|Man Without Qualities|
Friday, October 10, 2003
Why are Americans so fat? The New York Times runs an article with a surprisingly frank conclusion: PEOPLE ARE TOO FAT BECAUSE FOOD IS TOO CHEAP.
Or, as the Times puts it:
You hear several explanations. Big food companies are pushing supersize portions of unhealthful foods on us and our children. We have devolved into a torpid nation of couch potatoes. The family dinner has succumbed to the fast-food outlet. All these explanations are true, as far as they go. But it pays to go a little further, to look for the cause behind the causes. Which, very simply, is this: when food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it and get fat.
The Times article - of which I am more than a little bit skeptical, for what that's worth - goes on to compare food today with alcohol in the early 1800's, when, apparently, Americans were as much regular topers as they are regular fatties today. The implication seems to be that by cranking up the price and taxes on alcoholic beverages, America brought the problem under the degree of control we now have.
But Congress and the society as a whole keeps pushing cheaper food. The result of such cheap food? The Times says:
Three of every five Americans are now overweight, and some researchers predict that today's children will be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents.
"Anger" and "hate" are not the equivalents or near equivalents of "incivility." But Paul Krugman says they are, at least when its his anger and hate and the incivility of others, or, in his words:
It's the season of the angry liberal. ... (Yes, I've got one [of those angry liberal books] out there, too.) But conservatives are distressed because those liberals are so angry and rude. O.K., they admit, they themselves were a bit rude during the Clinton years — that seven-year, $70 million investigation of a tiny money-losing land deal, all that fuss about the president's private life — but they're sorry, and now it's time for everyone to be civil.
Why does this paragraph start with "anger" and end with "civility?"
As Don Luskin has already pointed out - Herr Doktorprofessor's column is largely a putative answer to a column by his Times Op-Ed colleague, David Brooks, who never used the words "civil" or "rude" - and didn't complain about anyone's "incivility" or "rudeness." Mr. Brooks wrote about liberal "anger" and "hate," and elliptically accused Herr Doktorprofessor of being consumed with "anger" and "hate."
And Mr. Brooks is right. I have previously noted the descent of Herr Doktorprofessor's writing from mere "shrillness" (previously almost a consensus term to describe his style, and at least close to "rude") to outright "hate" and "anger," as with his earlier column hurling coded charges of anti-semitism at the Administration and the President, a column that I summarized this way:
I, Paul Krugman, am so filled with hate that I propose seriously and publicly - but in the same deniable code used by loathsome anti-Semites all over the world - that the Bush Administration lied to and under funded New Yorkers following 9-11 because the Administration is influenced by anti-Semites who just hate big-city folk so much that they like lying to them so those hated big-city folk can't protect their health and are cheated out of their appropriate compensation.
Such efforts by Herr Doktoprofessor are not just "rude" or "uncivil" or "shrill" - they are angry and hateful. And his writing - as with his coded and unsupported smear of anti-Semitism above - is increasingly and ever more consistently angry and hateful.
I have pointed out previously that I do not consider Paul Krugman's "shrillness" to be inappropriate for a partisan such as he is- and, frankly, I see no indication that David Brooks or people like him care much about Herr Doktorprofessor's "rudeness" or "incivility" or "shrillness," either. Mentioning that Herr Doktorprofessor is unaware of - or at least will not admit to- his "rudeness" or "incivility" or "shrillness" is good for a (rather mean) laugh at his expense, since his lack of awareness indicates his utter lack of self-insight.
What does concern Mr. Brooks about the quintessential new warrior in the culture wars, such as Herr Doktorprofessor? Let Mr. Brooks speak for himself:
The quintessential new warrior scans the Web for confirmation of the president's villainy. He avoids facts that might complicate his hatred. He doesn't weigh the sins of his friends against the sins of his enemies. But about the president he will believe anything.
Mr. Brooks is writing about Paul Krugman here. And Mr. Brooks is definitely not writing about "rudeness" or "incivility" or "shrillness."
