Man Without Qualities


Saturday, August 07, 2004


Inspired By John Kerry's Acceptance Speech

I admit it. I was wrong. I thought John Kerry's Democratic Convention speech was "ineffective."

But already it has effected Peggy Noonan's leave of absence from the Wall Street Journal to work for the re-election of Mr. Bush.

And the timing of this development is awfully coincidental, although it seems the leading actor in the story below must have watched the Boston doings only on television:

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander switched his party affiliation to Republican on Friday ? making the surprise flip in the last minute of registration for the Nov. 2 ballot virtually assuring the seat for the GOP. .... In Washington, Democrats reacted angrily. "Rodney Alexander has betrayed voters in Louisiana and leaders like John Breaux and Mary Landrieu, who have helped him. We have no use for turncoats like Rodney Alexander in the new Democratic majority," said Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ... With the switch, Democrats must now gain 12 seats this fall to win the majority. Sen. John Breaux, the retiring Democratic leader of the delegation, called the switch an underhanded maneuver that "effectively prevented the people of his district from a having a choice." .... [State Democratic Party chairman Mike] Skinner's criticism was even sharper: "Who knows what the Republicans promised him to switch? Judas got 30 pieces of silver." .... [Rep. Alexander] skipped the party's National Convention last month in Boston.

Senator Breaux is not a bad man or a bad senator. But he had a rather different take on such party defection when his buddy Jim Jeffords bolted the Republicans to become an "independent caucusing with the Democrats." In fact, Senator Breaux seems to have been proud of his own role in that defection:

"We just kept talking to him about it, that he'd feel more comfortable working with moderates in our caucus," Sen. John Breaux, D-La., recalled. "It was a gradual process over a couple of months."


And what about showing some "respect:"

I respect what Jeffords did, but there are a lot of Republicans who lost their chairmanships because of him.


Senator Breaux's comment about Rep. Alexander seems particularly odd since Rep. Alexander is switching parties right before the election - not right afterwards, as did Senator Jeffords - so that the people of his district know exactly what they're voting for. And, the voters in that district will still have the choice of voting for a Democrat:

There is another strong Republican in the three-candidate field. He is Jock Scott, a former state representative from Alexandria. The Democrat is Zelma "Tisa" Blakes, of Monroe, a political newcomer who called herself a "domestic engineer" when she qualified on Wednesday. Asked if the party will get behind a political unknown, state Democratic Party chairman Mike Skinner ... wouldn't say if they will get behind her.


It seems that Mr. Skinner and the Louisiana Democratic Party don't completely share Senator Breaux's sense of urgency that voters in the 5th District have as much of that "choice" that the Senator talks about.

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Friday, August 06, 2004


Chimeras

Every human being has a single genetic code, right?

Well, no. Not really:

Circulating within a woman's body are not only her own cells but also those of her children. These cells, normally numbering less than one in a million, linger in a mother's bloodstream for years or even decades after she gives birth. Such a biological melding of individuals, called "fetal cell microchimerism," has garnered attention recently in scientific circles. .... During pregnancy, while a mother inherits fetal cells through the placenta, a fetus also acquires maternal cells.

But it all gets stranger, at least for some people:

In zoology, a chimera is an animal which has (at least) two different populations of cells, which are genetically distinct and which originated in different zygotes (fertilised eggs). Chimeras are named after the mythological creature Chimera.

Chimerism may occur naturally during pregnancy, when two non-identical twins combine in the womb, at a very early stage of development, to form a single organism. Such an organism is called a tetragametic chimera as it is formed from four gametes—two eggs and two sperm. As the organism develops, the resulting chimera can come to possess organs that have different sets of chromosomes. For example, the chimera may have a liver composed of cells with one set of chromosones and have a kidney composed of cells with a second set of chromosomes. This has occurred in humans, though it is considered extremely rare, but since it can only be detected through DNA testing, which in itself is rare, it may be more common than currently believed. As of 2003, there were about 30 human cases in the literature, according to New Scientist.

In biological research, chimeras are artificially produced by mixing cells from two different organisms. This can result in the eventual development of an adult animal composed of cells from both donors, which may be of different species—for example, in 1984 a chimeric geep was produced by combining embryos from a goat and a sheep. A chicken with a quail's brain has been produced by grafting portions of a quail embryo into a chicken embryo.

In August 2003, researchers at the Shanghai Second Medical University in China reported that they had successfully fused human skin cells and rabbit eggs to create the first human chimeric embryos. The embryos were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory setting, then destroyed to harvest the resulting stem cells. Research using human embryonic material is troubling to many theologians and bioethicists.

Chimeras should not be confused with hybrids, which are organisms formed from two gametes (each from a different species) which formed a single zygote. All cells in a hybrid originate from this single zygote. For example, a mule is a hybrid created from the sperm of a donkey and the egg of a horse.

Chimeras should also not be confused with mosaics, which are organisms with genetically different cell types, but which again originate from a single zygote.


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What Stings

"What Kerry fails to say is that it would have taken him 7 minutes to explain to those kids that he needed to leave" -- The political tip sheet Hotline on John Kerry's contention that he wouldn't have stayed and read to Florida schoolchildren after receiving word about the World Trade Center attack. [From OpinionJournal's Political Diary]

Ouch! That stings the Brahmin hide!



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Not The Best News For An Incumbent, But ... II

This report is likely more politically significant than today's ambiguous employment release:

Consumer confidence surged during the past month to its highest level since the beginning of the year, with Americans feeling better about their own finances and more optimistic about the future despite renewed terror threats and rising oil prices. .... Consumer confidence has been rising for the past four months amid signs of economic recovery. .... While months of steady improvement in the job market until Friday's announcement of a slowdown has fueled optimism, the AP-Ipsos index found the increase this time was based more on people's improved perceptions of their own personal finances, and their view of how their local economy will be doing six months from now. The snapshot of consumer sentiment found Americans considerably more upbeat about the economy than a year ago, when the index was at 89.0. Much of the improvement came during the past month, however.

As noted in the prior post:

Voters will not make their choices in November by referring to abstract government economic numbers. If that were the way voters acted, Mr. Bush's poll numbers would be a good deal higher than they are. As noted here often, voters will choose in November mostly on the basis of the domestic economy - which means how prosperous and economically secure they feel at the time. In the past, that feeling has had more to do with the current unemployment rate than almost anything else - just ask Grey Davis, who was drummed out of office during a period of relatively high state unemployment while shouting that a lot of "new jobs" had been created on his watch.

That's still true.

AND THEN THERE'S THIS:

"We do not think that this report marks a weakening in the economy. One interpretation of these data, which would be consistent with the ISM reports, is that productivity growth is fueling the acceleration in economic activity in July. However, it is difficult to put too much weight on the employment data when there is a divergence of almost 600,000 between the two measures of job creation in July."

-- John Ryding, chief market economist, Bear Stearns

"The true rate of job growth is probably somewhere between the two" -- the numbers shown by the household survey and those shown by the establishment survey." The increase in average hourly earnings coupled means the paltry payroll growth "masked an increase in demand for labor services. … It's the growth of weekly earnings … which might allow consumer spending to grow despite July's stalling of payrolls."

-- John Lonski, economist, Moody's Investors Service

Let's see, there were 32,000 new jobs according to the payroll survey, and the household survey increased by 629,000. Mr. Lonski thinks that the real number is somewhere between the two. Wall Street had expected roughly 240,000 new payroll jobs. By my figuring, 240,000 is very much between 32,000 and 629,000.

Just a thought!
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O Those Veterans III

Any credibility and effectiveness that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may have had or hoped for will dissolve pretty quickly with this kind of key member retracting key accusations. Whether John Kerry shot a fleeing man in the back to get his Silver Star is not exactly nuance:


I still don't think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. "It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here." Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel "time pressure" from those involved in the book. "That's no excuse," Elliott said. "I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."
They have the right to say what's on their minds and get it on the air, but I'd keep away from these guys. And, by the way, Mr. Elliott's actions further suggest that the White House was not involved with this ad. Whatever else one may think about Mr. Bush's organization, it's not amateur hour.

There's lots more good stuff on this from Maguire. Of course, one should not be so naive as to actually start believing every detail of John Kerry's version of these events just because Mr. Elliott can't seem to make up his mind as to what he saw. Senator Kerry has himself used Mr. Elliott as a witness in the past. If Mr. Elliott is an unreliable witness now, he was also an unreliable witness then.

UPDATE: In my view, Mr. Elliott retains enough, somewhat shaky credibility to be heard out, and the Boston Globe (aka the New York Times) is trying to pull a serious fast one if it doesn't promptly alert its readers a to the irregularities in the anti-Elliott story its Mr. Kranish wrote yesterday. Mr. Elliott's document are available here. But the whole thing is sufficiently tenuous that I also think other people - especially anyone within a parsec of the White House or the RNC should stay away from this group. But not because they have been revealed to be bad people - just not as professional, stable and vetted as they need to be for higher involvement.

For now, the Globe is not giving an inch.
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Not The Best News For An Incumbent, But ...

... not reason for him to panic, either.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced today that during July employment increased by 32,000 according to the payroll survey. According to the household survey, which is used to calculate the unemployment rate, total employment increased by 629,000. The unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent. Payroll job growth was slower than expected ? Wall Street had expected roughly 240,000 new payroll jobs. Manufacturing added 10,000 new payroll jobs and the average duration of unemployment fell to 18.6 weeks from 19.9 weeks in June, its lowest level since March 2003. But job growth in May and June was less than initially estimated.

Charts:

How Many New Jobs?

Unemployment Rate Declining

11 Consecutive Months of Payroll Job Growth

It would have been better re-election news for the incumbent, of course, if the July numbers had revealed a nice big increase in both the payroll and household employment numbers.

Much recent political dialogue has been cast in terms of the number of "new jobs" created. That has led to some fussing over the now-fairly-well-known divergence in the payroll/household surveys. But the best historical re-election correlation is with the actual unemployment rate - which declined to 5.5% and, of course, is calculated from the household survey. In some prior months the unemployment rate has declined without much job growth - or even with some job loss - because "discouraged workers" withdrew from the market - and much has been made of that in some quarters. But July's decline in the unemployment rate was not caused by discouraged workers who withdrew from the market. This decline in the unemployment rate was caused by a jump in household survey employment by 629,000 new workers.

It seems likely that higher energy prices are behind much of what is showing up in these numbers, including relatively soft recent retail sales (although those sales were more influenced by weather than has been emphasized in the media - and this New York Post column suggests a much more benign explanation for the July numbers, a little too benign in my opinion). It is also worth noting that July often has an eccentric employment profile. July is often not a big month for manufacturing hiring and a large part of July hiring is often of a seasonal and/or temporary nature - often of younger people and related to leisure activities. Those jobs are especially vulnerable to spikes in gas prices. While it would likely have been better if people seeking such positions could have found them in larger numbers, the political impact of such people's employment status should not easily be considered to be equivalent to that of people seeking other types of jobs. And then there's the point the Post article makes: [T]he Labor Department's so-called Net Birth/Death Adjustment tabulates July as one of only two months in which there are more companies dying and taking jobs away than creating new jobs. And that "tabulation" has sometimes been seriously out of whack.

Much of the media coverage is treating the unemployment rate almost as a misleading detail. The ever-spinning New York Times drolly puts it today:

The unemployment rate fell slightly, to 5.5 percent, last month. It is based on a smaller survey than the job growth numbers, which are widely considered the more reliable gauge of employment.


That smaller survey than the job growth numbers is the household survey. Contrary to the Times' spin, the matter is vastly more complex than the jobs survey being widely considered the more reliable gauge of employment than the household survey. If what the Times suggests were correct, the unemployment rate would be calculated from the jobs survey. The Federal Reserve Bank predominantly uses the jobs survey (or "payroll survey") for many purposes in connection with choosing its short-term interest rates, and some mostly short-term stock investors use the payroll survey as a basis for placing some of their money. But for many other purposes the household survey is the better measure. For example, a rise in household survey employment caused by a big rise in sole proprietorships will likely not be well-reflected in the payroll survey (no payrolls). Nor do sole proprietorships and payroll employment have the same characteristics for the purposes of many Wall Street investors - so they respond negatively to a jump in one survey but not the other. But a prosperous sole proprietor is still a happy voter. The relationship between the two surveys is considered by essentially all competent observers to be just not understood.

Because the Fed predominantly uses the jobs survey in choosing its short-term interest rates, the employment figures released today may deter the Fed from raising interest rates further for a while. Fed moves today won't have any substantive effect on the economy until long after the election - but the effect on the stock market could be immediate.

Voters will not make their choices in November by referring to abstract government economic numbers. If that were the way voters acted, Mr. Bush's poll numbers would be a good deal higher than they are. As noted here often, voters will choose in November mostly on the basis of the domestic economy - which means how prosperous and economically secure they feel at the time. In the past, that feeling has had more to do with the current unemployment rate than almost anything else - just ask Grey Davis, who was drummed out of office during a period of relatively high state unemployment while shouting that a lot of "new jobs" had been created on his watch.

RELATED: From the Congressional Budget Office (CBO):

CBO now projects a budget deficit of $422 billion for fiscal year 2004, about $56 billion less than CBO projected in March. Nearly all of that change results from higher-than-anticipated revenues.

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Thursday, August 05, 2004


O Those Veterans II

Dick Morris and Bill O'Reilly were just condemning the now-(in)famous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth anti-Kerry ad. Mr. O'Reilly introduced the segment saying that they were to discuss the "ethics" of the ad and emphatically repeated that John Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam - which is true only in a very attenuated sense (he had been told that he was otherwise would be drafted into the then-more-dangerous army and, as Chris Suellentrop pointed out, Kerry volunteered for swift boat duty before it became dangerous). This excellent post by Tom Maguire provides lots more on this point and related matters. See especially Tom's link to Spinsanity's deconstruction of the Senator's exaggerated "volunteerings."

Mr. Morris wasn't interested in discussing any notion of "ethics." Instead, Mr. Morris focused on what he saw as the "stupidity" of the ad. The "stupidity" he was concerned about seemed to flow from two main concerns. Mr. Morris' first concern seemed to arise from his imagining himself back working in the Clinton White House and considering what his thought processes would have been in considering "planting" such an ad under the guise of an "independent group." Mr. Morris' also considered Senator Kerry's valorous military record to be sufficiently documented that the ad (and, it would seem, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth book and anything else they might produce) can't possibly be effective in obtaining for Mr. Bush even "a single vote." A subsidiary concern, which also seemed to concern Mr. O'Reilly, was that all but one of the men actually serving on John Kerry's boat do support him - and they have more credibility than the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Finally, Mr. Morris was concerned that Senator Kerry's "unassailable" military service record is his strongest campaign suit and is simply better than that of Mr. Bush - and that the ad draws attention to all that.

I completely agree that someone working in the White House would be stupid to create - or coordinate in the creation of - such an ad. Indeed, under current campaign finance law, such actions would likely be illegal, even criminal. Mr. Morris even suggested (and then immediately retracted) that the White House probably does have its "fingerprints" on the ad because the $500,000 financing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has raised simply doesn't "arise spontaneously." But the intensity of Mr. Morris' concern on this point is odd: he admitted that he had no evidence that the Bush White House is or was ever involved with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. So why is his concern more than a theoretical one? Why the intensity? Does it arise from a presumption he makes based on his own way of doing business? His suggestion that the White House should have contacted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and demanded that they pull the ad before it ran is odd, since such an action would definitely suggest that the White House knew about the ad before it was released and that the White House could control, or at least coordinated actions with, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Assuming the White House had done what Mr. Morris suggests, what additional evidence would be needed to prove Republican violation of federal campaign law? - a confession in the President's own hand?

Mr. Morris placed particular emphasis on the likelihood that the contributors to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may mostly turn out to be big supporters of George Bush. He suggested that "someone" would investigate and show this to be true. No such investigation is necessary: Of course the contributors to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are wealthy George Bush supporters! Who else could they be? John Kerry supporters? The DNC? Members of Sister Theresa's religious order who took up a collection in the Calcutta slums? What the heck is Mr. Morris thinking?

It is possible the argument that the White House is "behind" the ad because it was funded by Bush backers might gain some unjustified political traction if the Democrats and the media hammer on the point. But if this point is hammered it raises the whole issue of Democratic-leaning "independent organizations," including those funded by George Soros. And mere overlap of contributors by itself just doesn't reasonably demonstrate or even suggest that the White House is "behind" this ad. Many politically active people - and one need not descend to the level of George Soros - contribute to all sorts of organizations that serve what the contributor considers to be related goals. That alone doesn't even suggest a "conspiracy" or "joint control" or "coordination." If other evidence of coordination exists - as Mr. Morris stated (also without support) exists among Hillary Clinton, Harold Ickes and George Soros - then perhaps an inference can be drawn reasonably. But from mere overlap of contributors? That's not even a close call for a reasonable person. But perhaps Mr. Morris is more concerned about inferences naive people might draw? Relatedly, unsubstantiated accusations made today by Kerry-Edwards that Karl Rove is involved in the ad are more likely to do harm to the Democrats than any real good - especially given the Democrat's recent record of characterizing many events adverse to their interests as "dirty tricks" (as with the recent ridiculous NASA "bunny suit" episode).

As for the effectiveness of this ad, I don't think it's intended to be effective with the general voting public. It is intended to reach the minority of the electorate who care a lot about Senator Kerry's military valor over a few months of service thirty years ago. It isn't obvious that the Senator Kerry's crew have overwhelming credibility with that entire target group. The doctor who treated Senator Kerry for a wound that led to one of his purple hearts would also seem to have some credibility with respect to those wounds. In sum, I don't think the ad is obviously "ineffective" - especially since it is very well produced and constructed. It would be interesting to see focus group and poll results on this point. If the White House is involved then surely the impact of the ad would have been tested in some professional form. Doesn't that make Mr. Morris' arguments that the ad is "ineffective" and that "the White House is likely involved" seem inconsistent on a practical level?

Then there is Mr. Morris' concern that the ad just draws attention to the superiority of Senator Kerry's service records over that of Mr. Bush. This concern seems overblown since only Senator Kerry has made his military service record a centerpiece of his campaign and a supposedly key credential. Senator Kerry's military service record in the form he and his supports have placed it is simply not generally unassailable.

But perhaps the oddest aspect of the O'Reilly/Morris segment was their joint suggestion, after jointly deploring the ad, that the real message from this entire event is that voters should just stop giving significant weight to what happened in Vietnam thirty years ago. No doubt the White House would be extremely pleased with that outcome. Nobody else was there to point that out.

And exactly why wasn't anyone else there? You know, someone who might have disagreed with the unison chant from this curious duo?

MORE
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A Heard Of Cats

Would bear some resemblance to the rather small gang of "Business Executives Supporting Kerry-Edwards."
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The Purple Heart Hunter

The Purple Heart Hunter, Chapter 3 of Unfit for Command.

This is from the material DRUDGE has been excerpting.

Already the Democratic National Committee's lawyers have sent a fulminating letter in what is probably about the most ineffective and inappropriate form of response possible to what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been doing, short of threatening to break their legs.

This DNC letter also suggests that Kerry-Edwards and the DNC simply don't know what to do. Launching such a bad response like this silly lawyer letter suggests that the Kerry-Edwards and the DNC really don't have a good response.
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The Continuing Quest For The Media To Rediscover That The Election Is Mostly About The Economy

Today, the Christian Science Monitor figures out that swing voters in key states care mostly about the domestic economy. Imagine that.

Which is why stories about the decline in July unemployment claims and softish July chain store sales and high oil prices are much more important than all that flashy stuff about Iraq roadside mullahs and bombs and intelligence czars.

And that will continue to be the case unless there is a major terrorist attempt or attack.
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O Those Veterans

In the past John Kerry has often characterized a breathtakingly wide range of criticisms of his post-service activities as "questioning his military service record." Someone doesn't like the Senator's vote against the expensive-weapons-system-de-jour? He promptly replies: How dare that person question my military service record!

Now the actual assault on John Kerry's service record has begun.

I don't know how powerful this assault on Senator Kerry's version of his history will be or how much truth there is in it. The book that is apparently to serve as the transport vehicle for the assault's first wave certainly seems to be selling well at the moment. The excerpts from that book that have appeared on DRUDGE are corrosive of the image Senator Kerry has carefully constructed and maintained of his military career for decades. The television ad created by the group behind the book, by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is to my eye absolutely devastating. The ad's opening invitation by John Edwards for any person who has any questions about Senator Kerry to just spend "three minutes" with the men who served with Senator Kerry in Vietnam seems particularly well conceived and effective. How does Kerry-Edwards credibly argue that the public shouldn't pay attention to the men speaking in the ad in the face of Senator Edward's invitation to the public t do just that?

The early signs do not seem promising for Kerry-Edwards. So far, the Kerry-Edwards responses have been to (1) argue that the men in Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are not credible because they didn't serve on Senator Kerry's own boat, (2) appeal to Senator John McCain, who has not surprisingly complied, and (3) attempt to distract attention by focusing on what Kerry-Edwards says are strong ties between the Bush campaign and the financial backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

But the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth website says that Senator Kerry himself used a photograph of many members of the group in one of his own ads that claimed all of the men pictured supported his candidacy - and that they are taking action to halt Senator Kerry's untrue claims. I haven't seen that Kerry ad, but if what Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims is correct, how can Kerry-Edwards credibly argue they should shut up? Their the web site also contains a clever "morphing video" graphically showing that only one of the men in the photo actually supports the Senator, and a schematic showing that most of the rest think he is "unfit." This web site material seems to be even more damaging than the ad, could easily become another ad - and also seems to contain irrefutable arguments against any assertion that these men should not be heard or that they lack credibility.

John McCain doesn't like the ad and has responded in his usual high dudgeon. But Senators McCain and Kerry refer endlessly to their own military service and the men who served with them. Who is John McCain to tell these men to pipe down?

John McCain suggests that this assault on John Kerry is just like what Senator McCain says was the Bush campaign assault on Senator McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries, an assault to which Senator McCain seems to attribute his defeat in those primaries. If that's all correct it's bad news for Senator Kerry, since Senator McCain's approach suggests that such an assault is very effective. Fortunately for Kerry-Edwards, John McCain probably isn't correct about what brought down his own 2002 effort. The successes in his 2000 run depended on crossover voters, and attracted few actual Republican votes - which is not the best way to attempt to garner the Republican nomination for President. On a related note, the early and emphatic Kerry-Edwards appeal to John McCain in what may (or may not) be a fatal assault on the Kerry-Edwards ticket would seem to explain why Senator Kerry was so interested in putting John McCain on his ticket, until Senator McCain refused the suggestion.

The strategy of drawing attention to the funding source for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may obtain some traction. But Kerry-Edwards is depending on scads of "independent" 527 committees. If the approach is to suggest that President Bush can control the funding or behavior of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, does that mean John Kerry is going to admit that he can direct (or does direct) MoveOn.Org or the activities of billionaire George Soros, who has given many millions of dollars to those committees? Kerry-Edwards has demanded that the President denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad. Does that mean that Senator Kerry is obligated to "denounce" every nutty action of Mr. Soros, his 527 Committees and MoveOn.Org? In a curious way the McCain-Feingold legislation, by creating the 527 Committee phenomenon, seems to have undercut the argument that candidates have any obligation to denounce - or even address - those who offer "independent" support.

If this assault succeeds - and at the moment the best Senator Kerry seems likely to salvage is a particularly nasty "he said/he said" face off that can't do him any good - it raises the question: How could Kerry-Edwards have gone forward with a campaign and Convention based so much on exactly what this assault challenges? After all, this group served notice long ago that it would launch this assault if John Kerry received the nomination?

I think there are several possible reasons for Kerry-Edwards and the Democratic Party going forward as they did. First, there may be nothing to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims. Frankly, that seems unlikely. Then there is the weird effect of life in the United States Senate. Senators often feel that they live at the very top. They think they have survived the very most intense scrutiny possible. They think they are very much like John Kennedy, a Senator with many nasty skeletons kept nicely in the closet during a successful Presidential run.

And they are very wrong on all counts. Every election cycle seems to bring out at least one Senator whose attempt at the Presidency is shot down by something in his past that wasn't previously known and/or wasn't deemed disqualifying for public office, even the Senate - but is is discovered during his Presidential run and/or is deemed disqualifying for the Presidency. Think "Joe Biden" and "multiple plagiarisms and exxageration of academic record." Think "Gary Hart" and "Donna Rice." Senator Kerry may just be another example of that effect.

Of course, I have never understood why anyone much cares all about Senator Kerry's service record in connection with his ascent to high federal office, so it's a bit hard for me to internalize this new fracas over it's details. Some high officers - generals such as Grant and Eisenhower - have military service that demands of them huge organizational abilities, a capacity to grasp a big picture and a sense of what one demands of those one sends into combat. Those at least arguably constitute significant credentials for the Presidency - although President Grant's term in office calls for further evaluation of the importance of those credentials. But Senator Kerry's service record was just too small scale and short to matter much - and even as he tells it doesn't do much to support his claim to high legislative or executive office. Others obviously don't agree with me, many of them veterans, which I am not. So it will be interesting to see how Kerry-Edwards answers these charges and how the public - and those veterans - construe this imbroglio.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Excuse Me, It Was An Effective Speech

At least it was effective in getting Peggy Noonan so upset that she's taking a leave of absence from the Wall Street Journal to help the Republicans in this election.

Of course, that speech is also reported to have caused Bush to gain eight points in the Gallup poll. Talk about effective!

On a related point, I just noticed John Kerry himself on television offering an entirely new reason why his failure to obtain any bounce from his Convention doesn't matter: Senator Kerry says that he was already at such a high level in the polls going into the Convention that there was just nowhere "up" to go.

Funny that neither he, nor his people, nor Terry McAuliffe, nor the mainstream media thought that to be true before the Convention. As Adam Nagourney put it in the New York Times:

For all of the Kerry aides' efforts to play down expectations, Democrats were looking for him to break through the long deadlock and allay concerns that voters were reluctant to embrace Mr. Kerry, even if they were unhappy with Mr. Bush. Going into the convention, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, predicted that Mr. Kerry would enjoy an eight-point gain in support after the convention.

Why didn't Senator Kerry have his people and the DNC tell everyone to calm down and not expect a bounce?

Of course, if, as the Senator argues, Kerry-Edwards was (and is) already up so high that there was no place to go, doesn't it follow that Bush-Cheney will be down so much going into their convention that there's no place to go but up? In other words, doesn't the Senator's argument imply that there's lots of room for a Bush-Cheney post-Convention bounce?
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A Partial Checklist ...

... of things possibly to be mentioned at the upcoming Republican National Convention:

1. Ninety per cent of the Afghan electorate has registered to vote in October's landmark presidential election. [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __] [Link thanks to California Yankee]

2. Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold its first nationwide elections starting in November. [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __]

3. Domestic civilian control of Iraq established, a national convention in the hopper and national elections to be held next year. [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __]

4. Delegates not Stepfordified by instructing them to suppress their thoughts completely during Convention [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __](Note to Convention organizers: Do not Stepfordify Convention delegates by instructing them to suppress their thoughts completely during Convention).

5. Describe economic progress to date, and note that while President has not yet received full credit for such progress, he should receive credit in the way President's are assigned credit or blame for economic happenings on their watch.Note that the recession President Clinton left behind has turned into prosperity under George W. Bush. [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __]

6. Study elimination of the income tax and the IRS.[Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __] (Note to Convention organizers: Check with Congress, appropriate academics, focus groups and private polls before mentioning this possibility).

7. Study funding research of genetically modified plants to reduce CO2 content of atmosphere. [Check when mentioned on national media during Convention __] (Note to Convention organizers: Check with Congress, appropriate academics, focus groups and private polls before mentioning this possibility).

8. More.

Wait and hope for bounce in polls and in futures markets.
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So John Kerry Is Doing Well With Veterans, Is He?

What happens when they see this?

And they will.
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I Will Show You Fear In A Handful Of Dust ...

... or in the pale, sick visages of Ed Gillespie and other Republican surrogates moments after Kerry finished his Democratic Convention acceptance speech:

To be sure, they've regrouped. But that look didn't lie: They now know Kerry is a game-day player who can deliver in the clutch. If you're a Democrat, that's the good news.
That's what Matt Miller says, and he's a smart guy.

Yes, for once the unflapable Mr. Gillespie stood flapped! Or maybe it was just an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato that Mr. Miller was seeing on the Chairman's face, since there is now a link to that same Kerry speech posted on the main page of the Bush-Cheney '04 reelection website. That seems like a little more than the typical political "regrouping" one sees every day.

Maybe Mr. Gillespie and those other "surrogates" (is that a nice word for "goon" - the now accepted Kerry-Edwards argot?) was just thinking about what it would have been like if they had to listen to that speech and then force themselves to think that Kerry is a game-day player who can deliver in the clutch. Yes, a fragment of underdone potato would have about the same effect as that thought on a lot of people. So it's hard to know exactly what Mr. Miller saw.

Perhaps Mr. Miller should look around at the visages of his fellow Democrats now for that same pale, sick look.
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Is John Kerry Liberal? Is The Pope Catholic?

There is a continuing, somewhat bizarre attempt in some quarters to craft arguments that John Kerry is not "liberal." Often these attempts involve the use of some pseudo-objective "measure" of liberalism: what one might call a "liberalometer." Although there are many contenders, the liberalometer of Keith T. Poole that purports to measure liberal/conservative votes "objectively" by simply counting every single vote equally, probably takes first prize for specious pseudo-objectivity. In the Poole liberalometer, it appears a vote for nationalization of the health care system would count the same as a vote to fund the Washington Monument.

It ought to be obvious that determining whether a government operative, such as a legislator or judge, is "liberal" or "conservative" in any meaningful sense requires some evaluation of "key votes." The recent vote of the Massachusetts supreme court to impose same-sex marriage on that state means a lot more in determining whether the voting judges are "liberal" than some pseudo-objective equation of that vote with another one in which the same judges voted with a supposedly conservative bloc in a case decided under, say, the Uniform Commercial Code. Whether one loves or hates the same sex marriage decision, it was a key vote - in a way that some court decision not to enforce a bank's guaranty despite its suretyship waiver was not. The same is true for legislators such as Senator Kerry.

