Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Blogging has been scarce here recently because the Man Without Qualities has been preparing to go to China for the last couple of weeks.

Tomorrow we fly to Shanghai and then to Beijing and, ultimately, a river cruise.

So perhaps there will be even less blogging here until about the Fourth of July.

All the best to my readers! I'll be back.

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

The 2004 DNC Convention Official Program

(E-mailed from a friend)

6:00pm - Opening flag burning ceremony.
6:30pm - Anti-war rally no. 1. (Moderated by Jane Fonda)
6:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
7:00pm - Tribute theme to France.
7:10pm - Collect offerings for al-Zawahri defense fund.
7:25pm - Tribute theme to Spain.
7:45pm - Anti-war rally no. 2. (Moderated by Michael Moore)
8:00pm - Chappaquiddick Synchronized Swim Team Performance
8:25pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
8:30pm - Terrorist appeasement workshop.
8:45pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
9:00pm - Gay marriage ceremony.
9:30pm - * Intermission *
9:45pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
10:00pm - Flag burning ceremony no. 2.
10:15pm - Re-enactment of Kerry's fake medal toss.
10:20pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
10:30pm - Cameo by Dean 'Yeeearrrrrrrg!'
10:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
10:50pm - Pledge of allegiance to the UN.
10:55pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
11:00pm - Double gay marriage ceremony.
11:15pm - Maximizing Welfare workshop.
11:20pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
11:30pm - 'Free Saddam' pep rally.
11:35pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
11:45pm - Senator Clinton Keynote Address - Cuba: Our Good Friends
11:59PM - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
12:00pm - Nomination of democratic candidate
12:01am to 7:00am - Open Bar - Kennedy Suite
12:01am to 7:00am - Cigar Lounge - Clinton Suite

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Grinning With The Gipper One Last Time

Lots of people are writing and posting their own memorials to Ronald Reagan. That's good. But I think I'll pay homage to this great man by posting a joke I'm pretty sure the Gipper would have enjoyed (e-mailed from a friend):

Four men were bragging about how smart their cats are.

The first man was an engineer, the second man was an accountant, the third man was a chemist, the fourth was a government worker.

To show off, the engineer called to his cat, "T-square, do your stuff." T-square pranced over to a desk, took out some paper and a pen and promptly drew a circle, a square, and a triangle. Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the accountant said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Spreadsheet, do your stuff." Spreadsheet went out into the kitchen and returned with a dozen cookies. He divided them into four equal piles of three cookies each. Everyone agreed that was very good.

But the chemist said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Beaker, do your stuff." Beaker got up, walked over to the fridge, took out a quart of milk, got a 10 ounce glass from the cupboard, and poured exactly eight ounces without spilling a drop. Everyone agreed that was outstanding.

Then the three men turned to the government worker and said, "What can your cat do?" The government worker called to his cat and said, "Coffee Break, do your stuff." Coffee Break jumped to his feet, ate the cookies, drank the milk, pooped on the paper, attacked the other three cats, claimed he injured his back while doing so, filed a grievance report for unsafe conditions, put in for Worker's Compensation, and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave.

Goodbye, Ronnie. We can't say we hardly knew ya - but we're glad we did and it was a mighty good, long run.
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The Media Just Report What They Think Is Material

The Supreme Court just held that a 1976 federal law does allow some people to sue foreign governments - such as Austria - for such things as the return of property looted by the Nazis. That all seems fine, if dry and rather technical. No doubt the Justices got a lot of briefing about long-standing theories of foreign sovereign immunity and Congressional intent. But what's with the bizarre closing sentence in the Associated Press article - which the New York Times reproduces:

Justice Stephen Breyer, in a concurring opinion, said that Americans will still likely have to pursue claims in foreign countries first, and they may face other obstacles in U.S. courts, including statutes of limitations. Breyer is one of two Jewish members on the court.

Is this supposed to be some insinuation that Justice Breyer was influenced by his ethnicity consciously or, worse, unconsciously? Or that the case had special meaning to him because of his ethnicity? Or that the dissenters didn't vote with the majority because of their ethnicities? If any of those amazing insinuations was intended, it should have been spelled out.

Just why the heck was Justice Breyer's ethnicity noted at all? And if a need was felt at the AP to cite some irrelevant factoid about the man, why didn't the AP and the Times point out, for example, that Breyer is one of two members on the court appointed by President Bill Clinton. Or Breyer is one of two members on the court less than [insert favorite applicable age of Justices.] Or any number of other things.

