Krugman: "I didn't know."

Krugman: "I didn't know."

Krugman: "I didn't know."

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 5 2002 5:09 AM

Krugman: "I Didn't Know"

The NYT columnist grudgingly admits error -- to readers of his Web site, anyway.

Are all the Post editors on vacation? WaPo falls for a paradigmatic bogus interest-group poll story. In "Fighting Hunger Emerges As Nonpartisan Issue," Helen Rumbelow reports:

A poll of 1,000 likely voters found that 93 percent said "fighting the hunger problem" was important when deciding who to choose in House or Senate elections ....

Hmmm. If you were told there was "the hunger problem," wouldn't you think fighting it was important too? It's not as if voters spontaneously came up with "the hunger problem" when asked what was important. The Alliance to End Hunger, which commissioned the poll, wasn't about to take chances like that! Rather, "fighting the hunger problem" was included on a list of "a dozen leading issues" the poll respondents were fed, according to the group's Adobe Acrobat explanation. Who's going to say it's not important? ... In another shocking finding from the poll:

Almost three-quarters of likely voters (72.9 %) say the 6 million children around the world who die annually from hunger-related illness is a convincing argument to do more.


The rest say, "Screw 'em!" ...  Isn't the news here that an astonishing 27.1 percent say they don't think "the 6 million children around the world who die from hunger-related illness is a convincing argument to do more?" ... How could the pollsters have failed to stack the question more effectively? There's the scandal! ... P.S.:WaPo quotes Bill Knapp, identified as "a media strategist for the last three Democratic presidential campaigns," saying that hunger is a "sleeper issue." What the Post doesn't say is that Knapp was one of the three politicos hired by the Alliance to End Hunger  to conduct the poll. (In fact, WaPo suggests otherwise by identifying Republican Jim McLaughlin as the person "who conducted the poll." Then Knapp is quoted as if he were just a disinterested Democrat contacted by the Post.) ... Update: Eric Umansky of "Today's Papers" gagged on the WaPo story too, including the missing Knapp i.d. ... 3:40 A.M.

Rhinos, 1, Krugman, 0: Will Paul Krugman's next NYT column acknowledge the serious fact mistake in his July 16 column on George W. Bush's Texas Rangers investment? The mistake was pointed out in a letter to the NYT, dated 7/22 but printed last Friday. Krugman admitted the mistake yesterday, in weaselly best-defense-is-a-good-offense fashion, on his own Web site. But how many Times readers read Krugman's Web site? Don't NYT columnists print corrections of their errors in the same space where the errors were made?

Here are the sordid details (helpful boldface reader-aids added by kf):

Krugman originally wrote that 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?"


In their letter, Bush's Ranger partners Tom Bernstein and Roland Betts say:

"In 1989, when we bought the team, Mr. Bush became the co-general partner with Edward Rose. At that time, the two general partners were granted a 15 percent share (Mr. Bush received 10 percent and Mr. Rose, 5 percent) in the investment, after each investor got back his investment plus interest. This is a standard limited-partnership structure. At the time, Mr. Bush was a private citizen, not governor of Texas."

Krugman's defense? Ignorance:

"[Bernstein and Betts] assert something I didn't know: that he was granted a 12 percent share of the profits ...when the deal was initialized, rather than in 1998, when the franchise was sold."


Krugman then a) says he'd like to see the contract; b) suggests that such a contract was unusual; c) suggests that this "peculiarity" is "why we're only hearing about it now;"and d) argues that Bush's Rangers exploits still amount to "crony capitalism."

A few points;

1)  We're not "only hearing about it now." Here's a paragraph from an August 16, 1998 article in the Houston Chronicle:

Bush, who is considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, borrowed money to invest $ 606,000 in the Texas Rangers. Rangers President Tom Schieffer said that Bush earned a return of $ 2.7 million on that investment when the team was sold. The deal also included a bonus for Bush. Once the other owners' original investments were paid off with interest, Bush's ownership share jumped from 1.8 percent to 11.8 percent. Schieffer said that resulted in a bonus payment to Bush at the sale closing in June of $ 12.2 million. So Bush walked away with $ 14.9 million.


2) What's more, Krugman either knows or should know we're not "only hearing about it now" -- he's written that this very same Houston Chronicle article "should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the Bush administration."  He apparently didn't read it very carefully himself, however. Nor does he seem to have gone back and reread it, in light of the Bernstein/Betts letter, before assuming, on his Web site, that it didn't say (back in 1998) what it says (that Bush's extra 10 percent was part of the original deal).

3) On the issue of whether Bush's deal was "standard" or "peculiar," the required-reading Chronicle article notes:

Schieffer said that Bush, as one of two general partners of the team, got the bonus payment for having put together the original team of investors in 1989. "The person who puts the deal together always receives some sort of additional compensation," Schieffer said.

I don't know very much about business, but that sounds right to me. Also, doesn't the partner who is actually doing the managing work (as opposed to simply putting up money) get a bit of extra "sweat equity"? Dana Milbank's Washington Post piece on Bush's tenure as a Rangers' managing partner makes it clear he did a great deal of work, even if it wasn't work he would have gotten if his name wasn't Bush.


4) Wouldn't it be the honorable thing for Krugman to tell us where he got his apparently erroneous info? Was it just a misreading of the Houston Chronicle? A too-accurate reading of Harper's?

5) Krugman's surviving charge against Bush -- "crony capitalism" -- seems fair. But in his July 16 column (under the factual misapprehension he now grudgingly confesses) Krugman was clearly insinuating something more, namely that Bush's partners gave him $12 million that he hadn't earned and wasn't owed in order to curry favor with him because he was by then a "sitting governor." Krugman should be man enough to admit this innuendo was bogus.

P.S.: And how about Krugman's greasy non-climbdown climbdown  -- "Was any of this illegal? Probably not." Was Krugman bought by Enron? Probably not! ... Is Krugman getting so sloppy because he's churning out two columns a week, which is at least one too many? Probably! Which suggests the compelling hack's argument for why Krugman should answer Bernstein and Betts in the NYT: If he plays it right, he can milk a whole column out of it! ...  Update: Numerous business-like (and seemingly non-partisan) kf readers e-mail to say that it's indeed normal business practice to reward a general partner like Bush with an extra chunk of profits, in part because a general partner typically bears greater risk for losses. Samples:

"I currently own 15% of a company in which I've never invested a dime of my own money.  My equity stake in the company is/was based on my business contacts when the company started (it couldn't have got off the ground without them) and the revenue I've generated since the inception of the company (sweat)."

"[I]n addition to structuring both public and private partnerships, I have testified about them in arbitrations and state and federal courts).  ...The general partner is liable for all the financial obligations of the partnership beyond the stated obligations of the limited partners, so GWB assumed a position of some risk, especially if he could not get the property for the ballpark or get the park constructed on time and reasonably close to budget.  ... In almost all limited partnerships the general partner receives some sort of promotion, including, for example, acquisition and management fees, salaries and some sort of increased profit participation based on the partnership achieving state financial goals.  In this case, I believe that GWB's profit increased by 10%  upon the limited partners receiving their capital contributions back plus an agreed upon interest return.  In my experience, GWB's promotion was fair and clearly within standard industry terms."


OTOH: Krugman's posted reminiscences (here and here) of economist Rudi Dornbusch, who died recently, are full of illuminating inside-the-profession detail. I heard Dornbusch talk a few times on various Washington occasions -- he was a warm, smart and funny man. Now I know why he was also important. 1:30 A.M.


Today's press release:


August 2, 2001

ASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — Two former senior executives at WorldCom became the newest symbols today in the Bush administration's broadening effort to use prosecutions to fend off political problems.  ...

What's wrong with the above excerpt? That's right -- the Democratic National Committee would never be so cynically, crudely partisan. The text is actually from today's New York Times, the lede of a "news analysis" by Stephen Labaton.  ... Isn't Labaton right?--ed. Not really. If there's an epidemic of disease and a governor acts to stamp it out, is the first thing to be said that the governor is trying to "fend off political problems" that would occur if the epidemic were left to run rampant? The WorldCom execs were probably arrested because a) prosecutors think they're guilty; b) the administration wanted to send a signal to corporate executives; c) the administration wanted to send a signal to nervous investors; and d) the administration wanted to fend off political problems. You're not piercing to the core of the truth if you say say the prosecutions are "symbols" of only d). You're choosing the part of the truth that is the most anti-Bush.

I'm all for "news analysis" and opinion. Michael Kinsley argues  (explaining why he likes to watch Brit Hume's newscast even though it "brims" with a conservative bias Kinsley doesn't share) that the "freedom to be biased is also freedom to be intelligent. You get the news as filtered through an interesting mind." But at the NYT, the freedom to be biased is becoming the freedom to be uninteresting, to play easily to the converted -- as if the freedom itself were excitement enough.

