Author Page for Scott Lemieux
You would think that Michael Kinsley’s defense of austerity would be the most glibly know-nothing thing you’d read all week. And you might still be right, but Kinsley has decided to make it interesting. His basic argument is that we should leave Ben Carson alllonnnnnnnne! because lots of people who weren’t notably homophobic didn’t support same-sex marriage rights until recently. Well, maybe not entirely unreasonable on its face. But is it applicable to Carson? Kinsley saves us some time by taking his own argument behind the office building and firing twenty shots into it with one of those new smart rifles:
Carson is the latest Great Black Hope for the Republican Party, which is quickly running out of African American conservatives to make famous. But Carson’s appearance was not a success. He should have left bestiality out of it. And any reference to NAMBLA—the “North American Man / Boy Love Association”—is pretty good evidence that we have left the realm of rational discussion and entered radio talk-show territory.
I will concede that there are non-homophobes, especially in public life, who came too late to supporting same-sex marriage rights. It seems pretty obvious that people who are still comparing supporters of same-sex marriage to pedophiles and people who have sex with animals are not part of this group but are just homophobes, full stop. How can a defense of Carson possibly proceed from here? Very unconvincingly:
Carson may qualify as a homophobe by today’s standards. But then they don’t make homophobes like they used to. Carson denies hating gay people, while your classic homophobe revels in it.
I hate to tell you, but disavowing hatred is pretty much the first play in the respectable homophobe’s playbook. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” and all that. Tony Perkins claims not to hate gays and lesbians. It’s like saying that Richard Russell couldn’t have been a white supremacist because he didn’t use the same racial slurs Theodore Bilbo did. And comparing gays and lesbians to pedophiles is homophobic by the standards of 25 years ago.
But, anyway, this is just a garden-variety bad argument, and I wouldn’t have bothered addressing it if it wasn’t for this great moment in unwarranted self-aggrandizement:
The first known mention of gay marriage is an article (“Here Comes the Groom” by Andrew Sullivan) commissioned by me and published in this magazine in 1989.
I…wow. I don’t mean to suggest that the Sullivan article wasn’t important in its way, or to deny Kinsley his appropriate share of the credit for publishing it. But “first known mention?” I don’t know what the very first was, but I do know that there were lawsuits claiming that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional that made it to state appellate courts in Minnesota, Kentucky, and Washington between 1971 and 1974. Nor was the concept unknown in mainstream news sources during the 70s. It’s just remarkable that Kinsley wouldn’t bother to take a little time to check out this implausible, self-serving claim.
In reference to Kinsley’s austerity self-immolation, a couple of colleagues noted that Kinsley has the strengths and defects of the clever high-school debater: he writes well, and give him something — like a Wall Street Journal editorial — that’s illogical on its face and he can do an excellent job on it. But his knowledge of both history and contemporary policy is puddle-deep, and he feels no need to try to learn something before making definitive pronouncements. Claiming to be personally responsible for inventing the concept of same-sex marriage 1989, though, takes this problem to a new extreme.
I assume it was seeing this that made him feel that alcohol was insufficient:
The footage begins with the mayor mumbling. His eyes are half-closed. He waves his arms around erratically. A man’s voice tells him he should be coaching football because that’s what he’s good at.
Ford agrees and nods his head, bobbing on his chair.
He says something like “Yeah, I take these kids . . . minorities” but soon he rambles off again.
Ford says something like: “Everyone expects me to be right-wing, I’m . . .” and again he trails off.
At one point he raises the lighter and moves it in a circle motion beneath the pipe, inhaling deeply.
Next, the voice starts in on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The man says he can’t stand him and that he wants to shove his foot up the young leader’s “ass.”
Ford nods and bobs on his chair and says yes, “Justin Trudeau’s a fag.”
The man taping the mayor keeps the video trained on him. Then the phone rings. Ford looks at the camera and says something like “that better not be on.”
The phone shuts off.
The 21 greatest conservative
episodes of The Golden Girls brands of masking tapehip-hop songs! Not that I recommend getting out of the boat beyond Roy, but if you’re a masochist this gives you the general flavor: Eminem should be a conservative icon, you see, because of the “Role Model” lines “Hillary Clinton tried to slap me and call me a pervert/ripped her f****** tonsils out and fed her sherbet (B****!)” Yes, I wish I was making this up, too.
Rarely does a (at least once-) respectable pundit face-plant as badly as Michael Kinsley re-proving Krugman’s points about austerity mongers while attempting to refute them. While it’s impossible to summarize an argument this incoherent, the key point seems to be that if you can’t tell the difference between Barack Obama and David Cameron (a problem that, admittedly, does afflict a handful of people on the American left) it’s hard to know what opponents of short-term austerity want. But there are many more terrible arguments to be found, and hence I turn things over to DeLong and Drezner.
In addition, it’s worth noting that Kinsley is one of those people who’s been haunted by the specter of inflation for years, and the fact that he’s been consistently wrong doesn’t seem to have taught him anything. And why should it — as he essentially concedes himself, the case for austerity is about overclass morality, not about economics.
If most of the political agitation about “the deficit” was about the deficit, this would change the course of the political debate. Alas, a majority of political agitation about “the deficit” is produced by people solely interested in a pretext to dismantle the welfare state. So while the deficit may be shrinking, the danger posed decent pensions is still out there and we can’t let it turn into a mushroom cloud.
