Howell Raines was right about AOL Time Warner.

Howell Raines was right about AOL Time Warner.

Howell Raines was right about AOL Time Warner.

A mostly political Weblog.
July 21 2002 3:36 AM

Raines's Big 'I-Told-You-So'?

Plus stock options, left-wing violence, and teens not having sex.

John Ellis shorts the New York Times  because it's badly managed, is wasting money on television, and "is squandering its greatest asset, which is its reputation for delivering high quality information." The last charge is true, but I'm not sure that it follows that the Times won't succeed commercially. It certainly seems as if there is a large market of readers who share the paper's unembarrassed, moralistic anti-Bushism.... Meanhwile, alert kf reader G.R. remembers an unflattering section of Ken Auletta's New Yorker profile of Times editor Howell Raines:

Sometimes Raines imposed his own views on a story. In December, when Gerald Levin announced that he would step down as C.E.O. of AOL Time Warner and that his protege, Richard Parsons, would replace him, editors were puzzled by the meaning of the move. Suddenly, from one end of the long conference table, Raines asked, "It's obvious, isn't it?"

The others weren't so sure that it was.

"The old company won," Raines said. "That's the story!" The former political reporter, who is proud of being able to anticipate stories, was convinced that Levin and the Time Warner side of the company had won a battle with the AOL side. This editor-driven account appeared the next day, and it upset several business reporters, who thought the analysis was simplistic -- and wrong.

It now looks as if the simplistic, seat-of-pants angle Raines imperiously imposed on his reporters was, basically, right. ... Might Raines' overblown three-column-hed Saturday treatment  of the AOL Time Warner executive reshuffle have been a big I-told-you-so? Ordinarily, "Media Exec Forced Out" is only moderately more newsworthy than, say, "New Jersey Mayor Indicted" or "Italian Government Falls."  12:15 P.M. 


Friday, July 19, 2002

I agree with Michael Kinsley that most of the current debate over corporate reform is for show -- Washington Make Believe, as Charles Peters used to call it. I'm also perfectly willing, indeed eager, to think that changing the accounting treatment of stock options -- treating them as an expense deducted from profits instead of a caveat buried in the fine print -- won't make much of a difference because, as Kinsley argues, the investment pros read the fine print already. But if nobody's fooled by burying the options in the fine print, and a change would have no effect, then why have so many corporations, especially in the tech sector, lobbied so furiouslyto maintain the current arrangement? Are they fools? Obviously it makes a difference to them -- presumably because many investors look at reported profits and don't recalculate them after reading the footnotes....It's not as if there was irrational overinvestment in tech or anything! ... Larger point! Kinsley's piece is v-funny, and like most of the pols he ridicules, I've never cared much about the accounting treatment of stock options before. (I still don't, actually.) But my main political dispute with Kinsley is over income distribution -- he's more redistributionist than I am. Shouldn't someone who's so willing to take money away from the rich -- even when they've  fairly earned it in the marketplace -- be more worried about one of the major ways they might be unfairly earning it? ... The vulgar Marxist explanation:: I don't have Microsoft stock options and Kinsley does.. ...2:45 A.M.

No danger on the Left? If you don't think there's any danger of political violence coming from the angry anti-Bush left, check out this creepy message-board post  on the subject of how to seat Gore (the "duly-elected President") in the White House. I'd repeat the money sentence here but I don't want the Secret Service on my case. ...Remember, it only takes a few fringe cases. ...P.S.: The place where this is posted seems to be a  forum for discussing, which is a site associated with Media Whores Online. It doesn't appear to be actually posted on That doesn't change the basic point, which is that this is how some of the people who read those sites are thinking these days.  [How can you be so sure Bartcop is associated with Media Whores?--ed. On the Media Whores site it says "In Association With"] 1:45 A.M.


