Gladwell on Manning vs. Roethlisberger
Malcolm Gladwell gives his first ESPN interview:
To me, this is what Peyton Manning's problem is. He has the work habits and dedication and obsessiveness of Jordan and Tiger Woods. But he can't deal with the accompanying preparation anxiety. The Manning face is the look of someone who has just faced up to a sobering fact: I am in complete control of this offense. I prepare for games like no other quarterback in the NFL. I am in the best shape of my life. I have done everything I can to succeed—and I'm losing. Ohmigod. I'm not that good. (Under the same circumstances, Ben Roethlisberger is thinking: maybe next time I stop after five beers). I don't know if I've ever felt sorrier for someone than I did for Manning at the end of that Pittsburgh playoff game.
Gotta hand it to Gladwell: He truly understands quarterback psychology.
Frank Wilson, books editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, has an excellent review of Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.
Wilson really seems to get it:
Hewitt, as his subtitle indicates, sees a comparison between the rise of the blogosphere and the Protestant Reformation. That may sound odd at first, but thanks to Gutenberg's printing press, Luther's opposition to papal authority could be widely and persuasively publicized (between 1517 and 1534, according to Mark Edwards' Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, more that 6.6 million pamphlets were printed, mostly by Protestants). Thanks to the blogosphere, people no longer have to "persuade someone to be allowed to attempt to persuade someone." They can simply start a blog. And Hewitt offers plenty of good advice about how to go about doing that. (For example, make the title short and catchy, post often and link freely, keep entries brief, etc.)
Naturally, a blog can only be as good as whoever does the blogging. The people behind some of the better-known blogs tend to be talented and accomplished. Glenn Reynolds, whose InstaPundit probably garners the most visits of any, is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. The guys behind Powerline, voted blog of the year by Time magazine, are all lawyers. These are people who know how to weigh evidence, marshal arguments and write.
Blogs that focus on issues of public policy are the ones that have drawn the most attention, because they have come into direct conflict with the mainstream media. But there are plenty of others besides those. Books, cars, food, art, gardening - you name it, somebody is blogging about it, and Hewitt has a lot to say about how businesses, churches and you can make the most of opining online.
Lots of other books tell you how to blog. Only Hugh's really tells you why.
Dead letter office
“Hey England, Scotland and Wales, mind your own business. We don’t need weenie-spined Limeys meddling in our presidential election. If it wasn’t for America, you'd all be speaking German.”
An e-mail from America to The Guardian after the left-wing British paper asked its readers to write to undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio.
State of confusion
A recently-issued survey by Morgan Quitno Press of public school systems in each of the 50 states finds that Massachusetts is the smartest state in the United States, while New Mexico is, well, the least smart.
In case you were wondering, the rankings are "based on 21 factors chosen from Morgan Quitno’s annual reference book, Education State Rankings, 2004-2005."
To calculate the Smartest State rankings, the 21 factors were divided into two groups: those that are “negative” for which a high ranking would be considered bad for a state, and those that are “positive” for which a high ranking would be considered good. Rates for each of the 21 factors were processed through a formula that measures how a state compares to the national average for a given category. The positive and negative nature of each factor was taken into account as part of the formula. Once these computations were made, the factors then were assigned equal weights. These weighted scores then were added together to determine a state’s final score (“Smart Rating” on the table above.) This way, states are assessed based on how they stack up against the national average. The end result is that the farther below the national average a state’s education ranking is, the lower (and less smart) it ranks. The farther above the national average, the higher (and smarter) a state ranks."
Got that? (Or do we have to explain it to you again, New Mexico?)
Here's how the states rank for 2004-2005:
4. New Jersey
6. New York
14. New Hampshire
19. North Dakota
22. South Dakota
23. Rhode Island
25. North Carolina
32. South Carolina
33. Texas and West Virginia (tie)
50. New Mexico
Okay, whatever. But here's a question for all those smarty-pants types at Morgan Quitno: If Massachusetts is so smart, how come they keep electing people like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy?
The same old "new" war
John Kerry's comments in The New York Times Magazine (which I discuss in my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed "In a time of drastic change") caused me to go back and have another look at Kerry's 1997 screed The New War.
In one of their campaign ads last summer, the Kerry team touted the book as a pre-9/11 blueprint for the war on terror:
He's a husband and a father. A pilot, a hunter, a hockey player. Tough prosecutor, advocate for kids. Nineteen years, Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Author of a strategy to win the war on terror. [Camera shot of book cover.]
In fact, The New War provides much of the logic behind Kerry's contention that terrorism should be treated primarily as a law enforcement problem, not as a geopolitical one. The book spends much of its 208 pages talking about the many parallels between international organized crime and its "fraternal twin" (p. 25) terrorism.
Kerry supporters, of course, regard the book as near-prophecy, pointing to blinding insights like this (p. 111): "It will take only one mega-terrorist event in any of the great cities of the world to change the world in a single day." Such statements, however, were a staple of virtually everything written about terrorism prior to 9/11. As I see it, Kerry's analysis pretty much boils down to: "If those bad guys ever did anything really bad, it would be really, really bad." Even Nostradamus was more specific:
In the City of God there will be a great thunder, two brothers torn apart by Chaos. While the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb. The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
I wouldn't recommend actually reading the book unless you're an insomniac looking for a sure-fire cure. (Amazon is selling remaindered copies for $3.99, which is exactly $3.99 more than it's worth. A better strategy, I found, is to use Amazon's wonderful "Search Inside This Book" feature and type in words like "terrorism" and "extremist." Don't bother to type in "Osama bin Laden" or "Al Qaeda"; nothing pops up.)
I highly recommend, though, you take a look at Varifrank's summary analysis of The New War, which has the added virtue of being quite amusing. To wit:
Ladies and Gentleman of the Blogosphere, I sacrifice my own eyes to keep each of you from going out to buy and read this book on your own. It's a small book, and with the help of this "Summary" you can glean most of what is needed in about 15 minutes from any bookshelf at any library or bookstore where you can find it. Abbie Hoffman, eat your heart out.
Mark Twain once offered an analysis of another book where he called the it "cholorform in print." I always thought that was a good line, so I will use it here as its best approximates the effect this book has upon large mammals like myself. This is one tough book to read, if you read it with John Kerrys 'Boston Foghorn" voice as your inner dialog, it could probably be used at Guantanamo to break Taliban detainees.
Varifrank's summary give you a pretty good idea of what the "war on terror" would look like under a Kerry administration. Think: "war on drugs."