Form 180 Update--Special Tenterhooks Edition: From the Philly Inquirer:
The word in Washington is that Kerry will sign the form soon.
Preemptive spin: Kerry's military records, when fully opened, better show something at least mildly embarrassing! If they're completely innocuous, why couldn't Kerry have signed Form 180 a year ago and cleared up many of the rumors that helped sink his candidacy (and his party)? ... Kerry's belated action could raise as many questions as it answers! ... 12:17 P.M.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
For the Record: Here's how ABC's Peter Jennings, barely concealing his disdain, ended his evening newscast's coverage of the Schiavo case this evening:
The story for today and we suspect that it's for today only.
You think so? I don't. ... Update: Reader O. suggests Jennings was merely saying, in effect, "this is a fast-changing story." That might be plausible if Jennings' kiss-off hadn't followed a Jake Tapper piece asking "how serious was Congress really about trying to save this woman's life?" and quoting Norman Ornstein to the effect that it was all a stunt. ("If they really wanted to intervene and stop the removal of this feeding tube, they had the ability to do so.") ... Tapper's piece was preceded by an interview with an ABC correspondent in Florida who noted the small number of protesters at the scene--and by Linda Douglass' piece mocking Republican talking points on the Schiavo case, which Jennings introduced by declaring, "After seven years, members of the House and of the Senate have decided this is urgent." ... Correction: I take it back. He didn't conceal his disdain. ... 7:20 P.M.
The Nep Missteps! National Review'sJonah Goldberg writes, in what's supposed to be the clincher paragraph of a recent column:
Clinton agreed to welfare reform — over the objections of most liberals, including his own wife — because the Republicans forced him to and he'd have lost the 1996 election if he didn't. That was the beginning and the ending of Bill Clinton's fact-finding.
This favorite right-wing interpretation of Clinton's role in welfare reform is the same as the left-wing's favorite interpretation. In both, an unprincipled Clinton was simply reading the polls and selling out when he signed a Republican reform law in 1996. That's wrong (and lazy!).
1) Clinton had some experience with welfare reform in Arkansas;
2) His '92 campaign call to "end welfare as we know it" with a two-year time limit wasn't any more vague than, say, Bush's Social Security plan, and put the issue on the table way before it had to be put there;
3) Clinton clearly understood how changing welfare could help "break the culture of poverty and dependence" in the ghettos--those are his words from 1992;
4) Clinton's own two-years-and-out plan, when it was finally unveiled, was really a three-years-and-out plan--but it was still dramatically tougher than anything any president had proposed in decades;
5) After Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, Clinton aides Bruce Reed and Rahm Emmanuel clearly wanted to sign a welfare reform bill and worked toward that end--the trouble was getting the Republicans to decide they wanted reform too, as opposed to an "issue" they could take into the 1996 campaign;
6) Clinton was far more receptive than most others on his staff to the Republicans' basic approach of returning the AFDC welfare program as a "block grant" to the states--he was a former governor and didn't share the traditional Democratic distrust of state executives. The objectionable parts of the bill, in his view, had to do mainly with side issues: immigrants, Medicare, and aid for the aged. That's why Clinton called it "a decent welfare bill wrapped in a sack of sh-t."
7) Even though she's characteristically opaque on the subject, there's a lot of evidence that Hillary made the same decision her husband did--to sign the Republican "block grant" bill, wrapping and all. Goldberg might talk to Doug Besharov of the Amercan Enterprise Institute about the little chat Besharov had with Hillary during the crucial period in 1996. ...
Friday, March 18, 2005
Has kf been conned? I can't tell if this is an early April Fool's joke. Please advise. ... P.S.: If it's not, the obvious point is that both versions in AP's example are filled with hack hype-cliches ("... tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners ... splattering blood and body parts ... the attack ... came as ... "--that's the regular lede without "imagery" and "narrative devices"). Version A just has a cubic foot of hype while Version B has a cubic yard. ... Coming soon: The Extra Cost Von Drehle Faux-Dowd "Color" Lede With Special Sauce! ... The Bumiller Condescension Option ... The J. Apple Avuncular Alternative (choice of "old Kennedy hand" source or "veteran Democratic adviser"). ... The Full Gannon! ... Attention writers: Easy weekend humor column here for anyone who wants it!. ... M ... M... Maureen? ... [via Mediabistro] 1:08 P.M.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
MOMA/NPR update: I don't know who should own Egon Schiele's "Portrait of Wally" or whether that issue should be decided by U.S. or Austrian courts or whether the Museum of Modern Art is behaving well or badly in the case. But National Public Radio should be highly embarrassed that it apparently 'terminated' a reporter, David D'Arcy, for a story that, while clearly pitched against MOMA, was seemingly accurate and at least as fair as anything else you hear on NPR. NPR's ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, has now defended the network's pro-MOMA "clarification," while somehow skirting the D'Arcy removal, which is the crux of the controversy. That in turn prompted this lengthy and well-informed blowback from Randol Schoenberg of the anti-MOMA side. ...
Dvorkin's piece isn't as bad as Schoenberg says. It's worse! Dvorkin writes:
The NPR report implied that the painting was part of MoMA's permanent collection ....
That's true, but according to NEXIS the only part of the report that implied this was host Melissa Block's intro. D'Arcy's report, as broadcast, made it completely clear that the painting was seized by the U.S. government after being loaned to MOMA by its putatitve Austrian owners. ... Did D'Arcy write Block's words? If not, why was he the one axed? ... P.S.: People I trust tell me NPR's behavior in this matter is beginning to stink. Shouldn't NPR President and CEO Kevin Klose (FY 2003 compensation: $377,999**) convene a staff meeting at which he brandishes a stuffed moose? ... Sorry, I mean shouldn't NPR President Kevin Klose defend his organization's position in public in his own words? ... P.P.S.: They pay Dvorkin $181,409**, as of FY 2003. Your pledge dollars at work! ...
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
The new shark-jump? Can we say a trendy topic has peaked when E.J. Dionne chairs a symposium on it at the Brookings Institution? ... P.S.: They'll have "livebloggers" blogging from the actual event! ... 3:40 A.M.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Irridentonism: Am I crazy or is Gawker.com in steep decline? Where are the knowing items about mid-level editors in the Conde Nast cafeteria, I ask? You can get Nicole Richie gossip in Kansas. Gawker used to be an authentic whiff of hip New York. ... 12:33 P.M.
More anguished press criticism:
[T]he mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it? [Emph. added]
Get that man a tenured chair at the Annenberg School! It would solve a lot of problems for the nation, because the critic was of course John Kerry, blaming his defeat on the "sub-media." Or on the "corporatization of the media." Or on the demise of the Fairness Doctrine. On something! ... As P.J. O'Rourke comments:
Kerry is hilariously bad as a demagogue. A low subculture and its inferior sub-media are thwarting the will of the sacred mainstream? His small sparks of malice were blurred by vast, damp clouds of Kerry-fog--murky budget critiques, hazy pronouncements on Social Security and health care, foreign policy vaporings, leaden anecdotes, and an obscure protest that 45 percent of West Virginians lack sewer hook-ups ..... [Emph. added]
Do you want this for four more years, Subculture of the Submedia? Do you want it, Mainstream Media? If not, there is a quick and easy solution available: Form 180, the deus ex machina that can remove this increasingly pathetic figure from our national stage. ... P.S.: Kerry now has two main excuses: 1) The evil sub-media! 2) The Osama tape. He's in denial. Can't he see it was his aides' fault? ... 12:14 P.M.
Monday, March 14, 2005
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 A.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 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. ... P.S.: It does matter who runs General Motors or Ford, because those are barely-competitive companies that without skillful leadership might simply collapse, sending much of an entire industry and thousands of jobs overseas (or else requiring another Chrysler-like bailout). Disney doesn't seem about to collapse, and if it does falter other U.S. media corporations will take up the slack and employ many of the same people Disney employed (or people just like them!). ... 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.
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.
"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 mail, much 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.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides! Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty. Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk