|Man Without Qualities|
Friday, January 10, 2003
President Bush has renominated Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This action reminds us that the day of any putative Man from Hope is over - it's remains even now being decanted in anonymous glass and steel over a sluggish Arkansas river. Now the country must instead endure days of the Man from Hate.
The Man from Hate is, of course not Charles Pickering or President Bush - but Senator "Chuck" Schumer of New York, who is sliming Mr. Pickering in grand style. Charges of "racism" and threats to filibuster drop trippingly from the Senator's toungue. Yes, Senator Schumer is a true believer in the strategy of telling the big lie.
The relevant facts about Mr. Pickering are:
In the 1960s, [Charles Pickering] sent his children to the newly integrated Mississippi public schools even though there was an all-white private school nearby. As county attorney from 1964-68 he helped the FBI prosecute Ku Klux Klansmen, including testifying against the Imperial Wizard, and was defeated for re-election because of it. In 1971, he ran for the state Senate and won with the support of two-thirds of the black voters in his district.
He also has a long record of helping advance civil rights causes in Mississippi, getting white banks to lend money to black businesses and helping get federal funds directed to programs that helped African-Americans. Former Democratic Governor William Winter says Judge Pickering has been "one of this state's most dedicated and effective voices for breaking down racial barriers." African-American leaders in his hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, overwhelmingly support him.
From these facts one can pretty well deduce the dimensions of Senator Schumer's prevarications.
Senator Schumer's filibuster threat is particularly revealing. At one time it was Southern racists who abused the filibuster tradition of the Senate to block racially progressive actions, but now it is Democratic race manipulators such as Senator Schumer.
It seems likely that Senator Schumer's attempt will fail on multiple fronts. Because his cause is false, the more exposure it receives the more his support in the Senate is likely to fade. A filibuster ties up the Senate - and it is unlikely that enough Democrats will want to do that indefinitely to uphold such an outrageous position.
But, more importantly, if Senator Schumer follows through on his threat and receives enough Democratic support to make it stick, he and they will provide African Americans with a clear, ongoing example of how Democratic "leaders" increasingly manipulate this central constituency with false charges of racism. The more such ersatz leaders do to expose that manipulation, the more they will lose the trust of the African-American community. That would be a good thing, since no such trust has been warranted for a very long time.
Senator Schumer, go ahead. Make yourself the Man from Hate.
It's often said that the best antiseptic is sunshine. Senator Schumer should prepare himself and his party to be well fumigated.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Unintended Consequences(0) comments
While the Bush tax proposal eliminating federal income taxes on dividends may reduce the tax advantages of municipal bonds, the proposal will clearly not eliminate those tax advantages.
This is because under current law the corporate income stream that ultimately becomes a corporate dividend is subject to double taxation (at the corporate level and at the shareholder level). But the corporate income stream that ultimately becomes an interest payment on a municipal bond is subject to no taxation (not at the corporate level and not at the bondholder level).
The Bush proposal would eliminate double taxation of the income stream that becomes dividends. But the corporation will still pay corporate income tax on that income stream - the "double taxation" will become "single taxation." The tax disadvantage of dividends will be reduced - and municipal bonds will have to compete more fiercely with private corporate stock. That may mean that municipal bond yields will have to go up to attract investors who otherwise might go to the stock market.
But non-municipal corporate bonds are already subject only to "single taxation" - since interest is deductable from income on which the corporate income tax is assessed (ignoring the demonic "Alternative Minimum Tax" for the moment). It's not at all clear how much additional competition single-taxed dividends will create for municipal bonds over the already existing competition from single-taxed corporate bonds. Corporate bonds resemble - and therefore compete with - municipal bonds more easily than corporate stock does. Exactly how much more is another question. [Gabriel Torres has some thoughts on this.] Preferred stock paying a fixed, periodic coupon (dividend) looks an awful lot like a bond to an investor if the corporation is nowhere near insolvency.
