Saturday, December 29, 2007

Duke lacrosse

The indispensable KC Johnson has gone on hiatus. He did, however, give us a useful guide through the case as he covered it on his blog:

The perfect starting point for anyone coming late to the story as well as a great reference for those who have followed the case from the beginning.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14

Fear and dread in Steeler Nation

So the Steelers are 10-5 and won their division. They are in the play-offs for the third time in four years. Yet, we fans are worried and cranky. If you didn't know better, you'd think the team was 6-9.

Part of the reason is that the five losses were ugly. Good teams dominated us (Jax and the Patriots) and we made bad teams look good (Denver and the J-E-T-S- Jets Jets Jets). Not much glory in being a paper champion who makes the playoffs and then gets bounced in the first game.

I think the larger reason is that the team that wins does not look like the Steelers teams we are used to watching. No longer do we pound the ball on the ground and play suffocating defense. Now our victories are keyed to big plays in the passing game and a desperate hope that the defense can make a couple of stops. Classic Steerlers football was a 20-7 game that never felt close. This years version is perfectly captured by the second Cleveland game and the win over the Rams. No lead felt safe because no lead was safe.

What makes this concern especially worrisome is that the defense lacks young players who have shown promise. Our good players are mostly old while our recent draft choices have failed to make an impact. The defensive problems could get worse before they get better.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

This is a high holiday in Steeler nation

Thirty-five years ago, Franco made the Immaculate Reception and a dynasty was born.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Steve Sailer is the best

He knows and sees things your typical reviewer cannot fathom. Vide his review of No Country for Old Men:

Developing video games is consuming more and more of today's creative talent, with little benefit to show for it in the broader culture. Traditional art forms such as poetry, music, and painting tended to inspire each other forward in a virtuous cycle, but video gaming, a solitary vice, has been a cultural black hole. Game-inspired films, for instance, have mostly failed, because watching a movie star frenetically shoot bad guys is missing the point of playing, which is to shoot them yourself.

How about this for a throw-away insight?

For reasons I don't fully understand (and am not sure I really want to think about), most of us guys, no matter how blameless our lives, enjoy doing some contingency planning about how we'd handle it if we ever had to climb into that white Bronco and make a run for the border. Thus, many men hated the great Chick Flick "Thelma and Louise" less for its supposed feminism than for how dopily Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon let their feelings botch up their escape from Arkansas to Mexico. I quickly worked out for them an itinerary for their getaway over the Rio Grande to Matamoros, but they weren't equally serious about route selection and ended up in northern Arizona, where they fell, deservedly, into the Grand Canyon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The real value of simplicity

Analysis of Paralysis

If your strategy doesn't help employees act, it's not a strategy.

"Keep it simple, stupid." That's the advice every executive has received on how to share strategy with employees. The subtext is often, "Keep it simple, because your people are stupid." But you don't need to embrace simplicity just so your people can comprehend your message. The point of simplicity is more fundamental: Simplicity allows people to act

This might be the the number one cause of strategic failure in business. A major reason for this is the overly intellectual approach that B-schools take toward strategy.

See more here:

GWB and his MBA

Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)
Vietnam: What we know now that we didn't know then

Who Owns the Vietnam War?

Above all, antiwar activists and critics of American policy in the media denied their own moral responsibility for what happened in Vietnam and Indochina once the policy they themselves had vociferously advocated—namely, withdrawal and disengagement—was carried out. When, four years after the fall of Saigon, Joan Baez, Richard John Neuhaus, and other former antiwar activists tried to draw attention to the plight of Vietnam’s boat people and the brutal tyranny that had been established in that country, their former comrades, led by celebrities like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, denounced them as “stooges” and CIA agents. “Even if the [North] Vietnamese had chosen the course of mass executions and plunder,” one of these former comrades stated in a letter, “it would have been our own strategies of terror and brutality that drove them to it.”

This collapse of ethical and intellectual integrity would have consequences far beyond Vietnam. In the decades to come, the Vietnam myth would justify the Left’s instinctual opposition to America’s efforts to contain Communist aggression in Latin America in the 1980’s, its characterization of the 1991 Gulf war as a campaign of “blood for oil,” and its denunciations of our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. The need to prop up the same myth in the face of a contradictory reality would fuel the “paranoid style” of leftist conspiracy-mongering in films like Oliver Stone’s JFK, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, and most recently and blatantly Loose Change, which argues that the Twin Towers were brought down by agents of the Bush administration. And, as President Bush discovered last August, it remains potent enough to trigger the most irrational and rhetorically violent responses when anyone dares challenge its proprietary construction of what the Vietnam war was in fact all about, and what are its lessons.

Historical analogies are never entirely accurate. They may not even be useful. But it remains true that our present and future actions are always based, to some extent, on our evaluation of past experience. Generals are often accused of fighting the last war. This is something that, when it comes to Vietnam, liberals and leftists have been doing for more than three decades, by refusing to confront (in words Peter Marin once flung in the face of American authorities) “their own culpability” and “their own capacity for error and excess.” Whatever the differences or similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, or between Vietnam and our global war with Islamic radicalism, the real analogy between then and now may lie in this tenacious refusal of self-examination by the liberal Left—especially when the facts utterly contravene its reflexive indictment of the motives, purposes, and actions of the American government.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The truth about criminal profiling

Malcolm Gladwell has a fascinating and important article on criminal profiling:

Dangerous Minds
He is not impressed by the "science" or the results:

In the case of Derrick Todd Lee, the Baton Rouge serial killer, the F.B.I. profile described the offender as a white male blue-collar worker, between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, who “wants to be seen as someone who is attractive and appealing to women.” The profile went on, “However, his level of sophistication in interacting with women, especially women who are above him in the social strata, is low. Any contact he has had with women he has found attractive would be described by these women as ‘awkward.’ ” The F.B.I. was right about the killer being a blue-collar male between twenty-five and thirty-five. But Lee turned out to be charming and outgoing, the sort to put on a cowboy hat and snakeskin boots and head for the bars. He was an extrovert with a number of girlfriends and a reputation as a ladies’ man. And he wasn’t white. He was black.

A profile isn’t a test, where you pass if you get most of the answers right. It’s a portrait, and all the details have to cohere in some way if the image is to be helpful. In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent, which makes sense if you consider the position of the detective on the receiving end of a profiler’s list of conjectures. Do you believe the stuttering part? Or do you believe the thirty-year-old part? Or do you throw up your hands in frustration?
A few years ago, Alison went back to the case of the teacher who was murdered on the roof of her building in the Bronx. He wanted to know why, if the F.B.I.’s approach to criminal profiling was based on such simplistic psychology, it continues to have such a sterling reputation. The answer, he suspected, lay in the way the profiles were written, and, sure enough, when he broke down the rooftop-killer analysis, sentence by sentence, he found that it was so full of unverifiable and contradictory and ambiguous language that it could support virtually any interpretation.

Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading,” itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse—the “statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.” (“I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.”) The Jacques Statement, named for the character in “As You Like It” who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.” There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that “leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.” (“I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?”) And that’s only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess—all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The television audience keeps leaving the broadcast networks

According to Turner Research, the average American viewed 32.6 hours of television a week this year, up ever-so-slightly from 32.5 last year. More significantly, Americans are watching two more hours of television now than they were five years ago.

That growth has come at the expense of broadcast. Five years ago, viewers spent an average of 11.7 hours a week with broadcast and 13.2 hours a week with cable; this year, viewers spent 9.6 hours with broadcast and 15.3 with cable


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Duke lacrosse: KC Johnson sums up

KC Johnson's indispensable Durham in Wonderland is going on hiatus. His last post is a terrific summary of the case and its implications.

I think he is dead on about the coverage by the drive-by media:
It is difficult to offer an explanation other than the obvious for the records of figures such as Wilson, Feinstein, or Ashley—namely, that this was a story that some in the intelligentsia so much wanted to be true that they blinded themselves to reality.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ranger Ray on civilian reponse

I discussed the role of civilian response in the Texas Tower sniper case here.

One of the men who went up the Tower that day was officer Ramiro Martinez. In his memoirs he has some interesting things to say about the actions of the civilians in Austin.

I was and am still upset that more recognition has not been given to the citizens who pulled out their hunting rifles and returned the sniper's fire. The City of Austin and the State of Texas should be forever thankful and grateful to them because of the many lives they saved that day. The sniper did a lot of damage when he could fire freely, but when the armed citizens began to return fire the sniper had to take cover. He had to shoot out of the rainspouts and that limited his targets. I am grateful to the citizens because they made my job easier.
The Huckabee beat down

I don't know what to make of the Wayne Dumond story. Maybe it is Willie Horton redux. Or, perhaps, it is a Duke lacrosse case with a tragic ending.

A couple of stories are important background because they show how the case looked when Huckabee had to deal with it.

The Castration of Wayne DuMond

Talk Left on Wayne Dumond
One thing is for certain. Right-wing pundits are as hypocritical as their left-wing brethren. In the case of "Scooter" Libby and (late) in the Duke lacrosse hoax, right-wing opinion-mongers professed a deep concern about due process, the presumption of innocence, and the danger of out-of-control prosecutors. All of that has been tossed aside in the attacks on Huckabee.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This is how the new media revolution ends

Not with a bang but a simper

It’s come to this: Mary Katharine Ham talks MILFs on O’Reilly

MKH plays earnest straight man to O'Reilly's sleazy, sniggering, tabloid major domo.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The problem with wiki's

Inside Wikipedia’s Inner Circle

If there’s a flaw in the Wikipedia model, it isn’t that the site relies on the wisdom of crowds too much, it’s that the site’s highest-volume contributors and editors—the people who effectively run the place—could succumb to the gravitational pull of groupthink.

The problem is that it’s difficult to engineer a way to allow for group-driven creation of content while dispersing certain responsibilities and decision-making tasks among the masses. It’s impossible to create a system that’s completely open to everyone without getting overrun by malicious vandals, so it’s hard to see how the site could avoid issuing bans or using some other form of group-imposed censorship
I always knew Steven A. Smith was an idiot

Stephen A. Smith Q-and-A Part 3: Internet writers have "sabotaged" newspapers

"And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license."