Justice Greenhouse twists Bush's briefs.

Justice Greenhouse twists Bush's briefs.

Justice Greenhouse twists Bush's briefs.

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 18 2003 11:37 AM

Affirmative Spinning

Plus: Did Mitch Daniels really say that?

A stirring, blurb-worthy testimonial to Paul Krugman in TAPPED:

"... no doubt he's occasionally shrill and over-the-top. But Krugman is far, far from the most shrill, over-the-top columnist in America."

If my hunch is right, that's not the sort of praise Krugman will take lightly! ... Sometimes honest, half-hearted defenses are more revealing than outright attacks. ...1:26 A.M.

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Greenhouse, J., dissenting ... Four (4) annoying things about the opinion Justice Greenhouse has issued  on the announcement of Bush's affirmative action brief, which she sneeringly praises as "impressive even by the standards of a White House unusually skilled at spin control."

1) Greenhouse declares that "lawyers ... with Supreme Court experience ... wondered whether the theatrics of the past few days would prove counter-productive" to the Bush position ("theatrics" being Greenhouse's word). But can you imagine how the press would have responded if Bush had filed his brief without issuing a public statement? 'Stealth filing ... midnight brief ... filed in the dead of night to avoid publicity,' etc., etc. If Bush had failed to file a brief at all, he'd have been accused of cravenly ducking a politically explosive decision. Most of the "theatrics," in other words, were demanded by the press and public, which rightly recognized an important case when it came down the chute.

2) The quote Greenhouse gives from the sole Supreme Court lawyer she actually names, Prof.  Thomas Merrill, contradicts the anti-theatrics stand she attributes to him and her other, unnamed, experts. Merrill tells her that on policy matters like affirmative action the Justices don't look for precise legal guidance but for "signals about the political atmosphere, 'for what's do-able.'" In other words, the theatrics, rather than the "more nuanced arguments" of lawyers, are what the Court wants. How were they counterproductive, then? Merrill seems to be saying Bush would have failed as an advocate without the theatrics -- which certainly sent a "signal about the political atmosphere."

3) Greenhouse also overstates the tensions between what Bush said and what's said in his brief. She says, of the latter, "the reality of its legal argument diverged substantially from the rhetoric of the president's prime-time statement." What, exactly, was the divergence? She notes that the brief, "far from insisting that any consideration of race was impermissible, did not even ask the justices to overturn the [1978] Bakke decision." But Bush's statement didn't insist that "any consideration of race was impermissible." As Greenhouse notes, he repeatedly denounced the Michigan set-up as a "quota" scheme with "numerical targets," which is what you'd do if you wanted to have it struck down within the Bakke principles -- which is what Bush's brief asks the Court to do....

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4) But Greenhouse's piece is not that bad. It's worse! I was shocked when I actually read the NYT's excerpts from the briefs after reading Greenhouse's characterization of them. Greenhouse says Bush's "words spoke louder than the action" of the brief, since the brief didn't challenge Bakke's ruling "allowing race to be used as a 'plus factor.'" OK, you figure -- so maybe Bush was guilty of skipping over the way his brief ducked this issue (i.e. the key issue). But no! The brief actually looks pretty tough on the question of considering race. Sure, it nominally claims to be working within Bakke's framework. But within that framework it twists Bakke into an anti-preference machine.

a) The brief declares that "express consideration of race" is only constitutional if there are no "race neutral alternatives;"

b) Yet it argues there "are a variety of race-neutral alternatives available to achieve the important goals of openness, educational diversity, and .. meaningful access." [Emphasis added.]

c) So "express consideration of race" isn't permitted and won't be unless those "race-neutral alternatives" should somehow disappear. The brief says:

"In light of these race-neutral alternatives, [the school] cannot justify the express consideration of race in their admissions policy."

That's not quite the same as saying consideration of race is never permissible as a matter of principle. But, contrary to Greenhouse's gloss, it more or less amounts to saying consideration of race is never going to be permitted as a practical matter -- unless the colleges switch to justifying preferences with a goal, other than diversity, that can't be satisfied by race-neutral schemes. (Suggestion: Black students get a few points on an individual basis for having overcome discrimination -- i.e. as part of determining their individual 'merit' --- whether or not that results in a "critical mass" of minorities actually being admitted).

