mickey's assignment desk



Hit Parade Archive
February, 2002

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The death of Peter Milius is already having an impact. WaPo's editorial on welfare reform wouldn't have been this centrist-sounding if he were still alive. The Post even acknowledges that the 1996 reform law (which the Post relentlessly opposed) "brought real and meaningful advances." ... Am I nostalgic for the old Money Liberal fire? Not yet. ... (2/28)

Patriots of Beverly Hills: I'm sure Dean Martin's son, Dean-Paul ("Dino"), was a spoiled, privileged youth. I'd see him driving around West L.A. in his exotic Italian sports car (a Lamborghini Miura, if I remember correctly) and more or less assumed he was a jerk. But he died flying a plane as a Captain in the Air Force Reserve, not the sort of thing every gorgeous Hollywood movie star son did in the late 20th century. Shouldn't a book review condemning the permissiveness of his family -- a review in the national-service-obsessed Washington Monthly, of all places -- at least confront this fact? ... P.S.: And don't forget that Hedy Lamarr co-invented a valuable encryption technology to fight the Nazis! At a Beverly Hills dinner party!... If no one will defend the rich and famous, kausfiles will! ... (2/28)

Good, succinct Letter to the Editor questioning Doris Kearns Goodwin's plagiarism excuse. ... (2/28)

The big Woodward-Balz Bush series is heading into the final, tense stages of the SkippingTM process. Soon it will be SkippedTM. Do not give up and actually read it! ... (2/28)

Good, vicious Lucianne today, evidence that she's best (and most needed!) when there's no actual news. ... (2/26)

And then Bartlet pulls out his Nobel Prize and raps Gov. Ritchie across the knuckles with it ... : "Robert Musil" homes in on what is potentially the most damaging -- because it can be seen as snobbily credentialist -- part of Aaron Sorkin's anti-Bush rant, which is when Sorkin says it "was frustrating watching Gore try so hard not to appear smart in the debates. Why not just say 'Here's my f___ing résumé, what do you got?'" ... Sorkin's own f---ing resume, Musil notes, isn't that stunning -- probably worse than most of those who work for him -- but he's managed to achieve something anyway. Should he hand over West Wing to someone who went to Harvard instead of Syracuse? ... (2/26)

Defend-Dashcle Democratic Defensiveness? Charlie Cook's latest National Journal column (not available free online, but you can sign up for free emailed versions here) analyzes Big Labor's endorsements and concludes:

House races are just not as high a priority for labor this cycle -- an acknowledgement that the odds of a Democratic House takeover are somewhat longer.

Rob Walker on Felix Rohatyn's descent into blindered self-parody. .... (2/26)

If California gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan can appear before a "Latino Summit," talk about the need to court Hispanic voters, unveil a campaign ad in Spanish, and still denounce bilingual education as "downright evil," why can't George W. Bush? ... (2/25)

Pollster Frank Luntz tries to have it both ways, claiming that he doesn't work for Republicans (in order to placate nonpartisan corporate clients) while ... well, while working for Republicans (according to Roll Call). (2/25)

TNR's Peter Beinart breezes a little too assuredly past the constitutional problems of Shays-Meehan's restrictions on independent issue advertising, but gets close to the nub of the problem. If an independent, non-profit group like the Sierra Club wants to oppose a rape-the-environment legislator, Beinart says, "[i]t can buy all the ads it wants; it just can't raise more than $5,000 per person per year," But that's not such a little step -- we've never had a general restriction on how much individuals could spend to express themselves about politics, have we? ... I once talked with TNR editor-in-chief Marty Peretz and his wife about funding a pro-welfare reform group. I abandoned the effort, through no fault of Marty's, but it would have taken a lot more than $5,000. I think I want to live in a country where ten or twenty people like Peretz, who care about, say, the fate of the underclass, can pool their resources to speak out and try to do something about it. Don't you? (Beinart says individuals will be able to pay for ads if they disclose who they are. But my impression is it's very hard to pool resources from several individuals without forming a non-profit. Further study required! I suspect that's where the nub itself lies.). ... Of course, TNR co-owners Peretz, Hertog and Steinhardt spend way more than $5,000 each a year on The New Republic itself, and the magazine attacks candidates by name in the final 60 days of campaigns. Should that be stopped too? (2/25)

You can't say Doris Kearns Goodwin hasn't learned the basic PR rule that you should release really embarrassing news on a Friday. ... She now acknowledges much broader misbehavior -- "as many as 50 borrowed phrases" from one source alone -- plus she's apparently changed her (implausible) story. ... (2/23)

Heather Mac Donald -- 1, Nina Bernstein -- 0: NY Mayor Bloomberg's first major welfare decision goes the Giuliani way and leaves the "advocates'" advocate, the NYT's Bernstein, seething between the lines. Bloomberg and his welfare commissioner, Verna Eggleston, decided to refuse a waiver from federal rules that require a few (e.g., 8) hours of "workfare" a week from jobless adults without children if they are to receive food stamps for more than 3 months in a 3-year period. Bernstein quotes lavishly from her advocate constituency ("Several said that Mr. Bloomberg in this case appeared to be deferring to the Republican Party's right wing, rather than seeking the practical benefits of additional dollars ... ") and, perhaps magnanimously, lets them attribute "the unexpected decision to a column by Heather McDonald, an associate of the Manhattan Institute, strongly opposing the waiver ... in the New York Post ...." Bernstein misspells Mac Donald's name, but with publicity like that, who cares? Bernstein also (eventually) quotes fairly from Mac Donald's article:

"Even the state welfare bureaucracy urged the city to apply for a food-stamp work waiver," Ms. McDonald wrote. "This `soak the feds' view is dangerously short-sighted, however: the longer the dependency culture is nurtured, the greater and more perpetual the claims on state and city budgets."

