What the Nation's Leading Papers Said This Week

IBM and the Nazis. News from the Dismal Science. Confusion over the effects of Bush's tax proposals. More!

Eric Hübler

The tension between good, evil, and money dominated the Feb. 11 business sections of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Just as individual plaintiffs can be sentenced to community service, corporations that lose or settle civil-rights cases often make restitution by means of charitable deeds or contributions. There's a continuing debate about whether such punishments are more just than big monetary damages.

The Post takes note of a new book that claims the Nazis couldn't have killed so many people without IBM technology. That the Nazis were big IBM customers is clear, but "IBM and the Holocaust" says the company's punchcard machines improved the Nazis' abilities to find, move -- and thus kill -- civilians. The book is being used as ammunition in a lawsuit on behalf of Nazi victims, reports The New York Times (free registration required).

Also in The Times: socially responsible investing is becoming specialized, with, for example, a fund catering to Christian Scientists refusing to buy into medical companies, and an animal lovers' fund screening out companies that experiment on lab animals. Whether such funds produce stronger returns remains unanswered, the story says.

A TRULY DISMAL SCIENCE. And, economists are beginning to acknowledge what the rest of us knew: people can be irrational, basing spending decisions on emotion as well as intellect. One implication: Deregulation -- which assumes rational decisionmaking -- could be set back if policymakers read this story.

More on the dismal science: California could use a recession, says The San Jose Mercury News' Dan Gillmor. His reasoning: during the recent boom, excessive demand for electricity, housing, and other necessities diminished quality of life for most people. A recession would restore some balance, though it would be terrible for those who lose jobs.

It can be hard to have a rational conversation about President Bush's tax proposals. Along comes The Los Angeles Times' James Flanigan and shows that it's also hard to do a rational analysis of their impact.

WHAT'S IN A COLOR. Bulldozers and chain saws used to be the most important tools in creating a ski area. Now, developers and the U.S. Forest Service are learning to work with nature, says The Denver Post.

Everyone wants medical information to be private, but at what cost? The medical industry is fighting impending privacy regulations that, it tells The Dallas Morning News, would add onerous new costs.

Chris Galvin personifies Motorola -- he's the founder's grandson and has worked there his entire career. Some cry for new blood, but The Chicago Tribune makes a compelling case that Galvin is tough enough to do what must be done -- layoffs included.

Good news for those who consider public libraries to be copyright-infringing bloodsuckers: The Boston Globe says electronic books downloadable from Amazon.com contain copy protections that make them virtually unshare-able. Software writers at Microsoft and two other makers of e-book delivery methods take the credit.

What's in a color? An Oregonian article describes the lengths to which manufacturers go to get just the right colors for products; workers at Columbia Sportswear even search for clues among fish guts. Extreme examples of why it matters: Crystal Pepsi failed, and the iMac computer thrived, largely because of their colors.

DOT-COM SURVIVORS. The words "coal" and "tomorrow" don't normally go together, but The St. Louis Post Dispatch says those icky black rocks just may be the fuel of tomorrow. Coal-fired electrical plants cost twice as much to build as plants that use gas, yet the price of the electricity they produce is one-fifth. Utilities are looking at building more coal-fired plants, though environmentalists say they'll fight the trend, since gas burns cleaner.

Looking for entertainment for your next corporate shindig? Forget ladies jumping out of cakes; how about a speech by a shipbuilding executive? The CEO of the Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard is taking to the hustings to recruit local businesses as suppliers. Buying components overseas defeats the purpose -- job creation -- of the tax subsidies that helped building the shipyard, he points out.

There's life left in some dot-coms after all. The Seattle Times goes inside one not-dead-yet Internet company, Cobalt Group, to see how it intends to survive. It comes down to two words: make money.

Finally this week, The St. Petersburg Times' Robert Trigaux reports on the gallows humor that's arisen in the wake of the dot-gone phenomenon. It's part of a special section the paper calls "Deflated Dreams."

Hübler reports for The Denver Post

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