Thursday, October 31, 2013

Studies in utilitarian ethics

The view from the moral mountaintop

Shoving a fat man under the trolley: abstraction or fiasco?

Throw the fat man under the trolley


Variations on a theme

"Basically, a step or two above interns"

Obamacare 'tech surge' experts are White House fellows

Julie Bataille, CMS' spokeswoman, declined to tell journalists during an Oct. 28 conference call how many people are working on the surge.

Doing that, she said, would be "a distraction."

Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, said, “It’s unbelievable that they haven’t announced who is behind this. You would think they would want to highlight the people to just reassure the country that we’ve got these experts.”

Sunlight is a nonprofit that works to increase transparency and accountability in government.

“You want to know who those turnaround specialists are. I think their silence just speaks volumes,” Allison said.
HT: Instapundit


CGI Federal executive spent ‘Christmas with the Obamas’

Michelle Obama’s relationship with Princeton classmate Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, whose company earned the no-bid contract to design the disastrous Healthcare.Gov Obamacare website, continued after the Obamas moved into the White House.

Townes-Whitley and her husband even enjoyed “Christmas with the Obamas” at the White House in December 2010, according to a Facebook album created by Townes-Whitley.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Quick, get me a J-school grad with a BS in philosophy to do a quick DCF model with comps for all competitors!” said no finance professional ever

Who is confused?

Powerline looks at the polls and is left puzzled.

Our Deeply Confused Electorate

Do you agree more politically with President Obama, or with the average member of the Tea Party? A good question, ripped from the daily headlines. The response? Dead even, 42% agree more with Obama, 42% with the Tea Party. But other findings are hard to reconcile: only 30% of voters have a favorable view of the Tea Party, while 50% are unfavorable. How can only 30% of voters view the Tea Party favorably, if 42% say they agree more with the grass roots movement than with the president?
I do not find that particular result so surprising. I believe that Ben Roethlisberger is a better quarterback than Joe Flacco, yet I am deeply dissatisfied with the play of the Steelers’s QB over the last four or five years.

Can a thinking individual (i. e. someone not confused) oppose Obama while disapproving of the Tea Party? Powerline seems to suggest that the answer is no.

I disagree.

A rational conservative in a center-right nation will look at the Tea Party’s demand for ideological purity as self-defeating. Hence, while opposed to Obama’s programs that rational voter may still refuse to endorse the Tea Party.

The post does hit one key point that is often ignored:

So among some 30% to 40% of the electorate, the dominant factor appears to be hatred of Republicans. No matter how incompetent Obama is, no matter how hateful Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may be, no matter how badly the economy goes into the tank, these voters consistently view Democrats as the lesser of evils. Why? Because they are subjected to a constant barrage of hate, directed toward Republicans.
Even here, however, I think they overstate the confusion and ignore the elephant in the room.

Democratic voters have been on the receiving end of so much hate propaganda against the Republican Party, that all Democrats need to do is be the not-Republicans and their voters will turn outno matter that Obamacare is a disaster, no matter that the economy is going down the drain, no matter that we are $17 trillion in debt, no matter that Obama’s foreign policy is a shambles, no matter that Obama himself has been revealed as an incompetent and a liar. Hatred for Republicans trumps everything else.
It sounds so damning until a fair-minded person asks ‘what about Bush?’

On each count of the indictment, it is possible to argue that BHO has done better than GWB.

All of this is old ground:

January 2013

Let’s not forget the biggest, stickiest Republican/conservative message of all:

We {heart} W.

The 2012 campaign was not just Obama vs. catoon-Romney. It was also Obama vs. the ghost of George Bush.

Leaving ideology aside (as swing and low-information voters do), the Bush legacy is an anchor around the neck of the right. The short version goes something like this:

Tanked the economy (worse than LBJ)

Started two wars he could not win (worse than Carter)

Is that fair? Not entirely, but it is accurate.
October 2011

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.
February 2009

There is no doubt that a sizable minority of the population is opposed to bigger government. This minority is large enough to boost the ratings of talk radio. It drives readership for rightwing blogs and raises money for some candidates. But is it it enough to win election?

40% is an enormous share in radio ratings. It is also the bad end of a landslide election.

The usual mantra of "No socialism, Free Enterprise!" just seems inadequate in the face of the current economic realities.

Key fact number one. As Obama moves toward "socialism", he does so at the behest of the "capitalists". It is not as if he is sending paramilitary gangs to take over successful, profitable businesses. Obama, like Bush before him, is compelled to act because the capitalists screwed the pooch, crapped the bed, and then muttered "maybe my bad" when their recklessness sent the financial system off a cliff.

The broad public knows this, and that makes it hard to win them over with cheap slogans about socialist bogeymen.
October 2008

The Bush-Cheney administration has worked assiduously to restore the power and prerogatives of the executive branch. They have been curiously loath to wield those powers at critical times. We saw it first in their lackadaisical efforts to win the Iraq War. We saw it again in the present economic mess.

Hmmm, jealous of its prerogatives yet indolent in governing. That sounds more like a decadent monarchy than a vigorous Jacksonian chief executive. I think the Right got Bush wrong. Today, he seems more like G.W. Bush II of Connecticut than he does the forceful W from west Texas.
So, sure, someone is confused. The key question is this: Is it the voters or is it conservative pundits and GOP “professionals”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Advertising Needs Old People

In a society in which half of consumer spending is done by people over 50; in which 75% of financial assets are controlled by people over 50; in which 62% of all new cars are bought by people over 50; in which 94% of all CPG categories are dominated by people over 50, the fact that the average agency has almost no one of this age is incomprehensible.

It is a testament to narcissism, delusion, prejudice and stupidity.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Annals of the junk science

Nick Brown Smelled Bull

A plucky amateur dared to question a celebrated psychological finding. He wound up blowing the whole theory wide open.
This will ring true for anyone who has worked in a large organization:

Adding insult to injury, when charged with renewing his company’s suppliers list for training and coaching materials, he wound up interacting with “nuts” and “charlatans,” people who listed reiki and crystal healing among their interests, or resorted to “hand-waving” when selling their wares.