Gregg Easterbrook's otherwise-persuasive argument for a preemptive bombing strike against Iraq's weapons facilities -- but not civilians or "national infrastructure" -- doesn't deal with at least one obvious possible objection: What about weapons facilities located (presumably intentionally) near population centers? ... Interesting side-angle: Those ugly, obsolete, boondoggly B-1 bombers suddenly turn out to be highly useful. They can now drop lots of powerful smart bombs that used to be carried only on low-flying tactical fighters. Who knew? ... This is a good example in Easterbrook's argument for a bloated defense spending spree that buys more of everything: You never know what will come in handy. ... (2/21)

More points Rick Berke missed: National Journal political expert Charlie Cook gives his version of a post-CFR world, and it's pretty similar to the one sketched in Newsweek -- a proliferation of consultant-run "independent" campaigns:

For the consultants, the beauty of the new system is that they are both the consultant and the client, paying themselves as much as they wish, with no pesky party committee operatives getting in the way of making a real fortune.
Cook notes that the Shays-Meehan-McCain-Feingold 60-day ban would do nothing to stop early heavy TV advertising, of the sort Clinton used against Dole in 1996. Reform could also produce a net loss of disclosure if contributors to independent campaigns could keep their names secret. (At least soft money contributions to parties must be disclosed.) ... Cook seems to feel the current CFR crusade is in effect a make-believe Washington initiative. Kausfiles position remains: the new system may or may not be better, but I'll settle for different! Let's see how effective those independent ads are, whether they cancel each other out, and whether they keep getting funded. ... (2/20)

Conservatives have a perverse interest in playing down the success of the 1996 welfare reform in curbing unwed-motherhood -- the better to make the case for their suspiciously vague new marriage-promotion initiatives. But it sure looks to me as if in 2000 the percentage of black children born out-of-wedlock declined for the sixth straight year in a row. The percentage peaked at 70.4 percent in 1994. In 2000, it was down to 68.5 percent. That's not a steep drop, but after several decades of unrelenting regresss -- the ratio was only 49.5 percent in 1975 -- you'd think six years of slow progress would be at least acknowledged as an encouraging trend. ... You can find the stats (if you have Adobe Acrobat) by combining the charts from here and here. ... (2/19)

If Page Six's hot Gary Condit gossip were really take-it-to-the bank true, wouldn't it be the lede item rather than the fifth item? ... Not that I don't believe it! ... (2/19)

Murkfare: When lobbyist Ed Gillespie put together his "independent" energy ad campaign (see item immediately below) was he trying to 1) help his energy clients, including Enron; 2) milk his energy clients to help Bush; 3) siphon funds from both his clients and conservative Bush supporters to help himself; or 4) win over voters to his sincere belief in free markets rather than enforced conservation? The LAT quotes from Gillespie's memos -- you, the reader make the call! ... Except that the answer is almost certainly "all of the above." This is a pretty good example of the way Washington lawyers differ from lawyers elsewhere -- they don't avoid conflicts of interest, they thrive on conflicts of interest. Hire Gillespie, and you're not hiring a monomaniacal advocate for your cause. You're buying a piece of someone with three or four masters, on the theory that it's a non-zero-sum game and you'll wind up better off with him on your payroll than not. It's not clear to me that this system is worse than the conventional "one lawyer, one client" ethics rule, for reasons elaborated here. But one thing it does do is cut down on transparency. Was DaimlerChrysler, by funding Gillespie's independent ads, insidiously influencing Bush policy, getting shaken down, or tacitly compensating its valued lobbyist by funding his pet project? Even in a straightforward bribe or campaign contribution it's often hard to tell who is the heavy; it's much harder when you introduce a third party cut-out, such as Gillespie, with his own multiple interests. That's true, significantly, even if there is full, immediate public disclosure of every penny paid by corporations and rich individuals. (Here, we know precisely who paid what to Gillespie, thanks to Newsweek, and it's still not clear what was going on.) This is the murky world McCain-Feingold will bring us. ... Not that I'm against it! ... (2/19)

Isikoff-Skipper: In this week's Newsweek, Howard Fineman and Michael Isikoff write the pieces Rick Berke didn't. It turns out we don't have to imagine the sort of independent "issues" group that will spring up once 'soft money' contributions to political parties are banned. At least one such group has already been created -- the "21st Century Energy Project," organized by GOP lobbyist Ed Gillespie to drum up support for Bush's energy plan. Isikoff discovered that eight of the ten groups listed as supporting the project contributed no money -- all the cash came from Gillespie's corporate clients, Daimler-Chrysler and Enron. Both corporations, guiltily, laundered their contributions through conservative non-profit groups (such as Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform). ... One open question: Was Gillespie's project really designed by him to boost support for Bush's energy proposals, or to boost support for Bush himself, pre-9/11? If you figure it was the latter (whatever Gillespie's clients thought) and you multiply it by 500, you have a glimpse of a post-CFR world. ... There's actually no need to hide behind specific issues like "energy": "“I’m thinking we need to found ‘the Union of Concerned Republican Citizens,'" a GOP lawyer tells Fineman. Isikoff notes that Washington "consultants" can make money (lucrative ad commissions, not just salaries) off such groups, and will rush to set them up. ... Remaining questions: 1) What about ads in the final 30 or 60 days? Will the disclosure provisions in CFR (if upheld) have any effect in deterring contributions from rich individuals (quite apart from more tightly-regulated corporations)? 2) Won't the new system still be an improvement, since all the uncoordinated ads by money-grubbing freelancers will result in a self-cancelling cacophony, with the voters turning to "free media" --e.g. the candidates' themselves -- to learn the real score, which is what reformers want? 3) How will the donors get credit with the candidates for their independent contributions? Sure, an outside operator like Gillespie can keep track. If he informs the pols (in this case, Bush) who paid up, is that illegal "coordination"? Presumably not. But might not the reformers' disclosure requirements actually encourage funding of independent ad campaigns by providing a handy, reliable list to the candidate of who's helped his cause and who hasn't -- and by making appearing on such lists routine and unembarrassing? 4) If the ads turn out to be mainly be a waste of money, won't big-money donors (some of them, anyway) wise up and stop sending money to the Gillespie-like "consultants"? 5) If that's the outcome, will reformers be satisfied with the new ecology (maybe boosting legal fundraising by the parties, if necessary, to assure their primacy)? Or will they mount a repressive and (one hopes) futile legislative hunt to stamp out the new "independent" campaigns? ... P.S.: Why do reporters keep letting McCain get away with his faux-realistic sound bite that "We’ll need another bill in 20 years"? Try two years! ... P.P.S.: Isikoff and the LAT say Gillespie was "a $700,000-a-year consultant to Enron." Eat your heart out, Paul Krugman! ... [Endit pls. This item now longer than Isikoff's whole article--ed] (2/18)

How to Run for President, by Al Gore and Michael Dukakis: It sure looked to this outside observer as if Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert Kaiser turned the Washington Post into a shadow of its former Bradleean self. They made it boring, while good reporters (Harden, Specter, et al.) fled to the NYT -- at least until the Post was revived by the Lewinsky scandal and the replacement of Kaiser as No. 2 by Steve Coll. ... Yet now they've written a book lecturing everybody else about "American Journalism in Peril," duly plugged in errand-boy fashion by their subordinate Howie Kurtz. ... Am I missing something subtle about this? ... (2/18)

The Case Against Berke, Part XXVII: Characteristically middling, too-easily-bemused execution of a good assignment (how big donors will get around campaign finance reform) by the NYT's Rick Berke, the reporter who needs no dumbing down! Berke at least notes that money will flow to independent groups, but gives virtually no idea how it might work. Will corporations and unions be able to fund these independent groups? (The bills seem to say no.) Will the independent groups easily overcome the procedural obstacles to airing ads in the final 60 days? Will new groups (the Tom DeLay Issue-Education Institute) form that become the de facto parties, attracting huge individual contributions? If such large contributions persist, then isn't Terry McAuliffe wrong when he tells Berke that power will shift to a "new breed of player" who collects lots of $2,000 checks? Won't the old players still rule? ... Don't look for answers from Berke. He thinks his readers need off-point anecdotes (about why Clement Stone didn't become ambassador to England) and conclusory quotes from politicos ("[P]eople will find some way to have influence," says Tony Coehlo). Historian Ron Chernow reveals that "[t]here's a large, continuing lobbying machinery in Washington." Wow! ... ... Calling this a "thumbsucker" is an insult to thumbs! ... Why, if Roman Hruska had a favorite reporter ... [That's enough. This is degenerating into mere abuse--ed] (2/18)

Cutting of "People for" at the Neas: WaPo's editorial is a Voice of Sanity on the Pickering nomination. ... Are the apparently spurious charges of segregationism -- what the Post calls "the need on the part of liberal groups and Democratic senators to portray him as a Neanderthal" -- driven by the need to whip up popular sentiment or the need to whip up direct mail donations? [Both, obviously--ed. Sure, but why pick out Pickering, specifically, unless the liberal lobbying groups (People for the American Way, NAACP) have to have an inflammatory, topical direct mail issue?] ... See also David Firestone's excellent NYT piece on Pickering's substantial support among local Mississipi black leaders, revealing in pretty stark terms "distance between national liberal groups" (with their fundraising needs) and local liberal citizens. Highly embarrassing for PAW head Ralph Neas to be busted by the Times. ... Also: Jeff Morley noted the corruption of the left by direct-mail fundraising in a different context, namely the hysterical reaction to Bush's proposal to expand health care for poor pregnant women. ... (2/17)

