kf's filibuster solution.

kf's filibuster solution.

kf's filibuster solution.

A mostly political Weblog.
May 24 2005 7:53 PM

Kick the Can Down the Road II

Guess what the Senate did?

The Center Punts? It's not clear, Dan Balz points out, whether the somewhat vague deal  struck by 14 moderate senators actually resolves the judicial filibuster issue even for this session of Congress. Democrats will be still able to filibuster future nominees, including any Supreme Court candidate, under what they decide are "extraordinary circumstances." Republicans get to revive the anti-filibuster "nuclear option" if they believe Democrats are finding "extraordinary circumstances" where there aren't any. ... So what did the 14 moderates actually accomplish with their deal? "They kicked the can down the road," according to Ross K. Baker of Rutgers--by an eerie coincidence the very cliche kf chose for yesterday's filibuster-related recommendation!  ... True, the future posture of a controversial Bush nomination will be a bit different than the precise can-kicking scenario envisioned below. Instead of fighting the "nuclear" fight all over again from square one, Dems and GOPs will first wage a new rhetorical war over what is "extraordinary" and what is "bad faith." The need to justify this loaded rhetoric presumably makes a filibuster battle at least somewhat less likely. But the mere postponement--until, presumably, a Supreme Court seat opens up--favors the Democrats, for the reasons outlined earlier. Bush will need to nominate someone who will either avoid or win such a somewhat-less-likely filibuster battle when the stakes are high enough for the bulk of the voters to be paying attention. This effectively narrows Bush's choices, Balz notes--unless there is some hidden codicil forbidding Dems from declaring out-of-the-mainstream ideology an "extraordinary circumstance." ...

P.S.: The deal seems so favorable to the Dems, one wonders whether it was struck under the implicit threat that Democrats would block any "nuclear" vote by just voting for cloture (the "Blackberry Option"). ...

Update: Geoffrey Stone's analysis is more nuanced, but he still gives the Dems an advantage. ...


P.P.S.: One question is whether the Dems can yell "extraordinary" and filibuster if Bush in the future names to the Supreme Court one of the three people (Owen, Brown, Pryor) the Dem "moderates" have just agreed not to filibuster for lower federal courts. My reading of the deal is that they can, especially if they are able to latch onto something one of the three writes between now and then. But Republicans would find it easier to yell "bad faith" for these three than for other nominees. If the Democrats have just given Janice Rogers Brown a free pass to the Supreme Court, maybe the deal isn't as favorable to them as I think it is. ...

More: Steve Smith thinks the Dems could use Bush's failure to "consult" with Democratic senators under the final clause of the agreement as the basis for an "extraordinary circumstance" claim. ... 2:29 A.M. link

Monday, May 23, 2005

Kick the Can Down the Road: David Brooks says the Senate's moderates can't reach a deal on the filibuster question because they're unprincipled wimps. But surely the reason is that this deal is intrinsically difficult to reach--it depends on the definition of the "extraordinary circumstances" the Dems would reserve the right to filibuster in. It's hard to see how you come to an agreement on that issue without privately naming names (e.g. "We promise not to filibuster Janice Rogers Brown" or "If it's Janice Rogers Brown, you can filibuster"). ... The Blackberry Option: Meanwhile, the estimable Walter Shapiro has joined those rooting for a deal. But I still don't understand why a deal--a deal that would at least limit the Dems ability to filibuster an undesirable nominee for the rest of the Congress (while confirming five of seven appellate nominees)--is preferable to confirming all seven appellate nominees and postponing the filibuster fight until a Supreme Court appointment is at stake. The Democrats can accomplish the latter result by simply voting for cloture for each current Bush nominee--avoiding a "nuclear" vote on the filibuster by the simple expedient of not filibustering. ...


There's a reason, after all, why Sen. Frist has chosen to have the filibuster fight now, when the voting public's not paying attention. The reason is that he has a greater chance of winning now. That's the same reason the Dems should want to have this whole debate later, when higher stakes will give it higher visibility. If the "nuclear option" is on the line when President Bush nominates a Supreme Court justice, that in itself will circumscribe his choice. He won't want to name someone too controversial, lest the public side with the pro-filibuster Dems.  

And I still don't see why this kick-the-can-down-the-road strategy isn't obviously the course Dems will pursue (assuming there's no "moderate" deal and they don't have the votes to just beat Frist). That means, unless I'm horribly wrong, you will not see Frist win a "nuclear" vote on Tuesday. ... Remember, you heard it here second. (The Note was first.) ...

