Will liberals really be helped by the new campaign law?

Will liberals really be helped by the new campaign law?

Will liberals really be helped by the new campaign law?

A mostly political Weblog.
June 10 2002 5:52 AM

Edsall's Edsel

Will liberals really be helped by the new campaign law?

It's odd to see the estimable Thomas B. Edsall  of WaPo--a fellow Dem who likes to bash Dems -- make a basic logical error in his story on Public Citizens's useful survey  of  "Section 527" committees, which will still be able to raise and spend "soft money" even after the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law takes effect.  It doesn't follow, just because currently  most of the big 527s are liberal , that

groups associated with the Democratic Party and liberal causes are likely to be the short-term beneficiaries of the new law that prohibits the parties themselves and members of Congress from raising soft money ...

Once 527s become one of the last remaining conduits for soft money, you can expect all sorts of new groups to start them up, and all sorts of new donors to start contributing. It won't take long to get the word out -- certainly it will happen in time for the next election. Who knows if the newcomers will be liberal or conservative? Not Public Citizen. Not me. Not Edsall. ... You could argue that conservatives, having failed to fully exploit the 527 loophole, have the most to gain. But that would be fallacious too!  ... Note that the fallacy Edsall indulges in -- reification is the fancy word for it -- helped give us the dreaded "political action committees," or PACs. In the 1970s, because there had been few business PACs in the past, unions and Democrats went along with a reform law that enhanced PACs' importance. Corporations didn't have PACs, so helping PACS wouldn't help corporations, right? But, funny thing, once PACs became major fundraising conduits, businesses started forming hundreds of them, until the corporate PACs swamped the union PACs. ... P.S.: You sense Edsall knows his "liberals will benefit" angle is bogus, because he tries vainly to cover himself with fudgewords like "suggest" and "short-term." ..P.P.S: Note the fund-raising succeess of the centrist Dem "New Democrat Network." This only reinforces the idea that Bill Clinton could be a post-presidential power-broker  if he chose to head up the NDN, or an organization like it.  ... Update: Alert (if somewhat paranoid) kf reader "J" of Washington, D.C. e-mails:

When the vote on McCain-Feingold was about to come up, Tom Edsall wrote a story saying it would help Republicans because they raised more hard money. [This is true--ed.] He didn't mention that the soft money ban would close the looming $100 million soft money gap between Dems and Reps in 2003-4. He was looking to fool a few Republicans into voting for McCain-Feingold. Now the FEC is starting to write the regs for the new law, and Edsall brings out an (illogical) article saying liberals will do well outside the new law. Does he hope [Federal Election Commissioners] Mason, Smith or the new guy will vote for tighter regs to punish the liberals. ...


Suddenly it all makes sense! ... But, wait a minute, then why did the conservative Washington Times take basically the same bogus line (at least in its lede)?...  I yield to no one in my paranoia about liberal agenda-pushing by reporters, but Edsall doesn't seem like that type. (He's no Nina Bernstein, or even Robert Pear.) My guess is he was just trying to pay the rent by milking a story out of the Public Citizen report. ....

Stunning stat of the week: More conservatives than liberals listen to NPR and watch PBS' "News Hour," according to a  Pew survey  covered in  the Washington Times  (second item). No wonder the conservatives are always so pissed off! .... Obvious methodological flaw: Few people self-describe themselves as "liberals" these days. Still ... How the Wash Times misreports the study: Jennifer Harper writes that "72 percent of conservatives listen to Rush Limbaugh," when the survey  pretty clearly says that 72 percent of Limbaugh's listeners are conservatives, a less stunning stat. ....

Isn't Giuliani obviously a better candidate for Secretary of Homeland (new word, please!) Security than Tom Ridge? Even the NYT's  Joyce Purnick, who seems to viscerally loathe Giuliani, can't help but make the case for him despite her best efforts not to.  ...

More greenhouse gassing: Marc Ambinder of ABC's "The Note" has some good detail  on conservatives upset by Bush's global warming ambiguity. ... He suggests Bush may seek refuge by arguing humans are causing "greenhouse gases" to rise, but that this may not necessarily cause global warming. Very Clintonian! But it's hard to see how this gets Bush off the hook, since the report produced by his EPA, as Ambinder himself notes, "lays the blame for global warming (not just greenhouse gases) on human industrial production." ... P.S.: When the leader of a big liberal interest group makes a stink about a Democratic president caving in to the right, I instinctively suspect that the leader just wants to raise the profile of his interest group. So why don't I think the same thing about Myron Ebell, lobbyist for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is making a big stink about Bush's "reversal" on global warming? The answer is probably that one should suspect Ebell of the same thing. ...


Improbable cause: A May 31 Jonathan Turley column  comes to the same conclusion Stuart Taylor later came to -- that Coleen Rowley was wrong and the FBI didn't have enough to meet the "probable cause" standard for searching Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop. Unlike Taylor, though, Turley thinks this outcome is just fine! ..

Recession from secession: Joel Kotkin, who seemed very sympathetic to L.A.'s various secession movements a month ago in the WSJ, has now (with Fred Siegel) come out for a judicious compromise  --  keep Los Angeles whole but install a borough system. ... Kotkin and Siegel are smart and sensible anlaysts, but their piece (which ran in the LATisn't close to convincing.  Instead, it more or less makes a case for the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. For example, Kotkin and Siegel say "Los Angeles' government has a reputation as one of the least efficient and most expensive in the nation" -- but "secession advocates have not made a convincing case for a new city other than to cite the failures of the old." Aren't the failures of the old city a pretty damn good reason for people in the Valley to want a new one? ... Meanwhile, their proposed borough system sounds like a nightmarish hodgepodge of ambiguous power lines. Citizens are supposed to look to their local "little city halls" for "basic services" -- but the most basic services (police, fire, and water) would still be "controlled from downtown."  A downtown council of borough presidents would also have "final zoning authority." Would any developer abandon his plans just because a borough council voted him down? Wouldn't he appeal to the downton council, rendering the borough's decision advisory? ... Kotkin and Siegel also admit that "New York's borough system has atrophied over the years" ... So why do Kotkin and Siegel actually oppose secession? It's hard to tell. There may be good arguments, involving the loss of tax revenues by the central city and the inevitable break-off of L.A.s West Side, which would leave a relatively poor rump consisting of downtown L.A. and it's poorer surroundings. But Kotkin and Siegel don't make these arguments. Indeed, Kotkin has criticized those who do.... Did the LAT's editors just assume that their readers think secession is a bad idea? ....


Friday, June 7, 2002

You know the blogging trend must be almost over when Time Magazine has a blog. O.K, it's about the World Cup -- but can one on politics be far behind? Give every Time writer a blog and they'll have something to do on Wednesdays!  .... Coming Soon: the Kalb Brothers blog ("Press, Policy and Pepperoni Pizza") offers gloomy ruminations on the lamentable decline of journalism, plus instant reader polls and Star Wars spoilers! ...


It's the Law, Stupid! An excellent 6/8 National Journal column by Stuart Taylor fleshes out the argument that while the FBI may have been incompetent, it really was hamstrung by a) the stringent requirements for obtaining a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and b) excessive fear of racial profiling, embedded in law and in the culture. .. Taylor points out that it's a lot easier to change the law and our thinking about profiling than it is to suddenly make the FBI and CIA bureaucracies vastly more efficient. ... P.S.: Taylor thinks Coleen Rowley was wrong -- the FBI hadn't met the standard of "probable cause" under the law. That's because the standard was way too high. As Taylor notes:

Evidence of terrorist intent alone is not enough;"membership" in some particular international terrorist "group" must be shown.

So if it's just one guy who wants to blow up the Superbowl, we leave him alone! ... The problem is less dumb bureaucrats than dumb law. ... [Note: I can't find Taylor's column online. If anyone has a free URL, let me know and I'll add it. Otherwise you can always go to National Journal and join for a day.]. Update: Taylor's piece should at some point be available here. ...

Always trust content from kausfiles! As foreshadowed in this space, Culture Editor Scott Stossel has escaped  from The American Prospect . ... Who else will we soon be able to cross off this list? ...Most revealing line in Stossel's very tactful farewell message: "Much of it has been great fun ..."


Kf hears that the White House called Steven Holmes of the New York Times' Washington bureau on Wednesday, demanding a correction to the paper's  story of two days earlier  that started the controversy over that global warming report the administration had sent to the UN. The NYT's Andrew Revkin had written:

In the report, the administration for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming.

