The Curse of the Cubic Zirconia

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 20 2004 3:09 AM

The Curse of the Cubic Zirconia

Baubles and Bangle too.

Let's see:

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.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Raines Must Fall? Frank Raines is presumably a fine man, as was his predecessor and fellow Democratic bigshot Jim Johnson. But executives at Fannie Mae are so wildly overpaid--it's where politicos go to heaven--and so self-congratulatory about the alleged affordable-housing mission that makes them rich that it's hard not to feel more than a frisson of schadenfreude when they get in trouble. ... True, Henry Blodget depicts Raines as the victim of a political or bureaucratic campaign to make "what looked like normal accounting a few months ago" seem fishy today. And  Floyd Norris  appears to uphold Blodget's view on one charge (the big-dollar "derivatives" controversy). But the proper treatment of the value of mortgages when interest rates plummet and homeowners refinance seems pretty cut and dried. Norris:

Fannie Mae should have taken a $400 million hit to profits, but instead it deferred half of it. That meant executives qualified for bonuses that would not have been paid had the full impact been taken.

Nor does it seem wildly unfair to hold Fannie Mae, which depends on Congressional and  taxpayer support in the form of perceived federal backing, to a higher standard than a regular Fortune 500 corporation when it comes to 'smoothing' out earnings for appearances (and bonuses?) sake. ... More:WaPo's Pearlstein says Raines should go. Nell Minow disagrees. ... You can't make the call! That is, unless you know a lot more about accounting than I do ...  ...   3:11 A.M. link

Friday, December 17, 2004

"Off Message": Great column name. ... 5:33 P.M.

Andrew Sullivan needs another vacation! He's turned from  joking about his "power glutes"  into a humorless PC scold, defensively seeking victimhood, subtle homophobia all around him. Latest example: He takes offense at a bit of hypothesized banter:

If it emerges in conversation that a man is married to a woman, would he be offended if a gay guy were to say, "What a waste"? I think he would. Or am I wrong?

When a reader tells him that yes, he's wrong, he still can't quite climb down from the lectern ("[F]rankly, I wince when gay men sexualize straight men inappropriately. A little mutual respect is more seemly."). ... 5:07 P.M.

Heather Mac Donald succeeds in demonstrating that there are gaps in border security that increase the risk of terrrorism:

Every week, agents in the border patrol's Swanton sector catch Middle Easterners and North Africans sneaking into Vermont. And every week, they immediately release those trespassers with a polite request to return for a deportation hearing. Why? The Department of Homeland Security failed to budget enough funding for sufficient detention space for lawbreakers.

In May alone, Swanton agents released illegal aliens from Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco, Uganda and India without bond. Since all these aliens chose to evade the visa process, none has had a background check by a consular official that might have uncovered terrorist connections. All are now at large in the country.

She also reports at least one pre-election episode in which the Bushies seem to have sacrificed security to Hispandering. ... [Just last week you were calling concerns over terrorism a "surface argument" when the "real" concern at the borders was controlling immigration generally--ed Mac Donald has convinced me they're both concerns. But we should be able to publicly discuss both. Right now, "enforcement" advocates like Mac Donald and Michelle Malkin (e.g) reflexively go out of their way to deny that they are anti-immgration. Maybe they aren't. But what's so terrible about being anti-immgration? If you weren't for open borders before the terrorist threat emerged, then there must have been some underlying reason--a reason like boosting low-end wages, assuring assimilation, preserving culture, controlling extremes of income inequality, or preventing a Quebec-like situation. If those are permissable justifications for limiting immigration, it should be equally permissable to say "I think the limits are being reached." And if that's "anti-immigration"--or even "anti-immigrant"--so be it. During the pre-1996 welfare debate, defenders of the welfare system charged that reform advocates wanted to "stigmatize" those on welfare. To which the best response was: "And you're point is ... " That's also the best response to the "anti-iimmigration" charge, it seems to me. ... 4:39 P.M

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Has Hillary committed any "intimate transgressions"? We'll soon find out! Hasn't Bernard Kerik performed a huge service for journalism (and the Republican party)? Because of his sacrifice, we now have a dramatically lowered standard for when the New York Times will report the intimate details of public figures' private lives. Kerik was having "clandestine love affairs" in a Battery Park City apartment he apparently paid for. The Times first reported these "intimate transgressions"--and named one of Kerik's partners, Titian-tressed titan Judith Regan--even after Kerik had withdrawn from consideration as Homeland Security secretary citing an illegal-nanny problem. ... Somwhere, Jeffrey Toobin is turning over in his grave. Toobin argued absurdly that a politician's sex life is off limits to journalists' because it "tells you absolutely nothing about their performance in office." But Kerik wasn't even going to perform in office! He was out. ... The Times, a principled organization, will presumably apply the Kerik precedent in years to come when Democratic figures are involved. I especially look forward to the paper's multiple-reporter investigation of Hillary Clinton's erotic life when she runs for Senate in 2006. All of her housekeepers need to be produced, of course, and if she has any lovers other than her faithful husband we'll find that out too! ... P.S.: Plus, following the Kerik precedent, it will be enough if "someone who spoke to" Hillary about any relationship can vouch for it. Hearsay evidence about sex is good enough for the Times! ... 2:13 P.M.

The Trouble with Beinart III: An alert kf reader emails with another so-obvious-nearly-everyone-else-missed-it point about Peter Beinart's "Fighting Faith," which--in case you've forgotten---envisions a New Republicish Democratic Party that supports with equal vehemence the Iraq War abroad and gay marriage at home:


[I]sn't it also true, and important, that a pro-war/pro-gay-marriage America could never win hearts and minds in the Islamic world? Forget, for a moment, the pro-war part. The spectacle of gay marriage would only confirm the direst warnings of the mullahs including plenty of not-so-radical ones!) about the inherent insanity and decadence of Western culture. And, given the sexual traditions of even moderate Muslims around the world, those warnings would get a very receptive hearing.                                                                                
                                                                                                  
Gay marriage is probably about as threatening--not to say insulting--to the core values of Muslims as any of Communism's tenets was to the core values of Americans during the Cold War. I doubt it would be much use arguing freedom and equality, etc., either. Rather, gay marriage would tend to be interpreted by Muslims as proof of the dangers of freedom and equality (i.e., that they inevitably turn into license).                                                               
                                                                                                  
Not that this is a reason to be against gay marriage!

Right. ... And isn't this contradiction a big problem for Andrew Sullivan too? (No wonder he wants to wage war on Islamic fundamentalists rather than win them over. He has no hope of winning them over to his full notion of freedom.)  ... [So you would abandon gay marriage to cater to Islamic fundamentalist sensibilities?--ed  No. I'd abandon--or rather postpone--it to cater to American fundamentalist sensibilities! In an earlier post-election article, Beinart declared:

But cultural sensitivity is one thing; principle is another. In their attempts to win rural voters, Democrats have already essentially abandoned gun control. That doesn't keep me up at night. But gay marriage is different. The fact that it is widely unpopular cannot obscure the fact that it is morally momentous and morally right. Liberals once lost elections for supporting civil rights as well and now look back on those losses as badges of honor. Eventually, since young people are far more tolerant of homosexuality than their parents, gay marriage will stop hurting Democrats at the polls. Until then, the party should try to win elections on other issues--and look forward to the day when conservatives apologize for trying to deny yet another group of Americans their full human rights. [Emph. added]


Hmmm. When exactly did support for gay marriage become an essential Democratic party principle akin to racial equality? Was it when Anthony Lewis' wife decided to impose it on Massachusetts? Seems like only a few years ago the concept was an entry on the New Republic's"to be assigned" list. (Sullivan got the job.) Now we must embrace it or leave the party? Isn't that rushing things a bit? ...

Even if you favor making gay marriage a central, non-negotiable Democratic plank, the fact remains that this greatly complicates any Democrat-led struggle against Islamic extremists (because, as my emailer notes, it alienates even Islamic moderates).  That's another reality Beinart doesn't seem to want to confront. (Better to talk about 1947!) How exactly would a Dem president who declares gay marriage a "morally momentous" principle convince civilized, non-terrorist, observant Muslims that their religion and culture is compatible with Western-style economics and democracy? 

Maybe Democrats will ultimately have no choice other than dissembling or declaring a clash of civilizations. But why race to that point? At the moment, I don't see why we can't have a Democratic party that openly a) refrains from force-feeding gay marriage to the public b) has room in it for patriotic Iraq War skeptics and c) as a consequence of a) and b) is better positioned to wage an effective military and ideological battle against Islamic terrorism.  12:31 P.M.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

How dumb are academics? Part XXIII: Today's N.Y. Post reports on a Harvard School of Public Health Study that found "men tend to do less exercise and put on weight" after they remarry, even though they eat healthier diets. The explanation, offered by Dr. Patricia Mona Eng:

Time demands of a new spousal role may preclude routine exercise.

Alternative non-Harvard-approved explanation for why they exercised more before they remarried: They wanted to get laid.... On second thought, that theory may be crude and inappropriate. Sex isn't a big factor in male motivation. We all know that. Stick with the "time demands of a spousal role" business. Yes, that's the ticket. ... 4:37 P.M.

"Bring back the nest!"  I guess the N.Y. Post just doesn't want to let go of that Kerik-Regan story. ... 4:23 P.M.

Kinsley's Query: Andrew Sullivan and TPMpublish a long question about Social Security privatization from Michael Kinsley.  ... I assume the answer to Kinsley's conundrum is that defenders of privatization think switching from a pay-as-you-go system (in which each generation pays for its elders' retirement) to a pay-for-yourself system (in which each generation sets aside money to pay for its own retirement) will boost the national savings rate and result in greater economic growth. Why might this happen? Because Social Security's current pay-as-you-go benefits--though merely transfer payments and not a return on actual savings--eliminate some of the need to save for retirement. Why set aside money for your golden years when the government will supply that money later by taxing younger workers and sending you checks? According to this argument, Social Security's faux-savings have depressed the national savings rate--an effect that will presumably be reversed if today's young workers are required to set aside cash in personal accounts to pay for their own benefits. This increased savings will mean increased investment which should translate into higher economic growth. I seem to recall studies by Martin Feldstein that purport to show such an effect. ... P.S.: ABC's esteemed-but-so-revealingly-wrong-about-Kerry Note  keeps emphasizing that cuts in minimum guaranteed benefits are the hidden key to making privatization plans work. But the real key would seem to be this savings-enhancing effect. If it exists. 

Update: Reader G.F. emails: "[Y]our recent discussion of partial privatization seem to be against it one day, and for it another. (And you complained about Kerry's tendency to do that.)" Ouch. I'm not for the Bush plan, to the extent we know what it is (though I suppose I could buy a compromise that combined a) means-testing the current system with b) add-on Clinton style private accounts, and that c) wasn't financed by increasing the deficit).  What I'm saying in this item is I think the proponents have an answer to Kinsley's claim that privatization "can't possibly work, even in theory." 1:26 A.M.

Missed Cocoon-Busting Opportunity? Like so   many others I got to hear pro-invasion Iraq The Model bloggers Omar and Mohammed recently. They are instantly likable, mainly because they're not obvious salesmen. They gave some credibility-boosting answers that Bush-backers might not approve (e.g. the violence will continue after the coming elections) and others that were merely ungratifying, if true (that winning the war against the insurgents will at best be a long, ecological process in which more people trust the government enough to turn insurgents in, which makes the government stronger, which encourages others to come forward, etc.). I don't have the best BS-detector in the world, but I saw no indicia of insincerity. ... P.S.: I went with an open-minded Westside L.A. Democrat who noted that in the meetings she attends you never hear from anyone who supports the war or thinks it a non-debacle--which is why I think the ITM bloggers' backers made a mistake in not aggressively exposing them to the left rather than to the naturally sympathetic right.  Perhaps there were security concerns. ... P.P.S.: Juan Cole asks in defensive, cocoon-like fashion "whether [the Iraq the Model bloggers] are getting some extra support from certain quarters." But if the CIA or some other agency had decided to finance propaganda spokesmen I think they'd be much slicker. In any case there seems no reason to doubt that they're exactly who they say the are.*** More: Jeff Jarvis  reams Cole here. Cole disingenuously distances himself from his earlier innuendo about the bloggers here, after more convincingly defending his claim that they do not represent the mainstream of Iraqi opinion. ... P.P.P.S.: Why not stage a debate between Juan Cole and Omar and Mohammed? That would get some attention on the left. ... 

