Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Saturday, September 17, 2005EPSTEIN ON CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION Richard Epstein offers a clear-eyed guide to the debate about the "living constitution" versus "strict textualism."
In the end, no provision of our fundamental law requires any cant about a "living constitution" for its correct interpretation, which may proceed quite well by the faithful application of ancient principles. Stated even more simply, no interpretive ruse allows Supreme Court justices to wring a New Deal activist state out of our Lockean constitution.Sadly, to make it true in the real world requires good, honest jurists and good, honest politicians to appoint them -- the reality is that interpretation is necessary (or we wouldn't have a Supreme Court in the first place), and that means there will always be room for mischief.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:21 PM | link
Friday, September 16, 2005THE REAL REASON WHY THE TIMES IS GOING TO BE CHARGING FOR WEB ACCESS TO COLUMNISTS Yep. $50 big ones a year to read Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and all the rest. Is it just a way for the New York Times to make fast buck? Sure -- the limosine liberals who read the Times' Angry Left columnists can afford it. Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Digital, explains it to Editor and Publisher:
One factor that Nisenholtz thinks will encourage people to pay to keep reading the Op-Ed crew is the nation of the "Times loyalist" -- perhaps 1.5 million to 2 million readers who are devoted to the New York Times brand, and spend significantly more time reading NYTimes.com than they do other news sites. With them, he claims, their willingness to fork over "the equivalent to buying a few martinis" for an annual subscription could be expected.But there's apparently a darker reason as well. E&P gets the confession from editorial page editor Gail Collins:
Gail Collins says...There will be fewer mentions and links in the blogosphere..."Yeah, right. Does she think the Krugman Truth Squad will be detered by the price of a few martinis? There's more.
Collins says that each columnist is being asked to offer something more on the Web site... Paul Krugman, an economist by training, will have a Web site area where he'll offer up charts and graphs and other supporting information to bolster or supplement his traditional column.So now Krugman's columns in print can be even more biased, error-filled and context-dropped than ever -- because he'll explain it all on the web. And he can put his corrections on the web, too. Wait -- he's already doing that.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:30 PM | link
HOW TO SPEND $60 BILLION IN FIVE WEEKS Be sitting down. Here's how the federal government plans to spend over $60 billion in five weeks in the Gulf Coast, according to an Office of Management and Budget document liberated for us by a congressional contact. Read it line by line -- it's only one page long. Be sure to ponder that $250 million dollar line item for "legal and mental health counseling." Sounds almost like a joke -- but maybe it's not. Okay -- let's say there are 300,000 victims who can be counseled in five weeks. That works out to $833 per victim over the whole period, or $166 per week per victim. Assuming you could actually get to all of them over such a short period, that doesn't seem like an out-of-line figure, expect maybe that it's too little. Is it feasible to get to all of them in five weeks? Assume a 40 hour work week, and one hour of counseling per victim per week. You'd need 7,500 counselors (assuming a single individual could act as both attorney and shrink). If you assume one hour each, separately, of legal and mental health counseling, you'd need 15,000 counselors -- 7,500 attorneys and 7,500 shrinks. There are 400,000 members of the American Bar Association, so we'd need less than 2% of the membership. No problem. Shrinks are in shorter supply. We'd need 21% of the 35,000 members of the American Psychiatric Association. Well, let's settle for mere psychologists. We'd need only 5% of the 150,000 members of the American Pychological Association (note that there are far more lawyers than shrinks in this country, which explains a lot).
Do you think FEMA's up to it? Doubtful. Should these particular services be offered to victims? Doubtful. should the federal government be paying for this in the first place? Doubtful. But assuming "yes" answers to those questions, then given the scope of the catastrophe, the huge numbers that are being thrown around are actually surprisingly sensible.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:52 PM | link
THE REAL TALKING POINTS MEMO Have you been wondering how all us right-wing bloggers know what to say every day in order to keep getting our paychecks from the White House (actually, mine is sent to my PayPal account each day)? Wonder no more. Thanks to Irwin Chusid for the link to Damian Penny.