Update: Never mind. Fourteen senators have announced a deal. At least they weren't self-congratulatory and overblown about it! (Sen. Byrd: "We have kept the Republic.") 1:20 P.M. link

Dan Neil was nowhere near Sheffield! From Schadenfreude Central. ... [Thanks to alert reader P.D.] 12:53 A.M.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Buzz off: Two good critiques of the ubiquitous, left-pleasing menace, George Lakoff--by Marc Cooper  and Noam Scheiber. Oddly, neither attacks Lakoff at what would seem to be his central weak point, namely his conflation of politics and parenting--identifying "conservative" values with "the strict father" and "liberal" values with the "nurturant parent."

Is a country really like a family? Isn't that an idea with a ... checkered history? A family is a relationship between inherently unequal, not-completely-free people--parents and children. A country, at least in one American conception, is the relationship of equal, autonomous people. Using the family as the template for politics stacks the deck against social equality (the value I'd suggest as the liberal touchstone). For one thing, it lends itself all too easily to the condescending liberal notion of compassion, an anti-populist idea if there ever was one.  It's also horribly misleading as a guide to practical policies--no wonder that when Scheiber asks Lakoff about President Clinton's welfare reform, Lakoff responds "Why did he have to do that? ... I still don't understand it fully." In Lakoff's mind, Clinton wasn't changing the welfare system, he was beating his family's children!  Aren't there values that aren't family values?

Scheiber does get at a second, equally fatal flaw in Lakoff's argument that Democrats should "not move to the right" (an argument that's the source of much of his appeal at party fundraisers). If crucial swing voters are "biconceptuals" who hold both the "strict father" and "nurturant parent" views of families, why isn't the way to appeal to them by adopting a correspondingly mixed approach (e.g. Clintonian centrism)? Sure, if you're a Lakoff liberal you would want to appeal to the "nurturing" half of these biconceptuals--otherwise you'll never win an honest mandate. But what if you just want to win elections? ...  Never mind the possibility that you are a genuine, committed centrist, something Lakoff's dualism seems designed to exclude. ...


P.S.: Surprisingly, Lakoff tells Scheiber the Democrats "lost" the Schiavo debate, becoming the party of "callousness and death." Scheiber calls this assessment "devastatingly accurate" and I'd like to agree. But if Lakoff's right about Schiavo (and the polls certainly suggest he's wrong) surely it's because of the way the Democratic drift toward compassionate euthanasia (under cover of a "right to die") dovetails ominously with Lakoff's paternalistic familial version of liberalism--'We nurture you, and then when the time comes we kill you.' Don't worry, baby. It's all about quality of life! ... 11:31 P.M.

A friend emails:

Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2005 12:48 PM

After getting very little sleep, I got woken up at 9 this morning by "Friends of John Kerry."  The called talked for a couple minutes about how John was going around the country promoting a bill that gives health care to poor kids.  Then they hit me up for $100!!  What the f**k is wrong with these people!?

10:24 P.M.

Das Feilerprinzip! "The velocity of German politics has suddenly increased a great deal." 9:12 P.M.

Hey, I used to do this at my college paper.  ... Update.: Polipundit has the CNN angle. Is Elizabeth Landau the Greg Packer of student demonstrator/reporters?. ... 4:17 P.M. 


Friday, May 20, 2005

Did Bill tell Belinda something? ... WaPo's story gets much of the soapy Canadian drama  but not the part that most interests Americans. ... Update: David Frum thinks Clinton would never give such bad advice. "Belinda's decision was not only harmful to her country, but catrastrophic to her own career." 1:23 A.M.

Isn't the most significant sentence in David Corn's report--on the International Committee of the Red Cross' claims of Gitmo Koran abuse--this one (quoting Reuters)?

"The U.S. government took corrective measures and those allegations have not resurfaced," [ICRC spokesman] Schorno said.

12:58 A.M.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

No Nuke Now II:  The WSJ's Taranto argues that it isn't in the Dems interest to postpone a "nuclear option" fight until an actual Supreme Court appointment comes up (something the Dems could do by just voting for cloture on the current crop of appellate nominees):

Kaus makes an important assumption that strikes us as highly dubious: namely, that the Dems would be better off defending the filibuster during a Supreme Court nomination fight, "when everyone's paying attention." Whatever the merits of a particular nominee, who but a partisan (i.e., someone now paying attention) would think it fair to deny him a vote? Indeed, if there's one advantage for Democrats in abolishing the filibuster now, it is that it would relieve the pressure on them from far-left interest groups to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

Public opinion might go against the Dems if they blocked a Supreme Court nominee. But it might go in their favor. It will depend on the nominee, no? That's the case for kicking the can down the road: With the filibuster in place, Bush will be encouraged to nominate somebody reasonable, because he will want to either beat the filibuster or--and this is probably a precondition for beating the filibuster--win the high-profile PR battle over whether filibustering Dems are being unfair obstructionists. If he tries to win confirmation of a Robert Bork or Richard Epstein, he's likely to lose that PR battle. His choices will at least be circumscribed. ...

Taranto then offers two powerful reasons in favor of a strategic Dem retreat on cloture if it looks as if Frist has a chance of winning a "nuclear" vote:

If the Democrats gain Senate seats next year--or even before the election, through the death or retirement of a Republican from a state with a Democratic governor--the filibuster may suddenly lose its "nuclear" vulnerability.

Further, some Democrats have been acting against their own political interests by obstructing Bush nominees (cf Tom Daschle). Freeing them to vote for cloture could help their re-election chances, which would be in the long-term interests of the Democrats.

P.S.:Headline of the Day--"Frist's Hardball May Backfire." (This would also qualify as the most blatantly loaded anti-Frist "analysis" of the day. AP's Donna Cassata argues, "Any outcome other than [Frist] getting his way entirely could lead to the perception of an ineffectual leader." Really? If Frist gets 5 of the 7 appellate judges and a non-weaselable Democratic promise not to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee down the road? I don't like that deal--I favor keeping the filibuster for judges (and only for judges)--but it would seem a good day's work for Frist. ... [Frist's hardball may backfire, but didn't you recently refer to Sen. Reid's "headline-grabbing red meat"?-ed There's an imploding quiver of soggy counterarguments over at Musil.] ...

P.P.S.: My speculation that Republicans might perversely vote against cloture in order to block a Democratic retreat and enable an anti-filibuster showdown may have overestimated the eagerness of GOP senators to trigger the "nuclear" option. They are less eager than terrified, I'm told. That means a strategic Dem retreat should work. ...  4:22 P.M.

Mandatory Jon Klein Item: "Crime Week." Flop! Aaron Brown bristles! CNN NewsNight achieves "lowest-rated telecast ever!" Even pathetically credulous Fishbowl DC losing faith  in "visionary" Klein! ... [He just needs to hire some new stars--ed. Would you want to go work for him after the way he treated Tucker Carlson? The Army National Guard may have an easier time recruiting.] 12:06 A.M.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Columbia J-School Dean (and New Yorker contributor) Nicholas Lemann suggests

 ... that Newsweek borrow a page from the New Yorker and institute a rigorous fact-checking system -- even if it means that an editor, and not just the reporter, knows the identity of a confidential source.

"This sort of thing doesn't happen much these days at the New Yorker, and that is largely because the fact checking is so careful. What you want in this situation is that when a reporter comes in and says, 'I got this from an anonymous source,' you say, 'OK, I want to talk to your source, or I want a fact-checker to talk to your source.' "

Does Lemann think that a fact-checker or editor at the New Yorker talks to all of Seymour Hersh's anonymous sources? I'm skeptical. ...  P.S.:  In my experience, when journalists start to boast about their publication's multiple layers of rigorous fact-checking, it's a karmic indicator that a  major screw-up by that publication is on the way. ... 11:14 P.M. link

No Nuke Now: Doesn't The Note's anonymous Blackberrier nail down why there will be no climactic vote upholding the "nuclear option" anytime soon:

"Deal not likely. But you may see d's break and vote for cloture and then we don't need deal and don't need nuclear option."

In other words, if they don't have the sure votes to beat back the proposed Frist/Cheney ruling that you can't filibuster a judicial nominee, Democrats will just decide not to filibuster each particular judicial nominee as that nominee comes up. That means those nominees will be confirmed, one-by-one, but Democrats will avoid setting an anti-filibuster precedent that would affect how Supreme Court nominees are considered later on. ... The key here is that the vote on cloture precedes the vote on the parliamentary "nuclear" rules change. ...... Eventually, I guess, Republicans could still cunningly try to force a vote on the parliamentary maneuver by having a handful of GOPs perversely vote against cloture, countering the Dem defectors, so that the cloture vote falls into the crucial more-than-50/less-than-60 range. Then more Democrats could perversely try to frustrate Republicans by voting for cloture, to be countered by more perverse Republicans, and so on and so on until the parties' more or less completely switch positions, do-si-do style. Fun, fun, fun! But no climactic roll-call vote, unless the Dems miscalculate. ... When a Supreme Court appointment comes up, of course, Dems might have to filibuster--but then Frist would have to set his precedent when everyone's paying attention, as opposed to now, when everybody isn't because it looks like an obscure insider rules change about mid-level appellate judges. ... If Dems do have the sure votes to defeat the nuclear option, of course, then either Frist will prevent it from coming to a vote, or he'll hold the vote and lose. But if there is any uncertainty, I suspect, Dems will not want to roll the dice (even if Frist does). ... 2:58 P.M. link

I, too, don't quite understand why the Bush administration arrested Luis Posada Carriles when it could have just let him melt away and leave the country. It seems like a gutsy move (given sentiments among Miami Cubans) based on principle (a suspected terrorist is a suspected terrorist) that will buy the President and his party a load of trouble. Maybe that's what it is! ... 2:25 A.M.

"Andrew can be excitable. A while back he apologized to me for some of his criticisms during the election, and more recently he has apologized to his readers for his waffling and defeatism on the war last spring. Perhaps he'll apologize for this at some point in the future. But, I confess, I find the question of what Andrew thinks less pressing than I used to."

1:58 A.M.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hi, Norman!Norman Mailer--a Huffie!--doesn't wish to "revive old paranoia." But he speculates that Isikoff was set up! ... This doesn't make sense on multiple levels, as Mailer seems to recognize--for starters, it requires the C.I.A. to have orchestrated ominous anti-American riots in order to discredit the man who discredited Bill Clinton. ... But hey, wait a minute. Who would have a grudge against Isikoff? Would it be someone who's been cozying up to the Bush family recently? ... Maybe Mailer's just not being imaginative and paranoid enough. ... 7:09 P.M.

Will liberals--sorry, "centrists"--try to rehabilitate the practice of welfare payments to single moms, this time as a way to "support" women who choose not to have abortions, thereby enlisting pro-lifers in the cause? That would be cunning of them.  E.J. Dionne's column certainly points in that direction ... 6:21 P.M.

We Pay 4 Linx! How will the NYT keep bloggers linking to op-ed pieces once they go behind a subscription wall?

[NYT digital VP] Nisenholtz said the Times is considering a revenue-sharing program to give bloggers incentives to keep linking. Saying the idea is still in early discussions, Nisenholtz envisions a way to pay blogs and Web sites every time one of their links prompts a reader to sign up for TimesSelect.

Now we're talking! But if it's enough money to have an effect it seems, how to put it, corrupt.  ... P.S.: There's also this--

Nisenholtz said the Times already reaps more than $1 million a year from the archives and expects the new subscription to top that, though he would not elaborate.

More than $1 million dollars! ... That's not very much. Ask Dr. Evil! ... P.P.S.: So the Times is cutting off its op-ed columnists' balls--as far as the Web goes--for a measly million dollars? ... 5:01 P.M. link

"'The female orgasm is so complex and strange, it could only have come from God.'" 1:38 P.M.

Brady Westwater is right--the L.A. Times really has posted an article on prison policy on its "Corrections" page. ... I shudder to think what will show up on the "Quick Fix Video" page. ...12:27 P.M.

Monday, May 16, 2005

One is a wealthy surgeon still considered new to the Senate but with an eye on the White House, the other a former lightweight boxer and police officer whose flashes of candor sometimes get him into trouble - like calling President Bush "a loser" in a speech to students. [Emph. added]

Hmmm. Was "loser" really a mischievous "flash of candor"? Wasn't it the sort of vitriol that's rapidly undermining the spirit of national community, replacing it with unprecedented partisan polarization! ... Gergen? ... Gergen? ... Gergen? ... More important, was it really candid? Usually when a politician offers up headline-grabbing red meat there's a reason for it. Often the partisans get thrown a rhetorical bone by a leader who knows he's going to have to sell them out substantively down the road. It seems entirely possible that this is what was really going on with Reid. But that would make his various inflammatory remarks not "flashes of candor" but the product of cool calculation. ... Given the choice of printing the truth or the legend, the reporters in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence printed the legend.*** Given the choice of printing the easily-accepted surface story or the possible deeper Kabuki truth, Times reporters print the easy surface story! ... Example #2: John Bolton. Was he appointed U.N. ambassador to a) spread hard-core conservatism's nefarious influence in the international community--or b) to get him the hell out of the State Department? Charles Peters suspects the latter, and he notes that Time magazine's Jay Carney has reported the latter. But how many times have you seen explanation (b) even mentioned, as opposed to the countless stories you've read based on explanation (a)? ... Of course the surface story line ("Raving Ideologue Named to Powerful Position!") is much more dramatic, in this case, than the Kabuki truth ("Pain-in-Ass Farmed Out to Not-So-Powerful Position"). ...

***--"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." A good line, and not a Get-Up-And-Get-A-Beer-Line because its one meaning is instantly grasped. 11:24 P.M.

Information wants to be cheap: $50 a year to read the NYT's op-ed columns seems a little high to me, but what do I know? The Times better hope the rich are getting richer! ... If that $50 buys you free access to all the archives (as opposed to "easy and in-depth access")  that's another story. ...  Obvious dilemma: If the Times continues to offer free links to bloggers, why can't some intrepid blogger just link to every op-ed column every day? But if the Times discontinues the free links, won't John Tierney, Maureen Dowd et. al. be annoyed that the reach of their columns has been dramatically diminished? ... P.S.: Sure, Times subscribers will get the online content for free. Does that make the $50 price smarter, or stupider? How many people who don't care enough about the Times to subscribe to it will pay $50 annually for the op-eds? Isn't this alarmingly similar to the disastrous experiment with "Calendar" that the LAT just abandoned? Readers hated it and writers hated it. Does the NYT feel it has to try this because, well, under Pinch's visionary leadership it  hasn't exactly been a business success story lately? Just asking! ...  6:31 P.M.

The NYT's Intelligence Test: The big question about the New York Times' Big Deal "Class Matters" series is how it will treat the role of genetically inherited traits--including but not limited to "intelligence"--in reducing mobility and perpetuating an aristocracy of the successful.  Let's hope they do better than the WSJ's David Wessel, who blew off the genetic vector in a single unsatisfactory, buried paragraph:

Why aren't the escalators working better? Figuring out how parents pass along economic status, apart from the obvious but limited factor of financial bequests, is tough. But education appears to play an important role. In contrast to the 1970s, a college diploma is increasingly valuable in today's job market. The tendency of college grads to marry other college grads and send their children to better elementary and high schools and on to college gives their children a lasting edge.

The notion that the offspring of smart, successful people are also smart and successful is appealing, and there is a link between parent and child IQ scores. But most research finds IQ isn't a very big factor in predicting economic success. [Emph. added]

Well, allright then. That's reassuring. But it's highly implausible that genetic factors don't play some substantial role in our class structure, especially given the "tendency of college grads to marry other college grads" and smart people to marry other smart people--a phenomenon known as assortative mating. Wouldn't it be better to acknowledge this (widely believed-but-unacknowledged) role and deal with it? Just because it's an unpleasant development doesn't mean it's not happening.** ...

P.S.: In a later paragraph, Wessel notes, "Passing along personality traits to one's children may be a factor, too." Hey, but nobody thinks personality traits are genetically inherited, right? ... A genetic aristocracy doesn't have to be an "I.Q." aristocracy. It could also be, in part, an "entrepreneurialism" aristocracy.  ...

P.P.S.: Scott and Leonhardt's introductory overview  at least mentions "genes" along with "habits, skills, ... contacts" and "money" as things "children inherit from their parents." But the following sentence, from their conclusion, is not encouraging:

The idea of fixed class positions, on the other hand, rubs many the wrong way. Americans have never been comfortable with the notion of a pecking order based on anything other than talent and hard work.

This sets up the old opposition of fixed "aristocracy" versus "society open to talent." But isn't the problem supposedly being confronted by the Times series precisely that even a "pecking order based on ... talent and hard work" might become a semi-fixed hierarchichal ("class") structure--in part, perhaps, because talent can be inherited!  ... Saying you are for "talent and hard work" doesn't solve the problem, and the ease with which the Times lapses into that old formulation suggests there are similar cop-outs in store up ahead. ...

**Plug--Herrnstein vs. Pulitzer: The unpleasant-but-highly-plausible possibility is discussed in Chapter 4 of my book under the rubric "The Herrnstein Nightmare," a reference to the late Harvard sociologist Richard Herrnstein (who brought it to public attention in a controversial 1971 Atlantic article). It will be interesting to see if the Times even mentions Herrnstein in anything other than a dismissive context. I think the paper could get away with taking Herrnstein seriously--the power of "PC" has diminished greatly while interest in Darwinian theories of inherited treats has exploded (though perhaps not on the Pulitzer committee). It's a geniune test. ... 5:07 P.M. link

G.U.A.G.A.B: My ex-editor Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly once tried to teach me the concept of the Get-Up-and-Get-A-Beer-Line. A Get-Up-and-Get-A-Beer-Line isn't a bad line. It's often a good line, a line cherished and protected like a beloved child by its proud author. But it's a line packed with so much resonant meaning, or so many different possible meanings--all interesting and profound!--that you get up to get a beer and think about it and never return to the article you were reading (i.e., the article that contains it). The way to solve this problem is to cut the line. ...  Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter has one of the worst Get-Up-and-Get-a-Beer-Lines in recent memory. Sean Penn, playing a Secret Service agent, is talking to Nicole Kidman, playing a U.N. interpreter in jeapordy. Kidman's character says

"If dead and gone were the same thing, there wouldn't be a United Nations."

Wow. Heavy! And clever. Sparks are clearly flying! But hmmm ... does she mean that if we could just learn to get rid of people without killing them, we wouldn't have wars and wouldn't need the U.N.? Or does she mean that if everyone somebody wanted "gone" were dead, then there'd be no exiled leaders trying to get back into power, nothing left to fight over (and nobody left to do the fighting)? Or that if everyone who'd been killed in modern wars were merely "gone," then ...

I tried to puzzle out the possible meanings and missed the rest of the scene.

P.S.: True, some of the most famous lines in cinema are G.U.A.G.A.B. lines. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and ... blow." Exactly what is Lauren Bacall suggesting? Norma Desmond says, "I am big. It's the pictures that got smaller." OK. But if the pictures got smaller doesn't Desmond, you know, look even bigger on the smaller screen? She should be saying. "I am big. But the pictures got bigger still!" I'm all confused! ...

Update: Alert readers confidently assert three additional plausible meanings for The Interpreter'sGUAGAB line:

1) "The line means the UN is DEAD, but not GONE, you know, like a dead institution still standing, like a dead man still walking."--D.M.. among many. ...  The problem is that this semi-Boltonesque sentiment is the opposite of what Kidman's character, who seems to be an internationalist do-gooder, would voice.

2)  "[A] martyr is dead but not gone."--E.W. ...  And if martyrs didn't exercise their posthumous influence there would be fewer violent movements in their names! Could be. .. Alternative version: "[T]he past isn't even past. ... Sort of the opposite of Stalin's 'no man, no problem.'"-- J.K.

3) "I think you are missing the intended meaning. ... The point of Kidman's character is that her job is to be very cautious about the distinctions in word choices because they can be substantitve. If there was not a significant difference in meaning between using one word over another, there'd be no need for interpreters."--D.D. ...  As good as the other interpretations!

Wait, there's more:

4) "I'm pretty sure the line means that the UN investigates war crimes -- that 'dead' people aren't 'gone' to UN investigators -- that there will be some posthumous justice."--P.B.

5) The obverse of (1), above: "Couldn't it be the other way around, that the that the UN is 'gone' (from the international scene, from having any substantive voice in international affairs, from any of the countless global hotspots where it is supposed to be doing some good) but not 'dead' (i.e. it could be revived ...)"--C.S.

6) Non-Boltonesque variation of (1):"[C]ynics continually declare the UN dead, but here we are.'--P.S.

It's just so resonant! Like a poem, I tell you. ... 2:05 A.M.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mike Piscal, who founded a charter school in South L.A. (a neighborhood where 258 out of 3,590 9th graders go on to graduate from college) opens a promising stall in the Huffosphere. Today's nut graf:

There are four special interests that have blocked, clogged, and undermined reform for decades. It is all about money, control, and power. It is diseased value system that leaves our kids uneducated, exposed to violence and drugs, and with too few or zero opportunities to pursue the American Dream. Who are the four? Emphatically, I name names: the teacher's unions, the University Schools of Education, the bureaucracies, and (unbelievably) the PTA's. [Emph. added]

More recently you've heard charges -- especially from teachers union officials who despise union-free charters -- that charters schools aren't doing well. There are 29 open-admissions high schools in Boston. Charters were ranked #1, #2, #3, #4, and #9 out of 29 on MCAS proficiency

It seems there is some problem with the teacher's unions! ... Who knew? They're such good Democrats. ... 4:47 P.M.

But at least the autoworkers' union is a big success. ... Oh, wait ...  The troubles at GM and Ford have gotten a lot of attention, but Peter DeLorenzo of AutoExtremist thinks Chrysler's not in good shape either, despite the success of the rear-drive 300. [See his point 4] ... 4:32 P.M.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sorry, Rush! The  Minute Man's blog tipped me off to a Kenneth Starr appearance on Nightline last month, in which Starr seems to say flat out he opposes changing Senate Rule 22 on filibusters--the so called "nuclear option." Here's the video. This is the relevant transcript:


 ... What are you views on the filibuster, as it relates specifically to judicial appointments?


Well, the Senate has the raw power and has, in fact, used it once famously, in the process of considering the proposed elevation of Abe Fortas to the Chief Justice-ship. But I think it's imprudent and unwise for senators to invoke this important device. I think it is more apt, more appropriate for legislation but not for, for judging, I think, or for ruling on judges and voting on judges. I think that does trench on the independence of the judiciary. But even more so, I think that in our system of separated powers, the President does deserve a vote on his nominees, up or down. And especially when we're talking about the courts of appeals. We're not even talking about the United States Supreme Court.


(Off Camera) -Expect, I think we are talking here about the US Supreme Court, aren't we? I mean, it, it is everybody's expectation that everything that is going on right now is just sort of a dry run for what is assumed will happen sometime, if not in the next few months, then certainly in the next year or two. And that is that President Bush will have one, two, possibly three appointments to the Supreme Court. So, what happens in the US Senate now is exceedingly important. Would you go so far as to do away with the filibuster?...


I would not do away with the filibuster, in terms of Rule 22. But I would say, be judicious in its application. And I don't think that that's been happening. And I regret that.


(Off Camera) So, you're, you're opposed to the invocation of the filibuster, in this case. But you wouldn't go so far as to get rid of it.


I'd be very cautious about getting rid of it. I think that the filibuster rule's a part of our traditions. But I think it needs to be, like a lot of tools in the tool chest, very cautiously used. [Emphasis added]

Rush Limbaugh assured his listeners this week that Starr was "on the same page" as other Republicans. Doesn't look like it, Rush! (I don't have the exact Limbaugh quote because  the transcript has been moved behind Limbaugh's subscription wall.***) Instead it's looking more and more like CBS's Bob Schieffer was right to say Starr was "coming out on what looks like the opposite side of many [in] the conservative wing of the Republican party." Scheiffer's main mistake appears to have been the implication that Starr was "coming out" for the first time in Borger's report, when in fact he'd come out at least a couple of weeks earlier on Nightline.

About the only thing that could turn this episode into a defeat for CBS would be the network stoking suspicions by refusing to release at least the relevant part of the transcript of the Borger/Starr interview. ... They couldn't be that stupid? ... Right? ...

*** Update:Rush, Dowdifier! I have now joined "Rush 24/7"--only $49.95--and obtained a transcript of Limbaugh's anti-CBS spiel ("CBS Lied: Ken Starr Taken Out of Context"). Limbaugh said.

Ken Starr is on the right page. He's on the same page as everybody else about this but CBS sought to purposely take his sound bite out of context, and apply it to the nuclear option. Here it is again. This is the sound bite. It's audio sound bite 22, Mike, and it is Ken Starr as CBS presented him talking about the Republicans' attempt to use the nuclear option.

STARR: This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government. It may prove to have the kind of long term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

Not only is Starr not on the same page as other Republicans when it comes to the nuclear option, but Limbaugh appears to have run the two Starr quotes together as if they came right after each other, which has the effect of making CBS look worse than an accurate presentation would.. When people on the left do that, people on the right call it "Dowdification," no? ... [Update: I've now actually listened to the Limbaugh broadcast. It's indeed deceptive the way the two sentences are spliced together as if they were billed and broadcast by CBS as a single "sound bite" discussing the "nuclear option." (That's the way CBS characterized the second sentence, remember, but not the first. More important, Starr's I-wasn't-talking-about-the-nuclear-option defense applies to the first sentence but not the second sentence.) ... In the Limbaugh mash-up version, there's a subtle difference in tone between the first sentence and the second sentence, but too subtle to alert most listeners to the edit.] ...

P.S.: Why don't Republicans just admit that Starr is a prissy, lawyer-loving wimp on these confirmation issues! ...

P.P.S.: I should add that when I first saw the link on Lucianne.com to Limbaugh's "CBS Lied" charge, I happily assumed it was true. (Now Andrew Heyward would finally lose his job!) Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up. 4:44 P.M. link

Rapper's Demise II: Chris Bangle's visionary autostyling strategy finally achieves a Klein-like payoff!

"Looks kinda crummy ..."

--James R. Healey, USA Today

12:30 P.M.

Rapper's Demise I: Jon Klein's visionary "storytelling" strategy shows room for growth! ... 3:07 A.M.

Blind quote of the Day: A CNNer's take on Howie Kurtz--"He's our insurance policy." 2:54 A.M.

Blogstorm warning: Rush Limbaugh clearly thinks he's caught CBS in another Rather-style anti-GOP screwup--he charges that Gloria Borger quoted Kenneth Starr dissing the Republican's "nuclear option" when Starr was in fact talking about something else. (Limbaugh: "He was not talking about the nuclear option whatsoever.")   Lucianne, Powerline, and Patterico seem to agree. I'm not so sure.

The video of Borger's Monday CBS report is available on  this page, and this is the transcript. Here's the most relevant portion:

BORGER: ... But this fight goes way beyond Senate rules. This is a monumental battle about the future of the courts. Just who gets to sit on the Supreme Court? And should we appoint justices who want to rule on everything from abortion to gay marriage to civil rights?

That's why many conservatives consider the fight over judges their political Armageddon. But conservative icon and former federal Judge Ken Starr says it's gotten out of control.

Mr. KENNETH STARR (Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law): This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

BORGER: Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky case against President Clinton, tells CBS News that the Republican plan to end the filibuster may be unwise.

Mr. STARR: It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

BORGER: Still, Starr thinks all judges should be allowed a vote, even if they're Democrats ... [Emphasis added]

Borger does wrench the first Starr sentence ("radical, radical") into something approximating the context Starr says it was given in--not a discussion of the anti-filibuster "nuclear option," but of the new, Bork-era practice of voting against "qualified" judges if you don't like their judicial philosophy.

The second Starr sentence ("boomerang effect") is billed by Borger as a diss of the "nuclear option." Was it? Limbaugh runs both sentences together as if they were part of the same continuous quote. But from the above transcript it's not clear they were, and Starr's demeanor delivering the "boomerang" quote is much calmer. Did he maybe give that quote at a different point in the interview, when he was talking about the "caution and prudence" that (according to Limbaugh) he says should be exercised before the Senate changes its rules?

Starr's own email, as quoted by Ramesh Ponnuru, bears out the latter interpretation:

In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that's the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the 'filibuster' represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. ... [Emphasis on smoking gun added]

Limbaugh says "CBS is refusing to give Ken Starr the full transcript." I can't think of any reason why CBS shouldn't just release the complete video of the Starr-Borger interview--immediately, if they're smart, whether they are guilty or not. If they don't release the "full" interview at least they should release the portion of the transcript surrounding the Starr "boomerang" quote. But it sure looks as if Starr, Burkean that he is, did indeed say that a rules change--which is what the "nuclear option" would involve-- might "boomerang" and do long-term harm, which is what Borger said he said.

Of course, it's possible the Starr-Borger video will show Starr urging senators to (cautiously and prudently) adopt the anti-filibuster rule change even though it might "boomerang" and "damage the institution."** In that case Borger was deceptive--and Scheiffer was wrong when he said, later in Borger's report, that Starr was "coming out on what looks like the opposite side of many [in] the conservative wing of the Republican party." It seems much more likely, though, that Starr is now trying to wriggle out of the anti-GOP implications of his sincere on-camera utterance.

Let's go to the videotape!

P.S.:  If my hunch is right, then CBS can embarrass Limbaugh for deceptively running together two separate Starr quotes as if they were part of a single answer. How can they resist?

**--In my reading, Starr's email doesn't even claim that's what he said. Starr claims he said the Democrats shouldn't filibuster (i.e., it's a "misuse"), which is not the same thing as saying the Senate should change the rule that allows them to filibuster. 1:58 A.M. link

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Webbische Kopf: a) The fabled New York Times Link Generator is back, after suffering a "catastrophic hard drive crash." They're asking for donations of archive-proof Times URLS; b) The LAT's new Web site is a giant improvement. It actually loads, for one thing. Another reason to cancel my subscription! c) In the Huffosphere, Harry Shearer calls the latest pronouncements of CNN's Jonathan Klein "risible." ... Why does Klein have to keep giving all these interviews anyway? Do other network chiefs constantly take their organization's temperature in public? Or is Klein trying to build up his own profile because he knows he's not going to be in his current job forever? Just asking!  d) My line on Huffington Postso far: The so-called "The Blog"--with all the posts, even the ones mocking the entire enterprise--is a big fun mess. A blog-wallow! I'd bookmark that page and ignore the selected Featured Posts on the home page, which tend to be mainly the celebrity posts and are less messy and less fun. ... 2:11 A.M.

Evan Smith on Dennis Miller: "He could have been Bill Maher ...." Now that's a low blow. I thought these days Bill Maher was the one kicking himself thinking he could have been Bill Maher. ... P.S.: I was on the Miller's guest panel a half dozen times, which may or may not help explain its ratings. The show had a couple of distinct virtues, from my perspective. 1) He'd staffed the place with genuinely nice and  non-sleazy people--at least everyone I had contact with. (Producers: Hire them immediately!) 2) Miller himself was friendly and didn't pretend to know everything, which may be why he was unconvincing as an O'Reilly figure. Plus--and I think this is rare for comedians, or at least comedians mentioned in this paragraph--he wanted other people on the show to be funny. Nothing seemed to make him happier than someone else getting off a good line. ... Update: Here's the pro-Miller explanation for the cancellation. ... 12:27 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