They laughed when kausfiles suggested that Howard Dean get to President Bush's right on the potentially volatile people-vs.-elites issue of immigration reform (and amnesty for "undocumented" immigrants). But see zonitics.com for what Dean told the Arizona Republic editorial board about "guest workers." ... Note to Dean: You might also point out that the striking supermarket workers in Southern California would have a whole lot more bargaining power if they didn't face the implicit threat of wage competition from illegals. ... 11:59 P.M.
Bombshell Bombs: Alas, that sensational top secret Iraqi memo purporting to document a) Mohammed Atta's secret Iraq training session, b) the disputed yellowcake shipment from Niger, and c) Webb Hubbell's presence on the grassy knoll seems to be too good to check, as expected. Newsweek's Isikoff and Hosenball say the FBI has records detailing Atta's presence in the U.S. for the period in question. ... But "a few days are unaccounted for," and Isikoff and Hosenball's expert hadn't actually seen the suspected forgery. Take it away, Edward Jay Epstein! ...Still, even Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress calls the bombshell memo "nonsense," and the U.K. Sunday Telegraph reporter who publicized it doesn't stand up too strongly for it either. ... Sorry, Glenn! (And Bill!) .... 11:31 P.M.
More Dean Third Party Fantasizing: TNR's Noam Scheiber argues that Dean may have "a better shot of winning the presidency" in a three-candidate "Dean vs. Gephardt vs. Bush race than in a Dean vs. Bush race." That seems ...er, a stretch to me. How does a leftish independent candidate beat Bush unless either he or the regular Democratic candidate somehow eat into Bush's half of the vote in the "red" states? I don't see either Dean or Gephardt doing that. I see them splitting the anti-Bush vote and losing. But maybe I'm missing something. You make the call! ...
P.S.: Scheiber also repeats a belief, which I think is false, that if three parties split up the states, so that no candidate's Electoral total on the day after the election adds up to a majority, then the election will automatically be thrown into the House. Isn't it more likely that there will be bargaining and some sort of deal struck before the Electoral College votes--so that, for example, enough Dean and Gephardt electors combine behind one candidate to achieve a majority in the College, before it ever gets to the House? [Aren't electors bound to vote for their party's candidate?--ed. Not really, according to Slate's resident Electoral College maven, Tim Noah. Sure, the parties can require them to pledge to be faithful, but that doesn't necessarily nullify their vote if they break that pledge. Even state laws binding electors might not be enforceable. And, as of 2000, 24 states don't even try to penalize "faithless electors," Noah reports . ... Constitutional scholars (and non-scholars!) who think I'm wrong on this please e-mail me and tell me why. ...
P.P.S.: Everett Ehrlich himself emails to note that while the Electoral College tends to reward big nationwide parties, "there's the countervailing point that a more divided field makes it easier to win states." Combine that point with the possibility of quasi-parliamentary Electoral College bargaining, as just discussed, and I wonder if I was too quick to concede that the Electoral College set-discourages third parties. After all, if you have a solid third party you can maybe grab a bunch of states and hold the balance of power, no? Certainly third parties would do better in this system than if the presidency were decided in a single national popular vote. The so-called Duverger's Law--"most votes wins all" elections create two party systems--would only applywithin each state's Electoral contest. In the entire Electoral College, it would not apply, since the Electoral College isn't a "most votes wins all" system. Under the Twelfth Amendment, you need an absolute majority to win. A 49 and a half % plurality won't do. Hence the room for third parties to make up the difference. Vote for a third party, in such a system, and you don't "waste" your vote, as long as that party has a chance to win the electors from your state. [Then why've regional third parties, historically, withered and dies?--ed. Possible answers:a)They don't inevitably wither. They have to be affirmatively courted and coopted by the major parties. But they have been affirmatively courted and coopted. b) Voters are fooled by the illusion that they are voting in a single national "most-votes-wins-it-all" election, so they don't vote for third parties even when that would be rational; c) I'm wrong on the possibility of Electoral College deal-making; d) parties do more than elect presidents--they elect Congressmen, mayors and dogcatchers by giving voters an easy way to tell friends from foes. Thanks to this ideological "branding," they're hard to displace. But less hard than before! ...