A pattern of abuse and incompetence

Michelle Malkin shows us the back story of the Obamacare rollout.

What happened to all of Obama’s technology czars?

In 2010, when President Obama first rolled out a dog-and-pony demonstration of, Park basked in the glow of positive media coverage. He bragged to about working “24/7 … in a very, very nimble hyper consumer focused way … all fused in this kind of maelstrom of pizza, Mountain Dew and all-nighters, and you know, idealism.”

It was, as you all now know, all hype and glory. So who has Obama called in to oversee the rescue mission? None other than the administration’s “change agent and entrepreneur-in-residence,” CTO Todd Park, who helped build the broken system in the first place!
I really liked this:

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, waste our money screwing things up and then run back to academia to train the next generation of incompetent technocrats.
Like the man said: Credentialed, not educated.


How we live now: The rule of the inept experts


This White House seems utterly unconcerned with security and counterintelligence (see Khost, Seal Team Six, and Benghazi). When important matters are at stake, however, they are relentless and competent.

Stung by a Twitter renegade, group in Obama administration launched sting of its own
Two quick points. First, unlike Joe Biden's mouth, Jofi Joseph's twitter account did not compromise important operations.

Joseph, who held a high-level security clearance, was ordered to leave the building. The Twitter feed does not appear to have included any disclosures of classified information.
John Fund adds this tidbit:

Obama's Valerie Jarrett: Often Whispered about, But Never Challenged

What apparently intensified the campaign to identify the “snarker” was a comment about Valerie Jarrett, the senior Obama adviser who has her own Secret Service detail and appears to exercise an inordinate amount of power behind the scenes. Joseph tweeted “I’m a fan of Obama, but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me.
Second, the WaPo article demonstrates the MSM's acute lack of self-awareness and journalists's instinctive protectiveness of this administration.

When the reporters dig into the twitter account, they give us this:

He also brutally mocked national security adviser Susan E. Rice and U.N. Ambas­sador Samantha Power. “What’s with the dominatrix-like black suit ­Susan Rice is wearing at this ­announcement?” @natsecwonk tweeted when Rice was chosen to replace Donilon on June 5.
I guess they don't read their own newspaper or they forgot that likening a powerful woman to a dominatrix is in no way insulting.

When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Important new book

China Lost 14 Million People in World War II. Why Is This Forgotten?

When looking back at World War II, the victors see their own military contributions the clearest. Hence the United Kingdom spotlights the Battle of Britain and El Alamein, the Russians Stalingrad and Kursk, and the Americans D-Day and Midway. The contribution of China, whose war was the longest and among the bloodiest, tends to be forgotten in the West, and for years was little commemorated even in China.

A new book, Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945, by Oxford historian Rana Mitter, aims to sharpen this fuzzy picture by presenting the Middle Kingdom’s eight-year war against an invading Japana war that had been under way more than two years before the Nazis invaded Poland, which is the usual starting point for histories of World War II. “Essentially,” Mitter explained in an interview with Pacific Standard, “the politics of the Cold War covered over that what is coming to be realized, I think, as one of the great missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of World War II.” Now, however, a combination of archives in China opening up and a new political attitude by its leaders has cracked the historical window....

While the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Communist Mao Zedong are usually depicted as the titans of China’s resistance and its on-again, off-again civil war, Mitter details the rise and eclipse of a third figure, Wang Jingwei, whose stature and influence long equaled Chiang and Mao’suntil he made accommodation with the Japanese.

The scale of China’s involvement in the war was massive. Chiang, for example, fielded four million troops at the Nationalist’s height, while China as a whole lost an estimated 14 million in the war. Had China folded, Japan’s capacity to fight the U.S. or even the Soviets would have been vastly amplified.
China's contribution to the Asia-Pacific war is forgotten in the US because it was politically embarrassing to FDR's legacy and to his political heirs. During the war Communist disinformation fueled anti-Chiang propaganda. After Mao came to power, the Truman administration found it useful to emphasize Chiang's corruption and incompetence in order to escape the blame for "losing China".

The '"progressive" narrative gave the credit for Chinese resistance to Mao and his "agrarian reformers” while blaming Chiang for every short-coming of the Nationalist army and economy.

It is only in this century that a few intrepid historians have presented a more accurate picture.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I’m just amused at how quickly after the implementation of ObamaCare the whole “death panel” thing was transformed from a paranoid fantasy of that yokel, Sarah Palin, to an obviously good idea that all thinking people support.

More questions for the Benghazi investigators to ask

Benghazi suspects not on State Department's 'Rewards for Justice' list

The State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program -- which offers multimillion-dollar payouts for tips leading to wanted terrorists -- does not include suspects in the Benghazi terror attack.

The State Department has not offered an explanation as to why those individuals are not on the list. Pressed by Fox News and The Associated Press on Thursday, spokeswoman Marie Harf suggested the important thing was that the Obama administration is resolved to find those suspects.

Former Guantanamo detainee was on ground in Benghazi during terror attack, source says

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee with Al Qaeda ties was in Benghazi the night of the Sept. 11 attack, according to a source on the ground in Libya.

The source told Fox News that ex-detainee Sufian bin Qumu, who is suspected of running camps in eastern Libya where some of the assailants trained, is also a "respected member" of Ansar al-Sharia -- one of the Islamist groups identified in State Department email traffic two hours after the attack.

Another skirmish in the war on whistle-blowers

This one is actually pretty frightening.

Exclusive: Feds confiscate investigative reporter’s confidential files during raid

After the search began, Hudson said she was asked by an investigator with the Coast Guard Investigative Service if she was the same Audrey Hudson who had written a series of critical stories about air marshals for The Washington Times over the last decade. The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security.

