The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, October 29, 2004

No cunts at the Trib

As noted by Romenesko, another of those barium meals detecting the outlines of the sensibilities of the American people as interpreted by the their media.

Janet Jackson's tit - of beloved memory - was the leading instance of the year, of course. But a modest further example in the Chicago Tribune's decision, and its reversal, to épater les bourgeois with an article on current usage of cunt under hed You c_nt say that [1]

The piece went in the Women's News section - evidently subject to the laxer features ethos (piece earlier today) - but I'm not clear which editors, apart from the one who commissioned it, got to see the copy before the presses rolled.

As it was, they
had folks from across the company hand-pulling the section out...

By way of comparison, there are apparently 353 cunts in the Guardian... [2]

Will the writer, Lisa Bertagnoli, find a less panicky publisher for her piece, I wonder? Because my interest has definitely been aroused...

(Her bio at her literary agents' site.)

  1. Or - according to the rival Sun-Times - You c-nt say that (or can you?) UK practice is to use asterisks for blanked letters.

  2. Since September 1998, that is.

    The Trib piece never used the word itself unbowdlerised, or so it seems.


Someone sees the funny side.


Al Qaqaa: a bum rap for Bush?

Kerry's October Surprise? A powerful aroma of something not quite right wafting from the story [1] - as the piece by Jack Shafer, for one, rather suggests. The timing, for instance [2].

One thing is flat amazing (at least as it appears in the reports): why the guys from the 101st Airborne, some of whom were caught on the camera of KSTP St Paul uncovering some of the goodies in that Aladdin's Cave, left the place unguarded, and the explosives in place.

I'm not familiar with the military situation at the time; I can quite believe that there was simply not the manpower to leave behind to secure the site.

In which case, why not blow up the explosives? Wouldn't that be standard procedure?

The suggestion that a unit coming across enemy ordnance would require a directive from the White House - or the Pentagon - before it could protect itself and the rest of friendly forces in this way is surely laughable.

David Kay was amazed, for one:
quite frankly, to me the most frightening thing is not only is the seal broken and the lock broken, but the soldiers left after opening it up. You have to provide security.

Bush deserves blame for mounting an illegal invasion of Iraq; for ignoring military advice on the size of the invasion force; for dumping the plans for governing post-invasion Iraq; and much else besides.

And let us not forget that many of the Democrats now calling for Bush's head aided and abetted him in his Iraq adventure despite the clear indications in the public domain at the time that his case for war was false or dubious.

But - I can't see for the life of me how the US military's failure to blow up the Al Qaqaa munitions is down to Bush.

  1. Which I touch as gingerly as if it were from one of the bunkers there: intercontinental armchair quarterbacking greatly to be avoided - unless one is a presidential candidate, natch.

  2. Could it possibly be a rope-a-dope devised by Rove and Co?

In the same spirit - questioning, not quarterbacking - I note with interest a piece co-written by Tom Ricks under hed Munitions Issue Dwarfs the Big Picture. Capitol habitué Anthony Cordesman of CSIS, expresses the opinion that
"There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons of rather ordinary explosives, regardless of what actually happened at al Qaqaa. The munitions at al Qaqaa were at most around 0.06 percent of the total.

The suggestion is the that Kerry shock horror is mere hackery. The guy is trying to get elected, after all - no one supposes he actually believes all the stuff he trots out, do they?


Advertorial in the Washington Post

At the time of the controversy over Peter Landesman's A Girl Next Door sex slave article, the mile-wide cultural rift between newsmen and features-men first emerged (into my ken, at any rate). Yankee stuffiness versus Left Coast laid-back-ness when it came to giving artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Seems that there's a similar oil-and-water thing going on at the Post: according to a Washingtonian piece, a snippet appeared in Sunday Source section under the rubric Gatherings relating the goings-on at a GOP barbecue. In particular,
the possibly unprecedented occurrence of a young woman in a cowboy hat pretending to make out with a poster of Dick Cheney.

This alone would be enough, surely, to have the serious hacks on the Post pondering how the dwindling reserves of credibility were being squandered in the catchpenny scramble to provide snazzy copy to attract the younger reader.

It's worse: the paper's correction outlines the full horror:
The item should have explained that the woman was asked to pose with the vice president's picture by the photographer working for The Washington Post. The woman also did not pretend to "make out" with the picture; at the photographer's suggestion, she pretended to blow a kiss at it. The item should have explained that the party was hosted in response to a request from The Post, which discussed the decorations and recipes with the host and agreed to reimburse the cost of recipe ingredients.

Say what you like about old Dan Rather, at least he wasn't the one that faked the Killian memos!

The circulation folks at the Post would no doubt wax lyrical about breaking butterflies on the wheel; or (in keeping with the youthful demo sought) invite complainants to take a pill. A blatant conflict of interest, yes: but it's party food, not Iraqi WMD for heaven's sake!

But of course it's very much the same thing: just as going along with USG's Iraq fantasy was good business for the Post [1], so confections like the Cheney kiss barbecue are mutually advantageous all round.

Even (especially) for those of us who do not trust the media as far as we could throw them, and need reminders to maintain vigilance at all times - those reminders especially welcome when in in the form of easy-to-use anecdotes.

  1. From memory, the Susan Moeller report (oft discussed here) found the Post's record on Iraqi WMD not as bad as some (eg, the New York Times').

    But it was clearly in the Post's interests to avoid the war with the White House that would have followed from halfway decent reporting of the issue. (Besides, invading Iraq was Post ed board policy.)


I'm put in mind of a transient institution of the early days of commercial television in the UK: the admag.

One would have a programme that looked at first glance like a regular soap, with fictional characters, a semblance of plot, and fixed locale. But every so often, one of the characters would start to wax lyrical about some product or other, providing a demonstration, the camera focused on the product rather than the actors.

There were spot ads too: but the admags carried a personal endorsement (albeit by fictional creations!) that made them popular with advertisers.

Too popular: in 1962, the Pilkington Committee recommended that they be banned - which they duly were - on the ground (as I recall) that they blurred the boundary between editorial matter and advertising.

The most famous is Jim's Inn. featuring well-known actor Jimmy Hanley. (A little more on the subject.)


The new journalism: the French have a word for it...

There's been silence radio for the last couple of days while I bone up a bit (Bush v Gore, Title 3, Article II, yadda, yadda, yadda...) for the legal armageddon that a close Electoral College would bring.

(Reluctantly, since past exercises in investing time in possible stories have been singularly fruitless: la révolution bolivienne n'eut pas lieu...)

Meanwhile, I serendipitously come across a word that comes in handy to describe much of what passes for journalism: romanquête. A portmanteau word of roman and enquête, or novel and investigation.

The term used by iconic French pundit [1] Bernard-Henri Lévy to describe his book Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ? seems apt to describe - to pick a name at random - the works of Uncle Bob Woodward: all that dialogue he 'reconstructs', the lack of footnotes... Or feature stuff like Peter Landesman's A Girl Next Door (much discussed here).

Giving respectability to the imaginative leap made in the cause of the larger truth, to make the bare bones of corroborated fact congenial for a general audience, to ensure the powerful don't escape censure on a technicality.

Lubrication for a slippery slope already slick with grease of moolah - not to mention the product of sanctimonious media onanism.

(BHL's star is waning, it seems; also here.)

  1. He is to philosophy what the late Serge Gainsbourg is to music.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Daniel Okrent: looks like the joke's on us

The chap's eminently searchable name has cropped up, it seems, in around 50 Plawg pieces over the months.

He had 18 months - to the end of May 2005 - to make his mark; one expected, and got, a slow start (backing and filling over the Landesman sex slaves article, grandfathering the Iraqi WMD fiasco). But hoped - and no more - for a Big Finish.

With six months to go, that seems ever less likely. There was the Gandhian fatuity of his call on the top papers to forego use of anonymous government sources (June 28); his self-interview (September 13).

