Man Without Qualities


Friday, July 25, 2003


Being Paul Krugman

Let's see. Paul Krugman's most recent column is out.

As I predicted yesterday (Thursday) - in a post that went up while he was writing the column - it is not about the dramatic and unexpected decline in jobless claims reported yesterday, although that is what a serious economist interested in politically significant developments would write about. No. The column is not about any of that because, as I also predicted, it is about the declining bond market (it's even titled "Dropping the Bonds") and how the United States is on its way to becoming the next Argentina (a country not mentioned by name, this time, but whose brooding omnipresence I take to be clearly implied by Herr Doktorprofessor's scathing reference to America's descent into debt) and, of course, that its all George Bush's fault - and especially how Alan Greenspan is the President's "accomplice" in all this economic mayhem who "has a lot to answer for."

Now the word "accomplice" has all kinds of conspiratorial connotations. And Herr Doktorprofessor ups the conspiratorial ante with: Let's not forget that back in 2001, Mr. Greenspan lent crucial political aid to the first Bush tax cut ... he tied himself in knots to find a way to give his political friends what they wanted Yes, the Fed is required by federal statute to be independent, but my goodness Herr Doktorprofessor knows a "wink, wink ... nudge, nudge" when he sees one! And then there's this: Mr. Greenspan still talks about the evils of deficits, but refuses to say the obvious! And just why would the Fed Chairman refuse to say the obvious - even under oath, even to Congress? My God, the fix is in!

OK, so it's not the juiciest set of Krugmaniacal conspiracy insinuations, but they will do to satisfy the yearning expressed in my post yesterday, in which I gave myself over to contemplation of today's Krugmania dropping: And maybe there will be a conspiracy of some sort, too. I just love Herr Doktorprofessor's conspiracy theories.

How did this happen that I predicted - that I knew - what Herr Doktorprofessor was writing even as I wrote my own post!? I confess. Behind a filing cabinet on the 7 1/2th floor, I found a small doorway. I crawled through it, and was whisked through some kind of temporal-spatial portal, ending up inside the brain of the professor Paul Krugman. Here I stayed for exactly 15 minutes, before falling from the sky next to the New Jersey Turnpike. Whoa! What an experience. My wife is pressuring me to turn it into a business, charging people to spend their 15 minutes inside Krugman!

Well, forget it, sweetheart. There's no money in that. The paying public could experience a higher class version of essentially the same thing by taking a ride through Disneyland's Space Mountain. This was a one-shot deal.

What exactly are Mr. Greenspan's sins about which Herr Doktorprofessor raves today? Well, Herr Doktorprofessor is for one thing miffed that Mr. Greenspan is optimistic about the economy, and that he was also optimistic about a year ago, and that Mr. Greenspan then said:

Although the uncertainties of earlier this year are as yet not fully resolved, the U.S. economy appears to have withstood a set of blows. Not surprisingly the depressing effects of recent events linger. Nevertheless, the fundamentals are in place for a return to sustained healthy growth,'' where Herr Doktorprofessor says there has been no return to sustained healthy growth.

But Mr. Greenspan's comments seem pretty well hedged to me, and, although he uses a different vocabulary, his comments don't seem all that different in substance from Herr Doktorprofessor's own forecast for 2003: My prediction [for 2003] would be two to three percent growth on a year-to-year basis. If you ask me if the US economy can fall back into recession, I'd say: yes, absolutely. On the other hand, can it grow by 5 percent? It is also possible.

And then there's this Krugmankvetch:

Since mid-June, however, [long-term] rates have been climbing rapidly. This week rates on 30-year mortgages hit their highest level since January. And Mr. Greenspan bears some of the responsibility. Until June, Fed officials had helped push down interest rates precisely by not being too optimistic - by indicating that they took concerns about deflation seriously, that they were not taking recovery for granted. Then they surprised markets with a small cut in the federal funds rate, a move that seemed to suggest that they were taking recovery for granted, after all.

But long term rates largely respond to inflation concerns. The bond market seems to be signaling a concern that by focusing on the possibility of deflation the Fed may be increasing the likelihood of future inflation. Mr. Greenspan may be mistaken in his evaluation of the deflation risk, but lots of people agree it's there - although it is a fear not shared by the Man Without Qualities. Indeed Herr Doktorprofessor has recently written about his own concerns of this sort. What is missing from today's column, of course, is any indication of what Herr Doktorprofessor thinks Mr. Greenspan should have done differently. For example, Herr Doktorprofessor seems annoyed that the Fed surprised markets with a small cut in the federal funds rate, a move that seemed to suggest that they were taking recovery for granted, after all. But a bigger cut would have signaled less concern about inflation - which might have driven the bond market into even deeper anxiety. Perhaps the economy will devolve into stagflation or the like, and if that happens Mr. Greenspan will be in some difficulty. But unless and until something like that happens, Herr Doktorprofessor's clarion call for Mr. Greenspan to be held to account has one problem: there's nothing to be held to account for, yet.

Herr Doktorprofessor also thinks: There is very little evidence in the data for a strong recovery ready to break out. As far as I can make out, Mr. Greenspan's optimism is entirely based on models predicting that tax cuts and low interest rates will get the economy moving. But where he has often cited recent employment statistics as evidence of economic health, here there is no mention that the number of people lodging new jobless claims plunged unexpectedly last week to the lowest level since February, which some economists think means a lot. Nor does he explain why those economists are wrong.

The fact is that there is plenty of evidence in the data for a strong recovery ready to break out. But there is also plenty of evidence in the data for concern. That is to say: there is a lot of uncertainty. It's the same kind of uncertainty that made Herr Doktorprofessor "forecast" 2003 growth in the US as somewhere between recession (say, -2%) and 5%. But it seems that Herr Doktorprofessor thinks only academic economists are entitled to that kind of spread - the Fed Chief is held to a different standard, a standard that looks a lot like vindictiveness.

The rest of the column is the same old Krugman ranting about the deficit being too big - "record" as he again puts it. But that is far from clear in the most meaningful sense - as this JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE report shows. But considerations such as those explained in this report are completely ignored by Herr Doktorprofessor, also as predicted. And, in any event, even if the deficit must be brought down, it is by no means clear that taxes must or will be raised to do it. That is a political decision for the future - although Herr Doktorprofessor falsely treats it almost as the predetermined solution of an econometric equation.

UPDATE: As usual, lots of great stuff debunking this particular Krugmaniacal cat-scratch from Don Luskin's Krugman Truth Squad in NRO today.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003


That David Brooks?

... a twice-a-week columnist at the New York Times?

Does that mean Bill Safire is leaving? Or is Bill Keller going to have two conservatives on his op-ed page? And, in that case, is someone other than Safire leaving?

Paul or Big Mo to go?

And why no word so far from the Times? The paper of record is allowing itself to be scooped on its own internal staffing stories?

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No Religious Test Shall Ever Be ...

Article VI of the United States Constitution provides in part:

The senators and representatives before-mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

But a good many people sitting in the United States Senate seem to have forgot the spirit - and maybe the letter - of that provision:

A judicial confirmation hearing yesterday turned into a rancorous debate between Democrats and Republicans over whether it's possible for a devout Catholic to be confirmed to the federal bench.

The federal courts will not normally intervene in a case of internal Congressional process and rules - such as a filibuster. But there have been exceptions, as in the case of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.:

On January 9, 1967, the House Democratic Caucus stripped Powell of his committee chairmanship. Furthermore, the full House refused to seat him until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. The following month, the committee recommended that Powell be censured, fined, and deprived of seniority, but on March 1 the House rejected these proposals and voted 307 to 116, to exclude him from the Ninetieth Congress. Powell won a special election on April 11, 1967, to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion, but did not take his seat. He was reelected to a twelfth term in the regular November contest, but the House voted to deny him his seniority. Powell declined to take his seat when the Ninety-first Congress convened in January 1969. In June 1969 the Supreme Court ruled that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it excluded him from the Ninetieth Congress, and Powell finally returned to his seat albeit without his twenty-two years' seniority.

If a filibuster is indeed motivated by anti-Catholic animus, Article VI would appear to permit - even require - judicial intervention in Senate processes. And, of course, there is always the First Amendment. The point would seem to be particularly pertinent here because the Catholic Church's position was established and well understood long before the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade that created an new constitutional right.

In expanding the Constitution to contradict the teachings of long-established religious sects, is the Supreme Court reducing the ability of religious people from those sects to serve in the federal government by allowing Senators to impose religious tests expressly forbidden by the plain text of Article VI under the guise of "protecting Constitutional rights" in a filibuster?
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What Will Paul Do?

Paul Krugman may be working on tomorrow's column even now! What could it concern?

Well, there's really no doubt what a serious economist interested in politically significant developments would write about. Why, such a person would write about the dramatic and unexpected decline in jobless claims reported today! Last week's drop was to the lowest level since February. There's lots to write about, since the Labor Department cautions against reading too much into the improvement because July is always a volatile month, while some economists see the claims fall as showing surprising strength in the job market that is evidence the economy is on the mend. For example, John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service in New York said: "I think this puts a stake in the heart of those that claim recession is still with us."

But my guess is that Herr Doktoprofessor will write about the declining bond market and how it signals that the United States is on its way to becoming the next Argentina and, of course, that its all George Bush's fault.

And maybe there will be a conspiracy of some sort, too. I just love Herr Doktorprofessor's conspiracy theories.

UPDATE: And I doubt that any of the very pertinent considerations found in this analysis of the federal deficit will feature substantially in tomorrow's column.

Link from Don Luskin.
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Kobe Chatter: Playing The Race Card

Media coverage of the Kobe Bryant rape accusation is a wonder on many counts, not the least of which is that while a major element in the whole mess is bound to be race, the media are loath to talk about race in this case, citing to some ridiculous notions of victim privacy which are completely irrelevant because the name and RACE of the accuser and even dubious pictures of her, are trivially obtainable on the internet. [The Washington Post reports: The woman's name has been on the radio in at least 60 cities and posted on various Internet sites, complete with address, phone number and, in several cases, photographs of the wrong women.]

RACE, RACE, RACE. Yes, the accuser and possible victim is an attractive WHITE woman - although the media coverage dances all around this central point without addressing it.

Bizarre articles go on for many column inches discussing "prejudice" the accuser may be experiencing - without even mentioning the racial aspect of the case. But it matters a lot. Some articles are simply incomprehensible because they make no reference to the race of the accuser - like this one comparing the Bryant matter with the O.J. Simpson case.

That the woman's race and identity are freely available to the public doesn't stop ESPN from hiding behind "victim shield" considerations in publishing this drivel: On the other side is a 19-year-old woman, unnamed by media outlets and unknown outside her hometown community of 3,700 in Eagle County, Colo.

O, yes. She's "unknown outside her hometown community of 3,700 in Eagle County, Colo." We get the point. She's from a small town in an all-non-black Colorado county. ESPN buries all discussion of the racial aspect all the way at the end of the very long article, and the mention is again indirect and the discussion airy:

One last unknown variable could be race.

The Eagle County community, according to the Post, is 74 percent white and less than 1 percent black. Colorado lawyer Lisa Wayne, one of two blacks on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said minorities have difficulties getting fair trials, particular in rural Colorado areas.

"There's always the hope that this kind of defendant, because of who he is, would transcend race," Wayne told The Denver Post. "But I have to tell you that when it comes to allegations of sexual assault involving a black man and a white woman, there's often a deep bias that is so ingrained with jurors that they don't even recognize it, and it can interfere with their ability to (recognize) his status."


Yes, racial bias is often thought to be a problem for jurors, and many people also believe racial bias can be a big problem with prosecutors. That's highly relevant in this case because ESPN also notes: A jury likely will decide whether Bryant can resume his previous life on a basketball court. But in the court of public opinion, the damage may have already been done. And, if the damage to Mr. Bryant has already been done, it has been done by a white state prosecutor from an almost-all-non-black county. Isn't that news? And the "74 percent white" reference seems to be tossed in to deflate racial concerns - but is there any evidence that Hispanic or Native Americans are any less inclined to be biased against African American men accused of rape? I'm not aware of any.

TIME magazine's coverage is all but a hallucination in this regard:

Bryant proved last week that he can be a charismatic testifier. But he may have a tougher audience in Eagle County, a Colorado district in which blacks total only 0.3% of the population. Even here, though, Bryant's benign image may trump his color. "Kobe the superstar is in some ways raceless," says Kenneth Shropshire, author of In Black and White: Race and Sports in America. "He could be like Michael Jordan, someone nonurban white folks think of as a superstar, and not primarily a black man." Color is one possible factor; class is another. There's a financial gulf between those who pay $175,000 for a golf-club membership and those who caddy for them. Most who work in Vail can't afford to live there. Trailer parks are home not just to carhops and maids but to social workers and the police. Could a local jury reflect the resentment the near poor have for the very rich?

The accuser's race is not reported in this TIME article at all. It's not that TIME doesn't think race is important - only that it has to be brought in indirectly ("Color is one possible factor..."). Apparently TIME's readers are suppose to dig out of the squidgy language of this article that Mr. Bryant may have a problem because he is an African-American man charged with raping a white woman and may have to stand trial before a no-black jury in a nearly no-black county. In other words, Mr. Bryant may have a To Kill a Mockingbird problem? And what's with the loony "class is another" bit? Is TIME suggesting that rich men are sometimes convicted of rape because the jury resents their money? Such a suggestion is just idiotic. "Kobe the superstar is in some ways raceless?" Does anyone in his right mind think Kobe Bryant feels "raceless" when he walks around a Colorado county that is 99.7% non-black and thinks: "That's my jury?" Does anyone think that African-Americans are not going to be having race in mind as they watch what happens to Mr. Bryant?

RACE! RACE! RACE! The media won't say it, but I will say it:

THE KOBE BRYANT RAPE MATTER IS A CASE ABOUT A WHITE WOMAN WHOSE ACCUSATIONS OF RAPE THREATEN TO DESTROY ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN IN THE WORLD.

That doesn't mean the residents of that Eagle County, Colorado, are racist or bad. It doesn't mean the accuser is wrong or right. But it does raise the questions of whether Mr. Bryant has been already wronged on account of his race, and whether the jury may be biased on account of his race, and whether he will "play the race card" to seek an unjust acquital at some point if his trial proceeds poorly. In short, it is not possible to understand this matter without discussing its racial aspects.

For God's sakes, race matters - and should be reported where it matters.

MORE
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Davis Descending XX: Total Recall

The recall election is set for October 7, which is the best possible date for Governor Davis that Cruz Bustamante could have chosen. That choice should cast more cold water on speculation that Mr. Bustamante is trying to cause mischief for the Governor. In addition, contrary to much amazing and groundless speculation that Mr. Bustamante was trying to obtain the governorship for himself without need to run as an substitute/alternative to Mr. Davis, we have this:

Bustamante said the recall election will have two parts, with voters first deciding whether or not to oust Davis and then choosing from a list of candidates to replace him. People voting "no" to the recall would still have the opportunity to cast a vote in the second part.

While the late recall election date is what Mr. Davis wanted, it also allows potential candidates (including Mr. Bustamante) much more time to decide whether to place their names on the ballot - and it allows the Democrats much more time to panic if their polls keep deteriorating. If Mr. Davis is seen as doomed, the Democrats will be seriously reconsidering Terry McAuliffe's premature assertion that there will be no Democratic name on the substitute/alternative list.

But he is very far from doomed at this point, especially since a state budget now seems within reach. If that budget is brought home, Mr. Davis can turn to what he does well - demonizing his opponents.

UPDATE: Kausfiles has lots of good stuff, although I repeat that I do not agree that Cruz Bustamante ever said anything that warranted the alarmist "He's attempting a coup!" accusations. His comments were baroquely extended by media hungry for something to report. He was probably seeking nothing more than some way to hold the recall and substitute/alternative elections separately.
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A Lesson In The Economics Of Marginal Cost

A basic discovery of micro economics is that a seller will sell product as long as sales proceeds of one additional unit (marginal proceeds) exceeds the total cost to the seller of selling that additional unit (marginal costs). In the case of a unitary, freely competitive market, there is an additional constraint on the seller: the seller can only charge one price for all of the seller's goods.

So what?

Well, national boundaries - the one between Canada and the United States being one example - disrupt the "unitary, freely competitive market," especially where the goods in question are subject to import restraints imposed at the discretion of the seller. Patented drugs are the example now much in the news as Congress considers a law governing drug reimportation, a law that would allow American drugs that sell for less in foreign countries (especially Canada) to be reimported and sold here at a price based on the foreign sale price which is lower than the domestic price.

Some people have argued that such a drug reimportation law would cause private drug research funds to dry up, since the law would impair earnings from the drugs produced by the research. That's possible - but if this law has meaningful effect, it is likely to do far more harm to Canada and other foreign countries than the United States - while raising United States drug prices by some measures.

Patented drugs sold in Canada represent marginal sales for the drug companies - similar to a gas station's sale of, say, model cars or soft drinks. [For purposes of this post, I will use "Canada" as synonymous with "non-US," although that is not strictly correct.] American drug companies do not depend on Canadian sales for most of their profits. Drug companies sell to Canada at lower prices because those sales do not now affect United States profits, so the marginal return to the drug companies is positive even at the lower foreign price. If Congress mandates that open drug reimportation be permitted, and drug companies can stop selling in Canada altogether, they will likely do that rather than gut their core profitability in the United States market by exporting to those marginal, foreign markets. (Actual Canadians - that is, not just non-Americans - amount to 2 to 3 percent of the prescription drug market; Americans, 65 percent. Actual Canadians get a substantial free ride on the research and development for the American market.) So Canada will suffer unless drug companies are allowed to raise their Canadian prices - which will gut the effects of the proposed reimportation law, since there will be no "cheap foreign drugs." At the moment Canadian drug prices are determined through a heavy dose of government intervention and a deal involving the prices of generic and patented drugs - so a drug reimportation law will require some heavy political decisions on the part of Canada.

The United States will also likely be harmed by the reimportation law. The positive side of a drug company's decision as to whether to go forward with research for a particular drug depends on expected aggregate revenue from sales. Canadian sales may now be marginal, but they are still profitable - and therefore factor into a drug company's decision as to whether to go forward with a particular drug. If the drug reimportation law causes drug companies to cease sales to Canada, then expected aggregate revenue from sales will equal expected aggregate revenue from sales in the United States but not Canada. Some drugs that would have been sufficiently profitable if Canadian sales were possible will (with open drug importation mandated) not be profitable - and will therefore not be pursued. Only drugs likely to be profitable from United States sales alone will be privately researched. That will put upward pressure on average drug prices for new drugs. So it is even possible that the reimportation law could have positive effects - if the result is that Canadian drug prices are forced to go up. In that case, the expected aggregate return to research will increase because Canadian sales will result in more profit to the companies, and therefore more drugs will be researched by the companies.

So, unless Congress is willing to mandate cheap Canadian sales of drugs, or Canada is able to force drug companies to sell a full line of their drugs in Canada cheaply, both Canada and the United States will likely suffer badly from this proposed Congressional action. Of course, if either Congress or Canada take such actions, private drug research funds will dry up, since the law will impair earnings in the United States from the drugs produced by the research.

[One can only shudder to imagine the results of the incentives created by such regulatory efforts for a company to evade them, efforts which would probably soon surpass in complexity and economic distortion the efforts made to avoid the corporate income tax. Will companies holding a patent for a new drug sell it - or spin it off - to a single-purpose company set up solely to make and sell that drug - thereby avoiding regulatory pressure which might be brought on a company selling a broad line of patented and generic drugs? That would only be a simple beginning.]

In any event, the negative consequences will all happen after the next election - so it's probably okey-dokey with Congress. Besides, if the majority of the most immediate negative results of the law fall on Canada, through the loss of American drugs or a rise in Canadian drug prices or whatever, Congress cares less. That United States citizens and the rest of the world suffer from a fall off in drug research and a focus on more expensive drugs is a more subtle long-term effect that can be denied by fudging the statistics in the usual academic/beltway fashion - in the same way such fudging allows some academic economists to pretend they doubt that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment.

Too bad one can't get a job - or make a malignant tumor or an HIV infection go away - with fudged statistics.

