Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Friday, November 28, 2003
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
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:27 PM | link
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
"Capital Report with Alan Murray and Gloria Borger"On the other hand...
"The News with Brian Williams"Happy Thanksgiving, Paul. I'm thankful, and you should be, too.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:08 PM | link
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, 2003LATEST 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).
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
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.
Beam's concluding advice:
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
Paul Krugman, October 31, 2003, after the preliminary 7.2% figure was announced:
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
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:
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:
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?
A lot of good that would do. The right correction would be one The New Yorker would never run:
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
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:29 AM | link
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:
What can the Times say to that except to plead ignorance?
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,
"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:
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,
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,
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
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."
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:00 AM | link