Updated at all hours
Don't Touch That URL! Instapundit gets the
dirt on the assimilation of kausfiles by a
giant multimedia corporation. A Queeg-like hunt for the leaker is
underway here. ... This is not a hoax or
parody, though this
disturbingly-similar April Fool's story was. ... First time, farce, second, tragedy! ...
In truth, I'm happy to be moving this blog to Microsoft's
Slate. (Note to Instapundit: They're not paying me that much.) ... You,
the reader, don't need to do anything differently. Type in
www.kausfiles.com and you will be
taken to kausfiles.com, as always. ...
A powerful point in Dave Kopel's rightly-acclaimed pre-assassination
refutation of the lazy left-liberal lumping
of Pim Fortuyn and Jean-Marie Le Pen:
In other words, the gay Dutch sociology professor offered
complaints about Islam which are quite similar to complaints
that some gay American sociology professors (and other American
gays) offer about Christianity: anti-gay, sexist, morally imperialist,
and premised on the belief that one religion is superior to all others.
Now, when American gay activists make such remarks, the AP doesn't
work itself into a lather and claim that the remarks reveal
"demons" in the American character ... .
And it's not just "gays" and "gay activists" who make those complaints against Christianity (at least against Christianity as practiced by
John Ashcroft). The complaints constitute a cliche core belief of many non-gay New York and Hollywood-style liberals. ...
I admit, the people I tend to agree with usually
react against these attacks on Christianity. But Kopel's point isn't that everything
Fortuyn said was right -- it's that what he said had at least a germ of truth and was within the bounds of
reasonable debate. It wasn't fascistic or "far right." ...
Disintegrating L.A., Part 2: Neolib urban theorist Joel Kotkin recognizes the distinct
possibility that the city of Los Angeles will fragment through a series of successful
secessions. He's for it! ... Everything
Kotkin says (about L.A.'s failures) makes
sense, but he doesn't deal with the key objection
to secession -- namely what happens to the heavily-poor rump once
all the more affluent areas have bailed out? (Again, don't
think the rich West Side won't move to form its own nice "right-sized" town once the middle-class San Fernando
Valley shows the way.) ... Maybe there are reasons the South Central ghetto would
improve if the city it's in lost its
middle and upper-class tax base. But let's hear them. ... And why won't those "entrenched" public
employee unions quickly entrench themselves in the new towns as well? ...
Nasty unhelpful truths you can't state in public: 1) Most great American popular
music, in a variety of genres, was made by people on drugs. (Whenever you hear a musician
saying "I'm clean now, and I'm making the best music of my life" you
know their next album will be awful.) 2) The individuals -- excluding heads of state --
who have had the most impact on recent world history have arguably been
assassins: Lee Harvey Oswald and Yigal Amir (Rabin's killer). Maybe
even including heads of state. ... That's one reason
why to me, as to Andrew Sullivan
and those who've written
in to Instapundit,
Pim Fortuyn's killing seems like a much bigger deal than the mainstream U.S. press has made of it. Another
reason is that Fortuyn's views (for all the reasons Sullivan and
Michael Gove suggest) were
sharply distinguishable from Le Pen's, and actually seemed to have amounted to a coherent, unique libertarian/nationalist ideology. I suspect
in the days ahead Americans will learn things about Fortuyn and his views
that are highly unattractive. (E.g., how could he not have been a massive egomaniac?) But this wasn't
just an anti-democratic murder, it was an anti-individual murder and anti-human murder.
The nail that stuck out was hammered down. ...
(A third worry -- that now Fortuyn's anti-multicultural and anti-crime
sentiments will go unventilated and thus fester -- seems diminished by the
very real possibility that his party, and anti-immigrant
parties in other European countries, will now do better in the coming elections
than they would have. How badly would Jean Carnahan have beaten John Ashcroft if her husband had been
assassinated?) ... P.S.: Am I the only one
who finds Tony Blair's statement in response to the killing
("No matter what feelings political figures arouse, the ballot box is the place to express them")
quite inadequate? ... P.P.S.: Keith Richburg's solid WaPo Fortuyn story is remarkably free of
the feared he's-far-right-like-Le-Pen P.C. cant. The NYT's Marlise Simons slips
a bit, labeling
Fortuyn a "far-right politician" even after admitting that he "defended an eclectic mix of ideas of both left and right." ...
The people vs. the powerful (Democratic) special interests. First of a series!
Excellent two-part Philly Inquirer
editorial (Part 1, Part 2) on how union control of construction within the city of Philadelphia discourages new residential housing -- even though city
land is now relatively cheap and builders would like to build closer to downtown (thus avoiding the hated sprawl). ... Mayor John Street,
who owes his close election to organized labor, appears to be part of the problem. He appointed
the head of the Sheet Metal Workers local to the
chairmanship of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which then required that
developers of some supposedly low-cost subsidized housing put in costly
central air conditioning (installed, presumably, by sheet metal workers). ... There's also a passing
reference to "a squeeze for payoffs by city employees." This perhaps deserves more extensive treatment. During
the Republican convention of 2000, I met a lot of Philadelphians, and was
shocked at the widespread consensus that the police and the judiciary
of the city were corrupt. Angelenos don't have this attitude; Chicagoans
I've met don't have this attitude. Even New Yorkers don't think that
their whole city (as opposed to the occasional specific sector, like
concrete or the convention center) is controlled by crooks.
It's as if industrialized Philadelphia is part of the Third World. ... P.S.: Why doesn't the Inquirer link to
Part 1 from Part 2? Is it afraid it will sue itself,
Morning News-style, for linking to its own pages? ... [Thanks to alert kf reader A.E.]
Even the test designed by California's education
establishment seems to show that English immersion beats bilingual education,
as the LAT
[T]he results show that students who have remained in
bilingual education programs--which
require parental waivers--performed worse than those in English immersion programs.
That didn't stop a variety of education experts
from trying to debunk the results, and it didn't stop
the LAT from writing a semi-subtly slanted subhed that
takes the bilingualists side: "Advocates credit immersion classes, but
educators say exam's first year means little." [emphasis added] ...
Sure, the test results only show a correlation, not
causation. It's possible that the districts with
all the best students are also the ones that tend to choose immersion. But, as
the Ventura County Star's
to the LAT's on all counts, including clarity)
notes, low-achieving districts that dropped bilingual ed also saw "relatively good" results:
Students in immersion programs were nearly three times as likely to
score in the advanced or early advanced categories as students in bilingual programs.
The Fillmore Unified School District, for
example, posted scores that were close to the
averages of the affluent Conejo, Simi Valley,
Pleasant Valley and Ojai districts.
I've been to the Fillmore Unified School District. When I attended Beverly Hills High, we
visited Fillmore as the result of what must have been a desperate statewide
search for a football team we could beat. Thirty or forty well-fed, weight-trained
BH players traveled for a couple of hours in our bus caravan, with fancy medical equipment and high-tech
ice-packs, etc.. We may even have had oxygen on the sidelines. Our opponents, if I remember right,
were thirteen Hispanic kids and a dog. We trounced them 7-6, and scurried
back to our air-conditioned buses before they could beat us up. ... I say that
if non-affluent Fillmore is now doing almost as
well as Simi Valley, immersion has triumphed, and bilingual ed
advocates are doomed to an
increasingly desperate attempt to deny the truth. ... As anti-bilingual
crusader Ron Unz put it in the email he sent around publicizing the
Obvious question #1: Will Calif. Gov. Gray Davis now be called to account for his recent attempt to sabotage the
anti-bilingual law that's on the books? ... Obvious question #2: Will Karl Rove let President Bush stop the Hispanic Suck-Up long enough to
forthrightly denounce bilingual ed, in the name of 'insisting on results'? ...
-- all our educational expectations
to the contrary -- that children taught English by
being taught in English will learn English much
faster than children taught English by being taught
in Spanish ...
