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Tag: "hacktacular"

Wall Street Lackeys in the Academy

[ 37 ] December 28, 2013 |

As a historian, I don’t really have an opportunity to sell out by using my professional positions to provide expert testimony for Wall Street. But I wonder what that would be like. Evidently, it buys you a really nice home. And there are plenty of academics willing to become complete hacks.

And in a squat glass building on the University of Houston campus, a measure of the industry’s pre-eminence can also be found in the person of Craig Pirrong, a professor of finance, who sits at the nexus of commerce and academia.

As energy companies and traders have reaped fortunes by buying and selling oil and other commodities during the recent boom in the commodity markets, Mr. Pirrong has positioned himself as the hard-nosed defender of financial speculators — the combative, occasionally acerbic academic authority to call upon when difficult questions arise in Congress and elsewhere about the multitrillion-dollar global commodities trade.

Do financial speculators and commodity index funds drive up prices of oil and other essentials, ultimately costing consumers? Since 2006, Mr. Pirrong has written a flurry of influential letters to federal agencies arguing that the answer to that question is an emphatic no. He has testified before Congress to that effect, hosted seminars with traders and government regulators, and given countless interviews for financial publications absolving Wall Street speculation of any appreciable role in the price spikes.

What Mr. Pirrong has routinely left out of most of his public pronouncements in favor of speculation is that he has reaped financial benefits from speculators and some of the largest players in the commodities business, The New York Times has found.

While his university’s financial ties to speculators have been the subject of scrutiny by the news media and others, it was not until last month, after repeated requests by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, that the University of Houston, a public institution, insisted that Mr. Pirrong submit disclosure forms that shed some light on those financial ties.

There are lots of examples of academics becoming lackeys of industry. I recently discussed the Johns Hopkins black lung program almost completely controlled by one faculty member who denied nearly every single black lung claim, forcing thousands of people to spend their last days in miserable poverty.

Of course, one doesn’t have to support progressive positions. But taking corporate money in exchange for your expertise and not disclosing it is about as immoral as it gets.

Kudos to the Times for taking on this subject.


Amateur Hour

[ 121 ] January 30, 2013 |

I thought this Laura Seay piece lambasting English language coverage of Mali pretty outstanding. I know nothing about Mali and thus haven’t commented on it except to express sadness at the loss of cultural heritage (and yay! most of the Timbuktu manuscripts have survived thanks to people taking them into their own homes). But that hasn’t stopped many “experts” from talking on an issue about which they know little. The best part is Seay showing the foolishness of cheap, meaningless comparisons between Mali and Afghanistan.

Of course, it’s not just major publications doing this. It’s also famous critics of American foreign policy.

This also reminds me of an old professor of mine who worked on the Philippines telling me that the large majority of “experts” writing and talking about the Philippines during the Marcos-Aquino years had no knowledge of Tagalog and really didn’t know what they were talking about. I suppose that’s pretty common with countries off the radar of most Americans.

Longing for the Days of Megan McArdle

[ 157 ] January 14, 2013 |

You thought McArdle was as low as The Atlantic could go? Oh no. Not even close. How about allowing Scientology to write a “Sponsor Content” that looks just like a news article but is in fact a self-written story about the awesomeness of Scientology leader David Miscavige?

Wow. If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is.

Also, make sure you read the comment section. I’m sure it’ll soon be inundated with people ripping the magazine. But right now, it’s clearly a coordinated campaign by Scientology to flood the comment section with laudatory comments. It’s all very special.

Wanker of the Day

[ 165 ] December 10, 2012 |

Nic Kristof.

Evidently Kristof is only interested in poverty if he can personally fly in and rescue women from sex slavery. Otherwise, he’s happy to channel the arguments of Gilded Age social Darwinists.

Here is an illustration of Kristof’s views, from 1877

“Helping the Poor–Gratuitous Distribution of Coal by the City–Cherry Street,” New York City, 1877

Can’t you just feel the dependency developing?

