Saturday, January 28, 2006

2006: A Warning

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National Journal magazine has a Liberals’ wish-list of an article up, titled “What If?” In that article, authors David Baumann, Kirk Victor, and Richard E. Cohen practically drool over the prospect of a takeover in Congress by the Democrats. Unfortunately, sane people should heed that warning, though not for the reasons these three authors propose.

First off, let’s not forget that elections do not always turn out the way they are expected to go. Bill Clinton was hardly qualified to serve as President, yet he was elected to two terms. He admitted to committing felonies, yet even the Republicans in the Senate could not agree to all vote to convict. John Kerry was such a complete fool as a party nominee, that even Saturday Night Live, hardly a friend to Conservatives, could not resist mocking him, yet he claimed more than 48% of the Popular Vote. Al Gore has revealed himself to be an absolutely insane demagogue, yet in 2000 he actually claimed a plurality of the Popular Vote. Liberals can win, even when they are unqualified, even when they are criminal, even when they are insane. We have to defend against that possibility.

Fortunately, the 2006 Elections will not be as easy for the Liberals as they believe. The authors of the National Journal article, whom I will simply dub the ‘3 idiots’ for easy reference, submit that “the once smugly ensconced Republicans have been struggling to overcome abysmal approval ratings and major fissures in their ranks. They’ve been reeling from criticism over their party’s handling of the Iraq War, Hurrican Katrina, gas prices, Social Security reform, and other domestic issues - not to mention the indictments and criminal investigations facing several GOP officials in Congress and the Bush Administration.”

Classic Liberal Mythology, that. I shall address each contention in the order the ‘3 idiots’ presented them:

1. Approval ratings - this is a laugher. The idiots never mention that the polls showing poor approval for Republicans has even lower numbers for Democrats. And the President’s numbers are not only better than either party’s Congress approval, but Dubya’s polls have been climbing. And the idiots have been trying to forget the critical fact that in the last mid-term election, the support from the President made all the difference in several key races. So this is actually a GOP asset, not a Liberal advantage.

2. “Major fissures" - I think they mean guys like me, who felt that certain Conservatives damaged the process by ambushing Harriet Miers and denying her a fair hearing before Congress. Also, there are Republicans who remember the promises made to the American people in 1994, and who fear that we are drifting a bit too much towards the ‘go along’ style of the Democrats. But that is family business - for all the noise, we also remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment, and when the election time comes, we will come together and pull the lever for the RIGHT candidate. The Liberals are lying to themselves to think we will repeat the old mistakes of staying home or splitting our vote. We know the Liberal tricks and history, and while we will argue about ideas and decisions among ourselves, there are few indeed who are foolish enough to think that a Democrat majority in either house is good for the nation.

3. The Iraq War - A classic case of Liberal self-delusion. Between MSM lies and rising casualties with no clear proof of victory during that year, 2004 was the low mark of public support for the war. The evidence of multiple free elections in multiple countries, significant captures and kills of high-ranking terrorists, improved capabilities of Iraqi police and army, and similar successes, has improved public confidence that the war was right and necessary, and that the best course for the future is to finish the job and support the war. The Democrats are not only still on the wrong side of this decision, they continue to notice the tide of support for the troops, the cause, and the determination to finish what we started.

4. Hurricane Katrina - Only a Liberal would still try to blame the Republicans for a natural disaster. This episode is one which the Liberals would actually do well to avoid mentioning, since any serious investigation into who failed to do theri job would unerringly point to the Democrat Mayor Nagin, and the Democrat Governor Blanco. While former FEMA director Brown did not anticipate the confusion which the Governor and Mayor’s ineptitude would create, and State DHS head Landreneau failed to implement the plan developed for just such a crisis, it is impossible to review the events and actions, and somehow blame the Federal response or the Republicans.

5. Gas Prices - If the Liberals want to bring up gas prices, it could be an easy trump for the Republicans, to simply point to all the Democrat obstruction to simply drilling in U.S. territory for the oil we need. Especially with worries about Iran’s intentions, the most logical thing in the world for oil, is for us to drill in ANWR right now - yet that is precisely what the Liberals have tried to prevent. Bringing that up in 2006 would improve the Republican stock, not the Democrats.

6. Social Security reform - This is a laugh. Every debate in the past decade has made it clear that Republicans want to reform Social Security, while Democrats oppose it. Now would be a very good time to remind the American people, who wants to address problems and who wants to hide them.

