Tag: Academe

Bill Gates is now a Mass Murderer

Oxford promised to make their vaccine open source, and then Bill Gates strong-armed them into selling exclusive rights to AstraZeneca, because Bill Gates is philosophically opposed to the free exchange of information.

There will be tens of thousands of people will die of Covid-19, particularly in poor countries, because open source gives him butt-hurt.

Next time you see Bill Gates, ask him why he decided to kill thousands.

More chilling is that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is dedicated to promulgating his twisted view of public health on the rest of the world:

In a business driven by profit, vaccines have a problem. They’re not very profitable — at least not without government subsidies. Pharma companies favor expensive medicines that must be taken repeatedly and generate revenue for years or decades. Vaccines are often given only once or twice. In many parts of the world, established vaccines cost a few dollars per dose or less.

Last year only four companies were making vaccines for the U.S. market, down from more than 20 in the 1970s. As recently as Feb. 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, complained that no major drug company had committed to “step up” to make a coronavirus vaccine, calling the situation “very difficult and frustrating.”

Oxford University surprised and pleased advocates of overhauling the vaccine business in April by promising to donate the rights to its promising coronavirus vaccine to any drugmaker.


A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course. It signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices—with the less-publicized potential for Oxford to eventually make millions from the deal and win plenty of prestige.


Even as governments shower money on an industry that has not made vaccines a priority in the past, critics say, failure to alter the basic model means drug industry executives and their shareholders will get rich with no assurance that future vaccines will be inexpensively available to all.

“If there were ever an opportunity” to change the economics of vaccine development, “this would have been it,” said Ameet Sarpatwari, an epidemiologist and lawyer at Harvard Medical School who studies drug-pricing regulation. Instead, “it is business as usual, where the manufacturers are getting exclusive rights and we are hoping on the basis of public sentiment that they will price their products responsibly.”


Oxford backed off from its open-license pledge after the Gates Foundation urged it to find a big-company partner to get its vaccine to market.

“We went to Oxford and said, Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,” Bill Gates told reporters on June 3, a transcript shows. “But … you really need to team up.” The comments were first reported by Bloomberg.

AstraZeneca, one of the U.K.’s two major pharma companies, may have demanded an exclusive license in return for doing a deal, said Ken Shadlen, a professor at the London School of Economics and an authority on pharma patents—a theory supported by comments from CEO Soriot.

“I think IP [intellectual property, or exclusive patents] is a fundamental part of our industry and if you don’t protect IP, then essentially there is no incentive for anybody to innovate,” Soriot told the newspaper The Telegraphin May.

Some see the Gates Foundation, a heavy funder of Gavi, CEPI and many other vaccine projects, as supporting traditional patent rights for pharma companies.

“[Bill] Gates has staked out this outsized role in the vaccine world,” Love said. “He has an ideological belief that the intellectual property system is a wonderful mechanism that is necessary for innovation and prosperity.”

In just the next year, it is clear Bill Gates will ultimately be responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden was on 9/11.

This May be the Worst Idea in Economics

There is a lot not to like about Economics.

It seems that most streams of economics appear to be a means for justifying the existing power structure, with the benefit being that economists are given (relatively) high positions within that power structures.

Political economist Blair Fix makes a good argument that modern Human Capital Theory, which resembles a toxic mix of Social Darwinism, and emerged largely from the University of Chicago.

The short version, to use Ayn Rand pulp fiction (and pulpier philosophy) as an example, the investor who pays scientists to create “Reardon Metal” is responsible for all the value derived from this wondrous material.

The scientist who creates this material adds no value, neither does the army of workers who labor to manufacture this material and forge it into shape.

If this sounds non-sensical, note how this is identical to the justification for paying obscene remuneration to founders and CEOs.

The little people just don’t mater:

If there was an award for the most pernicious scientific idea ever, what theory should get first prize? I would vote for eugenics, a theory that claims we can ‘improve’ humanity through selective breeding.

If there was a second prize, I’d give it to human capital theory. I think of human capital theory as ‘eugenics light’. It purges the idea that abilities are innate (and that we should selectively breed the ‘fit’). But human capital theory keeps the Nietzschean idea that humanity’s success can be attributed mostly to gifted übermensch.

Among us, human capital theory claims, walk individuals who are unfathomably productive. These übermensch produce more in an hour than most of us do in a week. Take just 1% of these top individuals, and you’ll find that they outproduce the bottom half of society!1 According to human capital theory, then, we could do away with half of society with no great loss to economic output. Of course, few human-capital theorists advocate such atrocities. But my point is that their theory contains the seeds of eugenics … even Nazism.

The ethical problems with eugenics and human capital theory are easy to spot. But what about the scientific problems? These are more difficult to tease out. Eugenics is based on the hard truth that many traits are heritable. Similarly, human capital theory is based on the reality that some people earn hundreds of times more income than others. Where both theories go wrong, however, is that they misunderstand humanity’s social nature.

Yes, many individual traits are heritable. But it is a fallacy that traits that are good for individuals are also good for society. That’s the core scientific flaw in eugenics. And yes, it’s true that some people earn far more than others. But it’s a fallacy that this income is caused by traits of the individual. In reality, income is a social trait.

My goal in this post is not to rigorously debunk human capital theory. (I’ve done that here.) Instead, I’m going to chart its rise and speculate about its eventual fall. I’ll do so by looking at the rise and fall of eugenics. What’s ominous is that the theory that debunks eugenics is today still more obscure than eugenics itself. In a century, will something similar hold for the theory that debunks the idea of human capital?

He then compares this to experiments in animal and human eugenics:

In the 1990s, geneticist William Muir conducted experiments on chickens to see what would improve egg-laying productivity. In one trial, he did exactly what the eugenicists recommend — he let only the most productive hens reproduce. The results were disastrous. Egg-laying productivity didn’t increase. It plummeted. Why? Because the resulting breed of hens was psychopathic. Instead of producing eggs, these ‘uber-hens’ fought amongst themselves, sometimes to the death.

The reason this experiment didn’t work is that egg-laying productivity is not an isolated property of the individual hen. It is a joint property of the hen and her social environment. In Muir’s experiment, the most productive hens laid more eggs not because they were innately more productive, but because they suppressed the productivity of less dominant chickens. By selecting for individual productivity, Muir had inadvertently bred for social dominance. The result was a breed of bully chicken that couldn’t tolerate others.

The lesson here is that in social animals, traits that can be measured among individuals (like productivity) may not actually be traits of the individual. Instead, they are joint traits of both the individual and their social environment. Here’s evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson reflecting on this fact:

Muir’s experiments … challenge what it means for a trait to be regarded as an individual trait. If by “individual trait” we mean a trait that can be measured in an individual, then egg productivity in hens qualifies. You just count the number of eggs that emerge from the hind end of a hen. If by “individual trait” we mean the process that resulted in the trait, then egg productivity in hens does not qualify. Instead, it is a social trait that depends not only on the properties of the individual hen but also on the properties of the hen’s social environment.

—(David Sloan Wilson in When the Strong Outbreed the Weak)

A key problem with eugenics is that it neglects the social nature of human traits. It assumes that productivity is an innate trait of the individual, and that breeding for this trait would lead to a better society. It’s a seductive idea that is deeply flawed. In all likelihood, selectively breeding people for productivity would, like chickens, lead to a psychopathic strain of human.

This sounds a lot like the sociopaths who are in the top 1% of the 1%, doesn’t it? 

Jamie Dimon seems to be the apotheosis of such a process. doesn’t he?

The ground work for human capital theory was laid just as eugenics fell out of favor. In the 1950s, economists at the University of Chicago tackled the question of individual income. Why do some people earn more than others? The explanation that these economists settled on was that income resulted from productivity. So a CEO who earns hundreds of times more than a janitor does so for a simple reason: the CEO contributes far more to society.

The claim that income stems from productivity was not new. It dated back to the 19th-century work of John Bates Clark and Philip Wicksteed, founders of the neoclassical theory of marginal productivity.3 Clark and Wicksteed, though, were concerned only with the income of social classes. What the Chicago-school economists did was expand productivist theory to individuals.

  Doing so required inventing a new form of capital. The idea was that individuals’ skills and abilities actually constituted a stock of capital — human capital. This stock made individuals more productive, and hence, earn more income. Figure 3 shows key papers that initiated human capital theory.


The idea that skills constituted ‘human capital’ was initially greeted with skepticism. For one thing, the term itself smacked of slavery. (Capital is property, so ‘human capital’ implies human property.) For another, human capital theory overtly justified inequality. It implied that no matter how fat their incomes, the rich always earned what they produced. Any attempt (by the government) to redistribute income would therefore ‘distort’ the natural order. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was little tolerance for such views. It was the era of welfare-state expansion, driven by Keynesian-style thinking. Yes, big government may have been ‘distorting’ the free market — but society seemed all the better for it.


We can see the scientific flaws by returning to William Muir’s chicken experiment. I’ve already told you about his psychopathic chickens, created by breeding the most productive hens. But I haven’t told you about his alternative trial. In it, he bred the most productive group of chickens. The result was an astonishing increase in egg-laying productivity.

The reason this group selection worked is that chickens are social animals. That means productivity is influenced by the social environment. By selecting productive groups, Muir selected for egg-laying ability, but also for sociality. The resulting social hens flourished together.

Something similar holds true for humans. The abilities of individuals cannot be separated from the social environment in which they occur. For this reason, any selective breeding based on individual traits is likely to have unintended consequences. If Muir’s chicken experiment is any indication, breeding übermensch wouldn’t create an uber-productive society. It would create a psychopathic one.

The reason comes down to the unit of selection. As social animals, humans have been strongly shaped by the selection of groups. This group selection has tended to suppress selfish tendencies that are otherwise beneficial for individuals.

The bottom line is this:

Human capital theory supposes that income stems from productivity, and that this productivity is an isolated trait of the individual. This thinking, when taken to the extreme, is ludicrous. It implies that an Egyptian Pharaoh was thousands of times more productive than his slaves. Moreover, because this productivity was embodied in the Pharaoh, he could do away with his slaves and still retain his wealth. It gets worse. According to the logic of human capital theory, the Pharaoh’s slaves were actually a burden on the kingdom’s per capita productivity. If the Pharaoh exterminated them, per capita productivity would skyrocket.


We are run by a bunch of psychopathic hens.

Well, psycho chickens makes a fuck-load more sense than that whole QAnon lizard people thing.

Weirdest Thing on Twitter Ever

Today I learnt that in 1995 Iggy Pop reviewed Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for peer-reviewed academic journal Classics Ireland pic.twitter.com/a6dTtlqRer

— Hannah Rose Woods (@hannahrosewoods) January 3, 2021


This is Iggy Pop

Did you know that Iggy Pop was published in a peer reviewed journal? 

Not kidding.

He reviewed Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

I always knew that Pop was “eclectic”, but this is WAY more eclectic that I could possibly imagined.

Equally surprising is that when I did a Google search for peer reviewed articles published by Flaming Lips front-man Wayne Coyne, there is nothing.

In fact, I did a rather extensive series of searches, and could find no other Rock and Roller with a peer reviewed article.

Go figure.

Ha Ha!

Now that the scandal-plagued Jerry Fallwell, Jr. has been driven from his post as dictator of Liberty “University”, the students are trying to remove one of his more pernicious legacies, his blatantly political, Trump felching, “think” tank, the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty.

Falwell, who does not have a degree in divinity, and Charlie Kirk, ditto, founded the organization which worships Trump first, and Jesus second, and a petition from the students at the “Christian” “University” is asking for it to be shut down, or at least removed from the campus:

Hundreds of former and current Liberty University students are calling on the evangelical Christian school to shutter the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, a campus “think tank” known for promoting conservative political causes.

More than 450 students and recent graduates have signed a student-led petition demanding the university-funded center be dissolved, according to Matt Morris, a Liberty freshman who created the online petition last month.

“The Falkirk Center constantly preaches the message that the church needs to defend Donald Trump at all costs and rescue western civilization,” the petition reads. “Falkirk is wrong. Associating any politician or political movement with Christianity bastardizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”



Falwell, who stepped down as president and chancellor of Liberty in August following a string of personal scandals, was a prominent early supporter of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump rewarded Falwell’s loyalty by delivering a commencement address at the university in 2017.

The Falkirk Center, which unlike other research institutions has published no academic studies, openly waded into the 2020 presidential election and other races this campaign season to bolster conservative candidates and causes.


The center’s partisan nature has prompted dozens of former faculty members, current students and alumni to publicly speak out against the institution, including members of Liberty’s student leadership.

I believe that if this were to be set to a song, it would be “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.”

A Theory of Economics That I Can Approve Of

What we need to is end once and for all the 40 year failure that is trickle down economics. We can replace that with Piñata economics instead. pic.twitter.com/NmZ6zqckqC

— Al (@davison_al) December 20, 2020

Piñata Economics makes more sense than my original though, eat the rich, because if you eat the rich, you dine for a day, but if you beat the rich with blunt instruments until the gold flows, you dine for a lifetime.

Recognizing the Obvious After 50 Years

Tax cuts for the rich do not boost the economy

That money goes into speculative and parasitic activities:

You don’t have to be a scholar to understand why it’s absurd to suggest that reducing the tax burden for rich people isn’t likely to be a particularly effective strategy when it comes to juicing economic activity.


Let’s be honest: Very few rational people believe in trickle-down economics. That’s not to say no rational people promote it. It’s just to say that the rational people who do, almost always have ulterior motives, usually involving the preservation of their own wealth.


There’s little utility in rehashing this further. I’m preaching to the choir. But I bring it up Friday because I’m running through the “checklist” of stories I keep on a yellow legal pad next to my second monitor. I try to get through that checklist each week. Sometimes, Friday is a “catch up” day. One of the stories I wanted to highlight this week, but didn’t get around to mentioning, is a new working paper by David Hope, of the London School of Economics, and Julian Limberg, of King’s College London, both PhDs.

The paper “utilizes data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades to estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment.”

You’ll never guess what Hope and Limberg found.

I’m just kidding. Their findings are entirely predictable. Here are the main points:

  • The results suggest that tax reforms do not lead to higher economic growth. The effect size of major tax cuts for the rich on real GDP per capita is close to zero and statistically insignificant. The findings are very similar when matching upon pre-treatment covariate trajectories. Major tax cuts for the rich do not lead to higher growth in either the short or medium run.
  • Although the results show very slight indications of a flash in the pan effect of tax cuts for the rich on unemployment, these findings are neither statistically significant nor robust.
  • The results show that major tax cuts lead to a significant increase in inequality and that this effect becomes stronger with time. Three years after the reform, the top 1% income share increases by almost 0.6 percentage points in countries with a major tax cut. Over five years, tax reforms increase the top 1% share of pre-tax national income by more than 0.8 percentage points. This effect is highly statistically significant, with P<0.0001.

So not surprised. 

Trickle down has never been about improving the public welfare, it’s been about the powerful preserving their power.

At least, that’s what the Bolsheviks at the London School of Economics say.

Quote of the Day

The Point of Economics as a Discipline Is to Create a Language and Methodology for Governing That Hides Political Assumptions from the Public.

Matt Stoller

Mainstream economics, whether Freshwater or Saltwater, as Paul Krugman divides the discipline,* is constructed primarily to provide an intellectual gloss to the oligarchy.

Read the whole article.

*And I am using the term “discipline” VERY loosely.

Chutzpah Redefined

Facebook is threatening academics doing a study on political advertisements breaking its rules, claiming ……… wait for it ……… that allowing users to voluntarily report what ads that they see is a violation of user privacy.

This is truly beyond satire:

Facebook has ordered the end to an academic monitoring project that has repeatedly exposed failures by the internet giant to clearly label political advertising on its platform.

The social media goliath informed New York University (NYU) that research by its Tandon School of Engineering’s Online Transparency Project’s Ad Observatory violates Facebook’s terms of service on bulk data collection and demanded it end the program immediately.


“We launched the Online Transparency Project two years ago to make it easier to see who was purchasing political ads on Facebook,” said co-founder Laura Edelson, of the project.


Facebook didn’t like this one bit, and responded with a warning letter on October 16, the Wall Street Journal first reported. The Silicon Valley titan wants the academic project shut down and all data deleted by November 30.


“We understand the intent behind your tool. However, the browser plugin scrapes information in violation of our terms, which are designed to protect people’s privacy.”

It seems the researchers aren’t backing down. On October 22, they published the latest research showing 12 political ads that had slipped under the radar as non-political on Facebook, some of which are still running.


Rather than rely on Facebook’s carefully controlled library, the NYU researchers built their own external approach and quickly discovered widespread disclosure violations which it says have helped facilitate the spread of election disinformation.

This is not a surprise.  After all, Facebook has been aggressively engaging in ad fraud, click thru fraud, and user fraud for years. 

This is not about protecting user privacy, since, after all the users in this case know what they are doing, this is about their concerns that their fraudulent behavior will be identified and traced.

Quote of the Day

Because I’ve lived most of my life either on the near periphery or within academia, I’ve had nearly four decades of experience with the creepy essentialist language of “racial authenticity” that lives and thrives in more than one corner of putatively liberal academia. As a result, I learned a long time ago that some white liberals expect black and brown people to “perform” in ways that comport with their well-meaning, usually underclass-informed, and fundamentally racist expectations of black people.

—Touré F. Reed in Jacobin on the spectacle of Professor Jessica Krug masquerading as a Black Hispanic woman throughout her career

The entire sordid affair is raises an important question, one which will be studiously ignored in the halls of academe, “What are the (probably racist) preconceptions that allowed for this fraud to be perpetrated?”

F%$# 2020

He looks exactly as I expected

Dave Graeber, heterodox and iconoclastic anthropologist who authored Bullshit Jobs, and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died at age 59:

David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist author of bestselling books on bureaucracy and economics including Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died aged 59.

On Thursday Graeber’s wife, the artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, announced on Twitter that Graeber had died in hospital in Venice the previous day. The cause of death is not yet known.

Renowned for his biting and incisive writing about bureaucracy, politics and capitalism, Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) at the time of his death. His final book, The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity, written with David Wengrove, will be published in autumn 2021.


Born in New York in 1961 to two politically active parents – his father fought in the Spanish civil war with the International Brigades, while his mother was a member of the international Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union – Graeber first attracted academic attention for his teenage hobby of translating Mayan hieroglyphs. After studying anthropology at the State University of New York at Purchase and the University of Chicago, he won a prestigious Fulbright fellowship and spent two years doing anthropological fieldwork in Madagascar. In 2005, Yale decided against renewing his contract a year before he would have secured tenure. Graeber suspected it was because of his politics; when more than 4,500 colleagues and students signed petitions supporting him, Yale instead offered him a year’s paid sabbatical, which he accepted and moved to the UK to work at Goldsmiths before joining LSE. “I guess I had two strikes against me,” he told the Guardian in 2015. “One, I seemed to be enjoying my work too much. Plus I’m from the wrong class: I come from a working-class background.”


