All the High School That's Fit to Print
May 31, 2005 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Paul Krugman and Daniel Okrent get into a pissing match. In his final column as New York Times ombudsman, Okrent stated that Krugman, the New York Times columnist, "has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults." The paper gave the two of them some webspace to discuss the matter. The result is catty and entertaining, but the tone is certainly more vicious than I'd expected. They really don't seem to like each other very much.
posted by Tin Man (70 comments total)

 
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posted by ajpresto at 9:47 AM on May 31, 2005


It seems as though the NYT has made good on it's promise to start charging for Op-Ed content. . .
posted by Danf at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2005


Nevermind.. fixed.
posted by ajpresto at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2005


Down again. Too bad. Sounded interesting.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 10:26 AM on May 31, 2005


is mathowie consulting for the NYT now?
posted by quonsar at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2005


Orkent:
"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."

Heh.
posted by LarryC at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2005


LarryC's quote seems to sum up Okrent's position in this little spat. A completely ad hominem attack which he then has the nerve to conclude with the words "substantive criticism". Can anyone see any substantive criticism in that pair of sentences? It appears he's spent his time on the job seething with resentment and decided to vent a little spleen on the way out the door.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:40 AM on May 31, 2005


Pissing match? Between pundits? Surely, you jest!

There's no difference between old media op-ed nitwits and the partisan, bitchy, childish sniping between diametrically opposed poliblogs like DailyKos and LGF; just a mistaken perception that, because only an "elite" few are allowed access to the former, that old media are somehow more credible.

And in this discourse Tin Man brought us, we have the discussion degenerating into ad hominem attacks and other general wankery. Frankly, this is why many can't stand reading this crap anymore - there's more vitriol than rational discussion.

Whatever happened to rationalism and rational discourse? Ugh.
posted by Floach at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2005


Okrent made personal attacks on Krugman and whined while Krugman tried to address the facts.

Round one - Krugman [what? did anyone expect okrent could handle himself?]
posted by nofundy at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2005


Okrent's final column seems pretty cowardly and lame to me. Why didn't he tackle these substantive issues any sooner? Because Krugman was too mean and intimidating? C'mon!

Reminds me of a concert I attended years ago where a heckler yelled "YOU SUCK!" at the band and then ran out to door before anyone could punch him.
posted by Sully6 at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2005


To summarize:

Krugman began by suggested that Okrent may have made specific accounting errors in his analysis of the data used in Krugman's columns.

Okrent responded by stating that Krugman's face in some ways resembles a cunt.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 10:54 AM on May 31, 2005


Why didn't he tackle these substantive issues any sooner?

His answer: as LarryC misquotes (or rather, selectively omits): "This was the first he heard from me on these specific issues partly because 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."

That's his excuse for not bringing any of this up earlier, face-to-face. The man's a coward.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2005


Okrent's final column seems pretty cowardly and lame to me.

Me too, and I was disappointed; I'd thought he was a good ombudsman, making an effort to be fair to all sides, and to see him taking a parting shot without any evidence at one of the paper's better columnists was a jolt.
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on May 31, 2005


Hey George, my quote was a cut and paste--it couldn't be a misquote. I don't have a dog in this fight, just enjoying the spectacle.
posted by LarryC at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2005


Krugman went off the deep end some time after September 11, 2001. He's a master of selective truths.

Does anyone know where Okrent will be working next?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2005


to see him taking a parting shot without any evidence at one of the paper's better columnists was a jolt.

Better on a relative scale, anyway. Has Maureen Dowd weighed in on Okrent's criticism of her reporting accuracy yet?
posted by nyterrant at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2005


> It seems as though the NYT has made good on it's
> promise to start charging for Op-Ed content.

You can get at the original column via the Week in Review though
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:30 AM on May 31, 2005


Yep, 9/11 changed everything peepee. [cough]
posted by nofundy at 11:36 AM on May 31, 2005


ParisParamus:
Krugman went off the deep end some time after September 11, 2001.

Was that unintended irony, or some form of zen koan?
posted by iron chef morimoto at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2005


Floach: I respectfully disagree and would add, 'your momma wears combat boots.' Thanks.
posted by esquire at 11:46 AM on May 31, 2005


iron chef morimoto, where's the irony? The guy hates George Bush with a passion. He thinks Bush has run the economy into the toilet (even though, by most objective measures, it's doing well-very well), and thinks the War on Terrorism is a complete failure. Where's the irony?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:48 AM on May 31, 2005


He's a master of selective truths.