Counting all votes equally is nothing more than a concealed determination that every vote is a "key vote" - and therefore does not avoid the problem. But the Poole measure is highly disingenuous, all the more so for its specious claim to "objectivity." There will always be room to challenge any determination of what is a "key vote" - one simply has to look at how the determination was made and ask if one agrees with it. That task simply cannot be avoided - politics cannot be reduced that much. [UPDATE: Tom Maguire cogently previously noted this problem with the Poole methodology. That methodology may be good for some academic purposes, but it is a terrible liberalometer.]

But those who argue that Senator Kerry is not "liberal" don't do that. Instead, they push around lots other pseudo-objective criteria. To make matters worse for the pseudo-objectivists, Senator Kerry has a nasty habit of repudiating his votes - or reconstruing them to mean something they did not in fact mean. In this way, for example, John Kerry maintains that he did not vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He says he only voted to authorize the President to check things out with the UN and other people and to invade if there was nothing else that could be done .. bla, bla bla. Then there is his highly tenuous or outright rejected relationship with his "conservative" positions - including his forced acceptance of the 1996 welfare reform bill.

What happens when one tries to sort out key votes with Senator Kerry? Well, this is what happened in three major evaluations by organizations who have a real stake in getting the matter right:

[Congressional Quarterly] found that in 2003, Kerry voted with Kennedy 93 percent of the time on roll-call votes in which both men were present. While that might seem like a lot, it was, historically, a rather low number for Kerry; who voted with Kennedy 100 percent of the time on key votes in 2001, 1999, 1998, 1993, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, and 1985, according to a Republican analysis of CQ's designated key votes from those years.

There are other indicators that Kerry's liberalism, when he is present for votes, matches or even exceeds Kennedy's and those of other liberal icons in the Senate. For example, Kerry has earned a lifetime rating of 93 from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, which selects key votes each year and rates lawmakers according to a perfect liberal score of 100. Kerry's rating puts him in league with Kennedy, whose lifetime score is a slightly less-liberal 88, and other liberals like Vermont's Patrick Leahy, with 93, and California's Barbara Boxer, with 96.

Viewed from the other side of the ideological divide, Kerry has a lifetime rating of six from the conservative American Conservative Union, which uses a similar methodology to rate lawmakers according to a perfect conservative score of 100. Kerry's rating is the same as Leahy's and New York's Charles Schumer's, although it is slightly less liberal than Kennedy's lifetime rating of three.


So let's recap: The non-ideological National Journal, CQ,the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and the conservative American Conservative Union all agree that Senator John Kerry is very, very liberal. He repeatedly shows up as more liberal than other Senators who are almost universally considered very liberal. Or are we going to see arguments that Senator Boxer and Kennedy are not all that liberal? Some skeptics argue that Senator Kerry is not liberal and, at least implicitly, that they don't like the determinations of "key votes" made by any of the National Journal, CQ, the Americans for Democratic Action or the American Conservative Union. Fine. Those skeptics are free to formulate their own lists of "key votes" and submit it for public evaluation as somehow more perceptive and persuasive than the others. But, of course, with the notable exception of the grotesque Poole liberalometer, the skeptics don't present their own list because the chances of every one of these organizations - liberal, non-partisan and conservative - all getting it so wrong even though they all have very good reasons and the resources to get it right, are remote.

Yes, there are Howlers! being committed here. But the howling parties are those who argue that John Kerry has not been liberal - very, very liberal.

MORE

STILL MORE: Yes, yes, I remember now - Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman also had something confused to say on this topic. Look, if Paul Krugman is still "America's most dangerous liberal columnist" or whatever he was, it must have something to do with his driving. Or maybe he's been fooling around with explosives in his basement. Or maybe his being "dangerous" has something to do with the risk of one's being hit by flying cats around Herr Doktorprofessor's Princeton residence. But it certainly can't have anything to do with what he writes in the Times recently - that stuff trickles through the head of the body politic like water through a sieve.
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Basic Facts, Clearly Stated

George Schultz hits a bull's eye:

When you look at the record, a quick summary is this: President Clinton inherited prosperity; President Clinton bequeathed recession. The 2001 recession was short and shallow, with employment - always a lagging indicator - the last part of the economy to rebound. The employment picture has been a little puzzling since the two main surveys - one asks existing establishments how many people are on their payrolls, and the other asks people in a large sample of households whether they have jobs - show slightly different patterns. In any case, by now a third piece of the record appears clear: the recession President Clinton left behind has turned into prosperity under George
W. Bush.

Think of how many inches of column space Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, Maureen ("Big Mo") Dowd and every other liberal columnist working for the Times have written in attempts implicitly or explicitly to obscure and evade these basic facts.
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On Wisconsin: Going, Going...

Is there a pattern to be discerned in these "battleground state" Wisconsin polls:

Poll...............................................Bush................Kerry.....Spread

Strategic Vision 7/30-8/2 .............46...................47.........Kerry +1

Zogby Interactive 7/26-7/30 ..........47.8................49.7......Kerry +1.9

Zogby Interactive 7/19-7/23 ............46.0...............50.3......Kerry +4.3

ARG 7/13-7/15 .................................42..................48.........Kerry +6

Zogby Interactive 7/6-7/10...............43.9...............53.3.......Kerry +9.4

Of course there is: John Kerry leads in every single one. That's all there is too it. And even though the "big issues" of both the domestic economy and Iraq are moving the incumbent's way, some people think that nothing major is going to change in Wisconsin.

And note that these are not the Republican-heavy Badger polls, although Strategic Vision is Republican.
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GM Plants, Carbon Dioxide And Other Hot Air

One of the big problems faced by advocates of the Kyoto Accord and similar efforts is that even assuming that global warming is occurring and that a rising carbon dioxide level does have a lot to do with that (instead of, say, a rise in the sun's energy output being the overwhelming culprit), the Accord and such proposals would definitely be hugely expensive but are unlikely to have meaningful effects on the world's atmospheric carbon dioxide or global temperature.

One of the biggest issues in the Kyoto Accord considerations was what (if any) role trees should play in the Accord enforcement mechanisms and quotas. It was claimed by some, for example, that new growth forests do not extract carbon dioxide as well as old growth forests.

This New York Times article describes research to genetically modify trees to address the role they play in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The article notes that the researchers are trying to create trees that will store more carbon in their roots. But the overall tenor of the article suggests another possibility - not discussed in the article - that trees and other plants might be genetically modified to remove more carbon dioxide from the air than they do now. Of course, if carbon dioxide levels rise, evolution and natural selection may favor plants that do that naturally. But genetic manipulation of plants might provide an effective way of reducing carbon dioxide and global warming without the costs of the Kyoto Accord and other such proposals - which often seems directed at reducing mankind again to some kind of stone age.

If such genetic manipulation can be accomplished, it would pose an interesting problem for people of a certain political stripe. It is a perhaps coincidental fact, although apparently not a necessary fact, that many of the people most intensely interested in global warming and in adoption of the Kyoto Accord and the like also strongly oppose genetically modified plants. That seems especially true in Europe. The creation of GM plants to rapidly remove carbon dioxide would likely create a huge wedge issue for such people.

In any event, shouldn't politicians be advocating that "we get to work on this new promising technology?" The prospects for CO2-reducing GM plants seem to be at least as bright as the prospects for stem cell research - and GM plant research doesn't require killing anything human.

Would it be worth while for the Republicans to look into raising this issue at their upcoming convention?

