Whose Trojan Horse? Are Democrats really desperately fighting Bush's Medicare prescription drug bill tooth and nail? I know it seems as if they are, but the whole current debate has the air of deep Kabuki. ... Why aren't the Democrats thinking along these lines:
a) We'll oppose the bill now. That way when middle class seniors wake up a few years from now and realize the benefits to them are meager (or object to the means-testing) we can say 'We told you so' and resume our favorite role as their champions.
b) By screaming about the threat of privatization (even though the threat of privatization has been largely contained in the bill) we lay down a sheet of protective fire that should help preserve the traditional Medicare system for decades.
c) We will lose, and the bill will pass, but that's good too! Because, just between us, the bill is a long-term win for Democrats. It establishes the basic principle of a drug benefit, and we can make great hay campaigning to increase these benefits, and otherwise fiddling with the system, in the years ahead. If passing the bill helps Bush win the 2004 election--well, we weren't going to beat him in 2004 anyway. ...
In short, I don't believe Sen. Kennedy is actually upset that the GOP bill will pass. I think he's faking the outrage and smiling on the inside. Democrats are happy. Bush is happy. Even Tom DeLay seems happy. It's win-win! Washington Make-Believe works again. ... ["The only losers are ..."--ed. Oh yes, that sentence. The only losers are sincere small government conservatives and the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates. I thought "the only losers are the taxpayers of the future"--ed. I'm not going to say that. I'm for a drug benefit (and suspicious of privatization). Someone has to pay for it. Why not the taxpayers of the future?The WSJ's Alan Murray, in a perceptive subscription-only column pooh-poohing the GOP bill's alleged threat to Medicare, noted
As the baby boomers retire, Medicare and Social Security will either squeeze out most of the other functions of the federal government, or the size of the federal government will balloon, from roughly 20% of the economy today to 30% a few decades from now. [Emphasis added.]
From 20% to 30%. You got a problem with that? Suddenly it all seems so do-able! You'd rather spend the money on what? DVDs? How about this: We try co-payments, means-testing and government purchasing power (sure-fire cost cutters) and private competition (iffy, given the possibility of cherry-picking and the potential horrors of profit-conscious HMOs denying treatments at the end of life) and once that's done we a) rely on unstoppable Boomer Senior Power to ensure adequacy of care from the remaining government bureaucracy, b) pay the damn bill, and c) worry about something else. But it must be more complicated than that!] ... 8:24 P.M.
Will George Bush be on the ballot in Illinois? Very probably--but it's trickier than you think! Why? The late--early September--GOP convention, which is in tune with the Feiler Faster Principle but not with Illinois law. ... 3:56 P.M.
A prominent reporter for the New York Times plagiarizes, and it's not enough to make Howie Kurtz's "Media Notes" column. Oh, no! But let some poor music critic for the Denver Post take a few similar shortcuts, and Kurtz makes sure we learn about it in his "Plagiarism Watch." ... Kurtz has an excuse--the Conspiracy of the Conflicted. He and the NYT's Bernard Weinraub have something in common, namely a glaring and seemingly crippling conflict of interest. (Kurtz writes about one of his employers, CNN; Weinraub writes about an industry in which his wife runs a major competitor.) ... But it's not just Kurtz who isn't picking up on Jack Shafer's Weinraub scoop. I don't quite understand why it's not getting more play--or any print play, outside of Cathy Seipp's UPI story. This is the New York Times, for chrissake, the nation's most important paper. ... Apparently the widespread attitude, as described to me by one Hollywood journalist, is something like, 'So Bernie got careless once, under a lot of deadline pressure.' But isn't that a little like saying you only robbed a bodega once, under economic pressure? Isn't there always 'deadline pressure'? Does every Times reporter get One Free Lift? Plagiarism's supposed to be theft, right? If it is theft, how can it be merely "careless" to cut and paste somebody else's graf into your story? (I would think that's something they teach you never to do, unless you're going to put it in quotes.) If it isn't theft, I know several people who would like their careers back. ... My working theory: Times-bashing Fatigue. Nobody can stomach another high-profile NYT scandal. ... The most troubling alternative theory: Plagiarism Fatigue--i.e. there have now been so many cases of this sort of theft that it's almost become accepted. Doris Kearns Goodwin survived, after all. Tell us something new! ... 11:22 P.M.
Sources kf trusts swear that overspinner Chris Lehane is not the focus of evil in the modern world, not an agent of doom who brings defeat and disgrace to every candidate he works for (e.g., Al Gore, Gray Davis, John Kerry), but rather a bright and creative political pro! So I was on alert for a sign of Lehane's magical effect on the Clark campaign when I came across the following in a USA Today interview with Clark:
For the same reason, [Clark] said, the United States should have participated in the International Criminal Court. The Bush administration has refused for fear that U.S. forces would be subject to politically motivated prosecution.
Clark said he hadn't seen the evidence of Saddam's war crimes, a comment that prompted adviser Chris Lehane to slip him a folded note. "You should make clear that Saddam is a bad guy," the note read. Clark glanced at the note but didn't return to the topic. [Emphasis added.]
You can't learn how to do brilliant staff work like that! You have to be born with it. ... But wait. It might initially seem as if Lehane a) couldn't even pass a note to his candidate discreetly and b) managed to make his candidate look like a moron. But now that I've revised my opinion of Lehane, I see this as the brilliant, creative political theater that it was, designed to make Clark look like a leader who is willing to reject the advice of excessively political aides. ... P.S.: Was Clark's disgraceful endorsement of the anti-flag-burning amendment a Lehane idea as well? Sure smells like it. ... 10:51 P.M.
Any weapon to hand for Andrew: Andrew Sullivan seems to feel the Massachusetts Supreme Court's Goodridge decision isn't antidemocratic--because two polls show the Massachusetts public supports the decision. Not very Burkean of Andrew to believe in government by poll, as opposed to government by elected representative. The Roe v. Wade majority thought it had some polls on its side too. Would Sullivan support, say, a decision holding that sick individuals have a constitutional right to receive advanced drugs at manufacturers' marginal cost if a poll showed that this decision was popular (as it probably would)? ... I think gay marriage is a perfectly reasonable institution. But the courts did not force Massachusetts to make a democratic decision on this matter. Massachusetts had made a democratic decision--it had decided to do nothing. The court is forcing the state's democracy to make a different decision, under the threat of having its action declared unconstitutional if its not the action the court likes. ... It's honest to defend this as a frank anti-majoritarian "rights" case. It's disingenuous to pretend the court has somehow enforcing a democratic will that actual, elected representatives have failed to discern. If gay marriage is so damn popular, why don't people like Sullivan do the easy thing and rally Massachusetts voters to get the law changed? That strategy would avoid the toxic civic consequence of Roe, namely that the enraged and embittered losers (the pro-lifers) weren't forced to acknowledge that their views were not shared by most of their fellow citizens, while the smug winners weren't forced to attempt to convince anyone in particular. Both sides lost an incentive not to be shrill--shrillnes turns off middle-road voters and makes compromise more difficult, but who cared about that once voters and democratic compromises had been largely taken out of the equation? . ... Note: The initial version of this item suggested that in Vermont, gay civil unions had been instituted democratically. Not so, reader J.T. pointed out. The Vermont Supreme Court required the state legislature to create a same-sex marriage-like institution. ... 10:11 P.M.
