Friday, November 29, 2013

JFK and the Kitty Genovese case

An interview with an iconoclastic scholar of the Kitty Genovese case and the media myths that surround it.

The Witnesses That Didn't (Transcript)
(HT: tl;dr)

The bottom line is that 38 New Yorkers did not watch the murder of a woman while doing nothing to help her.

Joseph De May has an interesting take on why the media was so quick to create and promote the bystander myth.

The Kitty Genovese murder happened four months after the assassination of President Kennedy. In the aftermath of John Kennedy’s assassination, there was a school of thought that said we all killed President Kennedy. Now, four months later, Kitty Genovese is killed, not by a man whose psyche and life experience is not in any way reflective of ordinary Americans. These were 38 respectable law-abiding citizens. These – that was us. And I think it was a tremendous blow to the American psyche to think that such a thing could happen here, anywhere here. I think that that’s what gave this story legs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

News judgement II

This time from Ace:

New York Times: Redistribution of Wealth Is Central to Obamacare, And That Was "Hiding in Plain Sight" All Along

As with Obama himself, there are only two possible explanations:

1, the press is ignorant and incompetent and simply not up to the job of doing anything more difficult than straight stenography. And what does this say about their alleged status as the cognitive elite?


2, the press is institutionally, conspiratorially dishonest, and chose not only to not report this for four long years, but even more, chose to actively join in a lie. Because they are fundamentally political actors, and they behave as if they are an extension of Obama's communications shop, pushing false Narratives and pushing back against honest, accurate criticism.

And what does that say about their status as the nation's fact-finders?

At some point, we will get them to confront this, and give us a straight answer as to why they lied to the country, more frequently than Obama himself , about Obama and his pet redistributive Trojan Horse.
And then this:

Now He Tells Us: Time's Mark Halperin Says Obamacare Does Indeed Contain "Death Panels," And That's Right There in the Black-and-White Letter of the Law

Yes... and all of this was knowable, and reportable, four years ago as well, but it only recently became fashionable to tell the American people the truth about Obamacare.

And that point only came when people could see with their own eyes it was a disaster and a lie-- only at that point did the media begin confessing the obvious.

Maybe Howard Kurtz could invite Instapundit on his Mediabuzz and discuss this topic and what it says about the MSM.

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.

New judgement

The Daily Howler ponders an important question. Why does the MSM leap to cover every legal problem of George Zimmerman while the murder trial of Crystal Mangum went into the memory hole? And why won't the MSM admit they did a lousy job covering Zimmerman from day one?

Goldie Taylor wants to help!

Why are some incidents widely discussed?

Friday, November 22, 2013

The forgotten victim

The Murder of J.D. Tippit: Five Decades Later the Slain Cop Gets His Due

Few people today know who J.D. Tippit was and even fewer know that it was his murder that led to the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, the Texas School Book Depository employee who later would be accused of assassinating President Kennedy.


Bryan Preston has an intersting answers that will make Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw cry.

6 Reasons the Media/Left Refuse to Let the Kennedy Assassination Go
Speaking of Brokaw, i caught a snippet of "Morning Joe" today. Brokaw and Dan Rather rehashing memories of 11/22/63. It was kind of pathetic. A couple of old bulls, long ago put out to pasture, telling stories about their Glory Days.

Which suggests a seventh reason why television has gorged on this anniversary. The JFK assassination is commonly noted as the moment when television became the primary medium through which Americans received their news. Fifty years later and the media landscape is completely transformed. Broadcast news is a dinosaur hoping to survive.

It is not surprising that TV newsreaders and producers want to hearken back one more time to a glamorous, golden past.

(Just wait until next summer when the whole MSM does its 40th annual Nixon/Watergate victory dance.)

Mark Steyn on the forgotten assassination

The Ghosts of November

Two presidents died that November, but the mawkish parochialiasm of the Camelot cult has obliterated the fact that the second bore responsibility for the death of the first. No “eternal flame” for Diem, just an unmarked grave. He’s the Mary Jo Kopechne of the autumn of 1963, unhelpful to the myth: “What goes around comes around” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “one brief shining moment.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


On this day in 1943 the US Marines invaded the Tarawa atoll in the Gilbert Islands. For the Marines and Navy, this was the first great battle in the Central Pacific offensive.

Col. Joseph H. Alexander:

The vast oceanic expanses of Micronesia also dictated a change in naval tactics. Most of the previous amphibious assaults in the Solomons and New Guinea had been executed against large land masses which offered penetration by surprise at undefended points. These scenarios featured relatively short distances between launch bases and target objectives, often short enough to enable a shore-to-shore landing without amphibious transports. After Guadalcanal, American commanders in the South and Southwest Pacific theaters conducted every amphibious landing fully within the protective umbrella of land-based air support.

These conditions were generally absent in the Central Pacific. Operation Galvanic, the campaign to seize the Gilberts, would feature unprecedented advancves in long-range, fast carrier strike forces; large-scale, self-sustaining amphibious expeditionary units; and mobile logistic squadrons designed to sustain the momentum of those new forces. Admiral Nimitz was forming the elements of a 'sea-going blitzkrieg' that would hold tremendous significance for the outcome of the Pacific War. But much would ride on the amphibious seizure of Tarawa.
The main island, Betio, was heavily fortified. No larger than Central Park, the 4,500 defenders had constructed a dense network of pillboxes and trenches. As Alexander notes, “Yard for yard, Betio was the toughest fortified position the Marines would ever face." The Japanese commander, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki announced to his men "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years"

The 2d Marines took Betio in four days.

It was no cake walk. One thousand Americans died and another 2,100 were wounded. The American public was shocked at the high cost of taking such a small speck of land.

Shocked, but not deterred. Alexander:

Once the American public came to deal with the shock of the bodies floating in the shallows along Red Beach, the national mood became one of grim determination.
That resolution represented doom for Japan. Her war strategy was premised entirely on the idea the Americans would tire of the war and refuse to pay the price to roll back Tokyo’s conquests. This, in turn, would open the way to a negotiated settlement. Tarawa demonstrated that this premise was a pipe dream.

Later invasions in the Marshalls and Marianas benefited greatly from the lessons learned at Tarawa. At those battles, the Navy and Marines went into action with better doctrine, better weapons, and superior numbers. On Betio, they depended on guts, courage, and the initiative of enlisted men and junior officers.

Two telling sketches from Robert Leckie. The first from the day of the invasion:

In another Amtrack was a stocky corporal named John Joseph Spillane, a youngster who had a big-league throwing arm and the fielding ability which had brought Yankee and Cardinal scouts around to talk to his father. The Old Lady and Corporal Spillane went into Betio in the first wave, a load of riflemen crouching below her gunwales, a thick coat of hand-fashioned steel armor around her unlovely hull. Then she came under the sea wall and the Japanese began lobbing grenades into her.

The first came in hissing and smoking and Corporal Spillane dove for it. He trapped it and pegged it in a single, swift practiced motion. Another. Spillane picked it off in mid-air and hurled it back. There were screams. There were no more machine-gun bullets rattling against The Old Lady's sides. Two more smoking grenades end-over-ended into the amtrack. Spillane nailed both and flipped them on the sea wall. The assault troops watched him in fascination. And then the sixth one came in and Spillane again fielded and threw.

But this one exploded.

Johnny Spillane was hammered to his knees. His helmet was dented. There was shrapnel in his right side, his neck, his right hip, and there was crimson spouting from the pulp that had been his right hand.

But the assault troops had vaulted onto the beach and were scrambling for the sea wall. Though Johnny Spillane's baseball career was over, he had bought these riflemen precious time, and he was satisfied to know it as he called, 'Let's get outta here,' to his driver and the squat gray amphibian backed out into the water to take him out to the transport where the doctor would amputate his right hand at the wrist.
On 24 November, Marine Generals Holland Smith and Julian Smith toured Tarawa:

The generals Smith began to tour the island. Even Julian Smith, who had been on Betio since November 22, was stunned by what he saw. Both generals understood at last why pillboxes and blockhouses which had withstood bombs and shells had eventually fallen. Within each of them lay a half-dozen or more dead Japanese, their bodies sprawled around those of three or four Marines. Julian Smith's men had jumped inside to fight it out at muzzle range.

Many of the pillboxes were made of five sides, each ten feet long, with a pair of entrances shielded against shrapnel by buffer tiers. Each side was made of two layers of coconut logs eight inches in diameter, hooked together with clamps and railroad spikes, with sand poured between each layer. The roof was built of two similar layers of coconut logs. Over this was a double steel turret, two sheathings of quarter-inch steel rounded off to deflect shells. Over this was three feet of sand.

