Is Pinch a cinch?

A mostly political Weblog.
May 19 2003 5:36 AM

Is Pinch a Cinch?

Plus: Anarchists in Arlington.

More Big Good News: The left has complained for years when welfare-reform enthusiasts measure success by the sharp (more than 50%) reduction in caseloads since the mid-1990s. I agree--lower caseloads ares good but they're not everything. Yet the left's proposed measure of success, income and poverty, is equally flawed. If all the 1996 welfare reform did was take non-working single mothers on welfare and turn them into working single-mothers with exactly the same incomes, it would be a huge success.

Isn't the real test whether life is getting better in America's "underclass" ghettos? Now there is powerful statistical evidence that this is in fact happening. Concentrated poverty (a bad thing, and one of the defining characteristics of the "underclass" as described by sociologist William Julius Wilson) has dropped dramatically in the U.S.--by almost a quarter--after doubling from 1970 to 1990. Robert Pear, citing researcher Paul Jargowsky, reports:

"Concentrated poverty — the share of the poor living in high-poverty neighborhoods — declined among all racial and ethnic groups, especially African-Americans," Mr. Jargowsky said.

In 1990, 30 percent of poor blacks lived in high-poverty neighborhoods. Ten years later, the proportion was 19 percent.

Pear rightly credits welfare reform, in part, with this success. The reasons seem obvious: welfare reform produced a dramatic jump in the participation of single mothers in the labor force. When you work, you not only get richer--you also tend to get out of your neighborhood and discover the rest of your city. Working also breaks down stereotypes of lower income, single mothers--especially African-American single mothers-that may underlie resistance in non-poor areas to having such people as neighbors. Not to mention the gauzier benefits of working, like "role-modeling" and the effect of the disciplined rhythm of work on home life and school performance. ... More: Here's the Minneapolis Star-Tribune report on "a development that normally sober social scientists are calling 'astonishing,' even 'stunning" .... Here's the Brookings Institution event (which starts in a few hours) that will discuss Jargowsky's findings. ... Bonus Raines angle: Hey, didn't Howell Raines' NYT editorial page adamantly oppose the successful 1996 welfare reform? It did! Raines' page called the reform "atrocious," denounced President Clinton for signing it, and predicted "the effect on some cities will be devastating"! ... Raines experts say the NYT executive editor's self-righteous, egomaniacal G.S.W.B. moralism made him as un-blindered in evaluating welfare policy as he was in evaluating Jayson Blair! ... 1:59 A.M.

Newsweek-skipper: I didn't know Jayson Blair had resigned from the Univeristy of Maryland college paper he ran, "for 'personal reasons,'" (according to Newsweek). I'd thought the college paper had been his big credential. More evidence of due diligence, diversity-style. ... Allan Sloan says  it would take 6 of 8 Sulzberger family trustees to ditch Pinch. Seems like a longshot. ... Jonathan Alter defends Sulzberger's paper- "When The New York Times loses power, the U.S. government gains it."--as if the Times were synonymous with "the press." What's the Washington Post, chopped liver? ... Ellis Cose  makes clear the dynamic the LAT's  Tim Rutten  also identified: It's either "blame affirmative action" or "blame the editors"-- which means that defensive affirmative-action supporters on the left are among those coming down hardest on Raines & Co.. After all he's done for them! ... 1:25 A.M.

Sunday, May 19, 2003

David Warsh, who (as he notes) lost his Boston Globe gig when NYT publisher Pinch Sulzberger sacked his boss, helps move the post-Blair debate away from "blame Raines" to "blame Pinch." ... It turns out Pinch was not a shoo-in for the publisher's job, according to Warsh -- there were various shareholding cousins to satisfy, and other candidates for the position. The Globe's's publisher had been a potential internal rival, Warsh argues ... But having told us that Pinch was vulnerable once, Warsh doesn't answer the much-more-relevant question of whether Pinch could be deposed now if the Times board gets worried. ... Warsh does contribute a good graf on the younger Sulzberger's susceptibility to managerial BS:

All of which must be disappointing to a man who rode into the Times on his enthusiasm for "Total Quality Management." In fact, Sulzberger has displayed throughout his career a softspot for management fads, "mission statements," "leadership moments" and the like. In recent years a favorite gimmick around the Times has been to speak of "the moose in the room" — a reference to a cautionary business fable about out-of-bounds problems in which a moose is invited to dinner and no guest is willing to ask why.