Just a thought.
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The Fire Within III: This Time It's Personal

Kausfiles points out that Donkey Rising's Ruy Teixeira and Slate's William Saletan have been busy, busy, busy cobbling up yet more ad hoc special purpose arguments explaining why Kerry-Edwards really did get that bounce most other observors missed and why the Democrats really scored big on those now-to-be-construed-as-all-important poll "internals" and "issues." Kausfiles signals agreement with detecting an "issues and internals" bounce, and with the importance of that bounce - but thinks the problem is mostly that John Kerry is personally an unattractive candidate and that trends favor of Bush on the big issues - Iraq and the economy.

But it's worse than that for the Democrats. While Senator Kerry is personally very unappealing and the trends on the big issues (the biggest by far being the domestic economy - never to be taken for granted) are in Mr. Bush's favor and by most indications will continue in that direction until the election, Kerry-Edwards has more problems than those even within the context of these new ad hoc arguments.

There is the basic problem that neither Messrs. Saletan nor Teixeira offers up any historical or other justification for considering an "issues and internals" bounce to be of electoral significance - especially where such an ad hoc bounce fails to correspond to a significant bounce in net support. It's all very nice to pick out some poll question on which one thinks one's candidate has done well, call it an "issue" and proclaim it's significance (Kerry's favorable rating ...! ability to handle an international crisis ...! clear plan for the country ...! personality and leadership qualities a president should have ...! etc), and in other contexts such matters are valuable to campaign professionals. But would one of these worthy pundits care to come forward with an example of a ticket who got as little overall bounce as Kerry-Edwards, also received an "issues and internals" bounce like Kerry-Edwards is alleged to have received - and then won the White House? How about any argument that an "issues and internals" bounce has ever meant anything?

One big problem with "issues and internals" is that there are so many of them, and they deploy themselves like guests at a cocktail party at which the pundit speaks only to his friends. For example, does any sensible person think Kerry-Edwards would score well on an "issues and internals" poll question that probes who would best keep the nation's courts from imposing gay marriage a la Massachusetts? Of course, that question is not driving this election - yet over 70% of voters in the "battlefield state" of Missouri just voted for a constitutional amendment to keep that from happening. Why don't Messrs. Saletan and Teixeira spend time chatting up that issue at their "issues and internals" cocktail parties posing as pundit columns?

Worse for Kerry-Edwards, the particular "issues and internals" on which these two pundits choose to focus are arguably unlikely to have staying power (in the sense that they can be used pointedly in the future campaign, not in the sense that they will linger - all convention bounces tend to fade quickly), as I noted in a prior post. Senator Kerry appeals to veterans, for example? Neither the New York Times Magazine article on the subject (" Will Kerry's support from veterans be significant enough to matter in November? In terms of pure numbers, probably not") nor the Wall Street Journal editorial pages seem to think so - and it's inherently implausible that the "internal" will actually help Kerry-Edwards. Another example: "Clear plan?" Kerry-Edwards assumes that the election is about dissatisfaction with the incumbent, so the challengers don't need a "clear plan," and Kerry-Edwards offers a "clear plan" on neither the domestic economy nor Iraq, the "big issues."

One could pick apart each item on the carefully edited "issues and internals" lists that Messrs. Saletan and Teixeira have made and checked twice, apparently in the hope that some form of Santa Claus will bring them the White House in November. But the White House is not awarded on the basis of ad hoc special pleading and self-indulgent lists. One must have the fire in the belly to try for a more universal perspective. In fact, the White House quest requires one to struggle to imitate God, as best one can and with all of one's failings, knowing one is bound to fail in the imitation effort even if one succeeds in the election. P.J. O'Rourke observed God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.

The Man Without Qualities has a list today, too, one borrowed from the Joint Economic Committee. It's a list of some headlines about the economy over the past week that may help Messrs. Saletan and Teixeira to concentrate their minds in their quest for a more divine perspective:

Factory Orders Rise, Services Buoyed (Reuters – August 4, 2004)

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders at U.S. factories rose by more than expected in June and May's fall was revised to show a gain, government data showed on Wednesday, while a jump in a key service sector poll added to the upbeat outlook.”

U.S. Auto Sales Heat Up Again in July (Reuters – August 3, 2004)

“DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales heated up again in July, after a surprising slowdown a month earlier, even as Detroit's traditional Big Three automakers had mixed results.”


U.S. Factories Enter Longest Stretch of Rapid Growth in 30 Years (Agence France-Presse – August 2, 2004)

“WASHINGTON (AFP) - The American manufacturing sector sped up activity in July, cementing the longest stretch of rapid growth in more than 30 years, a survey showed.”



U.S Factory Growth, Hiring Stay Strong (Reuters – August 2, 2004)

“CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. manufacturing expanded in July for a 14th straight month and employment in the factory sector was still on the increase, a report released on Monday showed.”


Consumer Confidence Edges Higher (CNN/Reuters – July 30, 2004)

“NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment improved marginally in July as Americans' outlook on the future of the economy brightened, according to a survey released Friday.”


Wages, Benefits Rise Moderately in 2Q (Washington Post/Associated Press – July 29, 2004)

“Wages and benefits for U.S. workers rose a moderate 0.9 percent in the April-June quarter this year, down slightly from the previous quarter's increase, as price pressures for benefits like health insurance eased significantly.”

Home Sales Still Sizzle (Washington Post – July 28, 2004)

“Ron Rush knows the housing market could cool someday, but the Fairfax County real estate agent hasn't seen it happening yet. National statistics released this week show the market is still cooking despite some predictions that rising interest rates and unsustainable prices could bring the years-long climb to an end.”


European Economies: German Unemployment Rises to 11-Month High (Bloomberg – August 4, 2004)

“Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Germany's unemployment rate rose to an 11-month high in July, reducing the chances that consumer spending in Europe's biggest economy will recover from two years of stagnation. The unemployment rate rose to 10.6 percent from 10.5 percent in June, the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency said. The number of jobseekers rose a seasonally adjusted 11,000 to 4.39 million, the sixth straight monthly increase.”



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Tuesday, August 03, 2004


As Always, That Depends On What Your Meaning Of "Is" Is

Is a state in which one candidate leads by 5% at the close of the other candidate's convention really "in play" or a "battleground state?"

Ohio - 20 EC Votes

Poll ..........................Date........Bush.......Kerry.......Nader....Spread

Zogby Interactive 7/26-7/30 .....51.1........46.1........1.0.......Bush +5.0

Zogby Interactive 7/19-7/23......48.1........46.8.........1.2.....Bush +1.3 -

Columbus Dispatch 7/14-7/23.......47..........44...........2........Bush +3


Of course, it's just a Zogby poll. But still.
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Again, Enron

When Enron collapsed there were widespread accusations that the "special purpose corporations" and "structured finance" transactions that Enron had employed were obviously fraudulent. In particular, the so-called Mahonia transaction, which the New York Times and others alleged fraudulently allowed Enron to claim as revenue what were "obviously" loans, was singled out for especially fierce criticism.

This blog did not agree and does not agree with what the Man Without Qualities continues to regard as overly-broad and hysterical criticism of the Enron financial structure. Indeed, although a number of people have pled guilty to various types of fraud, not one of these supposedly "obviously" fraudulent structured finance transactions has been shown to have actually been fraudulent. While some guilty pleas - such as Mr. Fastow's - have been obtained from defendants essentially confessing to the fraudulence of those transactions, those pleas have been obtained under (legally permitted) duress, in Mr. Fastow's case under the threat of imprisoning his wife and depriving their young children of any parental contact for many years. But neither the government nor private litigants have been notably successful in proving the fraudulence of these structured finance transactions where anyone else has bothered to contest the issue. Now we have this:

U.S. bank J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. said it won a lawsuit against WestLB AG related to Morgan's Enron financing. .... The case centered on J.P. Morgan Chase's involvement with an offshore financing vehicle called Mahonia Ltd. In a complex trading arrangement that later drew extensive scrutiny from U.S. regulators, Morgan channeled money to Enron, which then returned the payments in the form of contracts for the future delivery of gas. Those gas-related payments, known as gas prepay contracts, were paid through an offshore vehicle, Mahonia.

When Enron melted down, J.P. Morgan was thrown into litigation as it sought to call in guarantees underpinning its Enron-related financing. One of those litigants was WestLB. WestLB was the lead arranger among a syndicate of banks that had provided a $165 million letter of credit, a common form of risk underwriting in the event that Enron defaulted on the gas prepays.

After Enron's collapse, WestLB refused to honor the letter of credit, alleging that the transactions were part of a "fraudulent scheme" that essentially disguised loans to the energy company. J.P. Morgan sued WestLB; WestLB countersued and the trial began in London's High Court of Justice in January.

Yesterday, Justice Jeremy Cooke ruled in favor of J.P. Morgan and Mahonia, saying that how Enron accounted for them didn't breach U.S. accounting and securities rules. ... "Enron's accounting for the prepays was not in breach of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles," he wrote in his opinion. He added that its "accounting for these transactions did not constitute a breach of U.S. securities law." ....

The Mahonia-related trading arrangement has been the subject of extensive scrutiny in the wake of Enron's filing for bankruptcy protection in December 2001 as regulators sought to untangle how the energy trader had financed its extensive dealings. ....


The English court seems to have got the case exactly right. It is interesting to note how separation of that court from the often hysterical rantings and US domestic political considerations over the Enron failure which are so common - and so self-destructive - in the United States seems to have helped to clarify matters for the London judge. Perhaps the passage of time will have some of the same stabilizing effects on courts in this country.

In the mean time, a glimpse of the outcome of the prosecution of Kenneth Lay, for example, can be glimpsed in this not-too-distant London mirror.
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The Fire Within II: Looking For Mr. Goodvoter

As noted in the immediately preceding post, the Man Without Qualities regards the oft-repeated argument that there really couldn't be much of a bounce from the Democratic Convention this year because there just aren't that many persuadable voters out there to be disingenuous. The argument has two related themes (or "memes" - to use the blogosphere affectation): (1) the Republican convention will also probably have little of no bounce, and (2) the small positive blip arguably produced by the Democratic convention may be enough, since even that blip represents a large part of the "persuadable voters" - who are now for some reason to be deemed "solidified." But the evidence is mounting that the argument and its related themes are not just disingenuous - they may be just plain silly.

If, indeed, the paucity of persuadable voters limited the scope of the Democratic blip, they why the heck did Republicans get such a big boost from the Democratic Convention:

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No bounce, and that's striking. They show there might have been a very brief bounce -- I wouldn't call it a bounce, I'd call it a blip. Among people interviewed on Friday, the day after the convention, Kerry was ahead by five points. But then we continued to interview on Saturday. Those interviewed on Saturday -- Bush moved back into a slight lead of two points. And we are going to continue to interview people. But this looks like the shortest bounce on record.

BLITZER: And is that because the country basically had already made up their mind? There wasn't a whole lot of room for undecideds? That's what the Democrats keep saying.

SCHNEIDER: And it looks like the Democrats had a point.

What we're showing is that before the convention, the Democrats were hugely enthusiastic about voting. Over three-quarters of them said they were more enthusiastic than usual. After this convention, the number of Democrats who said they were enthusiastic went up only slightly. They were already rallied. They already had their bounce.

But what really changed is that the Republicans, the Bush voters went way up in enthusiasm. They gained eight points.


So it looks like, yes, the convention rallied voters but it rallied Republicans more than Democrats. The only good news here for Democrats is Democrats are still more enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are.


Let's recap:

(1) The Republicans gained eight points from the Democratic Convention, which was exactly the bounce that before the Convention Terry McAuliffe predicted Kerry-Edwards would receive, but which we are now supposed to believe was "all but impossible" because there just aren't that many persuadable voters. Also, there were enough persuadable voters so that there might have been a very brief bounce - but then the bounce went away. Did the number of persuadable voters shrink dramatically in a day?

(2) The Democratic convention could not "rally" its voters any more because they were already maximally "enthusiastic" before the Convention. But Democrats are still more enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are. So the upcoming Republican Convention can in principle "rally" its voters, since they are not maximally "enthusiastic" before that Convention.

To which we might add an observation made here in prior posts:

(3) A big reason the Democrats were already maximally enthusiastic is that the media flooded the marketplace with every scrap of pro-Kerry information before the Democratic Convention. The net effect is to kill all bounce - thereby depriving Kerry-Edwards of any sign of "momentum" out of their convention. Failure to acquire momentum out of a Convention is disaster for Kerry-Edwards - and the disaster was largely caused by the liberal media trying to do their friends the Democrats a big gooey favor. As a version of the old saying goes: With friends like these, who needs political opponents?

In sum: The most important restrictions - especially including the paucity of persuadable voters - supposedly capping the bounce that could have generated by the Democratic convention simply won't apply to the upcoming Republican convention.

That doesn't mean there will be a Republican bounce. After all, President Bush might do just as poor a job as John Kerry did. But at least the Republicans have the advantage of the mainstream media trashing them whenever possible before the Convention, so that Bush-Cheney can in principle present lots of positive new information at their convention ... receive a nice, big bounce ... and acquire some substantial forward momentum.

Of course, in the end, it's the domestic economic numbers that will matter most. The rest is all nuance!
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The Fire Within

Some of the more prominent arguments being advanced by Kerry-Edwards' spinmeisters are that (1) the post-Convention polls offer the consolation to the Democrats because the polls show a boost for their ticket on some "internal polling questions" and (2) there really can't be much of a bounce because there just aren't that many persuadable voters out there. These arguments are highly disingenuous.

The CBS News report accompanying its poll results, for example, includes this summary:

The Democratic Convention may have brought no new bounce for the party's Kerry-Edwards ticket, but it did appear to solidify the small bounce that emerged for the Democrats following John Kerry's announcement of the addition of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to the ticket. After the convention, voters saw Kerry ? not Bush -- as the uniter, and more voters than before believe that the Democrats have a clear plan for the country. .... There continue to be few voters who are truly undecided. And just under one in five voters with a choice say their minds could change. .... The convention?s focus on Kerry's war record appears to have given the Democrats a boost with veterans. For the first time this year, the Democrats run even with their opponents among veterans.


Paucity Of Persuadable Voters

If the Kerry-Edwards apologists are so convinced he gave a good acceptance speech, then Kerry-Edwards should adopt a slogan that better summarizes that speech's overall message: "Read my lips, no new ideas!" After all, reports are that voters have not warmed to any of the Kerry-Edwards slogans: "Help is on the way!" "One America!", etc.

One is hearing a great deal about how the voters are unusually "committed" at this point in the election cycle - so the Convention just couldn't be expected to move that many of them. That's all very nice - but then why is it that Going into the convention, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, predicted that Mr. Kerry would enjoy an eight-point gain in support after the convention.

In fact, Mr. McAuliffe was well-justified in his expectation (which he clearly cast as what he regarded as a low-ball estimate - but expected still more), since there are plenty of persuadable voters - it's just that the Kerry-Edwards Convention didn't persuade them. The CBS News report itself notes that just under one in five voters with a choice say their minds could change. So about 20% of the electorate is in play.

