Cranky! What's eating at JPod? 4:54 P.M.
Tuesday, Ap ril 3, 2007
Southern California and this newspaper's role in its development made the Chandlers rich beyond any normal human being's wildest dreams. All the heavy lifting, of course, was done by their rapacious forbearers and, later, by Otis Chandler, who broke with the rest of his venal clan to make The Times a great newspaper. ... [snip]
The truth of the matter is, however, that — except for Otis — the Chandlers never have conceived of this newspaper as anything much more than agent or — in recent years — adjunct of their own financial interests. [E.A.]
The problem is that, judging by the prana-sappingly dull, smugly respectable product he foisted on his readers for decades, Otis wouldn't have recognized a great newspaper if it had risen from the sea and eaten his surfboard. ... P.S.: The Cult of Otis knew Rutten would look foolish, but they made him write it anyway. Mind control is an ugly thing! ... Update: Hugh Hewitt interviews Rutten. ...5:43 P.M.
Sanity? Has Tony Blair decided that it's more important not to lose Afghanistan to terrorists than to have marginally fewer junkies?Well, maybe not quite. The Independent's account of Britain's possible "U-turn" on the misguided Afghan drug war--in which we try to win farmers' hearts and minds by destroying their crops--suggest that Blair's new policy would still hold out out the hope that, by buying up the poppy crop legally, Britain and the U.S. might also "curb an illegal drugs trade which supplies 80 percent of the heroin on Britains streets." But the demand for heroin will still be there--won't Afghan farmers still have an incentive to fill it on the black market (by growing more than the official, legal channels are buying)? ... A simpler, more promising solution to the poppy harvest would seem to be Christopher Hitchens':legalize it and tax it. And, presumably, let the Afghans sell it to whomever they want. The price of heroin would fall. There would be more addicts. But fewer American British soldiers would have to die in Afghanistan--and we might actually win the war they're dying in. ... [via The Corner] 4:02 A.M.
Monday, Ap ril 2, 2007
'Should I do missionary work in Africa or take another lucrative political consultancy? ... So hard to decide! ... I guess ... on balance ... I can do more good in politics!' I was with former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd in his front-page NYT apostasy until this sentence at the end, about his plans for 2008:
"I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work."
I'm not sure honorable people talk in public about how they might just be the type to do mission work in Africa. They either do it, or they don't. It's a boast of sorts, and it reinforced the sneaking suspicion that one of the main purposes of Dowd's interview was to make Matthew Dowd look good. After all, in terms of actually affecting the Bush policies Dowd decries, the interview's a bit late, no? ... 12:32 A.M. link
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Sullivan. Excitable! Sloppy. Self-Righteous. April Fool's Fun! ... [You sure the joke isn't on you?--ed I'm not sure. Maybe Sullivan's only pretending to be gullibly taken in by an April Fool's joke as an April Fool's joke! Yeah, that's the ticket. ... P.S.: It's a good fallback position, anyway.] ... 11:15 P.M. link
He's expected to do better than expected: According to NPR, Rep. Tom Tancredo plans to announce for president Monday. ... 10:44 P.M.
I don't like motorcycles, I don't like outfits that proudly use the word "confederate," and I'm not sure you are allowed to use the word "bitchin'" anymore--but this is a bitchin'-looking motorcycle. ... 2:42 A.M
"We Are Hiring at $9.50 per hour"--sign in the window at the In-N-Out burger restaurant in Westwood, CA. That has to be more than they were paying a year ago. ... I'm not saying you can raise a family on that (it works out to a bit less than $20,000/year). I'm saying tight labor markets--produced by growth and maybe a boost in immigration enforcement--eventually raise wages at the bottom, and we are starting to see that. Burger chain jobs set the de facto minimum wage, no? ... Update/Correction: Several---actually more than several--alert readers have emailed to note that In-N-Out famously pays more than other burger chains, so it does not, in fact, set the de facto minimum wage. On the other hand, the $9.50 wage appears to have been instituted last fall, so it represents an increase.** Plus, they apparently feel the need to advertise for new workers, which suggests that even the $9.50 wage may soon not be enough.
More: Kevin Drum sneers that the fancy-looking chart of unspecified provenance on his blog
is, perhaps, more reliable data than a single sign in a burger joint in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood, no?
Well, no. They're both data! Large indexes are obviously more comprehensive than cheap casual observation--though some, like the hourly wage data from BLS, are notoriously skewed. But large indexes are not timely. Assuming Drum's data (which seem to have come from the WSJ, which in turn cites only "Labor Department") came from this BLS survey, the most recent numbers are from the last quarter of 2006. Help wanted signs that appear in small business windows can tell you what's happening now. (I got my first clue that the brutal Reagan recession was over--this was 1983, when the papers were filled with dismal stats--when I was campaigning (for a Democrat) on a subway platform in New York, and ran into a contractor who said, "You think the economy is bad? My business has never been better.")
I'm not denying income inequality is rising--I wrote a book based on the reality that income inequality is rising--or that Bush-era prosperity, in particular, hasn't been as widely shared as prosperity in other eras. My suggestion is only that if you keep the economy going and stop new immigrant entrants from flooding in at the bottom, entry-level wages will eventually rise and people will start complaining (as they did in the late 1990s) about the "U-shaped" economy in which the rich and the poor were gaining faster than the middle.*** I also think that's a much better bet, when it comes to boosting low-end wages, than "card check" legislation.
**On January 1 of this year, the California minimum wage increased to $7.50, which could also have affected the chain's decision. ...
***--If growth is really going on at the bottom but not the middle, it won't show up in Drum's "median" statistic, of course. (There will still be the same number of low-earners making under the median wage. They'll just be richer low-earners,) You'd want to look at something like the median wage in the bottom quartile (which seems to do only a little better than the median in this handy chart generator). ...1:42 A.M.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
1. Lowry says "only one writer" on NR is currently supporting McCain, Ramesh Ponnuru. That's who I was talking about! It's Ponnuru who took it upon himself to explicate and defend NR's McCain editorial at length. I suspected the editorial in fact reflected his views. Was I wrong?
2. I did go overboard in suggesting that National Review as a wholesupports McCain over other Republican contenders. I accept Lowry's correction that the magazine doesn't "have a candidate yet." That doesn't affect the substance of the argument, which is whether NR's advice to McCain--that he embrace the "compromise" immigration plan being pushed by Sen. Johnny Isakson--was in fact a "constructive' advice for opponents of "comprehensive" reform to give. Is it better, or worse, if NR endangered one of its most important causes to help a candidate it doesn't even necessarily want to win?
3.The Isakson plan sets in place--in law--an eventual amnesty, once certain "benchmarks" relating to border security and employment are met. If you worry about amnesty, as I do and I assumeNRdoes, it seems not even a close question whether no bill is better than Isakson. As Mark Krikorian notes, Isakson's plan would legitimize amnesty, undermine enforcement, and create pressure for a future fudging of the benchmarks to allow an amnesty whether or not border protections, etc., work. A legislative impasse would be far preferable.** It would constitute a loud, deflating rebuff to amnesty supporters while it let enforcement measures continue. (How refusing to concede the amnesty issue makes enforcement "an impossible ideal" is beyond me.)
4.I've no doubt that, as Lowry says, if McCain moved from his current position to Isakson it would shift the center of gravity in the Senate "to the right". But that would not necesarily be a "welcome development." It's not a welcome development, for example, if it means the Isakson plan actually gets passed! Lowry is sophisticated enough to know that, even if the Senate is all that matters, you can't decide legislative strategy on the basis of whether the debate moves "left" or "right" on a two-dimensional scale. What matters is what gets the votes needed to become law.
5. But the action is not confined to the Senate, or Congress, or Washington. Unlike welfare reform--where popular opinion had consistently and overwhelmingly opposed the old AFDC cash-without-work program--there's an actual competitive national debate going on about what to do about immigration. It's obviously important who wins this debate--more important than the current array of positions in the Senate. If the public comes down on one side or the other, the politicians, including most Senators, will follow.
6. In this wider debate, any positive effect of McCain moving to the right is more than counterbalanced by the negative effect of National Review moving to the left, which it has done by saying approving things about the Isakson plan (which entails legitimizing and accepting the official amnesty it endorses).
7. In the mid-90s welfare debate, Bill Clinton was a genuine believer in reform. Lowry is just wrong to assert that Clinton's stillborn reform plan didn't "back up" his pledge to "end welfare as we know it." Clinton's plan, once he finally unveiled it, was a radical plan for a Republican, let alone a Democrat. If I remember, it basically cut even single mothers off welfare after three years, with only a bit of fudging. True, it didn't end the welfare "entitlement," but in other respects it was tougher than many plans still in place under Republican governors today. The Isakson plan seems less like Clinton's welfare plan, in this respect, and more like one of the compromises that Congressional Democrats would have proposed as a way to preserve the right to unlimited welfare as long as certain benchmarks are met--except that instead of preserving an open-ended welfare program, Isakson preserves the idea of writing some amnesty into law (with all the ill effects Krikorian describes).
8.There's no indication, and no reason to expect, that McCain will become an advocate for "enforcement first" the way Clinton was an advocate for "ending welfare." McCain certainly doesn't seem ready to run around the country convincingly "emphasizing 'enforcement first,'" as Lowry naively envisions, unless he's undergone an uncharacteristic conversion experience we haven't heard about. If McCain embraces the Isakson plan, it will be reluctantly under candidacy-threatening political pressure. His stance--at least after the GOP primaries are over--is likely to be less "Enforcement First" than "Amnesty Eventually, After a Few Hurdles." In any case, if the Isakson plan passes it won't matter much anymore what McCain says.
9.Lowry cleverly downplays Mark Krikorian's position. Krikorian agrees with me, buddy! He thinks the Isakson plan is a crock. I doubt he was happy with NR's strange, backsliding editorial either. If Lowry actually took Krikorian's "good substantive objections" to Isakson seriously, he never would have published it.