Cautionary note to Warsh: I don't think there was a "mounted head of a moose" on the stage of the movie theater where the Pinch/Howell/Gerald troika held their recent mass venting session. My sources, plus the Daily News, say Pinch had a stuffed toy moose in a plastic bag and dumped it on Raines' lap (which might be kind of symbolic, if you think about it)... 12:59 P.M.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Vision, Please! Kf demands that Don Graham  follow Stanley Kurtz's advice and take the Washington Post national. ... Graham should have done it years ago, and now seems like a propitious moment to rectify that strategic mistake: WaPo's historic competition, the New York Times, has been humbled. The NYT is not inconsiderably discredited among the opinion elite. Its editor is hated by half his staff. Dozens of good Times reporters are ready to jump ship. ...The Times-despising Bushies would be so grateful they'd probably get the FCC to throw in a couple of extra television licenses! ... Will Graham do it? Almost certainly not. He's always been happy to stay local, watch his profits go up while his paper's footprint on the national landscape shrivels. ... Is that what Graham wants on his tombstone: "He made his stock go up"?  ... As long as the Post is only the local paper of the nation's capitol, remember, sources with prime information to leak will always tend to give it to the NYT first. ... Plan B: Join with the Tribune Co. (owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune) to put out a national edition while spreading the inevitable initial losses. Make Pinch Pay! ... 12:40 A.M.

Friday, May 16, 2003

"We ain't helping these people":The N.Y. Post's Jonathan Foreman has been a strong supporter of the Iraq invasion, and he's now on the ground in Baghdad, so when he says we're blowing the reconstruction of Iraq, and gives chapter and verse, it gets your attention:

ORHA [the U.S. Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid] - America's inadequate, notoriously slow-moving substitute for an interim occupation government - is as unpopular with the U.S. soldiers on the street as it is with ordinary Iraqis.

And for good reason - even though ORHA is sometimes blamed for the failures of its counterparts in Army Civil Affairs units.

These soldiers see the reservoir of Iraqi goodwill draining away while bureaucrats take their time holding meetings and making plans as if time were somehow not an issue. They fear that their successors here will face an intifada in the summer if power, water, medicine, gasoline and food don't start reaching Iraqi civilians.

"We ain't helping these people" says Sgt. Johnny Perdue of the 4/64 Scouts. It's just so f----ing frustrating. ORHA say they're doing it. Well, they're not doing it in the places we go."

"I'm no bleeding heart" says Sgt. Leon "Pete" Peters (who had more than his share of kills during the fighting south of the city). "I'll pull the trigger quick as anyone. But this place is going to go crazy if we don't find a way to help these people . . . I've been here for more than 30 days and I've yet to see a single yellow humanitarian food package."

Don't Bush and Rove realize that this is one of the few issues that could cost them the election? Maybe it's not as salient as the economy--but Bush can't exercise much control over the economy. He can control the reconstruction of Iraq.. ... [Hasn't he appointed a new chief U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer--ed. Yes, and Bremer got off to a bad start by telling what Foreman calls a "laughable untruth" about Iraqi access to electricity.] 5:45 P.M.

Late-breaking Moose: Kf source Deep Times, who claims to be a current NYT staffer and seems to know what he/she is talking about (but who for all I really know is Stephen Glass or V. Botkin) emails to clarify the deeper meaning of Pinch Sulzberger's stuffed moose:

Gawker doesn't quite have the moose story right.
It really happened. A bunch of management types
from the editorial and business side were holed
up at a conference in the countryside for one of their annual cluster-f**ks.
They weren't getting along but they were being polite,
not discussing their differences openly.
Mostly they were all looking out the window and
smiling to themselves about a moose that was plainly
wandering around out there. But nobody said, hey,
look at that moose. They only realized later that they had all been watching the moose instead of paying attention to the meeting. So it became a metaphor, complete with props  -- "talk about
the moose in the room" -- the problem nobody will talk about.

Here's the moose in The Times newsroom: Gerald Boyd.

[Emphasis and asterisks inserted by kf.] 3:08 P.M.

Memo to Jacob Weisberg: We have to stop Lee Siegel from writing for Slate. Right now. 1:19 A.M.

