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Thursday, April 14, 2005

SOMETHING TELLS ME HE'S NOT KIDDING   From Editor & Publisher, on a panel discussion about media bias:
One laugh came after [leftist hack and Soros lackey Eric] Alterman criticized New York Times columnist John Tierney for a piece he wrote during last summer’s Republican National Convention in which he made fun of Upper West Side shoppers and questioned whether they had examined their consciences. "I took this seriously," Alterman said. "It is an attack on people like us. It is OK all of a sudden to malign West Side elitist liberals like me."

[Disgraced former Times managing editor Gerald] Boyd, quick to support Tierney, said: "Eric, you’ve really got to cut down on the caffeine. I don’t think it is the end of civilization."

Thanks to reader Jameson Campaigne for the quote.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:36 PM | link  

BETTER CALCULATIONS   The Democrats' Social Security calculator turned out to be a fraud. Now here's the real deal, from Heritage.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:03 AM | link  

WE ARE NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS   for Minister of Socialized Health Care. David Hogberg throws a small hat in the ring. Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:43 AM | link  

SECOND DRAFT OF ENRON HISTORY   Bob Musil, the Man Without Qualities, has been blogging a little more lately (we've missed him). There's an absolutely sensational post on the revisionist history of Enron -- rehabilitated by a New York Times reporter for his new book, no longer the criminal enterprise it was made out to be a couple years ago in the nation's "paper of record." Read the whole thing.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:48 AM | link  

TABARROK MARGINALIZES DELONG   Alex Tabarrok takes Brad DeLong down a few sizes (leaving a few to go), with a pointed refutation of DeLong's ill-informed critique of Hazlitt. Thanks to Perry Eidelbus for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:43 AM | link  

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

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Paul Krugman opened his July 2, 2004 New York Times column -- the one that claimed that Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" "performed an essential service -- by saying:
Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases.
Here's the truth, based on Nielsen numbers rather than Michael Moore's and the Democratic Party's press releases:
"[Fahrenheit 9/11] overperformed only in blue states, and even then only in the most urban parts of those blue states... It did very well in Canada. Fahrenheit 9/11 consistently overperformed in Canadian cities; without that boffo business, the film's gross would have been significantly smaller than it was. That's the upside of the story. The downside revealed by the Nielsen [movie sales] numbers is that Fahrenheit 9/11, far from being the runaway nationwide hit that [Michael] Moore claimed, underperformed in dozens of markets throughout red states and, most important -- as far as the presidential election was concerned -- swing states"...
From Byron York's fantastic new book, The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:56 AM | link  

PMA POST MORTEM   Remember the Policy Analysis Market -- the idea of trading futures contracts on terrorist events? It always sounded like a good idea to me, something that would take advantage of the "wisdom of crowds" to bring the whole world into the intelligence-gathering process. But no -- the media was too interested in discrediting the Bush administration, so the idea was mocked into oblivion within minutes of its advent. Now the economist behind the idea -- Robin Hanson -- has published a paper analyzing the media lynch mob that tarred and feathered his project. His conclusion? Self-serving perhaps, but I have no dounbt that it's right: that well-informed fact-based media favored PAM, while ill-informed and opinion-based media opposed it. Here it is in his words:
We look at the impression given of PAM by five hundred media articles, and how that impression varied with eleven indicators of article information quality: mentioning an insider with firsthand knowledge, time since the firestorm began, article length, a news versus an opinion style, author gender and identification, and the awards, circulation, frequency, and topic specialties of the periodical. All eleven indicators individually predict more favorable impressions of PAM. Eight of them are significant and substantial in a multiple regression model, which predicts that a nine hundred word news article in an award-winning widely-read science and business publication a month later that mentioned an insider would give a solidly favorable impression of PAM, as would a similar thirty-five hundred word article today in a general publication.
Reader Chris Masse -- who studies prediction markets -- notes the original research that Hanson did to determine the historical distribution of Pulitzer Prizes among various publications. Masse summarizes:
The top ten Pulitzer historical finalists are New York Times (140), Washington Post (92), Los Angeles Times (86), Philadelphia Inquirer (63), Wall Street Journal (53), Boston Globe (48), Chicago Tribune (47), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (26), Seattle Times (20), and Chicago Sun-Times (14).

The top ten National Magazine finalists are: New Yorker (150), Esquire (71), Newsweek (44), Time (39), Business Week (35), Fortune (17), US News & World Report (15), New Republic (15), Forbes (11), and tied for tenth, Wired and IEEE Spectrum (10).

The top three British Press finalists are the Times (49), Telegraph (37), and Guardian (37).

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:05 AM | link  

AND SPEAKING OF LAWN GNOMES...   ...reader Jill Olson provides this analysis of Paul Krugman's official position on the Social Security crisis.

Update... Reader James Neel wonders,

So is the gnome attempting to hide (badly) from the issue?

Or is the gnome signaling its willingness for the government to screw the gnome in an uncomfortable location?

I figure either applies to the Krugman position on Social Security.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:02 AM | link  

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Enter Paul Krugman, who every time you see him looks more and more like the Unabomber’s little brother...

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:54 PM | link  

THE SUN SHINES WITH FRIEDMAN   From an interview with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman in the Jackson (Tennessee) Sun:

Q: Do you believe that Social Security should be privatized, or no?

A: Yes, I believe that Social Security should be privatized. However there are also other things they can do with it.

Q: How do you believe the system should be fixed, and not just Social Security, but perhaps also Medicare, which seems to be a greater and more prevalent problem?

A: Well first of all, I don't believe there should be a Social Security system of our present kind. Our current Social Security system is a Ponzi which the young pay in to pay the current expenses of the old. It's also being misrepresented, as if it were a form of insurance, that when you pay Social Security taxes, you are paying money which is being put away for your own benefit. That is not the case. The money that you pay goes out immediately, either to pay pensions to current retirees or to pay other expenses of government. There are no real assets corresponding to it...

One of the interesting things is, everybody talks about the problems of Social Security as the fact that the number of workers are going up less rapidly than the number of retirees. Well if that's the problem, you would think it would also effect life insurance companies, and yet haven't heard any problems with the life insurance companies, have you?

The ideal situation would be that we abolish Social Security and let people save for their own retirement.

I think its disgraceful that, well, take the case that always seems to be the most extreme. You have a young man who has AIDS. He is seriously ill and dying at age 50 at the latest, and when he's 40, the government comes along and says we gotta take a sixth of your income and put it aside for your old age. How absurd can you be?

Social Security has become a kind of an icon, an untouchable, and yet it's basic premise is flawed.

Q: Knowing that it won't be abolished, how would you propose to save Social Security?

A: What I would do is link the benefits to the price index, not a wage index. I would do that the whole way down and not just with the upper incomes. That would solve a good part of the problem. I would raise the date of retirement, and I would go in for private accounts, but on a larger scale. I would allow workers to keep 6 percent of their taxes.

Q: If the federal government does move to private accounts, does the $3 trillion that President Bush says he would have to borrow to get that moving cause a greater stress on the American economy?

A: No, because we already have that obligation. What we are talking about is replacing an unfunded debt with funded debt. We already have an obligation to all the people like myself who are currently on Social Security. The difference is it is not written out as funded debt. So when you talk about borrowing, they are not really changing the total government debt, they are only changing how much they recognize, and what is open and above board and how much of it is hidden in other funding.

Thanks to reader Allen Prather for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:03 AM | link  

Monday, April 11, 2005

VIVA COMPETITION AND CHOICE!   A reader who prefers anonymity -- she's an MD PhD candidate at an Ivy League universiry -- writes in:
This particular line from Paul Krugman's column today struck me:
"In health care, competition and personal choice can and do lead to higher costs and lower quality."
The evidence is just the opposite. Take the pharmaceuticals market: competition between therapeutically equivalent products not only gives patients and docs choice among products (not all patients react the same to each drug, even if they are in the same class), but enables insurers to extract rebates from manufacturers-- which in theory are passed along to the insured as savings. This intense competition in a lucrative market also provides incentives to firms to invest in the R&D necessary for the next generation of drugs.

Personal choice is playing a more important role than ever with the rise of formularies and different tiers and co-pays-- when patients feel the burn, they make different choices. For example, substituting a less expensive generic statin for a brand name product. The penetration of generic pharmaceuticals in the US (over half of all prescriptions are for generic versions of brand name drugs) shows that a mixture of regulation (Hatch-Waxman Act, patent protection) and market forces can result in BOTH high quality AND lower costs.

There are many examples in health care of how competition and personal choice can lower costs and improve quality.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:37 PM | link  

OUR TROOPS SUPPORT!   A new paper from the Heritage Foundation concludes "that the tens of millions of U.S. troops deployed since 1950 have had a clear and positive impact in the countries where they have been welcome.

  • "The presence of U.S. troops boosts economic growth in host countries. There is a positive unconditional relationship between troop deployments and growth, based on data from 94 countries, and there is also a positive condi­tional relationship that factors in other explana­tory variables like war, political stability, and initial gross domestic product (GDP) levels. For example, a deployment of 500,000 U.S. troops to a host country spread over five decades (10,000 per year) is associated with an increase of 1 percent annual GDP growth per capita.
  • "The evidence rejects the hypothesis that the U.S. military is economically exploiting or harming nations where it is deployed...
  • "We theorize that the mechanisms driving the troops-growth relationship involve a 'security umbrella' effect and an 'innovation diffusion' effect. Therefore, we believe that troops provide stability and make investors more willing to invest in a given country. Furthermore, U.S. troops bring with them the relatively successful political and economic ideas of the United States—ideas that host countries often choose to adopt.
  • "Our models indicate that duration of U.S. troop deployments matters more for long-run economic growth than overall force strength. That is, in terms of economic growth, there are diminishing returns for every additional soldier deployed to a foreign country. In addition, the growth benefit of U.S. troop deployments grows stronger over time."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:52 PM | link  


