Very few of you are probably interested in whether or not Fareed Zakaria properly credited Clyde Prestowitz for a quote he used in his 2008 book, The Post-American World. But since I wrote about this yesterday, I owe everyone an update.

Nickel summary: Zakaria used a quote from Andy Grove that first appeared in a book Prestowitz wrote. Prestowitz says Zakaria never credited him, and believes Zakaria owes him an apology. "It kind of has been bugging me for a while," he told the Washington Post.

So David Frum trekked out to the library to look at the paperback edition of Zakaria's book, and used Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to check out the original hardcover version. It turns out that both of them fully credited Prestowitz in footnote 11 on page 262. Today the Post retracted its article:

Endnotes crediting Prestowitz were contained in hardcover and paperback editions of Zakaria’s book. The Post should have examined copies of the books and should not have published the article. We regret the error and apologize to Fareed Zakaria.

This is just damn strange. The Post reporter obviously didn't do his homework, so shame on him. But what's the deal with Prestowitz? Did he not notice the footnote because it came at the end of a long passage? Did a friend tell him he hadn't been credited and he just accepted it without checking? Is there a first edition hardcover that doesn't have the footnote? What's going on here?

On a related note, I got an email from a reporter today taking me to task for my contention that in popular writing there's no need to credit every single quote. At his newspaper, he says, the standard is to attribute everything:

You can't just go around stealing quotes. It takes a lot of work, as you know, to get good quote. Really this is journalism 101, to credit info that you didn't get yourself. It isn't just inside baseball. It's so the readers can judge where the info comes from. All of this applies, in my view, to books written by journalists.

This actually seems reasonable for a newspaper, which mostly deals with breaking news and fairly recent quotes. Less so for non-academic books, which I just don't think adhere to this standard. In a follow-up email, I asked why his newspaper had this rule:

Our main reason is that we feel it helps readers if they know where each bit of information comes from. Another reason, probably equally important, is that, frankly, it covers your butt if it turns out there's some problem with the quote. It often prevents us from printing bogus stuff....You're right it's probably not always necessary. But we have a lot of rules like this because they have helped stop us from printing false stuff repeatedly. It's kind of like those error-prevention routines they follow in hospitals.

I like this answer. The rule is there to help readers and ensure accuracy, and at a newspaper, under deadline pressure, it's probably best to insist on attribution in the text as a way of ensuring that fact checking has been done properly. However, in long-form writing, I'd argue that fact checking can be done separately, and you don't necessarily need the crutch of having everything in the text itself.

In fact, the only thing I really object to here is the idea of someone "stealing" a quote. Maybe this is just me, but when I see a quote I don't assume it came from an interview conducted by the author. So I don't think there's any kind of misrepresentation when a quote isn't credited. Nor do I feel that an interviewer "deserves" credit every single time a quote from an interview is ever used by someone else. If it's something recent, especially something exclusive, then sure: they probably do deserve credit. But after a month? Or a year? I just don't see it.

Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium, who had a pretty good forecasting record in 2008, writes to suggest that we might all be missing the boat on Paul Ryan. Although Ryan might not have a big influence on the presidential race, he could very well have a big influence on whether Democrats maintain the control of the Senate:

What if the Romney-Ryan ticket causes candidates to campaign explicitly on GOP budget priorities? Imagine that slightly more voters switch their votes in one direction or the other based on what they hear. If 1% of voters flip toward Democrats, the resulting 2% swing leads to [an 82% chance of Democratic control]....Anyway, that’s what a knife-edge looks like. Pundits, please talk about this instead?

Obviously we don't know what effect Ryan will have on down-ticket voters, but a 1% swing against Republicans certainly seems plausible. Either way, though, it does seem as though Ryan's real influence could be much greater in congressional races than in the presidential contest. Wang's charts are below.

Today's news is pretty uninspiring. There's the idiotic manufactured outrage over Joe Biden's "chains" comment. There's a mind-numbing number of deep-in-the-weeds posts about Paul Ryan's budget plan and how bad it is. There's the state judge who declined to issue an injunction against Pennsylvania's new voter ID law — not much of a surprise since the Supreme Court ruled years ago that such laws were OK. There's Mitt Romney, once again pretending that even though he's too cowardly to tell us during the presidential campaign what tax loopholes on the rich he wants to close, he'll totally fight to close them once he's elected. Honest.

It's all worth a read. But you might have to take a shower after you're done.

This is a little outside of my usual wheelhouse, but a friend of mine who worked for Elizabeth Esty's dark horse congressional campaign in Connecticut's 5th district emailed last night with some personal observations about the race. I thought it made for interesting reading, so here it is. Enjoy.

The Democratic primary became a three-person race that resembled a Carl Hiaasen novel transplanted from Miami to New England. The Democratic Party-endorsed candidate and frontrunner, CT House speaker Chris Donovan, started to lose staff members to arrest by the FBI. The FBI alleged illegal campaign contributions from "roll-your-own" cigarette vendors. Really. The dark-horse candidate Dan Roberti advertised himself as a 31-year-old fresh-faced newcomer to politics, despite being the son of a prosperous Beltway lobbyist, and flooded local TV with ads funded by a super-PAC. Elizabeth Esty was accused of receiving campaign contributions from the utility companies her husband regulates. Her campaign countered that she had no contributions from the companies themselves, but might have gotten small-donor support from their employees. Esty did get a cash infusion from Emily's List — which was characterized as a Super-PAC by her opponents. For me, the telling financial detail was that the Estys took out a $500K loan on their house for backup campaign funds. Even for a two-professional household, that is a lot of skin to put into the game.

I only spent a few afternoons as a campaign foot soldier, but it was instructive. Out in the neighborhoods, most people are not home, so you leave a flyer. Even if the voter is home, he or she often doesn't want to talk with you — an attitude that I totally understand. The people who want to talk, however, express a sort of desperation with the mess that U.S. political governance has become. Many of these people have lost their jobs, or have close friends who lost their jobs, and they can't see a way out of the stagnation. It's pretty clear that the Romney/Ryan economic plan won't persuade these people, but the Obama campaign needs to express a countervailing vision to give these folks a reason to vote in November.

I spoke with Daniel Esty at his wife's election-night party and he echoed many of my observations about the 5th-District neighborhoods. Connecticut probably has more hedge-fund managers per-capita than any other US state, but it also has a significant manufacturing sector. Because manufacturing is ailing, there is a white working-class-male demographic that feels abandoned by the political system, abundant in the central-CT cities of Waterbury, New Britain, and others.

Esty remarked that these cities are distressed and economically poor, but my impression was not as pessimistic, based on the streets that I walked. I walked far fewer streets than the candidate's husband, of course, but there is a tendency among suburban professionals to judge as economic failure anything less than a substantial raised-ranch manse on a wide leafy street, with the grocery store a three-mile-drive away. What I remember from New Britain were old neighborhoods with small post-WWII houses which the residents had worked hard to make nice. No signs of crime or unrest.

Elizabeth Esty won the nomination last night. For a person of my vintage, the 1970s movie The Candidate is the touchstone for moments like Elizabeth Esty's election-night party. By 10 pm both competing candidates had conceded and the new congressional nominee came into the room in an electric-blue ensemble to give her speech. At such times one understands why political candidates amplify their plumage — she needs to stand out in a crowd of supporters. She paused, as though pondering putting her family through another three months of cold-pizza campaigning. But Romney/Ryan has given all Democratic candidates some automatic applause lines as footholds for their electoral climb. Esty finished her victory speech with decisive declarations that she would protect a women's right to choose (she's not supported by Emily's List for nothing), protect Medicare, and protect Social Security.

UPDATE: A reader who lives in New Britain writes in to say that the city actually contains only a few neighborhoods like the one described above:

Much of the rest of the city is appallingly unsafe, with frequent violent crime. The truly lovely park, right beside the college, is also home to prostitution rings and vial-based drug dealing. (The weed dealer is one of our neighbors, in one of those those old neighborhoods.) The school district is crumbling, both from the weight of poverty and from middle-class flight. Our son is in the public schools, but most of the kids who would be his peers are in magnet schools in other towns or are in private schools or are home-schooled. The kids we see in the sports leagues often come from situations that would turn Paul Ryan into a socialist.

We don't like it when people from the snooty towns in CT look down at us without having lived here, because there are some nice areas in New Britain — but it is a city with terrible, terrible problems, with a massive number of distressed citizens. When Stanley and other manufacturers shut down the factories, the city started to collapse, and not much has helped it. No campaign visits the vast majority of the city, because the residents don't vote, and it's not safe to send people out.

Obviously I didn't intend to spark a discussion of the relative merits of New Britain, and I promise not to drag this out. But I figured I should at least air this dissenting view.

Dylan Matthews points out today that despite the predictions of the doomsayers, inflation continues to be nearly nonexistent. According to the BLS, the headline CPI figure stood at zero in July, and core inflation (which excludes food and energy) was at 0.1%.

As it turns out, that zero number is a statistical artifact. The real number is 0.045%, which rounds down to zero. But if you multiply by 12 to get the annualized figure, it's still a very, very modest 0.5%. The chart below shows monthly inflation for 2012, annualized for both headline CPI and core inflation.

So why is the Fed still so concerned about inflation, when it's so well controlled and unemployment is still so high? It is a mystery.

From House Speaker John Boehner, explaining why Paul Ryan defied the tea party and voted for TARP in 2008:

He's got a very conservative voting record, but he's not a knuckle-dragger, all right?

That is an admirably clear explanation. Do you ever suspect that in private, Republican leaders talk about the tea party the same way Democrats do in private? I do.

Here's the latest from Romneyland:

Since the announcement of Ryan as Romney's vice-presidential pick, the Republican challenger has faced persistent questioning over where he stands. The Romney team has been left vulnerable, in part because it has been sending out mixed messages.

Romney, in a rare press conference on Monday night in Florida, repeatedly refused to say whether he backed Ryan's Medicare reform plan. Some of advisers have gone on television to say publicly that he wholly and enthusiastically endorsed Ryan's budget proposals and would, if president, have signed it. Others have sought to distance him from it, saying Romney was running on his own plan.

Seriously? Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP on August 1st, and two weeks later his team still wasn't prepared for a barrage of questions about whether their guy supports Ryan's budget roadmap and his Medicare plan? Even though that's the single most important policy initiative he's associated with?

Who the hell is running this operation? This is a clown show of epic proportions.

It's been about six hours since my last Paul Ryan post, so I guess I'm allowed to do another one now without turning my blog into Paul Ryan Central. I've been emailing with a friend about something that might be surprising if it's true: the unexpectedly blunt tone of the press coverage of the Ryan announcement. In the past, the press has been pretty friendly toward Ryan, thanks to the Beltway's obsession with "adult" conversations about budget deficits. And yet, it's not clear that this is how the media has been covering Ryan for the past few days:

Note that the reporting is not framing Ryan's budget as debt reduction, but entitlement cuts, which seems new. And this coverage zeitgeist, in turn, seems to at least be leading some writers to match the Ryan mythologies that the press has bought (e.g., bipartisan, work-across-the-aisle-guy, etc.) to his voting record and actual accomplishments. See, most surprisingly to me, Dickerson going in-depth on this.

Maybe it's just a flash of negativity before the love-fest of the convention, but it struck me as notable given that I did not expect this since the press really hasn't taken this approach with Ryan before in any meaningful way.

That is interesting! Assuming it's true, of course, something I'm not entirely sure of. It sounds plausible, but I haven't been following the press coverage diligently enough to agree with total confidence. As one data point, however, take a look at the three screen shots on the right from the CBS Evening News on Saturday, courtesy of Uggabugga. Those are pretty straightforward.

I imagine that part of this has been driven by Democratic attacks on Ryan, and part has been driven by the media's preference for covering conflict, especially during presidential campaigns. And right now, the conflict is more over entitlement cuts than it is over deficit reduction. Still, it's an interesting observation. It's possible that the longtime media crush on Ryan has faded a bit over the past year as Ryan has become such an explicitly partisan warrior. We'll see.

UPDATE: Another reader, one who ingests a fair bit of cable news, agrees with reader #1:

I can totally confirm your correspondent's impression of this, and I've been pleasantly surprised by it. Covering conflict, yes, but also the realization that this is no longer just some whacko proposal that's never going to go anywhere but is the de facto budget outline for the major party challenger to the president who might actually win if things go badly for Obama.

Interesting, no?

I'm with Atrios on this. Plagiarism "scandals" have a tendency to get out of hand awfully quickly. Here's the latest charge against Fareed Zakaria:

Zakaria’s 2008 book, “The Post-American World,” contains a quote from former Intel Corp. chief executive Andy Grove about the nation’s economic power....Grove’s comment was published three years earlier in “Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Power to the East,” by former Commerce Department official Clyde V. Prestowitz.

....Zakaria, in an interview Monday, defended the practice of not attributing quotes in a popular book...."I should not be judged by a standard that's not applied to everyone else," he added. "People are piling on with every grudge or vendetta. The charge is totally bogus."

Prestowitz was unmoved. “I think there should be an apology,” he said Monday. “I don’t want to unfairly level accusations [because] those of us who are writers know a lot of things can happen. But I feel I have a justifiable complaint. It kind of has been bugging me for a while.”

Give me a break. Prestowitz doesn't have a copyright on the quote just because it came from an interview of his. Once it's out there, it's out there. Nobody credits every quote they ever use. Nobody.

There's a more general point to make too, one that I've been hesitant to make because it will inevitably sound like I'm defending plagiarism. But here goes anyway. Plagiarism, to me, is the wholesale borrowing of another person's words. Today's plagiarism scandals, by contrast, usually revolve around a handful of paragraphs from another source that have been lightly rewritten instead of completely rewritten. That may not be defensible, but frankly, it strikes me as more like a parking infraction than assault and battery. Ditto for "self plagiarism."

I'll repeat that I'm not defending plagiarism here. But on the list of dreadful things that popular writers do, I'm honestly not sure that nano-scale plagiarism makes it into the top 100. Maybe it's time to get a grip here.

NOTE: I'm talking only about popular writers here. Different standards justifiably apply within academic circles.

Reihan Salam on how to persuade people:

If you want to change people’s minds, graphs and charts might be more effective than words alone. I sense that the word is out about this phenomenon, and that it is being used and abused. But that is another matter entirely.

I don't know if Reihan is using "abused" in the sense of used too much, or in the sense of people lying with statistics. If it's the latter, I can't say that I've noticed charts being used any more deceptively than before. But if it's the former, I'm sadly in agreement. I love presenting information in a graphical format, but this is now so omnipresent in the wonkosphere that even I tend to switch off when I see a headline that says something like "Everything you need to know about [xxx] in two charts." Charts can illuminate, but they rarely explain everything, and posts with headlines like that seldom deliver the goods.

It's possible, of course, that my real beef is with the headlines, not the charts. If the same post simply said something like "Drought now covering 23 states," and there was a nice map showing which states were suffering from drought, I'd probably think nothing of it. The map is a good tool for making the information more easily accessible. Still, it doesn't explain everything. In fact, it's not even the reason for the post. It's just a visual aid for something else. We should all remember that more often.