First Niall Ferguson, then Bob Shrum!


The breakdown never ends: Just remember who warned you first about them Harvard perfessors!

Niall Ferguson’s Newsweek piece is really quite a document. For Paul Krugman’s reaction and links, click here.

That said, Ferguson executes a type of hat trick within our press corps elite: He’s conventionally handsome, he's Harvard-employed—and he speaks with a British accent! In the broken world of American journalism, that’s all the “evidence” anyone needs to back up any assertion!

(Question: Will any other Harvard professor stand to oppose his dissembling colleague? Can anything on the face of the earth make these slackers speak?)

Ferguson’s piece represented a gruesome new low. In a much more ludicrous way, consider this embarrassing piece at the Daily Beast by the hopeless Bob Shrum.

Shrum is a frequent presence on MSNBC; he’s also a Beast contributor. That said, do liberal intellectual leaders have to know anything at all at this late date in the breakdown?

No, Shrum’s piece doesn’t matter that much—but in our experience, he executes a totally new type of belly-flop.

The highlighted passage is truly astounding. On the writing and the editing end, how do you get this clueless?
SHRUM (8/22/12): While dissembling about his own position, Romney counterfeited Obama’s, alleging in a hastily edited spot that the president “cut $716 billion from Medicare...[t]o pay for Obamacare.” Haste, and the taste of impending political doom lay waste to the truth. Obama didn’t cut one dollar from Medicare benefits, but payments to providers like hospitals with a poor record of patient care and insurance companies that have inflated the cost of Medicare Advantage, a Bush-born private supplement that suggests how inefficient and expensive for seniors Ryan’s vouchers would be. Moreover, the accurate figure for the savings is $500 billion; Politifact was moved to ask where Romney the vaunted numbers man found Obama cutting another “$200 billion while no one was looking.” Undeterred and determined to lie his way out of trouble with seniors, Romney doubled down. The president, he said, has “robbed” Medicare.
It’s amazing that Shrum could have written that highlighted passage. It’s sad that the Beast gave it life.

Good God. That Politifact piece, to which Shrum links, explains how we got from the earlier figure of $500 billion to the current figure of $716 billion—$716 billion in spending reductions over the next ten years.

There's no mystery about this change in the numbers. For the record, the earlier figure was perfectly accurate. So is the current figure, which deals with a new time frame.

Romney is wrong about everything else—but his dollar figure is accurate. Indeed, Politifact explained this point on August 15, in the very post Shrum cites in that passage—a post to which he links!

Politifact explained the change in numbers on August 15. A full week later, Shrum still seemed to think Romney’s number was wrong, although he linked to the very report which explained that the figure was right!

We’ve seen a lot of dumb mistakes, but we’ve never seen that type of swan dive before! Or maybe Shrum was just giving us rubes a thrill, telling us Romney was “determined to lie his way out of trouble with seniors.”

Romney’s dollar figure is right. It’s his claim about theft from the trust fund that's wrong. Needless to say, Shrum is too dumb to explain that point with anything resembling sufficient clarity.

Unless we're just pleasing ourselves!

Wow! That highlighted passage represents truly clownish incompetence. But then, over here in the pseudolib world, is there anything else?


  1. It looks like Paul slipped one through on Bob.
    The last sentence in his earlier column that Krugman links to is;

    "The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?"

  2. Like gravymeister, I immediately thought of editors and fact-checking. Shrum and Ferguson could have used both. Not that I'm sure either wanted to be rescued from their own errors in these pieces, though I must admit I hold a man with a Ph.D. in History more responsible for his own fact-checking than I do a political operative like Shrum, who doesn't claim to be a scholar.

    But let's assume that most reporters and writers of opinion columns do want their arguments to rest on secure facts (which isn't enough to make those arguments sound, but it's a beginning). Would be nice if major journalistic publications provided professional editing.

  3. Is it possible that editors of some of our most highly thought of news sources are in on the game of spreading disinformation for the purpose of causing confusion?

  4. Dr. Ferguson has a detailed, point-by-point defense of his article at

    It begins:

    My critics have three things in common. First, they wholly fail to respond to the central arguments of the piece. Second, they claim to be engaged in “fact checking,” whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts. Third, they adopt a tone of outrage that would be appropriate only if I had argued that, say, women’s bodies can somehow prevent pregnancies in case of “legitimate rape.”

    1. "Second, they claim to be engaged in “fact checking,” whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts."

      It is not the facts he used that were wrong. It was that he strongly suggested something that wasn't true. There is a difference between lying and dishonesty.

    2. So, DaivdinCal, you don't care that Ferguson was being intentionally misleading? That he was trying to convince his readers of something untrue?

      You think his "defense" refutes that?

  5. David in Cal: Well I geuss that settles it.

  6. I hadn't seen Newsweek for a long time before I picked up a copy the other day.

    Is it still a magazine? Talk about dumbed-down. It makes Parade Magazine look like the New York Review of Books.

    No copy to speak of, 50-word-long articles, graphics that look just like advertisements (what a coink-i-dink), border lines everywhere, and it must have been about 40 pages long total.

    It's a joke.

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