Man Without Qualities

Monday, May 31, 2004

Dream Team

Some people suggest that John Kerry would love to have John McCain as his vice presidential running mate. Such people have a CBS poll indicating that a Kerry/McCain ticket is a winner. Senator Hillary Clinton recently said that she could support Senator John McCain as the Democrats' vice presidential partner for John Kerry.

It's curious that Senator Clinton's statement has not (to my knowledge) been analyzed together with a still-obvious truth: Hillary Clinton almost certainly does not want John Kerry to be elected in November because his election would sour her own presidential ambitions. She therefore likely believes a Kerry/McCain ticket would further the result she desires: a Democratic loss in November. And in my view Senator Clinton would be right in holding such a belief.

Unlike Senator Clinton, those who naively pine for John McCain to run as vice president with John Kerry cannot have spent much time considering how poorly Senator McCain's personality meets the requirements of a vice presidential nominee. The first requirements of a vice presidential nominee are to remain quiet when told to, and to subordinate all previously held and expressed beliefs to the needs of the presidential nominee. Does that sound like John McCain? The obligations of a vice presidential nominee in the area of self-abnegation go far beyond being a mere "team player" - and John McCain has shown no inclination or ability to be a team player since he assumed federal office.

Perhaps the naive McCain-for-VP supporters should cast their minds back to consider the fate and agonies of poor old Joe Lieberman. He surrendered many of the most important issues that had defined him politically and personally for most of his career, and essentially lost his personal credibility and most of his dignity in the process. He even lost some of his religious orientation. All to serve the needs of the feckless, bloated Al Gore. Sad.

Arch-narcissistic John McCain simply would not and could not submit to anything like what Joe Lieberman endured without a peep. But he would have to. Indeed, the political and issues gap between Senators McCain and Kerry is far wider in most areas than the gap between Senator Lieberman and Al Gore was. At least Al Gore had once been a nominal Democratic centrist! And when John McCain could endure no more, and had to speak his conscience and his ego to the world, sure disaster would follow for the Kerry campaign. It's almost bound to happen if he's nominated. Even John McCain seems to sense it.

And smart people, like Hillary Clinton, know it all for a fact. That silly CBS poll and various Democratic media McCainiacs give her cover for her bona fides in advancing his name. One's admiration for her grows.

But John Kerry seems not to have a clue. I hope he never catches on. I'm with Hillary on this one.
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America's Abu Ghraibs

Bob Herbert is mostly right on the facts in this column describing how the conditions described as prevalent in the Abu Graib prison are often reproduced in prisons right here at home:

Most Americans were shocked by the sadistic treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. But we shouldn't have been. Not only are inmates at prisons in the U.S. frequently subjected to similarly grotesque treatment, but Congress passed a law in 1996 to ensure that in most cases they were barred from receiving any financial compensation for the abuse.

We routinely treat prisoners in the United States like animals. We brutalize and degrade them, both men and women. And we have a lousy record when it comes to protecting well-behaved, weak and mentally ill prisoners from the predators surrounding them.

Very few Americans have raised their voices in opposition to our shameful prison policies. And I'm convinced that's primarily because the inmates are viewed as less than human.

The message brought by Mr. Herbert should be very disturbing to any Democrat who has been so foolish to believe that the Abu Graib doings will have a meaningful impact on the November elections. As I have noted in prior posts, such prisoner abuse scandals don't amount to much as election issues at either the state or federal levels - even though prison activists routinely bring these conditions to the media's attention (as Mr. Herbert is doing here) and even though the mistreated prisoners are Americans. And that remains the case even though there are sometimes "images" accompanying the reports of prisoner abuse in America. I note that the military has now banned cell phone cameras in Abu Graib, which should address some of the "images" issue in that quarter.

Actually, there is to my mind an even bigger issue with common thinking about American prisons than those raised by Mr. Herbert or the prison activists he cites: Prisons may actually increase the overall crime rate. And I don't mean that in the sense of "root cause" theory. I mean it seems entirely possible to me that sending people to prison actually and essentially immediately raises the crime rate quite a bit - but in a way of which the public silently approves.

For example, consider a man (call him "Spike") sent to prison for a serious felony such as armed robbery. Now, many armed robbers commit more than one such robbery. But it would take a very energetic robber indeed to commit an armed robbery once every day or so.

Suppose a new, young man is assigned to Spike's cell, and Spike imposes himself sexually on this new inmate ... in the manner the California Attorney General wished on Kenneth Lay, for example. Surely every act of sexual dominance will involve Spike in the commission of several serious felonies, beginning ... but by no means ending ... with homosexual rape. And Spike will likely commit such multiple felonies on a daily basis ... or near to it.

And the opportunities for daily commission of serious felonies in prison do not end with sex or crimes against a cellmate. Prisons have political structures among the prisoners. Those very structures are for the most part illegal "conspiracies." Prisoners are often involved in the bribing of guards, in the intimidation or robbery of other prisoners, in the obtaining and use of drugs ... and many other things. And many acts that are not crimes outside of prison are serious crimes when committed by prisoners inside of prison: fashioning a soda can or other metal object into a make-shift knife, for example. Threatening to report a prisoner's commission of a crime to the authorities unless the other prisoner pays up in some way or other is extortion .. another serious felony. And, of course, there is the fact that prison guards have wide latitude over prisoners' lives ... and if Mr. Herbert and his activists are right, those guards often and routinely commit quite a few crimes against prisoners.

Few crimes committed by prisoners or against prisoners are reported, especially crimes committed by prisoners or guards against other prisoners. And unreported crimes don't go into the crime statistics. It seems to me entirely possible that the recent reduction in overall crime we have experienced in this country would be much less striking - maybe nonexistent - if one were to include all crimes committed against prisoners by prisoners or guards. Crime in Los Angeles may go down because a repeat offender is taken off the streets, but crime in Soledad Prison may right away go up by more than enough to offset the decline in Los Angeles, especially if one includes crimes committed against the newly-incarcerated offender. Looking to the other side of the crime/punishment equation, many people have argued that prison has little of no deterrent efffect on future crime on the streets - it's said that the removal effect (that is, taking repeat criminals off the streets) of imprisonment that the biggest effect on "reducing" crime.

Incarcerating lots of criminals for long periods may reduce reported crime and crime on the streets, but it seems altogether possible that that reduction is more than off set by an increase in unreported crime in prisons.

To be clear: I am not arguing that I know or can prove that prisons increase the overall crime rate. But from what I have seen, including reports such as those cited by Mr. Herbert, it is entirely possible. And, of course, that would be just fine with most of the public if the inmates are viewed as less than human.
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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XLV: The National Security Plan

John Kerry just gave what his camp called a major national security speech that outlined his four "imperatives" for his new national security policy: 1) build & strengthen our international alliances, 2) "modernize" the military, 3) deploy "all resources" against terrorism (diplomatic, economic, etc), and 4) end dependence on foreign (Middle Eastern) oil. The solemn obfuscation in the Kerry text is so thick it could be cut with a bread knife. But let's have a sandwich:

(1) International Alliances. Senator Kerry exhibits no recognition of a basic economic fact: no European country not already actively cooperating with the US in Iraq is willing (or, in some cases, able) to spend what it takes to maintain a meaningful military. Not Germany, not France, not Russia. That means that if America agrees to the kind of "international cooperation" (that is, French and German approval) to major uses of our military, our "alliances" become a way for these European countries to have access to a first-class military force without having to pay for it: they just use ours. Isn't it nice when you don't have to buy an expensive tool because you have a rich neighbor who will always lend you his?

That free riding would be bad enough, but matters get a whole lot worse when one considers that these "allies" have big economic and political incentives to help themselves to more free rides by cooperating in times of "peace" with US antagonists (nuclear facilities in Iran and Saddam's Iraq, for example, oil contracts everywhere there is oil, the corrupt "Oil-for-Food" program, much else). Indeed, the continuing "relevancy" of France and much of Europe outside of Britain, as intentionally designed by European politicians, is to be had through both forms of such free riding. The Bush Administration called Europe's bluff - and they're mad at that. Bill Clinton went along, and we saw the total disintegration of Yugoslavia, the North Korean mess, the 9-11 disasters, reduced Israeli security, unchallenged spreading Islamic fundamentalism and the rest of the foreign policy mess that now has to be addressed.

