The Breakfast Table

Partial Coverage

Dear Tim,

God bless the New York Times. Today they’ve got four stories on Dick Cheney. Did they write one about Cheney’s whiz-kid years as a 34-year-old White House chief of staff? Nope. How about his role in the end of the Cold War? Nope. Here are the four stories they went with: 1) “The Running Mate: Gulf War Eased Cheney’s Way to the Boardroom” (“Cheney went from fighting for oil to running a Dallas-based business that he has helped transform into the world’s largest oil field services company”), 2) “The Record: Over the Years, Cheney Opposed U.S. Sanctions” (“Cheney twice voted to oppose sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa”), 3) “The Debut: Voting Record Dogs Cheney As G.O.P. Team Campaigns” (“Cheney’s record included votes against the Head Start education program, against banning so-called ‘cop-killer’ bullets … and against a nonbinding House resolution calling for the release of the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela”), and 4) “The Vice President: Gore Calls for Defeat of G.O.P. `Old Guard’” (“Gore today urged [his audience] to defeat the Republican ‘old guard’ embodied in the ticket of Gov. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney”). All the news that’s fit to print about Cheney just happens to be bad.

I see a couple of interesting nonpolitical stories this morning. One says Ford is planning to raise the fuel efficiency of its SUVs by five miles a gallon. According to the Times, “Ford is convinced that Americans want to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and will steer their purchases to companies they perceive as environmentally responsible. … The company’s new stance is also a response to environmental concerns about the automobile’s role in global warming.” Here’s my question: Will five miles a gallon make a notable difference to the environment, or is this just a lifestyle marketing gimmick? Are yesterday’s limousine liberals today’s SUV environmentalists?

The other interesting story is the court decision against Napster. Here we have Metallica and Dr. Dre (whose latest cultural contribution has been to get the word m—–f—— into Slate again) carrying the banner of property rights against Napster lawyer David Boies, who just finished arguing the Justice Department’s case against Microsoft. Boies scoffed at all that garbage about how combining Internet Explorer with Windows was OK because it gave users additional “functionality” aside from maintenance of monopoly. But now, representing Napster, he argues that the courts shouldn’t squelch a technology that is “capable of substantial noninfringing uses” as well as the copyright-infringing uses to which it’s generally put.

Napster’s CEO promises “to keep the Napster community going.” I love this proliferation of the word “community”–the “business community,” the “Asian-American community,” the “leather community.” I’m looking forward to this fall’s political contest between the oil community and the labor community. And given your less than reverent views about social science for hire, you must be enjoying the clash of “studies” in the Napster case. According to the Times,

The two sides wielded competing studies to show Napster’s impact, or lack thereof, on music sales. One study, commissioned by Napster and prepared by Peter S. Fader, associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, found that “over 91 percent of Napster users buy as much or more music than before they used Napster, with 28 percent purchasing more.” Meanwhile, according to a survey the recording association commissioned from the Field Research Corporation, a San Francisco-based research firm, 22 percent of Napster users said that because of Napster, they did not buy CDs anymore or they bought fewer CDs.

I don’t understand, Tim. How could two scientific studies produce such divergent results?