Faster history, faster democracy?

Faster history, faster democracy?

Faster history, faster democracy?

A mostly political Weblog.
March 15 2005 6:16 AM

Faster History, Faster Democracy?

Plus--Who cares who runs Disney?

No Pulitzer today: Both the LAT and the NYT cover the arrest of more than 100 Central American gang members, but Brady Westwater notes that the LAT, despite 4 bylines, misses the important understory--which is that the sweep appears to represent a breach in the idiotic local policy of offering sanctuary to known gang members who are known to be in this county illegally. (The NYT's Charlie LeDuff doesn't miss the story.) ... Westwater adds, in an email: "Makes you wonder what else does not get reported in a one newspaper town." ... 2:54 P.M.

How the Dems Can Play Against Type Cheap: The Center for American Progress' alternative tax reform plan would eliminate the employee's portion of the Social Security payroll tax, which is currently 6.2 percent of wages, according to John Podesta.  It would apparently keep the employer's portion, also 6.2 percent. But wouldn't it be much, much smarter for Democrats, if they're going to partially replace the payroll tax, to do the obverse--eliminate the employer's portion and keep the employee's half of the payroll tax? Why? 1) Most economists think the employee winds up paying both halves of the tax anyway, so the benefit to employees would be the same either way. 2) But if employees kept paying their part of the tax they would be more likely to continue to believe, correctly, that they'd earned Social Security benefits with their contributions. Democrats should want workers to feel entitled to at least some traditional Social Security benefits. If you eliminate the employee share of the tax you eliminate that easy psychic buy-in. That's why the payroll tax is there, according to a famous too-good-to-check FDR quote. (Few workers read economic literature on tax incidence and it would be hard to convince them, once the employee's half was gone, that they were still effectively paying the employer's half.) 3) Cutting the employee's but not the employer's portion creates an appearance that the Democrats are following their old, hack instinct to go for anything that seems to screw employers and help workers. That's because Democrats would be following their old hack instinct to go for anything that seems to screw employers and help workers. Eliminating the employer half would let the Dems play against type by seeming to be willing to do something to help the businesses that create jobs. ... Again, the actual economic effect would be the same either way. We're talking rhetoric and symbolism here. But it's decidedly non-trivial symbolism. ... 11:39 P.M.

They say it like that's a bad thing, II: "Unverified drivel." Today's defensive anti-blog epithet. ... 10:23 A.M.


It's Not Nice to Scam Tim Russert! John Kerry promised to sign his Form 180 43 days ago. ... Not that anyone's counting. ... Oh wait. 2:21 A.M.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Do you care if Robert Iger takes over Disney? I don't! We shouldn't have to pretend this is a world-historic event just so we have an excuse to get the juicy gossip! There are plenty of more important, barely-covered stories-- here's one. It would make a better movie too. ... 11:35 P.M.

Feiler in the Land of Abraham: Here's an idea I'm reluctant to put forward because it's either wrong and oversimplified or else it's so obviously right it's not worth mentioning. But could the democratic momentum in the Middle East--if it persists--represent another outcropping of, yes, the Feiler Faster Thesis? The FFT, remember, doesn't say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days.  (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed . It's not a demonstration of the FFT, in other words, if millions of people in Lebanon learn about the Ukrainian revolution and the Iraq vote within hours of those events. It is an example of the FFT if they then  suddenly realize that their existing government and social structures are fragile and obsolete and expeditiously act on that belief. ... To Be Sure #1: I'm not saying that that's what is happening. I'm just suggesting it as a possibility. ... But it certainly does seem like the Arab world is blowing through the dialectic of history with impressive speed. The shift from feudalism to capitalism used to take three centuries; now it takes a week and a half! ... OK, that's a wild exaggeration, but you get the point. ... To be sure #2: It's also possible that the shift won't happen, or that it's only happening because of the patient work of decades, etc.. ...The oversimplified, possible implication: The War in Iraq set two trains running. One was the increasing-anger-against-us and more-people-who-will-try-to-kill-us Terrorist Blowback train. The second was the bellicose idealists' Democracy Domino Effect train. It seemed last year as if the first train would pose a threat to the U.S. for decades before the second, rescuing train could catch up with it. Now it looks as if there's at least a chance the second train will catch up sooner than could have been reasonably hoped.  ... [Could you be more tentative and a__-covering?--ed I don't think so. But consider it done.] Obvious counterexamples: 1848, 1968, 1989--all years of rapid, pre-Internet, multi-nation change. ... 11:17 P.M.


The Washington Canard thinks he's spotted a trend at the WSJ--the end of "news analysis." He acts as if that's a bad thing. ... 6:19 P.M. 

Postrel's Estrich/Kinsley post has this reminder of how awful the pre-Trib-ownership LAT was:

I remember visiting Bob Berger, the op-ed editor, back in the early '90s. An old-style newspaperman, Bob didn't like the paper's demands that he demonstrate "diversity" on the op-ed pages. I especially remember his complaint that he not only had to find gay writers but gay writers who would mention that they were gay. No gay foreign policy experts need apply. [Emph. added]

I hope they were local gay writers who mentioned that they were gay. ... [via Insta.] 12:33 A.M.


This Isn't Argument, It's Mere News Analysis! In Saturday's NYT David Rosenbaum** tries to show that Bush's "private accounts" plan would inevitably threaten the survivor and disability benefits now available under Social Security-- even though Bush says his plan "is only addressed to the retirees, not to the disabled and survivors." 

Rosenbaum notes that some Social Security benefits would almost certainly be cut under the Bush plan (to help make up for the diversion of payroll taxes into private accounts).  But why couldn't those cuts be confined to Social Security retirement benefits, as the White House suggests? In a section pretentiously labeled "The Facts," Rosenbaum simply asserts:

"And it is difficult to imagine constructing a system that provided less benefits to retirees than to survivors and the disabled."

It is? ... Wait ... There! I've just imagined it! It looks like a life insurance system and a disability insurance system on top of a less generous retirement system! ... Rosenbaum's P.S.: Rosenbaum may have been thinking of a March 3 Times column by Alan Krueger. Krueger at least tries to make an argument:

If disability benefits were continued at their current level after retirement age, a different problem would arise: disability would be more lucrative than retirement for workers who had poor investment returns on their personal accounts. The disability program already has difficulty in making consistent judgments as to whether workers are disabled - in one study, one in six cases were judged differently by different state disability examiners - so many marginally disabled workers who applied would probably be allowed benefits. Older workers could flood into the disability program, weakening its already frail financial health. [Emph. added]


Now, there's an unpersuasive paragraph! Sure, if disability benefits were more lucrative than retirement benefits, people would try to get onto disability. Duh! You'd have to police the disability rolls carefully to prevent the non-disabled from sneaking on. But you have to do that with any disability program--including the current one, in which being disabled gets you Social Security benefits even though you're under 65. Deciding who's disabled is always a tough call. (In ancient Athens they convened juries to decide it, I read somewhere.) The job would get a bit harder under Social Security disability if more people tried to qualify. So? This seems like a second-order consideration, if that.

There are plenty of good reasons not to do private accounts. The threat to survivor and disability benefits doesn't appear to be one of them.

**: Rosenbaum's column is called "Off the Issue," but maybe they should call if "Off the Web." I can't find it on the Times Web site (perhaps because the Times' editors decided it stunk). ... If you can locate a link, please let me know. ... 12:27 A.M.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Mystery Pollster was skeptical of blogger triumphalism--until Gallup's poll  purporting to debunk blogger triumphalism, which seems to be  making him reconsider. ... MP notes that if 12% of Americans really read political blogs, as Gallup reports, that's not a small number. It's an astonishingly large number. (I would have guessed 3%.) ... 2:31 P.M.

They only have to get lucky once: Lindsay Lohan denies she groped Bruce Willis, thwarting the latest Al Qaeda plot to culturally destabilize  the West. ...3:23 A.M.

Look out. CNN's harnessed the star power of the charismatic ... Frank Sesno! 3:10 A.M.

Boomer Geezer Moochers? Nicole Gelinas makes the interesting argument that able-bodied 67-year olds who retire on Social Security--in an era when many people their age keep working-- might come to be see as welfare-like moocheseven though they'd been working and contributing payroll taxes all their lives:

Retirement for healthy seniors could be viewed as a lifestyle choice — one that working seniors, and younger workers, don't see the justification in funding.


Social Security has always been double-"work-tested"--that is 1) people who got it were seen as too old to be expected to work and 2) they'd worked and contributed payroll taxes when they were younger. But maybe Work Test #1 has now eroded--so many seniors are working that people in their late 60's aren't considered too old to work (just as, Gelinas notes, single moms are no longer not expected to work). AARP should worry about this. All those pictures in its magazine of vigorous seniors biking and hiking are coming back to bite them.

Gelinas says raising the program's retirement age "by a year or two won't shore up Social Security's deficits by much." I'm not so sure-- these actuaries say increasing it to 70 solves 60% of the funding problem. More important, Gelinas' own argument makes the case for raising the age whether or not it shores up the program's financial underpinning. Raising the retirement age--more precisely, the age at which you get full benefits--may be necessary to preserve the program's moral and political underpinning, the idea that those who get its benefits really are too old to work. ... [What about those in arduous jobs--coal mining, etc.--who are exhausted by age 65?-ed You could make special provisions for such "hardship" jobs--three years in a coal mine gets you one year off your retirement age, etc.?] ...

P.S.: See Will Saletan's recent article for a more detailed defense of raising the retirement age. ... Saletan's misleading, though, when he says "[w]e've ... means-tested benefits." We've partially taxed Social Security benefits, which you could call a mild back-door means test, but we haven't even begun to explore the potential savings from actually cutting benefits for the affluent. ... 2:10 A.M.

David Brooks and the Important Conversation: David Brooks at the Aspen Institute/Maxim * self-publicizing gasfest, as reported by Jarvis:

"I have never met an elected official who reads a blog... They're not in the conversation." He says he reads blogs. But he says that blogs are at a war among themselves and there is a different conversation -- the one that matters, is the implication -- among elected officials.

Well, sure. A discussion between Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney about whether to invade Syria is a more important "conversation" than a Captain Ed attack on CNN. But the people in the current Republican conversation, like the people in Sidney Blumenthal's Clintonian "conversation," aren't smart enough to think of all the ideas themselves. Ideas break in from the outside (private accounts, flat tax, gay marriage, welfare reform). Those ideas are as likely to come from the blogosphere as from David Brooks' column. ... When it comes to putting these larger ideas into practice, bloggers are already powerful political actors--the Trent Lott case showed that. Neither elite 'conversation' participants, nor most of the established press nor, frankly, the American people were especially exercised about Lott; bloggers were. ... The pending bankruptcy bill may or may not  turn out to be an even more spectacular demonstration of blogger power. ... As for whether elected politicians will read blogs--get serious! These are wary, self-interested people who pay elaborate attention to constituent mailmuch of which is written by obvious kooks and cranks. Bloggers look like the Bloomsbury Group in comparison. Of course elected officials will soon be reading blogs (even if they have an intern surf the web and summarize the entries for them). Powerline already knows some U.S. Senators  Brooks must not have met. ... Backfill: Lynne Cheney says, "I have a lot of blogs I read," and names names convincingly (she knows, for example, that RCP  isn't quite a blog). ...

*: We think we got that right. It's some Felix Dennis thing. ... 12:09 A.M.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'm a little late highlighting the Putdown of the Week, on Sunday's "Meet the Press":

PAUL KRUGMAN: ... I mean, I can't--I dread the prospect of a Clinton run just because I think that would be--it would be an attempt to recreate the politics of the '90s when you had Bill Clinton, who was a president who managed to sort of triangulate.  And I think we ought to have an election that's really about what what kind of country we're going to be and we won't have that if it's Hillary Clinton running. ... [snip]

JOE KLEIN:  Paul, I have a question for you:  What was it about the peace and prosperity of the eight years of the Clinton administration that you didn't like? ... [Emph added]

[via Luskin] 8:29 P.M.