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Steve Wynn carries on extensively about the recent tiger attack on Roy Horn in an interview with a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas:
Casino mogul Steve Wynn is one of the people who know Siegfried and Roy best. He is one of the duos closest of friends and hired the illusionists when he built The Mirage in 1990. He even built a special theater just for their show.
Wynn gave an exclusive interview to Eyewitness News Anchor, Gary Waddell on Wednesday. He says that, "What happened Friday night was a fluke, something that never should have occurred. And something that no one could have foreseen."
Except that Wynn was not even in Las Vegas when the incident occurred. And he is no longer involved with the management or operations or any other aspects of the Mirage Hotel and Casino - a property now entirely owned, controlled and managed by MGM Mirage, Inc., a public company controlled by Kirk Kerkorian.
So why is Steve Wynn blathering on about this incident? Why does the CBS affiliate listen to him about it at all? And why does its article not even mention that Mr. Wynn no longer has anything to do with the Mirage, a casino which - as the article does misleadingly point out - he had built, but which he lost in 2000 when he lost his entire company in a semi-hostile takeover.
There is not even a note as to whether MGM Mirage, Inc. agrees with - or is even aware of - a word of these second hand tales offered by Mr. Wynn - a known fabulist who lost the company that built the Mirage after he lost all credibility with Wall Street.
UPDATE: MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman cautioned that the full story probably won't be known until Horn can talk.
A theme has begun to circulate in some quarters that the big Republican/Schwarzenegger win is not really a big Republican/Schwarzenegger win at all - but, rather, a sign of a more general anti-incumbent fever that will hurt, say, President Bush, if it persists. This theme takes various forms, some more disguised than others, but all leading to the same conclusions. For example, here is a somewhat tricked-upped example from the Los Angeles Times:
[M]any Democrats, as well as some independent analysts, believe the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis may weaken the president's position in the state by allowing anger over the faltering California economy to shift from Davis to Bush.
"If the economy doesn't turn around and our federal and state deficit continue to show signs of not coming under control, that kind of voter anger is going to be transferred from one place to the next," says Mark Baldassare, a public opinion analyst at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
Setting aside for the moment the whole concept of metempsychosis of voter anger on which this particular example bottoms itself, one might well ask: Assuming the "anti-incumbency" theme is correct, who is most at risk?
The "many Democrats, as well as some independent analysts" focus on President Bush. But California voters don't have to go so far as Washington to transfer their anger "from one place to the next."
Instead (or, in addition), the voters can transfer their anger to the overwhelmingly Democratic and hopelessly irresponsible California legislature - which is just down the hall from the Governor's office they just repopulated. The legislature is up for re-election next year - and the whole state budget fight has to be refought then, too.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
The Man Without Qualities has previously noted the government's transparently weak case against Martha Stewart. That opinion has not changed. Now the federal judge presiding in a related civil case seems to agree, as the Financial Times reports:
Judge John Sprizzo took a dim view of the government's case against Ms Stewart during a pre-trial hearing last week for a related investor lawsuit that he is overseeing.
In frank terms, Judge Sprizzo told lawyers at the hearing that he believed the government's case fell short of other obstruction of justice cases he had seen in court, including one against one of New York's most notorious mafia bosses.
"I have read this indictment," Judge Sprizzo said, according to the transcript. "I will tell you something, in my experience as a prosecutor for five years . . . [I] have seen a lot more serious obstruction cases. This is not the strongest obstruction case I have seen... This is not John Gotti."
Is that "in frank terms?" Actually, from the evidence I've seen so far, Judge Sprizzo is putting things rather mildly.
"Gray Davis" is not his real name. Incredibly, it is a nick name he adopted. His real name is Joseph Graham Davis, as this Los Angeles Times article reflects. And there are other portions of this Times survey of Governor Davis' career that should occassion a good deal of pause - if not actual dread - in Democrats possibly facing a Wesley Clark candidacy in their party:
Gov. Gray Davis ... ends nearly 30 years in appointed and elected office without having forged more than a handful of close allies. In an occupation filled with ambitious men and women, Davis was among the most driven politicians .... Davis isolated himself from those who sent him to Sacramento. ...
