Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Saturday, July 30, 2005SO THERE! What started as a gag on the Web gets real:
If the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire and its allies have their way, someday two stone monuments will stand on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer's Plainfield property.Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:05 PM | link
CATS AND DOGS HATE BUSH ...according to the New York Times. But then again (according to the Times), cats are like bloggers:
...sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.But on the other hand (according to the Times),
take a look at Litterboxcam.com, where a live camera is trained on the litter boxes of two cats, Grey and Black. Every 60 seconds the image is refreshed. Counting down to zero and waiting for the cats to come into the frame is strangely and annoyingly suspenseful.Strangely indeed. And don't forget (according to the Times),
Last month a woman let her dog relieve itself on the subway in Seoul. She was caught, by a cellphone camera, doing nothing about it. Within days, her picture, her identity, her family's identity and her past were revealed to the world on the Web. She quit her university in shame.Uh, no, actually.
Thanks to reader Josh Hendrickson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:04 PM | link
Friday, July 29, 2005JUST BEING CONTRARY Carl Futia is a Yale and Berkeley economics grad who runs a website where he publishes his market forecasts, based in part on "the theory of contrary opinion." He writes,
I happen to think that the New York Times is essential reading for any investor. I systematically do the opposite of whatever the Times is encouraging its readers to do, and this investment strategy has been very successful.
Here is some of his posts in which he uses the Times as a contrary investment tool:
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:54 PM | link
'BAMAGATE MAILBAG I've had an avalanche of mail on my National Review Online piece fisking Paul Krugman's column on how workers in Alabama are too stupid to build cars. Here's a sampler.
Maybe Mr. Krugman is still upset about the New York Times' last experience with the Alabama labor force. Does the name Howell Raines ring a bell?
Jonathan B. Minchin
I live in Alabama and hadnít heard a word on it. Of course our local paper,
the Tuscaloosa News is owned by the New York Times Company and run like a
plantationóthey extract all the profits to New York and leave minimal resources
behind to do state or community journalism.
Alabama's education problems that do exist are twofold.
Having been stationed in Alabama with the military, I can say they are hard
working and industrious folk who are as educated as the populace in the
backwater of northern New York where I currently live. So a hearty thank you
for defending Alabamians! I guess Krugman ignored wholly the fact that Hyundai
closed its doors on a plant in Canada due to various difficulties, and opened a
state of the art plant in Montgomery. Now why would they do that if Canada is
such a utopia of social health and education? Wouldn't they simply reopen the
I read the same article published with pride here in the Detroit Free
Press. How about the fact that, despite Governor Jennifer Granholmís
overtures, Toyota refuses to put their plant in Michigan, also despite Detroit
being the motor capital of the world (country?)? Maybe itís because of
Michiganís self-detrimental high cost of doing business here, including high
taxes and exorbitantly high health benefits demands (thanks the the UAW). Heck,
sounds like Canada to me.
It may be worth noting that one of the reasons that Mercedes (and Honda)
built sizable manufacturing plants in Alabama is that wages and cost of living
are lower here in the Southeast. That, coupled with skilled non-union labor
(idled, in part, by textile manufacturing losses) in abundance, makes the
Southeast more attractive to manufacturers than the ridiculously high cost
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:36 PM | link
BLOOD IN THE WATERS ON W. 43RD STREET An appellate court ruled yesterday that a libel suit against the New York Times by a former Army bioterrorism expert could proceed. According to the Times,
The appeals court noted in a 2-to-1 ruling, that
Did you catch that word "intentionally"? Not only did the Times column inflict emotional distress on Hatfill -- it did so on purpose.
There's blood in the water, friends. With this in addition to Judith Miller sitting in jail -- and looking more and more like the one who outed Valerie Plame -- the Times could be in more trouble today than it was when all it had to worry about were the trivial escapades of Jayson Blair.
Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:10 PM | link
A FRENCHMAN ON KRUGMAN ON FRANCE Got some good comments on Paul Krugman's column today from Chris F. Masse, the expert in "prediction markets" whom we often quote here. Masse is a Frenchman, and he has a few points of difference with Krugman on just how wonderful everything is in France. Below, Krugman is in italics, and Masse's responses are in regular type.
Update [7/31/2005]... An anonymous notes an error in Chris's text, complaining that the judgment that "France's unemployment is FOUR TIMES higher than in America" is based on double counting. Here's how I see it:
While waiting longer to get a job makes the situation worse for a French worker, I don't see how you can multiply the difference in unemployment rates by the difference in waiting periods to get a simple factor representing the difference in total unworked hours, which seems to be Chris's definition of total unemployment.
There may be a special case in which the US labor pool grows so quickly that new jobs arise without any new people becoming unemployed in order to employ the previously unemployed. But that's not the real world. Also, when standard work-weeks are different between two nations, you would have to adjust for that in order to get to unworked hours anyway.
So I agree that the waiting time makes the French situation worse. But I don't see why it's four times worse, or any particular number. If the length of the waiting period has very high emotional impact, perhaps the situation is ten times worse, subjectively. Or if it has little impact, maybe it's only three times worse -- again, subjectively.
Chris is entitled to his subjective opinion that it's "four." But I do think it's a little spurious to present "four" as the result of an objective calculation -- in this case two times two -- and make it sound as though this is a precise measurement of any actual statistic.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:47 AM | link
SILENCE OF THE SHAMS From Tigerhawk:
On April 16, during what proved to be an extremely ephemeral downdraft in the U.S. stock markets, the NYT ran a front page headline that blared "Stocks Plunge to Lowest Point Since Election." It was not clear at the time what the relationship was between the low level of the stock market in April and the election (since the market had bottomed some days before the election), but the Times purported to see one worthy of a front page headline.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:18 AM | link
'BAMAGATE Here's my NRO column for today.
Paul Krugman -- America's most dangerous liberal pundit -- has his own little Rather-gate on his hands.
In his New York Times column on Monday, Krugman wrote about Toyota's decision to locate a new automobile plant in Ontario, Canada rather than in Alabama. According to Krugman, workers in the South are too unskilled to build cars, because taxes aren't high enough to throw more money at education. And according to Krugman, we need socialized health care like they have in Canada so that employers won't have to bear those costs themselves.
Krugman never mentions the fact that there are other foreign auto manufacturers already operating successfully in Alabama (I just bought a new Mercedes Benz SUV made there, and I can tell you it's a far finer car than the German-made lemon that it replaced). And Krugman never mentions the fact that Toyota itself is building a new plant in Texas.
What Krugman does mention, instead, is a hateful statement from Gerry Fedchun, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association in Toronto. Krugman writes that Feldchen
But Fedchen never actually said those things. And what's worse, Krugman should have known it -- because Fedchen denied that he said those things, in the strongest possible terms, in a letter to the editor published in Alabama's Birmingham News on July 15, ten days before Krugman's column was published. Fedchen wrote,
This is turning into a real embarrassment for the Times. Yesterday morning the Anniston Star, an Alabama newspaper that had reprinted Krugman's column in syndication, ran an open letter to Krugman complaining, "you went out of your way to engage in a little Dixie bashing... it would have been nice if you had checked things more carefully."
Krugman cites no source for Fedchen's bogus remarks. But it's virtually certain that his source was a June 30 story on the website of the government-sponsored Canadian Broadcasting Company, which used near-identical language to frame Fedchen's claim that manufacturers "had to use 'pictorials' to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment." Perhaps, by Krugman's having inserted the penultimate word "plant" in the Times version, charges of plagiarism can be avoided.
How did Krugman find the CBC story in the first place? Do you really need to ask? Most likely he found it the same way he has gotten so many of his story ideas -- by trawling the Leftist hate-blogs. In this case, the CBC story was linked on July 8 on the Daily Kos, perhaps the foulest (and consequently most popular) of the ultraliberal blogs.
Krugman shot himself in the very same foot three years ago. In his September 17, 2002 Times column, he reported that a former Enron executive -- later a Bush administration official -- had sent an email ordering the cover-up of financial misdealings. Krugman's source was a story in the Leftist web magazine Salon -- whose story about it was removed from their site over concerns both for its accuracy and potential plagiarism. When the official denied having written the email, Krugman was forced by the Times to run a retraction with his October 4, 2002 column, in which he said "I erred by citing it in my column."
Setting aside Krugman's use of fictitious statements to bolster his case, what about his substantive point?
First, he claims that the supposed failure of Alabama's educational system is due to the state's voters having rejected "an increase in the state's rock-bottom taxes on the affluent." Rock-bottom? Hardly. Alabama's affluent are taxed at a 5% rate. There are seventeen states with the same or lower top rates -- including Blue States Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Krugman's characterization is a flat-out lie.
Second, Krugman sings the praises of Canada's socialized health care system as a lure for high-paying employers, who don't have to bear the costs of providing health insurance. Krugman overlooks the fact that Canada's system is so bad that the nation's Supreme Court recently overturned the government's medical monopoly, noting that "patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."
Third, if subsidizing big business is Krugman's idea of the proper role of government, then he should have supported President Bush's 2003 program that adds a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. According to a story this week in the New York Times that ran the very same day as Krugman's column, that program will "give companies $50 billion in tax benefits to help with prescription drug coverage." If such subsidies are so great, how come when Bush was promoting this program Krugman called it part of "a golden age of pork"?
Fourth, Krugman completely ducks the question of why, if everything Canada does is so wonderful for business, is its economic performance so bad compared to that of the US? Their unemployment rate is 6.7% -- ours is 5%. And according to Canada's most recent Labour Force Survey, "... the largest [employment] declines over the last 12 months have been in...motor vehicle and parts manufacturing." On that, Krugman punts: "I'll have to leave the issue of...comparative economic performance for another day."
The New York Times famously defended Dan Rather's use of bogus documents about Bush's military service on the grounds that they were "fake but accurate." Is that the case here? Did Krugman use a bogus statement to make a valid case for higher taxes and socialized health care? Nope. This one's fake and wrong -- all the way.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:17 AM | link
UH, ACTUALLY, I'M A LITTLE BUSY RIGHT NOW From MalaysiaKini:
Of course, if we have the time, there is no harm in cross-checking the pronouncements of the US government with well-known dissenting American intellectuals like the Noam Chomsky or Paul Krugman.Of course!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:32 AM | link
Thursday, July 28, 2005JOKE OF THE DAY Update... reader Jeffrey Zuckerman tells me this is an old Twilight Zone episode!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:37 PM | link
HARRY REID, THEN AND NOW You know the stuff our erstwhile Senate minority leader is saying now. But I'll bet you didn't know what he was saying then!
Look what Harry Reid was saying about the Social Security Trust Fund in 1991. Who knew?!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:02 PM | link
JOKE OF THE DAY It's a blonde joke. OK, I lied.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:13 PM | link
SHORT AND SWEET There's a fun little interview with me on today's Blogometer at National Journal's site. You have to scroll down a bit.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:46 AM | link
ALABAMA PILES ON The Anniston Star -- an Alabama paper that picks up Paul Krugman's columns in syndication, runs a lead editorial today raking Krugman and the New York Times over the coals for repeating the lie that a Canadian auto manufacturing spokesman called Alabama's workers "illiterate." I've written Barney Calame, the Times' new "public editor" about this already, and I haven't heard back yet (and if I do, I expect it will just be another cover-up) -- but maybe now that a Times syndication partner is griping, rather than a mere reader, the "readers' representative" will lift a finger to deal with this outrage.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:07 AM | link
Wednesday, July 27, 2005THINK OF THE CHILDREN! The Radio Equalizer blog reports:
...only because of a New York Daily News tidbit do we know that Bronx-based Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club nearly shut down major programs recently, because almost $500,000 in governmental grant money was instead diverted to Air America's liberal radio network.Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link -- and welcome back!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:50 PM | link
PUBLICEDITORMYASS.COM Yep... that's the name of the website of Bennett Haselton, a former Microsoft employee whom the New York Times claims was fired (but who, in fact, resigned voluntarily). The erroneous statement appeared on the Times' website back in the days when it was picking up stories from TheStreet.com -- apparently without checking their veracity any more than it does the crap from liberal hate-blogs that regularly makes it into the "newspaper of record" today. "Public editor" Dan Okrent wouldn't deal with the issue because he claimed it wasn't really published in the Times -- yeah right: just the website that bears the Times brand and confers its credibility.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:15 PM | link
QUITE A SCORE Jim Glass is back with another drop-dead Paul Krugman gotcha. Remember in Krugman's column ten days ago when he wrote,
Well, Glass went to the source, and checked it out on Jabba The Economist's own site. Here's the whole context:
Then Glass takes that apart point by point:
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:12 PM | link
ANOTHER ASTONISHING KRUGMAN F**K-UP In his column Monday, Paul Krugman wrote about Toyota's decision to locate a new plant in Ontario, Canada, rather than in Alabama:
Maybe we should discount remarks from the president of the Toronto-based Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, who claimed that the educational level in the Southern United States was so low that trainers for Japanese plants in Alabama had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment.Maybe it's Krugman who should do the discounting. Ten days before his column saw print, Gerry Fedchun president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association in Toronto denied he'd ever said such things. From his letter to the Birmingham News:
I never used the word "illiterate," nor would I. I have been in this industry a long time. The use of diagrams and illustrations is common. I was horrified that my remarks were reported as they were.Imagine his horror seeing those words repeated in the "newspaper of record."
Thanks reader Carolyn Jett for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:36 PM | link
FOR THOSE BUSY BUSH-BASHERS So many talking points, so little time. Subscribe to Capitol Reader -- a weekly Cliffs Notes service of the latest and greatest in political diatribe books.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:04 PM | link
WHAT? NEW HIGH TECH JOBS IN AMERICA? No way. Way! Intel is creating 1,000 jobs in Arizona -- but BizzyBlog points out that the media could barely bring themselves to report the good news.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:00 PM | link
THAT WOULD BE A FIRST Noel Sheppard watched Alan Greenspan's congressional testimony, and wonders whether the congressmen who questioned him have risen to their "level of incompetence" according to The Peter Principle. No way. These guys have no principles at all.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:24 PM | link
YUAN A LAUGH? My NRO column today:
China's announcement last week that it was abandoning its decade-old fixed exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the US dollar was world-shaking economic news. But for Paul Krugman -- America's most dangerous liberal pundit -- it's only an occasion for more of his usual left-wing economic doomsaying, leavened with crude humor based on ethnic stereotypes.
Krugman began his New York Times column Friday saying,
One assumes that if the nation in question had been an African one, the guardians of politically correct speech at the Times would have been more alert. Surely they would never have allowed Krugman to say the announcement had, "you might say, natural rhythm"?
Krugman stoops to cheap attempts at humor because he has no grasp of what's really going on with China's currency. His characterization of China's currency policies is simply:
Krugman offers no explanation for why China's currency should rise in the absence of their preventing it from doing so -- he treats it as a foregone conclusion. And what he calls China's "buying up" dollars is exactly the opposite of what's been happening for the last decade -- dollars have been raining in on China from foreign investors eager to set up business there and needing yuan to do it.
China has simply accepted those dollars and issued yuan in exchange for them -- at a constant rate of exchange designed not to "keep China's currency from rising" but rather to guarantee its value. For a decade, China has pegged the yuan to the dollar at an official exchange rate of about 8.28 yuan per dollar. Pegging the currency to the dollar has set an objective standard of value for it -- just as a peg to gold once set such a standard for the dollar itself.
And about "investing the proceeds in U.S. bonds"? No explanation. For Krugman, that's the "inscrutable" Chinese acting "strangely":
A "useless pile of dollars"? Hardly. The reserves of China's central bank are acting as collateral against all the yuan that the bank has issued to fund China's development. If the government had just spent the money on vast public works or social welfare programs of the kind Krugman favors, foreign investors would not have been so eager to invest in an immature and risky economy. It's those foreign investments that have led to China's "higher living standards" -- and it's that "useless pile of dollars" that have made those investments possible.
Krugman's left-wing catastrophist narrative is that China's holding of U.S. bonds proves that "America is a superpower living on credit." Krugman wonders, portentously, "What will happen to our stature if and when China takes away our credit card?"
What Krugman won't see is that China has chosen to hold U. S. bonds as collateral because they are the highest quality and lowest risk securities in the world. That's why they make such excellent collateral. The fact that China chooses to hold our bonds is proof of our strength and their need to hang on to a piece of it -- yet Krugman acts as though its evidence of our weakness and dependency.
It's hard to believe that the American Economic Association awarded Krugman its prestigious John Bates Clark Medal in 1991 for his path-breaking work on international trade and currency relationships. Now, with this column on China, Krugman Truth Squad member Roland Patrick was moved to ask, on his Let's Fly Under the Bridge blog, "just how many elementary errors in economics does it take to have a John Bates Clark Medal revoked?"
One needn't go halfway around the world to see Krugman's economic blunders on display. In another Times column last week, Krugman promoted his doomsaying economic narrative in the face of a drop in the unemployment rate to 5% by claiming, "adjusted for inflation, average weekly earnings have been flat for the past five years." But just visit the website of the Department of Labor, the official source of such statistics, and you'll see that, in fact, they are up half a percent -- not "flat." Or visit the website of the Department of Commerce, which shows that their comparable figures -- per capita disposable income -- is up 9.6%, again not "flat."
It's all just another case of what former New York Times "public editor" Dan Okrent called "disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers." I wrote to Byron Calame -- the new "public editor" -- to demand a correction of Krugman's error about "flat" wages. His associate Joe Plambeck told me that Krugman was not "factually incorrect. Had he said 'remained the same,' he would have been in error."
Later, Plambeck told me that Krugman's boss -- editorial page editor Gail Collins -- agreed with him that "no correction is necessary" because "you and Mr. Krugman are emphasizing different things."
I suppose that's right. I was emphasizing accurate reporting of economic news. Krugman was emphasizing left-wing spin designed to trash-talk a booming economy. Those are different things.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:22 PM | link
THIS EXPLAINS A LOT Gross!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:18 AM | link
Tuesday, July 26, 2005AT LAST! A DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE TO SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM It's called AmeriSave -- and it consists mostly of incentives for lower-earning Americans to save money they don't have, because Social Security has already sucked it out of their paycheck. The only thing that keeps this turkey from being a budget-buster is the fact that no one will be able to afford to participate in it. Put in another quarter and try again...
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:32 PM | link
I GUESS WE'RE "EMPHASIZING DIFFERENT THINGS" Paul Krugman wrote yesterday that "in the auto industry, at least, the good jobs are heading north." Odd, then, that Canada's most recent Labour Force Survey would have reported that "... the largest [employment] declines over the last 12 months have been in...motor vehicle and parts manufacturing.">
Update... reader Brian McGroarty points to this posting on the von Mises Blog, ably deconstructing Krugman's Canada column.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:33 PM | link
Monday, July 25, 2005LONGING FOR HER SALAD DAYS? From the Associated Press:
SANTA FE, N.M. - Actress and activist Jane Fonda says she intends to take a cross-country bus tour to call for an end to U.S. military operations in Iraq.Thanks to reader Martin Shimp for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:36 PM | link
ANOTHER CAMPAIGN PROMISE Paul Krugman's column today extols the economic virtue of Canada's heavy-handed government -- and at the end he writes,
I'm sure that some readers will respond to everything I've just said by asking why, if the Canadians are so smart, they aren't richer. But I'll have to leave the issue of America's comparative economic performance for another day.Yeah, right. We'll get that answer shortly after we hear about what he promised in January:
In the next few weeks, I'll explain why privatization will fatally undermine Social Security, and suggest steps to strengthen the program.Still waiting for those "steps," Paul. But while we wait for "another day," your acolytes can cling to the faith that you have secret answers to the drop-dead arguments of your opponents, but just aren't telling them yet.
Update... reader James Greiff wonders, since Canada is supposedly such an ideal locale for auto manufacturing, according to Krugman, why Toyota has just announced it is building a new plant in Texas?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:58 AM | link
CAPITALISM 1, PEOPLE'S REVOLUTION 0 From the Associated Press:
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Former Black Panthers are hoping the phrase "Burn Baby Burn" will ignite taste buds rather than racial tensions.Hat tip: Reason Hit & Run, via reader David Duval
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:06 AM | link
Sunday, July 24, 2005DR. SEUSS MEETS AYN RAND Check it out:
...the story of a right friendly land, Where people were quick to lend a free hand. With the best of intentions they passed many laws, To fix what they felt were quite fixable flaws. But the fixes, they found, were too much in the end, For the bureaus and programs and taxes they penned. Once the lessons were learned, here's what they knew: The contentment of many can't come from the few.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:38 PM | link
TIMES READERS LET CALAME HAVE IT! When "public editor" Barney Calame wrote about the way the New York Times editorial page editors had tampered with an Army reservist's op-ed manuscript, it was a classic Dan Okrent-style whitewash in which readers were blamed for "mistaken perceptions." Now in Calame's column today there are six scathing, uncompromising, in-your-face letters from readers blasting the Times for its biased tampering, and Calame's lame response to it. Good reading -- and bravo to Calame for publishing these letters, even if he didn't have the courage to take such views himself.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:31 PM | link