Man Without Qualities

Saturday, April 03, 2004
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The Fall Of The House Of Eisner XV: Back On Track, At Last

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner says the company is in line with forecasts and back on track:

"I think we're pretty much where we said we'd be. There are no major changes from what I talked about ... at the annual meeting," Eisner said during a question and answer session at a Credit Suisse First Boston meeting that was Webcast.

Eisner said the theme parks continue to gain momentum as national and international economies pick up steam, and the company's film studio division looks strong with a slate of new movies coming out including big budget film "The Alamo."

Ah, yes, further evidence that The Happiest Place on Earth is not Disneyland; the Happiest Place on Earth is the inside of the Pump Head belonging a Chief Executive Officer in the throes of full scale commercial delusion.

A few details that Mr. Eisner, er, forgot:

Disney's most recent big budget release was Hildago, which has been called Sea Biscuit of Arabia. It was boring, slow, dry and very expensive - reportedly way north of the official $125 Million. It has grossed about $70 Million (including foreign).

Then there is The Alamo, mentioned by Mr. Eisner as a real winner a-coming. It is also reported to have cost way north of its official budget of about $150 million (including promotion). The inside word is that the movie has been a bomb with test audiences and has reportedly brought its director to tears more than once. Early reviews include passages such as "forget it" and "the filmmakers have obviously decided to use as their model those educational films. . .that are inflicted on soon to be history-hating students at the middle school level." The movie lacks a principal character. Best of all, the movie's shortcomings - and the huge financial disaster it promises for Disney - are all directly attributable to Michael Eisner, who pulled the plug on the original Ron Howard team to get the budget down. The budget didn't come down, but the movie came apart. Look for, say, $100 Million loss for Disney from this turkey Eisner is touting as a winner.

And let's not forget the almost inconceivably forgettable full-length animated feature Home On The Range. It, too, has tested disastrously with test audiences - and the company expects to lose a bundle on it. It was reviewed by the New York Times as seldom funny. At the very least, the movie may be the first film to require cortisone treatments from jamming its elbow in the audience's ribs so often. Does a studio exec live for reviews like that?

Not to fear, not to fear. Mr. Eisner also said Disney may look to get more deeply involved in the video game business when its top executives and board get together in upcoming strategy meetings.

Video games? That's pretty far from Disney's core competence - and games are very expensive to develop and market. Moreover, the video game industry has been getting tighter and harder to crack. But there is an opening for Disney: Some game companies - such as Electronic Arts Inc., the gaming industry's largest publisher, have found big money in turning out versions of movie hits such as "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and "Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup." That's it! Synergy! All Disney needs to do is leverage its expanded video game business off all those big movie hits Disney has been turning out - and is now set to turn out.

You know. The ones Michael Eisner was talking about.

UPDATE: Some on the Disney board - such as Judith L. Estrin - seem to share the delusion.

Other board members, including Robert W. Matschullat and Gary L. Wilson, want the newly appointed chairman, George J. Mitchell, to expand the Chairman's office and take a more activist role in defining Disney's priorities and strategic vision. That's an interesting approach considering that Mr. Mitchell has essentially admitted the obvious in public: he knows next to nothing about business and has little business experience (he's never even held a real job), doesn't see his position in anything like these terms and wouldn't be able to fulfill the demands of such an expanded office in any event. Further, Mr. Mitchell was named chairman despite his own 20% no-confidence vote and has said that the board would be more involved in corporate strategy. But he has also told friends and colleagues that he does not want to remain chairman for long.

Crisis? Is Disney in crisis? When does the Board wake up to the fact that life is too short to keep Michael Eisner around?
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Complete And Utter Herr Doktorprofessor III: Carnival of the Bigotries

RealClear asks:

As the numbers continue to come in, I think the Dems are starting to realize what a kamikaze death wish it was to try and take on Bush on the issue of national security and the war on terror Big Lie simply isn't selling. Who's brilliant idea was it to try and convince America Bush is soft on terror anyway?

The RealClear "brilliant idea" link, of course, goes to none other than Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman's New York Times column Weak On Terror from way back on March 16. Since that initial foray Herr Doktorprofessor has continued to be a loud, but increasingly incoherent, voice in the Clarke-led assault on Condi Rice's antiterrorism record. Most recently, Herr Doktorprofessor has spent two columns desperately trying to draw attention to a casual aside of Wolf Blitzer, and deliberately misconstruing that aside into "evidence" that Mr. Blitzer was a willing handmaiden in spreading a White House "smear" against Mr. Clarke's personal life. Herr Doktorprofessor efforts are all the more peculiar because almost nobody would have even noticed Mr. Blitzer's comment - and far fewer would have given it Herr Doktorprofessor's particular sinister spin - except for Herr Doktorprofessor determined efforts in his columns.

In other words, Herr Doktorprofessor is actual creator of the "smear" against Richard Clarke that Herr Doktorprofessor attributes to the White House, and also has been the actual prime disseminator of that "smear."

What, exactly, is the "smear" that Herr Doktorprofessor attributes to the White House and/or Mr. Blitzer but has actually invented and disseminated himself? Herr Doktorprofessor says it has something to do with there being something weird about Mr. Clarke's personal life. Coincidentally, the Times ran a profile of Mr. Clarke including this chestnut:

The son of a chocolate factory worker from Pennsylvania, Mr. Clarke, 53, earned degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is single, and known for keeping long hours, and he was one of a handful of White House officials allowed to carry a gun for protection.

I agree with Tom Maguire that Krugman is desperate for someone to say it so he can criticize the White House for gay-bashing. I've been waiting for something like this "gay bashing" card to emerge - although I didn't anticipate Herr Doktorprofessor being a main player. Indeed, I compared Mr. Clarke to Jayson Blair back on March 24, I ended my post with the question: What card like that race card could Mr. Clarke still try to play? Now we can better guess.

My further suspicion is that the Dems and Mr. Clarke would not have tried this particular kamikaze run at a National Security Advisor who wasn't (A) black and (B) female, and that the assault has been - and is - a veritable and cynical Carnival of the Bigotries on the part of Herr Doktorprofessor, Richard Clarke and the President's critics:

First, pick at Condi - trying to exploit the unstated subtext that a National Security Advisor who's black and female can't be trusted on terrorism.

Then, if Bush is foolish enough to separate himself from her, argue that he wouldn't have abandoned her except that she's black and female.

Third, find a pretext for arguing that the White House has been "gay bashing" Clarke in its own subtext. Herr Doktorprofessor - he of the original "brilliant idea" - is happy to oblige. If one column isn't enough, then he'll just keep plugging.

The assault would require no real coordination beyond a few highly placed Democrats and their partisans, such as Messrs. Clarke and Krugman. It would be the ultimate cynical degeneration of Democratic identity politics. And I suspect they're there.

Of course, I can't prove that and I don't affirmatively believe it. But the above scenario is consistent with the course of events, and with Herr Doktorprofessor's two recent especially bizarre columns. So I do suspect that this has been the game for some of the players on the Democratic side from the git-go. Poor Wolf Blitzer, he just seems to have wandered into the cross fire as someone Herr Doktorprofessor views as expendible.

But if that is what they intended, the whole thing seems to be backfiring on all cylinders quite nicely, mostly because Condi is The Real Thing and the President knows what he's got and isn't about to let go.

Time may tell.
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Complete And Utter Herr Doktorprofessor II: Parsing The Gibberish

Sage advice is provided by Helpguide, a project of The Rotary Club of Santa Monica and Center for Healthy Aging, on that worthy organization's website:

If you find you are continuing to feel depressed or anxious to the extent that these feelings are interfering with your work or personal life, consult a mental health specialist for assistance.

Surely, truer words were never written. Of course, such considerations - even for a rather public man such as Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman - are not open to the public! As this passage indicates with obvious assurance, one's mental health has a profound determinative effect on one's personal life. And the concern for our personal lives rises to its absolute zenith where a mental health issue is so profound as to affect actual sanity.

"Sanity" - such a brutal, legalistic word! The sensitive mental health specialist would no sooner use such a term than refer to a patient experiencing a serious deterioration in mental health as having, say, "squash rot." But linguistic facts are linguistic facts: To suggest serious deterioriation in the mental health of another in common parlance is the same as "questioning his sanity." It is a commonplace in our shared culture that such "questioning" is not to be done lightly. Yes, in America people everywhere and in all walks of life agree that one's personal life includes one's mental health matters - especially one's very sanity.

Yes, in America people everywhere and in all walks of life agree on that - except, apparently, Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, who does not agree to judge by this passage from his most recent "column:"

Mr. Blitzer now says he was talking about remarks made on his own program by a National Security Council spokesman, Jim Wilkinson. But Mr. Wilkinson's remarks are hard to construe as raising questions about Mr. Clarke's personal life. Instead, Mr. Wilkinson seems to have questioned Mr. Clarke's sanity.

Given the above commonplace understandings and usages, what's the big deal? Mr. Blitzer's original comment was informal and made to another CNN reporter, John King, quite clearly just to prompt King to report what King had himself discovered. The Blitzer comment Herr Doktorprofessor parses so closely doesn't even employ correct English syntax:

[Richard Clarke] wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president.

So Mr. Blitzer said only that he had heard that the Administration was suggesting that there are some weird aspects in Mr. Clarke's life, not Mr. Clarke's personal life. Indeed, it's easy to read Mr. Blitzer's comment as starting with a halting reference to Mr. Clarke's "personal life" but correcting that reference midsentence to the more general "life." One's sanity (as Herr Doktorprofessor puts it) is surely part of one's life - so Mr. Blitzer can't be chastised on that front.

I think Herr Doktorprofessor and his editors knew all that. Which may be why, for all the "insinuendo," he never actually gets down to characterizing CNN's "goof" (if there were a "goof" at all) as a sinister White House plot, or actually claiming that the Bush administration somehow "got" to CNN. Instead, except for his rant against Mr. Blitzer not making Mr. Wilkinson apologize, Herr Doktorprofessor collapses completely into incoherent gibberish, lashing out at Mr. Blitzer, the White House, CNN and media source policy and Wilkinson. Maybe even Tyler or his dad. It's so hard to tell through all the sound and fury.

More important news: I saw Tyler's appearance on the Letterman show last night. He seems to be a poised, healthy, happy kid and read a nice letter he had received from the President. Mr. Letterman was very sweet to Tyler, who confirmed that he found the Letterman video clip "hysterical" (a literary device, of course) and that he is a big fan of Mr. Bush. A happy ending for Tyler.

On the other hand, it appears that Herr Doktorprofessor's heart will go on in the wake of his own titanic effort.

MORE: From Maguire.

Read Herr Doktorprofessor's actual, exact language. He says a lot less than he at first seems to say.

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Friday, April 02, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXIII: Another Yogi Kerryism

John Kerry: "If you don't believe ... Saddam Hussein is a threat with nuclear weapons, then you shouldn't vote for me."

Yogi Berra: "I didn't really say everything I said."

Link thanks to Henry Hanks.
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Eurocapitulation Doesn't Seem To Pay

Gee, the Spanish kicked out their government, and the new government promptly denounced the US and promised to pull out of Iraq.

And yet the Spanish still find a big bomb on the bullet train from Madrid.

Gee, what else could the Spanish do to suck up to al Qaida? Maybe pull out of Afghanistan, drop the investigation of the last bombing entirely, let the people they've already arrested go free, get on their knees and beg?

None of which would work.

Hey, I've got it! The whole country could convert to fundamentalist Islam and move back to the dark ages! That oughta show 'em! Then France and Germany could follow suit.

Can you imagine the look on the Turks' faces?

UPDATE: New shootings and explosions in Madrid. What does it take to buy peace these days, anyway?

Worse and worse.
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Ghosts of Rwanda Haunt The Clinton White House

From The New Republic:

"Ghosts of Rwanda," a powerful, necessary documentary to be shown tonight by PBS to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide....

As an act of memory and witness; as historical indictment of not just the perpetrators of genocide, but also of the politicians and bureaucrats who allowed it to happen; as an illumination of the motives driving the murderers, as well as those animating the individuals caught in an unimaginable situation, "Ghosts of Rwanda" fails to tell a coherent story. It fails to illuminate the psychology of the U.N. and U.S. officials who refused to deploy troops that would have saved perhaps half of the 800,000 Rwandans killed over a three month period from April to July 1994. It fails to offer viewers consolation for its images of men, women, and children hacked to death by machetes, or to offer reassurance that international mechanisms are now in place to prevent such atrocities from happening again. That is to say, "Ghosts of Rwanda" is a success; it is a scathing accomplishment almost on the same level of urgency as Samantha Power's vital ray of light, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

Violent, gritty, sordidness-exposing television drama ends on a note of happiness, coherence, and illumination. But documentaries that approach evil, and that seek the faint glimmer of heroism amid carnage, if they are true to events, do not end satisfyingly. Consider "Ghosts of Rwanda," which concludes with then-President Clinton blaming his inaction on "the people bringing these decisions to me," and emoting that "I'll always regret that Rwandan thing." Honest documentaries about extreme events do not end, period. (These passages fully rekindled my anti-Clinton fury.)

That coherent story, including the psychology of the (ir)responsible U.N. and U.S. officials, needs telling. An explanation is needed here as to why these same people found the Bosnia/Kosovo event so compelling as a call for US intervention, but covered up the Rwandan horror they knew was happening until it was far too late. Albright, Berger, Clinton, Gore, Clark, Christopher, others should explain what the essential differences were - and why the Africans didn't matter but the Europeans did.

Link from Henry Hanks.

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Less Lessig

I really do want to like Stanford law professor Lawrence "Larry" Lessig. I'm serious. I really do. He has a great resume. He went to the University of Chicago, my absolutely favorite law school - and has taught there. He clerked for Richard Posner, one of my favorite federal circuit judges. Then he clerked for Antonin Scalia, one of my favorite Supreme Court justices ever. And Glenn Reynolds seems to love him - even to the point of making him a "guest blogger."

But the truth is I generally don't like Professor Lessig's thinking and writing at all. In fact, I find this FORBES article all too right:

I suspect the Mies van der Rohe estate won't sue me for saying it's clearer than ever that when it comes to copyright law, Lessig is Moron. Stanford law professor Lawrence "Larry" Lessig has lately been the Great Oz of copyright law, with student acolytes, members of the self-important blogosphere and Tin Woodmen of the press hanging on the latest droppings from his Palo Alto, Calif., Emerald City tower about the supposedly pernicious evils of today's copyright system.

The article is mean but worth reading in its entirety as a corrective to the blogosphere's irrational infatuation with this man. The predecessor article also makes many good points. And the two articles by no means catalogue every area in which Professor Lessig somehow manages to promise vastly more than he delivers. Just for starters: How could someone who knows Antonin Scalia even a bit think that he would buy any part of Professor Lessig's preposterous, ahistorical, contextless arguments in Eldred? And yet for a full year Lawrence Lessig padded about Justice Scalia's chambers! No intellectual fad seems too weightless or inconsequential to attract his attention and affection - to the point of supporting the gossamer and evanescent John Edwards.

For my tastes, Professor Lessig, with his intellectual arrogance and flakey theories, comes across as all too much the academic counterpart of the internet entrepreneurs of the late 1990's, with their commercial arrogance and flakey, profitless business plans, who met too many of their critics with the dismissive retort "they just don't get it."

In fact, now that I think of it, I wonder if the internet entrepreneurs got too much of "it" from him.
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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXII: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The Man Without Qualities has for a while been suspecting that the official employment numbers have been understating actual employment - and the Department of Labor figures just released tend to bear that suspicion out:

The U.S. Labor Department said non-farm payrolls increased 308,000 in March, well above expectations of 122,000. In addition, February's payroll growth was raised to 46,000 and January's to 159,000 from 21,000 and 97,000, respectively.

Well, 308,000 new payroll jobs is a pretty nice number for a Presidential re-election effort. If he got some advanced signals - and there were plenty to go around, starting with Mr. Snow's "outsourcing is good for you" comments - it would be no wonder that John Kerry went in for surgery. What's the "strategy" going to be now that demagoging outsourcing and job creation is kaput? Well, there's the price of gas. I wonder if Senator Kerry regrets all of his hike-the-gas-tax or kill-the-car votes and comments just now? So far, it doesn't look like the Senator has a clue of what to do next.

As an inconsequential aside, since the January and February numbers were seriously revised, will that mean Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman will be seriously revising his "jobs" columns that were essentially nothing more than rehashes of some employment statistics selected by him? Probably not. Herr Doktorprofessor won't have time for any revisions as he dashes off new columns predicting the collapse of the economy and the federal budget because of rising interest rates and inflation.

Yes, we can look forward to something like Herr Doktorprofessor's version of the old Yogi Berraism: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." I again feel for the cat.

UPDATE: As usual, Steve Antler beats out Herr Doktorprofessor. The big question in the Roosevelt/Princeton game is getting to be whether Roosevelt is going to be chastised for running up the score.

FURTHER UPDATE: Here are some easy ones: What happens now to those all-important poll questions of the form "do you think the nation is on the right track or wrong track?" And what happens in "battlefield" states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that are already trending towards Bush?

But here's a real tough one: Who said "I didn't really say everything I said" and "I wish I had an answer to that, because I'm tired of answering that question."

Was it John Kerry? Or Yogi Berra?

Now the reader should think long and hard. This is an important question for the Senator as he and his team try to come up with his new strategy! Yes, the game is only half over! Senator Kerry should collect himself and learn from the master: "You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left;" and, of course, "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."

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Complete And Utter Herr Doktorprofessor

With his most recent "column" the degeneration of Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman into a spouter of complete and utter inconsequential gibberish is now complete!

While the full story may never be known, Herr Doktorprofessor appears to have been competing with Maureen Dowd in some contest to posit the most bizarre parallels between some popular culture ephemera and a national political development of some consequence when something suddenly went tragically wrong.

Some form of journalistic autopsy may reveal more, but Herr Doktorprofessor appears to have intended to establish some connection between (1) a kerfuffle over a David Letterman show video clip of a bored boy (Tyler Crotty by name - reportedly a strong Bush backer) caught on camera yawning behind the president during a 45-minute speech and (2) remarks made on Wolf Blitzer's CNN program by a National Security Council spokesman, Jim Wilkinson, that certain passages in Richard Clarke's book were "sort of `X-Files' stuff." Herr Doktorprofessor thinks that the "sort of `X-Files' stuff" Wilkinson was referring to is a claim Clarke makes in his book that: "It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush."

So it comes to this:

Herr Doktorprofessor's entire column is based on his annoyance with Mr. Wilkinson for taking Mr. Clarke's sentence at face value as "sort of `X-Files' stuff" and not recognizing it as a "literary device." Herr Doktorprofessor is also possibly even more annoyed with Wolf Blitzer for not demanding that Mr. . Wilkinson apologize to Mr. Clarke for taking this sentence at face value as "sort of `X-Files' stuff" and not recognizing it as a "literary device."

Yes, it's true. Herr Doktorprofessor got his panties all tied in a knot about - and the New York Times actually published on its op-ed page his rant about - someone allegedly failing to appreciate a "literary device" and calling it "sort of `X-Files' stuff." A real national outrage, that. What's next? - a four inch Times front page headline denouncing some inappropriate use of the negative pregnant before the Supreme Court by the Solicitor General?

And for all that, Herr Doktorprofessor never does get the Tyler story right. Contrary to the understanding and sundry versions presented by this full Princeton Professor and Bates Medal winner, Tyler was where he was pictured in the videoclip, and he did do all those things depicted in the video clip (just as Mr. Letterman said) but the clip was then edited: "What we had was a few yawns, a few looking at the watches over a 45-minute period, and Letterman had that edited down to a 30-second piece and frankly it was hysterical," Tyler's dad said. The whole Wolf Blitzer angle is almost completely incomprehensible as Herr Doktorprofessor writes it, but some understanding of this aspect of the column can be garnered by collating this column with Herr Doktorprofessor's previous column, using a Ouija board to get the reader over the tougher spots.

So the White House never complained and Tyler's dad says his son thought the whole edited clip was "hysterical."

As fate would have it, "hysterical" is also the word most accurately describing Herr Doktorprofessor's own column. But one must keep in mind that in Herr Doktorprofessor's case the word should be taken at face value, where Tyler's dad's use was only a literary device. Yes, keep that in mind - or God help you if Herr Doktorprofessor finds out that you didn't.

And, by the way, might the entire New York Times press corp of Washington D.C. - a city that depends absolutely and utterly on the art of the nameless, unattributed leak - wish to take notice that Herr Doktorprofessor thinks that administration officials shouldn't be able to spread stories without making themselves accountable. Will it matter that Herr Doktorprofessor posits a principle that would likely put almost every one of them out of business when they demand of the New York office that he be given tighter supervision by an editor ... or a psychiatrist?

UPDATE: Hoystory suggests that Paul Krugman is making a pretty serious accusation. In his latest column, Krugman claims that the Bush administration somehow "got" to CNN.

Hoystory may well be right that Herr Doktorprofessor probably wanted to make that accusation - but he doesn't actually do it in this column. Perhaps editor/attorney intervention? I'm just guessing.

Instead, the entire CNN/Wolf Blitzer angle becomes an incomprehensible muddle of what Old Mayor Daley called "insinuendos." Herr Doktorprofessor finally settles (I think) for a rant about journalists not publishing stories based on nameless sources unless the sources can somehow be held "accountable." ("Look, I understand why major news organizations must act respectfully toward government officials. But officials shouldn't be sure — as Mr. Wilkinson obviously was — that they can make wild accusations without any fear that they will be challenged on the spot or held accountable later. And administration officials shouldn't be able to spread stories without making themselves accountable.") Or maybe he's just personally mad at Wolf Blitzer. Or somebody. Or maybe he just got an early look at the new employment numbers from some nameless unaccountable source in the Department of Labor. Mostly I have deep feelings for the cat.

And, by the way, what's with the qualifier in "administration officials shouldn't be able to spread stories without making themselves accountable." Is the point that it's OK that, say, Congressional officials be able to spread stories without making themselves "accountable?"

FURTHER UPDATE: In a development more exciting and significant than anything offered by Herr Doktorprofessor in this column, it has been announced that Tyler will be on the Letterman show:

On Thursday's show, Letterman made excuses for Tyler.

"It turns out we heard from his father that he'd been up very late the night before because he was excited about meeting the president, so they got him out of bed the early next day," said Letterman at a taping. "So, the kid, in addition to being bored silly, as would any right-thinking kid, was very, very tired and behaved just the way a kid behaves - nothing wrong with that."

