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How spotty data make it hard to judge crime levels

the economistMar, 01/12/2015 - 17:39

THIS year, newspapers have been filled with dramatic headlines about a supposed surge in murders. Many cities saw large jumps in crime during the first half of the year: the murder rate rose 48% and 59% compared to the same period the previous year in Baltimore and St Louis, respectively. At the same time, police have been under increased scrutiny: the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson at police hands have sparked large protests around the country. The fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by a cop, also last year, did not spark protests because by the time a video of the killing was released on November 24, 2015, the officer had been charged with murder. Pundits and police chiefs have speculated that the increase in crime is a result of the “Ferguson effect”—that is, cops will be reluctant to crack down on criminals if they’re being constantly watched.

A recent report from the Brennan Centre provides some new evidence that casts doubt on this theory by showing that crime may not be up by much this year at all. The study looks at crime statistics for 25 out of the 30 largest cities in America and...Continue reading

The Supreme Court dives into a dispute over what diversity means

the economistLun, 30/11/2015 - 20:38

NEXT week, the Supreme Court will hear Fisher v University of Texas II, an important case asking how race may fit into admissions decisions at public universities. The Roman numerals denote this as the second time Abigail Fisher’s lament against the University of Texas (UT), which denied her admission to its flagship campus in Austin seven years ago, will be aired before the justices. In the sequel, the characters and the conflict are unchanged. Ms Fisher, a white woman who has since graduated from Louisiana State University, still claims that UT violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment when it rejected her under a race-conscious admissions policy. The University responds that its consideration of race is a modest factor in a holistic analysis of about a quarter of its candidates that previous Supreme Court cases permit. It insists that this limited use of race is necessary to ensure the benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

Why the repeat performance? When the Supreme Court last Continue reading

THE WORKS 1966-2015: Overriding Logic

Tom PetersLun, 30/11/2015 - 13:00

This—circa November 2015—is my best shot. It's "THE WORKS." Some half-century in the making (from 1966, Vietnam, U.S. Navy ensign, combat engineer/Navy Seabees—my first "management" job); but also the product of a massive program of self-directed study in the last 36 months. It includes, in effect, a 250-page book's worth—50,000++ words—of annotation. The times are […]

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Marco Rubio’s tax plan is efficient. It is also expensive and regressive

the economistJue, 26/11/2015 - 18:02

FEW policy choices bring the trade-off between efficiency and equality into sharper view than taxes on capital. On the one hand, capital taxes harm the economy by discouraging productive saving and investment; many economists argue that capital should not be taxed at all. On the other hand, capital owners tend to be rich—if you are struggling, you are unlikely to have much of a stock portfolio. Capital taxes, then, are progressive. Marco Rubio’s tax plan places him squarely in the efficiency camp—and at great cost to the federal budget.

Mr Rubio would eliminate all personal capital taxes, whether on interest, dividends or capital gains. This would encourage Americans to invest, in property, stocks, and by starting small businesses. In the long-run, that would be welcome. Americans typically do not save enough, and productivity growth could do with a fillip from investment. Capital taxes encourage jam today rather than jam tomorrow; choose to spend your earnings, and there is no tax to pay, but choose to invest them and the returns are taxed again before they can be cashed out. If you invest in a business, it typically must pay a levy...Continue reading

Obama "deeply disturbed" by death of black teenager

the economistJue, 26/11/2015 - 06:14

THE IMAGES, released by Chicago police on November 24th, are appalling. A young man, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, jogs along the middle of a road at night and slows to a brisk walk as he sees two police cars that have stopped ahead of him. He swerves away from the two policemen who emerge from one of them, then briefly turns to them; whereupon one fires, and the young man staggers and falls to the ground.

Spasmodic clouds of dust rise as more bullets—making 16 in all—are pumped into his writhing body. Having emptied his entire magazine, Officer Jason Van Dyke, it has since transpired, made to reload. His partner suggested he stop firing. Mr McDonald, who was black and had been spotted earlier that evening trying to break into parked cars, and was carrying a small knife, died in an ambulance soon after.

Mr McDonald was killed on October 20th, 2014, barely two months after the explosion of protest that followed the killing of another black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. His death was less widely publicised, partly because investigators in Chicago had sought to delay release of the video, which was filmed from...Continue reading

John Roberts reflects on leadership at the Supreme Court

the economistMar, 24/11/2015 - 22:20

IN A rare public appearance on the evening of November 20th, John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, gave a talk at the New York University School of Law. The subject of the chief’s presentation was one of Mr Roberts’s predecessors: Charles Evans Hughes, the white-bearded, aquiline-nosed figure who steered the Supreme Court through the fraught New Deal era in the 1930s. Though the programme’s sponsors promised an exploration of Mr Hughes's "impact on our legal history", nary a word was heard about doctrine or jurisprudence. Specific cases were mentioned only in passing. The focus of the evening was on the whiskers and spirit of the man Teddy Roosevelt once called a “bearded iceberg” and whose career included stints as associate justice of the Supreme Court, governor of New York, secretary of state and Republican nominee for president before he was tapped by Herbert Hoover to return to the Supreme Court to take the chief's gavel in 1930.  

