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We Report... You Deride

 
Thursday, April 15, 2004  
And the Hits Just Keep on Coming...

I'm getting a phenomenal number of visits from people doing searches on "Hybrid engines" or "Hybred engines." I'm writing about the issue because it interests me-- but since most of what I write about is politics, I'm sure it must be a little disconcerting for some visitors. So if you're just looking for some basic information, here are a few links to help you out:

1. How Hybrid Cars Work is a very detailed primer on the technology and the cars. The purchase info and pricing is out of date (It lists the Ford Escape as coming out next year), but it'll tell you all kinds of fun stuff.

2. This review of the hybrid Honda Civic is the only thing I've seen that actually provides a good feeling of what it's like to drive one of these things. The guy is in love with his car, but he isn't blind to how different it is than other vehicles, and he talks about what the issues are in detail. It helps that the site isn't devoted to cars (they review new computers), because the "autospeak" vocabulary just isn't there.

3. The Toyota Prius gets a really detailed workup in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Most of the "related links" at the end of the piece are worth clicking. (Don't waste your time looking for entries on the other cars; virtually nothing is there. Wikipedia is an "open-source" document written by volunteers, which means you get really detailed pieces on some picayune topics and nothing at all on others.)

4. This CNN/Money article on marketing hybrids lists some of the features and frills from the automakers, though it gets a lot of details wrong.

The story is probably right about how the cars need to be marketed, by the way. Except for Hondas (which everyone knows are well-made) buyers assume the words "high mileage" mean 'it's made out of plastic, is incredibly cramped and your old college roomie's Fiat went from 0-60 faster."

That's because nobody but Honda has ever tried to make high-mileage cars by making the engine work better. The Honda folks won their market share in the 70's by creating a "stratified charge" engine that used better technology to meet mileage and emissions standards without dumping weight or performance. This article gets the timeline wrong, but its explanation of the technology is good. And this is an absolutely super introduction to the model that made Honda what it is.

OK, done with the public service message. We now resume our regular programming.

12:26 PM

Wednesday, April 14, 2004  
Thinking the Unthinkable

Thanks to the Boston Herald, we have another smoking gun.

One of the cornerstones of the "Sergeant Schultz" defense that W.'s regime has been making is the claim that no one could have imagined that terrorists would hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

Well, in April of 2001, officials at the North American Air Defense Command did just that. NORAD, which is responsible for defending U.S. airspace with fighter jets, actually requested authorization to train for the possibility that "a terrorist group [would] hijack a commercial airliner and fly it into the Pentagon.''

It got turned down, of course. Unnamed White House officials rejected it as "too unrealistic."

It doesn't surprise me. Anyone who's ever spent time with a risk management or disaster recovery team knew that Constantliar Rice didn't know what she was talking about. When they're not handling crises, they sit around imagining potential catastrophes-- and trying to think of how to prevent or resolve them.

(A friend in the FAA swears that someone worked out a strategy on how to get the commercial airfleet on the ground if a UFO appears in U.S. airspace and demands that every plane get out of the sky. Before you get your hackles up, he did mention that it borrowed a lot from their 'what to do if there was a huge tornado resulting from a nuclear explosion" plan.)

I am not a conspiracy theorist; I just know how bureaucracies work. Somewhere in a file somewhere is a detailed plan about terrorists could disrupt the U.S. economy by flying a few planes into some carefully-chosen buildings.

It was probably written in the Clinton administration (which gave people freedom to brainstorm). When it got handed in, people said "Oh, that's great", filed it away and forgot about it. The author either doesn't remember it (it was one of about 70 plans that he or she drafted), or doesn't feel like totally disrupting his or her life (since there's nothing to be gained from it) by coming forward.

As the story says, "the proposed training was one of many with 'fictitious scenarios'' that was rejected." Somewhere, someone wrote a 9/11 plan. And if W.'s regime had, in the words of Richard Clarke, "shaken the trees", it would have been dug up.