….Follow-up question. Are Kristof’s sex slaves still worth rescuing if the brothel has air-conditioning? Or do they then become the unworthy poor?


[ 68 ] November 14, 2012 |

Luke Russert, who replaces John Podhoretz as the most unqualified beneficiary of nepotism in American life today, actually told Nancy Pelosi in a press conference that she was too old for her job. Watch Pelosi beat him down.

In other news, I am really glad Pelosi decided to serve another term as Minority Leader. She was a great Speaker and is a true champion for progressive causes. Plus Steny Hoyer would be a huge step down.

UPDATE [SL]: It seems worth noting here that Hoyer is a year older than Pelosi. This has to be the phoniest use of age as a pretext for other motives (in this case, egregious sexism) since FDR’s court-packing plan.


[ 49 ] November 7, 2012 |

Scott Rasmussen tries to explain why his polls were terrible. I’m reading this over and over again but I keep missing the sentence that reads “My polls suck because I’m a partisan hack who values creating a narrative that favors Republicans over accuracy.”

Last Night’s Media Low Point

[ 99 ] November 7, 2012 |

Well, there’s probably a lot of media low points.

But at least twice, John King (URI grad as is, oddly, Christiane Amanpour) tried to delegitimize Obama’s victory by switching from his state map to a county map to show how red huge spaces of this country are. This is a sophisticated, technology-forward way of saying that a victory only counts if you win rural white men. Please tell me what I am supposed to learn by a county map. All of western Nebraska probably has less than 100,000 people. All of Wyoming has less than 500,000 people. New York City has 8 million people. But somehow because those gigantic western counties with 1000 residents take up a big chunk of the map, they have extra legitimacy?

Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann Have Been Spinning in Their Graves So Long, They’ve Become Cyclotrons

[ 23 ] October 16, 2012 |

So I get my weekly e-mail update from The New Republic today. The top two featured articles are:

1. Laura Bennett watches an episode of Girls and reads a Tumblr, proceeds to make ridiculously broad generalizations about people in their 20s.

2. Chris Matthews on how John F. Kennedy saved the world from nuclear holocaust, something only JFK could have done through his unique combining of Albert Einstein’s brains with Chip Kelly’s balls in order to create the kind of hypermasculine politician Tweety loves so well.

Might as well have included a racist Marty Peretz editorial, just to raise the discourse a bit.

Pareene, For the Win

[ 46 ] September 11, 2012 |

Alex Pareene has had about enough of the pundits, ranging from conservative to “liberal,” who are somewhere between outraged and annoyed by the Chicago teachers strike. I am going to write something more substantive about this going forward, about how the liberal punditry (I just assume the conservatives are evil) have problems with unions because they fully buy into the idea of individual achievement (never mind that most of them went to Harvard and Yale) and thus are suspicious of collective action, something they never think they’ve had to do in their lives.

Anyway, Pareene has had enough, especially given the utter hackishness of most of the pundits. And so he tweets:

Fun fact: pundits supporting test-based teacher evals work in a field with no professional consequences for making readers stupider



Hard to argue with that one.

Anti-Union Concern Troll of the Day

[ 37 ] September 11, 2012 |

Charles Lane pretends to care about the children in public schools which he would never send his kids.

Hack of the Day

[ 17 ] August 29, 2012 |

Erin Burnett.


[ 55 ] August 22, 2012 |

I guess I always assumed that most economists were political hacks hiding behind academic credentials. I don’t have a problem with academics looking to influence public policy. But it is a fine line between supporting a political candidate and sacrificing professional credibility in service of that end. That’s true whether we are talking about economists going whole hog for Romney and falsely accusing Obama of destroying the economy or whether we are talking about Sean Wilentz embarrassing himself in service of his desire to be the Clintons’ Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Of course, one person’s hack is another’s principled academic.

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