I'm as willing to jump on new CNN chief Jonathan Klein as the next blogger--he seems way too slick. (And he won't be forgiven for the "pajamas.") But isn't Klein's controversial "flood the zone" comment--about CNN's intensive tsunami coverage--the sort of highly unfortunate word mistake almost anyone could make? ... He was just going with the cliche! ... 3:10 P.M.
The smoking gun indicting the official Mitofsky/Lenski exit poll appears to have surfaced--in New Zealand! Mystery Pollster points the way to this file posted on the Scoop website. It is one of several that "appear to be actual internal Election Day reports generated by Edison/Mitofsky," according to MP. ... What it shows: As late as 7:33 P.M. on Election Day, Mitofsky and Lenski were apparently telling their clients (NBC, CBS, CNN, AP, etc.) that after "weighting" Kerry was beating Bush by 9 points among women and losing by only 4 among men. By 1:24 P.M. the next day (see this file) revised results revealed that, in fact, Kerry won women by only 3 points while Bush won men by 11 points. Whoops! ... It wasn't the dumb bloggers who didn't understand on Nov. 2 that they were being prematurely leaked "complex displays intended for trained statisticians," as Mitofsky would have it--or the dumb Kerry aides and dumb Bush aides who believed the same leaked numbers. It was that the weighted results Mitofsky's statisticians put out were full of it! ...
P.S.: The documents would also seem to contradict Mitofsky's argument that "we recognized the overstatement in the exit polls in mid-afternoon, and we told the members of NEP about the suspicions we had"--but mistakenly did not tell the mere "subscribers" like WaPo. If the errors were recognized in mid-afternoon, why was bogus 'weighted' data being compiled in neat official tables well into the evening?
P.P.S.: How much did Mitofsky's clients pay to be misinformed at 7:30 in the evening on Election Day? Are they happy about it?
Update: Mystery Pollster seems to think the New Zealish documents are less of a smoking gun than I do, but that's because he feels already knew the story--in part from WaPo managing editor Steve Coll's comments in a postelection chat. But it's one thing to take Coll at his word. It's another thing to see the bad Edison/Mitofsky data in black and white on an official NEP document. MP notes:
The continuing stonewall of secrecy that the networks have erected around the exit polls does not help. It is that secrecy, as much as anything else, that continues to fuel the more bizarre conspiracy theories floating around the blogosphere. I remain a skeptic of widespread fraud, but I cannot understand the continuing secrecy: Why did these documents have to be leaked by a left-wing web site in New Zealand? Why did NEP not release them in early November? Why did it take until late December for NEP to make the basic methodology statements the networks had on Election Day available online? And why so much reluctance to discuss, openly, what went wrong and why?
Gee, maybe because the truth is really, really embarrassing? Just a guess! ... 2:26 P.M.
Monday, January 3, 2005
The estimable T. Bevan of RealClear Politics argues that when it comes to national security:
The real problem for Democrats is rooted almost entirely in the their continuing inability to move beyond the experience of Vietnam.
The anti-military, peace-at-all-costs mentality which infiltrated the party in the late 1960's and early 1970's has finally grown to maturity and solidified to the point where not even an event as dramatic as September 11, 2001 causes much more than a ripple among the party elite and the activist base.
But this is way too crude. Most Democrats had no problem with Bush's military action in Afghanistan. (Bevan argues that "part of the Democratic base doesn't believe military action in Afghanistan was justified." But it is a tiny part.) The argument is over Iraq--an argument in which many Pentagon heavyweights, and many Republicans, take the antiwar side. ... When smart Republicans are content with flabby, cartoonish assessments of the opposition, it suggests to me that they are ready to be beaten by a Democrat who can break out of the cartoonish image (as Clinton did in 1992). ... P.S.: But Democrats seemingly would at least have to admit that a vote against the first Gulf War was wrong. I don't know why Kerry found this demonstration of humility impossible to perform. [He's a jerk--a vain, insecure egomaniac who needs to pretend he makes no mistakes?--ed. That's one theory.] ... 3:28 P.M.
