December 07, 2007

Smith Resigns... a freelancer at NRO:

Dear Readers,

After much reflection and consideration, I am withdrawing from my professional relationship as a regular freelancer with National Review Online.

This is my own decision. No one at NRO has asked me to do this, nor has anyone suggested or even hinted I should. But I believe this to be in the best interest of the publication which I have so much respect for.

Both NRO and I have taken far too much heat for something which would never have happened had I been more specific in terms of detailing my sourcing while blogging about Lebanon at "The Tank". That is a responsibility I have to accept.

It was an honor to write for NRO. NRO has stood by me and supported me throughout all of this, and for that and for so many other things over the years I will always be grateful. And I will always cherish my relationship with NRO.

As I said in an interview the other day, I'm not sure what the future holds for me in this. But what I do know is that I will continue to march forward into it.

All the best,
W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Franklin Foer, you are on the clock.

Update: Katharyn Jean Lopez provides a full accounting of what went wrong with Smith's reporting from Lebanon at NRO blog "The Tank."

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 7, 2007 10:10 AM

End of controversy at NRO in about one or two weeks...continuing at TNR after 4 + Months.

Posted by: Mark at December 7, 2007 10:50 AM

Smith has done the honorable thing and he should receive his due credit for it.

Franklin there any honor in you? We're waiting....

Posted by: T.Ferg at December 7, 2007 11:32 AM

NRO, Lopez and Smith school TNR, Foer and Beauchamp in How To Respond Professionally When Things Go Sideways.

Anyone here think Frankie is listening?

Posted by: Justacanuck at December 7, 2007 03:17 PM

How quickly do ya think the lefties will demand K-Lo's head?

Posted by: C-C-G at December 7, 2007 08:03 PM

And just yesterday Larry Kudlow wrote:

Americans are working. The 4.7 percent unemployment number remains at an historical low.

The actual figures are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate was at 4% in 2000. It was below 4% several times. It was even below 3% in 1953.

It isn't difficult to find examples of the National Review putting out information about the US economy that is directly contradicted by easy-to-find primary sources. But are there corrections, retractions, or mea culpas?

Is the US economy so much less important to us than how many Hezbullah fighters are sitting in tents in Lebanon? Is being misinformed about the economy so much more trivial than being misinformed about Hezbullah posturing in Lebanon?

Posted by: cactus at December 8, 2007 08:19 AM

There is no question that 4.7% is historically low. Why are you lying? Of course there were a few times it was lower but look at how many times it was higher. It's impossible to argue that it's not historically low.

Were you born this stupid?

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at December 8, 2007 02:37 PM

What's sad is this idiot cactus doesn't even know why the unemployment rate was under 3% in 1953. I wonder if he's ever heard of the Korean war? I bet he'd really be confused about why the unemployment rate was under 2% in 1944? Could it be because of WWII? My guess is cactus will try to bring up the fact we're in a war now and I'd have to explain the effect a draft has on employment. Since he's obviously intellectually vacant I'm afraid he has no clue about what I'm saying. He'll be happy to just follow his fellow far left wing fanatical sheeple.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at December 8, 2007 02:55 PM

cactus, what percentage of women were included in the unemployment figure in 1953 or 1944? A far lower percentage of Americans were working then than now.

The telling difference between NRO and TNR is that NRO isn't going through such machinations to prove Smith's factual errors to be the truth. Admit, correct, apologize and move on. Or, push the button, Frank.

Posted by: Pablo at December 9, 2007 09:22 AM


The unemployment rate doesn't include people not considered to be looking for a job. If you feel that a housewife in 1944 should have been considered part of the labor force and the unemployment rate should have been much higher as a result, and that by failing to provide an estimate of what the unemployment rate should have been by your standards, then yes, I am guilty of a machination.

Capitalist Infidel,

Wow. Not the reaction I expected, but it explains a lot. Forgive my ignorance, and perhaps you folks would indulge me one more time...

I count 17 occasions in the BLS table I cited in which annual unemployment was below 4.7%. Since the table runs between 1947 and 2006, that means the unemployment rate was below what Kudlow calls "an historical low" 28.3% of the time.

If that qualifies as a historical low, what doesn't? If 33% of previous events were lower, are you still at a historical low? What about 50%? 85% too? I'm just trying to understand the ground rules here.

And maybe y'all can help me with another definition I saw in another recent Kudlow piece:

"Real gross domestic product, the best summary report of the American economy, came in at a breathtaking 3.9 percent annual rate for the third quarter."

The BEA, the folks who bring you real gross domestic product, also provide this handy table showing the percentage change in real gross domestic product. It turns out Kudlow was wrong... it actually grew (until they revise the figures) at 4.9%. So that's probably a typo. But let's look at that 4.9% a year figure (presumably more breathtaking than 3.9%)

Now, looking at the annual column, it seems that the data goes back to 1930, and on 23 occasions, or about 30% of the time, real GDP came in faster than the breathtaking 4.9 percent annual rate. Quarterly data goes back to Q2 of 1947, and it seems that 29% of all quarters exhibit annual growth rates in excess of 4.9% a year.

Does this qualify as "an historical high" for real economic growth? And is "breathtaking" similar to "an historical" rate? Which is better?

Which leads to one more comparison.... this table has real median income from 1974 to 2005. We can see from the table that in only 35.5% did we observe growth rates of real median income of less than 0.22%... and we observed that in all but one of the years of GW's term so far. (And all but one of the years of GHW's term. And in two years of Carter's.) If we look at negative growth rates only, that's still 32.3% of the sample - and three years of GW's term.

Does that mean we can say that real median income growth rates during most of GW's term have been at historical lows? How about breathtaking lows? Or is 35.5% far enough away from 28.3% and 30%?

Posted by: cactus at December 9, 2007 10:47 PM
The unemployment rate doesn't include people not considered to be looking for a job. If you feel that a housewife in 1944 should have been considered part of the labor force and the unemployment rate should have been much higher as a result, and that by failing to provide an estimate of what the unemployment rate should have been by your standards, then yes, I am guilty of a machination.

I guess Cactus has never heard of Rosie the Riveter. (Yes, it's Wikipedia. The complaint line starts over there.)

So, I imagine that Cactus is guilty, as he says, of a machination. Thanks for admitting it.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 10, 2007 12:19 AM


In 1944 or 2007, a woman looking for work is part of the labor force and unemployed. In 1944 or 2007, a woman with a job is considered part of the labor force, but not unemployed. And in 1944 or 2007, a woman without a job but not looking for one is not part of the labor force and not considered employed or unemployed.

(Check the BLS glossary for such terms as labor force, unemployment, and employed persons.)

If you can explain how the Rosie the Riveter phenomenon would have resulted lower unemployment rates in 1953 than today, please do. Because clearly I'm missing something.

Posted by: cactus at December 10, 2007 08:06 AM

Every year from 1970 to 1997 unemployment was over the current 4.7%. An idiot like Cactus has no idea what the draft does for employment.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at December 10, 2007 09:25 AM

I just lurve how Cactus changes the dates from 1944 to 1953 without blinking.

Ladies and gentleman, a lefty "economist" on display, complete with goalposts on wheels.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 10, 2007 09:31 AM

Capitalist Infidel,

You are correct. Since the unemployment rate deals only with the civilian non-institutional population (i.e., not military or incarcerated), an idiot like me really doesn't know what the draft does to the unemployment rate. I imagine it might actually push the unemployment rate up... people transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce, especially if they're kind of shell-shocked, might have trouble doing it.


"I just lurve how Cactus changes the dates from 1944 to 1953 without blinking."

I was just responding to Capitalist Infidel's December 8, 2007 02:55 PM comment. Since he brought up 1944 and 1953, please explain how I could have addressed his point without mentioning those dates.

Posted by: cactus at December 10, 2007 10:33 AM

F- on the spin, Cactus. Your post of 10 Dec, 8:06 AM--the one I was replying to regarding the dates--was addressed to me, and only me... no mention of Capitalist Infidel at all. Other posts of yours clearly indicate that you are quite capable of and willing to address different commenters in the same post, but that you invariably do so specifically, by name. And now you seem to want to claim that you broke that pattern only when it will get you out of a hole? Puh-leeze.

And my post was referring only to Rosie the Riveter, who was a WWII figure, not a Korean War figure.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 10, 2007 08:45 PM


Fine, if it bothers you, then yes, I changed the dates from 1944 to 1953 without blinking, whatever that means.

Since you didn't discuss the effect Rosie the Riveter had on unemployment in WW2, let me do it for you. A bunch of jobs opened up. Many of the men who previously filled them were out fighting WW2. Thus, the number of people in the labor force dropped relative to the number of jobs they held... reducing the unemployment rate. Women saw all these open jobs and an opportunity they hadn't had before, and started applying. That pushed up the size of the labor force. Because not all of them got jobs, many were now considered part of the labor force, considered to be looking for jobs, and and jobless... which made them unemployed. In 1944, the unemployment rate was 1.2%. If more than 12 women out of every 1,000 that entered the workforce in any given month didn't find jobs that month, the unemployment rate rose. There's more friction in the job market than that, even during a war.

But all that still leaves a key point in the air. Kudlow specifically calls it "an historical low" despite the fact that 28% of the sample consists of years in which the unemployment rate was below "an historical low". Even changing it to "historically low" might be a bit of a stretch. I also point out another instance of uncalled-for hyperbole - the use of the word "breathtaking" to describe a situation no less uncommon than his "historical low."

(Its not difficult to point out Kudlow hyperbole, or another favorite of his - switching between nominal, real, and percentage of GDP figures - to imply something about the economy that isn't the case.)

The reaction here has been to attack me for pointing it out. Comments have ranged from changing Kudlow's choice of words from "an historical low" to "historically low" and accusing me of lying, insisting that somehow the draft during the Korean War had something to do with it, asking me about the percentage of women in the workforce (which misses the point of how the unemployment figure is computed), and your contribution.

From all of this, I guess I got my answer... some of you folks seem to derive a lot of value from the NRO providing misinformation about the economy, enough to defend it come what may.

Posted by: cactus at December 11, 2007 08:05 AM

Actually, I have not yet defended NRO's economics coverage. I will leave that to those trained in economics, which I am not.

I was merely commenting on your verbal (typed?) slight-of-hand.

You really should put away the broad brush and try one a little more exact.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 11, 2007 08:04 PM

--grabbing the wheel and steering this thread back to topic--

Two experts on Lebanon, one employed by the UN, have written an article defending Smith's statements.

Please note, for the record, I suggest that the above article be taken with as many grains of salt as necessary. I merely add it to the discussion (a) to bring it back to topic and (b) to provide everyone with the chance to read it and decide for themselves.

I do not, I say again and strongly emphasize, I DO NOT NECESSARILY AGREE WITH ALL POINTS IN THE ABOVE ARTICLE.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 11, 2007 10:56 PM