Man Without Qualities

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Down the Rabbit Hole With the Supreme Court, Again and Again

Patrick Ruffini has an interesting article in National Review Online describing a case in Pennsylvania in which the Supreme Court's apportionment precedent has been used to mask naked incumbent protection.

This kind of judicial/political activism sends a very clear and simple message: the Federal Courts use the sanctimonious, highfalutin and incoherent Supreme Court apportionment precedent to disguise the judiciary's own naked political opportunism. The situation is undoubtedly being aggravated by the declining average quality of the Federal judiciary itself - a decline brought on in large part by the sheer growth in the number of Federal judges and the ongoing and improvident expansion of Federal legislation and the jurisdiction of the Federal courts.

Unless the Court's apportionment precedent is clarified and candidly restructured, the situation will almost certainly continue to deteriorate. As noted in prior posts, the resolution of this crescendo is likely to make the uproar over Bush v. Gore more of whimper than the bang it seemed at its time.

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Friday, April 12, 2002


An honest and refreshingly remorseless friend recently criticized the Man Without Qualities for earlier Paul Krugman posts on the grounds that there is no point in close analysis of writing which, in my friend’s opinion, was so obviously the work of a hack. Mr. Krugman is back in his more obviously partisan (and hack) mode today, criticizing various members of the current Administration on various grounds. Rather than risk further chiding by my friend, I make only isolated comments. Mr. Krugman says:

“Many of the business executives recently appointed to government positions first entered the private sector after prior careers in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. As Sebastian Mallaby put it in The Washington Post, they are "political types dressed up in corporate clothing: people who got hired by business because they knew government, then hired by government on the theory that they knew business." (Dick Cheney is the quintessential example.) So are they really good businessmen, or are they just crony capitalists, men who have lived by their connections?”

The Gatsby gangster, Meyer Wolfsheim, would have called them “go-nections”

Mr. Krugman appears to view the world as a RICO enterprise on a large scale. The column includes the hints of conspiracy and near-conspiracy that increasingly preoccupy his thinking ("… are they just crony capitalists, men who have lived by their connections?"). Indeed, one’s appreciation of the humanity and tolerance of his former colleagues at the MIT economics department rises with each successive column; it cannot have been easy for them in the long years before they dispatched him to Princeton at last. One truly wishes the man peace.

But the more interesting issue raised is whether the Administration is being packed with what Mr. Krugman calls “crony capitalists” of poor business caliber, a species of which Mr. Krugman says “Dick Cheney is the quintessential example.”

Well, if Dick Cheney is the quintessential example of whatever concerns Mr. Krugman in the context of business competence, then the Administration isn’t doing too badly. According to a capsule biography:

“Cheney moved into private business, becoming chief executive of Halliburton. Cheney led the company to its position as the largest oil-drilling, engineering and construction services provider in the world, with a 1999 revenue near $20 [b]illion. The company acquired its main rival, Dresser Industries Inc., in 1999, a move that was well-regarded in the business world.”

The Wrath of Krugman also falls, strict and particular, on Thomas White, secretary of the Army, a former general who became a senior Enron executive in 1990. Mr. Krugman criticizes Mr. White’s senior involvement with Enron and his failure to divest interests in that company promptly when assuming office. This is the picking of a valid enough ethical bone, although one scoured clean by other media scarabs many weeks ago. But, with respect to the issue Mr. Krugman raises of Mr. White’s business competence, it is instructive to review the resume of Mr. White’s immediate predecessor as Secretary of the Army, Clinton appointee Louis Caldera:

“Louis Caldera became the 17th Secretary of the Army on July 2, 1998, after nomination to that post by President Clinton and confirmation by the United States Senate.

“Secretary Caldera previously served as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer for the Corporation for National Service [, a] federal grant-making agency headquartered in Washington, DC….”

“Before coming to Washington, Secretary Caldera served for five years in the California Legislature…. He served as Chair of the Assembly's Banking & Finance Committee, Revenue & Taxation Committee, and Budget Committee. He also served as a member of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee to the U.S. Trade Representative.”

“Secretary Caldera began his public service career as an Army officer and as a lawyer. After graduating from West Point, he served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1983. He rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. His assignments included serving as a military police platoon leader, a battalion intelligence officer, and a battalion executive officer. He later served in the U.S. Army Reserve.”

“After leaving active duty, Secretary Caldera attended Harvard University. He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1987. He then entered private practice in the areas of corporate transactions and municipal finance at the firms of O'Melveny & Myers and Buchalter, Nemer, Fields and Younger. He later represented Los Angeles County in state and federal court as a Deputy County Counsel.”

