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Psst: It sure looks as if the San Fernando
Valley will succeed in seceding from
Los Angeles. The Valley has 1.4 million
people, and is generally whiter and
more conservative than the rest of L.A.. What
remains of L.A. will be even more liberal and
Democratic than it is now. ... This is roughly the equivalent
of the borough of Queens seceding from New York City. ...
"I don't begrudge non-Muslims their suspicions right now." A
Muslim-American voice of sanity. ...
Excellent David Plotz article on the (public) evidence
against Iraq, and why there's not quite enough of it, yet. ...
The Israel-Doesn't-Make-A-Difference brigade
used the word "appease" once too often, and
something snapped! The result is here, on Slate's "Breakfast Table." ... From now on,
kausfiles will retaliate at a time and place
and in a manner of its own choosing! ...
Maxima Feasible Misunderstanding?
Nissan has announced that it will move production
of its flagship Maxima sedan to Smyrna, Tennessee. The company had
already begun expanding an engine and transaxle plant nearby.
Two points: a) Isn't Nissan putting a lot of eggs in a basket that's about to be organized by
the UAW? The highly significant Smyrna certification vote is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Moving the Maxima seems to be
an attempt by Nissan to somehow win over Smyrna workers. But what if Nissan loses the vote anyway? Won't the
UAW then have it over more of a barrel? b) Whatever happens with the UAW,
don't expect Maxima quality to improve. It's an open
secret that, despite the large strides made in American factories over the
past two decades, the most reliable cars on the planet are not those
made by Japanese manufacturers such as Nissan and Toyota. The most reliable
cars are those made in Japan by these Japanese manufacturers.. Buy a
copy of Consumer Reports and you'll see what I mean.
Nissan's Altima, built in Smyrna, has a fine record -- about
35 percent better reliability than average. But the Maxima, assembled in Nissan's
"antiquated, expensive plants in Japan," (as the LAT calls them) has
exceptional quality, about 60
percent better than average. The same goes for several
other fabulously well-built cars -- the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, the Mazda Miata,
and various Lexuses and Infintis -- that are actually assembled in Japan, as
opposed to the Japanese carmakers' U.S. "transplant" factories. ...
It's all going according to plan: Kausfiles's sole advertiser, Contentville, has shifted into
nonexistent mode. [It worked for me!--D. Manning] ... They
were pleasant to deal with and actually paid their bills. Maybe
that's where they went wrong! ... Attention, P.R. Men and Women: Fridays
are the traditional days to put out bad or embarrassing news -- because
it then gets buried in the little-read Saturday papers.
And if ever there was a
Friday to put out bad news, this is it. ...
Bid farewell to the political career of New York City
Comptroller Alan Hevesi (12% in Tuesday's mayoral primary) who -- with the
help of the
New York Times -- attempted to
smear Mayor Giuliani's
welfare-to-work program by making charges of favoritism for which a unanimous
appeals court later found "no evidence." ...
Never trust content from Robert Scheer! You know the 9/11 angle
that implicitly criticizes the U.S. government
because earlier this year
it "gave the Taliban a forty-three-million-dollar grant for banning
poppy cultivation," as a New Yorker lead editorial
put it? It turns out to
have been too good to check. Dan Kennedy has
what seems to be the real story (which is that the
money was Afghan relief aid specifically not given to the Taliban). ... The
main culprit in
fathering the falsehood seems to have been the LAT's
Robert Scheer, who apparently misread
a NYT story when writing a column back in May. (Scheer didn't respond when asked to
comment, Kennedy reports.) Scheer tried
clean up his mess
but too late to stop the mostly-bogus angle from being prominently
recycled, in the New Yorker and elsewhere. ...
John McCain's eulogy for Mark
Bingham, gay McCainite rugby player, PR man, and Flight 93 hero, really
is quite moving, if ever-so-slightly egocentric. Try to get through it without crying.
(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing it out.) ...
