China vs. the Blogs

China vs. the Blogs

China vs. the Blogs

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 30 2004 2:56 PM

kf is Still Stupid!

Plus--China vs. the Blogs

For motorists in West L.A. who get sick of the chloroformed, breathy pop promoted by local NPR outlet KCRW's life-sapping Nic Harcourt, a better bet is KXLU, the Loyola Marymount college station.  On Friday nights, a KXLU show (Demolisten) broadcasts unreleased demo tapes and bizarrely (or maybe not so bizarrely, given that this is the cream of a very large crop) they're often great. Two of the best demos I've heard over the years have been witty tunes from a group called Inflight Movie. I've been able to find out nothing about these people. (They're tough to google.) If you know anything about Inflight Movie, or if you are Inflight Movie, please email me. ... Update: OK,  here they are.   Now if I could get the music to play. ... P.S.: The other big Demolisten find is The Temporary Thing. ... 8:50 P.M.

Have I mentioned that the great, yawningly obvious political opportunity for an ambitious Democrat is to get to Bush's right on immigration the way Bill Clinton got to Bush's father's right on welfare? It wouldn't be hard. [Won't that cost the Democratic Party its future by losing the burgeoning Hispanic vote for a generation?--ed  By that time (if it happens) our Dem immigration opportunist will have served two terms.] 7:57 P.M.

kf is Stupid III: I don't understand the debate about whether the 2004 election constituted a "realignment"--in which case, we're told, Democrats need "radical changes in ... electoral strategies, and even issue positions ... to become competitive again." Democrats lost the presidency by three percentage points. That means they need to make enough changes to convince half of 3.1 percent of the electorate to vote for them next time. If they'd lost by 6 points they'd need to win back half of 6.1 percent. Duh! It's a matter of degree and the degree has been fairly precisely measured.


Talk of "realignment" might still seemingly make sense under any one of three conditions: 1) The existence of a large, committed voting block that simply can't be won over by the opposing party--e.g. the Democratic South for decades after the Civil War; 2) The existence of interest groups or inflexible ideological principles that prevent a losing party from modifying its appeal in order to win over more voters--e.g. powerful unions that will never endorse free trade even if it's in the national interest; or 3) the arrival of a candidate or office-holder so fantastically popular (or so fantastically unpopular) that he or she boosts or sinks his party for decades.

None of these conditions prevails today.1) The great emerging voting block is Hispanics, who are uncommitted swing voters;  2) The Democrats' rigidifying interest groups--unions, African-Americans--are declining in influence (rapidly, in the case of the unions). And do we really think gay marriage has, overnight, somehow become an inviolable bedrock Democratic principle?

I doubt condition 3) has ever obtained. FDR would be the most obvious case of an overwhelmingly popular pol--but within two terms the opposing party held his office. Nor has Bush been governing like someone who wants 60% popularity. (He's been governing like someone who wants to leverage his tiny margin into some big, controversial changes.)

This was a close election! The prospect is for more close elections, as the Democrats adjust in their attempt to regain a majority. I can't see a reason why, at the presidential level, it's not still 50-50 forever. ... P.S.: I'm in reluctant agreement here with Ruy Teixeira, who should really retire quietly after the load of shameless, cocooning B.S. he shoveled out on his website during the campaign. For embarrassing examples, scan these October, 2004 Donkey Rising entries. ... P.P.S.: I'd like the Democrats to make "radical changes" in their "issues positions" (on affirmative action and school choice, for starters). But that doesn't mean those changes are somehow required for victory after 2004. It's a fallacy (specifically what Michael Kinsley calls the Howell Raines Fallacy) to assume that whatever policy changes you want are of course demanded by the great and good American people. ...


