The new, humble, subtle Krugman?

The new, humble, subtle Krugman?

The new, humble, subtle Krugman?

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 27 2002 11:02 PM

Un-Aggressive Pursuit

Plus: Was The Clash as PC as the NYT says?

Growth Will Come:

Then the situation stabilized, more or less. Repeated interest rate cuts encouraged families to buy new houses and refinance their mortgages, putting cash in their pockets; yes, the tax cut also made a marginal contribution.

On the other hand, a small minority of pessimists — sometimes including me, depending on what I had for breakfast — have been insistently predicting a collapse in consumer spending, which also hasn't happened. [Emphasis added

Alarming signs of humility from Paul Krugman in a solid column today. ... Could the old subtle and sensible Krugman have escaped from the Princeton storage closet where he's been bound and gagged for all these months? It's a new year -- anything's possible! ... P.S.: We'll settle for false humility!...  7:22 P.M.


Aggression is in the Details: From today's Neil Lewis NYT piece on Supreme Court vacancies:

When Mr. Rehnquist told the television interviewer Charlie Rose last year that "traditionally, Republican appointees have tended to retire during Republican administrations," he meant that it would be far easier for a justice to leave when his or her successor would bring a similar ideology. That reasoning becomes even stronger with an aggressive Republican Senate taking over in January. [Emphasis added]

Why is that word "aggressive" there? Is this an especially aggressive single-vote GOP Senate majority? Newt Gingrich's 1994 Republican House -- that was aggressive (though even Gingrich  himself isn't that aggressive any more). Throwing out Supplemental Security Income and block-granting food stamps was aggressive. Ending the welfare entitlement was aggressive. Trying to balancing the budget by cutting Medicare -- aggressive! Renominating Charles Pickering (or, as is possible, not renominating Charles Pickering) -- not aggressive! ... Abandoning accelerated tax cuts for the rich, as reported in today's WSJ, may be a sensible move, but it's certainly not aggressive. ... (Privatizing Social Security would be aggressive, but it won't happen.) .... You, the reader make the call: Is the word "aggressive" in Lewis' piece because

a) it's a hype word,  artificially building up the drama and the stakes of the impending Supreme Court battle;


b) liberal Times reporters think all Republicans are "aggressive" -- it's the nicest thing they can say about them! 

c) it's a scare word. Lewis is trying to frighten the Times ' largely-liberal readership about Bush's possible picks. Note: Lewis uses the word "conservative" eight times in the piece, and four of those times it's directly preceded by an adjective that arguably acts as a trigger for the release of liberal fear hormones: "sharp conservative," "boldest conservative," "aggressively conservative," and "reliable conservative;"

d) Lewis just loves "aggressive" -- he uses it three times in 1470 words; or  

e) all of the above. ... 6:33 P.M.


Thursday, December 26, 2002

But Scrum, where's Shrum? Senator John Edwards will announce his presidential candidacy on January 4, according to the mysterious (to you, not me!) Scrum. ... 7:04 P.M.

Meter Goes Off: Do you really think the Empire State Building  "has weathered the year after the [9/11] attacks quite nicely, thank you, despite the miserable economy and lingering terrorism fears," as the New York Times claims? I'm suspicious. According to John Holusha's boosterishpiece,

 "Broadcasters have snapped up offices on the highest floors. Tourists are crowding the observation deck. ... according to the building's manager, about 90 percent of the commercial space is occupied ..."

