mickey's assignment desk



Hit Parade Archive
June, 2001

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The tabloid Star features a Condit story allegedly based on an FBI interview with one Vincent Flammini, "Condit's longtime bodygaurd and confidant." Flammini says ... actually, forget what he says. Assuming the Star has identified his job correctly, what's Condit doing with a bodyguard? Congressmen, even Congressmen with seats on key agriculture committees, don't ordinarily have bodyguards. They're not that important. ... Is Modesto politics rougher than everybody thinks? (6/30)

OK, so maybe the good news has a dark side ... Some (about a third) of the rise in the percent of children living in two-parent homes is due to an increase in cohabitation -- two unmarried adults living together. Wash Times's Cheryl Wetzstein notes that cohabitation may be worse than single motherhood for children (stereotypically, if mom's new boyfriend hogs her attention, beats her up, molests them, and then leaves). An Urban Institute study cited by Wetzstein seems to indicate that by some measures (emotional well-being, enthusiasm for school, suspensions from school) single motherhood beats cohabitation for whites and Hispanics. 1) But not for blacks; 2) The Urban Institute survey presumably captures a correlation, not necessarily a causation -- so we don't know if screwed up parents with screwed up kids tend to be parents who cohabit (a good bet, if you ask me), or if something in cohabiting screws people up; 3) Nor is it even clear if the Urban Institute separated out cohabitors who were, in fact, the biological parents of their children -- presumably a healthier arrangement. (It's also not clear what proportion of the increase in cohabitation is really biological parents shacking up.) 4) Even if cohabitation is worse for kids than single motherhood, you could still argue that it's a transitional phase we must go through before actual marriage takes hold in the wake of welfare reform. First, mothers realize they need a second income to live better. Then, they (or more likely, their children and neighbors) realize they really need to get married if they are going to raise kids in a stable environment. ... (6/29)

Bush faces a gut check on education reform, notes Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker (not online). It's clear that, whatever happens, an education bill -- lots of money in exchange for lots of testing -- will pass. Whatever happens, Bush will get credit, and the press will write more easy stories about how the "odd couple" of the president and Ted Kennedy produced the bill. But whether the bill works or not will depend on whether Bush allows the crucial testing details -- details too boring to be covered in the daily press, much less the nightly news -- to get watered down. You say character is what people do when nobody's looking? Well, nobody's looking! ... As is so often the case, the villains in the piece are David Broder's darlings, the nation's governors, led by Michigan's John Engler, who invariably want lots of federal money and no accountability. (The same thing happened during the debate on the 1996 welfare reform.) ...

Lemann's very good at noting how the press' "master narrative" on a big piece of legislation often ignores the "real drama" that's being followed by the cognoscenti. My beef with Lemann's piece: Too many personalities, not enough policy! Lemann spares his readers the tedious mechanics of just how schools will avoid accountability and hide low performers in a "composite" score. But that's where the action is! Is it still true, for example, that -- as USA Today reported in May -- some versions of the "composite" include non-academic factors such as attendance? If USA Today's readers can handle the details, so can The New Yorker's! ...

Nor is it clear why it's so important to separate out test results by race -- requiring, for example, that blacks make so much progress every year -- rather than "using a non-race-specific requirement that every school raise the performance of the bottom quarter of its students every year." What's wrong with a "bottom-quarter" requirement? Lemann says it reflects "the soft bigotry of low expectations?" Huh? Seems to me it would raise expectations about the bottom quarter. Does Lemann just like the race-specific requirement because, as a supporter of affirmative action, he likes race-specific remedies, especially when advanced by Republican presidents? ...

Finally, sometimes the cognoscenti get all wound up in a "real drama" that turns out to be not so important after all. Isn't the question of whether the tests chosen by various jurisdictions will yield results that can be compared -- which is mentioned by Lemann but not emphasized -- more important than the issue on which Lemann focuses, namely the details of the "adequate yearly progress" (A.Y.P.) formula? The feds invariably back off when it comes to enforcing failures to fulfill some formula (e.g. air quality standards). But once parents and voters have test results that identify clearly which schools are bad, there will be tremendous pressure to take action one way or another, no? (6/28)

Blue tourism: Good, if familiar, account of how Seattle Police have shifted into passive mode rather than risk charges of racial profiling. The result -- crime goes up in black neighborhoods. ... (6/28)

The latest Chandra Levy development -- apparently Condit broke off their "close friendship" shortly before she disappeared -- seems to militate against the random street crime theory, which I'd previously found the most plausible explanation for her disappearance. ... See the Fox News scoop and Josh Marshall's discussion. ... (6/27)