Problem Solution Notification (Failure): That massive Microsoft-vs.-AOL emailing problem is so not fixed. ... Maybe there is a New York Times story in it after all. .. Update: This Feb. 21 report in, yes, Email Universe may or may not shed light on the problem. ... 1:23 P.M.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

An entrenched institution of the rich attempts to influence the news ... and the craven corporate media caves! ... Except in this case the institution is the Museum of Modern Art and the accused media organization is National Public Radio. ... [Conflict Note: I do occasional "radio blogs" for NPR's D2D.] .. Update:In my limited experience, NPR is heavily influenced by its ongoing quest for funding--more than, say, the average elected official is influenced by campaign contributions.  And there was a funding credit on NPR's Morning Edition this week thanking "The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, supporting the opening of the new Museum of Modern Art in Midtown Manhattan." Hmmm. ... .P.S.:  NPR's Web site  promises a "list" of sponsors in this document, but it doesn't appear to be a complete list. Transparency, anyone? ...  I sent a "press inquiry" to NPR on 3/9 but there's no response as of 3/10. ...3:40 P.M.

Trib buries the lede: 21.6 percent of Prius owners are Republicans? I deny it. ... Did they weight by party I.D.? Where is Ruy Teixeira when you need him? ... P.S.: According to the survey, only 34.6 percent of the Priusers are Democrats. What about the remaining 44 percent? Were they independents--or Greens and Naderites? Democrats attempting to copy Ken Mehlman's auto-centric  voter-targeting operation want to know. If they can't target Prius owners, they might as well give up. [SAABs will always work-ed. Not after GM gets through with them.] ... Backfill: A year ago, Alex Beam asserted "a 1-to-1 overlap between loony-left, tree-hugging Prius owners and delusional Deanies." I wouldn't go that far--though I admit know of no exceptions. ... 12:51 P.M.

Those latest L.A. election results in full. [Or you can go to the  LAT website and be an hour or so behind. But why would you expect the Los Angeles Times to be the best place to get timely election results from Los Angeles?] 2:42 A.M.

Micro Pleads Nolo? After 24 hours, this is what Microsoft came up with in response to AOL's claim that Microsoft mistakenly routed millions of emails through a new server that didn't have proper security features:

"Hotmail customers have periodically been unable to send mail to AOL users due to issues in identifying legitimate mail. MSN and AOL identified the issue and collectively are working to resolve."

– Brooke Richardson, MSN Lead Product Manager

Weak! Advantage: AOL ... [Microsoft doesn't own us anymore!--ed. They actually never interfered even when they did own us. I attacked Windows XP. I got a lot of techies suddenly offering to help, but that's all.] 2:15 A.M.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Trust-busting: Hugh Hewitt, in his distressingly pre-emptive book Blog, says "the blogosphere is about trust." It is? I don't read Hewitt 's blog  because I trust him. I read it because he's smart, makes arguments I want to hear and tells me things I want to know about. And I'd rather have a blogosphere filled with readers who need to be convinced than with readers who trust. ... Bloggers didn't bring Dan Rather down because they were trusted. They brought him down because they had the goods on him. ...

P.S.: Of course, it's the "trust" argument that allows Hewitt to conflate the emergence of blogs with the conservative revolt against a distrusted media elite. That's part of what's happening. But isn't it clear that in the long run (contra Jonah) the medium is more important, by at least one degree of magnitude, than the current semi-dominant message? Blogs empower individuals and small groups to broadcast their ideas to the world and interact with others around the world. If the ideas of those individuals are conservative, and not reflected in the older-technology media, blogs will empower them (even if only a small part of the population actually trusts them). The right wing revolt against the MSM is just one sub-story in the arc of the new technology's impact. ... Update: Alert reader D notes that even at the level of simple information-gathering, the blogosphere as a whole can be a mechanism for getting closer to the truth even if no one blogger is particularly trusted. All the information gets out there, fast, there's an argument, and a rough consensus forms. That's what happened with Rather. ...

P.P.S.: Hewitt makes a point I hadn't heard before about the newfound ability of respected authorities--such as religious scholars--to maintain their positions of leadership by engaging in a continuous blog dialogue with their followers. The Sistani model! But what a burden. If you were a respected authority you used to be able to get away with maintaining a meaningful silence. Now you've got to be blogging in your own "unique voice" about every little thing that comes up, or else some ambitious lesser authority who posts more frequently will steal your flock. ... 2:31 P.M.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Email Shocker--kausfiles On Your Side! kf's crack I-team spoke with AOL spokesperson Nicholas Graham and AOL Postmaster Charles Stiles about the problem we MSN/Hotmail people have had emailing AOL customers [see below ]. 

AOL's version: AOL says it blocked only messages--several million of them--that Microsoft mistakenly routed through a new server, a rerouting that created two problems:

1) The new server stripped each email of the sender's individual "x-originating IP address" and substituted the server's address, with the result that "5 to 10 million messages" looked like they were coming from a single previously unknown sender.

2) The server lacked a "reverse DNS" record. Don't ask me what that is--it apparently works like a return address and is an important security feature.

At the same time there was an unexpected surge of millions of messages coming from Hotmail to AOL. Faced with an avalanche of emails without personal IP addresses from an unknown server, AOL decided to "close the door" on them and send then back.

Sounds plausible enough. Over to you, Microsoft. ...

P.S.: The story is also looking like maybe less of a big deal than I'd thought it was. AOL's reps called it "hiccup" that will be "resolved very soon"--i.e. by Microsoft!--because it's in both companies' interest to do so. ... I know I haven't had any problems since I blogged about it! If your problems have been miraculously fixed too, let me know and I will shift into full Sullivanesque Gloating Mode. ... Update: Microsoft's  lame response. ... 10:06 P.M.

Don't trip over the unopened LAT on the way out: Just when you were thankful you'd read the last credulous introductory profile of CNN CEO Jonathan Klein that takes his hack spin at face value--a point you probably passed about a month and a half ago--comes the Los Angeles Times with ... a credulous introductory profile of CNN CEO Jonathan Klein that takes his hack spin at face value! ... Except this profile's longer, with more hack spin (and more hack spin)! ... It seems Klein want "to push the coverage 'beyond the headlines'"! ... He's bringing "'synergistic' energy" to the network! ... Joe Hagan of the NY Observer had more a more skeptical stance back on January 17. ... But, you know, if the Los Angeles Times hasn't covered it, it hasn't really happened yet, has it? ... The Times reports that CNN producers "say they like what they're hearing from Klein"! Yes, they say that. But do they like what they're hearing from Klein? I'm not so sure. Times reporter Ned Martel makes virtually no effort to assess Klein's now-assessable "storytelling" strategy. ... Actually, Martel doesn't even try to explain what Klein's strategy is beyond substanceless BS. ("[H]e wants on air talent to connect to stories, not just deliver them." ... "Any business that forgets about its customers is in big trouble.") ... OK, there is one buried paragraph saying that "within the network, people find it curious that Klein would 'hang Tucker [Carlson] out to dry.'" That's it for criticism, though. ... P.S.: Is it significant that, in fact, Klein's much-cited "storytelling" concept isn't even mentioned? Has CNN already junked it? ... P.P.S.: Suddenly the LAT strategy of preventing Web users from actually reading its showbiz articles (by hiding them behind a subscription firewall) is beginning to make sense. It's a damage-control mechanism! ... 6:12 P.M.

Have U.S. generals ever been through a U.S. roadblock in Iraq? Drudge briefly linked to this excellent CSM piece which asks that question after describing how easy it is for innocent, law-abiding Iraqi drivers and their passengers to get killed by U.S. fire. There's also a  horrifying account in Evan Wright's Generation Kill. ("[A U.S. Marine] asks the father, sitting by the side of the road, why he didn't heed the warning shots and stop. The father simply repeats, 'I'm sorry,' then meekly asks permission to pick up his daughter's body.") ... Can average drivers detect so-called warning shots? Wright writes:

In the dark, warning shots are simply a series of loud bangs or flashes. It's not like this is the international code for "Stop your vehicle and turn around." As it turns out, many Iraqis react to warning shots by speeding up. Maybe they just panic. Consequently, a lot of Iraqis die at roadblocks.

Surely our roadblock practices have done muchmore to alienate Iraqis than the Abu Ghraib abuses. Roadblocks wind up killing innocent families, not humiliating suspected insurgents. ... Wright does describe some efforts by Marines to improvise a better policy, with spotty results. ... Update: WaPo, NYT. ...  1:12 A.M.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Not-on-Time-Warner: Am I the only person having persistent trouble getting emails through to people with "" addresses? ... Answer: No! Here are some responses [emphases added]:

As I've been traveling around Europe I've sent a half dozen "mass emails" home to my friends and family. The AOL recipients always reject the message. When I try to send individual emails to AOL accounts I have about a 50 percent success rate; moreover AOL doesn't seem to like anything I send with hyperlinks. I thought I was the only one.--F.

No, you aren't.  Particularly annoying for me because I have an editor with an address.--T.

You have identified a real problem.  A while back (maybe 7 or 8 months ago) I discovered that I could not reliably send messages from my MSN hotmail account to AOL addresses.--P.

I get bounce reports back ("email delivery failed" or some such) -- but then find that the recipient actually did get the email.--L.

[S]ome people on AOL seem to have inadvertently gotten their spam filters set a little too high. They might not be accepting email from free providers such as msn and yahoo, where a lot of ghost addresses come from. You might need to contact specific people ahead of time to have them unblock your particular address, or use a non-msn account if you're replying to people you can't otherwise forewarn.--H.

Hmm. I will try to get to the bottom of this tomorrow. But it seems like a potentially big story--If "H" is on the right track, is AOL blocking a high proportion of emails from its corporate archrivals on the grounds that they might be spam? To talk to an AOL person you now have to get a non-Microsoft account? Or is Microsoft punishing its users by allowing its email service to become a playground for spammers, thereby inviting obstruction by anti-spam filters? It's a clash of corporate titans, I tell you! Maybe even a clash of corporate cultures! ... Assigned to: John Schwartz, Walter Mossberg. If you can beat me. ... Update: For AOL's explanation see  kf I-Team Report. ... 10:43 P.M.

Friday, March 4, 2005

David Smith hasn't forgotten the Fannie Mae scandal, which now includes "off-balance-sheet entities." Where have we heard that concept before? ... See also this Smith blogiography. ... P.S.: And of course former Fannie Mae CEO ex-Kerry/Mondale aide Jim Johnson  has been held fully accountable for his role. ... Oh, wait. He hasn't. Sorry. ... 2:33 A.M.

What's the pro-Bush number in the latest NYT poll story--"New Poll Finds Americans Actually Despise President They Just Re-Elected," or something like that--that  Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder don't tell their readers about?  You know it's there somewhere! Answer: Bush's approval rating for "handling the campaign against terrorism." 61% approve; 38% disapprove. ... That's a 10 point net gain in a little over a month. ... P.S.: Matthew Yglesias says "the poll doesn't find much support for the notion that a dash to the right on cultural issues  is the way out" for Democrats. I'm not so sure. What percent of respondents thought gay couples "should be allowed to legally marry"? Answer: 23%, virtually unchanged from March, 2004. Whether or not gay marriage is right, those numbers don't say "winning issue" to me. Why doesn't the Times ask voters, in its loaded way:

Do you have confidence in the Democratic Party's ability to make the right decisions about the legal status of gay couples, or are you uneasy about its approach?

I bet the answers would skew at least 60% for the second option. ("Uneasy" is the biasing word here. It's easy to be "uneasy!" Even about people you strongly support. Has the NYT never heard of anxiety?) 2:04 A.M.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

"Drag It Out!" New Dem Slogan? TNR's Noam Scheiber points out that if Republican congresspersons want to end the privatization debate quickly ... well, control of Congress is a zero sum game and what helps Republicans hurts Democrats:

[I]t's not clear that Democrats benefit directly from killing privatization so quickly. They could accuse the GOP of wanting to cut benefits on the campaign trail next year. But, in the absence of an actual proposal, it's not clear that this claim has any more resonance than it would in an election cycle where the GOP didn't try to privatize Social Security. That's obviously not nothing--campaigning to protect Social Security always has some resonance. But it's not Republicans-are-cutting-your-benefits-40-percent resonant. (The truly Machiavellian thing to do here would be to pretend to be open to compromise with the GOP, force them to propose a detailed plan, then balk at the last minute and attack the plan in 2006. I'm not sure Democrats are that devious, though.) [Emphasis added]

Is it time to have double agent Sen. Lieberman defect and give private accounts an agony-prolonging lease on life? ... P.S.: Scheiber also adds a beat to the Faster Politics concept--Faster Lame Duckness! ... Update:Hesiod outlines a scenario  in which Bush settles for a conventional benefit-cuts-plus-taxes Social Security fix, with Dem support, in a reverse-NAFTA triangulating triumph that actually helps the GOPs in 2006. ... Initial reaction: It's hard to believe Democrats will now be backed into supporting a responsible, Concord Coalitionesque fix (and abandoning the ability to denounce benefit cuts) before the 2006 elections, unless the ratio of tax increases to benefit cuts is very favorable. ...  2:16 A.M.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Open book/PC Hell: Jada Pinkett Smith, "heteronormative." Who knew? But what, exactly did Pinkett say? Why doesn't the Harvard Crimson, you know, tell us? ... Not that I'm not interested in the press release the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance "developed in coordination with" yet somehow also in opposition to the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. ... [via Drudge] ... Update: You can find what Pinkett said if you dig up a Crimson story published earlier in the week. Here's what the fuss is about--

"Women, you can have it all—a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career," she said. "They say you gotta choose. Nah, nah, nah. We are a new generation of women. We got to set a new standard of rules around here. You can do whatever it is you want. All you have to do is want it."

"To my men, open your mind, open your eyes to new ideas. Be open," she added.

That is a bit heteronormative, isn't it?  But I'd hope Harvard Lesbians and Transgenders would be made of tough enough stuff to endure it. Part of being a minority in a democratic society with a clear majority is that you don't find yourself validated and celebrated all the time everywhere, no? ... [Thanks to reader J.F.] 1:53 P.M.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Yesterday's developments were not encouraging for the President's major domestic initiative.

The Senate's top Republican said yesterday that President Bush's bid to restructure Social Security with individual accounts might have to wait until the year 2078, will not involve individual accounts, and may avoid the sensitive issue of restructuring Social Security.

The comments of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), made as GOP lawmakers returned from a week of trying to sell the Bush plan to voters, underscored the challenge facing the White House.

Frist supports the president's proposal for creating personal investment accounts but acknowledged to reporters that the plan is in trouble. "We are never, ever going to do this," Frist said. "But I wouldn't take it off the table yet," he added, noting that when he was a medical student "cadavers would often lie around on top of desks for weeks."

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush remains committed to winning passage of new Social Security legislation, although he would not speculate on when the president might get a vote on his plan.

OK, we may have transcribed the Washington Post's big story at a bit wrong. Maybe we got a rough draft. Better doublecheck those Frist quotes against what the paper actually published. But that's the spirit of today's coverage. It may be too early to declare Bush's plan dead, but it's not too early to stop declaring it's too early to declare Bush's plan dead. It's almost dead. If it were in a hospital the ACLU would be suing to have its feeding tube removed. [But didn't ABC's knowledgable Note chide reporters two month's ago, in the heady post-election start of the current Social Security push, for failing to recognize that "this president has almost always found a way to achieve his monster legislative objectives, even when the media, the Democrats, and many Republicans are in woe-is-he/perils-of-Pauline mode."--ed. It did!  Let the record show that kf scoffed and daringly went on record against contrarianism  at the time. Now it's 'Bush's contest to lose.' ... P.S.: He raised vital issues! I still think Bush performed a lasting public service in his SOTU address by separating out (a) the problem of Social Security's potential shortfall from (b) the issue of private accounts, and by daring to list possible fixes for (a)] 11:19 P.M.

Magic Anti-Kerry Solution #2? How to get John Kerry off the national stage before he wastes any more of his party's energy? One promising solution, already discussed, is Form 180, which would authorize press access to Kerry's complete military record. Kerry recently told Tim Russert on national TV  that he'd sign it. (Well? ...) ... But what about Kerry's complete Vietnam diaries? As far as I know, he hasn't released them either. He's only given access to publicity-addled historian Douglas Brinkley, who has quoted from them. Democrats who don't want to be Swift-boated again have every reason to demand full press access to the Viet-era diaries. Or do you trust Brinkley to have published the most significant damaging nuggets? ... P.S.: Don't wait for Hillary Clinton to fire off either of these silver bullets. If she's smart, Hillary doesn't want Kerry out of the presidential race. Until January, 2008, he's her best friend--an easily-beatable foil who takes up precious media space that other, more formidable challengers might otherwise make good use of. ... Update:Polipundit offers a turnkey Form 180 graphic solution. ... T.Bevan notes Kerry's weak Imus excuse  (Kerry says he needs to "get it clarified with the military") ... 1:45 A.M. 



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. 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. 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. 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--A hybrid vehicle. 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. [More tk