Missing the forest for the forest:
It's slightly OBE now, but Friday's front-page NYT story by Alan Cowell hinted portentously
at some mysterious
secret reason for Le Pen's strong showing in the first round of the
French election two weeks ago. Cowell filed from
Schirmeck, a French town near the German border
that has "no insecurity, no unemployment, no immigrants, and yet
they voted for Le Pen," in the prominently-quoted words
of a local history teacher. While saying this,
the teacher was "escorting students around Struthof, a camp that its custodians call
the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil." ... Hmmm. Why would a
town near the German border in German-influenced Alsace be anti-immigrant?
Was Cowell trying to send some sort
of coded signal to NYT readers, to the effect that "They're a bunch of Nazis"? If so, he
hides it in a mound of more obscure maunderings: Perhaps "there is something
deep in the French spirit that helped fuel Mr.Le Pen's rise." ... Why, even "the
lowering pine forests ...'darken the spirit,'" says Schirmeck's mayor. ...
But to buy the idea that there's something "secret" and mysterious
at work here, you have to ignore the tendency of small, rural towns
everywhere in the world (including the U.S.) to be more
conservative than cosmopolitian urban centers. .. And it turns out, if
you read far enough into Cowell's piece, that a) even if there are
few immigrants in Schirmeck, there's a "large immigrant population" in
Strasbourg, which is all of 25 miles away, according to
the crack kausfiles cartographic unit; b) established industries in
the region (textile, autos) are threatened
by import competition, so it's not true that there's no insecurity, and c) citizens of Schirmeck
are well aware of "hooligan"-led violence elsewhere in France, including
the widely publicized brutal beating of a 72 -year old man in
Orleans, south of Paris. ... So Cowell's thesis (that there's
some sort of creepy, brooding "pessimism" afoot) turns out
to rest on the idiotic, condescending assumption that voters of Schirmeck
can't see or think beyond their own little town, that
they're unaware of conditions in the rest of the country, including
the regional hub a 45-minute drive away -- that it's so strange
for them to be concerned about violence in the big cities that we need to find a
dark, hidden explanation. ...
Next: Cowell tries to explain to NYT readers why voters in small Southern towns
don't like big city liberals even though big city liberals are miles away (in big cities) ...
Did PC make the FBI miss 9/11? You had to read until the
second-to-last graf of Saturday's NYT story to get to
the explosive reason why the F.B.I. failed last July to follow an agent's recommendation that it check up on Arabs coming to
the United States to get aviation training.
F.B.I. officials said there was reluctance
at the time to mount such a major review because
of a concern that the bureau would be criticized
for ethnic profiling of foreigners.
Take it away, Ann Coulter! ...
Follow-up on the snarks: [They just announced
the April unemployment rate: 6 %.
Didn't you maliciously ridicule Robert Kuttner for predicting this?--ed.] Yes. Kuttner's
prediction is looking a lot better. But what he
predicted, precisely, was that "unemployment will
stay moderately high this year—at least in the 6 percent range." (Emphasis added.) The year is young. ...
Put out fewer flags: Page A3 of today's NYT has a photo of demonstrators at the big anti-Le Pen rally in Paris
waving "French and Kurdish flags." This is good news for Le Pen. If there is a proven way to
drive up the anti-immigrant vote, it is for
immigrants to take to the streets waving the flags of their
countries of origin, thus raising the hoary (and not irrational) fear of
dual loyalties. In California, the 1994 vote
on Pete Wilson's anti-immigrant Prop 187 was preceded by a huge "No on 187" rally in Los Angeles
featuring scores of Mexican flags -- an image that virtually guaranteed the measure's passage. ...
If the anti-Le Pen people had any sense they would
ban all foreign flags from their rallies ....
McCain Ramification #23 -- The Downballot Question: In a Slate posting,
Ralph Nader takes credit for giving Democrats control of the Senate --
his third-party candidacy may have drained votes from
Gore, the argument goes, but he brought a lot of
new voters to the polls who overwhelmingly
voted Democratic in down-ballot races, helping elect, among others,
Senator Maria Cantwell, who won her seat by only 2,300 votes. ... Meanwhile, alert kausfiles reader P.M.
notes that Ross Perot's 1992 third party candidacy
is blamed by Wisconsin Democrats for the Republicans' big gains in that state's
Assembly. ... Hmmm. Might a third-party McCain
candidacy be less important at the presidential level than
down-ballot, where the millions of voters he'd attract would tilt ... which way?
Good question! They'd be angry, disillusioned, patriotic --
meaning that they might vote for
a Newt Gingrich-type angry GOP insurgent or a John Edwards type Dem populist. It might all
hinge on how McCainy the particular down-ballot Democratic candidates were in
each state, plus which party constituted the "ins" that
deserved to be thrown out, plus which party wasn't so demoralized that
its voters needed a turnout-inducer. ...
But note: If McCain helps the Dems, that could be a secret
reason they might egg him on to run, even as an independent --
they might lose the White House but win everything else. ... If McCain helps Republicans, he
might do so even if he ran as the Democratic nominee,
because he might still draw in new voters who'd vote Republican down-ballot! ...
What's highly unlikely is that McCain's effect would be
perfectly split, 50-50. One party or another will benefit and the
other one won't. (Control of Congress, and the statehouses, is
a zero-sum game, remember.) ... P.S.: "RonK" of Seattle,
in a highly informative Slate Fray post, points out that
Nader's boast (that he elected Cantwell) is much, much more complicated and iffy than you'd think. ...
Volokh v. WaPo:
Sen. Mitch McConnell is arranging to have his name, and not that of the National Rifle Association,
come first in the caption of the landmark McCain-Feingold lawsuit -- so the case will be called
McConnell v. F.E.C. and not N.R.A. v. F.E.C.. The WaPo editorial page accuses McConnell of acting out of "ego." But UCLA's Eugene
Volokh notes it's perfectly normal politics not to want the name of a controversial, GOP-oriented
group like the N.R.A. to become the name of your side in a lawsuit.
McConnell isn't just trying to sell the Court, after all - he also wants to sell
the public, including Democrats and gun controllers. (If
the case were known as N.R.A. v. F.E.C., you don't think
the Washington Post would use that name
whenever possible? Now that it's going to be McConnell v. F.E.C., one suspects the official name will be
considered too formal.) ... Is the name switch also good for McConnell's ego? Of course. It's just one of those rare instances
where self-interest and selfless rationality just happen to coincide! ... P.S.: Volokh's complaint was
apparently seconded by
Democratic campaign finance expert Bob Bauer --
a.k.a. the Man the Democrats are Counting On to tell
them how to get around the new reform law if McConnell v. F.E.C. goes against McConnell. ...
Analysts Ignore Kausfiles, Persist in McCain-Feingold Misconception:
Roll Call's Paul Kane, reporting on Daschle Democrats, the independent
group set up to defend Majority Leader Tom Daschle, says:
Since the group has no official ties
to Daschle or any other Member of Congress, it will
be able to continue raising unlimited contributions after
the new campaign finance reform law banning soft money takes affect.
No, no, no, no, no! Not really! All they
have to do to keep raising unlimited funds from
individuals -- even for
ads that mention Daschle by name in the final
30 days -- is to change to become an unincorporated association.
Read my clips! This
isn't some idiosyncratic Mickey Kaus
reading of the McCain-Feingold law, analogous to Betsy McCaughey's famous reading
of the Clinton health care bill. This is a Mickey Kaus misreading of the law that
was corrected (in an email) by Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the
Federal Election Commission and one of the CFR experts who'll be defending
McCain-Feingold when it goes to court. Potter's argument is
that McCain-Feingold (even with Wellstone's controversial amendment)
is actually protective of individual speech, in keeping with the Supreme Court's decisions -- that what
Roll Call and others interpret as a virtual ban on
unlimited fundraising for "issue ads" only applies to corporations and labor unions. (Individuals
and unincorporated groups of individuals are
required simply to disclose their funding). For
reasons outlined here, I disagree
with Potter on the constitutionality of the law even if this is all the law does. But there's
no argument, as far as I know, that this is what it does. And it doesn't apply to a
non-corporation, such as the unincorporated, non-profit group the people behind Daschle Democrats could easily set up. ...