Tyler and his family were reportedly flying to New York early Friday to be on the show.

That's so nice!

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: OpinionJournal counts this passage from Herr Doktorprofessor's column as his characterizing CNN's goof as a sinister White House plot:

CNN passed along a smear that it attributed to the White House. When the smear backfired, it declared its previous statements inoperative and said the White House wasn't responsible. Sound familiar? . . .

Administration officials shouldn't be able to spread stories without making themselves accountable. . . . And there's no excuse for disseminating unchecked rumors because they come from "the White House," then denying the White House connection when the rumors prove false. That's simply giving the administration a license to smear with impunity.

I quite disagree. Herr Doktorprofessor simply does not say in this passage that the White House was the source of the "smear." He probably wanted to say that - but he in fact casts his criticism as a slap at CNN procedures. Yes, he does say thaat those procedures give the administration a license to smear with impunity. He does not say here that the Administration was the source of the smear in this case. That's a big part of what makes this column so confused. Moreover, Herr Doktorprofessor increases the confusion by referring to Wolf Blitzer's claim that the "smear" was really something said by National Security Council spokesman, Jim Wilkinson - as noted above. That segue completes the transformation of Herr Doktorprofessor's column into gibberish - unless one wants to read it as accusing Blitzer and CNN of denying that Wilkinson had made those comments on Blitzer's show.

I am no fan of Herr Doktorprofessor. What he has committed here is incoherent gibberish and unsupported, ranting "insinuendo." But he is not characterizing CNN's goof as a sinister White House plot.

MORE, MORE, MORE Tyler on tape! Deep background!

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXI: Grease Analysis

Some look at John Kerry's fall in the polls and see his personal failings, and some see the Bush ads at work. Yes, the Senator from the ASPS is becoming a veritable political Rorschach test.

Still, doesn't the New York Times jump the gun in its analysis of what transformed John Kerry from ink blot to grease spot?

"The Bush people have seized the vacuum," said Carter Eskew, a senior adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign, nostalgically exhibiting that peculiar mastery of political realities and the English language that so characterized that Gore 2000 effort. Referring to the Kerry campaign, Mr. Eskew said, "It's a fair criticism to say they've been a little slow to do the same."

Ah, now we know what the Kerry problem, is. It's the old "failure to seize the vacuum" mistake!

Mr. Kerry's aides said they were not worried, arguing that now is opportune to raise money and devise a strategy.

Hey now there's an idea! Yes, yes, a strategy might be nice. Hey, guys, how about we get a strategy? My dad's got a barn, and all the kids could come, and we could put on an all-night strategy session while the candidate's doped up and in traction!

These Kerry campaign guys are the best! While everyone else is running around recounting how George Bush may be pummelling Kerry into free-fall in the polls with an unrelenting barrage of campaign ads, the Kerry campaign guys say it's no problem, they're confident because nobody is paying attention to the campaign anyway:

[The Kerry campaign operatives] argued that voters were more likely to focus on the hearings into Mr. Bush's handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and testimony of his former counterterrorism chief, Richard A. Clarke, than on an election in November.

So it comes to this: Many other observers have fretted over whether it's the Bush ads or the Senator's inherent failings that are causing the Senator's drop in the polls. But the Kerry campaign guys say they are confident that it's not the ads. The Kerry guys are also confident that everyone is paying attention to the 9-11 Commission hearings and the Clarke fuss, which, of course, is happening at a time when the President's poll numbers have risen. I wonder if all that confidence will make the Senator feel better when he comes out of his opiate fog?
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It's All In How You Tell Them

The Los Angeles Times features a curious front-page article based on its own new poll under the headline: Clarke's Charges Gain Acceptance and leading with the assertion: Most Americans accept Richard Clarke's key criticisms of President Bush's anti-terrorism record.

But the Times' poll's formulation of Mr. Clarke's "key criticisms" is peculiar, to say the least.

Richard Clarke, the Bush administration's former counter terrorism chief recently wrote a book which is critical of how the Bush administration has handled the threat of terrorism. Here are some statements that have been made by both Clarke and the Bush administration -- do you agree or disagree with the next four statements. (IF AGREE OR DISAGREE) Do you(agree/disagree) strongly or only somewhat?

Q22. "President Bush failed to take the threat of terrorism seriously enough before the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon."

Q23. "President Bush was more focused on attacking Iraq than dealing with terrorism as his top priority."

Are these Richard Clarke's key criticisms of President Bush's anti-terrorism record? Well, OpinionJournal and liberal commenter Fred Kaplan agree that Clarke's top and most controversial criticism of the Bush Administration is that the top priority given to terrorism by the Clinton administration was reduced by the incoming Bush administration. This point is not reflected in the Times poll at all.

Times poll Q22 has always been obvious, as OpinionJournal notes [UPDATE: And again notes today.], and the Bush Administration has never denied it - although they like to avoid this verbal formulation. Indeed, the Bush Administration position has always been that whatever the level of care was prior to 9-11, a lot more should objectively have been done - and should be done in the future. For example, the Bush administration is not now denying that the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, formed the Department of Homeland Security and got the Patriot Act passed after 9-11, not before 9-11.

But Richard Clarke is saying a lot more than what is reflected in Q22. He is saying that the Bush Administration had enough intelligence and actual warning so that it could have and should have taken meaningful action against al Qaida - action that might reasonably have prevented 9-11. Mr. Clarke even goes so far as to claim that he had expressly urged just the right actions, but was ignored. Perhaps the public will eventually buy that nonsense, but there is no evidence in the Times poll that has happened so far.

Times poll Q23 - "President Bush was more focused on attacking Iraq than dealing with terrorism as his top priority" - is embarrassing vague and tendentious, and also does not appear to reflect Richard Clarke's criticism accurately. As OpinionJournal and Mr. Kaplan again seem to agree, Mr. Clarke is advancing the standard liberal position that the invasion of Iraq is now - and at all times following 9-11 has been - a distraction from the war on terror that has impeded the war on terror. Q23 doesn't ask that at all. Q23 asks how Iraq and the general war on terror were prioritized by the President prior to 9-11, while tendentiously implying that the two as separable.

Having misconstrued its own poll, the Times is then flabbergasted to find that 58% agree that "Richard Clarke's book is politically motivated and released at this time to impact the presidential election"), 59% agree that Bush's national defense and anti-terrorism policies had made the country more secure (a figure virtually unchanged since November) and that the President's overall approval rating stands at 51%, with 44% disapproving. The Times finds some solace in the poll finding that 55% said the country was on the wrong track. However, on this count, it's worth looking at a somewhat broader trend:

Poll....................................................Right Track......................................Wrong Track.................Spread
Quinnipiac 3/16 - 3/22..................................48%...............................................51%...........................-3%
Democracy Corps 3/16 - 3/21.......................42%...............................................50%......................... - 8%
CBS News/NYT 3/10-3/14.............................38%................................................54%........................- 16%
Gallup 3/8- 3/11...........................................39%................................................60%........................ - 21%
NBC/WSJ 3/6- 3/8.........................................41%................................................49%..........................- 8%
AP/Ipsos 3/1-3/3..........................................35%................................................60%........................ - 25%

Of course, given the hilarious recent history of LA Times polls generally, maybe the Times reporter was right not to take the actual poll questions very seriously.
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Could Have Fooled Me

I haven't heard (Hot) Air America myself, but some reviewers suggest it wasn't funny and sounded more than a little like Amateur Hour:

Franken['s] ... first few minutes ... was read with enough tension in his voice you’d have looked away in embarrassment were he performing stand-up in front of you. ...

Franken acknowledged his unfamiliarity with the tricks of the talk radio trade ...