Update... Irwin also points to this perfectly serious bit of moonbatry -- maybe that bit about the "weather machine" was real after all.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:44 PM | link
THE LONG-TERM POLITICAL HURRICANE Robert Musil draws a different Katrina/earthquake analogy -- I had focused on San Francisco in 1906, Robert now looks at Los Angeles in 1994, and extracts lessons for how Katrina might drive long-term political change as New Orleans voters disperse to other states. Well worth a read.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:54 PM | link
NOT SUCH A GOOD DEAL FOR THE POOR Paul Krugman's column today is a worshipful paean to the New Deal -- and a predictable blast at Bush's hurricane recovery initiative for not measuring up to FDR's standards of charity. Josh Hendrickson, however, has this:
The scholarly article by Jim Couch and Peter Williams, "New Deal or Same Old Shuffle?" studies the the distribution of New Deal money spent in Alabama. They found that:Reader Sylvain Galineau notes a different approach to "relief":"The conventional wisdom regarding the New Deal is that all effors were made toward improving the life of the ordinary person. This paper questions this view of the New Deal and provides evidence that political considerations had an impact on the distribution of dollars across Alabama. Empirical evidence suggests that politicians used a large portion of the appropriations for their own private interest while neglecting the public interest at a time when may citizens were desperately in need."Additionally they found that:"Fewer dollars flowed to poorer regions and, in particular, the impoverished South, because 'living standards are so low that standards of acceptance for relief have been lower than in other sections.'"According to the article, a high ranking WPA administrator was:"convinced that the government should force destitute Negroes and Mexican-Americans off the rolls and into agricultural labor. Then limited...money could provide work relief for the middle class without lowering their accustomed living conditions."Yes that definitely sounds like an administration that truly cared about the poor. So let us hope that George W. Bush is no FDR.
From the WSJ yesterday:" [...] The Gulf Coast faced similar tensions after a massive 1927 flood along the Mississippi River devastated about 25,000 square miles -- about a quarter of the area Katrina ravaged -- and left 350,000 homeless. According to historian John Barry's popular book "Rising Tide," a key to the recovery was President Calvin Coolidge's quick dispatch of his secretary of commerce, Herbert Hoover. Mr. Hoover was given sweeping authority to coordinate all local, state, federal and private endeavors. His success helped elect him president in 1928. Hoover relied heavily on the private sector to get the job done. "I suppose I could have called in the whole of the Army," he said later, according to Richard Norton Smith's biography, "An Uncommon Man." "But what was the use? All I had to do was to call in Main Street itself."
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:30 PM | link
GET IT RIGHT! The Angry Left just keeps getting reality wrong when it conflicts with the preconceived narrative. Here's Matthew Yglasias on The American Prospect:
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow isn't an economist...Would it have been too much trouble to visit his biography on the Treasury web site? It makes it perfectly clear that Snow has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia and taught economics at the college level. Thanks to reader Bruce Bartlett for the catch.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:19 AM | link
FINALLY -- THE "PUBLIC EDITOR" NAILS KRUGMAN At last, after two weeks of hectoring from me by email, on this blog, and on National Review Online, New York Times "public editor" Barney Calame has finally gone public blasting the travesty that is Paul Krugman's correction of his serial errors about the Florida 2000 election media recounts:
Columnist Correction Policy Isn't Being Applied to Krugman
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:56 AM | link
YES, DISCIPLINE IS POSSIBLE IN THE FACE OF DISASTER Congress is planning on throwing a fortune at the Gulf Coast, closely following on a pork-laden transportation bill and the seeming inability to pass a budget with even the most modest deceleration of spending growth rates. Yet according to this draft report liberated from the Congressional Research Service, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Northridge California earthquake, Congress managed to find offsets for every penny of emergency relief. Proof -- it can be done.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:45 AM | link
WHILE WE QUAKE OVER KATRINA Hurricane Katrina and the tragic aftermath for the city of New Orleans have, in a matter of days, already become the stuff of legend. The disaster is universally believed to be “unprecedented” -- the “biggest national disaster in American history.”
