Monday, June 30, 2003

When Instapundit Speaks

it makes sense to listen. Especially when he is discussing successful blogging as he does here.

One of his points, while true, points to a serious weakness for the blogosphere. Rapid-response to the news of the day does seem critical to blog success. Yet the premium on speed weakens analysis and fresh reporting. Those latter activities are the very areas usually cited as the strengths compared to traditional journalism.

One way to be fast is to do reflex-punditry of the sort we see on TV (especially on the McLaughlin Group). Talking heads react to the news and apply their individual ideological template. Eleanor Clift and Pat Buchanan don't bring new information to the viewers; they simply repeat the appropriate talking points. A lot of blogs end-up as nano-pundits: "More idiocy from the Bush Camp," "Go Rummy," etc.

(An interesting sidenote is that Instapundit doesn't do a lot of punditry. Mostly he directs traffic to others's work. When he writes longer posts they usually are on matters where he has real expertise.)

The following passage from this article also has some relevance. While it discusses corporate managers, the personality type described seems to fit quite a few influential bloggers.

The most interesting of the three is the Narcissist, whose energy and self-confidence and charm lead him inexorably up the corporate ladder. Narcissists are terrible managers. They resist accepting suggestions, thinking it will make them appear weak, and they don't believe that others have anything useful to tell them. "Narcissists are biased to take more credit for success than is legitimate," Hogan and his co-authors write, and "biased to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their failures and shortcomings for the same reasons that they claim more success than is their due."
Moreover:

Narcissists typically make judgments with greater confidence than other people . . . and, because their judgments are rendered with such conviction, other people tend to believe them and the narcissists become disproportionately more influential in group situations. Finally, because of their self-confidence and strong need for recognition, narcissists tend to "self-nominate"; consequently, when a leadership gap appears in a group or organization, the narcissists rush to fill it.


Energy, confidence, conviction, self-nomination: traits that are ideal for writing memorable posts quickly. The problem is that such bloggers-- because they don't "accept suggestions" and are loath to admit mistakes-- will keep propounding their version despite new evidence dug up by others. The real power of blogs to facilitate collaboration gets stifled when this type of blogger becomes a key interpreter of a story or issue.

The need for rapid response also turns many bloggers into amplifiers for those self-nominated experts. With nothing to say ourselves, we link to those who write fast and take a clear position that we agree with. We end up with fewer serious dialogues and more of the formulaic debate pioneered by Crossfire.
Agency Consolidation Follow-up


Justin Katz has a good discussion agency consolidation and the value of blogs here.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Good Reads

alphecca

publicola

smallestminority

backroad blog
Look, I'm for Limited Government

But I think Clubbeaux has a good idea.

He wants Bill Watterson "declared a strategic national industry and been haled back to the drawing board to resume production of Calvin & Hobbes."


Who Knew?

From the Washington Times

Every category of major crimes — murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and auto theft — increased during Chief Moose's four-year tenure.
Strom Thurmond

Backcountry Conservative has some personal recollections.

Dust in the Light makes a really good point here:

Look, I don't know much about Strom Thurmond, and I'm certainly not a "follower" of his, but shouldn't supposedly objective media accounts be more, well, objective? And to the extent that they offer any twist at all, shouldn't it be respect for the dead and thanks for his service to the country?
Jim Treacher Runs a Good Blog

And he seems to be a stand-up guy. So check it out if you haven't already.
For a Variety of Reasons I Find this Press Release Funny

Global Moxie Announces Big Medium 1.0

Thursday, June 26, 2003

In Bed With the Pentagon

Charles Glass, of ABC News, wrote an article for Pat Buchanan's American Conservative ( 6-16-03). It is a shame that it is not online because it really is a shocking piece of work.

Here are some choice bits:

"It turns out, as the BBC showed recently, that her rescuers broke into a Nasiriya hospital firing blanks and video cameras at ... well, at no one apart from frightened hospital staff and patients."

"It is, I suppose, our fault. Most of us who covered the war for American and British media worked within the Pentagon's terms of reference. Our minds were embedded in its brand of patriotism long before our bodies were embedded with the troops. Correspondents of Quatar's al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi Television , and France's TF-1 may have come to a place called Iraq, as we did. But they did not see triumph and glory. They saw something squalid and cruel."

"But the U.S. bombed al-Jazeera's Baghdad bureau on April 8, killing correspondent Tariq Ayoub and wounding other staff. A half hour later, the U.S. dropped a bomb on Abu Dhabi TV in Baghdad. Later the same day, a U.S. tank blasted away the Reuters office in Baghdad's PalestineHotel, killing two journalists. American officers justified their actions with the claim that rockets and small arms were fired from the hotel. David Chater of Britain's Sky TV and other western reporters, all of whom had moved from the Rasheed Hotel after Pentagon warnings that it could be a U. S. target, said they neither saw nor heard any firing from the Palestine hotel."