The problem, in other words, isn't that the new NYT now features opinion journalism; the problem is it's bad, hack opinion journalism. If you had read Labaton's lede (or his entire article, for that matter) in the New Republic, you would have thought to yourself "Gee, the magazine's going downhill. Even the Nation's not this simplistic."  ... Example: Labaton asks, "[w]hy has Enron escaped charges by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission? " He quotes Democratic insinuations that Bush is protecting his buddies, and prosecutorial suggestions that the Enron case is "more complex." Well, is it more complex? A real opinion journalist would tell us. The NYT doesn't seem to think it has to (although you'd think an ace reporter on the beat would know the answer or could find it out). In the place of the traditional two opinions given by traditional journalists -- the Democratic side and the Republican side -- the Times simply gives us three opinions -- the Democratic side, the Republican side, and the reporter's side. It doesn't require its reporters to back up their "third opinion" with an argument, any more than it requires Tom Daschle to back up his opinion with an argument.  Labaton feels it's enough to share with us what he thinks, to assert as a truth his conclusion (that the WorldCom prosecutions are mainly a cynical political gambit by an administration in trouble) rather than to persuade us that his conclusion is the right one.  ... 11:00 A.M.


Zero-sum alert:

"Both parties will pay a steep price at the polls"

-- Sen. Zell Miller, on Congress' failure to pass a prescription drug benefit.

Note to Zell: Control of Congress is a zero-sum game. The prescription drug stalemate can't make both parties lose. It will almost certainly hurt Party A at least a bit more than Party B, and thus help Party B. ... P.S.: Party B sure looks like the Democrats to me. ... Backfill: Dan Kennedy  made the same criticism  of Miller's remarks at 11:00 A.M. Thursday morning. ... I really only read it just now. Honest. ... And I believe myself... ...6:00 P.M.

Great minds ...

"Overall, the Cheney story seems like a worthy fishing expedition that happened to come up empty—and yet still got Page One play."

-- Slate's "Today's Papers"

"Overall, this tale reads like a worthy fishing expedition that came up empty--and yet still got Page One play."

--'s "Short Cuts"

Slate's Eric Umansky, who writes "TP," sayhe doesn't and didn't read ("I'm a lefty, dammit!--plus, until google corrected me, I didn't know how to spell her name.") I believe him. Meanwhile,'sAmy Sheehan, who wrote that edition of "Short Cuts," emails to say she didn't read "TP" beforehand. ("I had Short Cuts done by midnight PDT last night----I read today's papers FINALLY just now after pulling an all nighter and WOW!") I believe her too! ... Sometimes this sort of thing just happens. (It's happened to me twice, that I know of.) ... What's more, they're both right! .... 6:00 P.M.

It's worse than I thought #2: The NYT story  on yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations hearing makes no mention of defector Khidhir Hamza , who warned that Iraq would have enough uranium to build three nuclear weapons by 2005. The Los Angeles Times, in contrast, made Hamza's scary testimony -- which appears, compared with earlier estimates, to have moved up the critical-mass date by a year -- the centerpiece of its coverage ("Scientist Warns of Iraq's Nuclear Gains").  ... It's common for different papers to emphasize different parts of a story. But for the NYT to basically ignoresomething important that happened yesterday is a bit bizarre (the LAT covers both parts of the story).Indeed, John Dao's NYT account reads as if it could have been written the day before the hearing started. The headline -- "Experts Warn of High Risk for American Invasion of Iraq" -- certainly fits with the theory (propounded by Andrew Sullivan and others) that the NYT is on an anti-war jag. The only expert Dao actually mentions is Anthony Cordesman, who indeed warned against underestimating the Iraqi. Anti-Hussein testimony is hinted at only in two vague paragraphs describing how "estimates ... ranged." Meanwhile, Dao makes blatant use of that hoary hack editorializing device, the "comes-at-a-time paragraph," as in:

The hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will continue on Thursday, are taking place at a time of growing concern in Congress that the administration is moving rapidly, and without public debate, toward a full-scale military assault on Iraq as part of its stated goal of "regime change" in Baghdad.

Dao's inadequate and selective coverage comes at a time of growing concern among Americans that the NYT is moving rapidly toward becoming a full-scale advocacy publication, all the while continuing to pretend otherwise and benefit from the reputation it earned in earlier days. ... Experts agree that regime change may ultimately be called for, although they differ as to the timetable. ... Attempts to reach out to the most logical leader of the opposition forces, Bill Keller, have so far proved unproductive. .. P.S.: WaPo ignored Hamza's testimony too, but it had an excuse, having quoted him in a long preview piece on Iraq's nuke capability the previous day . ...(Thanks to alert kf reader F.S.)  5:40 P.M.

