“Stupidest Man Alive” Idol

Hello! And welcome to SMAI: Stupidest Man Alive Idol. Here’s how it works: our contestants perform for you, the audience. And then you, the audience, judge them and you can be as unfair as you like in your comments. Our contestants today are Donald Luskin and Tim Blair. Luskin goes first, with Brad DeLong providing the commentry:

A correspondent asks me if it isn’t time to surf on over again to Donald Luskin’s “Poor and Stupid” website, find some egregious offense against intelligent thought, and lay down another marker saying that Luskin is indeed the Stupidest Man Alive™, just in case there’s somebody out on the internet searching for information on Luskin who doesn’t already know.

Sigh. OK. It’s painful, though… Here’s the very first item

The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid : HMMM… Our friend John Grauel says:

You consider that there have been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000.

The rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000(1). That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation’s Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington D.C.

If Donald Luskin were not the Stupidest Man Alive™, he would know that the DC figure of 80.6 is an annual figure, while the 60 figure is a monthly figure. 2112 deaths divided by 160,000 soldiers divided by 22/12 years gives an annual death rate of not 60 per 100,000 but 720 per 100,000.

But what is a factor of twelve to the Stupidest Man Alive™?

(1) Note: This “80.6” itself appears to be about twice as large as the real number. But why am I not surprised?

Not bad, not bad. But let Tim Blair show you what an Aussie can do:

It’s a quagmire in California::

Recently released crime statistics show the homicide rate in California is 265 percent higher than the death rate suffered by U.S. and British military personnel in Iraq.

Let’s see, in 2004 there were 2,394 homicides in California and the coalition suffered 905 military fatalities in Iraq. Now 2394 is 165% (not 265%) more than 905, but 2.394 is the number of homicides, not the homicide rate. California has 230 times as many people as the number of coalition troops in Iraq so Blair’s comparison is out by a factor of 230. The homicide rate in California was 6.5 per 100,000 population, while 905 deaths amongst 160,000 coalition troops is a death rate of 565.6, which is a little bit more than 6.5.

Now you, the audience, get to judge. Who is the winner today?

Update: In a late move, Luskin has deleted his post. Contest management has ruled that you should consider this part of his performance.


  1. #1 Webster Hubble Telescope
    December 3, 2005

    “Tim Blair” is an anagram for “Brit Hume”.

    … give or take 200%

  2. #2 ben
    December 3, 2005

    Er, well, if Luskin is that stupid without a PhD, then why isn’t Krugman up for the award. He’s supposed to be smart, what with his ivory adorned credentials ‘n all, and yet he’s pretty damn stupid. Easily arguably sufficiently more stupid than Luskin to qualify. No?

  3. #3 ben
    December 3, 2005

    easily arguably sufficiently…

    I ought to trademark that.

  4. #4 Pinko Punko
    December 3, 2005

    Yeah, cuz if someone as stupid as Luskin thinks Krugman is stupid, well, I’d put a lot of weight into that.

  5. #5 Paul Crowley
    December 3, 2005

    I’d have to vote for Blair there. Luskin made the sort of thinko anyone can make, and withdrew it when he realized he’d made a thinko. It makes him look pretty stupid (and let’s face it, the sheer implausibility of what he was trying to claim should have alerted him to his error) but nonetheless the error doesn’t necessarily leap out at you when you read it.

    But not correcting for population size? That’s just dim, heart-stoppingly dim.

    I don’t know why someone in the comments is trying to propose a write-in third entry without quoting evidence of equally staggering statistical hamfistedness.

  6. #6 rightwinglunatic
    December 3, 2005

    Hey Tim
    People can sometimes make mistakes. Luskin corrected his. Have you corrected the shonky stuff you wrote on the discredited Lancet survey?

    By the way, Luskin went to Yale for his undergraduate? You require a minimum of 1400 SAT for Yale -putting Luskin in the top .5% of the US population. What did you get for your SAT Tim? Or, where did you get your undergrad?

  7. #7 Ian Gould
    December 3, 2005

    “What did you get for your SAT Tim?”

    Tim is an Australian, we don’t use the SAT here.

  8. #8 David Heidelberg
    December 3, 2005

    Has to be Blair, because he’ll argue that the sun is green if it happens to suit his particular ideology at the time.

  9. #9 Meyrick Kirby
    December 3, 2005

    People can sometimes make mistakes. Luskin corrected his. Have you corrected the shonky stuff you wrote on the discredited Lancet survey?

