Don't blame Kerry. Blame E.J.!

A mostly political Weblog.
June 14 2005 1:03 AM

Don't Blame Kerry. Blame E.J.!

A self-deluding media failed the Democrats.

Mickey Goes Wiki! Walter Dellinger emails about the possibility of a McCain third-party presidential run (should McCain fail to get the GOP nomination):

There is one final barrier to a third party candidacy, however, that may be dispositive.  Even if you get over "Duverger's Law"   about the tendency to vote for the top two, and the winner-take-all state-by-state character of the Electoral College, the real problem is the House of Representatives which will choose the President from among the top three in electoral votes unless one of the three candidates gets an absolute majority of all electoral votes.   Thus, if each of the major party candidates can simply scrape together one-fourth of the total electoral votes, the election will be decided by the House, each state delegation casting a single vote with the votes of 26 state delegations necessary to a win.  Regardless of how their district and states vote, there will be very strong party pressure on both Republican and Democratic members of Congress to cast a party vote.   There will be no Independent party members in the House, making it virtually impossible for McCain to assemble 26 states even assuming he runs first by a significant margin.

I agree with you that in a three way race it is quite possible that John McCain could finish first in both the popular vote and the electoral vote.  But that isn't enough.   McCain would need 270 electoral votes -- an absolute majority.  Otherwise, given the shape of the House in 2008, all the Republican candidate needs in a three way race is to finish third. [Emphasis added]

Hmmm. The only responses I can think of now are: 1) If McCain wins, say, 45% of electoral votes vs. 25 and 30, plus a similar plurality of the popular votes, there will be a lot of pressure on the House to pick him; and 2) Maybe his third party should also run some candidates for the House! 

But some readers may have a better answer. (Send them to Mickey underscore Kaus at msn dot com.)

P.S.: Dellinger's response to point (1):

Sure, I agree that at the outer margin (McCain 45, Dem 30, Republican 25) the House might crumble to popular McCain fever.  But it would be tough to pull off such a landslide.   One point for your argument -- Those numbers are percentages of electoral votes.  If McCain actually got  that percentage of popular votes--beating one major party candidate by 15% and the other by 20% (or anywhere close to that margin) he would very likely win an electoral vote landslide and avoid the House.  Still,  that is very, very tough.  Much tougher than (merely) finishing first in the popular and electoral votes.

Doesn't mean he won't try!  5:39 P.M. link

Steady Sully Watch: Bad Iraq Day at AndrewSullivan.com--

It's still winnable, but the odds are against us. [Emph. added]

Here's Sullivan on Chris Matthews' show in January:

I'm a complete optimist about this. I think it'll--I think it'll work. [Emph. Added]

He's our Oscillating  Orwell! ... P.S.:At an L.A. appearance last week, Christopher Hitchens, declared that "of course" the anticoalition forces would be defeated. So there appears to be an intra-Orwells schism on this issue. For the moment. Tomorrow is always another day at andrewsullivan.com. ...  10:57 A.M. link

Jon Klein Rule #1: Make Jon Klein Look Good! Harry Shearer on the silliness of CNN chief Jonathan Klein's latest goo-goo pleasing pronouncement. ... (Klein said "we should have just covered the beginning and the end" of the Michael Jackson trial. Why not cover the evidence as it developed? Because that would be ... storytelling!) 1:38 A.M. link

Quayling Kerry? Many Democratic friends have assured me that John Kerry--whether he knows it or not--won't be a candidate for president in 2008. Lack of fundraising support will force him to drop out before then, according to this theory, just as it forced Dan Quayle to drop out the year before the 2000 primaries. But something's changed since 1999--namely the ability of candidates to raise money in small chunks over the Internet. If Kerry can raise enough Web cash early enough, he won't care if the big donors don't want him. Perhaps that explains why I seem to get a Kerry Internet fundraising appeal every other day. (It's actually about every other week.) Kerry's permanent campaign is a way to keep on raising money while he still has Web celebrity value, before his rivals declare. Then nobody will be able to Quayle him. ... 1:18 A.M. link

Sunday , June 12, 2005

Jill Stewart, the exact last person in the world the LAT will hire to write their editorials--they'll let their readers do it first!--writes a good one, attempting to educate California voters  who still seem to believe that a) California is near 'the bottom' in school funding, and b) the main issue in education is whether we pour more or less money into it. Neoliberalism has yet to reach Sacramento, in many ways. That is what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is up against if he calls for a special election on his budget initiative. ... 11:40 P.M. link

Saturday, June 11, 2005

More LAT Pathos:1) The New York Times beats Los Angeles Times by a day on the possible actions of prosecutors against aggressive paparazzi. It's not as if the prosecutors were Los Angeles prosecutors. ... Oh, wait ... 2) Fishbowl LA notices the NYT's Laura Holson cleaning the LAT's clock  on the Halo-movie rights story. The LAT's version is dull, but at least it misses the point! ... It's not as if ... 7:31 P.M. link

Make-up call: On Friday the L.A. Times ran a huge front-page (A-1) photo of an empty freeway--it had been closed for an hour after a shooting incident. Was the paper clumsily trying to make up for its embarrassing and emblematic failure to give any prominence to a far more dramatic and disruptive, nationally-covered freeway chase and four-hour closure two days before? You make the 'make-up call' call! ... P.S.: The photo's caption roped in the earlier incident, noting, "It was the second freeway closure this week. ..." This is classic LAT behavior. Don't report the news when it happens. Any newspaper can do that! But only magisterial, monopoly newspaper can ignore the news when it happens and then provide readers with an analysis of what the trend in the ignored news means a few days or weeks later! Coming soon: A Sunday thumbsucker on "Freeway Closures: What They Say About Southern California's Identity." ... Update: Here's another front-page story the LAT buried on B-3-- rich Malibu homeowners hire bulldozers to scoop up the public beach and move it onto their private property. No tabloidish populist potential there! ...  Note how the Times reporters stoke the drama of the story by calling it "as predictable as the spring tides" in the first paragraph and belittling it as a "brouhaha" later in the piece. ... The thoughtful analytic distance of the Pulitzer-winning Los Angeles Times enables it to see that what seemed like uniquely infuriating, mobilizing news--actual taking of beach!--is really just "the latest chapter in a long-running clash over public access and the private-property rights." The LAT formula for excitement! ... No need for citizen involvement. It's all being taken care of by the lawyers. ...  Suggestion to fellow Angelenos: Get your L.A. news from L.A. Observed! Kevin Roderick links to the Times stories worth reading, and you don't have to bring a soggy stack of paper into your house. He  covered the Tuesday freeway drama on ... Tuesday! 1:46 P.M. link

Friday, June 10, 2005

Deep Throat--The Prequel: Why did Mark Felt leak to Bob Woodward ... about the Wallace assasination attempt? Mark Blumenthal puts together the evidence. The result? Felt looks considerably more non-venal than has recently been charged, while the allegedly reformed Chuck Colson looks like a tendentious faker!10:18 P.M.   link

Don't Blame Kerry. Blame E.J.! E.J Dionne argues that Democratic Kerry-bashing is "dangerous because dissing Kerry is an easy way for Democrats to evade discussion of what the party needs to do to right itself." True. But Dionne then claims another sort of "cheap grace" by blaming the 

Bush machine ...so skillful at turning little things into big things — always with help from Rush and Fox and the rest of the party-line conservative media eager to read scripts generated by the White House.

Yes, that's the problem--the mighty Bush machine and Roger Ailes, in combination so powerful that Bush's approval numbers are now soaring into the mid-60s. ...

More important--because Dionne does acknowledge some deeper Dem problems--even if Kerry is history, a Quayle-like dead man walking, the conditions that led Democrats to delude themselves into thinking he was a plausible candidate are still in place and still a problem.

I'm talking about a) The dutiful, clueless susceptibility of liberalism's main organ, the New York Times, to the elite appeal of a manifest phony like Kerry; b) The cocooning echo chamber of wishful-thinking self-reinforcement that led so many Democratic opinion-shapers to actually believe everything Paul Krugman was writing about the economy, to believe in the primacy of the "wrong track" numbers--in short, that led even highly sophisticated MSM politicos (like those at the Note) to believe the spin that the underlying dynamics of the election were hostile to Bush, hence the race was "Kerry's contest to lose."c) The semi-conscious Emperor's-Clothes-like suspension of normal powers of judgment, lest you write or say something in public that might be seen as aiding Bush. ...

Without these blinders, the Liberal Media might have noticed the bad joke aspects of Kerry's candidacy and saved their party from a nominee who everyone now recognizes as fatally flawed. Is there any guarantee they won't make the same mistake again in 2008?

For example--specifically, examples of (b) and (c)--here are excerpts from E.J. Dionne's own writing in the run-up to the 2004 election:

Early boosting: "The potential presidential candidates can hit larger themes, and some of them--Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts comes to mind--are using this period to lay out some serious ideas and expand their reach." -- April 5, 2002

Pre-primary blindness: "Yet for the moment, it's Kerry--with his standing as a Vietnam veteran and by combining support and criticism of Bush on Iraq--who comes closest to the foreign policy balance a Democrat needs to strike to satisfy both his party and those outside it." -- Feb 25, 2003

Post-Iowa--Falling-in-line euphoria: "In the newly presidential Kerry, they found patriotism and a candidate who could go head-to-head with Bush on national security. 'Bring it on!' Kerry would shout about doing battle with the Bush who showed up on that aircraft carrier." -- Jan 21, 2004

"But a liberal with a uniform, a war record and a regiment of veterans marching with him is not what the GOP ordered up from central casting. The momentum is now with Kerry because Democrats have begun to consider the advantages of being led into battle this fall by a lieutenant who knows what battle is." -- Jan. 27, 2004

"Face it, Democrats: You have never gotten your message across the way you have in this presidential primary campaign. ... Howard Dean toughened you up--you all owe him a debt. Then the voters of Iowa decided the party needed a candidate, not a trainer, so they lifted up John Kerry and John Edwards. ... The prospect that the Democrats might nominate Kerry, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, reopened the issues surrounding the incumbent's Air National Guard service back in the 1970s."-- Feb. 17, 2004

Mid-Campaign--Wishful Thinking: "Here is the biggest surprise of the 2004 election so far: It is John Kerry who is eager to talk about terrorism and national security, and President Bush's campaign that is trying to quash a far-reaching debate on these issues." -- April 20, 2004

"The conventional wisdom on this presidential election is wrong. It's frequently said that John Kerry is the man in trouble. Yes, Kerry does have a gift for getting in his own way. But President Bush is the candidate with big problems. ... [O]n the current numbers, Kerry will win if he's simply good enough. Bush's task is harder: to seem a whole lot better than he does now to voters who already know him well."-- May 14, 2004

Pre-Convention--Utter Delusion:

"First Ripple of a Political Tidal Wave?

Rep. Jay Inslee knows about political tidal waves, because one of them almost sank his political career.

Inslee, who now represents a suburban Seattle district, was tossed out of Congress from another district in the 1994 Republican sweep. ...But he came back to the House in 1998, and now what he's seeing 'is the same tidal wave moving in the opposite direction. . . . There's a passion out there.' And the passion, Inslee says, is running against George W. Bush. ...

Even if the plural of anecdote is not data, the anecdotes are about citizens who avoided politics for years but are now devoting time to John Kerry's campaign out of hostility to Bush. Individuals who never before made a campaign contribution are opening their checkbooks to Kerry and the Democrats. ... And, perhaps most significant, moderate and moderately conservative Republicans are showing little enthusiasm for Bush, reflecting their worries about his Iraq policy and their qualms over large deficits." -- June 29, 2004

October--Looking for Friendly Faces in the Crowd: "In the torrent of polling information released over the weekend, the most significant finding was this one: John Kerry's supporters are more likely than George W. Bush's to believe that this year's election is the most important of their lifetimes." -- Oct. 26, 2004

[Couldn't someone do the same sort of embarrasing cherry-picking with what you've written?--ed Embarrassing in a different way! Excessive Kerry-appreciation was not my problem. It was the East Coast MSM's problem.] 3:17 P.M. link

Today, the New York Sun is backing John Kerry up against at least one charge--that because Kerry's Form 180 was sent to the Naval Personnel Command, as opposed to a central storage location in St. Louis, it failed to trigger a complete release of records. Not so, says the Sun [third item]. ... But RCP's Tom Bevan produces a succinct description  of why Kerry critics are suspicious:

Without maligning [Globe reporter] Michael Kranish's motives or his ability as a reporter, it's fair to point out that privately funneling documents through a single source from your hometown paper and then declaring the story "dead" and "over" is hardly the epitome of full public disclosure. John Kerry would never accept this type of standard from his political opponents or this administration. Why he thinks the public should accept it now from him is beyond me.

Is there any way to placate the justifiably paranoid Kerry skeptics? Not completely, because of Kerry's Meet the Press comments which suggest that he got some things excluded from even the "complete" record. But releasing those records to all comers and making public the Form 180  itself would help a lot. ... Update: It might even satisfy Lipscomb!  [via Polipundit ] ...2:46 P.M. link

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Every once in a while, Dick Morris gets off a good line:

[Byrd's] defense of the filibuster was natural, since it was he who conducted a lonely 14-hour attempt to kill the 1964 Civil Rights Act by talking until he almost dropped. He stays in office by being a pork-barrel machine who waxes eloquent, at the same time, on the perils of deficit spending.

If he is the Senate's conscience, the body is in deep trouble.

4 :25 P.M. link

Why Southern California Suffers: Could the LAT really have been grantedcoveted access to Kerry's military records and not reported the part about his grades? Why, yes! ... Sen. Stennis had nothin' on Times reporter Stephen Braun. ... Or maybe the LAT's editors decided we didn't really need to read about that--too interesting! ... Or maybe the paperdidn't cover it because it was already on TV! ...  P.S.: Braun does say he viewed a "180-page sheaf" of records, which may or may not answer Polipundit's query. ... P.P.S.: Note that this release to the LAT does not come from the government but from "Kerry's Senate office." ... 3:51 P.M. link

Bert Fields on Line 2! Susan Estrich thinks Howard Dean is hurting his cause by "shooting from the lip"  and making "statements that are sure to get attention because they hit flashpoints." Some find this ironic. ... P.S. Has Estrich sued the L.A. Times yet? How's that going? ... Suggestion for Dean: Print your criticisms IN ALL CAPS. That will reassure those big Democratic donors THAT YOU MEAN BUSINESS! ... 2:52 P.M. link

Wade's Wish:Boston Globe Managing Editor Mary Jane Wilkinson , explaining why her paper is not going to make public the Kerry military records it has received:

It is my understanding that Kerry will release these papers to anyone else now that he has signed the Form 180.

Wilkinson's understanding would be wrong, according to the New York Sun'sJosh Gerstein, to whom Kerry denied the records.

A Navy spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Daniel Hernandez, said the waiver applied only to the Boston Globe and did not authorize release of Mr. Kerry's records to the public.

"Kerry controls the release of his records," Commander Hernandez said yesterday. "You have to talk to his office."

The senator also agreed to allow the Los Angeles Times to see his full record, Mr. Wade said yesterday. The spokesman did not respond to a question about why Mr. Kerry did not execute a broader release to all press organizations and the public. Asked whether the senator would permit release of the records to The New York Sun, Mr. Wade said, "The issue is over."

Not while Gerstein and Lipscomb are alive! ... Why would Kerry not just make a clean release to everyone? I suppose he might not want his enemies poring over the documents for discrepancies they can use to keep the story alive. But that consideration would seem to be outweighed by the suspicions the limited release creates. ... At the very least, as Lipscomb notes, Kerry should make public the Form 180 that fails to make public his records.  ... P.S.: Like Wade, I would like this to be over! (I would like Kerry to be over.) But it still smells a bit funny. A lot of clever thinking seems to have gone into that Form 180 signing. ...

P.P.S.: I emailed Michael Kranish of the Globe on Tuesday--

Polipundit speculates there were a hundred pages in the file but that you didn't get them all. ... [link omitted]  I assume you did, but wanted to check--the article I saw wasn't clear.  Did you get 100 pages?

I got back the following email:

this was in our story:

On May 20, Kerry signed a document called Standard Form 180, authorizing the Navy to send an  ''undeleted" copy of his ''complete military service record and medical record" to the Globe.

Which doesn't exactly answer the 100 pages question, does it? Let's assume Kranish is jammed with work and not paying close attention. I've emailed him again. ... 1:32 P.M. link

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

A dramatic 75-mile car chase shuts down a major Southern California freeway  for four hours and makes the national NBC Nightly News--but doesn't make the front page of the L.A. Times. It doesn't even make the front page of the local ("California") B-section of the L.A. Times. (There's a teaser for the story, which is on page B3.) The people who edit this paper have no clue. ... Massive layoffs--please!  Update: The L.A. Daily News, the LAT's smaller, Valley-based rival, of course makes the freeway drama its lead story. That's because the Daily News is a newspaper. [As opposed to?--ed. A giant wet blanket smothering any spark of civic engagement in America's second-largest city! ... Sorry, that just sort of popped out.] Update 2: The story did make the front of the second section in the LAT's "Orange County Edition." (The chase was nowhere near Orange County. They must just have sharper editors than the main L.A. edition. But it should have been on A1, not B1, even in the O.C.)  4:02 A.M. link

Tuesday,  June 7, 2005

Cruise Caves? The Huffington Post appears to have a pipeline to Paramount. ... 7:04 P.M.   link

I Ain't Ever Satisfied:Polipundit thinks the records released by Kerry to the Boston Globe were incomplete. I don't believe the Globe's Kranish would write the story as he did if he hadn't received all of the "hundred pages." But I've emailed him. Will let you know if I get a response. ... This passage, from Kerry's Meet the Press interview, is still troubling, though:

I'd be happy to put the records out. We put all the records out that I had been sent by the military. Then at the last moment, they sent some more stuff, which had some things that weren't even relevant to the record. So when we get–I'm going to sit down with them and make sure that they are clear and I am clear as to what is in the record and what isn't in the record and we'll put it out.

We want the military things that aren't "even relevant to the record." ... And the diaries! ... P.S.: Kerry also told Imus he delayed releasing his records because he needed to first "get it clarified with the military."  Get what clarified? ("I have a stack of different materials they've sent me every time they've sent me something, and I want to know exactly what they're sending." Hmmm.) ... P.P. S.: Would the revelation of Kerry's mediocre grades have been enough by itself to cause him to withhold his records for such an embarrassingly long time? Is he that vain and insecure? I think so! (RCP doesn't.)  Plus, as Taranto argues, even a non-vain Kerry may have rationally concluded that much of his appeal  "rested on intellectual snobbery" incapable of surviving the mid-campaign revelation of his college transcript. ... Swift Gloat: Soxblog, Althouse, and Sailer--who all suggested last year that Kerry was not so damn smart--claim vindication. ... See also Malkin and Maguire  (a Kerry skeptic who nevertheless has never bought the Non-Honorable Discharge theory) ...  2:44 P.M. link

The Deep Throat Team: Edward Jay Epstein's suggestion that Deep Throat was "composite" has now been reduced to the claim that he had help:

Less than 2 months after he supplied Woodward with this story, Felt was out of the FBI, but the flow of information to Woodward did not stop. According to a recent disclosure by another former FBI executive, Paul V. Daly, at least 3 other FBI officers were involved with Felt in this clandestine effort, all falling under the portmanteau cover of Deep Throat. If so, the Machiavellian operation was effectively obscured by Woodward's Deep Throat package. Instead of learning that a high-ranking FBI executive-- possibly with the aid of others in the FBI-- had been manipulating the press, the public was presented with a heroic tale of a patriotic loner, code named Deep Throat, who helped a dynamic duo of journalists defeat the governmental Goliath. [Emphasis added]

Epstein seems to feel this Felt-based conspiracy would be somehow unusual or sinister ("Machiavellian") when in fact it's business-as-usual in Washington. The great leakers often have help. That doesn't make them composites. (Deep Throat would be a "composite" if more than one of the FBI men had actually met with Woodward or otherwise communicated with him.) ... But Epstein's right that the existence of the informal Deep Throat Backup Team within the FBI undermines the "loner" mythology surrounding Felt. ... 1:59 P.M. link

Buried lede of the week: Sally Quinn, in an article about Deep Throat:

[Sen. John] Tower, who was a friend of my father, had attempted to sexually assault me when I was 18 and a college freshman. Embarrassed and ashamed, I had kept this story a closely guarded secret for years.

Hmm. .... How to get this juicy morsel into wider circulation? Serving suggestion: "Some trace the ugliness of Washington confirmation battles back to the 1989 rejection of John Tower's nomination to be secretary of defense. But it now looks as if a nominee like John Bolton falls far short of the Tower Standard for unacceptable behavior. ... " .... [Thanks to alert reader PKB] 1;18 A.M. link

Monday, June 6, 2005

Un-Times-like things happening on the LAT Web site. ... I don't understand. Where's the Pulitzer in this? Blogs won't win the LAT any Pulitzers, and everyone knows Pulitzers are all people in Southern California care about!  4:09 A.M.

The Rich Get Richer--But Why? David Cay Johnston's Sunday front-page NYT story on the very rich shows (a) they've gotten richer and (b) they've gotten big tax cuts. What he doesn't answer is the important question on the relationship between (a) and (b), namely how much richer would they have gotten if they hadn't gotten the tax cuts? ... When I looked at this question in the early 90s, the answer was pretty clear: the rich were growing richer due to changes in the underlying economy (e.g. greater rewards for skills) that affected their pretax income, not changes in the tax code that affected how much of that income they got to keep. Even when you factored in the income the rich earned on the money they kept due to lower Reagan-era taxes, tax cuts and benefit changes seemed to explain less than half the increase in the share of after-tax income going to the rich.** Maybe that's now changed, and the rich are getting richer entirely through tax changes. It would be interesting to know! It would suggest we really could reverse rising income inequality at the top by reversing the Republican tax cuts. I doubt this is true--the underlying economic forces (technology + trade) that produce big pre-tax fortunes are very powerful. But Johnston doesn't even try to give us the answer. ... He seems to assume we'll be so outraged that the "hyper-rich" are getting tax cuts at all that we won't ask if denying them the tax cuts would actually be enough to stop them from getting richer. Or maybe his editors just vaguely assume that all economic inequality comes from tax cuts. ...

*--A lower bound estimate that seemed authoritative at the time was 20%--in other words, a fifth of the increased after-tax share at the top was due to tax cuts. The estimable Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice came up with an stunning high-end estimate of "two-thirds," but that seemed heavily inflated by a number of factors (it assumed, for example, that the top 1% of taxpayers were the same people every year, which they definitely aren't). See footnote 4 of Chapter 5 in my book for tedious details. Even McIntyre's number implied that if you reversed Reagan-era tax cuts the rich would still have gotten richer.  ...

Update: See Wizbang and Drum. ... Wizbang  notes Johnston's amazing, undocumented 'Oh, by the way, studies suggest mobility's declining' final paragraph. Not that mobility is or isn't declining. But "Studies Say" Journalism is lousy journalism if you don't even bother to say which studies. Must be those onerous space limitations the Times has placed on its "Class Matters" series!

More: I'm not saying that Johnston doesn't understand the underlying non-tax causes of rising incomes at the top.  He mentions them. I'm saying he and his editors conflate his two subjects--rich getting richer, rich getting tax cuts--in a way that encourages readers to think the former caused the latter (for example, with a headline:. "Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind: Tax Laws Help to Widen Gap at Very Top"). Tax cuts at the top almost certainly "help" widen the gap. The interesting question is how much. Why don't the Times editors and writers tackle it? I suspect they rightly fear the answer would be highly discouraging to liberals who don't like rising income inequality, because it would indicate "progressive" tax changes can't hope to reverse that trend.

But why make the rich even richer, Drum asks. That's certainly not a good thing in itself.  But it's also not nearly as important a phenomenon as traditional liberals make it out to be. At some point, who cares if David Geffen has $1 billion or $4 billion--except Michael Eisner? He's rich, OK? If our goal is (attainable) social equality rather than (unattainable) income equality--as I think it should be--there are more efficient, direct ways to achieve it than by raising Geffen's taxes3:22 A.M. link

Why Newsweek Should Be More Like KFC: The WSJ reported (on 5/25) that Newsweek magazine's Arabic edition did not contain the editor's note apologizing for the Koran/toilet story.

When asked why Newsweek didn't print an apology or offer sympathies in its Arabic version, Newsweek spokesman Ken Weine said, "because this is a licensing relationship, Newsweek provides its partners with a menu of article to select from and one of them was the editor's note, which they didn't use."

Hmm. The Arabic Newsweek did apparently run an Evan Thomas article  that described the Koran story as erroneous--and (according to the WSJ) it published an apologetic editor's note the following week. Still, maybe it's time for Newsweek to renegotiate that licensing agreement. It's the magazine's name that's on the line. I suspect McDonald's keeps a lot more control over its franchisees than Newsweek seems to have over what its Arabic readers read under its banner. ... 2:06 A.M. link

Friday, June 3, 2005

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. link

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. link

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. link

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. link

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** 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. link

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