P.S.: Maybe it wasn't Bush who was sending a signal to the Court (i.e. Justice O'Connor) by implying his brief was tougher than it actually is. Maybe Linda Greenhouse was sending a signal to the Court (i.e., Justice O'Connor)by helping create the false impression that Bush's brief is a lot weaker than it actually is. Put another way, she's toning down and muddling Bush's signal. Impressive spin control! 11:40 P.M. 

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Daniels' Bombshell? Did Bush budget director Mitch Daniels really say that "[d]eficits may continue into the next decade," as the Washington Times paraphrasehas it? [Emphasis added.] If so, isn't that -- and not the deficit projections for this year and next -- the lede? ... What Daniels is saying is not that Bush won't be able to balance the budget during this term. He's not saying Bush won't be able to balance the budget during his second term (if he's reelected). He's saying that even if Bush serves two full terms the next President won't be able to balance the budget until at a minimum of halfway through his term.

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Maybe I am a gullible Bush apologist.I'd thought the idea behind Bush's budget was that the tax cuts would spur economic growth (through either the Keynesian magic trick or the supply-side magic trick) Growth would bring tax revenues, which would bring the budget back into balance. ('Deficits don't cause slow growth, slow growth causes deficits,' we were told.) In the meantime, the dissipation of the Clinton surplus and maybe the prospect of a mild longer-term shortfall would hold down spending, which (I've argued) was an effect out-of-power Democrats should welcome.

So is Daniels now saying that he doesn't really expect the economy to rebound in the next decade? Presumably not. But if he's eliminated a balanced budget as a goal -- even long after the economy has bounced back -- doesn't that at some point actually lessen the salutary pressure exerted by deficits to keep spending down? In Washington, when you start talking decades you might as well be talking "forever." And if you're a Senate appropriator, why bust your pick and alienate pro-spending lobbyists if there's never going to be a balanced budget -- not for a decade, or, hey, a generation or two --if permanent deficits are "manageable .... Note: I'm not questioning whether Daniels actually said what the WashTimes said he said. I just haven't been able to locate an as-delivered copy of his speech to confirm it. ... 4:45 P.M.

Refugees from Raines? The New York Times' recent embarrassments, culminating in the spiking of two sports columns dissenting from the papers Masters tournament crusade, continually remind me of the failings of one man. That man is Don Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company -- a decent boss with a distressing lack of egomaniacal ambition. Simply put, if Graham had had the vision to make the Post a nationally-distributed paper (the way the NYT is now a national paper) he could now be having a field day recruiting away NYT reporters chafing under Howell Raines' autocratic rule. As it is, any reporter contemplating the leap to WaPo has to ask whether he or she really wants to give up the NYT's national audience. ... But Graham's paper has in fact succeeded in stealing one of the Times' best reporters and writers, national correspondent Blaine Harden. A few years ago, when Harden jumped from WaPo to the Times, it seemed to signal the relative decline in the impact, status, and general mojo of Graham's non-national publication. Now that Harden's jumping back, it could be a sign the tide is running in the other direction. ...  3:01 A.M.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

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Blogosphere Exclusive -- Instapundit Buys the Pool? Prof. Reynolds of  Tennessee is extending his Drudge-like grip on the blogosphere by starting GlennReynolds.Com, a "low volume" blog on MSNBC, Slate's half-sister site. (AOL/TimeWarner wishes it had this kind of cross-marketing synergy.) Reynolds submitted this self-written Q & A:

Q:  So why are you selling out to a giant, soulless monopolistic
corporation?


A:  I'm not!  InstaPundit will still be around, but I'll also be posting to GlennReynolds.Com at a lower rate of a few times a week.  You know, sort of like Kausfiles!

Q:  So InstaPundit isn't shutting down?

A:  Nope. ... and it will still be free.  And worth every penny!

