The Washington Monthly presses its promising uber-argument that forceful government action can break economic logjams and create more jobs: Zachary Roth calls for reforming the patent office, which he argues is granting way too many patents--in part due to, yes, perverse bureaucratic incentives. Unjustified patent proliferation forces researchers and innovators to either challenge the patents in court or abandon their work. ... P.S.: What's specifically Democratic about patent reform? Not much. It requires a president and Congress that can stand up to some lobbyists--but, as Roth notes, there are lobbyists on the reform side too. That doesn't make it bad!... P.P.S.: It would also help if the government weren't running a huge deficit, which makes Congress reluctant to cut off the stream of fees the patent office generates by approving lots and lots of applications. ... 3:13 P.M.
Thursday, June 2, 2005
Deep Throat and the Organization Chart Fallacy: Slate contributor Edward Jay Epstein isn't giving up on the "composite" theory of Deep Throat. ... Hmmm. Doesn't Slate contributor David Greenberg denounce as "insidious speculation" such "reckless Deep Throat guesswork" that
plays havoc with history. The premise of the fabrication and composite and silent coup theories is that accepted history is counterfeit, that the truth about the past can be ferreted out not by studying official records, but by seeking out what remains hidden—which, in conspiracist thinking, is always hidden deliberately.
I think he does! ... P.S: I accept that Mark Felt is obviously Deep Throat. But here's a jaw-slackening story that at least causes some discomfort. [Via Lucianne] ... P.P.S.: Epstein's "composite" theory appears to be based on a common misperception about Washington. Specifically, Epstein argues that Felt couldn't have known about one of the Woodward/Bernstein scoops attributed to him--that there were suspicious "gaps" in the Nixon tapes:
But the person who provided that information that night could not have been Felt according to records examined by Nixon's biographer Jonathan Aitken. In November 1973, only six people knew about the gaps in the tape-- Richard Nixon; Rose Mary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary); Alexander Haig (The White House chief of staff); Haig's deputy, Major General John C Bennett and two trusted Nixon White House aides, Fred Buzhardt and Steve Bull. Not only was Felt not privy to that White House secret, but he was no longer even in the FBI, having left that October.
This is an extremely weak argument. Of course Felt could have known about the gaps even though he wasn't in the White House. As Mark Blumenthal** argues in a highly persuasive post, you don't work for decades in Washington, as Felt did, without building up a large informal network of friends, backscratching sources, ex-colleagues, ex-lovers, etc.. People in one department often learn what's going on in another department across town. On the one issue with which I have been most familiar--the welfare debates of the mid-90s--it eventually became clear to me that, thanks to a powerful, informal, backdoor liberal network centered in the non-profits, the opponents of welfare reform basically all knew what was going on in each other's shops, even the allegedly secret goings on. It was absurd, once you were exposed to this, to reason that people in Box A on the organization chart couldn't know what was going on in Box B. Yet that Organization Chart Fallacy wasn't and isn't confined to outsiders like Epstein; some surprisingly senior Washington veterans and journalists indulge in it too.
What about Aitken's argument that only six people knew about the gaps in the tape? Well, Blumenthal argues forcefully that one of the six--Woods--had close ties to the Hoover FBI and could well have been part of Felt's informal network. Even if Blumenthal's wrong in this speculation, it's ridiculous to assert with certainty that none of the six who were supposed to know let the hottest gossip in town slip to a wife, best friend, or coworker. ...
**--Blumenthal is also the Mystery Pollster. On Wednesday, the polling establishment (the National Council on Public Polls) gave him a completely deserved award for his 2004 coverage, although they appear to have felt the need to cook up a special "blog" category to do it. 1:09 P.M.
Victor Navasky, former editor and now publisher of The Nation, has begun to play a "key role" at Columbia Journalism Review, according to E&P. Will the often-embarrassing media-crit magazine (and blog) now become an ideological clone of The Nation? That might require moving CJR slightly to the right. ... 12:22 P.M.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
A note to Fred Fielding, David Gergen, Al Haig, Pat Buchanan and all the other Nixon-era public officials who now stand unglamorously revealed to the world as Not Deep Throat: Just because you weren't "Deep Throat" doesn't mean you weren't huge leakers to Woodward and Bernstein! We know that. And we appreciate it. ... Assignment Desk: Find the best suggestive non-denial denial from one of these former DT Suspects that, while not claiming DT's mantle, nevertheless effectively maintained an attractive air of mystery. Starter: Here's Buchanan intriguingly unavailable to deny it! ... Buchanan also told CNBC's Chris Matthews, when asked if he was DT, "I'm not the type of guy that's going to spend a lot of time in a garage with Bob Woodward." Brilliant! ... 12:32 P.M.
I Knew It All Along! I Really Did! Award for the lamest catch-up column goes to WaPo's Richard Cohen, who somehow tries to claim he knew Mark Felt was Deep Throat even though he wrote a magazine article pointing a finger at** was someone else:
A long time ago I wrote a magazine piece about how Bob Woodward's famous source, "Deep Throat," could have been a mere Secret Service technician -- any one of several people detailed to keep Richard Nixon's secret White House taping system operating. I figured that anyone with access to the system could quickly learn all that mattered about the Watergate burglary: The president's men had done it and the president was covering it up. I showed the piece to Woodward, who would not say whether it was right or wrong, just that it made sense. We both knew, though, that "Deep Throat" was Mark Felt.
Woodward's knowledge was firsthand, up close and certain. Mine was different. [Emph. added]
In some sense, we all knew that "Deep Throat" was Mark Felt, didn't we? ... P.S.: I do recommend Nora Ephron's I-Knew-It-All-Along entry.
I can see just from reading the early coverage about Mark Felt's revelation that he has had a hard time living with this secret too. For years, he has had to hear the constant refrain from Woodward that Deep Throat's identity would not be revealed until Deep Throat died; I don't know about you, but if I were Deep Throat, that would start to get on my nerves.
[via Fishbowl NY] ...
**--Corrected language. This sentence originally said "saying it was someone else." 11:05 A.M.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Tom Maguire does Dan Okrent's work for him. ... P.S.: Musil spins a way-too-elaborate theory, but I tend to agree that Okrent's anti-Krugman shot must have had the tacit approval of NYT editors who find dealing with Krugman a pain. 12:55 P.M.
McCain's Fate: WSJ's Brendan Miniter argues that Republicans shouldn't move to the center by embracing McCain and McCainism, because "[c]onservatives can and do win elections for the Republican Party." That may be true. The problem is that McCain doesn't have to run as a Republican. He can run as a third-party candidate, Perot-style. Isn't it, in fact, intuitively obvious that that's what McCain will do, once he's sufficiently infuriated by his rejection by GOP conservatives? ... And he might win. Polls show voters are dissatisfied with both parties, no? Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote despite being labeled (unfairly or not) as wacky. That's a good base to start with. ... McCain would steal both moderate GOPS and moderate Dems. Suddenly the Republicans would too have to worry about the center, in a way they maybe wouldn't if they were just running against a Democrat. ...
Backfill: Ron Brownstein's made the McCain/Perot point before. I've blogged Brownstein before. And Brendan Nyhan's unconvincingly and condescendingly attacked Brownstein before. Nyhan does it again today. His big argument is Duverger's Law, which says
"In any election where a single winner is chosen by plurality vote (whoever gets the most votes wins), there is a strong tendency for serious competitors to be reduced to two because people tend to vote strategically."
But why wouldn't McCain have a chance of making it into the top two? It depends on the other candidates, no? If the 2004 race had been Bush vs. Kerry vs. McCain, I'd say Kerry might have been the odd man out. ... P.S.: Nyhan notes Brownstein's admission that an "an independent would need to nearly run the table in battleground states—like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania." Again, that may be true, but why would it necessarily discourage McCain from giving it a shot? He's not young, and this is his chance to make history. Oh, right--he doesn't like the media attention! ... P.P.S.: Nyhan says a third-party candidate could only win in "extraordinary circumstances." And we all know how rare those are! ... 3:39 A.M. link
Highly useful situationer from the well-informed William Bradley on how Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to avoid Chiracification from his proposed "complex and highly contested" ballot initiatives. ... P.S.: Contrast Bradley's calls for compromise deals on Schwarzenegger's proposals with Warren Beatty's stubborn Democratic conventionalism. Beatty gives Schwarzenegger credit for nothing, particularly annoying in the case of the Governor's anti-gerrymandering initiative (which would put the drawing of district lines in the hands of a panel of retired judges). "What is the need for an initiative on reapportionment when there is basic agreement in the legislature" [to shift to a nonpartisan system after the next census], Beatty argues. But gerrymandering wouldn't have even been an issue in the happily-safe-seated Dem-controlled legislature if Schwarzenegger hadn't brought it up and threatened his initiative. There would have been agreement, yes--agreement to preserve the status quo. ... Does Beatty like gerrymandering? If not, why not give Schwarzenegger some reformist props? ... What would Gary Hart do! ... 12:10 A.M. link
Monday, May 30, 2005
Sullivan in full-Jekyll mode:
It's a Bush administration meme. If you screw up, you get promoted, as long as you're a team player. If you really screw up, you get a Medal of Freedom.
1) Dems Desperately Seeking Cocooning Content
2) So rich they can pay $49.95 a year for it.
3) So poor they can't afford to subscribe to the NYT's paper edition (which includes TimeSelect).
I suggest that the area of overlap between these three circles is not huge. ... [You've said this before--ed This is clearer. ... But maybe Circle 3 is really "'online people' who wouldn't even think of subscribing to a paper edition"--ed. Those people seem too young to be rich enough for Circle 2. Same result ... Are you going to subscribe?-ed Yes. ... I thought you always generalize wildly from your own personal experience--ed I have special needs! I want the archives.] ... Update: John Tabin would add a fourth circle, 'Too impatient (or unsavvy) to find the op-ed pieces elsewhere on the Web for free.' He argues the NYT won't change its op-ed syndication policies. I'm not so sure. ... 12:32 P.M. link
kf'sForward Lean: Can the press' credibility withstand another damaging episode? Probably. But we'll find out, because there is at least one more damaging episode scheduled for imminent processing--Alan Feuer's potentially scandalous account of MSM reporting from Baghdad. ... Maybe Feuer will answer what seems to me the great mystery of the press in Iraq: Why American reporters, almost to a man, had a more pessimistic view of the war than seems to have been warranted. I don't think you can simply say they were blindered by anti-war or anti-Bush ideology: these are conscientious, smart, experienced people of varying political stripes and they virtually all seemed to predict a greater disaster than transpired. That goes for the private, unprinted predictions of those few I encountered in person. ... P.S.: I'm not saying the war is already great success. Even our own top commanders admit we might lose it and the blowback from Abu Ghraib, etc. will last generations. But it seems a much, much, greater success, so far, than you'd have thought possible reading the dispatches from Baghdad in major papers. ... 10:31 P.M. link
Sunday, May 29, 2005
There has been a lot of overhyped talk about how the new Star Wars movie, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, is an allegory for President Bush and the Iraq War. I've just seen the film, and can declare with some certainty that the idea that Episode III is a Bush/Iraq allegory is silly. Isn't it obvious the movie is really an allegory for the filibuster fight? The Sith are judicial activists who would use the Force to satisfy their passions. The Jedi are the believers in judicial restraint (hence their concern with rules and democracy, their quasi-Buddhist self-denial, etc.). The story initially promises a climactic showdown between these two factions, but the violent battle turns out to merely set up the later, definitive conflict in Episodes IV, V and VI. It kicks the can down the road! ... 12:06 A.M. link
Friday, May 27, 2005
