiance, the knowledgeable staff that loved books--- it was a marvel. I was hooked.

Come on, how many places have a newsstand that carries the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence? You have to love a place like that, right?

Even when Barnes and Noble came to town, i still preferred Borders. The inventory was vast at both places, but Borders still had a better shopping experience. Less noisy, maybe and they broke up the vast store space better. B&N felt a lot like a warehouse while Borders (at least the two i shopped at) managed to feel more intimate.

I found out what paradise smelled like when i visited the new Borders in Northbrook, Illinois for the frst time. Coffee shops inside the store was not yet common (I'm dating myself again) . As i walked through the store i came to a spot where it all came together. You caught a whiff of new books mixed with fresh brewed coffee. The aroma of fresh baked goods mixed with the aroma of newsprint and ink from the dozes of newspapers on the newsstand.
I moved and both companies were on the move as well. Charlotte has a Borders and a Barnes and Noble just a block apart. I was still basically loyal but something was changing. This store was not quite the same as the earlier ones up north. More space for best sellers, less commitment to backlists or serious, specialized subjects. Noisier. Fewer places to sit. The newsstand did not carry as wide a variety of titles.

Barnes and Noble wasn't decisively better, but now it did not seem to matter as much which place i shopped. Stuff like convenient parking mattered more.

And then, came along.

I was an enthusiastic early adopter. Convenience and selection that was unmatched. But i still liked going to bookstores and i kept going to and buying at Borders. At least for a while.

The final straw happened one Saturday morning. I was working a lot of hours at the time so having a couple of hours free to hit the bookstore was a treat. I was also traveling a lot so i bought a lot of books to read on planes, in airports, in my hotel rooms. I skipped the heavily discounted best-sellers and loaded up on books that went for full cover price or maybe a 10% discount. In retail that made me a high-value customer.

Anyway, that morning Borders had some sort of special concert for pre-schoolers going on. Lots of screaming kids. (I could live with that even if it did not make me happy). Even worse, the tots had brought their surly parents and loutish siblings. with them. The store was packed with customers who were mostly killing time while their kids sang along with some local Charlie Waffles. Killing time by shouting back forth between aisles, sitting on the floor between the shelves, arguing about where they would go next. Whining about being bored.

After about 10 minutes i left. It just wasn't the place or place to browse the shelves and grab a cup of coffee. Not when i could be at the Barnes and Noble in less than 10 minutes.
B&N was a relief. No concert. A book buying crowd. I ended up with my usual big bag of books.

I wasn't really mad at Borders. In fact, i even sent them a email to let them know that as a loyal customer i thought that they were losing their unique shopping experience. i got a canned response from some flak-catcher in the home office.

I went back a couple of more times but the decline was still underway. It was becoming a book-related store not a store for book lovers. More space for knick-nacks and (heavily discounted) best-sellers. More activities. Less interesting selection. Less inviting atmosphere.

I moved a couple of more times and ended up in places where the Barnes and Noble stores were far closer than the Borders. So i only have shopped them maybe twice in the last 10 years. I don't know if they got much worse, but i do know they did not get dramtically better. Hence, their bankruptcy was no surprise.

The commenters at Ace's joint are focused on the lefty vibe they detected among the sales staff and the poor customer service. I can say that i never had a problem with the staff's politics. I had no problem finding dozens of partisan books and never detected any disdain when i checked out.

Poor customer service was definitely a problem at the end. I don't blame the employees for that. The problem was their rapid expansion and the decision to compete with Amazon by going low-price/high volume. There just were not enough knowledgeable booklovers available to staff that number of stores. And the one's they did hire found that they were working at K-mart, not the world greatest bookstore.

In the end, Borders sacrificed their distinctive customer experience and tried to fight Amazon on price. That clearly was unsuccessful. Maybe nothing could have saved them (Amazon under Jeff Bezos is a formidable competitor.)

I just know that i miss the old Borders.

A huge story that everyone ignored

Felix Soloman:

Here’s one big reason why the current economic weakness in the US has come as such a shock. It’s not the only reason, but it’s an important one, and it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves: the state of macroeconomic data-gathering in the US is pretty weak.
In January 2009 the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that the economy was shrinking at an annual rate of 3.8%. That number has been revised downward ever since and the current number is -8.9%

All the political punditry and economic "debates" are suffering from a huge GIGO problem.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Imagine if the networks devoted 10% of this effort to the Gunwalker scandal

Knox Case Nears Its Gaudy End

Big names in news—NBC’s Matt Lauer, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, CBS’s Peter Van Sant—on the streets of Perugia make this story seem more like the trial of a diplomat than that of a college student.

The satellite trucks are already lined up outside the Capanne prison where Seattle native Amanda Knox has spent nearly four years of her life. The city of Perugia has once again been transformed into a giant circus stage complete with white tents and an abundance of spectators. For those of us who covered the final verdict of Knox’s first murder trial in December 2009, it is an eerily familiar scene. Only the season has changed....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Troy Davis is guilty"

You mean, Alec Baldwin and Kim Kardashian didn't know what they were talking about?

But it’s one thing to argue your case in the court of public opinion; it’s quite another to do so in a real court, with sworn testimony offered and cross-examined by both sides.

And when Davis had that opportunity, in a special hearing last year ordered by the Supreme Court, the judge rejected his claim, declaring flatly that “Davis is not innocent.”

RTWT here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Joe Guzzardi thinks Alfred Lord Tennyson best summed up the Pirates 2011 season.

Pondering the Pirates

I have to say, it was fun to watch the Pirates play good baseball in meaningful games in June and early July.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brian Kelley, R.I.P.


That was Brian: a giver, not a taker. But he had taken a lot, in the ironic sense of the word, from the FBI, whose gumshoes mistakenly suspected him of being a Russian mole instead of the real one, Robert Hanssen, one of their own. For years they turned the lives of him and his family into a living nightmare.

Retired CIA officer Brian J. Kelley, a veteran counterspy who broke the code on how Moscow secretly communicates with deep-cover agents and who mistakenly was hounded by the FBI as a suspected KGB mole, has died.

In memory of Brian Kelley : The loss of a national treasure
Brian was generous in his readiness to organize extracurricular lectures and to other special events. He was an inspiring leader who brought an extraordinary esprit de corps to our community, for which I will be eternally grateful. I know that, in the few hours since his death, many of our students and alumni have used such phrases as "an American hero," "a true patriot," "an incredible professor," and "an inspiration" in describing Brian. America has lost one of its greatest sons, but it is clear that Brian's legacy will live on through his students and their continuing service to the nation.

I posted on Kelley and the misguided mole hunt here. Ronald Kessler writes about Kelley and the FBI here.

Why do journalists love twitter and hate blogging?


Welcome Instapundit readers. While you're here, why not check out the archives and blogroll? And maybe add this blog to your RSS reader (pretty please?)

On this week's Reliable Sources Howard Kurtz had a brief (i.e. typically superficial) discussion with Politico's Ben Smith on journalists, Twitter, and blogging.

Kurtz did not address a question that i've been pondering for some time: why did journalists flock to the new technology of Twitter when they spend years denouncing the slightly less new technology of weblogs? I find the question especially interesting because Twitter seems to have all the bad aspects of blogging and none of its strengths. Smith offers two reasons why he tweets so much despite being paid to blog: Twitter is faster and it is now the dominant medium of online political “conversation”.
KURTZ: We're back with Politico's Ben Smith. And Ben, you're a pretty prolific blogger, but you told "Adweek" that writing on Twitter, as so many of us in the news racket do, is sort of draining the life from the blog. Explain.