Spending money within 30 days of a primary or
60 days of a general election, however, will require that
Daschle Democrats raise the money under the new federal limits,
if they want to mention Daschle by name. [Emph. added. Sub. required.]
The pretty Shrumpuppet:
It's hard to tell from Nicholas Lemann's New Yorker profiles if he likes or
dislikes his subjects. (Media criticism: It would be better if you could!) But Lemann's
John Edwards profile convinced me, at least, that it's time for the inevitable
anti-Edwards backlash. ("You know this politician
you've never heard of? Well, he's no good!") Some points to make:
1) The basic case against Edwards, as he's presented by Lemann, is that
he's fallen whole-hog
for Bob Shrum's "full-throated, us-against-them populist" line. Populism appeals, in large part,
because of its emphasis on social equality. ('My parents would know in five minutes if you were treating them with respect --
whether you were looking down on them," says Edwards.) When practiced by Shrum, however, it seeks to
cast all America's domestic problems in the us v. them mode, in
which "powerful forces" -- as Al Gore, under Shrum's tutelage, put it -- "stand in your way" and
"keep you from having a better life."
But the problem in the lives of most individual Americans today
isn't that "big guys" (Lemann's phrase) are standing in
their way -- and populism's comforting scapegoating in this
regard is one of its most unattractive features. (Trial lawyers like Edwards, Lemann notes, specialize in a theatrical form of scapegoating, taking complicated
disasters and finding a "villain" with deep pockets.) Similarly, most of our nation's problems aren't
ones in which a small elite blocks an obvious solution that will
benefit the average guy. With Social Security, for example, the problem is us-- we've been too
generous to ourselves and can't afford it. Other problems, such as the cost of prescription drugs,
require balancing -- in that case balancing our short-term interest in
cheap medicines with our long-term interest in rewarding the companies that invent drugs in the future. It's not
clear this balance is best achieved by demonizing drug companies.
2) When there are "powerful forces" and "special interests" at fault, often they are
powerful forces and special interests within the Democratic party.
Lemann quotes Edwards arguing,
"If you grow up in a ghetto, you don't have the same chance as other people. That's wrong. In this country, that's
just wrong. When the forces inside Washington work against people -- that's what's wrong with the
It's not easy to blame the modern problems of ghetto residents
on the decisions of elite
Washington insiders -- unless they were the Washington insiders
who gave us the old welfare (AFDC) system despite
what were the repeatedly-expressed objections of the voters. (Even the
race discrimination that created the ghettos wasn't, and isn't, a Washington force.)
But if there are political "forces" holding
back ghetto kids today, they surely include the teachers' unions, which prevent reform of existing
inner-city public school systems and fight attempts to
replace them with something that might be better.
3) Maybe, if a politician said that "powerful forces" in both parties stood in our way, populism might make
more sense. But would Edwards ever stand up against one of the big Democratic
interest groups-- the National Education Association, for example, or the AARP -- the way he says he would
stand up to the drug companies and HMOs? Clinton's calling card, remember, was that he had stood up to the NEA in
Arkansas on the issue of teacher testing. It's also possible to see John McCain doing this, which is why McCain remains appealing. There's no
evidence I know of that Edwards has done it, or will do it.
Actually, is there any evidence that in his six (6) years of public life
Edwards has ever taken a policy stand that required him to stick
his neck out? If there is, this would be a good time
to tell us about it! ... ["Will he stand up to Democratic special interests?" Wasn't that the issue
with Mondale in 1984?--ed And where is Gary Hart when you need him!] ...
P.S.: I like
Shrum personally. He's been a good friend. (And he sure isn't thin-skinned!) But I think
he's a closet idealist. He may sell his populism as a hard-nosed way to get
elected (and I think it probably is a good way to get
elected in many states). But deep down, he's really
pushing it because it's what he believes in. Its record in
recent presidential elections remains unblemished by success. (Ask President Gephardt. And President Gore.) That is no
accident. It fails because it doesn't correspond with the world as most Americans see it. ...
Charlie Cook of National Journal gives the
lie to the idea that President Bush is losing his conservative base
because he's insufficiently supportive of Sharon. Cook says that in the Ipsos-Reid/Cook poll
"Bush's job approval ratings among Republicans on his "handling
foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism," was 90 percent, with
nine percent disapproving. ...
My guess is that Bush's 'base problem' hardly extends beyond the
combined rolodexes of Paul Weyrich and Bill Kristol."
Kausfiles rises to defend the LAT's Sebastian Rotella, who is
being blasted in Blogistan for the following graf (in a story on the rise of
gun crimes in Europe):
Then there is the human factor. As crime has dropped
in the United States in recent years, it has worsened
in much of Europe, despite generous welfare states designed to
prevent U.S.-style inequality and social conflict. Nihilistic
rage flares in classroom violence in Germany, car-arson rampages
in France, brutal muggings in Britain.
I don't think -- despite the "despite" -- that Rotella was embracing the cliche liberal assumption that more
welfare should lead to less crime. I think
he intended to tweak that assumption. A few months ago, Rotella
wrote an extremely
good piece detailing the link between Arab violence and the alienated lives of young immigrant
males in France's
welfare-supported public housing ghettos. (I relied on his piece in
writing this item.) I doubt Rotella is under
any illusions about the consequences of subsidizing a
non-working culture among people who can be easily discriminated against. ...
was right: Europe isn't ahead of the U.S. (though that was
the core assumption of many "progressives," including "Crazy Bob" Kuttner
in his tract The Economic Illusion). Rather, Europe's
only just begun to deal with the problem of welfare-subsidized ghettos. ...
I must admit, I'm shocked -- not "shocked, shocked!" but actually shocked -- that
CBS, NBC, Time Inc., the New York Times, Disney and
AOL have been buying up $500 and $600 seats at
fundraisers for People for the American Way (though Time
now tells NRO's Byron York that they've stopped). ...
Why shocked? Because PAW hasn't even really
tried to conceal its ideological agenda -- and the media are usually pretty good at keeping up
the appearance of not taking sides. ... Next to have its cover blown: Marian
Wright Edelman's Children's Defense Fund, the (fortunately) ineffective lobbyist for
discredited liberal welfare solutions (but yet a frequent
favorite of corporate benefactors who seem to think they're helping some sort of
beloved charity)? ... Actually, because CDF is ineffective, it's
probably a good thing that they soak up all the mindlessly liberal corporate dollars
they can. Otherwise the money might go to someplace
like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities where it could really
do tremendous damage. ... P.S.: Readers may wonder why, as in this case,
Andrew Sullivan and kausfiles so
often have the same items. Is it because we're viciously competitive? Is it because great minds think alike? Is
it because (as a friend of mine once said about the newsweeklies) we're like
women who've been living together so long that we get our periods at the same time? No! It's because the same people
are e-mailing both of us with the same tips! ...
Kausfiles Gets Results!
reports Cheney aide
Mary Matalin "is not going to get" Karen Hughes' job because President Bush "doesn't like her," although Matalin doesn't
know it yet.
April 26 -- Roll Call's
Ed Henry learns from a "senior White House official" that Matalin will leave her job
"by the end of the year." (Drudge has the gist here.)
Post hack ergo propter hack!
P.S.: It turns out there are a lot of people
on the right who distrust Matalin, largely because of her
husband, and the self-promotional instinct they share. ...
Classic NYT headline:
"Economic Revival Poses a Problem for Bush"
Manhattan beat me to the analogy of this hed with "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative," famously proclaimed by
Michael Kinsley to be the World's Most Boring headline. I'm not sure that Manhattan's similiar contest -- to
find a stupid hed that more perfectly captures the Times'
outlook -- will come up with anything better. I can't. In an economical seven words, this hed manages to be 1)
idiotic; 2) hot-house Beltway-centric; 3) poignantly, pathetically, wishfully anti-Bush. ...