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.
Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — groups that make up more than half of the American population.
Some influential organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said that everyone, not just those at risk, should aim for that very low sodium level. The heart association reaffirmed that position in an interview with its spokesman on Monday, even in light of the new report.
But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.
This isn’t to say that salt should be consumed in more than moderation. It’s good to avoid consuming extremely high-sodium fast food and/or prepackaged food on a regular basis. But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that for most people adding a little salt to food you make from scratch poses any kind of health risk.
I have a longer piece on the seizure of AP phone records. Again, it was almost certainly wrong even if it was technically legal.
Bazelon has more.
Update: [PC] More
Krugman has a very good NYRB essay on the question of why austerity has been politically successful although it’s a bad idea in theory that has worked out horribly in practice. The first reason is that it provides a superficially appealing morality tale: bad economic consequences must be the result of indulgent choices. The second:
So is the austerian impulse all a matter of psychology? No, there’s also a fair bit of self-interest involved. As many observers have noted, the turn away from fiscal and monetary stimulus can be interpreted, if you like, as giving creditors priority over workers. Inflation and low interest rates are bad for creditors even if they promote job creation; slashing government deficits in the face of mass unemployment may deepen a depression, but it increases the certainty of bondholders that they’ll be repaid in full. I don’t think someone like Trichet was consciously, cynically serving class interests at the expense of overall welfare; but it certainly didn’t hurt that his sense of economic morality dovetailed so perfectly with the priorities of creditors.
It’s also worth noting that while economic policy since the financial crisis looks like a dismal failure by most measures, it hasn’t been so bad for the wealthy. Profits have recovered strongly even as unprecedented long-term unemployment persists; stock indices on both sides of the Atlantic have rebounded to pre-crisis highs even as median income languishes. It might be too much to say that those in the top 1 percent actually benefit from a continuing depression, but they certainly aren’t feeling much pain, and that probably has something to do with policymakers’ willingness to stay the austerity course.
Hockey-wise, it won’t be easy to improve on a round that included a once-in-a-multiple-lifetimes collapse. But I’ll try to keep the atypical prescience of my 6-2 first round record going, and I’ll be joined once again by the great Brad Plumer.
CHICAGO (1) vs. DETROIT (7): As Charles Pierce put it, the Red Wings are the Spurs of the NHL, only in some way more impressive because they continue to win without their equivalent to Duncan. Still, the Red Wings winning this series would be the only outcome in this round that would surprise me. Their only edge on Chicago is in goal, and Crawford has been solid enough. I said before the playoffs that I thought only the LA/St. Louis winner could beat Chicago in the conference, and I’ll stick with that. BLACKHAWKS IN 5. PLUMER: Hawks in 6.
LOS ANGELES (5) vs. SAN JOSE (6) A very interesting series, obviously; San Jose looked very impressive against Vancouver. The Kings are much better positioned to handle San Jose’s depth up the middle, though, and since LA is both tighter defensively and outscored the Sharks, assuming that Niemi outperforming Quick this year was a small sample size fluke I think they’re the better team here. KINGS IN 7. PLUMER: Kings in 5.
PITTSBURGH (1) vs. OTTAWA (7) Brad (SPOILER ALERT!) will be picking the Senators, and he may well be right. The Sens are an excellent team and I was stupid to pick against them in the last round (since they were of similar quality in the underlying stats to Montreal despite playing most of the year without their best player.) If the comically overrated Fleury was still starting for Pittsburgh I’d probably pick Ottawa too, but I suspect his second consecutive complete metldown in the first round will prove a blessing to the Penguins, who with a Generic NHL goaltender in Vokun to replace Fleury will probably get enough saves to get by Ottawa. PENGUINS IN 6. PLUMER: Sens in 6
BOSTON (4) vs. N.Y. Rangers (6) A particularly hard series to pick, between two somewhat inconsistent teams with similar overall numbers. I’ll pick the Rangers only because they seem a little healthier going in, but I would expect multiple overtimes in this one. RANGERS IN 7. PLUMER: Rangers in 7 (provided Lucic hasn’t broken all their knees by Game 2.)
Three points on this story:
- The subpoena of phone records is probably legal. I wouldn’t say anything definitive until we know all the details, but under existing law the First Amendment doesn’t provide a shield for journalists and Congress hasn’t created a statutory shield. A subpoena, unlike a search warrant, doesn’t require judicial approval.
- And, yes, the attacks from Republicans in Congress who supported the Bush administration’s actually illegal warrantless wiretapping and are a major part of an institution that can only be bothered to counter presidential powers when presidents make the political mistake of trying to advance the ball in a pro-civil liberties direction, are staggeringly disingenuous.
- Having said both of these things, this doesn’t mean that I agree with Orin Kerr that this is therefore a “non-story.” The First Amendment is a floor, not a ceiling — even assuming arguendo that the subpoena was legal, this doesn’t make it an appropriate exercise of executive power. There are good reasons to spy on the activities of journalists only in cases where the public interest in the investigation is very compelling, and in such cases the investigation should be conducted on the narrowest possible grounds. Going after whistleblowers who have provided valuable information to the press (and hence the public) does not strike me as a particularly compelling public purpose, and on its face the investigation in this case strikes me as, at a minimum, overbroad. This is an important story, and a probable abuse of executive power, even if the administration did nothing illegal.
UPDATE: I have more on this here.