Some tenants are moving out, but "others are moving in, a normal state of affairs," Holusha writes. Indeed, "57 new leases totaling 91,000 square feet have been signed and another 35 leases representing 61,000 square feet have been renewed. " But Holusha doesn't give one bit of data that most businessmen -- and NYT readers -- might want to know about before they're convinced that everything's sunny at 34th and Fifth: Price. Are those brave new tenants paying the same rent as the tenants who are leaving? It's easy to lease out space if you lower the rent enough. Hello, editor! ... You'd almost think the Times owns a big chunk of commercial property in the midtown area! ...P.S.: I'm also still skeptical that The New Yorker has suddenly become profitable to the tune of $1.2 million, even if Keith Kelly repeats it. The magazine's whole, elaborately orchestrated "we're profitable" campaign reeks of Salon-style (or kausfiles-style) PR hype.  Could Tina Brown really have been wasting that much money? Given the ability of accountants to move around expenses within the Conde Nast empire, I think we should all demand that reporters be allowed to look at Conde Nast's books before we join in the applause. ...They don't really expect us to take Steve Florio's  word for it, do they? ... Update: Here's a good, skeptical piece, with some useful detail. The magazine reportedly lost $9 million last year, and $10 million in 2000 "despite a boom that year that lifted many magazines to record levels."  11:47 P.M.


Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Voice of Sanity Dept.:

"The president set the tone in Philadelphia when he condemned Lott. How do we match that?"

-- Donna Brazile, Democratic get-out-the-vote whiz, arguing against Dems who would try to somehow immediately capitalize on the Lott scandal,  NYT, 12/24  

2:19 P.M.

Making a hair-trigger charge of racism over Bill Frist's "I don't want to get stuck" Sharp Pencil remark always seemed like something Harold Ford Sr., as opposed to his New Democrat son, Harold Ford Jr., would do. And sure enough, according to the OpinionJournal's "Best of the Web,"the New York Times' David Firestone got it wrong-- it was Sr., not Jr., who "demanded that Mr. Frist apologize to African-Americans" (Firestone's words). Inspires confidence in Firestone's deep understanding of Tennessee politics, doesn't it? ... 11:58 A.M.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Howell Don't Like It: Jon Pareles' NYTobit of The Clash's Joe Strummer is predictably PC  -- "tied punk's individual rage to mass rebellion ....  railed against apathy, powerlessness, police brutality, American cultural domination ... drew on reggae as [a] badge of interracial solidarity ..." blah, blah blah.  Has Pareles ever actually listened to the lyrics to "Safe European Home"?  Interracial solidarity with Jamaicans is not the theme. ... Surely Pareles knows this, but he writes as if he doesn't, and diminishes The Clash in the process. Unlike the Times, they had a f-----g sense of humor. ... (Update: David Segal's WaPo obit is much looser and better, as is Desson Howe's reminiscence.)


Pareles also misses the most important, and highly relevant, geopolitical incident in which The Clash figures: The playing of the band's  "Rock the Casbah" as the first song on U.S. Armed Forces radio in Saudi Arabia during the buildup to 1991's Operation Desert Storm -- this  despite a lot of talk about the need not to offend delicate Saudi sensibilities. I remember thinking at the time that the choice of this song --which seems to mock Wahabi repression and features the somewhat provocative line, "Drop your bombs between the minarets/Down the Casbah way" -- represented much of what's good about Americans. It was a big "F--- Y--" to Saudi censors, as in "You want us to defend your country, well you can't tell us what music to listen to, buddy!" Now I'm not so sure if gratuitously irritating strict Islamic moralists -- as if there really was no room for a culture without Britney Spears in a free, democratic world -- was such a brilliant idea. ... 11:38 P.M.

Tennessee Synecdoche II: Alert kf reader J.F. (not Jim Fallows!) notes another connection between ex-DC mayor Marion Barry and Tennessee: Barry's from there! He  grew up in Tennessee, went to high school in Tennessee, went to college in Tennessee and dropped out of a Tennessee grad school. Local boy makes bad! That's another reason why Bill Frist might have used Barry as the personification of D.C. government waste in the 1994 Tennessee Senate race -- as if Barry wasn't already the obvious example to everyone in the nation except Josh Marshall! ... 10:48 A.M.

Only two Mary Matalin exit-spin articles in the NYT today? (Here and here.) If the Times doesn't reward its sources (and spouses of sources) better than that, it could find itself in trouble! ... At least spread the puffers out over a couple of days for maximum impact!... P.S.: I like Matalin. Many people I respect like Matalin. It's not her fault that the current President Bush (as opposed to the previous one) doesn't share this widespread view. But maybe he's a wee bit allergic to self-promotion. ... 8:00 P.M.

It's not just Bill Frist!Seinfeld's George Costanza had a fear of sharpened pencils as well. ...[Thanks to alert kf reader E.H.] 7:22 P.M.

Josh Marshall  has posted a response  on the Frist/"Marion Barry" controversy. It's weak! Marshall says he knew that Frist's Tennessee opponent, James Sasser, chaired the Senate subcommittee in charge of D.C. finances (the District having special federal status). a) Don't you think Marshall could have mentioned that when asking "what on earth [D.C. mayor Marion Barry] had to do with a Senate race in Tennessee"? b) So what if Barry left office in the middle of Sasser's DC-supervising role? It's fair to bust Sasser for the period when Barry was mayor. (The only clip I could find during Barry's tenure showcased Sasser trying to get more federal anti-drug money poured into the city, which would fit in with Frist's point, no?)  Plus the bloated D.C. bureaucracy that Sasser helped fund was still Barry's bureacracy even after he left office. (What Frist said, remember, was that D.C. was "home of" Barry.) Plus Barry was back on the City Council two years later, and about to be re-elected Mayor as Frist was speaking. ... I see Marshall's Throwing Things  and raise him a MinuteMan!..

The truth is that Barry was a perfectly good synecdoche for Democratic willingness to tolerate failed, bloated, union-hamstrung city governments for fear of offending African-American pols. Marshall obviously knows this. But if that's right, the argument against Frist has to be that he's not allowed to use a perfectly good synecdoche -- Willie Horton being a parallel example -- simply because it will also pander to racial fears. I'm not sure what I think of that argument (as Marshall notes, it would rule out a whole lot of legitimate issues and symbols, and I think it tends to reward overestimating the race prejudice of voters). But whatever you think of it, it's not the simple argument Marshall purports to make -- that Barrry had "nothing" to do with Sasser. ... 1:59 P.M.

The Fristing of Dr. Bill, #2: Editors Do It With Sharp Pencils! David Firestone's Saturday NYT Fristing  pushes another allegation that in 1994 the incoming Senate Majority Leader made "comments that were seen as racially insensitive."

 Mr. Frist, going to a largely black march against crime, had asked a worker to obtain imprinted pencils to distribute, requesting unsharpened pencils.

"I don't want to get stuck," he told the aide.

Instapundit notes  blogger Bill Hobbs' response --   that the pencil-based "racially insensitive" charge was so "ludicrous" that

"most everyone in the newsroom at The Tennessean, where I worked at the time, knew it and was embarrassed by the story."

Hobbs' insider perspective carries some weight. (Hobbs' wife worked on that Frist campaign, so he's not exactly unbiased, as he admits -- but he notes he didn't know her at the time of the Sharp Pencils Incident. They met six years later.) I would only add that even if the worst interpretation is given to Frist's words -- namely that he was seriously worried that he, Frist, might get stabbed by one of the people to whom he'd given the pencils -- it amounts to a Kinsley Gaffe, an accidental telling of the truth. Was it racist to worry about crime in the neighborhood that Frist was going to? If if wasn't rational to worry about crime in that neighborhood, why were they holding a "march against crime" there? As Tina Mercer, daughter of the march organizer, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal (in the course of somehow condemning Frist):

''We hit the tough neighborhoods because that's where the trouble is."

If that was "where the trouble is," then it doesn't seem crazy or racist (as opposed to, maybe, neurotic) to worry about getting assaulted.  P.S.: It's of course not clear that Frist was worried about getting stabbed, as opposed to accidentally pricking himself while handing out the pencils. (Doctors are likely to be very conscious of the threat of accidental prickings, since they have to worry about getting stuck with infected needles. Surgeons such as Frist -- several kf readers have noted -- tend to be especially concerned about accidentally cutting their hands.) Rev. James Thomas of the Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Nashville, told the Commercial Appeal at the time: ''I couldn't say it was absolutely a racial statement, the one that he made. He could have just been saying he didn't want to get stuck." ... [I don't want to see the Nexis bill for these items--ed. Without Nexis I am nothing.] 12:03 A.M.




Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.