"The Bush administration made it clear from the time it decided on war that reporters outside the embed system would not be safe in Iraq."

So here is one of ABC's top reporters who convincingly shows himself to be: ignorant and gullible for buying the BBC story about the special ops firing blanks; arrogant for thinking that US combat troops should take special care to note where unembedded journalists are so they don't hurt them; and vicerally anti-military since he agrees that "squalid and cruel" better describes the war in Iraq than "triumph and glory."

It really is no wonder so many Americans distrust and dislike journalists.
Good Articles on Baseball's Woes

This analysis brings up some points I've never seen before (Confrontations per Hour as a good thing) and others I can completely agree with (Non-Education in Nuances).
Recent Finds

Lobowalk

Right Thoughts

Laughing Wolf

Drumwaster's Rants

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Agency Integration

Ad Age (6-16-03) reports on a recent survey of big advertisers. One key finding is that on 43% of the clients think it is "very important" that "a single agency offer fully integrated services." This presents a problem for big agencies which have spent the last couple of decades acquiring a variety of firms in order to become a "one-stop shop" for big clients. Those agencies paid a premium to develop capabilities that most of their clients do not see as valuable.

"One stop shopping" is a convenience, and convenient channels are valuable only when the underlying good or service is unimportant or similar across outlets. Coke is Coke, so it makes sense to buy it where you shop for groceries or gas instead of making another stop. Has anyone every chosen a college solely because the campus was closer to the airport? "Gee, Oberlin is a great school, but Ohio State is much easier to get to. Guess I'll go there instead."

As one survey respondent said, "I go to a specialist; I don't go to the same doctor for everything."

For key business services, convenience is not a big concern. Marketers after all have people on staff whose job is to manage the programs and vendors. One mega-agency or three small one, it is not really big deal in the scheme of things. It is also not a differentiator that can be used in decision-making either. "Hey, Mr. Senior Vice President of Marketing, I think we should select WPP because I'm kind of sick of juggling three different agencies for this project." Saying that out loud would be a CLM-- "career limiting move."

Clients worry that the one-stop shops end up having second-rate services. While media buying might be first-class, the creative could be ho-hum, or the direct marketing unsophisticated. It is worth a little aggravation to get all the parts right for a marketing campaign.

I suspect that one of the key reasons agencies prefer integration is that they do not want to play with their competitors. While understandable, this concern is the agency's problem, not the clients. As such, clients will be unsympathetic.

These findings offer hope to smaller agencies who focus on a single niche (interactive services, say, or cutting-edge creative). If they are willing to play well with others, they still have a shot at working for large clients.

If they really wanted to set themselves apart, they could embrace the disaggregated approach and show that they are eager to work with competitors. If they developed tools and a methodology to provide integrated campaigns even when they did not control all aspects of the marketing, they could get clients attention.

Blogs, it seems to me, should be an integral part of that effort. They are superior to email or meetings for keeping a whole team up to speed and for thrashing out differences.
Those absurd "satanic cults"

The reporters and lawyer talking heads who fill time on cable talking about the Laci Peterson case are united in their dismissal of the "satanic cult" theory floated by defense before the judge issued his gag order.

I share their skepticism. What no one mentions, however, is that prosecutors once were happy to propose equally fantastical theories when it served their purposes and the same skeptical media (Geraldo chief among them) flogged it relentlessly.

Back in the 1980s, there were a flood of prosecutions for "ritual child abuse." The prosecutors convinced juries that town after town was plagued by cults that tortured and killed children as part of their ceremonies. Dozens of people were convicted and it took years for the appeals courts to free them. Some, in fact, are still in jail.

The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz won a Pulitzer for her work uncovering the shoddy work of police, prosecutors, and social workers which led to these miscarriages of justice. She has even written a book on the subject.

So I wish Rita, Greta, Dan, and the rest of the journalists pouring scorn on the Peterson defense team would spend just fifteen minutes discussing why it is stupid for defense attorneys to float the idea, but OK for DA's to use it as a central feature of their prosecution.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Spy Story

The current issue of The American Spectator has a good article on the possible Chinese triple-agent who may have compromised twenty-years of work by US intelligence and law enforcement. (Unfortunately, there is no online article at Spectator.org. A much less in-depth treatment can be found here)

If half of the allegations are true, then Katrina Leung is as important an espionage figure as Kim Philby and far more significant than Aldrich Ames. As i've noted before, i can't understand why the press is so uninterested in this matter.

Brief recap: Leung was an LA business woman who was paid $2 million by the FBI to spy on China. In the course of this work she had simultaneous affairs with two FBI agents working on counter-intelligence matters on the west coast. The government now alleges that Leung used her relationship with the agents to procure classified information which she gave to China.

Implications

1. Obviously, if Leung passed documents to China, she compromised many on-going operations aimed at the PRC.

2. Since the FBI thought she was a source of intelligence on the PRC, if she is a triple agent then she provided disinformation. Therefore, assessments of China based on that information is suspect.

3. One of her FBI handler/lovers went on to become head of security at Lawrence Livermore Labs. So she may have had access to classified information from there as well.

4. The California offices of the FBI handled much of the investigations into Chinese espionage at our nuclear installations, including Wen Ho Lee. Leung could have influenced those investigations by warning her Chinese controllers, providing disinformation, or by compromising her agent/lovers who were doing the investigating.

5. One of her FBI pigeons was a key investigator in China-gate-- the fundraising scandals from the 1996 campaign. At the same time Leung was a public supporter of Ted Sioeng who steered $400,000 in illegal contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign.

This story deserves more press attention. It is surely at least 1/10 as important as Laci Peterson's murder. Just imagine what the public might learn if Fox et. al. devoted 1/10 the effort to it as they have that murder case.
I liked this post


which manages to discuss the blogosphere in light of the work of a 16th century botanist.

In a rapid response medium like blogs, historical perspective is an underappreciated quality.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

King James

No, not the basketball player in Ohio, the baseball writer/researcher who apparently is the sport's John the Baptist. At least that is what he seems to be based on this review by Matt Welch of the book Moneyball.

James approached statistics not as a method to generate trivia answers -- of the who holds the rookie record for home runs among players whose last name begins with "ph" variety -- but rather as a tool to ask fundamental questions about how the game is played and won, and as a bludgeon to mock baseball observers who used hoary clich├ęs that couldn't possibly be true.


The age loves an iconoclast so it is not surprising that James's renown is growing. And i don't doubt that his research has deepened our knowledge of the game. But in his desire to praise James, Welch caricatures the old guard and gives too much credit to the obsessive researcher.

James was the first to really hammer home the notion that different ballparks have vastly different effects on statistics (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field were great for hitters, the Astrodome and Dodger Stadium protected pitchers).

Look, the Baseball Abstract first came out in 1977. Yet, even children's books on baseball in the 1960s noted that Dodger Stadium was a hard place to score runs and the Astrodome was cruel to home run hitters. I know because i was a kid then and read everything i could get on baseball. The adult sports writing was even better. Those old farts noted esoteric stuff, like Forbes Field was a great place for line-drive hitters (like Roberto Clemente) but playing there hurt the home run production of Willie Stargell. And they even were willing to take on mythic heroes-- some pointed out that Yankee Stadium offered a sweet, short right field for left-handed pull hitters like Ruth and Gehrig despite the deep centerfield and power alleys.

So the pre-James dark ages were not quite so dark. And maybe the Jamesian revolution is not quite so revolutionary. Oakland has had a good three year run, but they haven't been able to make it to the World Series using Billy Beane's new methods. So Welch is reaching a bit when he pronounces

What lessons can we learn from this tale? That the pursuit of better information will eventually unearth discrepancies and irrationalities, even in a field as seemingly well-studied as baseball. That the gatekeepers of information and judgment will instinctively and defensively protect their turf, rather than question their own legitimacy. That intelligence and passion can still win in the end, especially if they take advantage of the networking power of the Web.

While it is possible to "unearth discrepancies and irrationalities" if you spend enough time at the computer, leveraging them in the real world is much harder. Long-Term Capital Management thought they could do that in the capital markets. Instead they crashed as new discrepancies and irrationalities appeared that they had not expected.

Another blogger noted that

Bill James started the whole Sabremetric deal for one reason and one reason only: so he could get an edge against his opponents in "tabletop baseball games."

Now, Strat-o-matic is a great gaming system. But it isn't real baseball. For one thing, the rules are designed to make a given "player" perform as he did over the course of the whole season. Unfortunately, the manager doesn't have a crystal ball which shows him what a player will do over the whole season. He has to make decisions based on an unfolding stream of events. In real life, each new game can rewrite the statistical probabilities of a player or team.
Rosenbergs

Really liked this article from Frontpage Magazine.

This passage struck me:

All expected Ethel and Julius to take the way out all traitors eventually could; they could spare themselves the death penalty by confessing their guilt and identifying their collaborators. Yet out of zeal for their Communist cause, they stubbornly refused to cooperate, choosing to go to the electric chair and orphan their two small sons.

That is some epitaph: "we loved Stalin more than our children."

Friday, June 20, 2003

Huh?

Remember Charles Bishop? He was the 15 year old who crashed the small plane into the bank in Florida back in January of 2002.

According to this report from the Tampa Tribune he left a suicide note praising Osama bin Laden. He also tried to dig up information and maps on MacDill Air Force base, including the headquarters of Central Command, before he stole the plane and crashed. During his little adventure he actually flew over MacDill.

Yet the FBI concluded "he had no terrorist agenda."

I guess there really are none so blind as those who will not see.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback

He's Gregg Easterbrook, serious policy wonk and serious pro football fan. His column over on ESPN is must reading during the football season and is an oasis when he writes it during the dog days of spring and early summer.

This week touches on two really interesting subjects


those NBA players who go out of their way to cultivate a negative appearance get treated negatively by the officials. Since the thug look came in a decade or so ago, who's been winning NBA titles? Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwan, David Robinson, Michael Jordan ... all clean-cut, normal-armed, winning-smile guys you'd want your daughter to marry. Who's been frustrated in the finals? Kenyon Martin, Allen Iverson and the rest of the scowling, Illustrated-Man me-bad crew.

I think he goes too far in implying that the championship is determined by officials's reaction to a players appearance. Three other factors could also be at work. 1. Players who cultivate a thuggish appearance also play like thugs. 2. The flamboyantly thuggish players are narcissistic and hence poor team players. In the finals great team play can beat great individual stars (see Portland vs 76ers in 1977 or Boston versus the Lakers during the Wilt/West era). 3. The flashy thugs, whatever their natural gifts, are less coachable and never develop into truly great players like a Duncan or O'Neil.

Have i ever mentioned how much i hated Bill Walton in 1977?

He also states

One of the reasons many coaches prefer college to the pros is that, at the big-time schools at least, it's hard to fail. The built-in recruiting advantage at the big-time schools all but assures a winning season for most major football or men's basketball programs, while the East Carolinas sprinkled into the schedule assure every season will contain at least a few huge-margin victories. Basically, an orangutan could coach a football-factory or basketball-factory university to a .500 season, explaining why so many big-school collegiate coaches are entrenched for long periods. You've got to be a special kind of screw-up to lose a big-school coaching job.

On this he gets it completely wrong. You don't get to keep you job at Ohio State or Alabama by consistently going 6-5 with the occasional 7-4 season. Ohio State fans expect you to beat Michigan and always challenge for the Big 10 title. Fail for a couple of years and you are toast (ask Earle Bruce and John Cooper). The same holds true at most of the big-time football schools. The bar is set much higher than .500.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Going to the Hogs

Julie Neidlinger has a great post about a giant hog farm that a Canadian company wants to build in her home county (she writes from North Dakota). She is dubious about the idea and makes a strong case for opposing it.

Industrial farms are one of those areas where my conservative instincts outweigh my libertarian impulses. They produce massive externalities that the community is ill-equipped to regulate and prevent.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The Times and Clinton

Both the View from the Core and Junk Yard Blog follow-up on Dick Morris's revelation that the pre-Howell Raines New York Times rolled over for Clinton in 1996 in return for an exclusive interview.

I'm not holding my breath for Sullivan to weigh in.

Note: E. L. Core chased down the identity of the pliant reporter and and it looks as if it was Todd Purdum (Mr. Dee Dee Myers). Purdum was one of the internal voices that attacked Rick Bragg and his "protector" Hal Raines in the name of reportorial integrity. Funny, in a way. But not surprising.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

More evidence that MoDo Has Lost It

Cut on the Bias takes Dowd to task for a completely nasty column which bashes men, stay at home moms, and Nigella Lawson. Susanna's post says almost everything that needs to be said.

I would add two points. First, Dowd quotes screenwriter Paul Rudnick: "Men only evolve with a gun at their head." Can you imagine a straight white guy getting away with saying something similar about gays or women? I suspect he would get the Full Rocker and it would start with MoDo.

Second, to slime Nigella Lawson as a purveyor of "gastro porn" is low. If you don't like cooking shows, fine. But to compare them to pornography is absurd. And it is worse than catty to imply that a successful woman only succeeded by trading on her sexuality.

Besides, as i commented over at Cut on the Bias, if men really were that shallow and we decided what cooking shows became successful, Pamela Anderson would host them, not Nigella Lawson.
Baseball

Outside the Beltway ponders the dropping fan interest in baseball. As usual, he makes very good points.

As one of those lapsed baseball fans, i think that the expanded playoffs made regular season games almost meaningless. In the NFL, regular season games have real playoff implications. Atlanta can find itself playing on the road on grass in Chicago in January because they were upset by Carolina in November. In baseball, all the Yankees lose is one home game in a seven game series if they finish second to the Red Sox after being swept by Baltimore.

But the big thing is the one OTB hit. In the NFL parity gives fans hope. Except in Cincinnati, every fan can dream of the playoffs at the start of the season. Sure most of us are disappointed in a given year, but few cities go three or four years straight with no realistic hopes. In baseball, some teams/cities are just not economically competitive anymore. Why should their fans turn out to watch the futility?
Free Agents and Draft Choices

Ben Kepple

World-wide Rant

Geographic

View from the Right

Monday, June 16, 2003

Great site

If your think Shania Twain is what country music is all about, well, sorry, you're wrong. If you know better than that, check out That Ain't Country.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Did you ever wonder

What would happen if Ann Coulter and Kevin Smith did a show for MSNBC?

