Proving you're not in a 'persistent vegetative state.'

Proving you're not in a 'persistent vegetative state.'

Proving you're not in a 'persistent vegetative state.'

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 28 2003 6:36 PM

L.A. Times Gets Spun Again

Plus: How to prove you're not persistently vegetative.

Bee minus: Edited Sacramento Bee blogger Daniel Weintraub links, without comment, to "The Case Against Editors." Bet he would have had a comment if he didn't have an editor. ... 1:40 P.M.

Bonus Gratuitous LAT-Bashing: LA Weekly'sNikki Finke reports that no less than five journalists  turned down the chance to fill Pulitzer-winning TV critic Howard Rosenberg's slot at the L.A. Times, in theory a prime perch at the paper. Finke tactfully attributes the humiliating multiple rebuffs to "L.A.-phobia"--fear of moving to L.A.. But are we sure "L.A.T.-phobia"--fear of the Times' spotty and P.C. reputation--wasn't a factor? Somehow I think that if the Times was a better paper at least one of those five writers might have made the immense sacrifice of moving to the nation's second-largest city. If the Times can't even get entertainment writers to move to L.A. ... 4:16 A.M.

Spun by a Coard: Has the LAT been spun on the invasion of Grenada?  Carol Williams' 10/25 story--which draws an analogy to the invasion of Iraq--does its best to leave the impression that the 1983 American takeover may have been responsible for the death of charismatic leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Williams' piece does note that "hard -line Marxist rivals" deposed Bishop before the invasion. But then it says that "he and his allies were killed six days later" and adds ominously that "grave doubts remain about who ordered and conducted the executions." The photo caption in the print edition actually says "Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others were killed in October 1983, after the U.S. invaded." [Emphasis added.] ...


In fact, Bishop is universally reported to have been killed on October 19, 1983, five days after the internal coup against him but six days before the U.S. invaded on October 25. (In that six day period Bishop's killing was officially condemned by numerous countries, including Fidel Castro's Cuba.)  As for who killed Bishop, does Williams have any evidence that disputes the conventional account, accepted  on the left  and right and backed by witnesses, that Bishop was killed by Grenadan soldiers serving a hard-line faction of Bishop's own leftist New Jewel movement--the crime for which Bishop's New Jewel rival Bernard Coard has been convicted and imprisoned? All Williams offers to support the "grave doubts" about this basic account is the statement of ... Bernard Coard, who "intimated" to her in a prison interview that "the executions were the work of two Grenadian quislings of the CIA."  ... Of course, if the Grenada invasion didn't kill the U.S. government's enemy (Bishop) but instead overthrew the people who killed the U.S. government's enemy, that complicates Williams' Hussein/Iraq analogy. It's possible that Williams didn't turn in the unsupported revisionism the LAT published, but that her piece was hacked into its muddled, anti-U.S. form by tendentious editing designed to enhance the Iraq parallel. ... Paranoid afterthought: Hmmm. Of course, if CIA provocateurs did secretly help foment the Marxist coup within New Jewel that gave the U.S. a pretext to invade, well ... that would have been more ingenious and effective CIA work than we're used to hearing about. It also would have been wrong. But it wouldn't make the LAT's botched account right. ... 3:35 A.M.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 

Good speculation by my colleague Timothy Noah on the why the Clinton Administration's most prominent foreign policy players (except Albright) have been so strangely quiet about the Iraq War. (See "The Silence of the Clintonistas.")  But there's an alternative explanation Noah doesn't discuss: Maybe the Clinton foreign policy people are "reluctant to criticize the Iraq War" because they support the Iraq War. Just a thought!... 5:25 P.M.

'I am big. It's the blogs that got smaller!' A moving endorsement from Camille Paglia:

Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren't this dreary meta-commentary, where there's a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats.


