Five Best Friday Columns
Paul Krugman on mudslinging between economic columnists, Ruth Marcus on the Hillary Clinton Rorschach test, Nanjala Nyabola on the complexities of the CAR crisis, John Cassidy on the Comcast-Time Warner merger, Felicity Morse on the Valentine's Day PR email.
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Paul Krugman at The New York Times on mudslinging between economic columnists. "Jonathan Gruber is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. The eminent health care economist and health reform architect is annoyed at Casey Mulligan’s latest, which misrepresents Gruber’s views; mine too. Gruber is right to be mad: that was a disgraceful, deceptive column. But I think you also want to put it into a larger picture: the enduring myth of the stupid progressive economist," Krugman writes. "On the health care issue: yes, there are incentive effects — as there are with all insurance, by the way. But there’s also good reason to believe that there’s a major market imperfection in the form of job lock, and that even aside from this, there are important benefits to expanding health insurance that must be weighed against any costs. All of that is, in brief, in both of the pieces Mulligan denounces, and there at much greater length in our other writings; but as so often happens, conservatives develop problems of reading comprehension whenever such issues come up." Justin Wolfers, Brookings fellow and contributing New York Times columnist, tweets, "Today's hawt NYT on NYT action: Krugman describes Casey Mulligan's broadside as “a disgraceful, deceptive column.”"
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post on the Hillary Clinton Rorschach test. "Hillary Clinton is our national Rorschach test. What you see says more about you than it does about her. Whether the inkblot depicts a menacing monster or fluffy cloud depends on your preexisting perspective," Marcus writes. Conservative website, Washington Free Beacon got hold of documents from Clinton's late friend Diane Blair — just in time for 2016, of course – which revealed, among other non-earth-shattering claims, that voters saw Clinton as "ruthless" during the 1992 election. "But she also comes off as smart and erudite (the documents read like a Blair-Clinton book group); insightful about the foibles of the capital and its inhabitants; relentlessly tough and disciplined, in stark contrast to her husband; and, alongside the ruthlessness, tender toward family and friends," Marcus writes.
Nanjala Nyabola at Al Jazeera English on the deeper complexities of the Central African Republic crisis. "A violent and brutal conflict is underway in the Central African Republic. Although English-speaking media has only recently began to pay real attention to the progress of the conflict, the current phase of violence goes as far back as January 2013, and is deeply intertwined with the history of the country. At its simplest, the conflict apparently pits the Muslim Seleka rebels against the Christian anti-balaka militia groups. Yet the seemingly random lynching of individuals, notably minutes after a presidential address in Bangui, which has brought the crisis in the CAR to the attention of the non-Francophone world, suggests that even these categories may be insufficient," Nyabola writes. "Is this just another case of "Africans gone mad"? Are poor people really so irrational that they would begin to randomly massacre each other in broad daylight on the basis of their religion? Or is there more to this story?" Nyabola suggests that there is. "A peaceful and lasting resolution is only possible if we understand and as far as possible address local fears and perceptions."
John Cassidy at The New Yorker on the Comcast-Time Warner merger. "As residents of the country that came up with Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Internet, we like to think that we lead the world in communications and entertainment. And we’re certainly ahead in one way: we pay far more for broadband Internet access, cable television, and home phone lines than people in many other advanced countries, even though the services we get aren’t any better. All too often, they are worse," Cassidy writes; the cost-draining culprit, the "triple-play" package of cable, phone, and high-speed Internet access, are much cheaper in France and South Korea. "Why are things so different, and so expensive, in the United States? There are various answers, but by far the most important ones are competition and competition policy. In countries like the U.K., regulators forced incumbent cable and telephone operators to lease their networks to competitors at cost, which enabled new providers to enter the market and brought down prices dramatically. The incumbents — the local versions of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T— didn’t like this policy at all, but the regulators held firm and forced them to accept genuine competition." Steve Greenhouse at The New York Times tweets, "Great piece on the downside of Comcast-Time Warner merger & hypocrisy of Comcast CEO saying it's good for competition."
Felicity Morse at The Independent on the horror of the Valentine's Day PR email. "Yup, Valentines Day is big business. and everyone wants a piece of the sickly sweet pie. I know this because I have had a press release about it. It’s one amongst many. Since last week press releases have rained down upon my inbox like consumerist confetti. I understand why you might think Valentine's Day is a good time to sell something if you are a restaurant, a florist or a chocolate shop, but apparently St. Valentine is a more versatile saint than I ever imagined," Morse writes. "I’ve been emailed by blind companies, residential property experts, some place that sells morphsuits, Sainsbury’s bank, a phone company, Malt loaf, Costa Coffee and Lego. I appreciate how difficult it is for PRs but there comes a point where it just starts to get ridiculous. You cannot connect Valentine’s day with your brand. That survey is nonsense. Do not address me ‘Dear F Moose’." Esquire U.K.'s Sam Parker tweets, "My favourite grumpy Valentine's articles this year go to... @FelicityMorse," while Chris Parker rightly tweets, "What is a 'sex blaze' anyway?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.