June 25, 2006

One of the few genuinely
funny jokes I've heard in
a long time is --

Oh, but wait, before that, let me make
sure you've got the background.

You all know who Paul Krugman is,
right?  He's an economics prof at some
ivy or other who's been writing OpEds
for the New York Times.                       Ah, Princeton.
                                              Should've known.

His columns were originally                                 The New York
fairly bland (as I remember                                 Times is run by
it) but under the Bush                                      a Princeton mafia.
administration he's been        Something about
gradually sounding more like    Bush Inc, I think,
Noam Chomsky.                   is giving a lot of
                                people a hard shove
Myself, I have my doubts        toward the left.
that Krugman ever
would've been hired if he
was writing this kind of
stuff at the outset --           Indeed, you'll notice
                                 that Chomsky does not
   Krugman had done a lot        have an OpEd column...
   of work on
   international trade,                          Possibly this is because
   and I think he was                            Chomsky has a tendency to go
   supposed to stick to                          on about the New York Times
   talking about how                             continually fucking up.
   those crazy kids in
   Seattle just don't                                To take a polite
   understand free trade.                            interpretation.

I heard a Paul Krugman talk on "Democracy Now":

    "Paul Krugman on the New Class War in America" June 19th, 2006


Krugman was talking about the
increasing gap between the          When I first heard
rich and poor in the United         lefties talking
States.                             about this in the
                                    early 1980s, I            Just a blip,
He was saying that while he         shrugged it off.          I figured.
likes statistics, he also thinks
it's important to look at more                                Two decades
qualitative things, and one of                                later, the
the things he likes to track is                               "blip" is
real estate: recently there's                                 still there,
been a big increase in the                                    stronger than
construction of large mansions,                               ever.
and he fears we're essentially
returning to the "Great Gatsby"

Then in support of this
point -- the joke is
coming up, get ready --
he says something like:

  "There was a really good article
  on this subject that appeared in
  'Vanity Fair' -- by the way, isn't
  it interesting that these days
  most good reporting is not coming
  from... um... (*pause, then
  quickly*) 'The Washington Post'?!"

Okay, so I thought that was pretty funny,
and it pushed me over the line into thinking
that this Paul Krugman guy was okay, and it
was time I read one of his books.

So I went looking for his last book
("The Great Unraveling") at "Modern                       KRUGMAN_UNRAVELING
Times", but the cupboard was bare,
then I went looking at "City
Lights"... I glanced around, then     "City Lights" is the kind of
gave up and asked the dude at the     place that's sub-divided
counter.                              into a number of strange
                                      sections that's good for
  He points me to the                 browsing, but difficult to
  "political science"                 locate individual works.
  section, I return
  with the book.                            My favorite is an "urban
                                            issues" section that
  Then he comments "by                      includes "cyber-space"
  the way, do you know                      wonk books, via some sort
  that Paul Krugman                         of association between
  was on the board of                       real and virtual "places".
  directors of Enron?"
                                                      (Are all cities
  I said, "No, I didn't know                          cities of the mind?)
  that, it'll be interesting
  to see if he says anything
  about Enron at all..."

  The guy adds "Yeah, someone asked
  him about it once, he just said
  something lame, I don't remember
  what."  Hm.

I went off speculating about how
Krugman must have felt throughly
taken-in by Enron's management --

I sat down with the book and looked
up Enron in the index, then started         In Washington
skimming all the Enron references.          Square Park,
                                            in North Beach,
Actually, Krugman talks about               as long as I'm
Enron a lot.  The main points being:        name-dropping.

  o  The people who were in on the
     Enron deal are still around.

  o  Enron may very well not be the
     only hollow corporate shell
     out there.

About two thirds of the way through
this book there's a mention of his
own "involvement" with Enron:

Krugman did some consulting for
them when he was just a college
professor, before he started
doing the OpEd columns, as he
puts it, back in the days when
he was in no position to do them
any favors.

     And he mentions that recently
     there had been a minor-smear             What sense could
     campaign where "the vast                 this accusation
     right-wing conspiracy" was               possibly make?
     trying to make it sound like             Krugman isn't
     Krugman had been an insider on           someone who
     the take...                              jumped on the
     So: the dude working at                  bandwagon when
     City Lights actually                     it was convenient:
     swallowed a Swift Boat!                  he was one of the
                                              guys who got the
     "Board of directors",                    wagon rolling.
                                                   If he had inside info, then
                                                   he's a whistle-blower, not
                                                   a cover-up man.

              "Comparative Advantage" by
              Nicholas Confessore
              December 2002

              "...  the established storyline on
              California's energy crisis was that Left
              Coasters had only themselves to blame: the
              state had passed a flawed deregulation law,
              which led its utilities to rely on the spot
              energy market when prices were
              high. ... But Krugman, noting that
              economists had long worried about the
              vulnerability of California's trading
              system to price-fixing, argued that market
              manipulation was the obvious culprit;
              otherwise, he wrote in March 2001, the
              power company executives "are either saints
              or very bad businessmen."  Krugman was
              ignored at the time. Twenty months
              later--following the collapse of Enron,
              three federal investigations into the
              California crisis, and a passel of
              indictments against energy company
              officials--Krugman has been proved right."


                                             (December 10, 2007)
The more I look into it,
the more I feel a sense
of awe at Republican                      Of course, it helps
manipulation techniques.                  that they've got the
                                          media in their pocket.
With this Krugman-Enron connection,
I think they used the fact that some         And that most
people had gotten used to hearing            people haven't
the two of them in the same breath;          grasped the fact.
they reversed the sense of the
comparison, and used the association            CHILDHOODS_END
with the thing criticized to attack
the critic.


   They know how things sound
   to the ears of people
   who are only half-listening...

   And that's nearly everyone.