Man Without Qualities

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Twit II!

A prior post discussed the question of whether what Paul Krugman and his "Priceton colleague" call a spectacular growth in American inequality has led to an increase in underqualified "privileged" people occupying academic and other positions which in the past were occupied by those more qualified. If that is not going on, then what, exactly, is this posited "privilege" suppose to amount to other than increased inherited wealth?

While these two Princeton lightweights (I mean, "worthies") do some homework to shore up their artificial polemic that implies an increase in the ranks of the wealthy has led to a decline in the achievement level of the "privileged" occupying valued positions in society, John U. Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, has committed an urgent and elegant book examining a real problem: black middleclass underachievement through identification with the underclass. The New York Times article about this book, "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement" (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), reports:

"What amazed me is that these kids who come from homes of doctors and lawyers are not thinking like their parents; they don't know how their parents made it," Professor Ogbu said in an interview. "They are looking at rappers in ghettos as their role models, they are looking at entertainers. The parents work two jobs, three jobs, to give their children everything, but they are not guiding their children."

For example, he said that middle-class black parents in general spent no more time on homework or tracking their children's schooling than poor white parents. And he said that while black students talked in detail about what efforts were needed to get an A and about their desire to achieve, too many nonetheless failed to put forth that effort.

Those kinds of attitudes reflect a long history of adapting to oppression and stymied opportunities, said Professor Ogbu, a Nigerian immigrant who has written that involuntary black immigrants behave like low-status minorities in other societies.

The most urgent issue here is the education and attitudes of these children. But, with respect to the Princeton remedial homework assignment above, it is worth noting the long and well established fact that affirmative action programs disproportionately favor exactly the children of middleclass minority professionals. Also, Professor Ogbu locates many of the difficulties described in his book in cultural factors. Perhaps these two Princeton economists might want to examine whether the culture of intellectual dishonesty they, personally, are so active in creating through their professional writings and political associations may be imposing more general costs on society - a kind of broad-based academic "smash-and-grab."

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Gore in '04

Some Democratic insiders have recently been pummelling Al Gore - as with the recent poll showing that most such insiders would prefer that Mr. Gore not run for the Presidency again.

Those insiders may want to rethink their actions and statements. At this point, it looks like such insider griping will most likely just result in a Candidate Gore who is more wounded than would otherwise be the case. According to the Associated Press:

When Democrats are given a list of possible candidates for the party's nomination, Gore routinely comes out well ahead of the others. A CNN-Time poll released in mid-November that asked Democrats' preference for the party's nomination in 2004 put the party's 2000 nominee at 36 percent, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (news - web sites) at 20 percent and all others in single digits. Clinton has said she is not running, and when the question is asked with her name removed from the list, Gore's support swells to 53 percent, with Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (news - web sites) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle at 10 percent each and others in single digits. Lieberman has said he won't run if Gore does. Those close to Daschle say he hasn't ruled out a run.

To be fair to the griping Democrat insiders, one can understand their discontent when they read on in this article and see:

In a CNN-Time poll rematch of the 2000 election, President Bush had the support of 57 percent, while Gore had 40 percent. The public overall was about evenly split on whether they would like to Gore run again, with 45 percent saying yes. Six in 10 Democrats said yes, and 35 percent said no.

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Friday, November 29, 2002


Two excellent articles on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the recent Opinion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, November 18, 2002:

Heather MacDonald: A Green Light to Spy on Americans? Nonsense.

Stuart Taylor Jr.: Spying By The Government Can Save Your Life

Both articles definitely worth the time to read in full. Anyone tempted to believe the mainstream media's take on this topic should first read these articles.

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A Classic ...

... from the first and maybe the greatest.
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The Why of It

Soon after the November elections, Roll Call reported that Democrats were "eager to make inroads" in talk radio and cable television, which they believe Republicans have "dominated" in recent years. Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.), the assistant Democratic floor leader, said: "The conservative establishment in this country really has a lock on the airwaves. ... You really have to work the regular news coverage and hope that the real issues and real stories break through."

So it is hardly surprising or sinister that within a short time the nation was presented with Tom Daschle's complaints about Rush Limbaugh - witlessly seconded by the increasingly oblivious and personally vain John McCain, who apparently just could not let the chance to jab a media critic go by unexploited, even one occasioned by a Democratic team effort. This was followed hard apace by Al Gore conjuring up a conspiracy centrally controlled from the very physical premises of the Republican National Committee and "exploding" into the national zeitgeist through Limbaugh, the Washington Times and Fox News. [For the record: Why did Mr. Gore omit the Wall Street Journal? Is he trying to upset them?] The man who has repeatedly said that he "won" the election said that "there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party."

Senior Democrats have been embarrassingly crude in their execution, but there may be a serious, focused effort here on the Democrats' part. The Democrats may be trying to shore up the willingness of their base constituency of liberal "regular news" television reporters and media executives to sacrifice some of the ratings and profitability of their companies in service of their personal, liberal political agendas.

These recent statements of Messrs. Daschle and Gore have struck most American voters as exaggerated, even extreme. But exaggerated statements by mainstream politicians are normally intended to stimulate some political "base," not to reach ordinary voters. To understand what "base" these Senior Democrats might be trying to reach, Senator Durbin's seminal assertion that Democrats"really have to work the regular news coverage" seems apposite. As demonstrated by any number of polls and other indicia, most "regular news" television reporters and media executives hold strongly liberal personal political views. That is: the many liberal "regular news" television reporters and media executives form a "base" of the Democratic Party. This Democratic "base" seems to need stimulating - and these recent statements of Messrs. Durbin, Daschle and Gore are consistent with such an effort.

Many such people have used their professional positions to advance their personal, normally liberal, agendas, practices which have in the past generally aided Democrats in both campaign coverage and in the spin given to coverage of politically sensitive news generally. But the old ways are changing. A prior post discussed Al Hunt's observation that television stations have already stopped most news coverage of political campaigns - which works to the disadvantage of the Democrats:

Across America, television stations are engaged in two pervasive phenomena: severely cutting back on campaign coverage while jacking up rates candidates must pay to advertise. ... A University of Southern California study of the 1998 governor's race in that state surveyed thousands of hours of news coverage in major markets; considerably less than 1% was devoted to the governor's race. This year USC and University of Wisconsin researchers examined almost 2,500 newscasts in 17 major markets a month ago and found that over half contained no campaign coverage at all; many of the rest only offered short, fleeting coverage.

Coverage of political campaigns by the "regular news" is significant. But the success of Fox News has placed additional pressure on traditionally liberal media outlets, such as CNN, to reign in the liberalism of their "regular news" coverage generally. In television, ratings means revenue. Various commentators have even raised the question of whether public media company management betrays its shareholders by tolerating a political bias which suppresses network news ratings in favor of advancing the personal agendas of liberal television reporters and executives. For example, the former head of NBC owner GE, Jack Welch, was asked this question at a shareholder meeting - but avoided addressing the issue by claiming it was "immaterial." As the networks and their ratings continue to weaken, such matters become more material. But regardless of whether any securities regulators care to take up the matter, the market is increasingly demanding profitability from media companies - and punishing their stock prices.

Most recently, the always unintentionally hilarious Paul Krugman awkwardly admits the issue:

[M]y purpose in today's column is not to bash Fox. I want to address a broader question: Will the economic interests of the media undermine objective news coverage?

He then proceeds to admit the unsurprising fact that general economic laws and considerations operate on media companies just as they do everywhere else. But for some reason he just forgets to discuss what is perhaps the most important issue raised by corporate economic activity: agency costs. That is, the inclination of corporate "agents" - here, liberal television reporters and executives - to use their positions to advance their personal agendas. In one sense this is a surprising omission, since the entire "corporate reform" dustup beginning with the collapse of Enron, is exactly a consequence of alleged conversions of corporate assets and opportunities to instead serve the personal agendas of corporate "agents." Professor Krugman's omission might be seen as even more surprising since he, personally, has repeatedly claimed that "corporate reform" issues, especially as reflected in Enron's agency cost catastrophe, are far more significant than, say, the War on Terror or the events of September 11. Professor Krugman might also have taken a little space to discuss how it was that during the pre-1994 half-century, a perpetually Democrat-dominated Congress coincided with the rise of three and only three liberal, national Democrat-friendly television networks - a situation which ended only with the prominence of Fox News. These senior Democrats are complaining that conservatives have any broadcast and cable news outlets sympathetic to them. The inclusion of the Washington Times with the tacit exemption of the Wall Street Journal from Mr. Gore's tirade is also curious. Yet Professor Krugman just forgets about such history and all those economic principles that once seemed so important to him. Odd, that.

