I hadn't thought about it that way before

>> Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why couldn't someone like Marilyn Monroe save herself?
I don't think Marilyn committed suicide. I don't think Marilyn was murdered. I think it was an accident. But she was playing with fire. I don't think she was as acutely aware of it as some of my other self-destructive friends.
~Elizabeth Taylor to Rolling Stone in 1987


Avengers: Age of Ultron

>> Saturday, July 11, 2015

So, I finally went to see this today. It finally made it to the discount theater. I was specifically waiting for it to do that. I didn't even want to fork out regular matinee price for this. I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road a couple of months ago with one of my friends. I paid matinee price for that and didn't regret it. Of course, when it came between choosing to see either Avengers: Age of Ultron or Mad Max, we both chose Mad Max.

When I was on my way driving to the theater, I was thinking to myself that it's almost to the point where Marvel should/could do a "previously on..." segment before every film. It really is to that point. It's becoming so ubiquitous. I haven't seen Iron Man 3, still waiting for it to show up on Netflix. Haven't seen Thor: The Dark World either; although, I almost saw it at the discount theater, but got there kind of late so I just let it go. Still waiting to see it on Netflix. I did see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last year on opening weekend and quite enjoyed it. Same with Guardians of the Galaxy. But I have no desire to see Ant Man at this point.

I felt like I saw this with as much of an open mind as I could have. It's been a month or more since I've seen advertisements for it. And...it's okay. I feel like it's an achievement given how much is stuffed in there that it still has a coherent story. I haven't even seen every Marvel movie, and it just seems like it's sinking under its own morass. There's too many action scenes, and the big one at the end just goes on and on and on and on and on forever. I think I read somewhere that the movie is better when it's just concentrating on its character moments, and I agree with that. There's not enough of them.

And can I just say that RDJ is bringing out the asshole qualities in Tony Stark excellently? Even though it may not be intended, that's what I was thinking. I can still remember 15 years ago when they were considering Tom Cruise as Tony. That popped in my head while watching this. Tony is such an ass without Pepper around.

I did enjoy seeing Wanda and Vision on the screen. Vision looks not completely human, yet completely real. I'm actually looking forward to seeing more of him. Wanda was nice to see, except she's not in it as much as I would like. I didn't mind the Banner & Widow thing as much as I thought I would, but didn't we establish in the last Avengers movie that Bruce had a little bit more control because he's "always angry"? Feel like he regressed for some reason.

But driving on my way home, I was thinking two things: 1) glad I only paid $3 to see this, and 2) I enjoyed Man of Steel more than this. Don't get me wrong, Man of Steel has its problems, but I have no desire to see Age of Ultron again. In fact, I'd rather watch The Dark Knight Rises again, and I'm not big on that movie either. At least when I saw MoS, I thought about seeing it again, but didn't think my ears could bear it after they were ringing for an hour afterwards. Maybe I'll watch it tonight, particularly after having seen the new Batman v Superman trailer today.

This movie is very forgettable.


I'd never thought of it that way before...

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I had never really understood how a nation that so celebrated the individual could obliterate all differences the way this country did. In a system of mass production, the individual workers are replaceable and the products are identical. The identical cars are followed by identical gas stations, identical restaurants, identical motels and, as an extension of these, by identical TV screens, which hang everywhere in this country, broadcasting identical entertainment and identical dreams. Not even the Soviet Union at the height of its power had succeeded in creating such a unified, collective identity as the one Americans lived their lives within. When times got rough, a person could abandon one town in favor of another, and that new town would still represent the same thing.
~Karl Ove Knausgård on the U.S.


Because it's all just one big, happy pile of $$$

>> Thursday, March 19, 2015

There is nothing like experiencing one of your coworker's idiocy-in-the-extreme moments for the first time.

And just being GOBSMACKED by it.

Because if you have, say, multiple years of experience dealing with a certain area of bureaucracy, and you were trying to inform one of your coworkers about this bureaucracy since they literally have NO EXPERIENCE dealing with it, naturally they would listen to what you had to say, right? I mean, they have no idea how the process works, how long it takes, what a pain in the ass it can be, never had a good or bad experience dealing with it, don't even know the names of the people who run the program or what extensions to call and reach them. Surely, they would at least listen to what you had to say on the subject, right?


And here begins The Saga of Someone Doesn't Know the Difference Between Project X and Project Y...

Me [10:21 AM]:
He said it sounds like a few have used their private insurance.
But he said no success in getting people seen through the [Project X] instead of here
Coworker [10:21 AM]:
Me [10:21 AM]:
[Project X] is slow
Coworker [10:22 AM]:
Congress is slow. Implement something without a smooth transition in place
Me [10:23 AM]:
It probably works fine for appointments that are 60+ days out, but 30 days is too short for them to work that fast. That's my guess.
Coworker [10:24 AM]:
You wait how long for auth for para's...like a day? 3 days?
Me [10:25 AM]:
That's an entirely different department & process.
That's [Project Y] funding.
Coworker [10:25 AM]:
If it's forcasted that you have to wait a minimum of 30 days to be seen, that process should be the same
Essentially, that funding comes from the same pot of money
Me [10:26 AM]:
Nope. Different programs & different sources of funding.
[Project X] is entirely separate from [Project Y].
Coworker [10:27 AM]:
I know they are
but tax payers money
divided and renamed to justify how the money is spent
See, what she did there? It's all just one big, happy, pile of money! Documentation, justification, and specificity be damned! Never mind that this is someone who has a purchase card and already understands that she has to keep a shitload of documentation just for buying office supplies. Clearly, it would be too much in the thinking department to apply the same principle to something more expensive and complex. It's all just one pot of taxpayer money!! Everything is the same because it comes from the tax payers!
Me [10:28 AM]:
That's like saying Department of Labor and DoD are on the same budget because they're tax payer money.
[Project X] and [Project Y] are different staffs & budgets. Once [Project X] uses all their money, they won't exist. [Project Y] will though.
Coworker [10:29 AM]:
WE're talking about the same thing, but worded differently.
All tax payer money, divied up between gov entities
Uh, no. We are not talking about the same thing. I can clearly recognize that there are two DIFFERENT programs at work here: [Project X] and [Project Y]. When you say that one of them will GO AWAY after their funding is used, how could they possibly be THE SAME?!? How she doesn't seem to realize this is a complete mystery to me. It is well established that [Project X] will not be around forever. Everyone at work knows this. Well...perhaps I shouldn't say everyone.
Me [10:30 AM]:
All government is.
Coworker [10:31 AM]:
So the [Project X] is a newly justified budget
Me [10:31 AM]:
Coworker [10:31 AM]:
it didn't exist before
are we on the same page?
all of this money we pay needs to be split up appropriatly
Me [10:32 AM]:
Yeah, it didn't exist before and it won't exist after its budget runs out, which is approximately 3 years.
Coworker [10:33 AM]:
What I am trying to tell you is that I think the [Project X] has loopholes, and should be the same as the [Project Y] finding...wait maybe 1-3 days
to be seen
Ok, this should have been a sign early on that she has NO IDEA what she's talking about. (Unfortunately, I didn't catch it early on.) [Project X] does NOT have loopholes. [Project Y] cannot necessarily get people seen in 1-3 days like she said. [Project Y] is almost usually on a case-by-case basis, mainly because we don't even offer--for example--Service F, G, and H. If you were seen in 1-3 days due to [Project Y] funding, then likely it only happened that quickly because it was necessitated that you were seen in 1-3 days. If you don't understand the [Project X], have never spoken to anyone who has used it, and just want to use your imagination--like she did--then I suppose [Project X] has loophole. But [Project X] does not have loopholes. It has strict requirements that have to be met, and if you don't meet the requirements, you can't use [Project X] funding. It's literally that fucking simple.
Me [10:34 AM]:
[Project Y] doesn't necessarily always get people seen within 1-3 days. It's really only for things that aren't done at *****.
Coworker [10:34 AM]:
Oh [my name]
forget it
Me [10:37 AM]:
I've seen a guy [Project Y] funded to have his surgery done on the outside because it was too special to be done even at the U. Sometimes it's been used in the past to catch up when there's a lack of staff, but not always. It totally depends on what budget has been granted to each **** hospital. So the [Project Y] funding that they were doing last year for IR because they lost docs was only because they had the budget for it.
Me [10:40 AM]:
You're conflating [Project X] and [Project Y].
Coworker [10:42 AM]:
No I am not, I am suggesting that it should be the same process for that budget [my name].
From top to bottom, the money comes from ONE place-tax payers
There it is again! It's all just one big pot of money. Everything should be treated the same. Like, I am never going to be lucky enough to be around when someone other than me breaks the news to her that this shit is not the same!
Me [10:42 AM]:
It doesn't matter whether you want them to be the same. They are different programs.
ALL government money comes from tax payers!
Coworker [10:43 AM]:
and justified into separate pots
I am not arguing they are different programs
Me [10:43 AM]:
That's how the budgeting process goes.
Coworker [10:43 AM]:
Obviously, my point isn't coming across and you're choosing to argue instead of listen
But it's ok
Sadly, even as I re-read this, her special "point" that she was trying to make makes no sense, particularly if you've actually dealt with [Project Y], which I can guarantee you she has not.
Me [10:44 AM]:
I could really care less whether it's one program or two
One of them is only temporary anyway.
Coworker [10:47 AM]:
I won't argue, and it isn't even agree to disagree. This is just one sided, black and white, no other perspective. Which is fine. We will just stick with our own perspectives.
Have to run to [manager's] office
Me [10:48 AM]:
If you worked on the regular clinic side it would make more sense to you.
Coworker [10:49 AM]:
She's with someone
Actually...I have...for 13 years prior to here
But you just assumed that I didn't
Coworker [10:50 AM]:
I know that you have. BUT I'm still talking about [government-funded] clinic care.
Coworker [10:51 AM]:
Oh sure
Of course you know
See, there we go. Instead of sticking to actually discussing the issue or facts of relevance, she starts throwing down AS IF she knows it all because she worked 13 years...not doing anything related to ever processing, interacting, or documenting anything in regards to [Project X] or [Project Y]. But, of course, I'm totally wrong for trying to point it out...
Me [10:52 AM]:
If you don't believe me then go talk to [So-&-So], the head of Urology, for his opinon. Or go talk to [This-Other-Person], the nurse for General Surgery. And ASK THEM what they think of having to do all this [Project X&Y] care.
Coworker [10:52 AM]:
Enough [my name], you are prodding me. We can't talk politics, idea's again.
Name dropping, arguing...thats what this has turned into
I wanted to share idea's
but you're just shooting them down, and not listening
Discussion over.
You know, if you want to have discussions with people, the best way is to actually engage--perhaps even get out of your comfort zone--not make decrees like an emperor, "Discussion over,""You're killing my ideas," etc. If I wasn't at work, the most appropriate response to this would have been "FUCK OFF." 
Me [10:54 AM]:
I've actually had to help manage patients going back and forth with [Project Y] and [regular] care. It's not as easy as you'd like to think it is.
Coworker [10:54 AM]:
Are you serious?
Are you really serious?
Me [10:54 AM]:
Coworker [10:54 AM]:
Apparently you're not reading what I just wrote, and you're pissing me off
You want to continue and prod?
Emperor tactics yet again. Or wait, am I being treated like a child? Eh, it's probably both.
Me [10:55 AM]:
I don't understand what your problem is. [Project Y] isn't as easy to deal with as you seem to think it is.
Coworker [10:55 AM]:
I said conversation is OVER
Or should I write that in caps?
Decree! Decree! Decree! The option of not responding or just saying that I've got to get back to work on such 'n such isn't an option. Declaring your authority to DEMAND someone not respond to a statement you just made to them--on an instant messenger no less!--is quite galling and unbelievable. I can't recall when I've encountered such audacity. And let me be clear, I'm not talking about differing opinions. It's literally DECLARING "conversation is OVER." Not attempting to just extricate yourself from it, but declaring it over instead of just moving on...
Me [10:55 AM]:
doesn't matter to me
Coworker [10:56 AM]:
It does, because you won't stop
Me [10:56 AM]:
I don't think you understand the complexity of [Project Y].
Coworker [10:56 AM]:
Now stop
Bitch is dead to me.


