I recently received an email, containing an article entitled Less Money, More Pain — The Bonfire of Capital By Mike Whitney. The comment sent with the article was “This tells me that 2008 will be a very bad year for everyone.” Wow. Must be a compelling article, well researched, and written by someone with significant credibility. Well, perhaps not.
Let’s start with the credibility. I wondered about the credibility of the author of the article. So I read the credentials listed at the end of the article “Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org” He lives in Washington STATE! Yes–of course, How could I miss that credential! I should listen/pay attention to him. (And does anyone else find it, um… odd, that Mike’s email address is “FERGIE?”)
Now, I would like to take a brief moment to encourage everyone to do something called “research.” You may recall, as regular readers to this site, that I often encourage one to practice academic and intellectual honesty. Stop. Check the data. Question the sources. Challenge the techniques.
First, and most simply, I found that clicking on the source link for the article (http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney/02222008.html) results in a “connection timed out” error. (as of 2/25/08, 1118hr EST) That could mean that everyone is going there and resulted in the site being overloaded, or it could mean that the article on the site has been “pulled.” Either way, the credibility of the source is now questioned. Especially since the main site, Counterpunch.org is also returning a “connection has timed out” error.
Second: There are statements that should be easily verifiable in the article. For instance, the author (Mike? Fergie?) writes: “The $330 billion ARS market has dried up overnight pushing up rates as high as 20 per cent on some bonds…” which is quite a bit of news! Did anyone see this high bond rate reported? Can anyone find a news source that reported this? I would think that, if Fergie/Mike was able to find the information, then it should be “findable” right? I am not saying that the information isn’t there–but I am wondering why sources aren’t given.
Now, actually, it wasn’t that hard to do. I did find this snippet:
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, for instance, is paying $390,000 in interest this week on one $100 million bond that cost just over $83,000 last week, before a failed auction pushed the rate on the bonds to 20 percent from 4.2 percent.
Now, I also found numerous other sites that actually state, verbatim, what Mike/Fergie wrote. For instance, the Free Market News reports:
The credit storm which began in July when two Bear Stearns hedge funds were forced to liquidate, has continued to intensify. Last week the noose tightened around auction-rate securities, a little-known part of the market that requires short-term funding to set rates for long-term municipal bonds. The $330 billion ARS market has dried up overnight pushing up rates as high as 20 per cent on some bonds — a new benchmark for short term debt.
That should count, right? Well, one might think so, except it really is a summary of the article written by Mike/Fergie, and points back to the (unavailable) site. Move along. Nothing to see here.
And, while I could continue, I will end with this: given that the document written by Mike/Fergie is posted on a website, and created for electronic distribution, he/she should have taken the time to provide links to the actual sources for his/her information. “Good” bloggers at least hold themselves to that standard. Heck, even bad/poor bloggers (like good ol’ Eric over at A Liberal Dose) link to sources where they get the information they then distort. This may well be a maelstrom that consumes all in the fiery demise of the world economy. But then again, without sources (reputable or otherwise) this is simply another pundit, among the many, touting gloom and doom.