Instead of seeing the operation of general economic laws and a healthy unraveling of a once overly-cuddly relationship between Democratic Congresses and the three heavily regulated television news networks that those Congresses spawned, Professor Krugman sees Fox News' relative conservatism and a possible desire on its part to influence political events as evidence of the very conspiracy pre-cooked-up by Al Gore: "The reaction from most journalists in the "liberal media" was embarrassed silence. I don't quite understand why." What media person or company doesn't have desires to influence political events? Are Professor Krugman, the New York Times or any of the three "old" networks claiming they have no such desires? Now if Professor Krugman had taken the time to ask a few of those "other journalists in the 'liberal media,'" they might have told him that their reaction to Mr. Gore's conspiracy theories "was embarrassed silence" because what Mr. Gore is saying bears an uncomfortable similarity to what one hears emanating from the washing machine crates that house some of New York's more colorful midtown residents. But that, as discussed above, seems to be a matter of clumsy execution - Bill Clinton probably could have made the paranoia sing. But it's no secret that Professor Krugman is always up for a juicy conspiracy theory! Heck, he is rumored to keep a copy of every single X-Files episode in his Princeton University office.

UPDATE: Stuart Buck ably addresses the "fairness doctrine" subplot in Professor Krugman's screed. The "fairness doctrine" was one of the most notorious bits of federal news regulation with which Congress was comfortable for decades, and Professor Krugman apparently still is. The doctrine was so awful that its 1987 demise considerably predated 1994 Republican control of Congress. Reaganites were able to expunge it during his presidency.
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The Losing of a Constituency?

Most African-American voters vote for Democrats if they vote. But the Louisiana Senate race now heading for a Pearl Harbor Day conclusion gives some examples of how Democrats may be losing many of their African-American voters nationally. The loss, if it is happening, would not at this stage be seen in defections to Republicans - it is a matter of turn-out.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is trailing in the polls, and is widely expected to lose on December 7 - largely because African-American voters are not sufficiently behind her. Yet, as Robert Novak and others point out, Senator Landrieu has a voting record that is both liberal on a national scale (not just in relation to the South) and substantially more liberal than that of Louisiana's senior senator, Democrat John Breaux. Senator Breaux "hugs the middle of the road" -- and is rated 55 percent by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and 48 percent by the American Conservative Union (ACU). But Senator Landrieu has voted 85 percent liberal (ADA) and 28 percent conservative (ACU).

What is curious here is that Senator Landrieu simultaneously has a liberal voting record and very big problems with African-American voters. Some key members of the African-American community have refused even to endorse her candidacy. But conventional wisdom holds that liberal votes aren't supposed to create problems with African-American voters - those voters are supposed to like a liberal voting record, and are supposedly offended by the conservative votes that a southern Democrat has to cast through grit teeth to hold onto white moderate votes. But not all liberal votes are created equal. Robert Novak, for example, catalogues some of Senator Landrieu's votes:

A small sample: Prohibit federal funding of abortion: Landrieu, no; Breaux, yes. Mandatory trigger locks: Landrieu, yes; Breaux, no. Broad prescription drug coverage under Medicare: Landrieu, yes; Breaux, no. Federal funding for school distribution of "morning after" pills: Landrieu, yes; Breaux, no. ... She voted against confirmation of John Ashcroft as attorney general and Theodore Olson as solicitor general, against school vouchers and against the Bush administration on a variety of budget questions, including caps on spending. Most recently, she was lined up with government workers unions to restrict presidential control over employees of the new Department of Homeland Security.

What is striking about these "liberal" votes is her apparent emphasis on the social side of liberalism that finds disproportionate favor among white, suburban, liberal women - that is, the more liberal of the "soccer moms." But this brand of liberalism doesn't seem to mean very much to African-Americans - to judge by Senator Landrieu's difficulties in that quarter. Senator Breaux seems to understand that.

Many commentators - including Robert Novak in his column linked above - focus on the difficulties southern Democrats face in holding white-moderate votes without losing too many liberals. The Clintonian formula for accomplishing those ends combines "fiscal responsibility" and "economic conservatism" with big doses of social liberalism and major racial "demonization" efforts against Republicans. That formula entails delivering less through old-fashioned redistributionistic economic policies, while nevertheless counting on African-American voters to turn out with enthusiasm for Democrats, largely on the basis of social liberalism and racial "demonization."

But Mary Landrieu's problems suggest that social liberalism may not inspire African-American voters all that much. And President Bush's performance in office has substantially blunted the Democrats' racial "demonization" weapon with respect to African-Americans, although many Democrats are willfully determined to deny that development. Further, if Democratic "fiscal responsibility" is not just political hooey served up by some smooth-talking Clintonian, but really does entail less spending and regulation intended to transfer wealth to African-Americans, then one would expect a decline in enthusiasm for Democrats among some African-American voters. Senator Landrieu seems to have suffered on all of these fronts. Her socially liberal voting record is not attracting sufficient African-American support. Like most Democrats nationally, she has not succeeded in racially demonizing her opponent. And the "moderate" component of her voting record is weighing disproportionately on her African-American support.

In other words, Mary Landrieu's problems suggest that the Clintonian approach may be exhausted. If so, the Democrats' problems should not be restricted to the South, although the problems are first and most evident there. A lot of post-election text has been spent discussing Democratic problems in the South, but closer analyses of Republican wins in Massachusetts and New York, and of the close governorship race in California, may shed additional light. In particular, Democratic problems should go well beyond any boost Republicans enjoyed in the last election from national security and foreign affairs issues.

POSTSCIPT: The Associated Press collects a number of events which are, and should be, frustrating to African-American Democrats. The elevation of Nancy Pelosi over Harold Ford, and the retention of Hillary Clinton functionary Terry McAuliffe as head of the DNC over Maynard Jackson, a former and successful Atlanta mayor, are just two examples of the undependable, white socially liberal side of the Democratic Party squeezing out what is now probably that Party's most central constituency.

Louisiana Democrats say that a new poll shows that Mary Landrieu's has a serious lead: 50%-34% over her Republican opponent, Terrell, whose own staff dismissed the Democrat's poll as inaccurate and said their own poll showed Terrell winning.

The voters to decide in another 5 days.



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Thursday, November 28, 2002

What Lies Beneath

Almost any Presidential election is about 80% about the economy.

This is a rule of thumb that not only does - or, at least, should - guide political professionals. In the personal experience of the Man Without Qualities it is roughly what most ordinary voters consciously know and actually say - although they tend to use a different vocabulary to express themselves. It is not an esoteric point, although it is one surprisingly often overlooked.

It is a point worth keeping in mind regardless of one's political affiliation in considering President Bush's continuing strong job approval ratings. According to a new Fox News poll over two-thirds of people surveyed say they approve of the job Bush is doing and 20 percent disapprove. But Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman notes "It is interesting that despite these high approval ratings, only 44 percent of the public say that they will vote to re-elect Bush. ... While only 21 percent are definitely voting Democratic, fully 35 percent are waiting to see or are undecided. Of course, whatever reservations people may have about re-electing him, the other questions indicate that the Democrats don't currently have a candidate capable of making the race competitive"

While reading the chicken entrails of polls is often a dark and uncertain art, in this case Mr. Bush's high "undecided" count seems pretty well correlated with the ambiguous state of the economy. If the economy fully strengthens in the coming year, and nothing else changes (which, of course, is never the case), Mr. Bush will probably be unstoppable in 2004. But if the economy is soft in early 2004, he will have proportionate trouble getting reelected, regardless of how high his job approval numbers may then be. For good reasons, many people are just "undecided" about whether the economy will be in good shape during the next two years - so they are "undecided" about whether they will vote for Bush. The whole thing just doesn't seem that mysterious.

