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RIP Tanta

December 2, 2008

A brilliant, kind, patient, and acerbic wit died Sunday after a nearly three-year bout with ovarian cancer. Doris Dungey, 47, was a Marlboro-based mortgage banker who began blogging under the name Tanta in 2006, and explained in detail what was about to take place in the financial world. Although her true identity was known to very few, her closely argued, crystal-clear analysis gained credibility among influential thinkers worldwide: Tanta was cited by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and by analysts at the Federal Reserve. But she was best known on the blog Calculated Risk, where she posted regularly until this fall, as the bete noir of celebrated New York Times financial writer Gretchen Morgenson.

“Yes, children, it’s time for another installment of Picking on Poor Gretchen,” Tanta wrote on April 13, in response to a Morgenson piece about home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) drying up. “And what a doozy it is this time.” She then proceeded to tear the article apart and expose the suspected conflict-of-interest of one of Morgenson’s sources, all while illuminating the finer points of HELOCs.

She also liked to make animations using Excel spreadsheets.

I discovered Tanta late in the game, stumbling over one of her famous “uber nerd” posts earlier this year. I was instantly smitten: Here was someone who not only knew her stuff, but could explain it to the likes of me, and be very funny doing it. Tanta was an expert in her field who wrote better than 99 percent of the “real” writers out there.

That one of Tanta’s chief irritants was ignorant newspaper reporters was, naturally, lost on me. Her loss leaves us all more ignorant.

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