Maybe Valerie Plame's 'outing' wasn't harmful after all.

Maybe Valerie Plame's 'outing' wasn't harmful after all.

Maybe Valerie Plame's 'outing' wasn't harmful after all.

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 5 2005 4:27 PM

Redacted All Absurdum

Maybe Valerie Plame's 'outing' didn't do much damage.

A Dump Pinch movement? 12:59 P.M.

Sen. Arlen Specter says he's "still furious"  that Harriet Miers was "run out of town on a rail." Wasn't Specter one of the ones doing the running? ... 12:32 P.M.


Michael Oates Palmer displays some of the disgust  currently felt on the left for Hillary Clinton:

If a Hillary supporter can point me to one decision or vote she's made in the last four years where she took a stand that went against her best political interests – I'll buy the first beer.

Of course, now if Hillary took a stand that went against her best political interests it would simply look as if she'd determined it was in her best political interests to take a stand that went against her best political interests. She can't win at this point. ... P.S.: Palmer gives fresh voice to the sort of revived liberal '50s mindset that's the opposite of the Howell Raines Fallacy. The Howell Raines Fallacy, remember, is the easy assumption that one's righteous views are shared by the great and good American People. The Michael Oates Palmer Fallacy is the assumption that one's righteous views--on gay rights, capital punishment, even the Iraq War--are not shared by the American people. HRF liberals are constantly calling in the American people as a cavalry (that never comes). MOPF liberals are constantly looking for politicians with the "courage" to stand up to the voters in the face of their boorish prejudice. (In this instance, Palmer lauds Mark Warner's grant of clemency to a convicted killer.) Almost by definition, the issues on which Democrats are least likely to win become the litmus tests of character. If the American people actually support something (like welfare reform) it immediately becomes suspect--"a little hateful shotglass of Dick Morris triangulation," in the memorable phrase Palmer uses to describe Bill Clinton's willingness to execute Ricky Ray Rector. It's not hard to see why Democrats with this attitude--the electorate's wrong, and what's needed is a politician willing to tell them where to stuff it--tend to remain in the minority. 12:50 P.M.


Redacted all absurdum: Remember the famous 8 redacted pages in Judge Tatel's concurring opinion in the Plame case, the pages that many observers, following Lawrence O'Donnell's lead, assumed contained top secret eye-only information on the grave national security consequences of CIA "operative" Plame's outing--the pages, indeed, that O'Donnell said constituted "the one very good reason Karl Rove might be indicted"? Well, never mind! Tom Maguire notices a buried lede in today's NYT story  indicating that those 8 pages turn out to contain nothing like that. They seem to mainly disclose information about witnesses, etc. involved in Fitzgerald's perjury case--not a case about horrible damage done to our intelligence agents or their sources. The upshot may be that, despite Joseph Wilson's dramatics, his wife's outing didn't really cause such national security damage--something a few scandal-poopers have  claimed all along. ... 3:50 P.M.

Who Killed Spring Hill?The clueless NYT is on the case: The NYT manages to produce a long, moving front-page story on the demise of Saturn's innovative (and successful) Spring Hill, Tennessee plant without once mentioning the UAW's complicity in its killing--specifically in the decision to produce the larger Saturn sedan at an old-style plant in Wilmington, Delaware rather than at Spring Hill. ... The Times pisses on Spring Hill's success, writing:

In truth, Saturns never consistently beat their Japanese rivals in surveys performed by J. D. Power or Consumer Reports, but Saturn's consumer-friendly image ... [snip] ... made it seem as though they did.


But to even match the Japanese at a time when no other Detroit car came close was a huge achievement. Why didn't GM build on that success? Because the Saturn workers' very competence threatened the continued existence of other, less competent parts of General Motors--and there were more people working there than at Spring Hill. ... I suppose this tension--between productive and unproductive divisions--exists at every large organization, but it's surely exacerbated by the presence of a powerful union, especially a powerful small-d democratic union. The UAW, you could argue, was legally obligated to represent the interests of the majority of its members--and the majority worked in the unproductive parts of GM that Spring Hill threatened. It didn't help that Spring Hill succeeded by getting rid of the elaborate work rules so prized by the UAW's more traditional locals. ... It is written: The Nostradamus-like "Chatterbox" predicted all this in a previous century. A small, colorful cult worshipping him has sprung up in Micronesia. ...  12:34 P.M.