Heather Mac Donald -- New York's Jill Stewart! -- on the first test of whether new N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg will cave to "the advocates" and abandon Giuliani's (successful) "workfare" policies. ... (2/16)

Dallas, Texas

An earlier kf item suggested that New Times L.A. columnist Jill Stewart should be mayor of Los Angeles. Don't scoff -- here in Dallas tomorrow, they may well elect the local version of Stewart, former Dallas Observer reporter Laura Miller, their new mayor. ... Sign up early for the Stewart Exploratory Committee. ... Joe Klein should have taken kausfiles' advice! ... (2/15)

30 Seconds Over Sacramento? Is Gray Davis' Board of Education gutting California's seemingly successful anti-bilingual-ed initiative, Prop. 227, at the behest of the Latino caucus? Ron Unz, 227's sponsor, thinks so, and has sounded an alarm. Snooze's Michael Barone and National Review's John Miller have taken up the cause, and the Sacramento Bee's estimable Dan Walters has written a sympathetic story. I tend to trust Unz on this because he's been fairly level-headed throughout the Prop 227 fight, as well as turning out to be right. (For a page on how Latino test scores have risen since 227's passage, click here.) Unz worries that the Latino education establishment, intent on restoring bilingual ed for high-minded (multiculturalist) and low-minded (jobs for Spanish-speaking teachers) reasons, has pushed through a provision allowing pro-bilingual teachers to seek mass "waivers" of the English-immersion requirement. Even more troubling is the possibility that 227 will be gutted by a device Davis has used before -- a phony court "settlement" in which the state government, having never liked 227 in the first place, agrees to the demands of its opponents. (Mickey's Assignment Desk: How it this possible without prompting legal intervention by groups that actually support the referendum?) ... The whole point of Gray Davis -- his virtue -- is that he's so ruthlessly, coldly ambitious that he's terrified to push old liberal causes (opposition to capital punishment or to welfare reform) that might inflame voters against a Democrat. Here, to court Latino leaders, he appears to be taking a risk. You could do a really vicious 30 second attack ad on on this "hot button" topic, several commentators point out. This is the case for vicious 30-second attack ads. ... Barone also notes that Davis has said judges who don't agree with him on capital punishment should resign. So he can't very well argue he isn't allowed to try to control the Board of Ed (which he appoints). ... The board itself seems to be taking a "both-sides-are-mad-at-us-so-we-must-be-doing-something-right" tack. But this isn't a negotiation in which the idea is to find a halfway point. There was an election on this issue. One side (Unz's) won with 61 percent of the vote. The bilingual lobby lost. The law is pretty clear. Californians thought the issue was settled. If Davis subverts the law now, that should be a big deal -- in the press, and to the voters... P.S.: I'm always worried that the same sort of backroom deal, changing the crucial details under a facade of agreement, will gut welfare reform. The difference, I hope, is that Latino caucus in California is more powerful in Sacramento than the interest groups (AFSCME, the antipoverty establishment) opposing welfare reform are in Washington. But you still need the threat of those 30-second ads. ... (2/14)

It's not a political scandal, it's a business scandal! The Boston Herald reports that Mass. gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich made $750,000 last year (not counting expenses) giving speeches to corporations. He even passed up a debate in order to buckrake! Mainly this extremely interesting fact stands as a minor indictment of American corporations. $32G an hour seems a bit steep for what were undoubtedly highly polished, well-presented, regurgitated op-ed pieces. ...P.S.: How did Enron miss him? Incompetents! P.P.S.: It is a bit hard for Reich to (rightly) condemn the influence of soft money but then claim he was uninfluenced by his soft-money-sized fees because he had "no relationship" with the corporate interests who paid him -- he just took the money and ran! I tend to think Reich is ambitious and zealous enough to stab any benefactor in the back. (The money would just serve to raise the level of unction.) But this is not a benefit of the doubt that he would likely give to, say, Dick Cheney or Don Evans or Mitch McConnell. If he did, it would be prima facie evidence that the money's corrupted him by making him more sympathetic to fellow fatcats. ... P.P.P.S: But Reich (and aide Mark Longabaugh, a fellow veteran of the 1984 Hollings-for-President juggernaut) get credit for apparently freely giving this info to the Herald. ... (2/14)

Gee, if Alexandra Pelosi's candid home movie of Bush campaigning is as damning as Frank Bruni's book -- which revealed that Bush didn't see Titanic -- he's in real trouble, I guess. ... [Thought the complaint against Bush is he's the kind of guy who would see Titanic--ed He saw Austin Powers. Good bad taste on his part.]

Las Cruces, N.M.

kf Loophole-Spotter: According to WaPo's Eilperin and Edsall, the House sponsors of campaign finance reform have agreed to a "millionaire opponent" amendment under which

candidates facing a wealthy opponent could raise three times the normal amount from individual contributors -- and benefit from additional coordinated expenditures by the national party -- after their rival had spent $350,000 of personal wealth on the campaign.
So how about this: you're running for Congress. You get one of your rich friends to nominally "run" against you. His name is on the ballot, but he spends $350,001 ineffectually -- maybe on sweetheart contracts with campaign consultants who are friendly to you, maybe on TV ads that are awfully nice to his "opponent," namely you. But because of his "opposition," you get to triple your hard money collections and get "additional coordinated expenditures." Presto! -- you can now clobber your real opponent. ... It's the political equivalent of putting a sleeping infant in the rear seat so you can use the HOV lane. And people really do that. ... Note: Readers are invited to submit other loopholes. The obvious, big, and (one hopes) unpluggable hole is "independent" expenditures, which will flourish in aftermath of a "soft-money" ban unless the Supreme Court throws the First Amendment out the window. Not that the resulting political ecosystem might not be an improvement! ... For more on this issue and campaign finance reform (CFR) in general, readers are invited to peruse the kausfiles McCain-Feingold archives. ... (2/13)

It's hardly embarrassing to walk around Davos with Naomi Campbell, as former Clinton aide Gene Sperling did last year. But isn't it a bit embarrassing for Sperling to have a flack who "spins" this relationship to gossip columnists? [next-to-last item] ... You're not going Minnie Driver on us, are you, Gene? ... (2/12)

Now I'm really going to seem like the Weekly Standard blog parody, but Brian Linse has a very good post! (It's about recognizing the difference between the "left" -- as in the people warbloggers like to beat up on -- and the actual, existing left, as in people who live in mainstream society and don't "know anyone more liberal" than they are.) (2/10)

Stewart for Mayor: The L.A. Times has a new, lavishly-paid, badly-needed local columnist, Steve Lopez. ... L.A.'s non-lefty alternative paper, New Times L.A. has a veteran crazed-centrist columnist, Jill Stewart. ... Both tackle the hot issue of whether Bernard Parks, L.A.'s current, promoted-from-within-but-seemingly-reformist police chief, should get another term in office. Lopez scores some points against the identity politicians who want Parks (who's black) to stay, and has a sensible pundit's take on the issue -- Parks has pissed off too many officers, the LAPD needs some "fresh air" in the form of a new chief from outside. ... Stewart gets down into the innards of the bureaucracies, names names, takes a considered contrarian view (Parks actually should stay), and is pretty persuasive about it -- all while being completely readable thanks to her patented hyperbolic judgmentalism (e.g., former chief Willie Williams was "an incompetent, prevaricating boob"). ... In this local-columnist bake-off, Stewart wins. But at least it's close. ... [Links ripped off of Matt Welch. This is starting to read like the Weekly Standard parody.] (2/10)

We Don't Want Nobody Somebody Sent: Excellent, fresh Tucker Carlson column on why Beltway Republicans are annoyed with the Bush administration -- they can't get jobs in it, and they have to apply online with all the other nobodys! .... (2/10)

Alert kausfiles reader P.M. of Monona, Wisconsin, notes a page A3 WaPo story that will almost certainly prove more important than most of those on A1. Basically, the suburban trend of the last half of the 20th century seems to be fundamentally changing in character. Most of the changes look good, on first glance -- the suburbs are becoming more integrated, by race, income, and family type. In a sense, they're where everybody lives and works now. The changes in the core cities, at least in the South and West, look good too, as more families move back in:

The growth of families in cities is "creating vitality" in the form of revived commercial districts, neighborhood stability and a larger population of workers and consumers, [report co-author William] Frey said.
Maybe I'm missing the disastrous implications, but I don't see 'em yet. ... If people live near their work in the suburbs, what's so bad about sprawl, again? ...Here's the Brookings report on which the story's pegged. ... (2/10)

They're churning out the serieses at WaPo faster than I can Skip them! ... No promises on this latest one. You're on your own. ... The Woodward/Balz Bush series will be Skipped, however. ... (2/10)

"Everybody's talking about Bob Rubin. We need something scandalous about him in the magazine this week, even if it's thin!" If this is all they've got on Rubin, he's home free. ... New York's effort looks especially lacking since there's now more Rubin smoke -- though, as far as I can see no fire. (Why was Rubin under an obligation to tell the Treasury department all he knew about Enron?) ... The New York piece is interesting mainly for one sentence:

On his own, without consulting [Citigroup CEO Sandy] Weill or anyone else, he picked up the phone and made what he thought would be the most discreet of calls to Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher. [Emphasis added.]
The epistemological status of this statement is uncertain, however, since it's in the interest of everyone (everyone who knows) to say that Rubin made the controversial call on his own. Weill doesn't want to be implicated; Rubin wants to take the heat for everyone. ... Didn't Reporter Landon Thomas Jr. have some sort of obligation to either explain to readers why he's convinced this deeply suspect "fact" is actually true, or to make it clear that this is just what the Citigroup people tell him, rather than just asserting it? ... (2/10)

Is this the fourth or fifth Reich? Robert Reich, running for Massachusetts governor, is in the middle of the familiar, tedious process of pleasing Democratic interest-group hacks by jettisoning any interesting or neolib positions he might have taken in the past. He's now backtracked on vouchers for private schools, which he endorsed (assuming the vouchers were bigger for poor children) in a September, 2000 Wall Street Journal essay. The A.P. story on Reich's flip-flop implies that he tried to back off his private school voucher endorsement immediately after the WSJ essay, in an American Prospect column. Not so! The TAP column also clearly endorses private school vouchers, in concept if not by name:

At the same time, bust up the concentrations of poor kids in the same schools. Create incentives for them to disperse. Let any school that meets minimum standards compete to enroll these kids and receive the public money that goes with them. (Put aside for now the tricky First Amendment issue of public money for religious schools.)
This was a good idea! Too bad. ... If Reich's Democratic opponents are going to make him publicly renounce all his heresies, they should have a fine old time, because Reich has a very fertile mind. Recommendation: Start with Reich's famous neoliberalish statement that "The jury is still out on whether the traditional union is necessary for the new workplace." Then check his writings for non-PC anti-immigrant leanings. (Last time I looked, Reich thought, not unreasonably, that unskilled immigrants lower wages for unskilled American workers.) ... Go hacks! ... Note to Reich: Remember, the current gold standard for abject, humiliating, groveling renunciation of an idiosyncratic, non-interest-group-approved position remains Joe Lieberman's "mend it, but please don't end it" speech at the 2000 Democratic convention. ... (2/8)

Citi the Fools: The NYT belatedly confronts one aspect of major-advertiser Citigroup's role in the Enron mess. (Would it be too Andrewsullivanish for John Ellis to take credit?) It seems the bank brilliantly -- and without any special insider knowledge! -- transferred risk of an Enron bankruptcy to a bunch of suckers through creation of a special "credit-linked" security. You read the Times story and see if you can figure out why anyone would have wanted to buy this security, which apparently didn't even offer very favorable interest rates. There may be a reason -- but the NYT's Daniel Altman certainly doesn't explain it. ... Why, especially, would you buy such a security from a bank that is a major Enron lender and therefore almost certainly knows more about the company than you do (and could itself presumably help trigger the bankruptcy that would put you in the soup, no?)? ... Update: "Robert Musil" weighs in, but with not much more than an I-told-you-so. .... (2/8)

Blogrolling in our Time, Part XVII: I'll never be able to keep up with the blog pandemic currently underway. But three good blogs have been added to the prestigious "Links of Fame" area at the bottom of this site. (2/7)

Those January archives in full. (2/7)

John Ellis (yes, that John Ellis, who helped Fox call Florida for Bush, his cousin) asks in his blog (yes, he's now got a blog, another damn blog) whether the New York Times' Enron coverage is going easy on JPMorganChase and Citi -- which both "made windfall profits underwriting Enron projects" -- because they're both big Times advertisers. Ellis doesn't pretend there's a crude direct relationship, but notes, shrewdly, that

the influence of the ad budgets of the major financial services companies is important and significant as Enron's influence was in Washington.
Kausfiles deeply regrets Ellis' lemming-like rush to blogdom, since it probably means no more tips from him. Florida or no Florida, he's a very sophisticated and knowledgeable politico, and I expect his blog to be yet another site that has to be read. Sigh! .... Update: More on Citi and JPMorganChase from yet another blogger, Man Without Qualities. He (or she!) may have no qualities but nevertheless seems to have some knowledge of how banks work. ... (2/7)

The blazing arrow from the Super Bowl to national health care: Senator Edward M. Kennedy read a statement into the Congressional Record Monday giving the Patriots' victory a Shrumian spin:

"At a time when our entire country is banding together and facing down individualism, the Patriots set a wonderful example, showing us all what is possible when we work together, believe in each other, and sacrifice for the greater good."
I suppose there are young speechwriters in Kennedy's shop who just churn this stuff out. But it was a football game, for Pete's sake! ... And are we really now "facing down individualism"? Some would say we're fighting for individualism. ... Wouldn't it be more graceful for Kennedy to just say "Yay!" instead of grubbing ... sorry, grasping for an ideological edge. ... (Thanks to alert kausfiles reader B.K. in Boston.) (2/6)

David Brock cut some of the sniping at the late Barbara Olson from his new book out of respect for the dead. But hey, he's happy to slime her to WaPo's "Reliable Source"! ... Have I prejudged Brock's book? Yes! I think he's incapable of writing an honest, non-self-promoting account. (Also, there was a sleazy excerpt in Talk.) ... P.S.: Brock's book is billed as "a powerful and deeply personal memoir in the tradition of Arthur Koestler’s The God That Failed ...." At least he's kept his sense of self-importance in check! ... (2/6)

Mitch Daniels commits a classic Kinsleyan Gaffe and accidentally tells the truth -- complaining about New York's "little money-grubbing game." ... Note: A reader asks if Daniels would have used that particular phrase if he were talking about Dallas or Tulsa? Good point. He probably wouldn't have lapsed into anti-Semitic cliche. But he'd have used a synonym -- and it would still have been a gaffe, and still true. ... (2/6)

What's Dick Armey's beef with AmeriCorps? You won't find out in WaPo's coverage. ... (The NYT makes it a bit clearer. The LAT's Janet Hook does the best job.) ... (2/6)

Is Michael Cimino a woman? There seems to be some controversy. ... (2/6)

"Axis of Evil," which Tim Noah reveals was coined by David Frum -- Bush won't be happy about how that story got out -- may or may not be a coherent foreign policy concept. But it's an excellent band name! Heavy metal, presumably. ... Even better are some of the possible permutations -- I like Anvil of Excess, Axes of Eve, and Axle of Elvis. Take 'em. They're free! ... [Ass-Kissing Weevils?--ed. Alt. Country!] (2/6)

Red all over: In the not-yet-frayed spirit of back-scratching Web camaraderie, kausfiles welcomes The American Prowler, which is like The American Spectator, except without the discipline. ... Even if Tyrrell was an assh--- about Kinsley! ... There's already a good item (if true!) about Bill Clinton's party of 19 (plus a security detail of 15) running up a $15,000 bill in an evening at the Groucho Club in London. ... Note to Wlady: It's too damn red! Couldn't you afford a second color? ... (2/5)

More on Rick Berke's bogus NYT Enron "taint" poll: Frank Newport of the Gallup Poll thinks it was crap too. ... What makes him so sure? He's got proof! Or contrary polling numbers, anyway. ... (Thanks to OpinionJournal's "Best of the Web Today" for the link). ... (2/5)

Many respectable people scoffed when the Bush administration suggested -- as a reason for not airing Osama Bin Laden's videotapes -- that the tapes might contain hidden messages for al Qaeda terrorists. I almost scoffed myself. But the possibility turns out to be extremely real, according to this UPI story about captured al Qaeda plans, which buries a lede in the 16th graf:

The captured documents also included a codebook apparently used by al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to give instructions to his international network by quoting select phrases from the Koran. For example, "Allah-u-Akbar" -- "God is great" -- uttered at a certain point on a televised videotape, could mean "lie low."
(Thanks to alert kausfiles reader D.D. in Chicago.) (2/5)

Access of Evil: TNR editor Peter Beinart says Rep. Billy Tauzin should be "hounded out of public life" for his role in blocking an SEC regulation designed to prevent accounting firms from consulting for the firms they audit. Fine by me, but a) what did Tauzin do that Sen. Chuck Schumer (who took $386,000, more than twice as much as Tauzin, from accounting firms since 1995) didn't do? Schumer's shenanigans are described in this account in The Hill. Should Schumer be "hounded out of public life"? Let's do it! b) Now that Beinart's on a righteous Enron tear, will he equally righteously demand that his new one-third-boss, Roger Hertog, explain the role of his company, Alliance Capital, in buying Enron stock for pension plans even in October and November, as the company was heading down the tubes? ... Notes: 1) As mentioned earlier, various people I respect suggest that Hertog's a good guy who may not have much to do with the day-to-day operation of Alliance Capital. But then he can easily explain this to TNR's readers. Or he can explain why he and Alliance thought, in good faith, that Enron was a smart investment; 2) While the proposed SEC rule sounds sensible, there is no particular reason to think it would have prevented the Enron scandal. There are plenty of reasons for auditors to go along with questionable corporate schemes -- e.g., wanting to remain as auditors -- quite apart from the lure of consulting contracts. It's a common and useful reformist ruse to pretend that the change you were pushing (campaign finance reform, accounting reform) would have prevented whatever calamity has happened. In this case it's probably not true. 3) Mainly I wanted to use that headline before everyone else did. ... (2/4)

Endless Series Ends, Will Be SkippedTM: By popular demand, kausfiles will SkipTM the 87-part Woodward-Balz series, "10 Days in September", which ended Sunday. Rumor has it the series is a blatant Bush-puffer -- but is there anything wrong with that? You, the reader, will not have to make the call. Kausfiles' patented Series-SkipperTM technology will make it for you, as well as giving you all the hagiographic highlights. [Didn't you also promise to SkipTM that WaPo Michael Saylor series? Where is it?--ed Due any day now. We had to add RAM to handle an ego that large.] (2/4)

The Terrorist GDP: "Where do terrorists get their money. If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you." That was the text of an ad the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ran during the Super Bowl. But if we're figuring out how the terrorists we worry about support themselves -- a useful exercise -- isn't it pretty clear that the main source of their money is oil, not drugs? I bet that if you looked in detail at Bin Laden, with his construction money, and the money extorted from all those Saudi sheikhs, and the cash that goes to support all the angry, unproductive young men poring over diagrams of nuclear plants or learning to hate the West in Pakistani madrasas, the total amount of money that is ultimately from oil dwarfs the money that is ultimately from drugs by a factor of better than 10 to one. ... "Where do terrorists get their money? If you drive a Lincoln Navigator, some of it might come from you!" ... The drug czar's Web site has some unimpressive documentation for the Super Bowl ad, arguing that "[d]rug income is the primary source of revenue for many of the more powerful international terrorist groups." [Emphasis added.] But it names only three Latin American groups, plus the Taliban. And the Taliban -- the only one of the groups that would seem to be part of Al Qaeda -- had a famously more complicated relationship with the drug trade, at times seemingly banning heroin production. (See this recent MSNBC/Associated Press article, "Afghan farmers resume planting poppies for heroin: With Taliban gone, so is enforcement of poppy ban.") ... Do you really think the new Karzai government is going to crack down on poppy cultivation? If not, should the drug office start a campaign, "Get high, rebuild Afghanistan!" ... (2/4)

Military reform lives: The excitable William Arkin argues we're not buying as many unmanned aircraft as we need (the Bush budget has only a small increase) because 1) the drones threaten bureaucrats committed to satelitte intelligence systems, and 2) the military is making the unmanned planes too expensive (and non-expendable) by adding costly new features. These are the familiar arguments made by military reformers of the Reagan years. ... Arkin doesn't offer much evidence of "gold-plating" (charge #2) -- maybe his editors cut it. He also denies that pilots are threatened by drones -- but then notes that the next generation, the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), will be an unmanned bomber, presumably rendering at least some manned bombers obsolete. ... Meanwhile, Gregg Easterbrook, in the New Republic, has made the case for the "bloated, top-heavy, overpriced, cold war military." Since Easterbrook was a military reformer (of the Boyd/Fallows school) the piece has been seen as a mea culpa. It's something less than that -- more an argument against Rumsfeld's high-tech version of military reform. But, despite a pro forma warning against waste, Easterbrook's piece could easily be interpreted as an anticipatory defense of Bush's huge, choice-avoiding Pentagon budget -- on the grounds that, since we don't know what threats we'll face, it's best to mainly buy more of everything. ... (2/4)

Ramping up the branded content experience: 168,227 visits from 52,482 different visitors to kausfiles in January -- a rounding error at a Web monolith like Instapundit, but kausfiles's best month ever, by most measures. And the visits weren't from robotic spiders this time. Thank you. (2/3)

Blog, blog, blog. Doesn't anyone want to write anymore? ... Now that the prestigious National Review has started its own blog, can others (New Republic, Weekly Standard,) be far behind? ... I learned of National Review's effort from another blog, Libertarian Samizdata, where Perry de Havilland's explanation of the cooperative ecology of the Web -- why it's in bloggers' self-interest to send readers to each other, as this very item is gratuitously doing -- seems naive until you realize it's basically the same mutual back-scratching rationale as the non-naive Darwinian explanation for the tendency of humans to (initially) be friendly to each other. ... Still, I wonder if the cooperative Web etiquette will hold once one blog becomes so popular that it has nothing to fear from other blogs retaliating by not linking to it. ... (2/3)

CW 1, kausfiles 1: They laughed when, on 9/12, Slate's Tim Noah and kausfiles defied the conventional wisdom that the "'U.S. economy will go into a recession as a result of the terrorist attack.'"... It looked dicey there for a while (like some of kausfiles' other 9/12 predictions) but the numbers are in and the economy actually grew slightly in the fourth quarter, according to the Commerce Department. ... The numbers even seem to support Noah's vulgar Keynesian theory that the 9/11 attack would actually help end the recession by stimulating government spending. ... (2/1)

Don't Axis So Much: Slate's Robert Wright asks a good question:

If Bush's ultimatum is for real—if we are one way or another going to strip the world's three menacing "rogue states" of any weapons of mass destruction—then why will we still need missile defense in the end?

What's 57 days in a closet when you've got a bogus populist point to make? Brent Staples seems to buy into the SLA defendants' "Patty Hearst got off because she's rich" defense in the same way Jeffrey Toobin legitimized O.J. Simpson's "racist cop" defense. ... While it was reasonable for a jury to convict Hearst of bank robbery and for her to serve time, is there not a fairly glaring moral distinction between someone who becomes a bankrobber after being kidnapped and held in a closet for 57 days and someone who becomes a bankrobber without being kidnapped and held in a closet? Surely this distinction played more of a role in the differing fates of Hearst and her co-robbers than the difference in income and media influence between Hearst and a normal affluent suburbanite like Kathy Soliah (who, as Chandra Levy's parents demonstrate, has lots of media power). Staples willfully steamrolls over this obvious point. (He doesn't dare mention the closet, for example.) ... He also makes the common mistake of portraying the Symbionese Liberation Army's crimes as part of the "generational tantrum" of "the 1960s." In fact, as the LAT's Peter King noted in an excellent column I should have linked earlier, the "SLA was a product of the 1970s." By 1974, when Hearst was kidnapped, everyone knew there was not going to be a "revolution." Erstwhile campus radicals were enrolled in law school and medical school. "The youth of the 1960s set out to stop a war," remembers King, who started college in 1973. "We were dispatched to whip inflation, now!" Even SLA member Emily Harris, King notes, has said that she realized "by 1972 and '73, we realized the world wasn't going to change." So the SLA knew too. That puts their actions into a distinct, more lunatic, category. ... The point isn't to absolve the '60s. The '60s have a lot to answer for. But the SLA isn't really one of those things -- even if journalists and SLA defense attorneys find it convenient to conflate the two eras. ... (2/1)

January 2002 archive

December 2001 archive

November 2001 archive

October 2001 archive

September 2001 archive

August 2001 archive

July 2001 archive

June 2001 archive

McCain-Feingold archive

Archives for February, 2002
Bilingualism, Berke, and Bob Reich. Bad month! ...
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