Such beliefs energize the media’s morbid round-the-clock sensationalism, and make the Washington blame-game so much more delicious to play. But these beliefs are, in fact, just legend. The reality is that America has faced and successfully overcome a disaster that was greater than the New Orleans flood in almost every dimension. It was one that took more lives, left more people homeless, and destroyed more wealth than Hurricane Katrina. And it involved all the same “unprecedented” incidents of civil violence, failures of first responders, government incompetence, and racial undertones.
It was the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, almost exactly a century ago. It’s proof that everything that’s old will one day be new again.
When the earthquake struck San Francisco at dawn on April 18, 1906, the city held about 400,000 people -- not so different from the 485,000 in New Orleans a century later. The quake, and the fire that followed, left from 225,000 to 300,000 homeless, which likely exceeds the number that will turn out to have been left homeless in New Orleans by Katrina.
The official death-toll in San Francisco in 1906 was 478. But a century of research puts the number far higher. Gladys Hansen, retired chief archivist of the City of San Francisco, who has spent a long lifetime studying the quake, puts the verifiable death-toll above 3,000. Despite early fears that the New Orleans death-toll could reach 10,000, it now appears, thankfully, that the actual count will be only a fraction of San Francisco’s.
Damage from the San Francisco quake and fire is estimated at $400 million, not adjusting for inflation. That represented 1.4 percent of America’s gross domestic product at the time. To exceed that fraction of present-day GDP, damage from Katrina would have to reach $170 billion. Given the current frenzy in Washington, that much money may end up getting thrown at New Orleans over the coming years. But it well exceeds even the wildest estimates of actual damages.
Another indicator of relative economic impact is that the stock market fell 10 percent immediately following the 1906 earthquake. It rose following Katrina.
The San Francisco quake was every bit as “widely predicted” as the New Orleans flood. Mark Twain had lived through and written about the great San Francisco quake of 1865. And before the 1906 quake, local real estate interests even complained that “Eastern newspaper letter-writers and newspaper editors” were making California out to be “one of the most dangerous earthquake countries in the world.”
The performance of first responders in 1906 was as dubious as it was in 2005. Half the San Francisco policemen and firemen walked off the job, leaving whole districts virtually unprotected and unpatrolled. The U. S. Army, which had two infantry divisions stationed right in the city, could not coordinate emergency response with the mayor. Mayor Schmitz and Brigadier General Funston despised each other.
With dubious authority, the Army set about dynamiting scores of buildings that had not yet burned, hoping to create a firebreak. Critics claimed that this actually spread the fire faster, with the force of the blasts launching burning embers in all directions.
The looting and other civil violence in New Orleans that shocked the nation was far worse in San Francisco. Crowds looted homes and stores as the spreading fire approached and engulfed them, ransacked hospitals for drugs, and cannibalized the few belongings of the tens of thousands of refugees. Most shocking of all, some of the worst looting was done by Army and California National Guard troops, especially in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The mayor posted a “shoot to kill” order and emergency workers followed it -- including firemen who had to kill muggers who were attacking evacuees pulled from burning buildings. The official history is that no looters were killed. But James Baker of the Museum of the City of San Francisco believes that the number killed, including Army and National Guard troops shot by their own men, rivals the official count of 478 deaths overall.
The lesson, both then as now, is that it is very difficult for people and institutions to respond effectively to sudden catastrophes of great scope. Mistakes will be made, and sins will be committed -- and even the most ideal response will likely be inadequate.