The New Republic blasts Tom Daschle for blocking a bill to require the expensing of stock options (if a company deducts that expense on their tax returns). Good point! But the magazine turns Daschle's misguided action into a righteous indictment of New Democrats for betraying their principles. Is Daschle such a New Democrat? I'm not sure TNR's veryNewly Democratic itself these days -- does the magazine really feel betrayed or is it just seizing on the stock option dispute as an occasion on which to bash DLC-types as hypocrites? (The paragraph lauding past New Democrat accomplishments reads a bit like a committee of atheists praising the achievements of the Catholic Church.)  ...P.S.: And why not criticize Sen. Lieberman -- who's been more enthusiastic about blocking option-expensing and is more of a New Dem -- by name? ... P.P.S.: The editorial also usefully points to this excellent John Judis piece, which I'd missed in May, on why options should be declared as expenses if they're deducted as expenses. Judis does finger Lieberman. ...11:30 A.M

Does anyone deny there is some large cultural shift going on in the African-American community? Check out these statistics on sexual activity of high school girls, showing a giant (one-fifth) drop for black, non-Hispanic women in just two years, from 1999-2001. (Here is a brief discussion of the drop from Child Trends.) ... I credit welfare reform, of course -- do you have a better explanation? -- though whatever the cause, the shift seems like a good thing. ... It's also a reminder that the '90's weren't necessarily the loose, immoral decade now referred to in the press (especially by Clinton-blaming Bushies).  ... [Isn't the statistical drop too big to be believed? Maybe the high-schoolers lied in answering the survey questions--ed. Even if they lied, that itself reflects a cultural shift -- e.g., early sex becoming more embarrassing or shameful. Why would teenagers now feel the need to lie, more than they did in previous years?] .. Thanks to K of N.Y. for the tip. 10:45 A.M.


Et tu, Hendrik? 9:45 A.M.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

The Daily Howler spends many precious screens defending Katie Couric in her debate with Ann Coulter. Background: On the September 27, 1999, Today show, Couric said Edmund Morris called Reagan an "airhead," rather than what Morris had really said ("apparent airhead"). Noting that the Washington Post had originally misquoted Morris and omitted the "apparent," the Howler's Bob Somerby says:

Why did Couric say what she did? Because everyone thought it was true. [Italics his.]

But the Post had promptly published a correction of its error, on September 24, and there was enough of a media fuss about the "airhead" description that the Post's correction didn't go unnoticed. Couric had three days to get it right. Indeed, on the very same show in which she got it wrong, NBC correspondent Bob Kur (in a report introduced by Couric herself) read the entire Morris quote and did get it right. But Today omitted the "apparent" again in an opening teaser the next day. So I don't think Somerby's 'mass ignorance' defense will fly. ... P.S.: I'm perfectly willing to believe this distortion was caused by a desire to generate viewer-attracting controversy more than it was caused by "liberal bias." (It's overdetermined!) The whole "airhead" spat was in large part a fake PR-driven festival of mutual-promotion rather than a real dispute. Was even Morris unhappy to be misquoted, since the misquote stoked the controversy and boosted sales?  P.P.S.: Somerby doesn't even discuss the issue on which kausfiles took Coulter's side -- Couric's righteous insistence that Today only used the "airhead" teaser for "just one day." Couric was wrong about that. Why can't Somerby admit it? Isn't it possible for liberalism to be right even if Katie Couric isn't? 12:00 P.M.

Krugman, Kristof. Who's more p----- off? It's a PR man's nightmare: You feed the same story to two reporters and they both run with it, on the same day and the same op-ed page. Embarrassing to both of them -- like two stars showing up in the same dress on Oscar night. But the New York Times seems no more embarrassable on the subject of Bush-bashing overkill than the Wall Street Journal ed-page was on the subject of Clinton-bashing overkill. ... And it was useful that Paul Krugman and Nicholas Kristof   both wrote the same column yesterday about Bush's 1990s Texas Ranger land deal, because the charges made by one columnist in part cancel out charges made by the other. Thus, if Bush "did a great job leading the owners' group" as it "bullied and misled the city into raising taxes to build a $200 million stadium," as Kristof alleges, then the extra money he got from his partners wasn't really an unjustified "$12 million gift" (read "bribe") as Krugman implies. It was money his partners probably felt he'd earned. ... P.S.: Isn't it also true that if Bush was relieved of his Harken stock, before it temporarily tanked, by a friendly benefactor (as has been suggested) then Bush is almost certainly not guilty of using his inside-information to foist the stock off on some innocent third-party buyer. Presumably the friendly benefactor would have been doing Bush a favor precisely because he (the benefactor) knew the stock wasn't worth what he paid for it.  ... P.P.S.: Krugman does have a powerful point when he suggests the privatizing Social Security might allow a pol to steer lucrative fund-investing business to political cronies, as Bush is alleged to have done with the University of Texas' giant endowment. But doesn't this objection apply  more to Democratic plans to have the government invest Social Security funds collectively than to Republican plans to let individuals manage their own "private" accounts? ... P.P.P.S.: Also, isn't Bush's Social Security privatization clearly dead, dead, dead, and therefore not worth all the effort Krugman expends attacking it as if it were a live threat. ..P.P.S. -- Shafer and Kaus show up wearing the same dress: Slate's Jack Shafer, who's been much more effective than kf in busting the NYT  (he's humiliated them in four straight columns --  one, two, three, four) notes that the Times itself used the same strongarm condemnation tactics Bush is alleged to have used in his "land grab." ... 3:00 P.M.


