Squaring the Burkle.

A mostly political Weblog.
April 17 2006 4:54 AM

kf Tries to Square the Burkle!

Why I'm flummoxed by the Page Six scandal.

Squaring the Burkle: Recent coverage of the Page Six/Burkle story raises as many questions as it answers!

(a)--If, as reported by the NY Observer's "Daily Transom", details of Ron Burkle's "divorce were printed in the Los Angeles Business Journal, which combed over the records before the records were sealed," and reporters have copies of this publication, why don't we know the juicy details from those records? Are there no juicy details? (If they're just the ones printed by the Observer, Burkle's divorce is not that bad, by modern Messy Divorce standards.) Are the details so juicy that everyone's scared to print them?

(b)--Why did Burkle do what he did? Let's assume--for purposes of argument--that Burkle's view of Jared Paul Stern's intent is accurate. Still, if as we're told Burkle is someone who "hates publicity and hates having his name in the paper," why would he conduct a high-profile sting guaranteed (if it worked) to dramatically raise his profile and keep his name in the papers for months?  What was his long-term goal? Was he trying to burnish his goo-goo ethical credentials as a potential purchaser of 12 ex-Knight-Ridder newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer? Was he trying to shut up Page Six? But what might they publish about him? That he knew Gisele Bundchen? That's hardly damaging. That he had girlfriends? He's single, right? The proverbial "messy" divorce details? That assumes both that there are such details, and that none of the other reporters who've seen those details would publish them (see (a) above).  Did Page Six really have something nobody else had? I'm not sure they're that good! Maybe Burkle just felt wronged, got his back up, and created a situation that's now  gotten out of his control. But you'd think anyone as smart as Burkle, especially someone advised by Sitrick and Company, would know it would get out of control.

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I'm still flummoxed.

P.S.: When I shopped at Ralph's supermarkets in the 90s, when they were owned by Burkle, I remember row upon row of a particular product at the checkout counter. It was ... it's almost too disgusting to recall ... tabloids! Shoddy, standardless, gossip-obsessed tabloids! Tabloids of the sort condemned in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by an eminent entrepreneur. ... Before Burkle gets too far with his anti-tab crusade, shouldn't he give back the millions in profits he made off selling them? He could give the money to ... I don't know, George Clooney. ...

P.P.S.: Are Knight-Ridder employees actually  happy about the prospect of working for Burkle? The poor souls. ... 1:01 A.M. link

The Rich Get Glitchier: Automobile Magazine notices a recent capitalist trend that seemingly defies the textbooks. They're reviewing a $73,000 Porsche Cayenne SUV:

You might think that kind of money would buy reliable transport. You would be wrong. In fact, our experience lately, particularly among the pedigreed European brands, has been that a higher price tag usuallly equates to a higher incidence of problems compared with less expensive vehicles from lesser nameplates. [Emph. added]

The interesting question is why the rich tolerate this--why doesn't at least one European luxury automaker back off the iffy, cutting edge electronics and market a car that, you know, keeps working? ... 10:37 P.M.

All Burkle, All the Time: Meow! The decision to let slimebag Jared Paul Stern guest-edit gawker.com over this weekend initially seemed a cheap attention-getting move by an ambitious Brit blog owner gravely ignorant of American libel law. It turns out to have been an inspired move by an ambitious Brit blog owner gravely ignorant of American libel law! ... Stern is doing what the lame Burklewatch should be doing: throwing out a cornucopia of potential leads that more respectable reporters (like Dan Walters) can check out. ... If Stern's output survives without provoking a fatal lawsuit, it could start a trend. But I advise reading it immediately--go ahead, leave my blog, I'll be here all day--before the Singer letters start arriving at Denton HQ. ...  5:59 P.M.

Nevada Republicans try to pressure Sen. Harry Reid  on immigration by calling him a "rich Anglo"--an impressively unprincipled, offensive, and desperate move. [Also 'ironic'--ed Yes. But 'ironic' is now an unusable cliche.] ... 11:59 A.M.

Walter Kirn blames Malcolm Gladwellfor the Iraq War. ... Not really. But not 100% not really. ... 12:58 A.M.

Burkle Jerk: Jared Paul Stern may be a slimebag, but he gives good interview, especially for a guy in the U.S. Attorney's headlights. ... Meanwhile, the New York Observer uploads the Burkle File. Lots of potential investigative leads here! We especially want to know more about that business partnership with Bill Clinton:

Mr. Burkle hired Mr. Clinton in April 2002 as "senior adviser" to two Yucaipa investment funds which specialize in developing low-income-area businesses.

Could be highly relevant to the 2008 campaign, no? ... P.S.: Is Bill (not to mention Hillary) happy that Burkle staged this high-profile stunt that will attract press scrutiny to all the ex-President's business dealings? It would be interesting to know, for example, if ex-President Clinton, perhaps, was involved in Yucaipa's Dubai-related transactions?

In October, 2005, Yucaipa, working with the Dubai Investment Group—owned by the Dubai government—made a $828 million bid for Refco, the firm that caused Ms. Clinton a headache when she was accused of having a conflict of interest when she invested in cattle-futures in 1979. Mr. Clinton was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the firm was fined.

Did Burkle let his quest for "privacy" triumph over his buddy's political interest? That would be so selfish! ...

Update: Lifson suggests another potential investigative angle. ...  1:20 P.M. link

Who's split again? Ron Brownstein notices something interesting in the guts  of the latest version of the (historically non- trustworthy) LAT poll:

"They say [illegal immigrants] want to do a job Americans don't want to do," said Erner, the Democratic factory worker. "I think [employers] don't want to pay a wage Americans can live on."

Those class fissures help explain a surprising result: that Democrats are less enthusiastic than Republicans about proposals to create a guest-worker program or to legalize illegal immigrants — ideas supported much more in Washington by Democratic than Republican leaders.

Support for the legalization of illegal immigrants is notably higher among independents (71%) and Republicans (67%) than Democrats (59%). The guest-worker program also drew more support among independents (60%) and Republicans (56%) than Democrats (48%).

Part of the reason for the disparity is that non-college voters, who are most skeptical of the idea, constitute a larger share of Democrats than Republicans. The larger reason is that Democratic voters without a college education are much more skeptical about those ideas than Republicans of similar education levels.

For instance, although 54% of Republicans without a college degree support a program to import guest workers, just 38% of such Democrats do. Support for a guest-worker program is especially low among minority Democrats without college degrees — some of the people who might face the greatest competition for jobs from such a program. [Emph. added]

I think this means that black Democrats without a college degree oppose guest-worker plans by something like a 3-1 ratio, but the Times doesn't give the "especially low" breakout. Talk about demoralizing the base! Can Democrats afford to alienate the black vote going into the midterms? ...

Update:L.A. Weekly's Bill Bradley analyzes the competing Field poll's immigration findings. As usual his comments section is bizarrely useful. ... 12:10 P.M. link

Ford Pulls A Clinton: Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, voted for the Sensenbrenner immigration bill. He explains that vote on the Glenn and Helen Instapodcast,specifically endorsing a non-comprehensive, enforcement-first, sequential approach:

Unless we're able to secure and protect the borders, it's hard to talk about a path to citizenship, because essentially all you do is incentivize ... people coming into the country, sneaking into the country, breaking the law, and hiding from the law for a few years or at least long enough to be granted amnesty under the President's plan if he has it his way. So I think you have to secure the borders first, and once you do that you can have a reasonable and serious conversation about what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants in this country now, and you can have a serious conversation about providing, or laying out, a path to citizenship ...

See, Bruce! It's not that hard to get to Bush's right on immigration and still sound like a Democrat. Indeed, you could easily imagine Bill Clinton speaking the above paragraph, with its hard words appealing to the right ("sneaking into the country, breaking the law") coupled with its sensible let's-have-a-conversationism. Clinton didn't often resort to policy euphemisms (as opposed to weaselly sentences ...  and sexual euphemisms). And Ford doesn't pretend amnesty's not amnesty. ... Why isn't this position the equivalent of Clinton's "end welfare as we know it"/two-year time-limit middle ground on welfare reform?  ... P.S.: Ford does say he's "against a fence," preferring high-tech means of border protection. ... 11:05 P.M. link

An emailer speculates that Ron Burkle's infuriatingly self-righteous op-ed in the Wall Street Journalwas an attempt to secure the high ground of respectability against any pro-Stern countertide. But how smart was it to go from saying, in effect, 'Jared Paul Stern is a slimeball' to saying to the entire press corps that they're all slimeballs no different from Stern (especially if they do something shocking like, say, writing about a politician's personal life--or protecting a source!)? I hope Burkle didn't pay Sitrick and Company for that advice. ... Maybe he really does need a media consultant! ... 9:22 P.M.

The Right's Split on Immigration, the Left's Split on Immigration. Why Can't Centrists Split on Immigration Too? Blogger, DLC President and former Clinton domestic policy advisor Bruce Reed argues on bloggingheads.tv that  legalization or amnesty won't act as a magnet attracting future illegal immigrants (beyond all the other attractions of sneaking into the U.S. to work).  I think he's wrong, and would cite this fresh report from the Arizona border. [Via Drudge]... P.S.: Reed seems to make the interesting additional argument that tough you've-gotta-assimilate requirements (which he supports)  will potentially act as a deterrent to immigration. Again, I'm not so sure. ... P.P.S.: He also gives a valuable insider-y explanation of why George Stephanopoulos is wrong about the Contract With America's impact on the 1994 House-changing election. ... 6:23 P.M.

Shorter McCain, 2006 YTD:

Preexisting CW: McCain, maverick! (e.g., Green)

New CW: Not maverick! McCain's just a conventional right-winger. (e.g., Krugman)

Newer CW: McCain is too a maverick! (Weisberg)

I'm with Newer. Weisberg's evidence is much more convincing than Krugman's. ... P.S.: McCain's been a strong, consistent supporter of the Iraq War. But nobody said "maverick" meant "liberal" or "dovish" or "realist." Nor does it mean McCain's right, or that you'll like his positions. It means maverick! McCain's simply not an orthodox conservative on a whole range of issues. Dems like Krugman will have to learn to deal with that complication. ... Update: See also Marshall Wittmann's  strangely dogmatic gushing  about "our modern T.R." ... 5:34 P.M.

Burkle raises the Larger Issue! Ron Burkle attempts to leverage the Jared Paul Stern corruption case into a general condemnation of "gossip coverage"  of, well, people like him:

And it would be satisfying to reach the conclusion that simply holding gossip-writers to the same standards as other journalists will solve the problem. But it won't. For one thing, gossip and tabloid-style journalism has been spreading rapidly to other spheres of reporting. Gossip coverage that used to be devoted primarily to movie stars now encompasses politicians and business people.

With the rise of blogs, reality TV, camera phones and other types of instant media, one can see a day when anyone, anywhere could become the subject of salacious journalism. And as gossip journalism spreads, so do the shoddy standards that accompany it.  I'm not talking about bribes or extortion. One hopes that's a rare practice. But consider what the New York Times reported about the way business is done at Page Six: "Keeping a list of reliable sources, of course, means having a list of people who need to be protected somewhat... [snip] ... We've all read how well-known and respected journalists have readily protected top-ranked officials leaking classified information. It makes one wonder: Where does the political reporter end and the political operative begin?

No doubt the challenge of upholding the highest media standards has never been harder. But institutions that give up will find that the lines between them and bloggers, demi-pundits and rumor-mongers on the Internet will be blurred beyond recognition. Newspapers that continue to go down the road of tabloidism, that adopt the shoddy standards of gossip reporting, and that arrogantly resist correcting their mistakes, risk losing their special role in our democracy. [Emphasis added]

Protecting leakers! Does Burkle think this is a new, tabloidy trend in conventional, respectable journalism? The FBI protects turncoat witnesses, journalists don't screw good sources. It can easily turn into a protection racket, but it's also a proven device for uncovering the truth. ...

P.S.: Is Burkle a persecuted businessman trying to carve out a zone of privacy against dissembling gossips?  Or is he a guy with a lot to hide attempting to intimidate and marginalize potential new, blog-like, unconventional threats,aware that maybe  Marty Singer can't protect him forever in this new environment? Or something in between! ... Is he worried about inaccurate journalism or accurate journalism? .. You, the reader, make the call! ...

Note to Maer Roshan: This is so not the guy you want to ownRadar magazine.. ... Makes Mort Zuckerman look like John Peter Zenger! ... 2:52 P.M. link

Et tu, RCP?Real Clear Politics' John McIntyre thinks the Republicans are getting the worst of both worlds on immigration:

[T]hey are increasingly turning off two pillars of their new majority. The first pillar is the talk-radio portion of the Republican base led by Rush Limbaugh (and the many who have followed in his wake) that provide a tremendous amount of energy to the conservative movement. The second pillar the GOP is endangering is the Hispanic community, the single largest growing demographic in American politics. ...

[R]ight now Republicans have managed to create a political environment on immigration that further demoralizes their base while at the same time angers the largest growing electoral demographic critical to a long-term GOP majority. Is it any wonder Senator Schumer implored Harry Reid to scuttle the Senate "compromise"? The last thing the Democrats want, from a political standpoint, is to resolve the immigration issue. [Emph. added]

I still don't understand! I can see where the immigration issue is killing Bush. (Which genius decided, when Bush was down to his most loyal 40%, to promote a policy that pisses them off? Why not go for a clean zero and get a good draft pick?) But Bush isn't running again. And I still don't see why House Republicans won't benefit in 2006 from pushing a tough enforcement policy that pleases their base, and that in general is popular. Are they incapable of communicating their views to their constituents? ... Plus, it's highly unpopularfor the Democrats to oppose the House approach, no? Robo-pollerr Scott Rasmussen notes that as the immigration debate has proceeded the GOPs have opened up a 6 point lead on this issue, up from one point--entirely because support for the Democrats has declined. ... P.S.: The wooing of the Hispanic vote is a long-term project, remember. The  mid-terms are short-term, and the House is the most vulnerable GOP institution. Why can't you more plausibly argue that the Republicans can get the best of both worlds: In the short run, the House GOP has engaged its base and put the Dems in a bad spot; in the long run, Bush and the Republican Senate have reached out to Latinos in a way that will serve them well in future presidential races? ... I don't quite believe that either, of course. For one thing, to really capitalize on the popularity of a tough enforcement approach, the House would need an actual, enacted bill to brag about. For another, I'm skeptical about the long-term lockupability of the Latino vote by anyone. Nor is it clear to me just why Republicans benefit by letting in millions and millions more poor, Latin-Americans who at least initially are likely to be Democrats.) But you get the point. ... This is MSM Kool-Aid McIntyre's drinking! ... 4:24 P.M. link

Eroded Schorr: Daniel Schorr on NPR, explaining why Bush might want to change the subject from his administration's ongoing troubles by blustering against Iran, noted that even as Bush addressed the issue at Johns Hopkins immigrants were "massing around the country against his immigration policy."  ... Er, weren't they massing for Bush's immigration policy (and against the House Republicans' policy)? Just askin'! ... But why let these tedious Inside-the-Beltway nuances get in the way when there's some smug NPR Bush-bashing to do? 1:08 A.M.

Just a Reminder: Ron Burkle, the L.A. billionaire who has   come off looking very good in the Page Six scandal, might well be someone you'd want to read good, accurate,  gossip about. Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times noted recently:

Burkle rose from bag boy at Stater Bros. to the owner of Ralphs, Food4Less and other chains. ...[snip]. He's also a leading donor to UCLA and major contributor to Democrats.

Whatever his laudable personal qualities, they aren't much in evidence in the divorce papers. I hesitate to go into the noisome particulars, but if he and his ex-wife, Janet, left any of the deadly sins out of their descriptions of each other in court, then I can't count to seven.  [Emphasis added]

In early 2004, according to Hiltzik, after Burkle failed to convince a judge to seal parts of the divorce record, the state legislature within months mysteriously

enacted — hastily, unanimously and without a single hearing — a law requiring judges in divorce court to seal in their entirety (upon a party's motion) any documents that mention the party's assets or other financial details even in passing.

Burkle then applied to seal weeks of trial transcripts, 22 exhibits and 28 other documents.

The law was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in June. According to an LAT story later that year, Burkle

gave contributions totaling $147,800 to Schwarzenegger and the state Democratic Party in February and March.

Was the California government cheaper than .... hey, better not finish that thought! Anyway, as the Times added, "Burkle denies any role in the bill." **  And there was this charming touch:

An attorney representing Burkle, Martin D. Singer, said in a letter to The Times that any allegation of Burkle's involvement in the passage of the law is "outrageous in the extreme."

"You proceed at your peril," Singer, identifying himself as Burkle's "litigation counsel," said in the letter.

Burkle also once denied to me, through an aide, that when Bill Clinton had stayed the night in Burkle's house, Clinton was up until 2 or 3 in the morning reading in Burkle's library. I don't know why I was checking out this salacious rumor, but something about the Burkle camp's insistence that Clinton had been in bed early--well before midnight, if I remember--reminded me again why calling for comment and dealing with lawyers isn't necessarily always a truth-uncovering exercise. When has Clinton ever gone to bed early? Maybe this once. ...