I Decide What's 'Reflexively Left' Around Here, Buddy! Hugh Hewitt argues the L.A. Times is as bad as the NYT when it comes to "reflexively left" politics. But the LAT is getting better under its new owners while the NYT has been sliding ever since the younger Sulzberger took it over (which was years before Howell Raines advanced to the top editorial job). ... Hewitt's right about the Los Angeles paper's op-ed page, but the LAT's recently-hired Nick Goldberg is trying to diversify it--just as, for that matter, the NYT's just-promoted David Shipley has been diversifying the NYT op-ed page, to the extent that's possible given the lineup of regular columnists. I counsel patience with both op-ed pages. ...These media-obsessed bloggers are so quick to criticize! ... 12:42 A.M.

All the Moose That's Fit to Print: Junkyard Blogger Chris Regan searches the Web in vain for the meaning of Pinch Sulzberger's stuffed moose. He missed Gawker, which has a solid graf of moose 411. The moose is less ridiculous than you might think. But it's close! ... [OpinionJournal made the "All the Moose .." joke yesterday-ed. So they did. They have even more moosology today.]12:21 A.M.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Does Jayson Blair really exist? Nick Gillespie has doubts. ... 1:52 P.M.

Needlenose defendsSalam Pax against David Warren's assault. ... 1:33 P.M.

Who controls Hollywood?

From the March 9, 2003, kausfiles:

Great Moments In Social Equality: Jack Grubman's kids enter public school! (This, according to the N.Y. Post, will be after their rejection by "at least eight exclusive prep schools" ....) Memo to Jeff Zucker: Two words -- 1) sit 2) com. ... 1:20 A.M.

From today's Washington Post:

Fox's other new series:

-"Arrested Development," a comedy about a rich family that heads to the poorhouse when the father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is arrested for illegal accounting practices.

1:12 P.M.

First, try spin. If that fails, look into your heart!  NYT executive editor Howell Raines has now confessed that race was one reason he gave Jayson Blair "one chance too many." But didn't he deny this very thing to NPR's Melissa Block just a few days ago? ... I think so. But you, the reader, be the judge of whether Raines tried to dissemble to Block when he thought he could get away with it. From "All Things Considered," May 8:

BLOCK: ... And I wonder now, looking back, if you see this as something of a cautionary tale, that maybe Jayson Blair was given less scrutiny or more of a pass on the corrections to his stories that you had to print because the paper had an interest in cultivating a young, black reporter.

RAINES: No, I do not see it as illustrating that point. I see it as illustrating a tragedy for Jayson Blair, that here was a person who under the conditions in which other journalists perform adequately decided to fabricate information and mislead colleagues.

Now, Raines admits "the answer is yes." ... P.S.: The false "race had nothing to do with it" spin was also the official position of the Times, spouted by its spokespersons, who presumably get their talking points from on high. ... P.P.S.: Ann Coulter notes that Times has editorialized righteously about the need for "explicitly taking race into account" at the University of Michigan. Yet in the crunch it felt it had to initially deny it had done any such thing itself. Why, if it's such a great policy? ... Also see Coulter's entertainingly brutal last graf. ... P.P.P.S.: I don't know why people are so tough on Pinch Sulzberger. It's not like he brings stuffed animals to important staff meetings. ... Oh, wait. ... How did Howie Kurtz, who has detailed catharsis-coverage here, miss the moose? ... P.P.P.P.S.: It's also a good thing that people in the Times organization aren't scared of Raines now that he's pledged to change his ways. Otherwise they might  suppress columns critical of him! ... [Update: The Globe's editors have apparently come to their senses and published the ant-Raines column. It's very strong.] More: Excellent Don Wycliff column says Gerald Boyd's denial of the race factor "does not ring true," and details the perils of being the boss' "anointed" star.... More: Raines said he was at the meeting to "listen to your anger." Just don't use curse words or he'll get his back up! We want civil, moose-like anger!  (The N.Y. Post  says Raines subsequently apologized for "acting prickly," saying "I've been under a lot of stress lately.")  ...2:21 A.M.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Is famed Baghdad blogger Salam Pax coming to the end of his Western media fame cycle? David Warren has a speculative takedown here, and Instapundit links to other pungent commentary. ... Is S.P. an "anomic thirtysomething smartass," or worse? ...Update: Needlenose  defends Pax against Warren's "smear." ... 8:49 P.M.

Just a Reminder: Still Not Enough Troops in Iraq, argues NY Post's Ralph Peters. ... Peters is in favor of giving the troops a freer hand than seems wise, but he's good at ridiculing Rumsfeld's apparent almost anarchistic assumption that once the initial military battle was won, order would spontaneously and organically emerge from the leaderless Iraqi people.. ... 8:34 P.M.

Guilty Southern White Boy confesses. Stop the presses! I'm reluctant to draw grand conclusions based on a brief news flash on Drudge, but it would seem that Howell Raines himself has now admitted that he cut Jayson Blair extra slack because Blair is black. Update: Drudge's quote differed from the one in the NYT's own story by only a couple of inconsequential words. Here's the NYT account:

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Doesn't that statement definitively end the attempt of affirmative action defenders (e.g., and e.g.), as well as the NYT's official spokesperson, to deny the bleeding obvious? ... Has Raines cleverly realized that if it's not (a) affirmative action's fault, then it's (b)his fault--so he's choosing the self-preservationist explanation (a)? ... I tend to think he's just telling the truth, but it's a truth that serves him well. ... P.S.: But isn't he a little old to still be stuck in the identity-politics 'I'm-a-white man from Alabama irrevocably defined by my race and backgound' mindset? ... More: Here's a  colorful, no-BS take on the Blair affair by Ciro Scotti that actually adds value even at this late date. (I'm ignoring Scotti's ritual, half-hearted exculpation of "diversity efforts"--this in a piece that partly blames the NYT's "frantic pursuit of diversity.") ... 7:47 P.M.

TomPaine.com steps in to fill the blog-vacuum on the left. ... Instapundit (citing Bryan Preston) thinks they should avoid the anonymous posts. I tend to agree--anonymous posts reinforce the impression that some institutional party line is being enforced. (That causes dissonance when it isn't--i.e., when the blog-line contradicts the probable magazine-line, as with the TNR blog's recent straw-grasping defense of affirmative action. Who at TNR likes race preferences--bet it's not Marty!--and why won't they tell us their name, or at least their initials?). ... But TomPaine seems to be focusing less on windy opining and more on linking--a good move, since the real need is for anInstapundit-like one-stop clearing house for liberals. They're almost there already. ... Update: While I wasn't looking TAPPED got fairly comprehensive as well. ... 4:37 P.M.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Breaking: Raines calls emergency (job-saving?) meeting. (See second-to-last graf.) ... Drudge has  the e-mail. ... Suggested closed-door line for Pinch: 'Howell, isn't there a book you want to write?' ... Update: Boy, do I wish somebody had been a blog on the wall at this meeting. Was it a) cathartic venting, b) kumbaya-bonding (Lucianne's prediction) or c) East German Party Rally? America wants to know. If anyone has news please email kausfiles. Thanks. ... More: Drudge has a flash summary. ... More: Reuters  indicates it was (a). ...  4:21 P.M.

More evidence of the dynamic that might threaten NYT editor Howell Raines in the Blair scandal:The alternative for those on the left who don't want to "blame affirmative action" is rapidly becoming "blame Raines."  The New Republic travels down that road  here. Mnoosweek falls in line here.  ...

P.S.: Isn't this what we neolibs used to somewhat murkily call a "false choice," since both factors are obviously to blame? TNR argues Raines went beyond simple "affirmative action" and indulged in something it calls "the fetishization of diversity," defined as the "monomaniacal fixation on a single goal, whether the goal is diversity or proper grammar or having a certain type of Danish at editorial meetings."  But this is hardly the bright line, good/bad distinction TNR seems to think it is. Any time you promote an employee, you're taking some risk he or she will screw up, and weighing that risk against the evidence of the their competence. The whole point of affirmative action, as advocated by TNR's blog (though I doubt by at least two of TNR's three owners) is to tilt this multi-factor calculus in favor of candidates of certain races. That means un-tilting other competing factors, like the risk of screw-ups, which means they will sometimes be outweighed. With Blair the risks just came to fruition. ...

P.P.S.: The Times' own defense of affirmative action--that many minorities weren't promoted  the way Blair was--suggests that race was one factor competing with other factors, not a monofactor. That doesn't get race off the hook when the other factors turn out to have merited more weight. It does mean TNR's big distinction between "a slight boost" and "monomania" is artificial and inapposite.  ...(Not only is the distinction a matter of degree, but the slope involved is slippery. If a "slight boost" for minorities doesn't produce the desired numbers, then maybe a slightly less slight boost is called for, etc.)

P.P.P.S.: If affirmative action only gives a "slight boost" to minorities is it really worth all the stigma it generates? The stigma would seems to come from the preference itself, not the degree of preference (whether it's a "boost" or "fetish"). TNR, arguing against this idea, suggests that suck-ups who followed Alabama football games might get promotions from editors who follow Alabama football. How true. (I remember getting a call from an aspiring young reporter I knew, asking for a xerox of an article Howell Raines had written about Alabama football. The reporter needed to read the article in order to suck up to Raines in a job interview. The reporter is now on the national staff of the Times.) That's just life in all its human idiosyncracy, TNR seems to argue--only monomaniacal pursuit of Alabama fans would be bad. But TNR stacks the deck by picking a quirky, non-widespread bias. If 12 percent of the nation's population were Alabama football fans, and they were readily identifiable by their skin color, and employers across the country had programs in place to promote Alabama fans ahead of other more qualified applicants, then Alabama fans everywhere would operate under the same affirmative-action stigma African American reporters must now operate under at the Times and elsewhere,. That would be true even if the pro-Alabama bias was but one factor among many, and not pursued "to the exclusion of almost everything else." ... The fact that it's only a "slight boost" that generates this nationwide stigma is an argument against giving the boost, not in favor of it. ...

Again (it "bares repeating," as the NYT's editors would say) get rid of race preferences and Jayson Blair becomes just an individual screw-up, not something that leaves "a large, looming shadow over an entire generation of young black journalists trying to get their feet in the door at a major newspaper." ... 2:40 P.M.

Blair update: It's all about prepping Howell! "Heads should roll," says a NYT staffer., according to the N.Y. Post. How is Sulzberger going to roll his own head? Maybe there are instructions on the Web somewhere. ... But the Post emphasizes the "Raines high-handedness" factor as the theme of staff disaffection--a theme that gets Sulzberger off the hook more than the "affirmative action" explanation, which is why it's much more dangerous to Raines. ... Bill Keller (runner-up to Raines for the executive editor's job) is looking better and better, isn't he? He's sitting there on the bench, presumably ready to play. Maybe the fourth quarter belongs to him! ... Update: Raines has formed a task force, the "Siegal Committee," and also plans

a fast-track version of the process that was so helpful to me during the months before I became executive editor. At that time, I met with many groups of editors, reporters, photographers, designers, artists and researchers. ...

The collective wisdom of these groups helped prepare me for the enormous challenges of my first 18 months on the job.

It did? That's one of the questions in dispute, no? [Emphasis on bizarre, morale-crushing solipsism added.] ... I get it: If only Raines meets with enough editors and reporters, then his high-handed dismissal of editors' and reporters' advice will be better-informed!  ... 2:34 A.M.

Monday, May 12, 2003

An  e-mail posted by Andrew Sullivangets at another aspect of the Blair fiasco: editor Howell Raines' apparent habit of overruling and ignoring his subordinates (e.g., the metro editor who tried to stop Blair) while running the paper with his gut. That practice can be good (Ben Bradlee certainly went with his gut at WaPo, often to great effect). It can also be "arbitrary, unaccountable, with a dose of almost feudal personal favoritism" and not so good--if, to pick a random example, the editor is an egomaniacal Guilty Southern White Boy, running a star system based in part on loyalty, whose self-image involves him singlehandedly helping deserving African-Americans claim their rightful place in American society! ... P.S.: How would you like the assignment of serving on the Times' "task force ... to identify lessons for the newspaper," also advertised in this e-mail  to NYT staffers fromRaines, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and managing editor Gerald Boyd. After, all, it's pretty clear from the NYT's own account  that these three are the main screw-ups in the Blair saga (apart from Blair himself). What do you think the chances are that the "task force" will come back, after weeks of fact-finding, and say: "After careful deliberation, Mr. Sulzberger, we've concluded the problem is youand the two men you appointed ..."? 4:15 P.M.

The World Socialist Web Site comes to Jayson Blair's defense. They make a good point about Walter Duranty, though. ... 11:09 A.M.

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Links

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. 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. 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! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run:Reason gone wild! Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]

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