Fox News and The Times of London pick up on the big story. ... London Times correspondent James Bone credits the 5-year welfare time limit for the surprising revival of 2-parent families. I've never been a time-limits enthusiast, but Bone's idea isn't crazy -- the big shifts in the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study (see esp. Table 3) seem to come between 1999 and 2000, when worries about the impending time limit may have been starting to take hold. Or maybe that's just when the tipping point tipped. ... Conservative Fox News actually gives credit to ... Bill Clinton! ...The more I think about this, the more the story here isn't so much the revival of the family, but rather the revival of the black family, and the apparent cultural shift going on in the African-American community. The improvements for whites, overall, are small, and (so far) confined to lower-income families. The change in the black community, on the other hand, is stunning, and occurs among both low income families and higher-income families. ... Here's another way to look at it: 2000 was probably the first year in decades in which there were more black children being raised in two-parent homes than by single mothers. ... (In 1995, the gap was almost 10 percentage points, with about 47 percent of black kids raised by single mothers and only 38 percent raised by two parents.) ... (6/27)

"Man who lies once for money and fame may lie again for money and fame." -- Old Chinese proverb. (6/27)

CBS News got even more overexcited than usual reporting on yesterday's Supreme Court campaign finance decision. Dan Rather used it as his lead item, opening the news with this sentence:

A big boost for campaign finance reform -- a U.S. Supreme Court decision puts pressure on Congress to act on John McCain's call for change, opposed by President Bush.
It doesn't get much more propagandish than that. As today's shockingly fair coverage in the NYT and WaPo more accurately suggests, the M-F forces mainly avoided the disaster that would have befallen them had the court ruled the other way -- and allowed unlimited hard money contributions from parties to candidates. (One big problem: Democrats might then have abandoned M-F, worried that they'd be hurt if they couldn't raise soft money, where they have parity with the GOP, while at the same time hard money, a GOP specialty, became more significant.) ... It's especially not true that the ruling means that M-F is constitutional. What the Court upheld was a set of restrictions on party spending that is "coordinated" with candidates. But, as Juliet Eilperin's WaPo piece notes, the Court also apparently reaffirmed its decision voiding limits on independent, uncoordinated expenditures. M-F, as passed by the Senate, would restrict independent expenditures--so this decision hardly assures the constitutionality of those restrictions. Quite the opposite. ... There's also that phrase shoehorned into Rather's comically Homeric lead sentence about McCain's reform being "opposed by President Bush." That's more than a little unfair, given that Bush has pointedly backed off and said he might well sign a campaign finance bill. ... If I were running the Bush White House, I might try to get Rather to eat those words. Why not? He hates Bush anyway. What's he going to do -- slant the news? ... (6/26)

Good but frustrating Virginia Postrel column on the proposed federal ban on "theraputic cloning." As Postrel notes, no babies are involved in this medical technique, which involves growing cells from a person outside the body in order to create more of a specific type of cell (e.g. an insulin-secreting cell) that the person needs. Why is Congress planning to make this a crime? Well, there are the "keep it natural" theories of philosopher Leon Kass, which Postrel blasts with satisfying lack of respect. ("Congress is basing legislation on the reasoning of a man who finds the dissection of cadavers morally troubling.") But there's also a slippery-slope argument that "the only way to ban" the actual cloning of babies is to stop scientists from trying less ambitious cloning techniques. Postrel is honest enough to admit that the anti-baby-cloners "may be right" about the slippery slope -- but she asks what we're willing to sacrifice to "stop the birth of a few cloned humans." ... Hmmm. How do we know there would only be a few? (I'd kind of like one myself.) Postrel's argument bleeds into larger arguments she doesn't have time to lay out in an op-ed. ... Nor in 800 words does she make her case that nightmarish Brave-New-World scenarios are only possible if there is "government control of the means of reproduction." Can't what she calls "dreadful societies" result from free human choices? ... (6/25)

Hosenball and Isikoff move the ball downfield a bit. ... Tidbits: Abbe Lowell solicited Condit's business! ... "Some investigators do not believe [Condit's] denials of a relationship with Levy and wonder if he is holding back potential crucial details about that relationship." In other words, Condit has denied an affair to the police too? ... If he denied it to the FBI -- which has two agents on the case, Time says -- and there was an affair, isn't that technically a crime? (Not that it should be.) ... (6/25)

The tabloidization did it!

"The 'tabloidization' of these terrible circumstances can only cause more pain to the Levys while at the same time doing nothing to help find Chandra." -- Statement of Rep. Gary Condit, 6/21
This is of course drivel. The 'tabloidization' of the case is doing a great deal to help find Chandra. It's because of the tabloidization of the case that Chandra's picture is all over the country. Because of the 'tabloidization" of the case, tens of millions of Americans are on the lookout for evidence that might help the police. Without the 'tabloidization' of the case nobody would be aware of it. ... I also suspect the publicity given to the case hardly causes the Levys more pain and may indeed help them bear some of the pain they have. ... The only person who'd be helped by an end to 'tabloidization' is Condit. His statement makes it pretty clear whom he's really worrying about. ... (6/23)

John Leo savvily predicts a Time cover on "Are Marriage and the Nuclear Family Making A Comeback." I wouldn't bet against it. ... [Won't Leo's prediction actually kill any chance of Time doing that cover? Why would they risk looking look like they take orders from a Snooze columnist?--ed. Because they're desperate, like everyone else! Do you see lots of news out there?] (6/22)