P.P.S.: The accompanying story is idiotic too. Richard Stevenson outlines two problems: How can Bush blame the
recession on Clinton and yet take credit for the recovery? How can he point to the rebound while
empathizing with those who are still jobless? The way out of this "quandary,"
we learned today, was for Bush to blame the
recession on Clinton while taking credit for the recovery, and to point to the rebound while
empathizing with those who are still jobless! .... This is a "problem" the way it's a problem to walk
along a road without falling off on either side. ...
Just in time for May: Those March
archives in full ...
Kausfiles Salary Drive! In a misguided surge of productivity, kausfiles has
posted two Slate items in rapid succession. One of them --
"Fresh West Wing Dish" -- is promo-ed on the right. The
second, more tedious-but-substantial item -- "Everyone
Was Wrong About McCain-Feingold!" -- is a follow-up to
an earlier attack on the recently-passed campaign finance reform. It turns
out that law doesn't quite do what I, and lots of other
commentators, thought it does. ...
Things Fall Apart: LAT columnist Patt Morrison
describes the domino-like
chain of events that might ensue if fearful local black politicians aid the secession of the San Fernando
Valley: Next, Hollywood secedes, then the
harbor area. "Mayor Magic Johnson [already a huge macher in L.A. politics] could
preside over the nation's ... fourth-largest city, lagging
behind the appalling Houston." ... But Morrison doesn't take her
secession scenario far enough. Why would L.A.'s rich, largely white
West Side want to stick around in Magic's rump L.A., paying taxes to
support services in the poor black and Latino areas in South Central? If everybody else is seceding, how
long before the West Side tries to bail out of Los Angeles too? Then rump L.A. could lose much of
its tax base, as well as its population. ... I'm not sure this disintegration of
Los Angeles is a bad thing, but it certainly seems that way on first glance. ... P.S.: Morrison recently
had an even
better column chopping up a powerful Latina L.A. County
supervisor, but it will be of less interest to kausfiles'
global readership. ... Update: An alert but anonymous kf reader
emails to say the topic of secession is already being "actively
discussed" by West Side L.A. homeowners. And they're thinking about taking LAX (the city's main
airport) with them. ...
Latest L.A. Bumpersticker:
IF ROBERT BLAKE ASKED YOU TO KILL HIS WIFE"
Yet another good American Prospect piece! Was there some kind of
editorial change at this publication recently? Michael Tomasky's cover story on Roger Hertog and
Michael Steinhardt, the New Republic's new co-owners, is bereft of the usual Kuttnerian cheap
shots. (O.K., there's one, when Tomasky says neoliberalism "is a vestigial presence now." That's Mr. Vestigial Presence to
you, buddy!) ... Tomasky makes several solid points, clears up the Hertog-Enron issue ("Hertog had no role in
the Enron debacle"), gets a little scoop, and is in general shockingly subtle and fair. ...
The solid points:
1) There's a new neolib-neocon combo waiting to happen -- Tomasky calls
it "velvet conservatism," a name I hope doesn't stick. Bill Kristol is quoted admitting that "there's a reform Republicanism that can marry up fairly comfortably with the sort of
center-right Democrat." What neither Kristol nor Tomasky note
is that this would be John McCain's natural
2) The tension at TNR
between long-time owner Marty Peretz and his two new partners, if there is any, is more likely to be personal than ideological.
Peretz "wanted passive, not active, investors." But the one thing Hertog and Steinhardt "seem rarely to have been, in their
political activities or their business careers -- is passive."
3) However many non-conservative positions are taken by
"velvet conservatism" (ugh), its "emotional animus would be directed full-bore at traditional liberalism."
Count kausfiles in! ...
The scoopito: Under TNR's new three amigos deal, "Marty doesn't have to come up with any money unless the losses exceed
a certain number, and that number is several million dollars," says Steinhardt. ...
The shocking fairness: Hertog and even Steinhardt come off pretty well. And
after outlining their new, non-left velvetcon
position, Tomasky doesn't reflexively attack it! Kuttner really must have been
kicked upstairs! ...
The Boy Can't Help It: The Boston Globe (4/21)
sniffs out another bogus bit of personal drama
crafted by theater-guy Robert Reich:
Reich, the former US labor secretary, has
been telling interviewers recently that he
moved back to Massachusetts in 1997 with no
intention of running for office, and that the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks sparked his interest in the
governor's race. But that account ignores a bit of
his personal history. The Globe reported as early as
1999 that he was meeting with associates to discuss
a run for governor in 2002. "I am on the fringes,
sniffing around," Reich told the Globe
three years ago.
[Thanks to alert kf reader P.T. (or was it S.W.?)]
The Angry Person: Sure signs that Paul
Krugman, as a columnist, has
and is just playing to the crowd that already agrees with him: 1) He passes off the
Le Pen vote as "irrational anger," not even bothering to undertake
the ordinary human task of trying to find out if it also might have some
rational sources (fear of the crime and hostility coming from
immigrant Arab ghettos, for example, or
to the European Union).
2) He invokes the name "John Ashcroft," without
any explanation, as a sort of talismanic
embodiment of "hard right" irrationality. Why is Ashcroft so awful? There are reasons Krugman could give -- but how does he
hope to win over anyone who disagrees with him unless he actually gives them?
Answer: He doesn't. He's given up
convincing people of something they don't already believe, and
is now in the business of confirming the opinions of his claque. ...
Kausfiles gaining rapidly on Oxygen Network:
Over 40,000 visits last week from almost 20,000 different addresses. Thank you! ... That works out to
about 5,400 different addresses on any given weekday. Meanwhile, the
vaunted $300 million Oxygen Network, we now learn,
is viewed by
only 52,000 households during prime time, an estimated 51,900 of whom accidentally
flipped to the channel before falling asleep in their bathrobes. ... So kausfiles has roughly
a tenth the reach of Oxygen! Where's my tenth of $300 million? [Methodology utterly bogus-ed.]
I'll settle for a tenth of Oxygen CEO Geraldine Laybourne's salary! ...
Attention, advertisers: Kausfiles' key target demographic doesn't get dressed either! ... P.S.: Isn't
that NYT Oxygen story just the sort of thing you'd write about
an organization you're scared to offend right before it craters? ("Some say it is too early ....") ...
Most touching-yet-disturbing line in the NYT
obituary of Alice in Chains lead singer
Mr. Staley ... started playing drums when he was 12 years old, inspired by a Black
Sabbath album from his parents' record collection.
Will Gary Condit be next? Last year, Washington D.C. police and
investigators did a pretty good job convincing even savvy
reporters that Condit wasn't a suspect. But the L.A.
police did the same thing in the Robert
Blake case. Meanwhile, they quietly gathered evidence against him. ...
My link to John Ellis' claim that "McCain will run for president in 2004 as an Independent" (which Ellis has
now elaborated on a bit)
has been interpreted by some, including
the all powerful
Instapundit, as an endorsement of that prediction. I thought I'd cannily stopped short of that. To clarify:
1. Jonathan Chait makes a persuasive argument that McCain-D would have
a much better chance than McCain-I, because McCain doesn't cut much into Bush's base
these days. But Chait's argument assumes McCain can get the
Dem nomination, which seems to me a much harder road than either
Chait or Joshua Green admit.
2. Josh Green e-mails to dispute the significance of McCain's
relatively conservative ranking on various interest-group
ratings scales, arguing: "So what if
McCain's record used to be conservative -- the point is
that since 2000, it ain't!" Josh Marshall
agrees. But the problem with McCain's
prior votes isn't that they reflect his current views, it's that they can be thrown back in his face in TV ads, causing
doubts among Dem primary voters. McCain may then attempt to
reassure these traditional Dems with protestations of fealty that will reduce his centrist appeal.
(Remember, again, how Maxine Waters got Joe Lieberman to grovel on affirmative action at the L.A. convention.)
3. In general, running as a centrist
Independent would make the most ideological sense for McCain, because
then he could make what (to me) is the highly appealing argument that McCain's aides were pushing
just a few months ago -- that, as
Edsall and Milbank put
it in WaPo,
each party held hostage by its base -- Democrats
wedded to entitlements and Republicans
dominated by corporate interests -- thus leaving room
for a centrist populism.
It might be hard to blast the entitlement-lovin' Democratic interest groups with
sufficient force while simultaneously trying to appeal to them in the Democratic primaries. Yet compared with
a forceful pox-on-both-houses critique, Chait's
hope for a traditional,
Dem-friendly "populist critique
of Bush for putting special interests ahead of the broader good" seems
like more warmed-over loser Shrumism. ("John McCain -- He's On Your Side!")
4. Do the ideological advantages of running as an Independent outweigh the practical advantages of having the Dem nomination, discounted by
the difficulty of getting that nomination? Beats me.
5. But it does seem clear -- and this is the prediction, if an unoriginal one -- that McCain will run, one way or another, if there is the merest shred of
credible rationale for a challenge to Bush (i.e. if we are not in the middle of a hot war). He's
ambitious, he's addicted to publicity,
he's surrounded by justifiably ambitious eggers-on, he doesn't like Bush and this
may be his last chance. QED.
The Pellis' design
for the new Winter Garden entrance next to Ground
Zero in New York may be
more welcoming from
the street than the previous entrance (it would be hard to be less welcoming) and
it could provide a nice spot from which to view the
WTC reconstruction efforts. But, Jesus, what an
uninspired corporate facade. ... I lived next
door to the Winter Garden for two years. It's a nice year-round public
space. The rest of Cesar Pelli's interior
spaces in the World Financial Center are pompous flops -- big,
empty, cold rotundas nobody uses. They should hold flea markets there! ...
Last Waltz" being
an especially peak experience the first time around. Do you? ...
John Ellis says flatly "McCain will run for president in 2004 as an Independent,"
not as a Democrat, because that party's
"left-liberal core would never have him." This view is supported
by a useful
cold-water-pouring MSNBC report noting that the AFL-CIO gave McCain a
zero rating (on a scale of zero to 100) for his votes in 1999. ... It seems
pretty clear, however, that McCain has a cabal of
schemers around him (e.g. Bull
Moose, John Weaver) who are going to try to convince
him to run for President one way or the other -- and that they probably won't
find him a tough sell. (Also, he might win.) ...
You knew that the U.S. network TV reports last night -- assuring viewers
that it was an "accident" that a private plane just happened to squarely
hit Milan's tallest building -- were absurd. ...
Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Republican leader of the not unpowerful anti-amnesty House "Immigration Reform Caucus"
Bush is not on our side. He believes in open borders." ... Here's an
issue on which John McCain could steal huge chunks of
Bush's conservative base, while retaining his appeal to liberals and independents --
by taking a Reaganesque stance against signaling that there's no penalty to breaking
immigration rules. ... Of course, McCain's
media Pied Pipers will lead him in the opposite direction. They only
move to the left. ...
Why N.Y. Needs the Sun (first of a series):
Has somebody already pointed out the snippy Zabarsism of
Clyde Haberman's NYT column on the new
N.Y. Sun? Here's the key graf:
The idea of New York being a conservative-free
zone tends to ignore a few realities. For rightist
fire-breathing, The Post's editorials already do just fine. The
News holds similar views, just expressed more daintily. This is a
city that has practically canonized Rudolph W. Giuliani, a philosophical
stepson of the arch-conservative Manhattan Institute, where [Sun investor Roger] Hertog is chairman. And George E. Pataki has twice been elected governor
on a tax-slashing, fry-the-killers platform.
1) Does Haberman really think the N.Y. Post and Mort Zuckerman's Daily News have essentially the
same editorial views? Is everybody to the right of the NYT an
undifferentiated conservative? 2) If Giuliani has
been canonized by the city after 9/11, he was
relentlessly attacked by the Times until then; 3) If Haberman thinks
the Manhattan Institute is "arch-conservative," then he really has led a sheltered
New York life. The Manhattan Institute is conservative, but not "arch-." It's
also relatively pragmatic. (That's why it has been granted the prestigious position of
Sole Paying Advertiser on kausfiles.) And
there's a reason Charles Murray left MI for the American
Enterprise Institute when he wanted to produce The Bell Curve; 4) Pataki is indeed governor, but was he
really the choice of New York City? Answer: No. Pataki lost
New York City 70% to 28 % when he ran against Mario Cuomo in 1994. He lost it 60% to 33 % in 1998. Hello! Editor! ...
Haberman knows that New York is a heavily Democratic town.
But it's any weapon to hand when there's a
chance to sneer condescendingly at a Times critic. ... [Thanks to alert kf reader K.L., who
writes, regarding Haberman's Pataki claim: "This is like saying that
Berkeley was a haven for right-wingers in the 1960s b/c California
elected Ronald Reagan as governor."] ... P.S.: Los Angeles may get it's own
version of the Sun, in the form of a
being planned by former mayor Richard Riordan as an alternative to the L.A. Times. ...
If Jesse Jackson did this he'd get into big trouble: Andrew Sullivan worries
that Tony Blair's Labour government will soon echo
"the Shrum-Goldberg-Brown-Gore line." ...Let's see. Shrum is consultant Bob Shrum.
Brown is Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer.
But who's "Goldberg?" Whoopi? ... Update: Sullivan has now quietly
changed "Goldberg" to "Greenberg," as in Stanley, the
Democratic pollster. We suspected as much. It was one of those Jewish guys, anyway. ...
Leon Wieseltier could get a whole "Diarist" out of this! ..
Annoyed kf reader J.N. of Virginia Beach on that
New Republic article pumping up the McCain party-switching balloon:
TNR loves to run optimistic
"strategies" for the Democratic party to win the presidency that essentially
urge the party to run a Republican. No surprise that they literally want to
do that now.
Not that there's anything wrong with it! [Having a "dialogue" with our
readers, are we? That gets a nice easy item-ed. It's a conversation within
the kausfiles community! Well don't make a habit of it-ed.]
First, "No Scrubs." Now, No "Nasty Girls." ... Coincidence? Or Policy Impact!
of welfare reform's continuing positive effect on African-American popular culture (this time from Destiny's Child) ...
Long Dong Silver's Revenge:
Those who argued, during the Thomas-Hill hearings, that Thomas' alleged
habitual consumption of pornography should be seen as
a plus have been given a measure of vindication. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coaliton, the
simulated child porn case, Thomas sided against his
conservative colleagues Scalia and Rehnquist, voting to strike down the statute. ... True, Thomas wrote
a separate concurring opinion -- but as
I read it he rejects the idea that even "pandering" virtual child
porn (i.e., simulated child porn not made by Miramax or Dreamworks)
could be made illegal in itself. ... The only rationale Thomas says he might one day accept is the prosecutor's instrumental
argument that banning virtual
child porn is the only way to effectively get at real child porn (i.e., porn that usess
real children). In other words, Thomas voted to
defend the basic freedom to fantasize. ... [Does this mean Jeffrey Rosen's
notorious (and subsequently retracted) TNR defense of Thomas as a great
libertarian thinker was right after all?-ed. If I could
find Rosen's piece on Nexis I could answer that. ...] ... Update: Thomas is actually the Justice with the
second-broadest (i.e. most-permissive) view of free speech, according to
a provocative survey by
law prof Eugene Volokh, who toted up the votes on
First Amendment cases over seven years. Who's #1? Justice Anthony Kennedy. Who's the least pro-speech? Snooty pro-regulation
Clinton appointee, Stephen Breyer! ...
The New New Beltway Thing: Savvy Washington, D.C. anti-Bushies have suddenly come to the same conclusion -- McCain should run against Bush
in 2004 as a Democrat. Joshua Green's piece
to this effect was just published in The
Washington Monthly. Jonathan Chait's piece saying the same thing should
on The New Republic site soon. ... You
can expect Tim Russert to pick up this ball and run with it for the next few weeks ... or months. ... Get your
contrarian anti-McCain op-eds ready now. ... Here are my own contrarian doubts:
1) I'm all for a Democrat who opposes affirmative action, but Green wildly
underestimates how unpopular such a stand would be among Democratic
core activists. "Clinton's 'mend it, don't end it'
hedge on affirmative action has made it safer for other Democrats to stop short of full endorsement," Green writes.
Really? Tell it to Joe "Please Don't End It" Lieberman!
Clinton's hedge morphed into full
endorsement, in the end demonstrating mainly the power of the preference lobby within the party. (It's more likely that
McCain will simply change his stand on this issue too.)
Green is very good on how the mechanics of the new primary system favor a McCain Dem run. Chait
is very good on why kausfiles' --
and, apparently, the Beltway's -- previous fantasy scenario, in which McCain runs as an independent,
isn't as electorally (if not ideologically) plausible as a straight party switch. ... P.S.: Guess it's time to write that piece on "John McCain's Emerging
Philosophy of Welfare Reform" before Peter Edelman does. ...
2) To what extent is McCain a Democrat, and if he is a Democrat, is that because McCain's
moved left or because it doesn't mean all that much to be a Democrat anymore? Wasn't it the appealing McCain position that both parties were
held hostage by their bases? Chait (in
the near-final draft of his piece that I was leaked) notes that McCain has said
"This is not a totally laissez-faire country," and concludes that this
alone makes McCain a Dem. It's not clear whether this is desperate hope or cynical brilliance on Chait's part. He goes on to praise
McCain's "coherently progressive" ideology in the manner of those law review writers who wrote
encomiums to the "emerging jurisprudence of Justice Powell" not because Powell
had an emerging jurisprudence but because he didn't and they wanted
him to adopt theirs.
3) The crucial criticism of McCain wouldn't be that his apostasy was "driven by opportunism," as
Green puts it. The question is
whether he's being led around by the nose by his admiring, left-centrist
claque in the press (e.g. Chait).
4) Green's proposed party-switching "straight talk" speech for McCain is good until he gets to the
paragraph about why McCain's leaving the GOP. (It's because
"they have succumbed to corporate lobbyists and agents of intolerance.") Does
the McCain of old really have such a beef with Bush, who after all signed his
campaign finance reform bill, even if Bush didn't invite McCain to the ceremony? (Waaaaa!) Wouldn't it be straighter talk for McCain to just admit that he's moved away from the GOP, not that the GOP has "abandoned" its
5) Are McCain's "pro-immigration views" something to cheer about or worry about?
6) Both pieces underestimate how tacky it looks for a military man like
McCain to oppose Bush as long as the latter is
doing a good job in fighting the war on terror.
Is it worth a $30 Salon Premium subscription to
get the good
Josh Marshall's latest piece? ... You, the consumer,
make the call! ... Here's the best anecdote:
According to several high-level sources in the
campaign, in mid-October 2000, as Gore's iffy
performances on the stump were finally
beginning to worry senior staffers, [campaign strategist and current whipping boy Tad]
Devine told a bewildered meeting of top-level campaign
hands, "I feel really good about where we are
right now." To which pollster Stan Greenberg, who joined
the campaign in August 2000, shot back, "Well,
then you're stupid, because we're losing."
I subscribed -- a sure sign Salon's collapse is imminent.
Was I Wrong About Welfare Reform? Not about the
substance of the 1996 reform, which has been a success,
but about its political effects. I thought it would usher in an era of
Democratic dominance, for several reasons:
1. Before you could
convince taxpayers to spend money on useful government programs
(e.g. health care) you had to convince them the Dems weren't going to spend it
on harmful government programs (e.g. cash for non-workers);
I still think this analysis is right and the Democrats are fated to take over
Congress in the long run (assuming, for purposes of argument, that elections are still
decided on domestic issues). But here's the outline of an argument leading to the opposite conclusion:
2) Any sort of civic integration
of rich and poor is only possible if both groups
meet the basic moral and cultural prerequisites of citizenship, i.e.
honoring the work ethic. (It's easier to get the affluent
to live near low-income workers than it is to
cram housing projects filled with welfare families down the
suburbs' throats, for example.)
3) Once the dysfunctional
welfare system had been transformed, Gingrich would lose his best issue and
Republicans in general wouldn't have a
whole lot left to advocate that was wildly popular. (Is there a massive groundswell of anti-environmentalism?)
1) As far as policy goes, the voters are, more
than ever, bunched in the center -- Democrats don't dare argue for a
huge expansion of the welfare state and the
Republicans don't dare argue for dismantling the existing welfare state.
That's the argument anyway. ... I'm committed to the position that
it's completely wrong, of course. ... Question: Wouldn't it be
sufficient, in terms of cultural cues, for Dems to
nominate someone for President who is deeply religious and fond of firearms? Answer: Maybe. Only
time will tell! But the beauty of the "welfare reform" card was that
it could be exercised by someone
who was not culturally Southern. Even a Yankee Democrat could grow up to be president! ...
2) Instead, the nation is split along cultural,
urban/rural, hicks vs. slicks lines. Many observers spotted this
trend in the 2000 election results, though
I think Michael Barone was
first. Formerly Republican urban areas trend Democratic
because of issues like abortion, gay rights, and gun control, while formerly Democratic
rural areas (e.g. West Virginia) trend Republican because of these same issues.
3) Welfare reform, along with support
for the death penalty, was one card a Democrat
could play to defuse the cultural skepticism of the "hicks" (as in, "If
that feller' Clinton wants to
'end welfare as we know it,' he can't be all that bad."). When you win over a chunk of your opponents' base, you win elections.
4. But now that welfare as we knew it has been ended,
Dems don't have that cultural card to play anymore. (They can
say they are for welfare reform -- but everybody
says that now. It's wallpaper.) Without such a card
to play, any Democratic presidential candidate will be stuck in the
blue-state cultural/lifestyle box Gore found
himself in -- even if his basic policy positions are appealing.
Upshot: Clinton's welfare reform, because it was
successful and took the issue off the table, made it tougher for Dems to win, not easier.
They'll keep losing until they
discover a new Nixon-China, end-welfare, cultural cue card to play. My
nominee: Ending (not mending) racial preferences.
Obligatory blogger hit-boast item: 40,000 "visits" from 19,000 "unique" visitors last
week -- second best ever, just behind a robotic attack last autumn. ... Thank you. ...
Was it such a stellar a week in terms of
kausfiles' editorial performance? Not really! Some general surge in Instapundit-centered Web traffic seems to
be floating all the boats. ...
As even semi-respectable office-holding Democrats are driven by pent-up
anti-Bush hostility to the grassy knoll of kooky paranoia (see the
Cynthia McKinney story today) let's ask ourselves the traditional paranoid's question: Who benefits? I
say Hillary does!
She can tap into all this pent-up emotion. (See E.J.'s E-Z
focus-group column today -- Dem activists are
desperate for a Bush-bashing champion) Yet, at the same time, compared with
the McKinneys of the party, Hillary's a responsible, almost Dwight Eisenhowerish figure! ... Note that she's
already doing well in the early
presidential polls. ...
I Was Sid Blumenthal's Unwitting Cat's Paw! Kausfiles investigators
have learned that the revealing
Business Week story discussed below was originally publicized in an email alert sent out by
controversial former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. ... The
Washington Monthly's Paul
Glastris, who knew a good piece when he saw it, then relayed the article
to lower-level operatives, including kausfiles. ...
It is no accident that Blumenthal turns out to be at the center of this
web of Clintonite intrigue. He sends out a lot of email. But it's still a good article! ...
Was the '90s Boom a Bust? Update: Remember when Robert Reich trashed the Clinton economy by
"The dirtiest little secret about the Roaring '90s is that average working families gained almost no income ...."
At the time the claim was highly suspect, because Reich conveniently
based it on income statistics from 1986 to 1997 -- stopping short of the big
boom years of 1998, 1999, and 2000. Comes now Michael
Mandel of Business Week with an excellent cover story seemingly definitively showing that Reich was
full of it. Mandel reviews the data and concludes:
"The biggest winners from the faster productivity growth
of the 1990s were workers, not investors. In the end, workers
reaped most of the gains from the added output generated by the
New Economy productivity speedup. This revelation helps explain
why consumer spending stayed so strong in the recession ... "
Mandel notes that "[a]s late as mid-1997, real wages were
still growing slowly, while profits soared." But then
wages took off as the tight labor market
began to do its work.
"Real wage gains for private-sector workers averaged 1.3% a year,
from the beginning of the expansion in March, 1991, to the apparent
end of the recession in December, 2001. That's far better than the 0.2%
annual wage gain in the 1980s business cycle, from November, 1982, to
March, 1991. The gains were also better distributed than in the
previous decade. ... Everyone from top managers to factory
workers to hairdressers benefited. Indeed, the past few years
have been "the best period of wage growth at the bottom in the last 30 years," says
Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University."
Was Reich's problem that he was saddled with the old 1997 statistics? Of
course not. Anyone who was living in America and paying attention would have
picked up on what was happening in the labor market. Even the Secretary of Labor! ...
It's more likely that Reich was
content to use to obviously-misleading 1997 stats because they told the
story (Centrist Clintonite Capitalism Doesn't Deliver) that he wanted to tell. ...
Reich's dirty little secret
is that he's still at heart
the theater guy he was in college. He's staging little ideological dramas, and
comes up with whatever "facts" fit his story arc. ... Attention, Massachusetts voters! Is that what
you are looking for in a governor? Maybe! It's your call! ...[Why are you
and Josh Marshall suddenly
citing this old Business Week piece? Did some ukase go out from Neolib Central?--ed. Yes! Paul Glastris of
the Washington Monthly sent around an email two days ago. But he didn't send the link. I had to steal that from Marshall.] ...
Tomorrow's Authors Guild Demands Today! What, exactly, is wrong about Amazon's plan to
expand its used book sales, which the Authors
Guild is currently whining about? These aren't bootlegged copies downloaded from
the Internet or copied surreptitiously in Hong Kong.*** They're legitimately-obtained books
that their owners want to sell to other people who want to buy them. Aren't public
libraries, which lend out books, Napster-style, without even charging a fee, a more
obvious "breach of the contract between the bookseller and the author"? Don't
libraries cannibalize new book sales?
Why doesn't the Authors Guild try to shut public libraries down? Libraries even brazenly lend out just-published best-sellers!
I mean, give a book a "chance to be out there for a while" before we let
any bum or freeloader wander in off the street and read it for free! ...
soon: publishers unveil new breed of books designed to disintegrate after one reading. ...
Wait, they're already making them! (OK, cheap shot. All the books I've bought recently have been well-made.) ...
Footnote *** -- I'm told a blurry pirate copy
of The End of Equality will fetch a tidy sum in the back alleys of Kowloon. [On ebay some
for as high as $1.49-ed. But in the Asian black market they are especially desperate for
neoliberal insights!] ... Updates: a) Turns out
Tom the Dancing Bug made the Napster=Libraries
point very effectively almost two years
ago. b) In the U.K. they do have a "public lending rights" system,
under which authors are compensated when their books are checked out
of libraries. There are variants on the system in Canada,
Germany, Australia, and New Zealand as well. So the idea isn't idiotic! But complaining about
used book sales is. c) Alert kf reader C.K. notes the economic flaw in the authors' complaint:
"Being able to sell a used book will increase the demand for new
books. Should I lay out $25 for the scribbling of some pundit? I might be
more likely to if I can resell it in a convenient way." d) Alert kf reader J.K. (no relation to C.K.) adds
that authors rely on Amazon not only to keep their old, non-bestseller
tomes on the market, but also as a research tool when they need to
locate other old, non-bestseller tomes. "Did the Authors Guild ask
its members how many times they'd found some key but out-of-print
book using the Amazon system?" e) "Robert Musil" argues that a lively
used book market will prompt publishers to "print more physically crummy,
non-durable books than is efficient." This made
no sense to me (don't the publishers have to compete?) until I realized
that the fancy economic studies to which Musil links
assume monopoly power on the part of
publishers. Does someone have a monopoly
on publishing books today? I doubt it. ...
We'd do anything for America, but we won't do that: In the war against terrorism, Americans are prepared to sacrifice ... not a single textile job! I belatedly just read
Franklin Foer's excellent, infuriating TNR
account of how we've reneged on our implicit bargain with Pakistan. ... As Robert Wright
points out, foreign aid (which Bush has dramatically increased)
isn't nearly as reliable as free trade if you want to make people in other countries prosperous. ...
Why isn't this a cause on the realpolitikal right wing? (Charles Krauthammer, this means you!) ...
Update:: NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru disputes
Foer on a subsidiary but significant point: Could
House Republican leaders have avoided knuckling under to the anti-Pakistan demands of textile state Republicans
on the year's big trade vote if they'd made reasonable accommodations to get some
Democratic free trade votes instead? If not (Ponnuru's claim) Bush and the Republicans are
a bit less culpable in the
Pakistan-textile fiasco. ... I don't know who's right here. The answer lies deep in
the subconscious of the Hon. Robert Matsui, and I don't
want to go there! The larger point on which Foer and Ponnuru agree -- that
the bipartisan textile lobby has bolixed up America's (and Bush's) foreign
policy -- remains true either way. ...
Lloyd Grove almost
gets Dick Gephardt to be funny. Scary. ...
Congratulations to Washington Monthly's Joshua Green for
his well-reported Dowd-activating
scoop on Bush's surprisingly extensive
use of polling. Here's the crucial "nut graf":
But while Clinton used polling to craft popular policies, Bush uses polling to spin unpopular ones — arguably a much more
Arguably. ... But more arguably not! Which is more cynical: a) Letting a poll tell you what you want to do, or
b) deciding what you want to do on the merits and then letting a poll tell you how to sell it
to a resistant public? I'd say a). ... Green says
Clinton was not "afraid to act in spite of the polls, which he did on Bosnia, Haiti,
the Mexican bailout and affirmative action." Would Green
deny that Clinton also used poll-tested words to try to spin these unpopular policies? You didn't hear him talking about "racial preferences," did you? ...
Anyway, as Green notes, polls say voters prefer Presidents who ignore polls. So if the
right thing to do is to follow the voters, Bush is taking the better approach! ...
P.S.: Aside from
Green's main thesis, which you now know, the piece also
provides an excellent and fair-minded short history of presidential polling. Turns out there was only one recent
president who really did eschew polls -- Bush Sr., who paid the price. ... Update --Joshua Green
responds: "I would have thought that of all the people out there, you would be one of
the last to accept the (to my mind) misguided CW that polling for policy is
inherently bad. How's it any different than conducting a 'listening tour'
or 'responding to constituent concerns'? Obviously if you
go overboard with anything, it's bad. But it seems to me this is one
topic that most people haven't bothered to think through." Kausfiles responds: So
the problem is that Bush doesn't poll enough! Or, rather, that he should do a
little more "polling for policy." Good point. You buried the lede! ... And tell it to Maureen Dowd,
who took a very different message from the
piece. (Her nut graf: "The Bush White House, mirabile dictu, is giving
the Clinton White House a run for its polling money.")...
Opening the Times Capsule:
While throwing out a pile of old papers, kausfiles
archivists discovered a 1/27/02 Rick Berke article, a quaint artifact from another era. In it, Berke
enthusiastically reports what a great issue the
Enron scandal could be for the Democrats:
Stanley B. Greenberg, who helped devise a populist theme for Al Gore
in the 2000 presidential campaign, said the Democrats' rallying cry in the November
elections should be: "The greed is real. The pain is real. The excesses are real."
Does anyone, from the distant historical vantage point of two months later,
think Enron will be a huge issue for the Democrats? ... Update: Until Robert Musil reminded me,
I'd forgotten that two days after Berke's inane analysis (during
what must have been Enron Overreaction Week at the NYT)
Paul Krugman wrote: "I predict that in the years
ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come
to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society." It doesn't look too
good for that one either. But the night is young! ... I think columnists who make such foolish predictions
should be hounded out of public life, don't you? Everyone
knows Enron will be over by Thanksgiving ...
And the reality is that the issue could be potent for the Democrats ...
Republicans are especially vulnerable because ...