Not so, argued the White House -- Bush had blamed humans for global warming in a Rose Garden speech last summer. But Bush's Rose Garden speech is Clintonesque -- he says only that

[t]he National Academy of Sciences indicates that the increase is due in large part to human activity.


Bush doesn't say he accepts the Academy's "indication." (Anyway, "in large part" is not the same thing as "mostly"). More embarrassingly, while the White House was complaining to the Times, Bush's own State Department was apparently itself putting out a press release that said the same thing the Times had said. The State release (which I couldn't find on the department's Web site) boasts:

 In its report, the administration for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming.

[I'm confused. Was Bush   repudiating the conclusion of the "bureaucracy"that global warming's caused by humans or was he saying he's thought it all along?--ed. "It's not true. It's not true. It's not true. It's old news!"-- that's another well-tested Clinton strategy. Except the Clintonites were clever enough to avoid saying "It's not true" and "It's old news" on the same day. ... This sort of amateurish screw-up would never happen if Karen Hughes were still alive! ...A parallel sequence, of course, is Bush's apparent global warming stance: "We don't know. We don't know. We don't know. It's too late!" But that one could actually be true.] [Do you concede this is a front-page story yet?--ed. On kausfiles.]

Kf also hears that ... still more defections from the leaking American Prospect are in the works. Editor Robert Kuttner may not know about them yet. But kausfiles do! ...


Thursday, June 6, 2002

Just when I think I'm being paranoid about the New York Times, they go and produce a near-parody of find-something-to-complain-about, agenda-driven, distorted left-liberal coverage, with Peter Kilborn and Lynette Clemetson's census story of yesterday. It's useful to compare The Washington Post's level-headed coverage  with the NYT's. Here's WaPo's lede (we won't even talk about the heds):

The economic boom of the 1990s raised the incomes of the poorest Americans, held the size of the middle class steady and swelled the ranks of those with six-digit incomes, according to census data released yesterday.

And here's the NYT:

 Despite the surging economy of the 1990's that brought affluence to many Americans, the poor remained entrenched, the Census Bureau reported today. The bureau's statistics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia show that 9.2 percent of families were deemed poor in 2000, a slight improvement from 10 percent in 1989.

Of course, just because the Times saw as bad news what WaPo saw as basically good news doesn't mean the Times was wrong. But the Times was wrong. Both papers use variations of the word "slight" to describe the decline in the poverty rate, but only WaPo makes the essential point that this slight decrease was achieved while the nation accepted "high numbers of immigrants from poor countries," offering a great Gary Burtless quote on the subject. (Query: If poverty decreased despite lots of new poor people who came between 1990 and 2000, doesn't that mean the poverty rate for people who were here in 1990 must have gone down substantially?) The NYT talks a lot about immigrants, but only to raise concerns about assimilation. Most of the rest of the Times' piece is spent on a quick tour of fashionable complaints, including the unsubstantiated prospect of a "barbell economy," the effects of "sprawl," and the problem that Americans' new wealth is illiquid (tied up in big houses). ...

[How is the NYT talk of a "barbell economy" unsubstantiated?--ed.They offer zero (0) evidence that the middle has shrunk. Their big example is Nevada, which had a 94 percent increase in people with graduate degrees and "a 76 percent increase of people with less than a ninth-grade education." But what about the people in between? You only get a "barbell" if they didn't increase too. Did they increase? Bet they did. The Times doesn't say.]

The NYT does bury a near-stunning statistic demonstrating the success of , yes, welfare reform. Welfare goes mainly to female-headed households with children -- and from 1990-2000 "The poverty rate among female-headed households with children younger than 18 fell from 42.3 to 34.3 percent." That's not slight! ...

[What was the great Burtless quote? Don't make us hunt for it--ed. From WaPo:

We accept the people with poor backgrounds," said economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution. "That increases the number on the bottom -- people moan and groan about it -- 'inequality is getting worse.' It's getting worse in the United States because this is our shining good deed: We take in poor people. A lot of them are going to be better off in one or two generations.