Another level of complexity arises from the fact that while under the Bush proposal the corporate income that becomes both dividends and interest payment will be subject to "single taxation" - the taxpayer will be different for debt and equity. The tax needs and brackets of investors and the corporation in which they invest are quite different - and the terms of the corporate income tax code are different in many key places from those of the individual income tax code.
Put another way: it is not at all clear how much municipal bond yields will have to go up if the Bush proposal goes through. Answering that kind of question is why some of the rocket scientists on Wall Street get paid the big bucks and use so many computers these days.
Democrats, especially, have been looking for ways to reduce what they term the "costs" of the Bush tax proposal. One way to do that would be to subject all municipal corporations that engage in commercial projects (such as sports arenas) to ordinary federal corporate income taxes.
Since her absurd comments praising Osama bin Laden, Senator Patty Murray has stonewalled her critics even as her defenders justified her comments as opening up debate - apparently a debate in which she planned not to participate.
Well, Senator Murray has now offered a kind of defense:
"I have to tell you that it's really important that people don't twist or construe remarks that were made to an AP student group in a Vancouver high school. ... We all know -- everyone in this country knows -- that Usama bin Laden is an evil terrorist and in my remarks I told the students we're taking the right steps now. The question is what do we do next ... and it's an important question,"
It would be interesting to know why the Senator has emerged from behind her stone wall even this much. Are her private Washington State polls and focus groups showing that - outside of Seattle - she has done herself enduring harm by her grotesque statements and stonewalling? Whatever the cause, the Senator's sudden willingness to at least discuss the matter strongly suggests that she knows that she simply cannot continue to stonewall and still be re-elected in 2004.
The mainstream liberal media continues to whitewash and underplay the Senator's prior comments. But information like this has a way of getting into the hands and minds of the people who care about it. That's one reason why that part of the media overestimate their significance in modern America.
It is not exactly clear to the Man Without Qualities how the Senator thinks her comments have been "twisted." It's not as if influential people have been arguing that she is a closet al Qaeda supporter. Most of the criticism is that her comments show she is thoughtless (even stupid), ignorant, should have known better and is out of touch - and therefore that a different Senator should be chosen by the citizens of Washington in 2004. None of that is addressed by her new "defense."
For the record, Senator Murray had said:
"[Bin Laden]'s been out in these countries for decades building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities and people are extremely grateful .... He's made their lives better. We have not done that."
The facts are that bin Laden has spent some money in the Sudan and Afghanistan on infrastructure projects (hospitals, schools and roads - but, of course, not day care facilities), but those roads were built to take soldiers to and from training camps, the schools built were madrasas, which often indoctrinate students to the bin Laden brand of Islam, and the hospitals were not intended for average Muslims but for injured Mujahadeen fighters battling the Soviets.
Nor does bin Laden’s popularity arise from such projects, but from his message of hate towards Israel and the United States.
And Fox News points out what many others have noted: The United States is the largest international donor of aid to several countries where bin Laden is popular, and was so even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Recently, the United States gave $320 million in aid to Afghanistan, mostly in the form of food and refugee assistance, thus providing 80 percent of the international relief given to that country.
So how does Senator Murray think her comments have been "twisted?" Even the mainstream liberal media should want to know that - if only to join her in her defense.
And if she's going to make these little defensive comments to the media on the fly, why won't she submit herself to a formal debate - or at least a full interview with an informed, competent investigative reporter - where she can fully explain her thoughts and concerns about this "important question" she says she is trying to raise?
Happy Returns(0) comments (0) comments
But then there's this - which paints a very gloomy picture of retail.
But retail stocks were up, anyway.
One report says: Retailers ... got a boost from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which said holiday sales landed in line with lowered expectations.
So that seems to say that WalMart's performance is a positive.
But Kevin Tawes, retail analyst with Independence Investments, an affiliate of John Hancock Financial Services, said:
"It's hard to remember the last time when stalwarts like Wal-Mart, Kohl's and Target all slumped together."
So that seems to say thay WalMart's performance is a negative.
But Mark Foster, chief investment officer at Kirr, Marbach & Co. said:
"The retail names are doing better. ... Everyone had predicted a pretty horrible Christmas (spending period), but relative to expectations, it wasn't that bad."