7. Indictments and Criminal Investigations - that’s Liberal code for 'we figure the charges won’t stick, so let’s get the most mileage we can’. The fact is, by the summer of 2006 the DeLay trial will be over, and from the look of the evidence, it won’t be a problem for The Hammer. As for ‘Scooter’ Libby, the most telling point in that case, is that the charges against Libby have nothing whatsoever to do with the reason Fitzgerald was given his job - Libby neither did nor said anything which endangered or exposed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent - never mind that she was never a covert operative in the first place during the time concerned. Notice also, that there has been no sense of outrage among the American people - they know a political dirty trick when they see one, and they aren’t buying.

After all that, you might think that there’s nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, we cannot be casual about the threat. One thing the idiots do that should be considered, is warn us about who would be in control, should the Democrats actually succeed intaking over Congress. The idiots send a clear warning we should heed. Consider this roster:

John Conyers as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House
Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader

These are people whose hatred for the troops and the President, whose antipathy for tax reform and contempt for the public will is so well-known, that we can promise their ascension to power would lead to tax increases on an order not seen since Carter, with concurrent legislation to compel Americans to accept the most radical Liberal social agenda imaginable. Remember how Hillary tried to nationalize Healthcare? With a Democrat-held Congress, it could happen. Remember when Reid said we needed to pay more taxes, not less? With a Democrat-held Congress, it could happen. Remember when Murtha seriously wanted us to pull all our troops out from Iraq with no notice? With a Democrat-held Congress, it could happen.

During the primaries, we must support the most Conservative candidates possible, but when the fall rolls around, make no mistake, the Republican majority must be protected.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jack Bauer, Lunch, and Other Things

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Once the polls closed on the 2006 “Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere” decision, I sat down to lunch to think about who should win the title.

From the final voting came this result:

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler – 81.0%
Ace (from Polipundit’s Comments) – 12.1%
Michael Yon – 06.9%

There were just three problems, though. Bauer does a lot of things that are not real popular with the CTU guys or the suits, so popularity cannot be everything. Second, one of Rottie’s own minions referenced his service as a Danish. I can’t see a flaky breakfast pastry in the role of a no-compromise counter-terrorist agent. And third, as anyone who has watched ‘24’ knows, you can’t just come out and say something straightaway. The truth has to come out in some unexpected, violent, testosterone-affirming way.

Paula and Randy came by to thank me for remembering them in the comments of the voting section, and to suggest that Simon Cowell is actually a Chechyan spy who needs to be roughly interrogated. Paula seemed a bit enthusiastic about that idea, and supplied a pair of handcuffs and a gag for that purpose. Randy also tried to throw in a late vote for the Rottweiler, saying ‘I gotta support my peeps, Dawg.’

At this mention, the Rottie himself showed up, grabbed the waiter and knocked the entrĂ©e from his hands, dropping a pistol and a letter from the Al Kerry terrorist organization demanding that I name Jacques “Souffle” Chirac as Europe’s “Jack Bauer”. Rottie twisted the waiter’s head off neatly, tossing the noggin towards a table of ‘Earth Or Else' vegans, who scattered like rats.

I need you to trust me”, said Rottie, “You have to name the Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere in the next five minutes, or a lot of innocent people are going to be hurt.”

“OK, so we’ll make this quick
,” I replied. “Why should you be ‘Jack Bauer’?”

Because there’s no time,” answered Rottie, “and don’t forget DJ – I don’t work for you. I’m doing this my way.”

“What about Ace and Yon?”
I asked.

Good men, but they’re needed somewhere else,” replied Rottie. “I can’t tell you more right now. Hang on-“

Rottie tossed a pair of grenades at an approaching black van in the street, and we ran for the back exit.

Out in the alley, Rottie munched on a cannoli he grabbed from the kitchen, while checking his pockets for remaining weapons. He then sprinted down the sidewalk, stopping as he stared at a kiosk.

There’s no time!” shouted Rottie.

Hey, you already said that!” I retorted.

No, I mean there’s no TIME” said Rottie, pointing to an empty bin at the news stand. “Rove was going to send me secret instructions in the ‘McHitler’ section of the next TIME edition, but there’s no – wait a sec”

Rottie grabbed a TIME magazine from a passing pedestrian, who turned out to be wanted serial bomber Abu BuuBuu. Rottie tied the man’s hands behind him with a coil of wire he was carrying.

OK DJ, I need you to do three things for me” demanded Rottie as he got up and checked the magazine in his semi-auto cell phone, counting rounds as he spoke.

One – I gotta be Jack. No one else can do the job.

“Two – I was never here.

“Three – the security of the free world depends on everyone tuning in to Fox for every episode of ‘24’, and regular visits to TAR for briefings.

“And it wouldn’t hurt for them to visit Polipundit a few times every week as well. And don’t forget, kids, killing terrorists is not only fun, it’s good for the environment and leads to cleaner elections.

