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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is there no decent press at all ?

I have long comforted myself with the thought that at least McClatchy seeks the truth and reports it without Ballance of favor. Now I wonder.

Richard Serrano wrote

"Fast and Furious, which allowed about 2,500 illegal gun sales in Arizona with the hope that agents would track the weapons to Mexican drug cartels,"

He also wrote

"the investigators said, ATF agents said that they were hamstrung by federal prosecutors in Arizona from obtaining criminal charges for illegal gun sales, and that Melson 'even offered to travel to Phoenix to write the indictments himself. ...'"

It is impossible to justify the use of the verb "allowed" given the uncontested fact that the ATF was prevented by the US attorney's office from seizing guns.

I comment

the claim " Fast and Furious ... allowed about 2,500 illegal gun sales in Arizona with the hope that agents would track the weapons to Mexican drug cartels," is contested. In particular, ATF agents assert that the gun sales were allowed because the US attorney's office gave legal advice that they couldn't be prevented and *not* because of any hope of tracking the weapons. The Fast and Furious AFT team blames the US attorney's office. The last I heard on the debate was the Katherine Eban article in Fortune.

Eban is clearly making a case for the head of the Fast and Furious team, but I know of no specific pushback. It is true that your wording "with the hope" is ambiguous (clearly very carefully phrased). You don't assert that the gun sales were allowed *because* of the hope. However, I don't think you have successfully dodged the issue. The verb "allowed" implies that the sales could have been prevented. Based on Eban's article, I am convinced that legal advice from the US attorney's office made it impossible for the ATF to prevent the sales. I think the claim that the ATF a"allowed" the sales is false and damaging to the ATF agents.

I am sure you have read the Eban article and I think you show reckless disregard for the evidence presented in it. Of course I don't have standing to sue you (and Republican Congressional Investigators can libel as much as they like given the speach and debate clause).

On a less important matter, Franco Ordonez decided that a claim about Fox must be Ballanced by a claim about MSNBC in spite of the fact that the data under discussion are absolutely totally completely asymetric.

We really don't need yet another news organization which considers Ballance more important than data.

Kiss My Ass ... Show Some Respect

Mitt Romney's traveling press secretary Rick Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

On Dean Baker on Tax Resentment

Dean Baker writes

The segment also included the bizarre claim that there is widespread resentment against low and moderate income people who do not pay income taxes. It would be interesting if it presented evidence that supported this view.

I note in comments that there is very clear and strong evidence on the question which shows that the view is nonsense.

There is and there has been overwhelmingly strong evidence on whether there is widespread resentment of the low taxes paid by low income people. For 20 years Gallup has been asking if the respondent, middle class people, high income people, corporations and low income people are paying their fair share of taxes, less than their fair share or more than their fair share.

In every poll a solid majority responded that high income people and corporations pay less than their fair share. In the latest poll only 21% said that low income people pay less than their fair share while 40% said that low income people pay more than their fair share.
(go to "View methodology, full question results, and trend data" and get a pdf to see how long Wessel has been wrong.

21% is a very low fraction of the population. There are few issues where such a small fraction agrees with the Republican party line (google 27% crazification factor).

Monday, July 30, 2012

What is the Heart of New Keynesian Economics.

I knew I shouldn't read this post by Simon Wren-Lewis but I did. I also refer to this post.

I comment.

I fear I disagree. I haven't read Keynesian Economics and The Economics of Keynes, so I should just be silent. But I think that Leijonhufvud is a new Keynesian in the same way Prescott is. Nominal rigidities are important to New Keynesian analysis and Prescott absolutely rejects the idea that they are relevant to the study of the economy. Rational intertemporal maximization by a representative agent is central to new Keynesian analysis (recall you called it the heart of modern macro) and Leijonhufvud (in seminars and over dinner) absolutely rejects the idea that it is relevant to the study of the economy.

There is more than one approach to understanding how the real interest rate is wrong. New Keynesian analysis dismisses irrational bubbles (its "heart" is rational intertemporal utility maximization).

I think your logic is that Leijonhufvud clearly disagrees with Prescott so he must agree with you. This does not follow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Filipino Atoms

A link to this blog. I don't read Tagalog so it might be marveling at what an idiot this Waldmann guy is.

protest Chick-Fil-A!/search/Dude-Fil-A

welcome Kossacks. I am proud to be the 33rd person to tweet the Dude-Fil-A joke.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bain Gain

Why argue about when Romney left Bain Capital ? I think this is a legitimate topic for many reasons, but the main one is that Romney's demonstrable lies show us something important about his character. I have long guessed that Romney's campaign is vastly less honest than any Nixon campaign based on lies about policy proposals, Romney's flip flopping, and about what Obama has done. But the Bain lies are getting attention.

