September 10, 2003

The Krugman "Truth" Squad

Ah. Tim Russert was asking Paul Krugman about National Review's "Paul Krugman Truth Squad." And Paul answered that he was actually impressed by how little of their mud managed to stick. This is true: given teh propensity of false mud to stick, it is remarkable how little has.

But that's not what impresses me the most. What's always impressed me the most about National Review's Krugman Truth Squad is how low they had to go, how hard they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel, in order to find anybody to do their mudslinging task. For example...

Ah. Here it is. Thanks to Sadly, No!, which points to a piece by Donald Luskin.

Here Luskin can't make up his mind: Is it more important for Luskin to suck up to David Brooks and agree with him that 'Bush Lied' ("Brooks['s]... overriding theme is a version of the familiar 'Bush Lied'... [but] I find the administration's communication style just as infuriating as [Brooks] does")? Or is it more important for Luskin to excoriate Brooks for betraying the right-wing cause by saying 'Bush Lied' on the New York Times editorial page ("it's just a cleverly disguised way of putting out the same old party line: Bushies are crooks")?

Luskin can't make his mind. So he tries to do both: to say that he agrees with Luskin that the Bush Administration routinely lies about its policies, but also to say that it is a betrayal of the right-wing cause for Brooks to say so.

Unfortunately for Luskin, it seems not to have crossed his mind that you cannot do both at once--and that only a true idiot would even try. Agreeing with David Brooks that "Bushies are liars" forecloses your options. It then makes no sense to turn around to say that a conservative writing for the New York Times should not say that "Bushies are liars."

The only message Luskin manages to convey with his attempt to simultaneously suck up to and excoriate David Brooks is that he cannot pass the Turing Test: he cannot maintain a coherent train of thought--not even from the beginning to the end of a paragraph.

Posted by DeLong at September 10, 2003 12:18 PM | TrackBack

Comments

wittgenstein's response to the classical greek liar's paradox was to the effect that, yes, one can go back and forth on that forever, but so what?- i.e. no one would actually ever say that, there is simply never any pragmatic context in which it would arise. fortunately for wittgenstein, he has been dead for a long time now.

Posted by: john c. halasz on September 10, 2003 06:06 PM

What ever little respect I had for Donald Luskin after he crashed and burned at thestreet.com is now gone.

At his self titled website, Poorandstupid.com (no, really), Luskin proposes a "debate strategy" for those who disagree with Princeton Economist Paul Krugman. He lists all the stops on the Krugman book tour, and proposes a different pie to use as "Debate" at each stop. (Monday Sept. 8: NY, 8 PM, talk at the 92nd St. Y - Boston Cream; Saturday Sept. 13: Del Mar, CA, The Bookworks: 4-6 PM -- Banana Cream; Wed Sept. 17: DC, World Bank Info Shop, 12-1 PM - Chocolate Satin, etc.)

The only basis for this outlandish behavior (at least to my mind) is to generate some buzz and whore out some books. So like the Shrill Blond Harpy before him, I am denuding this "author" of his name.

In the future, whenever I make reference to this pathetic blowhard, I shall substitute instead this new nomenclature: "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager."

The "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager" is surprisingly prolific. Given his abysmal track record as a fund manager, I cannot imagine why anyone would buy his book. Incidentally, the site "Poor & Stupid" claims to be the weblog of the book, but I cannot seem to find the book at either Amazon or B&N. (If anyone finds this new book by this Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager, I'd appreciate a pointer. (If anyone finds this new book by this Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager, I'd appreciate a pointer).

All that I could find was a book the Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager edited on (get this) Portfolio Insurance in 1987. For those of you too young to recall, Portfolio Insurance was widely viewed as a major contributing factor to the '87 crash (along with the Treasury Secretary's comments about the Dollar over the weekend).

Ironically, Portfolio Insurance turned out to be a terribly unsuccesful tool used tp protect portfolios. Makes sense that a book ont he subject would be eidtied by a Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager.

Please do us all a favor, and stop mentioning these publicity seeking media whores by name . . . It gives them a tingle in their naughty places . . .

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 10, 2003 07:24 PM

What ever little respect I had for Donald Luskin after he crashed and burned at thestreet.com is now gone.

At his self titled website, Poorandstupid.com (no, really), Luskin proposes a "debate strategy" for those who disagree with Princeton Economist Paul Krugman. He lists all the stops on the Krugman book tour, and proposes a different pie to use as "Debate" at each stop. (Monday Sept. 8: NY, 8 PM, talk at the 92nd St. Y - Boston Cream; Saturday Sept. 13: Del Mar, CA, The Bookworks: 4-6 PM -- Banana Cream; Wed Sept. 17: DC, World Bank Info Shop, 12-1 PM - Chocolate Satin, etc.)

The only basis for this outlandish behavior (at least to my mind) is to generate some buzz and whore out his book, which as far as I can tell is self publisehd. So like the Shrill Blond Harpy before him, I suggest we denude this "author" of his name.

In the future, whenever I make reference to this pathetic blowhard, I shall substitute instead this new nomenclature: "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager."

The "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager" is surprisingly prolific. Given his abysmal track record as a fund manager, I cannot imagine why anyone would buy his book. Incidentally, the site "Poor & Stupid" claims to be the weblog of the book, but I cannot seem to find the book at either Amazon or B&N. (If anyone finds this new book by this Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager, I'd appreciate a pointer. (If anyone finds this new book by this Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager, I'd appreciate a pointer).

All that I could find was a book the Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager edited on (get this) Portfolio Insurance in 1987. For those of you too young to recall, Portfolio Insurance was widely viewed as a major contributing factor to the '87 crash (along with the Treasury Secretary's comments about the Dollar over the weekend).

Ironically, Portfolio Insurance turned out to be a terribly unsuccesful tool used tp protect portfolios. Makes sense that a book ont he subject would be edited by a Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager.

Please do us all a favor, and stop mentioning these publicity seeking media whores by name . . . It gives them a tingle in their naughty places . . .

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 10, 2003 07:27 PM

Isn't the Turing Test simply a test to see if a human can tell if they're talking to a human or a machine doing an excellent imitation of a human?

If so, Luskin passes. His muddled thinking makes him human.

Posted by: Adam Morgan on September 10, 2003 07:28 PM

here's a little background into the "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Managers" economics and investing prowess:


The IPO & New Era fund, launched Sept. 11, 2000, is down more than 56% since its inception

ClosedFund: Seeking Buyer, MetaMarkets Shuts Down Funds
By Ian McDonald, Senior Writer
8/2/01 12:26 PM ET

The first funds to open their portfolios to investors shut their doors Thursday, proving once more that economics trump ethics in the investing game.

The $9.9 million OpenFund and its sibling $1.1 million IPO & New Era fund, both hit hard by the Nasdaq Composite's 45% plunge over the past year, closed Thursday. The aggressive and tech-heavy growth funds, run by a team of managers at San Francisco-based MetaMarkets.com , will liquidate their positions and return shareholders' money, according to a posting on the firm's Web site. Co-founder Don Luskin said the firm was "basically done" selling its holdings by midday Thursday. MetaMarkets.com also hired investment bank Allen & Co. to seek a buyer for the firm.

The OpenFund, launched on Aug. 31, 1999, amid tech-sector froth, rang up an 89% gain in its first quarter, according to Chicago fund tracker Morningstar. But the mercurial sector buckled, and the fund lost more than half its value over the past year. The IPO & New Era fund, launched Sept. 11, 2000, is down more than 56% since its inception. Still, the OpenFund's 7% loss since its inception isn't as bad as the Nasdaq Composite's 25% fall over the same period.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 10, 2003 07:31 PM

You don't need to tell me that Luskin is nuttier than a $25 fruitcake:

(1) During the brouhaha earlier this year in which, while trying to smear Krugman in NRO, he totally misquoted what the CEA's report actually said, I squeezed the confession out of him by E-mail that he hadn't actually bothered to read the report before writing his piece.

(2) When I asked why he copnfidently announced at the same time that Krugman was "mentally ill", he informed me that "through my substantial degree of knowledge of emotional quirks", he was confident that Krugman's political views stemmed from the fact that he's short. Look out, Freud!

(3) It was at about that time that he attacked you, my dear Prof. DeLong, for "looking like a nerd".

(4) Any man who actually brags on his website that he's a college dropout is a dead givewaway on that grounds alone.

And this is what NRO prints as an economic columnist. Well, it IS run by Lucianne Goldberg's son -- and Luskin is not one bit nuttier than a lot of the people published in the print version of NR over the decades.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 10, 2003 10:55 PM

Best line I've read so far on Luskin comes from the "veryveryhappy" blog: "I paid less attention to girls I wanted to have sex with than Luskin pays to Krugman."

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on September 11, 2003 09:00 AM

Thanks so very much at this fair and balanced review of Luskin's latest pathetic rant. I saw the Russert interview and then I read the Luskin account that was so laughable, I could not write a coherent response. You did!

Posted by: Hal McClure on September 11, 2003 11:06 AM

Thanks so very much at this fair and balanced review of Luskin's latest pathetic rant. I saw the Russert interview and then I read the Luskin account that was so laughable, I could not write a coherent response. You did!

Posted by: Hal McClure on September 11, 2003 11:09 AM

"I paid less attention to girls I wanted to have sex with than Luskin pays to Krugman."

It's true. Luskin has a secret crush on Krugman. He's just playing hard to get.

Posted by: nameless on September 11, 2003 03:02 PM

But where are the Krugman-bashers today? Biding their time, I suppose, waiting for that all-important critical moment. The old moles may all be down in their holes, but we can be sure that we'll hear from them again.

Lest we forget: Army Secretary White. Texas Rangers. Krugman's name will go down in infamy, sort of like the Holocaust or Attila the Hun.

Posted by: zizka on September 11, 2003 04:59 PM

Ah, remember those outsized returns of Luskin's OpenFund? The concept was cool because you could actually watch the crash and burn of all those fiber optic gear stocks in real time. Near the end it was like watching the Challenger explode. "Go with throttle up..."

And then his famous tantrum on TheStreet.com. Now I hear Jim Cramer has made nice with Luskin. Of course Cramer in now a joke--shining Larry Kudlow's wingtips night after night.

Posted by: Karen Silkwood on September 13, 2003 05:38 PM

You know, Donald Luskin certainly doesn't owe me (or anyone else) an explanation for how he thinks, but I thought you might want to see how he responded to my direct question. All I did was ask him to explain himself, even a little bit. I thought I was being pretty nice.


-----Original Message-----
From: Judson, Ross
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2003 9:32 AM
To: don@trendmacro.com
Subject: numbers, numbers

You might want to subtract this particular one from your argument. With everyone on every side paraphrasing like crazy, and then calling the paraphrases lies, we all need to be very careful.


K: The Bushies are different. They just plain lie. They just plain say, "Here's our tax cut; it goes mostly to the working class." And then you actually take a look at the numbers and it's not subjective. You just say, "Oh, 42 percent of it goes to the top 1 percent of the population."


KTS: Let's just accept that 42% figure, whether or not it's right. What's important is that Krugman is lying when he claims that the Bush administration ever said anything to indicate that its tax cuts would go "mostly to the working class." Yes, the administration said that "every American who pays income taxes will get tax relief." Yes, the administration said that "the percentage reduction in income taxes is greatest for families with incomes under $50,000," and therefore higher-income taxpayers "will pay a larger share of the total income tax burden." And those statements are absolutely factual - as Krugman would say, "it's not subjective."

Bottom line is, the Administration stated that "92 million taxpayers will get an average tax cut of $1003". While mathematically true, you and I both know that is absolutely intended to convey that it will go mostly to the working class. Yes, people have to be smart enough to know the difference between a median and an average. Most people aren't. Most people are going to hear that and think their taxes are going to be $1000 lower. You also disparage the 42% figure. Come up with a better one and source it.

You'll find plenty of open-minded middle-grounders out there like me. Show up with the good stuff, and you'll convince us. If your entire column can be condensed to "he lies, and lies again" without anything backing it up....well, you'll find yourself with a loyal, diminishing constituency of yes-men.

Luskin's Response:
---------------------------
I guess we just differ in our assessment of that particular example.

If you think those statement by Bush are "just plain lies" then I don't know what I can do to convince you otherwise.

-=-=-=-=-
Donald L. Luskin
Chief Investment Officer
Trend Macrolytics

Posted by: Ross Judson on September 16, 2003 12:40 PM

You know, Donald Luskin certainly doesn't owe me (or anyone else) an explanation for how he thinks, but I thought you might want to see how he responded to my direct question. All I did was ask him to explain himself, even a little bit. I thought I was being pretty nice.


-----Original Message-----
From: Judson, Ross
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2003 9:32 AM
To: don@trendmacro.com
Subject: numbers, numbers

You might want to subtract this particular one from your argument. With everyone on every side paraphrasing like crazy, and then calling the paraphrases lies, we all need to be very careful.


K: The Bushies are different. They just plain lie. They just plain say, "Here's our tax cut; it goes mostly to the working class." And then you actually take a look at the numbers and it's not subjective. You just say, "Oh, 42 percent of it goes to the top 1 percent of the population."


KTS: Let's just accept that 42% figure, whether or not it's right. What's important is that Krugman is lying when he claims that the Bush administration ever said anything to indicate that its tax cuts would go "mostly to the working class." Yes, the administration said that "every American who pays income taxes will get tax relief." Yes, the administration said that "the percentage reduction in income taxes is greatest for families with incomes under $50,000," and therefore higher-income taxpayers "will pay a larger share of the total income tax burden." And those statements are absolutely factual - as Krugman would say, "it's not subjective."

Bottom line is, the Administration stated that "92 million taxpayers will get an average tax cut of $1003". While mathematically true, you and I both know that is absolutely intended to convey that it will go mostly to the working class. Yes, people have to be smart enough to know the difference between a median and an average. Most people aren't. Most people are going to hear that and think their taxes are going to be $1000 lower. You also disparage the 42% figure. Come up with a better one and source it.

You'll find plenty of open-minded middle-grounders out there like me. Show up with the good stuff, and you'll convince us. If your entire column can be condensed to "he lies, and lies again" without anything backing it up....well, you'll find yourself with a loyal, diminishing constituency of yes-men.

Luskin's Response:
---------------------------
I guess we just differ in our assessment of that particular example.

If you think those statement by Bush are "just plain lies" then I don't know what I can do to convince you otherwise.

-=-=-=-=-
Donald L. Luskin
Chief Investment Officer
Trend Macrolytics

Posted by: Ross Judson on September 16, 2003 01:03 PM

Hey, stupid sack of shit: you wouldn't know a Turing test if a cross-dressing TI-99/4A came in your mouth. Why don't you stick to your traditional role of maintaining Kruggy's anal hygiene with your mouth?

Posted by: Yur Kruggy's Lapdog on September 16, 2003 01:25 PM

Hey, stupid sack of shit: you wouldn't know a Turing test if a cross-dressing TI-99/4A came in your mouth. Why don't you stick to your traditional role of maintaining Kruggy's anal hygiene with your mouth?

Posted by: Yur Kruggy's Lapdog on September 16, 2003 01:29 PM

Hey, stupid sack of shit: you wouldn't know a Turing test if a cross-dressing TI-99/4A came in your mouth. Why don't you stick to your traditional role of maintaining Kruggy's anal hygiene with your mouth?

Posted by: Yur Kruggy's Lapdog on September 16, 2003 01:30 PM

Luskin is definitely obsessed with Krugman. But he is no less obsessed with Krugman than Krugman is obsessed with Bush. Do you think that Krugman's constant chant that Bush is lying, evil, and stupid is sometime type of mash note to the president. Don't you think that Krugman couldn't write intersting articles about a myriad of issues that did not involve attacking the President. Of course, he could. Perhaps unrequited love does not allow such things.

Posted by: Skip on September 17, 2003 12:00 AM
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