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Sunday, October 22, 2006

 

HP Leaks; Iraq Civilian Body (Mis)Count and More

In Thursday's WSJ, Ms. Pui-Wing Tam wrote her story (the coveted left hand front page column plus another full page) about how HP violated her privacy by reviewing her phone records, trash, etc. as part of its leak investigation. She never denied being on the receiving end of leaks in pursuing her job of covering HP for the WSJ. No doubt, the leaky Board Director helped Ms. Tam with several scoops during the notorious Carly Fiorina era and its denoument. To her credit, Ms. Tam's story is written very matter-of-factly, with no obvious vitriol or appeals for sympathy. The tone is, these facts speak for themseleves, can you imagine that a Fortune 100 Company could invade someone's privacy in this way, and that's why this story has been a big deal, and resulted in the ignominious exit of Chairwoman Patricia Dunn.

As usual, Redwave's view is a little bit different. If I had been in Ms. Tam's place when approached by Mr. Leaker, I would have looked him in the eye and said, as follows: "I am certainly interested in your information, but before you start, please understand, that when you provide it to me, you may be in violation of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure); if so, I will not be able to assure you that I will maintain the confidentiality of my source (you) when the SEC or the police come calling. Now, do you still want to provide this information to me?"

Presumably, that would have ended the conversation, the other (ethically challenged) papers would beat me to the story and I would still be able to sleep at night. Of course, I would also have the advantage that my garbage and personal phone and credit records would not be reviewed by HP operatives. If the Journal reporters are offended by such tactics (as they should be), they might also take a review class in their own company's ethical compliance course.

In short, I have trouble ginning up much sympathy for Ms. Tam or any other leakees. HP probably received advice from counsel that Reg FD had been broached on several occasions and that if the Company was to avoid implication, it had better do something about the leaks. That did not justify their reprehensible and illegal tactics used in the investigation. But it was important to find and oust the leaker.

Another question - how did it come to pass that our most important "constitutional" right in this country is the "right to privacy," trumping everything else? I know, it's in the penumbra of the constitution somewhwere. Honestly, I have read and reread my copy of the constitution, and just can't find the penumbra. I guess my version came without one.

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Another pretty serious ethical shortfall that I noted occurred recently with the publication by a Johns Hopkins think tank of their estimate that some 600,000 Iraqi's have died as a result of the war and its aftermath. The shocking figure resulted from an extrapolation of the findings of a research project in Iraq where interviews were conducted on the basis of random sampling. Though this process is a widely accepted technique for arriving at such estimates (as I am sure you read in the mainstream media), what has not been widely disseminated is that the researchers based their findings on a ridiculously low number of clusters (47 compared to what should have been hundreds or even thousands to be statistically reliable) and also failed to note demographic data about the survivors interviewed. As Steven E. Moore pointed out on Wednesday's WSJ Op Ed page, these are mistakes that would never be made by any competent statistician. Yet, Johns Hopkins stood by its estimate, which differs from any reasonable estimate by a factor of at least ten! Apparently, the well-deserved prestige of the university is today less important than making a political statement.

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Incidentally, another new blog feature is the reader meter you see in the left hand margin. This is merely a counter, I am not getting any info about where the reader is or who is reading. It is amazing that in the blogs I follow that use map cluster, you see readership from all over the world, even for semi-frivolous (though highly entertaining) blogs. In Redwave's case, I expect the meter will mainly be a narcissus gauge, counting how many times I read my own prose. Nevertheless, it would be fun to see how fast the number increases, and an occasional comment would also be welcome.

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Upon further review, I have decided to just add BB King, James Jamieson, and Carlos Santana to the honorable mention list (see post of 8/31) of my favorite guitarists, and not remove anyone. More lists are on the way.

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On 10/4, I bought another 100 shares of SHLM for the IRA at 23. On 10/9 I sold 200 more BAMM out of the IRA for 19.34, OK since I bought them at 3.65 on 5/10/02. On 10/11, my taxable account sold 400 HAUP at 5.76. 200 of those were bought for 2.585 on 5/14/01, the other 200 for 1.66 on 8/6/01. On 10/16, I sold 100 DOV at 49.71 from my IRA, originally paid 49 on 6/14/00. Sometimes you have to be patient to make $71 minus commissions. Then on 10/20, the market was kind enough to give my IRA 20.75 for 100 shares of B that cost 14.40625 on 9/25/97 (love those split adjustments!). The market rally broadened, which was encouraging, but I am still a bit skeptical. Mainly, it's a market of stocks, not a stock market, and it is gratifying to see some of mine treated so well.

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