Krugman blindsides Kinsley.

Krugman blindsides Kinsley.

Krugman blindsides Kinsley.

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 19 2002 5:05 AM

Krugman vs. Kinsley

Plus: More California write-in nominees.

Two late-breaking, obvious California gubernatorial nominees (of kf readers): Warren Beatty or Martin Sheen! ... Should have thought of them myself. ... Beatty made a funny political movie about just the kind of quixotic campaign that this last-minute write-in drive could be. ... Sheen's politically active and respected. Time for him to cash in before those West Wing ratings fall even more!... Either man would steal much of Gov. Gray Davis' liberal support. ... Neither will do it, of course, because they both have something to lose if they flop. .. No, we need someone with high-name recognition, but no respectability left whatsoever. (Maybe that was the secret of Jesse Ventura.) ... Hmm. Doesn't Joey Buttafuoco live out here now? ...  1:53 A.M.

Krugman vs. Kinsley: What drives Paul Krugman -- sincere ideology, dislike of Bush, or egomania? All three, obviously. But which predominates? There's a near-dispositive bit of data in Friday's column:

Michael Kinsley recently wrote that "The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest, but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting." All I can say is, now he notices? It's been like that all along on economic policy. [Emphasis added.]


So Krugman uses a pithy, anti-Bush Kinsley quote as a peg for ... taking a gratuitous swipe at Kinsley! Memo to Prof. K:Kinsley's on your side! It doesn't help your ideological cause much to sneer at him. He's been bashing Bush (especially his economic policies) in terms very similar to yours for years!. .. Or is that the problem? Kinsley's a challenger for the same ecological niche Krugman occupies, so Krugman has to somehow establish dominance by not-so-subtly boasting that he bashed Bush first ....True, this is a cheap armchair Darwinian analysis, but in my experience cheap armchair Darwinian analysis is almost always right. .. 1:24 A.M.

The "Faster" principle  in action:

A senior Gephardt adviser moans that the economic issues that have seemed most promising politically, from the stock market's dive to corporate crime, "only last 72 hours."

That's from USAT's Susan Page [link via The Note ]. ... Of course, if big issues "only last 72 hours," that means we have time for 5 or 6 big issues between now and Election Day, which means it's still possible for the whole complexion of the campaign to change. ...1:01 A.M.


The "Not-Fast-Enough" principle in action: Some time ago, executives at ABC and PBS apparently decided that the "historic" Texas Senate race, featuring African-American Democrat Ron Kirk, was one to cover at length. Unfortunately the contest is no longer very close (Kirk's widely  expected to lose). But on Friday viewers of both networks were still shown long take-outs on this unexciting race in a year filled with riveting races in other states. ... Not that anything by ABC's Mark Halperin, author of The Note, whom kausfiles worships like a god, is unexciting. ...12:51 A.M.

Here's an interesting poll result  that hasn't gotten much publicity (except, presumably, on Fox News, which obtained it): Asked if they "would feel safer or less safe if Al Gore were the president today?" only 25 percent said "safer," while 48 percent said "less safe.".... More fuel for the ABGExceptK movement. ...12:34 AM

I'm having e-mail difficulties, apparently due to the feared and loathed MSN "Looping Sicily" problem. If you've recently sent hot news tips or pictures of your beautiful girlfriend, please be patient or try sending them again.later. ... If you are Sicilian, I mean no disrespect. ....  Note: I am also very interested in a pill or herb that will make my penis grow 3-4 inches. Please send information. ... 12:27 A.M.


Thursday, October 17, 2002  


ABC's fabled "Note" points out what could be a significant, underpublicized Democratic advantage  in  ... last minute sham issue ads! ... Update: The link is now obsolete until The Note is archived next week, but you get the point -- Republicans may have more official campaign cash on hand, but "in some key Senate and gubernatorial races, left-leaning interest group spending on TV ads on behalf of Democratic candidates sure seems to be compensating for this deficit.  Business groups [i.e. GOP supporters] have in the last few cycles had a harder time organizing the process by which they pony up cash for such advertising efforts ...." 3:54 P.M.

