September 30, 2005

Links of the Week

Jonah Goldberg argues that if you want the hand of business out of government, get the hand of government out of business.

John Hawkins is on the same page as me on Tom DeLay. The New Hampshire Union-Leader is even harsher on the Hammer-- perhaps a little too harsh.

Rush Limbaugh is for standing by DeLay, and singles me out for criticism. I respond here.

Julian Sanchez writes that when it comes to marriage, "tradition itself is a chronicle of flux."

And finally, two you've already seen if you've been reading my AmSpecBlog posts: Rick Brookhiser writes on left-wing anti-Semitism, and a "find your favorite SCOTUS-nominee" quiz.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:38 PM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2005

Blogging Around

The AmSpecBlog made its debut this week, and as of today I'm contributing to it.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

Friends, Republicans, Countrymen

In today's AmSpec column, I come to bury Tom DeLay, not to praise him.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:46 AM | Comments (6)

September 26, 2005

About Those Bootlegs

People keep emailing me rogue cut-and-pastes of New York Times columns, so I guess I'd better put this in a separate post to underline it.

I'm aware that bloggers and message-board posters have put up copies of several TimesSelect op-eds that I don't have links to. I started this site to point to newspapers who print syndicated Times columns, not to promote copyright violations; when I found out that the Times changed their syndication policy to further shield the columns, I said I'd continue the site as long as syndicated copies keep slipping through the cracks. But I never intended to play Napster to the Times's Mettalica; if I did, I wouldn't have signed my name to the site.

So here's what I'll do. When I know there's a bootleg copy out there, I still won't link to it, but I will put up a link that says "(Bootleg available)" and point it to this post. You are free to search for those yourself. Try Technorati and Google Groups. But proceed with the understanding that I'm not endorsing such piracy; if you're a blogger who's posting NYT columns, don't expect me to back you up against the Times's legal team.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:05 PM | Comments (36)

September 25, 2005

Never Pay Retail FAQ

Readers of my main blog will know some of what follows, but I thought it would be a good idea to collect this all in one place.

Is this legal?

Me putting up links? Yes. For the websites where Never Pay Retail points, the details get a bit murkier.

The New York Times News Service, the Times's syndicate, changed their policy when TimesSelect debuted; newspapers are no longer supposed to post NYTNS columns in free areas of their websites. It didn't occur to the Times, apparently, that they needed to make this clear long in advance of TimesSelect's launch; many newspapers are still posting Times columns. (NYTNS contracts generally last a year, so to change the terms like this was, while no doubt consistent with the fine print, pretty lousy business behavior on the Times's part.)

I've linked to two websites that aren't actually subscribers to the syndicate. One, The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive, stopped posting Paul Krugman's columns with the explanation:

I received this email (posted in its entirety) from Paul Krugman this past Wednesday:
Subject: Alas, the Times is complaining


Andy Rosenthal called - they have apparently become aware of your site (I think too many bloggers gave the link) and asked me to drop a line asking you to stop providing the colum for free. Yuk.

Therefore, I cannot continue to post his columns from The New York Times on this site.
The other one is the lefty, which follows each column with a legal disclaimer claiming fair use rights for "for research and educational purposes."

Even though they would seem to hold up as well as, legally speaking (I'll leave it to others to judge how well that might be), I've avoided links to rogue cut-and-paste jobs in message boards and the like. When I blogged about it, most commenters seemed to agree that doing so would feel less than Kosher.

How long do you think this site will last?

Given the Times's efforts to close the syndication loophole, not very long. But I'll keep it up as long as possible. (And yes, I realize that I'm essentially giving the Times a map to wayward syndicate subscribers.)

What about the other TimesSelect columns-- Sports, Business, etc.?

Given that Never Pay Retail probably won't last very long, expanding outside of the op-ed columns doesn't strike me as worth the effort.

Doesn't the Times have a right to charge for its columns?

Of course. They even have a right to charge more than you'd pay for a year's worth of digital access to most opinion magazines. And they have a right to relinquish the next generation of potential Times addicts to other newspapers. The right to run your business into the ground is inalienable.

I created Never Pay Retail to mock the Times's cluelessness, not to correct for it.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:02 PM | Comments (26)

Comparison Shopping

For $19.95, you can get a year of online access to The American Spectator.

For $21.95, you can get a year of National Review Digital.

For $29.95, you can get a year of The New Republic Digital.

For $29.97, you can get a year of The Nation in print and online access.

For $39.96, you can get a year of online access to The Weekly Standard.

Or, you could pay $49.95 for a year of TimesSelect. Is it any wonder that the Times isn't crowing about their sales of the new service?

Posted by John Tabin at 01:55 PM | Comments (3)

September 23, 2005

Links of the Week

Mark Blumenthal's excellent Mystery Pollster blog turns one year old.

Cathy Young looks at the bizarre attempts of Women's Studies professors to find a feminist angle on hurricanes.

Duncan Currie explains how Prime Minister Junchiro Koizumi's big win in the Japanese election, and the post-election shake-up within the opposition party, bode well for Japanese-American relations.

Jim Robbins writes on this week's election in Afghanistan.

Finally, Michael J.W. Stickings rounds up places to look for Hurricane Rita news with a local perspective.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

The Exclamation Point Comes Out!

When we spoke yesterday, New York Post reporter Sam Gustin told me that pretty much everyone at his office is, for obvious reasons, amused and delighted by Never Pay Retail. The headline they've given to Gustin's report on the site in today's paper seems to reflect that.

UPDATE: Never Pay Retail is now an international story.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:46 AM | Comments (4)

Do The Right Thing

My AmSpec column today looks at some things President Bush can do that would be both good politics and good policy. No, I didn't write the title.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:58 AM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2005

Liberals as Goldfish

It's almost a shame that the Mythbusters guys disproved the old saw that goldfish have no memories in Episode 11, since it makes such a good metaphor. Jonah Goldberg commented last year on how liberals are much less interested in their own intellectual history than conservatives and libertarians are in ours. (Jonah's follow-up post, in response to Kevin Drum, is also worth reading.) "This is a huge tactical advantage for liberals in political battles because they can disown old ideas in ways we cannot," he wrote.

But it's also a disadvantage to liberals if the old ideas they aren't up to speed on are ideas about political strategy. I thought of this after seeing Matt Yglesias argue that it's worth defending the bad policy of the Davis-Bacon Act to shore up the strength of unions, and then get shredded by Mickey Kaus, who writes in exasperation,

All these arguments were thoroughly hashed out in 1984, 1988 and 1992. Now we're having them again. It's as if Gary Hart and Bill Clinton (and Theodore Lowi) had never existed, as if "constituency liberals" like Mondale and Harkin had been routinely winning the presidency while Carter/Clinton "policy liberals" were the rare Democrats who'd lost, as opposed to the only Democrats who'd won.

Yglesias (after linking to a policy argument in favor of Davis-Bacon, which is seperate from the political question) responds, rather strangely, that it's Kaus who wants to refight old battles. "I was eleven in 1992 and three in 1984. I have no stake in those fights."

That is, not to put too fine a point on it, a really dumb thing to say, all the more striking since Matt isn't a dumb guy. I'm close to Matt's age (one year older), but if I were to write (for example) about the political efficacy of a pro-choice, anti-Roe campaign (which would mirror my policy preferences on both abortion and judges), I would be obliged to deal with the fact that Pete DuPont tried that approach in the 1988 Republican primary. If I didn't, and my conclusion cut against the historical lesson, I'd have quite a few readers with long memories dismissing me as an ignorant flake, and rightly so. That I was a child in 1988 would be no excuse for ignoring history.

Doesn't Matt have readers with long memories? Or are they all just swimming in circles, surprised on each pass to discover the little plastic scuba-diver in the tank?

Posted by John Tabin at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)


"There are no syndicated versions of New York Times op-ed columns available for free on the web. Never!"

Cyrus Farivar, who interviewed me on Tuesday, has a story about Never Pay Retail up at Wired News.

When Farivar talked to New York Times Digital flak Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf Diane McNulty, she noted the change in the New York Times News Service's syndication policy, and, like NYTNS Exectutive Editor Lawrence M. Paul in the Editor & Publisher story the other day, insisted that everything is under control:

Upon being alerted to the existence of Never Pay Retail, McNulty said that the Times has contacted the publishers of the online editions of those newspapers and that the posts were all honest mistakes or oversights.