Aren't you glad that all got cleared up?
Unintended Consequences - The Sequel(0) comments
Best of the Web reports: The Ontario Daily Bulletin reports Davis is criticizing President Bush's economic-stimulus plan on the following grounds:
"Bush should invest money in public projects like roads and Amtrak instead of relying on the private sector for job growth...."
Does Beetlejuice director Tim Burton know that his sequel is just waiting to be made in Sacramento with Gray Davis in the title role?
Croooow Blog harvests a nice little crop of strained poll analyses.
He's been morel hunting.
All This Speculation ,,,(0) comments
,,, I think the Adminstration will file a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the Michigan "affirmative action" plan.
The Washington Times reports:
Before what one lawyer called "the Lott mess," affirmative-action opponents had expected the Bush administration to go on record against plans such as those challenged in Michigan.
The President will make this call. He has shown the guts and clarity of vision to re-propose Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Pickering is a good friend of Trent Lott and an excellent and non-racist nominee who is supported by many African-Americans in Mississippi but was seriously slimed by Democrats in the Senate and the liberal media when his nomination was rejected last time.
The Pickering re-nomination certainly doesn't suggest that the President is afraid of "the Lott mess" when it comes to judicial nominations - and there is no reason to believe the President's fear will be triggered by a Supreme Court brief, either.
Failing to read Ben Shapiro's blog is pointlessly turning down a treasure.
Among other things, he has what seems to be the entire left half of the blogosphere foaming and drooling at the mouth. Sample drool from Rittenhouse: TO HELL WITH ALL OF THEM The Virgin Ben Goes All Judeo-Fascist and Shit
Ben should give lessons on how to do this.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Run through this sequence on those especially hard days. Close the door for a few minutes.
Just you and Vermeer. Ravish your senses.
Champagne for the eye and mind.
Poor and Stupid has more debunking the widespread media gloopla (i.e., hoopla about gloom - or should it be "gloomla"?) on retail sales, adding to points made here and here and here - and by other writers.
MORE: Costco Wholesale Corp. says its December sales at stores open at least a year rose three percent.
... and now: Chancellor of Oxford University!
Be afraid, Oxford co-eds, be very afraid.
Any proposal as dramatic as the elimination of federal taxes on dividends is bound to have some unintended consequences. The New York Times reports on an interesting one: the cost to state tax receipts.
The states fear they will lose in two ways. Because state income tax laws are tied to the federal law, the states will also stop taxing dividends. In addition, the removal of taxes on dividends makes stocks a more attractive investment vehicle than the traditionally tax-free municipal bonds.
The Times presents these "unintended consequences" (surely no serious person thinks these consequences are "unintended" - or at least "unanticipated") as a disaster, but on closer inspection the consequences all seem rather positive.
The first concern is just silly - if a state wants to tax dividends received by its people, it can do that. It might take a revision of a state's tax code, but that's something for the state legislature to take care of. States tax all kinds of things that the federal government doesn't tax - real estate, retail sales and lots more. One nice side effect of this particular "unintended consequence" is that state legislatures will have to take affirmative action to maintain their tax on dividends and explain why they are taxing dividends while the federal government doesn't - which should be painful for the legislators. That's good - although the Times thinks it's bad.
The effect on municipal bonds is more interesting. The President's plan provides for additional federal aid to the states. Many people are taking that as intended to shore up state finances in the wake of the stock market decline - and the consequent decline in state income tax revenue. To the extent the new aid is intended to compensate the states for that shortfall, it is very bad policy - as others have pointed out. Many states, especially California, have run their spending up wildly "assuming" that capital gains tax revenue from securities sales would continue indefinitely. There is no good economic reason to help the states out of that absurd problem.
But to the extent the new state aid can be considered to replace the implied subsidy the states have received for decades from the tax-free status of municipal bonds, it is justifiable at least as much as the original subsidy was justifiable. To that extent the new state aid would not represent a deterioration of federal tax policy.
There may be another component to these unintended consequences which is not discussed by the Times article: If the state concerns are right, then the value of already-outstanding municipal bonds will decline - and the current holders of those bonds will take a loss. Municipal bonds are traditional "widows and orphans" investments - so those losses might be concentrated in a particularly sensitive portion of the electorate.
The municipal bond tax exclusion itself is highly questionable. There is no good reason why the kinds of projects favored by municipalities should be subsidized in the capital markets. The subsidy encourages inefficient, excessive investment in certain kinds of capital-intensive projects. Further, the exclusion is a disguised obstacle to privatization of many public services because a municipality can more easily fund certain facilities than can private (taxable) enterprise. For example, many municipal sports stadiums are owned by municipalities and financed by tax-free municipal bonds - all to the service of privately owned sports leagues. There is no good reason for this.
But why should investors pay taxes on interest payments received on private bonds but not on interest payments of municipal bonds or dividend payments by private companies? Does the Bush plan move us from a system which irrationally favors corporate debt over equity to one that irrationally favors equity over corporate debt? That effect may be small, since interest payments are already deductable by the companies from the corporate income tax.
But that's not a proof.
MORE: An interesting e-mail exchange with Jane Galt turned up the following interesting nugget from Constitutional history:
A far-reaching extension of private immunity was granted in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429 (1895), where interest received by a private investor on state or municipal bonds was held to be exempt from federal taxation. (Though relegated to virtual desuetude, Pollock was not expressly overruled until South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505 (1988)).
For almost 100 years the Court held that the federal government could not tax municipal bond income - and then reversed itself in 1988.
STILL MORE from Fritz Shranck. He says the law of unintended consequences will likely kick in when the states move to compensate for the changes in the federal tax code.
My use of the term "unintended consequences" above to describe the effect on municipal finances is, of course, ironic.
Fritz is surely correct that strange things - and true "unintended consequences" - can be expected once the state legislative logrolling begins in earnest.
God, the scene under the dome in Sacramento will resemble some outtake from Beetlejuice with Gray Davis in the title role.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Paul Krugman's silly excursion into game theory speak has been subjected to a good deal of good criticism.
Mindles states in one sentence what Professor Krugman attempts to say about North Korea: Krugman's point appears to be that the Bush administration is all empty threats and no reward. Or, in Professor Krugman's game-theory-speak: Deterrence requires a credible commitment to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior.
It is not my point here to address the substance of Professor Krugman's argument.
However, it is surprising that he says he is so concerned about credible threats and rewards. If North Korea were to lob a single bomb into the United States or, say, Japan, how credible is an American commitment to retaliate by slaughtering, say, 10 million non-voting North Koreans? North Korea is highly unlikely to be capable of creating a nuclear force that can actually threaten the existence of the United States. Further, the government of North Korea does not represent or govern with the will or the meaningful consent of the Korean people. So what's the credible justification for killing millions of North Koreans?
And what if the country involved were China instead of North Korea? Is there a "credible threat" that the United States would vaporize, say, 100 million non-voting Chinese who were entirely uninvolved in the decision to attack the United States or its ally?
That doesn't seem likely. At least with a modern conventional war an invader can try – or claim to try – to avoid civilian casualties. The United States was very careful in that regard during the recent Afghanistan war. But most of the point of a nuclear attack is destruction of civilians and civilian facilities. Is that credible or moral or even sane where the existence of the United States - or much of it - is not at stake?
But will such considerations loom large for Professor Krugman when the question is whether the United States needs a missile shield - or can continue to rely on "Mutually Assured Destruction" principles?
Or by that time will Professor Krugman's game theory already be back in the box?
Who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the next advances of our science and at the secrets of its development during future centuries?
It's so very true. And it's also so very useful to begin one's arguments with an irrelevant cite to some heavy, hi-falutin mathematical allusion - a trick I learned, and we should all learn, from Paul Krugman. Just the soupçon of math makes a pundit look so credible - too much is just boring! But I digress.