And now the megalomania of the outed correspondent on whom Okrent placed an electronic scarlet letter on the basis of intemperate but private correspondence with - who else? - Adam Nagourney.

Except that, according to Okrent's piece today, there is no such thing as private correspondence with a Times journo:
I consider all messages sent to me, or forwarded to me by Times staff members, to be public unless the writer has stipulated otherwise.

Of course, if the sad sack writing to one of the hacks under Okrent's protection thinks he is writing privately, he will naturally not think to append such a stipulation.

He continues:
Every message sent to my office gets an instant response asking if the writer wishes his or her name to be withheld.

But what about messages forwarded by hacks to Okrent in his capacity of enforcer?

That Okrent proposes a forward policy towards readers whose communications Times hacks find irksome is evident from the grotesque analogy he draws with the email of Nagourney's correspondent:
I published the name of the man who wrote to Nagourney for the same reason that newspapers publish the names of people who commit other grievous acts. The man who vandalizes a church, say, doesn't want his name in the paper either. But I don't think his wishes should protect him from public responsibility for what he has done.

But even this is beaten by his analogy in Business Week (as quoted, at least):
I decided that someone who goes out at night and paints a swastika on the door of a synagogue doesn't want it written about either.

His kicker in his own column, however, is truly bizarre: having channelled the Puritans of colonial America to condemn the guy as having committed a grievous act, he says
I was wrong to call the reader a coward; that was engaging in the same debased discourse that I condemn. I apologize.

Even supposing that he is saving a Capracorn coup against the Miller-loving [1] Sulzberger and henchmen for the final reel, the problem will be whether he has any credibility left to carry it off...

  1. As friend and protector: not even the trashy New York magazine piece on Judith Miller suggested a sexual relationship (June 1).


A handy guide for November 2

From Contrapositive. Suggests the signs to watch for as election night unfolds: Bush has to secure a commanding lead early on against Kerry's banker 55 EVs from California.

If, sometime between 8pm and 9pm, Kerry gets the call in both Ohio and Florida, it means George W. Bush is headed for the door. At that point only the Supreme Court will be able save him.

At 2000 ET, Bush needs 143 EVs, it reckons, whilst Kerry only needs 91.


Green Papers have a page detailing the closure of polls hour by hour and state by state (plus other useful stuff, natch).

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Schwarzenegger's verbal bull's-eye on Indian gaming racket

Indian gaming is the 21st century version of Crédit Mobilier - except that, whereas the Union Pacific eventually had to finish building [1], the cash [2] generated from Indian tables and slots just keeps on coming.

I've written several times on the subject - and always with the inevitability that an activity that stuffed so much cash into politician's brown envelopes would not be extirpated in a mere matter of decades - bolstered as it is by the lunacy of continued recognition of so-called tribal sovereignty [3].

No one much will speak out against the Indian gaming racket: the gaming tribes [4] are careful to spread the wampum around, so shutting the mouths of pols of both parties; and all matters Indian are treated in the media with a deal of pussyfooting.

Enter the Governator: on October 14, campaigning in San Diego at the Old Town Mexican Cafe, he was vociferous against two initiatives, Propositions 68 and 70, that would undermine deals his administration has struck with certain tribes [5].
"Vote no on Propositions 68 and 70!" he called out repeatedly, flanked by security guards and aides as he went table to table, high-fiving children, signing autographs and posing for photos.

"The Indians are ripping us off," he told one customer. "We want them to negotiate and pay their fair share."

The tribes subsequently went on the warpath - or, at least, did a fair amount of bellyaching. But Arnie is standing firm - thus yesterday:
"Read my lips: The Indian gaming tribes behind Proposition 70 are trying to rip off California. I will say it again and again and again," a defiant Schwarzenegger said in Los Angeles. "That's why they are upset. Because the truth hurts."

Polling suggests that both initiatives will fail. A great excuse not to get into the detail quite yet!

  1. It was, with all the rake-offs, built so shoddily, I believe, that it had to be rebuilt not long after opening.

  2. Cash, glorious cash! As fungible as hell - and no nasty paper trail for evil-minded prosecutors to follow.

  3. The South lost the Civil War and found its slaves confiscated; the Indians lost their wars - but were allowed to retain their particular legal anomaly. Stupid white men indeed!

  4. Who are often individual millionaires - compared with derelicts who tend to populate non-gaming tribes' reservations. There is little or no sharing the wealth with tribes whose lands are stuck in the middle of nowhere.

  5. Some tribes refuse to deal with Schwarzenegger; and then there are the gringo casino operators. It's a whole big thing.

    I see I mentioned the upcoming initiatives on April 25 - with no evident relish to get into the detail!


Nation endorses Kerry, trashes his health care plan

Health care is a mass of technical detail - legal, administrative, medical - so impenetrable that specialist journos tend to rely on gee-whiz or scare stories and generalist political hacks stick like grim death to the talking-points du jour.

Everyone feels so much happier - journos and readers alike - spending man-aeons on bits of nonsense like Kerry's wild goose chase (did he kill a bird or not? answers on a postcard...).

The Nation offers a sidelight on the candidates' proposals as they affect the poorest Americans - and finds Kerry's plan for health care woefully inadequate - though nowhere near as bad as Bush's: both plans
do nothing to slow the cost of new drugs, treatments and machines, the major cause of healthcare inflation. Kerry does want the government to negotiate drug discounts for Medicare beneficiaries, a small step toward eventually imposing price controls on pharmaceuticals. But the plans include no mandates, no requirements, no enforcement teeth. Doctors' incomes would be safe; employers wouldn't need to provide coverage; insurers could still profit from selling policies; and drug companies could still reap a return that's the envy of every industry in the world.

At the same time, the mag endorses Kerry, supposedly as something better than the ABB candidate.

Transpondians, of whatever political hue, notoriously find inexplicable the stigma attached to universal state-provided health care in the US [1] - if socialised medicine is evil, how can socialised education be fine and dandy?

The supposedly French Kerry's health care policies would find favour nowhere this side of the Atlantic: eating Swiss cheese on one's cheesesteak [2] does not a European make.

Heigh ho...

  1. There is, of course, massive state provision in the US, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid - running at around 4% of GDP for Fiscal Year 2005 ($506 billion on $12.3 trillion - CBO numbers). (A useful October 21 New England Journal of Medecine article on Medicare funding.)

    And, to be fair, state provision is no panacea (a San Francisco Chronicle piece which compares the US with the Canadian health system, as part of a series on US health care, identifies shortages of cash - exacerbated by split Federal/provincial responsibility - and of personnel.

    But, despite universal coverage, health care costs in Canada absorb only 10% of GDP, compared with 14% in the US.) And a recent poll had 62% of Americans favouring moving to a Canadian-style system.

    Which suggests (druther alert!) that a Dem president with the right stuff might have been able to appeal to the American people over the heads of Congress and the healthcare industry. He might even have considered it a wedge issue with which to win back the House in 2006 (assuming it stays a GOP fief for the 109th). Perhaps, as with desegregation after World War 2, universal health care in the US is an idea whose time has come.

    As it is, we have the Kerry plan...

  2. If he did (it's a gag...).


A key difference between health care today and Jim Crow in the late 1940s and early 1950s is that the law was available as an engine of change to work towards desegregation - once the Federal courts decided to use it.

There is nothing external to the political process which the most powerful president could use to overcome the wall of money that the insurance companies, Big Pharma and the HMOs have at their disposal.

After Hillarycare, no president wants a failed health care plan on his resumé when re-election time comes round: so small is beautiful. And a second-term president is a lame duck walking - which would encourage the special interests to play for time.

Only - the NRA was fantasy on a par with Saddam being involved in 9/11 [1], but contained the substance of reforms - like the Wagner Act - which were eventually enacted and which passed constitutional muster.

Perhaps substantial progress towards universal health care in the US can only be made if a president is bold enough to propose the thing itself.