'By God!' Howlin' Mad exclaimed. 'The Germans never built anything like this in France. No wonder these bastards were sitting back here laughing at us. They never dreamed the marines could take this island, and they were laughing at what would happen to us when we tried it'. Howlin' Mad shook his head in disbelief. 'How did they do it, Julian?', he began, and then, below and above the sea wall he found his answer.

Below it as many as 300 American bodies floated on that abundant tide. Above it, leaning against it in death, was the body of a young Marine. His right arm was still flung across the top of the sea wall. A few inches from his fingers stood a little blue-and-white flag. It was a beach marker. It told succeeding waves where they should land. The Marine had planted it there with his life, and now it spoke such eloquent reply to that question of a moment ago that both generals turned away from it in tears.

'Julian,' Howlin' Mad Smith went on in soft amendment-- 'how can such men be defeated?'

Monday, November 18, 2013

Obamacare: The roots of failure

Zeke Emanuel Reveals Obamacare's Original Sin
All problems with flowed from one bad decision, he said.

"The one thing that didn't happen isand I've said this before," Emanuel continued, "is we needed a CEO who understood, who's a really great manager understood the health sideespecially health insurance, because after all, what's the website, what's the exchanges if not health insuranceand understood how to make sure that... the e-commerce aspects were going to run well."

"No one ever got appointed to really do that of sufficient stature," said Emanuel. "You don't hand this to [the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services]. This isn't in their wheelhouse. This isn't something they can do.
Mary Katharine Ham

The ignorant omniscience of President Obama

He knows everything. And yet he seems to know nothing. He’s passionate about the details of domestic policy but wasn’t privy to the details of his own legacy law. He’s an academic with a command of every issue at once but seemingly only finds out what his administration is doing in news reports. He’s so brilliant every normal endeavor he’s tried has bored him, but he couldn’t bother to entertain himself with more than one monthly meeting on the make-or-break program of his presidency. He’s the captain of the Culture of Competency who has overseen the most incompetent rollout of an entitlement program in history.

I was struck by a moment in President Obama’s press conference today where this paradox was on full display. The president floated, throughout the press conference, from profession of utter ignorance to confident declaration and directive. Allahpundit noted that Obama distanced himself from the website’s problems by saying he was never informed of its problems. He knew nothing.
Bryan Preston:

Obama Either Knew that Wouldn’t Work or He Is Keeping Incompetent Liars On His Payroll

So Chao, the project manager, was worried about Obamacare crashing on October 1. He had been worried about that for months. Obama said he had not been told “directly” of these fears. Carney said today that Obama was “briefed regularly” on the site’s progress and issues.

How do we resolve this? What was in those briefings? Did Obama pay any attention to them?

It may be that Obama was not actually being briefed regularly at all. We know that he skips other duties such as attending his Daily Intelligence Briefing. You can lead a horse to water, and all that. Or maybe David Axelrod was right when he said earlier today that Obama has surrounded himself with yes-men who just tell him what he wants to hear. They knew there were problems but they lied to Obama because they knew he couldn’t handle or didn’t want the truth.
If the MSM is surprised by the Obamacare fiasco, then they suck at pattern recognition and suffer from acute memory limitations.


A pattern of abuse and incompetence

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts

Is it possible that David Brooks was wrong?

Benghazi: The high price of rampant knowingness

Have to admit it: Paul Krugman has a point

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Second terms are always hard

Usually because of self-inflicted wounds.

Shock poll: Fox trusted more than Obama on Obamacare info

The most trusted voice in America on Obamacare isn't the president -- or most of the media, Congress or insurance companies. It's Fox News Channel.

Just 11 percent said that President Obama is the most trusted source of Obamacare information, about half of those who cite Fox, at 19 percent.

Worse for Obama, who has been fumbling over his oft-stated and false promise that Americans will be able keep their insurance under his namesake program, just 35 percent told that they trust his word a lot or some, while 52 percent said they trust him not too much or not at all.
Paul Burka:

Obama's Collapse

But it is not enough to be able to deliver a good speech. Politics is about delivering tangible benefits to the American people. That is what the Affordable Care Act was supposed to do, and it didn't do it, and the Democrats are going to pay dearly for their leader's failure. For Obama, there is no recovery from this catastrophe, just as there was no recovery for Lyndon Johnson from his credibility gap.

'Tis a puzzlement

The MSM worked overtime to destroy Paula Deen and Richie Incognito. Yet, for some reason, Alec Baldwin gets a free pass, or at worst, a slap on the wrist.

Laugh: MSNBC Suspends Its Racist, Homophobic Talk Show Host Alec Baldwin... For Two Weeks

Friday, November 15, 2013

The fraud that is Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan Has Gone From Bad to Dangerous How the CNN host discovered gun control

Bully for them!!

Occupy Wall Street buys $15 million of Americans' medical debt

(Reuters) - An Occupy Wall Street spin-off group has bought up $14.7 million worth of Americans' personal medical debt and forgiven it over the last year as part of its Rolling Jubilee project, the group announced Monday.
Saint Jerome:

Of gold she would not wear so much as a seal-ring, choosing to store her money in the stomachs of the poor rather than to keep it at her own disposal.

Letter 127
G. K. Chesterton:

Nothing will be done until we have realized that charity is not giving rewards to the deserving, but happiness to the unhappy.

The Illustrated London News, 8 December 1906

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The limits of the politics of cool

More "complicated" than going to the polls? It's also an awful lot more expensive! Getting callow youth to think Obama was cooler than Hillary, McCain or Mitt - easy. Getting them to translate that sense of shared cool purpose into a willingness tio stand in line for an hour and vote (twice!) - not so hard. Getting them to translate that into a willingness to spend hundreds of dollars a month on insurance they don't need in order to subsidize the old and sick? Good luck. They may be dumb enough to have voted for Obama, but they aren't that dumb.

Mass murder and how to prevent it

What Mass Killers Want—And How to Stop Them

Rampage shooters crave the spotlight, and we should do everything possible to deprive them of it

How might journalists and police change their practices to discourage mass shootings? First, they need to do more to deprive the killer of an audience:

Never publish a shooter's propaganda. Aside from the act itself, there is no greater aim for the mass killer than to see his own grievances broadcast far and wide. Many shooters directly cite the words of prior killers as inspiration. In 2007, the forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner told "Good Morning America" that the Virginia Tech shooter's self-photos and videotaped ramblings were a "PR tape" that was a "social catastrophe" for NBC News to have aired.
HT: Michael Bane


The media's vile calculus: If it bleeds, it leads and leads to more blood

When Charles Whitman went up the tower at the University of Texas., he carried more than just guns and ammunition. He also took along a radio. He listened to the news coverage of te carnage he created. That was important to him.

"How many people do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?"

A problem of media ethics

Politico Unashamed to be In Bed with Deep-Pocketed Leftwing Smear Artist

California billionaire Tom Steyer poured $8 million into the Virginia governor’s race and helped propel Terry McAuliffe to victory. His group, NextGen Climate Action, essentially bought Politico off the story of just how dishonest a campaign he was running, by bringing them into their campaign nexus.
This is dead on target:

Progressives don’t really hate big money in politics. They just hate conservatives, period.

Monday, November 11, 2013

An interesting book from Down Under

Australia’s Secret War: How Unions Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II

Hal Colebatch’s new book, Australia’s Secret War, tells the shocking, true, but until now largely suppressed and hidden story of the war waged from 1939 to 1945 by a number of key Australian trade unions against their own society and against the men and women of their own country’s fighting forces at the time of its gravest peril. His conclusions are based on a broad range of sources, from letters and first-person interviews between the author and ex-servicemen to official and unofficial documents from the archives of World War II.

Between 1939 and 1945 virtually every major Australian warship, including at different times its entire force of cruisers, was targeted by strikes, go-slows and sabo­tage. Australian soldiers operating in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands went without food, radio equipment and munitions, and Aus­tralian warships sailed to and from combat zones without ammunition, because of strikes at home. Planned rescue missions for Australian prisoners-of-war in Borneo were abandoned because wharf strikes left rescuers without heavy weapons. Officers had to restrain Australian and American troops from killing striking trade unionists.
Unions exposed as war saboteurs

This is a tale of the worst of Australia amid the best, the valour and courage of our soldiers in New Guinea providing our last line of defence against Japanese, only to be forced onto starvation rations and to "go easy on the ammo" because strikes by the wharfies back home prevented supplies from reaching them.

A planned rescue of Australian PoWs in Borneo late in the war apparently had to be abandoned, writes Colebatch, because a wharf strike in Brisbane meant the ships had no heavy weapons.