MORE

UPDATE: The House has approved the reimportation bill.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003


Just A Snack Made By A Socially Progressive Company

Reuter's, the "news" wire, reports that an empty Ben & Jerry's chocolate-dipped waffle cone, designed to hold at least two scoops of ice cream, itself packs 320 calories and 10 grams or half a day's worth of saturated fat. "If you put a regular scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream in that cone, it is going to be worse for you than a one-pound rack of baby back ribs, with 820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat," CSPI nutritionist Jayne Hurley told a news conference ...

Ben & Jerry's just looks better and better as one of those new-fangled class action defendants, if there has to be one.

And shouldn't someone be asking medical doctor and former Vermont Governor, now a constantly angry top-tier Democratic Presidential aspirant, Howard Dean about this story?

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Trending Away: A Change Of Heart That Began At The Sacred Heart

The storm over Diane Feinstein's change of heart on school vouchers begins.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The president of the California Teachers Assn., Barbara E. Kerr, denounced Feinstein's willingness to back vouchers.

"She knows better," Kerr said. "Vouchers have not been proven anywhere to help kids. I have no idea why she's doing this. It's out of character and it doesn't make any sense."

Speaking by telephone from a CTA conference in Monterey, Kerr said many of the union's leaders were calling Feinstein's Washington office to register outrage. The union backed Feinstein in her reelection campaign in 2000, Kerr said, on the assumption that she would oppose vouchers.

Another influential Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tom Harkin of Iowa, said a shift by Feinstein would probably break a deadlock on the panel and move that chamber's voucher bill to the Senate floor.

"She's a key vote," says Harkin, who opposes the legislation.


And the San Francisco Chronicle says:

Feinstein's switch heartened proponents of the vouchers that parents could use to pay for tuition at private or parochial schools and infuriated opponents, who say vouchers will weaken public schools and are a violation of the concept of separating church and state.

"They're calling her office in Washington to say don't do this, and that's the politest thing I can say," said California Teachers Association President Barbara Kerr.

....

Feinstein said frustration with Washington's public schools, where scores rank among the worst for the nation's big cities, prompted her to decide vouchers should get a try.

"Based on the substantial amount of money pumped into the schools and the resultant test scores, I do not believe that money alone is going to solve the problem," she said. "This is why I believe the District should be allowed to try this pilot -- particularly for the sake of its low-income students."

....

Asked Tuesday whether she supports California's adopting vouchers, Feinstein said in a statement, "Local jurisdictions ought to be able to decide about education policy."

California voters have twice resoundingly rejected the idea of vouchers. The second time was in November 2000, when Proposition 38 could muster only about 30 percent of the vote.

Feinstein's switch was disclosed on the same day that 500 local presidents of the 335,000-member CTA opened a training meeting in Monterey. Kerr, a Riverside elementary public school teacher, said the local activists were furious when they read copies of Feinstein's statement.

"Californians have resoundingly defeated vouchers twice, by 2 to 1," said Kerr, whose union is a powerful voice in the state Democratic Party. "This is our stand. I'm surprised she has forgotten this."

Mary Bergan, president of the state's other big teachers union, the California Federation of Teachers, also blasted Feinstein. "We're just appalled, especially since we had contacted her about the lack of wisdom in this whole proposal," Bergan said.

Bergan said Williams accepted vouchers "as a bargaining chip to get more money for the schools."

On the other side, senior education policy analyst Krista Kafer of the conservative Heritage Foundation hailed Feinstein's conversion. "Her support gives the bill a much greater prospect in the Senate," Kafer said. "It makes it more possible when other Democrats see her action.

"She's a liberal Democrat, a pillar of the liberal Democratic community," she added.

Feinstein, who is Jewish, went to the Convent of Sacred Heart Catholic parochial high school in San Francisco. "I was the first person of my faith admitted to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco," she said at a Senate hearing last week.

"The only way I got into Stanford University was because of the education I had in that school -- because I was undisciplined, I was erratic," she said. "This school gave me the discipline and background in learning that enabled me to compete with the best of them. I sit in the United States Senate largely because of that high school education. I deeply believe that," added Feinstein,
who said that she is now helping a child in Washington attend parochial school.


It is true that California voters have twice rejected vouchers. But each time it was on the basis of a public belief that the proposal would defund or disrupt public schools. There is nothing that stops Senator Feinstein from proposing federal legislation to fund experimental state voucher programs limited to poorer children in failing districts - programs which the federal legislation need not require the states to enact. It is unlikely Californians would reject such a federal goodie.

MORE: OpinionJournal weighs in.
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Davis Descending XIX: Recall Certain

The Associated Press reports:

[California] Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said in a news conference that counties had reported 1.3 million valid petition signatures, well more than the 897,158 required for the recall to make it on the ballot. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante will schedule an election, which could be held as early as Sept. 23.

And the Financial Times adds:

"The recall is deemed to immediately qualify," [Secretary of State Kevin Shelley] said, noting that he had certified the "first recall election of a governor in California history." ....

According to a poll by ABC news, [former Republican gubernatorial candidate William] Simon has a 27 per cent approval rating among likely voters. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the moderate Republican actor with no experience of elections, showed up strongest in the survey with 57 per cent approval, far higher than in earlier surveys.

Richard Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor, also a moderate Republican, rated 36 per cent, while Darrell Issa, the Republican congressman who funded the petition project was liked by 32 per cent of those questioned.


Maybe people liked T3. I did.
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Davis Descending XVIII: No Help For Davis From The Courts

Another court denial of a petition by Davis supporters to delay the recall vote count - this time on the basis of a grotesque theory that if the signature collector violated California law by being from out-of-state, then the signature is invalid. Sure. It's hard to find a theory more inconsistent with the "more voter choice" principle.

This decision - which will be affirmed by the California Supreme Court if that court ever decides the issue - should be more evidence that state courts are not construing election law as if they were the Internal Revenue Code. Technical arguments based on nice points of language, regulatory decisions, legislative history, histories of changes in various provisions and so on are just not that important.

Such things keep the academics occupied and give them grist for post-hoc papers arguing why the courts got everything wrong. But those considerations don't mean much in predicting the actual future.
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Davis Descending XVII: Cruz Bustamante Takes Some Caminos Estranos

The Los Angeles Times reports today:

County election officers have confirmed more than 1.1 million valid signatures on the petition for an election on whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis — well above the threshold to qualify for the ballot, a Los Angeles Times survey found on Tuesday. The tally makes a recall vote in late September or early October all but inevitable. But in an interview Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante raised doubts about the widespread assumption that Californians would simultaneously vote on recalling Davis and on choosing a potential successor. ....

For years, local recall elections in California have offered voters a two-part ballot. The first part asks whether the elected official should be recalled. The second lists possible replacements. .... But Bustamante refused to say whether he would call for the election of a Davis successor on the same ballot as the recall question. When a governor faces a recall vote, the state Constitution requires the lieutenant governor to set the date for it — and to call for the election of a successor "if appropriate."

