Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Economic politics

Why Democrats Should Avoid the 'R' Word

My thought has long been that back in 2009 and 2010, even though many Americans may have been sympathetic to the idea that changes should be made in our health care system, the public wanted the focus at that time to be on job creation and the economy, which polling at the time indicated was absolutely the case. To the extent that Washington seemed obsessed with health care, voters wanted the government's focus on jobs, and this rubbed them raw. To this day, Americans don't think the economy has been effectively dealt with. Thus, maybe Democrats should avoid the "R" word.
From 2010

Have to admit it: Paul Krugman has a point

The administration was almost eager to move the economic crisis to the back burner while they and the liberal Congress pushed forward with long-standing items on their wish list (cap and trade, health care reform, immigration reform, etc.). Inside Washington, it might seem smart to see a crisis as an opportunity to pass progressive legislation. To the people who are bearing the brunt of the recession, it seems like an abdication of leadership or a heartless betrayal of trust.
From 2011

Obama and FDR

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

Newsweek, hoaxes, and addiction to the narrative

Newsweek editor Evan Thomas became infamous for defending his magazines mistakes in the Duke lacrosse hoax with the bizarre justification:

The narrative was properly about race, sex and class. . . . We just got the facts wrong. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong.
Apparently, this attitude was not new when Newsweek went to Durham.

A couple of years later I was arguing the Tawana Brawley case with a Newsweek editor in a radio interview. When it became obvious that a) Brawley had been making the whole thing up and b) the editor knew very little about the case, he finally blurted out, “It really doesn’t matter. This case isn’t about one young woman being raped by a group of white men. It’s about the whole history of white men taking advantage of black women back to the days of slavery.” So there you have it. When the facts conflict with the narrative, the facts must give way.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Design for failure

Why the Republicans may be doomed

Jeb Bush and the GOP Donor Problem

“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.”
When i read that i thought of Sen. Everett Dirksen remonstrating Gov. Tom Dewey (and two-time loser in presidential races): "We followed you before, and you took us down the path of defeat!".

What is that definition of insanity again?

One quibble. Jeff Lord writes:

The hard political fact of life inside the GOP is that the base sees Establishment Republicans, as exemplified in that Post story about donors pushing for Jeb Bush, not as the solution but rather as part of the problem. They see a GOP consultant class whose main aim is making money regardless of whom they elect — contributing either way to exacerbating America’s Big Government addiction.
I think the problem is even worse. For many consultants, the issue isn't that they make money electing moderates. On the contrary, the bigger problem is that they can make a lot of money working for candidates who are doomed to lose. What matters is not electoral viability but fund-raising ability. Consultants are drawn to Meg Whitman of E-Bay, not to Sarah Palin, small town mayor with grassroots support.

G. B. Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
G. K. Chesterton:

But assuredly there has been no ideal in practice so moonstruck and misleading as the ideal of practicality. Nothing has lost so many opportunities as the opportunism of Lord Rosebery. He is, indeed, a standing symbol of this epoch-- the man who is theoretically a practical man, and practically more unpractical than any theorist. Nothing in this universe is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom. A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that race is strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the man who will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed. The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiards because he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he was beaten at golf. There is nothing which is so weak for working purposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory. There is nothing that fails like success.


Metrocons in a nutshell

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Duke lacrosse: Why you can’t trust what you read in the papers

There’s a new book on the Duke lacrosse case. In keeping with our Orwellian age, the publishers tout The Price of Silence as a comprehensive re-examination of the case which brings new information to light. As is often the case, what is new is not to be trusted. Cohan, in a triumph of perverse contrarianism, has decided to make Mike Nifong the victim of his tale.

KC Johnson has been demolishing Cohan’s book over at Durham in Wonderland. As always, he is the indispensable resource on the case.

Two recent reviews of the book deserve to be read together. David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is largely laudatory in the Wall Street Journal. He inexplicably praises Cohan for “his meticulous research and even-handed tone.” He takes the author at his word that this book is a serious look at the case in all its complexity.