***: I've called Andrew Sullivan "excitable," but Cole makes Sullivan look like Brian Lamb. 12:48 A.M.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Trouble With Beinart  II Ron Brownstein makes a so-obvious-everyone-else-missed it point: It was a lot easier for Democrats to put the anti-communist struggle "at the center of their hopes for a better world" when a Democratic president (Truman) was waging that struggle than it is for them to put the fight against "totalitarian Islam" their centerpiece when its being waged by a president from the opposing party. ...  Give the Dems a President with a term of anti-jihadism under his or her belt and Beinart's project will almost take care of itself. (And yes, this is a Catch-22, in that Dems are unlikely to elect a president until they hit on an appealing anti-terror strategy.) ... Backfill: See also Taranto  from ten days ago ...  5:42 P.M.

Today's Press-as-Special-Interest Overreaction: A Massachusetts judge is suing the Boston Herald for libel. He's apparently using, as evidence of "actual malice," statements a Herald writer made on the O'Reilly TV show. WaPo gets a quote:

"When reporters who write stories, then go on the air to discuss" them, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "things tend to escalate. . . . If their appearances are going to be used to craft evidence of malice and reckless disregard for the truth in a print story, we're in very dangerous territory. I think this will have very serious implications for journalists." [Emph. added]

So what reporters say on TV isn't evidence of their state of mind, the way it would be with any other citizen? Reporters should be able to go on TV and say anything they want without worrying about libel? ... Sometimes maybe Ms. Dalglish should just say "no comment" instead of giving the impression that the First Amendment is a special interest loophole written into the Constitution on behalf of the media industry. [Isn't "very dangerous territory" press-advocate code for 'we know we have no case but we have to be outraged anyway.'--ed. You mean 'If we cry wolf this time, we'll have more credibility next time.' I don't think that works in this case. And it's exactly how a special interest behaves.]... P.S.:WaPo notes:

While editors scrutinize and sanitize reporters' words before they appear in print, no one performs that function in live TV interviews.

No editors around here neither! But bloggers, unlike live TV guests, do have a brief window--between typing and publishing--that allows for self-editing and second thoughts. (I had some on this very item.) ... Kausfiles--Sanitized for Your Protection! ... My protection, anyway. 12:50 A.M.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Here's a half-debunking of the latest too-explosive-to-be-true election-stealing angle. ... We wouldn't have to pay attention to these far-out stories if Florida had used voting machines with a d--- paper trail. ... P.S.:RottenDenmark seems asleep at the switch on this one. Update: Not any more. ... 1:16 P.M.

Faster neighborhoods. ... 12:41 P.M.

Even if the latest allegations about Marc Rich--that he helped broker Saddam's oil-for-food deals--prove accurate, that won't be the main reason Clinton's pardon of the fugitive financier was scandalous. Saddam could presumably always get someone to broker his lucrative schemes--if not Rich, then another high-level operater. The Marc Rich pardon was scandalous mainly because it taught a generation of Americans that you could buy your way out of punishment. ... But buy with what? ...  Here's an instance where the convenient case for public figure privacy in matters of sex--made most conveniently by Clinton himself, but also by Jeffrey Toobin,*** Andrew Sullivan, etc.--completely breaks down. It turns out to be fairly important whether Clinton was or wasn't not having sexual relations with Denise Rich, Marc's glamorous ex-wife, who lobbied for the pardon (or with someone else who might have gotten to Clinton). It's hard to explain Clinton's gross error any other way. Lord knows I've   tried! ... Someday some historian will focus on this sort of interpersonal causal chain and win a National Book Award for his provocative thesis--as Philip Weiss memorably put it, "Follow the nookie." But if reporters had been more irresponsible in reporting on Clinton's personal life--and less cowed by the Stephanopouloses and Carvilles--actual voters would have had this highly relevant information in real time when they made their decision in 1992. ... P.S.: Do Democrats really want to elect the woman who let all this happen under her nose? Just asking! ...

*** When defending Clinton, Toobin ludicrously declared that a politician's sex life "tells you absolutely nothing about their performance" in office. Marc Rich might disagree. ...  12:21 P.M.

kausfiles Seeks Common Ground!  I don't trust either David Brooks' knowledge of Social Security or my own, but I suspect Brooks is right that a "grand bargain" is there to be struck between Democrats and Republicans--a bargain that includes "personal accounts." Why? Because Democrats haven't been averse to creating private accounts for today's young workers as long as it's done on top of a solvent regular pay-as-you-go Social Security system that provides a basic floor of guaranteed benefits. (President Clinton called his proposed "add-on" private accounts "USA Accounts.") And because Republicans still have to do something--cutting benefits or raising revenues--to fix the imbalance in the regular Social Security system for current, baby boomer retirees (who aren't young enough to think about substituting private accounts for regular Social Security). ...

Suppose centrist Democrats did what was necessary to fix regular ol' Social Security, and then did what was necessary to create add-on private accounts. Would the result look all that different from what the Bush plan will actually look like (benefit cuts and all) when the president finally gets around to giving us the details? ...

But, you say, Democrats would surely object to any Bushian system that would let today's young workers live in poverty in their retirement years if their private accounts were invested unluckily and went blooey--Dems would insist on today's Social Security benefits as a minimum guarantee. And so they should! But couldn't that floor could be provided by a stringently means-tested old-style Social Security system--one that gave full guaranteed benefits only to seniors who really needed them? The idea would be to prevent future seniors who misinvested their private accounts from living in poverty, right--not to give back rich future seniors who misinvested their accounts full benefits to make up for their (non-impoverishing) loss. ...

Now take that means-testing principle and (gently) apply it ahead of schedule to today's baby boomers as well, to the extent needed to 1) render the regular Social Security system solvent and 2) free up money for add-on private accounts. Presto--a compromise with a) private accounts and b) a guaranteed Social Security income floor. ...

The only thing Republicans would give up, as far as I can see, is the "choice" element--the idea that young workers who opt for private accounts voluntarily, in exchange, give up the regular Social Security benefits now promised them. Under the compromise envisioned here, everyone would get the same means-tested Social Security benefits and everyone would get the same add-on private accounts. But since many Bush-style private account plans--including two of the three "models" suggested by the president's recent commission--also feature government-guaranteed benefit "floors" (even for those who "choose" private accounts) maybe this distinction is largely academic. 

I must be missing something again... 4:09 A.M.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

If you paid real money for the L.A. Times, we have a word for you: "Sucker"! Kf readers email with more evidence of the LAT's near-desperate near-free distribution policy: ...

I just subscribed for LA Times for 2$ a week for A YEAR. This was after I
had tried to cancel my subscrtiption ..." --reader S.

"I subscribed to a full 52 weeks of Saturday and Sunday delivery to the LA Times for a $5 add-on to my Wired magazine renewal---and I didn't have to give my phone number ... " --reader C.

2:05 P.M.

I Want to Spend More Time With My Nanny: Everyone ( WaPo, NYT, LAT, Polipundit!) suggests that Bernard Kerik's problem with "the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny" was not the full reason for his withdrawal from Bush's cabinet. Is "I have a nanny problem" the new resignation smokescreen of choice, replacing "I want to spend more time with my family"? The latter phrase has become such an implausible cliche it's lost all utility--it's practically a red flag signalling "I have a big problem I'm not telling you about." Use it and people will laugh at you--and immediately start digging. But the Nanny Excuse is perfectly calibrated to the times: Employing an undocumented nanny isn't a big sin--not serious enough offense to derail your career in the private sector. Yet it's still regarded as a plausible and sufficient reason for abruptly abandoning a government position. No need to look any further! Just another nanny problem! 'Joins a long line of nominees, starting with Clinton appointee Zoe Baird ...'--you know the drill. ... P.S.:WaPo, it should be noted, hints Kerik's problems did center on his nanny, but more on his failure to play it straight with the Bushies than the mere fact that he had employed her:

A Republican source said some White House officials found it highly suspicious that Kerik was not aware of a potential problem with a nanny who left the country very recently.

Update: Hosenball moves the story in Newsweek. He suspects the ...er, arrest warrant was the final straw for the White House. ...More: Kerik-backer Rudolph Giuliani highlights the probe-stopping virtue of the Nanny Excuse in the NYT:

"Whenever this happens, there is always the idea that it must be something else, it must be something else," Mr. Giuliani said. "But that is when there is not a good reason. This is a good reason."

Every public figure should keep at least one illegal housekeeper around, just in case! ... 1:55 A.M.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Thanks to Josh Marshall for drawing attention to Ed Kilgore's sharp New Donkey blog, which today chops up American Prospect's latest call for "class-based populism." ... 12:48 A.M.

The "30-year tradition" of Iowa's first-in-the nation caucuses is in jeopardy! That can't be. After all they've done for the party. ... 12:37 A.M.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

It's Solutions Week at kausfiles! ... Problem: Hamid Karzai may be the new elected president of Afghanistan, but much of his country's economy is based on cultivating opium poppies for the illegal heroin trade. Various warlords (and, apparently the Taliban) are using drug profits to in effect challenge Karzai's government. ... Development: New strains of genetically modified poppies produce medicines, not opium. Other strains produce non-opiate painkillers. ... Solution: Get the Afghan farmers to plant these kinds of poppies. Duh! ... 8:48 P.M.

Forget Hoy! The L.A. Times becomes a free paper--almost: I just subscribed to the "prize-winning" Los Angeles Times for $1 a week (for 20 weeks) ... "Holiday Special" ... At least they're not desperate! ... 2:04 P.M.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Freedom and licences: Miriam Jordan's solid 12/6 WSJ summary of the illegal immigrant/driver's license debate notes the charge (from, in this case, Sen. Lieberman's office) that the attempt to deny such licenses is "not a security provision. It's an anti-immigrant provision." Of course it is! Or, rather, it's an attempt to restrict illegal immigration by denying illegal immigrants the normalcy, and the legitimate perquisites, of legal residence. Why isn't that a perfectly proper objective? ... It would be equally true to charge that the supporters of licensing illegals aren't really concerned with making the roads safer, requiring insurance, obtaining information on drivers, etc.--they're really, at bottom, committed to legitimizing the presence of illegals and they don't worry much about whether that encourages others to become illegals. ... Why is it only respectable to argue on the surface-argument level--about fighting terrorism and requiring auto insurance--instead of the real level (about controlling immigration)? ...

P.S.--And they say kf isn't solution-oriented!  I still don't understand why the most promising strategy isn't to separate the "i.d. card" function from the driver's license function. Give illegals, or anyone who can drive, a license that allows them to drive. But don't use this license for identification purposes--you'd need to create a separate I.D. card*** for that. This plan would satisfy road-safety concerns and make it a bit easier to be an illegal--but deny illegals full respectability (which is why, I suspect, it would be opposed by immgrant advocates). ...

P.P.S.: Tennessee is experimenting with a slightly tougher variation on this idea--people who aren't citizens or legal residents get a separate, second-class license that allows them drive but isn't an i.d.. The second-tier license is practically a red flag advertising illegal status, however. Will many illegals even bother to apply for it? (Needless to say, the plan--which began in July--has also produced  vocal protests and lawsuits from advocacy groups.) ...

***: A national ID card would help solve 1) the terrorism problem and 2) the illegal immigration problem. Comrade Kuttner points out today that it would also help solve 3) the voter registration problem and 4) the underage drinking problem. A fourfer! It's very un-American, but it also seems unstoppably useful. ...  2:21 P.M.

Andrew Sullivan is staging a contest to find the most cliche-ridden polemical sentence. I have the winner--or, rather, I know what the winner is. It's what the town fathers of Newburgh, New York said in their doomed attempt to restrict welfare receipt in 1961. I will retrieve the exact quote from James Patterson's America's Struggle Against Poverty as soon as I can find that book. But trust me. Don't waste your energy trying to come up with another entrant. Competition is futile. ... Update: Alert reader J.S. had the book on his desk. The quote is from Newburgh City Manager Joseph Mitchell, who declared, "It is not moral to appropriate public funds to finance crime, illegitimacy, disease, and other social evils." Patterson continues:

Ever since the Leopold-Loeb case, [Mitchell] said, 'Criminal lawyers and all the mushy rabble of do-gooders and bleeding hearts in society and politics have marched under the Freudian flag toward the omnipotent state of Karl Marx.'  [Emph. added]

That about sums it up! ... P.S.: He was right about welfare. ... P.P.S.: Then of course there's this Coulterish compendium of cheap anti-left insult:

'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force
every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac,
Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

That would be ... George Orwell. [Isn't Andrew Sullivan our New Orwell?--ed. Now I'm all confused.] 1:21 P.M.

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Links

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

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