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Saturday, December 06, 2003

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The New York Times reaches deeper into the bottom of the barrel than ever thought possible to deny the economic recovery. Floyd Norris writes today about the strong job gains in the Department of Labor's "Household Survey," from which is derived the unemployment rate, which fell last month from 6.0% to 5.9%. He managed to find a Wall Street economist -- a "senior strategist of Mizuho Securities USA," that highly respected institution of economic analysis -- who would tell him that the strong growth in self-employment comes from "spammers, the people who fill e-mail in boxes with unwanted mail. It is not clear how many of them there are, but there is no doubt most Americans would be quite happy if there were fewer."

Well, that about sums up the New York Times' positions on jobs in general, doesn't it? "Quite happy if there were fewer."

>> Wait! A late entry! How about this letter in the "Free for All" section of today's Washington Post letters page? Is it a stealth correction for the Post? Just a gag? Or a new lower-than-low for recovery denialism?

"...I read that "the nation's gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 8.2 percent in the three months ended Sept. 31," and it all became clear. By adding an extra day to September, the government grew the length of the quarter by about 1 percent, thus an instant 1 percent increase in growth. Plus, by pushing the calendar back, they've lengthened a short holiday shopping season by a day. This will probably raise spending in the fourth quarter as well."

Thanks to David Duval and Joseph Hrutka for the links.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:43 AM | link  

Friday, December 05, 2003

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Funny Charles Krauthammer column in the Washington Post today, clinically diagnosing Howard Dean with "Bush Derangement Syndrome." There's even a nice dig at Paul Krugman for that awful UK book cover. But just to prove that I don't focus my fire only on liberal pundits, I must not fail to point out a very serious case here of distorting a quotation. Here's how Krauthammer portrays an element of Howard Dean's admittedly fatuous statements on "Hardball" Tuesday about breaking up big media companies:

"Dean has never opined for a living and has no detectable sense of humor. Even worse is the fact that he is now exhibiting symptoms of a related illness, Murdoch Derangement Syndrome (MDS), in which otherwise normal people believe that their minds are being controlled by a single, very clever Australian.

"Chris Matthews: 'Would you break up Fox?'

"Howard Dean: 'On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but . . . I don't want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not. . . . What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.'"

While claiming Dean has "has no detectable sense of humor," Krauthammer has Dowdified a much longer quote to make it seem utterly serious -- when even the most casual reading of the transcript makes it obvious that  was intended as jest. I've highlighted to fragments of it that Krauthammer quoted.

"MATTHEWS: Would you break up Fox?


"MATTHEWS: Iím serious.

"DEAN: Iím keeping a...

"MATTHEWS: Would you break it up? Rupert Murdoch has 'The Weekly Standard.' It has got a lot of other interests. It has got 'The New York Post.' Would you break it up?

"DEAN: On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but...


"MATTHEWS: No, seriously. As a public policy, would you bring industrial policy to bear and break up these conglomerations of power?

"DEAN: I donít want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not, because, obviously


"MATTHEWS: Well, how about large media enterprises?

"DEAN: Let me-yes, let me get...


"DEAN: The answer to that is yes. I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.

"MATTHEWS: So what are you going to do about it? Youíre going to be president of the United States, what are you going to do?

"DEAN: What Iím going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."

Yes, Dean is clearly serious about using regulatory power to restructure the media business -- and there is a lot more in the transcript to back this up, including similar discussions of media companies other than Fox. As far as I'm concerned, he should be crucified by both conservatives and liberals for this attack on free speech and free enterprise. But Krauthammer has deliberately taken what was clearly a joke, and turned it into a false representation that Dean would use regulatory power to attack FOX in particular, because of its political orientation.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:09 PM | link  

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In case anyone thinks that the Washington economics bureaucracy has been captured and politicized by the Bush administration, think again. Just take a look at the monthly "Employment Situation" press release this morning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor. These guys aren't exactly trying to make the boss look good. Instead of simply delivering the good news -- that 57 thousand new payroll jobs were added to the economy last month; that the unemployment rate fell from 6.0% to 5.9% (down from 6.4% at mid-year); and that the number of unemployed persons fell by 105 thousand -- here's the BLS econocrats' gloomified interpretation (emphasis added):

"Employment continued to trend up in November and the unemployment rate, at 5.9 percent, was essentially unchanged from October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Nonfarm payroll employment rose slightly over the month (57,000). the number of unemployed persons, 8.7 million, were essentially unchanged in November. The jobless rate is down slightly from midyear."

You have to look at the tables beginning on the second page to see that, according to the BLS's "Household Survey," the total number of employed persons increased by 589 thousand in the most recent month. The number of workers outside the labor force fell by 244 thousand persons now rejoining the labor force. And you have to look at the notes beginning on page three to discover that payroll jobs gains were artificially held back by the Southern California grocery workers strike.

Who needs Louis Uchitelle? Our tax dollars are already at work, with the econocrats churning out the most pessimistic possible interpretation of good economic news.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:29 AM | link  

THE NEGATIVE PEACE DIVIDEND?    EconoPundit Steve Antler looks through a wormhole into an alternative universe in which there is no war on terror (but budget deficits are even bigger).

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:40 AM | link  

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This is why the Democrats will never be able to really pillory George Bush for his protectionist trade policies. Paul Krugman offered an uncharacteristically diffident criticism in a column last week (which I praised, by the way) -- and here's what he gets for it from his buddies on the left. This is a letter in today's New York Times, on a letters page which normally only publishes fawning atta-boys for Krugman:

"The problem with Paul Krugman's worldview ('The Good News,' column, Nov. 28) is that global consumption is unsustainable, especially as the population increases.

"Petroleum dependence has as much capacity suddenly to limit expansion as it has had in allowing expansion. Mr. Krugman writes, 'We are not, it turns out, condemned to live forever on a planet where only a small minority of the global population has a decent standard of living.' His claim assumes unlimited oil and natural gas consumption ó about to halt globally as peak production passes. Even if it could be perpetuated, Earth is already being fried.

"He says 'the critics of globalization do have some valid points.' But he scarcely lists any. Aside from oil, he might have mentioned that corporate globalization is through the barrel of the gun, as has been demonstrated from Chiapas to Miami when people are trying to protect what is 'decent.'

Pres., Sustainable Energy Institute"

Well, now we know. The problem with Krugmanís worldview is that global consumption is unsustainable (other than that, apparently, his worldview is just fine).

Just so. Trade and globalization are the only areas that Krugman has exempted from his nihilistic vision of an "age of diminished expectations" and "depression economics." Well, Paul... you lie down with dogs and you get up with fleas. All those guys who normally cheer you on, all those depressed liberals with diminished expectations (for everything except the growth of government), they aren't going to make this exception for you.

>>Update... A reader responds, on our own letters page.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:22 AM | link  

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Our friends at The National Debate -- the site that broke Maureen Dowd's ellipsis-gate scandal -- are onto another example of the New York Times customizing quotes to fit is prejudices.

"Yesterday, Ray Glier of the Times reported on the hiring of Sylvester Croom as the new head football coach of Mississippi State. The 'pull' quote from Croom's press conference was contained in almost every report on Croom's hiring. Some how the New York Times had a different take.

"As quoted in the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald:
'I'm the first African-American (football) coach in the SEC, but there ain't but one color that matters here, and that color's maroon.'

"As quoted by CNN's Bill Tucker:
'The other thing that I want to make sure that everybody understands is that I am the first African American head coach in the SEC, but there ain't but one color that matters here, and that color is maroon.'

"As quoted by the Associated Press:
'I am the first African-American coach in the SEC, but there ain't but one color that matters here and that color is maroon,' said Croom, referring to the school color.

"As quoted by The New York Times:
'I am the first African-American coach in the S.E.C., but there is only one color that matters here and that color is maroon,' Croom said, referring to the Bulldogs' official colors, maroon and white, as the crowd applauded."

The National Debate's "Erasmus" wonders whether "their reporter got the most important quote of the press conference wrong or does the Times now have a policy of cleaning up, sanitizing and de-regionalizing the English language?"

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:24 AM | link  

CAN THIS BE KRUGMAN?    From Paul Krugman's New York Times column today:
"To be fair, the looting is a partly bipartisan affair."
Which is more incredible, for a Krugman column? The first three words, or the last seven?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:01 AM | link  

Thursday, December 04, 2003

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These letters from readers about Paul Krugman's Tuesday New York Times column on the vast Republican voting-machine conspiracy are just too good to relegate to our letters page. Enjoy.

Here's one from a knowledgeable eye-witness to the mid-term Georgia elections discussed in Krugman's column.

Great column on voting machines ("Diebold-faced Lies" 12/3/2003). I was Chief of Staff for Governor Roy Barnes, whose loss had nothing to do with the voting machines. I am now serving on the Georgia Election Board, and Iíve learned more than I ever thought I would about voting machines.

This is an email I sent to Krugman today:

Mr. Krugman,

We had a meeting today, and prior to the meeting, I saw a map of the United States that had been published in your newspaper (November 6, 2002). The map had a layer of counties. Each county had a color for the type of voting equipment being used. As I recall, only two states had counties with the same colors Ė in other words, only two states used the same type of equipment in every county. Those two states are Georgia and New York. Georgia, of course, uses the Diebold system. New York, I was shocked to learn, uses the old lever machines in every county. Those machines are not manufactured any more. And some of those machines were purchased from Georgia counties (I could make a smart remark about a southerner ripping off a Yankee, but I wonít).

Anyway, you talk about no paper trail! No way to verify! I believe the concept of verifying a lever machine and a computer are similar Ė checking the counts before and after voting (this is a simplistic explanation). But with the Diebold equipment, there are redundancies and other methods of verification. No system is perfect, and we are always looking for ways to improve security and accuracy. As you explore alternatives for future columns, in addition to looking to other states, I urge you to look to New York first.

Also, I wrote a piece for an election law website that addresses a number of the conspiracy theories. The link is below. Click here and go to the October 23 post.

Bobby Kahn

Here's another email to Krugman from one of our readers -- it out-Krugmans Krugman:

Dear Mr. Krugman,

I am flabbergasted that you haven't uncovered the real Republican conspiracy that includes involvement by Mr. Ralph Nader and Mr. Albert Gore. Let's look at the facts, Krugman-style.

Mr. Nader insisted on being a presidential candidate even though he knew this would siphon votes from Mr. Gore, thus assuring a win by Mr. George W. Bush. When Mr. Nader didn't get enough votes to allow Mr. Bush a definitive electoral victory, Mr. Gore instituted legal proceedings that ultimately called into question the validity of punch card voting systems.

The result achieved by these conspirators is that punch cards fell out of favor to be replaced by touch screen systems, of which Diebold is a major player. And the rest is in your column.

Kathleen O'Neal

Here's one from a friend who raises a point I heard in many letters -- that if you strip away Krugman's Bush-bashing conspiracy theories, there are indeed legitimate concerns about the integrity of voting devices that have no audit trail.

Krugman exhibits breathtaking chutzpah to even suggest that Republicans may be leading the charge on vote fraud, whether real or potential. I have watched polls and challenged voters in New Orleans, Trenton and Manhattan. While I can't claim to have seen every trick in the book (Jameson Campaigne has certainly experienced more up in Illinois), I have seen enough to make me question the "credibility of U.S. democracy" in close elections. Chicago, 1960, anyone? Or earlier, how about Landslide Lyndon?

Krugman does make an overall point that I do agree with, namely that voting machines that leave no paper trail are an invitation to wholesale fraud and abuse. I'd contend, however, that you'd likely find that more in historically fraud-rich areas than elsewhere. Should Diebold beef up their security? Absolutely. But the unauthorized access was of an equal opportunity nature.

David Duval

Finally, here's one from the aforementioned Jameson Campaigne, living up to his homonymous surname with precisely the expertise David Duval had mentioned.

My favorite is the last election... the 98-99% vote turnout in the city of Philadelphia, which caused Bush to lose the state (if he'd won, Florida would have been irrelevant).

The Democrat political machines in New York City, Trenton, Chicago, Detroit, Gary, St. Louis (also in the news in 2000) and in smaller places like East St. Louis (IL), Albany (NY) and so on easily swell the Democrat popular vote total by 500,000 total votes on election day (Mayor Daley can easily add or subtract 100,000 votes), often tipping a state's electoral vote into the Democrat column, if needed, in the wee hours of the morning.

Here are a few of the ways it is done:

1) Punch card voting can subtract GOP votes by sticking a piece of pencil lead into any one of the holes dedicated to a candidate the Dem's wish to defeat. This is how a friend of mine lost the GOP primary for Mayor of Chicago to a professional clown a few years ago. Of the 50,000 ballots requested, only 30,000 of them showed any vote for him or any other candidate for the mayoral nomination -- while there were votes for all the other aldermanic and other Cook County offices. In other words, he was subtracted 20,000 votes.

2) When living in Chicago and just married, after we moved into our new apartment my wife, a registered Democrat ("that's the only way I know my vote will be counted in a Chicago election"), received four new voter registration cards -- addressed to her married and maiden name at her old address and two more to her new address. I assume she is still voting Democrat four times in every Chicago election, since the GOP no longer watches the canvass in the city of Chicago.

3) When the Dem's determine, at 1:00 am or so, how many votes they need, the rotten precincts in Chicago produce the necessary margin by after-hours voting, usually all done by the Dem precinct captains en masse. Sometimes this is done before the election, the ballot boxes (which are supposed to be empty before the voting starts) already containing pre-marked ballots. I ran into this as a poll watcher in 1962 during "Operation Eagle Eye." Arriving at the polls an hour early, at 5:00 am, I heard the "ding-ding-ding" of the old mechanical machine curtain going back and forth; peering in the window I saw the Dem precinct captain throwing the straight Dem lever, yanking the curtain handle to register the vote. A cop was watching him, supplied with donuts and coffee. I came in and pretended I had not seen this, but pointed out the machine already had votes on it, so it would have to be reset before anyone else could vote on it. Major dispute, but the Eagle Eye lawyers quickly arrived and we won that little battle.

There is no way to stop vote fraud without an army of trained poll watchers, a like army of lawyers -- a helluva major effort by a party. The stupid gutless GOP rarely does this, since it is usually greeted by, and intimidated by, cries of "racism" when they do make the effort.

Jameson Campaigne

Thanks to all of you who have sent letters on this. Best ever!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:12 AM | link  

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

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GRADING KRUGMAN THE ECONOMIST   "When faced with a contradiction, check your premises." That's what Robert Musil has done with the contradiction of Paul Krugman the partisan hack versus Paul Krugman the respected theoretical economist. I can't say I'm entirely surprised to see the contradiction resolved in favor of Paul Krugman the hack theoretical economist.  Musil's review of the evolving literature of "trade theory" shows that Krugman's best-known theoretical contributions rested on lazy simplifying assumptions. With those accounted for, his "New Trade Theory" seems "a lot more like a technical advance, quite possibly a mere curiosity, and less like the breathtaking, revolutionary revision of classical thinking he and his admirers have held it out to be."

FASHION PLAME   The insatiable appetite of Niger-gate whistleblower Joseph Wilson IV for self-aggrandizing publicity has met the insatiably appetite of Graydon Carter for fashionable Bush-bashing. The latest Vanity Fair features a photo-spread of Wilson and his supposedly "covert CIA operative" wife Valerie Plame -- appropriately garbed in fashion accessories designed to conceal and protect her identity. According to Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post,

"The January issue features a two-page photo of Wilson and the woman the magazine calls 'the most famous female spy in America,' a 'slim 40-year-old with white-blond hair and a big, bright smile.' They are sitting in their Jaguar. Plame is wearing a scarf and big glasses, which just adds to the aura of mystery. In a second shot on their terrace at the couple's home near Georgetown, she holds a newspaper in front of her face.

"'The pictures should not be able to identify her, or are not supposed to,' Wilson said yesterday. 'She's still not going to answer any questions and there will not be any pictures that compromise her.' The reason, said Wilson, is that 'she's still employed' by the CIA 'and has obligations to her employer.'

"Ron Beinner, a contributing photography producer at Vanity Fair, said Plame was not originally scheduled to participate in the Nov. 8 shoot, but agreed to join her husband once 'she felt suitably disguised.'

"It's not that Plame has dropped out of sight. In October, as Vanity Fair notes, she was at the National Press Club -- wearing a 'sharp cream pantsuit' -- while her husband received a truth-telling award. Wilson wept from the podium, saying, 'If I could give you back your anonymity . . .' and then introduced Plame, who also teared up."

Thanks to Ashby Foote for the link.

Correction 12/3/2003 11:37 pm... The text reflects correction of Mr. Wilson's first name to Joseph. Originally, I had inadvertently typed "Robert."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:06 AM | link  

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When someone says "this isn't about money," you can be sure it's all about money. And when Paul Krugman says " there's nothing paranoid about suggesting" something, you can be sure that what he's suggesting is a crackpot conspiracy theory, built on lies and innuendo, that only a true paranoid could believe.

What "there's nothing paranoid about suggesting" in Krugman's New York Times column yesterday is that touch-screen voting machines are part of a Republican plot to hijack elections. He sanctimoniously warns, "let's be clear: the credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake."

The proof? Krugman assembles a crazy-quilt of anecdotal, inaccurate and highly selective evidence of technical difficulties and security concerns with voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Inc. -- whose CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a major supporter of President Bush. The purpose? To set the media echo-chamber abuzz with a catchy urban myth to show that the Republican party seeks an America in which, as Krugman says in the introduction to his book, The Great Unraveling, "possibly -- elections are only a formality." 

Krugman starts the column by making it seem as though O'Dell has confessed to using Diebold machines to rig elections. Quoting from a letter from O'Dell concerning a Bush fundraiser: "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Yes, a horrible choice of words for a manufacturer of  voting machines -- and one that O'Dell deeply regrets. The Ohio-based executive told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer,

"I'm a pretty experienced business leader, but a real novice on the political side of this... I can see it now, but I never imagined that people could say that just because you've got a political favorite that you might commit this treasonous felony atrocity to try to change the outcome of an election... I wouldn't and couldn't."

In the classic ploy of smear journalism in which the victim's statements of self-defense are deliberately minimized, Krugman paraphrases O'Dell's heartfelt regrets as: "he says that he wasn't talking about his business operations."

Next comes the circumstantial evidence: "Georgia ó where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections ó relies exclusively on Diebold machines." In a Times column less than a month ago, Krugman claimed Republicans "coded racial signals" were responsible for the Georgia upset. Now, it would seem, a better story has come along.  As James DiBenedetto notes on his Eleven Day Empire blog, Krugman is now arguing that only ballot fraud could explain "how people could actually...gasp! Republican, even though he KNOWS how evil and terrible and bad they are and he's been telling us so for years." 

Is there any actual evidence of ballot fraud? No. But in another classic smear ploy, the very fact that there is no evidence is itself cited as evidence. Krugman says with a straight face, "...there is no evidence that the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly."

Krugman then goes on to raise various concerns about Diebold's technology and corporate behavior. "The details are technical," he begins, which is the smear journalist's way of saying "I don't really understand all the facts, but here's a bunch of stuff that seems to support my prejudices." Krugman continues,

"Early this year Bev Harris, who is writing a book on voting machines, found Diebold software ó which the company refuses to make available for public inspection, on the grounds that it's proprietary ó on an unprotected server, where anyone could download it. (The software was in a folder titled '')"

My investigations confirm that a Diebold server was indeed unprotected for a period -- a mistake that has been addressed, according to documents provided by David Bear, a Diebold Election Systems, Inc. spokesperson I talked to yesterday. But there is still much in these two sentences that deserves scrutiny. First, according to Bear's documents, while Diebold software may not be available for public inspection, it is tested both by an independent lab and by outside experts appointed by client states such as Georgia.

Second, Krugman parenthetically mentions the folder name "" Why mention the name at all except, obviously, to imply by innuendo that the software's purpose was to "rob Georgia" -- that is, to steal the Georgia election? Yet reader Doug Augustin points out that, according to Bev Harris herself, "rob" actually refers to Rob Behler, a contract technician working for Diebold, for whom the file was intended.

Krugman continues by asserting that "An analysis of Diebold software by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities found it both unreliable and subject to abuse." Krugman fails to mention that Avi Rubin, the computer scientist who led the Johns Hopkins analysis team, has confessed that he held stock options in VoteHere Inc., a Diebold competitor, and was a member of VoteHere's advisory board. Hmmm... funny how Krugman always seems to forget to mention those advisory board relationships.

Krugman adds, "A later report commissioned by the state of Maryland apparently reached similar conclusions." In the smear-journalist's lexicon, "apparently" means "has not." In reality, the report prepared by SAIC for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management reached completely opposite conclusions, and resulted in the state's decision to purchase $55.6 million of Diebold's equipment. Indeed, an appendix to the report went on for 29 pages noting differences with Avi Rubin's report. The appendix begins,

"...SAIC reached many different conclusions. Indeed, Professor Rubin states repeatedly in his paper that he does not know how the system operates in an election and he further identifies the assumptions that he used to reach his conclusions. In those cases where these assumptions concerning operational or management controls were incorrect, the resultant conclusions were, unsurprisingly, also incorrect."

Krugman adds this weasely hedge:  "It's hard to be sure because the state released only a heavily redacted version." Well, we can only imagine how many more differences the report would have found if it its appendix had not been redacted to a  mere 29 pages.

Krugman doesn't stop with Diebold. Of course, he brings up the infamous 2000 Florida presidential election -- that wellspring of so many beloved liberal myths -- citing the "'felon purge' that inappropriately prevented many citizens from voting in the 2000 presidential election." But according to Peter Kirsanow, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, writing for National Review Online in October,

"In fact, an exhaustive study by the Miami Herald concluded that 'the biggest problem with the felon list was not that it prevented eligible voters from casting ballots, but that it ended up allowing ineligible voters to cast a ballot.' According to the Palm Beach Post, more than 6,500 ineligible felons voted."

And while we're on the subject of Republican conspiracies, Krugman just couldn't resist reminding us that Republican "Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently announced that one of his aides had improperly accessed sensitive Democratic computer files that were leaked to the press."

Krugman fails to mention, however, exactly what those leaked "sensitive Democratic computer files" were. It turns out they were horrifically embarrassing staff memoranda revealing the hand-in-glove strategic partnership between Democratic senators and various lobbying organizations dedicated to blocking President Bush's judicial nominees (according to one memo, "most of Bush's nominees are nazis"). And according to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, there wasn't even anything "improper" about the aide's access to the files. They were all just sitting on a shared server set up by Democratic Senator Pat Leahy's IT staff.

A server, it seems, just like the one Diebold used.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:11 AM | link  

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Unindicted co-counter-conspirator Donald L. Luskin will be a guest on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer"... Tuesday, December 2 at 8:00 pm EST. No, the subject won't be Krugman.

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

Monday, December 01, 2003

UNLIMITED ARROGANCE AND SOLOPSISM    How dare the Bush administration let something like the safety of the President of the United States get in the way of the sacred relationship between a reporter and his editor? That's sacred!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:48 PM | link  

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I made a transcript of Paul Krugman's remarks on the economy, on CNBC News with Brian Williams last Wednesday night. Personal implosion just doesn't get any better than this stammering, incoherent mess:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: "And Paul, I need not tell you, conservatives, a lot of fans of this administration, for whom your -- your column has become the place they love to hate, are sitting around looking at the uh, the -- the Beige Book and the new numbers out, saying 'well what is Krugman going to say about this.' What do you say about all the evidence?

PAUL KRUGMAN: "Um, it's definitely an upturn, I mean, uh, you can't, uh, you know I, what do you say? It looks good. Um, it doesn't look great yet. That we -- we need -- we need a lot more before we are willing to say, 'Gee, it's really great stuff.' But, uh, it's a lot better than I expected. I think -- it's better really than anyone expected. Uh, we still don't see employment gains, uh, that would -- that would, really make a big dent in the unemp -- in the unemployment rate, and you know we have -- we have a lot of lost ground to make up. But it's definitely an upturn. Um, you know, what I would say for, as someone who criticizes that -- look, um this, it really wasn't about the short-term business cycle. It's -- it's the long-term budget deficit. Uh, even if Bush gets, uh, an equivalent of Reagan's morning in America, which was six quarters of growth at about the rates that we had in the third quarter of this year, uh, that -- that wasn't good enough. It turned out that there was a lot of problems with -- with build-up of debt. But look, it's -- it's -- it's better, and -- I've got relatives looking for jobs, and -- and, you know, this is good. Better. Much better than what we feared might happen."

That's the Democratic Party's economic talking points, my friends. The delivery will get smoother as time goes on -- but that's as powerful as the ideas are going to get. And don't worry about any Democrats going after Bush on his horrific protectionist policies. Bill Clinton may have been a courageous free-trader, but nowadays no Democrat is going to dare to alienate either the old-school union base or the new-age anti-globalization idiot-fringe. Between now and the election, as far as the economy is concerned, it's checkmate.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:05 AM | link  

Sunday, November 30, 2003

STREISAND EDITS CARTER    Barbra Streisand, on her website, quotes extensively from Graydon Carter's "amazing editorial" in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Citing dozens of Carter's "Harper's Index"-style pseudo statistics, somehow she was smart enough not to quote Carter's hilarious howler about the US's "$6.84 quadrillion (yes quadrillion)" national debt.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:01 PM | link  

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Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling is today nowhere to be seen on the New York Times' non-fiction hard-cover best-seller list. Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?, Bill O'Reilly's Who's Looking Out for You? and Al Franken's Lies, and the Lying Liars who Tell Them are still number one, two, and three respectively. Krugman hits the remainder counter after just three months (thanks to Joe Wright for the link).

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:26 AM | link  

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A rare Paul Krugman correction in the New York Times? Not quite. Today's corrections section states,

"An article last Sunday about the differing covers on the American and British editions of a book by Paul Krugman, the economist and Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, Page, referred incorrectly to a caricature on the British version. According to groups that distribute the image, the drawing of Vice President Dick Cheney, with the words 'Got Oil' on his forehead and a dark mustache, was intended to evoke the 'Got Milk' advertising campaign, not to suggest a comparison with Hitler."

Why the Times cannot name "groups that distribute the image" is unknown (perhaps they don't want to be associated with it -- according to the book-jacket's inside back flap, the group [singular] is Magnum Photos). It is also unknown why such "groups" (or group) would be able to authoritatively state exactly what the "drawing" (it is actually a photograph) was "intended to evoke," since the "groups" (or group) do nothing but "distribute the image" and have nothing to do with the creation of the protest-march sign contained in the image. But more relevant here: it doesn't really matter what the original protest-march sign was "intended to evoke." What is relevant is what the use of the image on a book-jacket in the UK where, (as Robert Musil has exhaustively pointed out), the "Got Milk" advertising campaign is virtually unknown. A week after distancing itself from Krugman, the Times has gone back to covering up for him.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:39 AM | link