Man Without Qualities

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Is That A Real Correction?

The New York Times reports:

Democrats are furious about a statement by Republicans saying that comparing one of their candidates to presidential candidate John Kerry would be worse than comparing someone to the Ku Klux Klan. The dispute started when The New York Times inadvertently published a photo of Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors above a story about a KKK member who murdered a black sharecropper. The Times published a correction Saturday. Cinamon Watson, spokeswoman for Coors, said the error was "so outrageous it's kind of funny. It could have been worse. Pete could have been identified as John Kerry.''

The phony Democrat "outrage" will only suggest they have no sense of humor. But what about that "correction" in the Times? The Times did run a item with a number of corrections to past articles in today's (Saturday's) edition including this one:

A picture with an entry in the National Briefing column on Thursday about an appeals court ruling upholding the murder conviction of Ernest Avants in the 1966 killing of a sharecropper, Ben Chester White, was published in error. It showed Peter H. Coors, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate in Colorado, not Mr. Avants.

But surely this is not sufficient. The Times owes its readers an explanation as to how such a substitution was made. Was it made innocently? How could that have happened? Who was the responsible editor?

The matter is particularly curious because, as Snopes puts it:

The Adolph Coors Company has been the subject of numerous vilification rumors. Most prevalent are the ones that link Coors to either Nazism or the Ku Klux Klan. ... The second prevalent vilification rumor ties Coors to the Ku Klux Klan, probably as both an outgrowth of the "right wing equals bad guy" way of thinking and as an expression of concerns over how the company has handled race relations issues in the past. .... But racial tensions don't equal white-sheeted Klansmen lurking behind every bush, which is the crux of the rumor. .... Coors isn't a company the Klan would want to associate with.

Yes, it could be that the Times happened to make a substitution of photographs that happens to track one of the nastier left-wing tinfoil-hat obsessions. But it is strange enough of a "coincidence" for the Times to investigate fully and explain to its readers how this happened and who was responsible. Until such an investigation has been made and such an explanation has been tendered, the Times has not really corrected its error.

But there has been no sign of any effort by the Times to do any of that.
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Commission Rot: Duck Soup At The Times

The Wall Street Journal analysis demonstrating how preposterous, even scandalous, Jamie Gorelick's service on the 9-11 Commission has become is completely correct:

Ms. Gorelick ... claims she can judge everyone else as a Commissioner because her now famous 1995 memo was no big deal and merely codified existing procedures. Even if we grant her this point, which many others dispute, shouldn't she be required to explain it under oath? What gives her an Olympian exemption?

No serious person on either side of the aisle doubts that the "wall" of separation between intelligence agents and criminal investigators that was memorialized in her memo was a problem. Everyone also now agrees that poor intelligence sharing was one of the key reasons U.S. authorities failed to detect the September 11 plot. We can think of several questions for Ms. Gorelick that would prove far more illuminating than anything that emerged from the Condoleezza Rice show. Such as:

--- Ms. Gorelick, you write in the Washington Post that you did not invent the wall, which you argue was just "a set of procedures implementing a 1978 statute (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA)." Yet your 1995 memo to the FBI and World Trade Center bombing prosecutor asked for procedures that "go beyond what is legally required." Is it possible to merely implement the law and at the same time go beyond what it requires?

--- Follow-up: Ms. Gorelick, no doubt you know that when the Ashcroft Justice Department finally challenged guidelines of the type you issued, the FISA Appeals Court agreed with your own 1995 assessment that those guidelines had never been necessary. In other words, the court said we didn't need the Patriot Act to permit greater intelligence sharing than your memo had allowed. Then why write a memo that imposed such restrictions?

These sentiments were succinctly echoed, for example, in a recent, single, lonely letter to the New York Times. But the Times itself has found no need to run an editorial making this clear and obvious point - which is being willfully ignored by Ms. Gorelick, the Commission and most of the liberal establishment.

Yet the New York Times is ultra-sensitive to judicial conflicts-of-interest where such sensitivity serves the political interests of the Times. Indeed, one recent Times editorial calls for Supreme Court to step in and review Justice Antonin Scalia's apparent decision not to recuse himself from Sierra Club's challenge to secrecy surrounding Vice Pres Dick Cheney's task force and formulation of Bush administration's energy policy; suggests overall reappraisal of what kinds of actions by justices are exemplary, borderline or unacceptable.

"Overall reappraisal" is it? That pretty much admits that Justice Scalia's duck hunting trip and subsequent non-recusal did not conflict with existing (non-reappraised) principles. Yet the Times was in conflict-of-interest overdrive on the matter! A separate Times editorial had called for Justice Scalia's recusal in this case on the grounds of the same non-existent "conflict." Yet a third Times op-ed item described a "judge, a seasoned court veteran, [who] sharply criticized Mr. Scalia's judgment, first in going on the trip, and accepting free rides on Air Force Two for himself and two relatives, and then in refusing to step aside when the case challenging the secrecy of Mr. Cheney's energy task force is heard." A fourth Times editorial had also savaged Justice Scalia's non-recusal and agreement to duck hunt. Then there was the inevitable Maureen Dowd quacking on the topic. And there was a completely bizarre Times op-ed by Yale Profs Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff pointing out that, of "many ethical questions" raised by Justice Anton Scalia's duck-hunting trip with Vice Pres Cheney, one is in his own memo explaining how he used only half of round-trip airline ticket to get back to Washington, in violation of airline fare rules (!), which supposedly suggests that Justice Scalia may have to recuse himself if an airline pricing case ever reaches Supreme Court. One editorial misstated the standard for judicial recusal, requiring a published correction. Then the Times found room for no fewer than six letters on the momentous duck-recusal issue. That was after the Times had already published yet another duck-recusal letter. And, of course, let's not forget the Times Week in Review recap.