The Times is suggesting here that disaster is more likely to come to a man who is driven but prone to isolate himself from those who put him where he is. Interestingly, Wesley Clark is famously driven, and coverage of Donnie Fowler, Wesley Clark's angrily resigned campaign chief, included this:
Donnie Fowler, 35, told associates he was leaving over concerns that supporters who used the Internet to draft Clark into the race are not being taken seriously by top campaign officials. .... Fowler has complained that while the Internet-based draft-Clark supporters have been integrated into the campaign, their views are not taken seriously by senior advisers, many of them with deep Washington ties. He has warned Clark's team that the campaign is being driven from Washington....
We are told by General Clark's supporters that his military background is an advantage for his presidential run. The Times survey of Governor Davis' career life notes:
Davis rarely made a campaign stop without recalling his service in Vietnam. Many of his campaign ads featured a photo of a young Davis in his captain's uniform. But he long ago lost contact with Army buddies.
General Clark is said to be a fast learner - and he certainly hasn't taken years to lose contact with his military buddies. It happened right away - even while he was still in the military:
To say Clark was unpopular among his fellow officers in the military is an understatement. As he rapidly rose through the ranks, he was widely regarded as a champion brown-noser and know-it-all, a sort of Eddie Haskell in Army green. In conversation with friends, Colin Powell would privately put down General Clark as "Lieutenant Colonel Clark" i.e., a perpetual eager-beaver wanna-be. Some officers questioned his judgment. Talking to a high-ranking Clinton administration official, Gen. Hugh Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who engineered Clark's firing, bluntly referred to Clark as a "nut."... None of Clark's former comrades in arms showed up last week for his hastily scheduled announcement in Little Rock. Why not? Most soldiers are Republicans, said Clark, who rambled on about how the military profession shouldn't belong to one party, but the absence of old soldiers in the crowd said more about ties of friendship (or the lack of them) than party affiliation.
The Times reports:
Davis subordinated personal relationships to political advantage. ... But he squabbled with the most influential lawmaker, Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco), and alienated Democrats in other statewide posts, including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who sought to replace him in the recall contest .... On a personal level, he offended Democrats and Republicans by overlooking common courtesies; showing up late for meetings, not returning phone calls. ....
Davis didn't build personal relationships, unlike many effective politicians who set aside differences and find common ground by talking about family or movies or baseball."I never felt like I got to know him," said Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga, the GOP's lead negotiator on most bipartisan deals during Davis' tenure.
Mr. Davis antagonized John Burton - a man on whom he had to rely - and otherwise failed to establish friendships and cultivate personal relationships, and General Clark could hardly have annoyed the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff more than he did: "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."
The Times notes: Davis made sure he was in sync with the vast majority of California voters on the issues of the day. ... He was Robo-Governor, knowing the mechanics of government but failing to give people a sense that he cared passionately about any issue. Some people who know him say similar things about General Clark:
[One] general told the Washington Post "There are an awful lot of people who believe Wes will tell anybody what they want to hear and tell somebody the exact opposite five minutes later." Sounds like another Arkansas politician we know--but can Mr. Clark do it as well as Bill Clinton?
The Times draws its own connections from Gray Davis to Bill Clinton: Davis' name would be floated as a potential presidential candidate, his centrist politics ? though not his personality ? likened to those of ... former President Clinton.
In sum, Wesley Clark seems to be manipulative, inconsistent (Iraq resolution, yes or no?), personally isolated, almost friendless where others make friends in droves, prone to anger and to alienate those whose good graces he urgently needs. In these many respects Wesley Clark is like Gray Davis.
California just ejected Gray Davis - but many pundits say the state is so "solidly Democratic" that no Republican could carry it in 2004. Maybe. But a lot of those pundits seem to look to the results of the 2000 election for support for such a conclusion. That's just silly. In 2000 Califonia had been booming for years - and booming much more than any other state. Of course California voters credited the Clinton/Gore administrations for at least some of that. As the Los Angeles Times quotes one Californian as saying about the 2000 election:"The weather is good and everybody has got a job."
