The Atlantic Monthly has "30 business employees" in Washington? If that's true, it's no wonder the magazine's losing "$4 million to $8 million annually." ... 11:23 A.M.
Tom DeLay went to London to see ... The Lion King? 9:15 A.M.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Shoot for the Moon! The L.A. Times' goal, according to Tribune Publishing President Scott Smith, is to reduce the rate of decline in circulation!
Smith, however, reassured analysts that company-wide bleeding will slow. "Our goal is to substantially reduce year-over-year declines in home-delivery and single copy sales in the September Fas-Fax," he said. "The rate of decline should diminish between now and September."'
Don't worry, honey, the bleeding will ... slow.... There are all those layers to go through! ... P.S.:Times circulation has dropped "more than 5.5%" in the latest report, according to E&P. ... Query: How precipitous does the decline have to be before the LAT's editors consider soiling themselves by running a gossip column people might actually want to buy the paper to read? (Single copy sales are falling even faster than home delivery.) ... Classic example of the LAT's slowfooted, clueless stuffy indifference to what people are actually interested in and talking about: The failure to cover Judith Regan's "culture"-bringing move to L.A. in anything other than a 108 word A.P. squib. [Maybe they had something today-ed. You mean I have to go out and pick the paper up off the stack moldering on my front stoop? It had spiders on it and everything. Yecch. But no Regan. ...Can I put it back outside now?] 11:28 A.M.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The New Phrenology: WaPo's Robin Givhan argues that John Bolton's haircut shows he lacks "respect for the job" of U.N. ambassador. She does not seem to be joking. ... P.S.: It could have been worse: Bush could have nominated Bill Gates. ... 11:58 P.M.
Legendarily slanted NYT lede-rewriters at work? Was it true that Tom DeLay "stepped up his crusade against judges" at his press conference yesterday? Only in the New York Times. ... Maguire notes that DeLay was actually backing off. ... 5:22 P.M.
Deborah Orin suggests that Barbara Boxer might be a threat on Hillary Clinton's left flank. ... Hmm. How could Hillary blunt this threat and cement her liberal base for the primaries without getting pushed "to the left the way Dean pushed John Kerry to the left in 2004"? Answer: If she's attacked viciously by Republicans! No bit of recent news was better for Hillary than GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein's announcement that he's ginning up a "Stop Her Now" political action committee for her 2006 New York Senate race. Finkelstein won't beat her, but he (and other similar anti-HRC entrepreneurs staging Swift-ish attacks) will draw enough press attention to disgust the left and provoke an instinctive rally-rounding defense of her. Once she's emotionally re-bonded to them in their aversion to the GOP and its tactics, they're hers--the way the GOP right was Bush's after the 2000 South Carolina primary*--freeing her to a) win the primaries and b) move to the center for the general election without having to worry about losing the left. ... In sum: Finkelstein raises a bunch of money. Hillary solves a political problem. It's win-win! ... Is there more to the allegedly strained cooperation between Finkelstein and Hillary's aides in the Glover Park Group than meets the eye? [No. Politics is not that Kabuki-esque. Hillary does not want to be attacked. Ever. By anybody-ed. If she were as smart as people say she is maybe she would.] ... P.S.: Hillary's husband called Finkelstein "self-loathing." Like that's a bad thing! [Isn't it?--ed. Self-pity=bad. Self-loathing=one of the most humane and enlightening forces in human history! The Clintons could use a little, anyway.]
*--Peggy Noonan's point. 4:27 P.M. link
Did Richard Brookhiser just call NYT editor Bill Keller a "hack"? I think he did! But in a good way. (But in a bad way of a good way!) 1:30 P.M.
Kerry's Secret Weapon: Polipundit notes the latest development in the agonizingly suspenseful wait for Sen. Kerry to sign the 3-page form releasing his military records. John Hurley, National Director of Vietnam Veterans for John Kerry, was asked last night by Joe Scarborough when Kerry would make good on his televised January 30 promise (to NBC's Tim Russert) to sign the form ("I will"):
I don`t know. I`m sure its soon. He said he would sign it. He is going to sign it, Joe, and I am sure it won`t take that long. [Emph. added]
I think I've figured it out: There is so much positive, helpful information for Kerry in those military records that he's waiting until January, 2008to sign the form! Hillary won't know what hit her. ... 11:01 A.M.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
More AP Special Sauce? If you were wondering why Israel would take the option of attacking Iran off the table, the answer appears to be that it didn't. Blogger Brendan Loy makes a seemingly persuasive case that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not, in fact, say what the Associated Press (in a report sensational enough to be linked on Drudge) says he said: that "Israel will not mount a unilateral attack aimed at destroying Iran's nuclear capability." Nor did Sharon say anything that "rules out attacking Iran" (the AP's headline). Rather, Sharon gave more a less a standard 'we're-not-planning-an-attack' non-denial denial, and AP botched the story, or worse. ... P.S.: In this case, the credentialed AP writer had to work from a live broadcast, tape, or transcript, the same as any blogger. Unfortunately, the resulting product does not meet blog standards! ... But, hey, give the AP a special constitutional privilege. ... 10:32 P.M.
WaPo article on award-winning "paper architect" Shigeru Ban. 1,600 words. One (1) photo. Why not 700 words and 4 photos? Reporter Linda Hales writes that one of Ban's projects features
a huge mesh-like canopy of translucent figerglass, which swoops over and around linear galleries.
We want to see that, not read that. 11:21 A.M.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
What's the difference between the Paris Hilton Sex Tapes and the discord in the House of Penguin over Ed Klein's upcoming Hillary chop-up?. One's a faux-embarrassing scandal that many suspect was really a clever bid for publicity. The other's just video of some heiress having sex! That, at any rate, seems to be the cynical analysis of bandwidth-of-discourse-challenged columnist Lloyd Grove. ... P.S.: Another difference--the Hilton tapes never come out months before she has a product on the market. ... 9:27 P.M.
Is this one of those new A.P. Special Sauce ledes?
NEW YORK - Irked by the success of the nationwide Day of Silence, which seeks to combat anti-gay bias in schools, conservative activists are launching a counter-event this week called the Day of Truth aimed at mobilizing students who believe homosexuality is sinful.
a) "Irked." Would they ever say that the Lambda Legal Defense Fund was "irked"? b) Is "conservative activists" really the best phrase to describe the fundamentalist Christians who are sponsoring this anti-homosexuality event? Isn't that a little like identifying sponsors of a gun-control or militantly-pro-choice rally--or a gay rights event, for that matter--as "liberal activists"? ... The label's both inaccurate and part of the press' tendency to make "conservative" synonymous with the most extreme and moralistic segments of the right. I would say it's a subconscious anti-Republican trope, if I knew what a trope was. [But this isn't in fact an especially biased or hyped up story--it's a perfectly ordinary AP piece-ed. That makes the problem bigger, not smaller.] 8:30 P.M.
Sen. Feingold gets divorced and pundit Larry Sabato declares flatly
This is the end of his presidential hopes, at least for 2008. ... The Democratic Party is much more tolerant of things, but a twice-divorced single man would have very little chance of being elected president. ... That is not something that would appeal to any red state. [Emph. added]
Isn't that a little extreme? Do "red states" prefer Hillary's marriage? [Yes, or she wouldn't be married!--ed. You said that.] 11:12 A.M.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Kennedy and McCain are proposing that, after six years of legal work, law-abiding immigrants who pay a "fine" and undergo a background check would be eligible for permanent resident status (a "green card") and eventual citizenship. Their proposal also speeds up processing of the huge backlog of applications for normal immigration so that work-permit holders (including former "illegals") would not gain an advantage over those waiting in line. [Emphasis added]
Huh? Of course the former illegals would gain an advantage over those waiting in line. While those waiting in line have been having to wait in line, the illegals have had the advantage of living and working in the United States. That's why (unless the fine is so huge as to discourage participation) the effect of the Kennedy-McCain bill would seem to be to reward illegal entry. Am I missing something? 10:56 P.M. link
'My bandwidth of discourse is bigger than your bandwidth of discourse!' 10:08 P.M.
An actual transcript of Brian Williams' straight-faced intro to a story on the NBC Nightly News Monday evening:
We know by now the internet is an incredible tool. In just seconds you can find out who the 21st President was or which county in Ireland your relatives came from. The kids in the audience also know there are bad things on the Internet. There are scammers and hoaxes and those who would do harm--in this case, harm to an innocent rabbit. It is a web site threat that some are taking seriously. ... [Emph. added.]
See it yourself. His tone was the same as if he was setting up a piece on North Korean nukes. ... Thank God professional, credentialed journalists like those who work at NBC News should automatically qualify for special constitutional rights that are denied to unserious "journalist-wannabe" bloggers and mere citizens. [Where would you be without David Shaw?-ed. An item short. Unfortunately, Shaw's comically snobby, pinata-like anti-blog outburst has now disappeared behind the LAT's infamous damage-controlling archive wall.] Update: WaPo reported the same rabbit story almost a month ago, but didn't take it seriously. ... 7:39 P.M.
Why Show When You Can Tell? Architecture stories in newspapers never have enough pictures, presumably because architecture critics, overestimating their powers of description, don't want to give up their precious inches even if that would provide a vastly more informative experience for readers. Which tells you more about Rem Koolhaas' new Casa de Musica in Oporto, Portugal: a) the NYT's straightforward photo essay--available here with commentary by the Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff or b) Ourousoff's strenuous attempts in the Times print edition to describe the building? Sample:
[T]hese rooms evoke pieces of the city that have broken off and embedded themselves in the building's skin. Like the characters and objects swept up by the tornado in "The Wizard of Oz," they bring to mind the psychological and emotional residue spinning around in your head, the scattered fragments of memory that shade experience.
Anti-Nuclear Non-Activism:New Yorker'sRick Hertzberg may be onto something in his recent analysis of the fight over ending filibusters of judicial nominations (the so-called GOP "nuclear option). As a loyal Democrat, Hertzberg is supposed to oppose the Senate Republicans' current anti-filibuster plan (the so-called "nuclear option"). But as a longtime constitutional reformer, Hertzberg is himself an anti-filibusterist, recognizing that the Constitution--which doesn't mention filibusters--already makes it way too difficult for the government to pass laws desired by a majority. Think about it: An identical bill has to pass two different legislatures, with differing terms, and then be approved by a President who may or may not be in the majority party. Isn't that difficult enough? Why add an extra, non-constitutional rule that makes it even harder to get anything done?
With the filibuster in place, we've built a reliable stalemate machine, allowing our politicians to stage the peculiarly American Kabuki in which the governing party pretends to try to pass an extreme, base-pleasing program while blaming the non-governing opposition for its inevitable failure to become law. Wouldn't it would be healthier to just let a Congressional majority pass its program and be judged on the results? Hertzberg argues:
Absent Senate filibusters, the anti-lynching bills of 1922, 1935, and 1938 would have become law, bringing federal force to bear against racist violence and possibly allowing the civil-rights movement to achieve its victories decades earlier; direct election of the President would have replaced the electoral college in time for the 1972 election; and nearly all Americans would now be covered by a program of national health insurance.
Does Hertzberg then support the GOP's filibuster-busting strategy? No--judicial nominations are different, he claims, because a "piece of legislation can be repealed or amended after the next election. A judge is there for life."
Actually, I don't think Hertzberg takes his argument far enough. There are two other reasons judicial nominations may be different, quite apart from federal judges' life tenure.
1) In the post-Warren era, judges don't just have tenure, they have almost uncheckable anti-democratic power. The constitution has been durably politicized in a way the Framers didn't anticipate. Practically every legislative issue can be--and is--phrased in constitutional terms (e.g., as a case of "rights"). Activist Democratic judges would start by supervising the fine points of democratically-passed abortion laws, trimester-by-trimester, and take off from there. Activist Republicans would overturn laws approved by the elected Congress when they don't sufficiently affect interstate commerce. The only hope, given these dueling tribes of activists, is that in the Senate's confirmation deliberations each faction will cancel out the extremes of the other, Bork-style, resulting in either the confirmation of a) a principled non-activist or b) a mushy middle-of-the-road consensus candidate. The filibuster can force such a compromise.
