NY Times Admits Gruber Problem, Fails To Mention Krugman Problem

imagesIn a full throated mea culpa by the New York Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, appearing in the Sunday edition, the Times officially describes the critical and material implications that arise when readers are misled by undisclosed interests of sources and authors in their paper of record.

These examples have resulted in five embarrassing editors’ notes in the last two months — two of them last week — each of them saying readers should have been informed of the undisclosed interest. And on Thursday, the standards editor sent Times journalists a memo urging them to be “constantly alert” to the outside interests of expert sources. The cases raised timeless issues for journalists and sources about what readers have a right to know and whose responsibility it is to find it out or disclose it.

That is exactly right. One of the prime examples the Times’ Public Editor bases his proper conclusion on is that of Jonathan Gruber:

Jonathan Gruber, a prominent M.I.T. health economist, wrote an Op-Ed column and was quoted frequently in other Times columns, news articles and blogs on health care reform before it came to light that he had a contract worth nearly $400,000 to analyze health proposals for the Obama administration.

….

Gruber, the health care economist, wrote an Op-Ed column in July supporting an excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans. Not long before, he had signed a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to analyze the economic impact of various health care proposals in Congress. He did not tell Op-Ed editors, nor was the contract mentioned on at least 12 other occasions when he was quoted in The Times after he was consulting for the administration. After a blogger reported on Gruber’s government contract on the Daily Kos Web site, Gruber did volunteer it to Steven Greenhouse, a Times reporter interviewing him for an article on the excise tax. Greenhouse said he included the fact in a draft but struck it because the article was too long. Greenhouse said that Gruber’s views on the tax were so well-known that he did not think they would be influenced by a consulting contract. But had he realized how large the contract was, Greenhouse said, “I would have stood up and paid lots more attention.”

While it is nice the Times has admitted its problem with Gruber, and his wantonly serial failure to disclose material facts and appearances of conflict, it is extremely curious and convenient they dodge the most recent, and in many regards most glaring, example of their damage from Gruber’s omissions. Namely, the scurrilous attack on Marcy Wheeler by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, where he petulantly defended his friend and colleague Gruber by tarring Marcy and the entire Firedoglake blog with the statements:

This has led some people, mainly Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake, to question Gruber’s objectivity. ….. What the folks at Firedoglake should ask themselves is this: do you really want to become just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals?

This was an unjustified and unconscionable slash by Mr. Krugman. Both Mr. Krugman and the Times were fully apprised of the complete absence of factual basis for Krugman’s remark; I know, because I wrote a blog post to that effect and personally sent it to Krugman and the Times. I will not reprint the contents of my email forwarding the same to Krugman and the Times, as I indicated in it I would not make it public. Suffice it to say I suggested Mr. Krugman owed Marcy Wheeler a retraction and/or apology. He still does.

But there has been no response from the esteemed Mr. Krugman, and the Times’ Public Editor Hoyt decided to completely, and conveniently, ignore the matter by declining to discuss it. Instead, Mr. Hoyt chose to disingenuously refer as follows:

After a blogger reported on Gruber’s government contract on the Daily Kos Web site….

Actually, there are several terms beyond disingenuous to describe this contemptuous soft sell; but I will leave it there. First off, Mr. Hoyt does not have the decency or professionalism to even name the Daily Kos author he is referring to. Her name is Mcjoan Mr. Hoyt, and she is very good. Secondly, Hoyt willfully refuses to address the individual blogger, Marcy Wheeler, who was responsible (see: here, here, here, here, here, here and here) for fleshing out, over several days, the full extent of Gruber’s disclosure failings and laying the evidentiary foundation for the same. Lastly, of course, Hoyt fails to address the baseless attack his paper, via Paul Krugman, wrongfully made on Marcy Wheeler and Firedoglake.

What Hoyt does make crystal clear though, and provides robust documentation of, is that Jonathan Gruber’s disclosure failings were no “fake scandal”, nor were they in any way analogous to the spurious antics of “right wingers” as Paul Krugman callously alleged. After all, it is right there in the “paper of record”.

I guess avoidance means never having to say you are sorry; but it is a pretty unsavory tact for the New York Times, paper of record and home of “all the news fit to print”. All the news maybe, but certainly not all the truth, honesty and chivalry.

UPDATE: To clarify, and properly so as Marcy points out in a comment, the original reporting of Jonathan Gruber’s contract giving rise to the issue of disclosure came from a blogger by the name of Mote Dai in a comment to Mcjoan’s Daily Kos post on the excise tax Paul Krugman linked to in his article.

I would also like to agree with the sentiment expressed by Professor Foland in his comment:

Krugman has earned the presumption from us that he’s acting in good faith and happens to disagree; and we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him.

I think that is a more than fair point as to Mr. Krugman’s position on Jonathan Gruber; it is Krugman’s lashing out at Marcy Wheeler, and Firedoglake as an entity, I take issue with. It is in this regard Mr. Krugman painted with an excessively broad, harsh and false brush.

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  1. Peterr says:

    Mr. Bmaz, this is in keeping with the venerable tradition in newspapers and politics of apologies rendered in the passive voice. “Mistakes have been made . . .”

    Mr. Hoyt has admitted their problem with Mr. Gruber, but I doubt The Times will admit their problem with a Nobel Laureate op-ed columnist like Mr. Krugman.

    Unless, of course, Mr. Sulzberger is distressed at seeing his paper’s good name be besmirched.

