Man Without Qualities

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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Democrat Dreaming?

The Paul Wellstone memorial was a big problem for Democrats in Minnesota - and it may have registered to some extent in the minds of voters nationally.

But if Democrats are trying to convince themselves that Democrats outside of Minnesota lost an election because of the Memorial, they're even more deeply in denial than one could have imagined.

Here's a sign to pin up in Jefferson-Jackson Committee Rooms all around the country: It's the POLICIES, stupid!
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Mondale and Coleman

It was every bit as strange and unpredictable as you knew it must have been.

UPDATE: And here's more.
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Misconceiving Condi ... and Hillary

Condoleezza Rice is an indubitably brilliant, gutsy invaluable person. Quite possibly, she is an original genius. And, while Hillary hasn't got a fraction going on upstairs of what Condi does, Hillary's no slouch.

But Condoleezza Rice will not defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2008, contrary to what New York Times political columnist William Safire predicted during a stop in Ypsilanti Monday.

Mr. Safire probably just wants to amuse and excite.

Condi Rice might be an appropriate Vice Presidential candidate. But she has never even run for office, and never held a top executive position. Condi has soared as a brilliant advisor and/or second-in-command to several demanding people in several difficult positions. Her's is an invaluable set of talents - but that is not the same as having demonstrated she can - or wants to - run her own show. If Condi Rice has any interest in ultimately obtaining the Presidency, which I very much doubt, she will first have to obtain some elected office - preferably a State governorship. If she wants it, it might be possible for her to obtain the governorship of California, for example, as Mr. Safire suggests. From a successful term in an office such as the California governorship, Condi Rice would be restricted by no visible horizon. She should go for it.

But that won't put her in the Presidential race for 2008. Gray Davis is governor until 2006. Ms. Rice will not seek and obtain that office in 2006 just to start running for President in 2008 simply because she is far too gifted to do something that silly and self destructive. No, 2012 would be her earliest year. She's still young.

Similarly, if Hillary Clinton has her eye on the Oval Office, she is taking a problematic path. The last person to obtain the Presidency directly from the Senate was John F. Kennedy - and his was a very unusual story from which it is impossible to generalize. Lyndon B. Johnson was the last President who had spent a large amount of time in the Senate, and while he won his Presidential election following Kennedy's assassination, Johnson's administration was ultimately a disaster.

For the most part, the road to the Presidency is a Senate boneyard: Humphrey, Gore, Mondale, Dole, McCain and any number of other Senators who have been denied nomination. Of course, not every governor who seeks the Presidency obtains the office, but it does appear to be easier for governors - even from small states such as Georgia or Arkansas - to obtain the Presidency than it is for Senators to do so. But governors from large states (New York, California, Texas) seem to be a good deal more successful once they obtain the office.

One of the more curious and important aspects of Kennedy's story was that his time in the Senate appears not to have suffused him with one bit with the "get-along, go-along" personality that normally seems to be required for success in that body - but which is not easily compatible with a President's need to provide real leadership. The same cannot be said of Hillary Clinton, who each passing day seems more a creature from the cloak room. Her supposed increased "moderation" is probably part of that. In her Hilliaycare fiasco, Senator Clinton had already shown her unfortunate penchant for attempting to address large public issues with shady committee action. Her Senate experience - which seems to focus unduly on her fundraising prowess on behalf of other Democrats who will presumably be in her debt and on her influence with the party apparatus, especially the DNC - is apparently reinforcing her wrongheaded view of the Presidency.

A Presidential election is not a big, smoke-filled-room. And, unlike the Senate, the Presidency cannot easily be run as a set of obscure private deals and strategic manipulations of technical rules. Voters understand all that, notwithstanding that at any given time the Senate contains approximately 100 people who think they could fill the desk chair in the Oval Office better than the person then sitting in it.
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Hold The Ambitious Agenda, Please

People wondering why the Republicans are not advancing an ambitious agenda may want to consider the fact that such an agenda would likely affect - even determine - the Senate election in Louisiana.

Rich Mullings provides a very interesting report from that State (with lots of interesting links):

Incumbent Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) got about 46 percent of the vote on November 5. Republican Suzie Terrell, the commissioner of elections, led the second tier of candidates and made the runoff, which will be held in December.

The Republican Governor has refused to endorse Terrell. The second-place Republican has endorsed her, but will not campaign for her. The third place Republican is AWOL.

Three major Black state legislators have announced they were not endorsing Senator Landrieu and she should not expect much support from African-American voters.

Early polls taken by the GOP indicate Terrell has broken out to a small lead over Landrieu. Inasmuch as there have been no polls released by the Democrats, we can safely assume their numbers reflect about the same thing.

Unless the Republican tide which washed over the nation on November 5 has already begun to ebb, Suzie Terrell will probably win, giving the GOP 52 seats in the U.S. Senate.
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Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me?

KausFiles reports that Charlie Cook's e-mailed newsletter says the 2002 election is being "over-interpreted" as a huge GOP victory, and reproduces this passage from the letter:

Not one House seat in the country that had been rated leaning, likely or solidly Democratic in the Oct. 20, final post-election issue of the Cook Political Report went Republican. (For that matter, no leaning, likely or solidly Republican seat went Democratic, either.) Republicans simply won seven out of 11 of the toss-up races.

But the "Party In The White House" normally loses a good number of seats in the mid-term Congressional election. That's such a consistent pattern that it should be considered a frame of reference. So aren't Republican "gains" in this election best measured against such normal losses?

In other words, if the point is to gage how well the current Republicans did compared to what prior similarly situated people have been able to do, the Republicans shouldn't be taken as just having gained four House seats, they should be seen as having "gained" four plus the normal number of seats lost by the "Party In The White House" in a mid-term election.
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Appointments In Samarra

Senator Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt are no Newt Gingrichs. They were and and are determined not to be Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich was jumpy, brilliant, arrogant, erudite, visionary, relatively young and almost a revolutionary - brimming with ideas for pouring new wine into old casks.

Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt both try very hard to be none of those things. They are very afraid of being seen to be any of those things because they saw what such public perceptions did to Newt Gingrich. Instead, Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt both try very hard to be soft, safe and Midwestern, and, in short, these Democrats thought they had fled to a place of safety.

Also, Newt Gingrich announced soon after the voters gave the Republicans control of the House in 1994 that federal programs of which the Republicans did not approve could be stopped or shrunk if the House simply did not fund them. The House Republicans noisily confronted President Clinton and refused to fund. The confrontations created by the Republican refusals to fund brought the federal government to a halt. The House Republicans lost big in the court of public opinion - and were eventually punished at the polls.

Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt both tried very hard to avoid such results. In particular, they realized they could not stage a noisy confrontation over the President's drive to occupy Baghdad. Frightened by their vision of outraged voters backing their President's war on terror, the Democrats fled Baghdad, and gave the President the authority he asked. They would resist on the domestic front, where they had already blocked much of the President's agenda - homeland security, school vouchers and much more of the education program, energy, almost every judicial appointment, and so much more. They had even trimmed the tax cut and put most of it off, so the cuts had little stimulative effect on the economy and could be repealed at many junctures before many of them even came into effect.

Many things died quietly in committee. Without the fanfare and noise and fuss that had returned to plague Mr. Gingrich, and speaking in soft, safe, Midwestern tones, Messrs. Daschle and Gephardt posited that Presidential actions of which the Democrats did not approve could be stopped or shrunk if the Senate simply refused to vote on them. There was no defined confrontation, but their refusals brought the President's domestic agenda almost to a halt. It was only necessary to wait for voter fear of an economic downturn.

In short, the Democrats thought they had fled to a place of safety.

What have they learned? The soft, safe and Midwestern Mr. Gephardt no longer pleases House Democrats - he is to leave. As Pete DuPont puts it: [T]he first step to recovery is the election of a far-left leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. Her congressional district gave Al Gore a 61-point margin over President Bush in 2000, and the president outpolled Ralph Nader by a mere six points.