    Removing the offending material is NOT correcting it, that’s covering it up and pretending it never happened. Correcting would be admitting the mistake took place, and publishing the correct statistics!

  10. #10 Kevin Donoghue
    December 3, 2005

    Since Blair quoted WorldNetDaily instead of putting his own foot in his own mouth, I think Luskin retains the title.

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    December 3, 2005

    Man, this is a tough one — they’re both pretty damn stupid. What settles it for me is the quality of the trolls who seem to think that if they whine about Paul Krugman or Lambert’s SAT scores they can support their hero.

    Having such inane sycophants pushes Luskin to victory.

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    December 3, 2005

    Kevin, Luskin was doing a cover version as well. (Quoting an email from John Grauel.)

  13. #13 Kevin Donoghue
    December 3, 2005

    Fair point, but it seems to me that Luskin was endorsing the quote whereas Blair has the following (admittedly late) disclaimer:

    UPDATE. Good points from Tim Shell and Jeff S.

    This refers to Shell’s comment: “As often happens WorldNetDaily is pretty clueless.”

    Surely that’s a smarter way to back out of the corner than Luskin’s deletion?

  14. #14 Rob
    December 3, 2005

    Yes Luskin went to Yale. Of course that was back in the early 1970s when it wasn’t really performance based (as Al Franken admits, he’d never get into Havard today). And he dropped out.

  15. #15 ben
    December 3, 2005

    Hey, Luskin provides a good service, sticking it to an idiot day in and day out who brings it on himself, and we all know of whom I write.

    Luskin should just stick to what he’s good at. I’ll forgive him this recent snafu just like I’d forgive Tim. I’ve done worse in the brain fart category.

  16. #16 Dano
    December 3, 2005

    What Mr Meyers said.


  17. #17 Read Greg
    December 3, 2005

    ben – again, could you name the most convincing piece of evidence showing that Krugman is anything less than honest, knowledgeable and intelligent?

    Alternatively, go away.

  18. #18 Bill Posters
    December 3, 2005

    Blair’s bid for the title is hampered by his facility with the English language, which conveys the surface appearance of some kind of mental process. It’s an unfortunate illusion that robs him of the recognition he truly deserves.

  19. #19 Ian Gould
    December 4, 2005


    I had quick look through the frotn page of Luskin’s site and skimmed the articles on Krugman in his archives.

    The only factual error he catches Krugman on in the articles I read is one where Krugman quoted from a newspaper article which was subsequently retracted.

    Krugman acknowledged the error.

    For the rest, it’s just a barrage of personal abuse.

    Feel free to point out to me any errors of fact or deduction made by Krugman which even approach the Luskin/Blair level.

  20. #20 ben
    December 4, 2005

    again, could you name the most convincing piece of evidence showing that Krugman is anything less than honest, knowledgeable and intelligent?

    Are you kidding me?

    I had quick look through the frotn page of Luskin’s site and skimmed the articles on Krugman in his archives.

    I could probably read deltoid and still come away supporting Lott on the amount of reading you gave Luskin’s website. Read a little closer, especially the archives leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Krugman is insane. I’m sure the temptation to support Krugman by people on the left is strong, but you have to give up your willingness to support anyone on your side regardless of their behavior. I gave up my support for Lott, it was tough, but I did it. I really really really wanted Lott’s stuff to be true and supportable, but in the end it was not so I said goodbye to that.

    Be nice to see folks on the left be able to say goodbye to Krugman in the same way, he deserves it.

  21. #21 ben
    December 4, 2005

    How about when Krugman’s former editor writes

    Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman 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.

    That was Dan Okrent. You should see what the new editor has to say about Krugman.

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    December 4, 2005

    Ben, you’re not helping yourself here. You haven’t met Ian’s challenge at all. Can you provide even one example of stupidity or insanity on Krugman’s part? Saying he is stupid or quoting Okrent’s attack on Krugman doesn’t cut it.

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    December 4, 2005

    Oh, and the score so far is three votes for Blair and three votes for Luskin. This is turning into a nail-biter…

  24. #24 ben
    December 4, 2005

    I’ll find something later tonight (USA Pacific time).

  25. #25 Read Greg
    December 4, 2005

    I’ll find something later

    This is already looking awkward – you have been declaring left and right that Krugman is “stupid” and “insane” and yet you cannot come with a single example off the top of your head?

    I’ll be waiting to see what you can come up with after a thorough search through Luskin’s archives.