Hudson said that investigator, Miguel Bosch, identified himself as a former air marshal official.

But it wasn’t until a month later, on Sept. 10, that Hudson was informed by Bosch that five files including her handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources and other documents had been taken during the raid.

“In particular, the files included notes that were used to expose how the Federal Air Marshal Service had lied to Congress about the number of airline flights there were actually protecting against another terrorist attack,” Hudson wrote in a summary about the raid provided to TheDC.
Assuming that Hudson is telling the truth, then this is an outrageous abuse of power by someone. The search warrant covered firearms not documents. Further,

While at the Times, Hudson reported extensively on the air marshal program — specifically about whether Homeland Security officials had lied to Congress and reported protecting more flights than they really were. Using her sources inside the government, Hudson has also reported for years about possible terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes.

Unlike some other reporters whose sources have been targeted in recent years by the government, Hudson said none of the information she had was classified or given to her by someone who broke the law.

“None of the documents were classified,” she said. “There were no laws broken in me obtaining these files.”
R.S. McCain who worked with Hudson at the Washington Times weighs in here:

Police State: Feds Raid Investigative Reporter @AudreyHudson, Seize Notes
RDBrewer makes a good point:

Feds Use Search for Weapons as Pretext for Confiscation of Reporter's Confidential Files

I know, abuse of authority. Dog bites man. But at some point we have to reconsider the scope of the benefit of the doubt we grant to bureaucrats like these, that they're always acting lawfully. A while back Ace discussed public choice theory which is the the idea that political actors are self-concerned and act to maximize their own position.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New revelations on the war on whistle-blowers

Emails: White House, State Department coordinated with journalist on national security leaks

White House and State Department officials cooperated extensively on background with a New York Times journalist during the period that he broke confidential national security information in a series of leaks that prompted outrage from lawmakers, according to unearthed 2011 and 2012 emails....

The nonprofit organization Freedom Watch, which obtained the internal State Department emails through a Freedom of Information Act request, believes that the Obama administration carried out the leaks to bolster a tough image for itself on Iran.

Then-Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Michael Hammer and other State Department employees arranged background interviews between New York Times chief Washington correspondent David Sanger and State Department officials between December 2011 and March 2012 for Sanger’s 2012 book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.”

Sanger’s book included leaks of confidential national security information, including details of the computer worm Stuxnet that was used in a cyberattack against Iran. Sanger linked the worm to a U.S.-Israeli intelligence operation called “Operation Olympic Games” in a June 2012 New York Times article.

This reveals a disturbing pattern by the administration. leaks that embarrass the White House or Hillary Clinton are investigated and punished. At the same time, the WH and State Department will reveal vital secrets in order to burnish the image of the bosses in the full knowledge that they run no risks.

Then there is this:

Report: Obama administration most secretive since Nixon

The Obama White House’s war against leaks, and its penchant for secrecy and noted lack of transparency, are the worst “since the Nixon administration,” according to a major new study that relied on interviews from leading Washington reporters and news organization chiefs.

The report, released Thursday by the Committee to Project Journalists, found that reporters from many major media outlets consider the Obama administration the most closed-off in recent memory, and that there is not “any precedent” for its often hostile relationship toward the press.
I wonder if reporters like Sager ever wonder why they are getting those secrets bits when most of their peers are being stonewalled?

Our corrupt press

Anatomy Of The Hoax

In his 1995 book, The Revolt of the Elites, Christopher Lasch noticed how the Left had reverted from even a “residual conception of truth” in the Tawana Brawley case in which the black teenager falsely accused six white New York City police officers of raping her.

“When the ‘rape’ of Tawana Brawley, proclaimed by Al Sharpton and Alton Maddox as a typical case of white oppression, was exposed as a hoax, the anthropologist Stanley Diamond argued in the Nation that “it doesn’t matter whether the crime occurred or not,” wrote Lasch.

What happened to Brawley “actually happens to too many black women,” wrote Diamond. Lasch cited William Kuntsler who also wrote that it didn’t matter whether the attack on Brawley actually happened. “[It] doesn’t disguise the fact that a lot of young black women are treated the way she said she was treated.”
A decade after Lasch wrote that we saw the MSM fall for the Duke rape hoax. In defense of his guild Newsweek's Evan Thomas could only say "We just got the facts wrong. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong."

Robert Conquest:

Not even high intelligence and a sensitive spirit are of any help once the facts of a situation are dedeuced from a political theory and not vice versa.
The Great Terror

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Accountability and cover-ups

Families suspect SEAL Team 6 crash was inside job on worst day in Afghanistan

Questions haunt the families of Extortion 17, the 2011 helicopter mission in Afghanistan that suffered the most U.S. military deaths in a single day in the war on terrorism.

The investigative file made available to The Washington Times shows that the helicopter's landing zone was not properly vetted for threats nor protected by gunships, while commanders criticized the mission as too rushed and the conventional Chinook chopper as ill-suited for a dangerous troop infiltration.
One might think that a sloppy operation that resulted in the heaviest death toll of the Afghan War deserves a thorough investigation.

One would be wrong.

Not all families believe the fact-finding investigation, conducted by Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt covered all issues. Gen. Colt, who has since been promoted to major general, told commanders that his job was not to find fault and his report did not criticize any person or decision.
Then there is this:

One paragraph in the Colt report grabbed the families' attention. In it, crash investigators were interviewing the top leadership of the joint special operations task force that put together the mission. One of them was asked about a manifest.

"Yes, sir," a commander answered. "And I'm sure you know by now the manifest was accurate with the exception of the [redacted] personnel that were on. So the [redacted] personnel, they were incorrect all seven names were incorrect. And I cannot talk to the back story of why."

