Thursday, February 28, 2019

Anyone remember General Stanley McChrystal?

Double-standards are the only standards they have in the MSM

McChrystal was a much decorated officer who was forced to resign when reporter Michael Hastings revealed that his staff spoke disparagingly of President Obama and his administration.

At the time the MSM was nearly unanimous in their reactions.
1. McChrystal had to go because the disrespect shown toward Obama and his appointees was a direct threat to our democracy.
2. McChrystal’s competence was irrelevant. The effect of his resignation might have on the course of the war in Afghanistan was of little importance. All that mattered was that Obama was the elected president and that fact alone demanded a certain degree of respect from all those who worked in the executive branch.
3. The reporter performed a great service by exposing this terrible threat to civilian supremacy and the will of the people.

Of course, the election of Donald Trump forced the MSM to do a complete 180. Now “preserving democracy” requires that people in the executive branch disparage and malign the president on the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Reporters do not unmask those who seek to undermine the legitimate authority of the Cammander-in-Chief. Instead they give them a megaphone and help them as they seek to overturn the will of the voters. The MSM aids and abets them even though they know that their sources are breaking the law.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A searing look at a wrongful conviction

This podcast revisits an old case which resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice:

The last half is a searing, raw interview with Josh Kezar who was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

Cases like this are a useful reminder that the legal system, like all bureaucracies, is "a giant mechanism operated by pygmies."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Getting serious about organizational learning

Some hard truths from John Hagel III:

The Threat and Opportunity of Lifelong Learning

Our conversations and media are increasingly consumed by the topic of the "future of work." And, within this topic, one of the buzzwords that has emerged and acquired increasing prominence is "lifelong learning." The message is that, in a more rapidly changing world, we're all going to have to abandon the traditional notion of going to school to learn and then going into a career to apply the learning we've received.

While this is certainly an important message, I'm deeply troubled by the loose way it's communicated - it rarely questions our traditional view of learning, it rarely addresses the issue of motivation and it doesn't systematically explore what's required to support lifelong learning.
His analysis of the organizational barriers to learning are insightful:

But, here's the rub. All of our institutions are built on a model of scalable efficiency and these institutions are deeply ambivalent about, if not openly hostile to, this form of passion. People with this form of passion have a hard time sticking to the script and the process manual - they get bored easily and they're often deeply frustrated, seeing so much opportunity to get to higher and higher levels of performance and frustrated by the obstacles in their way.
This blog has cover some aspects of this problem:

Why transformation efforts fail (redux)

A case study on organizational learning

"Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies"

Friday, February 15, 2019

Nicely put

Ann Coulter:

Interrupting speeches at a private event is the equivalent of sneaking into the New York Times's typesetting room and inserting your own op-eds over theirs.
Or, to update slightly: If someone could hack Facebook so that every link to the Washington Post was re-routed to Breitbart, the MSM would have a meltdown. (OK, another meltdown.) But they treat these attempted hijackings as just a fun news story.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Management, leadership, culture

A bunch of interesting points here:

Drucker Forum 2018: Post-Bureaucratic Management At Vinci And Haier
Need to find out more about the Vinci Group. Their radical decentralization is quite the departure from the norm.

Vinci’s Energy Division for instance has some 75,000 workers in 50 countries and annual revenues of $13 billion. This division is split into 1,600 business units. Yet the Vinci head office is just 50 persons, and it hasn’t grown over the years, even as the business itself has quadrupled in size. “Decentralized management,” Huillard said, “is the only way to grow without becoming fat and strangled by increasing processes."
Denning points out that it is not technology or a new management “theory” that allows them to pull it off:

People are “pulled” by culture and values, not “pushed” by process and procedures.

The role of Vinci’s management is to have the courage to stick to these principles at a time when markets are shaky and external forces are pushing the firm to recentralize and optimize. Sticking to the principles is particularly important in tough times.
This reminds me of something the great advertising man Bill Bernbach used to say:

A principle is not a principle until it costs you money.
I would argue that when it comes to culture and strategy NOTHING matters except management’s behavior when risks are high and pressure is increasing. Everything else is just empty speeches and hollow gestures.

See, for example, Admirals Halsey and Nimitz:

Lessons in Leadership: Admiral William Halsey

Halsey and Nimitz: Leadership and loyalty

Life imitates fiction

I only recently heard about this case.

Murchison Murders
A man in Australia (circa 1929) hears a mystery writer discuss the plot of a story he is working on. The author thinks he may have devised the perfect murder.

Man decides to try it out and the author’s method seems to work. Fortunately, the killer did not follow the instructions completely and ended up convicted and hanged.

Somewhat related

Open Source Terrorist Training

Open source training tips for terrorists

Open Source Training Tips?

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The MSM's long war against the Deplorables

In a 1998 interview with Steven Brill, NBC's Brian Williams was critical of Don Imus-- describing him as "a former railroad employee."

On his radio show, Imus himself cut to the heart of the issue. Brian Williams could have described him as a former cocaine addict or a former drunk. Instead, he took aim at the fact that Imus once did manual labor.

These are the Brahmin attitudes of media "elite". Once upon a time such experience would have given Imus authenticity and seriousness. Now it is seen as disqualifying.

Williams, let us remember, is a college drop out as well as a lying self-promoter. In his case, his disdain may mask the insecurities of a striving conformist who knows that he is a fraud. In trying to suck up to Steven Brill, (Yale and Yale Law School) by bashing Imus, he also revealed the mediocre striver's hatred of the successful rebel.

Some years later Williams would show his true colors again, this time when he tried to dismiss bloggers as unclean and untouchable.

The tremendous growth of online media — especially blogs — in recent years has altered the face of journalism.

“You’re going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe,” said Williams. “All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I’m up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years.”

He added that it’s often difficult to judge the credibility of a blogger. “On the Internet, no one knows if you’ve been to Ramadi or you’ve just been to Brooklyn and have an opinion about Ramadi,” said Williams.
Despite all this, NBC News was happy to welcome Brian Williams back to their team.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Entitlement, simmering resentment, and #LearnToCode

Jill Lepore’s piece on the decline of newspapers (discussed here) appreared just before the latest round of media lay-offs. The timing was perfect and perverse at the same time. Lepore could write the piece secure in her bubble and confident that her readers and the public at large shared her sentimental attachment to newspapers and journalists. Then, almost as her piece was published, those illusions were rudely dispelled, shattered, mocked.

In short, #LearnToCode showed many in the media class that large numbers of the public viewed them with a combination of contempt and anger. (The resulting freakout was as hilarious as it was predictable.)

Early on in her mawkish apologia Lepore actually helped explain both the contempt and the anger though she probably thought she was pleading for compassion and respect.

The newspaper mortality rate is old news, and nostalgia for dead papers is itself pitiful at this point, even though, I still say, there’s a principle involved. “I wouldn’t weep about a shoe factory or a branch-line railroad shutting down,” Heywood Broun, the founder of the American Newspaper Guild, said when the New York World went out of business, in 1931. “But newspapers are different.”
Maybe Heywood Broun did not weep about idle factories in the depth of the Great Depression, but I am sure many men and women did as they pondered the lost jobs and bleak future of their communities. All too many in the MSM seem to share Broun’s sense of entitled callousness--  the conviction that their jobs are special and their pain deserves singular sympathy.

David Gelernter gives us this vignette from the 1996 campaign trail:

Today's elite loathes the public. Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the '96 Dole presidential campaign: 'The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say 'yeah, i'm the Media. Screw You.' The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd-- an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none.
Drawing Life
Two decades ago journalists thought they were ten feet tall and bullet-proof. They could arrogantly dismiss and insult those who dared criticize them. Today the swagger is gone but they still arrogantly demand pity and compassion from those they insulted.

If anyone wants to understand’s Trump’s ascendancy in the GOP a good place to start is with that confrontation in 1996. And then remember what old John Adams said about the colonists’ continued opposition to Great Britain in 1776:

Resentment coinciding with Principle is a very powerful motive.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Journalism today: A complete abdication of duty

Journalists, according to the cliché, write the first rough draft of history. The cliché, for better or worse, is true. Our understanding of large events is shaped by the news stories and the pop culture ephemera derived from those news stories.

Lately, letting journalists write that first draft has been mostly for the worse. In fact, one can argue a great number of media outlets have reduced rather than increased the public’s understanding of the world and our nation.

Judged by the historian’s standards they are worse than useless.

John Lukacs defined the role of the historian this way:

The purpose of history, too, is less a definite establishment of truth than it is the reduction of untruths.
Thus historians and journalists do good when they uncover truths. They also do good when they debunk untruths masquerading as knowledge. Obviously, then, they fail when they present stories that are wholly false or largely misleading.

To Daniel Boorstin, western science has advanced thanks, in part, to the men and women who make “negative discoveries.” Such discoverers add to the sum of our knowledge when they shatter a misconception posing as fact.

Journalists, either from naivety or self-interest, want us to assess their trade as though it were akin to baseball: It is OK to make a bunch of outs as long as you hit some home runs. Following Lukacs and Boorstin, we can see that this is clearly the wrong way to assess the job journalists do.


The history of Western science confirms the aphorism that the great menace to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
Josh Billings:

It ain’t what a man doesn’t know as makes him a fool, but what he does know as ain’t so.
The MSM usually compounds their initial mistake with the grudging manner in which they correct errors. Knowing what we do about how opinions are formed and how difficult it is to change them honest corrections should be forthright, clear, and prominent. Instead the usual practice is to make them grudgingly and to publish them in obscure corners where they are likely to be missed.

Even worse are those stealth edits that “correct” a story but only for those who come to it late. Those who saw the original false version are free to carry on with their illusions.

The very worst way journalists handle the problem is with follow-up stories that treat matters of fact as mere grist for partisan controversy. These are the infamous “conservatives pounce” sort of stories. It changes the focus from “this story was wrong” to “do you trust these strange people disputing this story.” It actively works against those who advance knowledge by dispelling untruths.

This sort of thing is also uncomfortably close to the totalitarian tactic of “turning statements of fact into questions of motive.” It increases polarization and crushes civility.