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Archive for the ‘Deep Capture’ Category

Corporate Aid to Governmental Authority – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 23, 2013

Corporate America

Situationist Contributor David Yosifon recently posted another thoughtful and provocative article on corporate law.  The article, titled “Corporate Aid to Governmental Authority: History and Analysis of an Obscure Power in Delaware Corporate Law” (forthcoming in University of St. Thomas Law Journal) can be downloaded for free on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

The Delaware General Corporation Law contains an obscure provision stating that all corporations have the power to “[t]ransact any lawful business which the corporation’s board of directors shall find to be in aid of governmental authority.” 8 DGCL §122(12). This oddly worded provision has never been applied, analyzed, or interpreted by any court. It has received almost no treatment by corporate law scholars. This lack of attention is surprising, given that by its own terms the provision seems to bear on fundamental corporate law themes, such as the purpose of corporations, the scope of directors’ fiduciary obligations and discretion, and the relationship between corporate law and corporate social responsibility. In this Article, I examine the history behind this strange provision and analyze its applicability to pressing social policy questions surrounding corporate law.

My analysis leads both to narrow and broad policy conclusions. The narrow conclusion is that §122 of the Delaware corporate code is a textual mess that should be amended at least for coherence and clarity. The broad conclusion is that the analysis herein contributes to the case for reforming corporate governance law to require directors to actively attend to the interests of multiple stakeholders, not just shareholders.

Download the article for free here.  See Yosifon’s SSRN page here.

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The Financial Situation of Think Tanks

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 23, 2013

think-tank-map from FAS Research

For The Nation, Ken Silverstein has a revealing article, titled “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.”  Paying special attention to the Center for American Progress, the article shows how ideas, policies, and people gain credibility, legitimacy, and influence through unseen corporate investments in think tanks. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Nowadays, many Washington think tanks effectively serve as unregistered lobbyists for corporate donors, and companies strategically contribute to them just as they hire a PR or lobby shop or make campaign donations. And unlike lobbyists and elected officials, think tanks are not subject to financial disclosure requirements, so they reveal their donors only if they choose to. That makes it impossible for the public and lawmakers to know if a think tank is putting out an impartial study or one that’s been shaped by a donor’s political agenda. “If you’re a lobbyist, whatever you say is heavily discounted,” says Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University and an expert on political ethics. “If a think tank is saying it, it obviously sounds a lot better. Maybe think tanks aren’t aware of how useful that makes them to private interests. On the other hand, maybe it’s part of their revenue model.”

* * *

[M]any [think tanks] lure big donors with a package of benefits, including personalized policy briefings, the right to directly underwrite and shape research projects, and general support for the donor’s political needs.

Most think tanks are nonprofit organizations, so a donor can even get a nice tax break for contributing. But it’s their reputation for impartiality and their web of contacts that makes them especially useful as policy advocates. “Think tanks can always draw a big audience to your event, including government folks,” a Washington lobbyist who has worked with several told me. “And people generally don’t think they would twist anything, or wonder about where they get their money.”

While think tanks portray themselves as altruistic scholarly institutions, they emphasize their political influence when courting donors. “If you have a particular area of policy interest, you can support a specific research effort under way,” the Brookings Institution says in one pitch for cash. Those interested in 
”a deeper engagement”—read: ready to fork over especially large sums of money—get personal briefings from resident experts and can work directly with senior Brookings officials to draw up a research agenda that will “maximize impact on policymaking.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies advertises itself as being “in the unique position to bring together leaders of both the public and private sectors in small, often off-the-record meetings to build consensus around important policy issues.” It allows top-tier donors to directly sponsor reports, events and speaker series.

Read the entire article here.

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Image Source.

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Frontier Tort – Selling Beer in Whiteclay

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 15, 2013

Alcoholism Cover Small

At Harvard Law School in the fall of 2012, the 80 students in Professor Hanson’s situationist-orient torts class participated in an experimental group project in their first-year torts class. The project required students to research, discuss, and write a white paper about a current policy problem for which tort law (or some form of civil liability) might provide a partial solution.  Their projects, presentations, and white papers were informed significantly by the mind sciences. You can read more about those projects, view the presentations, and download the white papers at the Frontier Torts website.

One of the group projects involved the sale of alcohol to members of the Oglala Sioux in Whiteclay Nebraska outside the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Here’s the Executive Summary of the white paper.

Native American Alcoholism: A Frontier Tort

Executive Summary


Since its introduction into Native American communities by European colonists, alcohol has plagued the members of many tribes to a disastrous extent. The Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge have especially suffered from alcoholism, enabled and encouraged by liquor stores just outside the reservation’s borders. Despite the complexities of this situation, media outlets have often reduced it to a pitiable image of dirty, poor Native Americans, degraded by the white man’s vice.

Upon further analysis, however, it becomes evident that there are a variety of factors influencing the situation of Native American alcoholism. While neurobiological, psychological, and genetic factors are often thought to offer plausible internal situational explanations as to why Native Americans suffer so much more potently from this disease than the rest of the nation, high levels of poverty in Native American communities, a traumatic and violent history, and informational issues compound as external situational factors that exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, the three major stakeholders in this situation (the alcohol industry, the State of Nebraska, and the Native Americans) have conflicting interests, tactics, and attribution modes that clash significantly in ways that have prevented any meaningful resolution from being reached. However, there are a variety of federal, state, and tribal programs and initiatives that could potentially resolve this issue in a practical way, so long as all key players agree to participate in a meaningful, collaborative effort.

The key to implementation of these policy actions is determining who should bear the costs they require: society as a whole through the traditional federal taxes, the alcohol companies through tort litigation, or the individuals who purchase the alcohol through an alcohol sales tax. Ultimately, an economic analysis leads to the conclusion that liability should be placed upon the alcohol companies and tort litigation damages should fund the suggested policy initiatives.

You can watch the related presentations and download the white paper here.

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Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, History, Marketing, Morality, Neuroscience, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Leave a Comment »

Deep Capture Conference! – Tomorrow (Saturday)

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 12, 2013

2013 Conference Header

On April 13, 2013 the Project on Law and Mind Sciences and the National Lawyers Guild are co-hosting a conference titled “Deep Capture: Psychology, Public Relations, Democracy, and Law” at Harvard Law School.  Details here.

Here is the information about our speakers:

noam

Noam Chomsky is the Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. He has not only made groundbreaking discoveries and insights in the field of linguistics, but has also become one of the most articulate and passionate critics of American foreign policy in the 20th and 21st centuries. He has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, propaganda, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy, and is the co-author with Edward S. Herman of Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988). He has been called “the most important intellectual alive today,” one of the “makers of the 20th century,” and “the foremost gadfly of our national conscience.”

ewen

Stuart Ewen is the Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and of Film and Media Studies at Hunter College. He is the author of influential books on the history of consumer society, visual culture, propaganda and modernity, including PR! A Social History of Spin, All Consuming Images: On the Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture and, with Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness and Typecasting: On the Arts & Sciences of Human Inequality.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino is an associate professor of business administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School. She is also formally affiliated with the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and with the Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative at Harvard. Her research focuses on judgment and decision-making, negotiation, ethics, motivation, productivity, and creativity. Her studies have been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Newsweek, Scientific American, Psychology Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and her work has been discussed on National Public Radio and CBS Radio.

S_Jhally

Sut Jhally is Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation (MEF). He is one of the world’s leading scholars looking at the role played by advertising and popular culture in the processes of social control and identity construction. The author of numerous books and articles on media (including The Codes of Advertising and Enlightened Racism), he is also an award-winning teacher. He is best known as the producer and director of a number of films and videos (including Dreamworlds: Desire/Sex/Power in Music Video; Tough Guise: Media, Violence and the Crisis of Masculinity; and Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire) that deal with issues ranging from gender, sexuality and race to commercialism, violence and politics. Born in Kenya, raised in England, educated in graduate studies in Canada, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Jon Hanson

Jon Hanson is the Alfred Smart Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he has taught since 1992 and won several teaching awards. His scholarship melds social psychology, social cognition, economics, history, and law. Ten years ago Hanson and David Yosifon identified the problem of “deep capture” in their article, The Situation: An Introduction to the Situational Character, Critical Realism, Power Economics, and Deep Capture, 152 U. Penn. L. Rev. 129 (2003) (download here). Hanson’s recent scholarship includes the 2012 book, Ideology, Psychology, and Law (Oxford University Press, website). Hanson is the Director of The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School and a co-creator and a contributor to The Situationist blog (both accessible at www.lawandmind.com).

linn

Susan Linn is an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has written extensively about the effects of media and commercial marketing on children. Her articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post and her commentaries can be heard on NPR’s Marketplace. Her books include Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood and The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World. Dr. Linn is a co-founder and director of the national coalition Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. In 2000, she was appointed to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Advertising to Children. She has been featured on Sixty Minutes, Now with Bill Moyers, World News Tonight, Dateline, and in the acclaimed film, The Corporation.

mcgarity_thomas

Thomas McGarity is a leading scholar in the fields of administrative law, environmental law, and torts. He has written six influential books, including his most recent, Freedom to Harm: The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival (Yale University Press, 2013). While in academia, McGarity has served as a consultant and/or advisor to many federal and state agencies. Professor McGarity has been an active participant in efforts to improve health, safety and environmental quality in the United States. He has testified before many congressional committees on environmental, administrative law, preemption of state tort laws in cases involving medical devices, and occupational safety and health issues.

niman

Michael Niman is a Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Buffalo State College and a syndicated columnist whose work has earned him two Project Censored awards. Niman, a trained ethnographer, is author of People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia, an ethnography of a nomadic utopian society stemming from qualitative research conducted in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Minnesota, Vermont, Missouri, New York, California and Quebec, Canada. Niman’s research agenda currently focuses on propaganda, the impact of consumer culture, temporary autonomous zones, nonviolent conflict resolution and nonhierarchical societies and movements. Niman formerly worked as a journalist based in Costa Rica and has conducted fieldwork around the world. Niman is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Stauber

John Stauber is the founder of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the only public interest and journalism organization dedicated to exposing organized corporate and government propaganda and its impacts on democracy, public information and democratic social change. He is an independent investigative writer, activist and a consultant, and has co-authored six books, including his 1995 tour de force Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry and the 2003 New York Times bestseller Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq. He has begun or worked with many public interest and community groups over the past four decades.

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2013 PLMS Conference – Save the Date!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 6, 2013

2013 Conference Header

On April 13, 2013 the Project on Law and Mind Sciences and the National Lawyers Guild are co-hosting a conference titled “Deep Capture: Psychology, Public Relations, Democracy, and Law” at Harvard Law School. For more information, visit the conference website here.

Here’s a draft of the day’s schedule.

Tentative Schedule

9:30 am – Coffee, tea, and pastries

9:50 – 10:10 – Welcome

10:15 – 10:40 – Noam Chomsky

10:50 – 11:15 – Francesca Gino

“Getting Sidetracked: How we are vulnerable to manipulation”

Subtle and seemingly irrelevant factors often influence our behavior in ways we fail to anticipate. In this talk, Francesca Gino will discuss a few of these factors and explain how they could be used strategically by others to change people’s behavior.

11:20 – 11:45 – Susan Linn

“The Deepest Capture: Children, Commercialism and the Corporate Take Over of Childhood”

We are all vulnerable to marketing but given their immature judgment and developing brains, children are even more vulnerable. The consequences of screen-saturated, commercialized childhood are dire for the health of children, the environment, and democracy—marketing sells habits and behaviors as well as products. Susan Linn describes the depth and breadth of the “kids market” and why the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers is so important.

11:50 – 12:05 Q&A

LUNCH

12:35 – 1:00 – Stuart Ewen

“The Phantom of Certitude: Public Relations and the Algorithmic Conception of Life”

In his 1948 essay, “The Engineering of Consent,” Edward Bernays wrote, “Freedom of speech and its democratic corollary, a free press, have tacitly expanded our Bill of Rights to include the right of persuasion.” In this statement, he was only echoing a view that he had been promoting for the preceding twenty-five years, that the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses” was essential to the functioning of a “democratic society.” In this presentation, Stuart Ewen will discuss the ways that compliance professionals’ ongoing efforts to guide and regulate the public mind have mirrored—and continue to mirror—parallel scientific efforts to “control chaos” in a variety spheres, and to produce mechanistic or computational models of life that seek to transform perception- and behavior-management into a predictive natural science. The profoundly anti-democratic intentions and consequences of these trends stand the heart of this presentation. So too stand the bedeviling questions: Is democracy still possible? and What is to be done?

1:05 – 1:30 – Michael Niman

“Journalism in a PR World”

Mike Niman discusses the future of journalism in a PR-dominated communication environment. In particular, he examines the migration of talent from journalism to the PR industry, the collapse of mainstream journalism and the role of an emergent alternative media as American journalism goes through metamorphosis from what it was to what it could become. Journalism is a social good that should equip people to understand and resist spin. Niman argues that mainstream American journalism, rather than rising to this challenge, has transparently succumbed to serving as an arm of the corporate PR industry, thus laying the groundwork for its own irrelevance and collapse. From these ashes, he argues, a new alternative media is emerging, combining the communication skills of the PR industry with a long stubborn tradition of critical inquiry and muckraking.

1:35 – 2:00 – Sut Jhally

“Public Relations and War”

2:05 – 2:20 – Q&A

2:20 – 2:35 – Break

2:35 – 3:00 – John Stauber

“Myth America: How the Ruling Elite – Red and Blue – Prevent Democracy”

The myth of American democracy keeps alive the two-party system wholly owned and operated by the ruling 1% whose primary objective is increasing their wealth and maintaining the status quo. Over the past ten years the liberal Democratic Party elite has copied the propaganda and political tactics of the right wing — think tanks, echo chamber media, rabid partisan grassroots and dark money SuperPacs. Rich Democrats and liberal foundations are just as committed to preventing democracy as are the Koch brothers. Seeing through this veil is crucial to organizing any independent, democratic movements for fundamental, structural change.

3:05 – 3:30 – Thomas McGarity

“Freedom to Harm: The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival”

Professor McGarity will tell the story of how the business community and the trade associations and think tanks that it created launched three powerful assaults during the last quarter of the twentieth century on the federal regulatory system and the state civil justice system to accomplish a revival of the laissez faire political economy that dominated Gilded Age America. Although the consequences of these assaults became painfully apparent in a confluence of crises during the early twenty-first century, the patch-and-repair fixes that Congress and the Obama Administration put into place did little to change the underlying laissez faire ideology and exploitative practices that continue to dominate the American political economy. In anticipation of the next confluence of crises, Professor McGarity offers suggestions for more comprehensive governmental protections for consumers, workers, and the environment.

3:35 – 4:00 – Jon Hanson

“Deep Capture: Attributions, Ideologies, and Policy”

4:05 – 4:20 – Q&A

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2013 PLMS Conference – Overview

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 29, 2013

2013 Conference Header

On April 13, 2013 the Project on Law and Mind Sciences and the National Lawyers Guild are co-hosting a conference titled “Deep Capture: Psychology, Public Relations, Democracy, and Law” at Harvard Law School. Here’s a quick

Economists have long recognized regulatory capture as a phenomenon that undermines the public interest.  There is also a growing awareness of the harmful effects of money in legislative and executive electoral politics and state judicial elections, suggesting that monied interests have captured our democracy through campaign spending on many levels.

Those scholars and many others, however, have largely missed the fact that the same actors have the motive and ability to capture all of the important institutions that promote or impede their interests, from the media and popular culture to universities and opinion leaders.

Public relations firms, working on behalf of both governments and market actors, manage public opinion for their clients through all of those channels, effectively capturing the institutions important to our democracy and tilting the playing field in favor of a more stratified distribution of wealth and power.

Through a series of speakers and discussions, we hope to illuminate some of the phenomena at the heart of “deep capture,” from the psychological tendencies and assumptions that render humans vulnerable to manipulation to the history of public relations in the U.S. and the industry’s strategies and tactics.  The conference will also highlight some examples of how those processes and actors shape various institutions and policies.

Visit the conference website for more information and to register here.

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Eliot Spitzer – Today at HLS

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 27, 2013

spitzer cover

Discussion with Eliot Spitzer on Corporations in America.  Wed., March
 27, 12 – 1 P.M.  Austin North.  Lunch served.

Courtesy of Professor Hanson’s Corporations class (aka “Like a Virgil”), please join us for a conversation with Governor Eliot Spitzer on Corporations in America.  A graduate of Harvard Law School, Eliot Spitzer has served as Governor and as Attorney General of New York, he conducted “The Wall Street Cases.”

Co-sponsored by ACS and the HLS Democrats.

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Events, Politics, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

2013 PLMS Conference – Save the Date!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 23, 2013

2013 Conference Header

On April 13, 2013 the Project on Law and Mind Sciences and the National Lawyers Guild are co-hosting a conference titled “Deep Capture: Psychology, Public Relations, Democracy, and Law” at Harvard Law School.  Please save the date.  You won’t want to miss it.  More details to be announced soon.

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Helpful Summary of Wealth Inequality in U.S.

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 7, 2013

From Politizane:

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

Related Situationist posts:

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The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 3

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 15, 2012

Part 3 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti examines assumptions about what is and is not healthy. He also looks at how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed ‘healthy foods’ such as muesli and juices, both of which can be high in sugar.

He speaks with Simon Wright, an ‘organic consultant’ for Sainsbury’s in the 1990s, who explains how the food industry cashed in on the public’s concerns around salmonella, BSE and GM crops. By 1999 the organic industry was worth over £605M, a rise of 232% within two years.

How did the mainstream food producers compete? Peretti speaks with Kath Dalmeny, former policy director at the Food Commission, who explains some of the marketing strategies used by mainstream food producers to keep our custom.

The programme also explores the impact of successive government initiatives and health campaigns, such as the proposal of ‘traffic light labelling’, the introduction of which the food industry lobbied hard against.

But in 2012, when we have an Olympic Games sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola, has anything changed?

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 2

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 14, 2012

Part 2 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of ‘supersizing’ changed our eating habits forever. How did we – once a nation of moderate eaters – start to want more?

Speaking to Mike Donahue, former McDonalds Vice President, Peretti explores the history behind the idea of supersizing. 40 years ago, McDonalds hired David Wallerstein, a former cinema manager who had introduced the idea of selling larger popcorn servings in his Chicago cinema. Wallerstein realised that people would eat more but they didn’t like the idea of appearing gluttonous by going back for seconds. By increasing the portion sizes and the cost, he could sell more food. In 1972, he introduced the idea to McDonalds and their first large fries went on sale.

By the 1980s, we were eating more – and eating more often. Perretti speaks with industry professionals to examine the story behind the introduction of value meals, king-size snacks and multi-buy promotions. How did the advertising industry encourage us to eat more often?

The programme also explores the developments in dietary advice – by 2003, the Chief Medical Officer was warning of an ‘obesity time bomb.’ Peretti speaks to obesity expert Professor Philip James, who made recommendations in his 1996 report that the food industry should cease targeting children in their advertisements. He also speaks with Professor Terry Wilkin, who led a pioneering study into childhood weight gain; and former Labour MP David Hinchliffe, who chaired the 2003 Parliamentary Select Committee on Health.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 1

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 12, 2012

From Introduction of BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Around the world, obesity levels are rising. More people are now overweight than undernourished. Two thirds of British adults are overweight and one in four of us is classified as obese. In the first of this three-part series, Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionising our eating habits, to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now.

Peretti travels to America to investigate the story of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener was championed in the US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary Earl Butz to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you don’t know when to stop.

Endocrinologist Robert Lustig was one of the first to recognise the dangers of HFCS but his findings were discredited at the time. Meanwhile a US Congress report blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing rise in cardio-vascular disease and the food industry responded with ranges of ‘low fat’, ‘heart healthy’ products in which the fat was removed – but the substitute was yet more sugar.

Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency. Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food outlets in Britain had quadrupled.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

Michael Pollan on the Political Situation of Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 29, 2012

Host Harry Kreisler welcomes writer Michael Pollan for a discussion of the agricultural industrial complex that dominates consumer choices about what to eat. He explores the origins, evolution and consequences of this system for the nations health and environment. He highlights the role of science, journalism, and politics in the development of a diet that emphasizes nutrition over food. Pollan also sketches a reform agenda and speculates on how a movement might change Americas eating habits. He also talks about science writing, the rewards of gardening, and how students might prepare for the future.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Education, Food and Drug Law, Ideology, Marketing, Politics, Video | 2 Comments »

Marion Nestle on The Situation of Our Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 28, 2012

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Environment, Food and Drug Law, History, Marketing, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Deeply Captured Situation of Sugar

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 25, 2012

Mother Jones has a superb new article on the deeply captured situation of sugar.  It begins as follows:

ON A BRISK SPRING Tuesday in 1976, a pair of executives from the Sugar Association stepped up to the podium of a Chicago ballroom to accept the Oscar of the public relations world, the Silver Anvil award for excellence in “the forging of public opinion.” The trade group had recently pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in PR history. For nearly a decade, the sugar industry had been buffeted by crisis after crisis as the media and the public soured on sugar and scientists began to view it as a likely cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been called out by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had launched a review of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead. As John “JW” Tatem Jr. and Jack O’Connell Jr., the Sugar Association’s president and director of public relations, posed that day with their trophies, their smiles only hinted at the coup they’d just pulled off.

Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes. With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands, the association recruited a stable of medical and nutritional professionals to allay the public’s fears, brought snack and beverage companies into the fold, and bankrolled scientific papers that contributed to a “highly supportive” FDA ruling, which, the Silver Anvil application boasted, made it “unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years.”

The story of sugar, as Tatem told it, was one of a harmless product under attack by “opportunists dedicated to exploiting the consuming public.” Over the subsequent decades, it would be transformed from what the New York Times in 1977 had deemed “a villain in disguise” into a nutrient so seemingly innocuous that even the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association approved it as part of a healthy diet. Research on the suspected links between sugar and chronic disease largely ground to a halt by the late 1980s, and scientists came to view such pursuits as a career dead end. So effective were the Sugar Association’s efforts that, to this day, no consensus exists about sugar’s potential dangers. The industry’s PR campaign corresponded roughly with a significant rise in Americans’ consumption of “caloric sweeteners,” including table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This increase was accompanied, in turn, by a surge in the chronic diseases increasingly linked to sugar. Since 1970, obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled, while the incidence of diabetes has more than tripled.

Read the entire article and related items here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, History, Ideology, Life, Marketing, Public Relations | 1 Comment »

Citizens United Cartography

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 7, 2012

From NPR:

Explore political ad spending through creative cartography. This animated map shows where superPACs and other outside groups spent their money — over a six-month period during the general election — to air political ads aimed at influencing the presidential race.

Read the related NPR article here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Ideology, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

Citizens United Primer

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 3, 2012

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Deeply Captured Situation of “Defensive Medicine”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 28, 2012

Sidney Shapiro, Thomas Owen McGarity, Nicholas Vidargas, and James Goodwin, have recently published their White Paper, titled “The Truth About Torts: Defensive Medicine and the Unsupported Case for Medical Malpractice ‘Reform’” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

In the debate about health care reform, “defensive medicine” has become a convenient culprit for rising costs and especially rising physician malpractice premiums. Vaguely defined, the phrase, “defensive medicine,” is used to suggest that physicians make medical decisions to avoid potential litigation, instead of with their patients’ health and safety in mind. On the strength of this assertion alone, some policymakers argue for restricting Americans’ right to bring suit to recover damages for medical malpractice. This report demonstrates, however, that the proponents of medical malpractice “reform” lack persuasive evidence that tort litigation against physicians encourages them to make medical decisions that they would not have made otherwise.