The "seven," family members say, refers to the Afghan soldiers. The open Colt report makes no reference about why the manifest was inaccurate. Military censors redacted any reference to the Afghans. Some families believe the task force at the last moment was forced to remove seven Afghans whose names remained on the manifest and replace them with seven others.

Senior Afghans had been aware of the mission because each operation must be approved by a joint operational coordination group made up of Americans and Afghan national security forces.

A Central Command spokesman declined to discuss the issue.
RTWT. It is a fine piece of analysis and investigative reporting.

Accountability and its impersonators

Shocking story of the day

Interpol Chief after Kenya Mall attack: Maybe armed citizenry isn’t so crazy after all

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said today the U.S. and the rest of the democratic world is at a security crossroads in the wake of last month’s deadly al-Shabab attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya – and suggested an answer could be in arming civilians.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called “soft targets” are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves.

Lessons and preparations

Lessons from Mumbai

Armed citizens and al Qaeda swarms

Mall Shooting and future terrorism

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alan Greenspan, American Bourbon

"They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing"
Talleyrand on France's House of Bourbon

Alan Greenspan still thinks he’s right

What we find, however, is that Greenspan’s journey of discovery brings him right back to where he began — to an unshakable faith in free markets, an antipathy toward market regulation, and a conviction that progressive taxes and social spending are to blame for slow growth, stagnant wages and exploding deficits.

Those who have followed his career know that it was Greenspan who gave the green light to bank consolidation, Greenspan who pushed financial deregulation, Greenspan who advocated new global rules that would have reduced bank capital reserves and Greenspan who blocked efforts to crack down on abusive subprime lending. But if you are looking for him to accept any responsibility for the crisis that ensued, you will be sorely disappointed.

Journalism: Compounding problems for the Guild

Problem One:

Writing Quote: The Ethical Dilemma of Journalism

There's an ethical dilemma in almost all journalism. In taking someone else's story and making it your own, in describing them on your terms, in ways they may not agree with.
Problem Two:

This strikes me as one more case where intermediaries lose out as information becomes more democratic. The people in Kansas had to talk to Truman Capote in order to tell their story. Now, however, cable news can raise enough interest in certain stories that the insiders are the people who get book deals. The writer/outsider is left behind. The best sources won't talk because they have their own deal; the book-buying public wants new information, which only insiders can provide.
Note how the two problems reinforce each other for professional journalists.

OTOH, for readers, Problem Two is part of the solution to Problem One.

Should we call it a science if the practitioners refuse to play by the rules of science?

Criminal Justice Quote: Is Forensic Science Real Science?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The MSM still hates Dick Cheney

Sanjay Gupta’s Heartless Interview with Dick Cheney

The not so subtle implications of Gupta’s commentary and questions was that Cheney’s judgment, cognition, decision making ability and even his mental health was compromised and because of that we ended up in Afghanistan and Iraq and with enhanced interrogation and terrorist surveillance programs.
Goldstein closes with a hypothetical:

There is no way that Gupta would have taken this tone or asked those sort of questions of a liberal policymaker who had a life threatening medical condition. Gupta, who was President Obama’s original appointee as Surgeon General, certainly did not take such a condescending tone much less question the cognition, judgment, decision making capacity or the mental health of Bill Clinton when he interviewed former Commander-in-Chief about his heart troubles in August 2011.
That is certainly true, but there is a better exampe of media malpractice than Gupta's treatment of Bill Clinton.

Compare Gupta's treatment of Cheney with the media's resolute refusal to examine Joe Biden's health, age and erratic behavior. (Cheney was 68 when he left office; Crazy Joe is already 71)

Brain Surgeon Told Biden He Had Less Than 50% Chance of ‘Being Completely Normal’

We Need to Know More About Biden's Health

Is Joe Biden a psychopath or is this evidence of advancing senility?

Grover Norquist: The Opposite of Principle

Grover Norquist is the problem with Washington DC, not the solution

The evidence shows clearly that Grover Norquist is not the anti-tax, limited government advocate he would have you believe.

Norquist’s record is that he will cheer unfunded government spending increases when it suits his own interests, and will shift his interpretation of the ATR no-tax pledge depending on who is lobbying clients are or what special interests he is protecting. As seen with the Defense of Marriage Act and his lobbying for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he will take both sides of the issue given enough time. The Abramoff scandal showed that he willingly whored out the conservative movement to the highest bidder. And his promoting terror leaders, such as Sami al-Arian and Abdurahman Alamoudi, along with his attempts to scuttle the Operation Greenquest terror finance investigation targeting his lobbying clients and friends, shows he has no reservations putting his own financial interests ahead of those of the country.

Make no mistake: Grover Norquist is the problem with Washington DC, not the solution.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to make bad leaders

A Way” to Develop a Toxic Leader

Toxic leaders don’t just appear on the scene, they develop over time- and we are the ones that create them. Yep! It’s partly our fault as leaders because we fail to properly counsel them as they move up the ladder.

The problem with Big Data

Two interesting items

Another Overhyped Fad

It is intriguing that most of the more optimistic claims about the possibilities of big data come not from intelligence analysts or their policy customers but from people in information technology. This is self-serving, to be sure, but it does raise concerns about hype. Beyond examples such as the NSA program or link analysis, there have not been many concrete examples of specific applications of big data. Some do exist: the terrorism connections so noted; the details of weapons systems; or economic data. However, no amount of data will get at some of the key questions uppermost on the minds of policy makers: intentions. What North Korea or Iran or any other nation or leader will do next is not very susceptible to data. Moreover, as one senior policy official remarked, “I do not want data, I want knowledge and insight.” This is an extremely important point: our customers want knowledge and insight, not data. And no; data in and of itself will not necessarily produce knowledge and insight, any more than crowds will produce wisdom.