  26. #26 Rob
    December 4, 2005

    Umm Okrent wasn’t Krugmans’ editor. I guess Ben felt left out of the contest!

  27. #27 Meyrick Kirby
    December 4, 2005

    Well going by the numbers I’d have to say Blair wins it for me, by approximately a factor of 19 (230/12).

  28. #28 Ian Gould
    December 4, 2005

    Read a little closer, especially the archives leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Krugman is insane.

    Ben, one factual error please.

  29. #29 ben
    December 4, 2005

    So am I to understand that you all accept everything Krugman says without even the slightest scrutiny? Yeah, yeah, sorry for my glaring error, Okrent isn’t the editor, he’s more of an ombudsman or something.

  30. #30 ben
    December 4, 2005

    Additionaly, I can come up with several Krugman errors off the top of my head, but in the interest of making certain of my accuracy and to provide links, I’ll wait till I can research it further. Give me a break, will ya?

  31. #31 jre
    December 4, 2005

    Ben –
    To review the bidding, we have:

    2: Krugman is “pretty damn stupid.”

    15: Luskin is “sticking it to an idiot.”

    20: “Krugman is insane.”

    21: quote from Dan Okrent accusing Krugman of “shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers”

    24: “I’ll find something later tonight.”

    and, most recently,

    29: “So am I to understand that you all accept everything Krugman says without even the slightest scrutiny?”

    No, Ben — as Read Greg, Ian Gould and Tim have gently and repeatedly pointed out, we are still waiting for you to point to something Krugman has said that’s wrong.

    It is surely possible — even likely — that you can catch Krugman in some kind of error, though I doubt you will come up with anything remotely approaching Lott’s mendacity or Luskin and Blair’s stupidity. But so far you haven’t even tried.

  32. #32 Pinko Punko
    December 4, 2005

    Daniel Okrent was incredibly problematic as an ombudsman, and his behavior suggested he had no idea what the role of an onbudsman was. Consider his broadside on Krugman was unleashed in his farewell column, yet he did not quote a single fact concerning his allegations against Krugman, nor did he use the year or so he was in his Public Editor position to address the issue of Krugman. Okrent by any stretch of the imagination was a hack, pure and simple.

  33. #33 Dominion
    December 4, 2005


    The least you could have done is given one of the ones off the top of your head. At least a hint. No one is demanding perfection, but the way you studiously avoid naming even one error is not the best way to convince us of the…ahem…error of our ways.

    And while I am at it, I vote for Luskin. It takes a special kind of stupid to hide mistakes. My daughter has been known to do the same thing…especially if she spills something. She is also four years old.

  34. #34 ben
    December 4, 2005

    argh, how about election 2000, about how two out of four media studies showed Gore getting the win. Not true.

  35. #35 ben
    December 4, 2005

    Wait, oh, we’re talking about stupid mistakes people made, not lying dishonest ones. Here, then I nominate Graydon Carter of vanity fair, the guy who said the US national det was 6.84 quadrillion dollars.

  36. #36 Nabakov
    December 4, 2005

    Paul Krugman is fat!

    Does that help, Ben?

  37. #37 z
    December 4, 2005

    “minimum of 1400 SAT for Yale”

    Fun fact: George W. Bush’s SAT score was 1205;
    Fun fact 2: median score for affirmative action students admitted to Yale is approx 1200.

  38. #38 Tim Lambert
    December 4, 2005

    OK, ben, I looked and found a correction from Krugman:

    In describing the results of the ballot study by the group led by the Miami Herald, I relied on the Herald’s own report, which listed only three hypothetical statewide recounts, two of which went to Al Gore. There was, however, a fourth recount, which would have gone to George W. Bush. In this case, the two stricter-standard recounts went to Mr. Bush.

    The later study, by a group including the New York Times, used two methods to count ballots: relying on the judgment of a majority of those examining each ballot, or requiring unanimity. Mr. Gore “won” all six hypothetical recounts on the majority basis. He lost one – in this case, the one using the loosest standard – on the unanimity basis.

    None of this has any bearing on my original point, which was not that the outcome would have been different if the U.S. Supreme Court had not intervened – the Florida Supreme Court had not, in fact, called for a full statewide manual recount – but that the recorded vote was so close that, when you combine that fact with the effects of vote suppression and ballot design, it becomes reasonably clear that the voters of Florida, as well as those of the United States as a whole, tried to choose Mr. Gore.