Don't Eat the Toast: If Republican Doug Forrester is "virtually tied in public polls" with Democrat Frank Lautenberg, isn't it a bit early to say "Forrester is toast." ... And why does an old newspaper column by Forrester expressing disgust with Atlantic City (as "unclean") hurt Forrester anywhere but in Atlantic City? (There's a Kinsley Gaffe if there ever was one -- a Kinsley Gaffe being when a politician accidentally speaks the truth.) ... 1:46 P.M.

The crisis at The American Prospect continues to dominate the news: The Weekly Standard's Chris Caldwell takes the anti-Kuttner baton  --

All TAP writers who have shown a twinkle of wit, a scintilla of originality, a dash of political incorrectness, the slightest inclination to rethink anything--Joshua Micah Marshall, Joshua Green, Laura Secor, Nicholas Confessore, for starters--have either fled or been fired. They've abandoned the precincts to the deft but distracted Robert Reich, and that dinosaur of American liberalism, Robert Kuttner. Despite its ability to curry favor with corporate and foundation boardrooms (the interlocking directorates of the liberal-left elite), despite subventions from the Schumann foundation that amount to $10 million (according to the Washington Post), the task of maintaining both a serious left politics and a sense of fun has proved beyond them.


Caldwell forgot to include Chris Mooney on the Lost Talent list ...And Scott Stossel.. ... And Ana Marie Cox. ...And ...

On the other hand, "Tapped" lives, albeit with a pathetic disclaimer disavowing its departures from the Kuttner Party Line. ..  They even link to Josh Marshall! ...So the Prospect's good blog/bad mag schizophrenia has now been formalized. Maybe it will break out into open internecine Web vs. print warfare! (Time for that  "rough draft" blog item questioning labor-based "constituency" politics!) ... 12:26 P.M

The floor is open: Doesn't anybody want to run for governor of California? Now that former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan has announced he won't be a last-minute write-in candidate, the field is wide open. As kf has said before, this is the political opportunity of a lifetime. Californians (and California political reporters) dislike both the official party candidates, Republican Bill Simon and incumbent governor Gray Davis. They're desperate for an alternative. Jump into the race now, and you're sure to get a surge of media interest. Even as a write-in candidate, you'll become the vehicle for massive voter discontent. And if the protest vote is large enough, you might just ... O.K. you won't win. But it's only a two-week commitment! And you'll do Much Better Than Expected (since the official expectation for a write-in candidate is, roughly, zero).... It's the perfect opportunity, not for a well-known pol like Riordan, but for either a) a respectable politician with low name-recognition who wants to become known state-wide, or, even better, b) a non-politician with high name-recognition who wants to be taken seriously as a potential candidate . ... For those of you who might be mulling over this prospect, you have five more days, until October 22, to gather the necessary 100 signatures. So there's no need to rush! But just to speed the process along maybe a little bit, kausfiles is now accepting nominations from readers for Californians who might be egged on to take the plunge.... Nominees so far include: Arnold Schwarzenegger (declined); Dick Clark (appeals to boomers); Richard Dreyfuss (smart, politically active); Rob Lowe (needs the work); journalists Cathy Seipp, Arianna Huffington, Joel Kotkin, Jill Stewart ...More reader nominations: Clint Eastwood! (He's already been mayor of Carmel.) .. Update: Punning Pundit is in! ...  4:29 A.M.

Don't you think the D.C. sniper, while probably not a member of an organized terrorist group, is quite likely to be a politically-motivated individual "volunteer," like the Egyptian immigrant limo driver  who shot up the El Al counter at L.A.X. on July 4? ... 4:00 A.M.