  1. Such that the Supreme Court could be unanimous in holding the National Industrial Recovery Act unconsitutional - liberals and Four Horsemen together (in the Schecter case).


Saddam, Al Qaeda and Kerry supporters: the bull point confirmed

There's been a modicum of crowing on the left side of the aisle (on Friday's Franken show, for instance) about the results of a PIPA survey The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters just released.

The comparison drawn is between the reality-based community (the mot du jour from the Ron Suskind article) to which Kerry supporters belong and the Bizarro World inhabited by Bush supporters - who believe both that Saddam had WMD and that the invasion would have been wrong if he hadn't [1].

The message to undecideds is clear: on November 2, you either cleave to the smart set or hang out with the morons. No brainer.

Except that - confirming earlier results [2] - the PIPA survey shows that a large minority of Kerry supporters have drunk the Bush Kool Aid too.

Last time, it was a third of Democrats who either believed that Saddam was involved in 9/11 or weren't sure that he wasn't. This time (p7), 8% of Kerry supporters say Saddam was directly involved in 9/11 and 22% that Saddam gave Al Qaeda substantial support.

That's fully 30% of Kerry supporters who willingly come out as paid-up members of the Bush Asylum Freak Show.

Now, that 75% of Bush supporters should also believe his absurdly counterfactual Iraq fantasies, though regrettable, is hardly suprising: love me, love my lunacy.

But those 30% of Kerry supporters are - well, cheering for the opposing team. And they are the guys who, if he wins, will be responsible for putting him over the top.

Now, a candidate takes his votes as they come; but, when it comes to Bush supporters' IQ levels or knowledge of current affairs - DEWDROP crowing needs a modicum of dialing back.

  1. Had Bush railed about Saddam's threat to Americans' precious bodily fluids, I suspect most of his supporters would have gone along with that as well...

  2. My piece of October 8.

Friday, October 22, 2004

What price President Pelosi?

In the game of Fantasy Electoral College, anything is possible. Even though Colorado's Proposition 36 seems to be sliding into the toilet , with all those new registrants, it will only take half a dozen states reasonably close in the popular vote for it to be plausible that the process will get mired in legal challenges.

And, with the intervention of Christmas, it is possible that this litigation would be far from settled by January 20.

The 20th Amendment provides that
the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

And that law - the Presidential Succession Act of 1948, now 3 USC 19 - provides that
If, by reason of...failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.

Now, although my sense is that the GOP should retain the House, their chances of losing control must be several times greater than there being no Prez or Veep ready to take their oaths on January 20.

So why not a pro tem President Pelosi? Which might not be wholly welcome to the woman in question, unless her seat in the House, and Speakership, could be kept warm for her. And if the legal wrangling continued into next summer, that might not be possible. (I'm not sufficiently motivated to research the point - yet.)

Looking on the bright side, though, if Pelosi got the gig, we could look forward to yet another movie from daughter Alexandra...

Of course, we have penetrated deep into Drutherland here: one prediction currently has Kerry winning 301-237 - leverage is intrinsic to the electoral college method.

But it could happen...


The rules for filling any vacancy in the House of Representatives are supplied by the state in which the district concerned is located.

(Why state law should regulate Federal elections I have always found bizarre - but there you go.)

In the case of La Pelosi, the applicable law would be the California Elections Code §§10701-10703, under which
  1. the Governor must proclaim a special election within 14 days of a vacancy arising; and

  2. the election must be held on the Tuesday falling between the 112th and 119th day following the proclamation.

Supposing Pelosi resigned on January 20 to become President, and Schwarzenegger proclaimed immediately: by my calculations, that would make election day May 17 2005.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Perlstein's Bush apocalypse a tad overdone - but Dems are spooked

Unlike the Yankees last night, a poorly-performing Bush is still managing to the keep the game tight: Ohio and Florida are still a tie. But that still makes him at best evens to lose [1].

For Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice (October 19), the tone suggests a thousand year 43rd Reich - under the apt hed and dek The End of Democracy/Losing America's birthright, the George Bush way.

As with most such pieces - which pride themselves on identifying some historical step-change - there's a lack of perspective.

For instance, Perlstein mentions Joseph McCarthy - as I regularly do - as an example of institutional media stenography from well before the era of Jodi Wilgoren and Nedra Pickler. And there are shout-outs for Nixon, Barry Goldwater and wartime Japanese-American internment.

But no analysis to justify the assertion that Bush's MO represents the end of an unbroken tradition.

For which one would need, firstly, to establish the essential components of the democracy that Bush was supposed to have ended, and, secondly, to demonstrate the continuity of those principles in the practice of previous administrations.

When, for instance, would he say democracy started? Surely not from the beginning of the Republic, when the president was chosen without reference to any popular mandate: but from which later date [2]?

And, again, how could such democracy have co-existed with Franklin Roosevelt's national machine, reliant as it was on criminal city and state machines and votes bought with public money through the WPA and the like?

Without this sort of historical grounding, one gets the equivalent of those Best Movies Ever polls - which regularly skew horribly towards recently released movies because those are the ones that most people remember most clearly.

Perlstein's piece is valuable, though, for the quotes from Democratic operatives on the generally supine Dem response to the Bush media operation.

Amazing how it seems generally to be impossible to get a pol to tell a journo the time of day without seeking the protection of anonymity - whereas these guys are happy, weeks away from the election, to put their names to some pretty abject white-flag waving.

For instance,
"It's what the folks in this business, we call an 'elite argument,' " says Jeff Shesol, who was a speechwriter for President Clinton and whose firm, West Wing Writers, develops messages for some of the most prominent Democratic campaigns. "It pitches too high to reach the mass electorate."

And Julian Epstein:
Most people would rather vote for the guy that stole the other guy's lunch money, rather than the guy who complained that his lunch money was stolen.

Perlstein calls this
self-fulfilling defeatism

But I'm reluctant to buy: even before the famous influx of Clintonistas at the beginning of September, the Kerry campaign was hardly staffed with girl scouts. The Swift Boat coup - and the Dem silent treatment it provoked - needs better explanation than this from Jeff Shesol:
"How is it that a month's worth of airtime is sucked up by the Swift Boat Veterans?" he asks, bewilderment in his voice. "How is it that a month of our national attention is consumed by this, and not some of these other questions, is a very difficult thing to explain. And until we can really understand how that happens, I don't know that we can effectively respond to it."

The stenographic media standard (he said, she said) would have worked for a Dem blow-for-blow response to the Swifties, for instance.

Another explanation, of course, is that these apparent fainthearts are anticipating a Kerry victory; they have every intention that a President Kerry will use exactly the same methods of media manipulation as Bush has done; and they don't want to come off as hypocritical when this becomes apparent.

(Pols? Hypocritical? Perhaps that one needs some work...)

  1. Leaving aside new registrants, the supposed tendency for undecideds to break for the challenger and other such factors which would tend to favour Kerry.

  2. As to freedom of the press - surely a key element of any definition of democracy - I noted only recently (October 12) that prior restraint had only been declared unconstitutional as late as 1927.


Arnie opposes three strikes reform - but it's polling 3:1 anyhow

In the past, I've devoted a good deal of space [1] to the abortion which is the California penal system. Early evidence suggested that the good people of the Golden State did not give a flying fuck about the matter, which rather sapped the enthusiasm.

The penal knee-jerk has not been wholly consistent: on April 18, I mentioned Proposition 36, passed in 2000, which enables some convicted of non-violent drug-related crimes to receive treatment rather than be incarcerated.

And the current Proposition 66 - reforming the three-strikes law - is polling around three to one in favour [2] - despite the ever-unpredictable Governor Schwarzenegger campaigning for Prop 66 to be rejected [3].

Joining Arnold (in this limited sense!) is, it seems, vile Dem Attorney-General Bill Lockyer, who famously expressed approval for rape as a method of jailhouse justice - and subsequently got reelected, if I recall aright, with an increased majority. (Prison rape jokes are, of course, a staple of the Hollywood fun factory.)