Obscene, stupid, obscenely stupid

Offensive Nut Tom Cruise: My Acting Jobs Are As Grueling As Fighting In Afghanistan

Denial is their new business model

In effect, the newspaper industry is now cooking its books by mutual agreement

Using the increasing complexity of the digital world as an excuse for all this is also hogwash, by the way. For big-picture metrics, there are already standbys that work just fine — paid weekday and Sunday circ for a print edition, paid subscribers to a paywall, monthly unique visitors or pageviews for a free website, downloads from an app store for a native mobile app, and so on. It would also work just fine to publish these metrics side-by-side for any given individual organization, recognizing that its several publishing channels each work differently, and then let the advertisers judge for themselves.

The real problem isn’t that these methods are inadequate. It’s just that the publishers don’t like what those measures are telling them right now, so they’re choosing to pave over them instead.

Can they fix Obamacare?

Do they want to?

Thomas Sowell:

Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are all on record as believing in a "single payer" system -- that is, a government monopoly able to impose its own will on everybody. Even the current and future problems of Obamacare can help them to reach that goal.
Forrest McDonald, A Constituional History of the United States, (1984)

Between the late 1950s and the early 1980s government in the United States became so big and so complex that it all but lost the ability to function. A medical term, 'iatrogenic disease,' illness resulting from treatment by a physician, fairly well describes what happened. Starting with the New Deal, government attempted to solve problems of a nature and magnitude beyond the capacities of a limited constitutional system and perhaps of any system. Some remedies worked, others did not. When they did not, the tendency was to create a new program on top of an old one, rather than to scrap the old. By the early 1960s this jerry-built machinery was beginning to produce, or aggravate, social problems of a scale previously unknown in America. Every governmental 'remedy' produced a new governmental-caused sickness; and yet Americans had become so addicted to the habit of believing that government could cure everything that the response of the late sixties was wave after wave of crash programs. These created new problems that, in the seventies, resulted in more programs. By the time considerable numbers of people began to suspect that they were overgoverned, the reality was that, though government interfered in their lives from cradle to grave, it scarcely governed at all, in the original constitutional sense of the term. Government had ceased to be able to protect people in their lives, their liberty, and their property; and it had lost the capacity to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Leadership, hard work, and meetings

Found this over at Photon Courier:


Your job as a leader is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.”
The quote is from David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell.

It is good advice, as far as it goes. But I can’t help asking, why have the meeting at all?

As Gen. George Marshall told Dwight Eisenhower in the early days of World War Two:

Eisenhower, the Department is filled with able men who analyze the problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.
Cote also offers this advice:

the biggest thing I learned was that hard work doesn’t always pay off. If you work on the wrong thing, it really doesn’t matter how hard you work, because it’s not going to make a difference. So make sure you put some thought into what you’re working on.
See previous post:

When hard work doesn't pay

George Marshall

The Best Strategic Planning Advice Ever

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Theodore Dalrymple is not a fan of TV

Television Is an Evil

There is so much to be said against it (and its televisual offshoots) that it is difficult to know where to begin. In my opinion, televisual entertainment is by far the most important cause of boredom in the world, and since the attempt to relieve boredom is a much underestimated cause of social pathology of all kinds, television is ultimately responsible for the squalor in the midst of wealth that is so remarkable a feature of our modern existence.

It may seem paradoxical to claim that entertainment is a serious cause of boredom. But as TV Lobotomie demonstrates, children who grow up with TV as a large part of their mental diet have difficulty concentrating for the rest of their lives, and since the ability to concentrate is essential to finding anything interesting that is not swift-moving and sensational, and since also a large part of life is necessarily not swift-moving and sensational, those brought up on TV are destined for boredom. Degradation relieves their boredom. Better a life of sordid crises than a life like a flat-line encephalograph.
This might explain why the sausage is rotten

I have found those who work for TV broadcasting companies to be the most disagreeable people that I have ever encountered. I far preferred the criminals whom I encountered in my work as a prison doctor, who were more honest and upright than TV people.

In my experience, TV people are as lying, insincere, obsequious, unscrupulous, fickle, exploitative, shallow, cynical, untrustworthy, treacherous, dishonest, mercenary, low, and untruthful a group of people as is to be found on the face of this Earth. They make the average Western politician seem like a moral giant. By comparison with them, Mr. Madoff was a model of probity and Iago was Othello’s best friend. I am prepared to admit that there may be—even are—exceptions, as there are exceptions good or bad in every human group, but there is something about the evil little screen that would sully a saint and sanctify a monster.

Johnah Goldberg defends the Tea Party

Rightly so, in my opinion.

And Now, The Airing of Grievances

In the recent government shutdown fight I found myself in polite (on my part at least!) disagreement with the elements of the right inclined to denounce the “Republican establishment.” No need to rehash all that again. But, I will say that in the wake of the Cuccinelli defeat, I think the critics of the establishment have the better side of the argument....

For all the talk about how the base needs to cooperate with the establishment more, it’s worth remembering that the base almost always does its part on Election Day. Its the establishment that is less reliable in returning the favor.

Ace points to the dog that did not bark

We've known for a long time that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is an extreme, though none too bright, partisan. Her MSNBC interview just confirmed that. OTOH, her blunder does raise questions about how they do things at Comcast/NBC.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 'We're Not Mizled by the President'

It looked like she had her big conclusion written into the teleprompter and that "at the end of the day" was the signal she was starting to read it.

It's funny; it's kind of dumb, but most importantly, if true, MSNBC is allowing select interviewees to prepare their answers and read them on the air.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The birth of the hive mind

The July/August of Gilbert magazine had a telling piece written by G. K. Chesterton many years ago.

The Worship of the Insect

Mr. Bernard Shaw (who still keeps the world alive more than any other single man) has declared that with the present human animal there is and can be no progress; that he wants a new kind of manpossibly one with two heads. With all my admiration of Mr. Shaw’s eternal vigour and sincerity, I cannot help thinking this rather like the conduct of a mother who, after trying a very cold logical education on her child from six years, should suddenly surprise the street, not by giving up the system, but by flinging the baby out of the window and saying, “Bring me another child.”

Of course, man will not fit Mr. Shaw’s religion of bald candor and the cleansing of life from romanticism, because he is a mammal; the mammals are in the Cosmos the romantic order; the order that has tended to hunting and falling in love; but the curious thing about this new scientific and sociological fancy is that it has tended, more than to anything else, to go outside the mammalian altogether. The new sociologist sees his ideal in another great branch of life; in another great biological civilization. He sees his ideal in a race of creatures whose civilization (for most emphatically, of course, it is a civilization) is marked iron regularity, by the everlasting sacrifice of the individual to the State and the everlasting sacrifice of the present to the future. They are the great rationaliststhe only rationalists; they are the insects. The worship of the insect is the new efficiency. The sociologist of the hour goes forth to conquer like Napoleon, emblazoned with bees.

Mr. H. G. Wells again puts the future, apparently with joy, into the hands of a race of serious, capable scientific experts who are quite obviously insects, except for a slight inferiority in the matter of legs. The sentence of Solomon (written I am sure, during his days of decadence and impiety), “Go to the ant, thou sluggard,” is clearly their motto.

Mr. Sydney Webb, to take another deservedly eminently man, though very far from being a sluggard, may be said to have gone to the ant.
It is worth noting that all of these eminent men would later praise Stalin’s totalitarian state. They had been looking for a New Civilization with New Men and the Soviet Union promised them just that. Is it possible that the regimentation of the Soviet nation/prison was a (good) feature in their eyes, not a bug?

A further point worth noting: Chesterton wrote this in a newspaper column in 1903.

The man was a prophet.

Not all of Chesterton’s targets were socialists. If many socialists loved the vision of a society tightly organized like an anthill, many conservatives and businessmen shared the same vision. They were in thrall of factories full of unmammal-like men and women; worker bees with the emphasis on bee. No wonder Taylorism proved so seductive to the business and managerial class.

Michael Malone tries to rescue Frederick Winslow Taylor’s reputation here.

Why Progressives Always Get Tech Wrong

What Taylor realized, and proved, was that work was a measurable activity that could be systematically made more productive using scientific techniques. But Taylor also argued that workers should be rewarded commensurately with their increased productivity something management didn’t agree with . . .and paid for with labor strife for the next half-century. Industry largely learned its lesson and when it forgot there were forward-thinking entrepreneurs to remind them: like a young David Packard, who told a gathering in the late 1940s of the nation’s biggest corporate executives that if they didn’t trust and empower their employees even more in the years to come, they were doomed. History proved him right. And smart CEOs changed their practices because, in the end, they valued profits over power.
While he may be right about Taylor’s intentions, the implementation of his ideas usually failed to live up to the ideal. For every Dave Packard, corporate America had a dozen Robert McNamaras or Carly Fiorinas.