An editor leaves early for Memorial Day weekend and everything goes all to hell! Pro-charter and pro-No-Child-Left-Behind education stories in the New York Times on the same day. Eduwonk is stunned. ... Alternative explantion: Friday before a holiday is the classic time to bury good news! ... 5:10 P.M. link
Polipundit thinks that, shockingly, Sen. Kerry may not actually have signed Form 180. But isn't Kerry communications director David Wade's credibility squarely on the line on that question? (Wade told the Globe's Joan Venocchi that Kerry signed the form on Friday, May 20.) ... P.S.: Just one more thing, Senator. ... I should have mentioned that we don't just want the military records. We want the war diaries too. Don't forget them! ... 4:22 P.M. link
Frist, Do No Harm! LAT ed-page editor Andres Martinez should resign immediately for his bungling failure to use the obvious pun in an editorial calling on Senate Majority Leader Frist to quit the Senate. ... P.S.: Why does the Times say should Frist leave? Well, he failed to block a stem cell bill that the LAT ed board didn't want him to block! (They would prefer that he succeed like, say, Tom DeLay?) ... Or maybe the problem is that Frist tried to "ram through the 'nuclear option'" against filibusters. ... But wait, the Times says Frist was "right to try to get rid of the filibuster." ... Or maybe the hard-to-find LAT ed page, in a desperate quest for attention, is stunting in a way that ironically parodies the worst sort of hyperactive, overblown Beltway CW! ("The Bolton nomination was postponed! Frist is a loser!") ... If Johnny Apple and Andrew Sullivan had a love child, he might find this editorial highly persuasive. ... P.P.S.: See Patterico's highlighting of a mighty-convenient new explanation of the Flibuster Deal that portrays Frist and Bush as in control all along. ... 3:30 P.M. link
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Banking on Balkanization: While everyone's been blasting bloggers for contributing to the "cocooning" phenomenon--i.e., readers gravitating toward those sites that tell them what they want to hear--the New York Times seems to have developed a Web strategy that counts on cocooning, according to Jon Friedman. Who else but reinforcement-craving Democrats would pay $49.95 a year to read Paul Krugman? ... The Times, of course, is supposed to be the un-Balkanized, common-ground information outlet, so its shift toward a caterpillar strategy should be the cause of much more respectable hand-wringing than, say, the emergence of ideologically targeted sites like Lucianne.com and RealClearPolitics ... Also, Lucianne and RCP actually do a much better job of forcing their readers to confront what they don't want to see than the Times does. .. P.S.: I claim the NYT shift's toward unashamed base-pleasing West Side liberalism began with Pinch Sulzberger's ascension in the 90s. It's one of the big ways he's run the paper aground. ... As usual, those lower down in the hierarchy pay the price for the CEO's screw-ups! ... (I can say that because I'm holding my moose!) ... 6:27 P.M. link
Steve Sailer has boiled down the explanation for why some states become red and others become blue to three simple words. ("God" is not one of them.) ... His equation sure works for San Francisco. ... 6:01 P.M. link
Klein Brings the Thunder! In its continuing effort to "stop hurting America," honor the desire of comedian Jon Stewart for substantive civic dialogue, and generally restore the news-reporting values of Edward R. Murrow, CNN visionary Jonathan Klein's ace Storytellin' Team spent several minutes yesterday afternoon covering the rescue of a treed cat. [It was a pregnant treed cat--ed. Never mind then. Carry on. Its name was "Thunder." It almost fell.--ed. Stop! I was so, so wrong to mock this story! It's got everything! Maybe I caught it on TIVO.] ... Thanks to reader A.M. ... 3:11 A.M. link
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Old Faithful: ... A.: If Bush's Social Security plan dies this year, what domestic issue can he possibly talk about next year, in the runup to the mid-term elections, that might prove highly popular and wash the sour, poll-deflating taste of the Schiavo and Social Security fights out of the voters' mouths? ... Q.: Gee, when are the Republicans going to push for that welfare reform reauthorization bill? ... 8:41 P.M. link
First, he needs a stamp: He's signed the form. His staff is going over the postage tables and will determine the correct amount "very, very shortly." ... Why is getting John Kerry to release his military records like pulling teeth? It's inexplicable. ... Unless, of course, it's explicable. ... P.S.: An 'overzealous aide' almost sent the form in! ... 7:12 P.M. link
Sen. McCain Saves The Palm: From today's NYT report on the bipartisan filibuster-saving compromise signed by 14 senators, including John McCain:
Mr. McCain said he expected that interest groups on both the left and right would be angry at the compromise.
"Think of all the money they are going to lose," he said, ducking into a car to head to the premiere of a film about his life, referring to the fund-raising operations that had sprung up around the judicial battle. [Emph. added]
Hmmm. As long as we're being appropriately cynical and looking for the underlying selfish motives of various parties in the "nuclear" debate, it's worth asking if Senator McCain and his band of self-glorifying depolarizers are really just brave statesmen who, unlike their critics, "managed to put principle above self-protection," in a Washington Post editorial's adoring words.
Why, after all, are so many people in Washington attached to the Senate's "right to unlimited debate"? Is it because the filibuster--which effectively requires a supermajority to pass anything through the Senate-- guarantees "freedom of speech, freedom of debate and freedom to dissent in the United States Senate." (Sen. Byrd's modest version.) Or is it because the filibuster, and the exaggerated power it gives to both minorities and individuals, is the basis for much of the Senate's--indeed Washington's--corrupt cash economy? Without the filibuster, after all, senators in the minority party wouldn't be nearly as big a deal. They couldn't block legislation--so lobbyists wouldn't need to bribe them with campaign contributions. And honest, self-protective corporations wouldn't have to pay so many of these lobbyists to bribe them with campaign contributions.
Even most majority party senators would see some of their power drain away if the Senate became more like the House, organized efficiently along party lines so the majority could exercise its non-filibusterable power. Individual majority senators would be less like princes to be wined, dined and fawned over and more like party backbenchers. Corporations and interest groups wouldn't need to spend a lot of money bribing them either. And why would Boeing and GM want to pay for an army of ex-Senate aides to sweet-talk all 55 Republicans when one aide with the ear of Bill Frist would get the job done? ...
The filibuster's infrastructural role has powerful multiplier effect: It means not only that obscure minority Senators attract millions in campaign contributions. while the aides of obscure minority Senators aides find pleasant $250,000 jobs as influencers with vital "access." It means that those Senators can afford to hire well-paid fundraisers to funnel those contributions, while interest groups need direct mail experts to raise the money to make their own "access" producing contributions, and all these people need restaurants like The Palm to feed them and brokers to swap their houses and mechanics to service their Acuras and Audis. Thanks to the Senate's precious right of unlimited debate, a wave of prosperity sweeps over the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area! Funded by the rest of the country.
The filibuster is to Washington what the computer chip is to Palo Alto--the technological basis of prosperity. Is it an accident, a Marxist might say, that the Washington Post approves of McCain's handiwork? Without it, many of the talented lawyers who read the Post it might have had to find more productive, less remunerative work. And the paper wouldn't have all those real estate ads.
Not to worry. As another local hero, Sen. Graham, declared yesterday: "The Senate is back in business."
P.S.: I'm not saying McCain or Byrd, or other defenders of proud Senate tradition are consciously promoting the economic self interest of the D.C. establishment that is now lavishing praise on them. But one of the lessons of evolutionary psychology is that our thoughts and actions somehow, without our consciously thinking it, just happen to somehow coincide with our own self interest. Marx suggested the same thing for larger groups (with "objective" interest replacing "subconscious" interest). The two mechanisms--Darwinian and Marxist-- may not be all that different. 2:28 P.M. link
The Center Scolds! 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 posture of a future controversial Bush nomination will differ from the kicked-can 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, as 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
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