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Forbes and the "Self-Made" Label

by cactus

Forbes and the “Self-Made” Label

I’m kinda busy these days, but this topic is small pet peeve of mine: what the heck is up with Forbes and the “self-made” label? On occasion, I’ve gone through the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans and marveled at who Forbes manages to decide qualifies as self-made.

Case in point. Take Aubrey McClendon, head of Chesapeake Energy, the largest independent gas producer in the US. His great-uncle was a governor and a three-time senator, and also co-founded a large oil company. His father worked for the company for 35 years, and one imagines he wasn’t a janitor or nightwatchman.

McClenond himself will tell you:

I had some early financial advantages in life that probably let me take a chance or two that I wouldn’t have been able to

But to Forbes, McClendon is a self-made man.

A few spots up from McClendon is another self-made dude (according to Forbes), Paul Tudor Jones II. The “II” is not an automatic marker of wealth, but it should have been a tip-off to Forbes that perhaps it was worth visiting “teh google”, which would have been kind enough to guide them toward this interview:

I already had an appreciation for trading because my uncle, Billy Dunavant, was a very successful cotton trader. In 1976, after I finished college, I went to my uncle and asked him if he could help me get started as a trader. he sent me to Eli Tullis, a famous cotton trader, who lived in New Orleans. Eli is the best trader I know, he told me. I went down to see Eli and he offered me a job on the floor of the New York Cotton Exchange.

And the name “Dunavant” should have rung a bell to Forbes – after all, Forbes ranks Dunavant Enerprises as one of the 400 largest private firms in the US. Another thirty seconds of “research” would have told the folks at Forbes this:

His paternal grandfather, Colonel William P. Dunavant, was in the railroad business and created one of the main cotton transporting railroads of the time, a railroad that grew into the southern leg of the famous Frisco Railroad. Billy’s father, William Dunavant, began working for T. J. White and Company at the age of twenty-one. After White retired, the company was passed to William Dunavant; however, because of the untimely death of his father in 1961, Billy Dunavant took over the company at the age of twenty-nine.

I’ll concede that a stream of events where all this is true and Tudor Jones was none-the-less a penniless guy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps in a way that the rest of us were just too lazy to accomplish. It does seem unlikely, though. A more reasonable description of events is that this is another example (I’ve had a post or two on this in the past) that Forbes simply has a tendency label some very unlikely individuals as being self-made. And from what I can tell, this is a Forbes thing; most of the folks Forbes gives this label to that the rest of us might not don’t go around insisting they’re self-made. (I believe I recall one counter-example.) So what’s up with Forbes and the use of this label?
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by cactus

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Same labels, same old stuff

One Salient Oversight sends some thoughts from down under on recycling labels:

Think of the common labels thrown out against political opponents these
days. What sort of political thinking would be labelled in the following
way?

* The propagation of ideas like Darwinism, Marxism, the teachings of
Nietzche, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism and Anarchism.
* A focus on Utopianism that is actually unattainable because of the
underlying conspiracy within the group.
* A movement towards materialism.
* Supporting supranational entities notions such as World Government.
* A control of the media to promote these evil ideas, under the
guise of a “free press” (which is actually controlled by the conspiracy).
* Sexual licence.
* An opposition to Christianity and a promotion of secularism and
atheism – but with an actual evil religion under girding it.

All those descriptions can quite easily be seen as being directed by
conservatives against progressives. Consider the following:

* Conservatives often use progressive ideas as a pejorative, and
will quite easily label a progressive by a general term. Labelling them
as “communists”, for example, even though they don’t espouse Communism.
* An argument that progressive ideas are based upon a vision of a
“false utopia”.
* An argument that progressives cannot tolerate faith and are
inherently materialist.
* Complete opposition to any notion that supranational entities like
the United Nations and the European Union are useful. Such entities are
either threats to freedom or full of incompetents. Those who support
such entities are thus evil.
* That the “Mainstream Media” is inherently “liberal” and has an
agenda to promote a particular point of view under the guise of the
“free press”.
* That sexual licence promoted by progressives will end up leading
to the destruction of traditional marriage and enforced sexual
perversions (like paedophilia and bestiality).
* That a conspiracy of progressives is trying to destroy
Christianity and replace it with atheism, and that such a conspiracy
has, at its base, Satanic and pagan influences.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Or maybe it sounds true. Or maybe, just
maybe, someone came up with the same sort of thing during the late
nineteenth century (Protocols of the Elders of Zion) and directed it towards a societal group that they
thought was destroying the world?

In the case of the late nineteenth century, these beliefs were outright
lies that were fabricated with the intention of creating ill-will and
hatred towards their “enemy”. It therefore gives you an idea of how
these people – even those today – think.
——————–
This one by reader One Salient Oversight

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Mike sends a response to rdan on off-label drugs

It is evident that this will lead to less pressure on the Drug Companies
to get their drugs approved by the FDA. I would suggest that we consider
letting the market help. i.e.

1) If a drug is prescribed off-label, then the patient be permitted
to return it to the drug store for a full refund, no questions asked. —
Obviously many people might be helped, and others would not bother to try to
get a refund, but it would encourage the Drug Company to test the drug to be
able to sell it without the possibility of having ineffective drugs being
returned.

2) If a drug is being prescribed off-label, with the cooperation of
the Drug Company, then the patient can go to court and have a presumption
that the drug is the cause of any reasonable harm to the patient. Obviously
one would want a judge to eliminate unreasonable cases, but if it is
reasonable that the off-label use of the drug might have caused the damage,
then the encouraged off-label use would lead to an assumption of guilt until
proven by the preponderance of evidence otherwise.

Obviously the details of these can be adjusted to make them more
reasonable, but their purpose is to let the Drug Company have some reasons
for testing their drugs and for not encouraging their off-label use unless
they feel they are safe and effective.

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Off label drug pushers

FDA doesn’t just approve drugs, it approves drugs for specific uses. However, doctors can prescribe drugs for unapproved, or “off-label,” uses.

Under a law that expired in 2006, pharmaceutical reps were legally able to distribute journal articles touting the benefits of off-label uses. But, according to the Associated Press, FDA maintained some regulatory oversight: “Under the expired law, companies had to submit reprints of articles to the FDA before sending them to doctors. That way, the articles’ accuracy could be reviewed.”

If FDA chooses to finalize this policy, which it published today as “proposed guidance,” drug companies would be able to use journal articles to market off-label uses willy-nilly. The AP article continues, “Under the new proposal, drug companies don’t have to submit articles.”

Off-label use of drugs is big business. According to The Wall Street Journal, “[FDA] is stepping into a high-stakes business issue, because off-label uses of prescription drugs are a mainstay of the industry — an estimated 21% of drug use overall, according to a 2006 analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.”

According to Merrill Goozner at the GoozNews blog, the pharmaceutical lobby pushed for FDA to go forward with the policy which will be a boon for the industry:

So what was in today’s proposed guidance? It pretty much gives industry everything it was looking for. It would allow drug salespersons to drop off article reprints as long as they came from a peer-reviewed journal that had a conflict-of-interest disclosure policy. Articles from industry-funded supplements would not be allowed…

Note what isn’t in the policy: It doesn’t say that the studies of unapproved uses must be from randomized controlled clinical trials, which is the gold standard of medical research.

Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA) caught wind of this policy last November and asked FDA to refrain from going forward.

We probably will get exactly what we wish for, and then get blamed for the result. I call it sneered at..”Suckers!!”

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Thoughts on the War on Terror as a Label

I have a vague recollection of GW saying something to the effect that if we change our behavior or lifestyle, the terrorists have won. (Anyone have the quote?) As I was waiting, barefoot, for my carry-on, my flip-flops (the easiest thing to travel in these days), my laptop and my cell-phone to clear the X-ray machine, I looked over at the octogenarian lady standing next to me waiting for her belongings. Then I reflected on the fact that GW has not flown commercially since at least the year 2000.

Calling it a “War on Terror” means one day, when we win, we’ll be able to go back to the days when we weren’t fighting. Put another way… one day we’ll be able to go back to the days before our carry-on items were scrutinized this carefully. That day will never come, even if every last islamofascist is rounded up and GW has Osama’s testicles in a jar of formaldehyde sitting on the mantle. Calling it a “War on Terror” is just silly.

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NY Times Calculator Mislabels Salaries as Wealth

Dean Baker has a lot of praise for this calculator:

The NYT has a very nice feature in today’s paper, a calculator that allows you to see how wages have grown over the last four decades. You can make comparisons for a wide variety of demographic characteristics, occupations, and industries. You can even plus your own info in and see how you’re doing compared to your peers. This is nice, it’s giving people real information. That’s what newspapers are supposed to do.

I agree but I have one nitpick with the title which talks about “wealth” whereas the calculator graphs real salaries. Their instructions continue the error in terminology by calling this salary calculator a “wealth calculator”. Could someone let the New York Times know that stocks and flows are different concepts.

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Pork Barrel Spending Labeled “Fiscal Responsibility”

An AP story carried by CNN shows that the White House was paid many visits by “Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed” over the past 6 years. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino had an odd way of excusing the visits by Mr. Norquist:

He is one of a number of individuals who worked to advance fiscal responsibility, which is one of the key aspects of the president’s agenda

I seriously doubt Mr. Norquist asked Karl Rove if the pork barrel spending for his clients could be reduced.

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At least as of yesterday morning, the Democratic establishment still didn’t get it. Then again, as of late yesterday, neither did the Republican establishment. And neither did Donald Trump. [UPDATED]

CHUCK SCHUMER’S TOUGH BALANCING ACT: CNN reports on an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on:

“For Schumer, the challenges will be formidable. He’ll have to listen to the vocal and outspoken progressive wing of his caucus, led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have legions of supporters. But he also has five red-state Democrats in states Trump won convincingly — Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — up for re-election in 2018. And if Schumer takes his caucus too far to the left, he’s bound to could put his moderates in a difficult political spot.”

Worth watching: Whether those red state Democrats claim the party has moved too far to “the left” when it resists Trump’s agenda.

The first big political war of Trump’s presidency will be explosive, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, yesterday at 9:55 a.m.

Late yesterday I received a listserve email from Bernie Sanders’ new organization, Our Revolution, asking what we most wanted the organization to do immediately.  I haven’t responded yet, but my message will be a plea that it begin an intensive effort to inform the public in the Rust Belt states, and the Midwest generally, of what exactly the Conservative Legal Movement was, and is, up to regarding handing control of the federal courts, and federal law, to billionaires and mega-corporate interests.

That’s what Citizens United was really about.  But it’s also what a slew of other 5-4 Supreme Court rulings have been about since the Conservative Legal Movement gained that majority on the Court.  And during the three decades when it thoroughly controlled the federal appellate and trial-level courts.

The Supreme Court effectively rewrote the Federal Arbitration Act to forced-arbitration clauses in almost every aspect of employment, consumer (including banking and credit card law), and securities law.  It also rewrote that Act so that it uses those forced arbitration clauses to effectively eliminate class actions.

It literally rewrote the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 8(a), that sets the parameters for what lawsuit complaints, the legal pleading must state

It has been extremely hostile to labor unions; Samuel Alito openly invites the filing of litigation whose very goal is to undermine or outright eliminate them.

Every single one of these attacks, and many others, were born and grew up through a precision pipeline system of think tanks and so-called legal foundations, small, non-profit (thus “Foundation” as part of their title) law firms, all funded by extreme economic self-styled libertarian (the Madison Avenue-inspired ideological label they use) billionaires, including the Kochs, financial-industry billionaire families that include the Mercers and the Ricketts and who were top funders of Trump’s general-election campaign, and oil-and-gas billionaires, including top funders of Trump’s general-election and primary campaigns.

And that includes, extremely significantly, the Federalist Society, cofounded in about 1980 by Antonin Scalia, and whose most aggressive and unabashed members include Alito, Clarence Thomas and a slew of high-profile members of the federal appellate bench.  John Roberts also apparently was a member, although very quietly, throughout his career as a lawyer.

What I want most, and most immediately, for Our Revolution to do is to begin a major public-awareness push to tell all those Midwesterners and other Rust Belters—including those in rural areas and small towns—what exactly Trump was saying when he promised during the campaign to appoint justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.  And who, exactly—who, exactly—is feeding him the names on list of possible Supreme Court nominees.  And who exactly will be feeding him recommendations for lower federal court appointments.

Suffice it to say, it ain’t the Rust Belters and Midwesterners who brung him, late in the game, to this dance because they support the Paul Ryan fiscal plan whose goal is to all-but-eliminate both taxes on the wealthy and the social safety net programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid, that many of them rely upon for, literally, survival.

Nor was it because they salivate at the thought of industry lobbyists writing legislation to be fed quickly through Congress and onto President Trump’s desk for him to sign.

Nor, I’ll venture, was it because they want the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts to be proxy arms of economic-winger billionaires and industries ranging from Wall Street to Walmart to communications to chemical and pharmaceutical, to Big Ag, to fossil fuel and lumber industries.   As they were for roughly three decades.

Mitt Romney received the votes of the deplorables, without whose support Trump would not have won.  But Romney isn’t president.  Barack Obama is.  Trump’s bizarre efforts beginning in 2011 to change that fact, notwithstanding.

