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Krugman

Interesting profile of Krugman in the New Yorker. I knew they worked together on writing textbooks, but I didn’t realize his wife Robin had so much influence on his columns – go figure!

Krugman doesn’t know how long he’ll be writing his column. Maybe he’ll get tired of it, maybe the Times will kick him out, who knows. But, after the column, then what? He’s checked off pretty much all the career boxes, he reckons. There are some big questions in development that he’d like to think seriously about. “How is it that most of the world remains so poor?” he says. “That was the old mystery. The new mystery is ‘Why is it that every once in a while it’s as if somebody turned on a switch and some previously hapless country suddenly goes soaring?’ ”

But it’s been a long time—years now—since he did any serious research. Could he, still? “I’d like to get back to it,” he says. “I’m craving the chance to do some deep thinking, and I haven’t been doing a lot of that. I guess doing the really creative academic work does require a state of mind that’s hard to maintain throughout your whole life. Even Paul Samuelson—the bulk of the stuff you read from him is before he was fifty. There was an intensity of focus that I had when I was twenty-six that I won’t be able to recapture at fifty-six. You develop your habits of mind, and to a point that’s a good thing, because you learn ways to work, but it does mean that you’re less likely to come up with something really innovative. Even if I weren’t doing all this other stuff, I don’t think I’d be producing a lot of breakthrough papers. There’s crude stuff: if I do have some brilliant academic insight, what are they going to do, give me a Nobel Prize? . . . When I was younger, when I figured something out there was this sense of the heavens parting and the choirs singing that I don’t get now. And that’s life.”

For someone else, this loss might be a devastation, but even though for thirty years thinking deeply about economics was all Krugman really cared about, he has let it pass out of his life without regret. “I think he’s happy,” his friend Craig Murphy says. “A much happier person now than when we first met him. He feels like he’s done good things, and they’re greater than what he expected when he was young. If there is sadness in him at all, I think it is a tiny core of profound sadness of the kind that the Buddha understood—that we probably can’t use human rationality to make the world all better, and it would be really nice if we were able to.”

Inside Baseball

I don’t get into deconstructing everything the right wing media does. There are plenty of other blogs who do so and I figure, if you buy into the wingnut narrative, it’s because you have a psychological need to do so. But this Politico interview with Andrew Breitbart, the guy who pays James O’Keefe, is worth a look, if only to gain a little insight into the right wing’s sense of eternal victimhood:

Tiger Woods

Why is this anyone’s business? Seriously, why does Tiger Woods owe anyone an explanation? Yeah, I can see doing it to maintain commercial viability (Nike, etc.) but on the most basic level, why do people feel they’re “owed” something here?

They’re upset because the reality of Tiger Woods doesn’t gel with the happy little fantasy they had in their heads, the one that was crafted and marketed to them.

Doesn’t that make it their problem, and not Tiger’s?

Bloggers at the White House

So a bunch of liberal blogger types (Atrios, Yglesias, Aravosis, Oliver Willis, Thom Hartmann, Chris Hayes, Jonathan Singer etc.) met with Jared Bernstein (Biden’s chief economic adviser) at the White House the other day, and I have to say, with the exception of AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis, they sure do sound like a bunch of well-behaved student council members called to the principal’s office.

Being liberals, I suppose they went into “thoughtful listening” mode (apparently Bernstein berated them for not being more supportive of the stimulus bill! and blamed bloggers for not doing a better sales job to the public.

From the various accounts I’ve read, sounds like most of them went into defensive mode, listing examples of what they’d written to support the stimulus instead of pushing back on the silliness of handing bloggers responsiblity for White House communication failures.

Bernstein reportedly said a lot of blah blah blah about “political constraints.” (See earlier Lawrence Lessig “political realism” post.)

I wish I’d been there. Since I don’t have a niche in the political power structure and don’t want one, I would have been more than happy to share my opinion.

“Yes, Jared, you’re right. I attacked the stimulus package because it was a shitty, half-hearted stimulus package – and it wasn’t just me who thought so. Maybe you should be bitching to Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, who have much bigger podiums than we do – and by the way, maybe there’s a reason why they have the Nobel prize in economics and you don’t.

“And don’t give me that weak crap about ‘political contraints.’ This is a leadership vacuum, and your people couldn’t lead a parade out of a paper bag.

“You made a strategic error. You could have gone over the head of the hacks in Congress and made the compelling case to the public for a bigger stimulus, but instead you decided to play bipartisan statesman. And what happened? The economy was a car with two flat tires and you put a freakin’ donut tire on one wheel. Now you want us to jump up and down, applauding the subpar performance of that lopsided car, making its way down the road.

“Do you have any idea of how many people are still out of work? It’s not my job to make the White House look good. It’s my job to look out for the interests of working people. I stick up for the White House when they do something right. This wasn’t right.”

I have no patience with niceties – not with so many people in such bad shape. It’s not about the White House, it’s about those desperate people.

And no, I wouldn’t care about being invited back. They’re not listening, anyway. It’s just PR kabuki.

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