Basically this time Romney's claims are contradicted by official documents signed by Romney and by Romney's sworn testimony. This doesn't happen often. It is very newsworthy.

On other topics. Leave Glenn Kessler alone. He is clearly upset over massive criticism (much of it in his e-mail inbox I'm sure). He isn't dealing with the issue rationally. A few days of quiet might be what he needs.

Finally Brad DeLong had a dream -- he dreamed that the Washington Post had turned into David Corn.

High Latitude

I admit that I am a sitemeter junky. I need the confirmation that people read this blog. I just got a link from Thoma's blog and from Thoma and DeLong on twitter, so I am happy.

In particular, I think I have a new record for latitude. Someone visted this blog from
Canada Yellowknife, Northwest Territories !

On the map it seems to me that Yellowknife is in the Northmost extreme of nowhere. I didn't know that anyone lived up there. There was also a reader from Finland, but from a part of Finland far to the South of Yellowknife.

I am flattered that my scribblings were sent by the internet into the I guess not frozen in July North.

contra Krugman II.1

"Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back", but they can't be trusted to remember the necessary conditions for the academic's theorems.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Contra Krugman II

I generally agree with Paul Krugman, so it is exiting that I am outraged by something he wrote (I've calmed down now).

Paul Krugman says that scratchpads are useful. They are sloppy easy models which are not taken seriously. Or maybe which shouldn't be taken seriously, but it's not a big problem that many powerful people take them literally. I lose my temper.

Short version: If an economist alone in the woods keeps the limitations of a scratchpad in mind while a tree falls does it make policy sound ?

For the actual post click this link.

"Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back", but they can't be trusted to remember the necessary conditions for the academic's theorems.

Typo adventure

I just miss typed as something else by leaving one letter out. I got a warning from Avast that this other site was trying to send malware to my computer. Wow. The malware is a new level of naughty. Typo sites with advertising are very common (as are .com sites when the site people want is .gov as in the porn site which used to squat at and the parody site which used to be at -- the US government seems to have evicted them).

OK I typed www dot blgger dot com. Don't try this at home kids. Never count on a virus checker.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Is Romney a Felon ?

David Corn makes a very strong case.

He filed his most recent one last month, and the disclosure contains a very clearly stated footnote:

Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake [Olympics] Organizing Committee. Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.

HIs signature is in a document filed with the SEC after February 11, 1999. Even if he signed without reading, he was involved with the operations of a Bain entity in that way. The statement is false. Technically this is an offence punishable by up to a year in prison and therefore a felony.

" a false statement on a federal financial disclosure form ... is a felony punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $50,000 fine."

More Bain

I think a good strategy is just to follow David Corn.

Below I denounce Jonathan Chait for saying that the Obama campaign incorrectly claimed that Romney personally managed Bain when it outsourced and offshored. Chait is incorrect as is shown by the June 21 Washington Post article to which I linked.

I found that with one Google search. Since then, I have lost my temper with Washington Week in Review. Their ground rule appears to be that if it is more than a week old, it doesn't exist. They rebroadcast a Romney ad claiming there was no evidence that Romney was involved with outsourcing. The Washington Post (in particular Glenn Kessler) was cited again and again. The article noting that Bain invested in off shoring firms in the mid 90s is evidently nullified by the Week in Review statute of limitations.

Oddly, I wasn't looking for that I article. I was looking for this July 11 article by Corn (which doesn't add all that much).

On April 17, 1998, Brookside Capital Partners Fund, a Bain Capital affiliate, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission noting that it had acquired 6.13 percent of Hong Kong-based Global-Tech Appliances, which manufactured household appliances in a production facility in the industrial city of Dongguan, China.


At the time Romney was acquiring shares in Global-Tech, the firm publicly acknowledged that its strategy was to profit from prominent US companies outsourcing production abroad. On September 4, 1998, Global-Tech issued a press release announcing it was postponing completion of a $30 million expansion of its Dongguan facility because Sunbeam, a prominent American consumer products company and a major client of Global-Tech, was cutting back on outsourcing as part of an overall consolidation. But John C.K. Sham, Global-Tech's president and CEO, said, "Although it appears that customers such as Sunbeam are not outsourcing their manufacturing as quickly as we had anticipated, we still believe that the long-term trend toward outsourcing will continue."