Why can't Rep. Gary Condit find time to let D.C. police reinterview him? Josh Marshall raises this point, and others. ... (6/21)

See Ford models naked! Click here for "Gearbox" -- a new, unashamedly automotive column by the editor of kausfiles. ... (6/21)

Stanley Mosk, who served as California's Attorney General and then as its longest-sitting Supreme Court justice, died Tuesday, at 88, while still in office. (Click here for a detailed LAT obit.) Mosk was a very smart, independent-minded, idealistic public official and a nice man. I clerked for him for a year, one of the better jobs I've ever had. He was an activist -- too much of one, I'd now argue -- but he was hard not to like. I've been trying to figure out why, and my tentative reasons are: 1) He wasn't a conventional or predictable liberal Democrat -- for example, in the Bakke case he wrote the state-court opinion that attempted to declare all racial preferences unconstitutional (the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed); 2) As an ex-pol he instinctively respected the power of the voters, even if his decisions sometimes thwarted them; 3) He was very dignified but not pompous; 4) Most of his crusades were directed at helping individuals faced with what he perceived to be unfairness. (When I clerked for him, for example, he was pursuing his longtime campaign against the grand jury system, which he felt unfairly allowed prosecutors to avoid having to make the case for bringing a defendant to trial.) Mosk's drive wasn't so much to help those he perceived as less fortunate than he was, but rather to protect rights he himself might use some day, so there was none of the condescension or self-congratulatory do-gooderism often exhibited by other liberal activists. ... I hadn't realized that Mosk was also the man who coined the phrase "little old ladies in tennis shoes" to characterize members of the right-wing John Birch Society. ... Also: When the U.S. entered World War II, Mosk resigned as a judge of the state Superior Court to enlist in the Army as a private. ... (6/21)

Ann Coulter goes to town on bogus 'Nam vet and historian Joseph Ellis. ... After co-authoring a 1998 report claiming to have proved Thomas Jefferson's sexual infidelity, Ellis declared-- this was at the time of Clinton's impeachment -- that "It is as if Clinton had called one of the most respected character witnesses in all of U.S. history to testify that the primal urge has a most distinguished presidential pedigree." ... Coulter's a bit tendentious -- I mean, there's at least a one-in-eight chance Jefferson was father of Sally Hemings' child!-- but Ellis was asking for it. ... Over to you, Professor Wilentz! ... (6/20)

Good, if gruesome, primer by N.Y. cop Lucas Miller on searching for missing persons such as Chandra Levy. ... (6/19)

Why, exactly, are the parents of Chandra Levy keeping the identity of their "high-powered attorney" a secret? Is this a new-product unveiling? ... Update: Not secret anymore. (6/19)

It would be deeply troubling if Josh Harris, founder of the aptly-named Pseudo.com and symbol of everything that was decadent, pathetic and wrong about the dot-com boom of the '90s, turned out to be a decent person. And Harris is living quietly on an apple orchard in upstate New York, WaPo reports. ... Fortunately, he's still a flaming ... egomaniac! Harris spins his business scams as performance art and disses his old girl friend. ("I cast her.") ... If he really is playing a role, it's an extremely satisfying one. ... (6/19)

Beggars Trying to be Choosers Dept.:

"[Salon editor David] Talbot insists only companies with an understanding of journalism in their corporate culture would be appropriate suitors." -- USA Today

Good News for Liberals -- Head Start is Crap! Excellent LAT front-pager explains why Bush's plans to turn Head Start into a literacy program may make sense. Current Head Start programs often emulate the well-known High/Scope model, which shies away from teaching students normal words on the theory that "words are too abstract for young children and hurt their self-esteem if they can't read them." ... Sounds like B.S., doesn't it? ... Much of the debate over Head Start has really been a debate about whether the expensive High/Scope program has produced positive results that last into early adulthood. But if it turns out that the High/Scope program is based on pedagogical flim-flam, that might actually be good news for liberals. After all, High/Scope showed mildly positive returns on the Head Start investment. But think how positive those returns would be if the program hadn't been liberal crap, and instead had been half-rigorous! ... Were Charles Murray and the other neocons who lauded High/Scope as about the best government could do sneakily suckering liberals into hanging their pro-intervention argument on an antiquated model of early education? ... P.S.: Head Start will cost $6.3 billion next year! ... (6/17)

Could Condit be acting like an innocent man? Rep. Gary Condit's aggressive non-denials of an affair with Chandra Levy are making him look bad, as discussed below. But there is one sense in which they might, perversely, point to his innocence. After all, is Condit really dumb enough to think he can permanently stave off the press with Clintonian evasions and threatened lawsuits? Probably not. But he might think he could hold them off briefly, and then if the story went away he'd have skated through the incident without admitting any infidelity. Under what circumstances might he think the story would go away? Well, if he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance he might then assume (in the worst case) that she's been the victim of a crime that will quickly be solved, or (in the best case) that she will turn up somewhere. Either way, the press will then have other, more important things to write about than whether she ever spent the night at his place -- and he'll be home free. ... If Condit did have something to do with her disappearance, of course, then (at least in the worst case) he'd know that the story wasn't going to go away -- and his stonewalling strategy would make no sense. ... I know this assumes a high degree of rationality on Condit's part, and I know the tom toms of doom are now sounding for him along the Potomac. But since I've been engaging in inculpatory speculation, I thought I should share any exculpatory speculation, however fanciful! ... (6/17)

