A job for Hillary.

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 5 2006 5:33 AM

A Job For Hillary

Plus--Shorter summer.

Quantity, Kos, and Coulter!  Kf's 3-step recipe for stats-page success: Welcome, summer people. We've been here all along. Lucky we're not bitter about it. Here's what you missed: ... A big debate about the essential nature of Plano, Texas ... Kos  .... the Long Tail vs. our precious common culture  ... Kos ... Universal  Health Care vs universal Social Security .... "Kausism" ...  More universal health insurance vs. universal Social Security. ... Cocooning. ... Coulter ... Bloggingheads.tv vs. Waiting for Godot ... Is it too late to take a vacation? ... 2:00 A.M.

If Hillary takes herself out of the 2008 race, that will focus a lot of attention on the alleged shortage of other appealing Dem candidates. (You know the litany: Edwards is too light and too left, Biden's too impressed with his own motormouth, Warner and Bayh are too dull, Kerry is Kerry.)  I've asked this before, but what's wrong with Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell? So far nobody's come up with a convincingly fatal flaw. ... Of course, it's not like Pennsylvania's a crucial swing state. ... Oh, wait. ... 12:35 A.M.

A piece I couldn't write: An appreciation of Warren Mitofsky, the pioneering pollster, who died of an aneurysm last Friday. Posted by Mystery Pollster on his new site. ... 8:52 P.M.

In a "surprise," Bangled-up BMW car sales  fall in August. The company blames "managed inventory in advance of the launch of several new models ..." You know whom kf blames. ... Update: Bangle-bashing is everywhere, even computer tech sites. ("[L]ooks like the sort of roadkill you see on the back of a recovery truck.") These people simply do not have the professionalism and skills to appreciate beauty on the highest level! ... 3:14 A.M.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

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Long-time e-mailer "G" comments on the too-British-to-be-trustedLondon Times story  claiming that "some of [Hillary Clinton's] closest advisers say she might opt out of the White House race and seek to lead her party in the Senate."

Hillary has shown herself particularly vulnerable to using present CW as her political compass. She could have run in '04, but took herself out of contention by mid-2003 because Bush looked like such a political behemoth at that point and the CW was she had a better chance waiting for '08. That decision left the field open to the political light-weights like Kerry, Dean and Edwards who were in the final running during the '04 primary season. Had Hillary run last go around, she would have probably won the nomination and would have had a better chance at beating Bush than Kerry did (which as we should remember was pretty good, as the 51-49 result shows).

Good point. But if the problem is that she's overly cautious, calculating and chameleon-like--but can raise lots of money--then Senate Minority/Majority Leader might be a good job for her, no? ... P.S.: Didn't this whole Hillary-for-Senate Majority Leader story start with a report on Steve Clemons' Washington Note a month ago? ... See also Ezra Klein. ... 11:36 A.M.

Oliver Stone, not bankable! World Trade Center--Box office after 24 days: $58.9 million. ... Production budget: $65 million ... If it's true that the studio only gets half the box office receipts, and the $65 million doesn't include tens of millions in marketing costs, there is no way this movie is making money. ... 1:46 A.M.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

The poverty of "Deep Poverty," continued: Brad DeLongagrees that Eric Alterman made a "mistake" when he said that "there has been a sharp increase in those living in extreme poverty."  DeLong then asks

But what is the 'good poverty news' in the Census Bureau's report?

If there's good news, I assume it would be mainly that the poverty rate--and the "extreme poverty" rate--seem to have peaked, after the 2000 recession, at a lower level than they peaked after the previous recession. (See this familiar historical chart.) That's a good thing, no? On the other hand, poverty hasn't yet fallen to the low level achieved at the end of the Clinton boom/bubble. ... Will the rate continue to fall? Has it maybe become less volatile--less sensitive to both busts and booms? Only time will tell!  ...

But I would think Democrats--especially Clintonite Democrats, should resist bogus bad news, like the left's spin on the "deep poverty" number, a number that was suddenly emphasized by opponents of Clinton's welfare reform when, after that law's passage, the regular old poverty numbers failed to soar as predicted. The "deep poverty" number didn't soar either, so leftish organizations like Robert Greenstein's Center on Budget and Policy Priorities moved on to noting that "deep poverty" increased (slightly) as a percentage of all poverty--a completely confected statistic that we shouldn't really care about. (We should care about how many people live in extreme poverty, not whether they're a greater or lesser share of all poverty. Their share might increase, after all, simply because efforts to get the easiest-to-help out of poverty are working.)  ....

P.S.: E.J. Dionne falls for the Greenstein spin. ...

P.P.S.: If you underestimate how important Greenstein is in the leftish activist/media/politico machine, compare the NYT 's editorial on the just-released income and poverty numbers  with Greenstein's press release. No phone calls were necessary! ...

P.P.P.S.: "Roland Patrick" comes up with similar "good news" in answer to DeLong. I'm skeptical, however, of arguments that claim the poverty rate isn't even a useful measure  because it "moves in the wrong direction on good [economic] news." It looks to me like it moves in the right direction, but after a lag. ... But I'd love to see a poverty rate that makes two obvious corrections: 1) Don't count the millions of new immigrants who come to this country poor and swell the poverty numbers simply because they have yet to move up the ladder. What's the poverty rate in 2005 for those families that were here in 2000? Compare it with the rate in 2004 for families here in 1999, etc. ... 2) Don't count affluent people who, by reason of their affluence, are able to take off a year with no income and therefore show up as "poor" in the income stats.  (I qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit during one jobless year, even though I wasn't close to being poor in any relevant sense of the word.) You'd think the number of idle-affluent who earn no income and show up as "poor" would be increasing (as the rich get richer!). But if that's true then these people are making the "poverty rate" appear worse than it really is. If they're idle enough--zero income, despite lots of assets--they'll even show up as "deep poor." ... 12:51 A.M.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who Needs Fox ... when you can have hot blogger-on-blogger actionin your laptop? It's a Plame Smackdown Preview  between David Corn and Byron York at bloggingheads.tv, with all the simmering hostility of a pre-fight weigh-in ceremony! ... Seriously, they seem pissed off at each other, though Corn is in the awkward but tension-building position of trying to postpone substantive argument about the Plame/Armitage/Wilson story until his book, Hubris, actually appears in stores. (But see the links--including this one  and this one--for the genesis of this promising feud. See also Maguire.) ... 1:20 P.M.

No mob: Mean Seth Mnookin isn't impressed with the old CJR Daily's  "nearly 500,000 page views a month" (as claimed to the NYT). He says Columbia J-School dean Nick Lemann "was arguably right to focus the magazine's limited resources elsewhere." ... I guess there wasn't a huge market for huffily defending the pre-blog status quo! [They did more than that--ed I'm sure they did.]... 11:25 A.M.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Maybe Cocooning Is Easy! Eric Alterman, in a post titled "Extreme Poverty is US," writes (quoting today's NYT poverty numbers story):

Again, moreover, "although the numbers living below the poverty line held steady between 2004 and 2005, there has been a sharp increase in those living in extreme poverty." [Emph. added]

That's funny, because if you look at the Census numbers, they show that the percent of people living in extreme poverty--defined as below 50 percent of the poverty line--was 5.4 percent in 2005, a jump of ... well, zero from 2004, when the rate was also 5.4 percent. I contend that "zero" is not a "sharp increase." ...

P.S.: So how did Alterman get his bogus spin? 1) What he's quoting is NYT reporter Rick Lyman paraphrasing "advocates for the poor"-- specifically Robert Greenstein, whose influential outfit (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) specializes in devising esoteric measurements to suggest that good poverty news is really bad poverty news. Lyman's next paragraph reported:

And 43 percent of the poor earned less than half of the poverty limit, Mr. Greenstein said, again the highest such percentage ever recorded.

Those may be the highest percentages of the poor ever recorded, but what does that mean if the absolute number of people in "deep poverty" didn't really increase? I think it means that there were fewer other kinds of poor people! Do we care what "percent of the poor" is extremely poor? (As opposed to, say, what percent of Americans is extremely poor?)

Actually, there's something fishy about that 43 percent 'record.' In 2004, complaining about the 2003 numbers,  Greenstein's group wrote

Some 43 percent of all poor people had incomes this low, as the percentage of poor people living in extreme poverty reached the highest level on record.

The 2003-2005 "increase" from 43 percent to 43 percent cannot have been "sharp"! (Greenstein didn't mention the equivalent "extreme poverty" percentage in his complaint about 2004, perhaps because--by my calculation--it was ever-so-slightly slightly lower, at about 42.37 percent versus 42.56 percent the year before, and would have to have been rounded down to 42!)

Basically, it's a relatively meaningless percentage that has been flat for three years. Greenstein's making a big deal about fluctuations in the tenths of a percent. Lyman was fooled by Greenstein's statistical spin, mischaracterized it as a "sharp increase," and Alterman in turn trumpeted his mischaracterization. Easy as 1, 2, 3! ... 1:02 P.M. link

Paris Hilton is no Zsa Zsa Gabor! ... 2:54 A.M.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The poverty report also comes 10 years after the 1996 welfare overhaul, which required millions of poor single mothers to work and which set limits on how long recipients could get monthly checks.

Poverty rates didn't skyrocket as some had feared. But they didn't drop much, either, suggesting that many of those who left welfare didn't climb out of poverty. The poverty rate was 13.7 percent in 1996, when about 4.4 million families received welfare payments. About 1.9 million families receive payments today.

"Most of the people who leave welfare for work are leaving for jobs that pay $7 or $8 an hour," said Joan Entmacher, vice president of the National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group based in Washington. "Under the best of circumstances, they are just getting by."

Crude initial reaction:The purpose of welfare reform wasn't to lower the poverty rate. It was to move people from welfare to work--out of an isolated, non-working subculture that had all sorts of bad social effects (fatherless families, crime, segregation, etc.). If welfare reform could have done that with a small increase in the poverty rate, that would have been a price worth paying. If reform had accomplished this goal--a near-60% reduction in the families getting welfare**--with no increase in the poverty rate, that would be a victory.That the poverty rate has actually fallen a full point from 1996 (13.7% then to 12.6% now--an 8% reduction) is a significant success. ... P.S.: The black poverty rate has fallen from 28.4% in 1996 to 24.9% in 2005, a 12% drop. In 1993, when Clinton took office, it was 33.1%. Since then it has dropped by almost 25%. *** ... P.P.S.: And think what the poverty numbers might have looked like without the arrival of millions of hard-working, unskilled illegal immigrants bidding down the wages of those $7 and $8 an hour jobs....

**--Not everyone who left welfare went to work, of course. But there was a huge influx into the regular labor force. Even those who rely on families, boyfriends, etc. are likely to face pressure to get into the working mainstream that they never felt when they were getting a guaranteed check.

***--Correction: I originally had this as "more than a third." Don't know how I got that.  1:47 P.M. link

No last-minute script changes! Here's Chris Matthews last Saturday:

MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about events. Events are important. Between now and Election Day, this time, between now and the election in 2008, events will occur. All signs point to a continued degradation of our situation in Iraq. More sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shia, less of an obvious role for us.

Is that right? All signs? Maybe Matthews should read the Marine's letter excerpted by David Weigel on Andrewsullivan.com. ("I don't want to paint any overly rosy picture of things here as I never have indulged in that practice before, but we have control everywhere now (up to a point).") One wonders if the Washington players are now so locked into the hell-in-a-handbasket Iraq story line--in large part because the polls support it--that they are incapable of grokking a promising trend in the news. ... See also Iggy 8/25  and 8/27   ("the sense of panic in the Washington debate just doesn't match the situation here. It's bad, but it's not hurtling out of control"). ... [I thought the press always needed a change of story-ed. Yes, but the biggest change of story is "GOPs out, Dems in." And it's also the story change most reporters want. Keep your eye on the prize!] ...12:55 A.M.

Everything's always good for the Republicans, isn't it?: More Democratic defeatism--

 I just don't see Democratic campaigns doing well.

Doesn't this Matt Stoller person realize such talk only plays into the hands of the GOPs? Let's purge him! [Is Uranus in the right position?--ed So cheap.] Via Blogometer12:15 A.M.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Barnes' Chinatown: Weekly Standard''sFred Barnes says Republicans can win the midterms by stressing anti-terrorist security, Iran, "death tax reduction," and judges.** ... Hmm. It seems like there's an issue is mising from that list. ... I'll think of it in a second. ... Oh, right--didn't Barnes write just a few months ago that the GOPs were doomed if they didn't pass an immigration bill? ("Failure to pass a bill would bring on defeat.") They didn't pass it, even though a few months earlier Barnes had written that  

an immigration bill appears likely (but not certain) to pass when Congress returns from its Easter recess on April 24

No wonder he doesn't want to talk about the subject. ...

**--Judicial confirmation controversies are supposed to turn out the GOP base. It still seems to me that opposition to Bush's (and Barnes')  immigration bill has at least as much base-mobilizing potential. ... 1:35 P.M.

Nobody covers Lindsay Lohan like kausfiles! Am I crazy, or is 20 year-old Lindsay Lohan starting to look like Sally Field? And not the 1970s Sally Field neither. More the '90s. ... 12:50 A.M.

The last Times person to blog on politics, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Michael Hiltzik, soon revealed his hyperpartisanship behind the Times' veil of seeming objectivity ... [Emph. added]

Hiltzik, remember, had previously done straight reporting for the Times--covering the 1996 Republican presidential campaign, for example, and the state energy crisis. He gets a blog and all of a sudden we learn he's really a near-hysterical Kosier-than-thou conservative-basher no more "objective" about anything than Ann Coulter. ... P.S.: Bradley notes that the LAT's remaining allegedly objective political reporters will soon start blogging. Will any of them be non-Democrats at heart? Or will they simply be Dems told to hide their politics better than the excitable Hiltzik did? 12:32 A.M.

"[T]he fact that I'm going to become Speaker ..." Is that how Nancy Pelosi should be talking  at this point? .. P.S.: Shouldn't TIME have at least brought up Pelosi's embarrassing  Hastings-for-Harman pickle12:27 A.M.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cocooning isn't easy: It takes drive and determination to portray Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's loss in his state's Republican primary, in which the big issue was a natural gas pipeline, as a referendum on the Iraq war. After a tense struggle, the NYT's William Yardley eventually gets there, in paragraph 18 of a 19 graf story. But just barely:

Paul Pierson, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, said Mr. Murkowski's loss, while rooted in local issues, might show something broader about voters as polls show high disapproval over how some incumbents handle issues like the Iraq war. [Emphasis on conceptual bungee cords added]

Hanging on by both fingernails, but it's in! ... Thank God for professors of political science. ... [This seems like another one Taranto had days ago--ed Nope.] 5:57 P.M. link

Friday, August 25, 2006

Headline of the Day: "Kazakh Elites Divided Over Borat." 11:13 P.M.

We demand crappy health care for all! Matthew Yglesias responds to my response to his argument  that universal health care will be more affordable than I think:

"His vision of a universal health care system is one that will be sufficiently generous that even families in, say, the 89th percentile of the income distribution never feel inclined to make private expenditures for additional services on top of what the government provides and that won't involve any potentially innovation-starving price controls. That, I'm inclined to agree, really would be very expensive.

"And if you could really pay for such a system by severely means-testing Social Security benefits I wouldn't have a particular objection to that."

I'm declaring Fallows-style victory (which is not necessarily the same thing as having won). ... 10:51 P.M

Maybe Jeff Jarvis is Right: I've resisted kicking Dell when it's down--I've been a relatively happy Dell customer for several years. But recently, as the viruses and spyware seemed to be winning, I've had problems with both my machines. So I phoned up Dell On Call, which offers software support that's not covered under warranty (i.e., it's support you have to pay for). The first person you get when you call the number is not an actual software technician, but rather the guy who signs you up for a plan. He quoted me a price of $239 for a year. I asked if that would include a third Dell machine if I bought one. He checked and said yes. He also--and this is the key--led me to believe the $239 would cover all my problems on those machines for the year. I gave him my credit card info, paid, and was transferred to the actual techie,*** who promptly told me that my $239 had only paid for 4 "incidents" of support. Each computer problem would be an "incident," meaning that after the current session I would only have three to go. ...  I told him the sales guy had told me I was paying for all the service I needed for a year.** Certainly I don't remember this sales person mentioning a 4-incident limit. If he'd mentioned it I would have thought twice about paying the $239, since a single "incident" only costs (I learned) $99 ...  That's not bad service. It's outright fra... well, let's just say you wouldn't have to be an aggressive, innovative prosecutor like Eliot Spitzer to bring some hurt on Dell here. (And to think Jarvis thought he had a possible class action.) ... P.S.: Keep in mind this wasn't a screw-up in Dell's ordinary warranty service. This is the extra service you have to pay for when the ordinary service that came with the machine won't do the job. ...

**--I don't think I signed any contract, so I do intend to hold Dell to their oral promise if it comes to that.

***--the Actual Techie was terrifically helpful. That's not the point!  9:43 P.M. link

Closing Time--Last Call for Pundits: If you haven't been called by a booker to appear on TV all year, and you are not called to appear this weekend--even by a cable channel, even by FOX, even on Saturday--it's fair to say that you will never be called. ....[You?-ed Hey, you've got it all wrong, buddy. I don't needthem!]  7:20 P.M.

A Wall Street Journal column [$] reports on the efforts of corporations to help employees cope with the home-office work culture of the future:

Her eight-member team, scattered across six states and Canada, holds virtual baby showers and, last December, organized an online holiday party, sharing family slides and playing games while munching snacks at their desks, Ms. Levitt says. "It was great fun" and brought the team closer. [Emph. added]

Grim! ... 3:58 P.M.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Michael Hirsh in WaMo on Peter Galbraith's partition-solution for Iraq:

The premise of the book is that Iraq will and must break up, which raises a question: If it was inevitable anyway, then how can you blame this outcome on the incompetence of the American occupation, which he details at great length? [Emph. added]

12:58 P.M.

Hillary has a problem with the brothers. [Via S.B.] 1:20 A.M.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What If Cruise Sues? Nikki Finke thinks Tom Cruise may have a cause of action--presumably for libel--against Viacom (owner of the Paramount movie studio). But then she would think that!

But why the f[***] are you setting up his legal piranha (Bert Fields, who's never lost a case) for what could well be the biggest lawsuit ever to hit Hollywood?

Maybe Fields doesn't lose cases because he's very, very selective about the threats he actually pursues in court. ... I'm still waiting for him to bring the L.A. Times to its knees for what he called its "false, defamatory and highly damaging" assertions about Susan Estrich. Where's that lawsuit? ...More: Yes, Finke's claim that Cruise has a basis for suing seems farfetched. But she did get past a preliminary challenge in her own suit against Disney over a similarly mundane bit of business. And Redstone said more than merely that Cruise's "recent conduct has not been unacceptable." According to the WSJ [$], Redstone also said Cruise was

"someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue"

which could be considered both false and damaging, if you read it in a certain strained light. (Obviously, Redstone didn't mean that Cruise overall costs Paramount revenue, only that some of his conduct did, but let him explain it to the jury!) ... Update: Fields has now said he has "no intent to sue." ...  6:16 P.M.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Iowa Menace: I take the Dem's announcement of new early presidential nominating contests (in Nevada and South Carolina) as an opportunity to rant against the Iowa caucuses. Whose judgment do you trust more: sweet unionized Iowa teachers or cynical unionized Vegas gambling workers? Somehow I don't think the Vegas gambling workers would have picked out John Kerry as "electable"! ... But Hotline says I'm deluding myself if I think the DNC's additions will reduce Iowa's role. ... Update:  New West Notes' Bill Bradley  calls the Hotline writers "dinosaurs" who "don't want to fly West--where the presidency is merely waiting to be won in a number of states in addition to Nevada--and learn something new." ... I do think it's a bit early for Hotline to ridicule the Nevada caucuses just because "No NV visits are yet scheduled" by candidates. Did Hubert Humphrey know, in the summer of 1958, that West Virginia would be a big deal? ... 6:29 P.M.

Matthew Yglesias takes issue with my suggestion that a "decent" national health care system, added on top of our current Social Security system, will require a "larger tax burden than citizens are willing to bear." He argues:

The U.S. government currently spends a phenomenal sum of money on health care by world standards ... [W]hen you're talking about universal health care you're not really talking about increasing the aggregate resources poured into American health care. There's already tons of money being spent on it. You're talking about redistributing the spending somewhat from richer to less-rich people and altering the path through which the money flows.

I'm not a health care expert, but it seems to me:

1) If we want a system that reinforces social equality--everyone in the same waiting room-- that means we need basically the bottom 90% to use the same system. The hardest (i.e. impossible) way to do this is by forcing the affluent to get less care than they are willing to pay for ("redistributing the spending somewhat from richer to less-rich people," as Yglesias tactfully puts it.) The easiest way to do that is to offer subsidized universal care good enough so that the vast majority of the affluent will be content to use it. In other words, you can't just "insure" the poor with bare-bones HMO treatment. This will be expensive.

2) Medical technology will offer more and more complex and costly ways to treat illness. Some of these treatments will work. We want to offer them to everyone, with a minimum of rationing--again, in a system that most of the affluent will also sign up for. The alternative seems to be a system in which the upper middle class lives (because they can afford fancy treatments) and the working poor die. Avoiding this will be expensive.

3) We will still want to encourage future medical research and technological advance--or at least we want to retard it as little as possible. That's why I'm skeptical of some plans for realizing huge cost savings. For example, the government could undoubtedly use its monopsony power to lower the price it pays for drugs--maybe lower the price to something approaching the marginal cost of producing additional pills. It's not at all clear, however, that this is the price we should want to pay, because it does little to fund research and development costs of developing both the existing drug and new drugs. See Michael Kinsley's analysis here. Paying medical providers enough to fund future advances will be very expensive.

4) Yglesias writes

The significant financial challenge has to do with covering the bills for old people, but that challenge exists one way or another thanks to Medicare (and the basic reality that senior citizens are largely uninsurable in the private sector) and has relatively little to do with whether or not we can afford to bring universal coverage to the under-65 crowd.

If you're trying to assess the overal budgetary burden, it won't do to pass off the cost of caring for old people by saying 'Oh, that's just Medicare.' Caring for old people is still part of the health insurance system, and to the extent (a very great extent) that government will have to pay the bill through Medicare then that will be a budgetary burden that might "require a larger tax burden than citizens are willing to bear."

All these factors tell me that national health care --at least "decent" egalitarian, national health care--will require a big increase in government expenditures.**  Something will have to give--either a) the overall quality of health care, b) the egalitarian fairness of health care, or c) the cost of other big programs like Social Security's pensions.

I say what gives should be (c), and the way it should give should be to stop mailing out pension checks to the richest Americans. Sending checks to everyone is a nice thing to do. But we can't afford every nice thing to do.

**If Robert Reischauer or Henry Aaron tells me I'm wrong, I'll reconsider. But I bet they don't. 4:36 P.M. link

One copy and maybe he was reading the interview. But two ...: Osama Bin Laden has "copies of Playboy" in his briefcase? You'd think there might be some propaganda value in that tidbit, if skillfully deployed. ... 3:32 P.M.

I see my colleague, the evil triangulator Bruce Reed, has discovered the secret of attracting hits: gratuitously mention "Ann Coulter" in your hed or sub-hed. I was onto that weeks ago. (Then I switched to "neolib." It's not the same.) ... 3:21 P.M.

Monday, August 21, 2006

He's so entitled to take this shot: MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, on Dan Abram's reappearance as an anchor (after being promoted to general manager of the network):

Over at CNN Jon Klein runs the show. Do you think he could host an hour of television? How do you think that would rate? Not well. So in the end, we're proud of Dan."

Meanwhile, Klein is still milking respectability points from his decision to end Crossfire, where Carlson once soldiered loyally before being gratuitously humiliated by Klein. Klein gets praised for his "candor." He then says ratings are not that important. "This is, first and foremost, a battle for journalistic excellence." ... P.S.: Marketwatch's fawning inerviewer, Jon Friedman, explains Klein's ratings non-triumph, after almost two years on the job:

CNN most likely won't make any dramatic strides until the U.S. acts to have a Democrat living in the White House.

How will that work? Doesn't being in opposition tend to help ideological media institutions like FOX? [Via TVNewswer, Romenesko] ... Down the Enemies List: Meanwhile, BMW designer Chris Bangle, the Jon Klein of the auto industry, tells a Britain's Independent:

What makes the car alive is for it to be responsive, animate. ... There has to be more of a message than 'I'm beautiful, I'm powerful, I'm sexy'.

Bangle saying there's more to car design than beauty is the equivalent of Klein saying there's more to TV than ratings. They better hope so! [Where's Burkle?-ed He comes up here. ... ] 9:32 P.M.

Edward Luttwak notes that  

6,821 Americans ...died to conquer the eight square miles of Iwo Jima.

That's more than twice the number of Americans who've died  in the entire Iraq war. ... [Rationalization?-ed Perspective.] 7:15 P.M. 

A Neolib New Deal? Josh Marshall writes  

A week ago I did a Blogginheads segment with Mickey Kaus and he brought up his long held belief that Dems should cut their losses on social insurance programs like Social Security to build up political chits with GOPers and extra revenue for universal health care. But I don't think it works that way. And I think the 1990s are the prime example. Give up on Social Security and that undermines progressive reform on every front. It's not a matter of coalition politics. It's that every win galvanizes and strengthens progressive reform as a whole.

Josh misunderstood my position, which maybe I didn't make clear on Bloggingheads. I'm not for cutting Social Security now to "build up political chits with GOPers." I agree those chits would not likely be either recognized or honored. And I have nothing, in the abstract, against the current "universal" Social Security  system that sends pension checks to rich and poor alike.

It's just that a "universal" Social Security system costs hundreds of billions of dollars more than, say,  a "means tested" system that doesn't send checks to the richest 25% of retirees. And I don't think Democrats will be able to afford botha) that expensive universal Social Security system and b) the national health care program they will rightly want. 'Defending' Social Security and achieving a decent health care system is less likely to 'galvanize and strengthen progressive reform as a whole' than it is to either bankrupt the government or require a larger tax burden than citizens are willing to bear.

If that's true, then at some point Democrats will have to choose, and I hope they choose (b). There are several scenarios under which they might effectively make that choice--a grand bargain, in which the Dems say "you give us national health insurance and we'll agree to a radical means test for Social Security" is only one of them. A much more likely sequence would involve Democrats first passing national health insurance on the basis of a bunch of rosy cost projections, and then discovering that the budget is veering way out of balance--with the resulting crisis being resolved by big cuts in Social Security. (That's basically the way Australia found its way to a Social Security means test, as I understand it.)

In any case, it makes little sense to cut Social Security this year, when national health insurance isn't even on Congress' plate, in the mere hope that the money saved will one day be available for health care. (It's much more likely to be pissed away on other Democratic and Republican projects.) I opposed the Bush Social Security plan (see this 2004 piece). Not that Democrats were crazy to disagree with that position. If you actually want to preserve the current "universal" checks-to-the-rich Social Security regime--as most doctrinaire Dems say they do--a deal with Bush (in which he took the heat for necessary mild increases in the retirement age, etc. in exchange for a fig leaf of semi-privatization) might actually make sense, as Michael Kinsley argued. I don't think Joe Lieberman should be read out of the party for flirting with a Kinsleyesque position, which was my vlog argument against Josh.

It's when you don't think we should save the "universal" Social Security system that you don't want to engineer a few moderate Bush-style cuts now in order to make it solvent for the next 100 years, which will only convince everyone there's no reason to tamper with it! Better to let the system bubble along and make truly radical, means-testing cuts later, when Democrats will be in a position to achieve something big, like national health insurance, in return (and when the addition of a big program like national health insurance will make it clear to everyone that radical cuts are necessary). . ... 12:35 A.M. link

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why does the music they play in clothing stores sound so much better than the music they play on the radio? My guess: Clothing store music is designed to put you in a good mood so you'll buy stuff. In practice, this monolithic, insidious commercial motive translates into simply playing good music. ... The song you hear on the radio, in contrast is likely to be something some record company promoter has bugged (or bribed) the station to play.  It will probably be an artist with current commercial potential--not a one-hit wonder, or singer who's died or quit the business, but an "act" of non-trivial potential future earning power. ... Or it will be someone who knows someone who knows the DJ. ... And it likely won't be a two-year-old song of proven appeal, but an iffy new song from whatever CD is about to come out. (Let's give this struggling new singer-songwriter a break!)  Or it will be an older song from a band that's appearing in town that week. (Perhaps the station happens to have tickets to give away!) ... Or it will be an act the station is trying to "break," in order to get bragging rights within the industry (the way LA's KCRW boasts about breaking Norah Jones). ... All of these hidden, ulterior motives corrupt the simple goal of playing music you will enjoy hearing. Give me honest clothing store songs any day. ... Backfill: David Owen describes how some clothing store music is made.  ... 10:39 P.M.

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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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