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.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flight 93

Jonathan Last:

Despite the national memorial now emerging in Shanksville, I don’t think America has fully begun to appreciate where Flight 93 fits into the pantheon of great moments in American history. I’d argue that–for a host of reasons–it belongs somewhere in the same neighborhood as Little Round Top and Revere’s ride. It’s fitting that we mourn the World Trade Center and Pentagon dead on 9/11, but properly understood our commemorations every year should start there and build toward reverence and appreciation for the men and women of Flight 93. That field in Pennsylvania, not the hole in Manhattan, should be our enduring symbol of the day.

Steve Sailer has additional comments that are worth reading.


Lexington Greene:

The only part of the American national security establishment that successfully defended America on 9/11 was the portion of the reserve militia on board Flight 93, acting without orders, without hierarchy, without uniforms or weapons, by spontaneous organization and action.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Two Three pieces i really liked:
Michelle Malkin: 10 years ago: My generation’s bloody wake-up call
Mark Steyn: Let's Roll Over
Christopher Hitchens:  Simply Evil

His finest hour.

It's easy to forget that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in the direct line of fire ten years ago.
9/11 anniversary: Donald Rumsfeld on how he survived the September 11 Pentagon attack
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Reflects On Changes Caused By 9/11

See also this earlier post:
9-11-01: Remembrance

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Amanda Knox

Ann Coulter takes on "Foxy Knoxy" and her media defenders.

Despite liberals' desperate need for Europeans to like them, the American media have enraged the entire nation of Italy with their bald-faced lies about a heinous murder in Perugia committed by a fresh-faced American girl, Amanda Knox.

The facts aren't elusive: In December 2009, the Italian court released a 400-plus page report detailing the mountains of evidence that led the judges and jury to conclude that Knox, along with her Italian beau, Raffaele Sollecito, and a petty thief of her acquaintance, Rudy Guede, had murdered Knox's English roommate, Meredith Kercher, on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Who knew?

I'm a big fan of Waffle House, but i never knew they were such disaster recovery ninjas.

How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time

Disaster Pros Look to 'Waffle House Index'; State of the Menu Gives Clue to Damage>

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Quarterback Ratings

It is always dangerous to compare players using the popular statistics compiled by the NFL. Cold Hard Football Facts shows why with this look at quarterback ratings and strength of schedule.

I wish there was a way we could make the football "analysts" read CHFF each week before they were allowed on the air.

Good question

How is Casey Anthony's prosecutor's book not called "I Suck At My Job"?
Tweeted by Andy Levy