Today, Califonia's state budget deficit is greater than those of every other state combined - and that is by no means the only indication that this state is faring much worse than the country as a whole. The casting out of Gray Davis - notwithstanding his efforts and the efforts of the liberal media and Democratic Party to argue that California's problems are made in Washington - seriously suggests that many in California understand - or could be taught to understand - that California's problems are mostly made by the Democratic Party.
This state doesn't seem like a "Democratic lock" in 2004 to me - especially if Wesley Clark is the Democratic nominee.
That the Times itself is still in deep denial is evident in its articles like this one, which present voters as swept up in an irrational frenzy of misdirected "retribution" - articles that simply refuse to accept that the voters instead rejected Gray Davis' policies and procedures: For millions of Californians who stomped to the polls Tuesday, the idea was change. And nothing — not political inexperience, not vague answers to issues, not a spate of sexual misconduct allegations — seemed to matter.
Sure. That's right. Once the voters calm down, take their Prozac, spend some time in their hot tubs and get a good nght's sleep, everything will be fine with them - and Democrats will be elected again. Don't worry about those legislative elections in 2004. Or Barbara Boxer's Senate seat. No, no. Nothing to worry about there. Just close your eyes and sleep ... sleep ... sleep.
And, by the way, will the Times and other liberal media be writing so much about the horrors of political inexperience if Wesley Clark is nominated? As John Fund put it: Mr. Clark has never even run for student council ... No doubt by that time. Mr. Clark will be something like a refreshing outsider and brilliant political neophyte - like John Edwards once was ... before he was over ... before almost anyone noticed him in the first place.
Several ... retired officers, while crediting Clark for tremendous intellect and determination, also raise questions about trustworthiness and whether his personal ambition and drive to succeed caused him to overstep his bounds and go outside the established chain of command.
Retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, a former Army chief of staff, describes Clark as an intelligent, ``hardworking, ambitious individual who really applies himself hard.''
But, Reimer said, "Some of us were concerned about the fact that he was focused too much upward and not down on the soldiers. I've always believed you ought to be looking down toward your soldiers and not up at how to please your boss. ... I just didn't see enough of that in Wes.''
Clark, for his part, acknowledges he had conflicts with former Defense Secretary William Cohen and some top Pentagon officials. ...
Ret. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, the U.S. commander in Bosnia at that time, says Clark was so focused on succeeding that "he would maybe not be cognizant of some of the feelings or concerns of some of the people around him.'' ...
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros recalls ... Clark "just outright lied'' when confronted, and denied to Cisneros ... "I worry about his ethical standards regarding honesty and forthrightness,'' Cisneros said. ...
Clark campaign spokesman Matt Bennett said no one, particularly a high achiever such as Clark, can go through a 34-year career without ruffling some feathers or bruising egos. Further, the campaign pointed to a number of former generals who speak well of Clark.
Davis Descending LXIII: Postscript On The Los Angeles Times(0) comments
Is Los Angeles Times reporting generally tendentious and biased in favor of liberal and Democratic people and positions?
Of course it is. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a child. And the Times readership has received plenty of notice and information as to its bias.
Does the Los Angeles Times often reveal its tendentiousness and bias by running articles that place conservatives and Republicans in a bad light while not running similar or analogous articles about liberals and Democratics - or even doing the research and investigation that would permit the paper to run such articles?
Of course it does. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a naif. And the Times readership has plenty of notice and information as to this manifestation of its bias.
Does the Los Angeles Times generally preposterously deny that that its reporting is generally tendentious and biased in favor of liberals and Democratic positions?
Of course it does. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't read the Times. Almost nobody believes such denials - and nobody should believe them. People read the paper because its bias is also the reader's bias, or the reader is willing to tolerate the bias. The Times has no obligation to confess.
Is any of the above material to the question of whether the Los Angeles Times should have run its original controversial Arnold-and-the-six-women article last Thursday?
Of course not. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't understand the market place of ideas and the dynamics of free expression.
Some people, such as Jill Stewart, have complained that the Times did not investigate Gray Davis the way it did Arnold Schwarzenegger - especially because Ms. Stewart herself had previously discovered and reported on many appalling and newsworthy aspects of Mr. Davis' personality and sometimes violent behavior.
But that's not a valid criticism of the Los Angeles Times in this case.
The original Arnold-and-the-six-women story was newsworthy and did leave the electorate better informed and not particulary distracted or tricked (the Times behavior in the aftermath of that Thursday article may be another story).
If nasty stories should have been run about Mr. Davis, then failure to run such stories is the basis of valid criticisms of the conservative (or, at least, less tendentious) and Republican-leaning media. For example, why did the Orange County Register, the San Diego Union-Tribune and even the Wall Street Journal and Fox News all fail to follow up on Ms. Stewart's reporting?
One doesn't meet or discredit a report in the market place of ideas by arguing that the reporter should have also reported something else - something hostile to the reporter's own beliefs and inclinations - unless that "something else" is needed to make the original report not materially misleading. But reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped women would not be clarified or made less misleading by inclusion of reports that Gray Davis throws ashtrays and physically shakes female staff members.
That Gray Davis throws ashtrays and shakes women staff and the like are facts relevant to reaching a political conclusion: Who should the voter support? Demanding that an obviously liberal/Democratic biased media outlet like the Times report facts that disfavor its bias requires a rejection of basic principles of the free market place of ideas: media really are entitled to write and report just what they want. Further, the Times readership has plenty of notice and information as to its biases - and if those readers want complete information they should read other papers, too.
The proper way one meets or discredits a report in the market place of ideas is by actually reporting that "something else." So which media outlets - if any - had the responsibility to run reports that Gray Davis throws ashtrays and physically shakes female staff members?
If there is a breach of trust in this case between a media outlet and its readers for failure to report on Gray Davis, that breach has been committed by the conservative, less tendentious and Republican-leaning media. It is those media who have led their readership to think that such media will investigate and report such matters when liberals and Democrats are involved.
Davis Descending LXII: The Madness Of Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe
Recall Gray Davis?
Cruz M. Bustamante..........................................2,395,237..........32.1%
Total Vote For Republicans:.........................................................61.4%
The Los Angeles Times reports that a quarter of liberals and at least 3 in 10 moderate Democrats voted "yes" on the recall. ... Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante ... garnered slightly less than 60% of the Latino vote. .... People who made up their minds about the election in the last few days — when the campaign was dominated by allegations of sexual impropriety by Schwarzenegger — voted mainly for the recall.
The Wall Street Journalexit poll results are in some respects even more telling:
Black voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Bustamante, giving him 65% of the black vote, compared with 17% for Mr. Schwarzenegger. Hispanic voters were slightly less supportive of Mr. Bustamante; 52% of Hispanics voted for him, while 30% voted for Mr. Schwarzenegger.
While 17% African-American support won't by itself get anyone elected, that level of support from such voters for a Republican should be alarming to Democrats - who normally bank on African Americans favoring Democrats by a much wider margin. Worse for Democrats: that Mr. Bustamante - the only Democrat in the field - received only 65% of the African American vote should be seen as a major Democratic disaster. That "overwhelmingly" the Journal uses is highly misleading - Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore counted on receiving more than 90% of the African American vote. For example, if a Republican presidential candidate were to carry 17% of the African American vote - or a Democrat were to carry as little as 65% of that vote - the consequence would almost certainly be a huge Republican win.
Response of Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe to recall election results:
"George Bush and [strategist] Karl Rove have got to wish this thing never happened."
Which I suppose means that Mr. McAuliffe is happy, grateful and thankful that this "thing" has happened? Has anyone asked him that question?
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Davis Descending LXI: The Dying Fall(0) comments
DRUDGE reports that exit polls show the recall passing by 59% , with 51% backing Arnold Schwarzenegger, a meager 30% for Cruz Bustamante and 13% for Tom McClintock.
Which means that sixty four percent of voters chose a Republican.