Worthwhile Welfare Initiative: I'd thought welfare caseloads were still falling, despite the recession and the dire predictions of liberals that the new reform regime would fail if the economy turned sour. But  Douglas Besharov points out  that caseloads did rise slightly during the second half of 2001 -- by at least 2.3 percent, if you count recipients shifted to separate state programs in New York and Minnesota. Still ...

a) Even if the rise is really five percent -- when you count recipients shifted to state programs in other jurisdictions -- this increase follows a 59 percent decline, as Besharov notes. That's still an impressive shrinking; overall. And five percent is less of a recessionary increase than you'd probably expect. Between 1990 and 1991, for example, during the downturn that cost the elder Bush his presidency, the number of families on welfare rose almost 11 percent, from a much higher base.

b) The ability of states to shift recipients to "state-only" programs is one reason the various time limits and work requirements labelled "draconian" by liberals aren't really so tough -- if states want to get around them, they can do so fairly easily, by moving recipients into programs that are nominally funded with "state" money only;

c) If caseloads are going to rise when private sector jobs are hard to get, all the more reason to have a program of standby public jobs. President Bush's proposed work requirements are designed to push states in that direction -- but Democrats are resisting.  ...

It's not clear if Besharov's info has any other large policy implications, other than that states shouldn't assume caseloads are going to fall forever no matter what happens to the economy. That didn't stop NPR from whisking Besharov onto the air, where he declined to give them the gloom they seemed to crave.(NPR's billing: "Lynn talks with Douglas Besharov about the increase in welfare cases since last July, despite reports that welfare reform has been successful.") Besharov persisted in calling reform a success overall  ...1:50 A.M.


Tuesday, July 16, 2002

McCain's Camp Responds: Mark Salter, Sen. John McCain's aide, emails to rebut kf's criticism of McCain's stock-option proposal -- I'd suggested that forbidding execs from cashing in until they leave a company would create an incentive for good execs to quit:

the senator consulted a number of people, (retired and currently serving CEOs) as he prepared the suggested reforms he identified in his speech last week.  we tried to anticipate criticism for each one, and did discuss the criticism you made with his advisors. the thoughts below are typical of the rebuttals they offered.  ...

"That argument has always been fallacious. Typically, companies restrict grants of options and stock from becoming fully vested for 3-5 years after they're awarded. Because new grants are made annually, execs always have a sizeable amount of unvested awards that they will forfeit if they leave voluntarily before the vesting periods end. Vesting may be automatic if the executive leaves after the normal retirement date but sales of stock may still be restricted for the remainder of the original vesting period. During that restriction period, some companies reserve the right to cancel vesting if the executive joins another company deemed to be a competitor.

You can be sure that companies will be creative in altering their compensation plans to retain desired execs if the Senator's proposal is enacted. For example, restriction periods on new grants could be extended to strengthen the retention element, and the mix of cash, stock and options awards could be adjusted to assure that the executive has ample current income and therefore little incentive to leave before normal retirement age.

Secondly, even if executives would like to leave their company in order to sell their stock, there aren't many other companies to which most top managers can go and have similar responsibilities.  Most people won't voluntarily walk away from power, prestige, perks and pay just to sell their vested stock.

