SADLY, WHERE MATTERS STAND: Columnist Krugman enlists in the tribe!

MONDAY, AUGUST 1, 2016

Part 1—Weaker and dumber apart:
The general election is now underway. The weekend gave us many sad signs of where matters stand.

Two top-shelf examples:

Beyond any lingering reasonable doubt, we learned that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is supporting Candidate Trump in the November election. There's no longer room for doubt.

Meanwhile:

Dowd's colleague, Gail Collins, wasted her latest column with her latest silly election quiz. The day before, Collins devoted an on-line post to an updated form of the silliest question of all. This is the headline she used:


"Do Women Want to Have a Mimosa With Hillary?"


With whom would you rather have a mimosa? With Candidate Clinton or Trump? This is the kind of world-class piddle we get from the guild's top shelf.

The new generation of journalists also amazed us over the weekend with their familiar fatuity. What does a Yale degree bring you today? Below, you see the start of a column as it appeared in Sunday's hard-copy Washington Post. This wasn't intended as satire:
ROSENBERG (7/31/16): After a week of trying to unite a fractured party in Philadelphia, a few points of agreement seem to have emerged from the Democratic convention: that President Obama still has his fastball, that Sen. Tim Kaine can do the Dad Humor parts of the vice president’s job and that everyone could use a break from “Fight Song,” which has been an omnipresent part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign set-pieces.

I might have more tolerance than most for precision-engineered pop tracks. But whatever our basic tendency to fist-pump to anodyne affirmations, the use or overuse of “Fight Song,” along with “Brave” and “Roar,” by the Clinton campaign has concealed something particularly interesting about the way they’ve functioned on the trail.
Trust us. The campaign's use of those precision-engineered pop tracks hasn't "concealed something particularly interesting about the way they’ve functioned on the trail."

More generally, you know you've reached the shallowest end of the wading pool when you start reading journalistic critiques of a campaign's background music. But so what? Editors at the Washington Post thought that piece should go into print in Sunday's hard-copy paper. In her previous on-line column, the rising star who penned that piddle worked beneath this headline:

"Bill and Hillary Clinton’s incomprehensible marriage"

Like Sam and Cokie before them, the rising generation of Harvard-Yale grads just can't seem to keep their noses out of that particular underwear drawer. Within the guild which is still called a press corps, this is what you get today from a Harvard/Yale/Princeton degree.

In today's press corps, what do you get from a prestigious degree? In yesterday's hard-copy Washington Post, did you catch Milbank—he was Skull and Bones!—complaining about the "laundry list" of policy topics in Clinton's acceptance speech?

As top-shelf journalists always have always said, policy topics are boring! Meanwhile, did you read this embarrassing piddle from Carlos Lozada, he who carries degrees from Notre Dame and Princeton? That embarrassment appeared in the Outlook section, which Lozada himself once edited.

Simply put, the rising generation in the upper-end guild is supremely unimpressive. Don't be surprised if they're deconstructing the Yankees and Cubs before this gong show is through.

As this gruesome campaign proceeds, we may not get a lot of help from our upper-end press corps. Because we need all the help we can get, we reach a sad judgment about Paul Krugman's recent columns, including the unenlightening column he has published today.

Krugman has long been MVP of the high-end establishment press corps. Routinely, he knew what he was writing about. In the press corps, that just isn't done!

That era may have passed. It seems to us that his column today announces his membership in the tribe—in a tribe which, like all tribes, very much needs strong intellectual challenges from strong intellectual leaders.

What's wrong with Krugman's new column? Consider the way he starts. He has made a remarkable statement by just his second paragraph:
KRUGMAN (8/1/16): Donald Trump said some more disgusting things over the weekend. If this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, don’t be surprised if a majority of Republicans approve of his attack on the parents of a dead war hero. After all, a YouGov survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton.

But this isn’t a column about Mr. Trump and the people who are O.K. with anything he says or does. It is, instead, about Republicans—probably a minority within the party, but a substantial one—who aren’t like that. These are people who aren’t racists, respect patriots even if they’re Muslim, believe that America should honor its international commitments, and in general sound like normal members of a normal political party.