Kausfiles Under Attack ... Sunday's item on
Israel has come in for criticism from Slate's Jodi
Kantor and Emily Yoffe here. A response to them has now been posted
In his very useful 9/19 interview with Terry Gross of "Fresh Air," a somewhat breathless Thomas Friedman says:
[T]he failure here, Terry, was not one of intelligence. It was of
imagination. Who could have imagined this? You could have laid out all the data
in front of the most, you know, sophisticated CIA analyst, and he would simply -- it would have been almost inhuman for him to stand back
and say "I see it. ..."
Huh? I know this is hindsight, but even an unsophisticated CIA analyst might have been able to
"see it," given
that one Abdul
Hakim Murad, a pilot now serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for Bin-Laden-linked terrorist acitivities,
confessed that he had planned to crash a plane into, yes, the CIA
headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Phillipine authorities say they also
told the FBI about other potential targets, including
the Pentagon, according to CNN. ... See
WaPo story and the discussion in
Also: Newsweek's extensive
report, which discusses a 1994 hijacking in which an
Algerian Islamic terror group attempted to crash
an Airbus into the Eiffel Tower. ...
MSNBC's Brock Meeks rails against the proposed
Mobilization Against Terrorism Act, which he
considers a "reactionary" infringement of individual liberties.
You can check out the list of wiretapping and eavesdropping
provisions yourself. I must admit that none of them
gives me the creeps -- not even the controversial Echelon listening
network -- at least in the
nation's current situation. ... Well, OK, I don't
see why state attorneys general, the biggest
showboaters in American politics, need to be given
the power to employ the
FBI's "Carnivore" email-tapping program without a court
order. They'll probably use it to
ferret out tobacco users and sue them! ... There may be some sort of surveillance pork-barreling at
work here -- as if spreading the snooping power
around to all 50 states will gain the bill more support. ...
rule out staying on as N.Y. mayor, even as the city prepares to vote Tuesday
in the terrorism-delayed primary
to pick his successor. Meanwhile, City Council speaker Peter Vallone, reportedly
Giuliani's preferred Democrat, positions himself as the continuity candidate by stressing the
need to avoid "dramatic changes." ...
Mezine Melee! Josh
Marshall bashes Andrew Sullivan's "wild-eyed" attacks "on anyone who is even
slightly off-message about this tragedy."
Pointillism: You know kausfiles is
disoriented when it turns to Daniel Patrick Moynihan
for wisdom. In this case, Moynihan actually provides some, pointing out a)
that in the fight against terrorism "you often have more friends than
you think. The terrorists terrify them!" and b) that
Islamic community" can and should help
by speaking out on behalf of their country so they "will be heard in those parts of the world
they come from." ... Jonah Goldberg also makes a good
point: that America
has so far avoided wallowing in grief, Oklahoma City style, and should keep avoiding it. ... And Reuel M. Gerecht,
writing on jewishworldreview.com, makes several persuasive points: a)
When it comes to breaking the
spirit of a violent jihad, demonstrating the "indefatigability of the
triumphant power" is a key. (Scary role model: Saddam's grinding
down of revolutionary Iran, World-War-I style.) b) Making Bin Laden dead
would probably help rather than hurt. When
Khomeini died in 1989, "the truly violent spiritual furnace of Iran's Islamic
revolution went out." (Of course, Khomeini wasn't killed.
Still, Gerecht argues, charisma and awe are important, and "martyrs in the
Middle East are a dime a dozen.") c) "Better intelligence" "isn't
going to save us now." A good intelligence service "takes
years to build," and some people -- e.g. Bin Laden -- are very difficult to track. ... I'm less
persuaded by Gerecht's argument that Israel's concessions in various peace talks (and
American pressure on Israel to make those concessions)
helped produce Bin Laden's campaign
by demonstrating a "loss of nerve" and awe-inspiring power. But this is as clear a statement of
that position as I've found. (And the position is, oddly, not incompatible with the idea that actually
achieving an Israeli-PLO peace would eventually take the
steam out of the jihad by reducing the
martyr supply. Both propositions could be true.) ...
Mistakes were made:
An early version of kf's 9/17 Jonathan Turley item (below) incorrectly attributed his identification as a "terrorism
expert" to Roll Call. In fact, as the corrected item now states,
the culprit was a competing publication, The Hill. The
mistaken kf item was up for several hours. My complete
apologies to Roll Call, which had nothing to do with the Turley business. ...
