Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sometimes it takes a mole to catch a mole


The Mysterious Cuban Spy at the Center of Obama’s Havana Rapprochement

Little is known about the Cuban who is now headed toward what will likely be a comfortable retirement in the United States. But what little U.S. officials disclosed on Wednesday make him one of the United States’ most important Cold War spies. “Information provided by this person was instrumental in the identification and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States and ultimately led to a series of successful federal espionage prosecutions,” Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement, a highly unusual acknowledgement of a U.S. intelligence asset’s contributions.

Among the Cuban spies he helped take down were Montes; the former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, and members of the so-called “Wasp Network,” which infiltrated the Cuban exile community. Taken together, Montes and Myers are probably the most damaging turncoats in the history of the U.S. intelligence community, rivaled only by Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker, who compromised an immense portion of American encryption systems.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pearl Harbor and the path to war


Two interesting articles on the run-up to the Pacific War.

A Strategy has to be able to work to be masteful
The author has made an in-depth study of the Japanese plans and actual attack. He is less than enthralled with the "genius" of Commander Minoru Genda and Admiral Yammaoto.

Japan's Decision for War in 1941: Some Enduring Lessons

Still, it cannot be denied that, in threatening Japan's economic destruction (and consequent military impoverishment), the United States placed the Japanese in a position in which the only choices open to them were war or subservience. "Never inflict upon another major military power a policy which would cause you yourself to go to war unless you are fully prepared to engage that power militarily," cautions Roland Worth, Jr., in his No Choice But War: The United States Embargo against Japan and the Eruption of War in the Pacific. "And don't be surprised that if they do decide to retaliate, that they seek out a time and a place that inflicts maximum harm and humiliation upon your cause."
The key lesson for today is to recognize that a policy can be morally right but strategically obtuse.

The U.S. insistence, after Japanese forces moved into southern Indochina, that Japan evacuate China as well as Indochina, as a condition for the restoration of trade relations, thus made no sense as a means of dissuading the Japanese from moving south. On the contrary, the demand that Japan quit China killed any prospect of a negotiated alternative to Japan's conquest of Southeast Asia (e.g., restored trade in exchange for Japan's withdrawal from Indochina). In effect, the United States went to war over China rather than Southeast Asia -- a volte-face of enormous strategic consequence since it propelled the United States into a war with Japan over a remote country for which the United States had never been prepared to fight. The fate of China, even of Southeast Asia, did not engage core U.S. security interests, especially at a time when Europe's fate hung in the balance. A war with Japan was, of course, a war the United States was always going to win, but Japan was not the enemy the Roosevelt administration wanted to fight. The United States could have settled its accounts with Japan after Hitler's defeat had been assured. Was denying Japan an expanded empire in Southeast Asia more important, in 1941, than defeating Hitler?


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joe Biden: Senile or psychopath? One of a continuing series


Ayaan Hirsi Ali fights radical Islam's real war on women

In her speech to the dinner guests in Washington, Hirsi Ali recalled meeting Vice President Joe Biden. He informed her that “ISIS had nothing to do with Islam.” When she disagreed with him, Biden actually responded: “Let me tell you one or two things about Islam.
HT: Patterico

Funny how no one is upset about Biden manspaining to Hirsi Ali.

Previously:

The MSM still hates Dick Cheney

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The New Republic meltdown without the piety


Zero piety.

Less than zero. Iconoclastic. Nasty.

A thing of beauty.

Standing Athwart The New Republic, Yelling ‘Stop’

So where does this leave us? If I have to pick sides between liberal policy journalists insisting they are immune to the reality of business economics and a Silicon Valley enfant terrible who tried to buy his hapless husband a Congressional seat, I’m afraid I’m left rooting for injuries.
++++++


Given that Hughes was fabulously gay in addition to fabulously wealthy, it seems he was concerned about his staff putting the hetero in heterodoxy. According to the Washington Post, Hughes “lashed out” after senior editor “Alec MacGillis had dared to propose writing a piece about Apple avoiding taxes just after Apple’s Tim Cook had come out of the closet.” Should gay politics trump progressive concerns about tax avoidance, or vice versa? I sure as hell can’t sort it out, and I’m certainly uninterested in a magazine that would have been consumed by such ridiculous debates.
RTWT

Related:

Do magazines have DNA?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Why Eric Garner Died


Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies
Balzac:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
attributed to Einstein

The Right doesn't like to acknowledge that the power and authority of government can be a good thing, up to a point, in the hands of a genius. The Left doesn't like to acknowledge that geniuses are few and far between.
David Gelernter

Great deals


Highly recommended.

I'm enjoying both collections.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Why twitter?


The Message of the Medium Why the left loves Twitter

It is not the sequence of adoption, or as Gibson suggests the intellect of the users but rather the nature of the medium that makes Twitter so beloved of the left. You see to write a political blog post you generally have to take an idea and develop it in some detail. It wouldn’t be enough to simply report the news with your spin on it, as this is well covered by the traditional media organizations. And because these blogs are usually open to comments from readers you tend to find that huge leaps or flawed logic are challenged. Although high profile commentators have blogs, most bloggers tend to be hobbyists writing about what interests them.

Then along comes Twitter a running commentary on events as they happen, in 140 characters of fewer. Not enough of course to actually develop a point or idea, and because it’s fast moving little room to challenge fallacious ideas.
(HT: S. T. Karnick)

I blogged on this a while back:

Why do journalists love twitter and hate blogging?
Two additional points:

On Twitter, ideas succeed [not] on their merit but on their instant appeal.
So true. The Twitterverse is dominated by people who refuse to heed Mencken’s warning that “There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Maybe I should tweet Mecken’s quote as a warning three times a day.