There are a substantial number of companies (see an article in Saturday's Times that cites BankOne, Citigroup and others as examples) that have already prohibited executives from selling stock before retirement. As Jamie Dimon, BankOne's CEO, said, "management should eat its own home cooking."


Thanks to Salter for responding, but I'm still not convinced. Sen. McCain's unnamed adviser doesn't deny that McCain's plan gives executives an incentive to quit. He just argues there are complicated ways to diminish this incentive. But why go through all that.? Wouldn't a simple requirement that options be held for many years (and perhaps that they be cashed in over a similarly long period) stop execs from artificially running up stock prices and then cashing in ("pump and dump") -- and do it without creating an incentive to quit that then has to be counteracted? Update: Robert Musil offers a longer and nastier critique. ... 12:20 P.M.


Shocking Zogby poll  finding: "Majority less likely to invest because of scandals." Were you expecting a majority to be more likely to invest because of the scandals? .. 8:00 P.M.

The Bush administration has made it official: Over the weekend, Secretary of Education Rod Paige defended bilingual education (as a valid choice for local school boards)and came out against  the anti-bilingual-ed, English-immersion ballot initiative in Colorado. Isn't there any dissatisfaction on the right with Bush's Rove-driven endorsement of a discredited Carter-era ethnic-porkbarrelling educational fad? Just asking! ... 11:30 A.M.

During the Flytrap scandal, didn't Bill Clinton's defenders argue that the U.S. should be more like Europe, where they allegedly have a more sophisticated and tolerant attitude toward things like extramarital affairs? How, then, to explain this story, of the Swiss ambassador to Germany driven from his job when a tabloid published an apparently erroneous report (for which it has now apologized) that he ... cheated on his wife! 10:45 A.M.


Good Sebastian Mallaby column on stock options and how they facilitate out-of control CEO pay, which he tellingly contrasts with movie star pay, which is not out of control but rather negotiated at arm's-length with shrewd producers and studio execs. Unlike Ken Lay, Tom Hanks really is worth all those millions. (He can "open" a grim picture  like Road to Perdition.) ... Mallaby's only solution, however, is a vague, ambitious restructuring of corporate rules to insure that "the chief selectors of company directors are not the bosses but the shareholders." Shareholders formally choose directors now, don't they? What would Mallaby do differently? ... Meanwhile, has anyone commented on the obvious perverse consequence of Sen. John McCain's signature proposal  that

Top executives should be precluded from selling their own holdings of company stock while serving in that company. Executives should be allowed to exercise their options, but their net gain after tax should be held in company stock until 90 days after they leave the company.

Doesn't this create a highly undesirable incentive for competent executives who've actually improved their companies, and hence their companies' stock prices, to immediately quit in order to exercise their options? ...Yes, we want to discourage greedy CEOs from cashing in on temporary upward blips -- but that can be accomplished by simply requiring that options be held for a long time. ...P.S.: Would all President McCain's policy proposals be as half-baked as this one? ... 1:35 A.M. 



"Even if Democrats win back the House this fall, Gephardt is a virtual lock to run for president, his advisers say." -- buried in page A-15 Washington Post story. 11:00 P.M.

Those Pakistani madrassas are still in business, reports WaPo. ... And why do we think that encouraging the Islamic schools to "modernize" -- by offering "computer classes" and making "the Internet available" to students -- will produce fewer potential Islamic terrrorists as opposed to potentially more effective, modernized Islamic terrorists, at least in the short run? 11:15 A.M.

Miscegenation -- an official trend: The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a seemingly important taboo-busting story on the increase in black women dating white men. The evidence of this trend is not only anecdotal -- AJC's John Blake says

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of black female/white male marriages remained relatively static between 1960 and 1980, increasing from 26,000 to 27,000. But by 2000, the number had jumped to 80,000.

Why the shift? Blake emphasizes the large percentage of black men who are off the dating scene because they're "in jail, or are murder victims." But isn't there another possible factor, something that happened in, say, the mid-90s, something like ...(the suspense must be killing you) ... welfare reform? It's not only that the hundreds of thousands of black women who are now working rather than on welfare  come into contact with non-black men at work, It's also that when you're working the virtues of pooling your income with a male earner are now far more obvious than in the days when that could cost you your AFDC check. If there aren't enough "marriageable" black men around -- and if too many of those who are around "know the numbers favor them so they have less incentive to treat a black woman well." -- then women expand their "options," as one African-American Web designer puts it:

"I'm not going to sit on a porch in a rocking chair, all alone at 80 years old because of color," says Wanda Dunn, a 37-year-old Stone Mountain Web designer.