Will the AP and the Times be running the same unexplained annotation of Justice Breyer's ethnicity if he separately concurs in, say, a Court decision construing the right of national banks to charge interest at rates they set independently of local and state regulation? One can hardly wait.
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Herr Doktorprofessor Tells The Truth! IV: Fear And Loathing On West Forty-Third Street

In the Washington Times, Joel Mowbray writes about the descent of the New York Times reporting into absurdist Gonzo farce:

According to the reporting of the New York Times, upon being told that his country's code had been compromised, an Iranian intelligence agent turned around and sent a message back to the mullahs that the United States had cracked the code — by using the cracked code.

Never mind that the message could have been delivered by hand following a 2-hour drive.

Knowing that your code has been cracked is about the best gift that can be given. The potential for misinformation is enormous. Any Iranian intelligence agent would have had common sense enough not to slaughter the golden goose before it had been given the chance to lay any eggs. ....

The previous week, the paper had run a series of stories, first an attack on Mr. Chalabi with vague accusations of passing intelligence to Iran, and then an attack on Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters, the hawks in the administration, specifically at the Pentagon. The pattern was repeated one week later.

The paper even went so far as to do its best to explain away the transparently goofy scenario. In the article, Iran's transmission of Mr. Chalabi's supposed leak was rationalized as the agent "possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account" after a single test message was not seized upon. But common sense dictates that far more than one test would have been sent before revealing to the United States that the code was broken.

But here's where the New York Times story gets downright contemptible. The article states that the administration had requested that news agencies hold off on the "code" story, "citing national security concerns," and "the Times agreed." Except there was nothing secret about the "code" story. .... And, for the record, the charges were published by National Review Online exactly two weeks ago — the Monday after the raid and fully nine days before the New York Times was given the government's OK to release the information. ....

Smearing Mr. Chalabi and administration hawks has the clear effect of undermining, in the public's eye, the justification and legitimacy of the war. Consequently, Mr. Bush gets hammered, since his support is pegged to the war's.

And that's the point...

It looks as though the New York Times has taken off the gloves, dropped the acid and roared off on a savage quest straight into the heart of the liberal media dream on this one. As Glenn Reynolds says: Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

On Never Learning

The apparently infinitely recalcitrant New York Times editorializes:

Looking back now, we can trace some of the flaws of the current Washington mindset - the tax-cut-driven deficits, the slogan-driven foreign policy - to Mr. Reagan's example.

Yes, those tax-cut-driven deficits that formed an integral part of policies the somehow restored the United States to prosperity, and that slogan-driven foreign policy that somehow turned out to be essentially correct when the Soviet Union dissolved and the Russians started confessing its misdeeds wholesale.

Has the person who wrote this editorial never been to Russia or consulted with any Russians or other people from the former Soviet Union? There don't seem to be many of them who would choose to accuse Ronald Reagan of having maintained a slogan-driven foreign policy. Most Russians seem to pretty much say he got the major points all right the first time around - and thank God he did.

Mr. Reagan had vision, enough vision to see many things as they were and to see where they were headed. That was especially true in foreign policy - where his keen observations and predictions were routinely dismissed by the Times as "slogans." Mr. Reagan was very unlike the New York Times, which began its coverage of what would become the Soviet Union by missing the real story of the Bolshevik Revolution because its writers and editors "were nervously excited by exciting events" (as Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz wrote in 1920), and ended its coverage of the Soviet Union by denying that predictions (including Mr. Reagan's) of its impending end were more than ignorant, partisan "slogans". Indeed, the Times persisted in its denials almost up to the day that misbegotten pseudo-nation dissolved and consigned itself to the dustbin of history - admitting it had been an "Evil Empire" all along.

This hilarious editorial proves that even years after the fact the Times is still incapable of seeing things that Ronald Reagan saw so clearly and correctly when they still lay years in the future.

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Friday, June 04, 2004

Herr Doktorprofessor Tells The Truth! III: Mr. Chalabi's Secrets

The Man Without Qualities does not know Ahmad Chalabi personally, but the already superhot invective and wild maneuvering surrounding him is absolutely fascinating. To read Mr. Okrent from the New York Times, one could easily conclude that the only meaningful question remaining concerning Mr. Chalabi whether his constant prevarication is pathological or merely strategic:

On Friday, May 21, a front-page article by David E. Sanger ("A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare") elegantly characterized Chalabi as "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 words "from The Times, among other publications" would have fit nicely after "reporters" in that sentence. 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.

But, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Chalabi personally has by no means been shown to be the kind of sinister prevaricator the Times and Okrent are making him out to be. If the Times didn't do enough checking and follow-up to suit their current or previous standards, fine. But the efforts to twist their own deficiencies into an excuse for a purer shade of hostility towards Bush in their reporting is disingenuous and -- as Don Luskin correctly put it -- rings fundamentally false.

There are well-known signs that Mr. Chalabi has been in a kind of death battle with George Tenet - who has now resigned as head of the CIA without good explanation.

And now, entirely contrary to the spirit of the New York Times' castigation of Mr. Chalabi, we have a very high profile defense of Mr. Chalabi coming from the Defense Department:

The U.S. military has rated intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi as the best received from any anti-Saddam Iraqi group.

A U.S. Army report determined that INC intelligence was the best of five Iraqi organizations that helped topple the Saddam regime. The report said INC tactical military information provided accurate and wide-ranging intelligence on the situation in Iraqi cities and the location of leading Saddam aides.

"In the final analysis, the INC has been directly responsible for saving the lives of numerous soldiers as a result of early warning and providing surveillance of known enemy elements," the army report said.

The report was commissioned in March 2004 as part of a Defense Department review of the cooperation by five Iraqi organizations, including Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish groups.

The Defense Department is, of course, headed by Donald Rumsfeld, who only yesterday said that while he was aware of the press reports that an investigation was underway regarding allegations that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the US to Iran by disclosing the fact that the US had broken the Iranian code, a piece of information Mr. Chalabi was never supposed to have and says he didn't have. Mr. Rumsfeld said had no personal knowledge of any such investigation: "I don't know that there is an investigation. I said I've read that in the press. If there is one then that's a good thing because people ought to be investigating possible wrongdoing, if there has been wrongdoing." Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides have, of course, historically been big supporters of Mr. Chalabi. The President recently backed Mr. Rumsfeld strongly and publicly in the face of his critics efforts to use the Abu Graib situation to dislodge the Defense Secretary.

Just how good is Donald Rumsfeld's relationship with George Tenet, anyway?
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Smackdown In The Battle Of The Predictors II: Yale Wins, Again

More data from the Senate Joint Economic Committee of the type that will have a big effect on the November results:

The Department of Labor reported today that payroll employment increased by 248,000 jobs in May following even larger job gains in both April (346,000 new jobs) and March (353,000 jobs).


Over 1.1 million new jobs have been created in 2004. If this pace of job growth continues, over 2.8 million new jobs will be created this year.
Since August 2003, payrolls have risen by 1.4 million jobs.

Employment continued to expand in manufacturing, rising by 32,000 jobs in May. There have been 91,000 manufacturing jobs created in the past four months.

April statewide data from the Department of Labor also showed that the unemployment rate has fallen in 47 states over the past year.

Full report:


Over 1.1 Million New Jobs in 2004

Unemployment Rate Declining

Today's numbers followed an upwardly revised total of 346,000 jobs in April and 353,000 in March. The 947,000 jobs created in the March-May period made it the strongest for any three months in four years. .... Virtually every major sector of the economy added jobs in May, from retailing to construction industries. Particularly notable were 32,000 new hires in manufacturing -- a fourth straight monthly increase and the biggest for any month since August 1998 when 143,000 manufacturing jobs were created, the department said.

And, let's look a bit into the future. Today's numbers indicate that about 250,000 new jobs were created in May. If that rate were to continue (by no means assured, of course), another about 1,250,000 jobs will be created by election day.

But we are asked by Mr. Elliott's formula and many pundits to believe that none of that will drive the election. Not even general national security considerations will drive the elections, we are told. No, the many pundits assure us that developments in Iraq will drive the election. In fact, stories and images of how some Iraqi prisoners were treated will drive the election.

Sure. Sure it will. You bet.

But then it seems that Mr. Elliott shouldn't believe his own formula either, since he offered his own 21 reasons why it's wrong. The 21 reasons haven't been updated, and his formula does not include meaningful allowances for most of his 21 factors. Hence his formulaic problems. If all 21 Reasons ever mattered, why don't they all matter now? - in particular, why don't they matter enough to put in the formula? Still a few methodological and consistency bugs in the system, eh?

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Smackdown In The Battle Of The Predictors: Yale Wins

Scott Elliott's attempts to predict the probable 2004 Presidential election results with a formula that adjusts each state's 2000 margin based on current national opinion polls. With all due respect to Mr. Elliott, to point out that such a methodology is "weak" would be to speak in high euphemism. Can even he take seriously his "prediction" that Kerry will beat Bush, 337 electoral votes to 201, with a popular vote total of 52.87% to Bush's 45.3% - with Kerry picking up every state Gore won plus several of 2000's red states: Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Missouri? His formula also awards New Hampshire to Kerry, who is, after all, from the state next door, which may mean something.

But the rest is ridiculous. The Elliott prediction is a dance in a hall of mirrors: current media fussing tends to disturb polling to make it less reliable. Poll users and taker know that - which may have something to do with the fact that they're not taking many serious polls right now. In any event, polls show at best a tiny edge for Kerry even after all the fussing - which is not good news for him.

Does any sensible person seriously believe that the Abu Graid prisoner abuse scandal - which is essentially what is responsible for the President's drop in the polls - is really going to count for more than the overall performance of the economy or is not going to dissipate by November? If that's right, then it will be the first time a prisoner abuse scandal has meant anything much as an election issue, although such scandals come up all the time - as Bob Herbert ably points out. Hopeful Democrats fixating on current polls have offered no explanation why things should be so different this time around. It probably won't happen. It never has.

Some Republicans are worried and some Democrats are hopeful that voters aren't giving enough attention to the positive economy. But how much of a naif does one have to be not to recall that it takes about six months of strong employment numbers before voters seriously get the message that the economy is doing really well - and that six months has not yet run, but the numbers are still very good. It probably will happen. It always has.

Perhaps Mr. Elliott and others could help themselves to come back to earth by taking a quick review of the well-known Fair Model Presidential Vote Equation, which keys off fundamental economic patterns. The Yale professor (Roy Fair) responsible for the model last applied it to information as of April 29, 2004, when it showed Mr. Bush prevailing with 58% of the two-party vote. Is a prisoner abuse fuss 5,000 miles away going to undo that margin? Worse for Democratic fantasists, this is what Professor Fair had to say at that time:

The predictions of GROWTH, INFLATION, and GOODNEWS for the previous forecast from the US model (February 5, 2004) were 3.0 percent, 1.9 percent, and 3, respectively. The current predictions from the US model (April 29, 2004) are 3.2 percent, 2.0 percent, and 3, respectively. In the previous forecast 2004:1 was predicted to be a GOODNEWS quarter, but it turned out not to be. For the current forecast 2004:2 is predicted to be a GOODNEWS quarter, so the total number of GOODNEWS quarters is the same at 3. The economic predictions thus changed very little. The prediction of GROWTH, the per capita growth rate in the first three quarters of 2004 at an annual rate, has increased to 3.2 from 3.0 for the previous forecast, and the prediction of INFLATION has increased from 1.9 to 2.0. These new economic values give a prediction of 58.74 percent of the two-party vote for President Bush rather than 58.68 percent before. The main message that the equation has been making from the beginning is thus not changed, namely that President Bush is predicted to win by a sizable margin.

Note that both quarters 2003:4 and 2004:1 are close to being good news quarters. The non per capita growth rates are 4.1 and 4.2 percent respectively, and with population growing at about 1 percent, these are per capita growth rates of 3.1 and 3.2 percent respectively. The trigger for a good news quarter is 3.2 percent per capita growth. In the above discussion I have not counted 2004:1 as a good news quarter because the growth rate to two decimal places is slightly less than 4.2 percent, but this is a very close call. If both of these quarters are counted as good news quarters, the vote prediction rises from 58.74 percent to 60.42 percent, since each good news quarter contributes 0.837 percentage points to the vote prediction.

If anything, every one of these factors has improved (or, in the case of inflation, not deteriorated materially) since April 29. The reader is invited to calculate his or her own up-to-date prediction using this page. Note to hopeful Democratic fantasists: "GOODNEWS" means the number of quarters in the first 15 quarters of the Bush administration in which the growth rate of real per capita GDP is greater than 3.2 percent at an annual rate - not the amount of positive coverage the Administration is able to squeeze out of the mainstream media. Indeed, growth rates for past quarters have recently been revised upwards.

Absent some very striking new developments, this election will not be decided by Iraq or even national security issues generally - contrary to way too many short-sighted pundits. But, to the extent national security matters in the election, the issue generally favors Mr. Bush in the large.

And, with respect to Iraq in particular, John Kerry has no particular advantage over the President.

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International Trade and American Jobs

The cant from Democratic and left wing quarters on "exporting America" has quieted dramatically in recent months (other than Lou Dobbs, of course, who just can't shut up). I believe that quieting is in large measure attributable to an awakening of sorts on the left as to just how much damage they were doing and just how big a nightmare for their electoral prospects they were creating for themselves.

Here's some further evidence from the Senate Joint Economic Committee (JEC):

The full report.


Over the past 20 years the unemployment rate has fallen significantly despite a steady increase in imports.

Foreign companies employ thousands of U.S. workers in every state.

While some U.S. companies hire foreign workers overseas, the United States still dominates the world in exporting services.

U.S. multi-national corporations have consistently employed the vast majority of their employees within the U.S.


Trade Does Not Have a Negative Impact on Employment

The U.S. Has a Trade Surplus in Services

The U.S. Leads in the Export of Services

Multinational Firms Employ More Workers in the U.S.

Of course, none of this copious information and analysis from the JEC explains why one of the world's greatest self-anointed experts in international trade, Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, has had essentially nothing to say about the whole "oursourcing" issue. And this is a man whose basic academic work supposedly fundamentally transformed international trade theory ... but which is never mentioned in the outsourcing discussions! Not even by Lou Dobbs!

Why does Herr Doktorprofessor not instruct the ignorant masses? Surely, the people cry out for his wisdom! ... Don't they?
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Mr. Tenet Finds The Egress, But Who's That Piping Up?

The big news today is that George Tenet has resigned from his position as head of the CIA for unspecified "personal reasons." Fine.

Much of the mainstream liberal media, including the New York Times [UPDATE: See note below] and the Associated Press and CNN have been passing out these fairly nasty comments on the resignation:

The official announcement was unconvincing to a former C.I.A. chief, Stansfield Turner, who held the post under President Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Turner said the resignation is "too significant a move at too important a time" to be inspired by nothing more than personal considerations.

"I think he's being pushed out," Mr. Turner said in an interview on C.N.N. "The president feels he has to have someone to blame."

Mr. Turner went on, "I don't think he would pull the plug on President Bush in the midst of an election cycle without being asked by President Bush to do that."

Retired Adm. Turner is entitled to his views and his uninformed speculation, although his offering such thoughts based on the paucity of information at his disposal speaks directly and not well about his own tenure as head of the CIA. Ret. Adm. Turner was once head of the CIA - and the AP and CNN articles identified him only to that extent. To its credit, the New York Times (in the excerpt above) adds that Ret. Adm. Turner held the post under President Jimmy Carter.

But neither the Times nor the AP nor CNN bothers to note that Ret. Adm. Turner is an official advisor to the John Kerry Campaign.

Does that help to explain the rather nasty, partisan edge to Ret. Adm. Turner's comment? What does it say about the AP and the Times and CNN that they make no mention of his affiliation with the Kerry Campaign? And what does it say about Ret. Adm. Turner that he made no reported mention of that affiliation to the reporter who took his comments?

Ah, if only Ret. Adm Turner had been such a sly spook when he was running the CIA.

POSTSCRIPT: The Times article, by serial partisan offender David Stout, also opinionizes: Mr. Bush announced the resignation of the 51-year-old Mr. Tenet in a way that was almost bizarre. What follows is a completely anodyne description of the President giving the information to reporters assembled for a different matter in the Rose Garden. The only thing "almost bizarre" about the proceedings as reported in the Times article is the partisan stamp put on them by Mr. Stout.

UPDATE: The link to the New York Times no longer leads to the original David Stout article, which appears to have been entirely purged from the Times archives. The link now leads to a new Times article by Elisabeth Bumiller and Douglas Jehl which does not include any reference to stealth Kerry advisor Ret. Adm Turner and also omits Mr. Stout's pointless and partisan assertion that Mr. Bush announced the resignation of the 51-year-old Mr. Tenet in a way that was almost bizarre. While it is certainly to the Times credit that the original flawed Stout article has been deleted, and I realize that the Stout article did not appear in my print edition of the Times. But the appearance of a flawed article in the internet edition is also fairly serious. And while the Times has gone far in the right direction, some form of notice to on-line readers that the Stout article included a cite to a Kerry advisor posing as an independent qualified expert is still in order. "Rowback" is really not enough, even where publication is only electronic.

To my knowledge CNN and the AP remain completely shameless, with the Turner references intact and the Kerry connection unexplained. Since writing the original post above, I have actually seen the actual broadcast Turner CNN interview. It is vastly more partisan and speculative than the print version suggests. It's a disgrace - and CNN is still running the interview. But, then, repeat, prolonged disgraces are not unusual for CNN.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Modernizing The Military

John Kerry announced on May 27 a 4-prong proposal to deal with national security which he described in part this way:

It's time for a new national security policy ... we must modernize the world's most powerful military to meet the new threats. ... War has changed; the enemy is different - and we must think and act anew. .... I will also offer specific plans to build a new military capable of defeating enemies new and old .... As president, on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: This commander-in-chief will ensure that you are the best-led, best-equipped and most respected fighting force in the world. You will be armed with the right weapons. .... I will modernize our military to match its new missions. We must get the most out of new technologies.