That's fourteen (overtly) editorial items the Times chose to run on the non-existent conflict-of-interest "issues" raised by Justice Scalia's duck hunt. And that doesn't include the Times generally tendentious "reporting" on the great duck-hunt issue of our times! Read all about it here and here and here.

That's at least seventeen distinct items on this great matiere juridique du canard. There was no conflict of interest, at least without overall reappraisal of what kinds of actions by justices are exemplary, borderline or unacceptable (in the words of the Times). But who wants to spoil the fun at the Times?

But where a memorandum by a 9-11 Commission member becomes a central issue in the Commission's own investigation? Conflict? Conflict? That's a conflict? No, no - that's just "baggage." Don't bother the Times with such trivia. They're busy making more Duck Soup! In fact, the Times editorial policy on "conflicts of interest" looks more and more like that sceenplay.

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Friday, April 23, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXX: Larry Sabato Is Off His Rocker

The refusal of Teresa Heinz Kerry to release her tax returns has already been condemned by a New York Times editorial and similar editorials in several other liberal media. The Times editorial correctly points out that The Mondale-Ferraro ticket was bogged down for a month of controversy before Ms. Ferraro finally prodded her husband, John Zaccaro, to release his tax records. If it continues, this obtuse refusal of this wife worth over $500 Million who has played a key role in the financial support of her husband and his political ambitions will create a disaster for Senator Kerry that will dwarf the Zaccaro mess.

In a word, the refusal is STUPID. Moreover, it cannot be maintained. Eventually, Teresa Heinz Kerry will have to release her returns because if she does not there will come a time when absolutely everything else in the campaign will be overshadowed by one big question: WHAT IS SHE HIDING? While that is going on, John Kerry will be able to communicate exactly nothing. So she will cave. The only question is how much damage she will have done to John Kerry before she caves (the damage has already been substantial - but it will grow exponentially). Her decision to delay filing her 2003 returns until August will ensure further damage - since whatever can be criticized in the returns will be less "old news" on election day than would otherwise have been the case.

Yet, despite the already loud and growing harping on the left for the release of those tax returns, and despite the obvious disaster Teresa Heinz Kerry is crafting for her husband if she does not relent, the Boston Globe reports:

One political analyst, Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia, dismissed the matter as a silly distraction from key issues like national and economic security. "Her tax returns are of interest to a very limited group of people -- almost entirely people backing Bush already," Sabato said. "Whether Teresa Heinz Kerry owns three-quarters of Japan, it just doesn't matter in this election."

At one time Larry Sabato may have been a first-rate political analyst. But not now. The Man Without Qualities has already pointed out other signs that Larry Sabato has gone seriously off course.

His comments on Teresa Heinz Kerry demonstrate his disintegration beyond all reasonable doubt. For example, suppose Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns report that she has gifted money to her husband that he has used to support his political campaigns? What if he has claimed those gifts were loans? Suppose she (or trusts or foundations under her control) have supported, say, some nasty religious cult, PETA or some organization linked directly or indirectly to ELF? What if Teresa Heinz Kerry reports income from a company that has been documented to abuse its workers in, say, Costa Rica or Vietnam? Is Senator Kerry going to "explain" that he doesn't own any companies that abuse workers, only his family owns such companies? I do not mean to suggest that I think that Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns will show any of the foregoing. How could I? - Teresa Heinz Kerry insists on her "zone of privacy" and won't supply the information.

For the exact same reason I can't say that Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns will contain information damaging to her husband, Larry Sabato is completely off his rocker to suggest without any information whatsoever that nothing in the Teresa Heinz Kerry tax returns could be material in - even dispositive of - this presidential campaign.

POSTSCRIPT: I notice that more people are reaching for the word "pathetic" to describe John Kerry. It's the natural, almost unavoidable, adjective for the man. More people in the media should relax, recognize the word's applicability and appropriateness, and just use it. The alternative is looking like an apologist for someone who is, well, pathetic.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXIX: A Day At The Races

Several of George Bush's closest advisors are from racial minorities. But not so for John Kerry, where CNN reports:

Unlike Al Gore whose campaign manager, political director and finance director were African-American, the Kerry campaign, as of yet, has no one of color in the innermost circle, including Kerry campaign manager, campaign chairperson, media adviser, policy director, foreign policy adviser, general election manager, convention planner, national finance chairman, and head of VP search team. That's an odd position for a campaign that will probably rely on African-Americans and Hispanics for one in four of their general election votes and the crucial margin of difference in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. [Link from Henry Hanks]

Perhaps that lack of outreach helps explain why John Kerry and George Bush are tied among Hispanic voters in a recent Battlefield Poll as reported in La Opinion:

Una nueva encuesta dada a conocer ayer señala un empate en el apoyo de los votantes hispanos al presidente republicano George W. Bush y el retador demócrata John Kerry, en 46% para cada uno. Entre el total de votantes, Kerry llevaba una ventaja de 49% contra 48%.

[A new survey indicates a tie in the support of Hispanic voters between republican president George W. Bush and the democratic challenger John Kerry, with 46% for each one. Between all voters, Kerry took an advantage of 49% against 48%.]

This is not a fluke. A recent but slightly older Pew Hispanic Center study concluded:

Foreign-born Latinos give President Bush higher approval ratings (59%) than the native born (42%). Views are less polarized within the Latino population when it comes to the upcoming election as all segments say they would favor Senator John Kerry over the incumbent. However, preferences on the race among likely Latino voters (Bush 39% vs. Kerry 52%) show that Kerry is running weaker than Democratic candidates in several recent presidential elections who have captured about two-thirds of the Latino vote. [Nationally representative sample of 1,316 Latinos from February 11 to March 11, 2004. Margin of error of +/- 3.42 percent nationwide.]

Can a Democrat be elected to the presidency in 2004 with only 52% of Hispanic voters in his corner? It appears that Senator Kerry hasn't even bothered to include any latinos in his higher campaign staff who might be able to answer the question for him.

MORE: Cautionary notes from Latino Pundit.
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The Fall Of The House Of Eisner XIX: Such Decisions, Such Experience, Such Judgment

From the Washington Post:

This shuffling of the deck chairs will no doubt be well received by the many people who felt that ABC's corporate structure was too simple and that decisions had been made in too efficient a manner.

Yep, that Eisner-Iger team really knows how to wow the peasants.
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Drafty Talk

The health club of the Man Without Qualities cruelly imposes CNN programming on its members while they are vulnerable and exposed in the locker room. Today, the earnest visage of Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel loomed above the assembled hirsute derrières, advocating a return of the military draft. Indeed, the visage seemed to be insisting that we all had to "talk about it," although the Senator admitted that there is no substantial support for a draft and no chance that Congress will pass a bill restoring the draft. He said that he is not even going to present such a bill to the Senate. But we all have to talk about it.

Senator Hagel - like many who share his views usually do - spent very little time in his interview on a very basic problem with a draft: it would force a lot of people who don't want to fight or serve in the military (or alternative service) do just that. In fact, a draft criminalizes all alternative activites in which a draftee might otherwise engage. Somehow, in the hands of people such as Senator Hagel, the coercive aspect of a draft gets lost in fusing about things such as "national needs," "personal obligations" and rather hazy egalitarian considerations. But why isn't it better to raise military pay until enough recruits agree to join. If that becomes very expensive - why is it not better that the nation as a whole bear that cost, rather than exporting and concentrating it on a few people who would have to do a lot of things things they don't like at all.

But Chuck Hagel seems not to be one of those people. Senator Hagel served in Vietnam with his brother Tom in 1968. They served side by side as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Division. Senator Hagel earned many military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts.

All of which makes me wonder strongly whether Senator Hagel really understands the personal costs that he is proposing be imposed on draftees who do not share the attraction (or tolerance) he and his brother have had for military service. A lot of people find it repulsive to be ordered around - especially if the end result is likely to be killing other people. And alternative service doesn't solve that problem.

Indeed, an argument that a draft is a national necessity would be rather more convincing if it came from someone who had not enlisted - or not served in the military at all. Imposing a draft should include evaluation of its many substantial costs, but the intensity of personal abhorrence to loss of freedom and personal choice in some people reflects a cost that those who find military service appealling or at least pretty tolerable may not be in a good position to evaluate even though service in the military may give them a leg up on determining what personal facts military service actually involved for them. One might think of the mirror image of one's concern that a person who has not served in the military (or combat) understands the costs imposed on soldiers sent into battle.

Yes, it can happen. Such an understanding can be obtained by such people. But it takes an act of will and a self-awareness. I don't see it in Senator Hagel. Or - for very different reasons - in Congressman Charles Rangel, who served in the U.S. Army from 1948-52. Of course, most people who did serve in the military also seem to oppose the draft.

Just a thought.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Security Forces Kerfuffle

The Man Without Qualities lives in Los Angeles, a city that eleven years ago was all but allowed by its municipal security (police) forces to be burned down by civil insurgents because the security forces were annoyed at various outcomes of the Rodney King fiasco. I lived in Los Angeles during those riots. For days the air was thick with smoke that left a thick deposit of an ash that had only hours before been incorporated into the structure of my city. I listened to the mayor of my city state on the radio that the insurgents really had a point, and the president of Occidental College - an institution located just a few minutes away from my home, virtually around the corner from the then-burning Circuit City on Sunset Boulevard - chime in that he more than agreed with hizonner.

So it's more than a little difficult for me to take seriously the Chicken-Little tone of this story:

About one in every 10 members of Iraq's security forces "actually worked against" U.S. troops during the recent militia violence in Iraq, and an additional 40 percent walked off the job because of intimidation, the commander of the 1st Armored Division said Wednesday.