2) And you need the filibuster to force such a compromise. When the the Senate votes on ordinary legislation, a President usually has to moderate his proposals to please the various factions within his own party even if (or, rather, especially if) that party is the majority party. President Bush's immigration plan has run into opposition from his party's right wing, for example, while his Social Security plan makes many Republican moderates queasy. Neither plan would make it through the Republican Senate intact even if filibusters were outlawed. But when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, the lingering tradition--however misguided--of deference to the president's selection makes radical choices likely to command majority party support when, as now, the president's party controls the Senate. The only way to force a consensus candidate, in that case, is to give the minority party an effective veto by way of the filibuster. The "on/off" quality of judicial votes, cited by GOP Sen. Grassley as a reason to exclude judicial nominations from the general rule permitting filibusters, is actually a good reason to restrict the filibuster to only judicial confirmations.
Forcing a compromise nominee isn't a very satisfying solution. An unprincipled go-with-the-flow O'Connor/Kennedy centrist--Type (b)--is much more likely to emerge from a post-filibuster negotiation than a principled nonactivist of Type (a), if the latter even exists. And a Type (b)judge is likely to be more "liberal" than "conservative" to the extent that the mainstream bar has embraced questionable post-Warren activist precedents such as Roe v. Wade. But unless we're going to somehow guarantee that no party ever gets to pick a solid Court majority, it's the best solution I can think of. 2:10 A.M. link
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Is Dan Neil the LAT's $20 Million Man or only a $10 Million Man? Estimates vary! ... 9:44 P.M.
In a provocative article, Rick Hasen argues that blogs will vitiate campaign finance restrictions on corporations and unions as bloggers break down the barriers to the existing "media exemption":
[T]he final regulations are likely to expand the media exemption to virtually all bloggers, or to exempt blogging from regulation altogether even when accomplished with the significant help of corporate or union resources.
This is the decision that will be hard to cabin to the Internet. A few months before the 2004 election, the incorporated National Rifle Association began NRANews, a daily news and commentary program broadcast on satellite radio. The NRA is claiming the press exemption. And so it goes.
In short, as everyone gets to own the equivalent of a printing press, and everyone can become a journalist, the corporate and labor limit on campaign activity stands to be swallowed up by the media exemption [emph. added]
I'm not so sure there aren't some possible stopping points on this road to oblivion. For example, aren't there corporate and union campaign expenditures--e.g. paid 30 second TV spots on other people's stations--that can't even colorably be portrayed as media or press activities? ... Nor do I support Hasen's suggestion that Web sites and publications be required to disclose their funding. The burden is way too great, even if there are a few slippery characters around. (Bad Kuttner makes bad law!) ... Update: Hasen responds. ... 3:30 P.M. link
Thursday, April 7, 2005
It's a Harmonic Convergence of Stale kf Themes! According to Reuters, General Motors has pulled all its ads from the Los Angeles Times. That's a big story, no? I guess they're annoyed by the paper's Special Order 40 coverage too! ... Reuters quotes a GM spokesman citing "objections from our dealers in California about factual errors and misrepresentations in the Times' editorial coverage." But that's impossible--everyone knows every Times story is reviewed by four layers of experienced editors! ... GM wouldn't say which article or articles in particular ticked it off. It probably wasn't this recent piece. ("GM Recovery Still Revs Despite Fears of Stalling.") ... Reuters nominates Dan Neil's Wednesday screed calling for General Motors to "Dump [CEO Rick] Wagoner." Neil's column was a bit of a cheap stunt--it's hard for any outsider to say who is responsible for sloth and error in the attempted turnaround of a giant bureaucracy like GM, just as it's hard for an outsider to say who's responsible for the agonizingly inadequate attempted turnaround of the huge bureaucracy of the L.A. Times! Did Neil really think Pontiac's new G6 would be anything other than mediocre, for example? It's just too soon to expect GM product development chief Bob Lutz, who only rejoined the company in 2001, to begin turning out brilliant bread-and-butter sedans. But Neil seems right about the stupidity of GM's decision to delay development of new rear-drive cars in order to focus on SUVs. ... Obvious predicted loser in this fight: GM. Whatever beef it has, basic PR CW would say this just calls attention to its troubles and makes the Times into a Ralph-Naderesque victim. ... And while the Times is at a vulnerable financial point, GM needs to advertise to move its spotty product line. ... Note to GM CEO Wagoner: Why not take out some ads on Slate, so you can then pull them in response to our attacks on you? You can't win if you don't play! ... Update: WSJ [$] suggests that ads from GM dealers may not be included in the yanking, but guesses that at least $10 million is involved. That would pay for a lot of layers! ... A letter to Romeneskofrom Christopher Elliott predicts the LAT will cave. I'm not so sure. ... 7:58 P.M. link
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Why do we LAT-bashers gracelessly persist incalling it a disastrously bad paper despite its annual, showy haul of Pulitzers? Because there are important stories it's still too PC to cover, for one thing. Today the NYT reported again on the illegal-immigrant-"sanctuary" story that the LAT has only recently stopped sweeping under the rug--and did it with much more force than the LAT has been able to muster.
[T]he problem appears most acute in Los Angeles County, where 30,000 illegal immigrant criminals live among the nearly 2 million illegal immigrants. ...[snip]
According to a report issued in 2000 by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, 23 percent of the inmates in the county jail system the previous year would have been eligible for deportation as illegal immigrants. But because of short federal staffing, only 3.2 percent were ever identified for deportation. [Emph. added]
Somewhere Brady Westwater is smiling. ... Caveat: Alert reader "J" suggests these alarming figures should be cited with caution because the Sheriiff's department uses them to "try to squeeze more money for California out of the feds." Good point. What are the accurate numbers? It would be nice if the city's quasi-monopoly local paper spent some time finding out. ... 10:58 P.M.
Non-fake but inaccurate! WaPo's Mike Allen reports that the now-famous Schiavo "talking points" memo came from freshman GOP senator Mel Martinez's office. So that mystery is cleared up. The memo wasn't a fake. It wasn't merely freelance advice from a lobbyist (which was my guess at one point). But Allen doesn't come off looking too good in this latest account. a) The memo was apparently not "distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders," as Allen's initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was--at least judging from today's account--handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn't in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn't explain why he told Howie Kurtz he "did not call them talking points or a Republican memo" when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more "carefully worded" account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" ...
This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don't know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it's hard to believe it wasn't given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen's story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole "memo" fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC's Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document--as if senators never consider what is a good political issue, as if that's a no-no in a democracy. (Phoning Martin Luther King Jr. in jail was a "good political issue" for Sen. John Kennedy--and if you were trying to convince him to make the call that's something you'd have pointed out!) But certainly whatever legitimate valence Allen's 'memo' story had depended almost entirely on the impression that the memo revealed and represented the strategy of the GOP leaders who pushed the Schiavo bill. If all that was involved was a staff memo Martinez gave to Harkin, Allen's story was way out of whack. The memo wasn't close to being worth the play it got in WaPo or in Douglass' report. (It's not worth the current Senate investigation either. What's the crime--politicians considering politics?) ...
Update: Reader V.H. notes that Allen refers to Martinez as "the GOP's Senate point man on the [Schiavo] issue." The Philadelphia Inquirer's Steve Goldstein named him as one of three point men (along with Frist and Santorum). That's a point in Allen's favor, making Martinez more of a Republican "leader" on this particular issue at least. But he's still low on the GOP totem pole. Allen still lacks evidence that Martinez even shared the memo with other Republicans, much less that it reflected the thinking of any other, actual "party leaders." And it still wasn't a scandal if it did. ... P.S.: Did GOP Congressional bigshots really care much about the views of Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, whom the memo mentions prominently? That seems more a Martinez-centric concern. ... P.P.S.: For a non-gloating alternative perspective, see Kevin Drum. ...
Way inside sidelight: Who gets credit for smoking out Martinez? a) Allen; b) the Washington Times' energetic canvas of all 100 Senators, including particular pressure put on Harkin's office; or c) bloggers, who raised the doubts that required clearing up? ... And you thought there wasn't a self-congratulatory angle here. ...
Comic anthropology bonus: Michelle Malkin reprints the email Allen sent her on Wednesday. It sure looks as if he's faking ignorance to try to sucker her into making some outlandish claim about how the memo was a Democratic plant. J-School profs, take note of this technique! ... 9:56 P.M. link
Front-Driving to the Big Bailout: Do you think it's an accident that virtually all of Detroit's recent successes--the Chrysler 300, the Ford Mustang, and various Cadillacs and SUVs--are rear-wheel-drive cars (or rear-drive vehicles modified for four-wheel drive)? I don't. Front-drive cars are perfectly valid modes of transportation, but there iszerochance that Ford, GM or Chrysler are going to make a small front-drive sedan as good as, say, the Acura TSX. (Latest flopping attempt: Pontiac G6.) Detroit's opportunity--as Automobile's Robert Cumberford pointed out years ago--is in exciting, medium-priced rear-drive cars. ... Moving to "global" platforms, as outlined in today's non-confidence-inspiring WSJ account of the latest GM shakeup [$], won't help in the U.S. if they're front-drive platforms. 4:23 P.M. link
Bloggywood! Isn't it a big mistake for the backers of the promising Huffington Report to let their enterprise be portrayed in the press by Warren Beatty and David Brock as a left or "progressive" rival of Drudge Report (which, according to Beatty's crude characterization in NYO, furthers "the political agenda of the far right")? 1) For starters, as far as I know--and I know something, not everything, and I'm sure it changes daily--Huffington's project is not really a Drudge competitor. It's a new thing--a massive clusterf*** blog collection of dozens of potentially interesting celebs and non-celebs--that will just give Drudge more stories to link to. Non-zero-sum fun all around. Nick Denton's Sploid is much more of a direct Drudge rival. 2) Second, the Huffington project is not "left" the way, say, Air America is left. She's recruited several prominent conservatives to participate. Andrew Breitbart, who seems to be involved in the Huffington effort, is no lefty. ... In short, too good an idea to get stuck in the suffocating "progressive alternative" box. ... 1:27 P.M. link
The Washington Times Insider reports
"All 55 Republican senators say they have never seen the Terri Schiavo political talking-points memo ..."
Of course that's what they would say now! Despite the futility of questioning the Republicans after the fact, the WashTimes account does make it seem less likely that the memo was a GOP leadership document. Yet that was the impression given by ABC and WaPo in their carefully-worded stories. ... WaPo's Mike Allen, in particular, has some explaining to do regarding his seemingly dissembling self-defense (which suggested, falsely, that he'd never called the document a "Republican memo"). ... 12:49 P.M.
"The New Mall As Big Brother," blares would-be Drudge competitor Sploid (linking to this Slate article). Yet the "lifestyle centers" described by Andrew Blum seem more pleasant than creepy--a big improvement over some of the faux-public spaces in, say, New York corporate buildings where you can't sit and eat a yogurt without being asked to move along. Do we really think these new malls are going to rigorously enforce the rule against "excessive staring"? 12:05 P.M.
Last week's crackup: I'm perfectly willing to believe that at some point there will be a Republican crackup, and that it will happen sooner and more suddenly than previous crackups thanks to the Feiler Faster principle. But don't the dire predictions of, say, Andrew Sullivan as to the long term effects of the Schiavo case already seem dated and wildly overdramatic? "Those of us who have long worried that unleashing religious fundamentalism into the bloodstream of American politics would lead to disaster can only feel that our fears have now come true." Sullivan charges Republican pro-tubists with "hysteria." Is he projecting? ...
P.S.: Part of the problem in the Schiavo dispute, I think, is not so much the "autonomy model" as the shape the autonomy model gives to our thinking on this and other subjects. Specifically, we like to think in terms of "spheres" of action--if not an autonomous "sphere" in which individuals decide their own fate, then a "state" sphere or a "federal" sphere. Within these "spheres" there is really only one boss (be it Terri Schiavo and/or her spouse, or Florida, or the Congress) and this boss decides what to do, whether to pull the tube or not. Naturally, we spend a great deal of effort figuring out to which "sphere" Schiavo-like decisions should be assigned, and we get very upset (as Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds get upset) when it's assigned to what we regard as the wrong sphere. Here's Sullivan again:
[T]his kind of wrenching decision can only be made either by the person herself or by family or spouse or legally-appointed guardian. The idea that the government should have the final say, and that the government could be swayed by powerful political lobbies trying to make headway in the culture wars, strikes me as grossly inappropriate. If limited government means anything, it means leaving decisions like this as close to the person as possible. And if the American principle of federalism means anything, it means that the local state's courts are the only relevant instruments to deal with such a tragedy.
But maybe it's this model--of a person, or jurisdiction, exercising near-absolute control within a sphere, that's wrong. After all, nobody in the debate is saying the federal government should be able to intervene in a Schiavo-like case to pull the tube if everyone in the individual, the family, or the state and local spheres thinks she should be kept alive. Nobody's saying it's the feds' decision ("the final say") either way. The argument is that the government can sometimes intervene in favor of life. It's a unidirectional intervention. Moreover, I'd argue the federal government (as a matter of policy, not constitutionality) should only be able to intervene where there's no living will, no exercise of individual autonomy. The familiar architecture of "spheres" of power isn't adequate to capture the overlapping contours of authority here, just as it is inadequate to deal with the requirement of civil rights, where federal intervention was justified to promote racial equality but not for other reasons. I don't know what a better metaphor is--porous membranes of autonomy in a Petri dish of national concern? And I have a feeling Duncan Kennedy has already written a law review article about all this. 1:41 A.M. link
It's a small pyramid, but perfectly formed: Bill Bradley's recent NYT op-ed was so well-constructed my immediate thought, like The Note's, was that he couldn't possibly have written it himself. But his prescription was all too familiar and, yes, a recipe for disaster! Bradley wants the Democrats to emulate Republicans and generate ideas from a stable, pyramid-like institutional base--with "Democratic policy organizations" engaged in the "patient, long term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas." Just plug in a candidate at the top of this institutional pyrmaid and ... victory!
The problem, of course, is that the Democratic party's most stable institutional elements are also its most problematic elements: 1) unions; 2) the civil rights and Latino lobbies; 3) the senior lobby (AARP); 4) institutional feminists (NOW); 5) trial lawyers; 6) Iowa-caucus style "progressives;" and 7) Hollywood emoters. If a national problem could be solved without trampling on the interests of this institutional base, Democrats would have solved it in the decades when they were in power. What's left are the problems that can't be solved--even solved in accordance with liberal principles--without trampling on these liberal interest groups: competitiveness, for example, or public education, or entitlement reform. If the Dems' permanent institutional base is what gets to "develop" and "hone" the ideas to be adopted by the party's presidential nominee, then the Democrats will in perpetuity be the party of union work rules, lousy teachers, mediocre schools, protectionism, racial preferences, unafforadable entitlements, amnesty for illegals and offensive rap lyrics! That winning collection gets you, what, 35%?
Currently, the Democrats' only hope is that once every four years a maverick candidate will come along who tells the party's permanent institutional base to shove it and actually fashion an appealing platform. The party's post-Vietnam presidential winners--Carter and Clinton--both fit this pattern. Bradley seems to regard Clinton's success as a failure because it wasn't replicated. But it wasn't replicated because people like Bradley sneered at it, and played instead to the party's reliable, pyramid-like base. ...Over the long run, of course, the Democrats' institutional problem may at least partly solve itself as the role of unions in the private economy asymptotically approaches zero. ... P.S.: Bush's problems selling his Social Security plan suggest that not everything generated by a mighty idea-honing institutional GOP pyramid succeeds. Crazy thought: Maybe the substance of ideas, and not the mechanism that produces them, is what counts. ... 12:05 A.M. link
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