Pssst! Bolivia is about to elect a president who wants to decriminalize coca production.  Won't that throw the War on Drugs into a more than mild state of disarray? Just asking. ... 2:08 A.M.

Gregg Easterbrook's rule that All Economic News is Bad was effectively illustrated by yesterday's NYT front-pager, "Upbeat Signs Hold Cautions for the Future." The article notes several positive economic trends, including lower gas prices, but then warns darkly that

... as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

For every encouraging sign, there is an explanation. ...[snip]  Gasoline prices - the national average is now $2.15, according to the Energy Information Administration - have fallen because higher prices held down demand and Gulf Coast supplies have been slowly restored. [Emph. added.]


It's indeed deeply disturbing to learn that higher gas prices have held down demand, causing those prices to fall back to a level at which demand begins to rise again! It's almost as if some insidious law was at work--as prices rise, demand declines! As supply increases, prices fall! You can't win! ... P.S.: The price drop might be alarming if the decline in demand for gas reflected a general economic downturn. But that doesn't seem to be the case. What the NYT's Vikak Bajaj ominously describes is the market working exactly as it's supposed to, coupled with successful rebuilding efforts on the Gulf Coast. It appears to be "quite that simple." ... P.P.S.: Nor can I spot any "cautions for the future." .... P.P.P.S.: Bijaj further reported that

the Federal Reserve and businesses will have a big part in setting the economy's pace next year - the Fed through interest rates and companies by their hiring decisions. [Emph. added]

Yikes. Who knew? That's the sort of alarming macroeconomic information investors can use to make millions--and yet this wasn't even a TimesSelect article. They charge for Bob Herbert but they're giving away Bijaj's explosive contrarian insights for free! The hapless Pinch Sulzberger misses yet another revenue stream. ...

Update: Only a paranoid right-wing blogger would suggest that the NYT's editors are so eager to explain away any positive economic news because the healthy economy is the one remaining prop holding up Bush's presidency, and they can't believe his policies haven't produced another recession yet. Easterbrook's Bad News rule indicates that they'd have written exactly the same piece if a Democrat were in the White House. ... 1:20 A.M.


I don't understand why Hillary Clinton's finish-what-we-started statement  on Iraq is the brilliantly nuanced "Recalibration from Lieberman's Hard-Line Camp to the Middle-of-the-Road Camp" that ABC's The Note thinks it is. The Note writes:

"I do not believe that we should allow this to be an open-ended commitment without limits or end. Nor do I believe that we can or should pull out of Iraq immediately," Clinton wrote in a letter to supporters yesterday. ...  Her eagerness to signal that the commitment is not open-ended is new and Noteworthy even though she continues to reject an immediate pullout. [Emph. added]

Did Hillary previously favor an "open-ended commitment without limits or end"? Does even the Hard-Line Lieberman favor an "open-ended commitment without limits or end"? Here's what Lieberman wrote this week:

If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

Is that different from Hillary's position? I'd say no. Hillary surely contemplates a presence--at least a presence "nearby"-- for years to come. Nor is Lieberman suggesting a "commitment without limits or end." The two are certainly not in different "camps." ... Either a)the Note is treating as a major shift what is a meaningless rhetorical bone to the left--Hillary saying she's not for something (a "commitment without limits") that nobody is for; b)The Note wants us to value rhetoric and "tone" (i.e. BS) over substance; c)The Note has been talking to Chris Lehane again. Or someone like him!*

*--Someone so proud of their subtle little insidery P.R. moves that they have lost touch with the outside (i.e., voters') reality! ... 4:30 P.M.

Smoke is not a plan! Q.: If you're making a five point presentation, where do you hide your weakest point? ... Q: Why number four? ... General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner has outlined the five big product bets GM is making. Bets 1-3 seem plausible. But Bet 4--

4. GM can fix -- not kill -- its damaged brands.

looks like a lock to fail, notes Autoblog, given the seemingly weak product plans GM actually has for the beleaguered Buick and Pontiac divisions, which desperately need a good rear-drive sedan. ... Unless this is your idea of excitement. ... 2:32 A.M.

Twofer: Prestigious bull---t artist** Mike Davis declares in an email that he won't write for the Los Angeles Times op-ed page because the paper canned columnist Robert Scheer. I was against the Scheer sacking, but if the Times lost Mike Davis as well .... hmmm. It's looking like a better and better move all the time! ...

**--A 1999 LAT investigation of Davis' Ecology of Fear  discovered him essentially making up the best details of his account of the 1993 Malibu fires. 2:01 A.M.

Brilliant visual Wonkette shot at Bush's "evolving" Iraq presentations. I'll be surprised if it doesn't get copied elsewhere (e.g. NBC Nightly News ... oh right, there's no Katrina angle. Sorry. Hardball then.) . . . 2:18 P.M. 

My videoblogging colleague Bob Wright finds the tender underbelly of Charles Krauthammer's big torture article, namely that one of Krauthammer's big examples of permissible torture doesn't fit comfortably into either of his two seemingly narrow exceptions to a general torture ban. ... That said, I found Krauthammer's article heartening because it suggests there is less distance between his position and McCain's than I'd feared--especially if you are talking about McCain's real position ("You do what you have to do")  as opposed to what most people think McCain's formal legal position is. 1:08 A.M.

HuffPo's Nora Ephron  undermining one of the essential pillars  of Woodwardgate:

[W]hen people wonder why Bob doesn't tell his editor Len Downie what he knows, I'm genuinely mystified. I mean, have you ever met Len Downie? But never mind that; think about this: Woodward spends most of his life reporting. He knows everything. What's more, he has no idea what it adds up to. How could he possibly keep anyone, much less his editor, in the loop? It would take hours and hours of debriefing every week, hours that would undoubtedly be better spent reporting on the after-the-fact thoughts of people in power who are trying to justify the mistakes they've made.

I still don't see the big Woodward scandal  in the Plame affair. The best anti-Woodward argument I've heard is that he could have derailed the whole prosecution by revealing that he was first told about Valerie Plame's CIA status as if it were mere "gossip." Instead, he let a reporter go to jail!** In other words, to get a Woodward scandal you have to assume there isn't a Plame scandal. But it's not clear that there isn't a Plame scandal. True, her "outing" might merely have been a tangential part of a sincere-if-risky attempt by Bush hawks to discredit the allegations  of Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, by pointing out to reporters how he got his assignment to investigate uranium purchases.  But just because Administration Official #1 tells Bob Woodward about Plame's CIA role as mild offhand gossip (which Woodward keeps to himself) doesn't mean that an Official #2 didn't maybe tell another reporter the same facts as part of a malicious plan to punish Wilson and his wife. . ..

** Woodward's second big sin, after not informing Downie, is said to have been his temerity in publicly criticizing Fitzgerald's investigation  without revealing his private knowledge (though he hinted at it). But obviously Woodward's comments sincerely reflected what he thought his private knowledge told him: that the Plame information was just gossip. If Woodward can't give an opinion in public that's informed by secrets he knows then Woodward can never give an opinion in public about anything we'd want to hear Woodward's opinion on. ... Maybe Woodward criticized Fitzgerald with extra force because he felt guilty that Miller was going to jail when he wasn't disclosing the little bit of information he knew that might have helped her (by supporting the idea that the whole business was a non-scandal). But that information wouldn't have proved it was a non-scandal, and it wouldn't have sprung Miller.  In the event, the anti-Fitzgerald comments Woodward did make added to our knowledge. (If they'd been disinformation that would be a different story.) ...