  1. More than a dozen pieces mentioning the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) alone.

    Amazing how few complaints one has heard from the DEWDROPs about this organization - Sinclair Broadcast is vilified whilst the CCPOA, an engine of corruption and violence which would reduce those classical Democrat evil-doers, Hague and Pendergast, to dumb admiration, gets off scot-free.

    Of course, the CCPOA are regular - so, in the cause of party unity, everything is permitted.

  2. A Field Poll last week
    reported that almost two-thirds of voters said they plan to vote the proposition into law, while only 18 percent said no.
  3. Schwarzi-watchers can no doubt tell whether this is triangulation, vacillation or histrionics.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Another liberal polling 'dirty secret': homo-marriage amendment

I commented earlier in the day (here and here) on a couple of odd polling results for liberal voters.

But - Ohio takes the biscuit.

As well as the close presidential race in the state [1], there is an initiative on the ballot (Issue 1) for a homo-marriage amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

Of course, it's the wedge issue du jour designed to excite the GOP base. The Federal version has no chance of Congressional approval in this universe: but out in the states, the appeal goes beyond the usual hard-right suspects.

Thus, in Ohio, likely voters lean in favour of Issue 1 48-45 - within the MOE, as with the presidential numbers.

But - 37% of Dems and 30% of self-styled liberals also support the initiative.

What's up with that? It can't be a prudential position like Negroes in the Old South professing to approve Jim Crow - there'd be no comeback on a liberal for supporting homo-marriage: it would be kinda expected, you'd have thought.

(In fact, if the word got out, I suspect the social penalty on some of these pro-Issue 1 liberals would be considerable.)

But surely, a homo-marriage amendment contradicts their core beliefs? As well as being as much a totem on the left as it is on the right.

Very odd.

  1. Mark Blumenthal has a theory, plus other interesting polling stuff.


Janeane Garofalo thinks Dana Milbank is a girl...

Just turned on her show to another item on reprobate journos. Milbank's name came up - and she referred to him as a she.

Is this her meds talking, I wonder? (During Rathergate, she speculated that CBS stood for Central Broadcasting...)


And the Dems who think Bush will win

According to the Washington Times today,
New polls by Gallup, Fox and ABC News have Mr. Bush ahead by eight, seven and five points, respectively. However, those same polls show the president leading by margins of 20, 17 and 23 on the question of who respondents expect to win the election.

And polls by Fox (!) and TIPP
Roughly one-quarter of Kerry supporters who have an opinion on the outcome of the election predict the Massachusetts Democrat will lose, according to polls by Fox News and the TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics (TIPP). By contrast, only one of 18 Bush supporters who have an opinion on the outcome expect the president to lose.

Interpretation of the result is, not surprisingly, disputed.

(A similar phenomenon was long (is still?) found in polls in the UK on adopting the Euro: persistent substantial majorities wishing to retain sterling and opining that the Euro would eventually replace it.)


Howie Kurtz gets the news about Santa

Here's a surprise for October: the Kerry campaign is making ads with the object of getting them discussed on free media.

Breaking news from Mr Conflict of Interest himself...

(In pieces on September 25 and September 29, I looked at presidential ad campaigns past, based on a Shorenstein paper which makes clear that the idea is very far from being novel.)

My recollection is that Lyndon Johnson's famous 1964 attack ad Daisy was only shown once in a handful of markets.

To be fair to Kurtz, from what he says, Kerry goes one better than Johnson - instead of a token buy, some of his ads that get free media attention aren't aired as ads at all. But the principle - why pay for what the broadcasters will give you for nothing - is the same.


The DEWDROPs that go for George

Fact or artefact? The latest ABC tracking poll identifies a facially amazing demo: the liberal Dems who plan to vote for Bush.

The numbers: 36% of the sample were Dems, of which 30% stated themselves to be liberal, of which 5% are currently nestling in the Bush column. Supposing 120 million voters on November 2, that would make around 650,000 of these aberrants casting a ballot for Bush - assuming they hadn't had second thoughts.

I'm not following the registration hi-jinks: but my recollection is that this is not unadjacent to the total that ACT and the like have added to the rolls.

Has this demo been focus-grouped to explore exactly what Bush is doing right to get their vote?


Bush's softly softly on race: an explanation, perhaps?

In naiver days, I was disappointed by (and have oft bemoaned) the limp and ineffectual response of the Bush administration to the University of Michigan affirmative action cases Grutter and Gratz.

Now, Emil Guillermo in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests a reason: voter suppression.

In a piece on campaign fear-mongering, he says that neither Ds nor Rs want to get non-white voters excited enough to vote.

And, unless they are excited, they won't vote - much. He takes his text from Proposition 187: Davis won in 1998, he says, on the back of Hispanics' anti-Wilson sentiment, but then the vote slumped back:
Exit polls show that the percentage of voters who are members of minority groups actually dropped between 1998 and 2002, from 36 percent to just 24 percent.

(Those are CA numbers, of course.)

The argument for the Dems wanting to suppress the non-white vote is fear
that being branded the minority party will cost them white votes.

(Kerry's handling of the affirmative question in the third debate is given as an example of reluctance to play the race card.)

How does one accommodate Dem rimming of Sharpton in this? (Not to mention his off the reservation speech at the Convention...) I suspect, because - to the limited extent it registers on the average voter's radar, it's accepted as a meaningless Dem tribal ritual.

A Danegeld is paid in the form of affirmative action; but that's somehow been factored in, such that significant majorities of whites poll in favour of AA [1]. And there was a flood of amicus briefs from corporate America supporting AA in the Michigan cases. Rocking the boat bad for business, apparently.

Another theory - on the GOP side - has it that its core constituency is well-differentiated: it does not have a slate of conservative views which must be accommodated, but rather, particular individuals have their own single issues that override all other considerations. The Bush administration's milkiness on AA is no bar to the support of, say, an anti-abortionist.

Which, given the paramount role of race throughout American political history, is somewhat surprising.

More research needed, evidently.

  1. Depending of the question asked. A 2003 Pew survey (done just before the Supremes decided the Michigan cases) is interesting. Amongst the surprising stats (p5) is that, whilst white men oppose AA 49-52, white women support it 60-28. (Not explained by Title IX: only 3% of white women said (p3) that they had been helped by AA.)


Colombia: US military adviser caps raised (with Dem help, natch)

Colombia, rightly or wrongly, hasn't drawn my attention for a good many months. Whenever I pop over to the Conflito armado index page of El Tiempo, a handy place to monitor what's going on, neither the military nor the political stories there tend to get the juices flowing.

However, a piece in the Nation yesterday mentions a little noticed (entirely unnoticed by your humble blogger!) provision in the Defense appropriations bill passed (§1021 of HR 4200 - the (I kid you not!) Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005) before the recess which increases to 800 (from 400 - apparently) the limit on the number of military advisers assigned to Plan Colombia [1].

(In this, Vietnam Commemoration Edition, election campaign, one might recall that the Geneva limit on adviser to the South Vietnamese military was 685.)

Kerry, we know, is a supporter of the War on Drugs [2], and has Rand Beers, Mr Fumigation, as one of his top foreign policy advisers. No change to be expected if Kerry wins.

The Dem resistance to the increase, by comparison, verges on the heroic: Sen Byrd's amendment (SA 3423) establishing a cap of 500 on both military advisers and contractors was defeated 58-40.

One R (Fitzgerald) voted for the amendment; the RINOs and nine Dems against - and not the slate of usual suspects either: Landrieu and Lincoln voted for, Hillary voted against.

And the presidential ticket? Kerry performed his usual Macavity - but Edwards voted for the amendment!

Just a curio, I'm sure...

  1. A similar cap on civilian contractors was raised from 400 to 600 by the same provision.

  2. A page on Bush/Kerry positions on the WoD.


MTV have a docco tonight (October 20) which looks at Bush and Kerry's positions on drug policy. A real spot the difference competition...

Alexander Cockburn has a piece in the New Left Review on the left's vow of silence on criticising Kerry - including on the WoD.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Kerry's Mary Cheney crack

[Oh, please!]

Being out of the loop for a couple of days, I missed the head of steam being generated.

All sorts of fun to be had. A plangent quote dredged up from the archives from one Chastity Bono (!), for instance
I still kind of believed in this idea of politicians caring about people and voting based on a belief system of their own, as opposed to really a bunch of people who are really trying to keep their jobs. [Politicians] are really concerned with power and career, and that completely takes over anything else.

The idea that all American morons are crackers who call their mother Auntie clearly in need of revisiting.

The answer to the hardy perennial from Joseph Welch - Have you no decency? - is, natch, Duh! I'm a politician.

Thus, the most convincing explanation I've seen for Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney in the third debate is an exercise in voter suppression - pointing out to the Christian-nutter bedrock of GOP support that the Veep willingly grasps a viper to his bosom.

Even Kerry lackeys are buffing their hardball credentials - mouthpiece Stephanie Cutter referring to La Cheney as fair game.

Not excessively sisterly language...

And, apparently, it wasn't only the Dittoheads who took exception - it seems, 64% said Kerry's mot was inappropriate.

Perhaps this is the October Surprise: a self-inflicted Blighty one from JFK. Only going to show that Treebeard was, indeed, too clever by half. Or perhaps, just ballast for the news-hole.

The merits are, of course, by the by: Mary Cheney is not Emma Claire Edwards, being a KC04 campaign operative - strictly off camera - and out of the closet. No doubt she is fair game - as if fairness would be any sort of bar!

Metropolitan sophisticates knew she was a devotee of Sappho, and would not have been shocked by Kerry's reference; but it would apparently have come as a surprise to KE that most other Americans didn't know La Cheney from Eve - far less her sexual predilections. That many flyover denizens think Kerry 'outed' the girl is hardly a surprise.

Can one look forward to a diminution in DEWDROP sanctimony as a result of the blatantly cynical Kerry homo-coup?

(I'm fairly sure that Prince of Darkness Tom DeLay would be puzzled over what the fuss was about...)

[URL dump: this, this, this, this, this, this and this.


Oregonian and media morality

The old oxymoron. For a century and more, British readers of the popular press (News of the World a pioneer), which morphed into the Murdoch tabloid press, have enjoyed the twofer of high moral dudgeon over exquisitely detailed salacious and often dubiously sourced scandal stories.

The Oregonian's contribution to the genre in a piece raking up three-decades.old allegations of sexual assault against OR-1 Dem Rep David Wu. Even the rag's ombud's treatment comes down against the piece.

(Suggestions that the paper may have run the story to justify the costs of the investigation; or because of criticism that it failed to pursue allegations against former Governor Neil Goldschmidt and Senator Bob Packwood [1].)

  1. An AJR article .


New Yorker profiles Note's Halperin

Amazing that the Note's Mark Halperin should have got an 8,000 word write-up given that (it appears) the page only gets around 30,000 hits a day (generally including your humble blogger.)

(His father, Morton Halperin gets some space - he was appointed at the age of 29 to the DOD - in 1967!)

The scribe, David Grann, after some breathless yards of day-in-the-life, turns out to be jaded about the trivialising tendencies of the gee-whizzery [1]: the copy-editor catches the mood of the piece with the hed: Inside Dope.

  1. The page lets its readers work out their coolness factor by the allusions it makes: the more of them that you get, the closer you are to the inside track. By Halperin
    The Note can function on at least two levels—something for insiders and something for hyper-insiders.
    Cliques within cliques.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Message to the left on Sinclair: Don't bleat, buy!

What was Bill Clinton thinking when he signed broadcasting ownership deregulation into law in 1996? (As voted for by vast majorities of Democrats in Congress - see piece from yesterday.)

Surely he must have expected the VRWC to use its financial muscle to put together right-wing media groups dedicated to the Goldwaterite New World Order?

And surely also, that his own people would not make a profession of bellyaching from the bleachers.

More of the same from Eric Boehlert in Salon, rounding up the grievance choir's a cappella work.

Of course, from this side of the pond, it seems weird that a broadcasting company can acquire a bunch of stations for the purpose of turning out partisan propaganda.

But then, we think it odd that, in America's 'national sport', teams are not only permitted to brawl on the field of play with impunity, but such rough-housing is practically obligatory!

In both cases - however crazy they may seem - rules are rules.

There was such a thing as the fairness doctrine enforced by the FCC; there were strict limits on station ownership. The former was removed in 1987 when there was a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress [1]; the latter were relaxed in a bill signed by a Democratic president.

And, where first there was Rush, now there is Franken. Fairness is neither offered nor expected. Fox News pumps out GOP propaganda.

The fairness doctrine has gone the way of the USSR and Betamax.

The good news is that Sinclair Broacast - as Boehlert points out - is on the skids. And this has caused much rejoicing in DEWDROP-land.

Nowhere, though, have I seen it suggested that this be capitalised on by the likes of George Soros getting together a syndicate to buy Sinclair and use its 62 stations for Dem propaganda [2]. (Is it possible that the targeting of Sinclair advertisers and mutual fund investors may just be for the very capitalistic purpose of running the stock price down? Surely not...)

  1. Interestingly, a bill (apparently) to restore the fairness doctrine, S 742, was passed in 1987 and vetoed by Reagan. (Bill text not available on THOMAS.)

    The DC Circuit got to pass on the FCC's decision in 1989 in Syracuse Peace Council v FCC.

    Of course, Clinton had the entire 103rd Congress with majorities in both house in which to restore the doctrine, had he so wished.

  2. I can find no list of current stockholders - the SEC site is a closed book to me! This list of mutual fund and pension fund stockholders covers less than 40% of total stock. I suspect that there may be a class of stock with special voting rights that is closely held. Taking over Sinclair may be a job of work - before the bankruptcy laws kick in, that is...


A selection of pieces on Sinclair from the 1990s.

According to a 1996 piece from Forbes,
Owning 82% of the Baltimore-based company, Smith's family is worth at least $1.1 billion.
At that stage,
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., controls 28 television stations and 34 radio stations in 15 states.

Presumably, subsequent expansion has necessitated a dilution of the family's equity in the company. But I'm guessing that, with trusts and foundations, they still comfortably control it.

(There's plenty of info in the pieces linked: it may be that the answer is to be found therein - when I get round to reading the stuff!)


I now have Sinclair's current 10-K.

It says that
Holders of Class A Common Stock are entitled to one vote per share and holders of Class B Common Stock are entitled to ten votes per share except for votes relating to “going private” and certain other transactions.

According to a 2001 Business Week piece,
the Smiths control 91% of the Class B voting stock.

As far as a liberal coup is concerned, therefore, it will be bankruptcy first, takeover afterwards!

I've an idea FCC licences for stations automatically come up for review when there is a change in control of the company owning them.

Clearly, we're deep into the Land of Druthers...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Sinclair Broadcasting and a free news media: credit where credit's due

Chances are, in a few days, the usual festival of wailing and gnashing of teeth will take place throughout New England as the Curse claims another Red Sox dash at the Yankees.

In much the same spirit comes 1,800 words of bellyaching from the Times' Frank Rich on what Big Bad George has done to the news media.

Mostly, it's self-serving bollocks: a doomed plea of duress to the charge, in particular, that his employers aided and abetted Bush's illegal Iraq invasion, and, in general, that the news media have given a stenographically supine coverage to the Administration's activity as a whole.

Just like Bush, Rich needs some Big Lies. (Or rather, manipulations of the truth.) To read his piece, one would suppose that every other administration than Nixon's and Bush 43's acted like baa-lambs to the media [1]. And that the media was doing a bang-up job before Nixon started to send round the boys. Rather than being the conformist jobsworths who kept mum over the Bay of Pigs and the escalation in Vietnam until long after it was too late to stop the lurch towards disaster.

And the analogy fails to hold in more than one respect: Rich cites the Patrick Fitzgerald investigations into Plamegate and the Islamic charities cases [2] and the FCC's campaign against broadcast indecency (much discussed here); but the media adopted their full-on kow-tow to Bush well before either of them got underway.

And - be it said - the FCC indecency campaign got bipartisan adulation. If it were simply a tool for the benefit of the Administration, why would Nancy Pelosi and those 172 Democrats in the House (March 12) have given it their seal of approval?

Even Rich talks about
a pattern of media intimidation that's been building for months now
Yet the kow-tow has been going on for years!

Of course, as described in Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece, Bush and Co have managed the national news media from the viewpoint that they have no legitimacy as representatives of their readers and viewers. And they've had the benefit of operations like that of Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council to email and fax news outlets and regulators into submission. Freepers and bloggers have acted as francs-tireurs in the battle, in cases like Rathergate.

I believe they call that politics. (Dems have found some of these techniques came in handy for post-debate spin.)

But, for Rich,
It's hard to imagine an operation more insidious than Mr. Murdoch's, but the Sinclair Broadcast Group may be it.

And part of the reason for it being insidious may be that, as he says,
this company gets little press scrutiny because it is invisible in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, where it has no stations.

Remember the Susan Moeller analysis of Iraqi WMD coverage: she said that Knight Ridder did outstanding work, but, because none of their titles were in NYC, DC or LA, it was deemed beneath the notice of the papers there - including Rich's own, putrid New York Times.

To suggest that NASDAQ-listed Sinclair is somehow inaccessible to the Times and its fellow top papers is special pleading that insults the intelligence.

Sinclair's sin is to be partisan and widespread: thus, Stolen Honor (the latest Swiftie-style attack piece on Kerry) will be run by each of its 62 TV stations - some of which have the temerity to be located in swing states!

But he does not pause to ponder why such an enterprise was allowed to grow so powerful in the first place: the Telecommunications Act of 1996, PL 104-104, signed by Clinton, and voted for by - admire the irony! - none other than the Democratic candidate himself.

Without the Act, Sinclair would be just a shadow of its current self.

Rich's nauseating spin infantilises the media - and, by extension - those who read or view it. The part that the threat of legal coercion has played in USG news management has been small: the rest is politics and business. The Times - as I've reiterated often - chose to use felon Chalabi's fantasies because it would pay better than challenging them. The best interests of NYT Co. stockholders require a reasonably cordial relationship between the administration and the paper.

The paper could, as it did in the Pentagon Papers affair, have decided to take on USG - but it didn't. It thought the Primrose Path would pay better.

I'd hypothesise that, in recent months, media coverage has grown more hostile to Bush (Adam Nagourney and Jodi Wilgoren notwithstanding!). Yet this is precisely the period over which Rich says the pattern of media intimidation has been building!

Isn't it rather more likely that it's the fall in the value of Bush Common as the market contemplates a change of CEO that has made the media a bit more willing to challenge the the Administration?

  1. This paper (PDF) includes the tale of the DNC under Kennedy which organised a scam using the fairness doctrine to curb criticism from right-wing broadcaster, through the mechanism of the innocuous-sounding Citizens Committee for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

  2. By name, the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Red Sox suckered by Schilling?

First, it was the British submarines palmed off to the Canadian navy by the MOD's Arthur Daley.

And now - from enemy territory - we get a hint of the truth of that other Deal of the Century by which Yankee-killer Curt Schilling was brough to Fenway by Sox GM Theo Epstein, who
sat in the visitors' dugout the other day and recalled those Thanksgiving contract extension negotiations with Schilling, who represented himself.

"I went into his office to type up the agreement and saw his copy of 'Negotiating for Dummies' sitting on his desk," Epstein said.

Uh oh...

Schilling looks as if he's out of the postseason. And will his team be long in joining him?


Anti-semitism bill: another walkover for the Jewish lobby

Its powers of whipping legislators exceed even those of evil genius Tom DeLay. And the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 (S 2292) is one of those regularly administered loyalty tests that no legislator can afford to flunk.

The substance of the bill - to get the State Department to do a report on anti-semitic acts round the world, and set up an office to monitor such acts - is beside the point: the purpose of the bill is to compel a genuflection - and the lack of any roll call annouces mission accomplished.

I can trace no comment from the Kerry campaign on this bill; but since he is AIPAC's golden boy (July 20) - for good reason - I suspect that he would have had no difficulty in voting for the bill, if called upon to do so [1].

  1. Whether he was present to add his moniker to required unanimous consent agreements, I know not.


The arabush-lovers over at State don't like the bill. Cherry on the cake for the lobby!


Holbrooke dissenting from Kerry policy on Darfur?

In the first debate in Florida, Kerry appeared to leave open the possibility that US forces might be deployed to the Sudan in roles going beyond logistical support to African Union peacekeeping troops:
I think the reason that we're not saying send American troops in at this point is severalfold...

But I'll tell you this, as president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I'd be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda.

Precisely what
coalesce the African Union
means, I don't think Kerry explained. But if Kerry had meant to restrict the proposed role of US forces to logistical support, he could have said so [1].

Now, I see a piece reprinted from Sunday's Cleveland Plain-Dealer under hed Pre-Emptive War Policy is Dangerous, No Matter Who's Pushing It, which focuses on the bipartisan nature of pre-emption in US foreign policy.

(Nice bellicose quotes from Clinton's Madeleine Albright and William Cohen!)

Top Kerry foreign policy man Richard Holbrooke apparently paid a call on the Plain-Dealer's ed board last week.

He boasts about Clinton's exercise in the waging of illegal war in Kosovo [1].

But is downright on Darfur:
Darfur - just Darfur - is the size of France. It's out in the open. American troops would not do well there. But American logistical support, airlift, communications, transportation and support of an African Union force might work.

It is too much to hope that Kerry, as candidate or president, would disown the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in so many words - even though the damage it did to the UN process and the law of war was a contributory factor to the Iraq débâcle.

But Kerry's promising to refuse to send forces to the Sudan in other than logistical roles would be a welcome sign of realism.

Holbrooke is already almost there.

  1. In his September 3 statement on Darfur, he did precisely that:
    We should contribute sufficient funds and the logistical support the African Union needs to accomplish this mission.

  2. Liberals who were ringing the bells when the US Security Council was elbowed aside on the basis of the spurious doctrine of humanitarian intervention in the Kosovo matter were wringing their hands when Bush did a number on the Council over Iraq - on the equally spurious basis that failure to comply with UN resolutions could justify the use of force under the UN Charter.


Holbrooke seems to have been a model of consistency on the point, to judge from this and this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Voter fraud, West Virginia-style

The BBC had a little colour piece last night on the electoral practices of Logan County, WV - and the part played by the likes of "Big Daddy" Ellis and "Big John" Mendez.

The authorities have (rather unsportingly) prosecuted Big John for voter fraud (second conviction):
Sheriff Mendez indicated he paid anywhere from $10 to $100 each for votes, spending $12,000 in the two elections.

And ex-mayor Big Daddy boasts of his exploits in delivering Logan County to John Kennedy in the 1960 West Virginia primary
by handing out half-pints and $5 bills.

(Logan County broke 61-38 for Gore in 2000. With the state within the MOE, will Kerry be benefiting from Big Daddy's techniques, in Logan and elsewhere, on November 2?)


AP reported on September 16 that
Six people have been charged so far in a federal probe of vote-buying and related fraud in southern West Virginia...

As a result,
Logan County's Democratic Executive Committee has decided to scale back its get-out-the-vote efforts.

"There will be no election workers this time," said Swansey "Dickie" Evans, the county's party chairman. "Over the years, the committee would hire one person per precinct, but we're not doing that this time. The committee just doesn't want to do it."

I bet they don't!

(Does everyone have a nickname in Logan?)


700 scholars decry Bush foreign policy: no comment on Kerry's

Crooked Timber notes a round-robin from, currently, 689 academics which says
We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period...

It decries not only USG's execution of the Iraq invasion but the fact that it took place at all:
Many of the justifications offered by the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq have been proven untrue by credible studies, including by U.S. government agencies...The Administration knew most of these facts and risks before the war, and could have discovered the others, but instead it played down, concealed or misrepresented them.

In content, nothing new - a lowest common denominator approach required to get so many signatories, no doubt. And the conclusion is weak:
...we believe that a fundamental reassessment is in order. Significant improvements are needed in our strategy in Iraq and the implementation of that strategy. We call urgently for an open debate on how to achieve these ends, one informed by attention to the facts on the ground in Iraq, the facts of al-Qaida’s methods and strategies, and sober attention to American interests and values.

Nevertheless, it's something to wave about [1].

A pity, with so many experts addressing the same text, that they could not have spared a word for Kerry's policy on Iraq, in particular his heartwarming but implausible suggestion that his diplomatic diplomacy might secure worthwhile help from allies [2].

Some well-argued testimonials from disinterested experts sorely needed on this point - by me, at least!

(Around a couple of dozen earlier pieces here examining Kerry's foreign policy and personnel.)

  1. Unfortunate visions of Neville Chamberlain after Munich...

    I know none of these guys from Adam, to judge from the first few: it would have helped if a handful of headliners had been - well, headlined. Otherwise, it's a case of never mind the quality, feel the width.

  2. His NYU speech of September 20.


DEWDROPs say No more Mr Nice Guy. (It says here...)

All politics are crooked [1]. Whatever the location, the era, the system of government, the rule holds. Some corruption will be criminalised, some morally stigmatised, still more accepted as according to Hoyle.

And, as they say, everything's bigger in America. The roll call of corruption is so long that even a kibitzer can pick up a litany: Crédit Mobilier, the Tweed Ring [2], Teapot Dome - various political machines (mostly Democratic [3]), some of which were a key element in Franklin Roosevelt's national machine [4].

But wishful thinking supposes that it is possible to do politics by the Marquess of Queensbury's rules [5]. And the delusion is compounded by Gunnar Myrdal's American Dilemma - the particular propensity of Americans to make grandiose political statements that no one is expected to take literally, if at all:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal
being only the most notable example [6].

And, currently, liberals measure their moral comfort zone by their distance from the practices of that Modern Machiavelli, Tom DeLay. They would put nothing past him [7]. By comparison, they are choirboys. A comparison which damns DeLay, but gives them a whole lot of room for manoeuvre.

Now, Kos and the (some, at least) Kossacks have apparently decided to get down in the gutter with the GOP - starting with some dirt on the GOP candidate for NY-29, one John Kuhl [8].

Is this wise? Rove, DeLay and Co are clearly not held back by their own Jiminy Crickets from unloading the slurry cart on their opponents. It's perceptions of likely voter reaction that would be the main limiting factor, I'm thinking.

And, if the Dems are perceived as having escalated the war, voters might well think that justified a compensating escalation on the GOP side (even if the GOP is already much higher up the ladder.)

Plus Dem escalation might make weaker GOP brethren more sanguine about dishing Dem dirt.

  1. In honour of pre-decimal currency, Brits and Aussies of a certain age might say bent as a nine bob note. (There never was such a thing: there was a ten bob note (bob = shilling) which - the UK version, at least - had a rather short life.) Homosexuality and corruption described by the same slang phrase - the makings of a Ph D thesis there, surely...

  2. A short list of Gilded Age corruption.

  3. From memory, only Pennsylvania contained comparable GOP operations.

  4. As discussed here several times before.

    What looks, from the most cursory inspection, to be an excellent series of a dozen papers from a July 2004 conference Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's History. What is online are drafts - whether the URLs will go dead when the papers are finally published, I know not.

    Also this - World Net Daily! - on D.C. press galleries' history of corruption.

  5. On which Don King is, of course, a noted expert.

  6. Politicians of all nations talk bollocks all the time: Myrdal - I haven't got his book to hand - seeks to distinguish this universal condition from the peculiarly virulent American strain of the disease. (Myrdal is concerned with race, of course; but comparable dilemmas occur in other fields too. In foreign policy, for instance: crusading on behalf of our little brown brothers has usually come with a United Fruit Company sponsorship.)

  7. Except that I've not seen it alleged anywhere that DeLay has ordered anyone to be clipped. The desperation to muddy the guy's name may be judged from this piece - alleging a lameass 'connection' with a mob hit.

    (The same piece mentions that DeLay funds have taken wampum from gaming Indians.)

  8. (Savour the censer-swinging explanation of the guy putting the 'incriminating' JPEGs online: from the style, I suspect him of authoring the anonymity pretexts for the New York Times...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Now the Senate passed the corporate tax bill

Just for the record - the Post's piece (mine of yesterday).

The final approval came 69-17, with (by my rough count) 25 Dems voting for - including Hillary this time!

The question of FDA jurisdiction over tobacco - over which Ted Kennedy threatened that filibuster - will be dealt with in a separate bill, apparently, and will be voted on. Is that a Greek Kalends job?

In the Home of the Brave, another triumph for business as usual from the Not So Brave.


Colorado EV initiative: now polling neck and neck

Last time we looked (October 8), Proposition 36 was riding high, 51-36.

A SurveyUSA poll released yesterday makes the spread 45-44, with a 4.5 point MOE.

I note with interest that Prop 36 has attracted the attention of the gurus at the Note - who put out an APB to readers for legal advice on the constitutional issues (hard times at Mousewitz?). If passed, it's worth just four votes to the loser - so it's only relevant in the tightest of Electoral Colleges...

On the legal question, a cursory search produces no sign of constitutional challenges to changes to the law in Maine (1969) and Nebraska (1991) whereby, in each state, two EVs are given to the statewide winner, and one EV to the winner of each Congressional district in the state.

Ron Brownstein's Making Every Vote Count Would Be a Tricky Proposition yesterday suggests as particular vulnerabilities in the Colorado case the facts that
  1. the law is to be changed by initiative, rather than by the state legislature (Article II(1)(2)); and

  2. the initiative is expressed to be retroactive to the 2004 presidential election.

As far as presidential polling in Colorado is concerned, this summary shows a mixed picture: SurveyUSA and Mason-Dixon giving Bush an 8-9 point lead, Zogby and - wait for it! - Gallup giving a Kerry 1 point lead and a tie respectively.

The Doomsday scenario, of course, is that Bush loses in CO, but the four EVs he picks up thanks to Prop 36 take him to 270. The deflation of the smugness I suspect in the California carpetbaggers behind the initiative [1] would be a sight to behold!

Do you think they would back a Dem fight to declare their own initiative unconstitutional? Or would they choose principle and weigh in on the side of the GOP?

Great craic!

  1. Known as The People's Choice for President. I had read (May 31) this group was based in San Francisco. Time says Phoenix, apparently.


I'm not clear how scorched earth postseason play is going to get. Both parties are going to have no shortage of lawyers in on the ground wherever the popular vote could conceivably be close. And Parkinson's Law is liable to apply.

(Plus these are not exactly campaigns who've been paying overly much attention to the Marquess of Queensbury!)

So, suppose Kerry wins the Electoral College by 30 15 [20 EVs split two ways only go so far!]. What are the chances of one of the Red states learning a trick from Colorado: Ohio, which has a Republican Governor and a GOP-controlled House and Senate, could introduce a bill requiring its EVs to be split proportionately, with effect from 2004, as proposed in CO's Prop 36.

(Both Houses are sitting in November and December [1].)

No doubt, at least one Blue state would take up the challenge - Illinois, say - and all hell would break out.

We're clearly in druther (or TV movie) territory here: but then I can't remember that Florida 2000 was widely predicted.

  1. Research via the National Conference of State Legislatures site - which has a links page with links to the several state sites.

    It also has a piece which links to charts showing the state of the parties in all state legislatures, and the party affiliation of the governors.


Times panjandrums sermonise on Miller-Plame

It's not often, I suspect, one sees
By ARTHUR OCHS SULZBERGER JR., chairman and publisher, and RUSSELL T. LEWIS, chief executive, The New York Times
in the 'newspaper of record'.

And no bad thing too, if their effort yesterday is anything to go by. The lede sets the tone:
Last Thursday, a federal district judge ordered a New York Times reporter, Judy Miller, sent to prison. Her crime was doing her job as the founders of this nation intended. Here's what happened and why it should concern you.


(Since when is she referred to in the paper by that diminutive? No doubt it tested well in focus groups - the Big Bad Administration (of Georgie Bush, that would be) picking on poor lil' Judy.)

After reciting the facts, the pair get onto their pitch:
The press simply cannot perform its intended role if its sources of information - particularly information about the government - are cut off. Yes, the press is far from perfect. We are human and make mistakes. But, the authors of our Constitution and its First Amendment understood all of that and for good reason prescribed that journalists should function as a "fourth estate."

Thus, an industry casually shriven of two hundred odd years of abuses. And the fourth estate was held so dear in the American polity that - to give but one example - it was a mere 140 years from the making of the First Amendment before the unconstitutionality of prior restraint was established [1].

On such delusional foundations, it is hard to build anything of value. The piece calls on
Congress to follow the lead of the states and enact a federal shield law for journalists.

An OJR piece says that
Congress, meanwhile, has never enacted a federal shield law, though dozens of bills have been introduced.
and quotes an ASNE counsel as saying
Unfortunately it's a difficult thing to get accomplished because media organizations really want an absolute privilege and a lot of legislators want a limited privilege that would apply only when absolutely needed, in certain circumstances for certain people. That has made it difficult to get a groundswell of support.

It is just possible that the reason why Branzburg is such a dog's breakfast is precisely because delimiting a reporter's privilege that respects the citizen's right to see the law effectively enforced is so damned difficult!

Displays of outrage from the scarcely disinterested locale of the NYTCo's executive suite are scarcely likely to assist.

(Since this mythical statute would not - surely? - be retrospective, it wouldn't do La Miller much good, either.)

  1. In Near v Minnesota.


On the substantive issue, I'm handicapped in forming an opinion by ignorance of the res.

One or two potentially interesting URLs (the first two PDF) have cropped up that might serve to fill the void: a January 2004 law review article Protecting Journalists from Compelled Disclosure: A Proposal for a Federal Statute by Jennifer Elrond; a 2000 Joan Shorenstein Center article The Reporter's Privilege: Then and Now by Stephen Bates; a site The Reporter's Privilege ("a complete compendium of information on the reporter's privilege"); a short piece on reporters' shield laws: a 2002 AJR piece on the Vanessa Leggett saga.

Earlier pieces here on Plame and reporters' privilege August 10, August 13 and August 20.

MORE (December 17)

Some more interesting URLs, mostly PDF:

A 2004 law review article by Edward L Carter Reporter's Privilege in Utah.

A New York City Bar Association paper on The Federal Common Law of Journalists' Privilege.

A piece from an emanation of the ABA on the Valerie Leggett case, with some history of reporter's privilege.

A law review article by Leslie Warren A Critique of an Illegal Conduct Limitation on the Reporters' Privilege Not to Testify.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Kinsley skewers source absolutism

An excellent op-ed (that quasi-oxymoron) from Michael Kinsley yesterday on the Bush-level simplistic lack-of-analysis fuelling media outrage over the Miller-Plame contempt ruling:
It is certainly true that anonymous sources are a valid and important tool of journalism. It is also true that undercover agents are a valid and important tool of espionage. Journalism and espionage both serve the public interest, most of the time. Does the journalism profession really want to get into an argument about whose secrets are more important? That is the argument it is careening toward with the insistence that the legal system should allow journalists absolute protection for their sources, even if that leaves espionage with no legal protection at all.

It's hard to see any likely panel of the Supreme Court granting such absolute protection. Branzburg v Hayes certainly doesn't (October 9).

And of course one must fight the temptation to allow the issue to be clouded by the utterly cynical use made by the New York Times (with Judith Miller as front-man) of patently unreliable sources (Ahmed Chalabi, most notably) for the purpose of ingratiating itself with the Bush administration [1], reckless (to be charitable) that it was thereby easing the path towards an illegal invasion.

Tim Rutten, also writing in the LA Times, under hed Sources of much dismay, suggests the way out surely most congenial to most parties: seeing the DC Circuit overturning Judge Thomas Hogan's decision on the basis that the facts of the case do not meet the Branzburg three-part test.

Now, I have no idea about Rutten's legal expertise: but he raises my interest in his line of argument almost to the level of doing some research. (Plenty of time for that, I fancy...)

  1. So notorious was Chalabi, so palpable the deception being practised by USG - viewed without any assistance from hindsight - that any argument of inadvertence or negligence is laughably indefensible. Res ipsa loquitur.


Corporate tax bill cloture passed in Senate

[Following up earlier pieces - latest October 8 . see CORRECTION below.]

I assume (the Congressional Record on THOMAS updated only to Thursday) that there was a filibuster of a sorts mounted by Ted Kennedy and friends, because, otherwise, there would have been no reason for the cloture motion which passed yesterday 66-14; one can hardly blame the Johns for not voting, given that only 11 Dems had the decency to oppose the motion.

The Roll of Shame (more properly, the Roll of Business-As-Usual) was:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Breaux (D-LA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Daschle (D-SD)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Miller (D-GA)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

That is, 24 Dems, including the Majority Leader, chose expediency and supported the motion.

(For those, like me, not entirely on top of the cloture rule (Rule XXII), the requirement to pass is
three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn
- not voting counts as a vote against.)

The Dems who voted to go along were by no means confined to the DINO tendency: for instance, why Schumer? He's rated a Populist Liberal by On the Issues - and the Mesabi Range of corporate giveaways contained in the bill were scarcely either populist or liberal! (Hillary was among the non-voters, in case you were wondering.)

How, one wonders, will the 24 Dems account for their votes to their electorates? And what about the far greater number of House Dems who approved the bill?

Of course, I am shocked only in the Captain Reynaud sense. But when one hears DEWDROPs bleating in apocalyptic terms about the need to take back Congress, remembering the likes of the HR 4520 cloture vote provides the necessary carload of salt with which such Hammond organ exercises ought to be taken.

It's not, of course, that they're all the same; but, at times like this, the similarities do seem rather to outnumber the differences...


The Post's take on the Senate approval of the bill.


Homer seems to have a touch of narcolepsy at the moment! Of course, what had passed on Sunday was merely the cloture motion. (I say merely...)


Laura Flanders' bizarre diction

The Air America weekend host speaks on air as if she's being fed her lines a word at a time down her talkback.

(British readers hearing her would recall the style of long-time Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker; take that down a few decibels (too few for comfort) and you have it.)

I had assumed this to be some sort of talk radio artefact: anticipating interference on AM radio, car noise, not to mention the desire at all costs to sound different from NPR, and the like.

But I then heard a couple of clips of Flanders on a BBC programme on the writing and performing partnership between her father, Michael Flanders, and Donald Swann. And her diction was pretty much identical to her AAR style.

Her sister, Stephanie Flanders, who has cropped up here once or twice, talks a natural, rather fruity, not-quite-RP on the BBC.

The bio show said, which I hadn't realised, that it was Swann who eventually decided to bring the partnership to a close: he had other things he wanted to do and other people he wanted to work with. Whereas polio victim Flanders missed the roar of the greasepaint - one sensed abundant bitterness and disappointment there.

(Transcripts of all the F & S material here.)

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