It's worse than I thought #1:Slate's Eric Umansky reports  that the Cheney-story headline in the NYT's New York City Final Edition was


which is really sleazy, since it suggests that Cheney is being investigated for the Dresser merger by some official body (or at least by somebody other than the NYT itself) which doesn't appear from the story to be true. ... I don't necessarily blame this one on Howell Raines. Haven't you noticed that (starting well before Raines took over) Times front-page headlines often push the stories they're selling a little further (and further to the left) than is justified? 5:00 P.M.

Update: Jeff Gerth and Richard Stevenson's Drudge-hyped "questions"-raising front-page Cheney piece  has now been posted. It's written clearly enough -- which makes it easy to see that it's not even close to damning. No fire, no smoke to speak of -- not even the general perception of smoke that's sometimes generated by the very incomprehensibility of Gerth's prose. Cheney stands accused of presiding over a merger that went sour, after he left, because the firm he acquired, Dresser Industries, had more exposure to liability for asbestos than had been anticipated -- and a former subsidiary of Dresser's got new owners and hit Halliburton up for more money after Cheney had left Halliburton (a fairly crucial fact the NYT buries in graf 35 of 41). Gerth and Stevenson make some noise about whether Cheney's firm did adequate "due diligence," but at worst it looks like an ill-advised deal, not an illegal deal. ... Gerth and Stevenson also trumpet "previously undisclosed documents," which show that Dresser got a hint that more liability was in store a month before the merger. Unfortunately for the NYT, Cheney was head of Halliburton, not Dresser, and Halliburton claims it was "kept in the dark by Dresser," which would make it the victim in a corporate lily-gilding, not the victimizer. (Yes, yes, G & S postulate that Cheney was told privately about the letter by Dresser's CEO, but they have no evidence of that.)  ...  Isn't this the sort of busted Gerth effort that would normally run on an inside page, where it could be safely ignored (on the sound principle that any Jeff Gerth piece that actually delivered the goods would be on page 1)? The Raines regime is not only going off on moody anti-Republican jags, which isn't a sin in New York -- it's wasting our time, which is. ... P.S.: Nor do G & S make it clear why asbestos liability of $43.3 million a year would cause the stock of a company with $13 billion a year in annual revenue to plunge from $40 to $14. ... 12:10 A.M.


"Gerth Zeros in on Cheney," says Drudge, predicting a NYT front-pager tomorrow. Guess Cheney's safe! If it's like most Gerth stories, nobody will be able to understand it.... [Dangerous item. You might be the laughingstock of the blogosphere in three hours.--ed.  What doesn't crash my server makes me stronger!] 6:05 P.M.

Did you know that Roy Barnes, Democratic governor of Georgia, was planning to run for President in 2004? I didn't. But The Scrum  do! ... Why might Al Gore not be annoyed at Barnes? Because the more pygmy candidates to split the "give me a new face" vote the merrier for Gore -- that's one theory, anyway. ... Especially drawling candidates who might carve up the John Edwards constituency. ... 6:00 P.M.

If you were wondering whether a) there is a sudden epidemic of child abductions or b) it's just that "ratings-crazed newscasters from Baja to Bangor are seizing upon even non-mystifying crimes that would normally receive only local coverage," Michelle Cottle  has the answer. It's (b). ... 2:00 P.M.


From Here to the Regency: ABC News' The Note  uncovers where Al Gore was when (according to his office) a "prior commitment" prevented him from speaking at the Democratic Leadership Council's convention in NYC -- he was having lunch a few blocks away at the Regency Hotel.  The Note offers driving directions, and interprets the incident as an inadvertent slight to DLC head Al From. (Gore didn't have "the sense to get off the island of Manhattan.") But maybe it was an intentional slight to From, who a) has criticized Gore's populist strategy in the 2000 campaign, and b) is a Lieberman man -- and Lieberman's been making life a bit difficult for Gore lately. ... Even if it was an intentional dis, it's just as dumb. As the Note notes, were Gore to get the nomination (or face an opponent not named Lieberman in the primaries) he would want to have From on his side, no? ...[The Note requires registration, but it really does take only a few seconds and it's worth it.]. 2:30 P.M.

Model-activist Veronica Webb discovers the virtues of proven internal-combustion technology ... 9:45 A.M.


