L.A. Times-Baiting Edition

L.A. Times-Baiting Edition

L.A. Times-Baiting Edition

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 24 2005 3:07 AM

Special LAT-Baiting Edition

Plus--Marjorie Williams' crackle.

Marty Lederman surfaces to respond to Heather Mac Donald in their torture debate, which may be asymptotically approaching the truth. ... 12:03 A.M.

The Inner Scream: Sullivan is right about the high journalistic achievement of  this cover. But shouldn't they all have laptops? ... P.S.: The people I've felt most sorry for are the journalists who have to pretend they are excited by the inauguration and Bush's second term. NPR personalities in particular. You can hear the inauthenticity and desperation in their voices. ... As far as I know, none of them have yet tried to cover any Bush festivities from the sanctuary of the FDR memorial--where an All Things Considered correspondent wound up fleeing, on air, during last year's Reagan ceremonies. But the term is young. ... 9:47 P.M.

Eduwonk on how San Diego is a test case for whether teachers' unions and their allies will be able to block the reformist potential of No Child Left Behind.

Superintendent Alan Bersin is poised to reorganize several of the city's chronically underperforming schools. At two of the three schools a majority of teachers have voted to make the schools charter schools to help facilitate this and at all three 60-80 percent of parents voted to do the same. Remember, these are not schools that didn't do well "on a single test" but schools that have not done right by students for years.

Yet the school board member who represents these schools has apparently decided to oppose this and in the process force a vote on buying out the remainder of Bersin's contract because he won't play ball.


Why? Eduwonk has theories. ... No doubt the Democrats are on the right side of this one. ... Right? ... Hello? ... 4:16 P.M.

The memorial service for  Marjorie Williams  will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 25, at the Washington National Cathedral. 4:02 P.M.

kf Nutrition News: Tremendous unrealized hype-potential (perhaps even justified) in this story. ... But while non-alocholic beer might have cancer-fighting properties, many lobsters may be contaminated with ingredients of plastics. ... 2:53 A.M.

Thursday January 20, 2005


I'm scheduled to be on Warren Olney's "Which Way L.A.?" radio show at 7:00 P.M. Pacific time this evening to attack the L.A. Times for its stuffy and disastrous aversion to gossip. (89.9 on your FM radio dial, or you can hear it online.) They have me paired with Times legend Bill Boyarsky--who thinks the same thing I do. The segment (just taped) wasn't a debate. It was non-stop Times-bashing! The Times, pathetically, refused to send someone to defend itself on one of L.A.'s most substantive and intelligent talk shows. ... [You don't usually hype radio appearances--ed. True. But this one's in the can, and it was one-sided!] ... KCRW listeners are exactly the West Side liberals the Times can't afford to lose. ... P.S.: Boyarsky, who after all worked at the paper for many years, says Times editors had trouble with even a semi-gossip column because it was "flip and irreverent." Wouldn't want that! ... How many more millions will the Tribune organization want to lose by backing editors who aren't eager to publish "irreverent" writing? 4:02 P.M.

Mr. Complexity: Andrew Sullivan has lately taken to presenting himself as a nuanced "political hybrid," a "solvent" of "rigidity" and partisanship. He's dismayed at the "bizarre [notion] gaining traction in the blogosphere ... that there can only be two positions on the Iraq war." Alert reader N.S. points to this March 9, 2003 blog entry  as an example of this nuanced, non-rigid, third-position-friendly hybrid thinker empathetically critiquing the New York Times' editorial opposing the Iraq invasion.

The Times has been campaigning for appeasement of Saddam for over a year. The hawkish pirouettes in between were diversions. What this editorial is really about is the first shot in the coming domestic war - to undermine this military campaign once it begins, to bring down this administration, and to advocate the long-term delegation of American power to an internationalist contraption whose record has been to facilitate inaction and tyranny. The Times, in campaigning against war, has actually fired the opening shot in the coming domestic war. Hostilities have begun.

P.S.: Sullivan now claims:

I have never said I don't agree with Bush's decision to go to war with Saddam. I've merely said the obvious - that we now know that, given Saddam's lack of WMD stockpiles, the urgency, with hindsight, was misplaced. Does that mean I have to apologize to Howard Dean? Sure, if Howard Dean had argued that there were no WMDs and that was why we shouldn't go to war, and I had trashed him for it. To Hans Blix? Sure, if he had said the same thing. But they didn't. And I didn't. Almost no one argued against the war on the basis that the WMD stockpiles didn't exist.


Huh? Sullivan must be remembering a different run-up to the Iraq war than I do. The Times editorial he sneeringly dismissed as "appeasement," for example, argued:

[T]he report of [Hans Blix's U.N.] inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program.

If you argue as the Times did that a "more aggressive inspection program ... could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program," doesn't that include the possibility that it could keep a lid on the program because the weapons had not been stockpiled at all? If it turns out there are no weapons, hasn't your argument a fortiori been proven right? What did the Times and Blix have to do to merit a Sullivan apology? Did they have to guess everything correctly--the exact number of canisters in each bunker, maybe? They said Saddam's weapons program wasn't worth going to war over--the "urgency ... was misplaced," as Sullivan delicately puts it. In that they were right, according to Sullivan. A blogger who wanted to be a "solvent of ... rigidity" would swallow his pride and admit as much. ... 3:12 P.M.

Ron Rosenbaum finds the blazing arrow between Jonathan Klein's (and everyone else's) idea of "storytelling" and the Dan Rather/memo scandal:

In a way, it was storytelling that got Mr. Rather in trouble: He and his people were so convinced of the "essential truth" of the Bush National Guard–dodging story that they didn't realize the documents looked too good to be true. Proved their "story" too perfectly.


Fiction is often truer than reality! So who needs reality? ... P.S.: Was it Michael Wolff who made the point that Jayson Blair was prized for his ability to turn out televisable stories too. ... [Link via Sullivan ] 2:33 A.M. 

Mystery Pollster's analysis of the offical Mitofsky exit poll screw-up report  confirms that, as suspected, the problem was not bloggers, and not some esoteric technical bias it takes an advanced degree to figure out. The problem is that Mitofsky had built a cheesy, dime-store organization that relied crucially on poorly-trained young people at the bottom. MP says:

The report confirms that interviewers were often young mostly inexperienced.  Interviewers were evaluated and hired with a phone call and trained with a 20-minute "training/rehearsal call" and an interviewer manual sent via FedEx. They were often college students -- 35% were age 18-24, half were under 35. Perhaps most important, more than three quarters (77%) had never before worked as exit poll interviewers. Most worked alone on Election Day.

It reminds me a bit of the infamous Iowa caucuses of 1988, when the TV commentators generalized knowingly about exit poll numbers generated by kids looking for extra credit who didn't make it to their assigned caucuses on time and missed the vote. Where are the "multiple layers of checks and balances"? ["Multiple layers" was a  defense of CBS in Memogate, not Mitofskygate--ed. Right. I knew that! The point is that, as with CBS, there was a lot less going on behind the curtain than Mitofsky's arrogant professionalism would lead you to expect.] ... P.S.: Hey, at least he didn't release the report the day before the Inauguration! ... 12:53 A.M.


Wednesday January 19, 2005

Science Brings Us Together! I find it difficult to believe that the sight of John Kerry triggered much activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. ... P.S.: The linked op-ed, by Joshua Freeman, doesn't even make the basic initial case for its goo-goo, op-ed-friendly claim that Americans were attracted to both candidates.  If they were, wouldn't the ventromedial prefrontal cortex ("an area associated with strong instinctive feelings of emotional connection") have lit up when voters viewed either of the two candidates? Instead, Freedman claims, different brain areas lit up for the different men. That suggests polarization, not commonality, no? ... 11:56 P.M.

Why would anyone deny having an affair with Bob Marley? ["No comment" is not a denial--ed. Right. And not a river in Egypt! But the Post has an earlier vague semi-denial.] 7:55 P.M.

David Corn on Marjorie Williams. ... P.S.: Charlotte Allen of the conservative Independent Women's Forum writes:

Williams ... was a Democrat and a doctrinaire feminist, not the sort of woman we usually go for here. But she was always more than that, taking on her own party and her own value system when they hypocritically betrayed her.

I initially gagged on Allen's "value system" comment, but here is a quote from Williams' furious 1998 dissection of feminists who denied the truth about Bill Clinton's misbehavior:

But if political opportunism is the main cause of their current blindness, it's not the only one. You can find in their reasoning a road map to everything that ails liberal feminism today: political self-dealing, class bias, and dedication to a bleak vision of sexual "liberation" that has deprived them of what was once the moral force of their beliefs.

3:48 P.M.

New Gearbox. ... 3:39 P.M.

The official  Mitofsky-Exit-Poll-Screw-Up report is out. MP is  on the case. ... 3:38 P.M.

Scandal at the GlobeMultiple layers of checks and balances missing! On a beat readers actually care about. ... Soxblog has the story (see his item 3). ... 3:15 A.M.

The L.A. Times unveils a new Sunday feature:

An experimental column that the Los Angeles Times maybe shouldn't have started, and from which it would like in this paragraph to distance itself with a ten-foot pole if possible, in which it invites outside critics--we could pull the plug on this thing at any moment, you know--to take their best shot at Southern California's heaviest newspaper.

I may have copied that down a bit wrong. I'll check it in the morning. ... P.S.: I tried to make my contribution to the Times' masochistic project as nasty as I reasonably could, confident the paper wouldn't publish it without putting it through an editorial "toning." Instead, they published it entirely intact, as promised. If it's too weak (as apparently it is!) that's my fault. ... P.P.S.: There's a wee bit of distancing going on in that intro, however. ... P.P.P.S.:  But the Times opinion pages are changing. This week they call Condi Rice "the Bearded Wise Lady" on a mock inaugural circus poster. Where were the anti-controversy police when that came down the chute? ...1:07 A.M.

Tuesday January 18, 2005

I'll Be Your Mirror: Howie Kurtz finds an "appearance problem" with the Washington Post giving $100,000 to President Bush's inauguration. But wouldn't it be worse if President Bush gave $100,000 to the Washington Post? ... Or if Time Warner, owner of CNN, gave a similar amount to the WaPo reporter who covers the media. ... Hmmm. ... Kurtz is willing to find "unseemly" appearances everywhere except in the mirror. ... [But we know what CNN is getting when they pay Kurtz to host "Reliable Sources"--ed. We do? How do we know we know? The Post says all it wants to get are inaugural ball tickets--but Kurtz is suspicious.] 11:48 P.M.

Monday January 17, 2005

Jack Shafer explains why Marjorie Williams was the best profiler around. She usually destroyed her subjects (e.g., Richard Darman, Patricia Duff) by finding some deep and true flaw that everybody else missed. Thank God she's not writing about me, you thought. She was a moral force, a modest soul, a wise friend and a brilliant presence. One of my proudest unintentional accomplishments was accidentally introducing her to her husband, my colleague Timothy Noah. (O.K., they would have met anyway. Washington is a small town that way.) They have both been heroes of mine through Marjorie's wildly unfair illness. She died on Sunday, and I suppose she would want us all to be keeping our chins up and eyes dry, but we are failing. ... WaPo editorializes here, Paul Glastris writes about her here, and there is a page of remembrances here. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, January 25th, at 11:00 A.M., at the Washington National Cathedral. ... Update: Marc Fisher, Joel Achenbach, David von Drehle, and Eric Alterman. ... MoreDavid Corn. ... 11:29 P.M.

Kevin Drum notes that Andrew Sullivan has now more or less admitted that his strident, belittling cheerleading for the war in Iraq was wrong. But you have to look carefully! It's buried in a discussion of post-war planning, where Sullivan writes:

I'd say it's obvious that Shinseki was correct [in saying we needed more troops]. Should we have gone to war under the circumstances then prevailing? Probably not. Given the lack of urgency with regard to Saddam's WMDs (yes, this is hindsight, but so is all of this), we obviously should have waited.

Good to see a clear answer. But, as Drum argues, if this is what Sullivan now thinks shouldn't he  apologize to those--not just Hans Blix, but maybe, say, Howard Dean**--who didn't need hindsight to see what he now sees?

**e.g., here's Sullivan on Dean, Oct. 12, 2003: "He would have left Saddam in place and hoped that the nightmare of terrorists with Saddam-provided WMDS wouldn't take place. After 9/11, I consider that an act of gross irresponsibility." [Emph. added] ...

P.S.:Heather Mac Donald replies  to Marty Lederman's critique of her article on torture. She also  responds to Sullivan's exegisis of Lederman's critque of her article. ... And Sullivan responds to Mac Donald's response, prompting Mac Donald to write a further response. ... I tend to think that a) Mac Donald defends the Bush administration's rules on torture more than what actually happened to prisoners in our custody, which was disgusting and disastrous and needs explaining, but b) Sullivan's attempt to find a blazing arrow from the Bush's legal rulings to the abuses is surprisingly incomplete . Here he is in the New York Times:

 [I]t seems unmistakable from these documents that decisions made by the president himself and the secretary of defense contributed to confusion, vagueness and disarray, which, in turn, led directly to abuse and torture ...

That's not an especially blazing arrow, in my book--the President is guilty of "contributing" to "confusion, vagueness and disarray."  Elsewhere in the article, Sullivan writes:

Whether random bad apples had picked up these techniques from hearsay or whether these practices represented methods authorized by commanders grappling with ambiguous directions from Washington is hard to pin down from the official reports. [Emph. added]

Well, if "random bad apples had picked up these techniques from hearsay," that would be a point for Mac Donald's attempt to debunk the  "torture narrative" that pins the blame on Bush and his lawyers, no? ... P.P.S.: Please don't forget that Sullivan was for the Iraq war and Mac Donald was against it. [Are you suggesting that these positions might have influenced their respective views on the prisoner abuse?-ed In Sullivan's case, yes. A basketball fan could label it a "make-up call."] ...  9:30 P.M.

Mr. Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed.

I have no basis for judging Hersh's reporting. I note only that this is not a denial. The Pentagon does not need to assess the "credibility" of  Hersh's article. It knows the truth, and can deny anything that Hersh wrote that is untrue. For example, Hersh's ubiquitous all-knowing "government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon" tells him:

"The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible ... "

True or not? Before the Pentagon non-denial, you might have said, well, it was just Hersh's pig-in-a-poke source talking. Now you'd have to say that either it's true or the Pentagon at least wants the Iranians to think it might be true. ... Update: Roger Simon  has the same idea. ...  9:10 P.M.

St. Louis Ruse: In how many cities does this  go on? P.S.: That might explain why crime rates keep falling even though nobody is feeling any safer than two years ago. ... 12:28 A.M.

Sunday January 16, 2005

Remember how Paul Bremer threw Iraqi insurgents off balance by handing over "sovereignty" two days earlier than planned? Terrorists who had timed their attacks for the formal handoff date were left flatfooted. Why not employ a similar strategy for the upcoming elections? It may be too late to move up the date from January 30, but with Iraqi officials themselves warning of "vicious" attacks on polling stations and some Iraqis fleeing the country, why not pull a fast one by allowing absentee balloting before then? Voters could sneak in and out before the terrorists could time their attacks. They could even vote and flee! ... Alternatively, officials could suddenly, on or near election day, announce that voting would be allowed for one or two days after January 30. That would (in theory) let voters wait until the insurgents had shot their wad. ...At least it might force the insurgents to improvise operations that would be easier to detect or thwart. ... 11:28 P.M.

Susan Estrich is appropriately angry over the decision of California Democratic legislators to block the reappointment of fellow Democrat Reed Hastings to the state board of education, apparently because he fails "the bilingual education litmus test." (Hastings opposes bilingual education and wants to require English instruction for a couple of hours a day, even for those students whose parents opt for bilingual programs). Eduwonk agrees  with Estrich. ... Here's an LAT news account. ... Garry South, Gray Davis' campaign guru, is quoted to the effect that:

"We're in serious trouble if Democrats are going to go on a purge and get rid of every single Democrat who has moderate, mainstream views and doesn't adhere to total orthodoxy as members of the Legislature define it."

A good illustration of why Schwarzenegger's anti-gerrymandering proposal--which would help elect not Republicans so much as more moderate Democrats instead of the safe seat Suslovs we now have--is badly needed out here. ... P.S.: A Times editorial  praises Hastings for refusing to water down standards on No Child Left Behind testing. He also supports charter schools. Hmmm.  Are those secret reasons he was defeated--with the Democrats carrying the teachers' unions water, but letting Latinos take the lead? The unions might not want to be seen publicly opposing someone like Hastings who had been effective at getting more money for schools. ... ["Suslovs" was the best you could do?--ed Yes. California Dems are still in their Brezhnev era! If you have a better "S"-word, though, I'd be interested in hearing it.]  3:45 A.M.

Friday January 14, 2005

From the WSJ's story on Jonathan Klein of CNN ...

One of his first acts was to order up a 25-part series of segments and a two-hour special called "Defending America" that will fill CNN's airwaves leading up to President Bush's inauguration next week. [Emph. added]

Set your TIVOs! I can't wait. ... P.S.: On Romenesko's letter page, Tim Graham writes:

Klein seems to be suggesting his fight against feisty Fox is going to be made by dropping the "head-butting" shows, making CNN a pure "news" channel. But I'd say Klein is trying to impress the liberal media elite, not the general public. He's trying to suggest CNN is marching closer in concept to a 24-hour Jim Lehrer NewsHour channel, which would have to make Fox want to hold a secret three-hour meeting with the sole agenda item of laughing themselves silly.

Sounds right to me. So right that I think Klein can't actually be serious about beating Fox with "the power of storytelling." He's not stupid. His current anti-Crossfire jag seems more like a holding action, a way to generate some cheap publicity while he tools up the non-storytelling shows that will actually make or break his attempt to take on Fox. ... P.P.S.: On the same letters page, Dan Mitchell seems to be under the impression that the "emotional ride" Klein wants "storytelling" to provide will be part of some kind of high-brow viewing experience, as opposed to the "rank, lowbrow entertainment" of pundits shouting about politics and policy. Isn't it more likely that the drive for an "emotional ride" will produce hack, treacly schlock? Up close and personal golden moments? Maybe there is an "emotional" way to dramatize the dilemma of Social Security privatization's transition costs--but I can't think of it. Mitchell should be forced to watch all 25 parts of "Defending America." ... [Have you beaten this subject to death now?--ed. Klein is my Brad and Jen.]  6:27 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