    I don’t see that his mistake was particularly stupid, let alone dishonest, but readers can judge for themselves.

  39. #39 Terence
    December 4, 2005

    My vote’s for Ben!

    I know he wasn’t on the initial entry form, but he’s trying so hard.

  40. #40 Read Greg
    December 4, 2005

    argh, how about election 2000, about how two out of four media studies showed Gore getting the win. Not true.

    Actually, there were two recount studies, each with several standards, and the dispute was over how many of those gave Florida to Gore, so you got your facts a bit mixed up, which is somewhat ironic in the present context.

    But never mind that – if this is the worst mistake you can point to after Luskin has gone through Krugman’s hundreds of NYT articles with a fine-toothed comb, then Krugman must be infallible at near papal levels.

  41. #41 JR
    December 4, 2005

    Dano, that’s “Dr” Meyers, not “Mr”, and he has extensive experience with creationists, so he knows stupid when he sees it. And trolls.

    I’m really not sure that troll quality should be considered, unless there are points for artistic presentation. On technical grounds they are pretty much tied, but post deletion, although dishonest, actually shows a modicum of intelligence, or at least native cunning. Blair by a nose.

  42. #42 ben
    December 4, 2005

    Come on now, don’t we even get a second mention of Graydon Carter for his quadrillion quip? I guess this is the second mention, so how about a third? That was a mistake by an order of magnitude, which was all it took to get Luskin into the race.

  43. #43 ben
    December 4, 2005

    And right, Krugman intentionally distorts wrather than makes brain-fart stupid errors, I guess. Here’s some just since you asked and I don’t want to dissapoint

    From Luskin, a whole mess of garbage.



    and on and on… that took about 2 minutes.

  44. #44 Pinko Punko
    December 4, 2005

    ben, I’m gonna just sit back and watch all the crap fall to the wayside. Malkin? My goodness.

  45. #45 ben
    December 5, 2005

    PP, what exactly is your problem with Malkin? Get with the program, the other commentors here wouldn’t let me get away with simply stating Krugman’s name and that I didn’t think much of him. Let’s see what you have on Malkin. She’s almost certainly a lot better looking than you, and at this point I’m inclined to take her side for that reason alone.

  46. #46 z
    December 5, 2005

    Well, if you just Google “Krugman” in Usenet. the very second entry is

    by Donald Luskin


    In today’s column http://tinyurl.com/2u2s6 , [Krugman] offers
    his advice to the whole Democratic field:

    Now we’re ready to take the next step in the “ongoing budget
    con.” It’s time to talk about tax cuts.

    Bush’s tax cuts, according to Krugman, explain why the federal
    government’s “revenues have plunged.” Burst bubble? Tech wreck?
    Recession? Never heard of it. It’s those tax cuts for “the
    richest 5 percent of families.” And what about those across-the-
    board cuts, famously advertised by the president as being “for
    everyone who pays income taxes”? Forget about them. According to
    Krugman, “most people don’t feel that their taxes have fallen
    sharply. And they’re right: taxes that fall mainly on middle-
    income Americans, like the payroll tax, are still near historic

    But not according to the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center
    http://tinyurl.com/2mb2v — whose tax analyses Krugman has
    called “impeccable.” They say that the fraction of the total tax
    burden falling on the richest 5 percent is actually higher now —
    after Bush’s tax cuts — than it was before. That means that
    proportionately, the little guys got the bigger tax cut. More
    “details,” I suppose.

    I checked the website cited above, and found a table of tax rates for
    2003. I don’t see where it says that the “fraction of the total tax burden
    falling on the richest 5 percent is actually higher” now than before. On
    the other hand, at this website there is also an analysis of the Bush
    proposal to make tax cuts permanent, and this says the opposite:

    — “If the tax cuts were made permanent, filers with income above $1
    million would see a 5.7 percent increase in their after-tax income,
    whereas filers with income below $50,000 would see just a 2.2 percent
    average increase in their after-tax income. (These figures do not include
    the estate tax repeal, which is also quite regressive.)”

    — “The top 1 percent would receive 27 percent of the tax cuts provided by
    making the expiring provisions permanent, even though that group pays only
    21 percent of federal taxes. Taxpayers with income above $1 million would
    receive average annual tax cuts of $107,000 (again, this does not include
    the estate tax). This is higher than the income of about 86 percent of tax
    filing units.”