I think it would be a lot like Right Thinking from the Left Coast.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Deep thoughts about blog drama

Every now and then a pseudo-war breaks out among a group of bloggers and commenters. Often it seems childish. Sometimes the stakes are real since serious charges are made that if untrue are clearly slanderous or libelous.

These kind of things aren't unique to blogs. Flame wars are as old as online communication. Petty, gossipy competition also happens with the print media. When you read the memoirs of the people who wrote for Partisan Review or Commentary or Willie Morris's Harpers, you see the same private battles behind the genteel and intellectual veneers of serious journalism. On the blogs there is simply transparency for the reader: We can read the comments and other blogs. In print, the cool stuff happened at cocktail parties readers never attended.

In watching these play out a couple of features of the "blogosphere" become apparent.

1. Some of the fights are as real as professional wrestling. It is just a ploy for hits. Even serious controversies draw in the WWF contingent.

2. Blogs are plastic in a way print is not and that is not always good. Sometimes cooler heads prevail and strident posts are taken down. But anyone who comes to the party late is left with only a partial and distorted picture of what happened.

Even worse, this quality makes the web a playground for the malicious. A lying blogger can post a "critque" of another blogger's work that never existed. Then, a short time later, the liar can claim that the offending post was removed. How can the victim of this slander prove that they never wrote the post that is being criticized? And yet, the charges will just hang out there in cyberspace.

Conversely, the post might have existed and then was taken down. In which case, how does the fisking blogger prove that they are not making stuff up?
This is just wrong

So a guy in Washington, who works for the White House Writers Group no less, decides to critique Willie Nelson on the website of a New York magazine.

The Fat Guy administers the required thrashing here.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Growing Pains

In Heretics, Chesterton writes:

"When everything about a people is for the time growing weak and ineffective, it begins to talk about efficiency. So it is that when a man's body is a wreck he begins, for the first time, to talk about health. Vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims." [p 17]

I think that is one of the best explanations for why most process reengineering and process improvement efforts fail to yield the results hoped for them. Most are launched when the organization is failing in the marketplace. Instead of focusing externally on aims, it turns inward to its own processes. It's not that processes are not important, but that it is more important to know why objectives are not being met in the first place and what the aims should be.

I was reminded of this when i read Right Wing News's advice for bloggers and came to this:

-- Do write about the blogosphere because bloggers as a whole tend to be narcissistic and they love to link articles that talk about what they're doing.

I think that is dead on. But to build on Chesterton, maybe an activity doesn't become an important force until it loses the narcissism and self-consciousness. When cars were a novelty, they were just a status symbol. But when they became ubiquitous, people stopped thinking "hey, I'm driving this new horseless carriage" and simply drove.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Sports Stats

Jane Galt's post on surveys touched on an important issue about an important matter-- opinion surveys often drive news coverage and public policy. I want to discuss another area where statistics are often misused but without the serious consequences-- sports.

Sports commentators love to toss around numbers. Maybe they are just in touch with their inner geek. Or maybe they just need something to talk about to fill time.

Some numbers are laughable to anyone who has had even one basic statistics class.

"The team is 13-1 with X rushes for 100 yards or more."

They imply causation. If the team just gets X his 100 yard game, then they should be on easy street. What they leave out are the other factors which produce the number. Like the fact that if you fall way behind early, you have to drop the running game while playing catch-up. So the lack of 100 yards didn't produce the defeat, it was the weak pass defense or an error-prone QB that really lost the game. The same thing happens in victory. Get up by ten and you run the ball alot and will rack up more yards. The running helped, but it was not the key to victory.

Other times they toss out stats based on absurd sample sizes-- "Pittsburgh is 3-1 in their last four home games played in the rain." Swap the Bengals for New England and maybe the Steelers are only 2-2. So that stat is tells you next to nothing

Other stats have more plausibility but that is not the same as validity. (Just looking around, the idea that the Earth is basically flat seems plausible enough).

I like the idea that you evaluate a football coach's tactical skills by his record in games decided by 3 or less points. Joe Gibbs always did well on this measure. And it is plausible. When the game is close, coaching decisions are more important than they are when Houston plays the Raiders. Maybe a great tactician gets a field goal where the average coach doesn't. Or a TD where the other guy's play calling ends up with field goal.

The hallmark of Chuck Noll's Super Bowl Years (he won 4 in 6 years, something no coach has equaled since the merger), was the Steelers outstanding record against losing teams(59-1 between 1972 and 1979.) The Steelers beat the teams they were supposed to beat, which some argue was a measure of Noll's ability to prepare his team and keep them focused when they might have taken a team lightly.

Maybe. But so much coaching genius seems transitory and non-transferable. Noll stopped looking like a genius when Bradshaw, Harris, Greene, et. al. retired. George Seifert was almost unbeatable in San Francisco. In Carolina it was a much different matter. Who would have though Steve Yound made that much difference.

Baseball, of course, is the perfect sport for stats geeks. It started out with a boatload of stats and has been adding more every year. But even in baseball not every thing is reducible to quantification (especially fielding). Also, when you have a bunch of stats you run into the problem of weighting all the various stats in order to make comparisons.

And that is the goal: to get everything reduced to a single number that represents a player's "value".

But in trying to do so we often overlook the dialectical nature of the competition. I've mentioned before the observation of Capt. Wayne P. Hughs (a Naval officer) that

"Yet one set of Dupuy's data [on land combat throughout history] shows that in modern battle a greater percentage of casualties has sometimes been inflicted by other than the most capable weapons: infantry small arms exceeded artillery in producing casualties after the range and lethality of artillery rose dramatically. Often the second-best weapons performs better because the enemy, at great cost in offensive effectiveness, takes extraordinary measures to survive the best weapon"

An opposing manager said that Roberto Clemente could win a game without making a put-out, getting an assist, or getting a hit. His defensive skills (especially his arm) were such that baserunners became more conservative and teams lost runs because of it. But that would not show up in conventional fielding statistics.

In football the best cornerbacks don't lead the league in interceptions. They are so good that teams don't even try to throw against them. Alvin Harper had a lot of big plays for Dallas, not because he was almost as good a receiver as Michael Irvin but because Irvin was so good that teams focused on him and let Harper have his opportunities.

(Anyone who knows me knows how much writing that last paragraph hurt.)

We like numbers because they seem concrete and give us something to talk about. The more complex dynamics of the game resist analysis and are frequently ignored. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.
Round-up

This sums it up nicely:

I love the title of this piece -- "Did liberal-bashers cost Garofalo her sitcom?" How about "Did Janeane Garafalo piss off so many people that they won't watch her TV show so it's not a good financial decision for ABC to support a show that no one will watch?"

The Corner on Hilliary!'s self obsession

Learning about Monica and Bill was “The worst moment that I can ever imagine anyone going through.” The worst moment…anyone?! She represents the state of New York and...the worst moment...anyone?! Have an imagination. Talk to some constituents.

Arguing With Signposts remains obsessed with the question of the Steelers status as the greatest football team ever.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Puzzled

I confess i am baffled by this post from Buzz Machine

I've said before that I worry less about the impact on the Times -- there'll always be a Times -- and more about other outlets, which will become safer and thus duller and thus less read and thus less important. Perhaps that's part of the reason the grave-dancers are doing that cha-cha; they think that if the big news outlets are diminished, they are enhanced. But that's wrong; the competitor in the news business isn't other news, it's other, more fun things to watch and do. And if one big purveyor of news suffers in credibility or compelling interest, all news suffers. In this pond, falling water grounds all boats.

Now i am hardly a grave dancer-- ramble through the posts from the last two weeks and you will see that i am more critical of Kaus and Sullivan than almost any other conservative blog.

But if it is true that the Times's loss of credibility hurts all media outlets, then we have a problem. Because that suggests that the system has a powerful bias toward bias, sloppiness, and fabrication. If criticizing bad news coverage at a rival outlet means that their own outlet gets hurt ("all news suffers"), then editors won't do much criticizing or correcting. Which means that the worst excesses will go unchecked. So news outlets will have high credibility, but it won't be deserved.

And the consumers of news won't notice?

Incidentally, couldn't the same argument be applied to political coverage? Reporting on dishonest or corrupt politicians lowers the public's trust in all politicians. Which makes it hard for government to rally support for good programs. Therefore, a liberal reporter or columnist should not write about Bush/Enron because it will hurt the chances of health care reform.

Put that way, it sounds absurd.

Lastly, if this point is true, is that not even more reason to be angry at the Times's managers whose actions hurt the credibility of all news outlets and lowered the overall consumption of news from all sources?
Must Reads

Jane Galt says some very smart things about polling and surveys.

Equally smart things on Art and Economics, especially business of publishing and writing, can be found at 2 Blowhards and God of the Machine.

And absolutely brilliant thoughts on football can be found here.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Justin Katz ponders an important question

This recalls a lingering idea that I had in college but never formulated. In the mid-to-late 1800s, American intellectuals were looking for an American voice, investigating what their precedent was and puzzling out where they should direct the trends of their thought. Something changed in the 1900s. Perhaps the American elite were humbled by the Depression (that, on the surface, looks like a joke, doesn't it?). Perhaps they were frightened by the power of the nation and the people whom they fancied themselves to lead. Perhaps they thought the European way of lording it over the non-elite to be superior. (But certainly, these are all the dramatic simplifications with which ideas begin.)

