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We Report... You Deride

Saturday, March 13, 2004  
Measure Your Military Intelligence Quotient

Do you think you have the intelligence, reasoning ability and temperament to work for the CIA? Do you have what it takes to find WMD without involving your country in unnecessary conflicts?

You can find out by taking this test, which was given to me many years ago by someone who had retired from an intelligence job at the Department of Defense. It's the sort of thing, he said, they used to weed the wanna-be's out.

Since we're about to get some reports that reflect on this topic, this test is the best tool I can think of to frame the discussion. I got the scenario told to me-- he said it was better to do it that way-- but he said it'll work in written form.

Read the story carefully. At the end of it, you'll have four different summaries of events. It's your job to select the one correct summary-- and I'll tell you right now that there is only one that is entirely accurate.

Good luck with this-- let's see if you can succeed at a challenge that I failed at:

1. It is Saturday night. You have just returned home from a badly-needed vacation in New England. For the last 14 days, you and your spouse have been hiking, camping, fishing and climbing mountains. To make sure you "got away from it all", you have not read a newspaper, watched TV, listened to the radio, talked on the phone, responded to pages or checked e-mail.

2. You return home feeling more refreshed and relaxed than you have in years. You feel so energetic, in fact, that your spouse suggests stopping at a country-western club before you return home. Since the club used to be a favorite nightspot-- but you have not had the time or energy to visit it for years-- you agree with delight. When you enter, you find that the club is still as busy as it ever was.

3. While you are waiting for a table, you see a familiar face sitting at the far corner of the bar. A woman who is good friends with you both--and agreed to marry a close friend several years ago-- is having an animated conversation with the man sitting next to her.

4. Before you can make yourself known, the woman throws her arms around the man and kisses him on the cheek. He puts his arms around her and kisses her on the mouth.

5. The bar is on halfway down the side of the club, on the right side. It is similar in construction to the ones in most clubs. It is rectangular, with one long side and two short ones. The top and sides are covered with a reflective material, making it appear as if the bar is mirrored, though there are some image distortions.

6. The long side-- the main serving area-- is at a 45-degree angle to you. It has a counter, with stools positioned at it. It is lit by spotlights positioned over every fifth stool, about six to nine feet overhead. This configuration means that some seats are fully lit, others are mostly lit, some are partially lit and some are virtually unlit. Every seat is taken and there are people standing by the stools.

7. The short side closest to you is the ordering area for the servers. The top counter is hinged, so it can be swung up to admit people. There is no vertical side. Servers place their orders here and receive the drinks. There are only a few seats on this side, although many customers are standing here to place orders.

8. The other short side is similar to the long side, but from the angle where you are standing, it is difficult to see many of the patrons clearly-- some cannot be seen at all.

[NOTE: By the way, if you're annoyed by all this description and wish I would get to the point, you've already failed. You're assuming you know what the club looks like, because you've seen many like it before.

A personality like this, the analyst giving me the problem said, means that you can't do the job properly. While your assumptions might be correct, the issue is that you're making them at all. Your job isn't to make assumptions-- it is to review evidence and interpret known facts.

If you can't even wait to finish reading a description, you're going to miss too many things. A lot of your work consists of finding small changes and tiny details-- and not getting carried away by what they mean.

If it's any consolation to you, this is where I failed the test (in my defense, he was speaking ungodly slow and I was 15). But if you want a mulligan, keep reading and see how well you can do now that you've been warned.]

9. Since the club is long and fairly narrow and the entrance is on the left side, you have different views of the man and woman. The woman is sitting at the precise corner of the long and short ends of the bar, so your view is unobstructed; since the seat to her right is under a light, she is lit about 66%, making her clearly visible.

10. The man is sitting at the short side of the bar. He is lit by only about 33% of the light-- not enough to see clearly. Also, the people sitting along the long end of the bar are blocking your view. He is wearing tinted sunglasses and a cowboy hat.

11. Your instinct tells you that something about the situation is not right; your concern prompts you to tell your spouse what you have seen. Even after prolonged inspection--from several different spots in the waiting area, the two of you cannot be sure who the woman is with. Since both of you would be recognized, you cannot walk too closely.

12. As you continue to wait for a table, you discuss the situation. You say your friend has been asking the woman to schedule a wedding date, and is upset that she has not responded. Your spouse says the woman is concerned about the number of hours your friend works, and the fact that his job does not pay well.

13. Your spouse says the woman is obviously not with her fiancee, because he does not own that sort of a hat. You correct her, saying that he owned several hats when he was younger, but acknowledge that you cannot remember him wearing one for many years.

14, Your spouse wonders if your friend might be trying to recapture some of his youthful feelings, much as the two of you are doing. You agree that is possible, but say that your friend has always disliked sitting at the bar-- that he preferred to get a table.

15. As you watch them, the couple at the bar grows more physically intimate. In time, they leave the bar, walking toward a hallway at the back of the club, with their arms around each other. You cannot see the man clearly.

16. After half an hour, you wonder if they have left. Your spouse reminds you that the club has private rooms which can be rented for the evening, and that they have closed circuit TV of the stage, couches and tables for seating groups.

17. As your concern grows, your spouse tells that the woman once worked for an escort service; the man might be a client. You did not know this, you reply. Your friend told you only that the woman "had a past" but said she had been born-again and would never consider doing anything that he would object to again.

18. After nearly half an hour, you see the man return. He moves quietly along the perimeter, regaining his his seat at the end of the bar. His hat is pulled down over his eyes so you cannot see his face clearly.

19. Ten minutes later, the woman returns, smoothing her clothing and touching her hair. When she rejoins the man, she embraces him and gives him a long, aggressive kiss on the mouth. He kisses her back, running his hands over her hair, back, and buttocks.

20. You and your spouse are so disconcerted by this scene that you leave the club. On the way home, you say that your friend has always been extraordinarily uncomfortable with public displays of affection. Your spouse agrees, saying that it is not possible that the man at the bar could have been your friend.

Based on what you have read in the preceding 20 paragraphs, read one of the following four statements and select the one that most accurately represents those facts that you know to be true.

1. You have seen the fiance of your close friend be physically intimate at the bar with a man, and (in all probability) have some form of sex with him in the back of the club.

Since you and your spouse know your friend's character intimately and you agree that he would never have behaved in the way the man at the bar did, is impossible that the man could be your friend, Therefore the woman has been unfaithful to him to some extent and has most probably committed adultery.

2. You have seen the fiance of your close friend be physically intimate at the bar with a man, and (in all probability) have some form of sex with him in the back of the club. Based on everything you know about his character, you cannot believe that your friend could have been the man at the bar.

It is more likely that the woman is being unfaithful, but you know she once worked as an escort and you know she has expressed financial concerns. While this distinction would not make her conduct more acceptable to your friend, but in fairness to her, she might be seeing the man simply to earn money.

3. You and your spouse identified a woman who is, to the best of your knowledge, engaged to a close friend. She kissed and hugged an unknown man at the bar; you saw the woman and man leave the bar together and head toward the back of the club.

The man and woman returned after an extended absence, at different times. Their behavior suggested they had been sexually intimate during their absence. You were unable to identify the man, but since his behavior would be out of character for your friend, you believe he was not your friend. You cannot be certain what happened in the back room or why it did, but yu belive she has behaved in a way that a prospective groom with strong religious beliefs would object to.

4. You have seen a woman you believe to be the fiance of your close friend be physically intimate at the bar with a man. Based on the events that transpired afterward, you believe they went to the back of the club and had some form of sex.

You were unable to positively identify the man, but your knowledge of your friend's character makes it extremely improbable that he would have behaved the way the man at the bar did. It seems much more likely that the women is either being unfaithful or resuming her former career as a paid escort. You cannot, however, be sure which of the two possibilities is more likely to have occurred.

They might seem similar, but these are four different statements. Since this isn't Cosmopolitan, they're arranged in no particular order. Stare at them closely and make a decision. You have the luxury-- which I didn't have-- of rereading the account of events again. I'll put up a link to a page with the correct answer in a day or so.

4:10 PM

Tuesday, March 09, 2004  
Men at Work

I'm going to have some more time on my hands over the next few months, which means that I get time to add other features I've been thinking about. There will be links (maybe something more elaborate) and other tricks. It's all complicated by a need for deniability, but I'll figure it all out. I hope. If someone sees something grotesque, let me know.

Aside from the slight redesign, I've also discovered that I can generate an RSS feed from within Blogger. It can be found here.

11:30 PM

Holy Joe Lieberman Strikes Again

I despise "Holy Joe" Lieberman. I find him as contemptable as Tom DeLay and Ralph Nader, for precisely the same reason-- the smug, sanctimonious, idiotic nonsense that he spews at every opportunity.

Even Zell Miller, whose views are more noxious, at least has the courtesy to acknowledge that his views are only his opinions. Miller can't stand his opponents, but he can at least admit they (a) represent the views of many people and (b) many of those people are as sincere and well-intentioned as he is.

For Holy Joe, there is himself and his opinions-- and then somewhere far beneath him lies everyone else.

This speech is nothing more than an in-kind contribution to W. It's a tool to take away some of the best wedge issues the Democrats have. It argues, as Holy Joe always does, that anyone who disagrees is evil-- that they are damaging the country by holding a different opinion. I don't know anyone who has taken more of these shots at the party over the years-- and because they come from inside the party, they're always ten times harder to beat back.

If I lived in Connecticut, I would spend a substantial percentage of my time finding a Republican to challenge him. Views wouldn't be important-- liberal or conservative I'd be working against the winner six years later. All that would matter is that he be able to raise money, run effectively and help me blow this worthless sack of shit back to obscurity that he so richly deserves.

1:57 AM

How to Beat Nader

I'm not as worried about Ralph Nader's numbers as Josh Marshall is. In an early poll, a 'name' candidate always gets numbers-- remember the polls showing that "Holy Joe" Lieberman had 10%, and where he ended up?

The poll spoke to 1,202 voters, which means about 35 people said they liked Nader. I guarantee you that half of them didn't remember that Nader ran in 2000, or what impact he had on the race when they answered. (I am not making that up.) Trust me, they'll get reminded and they will remember.

Others won't be able to vote for Nader, because he won't make the ballot. Still others didn't vote for Nader last time-- they voted for the nominee of the Green Party because they were seriously commtted to a liberal alternative party.

Bottom line-- he got 2.7% last time and I'd be stunned if he gets 1% this time.

That said, I see no reason to leave any votes unturned. And I'm pissed enough about the 2000 election to want to crater him-- to embarass and humiliate him, reducing him to a puddle of impotent fury.

And it's easy to do. Nader is a sophistic, meglomaniacal prig. I've run into candidates like him before. They're not just convinced that they're superior to the opponent-- they think they're better and smarter than all the voters. Theyir contempt for the electoral process-- their anger at having to agree to be judged by people they believe to be completely beneath them-- is barely concealed. It takes virtually no effort-- just a little baiting-- to bring that rage boiling to the surface. All the Kerry campaign has to do is make the following speeches:

1. In the wake of 9/11, we needs leaders who have experience in foreign policy, and have thought carefully about the ussues facing us. We've seen the cost of having an inexperienced, ignorant governor running thr country. Ralph Nader, who has never worked in foreign policy and knows nothing about the subject, would be even less suitable than Bush.

2. After 10 years of the Contract With America-- a decade of ultra-right fanatics-- we need a president who can work with Congress to reverse those noxious policies. Ralph Nader, who foolishly believes that there is no difference between the parties, would be unable to work with anyone to build coalitions.

3. During his 40 years as a millionare Washington Lobbyist (he is, you know), Ralph Nader has opposed almost every important piece of social legislation passed (Insert the list). Had Nader been President, his own statements show he would have vetoed these bills, leavung the people of this country with no protection whatsoever. Can he now name even one bill in the last 40 years where he now feels that his opposition was a mistake?

4. Ralph Nader has never been married. He has no children. He does not attend church. He has, he admits, no hobbies or pastimes and knows nothing about popular culture. He is a millionaire. How can he say that he has any understanding of what the people of this country want or need if he shares none of their experiences or values?

I'm not, by the way, suggesting that Kerry do all the heavy lifting. His role is to put out the general theme-- say that it's important to have a President who has thought long and hard about security for the decades-- in an attack on W. You let the surrogates point out that Nader has even less experience than W, who has at least been concerned about how best to exploit 9/11 for the last few years..

I could go on, but this is more than enough. Belittle a candidate who sincerely believes that he is better than everyone and he'll explode in a volcanic, self-righteous rage, spewing clouds of arrogance at everyone. Just one of those meltdowns--just ten seconds of 'unpresidential' behavior is enough to fry a candidate-- just ask Howard Dean.

1:37 AM

Monday, March 08, 2004  
Return of the Son of Wesley Clark

Help!John Fund is on crack, and desperately in need of an intervention. Granted he works for the Wingnut Daily News, and couldnt's care less about the Democratic ticket,. But let me put this on the record anyway.

Two words for anyone who thinks Tom Brokaw would be anything but an anchor around John Kerry's neck: Wesley Clark. What happened to him happens to every amateur who tries to play at this level.

People like to compare a first-time candidate running for president as "using a rookie to pitch Game 7 of the World Series." Actually, it's more like "using someone who can throw a strike 95 MPH but has never actually pitched to a batter in a pro game."

I wish I could respond to this stuff as calmly as James Joyner is able to.

11:34 PM

Sunday, March 07, 2004  
From Martha's Cell

I'm speculating, obviously, but I've had clients like Martha Stewart before. This assessment of how poorly her defense was conducted is correct. But its conclusion is totally wrong, because it mistakenly (stupidly, really) assumes her lawyers had control of her defense.

They didn't. Martha Stewart controlled it. Lawyers never admit this-- their egos don't want it to be known-- but they're no difference than PR guys, accountants, stockbrokers and political handlers. We're all consultants; we're hired to give people advice on how to solve a problem.

If your client doesn't take your advice-- if they tell you to do something and say "Do it or else" when you argue, you have three choices:

1. Quit them so you don't go down with the ship and take a hit because everyone thinks you abandoned your client.

2. Ignore them and hope they don't fire you (not really an option, since Stewart is legendary for firing people).

3. Do what they say and hope you get a break somewhere down the line.

Let's look at the three gambles the story says the lawyers took:

1. They didn't negotiate a plea bargain. The client adamantly insists she did nothing wrong. Not only did she not commit a crime, she didn't even do anything unethical. In fact, at one point, she said she didn't even know her stock had been sold. She is totally and completely innocent.

We know the prosecution had (a) the testimony of one eyewitness who says she got insider info, (b) a mountain of circumstantial evidence to support this belief, (c) no documents to support Stewart's defense (which should exist), (d) an account from one person who saw her falsify evidence, (e) inconsistencies in her testimony to investigators.

This leaves us with two possibilities-- that Stewart's lawyers (as the story suggests) are stupid or overconfident, or that she absolutely refused to consider any deal that admitted any wrongdoing.

2. They didn't let her testify. of course they didn't. The first commandment of making an argument-- to an audience, to the media, to an arbitrator or in a courtroom is Never present evidence that you know can be proven wrong.

Any error, no matter how small, lets the opponent suggest that your whole argument is filled with errors. It gives the people you're trying to convince reason to wonder if maybe there are other errors.

Now let's consider the facts. Stewart spoke to investigators several times; changing some of the details of her story during interviews. At the very least, there is a risk she will change her story again on the stand.

The government can bring up every change and ask her to explain why she changed.

Douglas Faneuil (the broker's assistant) has given a completely different version of events. The government can ask her to explain every variation between his story and hers.

Her assistant has said Stewart told her to alter phone logs to support her contention-- and then told her to change it back. The government can ask her to explain why she did that.

Finally, she is known to have a temper and to use foul language and the risk of an attorney getting her to re-enact the courtroom scene in A FEW GOOD MEN certainly exists.

(And there's always the possibility that the attorneys tried rehearsing her-- tried to bait her-- and she blew her stack.)

There's no way you call a witness like that. I know a defendant who refuses to testify always looks suspicious. But some defendants remove any doubt in the jury's mind when they testify.

3. They didn't offer a defense. I know it looks bad to only call one witness, but when the prosecutor calls everyone you were planning to call, what else can you do?

The only other person Stewart might have called was her broker, Peter Bacanovic. And since he was a defendant too, he doesn't have to testify.

They could have split the trial, but then one of two bad things happens. If Stewart's trial comes first, the broker can plead the fifth if he's called (because his case is still pending). And Stewart's team can't beat him up too badly, because if he thinks they're damaging his chances, he can just give her up (with or without getting a deal).

It's no better if her trial goes after his ends. Because then he can't be tried again, so he has no fifth amendment protection and he has to answer the questions and he might decide to give her up.

No, the lawyers did what they could. They had a bad client. I know-- it's always the first thing PR guys say to a client who's been charged with a crime-- that she had to have been told not to speak publicly about the case ("on the advice of my attorneys, etc..."). She did it anyway-- even did a web site.

Clients like Martha Stewart are the reason consultants charge such high fees. One of our services is being the scapegoat when bad things happen to clients who ignore our advice.

4:34 PM

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