Jeff Neff of the Raleigh News-Observer brings a completely different perspective. As an investigative journalist who helped uncover DA Nifong’s abuse of power, Neff knows more about the case than any other working reporter. Where Shribman sees “meticulous research”, Neff shows us that Cohan failed to talk to many of the most important actors and sources in the drama. Moreover, Cohan’s omissions seem to reflect an agenda. The people he did not interview could (and did) demolish Mike Nifong’s self-exculpatory whining--said whining being the whole basis for Cohan’s revisionist narrative. Shribman is a respected journalist yet his ignorance--the unavoidable condition of most journalists on most stories--left him looking stupid, naïve, and/or biased.

I'm a jounalist whose job it is to explain to others things he does't understand himself.
Scott Shane, New York Times reporter

I am a journalist and so am vastly ignorant of many things, but because I am a journalist I write and talk about them all.
G. K. Chesterton

The problem of journalism in America proceeds from a simple but inescapable bind: journalists are rarely, if ever, in a position to establish the truth about an issue for themselves, and they are, therefore, almost entirely dependent on self-interested 'sources' for the versions of reality that they report.
Edward Jay Epstein, Between Fact and Fiction (1975)
As a reporter stumbles through the inevitable fog of ignorance, there is a powerful temptation to seize on those facts and interpretations that conform to the journalist’s ideological and cultural predilections. Add a measure of knowingness and the ignorance becomes, not a temporary state, but a hard protective shell. Put that journalist in the ideological monoculture that is the modern newsroom and the entire newspaper or network falls prey to folly and error.

Shribman’s review is a near perfect example of this tendency. He uses Cohan’s flawed narrative to ride his pet hobbyhorse--the over-emphasis of athletics on the modern campus. For instance, he and Cohan criticize Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski:

Moreover, his astonishment at the silence of basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is clearthe revered Duke coach, often outspoken, was virtually absent from the debate about the lacrosse-team episode.
Shribman apparently sees no contradiction between this Coach K. bashing and the genesis of the scandal:

the predictable groups behaving predictably, the loudest advocates for social justice often too impatient to let legal justice take its course, the voices of reason drowned out by the clatter of cliché.
Duke would have been much better off if the Gang of 88 had emulated Coach K’s reticence.

Shribman’s ideological blinders and agenda-driven concern-trolling are evident in his concluding paragraph:

Do you suppose that a similar contretemps among members of Duke's Collegium Musicum would have gripped the nation? If the bad boys had been members of the Duke Players, who perform in Shaefer Theater, rather than the players of the Duke lacrosse team, who perform in Koskinen Stadium, would anyone beyond the Duke campus care? Would Mr. Cohan have written more than 600 pages? To ask the question is to answer itand to see what the real scandal on campus is today.
After I read that I wanted to ask Shribman, “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”.

He wants us to believe that the Duke scandal or the Penn State scandal drew attention because athletics have out-sized importance on campus. It would follow, then, that the MSM’s muted response to crimes and possible crimes in the entertainment industry reflects the low cultural importance of movies, music and TV.


This, of course, is absurd.

It is much more likely that the MSM’s divergent response to the Bryan Singer story vs. the lacrosse case or Roman Polanski vs. Jerry Sandusky reflects the mores of the journalistic Guild. The Guild, after all, esteems Robert Lipsyte the sportswriter who hates sports. ESPN has “Outside the Lines” which investigates sports scandals and pseudo-scandals. Hollywood scandal-mongering, however, is something respectable newspapers leave to the checkout line tabloids and info-tainment shows.

One last point, after North Carolina AG Roy Cooper exonerated the players in 2007, the MSM immediately announced that it was time for everyone to “move on” and to put the story behind us. For six years there has been scant interest in revisiting the case, or Durham’s justice system, or the media’s malpractice in abetting an out of control prosecutor. Yet, with Cohan’s book, the “let’s move on” media has become interested in the lacrosse case once again.

They are like Captain Ahab in search of their preferred narrative.


Duke lacrosse: Auto de fe

I think this medieval custom explains a lot about the MSM’s poor performance in Durham. They cared little about the crime per se: respectable journalists and highly paid pundits don’t do crime stories. The case just provided a setting-a publicity hook-where they could deliver their sermons on racism, sexism, privilege, the sins of white athletes, and the need for change.

Changing Minds

Knowing this, it is easy to see why "60 Minutes" was so easily outdistanced by bloggers. Further, Gardner's work suggests that the MSM will suffer more such embarrassment at the hands of new media voices.

