mickey's assignment desk



Hit Parade--5/9
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 and you will be taken to, as always. ... (5/9)

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." ... (5/9)

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? ... (5/8)

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." ... (5/7)

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, Dallas Morning News-style, for linking to its own pages? ... [Thanks to alert kf reader A.E.] (5/6)

Even the test designed by California's education establishment seems to show that English immersion beats bilingual education, as the LAT reports:

[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.

Students in immersion programs were nearly three times as likely to score in the advanced or early advanced categories as students in bilingual 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 story (superior to the LAT's on all counts, including clarity) notes, low-achieving districts that dropped bilingual ed also saw "relatively good" results:
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 California results:
[W]e have now discovered
-- 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 ...
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'? ... (5/6)

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) ... (5/5)

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! ... (5/5)

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. ... (5/3)

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 .... (5/2)

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. ... (5/2)

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. ... (4/30)

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.

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.]
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. ... (4/30)

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 system."
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. ... (4/30)

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. ... Larry Mead 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. ... (4/27)

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! ... (4/26)

Kausfiles Gets Results!

April 24--kausfiles 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. ... (4/26)

Classic NYT headline:

"Economic Revival Poses a Problem for Bush"
P.S.: Dr. 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. ... (4/26)

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. ... (4/25)

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. ... (4/24)

Latest L.A. Bumpersticker:

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 constituency.
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! ... (4/24)

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.?)] (4/23)

The Angry Person: Sure signs that Paul Krugman, as a columnist, has abandoned thinking 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 opposition 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. ... (4/23)

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 ....") ... (4/22)

Most touching-yet-disturbing line in the NYT obituary of Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley:

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. ... (4/21)

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,

McCain sees 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. (4/20)

Pelli Door: 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! ... (4/20)

I don't remember "The Last Waltz" being an especially peak experience the first time around. Do you? ... (4/20)

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.) ... (4/20)

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. ... (4/19)

Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Republican leader of the not unpowerful anti-amnesty House "Immigration Reform Caucus" says "President 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. ... (4/19)

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 high-end paper being planned by former mayor Richard Riordan as an alternative to the L.A. Times. ... (4/19)

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! .. (4/19)

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.] (4/19)

First, "No Scrubs." Now, No "Nasty Girls." ... Coincidence? Or Policy Impact! More evidence of welfare reform's continuing positive effect on African-American popular culture (this time from Destiny's Child) ... (4/17)

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 just-turned-blogger UCLA 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! ... (4/17)

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 be up 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.)

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 ideals.

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.
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. ... (4/16)

Is it worth a $30 Salon Premium subscription to get the good Gore camp backbiting in 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. (4/15)

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);

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?)

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:
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.

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.
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! ... (4/12)

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. ... (4/14)

As even semi-respectable office-holding Democrats are driven by pent-up anti-Bush hostility to the grassy knoll of kooky paranoia (see the unbelievable 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. ... (4/12)

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! ... (4/11)

Was the '90s Boom a Bust? Update: Remember when Robert Reich trashed the Clinton economy by announcing:

"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.] ... (4/11)

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! ... ... Coming 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 go 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. ... (4/10)

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. ... (4/9)

Lloyd Grove almost gets Dick Gephardt to be funny. Scary. ... (4/9)

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 cynical undertaking."
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.")... (4/9)

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."

And the reality is that the issue could be potent for the Democrats ...

Republicans are especially vulnerable because ...

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 ... (4/8)

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.] (4/8)

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." ... (4/6)

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? ... (4/4)

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 now 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 Bjorn Staerk's obvious (and funny) April Fool's joke? ... And I thought that before Beam said something nice about kausfiles! ... P.S.: Instapundit notes that if Beam were a blogger he'd have published a correction of his mistake within hours. ... (4/2)

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. ... (4/2)

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 here. [Let's see Alex 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.] (4/2)

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? Instapundit notes the disgraceful 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? ... (4/1)

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.] (4/1)

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. ... (4/1)

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.

It wasn't worth the damage to my reputation." -- Bill Clinton on the Marc Rich pardon.
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! ... (4/1)

March 2002 archive

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McCain-Feingold archive

I Was Wrong About McCain-Feingold ...
Everybody's missed a giant loophole in the new law.

Posted Thursday, April 25, 2002

Kausfiles, the NYT and David Broder all failed to realize why it's significant that the just-passed campaign finance reform law applies only to ... Go to item 
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Fresh West Wing Dish! Mary Matalin, click here. ...

At last! A Bold New Agenda for the Democrats! Only Nixon could go to China, and only Bill Keller could ...

Wellstone's Folly The dead rat on campaign finance reform's kitchen floor ...

Kausfiles Has Seen Bill Clinton's Future! CFR could make him the dominant Democrat.

Ten Years in September This season's must-SkipTM series.

Hello, Saylor! WaPo on the tycoon it covered so badly.

Enron's Got Nothing on Rick Berke! The NYT's hyped-up poll story.

What Black Hawk Down Leaves Out That raid really was more of a debacle than a victory.

Who Killed Buddy? Yet another Clinton crony who knew too much.

Mickey's Assignment Desk Goes Goo-Goo! Three easy non-9/11 pieces.

Does Welfare Cause Terrorism? You knew Mickey's Assignment Desk would come to this.

Is it in Bush's Political Interest to Prolong the War? Get tomorrow's cliche right here.

Update: Hot Recount Docs! Written evidence that Gore might have won.

Almost Everything the NYT Thinks About the Florida Recount is Wrong! Turns out the Justices did cast the deciding vote. ...

Media Recount Alert: Did Gore Blow It? Introducing kausfiles' SpinoculatorTM service.

Four Easy 9/11 Pieces Mickey's Assignment Desk Strikes Back!

Why Can't Charles Murray Admit He Was Right? Resisting the good news on welfare reform and the family.

America, the Screw-Up Mark Danner's sour oppositionalism.

Bin Laden's Instructive Home Video He seems to feel Israel's an issue.

No "Appease" Please! Why the Munich analogy is inapposite.

Would an Israel-PLO Deal Really Help Bin Laden? Kausfiles under attack.

Stating the Obvious Israel is partly the issue.

Bush Is No Giuliani; He Shouldn't Even Try Let the Cabinet carry the confidence-building load.

Sorry! The Budget Debate Really Isn't Exciting! OMB v. CBO = BFD.

The Hidden Genius of Condit's PR Campaign Was he really as big a fool as he seemed? ...

Condit-Obsessives' Corner: Watch the Watch! Get your irresponsible media speculation here ...

Honk if the NYT Recycled Your Story! Introducing our Props Review Service.

Update: The Good Big News Kausfiles gets picky and demanding.

Special XP-ation Edition! Did all those bangers get kf in trouble?

Banned in Dulles Is kausfiles porn?

Waiting to XP Why the economy will revive on October 25.

There's a Scandal in Here Somewhere! Series-SkipperTM digests the NYT's Florida overseas ballot story.

Kausfiles Press Release 7/9/01

Apocalypse Mom The horror of Anna Quindlen

The Good Big News (That Nobody's Reporting) Plus, kausfiles gets divisive and vindictive!

Why Liberal Democrats Should Love Bush's Budget Every dollar he saves today is a dollar we can spend tomorrow!

McCain-Feingold (campaign finance reform) archive

Hell, No! We Weren't Wrong to Not Go! The unmade point about the Kerrey controversy. ...

Was the '90s Boom a Bust? Never trust content from Robert Reich. ...

Almost Everything We Thought About the Florida Recount is Wrong! The Lake County Effect.

G.W. Bush, Egalitarian! He's stripped the condescension from his view of poverty.

Looking for Mr. Good Death Mickey's Assignment Desk #8.

Is Robert Wright a Marxist? Not that there's anything wrong with it!

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