Jason Turner, NY mayor Giuliani's welfare commissioner and a kausfiles hero, ran one of the few welfare programs in the nation that required recipients to work in public jobs if necessary. But Turner's efforts in NYC were hampered because under NY state law, if recipients refuse to work, they only lose part of their monthly welfare check -- it falls from $588 per month to $475 for a family of three, plus they get to keep food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid. The liberal NY state legislature prohibits a tougher "sanction." (Allegedly it would violate a vague state constitutional provision requiring "aid, care and support of the needy.") Recipients soon learned they could take the $113 hit and then tell the welfare department to get lost when it tried to get them into the labor force. ...Only 17 states have this weak penalty-- most states have a "full-check sanction" that eventually cuts off welfare entirely. But the 17 states include New York and California, which between them have 32 percent of the nation's welfare cases. ... Republicans in the House recently tried to require that all states install a "full-check sanction" or else pay for the continuing benefits out of their own funds. But the provision was gutted by GOP Ways & Means chairman Bill Thomas, who stuck in an exemption for New York and California. Thomas argued the two states were going to keep paying the benefits anyway, so why make them take the budgetary hit? But the underlying debate among reformers is whether Congress should tell states (and can get away with telling states) what to do in this sort of detail. ... Turner makes his case here. ... 6:15 P.M.
Two weeks ago a BET.com message board called on its readers to post their "Happy Father's Day shout-out." The site's staff urged: "Go ahead, tell your father how much you love him." BET.com expected "positive messages of love and support." Instead, its audience posted messages like:
I WANT TO THANK MY DAD FOR … NOT BEING THERE FOR ME. I WANT HIM TO KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE HIM!!
So much for any thought of glossing over the crisis of the black family. (In a follow-up, BET.com says it was "surprised" by "the intense anger shown on the message boards.") ... Maybe the Bush administration's "marriage promotion" PR initiative isn't such an idiotic idea after all. ...(Link via Instapundit and MarriageMovement.org) 1:00 P.M.
WaPo reports that former FBI deputy general counsel, Thomas A. Kelley, who is heading the Congressional intelligence committee's inquiry into the bureau's pre-9/11 antiterrorist performance, was accused of obstructing the Danforth inquiry into Waco:
According to a December 2000 internal FBI memo, Kelley "continued to thwart and obstruct" the Waco investigation to the point that Danforth was forced to send a team to search FBI headquarters for documents Kelley refused to turn over.
Danforth himself is quoted saying that getting documents from the FBI "was like pulling teeth." ... He's just a bit gruff, say his defenders. .. Note: As I read it, WaPo only charges that Kelley obstructed Justice, not that he obstructed justice. (Link via Instapundit) 2:00 A.M.
How to make Andrew Sullivan swoon: Tell him you'd marry him! ... Robert Reich has come out in favor of gay marriage, and Sullivan, who disagrees vehemently with Reich on probably 80 percent of all other issues, says, "For this reason alone, it seems to me voters in Massachusetts should vote for Reich." ... I would suggest that Andrew has lost perspective. Meanwhile, Reich has brilliantly solved his fundraising problem (he'll now get contributions from gay rights supporters all over the country). ... 1:30 A.M.
Sunday, June 23, 2002
LAT's Tim Rutten busts kausfiles for comparing Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate coverage to blogging and arguing that their blog-like methods -- producing a steady stream of stories that force sources to react, even if that comes at the expense of 100-percent accuracy -- are superior to former LAT editor Bill Thomas' method of "Do It Once. Do It Right."
1) It's not clear if Rutten is against Woodward and Bernstein or just "narcissistic" bloggers. But W & B's methods -- striving to publish "the best obtainable version of the truth" (Bernstein's words) in a series of non-definitive stories -- wound up revealing important truths and helped produce a revolution in governance. Thomas' "Do It Once" philosophy, when applied to California's amazingly juicy 1983-1987 Moriarty scandal (involving a fireworks manufacturer who plied state legislators with prostitutes and laundered campaign funds), produced a handful of lower-level convictions but (as two LAT reporters wrote)
"never penetrated the top echeleons of political power in Sacramento, as many former Moriarty associates and law enforcement officials had initially anticipated."
"Do It Once. Do It Right" is probably a good motto for an academic biographer. It's a ridiculous motto for a newspaperman, which is why the LAT of the Thomas era never really seemed like a newspaper, and why the Times' new owners, Chicago's Tribune Company, are busy trying to dismantle the dead, "velvet coffin" culture Thomas helped build.
2) Obeying what seems to be an iron law that applies to pieces by mainstream journalists huffing about blogger inaccuracy, Rutten's piece itself contains a non-trivial inaccuracy, attributing to me words (describing how W & B sometimes revealed "unsubstantiated or simply wrong information") that were actually written by historian Stanley Kutler and were clearly identified as such (see the item in the 6/19 entries below). The misreporting is non-trivial because it conveniently avoids the need for Rutten to mention that it was Kutler, who isn't a narcissistic blogger, who initially made the point Rutten's dismissing.. (It goes without saying that if Rutten were a blogger he'd have corrected his mistake by now, but since he works for a "serious newspaper" the falsehood will probably stand uncorrected forever.)
3) The pro-blog argument doesn't, I think, advocate anyone publishing anything less than Bernstein's "best obtainable version of the truth." What it does suggest is that the full truth will come out faster -- especially in an era of instant Web-based reactions and corrections --when journalists who have 50 percent of the story, or even 40 percent, publish what they know when they find it out rather than waiting until they think they have100 percent of the story (which of course they probably never do). ... I'd even claim, irresponsibly, that you'll often have a better chance of getting the truth from reluctant sources if you print the charges first (couched in the suitably uncertain phrases and questions most easily employed by opinion writers and bloggers) and get the reactions second -- since at that point sources who'll be reacting won't be tempted to think that by lying they can kill the story in its crib and prevent the charges from ever being made.
Friday, June 21, 2002
Gregg Kinnear as Chuck Lane? Good pick! Val Kilmer would work too, but he's so, you know, difficult. ... Plus, Bob Hoskins revives his career with his sensitive portrayal of Andrew Sullivan. Cameo by John Malkovich as Leon Wieseltier. [Doesn't Spalding Gray totally look the part?--ed Yes, but you need to capture the dark side. Malkovich.] 10:00 P.M.
Last night's World Cup soccer game between England and Brazil was decided when Brazil's Ronaldinho scored from 30 yards out. ... Granted it was a free kick, but even so, would this sort of long-range goal happen in women's soccer? And isn't the decreased ability of women to score from long distances the reason why women's soccer is typically tedious while men's soccer is typically riveting? I'm not a soccer person, but in the men's games I've seen, anytime the ball is anywhere near the goal there's always the threat that someone could pull a Ronaldinho and score, so you're on the edge of your seat. In the women's game there's no similar threat, and no tension. The women's World Cup final that the U.S. won a few years ago was -- until the deciding shoot-out -- probably the most stupefyingly boring major sporting event I've ever witnessed. (Even in a lopsided Super Bowl there's always the possibility something exciting will happen.) ... I know I'm not the first to ask this, but why the insistence that women play on the same size field with the same rules as men (an insistence that also has helped destroy the popular sport of old-style women's basketball)? Why not, say, make the women's soccer goal bigger? ...An alternative idea: Keep everything the way it is and then blame sexism when women's sports don't catch on the way everyone wants them to! ... [This column has turned into "Tilting at Windmills"--ed. Charles Peters, the first blogger!] 1:53 P.M.
Anti-"homeland" momentum builds: Peggy Noonan escalates the anti-"homeland" campaign with a memo to Karen Hughes. ... I was worried the "homeland" debate would become a right-left, pro-Bush/anti-Bush issue, but some Bush-sympathetic warbloggers like the all-powerful Instapundit have joined up with Noonan. .... I was also worried Noonan would wobble under the go-along-with-the-program pressure she might get from Bushies. But she has stuck to her point, even strengthened it, by noting that "the essence of American patriotism" isn't a love of the land -- nice as it is! -- but "a felt and spoken love for and fidelity to the ideas and ideals our country represents and was invented to advance--freedom, equality, pluralism:"
"When you say you love America, you're not saying our mud is better than the other guy's mud."