Now that dazzling freshman senator John Edwards has told us that he will run for President, who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the Edwards campaign of 2004? And now it can be done! The Man Without Qualities has modified the very same super-sophisticated computer models and formulas used by Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman and the CBO to determine that eliminating taxes that, say, irrationally discriminate against corporate dividends in favor of corporate debt will have absolutely no positive effect on aggregate economic growth - to predict the Edwards campaign scenario of the future!
Of course, one must begin with high-quality, reliable data to upload into the model. For it is wisely written: GIGO.
Senator Edwards himself kindly and helpfully informs us: "My legislative priorities reflect the priorities of our state. I care about the interests of the people of North Carolina, not the special interests."
Now, from the list of his Senate accomplishments on the Senator's own website, some of our less dazzled observers might opine that there seems to be a rather close approximation - a near-equation, even - in the Senator's mind between the interests of the people of North Carolina and special interests that happen to have a big presence in North Carolina. But it's too early to be persnickety! So the information goes into the model right from the website. No fussing.
No doubt reflecting his lack of political seasoning which nevertheless has its virtues, the refreshing, fresh-faced political greenhorn has also engaged in this charming and boyishly attractive badinage:
Q. Why are you running for president?
A. Because I want to be a champion for regular people.
Q. What's the one reason people should vote for John Edwards?
A. Because I will be a champion for regular people in the White House every day. .... I spent most of my adult life representing kids and families against very powerful opponents … They needed somebody to be their fighter, to be their champion. … It's, by the way, exactly the same thing I've tried to do since I've been in the Senate, and it's exactly the same thing I'll do if I'm in the White House.
But here we digitize that badinage - more computer fodder.
And admiring, reliable sources also inform us: The youthful-looking Edwards, who bills himself as "the people's senator," took a similar tack in 1998, running in North Carolina as a political outsider who would represent the little guy.
IN IT GOES.
The Senator's supporters (such as Al Hunt) are enthusing that one of the dazzling Senator's big advantages is that he is a Southerner and the Democrats must appeal to that region. OK, so after imposing parameters incorporating the Democrats' Southern Strategy, we hit the button and apply the full predictive power of the modified DeLong/Krugman/CBO technology to produce this vision of the future 2004 Edwards campaign:
--------------------------------------- BEGIN COMPUTER VISION ----------------------------------------------------------------
Ithaca, Mississippi. On a bunting-covered stage a pencil-
necked man with round rimless glasses addresses a crowd of
The pencil-neck is identified on posters as 'John Edwards,
Friend of the Little Man', and, in life as in the pictures,
he shakes a broom over his head. A midget in overalls stands
next to him.
And I say to you that the great state
a Mississippi cannot afford four
more years a Georgie Bush - four
more years a cronyism, nepotism,
rascalism and service to the
Innarests! The choice, she's a clear
'un: Georgie Bush, slave a the
Innarests; John Edwards, servant a
the little man! Ain't that right,
The midget enthusiastically seconds:
He ain't lyin'!
When the litle man says jump, John
Edwards says how high? And, ladies'n
jettymens, the little man has
admonished me to grasp the broom a -
ree-form and sweep this nation clean!
The midget waves his little midget broom in time with Edwards'
It's gonna be back to Crawford,
Georgie! The Innarests can take care a
theyselves! Come Tuesday, we gonna
sweep the rascals out! Clean gummint -
yours for the askin'!
He beams amid cheers and then, as three girls in gingham
frocks run out to join him:
An' now - the little Wharvey gals!
Whatcha got for us, darlin's?
The oldest girl is about ten.
'In the Highways'!
The haytruck has pulled into the square and Everett and Delmar
are climbing out.
Everett stares at the stage.
Wharvey gals?! Did he just say the
little Wharvey gals?
Delmar shrugs. For some reason, Everett is enraged:
Onstage, the three girls are singing in untrained but
In the highways, In the hedges...
Everett stomps toward the stage, fighting his way through
the crowd. Puzzled, Delmar follows.
You know them gals, Everett?