One online publisher, Lee Rosen, general manager of, acknowledged that the reprinting of Nicholas D. Kristof's Sept. 21 column, among other Times Op-Ed content, was a mistake.

"They won't be there tomorrow," Rosen said.

As of now, the Kristof column is still there, though the link from the PI's opinion page is not.
The Times said that it's watching for sites that don't follow the syndication rules.

"We don't expect such infringements to spread or to last long and we will be keeping a close eye on it," McNulty said.

Well, I'll be keeping a closer eye on it, too.

UPDATE: Commenter stosine asks: "How about linking to people who post columns on internet bulletin boards? I'm sure some must do that, and google can search them out." Yes, there is a copy of today's Bob Herbert column that you can find, if you really want it, by searching Google Groups (a reader emailed it to me), but we hashed this out the other day, and though such cut-and-pastes may technically be legal, most commenters seemed to share my discomfort with going that route.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:51 AM | Comments (46)

September 21, 2005

The Retailer Strikes Back?

Uh-oh-- maybe my new venture isn't going to last as long as I'd hoped. Editor & Publisher reports that the New York Times News Service, the Times's syndicate, is changing its policies:

Previously, NYTNS clients could post Times columns on their Web sites for 24 hours if they also published them in their print editions. Now, newspapers can post the work of Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and others only in a paid area of their sites.

"All English-language clients of the news service -- whether domestic or foreign -- have agreed to either not post the columns they publish or to put the columns behind a paid wall," said NYTNS Executive Editor Laurence M. Paul, when reached by E&P Online.

They remain behind the curve, as of yesterday (when the E&P story ran):
Paul said he knows of only one newspaper -- in Australia -- that posted a Times column in a free part of its site Monday. When NYTNS learned that Bob Herbert was appearing gratis on that paper's site, it contacted the client to ask that this not happen again.

What would NYTNS do if other newspaper sites posted columns that could be accessed for free? Paul reiterated that this hasn't been a problem so far, and that clients realize they now have a different contractual obligation.

Umm, I have a list of those that apparently aren't aware of the new policy-- though some of the Never Pay Retail links are already dying, and one of them explicitly announces the rights issue. I'll keep the site up as long as I keep finding links, though.

I wrote in May that "I doubt there will be new restrictions on what NYTNS clients can do with their content that give online exclusivity; the syndicate is a cash cow that 42nd St. would be very foolish to tip." Mickey Kaus, linking to that item, wasn't so sure they wouldn't change syndication policies. Score one for Mickey, but I maintain that this is foolish; there are lots of syndicated columnists out there that are just as good as the Times stable. More from E&P:

Paul doesn't anticipate the paid wall having a significant impact on NYTNS' sales and nearly 100% renewal rates. And, since NYTNS has contracts with clients that last at least a year, any possible impact may not be known for several months.
If they have contracts that last a year, how can they change the terms midstream? If you were running a local newspaper, would you keep doing business with a syndicate that behaved like that?

UPDATE: Explains commenter Brett: "The fine print on most contracts allows the richer party to change terms without notice. Businesses are withing their rights to do so, but it remains a trashy behavior." It sure does.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:19 PM | Comments (27)

Ethical Quandry

I've been passed a link to Maureen Dowd's NYT column for today. Someone cut-and-pasted it into a Google Group. If you really want it, you can get it by running a search for her name and the column title. But should I link to it at Never Pay Retail?

When I find cut-and-pasted copies of my own columns on the web, I tend to feel a mixture of flattery and annoyance. On the one hand, it's nice that people care enough to share my work with their message-board buddies. On the other hand, it's not exactly fair use, and even though I realize that I'm not actually losing money from a message-board post-- they wouldn't pay a reprint fee in any case, and publications that are on the up-and-up will pay reprint fees regardless of what goes on in little corners of the Internet-- I still wish, at a gut level, that people would just link to the original column.

It would increase the utility of the site, and I doubt the Sulzberger Deadly Lawyer Assassin Squad would come after me just for putting up a link. I've already linked to The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive (Krugman himself links to that, though he "disavow[s] any knowledge of its contents"). Still, I'm leaning against using links to message-board cut-and-pastes. Thoughts?

UPDATE: Comments are running against cut-and-pastes, though commenter Bauer makes the case that I'm wrong about the letter of the law, and message-board posts are fair use. (It still seems like a gray area, especially if I send all the traffic I'm getting to one of those posts.)

