Musk Versus the Media

May 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Elon Musk, the technology entrepreneur known for PayPal and Tesla, is taking a look at the news accountability space, announcing that he is "going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication."

I tried something like this with NewsTransparency.com and discovered that it is a challenging task to execute on successfully. Others having a go at somewhat similar efforts include the Trust Project, NewsGuard, and deepnews.ai (formerly News Quality Scoring Project). Maybe Mr. Musk has the financial resources, technology savvy, and determination to succeed.

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Leon Cooperman on His SEC Case

May 23, 2018 at 11:21 am

Money manager Leon Cooperman has a piece up at CNBC reflecting on his encounter with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

Given the vast resources of the federal government and the prospect of potentially ruinous legal costs and collateral damage that confront any defendant, it is little wonder that so many opt to throw in the towel and settle, rather than risk the vagaries and expense of extended litigation. In the end, the regulators, taxpayer-funded and shielded for the most part by sovereign immunity, not meaningfully accountable to anyone but themselves, pay no price for overreaching – a classic case of moral hazard.

As a partial remedy, he suggests: "that when the government sues an individual or firm and loses in court or before a regulatory tribunal, the government reimburse its target's legal expenses to the extent not covered by insurance (just as we, as taxpayers, already foot the government's bills)."

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The End of Time

May 22, 2018 at 8:43 pm

There's a popular NPR podcast called "How I Built This." I've often felt it should be accompanied by a different podcast, called, "How I Broke That," about stories of failure, or what went wrong — how Blackberry lost its dominance, how GM or Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and so on. In that genre is a New York Times feature headlined "The Last Days of Time Inc.: An oral history of how the pre-eminent media organization of the 20th century ended up on the scrap heap."

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Don't Give Up On The Universities

May 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Richard Pipes and Bernard Lewis — two immigrant Ivy League professors — are the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here), the New York Sun (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Richard Pipes

May 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm

One of the things I cherish about my Harvard education is that despite Harvard's image as a left-wing bastion ("Kremlin on the Charles"), the education I got there in the early 1990s was in significant ways an intellectual product of the Reagan administration. I took economics from Martin Feldstein, who had been chairman of Reagan's council of economic advisers. And I took Russian history from Richard Pipes, who had been on Reagan's National Security Council staff.

The news today that Pipes has died sent me back to remembering having him as a teacher.

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'Drastic Deregulation'

May 17, 2018 at 11:11 am

One of the clearest signals of bias in the press comes in the adjectives and adverbs the reporters and editors hurl. At the end of a New York Times "news" article about a party-line 3-2 vote on hiring a lawyer for a staff job at the Federal Trade Commission comes this paragraph:

Mr. Smith's selection comes at a time of drastic deregulation of financial services — especially enforcement of laws meant to protect poor people — led by Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In recent weeks, Mr. Mulvaney has scaled back the bureau's investigations into student loan abuses and payday lenders while calling for the elimination of an online database of complaints against banks.

"Drastic"? My authoritative Webster's Second Unabridged dictionary defines it as "acting with force; severe; harsh; extreme; having a violent effect."

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Jerusalem Embassy Celebration and Gaza Violence Tell a Story

May 15, 2018 at 1:10 pm

The juxtaposition between the celebratory opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the violent riots at the Gaza border was the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here) and Newsmax (here).

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The Other Michael Cohens

May 11, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Two people named Michael Cohen who aren't Donald Trump's lawyer have had their bank information disclosed by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer suing Michael Cohen and President Trump on behalf of Stormy Daniels. The Daily Caller News Foundation reports:

It is unclear how Avenatti obtained the financial records cited in his report. But various news outlets, including The New York Times, also appear to have viewed the documents. The Treasury Department's office of the inspector general opened an investigation into whether someone leaked Cohen's financial documents to Avenatti and the press, it was reported on Wednesday.

It remains a mystery how the financial records of a completely separate Michael Cohen would have ended up in the tranche of documents provided to Avenatti.

The Daily Beast follows up:

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Nationalism and Civilization

May 11, 2018 at 8:28 am

The death this past Saturday morning May 5 in a plane crash of the president of Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Aaron Panken, caused me to see something I otherwise would have missed, which is Panken's remarks from the New York graduation ceremonies on May 3 (HUC has multiple campuses). As reported in the Hebrew Union College press release announcing Panken's death, those comments included this passage:

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Judge Kovner

May 10, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Fans of the New York Sun from 2002 will be glad to see that President Trump has announced his intent to nominate Rachel Kovner, who was one of the first reporters I hired at the Sun, a brilliant mind, and a wonderful person, to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This is terrific news for anyone with an interest in a federal judiciary of the highest possible quality.

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Xenophobia On The Left

May 10, 2018 at 11:45 am

From the lead, front-page news article in Sunday's New York Times, about a Trump Organization lawyer, Michael Cohen: "He has spent much of his personal and professional life with immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. His father-in-law, who helped establish him in the taxi business, was born in Ukraine, as was one of Mr. Cohen's partners in that industry. Another partner was Russian."

From an op-ed column by Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg, in the May 8 New York Times, headlined, "Why Did a Creepy Israeli Intel Firm Spy on Obama Alums?":

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Legal Secretary's $9 Million Fortune

May 8, 2018 at 9:42 am

The law firm secretary who secretly amassed a $9 million fortune is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here) and Newsmax (here).

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California Police Pay

May 8, 2018 at 9:36 am

Buried about two-thirds of the way down into a New York Times article about California re-emerging as the world's fifth-largest economy comes a sentence reporting that "nearly 200 police officers across the state make more than $300,000 a year, when overtime and benefits are included." Names and details on the compensation breakdown are here.

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AllianceBernstein Moves To Nashville

May 2, 2018 at 9:55 am

AllianceBernstein Holding LP is moving its corporate headquarters and about 1,050 jobs to Nashville, Tenn., from New York City, Bloomberg News reports: "In recent years, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has built up operations in Salt Lake City, while Deutsche Bank AG has expanded in Jacksonville, Florida....In addition to cutting costs, the move was prompted in part by lower state, city and property taxes in Tennessee compared with the New York area, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources and a staff memo."

In the Albert Hirschman "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty" framework that I write about often here, this one is an exit.

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Trump Will Resign This Year

May 1, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Inaccurate predictions that President Trump would resign are the topic of my column for this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here), the New York Sun (here), and Newsmax (here).

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