Everett reaches the stage and climbs up into the wings just
as the song ends. The midget starts buck-dancing to a fiddle
tune as the three little girls, filing off, notice Everett.
He ain't our daddy!
Hell I ain't! Whatsis 'Wharvey' gals? -
Your name's McGill!
No sir! Not since you got hit by a
What're you talkin' about - I wasn't
hit by a train!
Mama said you was hit by a train!
Just a grease spot on the L&N!
--------------------------------------- END OF COMPUTER VISION ----------------------------------------------------------------
Well, now. This is surely a Democrat dream come true - and all so interesting. Who is the midget? Why, it's Senator Edwards' running mate, of course! In that case, he would be chosen to exemplify the Senator's quite literal commitment to the "little man" - a crack trial lawyer such as Senator Edwards knows he has to be simple and clear to communicate that all-important message, right down to the choice of running mate. And of course, the running mate will have been chosen to balance the ticket geographically - a New Englander would be perfect! The Senator is a hot property even now - so surely potential running mates will already have sensed the opportunity here, and be doing things to raise their profile in the media. Who could it be? Who could it be?
Ah, the mysteries and wonders of modern technology. If only I were as clever and Professors DeLong and Krugman so that I, too, could lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden.
D'apres Charles Austin.
In a surprising triumph of common sense and personal insight over personal vanity, Senator Daschle has decided not to run for President. Kudos and respect for Tom Daschle.
The United States Senate is a curious place. It generally contains about 100 people who each think they could do a better job as President than the person then in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Yet the Senate's generally quiet "go-along, get-along" currents gradually but ineluctably erode exactly the characteristics of leadership and independent judgment that are needed in a President and that the voters demand. Senator Daschle's decision is at least consistent with what is rather clear: After so many years in that body, he is now temperamentally, politically and intellectually unsuited and unsuitable for the Presidency.
For the same reasons, Hillary Clinton's chances of obtaining the White House shrink with every year she serves in the Senate. If she wishes to be re-elected, she must succeed as a Senator. If she wants to succeed in the Senate, she generally must accede to those quiet "go-along, get-along" currents - and so be transformed by them.
So if Ms. Clinton obtains re-election in 2006, she will almost certainly be temperamentally, politically and intellectually unsuited and unsuitable for the Presidency in 2008. Has Senator Daschle given her the benefit of his thinking?
British police reportedly have arrested six people after finding traces of ricin on equipment and materials at a property in London:
Ricin — one of the world's deadliest toxins, twice as deadly as cobra venom — is derived from the castor bean plant and is relatively easily made. It may be inhaled, ingested or injected. There is no known antidote.
That would be the same castor bean from which castor oil is extracted: In 1978, ricin was used to assassinate Georgi Markov in 1978, a Bulgarian journalist who spoke out against the Bulgarian government. He was stabbed with the point of an umbrella while waiting at a bus stop near Waterloo Station in London. They found a perforated metallic pellet embedded in his leg that had presumably contained the ricin toxin.
Now that all makes ricin sound pretty nasty. It is nasty - but also very common. Ricin is not just made from castor beans - castor beans largely consist of ricin.
The Man Without Qualities lives in Los Angeles, where castor plants grow wild by the sides of freeways and in untended edges of yards. There is a healthy specimen right across the street from the abode of the Man Without Qualities - generous clusters of the soft-spined fruits containing the attractively mottled seedsbeans ripen cheerfully in the sun. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens, sometimes as a houseplant.
When the warm California sun has bathed it enough, the plant will celebrate in a curious vegetable way: its fruits will burst, casting their beans out - sometimes many feet - from their parent. All over any nearby lawn, for example.
This is why many lawnmowers and hedge trimmers and other garden equipment in Los Angeles would probably show substantial traces of ricin.
Occasionally, someone eats some castor beans. If the seed coat is not damaged, the bean generally just passes through the body harmlessly. Emergency room doctors feed people who eat the beans large amounts of granular charcoal - and they often do just fine. If death has not occurred in 3-5 days, the victim usually recovers. Which is not too bad, especially when you consider that ricin is more than 4,000 times as toxic as cyanide on some scales. Just a single ricin molecule that enters the cytosol of a human cell can inactivate over 1,500 ribosomes per minute and kill the cell.