However it happened, the American elite seem to have given up on defining themselves and their country with its own character and sought to transform it — and its population — into something that it manifestly is not. In that light, an optimist can suggest that our country is "re-becoming."


I don't have an answer, but i think he has grabbed onto a really important question. Go check it out at Dust in the Light

Friday, June 06, 2003

My Sentiments Exactly

From Buzz Machine

I also expect to hear a lot of self-congratulation in the blog neighborhood over Raines. I'd like to think that blogs had impact on another story -- and I do think their nagging kept air in this balloon -- but, again, it was Blair and Raines and a newsroom that got rid of Raines.

I stopped subscribing to the Time in 1999 --- its new stories had become insufferable. Note: that is two years before Raines took over as executive editor. Whatever the newsroom was revolting against, it was not elitist reporting with a liberal slant. The newsroom, after all, wrote those stories.

And the diversity push that helped protect Jayson Blair? That started long before Raines as McGowan makes clear in Coloring the News.

So I don't expect that the Times is going to change a lot.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Good Old Boys

I ran across this over at the Junk Yard Blog.

Lyon was an old-school Texas Democrat politician, former cop turned lawyer, a conservative on most issues but basically a good old boy (and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense at all--in Texas, "good old boy" is generally a complement).

Exactly. Twenty years ago, to call someone a good old boy was a compliment. And yet the phrase is now taking on a pejorative connotation.

William Safire blamed the stock market bubble and crash on "the lax good-ol-boy stock exchanges" (7-15-02). The publisher of my local paper describes a "'me-little woman, you good-ol-boy' syndrome that somehow keeps women out of the ultimate top job in the Oval Office." (3-16-03) When Thomas Wyman resigned from Augusta National during the Martha Burk contretemps, he laid the problem at the feet of "some red neck, old-boy types down there."

What we have here is a mixing of two useful terms: "good old boy" and "old boy network". Good old boy suggests someone who is successful but is without pretension or airs, someone down to earth and comfortable with those who are not of his professional or financial status. A good old boy politician will not embarrass himself at a stock auction or tractor pull. He can josh with the crowd in the bleachers at a high school football game. He won't look uncomfortable eating funnel cakes with his fingers at a fair.

(I'm not sure you can call yourself a good old boy. It seems to me that it is an honor that can be bestowed, but not claimed. Someone who calls himself a good old boy is probably similar to all those self-described "caring" individuals who are really the most selfish of narcissists.)

An old boy is an entirely different critter. He was originally a graduate of an English public school. The old boy network was elitist to the extreme. It was the sinew of Establishment power. Old boys helped each other enter prestigious institutions, advanced each other's careers and covered up each others peccadillos. Blunt, Burgess, and the other Cambridge spies owed much of there success to their membership in the old boy network.

I first heard of the "good old boy network" in diversity training sessions. The GOBN was the cause of all the problems-- glass ceiling, discrimination, sexual harassment. I almost laughed when the diversity trainer laid that on us at First Chicago. There were no good old boys in senior management-- our chairman lived in New York-- so how could the GOBN prevent women from advancing to the EVP and SVP level?

Yet the term keeps showing up in that context. See here for example.

The "Good Old Boy" Factor

There’s no way around it,” explains Dr. Anna Duran, founder and director of Columbia University’s Executive Program on Managing Cultural Diversity, “as a result of any diversity efforts, white males will be required to share valuable resources, rewards, incentives and promotions with a wider range of people than ever before. For some, the reaction may be disappointment, for others, feelings of betrayal and even anger will color their opinions about the fact that the old rules are changing.

In terms of power, influence, and privilege, a tenured professor at Columbia is far better off than your typical good old boy. Similarly, Thomas Wyman-- graduate of Andover, Amherst, and Lausanne, executive at Pillsbury, Polaroid, CBS, and S. G. Warburg-- fits the old boy profile to a T. And i doubt that Wall Street has a lot of down to earth types doing IPOs or equity research: you certainly don't hear a lot of country accents on CNBC.

By focusing on good old boys, our elites can preach diversity and progress and never threaten their own position. As David Gelernter has noted (Drawing Life) affirmative action is not a threat to our cultural elites, it is a prescription that those elites force on the their fellow citizens. When you're trying to pull that off, it helps to have a whipping boy and that is what good old boys have become.
Red and Blue

David Gelernter is one of my favorite writes and thinkers. Here he touches on a matter that has direct relevance to both the metrocon question and the neocon matter.

But an American Middle East watcher made a fascinating comment, years ago, about the Islamic revolution in Iran: To the Iranians, he said, Americans and Soviets looked pretty much the same. There were big philosophical differences between them, but they all wore pants. Orthodox Islam peels away from the West closer to the ground than the point where communism and democratic capitalism branch apart. The divide between the elite and the public might likewise be more basic than Republican-Democrat differences. Leading Republicans speak the elite's language just as the Democrats do. (Drawing Life, page 133)

This was brought home to me when i read David Brooks Atlantic article on Red and Blue America.

