Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, February 16, 2002
Immodest Natalija
Tony Adragna
Hey, If I could get a few pictures of me digitized, I'd be doing the same as Natalija. I've been told that I look ten years younger than I am - you're my witness, Will.

My only criticism of Natalija: she let the "very beautiful Hungarian boy" slip right through her fingers -wassup wit dat, Nat?

A New Blog War? I'm Not Naming This One
Will Vehrs
Tony, Natalija sparked a porn war and now she may have "inadvertantly" started another one. Megan McArdle has checked out the Goth Party pic and written:

It is only an accident of history that Ms. Radic should be so abundantly endowed with natural resources, yet she not only openly flaunts her unearned wealth, but also uses her assets to seize eyeballs from her less fortunate sisters.

Megan, I might add that less fortunate brothers who refuse (or are too technologically-challenged) to traffic in cheesecake also suffer when all eyes turn to Croatia. We can only dream of "Natalijaospheric" hit counts for our humble intellectual offerings ....

Thanks to a top blog official for pointing out this gathering storm.

The Power of Blog Watch II
Will Vehrs
I hope all the Natalija Radic fans appreciate the work of Blog Watch II for demanding full disclosure of her partying ways. Samizdata gets the hits, but Blog Watch II got the results!

Check Blog Watch II Sunday morning to see if Natalija's lobbying efforts to sway my professional journalistic judgment will be successful.

Go Back to Sleep, Tony ...
Will Vehrs
Tony, may you be an exception to the 8 hours of sleep=short lifespan rule ....

I just finished doing my taxes. My effective tax rate as reported by Turbo Tax declined 2% from 2000, even though I had one less dependent and no Hope scholarship credits. Thank you, President Bush! Your war and domestic policies are okay by me ....

So you're irked, Tony. Politics is a rough game. Sure, the GOP shouldn't be using the war to advance their domestic agenda or to cast aspersions on dissent against their agenda, but it happens. You play your best hand. And there's no double standard with me on saying Bush might be "outmaneuvering" for political gain. If the Democrats outmaneuver Bush on an issue, I'll say so. Lord knows Clinton outmaneuvered the Republicans for sport. Of course, outmaneuvering and accomplishing something worthwhile (or standing up for principle) are two different things.

On Sherron Watkins, she was half whistle-blower, half-spinner back when she was writing those memos. Now she's pretty much 100% spinning herself into a whistleblower to the accolades of Enron-crazed legislators. The truth is complex and shaded in gray.

I'll report tomorrow in Punditwatch on what David Brooks said about what will happen with campaign finance once Bush signs this bill. Hint: not to worry.

A Critical Public?
Tony Adragna
Something else that's irked me lately, Will, is this continuing calumny against people who question Mr. Bush's domestic policy.

It's said that we're just trying to weaken Mr. Bush at a time when he desreves our undivided support on the war. That's a bit of a strawman, since most of us do support Mr. Bush on the war -- the resolutions in support were as close to unanimous as can be gotten. But we're frustrated over this attempt to paint us as "unpatriotic" when we dissent from non-war related issues.

Critics of the Democrats point to Mr. Bush's approval ratings, and say that those who dissent on any issue are simply out of touch. I suggest that those who equate approval of this administration's actions at war with unqualified approval for, as an example, GOP proposals on the economy, are naive.

There's a misperception that the approval ratings mean that people are suddenly behind the GOP - that needs a big stretch of logic to prove. Yes, we're behind the prosecution of the war, but everything else is the same as it was before September 11th - there's still a fairly even split in the nation on domestic issues and which party people are behind (despite my dislike of "party politics", party affiliation is still to be reckoned with).

On Mr. Bush's "outmaneuvering" for political gain, isn't there a double standard? When Democrats do this isn't it called "playing politics with important issues"?...

Watkins & Wamp, LLP...
Tony Adragna
I'm Back, Will! I wasn't trying to stay away yesterday - I literally passed out when I got home. There was a recent news story about a study showing that eight hours of sleep per night actually shortens your life -- Yeah right...

I read Glenn's comments on the Watkins testimony, and I was shocked by his apparent fumble. I haven't seen Watkins' October email outlining the strategy, but the August memo makes clear where Watkins was headed:
5. Develop clean up plan:

a. Best case: Clean up quietly if possible.

b. Worst case: Quantify, develop PR[Public Relations] and IR [Investor Relations] campaings, customer assurance plan (don't want to go the way of Salomon's trading shop), legal actions, severance actions, disclosure.

(page 6, emphasis added - ed)
I previously lauded Watkins as a "whistle blower", but after reading this memo I need to revise - she's a spin controller. Nothing wrong with "spin control", but lets just understand that this is the proper context of her communications with Lay.

For an always interesting perspective on Enron, check out Ted Barlow's comments:
Let me tell you a true story. There was an all-employee meeting when Skilling resigned and Ken Lay reassumed the position of CEO. At this time, before there was any whiff of bankruptcy, Enron’s stock price had fallen significantly from its peak, losing almost half its value. When it came time for questions from anonymous employees, the first question was basically, “We are concerned about our retirements. How do you plan to improve Enron’s stock price?” Lay said, “Well, I’m concerned about the stock price, too. I was planning on using it to pay for my grandkids college with my options, but I guess…” There was an audible groan in the room at this absurd reach for pity, and employees watching remotely in London called BS right away.
Barlow worked for Enron.

I'm perplexed on the campaign finance reform issue (BTW, I don't mind abreviations, but every time I see "CFR", I reach for my Code of Federal Regulations). I understand the theory that reformers are working on -- taking out the BM forces campaigners to focus on smaller individual contributions from more individuals, "democratizing" campaing finance -- but it's a defunct theory. There's a whole industry in this city that deals with just raising money for campaigns, and the industry has already strategies waiting to be implemented to get around the new regulations. I agree with Wamp, but Dionne is too correct in asking his question. Money isn't speech, but it takes money to air your voice - without money you can't be heard.

Refugees Shut Out--Again!
Will Vehrs
The QP family, dysfunctional though it may be, had some great entries. Unfortunately, for the second week in a row, an interloper won the Ipse Dixit caption contest. "Rags" and JulieC shamed yours truly, but it wasn't quite enough to get either in the winner's circle.

There's always next week ....

Friday, February 15, 2002
Josh Relaunches
Will Vehrs
Joshua Micah Marshall has never, to my knowledge, plugged a lowly blogspot site on Talking Points Memo, but I'm going to show that I'm bigger than that (he does respond promptly to emails). Josh has just "relaunched" Talking Points Memo with a new address and new features. The new version has a crisp look and includes a search function and book commentary. Tony, his first commentary is on a Churchill book, so go check it out ....

One feature we could do without on the "new" TPM are launch week testimonials from big-time writers. Marshall, one of the leading Enron-bashers, goes high with this one:

It's an extremely useful site. I check it almost every day. And you can quote me on that.
- Paul Krugman

Hope he didn't have to pay $50K to get that enthusiasm.

P.S. Happy 33rd birthday, Joshua Micah Marshall!

Two Minute Drill
Will Vehrs
It's back, my wildly unpopular collection of short takes:

Jerks, Beware Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins gave Ken Lay some cover in her testimony yesterday, but there was none for Fastow and Skilling. The lesson: don't be a jerk. When the fit hits the shan, if at least you've been nice to people while you screwed them, you stand half a chance. Skilling and Fastow anecdotes paint a damning picture of pure jerks toward other people. Recommended reading on media coverage of Watkins' testimony is Howard Kurtz's Washington Post column today. She was no saint, but the media is skirting around that uncomfortable fact.

Killer Jack I was always fascinated by the Norman Mailer-led hysteria back in the 80's over the noble savage, killer cum-writer Jack Henry Abbott. Abbott was released on bail and promptly stabbed a waiter to death in an argument over a toilet. He committed suicide in prison this week. Dorothy Rabinowitz has a retrospective on Abbott in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Best line: "Cause celebres of this sort--in which literary talent is advanced as the reason to free a violent felon--aren't likely to come around again any time soon. Race and gender, not writing ability, are now likelier causes." Rabinowitz then launches into the 9,000th WSJ iteration of "Free Amirault." I know the Amirault case is a travesty of justice, but give it a rest for once, WSJ.

How Much to Hear Me? Rep. Zach Wamp (R, TN), speaking of campaign finance reform, said, "People who say that money is speech need to understand if that's true, there are a lot of people in this country that cannot be heard. Money is not speech." My question is, what does CFR do to help "lots of people" be heard? Does taking away some people's "purchased speech" really allow an indigent's speech to be heard? (quote from E.J. Dionne, Jr.)

This Isn't About PR, Ashcroft Lots of bloggers unfairly, in my estimation, tee off on Attorney General John Ashcroft for a multitude of sins. Here's a sin from the WSJ's "Washington Wire" (subscription required) that tees me off: "[Ashcroft's] announcement of an alert about a possible terrorist attack Tuesday was kept so secret it came as news to some exasperated senior officials at the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies, who must coordinate with local and state authorities."

Lovin' Lupercalia ...
Will Vehrs
Tony, thanks for the socio-historical perspective on Valentine's Day! I could get into Lupercalia--check out my sleeve, baby! And wouldn't church sponsorship of returning Valentine's Day to its Lupercalian roots bring a lot of wayward Catholics gleefully back into the fold?

On more serious matters, your BMP conspiracy theory makes some sense. The problem is, once Shays-Meehan becomes law, how much and what parts will be struck by the courts increases the "law of unintended consequences" factor exponentially.

On the Greenhouse Gas proposal, whatever its merits, Bush helps himself politically. As long as he has a proposal on the table, he can't be credibly attacked for doing nothing. The enviros spit and sputter, predict doom, and Bush looks more reasonable all the time, especially as continuously contradictory scientific information on global warming keeps getting published. Global warming may be falling into the same trap that so much food research has--it's bad, it's not so bad, it's good, it's bad--after a while people just tune out, unless they see loved ones dropping dead after eating an omlette.

I'd say more about campaign finance reform and global warming, but I'd be cannibalizing Punditwatch. You already ripped Bob Novak out of this week's column!

Thursday, February 14, 2002
Maybe the Rascals Are Onto Something...
Tony Adragna
I just had a fresh thought on what the campaign finance putsch is really all about, Will.

Bear with me for a moment - I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but here's one for you: Congress has a sense that voters are upset with BMP (Big Money Politics); Legislators don't really wanna change the staus quo (they're the only ones who get anything outta it); they pass a bill to make the anti-BMPers happy, knowing full well that the law will get struck.