Nor is it particularly significant that the Democrats don't currently have a candidate capable of making the race competitive. It probably doesn't matter that much if a "competitive" Democratic candidate emerges before the end of 2003 if the economy is soft. For example, in 1991 the then-obscure, un-competitive Bill Clinton was able to run and win because every prominent Democrat was cowed by George H.W. Bush's sky-high job approval numbers following the Gulf War. But Hillary Clinton reportedly looked at those numbers, wisely discounted that "approval" in comparision to the then-soft economic numbers, and advised her husband: "I say: If you run, you win." She was right. She didn't have to be particularly smart to see the opportunity, just willing to understand and stick to the fundamentals.

The Senator will correctly continue to understand and stick to those fundamentals. If the economy is soft through 2003, she will probably be a very "competitive" candidate, regardless of this poll's discovery that only 20 percent overall and 34 percent of Democrats now want her to run for President in 2004.

Of course, the 20% of a Presidential election remaining after the economic factors are accounted for is plenty of ground on which to win or lose many elections. After being in office for as long as Mr. Bush has been, a President's approval rating normally correlates strongly with how well the economy is currently performing. But Mr. Bush - like Gorge H.W. Bush - has approval ratings unusually colored by foreign affairs, which dwindle in significance when the question of reelection comes up. Here, Mr. Bush has some advantage over his father in that following the Gulf War, the foreign affairs that had boosted George H. W. Bush's standing essentially dwindled to a mere afterglow of a job well done in the past. But the war on terror, national security considerations and their associated issues - including the status of Israel - will continue to be significant well beyond 2004.

UPDATE: David Weigel adds intelligent perspective.

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Monday, November 25, 2002

Matt, Maybe Mr. Ashcroft Took Notes on September 11?

Matt Drudge is skewering Attorney General John Ashcroft by contrasting his supposedly inconsistent and hypocritical positions on internet surveillance as expressed in October 1997 and now, and again and again.

The Man Without Qualities does not defend "at will" FBI surveillance of the e-mail, but isn't it reasonable to think that some things that happened between October 1997 and today - say, in the late summer of 2001 - may have caused Mr. Ashcroft to have a good faith change of opinion on this topic?

John Maynard Keynes was better with his quips than his economics, but he was certainly right when he asked a skeptic: "When the facts change, I change my mind; What do you do?"
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Mr. Popularity

In a hilarious riff, Rand Simberg begins:

Former Vice President Al Gore's new book, "Joined At The Heart," has been out for over a week and a half, but it's selling poorly, despite an expensive campaign by Al and Tipper, and much free publicity from the media. Yesterday, it was #11,231 on's list of top-selling books.

Of course, Rand is exaggerating - or perhaps sales have improved. Both books now seem to be substantially discounted on Amazon. Today's actual Sales Rank for Joined at the Heart is 1,607, and today's Sales Rank for the coffeetable companion book Spirit of Family is 1,137.

Think the publishing executives who brought out these books are happy with those sales numbers?

Well, just imagine the looks on the faces of the NBC executives who had the nifty idea of inviting Mr. Gore to host Saturday Night Live (with Phish!) this coming December 14 when they get a look at the Neilsen ratings for THAT episode. Talk about a career enhancing decision!

Can those execs sing "Home for the Holidays?"

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Fraternities Internalize Abuse?

The national organizations of two fraternities at the University of Virginia have suspended the fraternities because students showed up at a Halloween party dressed as Venus and Serena Williams:

National fraternal leaders stepped in to investigate, and they joined Virginia students and university officials in denouncing the costumes.

Etc., etc., etc.

Hey, guys, IT'S A HALLOWEEN PARTY! Bin Laden masks were also popular this year.

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Sunday, November 24, 2002

Who Does She Talk To?

"I've never had a person who makes over $200,000 tell me they need a tax cut."

- United States Senator from California Dianne Feinstein
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Feel A Rush From That Joe?

It may not be the caffeine.
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Senator Hissyfit, I Presume?

Reports are that after finishing a taping at television studios in New Orleans, United States Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Republican state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell were preparing to leave when Landrieu told Terrell, "This is your last campaign."

A "stunned" Terrell replied, "She threatened me."

But Ms. Terrell should keep calm.

If Senator Landrieu had really meant to threaten Ms. Terrell, the Senator would have hissed: "You'll never eat lunch in this town again!" In Los Angeles that's a witticism.

But in New Orleans it would be a declaration of WAR!

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Friday, November 22, 2002


Paul Krugman writes that "[t]he official ideology of America's elite remains one of meritocracy," but that America is betraying this ideology by tolerating a "spectacular increase in American inequality" that"has made the gap between the rich and the middle class wider, and hence more difficult to cross, than it was in the past."

Here, as often, Professor Krugman misses the interesting, stranded issues that float - refugees in a frail dinghy - below the arc of his broadsides. Specifically, if it is true as Professor Krugman and the man he describes as his "Princeton colleague Alan Krueger" assert that "inherited status is making a comeback" then where are the twits? That is, where is the spectacular increase in incompetent people holding positions for which they are not qualified that should correspond to this supposed "spectacular increase in American inequality?" For example, one of the principal examples of the advantages of inherited "status" in the past was the ability of unqualified students to attend elite colleges. Has the quality of Princeton undergraduates or applicants - or undergraduates in the Princeton economics department - recently declined, for example? Professors Krugman and Krueger could easily determine that - why don't they say? (Professor Krueger certainly spends a lot of text on education in his discussions of his posited growing "inequality" - even proposing summer school vouchers while avoiding advocating full school vouchers, a dichotomy whose intellectual honesty the reader is invited to evaluate for herself.) Indeed, one also receives the impression from some quarters that if there has been a decline in some parts of the student body at places such as Princeton, it is often attributable to affirmative action programs - not to any brand of inherited privilege.

Professor Krugman does provide some examples of this "broader phenomenon" to which he sounds the alarm, but they only raise the interesting but ignored issue more prominently:

"America, we all know, is the land of opportunity. Your success in life depends on your ability and drive, not on who your father was. Just ask the Bush brothers. Talk to Elizabeth Cheney, who holds a specially created State Department job, or her husband, chief counsel of the Office of Management and Budget. Interview Eugene Scalia, the top lawyer at the Labor Department, and Janet Rehnquist, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. And don't forget to check in with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and the conservative commentator John Podhoretz."

James Taranto points out that this list suggests another agenda on Professor Krugman's part:"To be precise, Krugman is upset that so many prominent Republicans' children are in positions of political prominence. He doesn't mention Al Gore, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Patrick Kennedy, Jesse Jackson Jr., Nancy Pelosi, Harold Ford Jr., Richard M. Daley, Bill Daley, Andrew Cuomo or Evan Bayh."

Mr. Taranto is, of course, completely correct. But the list has another remarkable feature: Professor Krugman provides no support for his implication (or, in the marvelous neologism of former Chicago Mayor Daley, Professor Krugman's insinuendo) that these people are not at least as accomplished as those who previously occupied their positions. That is, there appear to be no listed twits. The presence of William Kristol on the list is particularly telling: He is a brilliant political observer and writer (and the son of another) who almost single-handedly perceived that the Clintons' health care proposals would not be supported by the American people if adequately explained to them, and were, in fact, a political debacle for the Democrats. Mr. Kristol not only understood all that, but he convinced then-terrified Congressional Republicans to stand up to the President and the media on that basis. His accomplishments far exceed in the scope of their influence on matters of national economic significance anything that Professor Krugman can claim for his own. Is there some reason Mr. Kristol should not enjoy prominence? Similarly, Mr. Scalia and Janet Rehnquist both graduated from top law schools and held serious positions or responsibility before their current appointments. Nor are any other people on Professor Krugman's list reported to be incompetent in their positions. (Professor Krugman's references to the "Bush brothers", who within the past few weeks have each accomplished spectacular political successes, is not worth further mention.)