Bustamante, though, said it was not his role to decide whether a Davis recall ballot would include a vote on potential successors. "My job is to set the date," he said. Asked who would decide whether a simultaneous vote on a Davis successor occurs, Bustamante invoked the obscure Commission on the Governorship. "I think it would take the commission and the California Supreme Court to make that decision," he said. ....

The commission chairman would be Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. The other members would be Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, the University of California president, the Cal State system's chancellor and the governor's director of finance. ....

Fred Woocher, a Santa Monica lawyer who specializes in election law, questioned whether the Commission on the Governorship would play a role in the Davis recall attempt. The commission, he said, appeared designed to address confusing questions of vacancy, such as might occur if a governor were disabled but refused to relinquish authority. In this case, he said, no such confusion exists. The constitutional discretion to call for an election of a successor "if appropriate" would most likely apply to appointed judges recalled by popular vote, but not to governors, Woocher said, adding that it was "far-fetched" to argue otherwise.


The Fox News report on the same issue notes: Some say that gives Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante wiggle room to decide that if Davis is ousted, a replacement vote is not appropriate and he could keep the job for himself. "Why should it be any different if the governor is recalled than if the governor were to become president or were to become ill or for some other reason couldn't serve?" said political consultant Susan Estrich.

Frankly, it is amazing that anyone is taking the "no election of a substitute" position of Susan Estrich seriously. There is zero chance the California Supreme Court will accept such a construction of the recall provision. Her construction violates the "more voter choice" principle that transfixes modern state courts (as in the Torricelli matter). The recall provision in question is very much like other California recall provisions, all of which provide for an election to choose a replacement and have always been construed that way - and the recall provision in this case carries no indication that it was intended to be radically different from the others. Moreover, the plain meaning of the constitution's language does not easily square with a construction such as Ms. Estrich's, which assumes that people in their right minds intended to pack a huge wallop into the almost paranthetical "if appropriate" while simultaneously giving the Lieutenant Governor the job of scheduling the election and deciding whether to have one or assuming the office of the governorship himself. Simply put: Every time Ms. Estrich opens her mouth it is less surprising that Michael Dukakis was never elected president.

It is also amazing because Mr. Bustamante has not said that he is entertaining a construction of the recall provision under which no election for a substitute would be called - only a construction under which no election for a substitute would be called on the same day. In other words, there might be two election days: one for the recall and one to choose the substitute, if appropriate.

One point not mentioned in the Los Angeles Times or other coverage is that not putting both the questions of the Governor's recall and the choice of his successor to a vote on the same day would hurt Mr. Davis but probably help the Democrats hold the governorship if a Democrat (such as Mr. Bustamante) is on the second ballot as a possible substitute for Mr. Davis. Putting the question of Mr. Davis' recall on the ballot alone would focus the voters on the "Davis-yes-or-no" question, which is bad for the Governor because he is so unpopular and needs to demonize his potential replacements to survive - so he wants voters to link the two choices in their minds and voting pattern.

But putting the question of Mr. Davis' recall on the ballot alone would probably reduce a nasty problem for the Democrats: a small but significant percentage of voters (some say about 10%) who vote to retain an incumbent in a recall election do not vote for any substitute. That means that if the two questions are put to a vote on the same day, a small but significant percentage of voters voting to retain Mr. Davis as Governor will not vote for any replacement - thereby increasing the chances that a non-Democrat is chosen as his replacement.

So Mr. Bustamante has a conflict of interest: Does he allign himself with Mr. Davis, or with the Democratic Party and his own political ambitions?

On the other hand, as the Times article points out, the law probably does not allow votes on two separate days. And, in any event, the Democrats have been making a big stink over the costs of the recall - costs which would be almost certainly substantially increased if two days of voting were chosen instead of one.

Of course, no serious person could take those Democratic "cost-of-recall" objections as more than risible make-weight arguments that nevertheless resonate with some gullible voters. Thrift with state money is not one of California Democrats' strong suits.

MORE: Kausfiles has more and links here and here and here and here. Suggestions are made by Daniel Weintraub that Bustamante is making mischief here, at some peril to the state and, I would suggest, at great peril to his own political career.

I don't agree. In fact, I think Mr. Weintraub's take on Cruz Bustamante is probably 180 degrees off. Mr. Bustamante is sending the message that he does not and will not make discretionary decisions regarding Mr. Davis' recall, but will follow the advice of the Secretary of State and the Commission on the Governorship - and, ultimately, the California Supreme Court. If anything, Mr. Bustamante is being overly eager not to cause, or be seen as causing, mischief.

As the Sacramento Bee reported:

The lieutenant governor, however, said he would not call for the election of a Davis successor on the same ballot.

After consulting with lawyers from the offices of the state attorney general and legislative counsel, Bustamante said he believes the California Supreme Court will ultimately decide a successor should Davis be recalled. The interpretation calls into question the widespread assumption that the election would determine a possible successor as well.

"Article 5, Section 10 of the Constitution states the lieutenant governor becomes governor in the event of a vacancy," said Deborah Pacyna, a spokeswoman for Bustamante. "It provides that the state Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine questions regarding succession. And it calls for a body, the Commission on the Governorship, to be created by the Legislature to consider such questions."


All of what the Lt. Gov.'s spokeswoman says is correct. Most of the rest of the Bee article concerns evidence that Mr. Bustamante is, in fact, planning to run - not that he is planning to occupy the Governorship without a replacement vote.

The relevant consitutional language is:

An election to determine whether to recall an officer and, if appropriate, to elect a successor shall be called by the Governor and held not less than 60 days nor more than 80 days from the date of certification of sufficient signatures.

Mr. Weintraub writes:

Bustamante is suggesting that those words mean there should not be an election for a successor because the constitution already lays out a method for filling a vacancy in the governor’s office, namely promoting the lieutenant governor, Bustamante.

Perhaps Mr. Weintraub has access to other statements of Cruz Bustamante not accessable to me - but I don't see that Mr. Bustamante has suggested any such thing. Yes, there is an abstract possibility that the California Supreme Court would bury its collective head in the sand and adopt an Estrich-like position. But the practical chances of that are zero - as noted above. Mr. Bustamante is not stupid, and he is not banking his political future on a supreme court decision of essentially zero likelihood. It is possible that Mr. Weintraub is being unfair to Mr. Bustamante's intelligence, political acumen and democratic inclinations

But Mr. Bustamante does want two separate elections - and he needs the California Supreme Court to get him to that position. A construction of the "if appropriate" language to mean that a separate replacement election should (or could) be scheduled and held if the governor is recalled is certainly not crazy. Nor would such a construction violate the "more voter choice" principle so sacred to state courts. Moreover, if the California Supreme Court determines that some executive (such as Mr. Bustamante) is charged by the constitution with construing this provision of the constitution, the court might defer to the executive officer's construction if it is reasonable. Nor does a "two elections" construction pack that huge wallop into the nearly paranthetical "if appropriate" or give the Lieutenant Governor inconsistent jobs rife with self dealing. In short: MR. BUSTAMANTE HAS A SHOT.

