Feb 8, 2013

Sirrr --- "die menschliche Dummheit is grenzenlos"

(We did it again, we did it again. Another Sirrr letter, this time in the comment section of Paul Krugman's latest column in the NYT:)

Paul Krugman

Sirrr:  Following up on the last comment (people can't be reasoned with): why --- yes, in the end, they can. We've been there before, like the Chinese were for more than a thousand years during which time the frequent and devastating floods of the Yellow River basin were answered by raising the standards of the entry exams of the bureaucratic Mandarin elite (mostly writing poetry). Wasn't it crystal clear that the ancestors had gotten upset again about declining poetic standards and showed their anger through provoking natural disasters? Or think about the infamous earthquake of Lisbon in 1755, to which the authorities reacted by staging more autodafés --- wasn't it clear that God had shown his anger and needed to be mollified by more vigorous answers to overall sinning?

Along those lines, isn't it clear that the world will go under if we don't lower the budget deficit now, now (never mind that a significant percentage of the demographic believing this also believes that the world will come to an end anyhow soon, compliments Jesus Christ and impending Rapture proceedings). Isn't it clear that the answer to all economic problems lies in lowering taxes --- because it's the hardworking, dogged, teneacious rich that create jobs, those people that could get discouraged so easily by higher marginal taxes, even though the marginal income tax rate under Eisenhower (when the American economy really grew precipitously) was 91%, instead of 35, or 39%.

My father (who was German) used to say: "Die menschliche Dummheit ist grenzenlos." In this spirit.

(And while we are at it, a fitting fragment from the Green Eyes --- not the first time we're posting this fragment, but there you have it:)


Chapter 38 --- What's Paul Krugman's penis size

You think Trevor would be interested in politics, or the New York Times, or economics, or Nobel prices? Possibly not—you have other problems when you're a confirmed bachelor without a future. Trevor, in any case, who must be looking right into the eyes of Paul Krugman behind me, Trevor shows no signs of recognition what-so-ever, it's crystal-clear, he's not attracted to the fifty-nine year old Nobel laureate. In the distant past, when penises had average size, there was some talk in some quarters that IQs would be sexy, but we have proof now (sample-of-one!) that Krugman either does not look the part or that IQs are out. What's Krugman's penis size? Krugman, I realize, is drinking sparkling water, which is actually penis-enhancing, at least in the sense that alcohol induces impotence. That's what I should do, drink sparkling water, do they award Nobel prices for French? Should I raise my voice a bit so that Krugman can hear me and admire what I have to say about the Normans and their conquest of the Anglo-Saxon tongue? Where am I now, 0.13 BAC? Did you know that French has more words for booze than English? Or vice versa?

Our tables are ready, Trevor and me at one of them, Krugman and his wife (happy marriage, I guess) at the other one, Krugman and I are seated back to back. Krugman has his tweed jacket draped over his Hitchcock seat, whereas I have not since it's not my seat and I don't own a tweed jacket. It's clear, I'm going to blow this unless I change tack, so I am making a major effort, think of (better: conjure up the images of) Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote (perhaps the saddest case), and so on, until I get to Eminem, Amy Winehouse, Lance Armstrong---and finally find the strength to order sparkling water. As planned, I’ve taken the bar tab with me, but Trevor doesn't know what's on it, it'll blow his expense account, he'll get fired, and Maurice will get killed.

"Did you have a chance to think about Hercule Poirot?" I ask.
"Yes," he says.
"What do you think?"
"I think nothing," he answers as he is being handed the menu, which requests his full attention (too large, too wordy, printed in RSVP font). We're both having lupo di mare, the waiter casts a benevolent-campy look. We recognize each other. Right, the guy had been at Godehart’s party. "May I remind you of Sherlock Holmes' dictum," Trevor continues post-menu, "and avoid theory-forming prior to fact gathering?" I start to like Trevor more (although Krugman, at the other table, could inform you that theory-less fact-gathering will drown you in trivia, but never mind).
"Why did you block us this morning?" I ask.
"Did I," he answers.
"It was fairly clear."
"I think I was fairly clear, too," he answers.
"I don't understand."
"You are intelligent enough to understand my position," he answers, "how many hints did I drop? Did you hear my introduction, did you hear my extroduction, did you listen to my language? We’re supposed to speak user-friendly now. I almost could get fired for this."

'Extroduction,' I think, great, he's one of us (I later realize that the Urban Dictionary had the scoop in 2009), but am eager not interrupt the flow of conversation, say instead: "I took them at face value."
"We take the side of the victims, so you should never take us at face value."
"Bodies are piling up," I say, lowering my voice, although I should possibly raise it if I want to force the DA's hand.
"Maurice is still alive," he says.
"Listen," I say, "where have we seen this before, a hospital patient is attemptedly murdered with his own pillow by a police officer on a rampage and nothing happens."
"But the patient had sex in a public space before."
"That has nothing to do with it."
"What do you think Peach State voters care more about, Maurice's death, or his lewd behavior?"

And I thought I’ve seen it all. "You want to know what I think," he says, "I think a lot of murders go undetected. My personal theory, five percent of the bodies in the morgue, they are there for extraneous reasons, pillows, weed killers in a broth fed to an Alzheimer patient, electrocutions, what not. Don't think your case is special. One percent of the American population is already in prison. You want to add another five percent?"
"So you ain’t pursuing Officer Benson because you want to save America?"
"Look at it any which way you want."
"Could you make an exception for us?" I ask—the way Maurice would have asked this himself.

"Depends," he answers—DEPENDS, that's what we wanted to hear, folks, us escorts is always ready, and I really don't want to split the bill—but then he continues: "depends, but not only on yours truly. Indictment decisions at homicide level are made by the DA, and the DA answers to the voters, not to me."
"He hasn’t decided yet?"
"You think he wants to know?"
“He doesn’t know?”
“Why should he.”
“You said he knows.”
“Did I?”
“He sent us his regards, you said.”
“He always sends his regards.”
"He's in charge."
"Exactly, so why should he know. Credible deniability, or whatever it's called. You think I'm going to risk my non-career by telling him about this? I would force him to say 'I don't want to know,' or 'let's move on,' and he hates to say 'I don't want to know,' he really hates it, although he actually likes to say 'let's move on.' Don't you see he's the recipient of the Trumpet Award? The youngest DA in the history of the world? The youngest governor in the future of mankind? You want to get into the way of a rising star? Be my guest."

I shouldn't be speechless, I know. Anyhow, the catfish is being served, we have a break. It's Howard who's drinking now, the first bottle of Chablis is already empty, a second has been ordered, and it doesn't help at all that I've become abstinent under the influence of my hero at the next table who drinks Perrier and knows nothing of me. Should I make a pass at Krugman? Ask his wife whether there is some space in their marriage—'there are three of us in this marriage,' she could unexpectedly say from table to table and point to the empty chair between her and her husband as if this were a play by Pinocchio, no, not Pinocchio, what was the name, Ionesco, right. Must tell Lady Dy.

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