Powerful business interests have compelling reasons to perpetuate the “defensive medicine” myth. Because the national health care debate has been framed around costs – not patient health and safety or access to care – the “defensive medicine” message has been successfully deployed to restrict Americans’ access to the courts in many states. Meanwhile, “defensive medicine” also serves as a politically expedient straw man, allowing policymakers and the insurance industry to ignore or obscure the real drivers of rising medical costs, including the high costs of prescription drugs; the high demand for, and increasing use of, state-of-the-art technology; the growing incidence of chronic diseases; and an aging population that lives longer and consumes more medical care.

This report first establishes that an intact and robust civil justice system is necessary to the health of society and exposes how rarely doctors are actually being sued. Next, it examines why doctors order tests and procedures. It then surveys available empirical evidence showing that a supposed “defensive medicine” mindset has little impact on medical decisions or on medical practice costs. The report also exposes extraordinary shortcomings in the methodology and academic rigor of the evidence most frequently cited by civil justice opponents.

The evidence reveals that “defensive medicine” is largely a myth, proffered by interests intent on limiting citizen access to the courts for deserving cases, leaving severely injured patients with no other recourse for obtaining the corrective justice they deserve. These changes would limit the deterrent effect of civil litigation and diminish the regulatory backstop that the civil justice system provides to the professional licensing system, leading to more medical errors. Restricting lawsuits might save doctors a negligible amount on malpractice premiums but the vast majority of any savings will most certainly line the pockets of the insurance companies demanding these restrictions. On the other hand, buying into this myth has very real and dangerous consequences. Allowing civil justice opponents to pretend that constraining the civil justice system equates to meaningful health care reform distracts us from doing the things that must be done to fix the system, including avoiding the 98,000 deaths caused by preventable medical errors every year and reducing the unacceptable number of uninsured Americans.

Download report for free here.

For a related recent briefing book assembled by the Center for Justice & Democracy click here

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Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, Law, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Money-Based Happiness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 12, 2012

An excerpt from a recent, terrific New York Times piece by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton:

The notion that money can’t buy happiness has been around a long time — even before yoga came into vogue. But it turns out there is a measurable connection between income and happiness; not surprisingly, people with a comfortable living standard are happier than people living in poverty.

The catch is that additional income doesn’t buy us any additional happiness on a typical day once we reach that comfortable standard. The magic number that defines this “comfortable standard” varies across individuals and countries, but in the United States, it seems to fall somewhere around $75,000. Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.

Why, then, do so many of us bother to work so hard long after we have reached an income level sufficient to make most of us happy? One reason is that our ideas about the relationship between money and happiness are misguided. In research we conducted with a national sample of Americans, people thought that their life satisfaction would double if they made $55,000 instead of $25,000: more than twice as much money, twice as much happiness. But our data showed that people who earned $55,000 were just 9 percent more satisfied than those making $25,000. Nine percent beats zero percent, but it’s still kind of a letdown when you were expecting a 100 percent return.

Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck.

We usually think of having more money as allowing us to buy more and more of the stuff we like for ourselves, from bigger houses to fancier cars to better wine to more finely pixilated televisions. But these typical spending tendencies — buying more, and buying for ourselves — are ineffective at turning money into happiness. A decade of research has demonstrated that if you insist on spending money on yourself, you should shift from buying stuff (TVs and cars) to experiences (trips and special evenings out). Our own recent research shows that in addition to buying more experiences, you’re better served in many cases by simply buying less — and buying for others.

Read the entire article, including their discussion of value of “underindulgence.”

Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (Simon & Schuster), co-authored by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, is due out in the spring of 2013!

Pre-order it on Amazon here.

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Posted in Altruism, Book, Deep Capture, Distribution, Emotions, Illusions, Life, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of State Judiciaries

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 26, 2012

From The Anerican Scholar:

The hearing room of the Wisconsin Supreme Court could be a Beaux-Arts museum, exhibiting images of justice as idealized in America for centuries: ornate, dignified, above reproach. Light pours in through a huge leaded-glass skylight, radiating off veined white marble. Large murals set high off the floor dominate each wall, depicting the venerable sources of Wisconsin law—Roman, English, Native American, and federal. The one to the left of the room’s mahogany bench portrays King John of England reluctantly granting the Great Charter, or Magna Carta, which, in June 1215, ended his lawless seizure of nobles’ land and began an era of legal rights embodied in English, then American, common law.