The second Lawrence Summers/Laura Ingraham sighting in a week! (Fifth item) ... It looks bad for Roger Clinton. According to Newsweek's Mark Hosenball, he deposited $25,500 from the firm accused of running an alleged get-pardons-through-Roger racket. ... (6/16)

That dramatic good-news study -- showing an actual recent decline in the proportion of children living with single mothers -- has been posted on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities site. ... The study is written by Allen Dupree and Wendell Primus. In an interview with USAT's Walter Shapiro, Primus gets significant honesty points by giving some credit to the 1996 welfare reform. (Primus, remember, was one of three Clinton administration officials who quit when Clinton signed the welfare bill.) ... (6/15)

Doesn't Rep. Gary Condit recognize that his hair-trigger, combative non-denial denials of an affair with Chandra Levy aren't just self-destructive politically, if (as Levy's parents now seem to believe) there really was a romance going on. They're also making it seem more and more plausible that Condit really did have something to do with her disappearance. After all, why might Condit wish her to disappear? (Not that he does, but if he did, why would he?) Answer: Because he wouldn't want potentially damaging news of their affair to become known. Well, gee, he's obviously not sensitive on that point, is he? ... If Condit had just admitted the affair and apologized, his possible motive would have evaporated too, in terms of public plausibility. ... If you were Condit's lawyer, wouldn't you point this out to him? ... (6/15)

Why The New Republic isn't The American Prospect, yet: TNR's Michelle Cottle points out that the federal special-ed program -- the "principle" that Jim Jeffords switched parties over -- is "a disaster," often shunting minorities and those with vaguely-defined disabilities into study-hall ghettos from which only 5 percent ever escape. ... Cottle says Bush "was on to something" when he offered Jeffords $100 billion in funding if he'd accept a reform commission. Jeffords refused, and thanks to his switch, the program will probably never be reformed. ... Unasked question: Would TNR's Candidate-for-Life, Al Gore, have even attempted reform of special-ed? ... (6/14)

Missing intern update: The mother is turning against the Congressman! ... Still not a story, Howie? ... (6/14)

Harold Meyerson of L.A. Weekly is moving to Washington, D.C. to become executive editor of The American Prospect, the liberal biweekly into which Bill Moyers has poured $11.5 million and made pretty close to zero impact on the national political debate. Dan Kennedy's coverage suggests that Meyerson's hiring--and the expansion of the Boston-based mag's D.C. office--is a well-considered attempt to de-Kuttnerize the tedious, doctrinaire publication. ... It will be fun to watch Meyerson adapt to (and maybe even help alter) Beltway customs. Here are some unsolicited tips:

1. Try talking about "California's progressive mosaic," or "worker and public power, at a time of capital supremacy" at a few dinner parties and see how often you get invited back! (Actually, you might -- they like the idea of "capital supremacy" in Washington. It means they're more important than New York, right?) ...

2. Usually the rule when appearing on TV is to just ignore the interviewer's question and say what you have to say. But Chris Matthews actually gets mad when you ignore his questions. If you try to answer them, you'll have him eating out of your hand in no time! ...

3. "We're not a publication with a line," you told Kennedy, speaking about The American Prospect. Have you heard of the new Slate feature, "Whopper of the Week"? ...

4. What do I mean by tediously doctrinaire? Well, take your recent op-ed piece on the L.A. mayoral election. The key, glaring fact of this election is that black voters really, really don't seem to have wanted your "progressive" candidate, Antonio Villaraigosa, to get in. (They voted 80 percent against him.) Instead of grappling with this issue--does it reflect resentment of unaided Latino economic success? Fear of Latino racism or tribalism? Black dependence on a racial spoils system? Fear of what happens when the binary black/white, victim/victimizer moral order collapses? Fear of a political order not based on victimhood at all! -- you just dismiss it with an aside that Villaraigosa's opponent "may also have benefited from some black apprehensions about rising Latino political power." ... Comrades! We may have had some recent setbacks on the Western Front ...

5. Figure out a way to deal with Robert Reich's transparent, ego-driven hatred of Al Gore!

6. Read Jonathan Cohn's New Republic Online piece attacking Boston liberal intellectuals who, basically, learned nothing from Bill Clinton. These are your new bosses! ...

7. Read Joshua Micah Marshall's account of why he quit The American Prospect. Actually, Marshall hasn't written this account yet. [Note to Marshall: It's time!] But he hints at the reasons in his commentary on Cohn's piece. ... You'll have revived (or, rather, vived) TAP when you can get smart, non-doctrinaire libs like Marshall wanting to write for you. ...