Update: Emailer J.S. concedes it's normally OK for Woodward to comment on public issues even when his views are informed by secrets he knows--but J.S. argues Woodward shouldn't have commented in this case because he was "tangentially involved" in Fitzgerald's investigation in a possibly self-interested way viewers were unaware of. Specifically, I suppose, Woodward might have worried that he'd be subpoenaed (which early on meant possibly going to jail) and therefore have been trying to stop Fitzgerald before he got that far. That's not a gross, testicle-crushing conflict like Howie Kurtz's with CNN, but it was undisclosed. ... Yet a) Woodward knew he wasn't going to stop Fitzgerald. As a potential witness, he also had an incentive to suck up to him; b) If it wasn't obvious to the public that Woodward was trying to avoid subpoena in this case, it was obvious that Woodward in general could be subpoenaed in lots of cases like this one if prosecutors started pursuing them. That much of his self-interest was out in the open; c) Lots of reporters know things about Plamegate that Fitzgerald might want to know, yet they're still writing and opining about it; d) Reporters have hidden conflicts all the time, not all of which are visible to the public. Woodward might not want a story to become big if he didn't have secret information, and therefore couldn't get a book out of it! It's often difficult to figure out when a hidden conflict (you hate someone, you're worried that someone else will take your job, etc) should be disclosed. The one obvious half-solution is for reporters, when commenting in public, to stop pretending they are free of conflicts and put themselves more in the same category as politicians--namely witnesses who are assumed to be riven with potential conflicts. When Dick Cheney is interviewed on TV, viewers know he might be pursuing fifteen different hidden agendas. They don't know what all those agendas are. But they know they don't know; e) Woodward's in a tough spot, because if he doesn't comment (or issues some milquetoast remark) it will cause people to wonder why he's being so quiet, is he involved, etc. f) Woodward could certainly have gotten away with turning down "Larry King Live" a few times, but it would come at the non-trivial cost of suppressing his sincere views (and leaving his guilt about not coming forward, which seems to me a bigger probable factor in shaping Woodward's take on Fitzgerald than subpoena-fear, unassuaged). ...  Still, J.S. has a point! 8:56 P.M. link

"Fat Surfacing": Is this Chris Bangle's latest visionary aesthetic breakthrough? The night is young! ...  [via Autoblog ] 6:59 P.M.

That's how I feel about sex! The LAT's Patrick Goldstein attacks Oscar prediction blogging, then produces the Buried Weasel Graf of the Week:

Full disclosure: I write an Oscar prediction column too, but I do it once a year, not 47 times a week.

Goldstein adds, "without getting into the Academy Award prediction business full-time, I may be doing an Oscar podcast in the near future too." ... That's OK. Go ahead, do it full-time! As long as you let us know you'd really rather "wrestle with questions about what our movies say about America today." God help us. ... P.S.: Hollywood is an isolated subculture populated by quirky egomaniacs, and movies have long lead times. They are lousy barometers of "America today."  Indeed, wrestling with "what movies say about America today" is usually just a disingenuous, intellectually flattering, week-in-reviewish way of writing about glamorous stars and directors and attracting lucrative movie ads. At least Oscar handicappers are open and straightforward about what they're doing. ... 5:55 P.M.

Launching 'MSM Basic': Aren't those who predict doom for the NYT's TimesSelect like those who predicted doom for cable television? After all, why would someone pay for a TV show when they could see TV shows for free on the regular broadcast channels? That's what some people must have thought when cable programming started. Were they wrong! Won't the same thing happen with pay-Websites?

There are several good answers to this question: For starters, news is more fungible than drama--any number of sites can tell you the Canadian government has fallen, and any one site isn't that much better at it than another. Plus the web is interactive--HBO's Sopranos doesn't depend for its visibility on being linked by free TV shows.

But let's accept and apply the cable TV model. What would it suggest for the Web? Not the New York Times' go-it-alone approach, in which each newspaper charges people to read its particular offerings. Most cable channels aren't sold individually, after all. They're sold as part of packages. If you get the basic cable package you get dozens of channels. If you get the premium package you get dozens more. The potential revenue raising equivalent, for newspapers, would come if they banded together in some sort of consortium (possibly even presenting themselves collectively as a cheaper rival to the NYT's premium offerings).Subscribe to this Basic MSM consortium for a modest annual fee and you'd get access to all the pages of dozens, maybe hundreds, of papers. True, the revenue would be divided many ways, but it would be something. ...

Wouldn't the remaining free Web sites flourish, giving each paper an incentive to stay out of this consortium and grab some of that traffic? Sure. But the consortium's goal wouldn't be to get all the eyeballs. (Cable channels don't get all the TV eyeballs either; many people only have "free" TVs.) The goal would simply be to charge a low enough fee and feature enough content so that the vast majority of Web users would feel like they had to pay the fee or else they'd be out of it, Internet wise--the same way most TV users now feel they have to at least subscribe to basic cable to be part of things. A $3/month fee, for example, would probably not stamp out rapid democratic discourse precisely because it would so low that readers could assume that everyone else was signing up, so they'd better sign up too.

That's a thought process that has yet to take hold for the narrow TimesSelect offerings, and may never take hold. Individual publication-by-publication fees discourage the "everyone's seeing it" assumption because individual publication prices will not only be higher, they'll vary--and that variation will be a pain to keep track of. As a result, nobody writing for or reading any individual pay-to-view publication will be sure that publication is popular enough to be presumptively "public" the way, say, CNN is "public" even though you have to pay to get it. If you can't make that assumption about New York's Times, you can't make it anywhere!

In sum:

Result of the NYT publication-by-publication model: Inhibited writers, inhibited linkers, inhibited dialogue. And maybe inhibited revenue (both advertising and subscription revenue).

Result of the cable "consortium" model: Eager writers, eager linkers, robust dialogue. And maybe no less revenue (It depends on how many people sign up.)

Update: A "Basic MSM" consortium wouldn't have to suddenly put all its content behind a paid-subscription wall, NYT-style. The consortium could be launched simply as a site where Web surfers could go to register once on a form that would then get them past all the annoying registration pages at participating newspapers--avoiding the need to re-register at every dinky metropolitan daily (usually when you want to read just one story). People might be willing to pay a few bucks for that convenience. Then, if the numbers looked promising, this universal registration could be required. ... 2:25 A.M. link

Would former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm really "almost certainly be Treasury secretary in a McCain administration"?  12:03 A.M.

I think I buried a lede  in that earlier Joe Wilson/"dying for Israel" item ... 11:35 P.M.

Even if we were able to successfully train an Iraqi military and police force, the likely result, after all that, would be another military dictatorship. Experience around the world teaches us that military dictatorships arise when the military's institutional modernization gets ahead of political consolidation.

But if Odom's right, doesn't that mean we should take as long as possible to withdraw from Iraq, giving political institutions time to put down roots while we slowly build up the Iraqi military?  (I realize there are other considerations, such as the resentment-breeding effect of continued American presence. I'm just saying that this Odom argument doesn't support the early withdrawal he advocates. Even if a withdrawal starts soon, it doesn't have to end soon.) ... P.S.: Note that Odom, who's not afraid of strong language, doesn't say military dictatorship is certain. Just "likely." If it's only "likely," and we can make it less likely, maybe we should.  11:02 P.M.

Kim Jong-il Also Has Some Ideas for Making "Situation Room" Edgier! Even the North Koreans know how to respond to a critical CNN documentary with a cheap shot at the network's ratings:

"CNN is losing popularity as the days go by although it had high audience rating in the world in the past .... Much upset by this, CNN staged such poor farce to improve its image."

"Floundering tool Jonathan Klein thought tarnishing the democratic struggle of the Korean people would promote further his career and make up for failure of his overemotional pretty boy Anderson Cooper in the crucial 25-54 demographic."

OK, I made up that second graf. But not the first one. [Thanks to M.C.2:53 A.M.

