The Babel of the Times op-ed page!


The sources of our discontent: David Brooks’ column today isn’t crazy. But we did chuckle at this:
BROOKS (12/4/12): So Republicans have to realize that they are going to cave on tax rates. The only question is what they get in return. What they should demand is this: That the year 2013 will be spent putting together a pro-growth tax and entitlement reform package that will put this country on a sound financial footing through 2040.

Republicans should go to the White House and say they are willing to see top tax rates go up to 36 percent or 37 percent and they are willing to forgo a debt-ceiling fight for this year.
Republicans should agree to a top tax rate of 36 percent? At present, the top rate is 35 percent!

How big a “cave” is that?

At least Brooks discussed a major issue. Elsewhere on the Times op-ed page, two (2) of the the newspaper’s stars were discussing the world of football.

Joe Nocera must be one of the worst hires the Times has ever made. His background was in financial reporting. But ever since he became an op-ed writer, he has devoted an inordinate amount of his attention to relatively minor matters involving the world of sports.

Today, he presents his latest piece about NCAA enforcement issues. Given the major societal issues which simply scream for clarification, it’s amazing that this string of tangential columns continues.

Note to Nocera: The Times already has a sports section. That section features several competent, serious columnists.

Right next to Nocera, Frank Bruni kills time today with a column about the murder-suicide committed last week by an NFL player.

Every so often, Bruni writes a good column about gay issues. In our view, those columns make a real contribution.

Otherwise, Bruni has amazingly little to say about any discernible issue. Today, he reaches for the latest high-profile event from which he can torture a column. But how well does he understand the NFL, or his own country in general?
BRUNI (12/4/12): The [San Diego] Union-Tribune maintains a database of N.F.L. players arrested since 2000. The list is long, and the league is lousy with criminal activity so varied it defies belief. The quarterback Michael Vick of course staged inhumane dog fights; the wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg with a gun he’d toted illegally into a nightclub; the wide receiver Dez Bryant was accused of assaulting his own mother.

How all of this misfortune and all of these misdeeds do and don’t relate to one another isn’t clear. But to be an N.F.L. fan these days is to feel morally conflicted, even morally compromised, because you’re supporting something that corrodes too many lives.
Are NFL fans “supporting something that corrodes lives?” Bruni describes three unfortunate incidents, at least two of which involved criminal conduct. But dog-fighting goes on all over the country. So does inappropriate gun use, including the accidental discharge of guns. So does domestic violence.

How did the NFL corrode the lives of the three players in question? Bruni has no idea. He’s just killing time again in the absence of any ideas.

If you want a portrait of modern bourgeois culture, just check out the Times op-ed page. Rarely will you see so many uncaring overpaid swells all killing time in one place.

That said, one bit of good news continued to emerge from last weekend’s op-ed follies. Commenters to Maureen Dowd’s column continued to protest her inanity—although her latest worthless effort got front-page status in the Sunday Review.

Dowd's column hardly deserved major play. On the bright side, it's hard to find fault with readers like this:
COMMENTER FROM PENNSYLVANIA (12/2/12): As I have commented many times, Maureen Dowd should be a gossipy Hollywood writer, as she is in the first part of this column. But after showing off her knowledge about Alfred Hitchcock, she comes back to her continuing obsession with Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice (when it is not President Obama himself). The part about Rice and Clinton, of course, has nothing to do with Hitchcock and her speculation about Rice and Clinton is, well, sheer speculation. Why the New York Times pays Dowd to analyze serious political issues is beyond me. She is not equipped to do so, for her forte is snark, speculation, and pettiness devoid of well-grounded evidence and historical perspective. Walter Lippmann must be turning over in his grave.
On the down side, insipid readers keep thanking Gail Collins for this unending obsession:
COLLINS (12/1/12): As Romney’s SUV approached the White House grounds, police stopped a man who tried to reach for the car yelling “Mitt! Mitt!” It wasn’t clear what he had in mind. Perhaps he was an angry dog lover who still hasn’t gotten over the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with an Irish setter strapped to the car roof. Perhaps he was a disappointed fan, eager to discuss the Tea Party’s clever plan to resuscitate the Romney presidency by organizing a boycott of the Electoral College.
We were very wrong a few weeks ago when we suggested this bullshit was over. Collins will never stop citing that allegedly poor abused dog. Sadly, it seems that her readers will never stop thanking her for it.

