Friday, June 26, 2009

Clyde Barrow: I Deal in "Pseudo Facts."

Note to readers: I write the following because Barrow is set to appear in a hearing on casinos at the State House on Monday -- a hearing that follows the lengthy pattern of drumming out almost all the opposition in favor of bringing in a carefully selected group of industry "experts," including six of the eight people invited to Sen. Spilka's hearing.

Even in all my fascination with the UMASS Dartmouth Casino Industry cheerleader Professor Clyde Barrow, I somehow missed this critical article, "The Persistence of Pseudo-Facts in the US Casino Debate: The Case of Massachusetts." First, a reminder for readers: Clyde Barrow is the Director of the Center for Public Analysis at UMASS Dartmouth, a somewhat new arm of the University in its quest to offer more grad classes, programs and original research. Barrow's work was the basis of Deval Patrick's plan for casinos -- one of the few things I can claim credit to "breaking" as a blogger. That's all well and good, except for the fact that Barrow has deep connections to the casino industry, connections he removed from his website when it started to get embarrassing for him. He's constantly called on by the Massachusetts media and politicians as the "leading expert" on gambling in Massachusetts, but he never owns up to the fact that he's been paid a great deal by the industry he claims to be an unbiased academic on.

What does this make him? Well, it's not the best example of academic integrity. Really, read at least the first page of the first link. Let's actually quote from it. Emphasis mine (with the exception of the italicized "one" - that's his).
It is widely recognized in the policy process literature that academic policy research is only one input into the policymaking process and, therefore, it is only one of the many sources of information that decision makers take into account when making public policy decisions. Social scientists, legal scholars, and policy analysts, however, are more likely to believe that their research findings and recommendations should command special attention from policymakers because of their scientific or empirical basis. While the findings of academic policy researchers are not infallible, they are generally something more than mere opinion, but in the policymaking arena, academic policy research often appears to the decision maker as simply one more opinion to be processed and weighed in the course of decision making. The public policy arena is always crowded with noisy ideas and chatter, including the views of constituents and clients, heart-rending anecdotes and testimonials, personal letters, testimony to committees and task forces, ant the minute-by-minute interpretations of "the chattering class," i.e., talk radio, headline television, newspaper editorials, and the Internet blogosphere.
Hear that, everyone? The man who's become media-quote numbah one, Mass pundit extraordinaire, is calling constituents, journalists and trained political scientists from his own university (me), "the chattering class." Sadly for Barrow, as the links above indicate, when it comes to issues surrounding slots, this blog deals only with the facts -- casting a critical eye, as all political scientists should, on an industry masked in deception and bias, lobby dollars and uncomfortable facts. Clyde Barrow, on the other hand, deals with flawed science in coming up with numbers that please the (casino) industry.

His "chattering class" is really just a way of belittling those who disagree with him. Note how he fails to include the academics who denounce casino profiteering at the expense of society, such as Bob Goodman, author of The Luck Business, or Dr. Hans Breiter of Harvard, who found that, "Monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine." He's actually trying to create a medication to suppress that urge. Are they, too, a part of "the chattering class?" If not, why doesn't Barrow include a single reference to their work - as any good political scientist normally would?

The truth is Barrows is part and parcel of the industry, the personification of the flawed Spectrum Gaming "study" Patrick paid for as means for "independent" analysis - a report that issued exactly what you'd expect... coming from the industry. Although, given the facts, it takes a lot of audacity for him to label us skeptics as dealing with "psuedo facts." The base rule of "the chattering class" that Barrow mocks in page one of this report at the very least submits to the paramount of ethical standards -- report conflicts of interest. What does it say, then, of a very serious academic who's the Director for Policy Analysis at a major Massachusetts public university when he not only fails to divulge his conflicts of interest, but actually covers them up when they matter the most? It seems to me, once again, Barrow fails to be the skeptical scientist his profession is supposed to be all about.

Update: Is the fact that Clyde Barrow took $15,000, under the guise of "Pyramid Associates," from Maine's Yes on 2 Campaign -- a failed campaign for casinos in Maine - a conflict of interest? How does that befit a very serious academic? Will someone ask Clyde Barrow about these "chattering class" "psuedo facts" at Monday's hearing?


Anonymous said...

What a disappointment, Ryan?

Ryan said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for digging into this obvious conflict of interest. Have you had any response from UMass administrators? You'd think they'd want to avoid a potential scandal.

Anonymous said...


You may want to add this link to this posting;

It appears that Clyde doesn't remember what he says one day from another!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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