Man Without Qualities

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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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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