I still say Herb Caen's column was the first blog. ... [I've been meaning to ask you to give us a bit more on-rushing velocity--ed. Blogs are supposed to have on-rushing velocity? Blogs? The very name conjures not 'on-rushing velocity.' You don't pay enough for on-rushing velocity.] 2 :45 P.M.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 

There's a lot of talk  hailing lone blogger Joshua Micah Marshall's Howard Dean-like success in raising money over the Internet to send himself to New Hampshire  to cover the presidential primary. (See also here.) I have to dissent. Yes, Marshalls' a good guy, and with his obsessive reporting he's done more to help the Democrats from his Dupont Circle apartment than the entire, bloated Moyers-fed bureaucracy of The American Prospect. But as an innovator he's clearly out of his depth--he's the sort of mediocre entrepreneur who stumbles on to a good idea and then doesn't know quite what to do with it. He's probably going to just go to New Hampshire and report, as he promised his readers, when instead he could be taking it to the next level. ... What's the next level? I'm thinking of my brother, who once threw a quarter to a busking Larry "Wildman" Fischer  on the UCLA campus, telling him it was a payment if he'd only shut up. And I'm thinking of my roommate Mark, who wanted to start a reverse record store, where you'd go and plunk down $10.99 to bribe Paul McCartney into not making an album that year. .... It's one thing to use the PayPal to raise money to allow good journalists to travel and write. But the real, revolutionary killer-ap would use the Web to pay bad journalists not to write. ... What motivates donors more--admiration or hate? The question answers itself! ... We could start small--say, raising $10,000 to send the NYT's Joyce Purnick on a long, luxurious cruise of Southeast Asia, or to fund a year-long Rick Berke fellowship at the Annenberg Foundation--and gradually build up to the big-dollar targets like Geraldo Rivera and Peter Jennings. ... Trust me. Marshall doesn't know what he's got. Time to move him out of the way and take this thing over. IPO by '05.  ... [Thanks to Taranto--see last item] 5:23 P.M.

NPR vs. NPR:  I was just growing more sympathetic to the cause of those who want to pull the plug on Terri Schiavo--then I heard an eye-opening interview on NPR's Day to Day with a woman who says she was near to being diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state" and was trying desperately to signal her doctors and nurses while they debated the most convenient time to kill her--sorry, I mean, exercise her "right to die." If she tried to make repetitive letter motions with her hand, they sedated her. ... She was finally saved by one nurse who suspected she "was in there" and gathered evidence to 'prove' it. ... Her case may not be Terri Schiavo's case--but it's enough to make one very wary of the wonderful ethical/legal consensus, obediently trumpeted by All Things Considered and Slate's  Dahlia Lithwick, that has established the PVS/plug-pulling protocol. ... How does a) the number of innocent people who will be executed under death penalty procedures compare with b) the number of innocent, live patients who will be killed under a tendentious diagnosis of PVS? I'd guess the ratio is probably one to 100, maybe 1 to 1,000. But the American left makes a huge (and legitimate) fuss about the former while it actually promotes the latter. ... [Conflict note: I do occasional bits for Day to Day, which has a relationship with Slate.]  ... Update: Here's a  good Newsday account  of the Schiavo case from last April, before Governor Bush's intervention riled partisan spirits. It's ultimately favorable to the parents' side on the issue of Terri's potential consciousness and, more strongly, on the 'this-is-what-she-would-have-wanted' test, which increasingly seems to me to be a disingenuous enterprise. If you want to pull the plug in these sorts of cases, you now have to come up with some evidence, however flimsy, of the PVS victim's desire 'not to live like this.' Funny how it always seems to turn up. ... [Thanks to reader J.M.]... 2:45 P.M.


Is it good for the blogs? Kausfiles' long-promised defense of unedited blogging ("freeblogging"?) post-Easterbrook is done. It's long enough and tedious enough... I mean, it's so important that I put it on a separate page. I also accidentally checked the wrong box and posted the first, completely unedited crap draft in this space for a few minutes last night. That's, like, ironic on so many levels! ... 1:35 A.M.

Monday, October 27, 2003

A useful counterweight to NPR:blog by a Catholic priest who has travelled to Florida to assist Terri Schiavo's mother and father in their feeding-tube battle. ... I can't find a pro-husband blog, but here is a Florida legal blog with lots of information on the case, much of it favorable to Michael. (Some of it, on the blog's separate  Schiavo info page, prompted a non-trivial correction to my item below.) ...2:07 A.M.