That's a lot of blather and not so many specifics. But one specific Senator Kerry subsequently provided in a June 1 address is that the "modernization" of the armed forces he envisions will include no development of any new nuclear weapons:

As President, I will stop this Administration's program to develop a whole new generation of bunker-busting nuclear bombs. This is a weapon we don't need. And it undermines our credibility in persuading other nations. What kind of message does it send when we're asking other countries not to develop nuclear weapons, but developing new ones ourselves?

What's most interesting about the Senator's approach is its generality: What kind of message does it send when we're asking other countries not to develop nuclear weapons, but developing new ones ourselves? That implies not only that the US will not develop a whole new generation of bunker-busting nuclear bombs that the professional military officers in the Pentagon want to develop and build - but sweepingly prohibits development of every single future nuclear weapon the Pentagon might favor. Yet, Senator Kerry also said this in his May 27 address:

This Administration has disregarded the advice, wisdom, and experience of our professional military officers. And often ended the careers of those who dared to give their honest assessments. That is not the way to make the most solemn decisions of war and peace. As president, I will listen to and respect the views of our experienced military leaders - and never let ideology trump the truth.

So president Kerry would listen to and respect the views of our experienced military leaders - except when those same leaders propose new nuclear weapons to modernize the armed forces. And in the face of the extreme and ideological presidential policy the Senator announces here, what exactly would happen to the careers of those who dared to give their honest assessments that new nuclear weapons were needed in a future Kerry administration? The Senator tells us we must think and act anew - but not if the "anew" includes anything nuclear. He will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: This commander-in-chief will ensure that you are the ... best-equipped ... fighting force in the world. But not if that equipment might be nuclear. President Kerry will ensure that our troops will be armed with the right weapons. But the "right" weapons will never be nuclear weapons, even if a nuclear weapon might bust a bunker full of enemy soldiers who want to kill our troops. Senator Kerry will modernize our military to match its new missions! and get the most out of new technologies! - but not if those missions would be best accomplished by nuclear means or if the new technologies have a nuclear aspect.

It is also worth noting that the Kerry national security proposals are focused almost exclusively on terrorism - an important issue, to be sure. But the Senator all but dismisses the need to consider and prepare for potential direct conflict with a hostile and aggressive nuclear nation. That's yesterday's imperative, the Senator says.

China is bigger, more militaristic and more aggressive and more nuclear by the day. And it has big plans - including but not limited to US ally Taiwan (or is Taiwan a US ally as far as John Kerry is concerned?). Is China now an "enemy" of the United States. No. But neither are China's aspirations entirely benevolent as to the US or its Asian allies - and it is far from the case that the US can assume that China poses no nuclear threat to this country or any other country, including Taiwan and Japan. I guaranty that Taiwan and Japan don't view China as purely benevolent and pacific. But China doesn't even warrant an implicit mention by John Kerry:

There was a time not so long ago when dealing with the possibility of nuclear war was the most important responsibility entrusted to every American President. The phrase "having your finger on the nuclear button" meant something very real to Americans, and to all the world. The Cold War may be over, the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States may have ended, but the possibility of terrorists using nuclear weapons is very real indeed. The question before us now is what shadowy figures may someday have their finger on a nuclear button if we don't act. It is time again that we have leadership at the highest levels that treats this threat with the sense of seriousness, urgency, and purpose it demands.

I have a note for John Kerry: The phrase "having your finger on the nuclear button" still means something very real to sensible Americans, and to all the sensible world. Not that I expect him to figure that out.
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O Those Unkept (Or Is It "Unkempt"?) Promises

Claudia Rosett in OpinionJournal today:

But by the yardstick of most criticism now leveled at President Bush for freeing Iraq, by the rhetoric of John Kerry, who has deemed the venture a failure involving "one miscalculation after another," by lights of the chronic dismay over every setback or mistake in the face of 1,001 uncertainties, one might start to think America and its allies had on a whim invaded Sweden, reducing the place to the kind of condition you'd expect after about a quarter-century under Saddam.

