Kevin Drum - November 2008

The Fairness Doctrine

| Sat Nov. 8, 2008 12:33 PM EST

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE....It's true, as Matt says, that the gang at The Corner has been kind of obsessed lately with the idea that Democrats plan to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine after Obama takes office. Bye bye Rush Limbaugh! I started noticing this chit chat a couple of weeks ago and did a bit of desultory googling to try to figure out what they were talking about, but I couldn't find much. It turns out that a few senators over the years have made occasional ritual calls to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but the bulk of the conservative hyperventilating always eventually linked back to a single sentence in The American Spectator:

According to two members of the House Democrat Caucus, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have informed them that they will "aggressively pursue" reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

So the Spectator, not exactly known for its deep sources with the Democratic Party, reports that "two members" of the House Democratic caucus claim that Pelosi and Hoyer are going to aggressively pursue reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, this was reported in May of 2007, and unless I missed some big news, Pelosi and Hoyer failed to make their big push.

So why are conservatives in such a tizzy about this? It's a mystery. There do appear to be a few members of Congress who think it's a shame we got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, but as near as I can tell, "few" equals four or five in the Senate and maybe a dozen in the House. There are probably more Republicans who believe in a return to the gold standard than there are Democrats who seriously want to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine.

So I'm still in the dark about why this has taken on such currency in conservative circles. Maybe someone can enlighten me. In the meantime, in other radio-related blogging news (nice segue, eh?), Nick Carr compares the blogosphere to the radio industry here:

When "the wireless" was introduced to America around 1900, it set off a surge in amateur broadcasting, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the airwaves. "On every night after dinner," wrote Francis Collins in the 1912 book Wireless Man, "the entire country becomes a vast whispering gallery."

....But it didn't last. Radio soon came to be dominated by a relatively small number of media companies, with the most popular amateur operators being hired on as radio personalities....That's not to say that the amateur radio operators didn't change the mainstream media. They did. And so, too, have bloggers. Allowing readers to post comments on stories has now, thanks to blogging, become commonplace throughout online publishing. But the once popular idea that blogs would prove to be an alternative to, or even a devastating attack on, corporate media has proven naive.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a panel at UC Irvine and said much the same thing, though I compared the professionalization of the blogosphere to modern talk radio, not 1920s amateur radio. Either way, though, I think Carr is essentially right. To a large (though not complete) extent, the blogosphere doesn't really oppose the MSM anymore, it is the MSM — and vice versa. This was probably inevitable, but it's still kind of a shame. Surely this means that there's now a market for yet another new medium, this time dedicated to criticizing the blogosphere?

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Friday Cat Blogging - 7 November 2008

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:46 PM EST

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....In today's edition of Friday Catblogging, Inkblot and Domino are part of history. As are we all. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Beating the Clock

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:46 PM EST

BEATING THE CLOCK....A few days ago I linked to a Washington Post story about all the new regulations and executive orders the Bush administration is rushing to put into effect before they leave office. Their deadline is November 20, because executive orders don't take legal effect for 60 days and they want them on the books before Obama takes over. Froude Reynolds explains how they're getting this done:

In an effort to amend the Endangered Species Act to say it doesn't really apply to big federal projects like power plants or dams, the Bush administration claimed it reviewed 200,000 comments in four days. Not all by themselves. They called in fifteen extra people from around the country to work on it all week! With that kind of manpower, each person only had to read seven comments every minute!

You know, I'd almost be disappointed if they weren't doing stuff like this up to the very end. The good news, Reynolds says, is that this behavior is practically guaranteed to be ruled "arbitrary and capricious" by an administrative law judge in the near future after some environmental group or another takes them to court. That being the case, let's hope the true believers in the Bush administration treat all their last-minute regs with the same care and respect for the law that they've shown for the past eight years.

Out, Damned Spot

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:22 PM EST

OUT, DAMNED SPOT....Andrew Tobias isn't quite ready to let go of his bitterness over the Bush years. Me neither! Today he adds yet another chapter to the chronicles of the Mayberry Machiavellis:

I know . . . it's probably not constructive and perhaps not even good sportsmanship to keep piling on....And yet I feel the need to share the story of Skip Orr, whom I met Tuesday night in Grant Park watching President-elect Obama take the stage. A long-time Obama supporter, Skip had flown in from Japan for this....As President of Boeing Japan, he found himself at a Democrats Abroad meeting pitching John Kerry — and then found himself outed as a Democrat in the New York Times. The next day Karl Rove called Boeing headquarters noting his displeasure — and referring to the great deal of business Boeing does with the government. Basically, he wanted Orr fired.

Sweet bunch of guys, aren't they? They can't leave town soon enough for my taste.

Northern Exposure

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 12:29 PM EST

NORTHERN EXPOSURE....The recount in Minnesota hasn't even started yet and Al Franken's deficit has already been cut to 238 votes. It makes Florida 2000 look like a landslide.

And in other post-election news, Jonathan Stein points to this Washington Post piece about the odd goings-on up in Alaska. The official turnout figures are oddly low and the final results are wildly off from the final polling numbers. There is apparently much scratching of heads up in Anchorage and Juneau.

Iraq Update

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 12:15 PM EST

IRAQ UPDATE....Two days ago I was reading stories about how the Iraqis were still flatly opposed to the U.S. version of the security agreement they were being asked to sign. But now everything is different:

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.

"Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011," said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. "If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama."

Translation: we don't trust George Bush to actually observe the terms of the agreement. But Obama will. Apparently Iraqis are pretty shrewd judges of character, aren't they?

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Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 11:19 AM EST

NIGHTMARE ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE....The unemployment rate is at its worst in 14 years. October retail sales were the worst in 37 years. The ISM manufacturing index is at its lowest level in 26 years. And the service sector index is at its lowest level ever.

Welcome to Washington, president-elect Obama. I think you'd better get used to hearing the phrase "at its worst level since ______ "

Obama's Constitution

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:54 AM EST

OBAMA'S CONSTITUTION....I don't expect to hear anything about this stuff soon from the Obama team, but I hope they don't put off for too long making some explicit statements about:

  • Domestic surveillance/warrantless wiretapping

  • Guantanamo

  • Torture policy/adherence to Geneva conventions

  • Signing statements

  • Military tribunals

Let's call this the "shredding the constitution" file. Or, more hopefully, the "putting the constitution back together" file. The first two items in particular are going to be especially tough for Obama. He's almost certainly going to be told in no uncertain terms by men wearing dark suits and penetrating stares that the wiretapping program has produced reams of actionable intelligence and that cutting it back will endanger American security. And those sentiments won't stay private. They'll be leaked to plenty of friendly reporters if Obama orders the program modified anyway. We can expect some major political firestorms over this.

Guantanamo, if anything, will be even harder. I'm not talking here about Guantanamo the place. The prison itself can be pretty easily moved elsewhere. I'm talking about Guantanamo the problem: namely, what do you do with the remaining detainees there? Battlefield conditions being what they are, it's almost a certainty that the evidence against many of the prisoners — including some of the genuinely dangerous ones — is far too weak to withstand any kind of dispassionate tribunal. But if that means some of them get released, where do they get released to? Kansas City? It's not as if there's another country in the world that will take them, after all.

But we can't keep surveilling American citizens forever and we can't continue to keep prisoners locked up based merely on rumors and hearsay (or confessions extracted by torture). I don't expect Obama to clean this stuff up on his first day in office, but here's hoping that the constitutional law professor doesn't wait too long. It would be nice to have our country back again.

Viva Obama

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 12:43 AM EST

VIVA OBAMA....Great moments from the annals of debate prep:

For the second debate, a town-hall format, Obama was told to be careful to hold the mike by his side — not straight up in his lap — when he sat down. The same instructions had been given to John Kerry four years ago. It wasn't hard to persuade the candidates to mind the advice, said an aide; all you had to do was show them a video.

Roger that.

Raw Data

| Thu Nov. 6, 2008 7:03 PM EST

RAW DATA....Via Steve Benen, Steve Waldman says that Obama has shrunk the God gap:

Obama got 43% of weekly church-goers vs. 55% for McCain. In 2004, Bush got 61% vs. 39% for Kerry. What this means is that Bush beat Kerry by roughly 27 million among weekly churchgoers, and McCain beat Obama by only 15 million — a stunning 12 million person shift.

Hold on a second. I made a pain in the ass of myself over this subject in 2004, and I'm going to do the same thing this year.

First things first. In 2004, Kerry lost to Bush nationwide by 2.4 percentage points. In 2008, Obama beat McCain by 6.3 percentage points. That's a swing of about 9 points nationwide, which means that any group that also swung by 9 points in Obama's favor was doing nothing except following the national trend.

So how about those churchgoers? They went from -22 for Kerry to -12 for Obama. That's a swing of ten points, almost identical to the nationwide swing in Obama's favor. Weekly churchgoers just didn't do anything unusual, which means there's no reason to think that Obama did anything special to appeal to them. More than likely, they voted for him in larger numbers this year for the same reason as everyone else: they were tired of Bush, tired of Republicans, and trusted Obama more in tough economic times. There's really no justification for a special narrative to explain those 12 million extra voters.

But as long as we're on the subject, which groups did Obama do especially well with? That is, which groups did he swing by margins substantially more than 9 points? Based on the 2004 and 2008 exit polls, here are the groups that swung in disproportionate numbers this year:

  • Income $200,000 or more (+34)

  • First-time voters (+33)

  • No high school (+27)

  • Latinos (+27)

  • 18-29 year olds (+25)

  • Under $15,000 (+21)

  • Full-time workers (+19)

  • Urban (+19)

  • Non-gun owners (+18)

  • Non-religious (+16)

  • Parents with children under 18 (+16)

The swing in first-time voters (which overlaps heavily with 18-29 year olds) and Latinos was especially stunning. Also worth noting, just because they're such obvious swing groups, are Obama's large gains among moderates (+12) and the unmarried (+14).

And which groups did Obama do substantially worse with than his overall national trend? Here they are:

  • Gay/lesbian (-11)

  • Last minute voters (-8)

  • Union members (0)

  • "Other" religions (0)

  • Gun owners (+2)

  • White women (+4)

  • 45-59 year olds (+4)

Gays and last-minute deciders are the only groups where Obama performed worse than Kerry. The other five are groups where he did better than Kerry, but not by as much as he did with the country as a whole.

I don't have any special narratives or analysis to offer for any of this. Maybe later. For now, it's just raw data for your noodling pleasure.