Pssst! The family really is coming back! OK, I was wrong. There was a big story in Tuesday's papers after all -- buried on page A6 of the LAT. It confirms the emerging good demographic news about family structure. ... Context: In April, the U.S. Census issued a press release crowing about a nuclear family comeback, but it was instantly discredited (the trend it spotted could be explained as a statistical artifact). Yet, as kausfiles pointed out (see third-to-last and second-to-last items in this column), the Census had accidentally stumbled onto the truth. Comes now the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which has analyzed more recent data. Their results confirm that the decades-long trend away from marriage and toward single-parenthood has halted, and for blacks and Latinos has actually started to reverse. Even fatherhood advocate David Blankenhorn, who effectively trashed the earlier Census report, seems to agree this time. ... The turnaround among blacks is the most striking -- the percentage of black children living with married parents rose 4 points, from 34.8 % to 38.9 %, between 1995 and 2000. ... In general, the new pro-marriage trend is greatest among "the lowest-income groups," reinforcing the theory that the 1996 welfare reform is working to produce this enormous shift in hard-to-change demographic trends (by making a life of single motherhood on the dole less attractive) ... LAT's Jonathan Peterson also notes some of the anecdotal evidence suggesting a cultural change -- a hit song called "Let's Get Married," a community welfare rights activist who admits, "People say, 'I'm going to move in with so and so, given the cutoff'" of benefits. ... Why isn't the press all over this story? Why isn't it, for example, on the LAT front page? Is it because it's not PC on the left to admit marriage is good? Is it because the right finds it easier to mobilize its base by wailing in despair about cultural disintegration? Is it because acknowledging the shift requires cynical reporters to admit that a public policy initiative (welfare reform) actually worked? ... Will even George Will, who rightly concerns himself with such big demographic and cultural forces, recognize the positive trend? That might require Will to admit he was wrong when he let Daniel Patrick Moynihan con him into opposing the 1996 reform. (Moynihan also conned Bill Clinton into wrongly predicting that by the year 2004 the majority of American children would be born out of wedlock.) ... But credit the Center on Budget's Wendell Primus, who also vigorously opposed the '96 reform, for puttting out the new data. (So why isn't it hyped on the Center's Web site like that organization's pro-dole studies?)... (6/12)

I also missed Elizabeth Shogren's contrarian piece reporting that, according to "experts on climate change," the Bush administration actually "appears to be facing up to the problem of curbing greenhouse gas emissions at home in a more comprehensive and aggressive fashion than the environmentally conscious Clinton administration ever did." The strongest option: a nationwide "cap" on emissions, with companies allowed to trade emission "credits" in order to meet the cap. ... (6/13)

Global cooling: Just-appointed Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria says he might take the "right" job in the Bush administration because "I do get bored pretty easily." Hey, Fareed! What makes you so special? We're all bored too! ... I mean, it's not as if the kausfiles staff isn't looking for interesting things to link to. ...(The best I could find is Richard Lindzen's calm explanation of how the press has exaggerated the findings of that blue-ribbon National Academy of Sciences global-warming report.) ... There are exciting periods in journalism, and there are unexciting periods -- and then there's 2001! The newsweeklies and network newscasts may have to pretend there's as much reason to pay attention as ever, but at some point (when Newsweek runs the inevitable Michael Jordan comeback cover?) their desperation will become too obvious to ignore. ... [Don't worry. Something very bad will happen very soon.-ed.] (6/12)

Blog-rolling! We link the linkers: Josh Marshall has some handy, context-supplying items on the most gripping story currently cooking, the Chandra Levy mystery. ... (6/11)

If Tom Brokaw Became Majority Leader ... Will Saletan invents a useful new word --"wedgislation" -- for bills designed to "frame issues" (and make the other side cast unpopular votes) rather than to actually become law. ... Saletan heaps scorn on the phenomenon, and some wedgislation (e.g. anti-flag burning bills) is clearly symbolic grandstanding or worse. But is raising the minimum wage really "substantively dishonest" and "reckless," as Saletan charges? In Saletan's schema you can't raise the minimum wage, and you can't raise the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Refundable tax credits are wedgislation too, he says, even though they actually became law recently). What could legislators do for the working poor, then?.. Nor is it clear that wedgislation can't morph into real legislation. Welfare reform, for example, started off as a piece of wedgislation -- the Gingrich Republicans wrote a bill designed to provoke a Clinton veto, and they succeeded. But then it dawned on the House Republicans that they needed to accomplish something if they were going to get reelected, and the result was the 1996 reform. ... A major difference between 1996 and today, though, is that in '96 the party opposed to the White House controlled the House of Representatives, rather than the Senate. It's House members, with their 2-year terms, who feel intense electoral heat and have a need to show results (lest they be blamed for do-nothingism). Daschle's Senate Democrats (and Lott's Senate Republicans) might not be under similar pressure, and may be perfectly happy to wedgislate unproductively, proving Saletan right. ... (6/11)

Got Perspective? How big a prig is Peter Sousa, Chicago Trib photographer, who is angry that the National Review added a milk mustache to his Jeffords picture? ... (6/11)

Todd Purdum gets credit for writing the impolitic-but-important piece about black resentment of Latinos in Los Angeles, though he ends on a suspiciously upbeat note. ... Did I miss something, or did the LAT fail to publish a similarly frank report on the black anti-Latino phenomenon? ... Update: Well, there was this George Skelton column. ... (6/11)

Last week was a relatively good one for kausfiles, with 28,400 visits from more than 10,000 different visitors. Typical visit: 10 minutes plus. ... Thanks to Ken Auletta and, yes, Howie Kurtz for lucrative hit-generating mentions. ... [Attack Kurtz again! It seems to be working--ed.] (6/11)

Did 558 people really just disappear in Washington, D.C. this year? I don't believe it -- the number seems way too high. (Doesn't it to you?) But WaPo's Arthur Santana seems to accept that figure as the best he can get. ... At least he doesn't suggest it's wildly inflated. Yet he notes that federal records probably exaggerate the number of missing because "although a name is entered in the database whenever D.C. police open a case, it is not always removed when the case is closed." Isn't the same thing likely to be true of the D.C. records? ... Can't WaPo find some wise old police head who can give them at least a handle on what the truth is? ... (6/10)

What do these two lawyers have in common? a) They're named Blumenthal; b) They're humorless, ambulance-chasing grandstanders! ... [When the ADL calls, you answer it--ed.] ... Excerpt from future trial testimony: "They said [sniffle] it was going to be a 'laugh riot' [sob] ... and ... excuse me, your Honor [dabs eyes with handkerchief] ... it was only [sob] this mildy amusing Rob Schneider comedy [breaks down in uncontrollable tears and has to be helped off the witness stand]." (6/8)

Reich vs. Hillary: WaPo asks if Bush's tax cut passed because Bill Clinton didn't try to make a general case for bigger government (as Robert Reich argues) or simply because Democrats lost the White House (as Hillary Clinton argues)? ... Tough call for kausfiles--an Iran-vs.-Iraq situation! ... But Hillary's right. Democrats couldn't stop the tax cut because they had nothing overwhelmingly popular to spend the money on that was going to get enacted while Bush was president. Had Gore (whom Reich despised and undermined) won, the choice would have been prescription drugs, Social Security and health care vs. tax cuts. ... (6/8)

According to the L.A. Times exit poll, fully 24 percent of the voters in the L.A. mayoral election last Tuesday had an annual family income of more than $100,000! ... Recently, I've started to secretly suspect that virtually everyone I know is making a whole lot more money than I'd realized. This poll tends to reinforce that feeling. ... It all started when I tried to make fun of pundit/scriptwriter Lawrence ("It's Over") O'Donnell for claiming that mere $300,000-a-year earners shouldn't pay the top income tax rate. I expected a wave of populist commendation. Instead I got emails arguing that a) $300,000 is the minimum necessary for a family to have a comfortable life these days, and b) O'Donnell probably makes a lot more than that. ... And here I was trying to live off the Amazon tipjar! ... [Why "It's Over"?/mindy That's what O'Donnell said in this deliciously embarrassing column last year.] ... P.S. 18 percent of the L.A. voters were Jewish -- a third of the Anglo vote -- and 49 percent of voters were "liberals". ... P.P.S.: An alert kausfiles reader notes that the black vote also increased sharply between 1993 and 2001, rising from 12 percent of the electorate to 17 percent. Does this just reflect the popularity of the Hahn dynasty among African-Americans -- or was the turnout also spurred by the not-PC-to-mention rivalry between blacks and Hispanics. (Click here for an earlier kausfiles attempt to discuss this rivalry.) ... (6/8)

The LAT also makes a case that Hahn's controversial Vignali-pardon ad (see below) wasn't what put him ahead. According to the LAT poll, Hahn surged on the basis of earlier ads attacking Villaraigosa as soft on crime -- ads that were also immediately denounced as racist, by Arianna Huffington, among others. (See way below.) ... But it's also dawning on people that Villaraigosa lost because he had no issues, other than his ethnicity and potential role as a unifier -- especially issues that would appeal to the relatively conservative Anglos who were the obvious swing voting bloc. ... Did he (fatally) believe the press hype about himself? ... (6/8)

From the kf archive: "Is it really so clear that Villaraigosa is going to win the runoff?" --Hit Parade, 4/16/01 ... Always trust content from kausfiles! ... (6/8)

