|Man Without Qualities|
Saturday, February 21, 2004
John Kerry seems to be the first person in history trying to win the Presidency through verbal confusion bordering on punning. In particular, he is deliberately confusing his military record (that is, his record of service in the military) with his record of Senate votes on defense programs and defense systems. Some measure of how desperate and confused John Kerry has become:
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Saturday he wouldn't stand for Republicans attacking his patriotism, accusing the president of using henchmen to challenge his military record. The Vietnam veteran, campaigning in Georgia, said President Bush used the same strategy to beat John McCain in the 2000 race for the Republican presidential nomination. [Note: The AP has now substituted the word "surrogates" for "henchmen" in this quoted passage. The original AP version was more correct. Scroll down in the AP article for the Kerry quote employing this term against Senator Chambliss.]
Well, that doesn't sound very nice on Mr. Bush's part ... or Mr. Chambliss' part. Just what was this "attack" on Senator Kerry's "patriotism" and this "challenge" to his "military record?"
Well, it seems that the "attack" had nothing whatsoever to do with Senator Kerry's patriotism or his military record. What Senator Kerry is bristling about was this:
Earlier in the day, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Kerry has a "32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems." Chambliss said in a conference call arranged by the Bush campaign that Georgia voters would be looking at that record. .... "He has a long history, particularly in the last decade, of not only voting to cut intelligence spending, but introducing bills to cut intelligence spending," Chambliss said.
It seems that Senator Kerry - who, previously, appeared to equate fleeing to Canada with service in the national guard - is going to learn the very hard way that everyone is perfectly free to point out that his "32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems" is indeed very weak and very troubling. And pointing that out does not constitute an "attack" on Senator Kerry's "patriotism" or a "challenge" to his "military record." Here's a point to keep in mind: Senator Kerry's time in the United States Senate does not constitute part of his "military record."
And Senator Kerry owes his Senate colleague an immediate apologetic telephone call for referring to the Georgia Senator as a "henchman." Is that the way Senators speak of each other these days?
Perhaps a petition signed by a few million veterans pointing out how confused Senator Kerry has become in giving this expansive meaning to his "military record" and instructing Senator Kerry to stop dishonoring other veterans who believe his voting record (as opposed to his military record) is weak, would help concentrate his mind. But one shouldn't stop there.
Simply put: What the Senator is trying to do isn't going to work. It's embarrassing for him. It's only going to get more embarrassing for him and his supporters. Frankly, Senator Kerry is becoming something of a disgrace. A lot of veterans, especially, are going to get hopping mad at him if he keeps this up.
Friday, February 20, 2004
Daschle Descending IV(0) comments
The South Dakota Rapid City Journal reports:
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Thursday praised the Bush administration's war and nation-building work in Iraq and said he has no serious concerns about the lack of weapons of mass destruction. Daschle told state chamber of commerce representatives meeting in the South Dakota capital that he is satisfied with the way things are going in Iraq. "I give the effort overall real credit," Daschle said. "It is a good thing Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. It is a good thing we are democratizing the country." He said he is not upset about the debate over pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.
With the leader of Senate Democrats taking this position in public, what are the likely answers to the following questions:
1. How well do smarter Democrats around the country think savaging the President over Iraq and WMD is going to play in the fall campaign?
2. How much trouble does Senator Daschle think his past Washington shenanigans have caused for his re-election chances?
3. Are South Dakota voters so dim that they won't see through Senator Daschle's silly ploy? Does Senator Daschle think they are?
4. Is John Kerry happy that Senator Daschle has said these things?
5. Will Senator Daschle's statements be quoted in the forthcoming Presidential candidate debates and Bush campaign ads?
HINT for all questions: No points will be awarded for any correct answer.
MORE and MORE
From the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll:
Do George W. Bush's actions while in the National Guard make you more likely or less likely to vote for him--or will they not have much effect on your vote?