Yet the great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why.
In just his second paragraph, Krugman has made a remarkable statement. He has said that "probably a majority" of Republicans are racists.

That is a remarkable statement, unless you belong to our own blinkered tribe, where it is now sacred writ. But then, by the end of his previous column, Krugman was saying this:
KRUGMAN (7/29/16): So if it seems strange to you that these days Democrats are sounding patriotic while Republicans aren’t, you just weren’t paying attention. The people who now seem to love America always did; the people who suddenly no longer sound like patriots never were.
That column carried this headline: "Who Loves America?" According to Krugman, our tribe always did (and he uses that term). Their tribe never did.

That was amazingly narrow tribal thinking. In its claim about patriotism, it makes the type of flag-waving assertion liberals have criticized for lo, these many long years.

That said, this is where it's come with Krugman as he becomes a political writer rather than a policy expert. On politics, he isn't an expert—and he betrays ancient tribal instincts. Once again, consider today's third paragraph:

"The great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why."

It's certainly true that liberals and Democrats "have a right" to ask Republicans why they're supporting Trump. In a functioning democracy, we don't just "have a right" to do that—we have an obligation.

We have an obligation to ask—and, beyond that, to listen to fellow citizens' answers. We've been amazed, in recent weeks, by Krugman's failure to engage in these patriotic tasks.

When did Krugman ask Republican voters why they're supporting Trump? In the past year, we've been amazed by our corporate "journalistic" leaders' disinterest in any such task.

How often do you see Trump voters interviewed on MSNBC? By way of contrast, how often do you see them denounced as racists?

The failure to ask and let others tell leads us to tribal blindness. Consider Krugman's remarkable column from July 25, "Delusions of Chaos." In that column, Krugman announced his inability to understand his own nation.

In that column, Krugman wanted to know how anyone could have responded favorably to Candidate Trump's convention speech. He started by making an accurate observation.

"National crime statistics," including the murder rate, are vastly lower than they were in the early 1990s, Krugman correctly said. On that basis, he proceeded to wonder how anyone could respond favorably to Trump's convention address, which he characterized thusly:
KRUGMAN (7/25/16): How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?

[...]

[W]hile there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it’s hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out.

Yet there’s no question that many voters—including, almost surely, a majority of white men—will indeed buy into that vision. Why?
"Crime is running rampant?" Was that really the central premise of Trump's convention address? Has that been the central premise of Trump's disordered campaign?

On both counts, we'd have to say no. But having established that shaky premise, Krugman puzzled over how anyone could respond favorably to such an inaccurate claim—how anyone could "accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience."

From there, Krugman proceeded to our tribe's standard claims—Trump voters are "racist" and are bothered by changes in gender roles. Nothing else could explain their reaction to that nightmare vision.

In that column, the MVP announced his tribalized blindness. For ourselves, we aren't attracted to Trump's nightmare vision, nor would we suggest that others should be. But because we aren't completely blind, we understand the way those "occasional incidents" might imaginably fuel it.

Those "everyday experiences" include events in San Bernardino and Paris and then again in Nice. In close proximity to Trump's speech, they included the murder of five police officers in Dallas, followed by the murder of three more in Baton Rouge.

"Everyday experiences" of this "occasional" type have been arriving thick and fast. We're not suggesting that such experiences should lead people to vote for Trump. We're saying that Krugman's column displayed a striking tribal blindness.

Leading journalist are going to hand us all manner of crap through the November election. "With whom would you like to drink a mimosa?" Inevitably, the inquiring minds of our leading journalists are going to ask.

We're in a very dangerous time. Candidate Clinton, a bit of a gaffe machine, authored a strange appearance on yesterday's Fox News Sunday. Candidate Trump, who seems to be mentally ill, may well prevail in the end.

Krugman hasn't been asking Trump voters why they're supporting Trump. When he tries to figure it out inside his own head, the process hasn't gone well. In the absence of asking and telling, it very rarely does.