1:17 PM

 
Wonders Haven't Ceased

Well, I've never seen anything like that before. I have no idea how the "hold a speech and press conference to explain what happened and then deny that you made any errors" strategy will play in Peoria, because I've never seen anyone try it.

This analysis says it about as well as I would:

"In the end, the press conference is not likely to change the minds of diehard Bush supporters or passionate Bush foes. And there was little new to sway that hardy band of American voters who remain in the middle."

Actually, as Time points out, there was something unusual: he didn't use the word "democracy" to describe what he intends to leave in Iraq. The implication is that the government will be a lot more Islamic than the neocons want. I'll believe that happens when I see it.

One other thing. Was this section of the speech just a typical W. gaffe or a Freudian slip:

"Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of State Rumsfeld and a number of NATO defense and foreign ministers are exploring a more formal role for NATO such as turning the Polish-led division into a NATO operation and giving NATO specific responsibilities for border control."

Since he followed it with the announcement that he was "sending Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to the Middle East to discuss with these nations our common interest in a free and independent Iraq and how they can help achieve this goal"-- a task that you'd expect to be given to Colin Powell-- I'm voting for the latter.

9:21 AM

 
Wonders Haven't Ceased

Well, I've never seen anything like that before. I have no idea how the "hold a speech and press conference to explain what happened and then deny that you made any errors" strategy will play in Peoria, because I've never seen anyone try it.

This analysis says it about as well as I would:

"In the end, the press conference is not likely to change the minds of diehard Bush supporters or passionate Bush foes. And there was little new to sway that hardy band of American voters who remain in the middle."

Actually, as Time points out, there was something unusual: he didn't use the word "democracy" to describe what he intends to leave in Iraq. The implication is that the government will be a lot more Islamic than the neocons want. I'll believe that happens when I see it.

One other thing. Was this section of the speech just a typical W. gaffe or a Freudian slip:

"Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of State Rumsfeld and a number of NATO defense and foreign ministers are exploring a more formal role for NATO such as turning the Polish-led division into a NATO operation and giving NATO specific responsibilities for border control."

Since he followed it with the announcement that he was "sending Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to the Middle East to discuss with these nations our common interest in a free and independent Iraq and how they can help achieve this goal"-- a task that you'd expect to be given to Colin Powell-- I'm voting for the latter.

9:21 AM

Tuesday, April 13, 2004  
Endgame

There are times when the correct strategy is tactically suicidal. Unless the "press conference" portion of the event consists of about four questions, and Elizabeth Bumiller gets to ask three of them, this might become the most notorious event since Tricky Dick walked out during a particularly heated Watergate grilling.

Holding a speech and press conference is the textbook solution to a problem like this. When a catastrophe happens, and the evidence suggests you screwed up-- when the media is starting to fry you-- when the people are losing confidence in your judgment and your trustworthyness-- an elected official absolutely must try to repair the damage by speaking directly to voters.

It's important to go out and tell people why you did what you did-- to explain what you were thinking. It's important to show that you took strong, decisive action-- to walk people through the decision-making process and show that every decision you made was logical. You have to look people in the eye and show them that you did your best-- that anyone in your position would have done the same thing.

The problem is that it only works if the guy has the skills to do it. You need someone who can speak, who can handle details, who can respond engagingly and emotionally to questions. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were brilliant at this. So were John F. Kennedy and both Roosevelts. Even Lyndon Johnson and Tricky Dick were able to do it for a while.

But this jackass doesn't have a chance in hell of pulling this off. He's a mean, ignorant thug who gets pissed off if someone questions his judgment. His stock means of persuasion is "Do this because I'm telling you to." The veneer of humility is about a sixteenth of an inch deep, and he really doesn't give a rat's ass about anyone but himself.

He's got no ability to remember details. He stumbles over very simple words when he gets flustered. He has trouble pronouncing even simple words, and he doesn't look people in the eye.

I know a lot of people who thought Martha Stewart should have taken the stand in her defense. To the ones who couldn't understand why I kept saying "Some people are better off not trying to defend themselves", what's going to happen tonight is a case study in the point I was trying to make for you.

8:34 PM

 
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