Yet, Professor Krugman entirely ignores Mr. Kristol's accomplishments and writes dismissively: "Mr. Scalia's principal personal claim to fame is his crusade against regulations that protect workers from ergonomic hazards, while Ms. Rehnquist has attracted controversy because of her efforts to weaken the punishment of health-care companies found to have committed fraud." But Mr. Scalia makes a convincing case that the "ergonomic hazards" he opposes are a figment of junk science, and the central purpose of regulation of health-care companies is to provide good health-care to patients, and malefactors should be "punished" only to the extent that central goal is not compromised. Professor Krugman may disagree with Mr. Scalia and Ms. Rehnquist, but he provides no basis for his implication that they are underqualified or beastly.

Of course there will always be twits and always have been twits. Both Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Patrick Kennedy, and perhaps Andrew Cuomo, have at least arguably operated in positions far beyond their personal competence - probably because of family influence and connections. But these two little mentally undernourished Kennedys and a possibly stray Cuomo are scarcely evidence of a "spectacular increase in American inequality."

Is the number of powerful twits increasing - "spectacularly" or otherwise? Or have Professors Krugman and Krueger unwittingly stumbled across a new kind of national "inequality" - an "inequality" which does not install less competent people in valued positions, but nevertheless somehow favors the children of accomplished parents? If so, should one be concerned?

Unfortunately, Professor Krugman's outdated rhetoric of class warfare almost completely obscures whatever economic substance may be present in the topic.

POSTSCRIPT: The focus here is on missed opportunities. This post is not intended to unpack the highly dubious analytics supposedly supporting the positions taken by Professors Krugman and Krueger. But MinuteMan labors cheerfully and diligently in that field. Suffice to say here that Professor Krugman's affection for Alan Krueger and his disapproval of Eugene Scalia perhaps have something to do with Professor Krugman's attitude towards perpetrators of junk science generally. In Professor Krugman's words, Alan Krueger's "main claim to fame" is his study and book advancing the argument that increasing the price of labor (minimum wage) "modestly" does not reduce the demand for minimum wage employment. Economics Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, for example, has noted that the methodology of the original study was "seriously flawed" (actually it was a textbook case of junk science) and Professor Krueger has been thoroughly discredited by Kevin Murphy, among others. But Professor Krueger wilfully refuses to abandon his position in that case - essentially restricting his responses to the weakest of his many critics' arguments.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Senator James Jeffords - Man of Principle!

I wonder what this will do to the book sales.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

FURTHER UPDATE: The Piper Bills Germany

The Wall Street Journal Europe has an excellent editorial calmly analyzing the cutting edge of Germany's current efforts to underme its own economy. Example:

Mr. Schroeder is going after one of the few havens of relative tax-freedom in tax-heavy Germany -- long-term capital gains. Monday's proposal would tax, at a 7.5% effective rate starting in February, the gains from sales of securities held for more than a year and property held more than 10 years. No one in Germany thinks this will stimulate the economy. But the government says it needs the money, so it's taking it any way it can. Apparently the idea that it's precisely in tough economic times that Germany's citizens can least afford new taxes was not much of a consideration.

Have economists studied whether it's possible to ski down a Laffer curve? Germany seems poised to find out.
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What Secret?

Various media, including Reuters, have been describing as a "secret court" the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which just overturned a decision of the separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court,

The inferior Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court is properly described as a "secret court" - but there has been nothing secretive about the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, as the New York Times article on the matter makes clear:

Both the appeals court and the court whose opinion it overturned today were created solely to administer a 1978 law allowing the government to conduct intelligence wiretaps inside the United States. The three-member appeals court, the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, in issuing its first opinion ever, said that the lower court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, had erred when it tried to impose restrictions on the Justice Department. The Court of Review, which had never met before and essentially existed on paper, is made up of Judges Ralph B. Guy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Edward Leavy of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and Laurence H. Silberman of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. All were appointed to the panel by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court. ... The only party was the Justice Department, which won; the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who filed briefs, were afforded only friend-of-the-court status, which does not entitle them to appeal.

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Monday, November 18, 2002

Why Day Lilies Bloom at Every Gas Station

It changes your life!

Good looking in the flower border ... and they make really good soups (a daylily cream soup is also delicious) and other tasty foods. They're good with pork.
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UPDATE: Easing In The Back Door

The MinuteMan also wonders at Big Mo's self imposed exile. Is she a hostage? Has some Saudi prince added her to his harem? Ready the Delta Force! This may be a case for Die Entführung aus dem Serail!

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Lights On, Nobody Home?

One not uncommon but precarious and usually counterproductive gambit of elected officers is attempting to quiet criticism by arguing that critics are obliged to restrain themselves because the politician is occupying an office that deserves more respect. The crudest and almost always unsuccessful version of this gambit tries to quiet protests occurring at the politician's government office space - or, in this case, Al Gore's official Vice Presidential residence:

WALTERS: I'm not sure that people realize that while you were in the residence of the Vice President [during the Florida recount] there were crowds of people outside screaming at you. What was that all about?

AL GORE: Well, this was the Republican response to what was happening during that 36-day period, and they organized busloads of people that came and stood outside the house all day and all night screaming at the top of their lungs.

WALTERS: What, "Get out!"?

TIPPER GORE: Things like that, yes, and, and sometimes … things that we don't want to say on your program, and, some people saw that they were buses from "churches," but it was organized. The one thing that, that they did mainly was reach the bedrooms of our children, and Albert was still in school locally, and trying to study, so we rearranged, you know, they … kids moved to a different part of the house, and I was trying to think of a way that we could kind of laugh about this since obviously it was out of our control, there wasn't anything anybody could do so I got all the boom boxes in the house and … I remember sort of what the government did with Noriega … I thought we'd try that, and I aimed them at, toward, you know, where the crowd …

WALTERS: The crowd?

TIPPER GORE: … And I put nature sounds on and turned it all the way up. And at least the kids laughed.

AL GORE: There were a few, more than a few who supported us and were offended by the organized chanting round the clock who came out on the other street corner during the day to express their support with signs, and … You know, emotions were running high throughout the country and it was just an unprecedented time.

KARENNA GORE: Well, when we were in the Vice President's house during the recount, it was it was very intense. And one of the things I remember is that there was a … an organized effort by, I don't know whether it was the RNC or it was … it was right-wing groups, it was definitely Bush-campaign-oriented effort to bus in people to have a sort of siege at the Vice President's house, and, so, they were all lining there, screaming, and it was kind of an assortment of groups. I mean, some of them were anti, um, were anti-abortion groups, and some of them were pro-gun groups, and some of them … they all had their different signs. But they were all screaming, "Get out of Cheney's house," the whole time. And I just remember being there next to my dad, because I went for a run, and I ran back through them, and I was very upset when I came into the house. And my whole attitude was, like, "We've got to fight back harder. And where are our crowds?" And my dad, I'll never forget his response. He said, "We have to do what's best for the country, and it is not good for the country to have this kind of divisiveness. And he was on the phone, really calling off the dogs. There were people who wanted to fan the … the flames of the racial issue and have real unrest. And he was on the phone asking them not to, because of what was best for the country not because of what was best for him politically. And that's really who he is.

WALTERS: Do you remember the crowds outside screaming?

KRISTEN GORE: The crowds that were screaming outside our house, you know, "Get out of Cheney's house." And other things … of that nature, were really upsetting. It was difficult … It was just very … upsetting that someone would … yell those things at us. It felt … we felt sort of like … trapped in this … you know, little house with all these people yelling mean things. It's no fun. You know, whether you're a child of the person who they're directed at, or anyone else. It … it wasn't a good situation.

WALTERS: Were you scared?

KRISTEN GORE: I was scared that the truth was not going to come out. That's what I was.

Can Al Gore and his family understand that this interview makes him out as a priggish, gutless wonder? What would one think of a President who complained that protesters rudely chanted outside the White House? There are often protestors outside the White House - and they try to be loud and forceful and rude. It's Washington, D.C. - not Versailles. Nobody pays much attention - and the President certainly never makes priggish comments about the protesters' style - unless they are extraordinarily raucous. In Mr. Gore's case, the protests were so peaceful that Karenna Gore says "I went for a run, and I ran back through them, and I was very upset when I came into the house." Does the Secret Service let the Vice President's daughter run through protesters who are really acting up or creating any potential threat at all? I don't think so.