What about the Senate and the Democratic National Committee? Bill Safire says that the Clintons — with control of the purse strings — will likely keep their party on the moderate middle-road message of me-too. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and others have suggested that the instrument of the Clintons' power over "their" party, Terry McAuliffe, will remain as head of the DNC, bound to that office by just those purse strings. Similarly, the Senate Democrats seem afraid to accept the more polarizing, aggressive approach that has installed a new leader for their House counterparts. Instead, the soft spoken, safe Tom Daschle is to continue as leader of the Senate Democrats - presumably to preside over a time of Hillary Clinton's growing, cash-fueled influence.

In short, the Senate Democrats and the DNC think they have fled to a place of safety.

But the successful Senate effort to stop the President's agenda wasn't a "moderate middle-road message of me-too." And if Ms. Pelosi acts in accordance with her own inclinations and pulls the willing House Democrats to the left, won't the Clintons - who are first and foremost opportunistic political strategists who need to command the party - likely to follow the Pelosi lead to avoid being out flanked with the party's leftish base?

And as noted in a prior post, Bill and Hillary Clintons' indulgence of their personal interests was responsible for serious damage to the Congressional Democrats in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and now, through McAuliffe, in 2002.

In short, isn't the Clintons' dominance of the party and their brand of "me-tooism" likely to swing the Senate Democrats and the DNC towards the left, towards confrontation with the President and again towards the Clintons' personal interests, regardless of whether that hurts Congressional Democrats?

That is, towards Samarra ... again?

UPDATE: Matt Miller describes how the Democrats have caught themselves between two scaremongering demons of their own creation.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

O, Hillary!

FoxNews is reporting:

A federal appeals panel on Tuesday revived Gennifer Flowers' defamation suit accusing Hillary Rodham Clinton of masterminding a campaign to discredit her claim of an affair with Bill Clinton. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that Flowers could try to prove the former first lady, now a senator from New York, conspired against her with two presidential aides, George Stephanopoulos and James Carville. Still, the court said Flowers faces an "uphill battle" and must convince a Nevada judge there is evidence of a conspiracy before the case could proceed to a jury.... Judge Alex Kozinski wrote [the] opinion.

An "uphill battle?" After what came out during the impeachment, how likely is it that any sensible judge or jury could not find that Hillary Clinton, George Stephanopoulos and James Carville (Mr. "Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park" himself) were conspirators?

Note to Hillary: Do not wear Pink Suit to your deposition, and try to avoid talking about "vast right wing conspiracy" against you and your husband.

Let's see - the depositions and therefore Hillary's (at least) likely perjury should come in a month or two. Evidence fully establishing the perjury will likely take, say, another year or so to collect, depending on how well David Kendall stalls. Then there's the perjury referal to the US Attorney in New York, and, say, a year for the US Attorney to investigate, write all those memos whose release Senator Clinton will oppose, the final decision not to prosecute, and a referal to the Senate Ethics Committee.

The Ethics Committee should issue its reprimand and/or condemnation for Senator Clinton's perjury sometime in the year before her re-election date - a little like Senator Torricelli.

Yes, yes. That should all work out nicely. Hardly matters if Ms. Flowers prevails - but that would help, too.

UPDATE: Fritz has more.

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The Dead

From time to time, Irish people of a certain stripe, after considering the troubles brought by those who would force a synthetic identity of "West Briton," on the one hand, and those who assert the necessarilly insufficient Irishness of a protestant, on the other, quietly congratulate themselves and their people over the almost complete absence of serious outbreaks of antisemitism in that country. It is a splendid ornament to the history of Ireland, regardless of the reason.

But people like Tom Paulin, an Irish poet who advocates the murder of Jews in Israel's disputed territories, enters one's consciousness like a lover who leaves a turd on the sheets and thinks it no big deal, and exemplifies why James Joyce cared to put passages like this in Ulysses:

-- I just wanted to say, he said. Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?

He frowned sternly on the bright air.

-- Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.

-- Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.

