Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Point to ponder

Diplomats and intelligence agents, in my experience, are even bigger liars than journalists, and the historians who try to reconstruct the past out of their records are, for the most part, dealing in fantasy
Malcolm Muggeridge

Saturday, January 28, 2017

John Dean's tired act

Good read here:

Why The Press Needs To Stop Comparing Everything To Watergate
By now, John Dean’s pronouncements on the scandals du jour have become one of the most predictable tropes in political journalism.

While Dean did some laudable things to expose Watergate, we’re going on year 42 of his 15 minutes of fame. McKay Coppins is a talented and creditable reporter, and he’s hardly the first to shoot the breeze with Dean in search of a drive-by byline. By now, Dean’s pronouncements on the scandals du jour have become one of the most predictable tropes in political journalism.
More on Dean:

Watergate: The Dean Story and the Standard Account

Watergate and the True Believers

Watergate Curiosity Shop (II)
I whole-heartedly agree with this:

(God forbid we all acknowledge that the only truly, sincerely repentant Nixon aide was Chuck Colson, who spent the rest of his life ministering to prisoners after he became one.)

Facts are stubborn things

Watergate and history

Friday, January 27, 2017

Steelers and Patriots, amateurs and professionals

End of a season and maybe the end of an era as Ben Roethlisberger talks retirement.

Joe Starkey: Tomlin, Butler should be embarrassed after latest Brady beating

Last year, with an entire offseason to prepare, the Steelers were disorganized and literally did not cover the Patriots’ top weapon (Rob Gronkowski) on several plays. In this game, Brady sat back there like he always does against the Steelers and lit them up for a franchise postseason record 384 yards. He completed 32 of 42 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

His numbers in Foxborough against the Steelers really do seem like fake news. In six games dating to 2002, Brady has completed 171 of 239 passes for 2,147 yards, 21 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Against Mike Tomlin teams, Brady now has 22 touchdowns and no interceptions.

I am defender of Tomlin, and Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer. But it’s hard to win when the other coach and other quarterback are so clearly superior.

Paul Zeise: Patriots outplayed and out-coached the Steelers yet again

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

If that is truly the definition, then my diagnosis for the Steelers today is that they are officially certifiably insane. …
The Patriots don’t beat the Steelers every time because they have better players or more talent; they beat the Steelers because they are much smarter, much more disciplined, tougher and far better coached.

“We do what we do” is silly it worked against the Dolphins and Chiefs because the Steelers are better than those teams, but against the Patriots, you better have more than just empty cliches and chest-pounding nonsense.
What if “empty clichés and chest-pounding nonsense” is the best this coach has to offer?

When Joe Green was asked what made Chuck Noll a great coach he responded that Noll “knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it.” Noll explained the “how to get it” to Rocky Blier once on the sidelines:

When you are out there on the field the thing that gets you through are the habits you create. It's what you do in practice that carries on to the field. All that rah-rah stuff doesn't win ball games.
As a coach Tomlin reminds me of South Park’s Underpants Gnomes. Instead of “???” as step 2 of his plan, he offers portentously delivered clichés about “next man up”, “rise to the occasion”, “unleashing Hell in December”, and “the standard is the standard”.

The special operations world has a saying that applies here:

Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong.
On Sunday there was no doubt who were the amateurs and who were the professionals in Foxborough. The gap between the two teams starts with coaching.

Big Ben’s Real Message

I think, particularly in his post-Kansas City criticism last week of the selfish Antonio Brown, and this week of the team’s lack of maturity and readiness for the game, that Roethlisberger was focusing his frustration on three people: Brown (to be sure), coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The dissing of Brown is easy. He’s too often this year been immature, and if Roethlisberger had to settle him down on the sidelines at Foxborowhich has been reportedit’s an Odell Beckham-like bout of baby behavior that simply has to stop. Brown’s too great a player to be sulking. He’s the major reason why the Steelers won the division in the first place, after his reach over the goal line resulted in the AFC North-winning touchdown on Christmas against Baltimore.

I got the sense, regarding the Roethlisberger/Tomlin situation, that the quarterback is frustrated that Brown is acting up over and over again, and the coach hasn’t stopped it. Good on Tomlin for forcefully going after Brown after the Facebook incident last week, but little things have flared up often this year. I cannot imagine Tom Brady issuing a read-between-the-lines call-out of an offensive teammate; he’d never question how Bill Belichick was handling a player. Maybe Roethlisberger isn’t. But two weeks in a row, when he questions things like players’ maturity and attentiveness, what really is he talking about? Players, yes. But alsoright or wrongthe control of them by the head coach.

Ben Roethlisberger critical of young receivers after AFC title loss

A drop by Cobi Hamilton in the end zone a few plays earlier on the same drive also was costly. Roethlisberger did not refer to Hamilton’s drop specifically, but he alluded to the young players not coming through in big moments throughout the game.

“I don’t know if that’s the one thing, but you have to score when they’re down there,” Roethlisberger said. “There were missed opportunities whether we didn’t execute well enough, whether plays weren’t made by me or other guys. At times it felt like maybe it was too big for some of the young guys.”


“It’s a little frustrating,” Roethlisberger said. “We talk about how sometimes it’s just one play here, one play there. Tonight we didn’t make those plays. Was [the moment] too big? I don’t know. We need to make every single play in a game like this, in a moment like this.
Another relevant lesson from the world of combat training: In critical moments, "you don't rise to the occasion; you default to your training."

