Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ask the Man Who Knows One

A shaper, a slicer, a selective citer of numbers that is:

For a man who makes his living offering strong opinions, Paul Krugman seems peculiarly reluctant to grant the same privilege to others. And for a man who leads with his chin twice a week, he acts awfully surprised when someone takes a pop at it.

.... I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error. When he says he agreed “reluctantly” to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word “reluctantly”; I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism.

....he does himself and his cause no good when he heeds the roaring approval of his acolytes and dismisses his critics as ideologically motivated.) But I don’t want to engage in an extended debate any more than Prof. Krugman says he does. If he replies to this statement, as I imagine he will, I’ll let him have what he always insists on keeping for himself: the last word.

I hate to do this to a decent man like my successor, Barney Calame, but I’m hereby turning the Krugman beat over to him.

Not that Okrent produces particularly good examples, especially in light of the copious number out there, such as this from the good ol' days (July 16, 2002) before the Times had a Public Editor:

Mr. Bush, who put up 1.8 percent of the Rangers syndicate's original capital, was entitled to about $2.3 million from that sale. But his partners voluntarily gave up some of their share, and Mr. Bush received 12 percent of the proceeds — $14.9 million. So a group of businessmen, presumably with some interest in government decisions, gave a sitting governor a $12 million gift. Shouldn't that have raised a few eyebrows?

And, when George W. Bush's partners in that business transaction corrected the record in a letter to Krugman's paper, he produced a response that confirms that Okrent's opinion of Krugman's response to criticism is accurate:

A few people have asked me about that letter from Bush's former business associates, regarding the nature of his deal with the Texas Rangers syndicate. They assert something I didn't know: that he was granted a 12 percent share of the profits despite having put up only 2 percent of the money back in 1989, when the deal was initialized, rather than in 1998, when the franchise was sold. Assuming this is true - it would be nice to see the contract - does this make everything clean and above-board?

Actually, if anything it makes things worse. In fact, I suspect that the peculiarity of that contract, if it exists, is why we're only hearing about it now: had it been public knowledge at the time it would have raised a lot of questions.

In the last sentence above, there are three fallacious statements!

1. General Partnerships are common in purchasing professional sports franchises. It most certainly did exist (they wouldn't have been granted the right to purchase the Rangers by Major League Baseball if it didn't). Bush got more than his 'share' by the simple matter of being the Managing General Partner. I.e., The guy whose liability was not limited to his investment, unlike the other limited partners.

2. We weren't 'only hearing of it now [2002]', it had been written about in the Texas newspapers, as well as in the Washington Post in 2000.

3. It was public knowledge, and the voters of Arlington, Texas, with that knowledge, decided to build a new stadium for the team (which is regrettable, but the way the game is played).

Krugman then went on to claim this perfectly commonplace business transaction (common not only for pro sports, but in the oil and gas business) to be evidence of 'crony capitalism'.

For just the reason Okrent recognized. Krugman can't, acknowledge the possibility of error.

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