Brooks is a classic metrocon. While we agree politically, the cultural differences just shine through. To him, Franklin county Pennsylvania was an exotic destination and the people were specimens. And he did not capture the essence of what it meant to live here.

As for neocons, while they may be politically aligned with red-America, culturally they are true blue.
Free Agents and Draft Choices

Occam's Toothbrush

The Rattler

Illini Girl

Publicola
new weblog showcase

I like this one by Business Pundit.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Talking about Taxes

The tax cut is probably the biggest domestic news story right now. The coverage and punditry surrounding it strike me as shallow and frequently disingenuous. Here are some reasons why.

1. The Democrats go on and on about "tax cuts for the rich," and no one calls them on it. "Rich" is a matter of wealth, the taxes we are talking about are on income. It is easy to have a high income with low net worth (think of a 35 year-old surgeon) or a high net worth with low income (retiree with a paid up mortgage in Palo Alto).

2. A tax cut is for people who pay taxes. Giving a "rebate" to people who do not pay income taxes is a transfer payment (i.e. welfare).

3. When i do financial analysis, the tax rate is included. The bottom line is income (or return) after-taxes. A change in that rate impacts the bottom line. In some cases, a change in tax rate can switch a project or investment from "no-go" to "go."

When you think of the millions of potential investments and projects that are evaluated by big and small businesses each year, even a small increase in after-tax returns can generate thousands of new "go" decisions.

Yet the press (which is filled with innumerates) treats the incentive element of tax cuts as though it is just Republican spin.

4. Big philosophical question-- what does citizenship mean in a democracy where the majority of eligible voters pay less than 5% of the income taxes. On spending issues, it is no longer a matter of "we should do this" but rather "they should pay for that."
New Discovery

The Hillbilly Sophisticate --- From beautiful West Virginia. A local look at the Jessica Lynch story as well as ground zero for a good old-fashioned scandal in the Governor's Mansion

Free Agents and Draft Choices

Hobbs Online

Ben Domenech

SCSU Scholars

Lone Prairie Art Works

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Seeking Input

Alphecca is looking for the biggest gun howlers we've seen in movies and television. You know, the 20 shot revolver PIs used to carry, etc.

This can be a lot of fun just for the nit-picking, but it also touches on a serious matter. Many voters get their knowledge of guns from shows like CSI and movies like New Jack City. So when they hear about the "assault rifle ban" they really think that gang-bangers used to routinely commit crimes with full-auto AK-47s and that Diane Feinstein stopped that.
I'm Not Surprised

Ad Age reports that states are cutting back on anti-smoking ads. Florida, for example, has dropped the budget from $24 million to $1 million.

So the state AG's sued the tobacco companies to force smokers to pay higher prices under the pretext that some of the money would be used to keep teens from smoking. Hard to fight anything that is for the children. But as soon budgets it tight, forget the children and spend the money on other priorities.

And i will wager that 60 Minutes will never investigate.

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Times Of Course

This Kurtz column has two revelations that no one cares about.


First, remember Peter Kilborn? He's the national correspondent for the Times who led the email charge against Bragg, declaring "Bragg's comments in defense of his reportorial routines are outrageous," And, "Bragg says he works in a poisonous atmosphere. He's the poison."

But thanks to Kurtz we can read this:

But former Times intern Amie Parnes says she did substantial reporting for Kilborn when he was filling in for an ailing Bragg as Miami bureau chief in 2000.

And

"I don't think he has the right to point the finger at someone and say, 'I don't do this,' when clearly he does," says Parnes, now a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter

So, one of the leaders of the internal anti-Bragg brigade appears to be a sanctimonious liar and character assassin. I find that interesting but not surprising. But apparently i am one of the few who find it interesting.

Here is the second point. Parnes told Kurtz,

"That's what boiled my blood." She adds: "There's the jealousy factor with Rick. . . . Here's a guy who isn't a Timesman, didn't go to an Ivy League college, and walked into the Times and won a Pulitzer."

Here she touches on the a disturbing undercurrent of the anti-Raines bashing. All the talk about the Bragg being a "crony", "favorite", "suck-up", lays a lot of weight on Bragg and Raines both being from Alabama. The unspoken assumption seems to be that Bragg had no talent that would justify his high reputation. No uneducated cracker could be a better writer or reporter than Todd Purdum (another Bragg basher) or Peter Kilborn. I mean Bragg didn't go to prep school or Princeton, he didn't marry Dee Dee Myers, and he didn't go to parties with the gang from the West Wing. Surely the only way he could have gotten ahead at the Times was the good old boy network.
Blogger symposium on the media

Check it out over at Right Wing News.

Sunday, June 01, 2003