Here's Daniel Okrent's parting cheap shot at Paul Krugman:
Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales "called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint' " nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. Before his retirement in January, William Safire vexed me with his chronic assertion of clear links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, based on evidence only he seemed to possess.
No one deserves the personal vituperation that regularly comes Dowd's way, and some of Krugman's enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn't mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn't hold his columnists to higher standards.
I didn't give Krugman, Dowd or Safire the chance to respond before writing the last two paragraphs. I decided to impersonate an opinion columnist.
The claim that Krugman has the "disturbing habit" of "shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults" is a generalization that is unsupported by a single example, as Bob Somerby and others have pointed out. But to Andrew Sullivan, professional Krugman hater, it's a "damning" argument:
MANKIW ON KRUGMAN: Almost as damning as Dan Okrent. - 3:32:00 PM
It's just textbook. Lord, Ross and Lepper's 1979 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is a classic reference on this phenomenon:
[S]ubjects supporting and opposing capital punishment were exposed to two purported studies, one seemingly confirming and one seemingly disconfirming their existing beliefs about the deterrent efficacy of the death penalty. As predicted, both proponents and opponents of capital punishment rated those results and procedures that confirmed their own beliefs to be the more convincing and probative ones...
(Now, I think you can fairly object that Krugman portrays his ideological opponents in cartoonish ways. But the same applies to Sullivan, and Okrent's use of numbers criticism is just an assertion without supporting evidence. We're talking about a John Bates Clark medal winner here. Krugman does make mistakes, but most of the blogger criticisms of him that I've looked into range from unconvincing to downright dishonest.)