Friday, August 31, 2007

Tough question

Is Libertarianism "applied autism" or something even worse? After this, i'm leaning toward something worse.
News judgement

Maybe someone could explain why the TV is awash with stories about a long-dead one-time royal from across the pond but there will be no mention of Solidarity and what it meant for the world.
Solidarity

Originally posted 31 August 2003

On this day in 1980 the Polish communist government agreed to the demands of the striking workers in the Gdansk shipyard. Workers would have the right to organize freely and independently

The strike marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are, rightly, given the greatest share of credit for winning the Cold War. But Lech Walesa and John Paul II played indispensable roles.

In the 70s many experts believed that continuing the Cold War was pointless-- the Communists weren't so bad, not every society valued Western style freedom, cowed populations accepted what they could not change. Solidarity and the Poles put the lie to such talk.

In the long twilight struggle against Stalinism, the workers of Poland were the first light of sunrise.
Richard Jewell and the FBI

Louis Freeh devotes four pages of his memoirs to the Atlanta bombing and Richard Jewell’s victimization by the FBI and MSM. His account is revealing on several levels.

First there is this:

It wasn't that I was convinced Jewell was the man. If anything, i was unconvinced, then and later. To me, he never quited seemed to fit the facts. But a search warrant isn't an accusation. It's a judicial order to acquire evidence and other information that will help decide whether to move forward toward and indeictment or to move on to other suspects and other lines of inquiry. That's where we were with Richard Jewell when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got wind of the search warrant, added two and two and came up with five, and named Jewell as our prime suspect.
Note the passive voice and the attempt to cover up the FBI’s culpability. The paper “got wind” of the search warrant then jumped to a wrong conclusion in Freeh’s telling of the story. No mention of the FBI leaks and tips that poured into the media and drove the story onto the front pages.

Second, Freeh mentions that three supervisors were officially reprimanded for their handling of Jewell. He does not give their names. It is one thing to destroy an innocent citizen’s reputation; that is just a by-product of modern law enforcement. But the reputation of FBI agents is something to be protected even when they do something wrong.

In Freeh’s view the Bureau was the real victim in the Jewell case:

I was most galled by the fact that the controversy drew attention away from what the FBI does best: exhausting tens of thousands of hours on solvin crimes that no other agency has the training or resources or resolve or corporate culture to take on.

And

The tale might begin with Richard Jewell and a foolish trick in the Bureau's Atlanta office, but that's the background static, not the story itself.
If a criminal defendant offered up these sorts of lame excuses and justifications, all sorts of profilers and psychologists would weigh in and declare that he was a psychopath or sociopath. What should we call an organization that operates like this or the man who led it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Richard Jewell R.I.P

Richard Jewell found dead in home

Olympic security guard suspected but cleared in bombing

There will be a lot of passive voice in the retrospective stories. Very few will face up to the cold fact that the government and media, working hand in glove, ruined an innocent man's life.

See here for more on the injustice done to Jewell.

The sad thing is that the media did not learn from this. The Duke lacrosse case is just a recent, high-profile example.

Jewell still suffers from their reckless action ten years ago. I think this blog got it exactly right:

Two people died; what would the death toll have been had Jewell not discovered the bomb or not moved the crowd away? Yet because of overreaction by the Feds and the national/local media, Jewell is still remembered as "that guy who didn't set the bomb" instead of "that guy who saved all those people from the bomb."
Call me crazy

but i was pleased to see CNN's "God's Warriors" do well in the ratings. I know it was biased, but that is sort of given with CNN.

The encouraging point is that a serious news documentary crushed Fox News and their stable of talk radio rantfests and sleazy tabloid stories.

Let's hope that MSNBC and Fox see this as a wake-up call and decide to fight quality with quality.
It's new! It's bold! It's so 2002!

The Atlantic's editor talks about their site redesign:

A Note on the New Design

Every day online, The Atlantic is pursuing truth through collegial combat among bloggers who have very different points of view but who hold themselves to the same high standard of intellectual honesty.
Somehow, adding a blog page dominated by Yglesias, Sullivan, and McArdle seems a little less than groundbreaking.

Then, of course, there is the laughable idea that Excitable Andy holds himself to a "high standard of intellectual honesty."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Intereresting questions

Kaus asks a couple of provocative questions:


His Pet Gloat: I wish I could say Bill O'Reilly was wrong about Paul Greengrass' Bourne Ultimatum being an anti-American film but I saw it last weekend and O'Reilly's right. It's not just that the script plays on opposition to Bush anti-terror tactics--waterboarding, etc. Or that in a moment of calm hero Matt Damon utters maybe 15 of the 40 words he speaks in the film and explains that he's simply trying to apologize for ... well, the CIA's sins, or maybe America's. Just because you oppose waterboarding and believe the U.S. has a lot to apologize for doesn't make you anti-American. The problem is the film is unredeemed by any sense that America or the American government ever stands for or does anything that is right.

It is a big hit overseas. ...

The film also made me feel guilty, because I watched Greengrass' United 93 and left convinced it was a searing indictment of Bush's behavior in hours after 9/11. (Air controllers spend much of the film trying to locate the AWOL President they can obtain an order to shoot down the hijacked jet.) I didn't know anything about Greengrass, and the film looked like it had been based on actual records by a meticulously dispassionate observer. But Greengrass' Bourne film undermines his credibility and retrospectively dissolves United 93's anti-Bush power. I don't trust anything the man makes. ... P.S.: Has Big Hollywood made a single non-anti-US post-9/11 film I missed? I can't remember one (aside from Team America: World Police, which was a cartoon).. ... And don't say World Trade Center. That passed up several potentially epic patriotic moments (e.g. the Dave Karnes story) in favor of a tribute to the fraternity of New York transit cops. ... Next up: In the Valley of Elah, a well-made version of the Scott Beauchamp Story. ... Is it the international market that makes our studios behave this way? I sense an underserved domestic niche
.