Plame Simmers--The Antiliberalism of Fools: Finally, someone follows up on what kf thought was kf's Big Plamegate Scoop ** of 11/7/05: that the complaint Scooter Libby made to Tim Russert, in their crucial phone conversation of July 10, 2003, was the (to my mind wacky)charge that Chris Matthews or his cable show was somehow, in some sense, anti-Semitic. ... Maguire plausibly speculates that one reason Libby might have been so peculiarly enraged by Amb. Joseph Wilson's TV appearances*** is that Libby put Wilson into that same category. Remember, Matthews said to kf that

Catherine Martin, an aide in the vice president's office, once told him that "Scooter thinks anytime anybody uses the word 'neoconservative' it's anti-Semitic." [Emph added]

Maguire notes that if his speculation is right it makes Libby look more convictable of perjury but also more like a "lone gunman." ... Second thought: It not only makes Libby look more convictable of perjury. It makes him look more like someone who might just have been so enraged by Wilson that he'd do more or less what the left accuses him of having done--out Wilson's wife in an attempt to both discredit Wilson and punish him. Duh! It certainly provides an answer to the Why-Didn't-They-Just-Ignore-Wilson-He'd-Blow-Over question. I think I buried the lede. ...

** P.S.: I don't know why this explosive Watergate-level disclosure fell into an abyss of obscurity. Theories: a) I was too cautious and surrounded it with ass-covering caveats; b) I immediately buried it under a tedious 2,000-word post on reapportionment; c) the whole subject of anti-Semitism is so radioactive that nobody wants to talk about it. Serves me right for attempting journalism. What a pain! I'd forgotten. You have to call people up! Then you have to wait for them to call back. Then you have to talk to them. Then worry about libel. Then actually make another call to get the nonsensical B.S. pro-forma response from the big media company involved. I could have written four Chris Bangle items in the time it took. ... And all for what? ...You won't catch me making that mistake (reporting) again anytime soon. ...  P.P.S.: At least it's being discussed by someone who's now  bigger than Paul Krugman! (If you measure it over the right period.)

*** Backfill: What Wilson quote is most likely to have angered Libby? I'd nominate the following excerpt (again, via Maguire) from a discussion by Wilson at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center on June 14, 2003, about a month before Libby's call to Russert:

I think there are a number of issues at play; there's a number of competing agendas. One is the remaking of the map of the Middle East for Israeli security, and my fear is that when it becomes increasingly apparent that this was all done to make Sharon's life easier and that American soldiers are dying in order to make Sharon's life--enable Sharon to impose his terms upon the Palestinians that people will wonder why it is American boys and girls are dying for Israel and that will undercut a strategic relationship and a moral obligation that we've had towards Israel for 55 years. I think it's a terribly flawed strategy. [Emphasis added. Audio here at 13:33]

Of course, as Maguire points out, we don't know if Libby knew about this Wilson talk. [Don't you think that's anti-Semitic?--ed No. But a lot of people would.] 12:55 A.M.  link

David Ignatius provides an optimistic and plausible interpretation of the recent Cairo meeting of Iraq factions. ... But do we really think that the planned Iraqi 6,000 man "Desert Protection Force" -- "pitched to Sunni tribal leaders as a way to liberate Anbar [province] from the Americans"-- will really rid Anbar of terrorists? From a distance it smells a bit like the ill-fated Fallujah Brigade. ... 12:58 A.M.

Aaron Sorkin interviews Maureen Dowd, and Elizabeth Snead finds one of them charming. 12:44 A.M.

Withdrawal proponents keep steering me to General William Odom's article on NiemanWatchdog. It's conclusory and unconvincing--relying almost entirely on flat invocation of the Vietnam analogy and Scowcroftian cultural pessimism:

Imposing a liberal constitutional order in Iraq would be to accomplish something that has never been done before.** Of all the world's political cultures, an Arab-Muslim one may be the most resistant to such change ...."

Odom also indulges in some suspiciously vague and optimistic talk about our ability to "knit together a large coalition, including the major states of Europe, Japan, South Korea, China and India to back a strategy for stabilizing the area"--without explaining how the South Koreans and Indians are going to succeed in stopping the Sunni insurgency if we have failed.

But you can't say Odom isn't candid:

There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. ...

The quicker a new dictator wins the political power in Iraq and imposes order, the sooner the country will stop producing well-experienced terrorists. [Emph. added]

P.S.: There's also one troubling sentence on what could turn out to be the fatal contradiction in the current Bush strategy of training an effective Iraqi military--if we're successful, it may just produce a coup down the road.