Even if you assume that Fiamma Nirenstein selected
the best (i.e. worst) examples of hateful official and
semi-official anti-Israel Arab rhetoric, her Commentary
article, "How Suicide Bombers Are Made," is
revelatory and suddenly relevant. A person might conceivably grow up to
fly a 767 into a skyscraper if in his school system
"textbooks at every grade level praise the young man who
elects to become a shahid, a martyr for the
cause of Palestine and Islam." ... Nirenstein's piece actually offers some small
grounds for optimism, since it suggests that
resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict might lead to
a reduction in the number of people
willing to blow themselves up. Yes, Osama bin Laden objects more
generally to the penetration of the Arab world by Western culture -- but what is bin
his martyrs? If an Israeli-Arab agreement deal ends the official pro-martyr propaganda, the
supply of suicidal murderers should fall even if militant Arab rejectionists
continue a terror
campaign aimed at sabotaging the agreement. ... In the post-9/11 world,
Nirenstein's article may actually encourage the
conclusion that the U.S. should press
Israel to do much more to make peace with the PLO -- probably
not what the editors of Commentary had in mind. ...
The 9/11 Attack presents a marketing challenge for journalists and commentators
(like those on the staff of kausfiles) who have
no special expertise in national security or the Middle East. But it's no problem for
"terrorism expert Jonathan
Marshall pins the moth. ... Update: InstaPundit's Glenn
Reynolds not implausibly suggests that
Turley's billing as
a "terrorism expert" might be the fault of his hosts
at The Hilll. ... On
The Hill's site, Turley's bio --
presumably supplied by Turley -- positions him cleverly as
an "expert on constitutional law and national security." In the online
discussion that follows, though, Turley gets
hammered for self-promotion, and says
"I have never claimed to be an expert on terrorism."
Is that an ironic flag? Not!
Items from the parallel universe
(the one that would have existed ...):
"Mr. Welch is not a journalist, a news analyst, or a part of the NBC news division. His actions have
little, if any, entitlement to the First Amendment protections belonging to the
news media." -- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has been trying to obtain a tape that allegedly shows Jack Welch, then president of NBC's owner,
General Electric, pressuring the network's analyst to call the 2000 election for Bush.
warrior") seems to have come unhinged here. Welch's election-night interference was, from all appearances,
arrogant, offensive and wrong -- and it's a worthy
subject of investigation. But the First Amendment is exactly
the thing that protects NBC's right to run its newsroom
as badly as it wants to. If not, who hands out the
licenses to be "journalists" and "news analysts"? Henry Waxman? Norman Ornstein?
A Commission of Kalbs? ... I dream of an America where
even the CEO of General Electric has as many First Amendment
rights as the editor of kausfiles! (I am a journalist aren't I? Aren't I?) ...
Today's Feedback from Our Readers!
Subject: You Are A Fucking Asshole
I am usually more articulate than the subject above implies, but your
liberal, leftist attitude is totally out of place at this time in our
history. I especially agree with one of the respondents
that you should go to Afghanistan. Then you
will be incinerated with the rest of the
[Name Withheld by kf]
The Fast and the Furious:
Thursday night, on PBS's Washington Week, Rick
Berke of the NYT went on and on about President Bush's shaky public
performance in the 9/11 crisis. Friday
night, he couldn't say enough nice things about Bush.
What happened in between?
Well, Bush did much better on Friday, giving two moving speeches. But
I'd also bet that
Berke and Washington Week got a load of negative
feedback for criticizing the President in a time of crisis. Why do I suspect this? Because even
criticism has provoked an abnormal volume of less-than-fully-supportive email. (Sample headings: "Treason!!"..."Your backstabbing article" ... "I want to feed your liberal
ass to Bin Laden.")
Meanwhile, another phenomenon is at work, which is the application of the
"Faster" principle of speeded up information-processing to the 9/11 story.