Quickie Nina B. Talking Points: Complete analysis of the latest anti-welfare reform effort  by the NYT's Nina Bernstein -- on the "rising share of children ... turning up in no-parent households" -- requires further study. But note that:

a) "No parent household" or "urban children living without a parent" makes you think these children are running around in empty houses without adult supervision, which they aren't. They're typically raised by their grandparents, which (as Wendell Primus notes) can be a good thing -- if, say, their mother is a crackhead whose problems were only smoked out when she was required to seek work. Bernstein's evidence that the kids in question are worse off is more or less nonexistent. (She says, "Children who do not live with their parents do significantly worse on average than those in single-parent homes" -- but that's a correlation you'd expect. Do these children do worse in these homes than in the presumably dysfunctional single-parent homes they've left behind?)

b) Even Bernstein admits the "no parent" trend is a smaller trend than the decline in the number of children living in single-parent households. (Bernstein would never give the pro-reform forces ammo by giving numbers on the increase in kids living in two-parent households. She does note one study concluding that among urban blacks "the share with an unmarried mother dropped to an average of 51 percent from 64 percent." That's a stunning positive trend, especially if, as Bernstein's wording suggests, it doesn't even count, in the decline, kids who are living with a mother who is now cohabiting with another adult whom she hasn't married).

c) Bernstein's billboarded assertion that the "no-parent" trend is "contributing to second thoughts among some of the most optimistic analysts" isn't really backed up by the rest of the story. She cites three "optimistic" analysts, all respectable people: 1) Wade Horn, who as Bush's point man on reform is obviously not having second thoughts about reform; 2) Gregory Acs of the Urban Institute, who (like Horn) simply says there's a good two-parent trend and a no-parent trend, which he doesn't even say is bad; 3) Wendell Primus, in whom it shouldn't be hard to spark second thoughts (since he's a veteran liberal advocate who famously quit his HHS job in protest over reform) but who nevertheless offers only carefully-hedged doubts -- the best Bernstein can do is say he has a "more nuanced view." If Bernstein, in her "billboard" paragraph, had said "more nuanced view," it would hold up. "Second thoughts" is the sort of loaded overstatement.editors often stick in to sell a story to the front page, or ambitious reporters stick in when trying to sell their editors, or agenda-driven reporters stick in to, well, advance their agenda.

There are liberalish, fault-finding reporters I've learned to trust (Tony Horwitz, for example, or Blaine Harden, or Kate Boo, or even Rachel Swarns, who wrote some disturbing anti-Giuliani pieces). Nina Bernstein isn't one of them -- she seems pretty much a pure attack animal. Even liberal welfare mavens distrust her. But I need to make some calls before deciding if she's stumbled on to a small, troubling trend in a positive overall picture -- or if there's even less to her story than that. ... Developing! ... Faster than kf: Reason's Ron Bailey reacts to Bernstein's rifle shot by describing that positive overall picture.  . ...8:20 P.M.

Bada Bing? The Scrum has what looks like a  genuine insidery post  on why it's significant that Liz Hurley's sperm donor, Steve Bing, is a leading contributor to Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards. Bing isn't a policy guy, it seems -- he just wants to hang with political celebrities:

 A donor like Bing gives money to whoever the people who he's trying to impress tell him to. In his case, Bing is listening to [Bill] Clinton and his man in SoCal, Ron Burkle ...

So if Bing is giving to Edwards it indicates that Clinton is steering money to Edwards. ... That seems to be what the mysterious Scrum means when it says "Steve Bing is the fluoride-18 in the PET-scan of the political money network." ... 6:30 P.M.

Dan Balz (and Joe Lieberman) blame the Democrats regression into paleolib populism on the Enron/accounting/ethics corporate scandals. Balz writes:

... the prospective presidential candidates are all trying to balance their appeals to the DLC wing of the party with their courtship of labor leaders, feminists, gays and others on the left.

Republicans say the Democrats are being pushed to the left by these forces. But it is more a shift in the economic climate -- the decline in the stock market, the exposure of corporate fraud and greed, the return of budget deficits -- that has created the sharper, more populist message.