"Walked off the job because of intimidation" was it? The Los Angeles police department essentially walked off the job without intimidation - just because they were ticked off. Besides, just about 100% of the Iraq security forces under Saddam Hussein walked off the job because of intimidation from the incoming US military. Fifty or sixty percent of current forces standing up for a government imposed by an invader seems like a very good showing to me. After all, Iraq is a country that has never been able to chose its own government and has never had a government that cared about or was responsible to ordinary Iraqis - and after several months of American occupation the spirit of the Iraqi armed forces and security forces still shows some of the lingering effect of the previous 5,000 years of official oppression, merciless exploitation of the people and government illegitimacy. So what? The Los Angeles police department had a lot less to gripe about. Anyone who thinks Baghdad in 2003 has nothing to learn from Los Angeles in 1992 just wasn't spending enough time looking at what happened at Florence and Normandie and wasn't paying enough attention to the claptrap that emanated from the liberal media at the time.

I didn't even move out of Los Angeles. I stayed and bought another, bigger house because I knew that the incompetents and whackos like Mayor Bradley and professor what's-his-name would not prevail in the long run. And I was right. The home I bought in 1993 for $150 a square foot, located just a mile or so from that burning Circuit City, is now supposedly worth well over $700 a square foot.

Maybe I'll look into buying some Baghdad real estate now.

UPDATE: Somebody buy Megan a spinal brace. Geopolitical scoliosis ahoy!
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The UN Iraq Oil-For-Fix Program

Paul Volker has reportedly received a Security Council resolution he desired authorizing him to probe the UN's scandal plagued Iraq Oil-For-Food program. Russia had been resisting.

There will be two other members of the investigating panel in addition to Mr. Volker: former Yugoslav war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone of South Africa, and Swiss criminal law professor Mark Pieth. There is no word yet as to whether those other two members are interested in investigating aggressively - or just interested in aborting the investigation. Time may tell. The Yugoslav war crimes prosecutions have not gone well and have taken a very long time. And there is no word yet as to the extent of the panel's subpoena and other investigatory authority. Nor is there any word on whether any private "deal" or "understanding" was reached to obtain - or limit - the scope of the resolution or the panel's powers. In UN matters - almost above all others - the devil is surely in such details.
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Daschle Descending VIII: Giago Out

He may not represent South Dakota's agenda very well, but one must give Senator Tom Daschle credit for honing his personal manipulation skills to a fine edge in many a cloakroom deal session. As the Washington Post reports:

When Tim Giago, a native of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, decided to run for the Senate as an independent, he did more than shake up the state's tight, closely watched race between Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle and John Thune, a former Republican representative. ... After a meeting with Daschle on Saturday, Giago, a nationally syndicated columnist and advocate for Indian causes, said he is withdrawing and throwing his weight behind the Democrat. Giago [is] founder of the Lakota Journal and Pueblo Journal. .... While Giago would not go into detail about the issues he and Daschle discussed, he has said that he wanted Daschle to open dialogue on returning the sacred Black Hills to the tribes of the Sioux Nation, and to help remedy the lack of economic opportunities on the state's reservations, the poorest in the country. Giago had expressed distress that Daschle did not seem open to discussing the Black Hills.

What's particularly curious here is that Tom Daschle has little clout to deliver whatever it is that Mr. Giago thinks he's been promised, even if Senator Daschle retains his Senate minority leader role after the election - which itself is by no means a certainty.
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Some Basic Perspectives Lost On The Mainstream Media

E-mail from a friend:

In the two years President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, put nuclear inspectors in Lybia, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people. We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year. Bush did all this abroad while not allowing another terrorist attack at home.

We've been looking for evidence of chemical weapons in Iraq for less time than it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose Law Firm billing records.

There were 39 combat related killings in Iraq during the month of January..... in the fair city of Detroit (Michigan) there were 35 murders in the month of January.

It took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno to take the Branch Davidian compound. That was a 51 day operation.

It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines to destroy the Medina Republican Guard than it took Teddy Kennedy to call the police after his Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick.

FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us*: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.

Truman finished that war and started one in Korea, North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost, an average of 18,333 per year.

John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us. I think history might show Eisenhower committed the troops and Kennedy was honoring that commitment.

Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent, Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

UPDATE: *Astute reader JA e-mails with a refinement to the Japan/Germany observation:

As soon as he heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler ordered the German navy to begin sinking US ships, and a formal declaration of war -- issued by Germany, not the US -- followed on December 11. There's a lot of debate about why Hitler made such a colossal blunder, there it is: He was eager to get into a war with the US, and leapt into it as soon as Japan gave him what looked like a convenient opening.
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Maybe There Are Really Two Books?

A marketing ploy occassionally employed by book publishers is to release a book with several different distinctive covers - the World According to Garp was one such example, if memory serves. From the book reviews, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Plan of Attack, seems to have gone one step further and brought out two entirely different books with the same author, the same title and treating the same topic - but with distinctively different writing styles, contents, conclusions and analyses:

John Podhoretz, New York Post:

"Plan of Attack" is indeed a startling book - startling because it offers a persuasive portrait of an extraordinarily serious Bush administration and the 17-month process that led to the war. .... If the Air America talk-show hosts and their ilk actually do plow through the 465 pages of "Plan of Attack" (which is a fate I would actually wish on them, because reading Woodward's sludge-like prose is an agonizing experience on a par with being forced to read a 465-page stereo-assembly manual), they are bound not only to be disappointed, but enraged at the way it explodes the myths and reveals the distortions they have been trying to foist on the American people. .... The conviction that Saddam possessed stockpiles of those weapons and was prepared to use them pervades and permeates the book. No honest person could come away from "Plan of Attack" thinking that George W. Bush didn't believe the weapons existed. [Link thanks to Henry Hanks]

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times:

"Plan of Attack" ratifies assertions made ... by the former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (in Ron Suskind's book "The Price of Loyalty") ... [and] Richard A. Clarke (in his book "Against All Enemies"). .... Mr. Woodward - who has long specialized in forward-leaning narratives that are long on details and scoops, and short on analysis - does not delve into the intellectual and political roots of the war cabinet, he does pause every now and then to put his subjects' actions and statements into perspective. The resulting volume is his most powerful and persuasive book in years. .... "[Reports by General Franks] ... could, and should, have been a warning that ... the intelligence ... probably was not good enough to make the broad assertion, in public or in formal intelligence documents, that there was `no doubt' Saddam had WMD." Vice President Dick Cheney had done exactly that just days before.

Mr. Bush and the people around him - most notably Mr. Rove, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - are constantly talking about the importance of showing resolve, of standing firm, of talking the talk and walking the walk. And as plans for war advance, this posture becomes part of the momentum toward war. .... Adding to the war momentum was the growing buildup of troops in the Iraq theater, the approach of hot weather in the gulf..., promises made to allies like Saudi Arabia (Prince Bandar, Mr. Woodward reveals, was told of the president's decision to go to war before Colin Powell was) and risky C.I.A. operations in the region. In the final walkup to war, Mr. Bush repeatedly asks associates: "What's my last decision point?" ... Mr. Rumsfeld eventually tells the president, "The penalty for our country and for our relationships and potentially the lives of some people are at risk if you have to make a decision not to go forward."

Remarkably, these two reviews were both written by people who claim to have read the same book.

AN ASIDE: Michiko Kakutani happens to be the daughter of Kay and Shizuo Kakutani. Shizuo Kakutani is, to my mind, unquestionably the most underappreciated great mathemetician of the 20th Century - and he should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. He is, among many, many other amazing things, the author of the Kakutani Fixed Point Theorem on which all of modern rigorous mathematical economics depends - including the work of John Nash and the putatively-respectable academic work of Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman. Unlike the nasty, loony Nash and the paranoid, shallow Krugman, Shizuo Kakutani is a supremely charming, sensible and good-natured human being - terms which also apply to his wife, Kay:

Professor Kakutani is a gentleman and a scholar of the old school. His mild manner, gentle graciousness, and total dedication to mathematics leave an indelible impression on all who have gotten to know him.

Never a truer word was written.

UPDATE: Slate has it's own take on Woodward. Sample:

Page 250: Karl Rove, a Norwegian-American, is obsessed with the "historical duplicity" of the Swedes, who seized Norway back in 1814. This nationalism manifests itself as hatred for Swedish weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Eric Lindholm! Uppmärksamhet! Kännedom! Call your office!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Fall Of The House Of Eisner XVIII: ABC - OUT

ABC has long been understood to be the biggest immediate problem at the Walt Disney Company, as noted some time ago in this passage that appeared in 2002:

But Disney's biggest problem - and the division all eyes will be watching this fall - is the ABC television network. Operating income for the media networks division was down 40 percent, because of lower advertising revenues, to $288 million. At the television critics conference in Pasadena last month, Disney did its best to generate excitement about its shows. But few people, including ABC executives, say they believe the lineup is strong enough to turn around the ailing network in one season. Mr. Eisner said he expected it would take longer, but that ABC was "making enormous strides" with shows like "8 Simple Rules."

Disney's president, Robert Iger, and Mr. Eisner have been closely involved in the fall lineup. Executives close to Disney say that Mr. Eisner and Mr. Iger were recently at Mr. Eisner's Aspen home for a two-day retreat and had budgets faxed to them for review.

The Man Without Qualities had thought that Mr. Iger was being set up to take the ABC hit - but he and Mr. Eisner have apparently decided that others will take that hit, despite the "close involvement" of Messrs. Iger and Eisner in the disastrous ABC programming decisions:

In a sign of continuing turmoil at Walt Disney, the US entertainment giant on Tuesday announced a sweeping management shake-up at ABC, its troubled television network. The changes include the departure of Susan Lyne, the network's top programmer, as well as Lloyd Braun, chairman of ABC. Two weeks ago, executives had said they expected Ms Lyne to remain in place, while Mr Braun was to take on a new role elsewhere in the company. Their departure underscores Disney's need to improve the performance of the network, which lacks a hit show and ranks fourth among viewers aged 18 to 49, those mostlhighlyly valued by advertisers. .... Under the new structure, Anne Sweeney and George Bodenheimer will be co-chairs of Disney's Media Networks unit. Ms Sweeney will take control of ABC television and retain her current role at Disney Channel. Mr Bodenheimer will remain head of ESPN, the cable sports network, and ABC Sports. Both will report to Robert Iger, Disney president. Ms Sweeney on Tuesday selected Paul Lee, chief executive of BBC America, to lead ABC Family, Disney's family-focused cable channel.