MORE from Derek Lowe.
Monday, January 06, 2003
In Paul Krugman's case, Dan Quayle was apparently right.
Translated sample from Herr Doktor Professor Krugman's new interview with Der Spiegel (from Andrew Sullivan):
Sometimes I have the feeling that I no longer live in one of the world's oldest democracies, but in the Philippines under a new Marcos. ... I now find myself once again as the lonely voice of truth in a sea of corruption. Sometimes I think that one of these days I'll end up in one of those cages on Guantanamo Bay (laughs).
It is hard to imagine some Krugman Watcher/Basher inventing and putting these words in his mouth as a pointed parody.
MORE: Rush Limbaugh posts a ferret-Krugman montage to illustrate Limbaugh's opinion that Paul Krugman is like a ferret.
Such things are all a matter of taste. But to the Man Without Qualities the ferret montage is distinctly more "fresh faced" and appealing than is the likeness of Professor Krugman on his own New York Times biography page. The Times gives him a rather anxious and suspicious, almost terrified, look - as if he had perhaps just awakened from a nightmare in which conspirators crawled from that sea of corruption to put him in a cage on Guantanamo Bay.
Limbaugh's fresh-faced, warm-and-furry look is definitely better - in my opinion. For one thing, many find that a ferret is a rather nice pet.
As always, the reader is invited to make up her own mind.
Ferret link from Croooow Blog.
Negative views on the prospects for the economy in the coming year have had a lot of play in the media. The current media fascination with economic doom recalls 1992, when the incoming Clinton administration - backed by the mainstream liberal media in full battle cry - repeatedly argued that the economy had been reduced to a near-depression state with no real future barring capable Clintonian effort, willfully ignoring strong evidence that the recovery had begun. Of course, no one can predict the future with certainty. The doomsayers might be right this time.
But "might be" is not "more likely than not."
It is definitely worth one's time to read this excellent Wall Street Journal editorial, not as received wisdom, but for intelligent balance in making up one's own mind.
Which is always the point here, anyway.
Sunday, January 05, 2003
And I like her article.
But I think George W. Bush is very complicated and especially interesting as a person - but not in the areas Ms. Noonan is examining.
At points in the 2000 campaign the commonest Democrat and liberal media mantra was arguably that George W. Bush was simply not qualified or experienced enough to be President. Being governor of one of the largest States and a reasonably successful businessman just didn't cut it, or so we were told - and told - and told. Of course, that was mostly before Mr. Bush's actual rather stunningly successful performance as President and head of the Republican Party. But certain tattered remains of that crowd (Maureen Dowd being among the remains) still hang on, but even Frank Rich has acknowledged that Mr. Bush may be some kind of genius. ("Democrats have to face the fact that he is at the very least an idiot savant -- and just possibly a genius.")
But things seem to be quite different when the media considers John Edwards of North Carolina. He is the freshman senator who won his first (and only) race for office only in 1998. Before that, he was a trial lawyer, with no business or executive experience whatsoever. But Adam Nagourney had nothing to say about Senator Edward's evident lack of qualifications in the January 3 New York Times item reporting on the Senator's decision to run for President. Nor does Mr. Nagourney even mention in his January 4 Times article surveying the Democratic field that the Senator's qualifications for the office are even an issue that must at least be addressed and overcome. At least David Stout acknowledged the qualifications issue in his January 2 Times article, if only as a kind of lint fleck for the Senator to brush off his suit jacket:
Asked what he would say to people who considered him too inexperienced to try for such a high office, and how he would separate himself from the pack, he said: "I intend to do is be myself. I'm going to talk about where I come from, what my values are, what I intend to do in the White House, present my vision and ideas to the American people, and they'll have to judge what it is they want."
From his account, Mr. Stout did not think it was worth while to point out to the Senator that this constituted "ignoring," not "responding to," people who considered him too inexperienced to try for such a high office."
