Harvard Prof Continues to Embarass the Civilized World

homophobia2Niall Ferguson is one of those right wing “intellectuals” that continually proves why there are few intellectually prepared people to actually argue the idiotic causes of modern ‘conservatives’ cogently. Since there is no real case to be made, the conversation usually turns to some screed against some straw man or some persecuted out group.  Ferguson is a homophobe.  He can’t go long without finding some really stupid way to make being gay an issue in any thing that relates to his diatribes.  He really stepped in it this time. This is from Digby.

There’s a lot of chatter today about Niall Ferguson’s odious comments about John Maynard Keynes.

This is the gist of it:

An excerpt from Lance Roberts’ post at StreetTalkLive.com reporting a question from former PIMCO banker Paul McCulley (in bold) and Robertson’s notes on Ferguson’s response (its not clear whether these notes are verbatim or paraphrased):

Question By Paul McCulley

“The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs…in the long run we are all dead.”

Are we in a liquidity trap, are we at a zero bound of interest rates and stuck at 8% unemployment?

[Ferguson:] Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are NOT dead in the long run…our children are our progeny. It is the economic ideals of Keynes that have gotten us into the problems of today. Short term fixes, with a neglect of the long run, leads to the continuous cycles of booms and busts. Economies that pursue such short term solutions have always suffered not only decline, but destruction, in the long run.

Several details of Ferguson’s remarks that were included in the Financial Advisor story have not been confirmed by other sources. For example, Financial Advisor reported that Ferguson asked his audience how many children Keynes had and “explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of “poetry” rather than procreated.” Other sources have not reported that rhetorical question or the additional disparaging remarks in Ferguson’s answer to it. No full transcript or video of Ferguson’s remarks has yet emerged.

WTF? Read this for some folks attending the speech that twittered and blogs his comments.

Basically Keynes doesn’t get the future because he wasn’t a breeder?  This excerpt is from Henry Blodgett at Business Insider.

In addition to the offensive suggestion that those who don’t have children don’t care about the future or society, Professor Ferguson’s reported remarks are bizarre and insulting to Keynes on two levels.

First, this is the first time we have heard a respectable academic tie another economist’s beliefs to his or her personal situation rather than his or her research. Saying that Keynes’ economic philosophy was based on him being childless would be like saying that Ferguson’s own economic philosophy is based on him being rich and famous and therefore not caring about the plight of poor unemployed people.

Second, Keynes’ policies did not suggest that he did not care about future generations. On the contrary. … For the sake of both future generations and current generations, Keynes believed that governments should run deficits during recessions and then run surpluses during economic booms. Politicians have never seemed to be able to follow the second part of Keynes’ proscription — they tend to run deficits at all times — but it seems unfair to blame this latter failing on Keynes.

Ferguson is not the first person to suggest that Keynes did not care about the future, and this sentiment is normally tied to one of Keynes’ most famous sayings:

“… In the long run, we are all dead.”

Importantly, however, in saying this, Keynes was in no way suggesting that the future doesn’t matter. Rather, when this remark is read in context, it is clear that Keynes was chiding economists for ducking responsibility for their own lousy short-term predictions:

In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestuous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.

So if Ferguson is basing his assertion that Keynes didn’t care about the future on this line, his remark is even more unfair.

For those who are new to the larger economic debate that is the backdrop to these remarks, here’s a snapshot:

Professor Ferguson and other economists have been loudly and consistently warning for years that the deficit spending and debts of most developed countries will eventually end in disaster. Professor Ferguson and other “austerians” suggest that governments should immediately cut spending and balance their budgets, even if this results in a brutal short-term recession and exploding unemployment.

This “austerian” philosophy has been countered by the “Keynesian” philosophy advocated by Paul Krugman and others in which governments enact stimulus and run big deficits during weak economic periods to offset weak private-sector spending and help shore up employment, consumer spending, and social well-being until the private sector recovers. High debts and deficits are a long-term concern that needs to be addressed, Krugman says, but they do not constitute a near-term crisis that requires immense, self-inflicted, short-term pain to alleviate.

In the past five years, the experience of many countries suggests that Krugman’s philosophy is correct, and, as yet, none of the doom predicted by Ferguson and other austerians has come to pass. Meanwhile, countries like the U.K. and Greece, which have cut spending to try to balance their budgets, have been mired in multiple recessions (or, in the case of Greece, a depression). And, notably, because lower economic output leads to less tax revenue, these countries have not made much progress in balancing their budgets.

It’s pretty spurious behavior.  Ferguson has no intellectual, theoretical or empirical evidence for his deficit hysteria so when he has nothing to validate he views, he turns to homophobia.  So, he did apologize.  But it doesn’t mean much because he’s done it before.  That link goes to a page of one of his books.  He has a history of being a jerk on many levels.

Ferguson should be the last person to be casting aspersions on anyone else’s personal life, given that, while still married to someone else, he began an affair with author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and knocked her up. He then dumped his wife of over 20 years (they had had three children together) to marry Ali. What a heart-warming demonstration of traditional values!

Ferguson’s slur was ugly indeed — so much so that the no-doubt conservative audience fell into a stunned silence following his remark. But Ferguson — a man for whom the term “hackademic” would surely have been invented, had it not already existed — is part of a long right-wing hack tradition. He is far from the first to take this line of attack. Ferguson likely stole the “childless homosexual” epithet from British wingnut Daniel Johnson (who’s the son of another winger, Paul Johnson. Why do these demon spawn second generation right-wingers tend to be even more appalling than their progenitors? ). The great novelist — and famously nasty conservative — V.S. Naipul has characterized Keynes as a gay exploiter.

Over on this side of the pond, conservative author Mark Steyn attempted to smear Keynes’ ideas by referring to him as — surprise! — a “childless homosexual.” The American Spectator has repeated that slur, as has this contributor to FrontPageMag.com. George Will has also cast the “childless” aspersion (which is pretty clearly a dog whistle for “gay”) against Keynes. So did right-wing economists Greg Mankiw and Joseph Schumpeter. I am reliably informed that William F. Buckley used to gay-bait Keynes as well, although a quick internet search did not produce evidence of this.

Ferguson’s comments are idiotic and offensive on many levels. First of all, there’s his illogical ad hominem style of argument — could not an Oxford-educated Harvard professor done a little bit better? Then there’s the juvenile homophobia — OMG! this faggy fag economist who liked to talk about faggy subjects subjects like poetry and ballet with his wife! — when everyone knows only Real Men can do economics!

But it’s not only the homophobia that’s offensive, it’s the bitchy slur against childless people. I deeply resent the insinuation that, because I haven’t irresponsibly procreated, I care nothing about future generations and would cheerfully assent to the world going to hell in a handbasket.

Anyway, I should know not to take people like Ferguson seriously, but damn it!, the man gets a platform and is at an institution where he gets more status than he deserves.   He’s an obvious example of  affirmative action placement for assholes.  Rich, powerful”conservatives” moan about never seeing one of them in the communist land of academia so universities have to bring in some obvious propaganda-spewing asshole in to fill the ranks.  Ferguson is part of the affirmative action plan of the anti-intellectual intellectual right to stick their asshole views in academia even when they never stand up to rigorous peer review.  Too bad we’ve become so advanced in the idea of equivocation that serious hacks can crawl their way up to the public arena through academia simply because we have to make room for an invalid approach to life, the world, and the meaning of humanity and civilization.  Perhaps Ferguson should just get a shrink and work out his troubled young life in Brit public school with him/her instead of on the rest of us.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Be careful driving across any bridge in this country.  Chances are that it’s unsafe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation’s oldest national engineering group, has awarded America’s roadways a grade of D-, rated one in four bridges as “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” and warned that thousands of American dams are on the verge of failure. It warned that unless tax dollars are redirected, the whole thing could crumble.

Altogether, Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic because of poorly maintained roads at a cost of $78.2 billion annually in squandered time and fuel.

The average age of America’s 600,000-plus bridges has reached 43 years old, and Congress needs $17 billion a year to make them safe for use.

The nation has 6,000 deficient dams, with 1,800 of them rating a high “hazard potential,” which means that structural failure could kill people.

The society’s complete report card can be found here.

I live next to two drawbridges over the canal with the levees that flooded and killed so many in the lower ninth ward.  The two of those things predate WW 1 and are out of commission a lot.  They even look rickety any more.  I just shudder to think what will happen one day.

Sit down.  I just about fell off my chair when the ACLU tweeted this one last night.

Some school officials in West Virginia think boys and girls are so “hard-wired” to learn differently that they have implemented some major changes in their middle school: boys and girls are separated into different classrooms for all their academic classes and  taught using radically different methods.

At Van Devender Middle School (or Vandy), a public school in Wood County WV, the boys’ classroom is brightly lit and cool, and the students are allowed to run around to blow off steam. They can sit in beanbag chairs if they wish and their desks are moveable and do not face each other. The girls’ classrooms are warm and dimly lit, and students are expected to remain in their seats and face each other while they work, even if they find that distracting.
 Girls are supposed to discuss their feelings about novels while boys are supposed to discuss the action in the books.

Adding insult to injury, this is their neighborhood middle school, to which they were assigned by the Board of Education.

The explanation for implementing this radical version of single-sex education there?  On some state-standardized measures, Vandy students were performing less well than the rest of the county.  Somehow, separating the students by sex for all of their academic core curriculum classes and teaching them differently was supposed to fix this problem.  Even though all the other middle schools – the ones supposedly outperforming Vandy – were coed.

This separation was based on the work of Leonard Sax and the organization he founded and runs, the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education (NASSPE), which holds conferences and teacher trainings to promote the theory that boys’ and girls’ brains are so different that they should be placed in separate classrooms and taught using different methods. These theories have traction because they are simple to implement.

You may want to stay seated for this one too.  GOP freshmen Congressmen go wild in Israel. Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder puts the junk in junket.

The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff – and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who were participants in the trip.

Since we’re on stupid Republican Congress critterz, did you know Paul Ryan’s new found fame has led to increased sales of Rand’s books?  How depressing is that?

While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t get an appreciable bounce after naming Paul Ryan as his running mate, the late Ayn Rand sure did.

The philosopher who favored individualism over collectivism has won renewed attention with the choice of Ryan, who in 2005 credited Rand as being “the reason I got involved in public service.”

Ryan has since scaled back that praise, citing  Rand’s atheism. Rand died in 1982.

The Rand box set of two of her works – “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” – cracked the Top 100 “Movers & Shakers” list on Amazon.com earlier this week. The online retailer’s gauge measures the biggest increases in sales ranking compared with the previous 24 hours. Rand’s books jumped 20 percent in the rankings yesterday.

Romney didn’t enjoy quite as big an uptick in support, according to the Gallup tracking poll released on Aug. 15, which showed support for the Republican increased 1 percentage point to 47 percent of registered voters in the three days following the Ryan announcement.

Hypocrisy seems to be Ryan’s strong point. He supported Economic Stimulus under Dubya.

As it turns out, Ryan’s stimulus hypocrisy extends back at least an entire decade. In 2002, Republican President George W. Bush proposed a similar — if less ambitious — stimulus plan to the one President Obama signed in 2009. Like Obama, Bush sought to goose the economy through an influx of public sector cash. His stimulus plan included an extension of unemployment benefits and a plan to mail checks directly to millions of Americans. Ryan took to the House floor to defend this plan, accurately noting that additional government spending would help move the economy out of a recession:

We have a lot of laid off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do starting in October and into December and now is to try and get people back to work. The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. . . .

We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.

A Newsweek/Daily Beast op ed By Niall Ferguson has economists and journalists alike fact checking his wrong economics. We call Shenanigans!  Krugman calls it unethical.

There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking — but this is the one that jumped out at me. Ferguson says:

The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.

Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that CBO found that the Act will increase the deficit. But anyone who actually read, or even skimmed, the CBO report (pdf) knows that it found that the ACA would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because the insurance subsidies were fully paid for.

Now, people on the right like to argue that the CBO was wrong. But that’s not the argument Ferguson is making — he is deliberately misleading readers, conveying the impression that the CBO had actually rejected Obama’s claim that health reform is deficit-neutral, when in fact the opposite is true.

More than that: by its very nature, health reform that expands coverage requires that lower-income families receive subsidies to make coverage affordable. So of course reform comes with a positive number for subsidies — finding that this number is indeed positive says nothing at all about the impact on the deficit unless you ask whether and how the subsidies are paid for. Ferguson has to know this (unless he’s completely ignorant about the whole subject, which I guess has to be considered as a possibility). But he goes for the cheap shot anyway.

We’re not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here — just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?

Joe Wiesanthal at BI shows how Ferguson gets wrong a lot.  There’s a list of things he’s been wrong on that’s quite lengthy as well as putting the blame on Obama for China’s huge GDP which is on target to surpass ours some time in 2017.  That’s the comment below that mentions that some tings are inevitable.

Niall Ferguson has a huge piece in The Daily Beast saying Obama needs to get fired titled: “Hit The Road, Barack.”

It’s basically an ell-encompassing takedown of Obama’s record on the economy (it still sucks), the deficit (it’s getting bigger) and America’s standing in the world (The Mideast has not gotten safer).

It even hits Obama for stuff like this, which seems totally inevitable at some point, regardless of who is President.

Anyway, as you read Niall Ferguson, it’s worth noting that he has been wrong on economics ever since Obama took office.

I’m getting really tired of putting up a huge list of Republicans who seem to have caught the pathological lying disease.  What’s happened to the GOP?  It seems like ever since they got religion, they also got a bad case of Pants-on-Fire.  It gives all of us a case of Hair-on-Fire.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?