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Saturday, June 07, 2003

Hear that lonesome whistle blow ...

I encountered this and had to post just because I've never thought of Dickinson as someone who might write about railroad trains...
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks,
And then, prodigious, step

Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads,
And then a quarry pare

To fit its ribs, And crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza,
Then chase itself down hill

And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop—docile and omnipotent—
At its own stable door.

--Emily Dickinson

Friday, June 06, 2003

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say,
abstains from giving in words
evidence of the fact.

--George Eliot

Actually, I do have a few cranky comments to make on the current scene, but work and family are absorbing all of my small supply of psychic energy right now. Perhaps this weekend I'll have enough fizz to give the giant sloth Idiotarion a few pokes with a sharp stick...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#101: Duped and Betrayed

It is undeniable that the current tax bill, like all previous tax bills we can recall, is an unwieldy behemoth. It's full of small goodies for the well-connected and it's loaded with potential for unintended consequences later on. As a result, critics from all sides have plenty of legitimate whetstones on which to grind their axes. It's no surprise then that Paul Krugman in Duped and Betrayed (06/06/03) is grinding away with the best of them. You'd almost get the idea he was for the bill before he was "duped."

That said, however, it is worth recalling that this is a tax CUT bill. It is not a welfare INCREASE bill. Whether you agree or not with cutting taxes, this distinction is important. When Krugman demagogues the "child tax credit" provisions he is talking about increasing benefits to people who pay no taxes, not cutting taxes for those who do.

Of course, the administration has only itself to blame for much of the confusion on these points. The tax cutting initiatives are mostly about creating the conditions that foster longer term economic growth. If the economy needed a stimulus right now, then passing out money to low income people might make some sense. But the issue is growth, not stimulus. Unfortunately that is a tough case to make politically and Krugman has a field day whenever the administration stumbles over itself trying to make it.

There is one howler. Krugman appears to be learn that the Bush administration is trying to undo much of the Great Society and the New Deal. If only that were possible! About the best we can hope for is that slow government growth a little.

Finally, we were happy to see Krugman give some publicity, however inadvertent, to Grover Norquist, an under-sung leader of the tax reform movement. He's an amazing guy who was once described by the Wall Street Journal as the "Grand Central Station" of the conservative movement because "all the trains run through his office." His main organization "Americans for Tax Reform" has a very good web site.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions.]

Thursday, June 05, 2003

P. Krugman
#100: pacing the sidelines ...

As the Bush juggernaut rolls along, featuring well-timed head-knockings in Jordan which followed on the heels of a historic regime change in Iraq, Paul Krugman at the New York Times continues to pace the sidelines in search of relevant anti-Bush subject matter. In two recent columns (Waggy Dog Stories and Standard Operating Procedure), he seems to have hitched his wagon to the search for WMDs in Iraq and the lack, so far, of finding any large troves of them.  Not surprisingly, for Krugman this is attributable to flat-out lying by the administration about the existence of such weapons and, from there, it is a short step for him to argue that they are lying about everything else, e.g., tax cuts, deficits, social security reform, etc.

What we find curious about this approach is that the general public as well as two of Krugman's colleagues on the Times editorial page have shown a remarkable ability to put the significance of the weapons search in the broader context of middle east geopolitics. A solid majority of those polled recently by USA Today consider finding WMDs a less-than-critical issue in their decision to support the Iraqi war. Furthermore, liberal Tom Friedman and conservative Bill Safire have written columns, contemporaneous with those of Krugman, on exactly this subject that serve to rebut virtually all of his points. Here's a beauty from Safire:

Never mind the mass graves now being unearthed of an estimated 300,000 victims, which together with the million deaths in his wars make Saddam the biggest mass murderer of Muslims in all history. Never mind his undisputed financing of suicide bombers and harboring of terrorists, from Al Qaeda's Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi to the veteran killer Abu Nidal (the only "suicide" with three bullets in his head, dispatched in Baghdad probably because he knew too much.)

And never mind our discovery of two mobile laboratories designed to produce biological and chemical agents capable of causing mass hysteria and death in any city in the world. Future discoveries will be dismissed as "dual use" or planted by us.

No; the opponents of this genocidal maniac's removal now accuse President Bush and Prime Minister Blair of a colossal hoax. Because Saddam didn't use germs or gas on our troops, they say, that proves Iraq never had them. If we cannot find them right away, they don't exist. They believe Saddam sacrificed tens of billions in oil revenues for no reason at all.
We encourage all squad readers to take a few minutes and examine these four columns. They are very revealing of the extent to which Krugman is over his head in discussions of complex foreign policy issues. He has neither the background, the temperament nor the ability to convey intellectual honesty that is necessary to establish minimal credibility. As a result, he is completely outclassed on this subject by Friedman and Safire and comes across as a shrill, partisan punk.

Come to think of it–that's exactly what he is.

NOTE: I would just like to add my thanks and congratulations to the Truth Squad for 100 lucid Reports!

It is one of the mysteries of our age, that, despite huge advances in wealth, education, leisure time, despite ever more sophisticated analytical tools, despite computers and the Internet ... the amount of warped thinking does not seem to decrease. The Squad seems to be on a dangerous journey, exploring this phenomenon, and getting close to the heart of darkness...

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Will you be my wife? ...

These may be slow days...there's no war to argue about, and the waves along the Blogshore seem pretty tame...but there are wild things going on over at Redwood Dragon, the blog of our friend Dave Trowbridge...Don't miss.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Listen to Rush ...

The sort of witty and sensitive plants that grow in the elite intellectual hothouse we call the Blogsphere tend to think of Rush Limbaugh as clownish and banal. That's a mistake. What he is is a very smart and knowledgeable guy who's firmly planted (in style and culture) in the very middle of Middle America. He's ordinary America with its thinking-cap on, and that's not to be despised.

Dean Esmay pointed me to a good interview by Rush with VDH:
...Hanson:...One of the things I’m worried about is that people believe that this was just a war of technology. If you look at the caliber of this particular generation of Marines and airborne and infantry divisions, this is a very strange, very impressive generation of young kids.

Rush: When you look at the pop culture, the MTV-ization of the country, people are surprised we’re able to find this caliber of kid.

Hanson: I don’t want to be too optimistic or naive, but there’s sort of a revolution going on with students and young kids. As a professor of 20 years, I’ve noticed it. I see these 60s-retread professors who are very disappointed that their students are not “politically aware,” which means ideological. The students are not on the same wavelength as the professors; journalists are not on the same wavelength as TV viewers; ministers are not on the same wavelength as churchgoers. It’s almost like a cultural gap across America.

The elite didn’t realize there was a revolutionary transformation going on in American society. We’re starting to see the military dividends of that in this generation, who are not afraid of the things that terrified their parents. They have sort of a pop-culture casualness about them — Ray-Ban sunglasses, big muscles, dyed hair — but a deadly seriousness. And there is not that Letterman-Seinfeld cynicism of that smart-ass urban elite...

— — — — — — 

...Rush: By the way, I have to ask you before you go, in that show on the Spartans, who was the figure in that series sort of a similar character and personality to Bill Clinton of that day?

Hanson: Ah, Alcibiades no doubt.

Rush: That’s right, kept changing his alliances and getting away with it.

Hanson: He did. It was almost uncanny, because he was a triangulator. He started at Athens and he went to Sparta, then he went to Persia, then back to Athens. And he triangulated all three of them. But then, when he was just about the age of Bill Clinton, in his mid-40s, it all blew up, and he was wasted by women, wasted by duplicity and lying, wasted by drink and late hours and then he ended up being irrelevant before passing on. It was a great tragedy, because he had natural ability, but he also had no character...

Sunday, June 01, 2003

The Dead

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colors of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the winds that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

--Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)