Right. What we have to offer isn't something only we can enjoy (mud) it's something they can enjoy as well if they choose (liberty, prosperity) -- a non-zero-sum deal. And it's not something we invented -- rather we are one stop in the long development of those ideals. "Homeland" suggests instead that the real emotion in this war is in an old-style, land vs. land, you-bomb-me-I-bomb-you zero-sum struggle (not unlike the seemingly unresolvable Middle East crisis). If we get into that mode, we won't be wrong, but we will have lost something, one of our major advantages. ... Noonan's also right that every one of the baker's dozen alternative names she chooses would be better than "Homeland Security." ...."Mainland Defense," in particular, is growing on me. It has a stolid, British, WWII quality. And Hawaii can handle it. ... What the anti-"homeland" campaign needs now: Backup fom Safire or Will -- or anyone who's been, you know, elected.2:36 A.M.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Wright, 1, Krauthammer, 0: In the wake of a series of horrifying suicide bomb attacks on Israelis, doesn't Charles Krauthammer's May, 15 column -- confidently declariing that Israel's "offensive into Palestinian territory" successfully stopped terrorism -- seem a bit ... well, premature, at least? .... After a scathing criticism of those who say "[t]here is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Krauthammer wrote of Israel's campaign:
The most dramatic effect has been a reduction in terrorism. It is no accident that while Israel suffered seven suicide bombings in the seven days of Passover, there has been but one successful suicide bombing in the past month. There will surely be others. But the frenzied wave of terror that pushed Israel over the edge has been stopped.
Why is the level of terror down? Because terror does have an infrastructure, and attacking and degrading it makes it harder for terrorists to operate, as the United States proved in Afghanistan. During Israel's offensive, hundreds of bomb makers, gunmen and trainers were captured. Others are on the run. Huge caches of illegal weapons and explosives were seized or destroyed. Can they be replaced? Perhaps, but it will take time.
Yes, it took time. A month. ... Meanwhile, on April 5, Robert Wright wrote:
... we shouldn't be beguiled by short-run success. If terrorist bombings indeed abate after the current incursion, prepare yourself for the inevitable Charles Krauthammer column touting the success of Sharon's iron-fist policy.
Wright's predictions -- that Krauthammer would write his triumphalist colunm and that the success of Sharon's campaign would be "short-run" -- now looks flawed mainly in that Wright overestimated the length of time terrorism would remain suppressed. (He said "a few months or even years.") ....P.S.: A few days after Wright, Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria also predicted that "military operations like Israel's will work--but only temporarily. They crush opposition for the moment but in the long run they enrage the local population ..." 4:35 P.M.
Stanley Kutler's somewhat huffyand Kalbian Slate article (on why we're bad people to talk so much about "Deep Throat," Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate source) nevertheless makes an excellent point about W & B's reporting:
What distinguished the Washington Post from other papers was its eagerness to report the news as the investigation unfolded, which sometimes meant revealing unsubstantiated or simply wrong information. Still, the Post reported it.
This is indeed something the Post's editor Ben Bradlee instinctively understood -- you keep the story going, with hit after little hit, which gets people talking, which panics sources into coming forward, which gets other papers into the hunt and ultimately brings much more information to light, even if this means you occasionally get something wrong ... This virtue of Bradlee's editorship, it seems to me, is also a virtue of blogging as a form of journalism. The Web really does put a premium on speed and spontaneity over painstaking acccuracy. Bloggers instantly print want they learn, and what they believe to be true. They sometimes -- often, actually -- get it wrong. But even those errors prompt swift corrections that take the story asymptotically closer to the truth. In the meantime, other bloggers and other sources are activated, which advances the story further, quicker. ...The way to not quickly get at the truth is to follow the unbloggish motto of the L.A. Times' editor of several decades ago: "Do It Once, Do It Right, And Do It Long." That philosophy was why the LAT of that era blew its coverage of scandal after juicy scandal. They waited to "do it once." Sources didn't come forward -- and by the time they finally did it once, nobody cared. ... The urge to "Do It Once, Do It Right" is also why Bradlee's duller successors at WaPo blew the Paula Jones/Clinton/sex story. ... [Are you arguing for a relaxation of libel laws as applied to blogs, to let them make more errors?--ed. Good question. "Reckless disregard" is a pretty loose standard already. I do think the Web changes the social calculus behind libel standards, but mainly because Web errors are corrected so quickly and relatively effectively -- the truth now gets its boots on and catches up with a lie halfway around the world, making errors much less dangerous, meaning we don't need as much of a social deterrent against them.. (Take it away Eugene Volokh!)] ... . P.S.: Deep Throat mattered precisely because, whoever he was, he enabled the blogger-like Post coverage noted by Kutler himself. As John Dean argues in a Salon Q & A:
Deep Throat is important because he gave the managing editor of the Post, Ben Bradlee, the confidence to keep publishing one story after another about campaign improprieties that high officials at the White House and [Nixon's reelection operation] kept denying. ...