Once Mr. Davis is no longer Governor (if that happens in a stand-alone recall vote), then Mr. Bustamante can place his name on the replacement ballot without fear of being accused of having "run against" or "underrmined" Mr. Davis while he was governor. That would be all the more true if the State Supreme Court structures the election(s). It looks like Mr. Bustamante is trying to find a way to make that kind of thing happen - not some way to abort a replacement election as Ms. Estrich and the like are thinking.
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Dowdification Projection

Maureen Dowd, is the undisputed Queen of Distortion Through Redaction. She has selflessly given her "all" - her very name - to the English language in the form of the word and concept "Dowdify": to distort a quote though omission of critical parts, especially through the brutal and misleading insertion of marks of ellipsis.

The criticism that linguistic contribution has earned her must be taking a toll, because in today's bizarre column she seems to be trying to make a joke of her own prevarication-through-redaction tendencies by cobbling up a purposeless, unfunny fake letter from the Vice President to some imaginary Middle Eastern sheik. The actual content of the column is not worth substantial comment. As usual, there is no "argument" or "reasoning" to speak of. But even by Big Mo's standards, this is a particularly weird and insightless effort. It's also a lame attempt to deny that she has a really big problem that is not going to be made to go away by laughing at it - especially when she can't come up with anything worth laughing at, regardless of one's political preferences.

She seems motivated by her disappointment in yesterday's successful and fatal US attack on Saddam Hussein's two demented and homicidal boys. In Big Mo's curious world (and, apparently, the curious world of the New York Times), this happy development occasions yet another attack by her on Dick Cheney, of all people. Perhaps she can't shake her conflation of the Vice President with some male relative who abused her in her youth. Go figure.

I suppose it's a good thing for her mental health that her column went to press before the report of the U.S. capture of that senior Iraqi guard official got out and also prior to Iran's intelligence minister saying that he is holding top members of the al-Qaida terror network. God only knows what she would have been imagining Mr. Cheney as writing, and what she would have been redacting from her own confabulations, if she had got wind of any of that.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Down The Rat Hole With Sid Vicious

As of March 31, 2003, pretty left wing Salon had an accumulated deficit of $82.3 million.

Now Sidney Blumenthal may become the editor of a presumably pretty left wing weekly U.S. magazine to be put out by The Guardian, the pretty left wing British newspaper.

One can hardly imagine a better use to which The Guardian could put its cash on hand. In fact, why doesn't The Guardian just buy the Salon assets. All of the big money-loosing elements are already in place! There would be no need to ramp up before dropping those many tens of millions of dollars down the rat hole of yet another superfluous left-wing news periodical!

Referring to liberal print news coverage, Sid sez: "I think there's a big vacuum."

Who could disagree? Sid's just the kind of guy one would most like to see placed in just that vacuum!


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Ding Dong, The Witches Are Dead!

Which old witches? The wicked witches Uday and Qusay!

In an interestingly optimistic veer from its recent "we're all doom, Doomed, DOOOMED, I TELL YOU!" coverage of the Iraq situation, the New York Times notes:

The death of the two sons, analysts believe, would be the biggest development in ending Baath Party rule since Baghdad fell on April 9. Some say they believeit might diminish but not eliminate attacks that have killed around 40 United States soldiers since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1. .... Even before the identity of the bodies was confirmed, celebratory gunfire erupted across Baghdad tonight as Iraqis celebrated the news, the night sky illuminated with tracer fire.

"I don't think it is possible, but if it is true, they deserved whatever happened to them," said Omar Salam, 22, eating his dinner at a roadside cafe with gunfire erupting all around him.

Most Iraqis will breath a sigh of relief that Mr. Hussein's two most likely successors have been eliminated. It would leave Mr. Hussein as the main target of the continuing manhunt.


Yes, now for the wicked witch of the Saddam.



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Trending Away: The Voucher Riptide

The public teachers unions are rich, powerful and vindictive. When California voted on a school voucher referendum a few years ago, the teachers union spent well over Ten Million Dollars to successfully defeat it. Despite the success of voucher programs in other states, no California Democrat has dared to propose such a program - even one limited to the worst of California's many dreadful school systems.

Yet, Dianne Feinstein now backs a school voucher program for Washington, D.C.

Why? Well, the reader is invited to read Senator Feinstein's proffered reasons in the linked article. There she makes many efforts to insulate herself from the predictable barrage of questions such as: Then why don't you support a California voucher program? She notes, for example, that the program is "experimental" and that "This proposal has the support of the president of the school board and thousands of District parents." And where members of both parties have long argued that education is a national issue requiring much federal support, she tells us that when it comes to vouchers, "I believe that education is a local issue ... "

But none of this is convincing, and she must know that. It certainly won't convince the teachers unions. And nothing she writes insulates from her from questions such as: So, Senator, why don't you propose a nationally-funded voucher program that would allow localities to make grants to low-income families stuck in failing school districts? That way, no local money would be taken from local public schools - and educational opportunities for our neediest children would increase.

In short, Senator Feinstein must know that she is opening a Pandora's box for herself and the teachers unions. Why does she do that?

I think she does it because she and the California Democratic Party see their most important constituencies - African-Americans and Hispanic Americans -are "trending away" on a raft of school vouchers. That is, she does it because she and the California Democratic Party ultimately have no choice. And in this California is merely once again in the lead of the nation as a whole.

The basic, lasting fissuring of the modern Democratic Party is not unprecedented. During the 1980's the issue of international trade came to a head: Democratic-alligned industrial unions wanted to block cheap imports - most emphatically of cheap cars and steel. But they failed, lost many of their jobs (especially the steelworkers) and were forced to agree to efficiency-enhancing reforms long demanded by management, all because other Democrats wanted cheap goods to buy. The issue continues to resonate, but the auto and steel workers unions, for example, have little clout - and have even had to seek bones from a Republican president in the form of the recent illegal duties on cheap steel, an action which even pits the steelworkers against the autoworkers.

Today, public sector unions feed so lustily on the public that their social cannibalism has forced them into direct conflict with other Democratic constituencies. Senator Feinstein's decision is a recognition by a well experienced political opportunist that the likely winner in the coming brawl is pretty obvious - the teachers unions are just going to have to learn to live with and love school vouchers. If not today, then tomorrow. But the Senator understands that tomorrow is approaching fast.
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Dogs Days II

My suggestion in a prior post that that the owners of dogs poisoned by a lunatic in a Portland park bear some responsibility for their own animal stikes some readers as suspect - even unduly harsh.

But suppose one of those owners had hired a dog walker, who had let the dog run unleashed in the park when it was poisoned. The dog walker would surely be civilly liable to the owner for the death of the dog. That the release of the dog violated a leash law in part intended to protect the dog makes liability of the walker to the owner clear. And the "wrong" that makes the dog walker liable to the owner marks the responsibility breached by the dog owner in his or her own act of releasing the dog, thereby creating the opportunity for its horrible, painful death to occur.

Of course, none of that even partially absolves the nut who is leaving poison in the park.

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Monday, July 21, 2003


Another Zero Tolerance Watch

OpinionJournal maintains its "Zero Tolerance Watch" chronicling the absurd, destructive and counterproductive consequences of abandoning cost-benefit principles in connection with public school safety in favor of so-called "zero tolerance." But Larry Thompson, the deputy attorney general who chairs the Corporate Fraud Task Force, apparently doesn't read that WSJ feature - or he wouldn't have been able to scribe a hair-raising call for application of the same "zero tolerance" non-principle to corporate criminal law.

On the one hand Mr. Thompson simply misstates the issue preposterously: Some have argued that certain businesses are simply too big or economically important to be subjected to criminal prosecution, even for pervasive or serious criminal conduct by senior management. Since it is perfectly obvious that nobody has suggested any such thing, it is tempting to treat Mr. Thompson's screed as empty barrel-thumping with the positive goal of sending the bifurcated message that the Bush Administration is on guard against corporate crime while sensibly restricting himself to attacking straw men. Similarly, when Mr. Thompson opines that It is a bedrock principle of American law that business organizations, including corporations, may be held to account by the criminal law for the wrongdoing of employees or agents, one is tempted to observe that since a corporation (or other business entity) is a fiction that acts only through its employees or agents, Mr. Thompson's statement is a safe-and-silly pleonasm.

But there is more going on here. Mr. Thompson speaks for a Justice Department that has heavily bought into, and acted upon, a notion much stronger than the one he ambiguously articulates: That a legal entity - such as a corporation or the Arthur Andersen partnership - can be utterly destroyed by criminal prosecutors for the actions of a single, mid-level representative. The Justice Department destroyed Arthur Andersen by holding it criminally liable not on any theory of pervasive or serious criminal conduct by senior management - but on the much more destructive notion that the mere criminal act by one mid-level Andersen partner, a man essentially playing the role of a vice president in the Andersen partnership structure, was enough to convict and destroy the partnership so long as the crime was committed in the course of the partner's Andersen business. That's quite a price to pay to protect the nation from the absurd straw-man alternative of corporations ... merely appoint[ing] a "vice president in charge of going to jail" who would serve as a scapegoat for wrongful acts that actually benefited the corporation.

To make matters worse, Mr. Thompson attempts to justify expansive corporate criminal liability as follows:

[S]ome attorneys who appear before the department purporting to represent a corporation are in fact representing the interests of management. They have forgotten who their client is. As one learns in a first year corporate law class, when you represent a corporation your client is the entity -- not its management. Disturbingly, a recent survey by the American Corporate Counsel Association revealed that 20% of in-house counsel felt that their corporate culture emphasized "senior management" as the client, rather than the corporation as a whole.

There seems to be exactly no understanding on Mr. Thompson's part that criminal liability assessed against a public corporation will first and foremost hurt its public investors. His "justification" amounts to observing that corporate insiders sometimes betray a corporation's public investors by making its attorneys and representatives work on behalf of the insiders - and his ersatz "solution" is to slam the corporation and its investors with criminal liability for the resulting acts of the insiders. It should be unbelievable - but all the post-Enron baloney has made his sentiments commonplace.

It is also chilling that the deputy attorney general who chairs the Corporate Fraud Task Force does not even mention, does not even seem to be aware, that legal scholars are noting with increasing alarm the dangerous "backwash" from corporate crime to individual crime, as this quote from "Disentangling Corporate Criminal Liability and Human Rights" by Victor V. Ramraj (link no longer available) indicates:

"[F]irst, the general principles of criminal liability have become much more stringent so as to ensure that unscrupulous corporations are convicted; second, constitutional rights generally have been diluted to ensure that corporations are convicted. Both of these consequences in turn affect individual criminal liability because of the ... equation for legal purposes of corporations and individuals. That is to say that the pressure to convict corporations has a discernible impact on individuals, both in terms of the principles of criminal liability under which they are convicted and the strength of individual constitutional rights."

Mr. Thompson does include a sentence that suggests that he is appallingly unmindful of exactly this "backwash:" Corporations should not be treated leniently because of their artificial nature, nor should they be subject to harsher treatment. In other words, he thinks corporate and individual criminal principles should be pari passu - which is exactly what scholars such as Professor Ramraj have been warning about. To see Professor Ramraj's concern in action, consider that if a corporation is criminally liable for the acts of its employees, then - applying Mr. Thompson's false "even handedness" - the same should be true for an individual. So, for example, Mr. Thompson should serve time in prison if the nanny he employs wilfully runs over a neighbor while driving his children to school, especially if he has granted her the right to make "discretionary decisions" in the course of her emplyment. That's what the Justice Department did to Arthur Andersen - and it's "bedrock" to Mr. Thompson. He says that corporations should not be subject to harsher treatment then individuals, so it seems he would have to do prison time for his nanny's transgression. Gee, he makes it all sound so reasonable - until you realize he's advocating reifying a nightmare.

Mr. Thompson's views of corporate criminal responsibility as a "bedrock principle" is certainly consistent with a move to abandon a "cost-v-benefit" approach to corporate law in favor of one that celebrates absolute, zero-tolerance moral "principle" over wealth creation. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently warned that "a pervasive sense of caution" following America's rash of corporate scandals had held back investment and employment when he observed before Congress: "As yet there is little evidence that the more accommodative financial environment has materially improved the willingness of top executives to increase capital investment ... Corporate executives are seemingly unclear . . . about how an increase in risk-taking on their part would be viewed by shareholders and regulators."

One can but wonder at the wisdom of Mr. Thompson's brand of moral Puritanism since there is considerable scholarly opinion that corporate criminal liability is already overbroad and has pernicious social effects - effects which Mr. Thompson simply ignores. [See: V.S. Khanna, “Corporate Criminal Liability: What Purpose Does it Serve?” (1996), 109 Harvard Law Review 1477 (arguing that corporate civil liability can achieve all of the goals of corporate criminal liability, without the attendant procedural protections and stigmatic effects of the latter)].

There is no reason why the Justice Department has to agree with any particular academic dissenter. But it is hard to have confidence in the Justice Department given the moralistic tone of Mr. Thompson's argument, its chilling ignorance of the costs of maintaining expansive and ever-expanding notions of corporate crime, and the recent destructive and sometimes downright stupid history of Justice Department corporate criminal enforcement actions.

Let's hope the whole piece is all another Bush Administration sop to the left - something to shore up the Administration's election-year flanks against predictable mainstream media and Democratic attack - as we begin and maintain this new Zero Tolerance Watch.
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Davis Descending XVI: The Early Worm Gets Eaten

An early election would tie the recall even more strongly to the ongoing California budget crisis, since the Governor's performance respecting the crisis and his resulting approval numbers would all be fresh for a September ballot. That in turn means that Republicans would have a much larger incentive to hold to discipline and not pass a budget for as long as possible, for at least two reasons. The impact on the Governor from Republican intransigence goes up, because an ongoing crisis resulting from the want of a budget will drive the Governor's approval ratings ever downward (along with those of the Republicans, but they are not facing a vote this September), thereby increasing the chances of a successful recall. But the impact of their own recalcitrance on the legislature's Republicans goes down, because the earlier the election is held, the more time Republicans (and the entire legislature) will have to recover in the polls before they have to seek election in 2004.

On a separate point. There have been widespread worries that judicial intervention would "bog down" the recall effort. But so far judicial intervention has only accelerated the process. The Man Without Qualities was and remains deeply skeptical that the courts would "bog down" the recallers - and has noted that the prospect of a challenge to the counting scheme bogging down in extensive court delay is exaggerated - unless the state supreme court wants it that way (where there is no reason to think the mostly-Republican-appointed supreme court does value such delay). Nationally, state courts have recently been much more activist in imposing a "more voter choice" principle, sometimes to the point of ignoring fairly clear statutes, as in the New Jersey/Torricelli mess. California can be expected to follow that trend - and its courts will likely defer to executive officials unless those executive officials tender decisions which restrict or delay "voter choice." It therefore makes perfect sense that so far the California courts have not supported the secretary of state construction of state law allowing counties to delay in counting and reporting recall signatures, since that would mean "less voter choice." Nor have efforts to make the courts disallow recall signatures gathered by non-Californians gained traction to date, where in that case the I am not saying I necessarilly approve of such judicial behavior, I am saying it is the likely course.

Kausfiles has some interesting links: here and here and here. Among other things, these links show that anyone who ignores the brilliant Willie Brown in matters of California politics is a fool - a fact that holds regardless of whether the incompetent, affirmative-action baby the Clintons maintain at the helm of the DNC says that no Democrat will run to replace Gov. Gray Davis if a Republican-led recall drive reaches the ballot.

The inappropriateness of Terry McAuliffe as DNC chairman is made all the more apparent by his making his absurdly premature assertion (concerning matters over which he has no control anyway). Any sensible person in Mr. McAuliffe's position should know that it may, in fact, become necessary for the Democrats as a whole to boot Gray Davis - although that is by no means where they are today.

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Sunday, July 20, 2003


More Disconnects At The SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission, fresh, tanned and rested from its unbelievably stupid and counterproductive destruction of Arthur Andersen, is now seeking to suspend Ernst & Young from accepting new public-company audit clients for six months.

The Wall Street Journal reports: The SEC matter, now pending before an administrative-law judge in Washington, accuses Ernst of violating auditor-independence rules during the late 1990s by entering a marketing agreement with PeopleSoft Inc. to sell the Pleasanton, Calif., company's software at the same time that Ernst was PeopleSoft's auditor.

The SEC seems to be approaching a point where instead of the "Big 4" or "Big 3," public companies will have recourse to the "Big Zero" for their audits - and investors will have nobody on whom to rely. That way, there will be no risk of a headline appearing such as "National Accounting Firm Accused of Wrongdoing" that might embarrass the SEC.




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Beeb Baloney: Who "Sexed-Up" What?

One of the worst offenders in perpetrating the tedious "he lied" meme has, of course, been the BBC. The BBC has insisted that the Blair government "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq's weapons and inserted a claim that WMDs could be deployed by Iraq in 45 minutes.

Now the Beeb admits that it has been "relying" for most of its most biting criticism on comments of David Kelly, a British weapons advisers who recently took his own life after telling Parliament that he did not see how the BBC reporter to whom he spoke could have made the report he did on the basis of their conversation.

Which means that the BBC has been smearing the British government with an interview it long ago knew had been reputiated by its alleged "source," while the BBC hid behind journalistic confidentiality and did not tell the public that the BBC "source" (regardless of his name) had denied the report in the form published by the BBC. Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, maintains that the BBC believes it correctly reported Mr Kelly's comments. But regardless of whether that is true, it is unconscionable that the BBC did not report until now that its "source" thought the BBC itself had "sexed up" what the "source" had actually said. It was not even essential for the BBC to name Dr. Kelly to admit the source of weakness in its report. (On an especially dotty note, Tory legislator Michael Fabricant is reported saying there is "no evidence to suggest the BBC had misrepresented the scientist's comments" - this in the face of Dr. Kelly's own statements to Parliament that the BBC had done exactly that. If Dr. Kelly's testimony to Parliament is not "evidence," what the heck is it?)

Nice. And the British taxpayers pay for this to be done to them.

Tony Blair has reportedly said he has no plans to resign over this mess - which is exactly right. However, the heads of the BBC should role - and the whole thing is an excellent opportunity for Parliament to disestablish the BBC from government support and ownership. One established church in Britain is much more than enough.
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Davis Descending XV: Untimely Ripp'd?

The news is just getting worse and worse for California Governor Gray Davis. He is attempting to demonize much - if not most - of the California electorate, or, as the Los Angles Times euphemizes today, Mr. Davis: appealed aggressively Saturday to his Democratic base, hoping to cast the upcoming campaign in sharply partisan terms to survive California's first statewide recall election. .... "This is not simply about me," he said. "This is about all Californians who believe in a progressive agenda." But Mr. Davis has never been good at convincing people to vote for him because of his "agenda" - progresive or otherwise - he has won office by demonizing his opponents - and his new focus on a "progressive agenda" where he has never previously identified himself for the voters as a "progressive" is some measure of his increasingly nervousness.

But Mr. Davis' need to identify himself with an agenda not his own and on which he was not elected may not be his biggest problem. His biggest problem may simply be time. The Los Angeles Times reports that a recent judicial decision means Davis' future could come to a vote earlier than once thought possible, with an election as soon as Sept. 30 That decision held that California counties cannor delay in verifying the recount signatures - but have to count and submit them on a rolling basis. From there, California statutes suggest that the Governor is to learn the truth of something the Marschallin famously said: When we are living our lives away, time is absolutely nothing. Then, suddenly, there is absolutely nothing else:

The timing of an election would be determined by a number of requirements spelled out in the state Constitution and statutes. Once county elections officials submit to Shelley enough valid signatures to qualify the issue for the ballot, an election must be held within 60 to 80 days, unless an already scheduled statewide election would occur within 180 days anyway.

California's next scheduled statewide election is in March, so if the recall is not certified until early September, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has the job of picking the election date, could consolidate the vote with that election.

But recall proponents say they already have submitted more than 1.6 million signatures and want a quick count now to confirm that. If enough signatures — 897,158 — are validated and approved by Shelley before Aug. 15, then an election would have to be held before November, when many California cities and counties have local elections scheduled, because that would be more than 80 days away.

In that event, the election would have to be held in late September or early October.

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