Journalists like to say they write the first draft of history, but as noted here, they are peculiarly resistant to revising that draft. They work in a professional echo chamber where their peers agree with them on almost all the big issues and they are unaccustomed to sharing "explanation space" with dissident voices. It is a milieu that does not weed out absolutist personalities. Moreover, their work is so public that admitting mistakes is very hard. In the case of television, so much work, time, and money get invested in a story that emotional commitment is almost inevitable.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"He is risen!"

God died on Friday, and the world ended. Yesterday, He was lying in His tomb; all hope and promise of the coming kingdom buried with Him. Today, He is risen:
continue reading

The Cross and the World

As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has paradox in its centre it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.
G. K. Chesteron, Orthodoxy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Strategy and Execution: Business and the Military

Originally posted 21 April 2005

As I noted below, Photon Courier has a very smart post on strategy, execution, and leadership with special reference to the thoughts of Field Marshall Lord Wavell.

Overall, I agree wholeheartedly with PC's analysis. However, I differ on one point he makes:
But I do think it's true that American business schools tend to overemphasize strategy at the expense of execution, and this has to some extent carried over into practice. Too often, the relationship between strategy and execution is thought of as a "handoff" individual or group of individuals come up with the strategy, which others then execute. In reality, strategy and execution are much more tightly intertwined, and many times strategic options will only become visible from within the details of the execution work.

He then discusses Lord Wavell's lectures on the importance logistics and administration as opposed to strategy. While that is a crucial dimension in war, I think the difference between business and the military works in favor of emphasizing more strategic thinking in most firms.

A military commander faces only a few strategic questions in any campaign and these often do pivot on calculations about logistics. Those strategic choices have the most profound consequences, which means that the general faces a moral pressure that a CEO cannot imagine. Moreover, battles and campaigns have a decisiveness that business operations lack. This is one of the key reasons that the commander bears such a heavy burden.

When Eisenhower took over the ETO in WWII, he did not have to ask who the enemy was or where the battle would be fought or what kind of war was to be waged. All of that was a given-Germany, Northwestern Europe, and a land campaign in conjunction with strategic bombing.

Contrast that with the executives at Ford's truck division. They have to compete with multiple companies, in global markets, and across different demographic groups. The competition within those resulting submarkets varies in its mix of pricing, efficiency, distribution, advertising, quality, and new products.

These executives have to make strategy for the long term because business success is transitory and lacks the decisiveness one sees in military history. The flip side of that is that failure can be sugar-coated and papered over. In war, victory is the ultimate metric; in business, there is a fog of numbers that can be made to point in many different directions (at least for a time.)

Overall, I think American businesses put too little emphasis on clear strategic thinking. They put a lot of emphasis on planning but these efforts are frequently evasions of thought rather than real attempts to clarify and define.

Zbigniew Brzezinski once wrote that large bureaucracies do not have strategies-they have shopping lists. That sums up the output of the strategic planning process in most businesses as well. The end result is a grab bag of initiatives and budget items larded with some wishful thinking and trendy buzzwords.

While it is true that B-schools emphasize strategy over execution, they do not do a very good job of it when compared to military education. The approach is superficial using cookie-cutter templates in textbooks and skimpy case studies.

The historian Michael Howard wrote a brilliant article ("The Use and Abuse of Military History")* on the right way for officers to study military history. He offered up three general rules:

1. Study in breadth. Look at wars and campaigns over a long sweep of time. Look for both similarities and discontinuities.

Only by seeing what does change can one deduce what does not.

I suspect that had executives done a better job on this score, billions of dollars would have been saved during the Internet bubble. Someone who has studied the "old new things" will not get trapped in the hype around the "new new thing".

2. Study in depth. Look at a single campaign by reading a variety of histories, memoirs, letters, diaries, etc. Recognize the confusion, chaos and varying perspectives at work. (Clearly, this is the antithesis of the classic business case study.)

3. Study in context. Do not just look at the military action, study the sociology and politics of the nations involved. Again, these are perspectives that are usually absent in the analysis of strategy foisted on executives and students.

* The essay can be found in Howard's book The Causes of War.

