Greenspan's "Irrational Exuberance" Predicted Stock Plunge?
Mark Stein's Saturday review of the week in business includes a bite on the supposed "housing bubble" and what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has to say about it: "Frothy exuberance? People who think the housing market is robust and those who think it is scary each had a little more evidence this week to make their case. The median price of existing homes in the United States jumped more than 15 percent, to $206,000, last month from April 2004. The median price of new homes also climbed 3.8 percent last month, to $230,800. Even at those prices, demand is strong. Existing-home sales surged 4.5 percent in April, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.18 million. Good news about a strong market? Bad news about a bubble? Hard to say. But Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, did recently warn of 'froth' in the market. Was that, perhaps, a polite way of suggesting 'irrational exuberance,' as he did about stocks before that market tumbled in 2001?"
Greenspan did indeed use that famous phrase, "irrational exuberance," before the market began tumbling in 2000 (not 2001, as Stein claims). In fact, he used it in 1996, a full four years before the market tumbled. Which suggests the chairman's comments weren't the harbinger of falling stock prices that Stein's paragraph implies.
To read the rest of Stein's rundown of business developments, click here:
Jason DeParle on the Olin Foundation
Sunday's front-page story from senior writer and welfare book author Jason DeParle focuses on the closing of the Olin Foundation ("Goals Reached, Donor on Right Closes Up Shop"), an important conservative foundation.
DeParle notes: "Without it, the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom's lament of academic decline and Charles Murray's attacks on welfare. Part Medici, part venture capitalist, the John M. Olin Foundation has spent three decades financing the intellectual rise of the right and exciting the envy of the left. Now the foundation is closing its doors. In telling the organization to spend his money within a generation, John M. Olin, a Midwestern ammunition and chemical magnate, sought to maximize his fortune's influence and keep it from falling into hostile - that is, liberal - hands."
DeParle writes: "Feeling outmatched in the war of ideas, liberal groups have spent years studying conservative foundations the way Pepsi studies Coke, searching for trade secrets. They say that Olin and its allies have pushed an agenda that spread wealth at the top and insecurity below, and that left market excesses unchecked - and that they have done so with estimable skill."
There's more loaded language: "The foundation's staff was similarly surprised when a $25,000 grant to an obscure social scientist, Charles Murray, helped revolutionize the welfare debate. Conservatives had long attacked poor people as abusing welfare programs. Mr. Murray's 1984 book, 'Losing Ground,' attacked the programs as abusing the poor by diverting them from work and marriage. By equating cutting with caring, Mr. Murray helped conservatives lay claim to the mantle of compassion as they pushed tough new welfare laws."
DeParle has a prickly history with Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve. As Media Research Center noted when the book came out back in 1994: "In an October 9 New York Times Magazine piece titled 'The Most Dangerous Conservative,' reporter Jason DeParle mused: 'The man who would abolish welfare was flying to Aspen, Colo., sipping champagne in the first-class cabin and spinning theories about the society unraveling 30,000 feet below.' He later added: 'He will never be the country's most famous conservative, but he may well be the most dangerous.' In a letter to the Times, Murray's wife revealed that her husband used frequent-flyer miles to bump himself and DeParle up to first class so that DeParle could 'interview him in peace.'"
DeParle continues in the same vein: "A $5,000 grant helped the journalist David Brock write his 1993 book, 'The Real Anita Hill,' in which he elaborated on his incendiary charges that impugned the character of Ms. Hill, the critic of Justice Clarence Thomas. Breaking with the right, Mr. Brock later apologized."
Belying his previous assertion that Olin excited the "envy of the left," DeParle later reveals that liberal foundations in fact spend far more: "Other major conservative donors include the Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, the Smith Richardson Foundation in Westport, Conn., and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee. Comparing them with an equal number of liberal foundations, including Ford and MacArthur, Mr. Piereson found that the right spent $100 million a year to the left's $1.2 billion." Then there's the liberal-leaning Gates Foundation, with an endowment of $27 billion.
For the full DeParle on the Olin Foundation, click here:
The Lame Duck in the Rose Garden
Page 2 of Sunday's Week In Review features a colorful roundup of the week's political news. Under the heading "Political Fallout" and a photo of Bush is this line: "Bad News - This may have been the week the lame duck landed in the Rose Garden."
In the view of the Times, both Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (may have had an even worse week than the president") were losers this week in the battle over judicial filibusters and the nomination of John Bolton to the United Nations, while media darling Sen. John McCain joined Sen. Robert Byrd and Sen. John Warner in the winners circle.
But the paper goes beyond those political judgments to gush in heroic terms about Byrd and Warner, saviors of the senate: "Both men were at the center of the unexpectedly successful effort to reach a compromise of moderates on the filibuster. Mr. Warner and Mr. Byrd said they were acting on behalf of the institution and the country they served. They looked as if they meant it, and people seemed to believe them. That may be because neither senator has any further political ambitions, a status that may be what is required these days for voters, commentators and political professionals to give credence to their claims. The respect, or possibly gratitude, with which the performance of these two was greeted was also a reminder that voters found the bitter and even venomous squabbling between the parties in Washington unattractive and unacceptable."
For the full week in review, click here:
Canadian Allegedly Tortured in Syria "Deeply Embarrassing" to U.S?
Sunday's Times 2003 follows up on the old story of Maher Arar, a Canadian born in Syria who claims to have been sent back to his native land and tortured.
Reporter Scott Shane states in "The Costs of Outsourcing Interrogation: A Canadian Muslim's Long Ordeal in Syria": "In 2002, when the United States government seized Maher Arar as he changed planes in New York and took him to Syria, the reason was starkly stated in a Justice Department document: he was a member of Al Qaeda. Maher Arar, born in Syria, said he was subjected to beatings there. But no evidence of that has been made public in a judicial inquiry here into why Mr. Arar, a Canadian who was born in Syria, was sent to his native country, where he says he was beaten with a metal cable and held for 10 months in a tiny cell. Instead, it increasingly appears that Mr. Arar was singled out because his ties to other Muslims under suspicion in Ottawa were misinterpreted by jittery Canadian and American security officers."
Shane blandly discusses the "excesses" in the war on terror and admits that's where the media's current focus lies: "The case shows the difficulties of identifying potential terrorists and the risks of relying on information extracted from harsh interrogations. It also illustrates the shift in focus by the public and the media since 2002. When Mr. Arar was detained at Kennedy Airport on Sept. 26, 2002, anxiety was high that there could be a repeat of the 2001 attacks. Today, after a year of revelations about prisoner abuse in Iraq and elsewhere - and no new attacks on American soil - the media's attention is on excesses in the battle against terrorism."
Shane uses soft tones to paint Arar as a likely innocent: "His story has proved deeply embarrassing to American officials, even if they continue to insist, privately, that Mr. Arar is not just the mild-mannered computer consultant he seems, but a man with ties to a probable cell of Al Qaeda in Canada, though he has never been charged with a thing. Whatever the truth, Mr. Arar's soft, steady voice has touched the conscience of Canada and raised disturbing questions about whether Washington's pursuit of terror suspects has trampled judicial due process, or swept up guiltless bystanders."
To read the rest of Shane's interview with Arar, click here: