Talkin’ about the man…

Speaking of people who’s general tone I don’t like, Paul Krugman is to me a sort of buttoned-down version of Bill Maher (in terms of the incessant tone of disdain toward anyone foolish enough to disagree with him). But rather than launch a debate about that, let me say that today I’m here to praise him.

Well, actually not him necessarily, but whoever wrote the headline on this piece:

Lobbyists, Guns and Money

Published: March 25, 2012

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations…

And so forth and so on. To save your time, I’ll tell you that it’s another piece labeling the American Legislative Exchange Council as the root of all legislative evil. In case you hadn’t heard that one before.

Anyone who invokes Warren Zevon in general, and that album in particular, gets at least a thumbs-up from me.

Krugman, however, concerned as he seems to be about guns, probably would not approve of the fact that the next thought in my mind after “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” is “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner:”

Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Mombassa, in a barroom drinking gin
Roland aimed his Thompson gun, he didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner, talking about the man
Roland the headless Thompson gunner

The eternal Thompson gunner
Still wand'ring through the night
Now it's ten years later, but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst
Of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it

Great stuff for excitable boys. Can’t be beat.

40 thoughts on “Talkin’ about the man…

  1. obiewankenobi

    Awesome vengeance music. Too good to share its karma with that rote bore Krugman.

    Warren Zevon is an entire genre all his own. Just reading his one of his album inserts written by Will Self makes me wonder if one has to be a certain degree of “afflicted” to appreciate his work. Perhaps not, but to understand it, definitely so.

    “As for the final line [of “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”], I should imagine there are entire interdisciplinary schools of study dedicated to its interpolation.”

    ~Will Self — Soho, London 2002

  2. Jesse S.

    The Krugman piece raises an excellent question. Shouldn’t we have CHOICE in what prisons we send our children to?

  3. Phillip

    As much as I like Maher, I’ll go out on a limb and say that if you’re grouping him and Krugman together as two guys who have an “incessant tone of disdain” towards those who disagree with them, well, I’ll say that the guy who has the Nobel Prize comes by that attitude a little bit more authentically.

  4. Brad

    Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Doesn’t make him less of a jerk.

    His Nobel is in economics, not political commentary. To my editor’s eye, his writing style is little different from that of a college sophomore working as an intern at Democratic Party headquarters. That same tone of “we’re at WAR with those idiots on the other side, and they are less than human to me.” It’s a tone you usually read in the work of the younger generation of political consultants. The same sort of people who, on the other side, are always calling people RINOs. It all sounds the same to me, whether it comes from left or right.

  5. Silence

    Of course, if Trayvon was singing anything, anymore, it might be this OTHER Warren Zevon tune:

  6. bud

    What I like about Krugman is probably what Brad finds offensive. He calls it like it is. The conservative movement as embodied by today’s GOP is clearly on the wrong path and needs to be called out. And Krugman does that. No attempt at balance from Krugman; and that is refreshing.

    As for the comment about his writing style, that’s just a cheap shot. He presents his information in a clear and concise manner that’s easy for mose common folk to understand. Compare that to the convoluted, elitist writing style of George Will who seems to go out of his way to make things hard to read.

  7. bud

    Here’s a good example of a recent Paul Krugman article that Brad probably finds offensive:

    “Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

    This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.”
    -Paul Krugman

    I happen to find this a spot-on, refreshing analysis of Mitt Romney’s utterly ridiculous claim that the president has caused gasoline prices to rise. Is it over-the-top? Maybe a little, but seriously the GOP is latching onto this nonsense with a desparate zeal that cannot be explained in a rational way. It is nothing short of an aggressive campaign attack based on a completely false premise. And it needs to be called out. Krugman does a great job of this even if Brad finds him to be a jerk. Too bad the entire media can’t be this refreshing.

  8. Silence

    I can’t link to Youtube from here, but maybe the appropriate Zevon song list would include “Detox Mansion”, “Poor Pitiful Me”, “Mr. Bad Example” and “Life’ll Kill Ya”.

  9. Brad

    Oh, and Bud — that passage by itself doesn’t bother me that much. It does a little, because it’s overwrought. It’s hyperbolic. I mean, what are you going to say about behavior that actually IS insane?

    The problem with Krugman is that the contempt and hyperbole just doesn’t let up — it’s attack and insult, attack and insult, all day with him. And he includes, either directly or by implication, not only the powerful like Romney, but anyone who would vote for him. Anyone who doesn’t vote the way Krugman does is dirt beneath his feet, to read the way he writes.

  10. Brad

    Oops. Thanks. I’ll move it.

    The thing is, I read y’all’s comments on the dashboard, then have to go find them on the site to respond. Sometimes I miss…

    And congrats on figuring out how to post your avatar!

  11. bud

    Anyone who doesn’t vote the way Krugman does is dirt beneath his feet, to read the way he writes.

    Don’t know where that is coming from. Krugman doesn’t come across that way at all to me. Cite an example.

  12. bud

    Maybe crazy is a bit strong but anyone making less that $250k and votes for Romney is making a very serious and costly mistake for not only their welfare but for the good of the country. And they do so based on the false and misleading if not outright mendacious claims made by Mr. Romney. What’s wrong with expressing that opinion?

  13. Steven Davis II

    @bud – “Maybe crazy is a bit strong but anyone making less that $250k and votes for Romney is making a very serious and costly mistake for not only their welfare but for the good of the country.”

    How’s that working out for the same group of people under Obama? Besides you’re going to fault anyone who votes for any Republican.

  14. kc

    Mr. W, I hate to break it to you, but your own commentary has a pervasive tone of disdain. Are you really unaware of it?

  15. Brad

    It’s been pointed out to me. And I really, truly work to avoid it. But I slip into it sometimes anyway.

    You know who writes with a tone I think is worth emulating? Nicholas Kristof. And same thing with David Brooks. They write very respectfully, and yet manage to make their points.

    For that matter, I prefer reading Robert Samuelson on economics than Krugman, because he, too, is very matter-of-fact. I learn something about economics without hearing an undercurrent of hostility.

  16. Brad

    And I don’t think it’s “pervasive” with me. It comes and goes. I’ll remember to be nice (because civility is really, truly important to me), and then, sometimes, I forget…

  17. Brad

    And part of that is that blogging is stream-of-consciousness. I was nicer in print, because I stopped, cooled off, and came back and edited myself.

  18. Brad

    “Catholic” means “universal.” So you’re saying I’m universally disdainful?

    But seriously… because I express myself in more of a kneejerk fashion on a blog, I actually mention such topics.

    In the newspaper, I avoided wasting newsprint on Kulturkampf. On a blog, I’m more likely to express my irritation over the fact that I keep hearing about this stuff.

    Honestly, folks — those of you who thought I was overreacting when I first griped about the rise of these issues… Do you not agree that they have risen to suck up WAY too much oxygen?

    Which reminds me — I need to post something about an exchange I had over the weekend about one of those ridiculous “contraceptives could become contraband”-type billboards. Then I’m going to try to move on. But this stuff does really, really irk me.

  19. bud

    Speaking of Catholic issues. Here’s a story featured in the NY Times about the Pedophila Priest scandal that erupted a few years back. Maybe there will be some real justice in this whole tawdry affair after all:

    Supervising Priest Goes on Trial in Abuse Case


    The landmark trial of a senior official of the Philadelphia Archdiocese who is accused of shielding priests who sexually abused children and reassigning them to unwary parishes began on Monday with prosecutors charging that the official “paid lip service to child protection and protected the church at all costs.”

    The Rev. James J. Brennan, center, with a lawyer, went on trial with Monsignor William J. Lynn.
    The defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic supervisor in the country to be tried on felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy — not on allegations that he molested children himself, but that he protected suspect priests and reassigned them to jobs where they continued to rape, grope or otherwise abuse boys and girls.

  20. `Kathryn Fenner

    and if you don’t want to talk about any issue on the blog, you have the means to do so, or rather not to do so.

  21. Phillip

    Of course Samuelson is going to be a little calmer overall than Krugman when writing about economics: the nation has basically drifted in the economic direction Samuelson would like (with some zigs and zags here and there) steadily since Reagan became President, for the past 30 years. He doesn’t have that much to be angry about.

  22. bud

    Not sure I buy the claim that the Catholic Church is NO MORE likely than other organizations to perpetrate pedophila. But shouldn’t they be much LESS likely to do so? Otherwise I don’t see this organization as an especially good choice for membership. Seems like an organization that has a demonstrated history of very ethical behavior, above and beyond the community as a whole would be a better way to go.

  23. Brad

    You’re absolutely right that a church — any church — should be a far LESS likely place for such things to occur.

    The really terrible fact here is that while it’s no more likely to happen in a Catholic church than any other, it’s beyond horrible that it ever occurs at ANY church.

    That it would EVER happen is horrifying to me. That it would happen multiple times (even if the number of times is statistically rare) just blows my mind. It’s hard for me to believe one such person exists, much less that multiple such people exist.

    That it would happen in a church makes it worse. That it would happen in MY church, ever, at all, makes it worse than that.

    But no, it’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a fallen, twisted, sinful human thing.

  24. Brad

    Gee, I didn’t know that was a Catholic issue. I thought that was a perverts-abusing-children issue.

    Seeing as how it doesn’t occur among Catholics any more than among the population at large:

    The Catholic sex-abuse stories emerging every day suggest that Catholics have a much bigger problem with child molestation than other denominations and the general population. Many point to peculiarities of the Catholic Church (its celibacy rules for priestsits insular hierarchyits exclusion of women) to infer that there’s something particularly pernicious about Catholic clerics that predisposes them to these horrific acts. It’s no wonder that, back in 2002—when the last Catholic sex-abuse scandal was making headlines—a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 64 percent of those queried thought Catholic priests “frequently” abused children.

    Yet experts say there’s simply no data to support the claim at all. No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination, and only the Catholic Church has released detailed data about its own. But based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. “We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others.”

    Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance, and their own studies indicate that Catholic churches are not higher risk than other congregations…

    The Church DOES have a problem with this, a serious and tragic problem. But so does every other institution that puts adults together with children. Because some adults are perverts.

  25. Tim

    The issue about the Catholic abuse scandal is not simply about the abuse by priests, and whether or not they should be more or less moral than other people. Clearly its about the hierarchy of the church hiding, protecting and ignoring the problem for so very long. Its not an issue of the Faith; its one of the leadership.

  26. Steven Davis II

    “But no, it’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a fallen, twisted, sinful human thing.”

    But the Catholics have perfected the ways to cover it up 99% of the time. It’s called “reassigning the priest”, I’ve seen it first hand in my hometown. The Bishop snuck the priest out in the middle of the night and assigned him to another parish without charges or any kind of punishment brought against him. Fortunately the priest died months later of a heart attack… not that anyone in my hometown cared.

  27. Brad

    Absolutely, Tim. It turns out that an institution that is oriented toward hearing a sinner’s confession, granting absolution and keeping everything said completely confidential isn’t well equipped to dealing with the heinous crime of child molestation.

    Finally, the church has come to grips with that and changed its procedures — tragically late. The harm done is mind-boggling.

    We’re talking about a crime that brings out my least Christian impulses. On the one hand, we’re called on to forgive. But how can such a thing be forgiven? And practically speaking, how can someone who would do such a thing EVER be trusted not to do it again?

    The inconceivable thing is that anyone would have such impulses. But when someone does, what do you do with him for the rest of his life?

    I have read — and I don’t know to what extent it is true — that such people do not change. Which suggests they can’t be rehabilitated. Which further suggests that they be locked up for good. But THAT not only militates against the Christian mandate to forgive the penitent, but against constitutional considerations. But is it not better to deny a man his freedom than to risk even one child being the victim of such a crime in the future?

    In this sense, our civil society is only marginally better able to cope with such a crime than the church is. But that marginal difference is enough to say such things should definitely be dealt with by civil authority.

  28. Tim

    This is where the Church truly needs to catch up. It for most of its history, maintained a separate ecclesiastical legal system for its ‘officers’ (i.e. The Priesthood). it appears that that cultural artifact still has life, when it is long past time to be retired. If I was Pope, I would eliminate papal appointments of leadership, and allow congregations to elect their leadership. The current system creates a self-perpetuating cycle of like minded leadership elevating only others of similar minds, and potentially guilty of similar crimes. I am, however, only an interested outsider.

  29. Brad

    Everyone has the option to become a Baptist if they want to. They elect their clergy.

    If the Catholic Church decided to become an “up-from-below” organization, I’d be one of those splitting off to form something else. I don’t want a pastor who has to remain popular with his congregation to retain his job.

    Also, if I understand it correctly, bishops determine who gets pastoral assignments. Not Rome. The Church is more “federalist” than it looks to outsiders. A bishop has tremendous independent authority within his diocese. For that reason, I sort of hesitated to say above that “the church has come to grips with” its failures on this front. I decided that on the whole it has, but you will see variations from diocese to diocese. On the whole, the impression I have is that American bishops are further along the right road on this than some bishops in other parts of the world, and the Vatican itself. But that’s just a general impression I’ve formed, someone who has followed and studied all of this more closely than I would be a better judge.

  30. Tim

    I don’t want to go to deep in the weeds on it, and frankly blog responses by dabblers -some might say ‘idiots’- like me on topics we only scan are nearly useless, but the Church has had various methods of picking clergy, popes and cardinals throughout its history.

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