Paris: do you have an spesific examples? No?

Then please, shut the fuck up.
posted by delmoi at 12:08 PM on May 31, 2005


He thinks Bush has run the economy into the toilet (even though, by most objective measures, it's doing well-very well)

Remember you said this, Paris. Because I'm bookmarking it for future reference when someone needs an illustrative example of "prideful incompetence."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2005


and the fish are flappin away on the end of peepee's line agin.
posted by quonsar at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2005


Luskin on Krugman.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:44 PM on May 31, 2005


*fapfapfap*
posted by anthill at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2005


ah, please don't call him peepee
posted by foodeater at 1:49 PM on May 31, 2005


ParisParamus: Krugman went off the deep end some time after September 11, 2001. He's a master of selective truths.

iron chef morimoto: Was that unintended irony, or some form of zen koan?

ParisParamus: He thinks Bush has run the economy into the toilet (even though, by most objective measures, it's doing well-very well), and thinks the War on Terrorism is a complete failure. Where's the irony?

Iraq war costs: $173,471,000,000 and counting. Terrurists everywhere they weren't before and OBL still in his favorite cave.

Now, that's irony.
posted by a_day_late at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2005


The quote that explains everything.

But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data.

Journalism at its finest. And this is, of course, the former ombudsman of the "liberal" New York Times.

Fuck him, and fuck the NYT.

It's also obvious as hell that his "files" are the inbox on his email. I'm amazed at the way he presents arguments in such a way that it is very clear that he doesn't understand them -- he's just reading the script.
posted by eriko at 2:07 PM on May 31, 2005


Examples of Iraq War "by most objective measures, it's doing well-very well" . . .
posted by mk1gti at 2:18 PM on May 31, 2005


But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data.

Oh, this must be about David Brooks. And Judith Miller.

eriko, how does this quote make you mad? He doesn't really believe columnists are "entitled to enage in unfair [blah...and] misleading [bleah]"! Clearly this is irony. (Now, why he lets himself use such irony in a sentence that's supposed to explain why he laid off criticizing Krugman for so long makes no rhetorical sense at all. I think this was off the cuff writing and he switched from defensive mode to snark mode too quickly to notice he missed the turn.)
posted by nobody at 2:45 PM on May 31, 2005


ParisParamus writes "Does anyone know where Okrent will be working next?"

Apparently he'd be a shoo-in at Fox News or the Post...
posted by clevershark at 3:10 PM on May 31, 2005


What? No terrorists before 9/11? That's incredibly laughable. Moreover, there still has been no terrorism in the US since. Now, that could be an argument that US policies have been effective. Or, it could be proof that the whole terrorism thing was exaggerated. But I'm not willing to risk it was the latter.

Krugman is just a more articulate version of the typical Metafilter contributor: hopelessly pathologically liberal; and holding the Left and the Democrats to a much lower standard of perfection than the Right.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:17 PM on May 31, 2005


Do you know how many car bombs go off in Iraq every day (on average)? 3.

That's some fucking success.
posted by clevershark at 3:24 PM on May 31, 2005


For bringing us Rotisserie League Baseball, Okrent wins in a landslide. Anything else is moot, really.
posted by pivo at 3:27 PM on May 31, 2005


to see him taking a parting shot without any evidence at one of the paper's better columnists was a jolt.

To be fair, he also criticized Maureen Dowd and William Safire in the same paragraph. The reason he did so, without backing evidence, was a)limited space and b) to make a joke about how columnists swipe at people without backing evidence.

Really this is a matter of liberals bickering with liberals. No wonder we can't win anything.
posted by fungible at 3:33 PM on May 31, 2005


Do you know how many more people were being murdered, tortured, raped, etc before the war? Already there's a net gain of LIFE. It's just that now you can see the carnage, whereas before it was hidden. To say nothing of the reductions, on a smaller scale, in death, torture, rape, etc. engendered by the Iraq war in other countries: in Syria and Lebanon--that regime is now dieing, too.

I'm not blind to what's going on right now; you should not be blind to what went on, and what would have continued to go on under Saddam (and his European and Russian cronies) indefinitely.

Moreover, it's morally problematic, if not depraved to attribute suicide bombers to US intervention.

Moreover, the pool of suicide bombers, etc., will attrition itself sometime in the next 1-2 years. At which point Iraq can go forward into some kind of sane future..

And remember: the only difference between those who, from the outset, opposed the War, and those who supported it, was courage and cowardess. And corruption. Krugman is a fink in that regard.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:35 PM on May 31, 2005


Krugman is just a more articulate version of the typical Metafilter contributor: hopelessly pathologically liberal

That's hilarious. And a complete untruth from someone who's just hopelessly pathological. We are talking about the same Paul Krugman who was a bête noire of the anti-globalist left throughout the 1990s, yes?

There's a double-standard here, deliberately confusing amplitude with frequency on the political spectrum: vocal centrists like Krugman are treated as if they're the equivalent of bomb-throwers like Ann Coulter, as part of a well-executed con-trick by the right-wing message machine.
posted by holgate at 3:37 PM on May 31, 2005


Okrent is a tool, and the Times is better off without him. He had an attitude from the start, and was never interested in fairly listening to reader complaints and suggestions from anyone. He still isn't listening to Krugman, as that back and forth showed--sad.
posted by amberglow at 3:37 PM on May 31, 2005


Moreover, the pool of suicide bombers, etc., will attrition itself sometime in the next 1-2 years.
Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"
PP takes the Okrent route of flinging fact-free slogans like cowpats.
posted by holgate at 3:42 PM on May 31, 2005


Moreover, the pool of suicide bombers, etc., will attrition itself sometime in the next 1-2 years. At which point Iraq can go forward into some kind of sane future..

Excellent point. There really are only so many people willing to go out and blow themselves up for a political cause. I'm probably one of the only people here old enough to remember a dispute between the, um, was it the Israelis and, oooh, what were the ones with the suicide bomber belts called again? Anyway...ancient history. As for me, I'm planning my summer 2007 vacations in beautiful downtown Baghdad, when every Iraqi will be smiling fondly at their foreign liberators - ParisParamus, I'll see you by the pool!
posted by senor biggles at 3:49 PM on May 31, 2005


senor, that's not really fair. Although, actually, if there's a lesson from Israel, it's that killing the right people--that evil Sheik-in=a=wheelchair; various leaders, etc--can make a difference. Unless you view Arabs and Muslims constitutionally incapable of living under a regime other than death-oriented tyranny. Is that your take on things?

Remember, if the statistic I heard is true, 40,000 people die each year on US roads. Death is horrible. But just because the deaths in Iraq are more visible now doesn't mean they weren't horrible before.

Another thing, which related to Krugman and his cowardly minions: either the suicides in Iraq now are being carried out by non-Iraqis, a situation which can be brought under control, or they're being carried out by Iraqis; the same Iraqis that ran the place under Saddam. And if it's the latter, there's no reason to believe these people weren't killing behind government doors under Saddam.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:58 PM on May 31, 2005


I agree with ParisParamus.
posted by gigawhat? at 3:58 PM on May 31, 2005


And remember: the only difference between those who, from the outset, opposed the War, and those who supported it, was courage and cowardess.

So, which branch of the service did you join, PP?
posted by RakDaddy at 4:21 PM on May 31, 2005


Yeah Paris, put up by joining the military or shut the hell up
posted by mk1gti at 4:30 PM on May 31, 2005


...or they're being carried out by Iraqis; the same Iraqis that ran the place under Saddam. And if it's the latter, there's no reason to believe these people weren't killing behind government doors under Saddam.

Funny how you left out the hundreds of thousands who have been bombed by us, seen their children killed by us, been detained by us or had a member of the family detained or abused or killed by us, or can't feed their families because of us...
posted by amberglow at 4:30 PM on May 31, 2005


PP writes:

What? No terrorists before 9/11? That's incredibly laughable. Moreover, there still has been no terrorism in the US since.

I hear this argument all the time -- it baffles me how selective your memories are.

There have been tons of tiny incidents, but primarily there was the anthrax attack, the first real bioterrorism incident in the United States. The government clearly had no interest in investigating it and it conveniently fell off the radar of all the media as well.

Generally, serious terrorist acts in the US are about five years apart -- two in one year is unheard-of. In general, there were more terrorist attacks around the world in 2004 than any year before it.

Your buddy Bush is doing very badly.

And remember: the only difference between those who, from the outset, opposed the War, and those who supported it, was courage and cowardess. And corruption. Krugman is a fink in that regard.

We're in agreement here that those who supported the war from the start are cowards -- and I'd particularly include the chicken hawks Bush and Chaney.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:40 PM on May 31, 2005


Wow, PP, you pulled both Holgate and RakDaddy out from the woodwork. You Still Got It!

Point?

Okrent: Krugman fudged facts kthxbye!
Krugman: First off, that's a cheap shot, and second, those errors aren't errors and here are the facts and figures why.
Okrent: You're such a dick!!! kthxbye!