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

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT THIS FREE SPEECH THING   Check it out... courtesy of reader Irwin Chusid.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:23 AM | link  

"MAY I STATE THE OBVIOUS?"   A letter from a reader who prefers anonymity, too good to leave on our letters page -- concerning Paul Krugman's column of April 5 (which I commented on here):
May I state the obvious: Most of America’s great universities began as religiously affiliated schools. Centuries later, as most of them dropped their official religious ties, our great colleges remained heavily populated by conservative faculty and students until the final days of Nixon and the SDS. Is Krugman saying that Duke was poor academically until some uncertain date in the late 1970’s or 1980’s? Harvard? Princeton? Columbia? Exactly when did they become excellent, in his view? We can guess it’s roughly the same time period when conservatives (including much of each school’s most supportive alumni) would say the decline began.

Is Yeshiva bad? Notre Dame? Baylor?

The big change leftward on college faculties was the after-blast of the wave of protests on campuses accusing the college administrators of those days of “supporting” the Vietnam War. It’s accelerated in recent decades as college leaders have forfeited control. So, sad to say, many great, once diverse universities are lost to the thought police.

With this attack on religion, Krugman has left classic liberalism. He is a bigot. Like all bigots, he doesn’t battle the ideas of others; instead he attacks them personally and, for what, believing in God?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:40 AM | link  

MORE FROM THE STERILE CUCKOO   Once again, Paul Krugman promises a something more than just carping. Following 700 words of just carping in today's New York Times column he concludes,

"Over the next few weeks I'll back up these assertions, and talk about what a workable health care reform might look like, if we can get ideology out of the way."

Of course, when he talks about "ideology" that has to be gotten "out of the way," he means any ideas or philosophies that disagree with his ideology. But no matter. Nothing from Krugman will be forthcoming on health care reform, just as nothing has ever come from Krugman's promise in his January 4 Times column to "suggest steps to strengthen the program."

Krugman is bereft of solutions. Only problems. He, like the Democratic Party he serves, is nothing but a sterile cuckoo.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:14 AM | link  

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:04 PM | link  


Reader Lawrence Bower sent me a copy of a letter he's sending to all Congressional Republicans. It works for me!

April 11, 2005

RE: Republican Failure to ACT

TO: All Republican Senators and Congressman

I represent an Extended Voting Age Family of over 20 adults. We are completely disgusted with the continuing Failure of “YOU” the Republican Congress to AGRESSIVELY move ahead on the issues for which you were elected last November.

You campaigned & promised to correct the Liberal Agenda, you are not Performing; and since you are not AGRESSIVELY pursuing the Conservative Agenda you do not deserve support.

I will Lobby all who listen to stop Contributing…..

Stop Whining & Posturing…… Do Something !!

Force the issue on the Judiciary, Immigration, Social Security – or you will be responsible for a major Conservative Collapse.
You have all of the tools….USE THEM !!

"If you do not Lead… you are destined to Follow."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:02 PM | link  

NIHILIST CRAP IN THE TIMES BOOK REVIEW    Enter the word "defecation" in the search box on the web site of the New York Times, and you will come up with 21 hits stretching all the way back to 1997. The most recent one is from today's Sunday Book Review, a review by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Kamp of Ruth Reichl's memoir of her years as the Times' food critic -- Garlic and Sapphires. Kamp, who "is at work on a book about the American food world, to be published next year," begins his review with a quotation that would make you think he's chosen the wrong subject:

"FOOD writers are generally a self-abasing lot, in thrall to master chefs they consider their creative betters and doubtful of the very validity of their profession -- a profession that 'alone among all human vocations,' the former Gourmet restaurant critic Jay Jacobs once wrote, 'culminates in ignoble defecation.'"

Kamp goes on to pooh-pooh (so to speak) not only the whole category of food writers, but in particular the zesty sense of life that Reich brings to Garlic and Sapphires and her previous book, Comfort Me With Apples. Kamp even dumps (as it were) on the expression on Reichl's face on the cover of the earlier book, describing it as showing "her mouth caught in an elastic, seemingly post-coital grin." Well, folks, here's the picture from the cover of that book. Is that "seemingly post-coital" to you? And does it matter?

Strangely, having expended the first long paragraph of the review in what Kamp probably regards as requisite post-modernist nihilisms, he goes on to speak very highly of Reichl and her book. But, apparently, just as the only way to get a conservatively slanted op-ed in the Times is to begin with a hundred words of "to be sure" Bush-bashing, so in the Book Review one must speak well of the life-affirming only after 100 words to remind the reader that life is death, and that joy is shit.

Update... Turns out that Kamp is a stalker. At least if I am, then he is.

Update 2... We're big Reichl fans around my house, by the way. She's currently editor of Gourmet magazine, and has just compiled The Gourmet Cookbook -- from our personally inscribed copy of which I've made dozens of fantastic dishes. I very highly recommend it. Really. Best cookbook ever. And I personal guarantee that, if you follow the recipes therein, all your defecations will be noble.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:49 PM | link