The perfect man for Heather!

A mostly political Weblog.
March 17 2007 6:49 PM

The Perfect Man for Heather

Someone who hates publicity as much as she does!

I probably deserved this. 4:36 P.M.

The Philandering Politicians' Protection Act: Michael Ledeen reports on a troubling new Italian law that would seem to require a Putin-like control of the Internet to completely succeed. Unless I read wrong it penalizes even accurate reporting on the "sexual sphere." ... In unrelated news, Bill Clinton announced he was moving ...  [Isn't there a Ron Burkle joke in here somewhere?--ed  I think! But I'm actually scared of getting Slate sued--proof that press laws like this can have a big effect. Just run it past the lawyers--ed At 4 in the morning? It wasn't that funny a joke. Good thing the New York Times can't be intimidated. They'd never go soft on a guy like him.--ed Um ...  OK, I missed that interview. But they owed it to Burkle after that "zipping around" line.-ed] ... Update: Maybe this is one of the new EU "privacy laws" Heather Mills McCartney has in mind to promote, just as soon as she's finished Dancing With the Stars. ... Bonus Yent-a-Matic: Heather and Ron! EHarmony could not do better. ... 1:34 A.M. link

U.S. military deaths in Iraq have apparently declined by about 20% since the "surge" began. It would be a caricature of MSM behavior if the New York Times, instead of simply reporting this potentially good news, first constructed some bad news to swaddle it in, right? From today's Times:

The heightened American street presence may already have contributed to an increase in the percentage of American deaths that occur in Baghdad.

Over all, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq from hostilities since Feb. 14, the start of the new Baghdad security plan, fell to 66, from 87 in the previous four weeks.

But with more soldiers in the capital on patrol and in the neighborhood garrisons, a higher proportion of the American deaths have occurred in Baghdad — 36 percent after Feb. 14 compared with 24 percent in the previous four weeks. Also over the past four weeks, a higher proportion of military deaths from roadside bombs have occurred in Baghdad — 45 percent compared with 39 percent. [E.A.]

Soldiers presumably get attacked where they are, not where they aren't. If we deploy more soldiers in Baghdad more soldiers will presumably be attacked, and killed, in Baghdad. I don't see why that in itself is bad news, or even news news, if the overall casualty level is declining. ... There will probably be genuine bad military news to report from Baghdad soon enough. Does the NYT have to make some up before then? [Yes, if Congress is voting on Iraq this week--ed Don't be a raving paranoid. It's like you're giving voice to some irresponsible blogger's dark id! Next you'll be saying that agenda-driven mid-level Times editors might have shaped those paragraphs.] ...

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P.S.: If "gunmen" ambush the mayor of Sadr City, wounding him and killing an Iraqi military officer, that doesn't seem like a good thing. But are we sure that it "Hinders Antimilitia Effort," as the NYT headline says. Couldn't it easily help the antimilitia effort if people in Sadr City resent the attack and turn on the gunmen? (When Americans attack popular figures it can backfire on us quickly, right?) ... The Times story itself doesn't tell you one way or another. But it doesn't support up the anti-surge hed. [There's a vote on!-id Down, boy.] ...

P.P.S.: I've been relying heavily on Iraq the Model for news of the battle in Baghdad (in part because I went to see the brothers who blog on ITM talk when they visited the U.S., and I have a clear sense of their good faith). But commenter "piscivorous" at bloggingheads helpfully suggests some other Iraqi blogs to look at, if for some reason you don't completely trust the NYT's version of how the "surge" is going. ... 1:24 A.M. link

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A cry for help. 11:21 P.M.

Nobody said blogging was pretty:Kos gets points for leaving this post  up. ... 6:36 P.M.

What's the early California primary really all about? State legislators were eager to pass the bill moving up the state's primary to February because they also placed on that ballot a measure to allow them to stay in office longer (before they hit their term limit). The February vote will let incumbents beat the March filing deadline. But Gov. Schwarzenegger has also included an anti-gerrymandering measure. ... Scott Schmidt objects, noting that the package of changes would give incumbents "four more years in their safe legislative districts." In the long run, though, it seems like a good deal, assuming the whole package passes. Anti-gerrymandering reform is very hard to get and worth bribing incumbents with a couple more years in office. And if California takes up the anti-gerrymandering cause, it could start a national trend, no? ... See also New West Notes and Boi From Troy. ...

P.S.: But if, as Boi and George Will  suspect, independents won't be able to vote in the early presidential primary, how many will bother to show up at the polls? And aren't they the logical supporters of the anti-gerrymandering measure, and the logical foes of relaxing term limits? Is it now possible that, without a turnout of independents, the state's safe-seated, mainly Dem legislators will get their dream outcome: The relaxed term limits measure passes, so they get more years in office, while the anti-gerrymandering measure fails, so they don't have to face any competition? ...

Update: Apparently independents can vote in the Dem primary. They just haven't been able to vote in the GOP primary, though that might change. If it doesn't, the voters discouraged from showing up would be Republican-leaning independents--voters you'd think would especially fit an anti-gerrymander, pro-term limit profile. Discouraging them would be good for pro-gerrymander, anti-limit Dem incumbents, though there might not be enough of them in this Dem-heavy state to tip the outcome. ... But what if Dems also subtly signal to their voters that they don't really care if the anti-gerrymander measure loses? ... 4:32 P.M. link

Will the U.A.W. organize Toyota's Kentucky factory? I'd bet no, based on the union's inability to deliver on past boasts--assuming there's a secret ballot. But it would be a big deal. Here's the Detroit News' coverage, as discussed in Autoblog. .... P.S.:

While pay rates and bonuses at the non-union plant are approaching the level of UAW workers, the union bosses pointed out those wage levels are more volatile.

U.A.W. wage levels are nice and steady! It's the jobs that disappear. And maybe the companies. ... 2:23 A.M.

"I have seen the future of health care punditry and its name is Jonathan Cohn." I just got back from a talk at the Venice Family Clinic by TNR's Cohn. What Arcade Fire is to rock and Dana Vachon to yuppie lit, Cohn is to health care journalism--i.e., he can't possibly live up to expectations. But in this talk he did, at least for someone like me who is trying to catch up with the health care debate. ... Cohn's book seems to have real people in it--and their stories!--which could be a problem. But in PowerPoint mode he's funny, clarifying, and even wonk-charismatic. ...  [Sullivan has nothing on you in the suck up dept.--ed No, he was really good. I still think his so-called "strong defense" of neoliberalism was ridiculously constrained and condescending, especially compared to Yglesias'.] ... Backfill: Tim Noah launches  the Cohn campaign. ...1:44 A.M. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bed, Bath  & Beyond TimesSelect: Due Torre thinks TimesSelect's new "students and teachers" promotion--in which everyone with a ".edu" email address gets those premium pay-to-read New York Times articles for free--is a bigger hole in the TimesSelect dike than the paper lets on. ... Let Mike D at Due Torre explain why. (Key player: alumni associations!) ... P.S.: But is this giant loophole really unintentional? I'm not sure the Times really minds if every college graduate in the world gets TimesSelect without paying (though that's kind of a reverse Robin Hood marketing strategy). For one thing, it will make Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd happy. (They get a bigger audience.)  For another, it gives the paper a graceful way to effectively abandon its whole ill-conceived pay-for-opinions plan while maintaining it as a formal fiction--just as Bed, Bath & Beyond maintains the fiction that you only get 20% off if you have a coupon (even as it distributes coupons so freely that basically everyone has four or five lying on the floor of their car). ... Update: Ad Age follows up--

But the Times said it doesn't believe most alumni will cheat. "It's an honor system," said Vivian Schiller, senior VP-general manager, NYTimes.com. "And we're assuming that the alumni of this nation's colleges and universities have a thorough enough education in ethics to keep them honest.  [E.A.]

Web. Free content. Ethics. Funny! ...12:48 P.M. link

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bloggers: Forget your TTLB rank. Are you on the James Bennet 40? ... 12:11 P.M.

The  historic crossroads in history: Steve Clemons, who may be the only person who thinks Sen. Chuck Hagel had a good day yesterday, says Hagel now "may be less loyal to scripted party direction."  I didn't realize that was possible. ... Seriously, it makes perfect sense for Hagel to postpone his decision until later in the year. Like "E-mailer X,"  I'm convinced a successful late entry is possible. All the Russertesque pundit-talk about the need to raise millions ignores the emerging reality, which is that a late entrant only really needs to win Iowa and New Hampshire--then he or she will be able to sweep all the states that hold early primaries, Hart-84 style. But if you're going to postpone your decision to run you don't need to summon reporters to Omaha to do it. The whole incident reeks of some back-story explanation. He can't really be this much of a flake. ... P.S.: And if you're going to run as an independent, Unity '08 candidate, do you have your aides tell the NYT that you have "no intention" of doing it? ... P.P.S. As Influence Peddler notes, the non-announcenent speech was weak. Hagel fan Peggy Noonan wouldn't write an opening like "America stands at an historic crossroads in its history." ... Update: Emailer D.B. notes an eerie similarity to Woody Allen's "Speech to the Graduates". ...  2:03 A.M. link

Monday, March 12, 2007

Do we really need to toggle between Daylight and Standard time? Here's a sociological argument--validated by casual empiricism!--that keeping Daylight Savings Time year round would cut traffic  (and save a lot of the energy cars now spend idling during rush hour jam-ups). ... It's all about separating the Sun People from the Clock People. ... Update: Mounting  empirical support! ... BoiFromTroy reports rush hour has eased at the Precor machines at his gym! ... [But  the public rebelled when Congress started DST in January and February during the mid-70s energy crisis.--ed Clock people don't like it when they have to get up and go to work in the dark. But there are fewer clock people, and more people with flexible work hours (including the self-employed) than there used to be. People with flexible work hours can get up later with the sun--easing the morning crush. What didn't work in 1975 might work now.] ...8:58 P.M.

Radar shouldn't be embarrassed at its "unimaginative" editorial meeting (accidentally recorded and published on Page Six)--a point ETP's Rachel Sklar beat me to.  Good ideas come from bad ideas. Just like blogging! ... According to Page Six, Radar editor Maer Roshan runs meetings where "'[p]eople just blurt stuff out.'" Those are the best kind, no?  ... 8:10 P.M.

Don't Stop Now! Where's "Faggot-Guy"?  ...  It seems like only last week that Andrew Sullivan was calling me "faggot-guy" at every available opportunity. ("[F]rom now on ... on those few occasions when his name comes up, he will have a new appellation on this blog. ... How does it feel, Faggot-Guy?") He was sending me passionate emails. But today, nothing! Sullivan's brilliant running conceit has simply disappeared. ... Did he lose heart? Has he come un-unhinged? Did his new boss, David Bradley, decide that running around calling people "faggot-guy" might not be in the highest tradition of the venerable Atlantic? ... Update: The Cycle of Excitability is nearing its all-too-predictable end. He's back to calling me "Kaus."   He'll be sucking up again soon! [Don't think so--ed. It's his Darwinian  default mode.] ...    5:17 P.M. link

Is Neoliberalism dying--or only The New Republic? Just because Marty Peretz had to sell the New Republic  after its hectoring support for the Iraq War turned off its readership,** do they have to cooperate in presenting their marketing-move to the left as the "death of neoliberalism"? ...

P.S.: The word "neoliberalism," at least in its domestic context, was coined by The Washington Monthly'sCharles Peters in 1978. (It didn't start, as David Brooks declared, with a Kinsley tax editorial in 1981). Recently, the editors and former editors of Peters' magazine, The Washington Monthly, had a dinner to celebrate his 80th birthday. Out of the approximately 45 Peters proteges there, how many had supported the Iraq War? My guess is no more than 8.  Peters himself certainly didn't support the war. Neither did Kinsley. Monthly alum James Fallows (who wasn't at the dinner) tried to stop it with cautionary articles in The Atlantic. The war's a New Republic thing--and a David Brooks thing--not a Washington Monthly thing.

It would be more accurate to say that Brooks' war killed Peretz's magazine.

P.P.S.: I'm not saying there isn't a large movement of bloggers, activists, etc. who (as Brooks says) want "a Democratic Party that fights" Republicans rather than attacks itself, who are substantively "further to the left"--concerned more about wage stagnation than the problems of adversarial unionism--and who regard neolibs like Joe Klein as contrarian Fogies. What I deny is that we Fogies have lost--that what Peters called neoliberalism deserves the smug, mutually-reinforcing obituaries from Jonathan and Ezra and Ben. More on this later. ...

**--And because David Brooks needed a column. 4:48 P.M. link

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Who Killed Premiere? I blame the aptly-named David Pecker, who cut off its journalistic balls. Per the L.A. Times:

Peter Biskind, who spent a decade at Premiere as executive editor under founding editor Susan Lyne and went on to write bestselling books about Hollywood, such as "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," said one of the reasons the magazine was so good in its early days was because "we weren't beholden to the studios. That gave us a lot of freedom to do hard-hitting, in-depth reporting." ... [snip]

After Lyne's departure, [Chris] Connelly became editor in chief in early 1996, and [Nancy] Griffin was his deputy editor. But the two top editors abruptly resigned in May of that year after publisher Hachette Filipacchi's then president and chief executive, David Pecker, gave Connelly an order to kill Premiere's California Suite column about Planet Hollywood, a celebrity-themed restaurant chain that had ties to billionaire Revlon owner Ronald Perelman, who was half owner of Premiere.

The order was the last straw in a series of decisions that Connelly and Griffin felt compromised the integrity of the magazine.

These included a request to publish a picture of Revlon models in a page of Oscar party coverage and the placing of Perelman's then wife, Patricia Duff, on the masthead as editor at large. Pecker, in interviews at the time, denied the magazine was acting under any kind of pressure from Perelman. [E.A.]

After Connelly left, the publisher's idea was apparently to turn Premiere into more of a toothless fan mag. The failure of that approach is a small bit of evidence for the perennial readers-want-real-journalism argument--an argument I'd like to believe. ... By the time Premiere collapsed years later, of course, Pecker was off  pursuing  fresh failures. ... 8:07 P.M. link

Note that a Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial--blasting the Democratic "netroots" for successfully pressuring Nevada Democrats to cancel Fox News' co-hosting of a Dem candidates' debate--essentially concedes and ratifies the (accurate) netroots view that Fox isn't "fair and balanced" but an organ of one side:

[F]ar-left Democrats have no comparable media outlet, nor any widespread national appeal, for their radical views ...[snip] So they attack their rivals' messenger with a reckless barrage of rhetoric that cuts down their own allies with friendly fire. [E.A.]

But isn't the Review-Journal right that it would have been smart for the Democrats to reach "conservatives and 'values' voters" by having Fox run their show? ... Update: Kevin at Bajillion suggests it's smarter to let Republicans stay in their self-deceiving Fox cocoon. ... 5:06 A.M. link

David Corn says the lies of which Lewis "Scooter" Libby  has now been convicted "didn't have anything to do with the election per se" because they began "11 months before the '04 presidential" vote.  Huh? People in the White House aren't thinking about a presidential election a year out? ... Corn seems to agree that Libby was protecting his boss, Vice President Cheney.  If Cheney had been dragged more directly into the Wilson/Plame story--even though it turned out that no law was violated--that could easily have cost the GOP ticket 1% of the vote in Ohio, no?  Libby did his job. ... Update: Maguire dissents. He seems to argue that Libby's lie makes no sense because a) he could have relied on grand jury secrecy to protect him and b) the fine print of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act would have protected him. But could Libby have been sure of those two things? Given the MSM's hostility to Cheney? ... 3:19 A.M. link

The ProudTradition of The AtlanticContinues! "Andrew@the atlantic.com sent you a link to content of interest,"says a recent message in my inbox.

"The sender also included this note:

Just for you, Faggot-Guy."

For the record: 1) I don't defend and haven't defended use of the ugly and offensive word "faggot." On Ann Coulter's remarks, I wrote that it's a "a toxic word that shouldn't have been used even in a joke--or anyway in that joke."  It's not a word I use or accept others using.  2) I've repeatedly and freely noted that I'm a friend of Coulter''s--see, e.g.. here and here and here  and here  and here.. ...P.S.: Boi fromTroy takes issue with Sullivan's claim to "know of no gay bars anywhere that exclude straight guys." See also BfromT's comments for an actual honest ventilation of this issue (i.e., without Sullivanish posturing). ... 1:10 A.M. link

Friday, March 9, 2007

Consumer Reports' annual Auto Issue plots 10 years of reliability data for the major manufacturers. All three Detroit makers have significantly worse records than Toyota (#1 for the ten years) and Honda (#2). But you knew that. The news is that one of Detroit's Big Three did significantly better over the long run than the other two. "Ford had fewer problems than Chrysler and GM for 3-year old and older vehicles." Indeed, Ford fell about halfway between its Detroit rivals (GM and Chrysler, essentially tied near the bottom) and Honda. ... GM's Bob Lutz predicts that one of the Big Three will disappear  soon, and that it won't be GM. Between Ford and Chrysler, I now know which one I'd pick to survive. ... 3:09 A.M. 

N-Word Escape: Bob Wright boasts about our society's successful stigmatization of the so-called "n-word"--we not only don't use it, but shame those who use it  and don't respect or associate with them (and maybe also don't associate with the people who do associate with them). But this formidable stigmatization machine has broken down shockingly** in the case of Paris Hilton. ...

**--rare non-ironic use of "shockingly." 1:58 A.M.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Andrew Sullivan has reached back beyond NEXIS to find an article I wrote in 1985** on Barney's Beanery, a West Hollywood hangout (made famous in an Edward Kienholz sculpture). It's the first piece I wrote that I came to believe was wrong very shortly after publishing. It's the piece I discussed in this post from 2003, during the Gregg Easterbrook/ESPN controversy:

What was he thinking when he made this moral error? I suspect he was thinking, "Hey, here's a neat argument. This will work." That's what I was thinking many years ago when I made a similar error, also in The New Republic. It embarrasses me now: I wrote that discrimination against homosexuals in West Hollywood bars was less outrageous than, say, discrimination against blacks in the South, because homosexuals in West Hollywood had acquired money and power. Neat argument, huh? Sort of leftish! After the piece was printed, one of TNR's top editors let me know he thought the argument was offensive, and I realized after some resistance that he was right. I wasn't fired, though. I was busted and I learned something. That's what's supposed to happen. (See Jeff Jarvis.)

It's also the piece alluded to here  (in point #1). The "top editor" who told me he didn't like it was Marty Peretz.  A good thing about Marty, I learned, is that you never have to worry that he's secretly mad at you. ... Aside from this one piece, of course, everything I've written has been right. ... P.S.: Andrew claims to "know of no gay bars anywhere that exclude straight guys. We have no issues with straight guys." But if I recall there was a big issue in West Hollywood with gay men's bars discriminating against women. ...

Correction: Originally said 1983, following Sullivan. Always a mistake! ...2:11 P.M. link

Bob Wright's point of maximum rage at me over my (not very effective) attempt to calibrate his condemnation of Ann Coulter comes right about here in our latest bloggingheads session. ... A dark secret about my friendship with Coulter is also revealed. ... 3:52 A.M.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Vet War: Bill Richardson's defenses against those "so far ... unfounded"  rumors:

1) "I shake hands a lot." (He just wants to connect to people!)

2) He was "vetted," in 2004, by the same man   responsible  for vetting   Fannie Mae's books!

Actually, it's more that Richardson says he was told he was vetted. ... He was also told he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics! ...[via Lucianne] 9:26 P.M.

Aha!

"As celebrities go, the jury favorite seems to be NPR's Nina Totenberg"

--Libby Juror #9 Denis Collins' account on HuffPo.

11:54 A.M.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A McLuhan for Our Time: Bob Kuttner boldy predicts that "in twenty-five years [newspapers] will be mostly digital." Wow. Apparently they are making some sort of transition to the Internet. This is why we need CJR. ... Why not fifty years? Or seventy-five? I guess there's no glory if you don't take risks! [He says "mostly"--ed That helps.] ... P.S.: Kuttner doesn't add much on the main issue, which is whether web-based papers can ever hope to generate enough ad revenue to fund the expensive reportorial functions formerly generated by print revenue. It's not looking good at the moment, is it?  11:50 P.M.

Here's Andrew Sullivan on "f-----" in 2001, basically saying what Ann Coulter says now:

There are similar problems with the term 'faggot.' In his early days, Eminem said he had nothing against gay people, just faggots. Just as not all gay men were faggots, not all black guys are niggers. The question is whether this is one step toward enlightenment or one step back toward bigotry. I'm inclined to think that, in the younger generation, the use of such terms need not be prima facie case of prejudice. It's quite common, for example, for high school kids to use the word 'gay' to describe anything they don't particularly like. It has no tangible reference to homosexuals - although it hardly bespeaks acceptance. But in general, the use of the term now is far less ominous than it would have been ten years ago. So let the linguistic waves roll and the racial, post-racial epithets mount. And let old Klansmen like Byrd look before they mumble. [Emphasis added.]

Busted by John Tabin. ... P.S.: I think the 2001 Sullivan isn't quite priggish enough, actually. I come down somewhere in between the 2001 Sullivan and the 2007 Sullivan. Maybe 2003. ... But there's always 2008! ... 11:04 P.M. link

Kathryn Jean Lopez makes a good point about the much-maligned 1/2 Hour News Hour. ... 5:14 P.M.

Libby: O'Donnell, bizarrely,  right. Seth Stevenson, right. Kaus ... even more bizarrely ... right! .... P.S.: Impeach Cheney or impeach Russert? Arianna must choose! ... 5:13 P.M.

Eli Lake notes that Al Gore has pointedly not called for withdrawal from Iraq. .... Radar has rumors of discontent in the McCain camp, with "several aides" quitting. "They're imploding ..." a ""top Republican aide" tells Radar. "We're imploding" would be more powerful evidence. ... 10:27 A.M.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Oddest carefully-crafted sentence of the still-young week:

"So far, rumors of personal pecadilloes are unfounded."--David Brooks, writing favorably about Dem. presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

The rumors are either founded or not, right? That shouldn't change over time. But, as a Slate colleague says, a word like "unproved" would have been "more of a challenge than a reassurance." ...Kf 's tip for reporters and others hoping to help the pecadilloes make the ontological transition from unfounded to founded: Ask around at Cafe Milano, D.C. ... 10:11 P.M.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Pushy Priuses: It used to be that Toyota Prius drivers were polite and methodical, almost Gandhiesque, as if they were trying to demonstrate the better world they sought. No more. As Priuses have proliferated from the do-gooder niche into the mainstream, their drivers have gotten as rude and aggressive as anyone else. Ruder, in my experience. I think they feel entitled because of their small carbon footprint. ... P.S.: And you can't hear them coming. ... 10:40 P.M. link

Not such a new Dem: Obama takes an important domestic policy position--no more transcending! Specifically, he pledges

"We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. ... We may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will get this thing done."

The idea of requiring a union, without a secret ballot election, if labor organizers can obtain a majority of "cards" from employees seems like both a big idea and a bad idea.(See below.) If Republicans were smart and confident, wouldn't they make a big deal of this--drag the debate in Congress out to give it more prominence, highlighting Obama's support for this change which (more than any tax cut) would alter the very texture of the economy? Voters--even many socially liberal peacenik voters--traditionally worry that if Dems gain full power they will a) serve their special interests and b) cripple American capitalism in a fit of leftish nostalgia. This bill legitimately triggers both fears. ...

P.S.: I don't think this is an endorsement Obama had to make for political reasons. As Dick Morris says, he's sitting pretty--he can be anything he wants to be. He could be a lot more Gary Hartish! He must want to be an old-fashioned unionizer. [But he has to win the Iowa caucuses, dominated by unions--ed Teachers' unions! They're already organized. They don't need no stinking card-check.** As for New Hampshire--look what the unions did for Mondale in 1984. ... And if Obama doesn't really believe in the card-check, wouldn't it still be smart for the GOPs to make him pay a price for selling out to the unions? That's a lot more important sign that he's a business-as-usual pol than his failure to repudiate David Geffen for taking some heartfelt shots at the Clintons.. ... ] ...

**--Update: Ryan Sager emails from NY: "NYC's [United Federation of Teachers chief] Randi Weingarten would be interested to hear teachers unions don't want card check. It's how they plan to destroy the charter school movement here." Good point. But is that also true in Iowa?

Supplemental reading: Ford is one example of how the Wagner Act unionism Obama wants to spread really can undermine the economy--according to this Friday WSJ report [$], the company has begun a belated round of attempts to wrest concessions from UAW locals in an attempt to eliminate the $250/vehicle disadvantage currently imposed by union-backed work rules.  Remember that the majestic layering of work rule upon work rule was once considered the glory of the Wagner Act, back in the 1950s. The rules served to protect not a special interest, but special interests within a special interest--e.g. skilled job classifications within the UAW  whose members didn't have to pitch in and sweep floors, etc. with everyone else. The rules just weren't very good at creating efficient factories, at least compared with Japanese plants where change was continuous and there was only one job classification: "Production." ....

Without Wagner Act unionism a) these rules wouldn't exist in the first place and b) if they did, Ford wouldn't have to engage in a  too-little-too-late teethpulling exercise only when it stood poised on the brink of bankruptcy (as consumers bought cars where the $250 has gone to improve the quality of materials in the interior). .. ... Nor does the WSJ piece convince you that Ford will be successful even now:

Some work-rule changes remain beyond reach for Ford. At the Dearborn Truck Assembly factory, for instance, if the company wants to bring in an outside company for specialized repairs to its assembly equipment, it must also pay the same number of company repairmen to work.

There's one problem Toyota doesn't have. ... Why would most of Toyota's American workers choose not to unionize? Must be their employer's unfair labor practices. ...

P.P.S.: Kevin Drum demands that opponents of extending unionization "propose an alternative" means of boosting stagnant wages. That assumes unionization is an effective method, which I would dispute. (During the 1980s, for example, powerful unions did succeed in protecting their members. They didn't succeed in protecting the general mass of workers from the resulting stagflation and loss of competititiveness.) But since Drum asks, here's an alternative:

1) Continued economic growth: Drum claims the idea that "tight labor markets" increase median wages is "pie in the sky." Except  in the late '90s, when they worked bigtime, and last year, when the post-2001 expansion had finally gone on long enough for them to start working again. I recommend David Leonhardt's January 3 NYT analysis.

2) Control immigration so unskilled immigrants don't undermine the bargaining power of workers in the tight labor market; and

3) Universal health care--which would in effect be a big wage increase, and a bigger increase in peace of mind and ability to switch jobs.

In short, Clintonism--plus 'don't forget border control'. ... 2:15 P.M. link

Do It Once, Do It Late ... : Playing its traditional role, the LAT comes in with a long thorough, diligent report on the Geffen-Clinton relationship that serves to kill off any further interest in the subject. ... What passes for a juicy bit: A Clinton aide calls Geffen a "whiner." That's it. ...[Also Geffen was "intrigued by [Clinton's] mix of Arkansas informality, wonkish fluency and political shrewdness."--ed . Well, that's that then. Nothing more to see here. ...] .. 1:34 P.M.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Coulter-Nagourney Papers: Here is the text of a recent email exchange between the NYT's Adam Nagourney and Ann Coulter concerning this controversy:

[Nagourney] The three Republican presidential contenders denouncing you….Do you want to do any response?

[Coulter] C'mon it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.
Did any of these guys say anything after I made the same remark about Al Gore last summer?Why not?  What were they trying to say about Al Gore with their silence?

Nagourney's blog about the controversy,--which contains a brief reference to Coulter's e-mail-- is here. ...

Update: Nagourney's print piece  is up. He quotes more of Coulter's email than he does on his blog (which is odd since it's usually the other way around).  He also makes it clear he solicited Coulter's response....

More:  Andrew Sullivan wonders what I was "trying to say" in the above item. I thought I was letting readers know about an accurate document (an email exchange) that related to a controversy of the day.  What does Sullivan do if he gets a hot doc? (A 'blog hot' doc, anyway.)... The scoop value of this particular doc, I concede, was radically diminished when Nagourney published his print account and quoted more of Coulter's defense. It will be diminished further when Coulter herself goes on TV and defends herself in a few minutes.  It always ends badly when I attempt journalism. ... 

I think Nagourney was fair to Coulter, more than fair, maybe, in his print piece. He could easily have slanted it more against her if he'd wanted to. More evidence for the thesis that there is actually a secret, perhaps subconscious affinity  between gay reporters and Coulter. ...

What do I think of Coulter's comment? I think a) she obviously wasn't saying John Edwards is gay; b) she equally obviously doesn't think Edwards is gay; c) she picked the word "f-----" because she wanted to make a joke about what that Grey's Anatomy star said that resulted in him going into rehab; d) hard as it is to believe, it seems as if she doesn't realize how offensive that word is to people--she thinks it's a very strong, non-boring word that basically means someone with the effeminate traits stereotypically associated with homosexuals; e) it's worse than that, a toxic word that shouldn't have been used even in a joke--or anyway in that joke; f) she's not, in fact, a homophobe. She's not even really what Mike Kinsley would call a "closet tolerant" because I don't think she's in the closet about it. It's worth noting what she did not say in response to Nagourney, which is any suggestion that gays are sinners going to hell, etc.--i.e. what the stereotypical liberal would expect the stereotypical Christian conservative to say ... 

Note: The first part of this item as it originally appeared--available here--has been modified for clarity. ... 6:41 P.M. link

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Get-up-and-get-a-beer line of the day: According to the NY Post, Newt Gingrich "doesn't think Obama can win."

 "If the country wants therapy, they're going to elect Obama," he said.

You mean the country doesn't want therapy? 6:09 P.M.

OK, New Orleans. You're on your own. It looks like NBC Nightly News' obsessive Katrina coverage hasn't been paying off in the ratings. ... 4:28 P.M.

"Democrats Will Do For America What the UAW Has Done for Chrysler, GM and Ford": Here's a legislative triumph Pelosi's party doesn't want to publicize too much. Do Democrats really want to campaign in 2008 on eliminating the secret ballot in union elections? Luckily, they'll probably be saved by Mitch McConnell. ...   P.S.: Only 7% of private sector workers are now unionized. Is that a) because of all that employer foul play (what Dems tell each other inside the cocoon) or b) because the ponderous legalistic and adversarial structure of the Wagner Act--advancement by seniority, due process, work rules, labor-management negotiation--is especially unsuited to competing in a tumultuous, innovating economy that prizes flexibility and adaptability over predictability and job security? .... 3:36 P.M. link

Iowa, Now More Than Ever: "Emailer X" sends a majestically symmetrical analysis with a grim corn-fed conclusion. [Boldface added]:

There are a couple of anomalies regarding 2008.  First, it's the first genuinely open seat race in a very long time.  There is no incumbent president or designated incumbent (Nixon, HHH, GFord, GHWB, Gore) running for either party's nomination.  Thus the networks (which always overspend their primary coverage budgets in single party presidential nomination fights) are going to be financially strapped to cover two party presidential nomination fights at the same time. 

Media coverage is the oxygen of politics; candidates who get media coverage can continue to raise money and candidates who don't get coverage can't. ... [snip] 

Because the news divisions are less and less profitable (and "news gathering" is increasingly expensive), the bias of the television media in 2008 will be to shut off as much oxygen to as many candidates as possible as soon as possible.  To save money.   Which is one reason we have the current coverage configuration, which implicitly states that (1) Clinton and Obama are the front-runners on the Democratic side, with Edwards as the wild-card position player (in Iowa) and (2) McCain and Giuliani are the front-runners on the Republican side, with Romney as the wild-card position player (he's presumed to have a "base" in NH because of its proximity to MA, and he's raised a ton of dough).  Everyone else gets the multi-candidate forum coverage package and that's it.  If they want day-to-day coverage, they can go generate local coverage.  They're not in the national coverage budget.

Given this configuration, the name of the game for the front-runners is "shut off all the oxygen to everyone else early."  Which, translated, means: win Iowa and New Hampshire, and the game is over. 

It seems to me that the only person who truly understands this is John Edwards.  The others act like Iowa is a bother and that New Hampshire, while important, is not nearly as important as it used to be.  California may move to early March!  It's all about the Super Tuesdays!  But here's the thing:  If McCain or Clinton come into a Super Tuesday having lost Iowa and New Hampshire, then they're basically cooked.  They've lost the "I & E;" inevitability and electability.  And neither party's base much likes them anyway.  It hardly follows that they will like them more after they've run losing campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I don't have the schedules handy, but I think Hillary has been to Iowa twice in the last four years.  That's just stupid.  I don't think Obama has traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire more than 3 times each.  That's dumb.  McCain (whom Iowa GOPers still distrust because he blew them off in 2000) hasn't spent much time in Iowa, nor has Giuliani.  That's dumb.  Romney seems to think that Michigan is every bit as important as Iowa.  That's dumb.  Only Edwards has basically moved to Iowa and declared a second residence in New Hampshire. 

As you know, the entire media infrastructure basically moves to Des Moines for the last 10 days of the Iowa caucuses (which are usually on a Monday night).  This year, they'll send a B-team to cover the Las Vegas primary, but that will be a drive-by deal.  The machine will move to Manchester New Hampshire and megaphone from there.  After that, it's off to South Carolina for that Saturday primary.  Then it's imperative that one nomination fight be declared over and that the other be brought to a quick conclusion.

The other anomaly is that neither party's base (really) has a candidate.  Hillary has the Clinton wing of the party, but the influence of the Clintons has diminished with the rise of Internet-based fund-raising on the left.  The Netroots can match any money machine dollar for dollar.  And unlike the Fat Cat Network, the Netroots bring hundreds of thousands of voters to the table as well.  But the Netroots don't have a candidate (their candidate is Gore, but he's not running, apparently). Likewise on the GOP side, the base's candidate (Jeb Bush) is not running.  

Because Republicans are concerned about losing both control of the legislative branch (2006) and the executive (2008?), the base has decided to be pragmatic.  Find me a winner and we'll back him. Because Democrats need to retain control of the legislative branch and believe that they have their best shot since 1992 at picking up the executive, the Netroots are being as pragmatic as the GOP base.  So the "aura" if inevitability and electability keeps everyone in their places.  Lose that aura and you're done.  The front-runners (all of them) can lose that aura completely in Iowa and New Hampshire.  And if they do, there's nothing to fall back on, the base will cut them loose in a heartbeat.

This is why the Geffen thing was so injurious to Clinton's campaign.  It fractured the aura a bit (confirmed by the Clinton campaign's over-wrought response).  ...

It's a weird thing to watch all this unfold.  And a weird thing to find yourself viewing John Edwards as the only one who gets the game.   

Reaction: OK, there are two big trends here--1) The addition of more early primary states (Nevada, maybe California) and 2) the Decline of the MSM (and their budgets). "X" argues both have 100% perverse consequences1) Iowa and New Hampshire are now more crucial than ever and 2) the MSM news budget will completely drive the campaign, starving laggards of oxygen to force a swift conclusion. ... I can see Perverse Consequence #1--if Iowa and New Hampshire were in January but all the other states moved their primaries back to May, then (as X emails) "You could actually skip IA and NH and still win the nomination!"  But I don't see Perverse Consequence #2--how does the decline of the MSM, and the rise of New Media, mean that the MSM's "coverage budget" drives the campaign more than ever, starving those candidates it ignores of oxygen? Surely it should be easier now for a non-frontrunning candidate denied MSM "oxygen"--Richardson, say--to get some "oxygen" outside the MSM (through a vigorous Web campaign that raises money for paid media, or a reverse-macaca YouTube moment) in a way that attracts voters in one of the primaries and gets  the candidate back on the MSM's menu? ... 3:16 P.M. link

Is the "conversation" on Hillary's website as sanitized, repressed and otherwise controlled as ....well, as you'd expect Hillary's website to be? This blogger claims his non-vituperative critical comment about energy policy was censored.  He's a "neophyte" blogger, which raises suspicions that he's a plant from some other campaign--but if he is he does a good job of faking the geniuine bloggers' solipsistic drone. You make the call. ... 1:26 P.M. link

Bob Wright tells me what I want to hear about my biological clock. ... 12:57 P.M.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Outmaneuvered Again:Adam'Spin Me' Nagourney's pro-Hillary take on the recent Geffen business has been vindicated. Hillary Clinton has gained in the latest WaPo poll, while Obama has lost ground. Looks like he really was "outmaneuvered"! I take it all back. A man with Nagourney's sound instincts should certainly be the central political reporter for the N.Y. Times. ... O...h ..., ...w ...a ...i ...t . ... Update: [In that poll Obama gained mainly among blacks. Could the Hillary Geffen reaction have turned off blacks?--ed Yes ] ... More:RealClearPolitics has a broader poll analysis reaching the same conclusion--

The pro-Clinton spin that Hillary wins this round because it dragged Mr. Obama down in the mud with her and tarnished his image of being above the political fray is just silly.

2:48 A.M. link

Rosie Scenario: Smart Tony Blankley piece on how the Faster (and Earlier) election process actually hurts challengers, eroding their traditional advantages. (They get stale quickly, for example. And if they show the beef--policy proposals--there's lots and lots of time to pick those policies apart, or for them to be overtaken by events.) ... The obvious solution, Blankley notes--echoing Emailer X--is to jump into the race late. Advantage, Gingrich and Gore. ... Actually, maybe Blankley's logic suggests a solution for McCain: He could  let his campaign collapse, drop out, lay low for a few months ... and then jump back in at the end. The Rosie Ruiz  Strategy. There's plenty of time for it. ... (True, it didn't work for Gary Hart in 1988. But McCain wouldn't be withdrawing because of a character-questioning scandal. He'd be withdrawing because Giuliani seemed fresher and more appealing--at the moment. By December, if Blankley's right, it would be McCain who seems fresh.) ... 1:38 A.M. link

The Secret Neocon/Peacenik Convergence of Wishful Thinking: Do you get an eerie sensation reading arguments on the left about why there won't be a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq if the U.S. leaves-- like this one from Robert Dreyfuss:

Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington, Iraq is not a make-believe state cobbled together after World War I, but a nation united by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, just as the Nile unites Egypt. Historically, the vast majority of Iraqis have not primarily identified themselves according to their sect, as Sunnis or Shiites. Of course, as the civil war escalates, more Iraqis are identifying by sect, and tensions are worsening. But it is not too late to resurrect some of the comity that once existed. The current war is not a conflict between all Sunnis and all Shiites, but a violent clash of extremist paramilitary armies. Most Iraqis do not support the extremists on either side. According to a poll conducted in June 2006 by the International Republican Institute, "seventy-eight per cent of Iraqis, including a majority of Shiites, opposed the division of Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines." ... [snip]

This shared desire could be another crucial force in helping maintain the integrity of Iraq. The catch-22 of Iraqi politics is that any Iraqi government created or supported by the United States is instantly suspect in Iraqi eyes. By the same token, a nationalist government that succeeds in ushering U.S. forces out of Iraq would have overwhelming support from most Iraqis on most sides of the conflict. With that support, such a government might be able to make the difficult compromises—like amending the constitution to give minority protections to Sunnis—that the Maliki government has been unable or unwilling to make but that most observers believe are crucial to any political settlement that might end the fighting.

Or it might not be able to do it and hundreds of thousands will die! ... Dreyfuss' argument shares the wishful-thinking quality of the pro-war, welcome-us-with-flowers thinking of the Bush administration neocons. True, Dreyfuss hangs a lantern on his problem by asserting, in an aside, that

"the neoconservatives and the Bush administration weren't entirely wrong in 2003. ..."

But that doesn't make the argument more plausible. Sure a majority of Iraqis may be non-sectarian nationalists. But they aren't the people with the guns. The people with the guns seem to be sectarian extremists. If we leave, will they give up their guns? I doubt it. ...

P.S.: Paul Glastris (who published Dreyfuss' article in the Washington Monthly) defends it here. ...

Psst--To My Antiwar Friends: If we pull out, and comity is resurrected, and the difficult comprormises are made, and a political settlement is reached that ends the fighting while the integrity of Iraq is maintained, that would mean Bush's war was a success, no? ... 1:13 A.M. link

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Keep Hope Alive! Conservative opponents of "comprehensive immigration reform" who've been using it as a club with which to attack the presidential candidacy of its sponsor, Sen. John McCain, should maybe rethink. If Dick Morris and Eileen McGann are right, the McCain for President campaign is in big trouble. But what does that mean for those who care mainly about stopping "comprehensive" reform? ('Is it good for the yahoos?' Bill Kristol would ask.) McCain's need to suck up to conservative primary voters who hate his immigration bill is a big reason its prospects are less than secure, after all. The last thing anti-amnesty types should want is for McCain to sink so low that he drops out of the Presidential race and dedicates his year to passing his immigration reform. Or abandons the Republican primaries and seeks the presidency as an independent on a platform that includes his immigration plan. No, "comprehensive" opponents need McCain to at least think he's got a shot at the GOP nomination if only he just stops pushing his unpopular bill. Maintining the vital incentive to pander is crucial in cases like this--welfare was another one--where the voters are right and the respectable elites are wrong. .... 11:56 P.M. link

I'd forgotten a perverse set of facts that suddenly seems relevant: Hillary Clinton was almost certainly in favor of the 1996 welfare reform law while Rudolph Giuliani opposed it.  ... That could mean Giuliani is more liberal than people realize, and less likely to undergo the program of "learning/repositioning" that conservatives like John Derbyshire look forward to.  Or it could mean that Giuliani is more opportunistic than people realize and therefore more likely to reposition himself. ... My guess: Both, but definitely the latter. Giuliani was a genuine welfare reformer, after all. His opposition to the key reform bill, in retrospect, looks like a stunt to cultivate stature in the national press.** ... [Triggered by  Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner ]

**--It should be said that bill did contain some gratuitously nasty provisions denying benefits to existing elderly legal immigrants. President Clinton had pledged to remedy these provisions, which were in fact softened. In retrospect--and in prospect--they didn't constitute a sound reason for opposing the bill, the core of which instituted large, once-in-a-generation changes in the basic cash welfare programs for poor Americans (allowing states to condition benefits on work, even for single mothers). ... 12:27 AM. link

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Viewer Discretion Advised: This diavlog contains grotesque images." 10:38 P.M.

Staples-- 'Yeah, We Don't Got That' (Update): My email is running  8-1 against the idea that Hewlett-Packard may have run afoul of the antitrust laws by getting Staples to take its competing store-brand refilled ink-jet cartridges off its shelves. I'm not convinced but don't have the motivation to figure out why beyond that a) it seems clear to me HP is already getting monopolistic prices for its cartridges, once consumers like me have been "locked in" through the purchase of a printer; and b) this action was taken to remove a rising competitor and protect this HP semi-monopoly (perhaps by bribing them with a share of the monopoly profits). One counterargument, made by emailer D.L., is that Staples could in theory use its bribe to lower prices for consumers of HP cartridges. Those prices were not in evidence on my recent visit, however. ...  P.S.:  If the U.S. Department of Justice isn't interested, there's always that wacky Jerry Brown, now California's Attorney General.  In the meantime I'll take several emailers' advice and shop at Office Depot. ... Supplemental Reading: Here's a relevant case. ... 9:40 P.M. link

What song? I hope they're not exposing the Libby jurors to "Tennessee Plates." ... Report from the field: "Your Dad Did" ... 1:50 P.M.

John Derbyshire, an opponent of the McCain-Kennedy "comprehensive" immigration reform, explains why he's for Giuliani even though Giuliani's position on immigration looks an awful lot like McCain's. It's semi-convincing. (Derbyshire anticipates a Giuliani "learning/repositioning" experience.) 1:41 P.M.

How low can you go? A flyer compares Hillary to John Kerry. It's a smear campaign! ... 10:31 A.M.

Hillary's Doomed Taboo: Anne Kornblut describes a more plausible, but depressing, rationale for Hillary Clinton's seeming anti-Geffen overreaction than some of the takes offered last week. Kornblut argues the Clinton camp was trying to

[declare] her husband's impeachment in 1998 -- or, more accurately, the embarrassing personal behavior that led to it -- taboo, putting her rivals on notice and all but daring other Democrats to mention the ordeal again.

Questions: 1) Does Hillary realize that this taboo-enforcement strategy plays into the worst aspect of her public image--the dogmatic PC enforcer whose loyal aides seem, at least in public, to live in zombie-like fear that too much candor could incur her wrath? I don't think it's too much to draw a line from Hillary's attempt to suppress the speech of her fellow candidates to a general, instinctive distaste for the tumult and self-expression inherent in democracy itself. One thinks of Clintonite Roberta Achtenberg's seeming tolerance, as a HUD official, of her agency's intimidating investigations of local opponents of group homes for the handicapped. (Defending the investigations, Achtenberg told the NYT, "These are very difficult judgments that have to be made." No they're not, at least if you have any feel for democracy.)

2) Has the Clinton campaign ever heard of, you know, the Internet? Enforcing taboos doesn't work like it used to, back when all you had to do was muzzle a few gatekeepers.** Today, if people have things to say they're going to say them. If the candidates don't say them, and the MSM doesn't say them, that doesn't mean they won't get said.** Note to Hillary: Your husband cheated on you and was fined $90,000 for lying about it to a federal judge. Everybody thinks he's still cheating on you. Your fellow Democrats are tolerant, but they wonder what the deal is. That isn't the "politics of personal destruction." It's due diligence.Attempting to repress this discussion only assures that it will quickly come to the surface.

The more modern and effective alternative to suppressing nasty questions, of course, is to air them out--let the voters talk about them, "process" them and "move on," something that happens awfully fast now. Maybe Hillary's seemingly clumsy strategy of last week was perversely brilliant: By heavy-handedly trying to enforce a taboo on discussing Bill's misbehavior, she guaranteed that it would become the topic of widespread public conversation immediately--early in the campaign when voters have plenty of time to process it and move on before the Iowa caucuses.

She only seems like a speech scold.  She was really outmaneuvering everyone!Take it away, Nagourney.

**--When the Clintons weathered the Lewinsky scandal, remember, blogging was in its infancy.

***--Even if they don't get said, of course, voters would still think them--but they might be more likely to act on them if a public discussion in effect gives them permission.

Update: If Nixon came back and ran again, could his opponents bring up Watergate? Or would that be "under the belt"? ... 2:15 A.M. link

Sunday, February 25, 2007

In a crowded theater: The performance of Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running" on SNL last night--available here--was better than the version on the CD (which is hurt by excess echo). [Adjectives, please. Is it: plangent? shimmering? twangy? chiming?  Kinksy?-- ed . Hectic and cathartic!] 11:49 P.M.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Attention, Thomas O. Barnett: I went to Staples to buy a replacement cartridge for my HP printer. Usually I buy a "Staples" brand replacement--they're a little cheaper. But they were no longer on display. Only the pricier HP cartridges were for sale. I asked the store manager if this was because HP had sued Staples. No, she said--HP "paid us more" to carry only their brand. ... If true, isn't this a pretty clear antitrust violation? HP would seem to be trying to enforce a (presumably lucrative) semi-monopoly position in HP replacement cartridges. I don't think semi-monopolists can do that. Or am I misremembering antitrust law? ... Backfill:Business Week has covered this, and finds a prof who says there's no antitrust violation because "there are alternatives being sold at other office superstores, and other printer brands are being sold at Staples." Second opinion, please. ... Update: The opinions are in. ... 10:46 P.M. link

Keep your clothes on: Anyone want to bet that the mysterious new BMW sports car with black "camouflage" cladding--designed to fool spy photographers--is better looking with the cladding attached than the actual sports car we'll see when the cladding comes off? ... [via Autoblog]10:36 P.M.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What would Deborah Orin say? Here's a useful analysis from kf "Emailer X" arguing that the recent pro-Hillary, Nagourneyesque (and Dickersonian) spin is wrong:

The truth is Hillary's campaign has been a series of ill-considered moves.  Obama panicked her into a way-too-early-announcement.  The cause of the panic was fund-raising (poaching of presumed supporters), which is the least vulnerable aspect of her campaign.  Basically, if she wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, she wins the nomination.  The most she can spend in Iowa and New Hampshire is $20 million, every last dollar counted, including the surrounding states primary television advertising that will be seen in Iowa.  So money is not her problem.  Imagining that it was and therefore entering the race six-to-eight months before she needed to was a MAJOR mistake.  Had she entered in August or September, the surge would have run its course successfully or not.  The Iran issue would be that much further along.  Pandemic flu would have hit or not hit.  Etc.  By announcing early, she brought into play a hundred unnecessary variables.

In a nutshell, her challenge is (a) herself, (b) her vote on the War (and her bizarre accounting for same), (c) her husband (never very popular with the party's left wing and a wild card every day), (d) the whole Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton can-we-ever-get-out-of-this-movie thing, (e) Hillaryland (consultants turning everything to hectoring mush), (f) deep-seated fear among Democrats that she is, in truth, the least electable candidate they have.

Geffen, a long-time ally, addressed a, b, c, d, e and f.  The Clinton campaign, by responding the way it did, amplified his remarks at least twofold.  If that's a win, I'm for the Breck Girl.

11:26 P.M. link

Do we really have to go through another presidential campaign watching the NYT's Adam Nagourney get spun? And without Deborah Orin around to bring everyone back to reality? Grim! Nagourney's Friday piece--"reporting" that "even Mr. Obama ... seemed to acknowledge that he may have been outmaneuvered" by Hillary in the Geffen flap is a case in point.

1) Nagourney didn't reportanything to back up the claim that Obama acknowledged being outmaneuvered. He quoted Obama saying he wanted to avoid such "distractions." But Obama could have regretted it for sincere, highminded reasons, even if the controversy helped him. Why be cynical and assume that if a pol regrets something it can only be because it cost him votes? Or Obama could have been more deeply cynical than Nagourney--seeming to admit error as a tactical ploy (to placate the famously wussy Iowa caucusers, who hate Dem fratricide) while quietly pocketing his winnings.

2) Nagourney's conclusion, and that of most other MSM pundits, assumes you can analyze which campaign won and which lost without assessing the truth value or appeal of what Geffen said about Hillary. In this "neutral," strategic analysis, Obama lost because he was the positive candidate lured into going "negative." Doesn't it matter whether Geffen's charges were true--or at least rang true--or were baloney? "Objective" reporters are uncomfortable making such judgments, but those are the judgments voters will be making. If Geffen was giving voice to what lots of Democrats were actually thinking about Hillary, and if by doing so he in effect gave Dems permission to stop suppressing these objections, and if those objections are powerful, he could have done Hillary damage even if her brilliant staff lured an Obama press aide into putting out a snarky press release.

3) No Nagourney "I've Been Spun" piece would be complete without a quote from notorious Dem counterproductive overspinner Chris Lehane, whose tendentious 24-7 BS sniping as Al Gore's 2000 press secretary helped elect Bush in the first place (and constitutes the very "game as it customarily is played" that Obama condemns). The Obama camp's response "fundamentally undermined their long-term message," Lehane concluded. To ward off charges of bias, Nagourney claims Lehane "has not endorsed a candidate," but it's inconceivable that Lehane is without an agenda or agendas here--at the very least, the agenda of sucking up to Nagourney by telling him what he wants to hear.  Also, Lehane is almost always wrong. I remember, after the California recall debate, he declared that Schwarzenegger had lost ground because he was mean to Arianna Huffington, thereby offending women voters. In fact, Schwarzenegger's put-downs almost certainly helped elect him. Lehane's spin is most useful as a Lawrence O'Donnellish contrary indicator. Maybe he isn't allied with a candidate because nobody wants him.

Update: Melinda Henneberger reports that Geffen's criticism  "Is Nothing I Haven't Heard from Women Voters Across America."   She didn't hear it from men voters? There's your lede! ... Oh, I see. She only talked to women. ... So we have a First Woman who doesn't appeal that much to women running against a First Black who doesn't appeal that much to blacks. Cool. Maybe Identity Politics is dead. ... 11:13 P.M. link

First Warner, Now Vilsack: Another seemingly  inexplicable drop-out from the Democratic presidential race. Just when the two national frontrunners are busy destroying each other, why would a credible fallback choice like Iowa ex-Gov.Tom Vilsack bail? The fundraising troubles that are allegedly the "only" reason he quit a) don't seem that bad and b) were all quite foreseeable when he declared his candidacy in November. ... Baseless speculation (but why not): Did someone (e.g. Hillary) realize she desperately needed Vilsack's Iowa supporters and make him an offer he couldn't refuse? ... 1:36 P.M. link

Won't They Comp Posh? And here I thought Scientology was on the defensive: I didn't know there was a whole new batch of possible celeb recruits/hangers-around--Lachlan Murdoch (that from Radar), Will and Jada, J-Lo, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, even maybe Forest Whitaker.  But the religion might be too expensive for David Beckham's fashionable wife. ("Victoria is too cheap to convert.")  Elizabeth Snead says: "Maybe she can get Scientology wholesale." ... 1:06 P.M. link

Matthew Yglesias displays thestrenuous casuistry loyal Democrats will employ to avoid the need for any confrontation with teachers' unions on the question Steve Jobs recently raised--firing lousy teachers. According to Yglesias the issue isn't firing bad teacher but attracting good ones:

... the reason politicians rarely push for it is that the actual payoff is very, very low. The issue is that there isn't this vast pool of highly effective potential hires out there. The schools with serious teacher-quality problems tend to have them because the better teachers, by and large, don't want to work there and schools have problems filling all the slots with minimally qualified people. The real action (also disliked by teacher unions, if pissing off unions is your goal) is in the certification process, who counts as a qualified teacher, and what counts as an effective teacher (here's where the accountability comes in). If in the future that created a situation where there were tons of people looking to break into the teaching field then it might make sense to expend political capital on making it easier to fire people.  [E.A.]

Response:

a) It's easier to hire good teachers if you can fire bad ones.  Competent people want to work for competent organizations. Which offer would you be more likely to take: "Come work for our school district. We weed out the deadwood and we're doing a great job preparing our kids," Or "Come work for our district and spend your life beating your head against a bureaucratic wall." Yes, teachers should be paid more--but it's weird that an idealistic liberal would think good candidates are only motivated by money. (And if you could fire bad and mediocre teachers then school districts wouldn't have to spend a big chunk of any pay raise boosting the salaries of ... bad and mediocre teachers).

b) You obviously want to do both-- weed out bad old teachers and expand the pool of potential good new teachers by allowing certification of people who haven't met the mindless credential requirements fiercely defended by the unions.** Yglesias conveniently pretends you can only do the former after the latter--"if" in the "future," after a couple of more generations have sloughed through mediocre or criminally lousy schools, we've managed to amass a huge pool of "tons" of people trying to break into teaching, then it "might" make sense to take on the union protection of incompetents. "Might." That's good of him!

c) Of course, if Yglesias shies from a confrontation now--by kicking the can off to some distant "future," and then only maybe--he'll shy from the confrontation ten years from now. Paul Glastris, in a recent bloggingheads debate on Yglesias' post, unexpectedly blurted out the real reason Dems like him don't want to confront the unions, no matter how sound and obvious the policy reasons for doing so.

**--as a means of protecting their members from uncredentialed hires who would do a better job! 1:53 A.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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