"And you wonder why this country is turning into Dogpatch!"
posted by solistrato at 4:53 PM on May 31, 2005


Okrent: Krugman fudged facts kthxbye!
Krugman: First off, that's a cheap shot, and second, those errors aren't errors and here are the facts and figures why.
Okrent: You're such a dick!!! kthxbye!


this whole sorry mess in a nutshell. chapeau, that was spot-on

Moreover, the pool of suicide bombers, etc., will attrition itself sometime in the next 1-2 years

yeah, but you also said that the war was going to pay for itself in lower oil prices, PeePee.
unfortunately, painful facts indicate that, if anything, there are more suicide bombers in "Liberated Iraq" now than there were in '03 and '04 -- it's a growing phenomenon. Iraqis are enjoying a little 9/11 of senseless terrorist deaths every month or so, after Bush's Liberation. the occupation -- and those Abu Ghraib funny souvenir photos -- are apparently doing wonders for suicide-bomber recruitment (that's one of the reasons why declaring a "crusade" against 1.3 billion people was a pretty big fucking mistake -- not that hard to recruit a few thousand suicidal murderous assholes in a pool that large).

so many men and women are literally, ahem, dying to blow themselves up somewhere these days, FallujaParamus -- just pray Allah that "somewhere" remains "somewhere in Iraq" and not "somewhere in Brooklyn" or "somewhere in Indiana". because one suspects that, if buses and cars were blowing up in your your neighborhood every day, you'd be a little less flippant about Bush's "triumph".

______

hi Nick!
posted by matteo at 5:13 PM on May 31, 2005


Let's be careful with our language now.

We no longer refer to something that will "blow up" or "explode" -- that sort of bluntness in descriptive writing has been considered gauche even before speaking French became declasse'.

This morning the President described these terrorists as people who have been "trained to disassemble" (of course he screwed up by the time he'd finished the sentence, saying the word means not telling the truth -- but he had a moment of precise language there.

The behavior formerly known as "exploding" is properly referred to as "disassembly" -- sometimes "prompt disassembly" -- see Google, search on the latter phrase for plenty of examples from the history of fission power, lithium-ion phone batteries and other, um, powerful assemblies.
posted by hank at 5:26 PM on May 31, 2005


Interesting that the bill to goto war passed with bipartisan support. Interesting that all the viable democratic candidates for president were interested in keeping troops in Iraq even after the "mission was accomplished". Interesting that Democrats continue to support the war by passing additional funding bills, instead of fillibustering the shit out of them and making this debacle an issue.

But let's continue to conveniently blame Bush for everything. Clearly it's all his fault.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:04 PM on May 31, 2005


Clearly you can't refuse to fund the troops who are in harm's way. Clearly people wanted to believe the president--only an insane/horribly sick/evil person would lie about everything leading up to a WAR, right?
Clearly many on both sides still believe that now that we started something we should see it thru.
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on May 31, 2005


Cute amberglow, but rather idiotic. This country has every opportunity in the world to withdraw troops at any time; Democrats have every opportunity to draw this country into a national debate, now that all the facts are plainly evident. Yet here we are, YEARS later, and despite overwhelming evidence to suggest this war to be a sham, Democrats are more than happy signing their names to additional months, if not years more, in Iraq. The public is ambivalent, the politicians are tacitly approving this illegitimacy, and you're seriously blaming this all on Bush?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:15 PM on May 31, 2005


I agree with SeizeTheDay. The powers that be (which includes most Democrats and most Republicans) support war, and supprt The War... because many people believe that the end result will be positive for the US. You can't get around this by pointing to a couple of anti-war Democrats. For the most part, they all support or do not oppose the war, as do a majority of Americans. Bush may be at the front of the train, but he is not driving the train.
posted by chaz at 6:25 PM on May 31, 2005




well, I clearly hadn't read the papers the day after Harry Reid had given orders to invade no matter what (I thought that was Bush), the day after John Edwards as head of the CPA (I thought that was Bremer, but never mind) ordered to disband the Iraqi army, and I also missed the news when John Kerry gave orders to torture every Abu Ghraib prisoner just for the hell of it. because those very important facts had escaped me until now, seizetheday.
I'll be the last man on earth to defend what is at this point essentially a Tory party, but allow me a quick laugh when I hear someone trying to pin this disaster on the powerless, scared into submission Democrats (the other side owns the White House, Congress, the SCOTUS and if you disagree with them you're a terrorist, as Vice President Cheney explained during the 2004 campaign). lame as they are, embracing Nader's platform wouldn't help them much.

and if the Democrats are responsible for this Iraqi disaster, well, then I blame Bob Dole for that DNA stain on Monica Lewinsky's dress.
posted by matteo at 6:34 PM on May 31, 2005


"New York Times Finds Its Watchdog Has a Strong Bite", Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2004, A1.

Some editors complain Mr. Okrent's questions are a nuisance, and also complain when he doesn't seek them out for comment.

One reporter encouraged colleagues to ask confrontational questions in a meeting between Mr. Okrent and business-section reporters. "Sometimes you have to treat others like the Russians -- you have to demonstrate strength," says the reporter, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

"I'm just waiting for him to screw up," Mr. Okrent retorts in an interview. He hastens to say the comment was a joke and that he will avoid tackling any issue concerning Mr. Johnston.

posted by mlis at 6:39 PM on May 31, 2005


"I'm just waiting for him to screw up," Mr. Okrent retorts in an interview. He hastens to say the comment was a joke and that he will avoid tackling any issue concerning Mr. Johnston.
That pretty much sums up his whole tenure at the NYT. A veiled threat, then a promise not to criticize him at all. Very passive-aggressive.
posted by amberglow at 6:43 PM on May 31, 2005


Yeah. Okrent also seemed to enjoy making the rounds (giving interviews, being a guest "On the Media" etc.) during his tenure. I guess the ad hominem on Krugman et al. will help sell his book, though (Just waiting to see when his memoir is coming out out).
posted by mlis at 7:56 PM on May 31, 2005




40,000 people die each year on US roads

*sigh*

Number of cars in America: 204 million (surprisingly, only 191 million drivers). 191 million drivers, taking an average of two trips a day (to and from work) * 365 days in a year, and there are 40,000 fatalities. That's 139430000000 / 40,000 = 2.8 x 10^-7

Versus

Population of Iraq: 26 million. 3 car bombs a day * 365 = 1095 car bombs a year. Let's say a couple of people die in each explosion. 2200 / 26 million = 8.4 x 10^-5. Two orders of magnitude more likely to die in Iraq from a car bomb.

While this is all apples and oranges, Paris, you're the one who made the comparison, so I felt it only fair to give you some actual numbers. Personally, I'd rather take my chances on America's roads.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 PM on May 31, 2005


what always struck me about okrent was his arrogance -- he seems to be projecting about krugman's tendency toward never being wrong.

i assumed the first person in such a job at the nyt would go out of his way to be humble when it came to reader issues, yet okrent was consistently dismissive, condescending, and flat-out full of himself.

so now i'm all "kthxbye," okrent. you'll not be missed (by me).
posted by Hat Maui at 8:34 PM on May 31, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "Two orders of magnitude more likely to die in Iraq from a car bomb."

"While this is all apples and oranges, Paris, you're the one who made the comparison, so I felt it only fair to give you some actual numbers. Personally, I'd rather take my chances on America's roads."



ParisParamusPwnd!
posted by orthogonality at 9:32 PM on May 31, 2005


Oh. So you're concluding that it's 2x as dangerous to be in Iraq as it is to be in Indiana? FWIW, I'll sign on to that. Actually, it's much more dangeous to be in Iraq. But the alternative is having it never improve--a coward's preference.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:19 PM on June 1, 2005


What arrogance? The guy was hired to critique the newspapers and its big heads. He's been great at it.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:23 PM on June 1, 2005


Oh, this whole time that I was eagerly awaiting PP's reply I had thought orthogonality's "ParisParamusPwnd!" was in response to Armitage's comment-history gravedigging:
[ParisParamus wrote:] "If WMDs are not found in Iraq, and in large quantity (or at least objective evidence that they were destroyed), then, in terms of American politics, the war was a sham, and the President should be indicted."
Does this get a response? And how should I pronounce "Pwnd" in polite conversation?
posted by nobody at 1:34 PM on June 1, 2005




2x as dangerous to be in Iraq as it is to be in Indiana?

Obviously, math is not your strong suit.

10x2 = 20.

10^2 = 100.

In this case, it's two orders of magnitude, not twice as dangerous. That's a hell of a big difference.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:29 PM on June 1, 2005


Oh, and...

And how should I pronounce "Pwnd" in polite conversation?

I like Poned. As in, you were poned. I rocksored.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2005


Does anyone know where Okrent will be working next?

Enter the Groundskeeper
posted by mrgrimm at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2005


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