One reaction to that sentiment: It's about time! Black-white miscegenation may have been slow to get off the ground, but once it gets started it seems likely to transform the national culture. ... The AJC touches on all the other obvious themes -- the diminishing-but-still-evident social opprobrium, male insecurity in the face of the college degrees and earning power of many black women, male complaints that black women are too status conscious. ... Two issues go unaddressed: 1) How will black men react when black women start getting all sorts of favorable publicity (in newspaper stories like this one, and advertising imagery) for going out with non-black men? Anger seeems one short-run possibility. 2) Then there is the final taboo issue -- black male sexuality. Fear of black male sexuality was the psychological engine of Jim Crow, Nicholas Lemann has argued. And respect for it is the unwritten explanation for a lot of the resistance to cross-race dating (betwen 1960 and 1980, for example).  I once asked a multi-degreed, accomplished black woman friend of mine (who dated whites) why so many other black women restricted their "options" to black men. She paused thoughtfully, stroked her chin, and said:

"I guess it's the sex."

Blake's story leaves the reader with the impression the biggest obstacle white men-seeking-miscegenation face is that they might not know what "P-funk, nappy hair and playing the dozens" mean -- that they lack an understanding of the black "experience" and "heritage."  That's what newspaper editors would like to think! ... Even so, Blake's story ("Could Mr. Right be White?") seems like a big advance. ... 1:30 P.M.



Pray for Bubbles: Good Michael Jackson empire-crumbling dish  in this FoxNews column. ... P.S.: Isn't Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, identified as Jackson's colleague in an apparently unproductive theme park/restaurant venture, the same guy whose $10 million post-9/11 check N.Y. Mayor Giuliani rejected  when an accompanying news release quoted the Prince saying that "the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East" because that was one of "the issues that led to such a criminal attack"? ... . 8:00 P.M.

Malcolm Gladwell e-mails:

i was waiting for someone to write that! okay, here's my answer:

kausfiles is quite right. i was wrong, and susan love ought to feel vindicated. this is the perilous--and, of course, fun--part of writing about medicine. every now and again, scientists discover something new that turns everything we all thought we understood upside down.

7:32 P.M.

As Slate's  Emily Yoffe notes, the dramatic recent finding on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women -- it was thought to decrease heart disease and increase breast cancer, but it turns out to increase both   -- was a victory for the New Agey celebrity Dr. Susan Love, who's been questioning HRT for years. It was also a victory for the pandering pols who placated the feminist lobby by funding the massive Women's Health Initiative, which included one of the seemingly decisive HRT studies -- and for the politicized Food and Drug Administration, which overruled its own advisory panel and ordered more studies before HRT could be sold as a way to prevent heart trouble. ... But there were losers too, and not just Wyeth, the maker of Prempro, a hormone replacement. It also looks as if the estimable Malcolm Gladwell was wrong when he attacked Dr. Love in what seemed at the time a devastating 1997 New Yorker article (available on Gladwell's Web site) with the subtitle "How Wrong is Dr. Susan Love?". Here are some Gladwell passages that appear somewhat embarrassing today (emphasis added):

There is another possible complication: estrogen does such a good job of fighting heart disease that most women who are on H.R.T. live substantially longer than women who aren't. ....

Most experts agree that, in the end, H.R.T. is probably linked to some increased breast-cancer risk. What all the questions suggest, though, is that the effect is probably not huge and is certainly nowhere close to cancelling out the benefits of estrogen in fighting heart disease. ...It is, unfortunately, very hard to convince most women of this fact.