A Longtime Tool of the Community

Let’s stipulate that today’s big-data mantra is overhyped. Too many technology vendors are busily rebranding storage or analytics as “big data systems” under the gun from their marketing departments. That caricature rightly is derided by both information technology cognoscenti and non-techie analysts.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

America needs a newspaper like the Daily Mail

A British “scandal” shows us how the Guild works and toward what ends.

So which is the REAL sin: to criticise the Marxist views of Red Ed's father or to help terrorists and put British lives at risk?

PAUL DACRE, Editor of the Mail, answers the paper's critics

Out in the real world, it was a pretty serious week for news.

The U.S. was on the brink of budget default, a British court heard how for two years social workers failed to detect the mummified body of a four-year-old starved to death by his mother, and it was claimed that the then Labour Health Secretary had covered up unnecessary deaths in an NHS hospital six months before the election.

In contrast, the phoney world of Twitter, the London chatterati and Left-wing media was gripped ten days ago by collective hysteria as it became obsessed round-the-clock by one story a five-word headline on page 16 in the Daily Mail.

The screech of axe-grinding was deafening as the paper’s enemies gleefully leapt to settle scores.

Leading the charge, inevitably, was the Mail’s bĂȘte noire, the BBC. Fair-minded readers will decide themselves whether the hundreds of hours of airtime it devoted to that headline reveal a disturbing lack of journalistic proportionality and impartiality but certainly the one-sided tone in their reporting allowed Labour to misrepresent Geoffrey Levy’s article on Ralph Miliband.
The editor of the Daily Mail understands how to fight back when the Guild throws a hissy fit.

The controversy reveals how journalists and editors fight the battle for “explanation space”.

Central to that battle is defining what is newsworthy. As we saw in the last election, Mitt Romney’s dog and Ann Romney’s horse were newsworthy. President Obama’s relationship with the Stalinist Frank Marshall and the terrorist Bill Ayers were not.

In Britian today, the Guild has decreed that mentioning that the Leader of the Opposition grew up in a Communist household is beyond the pale.

Surely, we reasoned, the public had the right to know what influence the Labour Leader’s Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking.
One might think so, but the Journalist Elect know that such an examination is wrong.

Why, you might ask? That’s the tricky thing about explanation space. Journalists love explaining the world to their readers; they most emphatically do not like explaining their decisions.

The volume and tone of the excoriation of the Daily Mail surely requires some explanation. After all, as Dacre points out, it seems all out of proportion given the other critical events taking place in the world. Moreover, does the BBC really believe that mentioning that Ed Miliband’s father loved Stalin and once hated England (to the point of wishing it would lose the war against the Nazis) was the worst thing that a British paper had done this fall?

Actually, they probably do. Other Britons might disagree.

This week, the head of MI5 subsequently backed by the PM, the Deputy PM, the Home Secretary and Labour’s elder statesman Jack Straw effectively accused the Guardian of aiding terrorism by publishing stolen secret security files.

The story which is of huge significance was given scant coverage by a BBC which only a week ago had devoted days of wall-to-wall pejorative coverage to the Mail.

Again, I ask fair readers, what is worse: to criticise the views of a Marxist thinker, whose ideology is anathema to most and who had huge influence on the man who could one day control our security forces …. or to put British lives at risk by helping terrorists?
The over the top reaction is a feature not a bug. To defend the Guild’s monopoly in explanation space, renegades must be ignored if possible, and exiled if the public happens to notice them.

In this country we have watched this happen to individuals like Lou Dobbs, Juan Williams, Glenn Beck, and Don Imus. All of them became “controversial”, were forced out of their jobs, and were deemed unemployable by respectable outlets. In contrast, Keith Olbermann, Amanda Marcotte, Piers Morgan, and Al Sharpton became controversial and were then given lucrative positions in the MSM.

Even after the hive expels the rebel, they continue to enforce the banishment with thumbnail signifiers. Andrew Breitbart must always be linked to Shirley Sherrod and an edited video. It is bad form, though to mention the Jimmy Savile scandal when discussing the CEO of The New York Times.

Renegade organizations like Fox News or The Daily Mail receive similar treatment. They are excoriated by the Guild. The public must be made to understand that these outlets are not respectable.

Policing explanation space is not a matter of debate, logic or facts. The boundaries of acceptable journalism are enforced with hissing outrage and juvenile ridicule.

Epistemic closure is only a problem for the rube outsiders. It is a job requirement for the deciders in the media elite. Dacre provides another reason journalists love twitter:

The hysteria that followed is symptomatic of the post-Leveson age in which any newspaper which dares to take on the Left in the interests of its readers risks being howled down by the Twitter mob whom the BBC absurdly thinks represent the views of real Britain.
Once again, sauce for the goose is decidedly not sauce for the gander.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shutdown theater and Nixon’s Ghost

Andrew McCarthy:

Funding Jihadists while Denying Military Benefits
We can fund al-Qaeda but we can’t fund the families of our war dead?

Here is where we’re at: The Republican establishment the guys who told us that for a trillion dollars and several thousand American casualties, we could build “Islamic democracies” that would be reliable U.S. allies in the War on Terror say it is Ted Cruz who is “delusional” and the effort to stave off Obamacare that is “unattainable.”

These self-appointed sages are, of course, the same guys who told us the way to “stabilize” and “democratize” Libya was to help jihadists topple and kill the resident dictator who, at the time, was a U.S. ally, providing intelligence about the jihadists using his eastern badlands as a springboard for the anti-American terror insurgency in Iraq. That’s probably worth remembering this week, during which some of our new “allies” abducted Libya’s president while others car-bombed Sweden’s consulate in Benghazi site of the still unavenged terrorist massacre of American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials 13 months ago.