Public policy reader: The WaPo Metro section is the place to go for a new development in the missing-D.C.-intern story. The irresponsible leering tabloid innuendos about Chandra Levy and Congressman Gary Condit now, of course, seem to be true. ... Click here to see CNN's Bernard Kalb and Howie Kurtz clucking a few days ago about how the press was "concocting a variety of fictions" about "romantic liaisons" (Kalb) and was "unfair in suggesting, implying, hinting that there is some sort of romantic relationship here" (Kurtz). ... Kalb is probably still too virtuous to be interested in this chilling mystery. ... Meanwhile, the N.Y. Post finally gets on the Britney Spears complexion scandal, a story kausfiles had several months ago! ... (6/7)

WaPo busts NARAL for overdone opposition to a Bush judicial nominee--a role the Post will be able to play again, to good effect, in the coming months. ... (6/7)

Pardon Poison: It's pretty clear that media favorite Antonio Villaraigosa lost the L.A. mayoralty yesterday because of a powerful negative TV ad that tied him to Carlos Vignali, a convicted coke trafficker whose sentence was commuted by President Clinton in the midnight pardoning orgy of last January. Villaraigosa had written to the White House on Vignali's behalf, incorrectly stating that Vignali had no prior record and also claiming he'd been wrongly convicted. Villaraigosa explained he'd written the letter at the request of Vignali's father, a campaign contributor. ... Villaraigosa supporters charge the ad is racist, because somehow its grainy photos of razor blades cutting cocaine play on negative stereotypes about Latinos. But is there any doubt that Hahn would have run the same ad if he were campaigning against, say, Michael Dukakis? It's the sort of nasty spot you run when you're behind and your opponent has made a big, indefensible, Willie-Horton quality mistake. ... Here's another way to analyze the situation: Do you doubt that if Clinton hadn't commuted Vignali's sentence, Villaraigosa would today be mayor-elect of L.A.? In this sense, Villaraigosa isn't the victim of racism. He's the latest (last?) victim of Bill Clinton. ... (6/6)

Could they bury Brownstein any deeper? Pretty good Ron Brownstein column on the difference between Blair and Gore. (Blair emphasizes reform of the health and school bureaucracies along with increased spending; Gore just emphasized spending). But the paper ran it at the bottom of Page A8, which is where LAT readers usually look for plastic surgery ads. Is the Times ashamed of its star political columnist? ... (6/6)

I'd resisted reading the recent TNR cover story on energy because of its billing -- "The Producers: Gregg Easterbrook on the oil industry's view of the world." It seemed like another attempt to humanize a potentially dry policy issue with rich local color and personality. I hate that! (You don't find many real human beings hanging around kausfiles!) But don't worry -- it turns out that the "producers' worldview" business is just a thin veneer of editorial packaging around a straightforward policy piece, something Easterbrook does extremely well. ... "If you read only one energy piece this year, read this one!" -- David Manning, kausfiles policy analyst. ... Upshot: Bush's energy "crisis" is phony, but his various supply-expanding initiatives (including more drilling in Alaska, and more atomic power) aren't crazy. But we need tighter fuel economy standards for SUVs. ... TNR's own editors don't seem to have read the piece, which they cite as authority for their claim that the Bush plan is unsalvageably bad. ... Speaking of the energy "crisis": Bush's sharp drop in the polls may be confirming Josh Marshall's theory that Bush is in trouble because the public actually believes his crisis-mongering. This might give Bush the worst of both worlds, if voters associate him with an energy situation that isn't nearly as bad as he leads them to think, yet he fails to get the enivronmentally-charged parts of his plan through Congress. ... (6/5)

Kausfiles Hires Controversial Critic: The publisher of kausfiles.com announced today that his Web site has hired David Manning, the controversial film critic most recently associated with The Ridgefield Press and Columbia Pictures. Manning's tenure there ended when he was accused of not existing. "Whatever David has done in the past -- or, rather, hasn't done -- we believe he deserves a second chance," said kausfiles' CEO. "For too long there has been a subtle but pervasive discrimination in our society against those who don't exist." Existism comes in many forms, he noted, from the public opprobrium heaped on Murphy Brown to the less visible, but more devastating, failure to procreate." The nonexistent are easy targets because they can't fight back. They don't vote. They can't picket or make giant papier mache puppets." ... The Web entrepreneur said he hopes Manning will be able to branch out from film criticism into more policy-oriented subjects. "Millions of people now know his name and his work," he argued. "You can't buy branding like that." (6/5)

Cancer Porn -- Live With It! In his excellent recent New Yorker essay on the (so far) failed War on Cancer, Jerome Groopman agrees with experts who denounce "the pornography of cancer," by which they mean the hype and headlines surrounding each potential cure. (Gleevec is the latest example.) "The headlines are dreadful," complains one cancer maven Groopman quotes approvingly. Groopman worries that press sensationalism will distort federal decisions on which research to fund. He seems clearly right if, as he claims, the result is excessive funding of "imminent cures" and insufficient funding of "open-ended research." ... But isn't it possible that all the hype and dreadful headlines will lead to a bigger funding pie, which will translate into more research and a greater chance of stumbling onto something? Isn't it better for doctors like Groopman to learn to use the hype, rather than to bemoan it and try to somehow suppress it? A society in which cancer researchers are media superstars (which is where we're headed) isn't such a terrible thing -- the promise of high status is likely to encourage higher effort. And if it lures smart students into becoming medical researchers instead of lawyers, that's good too. ... (6/4)

"And I have no intention of having an intention for several weeks ...":

"I have no intention of running for president, nor do I have any intention of, or cause to, leave the Republican Party. I hope this will put an end to future speculation on this subject." --John McCain, Sat. 6/2
Is that what you say if you actually hope to put an end to future speculation on this subject? Of course not. If you actually hope to end speculation, you say "I promise not to run and I promise to stay in my party." Saying "I have no intent" is the classic formulation that leaves the door open for having plenty of intent at some point in the future. ...