Burtless is a smart, honest liberal who will tell you whether the statistics support or undermine his case. Marian Wright Edelman, the go-to quote for the Times, is a celebrity ideologue liberal who will never ever admit that anything undermines her increasingly discredited agenda. That sort of sums up the difference between the two papers' approaches.]

Yes, yes, Andrew Sullivan  made this same basic point about the NYT census coverage yesterday. ...Today I think Sullivan's close to having the goods on The American Prospect's inflated web stats (embarrassing for them, because they've been quite bellicose and self-righteous  in claiming that they had more than 400,000 "unique" visitors last month). ... Update: Turns out  Jonah Goldberg made the Times v. Post point yesterday too. ...


Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Is kf paranoid about Howell Raines? Andrew Revkin, the NYT reporter whose story on the E.P.A's. global warming report  caused such a fuss -- prompting a Bush denial  and some speculation by Andrew Sullivan  and kausfiles (see below) about why the Times played it up -- e-mails to say:

On how he got the story -- "believe it or not, the alert came via a govt scientist last week, not an enviro group or agency official even."

On why it was a legit story -- "given the admin's reluctance to discuss any specific consequences of impending climate shifts, the reams of detail in the report were  significant -- especially in light of eagerness of industry to expunge any such info"

On why an editorial appeared the same day -- "believe it or not, I had zero clue the editorial was coming (they do have access to our weekend stories ahead of time, so that's how it likely came about."

All fair corrections. Thanks. We're asymptotically approaching the truth here!...  It's also pretty clear that so many right-thinking editors at the NYT think Bush is wrong about global warming that they don't need any conspiratorial direction from the top to embarrass Bush on the issue when an opportunity arises. Like the proverbial bees in a hive, they know what they have to do! That's usually the case with media conspiracy theories. The interesting question about Raines, though, is whether in his case these normally-exaggerated media conspiracy theories (i.e., that Raines himself is calling the shots in a crusading-liberal, embarrass-Bush manner) nevertheless apply -- even though they aren't at all necessary to explain what's in the paper. My own bit of knowledge about Raines' M.O., plus the evidence in Ken Auletta's New Yorker profile, suggests this is a distinct (even "likely," or as the EPA would put it, "likely mostly") possibility. The question about Revkin's piece was never, in my mind, whether it was a legitimate story. It was. The question is why was it on the front-page?  Did Raines have anything to do with that decision? If yes, why'd he do it? ... If I find out the answers, I will pass them on. ... My own sense is that while this was a legit story it wasn't a story you'd put on the front page unless you were really out to embarrass Bush on the issue. ...

Josh Marshall delicately offers  the obvious alternative explanation for the knotted leggings found near Chandra Levy's body. ... He also notes another way  in which the Bush administration's Hispanic Suck-Up derailed a promising anti-terror strategy -- by blocking an effective computer program for tracking foreign students within the U.S. (The program was originally blocked during the Clinton administration  But Bush kept it blocked -- and is still blocking it, while his INS rushes out a new program that's inferior, and thus more acceptable to the "immigration lobby." .... The full story, relied on and referenced by Marshall, was originally  told by Nick Confessore in the May Washington Monthly. ...

More Audi, less Gaudi, Part II: Car and Driver joins the crowd  in dissing the styling of the big new BMW 7-series. Am I the only person who thinks it's a terrific design -- especially its controversial ass, which CD calls "humpback" and a  "jumble of lines and angles."  Looks like an evil German battleship! ... In general, BMW's new Gaudiesque styling jag is interesting but forced and ultimately unappealing.. (Is functionalism really completely wrung out?) I predict commercial disappointment, though perhaps not on a par with Ford's disastrous Gaudi adventure, now evident only in the rear windows of the Taurus wagon. ... But on the 7-series BMW's desperate new weirdness is kept in check, and it works. ...


Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Global Heat or Heavy Raines? Is the two-day global warming controversy an example of Raines Power -- the ability of the new populist, activist, bigfooting editor of the NYT  to singlehandedly shape the national debate? That's what  Andrew Sullivan  suggests:

A reporter finds some tiny and insignificant change in the wording of administration policy, and Raines puts it on his front page. Drudge takes the bait and Rush follows.

Sullivan's on to something, I suspect. The original NYT story, written by Andrew Revkin, does have a lot of artificial story-heightening language ("stark shift ...sharp contrast") seemingly designed to justify front-page placement -- including this prize-winning attempt to manufacture confrontation from ambiguity:

Despite arguments by oil industry groups that the evidence is not yet clear, the report unambiguously states that humans are the likely cause of most of the recent warming

If it's only "likely," then the evidence isn't really unambiguous, is it? (Actually, the report said "likely mostly"!)  ... Two qualifications to Sullivan's Raines theory:

1) Signs suggest it wasn't a lone reporter finding some tiny and insignificant change in the wording of a report, but rather a tacitly coordinated campaign by enviros to embarrass the Bush administration with the report of its own EPA. The smoking gun for this theory? The NYT ran an editorial on the global warming reportthe same day as Revkin's news story. Normally, when a lone reporter gets a scoop, he doesn't call up the editorial page to let them steal some of his glory. Rather, once the story is out, the ed page follows a day or two later. In this case, everyone in the enviro community apparently knew the report was due, including the NYT ed board. [Hardly a smoking gun. The ed page gets the story budget ahead of time on weekends. See corrective item above--ed.]

2) The main (likely!) bogus, aspect of Revkin's story -- a selling point that helped get it on the front page and that sold it to Drudge -- was the idea that the EPA's report represented some sort of deliberate attempt by Bush to go a bit green to enhance his political appeal. Revkin offers basically no evidence of this, aside from his own speculation that

The distancing could be an effort to rebuild Mr. Bush's environmental credentials after a bruising stretch of defeats on stances that favor energy production over conservation, notably the failure to win a Senate vote opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploratory oil drilling.

Indeed, it's hard to believe that Revkin didn't know this "green shift" angle was phony (as Bush now says  it is). Revkin himself noted that the report proposes no change in policy and has "alienated environmentalists." Plus a "senior administration official involved in climate policy played down the significance of the report" to Revkin himself. When the Bush administration wants to make a deliberate credential-burnishing shift to the left or the right, they leak it to the Times, but also call a press conference and maybe stage an event to get the word out. They don't quietly put a report on the Web and then, when the Times calls, pooh-pooh it. ... So why is the bogus angle in there? It's just as likely to be Raines bigfooting -- exhibiting the I-instinctively-know-what's-really-going-on-so-stick-this-in-your-piece arrogance described in Ken Auletta's New Yorker profile. Or it could be a reporter doing what he had to do to get his story on Page A-1. The least likely possibility is that Raines, pursuing a liberal environmentalist agenda, stuck in the bogus angle in order to get the story on the front page (where it could enrage Limbaugh, etc.) Raines didn't need a phony angle to put the piece on the front page -- he could have stuck it there anyway. He's editor of the paper! And a more accurate angle of "Bush's own EPA contradicts his global warming position" would be just as anti-Bush, and more in keeping with the goal of enviro activists, than a piece giving Bush points for having deliberately shifted in a green direction when he hasn't.  ...

P.S.: If the Times really is going to use the A1-to-Drudge-to-Limbaugh megaphone in an attempt to actually influence administration policy, it may find itself running into the Dowd Effect, which is George W. Bush's instinctive tendency to react against any idea suggested by the libs at the NYT.  The effect is familiar to Mary Matalin, whose favorable mention in a Dowd column  hurt her standing in the White House  In this case, if Bush was ever going to embrace the E.P.A. report, he isn't going to now.  ... Of course, that may mean the Times story was a bit of fiendishly clever reverse psychology on Raines' part to maneuver the President into un-burnishing his environmental credentials. But I doubt it. And a real enviro would want Bush to actually embrace the conclusion that humans are causing global warming. That would shift the baseline of the debate and raise more powerfully the question, "what are you going to do about it?"

P.P. S.: If you are looking for something to do about it (that doesn't involve embracing the onerous Kyoto Protocol), Gregg Easterbrook lays out an effective, do-able, non-Kyoto agenda in this excellent New Republic piece.


Monday, June 3, 2002

Regarding Nina Bernstein's tendentious and misleading welfare piece  in the NYT (see discussion below), alert kf reader "P" from Jersey writes:

Actually, the Times story offers two explanations of declining marriage rates:
1. Women seem so empowered under welfare-to-work they no longer have to settle for abusive creeps.
2. And they're so busy taking care of their children and working they no longer have time to leave their kids home alone to go out partying with potential abusive creeps.

Which of those is a bad thing?

These are crude stereotypes! But "P" has a point, and he suggests a larger one. Maybe the process by which welfare reform affects marriage is a long-term, multi-step, even dialectical process. 1) The first step is that single moms no longer have to settle, and no longer want to settle, for no-good men. (Cf. the 1999 song "No Scrubs,"  by TLC. The newly-working post-1996 single moms would be the "honeys with the money." The no-good men would be the "scrubs.") 2) The no-good single men, sensing the playing field shift against them, are initially disoriented and react angrily with nostalgia, machismo and bewilderment. (Cf. Rap lyric noted by Katherine Boo: "Give me a project chick./Give me a hoodrat bitch,/One that don't give a fuck.") 3) But, eventually, over years or maybe generations, the men will do what is necessary to qualify for the newly-selective honeys-with-the money, even if it means getting not-so-enjoyable jobs themselves and publicly respecting women and fidelity instead of glorifying "players." (Cf. "Let's Get Married,"  by Jagged Edge.) ... It's widely recognized that the great challenge of welfare reform isn't transforming single mothers on welfare into working single mothers -- that's the easy part! The hard part, as Paul Offner and others have argued (and as many single ex-welfare mothers would probably tell you) is transforming those ghetto-poor men who are no-goodniks into husbands and fathers. This isn't going to happen in the two years covered by Bernstein's studies. It may even require -- it's hard to believe it wouldn't require -- a longish intervening period in which working single moms raise their standards and blow off unemployed, inconsiderate men (scrubs) who aren't up to the challenge of marriage. ... We may be at the beginning of  such a tansformative process now. We may not be. That's one of the big questions of welfare reform. Neither Bernstein's narrow-gauge studies, nor the broader, extremely encouraging studies of the entire population that I prefer to cite, answer it. ... link

The Curse of Federalism: Isn't there something odd about complaints from conservatives Grover Norquist and David Keene that a DOJ proposal allowing "state and local law enforcement agencies to track down illegal immigrants  ... would set a dangerous precedent by empowering local jurisdictions to enforce many federal laws." Isn't federal law, like, the law? Aren't state and local officials obligated to enforce it, just as they're obligated to enforce the Constitution? ... Local police apparently complain that requiring them to actually enforce these laws "would jeopardize their relations with immigrants" -- and, say Norquist and Keene, "mechanisms already exist to foster federal-local cooperation in this area." But if they were effective mechanisms (e.g. state officials calling in the feds) then they would already have jeopardized relations with immigrants, no? The reason relations aren't jeopardized is that the "mechanisms" are ineffective. .. More damningly, the NYT account  makes it clear that even at this late date the "White House aides" (read, presumably, Karl Rove) are still worried "that the proposal could lead to racial profiling and lawsuits ... and alienate Hispanic voters." ... Note to unnamed White House aides: If you don't pay attention to Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan, maybe  Nicholas Kristof  is more to your liking ... Even Maureen Dowd is (somewhat inconsistently) arguing that the FBI is too "timid about racial profiling." ... P.S.: We'll know President Bush really thinks there's a "war" on not when he gives a stern speech at West Point but when he's willing to risk Rove's Great Hispanic Suck-up. ... P.P.S.: Norquist's complaint is of a piece with his longtime advocacy of a "leave us alone" coaliton (or, as Arianna Huffington puts it, "the Leva Salon"). But if there is one example of the sort of legitimate expectation that needs to be "reexamined" (i.e., pared back) as terrorists acquire increasingly ready access to means of mass destruction, it's the idea that the government must "leave us alone." ...

The Curse of Separated Powers: Let's see -- Pakistan's government helps us in the war against terrorism, and asks in exchange for lower tariffs on textile imports. The U.S. Congress says "no." Russia helps us in the war against terrorism, and asks in exchange that the Cold War Jackson-Vanik restrictions on trade be repealed. The U.S. Congress says "no". Turkey helps us out in the war against terrorism, and is promised trade benefits in return. But, according to the WSJ's "Washington Wire," Congress last week said "no" despite lobbying from Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Powell. ... Do other nations take our promises of economic rewards seriously? Will they continue to be suckers (falling for promises our executive branch can't make good on) in the future? ... I remember when Nicaraguan voters threw out the Sandinistas. American news reports said the Nicaraguans were hoping for massive U.S. aid.There were pleny of extremely good reasons to throw out the Sandinistas, but hopes for massive aid were not among them. Have we ever really delivered the economic goods as a reward in recent decades -- in the form of either foreign aid or trade benefits -- other than in the cases of Israel and Egypt? ...

What's the flaw in Nina Bernstein's front-page NYT story  that seemingly ties welfare reform to a decline in marriage? The studies Bernstein publicizes looked at single mothers who were on welfare. Of these women, those who kept getting the old-style welfare checks got married at higher rates than those who went through welfare-to-work programs. But the studies didn't look at what happened to women whonever go on welfare in the first placeonce they know that if they do they will have to go to work. Indeed, even if welfare reform mildly discourages those who are on welfare from getting married that factor could be outweighed by the fact that there are less than half as many people on welfare as there used to be. That's why national figures might show, as they do, that a smaller percentage of children are living in single-parent homes, while marriage is increasing among African-Americans. ... Bernstein acknowledges the conflict between her two studies and the national figures, but then suggests that her studies are superior because they "focus on welfare applicants." No! They present an incomplete picture because they "focus on welfare applicants," not on the much larger group of people who might go on welfare -- or, more precisely, who might have gone on welfare under the old system. ... It's the overall national marriage numbers we want to affect, not the numbers for those who happen to be on welfare, and since welfare reform in 1996 the overall national numbers have been going in the right direction for the first time in generations. (Bernstein also implies that the economy caused this effect, but previous good economies didn't.) ...

Nor do Bernstein's two studies of welfare applicants in two states seem well-positioned measure the larger cultural changes that can occur when all potential welfare recipients in all states know the rules have changed acrosss the nation. It matters less if there's a differential between those in welfare programs and those in welfare-to-work programs if both are moving in a pro-marriage direction. Who's to say that even those in the "control" group receiving traditional welfare after the 1996 reform weren't affected by the reform? Did they stop reading the papers or listening to the news or to popular music? ...

That said, it's not crazy to think that greater self-sufficiency for single mothers might lead to less marriage. (Women in these programs are often told "Yes, you can make it on your own!") It's just that this effect doesn't seem to be winning out over the other pro-marriage effects of welfare reform (like wanting to have someone to help you out, if you're going to have to juggle work and parenting). ... Nor can Bernstein have it both ways -- if welfare reform is making women less likely to marry because it is making them richer and more self-sufficient, then it can't be making them less likely to marry because they "are now doing much worse" economically than before. (Bernstein skillfully tries to fudge this contradiction in the first paragraph on this Web page. She's still "the Advocates' Advocate"!). ...

Click here to see the anti-reform broadside that is the press release for the larger study from which Bernstein plucks her marriage angle. The release mentions that "[i]n Connecticut, for example, women participating in the state's Jobs First program showed a lower marriage rate." But the study also looked at Florida and California. Hmmm. What happened to marriage rates there? Answer: Only Connecticut appears to have had a "control group" of women who stayed on old-style welfare. Still, in California and Florida, as far as I can see, two different "waves" of interviews, two years apart, were undertaken, and the text says "self-reported marital status did change significantly between waves 1 and 2, rising from ...7% to ... 12%." This statistically-signifcant increase is then waved away as a possible "artifact of sampling design and mother age." But is it? ... The full 102-page PDF-format study is here. You, the reader, decide whether my suspicion -- that if indicia of marriage had gone down they would have made a huge deal of it and maybe gotten Nina Bernstein interested! -- is correct. (See esp. page 60.) ... P.S.: The share of these single mothers who lived in "a household with one other adult" also rose, from 29% to 34%. ...

Final note: Contacted by Bernstein, Bush HHS official Wade Horn doesn't even put up a fight. That's apparently because Horn sees the studies as serving his purpose of getting $300 million in "marriage promotion" money. "What those two studies say to me is, if you up the work requirement and do nothing to support healthy marriages, you get less healthy marriage," Horn says.... In other words, we need "marriage promotion" to undo the supposed bad effects of work requirements! Aaargh! The administration's "marriage promotion" idea has already done more than $300 million in damage if it means that officials like Horn will no longer bother to defend the 1996 welfare reform and its positive effect on marriage. ... Note that Bernstein doesn't call on someone (Bruce Reed?) who would have an unambiguous ideological interest in knocking down the study. Instead, she brilliantly quotes a Bush official who has an interest in agreeing with her, knowing that having contacted a Bushie she'll appear to have discharged the obligation to 'call both sides.'...

What, sunup already?

AFSCME v. Jeb: "Labor leaders have started a multi-pronged campaign" against Florida governor Jeb Bush, reports the Florida Times Union, which cites three issues that have particularly angered the unions. ... It turns out, somewhat predictably, that a) "labor leaders" means mainly "[p]ublic sector unions, such as teachers and state workers;" and b) of the three contentious issues cited by reporter Jim Saunders

  1. "vouchers so that students can leave chronically failing public schools and attend private schools"
  2. making it easier to fire and hire state civil servants, and
  3. "plans to shift state jobs to private contractors"

Jeb Bush is almost certainly right on at least 1 and 2.  ... [Are you charging Saunders with "bias"?--ed. No. The story's straight.] ... (Thanks to kf reader A.E.)

Too Good to Check: "Startled marines find Afghan men all made up to see them," The Scotsman. (Sample: "The hardened troops, their faces covered in camouflage cream and weight down with weapons, radios and ammunition, were confronted with Afghans wanting to stroke their hair. 'It was hell,' said Corporal Paul Richard, 20.")...


Friday, May 31, 2002

NRO's Jonah Goldberg is onto Slate's little secret, namely that one reason this site gets so many visitors (over 3 million a month) is that it's constantly being plugged and linked on the Microsoft Network (MSN) and on MSNBC. Goldberg writes:

I would bet a big share of Slate's readers (half? Two-thirds?) have never bookmarked Slate.com and rarely if ever type out the URL. Instead they see a tease somewhere in MSN.com or MSNBC – something like "Is Torture Good?" or "Was Spock Gay?" --- and click on it.

It's called leveraging monopoly power, buddy! You got a problem with that? ... Actually, I suspect Slate will one day be profitable even if you subtract from its revenues what it would have to pay to buy the placement it gets on MSN and MSNBC. ... And Goldberg's analogy of Slate's readership numbers with the readership numbers of USA Today, which are inflated by that paper's practice of selling in bulk to hotels, seems inapt. The hotel guests who unknowingly pay for USA Today "may read it or they may chuck it in the trash," as Instapundit (whose site tipped me off to Goldberg's post) notes. (In fact, in many hotels at which I've stayed, they just stack the USA Todays in a corner of the lobby, where they often sit until they are replaced with the next day's stack.) But people who click on an article entitled "Was Spock Gay" are presumably people who want to read an article on whether Spock was gay. They're as legitimate as any other readers lured by a teasing hed. Who cares if they bookmark? They may not be part of the demographic group some advertisers want to target (I suspect they like Britney Spears more than the typical kausfiles "legacy reader," whom I see as more of a Wedding Present  man). But that's a different question. ...

Here's a calm, useful AP survey  of the state of research into Dr. Judah Folkman's now apparently passe cancer-fighting idea (anti-angiogenesis). There's some evidence that supports the decriers of Folkman "hype" -- patients clamored to get to use Folkman's first drug, which turned out not to work (at least by itself). But overall the outlook isn't discouraging, despite the herd negativism of investors and drug mavens. And Folkman's idea was still front-page news! Doctors will just have to get used to dealing with patients clamoring to get new drugs they read about in the papers. As for investors -- if they're driven by hype and then by excessive pessimism, that's mainly their problem, no? ... [Thanks to alert kf reader E.Y.] 

Meanwhile, Prof. Glenn Reynolds, the envy-inspiring Instapundit, who bestrides the blogosphere like a colossus, has some pithy and sensible things  to say about the current Supreme Court majority's crusade to expand that mighty bulwark of freedom, the Eleventh Amendment. (Reynolds doesn't think much of it, even though he's more or less a conservative. But he points out that today's Court was "just following a long line of stupid decisions" that date back to 1890. He's even written a law review article about it.) ...