Does this make any sense? For one thing, Bill Clinton's own vice president, Al Gore, couldn't hold the centrist line in the 2000 presidential campaign, years before the Enron collapse. Even in 2001, also before the corporate scandals, blind anti-Bush anger over Florida was pushing Democrats into immoderate positions. Are Democrats adding Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" provisions to the H______d Security Act because of Enron, or because unions want them? Are liberals currently chipping away at welfare reform --the latest Senate Finance bill is a disaster -- because of Enron, or because (contra Balz) they never, really, embraced the DLC/centrist pro-reform position, in part because of ideological hostility embodied in a whole institutional framework of anti-poverty foundations and lobbying groups?  I understand that there is nothing more important than Enron and the declining stock market, at least this week. But scandals are fleeting; the infrastructure of unions and foundations is semi-permanent. When it comes to explaining the persistence of paleoliberalism, it's the constituencies, stupid! Plus pent-up anger over Florida. ... 12:06 P.M.

Trustworthy Blogging Initiative II -- A Dialogue in the Blogosphere! Ten days ago, fellow blogger Eric Alterman wrote:

Mickey Kaus ... could hardly be more wrong to compare the [New York] Times' op-ed page treatment of Bush to the Wall Street Journal's hounding of Bill Clinton. Kaus wrote "But the New York Times seems no more embarrassable on the subject of Bush-bashing overkill than the Wall Street Journal ed-page was on the subject of Clinton-bashing overkill."  This is laughable, but significantly so. I have on a shelf in my office six published volumes, containing something like 3,000 pages of Journal editorials inspired by a failed $30,000 land deal. They contain all manner of scurrilous, deceitful and indefensible accusation against both Clintons for actions for which both were eventually cleared.

Good point! I didn't mean to say (nor do I think I actually said) that the WSJ wasn't more vicious in its Clinton-bashing than the NYT has been in its Bush-bashing. My point was only that the NYT is just as unembarrassed by its out-of-the-closet anti-Bushism, however strong or (relatively) moderate it might be. In other words, neither the NYT nor the WSJ seem to worry anymore whether their ed pages have "balance." (And the news pages of the NYT are now considerably more anti-Bush than the news pages of the WSJ were anti-Clinton -- the Clintophobes were on the WSJ editorial page.) ... Thanks to Eric for clearing up this nuance! ...

Meanwhile, my comrade-in-blog Brad DeLong has taken issue with my suggestion that the welfare reform of the mid-90s may have helped produce the sudden increase, between 1980 and 2000, in black women marrying white men:

Does Mickey Kaus really think that Wanda Dunn, 37 year-old African-American Stone Mountain web designer, would be on AFDC if not for the mid-1990s welfare reform?

Good point! Wanda Dunn was quoted in this this Atlanta Journal Constitution article  explaining why she wasn't going to let color dictate her dating habits. I wasn't saying (nor do I think I said!) that every black woman who dates white men is a potential welfare mother, or that welfare reform was the only factor producing the rise in miscegenation. But (a) the influence of welfare in the African-American community is more pervasive than you might think. According to Prof. Greg Duncan's analysis of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, for example, of black children born from 1967 through 1969, some 72 percent would spend at least a year on welfare by the time they reached age eighteeen. (The figure for non-blacks was 16 percent.). More than 40 percent of black children were on welfare for seven years or more. That means welfare isn't an inescapable trap -- obviously lots of  people go on it and off it and wind up in the middle class. But it means welfare is a bigger force in shaping black culture than DeLong seems to want to admit. Also (b) you don't have to be on welfare, or poor, or black to be influenced by the welfare-conditioned culture of the urban poor -- any more than you have to be poor or black to be influenced by the ghetto-based  ideas of NWA and other rappers whose music fills headphones in Scarsdale and Montecito. So just bcause Wanda Dunn is a Web designer doesn't mean she wasn't influenced by ideas (memes!) that welfare reform provoked among people who, unlike Wanda Dunn, are poor enough to be on public assistance. P.S. Duh!

Finally, my blogging colleague Diane E. says I "suck ... bigtime" because an item I wrote about a Paul Krugman column was "shockingly obtuse," and "misleading." Also that

If this is a defense of George Bush, then Kaus has his head so far up his own butt he can't figure out whose he is sucking.

Good point! I wasn't defending George Bush, just noting that Bush may be (a) guilty of effective land-grab string-pulling as head of the Texas Rangers owners' group, for which he was compensated with an extra $12 million (over and above his approximately $2.3 million formal share) by grateful, now-richer partners, or (b) he may have done nothing for the extra $12 million, in which case it was a highly-suspicious  "gift" to a man who was by that time a sitting governor. But Bush can't be guilty of both of these things at the same time. ...Note to fellow-blogger Diane: I've reread the Krugman passage and he's pretty clearly making exactly the suggestion I say he's making. P.S.: Same to you!

Thanks to everyone for their valuable feedback! 12:05 P.M. 



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]