International Relations:TNR's Michael Crowley sees the Hand of Burkle behind the recent endorsements of Hillary Clinton by Wesley Clark and Magic Johnson. Clark, after all, recently got a teaching gig at the Burkle Center for International Relations. ... I didn't know there was a Burkle Center for International Relations. Scary! ... Cocktail Party Question: Will Burkle's help, if any, securing these endorsements make up for the damage done to Hillary's campaign if details of Burkle's zipping around the globe with Bill come out? Just asking! ... New Reuters-style slogan: "Before it's Truth, it's kausfiles!" .... 11:51 P.M.
"Sally Field Censored":'You ______ me. You really ______ me!' 10:50 P.M.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Thompson's Troubled Start: Fred Thompson's campaign had such a terrible, fumbling, disappointing first week that he's already tied with Giuliani in the ARG poll and ahead by eight points in the Rasmussen poll. ... 8:03 P.M.
Another small car-- Volkswagen Up!I'd call it the Eh! ... But it's rear-engine. 12:40 P.M.
Thanks to readers who've let me know that www.kausfiles.com takes you to a strangely contentless Slate page instead of to the latest kf blog page. I'm trying to get that fixed--as they say at Newsweek, "efforting"!** For the moment, the best way to get here is through the Slate table of contents (www. slate.com). ... 12:35 P.M.
Have a Pinch--Maybe Murdoch Bid on the Wrong Company:New York Times stock falls below $20 a share, down from $50 in 2002. ... Soon even Ron Burkle will be able to buy the place! ... [Tks. to News Alert] 3:33 A.M.
Sen. Clinton courageously speaks out against anti-immigrant attitudes during the recent Univision debate:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Clinton, the negative tone of the immigration debate has left the country polarized and has created certain racist and discriminatory attitudes toward Hispanics.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think this is a very serious problem. And, as I said earlier, there are many in the political, and, frankly, in the broadcast world today, who take a particular aim at our Latino population and I think it's very destructive.
She was maybe referring to politicians who play on voters' visceral disgust at seeing crowds of scruffy day laborers:
"People have to stop employing illegal immigrants. ... I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx; you're going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work."
My former downstairs neighbor, Andrea Askowitz, a warm, funny and filthy performance artist, makes her YouTube debut. Instructive! But NSFW. ... 1:57 A.M.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Thanks to a recent election that gave Mayor Villaraigosa's allies a majority on the L.A. school board, a large, poor-performing inner-city high school--Locke High--is being turned over in toto to a charter organization. Why isn't this the equivalent, for the education world, what the dynamiting of the Pruitt-Igoe towers was for New Deal public housing projects? Here is a unionized ghetto high school so beyond salvation by the traditional ed bureaucracy that a majority of its own teachers vote to go charter! ... Needless to say:
Leaders of the teachers union said they would file a grievance to block the transfer on grounds that the decision violates the teachers' labor agreement and state law.
The Case for Gatekeepers: Why didn't Republican politico Jeff Bell get an interview with the Fred Thompson campaign? He only wanted to help! Was it maybe because Thompson has distinguished himself from the field by strongly opposing Bush's misguided illegal-immigrant semi-amnesty proposal, while Bell a) supported it; b) worked for La Raza, which helped draft it and c) erroneously (and self-servingly) declared to pro-legalization pundit Fred Barnes that the political tide had turned Bush's way? ... Or was it maybe because Jeff Bell's the kind of guy who, when he doesn't get a job interview, will whine to Robert Novak and get you bad press? ... P.S.: I am vaguely troubled to learn from Novak that Mary Matalin is playing a significant role in Thompson's campaign. Too Beltway! ... Matalin's charming, but as a friend said of her and her husband, "She's famous because she's the woman who ran the worst campaign in presidential history,** and he's famous because he's the guy who beat the worst campaign in presidential history." ...
Update: Matalin was also in the "political inner circle" of Sen. George Allen's 2006 reelection campaign, which will be studied for decades. You remember Sen. Allen, don't you? ....
**--Bush, 1992. 4:50 P.M. link
Not Bully: Is it really a good idea, from President Bush's point of view, for him to give a prime time address today about Iraq? Seems like Bush speeches haven't convinced anybody of anything for several years now--especially about Iraq, but also about Social Security reform and immigration reform. The president's rhetorical campaigns not only didn't win those fights--it seemed as if they didn't even move the needle in his direction. Another big-deal Bush Iraq address, given the President's unpopularity on the issue, might actually hurt. Why not just read a statement on the White House lawn endorsing Gen. Petraeus' plan and be done with it? .... Backfill: Turns out Charles Krauthammer and the rest of Brit Hume's panelists made basically the same point at length today. Why give the Dems an opportunity to argue against Bush as opposed to Petraeus? This is a pretty basic mistake by the White House, no? I thought new communications czar Ed Gillespie was "winning rave reviews for handling critical PR issues." If he's so smart ... P.S.: Or is Bush too legacy obsessed--or just plain vain--to cede the lead role to Petraeus? .... 2:19 A.M. link
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
One way to think about the surge: Juan Cole writes that
the best hope for the Dems may be that Gen. Petraeus actually succeeds, over the next year, in significantly reducing ethnic tensions.
Otherwise, Cole argues, "when the Democratic president pulls US troops out in summer of 2009, all hell is going to break loose." To which James Taranto understandably replies, in effect, 'why pull out, then?" .... I assume Cole's answer is that a pull-out might be desirable as the best (least bad) policy solution, but would still be a political disaster for a Democratic president. Fair enough. But strictly on policy terms, doesn't the desirability of a pullout depend on whether the hell that is going to break loose when we leave is becoming a bigger hell or a smaller hell because of our continued military presence? Right now, despite the disputes over pre- and post-surge death counts, etc., it looks like it's becoming a smaller hell, no? ... P.S.: Cole also has some interesting things to say about the bombing of those Yazidi villages. ... [via Insta] 11:22 P.M. link
TimesSelect, Still Gaining Strength! Literally hundreds of new paying subscribers last month! 1,700 to be exact. Gawker's Choire Sicha calculates the full immensity of this new revenue stream, which appears to be enough to cover several minutes of Thomas Friedman's expense acount. .... 5:55 P.M.
Reader P.D. makes an interesting prediction about another consequence of the immigration crackdown in California:
Besides cheap labor, illegals increase demand for homes, drive up prices, and bestow an average of a 10% per year increase into the property tax coffers. Compounded, that's...a lot of money. So much easier for Fabian [Nunez, Democratic legislative leader] than convincing the voters to give them a tax increase! Another way that open borders appeals to the right and the left.
I therefore predict a huge tax shortfall, ala [ex.-Gov.] Gray Davis, in about a year. [E.A.]
P.D. could be right! And if she's right she could be right for states other than California as well. ... Kf takes no position. I already have my hands full predicting a tight labor market and rising wages for the unskilled. I'm sticking with that one, despite the recent jobs report. ... 2:21 A.M.
If CBS' hiring of Katie Couric was all about damaging the NBC Today show (rather than boosting the CBS Evening News) it's working. Today "has lost about 360,000 viewers" in the past year, including 12% of women aged 25-54. ... 2:07 A.M.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
UnBangled: A Russian garage takes parts from a 1970s Volga sedan and sticks them on a new BMW M6. It's arguably an improvement. ... 3:15 P.M.
NEA vs. La Raza--In Iowa, for a Dem, it's not even close: The undisputed Pander King of the Democratic campaign, Bill Richardson, lunges for the caucus-dominating Iowa teacher vote by saying he'd "scrap" No Child Left Behind, before directly quoting the National Education Association's vapid slogan.
We must provide our public schools with what the National Education Association refers to as the three R's — Responsibility, Respect and Resources.
In the New Economy it's always good to cut out the middleman. ...P.S.: I didn't realize No Child Left Behind had been endorsed by La Raza. ... 1:40 A.M.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Gran Salida: Why do I pay attention to anecdotal evidence? Because academics are always the last to find out what's happening. If you wait until a social trend turns up in some professor's peer-reviewed charts,** you are waiting too long. (Example: Anecdotal evidence always said people spent a long time on welfare. Academics said they didn't. Until, after a decade or two, the academics looked at their printouts more carefully.) With that in mind, here's a report from, yes, the front lines of the illegal immigration crackdown (scroll down to comment from "hllnwlz"):
I'm a high school English teacher in OC. Some very interesting things are afoot in Anaheim public schools.
The AP in charge of scheduling says our freshmen enrollment is down 100 kids, about 5% off normal. We've been reading about decreasing enrollment coming through the elementary schools, but didn't expect it to hit us so quickly.
In five classes, I SHOULD have 100-110 kids.
I have 71. Any of you familiar with OC public schools knows how low that number is.
Also, I've got many, many more white and asian students than ever before. I *think* what's happening is that many of those families have downsized into our lower-middle class neighborhood.
On top of that, the recently immigrated Mexican kids seem to have *poof* vanished. (Note: I have no knowledge of their status, illegal or legal.) ALL my students, for the first time in my career, have insisted that I eschew their given names and use an anglicized version (e.g. Mary for Maricruz, Judy for Yuridia, Tommy for Tomas, etc.) instead. No one is speaking Spanish inside or outside the classroom.
This leads me to believe either (a) all the enforcement ICE has been doing is scaring the crap out of the (legal and illegal) immigrant community and/or b) people are ditching Cali for greener pastures.
My money's on b. [Emphasis added.]
But they're ditching East Tulsa too. Maybe they're ditching the U.S. entirely. Even if they are only moving around internally, this could be a large and portentous demographic shift. In a decade someone will get tenure for discovering it. ... P.S.: Note that "hllnwlz"'s comment is from a blog tracking the puncturing of the housing bubble. Sugggestive! ... [Tks. to emailer "**"]
Update: In metro Atlanta's Gwinnett County, where immigration has been a hot topic, they may have to lay off teachers because 3,500 expected students didn't show up. ... That's three, so it's a trend! ...
**--Or even, like Matt Yglesias, wait until a trend shows up in Jared Bernstein's review of BLS data ... 11:45 P.M. link
Let Mirthala Decide! Telemundo anchor Mirthala Salinas' former boyfriend, California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, is trying to please the powerful state teachers' unions by passing a bill that would let local school boards kill charter schools after three years.** Telemundo anchor Mirthala Salinas' current boyfriend, formerly married L.A. Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa, has been a supporter of L.A.'s Greeh Dot charter schools, which the local school board has viewed as a threat. Since Villaraigosa seems to be on the right side of this one, I say we let Mirthala decide. ...
**--About 50% of California's legislative politics seems to involve Democratic officeholders trying to please public sector unions. That's the game here, much more than on the national level. 11:16 P.M.
Non-fence not working: Is the Bush administration about to ditch the "virtual fence" along the border? Seems like the yahoos were right again. ...10:57 A.M.
"Federalism" vs. "Partition": Max Boot argues that what he calls "federalism" is a better solution for Iraq than "partition." Indeed, he argues that what advocates of "partition"--most recently, Charles Krauthammer--call "partition" really is "federalism."