Then this:

The message of this banal medium is ‘Don’t think, we’ve done that for you. Don’t analyze as that’s all been done. Like Retweet. And show the world that you’re trendy and with it.” A message made by and for the left.
From Robert Conquest’s Reflections on a Ravaged Century:

The Australian poet James McAuley wrote penetratingly of the pro-Communist phenomenon: 'During the thirties and forties Australian intellectual life became subjected to an alarming extent to the magnetic field of Communism. All sorts of people who would regard themselves as being non-Communist, and even opposed to Communism, in practice were dominated by the themes and modes of discussion proposed by the Communists, danced to the Communist tune, and had serious emotional resistances to being identified with any position or institution which was denounced by the Communists as "reactionary".' He adds that 'one reason for all this was that schools of thought genuinely independent of and opposed to Communist suggestion were in this country not well organized and publicly present. They lacked prestige, that magical aura which captures the minds of the young in advance of argument and establishes compelling fashions'
Stephen Koch on Stalinist propaganda in the Thirties:

Munzenberg wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility.
+++++++ Munzenberg provided two generations of people on the left with what we might call the forum of righteousness. More than any other person of his era, he developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is politics. He was the unseen organizer of that variety of politics, indispensable to the adversary culture, which we might call Righteousness Politics. 'Innocents Clubs': The very phrase suggests how the political issues Munzenberg manipulated came for many to serve as a substitute for religious belief. He offered everyone, anyone, a role in the search for justice in our century. By defining guilt, he offered his followers innocence, and they seized upon it by the millions.
Related:

Radical chic in its dotage

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remember Pearl Harbor


A recent book that challenges conventional history, paranoid conspiracy theories, and ill-informed revisionism. Highly recommended.


The defeat at Pearl Harbor was temporary. What we need to remember is the courage shown on that day and the determination and skill that let the US Navy recover so quickly. The Japanese were confounded and defeated because of that quick recovery.




Saturday, December 06, 2014

Book learning and crime reporting


The best take i've seen on the Rolling Stone U Va story:

A Rape Hoax for Book Lovers
Key point:

As a work of journalism, it’s most interesting for what it inadvertently reveals about the bizarre legends that seem plausible to American media consumers in 2014.
Of course, the key consumer of stories like this is television news operations. And they are gullible when a juicy story fits their ideological blinders.

Sailer is also a charter member of the Tom Wolfe is a Prophet Club:

Like most 21st-century brouhahas, “A Rape on Campus” recapitulates many themes of Wolfe’s novels.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

When big is bad


The Core Incompetencies of the Corporation

Large organizations of all types suffer from an assortment of congenital disabilities that no amount of incremental therapy can cure. First, they are inertial. They are frequently caught out by the future and seldom change in the absence of a crisis. Deep change, when it happens, is belated and convulsive, and typically requires an overhaul of the leadership team. Absent the bloodshed, the dynamics of change in the world’s largest companies aren’t much different from what one sees in a poorly-governed, authoritarian regime – and for the same reason: there are few, if any, mechanisms that facilitate proactive bottom-up renewal.

Second, large organizations are incremental. Despite their resource advantages, incumbents are seldom the authors of game-changing innovation. It’s not that veteran CEOs discount the value of innovation; rather, they’ve inherited organizational structures and processes that are inherently toxic to break-out thinking and relentless experimentation. Strangely, most CEOs seem resigned to this fact, since few, if any, have tackled the challenge of innovation with the sort of zeal and persistence they’ve devoted to the pursuit of operational efficiency. Their preferred strategy seems to be to acquire young companies that haven’t yet lost their own innovation mojo (but upon acquisition most likely will).
A topic i've covered at length on this blog:

Diseconomies of scale

Why corporate change is hard and failure almost inevitable

Fad-surfing and corralled rebellion

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Knowledge sharing as the ultimate killer app


Sharing is our competitive advantage

What made Homo sapiens different from the Neanderthals was most likely our social abilities and behaviors, how we behave as a collective. As a human species we have always been very focused on communicating and transferring knowledge. Not only from one person to another, but also parent to child. This way, the next generation can build further on the collective knowledge of the previous generation.

During the 400 000 years that the Neanderthals lived on the earth, they didn’t develop their tools very much. In fact, the tools they used at the end of their time were similar to the ones they used in the early years. If we compare that to Homo sapiens, the tools we used in the early years cannot be compared with the tools and technologies we have developed since. From creating simple stone tools we have created spaceships that can send people into space and digital communication technology that has the potential to connect all human beings on the earth. What made this possible is our innate drive and ability to share what we know with each other.
I think there is an important insight in this line of thought. An important point that the Rand-infected Right ignores.

Humans, at our core, are social apes.

We mock the sheeple and the Grubers with the 'a pack not a herd' meme. Yet, we too often forget that selfishness is not a pack virtue.

In short, a pack not a herd. Nor a collection of pathological narcissists.

Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one
G. K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday


All the best people hate gridlock


Leninism was a hard realistic philosophy for hard, realistic men. It dealt with power struggles and in crude terms and justified the natural impatience of the brilliant intellectual with the slow, tentative, and wasteful motion of the political democracy. To a 'born bolshevik'-- and this is how Whittaker Chambers later described Alger Hiss-- the flabby morality of bourgeois democracy was fine for the herd, but something for the 'superior' man to cut across.

Ralph de Toledano,
The Seeds of Treason



Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Defining strategy


Good post:

Strategic Thinking and Thinking Strategy: The Strategist's Core Mental Competency
Especially liked this:

To unpack what exactly a "strategic thought" is, a useful starting point would be to describe strategy - which Emile Simpson calls "a dialogue between possibility and desire."