Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hey, Stephen J. Dubner -- It's Freakonomics, Not Geekonomics.

The idea behind Freakonomics works like a charm: A University of Chicago economist works with a former New York Times Magazine editor to apply economic principles to a diverse spectrum of ideas and situations, to make clever, sometimes wacky predictions based on observable data, and to sell millions of books.

But when you assert categorically that David Gregory will make a great "Meet The Press" host because he's tall, you've gone off the rails.

This afternoon, Stephen J. Dubner -- the editor half of the Freakonomics team, with partner Steven Levitt -- posted on the Times "Freakonomics" blog that Gregory will "flourish" in his expected new position. Why? Here's his answer:

I don’t know much about his talent, since I’ve rarely seen him on TV. My prediction is based on the fact that he is, by my reckoning, approximately 17 feet tall.

Actually, Gregory is 6' 5", although Dubner doesn't provide that information -- or the fact that his highly successful predecessor, Tim Russert, was only 5' 9". Instead he pursues his point with what he considers empirical evidence based on personal observation. It seems that Dubner witnessed Gregory maneuver his way to the front of a group of reporters near Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention last summer, and came away awestruck by his height:

He had marched up front and, without a word, planted his gigantic self in front of the rest of us in order to try to speak to one of Palin’s handlers. So I, and the others around me, were left looking at Gregory’s very broad, very tall back. We laughed at Gregory’s pushiness — but, you had to admit, here was a guy with a job to do and damn it, he was going to do it, even if it meant blocking out the sun for a handful of lowly colleagues.

Dubner neglects to mention whether Gregory was, in fact, able to ask a question of Palin, or get an answer. Perhaps the writer had lost consciousness in mid-swoon.

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