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Friday, November 28, 2003

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KRUGMAN GETS IT RIGHT ON TRADE   
Paul Krugman has taken my advice. On Tuesday I wrote,

"...start writing some serious columns about the horrible mistakes the Bush administration is making by fomenting a trade war with China. You were wrong about the tax-cuts and the economy, but the facts are on your side this time. Use your expertise in trade theory, and keep it objective. I'll back you up -- this is one we can agree on."

Krugman's column today comes damn close, celebrating the sometimes troubling miracle of commercial globalization made possible by free trade. At first glance it seems strange that when it comes to this subject, on which he's finally really got the goods on the Bush administration, he has decided to dial down the ferocity of his criticism. He gently characterizes the administration's reckless and politically motivated anti-trade policies as only a "steady trickle of U.S. protectionist moves" (though he does add the rather sweeping judgment that "just about every protectionist step taken by the Bush administration has been clearly in violation" of international trade law). But it's not so strange. Trade has always been one subject on which Krugman -- like Bill Clinton -- has dared to defy the conventional wisdom of the traditional Democratic coalition. So don't be surprised when Krugman is diffident on how counterproductive union-friendly protectionist measures are, but quick to point out how crooked the Bush administration is to implement them.

Yes, Krugman failed to take the other advice I gave him Tuesday about coming clean on his responsibility for his UK book cover. And today's good thoughts on trade are wrapped in a seemingly obligatory laundry list of Bush-bashing clichés concerning other topics (and a very much obligatory throwaway line to minimize the importance of the current economic rebound -- "Yes, the business cycle is looking up...").

But let's be thankful for small steps. I said I'd back him up on this one, and I do. In fact, I say let's hear more on this subject -- and don't be afraid of what Democrats will say. Just do it.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:30 AM | link  


Thursday, November 27, 2003

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"AUTHOR -- COMMA --"   
Brian Williams, wrapping up a CNBC interview yesterday evening with Paul Krugman:

"We've been identifying you as we've been talking as 'The Great Unraveling Author' and the punctuation should have been 'Author -- comma -- The Great Unraveling.'"


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:27 PM | link  


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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THANKS   
Our friend Robert Cox from TheNationalDebate.com reports on tonight's economic news programming from CNBC (emphasis added):
"Capital Report with Alan Murray and Gloria Borger"
9:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. ET, re-air 12:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Host: Alan Murray and Gloria Borger

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, host of "Closing Bell" and "Special Report" and Ron Insana, co-host of "Business Center" analyze the flood of positive economic news out this week, including a jump in economic growth and durable goods orders, as well as today's stock market figures and the governmental spending spree in the nation's capital.

On the other hand...
"The News with Brian Williams"
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET, re-air 10:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Host: Brian Williams
Homeland Security/Thanksgiving: Ray Kelly (NY Police Commissioner)
U.S. Economy: Paul Krugman (The New York Times) Is there any good news?
Happy Thanksgiving, Paul. I'm thankful, and you should be, too.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:08 PM | link  

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THE REAL STORY OF THANKSGIVING   
This site can hardly do more as a Thanksgiving message to its readers than link to this wonderful column by our friend, Bloomberg's Caroline Baum. It's the story of the true capitalist roots of Thanksgiving, drawn from the memoirs of William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Bay Colony beginning in 1621. Baum points out that the prosperity for which thanks are being given was the result of the overthrow of communal farming and the restoration of property rights in each farmer's own capital:

"One of the traditions the Pilgrims had brought with them from England was a practice known as 'farming in common.' Everything they produced was put into a common pool, and the harvest was rationed among them according to need.

"They had thought 'that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing,' Bradford recounts.

"They were wrong. 'For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte,' Bradford writes. Young, able-bodied men resented working for others without compensation. Incentives were lacking.

"After the Pilgrims had endured near-starvation for three winters, Bradford decided to experiment when it came time to plant in the spring of 1623. He set aside a plot of land for each family, that 'they should set corne every man for his owne particular, and in that regard trust to themselves.'

"The results were nothing short of miraculous. Bradford writes: 'This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other ways would have been by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave far better content.''

"...Given appropriate incentives, the Pilgrims produced and enjoyed a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1623 and set aside 'a day of thanksgiving' to thank God for their good fortune."

Amen!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:28 AM | link  

ANOTHER "NON-ENTITY" HEARD FROM    John Hinderaker of PowerLine follows the breadcrumbs from Paul Krugman's protestations about political civility to his speculations about how Osama Bin Laden got away... and finds they lead nowhere.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:15 AM | link  


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

LATEST FROM MUSIL (AND THE NON-ENTITIES!)    How liberal economists continue to deny the GDP and jobs recovery, and why the New York Times is like Roy Horn. The Man Without Qualities has the exclusive.

No... wait... there's more! Musil is back with a spot-on analysis of the economics of the Paul Krugman phenomenon -- the consumption of exogenous brand capital (for Krugman, the ultimate positive externality).

Plus... The non-entities are on the march! Kaus and Taranto reply to Boston's Beam.

Don't leave yet! Bonus round! Econopundit Steve Antler is concerned that Rip van Krugman navel-gazed through the 1980s!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:42 PM | link  

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THE GLOBE "CRITICIZES" KRUGMAN   
This is the way the New York Times-owned Boston Globe permits itself to criticize Paul Krugman. By criticizing him for bothering to criticize his critics (and let's ignore whether or not the critics have a point). Oh -- and by flattering him and letting him lie -- with no follow-up or fact-checking.

Alex Beam's Globe column today:

"Here are some columns I would never have the gumption to write: I. 'Does Paul Krugman Have a Personality Disorder?'

"...He may be the best in the business right now -- he also has a day job, as a distinguished economics professor at Princeton -- and I think a visit from Mr. P., as in Pulitzer, is only a matter of time.

"That said, he is completely crackers. Ever since he assumed the most visible perch in journalism, Krugman seems startled to learn that people will take potshots at him. Krugman devotes considerable energy to tilting with his 'enemies' -- many of them simply Internet kooks -- whom he perceives to be persecuting him. In addition to penning his Times columns, he writes frequently for his personal web site (www.wws.princeton
.edu/pkrugman), a nutty, score-settling tote board where he fires his rhetorical blunderbuss at the gnats buzzing around him.

"...In an e-mail, Krugman explains that 'the "nonentities" who go after me include Taranto at Wall Street Journal Online -- he was the main source for the claim that I was in Mahathir's pay -- Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, etc.'"

Lie: neither Taranto, nor anyone else, ever said Krugman was "in Mahathir's pay."  That was a fiction that Krugman made up so he'd have a charge he could deny -- because he couldn't deny what the critics actually said, which was that he has been complicit in Mahathir's anti-Semitism for years.

Lie: Taranto was not the main source. I was the main source. Taranto picked up and linked to my blog comments, which were also published on National Review Online.

Beam's concluding advice:

"Paul, nine out of 10 New York Times readers have no idea who you are talking about. Good columnists make enemies. Take the chill pill and put the energy to better use."

Get the point? For Beam, the very fact that one has critics means one is good, and that one should ignore one's critics. What a wonderful job.

So, Mr. Beam, don't bother to correct the lies in your column. The fact that I'm criticizing you means you are perfect.

[Thanks to Bruce Bartlett for the link to Beam's column.]

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:41 AM | link  

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HELPING OF CROW REVISED UPWARD   
Third quarter GDP revised upward  from 7.2% to 8.2% -- the fastest growth in 35 years.

Paul Krugman, October 31, 2003, after the preliminary 7.2% figure was announced:

"The Commerce Department announces very good growth during the previous quarter. Many observers declare the economy's troubles over. And the administration's supporters claim that the economy's turnaround validates its policies. That's what happened 18 months ago, when a preliminary estimate put first-quarter 2002 growth at 5.8 percent. That was later revised down to 5.0. More important..."

Now what was it, again, that was "more important..."?

Correction: 11/25/2003, 9:45am: Our friend Caroline Baum of Bloomberg points out that the quarter's revised GDP growth is the fastest in 20 years, not 35. The counter-conspiracy regrets the error.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:48 AM | link  

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THE NEW YORKER, TWO WEEKS ON   
It's been about two weeks now since the publication of an article in The New Yorker about my feud with Paul Krugman. It's time to take another look, review the reactions to it, and air some dirty laundry about how the story got written.

