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:
Sunday, April 20, 2014
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
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"...one 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.
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.
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
NPR’s On The Media:
CNN’s Reliable Sources:
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.
Kind of surprising to see left-wingers appeal to the marketplace as the final arbiter of wisdom.
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.
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.
See conservatives are wrong about CBS and Colbert because business executives said so!
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.
Because PROFIT! Markets!
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.
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
Rush Limbaugh deserves the first word because Anita Dunn’s lapdogs took their shots at him on their week-end shows.
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.
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
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.
Well, Michelle Malkin, for one, was offended. By MSM rules, that means that Colbert was offensive.
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?
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.
Double standards are the only standards they have.
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.
No wonder no one wanted to deal with #cancelcolbert
Friday, April 11, 2014
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
Steve Sailer connects the dots that Fox News ignores:
The MSM is uninterested (or afraid) to dig into the connection between the Tsarnaev clan and US intelligence.
This line from the Times story is open to many interpretations; none of them are particularly reassuring to Russia or Putin:
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.
At a minimum, this suggests that the US government was indifferent to the terrorist threat posed by American citizens when the target was Russia.
At the time, American law enforcement officials believed that Mr. Tsarnaev posed a far greater threat to 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 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.
The Chechens' American friends
The Washington neocons' commitment to the war on terror evaporates in Chechnya, whose cause they have made their own….
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
Joseph Epstein reviews the recently published diaries of George Kennan.
Kennan, in many ways, was more conservative than most of our current right-wing pundits. He was also more intellectually honest and more rigorous.
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.
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.
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 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
Williamson Murray in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period:
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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 CBD 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:
Other reporters followed Rather’s path.
Most of them, unfortunately, had written their stories on the plane.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think he nailed it on every particular.
The True Detective Finale and The Left's Inability to View Art As Anything Other Than an Ego-Flattering Political Affirmation
One thing I really liked about it is something Ace picked up on:
Back in the very early days of this blog I wrote this:
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.
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
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
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"
Friday, April 04, 2014
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.
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.