P.P.P.S.: UCLA corporate law prof Stephen Bainbridge attempts to take down Ehrlich--and Bainbridge may be right that Ehrlich misapplies Ronald Coase's theories to political parties. So? Forget Coase and consider Ehrlich's argument on its own. Bainbridge declares:
The internet does nothing -- nada, zilch -- to solve the transaction costs that are solved by political parties.
Huh? Bainbridge seems to be talking here about a specific way parties minimize costs--by eliminating the need to investigate the views of every Sewer Commissioner or State Assemblyman. (Instead, as noted, you can just rely on the party label.) But parties do a lot of other things that are made a lot easier by the Internet--like hooking like-minded people together in the first place and raising money from them and mobilizing them rapidly around the issues of the day. The Dean campaign does exist, after all. It can't be theorized away. And it could not have done what it has done without the Internet. Even Bainbridge says, at the end of his post:
Ehrlich may be right that the internet will make it easier for outsiders like Dean was a few months ago to capture a party's Presidential nomination.
'Only the presidency' seems a pretty big 'to-be-sure' concession. Ah, but remember the less glitzy offices, says Bainbridge "[A]s long as there are sewer commissioners to be elected there will be political parties."
Even at that level, will they be traditional parties or Dean-like Insta-parties? My guess is the Insta-parties will get down to the Sewer Commissioners soon enough. And if they don't ... how important are they if they can't elect a president? ... 11:04 P.M.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Which two parties, that is the question: Several eminent emailers have suggested that Everett Ehrlich's prediction of party decline ignores the major U.S. deterrent to splinter-party formation--the combination of the Electoral College and the rule, in all but two states, that the candidate winning the most votes gets all that state's electors. It doesn't pay to be a third party, in this scheme, unless you can actually win a few states. (The tendency of such person-with-the-most-votes-wins-all systems to produce two-party politics is sometimes called Duverger's Law.) ...
The short answer to this argument is, that's all true, but who or what will the two parties be? Surely it matters whether we have 1) a two party system in which the two parties are familiar institutions that carry over from election to election (e.g. Republicans and Democrats) or 2) a fluid two-party system in which the #2, or even #1 banner is up for grabs every election, to be captured by one of several competing self-started Internet-organized groups that may not even have existed the year before. If the latter is true, the Internet will still have 'ended parties as we know them.' The label "Democrat" will be a sort of title to be won in the start-from-scratch organizing wars. It won't come with an existing cadre of officials, or even necessarily with any ideology.
But there's no reason the two major party slots would even continue to be called "Democrat" and "Republican." Suppose John McCain ran as an independent in 2004 or 2008; he might win a few states and come in second in most others. The McCainiacs would then be the opposition party, and it might suddenly be the Democrats who are the third party looking in vain for a reason to stay alive. .... If McCain doesn't work for you, substitute Dean. (In a Dean vs. Gephardt vs. Bush race, is it clear Dean would finish third? Not to me.) I still think Ehrlich is onto something fairly big. ... (As my colleague Bob Wright notes in his book Nonzero, changes in information technology tend to be followed by big political/cultural shifts. It's no accident that the Reformation happened a few decades after Gutenberg. Suddenly, you could nail a few theses on a door and they'd be distributed across a continent in days. Now--to exaggerate for a moment--you can put up a Web site and fill out some Meetup.com forms, and you can have a party-like political organization in all 50 states in a few weeks. Who needs Terry McAuliffe?) ... 2:06 A.M.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
If He Loses, Will He Quit? Alert reader B.B. points out at least one more implication of Everett Ehrlich's high-ramification analysis of party decline in the Internet era: What happens if Dean loses in the Democratic primary? As Ehrlich notes, Dean's essentially built an entire new party for himself on the Web ("his own lists, his own money, his own organization"). Suppose one of the establishment party types he denounces, like Gephardt, defeats him and captures the Democratic "brand name." Will Dean really just pack up and go home? Why should he? He can take his new personal portable party and keep on running, as an independent, the way John Anderson did back in 1980. His followers are fanatical enough (he could tack back to the left to keep them stoked) and the front-loading of the primary system gives him more time to make this switch and get on the ballot in enough states, no? He could argue that Gephardt will lose to Bush anyway, that it's more important to build a movement for the future, etc. And you thought Ralph Nader was a spoiler. ... What are Democrats to do? 1) Make Dean pledge right now that he'll support the Democratic nominee [see Update 'n Salvage below]; 2) If he's beaten in the primaries, offer him the vice-presidential slot. That might not be a bad idea anyway, given his fervent following. 3) Encourage a compensating breakaway spoiler candidacy on the right. [Reader D.H. nominates an embittered Trent Lott] ... Update: Reader "Kevin from Sacramento" writes that "Dean has stated, repeatedly, that he will not run as a third party candidate and he will support the Democratic nominee if that nominee is not him." Good point! (He does it in this October debate, more or less.) Salvage: But campaign promises have a way of changing when opportunities open up. Bill Clinton pledged he wouldn't run for president in 1992. Hillary's said she won't run, and nobody seems to quite believe her. It wouldn't be hard for Dean to come up with a reason to change his mind--especially if the Democratic nominee is pro-war--now that it's clear he has the power to mount a national campaign independent of the party. ... Make him promise again, now, when everyone's paying attention! ... More: At the very least, the unspoken threat that Dean might break his promise and launch a third party candidacy gives him lots of leverage going into the convention, even if he doesn't win the nomination. ... 4:39 P.M.
Monday, December 15, 2003
TNR's Ryan Lizza takes up the Dean-Spin challenge with a rare unconvincing analysis:
If the biggest effect of Saddam's capture on the race is that it pushes Dean's rivals to become more vociferously pro-war, then Sunday's news really was a blessing for Dean.
Lizza also quotes with a straight face a Dean "senior adviser" saying the following:
"This doesn't change much for his candidacy ... We are no safer today than we were yesterday. The man was found hiding in a hole. He was hardly a threat to the people of Chicago." [Emph. added]
A few more flailingly stupid statements like that--as if hundreds of thousands of Iraqis weren't scared to cooperate with American soldiers out of fear that the man in the hole might return to power--and the Dean campaign could succeed in frightening even Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. ...And wasn't today supposed to be Centrist Foreign Policy Respectability Day for Dean? ... My non-contrarian take: Yes, Saddam's capture doesn't mean vociferous pro-war candidates are suddenly going to surge to the front of the Democratic pack. But why try to deny the obvious: The better things are going in Iraq, the more air leaks out of Dean's balloon--even if, as Lizza notes, he's "developed a robust anti-Bush message" on other, non-foreign-policy issues. It's like finding out that the off-Broadway play being written by the guy you're dating isn't very good after all. Sure, you tell yourself, he's got lots of other appealing qualities. You really shouldn't let it affect your judgment. He's the same guy he was before! Still ... [You are pretending to be a woman-ed. Valid objection. Mary McGrory would have figured out a better way to say this.] ... P.S.: Another positive side effect of Saddam's capture, noted by both Lizza and Will Saletan, is that John Kerry has made a fool of himself, switching in one news cycle from (in Lizza's words) a) "fiery criticism of how the war has been executed" (in which he "insisted that we would not be at war with Iraq if he were president") and b) attacking Dean for supporting a pro-war resolution to a) "attacking Dean as a hopelessly soft-on-Saddam peacenik" and b) "recasting himself as a maximalist hawk." ... Note to Eric Alterman: I never criticized Kerry for his hair. (I criticized his furrowed brow!) The problem is not his hair. The problem is that, as this incident shows, he lurches impulsively and opportunistically (Gregg Abbott's adjectives) in response to every perceived momentary advantage. His presidency would be a disaster by Month 3. ... Correction: O.K., there was one small "hair"-related cheap shot. [No thanks to alert reader J.W.] ...2:57 P.M.
New "New Perot" possibility: Tom Brokaw! Don't think he hasn't thought of running for president! ... 10:40 A.M.
'None? O.K. Just checking. Some people were making a fuss about it': From MSNBC News Services--
The U.S. military hopes Saddam will clear up allegations that he had chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the 1st Armored Division.
P.S.: Today was a Jo Moore Day--a good day to bury bad news, or any other kind of news ... like, say, news of a highly personal medical procedure. Check the back pages for what, on other days, would be on the front pages. ... 10:20 A.M.
"New Perot" Nominations are pouring in. Thanks! It's pretty clear to me who is the best name mentioned so far as suitable for mounting a centrist, Web-based third-party 2004 campaign for the presidency: Warren Buffett. He's a Democrat respected by Republicans for his financial success. He writes well--he could key in his own blog! He's been scathing about the deficit. ... Buffett got three votes, one less than the obvious won't-happen choice, John McCain, and equal to the obvious might-happen third-party candidate, Gen. Clark. ... Other interesting reader nominees: Carly Fiorina. Bill Gates. Douglas Wilder. Bob Kerrey. Herb Kelleher. Oprah! Robert Rubin, Bill Bradley ("assuming he's still alive"), Franklin Raines, Gary Hart. ... Keep them coming. ... Max Cleland, Bill Weld, Christine Todd Whitman ... P.S.: Dan Conley's been blogging along these same lines, There, he nominates Joe Lieberman, adding
... the center has a way of asserting itself in American politics whenever it is ignored. And I've never seen the center shunned as much as it has been in 2003 by both parties.
Good point, though the prescription drug bill was not a shunning of the center. And the night is young. ... 2:02 A.M.
Meanwhile, on to Public Enemy #2: Here's the quote Clark overspinner Chris Lehane gave the NYT for a story about Howard Dean's minor (2 percent or so) stake in a Vermont radio station that broadcast Rush Limbaugh:
"In a Dean administration, will Rush Limbaugh become the Voice of America?"
I don't think this was a total goof. I think Lehane thinks crafting these sort of zingers is his job, that he's good at it, that some Democrats might actually have doubts about Dean because of this third-remove association with Limbaugh, and that if he adds up enough of these subtly-engineered ripostes (there's another one here) he can help his candidate win an election--when really all he's done is make himself and his candidate look like idiots. ... Update: Discriminations finds another bit of ornate Lehane b.s., spinning Gen. Clark's skipping of Iowa as a search for multicultural proportionality. Wouldn't it be more effective to just say "We're conceding Iowa in favor of states we think we can do better in"? Why look like a liar? How is that clever? I don't get it. ...1:23 A.M.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Didn't Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert on NBC lobby a bit heavy-handedly (i.e. incessantly) today on the need for the administration to use this occasion to "internationalize" the Iraq effort? ... 9:52 P.M.
Saddam's capture bumped Howard Dean off the cover of Newsweek. Some will find cheap symbolism in this! ... 12:14 P.M.
It appears we've captured Saddam. A special award to the first reporter or commentator who argues this is actually good news for Howard Dean. ... And the winner is ... James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal? See penultimate item. Taranto doesn't argue it will help Dean win the election, though--only the nomination. ... Or is the winner my Slate colleague Will Saletan, who writes:
And what if interrogations of Saddam, like interrogations of his henchmen, yield no more evidence of weapons of mass destruction? U.N. weapons inspectors are already saying that the United States has produced almost no new evidence of WMD since occupying Iraq. Could the capture of Saddam—and with it, the exposure of the last dry hole in the WMD hunt—end up discrediting the war?
Update: If I heard it right, former Bill Clinton foreign policy aide Nancy Soderbergh was just on TV arguing that we can now speed the transition from American to Iraqi rule. Didn't Hillary Clinton just tell the nation we were transitioning too quickly to Iraqi rule--"artificial timelines," and all that? ... More--Dean vs. Hillary: This morning Howard Dean put out a statment that also argued, contra Hillary, that "we must also accelerate the transition from occupation to full Iraqi sovereignty." [And the point is ..?-ed 1) Both of them can't be right. Maybe we should let Hillaryphile and Dean enthusiast Sidney Blumenthal break the tie! 2) But they can both be wrong, in a Goldilocks kind of way, if Bush is going neither too fast nor too slow.Bush faces a dilemma, after all (as Hillary acknowledges in passing). If he doesn't promise a quick transition, Iraqis will think we are occupiers. If he promises a too-quick transition, Iraq may not be ready for self-governance. He's trying to strike a balance. It would be surprising if he got it perfectly right, and he's not going to get it perfectly right every time. Having voted to put the nation in this dilemma, you would think Hillary would try to sound sympathetic even when she's sniping that Bush is going too fast--rather than easily sliding into the charge that the administration is cynically playing 2004 politics, looking for an "exit strategy, some kind of transition before our elections." 3) Where's Hillary's snipe at Dean, who's even wronger than Bush under her analysis? If Hillary really believes her critique, taking on Dean would be a practical, not merely rhetorical, step--since Dean's so-far successful campaign would be a big part of what is pressuring Bush to transfer sovereignty faster than Bush might do otherwise.] ... 3:59 A.M.
Waiting for Perot, or Someone Like Him: Either I haven't done enough reading or this is a brilliant piece that should be read by all concerned Americans. Everett Ehrlich notes that decreasing information costs--i.e. the Internet--now enable outside groups to do what only big political parties used to be able to do--i.e. organize effective national campaigns. And that's before you consider the effects of the McCain-Feingold law, which Ehrlich doesn't mention but which makes circumventing the parties not only possible but imperative. (See, e.g. Edsall's article on the "shadow" Democrats in the same edition of WaPo.)
Ehrlich draws some pithy conclusions from the parties' obsolescence:
For all Dean's talk about wanting to represent the truly "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," the paradox is that he is essentially a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party. Other candidates -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark -- are competing to take control of the party's fundraising, organizational and media operations. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants are the Democratic brand name and legacy, the party's last remaining assets of value, as part of his marketing strategy.
That puts the much-discussed Gore/Dean vs. Clinton struggle in a different light--maybe Gore and Dean don't care if Clintonites control the party. ...
Ehrlich also makes several big and entirely plausible predictions based on this analysis:
1) If Dean loses, he'll keep his e-mail lists and "reemerge" as a third party candidate in succeeding elections;
2) "[T]he evangelical right will become a separate political party in the near future, and will hold its own conventions and primaries." Why not? They can still endorse the Republican candidate if they want.
3) In "the next six or eight presidential elections, a third-party candidate will win the presidency. ..."
My only question: Why will it take six elections? And I'd add two more predictions:
4) If Dean locks up the Democratic nomination but trails badly in the polls, a non-trivial centrist third party candidate will emerge in the current, 2004, election. Think about it. Dean could wrap the nomination up by mid-March. That leaves almost half a year before the summer conventions--not an eternity, but rather several excruciating eternities for Democrats if Bush's lead in the national polls continues to hold. (Remember the Feiler Faster Thesis--two months now seems like a year.) Are we really to spend five months reading wishful Adam Nagourney pieces about how this strategy or that strategy (New voters! Hispanics! Reservists! Metrosexuals!) might bring victory for Dean's Democrats? No. Thanks to the Web, it doesn't cost much to start up a moderate third-party alternative. If Dean's still 20 points behind by mid-May, I expect some New Perot to go for it. Who? I don't know. Maybe Clark, if he isn't on the ticket and hasn't humiliated himself. Maybe Clark's nemesis, Republican William Cohen. Maybe Warren Rudman. Someone! It's not hard to do anymore. And things move fast. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. ... Meanwhile, it's pretty clear what the easiest, most effective thing Bush's opponents could do is--namely, goad someone on the beyond-Bush right into starting a Web-driven fourth-party campaign in 2004 that would split Bush's vote. (Hola, Tom Tancredo!) ...
5) The NYT's Glen Justice is wrong to seemingly buy the theory that Congress has had enough campaign finance reform for a while. Isn't it more likely that the McCain-Feingold law, by disempowering parties (especially the Democrats) and shifting influence to independent "527" shadow committees, will prompt a panicked reaction designed to reestablish party primacy by revamping the law? If there's anything politicians hate, it's the idea that their reelection fate is out of their control--that they might be blown away, not by their own gaffes or by their official foes, but by some out-of-the-blue group they've never heard of. That was one big motivation behind McCain-Feingold's loophole-ridden ban on last-minute independent "issue" ads. As Ehrlich notes, even without McCain-Feingold the two major parties will try to "preserve their fading power" through heavy-handed means like keeping third parties out of debates and closing off "open" primaries. Changing McCain-Feingold to readvantage the major parties is another obvious step. (The obvious way to take this obvious step is to let the parties collect a whole lot more money--enough to dwarf the 527s.)
All the anti-Bush 527 groups that are springing up don't have to support the Democrats, after all, It would be just as easy for them or similar groups to raise unlimited donations on behalf of a third-party white knight. Once that possibility becomes a real threat, Democrats and Republicans can be expected to act. ...
Who's the New Perot for 2004? Nominations for a third-party centrist candidate gratefully accepted at Mickey_Kaus@msn.com. ...
Update: Simon Rosenberg of the Dean-friendly New Democratic Network endorses Erhlich's analysis. 1) Note that among the things Rosenberg consigns to the dustbin along with the "industrial age" Democratic party is its "classic FDR liberalism." 2) So what's going to replace that? Rosenberg doesn't say. The medium seems to be the message, at least in this item--the Web-based technology of the new, non-party campaign is what's appealing about Dean. Do you need a message if you have Meet.up? Would Dean be winning, thanks to his Internet power alone, if he didn't have a strong anti-Iraq position? It's a good question. (He was doing prettty well before the Iraq War started, if I recall.) But in the future, once every candidate has mastered the new means of organizing, message will again be the deciding factor. The Web doesn't get Democrats off the hook of deciding, if they don't believe in the ideology of "classic FDR liberalism," what sort of neoliberalism or Third Way they do believe in. Bill Clinton made progress on this question. It's not clear Dean will. .. 2:18 A.M.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Convenient Blockbuster--Killing one too many birds with one stone? I certainly hope this report is true. But how likely is it that a single memo written in July, 2001 would just happen to solve two of the Bush administration's biggest current problems: 1) the absence of a clear Saddam-9/11 link and 2) the disputed claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger? ... What's in the rest of the memo? Reader Z.S.: "[T]the third part of the memo, somewhat surprisingly, provides Bush's National Guard attendance records .... " [Link via Instapundit]11:16 P.M.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Friday, December 12, 2003
If Howard Dean is looking for an issue on which to get to George Bush's right--the way Bill Clinton got to Bush's father's right on welfare in 1992--Dean might try this one. ...[But Dean's posted position on immigration is pretty close to Bush's--ed. a) The Dean "issues"page is vaguely worded--e.g., pledging to "regularize the inevitable future migration of labor" doesn't commit Dean to easy citizenship for illegal immigrants, or prevent Dean from charging Bush with pursuing "amnesty"; b) Dean's flip-flopped before, on bigger issues than this!]... Bonus: An anti-amnesty immigration plank would have huge potential not-so-secret appeal to African-Americans, a constituency Dean desperately needs. 2:28 P.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.]