For any of you who read this site, Luskin versus Krugman was hardly news (if anything, the only "news" about the story in The New Yorker was that this blog-centric matter had risen to a level at which it was deemed important enough to be covered by a mainstream mag). But for the general public, this was the first they'd heard of my long-running campaign to expose Krugman as a serial liar, and how he has attempted to fight back by smearing me with false accusations that I "stalked" him "personally." Two weeks is about how long it takes for The New Yorker to make it to the top of the magazine pile in most people's bathrooms, so I'm just now beginning to get reactions from non-combatants in my circle here in Silicon Valley.

The reactions are falling in predictable ways into four quadrants in a two-by-two matrix, defined by whether one knows me well or not, and by whether one is liberal or conservative. As you'd expect, the three quadrants occupied by conservatives and people who know me well (whether liberal or conservative) have reacted well, with anything from "atta-boy -- go get 'em, tiger -- sue the bastard" to "well, the article didn't make you seem like too much of a lunatic -- you dodged a bullet." But the people in that fourth quadrant -- those who both don't know me well and are liberal -- have reacted just as Paul Krugman no doubt hoped they would: venomously.

It's made worse by the fact that when one is written about in the press, it seems that people no longer feel bound by common rules of civility in their dealings with the newly minted "celebrity" -- it's as though one is no longer a person, but rather a symbol, so normal social bounds don't apply. Yesterday a family member was accosted in the grocery store by a woman we have known peripherally for several years. "I saw the story about Don in The New Yorker. Oh my God, how can you stand to show your face! I mean, I just love Paul Krugaman," she said, demonstrating her love for the professor by inventing an extra syllable in his surname. "I just hope that none of your friends read The New Yorker!"

Well, what does one say to such a person? One rarely has the presence of mind to say the most truthful and relevant thing: "Whatever your private opinion, you are being unspeakably rude." And one doesn't wish to simply be rude back: "Oh yeah? When's the last time there was an article about you in The New Yorker?" So one tends, naturally, to stare in disbelief, wait until the venom is spent, and then move on to the frozen food section.

Now what about The New Yorker article itself, viewed from the perspective of two weeks later? My first reaction was to be amazed at how balanced it is, considering The New Yorker's strongly liberal bias in political and economic matters, and its generally fawning coverage of Krugman and his ideas (to the point of plagiarism in one case). But... in the fullness of time, I now see that my first take was just a version of "whew -- it could have been worse." The reality is that the article is subtly and deceptively shaded in order to make my face-to-face meeting with Krugman more colorful than it really was, and to make my work debunking Krugman's lies, errors and distortions less substantive than it really is. And worst of all, the story deliberately covers up Krugman's continuing smear campaign against me, using The New Yorker reporter himself as a pawn.

First, the article includes "facts" that are outright fabrications by the author, Ben McGrath. In the article's opening paragraphs McGrath sets the scene of the meeting after Krugman's lecture in San Diego. He describes me waiting in line to have Krugman autograph my copy of his book, The Great Unraveling:

"The line inched forward, and, after a time, a member of the audience, carrying a camcorder to record the event for posterity, stepped up and asked Krugman to personalize his inscription."

McGrath knew from my own writings about the event that I had a camcorder with me in the lecture hall. But the statement that I approached Krugman personally "carrying a camcorder to record the event" is utter fiction. I didn't even have the camcorder on my person at that time. Yet McGrath paints a picture of me doing something that would be very aggressive and intimidating -- which I did not do -- that is, walk up to Krugman with a running camcorder held up to my eye.

Shortly after, McGrath describes what I said to Krugman before leaving:

"'Now, you keep up the good work, Paul,' Luskin said, grinning."

That I was grinning is a complete fabrication by McGrath. I was not grinning. And I didn't tell McGrath I was grinning, when he interviewed me. And in my writings on the event, all I said was that "I walked away, with my skin crawling." Just the opposite of grinning. McGrath just imagined it -- and wrote it.

After the article was published, I talked to McGrath about these fabrications -- the false "facts" that failed to be even questioned in The New Yorker's famously extensive fact-checking process. McGrath is a very nice man who was sincerely trying his best to be fair -- and he was appropriately embarrassed to be confronted with these inaccuracies. His explanation was, in essence, that these were plausible inferences made in order to set the scene. Plausible, perhaps -- but nevertheless utterly false. And "the scene" that these inferences "set" was strongly colored by these details -- a color that was simply not truthful. But McGrath, apparently, had his "scene" all "set" in his mind, and that's what he decided to write, facts or no facts.

Now I certainly don't expect The New Yorker to run a correction. What would it look like, anyway?

"Mr. Luskin was not carrying a camcorder when he asked Mr. Krugman to autograph his book, and Mr. Luskin was not grinning when he spoke to Mr. Krugman. We regret these errors."

A lot of good that would do. The right correction would be one The New Yorker would never run:

"The article cited facts which were untrue, which contributed to the false impression that Mr. Luskin behaved in his meeting with Mr. Krugman in such a way as to intimidate Mr. Krugman, and to portray Mr. Luskin's activities as frivolous. We regret portraying Mr. Luskin in a falsely unfavorable light."

Further, when McGrath was interviewing me for the article, he asked me to comment on three things told to him by "a Krugman spokesperson." First, the Krugman spokesperson told McGrath that I entered the San Diego lecture hall under false pretenses, by giving a false name or no name [fact: I paid for my ticket with my credit card, and signed in at the door under my true name]. Second, the Krugman spokesperson told McGrath that I recorded the lecture with a camcorder, in violation of law [fact: there is no such law]. And third, the Krugman spokesperson told McGrath that over the summer I had revealed that Krugman was vacationing in France, something it was claimed I had no legitimate way to know [fact: I guessed as much, based on Krugman's own statements about his vacation habits].

McGrath quotes Krugman himself saying: "I mean, yes, he’s not a literal stalker, in the sense that he’s going to stick a knife in my back or anything." But at the same time as Krugman himself was giving that oh-so-reasonable statement, his spokesperson was feeding the same reporter false evidence to lend credence to charge that I indeed "stalked" Krugman "personally." Thus while McGrath was inventing facts to make me look bad, he was concealing facts that made Krugman look bad. And in doing so, he missed the real story: that Team Krugman is still busily trying to smear me.

This experience with one of America's best written and best edited magazines cuts right to the heart of everything that's wrong with just about everything you read or hear in any mass-media. It's all like this -- and usually a lot worse. The reality is that the media can't afford to have its reporters learn the truth. It takes too long, and it's too much work. It's not economic to do anything but grind out the "Talk of the Town" column from an office in New York using nothing but a telephone and a web-browser. And there's another reason, too. If stories like this one lacked the kind of color that McGrath had to invent, they wouldn't be as interesting to read. Truth may be more interesting than fiction, but it's way harder to write. Without the sexed-up human interest story, McGrath would have actually had to delve into the substance of my critiques of Krugman -- something which he totally omits as though it were utterly irrelevant. The reader is left assuming that my critiques of Krugman are based on... nothing.

And by covering up Krugman's attempts to use the reporter himself as a pawn in his smear campaign against me, MrGrath sidesteps the complication of himself having become part of the story. McGrath remains free to pose as the omniscient and disinterested narrator, regurgitating his own preconceived "balanced" story of an amusing little battle of wits, when in fact, it's actually a dirty story of dirty tricks in which the reporter has both had a dirty trick played on him, and is himself playing one. For McGrath to not take sides under such circumstances is, truly, to take sides. Krugman's side. 

Can't you imagine the correction for that?

As I say, it's all like this. I've been involved, over the years, in any number of events that received news coverage and media analysis, and I've been interviewed by reporters hundreds of times. It never comes out right. Never. In my Devil's Dictionary, the definition of "media" is: the fictional adventures of real people.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:14 AM | link  

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AS HATEFUL AS THEY COME?   
Paul Krugman won't deny that he knew about and approved the hateful and shocking cover of the UK/Australia edition of his book The Great Unraveling (and, of course, neither will he admit it). But apparently he isn't disciplined enough to simply remain silent, so the best he can do in today's New York Times column is try to make his political opponents seem as uncivil as he is. His best isn't very good. He writes,

"The campaign against 'political hate speech' originates with the Republican National Committee. But last week the committee unveiled its first ad for the 2004 campaign, and it's as hateful as they come. 'Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists,' it declares."

Why doesn't Krugman have the balls to come right out and say that the RNC's "hate speech" denunciations were specifically aimed at Krugman himself, with respect to that horrible book cover, and reported on Sunday right in the pages of Krugman's own New York Times? And it's downright deceptive for Krugman to be opining on the RNC's statement without acknowledging his own stake in the matter. Well... what else can he do? After all, he can't deny the charge of "hate speech," because he won't deny responsibility for the book cover that triggered the RNC's denunciation. So... blame the victim.

And I don't find that statement "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists" to be anywhere near "as hateful as they come." Certainly it's nowhere near as hateful as the typical Krugman column that likens Bush to a recovering alcoholic falling off the wagon, or compares him to the Emperor Caligula or Captain Queeg, or a Krugman book cover that shows President Bush's face with Frankenstein's monster sutures across the mouth and brow, and the word "Enron" stitched into the flesh of his forehead.

Nor do I find anything "as hateful as they come" about this statement made by President Bush on Labor Day in a speech in Ohio, which Krugman now quotes for the second time in a Times column :

"For example, here's President Bush on critics of his economic policies: 'Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. It bothers me when people say that.' Because he used the word 'some,' he didn't literally lie — no doubt a careful search will find someone, somewhere, who says the recession should have been deeper. But he clearly intended to suggest that those who disagree with his policies don't care about helping the economy."

Is it "as hateful as they come" for a President of the United States to say "it bothers me"? Not normally, but this is another situation in which it is Krugman himself who is the focus of the denunciation -- or at least he imagines it is. And why shouldn't he? After all, who has taken more heat over the last couple months for shamelessly resisting the reality of robust economic recovery that is blooming all around us? Hell, Mickey Kaus even sponsored a "gotcha" contest to come up with the silliest, most negative Krugman statement on the economy!

But I suspect this could be a case where Krugman's so vain, he probably thinks this song is about him. Bush was probably referring to any number of economists and analysts who have argued in good faith that the recent recession wasn't deep enough to wring out the excesses of the roaring nineties (for example, Morgan Stanley's Steve Roach, whose bearish opinions Krugman has often quoted to bolster his own).

But my favorite part of today's Krugman tantrum is this line, referring to both of the two "hateful" quotes cited above:

"Again, there's that weasel word 'some.'"

Krugman doesn't like the unaccountability of the assertion that "some say" or "some are now attacking the President." Well, this one is a howler and a half. "Some" is Paul Krugman's own personal favorite weasel word. I just did a search and dozens upon dozens of examples poured out until I felt that weasels ripped my flesh. How about this triple-play some-fest, from his July 18 Times column:

"And just as some people argue that the war was justified even though it was sold on false pretenses, some say that the biggest budget deficit in history is justified even though the administration got us here with cooked numbers. Some point out that Ronald Reagan ran even bigger deficits as a share of G.D.P."

Ahh, but my favorite is this one, from a posting on Krugman's personal website, one of his many in response to my having ratted out his ghastly "divide-by-ten" tax-cut lie:

"There are some people who would accuse me of lying if I said that grass is green, but there's nothing to be done about that."

That "some" is... moi.

Here's my suggestion now to Krugman. Just come clean on the matter of the UK book cover. Admit you knew about it and approved it. Say you regret it. And then start writing some serious columns about the horrible mistakes the Bush administration is making by fomenting a trade war with China. You were wrong about the tax-cuts and the economy, but the facts are on your side this time. Use your expertise in trade theory, and keep it objective. I'll back you up -- this is one we can agree on.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:38 AM | link  


Monday, November 24, 2003

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THOSE OTHER "ANGRY LIBERAL" UK BOOK COVERS DON'T SEEM SO ANGRY   
Funny thing, but it seems that Paul Krugman is just about America's only best-selling "angry liberal" to have had much of a problem with his UK book cover...


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:29 AM | link  

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KRUGMAN'S COVERGATE (IT'S NOT OVER YET)   
It wasn't his many lies. It wasn't his ties with Enron. It wasn't his long-standing complicity in anti-Semitism. It wasn't his slanderous smears of his critics. No, it was but a simple picture that finally caused the New York Times to publicly distance itself from America's most dangerous liberal pundit, Paul Krugman.