Not to worry, though. So successful do they figure the Libyan escapade was, GOP leaders are backing a reprise in Syria. It is there, we learn from a Human Rights Watch report issued this week, that our new “allies,” the al-Qaeda-rife “rebels,” executed a savage atrocity just two months ago. Sweeping into the coastal village of Latakia, the jihadists slaughtered 190 minority Alawites. As the New York Times details, “at least 67 of the dead appeared to have been shot or stabbed while unarmed or fleeing, including 48 women and 11 children.” More than 200 other civilians were captured and are still being held hostage.
McCarthy raises several key issues that are lost in the MSM’s breathless horse race coverage of the shutdown.

I found this one especially interesting:

And, you’ll be pleased to know, supporting the Syrian “rebels” is a high enough priority that it’s not part of the 17 percent of the federal government affected by the “shutdown.”
And this:

You know, there’s also a 1996 law on the federal books that makes it a felony to provide material support to terrorists. It’s not vague. In fact, it’s clear as a bell, according to the many federal courts that have applied it in sentencing scores of jihadist-abettors to hundreds of years in prison.

Don’t you find it strange, don’t you think the public at large would find it strange, that in a shutdown Obama has instigated in order to enforce the Obamacare law Americans don’t want, he so skews the rest of our law that his administration says we can fund al-Qaeda but we can’t fund the families of our war dead?
In his 1977 interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon offered this defense of his actions:

When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.
That answer has taken on an almost mythic status on the Story of Watergate. On one hand we have the arrogant Imperial President who recognizes no limits on his power. On the other, we have a brave band of reporters and special prosecutors who set out to prove that no man, not even the President, is above the law in America.

The battle is joined, Nixon is toppled, and the Rule of Law is saved in America.

So, if that is true, how is it possible for this Administration to support al Qaeda terrorists in Syria?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In praise of the Victorians

The Victorians were dynamic, hugely inventive and deeply caring

Our image of the Victorians is too often of a repressed, conservative, starchy, uptight and blinkered people. They were allegedly so prudish they even covered their table legs, were harsh to women and children, vicious to those who refused to conform and determined to entrench privilege.

In fact, such an impression could not be more wrong. The Victorians were people of vision, insatiably intellectually curious, wedded to the idea of progress and determined to improve their own lives and those of others.

They were the first meritocrats, opening up opportunities to those with the brains and qualities to exploit them rather than them being awarded simply according to social status.

Harnessed to phenomenal intellectual, physical and moral energy, and often (albeit in an age of profound religious doubt) informed by a deep sense of Christian purpose, their vision helped transform Britain from a fundamentally medieval country when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 to a startlingly modern one within just four or five decades.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

American Betrayal: The inconvenient facts

i haven't posted on the controversy since it started. I'm reading American Betrayal and still think that the book is deeply, deeply flawed

Conrad Black makes a point here that gets to the heart of the West thesis:

But I commend to the other side the facts that in 1940, Germany, France, Japan, and Italy, as well as the Soviet Union, were in the hands of dictators hostile to Anglo-American democracy. Soon after the end of World War II, after the USSR had absorbed over 90 percent of the casualties the three principal allies (the U.S., the USSR, and the U.K. and Commonwealth) had suffered in subduing Nazi Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and most of Germany were all flourishing and democratic allies of the British and Americans; and about 45 years later, the Soviet Union had disintegrated, China was a capitalist country, and Eastern Europe was largely free, without the horrors of a war between the Great Powers. This was a stunning sequence of achievements, of the statesmen who are, apart from President Reagan, smeared by Mrs. West, and Messrs. Bukovsky and Stroilov.
John Lewis Gaddis made a similar point several years ago:

Most scholars today have come around to the view that the presciently provacative British historian A. J. P. Taylor buried in a footnote in 1965: 'Of the three great men at the top, Roosevelt was the only one who knew what he was doing: he made the United States the greatest power in the worl at virtually no cost.'

Two-spacers of the world unite!

Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)

But perhaps the worst offender in the promulgation of such nonsense is a particularly self-righteous piece in Slate from earlier this year. We are told, “Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history,” i.e., the typewriter. And we are told that the one-space rule derives from the expert experiences of publishers developed over many years: “We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience. Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that’s how we should do it.” As to why they believe this to be so, it’s because double spaces are “ugly”: “A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.”

The author, Farhad Manjoo, is astounded to find so many educated and ignorant people who apparently believe that two spaces are okay. He even polls people over Thanksgiving dinner, just so he can tell them how wrong they are! The author subsequently decides to go on a mission to show them why they are wrong, resulting in the linked article.

Unfortunately, this whole story is a fairy tale, made up by typographers to make themselves feel like they are correct in some absolute way. The account is riddled with historical fabrication
HT: Text Patterns

The Slate article could serve as a case study of the MSM pathology dissected by Ace in this post. Farhad Manjoo marries arrogant certainty with colossal ignorance. And then his editors decide to publish it to enlighten those idiots they call readers.

The serious issues behind shutdown theater

Two must read posts.

First, J. V. Last in the Weekly Standard:

The Park Police

The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate—this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go.

Even so, consider the actions of the National Park Service since the government shutdown began. People first noticed what the NPS was up to when the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was “closed.” Just to be clear, the memorial is an open plaza. There is nothing to operate. Sometimes there might be a ranger standing around. But he’s not collecting tickets or opening gates. Putting up barricades and posting guards to “close” the World War II Memorial takes more resources and manpower than “keeping it open.”

The closure of the World War II Memorial was just the start of the Park Service’s partisan assault on the citizenry.
That might sound extreme, but Last backs up his point:

It’s one thing for politicians to play shutdown theater. It’s another thing entirely for a civil bureaucracy entrusted with the privilege of caring for our national heritage to wage war against the citizenry on behalf of a political party.
That's kind of a big deal. yet, the MSM is utterly indifferent to this assault in on the American public.

Ace has some ideas why this is so:

Yellowstone Park Goon Squads, Media Ignorance, and Media Ideology

While ideology is no bar to having actual expertise, ideology does permit those without any particular expertise to have an opinion on matters they know little about...