In her WSJ update  on the welfare reform negotiations, reporter Sarah Lueck includes Real People -- always a problem! Lueck's main Real Person is Taina Gonzalez, "a 26-year-old Brooklyn resident who already is juggling 35 hours of work and college classes with caring for her two-year-old daughter, Jadzia" and who "is glad that Republican efforts to increase work requirements [to 40 hours of training and work] are stalled." 1) The Republican "40 hour week" plan is not part of the stripped-down compromise currently being negotiated -- so it's odd that Lueck spends much of her news story attacking it. 2) In the second to last paragraph, we learn what Ms. Gonzalez' job is:

When she goes to work knocking on doors for a nonprofit advocacy group for low-income people, Ms. Gonzalez often has had to bring her daughter along. [Emphasis added.]

OK. ... It's one thing for a reporter to think the way to cover the welfare story is to call around to the various liberal interest groups and write up their arguments. ... But it's another thing for the reporter to accept as her big Real Person example a recipient who is obviously handed to her on a platter by one of those interest groups. ...And it's yet another thing entirely for her big Real Person example to be someone who actually works for a liberal advocacy group. Isn't this covered by, like, basic journalistic rules about conflicts of interest? Would Lueck do a piece on the upcoming election and cite, as her typical man on the street, an employee of the Republican National Committee? Lueck has broken new ground in hack advocacy journalism. Hello, editor? ... 2:30 A.M.

Glenn Reynolds predicts  blogs will force the mainstream media to do more reporting (which blogs don't do very well) and less punditry/"news analysis" (which blogs have shown "is not that hard to do"). ... But Matt Welch thinks bloggers will report too. ...  2:06 A.M.


"Libertarian" William Safire writes, "Gun registration's time has come." .... Give the Washington sniper a few more days and Safire will be founding "Libertarians for Continuous Video Surveillance." ... Not that there's anything wrong with it! But it does remind one of the old definition of a conservative as a "liberal who's been mugged.." A statist is a libertarian who can't walk his dog. … Update: In a 1999 column, Safire wrote about "the abomination of too many handguns in trigger-happy hands." Perhaps there has been less of a change in his position than I'd thought. ... 12:54 A.M.

Richard Gephardt's five-point pump priming "Plan for Promoting Economic Growth" seems not unreasonable (though can you imagine the ways "$25 billion to help states protect their infrastructure from terrorism" will be spent?). But isn't it more than a bit contradictory for the Democrats to put out a freshly-concocted "prosperity index," the whole purpose of which is to give Bush a bad grade for the current $160 billion budget deficit, a day after the Democratic leader in the House has called for adding another $200 billion to that deficit in the form of short-term spending and tax cuts?… Which is it? Should we run a short-term deficit or not? It seems pretty clear that in the current circumstances, we should. (I believe Krugman on this.) If that's true then the Democrats' "prosperity index" is perverse and demagogic. …WaPo also notes that, even under the Dems carefully-constructed formula, the economy isn't doing that badly. Under the old "misery index" (unemployment plus inflation) it's actually doing very well. … 12:45 A.M.


Wednesday, October 16, 2002  

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee has been making unsubtle threats to bolt the Republican party and give Democrats control of the Senate if the Republicans pick up a seat in the coming election. But here's a thought experiment: Suppose the Republicans were to pick up three Senate seats in the coming election, giving them a majority of two. Is there the slightest chance that Chafee would then bolt and become a Democrat -- which would involve leaving the majority party to join the minority? No, there is not a chance. What does that say about how principled Chafee's chafing is? ... Update: Musil has some useful comments. ... 3:04 A.M.

Linda and the Chambers of Horror: Just went to a Hollywood screening of Unprecedented, an anti-GOP documentary about the Florida recount. It's an unbalanced propaganda film that nevertheless a) doesn't shy away from blasting Gore for not seeking a state-wide recount, and b) makes some familiar but damaging attacks on the lawlessness of the majority rationale in the Supreme Court's election-deciding decision. The latter reminded me that I forgot to note a striking paragraph buried in Linda Greenhouse's  recent comparison  of Bush v. Gore with  the Lautenberg/Forrester lawsuit:

Those two justices [Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy] said the recount, ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, violated the guarantee of equal protection. The Rehnquist three reluctantly endorsed that conclusion to have a majority rationale for stopping the recount, but at the same time insisted that the equal-protection rationale would not apply to any other case beyond "the present circumstances."

Did we know before Greenhouse's story that the Rehnquist-Scalia-Thomas faction only "reluctantly" endorsed the weak Kennedy-O'Connor opinion -- but that it was the Rehnquist crew who added what may be that opinion's most disgraceful feature, its declaration that its principle applies to one case only (in other words, that it isn't a principle at all). Has Greenhouse been doing some ex parte reporting? Are the "Rehnquist three" trying to distance themselves, behind the scenes and on background, from the O'Connor/Kennedy mess? Did Greenhouse, yes, bury the lede? ...

P.S.: The unintended highlight of Unprecedented comes when a Democratic talking head, explaining why the Republicans might try to block felons from voting, says (I'm paraphrasing here) "Ninety-five percent of people coming out of prison vote Democratic." ... Dick Gephardt, there's your campaign slogan! ...  1:35 A.M.


Tuesday, October 15, 2002  

Nailed to the perch: No "Tapped" posts since last Friday. Is it resting, or is it an ex-blog?... Update: kf hears it's a pink-slip festival at the Prospect's Boston office today. ...   1:13 P.M.

Welfare latest, late: Didn't kausfiles have this story  8 days ago?... I'm told (and I also hope) that Robert Pear's last sentence exaggerates the Democratic leverage on the welfare reauthorization bill. ... And are the Baucus-led Democrats really still trying to water down work requirements by allowing states to substitute various training programs for any actual "work"?... The issue, again, isn't whether to spend money on training for welfare mothers. It's whether training should be a way to get around even part-time work requirements, the way going to college was a way to get out of the draft. The basic GOP-centrist position is 20-24 hours of work, then training on top of that. ... There's also the issue of whether giving special training benefits to welfare mothers -- benefits that aren't available to poor workers who never go on the dole -- sends the wrong signal. ('Have a kid, go on welfare, get job training!'). ...On the other hand, allowing health care benefits for legal alien children sounds like a fine concession for the GOP to make. You can't live on health benefits. It's hard to see how providing them allows immigrants to avoid the need to go to work.  ... P.S.: Any deal for a stripped-down three-year "reauthorization" will come after the election, in a lame-duck session. So if the election's results embitter (or embolden) one side or the other, the deal could unravel, or change. ... 2:44 A.M.

Slightly-less-nasty business: In a "Fray" entry, Jeffrey Goldberg semi-defends his "genocide-denial" charge. He wasn't accusing Robert Wright of "Holocaust-denial," he says. He was thinking of the Armenian genocide, and analogizing Wright's position to that of Turkish apologists.

1) Goldberg is a good writer and knows what resonances he's producing. If he wanted to make an analogy with the Turkish case, he could have made an analogy with the Turkish case, as he now admits he should have done. He chose the more open-ended,  irresponsible and resonant charge for a reason, I suspect, namely its cheap manipulative power.

2) I'm not familiar with the position of the Turkish apologists, but I doubt it's analogous to Wright's position on Hussein. As I noted earlier, there are no factual disputes here, despite Goldberg's continuing insinuation that there are ("Wright hasn't bothered to learn these facts ..."). Wright concedes that Hussein is a mass-murderer, which I very much doubt is the Turkish-apologist position regarding the Turks. Goldberg, for his part, concedes that Hussein isn't a mass murderer in exactly the sense that Hitler was a mass murderer (because Hussein's mass murders are "primarily instrumental, rather than ideological"). The only question is whether the same word should be used for these two cases. Wright thinks "genocide" should be reserved for the Hitler fact-set. Goldberg rightly points out that the official definition seems to cover both. But Wright can't have been denying that Hussein's crimes "would constitute genocide as defined by current international law"-- as Goldberg says the Turks do regarding their actions -- because Wright manifestly (as Goldberg charges) wasn't using the definition of genocide in current international law. Goldberg is trying to have it both ways: accusing Wright of using a too-restrictive standard while also implicitly (and falsely) accusing him of saying Hussein's crimes don't meet a less-restrictive standard.  It's not as if Wright thinks Hussein's mass killings of Kurds aren't punishable as some sort of crime under international law -- he  says he wants to "maneuver Saddam into a courtroom."