Do you think she's exaggerating? At another point in the article she suggests that she is. But she really isn't exaggerating one bit when she calls attention to how preposterous the media bar-raising has become, as exemplified by this quote from an article that appeared in what was actually presented as "news" reporting in the Los Angeles Times:

Outside, the squat schoolhouse glistens with fresh lime-green paint, courtesy of the renovation spree launched by the U.S.-led coalition. Inside, the floors are buckled, the blackboards are scarred, and the bathrooms are little more than open-air sewage pits. There is one working water fountain for 1,125 students, who must pick their way through a parking lot strewn with mounds of trash to get to the school's front doors.

"They promised to make it a paradise," said Hana Abbood, a teacher of Arabic language at Shura. "But all they've changed is the paint."

To many Iraqis in the area, the sorry state of the school is a symbol of how the coalition has failed them.

There you have it. The Los Angeles Times is holding the Coalition's feet to the fire for failing to make good on its famous promise to make Iraq a paradise within a year. Thank goodness somebody has the courage to "out" Messrs. Bush and Blair for this kind of thing. And it's no accident that the people at the Los Angeles Times, that sworn enemy of "junk journalism," are just the guys to do it. The Times includes no analysis of what the Coalition leaders actually said because the Times has determined that none is needed.

Nor does the Times make the slightest effort to connect the preposterous expectations of the Iraqis they interview with the country's infinite history of having no democracy in which any (invariably corrupt) government operative could be held to account. The Iraqi people therefore have had no experience whatsoever in thinking seriously about what they should expect from their government or their economy, and therefore always assume the worst. The Times misidentifies as a problem created by the war and the occupation what is really an inevitable consequence of a local culture utterly lacking in enterprise and democratic understanding that dominates the entire Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey - and that leads people to invariably assume the worst. Why not make that assumption? Those governments aren't accountable to the people, and most individual initiative is only punished and the wealth it creates looted by the political class. It's exactly that dispirited culture and its consequences that the Coalition needs to address. And it is properly addressed not by bringing in more and faster welfare-flavored goodies to passive Iraqis waiting for blessings from on high - but by facilitating a system of Iraqi democracy and personal and social initiative.

The Times even passes up the opportunity to point out that Los Angeles has it's own school-of-broken-promises: the never-to-be-finished $160 Million plus Belmont High School, built just a few blocks from the Times HQ with proceeds of a dubious bond offering that was vigorously supported by the Times, just as the Times has vigorously opposed school vouchers and all other meaningful efforts to address the pathetic state of Los Angeles public schools. What do the Los Angeles and Iraq experiences have to say about the promise of democracy? Could there be a message in cynical Iraq about traditional American welfare-style liberalism? The Times couldn't be bothered even asking any such questions that might "bring the war home" in uncomfortable ways for the left. The Times is too busy arguing the need to bring in the US government financed benefits faster to Iraq.

There. The Times did it and they're glad. Cawabunga-Gonzo!

And, O yeah, ... this guy's not exaggerating, either. I'll bet Fox News viewers don't even know that the Coalition promised to make Iraq a paradise within a year! - unless they're lucky enough to read the Los Angeles Times.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Fall Of The House Of Eisner XX: Mel Mouse?

Mel Karmazin, the "architect of the CBS rebound", is out at Viacom ... long before his contract was to expire, long after he supposedly patched up his problems with Sumner Redstone, and with no real explanation.

On the other hand, the Walt Disney Company has been under strong pressure to fix it's lack of succession planning for nearly-semi-deposed Michael Eisner. One argument that keeps coming up is that there just aren't that many people with the right experience to run a media conglomerate ... especially in turning around a troubled major television net work.

Of course, there's Mel Karmazin ... but he's already working for Viacom.

UPDATE: I think it is unlikely that the trained poodle circus that passes for the Disney board would seriously consider replacing Michael Eisner with Mel Karmazin.

However, if Mr. Karmazin were willing to work with Roy Disney and, say, Steve Jobs in putting together a new, proposed management team and a new proposed board of directors, he might be a major player in a proxy contest for the Disney board. Messrs. Karmazin, Jobs, Gold and Disney could propose themselves as new, replacement Disney board members - along with whatever other proposed board members they select. Let the Disney shareholders vote.

Proxy fights are complex and expensive. But if the shareholders who were willing to withhold approval of Mr. Eisner at the last shareholder meeting were to spread the costs among themselves, a proxy fight would be quite feasible. And, if it happened, I would wager on a Karmazin-Disney-Jobs team simply because none of them is a spent force where Mr. Eisner clearly is.

In the mean time, all is completely predictable at Disney ( via Reuters)

Chairman George Mitchell on Tuesday said he was confident in current management as Mel Karmazin, long seen as a potential Disney chief, left rival media company Viacom Inc.

Dissident Disney shareholders Roy Disney and Stanley Gold immediately called for the board to look at Karmazin as a replacement for embattled Disney chief executive Michael Eisner.

Karmazin's abrupt resignation as president and chief operating officer of Viacom reignited speculation that he could replace Eisner.

Karmazin left the company unrestricted by any noncompete clause that would have stopped him from joining a Viacom rival. ....

Mitchell backed Eisner in a statement when asked to comment on Karmazin's exit.

"The board has complete confidence in the current management. On the strength of our recent results we believe that confidence has been justified, and will be further validated as our performance continues to improve," he said.

Disney and Gold said that Mitchell and the Disney board should consider Karmazin as they put together a succession plan for Eisner.

"We would assume he has or will be contacting Mel Karmazin, among other obvious candidates," they said. "(Karmazin) should definitely be on the Disney board's short list," they added.

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Krugman v. Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks is not an economist. So the sophistication of his column today on the economic track record of the Bush Administration is telling when compared to the primitive rantings on the same subject in the column dropped by Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman.

One particularly nasty indication of just how intellectually empty Herr Doktorprofessor's effort really is lies in this admission:

For most families, the losses from these cuts will far outweigh any gain from lower taxes. My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that 80 percent of all families will end up worse off ...

Herr Doktorprofessor is a full professor of economics at Princeton (lucky them!) with free access to all manner of computer models, lots of economic data, sharp assistants and graduate students, accomplished colleagues (on the other hand, if you were Herr Doktorprofessor's colleague would you talk to him on a regular basis?). He has been ranting regularly for years that the losses from the Bush tax cuts will far outweigh any gain from the lower taxes. His columns have made clear that he is in wide contact with other economists and political operatives and consultants who share his views and also have lots of resources. Yet today he admits that the best he can do to back up his opinion is a back-of-the-envelope calculation. One feels unclean after reading such an admission. In any event, what's to dispute? Why bother arguing with the back of an envelope? Life is too short. In any event, Herr Doktorprofessor again raves as if the deficit were mostly attributable to the Bush tax cuts, where sensible studies keep pointing out that it's increased federal spending and a soft economy that caused about three-quarters of the recent deficit. Federal spending reductions are needed, but to Herr Doktorprofessor a federal program is sacrosanct if it is merely "popular" - and evidence that the White House is girding up for just such necessary reductions is taken as nothing but evidence of its perfidy. He's merely childish - and the silly fourth-grade-level word play he uses to fill up the column inches today should be intensely embarrassing to the Times.

Now Mr. Brooks, on the other hand, has done some homework:

[A] dozen distinguished and politically independent economists ... like Charles Schultze of the Brookings Institution, the longtime Federal Reserve economist Lyle Gramley, David Wyss of Standard & Poor's, among others - a pretty good sampling of mainstream economic thinking ... gave the Bush team a B-plus for short-term fiscal policy, a C-minus for long-term fiscal policy, a B for regulatory policy and a B-minus for trade and international economics. These aren't the grades that win you a Rhodes scholarship, but they're not too bad.

I ... asked a few senior officials to respond.

The senior officials did respond, and the responses are worth reading regardless of whether one agrees with them. Personally, I do not agree with some of what Mr. Brooks says, including that the White House lacks a compelling response to the argument that the stimulus could have been stronger if more of the cuts had been distributed down the income scale. Consumer spending, which might have been increased by such "distributing down," was not the biggest problem - lagging post-dot-com-boom capital investment was. A permanent tax cut structured to increase consumer spending while permanently understimulating capital investment would have been structurally unsound - and Mr. Brooks admits that the White House has good responses to the argument that the cuts should have been temporary.

But Mr. Brooks does have one thing to learn from Herr Doktorprofessor. Mr. Brooks writes:

What I don't understand is why the administration doesn't now pivot and say: O.K., we had a potential crisis. We prevented it. Now the recovery is in full swing. Let's address the long-term problems. Let's talk about the consequences of the aging baby boomers. Let's talk about reforming the tax code to encourage domestic savings.

As noted above, it is Herr Doktorprofessor's panicky conviction that the White House may be preparing to do just that. But probably not enough.

But the main point is that after reading the Brooks column one feels that one has actually been presented with some considered thought, not an empty rant, contemptuous to all Times readers, written on the back of Herr Doktorprofessor's envelope.

UPDATE: Don Luskin points out blatant intellectual dishonesty in Herr Doktorprofessor's rant.

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