Rep. Robert Matsui, who died Saturday, had a reputation as a civil, intelligent and honest pol. He was a gentleman with me the one time I interviewed him. He was less of a gentleman with Clinton aide David Ellwood when the latter tried to reform the welfare system (although even Matsui's way-too-incremental alternative proposal was at least a smart too-incremental proposal). Michael Oates Palmer e-mails to break the tie:
In 2000, I was working in the sweatshop known as the speechwriters' room at the Democratic Convention -- a cinderblock walled room with no windows --usually used as a visiting hockey team's dressing room, if memory serves --with about eight computers and a laser printer all piled in, and a group of speechwriters volunteering their services for the hundreds of speeches made in the four days of the convention.
We didn't receive many visitors down there in that little room, and when one of the elected officials would come down to visit, it was usually to correct or berate us -- I remember a Pennsylvania congressman who came down to explain to me that his speech couldn't have him taking a plane to his home district, because he took the train every weekend. My bad.
But at one point, Congressman Bob Matsui came into the room.
"I want to know who wrote my speech," he said sternly. He had given it a few minutes before, a speech mentioning his having been in the same freshman congressional class as Al Gore (the same congressional class as Dick Gephardt, too).
We all looked a little nervous, given that then-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb had only an hour or two ago given one of us a Rocky Mountain talking-to. But I reluctantly raised my hand. I was the writer.
Matsui instantly smiled walked over and shook my hand. "I want to thank you so much." he said. It made my week.
Anyone who has worked as a speechwriter in politics knows how rare it is for an elected official to take the time to find someone and thank them. After giving his speech, Matsui went back downstairs into the bowels of the Staples Center to find the speechwriting office. I wish this said something about my speechwriting, but my hunch is that it said a lot about Matsui.
Bush cousin John Ellis calls Mass. governor Mitt Romney "the GOP's best hope in 2008." Does this reflect "a serious nod of approval from deep within the Bush clan," as one of my alert emailers argues? I tend to think it reflects more Ellis' Massachusetts-oriented viewpoint (plus, you know, his actual, sincere, individual assessment of Romney's abilities). ... P.S.: But you can join the Mitt Madness early over at CafePress. (What, no Romney '08 infant creeper?) ... 2:38 P.M.
By the side of the road yesterday in the non-rich Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles, earnest teenagers in the pouring rain covering themselves with plastic sheeting while they held up signs trying to flag down cars and raise donations to benefit the Asian tsunami survivors. ... The effort seemed futile on several levels, but also touching--and something new. I've never seen this sort of thing in L.A. before. ... 3:32 A.M.
Move over, Greg Packer? It was a big week for "Amanda Tree, a Brooklyn actress and singer-songwriter" who was quoted as a woman-on-the-street twice in two days by the New York Times--first in a story on bystanders watching red-tailed hawks Lola and Pale Male return to their old nesting place on Fifth Avenue, the second in a story about how nobody stayed around in New York City over the holiday. ... Both stories featured the byline of innovative Web researcher Jennifer 8 Lee. ... Guess there really was nobody around! ... [Thanks to reader R.] Update: Taranto had the Amanda Tree story last week. And his Greg Packer joke was classier. ...3:05 A.M.
Tick, Tick, Tick: Yes, isn't it about time for that big report on the late-career screw-up that tarnished the reputation of a CBS News legend? I'm referring of course to the long-awaited final report that's supposed to explain ex-CBS pollster Warren Mitofsky's botched 2004 exit-poll. ... My guess is that the following sentence in Mystery Pollster's own-the-story coverage has the key to the answer:
This year's NEP exit poll interviewers were trained via telephone and most worked for just one day without supervision.
In other words, as with CBS's "multiple layers of checks and balances" on the Texas National Guard documents story, it will turn out that there was a lot less going on behind the curtain of Mitofsky's exit poll operation than you might imagine. ... P.S.: I forgot-- it's the bloggers fault! [Can't this be Shrum's fault too?-ed But he was the victim!] 2:49 A.M.
Sunday, January 2, 2005
Though Kerry did not directly criticize his friend Shrum, it's clear he did not feel well served by his message makers and speechwriters.
What do you know--it turns out it's Kerry's aides fault again! ("I don't fall down."). ... Who keeps hiring these people anyway? ... 9:13 P.M.
Friday, December 31, 2004
The Case for Paper Ballots, XXVIII: Electronic voting has turned North Carolina into Ukraine! ... Because a malfunctioning electronic voting machine in one county lost 4,438 votes, the whole state plans a Ukraine-style re-vote for the office of Agriculture Commissioner (which was won, in the areas where the voting machines worked, by only 2,287 votes). ... Except that the do-over vote will be highly unfair--turnout will be minuscule (unlike in the Ukraine). ... Is this the future of U.S. elections--every cycle will produce lost electronic votes and do-over balloting somewhere? Isn't it harder to lose paper ballots than an electronic record? Why not stick with the former? ... 2:12 P.M.
Ready for Primary Time, not for Prime Time: Alert kf reader T.A. points out that TV ads--the ones the Dem 527s failed to run--weren't the only way for Kerry could have effectively rebutted the Swift Boat Veterans' charges:
What was called for was something along the lines of the Checkers speech or the Pink Press Conference. Even if the campaign didn't have any money, Kerry could have done an interview with Chris Wallace or someone and gotten his side out. ...
Instead, Kerry went into a "media shell."
Right. If Kerry or his aides didn't trust him enough to let him hold a press conference--either because the truth wasn't completely on his side or they were worried he wouldn't hit the right rhetorical notes--how "electable" was Kerry, in the end? ... Does anyone doubt Bill Clinton could have handled it (and handled it even if the truth wasn't completely on his side)? ... 2:54 A.M.
Pressure: I was just wondering what had happened to the promised Ellisblog awards. ... Kf's on tenterhooks. ... 2:38 A.M.
Time for Re-Norming? Did you know that
Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major [air] carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11 ....
I didn't. ... The DOT accused the airlines of "discriminatory conduct" (i.e. profiling) when, out of the millions who fly, they didn't allow a handful of people--about half of them Middle Eastern--to board planes. American Airlines had to pay $1.5 million. That'll make air travel safer! ... You don't have to agree with Heather Mac Donald's overall argument that the enemy is not terrorism but "Islamist terrorism" to think this is an idiotic policy. One day the main terrorist threat to the U.S. will come from some non-Islamist group--but if the enemy were South Moluccan terrorism you'd want to be extra careful with South Moluccans (and people who looked like South Moluccans), no? ... Backfill: Ann Coulter wrote a column about the DOT litigation in April. Coulter and Mac Donald both support racial profiling--at least using race as a factor. The scariest thing about the DOT suits is that they seem designed to encourage the airlines to go out of their way to avoid searching and questioning Muslim men ('leave him alone, he might sue')--a perverse and seemingly semi-suicidal reverse-discrimination practice. ... 2:25 A.M.
Robert Novak, writing about Social Security private accounts, argues the "only alternative to [Senator] Graham's proposed higher payroll tax payments in the upper income brackets" is for the government to simply float bonds to cover the $1-2 trillion transitional shortfall. Not so! The government could also easily save the required trillions by means-testing current or near-future benefits--shaving or eliminating payments to retirees who are rich enough to not need them. That's what they do in Australia. ... P.S.: Novak's well on his way to becoming a blogger. Today he answers what seem to be the e-mails he got after a previous posting, although he dances around the issue by calling them "comments" from "critics" who "contacted" him. ... Next: Use save-get commands to recycle ideas from previous months! [He already does that--ed] OK. Gratuitously anatagonize peers to gin up hits? [Check!--ed] ....2:04 A.M.
Raines Give-Back Watch: Alert Reader Y emails with an extremely slick career-saving idea for the semi-disgraced ex-Fannie Mae chief--instead of just giving his exorbidant retirement package back to his employer, which would be so boringly honorable, Raines could dedicate it to paying for the new stadium that will bring major league baseball to a run-down section of Washington, D.C.. .... Raines' retirement package is so lavish it could actually cover a good chunk of the interest on the bonds the city will have to issue. ... And here's the slick part: Raines is part of a group that's trying to get the baseball franchise for D.C.. If he writes the fine print cunningly enough, he might structure his generous donation so a) it makes it easier for his group to get the team and b) he gets repaid in full for his donation if and when the team is subsequently sold. ... 2:40 A.M.
Do Over? The Ukraine precedent may not be so good for U.S.politics. ... 2:17 A.M.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Did McCain-Feingold Actually Work? According to WaPo's Edsall and Grimaldi, the 527 groups--which supposedly reintroduced big money into presidential campaigns despite the strictures of the new McCain-Feingold law--didn't help Kerry. More important, they didn't help precisely because the law prevented them from coordinating their messages with the Kerry campaign:
[T]he campaign was hamstrung by legal restrictions on any cooperation between the campaign and the independent 527 organizations running ads and mobilizing voters on Kerry's behalf.
The 527 groups ... provided invaluable help in registering and turning out voters. ... But the 527s, fueled with money from billionaires such as George Soros, proved ineffective in helping Kerry deliver a consistent and timely message in his advertising. ...
At two junctures, when Kerry was either out of funds or under pressure to conserve resources for the close of the campaign, the absence of an overall strategy had damaging consequences: in March 2004, just when the Bush campaign began its first anti-Kerry offensive; and in August 2004, when the Swift Boat Veterans commercials raised questions about Kerry's service in the Vietnam War.
The Democratic media 527s "didn't do what we wanted done," Kerry media adviser Tad Devine said. "We would have run ads about Kerry, we would have had answers to the attacks in kind, saying they were false, disproved by newspapers."
Harold Ickes, who ran the Media Fund, a 527 organization that raised about $59 million in support of Kerry, said the federal election law prohibiting communication with the Kerry campaign created insurmountable obstacles in crafting effective, accurate responses to anti-Kerry ads. [Emph. added]
This is very good news, if true, because it means campaign finance laws don't have to suppress independent speech to be effective. Let the Soros' and the Wylys and MoveOn's finance and run their own ads. Chances are they won't help that much--which means a) candidates won't be beholden after the election to the rich people who paid for them, and b) it won't make much sense for candidates to figure out a way to tacitly shake down such rich people in order to get them to contribute to independent campaigns. ... Caveat:WaPo says one pro-Bush 527 ad-- "Ashley's Story"--did affect the race. It may also be true that independent campaigns more easily have a big impact during primaries, when there is less clutter and fewer alternative sources of information (meaning it takes less to drive a candidate's numbers down). The Wylys' famous primary attack on McCain, for example, probably hurt him--meaning that Bush owed the Wylys (though maybe no more than he owed the publishers of the National Review). But point b) might still apply--there's little reason to coerce industrialists and lobbyists into sponsoring independent ads if its still a crapshoot as to whether they'll help or hurt. ...
P.S.: Like me, you may be wondering why it was so hard for Kerry or his aides to communicate that they wanted the 527s to "run ads about Kerry." Couldn't Kerry have said "I want to run a positive, responsive campaign that answers vicious attacks" and then winked at the camera? Or he could have told the NYT's color-starved Jodi Wilgoren "I always connect the positive terminal of my batteries first." Or simply screamed "Ositive-pay, Ools-fay!" ... This thought raises two possibilities: a) Devine and Ickes are simply pretending the coordination problem was insurmountable because it excuses their loss, proclaims their innocence and helps support a law they endorse, or b) Ickes is a Hillary guy who didn't really want Kerry to win after all. ...
P.P.S.: The other Edsall/Grimaldi buried mini-lede is the Bush campaign's use of
consumer data lists ... to determine "anger points" (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows and other "flags." [Emph. added]
Voters then got messages telling them if they didn't get out to vote their pet cause would be lost. ... kf readers, for example, got emails complaining about welfare reform loopholes and the decadent design of the BMW Z-4. ...
P.P.P.S.: Dem operative Harold Ickes apparently didn't share the respectable-press CW that the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry were 100% discredited. It was, Ickes says, "a matter so personal to Senator Kerry, so much within his knowledge. Who knew what the facts were?" ...
P.P.P.P.S.: I've obsessively sniped at ABC's The Note for its declaration on August 11 that it was "Kerry's contest to lose." This might not seem fair--maybe it was Kerry's contest to lose and he lost it? Didn't The Note just guess wrong in a close election? Answer: No! The whole point of ABC's Note is that its put out by the smartest, most knowledgeable and nuanced political insiders around, which it is. And the whole point of it being "Kerry's contest to lose" was that these experts were telling us that the underlying dynamic of the campaign favored Kerry because of Bush's "poisonous job approval, re-elect, and wrong track numbers." But we now know that this considered judgment of the smartest, most knowledgeable insiders was wrong--it was Dem wishful-thinking spin. Kerry in fact did pretty well in the final months of the campaign. He won the debates. He didn't commit many gaffes. He raised tons of money and successfully turned out record numbers of Democratic voters. And he still lost. Why? Because the underlying dynamic of the campaign didn't actually favor him at all. It favored Bush, despite the supposedly tell-tale "wrong track numbers." The economy wasn't that bad, and voters knew it. Terrorism, and support for Bush on that issue, remained strong. And--we now learn from Edsall and Grimaldi--Bush had a far more sophisticated campaign organization. Democrats were, as an anonymous Dem source put it, "one election cycle behind.'" That's another underlying reality that made it Bush's "contest to lose"---exactly the sort of underlying reality political insiders are supposed to know about. ... How could brilliant genuine experts like Mark Halperin & Co. get it wrong? Because at some level they were conned by their peers and their Dem campaign sources (who were probably conning themselves) in a way I doubt they could be conned by Republican sources. ... And Halperin is known as a relatively non-partisan straight-shooter. What does this tell you about the rest of the press corps? ...
There--glad I got that out of my system. ... Update:Wonkette offers more evidence of the insidious Halperin/Nagourney nexis, which initially seems trivial but actually explains a lot! ...1:06 A.M.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
You mean those mysterious pro-Bush exurbs really exist? Apparently so, in Ohio. Good to know! Too bad we couldn't go through this reassuring exercise in no-paper-trail Florida. ... 2:12 A.M.
Will Bush get a free pass to pick an anti-Roe judge for his first Supreme Court appointment? Taranto catches Adam Nagourney burying the lede (in what was still a usefully provocative Nagourney piece). ... 2:00 A.M.
The idea that Democrats are reactionary stick-in-the-muds defending the status quo seems to be this week's talking point on the right--or else everyone is just reading Michael Barone. The jibe is both accurate (Democrats are defending programs like Social Security and policies like abortion "choice") and seemingly weak (we all defend things we think are good and attack things we think are bad). Yet it's surprisingly hard to parry in a few words--at least I couldn't find those words when I got nailed with the meme on Kudlow and Cramer yesterday. It puts you on the defensive because nobody wants to seem out of fashion (especially on TV). . ... Readers who think they have a killer response are invited to send them in. I'll relay the best--"best" meaning the most effective general rhetorical response, not necessarily the most definitive substantive response. Some obvious possibilities:
1) Yes, there are things about the status quo I want to preserve. I want to preserve the First Amendment, for example. You got a problem with that?
2) Conservatives taught us in the Sixties that we tinker with basic insitutions at our peril. (Free, uninhibited, hitherto unknown sex? Why not! Answer: AIDS.) The Sixties featured what Tom Wolfe called the Great Relearning. Will we need a Second Great Relearning to undo all the damage self-styled conservative revolutionaries plan to do in this decade?
3) In the Seventies the Left became an establishment that needed a constant stream of semi-revolutionary proposals to keep its political momentum going--a process that peaked in the courts around the time of Roe v. Wade and in politics in the Carter era, when comic bookish proposals like "comparable worth"--e.g. having the government and courts set pay scales--became, briefly, Democratic orthodoxy. Now the Republicans are the party that has become addicted to radical new ideas--let's rip up the tax code! Let's declare government regulation unconstitutional! Are all these ideas coming to the fore because they're good ideas or because the Right needs them for internal reasons--to gin up fundraising and draw attention to itself? With Bush, in particular, you get the impression his main remaining domestic agenda (Social Security privatization, tax reform, tort reform) is less an attempt to address serious national problems than to give his administration something to do (orto appear to do) while he pursues his real agenda in Iraq and elsewhere.
4) Nobody's defending the status quo. We're all engaged in a great mission to expand human freedom and extend man's achievements. The question is always how best to do that. Martin Feldstein doesn't necessarily have the only answer .
5) I'll stop defending the status quo in Social Security when you stop defending the status quo in _________________.
6) "I think I got that suit right down the street [from] where you got that wig, Sam." (OK, not completely on-point. That's Fritz Hollings' definitive putdown when Sam Donaldson asked where Hollings, a textile protectionist, bought his suits. But it's the sort of thing I'm looking for.)
None of these quite does the job (# 4 seems the most promising). ... P.S.: The topic on Kudlow and Cramer was Bush's push for radical tax reform. Lucky they had the show yesterday! Bush seems to have opted for, er, tinkering with the status quo. ... Maybe the proper response to Barone is, "Option 5, baby!" ... 5:17 P.M.
Iraq's UN ambassador Samir S.M. Sumaidaie tries to come up with a solution to the current Iraq election dilemma--how to hold a national vote on schedule at the end of the month but still assure Sunnis in dangerous, rebellious areas their fair voice? Sumaidaie's solution:
[G]o ahead with the elections but set criteria for their inclusiveness that would have to be met before the newly elected national assembly would be allowed to produce a permanent constitution. A criterion that could be agreed to by the major political players in the country might be set out in terms of differences in turnout. For example, if the turnout in two or three provinces was less than half that of the rest of the country, the assembly might not be considered sufficiently balanced to commit the country to a permanent constitution.
Sumaidaie apparently envisions holding another nationwide election to pick an assembly sufficiently representative to write a constitution. But why not just hold the vote open in areas of depressed turnout--maybe having a second election day in just those areas a few weeks later--and then add the totals from those areas to the totals from January 30? It only requires arithmetic, no? ... P.S.: Note that the Ukrainian events may have given the idea of "revoting" in disputed elections new international legitimacy. ... 1:55 P.M.
Frank Raines does not appear to be taking kf's advice. ... There's still time, though. Maybe he's just arranging a suitable media venue for a dramatic giveback of excess compensation. (Suggestion: 60 Minutes.) ... Yes. that must be it. It only looks as if he's haggling to extract every last unjustified penny, further embarrassing himself and reinforcing the theory that obsessive compensation-maximization was behind Fannie Mae's controversial accounting decisions! But that's just the set up, don't you see? ... 12:12 P.M.
Brent Staples delivers the sort of "dirty little secret" editors at the Washington Monthly used to keep polished and haul out of the cupboard every few months: The D.L.S. of New York Republicans, Staples suggests, is that they need full prisons topad the populations in their upstate rotten boroughs--if inmates weren't counted as residents, GOP "legislative districts [would be] in danger of having to be merged because of shrinking population." ... Could N.Y. Democrats imperil the GOP state senate majority with a lawsuit charging that defining inmates as "residents" of upstate counties deprives downstate voters of fairly apportioned representation? ... Even if it lost, as it probably should, it would highlight the GOP's scam. ... [Gratuitous P.S.: One of the congressional Democrats' biggest D.L.S.'s, of course, is Fannie Mae. An obvious reason Dems have supported its unjustified government subsidies is that it's been one of the few places they and their aides could hope to go and make CE0-level millions--not just Washington lawyer-lobbyist money, but mini-mogul money. (For doing what? For persuading Congress to continue Fannie Mae's unjustified government subsidies, of course.)] 2:25 A.M.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Mistakes Were Made! Frank Raines--Rhodes scholar, Harvard Law, Lazard Freres, potential future Treasury secretary, etc.--has blotted his copybookat Fannie Mae. (His bio has already ignominiously disappeared from its former spot on Fannie Mae's Web site.) But unlike other semi-disgraced executives, Raines has a chance to redeem himself. How? By giving back the absurdly plush retirement package ($1.4 million a year plus stock options worth an estimated $16 million or so, according to WaPo) he'll get for leading his taxpayer-aided company to a possible $9 billion accounting loss. I think that if Raines gave it back--gave it all back--it would be such a dramatic, atypical gesture he might become something of a folk hero, turning a defeat into a PR victory. It's not as if Raines and his family would starve if he gave up the millions--he'd still have the absurdly plush pay packages he received in prior years (e.g. $10.9 million in 2001). But he'd salvage his political future, which you have to believe is important to him (no matter what his buddies say). ... Which will it be: his money or his career? ... He's thinking! ... P.S.: Why isn't Raines' overpaid predecessor, former Mondale campaign manager Jim Johnson, catching more of the shame for the Fannie Mae scandal? According to Albert Crenshaw, Johnson was apparently still formally running Fannie Mae when at least one of its questionable moves--failing to take $200 million in losses--took place:
An Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight report in September accused the company of improperly deferring $200 million of estimated expenses in 1998, which allowed management to receive full annual bonuses. Had the expenses been recorded that year, no bonuses would have been paid, the report said.
Fannie Mae reported paying bonuses in 1998 to Johnson, who received $1.932 million; Raines, who then was chairman-designate, $1.11 million ..... [Emph. added]
Even after Johnson stepped down as chairman at the end of 1998, he apparently remained the head of Fannie Mae's Executive Committee. Isn't he accountable? ... It's not as if Johnson is no longer important--a few months ago he was runnng John Kerry's vice-presidential selection operation. Yet, according to NEXIS, Johnson's name hasn't been mentioned in the N.Y. Time'scoverage of the mounting Fannie Mae controversy since October 6. ... P.P.S.: Johnson specialized in attempting to protect Fannie Mae's government-subsidy racket by "buying off potential critics with well-publicized good works," including cosponsoring a concert series with the Washington Post, according to this eerily prescient Chatterbox column. ... For an excellent Matt Cooper article that Johnson called "unbelievable trash," click here. ... [You went out of your way to mention those WaPo concerts because the Post is buying Slate.--ed Why, yes. But the Post has also done a much better job bringing Johnson into the story than the NYT, and has historically been quite tough on Fannie Mae (especially by running a big David Vise series in 1995).] 12:51 A.M.
Polipundit embarrasses CBS (if that's even possible at this point). He also offers a disappointingly abbreviated Year in Cocooning. (No Ruy?) Update:kf gets results! P.S.:Polipundit explains that Teixeira was "an all-too easy target," invoking a principle kf does not recognize. "First, shoot the fish in the barrel" is the motto around here. ... 10:19 P.M.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
R.U.R.--A.S.A.P.: Some people seem to think this video is funny. I say scary. Imagine 100 of them coming at you. 11:22 P.M.
Now you can help Mark Geragos find the real killer of Laci Peterson! PayPal accepted! ...[thanks to reader J.H.] 11:48 A.M.
Eduwonk, who persists in making education policy entertaining, is all over those recently-publicized studies that either show or don't show charter schools failing to beat public schools. ... 3:30 A.M.
Alert reader M.O. notes that I recently used the phrase "a frisson of schadenfreude." ... [Classy!-ed.] 2:14 A.M.
Andrew Sullivan goes on vacation and his blog gets better! ... This is why kf always at least pretends to be on the job. 2:09 A.M.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
1.There are "more African Americans in the upper income bracket than ever before. The portion of black households making $75,000 to $99,999, for example, increased nearly fourfold between 1967 and 2003, rising to 7 percent of the black population." (For whites the figure is 11 percent.)
2 "Since 1967, the earliest year for which statistics are available, median household income for blacks has increased by nearly 47 percent, to $29,645 in 2003. That's much faster than the 31 percent growth rate for white households during that time."
3. "African Americans have made substantial advances in the service sector and have been opening small businesses at a pace quicker than whites. ... The number of black-owned businesses jumped 33 percent to 823,499 in 1997 from 621,000 in 1992, according to the latest census figures." [Emphases added.]
Naturally, WaPo thinks the picture is bleak! African Americans reaching "the middle income rung" are "finding it a hollow promise," Alec Klein reports, because in "earlier decades a union-protected factory worker or government employee ... could expect a comfortable life ...." Klein's main subject is a college graduate, an executive at an image-consulting business, who, with her husband, makes more than $60,000 (if I add up the numbers right). They live in an apartment with their two children. Her mother, in contrast, had "worked as a state foster care secretary for 32 years," and lived near the projects in a "small three-bedroom home with as many as 15 relatives packed in at once." Her father was "killed during a robbery" in his home. But her mother had "career security." ...
P.S.: Middle class life is clearly less secure than it once was, for all races. I'm not saying middle class African-Americans aren't even less secure than whites, or even that the black middle class isn't somehow reeling after the boom years of the late '90s. I'm saying this weak story, featuring vague complaints about how "blacks have taken it on the chin," doesn't come close to demonstrating those propositions, or to debunking the optimistic scenario painted by the statistics Klein tries to skate around--i.e., that big, permanent progress is being made. ...
P.P.S.: The economic strain faced by Klein's subject is captured, we're told, by "the cubic zirconia ring on her wedding finger," which was "all her husband ... could afford." Do you own a diamond?
P.P.P.S.: Why assign this story now? It seems like a quickie job. Is it an awkward attempt to pander to the economic anxieties and frustrations of the Post's middle class African-American readers? Klein's story comes at a time when the Post is trying to recover from the race-tinged in-house controversy that followed the naming of a white managing editor over two other candidates, one of whom was black. [Excellent 'comes-at-a-timing.' You must have no evidence of a connection at all!-ed None. But it's a bizarrely bad article.]
P.P.P.P.S.--Buried lede? The growth of black entrepreneurship is "a significant and unreported trend," notes alert reader R.G.--a common explanation for the relatively slow economic rise of African-Americans being that they've been too heavily concentrated in government and union jobs with the "career security" the Post simplistically praises. 11:34 P.M.
Bangle's Still Big. It's BMW's sales that have gotten smaller! It sure looks from this AutoSpies post as if the Howell Raines of the automotive design world--BMW's arrogant, pretentious Chris Bangle--may be in for some sort of comeuppance. The overdone 'flame-surfaced' Z4 sports car he championed ("as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall … and an Eve after the fall") apparently isn't selling too well in the U.S.., as predicted in Gearbox's eerily prescient coverage ... The little people just don't appreciate Bangle's genius. ... But he talks a good car! ... See also this post. [Thanks to reader C.G.] 8:51 P.M.
Attention DJs, A & R persons, moguls: I've now received a CD from obscure L.A. singer-songwriters In-Flight Movie, and it's as good as expected (and expectations were absurdly high). I especially like some cuts that aren't, alas, available on their Web site. (They should put up "Quality Time" and "Gray Days.") ... 8:16 P.M..
Michael Kinsley's piece-- on the speed with which he got useful reponses to his Social Security argument from the blogosphere--skirts an obvious point. It's not just that Kinsley got more helpful criticism from the blogosphere (when Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall posted it on their sites) than he got from the bigshot economists he sent it to. Kinsley got more overall attention for his argument by making it in the blogosphere than it would have gotten if he'd printed it in the rather large conventional paper whose opinion pages he runs. And I'm not just talking "more attention" in the sense that the blogosphere is big--bigger than the conventional print-centric media elite. Kinsley's thesis got more attention not just in the blogosphere but within the conventional print-centric media elite, even from those who pay little attention to blogs, because he got it posted on some blogs. ... Crudely put, Tim Russert and Al Hunt and William Safire and Bob Shrum and Sen. Harry Reid re more likely to know about Kinsley's idea because Kinsley bypassed his own LAT op-ed page. ... In part that's because East Coast elites aren't used to paying attention to the L.A. Times op-ed page. But the same could be said for all opinion pages except those of the NYT, WaPo and the WSJ. A lot of opinion-generating effort that used to be wasted writing editorials for the Houston Chronicle and Cleveland Plain Dealer can now can have a national impact. And, for all the energy that goes into distinguishing the MSM (mainstream media) from the blogosphere, the dirty little secret is that the elite MSM has become addicted to (and inevitably dependent on) the blogosphere as a source of new angles and arguments. ... [So why did Kinsley go to work for the L.A. Times?--ed. They have a Web site!] 7:53 P.M.
Troubling and mysterious development at the Iraq the Model blog. One of the three blogging brothers--Ali, the one who hasn't been touring the U.S.--appears to have quit, citing "the act of some Americans that made me feel I'm on the wrong side here." He goes on to say "I will expose these people in public very soon and I won't lack the mean to do this." ... Link via Sullivan, who makes a vague-but-possible connection to American torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Whatever the cause, there are indications this was something that's been in the works since before Ali's brothers left for their U.S. visit. A week ago Ali wrote:
I was very excited to meet our friends that we met through this blog, and I wanted to be able to say "Thank you America" in America, but I decided few days before the trip not to go (for reasons that I'll discuss in the future, probably). However, my invitation was cancelled even before I tell the people who set up the trip about my decision. So I asked Mohammed and Omar to go ahead, as I thought it might be good for our project "Friends of Democracy" and Iraq. [Emphasis added]
Stay tuned. ... Pressure on: Roger Simon to tell us what this is all about. ...Update: At least WaPo's Kurtz didn't come out Monday with a favorable article on Iraq the Model that missed the weekend 'Ali quits' story entirely. ... Oh, wait. ... 1:10 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. 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--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. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk