The kausfiles Blog Has Moved …

It’s now here. … 3:07 P.M.


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No Union Left Behind!

The Trouble With “Local Control”: Ruben Navarrette of the San Diego Union-Trib argues that, for all the high-profile rhetoric from President Obama and his education secretary about getting rid of bad teachers–talk that’s agitated the National Education Association–the fine print of the administration’s proposed No Child Left Behind revisions puts the unions back in the driver’s seat by “rolling back the involvement of the federal government in favor of more local control”:

You remember local control. That’s the governing principle that essentially handed the power over the system to teachers unions because they contribute so much money to the campaigns of labor-friendly school board members. The unions in turn put the job security of their members ahead of the educational well-being of students, and thus helped put our public schools in bad shape. You see, local control isn’t the solution; it’s one of the problems.

I’ve been arguing that Obama’s national Democratic party is less beholden to the unions than our state Democratic party. That’s true. But it still may be a little like arguing that the Mark Sanford is less creepy than John Edwards. … 1:02 A.M.


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‘Face It, You Are That Guy’

A suprise mystery guest on the Ricochet podcast tells me the bitter truth. (It comes after the 55 minute mark.) … 6:55 P.M.


Teachers’ unions = layoff by seniority. In average districts, that just means losing lots of good teachers, instead of losing the least effective teachers. But in big cities like New York, where there’s been an influx of young, idealistic Teach for America types, it’s a tragedy. The best get laid off while mediocre ed school graduates from the 70s teach your children. … What if you tried to run a baseball team and had to lay off by seniority as opposed to performance? … P.S.: It’s not as if school districts have to choose between layoffs-entirely-by-seniority and layoffs-entirely-by-merit. It would be easy to devise a system in which everyone who was an “OK” teacher got laid off by seniority, but the worst 10% got laid off first. But that deal would never be negotiated because today’s teachers’ unions (unlike the old self-disciplining ‘professional’ teachers’ unions) seem to exist to protect the worst 10%. …  7:05 P.M.


More on Unions–The Too Little, Too Late Problem: Even when unions eventually agree to necessary concessions, the tooth-pulling process of negotiation often results in a fix that’s too little, too late–and that cuts only the minimum necessary, leaving no margin for error or unforeseen events (like recessions). … Taxpayers who have followed the fortunes of General Motors and Chrysler are all too familiar with this phenomenon. But the same thing has happened in Los Angeles–where the city kept giving raises and adding jobs even as a recession loomed. When the downturn hit and revenues dropped, it took a year to negotiate cuts with the municipal unions. Now the city is up against it, facing the prospect of huge abrupt job cuts–and proposing a 28% utility rate hike to milk extra revenue from hard-pressed residents. … Phil Willon reports. … 7:23 P.M.


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“Free Mickey”

A generous item on Calbuzz about my attempts to speak to the California Democratic party at its upcoming convention. … If they want to endorse Sen. Boxer, fine. But why bother to declare her two opponents not “viable” and rule them out beforehand?  I’ll be on the ballot regardless. The main effect of the party’s semi-authoritarian, Iraq-like decree seems to be to prevent me from speaking to the convention.  Are they afraid someone might listen? I didn’t realize Boxer was that insecure about her prospects. …  1:27 P.M.


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The Closing of the Liberal Frontier?

Gagagaga: Where does it stop? Thomas Hegghammer argues that general disgust at encroaching Western cultural decadence is far less important, as a cause of Islamist terrorism directed at the U.S., than the Palestinian issue:

To the extent that Westernization causes militancy, the violence it inspires is nearly always directed at other Muslims, typically against regimes in Arab countries, because these legislate over matters of public morality. Jihadists are idealists, but they are not so utopian as to think they can stop Westernization by attacking America. However, they do think that by installing Islamist local governments, those governments can take measures to limit social liberalization.

This seems a little pat. Just because outrage at Lady Gaga currently leads to attacks only on Target A doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the future. If (as Reza Aslan, for one, suggests) Al Qaeda is best seen cynically as an organization bent on growth but flexible as to means, it should be able to switch to an “anti-Westernization” recruitment theme should the anti-Israel theme peter out. … Hegghammer soon retreats to the near-inarguable point that resolving the Palestinian issue would “likely” reduce recruitment. … 11:14 A.M.


Decimal, Schmecimal: Sunlight Foundation overstates Stupak group earmarks by a factor of 10. … 10:45  A.M.


Tomorrow’s Yesterday’s David Brooks column today: With the enactment of a form of universal health insurance, is the edifice of the modern American welfare state complete? Sure, there’s tinkering to be done: Add a public option? Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit? But is there some huge badly-needed state-provided benefit or entitlement that’s not now on offer?  Or is the job of New Deal Liberalism (Benefits Division) largely complete? … You have to wonder if this will have an impact like the closing of the frontier. Will the Democratic party turn inwards, directing its now-diminished energy and idealism into satisfying the smaller concerns of its interest groups? (And how will we tell the difference in California? Just kidding!) … Will this be like the moon landing–not the beginning of dramatic achievements for NASA, but the end, at least for a long time. … When the parties are competing domestically mainly on the issue of who can rev up the economy, will the relatively small differences between them (neither party’s socialist, neither is for killing Social Security or Medicare or–soon–Obamacare) yield more vicious campaigning, faculty politics style? … 1:51 P.M.


Maybe I can dramatize it this way: If CNN’s Jon Klein were a unionized L.A. teacher, he’d still have his job! … What’s that you say? You’re kidding. … Well, check back and see if he’s still there in a month. … 7:31 P.M.


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There Will Be Dunning

A contribution site should be up any day now. Don’t worry, John! … 5:57 P.M.


Ron Kaye blames L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa’s disastrous proposal for an up-to-28% utility hike–in the middle of a brutal recession, when private sector workers are hurting but Department of Water and Power workers have recently gotten raises–on labor boss Brian D’Arcy. But does D’Arcy want to use the mayor’s “renewable” initiative to create thousands of questionable union “green” jobs--or does he just want the DWP to become a cash cow that funds the rest of government? Kaye has argued both. And I suppose that could be the answer. …  12:15 A.M.


The Perverse World of Democratic Party Values: I’ve mentioned that the state Democratic party is charging $60 for lunch with Arianna but only $20 for Los Lobos. It turns out they want $120 for dinner with AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka.  I guess that accurately reflects who’s boss in the Democratic party these days. … Arianna for $60 suddenly seems like a good deal.  … 12:18 A.M.


Saturday I spoke briefly to the the Alice B. Toklas GLBT PAC in San Francisco. They were very nice. It was kind of them to invite me to make a pitch.  But I would say they were somewhat less than fully supportive of  my message. I felt like I was one of those panhandlers in a subway car in New York.  The passengers just look straight ahead into space. … You figure they’d at least want to argue.  But debate isn’t on the agenda. Time to put it there. … 6:22 P.M.


I’m not a Tea Partier. I’m in a distinct anti-government mood, however, after the U.S. Postal Service  failed today to deliver an “Express Mail” letter that was mailed on Friday. Applying Kaus’s First Rule of Journalism:

a)  This confirms my belief– informed by a stint working at the Post Office– that if you put an ordinary nondescript  letter in the regular stream of mail it will promptly be delivered to the right address. Local mail carriers tend to know their customers and do a pretty good job. But if you pay extra for Special VIP Registered Certified Express Do-Not-Lose Service, your letter will  be lost. It’s so special they put it in a special place! And then forget it’s there.

b) The larger point!: Consumers of government services are in for a bad time during budget crises. Not only do government agencies cut back on hours and personnel (often a time-honored ploy to trigger citizen demands for rescinding the cuts) but the personnel that remain on the job have an incentive to provide lousy service, lest citizen/taxpayers conclude that their new, smaller budget is perfectly adequate. This incentive operates independent of unions. … P.S.: Private firms–at least in competitive industries–normally can’t milk more money from their customers by providing bad service. (An exception, as David Cutler points out, may be the private health insurance industry. If you run a health  insurance company and give great service, paying without hassle and on time, you may attract a lot of sick people as customers–and go broke.)

 6:35 P.M.


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It’s On!

I just received the official candidates’ notice from the California Secretary of State’s office. It’s on. 

There are serious issues to be raised, and I will do my best to raise them. 

Is there really no place in the Democratic party for voters who believe in “affirmative government”–including health care reform– but have doubts about the power of public employee unions, including the unions that protect bad teachers?

Is there no place for voters who recognize the immense contributions of immigrants but  have doubts giving amnesty before we secure our borders? …

If you share my doubts about current Democratic dogma on these issues, and others, I hope you will join with this effort.

A campaign web site will be up shortly. I’ll link to it from this blog. (  The primary is June 8, more than two months away. An eternity in internet time!   Thanks.  5:37 P.M.


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“Barbara Boxer’s secret weapon”?

Money! … That was a secret? … 1:05 P.M.


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It’s All Going According to Plan

Working to set up my campaign web site,  which will include ways to contribute and volunteer. … Waiting for a response from the state Democratic convention, where I’ve asked for an “appropriate” speaking slot. …  Being ignored by the L.A. Times. … It’s all going according to plan! …

P.S.:  The Times mentions “demographic groups traditionally less interested in politics, particularly residents of Southern California ….” Yikes. That’s a big “demographic group” to be bored with politics. I blame … the L.A. Times, which has been making politics in Southern California boring for half a century. … 10:07 P’.M.


Thorough piece by David Hogberg on the “20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms.”  The trouble–from Hogberg’s point of view–is that the list is not that scary. Nothing worth abandoning universal health care over.  …  “Death panels”= scary! … Inability to buy “insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage” = not so scary. … 10:17 P.M.


“Unsustainable” is the new “comprehensive”–a word reformers have begun to deploy in mysterious unison, in the apparent belief that it is magically convincing to voters (as in, “The current health care system is unsustainable”). ‘ Like “comprehensive,” the word is in reality a sure-fire turnoff.  … “Comprehensive” scares voters with the thought that they are being governed by know-it-all,we’ve-thought-of-everything professors. It leads them to worry what the grand plan is hiding and to search for more incremental solutions. …  “Unsustainable” is a get-up-and-get-a-beer word–as in, you get up and get a beer in order to ponder the complex question of whether the system really is “unsustainable.” I mean, you’re getting by, even if you worry about health coverage and all these experts are saying we’ll go broke in 15 years. It’s hard to see why things couldn’t continue the way they are going for a long time. … It would be more convincing if reform proponents simply said, “This will be a better system and here’s why …” 10:53 P.M.


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Brian Williams feels the CW in his gut!

The lede of Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News top story, on the health care bill:

It’s as close to universal health care as America will likely ever come …

How the hell does he know? …  Sorry, Mr. Noah! … P.S.: I like Williams–hard to dislike him– but he has a habit of filling in the interstices of the news with insights from his gut, which is not infallible.  …

How the Hell Does He Know, Part II:  Non-bankable pollster John Zogby declares:

With the passage of healthcare reform, the battle lines are firmly drawn for the congressional elections in November.

Hmm. The Feiler Faster Thesis says we don’t know what the battle lines will be in November–that’s multiple eternities from now. Certainly they aren’t “firmly drawn.” … My guess would be that health care will now fade from consciousness with surprising rapidity. (Yes, I’ve been wrong about this sort of thing before–see 9/12/01 entry.) … 7:42 P.M.


Toughest Job in Town: Who’s the guy assigned to keep Obama’s ego in check? … Tip: Start by reminding Obama that he won the vote in part by leveraging his weakness–pleading with Democratic Congressmen to save his Presidency. … 8:20 P.M.


My Twitter feed is here.  … Email is:  …

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