“Thanks for lunch!”

And with that, the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, the new “Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere” dashed off, stopping only to throw BuuBuu face-first into passing traffic and to reload his cell phone.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jack Bauer Revealed?

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Back on January 19th, I asked readers to name who is the “Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere”. I set the following conditions:

1. He’s male. Sorry ladies, but this gun-toting, do-what-a-patriot’s-gotta-do guy is focused testosterone. This ain’t Siegfried and Roy, this ain’t Dr. Phil, and any woman pulling the kind of stuff we see Bauer doing in “24″ would look more like “Xena” than a counter-terrorism agent.
2. He’s decisive. No one who can be connected to a focus group or committee need apply.
3. He’s not PC. Bauer does what is required, and is not subtle about it.
4. Despite being violent a lot, Bauer is not crazy or bloodthirsty. He does what is necessary, but holds his fire, and is willing to let even terrorists live if they surrender. That rules out DU or Daily Kos, even if they could accept being on the same side as Bauer.
5. Bauer is in such deep cover, most people think he’s dead. Talk about controlling your ego. That rules out Rush, most talk show hosts and columnists, and anyone who has voluntarily appeared on Leno or Letterman.
6. Bauer knows guns. And uses them often. This rules out anyone from the State Department or the United Nations, or their advocates.
7. Bauer is indestructible. In a previous season, Bauer freaking died, someone got his heart started again and by the end of the episode Bauer was kicking bad guys in the groin as hard as ever.
8. Bauer always knows what’s about to happen. As a result, he has a few seconds to plan his actions, which only appear to be impossible.
9. Bauer trusts the right people. He instinctively knows the traitors and low-lifes, but depends on the ones he knows are stand-up.
10. Bauer gets results. Compromise is useless.

I ruled out Hugh Hewitt from the start for being a lawyer, and I have to re-rule him out again, because he claimed to have Jack Bauer on his radio show. This proves Hugh is not Jack, for 2 additional reasons:

1. Jack Bauer does not have time for interviews, nor would a man with his cover want the publicity.
2. If by some quirk in the universe Hewitt really was interviewing Bauer, then by the fact that Hewitt was interviewing Bauer, Hewitt could not be Bauer. And don’t say Hewitt was pretending to be himself and Bauer; Jack Bauer does not talk to himself.

When the qualified candidates were tallied, twenty-two valid names were submitted. In alphabetical order, they are (special BTDT props to those who have ‘been there, done that’):

Ace, regular commenter on this site
Allahpundit, 'Link Mecca'
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, ‘The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler’
Bill Roggio, ‘The Fourth Rail’, BTDT
Bill Whittle, ‘Eject!Eject!Eject!’ , BTDT
Blackfive, ‘Blackfive’ BTDT
Charles Johnson, ‘Little Green Footballs’
Chris Muir, author of ‘Day by Day’
Dafydd AbHugh, ‘Big Lizards’
Ernie@EHOWA, ‘The Daily Grind’
Frank J, ‘IMAO
Froggy, ‘Froggy Ruminations’, BTDT
Jack Risko, ‘Dinocrat
Kim du Toit, ‘RadioActive Chief’
Lumpy, ‘Lump On A Blog’
Mark Steyn, columnist and author
Michael Yon, “Michael Yon: Online Magazine
Polipundit, ‘Polipundit'
R.D. Currie, ‘Centurion’, BTDT
Reverse Vampyr, ‘Reverse Vampyr’
Rick Moran, ‘Rightwing Nuthouse’
Victor David Hanson, ‘vdh Private Papers’

I figure everyone nominated gets their CTU ID and a nice Glock for the honor. The 'BTDT' vets get full-auto rifles. But in the end, only three people got more than two nominations, so our finalists are


The Rottweiler, and

Michael Yon.

The floor is open to debate among those final three. And since all three are distinguished, please mention who the two who do not get your nod for ‘Jack Bauer’ would be. I, for example, consider myself the “Felix Leiter of the Blogosphere”.

And for my votes, I vote

Michael Yon as “Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere”

Rottweiler as “Darth Vader of the Blogosphere”

Ace as “Detective John McClane of the Blogosphere”

You’re up.

Slap The Liar – Another Much-Needed Fisking


Jacob Weisberg has an article up in 'Slate'. Yeah, if you have read Slate you know it tilts just a bit to Port, and the writers there are not all that big on scholarship, so a column regarding Constitutional Law is likely to miss the bullseye. This one, however, missed the whole target, the bale of hay it was sitting on, the barn behind the bale, and pretty much anything the author could be said to be aiming as the goal. Yet because the likely audience won’t catch the mistake, Weisberg will likely be thought of as on-target, simply because the audience will see what they want to see.

The article is titled “The Power-Madness of King George”, which is in no way accurate about the President, but at least correctly warns us about the large and false assumptions Mister Weisberg carries into the matter, a la BDS. So, I am taking it upon myself to note some of the more egregious errors in Weisberg’s article, and to respond as needed.

Weisberg can’t get past the second sentence of his article before his first lie. Says Weisberg; “President Bush believes he has the legal authority to order electronic snooping without asking anyone's permission.”. This is a lie on two levels. First off, it falsely conveys the notion that the President has a jones for “snooping” into people’s private lives just because he wants to. A fitting response would be from President Bush’s address at Kansas State University last week: “When the 9/11 terrorists were planning their attack, they made calls to and from Al Qaeda and their operatives inside the United States. So if a phone number connected to a member or supporter of Al Qaeda calls someone inside the United States, we want to know who they are calling, and why.” Second, Weisberg has such a low opinion of Executive authority, that he actually thinks the President of the United States needs so ask “permission” to do his job. A police office does not ask for the authority to pull over someone who is driving suspiciously; a parent does not ask for authority to see what his kids have in their backpack from school. And a President in wartime does not ask for permission to exercise his authority under Article II of the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Defending the country includes the use of intelligence, and the President directs certain specific conditions and actions, including the interception of communications to and from foreign agents. Mister Weisberg seems to be unaware that such practices were authorized by Presidents Clinton, and all the way back to the first President, George Washington, who paid for information regarding British conversations with Tories, and later the conversations between the Whiskey Rebels. Weisberg is on the wrong side of History, Security, and Common Sense.

Weisberg hopes that the “Senate hearings on NSA domestic espionage set to begin next month will confront fundamental questions about the balance of power within our system.” In English, that translates to mean that Weisberg hopes that the Senate will attempt to dilute or outright deny the President’s Constitutional power to wage the war as he is placed to do. Solely authorized, in fact. Weisberg thinks that committees are the answer, which suggests that Weisberg has never had to submit a work of importance to a committee. The circus of the Alito hearings, even when the outcome was known from the beginning, demonstrates that Senate hearings to judge actions which is neither the Senate’s jurisdiction, nor which will help win the war against Terrorism in any way, is foolhardy at best.

Weisberg leaves that lie be, and proceeds on to his next, claiming “Bush and his lawyers contend that the president's national security powers are unlimited.”


Care to explain where that is actually claimed, anywhere? The audience will understand that Mister Weisberg knows he is lying here. After all, if the White House did not feel the obligation to limit their actions and authority, they would not have filed literally thousands of FISA requests, nor made dozens of briefings to Congress regarding this program and other intelligence-gathering methods, nor discussed some of his actions in public speeches. In addition, the Article II actions undertaken by President Bush have been demonstrably restrained in number and scale, and always within the clear limits of National Security as defined by the objective of preventing another 9/11-style attack, just as Congress, the Public, and the 9/11 critics have been demanding. Weisberg, having seen these public documents, statements, and news reports, obviously knows this, which means that his implication that Bush is trying to assert unprecedented powers or to expand the boundaries of his office, is a deliberate mis-statement of the facts.

It truly says something about how truly Leftist Mister Weisberg is, that he submits a 42-page legal brief by the Justice Department, who know a thing or two about the Constitution and the Law, to a critique by “Andrew Cohen, a CBS legal analyst”. You know, CBS, the network which got caught trying to manipulate a federal election with forged documents a couple years ago? So it seems a bit ironic to me that Mister Weisberg described the White House, and not CBS, as “an elective dictatorship, governed not by three counterpoised branches of government but by a secretive, possibly benign, awesomely powerful king.” But then, by now it should be clear that Weisberg has an agenda, and he is quite ready to lie for its advance.

Weisberg, like the blind pig of the fable, actually makes a true statement next: “the president's powers as commander in chief make him the "sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs." This status, which derives from Article II of the Constitution, brings with it the authority to conduct warrant-less surveillance for the purpose of disrupting possible terrorist attacks on the United States.” Of course, this is not Weisberg’s opinion, but the Attorney General, whom Weisberg can only address as the “putative author” of the legal brief. This should have been obvious, however, by the fact that Weisberg knows so little about the Constitution that he has managed to oppose Constitutional provisions in his argument.

Rather than consider that the President in his own right represents an entire branch of government, equal in authority to the entire Congress or Federal judiciary, Weisberg dismisses Article II of the U.S. Constitution, declaring that it has a ewhat daffy monarchical undertone”.
Weisberg continues his fiction, to such a degree that he seems to believe that the only authority the President has in regards to intelligence collection resides in the provisions of FISA. That is, in Weisberg’s world the President can do nothing without the express consent of Congress, allowing the President of the United States less discretion in his job than the Senate cafeteria. There, at least, the cooks are allowed to choose what they will prepare and how. Weisberg does not want the President to decide how we will collect intelligence information, or from whom; he confuses the actions of the Justice Department in the prosecution of criminals, with the authority specifically granted to the President as Commander-in-Chief of the military. Weisberg throws out the old liberal canard that not agreeing to grant captured foreign terrorists the civil rights of U.S. citizens somehow equates to a desire to “excuse torture”. Weisberg, in true liberal hysteria, then speculates that the power to do his job might somehow allow President Bush to suggest “press censorship or arresting political opponents”. ‘Dishonest’ is hardly a strong enough word to describe the malice in Weisberg’s slander.

Weisberg, perhaps realizing he has crossed a line too far for even most liberals, then scuttles back at the end with a grudging claim that he does not “suggest that Bush intends anything of the kind—or that even a Congress as supine as the current one would remain passive if he went so far.”. But Weisberg’s hate against the President still reeks throughout his screed, continued proof of the anger from the Left that a Conservative President, once again, should prove effective in defeating America’s enemies.

It might be comforting to consider the possibility that Mister Weisberg was not fully himself when he wrote these lies and malicious slurs. Perhaps a bitter former employee broke in and wrote this slop under Weisberg’s byline, or perhaps a deranged monkey, such as appear to be writing Op-Eds for the New York and LA Times’, broke in and posted this rhetorical defecation. Alas for Mister Weisberg, a note at the end confirms not only that he wrote this hateful pack of lies. ‘Slate’ notes at the end of the article, that Weisberg misspelled the name of the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, which means that a co-editor corrected the spelling. Unfortunately, that note confirms that the article was presented as Mister Weisberg intended, and indeed as ‘Slate’ desired to present it. A deliberate mis-statement of Constitutional authority, a false and hateful portrayal of the White House and the President in particular, and a pathological denial of the need for vigilant security procedures in the era of global terrorism, are the hallmarks of ‘Slate’ magazine and the angry, truth-hating Mister Weisberg.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

FORD – For Obvious Reasons, Dead


If I were to describe a major corporation’s products as being best-known for rolling over and spontaneously catching fire, you might believe I was referring to some caricature of a corporation, some Michael Moore-inspired nightmare that has no basis in fact. But I am talking about Ford, the company which seems, to paraphrase Robert Downey Junior, to like the taste of a gun barrel in the mouth.

Ford’s problems started the same way they did for other U.S. carmarkers. Ford was caught by surprise by the quality and popularity of Japanese imports during the 1970s, and suffered the disasters of the Pinto and the 1974-78 Mustang II. Ironically, then as now a combination of poor engineering and worse marketing.

Ford learned from its blunders, or so it seemed, to the point where it’s stock climbed all the way up to $29.85 a share in 2005. But problems were already moving towards disaster long before that high-water mark, and doom was unavoidable by the time anyone in Dearborn looked up to see it. One very key blunder early on was the removal of Jacques Nasser as CEO, replacing him with William Clay Ford Jr. in 2001. This occurred as part of a series of operational changes in an effort to “return Ford to profitability”. Many management professionals were given the boot, and the company failed miserably to consider the most likely causes of lost revenue and market share. And to elect a CEO largely on the basis of family control of the stock – Ford himself admitted that “his name and his family's control of the company's voting stock was a factor in his selection” – is a serious mistake for a major corporation to make. While the company enjoyed some success in rising stock prices until 2005 and a measure of profitability, no one at Ford appears to have ever seriously examined the causes for Ford’s problems, assuming that they would simply go away. And so history repeated itself, this time with possibly fatal consequences.

I mentioned the Pinto and the Mustang II, because they represented fundamental errors made by the Ford Directors. The Pinto was rushed into production, in about half the time normally taken to develop a new model, and so safety risks were not recognized until people died. If you do such a poor job of engineering that you make even Ralph Nader appear reasonable, you have really and truly screwed up. And then there is the Mustang II, an underpowered model no one wanted or was really ever liked. Taking the most famous model of muscle car Ford made, and replacing it with a weak sister with a penchant for transmission problems and oil leaks (as three of my friends constantly complained to me about the car), is an incredibly poor decision, impossible to justify with any knowledge of History of Economics. And judging from the finances of Ford during those years, it was an expensive lesson.

That was then, this is now though, right? Surely after those twin fiascos, you might expect someone at Ford would have put a report together, with some clever variant of a title on the line of “Hey, Let’s Not Do Something This Stupid Again, OK?” But apparently not.