**-- It might not help Republicans duck a divisive immigration debate for the 2008 election or line up Hispanic voters for future races. Those things may matter more to Republicans than to non-Republicans. Anyway, Lowry doesn't couch his argument in those terms. 10:59 P.M. link
Friday, March 30, 2007
Eli Broad, Guest Editor? It's growing on me! The main teachers' union in Los Angeles successfully (if temporarily) blocked eight new charter schools in "impoverished, gang-ridden" Watts, despite support from local parents and representatives. 'Unions fight charters'--that's dog-bites-man, except that the L.A. Times' slant is decidedly and unusually anti-union and pro-charter. Is that because a) the move to block the schools was apparently illegal; b) charter entrepreneur Steve Barr is a skilled operator; c)Times reporters don't send their own kids to public schools and are convinced Barr's schools are better; or d) one of Barr's backers is billionaire Eli Broad, who may own the Times in a few days. ... It's overdetermined! But if teachers' unions have lost the liberal LAT, they're in trouble, no? ... P.S.: [At least none of these people are having sex with Broad--ed You always say that!] ... P.P.S.: The story's account of an attempt to close a non-Barr charter school (Academia Semillas) suggests that once charter schools get in, they quickly develop their own constituencies and are hard to close down. That could be good, helping to preserve them in the face of self-interested union opposition. It could also be trouble, if a school underperforms. ... 4:32 P.M.
It's pretty amazing that the N.Y. Times could report that legal immigrants "have opted to become American citizens in historically high numbers in the last decade"--quoting an expert to the effect that "today's legal immigrants are signing on to a closer relationship with the U.S. ..."--without even mentioning that the 1996 welfare reform granted citizens access to some benefits that are denied to legal immigrants. ... P.S.: I'm not saying legal immigrants come here for government benefits. I'm saying you have to at least consider whether it's a factor in the citizenship boom. ... 30 Seconds of Googling: See, for example, "Welfare Reform Sparks Rush for Citizenship," CNN, August 8,1996. ... Do Times reporters talk only to the interest group that hands them the study? [At least they weren't having sex--ed Yes, then they might be biased!]... 5:18 A.M.
L.A. Times Continues Editorial Transformation! Now we know how the LAT managed to turn out a new Sunday opinion section so quickly (after the publisher, on a Thursday, cancelled the scheduled section guest-edited by producer Brian Grazer). ... P.S.: Repurposing content is very Webby. Remember, it's not the platform that matters! ... [Via ETP]4:45 A.M.
Am I Wobbly? Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry attempt to answer the question of whether National Review has gone wobbly on immigration. It's pretty clear the answer is yes. Ponnuru says he's being "consistent" with NR's position when he defends--as the "framework for a compromise"--Sen. Johnny Isakson's plan, which would delay "an amnesty or guest worker program" until border and workplace enforcement measures were shown to be working.
The biggest problem with the Isakson plan is probably not either of the two objections I initially raised--1) that a Bush-like administration might cheat and falsely certify that enforcement is working or 2) that the promise of a "last chance" at amnesty would cause a one-time stampede of illegals across the border. That's not to say those aren't serious problems. For example, Ponnuru says the "stampede" would be prevented because any amnesty would "only legalize workers who could prove that they were here at the time of passage." Well all right then! If Ponnuru is confident that illegal immigrants who routinely purchase fake Social Security documents will have trouble with the easier task of faking evidence of pre-legislation residence, he's more naive than I think he is.** (My grandmother stretched the truth to get into this country, I've been told. Why shouldn't desperate, impoverished Salvadorans?)
The very hope of amnesty--if only from the millions of currently resident illegals--would put intense pressure on any subsequent Congress to fudge or relax any "benchmark" requirements written into the law, to make amnesty (or "earned" legalization, or quasi-amnesty, whatever you want to call it) happen sooner and on more lenient terms. ***
That gets to the major problem. As Mark Krikorian points out, the effect of the Isaakson plan in a) legitimizing the concept of amnesty and b) creating an expectation of amnesty outweighs any clever legalistic safeguards Ponnuru may think Sen. Isakson is writing into the law. The combination of (a) and (b) would make some form of amnesty, if not quite inevitable then a lot more inevitable than now--which would seem, in turn, to guarantee further waves of amnesty-seeking illegal immigration.**** If, as in 1986, actual enforcement on the border and in the workplace proved weak, that would mean, as in 1986, fresh millions of illegals for editorialists to debate giving amnesty to. Sen. Grassley has made this point quite effectively:
"When you reward illegality, you get more of it. So, President Mary Smith 20 years from now will be proposing more amnesty, only instead of amnesty for 12 million people, it will be for 30 million people."
National Review has been one of the voices of sanity in the immigration debate. If even NR concedes that there's an official amnesty in our near future, the debate hasn't "moved to the right," as Lowry argues. The debate is over.
This is all unnecessary. There is no need for a "compromise" or a "framework for a compromise" that includes a promise of amnesty at all. Kate O'Beirne recently noted that conventional wisdom says comprehensive reform probably won't pass this year or next, in part because Dems don't want to go out on a limb for amnesty. Why make a key concession when you are about to win? Answer: John McCain. The NR editorial can only be read as a desperate attempt to save John McCain from the political consequences of his misguided pro-comprehensive stand by offering him a fallback position more palatable to the GOP primary voters. Indeed, Lowry made this explicit before the editorial, when he wrote that endorsing Isakson
would take care of McCains' political problem, it would give him a position on immigration that would avoid the excesses on both sides, and it would move the ball forward significantly in the intra-Republican debate--he could legitimately lead on this. [E.A.]
