Saturday, May 18, 2002

Drought Update

My driveway looks like Lake Erie and a friend just called to see if he could borrow a sump pump. The drought continues, with two inches of rain last night and more falling this morning. Driving down to get bagels for breakfast, the radio news readers said that despite the avalanche of rain that has fallen here in the Northeast in the month of May, it is still not enough. We need more, they said, before the drought restrictions can be lifted. After hearing this, I had to slow down and put the Tahoe into 4-wheel drive, because a puddle the size of Lake Michigan had spread across Rte 19.

Friday, May 17, 2002

The Politics of War

There were a number of people on the radio today, Howard Fineman among them, arguing that Vice President Cheney should not "threaten" Democratic members of Congress regarding a Congressional inquiry into the Intelligence breakdown that enabled, at least partially, the 11th of September. You can read some of what Cheney said by clicking here. (For some reason, his speech last night has still not been posted on the VP's web-page).

Cynically, the exact opposite is true. Cheney's supposed "threats" would presumably increase the likelihood of hearings, which would greatly increase the likelihood that the Democrats would embarrass themselves and do damage to the War effort. Which in turn would further alienate, if that's possible, the roughly 60% of the American electorate that already believes the Democratic Party is already too squishy on the War on Terrorism.

But Cheney wasn't being cynical. He was just pissed and rightly so. The last thing on earth this country needs right now is some Congressional circus of an investigation into why our Intelligence Community didn't "catch" the 11th of September. We already know the answer: we didn't have good sources. We already know the solution: get better sources.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be a serious investigation of what happened and why. There should be and it should be modeled after the Challenger Commission that investigated the explosion of the Space Shuttle. In the case of 9/11, someone like James Schlesinger should be asked to head up a 6- or 8-person panel of top Intelligence experts to review every facet of how we gather, sort and colate information regarding our national security. This Commission review should take as much time as necessary to think through every angle of technological interoperability, agency cooperation and coordination, Departmental/Military integration, etcetera. And then it should deliver a report to the President and the Congress that says: here's what we found out about the systemic failure and here's what we think you need to do to fix it.

And it's the Democrats who should be making the case for a 9/11 Intelligence Commission inquiry, loudly and persistently. Such a proposal would (a) make them look serious, (b) help the country and (c) be embraced by civilians and officers throughout the Intelligence/National Security Community. It's important that something like the Challenger Commission be empaneled and empowered to look at every facet of Intelligence gathering.

But, of course, that's not what the Democrats are doing. They're using this non-news story to try to stir up their base and leave the impression that Bush was reading comic books in Crawford while Al Qaeda advanced. "What did he know and when did he know it" was their idiot's mantra yesterday.

Cheney's warning to the Democrats is sound political advice. Playing politics with the War on Terror isn't just stupid, it's wrong. And it isn't just wrong, it's evil.

The Rebound Begins

Richard Parsons yesterday became the chief executive officer of AOL Time Warner, replacing Gerald Levin. The timing could not be better for Mr. Parsons. AOL's stock price has hit rock bottom. The worst of the advertising recession has passed. Everything that went wrong is being blamed on someone else. And Jessica Reif Cohen of Merrill Lynch, the best AOL analyst around, just upgraded the stock.

The story was played as AOL sings the blues. But the truth is Parsons is whistling a happy tune. The break-up value of just the Time Warner assets now exceeds the market capitalization of the merged entity. Barring scandal, a year from now we will be reading the "Parsons-led AOL Turnaround" story. Since he's a good guy, more power to him.

Drought Update

Here in the land where the reservoirs overflow and water is in almost every basement, the drought continues. The forecast is for yet more rain.

Please Shut Up

Media Geezer news reader Dan Rather is at it again, talking about how the press is being too timid in its coverage of the War Against Terrorism. Following are two paragraphs that capture perfectly Rather's narcissism and cluelessness:

"It is an obscene comparison ... but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented," said Mr Rather. "And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck.

"Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions, and to continue to bore in on the tough questions so often. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism."

Why can't he just read the news and go home?

Thanks to Drudge for the link.

Rumsfeld on Limbaugh, Cheney Slaps Back

Here's the transcript of Rush Limbaugh's interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And here are some soundbites from Vice President Cheney's speech tonight at the New York State Conservative Party dinner. The full text of Cheney's speech should be posted at the White House website tomorrow.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Bush "Knew" Flap

Please!. Stop it. Grow up. Join the real world. As Secretary of State Rumsfeld said on the Limbaugh show today, intelligence reports that lack specificity or "granularity" (as he put it) are not really actionable. And since there are so many threats, every day, the notion that this president (or any president) would be negligent for not responding to one non-actionable intelligence report is ludicrous.

A transcript of Secretary Rumsfeld's interview with Limbaugh should be posted shortly at this site. It is well worth reading. The fact that Democrats and their press megaphones are trying to make an issue of Bush's handling of these intelligence reports says a lot more about them than it does about Bush.

New Champion

Erin Tanner Silvernail shot a stunning 21-25 to wrest the coveted MiniPutt Claret Jug away from Tom Smith, the reigning champion. All hail the new champion!

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Jim Cramer

I've known Jim Cramer since I was 21 years old and I've always liked him. He may well be the hardest-working person I know. He is easily one of the smartest. He is driven like no one I have ever met; he literally flogs himself through the workday. He can, on the downswing, be extraordinarily difficult. But that's true of most non-medicated manic people. What saves Cramer is that he's manic and dynamic and, at heart, a good guy.

Cramer (no one ever calls him Jim or James, it's always Cramer) has published his account of being a hedge fund manager and the founder/guiding spirit of in the 1990s. It's a great read; perhaps the best book yet written about the Millenium Market. Cramer has recently emerged as a chat show host on CNBC. No surprise, he's good at it.

And people are sniping. Nicholas Maier, who worked for Cramer's hedge fund briefly, has published a book that accuses Cramer of trading for the fund on inside and non-public information. The book was published by Harper Collins, which is owned by Newscorp. The New York Post has used Maier's book as a stick with which to beat Cramer on its business pages. You can read Tuesday's version by clicking here. You can read today's version by clicking here. I'd connect you to all the others, but you get the idea. The New York Post is owned by Newscorp.

A couple of years ago, Fox News Channel Chairman Roger Ailes signed up Cramer (and the editorial team of to do a business chat show. By entering into a deal with Ailes to appear on the Fox News Channel, Cramer was banned from appearing on CNBC. Since no one (that he knew) watched him on Fox, he began scheming to get back on CNBC. This led to a nasty dispute between Ailes and Cramer. The bad blood lingers to this day. Fox News Channel is owned by Newscorp.

Cramer now alleges that the various moving pieces of Newscorp are conspiring to destroy his reputation. He's right that they all hate him. But the notion that you could organize these people to wage a coordinated campaign against anyone seems far-fetched. More likely they're attacking him for their own reasons. And by responding to their attacks, Cramer simply fuels their fire.

This will continue for a while. Then the lawyers will hammer out a deal in which the parties agree not to attack one another anymore, until the next time. In the meantime, NBC Chairman Robert Wright should re-think how he's using Cramer. It's fine to have him co-host a chat show, but it's a waste of his talent and energy.

MSNBC is a near disaster and poorly managed. Although it launched well before Fox News Channel and had much better "clearance" (on cable networks) for years, MSNBC now garners about one-third of FNC's audience. The company recently hired former New York Post editor Jerry Nachman to serve as an editorial guru to help turn things around. Nachman will be working with (and for) MSNBC chieftain Erik Sorenson.

I can tell you right now that this won't work out, because arrangements like this never do. You need one man or woman on a mission -- with complete authority -- to do a turnaround. And the one man out there who is smart enough and savvy enough to turn around MSNBC is Cramer. He'd be sensational at it because -- genetically -- he's a great tabloid news guy.

I doubt this will ever come to pass. But it sure would be fun. And it's a much better strategy for MSNBC than "America's Network" and Phil Donahue.

Broder's Right

David Broder's column on Sunday, in which he dismissed the idea that John McCain would ever seek the Democratic presidential nomination or that Democrats would want McCain as their presidential nominee, was right on the money.

The McCain for President-as-a-Democrat movement got started in the pages of The Washington Monthly and The New Republic. You can find the links by clicking here. But it never made any kind of real world sense. In his column, Broder brought the whole crazed notion back down to earth and then buried it. He's still the best political reporter in America.

Bush Photo Flap


Bush Bested

Marvin Bush, that is. The reigning Blogosphere MiniPutt Champion has seen his back-to-back 26s bested by my brother-in-law, Tom Smith, who fired back-to-back 25s yesterday after, he says, a long day at work.

Known now as "the 5th Major," the Blogosphere MiniPutt Championship has attracted players from over 26 (and counting) countries. All hail the new champion. To try your luck and test your skill, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Drought Update

Another 2.5 inches of rain fell last night, by my somewhat crude projections. I would guess we had a total of about 4.5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. I took the dogs out for a walk this morning and picked up the papers. The Journal News, which is the local Gannett paper, and The New York Times both have stories on the drought. The Journal News story was about the recent rainfall. The headline read: When Too Much Is Not Enough. We expect more rain this week. The drought continues.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Smart Buy

The turnaround at Sears gathered momentum today with the acquisition of Land's End, which sells more clothes through the mail and over the Internet than any other company in America. The new management team at Sears is betting on quality to lure consumers back into its outlets and the acquisition of Land's End is evidence that they mean what they say. It's a smart move; well-timed and nicely priced (especially for Land's End stockholders). Given all the bad corporate news of late, it's good to see a great company making itself stronger.

Bookmark the TAP Blog

Mickey Kaus reports that The American Prospect, a lefty magazine that I've never read, is in serious, game-ending financial condition. This would be of no interest except that The American Prospect's blog is truly superb. If the magazine goes down, the blog probably goes down with it.

How to save the blog while letting the magazine sink? A good case for some Harvard Business School section to mull over. In the meantime, bookmark the TAP blog. It may be gone too soon, which would be a shame.

Drought Watch

How's the drought working out for you? We've got water in our basement, grass that's growing about an inch a day and collection areas filled with water. The forecast is for yet more rain; we expect another inch tonight. The more this drought continues, the more the need for an Ark increases.

Ethically Challenged

Read the following text and imagine for a moment what The New York Times editorial and op-ed pages would say if the company in question was, say, Enron.

While working as (the company's) corporate physician, Dr. Horn said, company executives asked her to let them see patients' medical records even though she didn't have patient permission to share the confidential information.

She also claims, in court documents, that the vice president for human resources told her to "misinform employees regarding whether injuries or illnesses they were suffering were work-related so as to curtail the number of workers' compensation claims filed against (the company)."

When she didn't comply, Dr. Horn said, she was fired.

The company in question is The New York Times, which fired Dr. Horn last year. Dr. Horn has since sued, which you can read all about by clicking here. Thanks to Man Without Qualities for the heads up on this.

Down To Earth

Mitt Romney's poll numbers in Massachusetts have fallen sharply. Yes, the University of Massachusetts Poll is usually more favorable to Democrats. So yes, it's probably not true that state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien (D-Female) "leads" Romney in a truly representative sampling of statewide opinion.

But at the end of April, Opinion Dynamics Corporation -- hands-down the best polling outfit in the Northeast and one of the very best in the country -- found Romney wallowing in the mid-40s against both O'Brien and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Given the weakness of these opponents, the mid-40s hardly constitute a position of strength.

All those GOP operatives who started counting Romney as a "win" when he wrestled the Republican gubernatorial nomination away from acting Governor Jane Swift had better start speed-dialing for dollars. Romney's no better than a 50-50 bet in Massachusetts. Which says a lot more about Massachusetts than it does about Mitt Romney. Most states would kill to have someone of Romney's caliber serve as their governor. But Massachusetts, I can tell you from long, dreadful political experience, is not most states.

Thanks to Goddard's Political Wire for the heads-up on the UMass Poll.

The Note

The ABC News Political weblog known as The Note needs an editor. It's too long and there's not nearly enough straighforward political information. For those of us who can't afford to subscribe to The Hotline (which is most of us), The Note seemed like a very good idea; a free survey of political news and information from around the nation. But that's not what's being delivered. The Note has become a kind of meanderer's guide to the Acela crowd's conventional wisdom. Someone there should write The Note for The Note and distill the basic information into a quick-read package.