A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm. He turned back quickly, coughing, laughing, his lifted arms waving to the air.

-- She never let them in, he cried again through his laughter as he stamped on gaitered feet over the gravel of the path. That's why.

On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.

In fairness to the Irish, poet, critic and playwright Tom (Thomas Neilson) Paulin was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, on 25 January 1949 but was raised in Belfast in Northern Ireland, where his father was the headmaster of a grammar school and his mother was a doctor. He was educated at Hull University and Lincoln College, Oxford.

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UPDATE: We All Agree ... Don't We?

John Quiggin, an economist crusading against Bjorn Lomborg (the "Skeptical Environmentalist"), posts some interesting comments on the discussion MWQ has been having with Arnold Kling. Professor Quiggin offers his own poll of Australian economists which he says shows that at least 30% of the academic economists in that country support the Kyoto Protocol - which is not surprising and entirely as predicted by MWQ. Professor Quiggin also writes that "a promised statement of economists opposed to Kyoto never appeared, apparently because the number of credible signatures was so embarrassingly small." And while he cites nothing to support his "apparently," his suggestion is consistent with my own experience with academic economists in the United States - as I noted in my prior post.

I don't mean to be construed as endorsing Professor Quiggin's views or approach. He seems to object to my describing him as a "vicious critic" of Lomborg, but he has been described that way elsewhere and, with only arguable hyperbole, as a practitioner of "Green McCarthyism." The reader is invited to Google up a few articles by Professor Quiggin (there are also a good number linked on his web site) and evaluate his approach independently.

The reader is also invited to evaluate whether Professor Quiggin advances his cause with assertions such as "MWQ clearly wouldn't know an economic model if he fell over one, but he still knows what answer should come out. Kling is even more interesting. In general he's a techno-optimist, supporter of free markets and a believer in the flexibility of technology, as opposed to the fixed-proportions model adopted by many environmentalists." Professor Quiggin is perfectly within his rights to see "clearly," but without supporting examples, gaps in MWQ's technical abilities that have for some reason not been seen by others. May he go with God. Of the many criticisms the MWQ has experienced in life, this particular criticism has not previously been tendered. I shall cherish it and keep it in my butterfly box. Professor Quiggin is also within his rights to detect a bias on my part against Australians (or Australian economists) which I never intended to convey and do not believe I did convey. In fact, I thought I had rather drolly if indirectly tweaked Mr. Kling on this point.

But before attempting to intellectually ghettoize Arnold Kling as Professor Quiggin does, he may want to give at least some indication to his readers of what other economists oppose the fixed-proportions models and give at least one cite to one prominent economist who believes some modification of the model structure solves the problems. For example, has Professor Quiggin consulted with, or researched the views of, Robert Solow on this point?

And this riff of Professor Quiggin's almost seems to be an exercise in how many ways he can undercut his own credibility by misunderstanding and misinterpreting both of Messrs. Lomborg and Kling:

Lomborg dismisses global emissions trading as politically infeasible because it would involve the redistribution of billions of dollars to developing countries (page 305). But then he turns around and attacks alternative ways of implementing Kyoto by suggesting that the billions required could be better spent - by redistributing them to developing countries. Apart from the inherent contradiction in Lomborg's argument, the crucial point here is that he rejects market mechanisms on political grounds, the kind of thing Kling would scorn if it came from an environmentalist.

In the first instance, Lomborg is simply saying that as a matter of political reality it is unrealistic to think wealthy countries are just going to make a huge wealth transfer to poor countries. No reasonable person could disagree with Lomborg on this point. Then Lomborg says that even if one could overcome this practical political reality, there would be better ways of spending the money. There is no inconsistency, although Professor Quiggin thinks the inconsistency is clear. Moreover, while Arnold Kling is perfectly capable of defending himself from the likes of Professor Quiggin, I will say that nothing I have ever seen suggests that Arnold Kling thinks that in contexts other than environmentalism one should ignore or minimize the practical difficulties of effecting hypothetical gratuitous transfers of huge chunks of the planet's wealth - as Professor Quiggin asserts. Professor Quiggin might help his cause by citing to even one place where Mr. Kling has done this - but I seriously doubt that such an example exists.

Professor Quiggin is a example. He is an example of the kind of person I was suggesting on general grounds almost certainly exist in superabundance when I wrote:

Most academic economists move in the comfortable, insulated, liberal world of academic communities - places in which the Kyoto Protocol normally commands much more respect than, say, the writings of Moses or Saint Paul. Even before doing a search, why would one presume that there are no (or almost no) "green" economists from such communities who are either convinced that Kyoto is good for the world, or willing to use their expertise to cobble together arguments supporting it?

My guess is that Professor Quiggin is sincerely convinced that Kyoto is good for the world and is full of intentions he believes to be among the best. But it is also my guess – and it is only a guess - that the comfortable, insulated, liberal world in which Professor Quiggin moves has dulled his awareness of how vicious he is, or has become, and how much that affects his thinking. In this sense, Professor Quiggin is an example of another sort: a Lomborg critic of the type noted by, for example, the Economist magazine and many others, who gets so emotional and self-righteous that most intellectual substance just drops out of their arguments while their personalites suffer greatly from the strain.

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Monday, November 11, 2002

UPDATE: W[h]ither Big Mo?

James Taranto observes: "The New York Times' Maureen Dowd has been visiting Riyadh, and an encounter with the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice prompts an uncharacteristically good column."

Well, yes, but the "higher quality" of Maureen Dowd's last column is an optical illusion created by her staying away for the moment from her usual obsession with the Republicans and the Bush Administration - probably as a result of election shock. But, except for the omission of her usual attempt to tar the Administration, she offers nothing new here in her approach to the Saudis.

She criticises the Saudis from time to time. But her attacks on Saudi Arabia and similar nasties in the past - especially on the "gender politics" front - have been little more than foundation for then arguing that (1) Bush somehow "supports" exactly whatever she is criticizing in the Saudis, or (2) that Bush can't move against someone or anyone else (Iraq, N. Korea, Iran, whoever) because he won't move against the equally bad Saudis, or even (3) that the Bush's policies or the society he would create here in the US are somehow like the Saudi policies or society through some equation of her own working (already detectable in her "toilet seat" aside). It's really cutting Ms. Dowd too much slack to imagine she has any interest in something as esoteric as Saudi Arabia or any man or woman in it for it's or their own sake and independent of domestic political considerations. This is, after all, a person who took time and space in one column that appeared soon after the September 11 disasters describing how she was writing while wearing long leather evening gloves instead of the latex variety her employer had provided to ward off possible anthrax infection. Let's just say that maintaining perspective and global prioritizing are not among Big Mo's strong suits.

Her reference to Ashcroft is pretty clearly a red herring meant to express that the Saudis are so bad that they make her pine "even for Ashcroft". In a later column she will probably complete the thought - as she has before.

Of course, none of these observations is technically inconsistent with Taranto's comments about her column - the column is uncharacteristically, if inadvertantly, good for her if considered in isolation. But she has enough of a history that this is not the best way to take it.

And, in any event, she'll fix it soon. Be patient but confident.

There is also a rather muted tone to this column - almost, for her, a "flat affect." It lacks that jumpy, scattered, near-random association feeling that she gets when she's feeling good about herself. I think she's been saddened by something.

What could it be?

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Hell, No!

Zell won't go!
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I'm So Upset ...

... that I didn't get even an honorable mention that I may shut down for a day.

Link from Croooow Blog! and Taranto. [How can they bear to post today? Neither of them is on the list, either!]

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Sunday, November 10, 2002

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

After Paul Wellstone's tragic death, Democrats including Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle and the egregious and incompetent money magnet Terry McAuliffe, wished for a national "Paul Wellstone effect." With that in mind, the DNC under Mr. McAuliffe's direction planned the now-notorious "Paul Wellstone Memorial-Cum-Mardi-Gras."

It seems as though the Democrats may have got what they wished for!

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