    Furthermore, it says: “In a new analysis, Brookings institution economists
    William Gale and Pete Orszag estimate that making the tax cut measures
    permanent and reforming the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to “stop it from
    taking over the tax system” would reduce revenues by $2.5 trillion and
    increase the deficit by $3 trillion through 2014…”

    See: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/newsevents/citebrookingsdeficit.cfm

    In his quickie attempt to refute Paul Krugman’s column, it seems that
    Luskin is guilty of serious distortions himself.

    • Steve Denney
  47. #47 z
    December 5, 2005

    “argh, how about election 2000, about how two out of four media studies showed Gore getting the win. Not true.”

    This has turned into another bushie shibbolet. All over the net you see the refrain “no recount ever showed Gore winning”. I’d love to know who came up with that one.

  48. #48 z
    December 5, 2005

    “In fact, as Media Matters for America noted on June 23 and June 30, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) studied Florida’s disputed ballots and concluded that Gore emerged the winner in at least four recount scenarios. The NORC study was sponsored by news organizations including The Associated Press, The New York Times, and CNN, as well as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Co., and Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). According to a November 12, 2001, Washington Post article on the NORC’s findings, “[I]f Gore had found a way to trigger a statewide recount of all disputed ballots, or if the courts had required it, the result likely would have been different. An examination of uncounted ballots throughout Florida found enough where voter intent was clear to give Gore the narrowest of margins.”

  49. #49 Scott Church
    December 5, 2005

    “argh, how about election 2000, about how two out of four media studies showed Gore getting the win. Not true.”
    In fact, not only is this true, 2 out of 4 is likely to be low. The only studies that predicted a Bush recount win were those that included undervotes only. Virtually every recount scenario that included all spoiled ballots with clear indications of voter intent, including overvotes, gave Gore a significant margin. And that’s not including the thousands of votes that were miscast due to polling place confusion and lack of onsite support, and for which there is a wealth of statistical evidence that they were unintentional.
    Like it or not, the fact of the matter is that Bush got the presidency strictly through legal sleight of hand and strongarm tactics, aided by Florida Sec. of State Katherine Harris’ who worked ceaselessly to swing the election in his direction, disenfranchising thousands of voters in the process. Gore held an indisputable national majority and there is little if any evidence that he didn’t carry a significant majority of public opinion in Florida. If every rightful vote had been recovered he would have won.
    I spent 8 months researching that election. If you dispute this you’re more than welcome to check out my working paper on it which has my data, methods, and sources.

  50. #50 Ian Gould
    December 5, 2005

    Come on now, don’t we even get a second mention of Graydon Carter for his quadrillion quip? I guess this is the second mention, so how about a third? That was a mistake by an order of magnitude, which was all it took to get Luskin into the race.

    Actually it’s an error of three orders of magnitude.

    Got a source?

  51. #51 Tim Lambert
    December 5, 2005

    Now Blair is in front 5-4, but only because he voted for himself (see update II).

  52. #52 Tim Worstall
    December 5, 2005

    Krugman was indeed all over the place when he tried to describe the UK pensions systems and their problems. Doesn’t make him stupid of course, more manipulative in my view. I know TimL here doesn’t like Techcentralstation but I had several pieces there pointing such things out at the time.

  53. #53 Tim Lambert
    December 5, 2005

    OK, judging is over and the winner is … (drum roll) … Michael Fumento

  54. #54 ben
    December 5, 2005

    Well, acccording to the new “public editor” at the times

    There were two problems with the formal correction about the recounts, I discovered. It was wrong on the results of the Miami Herald statewide manual recounts. And it didn’t deal with the fact that the original Aug. 19 generalization, the Aug. 22 column and the formal correction all erred in describing the findings of the other news media consortium (in which The Times was a participant).

    The Miami Herald actually did statewide manual recounts under four different standards for the validity of ballots. Two showed Mr. Bush the winner and two gave the election to Mr. Gore. The other consortium had six scenarios for its statewide manual recounts. Mr. Gore prevailed in five of those, but Mr. Bush was the winner in one?taking another slice out of Mr. Krugman’s earlier sweeping generalizations.

    (These statewide manual recounts by the consortiums didn’t get as much attention in 2001 as those they did to show the outcome if the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t intervened. The intervention stopped the state supreme court’s plan for a manual recount in all counties except several that would have been exempted for various reasons. If the plan had been used, The Miami Herald consortium found that Mr. Bush would have won under three of its standards and the fourth would have given Mr. Gore a three-vote victory margin.)

    Besides all that, as far as I know, there wasn’t at the time of the election any provision in the florida state law for recounting legally spoiled ballots to glean voter intent. It seems to me that if you void your ballot by overvoting under the rules of the election laws, then tough bananas. You have to play by the rules. If you don’t like the rules, then change them after the fact to apply to the next election, but that election was over and you cannot and must not change the rules for any reason in a way that affects the outcome of the already run election. The ballots may have been poorly designed, but that does not matter, the dumb butterfly ballots that everyone griped about were designed and approved by democrats as well. Sheesh!

  55. #55 ben
    December 5, 2005

    Here’s a link to what Barney Calame wrote above.

  56. #56 Brian S.
    December 5, 2005

    I second the write-in nomination for Ben. I think he’s got what it takes.

    Still waiting for him to point out an actual Krugman error (as opposed to a bunch of links). A specific error, thanks.

  57. #57 Brian S.
    December 5, 2005

    Wait, the contest is over? I demand a recount!

  58. #58 ben
    December 5, 2005

    Er, Brian, my second to last comment gives an actual error. At least it shows that the “public editor” at the NYT considered Krugman in error, and the link shows what is going on.

    Yes, I deserve to be nominated for my “order of magnitude” error when it was actually three orders of magnitude (the US debt, that is).

  59. #59 Read Greg
    December 5, 2005

    Brian, you are being ungenerous here – ben did point to a specific error. A minor error, but an error nonetheless. In fairness we should acknowledge that.

    ben, on the other hand, must agree that if this is the best he can do, he should retract his “idiot” and “insane” comments and replace them with something like “not absolutely error-proof”.

  60. #60 ben
    December 5, 2005

    OK, except I think Krugman is willing to distort the truth to make his point, kinda like Lott. That’s the feeling I’ve gotten over the years seeing his stuff. I don’t feel like backing that up in any meaningful way, so it’s just my opinion.

  61. #61 Read Greg
    December 5, 2005

    Thank you, ben. I respect the fact that you have kept a civil tone despite the many jibes directed at you.

    You are, of course, entitled to keep whatever opinion you want on Krugman or anyone else. In any event, Krugman’s personality (despite Luskin’s obsession with the dear Prof.) is hardly a major issue.

    I hope you will agree, however, that on major issues – e.g., public policy decisions that have wide impact – opinions should be based on facts rather than on gut-feelings.

  62. #62 Eli Rabett
    December 6, 2005

    Since when do you have to be alive to be stupid. Sock puppet zombies are well respected for their negative IQs.

  63. #63 z
    December 6, 2005

    “Besides all that, as far as I know, there wasn’t at the time of the election any provision in the florida state law for recounting legally spoiled ballots to glean voter intent. It seems to me that if you void your ballot by overvoting under the rules of the election laws, then tough bananas. You have to play by the rules. “

    The existing law at the time in Florida specified:

    “If any paper ballot is damaged or defective so
    that it cannot be counted properly by the automatic
    tabulating equipment, THE BALLOT SHALL BE COUNTED MANUALLY at the
    counting center by the canvassing board. NO VOTE SHALL BE DECLARED
    Florida Statute Section 101.5614 (5)

    To interpret this to mean that a ballot where the oval next to “Gore” had been filled in and further down where the ballot said “Write in candidates name” the word “Gore” was written in (as was the case with the majority of the “overvotes”) must be discarded is, I think, quite obviously erroneous.

    At any rate, if a law is vague or contradictory, it is sent to the state supreme court, whose job is to rule in keeping with what is the intent of the law and with what would cause the least clash with other existing laws; I think in this case, the intent of the election is to determine the sense of the majority of the voters by including every vote which is clearly unambiguous, and those “overvotes” certainly qualify; at least this is what the florida supreme court ruled, rather than the legibility of the ballot to an obsolete and not particularly intelligent optical scanner.

    And further, (this may not be obvious to those who do not live in as limited a federation as the US), the US federal supreme court has no jurisdiction whatsoever in how Florida conducts its elections; the federal election law requires that each state provide a set of electors by a manner which the state chooses, which does not even necessarily require an election among the population; as seen when the Florida legislature threatened to just send a slate of Republican electors to Washington. The assembled electors of the states then choose the President and Vice President. In past cases where a state has been deadlocked and not been able to supply its required electors, the Supreme Court has very specifically refused to interfere, and in fact a bipartisan commission consisting of members from the House, the Senate, and the Court was assigned to find a solution. In this case, the federal supreme court had no more jurisdiction over the Florida election as the UN general assembly would have had.