That alone should concentrate the minds of state and national Democrats (although - also according to DRUDGE - this most recent Democratic disaster apparently has had the opposite affect on Terry McAuliffe - much like the prior disaster of 2002).
But the most disturbing thing for the Democrats should be something that is only indirectly reflected in these numbers: The same polls that predicted this actual election result pretty well also predicted that if Mr. Schwarzenegger had left the race, McClintock would have become governor with 56% of the vote. That strongly indicates that Mr. Schwarzenegger's success is not just a matter of personality and moderate v. more conservative policies.
I would say to look for Mr. McClintock to make a good run at Barbara Boxer in her next Senate election.
As for Cruz Bustamante, pehaps this is the end of his political career - although he remains the second executive of the state and may act as governor whenever the real governor is not on California soil. Mr. Schwarzenegger had better keep that in mind in his coming duels with the Democratic legislature.
Davis Descending LX: Sign Here
For the several days media coverage of the California recall campaign has been dominated to excess by considerations related to the sexual groping charges against Arnold Schwarzenegger (the Nazi allegations having perished in the fetal stage). Very little time will tell, but I continue to consider these revelations to be of at most modest significance. Yes, the polls have tightened somewhat in the last few days - but that is completely normal for California referendums in the last days before an election, and this recall election has a lot in common with referendums. There has been no substantial published evidence that such tightening is mostly attributable to the groping allegations.
On the other hand, Gray Davis' recent signing of many bills that he otherwise would have almost certainly vetoed I see as having a substantial effect that has not been the subject of much analysis.
Despite media efforts to cast this election as a circus, what is at stake is very mundane and essential: First and foremost, is Gray Davis an acceptable governor?
Well, a man who will sign legislation only because his job is threatened - even though he believes those bills are bad for the state and its people - is not an acceptable governor. For example, consider this Los Angeles Times item:
...Gov. Gray Davis' signing of a bill that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses didn't do much to save his political skin. He ... had [previously] twice vetoed [it] ... According to the most recent Times poll, Latinos are much more likely to support the new driver's license law than are their non-Latino counterparts. ... 32% of likely Latino voters said they would be more likely [to vote for Davis because he signed the bill], 27% said they'd be less likely and 37% said it made no difference.
Why would a Latino voter be less likely to vote for Mr. Davis because he signed a bill that the voter thinks is a good idea? One likely reason is that such Latino voters are disturbed by the thought of retaining a governor who signs bills he thinks are bad enough to have vetoed twice just because his job is threatened.
Mr. Davis has engaged in a great deal of this kind of activity. He has has made more than 260 appointments to judgeships and state commissions since the California recall election was announced 10 weeks ago. Mr. Davis has signed bills expanding gay partnership rights and the employer-paid health mandates. The health insurance bill will almost certainly have serious negative effects on the state's overall economy and employment. So what? - he seems to say - if it helps me keep my job. But as the reaction to the driver's license bill shows, these actions may not help Mr. Davis keep his job at all - quite the contrary.
Such behavior of Mr. Davis - not allegations of his opponent's old breast gropes - is the most important late development in this campaign. And I believe it is having a profound effect.
And the California Democratic Party is determined to see if that effect exists and just how much it can be intensified:
Because many of the appointments require confirmation by the Democratic-controlled State Senate, which is not in session, a move is afoot to call a special session. .... The rush to fill the state posts reflects of a broader political reality that has permeated Democratic circles for months. ... A team of Mr. Davis's lawyers has gone so far as to research state law to determine that should he lose the recall, Mr. Davis can still sign bills until a new governor is sworn in, which could take several weeks if the vote tally is disputed. .... A state official with knowledge of the situation said the governor's office recently put in an order to the state archives for storage boxes, along with a list of approved vendors for shredding documents. .... At the same time, Democratic legislators have been imploring Mr. Davis to sign bills...
Is that the kind of governor voters want? Is that the kind of legislature voters want? The polls suggest that Latinos (by far the most misunderstood minority in this country) are not reacting well to such manipulations. The election itself will tell a bigger story.
My guess is that the story is just beginning.