First, there was the Ford Explorer. The SUV is largely a good idea. People love the idea of a big powerful truck, safe from likely accidents with plenty of power for driving and comfort. People don’t mind the big price tag, or even the lousy gas mileage, as long as they feel like they have a strong, capable, safe ride for their family. Emphasis on “safe”.

This is why the Explorer was bungled. Something in the design of the Explorer made it prone to exploding tires and rollover accidents. Extremely prone. Literally hundreds of Explorer drivers died in rollover accidents, and while tiremaker Firestone took a lot of the blame, NHTSA tests showed that Explorers were far more likely to roll over than any other model or brand. Even after extensive refitting and redesign, the Explorer in 2004 was still regarded as the most likely vehicle to suffer a rollover accident.

Ford recalled the Explorer in 2001 and again in 2003, although the company denied any risk of serious accident from the design errors. It doesn’t take a business genius to recognize that if your leading model of SUV has a propensity to kill people in rollover accidents, you have a serious problem. Unfortunately, Ford’s decision to deny there is a problem has not restored great confidence in the model, nor brought Ford to where it was in market share.

What could be worse? How about your most profitable line of vehicles catching fire by themselves? That’s not just a nightmare, that’s exactly what happened. In 2005, Ford was forced to recall 3.8 million F150 trucks, Expeditions, Broncos, and Lincoln Navigators, because the damn things self-ignited while parked. They burned down homes, they destroyed nearby cars and property, they killed people, and for some reason that just wasn’t a popular effect of the vehicles. And just as before, this came after years of denial by Ford that there was any kind of problem, and with no apologies for the lives lost and damage caused by the fatal flaw.

So, how did this all happen? Maybe it’s the fact that Ford never brought in experts to analyze past mistakes. Maybe it’s because CEO William Ford thought it was more important to kiss up to the union than to listen to his best people, to such a point that he canned the folks who could have warned him about what was coming, and how to avoid it. Maybe it’s because Ford has insulated itself in an echo chamber, hiding from real-world opinion and conditions for so long that the company really believes that they will survive every blunder they make.

Certainly that’s the only way I can explain the Ford Fusion. Granted, my degree is not in Marketing, but can someone please explain to me the reasoning in investing a major showcase effort in a product which is not the least expensive in its class, the most reliable, the fastest, the most luxurious, the highest rated by expert comparison, the safest, or by any standard the best in its class? There is no reason, from any rational perspective, to buy a Ford Fusion, yet this is what Ford is banking on to be its star for the future.

At no more than 221 HP, the Fusion is weak in comparison with any of the major muscle cars. At no better than 32 mpg highway (I mean for crying out loud, my 1998 Honda CRV gets better than that!), the Fusion is not an economy car. This car, to be blunt, is no threat to the Accord or the Camry. It might be good for a laugh when matched against the big guys from Japan, but it is by no means a contender. What manner of con man convinced Ford to mass-produce the Fusion, I can only speculate. No matter what manner of idiot in a boardroom thinks this will revive Ford’s futures, the present course is aimed directly at extinction.

What to say about Ford, then? Well, once upon a time there was a great carmaker, called Packard. Nice cars, comfortable, reasonably priced. But Packard couldn’t keep up when they had to, and the company died out. Just like the Hudson, Studebaker, and many other formerly famous names. It appears to be time to say good-bye to Ford.

Have you driven a Ford, lately? There’s a very good reason why not.

Ding Dong, “West Wing” Is Dead

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NBC’s alternate universe showWest Wing” is dead. Finally realizing this fact, the producers at NBC will air the final episode sometime later this spring, followed by fumigation to remove the odor and some of the worst rodents and vermin attracted by the corpse.

From its beginning, “West Wing” was a lie. The show’s site boasts that WW “offer viewers a realistic, behind-the-scenes peek into the Oval Office and the campaign trail that leads there.” Nothing of the sort, actually. The pilot was run September 22, 1999, when Bubba “Perjury” Clinton was in office. From the beginning, the President was depicted as noble and unerring in judgment, while conservatives were dismissed as trivial and petty. The personal pettiness of Bill Clinton was never depicted in Josiah Bartlett. Indeed, as the years passed it became increasingly obvious that no Democrat seemed suited to the image of Bartlett, who never cheated on his wife, was well-liked by Congress in general and the public in large numbers. By the time the pilot of “West Wing” ran, President Clinton had already been investigated and impeached by the Congress, and tried by the U.S. Senate. While Clinton escaped conviction, the 67-vote threshold to remove him never seriously a threat (the vote was a predictable 50-50 ‘no condemn-no condone' agreement by ‘The Club’), the emerging details of his sordid conduct, especially in attempts to smear his enemies and escape responsibility so immoral that Richard Nixon’s image benefited from the comparison. “West Wing” was clearly a Mainstream Media attempt to rebuild the image of President Clinton, even if it meant contriving a man Bill Clinton could never hope to emulate. Like Clinton, Sheen tried to put the JFK patina on his portrayal of Josiah Bartlett, while deftly ducking the scandals and personal peccadilloes of the Camelot President. “West Wing” was a grand lie to protect a vulgar liar.