But commenter Rob solves the problem by pointing out the Albany Times-Union's same-day, one-day-only syndication of NYT columnists, rendering the discussion moot, at least as far as today's MoDo column goes.

Posted by John Tabin at 09:34 AM | Comments (11)

September 20, 2005

Dangerous Curves

Perhaps inevitably, given the high volume of traffic from ideologically disparate quarters and the presence of a Krugman link, the comments to the post below have turned into a fight over economic policy. If anyone wants to continue that thread, do it here.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:20 PM | Comments (6)

Never Pay Retail

Pssst... The New York Times says that as of yesterday, "To continue reading [Bob Herbert or Paul Krugman], you must be a subscriber to TimesSelect," their new $50-a-year service. But the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune and The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive say that you can read 'em for free (if, for some reason, you want to). If the Times is going to make any money off this, "Herbert's Heroes" and the like are going to have to be a whole lot more interesting than they sound.

(For an earlier post on how syndication will render TimesSelect nonsensical, see here.)

UPDATE: Worried that a site called "The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive" might disappear soon if they don't have their legal ducks in a row? Then try the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer. Registration is, ahem, free.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This situation presents an obvious niche for a blog dedicated to tracking down links to Times columnists' syndicated work. So I went ahead and started one.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:06 AM | Comments (24)

September 19, 2005

A Broken Tradition

"Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors," says an AFP dispatch, Clinton attacks Bush.

Has there ever been a less rigorously-observed tradition? Jimmy Carter has also slammed George W. Bush. Carter and Gerald Ford signed onto a New York Times op-ed in December of 1998 that called for the censure of Clinton, saying "impeachment by the full House has already brought profound disgrace to President Clinton." (In context, this was of course a case for preserving Clinton's presidency, but it was a criticism nonetheless.) George H.W. Bush said a month later that "I must confess I have been deeply concerned by what appears to be a lack of respect for the office I was so very proud to hold."

This isn't a completely new development; Teddy Roosevelt-- "behaving rather like an anti-Carter," as Lee Harris put it-- publicly criticized Woodrow Wilson for not going to war immediately after the sinking of the Lusitania. But now we've hit a milestone: Every living former president has now criticized at least one of his successors.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:44 PM | Comments (2)

September 18, 2005

The Case Against Proportional Representation

The German election makes it well.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) underperformed their poll numbers, while the FDP, an economic-liberal party (in the classical sense-- what Americans would recognize as economically conservative), overperformed. Thus the breakdown is roughly 35% for the CDU, 34% for Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD), 10% for the FDP, and around 8% each for the Green Party and the (not-so-)ex-Communist Left Party.

The parties of the left could form a ruling coalition, but the SPD has ruled out working with the loony Left Party. Some analysts are predicting a "grand coalition" of the SPD and CDU, headed by CDU leader Angie Merkel and faced with utter gridlock-- the anti-American SPD might score the foreign ministry despite Merkel's pro-Americanism. The Christian Democrats are are ruling out such a coalition, while the FDP has ruled out another idea, a weird "traffic light coaltion" -- red for the SPD, yellow for the FDP, and green for the Green.

Thus, someone will have to renege on one of these pledges and form a coalition government too unwieldly to govern effectively, or they'll have to immediately hold another election.

Remember this the next time some Europhile fool sings the praises of this system.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:17 PM | Comments (3)

September 16, 2005

Links of the Week

For their 10th Anniversary, the Weekly Standard holds an interesting symposium on what their contributors have changed their mind about in the past decade, featuring Gerard Baker, Max Boot, David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell, Eric Cohen, John J. DiIulio Jr., Noemie Emery, Joseph Epstein, Andrew Ferguson, David Frum, David Gelernter, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Robert Kagan, Tod Lindberg, Harvey Mansfield, P.J. O'Rourke, John Podhoretz, and Irwin M. Stelzer.

Cato's Steven Slivinski calls on Congress to sacrifice some of its pork to offset hurricane relief.

Heather MacDonald takes on post-Katrina racism charges.

Jim Geraghty is in Berlin covering the German election this weekend, so keep an eye on TKS.

Finally, a little bird tells me that Cathy Young will start blogging regularly on Monday. (The same little bird tells me she never writes while drunk, so she'll blame it on sleep deprivation.)

Posted by John Tabin at 09:33 PM | Comments (1)

A Well Fine Speech

I review President Bush's performance in New Orleans (and ABC reporter Dean Reynolds's performance in Houston) in today's AmSpec column.

UPDATE: Brent Baker at the Media Research Center has the transcript of the ABC segment refered to in my column, along with a video clip.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:24 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2005


Cathy Young refers at length to this column of mine in the October Reason (not yet online)-- and in the process, I'm afraid, she makes a glaring factual error. Discussing Gonzales v. Raich, she writes

You could easily conclude that Scalia is a hypocrite willing to cast his principles of limited government aside in order to further his anti-drug social agenda. Writing in The American Spectator, John Tabin offers a different theory. Tabin points to a 2001 case, Kyllo v. United States, in which Scalia wrote the majority opinion siding with a convicted marijuana grower who conteded that drug agents had engaged in an illeagal search by using a thermal imaging device to determine that the heat emanating from his home was consistent with high-intensity lamps typically used for indoor marijuana cultivation. Tabin believes Scalia's Raich opinion stems not from an animus against drugs but from excessive respect for judicial precedent, and the belief that it should not be overturned without an extremely compelling reason.

A rival explanation is that in Kyllo the violation of the defendant's rights was too plain to deny. (Stevens was the sole dissenter.)

This is simply incorrect. Kyllo was decided 5-4; Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Kennedy joined Stevens's dissent. But since she goes on to more or less restate, with attribution, my critique of Scalia's approach to stare decisis, it's hard to be too upset.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2005

Four Years Later

Pajamas Media has a 9/11 slideshow up, but it's not as affecting as one I've linked to in the past-- a flash slideshow that was set to Enya's "Only Time." It used to be, but now that points to Penthouse. Does anyone know if it's still on the web somewhere?

Posted by John Tabin at 09:38 PM | Comments (1)

September 09, 2005

Links of the Week

John Tierney dishes out not just one but two great columns this week in response to Katrina.

Jesse Sheidlower explains the origins of the New Orleans accent.

Will Wilkinson makes a liberal-columnist-kabob by skewering Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and Harold Meyerson.

Tony Carnes looks at the conflicts between a lefty Jewish leader in Boston and the largely Republican Russian-Jewish community.

Finally, George Gilder eulogizes Jude Wanniski.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

I Get Results

My column today:

If there's anything Bush hates, it's punishing people who are loyal to him. But he ought to bite the bullet and tactfully announce that while we thank [Michael] Brown for his service, he's being replaced by someone with the expertise to execute needed reforms. It can be done without being cruel. But it must be done.

The AP:

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday... [A] source close to Brown, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FEMA director had been considering leaving after the hurricane season ended in November and that Friday's action virtually assures his departure.
Clearly, they were just waiting for me to weigh in.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

Troubled Waters

In today's AmSpec column I contemplate the President's depleted reserves of political capital, and suggest how to refill them.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:14 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2005

Links of the Week

TechCentralStation presents a dedicated hurricane-coverage page.

Huffington Post dissident Greg Gutfield skewers the insanity that passes for post-Katrina commentary at The Arianna's Rolodex Club.

David Frum writes on the same topic, "the wild, contradictory, and utterly opportunistic charges from the administration's critics" post-Katrina, and links to posts debunking the most common of these.

Christopher Hitchens presents what the administration ought to be saying about Iraq.

Finally, Al Regnery has an interesting review of an interesting-sounding book on Antonio Stradivari and his instruments.

Posted by John Tabin at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

Guestblogging at Instapundit

Okay, so maybe my "voice" (as magazine editors call it) isn't coming through, but I still think it's worthwhile work: I'm helping to convert the bottomless Instapundit mailbox into a hurricane relief roundup. Sara's been pitching in, too. If you don't like my preferred charity, you have lots of other choices.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)



The plan for tomorrow's flood-aid blogburst: I'd like each blogger participating to put up a post recommending a charity, or other action to help, and linking back to this post where I'll keep a comprehensive list of both bloggers and charities. Basically, a Carnival of Hurricane Relief. That way readers of any blog will have ready access to recommendations on all the blogs.
I endorse the Union for Reform Judaism's Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)