By the second hour, when former 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey came on, Franken found a comfort level, although the interview itself was a slightly more informal version of what you’d get on public radio.

So it's former 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey? The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), seems to think that Bob Kerrey is still one of its members.

Perhaps the reviewer just couldn't bring himself to believe that a current member of the Commission would have judgment so bad as to actually appear as part of the debut of a strident show whose self-avowed purpose is to defeat the President's re-election effort while the Commission is embroiled in its biggest controversy yet?

But, not to worry ... Sen. Hillary Clinton is scheduled for Thursday’s show. Former Bush administration counter terrorism expert Richard Clarke will be a guest on Friday.
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Bosnia And Rwanda

Isn't it fair to ask whether race had some role to play in the Clinton Administration's failure to take action against the genocide against a black people the Clintonites were aware was transpiring in Rwanda, while the genocide against a European people in Bosnia/Kosovo stirred the Clintonites to dramatic military action even without UN approval.

Isn't this worth recalling some of those Clintonites, such as self-proclaimed "human rights hawk" Madame Albright, to speak to Congress?

And shouldn't the media be bird-dogging John Kerry for his thouights on the matter?

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Real McCondi

There is a growing chorus of those who believe or suspect that the entire fuss the White House has put up over Condi Rice's coming testimony was an exercise in Rope-A-Dope psychology.

But, in addition to enhancing the President's position by focusing public attention on terrorism and his hyper-competent National Security Advisor, there is another respect in which the Democrat-led kerfuffle over Ms. Rice is entirely counterproductive for them and, especially, John Kerry:

Ms. Rice is African-American, and this entire production must be drawing the attention of the African-American community to how central she, her thinking and her role have been to the Bush Administration.

The current assault on Bush administration terrorism policy has become ever more obviously an assault on Condi Rice, and, increasing, an obviously unfair assault on her by Democrats and their supporters (and the President's critics) in the media. That's got to be registering strongly with many African-American voters.

Indeed, it is testimony to what a truly extraordinary person Ms. Rice really is that the entire racial aspect of this affair seems to be passing without particualr notice in the media. But I don't think it will pass without notice in African-American voting.

It would be useful if some public pollster could try to measure the effect of her involvement, especially her coming testimony, on African-Americans. No Democrat can win without an large turnout of African Americans who overwhelming favor the Democrat. Is the Kerry campaign thinking that the turnout will be spurred by inviting African Americans to vote against Condi Rice, a genuine African-American icon? Who thinks this stuff up?

But, somehow, I'm guessing that the President's campaign people have already done their own private polling and focus groups.


An alert readers e-mails a warning in the form of a Jay Nordlinger anecdote from NRO:

A friend of mine from Arkansas writes the following: "Thought you'd appreciate this little anecdote. A co-worker of mine has a daughter in public elementary school, here in Pine Bluff. They're still doing Black History Month stuff, apparently, because the kids were told to come to class dressed as a famous (and presumably accomplished) African-American. My co-worker's kid was told to come as Tina Turner. My co-worker informed the teacher that her child would come as Condoleezza Rice instead. The teacher refused to allow it, on grounds that Rice 'is for white people.' Nice, huh?"

Disgusting — and, again, very American. Sadly so.

This really is an appalling story, and what it suggests is very possible. Consider Justice Thomas.

But this anecdote aside, I really haven't yet seen any serious signs that African-Americans don't identify with Condi - or that the Dems are even trying to drive a wedge here. By all appearances, Ms. Rice has an appealing personality (of course, I have a fondness for very smart, confident women). Any attempt to smear her personally (as opposed to her professional judgment) would, in my opinion, rapidly become very dangerous for the smearing party. In any event, even if my hopes and suspicions don't pan out, the ex-ante risk of adversely affecting African-American turnout and sentiment seems pretty large for the Dems.

And the same can be said for turnout and senitments of female voters of any race, at least to to the extent one believes in effects of identity politics.
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Setting The Record Straight!

At last, a complete listing of John Kerry's principled positions!
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Gender Gap Between The Lobes Of The Brain

Today the New York Times provides us with an unusually giddy report:

Sam Seder, a nighttime host on Air America Radio, the fledgling liberal talk-radio network, had a question about the clientele of his guest, who identified herself as a dominatrix. "More Republicans or more Democrats?" Mr. Seder asked. "Seventy-30," Lady Olivia said. Mr. Seder's broad grin suggested that that was precisely the answer he had hoped for. ... He soon inquired about the identities of those Republicans, displaying a particular interest in learning more about "Jon from Washington," who had written, "I enjoyed the corporal punishment more than I thought I would."

"Does his last name," Mr. Seder asked, "rhyme with Chriscroft?"

The exchange yielded no information about the attorney general of the United States. ... But it did provide some clues to how Air America, which makes its debut at noon today on five stations with Al Franken, the comedian and political satirist, at the microphone, intends to challenge the hegemony of conservatives on commercial talk radio.

"It needs to be entertaining, it needs to be compelling, it needs to be laugh-out-loud funny," said Jon Sinton, a veteran of radio who is a founder of Air America, a subsidiary of Progress Media. "It needs to foster water-cooler conversation. You need people to go to work and say, `Did you hear what Franken said yesterday?' "

"When people begin to say that," he added, "we will have arrived."

Whether this reported Interview With The Dominatrix is laugh-out-loud-funny, or funny at all, is for the listener to decide for herself (the Times reporter helpfully provides some explantion for the big joke). It seems one had to be there and be a certain kind of male in a certain substance-enhanced mood to get Mr. Seder's humor. Is Air America supposed to be the nation's second "Network for Men?"

But whether this is funny or not, one of the hi-priced Democratic political geniuses behind Air America might want to point out to Mr. Sinton that these days, as a result of laws favored especially by liberal activists just like them, people who go to work and make water-cooler conversation about a dominatrix and kinky sex can end up fired or disciplined or sued for creating a hostile work environment. I wonder if Mr. Sinton has a photo-calendar from Ms. Olivia's shop hanging in his office? The Times also describes Mr. Seder's broad grin ... [as] he shuffled through a sheaf of testimonials downloaded from Lady Olivia's Web site. Has either of Messrs. Seder or Sinton considered the likelihood that allowing access to such websites in the work environment itself constitutes creation of a "hostile work environment?"

One of those geniuses, Al Franken, says "My first priority is to get sued by a right-wing jerk in order to generate interest in my new show." But from the Times report it looks as though Mr. Franken's first lawsuit is likely to come from quite a different quarter.

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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XX: For Whom The Bellwether Tolls

California gets a lot of coverage as a "pathbreaking," trendsetting" or "bellwether" state, but it was plain old Pennsylvania that in 1991 elected Harris Wofford to the Senate over his seasoned Republican opponent, former Pennsylvania governor and former U.S. attorney general Richard Thornburgh, in a special election entirely dominated by one issue: affordable health care, thereby providing Bill Clinton with much of his edge in the 1992 presidential election. Indeed, in recent elections Pennsylvania has been much more of a "swing" or "battlefield" state than California has been. George W. Bush lost the state to Al Gore by only a handfull of votes in 2000.

Pennsylvania is a state that John Kerry almost certainly must carry this year. That should be a cinch for the Democrat: Pennsylvania is a Northeast state, close to John Kerry's Massachusetts, it has lost plenty of jobs in various waves of "outsourcing," and that same historical sensitivity to rising health care costs hasn't gone away.

So it really does matter that the Texan George W. Bush now leads Senator Kerry by 6% (46% to 40%) in the most recent Keystone Poll. Even worse for the Democrat: he is rapidly sinking (shedding 7% in a month) in what should be the easy state of Pennsylvania at exactly the time the President is supposedly having many "dreadful" days.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XIX: Natural Fissioning Process Causes Candidate To Become Progressively Less Massive!

It's becoming one of the most studied questions of the still-young 2004 election season:

Is John Kerry committing political suicide or is he being politically done in by the President's ads?

We'll have to wait for November to see if this is a harbinger of what could become one of the most studied questions of the 2004 post-election post-mortem:

Exactly what kind of grease spot did John Kerry eventually become?

In any event, for the moment USA Today says it's the ads:

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows a remarkable turnaround in 17 battleground states where polls and historic trends indicate the race will be close, and where the Bush campaign has aired TV ads. ... The ads have been one factor in wiping away an inflated lead Kerry held in those states. Most of them have had primaries or caucuses that allowed Democrats to dominate the news and Kerry to emerge as a victor. In a survey taken in mid-February, Kerry led Bush by 28 percentage points in those states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in them by six points, 51% to 45%. In contrast, there has been much less volatility in states where the ads haven't aired. Kerry held a four-point lead in them in February; Bush holds a two-point lead now.

The Bush campaign also has begun defining Kerry before he has defined himself. In the states where the ads have run, Kerry's unfavorable rating has risen 16 points since mid-February. In the other states, it's up just five points. .... Some Democratic analysts say Kerry's decision to take a week of vacation, while hard to begrudge after a grueling primary campaign, meant that Bush's ads went largely unanswered. ....

The president's standing on handling terrorism has been dented by the testimony of former White House aide Richard Clarke and the scrutiny of the blue-ribbon commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. That's important because the perception of Bush as a strong leader in the wake of Sept. 11 is his greatest political strength. ....

One more finding: TV ads are powerful. A majority echoed the Bush ads' themes about the Massachusetts senator: 57% say Kerry has changed positions for political reasons, and 58% say their federal taxes will go up if he's elected. And the percentage who say he's "too liberal" has jumped from 29% in February to 41% now.

I mostly don't agree with this analysis, at least if its main point is taken to be that if John Kerry had rebutted the Bush ads the results would have been a good deal different. The fact is that Senator Kerry's record is well to the left of what a substantial majority of American voters generally prefer. The Bush ads are important because they point that out, generally and with specifics. Kerry ads and favorable media coverage of Senator Kerry could dispute the claims of the Bush ads, but people do eventually make up their own minds. It's just wishful thinking on the left (and in USA Today) that the Bush ads could be ultimately refuted. There really aren't that many ways Senator Kerry can be "defined" - although the timing of that public definition can to some extent be affected by the Bush ads.

For example, consider the Bush ad that pointed out that Senator Kerry had voted against the special $87 Billion Iraq-Afghanistan appropriation. The Senator's hilarious response that he had voted for the appropriation before voting against it wasn't - as much of the main stream media insists - some slip of the tongue brought on by exhaustion. It was a deliberate expression of Senator Kerry's formal campaign strategy, which can be seen by noting that his campaign aides used exactly the same argument in Florida only days before the West Virginia disaster:

[R]eaching back eight years to one of the more significant efforts to toughen sanctions on the communist island, Kerry volunteered: "And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.'' .... There is only one problem: Kerry voted against it. ...

Kerry aides said the senator cast one of the 22 nays that day in 1996 because he disagreed with some of the final technical aspects. But, said spokesman David Wade, Kerry supported the legislation in its purer form -- and voted for it months earlier.

Did Senator Kerry take that ill-timed "ski vacation" that USA Today says allowed his poll ratings to collapse because he was "exhausted?" Probably not. He probably took that "vacation" because his formal, official campaign strategy to rebutting questions raised by his Senate votes by the Bush ads or anyone else was tried quite deliberately in Florida and then in West Virginia - and after causing some problems in Florida proved to be a complete national disaster in West Virginia. So a "vacation" was probably needed to come up with a new approach after the old "I voted for it and against it" approach cratered. Until a new approach was invented, Senator Kerry couldn't respond to the Bush ads - or to anyone else, such as those Cuban Americans, raising the same kind of questions.

But vacation time is over, and Senator Kerry is still not really responding to the Bush ads - in his own ads or otherwise. Perhaps the Senator's premature and foolhardy endorsement of Richard Clarke was a consequence of having nothing else to say. The Bush ad technology may accelerate the fissioning process whereby the Senator is becoming ever and progressively less massive through the internal decay of his political nucleus, but that decay is showing all the signs of being a spontaneous, natural, inevitable process.

The CNN take on the same CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll contains this bit of drollery:

Part of the reason for the shift is that a more equal number of Democrats and Republicans now say they are likely to vote this year. In earlier polls taken in the heat of the primary season, Democrats had expressed more enthusiasm about voting than Republicans, which buoyed Kerry's numbers among likely voters.

In other words, the Gallup organization couldn't figure out how to compensate for the fact that the Democratic primaries got all the attention while President Bush was running unopposed in crafting the Gallup definition of "likely voter." So "likely voter" for Gallup means the poll respondent says "yeah, I'm planning to vote?" What happened to all the other factors that might have adjusted for the problem: did you vote last time, how old are you, are you registered in a party, blah, blah, blah?

Even more humorous is the coy CNN phrasing: a more equal number of Democrats and Republicans now say they are likely to vote this year. That makes it sound as if the number of "likely" Republican voters went up, while the number of "likely" Democratic voters stayed the same. But the phrase Democrats had expressed more enthusiasm about voting than Republicans, which buoyed Kerry's numbers among likely voters strongly suggests that it's the number of Democratic likely voters going down that makes the difference. In which case, isn't it just as likely that Democrats are getting a good dose of the "buyer's remorse" for their candidate that many people have been expecting? Why is that possibility not explored? Wouldn't a decreasing Democratic enthusiasm for their candidate be the biggest part of this story?
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The Continuing Implosion Of Richard Clarke

From the New York Times:

A senior national security official who worked alongside Richard A. Clarke on Sept. 11, 2001, is disputing central elements of Mr. Clarke's account of events in the White House Situation Room that day, declaring that it "is a much better screenplay than reality was." The official, Franklin C. Miller, who acknowledges that he was often a bureaucratic rival of Mr. Clarke, said in an interview on Monday that almost none of the conversations that Mr. Clarke, who was the counterterrorism chief, recounts in the first chapter of his book, "Against All Enemies," match Mr. Miller's recollection of events. ... Mr. Miller and other White House officials said they were not accusing Mr. Clarke of fabricating events. Events were moving so quickly, they said, and memories have since blurred, that it is little surprise that accounts differ. But Mr. Miller, a senior aide to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, suggested that Mr. Clarke's version, while it would "make a great movie," was more melodramatic than the events he recalled.

This is even before Condi gets a whack at him in her testimony that the Democrats have absolutely insisted be public - and, of course, before his own prior Congressional testimony is released.

Link from Henry Hanks.

MORE drippings from the Clarke meltdown.

STILL MORE: Kausfiles collects some particularly damning evidence of Richard Calrke's disingenuous recollection of his "nuanced" positions.
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The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The projected costs, as well as the likely loss of economic competitiveness with the United States, has the EU wondering if it can virtually go it alone in implementing the Kyoto Protocols on climate change. The protocol has yet to take effect as a binding treaty since the US and Russia won't sign on, and China and India were given a pass for now.

This news is slow in reaching the American media. The F.A.Z. reported back in the middle of February:

Industry representatives boycotted negotiations on upcoming emissions trading legislation ... The dispute revolves around a plan, spearheaded by German Environment Minister J?rgen Trittin, to use emissions certificates to force companies to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions years ahead of the European Union's 2012 deadline...

.... Germany has chosen to develop a formula for dividing the certificates up among existing plants rather than putting them up for auction. This route, however, has opened the door for all sorts of special exemptions. With just weeks to go, industry lobbyists are fighting for special privileges. .... Increased demand for natural gas from Germany would probably cause Russia to burn coal in its own plants to fill demand from Germany, since there are no taxes or other levies on coal in that country.

Affected industries may also move production to other countries. Experts say that emissions trading only makes sense if most producing countries are involved and if the trading includes all six greenhouse gases. It is unclear why the EU Commission has limited trading to CO2.

The steel industry, which in 2001 was responsible for 51.4 million tons of the 504.5 million tons of CO2 emitted by German industrial companies and power generators, fears that it will be the loser. Steel association VDEH said emissions trading could weaken Germany's steel industry, since it cannot reduce its CO2 emissions. .... The steel industry has the potential to reduce its emissions by 1 to 2 percent in the medium term, [a steel spokesman] said. Trittin is demanding a reduction of 1.5 percent by 2007 and another 6 percent by 2012. This could increase the price of steel by as much as 20 percent. ... In the past decade, Germany has reduced its emissions more than any other country in the EU. Since Germany signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, it has reduced its emissions of the six greenhouse gases by 19 percent. The target for Germany, set as part of a package with other EU countries, is 21 percent by 2012.

The bulk of that past German reduction was possible simply by closing unproductive, outdated Eastern German inductrial plants - most of which would have been closed on profitability grounds, anyway.

The German Kyoto problem is even worse than the above passages suggest, because the German (and, increasingly, European) instinct for economic suicide in the service of hi-sounding principles that any sensible person would know could not be reconciled doesn't end with Kyoto - but extends to elimination of nuclear power, too. As the F.A.Z. noted last November:

[L]ast Friday ... the first of Germany's 18 nuclear power plants due for closure in the next 20 years, was taken off line. That may be an appealing prospect to many, but we should not forget that atomic power is responsible for the generation of nearly half of Germany's electricity, a volume that cannot be easily replaced if both economic and ecological standards are applied. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, renewable energy sources will never replace nuclear energy in terms of their economic viability and reliability. Only gas and coal-fired power plants have the potential to replace nuclear power, but they produce greenhouse gas emissions that could easily push Germany over its emissions targets under the Kyoto accord. An exit from the "nuclear consensus" is thus inevitable.

"Inevitable" is the right word. I wish it were hard to understand why so many Europeans think that signing up for principles that they do not reasonably intend to respect amounts to a political virtue. That kind of posturing is not a virtue. It's juvenile. It's even politically senile.

As the German economy inevitably implodes in accordance with loopy pseudo-principles, the last refuge of the political scoundrel, pseudo-patriotism, is always available in Germany to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as much as John Kerry in the US to criticise those who prefer not to join the implosion:

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called the transfer of jobs to cheaper foreign locations “unpatriotic“ .... Germany's chief business lobbyist, BDI industry association president Michael Rogowski, added that companies were fleeing not only from Germany's high labor costs and taxes, but also the environmental policies pursued by Schröder's junior coalition partner, the Greens, that imposed unnecessary additional costs on companies, most recently, for example, through planned emissions trading regulations. Indeed many big German companies have shifted large parts of their assembly abroad in recent years. .... On Tuesday, the chairman of automotive supplier Leoni said at the company's financial press conference that he fears “it will be difficult to sustain the number of jobs in Germany.“ .... But not only jobs in production are at stake. Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement said on Wednesday at an OECD conference in Berlin that Germany will also not escape the “trend toward exports of qualified jobs.“ According to the head of IBM Germany, Walter Raizner, that trend is already under way. Raizner told the Financial Times Deutschland this week that 70,000 jobs in the information technology sector alone were lost in Germany over the past year. Although the industry association Bitkom has called that figure exaggerated, its own projections still assume a loss of 8,000 jobs in the German telecommunications and information technology sector this year. ... A DIHK study, however, last year put the number of jobs lost to cheaper foreign locations at about 50,000 a year. And according to a recent survey by DIHK, the export-based economic recovery this year will prompt German companies to invest more abroad than at home.

One might keep in mind that a good deal of German "outsourcing" comes to the United States.

In a certain sense it's interesting to see how so many disparate developments interact: global greenhouse gassy politics, nuclear energy hysteria, outsourcing madness. Too bad the interaction in this case may end up marking the grave of the German economy. But, heck, nobody expected those principles to last, anyway.
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Daschle Descending VI: Bad Lands For Tom Daschle

In a prior post the Man Without Qualities noted that Tom Daschle's relationship with South Dakota's native Americans has become increasingly frayed. Native Americans have often been a bulwark of South Dakota Democratic support - a handful of their votes cost Mr. Thune, Senator Daschle's current challenger, a Senate seat in 2002. But things have changed, and some Lakota are now coming for South Dakota's cloutless, straddling, disingenuous senior Senator with things in mind other than support:

The race for the U.S. Senate will be a little more crowded come the November election. Editor and publisher of the Lakota Journal, Tim Giago, will run as an independent against presumably Senator Tom Daschle and Republican John Thune for the U.S. Senate.

Giago says Indian counties have suffered financially under Daschle's watch, and it's time to talk about all the issues like the Black Hills settlement, and what Giago calls this state's Achilles heel, racism. Giago says, "There's some issues that he keeps ducking, that Senator Tim Johnson keeps ducking, and I'm sure that John Thune is going to keep ducking. And I think some of these issues are important enough to the nine tribes in this state that we've got to get them on the table. We've got to talk about them. We can't pretend they aren't there."

Giago says he was going to run as a Democrat against Daschle in the primaries, but [Giago] says [running as an independent in the general election] could be more damaging to Daschle if [Giago] gets a lot of the Indian vote.

Looks like Senator Daschle might do better for himself by spending a bit less time protecting the squirrelly Richard Clarke and a bit more time home on the range.

Thanks to Daschle v. Thune for the tip.

MORE: Here and here and here.

UPDATE: Lot's more fallout chronicled on South Dakato Politics - just keep scrolling.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XVIII: Lead Balloon From The Bay State

Two CNN/USA Today/Gallup Polls:

..........................................George W. Bush..........................................John Kerry

March 5-7, 2004.............................44%.....................................................52%

March 26-28, 2004...........................51%.....................................................47%

Let's see. In this poll Bush was down by 8 points, but now he's up by four - for a net gain by Bush of 12 percentage points at a time when the liberal media, Richard Clarke and the Democrats are all giving it their best shot. As the New York Times might explain: This is all nuance!

Close election? Well, stranger things have happened. Somebody might blow up the Capitol, for example. But, barring that, I wouldn't advise any Democratic office seekers to quit their day jobs.


Some astute e-mailers have pointed out that this only a poll, it has a small sample, it's early and the poll has an UNBELIEVABLE result: Nader drawing equally from Bush and Kerry.

I agree with all of that - and I didn't intend this post to suggest that the race is over. However, the past few weeks have seen a huge outpouring of anti-Bush material: Spain, the Democratic and international take on Spain, Clarke, the 9-11 Commission hearings generally, lots of leftish hooey on outsourcing and the Administration's "failure" to cause job creation.

That was all supposed to show up in the polls - and in a lasting fashion. But that's really not happening. What seems to be happening is (1) Kerry's afterglow from the Democratic primaries is fading, and (2) voters are coming to know, distrust and dislike Senator Kerry both personally and politically with greater intensity with each passing day.

As for Nader, it is important to remember that his entire poll-detected support lies within the bounds of statistical error - so weird things like a "finding" that he's drawing as much from Bush as from Kerry are bound to happen. It doesn't mean anything - and it doesn't mean the poll is off.