Journey to the Center of the Earth: Under its Mercedes-like policy of continuous improvement, kausfiles has added
a way to quickly navigate to the prestigious links section buried at the bottom of this page. ... Just
click the new "links" link above. ...
Don't say you didn't even know they were down there! ... [Thanks to reader C.G.H. for the suggestion.]
National Journal's Jonathan Rauch wrote essentially
the same piece I just wrote -- attacking the Wellstone provision in the
McCain-Feingold campaign finance law -- except that Rauch beat me by two weeks
and his version seems more persuasive. He's especially good on the
ridiculous claim by McCain-Feingold defenders such as E.J. Dionne that the new law "doesn't even ban" ads by nonprofit advocacy groups in the final
60 days of a campaign:
Some of the bill's defenders take
issue with the word "banned." They point out that [advocacy groups] would still be
allowed to engage in airwave electioneering by forming a political
action committee. But this is like saying it's
not a ban on books to allow only public libraries to own them.
Contributions to PACs are tightly capped (at $5,000 a year)
and hard to raise. A "PACs only" rule would limit
political expression to a fraction of the current spectrum.
Senator Wellstone himself, the author of this part of the law, doesn't engage in Dionne-esque evasion. He calls his provision an "issue ad ban." ...
The A-10 Society:
Ron Brownstein's latest
buried LAT column
makes an important point -- worthy of page A-9, A-8, or even A-1. ... The point's this: If the
global culture of freedom, commerce and complexity is
inevitably going to subsume regional nation-state conflicts, as
predicted by kausfiles guru Robert Wright, it better
get cracking in the Middle East! Offering some version of "prosperity for peace" through lower trade
barriers seems like a logical move. ... But if the U.S. Congress wouldn't even
reward Pakistan with lowered textile barriers, what's the chance that it will reward Syria and Saudi Arabia? ...
Beam v. Blog: Webloggers have been waiting for Boston Globe critic Alex Beam's promised
anti-blogging column like, oh, the Bolivian Army waiting
for Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid at the end
of that Redford/Newman movie. The column's
appeared, and the massacre is underway. ... Am I the only one who thinks Beam scores a few points before making a complete fool
of himself by -- in a column on the superiority of print journalism! -- falling for
obvious (and funny) April Fool's joke? ... And I thought that
before Beam said something nice about kausfiles! ... P.S.: Instapundit
if Beam were a blogger he'd have published a correction of his mistake within hours. ...
Maybe Charles Kinbote will trade in his Kramler:
It took a non-automotive writer, Gersh Kuntzman,
to figure out the unsubtle semiotic
secret of the Pontiac Solstice's exhaust outlets. ...
Krugman, Heading for the Grassy Knoll:
Paul Krugman says
of Social Security:
There isn't any crisis: the system
looks good for 40 years, and with a bit of
extra resources can survive indefinitely.
What Krugman leaves out, I suspect, is the likelihood of
advances in medical technology. The first problem is that this
technology is likely to be expensive, putting Medicare into the hole. The
second problem is that the technology is likely to work,
extending life expectancy -- which means Social
Security will have to pay out benefits to retirees for many
more years than expected. Does Krugman doubt that if we were to
cure cancer Social Security would quickly go broke? ... P.S.: I've
resisted the general urge to say that
Krugman has gone overboard with his defensive
post-Enron anti-right-wing paranoia -- that he's "lost it." His Slate columns
were good. The
couple of times I've communicated with him he's been smart, open-minded,
and informative. But after today's NYT column, with
its overstated assertions ("The ideological
powers behind the current administration want to do away with Social Security")
and its fevered digression about Richard Mellon Scaife,
I'm abandoning my resistance. ... He had a beautiful mind! ...
He's been getting Sidney Blumenthal's e-mails -- that's it, isn't it? ... (Me, I get Sidney's
messages wirelessly, through my dentures.) ... Two kausfiles rules of thumb: 1) Any column,
from either left or right, containing the phrase "connect the dots"
will be wildly unconvincing; 2) Any column that mentions "Richard Mellon
Scaife" is not worth reading either. ... You could plug those two three-word sequences into
your Web-filtering algorithm and you wouldn't miss a thing. ... Update: The actual
Social Security trustees' report is
Beam try to do that in the Globe!--ed.] There's a discussion of life expectancy
around page 77, where the report notes
that a 1999 panel of experts predicted greater medical advances than the trustees
anticipated in their calculations. If you factor in
"pessimistic" (i.e. optimistic) assumptions about medicine, Social Security goes broke in 2029. ... [Then, the robots take over!--ed.]
Loophole Watch -- The Overhead Swap: John Samples of the Cato Institute
emails with what looks like a large potential
loophole in the just-pased campaign finance reform bill:
Under Shays-Meehan federal officials can also raise unlimited funds for
nonprofits as long as it is not used directly for federal election activity.
So Senator X raises a million for my organization which I use to pay
overhead and then take the money I would have used for overhead to spend on
federal election activity. This does suggest Arthur Andersen will survive.
They will be needed to do the accounting.
Is it illegal to be loathsome?
prosecution of two people in New York City for the
crime of praising the 9/11 attacks. Since when is it a crime to express
repulsive views? ... But they were
inciting their audience to attack them, said the two judges who upheld the prosecutions. Isn't it the job of the
law to restrain the audience, then? (At worst, I can see arresting the
pro-9/11 speakers for their own safety, then releasing them.) ... And where's
the New York Times editorial page with its smugly
self-proclaimed "record of vigilance on the First Amendment"
while these obvious First Amendment
violations are taking place? ...
Jeannette Walls's free e-mailed "Scoop" newsletter about the Oscars, which just
arrived, is completely enjoyable, even if you don't care about movie stars. Walls is
honest, unfawning, doesn't take her subjects seriously for a moment, and yet appropriately treats
Gwyneth Paltrow's "icon-withering, raccoon-eyed, woefully Wonderbra-less appearance" as
an "epic incident." ... The newsletter is not on the Web. You
have to go here and
sign up to get it. Since it's free and consistently good, why not? . ... P.S.: Note
how Walls' description of Paltrow flirts with,
but does not directly invoke, what to my
mind is the nastiest phrase left in the English language, now that most of the other
nasty phrases, including what seems like all the ones about men, have been
overused, un-tabooed and decathected. [What's the phrase?--ed. Too nasty!
If the kausfiles Standards and Practices Division lets this one
by, they might as well close up shop.]
Susan Rasky almost
delivers an article
we've been waiting for -- explaining exactly how lawyers will get
around McCain/Feingold/Shays/Meehan (even if it is upheld as constitutional) so that "almost nothing about the soft money that
the public has been told is the rotting core of
democracy actually changes." She (like kausfiles) predicts the rise of "shadow parties" that act as soft-money vehicles. (They're not
"coordinated" with the actual parties, of course!) Rasky provides
enough technical detail to suggest she knows what she's talking about, but not enough to
seal the deal. ... So these "shadow parties" will have a regular non-profit (501 (c) (4))
arm for "issue advocacy activity" and a Section 527 offshoot for
"their more explicit, nonprofit political activity." How does that
get around the Wellstone-sponsored ban on all soft-money ads that mention a candidate's name in the final
60 days before an election? Does the Wellstone ban not apply to "Section 527" groups? ...
If not, was that the result of
stupidly bad draftsmanship or intentionally bad draftsmanship? And was the crusading press really that
asleep at the switch? It's not as if nobody has heard of 527s -- there was a big fuss about them during the 2000 campaign. ...
Yent-a-Matic: Special "It's All About You, Isn't It?" Edition
"The Oscar goes to--I love my life ... " -- Julia Roberts,
announcing the Academy Award to Denzel Washington.
She needs a date, he needs a date! ... He lied under oath. She made The Mexican. ... She has a wacky brother
who's always getting into trouble. He has ... Take it away, Maureen Dowd! ... Tip for Bill: Julia's secret turn-on? Talking about the earned income tax credit! ...
It wasn't worth the damage to my reputation." -- Bill Clinton
on the Marc Rich pardon.
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