More Likely 4%; Less Likely 15%; Not Much Effect 80%
Does John Kerry's combat experience in the Vietnam War make you more likely or less likely to vote for him--or will it not have much effect on your vote?
More Likely 19%, Less Likely 2%, Not Much Effect 78%
This CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, which also shows Kerry leading Bush by double digits, exhibits many symptoms of being unscientifically slanted in favor of Democrats - but suppose it is accepted for the sake of argument at face value. That means the Bush AWOL palaver the Democrats and their media followers have been slinging has slightly depressed the President's current poll numbers and John Kerry's service record in Vietnam slightly enhances his poll numbers.
If that is exactly what the Democrats wanted, then Democrats today are a lot dumber than the old ones. Begin with an obvious but important point: the election is not for nine months. This effort by the Democrats has therefore resulted in a tiny shift in the polls nine months too early. And note that the poll question doesn't even ask people whether they would change their vote on this "issue" - only whether it makes their vote for the President "more or less likely." What the Democrats have succeeded in doing here is bashing this "issue" so much that it is now probably spent, having produced only a tiny effect even in today's polls - and nine months from now this "issue" will have much less poll effect than it is having today, which means it will essentially have no remaining effect. The overall result is a disaster for the Democratic effort.
On the other hand, it's positively bizarre that only 19% of those polled say that Kerry's military service will make a vote for him "more likely." (Heck, it makes me "more likely" to vote for him - not that I will vote for him). This is his resume item that is supposed to "inoculate" him from the effects of his weak post-Vietnam military and national security policies, positions and record - and any candidate's military and national security policies, positions and record are going to mean a lot to a lot more than 19% of the electorate. But this poll shows that the military-service "inoculation" means little and will affect few votes. Some "inoculation!" The overall result is a yet another disaster for Kerry's chances.
Hamdi Cert III(1) comments
When the Supreme Court granted review of an appeal by Yaser Esam Hamdi, the New York Times immediately ran an article by David Stout construing the Court's decision as a slap at the Administration generally - and a personal slap at some of its key officers. Specifically, the Times reported:
The Supreme Court stepped squarely into a momentous debate over national security and personal liberty today by agreeing to consider the case of a man who has been held without charges by the United States military since he was captured in the fighting in Afghanistan. The justices agreed to hear the appeal of the captive, Yaser Esam Hamdi, who is believed to hold both American and Saudi citizenship and who is in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. The Bush administration had urged the Supreme Court not to hear the Hamdi case, so the announcement today represented a sharp rebuff to the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy.
Mr. Hamdi's case does not float in a vacuum. In fact, the Associated Press reports that Mr. Hamdi's case has a legal companion:
The [Jose] Padilla case is a companion to another terrorism case the court was already set to hear this spring. Together, the Yaser Esam Hamdi and Padilla cases will allow the high court to take its most comprehensive look so far at the constitutional and legal rights of Americans caught up in the global war on terror.
As noted above, the Times "reported" that a Supreme Court decision to review the Hamdi case that the Administration had won in the Fourth Circuit was a great big stick in the eyes of the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy. But Padilla's case has had a rather different course than Hamdi's case. In the words of the same AP article:
A federal appeals court ruled in December that President Bush does not have the authority to declare Padilla an enemy combatant and hold him in open-ended military custody. The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "undermines the president's vital authority as commander in chief to protect the United States against attacks launched within the nation's borders," Olson argued in asking the high court to take the case. Unlike the Padilla case, the government has won its argument in lower courts that Hamdi may be held indefinitely without access to a lawyer or the U.S. court system.
The Times said that the Supreme Court's decision to hear the Hamdi appeal represented a sharp rebuff to the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy. So surely the Supreme Court's decision to hear the Padilla appeal represented a big endorsement to the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy.
Right, Mr. Stout? You're going to write it up that way lickity-split, aren't you? Sure you are.