The problem is that the media makes these sorts of decisions out of nearly perfect ignorance, but, having a Corporate Mission of presenting itself as Expert and Informed on every issue, cannot admit that it is simply groping based upon its ideology, and dresses up its partisan/ideological guesses as "expertise."...

But the media doesn't know a whole lot of Huge things, but they paper over their manifold ignorances with the confident swagger of the Righteously, Ignorantly, Indignantly Partisan.
You really have to read the the whole post. It is not just media bashing. Ace addresses the same point as Last, but from a slightly different angle.

Obama does not own the military, the government, or the national parks, media. Obama instead is the trustee of these things -- but is required to oversee them for the benefit of their true owners, the American People.

Lands held in trust are not "owned" by the government in the same way that the Starbucks Corporation is owned by the Starbucks shareholders. ...

This why we on the right make such a big deal over whether these moves "save money" or not - if they saved money, these moves could, arguably, be credited as actually benefiting the trustees, and hence would, arguably, be legal.

But when the government is actually Spending More Money to harass and harm citizens, sorry media, there is no possible way to construe this as "acting for the benefit of the trustees."

Blockading someone's view of Mount Rushmore or Old Faithful obviously does not "preserve" the trust, as viewing does not damage the property held in trust.

So no, Media, actually it's not just like Starbucks, and it's not business as usual for a trustee to deliberately harm and harass the actual beneficial owner of the property of the trust.

In fact, it's illegal.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

More than interesting

Police Officers Three Times More Likely to Murder Than Concealed Carry Permit Holders

Thomas Sowell says it best

It is not the messaging, it's the messengers.

Inarticulate Republicans

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, epitomized what has been wrong with the Republicans for decades when he emerged from a White House meeting last Wednesday, went over to the assembled microphones, briefly expressed his disgust with the Democrats’ intransigence and walked on away.

We are in the midst of a national crisis, immediately affecting millions of Americans and potentially affecting the kind of country this will become if Obamacare goes into effect — and yet, with multiple television network cameras focused on Speaker Boehner as he emerged from the White House, he couldn’t be bothered to prepare a statement that would help clarify a confused situation, full of fallacies and lies.

Boehner was not unique in having a blind spot when it comes to recognizing the importance of articulation and the need to put some serious time and effort into presenting your case in a way that people outside the Beltway would understand. On the contrary, he has been all too typical of Republican leaders in recent decades.
The GOP spends millions on consultants to help them with "communication strategies", "messenging", and "social media optimization". Yet, Dr. Sowell just gave them the playbook and gameplan for free.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

PAC money and the Tea party

Why doesn't the Tea Party get praised for fighting the power of Big Money in politics?

Tea Party loosens K Street's stranglehold on the GOP

It may confuse liberals who think free-market politics is just a corrupt deal to enrich Big Business — or who claim that the Tea Party is a Big Business front — but these are the opposing pulls in the GOP: K Street and the Tea Party.
Note the inherent corruption and dishonesty of the Establishment Opposition:

Consider the Kentucky primary that year.

With Mitch McConnell's help, Grayson raised half a million dollars from business PACs, including Obamacare backers like Pfizer and the American Hospital Association, bailout beneficiaries like the American Bankers Association and the Managed Funds Association and Beltway bandits like Northrop Grumman. At least a dozen lobbying firms and industry trade groups funded Grayson.

If you want bigger government, you need to side with big business

Two Americas

Notes on the current crisis

Making sense of the economic crisis

Willful blindness and Shut down theater


Oh My: Park Rangers Ordered to "Make Life Difficult" for Citizens; "It's Disgusting," Says One Ranger

But the media does not pursue such obvious leads because they're afraid they'll wind up with a Story they'll have to report.

Think about that: They won't ask questions, because they fear it will result in a scoop and a big story.

And then, if they have the scoop and the story, they'll then have to Spike it, and that's dangerous, because people sometimes talk.

So the cleanest way around the problem is to simply not pursue any leads at all which may result in a storyline disfavorable to Obama.
For example, this:

The World War II Memorial Shutdown: A Symbol of Government Malice

The president just spoke from a well-prepared stage in Maryland, condemning the shutdown. The money spent on transportation, security, and staging for that event would easily cover the cost of opening our nation’s war memorials for several days.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Accountability and its impersonators

An interesting piece by David Ignatius:

A case study in accountability

For a case study in accountability (and the lack of it), contrast the Marine Corps’ decision this week to fire two generals for inadequately protecting a base in Helmand Province with the CIA’s lack of any similar disciplinary measures after a comparable disaster in December 2009 when a suicide bomber invaded a base in Khost, Afghanistan.
The column stands out as an example of the decadence and corruption of the MSM.

Ostensibly, Ignatius is writing about the handling of two successful Taliban attacks on US forces in Afghanistan. Yet he shorts the discussion of this crucial matter in order to bash conservatives over the government shutdown. Ignatius truncates his analysis of real and faux accountability and offers us a strained analogy to attack the Tea Party. He could have highlighted a serious problem with our national security apparatus; instead, he chose to join the Obama “Shut Down” Hallelujah Chorus.

Of course, if Ignatius had continued his critique of non-accountability, he ran the risk of antagonizing his sources.

Two items show just how rare Marine-style accountability is in Washington.

First, we have the back-story to the attack on FOB Chapman at Khost. As Joby Warrick revealed in The Triple Agent, the CIA officer in charge of the operation had been criticized for her actions (or inaction) in the months prior to 9/11.

Helgerson's report named individual managers who it said bore the greatest responsibility for failing to ensure that vital information was passed to the FBI. The report, never released in full, also recommended that some of the managers be reviewed for possible disciplinary action.

Jennifer Matthews was on that list.