Back to status quo ante, quod erat demonstrandum...

Challenging CW
Tony Adragna
Congressional Wisdom, that is.

OK, Will, I've been brought around on the arguments that not only are the current reform proposals constitutionally unacceptable - they wouldn't work anyway. Money finds its way to where it needs to go (defined by the individual with the bankroll), and the proposals aren't gonna change this reality.

The ony real campaign finance reform involves doing something with disclosure - after all of the post-Enron disclosure who want's to give odds on that idea?

Fred, Mortawn and Mara are right - even if campaign finance reform doesn't die in conference, or get quashed by a sustained veto, the bill is gonna get the death sentence in court.

Here's a twofer: they also dealt with Mr. Bush's proposal of today on Kyoto like greenhouse gas trading. It's a good idea - I've said that Mr. Bush should have long ago put forth a plan that marrys environmental interests with business interests. There are some examples (which I'm too lazy to look for right now) of businesses out west recognizing a long-term economic interest in limiting their own adverse impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, the Eco-Rads won't be happy til they get everything that they want and Mr. Bush's mandatory trading regime not only isn't what they want, it also won't pass through congress. It won't pass not just because it's too Kyoto-like -- Fred Barnes' last word on the item twists the dagger in the mortal wound: We all know who the biggest backer of greenhouse gas trading was (paraphrasing Fred). 'Nuff said.

On a lighter note (and keeping my promise to provide more frequent copy for FTL), tell me what you think of my Valentine's Day "mini"...

[p.s.: Great bit of prose this morning - I wonder where you got the inspiration...]

Not Fair!...
Tony Adragna
Will, I always read Novak's columns!

Sitting here on my butt I came up with the idea for my Valentine's Day bit. I won't get to write it til I get home, though. Stayed tuned folks...

Her Opponent Isn't Sitting On His Butt
Will Vehrs
Tony, Ms. Dole might be inspiring some grumbling, but her presumptive opponent, Erskine Bowles, isn't getting high marks:

Bowles is a totally inexperienced and non-charismatic candidate who does not inspire overpowering optimism among Democrats. ''I don't see how we can get enough of the women's vote to win,'' one of Bowles' prominent supporters told me.

He's neither sitting on his butt nor visiting front porches:

Nevertheless, multimillionaire Bowles is raising money across the continent and is getting North Carolina contributions from bankers and industrialists who in recent years have given only to Republicans. During the Clinton administration, he was unmistakably the favorite presidential aide among Republicans, giving the impression he was performing an unpleasant, patriotic service.

The "Not Mother Teresa" headline might not have been fair, but it sure got you reading the latest from the "Prince of Darkness." I love this political stuff, but we don't seem to have all that many "political junkies" among our readers. Guess I'll have to churn out more love stories ....

Patron Saint of Pineapples
Tony Adragna
Will, I know I’m stepping into your turf, but I just had to comment on Bob Novak’s latest:
[…]She is an icon in this her native state, venerated as a Southern Mother Teresa.

But Mother Teresa never ran for election in her birthplace of Macedonia after many years in Calcutta…
Picking that single passage out of a fairly balanced look at the challenges facing Elizabeth Dole, the WaPo headlines the piece “Not Mother Theresa” - what’s with these headline writers?

What I find really interesting is what Dole’s supporters are saying about her campaign:
This is no liberal-vs.-conservative confrontation, however. ''It is not about ideology,'' state Rep. Lyons Gray of Winston-Salem told me. ''It is about getting Elizabeth Dole off her butt and getting her on people's front porches.''

Gray, a moderate Republican, wants her to emulate Hillary Clinton's ''listening campaign'' to introduce herself to the people of North Carolina.

Dole has admirers.

''I am really impressed with her energy and her knowledge,'' Republican state party chairman Bill Cobey told me. However, many other Republicans here agree with Gray, while not sharing his willingness to be quoted by name.
”Emulate Hillary…”? – is that for real? I know I had a bit ti drink last night, but I didn’t fall and hit my head…

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day everybody!

[Dispatch filed from on location at Zero to Three

The Link of Love: A Valentine's Day Story
Will Vehrs
Far from the urban centers, the office parks, or the gated communities, he blogged from a simple desk, his loyal dog at his feet. He poured his Falstaffian lust for life into his humble site, replicating the jumble of thoughts and images that raced through his mind, struggling for order within the vortex. Heroes and villains were created as if to provide signposts along a road with no visible destination. Readers who entered became immediate friends, swept unwittingly into the maelstrom of his world.

And then, one day not long ago, a force landed at the edge of his eddy, and nothing would ever be the same again.

It was a short, but deceptively powerful email. A gifted writer, intrigued by the possibilities of the blog world, had a simple request: read my novel, promote it if you feel comfortable. The link shone on his screen like a neon light on deserted highway. He clicked as quickly as he would have pulled over for a cold Corona.

A cynic might say it was the picture. For a man, a picture is the canvas of fantasy. The novelist was a lovely woman. But it wasn't just the image. He had seen pictures of beautiful women before. There was something else, something more here --a lingering allure from the words in her email that he couldn't shake, an aura of mystery in her dust jacket biography that he couldn't resist.