Love may still have overestimated the importance of breast cancer relative to heart disease, as Gladwell contends. That turned out not to matter, since the HRT drugs were bad on both counts (avoiding the need to balance the risk of one disease against the other). Gladwell pretty clearly erred in denouncing Love's belief that the studies suggesting HRT decreased heart disease were vitiated by "selection bias" -- that is, they showed that people who took HRT were healthier, but it turned out that this was only because healthier people were the ones who chose to take HRT. ... Maybe Gladwell has an answer to all this, or maybe he frankly admits error. I've emailed him and will print any response I get. ... P.S.: The new profession Gladwell popularized in 1997, coolhunting, didn't work out so well either. A year ago, Ruth Shalit.busted coolhunting as a flop in Salonand Details. The New York Times, characteristically, discovered the same thing last week. Though, come to think of it, if the NYT is now saying coolhunting isn't cool maybe it's cool again. ...  2:30 A.M.

Harmonic convergence of scandal: Arthur Andersen plus the Catholic Church!  All that's missing is Dr. Waksal. ... 1:00 A.M.


Thursday, July 11, 2002

Annoyed kf reader and Media Whores Online defender Z.S. emails with this challenge:

Give one example of MWO's a determinedly dumb style. And as for ad hominem rhetorical style, what do you call trashing MWO without providing any back-up of its iniquities?  ...  Is it possible that you have no response because you are the one making nonsensical ad hominem accusations?  And I don't know about determinedly dumb but your posts are typically clueless and moronic.  ... You really are a c--t of the first order. [Ugly word masked--ed.]

One example? .. Gee. How about "whores," for starters? Why is everyone who disagrees with the MWO position a "whore"? Maybe one or two of them just disagree! ... And I am not a coot. That's a fighting word, buddy! ... 12:15 A.M.



Media Whores Online stoutly denies that its determinedly dumb and ad hominem rhetorical style might encourage violence. Fair enough.  ... On the other hand, kausfiles can't help but notice that the standing illustration for Joe Conason's new blog  on Salon -- which is heavily promoted today on Media Whores  -- depicts Conason coming up behind President Bush and stabbing him in the ribs with a pen. ... Is it too much to say that if anti-Bush editors let this sort of latent fantasy get published -- it's really creepy, makes Conason look like Jack Ruby -- they might be inspiring less temperate thoughts on the fringes of their readership? ...[Maybe the transgressive drawing is an intentional, desperate play for publicity by David "The Boat Is Leaking" Talbot?-ed. Even so.] Correction: Conason e-mails to point out that, contrary to my previous report, and to the implication of this subscription-grubbing Salon editor's note, his blog is not subscription-only, at least most of the time.Except for one day each week, it's free.. (Which day do you have to pay? They don't say!) 12:15. P.M..

Aha! Here's the point of the H______d Security department: Deep in the bill to establish the new agency is a provision that would allow a "flexible," and "contemporary" personnel managment system, "grounded in the principles of merit and fitness." Translation: They want to be able to fire people. WaPo, which gives the issue  extended coverage (this is what's really important in D.C.!.) reprints the slippery explanations of Tom Ridge, and other Bush officials, who go on about how they want to keep the "best of the civil service" rules, which pointedly don't seem to include the rules that preclude firings. Nice try! The government employee unions will not be fooled. ...

The administration is of course right to want to be able to fire H______d Security employees -- the balance throughout government is tilted way too far in the employees' direction now, and if the hindsight-driven investigations of pre-9/11 dot-nonconnecting showed anything it was that some people need firing. But if the ability to hire and fire is good for the H______d Security agency, why isn't it equally good for the Department of Defense, or Health and Human Services? ...

This is the sort of crucial legislative detail that the real H______d Security fight will be about, while the press reports on all the grander rhetorical positioning. In particular, Democrats (and Republicans from Northern Virginia) can be expected to resist "flexible" and "contemporary" labor provisions as if they were defending the Alamo, while doing everything to avoid drawing too much attention to the issue. Some things are more important than the fight against terrorism! ...Majority Leader Tom Daschle -- who seems to be trying to strangle this baby in its crib -- gave the following patriotic statement to WaPo on behalf of his fellow Democrats:

 "I think it's safe to say that there is unanimous opposition to the administration's proposal to circumvent the civil service laws of the country .... We can't do that."

Bush might benefit by keeping a spotlight on this issue, and on the screw-ups that merit firings. But his strategy, at the moment, is apparently to sweet-talk the proposed department's 170,000 workers while he sneaks civil-service reform past them. It's hard to believe this approach will work. ... P.S.: WaPo's story does contain get one genuinely patriotic, un-slippery quote, worth reprinting here:

 "I'm a union man, no question about it," said customs inspector Bill Ball, NTEU chapter president in Kansas City, Mo. "But you've got to put your priorities in place. If we lose our union protections for national security, so be it."

Here's to you, Bill Ball. Is that NTEU headquarters on the line? ...[How do you know "the balance .. is tilted way too far in the employees' direction" in government?--ed. I worked there.] ... Update: The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is behind the "secretive" group that is running issue ads attacking Bush. Now we know a big reason why. If there's anything AFSCME cares about more than the rules for firing government employees, I don't know what it is. It's certainly not corporate accounting and insider trading (the "issue" in the ads). ... More: AFSCME gave a list-topping $5.9 million in soft money  to the Democrats in the 2000 election cycle. And another $3.4 million so far in the current cycle. ... 9:50 P.M.

Das Gloat: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is entitled to a bit of schadenfreude, but generalizing from the U.S. accounting scandals  to the general inferiority of U.S.-style shareholder-oriented corporate governance seems a leap. ("Now it has been revealed that egotism practiced at the top under the catchphrase 'shareholder value' is worth less in macroeconomic terms, but also as far as the companies themselves are concerned ....") What's Germany's unemployment rate again? Oh, yes  -- 9.5 percent. [Thanks to kf reader A.E.]  ... Update: As an anti-Eurogloat measure,  Instapundit links to  this study (which seems to show that the U.S. has relatively honest corporate reports compared with those in other countries) and to a (non-free) David Ignatius story on a hearteningly large  French corporate scandal involving accounts that concealed a "chain of fraud and bribery."  Meanwhile, the Hauser Report argues that only the unemployment rate in West Germany should count.  ...  9:00 P.M.


Tuesday, July 9, 2002

France's Islam Problem: Chris Caldwell delivers by far the best American article I've seen on France's Islam problem, which includes the growth of an American-style underclass of Muslim immigrants. ("Fifty percent of France's unemployed are Muslims.") Among other points--this isn't a SkipperTM!--1) Caldwell makes it clear why it's not crazy or racist for French voters to conclude (as 63 percent concluded in one poll two years ago) that there are "too many Arabs" in the country. Islam, unlike Catholicism, Judaism, etc, has "confounded every governmental attempt to assimiliate it into Frances' sternly secular order;" 2) Caldwell offers yet more evidence of the connection between welfare and terrorism -- French welfare subsidizes a macho Arab ghetto culture that supplies Islamic fundamentalism with angry young men; 3) Saudi Arabia subsidizes the most important Muslim organization, extreme in its religious conservatism; 4) "Of the country's 230 major imams, none is French." 5) France is following America's steps in dealing with its underclass, as predicted by political scientist Larry Mead. The French have just discovered affirmative action, for example....Caldwell doesn't offer much of a solution, and seems to argue that France's secular order, in which religion is kicked out of the "public square," is vulnerable because it can't be defended with the same ardor as America's version of church/state separation, in which public life is permeated by religion. ... But what about welfare reform? Just a thought! ... 2:00 A.M.

A group of Scott Shuger's friends joined his widow and daughter Saturday evening to scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean, off his favorite diving spot. Those present included several of his friends from the women's self-defense center where he'd worked -- a whole part of Scott's life I hadn't known about. We watched in silence as the rose petals and Scott's remains floated away. Some dolphins jumped out of the sea. We drank some German beer in his honor, then headed home. 12:30 A.M.


Monday, July 8, 2002

Pssst: Kausfiles now haslinks --a traditional blogger feature! ... They're all the way at the bottom of this page, near the center of the earth. ... 8:00 P.M. reports that Abu Qatada, the alleged "spiritual leader and possible puppet master of al-Qaeda's European networks," is "tucked away in a safe house in the north of England, where he and his family are being lodged, fed and clothed by British intelligence services." Time and OpinionJournal imply that the Brits are "sheltering a puppet-master" because they fear "al-Qaeda reprisals."...  But what makes everyone so sure Abu Qatada is not being  ... you know,  tortured? If he were having secrets wrung out of him, wouldn't a nice story in Time about how he's being kept safe be just the thing to throw everyone off track? ... Connect the dots! ... 4:00 P.M.

37 is a lot of percentage points. So why does Bush need to appease various interest groups and voting blocs as if he had only a 3 point lead? ... [Link via Drudge ] 3:45 P.M.

Violence, right or left? Kf friend J.R. emails with a not-atypical reaction to my earlier, incomplete discussion of left-wing violence:

    Seems to me the violence in American politics -- incipient and actual -- has been mainly on the right for most of the last three decades.
    Whatever else one says about the left -- if you can find them -- they aren't the ones with the guns.

But that's the point!. In recent years, most of the anger, and violence, has indeed been on the right. Bill Clinton's presidency was almost perfectly calculated to cause a vast buildup of right-wing rage. (Here was a man of dubious morality, who lied, who claimed to be a "new" kind of Democrat and who was getting away with it!) As recently as December, 2000, it was pretty clear that Bush won the Florida recount, in part, because the right was simply more pissed off than the left -- which was why the prospect of a Gore recount victory, followed by a fight in the Florida legislature and the House of Represenatives, must have been so unappealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. (As it was, we did have one  lawless Republican semi-riot, in Miami- Dade, which was then celebrated on the ed page of the Wall Street Journal.)


But now, it seems to me, there's started to be more pent-up rage on the left. Now, Bush is the one 'getting away with it.' The American left, however tame by European standards, is giving up substantive ground (vouchers, welfare, taxes) and, even more frustrating, left-of-center politicians must stifle their criticisms in the name of patriotism.


I wasn't suggesting that unions, or even their fringe backers, would be the new instigators of violence in this country -- or that labor issues would be the issues that ignited lawlessness, as in Italy (where two economists who wanted to relax labor protections have been assassinated). Violence seems much more likely to come from radical environmentalists or fringe anti-globalists. (According to the Washington Times, one radical enviro group plans to publish a directory of 'the individuals responsible for the widespread crimes against nature perpetrated by humanity upon the earth and its creatures." This directory could be misused.)


I do worry that the crude, hyperbolic, ad hominem, preach-to-the-converted invective of anti-Bushies in places like  Media Whores Online -- promoted by theoretically respectable people like James Carville and Paul Begala -- creates an atmosphere in which a few especially zealous followers might do something. That worry is real even if MWO's determinedly un-nuanced rhetorical style is simply giving the right a taste of its own medicine. That is, again, the point -- that a danger that was mainly on the right is now in large part on the left. 


It only takes a few, we've learned -- and if you figure that for every 500,000 pissed off and frustrated citizens (in either camp) one or two might resort to terror, then increased left-wing violence is something we can see coming down the road. That's true even if the law-abiding/violent ratio is somehwat higher on the left, because they tend not to have the guns -- yet. 2:30 P.M.  


Coulter 1, Couric 0: Two weeks ago, Today host Katie Couric got into a dispute with her guest Ann Coulter over how many times Today had misleadingly said Reagan biographer Edmund Morris called his subject an "airhead." (What Morris really said was that Reagan had been an "apparent airhead" but that he'd learned this wasn't true.)

Coulter: So for the Today show to be opening three days in a row, Ronald Reagan was an airhead, I'm sorry, that's dishonest.

Couric: It was one day. And also, just for your information it, was one day.

Coulter: No, you said it one day. Matt Lauer said it another day.

Couric: No, it was just one day, and we'll get the transcripts for you

Let's go to NEXIS! Answer: Two days, three times (plus once on "Later Today"). Couric said it on Sept. 27, 1999. The next day, as charged, Lauer opened the show by talking about "the author's assertion that Reagan was a great president but an airhead." NBC's Jamie Gangel repeated the "airhead" charge without the "apparent" later that day in a Today interview with ex-President George H.W. Bush.  The winner: Coulter on points. She was closer to the truth than Couric, who picked this particular fact fight and was wrong. ... The account in Coulter's book (which doesn't make the "three days" charge) appears to be completely accurate -- though whether Today was guilty of dishonest liberal bias or dishonest ratings-grubbing hype is a call you, the reader, can make. [Who fed this to you? Coulter?--ed. Senior officials in the Coulter camp. But it checked out.] 1:30 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]