By Jove, i think he hit on something important. See:

Hollywood, the market, and cultural blinders

and

Hollywood and the war on terror
The Bush governing style

Two good recent articles

From Slate

All the President's Flunkies

As a broader management practice, though, Bush has made a fetish of loyalty even when unaccompanied by ability. He saw how disloyal aides undercut his father. To win loyalty, Bush shows it
.
From The Atlantic:

The Rove Presidency

Rove’s greatest shortcoming was not in conceptualizing policies but in failing to understand the process of getting them implemented, a weakness he never seems to have recognized in himself. It’s startling that someone who gave so much thought to redirecting the powers of government evinced so little interest in understanding how it operates. Perhaps because he had never worked in government—or maybe because his standing rested upon his relationship with a single superior—he was often ineffective at bringing into being anything that required more than a presidential signature
.

I disagree on this point:

Rove wouldn’t be Rove, in other words, were Bush not Bush. That Vice President Cheney also hit a historic high-water mark for influence says a lot about how the actual president sees fit to govern. All rhetoric about “leadership” aside, Bush will be viewed as a weak executive who ceded far too much authority.

Many of Bush's leadership failures grow out of the lessons he learned at the Harvard Business School. he is a strong executive but a weak leader because that is the model CEO of management textbooks. In addition, that executive model is especially susceptible to flunkyitis.


See also:


GWB and his MBA


The Bush-Rumsfeld legacy


Five quick points about the conservative tantrum
Roethlisberger gets some credit

Big Ben’s time has come

But few fans truly appreciate the historic productivity that has marked his short career. Like many of the game’s great winners – the Bart Starrs and Tom Bradys of the football world – Roethlisberger is often seen as something of a pigskin perfunctory: a "system" quarterback who simply “manages” the game for his talent-laden teams.

The chorus of Cold, Hard Football Facts sing quite a different tune: Roethlisberger, at this very early point in his career, is poised to join the short list of most ruthlessly efficient quarterbacks in NFL history.

And as history has shown, ruthlessly efficient quarterbacks win more games and sport more rings than the glitzy gunslingers coveted by the faux-fan fantasy-football and video-game crowd. (Amazing that so many "system" quarterbacks wear so many rings, isn't it? Maybe a story for another day.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick: Nagging Thoughts

The end of the Michael Vick case leaves a bad taste. I have far more sympathy for the soon-to-be inmate than I ever did for the overpaid and over-hyped player.

Some of it is the piling on by Big Media. The ritualized denunciations of Vick are all out of proportion to the actual crimes. Do Nancy Grace and Sean Hannity really need to incite their mob of slobbering mouth-breathers day after day?

(Side point: Joining these mobs serves the same function as the Diana memorials Maureen Orth saw in San Francisco. It is a way for a pathetic loser to get close to fame.)

Another troubling question: Were the lurid stories about drowning and electrocuting dogs put into the indictment to taint the jury pool and put public pressure on Vick? I do not think cruelty to animals is a federal crime so why were those stories in a federal indictment?

Were the stories true? They came from people trying to make a deal. Maybe they had an incentive to exaggerate a little. And maybe an ambitious prosecutor will be less than diligent when he scrutinizes those statements if they point to the big fish he is targeting.

Why did this become a federal case anyway? A local drug bust led to allegations and evidence of dog fighting. State authorities moved too slowly for the DOJ, so the federal government brought its full power to bear.

The energetic federal response in Virginia stands in stark contrast to federal indifference to another high profile criminal case in California. When Lindsey Lohan was arrested the last time, traces of cocaine were found in her purse. Local authorities treated the matter as a simple DUI. The Feds deferred to the state.

Is dog-fighting now a higher priority for the DOJ than the “War on Drugs”? If so, maybe they should give this guy his money back. Maybe they should stop funding those SWAT teams that kick in doors in the inner city looking for crack and pot.

If the War on Drugs is still important, why did the DOJ pass on the opportunity to pressure Lohan and her posse into revealing her supplier? Why id a high profile dog fighter a prize worth bagging but the “Hollywood Connection” is a matter of indifference?

Somehow, I don’t see Lohan’s posse as a tougher nut to crack than Vick’s “friends.” So why not break them and find out who the dealers are?

The media mob displays the same double standard. No one is calling for Lohan to lose her career despite the fact that she has flaunted the law and endangered innocent lives. She is treated as a victim (of what?) Vick, however, is evil personified who is denied all chances of redemption.

The pressure on the NFL to ban Vick has no analogue in Hollywood. Dog fighting is wrong, but so is rape. Nonetheless, Roman Polanski is making movies and winning awards. The media mob yawns.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How we live now

This is just outstanding:

Diana, Versace and the celebrity epidemic

From the mixed bar—one for both gays and lesbians where I was interviewing—I could see a dozen dried bouquets which had been stuffed into the iron grill beside a bank in an homage to the fallen princess. The man I was interviewing then gave me a memorable lesson in the power of celebrity. The bouquets, he said, were a way to get the neighborhood in on the act.


I think this blogger really nailed it years ago:

Fame is the last universal currency. It collateralizes loans for Donald Trump; it buys a bully pulpit for Rosie O’Donnell and literary influence for Oprah Winfrey. It secures the best table in the restaurant, no reservation required. In an age of almost unimaginable abundance, celebrity is the last scarce good. Is it any wonder that people pursue it, and proximity to it, so assiduously?
Both posts deserve to be read in full.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hmmm. Maybe the Philly Inquirer gets it


From Phawker:

Inquirer sports columnist Stephen A. Smith has been stripped of his column and has been offered a job as a general assignment reporter in the Inquirer’s sports department
Why pay big bucks to a sports columnist who spends most of his time at ESPN?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The newspaper today and tomorrow

Russell Baker looks at newspapers and journalism in the NYRB:

Goodbye to Newspapers?
It is an interesting article on two levels. First, he touches on nearly every problem confronting newspapers and journalists. Second, his analysis reveals the blind spots that prevent those inside of journalism from addressing those problems.

The economic problem

The main villain of the piece is Wall Street and the profit motive. This is now received wisdom among journalists. They are correct that revenue growth has slowed or even declined at most newspapers. This has resulted in waves of retrenchment and layoffs as managers try to keep expenses in line with cash flow.

Baker, like most journalists, sees this as a species of evil rather than as a simple fact of economic life. He takes it for granted that these cutbacks destroy vital reporting resources. It never occurs to him that the economic equation suggests that the newspapers were spending money on low-value-added activities.