Oddly, Mr. Gore seems to have thought this interview put him in a flattering light by allowing him and his family to present his critics as near-thugs willing to desecrate the sacred Vice Presidential residence, which is set in an enclosed, guarded, gated park.
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Gee, I Thought I Had One Of Those Things Around Here Somewhere

What the North Koreans really said was that they have nucular weapons - which, as we all know, don't exist because the word is spelled and pronounced "nuclear." That Korean accent made it a little had to tell.

Or at least that's what the North Koreans told the Clinton Administration when they cut their deal.
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The Souring

Bruce Sanborn addresses the souring of Garrison Keillor and Leftist humor.
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Thought Provocation From Hogberg

At the American Prowler today.

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Still In The Denial Phase

Excerpts of Senate Democrats addressing the election results and what is to be done, from an article in today's Roll Call:

"It is not so much changing the message," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "It is just that people in America haven't been hearing what we argue all the time."

"The conservative establishment in this country really has a lock on the airwaves," said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the assistant Democratic floor leader.

"I don't have any inside info on what is going to happen...," [Hillary] Clinton said.

A top Democratic aide said Democrats lost out in this year's election because Republicans successfully co-opted portions of their domestic agenda while at the same time seizing control of the national security debate over issues such as creating a Department of Homeland Security. "Republicans did a masterful job of blurring the differences on key Democratic initiatives such as education, health care and the war on terrorism," the aide said.

So the Senate Democrats think their party lost the last election because: (1) The Republicans coopted the Democrats' agenda and, then, through the conservative establishment's "lock on the airwaves," presented that "coopted agenda" to a guileless voting public while (2) The people in America just weren't hearing what the Democrats "argue all the time" because the Democrats - lacking media support and sympathy - just couldn't get their genuine agenda out. And even though the differences between Republican and Democratic initiatives were all blurred up, the voters consistently chose the Republican version over and over again.

And, of course, Hillary Clinton, who with her husband runs the DNC through Terry McAuliffe, doesn't "have any inside info on what is going to happen."

Sad. Really sad.
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UPDATE: The Piper Bills Germany

Germans unwisely re-elected their paralytic government, one singularly unsuitable for addressing the country's pressing and growing internal and external needs. As noted here previously, the bills for their self-indulgence are starting to come due.

Now the Economist is taking note of the swelling mess. Chancellor Schroeder's approach both to internal reform issues and foreign policy issues has been heavy on opportunism and media manipulation, and light on real ideas, insight and reform, and that has made his and Germany's problems worse than they need to be.

But to be fair to the Chancellor, Germany is a self governing Democracy, and its voters aren't getting anything they didn't choose for themselves. If Economist means to join with the German opposition by insinuating that Herr Schroeder obtained reelection by misleading the voters, that insinuation is a disservice to the Economist's readers, as with this passage:

Right up to the general election, Mr Schröder's then government had assured voters that it had everything under control. Times were certainly difficult, it said, but it was still expecting modest growth of 0.75% this year, rising to 2.5% next year. Tax increases? No question of that: to do it during an economic downturn would be “economically absurd”, Mr Schröder insisted. Welfare contributions? They would be “stabilised”. And the public deficit? Hans Eichel, the finance minister, was “certain” that Germany would keep within the European Union's 3% limit. All that has now been turned on its head.

The government no longer expects the economy to grow by more than 0.5% this year and 1.5% next. And even that looks optimistic. Germany's “five wise men”, the government's independent economic advisers, now forecast growth of just 0.2% this year and 1.0% next. The ZEW institute's monthly index of business expectations plunged this month to its lowest level since just after the terrorist attacks on New York's twin towers, suggesting, according to the institute's president, Wolfgang Franz, a “nosedive” of economic activity in Germany in the first half of next year. Europe's biggest economy is in crisis. .... Many Germans feel cheated and betrayed. Support for Mr. Schröder's Social Democrats has plummeted. Less than two months after scraping back into power, they now trail the opposition Christian Democrats by 14 percentage points.

All very rich.

During the campaign many independent economists, as well as the opposition political parties, vigorously pointed out how precarious the government's economic predictions really were. Germany's structural problems are discussed constantly and with great sophistication in that country's media. So while it is true as the Economist reports that [o]pposition leaders accuse the government of carrying out “the biggest electoral fraud in German history," it is equally true that voters who relied on the government's inevitably sunny campaign forecasts chose to rely on those forecasts in the face of enormous countervailing authority that was adequately explained to them.

Democracy requires, among other things, that voters train themselves to understand that an incumbent government will try to put the best spin on its performance, and that while the government is not evil to do this, the voters have an obligation to be skeptical and listen seriously to the other stories. Indeed, Herr Schroeder's party was trailing badly in the polls at the time it was attempting to rely on this sunny message - meaning voters weren't buying it. It was only with his handling of the massive floods and his opposition to the US Iraq policy that Herr Schroder made up his ground. It is preposterous and irresponsible for Germans to now argue that they were "tricked" by this entirely normal aspect of Herr Schroeder's campaign. The Germans weren't "tricked" or "defrauded." Rather, fully apprised, German voters chose to focus on the wrong issues at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. Now they are living with the consequences.

The Germans are their own problem. Germans' need to shed their own responsibility for their own choices by arguing they were misled where they were provided with all of the relevant information is a big part of their problem. It is certainly not the first time its been their problem.

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Sunday, November 17, 2002

This Means ...

... New England media won't run so many "global warming" items for a while.
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A Mere Being

There are several remarkable passages in this profile of Al Gore from the Washington Post. Mistaken for Dan Quayle in an airport, revealed as a college stand up comic, described as taking "a part-time job with Metropolitan West, a financial services firm, as a roving rainmaker" without comment on whether he has made any rain for the substantial amount of compensation he is reported to receive - and, if so, where it came from. There's the new White Housey home - his hoped for jar - in a tony Nashville suburb

Some consequences from his earlier compromises are described: hiving off principles, replacing them with Bill Clinton's artifices of political manipulation in the service of personal self indulgence - with Monica Lewinski swaying, the palm at the end of the mind. Angry words post election defeat. Dear me.

There is discussion of the 2000 campaign, but it seems historical, remote - like reports from the Indian Wars. Friends and former aides speak, but their comments have the quality of reports in those worthy academic projects whose purpose is to reach and record aged witnesses before they all die off: "A downright fire-eater, and no mistake. Showed that, I should say, to some purpose, in the late tremendous swamp-fight, away down South ...."

But perhaps the most striking aspect of this profile is the sheer overwhelming exhaustion it finds in the man that was used up.

Thanks to reader Mike Daley.

UPDATE: More Gore exhaustion:

Gore is on the offensive. Bush's economic agenda, he says, is "catastrophic," his foreign policy "horrible," his environmental stance "immoral." "Our country is headed for very deep trouble," he says. He diplomatically refrains from saying if there is a "national malaise."

TIME says: This is the New Gore, a man who no longer speaks as if every sentence has been preapproved by his pollsters and handlers.

Sometimes it's better to have pollsters and handlers. TIME also reports: [I]f Gore ran today against Bush, the poll shows, Bush would win handily, 57% to 40%. - which is about the margin by which Jeb Bush just carried Florida.

FURTHER UPDATE: Bill Quick finds more Gore howlers.
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Against The Misguided

Critics of the United States spend a disproportionate amount of their time and effort attempting to cast one aspect or another of the nation's history in an unflattering light.

But those who formed it well understood that the very legitimacy of this nation tetered precariously over its tolerance of slavery, and they formed it anyway. And Abraham Lincoln, a political genius of the highest order, who brought the deeply flawed nation through a Civil War that transfigured it yet left it with the same principles, Constitution, government and founding heros, also realized that a thing is worth fighting for not because of what it is or has been, but for what can be made of it:

I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each one of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright. ... That nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.

- Address to the 16th Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864

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Saturday, November 16, 2002

Easing In The Back Door

The fourth Maureen Dowd column since the November 5 elections has now emerged, and, still no acknowledgement that the elections happened or, a fortiori, the results. Instead, her effort today finds Big Mo again tooling around the unelected representatives of the highly unelected government of Saudi Arabia, after a brief flirtation with the foibles of the unelected but socially acceptable British Royal Family.

Once again Big Mo gives the Saudi despots a good pen lashing. But, ever aggressive and result-oriented if inelegant, Big Mo discovers at the back of her burka wardrobe her own secret doorway to American domestic politics! She exclaims:

Saudi Arabia is the Augusta National of Islam, a sand trap where men can hang out and be men. A suffocating, strict, monochromatic world of white-robed men and black-robed women.

Take THAT, running dogs of American phallocentrism! Big Mo's coming to get you where it hurts the most - GOLF!

The Augusta National of Islam? Is it an invitational or a open? For God's sake, Big Mo. Don't stop there! Let the metaphor move you and take you where it wants you to be!

She leads with: Riyadh may be the Bible Belt of the Arab world.

Get it, Georgia? Augusta? Bible Belt? Big Mo is talking - clear and elliptical - to you! You who kicked out your Democrat War Hero Senator - kicked out most Democrats who raised their heads too high. Think Atlanta is a cosmopolitan city? Think again, goober, and wait for her out in the woodshed. Big Mo is almost back and she's fixing to take her attenuated Bible Belt imagery to your impertinent hide.

And don't try any of the "Driving Miss Daisy" stuff on her this time. Atlantan Miss Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) is a "fine, rich, Jewish lady," says her black chauffeur, Hoke Coburn (Morgan Freeman)? Fuggetaboutit! Big Mo knows driving. She has a "driving" story that will knock your socks off and she's not afraid to lay it between the lines:

The moment when America should have tried to use its influence to help Saudi women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to go to war in Iraq. Inspired by the American troops — including female soldiers — 47 women from the intelligentsia went for a joy ride to protest Saudi Arabia's being the only place where women can't drive. .... Using international licenses, the women took the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove in a convoy until police stopped them. At first, the drivers were exhilarated. But then the clerics pounced, blaming "secular Americanist" ideas and branding the women "whores" and "harlots." They were publicly harassed, received death threats and lost their jobs. ... Driving by women, banned by custom, was made illegal as degrading to "the sanctity of women." America was silent: Whether they drove was less important than how much it cost us to drive.



And, as far as Big Mo is concerned, we'd better not ask about all the other moments from 1992 to 2000, either. IF WE DID, WE'D GET MOCKED! Saudi Arabia is a country that can decapitate women for a having a little nookie on the side, and Big Mo thinks the US should have blown a gasket when some of them lost their drivers licenses.

The world has not seen such a cri de Coeur for human rights since the irate, bitter letter from Fabrizio's: Criticism and Response that boldly accused the coat-check girl and other "so-called intellectuals" of the left-wing Italian restaurant "Fabrizio's Villa Nuovo" of standing silent while coat check girls throughout the Soviet Union were taken from their homes and forced to check coats of Soviet goons!

Yep. Big Mo is taking no prisoners. She's mad - and she doesn't care who knows what she thinks about Saudi "culture" - as long as they understand that she's really talking about US Republican "culture:" The royals tried to throw the fundamentalists sops — blocking little things like cultural freedom and women's rights. Nasty, nasty, nasty. Hey Saudi Royals, you overfed, underfamilied buffoons from Riyadh! Big Mo's got your number - and she knows you don't treat women right! BIG MO IS GOING TO BLOW THE LID OFF THIS TOWN!

And that means Washington, D.C., in case you're not paying attention:

Now they are more angry at the U.S. than their own rulers. They feel the American media are playing up the repression of Saudi women post-9/11 as a way to demonize Saudi Arabia, just as George and Laura Bush played up the repression of Afghan women post-9/11 as a way to demonize the Taliban. "Americans are always saying they're concerned with freedom and the democratic will of people," said one of the drivers, a professor. "But they didn't care about what was happening inside our country in 1990. And they still don't care. We are seen only as the ladies in black."

It's more OpinionJournalBait! James Taranto, you encouraged her. Now look where it's leading.

UPDATE: The MinuteMan also wonders at Big Mo's self imposed exile. Has some Saudi prince added her to his harem? Ready the Delta Force - this may be a case for Die Entführung aus dem Serail!

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Most Competitive?

This year the Swiss-based World Economic Forum thinks that the United States is the "most competitive" economy in the world.

But the WEF thought that of Finland last year, so perhaps corks can remain in the good bubbly.

Despite a "dismal" reform record, Germany rose three notches. Everything's relative in relative rankings of economic performance.

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Friday, November 15, 2002

What Lynxx Thinks

Lynxx Pherrett thinks the hoo ha over the Homeland Security Act is way overblown - and he seems to have read the thing, too.
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Remember Deflation?

So long ago, in a time beyond living memory - that is, before the elections on November 5 - the risk of hideous Japan-style deflation loomed large in the minds of certain economists, especially some who seemed particularly associated with, or whose opinions were reported by media that are generally sympathetic to, Democrats - although deflationary concerns were by no means limited to such economists and media.

Well, forget deflation. Deflation risk went out with the zoot suits! The modern, hip, cutting-edge, economist-on-the-go of today is concerned about ugly INFLATION numbers... but not alarmed:

[T]he Labor Department's Producer Price Index, which measures prices of goods before they reach consumers, jumped 1.1 percent in October, after a tiny 0.1 percent rise in September, lifted by higher prices for new cars, trucks and gasoline. October's rise in the PPI marked the largest increase since January 2001, economists said they weren't alarmed.

``While the October wholesale price numbers look ugly, they don't imply that inflation is back up and running wild,'' said economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

The core rate of inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, rose by 0.5 percent in October, but most of that increase reflected the higher automobile prices. When those are taken out, the core inflation rate nudged up by 0.1 percent in October.

Against that backdrop, economists said they didn't believe the PPI report flashed a danger signal that the country was on the path to the twin evils of weak economic growth and upward spiraling inflation.

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It's Just My Opinion, ...

... but I think OpinionJournal got it right the first time. Today OpinionJournal "corrects" its earlier article:

Hillary's off the Hook
Our item yesterday on Gennifer Flowers's defamation suit relied on a New York Post report that misstated the findings of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court, whose decision (in PDF format) is here, did not overturn a lower court's decision to throw out Flowers's claim against Sen. Hillary Clinton, though it did reinstate some claims against Democratic consultants turned TV talk-show hosts James Carville and George Stephanopoulos.

I don't think this "correction" is correct. It appears that the 9th Circuit did overturn the lower court's decision to throw out some of Flowers's claim against Sen. Hillary Clinton. The 9th Circuit's actual order is, in relevant part:

Gennifer Flowers claims that defendants knew she was telling the truth, knew the tapes weren’t doctored, knew the news reports they claimed to rely on were wrong, but accused her of being a liar and a fraud anyway. If Flowers’s claims are true, her suit does not offend the First Amendment. She has produced no evidence yet to support them, but under our system of civil procedure, she must be given at least some chance to seek it before her lawsuit is thrown out of court. We AFFIRM the district court’s dismissal of all claims based on Carville’s book, the disclosure and intrusion claims against Clinton, and all claims based on Stephanopoulos’s book other than those related to the tape-doctoring passage. We REVERSE dismissal of the defamation and false light claims based on Carville’s Larry King interview, Stephanopoulos’s Larry King interview, and the tape-doctoring passage in Stephanopoulos’s book.

One might think that this dismisses the claims against Senator Clinton, since it affirms, for example, "all claims based on ... the disclosure and intrusion claims against Clinton." But these dismissed claims do not appear to be the only claims brought by Ms. Flowers against the Senator. Ms. Flowers seems to have brought a civil conspiracy claim against all of the defendants which would hold all of them jointly and severally liable for "the defamation and false light claims based on Carville’s Larry King interview, Stephanopoulos’s Larry King interview, and the tape-doctoring passage in Stephanopoulos’s book" if she can show they were all in on the conspiracy.