    • bmaz says:

      Such things as credibility and fairness used to matter. Call me a relic, but I think they still should; especially from professionals such as Paul Krugman. Krugman and his work have earned, and are worthy of, much respect; that, however, does not entitle him to scurrilously and petulantly refuse it to others.

  2. emptywheel says:

    Actually, the blogger is someone named Mote Dai, whom I don’t know but who deserves more credit for digging this out. I did credit him or her in my original post. But the person does deserve more of the credit.

    • Teddy Partridge says:

      I was shocked to see Clark Hoyt call Mote Dai “a blogger.” A fellow journalist would not have gone unnamed in his column. It’s a sad world when the elite gatekeepers, and those they loftily appoint to watch over themselves, are corrupt. But clearly Clark Hoyt is.

  3. joely says:

    It seems to me that the NYTimes actual motto is “All the news we see fit to print,” not the one proffered on their masthead. Makes sense, no?

  4. orionATL says:

    Bmaz

    By raising this relatively small issue at all,

    The times is strongly Scolding krugmam without mentioning him by name.

    That is the way institutions – newspspers, corporations, universities, government bureaus – criticize their prominent members – indirectly and obscurely – so the criticism is not obvious to any but insiders.

  5. PJEvans says:

    But had he realized how large the contract was, Greenhouse said, “I would have stood up and paid lots more attention.”

    So they define the size of the problem by how many dollars are involved?
    Jeebus.

    • qweryous says:

      The quality of the “reporting” with respect to investigative skills is called into question here:

      “Lipton and Schwartz agreed that they should have asked Chertoff, but both expressed disappointment that he did not volunteer obviously germane information.”

      And here:

      “After a blogger reported on Gruber’s government contract on the Daily Kos Web site, Gruber did volunteer it to Steven Greenhouse, a Times reporter interviewing him for an article on the excise tax.”

      ….some more on this with Gruber and greenhouse:

      “Greenhouse said that Gruber’s views on the tax were so well-known that he did not think they would be influenced by a consulting contract. But had he realized how large the contract was, Greenhouse said, “I would have stood up and paid lots more attention.””

      Which part of knowing what to ask, and then asking and reporting it are hard to understand?

    • scribe says:

      So, where’s the cutoff on how big the number of dollars has to be before it’s worthy of mention? How many times the contractor’s annual salary does it have to be? One-half his annual salary? Equal to it? Several times it?

      I don’t think an MIT professor’s base university salary (as distinct from his consultancies, extra-university writing and speaking revenues, etc.) is $200k, regardless of how renowned that prof might be.

      I know that once you start getting into the range of a month’s pay, you are talking an amount of money seriously able to affect (or have the appearance of affecting) the speaker’s objectivity. And that goes for anyone, regardless of how big their “a month’s pay” is.

      • Professor Foland says:

        I don’t know the econ pay scales, but in the natural sciences, at MIT someone of Gruber’s position and prominence might very well have a base salary in the neighborhood of $200k.

        (And as I said somewhere else, the contract could potentially call for as much as 20% time over 11 months, so it’s even 2 months.)

        FWIW, I think Krugman honestly just thinks this is all a non-issue, because he thinks of Gruber’s work as technical, scientific work. Krugman probably thinks it analagous to someone who does X-ray absorption simulations for a major astronomy project at NSF. X-rays are X-rays, even if the guy is paid, his simulations are going to come out the same.

        There are two problems with this kind of view. The first, obviously, is that the instant case is economics and not X-ray physics. (bmaz, I saw you use instant once this way and I loved it, so I’m trying it out myself.) The second is that the X-ray absorption guy probably does have a personal stake in the subsequent success of the project, and really honestly is no longer unbiased to comment on whether it’s a good project. (He doesn’t want his studies shown wrong; maybe he will get more X-ray absorption studies in the future if the project goes forward, etc.)

        Krugman has earned the presumption from us that he’s acting in good faith and happens to disagree; and we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him. Above is my stab at that. Better ones may come along.

        • JTMinIA says:

          Agreed (on Krugman). Even more: I doubt that Krugman realizes how much his friendship with Gruber in playing a role in his relatively thoughtless defense of him and/or his thoughtless attacks on EW. Just because he’s smart doesn’t mean the “rules” of psychology don’t apply to him, too.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes I agree with what you, and JTMinIA below you in comments, say and have added the following update to the main post (also noting Marcy’s correction on the identity of Mote Dai, which I, sadly, screwed up too):

          UPDATE: To clarify, and properly so as Marcy points out in a comment, the original reporting of Jonathan Gruber’s contract giving rise to the issue of disclosure came from a blogger by the name of Mote Dai in a comment to Mcjoan’s Daily Kos post on the excise tax Paul Krugman linked to in his article.

          I would also like to agree with the sentiment expressed by Professor Foland in his comment:

          Krugman has earned the presumption from us that he’s acting in good faith and happens to disagree; and we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him.

          I think that is a more than fair point as to Mr. Krugman’s position on Jonathan Gruber; it is Krugman’s lashing out at Marcy Wheeler, and Firedoglake as an entity, I take issue with. It is in this regard Mr. Krugman painted with an excessively broad, harsh and false brush.

          • Cujo359 says:

            I think Krugman has a blind spot that most of us do – he assumes that he and his colleague are both honest people, so what’s the bother? Unfortunately, you can only trust that sort of logic so far. What is required for someone to avoid being unduly influenced by the kind of conflict of interest (COI) Gruber found himself in is that the person must be honest, but he also must not need the money.

            Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Gruber really isn’t inclined to care what the Obama Administration thinks of his analysis. Now, because I love irony, let’s further suppose that he’s several $100k in debt thanks to a medical condition. Is he still going to be willing to tell Obama to take a hike if his conclusions aren’t palatable? All of a sudden that doesn’t look like such a good option.

            How unaffected you are about a COI has to do with more than just your honesty. It has to do with your view of your own future, and your needs. That’s why we have COI rules. Economists ought to know that.

        • selise says:

          Krugman has earned the presumption from us that he’s acting in good faith and happens to disagree; and we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him. Above is my stab at that. Better ones may come along.

          i agree. absolutely. (and not that it matters, other than to reveal my own biases, but i find myself liking krugman, even through all this.)

          and also, since i’m only an intemperate commenter, i’ll point out this link from 2002.

          • Leen says:

            Referring to EW’s efforts to expand the scope creating “fake scandals”. Instead of exposing all potential “conflict of interest” issues does not appear to be in “good faith” And I respect Krugman.

            I am just a peasant trying to understand the health care legislation etc. Exposing all potential conflict of interest seems like a sincere and principled effort to assist the public in having a wider and more well informed view of the negotiations. Really not clear why Krugman would object to that

            • selise says:

              Referring to EW’s efforts to expand the scope creating “fake scandals”. Instead of exposing all potential “conflict of interest” issues does not appear to be in “good faith” And I respect Krugman.

              i completely disagree with krugman.

              but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to try not to make judgements about his motivations. especially as it’s hopefully not to late to convince him to temper his statements publicly. i’ve seen him do that previously when arguing directly with someone (in the case i’m thinking of, but don’t have the link handy, it was galbraith. and you might want to take a look at my link above to put that in context).

              that is all.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                There are enough real scandals – much of what passes for “reform” in this White House/Senate bill, for example – not to create new ones. That was the argument Krugman used, but in a manner that turned its usual meaning on its head.

                Gruber’s lack of independence and possible lack of objectivity would have been of passing interest – had he and the White House not coyly hidden them for apparently crass political reasons. That is what is newsworthy here, which makes it unworthy of Mr. Krugman to discard it so blithely.

                That Mr. Krugman’s defense of Gruber and the White House reinforces his own conclusions that this health insurers’ “reform” bill is, “on balance” worth doing may not be coincidental.

                • selise says:

                  That Mr. Krugman’s defense of Gruber and the White House reinforces his own conclusions that this health insurers’ “reform” bill is, “on balance” worth doing may not be coincidental.

                  maybe. maybe even likely. but i think it’s worthwhile attempting to convince krugman to change his mind (personally, i think he owes marcy and apology. but i also think it’s not too late for that):

                  we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him.

                  obviously ymmv.

  6. qweryous says:

    Yet more revelations on this topic.
    Thanks for keeping the heat on , and providing the update.

    Krugman’s statements while related, are a separate issue, and it does not surprise me that they are not included in Mr. Hoyt’s statement. Not withstanding your efforts I’ll be surprised to see any mention or takeback of Krugman’s statements on this issue. He may be wrong, but that usually doesn’t matter to the NYT.

    This is really a rather complete recitation of the NYT having most embarrassing failures on this issue of disclosure.

    Mr. Hoyt has to be careful here. He must not accuse anyone of doing anything other than to do the job correctly.( Or perhaps forgetting a few small details).

    He must be sure not to be SHRILL.

    He must also to be careful, he is trying to differentiate the reporters work here from that of taking stenographic notes from press release writers.

    It used to be different, it is obviously this now.

    Soon the word shill shall also become archaic, as that is what everyone will expect is being done at all times.

    We shall see if anyone suffers consequences for what Mr. Hoyt has written here. If anyone does, past history indicates it will be more likely for Mr. Hoyt to be that person.

  7. qweryous says:

    Several additional points with Mr Hoyt’s article.

    One thing that is subject to verification, and needs to be :

    Dr. Gruber in this NYT article states “Gruber said, “I guess it never occurred to me that the fact that I was doing technical modeling would matter.” He said he has long supported the tax and that the administration opposed it when he wrote his column, so he was hardly bending his views to a government paymaster.”

    Link to referenced article above and in two previous posts@7and@8: LINK:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/opinion/17pubed.html

    Is there any proof the administration was ever against the excise tax?
    What about at the time specified by Gruber?

    Also another question for both the NYT and Dr. Gruber:

    This quote is specifically in reference to Peter Galbraith, but does it apply to Dr. Gruber? If so was it complied with? In any case why are the facts concerning this, the very issue the article is about, not presented in complete fashion? Is this not also a failure of disclosure by Mr. Hoyt?

    The quote follows:

    “Because politics and economics so often go hand in hand, I would say someone in his shoes should disclose all interests to editors and discuss whether any pose a conflict that needs to be disclosed to readers. That is what The Times requires of all Op-Ed columnists, in plain, written language.”

    If the above is true it would then be an easy thing to evaluate if this has or has not been done.
    Do the procedures require certification in writing that disclosure is complete?

    Only a poorly written, or poorly enforced policy could cause what Mr. Hoyt claims here:

    “But each recent Times case showed how tricky it can be to navigate the ethics of disclosure.”

    Mr. Hoyt, you have made a start on this important issue, however there are still some unanswered questions.

  8. tejanarusa says:

    Oh, and to bmaz;

    I thought I was catching the posting of Hoyt’s column first, and mentioned it on another thread.