An anarchist since his teens, Graeber was a supporter of the Kurdish freedom movement and the “remarkable democratic experiment” he could see in Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria. He became heavily involved in activism and politics in the late 90s. He was a pivotal figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 – though he denied that he had come up with the slogan “We are the 99%”, for which he was frequently credited.

“I did first suggest that we call ourselves the 99%. Then two Spanish indignados and a Greek anarchist added the ‘we’ and later a food-not-bombs veteran put the ‘are’ between them. And they say you can’t create something worthwhile by committee! I’d include their names but considering the way police intelligence has been coming after early OWS organisers, maybe it would be better not to,” he wrote.


Why couldn’t it have been some dime a dozen conventional economists?

An Interesting Coda to the Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

Some of may remember Yale professors, and husband and wife Jed Rubenfeld and Amy Chua, who offered an empassioned defense of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings in a WSJ Op/Ed.

At the time, it they were accused of pandering in order to get prestigious federal and Supreme Court clerk positions.

Both of them, particularly Chua, were prominent in part for their ability to get these clerkships, and The Guardian reported that Chua told applicants to Kavanaugh to, “Dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers.” (Chua’s daughter ended up clerking for Kavanaugh shortly after the Op/Ed.)

There were also allegations that Rubenfeld, one of the most prominent critics of Title IX sexual harassment protections, routinely sexually harassed female students.

Well, the investigation is completed, and Jed Rubenfeld, a tenured professor, has been suspended for 2 years, and after he returns, he will be forbidden from teaching small group or required classes.

I’m kind of surprised that he has not been fired, but tenure provides an enormous amount of protection to professors.

My guess is that Rubenfeld will not be returning to Yale after his suspension ends:

On Monday morning, members of the Yale Law School faculty received a terse message from their provost informing them that Professor Jed Rubenfeld “will leave his position as a member of the YLS faculty for a two-year period, effective immediately,” and that upon his return, Rubenfeld would be barred from teaching “small group or required courses. He will be restricted in social gatherings with students.” As of Tuesday morning, he was no longer listed on the Yale Law faculty site.

Three people familiar with the investigation that led to Rubenfeld’s suspension said it stemmed from the university finding a pattern of sexual harassment of several students. The allegations, which spanned decades, included verbal harassment, unwanted touching, and attempted kissing, both in the classroom and at parties at Rubenfeld’s home.

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Rubenfeld told me, “I absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent deny that I ever sexually harassed anyone, whether verbally or otherwise. Yes, I’ve said stupid things that I regret over the course of my 30 years as professor, and no professor who’s taught as long as I have that I know doesn’t have things that they regret that they said.”

He added, “Ironically, I have written about the unreliability of the campus Title IX procedures. I never expected to go through one of them myself.”
In 2014, for example, Rubenfeld wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that said that the university that puts in place affirmative-consent standards “encourages people to think of themselves as sexual assault victims when there was no assault” and that it is “illogical” to claim “intercourse with someone ‘under the influence’ of alcohol is always rape.”

Lovely fellow.

Also a liar:

That’s not true, according to Yale’s stated policies — and one of the complainants. “License to write about sexual harassment is not license to sexually harass,” she told me. “I reported because I was sexually harassed. Now he’s being dishonest about even this aspect of the Title IX process. For example, as Yale’s policy requires, I identified myself to him. I had to, and I did so at considerable risk given his influence in the legal community.”


Multiple women told me that a whisper network about Rubenfeld operated on campus, and that as law-school students, they were warned by peers to be careful around him. One said she was told by a male alum, “You’ve not scraped the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Rubenfeld’s behavior. Stay away.”

Rubenfeld is married to fellow Yale Law professor Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, [a paean to abusive parenting] and both wield power in the high-stakes race for judicial clerkships. In the summer of 2018, it was Chua who took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to vouch for then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor for young lawyers, particularly women.” (That was before allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh were made public.) The op-ed noted that the couple’s daughter had been about to clerk for Kavanaugh on the appeals court, and a year later, the Supreme Court acknowledged Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld would clerk for Justice Kavanaugh on the Court instead.

The Guardian first reported on the existence of the investigation into Rubenfeld’s conduct in the fall of 2018. He told the paper that he hadn’t been informed of the specifics but that he had been “advised that the allegations were not of the kind that would jeopardize my position as a long-tenured member of the faculty.” Female students also said that Rubenfeld and Chua discussed with students hoping to work for Kavanaugh the importance of their physical appearance. Chua denied telling students that Kavanaugh preferred attractive female clerks or coaching them on how to dress in “outgoing” fashion for interviews, though a Slate story subsequently reported it had “confirmed the Guardian’s reporting with students who were present at the time.”

August 2020 does seem to be a bountiful harvest for schadenfreude.

H/t Atrios

What is the Democratic Socialists of America?

Obviously, they are a political group that has seen explosive growth since the Presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders that claims to support “Democratic Socialism”, though whether that term means actual state ownership of the means of production, or something akin to Roosevelt’s New Deal, is unclear.

On a deeper, and far more important. level, the question is whether the organization is interested in systemic or societal change, or is merely a vehicle for virtue-signaling.

We have an answer now, at least for the New York chapter, and it is that the comfortable merely want to feel comfortable about being comfortable, which is why they black-balled a talk by one of the most prominent African American Marxist scholars in the nation, Adolph Reed.

They did so, because he argues that class struggle is at the core of the current problems in our society, rather than eschewing class analysis to focus exclusively on racial and ethnic oppression.

I will admit that I am not an expert in the finer points of socialist theory, but I cannot see how one can possibly call themselves a Socialist if you deny the centrality of class struggle:

Adolph Reed is a son of the segregated South, a native of New Orleans who organized poor Black people and antiwar soldiers in the late 1960s and became a leading Socialist scholar at a trio of top universities.

Along the way, he acquired the conviction, controversial today, that the left is too focused on race and not enough on class. Lasting victories were achieved, he believed, when working class and poor people of all races fought shoulder to shoulder for their rights.

In late May, Professor Reed, now 73 and a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, was invited to speak to the Democratic Socialists of America’s New York City chapter. The match seemed a natural. Possessed of a barbed wit, the man who campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders and skewered President Barack Obama as a man of “vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics” would address the D.S.A.’s largest chapter, the crucible that gave rise to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a new generation of leftist activism.

His chosen topic was unsparing: He planned to argue that the left’s intense focus on the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black people undermined multiracial organizing, which he sees as key to health and economic justice.


Amid murmurs that opponents might crash his Zoom talk, Professor Reed and D.S.A. leaders agreed to cancel it, a striking moment as perhaps the nation’s most powerful Socialist organization rejected a Black Marxist professor’s talk because of his views on race.

“God have mercy, Adolph is the greatest democratic theorist of his generation,” said Cornel West, a Harvard professor of philosophy and a Socialist. “He has taken some very unpopular stands on identity politics, but he has a track record of a half-century. If you give up discussion, your movement moves toward narrowness.”

The decision to silence Professor Reed came as Americans debate the role of race and racism in policing, health care, media and corporations. Often pushed aside in that discourse are those leftists and liberals who have argued there is too much focus on race and not enough on class in a deeply unequal society. Professor Reed is part of the class of historians, political scientists and intellectuals who argue that race as a construct is overstated.


“Adolph Reed and his ilk believe that if we talk about race too much we will alienate too many, and that will keep us from building a movement,” said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a Princeton professor of African-American studies and a D.S.A. member. “We don’t want that — we want to win white people to an understanding of how their racism has fundamentally distorted the lives of Black people.”

What the f%$# does, “We want to win white people to an understanding,” mean, beyond perhaps, “I’m a tenured professor living a comfortable life, so f%$# the poor to keep my taxes low, and stop the cops from pulling me over for driving a nice car.”

A contrary view is offered by Professor Reed and some prominent scholars and activists, many of whom are Black. They see the current emphasis in the culture on race-based politics as a dead-end. They include Dr. West; the historians Barbara Fields of Columbia University and Toure Reed — Adolph’s son — of Illinois State; and Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin, a Socialist magazine.

They readily accept the brute reality of America’s racial history and of racism’s toll. They argue, however, that the problems now bedeviling America — such as wealth inequality, police brutality and mass incarceration — affect Black and brown Americans, but also large numbers of working class and poor white Americans.


In years past, the D.S.A. had welcomed Professor Reed as a speaker. But younger members, chafing at their Covid-19 isolation and throwing themselves into “Defund the Police” and anti-Trump protests, were angered to learn of the invitation extended to him.


None of this surprised Professor Reed, who sardonically described it as a “tempest in a demitasse.” Some on the left, he said, have a “militant objection to thinking analytically.”

Professor Reed is an intellectual duelist, who especially enjoys lancing liberals he sees as too cozy with corporate interests. He wrote that President Bill Clinton and his liberal followers showed a “willingness to sacrifice the poor and to tout it as tough-minded compassion” and described former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as a man whose “tender mercies have been reserved for the banking and credit card industries.”


“I’ve never led with my biography, as that’s become an authenticity-claiming gesture,” he said. “But when my opponents say that I don’t accept that racism is real, I think to myself, ‘OK, we’ve arrived at a strange place.’”

Professor Reed and his compatriots believe the left too often ensnares itself in battles over racial symbols, from statues to language, rather than keeping its eye on fundamental economic change.

“If I said to you, ‘You’re laid off, but we’ve managed to rename Yale to the name of another white person’, you would look at me like I’m crazy,” said Mr. Sunkara, the editor of Jacobin.


“Liberals use identity politics and race as a way to counter calls for redistributive polices,” noted Toure Reed, whose book “Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism” tackles these subjects.

DSA, at least the New York chapter to be more interested in mental masturbation than it is in either socialism or real change.

The Impact of Police Unions

I came across a fascinating Twitter thread about the effect of police unions upon on law enforcement.

The study is preliminary, and the author is very clear on this, but the results are striking.

Police unionization has increased pay and benefits, no big surprise there, and a slight decline in police employment, which might correlate with the increase in the cost, which is also not a surprise.

The big take away is that there is a substantial increase in the lethality of law enforcement, with the death toll of minorities accounting for the bulk of the increase.

The number (admittedly preliminary) is stunning, “We find a substantial increase in police killings of civilians over the medium to long run (likely after unions are established) with an additional 0.026 to 0.029 civilians killed in a county each year of whom the overwhelming majority are non-white.”

Given that there are (Googling furiously) 3,143 county equivalents in the United States, this means that we would see about 82 extra deaths a year, and over the past 40 years, this would be more than 3200 excess deaths.

The obvious conclusion is that the decrease in accountability of police officers has resulted in increased violence and police racism, though as is frequently stated, correlation is not causation.

Additionally, court rulings over the past 50+ years have had the effect of reducing police accountability for the use of force as well, so teasing out the effects specific reductions of accountability would be difficult.

The obvious take-away though is that we need greater accountability for our police forces.

I Think that We Have Identified the Problem

In an article about cuts colleges are making in response to Covid-19, we have the case of Johns Hopkins cutting retirement contributions.

The details include a list of overpaid and underperforming executives at the University that goes a long way to explaining why higher education has become ridiculous expensive over the past few decades.

The management of the university is increasingly a part of MBA culture, which involves overspending on non-teaching executives, who have bullsh%$ jobs, and who in turn make the people who actually have productive work generate endless reports instead of actually doing their f%$#ing jobs:

My university, Johns Hopkins, recently announced a series of exceptional measures in the face of a coronavirus-related fiscal crisis. Suddenly anticipating losses of over $350 million in the next 15 months, the university imposed a hiring freeze, canceled all raises, and warned about impending furloughs and layoffs. Most extraordinarily of all, it suspended contributions to its employees’ retirement accounts. “Many of our peers are grappling with similar challenges,” wrote our president, Ronald Daniels.

That is true. The University of Michigan recently announced anticipated losses of at least $400 million this calendar year. George Washington University likewise anticipates losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Stanford University, meanwhile, predicted a $200 million reversal in its consolidated budget. But while many colleges face challenges, no major research university moved with as much haste or revealed as acute vulnerabilities as Johns Hopkins did.

How does a university with a $6-billion endowment and $10 billion in assets suddenly find itself in a solvency crisis? How is one of the country’s top research universities reduced, just a month after moving classes online, to freezing its employees’ retirement accounts?