Now she tells us: A great Jill Stewart column explains why ex-Governor Gray Davis, whom she generally loathes, "knew what he was doing in education," fought the teachers' unions and made the states' schools better--while Schwarzenegger education secretary Richard Riordan, whom Stewart likes (and whom the teachers' unions detest) might be a disaster. ... Stewart's famous for writing articles about incompetent principals in the L.A. schools and then naming the names of the dozens of specific people she thinks should be fired. Here she tells Riordan whom he should appoint and whom he should sack. Why doesn't he also appoint Stewart? ... 8:23 P.M.
The last refuge: "I think it was intended to be ironic,"--Paul Krugman seemingly resorts to the Irony Defense when called by the NYT on his book's offensive British cover. Most of the cover images were taken from anti-globalization protests at the 2002 World Economic Forum, which Krugman attended as a participant rather than a protester. Stephen Kirchner (who started the whole controversy from faraway Sydney) notes, "This is indeed ironic, but Krugman's claim that the irony was intentional beggars belief." Maybe Krugman was being ironic about it being ironic! I actually think that might be the case. ... Note: The Times says Cheney's wearing a "Hitler mustache" and Bush looks "Frankenstein-like" on the cover. I say it's a "Got Milk?" mustache and Bush is portrayed as a baseball (the stitches on his face being the seams). But there's a Hitler and Frankenstein subtext! ... Why is this a legitimate story? For the same reason it's often legitimate to hold reporters responsible for the headlines on their pieces even though they don't write the headlines. The headline writer is typically a copy editor who reads the piece quickly and tries to distill its essence--thus replicating what a average reader will do. If the headline gives a tendentious or slanted impression, often that's because the piece itself gives a tendentious or slanted impression to the average reader. Similarly, a presumably intelligent British publisher has read Krugman's book and distilled its essence as something like 'More Typical Militant Left-Wing Bush Hatred.' Maybe the publisher did that because Krugman doesn't write much these days that typical militant left-wing Bush haters would be bothered by--even when that requires concealing his actual, more nuanced views. ... Someone judged his book by the cover--namely, the person who produced the cover--and it's a judgment that should embarrass Krugman. ... Update: Luskin notes that Krugman worries the cover is "undignified" and poor marketing when he should worry that it's noxious. ... 6:30 P.M.
Friday, November 21, 2003
Overlawyeredand Volokh discuss yet another case demonstrating that the Senate Republicans who held up the nomination of respectable, qualified Latino judge Richard Paez had a point. (Paez, a Clinton appointee, was also on the three judge panel that attempted to delay the California recall election on the "punch card ballot" issue only to be unanimously overturned by an en banc Ninth Circuit panel). .. Unoriginal moral: These days, respectable judges within the "mainstream" of legal opinion are almost by definition activists who support tortured anti-democratic extensions of the Constitution (most obviously, Roe) and of civil law, if not the specific tortured extensions involved in the "gun liability" case discussed by Volokh and Overlawyered. That's what the "mainstream" is and has been for several decades. Republicans had some evidence Paez was a bit on the liberal side of even this "mainstream," and they were rightly alarmed.... 10:34 A.M.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
The Columnist's Manifesto: George Will actually delivered a provocative talk in exchange for the conservative Manhattan Institute's large Wriston Lecture fee last night--basically, he blasted the Bush administration's Iraq project as a misguided Wilsonian effort to bring American values to nations whose organic history makes them non-receptive. In a Unified Theory of What Annoys Me, Will painted Bush's failure to respect nations and their idiosyncratic integrity as perversely of a piece with EU and UN moves toward supra-national governance. ... Will was especially scathing about the Clinton/Blair idea of the global inevitability of democracy and this idea's precursor, the Marxist notion that capitalism will sweep away old loyalties and prejudices. Then he sat in the Pierre Hotel bar and had drinks with Heather Mac Donald (who's also against the war). ... Weak points:a) Will doesn't really even try to come to grips with the impact of ever-cheaper terror weapons. In the Q & A session following his talk, he said his solution was to restore the traditional monopoly of sovereign nations over the means of violence, and then to respect those sovereign nations. But what if near-virtual terror organizations like al Qaeda, or its successors, are hard for nations to put out of business? What if some perfectly robust nation-states find they can tolerate an al Qaeda-style presence without it threatening their sovereign integrity (in a way that, say, a Mafia might have threatened them)? International law might not solve the first problem either, but it would certainly help with the second; b) Will didn't say nations can never change. He said their institutions need to "evolve." Interesting word, "evolve"! Would Will admit that over time various national cultures must, in the manner of natural evolution, adapt to the same technical and economic background conditions (e.g. a global market)? Then Marx might not have been so wrong after all, as over time "[a]ll fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away." Plus, given the universality of the background conditions, nations, in all their idiosyncracy, might still tend to evolve toward the same end point, which sure looks right now like some form of democratic capitalism. ...And what if this "evolution" process has gotten faster, of late, as information transfer in general has gotten faster? Take it away, Robert Wright! ... [How was the food?--ed All that is salad melts into air!] 2:32 A.M.
Yikes! I agree with Herbert Muschamp. Muschamp argues that a) the Michael Arad memorial design ("Reflecting Absence") and the Karadin-Wu design ("Suspending Memory") are the only finalists that are even close to doing the job and b) they're both too complex. And, he might have added, too wet.... (I also recommend Muschamp's audio link.) 1:01.A.M.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
This is pretty amazing, if true. It's the somewhat unrestrained anti-Bush cover on an overseas edition of Paul Krugman's latest book. ...Update: Here it is on Amazon.com. ... As Stephen Kirchner points out, one implication is that American politics are actually less polarized, in Bush/anti-Bush terms, than politics elsewhere. ("I doubt they would get away with a cover like the Commonwealth version in the US.") But Donald Luskin's question--did Krugman approve?--is still a good one. ... P.S.: The cover's still noxious even if the images--e.g. Cheney with an oily Hitlerish mustache--are photos of placards carried at demonstrations. ... Backtrack: Alert kf readers have pointed out it's almost certainly not a Hitler mustache, but rather a parody of the "Got Milk?" mustache. [Duh!-ed] But it's still noxious. ... Wait! Musil partially salvages the Hitler angle. ... 7:23 P.M.
Hello! Opposition Researchers! Here's a paragraph from a David Broder column dated June 30, 2002:
He had been asked where he would find fault with President Bush, and he replied, "As far as domestic policy is concerned, I can't think of anything he's done that I agree with." He ticked off a list of Bush "outrages," ranging from an education bill he called the "largest unfunded mandate in history" to Bush's "appointment of ideologues to the courts." Heads were nodding in agreement. And then he added, almost as a throwaway line, "I think he's done a good job on the war on terrorism." [Emphasis added.]
The "he" in question was Gov. Howard Dean, who is now on the verge of winning the Democratic nomination by virtue of his angry opposition to the war in Iraq. But Dean wasn't showing much of that anger at the end of June, 2002. In fact, Broder's piece chides Dean for failing to pay sufficient heed to the anti-war sentiments then cropping up on the Democratic left. (At the time, Dean's big anti-Bush issues were health insurance and tax cuts).
There are two interpretations of Dean's transformation from a candidate who said Bush was doing "a good job on the war on terrorism" to the Howard Dean most voters think they know today. One, presented forcefully in Monday's Robert Kagan WaPo op-ed, is that Dean sincerely supported the overall war on terror but thought the Iraq invasion was a misstep, the "wrong war at the wrong time." In June 30, 2002, after all, the military strike against Hussein was more than half a year away.