Question: Is America "partitioned" into 50 states? By the loose definition of "soft partition" that some (like Krauthammer) use, you could say yes. After all, the federal government doesn't provide most basic services, from welfare to policing to education; at most it supplements locally provided services (e.g., the FBI backs up or supplants local law enforcement in a few instances) and provides funding (e.g., "block grants") to pay for locally provided services. While you could describe this arrangement as a "soft partition," the more commonly accepted term is "federalism," and it is a good description of what is happening in Iraq.
Huh? Last time I checked, North Dakota wasn't populated by people who'd been chased out of South Dakota by terrorizing militias, and residents of all 50 states were free to travel in all the other states without fear of being expelled (if they're lucky) or shot in the back of the head because of their state identity. Given Iraq's murderous sectarian tensions, Boot's invocation of the benign "50 state" model suggests he and other "federalism" advocates haven't yet come to grips with the reality in Iraq. But, in any case, Krauthammer is talking about sectarian separatism, not mere Dakota-style line-drawing and devolution. ... Bizarrely, Bruce Kesler seems to agree with Boot. ... P.S.: For Boot's more serious arguments against "partition," see this Commentary article. a) Note that his claim that "most Iraqis do not support partition," based on an April poll, is challenged by commenters on his blog post. Indeed, according to the poll, support for a "unitary" Iraqi government has been falling steadily since 2004 while support for a soft or hard partition has risen. (Update: See also this analyst, who is surprised by the high pro-partition sentiment in Sadr City.) ... b) I also think Boot is guilty of reification--declaring that if a stable partition was established in Bosnia only because of a continuing "NATO troop presence and a quasi-colonial structure of international governance argument" that it can only be established in Iraq with a continuing, large foreign troop presence, etc.. Sometimes things happen for which there is no precedent. (And commentators who don't believe that had no business supporting the invasion of Iraq.) ... 1:14 A.M. link
Saturday, September 8, 2007
This is becoming a moving story of the resilience of the human spirit! Huntington, New York's Greg Packer, uncovered by Ann Coulter as "apparently the entire media's designated man on the street for all stories ever written," gets banned from the Associated Press in 2003. Hard times ensue. Packer is reduced to representing randomly chosen Americans in publications like the Norwood News. But--you know how this ends. A lone determined individual versus giant faceless, repressive media bureaucracy. They picked on the wrong Everyman! Greg Packer will not be not quoted. Especially by the Associated Press. Patterico has the whole emotional saga. ... Update: Packer mourns Brooke Astor for us all. The man cannot be stopped. [Tks. emailer LPM]... 1:25 A.M
Friday, September 7, 2007
"Snore-y and Stinky": Michelle Obama maybe doesn't need to worry so much anymore that her husband will become a god-like figure requiring her unique humanizing skills. He's losing by 15 pointsin the Democratic party to someone who voted for the war and hasn't apologized. ... P.S.: Why's Mrs. Obama so angry again? People will speculate. ... 4:58 P.M.
Osama Bin-Laden on "real estate mortgages; global warming and its woes." He's ready for the Iowa caucuses. But where does he stand on Davis-Bacon? ... 2:14 P.M.
Ann Coulter on Sen. Craig's non-hypocrisy:
Craig not only opposes gay marriage, he's in a heterosexual marriage with kids. Talk about walking the walk!
Good point. He's not just a non-hypocritical on the gay marriage front, but almost heroically non-hypocritical. Even Bob Wright agrees .. well, sort of. ... 1:41 P.M.
Back in April, Eli Lake argued that Gen. Petraeus could be relied on for an honest report on the surge--he's become so prominent, and the war so unpopular, that if he decided the surge had failed a) Bush couldn't fire him and continue the strategy and b) Petraeus would become a hero to the anti-war half of the country with a bright political future. ... I don't think it's quite that simple--Petraeus would have to admit that it was his strategy that was failing. But it's worth keeping in mind. Careerism doesn't necessarily conflict with honesty in this case, because Petraeus doesn't necessarily need to please Bush or his superiors to continue his career.. ... 1:18 P.M.
He's not really a movie star, more a movie presence, but he is definitely a TV star. Of course a really big movie star in a political campaign can be overwhelming. Fred Thompson is a strong presence in Red October. Sean Connery is a blow-the-doors off presence. I can't imagine someone like Connery running for public office. Even Arnold [Schwarzenegger] with his years of selling restaurants and fitness and all that was still way too hot at times early on, especially when he did his shakedown cruise for a future run in 2002, with his Proposition 49 after-school programs initiative.
Telling a conservative magazine writer that he has "a shitty body," as Schwarzenegger did in that campaign, is generally not a good idea for an aspiring big-time politician. But that was Arnold. Really big movie stars have an air of danger about them, of mystery, be it physical, sexual, psychological. They're compelling up on the big screen. But a regular diet can be too much.
Ronald Reagan was fortunate in that he was not a big movie star. There was nothing scary about his cinematic persona.
1:11 P.M. link
Steve Smith persuasively refutes Richard Blair's argument that the 2005 bankruptcy reform sparked the subprime mortgage crunch by denying debtors a chance to avoid foreclosure. (It turns out the new law doesn't offer fewer anti-foreclosure protections than the old law.) But Smith doesn't address Megan McArdle's scenario, in which the 2005 reform fueled the housing bubble by a) shrinking the credit card market by making it more dangerous and less desirable to run up credit card debt, and b) sending more money into the mortgage lending market precisely because mortgage debtors' remedies were unchanged (and therefore they were still willing to borrow against their homes). ... P.S.: I still suspect that the failure of immigration reform had something to do with the credit crunch--not because it was illegal immigrants defaulting on those mortgages, but because with lower prospective immigration the long-term value of all housing fell, making everyone's collateral worth less and lenders more reluctant to provide money secured by that collateral. How's that wrong?... 12:01 A.M.. link
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Now they come with the news judgment ... : L.A. Times "Styles & Scenes" reporter Elizabeth Snead attended the glamorous Slate V launch party last night, but for some reason decided to write about a naked "High School Musical" actress instead. ... 7:14 P.M.
Ron Burkle makes a brief-but-resonant appearance in Matt Smith's anti-Gavin Newsom comic strip (which would have been better if it had stopped after the first 6 panels). ... 1:52 A.M.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
It looks as if Gov. Schwarzenegger is on the verge of achieving one of his big systemic reforms, an end to gerrymandered legislative districts. Instead, an independent citizens' commission would draw the lines. National precedent potential! According to New West Notes, the state's entrenched Dem legislators are on board (in exchange for a relaxation of term limits). The only person who could stop this badly-needed good-government (and nationally pro-Democratic) plan is ... Nancy Pelosi. She's reported to be "wary of changing anything in the mix that has given her a narrow majority in Congress"--even though, if more Congressional districts were competitive, that would give Pelosi a bigger majority in a Democratic year, which 2008 looks to be. .... 5:11 P.M.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Who's the most worrisome Hillary advisor? Holbrooke? Remember, Ira Magaziner is still lurking around. (He's at the Clinton Foundation.) ... 10:15 P.M.
Fred Thompson's campaign issues a strategy memo noting that in recent surveys
huge percentages of GOP voters indicated they were not satisfied with the current GOP crop. In the Diageo/Hotline poll released just days ago, barely half (54%) of all GOP voters were satisfied with the current crop of GOP candidates with fully 38% not satisfied. This dissatisfaction creates fluidity which creates opportunity for an authentic conservative like Fred Thompson. [E.A.]
Unfortunately for Thompson, he was listed in the Diageo/Hotline poll as one of the crop of GOP candidates GOP voters were presumably dissatisfied with, Ryan Sager notes. ... 9:32 P.M.
PoliPundit has a useful report on state immigration enforcement efforts. Georgia's new car-tag requirement seems to be effective (e.g., illegals "'going back to Mexico'") in a manner that doesn't push my compassion button the way, say, rousting existing veteran employees from their places of work would. Maybe that's because the car tag law denies only new registrations to those who can't produce a valid state drivers' license--affecting the mainly the most transient, least rooted illegals (e.g., those who've just arrived in town and haven't got a car yet). ... 1:10 A.M.
"The "Ethnic Cleansing of Baghdad is Complete": If that headline were accurate (and if I remember right it was originally Newsweek's phrase, not HuffPo's) it wouldn't be such bad news, at least for the U.S.. If the Sunnis really had been cleaned out of Baghdad, that would mean we could leave without having to worry that Sunnis in Baghdad would be slaughtered, right? Unfortunately, the hed's not accurate. The actual Newsweek story reports that the cleansing of Baghdad is still proceeding, with Shiites pushing out Sunnis. "'More than half'" of Baghdad neighborhoods are now "Shiite-dominated," says a Newsweek source. ... Hmm. Does that stat even support the magazine's conclusion that the Shiites have "essentially won"? ... P.S.: What's not clear to me is the degree and pattern of ethnic cleansing that would be needed for the U.S.to leave behind a stable Sunni-Shiite balance of power that wouldn't descend into slaughter. Does the Sunni population of Baghdad have to go down to near 0%? Or would a checkerboard of armed, ethnically homogenous Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods be a stably defensible de facto partition? I hope General Petraeus knows the answers, and is shaping the results of the surge to produce this sort of rough balance of power (as opposed to the loftier goal of mixed neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shiites live in peace and mutual respect, desirable as that would be). ... P.P.S.: 'Balance of power' is why arming the Anbar Sunnis, as we've apparently done, does not seem necessarily a recipe for greater post-drawdown bloodshed. Isn't it possible that if Sunni tribes have enough firepower to deter Shiites, the two sides would reach some sort of detente? ... 12:33 A.M.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Let me get this straight: Owen Wilson tries to kill himself and it's "KATE'S NIGHTMARE"?That's the cover line in US Weekly. The story inside tries pathetically to give the impression that Wilson's despair was somehow linked to the June end of his brief romance with Kate Hudson. He had, US notes, "abruptly cancelled a planned visit to see her" on a set in Australia last year! Instead, he "was spotted partying at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills"! That was the beginning of "the actor's downward spiral"! .... Or it was, you know, the behavior of a guy who was about to break up with his girlfriend in Australia. ... Either US Weekly thinks we are fools or Kate Hudson has some very aggressive and tasteless publicity people. Or both. ... P.S.: I still refuse to believe that anybody is that interested in Kate Hudson. She's the new Minnie Driver! 10:50 P.M. link
Pecker Trouble: N.Y. Post's Keith Kelly speculates that, thanks to the bad financial results reported by tabloid-owner American Media (and its aptly-named CEO, David Pecker), "merger talks with billionaire investor Ron Burkle and his Source Interlink Cos. may now be in jeopardy." That seems to assume that Burkle's interest in buying up the tabs is economic. I suspect it's political, and would bet on the merger happening. ... P.S.: Is Burkle foolish enough to think he can bottle up any zippy Bill Clinton stories just by buying the National Enquirer, et. al? If not, would he want to own the tabs because ... well, the best defense is a good offense? ... [Kelly makes it clear Burkle has to get Wall Street to fund much of the deal.--ed. That's just haggling. Hard to believe that he can't make it worth their while.] ... [Emphasis added.] .... 5:28 P.M. link
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Take All the Time You Want, Your Honor: At last, an honest lede:
A federal judge in San Francisco yesterday temporarily barred the Department of Homeland Security from carrying out new rules to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants, dealing a legal setback to the Bush administration's effort to get crops to rot in the fields as part of a Leninist 'worse-is-better' strategy designed to provoke calls from businesses for a semi-amnesty of illegal immigrant workers.
OK, someone at kf may have fiddled with the end bit. But it was in the interests of accuracy! Bush's comprehensivist ally Tamar Jacoby made the crisis-inducing strategy quite explicit in an LAT op-ed recently:
For several years now, tougher border enforcement, plus competition from higher-paying hospitality and construction jobs, have deprived farmers in California and other states of the foreign workers they need to plant and harvest their crops.
The crisis peaks every year in August and September, and the photos start showing up in the newspapers: piles of rotting pears, strawberry plants choked by weeds, unpicked cucumbers grown to monstrous sizes and melons oozing in the fields. ...[snip]
This economic crunch could have a silver lining -- it might grab the public's attention and generate an outcry for better laws. Millions of Americans who think we don't need immigrant workers might wise up. Politicians who opposed immigration reform this year or last might have a change of heart.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing if the ACLU and AFL-CIO lawyers hold up the Homeland Security crackdown for a while (as long as they ultimately lose): 1) That probably delays any labor crisis the Bushies might be able to induce, putting it past the harvest "crunch" and generally shortening the 2008 window during which crisis-provoked employer pressure might revive calls for legalization; 2) It makes it completely clear thatany employer sanctions--even those contained in a comprehensivist "Grand Bargain" of amnesty + enforcement--will be litigated to death by the ACLU et al, which will claim "errors in the Social Security Administration's database" and "discrimination against Hispanic workers." That's exactly why opponents of the Grand Bargain feared the amnesty part would take effect while the enforcement part would get bogged down in the courts just as the administration's crackdown is now getting bogged down in the courts.
A period of no acute worker shortage during which the illegal immigration flow is reduced and the labor market gradually tightens, with anti-comprehensive types instructively battling in the courts and elsewhere to preserve the government's ability to enforce the law against the complaints of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition and other pro-comprehensive groups--that's not a bad posture for opponents of Bush's plan to take into the 2008 election. ... P.S.: It's one reason why I won't be making Polipundit's phone calls. ... 1:50 A.M.
Friday, August 31, 2007
kf is Stupid: Campaign Finance Edition: America Coming Together was a political fizzle--the pro-Dem "527" group that raised $137 million to little apparent effect in the 2004 election. But I don't understand why what ACT did could be prohibited by the federal campaign laws--just as I don't understand why what MoveOn.com did or the SwiftBoat Vets did could be made illegal.
These were all independent expenditures--that is, speech and political activity undertaken outside the control and direction of the actual candidates. I thought the whole (persuasive) premise of the Supreme Court's big 1976 campaign finance ruling in Buckley vs. Valeo was that contributions to candidates could be regulated but that independent expenditures were presumptively protected speech. If I want to spend $5,001 telling voters to vote against Bush--as, in fact, I probably did, if you count in-kind contributions--isn't that what political speech is all about? The same goes for George Soros and Steve Bing (big funders of ACT or its affiliates). And for whoever funded the Swifties to defeat Kerry.
The principled argument here is that people should generally be free to say what they want and engage in whatever political activity they want. The practical hope is that big money that isn't given to a candidate but is spent by outsiders without consulting the candidate is apt to be spent counterproductively--emphasizing themes the candidate would rather not bring up. The Soros-backed Media Fund, for example, didn't run the ads defending Kerry that the Kerry campaign would have wanted it to run. That means that if we let rich meddlers like Soros spend millions they are almost as likely to buy the hostility of the pols they are trying to support as they are to buy those pols loyalty--as long as they don't "coordinate" that spending with the actual, official campaign.
The Federal Election Commission specifically says its investigation "uncovered no evidence of coordination" between ACT and the Kerry campaign." But the F.E.C .negotiated a $775,000 fine with ACT anyway, apparently on the grounds that it was illegal for the group to spend unregulated contributions (in excess of $5,000 per individual) on the "express advocacy" of Bush's defeat. Reaction--even from Instapundit--focused on the fine being "too late and too small" to have any effect at deterring future ACTs. I'd say the controversy is whether ACT should be fined at all.
Luckily the law isn't what the F.E.C. says just because the F.E.C. settles a case and crows about it. This appears to be an open question for the Supreme Court to decide.
P.S.: Would I favor regulating independent expenditures if principle and practice conflicted--i.e., if it could be shown these expenditures were almost always hugely effective at elected the candidates they were trying to elect? Good question. The only way to find out if the question needs to be answered is to let independent expenditures flourish and see what happens, no?So far, it looks as if they are an exceedingly unreliable way for the wealthy to buy political influence--and the Soros/Kerry/ACT/ Media Fund fizzle is Exhibit A for that argument. But if the F.E.C .is allowed to clamp down on independent expenditures** on a case-by-case basis--which is what a federal judge allowed yesterday--we may never find out the for sure.
**--Except by people like me, of course. I'm press! Nyah, nyah. ...
Update: Conservative Byron York of National Review celebrates the F.E.C. fine by republishing his 2005 account of ACT's various shenaningans. But does York believe in campaign finance regulation? If, like most conservative analysts,York thinks it should be OK for the rich to use their money to independently advocate specific candidates, shouldn't he be defending ACT instead of complaining that the fine is "[y]ears too late"? Most of the ACT shenanigans York identifies, after all--attributing lots of money to expenses for "nonfederal" races, for example--are tricks to get around restrictions on federal "express advocacy" that most National Review types don't think should exist in the first place. "[O]penly flouting the rules" isn't so bad when the rules are unconstitutional. ... 3:34 P.M. link
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Detroit's Cheap Dates? I'd have more confidence in two recent surveys showing high Toyota-level satisfaction with some of Detroit's automobiles if the domestic brands that rated highly--Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln-Mercury--weren't all car lines bought largely by geriatrics and stodgy daily drivers who might not demand much from their vehicles, and who therefore would a) have fewer reliability problems and b) have a low threshold of "satisfaction." .. Backfill: Here's GM's Bob Lutz claiming that the Buick and Cadillac showing was the fruit of GM spending money trying to give its cars "infinite life." And there's little doubt that Buick and Cadillac have done better than they used to do. The question is are they really as good as Lexus and Honda, or is the survey skewed by the.different sociological, etc., characteristics of their customers. ... 4:24 P.M. link
Filed: 8/27/08 at 8:57:26 AM
On 8/26 at about 1200 hours I was working a plainclothes detail involving deviant conduct in the men's room at the Pepsi Center during the Democratic Convention. We had received civilian complaints of disorderly persons using this particular facility and had made several arrests.
I entered the men's restroom and proceeded to an unoccupied stall in the back of the restroom. Other people were using the restroom for its intended purposes.While seated in the stall, I was the third stall from the wall (which was to the East). I observed suspect, a middle aged white male, enter the stall to my left and place his roller bag against the front of the stall door.
At 1216 hours suspect tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal often used by persons wishing to criticize teachers' unions. Suspect tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly.
At 1217 hours, I saw suspect swipe his hand under the divider for a few seconds, a possible sign of support for charter schools. Suspect repeated this motion again, from the front towards the back, and I could see more of his hand. Suspect then swiped his hand in the same motion for a third time. My experience has shown that this suggests an openness to publicly funded private school vouchers. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. This did not seem to deter the suspect. He began to whistle. Means-testing! I knew I had to take action. I slid my party credential under the divider and pointed to the exit. When suspect tried to leave I handcuffed him and placed him against the wall.
Suspect denied all charges and claimed he was actually soliciting homosexual sex. He was immediately released.
4:04 A.M. link
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Not least, perhaps, of Rendell's liabilities for a national ticket, there are persistent questions about the ability of his lieutenant governor to take over the final two years of his term.
The strongest argument I can see against Rendell being the Dem's vice-presidential candidate is that he should be the presidential candidate. ... He's probably too outspoken and candid for a controlling personality like Hillary--another point in his favor. ... Rendell/Zinni '08. The bipartisan all-beef no-BS ticket. ... [via The Corner] ... Update:Influence Peddler argues against Rendell on the grounds that Pennsylvania doesn't swing. ... 10:16 P.M. link
Who Has to Try to Kill Themselves in this Town to Make the Front Page? I couldn't believe--just a few days after their prospective new owner gave them a lecture on how they had to give customers the news the customers wanted--that the editors of the L.A. Times would run the Owen Wilson suicide-attempt story on page B-3. And they didn't! They ran it on page B-4. A little box on B-1 features the riveting headline, "Actor hospitalized." ... Let's see: A world-famous leading man actor, "one of Hollywood's top comedy stars," at the peak of his career, slits his wrists. ... In Los Angeles. ... Where movies are not just gossip material--they are what cars are to Detroit: the big local industry. Page B4! ... Once again, across the continent, with a three hour handicap, the New York Post had plenty of time to put a much better Owen Wilson story on its front page. ... I have run out of ways of saying that the LAT is a pathetic stuffy, faux-newspaper run by respectable liberal twits and doomed to die! Janet Clayton, the paper's well-connected, life-sapping AME, should grab an Annenberg School sinecure while she still can. ...
More: B-4 and After Emailer X notes another example from the past few days
When director John Singleton killed a pedestrian with his SUV, the news got buried in a squib on B4 in Saturday's paper. Even though the incident happened on Thursday evening and the newsroom had a full 24 hours to work on the story. [link added]
Be merciless, Zell. It's your only hope. 8:26 P.M. link
From the AP report on the latest poverty numbersshowing a drop in the poverty rate, mainly among the elderly:
The poverty numbers are good economic news at a time when financial markets have been rattled by a slumping housing market. However, the numbers released Tuesday represent economic conditions from a year ago. [E.A.]
Is there any reason to think the overall poverty numbers have gotten worse over the past year? Not really. We're not in a recession. ... No doubt the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities will come up with more sophisticated ways to make the mildly encouraging report seem like bad news. ... P.S.: Remember, when comparing the Bush numbers with the better numbers Clinton achieved at the end of the last decade, that the last part of the Clinton boom was based on an evanescent dot.com bubble. The current recovery is slower but presumably more solid. [You think the current mortgage mess/housing bubble isn't as big a deal as the dot.com bubble?--ed I think that.] ... 10:50 A.M.
His Pet Gloat: I wish I could say Bill O'Reilly was wrong about Paul Greengrass' Bourne Ultimatum being an anti-American film, but I saw it last weekend and O'Reilly's right. It's not just that the script plays on opposition to Bush anti-terror tactics--waterboarding, etc. Or that in a moment of calm hero Matt Damon utters maybe 15 of the 40 words he speaks in the film and explains that he's simply trying to apologize for ... well, the CIA's sins, or maybe America's. Just because you oppose waterboarding and believe the U.S. has a lot to apologize for doesn't make you anti-American. The problem is the film is unredeemed by any sense that America or the American government ever stands for or does anything that is right. It is a big hit overseas. ...
The film also made me feel guilty, because I watched Greengrass' United 93 and left convinced it was a searing indictment of Bush's behavior in the hours after 9/11. (Air controllers spend much of the film trying to locate the AWOL President so they can obtain an order to shoot down the hijacked jet.) I didn't know anything about Greengrass, and the film looked like it had been based on actual records by a meticulously dispassionate observer. But Greengrass' Bourne film undermines his credibility and retrospectively dissolves United 93'santi-Bush power. I don't trust anything the man makes. ... P.S.: Has Big Hollywood made a single non-anti-US post-9/11 film I missed? I can't remember one (aside from Team America: World Police, which was a self-mocking puppet cartoon).. ... And don't say World Trade Center. That passed up several potentially epic patriotic moments (e.g. the Dave Karnes story) in favor of a soggy tribute to the fraternity of New York transit cops. ... Next up: In the Valley of Elah, a well-made version of the Scott Beauchamp Story. ... Is it the international market that makes our studios behave this way? I sense an underserved domestic niche. ...
Update: Chris Orr disagrees on Bourne. Yes, there is a Joan Allen character who says "This isn't us," and helps foil the the CIA's scheme. But she's a cardboard plot mechanism. The film's heart and energy go into depicting the evil U.S. bigwigs. There is no sense of who or what is "us." ... 1:44 A.M. link
Monday, August 27, 2007
Hung for a Sheep! Emailer P.R. has a logical suggestion for Florida, which is being punished by Howard Dean and the DNC with loss of its convention delegates for scheduling a primary on January 29, right after the Iowa and New Hampshire contests:
The Dems in Florida should go Howard Dean one better and just move themselves in front of Iowa and NH. If their votes aren't going to count for a primary after those two, why not go all in and schedule a date before both. That will completely nullify their "importance". That threat alone might get their votes back! [E.A.]
Heck, why doesn't Florida moves its primary into November, 2007? I'm almost ready to vote now! It would be worth moving the start of voting up many, many months if it could kill the Iowa caucuses, which have been a proven disaster for the Dems. ... P.S.--The 200% Solution: Better yet, we could have two rounds of primaries. Start with a full roster of non-delegate-selecting "beauty contests" in 2007, including in the big states. This would winnow the field. Then, just about the time buyer's remorse sets in and we wonder if there's not a better candidate, we could have the second round of real, official, delegate-binding primaries. ...The candidates are already campaigning and debating as if its February, so this schedule couldn't mean that much more work for them. Reporters would love it--they'd get to write about twice as many elections. And the campaigns would probably run out of money, reducing the impact of expensive TV ads! ... Win-win-win. .... 1:27 A.M.
Zell's Big Dis: After apparent Tribune Company owner-to-be Sam Zell visited the L.A. Times a week or so ago, Publisher-for-Now David Hiller sent a memo to the paper's staff describing Zell as a"[h]igh energy straight-talking business owner" who "[b]elieves Los Angeles Times is very important and 'has a great future'." Kf hears Zell was rather more critical than that. In his talk to the assembled staffers, he said he found the paper "pretty bland." He pissed on the business section. He ran down the importance of foreign coverage as opposed to local news. Asked whether front-page ads compromised the integrity of the paper, he called that idea a "crock of shit." He made a big point of saying the paper had to print what readers wanted to read, not what LAT editors wanted them to read--an idea that's pretty much in complete conflict with the existing DNA of the Times (which deemed L.A. mayor Hahn's divorce while he was in office not worth discussing, and reported Lindsay Lohan's arrest, after she mowed down some bushes in Beverly Hills, on page B3). All in all, Zell studded his spiel with bad omens for the paper's entrenched twits. ... P.S.: Whose account is more accurate--Hiller's or mine? There's an easy way to find out, since a video of Zell's talk was posted on the Times' internal network. Hiller could release it. ... 12:36 A.M. link
Sunday, August 26, 2007
What happened to East Tulsa? Casual empiricism from George Borjas, on vacation in the West, who notices a tightening and changing unskilled labor market. ... Q: How do the Albanians get here? ... P.S.: Like many observers, Borjas thinks Bush is probably cracking down on illegal immigration
expecting that people who are running out of workers will be knocking on the doors of Congressmen and Senators--who will then be prodded into action and approve the amnesty and guest worker programs that Bush has so much wanted for so many years.
Is Bush's expectation sound? I don't quite understand how tightness in one part of the labor market--with rising wages for those at the bottom--will necessarily create effective political demand for a complicated "comprehensive" reform. "My paycheck is getting bigger each week. Washington must end the gridlock and do something to stop it!"
Aren't the "good times" we remember fondly--e.g. the late '90s--times of tight labor markets? Is Bush assuming that the political forces that traditionally champion workers over businesses (e.g., Democrats) will do nothing to protect their constituents' interests? That middle class voters really don't care about the fate of the working poor, as long as the price of lettuce doesn't rise? That Democratic pols secretly don't want workers to prosper unless it's the direct result of a Democratic program? If those are Bush's expectations, they're extraordinarily cynical and revealing. I'm not sure they are realistic, though. ... P.P.S.: Didn't Kevin Drum and other leftish bloggers sneer when I suggested that rising unskilled wages were in the offing? I think they did! ... How much do the people who serve crow make? ... 1:16 P.M.
Stern Dean Action! A.P. reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Florida Democrats would forfeit their votes in selecting a presidential nominee unless they delay their state election by at least a week, the national party said in a stern action Saturday meant to discourage others from leapfrogging ahead to earlier dates.
E-mailer X writes:
so a big populous state has a choice between two alternatives:
a) an early primary that would be FAR more meaningful to the selection of the Democratic presidential nominee than the outcome of small-state caucus in IA or primary in NH
b) being told that their delegates will count at a meaningless Democratic Convention in August '08, long after the Democratic nominee has already been decided by small states like IA and NH
Which would you choose?
Good point. Florida probably has to at least pretend to care about its formal convention delegates, but if its party leaders want actual candidate-picking power then Howard Dean and the DNC are making Florida an offer it can easily refuse, no? ... Update: X's view is now the CW, having been echoed by the ABC This Week roundtable. ... But see the Miami Herald's surprisingly panicked (and therefore pro-DNC) take. ... 1:54 A.M.
"Social equality" (what I'd nominate as the goal of liberal politics) is not "community." And the web-based balkanization of popular culture--'Everyone used to watch Ed Sullivan but now they're talking only to fellow wine lovers,' etc.-- doesn't necessarily threaten social equality the way it threatens community. At least I try to make the case that it doesn't here. ... 1:20 A.M.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Saturn Spin: Why isn't the beautiful Pontiac Solstice selling as well as the less beautiful version of the same car, the Saturn Sky? The answer is that it's not not selling as well, though it would be hard to know that from the recent deceptive New York Times piece on the two vehicles. The truth is buried in this clunky passage:
Each of Pontiac's 2,700 dealers sells, on average, just over one Solstice every two months, while each of Saturn's 440 dealers sells about two of the Sky, which is produced in more limited numbers, every month. ...
So the Solstice actually outsells the Sky, and not by a small margin. (According to this sentence, Pontiac sells more than 1,350 Solstices a month, while Saturn sells "about" 880 Skys.) This is a realization the piece's author, the aptly named Nick Bunkley, is apparently trying to prevent. Why couldn't he just give the straight sales figures for each model? Because it would get in the way of his narrative, which is that Pontiac is a "damaged" brand compared with Saturn. ... In fact, if Saturn sales are "up 15 percent" this year, that seems like really bad news for Saturn. Given the major (and apparently quite good) new products they've recently introduced--the Aura sedan, the Vue and Outlook SUVs--I expected sales to be up much more than 15%. So did Bob Lutz, I bet. ...
P.S.: One reason the Solstice's sales might have cooled is that buyers have now read Consumer Reports reliability rating for the car. It's "far below average." ... 2:08 A.M.
I'm suspicious of stories in which the Border Patrol boasts that its crackdown on illegal immigration is working--a) agencies like to boast; b) Bush would like to declare a quick success so he can make another run at "comprehensive" semi-amnesty before he leaves office; c) if Bush and the Border Patrol can use claims of success as an excuse not to build the fence. ... Still, this A.P. report could be true!
Mexican shelters, usually the last stop for northbound migrants, are filling with southbound deportees. Fewer migrants are crossing in the wind-swept deserts along an increasingly fortified border. Far to the north, fields are empty at harvest time as workplace raids become more common.
Mexicans are increasingly giving up on the American dream and staying home ...
P.S.: Did President Bush really say, at a town hall meeting a few weeks after his "comprehensive" reform failed in the Senate,
"I can make you a prediction, though, that pretty shortly people are going to be knocking on people's doors saying `Man we're running out of workers' ... " [ E.A. ]
Apparently, he did. That should have been a tipoff to his "You Asked For It, Yahoos!" strategy. ...
P.P.S.: Did White House press secretary Tony Snow really say, in late 2006:
[T]he fence is going to be built. I mean, we've already made a committment to that.
The Eagles new single, "How Long," was much better in the original Longbranch Pennywhistle version (from the late 1960s). I have it around here somewhere. ... 1:35 A.M.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Sneer O' the Day: Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel, lecturing the yahoos on how their "immigrant-bashing" hurts Republicans politically:
Here's some math for the numerically challenged at certain GOP campaigns:[**] Bob Dole got 26% support from the Hispanic community and lost. George Bush in 2000 got in the mid-30s and barely made it to the White House. By 2004, the president had increased his share of that vote to close to 44%, and won decisively. That's because while Hispanics make up only about 7% to 8% of the vote nationally, they have far larger constituencies in key swing states. If Mr. Bush hadn't wooed them in Nevada this past election, John Kerry would now be running for a second term.
Emphasis added. ...Hard to see what the numerically challenged can say in response. ... Oh, wait. Didn't Bush win the presidency with 286 electoral votes to Kerry's 252? So if Bush had alienated Nevada Hispanics and lost the state, which has 5 electoral votes, he'd ... still have won the presidency by 281 to 257. ...
P.S.: Strassel thinks that Giuliani and Romney are being so tough on immigration that they will be open in the general election to ads on "Spanish language TV ... which will point out how hard certain Republicans fought against the recent immigration reform." It seems to me there's at least as great a danger that Giuliani, by preserving his support for a mass semi-amnesty, will give Hillary Clinton an opportunity to get to his "right" on the issue in the general and win over, or at least neutralize, some normally-GOP voters (just as Bill Clinton succeeded by getting to George H.W. Bush's right on welfare). Hillary's made anti-illegal noises before, remember.... [Thanks to reader S.M.]
**--Is there an emoticon for "could I be any more obnoxiously condescending?"? ... 2:20 P.M.