Is this how things would have gone if ABC had done well? Would Messrs. Eisner and Iger have argued that their reported "close involvement" in programming decisions really hadn't been that significant after all? Would they have gallantly and blushingly admitted that the success should all attributed to Susan Lyne and Lloyd Braun?

Ms. Sweeney is an attractive person who has done a capable job at the Disney Channel. But there is no evidence whatsoever that she has the capability to run ABC. Where, for example, is the evidence that Ms. Sweeney can deal with major disgruntled advertisers? Indeed, Ms. Sweeney's appointment brings to mind the disastrously short life cycle of another president of ABC Entertainment, who was also an attractive person who had done a capable (but much smaller and only marginally related) job, and who was also appointed by Messrs. Eisner and then-ABC president Iger: Jamie Tarses. In her new inflated role, Ms. Tarses soon crashed and burned, and it's hard to know who showed the poorer judgment: Ms. Tarses in accepting the appointment or Messrs. Eisner and Iger for offering it.

But only the two men are still working at Disney.
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Legends Of September 11

The September 11 Commission reportedly considers each of the following commonly believed "factoids" about the September 11 attacks to be false:

1. Intelligence intercepts foretold of the September 11 attacks with warnings such as "tomorrow is zero hour." U.S. intelligence intercepted communications on Sept. 10 in which suspected Al Qaeda operatives said "tomorrow is zero hour" and referred to the beginning of "the match," but these probably were not references to the September 11 attacks, but to a military offensive in Afghanistan.

2. Zacarias Moussaoui was detained a month before the attacks in Minnesota after he tried to enroll in an area flight school with the peculiar request to learn how to take off - but not land - a Boeing 747. Instead, Moussaoui stood out because, with little knowledge of flying, he wanted to learn how to take off and land a Boeing 747 - which is not an aircraft generally flown by a beginner.

3. The September 11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons. Instead, the Commission said it was more likely the hijackers used "Leatherman" utility knives that have several tools and a long, sharp blade that locks into position - which at least two of the hijackers probably purchased and FAA guidelines permitted on board. Box cutters were banned.

4. Saudi nationals including relatives of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were allowed to leave the country unchecked on chartered jets in the immediate aftermath of the attack, while all other flights were still grounded. In fact, six chartered flights carrying 142 Saudis did leave the country in the days after the attacks, the report said, and one plane had 26 passengers, "most of them relatives" of Bin Laden. The Commission cleared the government of any wrongdoing, saying that all of the passengers were screened by the FBI and other agencies, and that none of the planes left before commercial airspace was reopened.
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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXVIII: Justice Morris Dissents!

Dick Morris reads the same new poll results considered here in the post immediately below and deduces that the President is in deep, deep bandini (or, as John Kerry might say, "Brandini"):

BOTH of the polling organizations that track the presidential race in daily surveys have concluded that the contest has settled into a stalemate. ... This "tie" is terrible news for the Bush camp. One of the (very few) immutable laws of politics is that the undecided vote almost always goes against the incumbent. Consider the past seven presidential elections in which an incumbent ran ... [and] look at the final vote versus the last Gallup or Harris polls. ... So . . . when Bush and Kerry are tied, the challenger really has the upper hand.

More bad news for Bush: Democrats usually grow 2-3 points right before Election Day as downscale voters who have not paid much attention to the election, suddenly tune in and "come home" to their traditional Democratic Party moorings. ....

What happened? Iraq. The surprising casualties of this disastrous month let Kerry skate by the avalanche of attack ads relatively unscathed. And by now, Bush may have lost the ability to define Kerry. Lying behind the bad news for Bush is his inability to appeal to women in the campaign. ... Women disagree with the entire Bush strategy of fighting terrorism. ... To bounce back, Bush obviously has to staunch the bleeding in Iraq. But he also has to appeal to women voters as he did in 2000... If Bush permanently alienates women by his words and tone in the War on Terror, he'll throw away the issue that he needs to carry him into a second term.

Mr. Morris' column seems to float in some nearly contextless never-never land. He focuses on poll results from old elections and his favorite "undecideds go to the challenger" law, which he's applying way too early. Has he really reached the point where someone has to point out to him that the election is six months away - but his "immutable" law of politics that the undecided vote almost always goes against the incumbent holds only very close to the election - once the electorate has had a chance to study both candidates and all the information is in. Indeed, in presenting his own evidence, he notes: look at the final vote versus the last Gallup or Harris polls. And, slathering the lily of inconsistency, Mr. Morris just a few lines later cites another rule: Democrats usually grow 2-3 points right before Election Day as downscale voters who have not paid much attention to the election, suddenly tune in. So, which is it? Are people going to move or not? Are the large numbers of "upscale" voters who don't "know" John Kerry supposed to ignore what they learn in the next six months? Is everybody supposed to be numb to the warmth of an economy and job market that are still heating up? If so, why? If the whole country is so "50-50" then why the heck did over 60% of California voters voting in the recent recall election vote for a Republican? California is supposedly a fixed "Democratic state." Could we have a little explanation here?