    I should’ve known you would be on it before any of us even saw it.

    Good work.

  9. scribe says:

    Just a thought: how much of Krugman’s pique at Marcy is, in reality, a form of a job interview for him to get inside the veal pen with Rahm and the boys in DC?

    After all, here’s a guy with a Nobel who has lots of ideas and he’s been totally shut out of being heard, let alone listened to, by an administration which dhould have been welcoming to him and his ideas. And he’s watching a collection of guys who’re dumber than the 2x4s they should be taking upside the head run the operation into the ground and occupy the job that Krugman doubtless thinks should have been his.

    What better way of auditioning for a job with the Emperor than to pick on DFH bloggers who have the propensity to point out the Emperor’s lack of clothes and his courtiers’ lies and be right about it, time after time.

    • mattcarmody says:

      Exactly what I’ve been thinking. Krugman sees Geithner under fire and he starts sending unofficial feelers about being available for the Treasury job and as proof directs his fire at the “cheeto-eating, pajama-wearing” enemy in the basement who’s causing all the trouble among the DFHs.

  10. klynn says:

    Thanks for the post bmaz.

    Based on the comments to Krugman from readers, I suspect NYT’s received a number of complaint letters and perhaps canceled subscriptions. You nailed it bmaz when you wrote:

    …a full throated mea culpa by the New York Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt,

    This issue is just the latest of publicly viewed slips by the NYT’s in the journalistic paradigm shift of the Fourth Estate.

    A fish rots from the head down.

  11. Leen says:

    If Krugman had simply said it is best to divulge all potential conflict of interest issues when supplying information or figures on any issue. This would have all ready died down a bit. Insulting Marcy by claiming that she and FDL are potentially creating “fake scandals” when she and the team at FDL have sincere and educated intentions to provide the American public with the full picture about critical issues that effect their lives seemed to be an effort by Krugman to hit below the belt.

    By simply repeating that it is best to divulge these potential conflict of interest early on they could have moved onto backing up Gruber’s conclusions with other “experts” opinions about his conclusions as they have been doing without this undertow.

    New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt
    “And on Thursday, the standards editor sent Times journalists a memo urging them to be “constantly alert” to the outside interests of expert sources. The cases raised timeless issues for journalists and sources about what readers have a right to know and whose responsibility it is to find it out or disclose it.”

    Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people might still be alive if the NYT’s had applied those standards 8 years ago instead of printing Judy “I was fucking right” Miller’s articles about weapons of mass destruction etc via “outside interests of expert sources”

    Hundreds of thousands of lives, millions displaced, 45oo and counting dead Americans soldiers, tens of thousands injured having their lives negatively effected for the duration of their lives.

    We know the NYT has been here before and their lies have had devastating consequences.

    I have just been amazed by the endless hours days spent on the Haiti tragedy (which I understand is necessary to encourage the continued effort to help). But the lack of coverage by our MSM about those who have died in Iraq, been blown to bits, gunned down, injured, displaced in Iraq as a direct consequence of our invasion is criminal. The hypocrisy is glaring.

    Show the American people the death and destruction caused by an act of nature…but completely avoid showing them the death and destruction that they have been complicit with in Iraq.

    Fucked up

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Leen,Leen,have you forgotten this?

      “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that another set of people are human.”

      George Orwell

  12. BoxTurtle says:

    Well, if you and Marcy were NICER to the NYT, like not pointing glaring factual errors, conflicts of interest, and incompetent reporting, they might treat YOU nicer!

    Boxturtle (You could try not biting their Distinguished Editoral Fellows, as well)

    • Leen says:

      NYT “all the news fit to print” Printed in Black, white and blood red (from the blood of the dead in Iraq a direct result of their fictitious reporting)

  13. phred says:

    IIRC the old adage says something along the lines of “the first step is to admit you have a problem”, but that won’t be enough to get your feet through the door into the AA meeting ; )

    The NYT has cultivated a habit of making apologies for ethical lapses without lifting a finger to prevent their recurrence (e.g., Jayson Blair, Judy Miller, etc.). I doubt they care enough about the Gruber dust-up to do more than their usual window dressing.

  14. skdadl says:

    As I recall, it took the NYT a day and a half — from Saturday lunch to Sunday evening — to catch up to EW’s scoop from the Bradbury memos about the number of times Abu Zubaydah and KSM had been waterboarded, and on first publication, they breathed not a word about EW. It took at least an hour or so (during which some here were lamenting their rude smugness) before they updated to credit EW.

    Their defensiveness about bloggers really shows; good friends warn people about things like that, eh? They should be grateful to “a blogger” — Mote Dai — and EW, for pity’s sake.

      • skdadl says:

        Well, the first time, EW wasn’t going via anyone except Stephen Bradbury. The memos were there. EW actually read them, with her brain switched to the “ON” position.

  15. PJEvans says:

    dday has a post on Gruber over at the mothership.
    Seems Gruber tends to shade his reporting of facts, also, when it’s to the benefit of him or his paycheck.

    • fatster says:

      Yes, and the scolding has commenced over there now, too. Sigh.

      Just got here and am delighted that bmaz has this up. Now, to re-read his post and continue with all your comments.

  16. koshem says:

    Of all the criminality that goes on in the banking and medical system, a dysfunctional president, you have chosen to spend your energy on a questionable minor problem. This makes you a great cover for the big fish and stand out as a particularly picky and not enlightened organ.

    • skdadl says:

      From where I sit, the world has not been bricklefritzin’ “picky” enough for at least a generation.

      If keeping nose to grindstone, showing up, paying attention, and testifying truthfully are nitpicking, and if taking a citizen’s duty to the Bill of Rights and Nuremberg and Geneva seriously is nitpicking, then let’s pick some nits, I say.

    • bmaz says:

      You have to move beyond the ganglion all the way up to the cortex to process that this IS integrally related to the medical system, the president, and with the significant portion of the economy represented by healthcare, the financial sector as well. Go on, give it a try, it is fun to “connect the dots”!

    • Frank33 says:

      Of all the criminality that goes on in the banking and medical system, a dysfunctional president, you have chosen to spend your energy on a questionable minor problem.

      For Gruber to say that raising taxes will raise employee wages is certainly questionable. You are blissfully ignoring the criminality. Gruber is a government paid agent spreading corporate propaganda. This is just one small example of the secret Disinformation Campaign against the American People by its own government. Burson Marstellar, SAIC, Black/Zee and Gruber use citizen taxes to falsely persuade citizens to start wars, ignore financial corruption and give more taxpayer subsididies corporations.

      I am beginning to wonder if Krugman is being paid by Total Information Awareness.

  17. Leen says:

    This argument from Krugman seems really weak

    “The truth is that this is no big deal. Gruber’s grant is from HHS, not the West Wing; it’s basically the same kind of thing as, say, an epidemiologist receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health. You wouldn’t ordinarily say that this tarnishes the epidemiologist’s credentials as an independent analyst on infectious diseases, unless you want to say that nobody receiving a research grant can be considered independent.”

    How does that go apples with oranges

    Then Krugman goes on

    “Should Gruber have made a fuller disclosure? Yes — I think he was being too much of an academic, taking for granted that everyone understands the difference between being a political hired gun and receiving a research grant. Should he disclose the contract every time he writes anything? Well, maybe — but a brief mention should suffice. When you’re writing 800-word op-eds, you need to reserve as much space as possible for real content.”

    Of course he should disclose this potential conflict of interest to the peasants ,every time he is being interviewed. The peasants are trying hard to understand this legislation and all involved with the conclusions and decisions being made.

  18. PJEvans says:

    From dday’s post:

    It makes sense to use modeling to get a preview of CBO analysis, and Gruber’s models are recognized as among the best. But like the White House, members of the Senate Finance Committee like John Kerry, who put together the structure of the excise tax, were publicly saying things like “this bill will raise wages, don’t trust me, trust independent expert Jonathan Gruber,” when at the time Gruber was working with the Committee on their modeling.

    Nice: he apparently didn’t tell the Senate committee that he was being paid for his results.

    He also quotes a comment on another Krugman piece, where a couple of years ago, Gruber was showing that increasing co-pays and deductibles results in less care, and now he’s saying that doing the same thing won’t do that. That sounds like Gruber was bought.

  19. wavpeac says:

    Well, it’s clear that there is defensiveness going on. And when defenses rise usually this mean there is emotion and judgments. (biases) Even smart people have them, and no, Krugman, is not free of the forces of emotion. (Even Einstein had his struggles here as well).

    So, he’s human, yes. And on this issue he is defending his friend more than he is the very clear conflict of interest. He just doesn’t seem to realize this. We can see it, but he likely cannot see it.

    I have mixed reactions to Krugman…which is probably a good thing.

    I am grateful for Marcy’s research on this.

    Great article Bmaz.

  20. orionATL says:

    what is impressive, and very revealing about the krugman personality, re this teapot tempest,

    is how obdurate he has been, even though manifestly on the wrong side of the disclosure argument.

    on the matter of liking or disliking krugman, one does not need to dislike him to criticize him on a specific matter.

    i think krugman is the most intellectually honest political commentator in the main stream media.

    i also think he is being stubbornly intellectually dishonest with the sophistry he has been trying to peddle on gruber’s failure to disclose.

    i will still read paul krugman every monday and friday as i have for years.

    he is the ONLY new york times opinion-giver whom i have any interest in reading.

  21. Fenestrate says:

    The problem with Prof Gruber’s being on the Administration’s payroll for me works out this way.

    Given that the Admin shopped for an expert that already held an agreeable position rather than bribing him to support them.

    The problem is that Prof Gruber’s position is based on his model. As in the case of any model, it’s results are heavily dependent on it’s assumptions. With the additional exposure his position got, his assumptions were subjected to more analysis.

    In the normal course of events, if given enough proof, Prof Gruber would be open to changing those assumptions. But given the added incentive of the grant, and probably aware that the grant came about because of his favorable position, it would seem that he would be disincentivized from changing his assumptions.

    Of course, with all the publicity, Prof Gruber would probably be loath to change his assumptions anyway, but the grant doesn’t help.

  22. Fenestrate says:

    Just an itch, but do you think that Krugman et al might be worried that an attach on Gruber is an attack on his model and might be seen as an attack on models in general (i.e., climate models)?

    Nah, neither do I. nvm *g*

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Krugman’s offending comment was a typical academic meow, more commonly phfftted out by Maureen Dowd than Paul Krugman. He defended himself along with Gruber by lobbing a catty comment he hoped would run straight to the heart of this blog’s self-image and self-esteem: it’s hard factual reporting and its liberal bent.

    “Oh, you might be [are] just like those you so vehemently oppose. You may have your field of dreams, but it will never yield a magical team of disinterested pundits and academics as good as we are.”

    That imaginary Krugman thought bubble yields another analogy: the Times pundits are a ghost of what they once were. They remain energized by marketing and lucre and are kept aloft because the standards of journalism and Menschlichkeit, like the stones of an old manse, crumble around them.

  24. Gitcheegumee says:

    Sun Jan-17-10

    Original message

    New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers

    Source: New York Magazine

    New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.

    One personal friend of Sulzberger said a final decision could come within days, and a senior newsroom source agreed, adding that the plan could be announced in a matter of weeks. (Apple’s tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy.) It will likely be months before the Times actually begins to charge for content, perhaps sometime this spring. Executive Editor Bill Keller declined to comment. Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said: “We’ll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach. No details till then.”

    The Times has considered three types of pay strategies. One option was a more traditional pay wall along the lines of The Wall Street Journal, in which some parts of the site are free and some subscription-only. For example, editors and business-side executives discussed a premium version of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s DealBook section. Another option was the metered system. The third choice, an NPR-style membership model, was abandoned last fall, two sources explained. The thinking was that it would be too expensive and cumbersome to maintain because subscribers would have to receive privileges (think WNYC tote bags and travel mugs, access to Times events and seminars).

    The Times has also decided against partnering with Journalism Online, the start-up run by Steve Brill and former Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz. It has rejected entreaties by News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller, who is leading Rupert Murdoch’s efforts to get rival publishers onboard to demand more favorable terms from Google and other web aggregators. This fall, Miller met with Times digital chief Martin Nisenholtz, but nothing came of the talks.

    Read more: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/01/new_york_times_set

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I can’t think of a better way for the Times to lose readership, while hardening the bubble around its editors, reporters and pundits. What’s not to like? Mr. Sulzberger tried this once before, and ended it as embarrassingly as did Coke, pulling its “new” formulation off the market.

      Those who want hard news would prefer to get it from the Times, if it were to provide it. But the less available the Times make it, the more it will empower the vibrant new news sources that Mr. Sulzberger’s Maginot pay line is meant to keep out. The resulting false sense of security and self-importance is not likely to lead to a good end. Parlez-vous German?

      This is another example of the weak and conservative Sulzberger doing an Obama – mimicking his nemesis, here, Rupert the Murdoch, in hopes of out-competing him. That’s a kind of self-inflicted, self-aimed terrorism, where fear of the enemy makes you become just like them.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      And for some additional info on another “news” organization:

      Saudi billionaire eyes new links with News Corp.

      Source: AP

      The Saudi billionaire whose investment firm is one of the biggest stakeholders in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. said he is looking to expand his alliances with the media giant, in the latest indication that his appetite for growth remains robust even as his company retrenches.

      Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king and who was listed last year by Forbes as the world’s 22nd richest person, met with News Corp.’s chief executive Rupert Murdoch on Jan. 14 in a meeting that “touched upon future potential alliances with News Corp.,” according to a statement released by his Kingdom Holding Co. late Saturday.

      Media reports have indicated that News Corp, parent to Fox News and Dow Jones & Co., among others, may be thinking of buying a stake in Alwaleed’s Rotana Media Group, which includes a number of satellite channels that air in the Middle East.

      Neither company has commented publicly on the possible deal, but the talks offer an indication yet that such an agreement may yet be in the offing.

      Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100117/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_saud

  25. Gitcheegumee says:

    @#48

    I though it was “germane” -*G*- to the issues at hand.

    Now those pesky people who expect accountability will now have to have an

    account-but will the NYT have the ability?

    • Leen says:

      Sorry Bmaz

      Hey Gitchee would you do me a favor? I was banned over at the mothership by RBG for not backing down on a particular issue. This really applies to Massiciao’s thread on the bailout. Would you put this up over there for me

      Elizabeth Warren: TARP Oversight Report Says ‘Implicit Guarantee’ of Future Bailouts Hampering Reform
      http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/elizabeth-warren-tarp-oversight-report-say

      Elizabeth Warren “yesterday was informative if nothing else” “how much do you plan to change your practices?” “I heard a mention loud and clear we don’t plan to change”

  26. shem says:

    I wasn’t as shocked as I might have been about what Krugman’s said. I check Krugman’s blog every day and have learned alot by doing so. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been shocked by something he’s said. Back during the bailouts in September 2008, I was gobsmacked when I read this post about the bailouts, not because he was in favor of the bailouts, but because of his use of the term banana republic: Demolition accomplished.

    He was arguing for a small group of people at the top to go against the popular will of the people in support of a private industry, and if that didn’t happen we would have become a banana republic. I think he got the concept of banana republic reversed. At least a few other people agree with me about the defining features of a banana republic.

    Why am I bringing this up? Like the bailouts, the excise tax is unpopular, but Krugman would like to see it passed in some form. He’s done a post where he explains his thinking on this in clear terms. (Although he doesn’t say whether he finds it acceptable in it’s current form.) Like with the bailouts, he’d like to see a top-down approach that goes against the popular will. Like with the bailouts he’s passionate about HCR (of which the excise tax is a major part) and therefore is having a strong emotional reaction and throwing out pejoratives, as a rhetorical tactic, and/or as a gut response. The fact that Gruber is a friend just adds to the passionate response.

    But Krugman is a brilliant man who describes economic theory clearly and convincingly. I don’t always agree with him and I’m more of a populist than he is, but I’ll continue to read and admire him and also Marcy Wheeler.

  27. JasonLeopold says:

    Greenhouse’s claim that he struck Gruber’s ties to the administration because his article was too long is really laughable. Unless the reference in his original draft amounted to 700 words I can’t imagine that the disclosure would have been more than a sentence or two.

    The last thing an editor would have asked a reporter to take out of the story was a full disclosure statement.

    The more likely scenario is that disclosing it would have changed the substance and news value of his story. His report would have read more like the Times was writing a press release (in my opinion) and it would have likely resulted in the story not being given as much prominence, which Greenhouse was likely well aware of. Moreover, an editor may have asked him to do further reporting or get quotes from another source because it would have looked like the Times was pimping for the White House.

    It’s also foolish for him to say that Gruber’s views “were well known.” Every story in a mainstream publication like the Times is supposed to be approached, for the most part, as if the reader is hearing about the news for the first time. Gruber’s views may have been well known to Greenhouse but that doesn’t hold true for every Times reader.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      I am not nearly as smart as you and EVEN I thought that argument about the length of the article was pure BS.

      Hey, why couldn’t he have done the story in TWO parts-surely that would have given him PLENTY of room for FULL disclosure-and THEN some.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        Also, the article was published online and the disclosure could have been in the online version. There’s usually no space limitations for an online report and there have been many occasions where the online version of a report is far lengthier than the print edition.

        Also, you’re way smarter than me :)

    • Leen says:

      “It’s also foolish for him to say that Gruber’s views “were well known.” Every story in a mainstream publication like the Times is supposed to be approached, for the most part, as if the reader is hearing about the news for the first time. Gruber’s views may have been well known to Greenhouse but that doesn’t hold true for every Times reader.”

      The peasants are out here trying to follow this health care debate and other critical issues. After the last eight manipulated years one would think that all of the so called “experts” would expect and hopefully welcome more intense and in depth scrutiny. One would think they would want the press and public to ask if there were any “conflict of interests” in reports, decisions etc

      • JasonLeopold says:

        I think this is just a pattern of manipulating readers on certain issues. The public absolutely wants to know and the Times knows that. And, in my opinion, I think Krugman still wants to work in this administration and he’s doing a little kissing up. If this same situation happened during the Bush years he would have railed against it in his column.

        • bmaz says:

          Jason, that is exactly my thought, at least to some extent. Heck I grant him the defense of his friend not having untoward intent and all that, heck I even believe it. And I have no idea what Krugman’s motivation was, and is, so I won’t ascribe one to him; but he sure could have robustly defended Gruber and staked out his position without lashing out at responsible journalists reporting the facts and engendering the discussion. That is the part that just gripes the hell out of me.

          • Kelly Canfield says:

            That’s the point.

            If Gruber was going to be Ceasar’s wife, he should have been beyond reproach.

          • Petrocelli says:

            What really bothered me was Paul’s backhand at Marcy & FDL. Had the slur come from a vapid talking head, I’d brush it off but Paul has to know just how meticulous Marcy is and should have at least considered talking to her before defending the indefensible.

            • PJEvans says:

              He should know, yes, but he might actually not know. I suspect a lot of the people he talks to daily, or with whom he socializes, belong to the ‘bloggers live in their parents’ basements and eat Cheetos’ crowd.

              • Petrocelli says:

                Don’t you think that Paul has visited this blog on more than one occasion ?

                I think that he, Rachel, Keif et al, must be regular lurkers over here.

          • JasonLeopold says:

            It’s true. My feeling is that he lashed out at Marcy and FDL because of the incredible impact both have had and how both have swayed public opinion on the matter.

            Still, you have to wonder whether he would have taken the same tone had Marcy’s report been published as a straight news story in the Washington Post or for that matter The Times. I think not. I do think that there’s a question of respect. He could have said, at a bear minimum, “I respectfully disagree.” But he said “some people” and “mainly Marcy Wheeler and Firedoglake” and “fake scandal” as a way of trying to convince people that this was just a small group who thinks this is a big deal.

            As I said above, I believe Krugman is well aware of the impact FDL and Marcy has had on public opinion on the matter and he’s also well aware that his own words and his column in general carries a lot of weight. It’s as a result of that that I think he came on so strong.

  28. Gitcheegumee says:

    @#61:

    I wanted to edit-but too late- and say that many people can have the same last name, and I certainly did not mean to imply something nefarious on anyone’s part.

  29. ratfood says:

    Krugman has earned the presumption from us that he’s acting in good faith and happens to disagree; and we should honestly try to understand where he’s coming from otherwise we’ll never convince him.

    I would say Krugman had and has subsequently lost that presumption of acting in good faith. First with his “fake scandal” post, then with his disingenuous follow-up essentially accusing Glenn Greenwald and FDL of sedition.

  30. georgewalton says:

    Things are always more complicated “in reality”.

    In reality we have to take into consideration what motivates someone to say something…and then what their intentions are in turn.

    Lots of things motivate us—money, fame, power, sex, friendship, loyalty. To name just a few. And more often than not we are pulled simualtaneously in conflicting directions.

    And our intentions don’t just revolve around thinking about what we do. We also have to juggle oftimes convoluted emotional and psychological reactions as well. And not all of this is done on a conscious level.

    These things can never be reconciled and squared away, uh, neatly.

    I’m inclined to give Krugman the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t really knon what ultimately motivated him to say what he did. And ultimately I don’t know what his iontentions were. And neither do you.

    What is crucial for me though are the things that can more readily be inferred from examining the potential for conflicts of interests.

    These:

    Wall Street pours money into the coffers of those [in politics] charged with legislating and regulating our economy in Washington. And our health care system. And our foreign policy.

    Wall Street pours money into the coffers of those [in the mainstream media] charged with writing, analyzing and editorializing about our economy. And our health care system. And our foreign policy.

    Unless and until this changes “democracy” is bought and paid for.

    Krugman may or may not be a pawn in this game. But the game itself is inherently corrupt.

    Now: Can the left, progressives, liberals etc. change this or not?

  31. PPDCUS says:

    After Bush’s Armstrong Williams, welcome to Obama’s Jonathan Gruber.

    Professor Krugman, for all of his well earned accolades, remains a human being. His outburst against Jane & FDL may be as much emotional as intellectual. After all, a perceived attack on the Conscience of a Liberal by progressive opinion makers had to be galling in the extreme.

  32. afterthought says:

    When they howl in agony, you know you’ve found a weak spot.

    The weak spot? If the left and right unite long enough to effect structural change that empowers people.

  33. Michael in Ohio says:

    Krugman can be strangely mainstream when he wants to be, and this is one of those times when he is as mainstream as he can get. He’s of that “perfect is the enemy of the good” mindset that tells him that if we manage to block bad legislation that would make a given crisis worse, we’re somehow obstructing progress.

  34. bsmithslo says:

    This has to be the most ridiculous story being used to smear healthcare reform. It has nothing to do with scandal and everything to do with the fact that the “progressives” that are fueling it aren’t happy that the healthcare bill is not progressive enough. The line between expert advisor, paid consultant, and advocate is always a difficult one. Mr. Gruber was not a paid spokesman. He was paid to advise. He is also more that willing to promote the ideas in the bill that he supported before and after healthcare passes or fails.

    Consider the work of Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher as opposed to Mr. Gruber. Mr. Gruber was paid to shape to provide analysis to shape healthcare policy. He advocated the same positions in the press as he had done to the administration privately. He is an expert in the field of which he was speaking. Williams and Gallagher on the other hand were being paid to advocate a position. There position was being dictated to them by the administration; talking points included. Surely you can see the difference.

    The idea that critical players in the healthcare debate would not have perceived conflicts of interest is naive and foolish. One can be independent and paid, dependent and paid, an advocate for specific policies but yet independent from an administration who also advocates such policies. There will be overlap. What Mr. Gruber has done however is nothing akin to what was happening in the Bush years and before.

    • bmaz says:

      First off, there is no support for your allegation that the idea is to “smear healthcare reform”; if you want ridiculous, it is right there in your meritless and unfounded statement. Secondly, when you say:

      The idea that critical players in the healthcare debate would not have perceived conflicts of interest is naive and foolish.

      belies the fact that numerous members of the press and other “players” have indeed come forward and expressed dismay that there was not more proper disclosure. Most of all, however, it betrays you blithe and self-entitled arrogance in believing that the American people are not critical players in their own affairs an right to be informed citizens and voters. Citizens have a right to know, and they have a right to not have holier than thou elitists make the decision that they don’t.

  35. bsmithslo says:

    The right to know what? That Gruber has consulted with the Whitehouse, giving them exactly the same opinions he would have had had he not be paid that he freely posted in print? That the Whitehouse had paid to advise them, but had not paid him to advocate for them?

    It would seem that there are a number of additional components in order to create a scandal. 1). I would like to know a little bit more about Gruber’s finances. Is it common for him to be paid for this type of work (hint: it is)? 2). I would expect to see evidence of Gruber changing his positions to reflect the supposed conflict of interest (hint: he didn’t). 3). I would expect some sort of “cover up” to conceal the fact that Gruber was paid to advise the Whitehouse. Is there any?

    Of course this whole thing is troubling, much like Harry Reid’s comments were troubling. Reid’s comments were accurate but clumsy. Gruber’s interaction is not a scandal, but is clumsy. The fact that it was clumsy is not enough to raise it to the level of scandal, which you all are trying to do here (for obvious reason I might add). You disagree with Obama’s centrists proposals so you are trying to raise clumsiness to the level of scandal. It just isn’t there. Sorry. The whole issue is easily discovered with a google search and easily resolved with a press release. Period.

    PS. Read the piece at Salon which links the Cass Suskind paper discussing the idea of infiltrating “conspiracy based” groups through social networks on the internet to combat misinformation. It sounds pretty damning until you use your head for a second. The issue being discussed is groups that are inciting violence. Sometimes the difference between a nefarious conspiracy and a benign attempt to do anything is a simply twisting of the meaning of words. The government does spy on its own citizens all the time. The government also uses undercover agents, and at times, they even lie to protect us from that which seeks to harm us.

    To say that the government needs input for industry groups related to health care is an example of a fact that can easily be twisted. The fact that they have given input does not mean that they have crafted the bill. By twisting one word “input” to “crafting” the entire portrait of industries role is flipped on its head. The same can be said of Gruber being sought out and paid as a consultant on health care. Show evidence that he has changed his facts or his opinions based on desire for financial gain. Until then, you really are simply using a political trick that has been created and mastered by Republicans.

  36. moster says:

    Brad delong at least makes it easy to dismiss the article from the 1st sentence:

    “Jon Gruber is not a “consultant” or “strategist” who gets bribed by a political party or a government.”

    No, he did not get bribed, and noan that was not Glenn’s point and thanks for being so disingenuous in trying to rephrase the argument into hysterics.

  37. ManwithaParachute says:

    When you betray your values, you betray everything. Krugman will never write a column I will read again.