But there's a second, more troubling interpretation, which is that Dean shifted to a strong anti-war position not because of Bush's Iraq actions, but because he saw that that was where the Democratic party's activist base wanted him to go. In June 30, 2002, after all, it wasn't very hard to see the Iraq conflict looming on the horizon. President Bush had already included Iraq in his "axis of evil." Vice-President Cheney had toured the Middle East to drum up support for an effort to topple Saddam. On June 17, 2002--two weeks before Dean praised Bush's "good job"--former President Clinton delivered a speech criticizing Bush for concentrating on Iraq instead of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Reuters' reported:
"I don't have any use for Saddam Hussein. But I think you have to ask yourself in what order do we have to do this," said Clinton, who spearheaded Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that came close to an agreement. ... [snip] ... "He has no missiles to put warheads on that could reach us," Clinton said of Hussein ... [snip].
Clinton said Hussein's Iraq was a threat because of its attempts to build biological and chemical weapons, but the immediate danger to the United States was minimal.
Was Dean unaware of Bush's steps toward war, and Clinton's criticism? Or did he become the most vocal foe of the Administration's Iraq initiative for tactical reasons--out of an accurate calculation that it would bond him to the party's grass roots and set him apart from the field? This cynical intepretation, too, is suggested by Kagan, who notes:
Dean may not be offering a stark alternative to Bush's foreign policy, therefore, so much as he is simply offering Democrats a compelling and combative alternative to Bush himself. The Iraq war provided the occasion to prove his mettle.
Five months after Broder dressed him down for his pro-war comments--by the time Gore announced his decision not to run, in December--the tactical benefits of Dean's shift were clear. Dean could say, as he did, that he was "the only candidate who opposed the president's request for congressional authorization of military force against Iraq and the only one advocating universal health insurance. It makes it easier for me to distinguish myself from the field."
Kagan's overall argument is that Dean is not another McGovern, and he's not another McGovern under either of the interpetations above. But surely it matters if he's not McGovern because his antiwar views on Iraq are an exception to his general support for the thrust of American foreign policy--Interpretation #1--or if he's not McGovern because, unlike McGovern, his antiwar views are insincere--Interpretation #2. (Whether McGovern himself was McGovern under Kagan's definition is a question we don't need to address right now.)
I'm not anti-Dean--he has many appealing qualities and great potential to move right, as the New Republic observed, precisely because he's already bonded emotionally with the left. And he's no McGovern! But if interpretation #2 is correct ... well, a man who cynically adopts a radical new position for political advantage once might cynically adopt a radical new position for political advantage again. Old Chinese proverb. Maybe Dean, like Kerry, is an opportunist and positioner, only unlike Kerry he's a smart opportunist and positioner.
Just a thought! [Isn't this a bit paranoid--ed. I'm in D.C., which always makes me paranoid. More paranoia tk.] 1:50 A.M.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Monday, November 17, 2003
Problem: The Democratic debates are almost unwatchable because too many candidates are competing to say more or less the same thing. The multiplicity of players makes it very difficult to have a revealing back-and-forth. Solution: Apply modern speed-dating technology. Instead of one two hour debate with all nine candidates, have several 15 minute debates between rotating pairs of candidates. Dean v. Sharpton for 15 minutes. Then Kerry v. Edwards. Then Clark v. Lieberman, etc. At the next scheduled "forum," scramble the pairings--and so on, until everyone has debated everyone else. It would certainly be more watchable, and would also give the non-leading candidates a greater chance to break through. ... Bonus feature: If you wanted five pairs of debates, a different non-candidate guest "ringer" could be invited to participate every week, the way movie actors are invited to appear on TV sitcoms during sweeps week. One day Jimmy Carter could be the tenth man. At the next debate, Bill Clinton could offer avuncular advice (in which Dick Morris could discern sinister self-interest). Then Gary Hart. Fritz Hollings. Bob Kerrey. Zell Miller. Hillary! etc. ...At the very least, the ringers would inject new ideas and force the real candidates to respond (the way kamikaze candidate Arianna Huffington forced the real candidates to respond in the climactic California recall debate). ... 3:35 A.M.
Kf Preview Service: "Why should journalists have the element of surprise?" Upcoming: Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker on BMW styling chief Chris Bangle. Expectations: Low. Maybe even a puffer. Analysis: a) Goldberger is so taken with his realization that autos are examples of Design that he's easily snowed, and he'll be a pushover for Bangle's highbrow spiel. b) It's not easy to report honestly on the auto industry. It's not like Washington--there's a no D.C.-style culture of leaking and backbiting. c) Goldberger's earlier auto stylist effort, on Ford designer J Mays, was deferential and astonishingly uninformative. Car and Driver wouldn't have published it. (The heavily-hyped Mays has not exactly gone on to lead Ford to glory, at least not yet). ... 3:26 A.M.
If journalist-turned-Clark-campaign-adviser Michael Kramer--or a friend thereof--tells you Kramer left the Clark campaign after only a few days because of personal reasons, or a realization that this was not what he wanted to do ... well, let's just say that this is not the story kf hears. Kf hears Kramer's departure was somethingless than voluntary. (Or, as Bernard Weinraub would put it, the job was his for as long as he wanted it.) ... Update: In Lois Romano's Clark-staffing piece, it's as if Kramer was never there! ... 3:00 A.M.
Saturday, November 15, 2003 Paul Krugman's second objection to the Medicare bill now in Congress--that "premium support" will lead to "cherry picking" that undermines the traditional Medicare system--seems extremely powerful. But I don't understand his first objection:
Paul Krugman's second objection to the Medicare bill now in Congress--that "premium support" will lead to "cherry picking" that undermines the traditional Medicare system--seems extremely powerful. But I don't understand his first objection:
[O]ne of the proposals being negotiated behind closed doors — misleadingly described as "cost containment" — would set a limit on Medicare's use of general revenue, and would require action seven years before projections say that limit will be breached. ...[snip]The effect would be to force the government to declare a Medicare crisis in 2010 or 2011.
You might say it's a good idea to face up to Medicare's problems early. But the legislation would allow only two responses: either an increase in the payroll tax (a regressive tax that bears more heavily on middle-class families than on the wealthy) or benefit cuts. Other possibilities, like increases in other taxes or other spending cuts, would be ruled out.
How can Congress in 2003 'rule out' possible responses by the Congress in 2010 or 2011? Is this a constitutional amendment? If not, the Congress in 2010 will do whatever the hell it wants. All it needs to do is append to its legislation a sentence saying "by the way, that bill we passed back in 2003 is hereby repealed." The provision as described by Krugman seems more "Washington make-believe," as Charles Peters would put it, than serious legislative threat. ... 3:38 A.M.
A fellow Democrat, saying he represented "some of our mutual friends" recently attempted an ideological "intervention" to get me to spend more time attacking Bush. "[K]eeping liberals honest is fine and still worth your attention but it is so 1980s," he wrote. I guess he's right. Take the teachers' unions. Neoliberals used to make a big fuss about the union work rules that prevented the firing of bad teachers and discouraged potential good teachers from even trying to teach at schools. That was such an '80s issue! But whatever happened to the teacher's unions? They used to be such a powerful interest group in the Democratic party! They just faded away, I guess, sort of like the contras. You hardly hear about them any more. ... [contradicts previous item?-ed. No. Think how much progress could be made without the unions.]..1:40 A.M.
Mickey's Assignment Desk: Test scores in California are going up. Test scores in New York are going up. Is it possible the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, with its crude emphasis on testing and "standards," is actually, you know, working? ... Assigned to: Nicholas Lemann, Jacques Steinberg, Blaine Harden. ...Update: Nationally, the trend seems clearly to be in the right direction for math, less clearly for reading. ... You can get the official details for each state here. ... Note: California had a program of testing 'n standards, begun under Gov. Pete Wilson, that predated No Child Left Behind. If that's why the state is now doing better than other states, it would seem to vindicate the underlying T&S approach, no? ... 1:28 A.M.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Friday, November 14, 2003
Piling on: The NYT's Bernard Weinraub may have a glaring conflict of interest covering Hollywood business involving the studio his wife co-runs, but he's a professional journalist who can be trusted despite his conflicts. He'd never do anything like, say, crib a whole paragraph from blogger Luke Ford. ... Oh, wait! ... One thing Slate's Jack Shafer, who uncovered Weinraub's, er, sampling technique (which the NYT now confirms), didn't point out is that it was the best paragraph in Weinraub's piece. ... P.S.: Oh, well. At least Weinraub's recent profile of Motion Picture Association chief Jack Valenti--in which Weinraub said the studios "don't seem in any rush to push [Valenti] out the door" and quoted studio heads to the effect that "the job was Mr. Valenti's for as long as he wanted it"--has held up. Contrary to kf's insinuations, Valenti's not going anywhere. No, sirreee! ... Wait, what's this? ... P.P.S.: What does Weinraub's self-described "carelessness" consist of? Does he cut and paste, via computer, Ford's paragraph into his NYT copy and then plan to change just enough words to avoid a plagiarism rap? If so, is the "carelessness" changing only 11 or so words instead of, say, 25? Would changing 25 make it O.K.? If so, is this paste-'n-change technique one NYT reporters use frequently? ... P.P.P.S.: Will Weinraub survive, or is the job his for as long as he wants it? ... [Valenti link via Drudge]5:57 P.M.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
A baseball metaphor that scores! Early in the CNN "Rock the Vote" Democratic debate a week ago, the following interchange took place-- KERRY: Yes, sir. Kerry obviously saw the question as another young person's boxers-or-briefs query, a chance to demonstrate his famed unassuming warmth and down-to-earth humanity. Am I crazy, or was the question actually--obviously, in retrospect--a teaser intended to set up a profound metaphor for the entire 2004 presidential campaign, one that might if vigorously pursued lead the Democrats to actual victory instead of cathartic venting? To most voters, after all (as opposed to most Democratic primary voters), Bush has not on the whole done a terrible job, nor is he a bad man. He responded effectively to 9/11, including using innovative strategies to wage a necessary battle in Afghanistan. He passed two major pieces in his domestic platform (education reform and a big tax cut). He responded to a recession with a lot of stimulus, even if you think the tax cuts were inefficient or inequitable. In short, he pitched well enough in the early innings. But now, with at least a temporary victory in sight, it's beginning to look in Iraq as if he's getting in a jam. Specifically, we seem to need foreign assistance to finish the job of rebuilding after Saddam, but we can't get it because Bush has alienated our potential allies (in part by waging the war without their approval). And his administration in general is looking a little tired (without Karen Hughes, for example, or much to say on domestic policy apart from jarring Medicare and Social Security changes that are probably either infeasible or unpopular). You get the idea. In 2004, Bush will want to stay in the game and finish the job. He's Pedro Martinez. The voters have to decide whether to keep him, or thank him for several well-pitched innings and bring in a reliever. They're Grady Little. Little stuck with Martinez, with the well-known result. Voters, Democrats can say, shouldn't make that mistake. A fresh president would not only bring new energy to the task of stabilizing Iraq, he'd bring new powers as well. Specifically, he'd be able to wipe the slate clean, to go to our potential allies and say, "You know that Bush fellow who talked so much about going it alone? He's gone. It's a new day, and we're ready to cooperate." It almost doesn't matter whether this pitch would be sincere or not; flushing problems out the door with a departing CEO is a standard executive ploy, even if the incoming CEO would have done exactly the same thing. It often works. But I'm getting my metaphors all garbled, as I feared. The beauty of the Martinez Metaphor is that it doesn't require convincing voters that they made a mistake by electing Bush in 2000. (Well, most of them didn't elect him, but at any rate it avoids the need to convince voters that the election of 2000 elevated the wrong candidate--a conclusion they instinctively and healthily resist.) They don't have to hate Bush to get rid of him, any more than Boston fans would have hated Martinez if he'd been pulled. They can applaud him for leaving the game with a lead--and by extension applaud themselves for their managerial skills. Of course, Democrats will never adopt this mild, and therefore lethal, strategy (until it's too late) because they do hate Bush. They want him repudiated and chased from the field, and then they want to watch the replay. In fact, the primary campaign so far has been a contest to see who can get the most stoked up with an anger that most of the fans in the stands don't share. Howard Dean is ahead because he's stripped off his shirt, tied it around his head, jumped the railing and charged the mound. He'll be escorted from the ... OK. I'll stop. No I won't: In a melee during Game 3 of the league championship, Martinez roughly threw the elderly Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground. ... Medicare! Don't you see! Bush's market-based reforms would treat America's seniors the way Martinez treated Zimmer! The "Rock the Vote" baseball question was a veritable Nabokovian magic-box of meaning, I tell you. Who cares whether CNN planted it? Too bad Kerry whiffed. ... P.S.: Or is Jim Jordan Pedro Martinez? That's Howie Kurtz's typical, process-oriented, small bore take for you. (Update: It's also now Kerry's schtick, according to The Note.) ... P.P.S.: Reader C.K. says the question was a metaphor but Kerry is Pedro Martinez. "The questioner is asking Kerry, in an oblique way, whether he should quit the race and allow the party to consolidate its support around the new front-runner, Howard Dean." ... Hmm. Seems plausible. But Martinez is, you know. good. ... P.P.P.S.: Reader M.D. says Gephardt is Pedro Martinez. ... Well, I guess we could say there's a little bit of Pedro Martinez in all of us now, couldn't we? 11:12 P.M.
KERRY: Yes, sir.
Kerry obviously saw the question as another young person's boxers-or-briefs query, a chance to demonstrate his famed unassuming warmth and down-to-earth humanity. Am I crazy, or was the question actually--obviously, in retrospect--a teaser intended to set up a profound metaphor for the entire 2004 presidential campaign, one that might if vigorously pursued lead the Democrats to actual victory instead of cathartic venting?
To most voters, after all (as opposed to most Democratic primary voters), Bush has not on the whole done a terrible job, nor is he a bad man. He responded effectively to 9/11, including using innovative strategies to wage a necessary battle in Afghanistan. He passed two major pieces in his domestic platform (education reform and a big tax cut). He responded to a recession with a lot of stimulus, even if you think the tax cuts were inefficient or inequitable. In short, he pitched well enough in the early innings.
But now, with at least a temporary victory in sight, it's beginning to look in Iraq as if he's getting in a jam. Specifically, we seem to need foreign assistance to finish the job of rebuilding after Saddam, but we can't get it because Bush has alienated our potential allies (in part by waging the war without their approval). And his administration in general is looking a little tired (without Karen Hughes, for example, or much to say on domestic policy apart from jarring Medicare and Social Security changes that are probably either infeasible or unpopular).
You get the idea. In 2004, Bush will want to stay in the game and finish the job. He's Pedro Martinez. The voters have to decide whether to keep him, or thank him for several well-pitched innings and bring in a reliever. They're Grady Little.
Little stuck with Martinez, with the well-known result. Voters, Democrats can say, shouldn't make that mistake. A fresh president would not only bring new energy to the task of stabilizing Iraq, he'd bring new powers as well. Specifically, he'd be able to wipe the slate clean, to go to our potential allies and say, "You know that Bush fellow who talked so much about going it alone? He's gone. It's a new day, and we're ready to cooperate." It almost doesn't matter whether this pitch would be sincere or not; flushing problems out the door with a departing CEO is a standard executive ploy, even if the incoming CEO would have done exactly the same thing. It often works.
But I'm getting my metaphors all garbled, as I feared. The beauty of the Martinez Metaphor is that it doesn't require convincing voters that they made a mistake by electing Bush in 2000. (Well, most of them didn't elect him, but at any rate it avoids the need to convince voters that the election of 2000 elevated the wrong candidate--a conclusion they instinctively and healthily resist.) They don't have to hate Bush to get rid of him, any more than Boston fans would have hated Martinez if he'd been pulled. They can applaud him for leaving the game with a lead--and by extension applaud themselves for their managerial skills.
Of course, Democrats will never adopt this mild, and therefore lethal, strategy (until it's too late) because they do hate Bush. They want him repudiated and chased from the field, and then they want to watch the replay. In fact, the primary campaign so far has been a contest to see who can get the most stoked up with an anger that most of the fans in the stands don't share. Howard Dean is ahead because he's stripped off his shirt, tied it around his head, jumped the railing and charged the mound. He'll be escorted from the ...
OK. I'll stop.
No I won't: In a melee during Game 3 of the league championship, Martinez roughly threw the elderly Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground. ... Medicare! Don't you see! Bush's market-based reforms would treat America's seniors the way Martinez treated Zimmer!
The "Rock the Vote" baseball question was a veritable Nabokovian magic-box of meaning, I tell you. Who cares whether CNN planted it? Too bad Kerry whiffed. ...
P.S.: Or is Jim Jordan Pedro Martinez? That's Howie Kurtz's typical, process-oriented, small bore take for you. (Update: It's also now Kerry's schtick, according to The Note.) ...
P.P.S.: Reader C.K. says the question was a metaphor but Kerry is Pedro Martinez. "The questioner is asking Kerry, in an oblique way, whether he should quit the race and allow the party to consolidate its support around the new front-runner, Howard Dean." ... Hmm. Seems plausible. But Martinez is, you know. good. ...
P.P.P.S.: Reader M.D. says Gephardt is Pedro Martinez. ... Well, I guess we could say there's a little bit of Pedro Martinez in all of us now, couldn't we? 11:12 P.M.
Der Schwarzenplan Shapes Up: Beeblogger Daniel Weintraub seems to have figured out what's going to happen with the California budget. ... Schwarzenegger will not be able to balance the budget and rescind the car tax increase this year. Instead, there will be a huge ($20 billion) bond issue, most of it a rollover of bonds the previous administration issued with shaky legal foundation, but some ($4 billion or so) of it paying for the rollback of the car tax. Very Bushian--note to Paul Krugman: there's an easy column--though the tax reductions being financed by debt do not especially benefit the rich. ... Schwarzenegger apparently still holds out hope of balancing the budget without tax increases in future years, through spending cuts and caps. Weintraub:
I think the critics at this point are wrong to assume that Schwarzenegger will not push for serious budget cuts, that he simply wants to borrow his way out of the problem. I expect him to put some very tough cuts on the table, perhaps as soon as his first or second day in office. In the end, the Democrats will be the ones pushing for more borrowing, as a way to close the gap with minimum pain.
That begs the question of whether Schwarzenegger's team has done the work of figuring out where budget savings can most painlessly be achieved, or whether the "tough cuts" are merely bargaining chips intended to scare Democrats and impress Republicans. ... This L.A. Times story is also useful, describing how conservative groups have made their peace with taking on debt in exchange for spending restraint from here on out. ... P.S.: I don't understand why the entire car tax increase (about $125 for the average car) has to be rescinded. Suppose you rescind half the increase. Then the drivers are happy and the tax-cutters are happy! And Californians don't have to repay as much debt tomorrow to fund an ordinary operating deficit today, which as Weintraub notes is not exactly a page from the traditional state good government handbook (even when it has a countercyclical Keynesian effect--not necessarily the case here). ... P.P.S.: Even the inability to square the circle this year doesn't prove outgoing governor Gray Davis right. For example, there would be about $2.2 billion less to finance if in 1999 Davis had stopped an ill-designed backroom deal to increase state government employee pensions (on the assumption that the boom market of the '90s would go on forever). ... Update: William Bradley has a more wide-ranging review of the Schwarzenegger transition so far. Biggest surprise: Integrated pest management! ... While A.S. appointed a Pete Wilsonite as his chief of staff, and his administration is less bipartisan than initially advertised, it's worth remembering that he could easily sack all the Wilsonites in a few months and replace them with Shriverians. In the long run, the Wilson people need him more than he needs them. 5:52 P.M.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
There is very little evidence in the data for a strong recovery ready to break out. As far as I can make out, Mr. Greenspan's optimism is entirely based on models predicting that tax cuts and low interest rates will get the economy moving.-- "Dropping the Bonds," July 25, 2003.
The key, again, is the date--three months ago, just as ... well, something was getting the economy moving. It's worth reading the whole column, which is impressively and vindictively wrong, blaming Alan Greenspan's belief in a recovery on his own need to save his legacy, which Krugman says is "in tatters."
For his own self-esteem, he has to believe that things will somehow turn out all right. Thus his sudden, destructive outbreak of optimism.
Change "right" to "wrong" and "optimism" to "pessimism" and you have a near-perfect self-analysis.
On the other hand, several readers have pointed out that the "Honorable Mention" Gotcha entry, below--about tax cuts being "pro-cyclical"--isn't necessarily as embarrassing as I thought it was. Krugman may have been talking about tax cuts in general, repeating the hoary conventional claim that they typically don't take effect until the recession they are meant to cure is already over. I had assumed that when he mentioned "the experience of the U.S." he was referring to the recent Bush tax cuts, but the Scotsman article in which he is quoted does not report him mentioning Bush. True, the Bush tax cuts are the most conspicuous example of tax cuts designed to "give an opportunity to the economy," and--however effective or ineffective they've been--they have hardly been "pro-cyclical" (i.e. they didn't miss the slowdown). Still, if the judges had the power to rearrange the awards after the fact--and they do!--they would give the "Honorable Mention" to Maguire's entry instead of the Scotsman quote. ...
P.S.: I recommend MinuteMan's entire Nov. 6 entry, including the very civil debate in his "Comments" section, which features Krugman ally Brad DeLong. ... 10:46 P.M.
Those Krugman 'Gotcha' Results in Full: In a rare display of follow-through [we're still waiting for winner of 'Hit-Grabbing Haiku'--ed], the staff of kausfiles has reviewed the entries in the Krugman 'Gotcha' Contest and is prepared to announce the results. The goal, remember, was to review the writings of this once-sensible Princeton economist--whose anti-Bush animus and partisan cocooning have so distorted his judgment that he's become the thinking man's "Gloomy" Louis Uchitelle--and find the dire assessment that looks the most embarrassingly wrong in light of the recent strong economic data.
"It's a little early to be gloating yet," objects reader E.K. ("I think that the official rules call for two data points to connect before that happens," adds "Adam Smith.") Official answer: a) I make the rules around here, buddy; b) Employment, under the revised figures issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has been growing for three months. Would Krugman refrain from I-told-you-soing if jobs had gone down for the past three months? c) Besides, if we wait, the economy might turn sour and Krugman would be right again. Where's the fun in that?
"From the experience of the US, I would say the costs outweigh the benefits. You might think tax cuts give an opportunity to the economy, but they actually turn out to be pro-cyclical"-- interview in The Scotsman on October 29, 2003 [submitted by Mark Hessey]
You can argue that Bush's tax cuts didn't deliver much bang for the buck, but it's pretty hard to argue that they didn't help or were "pro-cyclical" (defined by The Scotsman as "boosting growth in an upturn rather than in a slump"). We've only just come out of what Krugman himself not-infrequently noted was a long stretch of tepid growth. The tax cuts seemed to hit at an opportune time in that slow period. True, there are out-year tax cuts still in the pipeline, but these are the cuts for the rich that Krugman has argued repeatedly are the least stimulative. ... Krugman might argue that he was talking only about tax-cutting by regional governments like that of Scotland (i.e., the equivalent of states)--though his statement, in context, appears to be more sweeping. And even applied to states, it seems wrong. California, for example, has been running a big deficit during the downturn, financed by bond sales. Wasn't that countercyclical just the way running a national deficit is countercyclical? (Update: The judges have had some second thoughts about this entry.)
"The big rise in the stock market is definitely telling us something. Bulls think it says the economy is about to take off. But I think it's a sign that America is still blowing bubbles — that a three-year bear market and the biggest corporate scandals in history haven't cured investors of irrational exuberance yet. . ... The new bull market isn't forecasting anything; it's just feeding on itself."-- "Still Blowing Bubbles," July 20, 2003 [submitted by Stephen Kirchner, Donald Luskin, and Dr. Manhattan ]
It doesn't look so irrational now, does it? ... Krugman argued, in particular, that the market rally was off-base because of "bad news, especially regarding employment. Payrolls are still contracting; since the U.S. economy has to create 80,000 jobs a month just to keep up with a growing working-age population ..." We now know that about the exact time Krugman was writing this the employment picture was turning around. The economy has since generated a bit more than 100,000 jobs a month. But Krugman includes some skillful a---covering elsewhere in the column. He askes, for example, "Could the story I'm telling be wrong? Of course." Yep.
"Meanwhile consumer confidence is plunging, and almost two-thirds of voters rate the current state of the economy as 'poor.' Is there any relief in sight? No.
To be fair, there are some reasons for hope. ... But you don't have to be a doomsayer to feel that the negatives greatly outweigh the positives—that an economy that is already hurting badly is all too likely to get even worse. So what will the administration do about it? Nothing, of course."-- "No Relief in Sight," February 28, 2003 [submitted by Philip Babcock ]
"No relief in sight." That was four months before the big job turnaround. Time horizons get short when your intellectual marketing strategy is conspicuously dependent on disaster.
A ceremonial copy of Robert Reich's The Work of Nations goes to Mr. Babcock. [Why Reich?--ed. Trust me, there's nothing that would annoy Krugman more.] Thanks to all those who submitted entries. 3:20 A.M.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Every now and then auto enthusiasts, frustrated at having their path blocked by lumbering buses, toy with the contrarian idea that the roads would be more passable if only the buses weren't there--i.e. if there were no highway mass transit. The idea seems to be that the delay caused by slow buses stopping and picking up passengers more than compensates for the number of potential drivers the buses take off the road. ... Here in Los Angeles, where there's a big bus strike, we are giving this idea a test--and it's a crock. The roads have never been worse, which is saying something. I will try to remember this the next time a belching bus cuts me off. ... [When were the L.A. roads ever passable?--ed During the '84 Olympics! Everyone stayed home. This is the Washington D.C. "Snow Emergency" Principle. If you live in the nation's capital and hear a bulletin on the radio warning that it is going to snow, there is only one responsible thing to do: Immediately get in your car and drive somewhere, anywhere. The roads will be empty, and it probably won't snow.] 2:12 P.M.
Saturday, November 8, 2003
Saturday, November 8, 2003
The management wishes to make it clear that recent media reports of sensational allegations regarding kausfiles are without a shred of substance. The incident that someone may or may not claim to have witnessed, which was not a boating accident, never took place, and in the event bore no resemblance to the lurid charge that the scandal-mongering newspapers are currently failing to publish. Though it would be deeply, deeply shocking if it were true--we're not talking about jaywalking here, oh no!--it is not true. It is false, baseless, risible, scurrilous and taken completely out of context. So just stop thinking about it, OK? Update: No, it's not that. Update: Much worse! Update: Getting colder ... 1:39 A.M.
Friday, November 7, 2003
Who leaked the leak of the leaked Democratic strategy memo? That's what I want to know! The answer seems to be veteran GOP disloyalist Chuck Hagel. Roll Call is on the case. Here's the link, but you need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing. ... 3:50 P.M.
Another Easy One for Daniel Okrent, Public Editor! Suppose a New York Times reporter were married to the owner of a major league baseball team. Would the Times let that reporter cover the Commissioner of Baseball? Or suppose a Times reporter were married to the head of a major drug company. Would that person get to cover the pharmaceutical industry's trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America? Married to the chairman of General Motors and covering the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers? It's a no-brainer--"appearance of conflict," prophylactic rule, open-and-shut.
So why is the spouse of Amy Pascal, who runs one of the biggest Hollywood studios (as one of three Vice-Chairmen of Sony Pictures) writing a New York Times profile of Jack Valenti, head of the movie studios' trade association and lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Association of America? It doesn't take much imagination to see the potential for conflict when Pascal's husband, Bernard Weinraub, covers his wife's business. Maybe Sony wants Valenti to retire, and a nice, positive profile would be an encouraging send off. (Weinraub's piece was titled "The Man Who Unites the Moguls, Looking Ahead.") Maybe Sony needs Valenti to embark on some initiative he's resisting, and a nice, positive profile would encourage that. Maybe Sony wants Valenti to worry about what might happen in Weinraub's profile if he doesn't favor Sony over another studio. Maybe Sony, as the victim of piracy, just wants to give Mr. Valenti a nice big national soapbox to talk about the grave threat to intellectual property without too many distracting counter-arguments.
I'm not saying Weinraub would write a bland, hack, just-shy-of-fawning piece on Valenti in order to please his wife. He did write a bland, hack, just-shy-of-fawning piece, but that's probably because it's the kind of piece he almost always writes these days. By that, I'm not saying that he's a behind-the-curve embarrassment to the Times, snickered at by other reporters, who habitually either misses the story or gets it after everyone else is sick of talking about it. ...Oh, allright, that is what I'm saying.
It's bizarre that the Times would relax its conflict-of-interest rules to get more of this buzzless voice into the paper. The paper has apparently tried to keep up appearances in the past by not letting Weinraub write about certain topics, but that regime has obviously broken down.
Note to Bill Keller, Adam Moss: Weinraub's piece contained puffy quotes about Valenti from two studio heads, in effect Valenti's bosses. (Weinraub didn't get a quote from his own wife.)
Despite Mr. Valenti's long goodbye, his clients--the studios--don't seem in any rush to push him out the door. Two executives who were major supporters of banning videotapes and DVD's--Barry M. Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Warner Brothers Entertainment, and Peter Chernin, chairman and chief operating officer of the News Corporation, which owns the Fox entertainment group--said the job was Mr. Valenti's for as long as he wanted it.
But here's what Weinraub was either too inhibited or uninformed to report: Valenti's bosses, the studio heads, are not happy with him. Why? Because he doesn't want to pursue a litigation strategy to combat the threat of piracy (maybe because he doesn't want to end his long Motion Picture Association career in an atmosphere of contention and controversy). But the studios are insisting on litigation. In private, they do not always treat Valenti kindly, or with the reverence with which he is treated by Washington politicians and hack reporters, or even with much respect at all. They do not treat him like the job is his for as long as he wants it.
I'm not even an entertainment reporter and I know this! I write about welfare! Weinraub's glaring conflict clearly isn't giving him any special insider sources that he's using to benefit the Times. Instead, he has misinformed his readers in exactly the way he would have misinformed his readers if the conflict were actually having an impact. Do you really need to prove causality here?
There will be complex and difficult ethical decisions down the road. This isn't one of them! 2:37 A.M.
I love Whack-A-Pol, especially the little arms when they come out of their holes. But it told me I should be voting for Carol Moseley Braun. ... 12:56 A.M.
Thursday, November 6, 2003
It finally looks as if the economy is recovering as opposed to spiraling into a Japan-style pit of deflation and permanent Bush-induced joblessness. That means the long-awaited Krugman Gotcha Contest can begin. A prize, to be announced, for the kf reader who comes up with the gloom-and-doom opinion from the fabled Princeton economist's recent writings that now looks the most embarrassingly wrong. ... You'd assume Donald Luskin would win this contest, but he might be so blindered by Krugmanoia and right-wing economic thinking that he overlooks a juicy nugget. ... It's a big paper trail! Everybody can win! Even Brad DeLong! ... Here's a good place to start. ... Note: No truncated quotes, edited quotes, or out-of-context quotes that don't actually reflect what Krugman is saying. Leave that to him. ... Also: Things that seemed obviously wrong at the time Krugman wrote them don't qualify. The prize is for a statement that now looks highly embarrassing in light of recent economic news. ... Send entries to Mickey_Kaus@msn.com ... (I've made highly embarrassing economic predictions myself. Here's one. But I'm not in the "circle of Those Who Get Money Calls.") ... 3:02 P.M.
Michael O'Hanlon's op-ed--on the three mistakes the Democratic candidates make in their criticism of Bush's Iraq policy--offers a framework for sanity in the current discussion. Too bad he published it in the Washington Times, where it risks being either overlooked or dismissed as more Dem-bashing. (Note to O'Hanlon: You mean Fred Hiatt at WaPo wouldn't publish this?) ... Snipe: O'Hanlon's second point --that if we had an international coalition of troops in Iraq, the insurgents would be attacking them all just as viciously--seems his weakest. If we had an international coalition of troops in Iraq, and the insurgents (including Al Qaeda guest-terrorists) attacked them viciously, that might a) be an instructive lesson to our coalition partners about the extent to which Islamic radicalism is not directed solely at Americans and b) stimulate them to contribute more money to the stabilization effort. Certainly it's an argument Democrats can make. ... 2:51 P.M.
Daniel Drezner makes the case that a certain recent political event was the "Feiler Faster Thesis on Steroids." It's pretty breathtaking when you look at the time-line. ...12:53 A.M.
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
More work for Daniel Okrent, more ammo for those "enemies of the Times:" TimesWatch notes the bracing surpriseNew York Times readers (like Steve Earle and his drummer!) might have had this morning, waking up from the paper's cocoonish, anti-Bush wishful-thinking coverage of the Kentucky and Mississippi governors' races. ... In the NYT's favor, one of the boosterish stories TimesWatch cites was written back in August, when even the conservatish RealClearPolitics (which ultimately called both races with impressive accuracy) might have given Kentucky Democratic candidate Ben Chandler a chance. ... In Timeswatch's favor, they criticized the NYT for the August story back in August.... P.S.: RealClearPolitcs, even more than today's NYT, warns against reading much of a pro-Bush message into yesterday's state results. But if the Democrats had won, what would the Times have said? ... 2:34 P.M.
Fresh from patching up his dispute with Atrios--which led to his ill-considered "demand letter"--Donald Luskin gets renewed traction against his main target, Paul Krugman, with the latter's cheap-shot use of a distorted quote from Rep. George Nethercutt. ... Easy work for Daniel Okrent, Public Editor! ... 3:09 A.M.
Times' Big UC Admissions Piece As Uncertain as it is Predictable! John Rosenberg's Discriminations disses an embarrassing front-page story in, yes, the L.A. Times that "is virtually dripping with defense of the University of California's admissions policies." The Times' three-byline article makes a big deal of this finding:
Latinos with low SAT scores are admitted to the University of California at rates only slightly higher than whites and Asians, while blacks who score poorly are significantly less likely to get in, according to a Times analysis.
The LAT eventually admits in the jump, however, that this conclusion does not apply at the university's "two most competitive campuses"--UCLA and Berkeley:
UC Berkeley, the original focus of the admissions debate, admitted low-scoring blacks and Latinos at twice the rate of Asians and whites with similar scores.
UCLA was about a quarter more likely to admit low-scoring African Americans and Latinos than whites and Asians.
When critics of race preferences argue that high standards and thus [relatively] fewer minority admissions to Berkeley and UCLA are not discriminatory because minorities are able to attend other, less selective campuses of the University of California system, they are often called racist. Now the Los Angeles Times argues that, despite highly disproportionate admissions of low-scoring blacks and Hispanics over similarly low-scoring whites and Asians at Berkeley and UCLA, there is no discrimination because in the UC system as a whole low-scorers from all groups are accepted at about the same rate.
I actually don't understand the entire basis of the LAT story. Does it tell us anything important if one ethnic group with low scores is admitted at a higher rate than another group with low scores? Doesn't the rate depend on the number of low-SAT applicants, which could vary for all sorts of reasons.
Suppose, for example, that members of ethnic group A know that if they have low SAT scores they are unlikely to get in. Since the combination of SAT scores and G.P.A. normally required to ensure admission is published on the Web, those whose scores are low just won't bother to apply. That is in fact what happens, according to the Times itself. ("... UC officials said, students with low SAT scores who are unlikely to qualify don't tend to apply.")
Now suppose many members of ethnic group B know that they have a credible claim of having overcome race discrimination--and that this might get them in under the university's "comprehensive review" policy, in which overcoming hardship can outweigh low SAT scores. These group B students are likely to apply in very large numbers even if they have low SATs. As a result, their rate of acceptance may be no higher than those of the few low-SAT applicants from group A. But that rate doesn't tell us much about whether or not university officials are bending over too far to admit applicants from Group B.
In fact, although the Times doesn't discuss it, the paper's own data shows that low-SAT "underrepresented minorities" (primarily blacks and Latinos) do apply to UC in relatively great numbers--so many that, whatever the success rates, 65% of the students actually admitted to Berkeley and UCLA with low SATs are "underrepresented minorities." Even at Riverside, the least selective UC campus, 49% of low-SAT admissions are "underrepresented minorities." How does this show that, as the Times says, "UC admissions did not appear to be racially biased" or that the the "comprehensive review" program isn't a backdoor scheme of racial preferences? It doesn't.
It doesn't show the opposite either. Even Ward Connerlyite opponents of racial preferences--and I count myself as one--shouldn't be slaves to the SAT. If ignoring the SAT and admitting students who've overcome hardships, including racial discrimination, results in admitting worthier applicants, let's do it. On its face, the ethnic breakdown of low-SAT students admitted--30% of whom are white or Asian, after all--doesn't seem that troubling. But surely there is a way to measure whether these low-SAT students actually do wind up succeeding at the university (i.e., whether the judgment of the "comprehensive review" is better than the judgment of the SAT). Isn't that the study the L.A. Times should be putting on its front page? ...
Backfill: Patterico and BoifromTroy made many of these points two days ago. ... Ten days ago the Oakland Tribune's Maitre and Brand wrote a good, straightforward article reporting the relevant statistic--namely, who is in the low-SAT group that's actually admitted--rather than the LAT's showy, mostly meaningless calculations. The Tribune revealed that while 30 percent of the low-SAT admittees are indeed "White or Asian," that category is mainly Asian. Only 7% (2002) or 6% (2001) of the overall low-SAT admissions are white. About 25% are Asian. Some 17-19% are black and 44-45% are Latino. ... 2:10 A.M.
It's this weak! Could ABC News executives really have thought making George Stephanopoulos host of This Week would attract young viewers to the show? Did they actually talk to any young viewers? Stephanopoulos is transparently an old person's idea of a young person--he's made his career in that role, as the bright young assistant to a succession of powerful men (Dick Gephardt, Father Timothy Healy, Bill Clinton). He instinctively oozes alert, polite deference. Such a nice young man! Actual young people I know tend to prefer a bit of talk-back. It's not surprising, then, that This Week most recently finished last in the 25-54 demographic, in fourth place behind even Fox's Sunday show. ...
High on the list of those to whom Stephanopoulos has been overly deferential are the ABC executives who've done their best to suppress, neutralize, or eliminate any remaining traces of his political passion and sharp, insider instincts. They've turned him into George Stepfordopoulos! It started when they urged him not to give his instant take on the speeches at the 2000 conventions. Viewers didn't want to be told what to think, the theory went. But why would you have George Stephanopoulos on the show except to hear his instant take? That's what he's good for. ...
Here's a small example--actually, a pretty big example--of the way This Week has been anesthetized. On Sunday, Stephanopoulos (and George Will) interviewed defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said the following about Iraq and the larger the war on terror:
RUMSFELD: ... To the extent foreign terrorists come into the country and we have forces there and Iraqi forces and coalition forces and US forces and we're able to capture or kill them, that is a good thing. It is better than doing it there than in Baltimore or in Boise, Idaho. Our concern, however, is that what we need to do is to find ways to make sure we're winning the battle of ideas and that we, we, we reduce the number of terrorists that are being created in the world that are being taught to go out and murder and kill innocent men, women and children and cut off people's tongues and fingers. [Emphasis added]
Why isn't the appropriate response from a questioning host:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't it a bit late to have this realization, Mr. Secretary? I mean, most of our actions since 9/11 seem to have been predicated precisely on the theory that we need to go out and kill the terrorists without worrying too much about the 'blowback' of world public opinion and whether that's creating more terrorists.
This might be what Stephanopoulos really thinks, if he even bothers these days to form opinions he can then suppress. What Stephanopouolos actually did, in the event, was move down his pathetic checklist of niggling little ABC attempts to "make news" for the Monday papers:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what do we know about the flow that's actually coming into Iraq right now? You mentioned earlier that you don't see any evidence that Saddam Hussein is coordinating this. But do you see any evidence that the remnants of the Baathist regime are coordinating with this influx of foreign fighters?
Weak! ... ABC desperately needs somebody nobody would want to hire as their assistant. Joe Klein? ... Update: ABC notes that for the Nov. 2 show--the one with Rumsfeld--Stephanopoulos' broadcast placed second among younger viewers, behind only Meet the Press. For the entire season so far, however, Stephanopolous is running third among younger viewers, behind even the AARP-ready Bob Schieffer's Face the Nation. ... 12:40 A.M.
Monday, November 3, 2003 Update: Herb Caen, first blogger? Reader D.W. writes:
Monday, November 3, 2003
Update: Herb Caen, first blogger? Reader D.W. writes:
I loved Caen, but he couldn't be the proto Blogger. There were many three-dot guys like Caen in other big and small dailies around the country at the same time and before Caen, according to Caen himself.
The difference, I think, is Caen wrote a long column six days a week--i.e., he was practically doing it 24/7, just like a blogger. ... Caen's product looked like a blog. It mixed personal tidbits with gossip with serious politics, like a blog. It just came on paper. ... Sometimes it even had on-rushing velocity! ... 11:36 P.M.
The bad news for Rolls is good news for social equality: The November issue of Automobile reports that Rolls-Royce's imposing new $325,000 Phantom--it doesn't look like it's owned by the head of the German Bundesbank; it looks like it is the German Bundesbank--is "not doing as well as expected." This year, "Rolls will deliver only 500 units, half the minimum projected annual sales." Why? "[N]ot because there is not enough money around but because fewer people are willing to display their wealth." .... There's virtually no hope of stopping the rich from getting richer in a free-trading market-based society. But Rolls' slump suggests there is some chance of keeping the rich in their place. [Wishful thinking?--ed I am always looking for hopeful signs. Like Mark Z. Barabak!] ... P.S.: Come to think of it, I live on the affluent, car-obsessed West Side of Los Angeles, I spend a lot of time in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, and I have never seen a new Rolls Phantom on the street--or a $308,000 Mercedes Maybach ultraluxury sedan, for that matter. Not one. The manufacturers must be losing a fortune, betting on the foolish ostentation of the rich. ... Update: It says here in this NEXIS clip, citing a Wall Street Journal article, that Mercedes expected to sell 1,000 Maybachs a year worldwide, but for the first seven months of this year built only 278. In North America, they sold 48. ... Call it the Maydebachle! ... Let's go to the gausfiles: Five years ago Automotive News reported Mercedes planned "at least 1,500 Maybachs per year. Said [director of car development Hermann] Gaus: 'Hopefully a little bit more.'" ... It's Ishcar! ... [Thanks to reader J.H.] ... Times-bashing angle: Weird how the New York Times runs a whole feature on the Rolls and Maybach and doesn't bother to report that neither car is selling. The NYT's Keith Martin even repeats with a straight face Rolls' claim that it plans to sell 400 cars a year in the U.S. As of August, Rolls had sold 38. But maybe there will be a big year-end clearance. ... 2:39 A.M.
Democratic Aides Increasingly Confident: Mark Z. Barabak finds two (2) Michigan voters who have soured on Bush, as the LAT front page doesn't skip a beat in applying to national politics the pro-Democratic wishful-thinking approach that caused so many Southland readers to be bracingly surprised at the result of the recent California recall election. ... The point isn't that there are no voters who have soured on Bush, or that souring on Bush isn't a real phenomenon. The point is that reporters and editors at papers like the Times (either one!) are exquisitely sensitive to any sign that Democrats might win, but don't cultivate equivalent sensitivity when it comes to discerning signs Republicans might win. (Who wants to read that?) The result, in recent years, is the Liberal Cocoon, in which Democratic partisans are kept happy and hopeful until they are slaughtered every other November. The Cocoon is clearly still alive and well at the LAT. If you were searching for a place where Bush might be doing relatively badly on the economic issue, wouldn't you send a reporter to industrial Michigan? ... P.S.: Again, it's not that the Democrats have no chance. (I'd say the campaign is now as uncertain as it is unpredictable, wouldn't you?) But they'd have more of a chance if over the years there were more stories by Democratic self-haters like WaPo's Thomas Edsall and fewer by keep-hope-alive hacks like Barabak. ... P.P.S.: Did you realize that suburbanites "may be key in the 2004 election?" It seems they are "worried about Iraq and the economy." Who knew?... Bonus snipe: Face it. Would Barabak have gotten where he is without the "Z"? I don't think so! ... 2:20 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. 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. 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. 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! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]