The 9th Circuit describes the conspiracy claim as follows:

Flowers claims that during the 1992 campaign and in later political memoirs and interviews, Carville and Stephanopoulos defamed her and painted her in a false light by claiming that she had lied in her story to the Star and “doctored” the tape-recorded phone calls. Hillary Clinton, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, not only orchestrated the defamatory exploits, but also exposed private information about Flowers and organized break-ins of her residence. Flowers claims that, as a result of all this schemery, her reputation has wilted and her blossoming career as a Las Vegas lounge singer has been nipped in the bud. .... [The district court] dismissed the false light claims as duplicative of the defamation claims, threw out the charges against Clinton as time-barred and impermissibly vague and rejected the conspiracy claim because, with everything else dismissed, there was nothing left to conspire about. .... [Footnote 12:] The district court dismissed the conspiracy claim because it had dismissed all of the underlying claims. We vacate this decision but leave it to the district court to dispose of the claim on any appropriate factual or legal ground.

Yes, after the 9th Circuit is done, there clearly was something "left to conspire about." And the 9th Circuit is clear - especially in its Footnote 12 - that if Ms. Flowers can show a conspiracy and all the rest, she will prevail.

Hillary is not off the hook... yet.

Or at least that's my opinion about the OpinionJournal's item on the 9th Circuit opinion.

UPDATE: And it also seems to be the opinion of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times (The appeals court also asked the trial judge to reconsider a related conspiracy claim against Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Ms. Flowers said was involved in "the Clinton smear machine.")
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More and Different For Sale

Within the framework of the objective scientific method, scientists do not sell their credibility. It is completely irrelevant to mankind's understanding of classical physics that Isaac Newton may have cooked (or "adjusted") some of his lunar orbit data. Nor to the extent such topics constitute science does our understanding of relativity depend on anything Albert Einstein may have done or thought, nor does our understanding of radioactive decay stand or fall on what Marie Curie thought she was doing, nor is our scientific understanding of quantum mechanics dependent on Werner Heisenberg's thought processes or credibility. Science does not "trust" Newton, Einstein, Curie, Heisenberg or any other scientist for their findings - the whole point of science is to check out and repeat what an individual scientist says he or she has found, discovered or invented.

Scientists first and foremost "sell" ideas - and, in the end, only their ideas matter to humanity and objective science.

But that doesn't mean that scientists lose their subjective human characteristics or their need to function in human groups and organizations or their need to obtain real assets to do research (money, equipment, colleagues, assistants, time). For example, if one is a practicing research scientist in a developing field, the credibility of another scientist will be very important in certain personal, career related ways. For example, if a credible scientist reports a surprising result, one will be more likely to divert one's time and energy to investigate that result than if the result came from an unreliable scientist. And credibility plus important results often leads to political power and/or influence in the scientific and academic communities.

In short: Individual credibility is ultimately not a concept very important to scientific knowledge, but is far more germane to issues concerning the political structure and asset deployments of the scientific community.

To the extent a belief structure comes to rest on credibility of some prominent person - Freud, for example, in the case of psychoanalysis, or Mao, Marx and Lenin in the case of communism - the belief system becomes more religious than scientific in nature.

To the extent one focuses on the political and organizational aspects of science one becomes more of a scientific administrator than a scientist. Scientific administrators are immensely valuable to science - and can advance the cause of objective science hugely. Felix Klein, for example, more or less abandoned mathematics to concentrate on being a scientific administrator of an institute in Göttingen, Germany which revolutionized mathematics and physics.

But scientific administrators are valuable to society only to the extent they help advance scientific knowledge. A scientific administrator who does not understand that scientists first and foremost "sell" ideas is way off track. A scientist who does not understand only his or her ideas matter to science is not likely to be a very good scientist.

In certain respects scientists have a lot in common with political commentators. James Carville and William Safire, for example, are not a reporters. Mr. Safire has accurately described himself as a professional mind bender, a term that also applies to Mr. Carville: someone who invents or draws one's attention to arguments and rhetorical devices to be used in the political arena. Their main contribution is not their "credibility," although it is important that they be accurate in reporting whatever facts underlie their ideas. Such arguments and devices either work or they don't. For example, somebody came up with the idea of re-christening the "estate tax' the "death tax." I hope the Republicans paid that person well. But whether the rhetorical device of referring to the "death tax" in speeches is politically effective or not - that is, whether this rhetorical device is a good idea - does not depend on its author's "credibility." Mickey Kaus is also not a reporter, but neither is he a "mind bender" - he is a self-renewing source of fresh, topical ideas. But those ideas either work or they don't. Mickey Kaus, too, does not for the most part traffic in his "credibility" - he traffics in his ideas.

One might imagine that a person who purports to be a scientist but who has had extensive political experience would understand the interplay and separateness of personal credibility and objective ideas, and would be unlikely to say of another commentator that he has every incentive not to burn his credibility-- it is, after all, the only thing he has to sell.

But I agree that people should Google their facts since its so easy.

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The Dark Side of Pop-Up Stopper

The Man Without Qualities does not favor uninvited internet "pop-up" ads. I use the program "Pop-Up Stopper" to stop them - and it works pretty well.

However, Pop-Up Stopper often blocks access to certain "click-ins" - including most notably the "comments" sections of many blogs. I often get an "Error on page" or "Java void" message when attempting access.

This problem can be solved by first right clicking the little Pop-Up Stopper box at the bottom of the screen (a rectangle with a red "X" in it and a small blue bar across the top) and then left clicking the "Exit" in the larger rectangle that appears. This turns off Pop-Up Stopper for the session and allows access to the "click ins."

But then, of course, the pop-up ads start coming right away.

UPDATE: Helpful and astute reader Lee writes with:

The non-free ($30) AdSubtractPro works like a charm, and lets you set the blocking policy on a per-site basis, e.g. You can set:"no pop ups" as the default, but then set "allow pop ups" on certain sites.

And the MinuteMan suggests another solution.

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Thursday, November 14, 2002


Senate Democrats seem to be responding to the increasing evidence that bin Laden lives by attempting to score political points against the Administration - and that's probably going to continue to hurt the Democrats in major ways.

For example, Senator Tom Daschle
of South Dakota, who appears to have developed incurable political tinitinitis, said at a Capitol news conference. "Frankly, I think that it really caused many of us to be concerned about whether or not we are winning the war on terror."

And just what does Senator Daschle suggest be done to find bin Laden and win the War on Terror? Why, create an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, of course! Just the ticket! That will help find and root out al Qaeda and bin Laden.

And while Senator Daschle is working all that out for himself, Florida Democrat Senator Bob Graham, the outgoing chairman (Get it, Bob? You're outgoing.) of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is insisting that the Administration had been distracted from the fight against terrorism by the preparation for a possible invasion of Iraq. "They are so focused on Iraq that they aren't paying adequate attention to the war on terror," he said in an interview. On a lighter note, Senator Graham did not actually cite any evidence or examples supporting his harsh and divisive accusation, no doubt not wanting to get bogged down in details. That is fine, since nobody really seems to be taking his statements on the matter very seriously.

Senator Graham did go Senator Daschle one better by actually offering as a putatively constructive suggestion that American intelligence agencies should undertake a crash program to identify and take action against terrorist threats in advance of any military action in Iraq. Senator Graham's implication that American intelligence agencies have not already undertaken to identify and take action against terrorist threats is a bit odd.

Perhaps the good Senator was on vacation during the Afghan war, snoozed through reports of the Predator drone annhilation of six al Qaeda operatives in Yemen (including al Qaeda's top man in Yemen) just before election day, was watching "Charmed" during the newsflash of the September arrests of six Americans who the U.S. government describes as members of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell outside of Buffalo, and was working out at the gym when the reports came through from Pakistani intelligence officials that at least 20 suspected members of al Qaida, possibly including one of bin Laden's sons were deported by Iran to Pakistan and handed over to the Americans.

But, of course, all that would not be enough for the outgoing chairman, anyway. What Senator Graham seems to want is proof that all substantial al Qaeda activity, at least, has ceased before action against Iraq can even be considered, since that's too "distracting." In other words, he wants to use his unreasonable demands to stop the Iraq incursion - and his agenda shows badly.