And this is why I read nonfiction

I'm working on a magazine story about a woman who was fired from her job as president of Bennington College. I have read a story about her in The New York Times that says she's been fired--along with her husband, the vice president of Bennington--because of her brave stand against tenure. I suspect her firing has nothing to do with her brave stand against tenure, although I don't have a clue what the real reason is. I go to Bennington and discover that she has in fact been fired because she's been having an affair with a professor at Bennington, that they taught a class in Hawthorne together, and that they both wore matching T-shirts in class with scarlet A's on them. What's more, I learn that the faculty hated her from the very beginning because she had a party for them and served lukewarm lasagna and unthawed Sara Lee banana cake. I can't get over this aspect of journalism. I can't believe how real life never lets you down. I can't understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens in so amazing.
~Nora Ephron, "The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less," I Feel Bad About My Neck


Hair Dye

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Many years ago, when Gloria Steinem turned forty, someone complimented her on how remarkably young she looked, and she replied, "This is what forty looks like." It was a great line, and I wish I'd said it. "This is what forty looks like" led, inevitably, to its most significant corollary. "Forty is the new thirty," which led to many other corollaries: "Fifty is the new forty," "Sixty is the new fifty," and even "Restaurants are the new theater," "Focaccia is the new quiche," et cetera.

Anyway, here's the point: There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye. In the 1950s only 7 percent of American women dyed their hair; today there are no parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all.
~Nora Ephron, "On Maintenance," I Feel Bad About My Neck


I Feel Bad About My Neck

>> Sunday, March 15, 2015

I don't feel bad about my neck, but that is the title. Specifically, it's I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Still going through one of those phases where I'm reluctant to start reading Plagues and Peoples again since I'm worried I'm going to drag my feet reading it. So I read this, which I knew I would finish very quickly. And I did. I think this took me about 3 hours of reading time. Perhaps a little more but not much.

I put this on my reading list back when Nora Ephron passed away back in 2012 along with a few of her other books. I actually picked up a copy for less than a dollar at the Weber County Library book sale this past August. I feel like continually looking at the books in my book list paid off because I was able to spot it as something on my list because those books on sale are in unorganized messes. They weren't grouped in any kind of subcategory. It was just one section of nonfiction. When I was looking for books to get on the cheap, they were going to have to be something on my list, not something that looked merely interesting, which is why I can't understand people who were buying shopping cart loads of books. Why? Why would you need to have that many? Can't you just check them out of the library?

Anyhow, now that I've finished reading it, I've already put it on Amazon to sell. Hopefully it will. But I will say that it's sad that Nora Ephron will no longer be around to write. She just spits things out on paper making it sound like she's talking to you--observations that you or your friends may have mentioned--and then she elaborates on them so well.
Because here's what happens with a purse. You start small. You start pledging yourself to neatness. You start vowing that This Time It Will Be Different. You start with the things you absolutely need--your wallet and a few cosmetics that you have actually put into a brand-new shiny cosmetics bag, the kind used by your friends who are competent enough to manage more than one purse at a time. But within seconds, your purse has accumulated the debris of a lifetime. The cosmetics have somehow fallen out of the shiny cosmetics bag (okay, you forgot to zip it up), the coins have fallen from the wallet (okay, you forgot to fasten the coin department), the credit cards are somewhere in the abyss (okay, you forgot to put your Visa card back into your wallet after you bought the sunblock that is now oozing into the lining because you forgot to put the top back onto it after you applied it to your hands while driving seventy miles an hour down the highway). What's more, a huge amount of space in your purse is being taken up by a technological marvel that holds your address book and calendar--or would, but the batteries in it have died. And there's half a bottle of water, along with several snacks you saved from an airplane trip just in case you ever found yourself starving and unaccountably craving a piece of cheese that tastes like plastic. Perhaps you can fit your sneakers into your purse. Yes, by God, you can! Before you know it, your purse weighs twenty pounds and you are in grave danger of getting bursitis and needing an operation just from carrying it around. Everything you own is in your purse. You could flee the Cossacks with your purse. But when you open it up, you can't find a thing in it--your purse is just a big dark hole full of stuff that you spend hours fishing around for. A flashlight would help, but if you were to put one into your purse, you'd never find it.
Or, as my friend Katrina said more than 15 years ago about purses (while carrying a small purse): You never downgrade. You always upgrade to something bigger.

Although, I have graduated to a larger purse, aka a bag, I am able to keep mine rather neat. I only have a large purse/bag because I can fit a book and a water bottle in it. I can't imagine having one bigger than what I have now. Really, I can't and prefer to keep it that way.


Why the American media can be so sycophantic

>> Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Through its policy decisions--especially, though not only, decisions involving media regulation--the U.S. government can reward media companies that please it, punish those that don't. This gives private networks an incentive to curry favor with those in power. Yet because the networks aren't government-owned, they aren't subject to the kind of scrutiny faced by the BBC, which must take care not to seem like a tool of the ruling party. So we shouldn't be surprised if America's "independent" television is far more deferential to those in power than the state-run systems in Britain or--for another example--Israel.
~Paul Krugman, "The China Syndrome," May 13, 2003 [reprinted in The Great Unraveling]


The Great Unraveling

>> Saturday, March 7, 2015

Finally got to this one. I realized when I was reading this that I have had this for more than 7 years. At first, I thought it would have been 7 years this summer since I purchased it, but inbetween the pages was my receipt from December 10, 2007 with the purchase price of $6.95 (because it was a used book).

In a way, I was surprised that most of this turned out to still be a good read even though some of the columns/essays within are more than 15 years old. This is the paperback version that has essays from 2003 and 2004 after the initial hardback version was published. I'm glad I have that version because things would feel a little left out without those columns.

I vaguely remember reading a review of this book--I'm pretty sure it was this book and not one of Krugman's other books, which are collections of his New York Times columns--where the reviewer lamented that the columns should have been completely chronological, not divided into smaller sections. I can understand the reviewer's point, particularly since, at the time, the reviewer noted that it could be seen much easier how things were falling to pieces under George W. Bush. But reading this more than 10 years after its publication date, I really appreciated that his columns were sorted by topic first, then published chronologically. Had I read this 10 years earlier I might not have the same opinion, but it's harder to remember all the issues as they happened a decade ago and still follow everything along.

But even still, reading through this you can see how Krugman was right on when spotting things from the get go, such as who Bush was choosing as his economics advisers.

From "The Two Larrys," November 19, 2000:
The point is that Bill Clinton turned for advice to a strong, independent professional economist, who would have been an important player whatever his politics. Mr. Bush has turned to an economist whose career has been entirely associated with his political orientation. And more specifically, Mr. Lindsey's career has depended on the patronage of the Bush family.

So the younger Mr. Bush's decision to elevate Mr. Lindsey above the many Republican economists who do have reputations independent of their politics says something. Not, I think, that Mr. Bush is a fanatical ideologue himself--though Mr. Lindsey is much more partisan than any of Mr. Clinton's economists. Mainly, it says that Mr. Bush values loyalty above expertise, perhaps that he has a preference for advisers whose personal fortunes are almost entirely bound up with his own.
I don't remember Mr. Lindsey, but the "loyalty above expertise" remark is spot on. I can still remember when Bush selected his personal lawyer as a Supreme Court nominee--Harriet Miers--and everyone was just stunned since she would obviously be completely out of her depth on the court and no way would she ever make it out of her confirmation hearing unscathed.

