Friday, May 03, 2002

Solitaire for Golfers

Update Deux We have a new low score of 27 to report. Bruce S. is now our "course record holder."

Update The reported low score over the weekend was 29 (par is 48). My own personal best is 32. One correspondent alleges that he shot 26, but he's lying.

You can find the Mini-Putt golf computer game here. I read this morning that merger activity on Wall Street was down 58%. At first, I thought this was due to economic factors. Then I played the game. Now I understand why no work is getting done.

Jews Backing Bush

The estimable Deborah Orin has a good column today about President Bush's surprising popularity among New York's Jewish voters. She reports that some Democrats are worried that Jewish support for Bush might enable him to carry the state in 2004 (New York Jews voted Gore 80%-20% in 2000 and Gore won the state in an uncontested landslide).

I don't think Bush can or will carry New York in 2004, but that's not the point. The point is that Bush's new-found popularity among Jewish voters has important implications in Florida. It is axiomatic that a Republican presidential candidate cannot win unless he or she carries at least two of the big three Sunbelt states (FL, TX and CA). Bush has Texas locked down. He faces an uphill fight in California. So Florida is the key.

I don't have the 2000 Exit Poll book in front of me, but if memory serves, roughly 10% of the Florida electorate is Jewish. Should Bush split the Florida Jewish vote in 2004, instead of losing it by a roughly 4-1 margin, he would become all but impossible to beat in the Sunshine State. The evaporation of three full percentage points of Democratic base vote in Florida would doom whomever the Democrats eventually nominate. All of which argues for Senator Lieberman continuing as Al Gore's running-mate in 2004.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

New York Sun Strategery

Am I missing something here? Is there a reason I can't read the New York Sun on-line? I can read every other New York newspaper on-line. How does the paper expect to generate word-of-mouth if Drudge and Instapundit and NRO and all the others can't link to New York Sun articles? How does the paper expect to promote itself without a web-site?

The notion that the Sun can survive as a paper-only product is ludicrous. The world hasn't worked that way since the introduction of the Netscape browser.

The Vote-Getter

An old political operative once said to me: "What matters is the vote. What makes a good politician is the knack for getting votes." That said, I received an email today from a former North Carolinian assessing the vote-getting abilities of Sen. John Edwards. He writes:

I'm a native North Carolinian who's watched the political scene in the Tar Heel State for a good while now. In regard to Edwards, a few points:

The campaign he ran in 1998 against the incumbent, Lauch Faircloth, was quite impressive. I've watched Democrats lose U.S. Senate seats in North Carolina for decades (with the exception of Terry Sanford's win in 1986), and the Republican advantage in such contests has usually be pronounced. It's not that Republicans win by large percentages; it's that the political demographics, time after time, have made it difficult for Democrats to amass enough support to put them over the top. Conservative Democratic voters in rural eastern North Carolina are critical. Edwards, to his credit, carried eastern North Carolina and even picked up significant numbers in GOP-leaning urban areas in the west, in places like Charlotte and Greensboro (the part of the state that I'm from).

Edwards is a good example of a type of Southern politician I'd call the Boy Scout: clean-cut, respectful, seemingly dutiful to all the proper virtues. It may sound like simplistic shorthand, but those qualities appeal to a lot of voters (and to a lot of jury members in tort cases, apparently). Boy Scout types have tended to do well in state politics in North Carolina.

In a 1998 interview, I asked Edwards what current member of the U.S. Senate he might model himself on. He named Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. That is a particularly interesting and telling choice. Kerrey, it's true, was iconoclastic on issues such as entitlement policy and on the campaign trail certainly adopted centrist rhetoric. But in the broader scheme of things, his voting ratings were clearly left of center. Edwards' approach and voting record in the Senate tend to mirror that, although I'll grant that Edwards' "populist" rhetoric has a sharper edge than Kerrey's.

It will be interesting to see whether Edwards decides in 2004 to seek a second term in the Senate or to abandon that course and run full-throttle for president. If he does seek a second term, maybe his decidedly liberal voting record won't dog him as badly as Terry Sanford's did when he went down to defeat to Faircloth in 1992. But even with all the national publicity surrounding him, Edwards would quite likely face a tough contest.

There has been no real "populist" strain in North Carolina Democratic politics. The most prominent liberal "populist" was a forceful Democratic governor named Kerr Scott, a farmer elected in the late 1940s on a pave-the-rural-roads platform. Scott filled a vacancy in a U.S. Senate seat by nominating Frank Graham, the legendary liberal president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (my undergrad alma mater) who had served on Harry Truman's Civil Rights Commission.

$30 Million After Tax

If you look at it from former President Clinton's point of view, it's not such a crazy idea. As The Los Angeles Times reported today, Mr. Clinton met with NBC Television executives to talk about his doing a chat show for the network. According to The Times report, Clinton is asking for $50 million for his services. Assume that a deal is reached. This means that sometime in the fall of next year, Mr. Clinton would have roughly $30 million (after all agency fees and taxes) in his private banking account at Bessemer Trust (or wherever it is that he does his banking). Which would put him, as they say, free and clear of all debts and would make him a very wealthy man.

He can get to $30 million in the bank by continuing to do what he has been doing (speeches, books, etcetera), but it will take him a much longer time to get there. And remember, the likelihood is that the show will bomb and be cancelled after 26 weeks. Mr. Clinton will surely insist on full payment regardless. So the only "issue" would be the tawdry/tacky thing, which involves shame, which does not apply in Clinton's case.

And be honest: we'd all watch, at least at the start. How could we not?

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Kaus on Edwards

I assume that most readers of this site are also readers of Kausfiles, Sullivan and Instapundit. So I tend not to refer to them, because it would be redundant.

That said, I strongly urge you to read Kausfiles on Senator John Edwards (D-NC). It's superb political analysis.

Monday, April 29, 2002


The Brookings Institute has a new report out on bio-terrorism and it is as terrifying as all the others. Most of these reports/studies are about straightforward chemical and biological agents. They don't even broach the issue of genetically-modified pathogens, which would ignore vaccines and pharmaceutical intervention.

The good news is that terrorists don't (yet) have the capability to develop genetically-modified pathogens, while the coalition countries (especially the US and Britain) are stepping up genomic research. But we are not far from this kind of warfare. I wrote about this in the February issue of Fast Company magazine. If you really want to stare into the abyss, read the free excerpts of Ken Alibek's book on the Soviet Bioweapons program, which he ran before defecting to the West.

Media Geezer Alert

If the press reports are correct, CBS News Anchorman Dan Rather, 70, has all but inked a contract extension that will keep him at the network through 2006. This is the broadcast journalism equivalent of failing ever onward and upward.

When Rather took over the CBS Evening News slot from Walter Cronkite (who retired, if one need edit, at the age of 65), the program was the highest-rated and most prestigious news broadcast in America. It is now a third-place laggard of dubious journalistic content. Ordinarily, someone who (as "managing editor") had overseen such a decline would have been thrown overboard years ago.

Au contraire. They're throwing yet more millions at him for another four years.

Fantastic Factoid

Chris Byron views any company's balance sheet as a target-rich environment and this morning he sets his sights on AOL Time Warner. Most of what he reports you have probably read before. But there's one nugget that jumps off the page:

Did you know, for example, that AOL Time Warner, at latest tally, has nearly 13 million square feet of office space on its books? That is twice the entire square footage of the Pentagon, recognized to be the largest office building on earth.

And folks, we're not even including that sprawling, 2 million-square-foot office complex now under construction at Columbus Circle, which will be one-third the size of the Pentagon all by itself.

Assuming AOL Time Warner management cut this glut of office space in half and sublet out 7.5 million square feet at an average cost of $60 per square foot, the company would save $450 million in overhead costs and gain about that amount in rental income. On the other hand, big offices are impressive, especially to the egomaniacs who occupy them.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Dollar Hegemony

"World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy," writes Henry C K Liu in the Asia Times. "The world's interlinked economies no longer trade to capture a comparative advantage; they compete in exports to capture needed dollars to service dollar-denominated foreign debts and to accumulate dollar reserves to sustain the exchange value of their domestic currencies."

There are a number of people who believe that dollar hegemony was a key component of the 90s economic boom in the United States. Mr. Liu concurs and says that its continuance is unsustainable and unacceptable. He proposes a number of corrective measures. You can read the entire article by clicking here. Thanks to Michael Thomas for the link.

An Evil That Cannot Be Appeased

The Afghanistan theater has been the first one, but it won't be the last. It is a place where you are setting an example for how this battle has to be conducted, and there's no question but that Afghanistan is indeed a proving ground.

It's a momentous time. You have a momentous mission. You have been commissioned by history to play a key part. It's dangerous; there's no question. It's difficult and the American people know it and the people of the coalition countries know it. They know it because they see it on television. They know it because they see some of your comrades coming home dead and wounded.

The coalition, this coalition, stands on the front line between freedom and fear. You stand against an evil that cannot be appeased, it must not be ignored, and it certainly must be defeated.

You've done a magnificent job, each of you, and I am proud and I am grateful and I know that your families are proud and grateful. They worry about you. And they too sacrifice.

And when this war is won, and it will be won, you will be able to say that I fought with the coalition in Afghanistan against terrorism and you'll be remembered for it.

--Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to US and coalition forces in Bagram, Afghanistan