Private: Spincycle Select -March 12th to April 15th

12 Mar

Supreme Court’s business turn

Jeff Rosen covers Supreme Court’s pro-business turn in a lengthy article for the NYT. He also sheds light on the cottage industry of industry-financed scholars engaged in churning out pro-business propaganda.

“After the verdict, Exxon began providing money for academic research to support its claim that the award for damages was excessive. It financed some of the country’s most prominent scholars on both sides of the political spectrum, including the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago. (Sunstein says he accepted only travel grants, not research support, from Exxon; and Kahneman stresses that the financing had no influence on the substance of his work.) In a 2002 book, Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide, Sunstein studied hundreds of mock-jury deliberations and concluded that jurors are unpredictable and often irrational in punitive-damage cases. Jury deliberations, he found, increase the unpredictability, as well as the dollar amount of the final awards. Sunstein concluded that a system of civil fines determined by experts, rather than punitive damages determined by juries, might be more sensible. When Exxon appealed the $5 billion verdict in 2006, it was reduced by an appellate court to $2.5 billion. The reduced verdict is once again being challenged as excessive.”

“The team looked at a fortnight’s production from the posh papers and the Daily Mail, and analyzed in the process 2207 UK news pieces. They focused on two things: the number of stories that were derived directly from press releases; and the number that were taken straight from the main British news agency, the Press Association. The results were amazing, and not in a good way.

They found that a massive 60 percent of these quality-print stories consisted wholly or mainly of wire copy and/or PR material, and a further 20 percent contained clear elements of wire copy and/or PR to which more or less other material had been added. With 8 percent of the stories, they were unable to be sure about their source. That left only 12 percent of stories where the researchers could say that all the material was generated by the reporters themselves. The highest quota proved to be in the Times, where 69 percent of news stories were wholly or mainly wire copy and/or PR . . . The researchers went on to look at those stories which relied on a specific statement of fact and found that with a staggering 70 percent of them, the claimed fact passed into print without any corroboration at all. Only 12 percent of these stories showed evidence that the central statement had been thoroughly checked.”

Lanchester reviews Davies book, ‘Flat Earth News’ on LRB.

Confirms Vs Claims

Another superb article on the malaise in journalism -this time about Israel. Yonatan Mendel: Diary, LRB.

“I soon understood what Tamar Liebes, the director of the Smart Institute of Communication at the Hebrew University, meant when she said: ‘Journalists and publishers see themselves as actors within the Zionist movement, not as critical outsiders.’’

“In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.”

“When the Palestinians aren’t making claims, their viewpoint is simply not heard. Keshev, the Centre for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, studied the way Israel’s leading television channels and newspapers covered Palestinian casualties in a given month – December 2005. They found 48 items covering the deaths of 22 Palestinians. However, in only eight of those accounts was the IDF version followed by a Palestinian reaction; in the other 40 instances the event was reported only from the point of view of the Israeli military.”

“The IDF, as depicted by the Israeli media, has another strange ability: it never initiates, decides to attack or launches an operation. The IDF simply responds.”

“Israeli men up to the age of 50 are obliged to do one month’s reserve service every year. ‘The civilian,’ Yigael Yadin, an early Israeli chief of staff, said, ‘is a soldier on 11 months’ annual leave.’ For the Israeli media there is no leave.”

The big bailout
Krugman writes that the big bailout for financial institutions is coming. Once again taxpayers are going to be stuck with the tab of failed government oversight.

“The U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s ended up costing taxpayers 3.2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of $450 billion today. Some estimates put the fiscal cost of Japan’s post-bubble cleanup at more than 20 percent of G.D.P. — the equivalent of $3 trillion for the United States. If these numbers shock you, they should. But the big bailout is coming. The only question is how well it will be managed.”

Gretchen Morgenson, Assistant Business and Financial editor at NYT, – argues the Bear bailout is costly and unwarranted.

“WHAT are the consequences of a world in which regulators rescue even the financial institutions whose recklessness and greed helped create the titanic credit mess we are in?”

“But why save Bear Stearns? The beneficiary of this bailout, remember, has often operated in the gray areas of Wall Street and with an aggressive, brass-knuckles approach. Until regulators came along in 1996, Bear Stearns was happy to provide its balance sheet and imprimatur to bucket-shop brokerages like Stratton Oakmont and A. R. Baron, clearing dubious stock trades.

And as one of the biggest players in the mortgage securities business on Wall Street, Bear provided munificent lines of credit to public-spirited subprime lenders like New Century (now bankrupt). It is also the owner of EMC Mortgage Servicing, one of the most aggressive subprime mortgage servicers out there.”

Barack Obama on race in America
Obama has delivered probably the best speech that on race in well over forty years. Read it in full.(pdf)

Wasteful spending on anti-terrorism efforts

“First, the number of lives lost or ruined by transnational terrorism is rather minor compared with other challenges considered by the Copenhagen Consensus. On average only 420 people are killed and another 1249 are injured each year from transnational terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, the public in rich countries views transnational terrorism as one of the greatest threats. This is rather ironic since over 30,000 people die on US highways annually, yet highway safety is not as much of a public concern.

Second, protective or defensive counterterrorism measures may merely deflect attacks to softer targets. For example, the installation of metal detectors in airports in January 1973 decreased skyjackings, but increased kidnappings and other hostage missions; the fortifications of US embassies reduced embassy assaults, but increased assassinations of diplomatic officials (Enders
and Sandler, 1993, 2006a). Unlike other challenges, countermeasures may have unintended harmful consequences: strong offensive measures against terrorists can lead to backlash attacks as new grievances are created.

Third, guarding against transnational terrorism can utilize resources at an alarming rate without greatly reducing the risks. In contrast, terrorists require moderate resources to create great anxiety in a targeted public.

Fourth, transnational terrorism poses a real dilemma for liberal democracies: responding too fully compromises democratic principles and gains support for the terrorists, whereas responding too meekly loses constituency support and exposes the government’s failure to protect lives and property (Wilkinson, 1986, 2001). Thus, government actions can become the root of future attacks.”

From: Sandler, Arce, and Enders article: Transnational Terrorism (pdf) [Copenhagen Consensus]

Economist article on the study: Most anti-terrorist spending is wasteful, claims a new study