Thursday, October 30, 2003
Donald Luskin-- America's Most Wingnutty
Since the clock struck "15:00" on the career of Michael Savage (t/n Michael Wiener), the title of "America's #1 Wingnut" has been vacant. It is actually a more difficult position to fill than it appears, because it requires a unique combination of credentials:
1. Beliefs that are totally around the bend. I use the word "totally" in a literal sense. You absolutely, positively cannot hold a single public position-- on any issue-- that has any connection to reality. George Will's enthusiam for-- and generally intelligent opinions about-- baseball disqualifies him from consideration. Bill O'Reilly's favorite bands include The Doors and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
2. An utterly undistinguished resume. It is essential to have no-- I mean "z-e-r-o"-- career accomplishments that you can point to with pride. Pat Buchanan was one of the youngest editorial writers for a major newspaper; he has been a senior advisor in two separate White Houses. Rush Limbaugh has been one of the most popular-- and highly-paid radio hosts for 15 years. Even Robert Novak has been a Washington correspondent for over 40 years and has written one superb book (Lyndon Johnson: Exercise of Power).
3. A continually whiny public personality. This is, in some ways, the most difficult standard of all. Overbearing smugness (like Sean Hannity) isn't sufficient. Exasperating yippee-dog overdrive (e.g., Ann Coulter) won't cut it. Not even sanctimonious preciousness (James Lileks) will suffice. Every word you write or speak has to be delivered in an annoying drone that screams "I think I'm the most incredibly brilliant person I know-- why doesn't anyone else in the world agree with me?" every other sentence.
4. Bipolar approach to criticism. A true wingnut displays an eagerness to abuse others that borders on the sadistic. When they target someone, they will sieze on the most picayune or tangental issues as excuses to spew hostility. Let someone make even the tamest, most well-documented critique of any of their comments and they throw a ballistic hissy fit.
But tonight we have a winner. For many months, Donald Luskin-- a self-proclaimed "entrepreneur, executive, investment manager and commentator" has been publicly embarassing himself by attempting to 'fisk' Paul Krugman. When one compares their profiles, it is an intellectual pairing that evokes memories of Bambi Meets Godzilla:
1. Krugman got his Bachelors from Yale and his Doctorate from MIT. Luskin is a college dropout.
2. Krugman has written 20 books, 200 scholarly papers and has written a twice-weekly column in the New York Times for the last four years. Luskin has written a book about trading options; his columns appear on Smartmoney.com and NationalReviewOnline.
3. Krugman has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. Luskin has co-founded MetaMarkets.com, a mutual funds company that cratered.
4. Krugman spent a year in the White House, serving on the Reagan Administration's Council of Economic Advisors. Luskin has co-anchored CNNfn's Market Call.
Luskin's Trend Macrolytics is an investment advisement company whose track record... well, the web site doesn't post an annualized rate of return for its sample portfolio. He also operates a web site (named PoorAndStupid.com) that claims that "Big Government, Big Business, Big Media and Big Academia" are engaged in a conspiracy to "block your road to financial freedom and tell you it's for your own good."
The site's Johnny One Note theme is abuse and hostility toward Krugman and anyone who points out the errors or distortions in Luskin's charges. A Luskin column said he had "stalked" Krugman; even Glenn Reynolds (who loathes Krugman) agreed with the description.
A number of bloggers have been satirizing Luskin. The most cutting (as is often the case) has been Atrios. This evening, in the true wingnut tradition, Luskin officially cried like a bitch.
Luskin has no case, of course. Anyone who regularly appears on public media as a pundit is a public figure; while one might argue that some of the comments are in bad taste, the standard one would use for any action is "Would a reasonable and prudent person believe these comments to pose (what the hell, why not say it?) an imminent threat."
It's really just an attempt to discomfit Atrios by trying to strip his anonymity, which he wishes to maintain. Given the number of wingnuts willing to kill people they disagree with, Luskin's threat could actually be viewed as an attempt to help the more unhinged members of society do violence against Atrios. Thankfully, the case shouldn't hold any more water than any of Luskin's other claims.
But there is one bright side to this mess: by threatening to sue when someone gave him a taste of his own medicine, Luskin assumed the mantle of "America's #1 Wingnut." When Michael 'Savage'-- who advocated abuse and violence against gays, women, blacks and any other non-Aryans-- discovered that three web sites were making fun of him, he had his lawyer threaten to file suit against them. Luskin clearly seems to deserve this title.
The question is "How to react?" 'Savage's' threat to sue wiped out virtually all his credibility. One of the few things Americans of all races, creeds and political persuasions can still agree on is that people who deal in abuse and vituperation aren't allowed to cry foul when their tactics get turned on them.
Brandishing a lawyer is a public admission that you are a two-faced weasel and a compleat wuss-- even Reynolds is jeering at Luskin.
The blogosphere dispatched 'Savage' by setting aside a day where everyone (a) incorporating his true name (Michael Weiner) into their blog title and (b) posting scads of postings that harshly ridiculed him.
Wouldn't it be great to see that happen to Don 'Stalker' as well? What day works for everyone?
Update: T'will be the 31st; hopefully I won't be on the plane all day.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
No one I hold a conversation with is ever allowed to use the term "Democrat Party", and when someone says "pro life", I immediately reply "You mean 'anti-abortion', right?" I'll get into arguments about those issues and half a dozen other ones.
George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkely,
understands why I "make such a big deal out of a couple of words."
Not only does he explain how linguistics applies to politics, he even explains the behavior models that progressives and conservatives assume are valid
Progressives make the foolish mistake of assuming that every conservative is incredibly stupid, and that when anyone starts doing something, they're just being dumb. In fact, many of those folks are quite brilliant (or at least shrewd)-- they merely proceed from a different agenda. When they do something, it is highly desirable to figure out why they do it.
(Conservatives make the foolish mistake of assuming that they're the only ones who have moral principles and if progressives get upset about something, they can be ignored, because no one with any functioning value system will agree with them.)
Anyway, read the article. Read, memorize, live.
(Kudos to Atrios for the tip. I've seen references to Lakoff before, but never a full article only about politics.)
Sunday, October 26, 2003
How to Beat Bush
Just in case you haven't already had someone else point you to it, the Democracy Corps (a joint effort between veteran consultants James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum) has released an analysis (opens Adobe Acrobat PDF) of the findings of their latest monthly poll.
My one-sentence summary of the findings: Voters are starting to realize that he's a 'leaf off the old Bush'. More on that trope later.
Off the Road Vehicle
Public Nuisance provides an excellent illustration of the point I was making about the rigors of the campaign. Joe Lieberman has given up retail politics.