Yet throughout the day yesterday, the news was filled with Ryan’s and McConnell’s exaltation at their expectation that President Trump will effectively be President Ryan.  Puppet Trump, in other words.  They’ll serve him avalanches of legislation to sign.  And they will control the key appointments to every single federal agency and commission that they want to control.  Which is almost all of them.

Including the SEC and the NLRB, the FDA, the FTC and the FCC.  As well as the Interior Dept., which they presume now will simply hand over to the lumber and fossil fuel industries massive amounts of federal lands.

Which brings me to this: Every bit as important as informing the public of this, for Our Revolution, for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, for Democracy for America, and the reconstructed, soon-to-be-Sanders-supported DNC—and for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren themselves—to do, right now, is to begin a massive public information campaign about this that targets House members and Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2018.  In their states.  In their districts.  Including seemingly safe ones in the Rust Belt and the entire Midwest.

We have their number.  As we do Donald Trump’s.  And we have the grass-roots movement and the social-media networks to determine their latitude for installing these virulently anti-working class, pro-billionaire, pro-mega-corporate, pro-mega-powerful-industry cooptation of each of the three branches of the federal government.  Including that professed savior of the working class, Donald Trump.

I still remember looking that the map of Michigan’s counties the day after the primary last March, showing how each county voted in each of the two primaries—and being utterly stunned looking at the one for the Democratic primary.  If I recall correctly, every single county except Wayne (home to Detroit) and Genesee (Flint and surrounding area)—both counties largely African-American—voted for Sanders.  The Republican stronghold counties in the western part of the state all the way along or near Lake Michigan, went heavily for Bernie.  And, had African-Americans in Wayne and Genesee voted for Clinton roughly 3-1, as projected, instead of roughly 2-1, as they did, Bernie still would not have beaten her.

Apparently Chuck Schumer is unaware of this.  Bernie should tell him.  The old sheriff is gone, run out of town, or more accurately, the country, on Tuesday.  There’s a new sheriff in the country.  Named economic populism.

It could have been our sheriff; thanks to folks like you, it wasn’t.  But we can make due with the one who is not ours.

One side of this divide—the wealthy Republican and corporate elite, proxied by Ryan, McConnell, and the Federalist Society, or the folks responsible in such large part for bringing Trump to the dance—will control the federal government.  Puppet Trump. Puppeteers Ryan, McConnell, Wall Street and other industry lobbyists, and the Federalist Society.  On the other side, Rust Belt and Midwestern blue-collar voters.  Including labor union members.

And if it’s the former, it will last only until January 2019.  Believe me.

Better yet, believe Bernie Sanders.

 

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UPDATE:  Holyyyy macaroni.  Chuck Schumer’s gotten the message now.  It took two and a half days.  But he’s gotten it now.

See “Schumer throws his support behind Keith Ellison for DNC chairman,” posted about an hour ago on the Washington Post’s website.

Wow.

So the first big political war turned out to be a two-and-a-half-day-long skirmish.  And this is why.  The times, they are a-changin’.  Really, really quickly.  In the Democratic Party.

Updated added 11/11 at 11:19 a.m.  Just past the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  It’s Veterans’ Day, folks.  Not to equate the two events, of course.  Just to acknowledge the meaning of Veterans’ Day, which originally was called Armistice Day.

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Punctuality Today v. GDP per Capita Tomorrow; A Look at a Few Countries

Authored by Mike Kimel

In this post, I want to demonstrate the importance of a specific cultural trait, namely punctuality, on the economy.  The difficulty, of course, is coming up with a good measure of punctuality, and in particular, one that isn’t regularly gamed.

Digging around, I found a paper entitled The Pace of Life in 31 Countries by Robert V Levine and Ara Norenzayan in the Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology in 1999.  For the purposes of this post, the most interesting thing about this paper was this measurement:

As a sample of concern with clock time, the accuracy of 15 clocks, in randomly selected downtown banks, were checked in each country. The criterion for the correct time was that reported by the telephone company.

The 31 countries span the globe, and seem to encompass every inhabited continent, though it should be said, the list is Europe-heavy; unless I miscounted, 14 of the 31 countries are in Europe.  The clock accuracy results for the countries, as well as several other measures of less relevance to this post, are returned in a table in the paper.  I then compared those results (compiled in or before 1999, I remind the reader) with the real GDP per capita in US dollars for those same countries in 2015.  That data was pulled from World Bank tables.  The World Bank data excluded two of the countries in the Levine & Norenzayan paper, Taiwan and Syria.

Here’s what the data looks like, graphed:

clock inaccuracy 1999 v gdp per capita 2015

I took the liberty of highlighting and labeling the three points at either end of the curve.

The figure shows that the correlation between the natural log of clock inaccuracy, as measured in average seconds of clock error in or before 1999 and real GDP per capita in 2015 is -0.56.  That is, countries with more accurate clocks in or before 1999 tend to be wealthier in 2015.  Note also that the correlation is a bit lower (-0.50) when data from the year 2000 is used.  This suggests that if there is a causation, it isn’t running from wealth to clock accuracy.

Frankly,  there are a few anomalies with the graph, and they tend to be where my intuition doesn’t match the accuracy ranking provided by Levine and Norenzayan.  Having stated that, I should note that my intuition is informed primarily from having lived abroad for about a decade and a half, and from having a fair number of interactions (professional and personal).  For example, Italy ranks second in clock accuracy, but my experience is that there are a fair number of Italians who tend to be relatively tardy to meetings, etc., relative to people from a number of other European countries.  My admittedly snide hypothesis is that the Italian post office’s clock is simply just as late as the clocks in private Italian banks.  Not surprisingly (to me, anyway), Italian GDP per capita is 9th among European countries included by Levine and Norenzayan, not 2nd.  

Nevertheless, despite the anomalies, at a high level, this data seems right to me, and it provides a bit of confirmation to the idea that punctuality is tied to positive economic outcomes.  

The backstory, for those interested:

A few weeks ago, I had a post showing that at the national level, over the past few decades, there is a negative correlation between immigration and subsequent job creation.  In a more recent post, I looked at state level data to determine whether states with a greater percentage of immigrants created more or fewer jobs for the native born population. The results showed that outside the old Confederacy, the more immigrants as a share of the population, the less jobs were created for the native born population.  In between the two posts, I tried to provide a few explanations for why the observed relationship exists.

In the “explanations” post, I mentioned cultural traits as issues that make a difference in whether immigrants contribute positively or negatively.  In the comments to the post, I mentioned timeliness (i.e., punctuality) as one such trait.  That statement met with resistance from other commenters.  It was even suggested that such a view might be racist.  This post is intended to support my comment.

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Who ARE those other people, Mr. Trump? Do tell.

I am now going to the brand new Trump International Hotel D.C. for a major statement.

– Donald Trump, twitter, Sept. 16 at 9:23 a.m.

And so he did, as all the world will remember.  That’s when, and where, he made his trumpeted “birther”-renouncement statement—er, his internationally televised ad for his new D.C. hotel.

The “where” being the operative word in that sentence.  And the “for his new D.C. hotel” being not an accurate reflection of who actually owns it.

At a campaign appearance in North Carolina on Tuesday, in comments that should have received wide attention, not just from the news media but also from Clinton, Trump elaborated on whom the Trump International Hotel D.C actually belongs to: “other people”.  Here’s how CNN began its online text report on that campaign appearance:

Kenansville, North Carolina (CNN)Donald Trump bragged Tuesday there’s “nothing like” using other people’s money, hours after a report said he used more than $250,000 from his charitable organization to litigate lawsuits against his business interests.

Trump, while calling for building safe zones in Syria financed by Gulf states, vaunted the benefits of doing business with “OPM.”

“It’s called OPM. I do it all the time in business. It’s called other people’s money,” Trump said. “There’s nothing like doing things with other people’s money because it takes the risk — you get a good chunk out of it and it takes the risk.”

Simply pointing out, again and again, that Trump is breaking with four decades of tradition in refusing to make public any of his or his company’s tax returns; simply pointing out Trump’s companies’ six bankruptcies; pointing out that his comments about Putin (not least that he has a reciprocal-compliments relationship with Putin, and Putin’s relationship with Russia’s oligarchs who invest in Trump real estate (or whatever it was that Donald Jr. was saying at the 2008 seminar)?  These, independently, don’t register with most of the public, apparently.

But how about running ads in swing states tying all these together with the bowtie called OPM, and Trump’s Sept. 16 personal ad for the new hotel that bears his name but to which the in-name-only label applies?  Russian oligarchs, after all, could tie President Trump in knots—should they threaten to, say, pull their financing from “his” real estate properties.

Unless of course the other people’s money comes without strings attached. Or balloon loan repayments that can be called at any time.

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