While the catastrophe in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is tragic, it is not unique or unprecedented in any way. There has been worse. For those who did their best and put themselves in harm’s way in order to respond, let there be praise for their efforts and criticisms for their shortcomings. But they deserve no unique or unprecedented blame.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:32 AM | link
Thursday, September 15, 2005A MASTERS THESIS ON BLOGS Check it out.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:27 AM | link
MORAL HAZARD Here's a "prediction market" on political sex scandals. They even have a listed bet on the odds of "George W and Jeb Bush to be caught in a 3some." Thanks to Jim Glass for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:36 AM | link
Wednesday, September 14, 2005BLOWING THE WHISTLE ON KRUGMAN'S EPA LIES From an anonymous source at the Environmental Protection Agency:
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:03 PM | link
HIGH PROFILES, LOW ESTEEM A new Harris Poll lists the professions thought to have the least prestige:
The lowest ratings go to stockbrokers (8%), real estate brokers (9%), accountants (13%), journalists (14%), union leaders (15%), bankers (15%), business executives (15%), actors (16%), entertainers (18%) and lawyers (18%).Odd the disconnect between "prestige" and either fame or wealth. Link via Smart Economist.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:55 AM | link
THE TRUE FACE OF ECONOMICS REPORTING Check out what surely must be an editing and production foul-up at the Boston Globe, the publication of an economics commentary sprinkled with question marks and what can only be the authors notes to himself. Here's one particularly bizarre paragraph:
Yes, there are some 400,000 unemployed. Yes, the spike in retail energy costs has a slowing effect on the economy. But both are more than offset ? way more, sez here ? by the counter-flood of money spent and to be spent on rescue, relocation and reconstruction. If you count up all the R3 people at work around the country, it may be a bigger number than the unemployed; at least, better paid.And this one...
President Bush's second term is a wreck, and Republican prospects in 2006 elections are deteriorating (propped only by the Democrats' flinch from running on a Good Government platform ? they know themselves too well). It may occur to Bush that appointing a compliant partisan to the Fed would be a good idea; instead of a recession in 2006, better to tolerate some inflation and fix it later, kinda like Iraq.Okay, it's just a mistake -- probably published an early draft by accident. But it shows the naked emperor without the illusion of clothes provided by polished, self-assured econo-blather. No matter how perfect the surface of media economic commentaries, the reality is that they are all as approximate, conceptually jumbled, politically tainted and spuriously documented as this.
Update... the author, Lou Barnes, replies to a query from me:
I began to write this weekly 18 years ago as a local prospecting tool for our mortgage bank (Colorado only, www.boulderwest.com, subscribe on-line if you wish, e-addresses held in confidence), and it has morphed into web syndication. I have no idea how the Globe picked it up -- thank you especially for this e-mail, as I'm going to ask my web syndicator how I wound up in the Globe with bad copy and without compensation. However, I am certainly capable of typos on my own. One of the main reasons for writing is the disciplione to think clearly, and I very much enjoy return fire from someone in your job class. Most of my stuff is under your head (primary audience is real estate brokers and their clients), but sometimes it may make you think, or laugh.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:33 AM | link
MORE ANTITRUST ACTIVISM The Bush administration still doesn't get antitrust. Forunately, the edit page of the Wall Street Journal does.
...the U.S. Justice Department filed its own antitrust suit charging the Realtors with illegally squeezing low-cost Internet companies out of the market. So why aren't we thrilled? Because this is a case of right target, wrong weapon...
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:16 AM | link
Monday, September 12, 2005ACTUALLY, THERE ARE EIGHT And all this time you probably thought there were two Americas.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:53 PM | link
THE FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD No wonder Paul Krugman and Gail Collins still haven't put into print Krugman's correction of his serial lies about the Florida 2000 election. Here's Times executive editor Bill Keller explaining why critic Allesandra Stanley doesn't owe Geraldo Rivera a correction for claiming that he "nudged" a rescue worker out of the way in New Orleans -- when videotapes of the incident show no such thing:
"It was a semi-close call, in that the video does not literally show how Mr. Rivera insinuated himself between the wheelchair-bound storm victim and the Air Force rescuers who were waiting to carry her from the building. Whether Mr. Rivera gently edged the airman out of the way with an elbow (literally 'nudged'), or told him to step aside, or threw a body block, or just barged into an opening--it's hard to tell, since it happened just off-camera. Frankly, given Mr. Rivera's behavior since Ms. Stanley's review appeared...Ms. Stanley would have been justified in assuming brute force....Ms. Stanley's point was that Mr. Rivera was showboating."You see how it works? It's just like Dan Rather's "fake but accurate" documents, and Michael Moore's "essential truths." What matters isn't the factuality of what she said, but the salience of her "point." According to Keller, Geraldo is a showboater -- and the proof is that he dared to stand up against the Times -- so the Times is justified in telling a lie to prove he's a showboater. Pathetic.
Suppose I lie, and say I saw Bill Keller steal a dollar bill from the collection bowl of a crippled beggar on the streets of New York. He'd object that I had thus portrayed him as an asshole. But my defense would be that he actually is an asshole -- that's my "point," after all -- so it doesn't really matter if I made up a fictional incident to prove it.
Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:04 PM | link
HE SHOULD KNOW! Teddy Kennedy at today's confirmation hearings for John Roberts:
The powerful winds and flood waters of Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind.Yep -- from a true expert on leaving people behind in flood waters.
Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the catch.
Update... Reader Greg Laughlin points out that the Washington Post today carefully edits Kennedy's statement to remove any embarassing and inconvenient allusions to water.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:53 PM | link
IT'S THE LITTLE CLUES THAT GIVE AWAY THE GAME The Sunday New York Times Magazine interviews writer Andrei Codrescu (for no better reason, by the way, than because he is "based in Baton Rouge, La., which is about an hour's drive from New Orleans." At one point interviewer Deborah Solomon says, "You were born in Romania during its dreary Communist years." Reader Tom Cramer notes, "'Dreary'!? Is that the best adjective Ms. Solomon can come up with to describe a brutally oppressive totalitarian state? No wonder people think liberals are soft on communism. Do you think that she would describe Nazi Germany as merely 'dreary?' I think not."
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:49 PM | link
THE TIMES EVEN LIES WHEN IT TELLS THE TRUTH There's an old saying in public relations: if you have something really embarrassing to admit in public, do it on a Friday afternoon. Better yet, do it on a Friday before a three-day weekend. Best of all, do it on a Friday before a three-day weekend during an horrific natural disaster. Then nobody will notice.
Paul Krugman had it all in his favor on the afternoon of September 2 -- the Friday before Labor Day, while the nation's eyes were glued to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina -- when he finally confessed to a series of falsehoods stretching across three of his New York Times columns, in which he had claimed that Al Gore had won the media recounts of the 2000 Florida presidential election.
Finally -- following intense pressure from my National Review Online Krugman Truth Squad column -- America's most dangerous liberal pundit had to admit in public that the consortium led by the Miami Herald had not found Gore to be the winner, as he had falsely claimed in no less than three prior columns. But as you'll see, Krugman has used more than timing and tragedy to minimize the humiliation of having to admit the truth.
A quick history. Krugman's confession stands as the third correction of a falsehood he first told in his August 19 column, in which he had made it sound as though the media consortium had unambiguously given the election to Gore. The first correction -- an unofficial one -- was when he backtracked from that in his August 22 column, claiming that the consortium had named Gore the winner under two out of three full statewide recount methods. The second correction -- this one official -- was appended to Krugman's column of August 26. It acknowledged that his August 22 two out of three claim had been made without admitting prior error.
Now we have a third correction, a correction of a correction if you will. Following iron-clad smoking-gun proof uncovered in my NRO column -- direct testimony we obtained from Mark Seibel, the former managing editor of the Miami Herald who ran their recount project -- Krugman has had to admit that the Herald consortium only found Gore the winner under two out of four methods. In other words, the consortium didn't find Gore to be the winner at all.
On the afternoon of September 2, Krugman posted an admission to that effect on the Times web site, in the area reserved for letters to the editor. It's a sweet victory for the Krugman Truth Squad to have squeezed three corrections out of Krugman from a single falsehood. But there's a big problem.