The Democrats and Europeans want to obscure matters, but the big picture is not that hard to see: Cooperation with European "free ride" diplomacy and foreign policy will lead to ever greater disasters. But the Europeans are wedded by economic imperatives to those policies. That's not a problem that's going to go away by either cooperating with them (in which case, America pays their way towards more disasters) or not cooperating with them (in which case they continue to complain about American "unilateralism"). Put another way: America making itself a free-of-charge common carrier for European economic and military aspirations is not a viable American policy, and charging tolls is going to make the Europeans complain.

(2) Modernize The Military. There is no reason not to call this point a simple fraud on Senator Kerry's part. "Modernizing" the military in any meaningful way would require a bigger defense budget, especially because much of the military was allowed to age under the Clinton Administration. A President Kerry would not spend the money it would take to effect a meaningful "modernization." At best, "modernization" is being used here by Senator Kerry to mean "downsizing." Downsizing of the military is well within his capabilities.

(3) Deploy "All Resources" Against Terrorism. For example, Senator Kerry mentioned depriving terrorist organizations and their facilitators of the use of the American banking system. Obviously, terrorist organizations are not allowed to use American banks. If a President Kerry extended current policies much further than the policies already in place, he would immediately face questions as to whether the entire Iranian or Saudi Arabian governments, their state-owned and insider-owned companies are to be shut out of the American banking system (in each case, in the braod sense prohibiting acess to those who transact business with any of them, as do international oil companies who buy from Iran). Is that a "diplomatic" crisis? Even meaningful new disclosure requirements for users of the banking system would make US banks less competitive, and their European (and Asian) competitors would be more than happy to pick up the slack. (See point (1) above). More importantly, even draconian economic sanctions have very modest political effects (consider Cuba and Iraq, for example). And, since Senator Kerry's address exhibits his fundamental refusal to face the basic economic factors involved in the current national security situation, any economic efforts he might make would probably have even less positive effects and more negative effects than such efforts would have had if he at least agreed faced up to reality.

What about "diplomacy?" To the extent the US is not receiving diplomatic cooperation from its "allies," there are again the basic economic and political issues and incentives described under (1) above, which Senator Kerry simply ignores. Neither his whining nor ignoring them as he does in this address will not make those issues go away.

(4) End Dependence On Foreign Oil. Senator Kerry again ignores the basic economic reality: fossil fuels are by far the cheapest and most practical form of energy sufficient to service a modern economy - with current technology or any reasonably foreseeable technology. Nuclear power is the only meaningful complement. Could other forms of energy be exploited? Sure they could, if fossil fuel prices go and stay high enough - although high prices tend to lead to more fossil fuel supply as well as other supplies, which tends to bring energy prices down again. That's all good.

The US therefore faces a basic economic decision that Senator Kerry refuses to admit: spend money for national defense in the form of (A) military expenditures or (B) higher energy prices. A President Kerry will not end (or seriously reduce) US dependence on foreign energy supplies for exactly the same reason he would not increase the federal military budget: he and his political supporters want to use the money elsewhere than national security. In any event, achieving significantly increased energy independence would probably cost a lot more than the alternative modernizing of the miliary. But a modernized military can be used to address a wide range of national security threats, where reduced dependency on foreign energy only addresses one narrow range of such threats - a range that does not even include all significant security threats relating to the Middle east. Just by way of example, the United States would not be able to actively defend any ally faced with an invasion (such as Israel) with a reduced US dependency on foreign energy.

That means that a Kerry Administration would probably look like the Clinton Administrations: we would have no upgrade of the military and no reduction in foreign energy dependency, but we would have quieter Europeans free riding on what is left of American past and present military expenditures while the whole world looks the other way and disasters much worse that those of 9-11 fester. And when the inevitable disasters are upon us, the political classes can point fingers, assert that nobody was connecting the dots, and claim that everything has now changed.

But, of course, Senator Kerry's address makes clear that for a lot of the political class and most of the Democratic Party nothing has changed but the fig leaves.

POSTSCRIPT: Senator Kerry includes "oil independence" as a prong of his national security policy, but this prong can also be seen as an environmental measure, in which guise it is if anything more perverse, unweildy and expensive than it is as a national security measure. The US has lots of coal - which is worse on the environment than other fossil fuels - and discouraging use of foreign fuel supplies just encourage use of US coal ... and US oil located in environmentally sensitive areas. Senator Kerry now says he deplores added fuel taxes. If so, what would that leave of this prong as an effective environmental measure? Other legal measures, such as increasing fleet milage requirements, have not worked to reduce US use of foreign fuels in the past, and further such requirements are not likely to work in the future. But, if they did, discouraging US use of foreign fossil fuel will also tend to subsidize its use by China, India and other countries, by reducing US competition for the world's supply (at increased costs to the US). Since those countries have few environmental controls compared to the US (thanks in part to the perverse Kyoto Accord sell-out), the net effect would likely be a lot more worldwide pollution.

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Sunday, May 30, 2004


To approximate a Zogby Poll, one only has to ask:

What polling results would get the pollster the largest amount of media fuss?

Let's see. There has been a big supposed drop in President Bush's approval ratings as the media flogged the long-dead Abu Ghraib story - but a curious failure of that drop to be much reflected in Mr. Bush's ranking against Senator Kerry, especially in most "battlefield states."

Voila! The Zogby Poll (click on "Battlefield States Poll") finds Kerry leading Bush by big margins in lots of battlefield states! Much more so than any other poll except the silly CBS methodologically-hilarious blip.


But it's all nonsense. The constant barrage of hostile media coverage of Mr. Bush and his administration has mostly served to distort polling results and generally make polls less reliable and likely more pro-Kerry and pro-Democrat. Zogby's willingness to engage in flagrant media flirtation has exacerbated the whole distortive effect in that poll - making it essentially worthless and making the real question it raises: Who at the Wall Street Journal has judgment so bad as to have hired Zogby at all? In any event, this kind of distortion of public opinion resembles the ripple from pebbles tossed into a pond: Flashy, but it doesn't take long to dissipate.

For example, Ohio is supposedly a big, key battlefield state leaning towards Kerry. Except it isn't:

Republican Bush was at 47 percent, followed by Kerry at 41 percent and Nader at 3 percent among registered voters surveyed by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research for The Plain Dealer. Results were released late Saturday.

Nine percent of voters were undecided.

Bush's lead came although about half in the poll expressed disapproval of his handling of the economy, found to be the No. 1 issue among Ohio voters. The state is one of several in the region to lose manufacturing jobs under Bush, while Kerry has made the jobs issue central to his White House campaign.

These latest results come two weeks after an American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters found Kerry had edged ahead of Bush in the state, 49 percent to 42 percent, with Nader at 2 percent.

And just think about what these poll numbers will read once a lot more voters figure out that the economy is actually doing quite well and things aren't going badly in Iraq at all and we're winning the war on terror.

UPDATE: Some specific, South Dakota, Zogbyrot - nicely skewered by RealClear.
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Herr Doktorprofessor Tells The Truth! II: Come Here For The Climate, Do You?

One message (some of it implied) of Mr. Okrent's current opus is that of the old publisher's form letter of rejection: Your manuscript, Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, is good and original. Unfortunately, the good part is not so original, and the original part is not so good. Herr Doktorprofessor and Mr. Okrent agree that the Times reporting on the Iraq weapons of mass destruction issue was lacking - both in substance and in Times procedures. That is by no means as clear objectively as either of them - or the Times preceding mea culpa - now assert. [UPDATE: Don Luskin makes some excellent and trenchant observations in this regard.] But for now it is enough to accept that none of the Times, Mr. Okrent nor Herr Doktorprofessor view the Times reporting on the Iraq weapons of mass destruction issue as satisfying the Times' own internal (what one might call institutionally subjective) reporting standards. Where Herr Doktorprofessor parts company with the others is in his analysis of the issue: Why did that happen, assuming it did happen? Through the gap one can view Herr Doktorprofessor slathering the Times with paranoid drippings similar to those with which he has so lavishly sauced the business community, the Republican Party, the Administration and many others who have incurred his ire.