There's nary a reference to the dynamics of what's happening today or been happening in the economy or the Commission or the liberal media - or really even Iraq, although the column purports to focus on Iraq. ("What happened? Iraq.") In fact, Mr. Morris addresses only the effect of recent developments in Iraq on women voters. That male voters - Mr. Bush's "base" - are more likely to be permanently lost if he took a softer line (indeed, many of them already view his approach as too soft), where the effect on women voters will probably mitigate as election day approaches, is ignored. Also ignored is the fact that women generally focus more than men on the domestic economy than on foreign developments in their voting. And the domestic economy is improving. Indeed, a real significance of the new poll numbers in Mr. Morris' terms is that the male/female balance has been struck with Mr. Bush in the lead, a fact Mr. Morris also ignores by depending too much on the nearly-discredited Zogby poll over other available polls. Mr. Morris' concluding line ("If Bush permanently alienates women by his words and tone in the War on Terror, he'll throw away the issue that he needs to carry him into a second term.") is an embarrassing tautology that mostly serves to indicate that Mr. Morris is actually aware of the male/female balance he has pointedly ignored. Of course any politician who "permanently alienates" too many women voters hasn't got a chance. For this we need Dick Morris? What about the rest of what's going on in the world - and will likely go on?

And why is Dick Morris deferring to "BOTH of the polling organizations that track the presidential race in daily surveys have concluded that the contest has settled into a stalemate." Isn't concluding whether that kind of thing has happened in this election exactly what Dick Morris is supposed to be doing for a living? What's his value-added? Maybe Alan Greespan will follow Dick Morris' lead and start deferring to some unsolicited financial newsletter to determine what Fed policy should be.

A few weeks ago Mr. Morris was predicting a big Bush win. Now he's all doomy-gloomy on the basis of a hilarious amateurish and incomplete analysis. For all that, Dick Morris is a very, very smart man and a very, very good political consultant. But these wildly swinging "predictions" are sure to gut his credibility if he keeps it up. In that sense, perhaps he really is deferring to John Zogby on a deep level - but one that will make reading Dick Morris irrelevant.

Gosh, it all makes one wonder what the girls put in the toe polish Mr. Morris has been sucking lately. Or maybe he's saving the good stuff for some candidate who's hired and paying him better than the Post? Are we witnessing the effects of ongoing Zogby-Morris merger negotiations? Yikes! Yuk!

At least Mr. Morris' analysis leads to one possible answer to a question pointedly raised by the Wall Street Journal today:

We'd hardly object if this new deference to the U.N. guaranteed more foreign troops. But last week Mr. Annan ruled out the return of a large U.N. presence until security improves. French President Jacques Chirac has already said that even an international force dedicated merely to protecting the U.N. itself is "totally out of the question." So in return for giving up authority, we get exactly what?

Mr. Morris says: Offered a choice between "letting terrorists know we will fight back aggressively" and "working with other nations," men opt for fighting aggressively by 53 to 41 percent while women want us to work with other nations instead by 54 to 36 percent - a gender gap of 30 points. If that's correct, perhaps "we" (that is, Mr. Bush in the election) hope to "get" more women. In my personal experience, that's generally a pretty good result if you can make it happen - even if the women one "gets" are of the multilateral persuasion.

AN ASIDE: Gee, when did it become more fun to whack Dick Morris than Paul Krugman? All that silly interest rate nonsense. Do we really need to read Herr Doktorprofessor telling us that he thinks interest rates will be what he thinks they mostly have been in the past - and citing authorities he's previously made clear he thinks are complete incompetents? Snooooooooooore. Where's the old libelous instinct, Herr Doktorprofessor? Mr. Okrent got your tongue? If one wants some reasonable interest rate predictions, I'd head to Grant's or Don's.

Why can't Herr Doktorprofessor at least tell us how he would apply some of his home-grown "home market effect" hooch to the outsourcing controversy - at least with respect to software. Software supposedly enjoys all the rich economies of scale goodness that makes a monopolist so happy (ask Microsoft!) but at least in some of Herr Doktorprofessor's papers is supposed to lead to big exports from the "home market" country.

Hey! Doesn't that mean that the US should be exporting a lot of software? Maybe too much? But, wait! Monopolists "underproduce" their products (that is, produce less than the efficient level). Does one "underproduce" by exporting to the whole world? How does all that fit with complaints about US companies importing software from, say, poor old India (the Democrats' favorite whipping boy these days on foreign trade, it seems)?

Why won't Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman come back from the international trade dead and tell us all, he will tell us all!

MORE: Good stuff. And, Tom, despite the obviously partisan tone here I'm being flintily objective here - not normative. Sheesh.

STILL MORE: Howard Kurtz puts in his two cents. But he and all the commenters he cites still miss what seem to me to be critical facts, including the fact that two huge factors are moving the campaign steadily towards the President: (1) the positive reaction of many people to the President from the ongoing warming of the economy is not yet fully reflected in the polls and (2) the negative reaction of the many people to Senator Kerry who don't "know" him once they do get to "know" him is not reflected in the polls. The economy may worsen unexpectedly or John Kerry may unexpectedly find some way to make himself likeable or broadly admirable - but the key word here is "unexpectedly."

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Monday, April 19, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXVII: With Friends Like These ...

The mainstream media has, of course, been in a feeding frenzy recently with tendentious reporting on the banal goings-on at the 9-11 Commission and various opportunistic books. Gary Trudeau is even planning to give the left leg of a main character from long-unfunny-but-this-is-ridiculous Doonesbury in the effort.

And Bush floats up.

And up.

And up.

John Zogby chimes in with some commentary apparently designed to cement his reputation as one of the nation's most unreliable major pollsters:

The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, showed Bush leading Kerry 51% to 46% among likely voters, slightly wider than the 3-point lead he held in early April. The shifts were within the margin of error of +/ 4 percentage points in the sample of likely voters. (Complete poll results) The president's job approval rating was steady at 52%. Analysts in both parties say the lack of movement underscores how polarized the electorate is. Seven months before Election Day, they say, most people's minds are made up. "I don't think anything barring a major calamity of some sort will have much of an impact between now and November," independent pollster John Zogby says. "The nation is split...down the middle." A new Zogby International Poll taken over the weekend showed Kerry ahead, 47% to 44%, virtually unchanged from early April.

This is flatly wrong. The main tides of this campaign are flowing dramatically in favor of Mr. Bush, and those tides have not fully risen at all - meaning that barring a major calamity of some sort a great many people will be changing their minds in favor of the President between now and election day. As reported by the Washington Post, just by way of example :

On the economy, Bush has erased a 12-point Kerry edge and is tied with the Massachusetts senator on who is best able to deal with the country's economic problems.

In all likelihood (but not with complete certainty, of course) the economy and the natiuon's jobs picture will continue to improve through election day - and that improvement is not yet reflected in the polls. Another few months of such economic reports and barring a major calamity of some sort Mr. Bush's poll ratings will soar. Another example: a lot of people still don't "know" Senator Kerry, but the more they get to "know" him the less they like him. That process is not yet complete - which means that barring a major calamity of some sort the Senator's personal standing with the electorate will sink.

Barring a major calamity of some sort this is not looking one bit like a close election.

Not one bit.

MORE: Desperation.
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Daschle Descending VII: Speak No Evil

South Dakota Politics blog finds evidence that the principal media in that state have previously undisclosed, cozy - one might say, incestuous - connections to Tom Daschle.

But times and information source alternatives have changed since Senator Daschle last went before the voters six years ago. In particular, the internet - and blogs - now provide significant means around a captive media of the sort suggested by South Dakota Politics. It will be interesting to see if bloggers and other modern information alternatives can direct some clear sunlight on South Dakota's senior senator this time, notwithstanding any foggy-cozy relationship he may enjoy with the old media in the Sunshine State.

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Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXVI: The Near-Apology

In a prior post, the Man Without Qualities noted:

At some point Senator Kerry is going to have to stop misrepresenting his antiwar statements and outright apologize for some of them - especially his assertions to Congress that American soldiers were routinely war criminals.

Senator Kerry isn't quite there, yet. But he orbited a bit closer to earth yesterday, as the New York Times reports:

Senator John Kerry on Sunday distanced himself from contentious statements he made three decades ago after returning from the Vietnam War, saying his long-ago use of the word "atrocities" to describe his and others' actions was inappropriate and "a little bit excessive."

"If you wanted to ask me, `Have you ever made mistakes in your life?' sure," Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an hourlong interview on the NBC program "Meet the Press." "I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger."

The near-apology came after the host, Tim Russert, played videotape of Mr. Kerry, in 1971, acknowledging that he had participated in shooting in free-fire zones, burning villages and search-and-destroy missions. All those actions were "contrary to the laws of warfare" and the Geneva Conventions, he said then. Republicans have seized on those comments, and accusations about war crimes the young Mr. Kerry made in testimony before a Senate committee, to try to undercut his war credentials. "The words were honest," Mr. Kerry said Sunday, "but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top."

Obviously, his accusations (personal admissions?) of "war crimes" and "atrocities" in this context are a good deal more than "inappropriate" and "a little bit excessive" - and, contrary to the Times' spin, they are not just "old." Over the years the Senator has repeatedly refreshed his accusations by refusing to disavow them. But the forces that have already moved him to what the Times calls this "near-apology" will eventually impose huge costs on him unless he clearly and actually apologizes for his hideous, opportunistic accusations against other Americans serving in Vietnam. Unless that apology is delivered well before the first candidate debate of the campaign Senator Kerry should expect this issue to pin him down for many awkward minutes in front of tens of millions of voters. Of course, an apology for baloney Senator Kerry has been reaffirming for thirty years has its own electoral consequences.

Senator Kerry sails onwards towards a Sylla and Charybdis of his own creation - and he is no Odysseus.

But the Senator has bigger problems. Can there be any doubt that if a Republican had characterized Senator Kerry's contentous comments in even the near-apologetic terms he employed, his rapid-response team would have sprung into action and complained that the Republicans were again "questioning his patriotism" and that he is getting darn sick of it and isn't going to take it anymore!

How dare Senator Kerry impugn his own patriotism and challenge his own military record this way! Yes, yes - Senator Kerry's comments yesterday are yet more evidence that the Republicans have planted a mole - indeed, a "Bush henchman" - at the very top of the Kerry campaign organization.

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