Krugman's admission was never published in the print edition of the Times, so the majority of Times readers have never seen it. And archival versions of the three prior Krugman columns bearing his falsehoods about the consortium's results remain uncorrected to this day on the Times' own website, and in the Lexis-Nexis and ProQuest databases. So generations of future readers of the "newspaper of record" will see uncorrected falsehoods, even when those falsehoods have been admitted to by their own author.
Admitted errors willfully uncorrected are nothing less than willful lies. And those lies now are not just Krugman's responsibility. No, those lies are being told with the acquiescence of Times' "public editor" Byron Calame -- who claims to be the "readers' representative" -- and editorial page editor Gail Collins -- who has publicly committed to watch-dogging the Times' columnists.
The Times' official policy on corrections for its columnists, promulgated in March 2004 by Collins, states that columnists "are expected to correct every error. Anyone who refused to fulfill this critical obligation would not be a columnist for The New York Times very long." Furthermore, Collins states that
On the face of it, "public editor" Calame would seem to agree. In an entry in his web journal on September 2, shortly before Krugman's admission appeared on the Times' web site, Calame called Krugman's original August 19 statement about the recount a "sweeping assertion" and a "sloppy generalization." Calame says he "urged" Krugman and Collins "to run a formal correction to clear up the whole tangle," and that "I think the value to readers of having corrections appended promptly to articles" is "quite significant."
Now ten days has gone by, and -- nothing. Look at the Times' archives' version of the August 19 column that started it all (you can view the abstract at no charge). You'll see the original correction still there -- still falsely claiming that the Herald consortium found Gore the winner under two out of three methods.
At press time, Collins has not responded to my requests for comment on these matters. And Calame told me only that "I intend to deal with them in the ways that I believe will best benefit the readers of The Times." That Orwellian locution would appear to mean he will do absolutely nothing -- and doesn't wish to be bothered while he's doing it.
And so Krugman and the editorial page of the Times continue to run wild, building a rotten mountain of lies about the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, exploiting a tragedy to further their own Angry Left agenda.
For example, in his column Friday, Krugman claimed that FEMA "had become a highly professional organization during the Clinton years, but under Mr. Bush it reverted to its former status as a 'turkey farm,' a source of patronage jobs." And in his column today, he said it "earned universal praise during the Clinton years." Huh? As Investors Business Daily pointed out,
And in his column before that, Krugman claimed that "federal officials had access to resources that could have made all the difference, but were never mobilized." His example? The U.S.S. Bataan. Huh? As the Q&O blog pointed out, a September 1 bulletin from the U.S. Navy proves that Bataan was "flying medical-evacuation and search-and-rescue missions in Louisiana" as early as the morning of August 31. Pretty fast mobilization, and certainly better than "never." Especially considering that, as the Neuro-Conservative blog points out, just three days before -- on Sunday, August 28 -- the risks were generally thought, in fact, to be so remote that the word "Katrina" appeared only once in the New York Times (and that in an "NFL Roundup" from the Associated Press wire).
Perhaps those of us with more moderate views than those of the Times shouldn't worry. What credibility can the Times hope to have about the politics of Hurricane Katrina or anything else when it doesn't have the integrity to run an official correction of a falsehood that no one -- including Paul Krugman -- even disagrees about anymore?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:37 AM | link
Sunday, September 11, 2005MUST BE ANOTHER "MICHAEL KINSLEY" All the L. A. Times had to do was to fire Michael Kinsley, and what do you know -- he suddenly becomes capable of writing a sensible column.
Of course, my job isn't to predict and prepare for disasters. My job is to recriminate when they occur. It's not easy. These days the recriminations business is overrun with amateurs, who are squatting on all the high ground. The fetid aroma of hindsight is everywhere.Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:33 PM | link
EU ROTA SIGNS OFF An excellent blogging compatriate accepts a job that doesn't permit pajama-clad self-publication. The blogosphere's great loss. Best wishes to EU Rota, on the other side.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:13 PM | link