3) Goldberg says I argue that his "definition of genocide is idiosyncratic and politically correct," when it's in fact "derived ... from international law." Huh? My point was that precisely those definitions derived from international law have the potential to become the basis for a new sort of PC bullying if every time you question them you get accused of "genocide-denial" (even if it turns out only to be Turkish-style genocide-denial). I'm perfectly willing to say Hussein's slaughter of Kurds was genocide -- though, as Wright points out, that hardly seals the case for immediate military action since a) the mass slaughter is not ongoing, as it was in Rwanda, which means biding our time is at least an option, and b) there are those annoying "downsides" to consider. But I do worry about the inclusion of "mental harm" in the official genocide convention, and worry more that its provisions may be expanded, Warren-court style, in the future. These are rules and precedents made by men; they can be wrong and should be debated. Goldberg seems to regard them as something closer to revealed truths -- and plays the disreputable role of those who, any time a Warren Court precedent was questioned, declared that the questioner to be just like those who wanted to deny the validity of Brown vs. Board of Education1:25 A.M.


Monday, October 14, 2002  

Die TAPperdammerung: This late-breaking news on the continuing American Prospect crackup. ... Kausfiles hears that 1) The Prospect board is planning to announce Wednesday that the now-biweekly liberal magazine (into which a Bill Moyers-run foundation has poured lots of money) will publish less frequently, either monthly or only ten times per year; 2) "Tapped," the much admired TAP blog, is as-rumored slated for extinction, the victim of editor Robert Kuttner's instinctive urge to squash anything interesting. ... It seems "Tapped" strayed from Kuttnerian dogma on occasion, and even favorably cited the blog of a Kuttner critic, ex-TAP employee Josh Marshall! ...The TAP staff apparently doesn't know about these developments yet. It's not clear that even Moyers knows about them. But kausfiles do! ... Update: Kuttner responds to an email query, advising kf, "You've got some of it right and much of it wrong."... 12:05 A.M.

Nasty Business: In Sunday's Washington Post "Outlook" section, Michael Lind wades into the controversy that has occupied Jeffrey Goldberg  and Robert Wright  in Slate -- whether Saddam Hussein's massacre of Iraqi Kurds was "genocide comparable to Hitler's Final Solution." (Wright and Lind say no; Goldberg implicitly says yes, invoking the moral command of "never again.") I do think this debate is largely semantic -- there's no dispute, really, over what Saddam did or even why he did it, and certainly no debate over whether it was atrocious, immoral, murderous, evil, etc. Which is why I was astounded when Goldberg ended his latest paragraphs on the issue with this sentence:

Wright should also remember that genocide-denial in the face of overwhelming evidence is a particularly nasty business.

This breathtaking slur can have only one purpose, which is to associate those who quibble with Goldberg's preferred definition of genocide with those who deny the facts underlying any particular incident that might qualify as genocide -- in particular, with Holocaust-deniers. ... Admittedly, Goldberg was provoked (Wright had by his own admission "been sanctimonious in lecturing him on his use of language"). Since Goldberg otherwise seems like a reasonable person, I'm assuming he'll apologize. ... Or will the machinery of international human rights enforcement -- in which the definition of "genocide" has apparently been watered down to include "serious ... mental harm" to members of a group -- become the engine of a new sort of global PC intellectual thuggery,  in which anyone who dares to question the potentially-expansive official ambit of anti-"genocide" measures, or dares to criticize a Hague interpretation, or dares to argue that any particular evil killer was only an evil killer and not Hitler, gets rhetorically shouted down as an ally of pro-Nazi cranks?  ... I guess Michael Lind will find out the answer. ... Note: Wright is a friend of mine as well as a colleague. I don't agree with him about everything. (I don't think Goldberg's pro-war argument depends quite as heavily on the Saddam = Hitler argument as Wright does, for example.) But I really was shocked (and not "shocked, shocked") when I read that sentence. ... 2:07 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.