Three stupid things I have read in the New York Times recently

All from the op-ed page. First, this bit from David Brooks’ oddly myopic homage-to-warriors on Sunday:

Every time you delve into the situation in Iraq, you come away with the phrase “not enough troops” ringing in your head, and I hope someday we will find out how this travesty came about.

Yes, it’s truly a mystery how this travesty came about. Mercy me, I can’t for the life of me figure it out. It’s sure a puzzler, no question about it.

Second, this peculiar assertion from John Tierney (who is required by the Official Cranky Libertarian Rulebook to make counterintuitive arguments in support of Wal Mart):

The average income of shoppers at Wal Mart is $35,000, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Costco is touted as the virtuous alternative to Wal Mart because it pays better wages, but it needs to because it requires higher-skilled workers to sell higher-end products to its more affluent customers.

All I can figure here is that Tierney has never set foot in either Wal Mart or Costco, because the merchandise in each is essentially the same. All we’re really talking about is the difference between cheap DVD players and slightly less cheap DVD players. It’s not as if the aisles of Costco are filled with society ladies in furs and pearls, demanding a highly refined workforce to cater to their discriminating needs.

Costco shoppers may well have a higher average income, but the reason is simple–warehouse stores sell in bulk. In order to save money over the long run, you have to spend significantly more upfront. And while I think it is commendable that Costco pays its workers a decent living wage, it’s not because of the customer service. Which is not a slam on Costco workers–the whole point of a warehouse store is that it’s mostly a do-it-yourself experience. Which Tierney would know if he’d ever been inside one.

Lastly, this shiny piece of nonsense from John J. Miller’s guest piece on the end of the Olin Foundation (the only one of the three not hidden behind the Select firewall):

So, is it possible to create a liberal version of the John M. Olin Foundation? I have my doubts. The success of any idea certainly depends to some extent on whether it can muster financial support, and it may also benefit from effective marketing. But in the end, not all ideas are equal. Some are simply better than others…(C)onservative ideas took flight not because wealthy philanthropists were suddenly willing to finance them, but because they identified actual problems and offered sensible solutions.

Yes, of course. What’s that famous phrase? Something about an idea repeated loudly and long enough becoming true–but only if it’s a really good idea to begin with. Because lord knows, those are the only kinds of ideas that our species ever embraces.

UPDATE: Tbogg responds to Tierney’s thesis that Wal Mart is a force for good in society.