In other words, 'Here's a compromise we don't really support--or that we don't dare come out and say we support--but, hey, it helps our guy with his 'political problem.'' I don't see how that is leadership. (Thank God McCain wasn't running during the welfare debate of the mid-90s, or we might have wound up with NR endorsing one of the many make-believe compromises proposed by moderates as a way of blocking the entitlement-ending law that finally passed.)
If McCain's support for semi-amnesty is killing him, why can't he just drop it? Why does he need a fallback position that includes a promise of amnesty? There are plenty of other fallback positions. McCain could support enforcement with a mere promise of future debate on what to do with current illegal residents. He could call for a national commission! He could say, "The nation is not ready for comprehensive immigration reform," and pledge to educate it slowly, over time. He could declare his earlier position "ill-considered" and retreat into meaningful silence--i.e., shut up. OK, that one's impossible.
In any case, he doesn't have to lose and drag NR (and the immigration debate) down with him.
**--Forgery and false evidence is also a problem with my proposed alternative, which would establish effective border control and then debate a retrospective amnesty. But it's less of a problem if you don't attract millions of illegal immigrants by writing an amnesty promise into the law. Under my suggested deal, if an amnesty is impossible to limit then future debaters could decide not to have an amnesty! In any case, they could adjust the proof-of-residence requirements to fit what they'd learned about the government's ability to catch cheating (and thwart ACLU-like attempts to create truck-sized loopholes in the system).
***--Nor would it "take the issue off the table," as some worried Republicans now want to do. It would start a heated debate on whether the "benchmarks" had been met or should be modified.
****--Ponnuru argues that the "expectation of an amnesty" already exists because "amnesty has been debated for three years." In other words, McCain proposed it, so now we might as well do it. If this argument is right, it doesn't much matter what position McCain takes now--he's done his work. 3:32 A.M. link
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Anti-Gerrymander Watch: Two-thirds of California "likely voters" support a plan to turn over redistricting to "an independent commission of citizens." That seems to be slightly higher than previous polls. [Via Bill Bradley's New West Notes ]. We'll see if Bill Clinton moneybuddy Stephen Bing and Nancy Pelosi can find a way to block reform this time. (They'd have a good chance. Initiatives typically need a huge advance lead to even have a prayer of passing, given the power of anti-initiative TV campaigns.) ... P.S.: One of the non-party-line positions taken by now-ex LAT opinion editor Andres Martinez was support for an anti-gerrymandering initiative in 2005. Too interesting! ... 11:17 A.M.
"Los Angeles Times Continues Editorial Transformation"! The paper has announced "several editorial changes designed to meet the evolving needs of readers." The "Current" section, which used to be called "Opinion," will be called "Opinion" again! And the Times Ed board will have a "blog." It will be "updated throughout the day"! ... They actually put out a press release with this news. Now that their editorial department has more or less melted down in humiliating public warfare with sanctimonious critics in the paper's newsroom, they're seizing the PR initiative! Pathetic. ... [Emphasis added] 1:18 A.M.
Kabuki Watch? Here's a question: If it's
a) in the Congressional Democrats' interest to try but ultimately fail to use their funding power force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (it shows the antiwar left Pelosi is trying without giving Dems responsibility for a messy Iraq outcome),
b) in the Bush administration's interest to have Congressional Dems' try but ultimately fail to use their funding power to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (it lets Bush continue the "surge" while giving him the threat of a Dem-forced pullout with which to pressure the Maliki government),
c) isn't it true that what probably will happen is that the Congressional Dems try but ultimately fail to use their funding power to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?
Just asking! ... 12:42 A.M.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Has National Review gone wobbly on immigration? The magazine recommends that Senator McCain fall back on a proposal of Sen. Johnny Isakson, which would
prohibit granting legal status to any illegal alien until border-security measures were fully operational. ... Only when the current chaos is under control would a guest-worker program go into effect
NR calls this "a welcome compromise between the border-security and amnesty camps." Not really.
There are two big obvious problems with the Isakson plan. 1) Who would decide when "the current chaos is under control"? If it's a President like Bush, would we trust him? No. 2) It promises that if you manage to sneak across the border in the next few months or years, you'll get some sort of amnesty in the future--in other words, it sets up conditions for an illegal-entry stampede to get in under the wire. ... Does National Review really endorse this plan, or only think McCain should endorse this plan? NRO contributor Andy McCarthy is puzzled. ...
If conservatives are looking for a "compromise" plan that would emphasize enforcement, avoid a stampede, while instituting some changes that the McCain and Kennedy "reform" forces, including the Latino lobby, might value--and "take the issue off the table" for a few years--how about combining enforcement measures with
a) an increase in the quota of legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries;
b) a limited guest worker program that applies only to those actually in foreign countries--i.e. new immigrants, not illegals already here; and
c) a promise that if the enforcement measures work and provisions (a) and (b) aren't abused, Congress will consider the issue of what to do with illegals who've already been living in the U.S. (as of some date conveniently in the near past--say, January 1, 2005). There would be no guarantee as to the outcome of that future debate. ...
I don't see how that constitutes an amnesty or provides a lot of encouragement to would-be illegals. But perhaps Mark Krikorian will show that I'm wrong. .... 10:48 A.M.
Starbucks has always had great, more-than-background music in its stores. But today the songs they were playing seemed unusually breathy ... wimpy ... pretentious ... It sounded like ...yikes ... Nic Harcourt Music! Sure enough. ... P.S.: I feared things would go in a bad direction when the chain started an "entertainment division" in 2004. Now, not only is Starbucks subjecting its customers to the soul-sapping musical aesthetic of Harcourt (NPR station KCRW's NYT-hyped, L.A.-loathed musical director)--it's also started its own record label. Instead of getting to listen to the good songs you'll now have to listen to the songs Starbucks is selling. Hello, Coffee Bean! ... Update: Several readers note that Starbucks' record label has signed Paul McCartney. Do you want to listen to Paul McCartney while drinking your latte? Can we pay extra not to listen to Paul McCartney? .. 2:34 A.M. link
Monday, March 26, 2007
Will the Media Critic Please Turn Out the Lights? The LAT's Tim Rutten has defended against the charge that he's "sanctimonious" by publishing a piece titled "These rules we live by." Oh-kay! More on this later. For now, please read through Rutten's piece and ask yourself if he shows any sign of awareness that he and his distinguished LAT colleagues only have their jobs because they produce a product that people are willing to pay money for? Rutten writes as if there's a constitutional provision that credentialed journalists have lifetime professional tenure no matter how much money his paper loses or makes. Tim! You've had a good gig for 35 years, when your organization had a sweet local monopoly. But isn't the problem that nobody wants to pay to read what you want the LAT to write any more? Not enough people, anyway. How does Rutten propose to actually keep his 900 plus Times colleagues employed in a world where newspapers are losing readers and ads with stunning rapidity--other than the blind faith that somehow if new owners make a massive "investment" in journalists like Tim Rutten people will suddenly want to read them? [He obviously wants a local billionaire like Eli Broad to buy the paper and run it as a semi-charity--ed That's a way bigger threat to journalistic fearlessness than a guest editor! Broad will not be a guest.] 7:29 P.M. link
ABC's once-indispensable The Note appears to have collapsed. ... I want my money back! Oh, wait. It was free. ... 4:14 P.M.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
This audio of Katie Couric's questions to the Edwards'--with their answers excised--would make a great soundtrack for a piece of conceptual art. It certainly makes you want to throttle Katie Couric. ... [via Drudge ]10:49 P.M.
The Universal HuffPo "most popular" hed:
Never needs changing. Like a fluorescent bulb! ... 5:48 P.M.
Resigned editorial page editor Andres Martinez says the paper's newly-arrived editor and publisher
caved to a disgruntled newsroom that is annoyed at [the paper's owners in] Chicago, annoyed at them and annoyed at the autonomy of the opinion pages.
The newsroom unrest, Martinez says, is partly "ideological" (the news pages presumably being more conventionally liberal than his editorial page), partly "a matter of bureaucratic culture," and
some of it a personnel matter (there are some embittered former editorial board members that Kinsley and Carroll sent off to the newsroom). "
Michael Kinsley, former LAT opinon czar who hired Martinez, also blasts "newsroom busybodies," but simulataneously chides Martinez for making a fuss about whether "a news editor once asked him to consider running an editorial in connection with some news-side series ..."
This Week's L.A.T. editor** Jim O'Shea disagrees with all of the above, saying the accusers who made a fuss about Martinez's alleged conflict-of-interest are "people with a passion for the news and this newspaper."
In steps the L.A.T.'s own Tim Cavanaughon the paper's opinion blog to .. side against editor O'Shea! Cavanaugh says
Mystery #1: Who are these "holier-than-thou" newsroom twits? We don't have to take that wild a guess--Martinez actually names two LAT veterans:
I'm guessing the Henry Weinsteins and Tim Ruttens of the world will continue to conjure up the magical words "Staples Center" to wail against any innovation at the paper ...
Mystery #2: Why anyone good would be lured into coming to work for this paper now. Want to be Mayor of Ramadi? ...
The big winner: David Geffen and Ron Burkle, who didn't buy the Times and don't have to deal with these people. ...
Conclusion that's now clearer than ever: Blogger John Gabree notes that you need a strong local paper to have a strong local political culture. Los Angeles has neither. The Times was making progress under Dean Baquet. But the best thing it could do for the city now is to simply disappear, instantaneously if possible, and open up space for decent alternatives to operate without the legacy cost of 900 tantrum-prone staffers of variable abilities. ...
** P.S.: It's not clear why the Times would need to recruit "guest editors"--they already more or less have them! In a relatively short period they've run through John Carroll and Dean Baquet and wound up with O'Shea, who in turn doesn't look like a promising candidate for extended editorial tenure after helping co-produce this week's humiliating events. ..
Saturday, March 24, 2007
"Truly hideous": That's how a teaser mass email from Business Week's Jon Fine describes the New York Times' February revenue report. Details here. ... Fine notes mounting "evidence that rising Web revenues do not cancel out falling print revenues." [E.A.] He points out that if we believe the Times ' own press release, then TimesSelect--the "fee-based product on NYTimes.com"--only has about 220,000 paying subscribers:
Assuming all of these people are paying full freight yearly subscriptions-- not guaranteed, that--that's $10.9 million in revenue.
Is it worth $10.9 million to the Times for it to wall off its columnists? You tell me.
Nikki has long been dismissive of the blogosphere. She also, at least until fairly recently, has been ignorant of basic blogospheric knowledge that the IP addresses of commenters are easily checked. So for instance if you post once here under the name Nikki Finke, and then again pretending to be a lawyer threatening me with libel for insulting Nikki Finke, it might be better to post that second comment from someone else's computer. I guess that's inconvenient, though, if you rarely leave the house. I haven't seen Nikki in years, probably because these days she looks like Jabba the Hut, if you can imagine Jabba after he's said to hell with the diets already.
Gosh, I'm bitchy today ...
P.S.: This was a good sentence on Seipp from Susan Estrich--
She came after me when I took on the Los Angeles Times for not publishing enough women writers (no preferences for her), but I decided that my mistake, and theirs, was not putting her name at the top of the list of whom they should hire.
Yes, it was. P.P.S.: Estrich made others, though! ... [Of course the LAT would never print bloggish cracks like the Jabba one--ed. People might read it! That would upset their whole business model (which seems to be based on the idea that people buy papers because of their rigid adherence to professional codes of ethics).] ... 12:43 A.M. link
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I guess Mark Halperin really did write most of ABC's The Note. The site has lost about 90% of its character since he moved on. ... P.S.: Halperin's annoying, absurdly self-confident insiderism was the best reason for not reading The Note. It turns out it was also the reason for reading The Note. ... 2:09 P.M. link
Too Interesting! When there's a choice between publishing something Columbia Journalism Review ethics police won't cluck at and something its readers might actually want to read, the sinking, hapless L.A. Times instinctively knows what to do:
1) It has sidelined its best political reporter--maybe anybody's best political reporter--because he's married to a McCain staffer. Why not have Ron Brownstein disclose his connection and let him write?** It's not as if he's the only person covering the campaign. The Times seems to have the approved guild mentality: We are all credentialed professionals here! We have many other qualified staff members who can do Brownstein's work. ... No you don't!
2) It kills a section guest-edited by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, because the Times editor who dreamed it up is dating one of Grazer's p.r. people. I think the idea of having various local bigshots guest-edit an otherwise-unread Sunday thumbsuck section is promising. Let's see if Burkle's op-eds are better than Geffen's! I wanted to read Grazer's section before I learned of the salacious goings-on in the background. I certainly want to read it now. ... P.S.: In the process, the Times has lost a lively opinion editor, Andres Martinez, who's radically improved his pages and who apparently disclosed everything to his bosses. No doubt the paper's future editorial commentary will avoid creating this, or any other kind, of controversy. ...
Cathy Seipp, an unintimidated voice and friend--and a scourge of the L.A. Times--died yesterday, having fought off lung cancer for five years. See Amy Alkon and National Review (also here and here).Some brief video comments are here. ... 6:14 A.M. link
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Flicker: I recently bought a compact fluorescent bulb, the GE brand recommended by Instapundit. I hate it. It flickers constantly. When it's not flickering it fills the room with a depressive, dulling haze. Maybe this is what happened to Courtney Love! It gives me a headache to look at it. ... I've consoled myself with the thought that I'll replace it with a regular bulb when it burns out. Then I realized it won't burn out for five years. I'm replacing it tomorrow. If John Edwards can be live in a 28,000 square-foot mansion, I can have a 100-watt bulb. Populism! ... Update: Reynolds and Kevin Drum and Jonathan Rowe suggest the flicker's caused by the dimmer switches my landlord has installed. Could be. But some commenters on Drum's vigorous Packwood-Diary-like thread report flicker without dimmers. It all has to do with the "relaxation rate of atomic transitions." I suspected as much! ... P.S.: Note the hectoring get-with-the-program, you're-an-idiot-if-you-flicker, there-is-no-more-debate tone of some of the Fluorescers. ... Non-hectoring advice here. ... Apparently some people are more sensitive to the flicker than others. And there are "health effects." ... P.P.S.: Why do I think the same people who are righteously denouncing us sensitive types today would have been righteously denouncing unhealthy lighting in the corporate "indoor environment" fifteen years ago? ... Reynolds, who got me into this mess, has a sensible response. ... [Thanks to reader M.P.]
[Update:How are the comments on Drum like the Packwood Diaries? I thought they were all about sex?--ed They were all about midrange audio devices! ]2:39 A.M. link
Adam Nagourney,NYT, liberal bias, 'He's no Ron Brownstein,' etc. You know the drill. But it's worth noting the relatively subtle ways in which Nagourney's recent front pager--on McCain and immigration--embeds the respectable Times-WSJ view favoring "comprehensive" reform (and sneering at the yahoos who oppose it). [Emphasis added below]:
#1: "The Republican field of presidential candidates includes Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who has based his campaign on an anti-immigration message ..."
It's easy to imagine a real "anti-immigration" candidate who depicts foreigners as an inherently corrupting and impure influence on American life and culture. I don't think even Tancredo--who wants to both stop illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration to "allow the newcomers to assimilate"--fits that bill. He's for immigration. He just wants less of it! And it's quite possible to oppose legalizing existing illegals while favoring an actual increase in legal immigration. If it's too much for Nagourney to type the word "illegal" before "immigration," surely he can come up with a better word than "anti-immigration." "Restrictionist" might work for genuine quota-cutters like Tancredo. "Enforcement-first" could describe those who merely oppose McCain's conditional-legalization plan.
#2: "As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country."
But the Pence Plan is a scam--a fake compromise. Illegal immigrants would symbolically leave the country only because their rapid readmission would be effectively guaranteed by their U.S. employers. That's a huge advantage that would-be immigrants who obeyed the law and stayed home will never get. The dream of the "comprehensive" camp is that their opponents--sorry, the "anti-immgration" forces--can be conned into accepting the Pence proposal as a "compromise." (It's "a way we can get some stuff," says McCain.) Nagourney keeps that dream alive by presenting Pence's scheme as an embarrassing cave-to-the-base concession by McCain.
#3: "Mr. McCain's suggestion that he might be open to Mr. Pence's legislation requiring most workers to return home risks alienating business ... "
No it doesn't. The spokeswoman for the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition ("service industries") says they "haven't ruled out a Pence-like" plan. That's negotiator-speak for "We'd take it in a heartbeat." Nagourney, characteristically, goes along with the Kabuki. [Cluelessly or cynically?--ed Tough one.]
#4: "Mr. McCain has found himself particularly identified with this battle in no small part because he is from a border state that is deeply divided over immigration."
Huh? Mr. McCain has found himself particularly identified with this battle because he chose to become the Senate's leading proponent of a plan that would legalize immigrants currently here illegally. If he were from Kansas he'd be just as conspicuous.
#5: "Republicans have a tougher view than the general population on whether illegal immigrants should be deported, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted this month. In that poll, 49 percent of Republican respondents said illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States for at least two years should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for citizenship; 45 percent said they should be deported immediately."
By associating the anti-McCain view with not only deportation but immediate deportation, polls like the one cited by Nagourney reinforce the idea that massive deportation of millions of illegals is the only alternative to McCain's "comprehensive" approach. In fact, the most intense opponents of McCain's plan--such as Tancredo or Mark Krikorian of Center for Immigration Studies--favor a slow strategy of "attrition," not mass deportation. And it's quite possible to envision a less harsh alternative to McCain-Kennedy that involves no additional deportation--like the alternative of simply not passing McCain-Kennedy (and living with the status quo). Or just building a border fence, which would keep illegal immigrants from entering the country but do nothing to kick out those who are already here. Or requiring U.S. employers to actually check (as opposed to pretend to check) the immigration status of new hires but not of their existing workers.
Differences of opinion on deportation may be a good proxy for differences of opinion on the McCain-Kennedy bill. But opinions on the McCain-Kennedy bill are also a good proxy for opinions on the McCain-Kennedy bill. Why not just poll on that? Because it wouldn't ... [fit the hegemonic MSM agenda of demonization?--ed make the bill's supporters look reasonable.] 2:10 A.M. link
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
When asked last month why he was voting for a nonbinding bipartisan resolution opposing the surge, he said he was in favor of a "political solution," whereby Iraq was divided into three ethnic provinces under a loose federal government. He had spoken with Iraqi leaders and General Petraeus, who, at least when he headed Fort Leavenworth in Mr. Brownback's home state, had never told the senator that he favored more soldiers. The general commanding the rescue of Baghdad, the senator seemed to be suggesting, was against it before he was for it.
So is Mr. Brownback.
Lake offers both unprincipled and principled reasons for Brownback's un-backslide. Unprincipled: He's running for president and "[t]he people who will show up in New Hampshire and Iowa to pick the Republican nominee are victory voters." Principled:
What happened last week is that the senator abandoned his flirtation with the notion that a retreat from Baghdad would spur Iraqi leaders who had encouraged the city's ethnic cleansing to seek the political solution. On the floor of the Senate when it counted, he conceded that Iraq's reconciliation is impossible without a military presence to counter the sectarian murderers.
P.S.: Regarding the surge, Omar of ITM's latest report from Baghdad seems almost implausibly hopeful:
You look around in Baghdad now and see hundreds of men working in the streets to pick up garbage; to plant flowers and paint the blast walls in joyful colors. Many of Baghdad's squares are becoming green and clean. The picture isn't perfect, but it's a clear attempt to beat violence and ease pain through giving the spring a chance to shine.
Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.
More surprisingly, Simon Jenkins, a persistent war critic writing on HuffPo, also says of the surge:
The "surge" programme initiated last month by General Petraeus in Baghdad is the first intelligent thing the Americans have done in four years. By swamping neighbourhoods, monitoring entry, patrolling streets and giving personal protection to residents and tradesmen troops are able to restore some order to portions of the city. Petraeus is replacing vigilantes, militias and corrupt police with his own soldiers. He cannot reverse the ethnic cleansing that is fast partitioning Baghdad into Sunni and Shia quarters, but he can stabilise what has occurred. He can fortify the ghettos.
Jenkins thinks the "surge" comes "too late." But then he sketches a scenario as implausibly rosy as Omar's:
Economies recover, the more quickly the sooner they are left in peace. The hoodlums and gangsters now rich on American aid will harness the oil exports and eventually find a vested interest in protecting infrastructure and utilities. Religious segregation will enable the ghettos to feel more secure. Business will emerge from the bottom up and doctors, teachers and merchants start to move back from Amman and Damascus, once they hear that their old homes are safe and the Mahdists and Badrists are confined to barracks. Economic activity will return to the streets, as it has done to Beirut.
Jenkins claims all these good things will happen when U.S. troops leave--like many on the anti-surge left he has an almost Rumsfeldian faith in the ability of order to spontaneously generate in a power vacuum. But it's hard to reconcile his declaration that U.S. troops "brutalise all they touch" and can't possibly "ensure that 'things get better'" with his earlier recognition that the "surge" is ... making things better. Why can't the surge bring temporary stability that allows "parlays between local commanders, sheikhs and religious leaders, neighbourhood alliances, deals and treaties"? Don't we want to strengthen the hand of relatively tolerant leaders and weaken the bargaining position of the killers? How is Petraeus hurting the situation?
One can imagine reasons: By naively moving Sunni families back into vulnerable mixed neighborhoods we may be setting the stage for more bloody sectarian cleansing in the future. More implausibly, maybe any deals can only be struck in conditions of radical insecurity, when the deal is the only thing that will stop ongoing slaughter (though you'd think if that were the case they would have been struck by now, no?).
Jenkins doesn't make these arguments--he just falls back on the HuffPo dogma thatU.S. troops are the problem (a "humilation and a provocation"). He seems lost somewhere between the Old Brownback and the New Brownback. ...
Update: Answering a query from Huffington, Jenkins says the problem with Petraeus' surge is "he will leave. And then what?" Wait. I thought the problem, according to Jenkins, was that U.S. troops weren't leaving. Now I'm all confused. ... Leave. Don't leave. What's the HuffPo party line again? ...
More: With Bob Wright's help, I try to figure out an argument that might support Jenkins here. (Short version: Groups won't cut deals when they are uncertain of their military position--i.e. it's weakness. They'll never be certain until the U.S. withdraws and fighting starts. Better version: In anarchic conditions, groups won't cut deals until their more rejectionist and violent member are willing to cut deals. By tacitly threatening more negotiation-prone leaders, these violent holdouts exercise effective veto power. And they won't agree to cut deals until they are certain of their position's weakness, which they won't be until the U.S. withdraws.) ... I don't think I agree with this argument--when fighting starts, isn't the result likely to be a lot more fighting, not a Sunni-Shiite deal? But it seems plausible. ... 1:47 P.M. link
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sullivan Re-unhinging Watch: In January, President Bush announced the 'surge' of "more than 20,000 additional" troops. One main worry at the time, voiced by critics including Andrew Sullivan, was that the troop increase wasn't enough. General Petraeus assured skeptics that if he thought he needed more troops, he'd ask for them. Now he's asked for them--an additional brigade--bringing the total "surge" to near 30,000. Andrew Sullivan's reaction: "Another Bush Lie." ... (via Elia) 3:57 P.M.
Wherein lies the greatness of Sen. Fred Thompson? Just asking!All I remember is he was given custody of an important set of hearings--into China and campaign finance--and screwed them up. ... He sounds good--in his John Fund interview he says lots of sensible things (especially about civil service protections). But ideally a presidential candidate has accomplished something--even if it's only governing a state without steering it conspicuously into disaster. Obama hasn't accomplished much, but he's only been in the Senate for two years. Thompson didn't accomplish much in two years plus a full six-year term, no?. ... I'd love to be wrong on this. Please tell me why. ... P.S.: He's a bad actor! I never believe he's the character he's playing (even when the character is essentially Fred Thompson). ... P.P.S.: "Ronald Reagan wasn't Laurence Olivier either." But he was better than Thompson! He met the threshhold test of believability. Anyway, Thompson's acting chops aren't the issue. That was a snarky aside. The problem is ... well, Reagan had governed California for two terms. Giuliani saved New York City. McCain has championed a lot of legislation and passed some of it. What's Thompson done? ... 1:53 P.M. link
Was L. Ron Hubbard a Satanist? L.A. Metroblogger David Markland says "no" after investigating this "urban legend"--but it's one of those debunking exercises that does a lot of bunking too. Hubbard does seem to have been involved, at some level--along with Jack Parsons, the co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory--in the "black magick" of Aleister Crowley and his Order Templi Orientis.
[T]he major flaw here is that while while the O.T.O. may be heavily involved in "black magick", it isn't Satanism, although the Satanism that was popularized by Anton LaVey in the late 60s was based heavily on the O.T.O.
Well, alright then!
P.S.: According to a quotation from Paul Young cited by Markland, "Hubbard based his own religion, Scientology, on some of Aleister Crowley's writing including specific symbols, his grading system, his use of hypnotic implants, and the concept of the OTO." I'd say the best parts of this urban legend are undebunked. ... [via L.A. Observed] 11:23 A.M.
Friday, March 16, 2007
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.] ...
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
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. ...
Sunday, March 11, 2007
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 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
1) "I shake hands a lot." (He just wants to connect to people!)
"As celebrities go, the jury favorite seems to be NPR's Nina Totenberg"
--Libby Juror #9 Denis Collins' account on HuffPo.
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.
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.
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
"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
[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 ...
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. Gawker--It's come to this. Eat the Press--Sklarianna & Co. are like Gawker if Gawker actually believed in something. ... [More tk]