A poll is just a poll. Right now the Man Without Qualities thinks the polls are especially off because people are back to living their own lives - and aren't really paying that much attention, even if they say they are. Moreover, at this point any effort to evaluate who is a "likely voter" is a fool's errand - and "registered voter" surveys are pretty crude.

That means polls are probably more interesting in tracking dynamic shifts - not actual levels of support. But that's still very bad news for Senator Kerry.

But lots can happen before election day. Gas prices, for example, are a real wild card. If prices continue to rise, that could cut either for or against Mr. Bush - since John Kerry is a well-documented advocate of higher gas prices and fuel taxes. But, of course, it could be very bad for Mr. Bush, since the rise would happen "on his watch" and, more importantly, cold trigger a more general downturn. Gas prices might also be a harbinger of a possible coming surge in general inflation.

The problem here is two-fold for Senator Kerry: (1) as demonstrated over the past few weeks, predictable things and things Senator Kerry might be able to affect don't seem to be enough to put him over the top, and (2) Mr. Bush can affect a lot more things than Senator Kerry can (such as welcoming lots of new NATO members who are mostly pro-Bush). Add to all that Senator Kerry's almost inconceivable incompetence as a national politician - supporting Richard Clarke well before that was appropriate, for example - and one sees a good likelihood, but not a certainty, of a Kerry wipe-out in November.

UPDATE: Jim Miller argues that Nader does take about the same number of votes from Republicans and Democrats. In other words, it's not a poll fluke, it's a fact.

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XVII: Fresh, Rested And Tan From The Slopes

Fresh from having called one of his Secret Service protectors a "son-of-a-bitch" for making the Honorable Senator fall in the snow, John Kerry has been heard loudly on the side of Richard Clarke, decrying his "character assassination" by the administration. How astute is that, where Mr. Clarke is viewed with suspicion by most of the electorate? Where's the pay off for Kerry in doing that? Only 17 percent of poll respondents said Clarke's testimony made their view of Mr. Bush less favorable and 10 percent said Clarke's testimony made their view of Mr. Bush more favorable.

More favorable?

In any event, on Clarke, Kerry said: "Every time somebody comes up and says something that this White House doesn't like, they don't answer the questions about it or show you the truth about it. They go into character assassination mode." ... "It is entirely inappropriate and almost hysterical of the White House to engage in this massive character assassination," Kerry said later in an interview with Kansas City television station KMBC.

But most voters seem to think that Mr. Clarke has already assassinated his own character - and this before the real response to his testimony has been presented, including release of his prior. alegedly inconsistent, Congressional testimony. As Newsweek reports:

[O]nly a quarter of those who have been following the story say they see Clarke as a selfless public servant. Fifty percent suspect Clarke has some personal or political agenda, while another 25 percent don’t know what to make of his accusations. By a margin of 61 percent to 34 percent, Americans feel that, overall, the Bush administration has taken the terror threat seriously. The numbers are the reverse for Bush’s predecessor: 65 percent are critical of how seriously they believe the Clinton administration took the threat.

This is a bandwagon Senator Kerry wants to hop on?

Senator Kerry has hitched his wagon to a book=selling star apparently set to make over One Million Dollars from his "whistleblowing" - more if he can keep it on the best seller list, and who is now being criticized by the families of 9-11 victims as "divisive and mean-spirited" and a "profiteer" from the terror that killed their relatives. As the New York Post reports:

Retired FDNY firefighter Jim Boyle, who lent his name to the letter, ripped into Clarke, who served as a counterterrorism adviser to the past four presidents. "Richard Clarke is doing all of this to sell his book," said Boyle, whose Bravest son, Michael Boyle, died in the WTC. "What he's doing isn't right. He's trying to make money off our pain. This was all orchestrated to benefit him," Boyle told The Post. Retired FDNY Capt. John Vigiano Sr. said he's "incensed" with Clarke. "He's all about promoting his book, plain and simple," said Vigiano Sr., whose sons John, a firefighter, and Joseph, a police officer, died in the WTC attacks. "It's all about greed. He shouldn't be doing this. He's showing a lack of loyalty to the president. It's awful." The blistering letter, signed by more than 36 people who lost loved ones in the WTC, came a day after the Senate's top Republican, Bill Frist, accused Clark of an "appalling act of profiteering." Meanwhile, a Newsweek poll released yesterday found that 65 percent of Americans say Clarke's testimony hasn't affected their opinion of the president.

Senator Kerry complains of the Administration's "character assassination" of Mr. Clarke. But it's beginning to look as though the NYFD is more than willing to throttle Mr. Clarke's character right through to the election.

Couldn't the Senator have waited until things shook out a bit? Who told the Senator to do that now? Mr. Schrum? Did the Senator think this up on his own? Don't any of this people remember the "booing" at Hillary Clinton's pretentions?
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If I'm Wrong, I'm Right, Where I Belong I'm Right

Could it be that Democrats and the media hurt John Kerry by moving the public's mind away from the economy by making a broo-hah-hah over terrorism - including much criticism of Bush? Could it be that the public still rates Mr. Bush better on terrorism than it does Kerry (whether or not there has been slippage for Bush on this issue) - and the Clarke hearings just focused voters more on terrorism and less on the economy? Last week was supposedly a "dreadful" one for Mr. Bush.

But the Kerry-skewed Rassmussen tracking poll says Bush gained four points on Kerry during the relevant period:

Date Bush Kerry
Mar 28 45 45
Mar 27 45 46
Mar 26 44 47
Mar 25 44 48

The Newsweek poll taken over Mar 25-26 detects no change at all in the President's overall approval ratings or the relative Kerry-Bush standings, but does purport to find a slipping of public approval of Bush's handling of the War on Terror over the last month or so. Newsweek ascribes this slippage to Clarke - but produces no evidence whatsoever to support that causal mechanism. The article just compares current readings with month-old readings - not just-pre-Clarke readings. There's not even an attempt to separate Clarke's effect from any effect caused by the rest of the televised Commission hearings. Are Albright, Berger and the rest really that insignificant? Of course, there have been lots of other developments in the War on Terror over the last few weeks that might have frustrated voters: failure to capture al Qaida kingpins in Pakistan and, obviously, the disasters in Spain. For the mainstream media, that's all beyond living memory - now it's Clarke, Clarke, Clarke! But it's hard to see how those other developments favor Senator Kerry.

Most strikingly, only 17% of poll respondents said the Clarke testimony has made them "feel less favorable" towards the president. What proportion of those people were already committed to voting against Mr. Bush? Newsweek doesn't say - and apparently didn't try to determine. A great majority of poll respondents don't trust Clarke - despite much media effort to canonize him as a sacred "whistle blower."

The Newsweek poll also "finds" that the public's approval of Mr. Bush on the economic front continues to be soft. So where is Mr. Bush's support coming from?

Maybe from the focus on terrorism?

On the economic/budget front the Rassmussen poll also detects a very interesting development:

Most dramatically, 64% of American voters say that they would prefer a federal budget that has a deficit at lower levels of taxes and spending rather than a balanced budget with higher levels of taxes and spending. Given this choice, just 25% opt for the balanced budget.

These findings are very similar to an earlier survey which found that 64% of Americans prefer smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.

The Man Without Qualities is deeply skeptical of Rassmussen Poll methodology. But at least as a starting point, these economic findings raise the question of whether Mr. Bush could out flank Mr. Kerry on the economic front by proposing to cut federal spending. Even the usual quasi-fake election year fashion of proposing such things, where few specifcs are provided for hostile special interests to precipitate around, might have substantial effect.

A fiscal crisis is an ugly thing. Is it just about time that we had one?


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