Will violence now come from the left?

Will violence now come from the left?

Will violence now come from the left?

A mostly political Weblog.
July 8 2002 6:16 PM

Will violence now come from the left?

Ask yourself which side is angrier these days.

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.

Time.com 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.


Sunday, July 7, 2002


"Officials Puzzled About Motive of Airport Gunman Who Killed 2" (hed in 7/6 NYT). ... Hmm. I'm not puzzled about the motive of the airport gunman. Are you? ... The warbloggers have been all over this one, with FBI mouthpiece Richard "See No Terror" Garcia coming in for special ridicule. See L.A. Examiner, Instapundit, and Sullivan. ...5:00 P.M. mm


Saturday, July 6, 2002

Accountants have reexamined kausfiles' financial records for the first half of 2001. Instead of a profit of $318.60, as previously reported in the New York Times, our restated earnings show a loss of $3.8 billion. We regret the error. 12:40 P.M.


Friday, July 5, 2002


Burying the story, and the lede too: How many people are going to read an article with this title? --

"Reforming the Italy's extreme labor restrictions in Italy is no slice of tiramisu"

Yes, an editing error by the NYT reduced the print-edition headline to gibberish, and boring gibberish at that. The article sat on my nightstand for a week, making me feel guilty, until I finally read it today -- and discovered that buried halfway through is a shocking story that hasn't gotten much publicity in the U.S..

The author, economist Alan Krueger, notes that Italian labor law makes it very hard for an employer to dismiss a worker after an initial three-month probationary period.

[S]erious offenses are often not considered just grounds for dismissal. A bank employee involved in money laundering, for example, was recently held unjustly dismissed and ordered reinstated by a judge.

Plus "with little fear of dismissal," Krueger notes diplomatically, "some employees provide less than peak effort." Many Italian lawyers and economists who "come from a pro-labor tradition" have grown concerned about the cost of this rigid job security, in terms of high unemployment as well as lost productivity. Marco Biagi, a socialist lawyer, advised the government labor ministry on a set of mild reforms that would exempt some smaller firms and temporary employees. What happened next?

Biagi was assassinated.

What's more, he was shot "apparently with the same gun" used to kill "Massimo D'Antona, who had advised the previous government on similar reforms." This is the work of fringe Red Brigades-style terrorists, no? Probably. Yet, according to Krueger:

In a speech to workers at Fiat last week, for example, Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the Refounded Communist Party, said of left-leaning academics involved in labor law reform: "Someone should stop them."

Academics are now taking their names off their doors and notifying the police of their movements. Says Krueger, "the take-no-prisoners-attitude of labor unions and left-wing politicians has caused disillusionment among many intellectuals."  No kidding.

I've never been one to worry much about the threat of violence from the left in this country. But put these assassinations together with the Pim Fortuyn murder, and it's not difficult to at least imagine a day when left political violence might become the norm -- even here.  ... P.S.: Slate's current Breakfast-Tablers, Henneberger and Turque, discuss some recent complications in the Biagi case here. They do not change the larger picture. ...Backfill: Virginia Postrel was on this case in April. ... 2:15 A.M.

Was Gore really blaming his staff? Alert kf reader HC (not Hillary Clinton) writes, concerning Tuesday's Al Gore item:

Why is blaming "polls, tactics and all the rest" automatically taken to mean blaming his staff? It sounds to me like he is blaming himself. And, just maybe, saying, "uh, guys, don't feel you have to help me so much next time."

Good point. Was Gore simply self-psychoanalyzing? If you just look at the words within quote marks, nothing Gore says specifically blames his consultants and advisers. But that seems to have been the meaning instantly attached to his remarks by absolutely everyone, including the advisers. The NYT's report,for example, said

Al Gore told top donors and fund-raisers from his 2000 presidential run today that he made a mistake by allowing himself to be too programmed and controlled by pollsters and consultants in the campaign, ...

See also Dan Balz's similar WaPo account  ("Gore conceded [his campaign was] too heavily influenced by polls, consultants and tactical maneuvering ...") According to Robert Novak, Gore did say he needed to "shed the constraint" imposed by ... well, presumably something or someone. But those words aren't crystal clear either. (Maybe Gore was talking about his own inhibitions). ... Could this be one of those cases of instant pack misintepretation? I suppose so, although there were also things Gore could have said to prevent that intepretaion -- like "I had a great staff. I'm talking about my own mistakes here" -- that he apparently didn't say. ... 3:00 A.M.


Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Who were the "couple of writers for The New Yorker" who "entertained Dr. [Sam] Waksal's friends during the year with informal salon-style lectures on cinema and literature," as intriguingly reported by the NYT's Alex Kuczynski and Andrew Ross Sorkin?  Why doesn't the Times tell us their names? Is the paper protecting its journalistic buddies? ...  It's not as if the piece doesn't have lots of names in it -- Henry Kravis and Theodore Forstmann are mentioned in the next paragraph, for example, although their only connection to the Waksal story is .. well, they don't seem to have a connection.  ...  11:30 P.M.

Humiliating Climbdown Dept: When Andrew Sullivan questioned the American Prospect'spreposterous traffic claims, the magazine's blog reacted viciously:

HOW IS ANDREW SULLIVAN LIKE A CREATIONIST? When he believes something, or doesn't believe something, he isn't about to let empirical evidence get in his way. Can someone please tell this guy that that incredulity is not an argument?.

But Sullivan persisted in his incredulity. Now the long-awaited results of TAP's Walsh-like internal investigation are in, and it turns out Sullivan was right. Instead of the 450,000 unique visitors a month  that it had claimedTAP now says, it got only 161,025 unique visitors in June. TAP's editors graciously blame their stats program. ... P.S. Sullivan gloats here. ..Dead-horse-beating P.P.S.: TAP made its bogus "450,000" claim at the end of May. The lower number it now gives is for June. Were the May results even lower still? Isn't it odd they don't give them? The conspiracy deepens! Experts say they've raised as many questions as they've answered!... .12:15 P.M.

Bangle Bungle? Spotted what I took to be the new BMW Z3 sports car zipping down Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. As feared, it was ... unattractive to men, sir!, as Monty Python might put it. Too Gaudiesque. ...True, it seemed to be a camouflaged version. (It was a dull stealth black, like the one in this picture. The iteration here looks better.). ...It's not easy to design an unappealing 2-seat sports car. BMW may have now pulled it off twice in a row. (The previous Z3 managed to be both too precious and too macho at the same time.) ... N.B.: Chris Bangle is BMW's design director. An online petition, "Stop Chris Bangle," can be found here.  It has 2,283 signatures as of this posting. But it's mainly a reaction to Bangle's new BMW 7-series sedan, which I quite like.... Update: The new Z3 has, in fact, just been officially unveiled. Except that it's called the Z4. The version I saw was, alas, not camouflaged at all -- here is an official photo in Automotive News. It's a forced, fish-like, over-branded, pre-wrecked wound of a car. (Isn't this the same New Edge styling that flopped at Ford?) ... Additional photos, which make it look even stranger and more forced, are available at BMW's Web site... I'll go sign that petition now. ...They're up to 2,291 names .... More: The annoying thing about this car isn't just that it betrays BMW's clean design tradition, or that it's weird. It's that it's superficially weird. If you're going to design a strange car, design a deeply strange car, like the now-defunct Subaru SVX or the Fiat Multipla. Don't take a perfectly classic 2-seat roadster shape, add some arbitrary and brutal distortions to the metal panels, and pretend it's a branding breakthrough. ... I guess this design will either grow on you, like the Ford Focus, or get very old very quickly, like Michael Graves' buildings. My bet is Graves. (Although, come to think of it, Bangle was obviously influenced, for the worse, by Frank Gehry's recent designs. Why does the Gehry exploding-structure thing work in a building but not in a car? Good question -- further study required! But one obvious reason is that buildings have less of a need to be aerodynamic.) ...    3:50 P.M.


Tuesday, July 2, 2002

How to End Gore's Career: In his e-mailed National Journal column, the normally mild-mannered campaign maven Charlie Cook reams Al Gore for his "graceless remarks over the weekend, when he effectively blamed his 2000 presidential campaign loss on 'polls, tactics and all the rest'":

[F]rom my vantage point it seems that Gore was the weakest link in the Gore/Lieberman campaign - not his pollsters, his strategists, his tacticians or his other consultants. Even if it were the campaign's fault, it is completely tasteless to blame others - but, in this case, it simply isn't credible for Gore to pass the buck.

Cook goes on to argue that Gore's campaign actually "was a very well managed effort that allocated resources exceedingly well," while Bush's campaign made some big mistakes (wasting resources in California, trying to hide W's DUI arrest).

Besides showing an incredible degree of ingratitude toward the team that helped win him a popular (if not electoral) vote victory, Gore's weekend remarks also served to validate the comments of many who worked on a volunteer basis, in some cases raising gigantic sums of money for the Gore campaign. They noted that he never said thank you, and he wasn't there for them after the campaign in the way they had been there for him before Election Day.