Just what went wrong? Herr Doktorprofessor says:

The New York Times ...[is] currently engaged in self-criticism over the run-up to the Iraq war. They are asking, as they should, why poorly documented claims of a dire threat received prominent, uncritical coverage, while contrary evidence was either ignored or played down. ... Iraq coverage was embedded [in]a climate in which the press wasn't willing to report negative information about George Bush. ....

So why did the press credit Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn't possess?

One answer is misplaced patriotism. ... Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. ... And some journalists just couldn't bring themselves to believe that the president of the United States was being dishonest about such grave matters. Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation.

Herr Doktorprofessor's analysis proceeds from his claim that the Times' reporting deficiencies are attributable to the decisions of individual journalists who credit[ed] Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn't possess. In other words, Herr Doktorprofessor argues that the ultimate fault lies with journalists at the Times and elsewhere who actually knew what they were doing was wrong when they did it. He then proceeds to explain his theory as to why the Times journalists deliberately lied: (1) misplaced patriotism, (2) the tyranny of evenhandedness (now rejected), (3) credulity of the press towards a president already "known" not to possess the virtues with credited to him, and (4) intimidation. Once again, it's all sinister individuals and conspiracies for Herr Doktorprofessor: much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

It's all very clear to Herr Doktorprofessor: The Times and its individual journalists were corrupted into deliberate error and conspiracy against their trusting readers by what Herr Doktorprofessor terms a climate in which the press wasn't willing to report negative information about George Bush. And, just to drive home the point, he claims that it's not just Iraq, and it's not just The Times.

In similar terms Herr Doktorprofessor had earlier dismissed all claims that the recent corporate goverance difficulties were confined to a few bad apples, or the results of perhaps serious negligence or oversight. No, no, no! Herr Doktorprofessor often patiently explained that corporate America is deeply and broadly and deliberately corrupt, and so are many (it not most!) of the more senior individuals in it (with the exception of the occasional, sainted, usually female, whistle-blower). And, of course, it was all somehow attributable to George Bush and another of his evil "political climates" that Mr. Bush somehow manages to create and manipulate while being hopelessly stupid - as in this sweepingly magisterial condemnation:

The wave of scandal was made possible, if not caused, by a political climate in which corporate insiders got pretty much whatever they wanted. Since the politicians who did their bidding haven't paid any price, that climate hasn't changed.

But there is no overlap whatsoever between Herr Doktorprofessor's explanation of the posited deficiencies in Times coverage of Iraq W.M.D.'s and that of Mr. Okrent and the Times. Rather, in a plea sadly reminiscent of those bleated fecklessly by many directors of public companies, their chief executive officers and corporate accountants, Mr. Okrent pleads that neither the Times nor its individuals were corrupt. Yes, Mr. Okrent admits that the Times was as guileless as a Big 4 accounting firm partner, deficient in institutional policy, and plagued by negligence and corner-cutting. Mr. Okrent offers touching cris de coeur:

The failure was not individual, but institutional.

[What] journalistic imperatives and practices ... led The Times down this unfortunate path[?] There were several.

THE HUNGER FOR SCOOPS ... One old Times hand recently told me there was a period in the not-too-distant past when editors stressed the maxim "Don't get it first, get it right." That soon mutated into "Get it first and get it right." ... Times reporters broke many stories before and after the war - but when the stories themselves later broke apart, in many instances Times readers never found out. ...

FRONT-PAGE SYNDROME ... There are few things more greedily desired than a byline on Page 1. You can "write it onto 1," as the newsroom maxim has it, by imbuing your story with the sound of trumpets. Whispering is for wimps, and shouting is for the tabloids, but a terrifying assertion that may be the tactical disinformation of a self-interested source does the trick. ... [Some] stories pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively you could almost sense epaulets sprouting on the shoulders of editors.

HIT-AND-RUN JOURNALISM The more surprising the story, the more often it must be revisited. ... Stories, like plants, die if they are not tended. So do the reputations of newspapers.

CODDLING SOURCES There is nothing more toxic to responsible journalism than an anonymous source. There is often nothing more necessary, too... But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed. ... To a degree, Chalabi's fall from grace was handled by The Times as if flipping a switch; proper coverage would have been more like a thermostat, constantly taking readings and then adjusting to the surrounding reality. (While I'm on the subject: Readers were never told that Chalabi's niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times's Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.)

END-RUN EDITING Howell Raines, who was executive editor of the paper at the time, denies that The Times's standard procedures were cast aside in the weeks before and after the war began. (Raines's statement on the subject, made to The Los Angeles Times, may be read at

But my own reporting (I have spoken to nearly two dozen current and former Times staff members whose work touched on W.M.D. coverage) has convinced me that a dysfunctional system enabled some reporters operating out of Washington and Baghdad to work outside the lines of customary bureau management.

In some instances, reporters who raised substantive questions about certain stories were not heeded. Worse, some with substantial knowledge of the subject at hand seem not to have been given the chance to express reservations. ...

No one can deny that this was a drama in which The Times played a role. ... Chalabi [is] "a man who, in lunches with politicians, secret sessions with intelligence chiefs and frequent conversations with reporters from Foggy Bottom to London's Mayfair, worked furiously to plot Mr. Hussein's fall." ... The aggressive journalism that I long for, and that the paper owes both its readers and its own self-respect, would reveal not just the tactics of those who promoted the W.M.D. stories, but how The Times itself was used to further their cunning campaign.

Interesting. No mention of George Bush or any of his "climates." No "misplaced patriotism." No "tyranny of evenhandedness" (now rejected? - who knows?). No credulity towards a president already "known" not to possess the virtues credited him. No intimidation. No "collective decision to suppress criticism of the commander in chief."

Do Herr Doktorprofessor (on the one hand) and Mr. Okrent, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and Managing Editor Jill Abramson (on the other hand) work for the same publication? - or in the same media industry? Are these people living in and writing about the same country? - or the same war? - or the same journalists and reporters? - or the same media coverage?

Or is it that one of them is just plain wrong?

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Friday, May 28, 2004

Herr Doktorprofessor Tells The Truth!

Today, Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman tells the truth!

Of course, it's not the whole truth or nothing but the truth - so, if he had said it under oath it would technically be perjury - but, still, it's a start! The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

And it is both an important truth that Herr Doktorprofessor is telling and one that has been noted by the Man Without Qualities in a prior post. In fact, for the first time it is possible to summarize the worthwhile portion of one of Herr Doktorprofessor's columns by quoting from a Man Without Qualities post:

The current state of mainstream liberal media political coverage is substantively Gonzo, written by people who (by the Pew poll) increasingly admit their orientation but (by the Carroll speech) still cling to the fiction of their professional and institutional accuracy. The next step, of course, is full-fledged, overt, out-of-the-closet liberal Gonzo journalism in the currently accepted meaning (not the Thompson original meaning) of that term: inaccurate, crazy, essentially a license for liberal journalists to write anything they want.

Herr Doktorprofessor says it his own way. First comes the admission that current mainstream liberal coverage has already gone Gonzo:

But it's not just Iraq, and it's not just The [New York] Times. Many journalists seem to be having regrets about the broader context in which Iraq coverage was embedded: a climate in which the press wasn't willing to report negative information about George Bush. People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness. But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable.

So very true. That's just what the mainstream media have been doing recently. One may not be one of his fans, but one has to admit that when Herr Doktorprofessor is right he's right. And he's also dead-on when he notes that mainstream media is in the process of overtly casting off what he terms the "tyranny of evenhandedness." How else to achieve true Gonzo bliss?

Of course, it is not necessary to tarry for more than a moment over the rest of his spin and explanations. His suggestion that the Times or mainstream liberal media ever broadly presented Mr. Bush as a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness is just delusional in the standard-issue Herr Doktorprofessor fashion. Yes, it is a little peculiar (even for him) to suggest that the New York Times has presented Mr. Bush as a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness with respect to what Herr Doktorprofessor terms the President's "budget arithmetic," or that the Times has not been "willing to check his budget arithmetic." And, of course, the Times and the rest of the liberal media were very hostile to Mr. Bush's decisions to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq, and indulged in quite a bit of challenge to the President's bona fides at the time. For example, before the Afghan war there was the looming Afghan "quagmire," and that deadly Afghan winter that would exacerbate it, whose risk the President the mainstream media repeatedly reminded us was not admitting. Herr Doktorprofessor tells us we're just imagining that - and so much more.

His argument that reporters on the Times and other liberal media have been silenced by "intimidation" is mostly a bizarre insult to such reporters. How many Times reporters, for example, would be willing to accept this characterization of their intestinal fortitude:

After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers.

Herr Doktorprofessor writes so well! One can practically hear the Times reporters whining to each other in the powder room off the newsroom floor: "O-O-O, I can't report something negative about the President - or Sean Hannity might disagree with me on television, maybe mention my name! Or I might get a nasty e-mail! ... By the way, am I getting a pimple here?" Who knew that Herr Doktorprofessor considered the Times reporters to be such gutless wonders? And it would be hilarious to survey the Times reporters to determine how many of them are in agreement with Herr Doktorprofessor's charge that they censored their reporting out of what Herr Doktorprofessor calls "misplaced patriotism," or will admit that they "reach[ed] a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief" or that the Bush administration played them "like a fiddle."

But, relative to Herr Doktorprofessor's overall precarious mental condition, such evidence of further marginal deterioration is but detail! The important thing is that Herr Doktorprofessor understands and has come to tell us all that (1) mainstream liberal media reporting has now gone Gonzo ("A new Pew survey finds 55 percent of journalists in the national media believing that the press has not been critical enough of Mr. Bush, compared with only 8 percent who believe that it has been too critical. More important, journalists seem to be acting on that belief."), and (2) they're casting off that old tyranny of evenhandedness fig leaf - unafraid to let the world at large see what they've got and what they're made of!

This is important stuff. As Alcoholics Anonymous has long counseled: Recovery often can only begin after the dipsomaniac has hit bottom and admitted what he has become. That may now be happening for the liberal media. As with so many of "his" academic economic insights, Herr Doktorprofessor may not have been the first to see what is happening, but he has now popularized the observation.

And that matters.

Of course, one problem for what Herr Doktorprofessor hopes to gain from all of this is that there are now other places for consumers of news to obtain quite a different spin and explanation for the truths to which he admits here - including those dreaded right-wing pundits and publications before whom he thinks liberal reporters cower. In other words, the public is very likely now to figure out what the liberal media are up to - thereby depriving them of the credibility and influence that the modest, discarded tyranny of evenhandedness provided. Indeed, even Herr Doktorprofessor's own truthful admissions on the subject help to advance that process of public education. And for that we truly owe him our thanks.

Odd, though, that he misses the economic point that it's cheaper for the media companies to have reporters just write their biases than actually go out and find news. Isn't he supposed to be an economist or something?

POSTSCRIPT: Curiously, the Times' own analysis of what it now says were deficiencies in some of its Iraq coverage specifically rejects attempts by "some critics" (apparently including of Herr Doktorprofessor, in advance) to place the blame on individual reporters acting under any incentives - which would seem to include "intimidation" of individual reporters, or "misplaced patriotism" of individual reporters, or any of the rest of Herr Doktorprofessor's silly litany:

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

Gee. Editors "intent on rushing scoops" without incurring the costs of fact-checking and follow-up? That's another way of saying that the problem was mostly caused by editors trying to increase production while minimizing costs: the very economic incentive approach Herr Doktorprofessor leaves lying untouched. The Times note to its readers was written by Executive Editor Bill Keller and Managing Editor Jill Abramson. Those worthies would do well to ponder that their own economic instincts and insights here are considerably more acute than those of Herr Doktorprofessor, especially when they proceed to the next logical step of their analysis: exactly why did the Times have policies and procedures in place that encouraged its editors to cut such corners? Profit maximization, anyone? Or was it "agency costs," perhaps? Any parallel here with the Jayson Blair fiasco? (Howell Raines, who was Times executive editor during that period [from October 2001 through May 2003], objected to the editors' note, calling it "vague and incomplete" and saying a broader examination was warranted. In a statement on, the journalism Web site, he wrote that faulty reporting did not result from a desire for scoops: "No editor did this kind of reckless rushing while I was executive editor." Amazing.) Neither the Times nor anyone else gets the useful answer without asking the correctly focused questions. No help there from Herr Doktorprofessor.

And given his paucity of insight, they would also do well to ponder exactly why they think the Times needs Herr Doktorprofessor on its staff.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XLIV: Bar-B-Q Poll

Yes, the pornographers posing as concerned editors continue to flog the Abu Ghraib story, and, yes, the unrelenting assault has taken a minor ding out of the President's lead over John Kerry. But all that will mean essentially nothing much in November.

What will mean something, especially for the large number of voters who aren't now paying any particular attention to politics, and won't until much closer to election day, is that John Kerry, personally, is personally a loathsome jerk. This is not my personal opinion. This is an objective fact. His hateful, self-destructive comment "did the training wheels fall off" is just the most recent bit of evidence in an already overwhelming case.

And voters eventually understand all that. As people get to know John Kerry, they almost always tend to dislike him personally with greater and greater intensity, and the idea of actually spending time at a barbecue with the man is something only the most devoted Democratic partisan could stomach:

Voters would rather flip burgers and drink beer at a backyard barbecue with President Bush than Sen. John Kerry, according to a national poll that found Bush leading Kerry on "regular guy" qualities. Half of the registered voters surveyed said they would rather have a barbecue with Bush, while 39 percent chose Kerry and 11 percent either didn't know or would not answer the question posed by Quinnipiac University pollsters. More voters also would trust Bush, 46-41, to run the family business.

Of course, that John Kerry is personally a loathsome jerk does not by itself guaranty that George Bush will be returned to the White House. But it stacks the deck pretty well. And, as far as quality barbecue time, have I got the guy for you.
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Potentially Key Facts

E-mailed today from a friend:

1. The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma. [MWQ Note: In an eerie coincidence, my 5-year old son only last night said that a mosquito sucking blood from his arm was like his sucking the liquid inside young coconuts through a straw!]

2. No piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven (7) times.

3. Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.

4. You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.

5. Oak trees* do not produce acorns until they are fifty (50) years of age or older.

6. The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley's gum.

7. The king of hearts is the only king without a mustache.

8. American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one (1) olive from each salad served in first-class.

9. Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

10. Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.

11. The first owner of the Marlboro Company died of lung cancer. So did the first "Marlboro Man."

12. Walt Disney was afraid of mice.

13. Pearls melt in vinegar.

14. The three most valuable brand names on earth: Marlboro, Coca Cola, and Budweiser, in that order [UPDATE: - or maybe Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM, in that order.]

15. It is possible to lead a cow upstairs...but not downstairs.

16. A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

17. Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least six (6) feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles resulting from the flush. (I keep my toothbrush in the living room now!)

18. Richard Millhouse Nixon was the first U.S. president whose name contains all the letters from the word "criminal." The second? William Jefferson Clinton.

And the best for last.....

19. Turtles can breathe through their butts.

* Fact (5) may be intended to refer just to the familiar red and white oaks. I am informed by a reader - apparently an oak cognoscente - that burr oaks are acorn prodigious prodigies. More generally, I have not personally verified any of these facts.

UPDATE: Some fact checking links have been added. But I don't vouch for anything!
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Nancyboys III: Poor L'il Dewey

Female moral hegemony? Worse and worse.

Yet the women and feminist writers remain silent!
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Moore v. Clarke

Richard Clarke is a hero, right? A whistle-blower of the sort sainted by Michael Moore, right?


In an interview with The Hill yesterday, Richard Clarke claimed sole responsibility for authorizing the post-9/11 flight that allowed many of Osama bin Laden's relatives to leave the country.

The mystery of who authorized the flight has been a staple of the Michael Moore left for some time now, especially since 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton mentioned publicly that the commissioners had asked the question at least "50 times" but had never gotten an answer. They have one now. Or do they?