Experience once meant a lot at the Times. That characteristic being one of the main reasons the Times gave for endorsing Mr. Gore in 2000:
[W]e today firmly endorse Al Gore as the man best equipped for the presidency by virtue of his knowledge of government, his experience at the top levels of federal and diplomatic decision-making, and his devotion to the general welfare.
And on December 2 last year Times reporter Richard Berke seemed to be arguing that Senator Edward's big problem was that voters might make a mistake and see what Mr. Burke knows is really "freshness" and the Senator's "refreshing" status as a "political greenhorn" incorrectly - as inexperience and lack of qualifications - and therefore not be "comforted" enough to vote for him:
He is a fresh face on the political stage — so fresh that he never sought office before his run for the Senate in 1998. After a career making millions seducing jurors as a personal injury lawyer, he knows how to connect with voters and cut through the wonk-talk that pervades the Capitol....
He may be charming and boyishly attractive. He may be — refreshingly — a political greenhorn. Yet does Mr. Edwards carry sufficient gravitas to protect and comfort Americans who fear that a terrorist bomb could explode in their neighborhood? .... Mr. Edwards acknowledged that his biggest challenge is convincing voters — and Democratic donors and interest groups whose support is crucial to winning the nomination — that he can play on the international stage. ....
In the end ... Mr. Gore could not overlook his inexperience. The danger now for Mr. Edwards is that voters will come close to embracing him but then hesitate to make him their man, fretting — as did Mr. Gore — that he is just not ready. ... Mr. Edwards's lack of political seasoning has its virtues. He does not appear to have schemed his entire life to reach the presidency. ...
Nor did the Los Angeles Times find any need to raise the issue of experience or qualifications. No, the LA Times was more concerned with gushing:
The youthful-looking Edwards, who bills himself as "the people's senator," took a similar tack in 1998, running in North Carolina as a political outsider who would represent the little guy. He refused contributions from political action committees, a practice he said Thursday he would follow in his White House bid.
Is this something a seasoned national politician would say? Apparently, not even a pledge to refuse contributions from political action committees was enough to make the LA Times wonder whether Senator Edwards has the kind of experience with running for national office that he needs - or what he might do to compensate. But somebody should be asking just how one finances a Presidential run in 2004 with no PAC money.
It's not just the Times - either one of them - that takes a holiday on "experience" and "qualifications" when it comes to this Senator. On December 19, Al Hunt discussed the Democratic field in his Wall Street Journal column, but lack of qualifications and experience didn't come up with respect to this Senator, who appears only as "John Edwards, the dazzling freshman senator, would have to pass on his first reelection in 2004; a loss could end a bright career." Mr. Hunt was equally dazzled in a 2000 profile of the Senator, regarding Mr. Edwards' lack of experience even then (19 months in office) as a mere invitation to the Republicans to attack had he then been chosen as Mr. Gore's running mate: "It would have been a mistake for Al Gore to pick Mr. Edwards, as only 19 months of public life would have offered an appetizing target for Republicans. But critics are crazy to claim that he's not a political heavy ..."
But matters were very different for Mr. Hunt in 1999 - when he wrote an entire column discussing whether it was bad for the nation that the "underachieving" Mr. Bush (Mr. Hunt then had strict standards, since "underachieving" included being elected to the Governorship of Texas) and the "unnatural" Mr. Gore could achieve high office because of their membership in "dynasties." Mr. Hunt then resorted to some curious apologetics:
Despite our country's irrational infatuation with nonpolitician politicians, that sort of [dynastic] experience is valuable in most endeavors.
And so it goes. Yesterday's cautionary jab at "our country's irrational infatuation with nonpolitician politicians" becomes this years clarion call to pay heed to a "dazzling freshman senator" who should be recognized as "a political heavy."
UPDATE: Have A Happy New Year, Some Say It Was Probably A Good Retail Season
Poor and Stupid points to this excellent Washington Post story that suggests more ways in which the doomy-gloomy commenters on this retail season may be cooking the books - or at least seriously jumping the gun.