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What we’re dealing with
It’s as if we had the Spanish flu and the Great Depression simultaneously. There’s no good outcome from this.
Why aren’t share buybacks outlawed?
Allowing companies to buy their own shares is one of the most outrageous abuses of corporate power. Yesterday, Tim Wu revealed the extent to which American Airlines had abused the loophole as it minted money over recent years. It wasn’t just American, though. Other airlines were doing it too: according to Bloomberg they spent 96% of free cash flow on it. Buybacks were illegal throughout most of the 20th century because they were considered a form of stock market manipulation. But in 1982, the Securities and Exchange Commission passed rule 10b-18, which created a legal process for buybacks and opened the floodgates for companies to start repurchasing their stock en masse.
And guess who was president at the time? Why, Ronald Reagan — the “sunshine in America guy”. The guy who led the bonfire of the regulations.
The scientist who saw COVID-19 coming
Interesting profile of Dennis Carroll.
For decades, Carroll has been a leading voice about the threat of zoonotic spillover, the transmission of pathogens from nonhuman animals to us. Scientists are confident the current outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, stemmed from a virus inherent in bats. In 2009, after years of studying infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Carroll formed a USAID program called PREDICT, where he guided trailblazing research into viruses hiding, and waiting to emerge, in animals around the world.
Federal funding for his PREDICT project was withdrawn in 2019. Guess who was president then?
There’s an emerging theme here…
Why liberals shouldn’t count their chickens
“The initial mishandling of the coronavirus by the government doesn’t mean voters will penalize Trump in November,” said Michael Ceraso, who worked for Sanders in 2016 and was Pete Buttigieg’s New Hampshire director before leaving his campaign last year. “We know we have two candidates who can pivot this generation’s largest health crisis to their policy strengths. But history tells us that an incumbent who steers us through a challenging time, a la Bush and 9/11 and Obama and the Great Recession, are rewarded with a second term.”
(from Politico’s nightly newsletter)
What professional journalists should be doing in this crisis
Terrific piece by Jeff Jarvis from NYU. The main takeaway IMHO is: if you’re not adding value to the viewer’s/listener’s/reader’s understanding then what the hell are you doing?
we should, for starters, get rid of the meaningless TV location shot. I saw a poor sod standing in Times Square for 11 hours yesterday, reporting for MSNBC, telling us that, well, there were still people there, just not as many as usual. Why? How did that improve my chances of surviving the pandemic? What information did that add to my decision-making? What did the reporter gather that a static webcam could not have? Nothing. And how much did it endanger him and his crew? We can’t know.
Yep. If I see another BBC reporter standing in front of 10 Downing Street I will scream.
I see print reporters going out to ask people how they feel standing in line for toilet paper. And photographers are sent out to get pictures that tell us there are lines of people waiting for that toilet paper. Same question: Why? What does that tell me that affects my decisions? So stop. The world is not a stage and journalists are not set designers. Stop treating the public as a background. Do only those things that inform. (And if you want those images to tell me what I already know about toilet paper being gone, you can ask nicely of many people on Instagram and use their pictures, perhaps paying them.)
Many years ago, my children, I helped pioneer cable news use of the remote webcam when a blizzard prevented me from making it into MSNBC’s studios for a blog report. I set up a cam at home. The video was jumpy, but then-network-head Rick Kaplan thought it looked edgy and so webcams were all the vogue for a few months, until they weren’t. Such is TV.
Well, technology has advanced much since then. Skype is good. There are countless experts who can be brought on the air from their homes and offices anywhere in the world to expand the perspectives offered to the public without endangering them. That should be the standard — not the exception. It will substantively improve TV. There is no reason for radio and print reporters to have to be face-to-face with every source to get useful information. For that, we always had the phone. Now we have the net.
It’s great stuff. Well reading in full.