Improvements! A few useful new links have been added at the bottom of this page ... (6/4)

Beltway Tip: NYT investigative reporter Don Van Natta has reportedly been working on a big piece on absentee ballot fraud in Florida. (The fraudulent votes would presumably have favored Bush.)... (6/3)

I'm the Maverick Around Here, Buddy! I like many things about John McCain and may one day happily vote for him for President, but isn't it pretty clear he's become a hopeless publicity junkie -- he just can't stand to see Jeffords getting all the "maverick" press attention, so he's grabbing it for himself by having Tom Daschle over to his house and teasing reporters yet again with the possibility of an independent presidential campaign. ... In Washington, as elsewhere, the crudest explanation is sometimes the best one. ... That said, WaPo's Edsall and Milbank sketch out an ideological rationale for a McCain candidacy that's pretty powerful: Both parties are captive of their bases, we need a rousing populist centrism, national service, etc. (Bruce Reed and Bill Kristol, together again!) ... But a) McCain is captive of his base, the press. And it's unclear to me whether the press is populist-centrist these days or simply left-of-centrist. By the time he runs as an independent, McCain may be to the left of the Democratic nominee. b) The love-love relationship between McCain and the media is unhealthy for any politician, whatever his or her ideology. It means President McCain won't want to do anything that makes Tim Russert angry. ... (6/2)

It's Bias I Tell You! Did anybody in the professional press notice that the Time/CNN poll showed the public disapproves of Jeffords "decision to switch" by a 51-percent-vs.-41-percent margin? This surprising and inconvenient result certainly didn't affect Time's glowing coverage of Jeffords' defection--it wasn't even mentioned in the text of the magazine's 4-story anti-Bush barrage, as far as I can see. ... Time and others in the pack can't defend themselves against the charge of pro-Democratic bias with the self-effacing argument that they are just reflecting the views of their readers. Here they are, in significant part, defying the views of their readers to pump up Jeffords. ... What the journalists could conceivably argue is that they're not anti-Bush, they're simply going with the obvious, cheap story line, about White House arrogance and comeuppance, which just happens to be anti-Bush. ... But if a conservative Democrat--say Zell Miller--had defected to give the Senate to the Republicans, do you think he'd get the full Lincoln treatment? ... P.S.: Ann Coulter scores some points in her not-unsatisfying anti-Jeffords rant. The LAT really did compare Jeffords to Lincoln and Churchill, she notes, (and not in an editorial either). ... (6/1)

August 2001 archive

July 2001 archive

McCain-Feingold Archive

for June, 2001

The family's comeback, Hispanic hype, Chandra Levy ...
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The Good Big News (That Nobody's Reporting) Plus, kausfiles gets divisive and vindictive!

Drudge Report
80% true. Close enough!
Main home page.
Formerly mediagossip.com.
Not always awful.
New Republic
Gore, now and forever!
What's left.
N.Y. Observer
That orange thing.
Page Six
Too good to check?
Goldberg File
Indulgent, but viciously funny.
John Leo
One anti-PC bullet a week.
Virginia Postrel
Friend of the future!
It's still there!
Fab bigthink on man's destiny.
Shake that ketchup bottle!
Daily horror stories.
John Podhoretz
He's one smart Pod.
Washington Monthly
Includes "Tilting at Windmills"
Jim Pinkerton
Quality ideas from quantity ideas.
Andrew Sullivan
He asks; he tells!
Dick Morris
Best thumbsucking toesucker.
Weekly Standard
See them snipe at Bush.
The Occasional
Bright young 'wingers.
Josh Marshall
Chandra Central.
Center on Budget & P.P.
Money Liberal Central
Rich Galen
Sophisticated GOP insider.
Politics Reader
Excellent reefer site.
Steve Chapman
Ornery but lovable libertarian.
He still ain't got no transcripts.
Walter Shapiro
Politics and ... neoliberal humor!
Gone left, but good.
Lloyd Grove
Don't let him write about you.
Jeannette Walls
Her free newsletter's fun too.
John Tierney
NYT's non-lib metro columnist.
Le Show
America's funniest man?
N.Y. Press
Good dirty Bushie tab.
NYT-Bashing Central.
Stirs the drink.
Bull Moose
National Greatness Central.
Positioning the brand for the Post-News Era!

Copyright 2001 Mickey Kaus.