And one from Chuck Noll: "You only feel pressure when you don't know what you're doing."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Watergate Curiosity Shop (II)

Politics was a Washington blood sport long before the Clintons moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. During Watergate even the ‘good guys’ played the game.

Len Garment relates a particularly nasty episode in his book Crazy Rhythm.

In late 1973 someone from the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s office leaked a transcript of a White House tape to Sy Hersh of the New York Times. According to Hersh, Nixon had discussed an SEC investigation with John Dean. In the course of the conversation Nixon called two of the SEC investigators “Jew boys.”

That night a furious Nixon summoned Garment to the White House. He vehemently denied using the slur. He ordered Garment to listen to the tape and then demand a retraction from the Times.

The next day a dubious Garment listened to the tape. He was surprised to find that Nixon was right: the phrase “Jew boys” never occurred. The men from the SEC were described as “Jewish boys”but not by Nixon.

It was John Dean who said it.

Garment called Clifton Daniels, the Washington Bureau chief of the Times. He offered to let him hear the tape so that he could run a retraction. Daniels delayed and negotiated but never attempted to verify Garment’s claims. Nor did the Times ever correct their false story.

It is a small incident, not even a footnote in the conventional histories of Watergate. Yet it is telling.

Someone in the righteous band of Watergate prosecutors saw fit to doctor a transcript and leak it to Sy Hersh with the obvious intent to libel the president. Had one of Nixon’s men done something like this, it would have made it into the Articles of Impeachment. But because one of the ostensible ‘good guys’ pulled this dirty trick, the New York Times did not care.

BTW, I’m sure that the fact that Clifton Daniels was Harry Truman’s son-in-law had nothing to do with how Gray Lady handled this.


Watergate Curiosity Shop (I)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Journalists (especially editors) need to learn from Sir John Keegan

As defence correspondent, then defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, i decided that entanglement with intelligence organisations was unwise, having concluded, by that stage of my life, through reading, conversation and a little personal observation, that anyone who mingled in the intelligence world, in the belief that he could make use of contacts thus made, would more probably be made use of, to his disadvantage. I continue to believe that to be the case

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chesterton on bubbles and the red/blue divide

From Heretics:

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing that is really narrow is the clique....The men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment like that which exists in hell.
Modern man "says he is fleeing from his street because it is dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing from his street because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting; it is exacting because it is alive. He can visit Venice because to him the Venetians are only Venetians; the people in his own street are men. He can stare at the Chinese because for him the Chinese are a passive thing to be stared at; he he stares at the old lady in the next garden, she becomes active. he is forced to flee, in short, from the too stimulating society of his equals-- of free men, perverse, personal, deliberately different from himself.
He has to soothe and quiet himself among tigers and vultures, camels and crocodiles. These creatures are indeed very different from himself. But they do not put their shape or colour or custom into a decisive competition with his own. They do not seek to destroy his principles and assert their own; the stranger monsters of the suburban street do seek to do this....The vulture will not roar with laughter because a man does not fly; but the major at No. 9 will roar with laughter because a man does not smoke.
Of course, this shrinking from the brutal vivacity and brutal variety of common men is a perfectly reasonable thing as long as it does not pretend to any point of of superiority. It is when it calls itself aristocracy or aestheticism or a superiority to the bourgeoisie that its inherenct weakness has in justice to be pointed out. Fastidiousness is the most pardonable of of vices; but it is the most unpardonable of virtues. Nietzsche, who represents most prominently this pretentious claim of the fastidious, has a description somewhere-- a very powerful description in a purely literary sense-- of the disgust and disdain which consume him at the sight of the common people with their common faces, common voices, and their common minds. As I have said, this attitude is almost beautiful if we may regard it as pathetic. Nietzsche's aristocracy has about it all the sacredness that belongs to the weak. When he makes us feel that he cannot endure the innumerable faces, the incessant voices, the overpowering omnipresence which belongs to the mob, he will have the sympathy of anybody who has ever been sick on a steamer or tired in a crowded omnibus. Every man has hated mankind when he was less than a man. Every man has had humanity in his eyes like a blinding fog, humanity in his nostrils like a suffocating smell. But when Nietzsche has the incredible lack of humour and lack of imagination to ask us to believe that his aristocracy is an aristocracy of strong muscles or an aristocracy of strong wills, it is necessary to point out the truth. It is an aristocracy of weak nerves.

Nat Hentoff, RIP

A lefty, but an honest and independent lefty.

Wesley J. Smith:

We have lost a great writer, civil libertarian, free speech absolutist, jazz historian, and pro-life advocate....

Nat Hentoff was an indefatigable writer, a man whose deeply ingrained integrity compelled him to willingly lose good friends and professional opportunities if that is what it took to remain steadfast on behalf of causes he thought to be right.
This is from one of his columns about Terri Schiavo

For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.
Seems appropriate to quote the late Henry Hyde here.

When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God – and a terror will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world – and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him because he loved us,’ – and God will look at you and say not, ‘Did you succeed?’ but ‘Did you try?
There can be no doubt that Nat Hentoff tried. At great cost to himself and with no profit to be had, he was an unstinting fighter for life and human dignity.