Q:  Does this mean you've "taken the Boeing?"

A:  Like you, Mickey, I'm the beneficiary of Bill Gates' famed
generosity and open-handedness.  The pay from this gig should allow me to move up to the premium-grade, odor-control cat litter.

Q:  So why do it?

A:  It's fun, it's a new batch of readers, and -- with the encouragement of Jeff Jarvis, who actually put me in touch with the MSNBC folks -- we may be experimenting with some new things that are beyond my reach, technologically.

P.S.: An actual question of my own:

Q: Aren't you spreading yourself a bit thin?

A: I'm dropping the Fox column after this month, so I don't think so.  Columns are a lot more work than blogging, as you know.

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[Hasn't this Reynolds person gotten quite enough press lately?--ed.] 4:57 P.M.

Where is liberal press bias when you need it? Alert kf readers have responded with a variety of explanations for why reporters -- especially the TV networks -- haven't jumped all over the House GOP revision of ethics rules that allows lobbyists to buy Congressional staffs $50-per-person catered meals. It's outrageous, it's easily understood, it sticks it to the GOP. So what's the hangup?

 1) "When it comes to political reform issues generally (campaign finance, lobbying, etc.), hypocrisy gets you whacked -- flagrancy gets you a free pass.  The Iron Law ..." -- M.W., who should know.

 2) "[L]efties are partially right about conservative bias in the media. A story like this needs constant demagogic attacks that only FOX, the NY Post, Wash Times & talk radio can provide. The networks & Times/Post will always be too 'responsible' to give a story like this legs." -- J.S.

3) "In truth, as somebody who used to cover Congress, I always used to get frustrated with the way Republican staff (and members, for that matter) treated us as the enemy. No, we're not Dem biased. We're biased to whoever has accurate information, because that's our currency. "... -- J.G.

Thanks! But I'm still baffled. Lloyd Bentsen's 1987 invitation to lobbyists to spend $10,000 to have breakfast with him was blatant -- yet he still got whacked for it. ... Explanation No. 3 makes some sense -- the press is currently in source-greasing mode, sucking up to the new people they have to suck up to to get access. (Maybe it's reporters who will be sending over those $50 steaks.) .. But I still prefer to think the night is young on this story, and a mini-frenzy will eventually arrive. Why? Call it journalism! .... (Call it anything you want! But do it.)  12:19 A.M.

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The Snipe-O-Meter returns to make a couple of basic points about the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform law, covered in today's papers:

President Bush prodded lawmakers yesterday to embrace changes to the nation's welfare laws that the White House was unable to push through a polarized Congress last year: stricter work requirements without changes to child care subsidies for welfare mothers who must get a job.

At a White House ceremony, the president made plain that the administration has not reshaped the approach to public assistance that it set forth a year ago, appealing to neither its critics nor its allies. ... He said basic welfare grants to states would remain $17 billion a year.

-- Amy Goldstein, WaPo

With the NYT's notorious Nina Bernstein gone, Goldstein may be the worst welfare reporter around. (What does "appealing to neither its critics nor its allies" mean? Goldstein cites no "allies" objecting to Bush's approach. If Bush's "allies" in the House didn't like his plan, why did they obediently pass it last year?) Goldstein suggests it's stingy to keep federal welfare grants at $17 billion while increasing work requirements. What she leaves out is why the federal grant is set at $17 billion -- that's what the federal government was paying in the mid 1990s, when welfare was reformed and when there were twice as many people on welfare as there are now. During the run-up to the reauthorization debate, the great fear on the respectable left was that Bush would try to save money by cutting welfare funds to match the dramatic decline in the welfare caseload -- which wouldn't be entirely unreasonable. But Bush didn't propose that. And because the funding is being kept stable while the welfare caseload has been halved, there is now roughly twice as much federal money available per recipient for states to spend on more day care and training, etc. Maybe it's still not enough, but it's not obviously stingy.

The president's approach would require welfare recipients to work 40 hours a week, although up to 16 could be met by attending school, job-training programs or substance abuse treatment. Under current law, recipients must work 30 hours a week, though up to 10 can be met through other supervised activities.

--  Richard W. Stevenson, NYT

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Not exactly! Few states actually have to get many recipients to meet a 30-hour work requirement, due to the 1996 law's "caseload reduction credit," which basically treats a state that has cut its caseload in half as if it were a state that is putting half its caseload to work. Because caseloads have plummeted almost everywhere, this credit has effectively wiped out the federal work requirementfor recipients still on the rolls in much of the country. That's the big hole in the law the Bushies want "reauthorization" to plug. ... (States can, if they want, still require work of recipients -- most of them just aren't forced to under federal "current law," contrary to what Stevenson implies. In the end, in 2001, only about 27 percent of the adults on welfare spent enough time in "work activities" to meet the nominal federal standards, as far as I can see from this memo.)

Still, observers expressed surprise that welfare reform is now an area in which WaPo's pro-liberal bias may exceed the NYT's pro-liberal bias.  ... Lucky it's not an issue anyone cares about! ... 2:09 A.M.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Burying bad news on Tuesday:

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1) My prediction that media ridicule would quickly force House Republicans to withdraw their corrupt and misleadingly named "pizza rule" -- which allows lobbyists to grease up Congressional staffers with $50-a-head catered meals -- was wrong, very wrong. I'm actually baffled that this a) anger-producing, b) easily-understood, and c) anti-GOP story didn't get picked up everywhere, especially on the network news. It can't be that reporters and editors really are sucking up to the dominant Republicans, can it? That the press has gotten so used to a plush, subsidized lifestyle that $50 meals seem normal, almost an entitlement? Alternative reader explanations welcomed. ... But at least WaPo, whose Juliet Eilperin reported the story, has a strong editorial denouncing the 'Feed Us' rule  and the accompanying, equally corrupt, GOP-sponsored change in the "charity junket" rule.

2) In March I made fun of The American Prospect'sRobert Kuttner for declaring

"Unemployment will stay moderately high this year—at least in the 6 percent range."

Kuttner wrote this just as the government was announcing a drop in unemployment to 5.5 percent for January. But the rate soon went back up to 6 percent and, after a drop over the summer, was back at 6 percent for the last two months of 2002. As is often noted, six percent isn't that high for an unemployment peak in a recession. But Kuttner was basically right. The labor market does not yet seem to be following the Faster Principle. (A handy pop-up chart on the unemployment rate in 2002 is linked on this NYT story.) 11:02 P.M.

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"Gambling Proceeds Of Deadbeat Dads Targeted in Budget:" Eat your heart out, Dick Morris! How'd you miss that one? ... Not just "deadbeat dads" -- deadbeat gambling dads! Something tells me this proposal tests well in focus groups. ...Next: Deadbeat gambling smoking dads! ... Update: Maybe Morris didn't miss it. Kf hears that Clinton made a similar proposal late in his presidency, but the gambling industry resisted it. ...  12:46 A.M.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Spike Spike:The days of Online Journalism Review's amusing "Spike Report" seem to be numbered. Click here  for the best of Spike's recent browsing. ... 10:49 P.M.

The NYT's Strict Ethics Code in Action! Of all the random people in America who might be called on to provide 'real person' commentary on Bush's tax plan, the New York Times of January 8 hit on "Robert and Bee Moorhead of Austin, Tex."  The Times ran a large photo of the couple, who "said the president's plan was unimpressive."  But if you read the J.R. Taylor's hilarious item about the Moorheads, you might get the "false impression that the paper is taking sides"! ...Hey, it's no problem to comply with a new Times ethical code for journalists  that ostentatiously forbids participation in "ballot causes and efforts to enact legislation" -- reporters can still pick average people-in-the street who just happen to work for ... ballot causes and efforts to enact legislation! ... Next: At home with taxpayers Robert and Nancy McIntyre of Alexandria, Virginia! For Robert, who makes about $85,000 as director of a non-profit group in nearby Washington, D.C., the Bush plan is 'a little too tilted to the rich for my liking.' ... P.S.: I wouldn't take that Washington Times calculation of how much tax money the Moorhead's would save to the bank, though -- especially the marriage penalty part. ... 4:24 P.M.

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Saving the Lie: How many of the New York Times' journalistic problems would be solved if the paper just replaced the slogan in the upper-left hand corner of its front page ("All the News That's Fit to Print") with the phrase:

"A Crusading Liberal Newspaper"

I'd guess those four words would neutralize about 80 percent of the animus against Times editor Howell Raines. What's deeply annoying about Raines and his henchperson Gerald Boyd isn't their liberalism, or their bias, but their insistent pretense that what they are doing isn't liberal or biased but just straightforward objective newspapering the way the Times has always done it. ("Call it journalism.") They're selling their product dishonestly, sneakily trying to trade on the credibility earned in an earlier, different time. The truth would set them free. There's nothing wrong with being a crusading liberal newspaper, after all.

But today the Times seems to be heading in the opposite direction, taking steps to shore up the lie, to reinforce the false impression of objectivity, by -- according to the description in Editor and Publisher -- banning reporters from

contributing to campaigns; or taking part in "public causes or movements." This includes wearing campaign buttons, marching in support or opposition of causes ....

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Will this fool anyone? That would seem to be the idea. As Michael Kinsley has noted, such rules ban only the appearance of bias, not the actuality of bias. NYT Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse marched in a big pro-Roe, pro-choice demonstration a few years back. Does anybody think she's changed her mind since? Will they think she's changed her mind if she now refrains from marching? (Or will the Times, in keeping with the spirit of its new rules, transfer Greenhouse from the Supreme Court beat because she's already blown her cover?) ....

P.S.: What the NYT should do is require its employees to vote or contribute and then  list whom they voted for or contributed to in a special pullout section. (When Slate tried similar disclosure in 2000, it uncovered a near-monolithic Gore cult  within Microsoft!) ...

P.P.S.: You could argue the New York Times itself, under Raines, is a "public cause or movement," raising Godelian issues. ... [But the Times also makes actual, non-trivial reporting mistakes. A new slogan wouldn't make untrue stories true--ed. Everyone makes reporting mistakes. The new slogan would at least put them in context and act as a prophylactic measure, alerting readers as to why the paper they're reading might make mistakes, and which direction they're likely to be in.] ... [Isn't Fox just as bad with their "Fair and Balanced, As Always" slogan.--ed. Yes! Two wrongs! But Fox's is less annoying because a) the claim is so transparently bogus, in part because b) there's no previous, less-biased era for Fox to trade on, and c) Fox can argue that it's only trying to counteract the Times.] ... (Link via Romenesko)

Update: The text of the Times' new code is here. No lawn signs, no contributions, no endorsement of "ballot causes or efforts to enact legislation." That might give the "false impression that the paper is taking sides"! Who's giving the false impression here? ... 6:57 A.M.

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Even the Liberal New York Times ... One reason I think the case against Charles Pickering is weak -- on the race issue, anyway -- is the support he's received from African-Americans in his home town. If Pickering hadn't reformed on race since the 1960s, you'd think they'd know. I recommend David Firestone's NYT account from a year ago --"Blacks at Home Support a Judge Liberals Assail"-- which seems to be still available for free online. Some excerpts:

''I have never seen Trent Lott open his arms to the black community the way Charles Pickering has,'' said Larry E. Thomas, owner of Thomas Pharmacy, referring to the Senate minority leader, who is Judge Pickering's friend and patron. " ...

Judge Pickering ... was praised by black city officials for helping to set up after-school youth programs here, and for directing federal money to medical clinics in low-income areas when he was a state senator. Black business leaders say he was influential in persuading white-owned banks to lend money to black entrepreneurs, helping to strengthen the city's black middle class.

''I can't believe the man they're describing in Washington is the same one I've known for years,'' said Thaddeus Edmonson, a former local president of the N.A.A.C.P. who is now president of the seven-member Laurel City Council and one of its five black members. ...

'I know Judge Pickering is a fair and impartial person grounded with Christian ethics and beliefs, who ought to be given this chance,'' said the Rev. Arthur Logan, the black pastor of the Union Baptist Church and a member of the City Council. ''There are many people in Mississippi who made these same mistakes early in life, but their strong Christian character brought them closer to God and helped them change.'' ...

'He grew up like a lot of white people here,'' said the Rev. George L. Barnes, a black minister who is pastor at two Missionary Baptist churches and owns a used-car lot. ''But his daddy and my daddy used to swim together down in the creek, and I've never heard him say a racist thing. I would say, of people in his age bracket, he's probably come further than any white man I know of.''

Firestone gets at the condescension for these local yokels felt by the state and national liberal interest-group tacticians who decided to make Pickering a test case, and who argue (in Firestone's words) that Pickering's hometown supporters "simply did not know the full details of his record" or had "succumbed to an effort to cover up his feeling with small acts of kindness." The locals' response?

''If he's been putting on a show for us, it's the greatest show on earth,'' said Mr. Thomas, who runs the city's only black-owned pharmacy and who served with Mr. Pickering on the local economic development board in the 1980's.

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If Firestone had found a lot of black local criticism of Pickering, don't you think the New York Times would have publicized it? They sent a reporter and he found the opposite, which is more convincing than, say, the Washington Times finding the same thing. ... It says here on NEXIS that the NYT ran Firestone's pro-Pickering piece on page 22, though I remember it as being more prominently played than that page number suggests). They didn't really run it in the "Travel" section, did they? (That's certainly the way it looks in some Web versions.). ...  3:10 P.M.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

O.K., so the news that new claims for unemployment benefits fell below the benchmark 400,000 level (which sent the Dow up 180 points) gets buried on page C5, while news that the unemployment rate for last month stayed stubbornly stable (which didn't send the Dow anywhere) gets splashed above the fold on the front page, along with Democratic doubts that Bush's tax cut does enough to stimulate the economy. That's standard operating procedure for today's New York Times -- 'If there's gloom, there's room!' -- and arguably the monthly employment numbers in the second story were more important because they're more reliable than weekly figures on claims.  But I worry -- what if the economy recovers? Will the NYT be able to gracefully make the shift from arguing that the Bush tax cuts are a bad idea because the economy's in the dumps to the (inevitable) argument that the Bush tax cuts are a bad idea because the economy's recovered without them? ...

P.S.: If the tax cut proposals are all about "psychology," as Joe Klein claimed today on Face the Nation, is it possible that the necessary psychological benefits could be achieved without the cuts actually having to go into effect? The sequence would be a) the stock market rallies on prospect of dividend tax cut; b) investors feel richer and start spending more; c) this spending helps jump-start the economy; d) the ensuing economic recovery is strong enough to start boosting stock prices by itself; so e) the Bush dividend tax cut can die in Congress without causing a fall in the stock market. Presto! You've got recovery without taxes actually being cut and without blowing a hole in the long-term budget -- a bootstrapping trick not unlike the virtuous circle of bogus self-esteem. (The circle: a) You falsely, baselessly increase your self esteem; b) this increases serotonin production; c) the serotonin helps you perform better; d) you achieve genuine, deserved self-esteem).... 3:42 A.M.

John Ellis has noticed a near-unbelievable  Boston Globe quote about Ted Kennedy. 2:17 A.M.

Spamming Saddam: Reuters reports:

The U.S. military has begun an e-mail campaign urging military and civilian leaders in Iraq to turn away from President Saddam Hussein as the Pentagon builds forces for a possible invasion of the country, defense officials said on Saturday.

Thanks to next-generation technology that allows researchers to divine U.S. strategy from a close analysis of the fonts on Andrew Sullivan's Web site, kausfiles has been able to obtain a copy of these top-secret emails  to the Iraqi high command. Evidently our psy-op warriors are employing state-of-the-art e-marketing techniques. ... 1:02 A.M.

    

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Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" 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. The Liberal Death Star--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's MediaNews--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--A hybrid vehicle. Tom Paine.com--Web-lib populists.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.