Do we get the politicians we deserve, as the cynics like to say? We certainly do get the columnists!

Same time next year: Brooks’ column isn’t crazy today—and it deals with a serious topic. That said, we also chuckled a bit at this:
BROOKS: Republicans should also ask for some medium-size entitlement cuts as part of the fiscal cliff down payment. These could fit within the framework Speaker John Boehner sketched out Monday afternoon: chaining Social Security cost-of-living increases to price inflation and increasing the Medicare Part B premium to 35 percent of costs.

But the big demand would be this: That on March 15, 2013, both parties would introduce leader-endorsed tax and entitlement reform bills in Congress that would bring the debt down to 60 percent of G.D.P. by 2024 and 40 percent by 2037, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Those bills would work their way through the normal legislative process, as the Constitution intended. If a Grand Bargain is not reached by Dec. 15, 2013, then there would be automatic defense and entitlement cuts and automatic tax increases.
How would Brooks deal with the impending fiscal cliff? By creating a cliff for next year!

Brooks is imagining quite a system. Under his regime, we’ll face automatic spending cuts each December—at which point, we’ll automatically kick the can forward one year.


  1. How all of this misfortune and all of these misdeeds do and don’t relate to one another isn’t clear. But to be an N.F.L. fan these days is to feel morally conflicted, even morally compromised, because you’re supporting something that corrodes too many lives.

    If it "isn't clear" how these relate to each other, why is it so clear that fans are supporting something that corrodes too many lives?"

  2. The range of feelings people have toward dogs is from that felt toward a farm dog that lives outside and remains nameless its entire life, to a love that is felt for one's child. Regardless, Dowd's pointless and lazy columns are the problem, not the question of a person's character who acts in such a manner toward the family dog.

    The perception of Romney's behavior toward his dog as normal or a non-starter is one matter, but it could also be seen as an insensitively cruel or negligent act that reflects poorly on an individual. One would not strap a box that held one's child on the roof of his or her car on a road trip to Canada. At the very least, doing so might appear to some people a bit negligent.

    How a parent acts toward the family dog is one character trait among many; however, it can be relevant and revealing. Temperament, depending on one's perception, is either unalterable from birth or malleable through experiences and reason, but can be recognized in the aggregate of, seemingly, insignificant acts.

    1. Shorter:

      The treatment (whatever it actually was!) of Seamus -- may or may not be revealing of Romney's character, which may or may not be unalterable.

      Thanks, gewall!

  3. Of course, it doesn't occur to any of these idiots, including Brooks, that so-called "entitlement reform" means cutting the purchasing power of a huge portion of the middle class and weakening its safety net. That means reducing aggregate demand in a time when demand still has not recovered to a sufficient level to bring full employment. It's about as anti-growth and anti-business as you can get.

    It's time for progressives to make the bigger point: if you are in favor of measures to increase the purchasing power of the vast majority of Americans, and therefore, increase demand for the goods and services provided by American businesses, you are pro-business. If you favor steps that would decrease demand by decreasing the purchasing power of the vast majority of Americans, like cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, you are anti-business.

  4. The Nocera criticism is crap. The treatment of NCAA athletes is a serious issue that goes beyond sports and he has covered this for awhile.

  5. Bob,
    you forgot yo mention Dana Milbank's whining that the Obama administration doesn't spoon feed the press corps all the juicy secrets.

    Milbank seems to think the MSM's abominable coverage of the news is the government's fault.

    Now, Jake Tapper realized he didn't know much about Afghanistan, so did he demand the government open their files to him?

    No. He went there and had a look for himself.

    And so it goes.