When customers no longer want to buy your product, it is time to look at what you are selling and how you make it.

The article also reveals another telling blindspot. When journalists write about how “the market is killing quality journalism”, they usually focus on the last 5-10 years. Yet newspapers have been dying off for sixty years or more. What is different now?

Baker offers a telling quote from former LA Times editor John Carroll that provides some insight into this question:

Someday, I suspect, when we look back on these forty years, we will wonder how we allowed the public good to be so deeply subordinated to private gain....
Carroll’s golden age coincides with the rise of the one newspaper town. Why was that a good thing? How could New York be better off when the Times did not have to compete with the Herald-Tribune? Why is journalism the rare business where monopolies serve the customer better than competition?

I doubt that the reading public was or is better off. The owners were because monopolies provide a nice stream of predictable earnings. The newsroom liked that the owners were fat and happy because as long as the income statement looked good the owners did not interfere with content. Editors and reporters were free to chases awards, collect bigger paychecks, and indulge their ideological obsessions. Local monopolies also gave journalists bigger megaphones and a de facto victory in “explanation space”.

The golden age, in short, rested on a temporary set of conditions in which economics and technology favored news monopolies. The readers never wanted it. That much became clear when technology began to offer more choices.

The technology problem

Baker is scathing when it comes to the contributions the internet can make to journalism:

How the Internet might replace the newspaper as a source of information is never explained by those who assure you that it will. At present about 80 percent of all news available on the Internet originates in newspapers, according to John Carroll's estimate, and no Internet company has the resources needed to gather and edit news on the scale of the most mediocre metropolitan daily. Moreover, corporations like Google and Yahoo apparently have no interest in going into serious journalism. (Google has an automated news site, Google News, which sifts through hundreds of online newspapers and news agency reports; and Yahoo includes news agency reports on its Yahoo News site. But neither fields its own reporting staff or provides its own news coverage.)

At present the Internet is basically an electronic version of the ten-year-old boy on a bicycle who used to toss the newspaper on the front porch: an ingenious circulation device
.

He completely misses the point on this score. The boy on the bike delivered one product: that mediocre daily. The internet delivers content from around the world. With a few clicks of a mouse the engaged reader can scan a front page that far outdistances the dull product put out by his local monopoly paper.

That is a key point. The web breaks the power that editors once had to define what the news is.

Baker is also wrong to treat “news gathering”as the primary activity of a newspaper. The vast majority of their resources go to other activities (editing, commentary, speculation, trivia) rather than gathering hard information about important matters.

John Corry made an important point about the changing definition of news in an interview with CSPAN in 1994:

The other day, on a Sunday, what was it? -- a week ago Sunday, I think, and I picked up The New York Times, and there, page one, there were seven stories on page one. I counted them. And now in the old days -- old only being 10 or 15 years ago -- the news journalistic philosophy was that you would give a snapshot of the world in the previous 24 hours: What happened yesterday all over the world? But the other Sunday, I picked up the paper and I looked at the seven page-one stories and not one story had a yesterday or a last night in the lead. All seven stories were about something that will happen or might happen or conceivably could happen some time in the future. Well, it's a different kind of journalism.
Spend five minutes with any paper and you will see that the problem has only gotten worse. Instead of hard news (what happened, what is happening), we get pointless ephemera (what might happen, who is ahead now in a campaign where the election is six months away).

Those who worry about the future of newsgathering should be appalled that resources are wasted on pointless trivia. They offer nothing to the reader (potential customer) who wants hard news. Yet they are expensive and hurt the paper’s brand.

Worst of all, some of these activities (e.g. punditry, commentary) are costly productions that compete directly with the product of amateurs.

The blogger problem

Baker is surprisingly generous to bloggers:

Blogging is a more interesting development, perhaps because bloggers are so passionate about it. It is a valuable restraint on careless and sloppy journalism, for the vigilance of the bloggers misses not the slightest error or the least omission, and the fury of their rage is terrible to bear. Committed bloggers insist that they are practicing journalism just as surely as a correspondent like John Burns is practicing journalism when reporting on the Iraq war from Baghdad for The New York Times. Anyone wishing to debate the point must be ready to argue all night and well into next week. What is indisputable is that practically every blogger can now be a columnist. With vast armies of columnists blogging away, it seems inevitable that a few may eventually produce something original, arresting, and refreshing and so breathe new life into this worn-out journalistic form.
Note, however, the clever sleight of hand. He chooses to compare bloggers to war correspondents. The comparison can only make the journalistic pretensions of bloggers look ridiculous. OTOH, the daily work of most journalists in no way resembles the work of John Burns in Iraq.

A better comparison might be KC Johnson vs. Duff Wilson in the Duke lacrosse case. That was anything but a victory for the professionals.

Mocking bloggers is good sport for journalists. It does little to solve the problems of newspapers which is Baker’s professed concern. It is too bad that he glossed over the important point he touched on here.

If the newspaper column is a “worn-out journalistic form”, why do papers pour so many resources into it? The Times, for example, has a boatload of highly paid journalists churning out columns by the yard. Why spend so much on a product that has to compete with free commentary on the Internet and which has no qualitative advantage over the best blogging?

If newsgathering is so important, why does the Times spend money on sports pundits like Selena Roberts? Wouldn’t that money be better spend on more reporters who break news?

Journalists rarely raise this issue. They are part of a guild and a guild’s first aim is to protect its members. All its members.

The guild problem

The need to protect all guild members at all times hurts journalism in several ways. First, reflexive defensiveness lowers the credibility of the profession. To an outsider, all the fine words about integrity and truth ring hollow as we watch working journalists offer lame justifications for guild members who did not live up to those standards. It is even worse when those justifications include attacks on those who exposed those failings.

In addition, how can newspapers improve if they refuse to acknowledge the areas that need improvement? Press criticism by insiders usually ends up concluding that “over all our guys did a good job”. (See here, here, and here.)

No where is this more clear than when it comes to the guild’s heroic myths. Even Baker falls victim to it:

What became of heroes? Journalists used to dine out on the deeds of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during Watergate; of David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Malcolm Browne in Vietnam; of "Punch" Sulzberger and Kay Graham risking everything to publish the Pentagon Papers.
Forty years on and working journalists prefer legends to history. (See here for Vietnam and here for Watergate.)

The bias problem

When it comes to the MSM’s image the question of bias generates the most controversy. Surveys show that many Americans think the press tilts left. The blogosphere has generated millions of words on this issue alone.

In almost any other controversy journalists take the position that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” On the bias issue, however, they drop that attitude. Baker addresses this point but only to dismiss it. To him, the bias issue is just so much political spin:

For years, there has been an effective campaign by political conservatives to depict the press as a false messenger spreading negativity and poisoning minds with leftist bias. Books on the theme become best sellers. Political "hosts" on round-the-clock news stations repeat the message tirelessly.
That might reassure a true believer, but it ignores the myriad examples of reporting “mistakes” that serve a liberal agenda. Moreover, the bias issue persists and resonates because we have all seen examples where reporters get the facts grievously wrong. We do not take it on faith because Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh told us so; we know for sure because, on a specific issue, we recognize the gross and laughable errors a reporter makes.

For some, it is seeing a story on semi-automatic weapons that uses video of a full-auto AK-47. For others, it is 60 Minutes hyping the dangers of the Audi 5000 with no understanding of engine torque and braking power. It could be medical procedures, the drug approval process, the written opinion of a Supreme Court decision, the specific teaching of their denomination, or a doctored photo. The net result is that the reader suspects that Big Journalism values its agenda over diligent reporting or honest analysis.

The striking think about this constellation of problems is that they reinforce each other. Readers who are angered by shallow or biased reporting are less likely to remain (or become) subscribers now that technology offers more choices. Hence, the economic problem gets worse. At the same time, the self-protective reflex of the guild hinders newspapers ability to adapt and improve.

I wonder if anyone at the New York Times has ever studied how GM acted in 1982?
Ed Bouchette isn't sold on the new Steelers' offense

More passes always seem to lead to more losses for the Steelers
The new passing game is one of the few things i've liked about the preseason. It reminds me of the play-calling during the post-season in 2005

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

VDH is an optimist

Victor Davis Hanson in The Corner:

After reviewing the latest critique of the CIA's failures to foresee the pre-9/11 dangers of radical Islam, and while reading the final sordid details surrounding the Pvt. Beauchamp fables published at The New Republic, and viewing the latest phony wire-photos from Iraq (the poor victimized Iraqi woman holding unfired cartridges as 'proof' of coalition bullets that hit her home), I was wondering who will monitor our self-righteous monitors?

The answer, like it or not, in the post-Plame, post-Scheuer, post-Tenet era is that no one believes much what the CIA says any more about the Middle East; no one believes that a wire-photo from there is genuine or its caption accurate; and no one necessarily believes anything in once respected magazines, whether the Periscope section of Newsweek or anything published in The New Republic. The common gripe is that the administration lied to the public about WMD in Iraq; but what is lost is that once revered institutions proved disingenuous in their accusations and unreliable in their performance
.

Michael Crichton from a speech in 2002

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all
.
Victor Davis Hanson on military history

Good article from City Journal:

Why Study War?

I like the bibliography he included in with it, but i would add three book:

Murray and Millett, A War to be Won

S. E. Morison, The Two Ocean War

G.M. Fraser, Quartered Safe Out Here

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good point

From Protein Wisdom

So much of leftist rhetoric is an attempt simply to shame opponents into compliance — you don’t agree with race-based affirmative action as policy? You are a racist. You don’t support legalizing same-sex marriage as a civil right? You are a homophobe — followed by an effort to redefine terms (”racist”, “homophobe,” “masculine”) in the social vacuum created by that shaming mechanism.
It's not a trait unique to the Left. It was an essential feature of McCarthyism and a favored tactic of the Birchers. The neocons were quite willing to play the "you're an anti-Semite" card when it suited their purposes.

It seems indisputable that the Left-version has taken firm root in out colleges. Institutions that claim to value free inquiry and dialogue provide a home to ideologues who are not interested in either.

We saw this at Duke with the Gang of 88. They hurled their rhetorical thunderbolts but refused to engage any one who offered a differing view.

Yaeger and Pressler quote lacrosse player Kyl Dowd who cuts to the heart of the Gang's hypocrisy.

The only problem is, you are willing to start a dialogue but now you refuse to speak to the media, you refuse to speak to us, you refuse to speak to other professors. So you've actually decreased the dialogue about these topics, which is in complete contradiction to your original goal. No matter which way you look at it, they've failed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Behind the newsroom door

David Gelernter makes a telling point about the MSM in his book Drawing Life (1997)

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.
A decade passes and that media insouciance is long gone. Now, the MSM resembles a family out of a Tennessee Williams’ play. They are obsessed with maintaining appearances and in deep denial about their scandalous secrets. At the same time, they are always keen to heap scorn on the riff-raff who refuse to play along with their self-serving pretenses.

Case in point, this column from the Seattle Times:
Lessons in newsroom decorum

I doubt that many people were surprised that a bunch of journalists cheered when Rove resigned. Further, I doubt that the journalists wanted to discuss the issue once it became public. Sadly, they can no longer reply with a hearty, but private FU. So the guild has to pretend that it was a shocking breach of etiquette rather than business as usual. Then they serve us mawkish platitudes mixed with the strategic slam on those who dare question the elect:

The hallowed halls of journalism that I was privileged to enter more than 20 years ago are looking more and more like the New York subway. The walls covered in bloggers' scrawl, the platform crowded with any yahoo with a camera and an open mike. All are headed to your computer screen or television for the 15 seconds you'll give them before moving on to the next hot spot.

That's not how we do things at this newspaper
.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gregg Easterbrook is a brave man

He is willing to write a column sympathetic to Michael Vick even at this late date.

This point remains true no matter how the case turns out:

Remember, the charges against Vick are accusations. The Duke lacrosse mess reminded us that accusations are not the same as guilt and that prosecutors might be unscrupulous. The NFL, the media and popular opinion all seem to accept that because Vick is accused, he must be guilty. He's been treated as guilty -- mocked, effectively suspended from football, deprived of most of his income -- long before any legal determination has been made. There's something deeply sick about the fact that you can go to the NFL's official shop and order a Bills jersey with No. 32 and SIMPSON on the back -- go here and try it yourself -- or a Panthers jersey with CARRUTH on the back, the NFL system actually says "Great choice!" in response, but if you go here and try to order a Falcons' jersey with Vick's name or number, you'll get a message saying your order cannot be processed.

Remembering Stax

PBS recently previewed a documentary on Stax Records. Great movie, great story, great music.

Any studio that gave us Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes has my heartfelt gratitude.

There is a remarkable irony in the Stax saga. The studio was founded by a white guy (Jim Stewart) in a segregated Southern city in the era of Bull Conner and Orval Faubus. They recorded some classic R&B and soul artists. Yet their house band (Booker T. and the MGs) was made up of both black and white musicians.

Stax was an integrated operation in a segregated city. Nonetheless, it thrived. Jim Crow was helpless in the face of raw talent and great grooves.

The irony is that Stax did not survive the 70s. Southern bigotry could not kill it, but the studio was no match for the sharp business practices of the New York record companies. Atlantic Records ended up with the rights to the classic recordings and calmly watched Stax sink into bankruptcy.

The music business, which takes such pride in their liberal and progressive attitudes, had no qualms about letting Stax die. it was just business after all.



Friday, August 17, 2007

The Abdullah al-Muhajir verdict (AKA Muhajir Abdullah AKA Jose Padilla)

I think Captain Ed is dead-on target on this score:

The Bush administration has taken the understandable position that terrorists captured on foreign battlefields do not require habeas corpus. Wars cannot be fought under the terms of civil law enforcement. The Hamdi situation enters a seriously gray area in this regard, as American citizenship grants certain rights that the government cannot just wish away. With John Walker Lindh, captured under similar circumstances and arguably more culpability, they used the criminal courts as the best way to meet those Constitutional responsibilities, and won a conviction.

We should have done the same with Padilla, especially since he was captured not on a foreign battlefield but here in the US. If he conspired with al-Qaeda to kill Americans, then he's a traitor -- but even traitors have to be convicted in criminal court, with the due process we expect as Americans. And since it seems that the government had all the evidence it needed to convict him at the time of his capture, they have no excuse for applying an exotic and incorrect status to him to strip him of his rights to due process. After they won the conviction that would send him to prison for life, they could have worked on the other case at their leisure
.

It calls to mind the criticism by Stuart Taylor (discussed here) of the Bush counter-terrorism policy
A vast, vast wasteland

My Sirius radio in the truck is on the blink. (OK, i had a little accident with the antenna.) Terrestial radiosucks even worse than i remembered.

How do these people get record deals? And who listens to this crap?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Diseconomies of scale

Originally posted 7-24-04

While we often read about economies of scale, we probably should pay more attention to the diseconomies of scale.

When a solid sphere doubles its radius, its surface area increases 300% while its mass goes up 700%. The same ratio seems to affect organizations. As they grow, the center becomes more remote from the surface-the part that actually is in contact with customers, competitors, and new technology. The gravitational pull of the increased mass draws more and more efforts inward where they focus on internal processes, procedures, rules, expenses, and politics.

Internal forces soon overwhelm the organization's ability to respond intelligently to external events. As Jack Welch puts it, the company "has its face toward the CEO and its ass toward the customer." An odd posture to be sure since as Peter Drucker has preached for a half-century "the only profit center is a customer whose check hasn't bounced."

Costs Versus Expenses

It is counterintuitive to include expense control as one of the driver's of diseconomies of scale. How can saving money be bad?

There is a big difference between costs and expenses. Accountants, for example, rarely quantify the costs (in lost revenue) of inertia, strategic indecision, or product delay. They can easily calculate money saved using less expensive materials, but they rarely capture the erosion in brand equity which results from using inferior materials. Accountants are willing to spend time to save money even though we know that is usually better to be first to market.

If effective employment of intellectual capital is the key success factor in the new economy, then should training and education be an expense or investment? And where do most accounting departments put it?

Furthermore, most cost containment exercises are Mickey Mouse. They focus on little items like office supplies, travel, and training budgets. As such they are Band-Aids and placebos. Managers get to feel like they are doing something while big issues are ignored.

Moreover, an expense focus is a continuation of a nineteenth century mindset. It presumes that customers are grateful to have something rather than nothing. But the days are long gone when the typical customer will happily lineup for black Model T's simply because they are cheap. We have, as consumers, come to expect more choices and new products. Squeezing out expenses threatens a company's ability to compete on these other dimensions customers care about.

But what's the first lever executives reach for when trying to improve profits?

For 40 years after the end of Prohibition Schlitz was America's best-selling beer. Then they decided to change the formula so it would brew faster (i.e. cheaper). The new formula changed the beer's taste and customers deserted in droves. By 1984 nobody drank Schlitz anymore.

Notional Benefits, Real Problems

Take this everyday example of the center becoming a drag on performance.

The organization decides "leverage its buying power" to reduce costs. At the outset, everything sounds great. Centralized buying promises increased profits because costs will go down while responsiveness and quality will not change one iota. With great fanfare, a new purchasing process is put in place and new experts appointed to oversee it. But the benefits are only notional.

The purchasing staff quickly makes suppliers aware of the new decision criteria. The latter get with the program and focus on delivering low costs. Quality service and responsiveness usually suffer because they are less quantifiable than price and because the purchasing unit is too removed from the action to gauge the non-quantifiable dimensions of the product. (If they can't graph it, it doesn't exist).

Often, the central buyers become an internal police force- shoving standardization on diverse business units so that order quantities can be increased and inventories managed more efficiently. But standardization can create products that fail in the marketplace because they are neither fish nor fowl.

GM experienced this when they consolidated platforms. In theory this allows multiple divisions to utilize the same basic components with immense savings in research, engineering, and tooling. The result was the Cadillac Cimmeron-a Chevy Cavalier with minor changes and a high price. Not only did it flop in the marketplace; it inflicted grievous harm to Cadillac's image as a premium product. Even today, standardization has created look-alike models which have strong appeal to no particular segment. GM sales are lackluster. They keep losing share.

Ford faced similar dilemmas as it pursued the white whale of the "world car"-a single model that can be sold in dozens of countries in great quantities. But the Ford Escort was too bland and under-powered to sell at a profit in the US. At the same time, it was too large and expensive to be successful in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Centralization also creates political problems. Like courtiers around the throne HQ staffs create suspicion between the center and the market frontier. They usually have influence, sometimes they are responsible for some expense lines. But they do not have responsibility for any whole project. The line managers, who do have that responsibility, have to deal with the marketplace and the central staff. No surprise, often the latter gets the most attention.

Peter Drucker has written of management's "degenerative tendency" to focus on internal and operational data, to the exclusion of the more important and more strategic information about customers, competitors, and technology. Centralization and defused authority feed this tendency and exacerbate the problems it causes.
China and "quality fade"

This is an interesting article in light of the problems Mattel is having.

'Quality Fade': China's Great Business Challenge

One of the problems facing China is that manufacturers continue to engage in a practice I call "quality fade." This is the deliberate and secret habit of widening profit margins through a reduction in the quality of materials. Importers usually never notice what's happening; downward changes are subtle but progressive. The initial production sample is fine, but with each successive production run, a bit more of the necessary inputs are missing.

What is maddening to importers is that quality fade often occurs in the last place an importer thinks to check. One American company had been importing a line of health and beauty care products for over a year when the cardboard boxes that held its product suddenly started collapsing under their own weight. There was no logical explanation for the collapse except quality fade, and the supplier in this case blamed sub-suppliers for replacing an acceptable cardboard box with ones that were inferior.

The Case of the Missing Aluminum

Some quality issues are not all that serious, but others are downright frightening. One of the most disturbing examples I have encountered while working in China involved the manufacture and importation of aluminum systems used to construct high-rise commercial buildings. These are the systems that support tons of concrete as it is being poured, and their general stability is critical. The American company that designed and patented the system engineered all key components. It knew exactly how much each part was supposed to weigh, and yet the level of engineering sophistication did not stop the supplier from making a unilateral decision to reduce the specifications. When the "production error" was caught, one aluminum part was found to be weighing less than 90% of its intended weight
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Notice how stock analysts and business journalists rarely bring this issue up when they are praising some CEO's outsourcing initiative and its projected cost savings.

Wonder if saving those pennies was worth it for Mattel?

Speaking of Mattel. Why didn't the board fire the CEO last night? A rolling recall is bad enough because it keeps the bad news in the headlines. Better to emulate J&J during the Tylenol scare. Be over-cautious and get ahead of the problem.

What makes it unforgivable is that Mattel knew how the pet food mess worked out. They had every reason to believe that the problem would be bigger than their first estimates. And yet, they acted slowly.
This can't be true

can it?

O'Donnell retired after the season, this time for good. In 2004 he declined an offer to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers by Coach Bill Cowher after Tommy Maddox fell to injury.
Maybe it is just another example of Timesmen trolling Wikipedia.

Yeah. That has to be it. Not even Cowher could be that stupid.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scandal at NBC

The many issues surrounding NBC's "To Catch a Predator" deserve much more attention than they are getting. We have accusations that NBC bribes the local police to get them to cooperate in their on-camera stings, that NBC forced an over-reaction by local police that resulted in a man's death, that many of the arrests are legally questionable and result in dropped charges. Moreover, NBC News actively shares its work product with police and prosecutors-- something most news organizations view as verboten. (I wonder if NBC would be as agreeable if the Marines asked for their cooperation in hunting down terrorists in Iraq?)

Moreover, it appears that NBC fired a whistle-blower who raised ethical concerns about how they did business.

A last point deserves mention as well. The focus on online predators distorts the reality of child abuse and exploitation. The vast majority of perpetrators are known to the victims. By concentrating on the "pervert in the bushes" (or in the chat room) NBC creates a false image of where children are vulnerable.


Here are three very good piece on the subject:

Legally Speaking: Perverted Journalism - Part One

Legally Speaking: Perverted Journalism-Part Two

Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Big thumbs up

Tom Dowd was the producer/ sound engineer for the Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East. That alone is enough to earn him the eternal gratitude of every real fan of rock and roll. Dowd's career, however, spans decades and genres and may be unparalleled in the record business.

He did not work with every important artist of the post-war period, but he seemed to come close: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd...

I just watched a remarkable documentary on Dowd and his career. It's one of the best pieces of non-fiction movie-making i've ever seen.

Tom Dowd had a genius for record-making and he was a true pioneer when it came to recording technology. What made hem really special, though, is that he put those talents to work on behalf of the artists instead of his own legend. You can't watch the movie without being stunned by his self-effacement and generosity of spirit.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Outstanding article

Why Greta, Geraldo and FOX News are bad for Law Enforcement

Choosing one crime out of many to over-investigate and microscopically speculate upon doesn’t do anything to improve justice, it just increases ratings. In fact, it often leaves the public with a gross misunderstanding of the criminal justice system, the investigative process, and even the frequency and nature of crimes. If you believe cable news networks, pregnant women should fear their mates above all else, all prosecutors are corrupt, beautiful coeds are the predominant victims of violent crime, children are constantly being snatched by strangers, and on and so forth.
Open source training tips for terrorists

I’ve written on this before but the subject is now hot thanks to the New York Times.

Gabriel Schoenfeld has the best response to Levitt’s little stunt. He does a great job pointing out the dangers of such public brain-storming:
Then there was Zacharias Moussaoui, who was encountering trouble in his Minnesota flight school. This deranged fanatic might have only needed scant prompting, perhaps by stumbling across a clever scenario cooked up by Steven Levitt, to find a way to work al Qaeda’s will that was easier than poring through aviation manuals and struggling to operate a Boeing 747 simulator.
He also nails Levitt’s overall attitude toward this project:

To Levitt, however, this solemn subject is not solemn at all. He writes about it in a glib and flippant tone, as in his summons to the public to come up with even more lethal scenarios by which al Qaeda might wreak death and destruction on the United States: “I’m sure many readers have far better ideas. I would love to hear them.”
There is one other aspect to Levitt’s approach that deserves mention. He and the Times want to pretend that this is a contribution to public discourse and counter-terrorism planning. “Look, here is a Big Brain thinking Deep Thoughts about an Important Subject.” In reality, though, it is just a puffed up pundit pulling stuff out of his backside.

Levitt knows very little about counter-terrorism, police work, or terrorist operations. Nor does he think it important to educate himself before playing Red Cell leader. Instead, his writing is studded with phrases like “I presume” and “I guess”.

Then there is this gem:

Third, unless terrorists always insist on suicide missions (which I can’t imagine they would), it would be optimal to hatch a plan in which your terrorists aren’t killed or caught in the act, if possible.
Dr. Big Thinker has apparently missed all the discussion about the role of martyrdom and 72 virgins in al Qaeda ideology and recruitment. Avoiding suicide sounds reasonable to an academic playing around with concepts. But to jihadis, the people most likely to attack us, the suicide is a feature not a bug.

It is really kind of sad. The majesty and credibility of New York Times is just a fig leaf for a lazy pundit who basks in his ignorant knowingness.

What a missed opportunity. We could learn a lot from serious analysis of terrorist scenarios. There were some excellent examples in the wake of 9-11. They served the twin purposes of pointing to vulnerabilities (which can be corrected) and dispelling hysteria.

Levitt is not the first person to ponder the possibility that the Washington could be a model for al Qaeda and others. It’s a shame that analysis was not in his job description.

Here’s a couple of points that seem relevant to his scenarios.

Recruiting and financing twenty snipers will leave a big intelligence footprint. What is the likelihood that the government will get wind of the plot, penetrate it, and roll-up the whole operation?

This happens all the time when amateurs try to hire a hit man to get rid of a spouse or business partner. They end up starring in a police video as they lay out their plan to an undercover cop.

We have also seen this happen repeatedly in terrorism cases.

How much would such an operation cost? Does al Qaeda still have the resources to commit to such a venture?

Most of the information I’ve seen indicates that they have to work on a shoe-string budget in this country.

I’m also reminded of the plotter in the ’93 WTC attack who needed to get the deposit back on the rental truck (the one that carried the bomb and was destroyed in the blast) because he needed that money to pay for his escape.

The Washington snipers were anomalies. Most famous sniper attacks end with the perpetrator killed or captured at the scene. Are mobile snipers a real threat nationwide or did the DC killers benefit from bad policework/policy in Maryland?

Could such a plan survive the capture of one of the snipers? Could terrorists maintain operational security and compartmentalization? Or would the network unravel quickly in the early days?

It’s a tough trade-off. Maintain tight security and your plan takes forever to get underway. That, in turn, means your recruits may lose motivation and drift away. Hurry the operation along and it becomes vulnerable.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A sobering look at wrongful conviction

Stuart Taylor, Innocents in Prison

Police and/or prosecutorial misconduct appears to figure in more than half of the 205 convictions that DNA has proven false. Specific reasons for those convictions are catalogued in "Judging Innocence, " a study by Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, slated for publication in January in the Columbia Law Review. Mistaken eyewitness identifications -- often due to police subtly pointing witnesses toward the people the cops suspect -- figured in 79 percent of these false convictions. Flawed or corrupt testimony by scientific "experts" (about hair, blood types, and the like) figured in 55 percent. False confessions, mostly by juvenile defendants, figured in 16 percent.
Rarely bad and never woeful

In the 1960s, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a really bad team. Woefully bad. Then Chuck Noll took over.

Things did not improve improve immediately. They went 1-13 in 1969 and had losing records the next two years. But 1969 was the last year the Steelers failed to win at least five games in the regular season.

That's a fairly impressive record. The other dynasties cannot match it. Dallas sucked in 1988 and 1989 (only four wins in the two years combined). The Patriots had a horrible year in 1992 (two wins). The 49ers only won six games total in the 2004 and 2005 season.

Only one other NFL team can match the Steelers on this score. Denver only won four games in 1971 but that was in a fourteen game season and they had one tie. You have to go back to 1967 to find a woefully bad Broncos team.

I think this record says something about the quality of the ownership of those two teams. Both have consistently fielded playoff teams (and won Super Bowls) without ever dropping into the league's cellar.

There is, after all, a benefit to being occasionally woeful in the NFL. A really bad team gets the best draft position. The Colts "won" Peyton Manning by going 3-13. The prize the Cowboys got for their bad streak was Troy Aikman. Teams like Pittsburgh and Denver never receive that bonus. Yet, somehow, they keep operating at the top the league.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Puzzled

All at once i get a relative flood of hits from the Google search "josh" "billings" "quip".
Interesting

Peyton Manning in four post-season games (2006)

70.8 QB rating
3 Touchdowns
7 Interceptions


Ben Roethlisberger in four post-season games (2005)

101.7 QB rating
7 Touchdowns
3 interceptions

Monday, August 06, 2007

Conspiracy theories, solved cold cases and the long silent witness

A recurring motif in conspiracy literature is the “witness” who waits for years before coming forward to tell their stories. With popular subjects such as the JFK assassination or the Roswell UFO there seems to be no end to these witnesses. The flow is not even constrained by the actuary tables because we now hear from witnesses even after they die.

“My father, on his deathbed in 2003, told me…”

Non-conspiracy types have a real problem with this sort of “evidence”. It is exceedingly difficult to falsify. The passage of time makes it nearly impossible to check any details of the story. Hence, we have to take the witness on faith.

For example, say some guy comes forward tomorrow and tells Montel Williams that on 9 December 1965 he hid on a hillside and watched as US military personnel hauled four body bags and a large, tarp-covered object from the woods near Kecksburg, PA. Had he told his story in 1965, we could check a host of details to test his veracity. The milk truck driver can tell us if dozens of army trucks lined Ankney Hill Road as the witness claims. The high school teacher can confirm or rebut the claim that the witness missed school on December 10 because military intelligence officers interrogated him for eight hours and threatened to send him to Vietnam if he talked about what he saw.

It seems eminently reasonable to ignore such tardy witnesses unless they can provide compelling evidence to substantiate the critical elements of their story.

So what do we do with cold criminal cases?

All too frequently, the crucial “evidence” that prosecutors use at trial is the uncorroborated testimony of witnesses who came forward years after the crime occurred. Just as with the Kecksburg example, it is nearly impossible to verify their story with any sort of physical evidence.

I’m not sure that I can see a clear distinction between the Grassy Knollers and the hero DA who convicts a man on the word of a witness who waits twenty years to tell their story.


More on this later.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History

They're talking about it, the JFK assassination, and conspiracies over at Patterico's joint.

See also here and here.

I haven't read the book yet, but his interviews on CSPAN and on radio have been impressive.
Do magazines have DNA?

Is the New Republic cursed with a liar gene?

The magazine of Scott Beauchamp also gave us Lee Seigel, Stephen Glass, and Ruth Shalit. Michael Kinsley was an editor there for years before moving to Slate and the “monkey fishing” debacle. Sullivan was the TNR editor when both Shalit and Glass were doing their thing. The whole blogosphere has seen plenty of evidence that honesty is a low-value commodity to Exitable Andy. (He, after all, defended Kinsey on the monkey fishing mess.)

From 1948 to 1956 TNR was run by Michael Straight. Thus, we had the spectacle of a liberal magazine denouncing Joe McCarthy for his “witch hunts” while the magazine was under the direction and control of a member of the Philby spy ring.

Go back to the 1930s and you find Malcolm Cowley using TNR’s pages to spin for Stalin and to lie about Joe’s enemies.

That’s a pretty impressive record. I guess the big question is: how does it keep surviving these self-inflicted wounds?

This record also suggests that magazine "brands" are built on something other than credibility and honesty.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Beauchamp Affair: The New Republic tries to use the Nixon playbook

I thought they were supposed to be smart people over at TNR. So why are they trying to bluff their way out of this with a modified, limited hangout?

Baldilocks has the best analysis of their most recent "clarification". Ace is just on fire. Michelle Malkin has an extensive round-up.

UPDATE: Credit where due.

AMac, the most astute commentator over at KC's place, predicted that TNR would try this ploy. He sent me an email several days ago that zeroed in on the critical issue.

The key question is not "did something like these incidents happen?" Beauchamp's stories had shock value only because he claimed that the incidents were seen by many soldiers and officers and NO ONE DID ANYTHING because the Iraq war destroyed their humanity.

So now, in the case of the wounded woman in the mess hall, TNR's "verification" of the story actually shreds Beauchamp's credibility.

But TNR is trying to pretend that their diarist was right and their critics were wrong.

Which is exactly what AMac said they would do.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sales versus relationship marketing

David Maister discusses the critical differences:

Fat Smoker Principles: Build Relationship Plans Not Sales Plans
Why the hurry?

Speed and "connectedness" are the new opiates of the managerial class. Too often we confuse being fast with being right-- as though George Custer is a better model than George Washington. In our seven by twenty-four obsession with the urgent we risk staleness and a loss of creativity. Few heed William James's observation that "we learn to swim during the winter, and to skate during the summer" or Jacques Barzun's that "the inner integration of experience takes place slowly and during inactivity."

We want to innovate but we refuse to internalize David Gelernter's insight that creativity occurs "in a state of unconcentration" and that "hard work does not pay. You can't achieve inspiration by concentrating hard, by putting your mind to it."

I wonder what the adherents of hyperconnectedness and hyperkinetics would make of an education program that gives executives " a breather"? One where they have "time to get to know their families again and to renew ties with old friends in a whirl of cocktail parties, dances, and barbecues." A place with time for "pickup softball games in the afternoon and spur-of-the-moment parties that go on at all hours."

This sounds like a boondoggle and it would be easy to write off the participants as future losers. But the former student was Gen. Schwartzkopf describing his year at the Army War College.

I suspect that this opiate is addictive for two reason. First, most products and services are really commodities. For all the talk of special competencies, brands, etc., there really isn't a lot of meaningful differences. So we rely on slavish availability as a substitute for distinctiveness.

As the old joke goes, you can sum up an advertising man in five words: "yes, sir, no, sir ulcer." Painful, but true, and a reflection of the fact that most advertising cannot demonstrate its value and most agencies cannot show that their ads are special.

A real craftsman, no matter what her field, does not need a pager or even voice mail. There are sufficient customers willing to wait to get unique wares. A Bernbach or Ogilvy understood this. The work, not merely hard work, was the focus.

Second, I believe that some of this incessant action is a reaction to the sudden onset of competition. Most businesses have not faced real competition. Distance, tradition, and scarce information combined to create cozy oligopolies. Firms in these markets (which were the norm for most of this century) could ignore customers.

That is gone. Managers must change the habits of a lifetime. Rethinking their business is hard work. It is so much easier to simply substitute "service" and action.

This last point is rarely given the attention it deserves. Peter Drucker wrote in 1954 that "any organization in which marketing is either absent or incidental is not a business and should never be run as if it were one." Further, that a "business enterprise has two-- and only two-- basic functions: marketing and innovation." If this is so and if many or most businesses have traditionally been protected within an oligopolistic fortress, then the implications are staggering.

Most executives, it seems, are only businessmen manqués because their organizations are not really businesses. The lessons of a lifetime do not need to be revised, they need to be tossed aside completely. It is no surprise, then, that many executives recoil when they apprehend this fact. They take refuge in action, connection, and other "irritable mental gestures" as a substitute for hard thinking.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A puzzle with a purpose

Rob at Business Pundit asks little question that is more important than it first appears:


During World War II, statistician Abraham Wald tried to determine where to add extra armor to airplanes. Based on the patterns of bullet holes in returning airplanes, he suggested that the parts not hit should be protected with extra armor. Why?
Personal productivity and technology

Outstanding post over at the Evolving Excellence Blog:

Lowering The Water Level

Toyota calls it “lowering the water level.”

Imagine a value stream or a production process as a river. Reducing the inventory in the process – “lowering the water level” – exposes the “rocks” that represent all of the hidden costs and waste in production. Only by revealing those rocks can you improve the process and reduce the waste.

This metaphor works for knowledge workers, too. In this case, however, their key inventory item is time. Having too much time to do one’s work hides the waste and inefficiencies in the process
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