He wrote to her, a note carefully constructed to require a reply. Reply she did ... and slowly the correspondence began to flourish. She was merely gracious at first, pleased that she had piqued his interest, but trying to discount this rough-hewn character whose background was so different from her own. It was a losing battle. Beneath the hayseed persona was a thinker, philosopher, and well-read man who stoked her creativity and challenged her notions in boisterous, free-wheeling discussions.

At first, like a schoolboy with a crush, he placed her on a pedestal, then tested her with sophomoric antics. She knew his game and what it meant, keeping him off-balance. But she gradually became the fulcrum that balanced his world, that calmed the roiling whirlpools.

At long last, he confessed, in his own trademark style: "I reckon I'm in love with her."

He didn't know exactly what that meant, nor did he have any idea of the implications. But he knew that continued cyber contacts could no longer suffice. He had to meet her, look into those eyes that dazzled him from the photographs, and see if the words on the screen that flowed so smoothly could translate into conversation, could jump the gap from electronic connection to real time, personal connection.

Fate intervened with glorious serendipity. Opportunity called her, and the call put her tantalizing close to his realm. There was not a moment's hesitation. Surely they each felt that delicious set of sensations ... the litle catch in the throat, the tiny butterflies, the almost imperceptible shaking. So much invested, yet so little margin for realizing the inflated hopes and expectations that breathless printed exchanges bring.

Reality worked. At the ultimate "moment," they slid together into that unforgiving margin as if it had been designed for their comfort. Everything they had poured into the cyber cache immediately translated into the fabric of a living, breathing relationship. Two beautiful minds, so different, yet so complementary, had laid a perfect foundation.

Today, Valentine's Day, finds the blogger and the novelist together in a flat bereft of water or heat, but with no shortage of wonder at the power of Cupid's arrow to find a path through the most unsuspecting streams of electrons. The almost comical deprivation seems conspiratorially planned to heighten the memories. No one knows where this might lead, but who can doubt that love and romance still triumphs, still inspires, still remains the most delightful of the earthly pleasures?

Shays-Meehan: Let's Roll
Will Vehrs
Congratulations to Congressmen Shays and Meehan for pushing their campaign finance reform bill through to a successful vote. I hope that the House-Senate conference will quickly reconcile Shays-Meehan and McCain-Feingold so that it can get to the President's desk.

If he signs it, I hope it is quickly challenged in court for a definitive ruling. That's our system and it ought to be exercised.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Don't Forget Your Valentine

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. QP urges you to remember your spouse, significant other, partner, lover, special friend, secret crush ... well, you get the idea. With any luck, we will have a heart-warming story of true romance here tomorrow--"Yes, Virginia, There is a Cupid and You Can Blog It."

I Will Contribute More Forever
Will Vehrs
John Fund has a Shays-Meehan takedown entitled "Reform School" that mentions this fascinating provision of the legislation:

Indian tribes would be exempt from the contribution and issue-advocacy bans that apply to other groups. Many tribes are notorious for showering incumbents with contributions in return for loose federal oversight of their efforts to expand gambling.

I wonder what other little provisions have been "slipped in" to help passage?

I know the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good, but it's hard to blame opponents of campaign finance reform for pointing the occasional lack of purity in this move to purify politics.

The Refuge: There's a good thread on campaign finance reform there, entitled "...If Campaign Deform Passes ..." It's worth a look, especially recent posts by Joe Britt and Mark Dahley.

Let's Roll
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm glad we've got Lindh arraigned in the "rocket docket" and I can't wait for the trial to begin. He better pray to Allah (God if he really knows what will work for him) that his buddies don't pull off any acts of terror between now and the verdict. If he and his attorneys have come to their senses, they ought to be plea bargaining like crazy.

You're going downtown to meet some people for dinner? Funny, so am I ....

WSJ Continues Pounding the Business Angle
Will Vehrs
The Wall Street Journal opinion pages continue to treat the Enron mess as a business scandal and the result is some excellent insight. Unfortunately, that insight often points to factors other than the possible illegal actions of Lay and "the boys" as the major factors in Enron's collapse. The political scandal-mongers don't like to hear that.

Holman W. Jenkins Jr's "Business World" column today (subscription only) ties Enron's fall to a familiar problem: "It bet big on the Internet and lost." Much of the jump in Enron's stock occurred after Ken Lay announced their entry into broadband trading. Other companies who suffered from the Internet blues included Global Crossing, Worldcom, Cisco, Yahoo, and Qualcomm.

Enron shareholders lost the biggest chunk of their money not because of alleged chicanery, but because the markets gave up on Internet mania. In a cynical mood, shareholders might even credit Mr. Fastow with prolonging their opportunity to dump their shares on a greater fool by propping up the price ...the company's executives ... wouldn't have been defending an unrealistic share price if investors hadn't pinned an unrealistic share price on the company.

Holman's prescriptions include getting rid of the corporate income tax, deregulate accountants, unleash short sellers, and "stop fretting about insider trading." He makes a good case for each, but I'm a little skeptical about insider trading. Holman argues, "It's nutty to exclude the best-informed opinion from stock prices." Holman's argument against a lot of new regulations: "If humiliation, jail, and disgorgement aren't enough to deter future Fastows, more New Deal regulations of the sort that failed to prevent Enron aren't going to help."

Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School has an interesting piece called "The Dividend Deficit." (Subscription only) He notes that long before the SEC and standards of accounting, firms demonstrated their health by paying dividends. Now, dividends are frowned upon by the investment community--they're taxed at a higher rate than capital gains and exemptions for dividends on personal income tax, once at $400 for a couple, were eliminated by the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Tax laws allow firms to fully deduct interest costs, but dividends are not accorded the same treatment. Debt financing is encouraged, instead of equity financing.

Nothing could possibly excuse Enron, Arthur Andersen, or anyother firms of deceptive and fraudulent practices. But cries for accounting reform, transparent earnings reports, and auditor independence will not amount to anything if our tax system encourages firms to do just the opposite. Why should we rail against accountants who do not provide investors with a clear view of their clients' earning and balance sheets when many are also getting paid to minimize their clients' taxes aand exploit loopholes in our Byzantine tax laws?

Encouraging equity over debt financing and mitigating the double taxation of dividends is a good place to start. Let's not penalize what history has shown is one of the most efficient ways that firms have of proving their earnings are real--paying dividends to investors.

I have always been touched by stories of the janitor who died a millionaire because he bought stock long ago and let the dividends accumulate. With the decline in paying dividends, those stories will be fewer and further between, and we'll have more people dying with stocks worth pennies that never paid a dime.

Guilty Is As Guilty Does
Tony Adragna
Well, Lindh has been arraigned, and what do Shannon Spann have to say?
"He believed his extreme form of Islam gives him the right . . . to wage jihad against the West," said Shannon Spann, who also works for the CIA. "We expect Mr. Walker [Lindh] to be held personally responsible. . . . I should have preferred the death penalty."
The editing in that passage isn't mine: what did the WaPo leave out?

Well, I heard her speak, and what she said is a bit more damning. She made the point (I'm paraphrasing her) that Lindh is either a hypocrite, a coward, a liar, or most probably all three - he plead not guilty on all counts. A "confused young man"? - I agree with Spann's family: giving this guy any kinda break on what he did is indefensible.

On a related note - at least this story didn't refer to Lindh as the "American Taliban." Yes he was "captured with Taliban fighters", but:
The grand jury charged Lindh with training at camps run by a Pakistani terrorist group and by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Prosecutors have used two statements Lindh gave the FBI to portray him as a cold-blooded terrorist who chose to fight alongside a group that he knew was carrying out attacks on the United States.(emphasis added)

I'm headed downtown now - gotta run some errands and meet some people for dinner...

Punditwatch Review, Now Showing at Le Quas

Print Punditwatch has been posted. Which pundit will play Beavis, now that we have a Butthead? Don't miss the "Putdown of the Week," especially if you love all things French, and see if you agree with PW's choice for "Rant of the Week." Au revoir.

"The Enforcer"
Will Vehrs
Tony, thanks for defending me against those scurrilous charges. I had no idea someone was moving in on our Punditwatch racket. It seems to me that somebody from DU emailed me after that piece ran, claiming authorship of the term "Enronomics." I thought for sure I had mentioned their claim in a follow-up post, so what's their beef?

Now, "Big Tony," if you could just get this creditor off my back ....

Idiots, I tell Ya
Tony Adragna
If there's one thing that I consider unforgiveable, it's takiing something out of context, knocking it down, then claiming to be a hero. Those radicals at Democratc Underground are at it, pointing their fingers at the Quas...

Here's what happened - in his Jan 6 Punditwatch Will made the following observation:
New Word George Stephanopoulos predicts the Democrats will try to slip the word “Enronomics” into the lexicon this year. Cokie Roberts says the Enron hearings might bring back the pre 9/11 perception that Bush cared more about big business than common folk.
Will doesn't use the word himself (it's in quotes, folks), nor does he credit George with making up the word. Will merely notes that there is a "new word", and that George had made some prediction as to its further usage.

The folks at DU (in their Forum, and lauded by several "admin" folks) are taking some kinda stance as if Will committed an error -- or worse, an act contrary to journalistic integrity -- that needed to be corrected, and they're slapping themselves on the back for "setting straight" the Quas.

Quas to DU: get over yourselves...

p.s.: Who really gives a shit who coined the word, and how do we know that Walt Starr didn't hear it from somebody else, or that George didn't come up with it independantly! It's really an inane discussion - I'm just pissed because of some of the nasty things I read in reagards to us: the word thief sticks...

Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Who Was That Young Man?
Tony Adragna
I just watched Timothy Goebel skate his heart out on his short program in his premier Olympic appearance, and I have a question - what's with these damnable judges?

Well, we still have the long programs...

It's Not the Last Huzzah
Tony Adragna
Will, I'm sure that we'll still get our fill of Mike - if he keeps writing his weekly column for the WaPo, that is. Kinda expected it to happen...

Speaking of newspapers: did anybody notice that I didn't get ATF posted this morning? Hey, I didn't even get to look at the front page of WaPo til my train ride home. I did check in once this morning, but I really wanted to get that assignment done - I tracked down 900 people in 25 working days. You know, even when people want to be found (as these people did ) it's still not easy.

Things I read today:

Dana Milbank's "The White House Charter Fright" - - a hilarious account of White House Press Corps charter flights posing as an administration cabal to kill off journos - - gets 3rd place honours.
Is the Bush administration trying to kill the White House press corps?
No doubt such an action would be politically popular. But members of the press corps, not surprisingly, view this possibility in a different light. Hence the concern over what seems increasingly to be a potential murder weapon: the dreaded press charter.
2nd place goes to "Naming Tunes: Which Side Are You On, Boys?". I thought the idea of getting pundits from across the table together in a relaxed atmosphere absent ideologial political posturing was our innovation. Seems like the L Street Group beat us to the punch
The "motivation was to create a political space where open-minded discussion would prevail and ideology and the influence of K Street would take a back seat," Teixeira said. Hence the "L Street" dig at K Street lobbyists.

It should come as no surprise that Wittmann knew the answer to Kazin's stumper. A long time ago Wittmann was a leftist. Nor is it a surprise that he and Teixeira are personally compatible while being ideological opposites.

"Ruy and I were in college at Michigan together," Wittmann said, "back when we were different varieties of campus radicals."
The same item has a bit on Radek Sikorski, who also happens to be married to Anne Applebaum - they'll be moving to DC soon.

First Place goes to David Carr's assessment of my thoughts on libertarianism.
I applaud [Tony] because rather than display the reflexive conformity of so many otherwise intelligent people, he has taken the time and trouble to develop a serious critique and that is a good thing. He seeks not to dismiss but to engage. Rather than start a debate with Libertarians, Tony has done something far more significant and laudable; he has started a debate with himself.

All philosophy and political thought, of whatever stripe, has one goal: the improvement of the human condition. Welcome to the battlefront, Tony.(emphasis added)
Hey, I invited Team Samizdata to offer a critique, and I'm glad that they (as I expected) got the point of what I was doing. In sharing my internal debate, maybe I can prompt a little bit of internal debate within others. The alternative is "toe-the-line" acceptance [of] party ideologues, and rote regurgitation of "platform": IOW: stasis rather than growth.

Kinsley Quits
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm surprised that there hasn't been more blog discussion of Michael Kinsley's resignation as editor of Slate. Maybe it's because he's still going to maintain some "connection" with the magazine or maybe it's because a lot of the blog community aren't Slate refugees like us.

I'd have to give Kinsley high marks for maintaining a consistent, quality publication and for fostering innovation. Features like the Breakfast Table, The Book Club, Diaries, and Dialogues were truly different from typical print fare. Stories like David Plotz's ongoing story within a story about genius artificial insemination were also different. He was bold enough to have his staff tell who they voted for and why--and also reveal their favorite charities. And we can't forget that it was under his editorship that three readers got a chance to see if they were as good as the professionals ....

He gets lower marks, in my estimation, for the diversity of opinion featured. Most of the regular writers were left of center and some of the more active ones (Tim Noah, for example) wrote a disproportionate amount of copy, some of it occasionally lapsing into the juvenile. I also have to mark him down for not finding a replacement for Randy Cohen and the "News Quiz."

All in all, though, it was a good tenure. I wish him well in any new endeavors, and I certainly hope for the best in his struggle against Parkinson's.

Update: Our colleague from The College of William and Mary in Virginia, Ben Domenech, previously commented on Kinsley.

Tony Adragna
How could I have forgotten about Hubert Humphrey?

Sure, he made it back into the senate, but I don't think he was ever able to recover from being a member of LBJ's administration, and his support of the conflict which was current then - he lost his own party's vote of confidence (the nomination bid) in 1972.

I don't think Goldwater is an analog - plenty of people return to the legislature after losing a bid for the executive, but not many are able to return to the legislature after having been elected (or even appointed) to the executive.

Send Me Back to History 101-102
Will Vehrs
Tony, both you and reader Mark Harden pointed out John Quincy Adams--I was thinking of of more modern examples, though.

Did I say thinking? If I had been thinking at all, I would have recalled what Will Warren noted in a helpful e-mail--both Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater returned to the Senate after losing a presidential race. I'm ashamed of myself ....

I think both Humphrey and Goldwater enhanced their legacies by post-presidential campaign elected service. Gore could do the same.

Wish I could be put in the same class as "powerful thinker" Robert Bork ....

Where Are the History Majors?
Tony Adragna
Remember Will, there has only been one person in U.S. history who has been able to pull off that trick - Albert Gore, Jr ain't John Quincy Adams? (damn, I gotta stop doing that).

Hey, Will Allen put me in Judge Bork's camp - how kewl is that. I've had my disagreements with Judge Bork, but I still think he's a powerful thinker.

Will Allen raises some good points (as usual) in argument for libertarianism, but I don't see an argument there against "the state". I've responded to some criticism of my essay on libertarianism (including some self-criticism).

And RonK has some copy for us. You know the old admonition against lieing to you mother?...

Monday, February 11, 2002
What Was I Thinking?
Will Vehrs
Tony, you weren't the only one who thought I had a screw loose in recommending that Al Gore run for the Senate again in Tennessee. East Tennessee's own Rich Hailey said succinctly, "Not in this lifetime ...." (By the way, Rich has a nice blog.) Let me tell you what I was thinking.

Al Gore has been a politician almost all of his life; he doesn't really know anything else. I don't think the things he's doing--teaching and trying to be a rainmaker--give him much useful exposure. He just seems to be lost without political office, in contrast to other former politicians. I think he's a long shot to capture the 2004 nomination. Fail to get the nomination and he's on his way to Dukakisville. But run and win for the Senate or for Governor (I should have suggested that also, although I don't know when Sunquist's term is up) and he becomes a force again, a man with a real soapbox.

I've always wondered why ex-Presidential candidates or Vice-Presidents have never run for lesser office after a defeat. Was the Nixon experience in '62 that much of a lesson? I always thought that Dan Quayle was a decent Congressman and Senator who might have been able to overcome his horrendous term as Vice-President if he had run for office again in Indiana or Arizona, won, and then done a decent job. He didn't and he'll never again be a player on the national stage.

Did He Fall and Bumped His Head?
Have you gone off the deep end, Will? Put Al Gore up against Sen. Fred "That Guy!" Thompson? That's not a test of political acumen - It's a death sentence! Al would lose that race with a certitude not given to anything else excepting that little green apples do exist. Al isn't beached, he's sunk.

I see you've picked up some of my disaffection for The Street. I've been ranting about this particular little bug in the market -- irrational exuberance -- ever since the dotcom bubble bursted. I've seen references in the press to the fact that analysts were still recommending "buy" even after it became apparent to the rest of the world that there was nothing to buy, but they definitely haven't given this angle the attention that it deserves. RonK has promised us some copy on this very topic.

I've gotten some feedback on my essay - Kevin has promised something on why he's a conservative, Mark isn't quite sure whether he agrees with me or is just in a delirium, and David "somewhat" agrees but expands on the theme (he takes it to a place that I don't mind going).

There are several questions raised that I'll respond to when later this evening - I took the intended approach, despite "Why I'm Not A Libertarian" ringing more true to the text.

p.s.: I've always been a Fred Thompson fan, and still am: he's one of the few senators that I never had anything bad to say about during all of the nonsense of the previous administration...

Second Thoughts on Enron
Will Vehrs
The airwaves, the newspapers, and even the blogosphere are full of righteous indignation about Enron. The management of Enron was corrupt, the regulators were asleep at the switch, and the political system was alternately a passive or an active enabler.

Nobody blames the investment community for whipping the horses as they rode the economic boom of the 90's.

That thought occurs to me after reading Jim Collins' "Manager's Journal" in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Collins compares two companies, ATT&T and Fannie Mae, and how they played the expectations game. The message is that building a great company takes time:

During the late 1990s, executives complained about out-of-whack expectations created by an irrational stock market. Now many of those same people complain about the pressures created by recession, war, terrorism, and a struggling market ... Thousands of firms suddenly enjoy a wonderful advantage: low expectations.

In our study of what it takes to turn good companies into great ones, we found that it took an average of four years to crystallize a coherent strategic concept and seven years of intense effort below the radar screen before a company would show a significant and sustained leap to great results.

I am not excusing the perfidy of Enron executives like Lay, Skilling and Fastow, but who believes that Wall Street was giving Enron 7years back in 1996? "The Street" demanded short-term results, demanded charismatic executives who spoke in sound bytes, and demanded constant stroking. Nobody asked many questions of a stock on the way up. Is it any wonder that Enron, and apparently many other companies, pushed the envelope to feed this beast? Is it any wonder that ethically-challenged executives, under pressure and with huge financial incentives dangled in front of them for raising the stock price, succumbed to temptation?

The 1980's were called the "Decade of Greed." Nobody seems to call the 90's by that name, but it sure seems to fit. Investors demanded high returns and they got them, by hook or by crook. Politicians are returning Enron money, but I have yet to see investors who sold Enron at $80 offering to return their gains.

I hope that Enron changes things on multiple levels: better accounting, better information, better regulations, and better investor attitudes toward what really creates value. I hope that any 401K reform won't force employees of a company like Proctor and Gamble, overwhelmingly invested in their own company's stock, to divest it. P&G sells real products: Tide, Gain, Cascade, and all the rest. Those products have value and fill a real need. P&G isn't going anywhere. Enron was selling shadowy options and credits, things that aren't real products. From now on, if people invest in that sort of company, they should have their eyes wide open.

Collins closes with this: "The best executives will use this reprieve from the tyranny of the bull market ...." Enron was a product of that tyranny, and the investment community that imposed the tyranny has a lot to answer for. Maybe now we'll start rewarding companies with real business plans that anticipate incremental growth in core markets, rather than companies that "game" the system and move into areas that offer a quick buck, not long-term growth.

Al Gore's Future
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm with you and Jack Germond on Al Gore's future, although I suspect that Gore will try again. I also think such a try has the potential to cause big rifts in the Democratic Party. Gore has always been better at running against fellow Dems than against Republicans.

A couple of comments. Germond writes:

And Gore did carry the popular vote. He lost several states only because Ralph Nader and his Green Party decided there was no difference between the Republicans and Democrats and ran an ego-trip candidacy. It took a combination of Nader and a political U.S. Supreme Court ruling to deny Gore the state of Florida and the White House. But the sorry fact remains that he lost his home state of Tennessee.

Smart Democrats recognize that mistakes by Bush helped the hapless Gore. Bush didn't work hard enough to get a big turn-out in states he won, such as Texas, and he campaigned too much in California. Until the final weekend, the one with the drunk driving revelation, Bush had a comfortable lead. Had Bush been upfront about the conviction earlier, it wouldn't have been such a big factor in Gore's late closing rush.

Germond hits on Gore's biggest problem:

He was clearly entitled to a European respite, but he could have shed the beard before coming back. Instead, he continues to wear it in what is being interpreted as a signal of another "new" Gore, this time a laid-back model. What political professionals see here is evidence that the flaws that cost him the 2000 election he should have won were not the kind of flaws that can be corrected. He can talk about "mending fences" in Tennessee, an obvious first step toward 2004. But he cannot shed the image of the contrived candidate too controlled to be human.

In my opinion, Gore should run against Fred Thompson for the Senate in Tennessee if he ever wants to be considered a serious player on the national stage. Win that tough race and show some mettle in the Senate again and he's a shoo-in for the 2008 nomination.

Note for Weekday Readers
If you missed QP this past weekend, please note this change: Above the Fold and Blog Watch II are now found in their own dedicated sections. Quasipundit--always looking to eliminate "clutter!"

Sunday, February 10, 2002
RonK Takes It a Step Further
Looking for some discussion of GX to round out your disgust with the Enron-ites? Our Seattle correspondent is on the job! Bonus: connecting the dots to Citigroup...

(obligatory ethical disclosure: Tony Adragna was on Citigroup's payroll for 10 years - when questioned he responded "I know nothing!")

Dean Emeritus of the Campaign Trail Speaks
It's official, Will - Jack says Al ain't got a chance. Jack opens with:
Former Vice President Al Gore's lurch into what he called "the national debate" is based on two flimsy premises. The first is that there is such a debate, and the second is that he has the political standing to take part.
Jack's too right - de facto there's no real debate going on, we're all still flush with admiration for Mr. Bush. So, might Al have a chance if there were something that the Democrats could get some traction on right now? Jack says no:
Gore cannot be a serious contender because he committed the one unpardonable sin in politics: He lost an election he should have won. Easily. He was a de facto incumbent running on a strong record of eight years against an awkward and inarticulate Republican with thin credentials at best. It should have been a boat ride.
Glenn's not convinced - come on, this is Jack Germond talking!

I'm Very Flattered
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I even went as far as to invite our friends at Samizdata to yell back at me - I emailed them a link to the piece. I'm not content to stir a pot: it's gotta be a stinky chamber pot and I hafta make sure that everybody gets a good whiff. It's more fun that way.

Here's something I didn't know - the "Quas" is a member of NetRing: LibertyLoggers. How kewl is that...

I'm not really down on libertarians - I'm down with the philosophy, but I'm just too pragmatic to put myself behind the political movement. Maybe I'm wrong - I actually hope that I am wrong because I think that libertarinism is the ideal toward which we should be moving, I just don't think that we're ready for it...

Now, if I could just find out when the figure skating competition is going to happen - I wanna see those nasty poses that have the Ice Skating officials all riled up...

Parting Shots for Samarach, Samizdata
Will Vehrs
Tony, don't you just love it when the corrupt demand adherance to law? The IOC can come come after you for taping ice skating after they've turned themselves in for taking bribes, converting IOC funds for personal use, and generally living the Enron executive life on the Olympic nickel.

Your From Left Field essay has been up for several hours now and still no analysis from Libertarian Samizdata, the Blogosphere enforcers of libertarian thought. Are those folks sleeping? (Well, yes, I guess the European ones are ... sweet dreams, Natalija.) Samizdata is tough on conservatives and whacked-out leftists, but I don't know what they'd make of you, Tony, and that's why I'm disappointed we haven't heard from them.

Finally, I'd like to share this email from Alex B., commenting on the Byrd-O'Neill flap:

Well, I don't like to one-up such distinguished citizens as Robert Byrd, known for his selfless dedication to the good of all America, not just his home state, and Paul O'Neill, who besides being a cabinet member is finishing a pretty good career as an outfielder.

But I'd like to point out that we were so poor that we only had one tv set. It was black and white. It only got four channels (we got Canadian tv, too). And to change channels we actually had to get up, walk across the room, and turn the dial. And our record player was mono.

Thanks, Alex, for showing that not just Senators and Cabinet Secretaries have endured searing childhood deprivation. Hope we hear from you again!

Screw the IOC
Tony Adragna
I just heard a little blurb that gets repeated as NBC breaks from commercials back to Olympic coverage. It's some kinda disclosure about the broadcast belonging to the IOC...

I guess I'm just gonna hafta BREAK THE LAW - there's no way they're stopping me from video taping the men's figure skating...

OK, I know those admonitions don't apply to making copies for personal use, but I think it's offensive that the IOC is arrogant enough to require that the point about unlicensed usage be made repeatedly during the broadcast...

Why I Am a Punditwatcher ....
Will Vehrs
Because millions and millions are! The latest TV Punditwatch is up. "America's Most Wanted" is the man in the yellow tie, Jeff Skilling's suit gets appraised, and kids growing up today will have a hard time making "Squalorgate." It's all there, and more, too ....

Why Am I a Liberal...
Tony Adragna
... when I agree with much of what libertarians have to say?
OK, Will - I'm ready for the Ls and the ls to shout me down over my latest "mini-essay".

Hey, I'm just exercising a little free will...(and doing alotta "pot stirring")

Don't Forget

Blog Watch II is now found here. Some of it is even in Latin.