The report ignited a furor at CIA headquarters as top agency officials pushed back sharply against Helgerson's call for individual accountability. It was unfair, Helgerson's critics argued, to tarnish a few managers for what had been a collective failure. The agency's director at the time, Porter Goss, decided the matter by formally rejecting disciplinary reviews. He then ordered that Helgerson's list of name remain classified.
The Khost disaster, therefore, is not an isolated failure but is symptomatic of deeper problems at CIA.

Second, there is no better example of accountability avoidance than the report of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board.

Administration's Benghazi Review Board Discredits Itself in Congressional Hearing

For nine months, top Obama administration officials have used the ARB report as something of a shield, portraying the probe as exhaustive and independent in order to deflect the many unanswered questions about Benghazi that remain. And because the new, discrediting information about the ARB comes from the ARB leaders themselvesin their own words, not those of their criticsdefenders of the administration will have a hard time dismissing it as partisan.

The hearings and transcribed interviews made clear that the ARB probe was neither exhaustive nor independent.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Hard won lessons

3 October marked the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu (“Black Hawk Down”). Here’s a good article on the lessons of that battle.

The Lost Lessons of “Black Hawk Down”

The lessons of “Black Hawk Down” should teach U.S. policymakers and officers not to become over-reliant on technology as an operational panacea, to prepare the human terrain in advance of a decision to target an individual, and to make long-term investments in indigenous forces and HUMINT networks in strategically vital regions for when emergencies require intervention. The descent of Somalia into a cross between Hobbes’ state of nature and a Mad Max movie that allowed al-Shabaab to flourish should remind policymakers that, although tempting, cutting losses or avoiding costs in the short-term can be more expensive in the long-run. And finally, in a lesson perhaps applicable to Syria, Somalia suggests that sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils is the best policy option available, and that resolutely pursuing an imperfect solution is preferable to ambivalently waiting for the perfect solution to emerge organically.
There is one additional lesson from this battle/campaign.

Have a strategy that fits into a coherent grand strategy.
The Clinton administration had no grand strategy because they did not believe they needed one. As historian John Lewis Gaddis notes:

President Clinton himself saw little need for a grand strategy under these circumstances. Neither Roosevelt nor Truman had had one, he told one top advisor early in 1994: 'they just made it up as they went along.'
Instead of the careful balancing of ends, means and interests, the Clinton years relied on ad hoc crisis management. All too often that degenerated into a battle to win the next news cycle and the next election (e. g. Susan Rice and Rwanda).

The damage created by this anti-strategic mindset lasted long after Rwanda, Kosovo, and Bosnia dropped from the headlines.

One thread connects Syria, Iran, and North Korea. We need Russian cooperation which Putin stubbornly refuses to give.


the Clinton national security team-- notable for its simultaneous cultivation and humiliation of Russia

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Shutdown theater

Shutdown overreach: More personnel sent to WWII memorial than Benghazi; Park Service closes park it doesn't run

McDonald’s Employee Admits Being Paid $15 to Protest WW2 Veterans

Obama to Veterans: Get Out Of My Park!


Whit Stillman: What I Read

You have a lot of freedom in reading a book. I’m unable, for some reason, to read books from beginning to end. I have to go to what interests me most in the book. And if I like that, I start going backwards and forwards. And it starts to become a really complicated endeavor of just reading the parts of the books once and not sort of overlapping. I don’t know why I have to sort of re-edit the books myself. I don’t know why I can’t read a prologue and read a first chapter. I mean, if I really love a book I’ll get to them too
I like his take on social media.

I get emails and I read on the net. But I don’t do any social stuff. I obviously misjudged that. I thought Facebook was going to be another Friendster. I’m not sure how much of a problem it is, because the last thing I needed was another was to spend time on the net. It’s like the Max Beerbohm quote, Oh, it distresses me, to miss these trends as they pass me by into oblivion. Usually that holds true, but occasionally it doesn’t. I really felt that Twitter was a non-starter. I just couldn’t understand that.

Stillman's Barcelona is one of my favorite movies. Damsels in Distress is now out on DVD. It is everything that Hollywood comedies are not: witty, wise, and humane.


"A Great Conserative Filmmaker"

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

L. C. Greenwood, R.I.P

Gone, but not forgotten

L.C. Greenwood
I still think Greenwood belongs in the Hall of Fame for all the reasons noted here:

Why the Hall of Fame is becoming a joke

Hall of Fame

Pro Football Hall of Fame
The "official" NFL record for career sacks in the Super Bowl is 4.5 (held by Charles Haley* in five Games.) The single game record is 3.0 set by Reggie White against Drew Bledsoe and new England in SB XXXI.

Greenwood sacked Roger Staubach four times in SB X and once in SB XIII. But he is not in the record book because sacks were not an official record in the seventies.

*Haley also belongs in the HoF. Hey, five rings should be trumps.

When hard work doesn't pay

An interesting post over at Farnam Street by Shane Parrish

Why Clever and Lazy People Make Great Leaders

Erich von Manstein, one of the top strategists in Hitler’s German Military, described Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr as “… probably one of the cleverest people I ever met.*”

Both men, according to Ben Breen, are widely credited with the following quote that gets to the heart of the matter.

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
There are a lot of facets to this argument. Malcolm Gladwell could probably turn it into a best-selling airport book.

Two quick points:

1. Parrish misinterprets the role of the clever/energetic officers in this model.

You want these people around. I’m guessing that von Hammerstein-Equord thought they’d be fit for middle management. Which makes sense. I imagine he saw them as company men: safe, reliable, rule following.
That is not true at all.

As Hammerstein-Equord notes, these officers belong on the General Staff. Under the Prussian system, General Staff officers were the brains and nerve system of the army, not paper shuffling middle managers. They studied, planned, and wargamed every strategy and operation.

2. We have here a paradox: The leader of an organization that exemplifies 'a bias for action' believes that laziness is a prerequisite for leadership.

This goes against the grain of conventional management thinking. Which means it is probably true.


HUAW: Think of it as a symptom of deeper problems