Cook notes that the Democratic party elite "would rather see Gore deported than renominated."... I'm not so sure Gore doesn't have a point about his consultants steering him into an incongruously angry populism, message-wise -- but whose fault was that? Gore also screwed up the Florida recount battle, if truth be told.  ... And if Bush would have won the popular vote but for the DUI revelation, doesn't that mean Gore's campaign was actually much worse than it appears? ...2:20 P.M.

An  LAT poll has the secession of the San Fernando Valley losing citywide 37-30,  but winning in the Valley 44-31. After voters are told canned arguments pro and con, the numbers don't change much -- voters in the entire city are against, 47-38, voters in the Valley are for it, 52-37. ... On the surface, and maybe under the surface, this is bad news for the secessionists, since under state law they have to win both the citywide and Valley-only votes to actually secede.... Why secession could still happen: 1) Turnout is key! Aren't pro-secession Valley voters more likely to go to the polls than voters in areas that aren't trying to secede? The LAT says "If voter turnout follows the pattern of recent elections, the pro-secession side probably needs to win at least 40% of the vote outside of the Valley to prevail citywide [right now they're only at 29 %]." But it's crazy to assume that turnout for a measure that specifically concerns the Valley will "follow the pattern of recent elections." Voters in distant South Central may just stay home. 2) Mayor James Hahn's campaign against secession, if as ham-handed as it's been so far, may actually increase the pro-split vote; 3) The LAT ignores the impending, dramatic emergence of a "Valley Good Riddance" campaign in the hipper and more affluent areas of L.A.'s West Side, as homeowners note that their property values will increase if they aren't associated with the boring, middle class, rec room culture of the Valley, which after all is where Robert Blake lived. ... Actually, I made #3 up. ... Actually blogger-on-leave Matt Welch suggested it to me. ... In any case, I suspect the LAT poll.isn't definitive. ... Paranoid's note: Since the only hope of the anti-secessionists is to defeat the plan in the citywide vote, and the way to defeat it in a citywide vote is to boost turnout, expect heavy coverage of secession in the anti-split LAT. ... 12:30 P.M.
Ending Eminem: WaPo's David Segal gets William Bennett to concede defeat in the culture war over dirty and violent music lyrics:

"They've won," says Bennett. "They can't stand to have won, but it's over and they've won. They get to say and do anything and make billions and castigate us in the process."

Segal speculates, reasonably, that this might mean the death of vulgar, violent rap and rock. Where's the fun if Bill Bennett doesn't get enraged? ... Time to deliver the coup de grace and give Eminem a National Medal of the Arts  in a televised ceremony at the Kennedy Center, presided over by President Bush and his parents, followed by a celebratory meal at the Old Ebbitt Grill! ... On the other hand, Segal quotes with seeming approval a record executive who says:

[N]ow that we have substantive evil -- whether in the Middle East or in the boardroom -- we know it's not caused by lyrics

Not so fast, buddy! Surely some of the Islamic revulsion with the West has to do with distaste for "decadent" Western music -- some of which really is decadent. ... 2:00 A.M

Pssst. Looks like WorldCom's phony accounting also began in the Clinton-Gore years. ... 2:15 A.M.

Saletan is toast!

"If vouchers were a political winner, George W. Bush would have pushed them in his presidential campaign. Instead, he confined himself to Clintonian language about punishing bad schools. Then he dropped the idea altogether and teamed up with Ted Kennedy to focus on public school funding. He shows no more enthusiasm for vouchers today than his father showed for banning abortion in 1989." -- William Saletan, Slate, last Friday

"CLEVELAND, July 1 -- President Bush made a vigorous case for private-school vouchers today, plunging into the highly charged issue for the first time as president and comparing its importance to that of school desegregation in the 1950s." --  Washington Post, "Bush Urges Wide Use of School Vouchers," today

12:50 A.M.


Monday, July 1, 2002

Comrade Bukharin Receives New Assignment: More good news from the American Prospect, where everything's fine, just fine, these days. ... The talented Josh Green left. The talented Scott Stossel left. The talented Nick Confessore left. And now Executive Editor Harold Meyerson, formerly the magazine's great new (and expensive) hope, who only recently was engaged in a power struggle with tediously dogmatic TAP editor Robert Kuttner, has received a glorious promotion to Editor-at-Large, where he will "provide more in-depth political coverage" and be able to spend more time with his family! ...For TAP's Pravda-like bull---- announcement, click here. ....P.S.: In an e-mail to his colleagues, Meyerson says TAP is looking to hire a new executive editor to replace him. If you're a talented exec who missed out on Enron and can't land that new WorldCom job, this is a fallback you should consider. ... P.P.S.: The Books Editor just quit too. ... 9:00 P.M. 

Vouchers and the Dems: Slate's Will Saletan and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote essentially the same article last week--debunking the idea that the Supreme Court's ruling on school vouchers would "turn the political tide in favor of vouchers and Republican candidates who support them" (Saletan's words). Rather, the decision was "probably a win for liberals," said Alter.

Why? Both writers claim the voucher issue is like the abortion issue. On both issues, the traditional Democratic position (pro-choice, anti-voucher) has been more popular with the voters. But when the Supreme Court took the abortion issue off the political table, in Roe v. Wade, that energized the Republican pro-life movement (while the pro-choicers sat back and relied on the courts). When the Court made abortion part of the political debate again -- by permitting some restrictions on abortions in its 1989 Webster decision - that forced the liberal, pro-choice majority to mobilize and carry the day. Similarly, the argument goes, by making vouchers into a political, not constitutional, issue last week, the Court will force voucher opponents to mobilize and put the hurt on any Republican who dares promote such a scheme.

One problem with these instant-contrarian pieces is that they're attacking a conventional wisdom that doesn't exist. Did you hear many people saying last week that the voucher ruling would help Republicans politically ( in the fall campaign for example)? I didn't. Neither Alter nor Saletan  provide even the required solitary straw man expert making this political argument, so we can safely assume he wasn't to be found. What commentators did say was that the voucher decision was a boost for vouchers, which seems undeniably true. (Even if vouchers don't spread very rapidly, it has to help that they are now a constitutional possibility.Roe may have hurt liberals, but it's hard to argue it didn't increase abortions.)

And it's easy to think of at least three reasons why -- even on the crassly political "who benefits" question -- the voucher issue isn't like the abortion issue:

1) Vouchers split the Democratic base: Both Alter and Saletan note that vouchers are popular with inner city blacks, whose children otherwise have to attend failed public schools. This is a potentially big deal, since Republicans have been unable to crack the black Democratic voting bloc in decades of trying. Was there a comparably pivotal Democratic constituency that opposed abortion? [Working-class Catholics--kf reader. By Webster in '89 weren't those that were going to leave the party already gone, for a host of reasons? In contrast, blacks have been amazingly loyal Democrats, and vouchers may be the only potential wedge Republicans have found with which to pry some away.]

2) Dems are locked in on vouchers: School choice (including voucher plans, but also independent, public "charter" schools) is a potentially good issue for Republicans not because it's now wildly popular with a majority of voters. It's a good issue because, should the pro-voucher side gain a majority, the Democrats will be unable to move to accommodate the shift. The teachers' unions, which are inalterably opposed to vouchers (and more subtly opposed to charter schools) won't let them. Abortion, on the other hand, is a question of ideology and morality, not the concrete material interest of an identifiable, well-organized group -- so the Democrats have much more flexibility. If the pro-life position becomes more popular, the power of the pro-choice lobby in the party will decline, and the Democrats can simply shift to a less-pro-choice position.

3) The problem vouchers are designed to solve isn't getting any better: Do you see urban school systems across America revitalizing themselves in the absence of competition from school choice? I don't. Meanwhile, education becomes more and more important for economic success. In contrast, the abortion issue is more of a static moral dispute. Either it's murder or it's not. The pro-life side can't argue that it's more murder now than it was in 1970.

None of this means Republicans are going to make great electoral hay out of vouchers in 2002 (again, nobody argues this position). It does mean that vouchers are potentially a Reaganesque cause, in that they might start out as an unpopular position (as were many of Reagan's hawkish and antigovernment views in the 1960s) but become a majority position -- in which case the Democrats are in political trouble.

P.S.: Alter gets in a good shot at the hack liberal New York Times editorial declaration  that "[w]hat is holding the public schools back, however, is not lack of competitive drive but the resources to succeed" (i.e. money). Says Alter, "This is an example of exactly the kind of ivory tower thinking that is poison for liberals." Contrast the NYT's weary cant with WaPo's shockingly open-to-vouchers editorial  and you have a good illustration of the different paths being taken by these two great Democratic papers. 3:10 A.M.

A late Watergate hit: Doesn't the Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore cast a retrospective pall over its 1974 Nixon tapes decision? Maybe in the earlier decision -- ordering Nixon to turn over the fatally-daming tapes to the courts -- the justices weren't striking a historic blow for democracy and open government after all. Maybe, as in 2000, they just thought it was a good time to step in and pick a president. ... 3:10 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" Lucianne.com--Stirs 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. 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. Overlawyered.com--Daily 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! Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]