--is a fraud! The site's proprietor (Mr. Blevins) doesn't really think Kerry is a "douchebag." He thinks "all of [the d.b. evidence can] be explained as lies, deception, media excess, or simply poor campaigning strategy." If only it were so. ... Blevins is just pretending to have grasped the full gravity of what Democrats are being asked to do in November. ... P.S.: I don't want to make a big deal of the ups and downs in the Rasmussen poll. But we're approaching the margin of error, no? At what point do Democrats begin to consider that they haven't nominated this guy yet? ... 11:22 P.M.
Flip-Flop, Incoming! Kerry voted for the Patriot Act ... but it contained "restrictions on our basic rights" and needs to be replaced "with a new law" that ends "the assault on our basic rights." ... no, wait it needs to be strengthened! The LAT reports on the Democrats' presumptive nominee adjusting his straddle to fit polls showing the Patriot Act to be popular. ... P.S.: What's striking about Kerry's December '03 speech is the weaselly way it anticipates this future shift to the right by heaping scorn on the Patriot Act while attempting to avoid an actual explicit attack on the law (as opposed to John Ashcroft's "abuse" of it). To the extent the speech succeeded at this, Kerry has been dissembling and straddling, not flip-flopping. But I don't think the speech completely succeeded. For example, Kerry said
If I'm elected President, we will put an end to "sneak and peak" searches which permit law enforcement to conduct a secret search and seize evidence without notification.
Is that still Kerry's position? 3:05 A.M.
Today's 'Uh-oh, We've Nominated a Turkey' Moment--Special 'Never Say Never Ever' Edition:
From Friday's LAT ....
Myths of the Medals
Kerry says he never claimed to have thrown the medals as his own. But as his reputation grew as a shrewd political operator after his 1984 senate election, Kerry was dogged by a troubling political myth.
He was accused of discarding his ribbons and the medals of others in 1971 to appear as an antiwar hero, while keeping his own medals for use as political props years later — a charge echoing this election year.
"It's so damn hypocritical to get these awards, throw them in the dirt and then suddenly value them again," said B.G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran and author who critiques Kerry's antiwar stance.
"I never ever implied that I did it," Kerry says wearily, ... [Emphasis added]
From ABC News yesterday:
"I gave back, I can't remember, 6, 7, 8, 9 medals," Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C. news program on WRC-TV's called Viewpoints on November 6, 1971, according to a tape obtained by ABCNEWS.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Kerry has denied that he threw away any of his 11 medals during an anti-war protest in April, 1971.
His campaign Web site calls it a "right wing fiction" and a smear. And in an interview with ABCNEWS' Peter Jennings last December, he said it was a "myth."
But Kerry told a much different story on Viewpoints. Asked about the anti-war veterans who threw their medals away, Kerry said "they decided to give them back to their country."
Kerry was asked if he gave back the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for combat duty as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. "Well, and above that, [I] gave back the others," he said. ... [snip]
"In a real sense, this administration forced us to return our medals because beyond the perversion of the war, these leaders themselves denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives," Kerry said the following day. [Emphasis added]
I'm suspicious about why that "I" is in brackets--ABC apparently plans to show the tape today (Monday)--but it otherwise looks as if Kerry's nailed on this issue. ... Time for a D-D-Bunker-Bunker? [Link via Drudge]... Update: Part of the D-Bunker's been D-leted. Another Kerry page has apparently been altered to remove its now-inconvenient emphasis on the distinction between throwing medals and throwing mere ribbons. ...
P.S.: According to JustOneMinute, Kerry also seems to have let reporters get the impression he wasn't in the Naval Reserves from 1970-1972, the period of his most intense anti-Vietnam War activity. [But Naval Reserve isn't what most people mean by being 'in the Navy'--ed. Maybe, but why did Kerry's web site boast of his "military service in the United States Naval Reserves from 1972 through 1978" but not his service from 1970-1972? Is it because it would be more awkward if he'd conducted anti-war activities while still in the Reserve? Because Kerry was telling reporters during his 1970 Congressional campaign that he'd already been honorably discharged from the Navy--something that didn't actually happen until 1978?] ...
Synecdoche got the best of me: The issue of course in all the cases above (and the I-never-said-I-was-Irish business and the It's-not-my-SUV business, etc.) is less Kerry's relation to the Navy or his medals than his relation to the truth. ...
