(1) Did George Will really, truly mean to equate Paul Krugman and Ann Coulter? It sure sounds like it:
"There are the tantrums -- sometimes both theatrical and perfunctory -- of talking heads on television or commentators writing in vitriol (Paul Krugman's incessant contempt, Ann Coulter's equally constant loathing)."
I can't wait to see what Krugman quotes Will thinks are even remotely comparable to such highlights of the Coulter oeuvre as: ""My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building", or "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee."
Besides, Paul Krugman is a very, very good economist. As far as I can tell, his attitude towards the Bush administration comes mostly from the fact that they have been systematically mendacious about an area of policy he knows an awful lot about; and the fact that he was angry earlier than most people just reflects the fact that he, unlike a lot of commenters, actually knows a major area of policy well enough to know when people are lying about it. The day Ann Coulter wins the second most prestigious prize in economics (after the Nobel), or any remotely comparable academic award*, I will personally post a video of myself singing a Kyrgyz translation of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" while wearing a tutu and standing on my head.
I do not own a tutu. Heck, I don't even own a video recorder. I can't think, offhand, how I would get "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" translated into Kyrgyz. Yet somehow I'm not too worried. A miracle of composure in the face of danger: that's me.
"On Dec. 7, having just returned from Washington, D.C., Bogden took a call of a different kind from Mike Battle, director of the executive office for U.S. attorneys at the Justice Department.
Bogden recalled the conversation Friday: "He says, 'Dan, it's time to step down. They want to go in another direction.'
"I say, 'Well, what direction is that?'
"He says, 'Dan, I don't know.' "
Bogden was blown away."
"Dan, I don't know." Gotta love it.
(3) And now for something completely different: the journal Current Biology has an article called 'Metacognition in the Rat', arguing that rats are capable of metacognition -- the ability to know stuff about what you know. Here's the abstract:
" Here, we demonstrate for the first time that rats are capable of metacognition — i.e., they know when they do not know the answer in a duration-discrimination test. Before taking the duration test, rats were given the opportunity to decline the test. On other trials, they were not given the option to decline the test. Accurate performance on the duration test yielded a large reward, whereas inaccurate performance resulted in no reward. Declining a test yielded a small but guaranteed reward. If rats possess knowledge regarding whether they know the answer to the test, they would be expected to decline most frequently on difficult tests and show lowest accuracy on difficult tests that cannot be declined. Our data provide evidence for both predictions and suggest that a nonprimate has knowledge of its own cognitive state."
'Knowing that X', in this context, means something like: being able to respond differently depending on whether or not X is true. Thus, for instance, pigeons can be trained to tell the difference between photographs with and without trees, or water, or human beings, and even the difference between paintings by Monet and Picasso. (Great sentence from the abstract: "Furthermore, they showed generalization from Monet's to Cezanne's and Renoir's paintings or from Picasso's to Braque's and Matisse's paintings.") And they're quite sophisticated about it:
"Walcott recalls a study by Richard Hernstein at Harvard. The pigeon kept insisting that a slide contained a human face. None of the investigators could see it — just a house with a hedge. "Finally, somebody spotted a small child looking out the hedge!""
In the sense in question, these pigeons know whether or not a picture has a person in it or not, etc. Knowing that you know something, in this sense, just means something like: being able to respond differently depending on whether or not you know something. does not mean anything like: being able to think about this explicitly, still less something like: being able to consider the evidence for X and assess it. Still, metacognition had been thought to be confined to much more complicated animals than rats, so this is quite interesting.
(4) And how are you?
UPDATE: (5) Snark of the Week, If Not the Year: Wolcott on Jonah Goldberg.
* To be eligible, an award must be for achievement in some discipline related to the policies Coulter comments on. If the American Economic Association decides to call my bluff by creating an award for Most Loathsome Shrieking Harpy Under The Age Of Whatever Age Ann Coulter Is Under, that doesn't count.