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Hullabaloo


Sunday, November 09, 2008

 
Putrid

by digby

Jonathan Schwarz stares in slack jawed horror at Michael Kinsley:

What's so shocking about Kinsley is that he's not an inherently stupid man. Yet he consistently writes things so bizarrely obtuse it's like he'd just had an anvil dropped on his head. It really goes to show the complete intellectual self-castration required to run in his levels of US society.

Here's one of his greatest hits from the past, written in 1996 just after a Valujet flight had crashed in Florida:

[T]here is no reason every airline should meet the same level of safety. In fact, it makes perfect sense for discount airlines to be less safe than traditional full-price carriers. This is no excuse for negligence and rule-breaking. But if the rules don't recognize that some people, quite rationally, will wish to buy less safety for less money, they are doing the flying public a disservice.

Right. And the 110 people who died on that flight got the information on which to "quite rationally" base their decision...how, exactly? Via the popular Valujet slogan, "We cut back on inspections—and pass the savings along to you!"?

But that may have been surpassed by Kinsley's column yesterday in defense of Larry Summers:

Opponents of Lawrence Summers for a second turn as Treasury secretary have, of course, brought up his 1991 memo as chief economist of the World Bank, in which he wrote that poor countries need more pollution, not less. The memo was obviously meant to stimulate thinking and not to be implemented as policy. But it also was undeniably correct. Summers's main point was that life and health are worth less in poor countries than in rich ones...Of course this shouldn't be true, but it undeniably is true, and rejecting the idea of poor countries earning a little cash by "buying" pollution from rich ones will do nothing to make it less true...

Every economic transaction has two sides. When you deny a rich country the opportunity to unload some toxic waste on a poor one, you are also denying that poor country the opportunity to get paid for taking the toxic waste. And by forbidding this deal, you are putting off the day when the poor country will no longer need to make deals like this.

In his notorious memo, Summers was doing his job and doing it well: thinking outside the box about how to help the poor countries that are supposed to be the World Bank's constituency.


Jonathan goes on to point out the unpleasant truth about such allegedly "out of the box" thinking --- that the people who reap the "benefit" of such things usually don't have to live in the putrid, polluted hellhole that's created by our toxic waste.

Ugh. This kind of thinking is so repugnantly abstract that it makes me sick. And Kinsley is considered by the liberal villagers to be one of the good guys.


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