In the interview Clarke said:

“I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again...”

"It [authorization of the flight] didn’t get any higher than me. On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.”

But Clarke's response seems to contradict his public testimony before the 9/11 Commission:

“The request came to me, and I refused to approve it,” Clarke testified. “I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the — at the time — No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved … the flight.”

“That’s a little different than saying, ‘I claim sole responsibility for it now,’” Roemer said yesterday.

However, the FBI has denied approving the flight.

FBI spokeswoman Donna Spiser said, “We haven’t had anything to do with arranging and clearing the flights.”

“We did know who was on the flights and interviewed anyone we thought we needed to,” she said. “We didn’t interview 100 percent of the [passengers on the] flight. We didn’t think anyone on the flight was of investigative interest.”

When Roemer asked Clarke during the commission’s March hearing, “Who gave the final approval, then, to say, ‘Yes, you’re clear to go, it’s all right with the United States government,’” Clarke seemed to suggest it came from the White House.

“I believe after the FBI came back and said it was all right with them, we ran it through the decision process for all these decisions that we were making in those hours, which was the interagency Crisis Management Group on the video conference,” Clarke testified. “I was making or coordinating a lot of the decisions on 9-11 in the days immediately after. And I would love to be able to tell you who did it, who brought this proposal to me, but I don’t know. The two — since you press me, the two possibilities that are most likely are either the Department of State or the White House chief of staff’s office.”

Instead of putting the issue to rest, Clarke’s testimony fueled speculation among Democrats that someone higher up in the administration, perhaps White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, approved the flights.

“It couldn’t have come from Clarke. It should have come from someone further up the chain,” said a Democratic Senate aide who watched Clarke’s testimony.

Clarke’s testimony did not settle the issue for Roemer, either.

“It doesn’t seem that Richard Clarke had enough information to clear it,” Roemer said Monday.

“I just don’t think that the questions are resolved, and we need to dig deeper,” Roemer added. “Clarke sure didn’t seem to say that he was the final decisionmaker. I believe we need to continue to look for some more answers.”

There's more ... and Moore. Ah, ya' gotta love those Mooreian shadowy connections!
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Jobs, Anyone?

Gregg Easterbrook advances the hoary notion that more national gasoline taxes create all kinds of benefits (and Andrew Sullivan is happy, too). Mr. Easterbrook argues in part:

Had federal gas taxes gone up 50 cents a gallon 10 years ago, several things might not have happened or would have had far less impact. The S.U.V. and pickup-truck crazes would not have occurred, or at least these vehicles would be much less popular; highway deaths would have been fewer; and gasoline demands would be lower as would oil imports. ....

The consequences of using the tax system to create the supposed "benefits" Mr. Easterbrook posits are far more complex than he admits. His column is a virtual tour-de-force of omitted important considerations and disingenuous reasoning. Some of these implicit errors and omissions are the focus of Caroline Baum's wonderful article (although it is not a response to the Kerry-Easterbrook-Sullivan proposal as such). As she notes just by way of example, a gasoline tax does not create incentive for increased exploration or supply - unlike the demand-driven price rise we are seeing now. But Mr. Easterbrook counts as a "benefit" of his tax proposal that the chance of this kind of demand-driven price rise would be suppressed by his proposal. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for ... And Mr. Easterbrook's approach gets worse ... a lot worse ... mostly in ways he is careful to avoid even mentioning. [Baum link from Luskin.]

I don't want to generally attack the prospect of a rise in the gasoline tax, or even to argue that such a rise is an absolute negative under all conditions. Indeed, perhaps such a rise could be a positive if coupled with a decrease in other taxes, as proposed in 1999 by N. Gregory Mankiw, now chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, a proposal disingenuously cited by Mr. Easterbrook are support for his own quite different proposal. Professor Mankiw's argument proceeded from a set of beliefs regarding the virtue of increasing overall national economic efficiency and reduction of wasteful economic "externalities," not to advance economic redistributionism or some vague environmental imperative. Mr. Easterbrook's past writings certainly show no sign of embracing an approach like Prof. Mankiw's - and Mr. Easterbrook signals no change of heart here. And Mr. Easterbrook's approach gets worse ... a lot worse ...

But what of Mr. Easterbrook's argument taken on it's own terms, setting aside its omissions, implicit dishonesty and outright incoherence? What, for example, is one to make of his naive, unexplained citing as a "benefit" from his (and Senator Kerry's) proposed tax that the S.U.V. and pickup-truck crazes would not have occurred, or at least these vehicles would be much less popular? Senator Kerry and many other Democrats have made a big stink of the "loss" of American jobs, especially American manufacturing jobs, to overseas companies. One of the main reasons more American jobs have not been "lost" is that American auto manufacturers have been relatively good at turning out those S.U.V.'s and pickup-trucks that "crazed" (Mr. Easterbrook's term) American consumers have been buying instead of foreign cars. Those S.U.V.'s and pickup-trucks have been made in this country by American companies employing American manufacturing workers.

Is it a clear benefit that those manufacturing jobs would have been forfeit? Or is the job loss to be considered a loss but a loss obviously worth the cost - so much so that this particular manufacturing job loss doesn't even warrant a mention in a column defending Democrat Kerry's endorsement of a loopy gas-tax increase?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Nancyboys II: Barbara At Barnard

A prior post included this note about high female involvement in the Abu Ghraib scandal:

Significant time has passed and we have seen no ruminations from Big Mo or even Ms. Noonan on these latest exemplars of the "female" moral hegemony - including the facts that it was investigations by macho organizations (the SEC, the DoJ, the Army) that rooted out the irregularities and, to the extent there were whistleblowers, they were all men. Will these two scribbling worthies hold Army Pfc. Lynndie England, Spc. Sabrina Harman or Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski responsible for their respective acts or failures to act? Or will we see some reversion to the assumption that women are not responsible for their own acts while around men - especially macho men: the Hillary Clinton "pink-suit-interview" approach. Will the gender aspect be discussed by these two scribbling worthies, and other women commenters, at all - or will we see it all put down to some genderless "these-guards-were-just-untrained-losers" dismissal? Or will one or more of them come up with something containing a bit more ingenuity and integrity?

I haven't seen anything yet.

Well, I still haven't seen much - and nothing at all from Msses. Dowd or Noonan. But feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich had this to say in her commencement address at Barnard College on May 18:

"[In] these photos from Abu Ghraib, you have every Islamic fundamentalist stereotype of Western culture, all nicely arranged in one hideous image: imperial arrogance, sexual depravity -- and gender equality.... Maybe I shouldn't have been so shocked. Gender equality cannot, all alone, bring about a just and peaceful world. What I have finally come to understand, sadly and irreversibly, is that the kind of feminism based on an assumption of moral superiority on the part of women is a lazy and self-indulgent form of feminism" -- .

That's a nice start. Of course, much of Ms. Ehrenreich's talk is predicatably deranged: "Well, it turns out they were just operating under different management. We didn't displace Saddam Hussein; we replaced him." But at least it's something. In a culture in which almost every "first woman this-or-that" rates a national media annotation, where is the outpouring of feminist musings on the many "women's historic firsts" coming out of Abu Ghraib? For example, surely "first American woman likely to be court martialed for torture and sexual humiliation of a man" is worth a witty Maureen Dowd column with all kinds of fancy word play. And now that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the woman in charge of Abu Ghraib prison at the time of the offenses largely committed by other women then under her command, has been suspended while pleading "scapegoat," surely many, many column inches are being written by Ms. Dowd and the many, many of her ilk to document this particular chapter of feminist progress and female moral hegemony! I must just have overlooked them.

But Ms. Dowd has her BUSHWORLD! book coming out. She won't leave out that chapter!

Will she?


Apparently, the deaths of some female soldiers warrant a consideration separate from the consideration given to the deaths of male soldiers by the national media. But for some reason the immoral acts of some female soldiers don't warrant such separate consideration - even though a big deal was made of gender by the same media in the corporate scandal context.
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Kobe Chatter: Playing The Race Card II

In prior posts the Man Without Qualities has pointed out that while the media is almost obsessively attempting to ignore the racial aspect of this case, it can't and shouldn't be ignored and will eventually be raised pointedly by Mr. Bryant.

Mr. Bryant is now doing exactly that:

A defense lawyer asked a judge Monday to approve expert witnesses he said will show that the investigation of rape charges against Kobe Bryant was shoddy enough to suggest bias against the NBA star.

Bryant attorney Hal Haddon said in court papers he wants to call two experts to testify that the work of sheriff's detectives Doug Winters and Dan Loya was incomplete.

Haddon said the men "closed their eyes" to potential physical evidence at the site of the alleged crime that might have confirmed Bryant's innocence.

"The failure to conduct the most 'regular' police procedure — investigation of a crime scene and collection of physical evidence — suggests both a bias against Mr. Bryant and a willful or reckless unwillingness to consider the possibility that Mr. Bryant committed no crime and that the accuser was lying about the sexual encounter for ulterior motives," Haddon wrote.

It isn't as good as having a God-send like Mark Furman's racial slurs to exploit, but Mr. Bryant's defense team is giving the race play all they've got.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

World War II Memorial


I actually agree with almost every word Timothy Noah writes about the World War II Memorial.

I was all suited up to loathe it ... until I saw it.

And I also agree with his dissing of all the copycat "death list" momuments that have followed the Vietnam War Memorial like a dumb cortege, including the New York Times' dreadful, kitschy "Portraits of Grief" for Sept. 11.
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Oozing Charm From Every Pore,...

... He oiled his way around the floor.

That may have been true of that rudapest from Budapest Zoltan Karpathy, but Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman has big problems understanding the production of both charm and oil.

Don Luskin does the fisk.
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Not So Hot Air

The Scotsman reports that wind power is probably just as much of an illusion as any clear headed Scott already thought.

Nuclear power, on the other hand ...
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More Overt?

"Moderate" is a much-abused term. For example, many commenters - led, I believe, by James Taranto - have noted that for most of the liberal media there are no surviving "liberal" Republicans. To the liberal media there are only "conservative" (sometime "arch-conservative" or "ultra-conservative") and "moderate" Republicans. Even such worthies as Arlen Spector (left-wing Republican senator from Pennsylvania) and other such Republicans furthest to the left, even Republicans with voting records comparable to liberal Democrats, and even Republicans who launch crusades against conservative Republicans and their causes, are "moderate." The most aggressive RINO (meaning "Republican in name only," of course) is a "moderate" in the bizarre quasi-Newspeak of the mainstream liberal media.

And the generally liberal functionaries of such media employ its quasi-Newspeak to christen themselves "moderates" when responding to the Pew poll and the like, as a kind of extreme example of the tendency noted by this Washington Post item:

Hans Noel, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of a paper called "The Road to Red and Blue America." In an interview, he said, "Most people say they are 'moderate,' but in fact the country is polarized around strong conservative and liberal positions." For the first time in generations, he said, those philosophical lines correspond to party lines. The once-hardy species of conservative Democrats -- so numerous in the 1980s they had a name, "Reagan Democrats" -- is now on the endangered list, along with the liberal "Rockefeller Republicans."

Professor Noel overstates the case with respect to the public (in my opinion), but he is deadly accurate in identifying the tendency of liberal media representatives to hide behind the term "moderate."

The media trade paper Editor and Publisher runs this article concerning a Pew Research poll again confirming that the nations reporters and media staff are far to the left of the American people (link from DRUDGE). That much is not news - except, perhaps, to the more intellectually dishonest denialists on the left such as Eric Alterman and his ilk.

But there is another development noted by the poll that is interesting:

While it's important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.

The number of actual liberals in the media is almost certainly not increasing, at least not this rapidly. What is probably increasing is the number of media representatives who are willing to admit their actual political orientation. In other words, the Per Research poll suggests that media liberals are fast becoming more overt. That would be consistent with the tendency observed by some brighter commenters (such as Mickey Kaus) that the skewing of mainstream liberal media campaign coverage has fast become much more overtly skewed liberal and much more overtly hostile to George Bush and Republicans generally.

The effects of the increasingly obvious mainstream leftward skew is sometimes bizarre. Just by way of example, the Los Angeles Times assured its readers almost up to Recall Day that Governor Davis had a good chance of survival. That such media representatives are increasingly shameless can be seen, for example, in the fact that the man who presided over that particular Times journalistic travesty, Los Angeles Times Editor John S. Carroll, went on to deliver an unintentionally hilarious and ironic speech claiming that the media industry has been "infested" by the rise of pseudo-journalists who go against journalism's "long tradition to serve the public with accurate information." Catherine Seipp delivered a brilliant fisking of Mr. Carroll's pretensions and evasions.

Taken together, Mr. Carroll's speech and the Pew poll give an interesting snapshot: Media operatives are increasingly willing to admit to their own relatively extreme personal political orientation, but insist on retaining the fig leaf of the unbiased accuracy of their own media institution, while simultaneously slamming the few less liberally biased media outlets for "pseudo-journalism" (Fox News, in particular, which is clearly hitting a nerve).

The current state of mainstream liberal media political coverage is substantively Gonzo, written by people who (by the Pew poll) increasingly admit their orientation but (by the Carroll speech) still cling to the fiction of their professional and institutional accuracy. The next step, of course, is full-fledged, overt, out-of-the-closet liberal Gonzo journalism in the currently accepted meaning (not the Thompson original meaning) of that term: inaccurate, crazy, essentially a license for liberal journalists to write anything they want. Already some of the more self-satisfied media representatives on the left, especially those who feel secure and are closer to retirement, like Dan Rather, have begun to hint at more. A full scale outbreak seems imminent.

It is also inexpensive for a media outlet to fill time or space with the outpourings of a reporter's personal political biases - at least compared to actually gathering and editing real news. Maybe that has something to do with another development in journalism:

Many journalists believe that increased financial pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage -- 66% of national newspeople and 57% of local journalists see it this way. That percentage is climbing when compared to past surveys. In 1995, for example, 41% of national and 33% of local journalists expressed this view. Not surprisingly, those national and local journalists -- about 75% -- who have witnessed newsroom cuts firsthand are among the most worried about the effects of bottom-line pressures, the study said.

Of course, at some point people may just stop watching, reading and listening.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Letting Go Of Abu Ghraib

This Washington Times editorial gets the media fixation on Abu Ghraib exactly right:

Accounts and graphic photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse persist in the press despite the fact that the story has run its course. The world already knows salient details of the prisoner humiliation and nudity, the causes of the abuse are under official investigation, and the courts-martial have begun. Yet, the caterwaul in the press against the American military and the war in Iraq continue.

Even today, the Washington Post is showing more icky nude photos and the Associated Press breathlessly informs us that prisoners were "fondled."

Why won't the media let go? Much of the explanation surely lies in the sterling excuse for running nude pictures (images! remember, this whole story is supposedly driven by the shocking images!) of nude men in sexual humiliation. In other words, the mainstream media editors are able to be pornographers without having to accept the lowly social positions of pornographers. Of course they want to continue long after the points have been made.

Then there is the political content. There is the simple fact - noted here previously - that both the general war on terror and the domestic economy are going the President's way (and, generally, the Republican way) as election issues for November. One can sense the joy in mainstream media reports of the decline in the President's approval ratings over Abu Ghraib, just as one can feel the corresponding frustration, even anger, over his continuing lead in almost every poll over his Democratic competitor - the one for whom the reporter writing the mainstream media story will almost certainly vote.

But the public is bored, and some media are getting the point. Even the front page of today's Los Angeles Times carries not a single Abu Ghraib story.

Give it up, guys. If people want pornography, there are better places on the net. And the prospect of driving a successful president from office with some pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse was always fanciful and desperate, at best.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

But What Will Warren Buffett Say?

According to the Seattle Times, Craig McCaw, Bill Gates and Michael Dell are all Republicans:

The Bush backers said they support the president for his stands on education, setting limits on lawsuits, visas for foreign workers and free trade. Former Microsoft executive Bob Herbold said Bush was the "spiritual force" behind a tax credit that has spurred research and development. Peter Neupert, chairman of, said he supports Bush's decision to back electronic access to consumer health records.

Dell Computers founder Michael Dell was scheduled to attend but was stuck in traffic and missed the endorsement announcement. He was expected along with the others for a $250-a-person fund-raiser of Bush "Mavericks," the campaign's organization for donors under 40.

Through the end of March, employees of computer and Internet-related companies had given $1.4 million to Bush and $779,000 to Kerry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. The ratio is similar to 2000, when Bush collected $1.2 million from the industry, about double what Democrat Al Gore received. ....

Herbold, a longtime Republican activist whose wife, Pat Herbold, chairs the King County GOP, said the tech industry has begun to lean more Republican over the past five or six years. Microsoft founder Bill Gates was swayed four years ago when his company was under attack by the Justice Department of Democrat Bill Clinton, Herbold said.

"It became clear in the presidential election of 2000 that the company as well as the industry would be better off with a free marketplace, and that's what caused him (Gates) to come out strongly in favor of George W. Bush," Herbold said.

All Gates wanted to do was operate in a free-enterprise system, and "there's no party that supports the free-enterprise system like the Republican Party," Herbold said.

Gates has donated to Bush's re-election.
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Daschle Descending X: Tom Goes For Broke, But This Time The South Dakotans Aren't Buying

The South Dakota Argus Leader reports:

Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle's lead over Republican challenger John Thune has dropped from seven points in February to what may be a statistical dead heat... Daschle ... holds a 49-47 edge over former three-term congressman Thune, the poll conducted for the Argus Leader and KELO-TV of Sioux Falls showed. Only 4 percent of those contacted said they were undecided in a race ... A similar poll in February showed Daschle with a 50-43 advantage and 7 percent undecided....

....A political science professor from Aberdeen , ... Ken Blanchard, said ... "[Daschle's] an incumbent with a presence in the state, and he's been around long enough that everybody knows him pretty well." ...

Daschle's campaign released a poll it had taken last week that showed the incumbent senator with a 55-42 advantage. The polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research ... has numerous Democratic clients listed on its Web site.

With the real campaign likely to begin shortly after the special congressional election vote June 1, Daschle said he likes his position, and his campaign's poll numbers. "Polling from my campaign shows me with a sizeable and growing lead," he said. " ... He said the poll showed him claiming as much as 29 percent of the GOP vote. .... The Argus Leader-KELO poll placed Daschle's share of Republicans at 15 percent. It showed Thune with 8 percent of Democrat votes. The independent vote split 57-39 for Daschle.

Thune, who has been raising money and traveling the state but not advertising on television yet, said the poll numbers show him gaining support. .... Thune said he chose not to begin the public campaigning until June because he thinks people grew weary of the extended campaign with Johnson two years ago. ....

Northern University's Blanchard says ... "My guess is, most South Dakota voters, if they sat down and asked themselves 'What do I personally owe to Tom Daschle's position as a Senate leader,' they'd have to say, 'I don't know,' " ...

If Democrat Stephanie Herseth wins the open U.S. House seat, all three congressional posts in a solidly Republican state would belong to Democrats. ... Asked in the poll how the possibility of three Democrats would affect their decision on Daschle's re-election, 10 percent said it would make them more likely to support him, 25 percent said less likely and 64 percent said it would not affect their decision.

Here are the results for the recent Mason Dixon South Dakota Senate polls (MoE ± 3.5), reflecting the effects of the many millions of dollars Senator Daschle has already spent on campaign advertising:

"If the 2004 election for South Dakota's U.S. Senate seat were held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were Tom Daschle, the Democrat, and John Thune, the Republican?"

............................Daschle(D).............Thune (R)..................Not Sure
..............................%....................... %....................... %
5/10-12/04.................... 49..................... 47....................... 4
2/5-7/04.......................50..................... 43....................... 7
10-11/03....................... 50.................... 44....................... 6
8/03........................... 48.................... 46....................... 6

So, let's see. Tom Daschle has spent millions on campaign advertising in a state that already knows him thoroughly before the "real campaign" begins or Mr. Thune has run ads. Mr. Daschle has thereby succeeded in losing a bit of support and is now again below the 50% mark. Turnout in the November race, as in most races, will be driven by the top of the ballot - in this case, the Presidential race. And nobody doubts that South Dakota will go thoroughly Republican in the Presidential race. By a ratio of 2.5-to-1 voters will be less likely to vote for Senator Daschle if the Congressional seat goes to the Democrat on June 1. Is it just me, or is all this beginning to sound like a chanted passage from Senator Daschle's own personal political Book of the Dead?

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XLIII: Back To The Races

As noted previously in this series, Senator Kerry seems to be having a bit of a hard time mastering the art of national Democratic identity politics, as large parts of several essential ethnic groups - native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans - threaten to go wandering off the Democratic plantation.

Now, wouldn't you know it, it's the jews:

Stuart Weil is ... a longtime Democrat who regularly attends synagogue. Four years ago, he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. This year, not only does he plan to vote for President Bush, he's urging his Jewish friends to do the same. .... Weil and thousands of other AIPAC members welcomed Bush to their annual meeting with 21 standing ovations.... Bush won about 17% of the Jewish vote in 2000, but supporters are aiming to raise that to about 30% in this election, based largely on his support for Israel.

"By defending the freedom and prosperity and security of Israel, you're also serving the cause of America," Bush told the AIPAC delegates Tuesday.

His 39-minute speech was interrupted repeatedly with cheering and applause. On two occasions, at least a third of the audience burst into chants of "Four more years!" .... Steven Windmueller, an expert on Jewish voting behavior at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, agreed that Jewish voters were becoming less liberal, but he said the pattern was more complex than Republican strategists assumed. .... Since Bush came into office, his administration has made a concerted effort to court the Jewish community .... Moreover, Jewish leaders have had extraordinary access to the president.... "My impression was of a very human and humble individual who wanted to dialogue and not lecture, to share and not pontificate," said Jacob Rubenstein, chief rabbi at Young Israel in Scarsdale, N.Y., who attended one session in the Oval Office last fall. ....

One of the few polls of Jewish public opinion suggests some movement toward Bush. The survey, conducted last November and December for the American Jewish Committee and Foreign Affairs magazine, found that 24% of respondents said they had voted for Bush in 2000, and 31% said they planned to support him this fall. But the poll is unlikely to be an accurate gauge of voter behavior because it surveyed all adults identifying themselves as Jewish, not just those registered to vote or likely to vote. ....

Weil ... thinks otherwise. But his efforts to form a local branch of the Republican Jewish Coalition are stirring opposition among Jews in his community. "Oh, the hate mail I've been getting," he said. "You should see what they say."

And this kind of thing isn't going to help the Democratic effort.

UPDATE: Worse and worse:

"There is a strong fear among American Jewish leadership that the whispering campaign that 'the Jews started it,' will become public," a senior congressional staffer said. "We could be seeing others get on Hollings' bandwagon."

"Bush felt tax cuts would hold his crowd together and spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats," Hollings said in a column first published on May 6 in the Charleston Post and Courier. "You don't come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq." ....

For his part, Hollings said Israel has never claimed that Iraq maintained a weapons of mass destruction arsenal. The senator, who later refused to retract his statements, said Wolfowitz's advocacy of a plan to promote democracy among Arab states comprised an Israeli initiative.

"With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country?" Hollings asked. "The answer: President Bush's policy to secure Israel. Led by Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there has been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel's security is to spread democracy in the area."

It is only a matter of time before the cries begin that John Kerry has an obligation to denounce Senator Hollings' outrageous comments - for which he offers not one jot of evidence to support. Do Democrats think that they are helping John Kerry's presidential effort with unsupported arguments that "Bush lied! He and his people really wanted to help Israel, the dirty S.O.B.'s - but they didn't tell us that!

Isn't the Hollings approach a sure-fire way to convince American jews - indeed, people from all walks - that Bush has been a more committed friend of Israel than they had thought - and that many Democrats are a lot more untrustworthy, anti-semitic and anti-Israel than anyone thought? Is that good for the Democrats? Doesn't a ride on the Hollings' bandwagon require the Democrats to buy one-way tickets to oblivion?

POSTSCRIPT: And here's the most recent House of Ketchup roundup.

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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XLII: John Kerry Tries To Waltz And Lambada At The Same Time!

Conventional is, of course, always murmuring low that a Democratic candidate may win the nomination by tacking to the left, but to hope for a win in the general election he had better tack back to the center. Ralph Nader has a fine understanding of that process, doesn't like the "centrist" Democrats it produces, and is running for President on a platform far to the left of center largely to spite that process. But John Kerry says he intends to directly appeal to Mr. Nader's voting base:

"It's my intention to speak very directly to those people who voted for Ralph Nader last time. ... I believe my campaign can appeal to them and frankly reduce any rationale for his candidacy. ... In the end, I hope I can make people aware that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George Bush. ... A vote for John Kerry is a vote for the principles and values they care about."

In making his effort Senator Kerry knows that at least one argument will not work at all: Mr. Nader and his followers have shown themselves to be completely immune to the argument that their Nader votes frustrate efforts to turn out Mr. Bush. Nader and his supporters simply don't see any particular difference that they care about between a Bush presidency and that of a centrist-corrupted Democrat like Al Gore or John Kerry, should he tack to the center. Indeed, it's not only Mr. Nader's supporters who view Messrs. Bush and Kerry as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. This Fox News editorial pretty much sees them that way, too.

So John Kerry's promise to intention to speak very directly to those people who voted for Ralph Nader means that he will not tack to the center, correct?

Well, maybe. But then what to make of all the silly Vice Presidential speculation about the poll out Wednesday that supposedly suggests that John Kerry could be "competitive" in North Carolina if Sen. John Edwards were on the Democratic ticket? Does Senator Kerry hope that John Edwards will bring in North Carolina if the Kerry campaign is out fulfilling the Senator's intention to speak very directly to those people who voted for Ralph Nader?

Let's see. Waltz and Lambada? Ah one, and ah two, and ah three ...
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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

Many media reports note that the Sex and the City paradigm - more young, single urban women than men - is a myth. In fact, there are substantially more such men than women. Yet my personal circle includes a substantially larger number of attractive, unmarried, educated, pretty successful, single women who want to get married (or say they do) than such men. And most of my friends and acquaintances of whom I have asked the question seem to have the same observation.

It's perplexing - until one excludes from the equation people of both sexes who say they want to be married but who have obviously structured their lives and mate-parameters to make marriage a ridiculously low probability. Then things seem to make more sense.

For example, a common Southern California male species is the man who does not so much want to be married as divorced with children, regardless of whether he has ever been married. Or at least the kind of man who has structured his mind and life to admit almost no other possibility. Of course, the most common form of this species is the actual divorced father - whose wife is given primary custody (either de jure or de facto) of the children, thereby reducing the father/child relationship to a kind of glorified uberuncle/niece-nephew pairing that seems to fit many such fathers just fine. They have children (once in a while), which is nice even though the cost in financial and emotional terms (ex-spouse, resentful, angry kids) is pretty high. Apparently, the cost is worth it for many such fathers. On the plus side, there are the new girl friends who are often chosen to have an educational and social level (even ethnicity) unacceptable to the father's family and circle of friends - thereby minimizing the inevitable pressure on the father to remarry.

If a man can establish a close relationship with actual nieces and nephews, he might even avoid the costs almost entirely. In that case he has to settle for children with a diluted genetic content, which evolution may deplore and which may be less satisfying emotionally than having his own emotionally attenuated offspring. But, then, there are sociobiologists who posit that this is exactly what bachelor uncles have always been for from an evolutionary standpoint.

From a personal perspective, much of the reason for such lifestyle parameters among men is often to expand the circle of women with which one may have sex. The more educated and financially successful and unfettered a man is, the broader his sexual horizons of womankind. Indeed, many hyper-educated, hyper-talented, rich men are more than pleased to dally with women of much less education, success, talent and money. Such marriages are not unusual. Indeed, the phenomenon of physically attractive but worthless heirs is a traditional common consequence of such male proclivities.

But if men view their education and success as opening for them ever broader vistas of sexual opportunities, the exact opposite seems to be the case for women, at least to the extent women were represented by participants in a colloquium at which the paper "The Growing Gender Gaps in College Enrollment and Degree Attainment in the U.S. and Their Potential Economic and Social Consequences" was presented, according to Wendy McElroy:

[T]he concern of the colloquium participants was a growing trend of women marrying men who were less educated and earned less money than they did. Minority women expressed the greatest concern Â? and with reason. According to the Sum study, Â?in 1999-2000, for every 100 degrees awarded to Black men, Black women were awarded 188 associate degrees, 192 bachelor degrees, and 221 masterÂ?s degrees.Â? Hispanic women earned nearly 130 degrees for every 100 awarded to Hispanic men. Sum concluded that highly educated women would have to consider "marrying down." He labeled the prospect as "a serious economic and cultural problem."

Ms. McElroy's observations are consistent with a personal anecdote. Recently, over dinner, a slender, beautiful, young, intelligent. educated, securities sales woman employed by one of the big New York investment banks shared with me her concerns following the break-up of her long-term relationship with a wealthy young Southern California male. After reviewing with her the various criteria she had established for a future replacement main squeeze, we together did some quick probabilistic calculations of the type those in or close to the securities business are prone to perform during their more intimate moments. The calculations took into account, for example, the fact that there was absolutely no chance that she would be interested in even the best looking, most congenial fireman one could imagine. Nor was she interested in "poaching" on the already-married or near-equivalent. Gay was no-go, of course. Etc. After some fast work on a note pad and calculator thoughtfully provided by the restaurant (whose napkins were of the expensive damask variety not suitable for scribbling except for the most aggressive) we determined that there are, perhaps, eight men now located in the United States who would make suitable mates.

My charming dinner companion passed on dessert.

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Gandy v. Smith

NOW says it doesn't like single sex education:

But the National Organization for Women disputed the data and said separate classrooms are a dangerous step backwards — reinforcing stereotypes and breeding sexism.

"I think it's very difficult to make separate equal, even if you were to have the same teachers and the same curriculum, you don't have the same lively exchange and debate that you have if you leave out an entire gender," said Kim Gandy, NOW's president.

This NOW quote refers to primary and secondary education, but lively exchange and debate seems to be a lot less significant in primary and secondary education than it is in college, where students are supposed to have more knowledge and sophistication with which to engage in meaningful exchange and debate. And Ms. Gandy's observation obviously applies to both private and public education - as long as the student is able to choose whether to go to a co-ed or single sex school. (Ms. Gandy does not concern herself with choice or the ability of the student or anyone making a choice for the student to chhose wisely - her assertion is independent of choice.)

So isn't Ms. Gandy's argument a lot more applicable to single sex colleges than it is to primary and secondary education? Doesn't what she is saying imply that single sex colleges like, say, Smith College, are lacking in lively exchange and debate?

If so, Smith College, for one, doesn't seem to agree:

Today, of course, women have many options as they choose a college, but we have only become more convinced that, for many women, a women’s college is the best option. Providing the academic challenge, personal attention and wide-ranging opportunities you’d look for in any college are still our most important goals, but, as a women’s college, we think Smith offers some special bonuses. ... At Smith, women are the focus of all the attention and all the opportunities. ... Having a wide variety of female role models tends to boost the aspirations and career achievements of female college students. ... At Smith, faculty and alumnae offer outstanding role models. Leadership experience in college provides training and encouragement for leadership positions in your life, your community and your profession. At Smith, all of the leaders are women. ... At Smith, women can have a great social life. (Really!)

At Smith, there are no stereotypes about what women should do, but there are unlimited expectations about what women can do. Smith is a great training ground for careers that might still be considered non-traditional for women. At Smith, any career choice is an appropriate one. ... Even the Ivies can’t boast a network of thousands of successful women willing to share inside information about their professions with both undergraduates and other alumnae. It’s a lifetime guarantee!

At Smith, the “old boys’ network” becomes an “ageless women’s network.”

Of course, the world is coeducational. But Smith women enter it more confidently than women graduates of coed schools.

After Smith, the future is wide open.

Is Ms. Gandy saying Smith is bunk?

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