Experience around the world teaches us that military dictatorships arise when the military's institutional modernization gets ahead of political consolidation.

But experience around the world also teaches us that experience around the world is speeding up. "Political consolidation" that once took decades may now take years. At least that's a possibility Odom should confront, before he dismisses those who conclude, with  President Clinton, that "this enterprise could still work."

**--That would be why it's worth doing! 12:07 A.M.

I tend to blame Wagner Act unionism--especially productivity-sapping work rules--for GM's decline. It's hard to blame globalization--the usual suspect--since Honda, Toyota and Nissan all assemble cars in North America with (non-union) North American labor and they're all still beating GM. High materials costs? The Japanese transplants face those too. The health care explanation also seems bogus. GM has to pay for the health care of its employees whether they work or not, right? If the company could build a car and make a profit, which would help defray those costs, it would do it--whether those costs were $4 million or $4 billion. The problem is the company can't build a car and make a profit. Or enough of a profit. ... The only good argument I can see for pinning most of the blame on pure inept management is the Buick LaCrosse. According to the most recent Consumer Reports, the LaCrosse is an excellent car, achieving a level of reliability that approaches Acuras and Toyotas. But it's so dumpy-looking television ads dare show it only in shadow. Blame bad styling decisions, not Buick workers. (Except that, at $30,000, it's overpriced by $5,000, and the UAW and CAW have something to do with that.) ... P.S.: The UAW's peculiar problem is too much decentralization--even when its national leadership senses the need for concessions, its locals often have the power to resist. ... P.P.S.: Another blow to Detroit-- next generation Toyota Camry is handsome. ...

Update: Emailer J puts the central case against Wagner Act unionism more succinctly:

I have been representing private companies in their sale for 15 years.  Every time I have had to deal with a company that was unionized in an industry where the entire industry was not unionized (Steel wholesale, trucking and some manufacturing companies), [it] was nearly impossible to sell unionized companies.  And the reason was primarily the work rules.  The pay was similar for union and non-union in many cases.  It was just the hassle of negotiations every time you want to move a steel roller or go to different work hours or fire a drunk made these companies much less agile than non-union competitors.   

A business succeeds because of a hundreds if not thousands of decisions and tweaks and changes.  If each change requires a threshold of importance to make it worth going through the union gauntlet, many don't get bothered with. Eventually, the small things not done add up to a very large productivity difference.  Not to mention the big changes which are defeated or require payment to the union in terms of wages to get them to agree. [Emph. added]

Again, it's not a question of greedy unions or bad unions. The UAW has a reputation as a relatively smart, honest union. It's a question of the system of adversarial labor-management negotiation working as it is supposed to, but losing out to arrangements that may pay well but don't involve as much rigidifying hassle and transaction cost. ... 11:40 P.M.

They don't like you! They really don't like you! Warren Beatty and Rob Reiner aren't nearly as popular as their backers thought they were, according to the latest Field Poll. Beatty's rating is 40% unfavorable/27% favorable--among Democrats!  Yikes. .. Reiner is at least more popular than unpopular within his own party, but overall his unfavorables outweigh his favorables among independents (34/24) and overall (41/25). ... Prediction: The eye-opening poll will get little coverage in the LAT. Too interesting! If it does, the Times will give it the obvious interpretation--that California voters have soured on actors-turned-politicos. But maybe they've especially (and unexpectedly) soured on Hollywood liberals. ... P.S.: Light up, California! Reiner previously promoted a victorious state initiative that taxes cigarette sales to fund early childhood health and nutrition projects. He's now so addicted to the cigarette money that he's opposing an initiative to slap a further tax on cigarettes (to fund emergency rooms) because it might decrease cigarette sales  and threaten the funding for his pet programs. ... P.P.S.: Journalist William Bradley notes that the Field Poll was taken Oct. 25-30, before Beatty's last minute anti-Arnold campaign blitz. Still ... (And Beatty had already made some high-profile anti-Schwarzenegger speeches when the poll was taken.) ... 11:35 A.M. link

Instapundit's Katrina/Rita Relief donation list.


Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]