I found “West Wing” interesting at times, as a peek into the mind of the Left Coast. But as the years passed, it became more and more obvious that “West Wing” had no contact with Reality. When terrorists attacked America on 9/11, “West Wing” failed to notice it. In fact, to this day the only ‘unreasonable extremists’ depicted on “West Wing” are conservatives and Christians. We face serious real-world questions about National Security and Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferation, but “West Wing” focuses on greenhouse gas as a factor in presumed Global Warming, and on the ‘need’ to restore Welfare. Demographics in the real world show parity between Republicans and Democrats, and a general preference for Conservativism over Liberalism, but in the world of “West Wing” the people are overwhelmingly liberal.

But perhaps the most laughable series of episodes are the ones surrounding the ‘election’ between Democrat Matthew Santos (how convenient – a Latino candidate with no accent, Caucasian skin tone, tailored suits copying CEOs of Fortune 50 companies, even an Anglo first name) and Republican Arnold Vinick, two men who together lack the depth I could find in a single sheet of notebook paper. Ironic that in both cases, “West Wing” presumes that the candidate cannot rely on his party platform, which is irredeemably tied to special interests and cronyism, so that we are supposed to cheer for men who defy their party and refuse to make promises to the nation, except in vague assurances that they love America – shades of John Kerry! By the Christmas break, I was convinced that the producers and writers of “West Wing” had no confidence at all in grassroots party volunteers, to say nothing of the electorate at large. No, we need to be told by our leaders what is good for us. They will tell us what we must do, the whole ‘consent of the governed' thing is vastly over-rated, and anyway it was created by a bunch of dead rich white men, right? The arrogance of the writers of “West Wing”, even as rigor mortis sets in, is breath-taking.

I would have found it interesting, had “West Wing” examined some of the new social paradigms from the past election – Dean’s internet fund-raising, the Blogosphere’s investigation and commanding authority in the “Rathergate” scandal, or the evolution of magazines and newspapers towards web-focused articles and blogger columnists, for instance. But “West Wing” was too much like a certain liner captain, who saw the iceberg but couldn’t understand why it didn’t get out of his way when he sounded the horn. “West Wing” began with contempt for Conservatives, and from there simply added to its list of enemies, until there was virtually no one left to watch the show.

I did find one accidental bit of honesty in the show. If you check the website, you can see the cast of the show proudly portrayed as if a vanguard against the foes of Liberalism. You may note that with one exception, the skin tone of everyone lined up is exactly the same; even Jimmy Smits is shown with the same skin tone as Martin Sheen and Alan Alda. The one black shown in the cast is shunted far off to one side, and is a low-ranking cast member who is never promoted, assigned a significant duty, or even asked for his opinion, except for some informal matter in the same patronizing tone might use on a family valet or butler. Small wonder that even in this promotional picture the man is not smiling or confident, and it speaks to the irony of Hillary Clinton’s “plantation” comment in ways she never intended.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Oligarchess Returns

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I like to listen to “Morning In America” as I drive to the Park-n-Wait each morning, and this morning I listened to the usually intelligent Bill Bennett interview Kathleen Parker. You know, the woman who said that bloggers are the “insidious enemies of decency, humanity and civility - the angry offspring of narcissism's quickie marriage to instant gratification.”
The woman is pure class, without a doubt.

This morning, Ms, Parker was opining on the state of the poor downtrodden male underclass. It seems that Ms. Parker, along with Dr. Bennett, believes that men are commonly the object of ridicule in television and movies, that many programs and businesses go out of their way to cater to women at the cost of men, and that the slide of pro-women, anti-male legislation has increased in both pace and effect. To this degree I find some common ground with Ms. Parker and the good Doctor.

However, from this point Ms. Parker went on to explain her help with the site “Save the Males”, which analogy Dr. Bennet found amusing. I did not. The implication that males are, as a whole, as helpless as beached whales, unable to help themselves and so in need of the mercy of kind-hearted women like Parker is so false as to be insulting, and ironically demonstrates that Parker actually is part of that derision for men and gender elitism that she pretends to fight against. Ms. Parker, for example, said on the show that she wants to help men “come out of hiding”, as if these poor timid souls cannot face the cruel injustice of the woman-dominated world. Parker went on to blame “sexually aggressive” women for the prevailing anti-male mood and her belief that men have gone into hiding. She even went to so far as to say that movies like “Brokeback Mountain” confuse men about their identity and roles, so that we are unable to find anyone to emulate. The Duke is gone, oh whatever shall we men do?

As if. Men are hardly about to faint from the stress of trying to satisfy the demands of feminists, nor are they weak-willed flowers cowering behind the shelter of a nanny or the obsolete memory of past glory. Ms. Parker makes the error of generalizing men, presuming that they are all similar in scope and character. Men continue to dominate government, business, science, all sorts of venues. The hottest TV show features a clearly dominant male. The top authors in many genres of fiction are male. The top athletes are male.

Of course, women are making their mark as well. After all, if we are to talk about Ken Lay, let’s not forget Martha Stewart. If we are to note the hypocrisy of Ted Kennedy talking about ethics, let’s not miss Hillary Clinton talking about the ‘plantation’. If we must wallow at the malicious level of E.J. Dionne, we certainly can’t leave out Maureen Dowd. If we recall the clueless sanctimony of a John Kerry, let’s not forget his charming wife Tereza. Way to go, ladies, you have made your mark indeed. We will sort out later who has to go clean it up.

Don’t worry about us men, though. We will be fine, as always.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Stealth Weapon of Global Commerce: Oil

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In discussing the China paradigm this weekend past, reader JohnMc identified an element in the discussion which is often ignored, yet critical to many nations’ infrastructure. JohnMc said “the US has traditionally been the premier developer of oil fields and their maintenance” and he is dead-on in that observation. Oil and technology go hand in hand and need each other at every step. As a result, nations which ostracize themselves from the West, and especially from the United States, do so at direct economic cost.

I mentioned some time ago, that a steady and reliable supply of Oil depends the refineries and distribution system in place to provide it. And I also noted that Oil obeys very real economic laws and scientific pressures. But it is vital to understand as well, that the existence of an oil distribution system can largely be credited to the British and American companies which invested the research and development to find the oil, drill it, process it and get it where it needs to be. Oil does not come out of the ground just anyplace, nor is it ready-for-use when it is first produced. For example, the jet fuel used for commercial airliners around the world, is a pretty exotic concoction, and can only be distilled from certain grades of oil, and under certain refining conditions. It is not generally understood that top-grade jet fuel is not widely produced in any Middle East country, which means that hypothetically, in a crisis the West could deny high-grade jet fuel to a hostile Arab nation, grounding some of its fighter jet fleet even if that Arab nation was a major oil producing nation! While in actual practice such an embargo would be extremely difficult to enforce (in such a scenario, the Arab nation would fall back to kerosene-derived jet fuels, which are easily made but which burn hotter and less efficiently, wearing out engines and reducing range), the fact that the West has control over certain grades of oil products is an important point to remember.

Almost every refinery and drilling installation in the Middle East was designed and built by a British or American company. While some European and Asian companies have been brought on board in the last couple decades, the number and quality of their facilities does not compare favorably with what the UK/USA offers. This is just one reason why a number of countries take pains to keep communication and negotiation open with U.S. oil companies, even when relations are strained with the U.S. government. I know personally of three incidents during the 1970s and 1980s where governments negotiated trade agreements with American companies through their consulates, establishing a de facto liaison with the Commerce Department and doing an end run on the State Department and their own Foreign Ministry. This sort of pragmatic approach cannot be ignored in determining the course of future negotiations.

Just one more card in the deck to think about.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

PFL Conference Championships

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American: Reagan (18-0) 18, Teddy Roosevelt (17-1) 12
National: George W. Bush (18-0) 15, Eisenhower (16-2) 12 OT

China In Limbo


The myth of Limbo is an intriguing one, of unresolved decision and unknown futures. I find the notion strangely similar to the current course of China. On the one hand, China is the last powerful Communist regime, but on the other it has been forced to adopt many business-friendly policies to bring in capital investments. China is a nation which will not countenance any sort of organized dissent (witness the crackdown on Falun Gong), yet China feels compelled to appease Muslim extremists in order to continue trade agreements to get much-needed oil. China wishes to become a regional hegemony, yet has agreed to treaties which put critical threats on its Southern flank, at the same time alienating regional Asian governments which could have been valuable allies. China, to describe its predicament, is in Limbo.

The significance in terms of American politics is simple, and drives my thought for the day:

What policies would the next American President pursue to increase the stability of the Asian continent, and to improve the American position in terms of security and opposing the Jihadists? Assuming, of course, that certain leading candidates can be bothered to address the crisis.