But what will Linda Greenhouse write? She already wrote an article completely at odds with Mr. Stout's piece - but never mentioned that absurd article at all. Unlike Mr. Stout, Ms. Greenhouse doesn't think that the Court's decision to review the Hamdi appeal meant anything except the prosaic fact that four justices think the case warrants review.
So the Times is on both sides - but doesn't tell it's readers that. How post-modern, post-truth of the Times! Repeated efforts by the Man Without Qualities to contact Mr. Okrent have not yet yielded action on his part - although there have been many e-mails back and forth with his assistant.
Let's be clear about this: Mr. Stout's article was WRONG. It constituted a big PARTISAN, BIASED ERROR. The Times is supposed to correct such BIG ERRORS expressly. Ms. Greenhouse has already contradicted the ERROR - but she won't be explicit. It's Mr. Okrent's job to correct such ERRORS explicitly.
WHY WON'T MR. OKRENT DO HIS JOB, AND WHY WON'T THE TIMES DO IT'S JOB, BY RUNNING A CORRECTION TO MR. STOUT'S ABSURD ARTICLE IN THIS VERY IMPORTANT MATTER, A MATTER IN WHICH THE TIMES EMBARRASSES ITSELF MORE FULLY WITH EVERY PASSING DAY AN EXPRESS CORRECTION IS NOT PRODUCED?
The Strange Case Of Reasonable Doubt v. Marthahate II
Well, yesterday it was all up for Martha Stewart. Done. All-but-convicted. Mariana Pasternak, Martha's close "friend" of twenty years - a "friend" who at the critical time had been busy consuming a considerable number of Martha's good things whilst vacationing with her in Mexico on her private jet - testified that Martha had confessed to the crime. And not just to crime with which Martha is charged (obstruction of justice) - but actual insider trading, with which she is not criminally charged. And just for good measure, Ms. Pasternak says that her "friend" incriminated Mr. Baconivic, too. Perhaps Ms. Stewart had been tippling too much in those hotel margaritas and just decided in a stray, inebriated, uncompensated moment to hand her entire life and that of her broker over to Ms. Pasternak in this fashion. Specifically:
Mariana Pasternak, who was on vacation with Stewart in Mexico in December 2001, told a hushed court that the conversation occurred when the two were seated on the terrace of a hotel discussing friends' plans for the end of the year.
She said they began to talk about Sam Waksal, one of their friends and the founder of ImClone.
Pasternak, who has been a close friend of Stewart's for more than 20 years, said she recalled Stewart saying of Waksal "that he was selling or trying to sell his stock and his daughter was selling or trying to sell her stock."
She said Stewart continued by saying, "His stock is going down, or went down, and I sold mine."
Pasternak, who testified that she had socialized with both Stewart and her stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, then quoted the trendsetter as saying, "Isn't it nice to have a broker who tells you those things?"
Pasternak said she remembered the evening because she and Stewart had been out hiking and were too tired to go down to dinner. She said the conversation occurred before the end of December 2001. Prosecutors then showed a hotel bill for a guided hike that occurred on Dec. 30.
The testimony has been described by various televised talking heads and self proclaimed trial "experts" as the most damaging evidence yet adduced against Ms. Stewart at her trial - and that might be true, depending on how it is construed.
But especially without the little gratuitous tag line "Isn't it nice to have a broker who tells you those things?" this testimony appears to be completely consistent with the Stewart version: Yes, Waksal's stock was then going down, or had gone down. Obviously, Ms. Stewart and the public knew about the stock price plunge by the time she made her statement to Ms. Pasternak (assuming any such statement was made). And, yes, Ms. Stewart had sold her stock. But Stewart says she sold pursuant to her "stop loss" order - and nothing in the Pasternak testimony says otherwise.
So what about that little gratuitous tag line? Well, Ms. Stewart's "friend" now says that she may have confabulated it:
At issue is testimony the friend offered in which she said Stewart boasted "Isn't it nice to have brokers who tell you those things" during a vacation in Mexico just after the trendsetter dumped her shares of ImClone Systems Inc. Stewart's attorney pressed the witness about that statement on Friday, asking whether that conversation had actually taken place or if it was all in her head. "I do not know if the statement was made by Martha or if it was thought in my mind," Pasternak said. She also said she previously told prosecutors that she was not sure about that recollection.
It's hard to know how a jury will take this testimony. But a sound jury would completely discount any testimony shrouded, as Ms. Pasternak's is, by protestations that it may have been invented - and go on to seriously and reasonably doubt the accuracy of all of Ms. Pasternak's testimony. And, for the record, "Isn't it nice to have brokers who tell you those things" seems more like the kind of thing someone who really isn't Ms. Stewart's "friend" would think? Doesn't it seem like a rather nasty thought about Ms. Stewart?
Yes, indeed, friends like this one are enough to make one swear off "friends" entirely in favor of paid sycophants.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
The Fall Of The House Of Eisner VII: Love from A Python(0) comments
A curious perspective is developing among some analysts concerning the Comcast/Disney matter. This view holds that the Comcast bid for Disney is a way of signaling to the nation's regional telephone companies (RBOCs) that Comcast will not aggressively pursue telephony.
Comcast controls 40% of the homes passed in the U.S. and a Comcast decision not to go into the local telephone business would be a huge relief to the RBOC's. Comcast is concerned about retaliation from the RBOCs if it decides to aggressively pursue telephony and compete with them. The RBOCs have already signaled their willingness to accept a zero return on the Echostar deal for their video offer, for example. But a naked promise from Comcast to the RBOC's not to compete with them would raise anti-trust problems to the extent it had any content.
The analyst theory further holds that Comcast therefore instead is focusing away from distribution and towards the part of the business that is creating value i.e. content. That is, the Disney offer is a defensive grab for more value given that distribution is being squeezed. The theory goes on to propose that Comcast can create value through "time shifting" e.g. changing the windows for movies to be available for video on demand. This is the source of the Comcast synergy savings, which investors are skeptical about, since it's never been done.
Such analysts believe that Comcast won't raise its bid, nor will another bidder emerge. Instead, Comcast will just wait for Disney's stock to drift back down and keep selling investors on their offer, which may take 9-12 months.
The willingness of Cingular and other RBOC's to pay so much for AT&T Wireless might have been influenced by the Comcast bid for Disney. If Comcast isn't going to come after the local telephone business, SBC/Cingular and Bell South have more room to overpay for a wireless asset--since wireless substitution is another big threat to their local telephone business. Maybe they have more confidence that Comcast will ultimately be successful in acquiring Disney than the average investor does.
Peggy Noonan's typically engaging article that appears in OpinionJournal today includes this paragraph:
It is fascinating to me that after two months of the Democratic Party demonstrating what appears to be dynamism, and the Republicans struggling with such questions as the weapons of mass destruction, and the president fighting back charges regarding his military service, the smartest read on where we are came this week from a a Zogby poll that said the Democrats are leading in the Democratic areas and the Republicans are leading in the Republican areas. Mr. Bush's poll numbers are down, but the blue states are blue and the red states are red. And no one knows what will change that.
Current presidential preference polls are inconsistent, to say the least - and Zogby is a particularly suspect pollster. Still, Zogby provides a bit more interesting information:
Democrat John Kerry would edge George W. Bush 46% to 45% in the "blue states" or states won by Al Gore in the 2000 election. In the "red states," or states won by George W. Bush in 2000, however, Bush wins handily by a 51% to 39% margin.
In other words, Zogby says that Bush and Kerry are in a statistical tie in the Blue states, but Bush is leading by a whopping margin of 12% in the Red states. That doesn't suggest a 2000 re-run at all.
UPDATE: More detail.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Daschle Descending III(0) comments
Even with the help of the non-stop Republican-bashing and pro-Democratic media coverage during the presidential primaries, Senator Tom Daschle is now in a statistical dead heat (48% -45%) with his Republican opponent, Thune.
Senator Daschle has already spent millions of dollars running months of campaign ads. John Thune has not begun a substantial campaign.
Look for Daschle dirty tricks ahead!
It's still a bit early to understand yesterday's Wisconsin primary results. But that primary may have been much more damaging to the prospects of Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party than the mainstream media is admitting at the moment. The most interesting aspects of the vote seem to be (1) with respect to Senator Kerry, his heavy dependency in holding his thin lead over John Edwards on voters focusing mostly on Senator Kerry's supposed "electability" (or people focused on finding someone who can beat President Bush in November, as the AP puts it, struggling to avoid the "e" word) and (2) with respect to the Democratic Party, increased prominence of outright anti-free-trade voters in the Democratic Party.
Such Kerry dependency on "e" voters (for "e" for "electability") is unstable, to say the least. How long can Senator Kerry obscure the fact that a Northern Democrat is all but inherently unelectable to the Presidency? How long will primary voters fail to remember this fact? There is a great deal of speculation as to whether there is a need for Senator Edwards to now take off the gloves in criticizing Senator Kerry. But that speculation focuses on substance, policy and personality, which e-voters have de-prioritized. Senator Edwards can degrade his opponent's lead by focusing on electability without attacking Senator Kerry on substance, policy and personality at all. The argument that Senator Kerry is an unelectable Northern Democrat should play nicely in the South - and that's where the big delegate trove remains. Of course, Senator Edwards should also make selective assaults based on his opponent's substance, policy and personality(!) - but disembodied electability is really his strong suit. And a brokered convention is really a strong possibility if he handles this right.
The Wisconsin primary also demonstrates another increasingly obvious weakness in the Kerry position: he has plateaued, he is not getting a majority even as the media has pre-anointed him as the nominee, and Democratic voters do not seem to like him more the more they look at him. In fact, AP notes: Three-quarters of [Wisconsin] Edwards voters said they had decided to back him in the last week, as Edwards picked up two newspaper endorsements and got good reviews for a Sunday debate. More than half the Kerry supporters said they decided to vote for him before the past week. After Wisconsin, the Edwards campaign can legitimately claim that "momentum" is on their side.
There are rumors of an ill-founded decision on Senator Edwards' part not to compete in California. That would be a major mistake in the view of the Man Without Qualities, since strong anecdotal evidence suggests that John Kerry's high handed personality and Brahmin ways play very poorly in this state when their details are brought to the voters' attention - Democratic voters seem especially offended by the man's personality and arrogant bearing (again, on unscientific anecdotal evidence alone). Yes, here in California narcissistic entitlement must be presented to the voting public in a very specific fashion - and Senator Kerry's version is not to local tastes at all. I suspect much of Senator Kerry's support here is among e-voters, and hammering on Senator Edwards' momentum should mean a lot to them.
Moreover, disembodied electability and momentum are arguments that play well with the mainstream media, especially because they are arguments peculiarly within the ability of the media - as distinguished from the campaigns and candidates - to present and advance. And the mainstream media is just dying to resume their irrational infatuation with Senator Edwards. Presenting Senator Edwards' disembodied electability and momentum to the public is a way the media can express their love!
Of course, the rise of Senator Edwards - or someone like him - riding on the back of his anti-free-trade message is an almost inevitable consequence of recent Democratic demagoguing about the "loss" of American jobs to overseas competition. Senator Edwards is proud - PROUD, I tell you - that he is, and always has been, opposed all those free trade treaties that Clinton supported so strongly! If that message claims dominance of this election, it will become a disaster for the Democrats of truly historical proportions. Perhaps someone needs to remind them: a lot more people in this country rely on free trade to buy foreign made goods than have lost their jobs because of it. And while the unemployed are a classic, concentrated special interest group - if it actually looks to the great majority of voters that that minority is about to get their way in some significant manner, the consequences will be that every single senior Democrat will get to learn to spell tsunami in November.