P.P.S.: A Slate colleague reminds me that this is exactly the sort of issue that should have been raised and processed by the voters during the primaries, but wasn't due to a) the timidity of the other Democratic candidates; b)Terry McAuliffe's foreshortened schedule; c) the lateness of Kerry's surge; and d) the inane Anybody-But-Bush attitude of the voters that led them to accept the Kerry "electability" meme. Yes, it's the voters fault! [Isn't there usually an ironic Brecht quote at this point, about the need to "dissolve the people and elect another."--ed F--- Brecht! Democracy doesn't mean the voters can't make big mistakes. And if we could dissolve the Democratic primary electorate and elect another ... well, we might not get candidates who pretend they are against the Patriot Act in December (to please Iowa Democrats) and then, when that position proves hopelessly unpopular with the wider electorate, turn around in April and imply that what they really want to do is make the law tougher.]
P.P.P.S.: The average voter must be mystified, however, when confronted suddenly by the fuss over Kerry's medals. Were they medals or ribbons? Did he say they were medals? It sounds like nitpicking. That suggests the potential for a highly effective GOP negative ad explaining the dispute's significance--i.e., that for years, the one thing everyone thought they knew about John Kerry was that he'd dramatically thrown away his medals--a dramatic impression he fed, as the ABC tape proves. Only later did we learn he played it safe by keeping his medals and tossing his ribbons and someone else's medals. He then falsely denied that he'd fed the false impression. ... Plus, according to ABC's Charles Gibson and Polipundit, Kerry later did try to get a political benefit--with a selected, conservative audience, and on his 2004 Web site--from having retained his medals. ... The issue, again, isn't what he threw over the wall. It's whether or not even in 1971 he was a ...er ... straddling ambitious phony. ... Update: As expected, on NBC Nightly News Monday evening, Kelly O'Donnell's story must have been completely incomprehensible to the average viewer. Medals? Ribbons? What's the fuss about?... Despite Kerry's charges that Republicans are raising the medals issue, it appears to be a media-driven story. But it looks like it may take Republicans raising the issue to make its significance clear to voters. ... 1:15 A.M.
Only 12 more to go: Author of #13 (anti-Bush) book reviews #2 (pro-Bush) book. Shockingly, it's a pan! ....True, Ron Suskind's potential bias is so gross and obvious it can be discounted--but do you trust him to salvage all that might be good or informative in Hughes' book? I don't (and I certainly don't want to have to read the damn thing) ... Coming soon: General Foods' nutritionists review Post Grape Nuts, DaimlerChrysler's Jurgen Schrempp on the new Ford 500, Macy's on Gimbels ... P.S.: Particularly annoying was Suskind's hype of his own Paul O'Neill memoir:
As the message machine that Hughes largely built sputters in the mud of Congressional hearings, tell-all books and inconvenient facts, ...
The Times' message machine, in which all letters are pro-Kerry, sure isn't sputtering. ... P.P.S.: Which is creepier--the possibility that the Timesprints only pro-Kerry letters, or the possibility that it receives only pro-Kerry letters? ... [Thanks to readers S.K and A.E.]
Update: Alert reader B. R. suggests that the explanation is possibility (b), and that the phenomenon is more widespread than I'd thought:
At the little newspaper that employs me up in Redding, Calif., the letters run strongly pro-Kerry and anti-Bush, even though this is emphatically Bush country. I've been scratching my head over the paradox for a few months. Among N.Y. Times readers, who as a whole probably do not represent "Bush country," the mail skew sounds unsurprising.
Friday, April 23, 2004
Gettin' ecstatic and sorta dramatic:
"Let's be serious; would anybody even remember Kerry actually is Catholic if the Church hadn't reminded us?" ...
N.Z. Bear points to the multifaceted gift the Catholic hierarchy has given Senator Kerry. ... 11:38 P.M.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Blowing the Layup Dept.: I don't agree with everything on Juan Cole's site--calling Israel's killing of Rantisi "murder," for example--but this passage, if true [see Update below] is highly troubling:
Now [Pentagon favorite Ahmad] Chalabi's nephew Salem has been put in charge of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Salem is a partner in [the now apparently reorganized ] Zell and Feith, a Jerusalem-based law firm headed by a West Bank settler, in which Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for Planning, is also a senior partner when not in the US government. [For detail corrections, see Update below]
We couldn't find anyone to prosecute Saddam who wouldn't make easy propaganda fodder for our enemies (or half of our friends, for that matter)? It's not as if the case against Saddam is a tough one to make, is it? Achieving the appearance of impartiality is one of the only things we really had to do--and we seem to have failed. ... Perhaps this arrangement will suffer the same fate as Henry Kissinger's chairmanship of the 9/11 commission. ... P.S.: Did "Brandini" know about this? Does he approve? ... P.P.S.: See also this Josh Marshall column, and this older one. ...
Update: Cole does seem to be off in some of the details. Salem doesn't appear to be a partner in Feith's old law firm. He's a lawyer and business partner of Zell, who has been "marketing" Salem's new Baghdad based firm, the Iraqi International Law Group. (See this re-posted Newsday article.) Zell's law firm Zell, Goldberg & Co. looks like it's Israel-based, and Zell and Feith were also both part of the suggestively named FANDZ International Law Group, but it's not clear that FANDZ itself can be characterized as "Jerusalem-based." But who cares? The commercial and personal ties among all these people are sufficiently close that they threaten to tarnish the Saddam prosecution in the eyes of the people we need to win over. .. More: This Guardian account more vividly outlines the interlocking relationships. ... 10:50 P.M.
If cameras were rolling, Bush has another ad: "I don't own an SUV. ... The family has it. I don't have it," says Senator Kerry, speaking of the Chevy Suburban his wife keeps in their Ketchum, Idaho home. Must be more mordant post-modern commentary on the absurdity of campaigning! ... What it really is is ... how to put it? ... pathetic. I hew to my earlier suggestion:
By July 26 it could be clear to everyone except about 3,000 delegates to the Democratic convention that Kerry is not cutting it against Bush (even though Bush is very beatable).
But change "could" to "will.". ... 6:29 P.M.
Can Kerry Flip the Flip-Flop Issue? The John Kerry of 1972 was sort of a sensible fellow! ("'I think liberals spend too much time pushing issues which just aren't relevant to the mass of people ... .") Did a pro-Bush source leak Kerry's old abortion position to Drudge (to show that Kerry's a flip-flopper) or did the Kerry campaign leak it (to show he's not a doctrinaire Dem)? ... That suggests a possible Kerry strategy for when he's accused of being a waffler and flip-flopper: Go with it! As in "Yes, I've changed my mind, because I don't think it's a black-white issue the way many of my fellow pro-choice Democrats do. That goes for a lot of other issues as well."... ... What's more appealing to swing voters--a prevaricating liberal who sees the other side and who might well come around to the center, or a doctrinaire liberal who'll never change? Kerry's stuck with the flip-flop label anyway (because it fits). He might as well get the good out of it. Maybe all he really needs to do is give undecided Bush-doubters some hope. When you've got a lemon ... 4:50 P.M.
Is Kerry a Post-Modern Performance Artist or Just a Dud? Howard Fineman detects a "mordant sense of humor" behind Kerry's now-famous explanation that "I actually did vote for the 87 billion dollars, before I voted against it." I've now seen the clip twice and I can't see a millimeter of ironic distance--just a straight, strained attempt to work the straddle and justify a hard-to-defend vote. But look for yourself. It's at the end of the Bush ad labeled "Troops-Fog Updated," available on Bush's site. (I'm assuming the Bush people didn't doctor the tape.) ... P.S.: It wouldn't be the first time that others have picked up an ironic Kerry wavelength that my receiver can't get.(e.g. Slate's Chris Suellentrop, who sees a Gary Hart-like sense of absurdity in Kerry's "goofy grin"). ... Et tu: And Peggy Noonan likes his voice! ... P.P.S.: The Fineman, Noonan and Suellentrop compliments, I should note, are all to-be-sure balancers in what are otherwise negative pieces. Still! ... I think Kerry's voice is a big part of his problem, He's so obviously proud of it and confident of its ability to befog and impress--and those qualities are now embedded in the drone. ... 4:00 P.M.
Here on the West Side of L.A., the roads have been strangely unjammed for two or three days. Most of the time you can actually get places--like the 1960s! It's odd. The major religious holidays are over. The economy is supposed to be booming. ... The porn industry shutdown can't be having that much effect, can it? ... Have we reached some sort of telecommuting tipping point? (Q: And why would there be a telecommuting tipping point? A: Nobody goes to the office because nobody goes to the office so what's the point?) ... The only other explanation I can think of is the price of gas. It's so high people are actually putting off errands and leaving their SUVs in the driveway. ... This could be a good talking point for advocates of pricing solutions to environmental problems (e.g. a gas tax). Motorists do seem to be changing their behavior rather than simply eating the high prices ... If you've noticed this same mysterious traffic phenomenon in your town, let me know. ... Valuable reader feedback: Readers in Boston and S.F. report sensing the same trend, but readers elsehwere (K.C., D.C.,Virginia Beach) dissent. ... Reader R.L. suggests L.A. is a special case: Everybody is on hiatus from television production. Which means the streets in Apple Valley and Diamond Bar are probably clogged with grips, gaffers, best boys, and second A.D.'s, who aren't working for the next month or so; and it also means that there aren't any chaises available at the Four Seasons Maui or the Mauna Kea, either, because that's where the writers and producers and directors are. 12: 43 A.M.
Everybody is on hiatus from television production. Which means the streets in Apple Valley and Diamond Bar are probably clogged with grips, gaffers, best boys, and second A.D.'s, who aren't working for the next month or so; and it also means that there aren't any chaises available at the Four Seasons Maui or the Mauna Kea, either, because that's where the writers and producers and directors are.
12: 43 A.M.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Don't just shake the trees. Tree the sheiks! It's not that easy, though, the Bush administration discovers. (And isn't it wrong to confuse promoting democracy with defying local customs about women's dress?) ... 4:14 A.M.
Kerry finally gets nailed for his Kissingerian stability-will-do comments on Iraq. ... 3:40 A.M.
Can Shrum Do Centrism? Kerry's been saying centrist-sounding things lately--a) that he's "not a redistribution Democrat," b) that he might support cuts in the Social Security benefits of the well-off. This new posture raises an obvious issue, flagged alertly by WaPo's Jim VandeHei: If Kerry wants and needs to run a centrist campaign, ishis us-against-them populist strategist Bob Shrum capable of pulling it off? ....
I don't know the answer (and VandeHei doesn't pretend to know it either). Shrum could easily have run a winning centrist campaign for Al Gore in 2000 and he ran a losing populist one instead. But maybe it was Gore himself who wanted to run on cookie-cutter Shrummery. ... True, I've always felt Shrum is a closet idealist--his populism is what he actually believes; he's not really making a hard-boiled professional assessment of what will win. But Shrum also enthusiastically and seemingly sincerely defended Gore's more conservative positions--on the Elian Gonzalez case, for example. ("This woman died so her son could come here," Shrum argued on CNN). It's not as if Shrum isn't smart enough to learn from his past mistakes. ...
It would be encouraging, though, if he'd ever cobbled together a centrist spiel as compelling as his liberal Kennedy anthems. We Californians remember the unmemorable, losing gubernatorial campaign Shrum put together for centrist businessman Al Checchi. Will Kerry be Checchi II? Or, worse, will Kerry's post-primary centrism become a giant Kerry Straddle, with the candidate revealing to more conservative groups his conservative side and appearing more liberal before liberal audiences--the way he told Miami Cubans he'd supported the anti-Castro Helms-Burton bill, leaving them to discover for themselves that he'd actually voted against it in the end. They were pissed! (It would be more encouraging, in this respect, if Kerry had made his I-am-not-a-redistributionist speech to, say, a group of farmworkers instead of to "wealthy and well-connected supporters" gathered at the "21" Club for a $25,000-a-plate breakfast.)
Swing voters will be as annoyed as the Miamians if Kerry doesn't make it clear to everyone just where he's centrist and where he's not. Putting it all together in the proverbial compelling synthesis--as Clinton did with welfare or "Save Social Security First"--is probably too much to ask. ... P.S.: Kerry could do worse than start with Paul Glastris' article connecting the Shrummy anti-lobbyist theme with a plan to create millions of jobs in specific, emerging industries. Instead, VandeHei reports:
The essence of the upcoming campaign message, [Shrum partner Michael] Donilon said, is biographical ...
Ugh! You know what that means--iet-Vay am-Nay, ad-ay auseum-nay! Isn't the best test of Kerry's leadership not how he commanded a boat for four months forty years ago but whether he can stand up to organized lobbies and spell out a coherent governing philosophy today? ...
Bonus snipe: Vandehei sums up the Kerry camp's intention
to position Kerry as the presidential candidate who is pro-national defense, pro-middle-class tax cuts, pro-balanced budgets --
so far, so good
with the rhetorical dash and inspiration of John F. Kennedy, a hero to Kerry and many of his top aides.
Don't push it! Why try to make this lugubrious, self-centered figure into something he's not--namely, witty and inspiring? As even the Wall Street Journal'sKerry-bashing George Melloan points out, you don't have to be lovable to get elected when your country's in the middle of a war on terrorism. Being a "tough, humorless" battler who "likes to play rough ... isn't necessarily the worst vote-getting image to project."
But asking Shrum--who's spent much of his life looking for the next JFK--to be the man to tell Kerry--who's spent all of his life trying to be the next JFK--that he isn't the next JFK seems way too much to expect. ... 2:11 A.M.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
You have to dig for the dirt: Nice, nasty NYT article guaranteed to annoy some major automotive advertisers and Web "partners" by publicizing the cars that aren't selling (Mercedes Maybach, VW Phaeton, Hummer, Buick, Nissan Titan). It's the sort of thing you didn't used to read on historically advertiser-friendly auto pages. So why can't I get to it from the Times "Automobiles" page? Coincidence? ... P.S.: Usually when you can't find an article on a Web site it's just a glitch, not a conspiracy. But on an auto page there's so much potential advertiser pressure there's reason to be suspicious.... Update: Turns out you can get to it--it's lurking behind the generic "Drive Times" button in the upper right hand corner. Not exactly well-displayed! ... [Thanks to reader A.S.H.]... 5:24 A.M.
The Kerry military record issue is beginning to bite him, thanks to his Meet the Press dissembling. If he'd just said, "No, those records are private" wouldn't he have fared better, in the long run? ... P.S.: Paranoid (or posinoid) thought--maybe it's a trap. Kerry's intentionally turning the military records fight into a bigger story than it had to be because he knows that when the full records are (inevitably) released reporters will discover not scandal but encomiums to his character and leadership! ... Update: According to ABC's Noted Now, Kerry spokeswoman
Stephanie Cutter tells ABC News' Dan Harris the campaign will post Kerry's "records and citations. No medical other than those accompanying medals ... We don't have medical ready" ... Records will be in the Veterans section of Kerry campaign Web site; timing of release TBD, Harris reports... [emphasis added]
If it's not a trap, isn't the Kerry campaign's handling of this issue klutzy and Brandini-esque? ... More: ABC now reports the records are to be released tonight on Kerry's website. ... 4:30 A.M.
Slate'sDan Gross makes it sound as if it's a major new development that American auto manufacturers would support a Hillary-Clinton-style health care plan:
Given the inability of private-market mechanisms to contain costs, the Hillary Clinton-Magaziner Rube-Goldberg single-payer plan may no longer look so crazy when viewed from Detroit corner offices ... ["Socialism, American Style," Aug. 1, 2003; see also "Capitalists for Hillarycare," April 16, 2004.]
But didn't the big automakers support a national single-payer health care plan back in 1993? That's what I remember. And here's a Joseph Califano WaPo op-ed from 1993 that backs up this memory:
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were first to jump into bed with the Clintons because the administration's plan when fully in place would be worth about $ 3 billion a year in savings that they can reinvest or distribute in dividends to shareholders and wages to workers. By mandating employers' coverage and dumping more costs for the poor on the states, the Clinton plan will pretty much end cost shifting to companies with rich plans. Having the feds pick up the health care tab for the early retirees is a boon to industries such as auto and steel that routinely lay off workers at age 55. [Emphasis added]
Maybe more big businesses would support Hillary-style health care now, but I suspect the difference is one of degree. The calculations that Detroit is making now were calculations it also made back in the early 1990s. ... P.S.: The main opposition to Hillary's plan came from smaller businesses, if I remember right. ... 4:08 A.M.
He'd be nothing without the "Z"! The LAT's Mark Z. Barabak is no Ron Brownstein. He writes a whole piece about the possible political advantages of Bush's Sharon embrace as if the only voting block it might appeal to are Jewish voters. WaPo's Milbank and Allen, in contrast, note in the second paragraph that the move should also help Bush among "increasingly pro-Israel Christian conservatives" ... (Barabak does mention "Christian conservatives" toward the end of his piece, but only in passing and not as a potential Bush target.) ... Barabak also includes a classic piece of polite journalisticb.s.:
While no one — Democrat or Republican — suggests that Bush took [the] step for domestic political reasons, allies said the move would only enhance his standing with Jewish voters.
Huh? I know plenty of Democrats who suggest exactly that Bush took this step for domestic political reasons. They may not be right, but why pretend the charge isn't being made? ... 3:20 A.M.
kf VP (or P) suggestion, Gen. Anthony Zinni, has surfaced in San Diego with an obvious, disturbing comparison of the Iraq war with, yes, Vietnam:
"In the end, the Iraqis themselves have to want to rebuild their country more than we do," Zinni said. "But I don't see that right now. I see us doing everything.
"I spent two years in Vietnam, and I've seen this movie before," he said. "They have to be willing to do more or else it is never going to work."
Whistling Past the Libel Graveyard: From the recent NYT piece on Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox and her boss, energetic British blog-entrepreneur Nick Denton--
Ms. Cox said she had no intention of pushing the envelope so far that she is sued for libel. Mr. Denton, on the other hand, views the prospect differently. Having breakfast with Mr. Denton recently, she told him about a few tips she said were too ridiculous to mention on the blog. "And he said, `Why not?' and I was like, `Well, because we'd get sued,' " she recounted. "And he was like, `That would be great!' "
Mr. Denton shrugged off fears of a libel suit.
"It would be very hard for anyone to prove any malice," he said.
Hmmm. Is Denton aware of the exact definition of "actual malice" as used in American libel law? It famously has nothing to do with actual malice! All a plaintiff has to show is "reckless disregard" of accuracy. That's not hard to plausibly allege. Potential exposure to libel suits is a bigger long-range problem for sites like Wonkette--and kausfiles--than we like to let on. . ...Note to Denton: You told the New York Times that "immediacy is more important than accuracy, and humor is more important than accuracy." Now that will look good in court when the plaintiff's attorney reads it back to the jury! I don't think it's right either (though I'd rather read a blog put out by someone who thinks it's right than someone who doesn't).... I'd put it more this way: Blogs can and should be like spoken conversations at, say, a cocktail party. We don't in practice hold those conversations to the "reckless disregard" standard of New York Times vs. Sullivan, and we shouldn't hold blogs to that standard. The rationale for a looser standard is a) Web writing can be corrected quickly and (relatively) effectively, compared with something that's printed on paper and physically shipped to all the libraries in the world; and b) it's a good thing to have a widely-accessible medium that can do what conversation does, letting ordinary readers in on what those in the know are actually talking about, including rumors of scandals about public figures (as long as they are potentiallly correctable rumors). The Kerry "affair" bubble is a good example. Wonkette was right to write about it. But she was also a bit brave. We shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that U.S. libel law, as it now stands, securely protects blogs that do this sort of thing. (That's the main reason I dared only link to her, rather than discuss the rumor myself. ) ... P.S.: See also this Slashdot thread [via Reynolds]. ...
Update: Denton responds, claiming "the quote from me, about accuracy, is abbreviated [by the NYT] to the point of inaccuracy." He also detects Times "prejudices about online media" in Julie Bosman's profile. Reactions: a) So what did Denton say, exactly? b) That was a positive piece! Doesn't Denton know good press when he gets it? c) Bosman was right to highlight the libel issue, a point I think Denton concedes; d) Yes, Wonkette was "sceptical about the rumor" of a Kerry affair. But I'm pretty sure that skeptically discussing a previously unpublished, damaging rumor doesn't get you off the hook for libel. That's the point. Denton is applying common sense about what blogs should publish, filtered through a Brit journo's sensibility. But American libel law as it now stands does not follow common sense. ... P.S.: But the Times is snotty about Drudge. ... 2:07 A.M.
Monday, April 19, 2004
"Brandini" is Back! After getting it right on Meet the Press, Kerry resumes misstating U.N. envoy Brahimi's s name. ...[Thanks to reader T.M.] ... P.S.: Make the same mistake three times and you open yourself up to cheap psychoanalyzing! Is Kerry's repeat Brandini-ing: 1) A reflection of his frustration that Bush's last-minute delegation of government-organizing power to the U.N. envoy steals one of his themes? 2) A reflection of his frustration that Bush's last minute delegation of government-organizing power to the U.N. envoy might actually work? 3) A ham handed attempt to express general contempt for Bush's actions? 4) A ham-handed attempt to dumb himself down for his audience, or at least not appear too sophisticated? 5) All of the above? ... You, the reader, make the call! ...10:26 A.M.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Did John Kerry endorse means-testing Social Security--shaving the benefits of the affluent elderly--on Meet the Press today? I think he did! Let's go to the transcript. Kerry's just been asked how he's going to make Social Security solvent. At first Kerry says he's "rejected" a 1995 statement of his that called for raising the retirement age and means-testing. But then he says:
SEN. KERRY: Tim, we're going to have a bigger economy. We have more Americans who are working. We have the ability to grow out of it. Now, if we don't do that--let me give you an idea. You and I earn a lot of money. We're very lucky. If you live to be 85, Tim, do you think it's right that somebody who earns $30,000 a year after you've gotten all your money out of Social Security, after you've gotten everything and more than you paid is paying you money? I think there are plenty of ways to look at things. We don't have to tell Americans it won't be there, because it will be there. And we certainly don't have to cut benefits to pay for George Bush's unaffordable tax cut. [Emph. added]
Sounds like a modified version of means-testing that would only kick in after rich retirees had gotten their contributions back in the form of benefits. Traditionally, any sort of means-testing has been anathema both to senior pressure groups and to Democrats, mainly because they fear affluent voters won't support the system if they don't get full benefits.** (It's also often said that means-testing will turn Social Security into "welfare"--a weak argument because you still have to work to qualify for Social Security, unlike for welfare.) ... Good for Kerry that he dares to take such an impolitic position in the middle of a campaign. Will he be forced to pathetically backtrack? My money says yes--if AARP doesn't slam him for it, the Bush campaign will. (There aren't many retirees in, say, Florida, are there?) ... But maybe Kerry's deliberately taking a controversial stand to show there's at least one issue on which he won't flip flop under fire. Let's hope. ..
[** Most famously, in 1985 Democratic party chairman Paul Kirk advocated means-testing at a breakfast meeting with reporters, and was forced within hours to issue a groveling press release saying, "I should not have mentioned the subject of a means test." The same year, Sen. Ted Kennedy said means testing would "repeal the New Deal and the New Frontier." ]
P.S.: In 1985, a proposal like Kerry's would have brought in big bucks, because retirees were then getting back much, much more in Social Security benefits than they'd put in. (They'd paid in during years when Social Security taxes were much lower than they are today). But it's not clear to me that the rich baby boomer retirees of the near future, like Tim Russert, will get back that much more than they've contributed--in which case Kerry's plan to deny them the excess won't recapture that much money. This is especially true if Kerry plans to give the Russerts their contributions plus interest (as will inevitably be demanded). ... It might be simpler and more effective--and more honest--to just pay the rich half their benefits and not pretend they're "getting everything" that they put in "and more." But I don't know the numbers. Somebody call Robert Ball!...
Update: According to this helpful online game from the American Academy of Actuaries, a straight-up means test--to "reduce benefits for those whose total retirement income exceeds $45,000 per year"--almost fixes the Social Security solvency problem by itself. (It's not clear from the Actuaries' site how severely the benefits are "reduced" in this option.) ... [Thanks to reader J.G.]7:22 P.M.
On the Chris Matthews Show this weekend, Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria noted that the timing of President Bush's package of concessions to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was bad for U.S. troops in a tense and dangerous situation in Iraq:
As a result of this you're going to have rising anti-Americanism in Iraq. And American troops are going to pay the price.
And that was before the Israeli government assassinated another Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. .... Israel's earlier assassination of Hamas' founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, apparently did play a role in sparking the current anti-American uprising by both Moqtada al-Sadr's armed Shiite faction in Southern Iraq and Sunnis in Fallujah. Rantisi's death will boil the Iraq pot some more. Whatever you think of Israel's policy of assassination (and the assassination of Rantisi came after a Hamas co-sponsored suicide-bomb attack that killed an Israeli border policeman) the timing of this particular Israeli strike is especially bad for American soldiers in Iraq. If they were going to pay a price for the Sharon visit, they will pay a higher price now. ... In particular, it may now be easier for renegade cleric Sadr to drum up some popular support, which could be a very bad development. Is there a mechanism that forces the Israeli prime minister to take such factors into account before he acts?... 2:43 A.M.
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