From Taylorism to Reengineering to ERP the private sector managerial class has fallen for one fad after another that promote command, control, uniformity, and the massacre of the drones.

Insect worship helps explain why hip Apple loves to build their expensive trinkets in the world’s largest Stalinist state.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”…

That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States. The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.

Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day. While factories are spotless, the air inside nearby teahouses is hazy with the smoke and stench of cigarettes. Foxconn Technology ( has dozens of facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in Mexico and Brazil, and it assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

“How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work”, New York Times, January 21, 2012
This love of the ant is not a by-product of the marketplace. It is a cognitive bias, a mental and moral weakness that convinces bureaucrats (government and private sector both) that the world, country, company or factory would be better off if the people would just stop acting like mammals.

A telling story from GM’s failed partner ship with Toyota illustrates the blind spot:

Jeffrey Liker, author of “The Toyota Way,” (McGraw-Hill, 2003), says that GM couldn’t figure out how to absorb company-wide the positive cultural lessons it was learning in Freemont.

“I remember one of the GM managers was ordered from a very senior level, a vice-president, to make a GM plant look like NUMMI,” says Liker in the radio story. “He said, ‘I want you to go there with cameras, and take a picture of every square inch, and whatever you take a picture of, I want it to look like that in our plant. There should be no excuse for why we’re different than NUMMI, why our quality is lower, why our productivity isn’t as high, because you’re going to copy everything you see.’ Immediately this guy knew that was crazy. We can’t copy and play motivation, we can’t copy good relationships between the union and management. That’s not something you can copy. You can’t take a photograph of it.”
The Hive mind revisited

The continuing appeal of the hive mind

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Monday, November 04, 2013


Until last week, I had never heard of the trolley experiment or “The Cold Equations.” Now I run into them everywhere.

I just read Craig Johnson’s Longmire novella Spirit of Steamboat which offers the hardboiled hero’s answer to the trolley question.

His mouth stiffened. “No way. I’ve been up there and this is pure trolleyism.”


“Trolleyism. If you had this little girl on a track with a trolley bearing down on her and you could throw a switch that sent the car onto another track with five other people on itwould you throw that lever?”

“It’s not the same.”

His eyes studied the padded surface of the plane’s interior. “You’re right, because you’re not even going to be able to save the girl. You’re all going to die up there.” His eyes came back to mine. “You’re sacrificing five people’s lives for the possibility of saving one girl…”

“It’s not a question of numbers, it’s a question of what you have to do, what you have to live with if you don’t.” I thought about the book in my pocket, the advice that the Ghost of Christmas Present gives Scrooge on decreasing the surplus population, and mumbled to myself: “Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless… [than] this poor … child…”
I am suspicious of these kind of thought “experiments” for the reason Robert Jervis noted when looking at the utility of game theory in international relations:

It is not a good sign when prisoners confronted by a District Attorney do not behave as the prisoner dilemma model would lead us to expect.


JFK: Fifty Years Later

JFK Assassination Specials: A Guide to 50th Anniversary Television Programming

Friday, November 01, 2013

In this case, the law most certainly is an ass

Investigation IDs IRS Leaker

A House committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of right-leaning groups has identified the IRS agent who leaked the confidential donor list of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization that opposes gay marriage. NOM’s donor list, contained in a Form 990 Schedule B, which it is required by law to file with the IRS, was obtained in March 2012 by its chief political opponent, the Human Rights Campaign, and subsequently became the subject of several national news stories that centered on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s donation to the group.

Though the House Ways and Means Committee, which began investigating the scandal in the wake of revelations that the IRS had inappropriately singled out conservative groups, has identified the individual who divulged the information as an employee in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, it can’t divulge his name to the public or to NOM. It can’t even confirm when the leak took place, whether the perpetrator was disciplined, or even whether he is still employed by the IRS or the U.S. government. That’s because of a peculiarity of the Internal Revenue Code’s section 6103, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information. The law makes it a felony to disclose tax returns or related information to the public, but in an odd twist, the results of investigations conducted by congressional committees or by inspectors general are considered the confidential tax information of the alleged perpetrator.

Food for thought

"Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward."

The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson