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Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Join us as we discover, document, expose and challenge the bad people, the bad institutions and the bad ideas that stand in the way of wealth creation -- and show you how to fight back!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

DID YOU NOTICE? NO? YOU WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO   From reader E. M. Schulze:
Have you noticed, Don, the skimpy coverage the New York Times gave to the recent acquittals and mistrials of Enron execs? Had there been convictions, we can be sure there would have been front page coverage, rehashing the entire saga. I've long time felt that the Times and its co-conspirators made the Enron collapse much worse than it would have otherwise been. The Times destroyed the wealth of a lot of little people.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:17 PM | link  

BRAD DELONG WILL BE DISAPPOINTED TO HEAR THIS   From some liberal hate-blog:
Rove, in his conversation with Matt Cooper, said, "you can't use this" about the information about Plame. This is a spin that Rove's lawyer, the world's dumbest Luskin, briefly tried to use...

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

UH OH...   Fortunately the New York Times' new poker columnist James McManus isn't the president of Harvard, or he'd really be in trouble for today's column. You see, women are too poor, too unaggressive, and the wrong age to win major poker tourneys.
...a woman has yet to win the main event at the World Series. In 36 years, only Barbara Enright, who finished fifth in 1995, has even made the final table. Nor has a woman won a single World Poker Tour championship.

One reason is that very few women choose to compete in the major events, which cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to enter...

the fact that men produce about 25 times as much testosterone, a hormone linked to both stamina and competitiveness, probably makes it easier for them to stay aggressive for the week or so it takes to win a major no-limit event.

Age is also a factor. Testy young males not only love tournament action, but also have enough time for it. As a group they may have fewer family responsibilities than women, or than men over, say, 35. Young men might also be better able to cope with the physical toll of traveling from event to event.

Update [7/25/2005]... Reader Brian Krywko adds:
Sexist and wrong! Kathy Leibert won the initial Party Poker Million on the World Poker Tour. I'm guessing he forgot that Annie Duke got $2 million for winning the WSOP Tournament of Champions last year, as well.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:07 AM | link  


Friday, July 22, 2005

DON'T BELIEVE THE EXPERTS   like Alan Greenspan when they say the economy is doing well. Instead, just ask random idiots on the street until you get enough of them to say the sky is falling, then put it on prime time. Thats what CBS did.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:40 AM | link  


Thursday, July 21, 2005

IT'S ALWAYS SAFE TO SLUR ASIANS   Paul Krugman's reputation as an economist comes from his work in currencies and international trade. So one might have expected real wisdom from him on the subject of China's re-engineering of the yuan's peg to the US dollar. But no. Instead his column today begins with a casual ethnic slur masquerading as wit:
Thursday's statement from the People's Bank of China, announcing that the yuan is no longer pegged to the dollar, was terse and uninformative - you might say inscrutable.
One wonders what Krugman's witticism would have been if the country in question had been an African one. Would he have said that the statement had a certain, you might say, rhythm?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:51 PM | link  


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

WHEN DO I TURN INTO A COCKROACH?   I provided simple, clear, irrefutable factual evidence that Paul Krugman was in error in his Monday column when he said, "adjusted for inflation, average weekly earnings have been flat for the past five years." In fact, earnings are higher by one half of one percent, not "flat." Joe Plambeck, assistant to New York Times "public editor" Barney Calame responded, "OK, fine, but that doesn't make it factually incorrect. Had he said 'remained the same,' he would have been in error." Now, having checked with Krugman's editor Gail Collins, Plambeck is back, saying:

Gail Collins said that no correction is necessary because she sees nothing factually incorrect. Rather, she said you and Mr. Krugman are emphasizing different things.

I guess that is so. I'm emphasizing a fact, and Krugman is emphasizing an error. Those are different things.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:09 PM | link  

"IT WOULD BE IRRESPONSIBLE   to take a position on the nomination of Judge Roberts until his background is carefully reviewed" intones the New York Times today. Oh, but what the hell. Let's take a position anyway: "If extremists take control of the Supreme Court, we will end up with an America in which the federal government is powerless to protect against air pollution, unsafe working conditions and child labor. There are reasons to be concerned about Judge Roberts on this score."

Thanks to reader Josh Hendrickson for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:56 PM | link  

MEDIA ARROGANCE IS MEDIA ARROGANCE   Conservative media people are still media people. Listen to this pearl-drop from David Brooks, defending the only principle to which he is truly loyal (the sanctity of his own profession):
When asked why, according to surveys, the public loathes the (liberal) press, David Brooks replied that it was “because people are idiots. The press is more honest and less salacious now than ever before.”
Thanks to reader Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:28 AM | link  


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"THAT'S ECONOMICS, PROF."   Our old buddy Jude Wanniski has an answer to Paul Krugman's "Dropout Puzzle."
you ...believe the labor force is shrinking because people are giving up on finding jobs that are not there or they lack the skills to be hired for the jobs being offered. And unless people are actively seeking work, they are not counted among the unemployed.

...the relative stagnation in productivity that we've seen since President Nixon took us off the gold standard was the chief reason why lower- or medium-income families could no longer make ends meet with only one breadwinner. Women entered the work force in droves, not because they felt liberated from household chores and excited with the prospect of working for WalMart, but because they needed the income to pay the bills. In a great many case [sic], Grandma was called upon to tend to the children while Mom worked in a shop or as a file clerk in an office.

What's been happening since the stock market hit its recent bottom in 2001 is the reverse of that process. In my client letters at the time I predicted a lower labor-participation rate -- which would indicate that people who didn't want to work could once again stay home to watch the kids or enjoy retirement because their net worth had climbed. I not only mentioned the rising stock market, but also the boom in housing that followed the 1997 tax provision that exempted the first $500,000 on a primary home from capital gains taxation. This was at least a $4 trillion increase in household wealth, especially for the middle-incomes that benefit most from that kind of dollar cap. With interest rates now at lows because the Fed deflated away the last remnants of the old Nixon inflation that began in 1971, average household wealth has been climbing these last four years and previously unhappy workers are happily leaving the work force... It may sound like a puzzle to you, but that's economics, Prof.

Thanks to reader Don Gher for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:54 PM | link  

POLITICS AT TRADESPORTS   Over at Tradesports.com, trading in futures contracts on the next Supreme Court justice has heated up. Gonzales is out of the lead, and Edith Clement has pulled out in front, with about a 50% shot of getting the nomination. Meanwhile, contracts on Karl Rove's resignation are flatlining at a 20% chance of his resigning by the end of September.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:08 AM | link  


Monday, July 18, 2005

NOT EXACTLY CONFIDENCE-INSPIRING   At least I heard back from him promptly (in response to my email earlier, in which I cited the inaccuracy of Paul Krugman's claim that average weekly earnings have been "flat" over the last five years, when in fact they are up).
Mr. Luskin,

I will forward your message along to the appropriate editors.

That said, Mr. Calame's position is that he will only get involved with the opinion pages when there is a factual error. As you say in your message, the implications of Mr. Krugman's language may lead one to believe that earnings have remained the same. OK, fine, but that doesn't make it factually incorrect. Had he said "remained the same," he would have been in error.

Joe Plambeck
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:41 PM | link  

KEVIN'S AUSPICIOUS DEBUT  

Our friend Kevin Hassett has just started as a Bloomberg columnist -- and his first one is terrific. How's this for driving a stake through the heart of the myth that all our fiscal woes are the result of the Bush tax cuts?

In the 2000 forecast [link], the [Congressional] budget office expected that the U.S. Treasury would collect $2.39 trillion in 2006. In its latest forecast, it projects that revenue will be $2.21 trillion, an error of only $180 billion.

...With revenue advancing rapidly after 2006, the difference between the forecasts for 2000 and for today dwindles to a paltry $65 billion by 2009. In the forecasting game, such small misses are about as good as it gets. The gap is so small because economic growth surprised on the upside, delivering more revenue after the tax cuts than was expected. Supply-siders can rightly point to this as partial vindication.

The spending story is much different. The 2000 forecast expected that total outlays in 2006 would be $2.1 trillion; now the CBO expects spending to be $2.5 trillion, a ``massive'' miss. And the 2000 forecast underestimates future years by even more, with the spending for 2009 projected to be $535 billion higher than was expected just before Bush took office.