Lagniappe explains why, contrary to yesterday's WSJ editorial, ImClone is more to blame than the F.D.A. for the non-approval of the "promising" anti-cancer drug Erbitux. I'm 90 percent convinced. But I still don't completely understand why patients who have a terminal disease shouldn't be allowed to try any drug that has even a hint of promise -- whether or not its maker has convinced the F.D.A. that it's "safe and effective." They're dying, after all. They can't wait. They'd be crazy not to look for a doctor who relies on scientific evidence. But isn't it their call? ...Bonus question: Who was the star of the 1993 movie produced by Dr. Samuel Waksal, ImClone's recently-arrested, high-profile former chief? Hint: It's someone who doesn't wait for no stinkin' F.D.A.! ...Click here for the answer. (Thanks to alert kf reader D. Moynihan.) 1:10 A.M.
OK, the left really is dead: From The American Prospect's "Tapped" column":
"Tapped has been a David Gergen fan for a long time ..."
Next: "Richard Darman: A Progressive Speaks Out!" ... 12:50 A.M.
Monday, June 13, 2002
NYT's Janny Scott cleans up the embarrassing mess Peter Kilborn and Lynette Clemetson made of the 2000 census results two weeks ago by delivering a fair and sophisticated second-take analysis. ... She nevertheless persists in approving the term "barbell economy." Three points: a) If you look at the income curve in the economies she's talking about, it's still a "bell curve," with a hump in the middle. It's not a barbell, with bulges at both ends. It's just a slightly flatter bell curve where the most rapid job growth is occuring on either side of the hump. b) Better an economy with growth at the top and bottom than one with growth just at the top, as economist Jared Bernstein notes in Scott's closing grafs;.c) The middle still did reasonably well --- even in the "barbell" city of San Francisco, the NYT's hired number-cruncher says that during the 90's the "income of people in the middle rose by $16,961, to $70,470."...
What really troubles people about income numbers these days, I strongly suspect, is not the relative rise and fall of the middle or the bottom or even of the top -- the crude distributional results analyzed by Scott. It's the increasing correlation of success with education, which gives the whole distribution a more invidious, meritocratic caste. But that could (and would) be happening whether the median was going up or down. Kilborn's latest gloom-finding piece, about the disappearance of low-skill, high-wage jobs in a strip-mining community is the relevant story, even if it's a decades-old one (and even if there are industries whose passing we lament more than strip mining). ... 2:00 A.M.
Scott Shuger, a good friend, a great guy, a no-b.s. writer and a Web pioneer (he gave "Today's Papers" a powerful voice) died in a scuba diving accident on Saturday. I miss him already. Kinsley has an appreciation here. 2:00 A.M.
As suspected, the Boston Business Journal report that had The American Prospect claiming a circulation of 500,000 contained a misplaced decimal point, the apparent result of a typo. (TAP claims circulation of 50,000). ... The story as posted on the BBJ site has now been corrected. ... Meanwhile, TAP's Walsh-like investigation into its almost-as-suspicious Web traffic claims grinds on. The magazine seems to be laying the groundwork for a "blame-the-stats-program" defense. ... 10:30 A.M.
Saturday, June 15, 2002
Reader-nominated names to replace "Homeland Security" (to date): Department of Domestic Security, Department of Domestic Defense ("3-D"), Continental Security, Mainland Defense, Mainland Security, Home Defense, Federal Security, Federal Security & Intelligence, Heartland Defense, Department of American Protection, Homefront Security, Interior Security, Civil Security, Civil Defense, Civilian Security or plain old Department of Security. ... (Remember the headline writers' motto: "Good ideas come from bad ideas!") ... Current kf faves in red. ... 6:30 P.M.
More: Joshua Micah Marshall also thinks "homeland" is "un-American ... creepy ... big-brotherish." ... "Man Without Qualities" agrees. ... As the NYT would say, it's an emerging national consensus!. ... On "Weekend Edition," National Public Radio's Alex Chadwick says of "homeland":
This is a word you'd read in George Orwell and you'd rather not see it in big block letters across the facade of a Washington office building. ..We do live in a world where real enemies mean us real harm. We do have to fight them. We have to defeat them. But in every battle we've fought and won our most powerful weapons have always been words. We ought to use the best ones we can find now, which means the ones that sound most like us.