Such Democrat "leaders" don't seem to understand that most Americans see such tactics as just that: political tactics designed to score media points, not reasonable and good faith efforts to get the necessary security job done. That's a big reason why the Democrats were punished in the elections, and its a big reason most people don't think the Democrats have a grasp of national security issues

UPDATE: OOPS!. Another blow against al Qaeda inadvertently effected by the distracted Bush Administration.

FURTHER UPDATE: Croooow Blog has more.
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One Of Those Hasty Retreats You Read About

Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who supported the city's decision to prohibit a veterans group from showing the movie TORA! TORA! TORA! at a municipal theater on Tuesday, saying "I wanted to be very sensitive to the Japanese-American community," changed her mind Wednesday in the face of outrage from veterans' groups, explaining:

"TORA! TORA! TORA!? Omygod! I thought they told me it was: TOGA! TOGA! TOGA! I didn't want them holding a FRAT PARTY in a city theater!"

Actually, that's not true. What is true is even worse: Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who Tuesday said "I wanted to be very sensitive to the Japanese-American community," changed her mind Wednesday in the face of outrage from veterans' groups and called for "disciplinary action" against theater officials for discriminating against veterans.

At least the veterans were gracious and level headed about the whole mess:

"I'm very pleased, the show will go on," said Joe Janesic, a director at the Fort MacArthur Military Museum in San Pedro and an organizer of the Dec. 7 event. "The public has spoken: We as Americans have the right to determine what is appropriate for us to see."

UPDATE: It just gets worse and worse. Now it looks like Mayor Hahn of Los Angeles may have been cynically exploiting his sister, Japanese Americans and the Vets - while unfairly persecuting the theater management!

Amoral quadfecta!

Update thanks to Alaska's Conservative Digest..
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My, How You've Changed!

David Hogberg thinks that Mondale's loss, resulting from the Wellstone Memorial/Rally, is another indication of how 9/11 has changed us.

I agree.

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Another Warren Buffet Profession

The dust has mostly settled on the "expensing of options" issue - but the Man Without Qualities wants to kick that dust up a bit, in this case kick a bit of it in the direction of Warren Buffet.

As noted in prior posts, Warren Buffet has for some time taken the lead in advocating the "expensing" of options, a practice that Mr. Buffet professes to believe is required by "honest accounting."

Mr. Buffet repeatedly says or implies that public investors will value a company at a lower share price if the options are carried as an "expense." Let us accept that implication as fact for the sake of this post.

Mr. Buffet also makes clear in his public statements that his companies do not use options to compensate their senior managers, and, if a company has such options outstanding at the time the company is acquired by Berkshire Hathaway, they are generally eliminated and the stock option program terminated. Berkshire Hathaway routinely acquires a control position in companies in which it invests.

Mr. Buffet is particularly active in refuting the argument that options should not be expensed because they are hard to value. He notes correctly that there are several fairly standard ways of valuing options, and that Berkshire Hathaway does it all the time for companies it plans to acquire. Indeed, Mr. Buffet seems to favor valuing and expensing options at the time they are issued, and then carrying that expense on the company's books at that historic number until the options expire.

Consider how these various aspects of Mr. Buffet's approach interact:

If at a particualr point in time a public company not owned by Berkshire Hathaway had preiously issued substantial executive options, then under Mr. Buffet's proposal those options would have been valued and expensed at the time they were issued. Almost any such valuation technique will have depended on an evaluation of the expected performance of the company stock price, especially its volatility, over the life of the option.

Suppose, in this case, that the stock has not done as well as expected at the time the options were issued, so that at the particular point in time we are considering, an evaluation of the outstanding options would reveal that they are expected to be much more "out of the money" over the remaining portion of the option term than was expected at the time the options were issued. This means that the historical expense placed and carried on the books of the company for the options is substantially greater that the expected liability the options represent at the particular point in time with which we are now concerned.

In short, because of Mr. Buffet's proposal, the company's books understate its value by the amount of the difference between the historical expense and the actual liability corresponding to the options. Now, Mr. Buffet also says that public investors will in large measure be influenced by what expense appears on the company books. After all, if investors didn't care about what "expense" is carried on the company books, it would not have been necessary to reform the books to comply with "honest accounting" - as Mr. Buffet insists. Put another way: the company stock should trade at a price lower than would be the case if the "expense" were not so large. Now, Mr. Buffet also says that if Berkshire-Hathaway is considering buying the company, Berkshire-Hathaway will value the company and perform its own appraisal of the options liability.

So Mr. Buffet seems to be saying that if his "reform" proposal is adopted, Berkshire-Hathaway will be aware when a company it is considering acquiring is being undervalued by the public market - and that more such companies will exist than exist now.

Once Berkshire-Hathaway acquires the company, the options will be eliminated pursuant to Mr. Buffet's long-established policy. If the options can be eliminated for their actual value at the time of the acquisition, the elimination price will (by assumption) be less than the associated "expense" carried on the company books.

So Berkshire-Hathaway would pocket a nice profit right off the bat. (If the stock price of the company went up more than was expected at the time the options were issued, the options would be "underexpensed" on the company's books - and such a company would be less of a buying opportunity for Berkshire-Hathaway.)
Of course, this is all only true if Mr. Buffet is correct that markets care about whether an option is expensed or merely disclosed in a footnote. That is not something with which MWQ agrees.

But Mr. Buffet is an investments genius, and MWQ is not. So maybe he is right.

In sum: Berkshire-Hathaway buys companies disregarding the public book options "expense" which Mr. Buffet says the public market values the company's stock, in favor of Berkshire-Hathaway's own non-public valuation of that "expense." If Mr. Buffet is right, then his proposed "reform" to require the expensing of options seems to result in his acquiring the benefits of a refined and legal form of "stock fraud" and "trading on non-public information" through the operation of the very disclosure rules that are intended to prohibit anyone from benefiting from stock fraud and trading on non-public information .

Nice work, if you can get it. And Mr. Buffet certainly seems willing to try doggedly to get it. Is he just trying to do well by doing good?
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Graying California

One consequence of electing a man governor who has a proven track record of mishandling the State's electricity problems is - surprise - more likely electricity problems in the future.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

South Dakota Senate Race

Republican Rep. John Thune will not seek a recount in his U.S. Senate race against Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, which Johnson won by 524 votes out of nearly 335,000 cast.

It's a little hard to understand why someone losing by only 524 votes out of nearly 335,000 cast wouldn't ask for a recount. But Mr. Thune must have his reasons, including reasons to believe in the high accuracy of the vote count.

UPDATE: OpinionJounal has more.

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FURTHER UPDATE: W[h]ither Big Mo?

Maureen Dowd is taking the election returns even harder than I had thought.

The elections are now three columns in the past, but Big Mo hasn't even acknowledged the results - or even that they happened! In fact, Big Mo's been spending all her time since the election commenting on unelected governments - first in Saudi Arabia and now the British Monarchy.

What does she have in mind? Is this some kind of subtle threat on her part?

The New York Times should be looking into this dramatic and troubling change in their star columnist, for her good and the good of the Times. Before November 5, Ms. Dowd could not have made herself write a column without some reference to some Republican's male hormone count or advanced age or some Republican's act which she would equate with, say, terrorism, by a logic uniquely her own, usually involving some fancy wordplay!

For example, surely Ms. Dowd's most famous argument, the one that garnered her the Pulitzer Prize, was her cautionary epigram that captured the very essence of a deep insider's view of Washington: Ya got trouble, folks, right here in River City with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for 'pool'!!!

Oops! My mistake. That's from The Music Man.

Well, in any event, this same person who only days ago couldn't write a Republican-politico-free paragraph now trills that "It's intriguing to think what Shakespeare would have made of the Princess of Wales!" Pathetic and alarming! And her fancy wordplay is reduced to "sordid and squalid ... tut-tutting... tittle-tattling ... hoo-hawing ... trollop ... Ping-Ponging" and "harrumphing about a constitutional crisis" - and she's not even talking about a constitution that's even OURS, or even WRITTEN DOWN!

Boy, I tell you, something's going on.


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