The picture in question is on the cover of the UK/Australia version of Krugman's best-selling book, The Great Unraveling. It's a photomontage showing the face of President George W. Bush with huge Frankenstein's monster sutures across his mouth and brow, and the word "Enron" stitched into his forehead. Vice-President Dick Cheney's face has a Hitler mustache, and upon his forehead are scrawled the words "Got oil?"

It is a hateful, shocking and disturbing image. How different from the US edition's sedate cover, which sets the book's title against a simple red rectangle with a folded corner.

Yet it is the UK edition that is, in truth, more faithful to the hateful, shocking and disturbing spirit of Paul Krugman's book. Remember, this book is much more than just a compilation of three years of Krugman's Bush-bashing Times op-eds. In the book's introduction, Krugman draws his columns together as the chronicle of the rise of the Bush administration as a "revolutionary power," a "radical political movement" that he likens to the "totalitarian regimes of the 1930s" and, he says, seeks an America "possibly -- in which elections are only a formality."

Now, thanks to the UK edition, we can  tell this book by its cover. It reveals Krugman for what he really is -- hateful, shocking and disturbing. The UK cover strips away the fake veneer of respectability conferred upon Krugman by the prestigious brand aura of New York Times.

And -- finally -- it's become too much for the Times. Consider what it means for the prideful New York Times -- America's newspaper of record -- the kingdom and the power! -- to have run a story on the book cover yesterday, prominently featured in the Sunday "Week in Review" section, in which a Republican spokesman is quoted criticizing Paul Krugman this strongly:

"Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the cover showed that Mr. Krugman's attacks on the administration had descended into 'hate speech.'

"'It is obvious that his feelings have clouded his objectivity and his ability to discuss the issues in a rational way,' she said. 'The fact that they are using a much different cover here in the United States is proof that his tactics are offensive to mainstream Americans.'"

What can the Times say to that except to plead ignorance?

"Catherine J. Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, said, 'The newspaper has no relationship to the British publisher — we were never even shown the cover.'"

Okay -- the Times has good, clean plausible deniability on this, and they're not afraid to use it. But what does America's most dangerous liberal pundit say in his own defense? Are we to believe that he had no knowledge of his own book cover? According to the Times story,

"Mr. Krugman, for his part, said he did not remember seeing the cover until prepublication copies were sent to reviewers. 'I think it was intended to be ironic,' he said."

"Ironic"? Hardly. It's the US version that's ironic, setting Krugman's crackpot partisanship in a respectable frame. The UK version is entirely consonant with Krugman's actual message. But be that as it may, Krugman's statement is not much of a denial, is it?

And that "I don't remember" defense sounds strangely familiar. Now what can it be...? Oh yes -- that was the phrase we heard so often in Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony about Monica Lewinsky. (And come to think of it, Clinton accused Lewinsky of being a stalker -- must be a Democrat thing.)

Fellow Krugman critic Robert Musil smells a rat. Writing on his Man Without Qualities blog, Musil says, "Herr Doktorprofessor's response seems crafted to meet an expected revelation that he was, in fact, sent a copy of the cover long before..." Musil's suspicions seem confirmed by something else Krugman says in the Times story:

"'It is a marketing thing, not a statement,' he said. 'I should have taken a look at that and said, "What are you doing marketing me as if I am Michael Moore? This is silly."'

"Incivility is one thing, he said, but the book cover 'may be undignified, which would be a reason to object.'"

Great to see the best-selling "angry liberals" breaking ranks like this, isn't it (Krugman seemed proud to be in their number just weeks ago). But it's stomach-turning to see Krugman try to weasel out of responsibility for his Moorish book cover by acting as though all that's wrong with it is that it could hurt his own marketing image. But this may be, in actuality, a smoking gun. Musil points out,

"But how could Herr Doktorprofessor have 'taken a look at the book cover' and said anything if he didn't receive and review a copy of the book cover in advance? And how could he have said 'What are you doing marketing me as if I am Michael Moore? This is silly,' unless he has some right to disapprove it? He sure makes it sound as though he did receive an advance copy of the cover, didn't object to it and was therefore deemed to have approved it under his contract, but had a reason to object to the cover under his contract because the cover is 'undignified.'"

Some corroboration of Musil's suspicions comes from Krugman's US publisher, W. W. Norton. A front-page story in the New York Sun on Thursday said Norton "was made aware of the British company's marketing plan" and quoted Norton president and chairman Drake McFeely saying, "They would absolutely keep us informed." 

Further corroboration comes from an unexpected quarter. "Bobby," the sycophantic keeper of the flame at the online shrine known as the Unofficial Krugman Archive, bragged,

"I've actually known about it since May, 2003. This is because, even back in May, there was a picture of the U.K. cover was [sic] on amazon.co.uk... However, I didn't say anything about the U.K. cover since I figured Luskin et al. would figure it out and smear Krugman with it soon enough. (By the way, I think that their failure to notice it sooner says a lot about their incompetence)."

But perhaps it says even more about Krugman's complicity in this horrific book cover. To the best of my knowledge, prepublication copies in the US were sent to reviewers no earlier than August -- so perhaps Krugman could have seen the picture as much as three months earlier. Are we to believe that "Bobby" knew about it, and Krugman's publisher knew about it -- and Krugman didn't? No, wait... Krugman "did not remember."

How is it that Krugman's awareness of the cover has been restored just now? We have Steven Kirchner to thank for that. Kirchner is a young Australian economist. He saw the book cover in a Sydney bookstore window, and talked about it on his blog, Institutional Economics, on November 18. A friend, Stephen Prather, alerted me to it by email, and I immediately posted it on my blog

From there it was only a short time until it was a scandale -- and it went beyond the usual Krugman-watch suspects. Even the anonymous ultra-leftist "Atrios" commented on it critically on his Eschaton blog. What could even he say but, "Now This is Shrill!" On Thursday it broke into print, with Josh Gersten's front-page story for the New York Sun. So what could the Times do but put some distance between itself and Krugman?

Just five days from first sighting to a mea culpa in the Sunday New York Times. Not bad, huh? It says a lot about our media-saturated world that it would be a mere picture that would cause so much embarrassment, considering how many much more substantive sins lie on Krugman's conscience. But I'm not complaining. We've finally got 'em on the run.

(And this one ain't over yet...)

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:59 AM | link  

OBSERVER ON BROOKS    I am conspicuously not quoted in this story in the New York Observer on new New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks, about whom I have written extensively (see here, here, here, here and here). I was interviewed for it at length by the reporter, George Gurley. The point I had most hoped would make it into print was this: those who were disappointed by the choice of Brooks -- because his mild middle-of-the-road brand of conservatism doesn't counterbalance the radical liberalism of many of the Times' other op-ed writers -- are missing the point. It's not Brook's conservatism that is needed as a balance to liberalism -- it's his reasonableness, as a balance to unreasonableness; and his civility, as a balance to incivility.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:11 AM | link  

ANOTHER DIP IN THE MUTUAL FUND CESSPOOL    My new column for SmartMoney.com is up -- following up on last week's controversial look at the mutual fund scandal (you won't be surprised by whom I've fingered as the most conspicuous swimmer in the mutual fund "cesspool").

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:08 AM | link  


Sunday, November 23, 2003

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KRUGMAN WORRIES UK BOOKCOVER "MAY BE UNDIGNIFIED"   
Paul Krugman and the New York Times today try to worm their way out of taking any responsibility for the hateful cover design for the UK edition of Krugman's book, The Great Unraveling, which I exposed here on Tuesday.

They both plead ignorance, but Krugman goes further -- and it's his usual solipsistic stonewalling. For him, it's not a question of whether showing President Bush as a Frankenstein's monster and Vice-President Cheney as Hitler is fundamentally wrong -- that it's both hateful and irrational. No, his concern is that the bookjacket was poor marketing for Paul Krugman, that it was "undignified."

From the "Week in Review" section of today's Times:

"Catherine J. Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, said, 'The newspaper has no relationship to the British publisher — we were never even shown the cover.'

"Mr. Krugman, for his part, said he did not remember seeing the cover until prepublication copies were sent to reviewers. 'I think it was intended to be ironic,' he said...

"'It is a marketing thing, not a statement,' he said. 'I should have taken a look at that and said, "What are you doing marketing me as if I am Michael Moore? This is silly."'

"Incivility is one thing, he said, but the book cover 'may be undignified, which would be a reason to object.'"


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:00 AM | link