For years, the AAUP and other faculty critics have wrung their hands as norms of shared and deliberative governance disappeared, replaced by the consolidation of administrative power in the hands of corporate executives. With little appreciation for transparency or inclusiveness, and little understanding of the academy’s mission, these managers increasingly make decisions behind closed doors and execute them from above.


Consider the process that led to Johns Hopkins’s decision to freeze employee retirement contributions, which came as a surprise to nearly everyone affected. In his announcement, the president explained that the decision had been taken after consultation “with our trustees, deans and cabinet officers, and a subcommittee of the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee.” There was no mention of consulting employee unions, staff associations, or other institutions of faculty governance. There was no mention of possible alternatives, or of careful, deliberative assessments about who should bear the financial sacrifices. Certainly, there were no meaningful faculty votes. (The faculty budget committee is composed of a small number of members hand-picked by administrators, and lacks formal authority.)


This administrative centralization has come at a serious cost to the university’s sense of community. In the last few years, decisions taken by the upper administration have generated a series of controversies over policing, the power to grant tenure, and government contracts, to name a few. Last spring, students frustrated with the university’s governance occupied the university’s central administration building.


The president’s cabinet is a curious body — one that has proliferated throughout higher education, as the values of corporate America infiltrate university administrations. One would hardly think, based on the cabinet’s makeup, that it comprises the senior leadership team for an eminent research university. It looks much more like the C-suite at a public corporation, with two senior vice presidents, 12 vice presidents, an acting vice president, a vice provost, a secretary, and three senior advisers. Of the vice presidents, it seems that only the provost has significant classroom and research experience. Good as he is, he can hardly provide a counterweight to the rest of the cabinet members, who mostly have government, business, finance, or law backgrounds. Collectively, the number of J.D.s and M.B.A.s far exceeds the number of Ph.D.s.

(emphasis mine)
Gee, if you assume that each of these people, excluding the secretary, gets AT LEAST $½ million a year, you are looking at $9million a year in remuneration.

Maybe this is why college is so expensive these days, particularly when you consider that each of the these folks probably have (at least) 3-4 Evil Minions in their offices who also have to be paid, so we’re talking serious bucks, and not a penny of it goes to actually educating the students.

As with most universities, the president reports to a Board of Trustees. But this body, like many across the country, has become a funhouse mirror of corporate America. At Johns Hopkins, 36 members sit on the board, almost all hailing from outside academia.

Johns Hopkins executives are paid much like their counterparts in the corporate world. According to the latest available public information, from 2018, the university’s president earned $1.6 million in salary plus $1.1 million in deferred and other compensation for a total of $2.7 million. That tidy sum doesn’t include the money he receives for serving on other boards, including the $310,000 he received that year from T. Rowe Price — whose chief executive happens to serve on the Johns Hopkins Board of Trustees.

But the president is hardly alone. That same year, the university’s senior vice president for finance earned $1.2 million, its vice president for development made over $1 million, the vice president for investments made over $950,000. Even the president’s chief of staff earned over $670,000. Although he earns a salary high in the six figures, the provost, ostensibly in charge of the university’s academic mission, did not rank even in the top 10 earners at the university.

Like I said, not chump change, and an interlocking series of boards of directors/trustees so that it’s all one big game of, “You scratch my back, and I scratch yours.”

It’s self dealing and corruption:

All told, the compensation of the 28 key employees reported to the IRS in 2018 amounted to over $29 million. That sum alone exceeds by nearly 50 percent the costs of the pay raises the university would have granted this year to all of its employees.

And note that this does not including the direct reports to those “Key Employees”.

Like said, not chump change.

Then there is the issue of deferred compensation for top executives. According to the university’s latest audit, total liabilities related to deferred compensation amounted to over $130 million — or $30 million more than the institution will save by suspending contributions to its thousands of employee retirement accounts this year.


Alas, we now learn that Johns Hopkins’s managers failed to position the institution to weather unanticipated disruptions in its revenue streams.

And if there is ANY sort of expertise that MBA types should bring to their management positions, it’s basic finance and accounting.

I guess that makes me naive.


If a president and his leadership team have one principal responsibility, it is to ensure that the university is on sound enough financial footing to weather unanticipated crises. Ours have not.

By the way, not everyone was unprepared. Dozens of scholars right here at Johns Hopkins have spent years studying and preparing for events like the ones we are now experiencing. So good are these people at their jobs, millions of people today turn to them for data and guidance about how to navigate the pandemic. The Johns Hopkins Hospital has had an Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response for nearly 20 years.


The university set virtually nothing aside in anticipation of these or any other risks. Instead, the leadership began recklessly expensive building projects, including the purchase of a $372.5-million building in Washington, D.C., — a white elephant that had already brought a large foundation to the brink of collapse.

And I f%$#ing guarantee you that someone in the university president’s cabinet or the board of trustees personally benefited from both of these decisions.

Perhaps that is to be expected: university leaders, like their corporate counterparts, are rewarded for their splashy acquisitions and grandiose construction projects, not for cautious stewardship. In this short-term thinking, university executives resemble the airline executives who spent years buying back their own company’s stock only to find they had no cash on hand when a crisis arrived. People are told to set aside money to cover six months of expenses in case of emergency. It took just one month for Johns Hopkins to launch its dramatic cuts.

What about that $6-billion endowment? “Unfortunately, we cannot rely on our endowment or philanthropic support to fill the breach,” Daniels wrote in his announcement. Much of it is held in illiquid investments. But exceptional times call for exceptional actions. Is it really better to fund current deficits with employee retirement accounts than to damage the university’s credit rating with further borrowing? Do those in a position of power even bother asking what the purpose of an endowment is? Shouldn’t it serve as a bulwark of financial stability? Or did that idea disappear with the gradual accumulation of financiers on university boards and in senior management?

I would note that even if these investments are unbelievably illiquid, they could still be used as collateral for a loan to make sure that there was sufficient cash on hand, and since interest rates are so low that many businesses are moving from shorter term loans to longer term loans to lock in those rates, it would also make sense from a finance or accounting perspective.

They are f%$#ing their workers instead because they think that real managers screw their employees, as opposed to doing their damn jobs.

Today, university endowments all too often function like giant casinos, putting more than 75 percent of their capital in risky and illiquid assets. Some wealthy universities pay far more in fees to investment managers than they do in scholarships to students. We’ve entered a world where, instead of having an endowment to support a university, the university serves as a tax shelter for the endowment.