    And the pretext they used, that the recount would be a violation of the equal rights of the voters in areas where there was no confusion in the vote count, could not be more transparent, in the face of the huge inequality in voting rights which cased this mess, and the fact that in this single case the conservative members of the court cast more votes in favor of equal rights than they had in their entire careers up to now in total (equal rights being generally applied to minorities who are fighting discrimination); as was displayed very nicely by their ruling that this is to stand as a one time decision, and cannot be cited as precedent for other cases. Equal rights only applies to voters for Mr. Bush, apparently.

  64. #64 Ian Gould
    December 7, 2005

    It’s interesting to compare Luskin’s bio on his own blog (http://www.poorandstupid.com/about.asp) with the article on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Luskin)


    1999-2001 Founder and CEO, MetaMarkets.com, Inc. — managers of OpenFund, the world’s first interactive mutual fund


    At its peak, Metamarkets Open Fund received 16 million dollars in investments, and Luskins’ biggest bets included notorious companies like MCI WorldCom and Lucent Technologies. Unfortunately, Open Fund lost more than 75% of its value for Luskins’ level field playing average investors before being liquidated in the summer of 2001

    You know if I had to choose between giving money to Krugman to invest and giving it to Luskin, I think I’d go with Krugman.

    Hell, on the evidence to hand, if I had a choice between investing with Luskin and flushing half my money down the toilet and hiding the rest in the sock drawer, I’d be well advised go with the sock drawer.

    The fact that he was only able to raise $16 million in the biggest bull market in history suggests that markets may just be as wise as he claims.

    Also from Luuskin’s bio:

    1987-1998 Vice chairman, Barclays Global Investors (formerly Wells Fargo Investment Advisors) — inventors of the world’s first index fund and quantitative investment management

    Gee, I can’t help thinking the invention of the mutual fund occurred a while before 1987.

    I guess if he were working Con Ed he’d have mentioned the invention of the light bulb and if he’d worked for Bell, the invention of the telephone would have come up.

  65. #65 Ragout
    December 7, 2005

    I was going to defend Luskin, since he at least admits that his goal is the “conspiracy to keep you poor and stupid.”

    But on second thought, I’d rather criticize Tim. Tim’s contest is rigged: Luskin has said way stupider things than the passage DeLong quoted. DeLong even admits that he didn’t search very hard before finding this particular Luskin stupidity.

  66. #66 Ragout
    December 7, 2005

    I’m not done criticizing Tim.

    In this contest, as in most of Tim’s posts, you have to pay attention not only to what is said, but also what is left unsaid.

    Specifically, John Lott has also written about Baghdad murder rates. And yet Tim makes no mention of Lott in his contest: an implicit admission that Lott’s writings were at worst the third-stupidest discussion of Iraqi murder rates.

  67. #67 Tim Lambert
    December 7, 2005

    Sure it’s rigged. How could anyone have a chance against Luskin otherwise? Who would come to watch such a boring contest?

  68. #68 Eli Rabett
    December 7, 2005

    An index fund is a mutual fund but a mutual fund is not necessarily an index fund. An index fund buys a portfolio that matches the construction of the particular index and thus follows the index. A mutual fund can be an index fund, can be actively managed or a lot of other things.

  69. #69 ben
    December 7, 2005

    that, and it wasn’t particularly hard to lose money when the bubble burst. A lot of people did that.

    I sure wouldn’t trust Krugman, he’d just hand my money over to the government so they could do their highly efficient thing with it.

  70. #70 Ian Gould
    December 7, 2005

    On index funds:


    In 1951, John C. Bogle, then a student at Princeton University, wrote a senior thesis entitled: The Economic Role of the Investment Company. In 1973, Burton Malkiel published his book A Random Walk Down Wall Street which presented academic findings for the lay public. It was becoming well-known in the lay financial press that most mutual funds were not beating the market indices, to which the standard reply was made “of course, you can’t buy an index.” Malkiel said, “It’s time the public can.” Partly in response to Malkiel, Bogle founded The Vanguard Group in 1974, and on December 31, 1975, the Vanguard Index Trust became the first index fund ever offered to the public. The fund exists today under the name “Vanguard 500 Index Fund” which is currently the largest index fund (and the world’s largest mutual fund with assets of $80 billion (Yahoo mutual fund center)), and due to economies of scale, the fund with the lowest management fees.

    Funny no mention of Wells Fargo in there.

    Ben, how many of them lost 75% of their clients’ money?

    I was investment manager for a small super fund art the time, our total return for 2001 was positive.

    As for Krugman: he made his academic reputation by successfully predicting the South East Asian crisis before virtually anyone else.

    If Krugman were a currency trader or ran a hedge fund I’d be quite comfortable investing with him.

    Ragout’s right, if there really is a “Conspiracy to keep you poor and stupid”, Luskin’s the perpetrator.

    (Incidentally am I the only one who’s bugged by that title? Stupidity (i.e. low intelligence)is innate and incurable. “Poor and ignorant” would work much better.)

  71. #71 z
    December 7, 2005

    Up in these parts, Vanguard is generally regarded as the parent of the index fund in 1976, and they have this to say on their website:

    “The basic ideas go back a few years earlier. In 1969-1971, Wells Fargo Bank had worked from academic models to develop the principles and techniques leading to index investing. John A. McQuown and William L. Fouse pioneered the effort, which led to the construction of a $6 million index account for the pension fund of Samsonite Corporation. With a strategy based on an equal-weighted index of New York Stock Exchange equities, its execution was described as “a nightmare.” The strategy was abandoned in 1976, replaced with a market-weighted strategy using the Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Stock Price Index. The first such models were accounts run by Wells Fargo for its own pension fund and for Illinois Bell.”

    Presumably, the argument is that whatever prescience went into conceiving of index investing also went into the hiring of Mr. Luskin at a somewhat later date.

  72. #72 z
    December 7, 2005

    “I sure wouldn’t trust Krugman, he’d just hand my money over to the government so they could do their highly efficient thing with it.”

    Well Mr. Bush has certainly demonstrated to all of us why the “conservative” believes the government should not be trusted with your money. In all fairness to Krugman, however, during the election campaign he did in fact grasp (and indeed attempt to popularize) the concept that income should exceed expenditures, a concept which at the time Mr. Bush was describing as “fuzzy math”.

    “With ”Fuzzy Math”, Paul Krugman dissects the Bush tax proposal and shows us who wins, who loses, and how quickly the tax cuts will consume the surplus. Always the equal-opportunity critic when it comes to faulty economics, Krugman also tucks into the Democratic alternatives to the Bush plan.”

  73. #73 z
    December 7, 2005

    “”Poor and ignorant” would work much better.”

    As the conservatives might put it, “If you’re so poor, why ain’t you stupid?”

  74. #74 Eli Rabett
    December 7, 2005

    Well, then I guess ben would not trust Keynes to invest his money. Poor ben.

  75. #75 Ian Gould
    December 7, 2005

    Yes, poor Ben indeed.

    Keynes’ brilliant record as an investor is demonstrated by the publicly available data of a fund he managed on behalf of King’s College, Cambridge.

    From 1928 to 1945, despite taking a massive hit during the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Keynes’ fund produced a very strong average increase of 13.2% compared with the general market in the United Kingdom declining by an average 0.5% per annum.


    wWat’s the world coming to when virtue, financial success and adherence to free market fundamentalism aren’t synonymous?

  76. #76 ben
    December 8, 2005

    Is this John Maynard Keynes we’re refering to? I’ll take Hayek any day. That, and Keynes ability to make money on the stock market has nearly nothing to do with his philosophy on how the government should handle the economy. As an individual investor with a relatively small amount of capital at your disposal you can take advantage of the market but you cannot influence it. The government on the other hand…

    Well Mr. Bush has certainly demonstrated to all of us why the “conservative” believes the government should not be trusted with your money.

    I concur. He has demonstrated this aptly. There are few in government who have demonstrated the opposite. Whether it’s Jimma the peanut farmer Carter, Ted the lifeguard Kennedy, or Bush the conservative welfare stater, or nearly any others, they love to spend spend spend.

  77. #77 Ian Gould
    December 8, 2005

    “Keynes ability to make money on the stock market has nearly nothing to do with his philosophy on how the government should handle the economy.”

    Tell that to Luskin who keeps contrasting his own (alleged) ability to make money as proving his superiority of ivory tower intellectuals.

  78. #78 ben
    December 8, 2005

    Fair enough.

  79. #79 Paul
    December 10, 2005

    The horrible way the media miscovered/did not cover the Lancet survey has already been hashed over in the Columbia Journalism Review by Lila Guterman.


    Lila is something that Fumento is not; a real science journalist. Not some hack who started out at the CEI.

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