[Note to Burkle attorney: Make sure you send all intimidating letters to Hiltzik too! ]

[P.S.: And save one of those letters for the New York Times. The NYT reported on Sunday that Burkle "has pushed in the courts and in the California Legislature to keep his divorce records confidential." [Emph. added] Maybe the paper is referring to a more recent bill introduced after the 2004 bill was held unconstitutional. But Burkle denies a connection to the recent bill too. The NYT report sounds "outrageous in the extreme" to me!]

**--It's not as if Burkle and Schwarzenegger have the same lawyer. ... Oh, wait. ... 12:49 A.M. link

Monday, April 10, 2006

L.A. Immigrant Demo Report: Marcha Sin Gente! "Huge Crowds Expected in L.A.," was the headline on the L.A. Times web site. But today's Los Angeles pro-immigrant demonstration--scheduled for 5:00 in the evening--was shockingly small. It filled an interesection and a little park in the Olvera St. section. That's about it. Anybody who says there were more than 12,000 people there is full of it! I'd say 5,000-8,000. ... The organizers certainly cut down on the backlash potential. ... P.S.: I went looking for the fabled Korean contingent--I was told they had good drummers--and couldn't find it, or hear it. Once again the protest seemed 98% Latino. Mood: Friendly, as with the Gran Marcha two weeks ago. ... Update: [The LAT estimates the crowd at 4,000--ed   Seems right. I was trying not to lowball it. Wouldn't want another "Brokeback" situation.] ...  7:11 P.M. link

I realize that neither of the previous two items discussed immigration reform. My apologies to those concerned about this blog's growing lack of focus. Here, for you, is Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions instant analysis  of why the fabled, collapsed Hagel-Martinez immigration compromise was a loophole-ridden deception! Sessions' spiel impressed when he gave it on the floor last Thursday, and it's still impressive in print. [It's a long document. Search for "waltz" and start there. ...] As with welfare reform, it turns out smart liberal lawyers can hide a lot of mischief in the fine print of immigration reform (including, in both cases, a vaporous definition of "work"). ... P.S.: Welfare reform succeeded, in part, because one unusually powerful and trusted House staff member--Ron Haskins, who worked for Rep. Clay Shaw--kept an eye out and helped block the mischief. I wonder, reading Sessions' critique, if Senator Frist needs a Haskins of his own. ... 3:07 P.M.

Arrow Points to Defective Part: Harry Shearer, who's been following with admirable, apolitical, homeowners' tenacity the finger-pointing about the New Orleans levees, notes that the guilty party has finally fessed up--and the press didn't notice2:54 A.M.

Some emailers argue that bloggingheads.tv has made a hideous strategic misstep by featuring commentary by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.  I'll lobby to make sure it doesn't happen again.... In the meantime, you can watch Jacqueline Shire's lucid explanation of what Iran is doing to get the bomb, and the missed "magic moment" right after we toppled Saddam in 2003,  and the problem with a military strike. ... Meanwhile Bob Wright  floats his "wild" (her word) proposal  for dealing with the crisis. ... 2:37 A.M.

Worthwhile Canadian Commentary: Highly-effective Mark Steyn column, sabotaged by a Chicago Sun-Times headline writer. ("No easy answers on immigration conundrum." If a less enticing headline has ever been written, I missed it. Makes "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative" seem like a salacious come-on! ... P.S.: Maybe it's ironic mockery. But nobody will get it.) [via Lucianne] 12:16 P.M.

Once you get past the Neutral Story Line** crap about the "web of suspicion" between "two parties bruised by years of partisan conflict," blah, blah, blah,  the LAT's Ron Brownstein seems to rebut  the spin of pro-legalization Republicans, which is that Senate Democrats don't want an immigration bill because they're eager to have Republicans tarred by their association with that unpopular, draconian Sensenbrenneresque House bill, etc.  Instead, it seems the Senate Democrats are scared they might be asked to actually vote on a Sensenbrenneresque enforcement-only bill--and they're scared because the bill would be popular.

If the legislation is moved to the right on that and other issues in a House-Senate conference committee, Senate Democrats could be left with a difficult choice just weeks before November's election: either vote against a bill that includes tough border security, a potential liability at the polls, or accept legislation they consider too punitive for immigrants.

Among Democrats, the fear is so great that a GOP-controlled conference committee would produce a bill they consider unacceptable that some have questioned the wisdom of passing any measure through the Senate. [Emph. added]

P.S.: There's always partisan suspicion when a bipartisan group of Senators decides to support a position (in this case, legalization) that the voters don't actually want! The only way to pull that off, after all, is if everybody holds hands and jumps together. But one side usually worries that the other will pull a fast one before an election and actually do what the electorate prefers. ...

**--Neutral Story Line: "[A] smart yet seemingly even-handed take on the campaign that doesn't favor one side or the other and thus expose the reporter to charges of bias. The ideal Neutral Story Line is durable in that it can withstand assault by any number of actual events. Classic NSLs are 'Is This Any Way to Elect A President?' and 'Oh, What a Dirty Campaign'"--kf, 9/6/04...3:35 P.M.

Specter of Defeat? Sen. Arlen Specter explained the apparent collapse of the vaunted "breakthrough" Senate deal on immigration:

"It's not gone forward because there's a political advantage for Democrats not to have an immigration bill," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

He said Democrats perceive a benefit in having only a GOP-written House bill that criminalizes being an illegal immigrant. That bill has prompted massive protests across the country, including a march by 500,000 people in Los Angeles last month. [Emph added]

Is Specter right? Or has he been reading too much of the MSM's recent pro-protest coverage? The most recent Rasmussen robo-poll on immigration suggests the latter. It asked people to choose between two hypothetical candidates:

"One candidate favors building a barrier along the Mexican border and forcing illegal aliens to leave the United States. The other candidate favors expanding the ways that foreign workers can legally get jobs in the United States." [Emph. added]

As noted earlier, the barrrier-builder won 46-38%--not surprising, and not a blowout. But the 50% "who say the immigration issue is very important in determining their vote prefer the pro-enforcement candidate by a much larger margin, 67% to 23%." That is lopsided. It "suggests that the short-term political advantage on the immigration issue lies with those who want a tougher enforcement policy," concludes Rasmussen.

At least in the 2006 election--a low-turnout mid-term in which intensity of opinion may be important in prodding voters to show up at the polls**-- the beleaguered House Republicans seem like the ones who benefit from "having only a GOP-written House bill" that stresses enforcement on the table, despite the excessive felony penalties. ... Will the House Dems sense this and at some point pressure the Senate Dems to pass a compromise in order to muddle the issue and give them something to support?

P.S.: A subsequent, richer AP report suggests, reassuringly, Democrats aren't really so stupid as to drink the same MSM-served anti-House Kool-Aid Specter seems to have been sipping.

In private as well as public, Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who heads the party's campaign effort, said they did not want to expose rank-and-file Democrats to votes that would force them to choose between border security and immigrant rights, only to wind up with legislation that would be eviscerated in future negotiations with the House.

In other words, there was a penalty to pay with voters for looking soft, and the Dems chickened out of paying it.That's the advantage to the Dems of killing the deal: Not just that it won them voters who didn't like the House bill. It saved them from voters who didn't like Specter's semi-amnesty bill.

P.P.S: The Kool-Aid flows both ways! Specter may or may not actually believe the press' favorite theory that the House bill hurts the GOPs. But doesn't the press deserve some grief for, revealingly, swallowing Specter and Frist's hype of the bipartisan "breakthrough" deal that, it turned out, didn't have enough support. Here's the initial, now-embarrassing lede of the NYT'sRachel Swarns:

After days of painstaking negotiations, Senate leaders today hammered out a broad, bipartisan compromise that would put the vast majority of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Actually ... not!

**-The differential-intensity theory of mid-terms doesn't always work. It failed in the 1998 elections, when the prospect of Clinton's impeachment was supposed to galvanize the GOP's base voters but Republicans actually lost seats. 11:48 P.M.

This Land Is ...  Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is a "bestselling American author ... named one of the nation's 25 most influential Hispanics by Time magazine," it says on her blog. She's written a 16-point "open letter to CNN and other mainstream US media outlets." Here are points 1 and 6:

1. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. (75 percent of us) were born and raised here, including many of us who have roots here that predate the arrival of the pilgrims. ...

6. You can be a Mexican American and never have had an ancestor come over the US border; vast portions of the United States of today USED TO BE MEXICO or SPAIN. If you failed to learn this in high school, your teachers should be fired.

She also asks why someone waving a Mexican flag is "different than someone waving an Irish flag in Southie or an Italian flag on Columbus Day." But the answer to that question is points 1 and 6. Vast portions of the Unites States of today didn't used to be Ireland or Italy. ... Her Point 13:

Tell us in concrete terms what the risks and dangers are being brought to the US by "illegal" immigrants. Now tell us how these problems, if any, differ from the problems caused by U.S. citizens of all other backgrounds. Be precise. Control for economics and educational background. Can't find any? Thought so.

Again, part of the answer is points 1 and 6. U.S. citizens of "other backgrounds" do not have any colorable claim that they are living in the land of their "roots," land then taken by the U.S.. There's no danger that Koreans on Vermont Avenue will think they have a special pre-1789 entitlement to Koreatown, or desire to reconnect it to its ancient, original status as part of Korea. The more historically valid the Mexican claim that "vast portions" of the Southwest constitute their "homeland," the more dicey it is to allow such a large chunk of immigration to come from Mexico. True, the fabled "reconquista" is hardly a real threat now. But who can guarantee what future generations will think? Irredentism is the source of conflict and killing around the globe. Why should the U.S. be permanently immune? Simple prudence might tell Americans it's best if there's a mix of immigrants and if the vast majority of them can't possibly think they're coming back to their own former land. ... 12:40 A.M. link

S is for Snob! William Kristol sneering at the "demagoguery" of the "Know-Nothing" and "yahoo" opponents of his elaborate legalize-the-illegals strategy reminds me of nothing so much as HHS Secretary Joseph Califano in the Carter years, sneering at the crude--probably racist--demagogues who thought welfare recipients actually should work! Welfare reform had its share of fools--Rep. Mica once notoriously compared recipients to "alligators." That didn't discredit the argument, as Kristol knows. .... P.S.: Who will Kristol blame when this latest grand, risky plan of his--to ensure a Republican majority for generations--goes awry? Donald Rumsfeld?  ... P.P.S.: Thomas Frank has argued that the key to the Republicans' victories has actually been their ability to convince voters that they are the unpretentious average Americans while liberal Democrats are the elitist snobs. Looks like there's now an opening for the Dems to turn that one around! Intellectual condescension doesn't seem to be much of a strain for Kristol, does it? It's more convincing than the populism. ... 11:45 P.M.

"A Leg Up": Majority Leader Bill Frist makes time on one of the busier legislative days of his career to talk to Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and his wife Helen. (You don't need an iPod to listen to the podcast. Low-fi version here.) Frist trashes the McCain-Kennedy approach to immigration:

[McCain-Kennedy] gives what is known as amnesty--generally you're giving the people who broke the law illegally a leg up on the 3 million people who are outside of our country waiting in line today in a legal wayto come into this country.

Right. And why doesn't the vaunted compromise Frist has now endorsed also give at least 7 million people who broke the law a leg up? (See "Deal Would Put Millions on Path to Citizenship"). Actually, it's probably more like 10 out of the 11 million who'd get a leg up, if I read the descriptions of the Hagel/Martinez compromise correctly.** ... Remember, even if they are required to go to the end of the queue, the illegal entrants effectively get to wait in the queue while working here, living here, using our schools, hospitals, roads, civil liberties, police, etc. Who wouldn't want that "leg up"?  ... P.S.: There's also the point made by Paul Mirengoff--that the deal provides "the certainty of benefits for illegal aliens with only the promise of future enforcement." ... (Possible compromise: Officially delay the starting date of the benefits in the law until one or two years after enforcement efforts have reached specified goals--fence built, employee identity verification in place, etc.. Of course, that would still raise Latino hopes and put tremendous pander-pressure on the future politicians who'd have to declare that the pre-ordained enforcement standards had been met. On the other hand, it would in theory use those hopes to put pressure on employers and the INS to actually make the enforcement system effective--unlike what happened after the 1986 immigration reform, when the enforcement half of the deal was undermined by the very civil rights and ethnic lobbies now calling for amnesty, and allowed to quickly collapse.)...

**-- 5:00 P.M.Update: "No Illegal Alien Left Behind" On the Senate floor now, Sen. Jeff Sessions is in the process of demonstrating, with surprising authority, that even the "compromise" provisions saying--according to the NYT--that immigrants who've been here "less than two years ... would be required to leave the country" are phony. Sessions claims those immigrants would likely qualify for an expanded number of temporary worker visas. There would be no deterrent "demonstration effect" of a fraction of the 11 million illegals actually having to leave. ... See also John O'Sullivan. ....3:40 P.M.

Am I crazy to think "master thespians" Hen and Bunny are funny? (Animal puppets reenact overwrought scenes from "The L Word." That can't be bad.) 3:25 A.M.

Samuelson Caves? On March 8, Robert Samuelson wrote a highly-effective immigration column concluding

If we control new inflows, we should legalize the illegal immigrants already here.

The paradox this sentence hides, of course, is the near-certainty that if we "legalize the illegal immigrants already here" it will make it much harder to "control new inflows," because it will send a message to potential future illegals that if they sneak into the country they, too, are likely to be legalized in some future amnesty--and they certainly aren't likely to be kicked out.  (That's the signal many current illegals got from the 1986 amnesty, and it's looking like they interpreted it correctly.) We'd have a lot more people trying to get in that we'd have to try to stop than if there were no legalization. ... Similar paradoxes abound in, yes, welfare reform. For example, if you offer every current welfare recipient elaborate job training that qualifies them for high-paying work, they might get off welfare. That sounds good! But it also creates an incentive for people not yet on welfare to go on welfare and get the elaborate job training. ...

Samuelson initiailly papered over this "incentive paradox" by suggesting--with the word "if"--that the borders would be controlled before the perverse amnesty incentive was put in place. That's why it's distressing to see him abandon this condition in his most recent column, which seems to advocate granting amnesty before we know whether we can control inflows or not. ... 3:09 A.M. link

The Full Kabuki: On immigration, the stage is set for a classic Washington stalemate in which all the actors--at least the Republican actors--get to position themselves as advocating their desired brand of bold action, and nothing gets done. In this scenario, 1) the Senate passes a relatively liberal compromise  offering full "earned" amnesty/citizenship for 7 million illegals, legalized status for another 3 million and continued illegality for the 1 million most recent arrivals. That lets national Republicans argue that they haven't been anti-Latino, or at least muddle the issue. Frist gets Strange New Respect. ... Meanwhile, 2) the House has already passed its seemingly extra-tough enforcement-only measure, allowing House Republicans to mobilize a still-angry conservative base in their races and maybe retain control of that chamber. ... Finally, 3) the House and Senate fail to agree on a compromise bill, allowing the status quo to remain for another year, which doesn't displease American businesses addicted to cheap illegal immigrant labor, who continue to write checks to fund GOP campaigns. ... As Charles Peters has written, in Washington, "Make Believe = Survival." ... P.S: Then, if it looks as if voters are going to punish Republicans for not actually passing anything, House members can panic and implore their Senate colleagues to pass a milder common-denominator enforcement-only bill later in the year. ... P.P.S.: Note that even Jacob Weisberg, arguing for keeping the sloppy status quo, nevertheless favors at least some tougher enforcement actions against employers. Why not add the House bill's new "electronic verification" requirement and increased employer fines, etc. if this is "the one step that would surely make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find work here and thereby address the unfairness issue much more efficiently than tighter border security would"? ... 2:26 A.M. link

Frist Thought, Best Thought: The communication stream of obvious cheap punning headlines has now come into sharp focus:

Frist, Do No Harm--Richard Schwartz, editorial, New York Daily News, Sept. 13, 2004

Frist, Do No Harm!--kausfiles, May 24, 2005

Frist, Do No Harm--editorial, Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss), May 31, 2005

Frist, Do No Harm--editorial, Investor's Business Daily, August 2, 2005

Frist, Do No Harm, Part XVIII--kausfiles, March 23, 2006

Frist, do no harm--editorial, L.A. Times, March 30, 2006

Frist, Do No Harm--Jacob Weisberg, SlateApril 5, 2006

With deep regret I note that this was all predicted in a William Safire "On Language" column published in January, 2003, shortly after Sen. Frist became Majority Leader. ... [You're still paying for NEXIS?-ed. Through the nose.] ... 2:22 A.M.

Robo-poller Scott Rasmussen has posted an interesting immigration-related result on his Premium Site. He asked people to choose between two candidates. One candidate "favors building a barrier along the Mexican border and forcing illegal aliens to leave the United State." The other "favors expanding the ways that foreign workers can legally get jobs in the United States." The candidate who would force illegal aliens to leave is favored by a 46% to 38% margin. ... The poll should move to Rasmussen's public site soon. ... I'm actually surprised there wasn't a more lopsided result in such a contest--the pro-legalization position only seems to gain when the exact conditions and benefits of legalization (e.g. "learn English," "pay taxes") are spelled out. On the other hand, "forcing illegal aliens to leave" is a fairly harsh version of an anti-illegal enforcement strategy. ... The Rasmussen poll reinforces the argument that an anti-legalization stand would on average help a candidate in the upcoming 2006 election. And that's not even factoring in the relative "intensity" of the two sides--i.e. what might motivate people to go to the polls in a low-turnout mid-term race. You'd think the 46% would be more intense than the 38%. ... 3:24 P.M. link

Laurie David will whip them into line: David Mastio argues that the same environmental groups that call global warming "the most serious environmental issue of our time" are blocking the alternative energy sources--even hydro-power and wind power--that might, in the short-term, reduce the problem. ... P.S.: But I don't see why it's a conflict of interest for big media companies like Gannett, ABC, CBS and NBC to have "donated more than a half-billion worth of ad space" to environmental groups. Sounds more like a confluence of interest--the media companies worry about the environment, report on it, and try to do something about what they've found out. It would be a conflict if the opposite were true, and the environmental groups were actually paying for lots of ads. ... 2:18 P.M.

When Gloria Borger announced on Chris Matthews that Treasury Secretary John Snow would be replaced after November because "the Republicans don't want to go through confirmation hearings and relitigate the economy before the [election]," you knew Snow would be gone by July. ... Yes, it would truly be awful for Republicans if in the days before the election the papers were filled with articles about their stewardship of the economy, their one remaining success story! It might push the news from Iraq off the front page! ... Does Gloria Borger really think the economy is the Republicans' weak spot? ... P.S.: When did Borger become Johnny Apple? [A long time ago--ed. Good point] 12:59 P.M.

That Martinez-Hagel "compromise" immigration plan may be lamer than initially reported. ... 12:15 A.M.

Was McCain 'petulant' on Meet the Press? My colleague Robert Wright says yes. I say no. Crooks & Liars has the video. ... Update: Arianna is more sad than angry! ... 10:42 P.M.

Bug Man Bugs Out: Even my GOP friends were scared of Tom DeLay and his capos, which tells me something. And he's an exterminator, meaning he defends the overuse of various highly unhealthy chemicals. But I will say that during the welfare reform debate of 1995-6, when you needed a disciplined GOP House to hold off the bill-gutting tendencies of the squishy Senate, I was sure happy DeLay was there. ... And with DeLay, unlike with Newt Gingrich, you didn't have to worry that he'd give away the store in a fit of misguided megalomaniacal magnanimity. ... 10:32 P.M.

WaPo buries the news: A not-uninteresting Senate compromise is  discussed on page A9 of today's WaPo. Under the deal, illegal immigrants who've

lived and worked in the United States for five years would qualify for a work visa and an opportunity to apply for citizenship. They could stay in the country as they apply for a green card.

Those not meeting the requirements would have to return to their native countries. New measures in the larger immigration bill, such as a tamper-proof identification card and sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants, would convince recent illegal immigrants they have no choice but to comply, advocates of the compromise said.

Sen. Frist is quoted saying that 40% of the 12 million illegals have been here less than five years. ... The actual sight of millions of illegals having to leave the country might have a deterrent, they-mean-business effect that could counterbalance the inevitable incentive effect (on potential future illegals) of the deal's partial semi-amnesty. But 1) would the under-5s really be made to "return to their native countries"? Why not see if employer sanctions can accomplish this first? Otherwise we might get the soft semi-amnesty part without the tough "no choice but to comply" part. 2) Wouldn't this just energize the Latino lobby to demand that the limit be lowered to 3 years, or 2 years, or 0 years? A bidding war for that voting bloc isn't out of the question.  3) There's still the bogus idea that this plan wouldn't reward illegals for their lawbreaking. According to WaPo:

Under the plan, illegal immigrants could not be put ahead of others legally in the country and seeking U.S. citizenship. Because long-term illegal immigrants would still have to apply for a green card through normal channels, they also could not jump ahead of workers hoping to come to the United States through legal channels.

Right, but, again, those in foreign countries "hoping to come to the United State through legal channels" wouldn't have the advantage of working in the U.S. while they waited! Illegals would have that advantage. They wouldn't need to "jump ahead" because they're already getting most of what those waiting in line are waiting for! So they'd still receive a huge reward for having broken the law, compared with those who played by the rules--enough to encourage others, now living abroad, to make the same trip across the border. ... It's like the difference between a) waiting for a restaurant table in the restaurant, eating, and b) waiting outside in the cold. ... How long before the MSM catches on to this?

Undocumented workers here less than five years would have to return to a "point of entry" such as the border or an airport, and might qualify for shorter, temporary visas.

That's not much of a compromise, is it? Long-time illegals get one form of legalization, while newer illegals get ... another form of legalization!  ("It's pretty sad," as Lindsey Graham might say.) It doesn't have any of the appealing qualities of the compromise reported by WaPo. Specifically, it does little to de-incentivize further immigration. To get a disincentive we-mean-business effect, potential immigrants would need to see large numbers of recent immigrants actually leaving the country. ... [Via K-Lo] 1:49 A.M. link

Immigration CW BS, Item One:

"You can't build a 2,000 mile wall ... You can't do the full 2,000 mile border. You just can't."--Joe Klein, Chris Matthews Show, 4/1/06

Huh? We build 2,000 mile roads. Why can't we build a 2,000 mile wall? Or a fence? It's easier and cheaper to build a wall than a four lane interstate highway! It might be a bad idea. It might have an adverse political or environmental impact. It might be only partly effective. Other methods of reducing immigration might be preferable. But the idea that it "can't" be built is silly. ... P.S.: When did Joe Klein turn into Johnny Apple? 1:03 A.M.

kf Searches for Common Ground, Again! Mark Kleiman argues, plausibly, that employer sanctions are the key to reducing illegal immigration--and that criminalization of illegals gums up any employer-sanction effort:

[T]he provisions in the Sensenbrenner and Frist bills to stiffen sanctions against the illegal aliens themselves would make enforcement of their employer-sanctions provisions virtually impossible.

Effective enforcement of employer sanctions needs the cooperation of the illegal aliens themselves as complainants and witnesses. Stiffening sanctions against them, as the Republican bills do, deters them from complaining or testifying, making them more attractive to employers. ...[snip] ... Felonizing illegal entry, therefore, isn't just pointless, it's counterproductive, if the goal is to slow the influx across the southern border.

But if the goal is to exploit nativist fears without seriously inconveniencing employers too cheap to pay what citizens would demand to do their dirty work, making illegal immigration a felony makes perfect sense.

I don't quite see why the government couldn't simply announce that it would waive any criminal penalties against an illegal who testifies against an employer--indeed, Kleiman himself suggests such a reward system to encourage workers to blow the whistle. (He wants to give out green cards!) But this does seem like a significant potential problem. ... P.S.:  It's obvious to anyone paying attention that mere illegal status won't be a felony in the final bill. The felony provisions now functions mainly as a club with which to hit conservative House Republicans over the head. Indeed, as JPod notes, being an illegal immigrant would have been a misdemeanor in even the House bill if Democrats hadn't voted en masse to retain it (presumably for Machiavellian make-the-GOPs-look-heartless reasons). ... 5:55 P.M. link

Frame B: "Reward people who have broken the law": Mystery Pollster answers the call to assess the Time "April Fool's Poll" on immigration. He also provides a concise summary of the battle to "frame" the issue (and a one-stop review of the polling so far). ... 5:12 P.M.

Get Frist, but First Get Frist Second! Joe Klein piles on Sen. Frist, citing the "nuclear option" maneuver:

A series of terrible leadership moves have ensued. There was Frist's effort to deploy the "nuclear option" — that is, to perform radical surgery on the Senate's filibuster rules in order to allow votes on President Bush's more extreme judicial appointments. But the nuclear option was thwarted when 14 Senate moderates cut a deal to keep the rules and allow votes on some of the appointees. "We saved him on that," said a G.O.P. staff member involved in the negotiations. "Frist never had the votes he needed for the nuclear option."

Frist sure seems clumsy, but, um, wasn't his "nuclear option" threat, in the end, kind of successful? Kind of wildly successful? By provoking the Gang of 14's compromise, with its "extraordinary circumstances" language, Frist got two quite conservative (and anti-abortion) Supreme Court nominees confirmed. They are now on the court, handing down decisions--what liberal interest groups had been preparing for years to prevent. The vaunted Dem filibuster threat collapsed completely. If Frist pulled this off without having the votes--a bluff!--then doesn't that make him positively brilliant?

Also: Do we need Joe Klein to sloppily amplify the week's CW? ..

P.S.: Do you think it's an accident that Pile-On Frist Week comes when the MSM is pushing the Senate to adopt the Judiciary Committee's semi-amnesty approach while Frist appears to be resisting ... sorry, I mean "pandering"? ...

P.P.S.:  As Luciannenotes, Frist's push for a quick vote  may not produce a result conservatives like. If you opposed the Specter/McCain/Kennedy approach, you might want to stop the MSM stampede and let the backlash build. ... If the Senate does pass a liberal bill the press likes, who will write the first news analysis about how the Majority Leader has finally found his groove? ... Update: Frist's early tough anti-"amnesty" rhetoric may actually turn out to be an effective strategy for selling out the immigration conservatives--i.e., when he pronounces whatever compromise gets cobbled together  to be not an amnesty. Only panderers get to go to China! ...

P.P.P.S.: Who's the whiny "Republican member of the Judiciary Committee" who gave Klein an anti-Frist quote ("He forced us to rush a bill. ... Then he didn't like what we produced and so he filed his own bill, which is dead on delivery. He's not even part of the real negotiations at this point. It's pretty sad.") Sounds a lot like Sen. Lindsey Graham to some GOP Hill aides. ... 2:33 P.M. link

Note to John Dickerson: Why is it a "pander" to oppose legalization of existing illegal immigrants, but "thoughtful, nuanced" statesmanship to embrace the desperate attempt of Republicans to twist policy in order to placate an ethnic interest group because it contains a lot of future swing voters? ...  Dickerson is trying to disguise substantive Respectable Beltway CW--that somehow offering "earned" legalization isn't an "invitation to more lawlessness" **--as a high-minded process objection (to "pandering"). ...  Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were similarly criticized for pandering when they denounced the pre-1996 welfare system--"boob bait for Bubbas," said the thoughtful, nuanced Sen. Moynihan said of Clinton's plan. But Reagan and Clinton were right while Moynihan and the respectable Beltway CW (including George Will) were wrong. ...

**--Of course it's an "invitation to more lawlessness." Those who obey the law and wait in Mexico don't get the chance to "earn" legalization in this fashion. They certainly don't get the chance to wait in line and earn legalization while living and working in the United States. Even making existing illegals go to the end of the current queue (as the Senate Judiciary bill claims to do) doesn't wipe out that advantage--the advantage they've reaped of jumping the queue in the first place. The point may be lost on journalists, but it won't be lost on those considering entering illegally in the future. 6:25 P.M.

Clinton's Achievement vs. DeLong's Pie in the Sky: Mark Kleiman blogs:

Brad DeLong is right: the biggest beneficiaries of immigration are immigrants, and those benefits ought to count. If we want to help low-income Americans, there are better ways to do it than restricting immigration. [Emph. added]

Oh yeah? Name one. ... Actually, DeLong names five:

 ... more progressive tax brackets, more public provision of services, a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, a greater focus on education.

I would suggest that if DeLong actually thinks changes in these policies will dramatically improve the situation of low-income Americans, especially unskilled African American men--not to mention help reestablish the black family, which is the real goal--he is dreaming. 1) A "focus on education" hasn't helped those hanging out on the streetcorners and selling drugs in the past. They are not big successes at school! 2) Progressive tax brackets only help if you actually earn money, which these people aren't doing. 3) The Earned Income Tax Credit does send cash to low income earners, but again you need to earn at least some money to get it. And it's already pretty big. We probably can't increase it much higher** without running into cost and disincentive problems when the credit is phased out in the mid-income ranges (i.e. workers will end up losing--in phases-out EITC payments--a good chunk of any extra dollars they earn). 4) A higher minimum wage will help, but if you raise it too much it becomes a job-killer. 5) As for "public provision of services," it's not clear what DeLong means. Suppose we had national health care. Would that change the lives of the estimated 72 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's who are "unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated"?   Will they stop being scrubs hanging out on the corner--or will they be scrubs hanging out on the corner who get free medical care?

The one thing that seems to have been a huge boon for unskilled African Americans is the tight low-wage labor market of the Clinton years--especially during Clinton's second term. It's hard to give a high school dropout a college education. But if you give him an unskilled job paying $10 an hour he's got a shot at forming a family (with another worker). And in the process he's integrated into the mainstream, working culture. It's even better than "provision of services"!

A tight labor market is especially important for young black men because they tend to be at the end of the employment queue. You have to let employers run through all the groups they prefer--and illegal immigrants are one of them--before they will reach out to ghetto kids. That's the sociological reality. If we let in lots of unskilled immigrants, however deserving, they will jump ahead in the queue.

I'd always thought the tight 90s labor market, and the opportunity it provided for those at the bottom, wasone of the glories of the Clinton years that Democratic economists like DeLong celebrate and wish to replicate. Maybe Democrats could run an economy so hot it would provide employment for millions of decent, hard-working immigrants from Latin America and Korea and for any left-behind unskilled Americans. That would be nice! But until we achieve that miracle, we will have to think about restricting the influx of competing low-wage workers from abroad.

**--Update: I agree with several emailers who argue the current EITC for childless individuals--i.e. including most of the "scrubs" I'm talking about--can and should be expanded. Right now it only adds about $400 a year.  Let's say we tripled that amount and lowered the age of eligibility (now 25). That would still be a marginal change when compared with limiting the low wage competition. It's much more important for unskilled young men to hear, "They're hiring right now over at Home Depot for $10 an hour" than "If you manage to find an employer willing to hire you rather than a hungrier, more motivated immigrant and then you apply to the IRS you'll someday get a few hundred dollars back." If everyone had long time horizons we wouldn't have a ghetto-poverty problem. 12:54 P.M.

Most Idiotic  Rumor of the Week: Page Six's"buzz"  that Vanity Fair'sGraydon Carter might replace Brad Grey as head of the Paramount movie studio. And I will be replacing Katie Couric on the Today show. 11:39 A.M.

Maybe! Another home-brewed sports car: The Yes!11:16 A.M.

Do They Know What Day It Is? Time Magazine has released a poll  purporting to show that

a lopsided majority of the American public, 72%, favor a "guest worker" program in a head-to-head match-up over a House bill that would criminalize illegal immigration. [Emph. added]

Here is the question Time asked:

TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES HAVE BEEN SUGGESTED TO DEAL WITH ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. PLEASE TELL ME WHICH COMES CLOSEST TO YOUR VIEWS ...

MAKE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION A CRIME ANDNOT ALLOW ANYONE WHO ENTERED THE COUNTRY ILLEGALLY TO WORK OR STAY IN THE UNITED STATES UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES [25%]

ALLOW ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO GET TEMPORARY WORK VISAS SO THE GOVERNMENT CAN TRACK THEM  WHILE THEY EARN PERMANENT RESIDENCE AFTER SIX YEARS IF THEY LEARN ENGLISH, PAY A FINE, PAY ANY BACK TAXES, AND HAVE NO CRIMINAL RECORD [72%]

P.S.: April Fool's! ... Correction: Oh wait. I was going to do an April Fool's item in which I parodied Time's comically biased wording, but I accidentally printed the  the actual wording they used. I apologize for the error. ... Maybe Mystery Pollster will correct me, but this seems not close to being a fair poll question. The polltakers make the editorial case for one side after describing the other side with language that's extreme ("anyone," "under any circumstances") and probably inaccurate. (Are there really no circumstances in which someone who entered illegally could stay in the country under the House bill?) I doubt many actual politicians, with their careers on the line, will believe Time. ... It's almost as if they poll-tested the words they used in the poll to make sure they'd get the desired respectable result. ...  P.P.S.: Emphasis on comic bias words added ...P.P.P.S.: The question is such a special confection it apparently hasn't been asked by this polling organization before. Those questions that have been asked before seem to reveal a mild 2-6% movement in the Bush/guest worker direction over the past three months. But they also show a 69% majority in favor of denying illegals driver's licenses, and a 56% majority in favor of a "2,000 mile" fence--and even a near-equal 47-49 split on "deporting all illegal immigrants back to their home countries"!  ... P.P.P.P.S.: The Time poll also seems to show substantial backlash after last week's demonstrations. By a roughly 3-1 margin eople say they were moved to oppose the marchers' cause. But if that were the case you'd think it would be reflected in the results. ...

More: It's also hard to jibe Time's "guest worker" result with this two-week old Hart/McInturff NBC/WSJ poll, featuring more balanced wording, that found a 59-37 majority againstallowing illegals to "apply for legal, temporary worker status."  (See question 22a, and also 22b). ... 3:14 P.M. link

Perfect Botch: Those California voter registration snafus alluded to below--produced by the state's effort to comply with the new federal Help America Vote Act [insert ironicon** here]--appear to be more serious than I thought. They may result in many thousands of legitimate voters not getting on the rolls because of a minor mismatch between their names and the names in a computer somewhere. Stories here and here. ...

**--The ironicon is the universally accepted Internet signifier of irony. It has yet to be invented. ... Update: I of course meant that it has been invented but not accepted. ... 11:37 P.M.

Bloggingheads Bring Us Together! In a triumph of ideological diversity, The Nation's David Corn argues with National Review Online's Byron York. 8:19 P.M.

DealBreaker.com is up. Wall Street gossip. Not my subculture. But it seems to have the prized magical Elizabeth Spiers quality. There's even a Venn diagram, always the mark of excellence. Eat your heart out, Nick Denton. ... 3:28 P.M.

Note to Doris Kearns Goodwin--Ben Domenech Died for Your Sins: Maybe Domenech just wanted to win $50,000 from the New York Historical Society! ... Eric Weiner notes that the wages of plagiarism are good  if you have a survival network that includes Walter Isaacson and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. ... For more of the goods on Goodwin: See this summary and try to find the damning LAT piece cited here. ... 1:05 P.M.

Hispander Reality Check: Did the passage of anti-illegal Prop. 187 really tilt California to the Democrats for decades by waking the "sleeping giant" of the Latino vote? That's what the courageous Republicans engineering the proposed semi-amnesty Hispander are worried about. I've always believed they were right to worry, in part because I once read that veteran Reagan adviser Stuart Spencer was worried. But Debra Saunders and Dale Franks  dispute this bit of CW: They note that the allegedly energized Latino vote failed to save Democratic Governor Gray Davis after he signed a bill allowing illegals to get drivers' licenses, and failed to prevent a Republican governor from being elected on a pledge (since fulfilled) to repeal it. ... They might have added: a) According to the NYT  [see chart], Hispanics are 34.7 % of California's population but those registered to vote are only 6.8% of the population.** b) The Republicans apparently lost 8% of this 6.8% sliver between 1996 and 2000--a non-trivial but also non-gigantic loss of half a percentage point; c) Welfare changes in 1996--conditioning benefits on citizenship--also may have encouraged many previously non-citizen Latinos to become citizens and voters; d) If, as David Brooks argues  [$], Latinos are such natural Republicans (they're religious, family oriented, and "Mexican-Americans spend 93 percent more on children's music") then are they really going to abandon their ingrained ideological orientation in a fit of identity politics because Congress refuses to legalize their undocumented ethnic compatriots? ... I still think there's something to the CW--and Dick Morris certainly does--but it's worth questioning how much. ... Update: Steve Smith says the  real post-187 GOP problem is Asians. If you add the Asian and Latino share of the California electorate from November, 2004, you're talking over 20%, according to the LAT (which I now do not trust even on something routine like this!). ...

**This sentence has been corrected. It originally said that "Hispanics in 2004 were still only 6.8% of the California electorate (even though they are 34.7% of the population)." But reader S.K. suggests that this is a misreading of the NYT chart--the 6.8% figure is the proportion of the total population that is registered Hispanics. That would jibe roughly with the LAT's finding that Latinos were 14% of the last presidential electorate. ... I'm actually not sure which interpretation of the confusing chart is correct, but I suspect S.K. is right. 11:22 A.M.

kf Searches for Compromise! My bloggingheads colleague Robert Wright says anything that makes already-here illegal immigrants live in "fear"--like criminalization of being in the country illegally--is unacceptable, because "we basically said its no big deal if you come over here." 1) I thought that the message of the Simpson-Mazzoli law of 1986 was supposed to be, 'OK, we'll give amnesty to the people already here but from now on we mean business. No more illegal immigration.' Was that a  "wink and a nod" to all of Latin America saying it's OK to come on in? 2) Wright seems to argue that yes, it amounted to tacit permission because there were no criminal penalties. But that makes his current opposition to criminal penalties somewhat awkward, no? Can we at least agree that for future illegal entrants, there should be criminal penalties?**(Maybe not felony-level jail penalties, but penalties.) Or are we going to deter them by telling them if they come here we'll make sure they don't "live in fear"? ...

**--It might be hard to distinguish later illegal entrants from earlier illegal entrants. Maybe the burden could be placed on them to prove they were in the country before whatever date is established for criminalization. 3:17 A.M.

Why isn't it the Dems who are split on immigration?

Realistically, we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants. Mainly that means better controls on illegal immigration. [Emph. added]

Tom Tancredo? No, Paul Krugman, endorsing several border-control arguments  before trying to preserve his Dem street cred by denouncing the House anti-illegal bill as "harsh" and "immoral." Most significantly, Krugman says "serious, non-partisan research" reveals that

Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration. [Emph. added]

Krugman is clearly way off the PC/Dem/elite legalization reservation here. Republican Tony Blankley noticed. But will the Left? ... P.S.: The effect of immigrants in driving down the wages of unskilled African-American men is not just an economic question. It's a profound social question. Only by offering a decent living through legitimate work will we have a chance of integrating the large segment--maybe almost half--of the black male populations that's currently spinning off into a separate, destructive, "left behind" culture (even as black women are joining the regular labor force in record numbers). Where's the Congressional Black Caucus? ... Note: CBC member Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., who's running for the Senate, did vote for the House bill on final passage. ... 1:11 A.M.

Where's Rasmussen? Isn't it time for: A) One of the GOP presidential candidates to rip Sen. McCain for his support of a liberal "path to citizenship" amnesty for existing illegal immigrants;  B) A reality-check poll--taken after the big pro-immigration rallies--on the public's suport for or opposition to that scheme. This seems like the sort of question in which the wording will be very important, but I'd be shocked if a fairly worded question doesn't measure at least 55 percent opposition. ... 5:51 P.M.

Grades were never his strong suit! The compensation committee at the New York Times, chaired by Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, gets a "D" from proxy watchdog service Glass Lewis for nearly doubling the stock award to hereditary Chairman Pinch Sulzberger during the same period the company performed "poorly," reports Keith Kelly. ... P.S.: The Times now faces massive exposure in the Steven Hatfill libel case against columnist Nicholas 'I Might Have Gotten it Right'  Kristof. The Times crowed a year and a half ago when a wildly unconvincing lower court decision seemed to get Kristof off the hook for his op-ed on the anthrax mailings of 2001, which discussed Hatfill. But a lonely blogger said 'Wait!'

[T]he part of the [lower] court decision I don't understand--it seems quite bogus--is the part where the judge throws out Hatfill's libel complaint about these alleged "discrete untruths" (like the one regarding how many polygraph exams Hatfill had taken and what the results were). Sure, Kristof can't be sued simply for reporting on an investigation, and he covered his ass enough in his columns to avoid the conclusion that he was saying Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. But does that mean he can say any old untrue thing about Hatfill along the way? For example, how exactly did the judge conclude that saying Hatfill had "failed 3 successive polygraph examinations" was "not harmful to [Hatfill's] reputation"? Wouldn't that harm anyone's reputation?

An intermediate court reversed the lower court decision, affirming the Kristof column's potentially libelous status--a decision the Supreme Court has now refused to review. The case is heading for trial. ... P.P.S.: Sulzberger, while his own Times stock grants were almost doubling, eliminated a plan that gave mere employees a 15 percent discount to buy thestock, according to Kelly. Pinch might want to keep some special stock deal in place for Kristof, though--it's not clear the Times would want him to testify too clearly about the op-ed page's elaborate fact-checking procedures, which I suspect are not dissimilar from a lonely blogger's. ... 11:29 A.M.

To Joel Stein: And here I was your biggest defender. ... 12:06 A.M.

Skipping school to block freeways  and flying the U.S. flag upside down under the Mexican flag ... Those anti-anti-immigrant student protesters in L.A. know how to win over a majority of ordinary voters! ... P.S: Michelle Malkin also notes a poster that was everywhere at the big demo on Saturday, reading [emphasis in original]

If you think I'm "illegal" because I'm a Mexican learn the true history because I'm in my Homeland.

Fool that I am, I originally found this poster heartening: The protesters were saying we shouldn't assume all Mexicans are illegal--they're Americans like everyone else and consider the U.S. their homeland! But of course that's not what it means at all. ... P.P.S.: I'm also not sure the big Saturday rally was as large as 500,000--the figure  accepted by the Los Angeles Times and attributed to "police."  It could have been that large, though it seemed more like 350,000 to me. It could have been larger than 500,000. The trouble is that it's not in anyone's interest to give a low estimate--why would the police want to buy the grief? I'd think you'd need to analyze an aerial photo with a grid, and I haven't seen any aerial photos of the march. Maybe there are some out there. ... You certainly can't trust the Times on this issue. ... [Was it as big as this pro-Roe march?--ed I'd guess yes, but the Mall in D.C. is a deceptively large space.]  11:50 P.M. link

Heads: California voter registration scandal bubbling up.  Kf hears through the blogvine that some 20% of new registrants in L.A. County aren't making it onto the rolls due to bureaucratic and computer snafus. The numbers aren't large (low five figures) but somebody will sue. ... And the name "Diebold" was mentioned. ... Update: Here's the LAT story, and here's  a story from Northern California. ...  10:37 A.M. link

No Contest: Much is being made, in the press, the blogs, and the email I'm getting, of the split in the Republican party on immigration: there are pro-crackdown conservatives on the one hand, and rich Republican business backers who need immigrant labor on the other. I'm not sure this internal struggle is such a close thing, though, at least this year. Republicans facing the loss of Congress need to mobilize their base, not their lobbyists. They need voters, not money. That points in only one direction, no? Sometime before November, that should become obvious. ... 4:27 P.M.

Reminder: Never serve John Kerry tomato-based products. 10:42 A.M.

Have the GOPs Found Their 2006 Issue? Republicans are deemed to be in deep trouble in the Congressional midterms--and searching desperately, without obvious success, for a hot-button issue (gay marriage? flag-burning?) that could mobilize conservative "base" voters.  But is it possible they've now found one hiding in plain sight--a tough anti-illegal immigration bill?

Immigration has several characteristics that suggest it's a good locomotive for GOP victory in November: 1) Voters say it's an important issue; 2) A majority wants some sort of border-control action; 3) The GOP base feels intensely about it; 4) Many Congressional Democrats are--by ideology or interest group pressure--locked in to a pro-immigrant, non-tough stance (or if they strike a tough pose it seems just that). In all these respects, immigration resembles welfare reform, a key hot-button base-mobilizing issue for Republicans in the 1994 midterms. ...

So why isn't this the CW** already? Short-term and long-term objections. Short term:  President Bush favors a relatively generous approach, proposing a "guest worker" program that would be available to illegals already here. Since Bush is his party's leader, isn't his position the GOP position? Long term: Republicans worry that if they angrily crack down on border enforcement--without adding provisions for guest workers or legalization of existing illegals, they'll lose the growing Latino vote for a generation (as California Republicans are said to have lost the state's Latino vote after Gov. Pete Wilson's anti-illegal Prop. 187 in 1994).  But there are answers to each objection.

Short term: These are the mid-term elections, remember--not the presidential. Are Republican Congressional candidates really incapable of getting out a message to their base that they are tough on illegals, even if Bush is not? One effective way to do that would be to, er, actually pass a tough enforcement-only bill!

Long term: As for losing the Latino vote, there may be method in the current mad GOP disarray. The method is to let the President set the general, generous tone of the party, while local GOP officeholders run as get-tough individuals. Precisely because Bush, not Congress, leads the party, what he says should have the greater impact on its long-term profile. By praising the illegal immigrant work ethic while taking a compromising, high-minded policy line he might at least avoid permanently alienating Latinos. Meanwhile, GOP House candidates wage local campaigns in which they identify with prevailing anti-illegal sentiment--getting themselves reelected while doing a minimum of damage to the party's national image.

What about those swing districts in which individual House and Senate candidates need to appeal to Latinos? Answer: in those few districts, individual Republicans can tailor their stands accordingly. That's the genius of de-nationalizing the election at the same time as you put the immigration issue on the front burner.

Could individual Republican candidates have run as anti-welfare in 1970, even though a GOP President, Richard Nixon, had proposed a startlingly liberal guaranteed income plan? They could--that was Ronald Reagan's position, for example--and I suspect many did. The same with immigration.

P.S.: According to Chris Matthews, his show's poll of pundits declared, by a lopsided 10-2 margin, that the immigration issue would cost the GOP "key Western states." But are Republicans really going to lose Arizona and New Mexico, say, because they pass a border-security-only bill?  New Mexico Gov. Richardson certainly seems to be a popular governor in part because he's made dramatic noises about border control.

When President Bush signs that border-security-only bill, he can always give a speech--like the one Clinton gave when he signed welfare reform--in which he expresses his reservations and vows to pass the guest worker and "earned legalization" provisions in the next Congress. 

It's also hard to believe that the enforcement-only bill--like welfare reform--won't in the end get a lot of Democratic votes, further diluting the "Latino blowback" against the GOP.

Am I missing something?

** CW= conventional wisdom 11:40 P.M. link

The Plano Con, Coda: Remember Plano, Texas, the Mid-American city where Brokeback Mountain'sticket sales so impressed Frank Rich and others with the film's hard-core red-state appeal? When Wal-Mart decided to open a new experimental "upscale" store, featuring a sushi bar, an espresso bar, $500 bottles of wine--but no guns--guess where they decided to do it? ... Reports A.P.: "[I]f plasma TVs, microbrewery beer and fancy balsamic vinegar sell in Plano, those items could be added to stores in other affluent communities." ... Plano is in fact an affluent Dallas suburb. ... [Thanks to reader G.B.10:20 P.M.

Put Out More Flags-- L.A. Times True to Form: That propagandistic LAT story on Saturday's big demonstration, the one that mentioned the presence of Mexican flags only in the tenth paragraph, has now been amended and updated--to eliminate any reference to Mexican flags at all! The story now also contains the following:

In contrast to demonstrations 12 years ago against Proposition 187, Saturday's rally featured more American flags than those from any other country.

From what I saw, this statement is false. There were about as many Mexican as American flags (as reported below).  Here's what to me seems a representative LAT photo of the crowd--judge for yourself.** Maybe it depends what part of the demo you were at and at what time. But at the very least "more American flags" is a highly deceptive assertion.  (If U.S. flags predominated, it would be only by a slim, 51-49-type margin.) It's hard to believe Dean Baquet thinks this is good journalism. ... [Thanks to alert reader V.] 

** Update: Reader J.G. notes a banner or placard in the upper-right hand corner reading "THIS IS STOLEN LAND"--another sentiment you won't read much about in the LAT (and another reason Mexican flags aren't the same as Italian flags). ... 8:10 P.M. link

Rally Report--Gran Marcha, Gran Backlash! Reader L.N. suggested I had exaggerated the number of Mexican flags at various immigrant protest rallies--maybe demo organizers had wised up to the lesson that flaunting allegiance to a neighboring country was not a good way to make most Americans want to let in more people who share your attachment!** So I went down to today's Gran Marcha against "anti-immigration legislation" in downtown L.A.:

Crowd size: Big! Bigger than a couple of football games--I'd say 200,000 plus. ***

Demeanor: Pleasant!

Makeup: 99 percent Latino (an oversimplification--I saw one T-shirt saying "I'm Mexican, not Latino")

Most telling placard slogan: "Somos illegales, no criminales!"

Flags: Evenly split between Mexican and U.S.,with El Salvadoran running a very distant (1%) third. And there were lots of flags. If you said "Mexican flag" every time you saw a Mexican flag, you never stopped talking.

** Q: Why are Mexican flags troubling in a way Italian flags wouldn't be troubling at, say, a Columbus Day rally? Simplest A: Italy's not right next door! ... For more on this issue, see this discussion with Jim Pinkerton. Pinkerton says flatly, "There will be a wall." He's for it. ...

*** Of course the very size of these rallies, when coupled with the pro-illegal immigrant sentiments and the Mexican flags, might hurt the cause of the ralliers. It seems likely to make many non-PC voters think, "Jeez, next year's rally will be even bigger. We'd better build that wall quick!" ...

Update: The Los Angeles Times, in a break with its recent trend toward improvement, fronts an embarrassing  100% PC rally story that mentions the U.S. flags (which marchers were told to bring) in paragraph one and the equally numerous Mexican flags (which marchers apparently decided to bring on their own) in paragraph #10.  I used to write this sort of press-releasey "news" account when my college paper assigned me to "cover" anti-war demonstrations that I'd helped organize! (Typical Kaus lede: "Thousands of marching feet filled Post Office Square to protest ..." etc.) The Times' effort is filled with representative quotes from participants, without a note of dissent. Bill Bradley, in New West Notes, jumps on this especially romantic LAT sentence, which was so prized it got its own graf:

The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county.

But even the LAT doesn't pretend these were legal immigrants:

Many of the marchers were immigrants themselves — both legal and illegal -- from Mexico and Central America. Some had just crossed the border ...

Bradley also digs out a good quote from current California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a rally leader who remembers the last big anti-anti-illegal march, which provoked a memorable backlash:

""I know I come from an advocacy background," says Nuñez. "But I learned a lot about negotiation with Miguel (Contreras, the late Los Angeles labor chieftain) and the labor movement. It wasn't all protest. You know when we had the big march in L.A. against [the anti-illegal immigrant] Proposition 187 in '94, Miguel tried to talk me out of it. 'Are you guys crazy?' he said. But I wanted to march. [Emph. added.]

Bradley asks, pointedly, "Was this rally necessary to defeat a bill that George W. Bush does not support?" But yes, there's certainly a good chance that a bill George W. Bush does not support will pass--and this rally will help it pass. ... More: For a contrary view, see Marc Cooper's post.  ... 4:37 P.M. link

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Bloggingheads--Bob Wright's videoblog project. Gearbox--Searching for the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-in. 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. Keller's 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's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. 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. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]

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