We liberals are weaker and dumber when we don't ask that question and listen as others tell. Putting it another way, we're weaker and dumber when we choose to stay apart.

We're going to need all the help we can get from our leading journalists. Tomorrow, we'll cite a New York Times column whose (possible) "nightmare vision" struck a point of recognition in our own fearful hearts.

Tomorrow: Alarm bells in the night

14 comments:

  1. From what I've been reading at conservative websites, many are supporting Trump because they don't want to see Clinton elected. Their reasons are similar to Democrats -- the next president will appoint several Supreme Court justices. They would rather those justices were appointed by their party and not ours.

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    Replies
    1. Hi. Im 25years old and I was with my ex for 3years after a year of being together we moved in with eachother with my daughter who calls my ex daddy our relationship was great living apart but once we moved in with eachother the arguments started and my trust issues. I always use to get funny about him going down the pub with his mates while im at home and we then ended up falling out and he would be gone all night and come in at like 3-4am drunk. I also use to get funny about him going away on holiday with his mates every year. I know him breaking up with me was my fault but not sure why he broke up with me anyway money was getting tight living together so we decided to move out and he go back to his mums and I get a place for me and my daughter we argued alot at that point because of the stress trying to find somewhere to live he said he wanted to go on a months break after moving out so we can clear our heads 3weeks into our break me text me saying we’re over I was really upset because I love him so much I was always texting him and ringing him saying I love him give me another chance then he blocked my number so I couldn’t contact him do then I message him on fb asking about my daughter as she was going on about how she doesn’t understand why she’s nit seeing daddy anymore he replies with contact me once your over me and I will have contact with your daughter.so I left it a week and even though im not over him still till this day I messaged him saying I was over him so he replies with im glad to hear your over me we will arrange something for me to see your daughter. I still love him and I wanted him back i told my sister about it and she introduced me to the Famous Prophet Akim,who helps in so many ways.i contacted him and he did his thing,before i knew it,the next day Moric called me and apologized that he was sorry for everything and im sure he will never leave me again. i am so happy now,you can also get in touch with akim on his email .(prayerstosavemarriage@hotmail.com) :)

      Delete
  2. "National crime statistics," including the murder rate, are vastly lower than they were in the early 1990s, Krugman correctly said.

    Many Dems are using this fact as an excuse, when Republicans point out reversal of this trend in many cities in the last year or two.

    I call this an excuse, because those who make this claim don't go where their fact ought to take them. They ought to be asking why the crime rate fell during the last 25 years. They ought to ask what policies created the drop in crime. They ought to be pledging to retain and enhance those policies.

    A strong case can be made that the drop in crime was caused by putting serious criminals in prison longer. Yet, the Dems (and many Republicans) are supporting a bill to shorten sentences and to release criminals from prison.

    Maybe long prison sentences aren't needed in order to keep down the level of crime. But, I haven't seen any claim that this is so nor any analysis demonstrating why this is so.

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    1. A strong case can be made that the recent increase in crime is related to the increase in the use of heroin in large cities, which in turn is related to the over-prescription and abuse of pain medications.

      As an actuary and someone familiar with statistics, you know that measures of central tendency, such as national murder rates, cannot be meaningfully compared with individual values, such as murder rates for individual cities (large or small). These values will fluctuate even when the national trend is downward.

      So, either you are not a very good actuary or you are deliberately signing on to a bankrupt conservative argument that involves misuse of statistics. Isn't that in conflict with the ethical standards of your profession?

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    2. Actually, I was very good actuary. I agree with you that establishing causation is difficult. It's conceivable that the recent increase in crime might be due to sharply increased heroin use (if there was such a sharp increase.)

      However, it is sadly possible to do a statistical analysis of crime rates within a single large city, because there are so many violent crimes. Even murders alone can be statiscially significant.

      E.g., St. Louis had 113 and 120 murders in 2012 and 2013 respectively. There were 188 murders in 2015 and 105 murder in the partial year 2016 (through July 26.) An increase of 60 or 70 murders is a statistically significant figure.

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    3. Crime fell in the 90s because leaded gasoline was phased out in the 70s. To make crime fall in the 30s, remove lead-based paint from old buildings, remove residual lead from the soil.

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    4. Caesar -- Many, many factors affect the crime rate. Nobody knows how a lead reduction would affect crime in terms of timing. It's conceivable that the lead reduction contributed to the crime reduction, but nobody knows for sure, and nobody knows how significant a factor lead was.

      Look at the crime rate by year at http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

      Total crimes per year more than quadrupled between 1960 and 1989, yet total lead couldn't have gone up very much. (Recall that gas milage was dramatically improving during that period.) The crime rate fell between 1990 and 1914, when lead was also falling. But, other changes were occurring as well. In particular, longer sentences for major crimes.

      Violent crime is again on the rise in many large cities, in the last couple of years. This particular increase has nothing to do with lead.

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    5. I can guarantee that Trump would not be able to single-handedly reduce the crime rate in any big city. If he could do that, you'd think he would have done it in NYC, where he has had the power of the mafia behind him.

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    6. David, the elevated crime rate comes about 18 years after the lead exposure. The child's brain is damaged, and the young adult acts out. Read Kevin Drum's extensive reporting on this subject.

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    7. AnonymousAugust 1, 2016 at 10:31 PM -- I agree that a Presideent Trump wouldn't be able to reduce the crime rate in big cities. However, President Obama has increased the crime rate in big cities by supporting Black Lives Matter group and by policies discouraging blacks from joining the working world. I fear that a Presdient Hillary Clinton will continue these sorts of policies thta do so much harm to inner city blacks. In particular, minimum wage, attacks on police, and encouraging immigration.

      As you can see, I've become cynical about government. I expect more harm than good from each new President. The last two didn't disappoint.

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  3. "Crime is running rampant?" Was that really the central premise of Trump's convention address? Has that been the central premise of Trump's disordered campaign?"

    We'd have to agree with Mr. Somerby and say no. The central premise to his speech and campaign can be found in the middle of the piddling Quiz offered by Gail Collins in her column:

    "Donald Trump told reporters that the message America should take away from the Republican convention was:


    A. “The Obama administration has a deeply flawed foreign policy.”

    B. “Doom, despair, darkness, disaster.”

    C. “The fact that I’m very well liked.”

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  4. No one is above criticism, but Krugman has been more right than wrong on most issues, especially economics.

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  5. I think Krugman is saying Trump supporters are racist. Heard of The Central Park Five Case Bob? One assumes you have, and, sadly, that kinda makes you a racist too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi. Im 25years old and I was with my ex for 3years after a year of being together we moved in with eachother with my daughter who calls my ex daddy our relationship was great living apart but once we moved in with eachother the arguments started and my trust issues. I always use to get funny about him going down the pub with his mates while im at home and we then ended up falling out and he would be gone all night and come in at like 3-4am drunk. I also use to get funny about him going away on holiday with his mates every year. I know him breaking up with me was my fault but not sure why he broke up with me anyway money was getting tight living together so we decided to move out and he go back to his mums and I get a place for me and my daughter we argued alot at that point because of the stress trying to find somewhere to live he said he wanted to go on a months break after moving out so we can clear our heads 3weeks into our break me text me saying we’re over I was really upset because I love him so much I was always texting him and ringing him saying I love him give me another chance then he blocked my number so I couldn’t contact him do then I message him on fb asking about my daughter as she was going on about how she doesn’t understand why she’s nit seeing daddy anymore he replies with contact me once your over me and I will have contact with your daughter.so I left it a week and even though im not over him still till this day I messaged him saying I was over him so he replies with im glad to hear your over me we will arrange something for me to see your daughter. I still love him and I wanted him back i told my sister about it and she introduced me to the Famous Prophet Akim,who helps in so many ways.i contacted him and he did his thing,before i knew it,the next day Moric called me and apologized that he was sorry for everything and im sure he will never leave me again. i am so happy now,you can also get in touch with akim on his email .(prayerstosavemarriage@hotmail.com) :)

    ReplyDelete