Update:Newsweek's Howard Fineman describes  Karl Rove's plans "to design a legislative and philosophical agenda that will lead to further GOP gains, and beyond that to a political dominance that could last for decades, as FDR's New Deal did." It's not an especially plausible scenario. Does Fineman think Democrats won't be "willing to use big government in the service of markets and morality"? Democrats will stand with trial lawyers to fight "a national cap on damage awards" even if it means going over the cliff with them?  Rove might move the country to the right. But it's not clear that the sort of realignment he talks about happens anymore. ...  5:09 P.M.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

kf is Stupid II: I still don't understand why it's a good idea to centralize intelligence under a single czar. If the problem with pre-Iraq intelligence was the tendency to tell the Administration what it wanted to hear, won't narrowing the information funnel maximize the chances of that happening again? Won't it be easier to "politicize" a single "National Intelligence Director"? What we want is a multiplicity of perspectives and an error-revealing debate, no? Rich Lowry's op-ed in Friday's N.Y. Post predicts:

if the bill passes and if--God forbid--there's another major terror attack a few years hence, the complaint will immediately go up that U.S. intelligence is "too centralized."


Are Democrats so wedded to the 9/11-Commission and the 9/11 families that they don't see this?  During the election season, the 9/11 families were a media-compatible vehicle for criticizing the Bush administration. But the election is over. Democrats should be able to take a fresh look. 11:53 P.M.

Lucrative Canadian Initiative: Generous tax-financed government benefits are usually seen as a way to encourage potential employers to locate elsewhere. But here's a paragraph buried in Danny Hakim's NYT piece reporting that Ontario, Canada, has at least temporarily passed Michigan in terms of auto production:

Canada is attractive, in part, because of its nationalized health care system, which negates perhaps the largest competitive burden faced by domestic manufacturers. G.M. spends roughly $1,400 a vehicle produced in the United States on health care, more than it spends on steel.

Is non-socialism in one country viable, when it comes to health care? ... 3:45 P.M.


Sitting Ducks 'R Us? On Saturday, the release of some pepper spray "from the type of canister people sometimes carry on key chains for self-defense" caused the closure of "a five-block swath" of Times Square in New York City.... Obvious lesson: We are so much more vulnerable to an attack--in terms of casualties, and economic damage-- than we're pretending. ... P.S.: The scary immediate possibility, for NYC security officials, is that this was a dress-rehearsal experiment by actual terrorists to see if a potentially lethal agent could be spread efficiently in the elevator bank of a crowded department store. If so, the experiment would seem to have been a success (from the terrorists' point of view). 3:39 P.M.

Broder's Plea: Bring Us Together for CDBG's Sake! Does David Broder really believe that Community Development Block Grants--cut recently by the GOP Congress--are an "essential program"? He approvingly quotes Sen. Mikulski  to that effect, and identifies the $200 million cut as one of the most profound "real-world consequences" of the recent election. ...P.S.: CDBG's are a slush fund for mayors and Congressman. They're used to help favored developers build ugly downtown hotels and dumb tourist attractions, and to shore up bankrupt city finances. If that's what Democratic "blue-dot" politicians stand for, no wonder the party's in trouble. ... P.P.S.: When Broder says that the effects of "the division between the red and blue Americas" can "be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars in federal spending," it's like the scene in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil, thawed out after having been frozen for decades, decides to blackmail the world with a nuclear weapon and demands "one million dollars" from the world's leaders. The world's leaders break out laughing. ... The federal budget is 2.32 trillion dollars. Take away "hundreds of millions of dollars"--or add "hundreds of millions of dollars"--and the budget is still 2.32 trillion dollars. "Hundreds of millions of dollars" is not a sum, spread out across the nation, that is going to effect many people's lives one way or another. Somebody thaw out Broder. ... 12:22 A.M.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Hamlet of RottenDenmark says the Kerry campaign is more involved  in the Ohio recount than I'd suspected:

While they're avoiding anything looking like they themselves are requesting a recount, the Kerry Edwards campaign has started raising funds specifically for legal costs and recount costs on their website.


That's the lede in Denmark's handy, non-irresponsible summary of the state of recount play. Hamlet admits the New Hampshire hand count has so far revealed no Diebold shenanigans (worth finding out!) and that complaints about Dem Florida counties voting for Bush were "debunked easily when those Dixiecrat counties were also shown to have supported Dole in '96 and Bush in '00." Having thus built up his credibility, he uses it to tout Hout. ... 12:55 A.M.

Friday, November 26, 2004

One, Two, Many Bo Ke: Ever wonder how the Chinese government has been able to block blogs, with all their subversive information-spreading potential? The answer is it hasn't, despite the Great Firewall. Or at least it hasn't yet figured out how. I'm not completely confident that it won't succeed, at least in the medium term. But Xiao Qiang thinks, "There are simply too many blogs for authorities to block them all." ... P.S.: And there's always e-mail, right? [Via Instapundit] 10:50 P.M.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Last spring we were told the U.S. Iraq project was in deep trouble because Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis were uniting against us. Now we're told the U.S. Iraq project is in deep trouble because the Shiites and Sunnis aren't uniting against us. (The insurgent revolt is now increasingly a Sunni revolt). The latter trouble seems much less deep, however--it could, in theory at least , be resolved by some combination of loose federalism, negotiation between ethnic factions, and rolling elections, if necessary. ... P.S.: Last spring it was also said that the U.S. attempt to arrest Moqtada al-Sadr only made him a more popular political figure. Today, WaPo's Anthony Shadid describes the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party as quietly heroic peacemakers--but notes with seeming ominousness that one of the party's leaders, Nasir Ayef, was recently arrested by American forces. Under the Sadr precedent, shouldn't that increase his popularity and help his party in the election? ...  11:34 P.M.

No Closer: They're counting the provisional ballots in Ohio, resulting (so far) in a quiet vote gain of thousands for ... Bush. P.S.: The provisionals are being counted as part of the initial vote count, not a recount. The  full Ohio recount  is still a few days away. ... P.P.S.: RottenDenmark  says Cuyahoga's provisionals have yet to be heard from, and argues:

What can possibly happen is that Kerry could still do well enough in the urban counties' provisional ballot counts to chop the margin between him and Bush to 50,000 or so. Which is at least a smaller margin to surmount by the recount. ... 

But Dirty Harry predicts, "After the provisionals are counted, Bush will lead by over 100,000 ...." Only time will tell! ... [Boldface added] 10:52 P.M.

Bad MEMRI: The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)--the group that came up with that stunning translation of bin Laden's pre-election tape (in which he was seen appealing to individual American states)-- has issued a thuggish threat of legal action against Juan Cole, who writes the valuable-if-catastrophist Informed Comment blog. ... If what Cole says about MEMRI's funding level is "patently false," why doesn't MEMRI tell us what the truth is instead of threatening litigation against anyone who guesses wrong? ...  P.S.: I linked to MEMRI's bin Laden intepretation because it was interesting--indeed, Cole's attempt at debunking MEMRI's translation of the key word "wilaya" isn't very persuasive (though I tend to think bin Laden was operating under the false impression that individual states can secede and pursue their own foreign policies  rather than making a threat to bomb states that voted for Bush in the election.). But I'd certainly be reluctant to link to MEMRI in the future--who wants to get tangled up with such a litigious group? And when they behave so aggressively--threatening instead of revealing--it gives the impression they have something to hide, even if they don't. ... Update: Even David Frum, who is presumably about as sympathetic an observer as MEMRI can hope to find, posts a cool-headed analysis that pointedly does not support MEMRI's legal tactic. ... More: It may also be true that Prof. Cole doesn't have the world's cleanest hands  when it comes to refraining from unnecessary threats of litigation. But that doesn't make MEMRI's behavior palatable. ... Still more: If the emails reprinted here are accurate, Cole has offered some non-confidence-inspiring reasoning for his figure on MEMRI's funding. That still doesn't justify MEMRI's threat. The approximate truth on the funding issue (which hardly seems crucial enough to justify a lawsuit in any case) is coming out simply because Cole is having to defend himself. It would come out even faster if MEMRI would be more forthcoming. ... 10:54 A.M.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

He Throws Down and Goes Down! It was always apparent to me, as a viewer, that Dan Rather prosecuted a visceral grudge against George H.W. Bush (and his son) ever since the elder Bush won his macho confrontation with Rather in 1988  over Iran-Contra. ("How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?") What I hadn't realized, until now--because I was rooting for Rather at the time--is that, strictly in verbal, street-throwdown terms, President Nixon also won his most famous confrontation with Rather during Watergate:

Rather: Dan Rather, CBS News. (jeers) 
Nixon:  Are you running for something? 
Rather: No, Mr. President, are you? 

Weak comeback! ... P.S.: Actually, Rather lost this one too:

Rather:  Mr. President, I wonder if you could share with us your thoughts, tell us what goes through you mind when you hear people, people who love this country and people who believe in you, say reluctantly that perhaps you should resign or be impeached? 

Nixon: "Well, I am glad we don't take the vote of this room, let me say."

He's 0 for 3! 8:53 A.M.

More Klein: Here is what former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg has to say in his 2002 media-bashing book Bias about CNN's incoming news boss:

Klein, in his forties, is an Ivy Leaguer, a graduate of Brown. He's very smart, but, like a lot of TV executives, he's someone you wouldn't want to turn your back on. Jon is on the small, thin side, wears eyeglasses, and comes off as a cross between a well-dressed Woody Allen ... and Machiavelli. He's very creative, but at CBS news he had a reputation as the kind of guy who thought people who tell the truth do it mainly because they lack imagination. [Emphasis added.]

Sounds as if CNN staffers are in for a special treat! ... WP's Lisa de Moraes is appropriately skeptical. ... And nobody in the MSM, according to NEXIS, mentions the p.j.s. ... Even Romenesko  doesn't bring it up. ... 1:14 A.M. 

Monday, November 22, 2004

CNN Kicks Out the Jams! Most of the accounts of Jonathan Klein's appointment to the helm of CNN's news operation have omitted a key word that encapsulates his major contribution, so far, to the evolution of news in the 21st century. That word is ... "pajamas!"   ... P.S.: I can't wait for those "multiple layers of checks and balances" to revitalize CNN! ... P.P.S.: Klein's famous snooty, clueless anti-blogging sound bite may not have been an aberration. Here's the statement he issued upon taking his new job:

``Six years steeped in the digital information industry have helped me understand today's news consumers in ways never before available to media executives." [Emphasis added]

Clearly someone who believes in presenting a modest public face. ... P.P.P.S: What kind of B.S. detector does Klein have if his instant reaction to Rather's CBS 60 Minutes Texas National Guard memo story was to rush to the barricades and defend its veracity. It's not as if Klein was working for CBS at the time and was simply defending his colleagues. ... 4:53 P.M.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Don't Let Prince Charles See The Incredibles: Was Prince Charles being feudal or simply a good meritocrat when he wrote, of a secretary seeking a promotion:

What is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities. ... This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of the child-centred system which admits no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, High Court judges, brilliant TV presenters or even infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary effort or having abilities. It's social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially re-engineered to contradict the lessons of history.

Charles was accused of feudal leanings by the secretary in question, by much of the British press, and (implicitly) by Charles Clarke, the Labor education minister, who said

We can't all be born to be king but we can all have a position where we can really aspire, for ourselves and for our families, to do the very best they possibly can.

Technically Charles would appear to be off the hook--he doesn't say in his memo that no secretary can ever aspire to other achievements. He merely seems to be saying 1)this secretary doesn't have the chops, and 2) too many people think they can do things for which they don't have the chops. The first is a judgment non-feudal, fluid meritocracies have to make of everyone at some point (when they've done "the very best they possibly can"). The second is a complaint anybody who has to run such a meritocracy (and constantly tell people "no") might have, and isn't incompatible with believing that people who actually have ability and put in the effort should rise. (Issue 2 is ventilated in The Incredibles, which takes Charles' side. How'd Tierney miss that angle?)

Meritocracy, it's often noted, is the most vicious of hierarchies because it tells people not only that they have wound up at a certain level but that they deserve to be at that level. It may say something about the unwillingness of putative meritocrats (like Clarke) to face the harshness of their own system that they need to accuse people like Charles, who make those harsh judgments explicit, of not being meritocrats but of really being aristos who don't want people to "rise above their station." ... P.S.: It's entirely possible, of course, that Charles is an inveterate feudal bigot in private. (If not him, who?) And it's too bad he didn't cut the condescending line in yesterday's self-defense that declared, "In my view it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor." Does anyone think he really thinks that? ... 11:18 P.M.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Ex-President Bill Clinton, in an interview with Peter Jennings:

You know, my position on the Iraq War was different from almost everybody else's that I've heard talk. I supported giving the president the authority to take action against Saddam Hussein if he did not cooperate with the U.N. inspectors, or if he was found to have had weapons of mass destruction he wouldn't give up. I did believe that the administration made a mistake going to war when they did, and that's what alienated the world. Most Americans still haven't focused on this. [Emphasis added]

Wait. Wasn't that John Kerry's position on Iraq? It sounded like a flip-flop when Kerry said it! ... [But Kerry said he'd have supported giving the authority even if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--ed.  Staff error.] 8:59 P.M.

The New 'New Property': In Slate's just concluded welfare dialogue, there was one obvious solution to the dilemma of hard-working single mothers who don't make more than $18,000 a year: Give them training so they can earn more. I had assumed, without really knowing, that individual job training "accounts" must be part of President Bush's high-concept "ownership society." They certainly should be. The government spends billions on job training, after all. Some programs work. Some don't. Why not trust the workers themselves to figure out which ones will actually get them higher-paying jobs--as long as they know that if they waste their training money it's gone, just as if they'd spent their own funds? ....

Is that what Bush has in mind, though? The NYT's David Brooks advertised job training as part of the Ownership Society in a column last December (presumably because that's how White House aides were talking about it) and the Department of Labor is billing "reemployment accounts" for the workers who lose their jobs as an O.S. initiative. But President Bush's speech announcing his big job training initiative last spring  talked mainly about funneling money to governors and community colleges--i.e. government--not to the workers themselves. And while Bush's GOP convention acceptance speech two months ago mentioned both "training" and the "ownership society" within a few sentences of each other, Bush was unclear on the connection. All this suggests to me that the community colleges, governors, and existing training providers are effectively resisting giving control of job training funds to the individual workers--after all, the workers might decide to spend the money elsewhere. ...

Isn't this potential Bush initiative--giving citizens "ownership" of their training subsidies--one liberals should applaud? Sure, it appeals to conservatives: No less than Social Security privatization, it takes a large bureaucratic government program and gives individuals control of --and accountability for--their little piece of it. (It's "New Paradigm"-y!) Unlike Social Security privatization, though, it doesn't threaten the core purpose of the welfare state--after all, if you waste your training account, you're just not going to earn very much, but if you waste your Social Security investment and there's no government check to plug the hole you're destitute. ....

In both cases, giving individuals control of their government subsidies could create a built-in demand to constantly increase those subsidies. To voters' desire for every-higher Social Security benefits we might be able add voters' desire for ever- fatter retraining accounts. Maybe that's why President Bush is dragging his feet. He can handle the lobbying of community colleges for more money. But lobbying from voters might be harder to resist, leading to a big expansionof government in an area where its growth has been held in check.

When you think about it, "Ownership Society" programs aren't such an inherently right-wing idea after all. Another word for them might be "entitltements." On the Left, in the 60s, a trendy Yale law professor named Charles Reich came up with a whole theory about individuals' de facto ownership of govenrment benefits--he called it the "New Property." Reich's theory was then used to justify all sorts of judicial interference with any attempt by government to take away this "property." (A civil servant's job was even declared his or her "property" for constitutional purposes.)

Maybe "ownership society" only sounds conservative when it's used as a way to erode existing collectively-administered government benefits like Social Security. When it's used to create new individually-controlled govenrment benefits, like job training accounts, it sounds like Charles Reich's 1960's Yale Law school dream come true. ...

(Not that there's anything wrong with it! Except when a) the new "owned" benefits subsidize able-bodied people who don't work--like the old AFDC program; b) we can't afford them; or c) "ownership" translates into paralyzing legal protections.) ... 7:26 P.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk