Krugman and Brooks stage a powerful day!


Rachel meets Crazy Eddie:
In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman has an instructive column about the current Obamacare problem.

We're assuming his column is accurate. But this is what we had in mind when we said that Rachel Maddow should stop entertaining us with the latest profusion of polls and should start informing us about important matters instead.

We were also struck by David Brooks' new column. Sitting across the page from Krugman, he caught our eye with this account of the lunacy of modern pseudo-conservatism:
BROOKS (10/28/16): The conservative intellectual landscape has changed in three important ways since [the 1980s], paving the way for the ruination of the Republican Party.

First, talk radio, cable TV and the internet have turned conservative opinion into a mass-market enterprise. Small magazines have been overwhelmed by Rush, O’Reilly and Breitbart.

Today’s dominant conservative voices try to appeal to people by the millions. You win attention in the mass media through perpetual hysteria and simple-minded polemics and by exploiting social resentment.
In search of that mass right-wing audience that, say, Coulter enjoys, conservatism has done its best to make itself offensive to people who value education and disdain made-for-TV rage.

It’s ironic that an intellectual tendency that champions free markets was ruined by the forces of commercialism, but that is the essential truth. Conservatism went down-market in search of revenue. It got swallowed by its own anti-intellectual media-politico complex—from Beck to Palin to Trump.
Later, Brooks delivers another blow. "As conservatism has become a propagandistic, partisan movement it has become less vibrant, less creative and less effective."

For ourselves, we were never fans of the conservative movement to start with. That said, Brooks clearly describes the crackpot mercantile forces which have turned the conservative movement into the lunatic enterprise it is today.

He's even willing to name the names of the media figures—Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Breitbart, Beck. At this point, the downward spiral is even leading to the utter craziness of the utterly crazy, or deeply mercantile, Alex Jones, whose lunacy is going unexplored within our major news orgs.

Brooks describes the way the crackpots have crazified the right. We couldn't help thinking of Maddow as we read this.

We single her out because her success at selling herself has made her the face of the mercantile, corporate pseudo-left. The relentless dumbing-down of her TV show matches a process which has occurred all over the web and the cable left.

All over the money-making web and cable left, we meant to say.

Maddow's program has been hugely dumbed down. In the process, it has been turned into an entertainment vehicle. It has also become the Vatican City of The Cult of Maddow.

On October 13, she opened her show with maybe ten minutes of pointless recollection about the dimwitted old TV show in which Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone's vault. As usual, we the viewers got hear her talking about herself.

("It was a two-hour special that aired April 21st, 1986. I had just turned 13 and I remember watching it. And honestly, it's not that weird that I watched it, because statistically speaking, basically everybody watched it....I read one report, they also found a stop sign down there? Maybe, but I don't remember that from when I watched it from when I was 13...It was, in its own way, it was totally, nihilistically awesome.")

"I I I I I I I," our analysts cry at such points.

That was the evening of the Geraldo/Al Capone reverie. This Monday, she opened with maybe five irrelevant minutes about the old Crazy Eddie TV ads.

("Starting in 1975 and running through the end of the 1980s, there were more than 7,000 of these various, deliberately manic, low-fi, screaming Crazy Eddie ads. They all end with that tag line, 'His prices are insane!'")

In fairness, this topic had special appeal for Maddow, since the story ended with Crazy Eddie going to prison.

We thought of this relentless dumbing-down when we read Brooks' column. He describes the way grifters of the corporate right have, in the fullness of time, turned conservatives into lunatics.

You may think it couldn't happen Over Here. For what it's worth, Brooks almost seems to be saying that it already has:
BROOKS: This is a sad story. But I confess I’m insanely optimistic about a conservative rebound. That’s because of an observation the writer Yuval Levin once made: That while most of the crazy progressives are young, most of the crazy conservatives are old. Conservatism is now being led astray by its seniors, but its young people are pretty great. It’s hard to find a young evangelical who likes Donald Trump. Most young conservatives are comfortable with ethnic diversity and are weary of the Fox News media-politico complex.
Could we in our own brilliant tribe possibly get our brains turned to mush by the efforts of people like Maddow? In our view, it's already happening, to a deeply unfortunate extent.

We're getting sold a lot of crap by people making a lot of money. Maddow has been lunified by the process right before our eyes. In fairness, many people lose their way when they're saddled with giant barrels of money and with cult-level fame.

How far could this dumbing-down process extend? We have no idea. But we thought of Maddow once again when we read this post at New York Magazine.

As they say on cable: "And that's next."


  1. "The Genovese murder became nationally famous because of what it supposedly showed about deteriorating civic culture. According to the standard story—a story which came from the New York Times—38 people saw or heard Genovese being murdered. But none of the 38 witnesses intervened, or even called the police.

    At the time, we were in high school in California; this was a gigantic story out there."

    Bob "Oui,Oui, Oui" Somerby, showing he can do the Maddow "I.I.I.I" danbce and not provoke the cries of his imaginary friends.

    1. I experience a mixture or awe and disgust that you have the time and inclination to go back to a 2013 post to make your stupid point.

    2. Bob Somerby has just based a large portion of an entire series in 2016 attacking a book written by Amanda Ripley in 2013 which he extensively blogged about so long ago.

      I experience a mixture of mirth and pity you
      have the time to disparage someone for pointing out the codger using the Royal "we" constantly exhibits the behavior he claims to deplore.

    3. What is this behavior Bob "constantly exhibits" that he "claims to deplore"? Can you please clarify?

    4. Maddow has an important podium from which she could educate and enlighten people before this important election. Instead she wastes time. It matters a great deal less if Somerby occasionally wastes time in self-indulgent ways in his blog.

    5. Bob rarely interjects himself and in the example provided is discussing something significant and using his personal experience to provide contextual information. In contrast, Maddow is constantly referencing herself, and about pointless things. Indeed, Bob writes:

      "On October 13, she opened her show with maybe ten minutes of pointless recollection"

  2. What makes those unreliable right wing sources popular is bias in the mainstream media. There are important stories that are not reported or downplayed by the media. One needs to read or listen to some right-wing media -- bad as they are -- to get all the news.

    1. Damn, I thought you died,

    2. No David it is not bias in the mainstream media. It is a combination of powerfully misleading story-telling and underdeveloped brain power to properly process the con.

      There have been zero important stories singularly covered by right wing media. Zero. Indeed, the right wing media routinely advances false or misleading information.

    3. AnonymousOctober 28, 2016 at 8:46 PM -- for a current example of news inadequately covered by the mainstream media, consider the background and activities of Robert Creamer. Did you know that
      -- he was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign?
      -- by inciting violence at Trump rallies?
      -- he had visted the Obama White House 300+ times?
      -- he specifically visited President Obama 45 times?
      -- he was an ex-convict?
      -- he's married to a Democratic member of Congress?

    4. This is a scam. Typical that you believe it.

    5. Anon 10:35 -- I listed 6 points about Creamer. Which of them do you disbelieve?

    6. David - as you know, the burden of proof is yours. Have at it bro.

    7. Evidence for the first two points, from the NY Times: In a video Mr. O’Keefe released last week, a Democratic operative, Scott Foval, brags about sending troublemakers to Mr. Trump’s rallies, to provoke Trump supporters into attacking them.......But the party strategist Mr. Foval was working for, Robert Creamer, fired him and then ceased his own work for the Democratic National Committee. (He disputed Mr. Foval’s claims of inciting violence.)

      Mr. Foval’s words alone should be enough to remind reporters that there are people who are paid to distort the picture they present. If he did succeed in his plans, and drew headlines that depicted Mr. Trump’s supporters as attacking protesters without provocation, he got one over on the news media as much as he did on Mr. Trump.

    8. Evidence for points 1, 2, 5, and 6 from wikipedia

      Robert Creamer is an American political consultant, community organizer, and author. He is the husband of Jan Schakowsky, the Congressional Representative for Illinois's 9th congressional district.[1] His firm, Democracy Partners, works with issue campaigns. He also leads the nonprofit group Americans United for Change.[2]

      In 2005, Creamer pleaded guilty to tax violations and $2.3 million in bank fraud in relation to paying checks with insufficient funds, to fund his public interest group in the 1990s.[1] He repaid the funds, and was convicted and sentenced to five months in prison at Terre Haute and eleven months house arrest.[2][3]

      Creamer resigned from the Democratic National Committee in October 2016 after a video was released which showed him discussing a scheme to pay people to incite violence at rallies for the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.[4][5] The footage showed Creamer discussing fraudulent voting arrangements and Hillary Clinton

    9. Evidence for points 3 and 4 from Weasel Zippers

      Between 11/21/2009 and 6/24/2016, Robert Creamer appears to have visited the White House 342 times, 340 times as ‘Robert Creamer’ and twice as ‘Bob Creamer’...47 of those visits were direct visits with Obama. Several of those visits included Michelle Obama.

    10. I would request Anons 8:46, 10:35 and 12:03 to acknowledge that my point has been proved. They were unaware of the Creamer story, because the mainstream media downplayed it. It should have been front page news, with strong editorials. Can you imagine the coverage if a close associate of Donald Trump, an ex-convict, had been secretly fomenting violence at Hillary's rallies?

      I was aware of this news only because the right-wing media covered it more prominently.

  3. I'm not so sure the right wing was somehow less loony before the internet, Rush Limbaugh, Brexit etc. For example, Joe McCarthy was big - though he was taken down. It has changed, not so much hysteria about the Commies, now it's radical Islamic terrorists. Times do change, and also stay the same.

    1. I'm not so sure the right wing was somehow less loony before

      You're right, it wasn't.

      Here is the first page of an article that appeared in Harper's:

      It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.

      American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the [Trump] movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.

      Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.

      And when I say the article appeared in Harper's, I'm talking about the November, 1964 issue.

  4. I find Brooks' notion that most crazy progressives are young and mostly the opposite. Furthermore, Brooks asserts that "It’s hard to find a young evangelical who likes Donald Trump." That is demonstrably false. Liberty University is not far from where Brooks lives, he should visit.

  5. Actually Krugman's Obamacare column is not that instructive. This is the type of column he can write in his sleep, and I don't mean that as a compliment. He skates over (expends one phrase on it) the serious issue of companies leaving the exchanges. What this means for a lot of people is that the doctors and hospitals and clinics they use are no longer available on the exchange. In my state there is now only one PPO left on the exchange. This year I have been able to continue seeing my regular doctors because they are in-network with my insurer, but they are "2nd tier" network; the "first tier" is the cheaper one. So I'm paying more to see my doctors than someone who is seeing the same doctors but is not on the exchange.

    He also completely skates over how the financial problems of the exchanges are going to be solved. They're doable if we can muster up the political will to do them. Now, quite obviously, we can't muster up that political will because a majority in Congress doesn't want it to happen.

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