In 1998 Bain invested in a firm whose business plan was based on off-shoring. Even if Romney was a do nothing CEO and President at Bain from 1999 through 2002, he undeniably invested in off shoring before then. This is not contested. It has been ignored.

I think a large part of the problem is that the Romney campaign lies in so many different ways that it is hard to keep track. The non managing CEO line is not the most striking lie they told this week on the very narrow topic.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chait steps in it

Jonathan Chait argues both that the debate about Romney and Bain is idiotic and he participates in it. His contribution is definitely idiotic if he is right that the debate is stupid. It is also idiotic if it isn't stupid, because he ignored what is true and what is false when writing about what is true and what is false. The problem is that he assumes that the Romney campaign told at most one lie and not an irrelevant lie to distract attention from publicly reported facts.

I lose it in comments.

I note that you equate "not proven" with false. Even if you are right that the Obama campaign can't prove all of its claims beyond all doubt doesn't mean that you should say their claims are false.

Notably, you argue that the debate about when Romney stopped managing Bain is a "nonsense argument" and then vigorously participate in that argument writing "Bain Capital did those things after Romney stopped running the company."

No. You can claim that the topic is pointless nonsense or you can make a definite claim, but not both. You don't like the Obama campaigns approach -- pointless and false both feel bad, but you should be able to distinguish your feelings from your assessment of objective fact.

Also your claim of fact is unquestionably false. The reason is that, well before 1999, Bain invested in firms which offshored.

I quote from the un-retracted Washington Post story

"Bain’s foray into outsourcing began in 1993 when the private equity firm took a stake in Corporate Software Inc., or CSI, after helping to finance a $93 million buyout of the firm. CSI, which catered to technology companies like Microsoft, provided a range of services including outsourcing of customer support. Initially, CSI employed U.S. workers to provide these services but by the mid-1990s was setting up call centers outside the country.

Two years after Bain invested in the firm, CSI merged with another enterprise to form a new company called Stream International Inc. Stream immediately became active in the growing field of overseas calls centers. Bain was initially a minority shareholder in Stream and was active in running the company, providing “general executive and management services,” according to SEC filings."

How do you reconcile these facts publicly reported in a not so obscure newspaper withh your claim that " "Bain Capital did those things after Romney stopped running the company." ? I ask for information and will interpret a failure to respond as a confession that this post is totally incorrect.

Look decide if you think a debate is pointless or if you are going to jump into it. Otherwise you make a fool of yourself as you did with this post.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Like Glenn Kessler

And I wonder when he will admit that he was wrong and Obama was right.

My comment

I like you and I have appreciated this column. As a supporter I urge you to admit that you were wrong before you destroy your career. This is supposed to be a fact checking column. I quote from the column "seems". You just can't base a column on that word. You are supposed to tell us what is true not what "seems" true.

You are totally utterly wrong. Romney is listed in official SEC documents not only as a shareholder but as Chief EXECUTIVE officer. That is a managerial position. I quote from TPM (which you really should check before writing anything for your sake)

"Romney said he left any managerial role at Bain Capital behind in February 1999, delegating all voting shares of stock to 26 managing directors and leaving day-to-day operations to focus on running the Olympics. But subsequent SEC filings list him as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.” A 2001 SEC filing first reported by TPM lists his “principal occupation” as “Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc.” and the Boston Globe reviewed additional filings containing similar claims."

Either the Obama campaigns claim which you false are correct or Romney filed a false claim with the SEC.

The Boston Globe did add a bit to TPM and Corn at The Nation
"a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney's state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain "executive" in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings. Romney listed at least $100,000 in pay for services from Bain in 2000 and 2001 in a Massachusetts disclosure form. "

That is not capital income. That is payment for managing. Again either you are wrong or he is guilty of a false official claim.

But enough about Romney. We need to talk about Kessler. You wrote "We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, " Why why why did you write this public column (or post I don't know) before completing that consideration ? Why did you consider not taking another look at it in spite of new information but not consider refraining from writing about it without taking another look at it ?

It is not possible to be omniscient. No one's beliefs always correspond to reality. But people who care about facts have to understand this and be willing to admit that new information contradicts their old beliefs.

Wonder When the Boston Glob will Claim this as a Scoop ?

The Romney campaign told TPM that his initial departure in 1999 was a quickly enacted leave of absence to run the Olympics and the company only officially transferred his voting stock to Bain’s managing directors in August 2001.

For context further up in the same post

Romney said he left any managerial role at Bain Capital behind in February 1999, delegating all voting shares of stock to 26 managing directors and leaving day-to-day operations to focus on running the Olympics.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Ballance in the Washington Post Again

This is part of a series.

As usual, I think the latest is the all time winner. The concept of Ballance is that reporting and commentary must reach balanced conclusions no matter what the facts are. It is named after former representative Jack Ballance (see google search above).

I knew it would not be good for my blood pressure to read Could a truly honest politician become president? by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, so I avoided it but was brought back by DemFromCt's one word answer "No."

I have read only the first page and I will read no more. I note that in the all time winning example of the pundit's fallacy Jamieson answers her question "yes" in spite of providing massive evidence that the answer is no (with a possible exception for someone who couldn't lie, knowingly speak a falsehood, because he didn't know anything.

But that's not my beat. The number one example of Ballance is accusing Barack Obama of dishonesty, because he accurately summarized an article in The Washington Post.

" The Obama campaign misused a recent Washington Post article to label Romney as an “outsourcer in chief.”"

Yes the Post blew it and actually reported unballanced facts about which candidate outsourced more. So they must make up for this by complaining that Obama took their remarks out of context. This is pathetic. A disagreement about whether a summary is fair or not is a sign that someone is being dishonest. Anyone with any grasp of ethics at all would understand that a Washington Post columnist can't be a fair referee of a debate between the Post and Obama. Anyone who is not determined to be ballanced has to note that the Romney campaign said the Post confused outsoursing and offshoring because they wrote about outsourcing. I note and stress that this blatantly fallacious argument from the Romney campaign is not noted with the complaint about Obama added for Ballance. Rather Jaemieson notes nothing wrong with the Romney campaigns response to the Post's article. She can't as then her first page would be unballanced. Therefore she has to argue that whatever the Obama campaign allegedly did is incomparably worse than introducing a word "offshoring" and saying that the Post is wrong because if a word in their article was replaced with that different word, then it would be false. This is like claiming that if one says "Romney is dishonest" one is wrong because one has said "Rommey is honest" and confused "dishonest" and "honest." But that outrage against language truth an logic can't be criticized *at all] because it would ruin the ballance.

Jamieson's utter inability to honestly address honesty is proven above. One rule (not just at the Post) is that you can't say it's bad without saying it's bad and getting worse. So she must not only present the case that Romney's dishonesty dwarfs Obama's, but also argue that Obama is less honest than earlier Democratic candidates. So he is dishonest for quoting the Washington Post while Kennedy is honest

"John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 treated their rivals’ positions and records fairly, forthrightly forecast their governing approaches and hewed to the facts. With the exception of the Democratic attack on the alleged missile gap, which Kennedy may have believed existed, neither the 1960 Democratic nominee nor his Republican counterpart, Richard M. Nixon, distorted his or his opponent’s plans."

OK so the fact that Kennedy "may" have believed his fals claims means he is fair and honest. The standard for Obama is no one claims to have been taken out of context. The standard for Kennedy is there is no proof beyond reasonable doubt. With utter total contempt for the data, Jamieson has decided (I guess as a methodological a priori) that both sides are roughly equally at fault and that things have gotten worse. So she must say that a false claim of fact on a hugely important issue which "may have" been an honest mistake is honest, while an arguable summary of an article is much much worse.

Note also the tricky Dicky exception to Ballance. When discussing the fact Jamieson says Nixon's 1960 campaign was basically honest, but somehow he doesn't make the list of honest candidates along with Mondale, Kennedy and Reagan.

Just before clicking over here, I begged the internets to compare the honesty of statements made by Romney and Nixon. I am quite sure that candidate Romney has lied vastly vastly more than candidate Nixon did (of course President Nixon lied about whether he was a crook -- but I think his campaign was much more honest than Kennedy 1960 (for whom of course I would have voted) Reagan ever or Obama 2008 (he claimed that he thought no individual mandate was needed).

Now I don't want an honest candidate. For me true honesty in a Democratic hopeful true honesty (like Mondale's, McGovern's or Carter's) is a deal breaker. I am not Kant and I think it is sometimes morally right to lie. But all the same, Jamieson's total contempt for the facts appalls me.

Saturday, July 07, 2012