The Man Without Qualities lives in California. This is supposedly a "safe" Democratic state. Yet this is a state whose voters recently recalled its Democratic governor in favor of a Republican. Over sixty percent of voters chose a Republican to replace Mr. Davis in that unprecedented recall election which was opposed by the full persuasive force of the California and national liberal media. Since then, that bulgey Republican in Sacramento has been - quite simply - kicking the Democratic Ass, and the voters love him. He has persuaded them. Some "safe" Democratic state. Some paucity of persuadable voters. Senator Kerry's apologists should stop whining about the paucity of persuadable voters and do a better job of producing something a lot more persuasive than the Senator's dreadful acceptance speech.

John Kerry, Man With A Clear Plan

Let's assume that, despite its methodological problems, the poll's finding that more voters than before believe that the Democrats have a clear plan for the country is accurate and that Kerry-Edwards got a little poll boost from that. Should that be comforting to the Democrats? Love them or not, the Democrats simply do not have a clear plan for the country - and counting on a boost from a clearly inaccurate perception is perilous. In fact, the entire strategy of the Democratic ticket is driven by the assumption that this election is about voter disapproval for the incumbent and that Kerry-Edwards need only appear to be a safe and reasonable alternative. "Clarity" is not the point - and has not been produced. It's not just that Republicans don't agree. Republicans will not need to point out the lack of clarity - although they will. Even the mainstream liberal media is already harping on the lack of clarity, as in this CBS News report:

John Kerry says he can "put a deal together" as president to drastically reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq, a pledge reminiscent of Richard Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War and Dwight D. Eisenhower's promise to stop the fighting in Korea. Like those Republican presidential candidates, the Democrat's blueprint for peace lacks detail and has critics squawking. ... Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Kerry's plan assumes too much. "Nobody is going to bail us out of our responsibilities in this conflict," said Cordesman, former adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "It is not a matter of who is the president at this point. There simply won't be any international support for a country like France or Germany to do it."
Worse for the Democrats, the "clear plan" issue plays right into the largely successful Republican effort to paint Senator Kerry as a "flip-flopper" - how can a "flip-flopper have a clear plan? Even Senator Kerry's own counterargument that he sees the "nuances" and "complexities" of issues is not easily consistent with an argument that he has a plan that can be made clear to voters. Indeed, the "secret plan" approach to Iraq Senator Kerry is now suggesting he holds is almost a necessary corollary of his argument that he sees the "nuances" and "complexities" of issues. After all, his "nuance" position is essentially equivalent to saying that he sees aspects of many situations that ordinary people cannot grasp.

The point here is not that Democrats should be anxious because their Convention bounce from this issue will dissipate. Bounce from all Conventions - Democrat and Republican - usually dissipates completely. What Convention bounce is good for is an indication that a particular argument or approach connects with voters and can be used in the future - especially the Presidential debates - to produce future bounces, right into the White House. But the Democratic "clear plan" approach carries more promise of making voters who buy the Democrat's argument just feel later that they have been sold a dubious bill of goods, and would be especially dangerous to use in a debate.

[UPDATE: Senator Kerry also intends to keep his economic plan - if there is one - secret until after he is elected President.]

John Kerry, Uniter

Let's again assume that the poll's finding that after the convention, voters saw Kerry ? not Bush -- as the uniter is accurate. This is an impression created by an orchestrated Convention at which Democratic dissent was deliberately suppressed. That's fine, but the impression is not going to last through the campaign - especially since both Senator Kerry and his people (one need not even mention his wife) often speak in very harsh terms, often suggesting that the incumbent is a liar. For example, Senator Kerry will have a very tough time maintaining a "uniter" mantle in a one-on-one televised debate in which he suggests that the President is a liar.

Veterans

Let's really suspend disbelief and assume that the poll's finding that the convention's focus on Kerry's war record appears to have given the Democrats a boost with veterans. For the first time this year, the Democrats run even with their opponents among veterans. Is there any sensible person outside of Senator Kerry - of any political stripe - who thinks that such an effect will last through election day? The New York Times doesn't think so: Will Kerry's support from veterans be significant enough to matter in November? In terms of pure numbers, probably not. The Wall Street Journal editorial pages agree.

Senator Kerry convention did focus on certain selected aspects of his military record - but even those aspects were highly skewed. Does the reader recall the Senator Kerry mentioning his post-college effort to avoid the draft by studying in Paris, for example, when he and his running mate and Bill Clinton harped on how young John Kerry "volunteered" for service in Vietnam? Then there are the details of his anti-war activism, which somehow dropped out of the Convention. Of course, there lot's more on Vietnam-Kerry that will be rehearsed for the benefit of those Veterans. But - as the Republicans are already signaling they understand - even more damaging than such omissions will be the Senator's attempt to focus attention on his few Mekong days while ignoring or obfuscating his record on defense issues in his many years in the Congress. Responding to his opponent raising such issues as questioning his patriotism and military record will ultimately just make Kerry-Edwards look ridiculous. And, again, he would be a fool to try that approach in a debate. And Senator Kerry is no fool. Pathetic and bound to lose, yes. But no fool.

[UPDATE: If what is suggested here, for example, sticks - surely a non-trivial "if" - how much of John Kerry's veterans' regard will remain?]

Methodology

As a threshold issue, as noted in a prior post, the methodology of this CBS News poll (and the methodology of most of those polls that purport to show a Kerry-Edwards bounce) is suspect: The CBS News poll sampled "adults." Not "likely voters." Not "registered voters." But "adults." Indeed, the poll doesn't attempt to determine what "likely voters" might do - although there is analysis of "registered voters" on the tech page. In the past the CBS News polls have often over sampled Democrats, and this one also seems to have skewed its sampling and weighting in that direction. The very last item on the technical CBS News poll page reads:

..................................UNWEIGHTED..................WEIGHTED
Total Respondents........... 1052
Total Republicans............ 347.................................... 328
Total Democrats.............. 354.................................... 375
Total Independents.......... 351.................................... 349
Registered Voters............. 881................................... 837

"Solidifying" That Small Edwards Bounce

The CBS News spin opines that the Convention did appear to solidify the small bounce that emerged for the Democrats following John Kerry?s announcement of the addition of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to the ticket. Whatever this assertion is supposed to mean, it is definitely supposed to mean something more than a bland observation that the Kerry-Edwards ticket did not sink below the ratings it received in CBS News polls after Senator Edwards joined on. But there is not one scrap of evidence in these poll results - or anywhere else - that suggests anything more than that simple numerical observation. Convention poll bounces generally totally and quickly abate (Bill Clinton being an exception, but Kerry-Edwards eschewed his approach, as noted in several prior posts), and without something to back up it up, this assertion that the Convention did appear to solidify prior gains is just nonsense to which Democrats may cling, and Republicans may fear, at their peril.
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Even Adam Nagourney ...

... is moved to disabuse the Kerry-Edwards spinmeisters:

The numbers also mean that the two cleanest shots Mr. Kerry had for presenting himself to the American public until Election Day - his choice of a vice president and his acceptance speech - have passed without producing any dramatic change in the contours of the contest.

For all of the Kerry aides' efforts to play down expectations, Democrats were looking for him to break through the long deadlock and allay concerns that voters were reluctant to embrace Mr. Kerry, even if they were unhappy with Mr. Bush.

Going into the convention, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, predicted that Mr. Kerry would enjoy an eight-point gain in support after the convention. Mr. McAuliffe did not return telephone calls on Monday.

Mr. McAuliffe did not return telephone calls on Monday? Well, we understand. The man needs to be alone with his feelings and thoughts for a while. Yes, it's all so sad, but so understandable, considering. Understandable in the same way it is understandable that Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today!

On the other hand, Terry McAuliffe actually works for the Clintons, despite his nominal designation as Democratic National Committee chairman. So maybe he was out quietly celebrating.

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