In the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, there were many obvious,
true things that seemed highly inappropriate to discuss while the
search for bodies continued. One of these
taboo subjects was, it seemed to me, the implication of the World Trade
Center attack for the missile defense debate. I strenuously
argued against a friends' publishing an article on
this subject, on the grounds that it was too early for this mass murder to become grist in
a hoary old partisan argument. I was wrong.
By the time my friend
published his piece (yesterday) it not only
didn't seem inappropriate, it was almost too late. The battalion of
op-edders -- swarming over the rubble of the 9/11 story looking for fresh angles -- had
already processed many of the missile defense implications. Other potentially
taboo subjects are also being discussed far earlier than
you'd expect. Next up: Acknowledging the World Trade Center's glaring
architectural flaws, as part of the
debate -- already started! -- over
what should be built to replace it.
Put these two phenomena together and, I think, you've got trouble.
Elite pundit opinion races on from one
angle to the next -- The nation unites! But Bush is doing
badly! No, he's not! It will cause a recession! No, it won't! It's bad for missile defense! But good
for the energy bill! -- while the mass
of citizens, who mainly just want to rescue the living, mourn the dead, and defeat the enemy,
are revolted by the spectacle.
Specifically, a complication of the "Faster"
principle may be in order -- one that posits a difference in speed between elite (pundit-centric) opinion and mass opinion. Even mass opinion moves
faster now than it once did (one reason administration planners are worried that
support for military action may fade before any action can be undertaken). But elite opinion moves
much faster, both a) because there are many more opinion journalists in the national
dialogue and b)
because they communicate much more quickly, reacting
to each other and moving on to the next
idea. The more powerful the general "Faster" trend, the bigger
the differential between the elite
and the mass -- and, in the same manner that tectonic plates sliding
at different speeds produce earthquakes -- the greater the
potential for mass revulsion and anti-journalistic revolt. Ask Rick Berke!
Timothy Noah punctures another instant 9/11 cliche: that the
terrorist attack will tip the U.S. economy into recession. Pundits said the same thing about California after the 1994 Northridge earthquake -- but all the reconstruction activity helped produce a boom. ...
Media coverage of the 9/11 attack often emphasizes that
it will be a "long time before
America gets back to normal," etc. The opposite is likely to
be closer to the truth -- we'll get
back to normal all too quickly, in keeping with the tendency (often
discussed in this space) for the
population to process information
much faster than in
former, less wired times. (Don't you feel as if you've
lived about a month in the past two days?)
I suspect the story will be off the evening
news by Thanksgiving -- a denial, in a
warped way, of the attackers' disruptive goal. ...
Would racial and ethnic profiling have saved many hundreds
of lives if it had been
employed by security personnel at Boston, Newark and Dulles airports?
It's a legitimate question, and the
answer is probably yes. I'm not for race profiling, but
this at least severely tests the anti-race principle, no? ... See
somewhat muddled but daring anti-identity-politics OpinionJournal piece by Tarek E. Masoud. ("How many thousands of
lives would have been saved if people like me had been inconvenienced with
having our bags searched and being made to answer questions?")...
Emerging Dem Position Fails to Emerge:
It looks as if Minority Leader Gephardt somehow
Democratic position recently discerned by WaPo's
Sebastian Mallaby. In Mallaby's
seemingly imminent "new project,"
Democrats were to stop making
a fuss about the Social Security "lockbox" in the
short term, clearing the way for more anti-recession spending. Twenty-four hours after Mallaby sketched out this
"clever" Dem strategy, Gephardt seems to be
doing more or less the
to Roll Call: He's not only basing his strategy on
making a fuss about the lockbox -- he's citing the lockbox
that as grounds for cutting, not increasing, short-term spending! ...
WaPo's Sebastian Mallaby tries to get the Democrats
to make sense on Social Security -- employing the time-honored technique of discerning an emerging party position (the Democrats "show
signs of doing something clever," we're told) which just happens to be the position Mallaby wants them to take. According to Mallaby, the Democrats' "new project" would
let Bush dip into the Social Security "lockbox" during the present bad economic times, but require that the government run a big budget surplus in the longer
term ("over the next decade"). ... Problems:
1) Evidence that this is indeed the emerging Democratic position is thin, consisting of one responsible
press conference by Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (who two weeks ago was demagoguing the "lockbox" raid along with
everyone else) and a statement by Senator Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.) in which Conradadvocated an immediate big tax cut coupled with budget restraint in the long term. But advocates of tax cuts today always try to look
responsible by calling for restraint tomorrow. That's not an emerging new anything.
2) There's also not that much
evidence (yet) that Bush's budget will in fact eat up the Social Security surplus in the long term.
It might, once you take into account all the new spending that's needed on defense, prescription drugs, Medicare, etc.
Babington, like Slate's Jacob Weisberg, shows
that Bush's assumptions are faulty, but not that reasonable, non-faulty assumptions wipe
out the surplus.
If the problem is long-term, and the evidence is cloudy, isn't it sensible to wait and see what that new spending looks like? Repealing Bush's tax cuts now, while seemingy prudent, would
in reality take the pressure off Congress to avoid non-essential spending today. ...
And instead of
making the iffy case that some Bush tax cuts should be repealed in the name of protecting the surplus (as Mallaby seems to want the Democrats to do) why don't Democrats begin to make the case they eventually must make anyway -- that the tax cut money would be
better spent on new programs to get everyone health insurance, etc. ... Maybe Mallaby's
looking for a winning Dem position when there isn't one ... in the short term ...
A Gallup poll shows
only 20 percent support for allowing illegal aliens who've "worked and paid taxes" to become citizens. (There's only 6 percent support
for a general amnesty for illegals.) I don't think even the numbers in favor of welfare reform in the mid-90s were that lopsided. ... Gallup
nevertheless concludes that
"it is not clear that the political costs involved in supporting
[Mexican President Vicente Fox's] proposal are high." Gallup argues that "the
roughly 40% of Americans who favor a decrease
in immigration ... are nevertheless not highly
interested in seeing Congress take action on immigration this
year, suggesting it is a low salience issue for them." Huh? Sure,
voters who oppose more immigration might not be interested
in seeing Congress "take action on immigration," since
the action that's being talked about these days is amnesty. These anti-immigrant voters are not so anti-immigrant
that they are mad as hell about the status quo. That doesn't mean they
won't get mad if Congress does grant some form
of amnesty or allow increased immigration. ...
Marie Smith tells the Modesto Bee that [in the Bee's words] "about
a month before Levy disappeared, the
congressman tried to get her to participate in a sexual scenario."
said he had mentioned it often, and she initially thought it was a joke. When she became convinced he was serious about the
encounter, she got worried. 'I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God, I could have
been hurt,'" she said.
Don't disbelieve Smith just because she's fallen into the
clutches of Judicial Watch -- or because her own lawyer, James
Robinson, comes across as a
small-time publicity hound! ... [What 'scenario'?--ed. I have
enough trouble with AOL ...]
Harry Shearer's audio enactment of Larry King interviewing
Gary Condit's mailman is very realistic and very funny. ...
Clinton's is Bigger! David Broder thinks Bush's problem is his "overweight policy agenda," which
Broder claims is "larger and more controversial than Clinton's." This
would seem to contradict
the previously-expressed position of
Dick Morris and kausfiles, which
holds that Bush's problem is that "he has, basically, nothing left to do."
Who's right? Let's go to the policy agenda!
Specifically, here is what
Broder claims constitutes Bush's "overambitious" list:
1. Education reform
Of these, #3 is controversial but, in
the larger scheme of things, trivial. If Bush loses it,
so what? Privatization of Social Security (#7) is a big deal
but isn't going to come close to
happening, so it's only on the current
"agenda" in a symbolic sense. #6, HMO reform, isn't on Bush's agenda at all -- it's
on the Democrats' agenda. Bush is playing defense and might be perfectly happy
to see all the HMO reform bills die. And #5, energy, is
hardly a pick-breaker. Bush can happily compromise on
"drilling rights in wilderness areas," or even lose them entirely.
Who cares, outside the oil patch?
2. Military reform
3. Faith-based services
4. Trade negotiating authority
5. An energy bill
6. An HMO reform bill
7. Social Security reform.
That leaves education reform (already in the endgame stage of bluff and
veto threat) and trade. That's it on the domestic side.
Clinton wanted to "reinvent government," rebuild the middle class,
reverse two decades of rising income inequality, reform welfare, start a program of national service,
and establish a massive system of worker retraining. Oh, yes -- also create a new
national health care
system covering all Americans, an FDR-scale reform on which he
staked his, and his wife's, prestige. It's no contest.
Why do Washington columnists have to act as if something momentous
is happening when it isn't? The whole point of having a
veteran like David Broder is to provide some long-term
perspective and calm judgment. Has "The Dean" been cadging some of Andrew Sullivan's
testosterone? ... Broder-bashing bonus late hit: Two columns ago,
the press of covering up the truth that Jesse Helms is an "unabashed white racist
politician." But Broder didn't offer much evidence to back up his charge.
Helms opposed the MLK holiday,
Broder tells us, attacked "homosexuals, the labor union bosses, and the crooks" (were
they black crooks?) and said he feared the black vote (duh!).
Basically, Broder rests his case on the famous Helms anti-preference
ad showing a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter
for a job that "went to a minority because of a racial quota." But
why is this ad "racist?" Demagogic, inflammatory, divisive, sure. But racist? Is
Broder denying that some people lose jobs because of racial
preferences? (If they have no effect,
then why have them?) Is he saying it's racist to believe preferences are unfair? ... I'm perfectly happy to believe Helms is an
odious bigot. But if he's a racist, then Broder is lazy. ... Late-breaking research:
This letter to
the WSJ has at least
some of the evidence Broder should have had. ...
Sharks eat Florida ballots: The big media consortium's recount of the Florida
presidential vote is scheduled for release Monday,
September 17, according to kausfiles's sources.
The word is it's an inconclusive, garbled mess, with various totals not adding up, etc.
"CONGRESS GIRDS FOR BATTLE OF PRIORITIES" -- LAT hed. Are you as excited as I am? (9/4)
Seth Schiesel's NYT attack on the Congressional attempt to let the
Baby Bells have a monopoly over
the provision of DSL broadband was timely and informative,
essential reading for all concerned citizens. But is there any sense in which this
piece is distinguishable from
opinion journalism -- except that a) it disingenuously trades on
the added credibility that comes from being in the news pages of the
NYT, and b) doesn't have to be as rigorous as a good opinion
piece in defending its position and batting down counterarguments. (The
unrebutted presumably bogus counterargument, in this case, is that Baby Bells would otherwise face "costs and regulatory hurdles" their
competitors--cable providers--do not.) In a New Republic or National Review
opinion piece--as opposed to a campaign speech-- you might not get away with simply asserting:
"The issue is really that simple: should the nation's
broadband future be determined by a clean fight between
two big combatants or by a messy battle among many potential competitors?"
A frank opinion piece might also have to consider possibilities that aren't even
on the table -- such as requiring both cable and phone broadband systems to
open themselves to competing providers. ... The subjectivity of opinion
journalism without the standards of opinion journalism -- that's
been the trend
at the NYT for some time. It's not the worst of both
worlds (Schiesel's piece is much more useful and readable than a standard,
straight, objective account would be). But wouldn't it be better -- and
more honest -- to go all the way? ...
Massive Labor Day Upgrade:
Hit Parade's subcontractor in Macao has finished
keying in the archive for August, adding to the rich media experience available on
view all items from last month, click here. [July?
June?--ed. Links to the archives for those months are further down this column, at the
chronologically correct spots and at the end.]
Democrats got only one (1) more Congressional seat out of the post-Census redistricting of California? Considering a) that the state was awarded an extra seat on the basis
of population growth, giving the Dems 53 districts to play with; and b) the rising Latino presence, etc., isn't this, on balance, good news for Denny Hastert? Did the Dems make their incumbents' seats safer at
the expense of expanding the number of less-safe districts they might win? The NYT's James Sterngold doesn't ask ...
August 2001 archive
July 2001 archive
June 2001 archive