O, and by the way, perhaps the Democrats might also want to remember that the United States is particularly good at providing services - financial services and especially technical, software services (programming services disguised as software products). Such services favor both our comparative advantage and also our supposed home market effect. So an anti-free-trade approach that focuses on the supposed nastiness of foreigners providing "back office" services to American companies probably rates among the most counterproductive approaches one could take in the area of long-term trade. It is much more important to get other countries to open their markets to American service providers more fully. (And as an aside, what is it with the Democrats and India bashing? As if India didn't have enough to contend with. The New York Times reports that only 200,000 people in India out of about 1 Billion Indians work in telephone "help centers" for Americans - and that the number of Indians who can do that work is now tapped out.)
In yet another way, Senator Edwards' momentum is more evidence that the Democratic slogan this time around should be "Forward, Into The Past!!!"
UPDATE: Lots of good thoughts are being thought and shared at Ellisblog.
Monday, February 16, 2004
The Fall Of The House Of Eisner VI: The Problem With Michael
Media coverage of the Comcast/Disney takeover story has been curious, to say the least. For example, Reuters has "reported" that Wall Street has been cold toward Comcast Corp.'s bid to acquire Walt Disney Co. Reuter's even goes so far as to quote fund managers holding Disney stock as 'supporting" Mr. Eisner when they observe that they would prefer a higher price:
Many fund managers gathered at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, last week backed Eisner. They said Disney could survive on its own, and balked at Comcast's offer as Disney's quarterly results blew past Wall Street estimates. "I think that is a little low," said Mario Gabelli, chief executive of Gabelli Asset Management.
Of course a fund manager wants a higher price - such a fund is a potential seller of Disney stock. Does Reuters expect the owner of Disney stock to complain to a reporter that the Comcast offer is too high? Is the choice for such people binary: support Michael Eisner or speak against one's own interest?
Even the Wall Street Journal doesn't get market reaction quite right, although the Journal is skeptical:
The Mouse may not fetch as much as its fans are expecting. Shares of Walt Disney Co. have surged 16% since Comcast Corp. unveiled its unsolicited takeover offer Wednesday. The view of most investors: Comcast has made an initial offer, with more-lucrative bids from a bevy of possible suitors surely on the way. But a look at Disney's stock price -- $28 at Thursday's close, up 1.45% -- and at how much value is untapped at the company, suggests investors may be disappointed. Many analysts say it will be hard to get to a price much more than $31 a share for Disney, even after taking into consideration substantial cost savings and additional growth that new management can squeeze out of the entertainment giant. Philadelphia-based Comcast's current stock bid is valued at $23.45 a share at Thursday's closing price.
In fact, that "surge" in Disney's stock price now reflects quite a bit of nearly unfounded "hopes" that more-lucrative bids from a bevy of possible suitors surely on the way - and, if those "hopes" are dashed, Disney stock will decline, making Comcast's bid (or a modestly enhanced version of it) harder to resist. It is unlikely that other suitors will emerge, for the same reason that Disney has not had an offer before Comcast's, notwithstanding Disney's dreadful recent performance: Disney is just too big and has too many evident problems and probably a lot more hidden problems. For example, Disney has long been padding its net revenues by deferring theme park maintenance and investment - to the point where the grime and deterioration is positively embarrassing at Disneyland in Anaheim. That a suitor bearing a much larger check than Comcast's is unlikely can be seen by looking at the list of supposed "likelies:" Viacom, Liberty Media, Pixar, InterActive.
Consider Viacom, just as an example. That Viacom is mentioned at the top of possible "suitor" lists (including the Journal's) itself shows attenuated the hopes that a "suitor" will emerge really are. Viacom already owns CBS, so it would have to shed loss-making ABC. Viacom is a major studio owner, so anti-trust considerations mean it would likely have to shed Disney's studios assets (or its own). The Disney theme parks and merchandising leverage off Disney's studio intellectual property - so that all gets very complicated and messy. Sumner Redstone didn't get as rich as he is by acquiring huge, troubled companies he has to dismember on someone else's schedule (the Justice Department's, in this case). His near-death Blockbuster experience surely provided enough of that flavor.
The other possible "suitors" all have similar problems - with only Pixar perhaps being positioned to do something really creative with Disney's assets. Pixar would need a more financially muscular partner to compete with the Comcast offer. But Pixar also has substantial - although limited - experience working with Disney.
At bottom, Disney has two huge problems: it is a company whose value is ultimately based on intellectual property, where Disney is no longer (1) generating intellectual property in sufficient quantity other than through its now-defunct Pixar venture and (2) refreshing or extending its existing intellectual properties adequately. To these two huge problems may be appended a big third problem: a decreasing ability to exploit existing intellectual property financially. At a minimum. Comcast's management includes people who have demonstrated an ability to fix this third problem. The real advantage Comcast enjoys is that its management comes from Disney and is familiar with Disney's problems and potentials - and knows where the bodies are buried.
Regarding point (2), it is worth noting that most children now do not even have a clear idea of who Mickey Mouse is supposed to be, other than a corporate logo. That is mostly because Michael Eisner has personally blocked all meaningful efforts to refresh or extend Mickey's identity. In a little while, Mickey will be unsalvagable. The same is true of most of the other "classic" (that is, pre-Eisner) Disney characters. For a long time, Disney's best merchandising character has not been Mickey or any of those classic characters, but Winnie-the-Pooh. Even that Winnie-the-Pooh revenue stream is almost certain to be disrupted soon once the eternal litigation (it is the longest-running case in Los Angeles county) in which it has been tied up ends - an end probably distinctly against Disney's interest.
It is Michael Eisner's inability to generate new intellectual property or refresh and extend Disney's existing stock that has created the real crisis at Disney - and the real opportunity for a buyer. Numbers like those cited above from the Journal article don't capture the real problem and opportunity Disney represents at all, or the extent of Michael Eisner's recent failings. Those numbers treat Disney as if it trafficked in natural gas or some other commodity, which is only one part of what Disney really is or needs. Roy Disney understands that. Others may, too. Possibly even Comcast - although the evidence for that is as yet a bit thin.
UPDATE: It's not as if a rejection by Disney of the Comcast offer were ever in doubt. And here it is.
UPDATE: At least some media are beginning to understand that there really isn't any likely suitor out there. The Los Angeles Times seems to have actually counted the chickens:
The odds are long of another company coming to the rescue or storming the Magic Kingdom, analysts and investors say. Some face regulatory hurdles, don't have the money or have little appetite for the kind of mega-mergers that backfired on AOL Time Warner and Vivendi Universal.
Still, with the famous Disney name in play, it's enough to give pause to any media conglomerate or mogul.
"I don't think there are any obvious white knights here," said Lowell Singer, a media analyst with SG Cowen Securities. "But there are certainly some other companies out there who've probably spent more than a couple of minutes contemplating this."
Yes. It takes a little more than two minutes to determine why each of these "suitors' would not be well served by out bidding Comcast ... but not much more than two minutes.
There's a lot more of an opportunity in Disney than media coverage of this offer suggests. If only more market and industry players can figure out that Disney's problems ultimately stem from its recent inability to create and refresh its intellectual property - and only secondarily from problems with financially exploiting that intellectual property, including through distributing it. Mickey Mouse, for example, could be revived - but it would take a real artist with soul and commercial savvy to do it. An artist like Walt. Wall Street operatives and media industry reporters aren't in the business of seeing that kind of potential.
FURTHER UPDATE: Roy Disney and Stanley Gold have really sharpened their focus.
Viacom says: "No, thanks." That didn't take long.