Article 40 of the Magna Carta pledged, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.” But recently, in a string of expensive and increasingly contested elections, candidates to be justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have flouted the not-for-sale principle, demeaning the courtroom’s grandeur.

Wisconsin is not alone. In state after state, campaign contributions and related spending by special interests have risen dramatically in the past decade and are expected to swell in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which removed any limits on independent spending. Wisconsin is one of 22 states that elect judges to their highest courts, or one of 38 if you count states that have so-called retention elections by which appointed judges run to retain their seats. In all of them, independent spending threatens to overwhelm the system of electing judges, making them and the candidates running against them dependent on private money and eroding the public’s confidence in the courts.

Because judicial elections occur on different cycles and are subject to the push and pull of different forces in different jurisdictions, Citizens United has not increased spending uniformly in each state. But across the country, the ruling has caused spending to continue to rise at an ever-accelerating rate. This year, races in Florida, Michigan, and West Virginia have already set new highs for independent spending. Nowhere, though, are the pernicious effects more evident than in Wisconsin, which stands as a warning of just how bad things can get.

In 2007, in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race in which the two candidates spent a total of $2.7 million and special interests spent $3.1 million, Annette Kingsland Ziegler was elected and kept for conservatives a seat being vacated by another judge. The following year, the two candidates together spent “only” $1.2 million, joined by $3.4 million from special interests, much of it on distorted attack ads, which helped Michael Gableman defeat Louis Butler, the court’s first African-American justice, and swung the seven-member bench from liberal to conservative. And things have only gotten worse—over the past five years, special interests in Wisconsin have spent $14.8 million on TV ads to influence judicial elections, more than in any state except Pennsylvania, which has more than twice Wisconsin’s population.

After his defeat, Butler appeared at a conference on judicial selection reform. Holding up a copy of John Grisham’s 2008 novel, The Appeal, he said, “Welcome to my world.” In the novel, a chemical company’s industrial waste poisons the water in a Mississippi town, causing widespread cancer and death. The company stage-manages and heavily funds a successful campaign to replace a liberal justice with a conservative one, who shifts the state supreme court from left to right and casts the deciding vote to overturn a $41 million verdict against the company. The ads that defeated the liberal incumbent attacked her record on crime and other social issues, but really it was her lack of favoritism to business that led the company to take her down.

Like Grisham’s successful challenger, Michael Gableman was a little-known county trial judge with thin credentials, recruited by business to run against Butler. He became the first candidate to defeat a sitting justice since 1967; only three other justices in state history had been defeated in the previous 115 years—in 1947, 1908, and 1855.

Gableman’s TV ads accused Butler of having worked “to put criminals on the street,” pointing to the rapist of an 11-year-old girl. The ad was so misleading that the Wisconsin Judicial Commission charged Gableman with misconduct for “reckless disregard for the truth.” As a judge or justice, Butler never heard a case involving the rapist. But as a public defender years before, he had unsuccessfully sought a new trial for the man because of a breach of criminal procedure in a rape case. The rapist served out his time, and after his release, when he was no longer Butler’s client, he sexually assaulted another girl. Nevertheless, a review board rejected the misconduct charge against Gableman, finding that each individual assertion in the ad was true, so their sum could not be false.

Butler was not targeted for his views on crime, however. Gableman shifted the Wisconsin court to the right and cast the pivotal vote in 2011 when, by 4-3, the court overturned a trial court’s stay of a Republican-backed state law curbing the collective bargaining rights of public employees, effectively upholding the law—the legal fight that made Wisconsin a battleground between the rabid new right and the outraged old left in American politics.

Read the entire article here.

Related Situationist posts:

For a PBS Frontline website on “Justice for Sale,” click here. To download the “New Politics for Judicial Elections Report for 2006,” by the Justice at Stake Campaign, click here. For an NPR interview (audio) of Justice O’Connor about judicial independence by Nina Totenberg, click here. For a PBS interview (transcript, audio, or streaming video) of Justices O’Connor and Breyer on the topic of judicial independence, click here.

Posted in Deep Capture, Law, Politics | Leave a Comment »

 
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