In hindsight, it's unsurprising since we all know now how terrible the Bush Administration was. But tons of people couldn't admit it when it was happening, such as the California energy crisis.
From "In Broad Daylight," September 27, 2002:
But why did energy companies think they could get away with it?

One answer might be that the apparent malefactors are very big contributors to the Republican Party. Some analysts have suggested that the energy companies felt free to manipulate markets because they believed they had bought protection from federal regulation--the conspiracy-minded point out that severe power shortages began just after the 2000 election, and ended when Democrats gained control of the Senate.
Coincidence? I think not. And I think the above paragraph demonstrates why it's essential to have more than one political party.

The Bush Administration didn't care how things happened as long as they could get what they wanted. I can still remember living in Tacoma, and feeling some of the effects from the California energy crisis affecting Washington state. I was lucky that I lived in Tacoma and had electricity coming from a publicly-owned utility, not from a private company such as Puget Sound Energy where some people did have rate increases due to what happened to the South.

But the Bush Administration didn't care about that. From "Delusions of Power," March 28, 2003:
Another answer is that Mr. Cheney basically drew his advice about how to end the energy crisis from the very companies creating the crisis, for fun and profit. But was he in on the joke?

We may never know what really went on in the energy task force since the Bush administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep us from finding out. At first the nonpartisan General Accounting Office, which is supposed to act as an internal watchdog, seemed determined to pursue the matter. But after the midterm election, according to the newsletter The Hill, Congressional Republicans approached the agency's head and threatened to slash his budget unless he backed off.

And therein lies the broader moral. In the last two years Mr. Cheney and other top officials have gotten it wrong again and again--on energy, on the economy, on the budget. But political muscle has insulated them from any adverse consequences. So they, and the country, don't learn from their mistakes--and the mistakes keep getting bigger.
Here's another example of Krugman pointing that out from "The Reality Thing," June 25, 2002:
President George H. W. Bush once confessed that he was somewhat lacking in the "vision thing." His son's advisers don't have that problem: they have a powerful vision for America's future. In that future, we have recently learned, the occupant of the White House will have the right to imprison indefinitely anyone he chooses, including U.S. citizens, without any judicial process or review. But they are rather less interested in the reality thing.

For the distinctive feature of all the programs the administration has pushed in response to real problems is that they do little or nothing to address those problems. Problems are there to be used to pursue the vision. And a problem that won't serve that purpose, whether it's the collapse of confidence in corporate governance or the chaos in the Middle East, is treated as an annoyance to be ignored if possible, or at best addressed with purely cosmetic measures. Clearly, George W. Bush's people believe that real-world problems will solve themselves, or at least won't make the evening news, because by pure coincidence they will be pre-empted by terror alerts....

But back to the festering problems: on the economic side, this is starting to look like the most dangerous patch for the nation and the world since the summer of 1998. Back then, luckily, our economic policy was run by smart people who were prepared to learn from their mistakes. Can you say the same about this administration?

As I've noted before, the Bush administration has an infallibility complex; it never, ever, admits making a mistake. And that kind of arrogance tends, eventually, to bring disaster.
The above was from 2002, before the Iraq War had begun. Before Katrina. No one could hold them to account. It was literally like large parts of the Bush Administration only majored in Making Shit Up when they graduated from college. From "Stocks and Bombs," September 13, 2002:
In general it's a bad omen when advocates of a policy claim that it will solve problems unrelated to its original purpose. The shifting rationale for the Bush tax cut--it's about giving back the surplus; no, it's a demand stimulus; no, it's a supply-side policy--should have warned us that this was an obsession in search of a justification.

The shifting rationale for war with Iraq--Saddam was behind Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks; no, but he's on the verge of developing nuclear weapons; no, but he's a really evil man (which he is)--has a similar feel.

The idea that war would actually be good for the economy seems like just one more step in this progression.
And things like that are why they made such good fodder for The Daily Show. But continuing on for a moment about the Iraq War from "Conquest and Neglect," April 11, 2003:
But there is a pattern to the Bush administration's way of doing business that does not bode well for the future--a pattern of conquest followed by malign neglect.

One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.

But after the triumph, when it comes time to take care of what they've won, their attention wanders, and things go to pot.
And they certainly did. Continuing on from "Dereliction of Duty," June 17, 2003:
A conventional war, on the other hand, is a lot more fun: you get stirring pictures of tanks rolling across the desert, and you get to do a victory landing on an aircraft carrier. And more and more it seems that that was what the war was all about. After all, the supposed reasons for fighting that war have turned out to be false--there were no links to Al Qaeda, there wasn't a big arsenal of W.M.D.'s.

But never mind--we won, didn't we? Maybe not. About half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now tied down in Iraq, facing what looks increasingly like a guerrilla war--and like a perfect recruiting device for Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, the real war on terror has been neglected, and we've antagonized the allies we need to fight that war. One of these days we'll end up paying the price.
And I would call that price ISIS. And the fact that we'll undoubtedly have to go back again probably next year. Well, we probably wouldn't HAVE to, but since the hawks in this country have never not had other people fight another war they didn't like, we probably will.

On a bunch of other topics in the book, I can still see plenty of relevance for today. From "The Long Haul," September 10, 2002:
Far more important, of course, is the question of law and civil liberties. Great democratic leaders have broken the rules in times of war: had Abraham Lincoln not suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1861, there would be no United States today. But the situation was extreme, and the lapse was temporary: victory in the Civil War brought a return to normal legal procedure. Can anyone think of an event that would persuade our current leaders that they no longer need extraordinary powers?

The point is that our new, threatened condition isn't temporary. We're in this for the long haul, so any measures we take to fight terrorism had better be measures that we are prepared to live with indefinitely.

The real challenge now is not to stamp out terrorism; that's an unattainable goal. The challenge is to find a way to cope with the threat of terrorism without losing the freedom and prosperity that make America the great nation it is.
Some of that is right out of the civil liberties battles of today, such as demonstrated by the Citizenfour documentary. NSA crap that is still ongoing and probably won't stop for the next few years at a minimum. That's not counting all the people on no-fly watch lists and other things either.

But his comments regarding the Bush tax cuts are still relevant to today since they're still in place, depriving the government of being able to do its job. From "Business As Usual," October 22, 2002:
Administration officials claim that the S.E.C. can still do its job with a much smaller budget. But the S.E.C. is ludicrously underfinanced: staff lawyers and accountants are paid half what they could get in the private sector, usually find themselves heavily outnumbered by the legal departments of the companies they investigate, and often must do their own typing and copying. Officials say there are investigations that they should pursue but can't for lack of resources. And the new law expands the S.E.C.'s responsibilities.

So what's going on? Here's a parallel. Since 1995 Congress has systematically forced the Internal Revenue Service to shrink its operations; the number of auditors has fallen by 28 percent. Yet it's clear that giving the I.R.S. more money would actually reduce the federal budget deficit; the agency estimates that it loses at least $30 billion a year in uncollected taxes, mainly because high-income taxpayers believe they can get away with tax evasion. So starving the I.R.S. isn't about saving money, it's about protecting affluent tax cheats.

Similarly, top officials don't really believe that the S.E.C. can do its job with less money; the whole point is to prevent the agency from doing its job.
You have to wonder even today, if the S.E.C. been properly financed would some of the collapse of 2008 been prevented. I don't think all of it could have been, but I do think some of it may have come to light sooner rather than later. But the I.R.S. being underfinanced is still affecting the U.S. I still remember saying to one of my friends that a bunch of societal and political problems could be fixed by a progressive tax system. She agreed. It's unfortunate that 10 years on from Krugman writing the following that the situation isn't any better, from "Red Ink Realities," January 27, 2004:
This decline in tax collections from the wealthy is partly the result of the Bush tax cuts, which account for more than half of this year's projected deficit. But it also probably reflects and epidemic of tax avoidance and evasion. Everyone who wants to understand what's happening to the tax system should read Perfectly Legal, the new book by David Cay Johnston, The Times tax reporter, who shows ideologues have made America safe for wealthy people who don't feel like paying taxes.