SMITH: Well, I mean, I love writing my blog, and plan to keep doing it. But in 2008, during the presidential election, the quickest way you could find out a new piece of information was often to hit "refresh" on my blog or on Mark Anvander's (ph) blog, or on somebody else's blog, because we were working kind of directly from, say, the event we were at. We were typing the notes up faster, we were getting information faster than anybody else, and putting it online. So, you know, it was incredibly intense, but incredibly fun, because you just had the sense people were hitting "refresh" on your blog to find out what had just happened and what was going to happen next.

KURTZ: And now?

SMITH: And now that is on Twitter, the sort of central conversation about what just happened, what's happening next, what did somebody say, what's the response? That's either being reported on Twitter or actually just being tweeted by the players themselves. And so I think --

KURTZ: So if the blog is where you earn your paycheck, and on Twitter you're basically giving it away for free to your 50,000 followers, why tweet so much?

SMITH: Well, I mean, because it's where the action is, because it's where -- you know, politics hopefully (ph) is this conversation, fundamentally. And Twitter isn't just this place where you're kind of having this conversation with your fellow reporters, or this sort of side conversation. It's become, I think, kind of the central conversation, and so you just sort of have to be there.

Speed is an established measure for score-keeping among journalists. I'm not sure that it means much to the “political conversation” in the country at large (See It's Only a Game). Nonetheless, I can see how a reporter can get caught up in the “urge to be first” among his peers. And by that standard, tweeting beats blogging hands down.

Not every reporter thinks Smith's game is worth playing. After he won a Pulitizer at the New York Times, David Halberstam left the paper to go to work for Harper's magazine. There, he was overworked, underpaid, and liberated.
The real tyranny of journalism has always been the lack of time and lack of space to break away from the pack. And then suddenly we were working for Harper's and we had six weeks on a piece! Six thousand words if need be! And emancipation from all those dopey rules which inhibit real reporting.
(Willie Morris, New York Days)

 I've argued before that the blogosphere (and enterprising, aspiring reporters) were wrong to take speed as the primary advantage blogs had over the MSM. (See here and here).

I wrote this about the decline of blogging and I think it helps explain why the MSM is happy to see the “conversation” shift to Twitter.

All in all, this is good news for the MSM. They may shrink in size and profitability, but they will still control the narrative. Both posts note that Twitter and Facebook have dented the growth in blog readership. Neither of these present the same challenge to the MSM as blogs. Snarky tweets about MoDo or Howard Kurtz are quick and easy but they don't change many minds. They are just background noise.

Blogs, especially the long-form blogging that Den Beste did or that Neo-neocon still does, has the potential to break the MSM's monopoly on "explanation space". That's what KC Johnson did in the Duke lacrosse case, what Powerline did in Rathergate, and what 2d Amendment bloggers have been doing for years.

Blogging was a direct attack on MSM hegemony at both the micro (fisking) and macro levels (explanation space). I just don't see Twitter as the same threat. It is a flood of unmemorable chatter that is easy to ignore. Blogging had the potential to break the power of the MSM guild. Bloggers, at their best, presented arguments. Arguments can both change minds on the immediate subject and undermine the credibilty of those establishment pundits who present weak cases on a regular basis. (Yes, i'm looking at you Brooks and Frum).

At a minimum, blogging brought a lot of outsiders to the pundit/editor game. Twitter seems more useful as a way for insiders like Kurtz to extent their brand and magnify their voice.

It is one of those quirks of history. One new thing is revolutionary. The next new thing consolidated the position of the powers that be.

UPDATE:  Don Surber (Thanks for the link!) has the line of the day:  "Just like Goliath preferred the Army of ADHD Kids over the Army of Davids."

Ace on Fire

This post on David Brook's "second thoughts" is today's must read.

 David Brooks Admits: "I'm an Obama Sap"

Supposedly he's a "conservative," at least on fiscal matters, and ergo should have opposed Obama on those grounds. But for David Brooks, the idea of a man with an impeccably-creased trousers, who spoke with a Bluffer's Guide fluency about Reinhold Niebuhr, who would make our national dialogue possibly sound more like Firing Line than Crossfire, trumped all tangible political goals such as keeping government spending down and limiting government's expansion into new areas which it could screw up.

But no. For David Brooks, a sharp trouser crease trumped a sharp demarcation of the boundary of government intrusiveness.

Consider what this says about David Brooks.


Don Surber:

In blasting ideology, what David Brooks is saying is that having values, principles and beliefs that you openly state and you defend is somehow wrong. What David Brooks is saying is that we should all have no values, principles or beliefs and just go along to get along because to believe in something is to “paralyze this country.”

What a loathsome, cynical outlook on life. I do feel sorry for him but I also laugh at him because the more he tries to present himself as being above the fray, the more he illustrates that he is below the fray. Two sets of Americans have opposing world views that they are willing to fight for, while David Brooks believes in nothing but political expediency. There is a cowardice in not being willing to fight for something — anything.

G. K. Chesterton: "Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two new books on the anthrax attacks

Edward Jay Epstein reviews them in the Wall Street Journal:

 When Death Came Hand-Delivered

It's been ten years since the attacks and there aree still many unanswered questions. The FBI "closed" the case three years ago only to have their scientifc evidence called into question. Even if they are right that the attacks were carried out by Bruce Ivins (I have my doubts), their investigation was a mess.

For instance, we can add Perry Mikesell to the list of innocent men (Brian Kelly, Richard Jewell, Steven Hatfill) whose lives were ruined by Bureau:

One early suspect was microbiologist Perry Mikesell, who had worked in 1999 at Battelle. Under the pressure of the FBI's scrutiny, he drank heavily and had a fatal heart attack in October 2002. According to family members, he had drunk himself to death.

Ivins emerged as the final suspect by a process of elemination.

Among the anthrax samples collected from different labs, only one matched the "fingerprints" of the killer anthrax in the letters. It was from flask RMR-1029 in Ivins's lab. This anthrax had been created in 1997 at the Dugway Proving Ground and sent to Ivins for tests. The FBI considered all the other scientists whom Ivins had given access to RMR-1029, then eliminated them as suspects for one of three reasons: They had not worked solo in their labs and thus lacked the privacy needed to process the wet spores into dry powder; they lacked the skills to do the job; or they were too far away to mail the letters in Princeton. Through this process of elimination, the FBI arrived at Ivins, who worked alone in his lab, had the skills and could have driven the nine-hour round trip from Frederick, Md., to Princeton and back.
It now turns out that the National Academy of Sciences panel found that   "it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B. anthracis in the mailings based on the available scientific evidence alone." As Epstein notes: "without a scientific basis for tracing the killer anthrax to Ivins's lab, the FBI's case against him was reduced to inferences from his behavior."

 Inferences from behavior is notoriously unreliable in crime solving. (See here and here).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering Malcolm Wallop

He wasn't a famous senator but he was an important one.  Steven Hayword gives a good man his due:

Malcolm Wallop, RIP

I've waited years for this book

The Nathan Heller mysteries are hard-boiled novels with a twist-- Heller has a knack for finding himself in the middle of infamous crimes and mysterious deaths where he is surrounded by celebrities and American icons. Heller starts his career (and the book series) in Chicago where he rubs shoulders with Capone, Dillinger, and Elliot Ness. Since then he has found (and lost) Amelia Earhart, solved the Black Dahlia case, and got to the bottom of the Roswell crash.

Collins is a master of the hard-boiled genre. (Hey, Mickey Spillane picked his friend Max to finish his uncompleted work, so you know Collins is good). The Heller novels will stand on their own for a reader who does not care about the historical background.

For those who do care, the books are a treat. Collins does his research and gets the facts and context right.

The latest book-- Bye Bye Baby-- finds Heller in Hollywood helping out friend and client Marilyn Monroe. It is the summer of 1962. Before you know it, Heller is is hip-deep in mobsters, cops, and Kennedys as he tries to find out how and why Monroe died.

Collins plans to write two more Heller mysteries that will take on the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. I just hope we don't have to wait ten years like we did for this one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama and FDR

Megan McCardle strikes a fatalistic note to explain why President Obama has disappointed progressives and liberals.
 Why Obama Was Never Going to Be the Next FDR
So it's not surprising that many Democrats assumed that financial crises and recessions are, well, good for Democrats and/or progressive policy advocates. I always thought this was nonsense: financial crises and recessions aren't good for Democrats; they're bad for whoever happens to be in charge, which merely means they're good for whoever isn't in charge by default. Hoover was indicted by history not because he'd done nothing--he had actually done quite a bit--but because the Depression had continued to worsen despite the things he did do.

From a strictly economic viewpoint, there is a great deal of merit in that argument. The crisis of 2008 was going to be a drag on the economy no matter what polices Obama put in place. McCardle's piece, however, fails completely as political analysis. She seems to think that Obama's political problems are almost entirely due to circumstances beyond his control. If he was not FDR II it was not his fault and besides FDR wasn't all that anyway.

As I read her post I thought of a passage from David Gelernter's brilliant book 1939: The Lost World of the Fair:
It is tempting when we study history to mistake accidents of personality for big, abstract principles. In the thirties, Americans tolerated an enormous expansion of the federal government. The depression and Franklin Roosevelt's character were the main reasons they did.
 Actually they did more than tolerate it. They enthusiastically endorsed it. Not only did they vote for FDR in a landslide in 1936, they gave the Democrats a resounding victory in his first mid-term election: Democrats held the Senate 69-25 and the House 322-103.

McCardle's “big abstract principle” does little to explain why Obama was repudiated in 2010 while FDR enjoyed monumental success in 1934. After all, as conservatives love to point out, the New Deal did not end the depression. Why did voters punish Obama for a bad economy but not Roosevelt?

 I've argued before that one key reason is that the
Obama administration displayed a bizarre combination of cynicism and naivete in their handling of the economic crisis. (“Never let a crisis go to waste.”) Instead of a laser-like focus on the economy, they pushed for a host of items on the progressive wish list (healthcare reform, “green” energy, cap-and-trade, civilian trials for the 9-11 terrorists, etc.). FDR, in contrast, used his first 100 days to pass legislation that directly attacked the depression and its causes. The public saw- rightly- that Roosevelt was concentrating on the issue that was their number one concern.

Gelernter gets at something important about FDR here:

[Robert] Moses and La Guardia were brilliant and even visionaries in a way that FDR was not. They may have been in the strictest sense more talented than he. But the element all three shared, Roosevelt above all, was ferocious will. In an age of authority, they were the authorities. They light up the high thirties like fireworks.

In the Hundred Days Congress did little more than rubber stamp the legislation that flew from the White House to Capitol Hill. That might not be the best way to govern, but it left no doubt that Roosevelt was the Man with a Plan (actually many plans). FDR also used the new medium of radio to connect with voters via his fireside chats. He was at the center of the public debate-- at once the towering authority figure in the White House and the reassuring voice in everyone's living room.

Obama often seemed to disappear off-stage during the major battles of 2009. He deferred to congress and let them craft most of the major legislation. He allowed Reid and Pelosi to move at a glacial pace on important issues like financial reform. The White House was unable or unwilling to find a modern equivalent of the fireside chat that would let Obama sustain public support for his programs.

Maybe, just maybe, the voters did not sour on Obama because he confronted problems that were beyond the powers of government. Perhaps, remembering Roosevelt, they fault him for not trying hard enough to solve the problems they care about most. If i am right, then progressives owe the president an apology. It is not that he did too little for them, it is that he tried to do too much.