If Bush had vowed when he took office to never spend more than Clinton planned to, then the budget office would be projecting a 10-year surplus of about $3.6 trillion, even assuming that all of the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

Bravo!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:58 PM | link  

LET'S SEND BARNEY CALAME BACK INTO THE LION'S DEN   And maybe this time he'll bring back some dead lion.
To:
Joe Plambeck
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times

Joe,

I know Barney is on vacation for the next two weeks, but I wanted to draw your attention to a factual error in Paul Krugman's column this morning, "The Dropout Puzzle." Krugman writes, "adjusted for inflation, average weekly earnings have been flat for the past five years." I invite you to visit the web site of the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, and bring up the series called "Total Private Average Weekly Earnings, 1982 Dollars - Not Seasonally Adjusted - CEU0500000051." If you divide the June 2005 figure of 274.95 by the June 2000 figure of 273.67, you will see that earnings are not "flat," but rather have risen by 0.5% (one half of one percent). If this seems like a small number to you, which you might reasonably regard as "flat," then consider the fact that the average five year change is actually negative 1.6% (considering the entire data series back to 1964). Thus, in fair context, 0.5% is anything but "flat." Krugman could have made his point by representing the number in an accurate yet opinionated way -- he could have called it, say, "a meager half percent." But instead he misrepresented the number by using the word "flat," implying thus that it was zero, and thus flattering the case he wished to make. This is a factual error that should be corrected. It is an example of what Dan Okrent called Krugman's "disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers."

Thank you for following up on this. Please let me know if I can give you any further information to aid in correcting this error.

Don


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:21 PM | link  

CALAME: WHAT A SHAME   The good news is that new New York Times "public editor" Barney Calame has dared to venture into the sacrosanct realm of the editorial page -- and it's only his third column. The bad news is that, like Dan Okrent before him, he has failed to forthrightly condemn the edit page's practice of influencing outside contributors to put anti-Bush spin in their columns, and -- what's worse -- blames the readers whom he represents for thinking there was a problem in the first place.

Background -- on July 6 the Times ran an op-ed called "The Quiet Man," written by Army reservist Phillip Carter, calling on President Bush to make a speech to stimulate recruiting. The next day, the Times ran the following correction:

Editors' Note

The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, ''Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday,'' nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a ''surprise tour of Iraq.'' That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.

It doesn't take a genius to guess what happened here. Here's what I wrote to Calame the day after:

It is easy to draw the impression from this that an editor had marked up the manuscript to slant the op-ed toward a more anti-war position than the author had originally intended. Perhaps the mark up was in the spirit of a “suggestion” to the author. In any event, it would appear that the marked up version went to press.

According to Calame, that is almost exactly what happened. Editors proposed the language about Carter's "surprise" orders, which Carter rejected in the strongest possible terms. In fact, Calame reports he "volunteered" for active duty, and felt the editor's language "left the impression that I was conscripted." But, Calame reports, the editor "continued to press for mentioning the call to active duty." Finally Carter threatened he "would pull the piece before having textual references added." Finally it was agreed that it would be mentioned in the footnote describing the author. But then, through a technical mishap, the editor's version was published.

The only way in which Calame's reported version of events differs from my guess is that Calame does not acknowledge that the proposed changes would have slanted the op-ed to a more anti-war position. In his column's first section he prints a letter from a reader asserting that -- but then utterly fails to deal with that most crucial issue. Except, at his column's conclusion, he says "readers were left to suspect the worst" and then calls such expectations "mistaken perceptions."

What about these "perceptions" are "mistaken"? How is what actually happened different than "the worst"? Clearly the editors aggressively tried to alter Carter's manuscript in a way that was slanted to a more anti-war position -- and wasn't even factual. Carter had to threaten to pull the piece unless they backed off. Calame simply waves this away, characterizing it as "part of the give-and-take of the editing and updating process." He quotes the editor saying, "We do this for the benefit of our contributors, many of whom are not professional writers." So, in other words, what the Times did was their standard practice. Readers -- whom Calame represents as -- are "mistaken."

That's the worst.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:13 AM | link  


Sunday, July 17, 2005

THAT SINKING FEELING   Dinocrat has an excellent analysis of the long, slow decline of the New York Times as a business. Read it and don't bother to weep.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:08 PM | link