Ayn Rand and Anton La Vey

The Fountainhead of Satanism

What would warrant the current influence of her thought within the conservative movement? Rand was a third-rate writer who was too arrogant to recognize her own ignorance (she believed she was the third greatest philosopher in history, behind only Aristotle and Aquinas). She misunderstood almost every concept she engaged with”from capitalism to freedom”and wrote nothing that had not been treated before by better thinkers. We don’t need her any more than we need LeVay.

Few conservatives will fall completely under Rand’s diabolic sway.

Victor Davis Hanson on media double standards

The right ideological credentials mean never having to say you’re sorry

Why did an uncouth Don Imus go on forced sabbatical from radio for his racial crudity, but not, say, Stephen Colbert for his own racial buffoonery? Is it that Colbert is never dead serious in a way Imus always is? No, it’s that Colbert had taken out ideological insurance, Imus not so much.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stephen Colbert: The totally non-ideological business decision from inside the liberal media bubble

NPR’s On The Media:

Let’s just assume that CBS, a profit-making enterprise, isn't actually plotting to alienate exactly half of the network’s late-night audience.
CNN’s Reliable Sources:

STELTER: Now, as a media reporter, I view this as a business decision by CBS, not an ideological one. But the politics here are awfully interesting. So, I want to get into that in just a minute.

But since it's business, whenever I want to know whether TV programs going to work or not, where do I look? To the demo, of course, the demographic. That's TV shorthand for the younger viewers who when they watch bring in more advertising revenue, more advertising dollars for channels like this one. Let me share two numbers with you that explain what's going on. The median age for "The Colbert Report's" audience is 42. The median age of Letterman's "Late Show" audience is 58.
Kind of surprising to see left-wingers appeal to the marketplace as the final arbiter of wisdom.

See conservatives are wrong about CBS and Colbert because business executives said so!
Of course, the possibility that a bunch of liberal executives might make bad decisions because of their cultural blindspots or ideological blinders is a question not worth discussing.

Because PROFIT! Markets!
Quite a difference from the crtitic’s usual refrain. One of the main arguments for corporate and newsroom diversity is that heterogeneous groups make better decisions and will avoid mistakes like Grantland’s “Dr. V” fiasco.

Diversity is always Good! Except for ideological diversity.

Two big time examples of bad decisions due to cultural blindspots: Hollywood missed the boat on both The Passion of the Christ and Jeff Foxworthy’s Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

Hollywood, Markets, and Cultural Blinders

Market as God, Pundit as Priest
On the media’s convenient obsession with “The Demo”:

CBS, Colbert and Contempt for America

Marketing’s repeated folly

Why do marketers hate old people?
This is as true now as when I first wrote it:

As with most advertising-driven "research" the groups identified as most desirable and/or cutting edge tend to be groups that are over-represented in advertising, publishing, and media. That is why straight men getting facials in LA and New York gets discussed on TV and in major papers. It is perceived as some sort of harbinger in a way that 1,000,000 home-schooled children or 33 states with "shall issue" concealed carry laws are not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stephen Colbert and the MSM’s barely critical lap dogs

Rush Limbaugh deserves the first word because Anita Dunn’s lapdogs took their shots at him on their week-end shows.

Media Robots Demand Rush Conform on Colbert

My only point is the fact that every one of these people in the media are all saying the same thing, using the same words, the same opinions. What does it make them but robots?

The last thing they are is individuals. I mean, they're all falling over themselves, they're all falling over each other to top each other
Both Reliable Sources and On The Media were lavish in their praise of Colbert and CBS for choosing him. Each as noted, took predictable and mean-spirited shots at Rush to signal their audience that only icky people were opposed to the choice.

Their handling of Colbert was in sharp contrast to “controversies” which liberals care about. For instance, during the Dr. V/Grantland saga, both Reliable Sources and On The Media dealt with GLAAD’s concerns respectfully and with the presumption that those concerns were valid. There was no guest to debate GLAAD’s representative; the hosts gave no push back.

In contrast, conservative concerns are not real concerns to the media critics in the MSM. On The Media saw no need to seek out a conservative voice. Reliable Sources made sure that a liberal hack was on hand to argue the liberal position. The host, in fact, did not even challenge that hack when she accused conservatives of dishonesty and paranoia.

Both programs (and Fox News Media Buzz too) left out two critical subjects in their coverage of Colbert.

First, no one mentioned that his sister recently ran for Congress as a liberal democrat in South Carolina. That fact ran counter to emerging narrative that Colbert is less political (i.e. less liberal) than conservatives think.

Second, no one mentioned the twitter firestorm that erupted when Colbert’s show decided to play with Asian stereotypes and hate speech.

They apparently thought that was no big deal or that it was not offensive because Colbert had his clown nose on.

Except, they are less forgiving of the “no offense meant” defense when that is used by someone other than their pets.

E. G. from an On The Media program dealing with the Washington Redskins.

Here’s Buck’s County Courier Times Executive Editor, Patricia Walker:

PATRICIA WALKER: If it offends some, it’s offensive, so why wouldn't we just support their stand and take the stand ourself to not use the word “Redskins” in the papers?
Well, Michelle Malkin, for one, was offended. By MSM rules, that means that Colbert was offensive.

Offensive in the same way that Justine Sacco was offensive and in the same spirit.

So, by the rules endorsed by both shows, Colbert should have been fired. Instead the hosts worked overtime to heap praise on him.

Stephen Colbert is a brilliant comedian who uses his powers for good. He seems to be a modest man, too modest perhaps, to see that by lightly shedding the cap of his creation, he’s depriving us all of a national treasure. And I’m not joking.
Double standards are the only standards they have.

No wonder no one wanted to deal with #cancelcolbert

Friday, April 11, 2014

Safe to say that Eric Holder is no George Marshall

Since he had nothing to hide, he did not flinch at Congressional investigations. To staff members who wanted to hold back on revelations to a Senate committee, he argued, 'it must be assumed that members of Congress are as patriotic as we are.... I do not believe we should adopt an attitude of official nervousness."

Forrest Pogue, George C. Marshall, Statesman

Straws in the wind: The Boston bombers, US intelligence, and the new Cold War

Steve Sailer connects the dots that Fox News ignores:

FBI: Boston Bomb Brothers were Putin's fault
Read the whole thing. No, really, read to the end--you’ll thank me.

The MSM is uninterested (or afraid) to dig into the connection between the Tsarnaev clan and US intelligence.

Okay. Still, you know, the Russkies did have reasons not to totally trust U.S. intelligence services when it came to the Tsarnaev family.

After all, the Bomb Brothers' Uncle Ruslan used to run a Chechen rebel front organization funneling donations from Al-Qaeda to the fight against Russia out of the house of his (now) ex-father-in-law, retired CIA insider Graham E. Fuller.
This line from the Times story is open to many interpretations; none of them are particularly reassuring to Russia or Putin:

At the time, American law enforcement officials believed that Mr. Tsarnaev posed a far greater threat to Russia.
At a minimum, this suggests that the US government was indifferent to the terrorist threat posed by American citizens when the target was Russia.

A reasonable man might wonder of this indifference is evidence of hypocrisy in the Bush-Obama rhetoric surrounding the war on terror.

Throw in the Tsarnaev’s connection to US intelligence and the stench of hypocrisy grows thick and heavy.

Next straw: more questions than answers.

The Chechens' American friends

The Washington neocons' commitment to the war on terror evaporates in Chechnya, whose cause they have made their own….
The anti-Russian animus of the MSM is so strong that this contradiction never gets an airing. The victims of Beslan are sent down the memory hole.

There is also a Ukrainian nexus.

Edward Jay Epstein wrote a fascinating book on unsolved crimes. When investigating the death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko and the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya Epstein found himself deep in the conspiratorial currents of Russian politics and its western annex.

According to Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow-based newspaper for which Politkovskaya reported, Pavlyuchenkov claimed in his pretrial testimony that Politkovskaya’s murder was ordered by two London-based enemies of Putin, billionaire Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev, an organizer of the Chechen revolt (which coincides with Putin’s theory that the murder was staged as a provocation).
[Alexander Goldfarb] told me that Berezovsky had provided $ 50 million to dissident elements in Ukraine who participated in what became known as the Orange Revolution.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

He wasn't wrong

Joseph Epstein reviews the recently published diaries of George Kennan.

George Kennan: diplomat, misanthrope, diarist.
This particularly relevant today:

Proper distance, mutual respect, non-interference, above all the avoidance of war—these were the pillars on which Kennan thought foreign policy ought to stand.
Kennan, in many ways, was more conservative than most of our current right-wing pundits. He was also more intellectually honest and more rigorous.

Government generally, he wrote in Around the Cragged Hill, A Personal and Political Philosophy, “is simply not the channel through which men’s noblest impulses are to be realized. Its task, on the contrary, is largely to see that its ignoble ones are kept under restraint and not permitted to go too far.”
The modern right is rendered absurd on just this point. They catalogue in detail the failings of one government program after another. Yet they persist in thinking that foreign policy and military affairs are different and will not be plagued by unintended consequences or governmental over-reach.

The architect of the Marshall Plan and Containment, two of the most successful government programs of the 20th century, did not let hubris cloud his vision of what the world was really like.

It's possible that Kennan is more relevant now than at any time in the last fifty years.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Wargames and crisis management


What was the Fed thinking in the summer of 2008?

There was no real planning or preparation for crisis. They did not have contingency plans for the post-Lehamn fallout just has they did not have a clear understanding of what the failure of a TBTF institution would mean….

I find this mind-boggling. For 150 years modern militaries have used war-games, scenario planning, and other strategic tools to prepare for nearly all contingencies. The plans themselves are not the key product of these exercises. It is the development of a collective mental framework and the exploration of messy problems not given to pat answers.
Williamson Murray in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period:

The U.S Navy’s approach to war gaming was similar to that of the German Army. Neither military force used exercises or war gaming as a device to justify current, ‘revealed’ doctrine or as a means to exclude possibilities. In other words, exercises aimed at illuminating possible uses for military forces and at suggesting what questions one might ask; they did not aim at providing ‘solutions’ or answers. In peacetime they were an educational vehicle for the officer corps. In war, gaming aimed at illuminating possibilities . For example, the German game for the Meuse crossing, which occurred in March 1940, came to no resolution on the critical question of whether the German armor should make the breakthrough without waiting for supporting infantry divisions to come up.
This lack of resolution was far from fatal. Two months later the Germans crossed the Meuse under Guderian in a victory which ensured the utter defeat of France and Britain. (See A Neglected but Significant Anniversary for the Meuse battle and its importance)

Nor did the lack of resolution in wargame mean that the effort was wasted. Quite the opposite.

T. N. Dupuy in Understanding Defeat:

The plans and preparations had been so good that [Guderian's] corps headquarters issued orders for the assault across the river simply by changing the date on an order they had prepared in an earlier wargame and issuing it without further change.
See also:

Alistair Davidson, Why Wargaming is useful:

This need to push managers to consider wider extremes is one of the reasons that scenario analysis is talked about so much. But there is theological split in the world of scenario creation and use. Some scenario consultant are quite adamant that scenarios should be stories not numerical models. These professionals are reacting against the phenomenon that spreadsheet sensitivity analysis is sometimes confused with scenario analysis. The use scenario analysis to drag resistant managers kicking and screaming into considering the unthinkable, the Black Swan, and the fat tailed distributions or risk.

But if that battle has been won and managers now understand the vocabulary of and the differences between sensitivity analysis and scenario analysis, then there is a next generation modeling opportunity, i.e. to translate the stories of a scenario into the impact upon a business.

The impact upon a business may like the wargame reveal not just the sensitivity changes under different scenarios, they may also imply more complex differences in states

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Breaking news without excuses

Our neutered press critics are fond of blaming bad reporting on the pressures created by technology and competition. Smaller newsrooms mean fewer reporters are available to cover important news. The internet and the 24-hour news cycle force the poor overworked darlings to tweet, update breaking stories, blog, make TV appearances, and monitor social media. It is just too much for even most noble of humans (i. e. journalists) so we should not be surprised when mistakes are made. Nor should we dwell too much on said mistakes.

As with most establishment press criticism, this argument is mostly special pleading to excuse bias and sloppy behavior.

I recently finished a book that puts the lie to these excuses and demonstrates how good reporters and editors handle tough challenges.

When the News Went Live is a first person account by four local reporters in Dallas who suddenly had to cover the biggest story in the world. These four men wanted to get the story right and they did so despite all the pressures and potential pitfalls.

It was not easy. Not only were they covering an earth-shattering event, they faced the same kind of demands that modern reporters whine about:

We wrote our own copy. There were no news readers among us. Eddie demanded versatility, and all of us were prepared to report and write as well as shoot film and operate audio equipment.
While most of the media handled the story with professionalism, some grievous mistakes were made. Perhaps the most notorious was Dan Rather’s report that schoolchildren cheered when they were told that Kennedy had been shot.

As Bob Huffaker recounts, Rather tried to get the story on the air at KRLD. Their news director smelled a rat, called the school and discovered that the cheering was by children who did not know the reason why the school was letting them out early.

Rather, never one to let the mundane truth stand in the way of a juicy narrative, managed to get the story on the CBS network broadcast.

Walter Cronkite and CBS News were more easily duped than the yokels at KRLD.

Reporter Eddie Barker describes the methods of the big city press that flooded Dallas to cover the assassination:

Most of them, unfortunately, had written their stories on the plane.
Other reporters followed Rather’s path.

I rolled the tape and gave him [Robert Pierpoint] the nod. 'They say that Dallas is not a city of hate,' he bagan. 'And yet, on the streets of Dallas, one gets the impression---' he continued. Then to my amazement, he characterized Dallas as a center of political extremism and distrust, then went on to imply that some vaguely defined sense of unease and hatred still lurked in the city where he'd landed not a half-hour earlier.

He ended his report, 'This is Robert Pierpoint, CBS News, in Dallas." To be sure, he had actually done the feed from Dalla. Its overriding impression was that he had taken time to gauge the mood of the city, but I marveled that he'd managed to accomplish his analysis in a ten-minute ride from the airport.

Pierpoint was parroting the media line-- Dallas was a city of hate after all-- and apparently one could draw that conclusion by landing at Love Field and riding to our newsroom.
Then, as now, the problem of bad reporting had little to do with technology or time pressure. It is a question of bias and the tyranny of the narrative.

Sure, competitive pressure and ambition played a role, but they were subservient to the narrative. As the Dan Rather example shows, a reporter who wanted to cut corners to report a “scoop” could only do it by playing to the biases of the deciders in New York and Washington. “Blame Dallas” stories received instant air play. “Blame the communists” stories were spiked. A reporter who wanted to advance the latter narrative faced push back and had to do much more work to get his story on the air or in the paper. Hence, that counter-narrative drew no support from the ambitious journalist on the make.

True Detective and a return to heroes

I binge-watched HBO’s True Detective this weekend. Have to say I was surprised that it was as good as the buzz about it claimed.

After I finished watching it, I went back and read this post by Ace.

The True Detective Finale and The Left's Inability to View Art As Anything Other Than an Ego-Flattering Political Affirmation
I think he nailed it on every particular.

One thing I really liked about it is something Ace picked up on:

The show ultimately was, as Pizzolato said, not about the serial killer at all, but about the two men, Hart and Cohle, and their long, rocky relationship with one another.

And it's about mystery. The serial killer plot is a pretext to explore mystery -- and evil -- and philosophy -- and sex -- and all the rest of it, but in the end, the show was about the mystery and muddle of life. Not about some Hannibal Lecter-like supercriminal and his lunatic beliefs.

In the end, he wasn't the interesting one; the heroes were the interesting ones.
Back in the very early days of this blog I wrote this:

Figures like Holmes or Peter Wimsey are fictional and bear little resemblance to real detectives. But they are hyper-realistic compared to the serial killers in modern thrillers. Writers like Thomas Harris have turned the detectives into somewhat intelligent bureaucrats while making the killer the one endowed with the rare mind. Philip Marlowe is only the " personification of an attitude, the exaggeration of a possibility;" Hannibal Lector bears no resemblance to real serial killers. He is the personification of an impossibility as a criminal, but the perfect example of moral rot as an "artistic" creation.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Let's start the week with some Chesterton

We fight for the right of normal people to define normality.

Illustrated London News, 2 June 1917

All crime is a kind of despotism; and the sin against the Holy Ghost is the attempt to be the superman. All punishment is a sort of righteous rebellion; the revolt of all men against the man who thinks he is the only man in the world.

Daily News, 15 May 1909

There are only two things in human politics, and they are Power and Persuasion… you convict a man-or else you convince him. You convince him of sin-or you convict him of crime.

Illustrated London News 4 April 1914,

The fact on our side, to be held firmly, is that the tide against is only a tide; that is, it is a dead thing. Its rapidity is all routine; whereas we, whether we win or drown, who build a dyke, are alive.

New Witness, 28 April 1918


Saturday, April 05, 2014

If they can't rule the party, they will ruin it

Scary news indeed:

Bush vets back in action

Bush veterans are striking back.

Senior officials from former President George W. Bush's administration are wading into the fight over the Republican Party's direction and future.

In conversations with The Hill, many White House alumni said they're increasingly alarmed by the party's libertarian drift on foreign policy and frustrated by the collapse of immigration reform legislation. In 2014, they're worried the party might continue to nominate flawed candidates, and many aren't staying quiet any longer.

Conservative Messaging I

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.

Conservative Messaging II

The issue that fired up the conservative base was Obamacare. Here again, Romney could not take full advantage of this issue because he had signed Romneycare as governor of Massachusetts.

Despite these two enormous weaknesses, the "professionals" kept telling us that Romney was the most electable candidate in the primaries. This does not reflect well on the "professionals" professional competence.

What ails the GOP

Karl Rove is part of the problem, not the solution.

The Republican party needs to steal learn from one of their greatest presidents and "ruthlessly" replace failures like the Bush Dynasty sycophants who have failed repeatedly.

To quote Leo Amery:

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

Gangster government in action

The safety of the public was less important than helping Obama's union allies.

The GM Scandal Is Worse Than You Think

Friday, April 04, 2014

A must read on the Fort Hood shooting

Another Case of Passing the Buck?

Missing--or ignoring--indications of terrorist leanings or mental illness have become a recurring theme in mass shootings on military bases over the past 20 years.

Totalitarian wind II

After watching what happened at Mozilla and the on-going attacks on the Koch brothers by Harry Reid, I find myself in complete agreement with Instapundit:

I’m beginning to think that the only thing the left found wrong with the 1950s blacklists was that they were aimed at . . . the left.

Orwell meets Sartre

A totalitarian wind
Let me suggest one potential unintended consequence of moves like Mozilla's. Social conservatives, who make up a majority of the pro-business Republican electorate, may rethink their unstinting and unthinking support Big Business. Why fight to the last ditch for people who despise and attack you?

If i were advising Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, I'd tell them to cut back on the references to Milton Friedman and von Mises in my stump speeches. Instead, start reading modern muckrakers and feel free to bash the excesses and idiocy of the Wall Street gang.

After all, it worked for Teddy Roosevelt.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Who’s afraid of a Republican landslide?

Lessons from the Watergate election of 1974

"Cui bono?" is a dangerous question

The 1974 mid-term elections were one of the most consequential elections in US history. Aided by Watergate and the Agnew scandals, Democrats picked up 49 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate. With 291 seats, the House now had a veto-proof Democratic majority. They outnumbered Republicans in the Senate 60 to 38.

Not only were the Democrats stronger, they were more liberal and more assertive. They took on the White House on foreign policy, launched the Church and Pike investigations into CIA, and ensured the communist victories in Southeast Asia by denying military equipment to Saigon.

Eager to maintain their majorities, they followed Phil Burton’s lead in embracing hypocrisy as a political virtues.

Michael Barone:

Democrats continued to win majorities in every election. They ignored Republicans, routinely used the rules to prevent direct votes on issues on which their stands were unpopular, maintained caucus solidarity and, under the leadership of Tony Coelho in the 1980s, bludgeoned business PACs into contributing to marginal Democrats and not contributing to Republican challengers.
One last consequence is often forgotten. The liberal landslide completely gutted the power of the power of the old barons in the House. Committee chairmen were no longer chosen solely by seniority; their power was no longer absolute.

Paradoxically, the party’s big win turned into a defeat for some of its more important members of Congress.

Sometimes I wonder if Boehner and his allies in the House think about that. Have they decided that modest gains which leave them in control of the House are better than a landslide that might topple the current leadership?

I also sometimes wonder about the lack of movement on the IRS scandal.

Who benefits from throttling Tea Party?

The Democrats obviously. But there were/are three other suspects.

1. The big GOP donors.
2. Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary.
3. The existing House leadership.

Maybe we should not be surprised by the slow walk investigations to get to the heart of the IRS scandal.


How Reagan became Reagan: The Texas Earthquake of 1976