I was partially struck by Mr. Johnston's description of the carefully staged Senate Finance Committee hearings in 1997-1998. Senators Trent Lott and Frank Murkowski accused the I.R.S. of "Gestapo"-like tactics, and Congress passed new rules that severely restricted the I.R.S.'s ability to investigate suspected tax evaders. Only later, when the cameras were no longer rolling, did it become clear that the whole thing was a con. Most of the charges weren't true, and there was good reason to believe that the star witness, who dramatically described how I.R.S. agents had humiliated him, really was engaged in major-league tax evasion (he eventually paid $23 million, still insisting he had done no wrong).
People like that can still get away with that level of tax evasion because the I.R.S. is still without the resources to go after tax cheats. Ugh.

On a different note, I was glad to read this comment about public health, from "Paying the Price," September 16, 2001:
Last year Laurie Garrett, the author of The Coming Plague, followed up with a chilling book titled Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health. The story she tells is ominously similar to that of airport security: a crucial but unglamorous piece of our public infrastructure has been allowed to fray to the point of collapse--partly because we have relied on the private sector to do the public sector's job, partly because public agencies have been starved of resources by politicians busily posturing against "big government." Don't be surprised if it turns out that we have left ourselves as vulnerable to an attack by microbes as we were to an attack by terrorists, and for exactly the same reasons.
We are enduring a measles outbreak right now, but you have to wonder what things would be like if we had a flu going around that was of the same intensity of the flu pandemic of 1918. Would the anti-vaxxers be so fixed on their current rationales and strategies? It's something to think about since we probably going to have some kind of large-scale pandemic in the next 15 years.

But I think I have to end on a happier note, and for that I'll turn to Krugman on the Brits. From "Man on Horseback," May 6, 2003:
At first the White House claimed the dramatic tail-hook landing was necessary because the carrier was too far out to use a helicopter. In fact, the ship was so close to shore that, according to The Associated Press, administration officials "acknowledged positioning the massive ship to provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the sea as his background instead of the San Diego coastline."

A U.S.-based British journalist told me that he and his colleagues had laughed through the whole scene. If Tony Blair had tried such a stunt, he said the press would have demanded to know how many hospital beds could have been provided for the cost of jet fuel.
Yeah, it's always funnier when it's not your leader, and the British media in some ways can be better than their American sycophantic counterparts.

But for proof that Krugman actually does write about economics, I offer this long quote from his former column at Fortune magazine ("Supply, Demand, and English Food," July 20, 1998:
For someone who remembers the old days, the food is the most startling thing about modern England. English food used to be deservedly famous for its awfulness--greasy fish and chips, gelatinous pork pies, and dishwater coffee. Now it is not only easy to do much better, but traditionally terrible English meals have been become hard to find. What happened?

Maybe the first question is how English cooking got to be so bad in the first place. A good guess is that the country's early industrialization and urbanization was the culprit. Millions of people moved rapidly off the land and away from access to traditional ingredients. Worse, they did so at a time when the technology of urban food supply was still primitive: Victorian London already had well over a million people, but most of its food came in by horse-drawn barge. And so ordinary people, and even the middle classes, were forced into a cuisine based on canned goods (mushy peas!), preserved meats (hence those pies), and root vegetables that didn't need refrigeration (e.g., potatoes, which explain the chips).

But why did the food stay so bad after refrigerated railroad cars and ships, frozen foods (better than canned, anyway), and eventually air-freight deliveries of fresh fish and vegetables had become available? Now we're talking about economics--and about the limits of conventional economic theory. For the answer is surely that by the time it became possible for urban Britons to eat decently, they no longer knew the difference. The appreciation of good food is, quite literally, and acquired taste--but because your typical Englishman, circa, say, 1975, had never had a really good meal, he didn't demand one. And because consumers didn't demand good food, they didn't get it. Even then there were surely some people who would have liked better, just not enough to provide a critical mass.


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