Johns Hopkins does not publicly reveal its investments. Available IRS filings do, however, show that over nine years it paid more than $88 million in fees to an investment firm whose founder formerly served as chair of the university’s board. Quite possibly, our endowment pays out more to its investment managers than our university contibutes, annually, to employee retirement accounts. Was there ever much doubt which would be cut in a crisis?

Again, self-dealing and corruption.

The problem is not, as the writer suggests, a narrow set of decision makers who don’t understand the mission of a university.

The problem is control fraud.  These executives are acting in their own personal interest, and not that of the organization, and it’s not only tolerated, but considered normative behavior.

H/T Atrios.

How Convenient

Remember that Stanford study that showed that the Covid-19 rate infection levels were much higher than previously noted, and so the mortality rate was much lower?

In addition to it being bad science, the antibody test that they used was grossly inaccurate, it turns out that their study was founded almost entirely by the founder of JetBlue, who had an interest in getting the shutdown relaxed as quickly as possible.

The big take-away here is that when ordinary people distrust “experts” and “scientists” they are not rejecting science or expertise, it is that they believe that the “Technocrats” are just as corrupt as every institution in our society:

A highly influential coronavirus antibody study was funded in part by David Neeleman, the JetBlue Airways founder and a vocal proponent of the idea that the pandemic isn’t deadly enough to justify continued lockdowns.

That’s according to a complaint from an anonymous whistleblower, filed with Stanford University last week and obtained by BuzzFeed News, about the study conducted by the famous scientist John Ioannidis and others. The complaint cites dozens of emails, including exchanges with the airline executive while the study was being conducted.

The study — released as a non-peer-reviewed paper, or preprint, on April 17 — made headlines around the world with a dramatic finding: Based on antibodies in thousands of Silicon Valley residents’ blood samples, the number of coronavirus infections was up to 85 times higher than believed. This true infection count was so high that it would drive down the virus’s local fatality rate to 0.12%–0.2% — far closer to the known death rate for the flu.

Almost immediately, the study became a flashpoint in the increasingly politicized debate over whether and how to reopen the economy. Although many scientists assailed its methods, leading the authors to post a revision nearly two weeks later, it was trumpeted by conservative media to support a growing theory: that fears of the coronavirus are overblown.

“Most of the population has minimal risk, in the range of dying while you’re driving from home to work and back,” Ioannidis said on the Fox News show Life, Liberty & Levin, a few days after the study’s release.


And emails cited within the complaint also suggest that the study’s authors disregarded warnings raised by two Stanford professors who tried to verify the accuracy of the antibody test used. The pair of scientists ultimately refused to put their names on the study because, they told the lead researchers, they could not stand by the test results. The complaint suggests that Neeleman “potentially used financial incentives to secure cooperation from” one of these scientists, who told colleagues by email that she was “alarmed” by aspects of the antibody test’s performance.

Asked if Neeleman donated to the study, Ioannidis said he was “not personally aware” he did. “David Neeleman has a particular perspective and some ideas and some thoughts,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t know exactly who were the people who funded the study eventually. But whoever they were, none of them really told us it should be designed in a given way or done in a given way or find a particular type of result or report a particular type of result.”


But according to Neeleman, the authors did know he’d given money to fund the study. Neeleman confirmed that he made a $5,000 donation to Stanford to be given to these researchers and that he was in communication with them while they were conducting their research. He denied, however, that he influenced their process or results in any way, saying they had “tremendous integrity,” and said that he was not shown the results prior to release. He also rejected the accusation that he put financial pressure on the researcher who expressed misgivings about the test.


In response to a detailed set of questions about the whistleblower complaint, Stanford Medicine spokesperson Julie Greicius said: “Stanford Medicine is aware of serious concerns related to the Santa Clara County seroprevalence study. The integrity of Stanford Medicine’s research is core to our mission. When we receive concerns such as this, they are taken extremely seriously. This matter is being reviewed by the appropriate oversight mechanisms at Stanford.”

As one of the world’s most-cited researchers and a “godfather to the science reform crowd,” Ioannidis helped elevate the study to national news. In a landmark 2005 paper titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” he called out the factors that incentivize shoddy scientific work, from personal bias to tenure systems that reward quantity over quality. In doing so, he spurred a movement to root out bad science.

The whistleblower complaint alleges, however, that the coronavirus study was rife with some of the pitfalls Ioannidis has famously lambasted, from a sloppy statistical analysis to an apparent conflict of interest. In the COVID-19 era, as science and politics become increasingly intertwined, the Stanford study is perhaps the highest-profile instance of a hotly contested scientific finding fueling arguments for policies with life-and-death stakes.


And as for Neeleman, Lipsitch added, “This has nothing to do with science. This is wanting his airlines to thrive.”


Days prior to the op-ed, those scientists had overseen their massive antibody, or serological, survey in Santa Clara County. On April 3 and 4 in sunny Northern California, more than 3,300 people drove through pop-up testing sites at two parks and a church and stuck out their fingers to be pricked. If their blood turned out to have antibodies to the virus, that could indicate they’d recovered from an infection.

Many participants had learned about the test from Facebook. Others had received an email from Bhattacharya’s wife, falsely claiming that an “FDA approved” test would definitively reveal if they could “return to work without fear,” as BuzzFeed News has reported.


But so far, the coronavirus appears to be much more lethal than the flu. According to a preliminary analysis of more than a dozen recent studies, including Stanford’s, the infection fatality rate worldwide ranges from 0.49% to 1.01%. That would be 5 t0 10 times higher than the flu’s death rate from confirmed cases, at about 0.1%. (And the flu’s infection fatality rate is likely even lower, given the unknown number of people who don’t report having it.)


The whistleblower complaint alleges that Neeleman “sought out the study authors for their congruent policy views” on the pandemic and funded their work. The complaint is based on a series of screenshotted emails — some timestamped around early April, others with truncated dates and email addresses — and does not specify the value or nature of Neeleman’s funding.

Screenshots of two such emails came into the complainant’s possession by April 11, the complaint states. One undated screenshot shows the email addresses of Bogan, the investor and coauthor, and of David Neeleman. In another, undated message, “Andrew” expressed gratitude to “David”: “Thanks again for your willingness to help me and my friends in Silicon Valley support this groundbreaking and timely research work financially.”