I have no wish to criticize Mr. Caldera here, although his “Army of One” advertising campaign has been controversial, to say the least.

But Mr. Caldera’s resume does relate to the question of whether Bush Administration appointees are just men who have lived by their “go-nections”? For it is clear that Mr. White’s predecessor had no relevant business experience whatsoever prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Army. Indeed, he had almost no relevant experience at all. Mr. Caldera had lived entirely by, and obtained his appointment through, Krugmanian “go-nections.”

So if Mr. Krugman can be content with a clear relative improvement between successive administrations, he can at least find peace with respect to the welfare of the Nation.

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Thursday, April 11, 2002

The Vagrant Amendment

A "vagrant" was sometimes traditionally defined in the common law as a person about whom "no one knows from whence he comes nor whither he goeth." In this sense, the Second Amendment has become the vagrant provision of the Bill of Rights.

Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit has a fine article out on the Second Amendment and its discontents. The article discusses the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in United States v. Emerson, which may signal a new willingness of the Federal Courts to address honestly that “embarrassing” Amendment.

But the article does not discuss what may be the most embarrassing feature of the Second Amendment, at least from the standpoint of the Federal Courts: Emerson and the new (or renewed) learning about the Amendment, if accepted, suggest that the Second Amendment is a fundamental right which should therefore be “incorporated” as a restriction on the States as well as the Federal government (although Emerson dealt only with Federal law). That the police power of the States (as opposed to the powers of the Federal government) might not extend to broad control of firearms raises very difficult federalism and historical questions. The Second Amendment has never been construed as being applicable to States. But if the courts are now to awaken to its significance, it is hard to see how its "incorporation" could be denied.

In any event, the following is a reasonable discussion of the Second Amendment and the Incorporation Doctrine produced for the Public Law Research Institute at Hastings College of the Law, which I reproduce but do not necessarily completely endorse:


The Bill of Rights only protects citizens against action by the federal government. However, through the doctrine of selective incorporation, the Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment may limit action by state and local governments as well. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court rejects the notion that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the entire Bill of Rights. Instead, the Court has decided on a case by case basis which rights are so "fundamental" as to be brought into the Fourteenth Amendment and to bind state and local governments. However, ambiguity remains. Some provisions of the Bill of Rights have still not been considered by the Supreme Court since it began applying the incorporation doctrine.

The Second Amendment is not among those rights incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment. In United States v. Cruikshank, the Supreme Court held that "the second amendment . . . means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress." Subsequently, in Presser v. Illinois, the Court rejected a claim that the Second Amendment could invalidate a state law. In that case, the Court upheld an Illinois statute which made it unlawful for a group other than the state militia or federal troops to drill or parade with arms in public without permission from the governor. The defendant argued that this law violated the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms. Relying on Cruikshank, the Court disagreed, reasoning that "the amendment is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the states."

The Validity of Nonincorporation

Because the Second Amendment has never been explicitly addressed in formal incorporation analysis, the conclusion that the amendment only applies to actions by the federal government has been questioned. The decisions in Cruikshank and Presser came several years before any provisions of the Bill of Rights were incorporated, thus one cannot be sure that the justices in the Second Amendment cases considered the possibility of incorporation.

The first incorporation decision occurred in 1897, eleven years after Presser and twenty-two years after Cruikshank. Today, only three provisions of the Bill of Rights, including the Second, Fifth and Seventh Amendments, remain unincorporated. The almost total incorporation of the Bill of Rights lends support to the theory that incorporation of the Second Amendment is inevitable. However, more than one hundred years have passed since Cruikshank and Presser were decided, during which time the Supreme Court has been content to let those decisions stand.

The Supreme Court's reluctance to revisit the Second Amendment incorporation question is most notable in its refusal to hear an appeal of a case in which the Seventh Circuit upheld a local government's ban on possession of handguns within its borders. The appeals court, citing Presser, based its decision on the nonapplicability of the Second Amendment to state and local governments.

Likewise, the Ninth Circuit has followed Cruikshank and Presser in upholding California's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA). The plaintiffs attempted to have the AWCA declared unconstitutional on several grounds, including arguing that the law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The court rejected this argument, holding that the Second Amendment only binds the federal government. This case was never appealed to the Supreme Court.

More than a century after they were decided, Cruikshank and Presser remain good law. Thus, the right to bear arms granted by the Constitution, if analyzed as an individual right, only limits the federal government's attempts to restrict firearms. State and local governments are not bound by the Second Amendment.
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Update: Ask the Expert

The immediately prior post noted that the Paul Krugman column discussed there "is not on the surface a very partisan piece of writing." Caroline Baum notes that Mr. Krugman's "surface" is not very thick - and brings other related insights to bear.
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Ask the Expert!

Paul Krugman’s new column says we are at risk of a new “oil shock.” It is not on the surface a very partisan piece of writing – and that is precisely the reason the Man Without Qualities believes the column demonstrates the pathologies that make reliance on Mr. Krugman dangerous, regardless of the political orientation of the reader. The column illustrates Mr. Krugman’s apparent growing if concealed concern with conspiracies, a reluctance to acknowledge even in non-political contexts historical facts embarrassing to his political beliefs, and a tendency to ignore rather than address the economic observation of others. The problems seem to run much deeper than those of an academic who turns his hand to partisan argument in the context of a newspaper column when the need arises in that context.

In the course of describing why he believes “an oil crisis can happen so easily”, Mr. Krugman says:

“Economists have never reached a consensus about what happened in 1979, but my interpretation is that it was similar to the recent California electricity crisis. In both cases the key was the combination of a tight market and demand that wasn't very responsive to price. Under those circumstances, individual producers — power companies in California, oil-producing countries in 1979 — have a lot of market power. That is, it is in each producer's interest to cut back production to drive prices higher. The result is a price surge, even though there is no real capacity shortage.”

If there is a topic remotely approaching the scale of “what happened in 1979” with respect to which “economists have reached a consensus,” the Man Without Qualities is unaware of it. Indeed, some of Mr. Krugman's colleagues at the Princeton economics department still appear to be defending what they called their “quasi-experiment” that purported to show employment going up when the price of labor is raised by minimum wage laws, despite what appeared to be fairly persuasive discrediting –albeit perhaps not in “peer review” journals.

But whatever it is that is denying the economists their consensus with respect to “what happened in 1979,” it is likely that a lot of them would believe that an explanation of “what happened in 1979” should begin with OPEC's decision in summer of 1979 to increase crude oil prices by 40 percent. Mr. Krugman notes that “the 1979 oil crisis wasn't the result of a deliberate embargo.” But it did involve collusive efforts to raise prices, efforts that were considerably aided when on November 4, 1979 religious revolutionaries in Iran overthrew the Shah and cut off its oil.

Conspiracies increasingly seem to peer from between the staves of Mr. Krugman’s writings, as though such preoccupations may drive his thinking more than he acknowledges. (He has previously written, "A bizarre thing happened to me over the past week: Conservative newspapers and columnists made a concerted effort to portray me as a guilty party ...") Collusion is important for his argument here because without collusion it is almost never “in each producer's interest to cut back production to drive prices higher,” tight market or not, and the 1979 OPEC collusion was open and notorious. It therefore weakens his reasoning considerably for Mr. Krugman to opine that the 1979 oil crisis “was similar to the recent California electricity crisis” without even addressing the issue of collusion in the California case. He appears to be saying that he thinks the California energy crisis included an OPEC style agreement among the energy producers – but the matter is oddly left open. It is common knowledge that some people controversially alleged collusion among California energy suppliers – allegations still passed around although apparently never substantiated. So Mr. Krugman couldn’t persuasively argue that he didn’t implicitly raised the issue in connection with both the events of 1979 and those in California. The reader may wish to evaluate Mr. Krugman’s photograph now appearing in the Times.

Moreover, Mr. Krugman states “the 1979 oil crisis wasn't the result of a deliberate embargo,” but he does not acknowledge that Jimmy Carter placed an embargo on importing Iranian oil into the United States – a dubious economic decision. The self-imposition of an oil embargo by a Democratic President whose handling of that particular crisis is generally viewed as poor may be painful or embarrassing for Mr. Krugman, but it does seem to be material to the issues he raises.

Mr. Krugman says that “it would not take much worsening in the political situation to produce markets so tight that the logic of market power kicks in and countries decide that, quite aside from politics, their financial interest lies in reducing, not increasing, their output.” But others have noted that “OPEC itself learned during the 1980s that permitting oil prices to overshoot on the upside also generates tremendous microeconomic adjustments, which can set the stage for a price collapse.” That argument is deserving of at least mention if one is going to bring up the issue of how oil producing countries perceive their own “financial interests.”

The danger to the US arises, Mr. Krugman says, because “we made ourselves crisis-proof for a while, then became complacent. After the oil crises of the 1970's, Western economies sharply increased their energy efficiency. … The result was the marginalization of the danger zone … But rapidly growing oil consumption in the S.U.V. era was met, inevitably, by increased Persian Gulf production. So oil prices are once again hostage to Middle Eastern politics.”

But Mr. Krugman ignores profound statistics that do not support his “S.U.V. era” argument. According to the Department of Energy, per capita oil consumption in the United States has not increased in “the S.U.V. era.” In fact, aggregate oil consumption has increased at about the rate of population growth. A major (and ignored) difference between the national energy positions in 1979 and today lies in the fact that the amount of energy required to create each dollar of American wealth has dropped dramatically and continuously in each year since 1972. And the US industrial sector has become far more efficient at energy consumption. In 1998, for example, US oil imports were equal to 0.6% of GDP compared to 1.9% in 1978.

I do not believe Mr. Krugman omits to treat the above factors in this column because he is partisan or dishonest or because of space considerations. The column is not very partisan (although Mr. Krugman's disapproving reference to the "S.U.V. era" does suggest criticism of the Bush Administration's CAFE decisions), and there is no apparent reason for Mr. Krugman to be dishonest. Nor would it be necessary to fully argue each such factor and consume that space. Acknowledging their existence would have been enough to indicate his awareness. It seems that Mr. Krugman simply did not have these things in his mind when he wrote the column. It appears not to have been deliberate.

Mr. Krugman also says that in the event of an “oil shock” the Fed would likely not raise interest rates as it did in 1979, and that much appears to be correct. But it is not because, as he puts it, “[t]oday, after a decade of price stability, fears of inflation are much more muted.” That makes it sound as if the Fed has been led into the same mere complaisance that Mr. Krugman elsewhere ascribes to the nation generally in energy matters. In fact, US core inflation rate has been suppressed by productivity growth – and other observers have noted that “the Fed would be far more alarmed about oil prices if it saw compelling evidence that the growth rate of productivity was slackening.” Mr. Krugman’s thinking in this area again seems dangerously incomplete. He restricts himself to observing that “the Fed can't respond with another big round of interest rate cuts: since it has already reduced rates from 6.5 to 1.75 percent, it doesn't have much ammunition left.”

Mr. Krugman’s gloomy, fragmented and dangerously incomplete thinking is not just reflected in this column. In the book, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner refers to a striking example of Mr. Krugman's work product:

"In a book published in 1990 [The Age of Diminished Expectations] he had offered as 'the most likely forecast for the U.S. domestic economy in the 1990s.... fairly slow growth, modestly rising incomes for most Americans, generally good employment performance, [and] a gradual accumulation of inflation' to 7 percent. He predicted that by 2000 the United States would 'have sunk to the number three economic power in the world,' after Europe and Japan, and that the world economy would be less unified than it had been in the 1980s. He published a ‘revised and updated' edition four years later, but retained these predictions."

Mr. Krugman's book cannot be dismissed as a partisan frolic by a serious academic. Something serious is going on here.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Why So Modest?

As noted in a prior post, William Lerach of Milberg Weiss has filed a class action civil complaint on behalf of the University of California as lead plaintiff arising out of the Enron failure. The complaint now names many of the largest investment banks in the country as defendants as well as members of the board of directors and senior officers of Enron and many Andersen operatives. The complaint has many odd features indeed.

The complaint is modest in naming defendants. All those commercial and investment banks named as defendants couldn't have accomplished all the fraud and other evil the complaint says they committed without intimate involvement from their own attorneys. Such attorneys normally have a big role in preparing offering documents and have at least as much influence on deals as company counsel - as Mr. Leach well knows. But Vinson & Elkins and Kirkland & Ellis are the only law firms named as defendants - each of them in connection with their representation of Enron or its related parties. Those firms are described in the complaint as if they prepared all the documentation with no assistance from underwriter or bank counsel. That's not usually the way it happens. Why have the underwriter's or bank's counsel not been also named as defendants? After all, the complaint says the banks were fully aware of the frauds they were committing. If so, their lawyers must have known, too. Is Mr. Lerach wary of taking on a substantial portion of the New York financial bar? Failure to name the underwriter and bank counsel suggests that Mr. Lerach does not have the confidence of his overheated complaint. Indeed, the complaint is almost saturated with the notion that every bank or law firm that works on a deal involving a public company has a "duty" to investors who might take losses in the future that can be linked in any way to the advice given by, or the relationship with, the bank or law firm. So why does the complaint draw the line where it does when it comes to naming defendants?

Similarly, the banks and law firms named can and did only act through their human agents - but those agents are not named, although officers and directors of Enron and other companies are named. For example, the complaint alleges that Robert Rubin, Vice Chairman of Citigroup, and William Harrison, Chairman of JP Morgan, both unsuccessfully tried to "stongarm" the bond rating agency, Moody's - apparently by asking in telephone calls that Enron's debt rating not be downgraded. Mr. Lerach seems to feel that this was a corrupt and fraudulent thing for these two men to have done. If so, why is neither of these men named personally as a defendant? Is it their lack of success?

Further, there is no mention in the complaint of what leverage a bank has to "strongarm" a credit rating agency. What are Messrs. Rubin and Harrison supposed to have said to bring pressure on Moody's. Banks depend on the good will of the credit rating agencies. Would Messrs. Rubin and Harrison casually risk the ire of Moody's through the use of "strongarm" tactics when Moody's might be involved in a future downgrade of Citigroup or JP Morgan?

Oddly, no mention is made of Mr. Rubin's controversial telephone call to his former subordinate in the Treasury Department - a call that was reportedly made for the express purpose of causing the Treasury to intervene with the credit rating agencies. The Treasury Department might have had some power to "strongarm" Moody's if Treasury had been willing to go along with Mr. Rubin's request. Mr. Lerach clearly believes that it was somehow improper for Messrs. Rubin and Harrison to call Moody's - so why is Mr. Rubin's call to Treasury not mentioned?

The complaint also names no individual outside attorneys - not even partners of Vinson & Elkins and Kirkland & Ellis. Are the fraudulent legal opinion letters, documents and advice alleged to have been provided by these firms in the complaint supposed to have materialized with no human actually authorizing them? Surely a modicum of investigation by Mr. Lerach would have yielded the names of the individual Vinson & Elkins and Kirkland & Ellis lawyers involved. Why aren't they identified if Mr. Lerach is so sure they did such bad things?

The current complaint is almost certainly not the last version of this complaint that will be filed. Mr. Lerach will undoubtedly amend it further as discovery progresses. But the odd gaps in the complaint structure are curious in comparison to the sweep of its language. Perhaps deals have been cut already - or are being cut - to exclude influential individuals and law firms from being named. Or perhaps naming everyone the language of the complaint insinuates implicitly or explicitly is culpable would expose the complaint's approach as preposterous. But if the complaint is even mostly accurate, it is hard to see how complete justice can be done without naming a lot more defendants.
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By God, we should build one!

The frustration with President Bush on the American left has its desperately if unintentionally funny side. For example, one can just feel the annoyance and a certain sense of November panic growing in Al Hunt, the Wall Street Journal’s resident editorial liberal, when he shrieks:

“The situation in Afghanistan also is troubling. In a victory for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell's hope to send a sizable international peacekeeping force into Afghanistan has been rejected. The likely result: Iran will control western Afghanistan, radical Muslims will control much of the East, heroin and terrorism will flourish and the courageous new Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, will be restricted to a small enclave around Kabul. The president seems oblivious to the recent warning of former United States Ambassador Richard Holbrooke that "if Afghanistan is important enough to wage war over--and it is--it's equally important to stabilize and rebuild" that country, even if that's ‘long and costly.’”

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, the defeatist left – including Mr. Hunt - disgorged a full measure of Vietnam analogies and warnings about “inevitable expensive quagmires.”

Now people like Messrs. Hunt and Holbrooke seem to feel they are entitled to a good quagmire. And since there was no quagmire there when we arrived, then by God, we should build one!

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Monday, April 08, 2002

Earnings, earnings, earnings.

A class action civil complaint arising out of the Enron failure, in excess of 500 pages, has now been filed by William Lerach of Milberg Weiss on behalf of the University of California, as lead plaintiff. The writing is purple and overheated in the manner typical of documents produced in that law firm’s long wars against a great many, if not most, of the public technology companies to which the State of California owes its current level of prosperity. The writing aspires to what might be called financial pornography. A document describing alleged accounting irregularities, written with the tone of a bodice ripping Harlequin Romance, might try the patience of most readers.

The complaint discloses an apparent plaintiff intent to rely on some very old fashioned and down-to-earth investment standards in regard to purchases and sales of Enron stock. Perhaps the purchasers of such stock – including the University of California – did cleave to traditional methods used by securities analysis that prized the very earnings the complaint alleges were so manipulated. But it would not be easy to find many “value investment fund” managers to agree with the picture sketched in the complaint, since such managers had the funds managed by them on behalf of exactly such institutions as the University reduced by many billions of dollars during the period in question in favor of then-trendy “growth” and “momentum” managers. And traditional methods of valuation are not exactly consistent with Enron's price-to-earnings multiples in those days.

For those who can bear such things, it is might be interesting to review the complaint while reading the excellent article by Gretchen Morgenson, today’s winner of a Pulitzer Prize for financial reporting, which correctly points out:

“Of all the hot air generated during the great bull market of the late 1990's, none propelled stock prices further than the notion that new economy stocks were a breed apart and should not be held to stringent, old economy investing standards. Internet companies and cutting-edge telecommunications concerns, after all, were revolutionizing the world. So, the thinking went, their share prices deserved equally radical valuation methods. Out went traditional methods used by securities analysis that prized earnings. In came freewheeling measures of worth …”

Somehow, the context of the Enron stock run-up – that is, the market phenomenon – isn’t fully communicated by Mr. Lerach’s otherwise hyper expressive prose. Nor does the complaint deal with the market consequences of Enron’s having been simultaneously one of the world’s largest “internet companies” and, through its broadband trading efforts, also a “cutting-edge telecommunications concern.”

No. Mr.Lerach says that investors in Enron stock were wedded to earnings. Earnings, earnings, earnings. Balance sheet earnings. None of that financial footnotes stuff for them.

Might be.
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Update: There must have been some simple but terrible mistake …

Not only does Paul Krugman not win a Pulitzer Prize again this year despite having single-handedly identified the story of the century, but now Jane Galt's gone and posted an amazingly self contained, compact and cogent demonstration of why his current New York Times column is seriously intellectually deCAFEnated (search for the first line "Whew! The CAFE debate is still raging:" in Jane's blog).

Well, this "coincidence" shows that all those dots whose little voices Mr.Krugman has recently been hearing say that they sorely needed connecting are, in fact, evidence of exactly the kind of vast right wing conspiracy he knows is out to get him ("A bizarre thing happened to me over the past week: Conservative newspapers and columnists made a concerted effort to portray me as a guilty party ...").

Next, the Bermuda Triangle! No doubt Mr. Krugman is out there way ahead of everyone else already!
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There must have been some simple but terrible mistake …

Surely at this very moment Paul Krugman is firing off a righteous note to the Pulitzer Prize committee.

(“Ladies and Gentlemen of the committee: There must have been some simple but terrible mistake …”)

You see, the Pulitzers are in. But Mr. Krugman isn’t. Even though the New York Times collected a record seven of these babies. How can this be? Was it not Mr. Krugman who, calling on capabilities uniquely his own, earnestly and breathlessly pointed out that “in years ahead the Enron debacle will turn out to represent a greater turning point in US society than September 11 terrorist attacks” when no one else seemed to understand? Doesn’t that deserve a prize?

And yet, even after Mr. Krugman’s clarion call, the Pulitzer Prize Awards have disproportionately and mistakenly gone exactly to people who wrote about the September 11 disasters and their aftermaths! Well, certainly this award business is another disaster in and of itself.

(“I frankly find it impossible to comprehend how the committee could possibly miss the significance of the story of the century, unless you have succumbed to another of the vast right wing conspiracies that have so ravaged my life of late … ”)

Tragically, the committee seems to have inadvertently awarded Mr. Krugman’s prize to another Times financial reporter, Gretchen Morgenson – who didn’t even write a single cited article about Enron! The closest she came was some general thing that appears at the bottom of her list of cited articles on "today's loosey-goosey world of financial statements" that uses Enron as a jumping off point to warn us that "[a]fter a debacle like Enron's, regulators may begin to examine disclosure lapses." That's it? Regulators may begin to examine disclosure lapses? Where's the earthquake?! Where's the outrage?!

(“… and, while, of course, I am not intimately familiar with the committee’s procedures, can I suggest that perhaps a page of the committee’s memorandum listing the award winners was inadvertently lost in transmission to the wire services?")

Not only that, but not one person awarded the Pulitzer Prize – at the New York Times or elsewhere - seems to have written a single hot word about Enron.

Not since Mr. Applegate fulminated to perdition at the end of “Damn Yankees”has anyone been so justified in his rage, so cheated of his just desserts.

(“...How could this have happened? Just what the heck is going on at Columbia?…")

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