Sunday, October 26, 2003


regardless of whether these single moms were currently employed or jobless, suggesting there was something about welfare reform that motivated these women to change their lifestyle, either in order to keep their jobs or in anticipation of going to work.

Healthier living is defined as more frequent exercise and less binge drinking. Or does it just mean more attention paid to presenting an employable front to nosy researchers who ask lots of questions about binge drinking? Either way, it's almost certainly an improvement. Further study, etc. ... 9:03 P.M.

Rumblings persist regarding the possibility of continuing Schwarzenegger scandal stories. And it's not just the L.A. Times. .... 8:53 P.M.


Saturday, October 25, 2003

What's a complacent centrist do when he needs to be angry but can't find anything to be angry about? Simple: He listens to NPR! All Things Considered, in particular, rarely fails to come through. On Wednesday, I needed to come up with a "rant" for a scheduled radio appearance--and, presto, ATC delivered with a stunningly biased and condescending report on the Schiavo "right to die" case.  "Bias" isn't quite the right word, actually. A biased report might interview all sides but slant the story to favor one point of view while quoting only unconvincing generalities from the other. That was Thursday's NPR Schiavo story. Wednesday's story transcended mere bias, covering the case as if the anti-death side didn't even exist, so there was no need to even try to find out what they were thinking. [Audio of both stories available here.]

In case you haven't been paying attention, the issue in the Schiavo case is whether or not to remove the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, who has been found to be in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS). Terri's husband, Michael, wants the tube removed; Terri's family doesn't. A judge ruled that the decision is Michael's. [Correction: Abstract Appeal says that Michael petitioned the judge, who made the decision.] Michael has said Terri would have wanted to die. But there are, er,  complications  that lead some to question Michael's judgment. Florida's legislature has now intervened to allow Governor Jeb Bush to order the feeding tube reinserted.

Here's who we heard from on NPR on Wednesday:

a) Melissa Block introducing Jon Hamilton's report and declaring that the governor's action "goes against more than two decades of legal and ethical decisionmaking."
b) A bioethicist who is "saddened" by the intervention to reinsert the feeding tube.
c) An explanation of "persistent vegetative state" from a neurologist who actually testified for the husband, Michael.
d) A representative of the American Medical Association who seems to support the husband's position.
e) Hamilton noting bioethicist (b)'s opinion that there is "little question the Florida legislature will
eventually be overturned."

That's three experts on the husband's side, zero experts (or non-experts) on the parents' side, by my count. This was followed by an extended interview with Yale death maven Dr. Sherwin Nuland in which he, too, sides with the husband. (Interview available here.) Nuland snidely refers to a typical situation involving "Susie from Dubuque," who arrives late at her mother's bedside and inveighs against pulling the plug. He confidently attributes "Susie's" views to "her sense of guilt" at not having paid much attention to her mother earlier. Nuland then discusses a hypothetical family that wants to keep feeding a relative who has been in a PVS fo years. He suggests that probably "no member of that family would want to be exposed to what this woman is being exposed to. ... [T]hey inflict it on her not because of her needs, in fact, but because of their own." Hey, same to you, Doc! Have I missed something? Is Terri Schiavo in pain? If not, is it crazy or even unusual to choose to keep on being fed and comforted in that situation, on the longshot chance of a recovery--assuming, that is, one is only considering one's own "needs"? ...

Notice to All Potential Mickey Kaus "Surrogates"-- If I'm ever in Terri Schiavo's situation, and not in any pain, please follow these simple steps: Keep the feeding tube in, and keep Dr. Nuland out.

Given the actual facts in the Schiavo case, I'm not sure which side I support. It's nice that, as Dahlia Lithwick describes, bioethicists, lawyers and judges have settled on clear rules (e.g. 'the husband decides as the 'surrogate''). But does this rule really make such great sense? Husbands, as a class, seem much more likely to have a Darwinian conflict of interest than parents. (Basic evolutionary psychology: Men tend to want to start second families even when their wives aren't in persistent vegetative states.) Even apparently sensible clear rules can be twisted into perversities, especially when there are powerful social forces pushing them in that direction. (I remember when you had to show physical abuse to get a divorce in some states. Suddenly it became suspiciously easy to get a judicial finding of physical abuse. Couldn't the same thing happen with a judicial finding of "persistent vegetative state" and "what X would have wanted"?)

The miraculous consensus of "decades of legal and ethical decisionmaking" sometimes seems like a conspiracy of convenience. I gag when NPR commentators glibly talk about upholding Terri Schiavo's "right to die" as if she herself had exercised that right--e.g. by writing a living will--as opposed to having her husband attempt to have that "right" exercised for her when she's unable to contradict him. And while Nuland's "Susie" may often act out of guilt, isn't it possible that just occasionally a Susie arrives from Dubuque to find exhausted relatives and cost-conscious doctors ready to give up on a PVS or coma victim who still has a chance to snap out of it?

Both sides have a point. That's exactly what NPR won't concede. How are people supposed to make up their minds if the assumption is that one side doesn't even deserve a hearing?

[Correction: According to Abstract Appeal, Michael Schiavo did not act as his wife's "surrogate" in deciding whether she would have wanted to exercise her 'right to die.' He petitioned a court to make that decision, and presented evidence that dying would be her wish. The judge acted as the "surrogate."]  2:34 A.M.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Fate of Means-Testing as Urgent as it is Unpredictable! The proposed "mean-testing" of Medicare (i.e. making the rich pay more for their benefits) barely makes the list of Democratic complaints in Amy Goldstein's WaPo story and is completely absent from Robert Pear's NYT account. ... Does this mean means-testing is in like Flynn if the prescription drug bill passes? I certainly don't think it means Democrats no longer care about means-testing. And often one side in a legislative debate will make a big deal over Issue A when they're really worried about Issue B--especially if pushing A looks better in press than pushing B. (Predictable example: If you were a Democrat upset with welfare reform's work requirements during the 1990s, you made a big fuss--not about the work requirements, but about day care money.)  But it's hard to characterize as mere stalking-horse issues the Democratic complaints that are prominently featured in WaPo and the NYT. Forcing Medicare to compete with private insurers--the big issue, according to both papers--would seem to threaten the program in a way means-testing doesn't.  Democrats may have to swallow means-testing  to avoid the privatization threat. ... P.S.: The best hope of the Democratic anti-means-testers would seem to be another bit of Washington Kabuki: Engineering an impasse so the prescription drug bill doesn't pass, but they can't be blamed for it. ... 2:59 A.M.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Victory of Neoliberalism Postponed: OK, so maybe it was too much to think "means-testing" would just slip through Congress without anybody noticing. Senator Daschle is now threatening a Democratic filibuster. But note that he's not promising a filibuster. The Hill explains why  the prescription drug bill in the year 2003 isn't a good battlefield for the Democrats to make their anti-means-testing stand on. ... [Link via The Note] 4:03 A.M.

Persistent Vegetative State: Health Care In Crisis Coverage in Crisis! The L.A. Times' Ron Brownstein attempts to write the only-op-ed-you'll-ever-need on covering the uninsured. It's good! But ... Suppose we cover the uninsured, and as a result the cost of providing free health care to the uninsured stops driving up health care costs for the rest of us. Brownstein says this can be done for only $75 billion more out of the $1.6 trillion we spend on health care annually. But doesn't that very statistic suggest that the cost of paying for the uninsured isn't such a big factor in driving up health care costs for the rest of us? That the main things driving up costs are fancy new technologies? That the key debate, when it comes to universal health care, will not be whether or how to cover the uninsured but the mechanism, if any, chosen to restrain those rising costs--some form of price controls? Canada-style government monopsony purchasing power? ... Or am I missing something? ...  I tend to be less alarmed at rising health care costs than most. Is it so bad if as our nation gets richer we spend 50 percent of our GDP on health care? You got something more important to buy? ... But clearly Americans don't like the idea of shifting more of their paychecks into the health sector--that's why half of Los Angeles is on strike. ...  A big part of the solution, maybe, will be convincing people that they're getting more--a lot more, in the form of longer, better lives--from those annoying, increased premiums and copayments. ... 3:26 A.M.

"Where is Mrs. Plame?" Here  she is! 2:39 A.M.

Borkin' Boykin! kf reader L.A., in an e-mail, does better damage control for Gen. Boykin than either John Podhoretz or Boykin himself:

When I heard Boykin's remarks quoted I immediately thought - "He was talking about that braggart warlord being an idolator, not all Moslems." Any one who regards God as his personal servant to perform services for him would be an idol  worshipper in the religious vocabulary of upstate NY Pentecostals, Witnesses and Baptists circa 1960. The idea would not be foreign to Methodists and Presbytarians in those distant days ...

Under this theory, Somali warlord Osman Atto (see previous post) was worshipping an idol because he regarded Allah, the one God of both Christians and Muslims, as his personal shield--but Boykin didn't. Atto was blaspheming Allah! Yeah, that's the ticket.  It might fly. ... Or rather, it might have flown had Boykin not already come out with a far inferior, implausible damage-controlling spin that he was referring  only to Atto's "worship of money and power." Too late. ...P.S.: L.A., you have a future as a spinner! The Pentagon needs you. ... P.P.S.---"We can't grade your paper": Armed Liberal  links an old CNN story on Boykin and Waco, and explains why it might not be such a blemish after all. ...  2:22 A.M.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The N.Y. Post's John Podhoretz argues  that Gen. Gerald Boykin was "talking about an Islamic radical, not about a mainstream imam" when he said "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." Huh? Boykin was talking about Osman Atto, a garden variety Somali warlord, financer, and arms supplier--not a radical Islamic fundamentalist. (Atto's the guy who gets captured in the opening scenes of Black Hawk Down.) Nice try! ... Boykin's own explanation--that he was referring to Atto's "worship of money and power"  because Atto "was a corrupt man, not a follower of Islam"--contradicts Podhoretz's "Islamic radical" explanation. Get your stories straight next time! ... P.S.: Boykin's story seems fishy too. If William Arkin's account  is accurate, Boykin's "idol" apercu was a response to Atto's taunt about the power of Allah, after an early U.S. attempt to capture Atto failed. According to Arkin, Boykin told a church audience, "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.'" ... P.P.S.: I'm not wildly exercised about Boykin's views--it seems to me the importance of his deputy assistant secretary intelligence-coordinating position has been hyped by critics such as Arkin. But I note that even Podhoretz thinks Boykin should now be reassigned, "strictly as a matter of practical politics." ... P.P.P.S.: Was Boykin an adviser to Janet Reno during Waco? That's what Arkin says. Not a good thing to have on your resume, surely. ... 3:05 A.M.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

ABC News' Beth Lloyd reports  (in the 10/20 "Note") that Rev. Al Sharpton changed his stump speech for a large, virtually all-white college audience at the University of Virginia:

Gone were the criticism of hip-hop music and the tone of urgency to continue the civil rights struggle that Sharpton always includes when addressing students at historically black colleges. Instead, Sharpton focused on policy, Bush-bashing and getting out the vote ... [Emphasis added]

Why not criticize hip-hop before a white crowd? Is Sharpton perversely refusing to pander to whites while speaking hard truths to blacks?  Or, given hip-hop's heavily white audience, is he actually pandering to a white U. Va crowd that probably could use hearing his criticism? ... P.S.: What does Sharpton say about hip-hop? Here's a sample (from FNV Newsletter):

Unfortunately, much of what they're selling is a fraud.  They spew hedonism, misogyny, and self-hate.  They glorify the prison culture, the pimp culture, and drug culture.  They tell the young that they're not worthy unless they're "rocking" Chanel, Gucci, or wearing platinum and diamonds.  Not only is this message immoral, but it is also flawed.  It's a lie.

Words that should be heard by all concerned Americans. I'm serious! Most of my friend's kids listen to hip-hop. It can't be good for them. [You're turning into ... Gregg Easterbrook!-ed. And what about those rap music executives? They're ... Stop!-ed. Thank God I have an editor.] 1:49 A.M.

Iowa, Go Home: Will the decision of Sen Joe Lieberman and Gen. Wesley Clark to bypass the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses undermine that proud, venerable institution? Here's hoping! The Iowa caucuses are highly unrepresentative, media-created event. In 2000, for example, only little more than a tenth of the state's registered Democrats--forget about Independents--attended the party's meetings. All of the caucusers, as always, seemed to be members of the teachers' union, the National Education Association. Every four years this tiny minority pushes the Democratic candidates way to the left, so they can spend the rest of the year scrambling to make themselves palatable to the actual voting public. ... When I covered the caucuses in 1988, they were treated by the press as a near-apocalyptic event. The declared Democratic winner, of course, was President Dick Gephardt (although actually nobody really knows who won, since the media amateurishly botched the count). Since then, the perspicacious caucus-going Iowans have picked President Harkin (1992) and President Gore (2000).  In fact, the only non-incumbent Democrat who won Iowa and actually went on to win the White House was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter put the caucuses on the map. The state's unimpressive track record in the ensuing years has gradually dulled its luster, and this could be the year the hype collapses completely. ... Caveat: Iowa might still be a useful killing ground for the hopes of certain craggy, Ibogainish New England senators. (You remember President Muskie, don't you? He won the caucuses in 1972.) ... 12:25 A.M.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Why ESPN was wrong to fire Gregg Easterbrook: I'm late to both the Condemn Easterbrook party and the Condemn ESPN for Firing Easterbrook party  (often attended, not untenably, by the same people). The firing was not simply an overreaction by ESPN to Easterbrook's October 13 blog post--it was, I think, something of a category mistake. He's been charged with the wrong crime, as it were. Easterbrook's blunder was the sort of error that can easily be made in good faith and, once acknowledged, quickly forgiven. It's the sort of mistake I might easily make--I know because I've made it.

At the same time, it's hard to get too angry at Disney-owned ESPN or Disney CEO Michael Eisner--even if you suspect, as I do, that the order to fire Easterbrook came from somewhere in the Eisnerian region of the organizational chart. The powers at Disney probably believed--perhaps after reading Tim Rutten's too-easy condemnation--that they were righteously rooting out an anti-Semite whose presence on the payroll might itself lead to legitimate complaints.

I've known Gregg Easterbrook since 1979, when he was hired as a fellow editor at The Washington Monthly. He's not remotely an anti-Semite, as his colleagues from the The New Republic have attested, nor have I ever heard him express a bigoted thought in the 24 years I've known him. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and he's produced some of the best journalism I've ever read, and he's extremely funny (as his ESPN readers know)--yet he also has a slightly clumsy, emotional, well-meaning earnestness about him. That may be part of what got him into trouble. But the easiest thing to to say about the Easterblogg controversy is that this wasn't a case of the mask slipping to reveal a writer's previously concealed, ugly thoughts (despite Roger Simon's reasonable suspicions). Forget that idea.

But what were Easterbrook's thoughts? This is where it gets complicated. In his apology  Easterbrook claims to "defend all the thoughts" while apologizing for doing such a "poor job of expressing them." But when you read the radioactive paragraph in question you definitely get the sense that there is something offensive in there, if only you could figure out what the "thoughts" actually are. Normally a writer as sharp as Easterbrook doesn't deploy a stereotype like "worship money above all else" in connection with "Jews" unless he intends to do something with it--like mock it, or turn it on its head. What did he mean?

My hunch about what happened is this: Easterbrook hated the violence in Kill Bill. He's frustrated that all the appeals to Hollywood to stop this sort of thing haven't worked. (You can disagree with these sentiments, as Virginia Postrel does. But they're not offensive, at least in my book, and I don't buy Virginia's argument that the slope from hating one form of commerce to anti-Semitism is especially slippery.)

Trying to come up with some new weapon for his side, Easterbrook has the religion writer's idea--did I mention he also wrote a book about God?--of trying to shame studio executives Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein for betraying their faiths, the way he'd tried to shame Mel Gibson a week earlier. (This is in fact what Easterbrook says he was trying to do.) But Weinstein and Eisner are Jewish--and you can't just assume that they are especially religious Jews, the way Gibson is openly religious. Nor, perhaps, does Easterbrook have at his fingertips the particular Jewish teachings he might want to charge the two executives with flouting.  So he rightly drops the idea and looks for some other inventive hand-hold he can get on them. He toys with arguing that they have some special obligation to avoid living up to the anti-Semitic 'money-obsessed' stereotype, but doesn't actually make this argument because he realizes it's offensive. (Why should anti-Semitism impose a special burden on its victims?) He winds up arguing that Jews ought to be especially reluctant to "[glorify] the killing of the helpless" because of the killings during the Holocaust ("recent European history")--and he doesn't realize that this too is offensive, for reasons thoroughly ventilated in the comments section of Simon's blog, here  and here. (Why should the Holocaust impose a special moral burden on Jews? Why shouldn't the opposition of Eisner and Weinstein as human beings to slaughtering innocents dwarf and render otiose their opposition as Jews to slaughtering innocents?)

Leon Wieseltier, who's thought more about this subject than I have, tells the LAT's Rutten: "Insofar as Gregg's comments impute Jewish motives for everything that Jews do, insofar as they suggest that everything any Jew does is intrinsically a Jewish thing, they are objectively anti-Semitic. But Gregg Easterbrook is not an anti-Semite and the suggestion that the New Republic is in any way receptive to anti-Semitism is the most ludicrous thing I've heard ..."

Easterbrook's mistake, then, was more than just "poor wording" and less than bigotry.  Eugene Volokh comes up with the right category, I think, when he says "Easterbrook's espousal of this theory did not suggest any real hatred, hostility, or bigotry, only moral error."

What was he thinking when he made this moral error? I suspect he was thinking, "Hey, here's a neat argument. This will work." That's what I was thinking many years ago when I made a similar error, also in The New Republic. It embarrasses me now: I wrote that discrimination against homosexuals in West Hollywood bars was less outrageous than, say, discrimination against blacks in the South, because homosexuals in West Hollywood had acquired money and power. Neat argument, huh? Sort of leftish! After the piece was printed, one of TNR's top editors let me know he thought the argument was offensive, and I realized after some resistance that he was right. I wasn't fired, though. I was busted and I learned something. That's what's supposed to happen. (See Jeff Jarvis.). That's what should have happened with Easterbrook.

Tomorrow I hope to deal with the whispered question that seems to underlie all these disputes: Is it good for the blogs? ... Update:  Shafer sees his friend as a strangely clueless scold. ... James Taranto's OpinionJournal notes the congruence of Easterbrook's objectionable assumptions with the assumptions of identity politics. Interesting that identity politics, applied to Jews, yields anti-Semitism. Applied to Latinos it's ... Karl Rove's strategy! ... 10:48 A.M.

Free Willie Scoop: Why did flamboyant San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown join Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team? Brown had been widely expected to run for the Bay Area Senate seat now held by powerful Senate President pro Tem John Burton, who will be termed out next year. Burton's seat would give Brown a good perch from which to resume running the state legislature, as he'd done in the 1980s. But Schwarzenegger is wildly unpopular in this district--teaming up with the Governor-elect would seem suicidal for Brown. It makes sense only if you assume Brown has abandoned plans to run for the seat. Why might he do that? Perhaps because he's seen private polls like the one kausfiles just saw--showing him with an unfavorability rating in the district of 40 percent, way above that of potential rivals. The poll also shows Brown losing to at least one rival in a head to head contest. ... Your reader complaints, ignored: "This is now a California blog?  Private polling on Willie Brown?  Where is Ms. Plame?"--from D.J. ... 3:43 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 Charlie Peters' proto-blog. 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. Calmer Times--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--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]