The email adds, “I think we all agree how critically important that is to better informing public health and policy leadership’s decision making across the nation.”

Neeleman confirmed receiving the email. Bogan did not respond to a request for comment.

These folks were corrupt as hell; bought and paid for, or specifically selected by those who were bought and paid for for their preexisting bias.

Quote of the Day

It’s vulgar to say this, but it’s may be true that we learn less about the materialist politics of academic writing by reading it — and some of it can be famously obscure; Butler was the winner of a Bad Writing contest in 1998 — than by looking up the author in the Federal Elections Commission records.

—Liza Featherstone writing in Jacobin

The article notes how many radical leftist academics are donating to conservative Democrats.

Academe is not an environment that rewards forthright personal statements, so I agree with Ms. Featherstone, this says more about the academics listed than does their writings.

Not Enough Bullets

Literally the Least Tufts Could Do

The Sackler family, are having major butt-hurt because Tufts University is pulling their names from their buildings.

Let’s see, you created a dangerous product, aggressively and dishonestly marketed it across the nation, when caught you looted your company in advance of your bankruptcy, and your non-bankrupt foreign company is STILL trying to hook people on your poison.

Why wouldn’t an institution best known for its medical program want to have anything with you?

The Sackler family is pushing back after Tufts University removed the family name from its buildings and programs due to the family’s link to the ongoing opioid epidemic, according to a report in The New York Times.

In a letter to Tufts’ president, a lawyer for the family wrote that the removal was “contrary to basic notions of fairness” and “a breach of the many binding commitments made by the University dating back to 1980 in order to secure the family’s support, including millions of dollars in donations for facilities and critical medical research.”

Tufts made the decision to remove the family name after getting the results of an independent review of the university’s relationship with the Sacklers and OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which the Sacklers own. Both the family and the company have been accused of helping to spark the crisis by aggressively marketing the powerful painkiller and misleading doctors, patients, and regulators about its addictiveness.


The review found that Purdue did intend to use the relationship to advance its interests. And, according to the report, in some cases, it was successful in influencing the academic institution. “Moreover, we conclude that there was an appearance of too close a relationship between Purdue, the Sacklers, and Tufts,” the report said.

The letter from the Sackler family lawyer hinted at the possibility of legal action.


Although, not all of the Sackler family is involved with OxyContin. Of the original three Sackler brothers involved in Purdue, one of them—Arthur—died before the painkiller was introduced, and his brothers bought out his stake in the company. Arthur’s widow, Jillian Sackler, released a statement saying in part, “It deeply saddens me to witness Arthur being blamed for actions taken by his brothers and other OxySacklers.”

OxySacklers.  Heh.

That Gonna Change the World Thing………

We know that MIT Media Lab, and the entire senior management of MIT, conspired to keep donations from Jeffrey Epstein.

In the ensuing furor, one has to wonder what they could possibly do to make themselves even more toxic.

I mean, it would have to be something really bad, like illegally dumping toxic waste down the public sewers, which they also did:

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab have dumped wastewater underground in apparent violation of a state environmental regulation, according to documents and interviews, potentially endangering local waterways in and near the town of Middleton.

Nitrogen levels from the lab’s wastewater registered more than 20 times above the legal limit, according to documents provided by a former Media Lab employee. When water contains large amounts of nitrogen, it can kill fish and deprive infants of oxygen.

Nine months ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection began asking questions, but MIT’s health and safety office failed to provide the required water quality reports, according to documents obtained by ProPublica and WBUR. This triggered an ongoing state investigation.

After ProPublica and WBUR contacted MIT for comment, an institute official said the lab in question was pausing its operations while the university and regulators worked on a solution. Tony Sharon, an MIT deputy vice president who oversees the health and safety office, didn’t comment on the specific events described in the documents.


The lab responsible for the dumping is the Open Agriculture Initiative, one of many research projects at the Media Lab. Led by principal research scientist Caleb Harper, who was trained as an architect, the initiative has been under fire for overhyping its “food computers”: boxes that could supposedly be programmed to grow crops, but allegedly didn’t work as promised.

Throughout early 2018, the lab’s research site in Middleton, about 20 miles north of the main MIT campus in Cambridge, routinely drained hundreds of gallons of water with nitrogen into an underground disposal well, at concentrations much higher than the lab’s permit allowed, according to documents and interviews. The nitrogen came from a fertilizer mix used to grow plants hydroponically.

This is what happens when you create an institution, like Media Lab, where the principals believe that they are a priori virtuous people who are saving the world.

Also:  What the f%$# does hydroponics have to do with media?

Whatever This Says about Our Society, It’s Profoundly Depressing

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has accumulated an exhaustive database of academic citations, and found what appears to be a whole lot of self dealing and corruption:

The world’s most-cited researchers, according to newly released data, are a curiously eclectic bunch. Nobel laureates and eminent polymaths rub shoulders with less familiar names, such as Sundarapandian Vaidyanathan from Chennai in India. What leaps out about Vaidyanathan and hundreds of other researchers is that many of the citations to their work come from their own papers, or from those of their co-authors.

Vaidyanathan, a computer scientist at the Vel Tech R&D Institute of Technology, a privately run institute, is an extreme example: he has received 94% of his citations from himself or his co-authors up to 2017, according to a study in PLoS Biology this month1. He is not alone. The data set, which lists around 100,000 researchers, shows that at least 250 scientists have amassed more than 50% of their citations from themselves or their co-authors, while the median self-citation rate is 12.7%.

The study could help to flag potential extreme self-promoters, and possibly ‘citation farms’, in which clusters of scientists massively cite each other, say the researchers. “I think that self-citation farms are far more common than we believe,” says John Ioannidis, a physician at Stanford University in California who specializes in meta-science — the study of how science is done — and who led the work. “Those with greater than 25% self-citation are not necessarily engaging in unethical behaviour, but closer scrutiny may be needed,” he says.

The data are by far the largest collection of self-citation metrics ever published. And they arrive at a time when funding agencies, journals and others are focusing more on the potential problems caused by excessive self-citation. In July, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a publisher-advisory body in London, highlighted extreme self-citation as one of the main forms of citation manipulation. This issue fits into broader concerns about an over-reliance on citation metrics for making decisions about hiring, promotions and research funding.

This is not a surprise.

If fraud can occur, fraud will occur.