Though clean-shaven and undoubtedly perkier than his stiff forebear, Chief Justice Roberts offered a jaunty analysis of...Continue reading

Obama asks the Supreme Court to act fast to save his immigration orders

the economistMar, 24/11/2015 - 18:36

FIVE months ago, the Supreme Court turned back a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that would have scuttled Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. On November 21st, the president’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, asked the Supremes for another favour. Mr Verrilli urges the justices to step in to save Mr Obama’s immigration plan before the president bids farewell to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20th 2017.

The president announced the policy changes a year ago via a series of executive orders. Since Congress had failed to pass an immigration package, Mr Obama explained, he would do what he could within the boundaries of existing law to ease the plight of some of America’s 11m undocumented migrants. But Republicans cried foul. By unilaterally delaying the deportation of some 4.4m...Continue reading

Louisiana gets its first Democratic governor in more than a decade

the economistLun, 23/11/2015 - 17:19

EVEN If all the polls predicted it, this election result was a stunner by any measure. On November 21st, Louisiana, among the reddest of all American states, became the first in the deep South to elect a Democratic governor in more than a decade. The last time the Pelican state elected a Democrat to statewide office was in 2008.

And yet here was John Bel Edwards—a little-known state representative from a rural area best known for bequeathing Britney Spears to the world—positively thumping his GOP opponent, Senator David Vitter. His margin of victory was 56-44, a landslide by most definitions. But the major story line of this election was not the ascent of Mr Edwards, who, even after his surprising win remains something of a mystery to most Louisianians. It was the epic crash-and-burn of Mr Vitter, once the state’s dominant Republican, now on his way to Palookaville.

Mere months ago, Mr Vitter appeared a potent political force. He had raised more money than his three major opponents combined. He was considered a master strategist: he had never lost a race over more than two decades in office. And he had helped...Continue reading

Brand You: 2015

Tom PetersLun, 23/11/2015 - 14:37

Ann Friedman wrote an article for New Republic this month titled "Me, Inc.: The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a 'personal brand.'" She ruminates on the purpose of personal branding and the complexities of creating one in social-media-saturated 2015. Friedman quotes liberally from the Fast Company article, "The Brand Called You" that Tom wrote in […]

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An American mayor says no to Syrian refugees, flunks history

the economistJue, 19/11/2015 - 17:19

“THOSE WHO cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, George Santayana, the philosopher, is famous for saying. David Bowers, the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, showed yesterday that people who think they remember the past, yet recall it incorrectly, are equally doomed, and this can be especially problematic when the errant student of history occupies a seat of power.

Truth be told, Mr Bowers isn’t a particularly powerful man. He has one vote on a 7-person council that is tasked with hiring the city manager who conducts Roanoke’s day-to-day business. He apparently lacks the clout to determine his community’s policy regarding foreign refugees. But Mr Bowers’ limited authority did not stop him from issuing a statement on November 18th summoning the memory of the internment of Japanese Americans during the second world war to call for a halt to the settlement of Syrian refugees in Roanoke:

Continue reading

Bobby Jindal bows out

the economistJue, 19/11/2015 - 02:47

BOBBY JINDAL'S aim to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate was always a long shot. The governor of Louisiana is not well-known outside his relatively small home state. He does not have deep pockets, especially compared to Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. His track record as governor is decidedly mixed. And he is no natural, back-slapping political performer.

On November 17th Mr Jindal became the third candidate to drop out of the Republican field, after Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. "I've come to the realisation that it is not my time," Mr Jindal said during an early evening interview with Fox News. This still leaves 14 in the running, including Mr Jindal’s nemesis, Mr Trump. When he was still in full campaigning mode, Mr Jindal had said that Mr Trump was “a madman who must be stopped” and called him a “shallow, unserious, substance-free, narcissistic egomaniac”.

Considering their recent altercation, Mr Trump was gracious today, responding to Mr Jindal’s decision to drop out. He said that Mr Jindal was ultimately a nice guy who was a little nasty [to...Continue reading

Why it makes sense to raise the age of juvenile courts

the economistMar, 17/11/2015 - 19:32

WHEN RALPH Bonano was 17 years old, he was on the wrong road. He had dropped out of school, joined a gang, been arrested several times—and he regularly sold drugs. When your correpondent spoke to him three years later, in 2014, he was on a better path. He had given up breaking the law, passed his high-school exams and and had a steady job in south Boston making helmets for the military. He credited Roca, a programme in Chelsea, Massachusetts, for helping him stay out of trouble. Roca specialises in helping young people aged between 17 and 24 stay out of jail and find work.

Criminal justice experts are increasingly of the opinion that 18, the age at which law-breakers enter the adult criminal justice system in most states, is too young. In a recent paper, three academics at Harvard Kennedy School—Vincent Shiraldi, Bruce Western and Kendra Bradner —wrote a paper recommending that “the age of juvenile court justice be raised to at least 21 years old, with additional, gradually diminishing protections for young adults up to age 24 or 25.” They point out that neurobiological and developmental research has shown that the...Continue reading

Governors seek to exclude Syrian refugees

the economistMar, 17/11/2015 - 17:12

SLAMMING the door on Syrian refugees would be a betrayal of America's values, declared Barack Obama on November 16th. Refugees should not, he said, be conflated with terrorists. “The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war,” he said, speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey, days after attacks in Paris that killed 129 and wounded more than 350. We must “not close our hearts to the victims of such violence”. Then, without naming them, he chided “political leaders” back home who want to give preferential treatment to Christian refugees. “That's not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

Powerful words from the president who was at his oratorical best. Yet in spite of his exhortations, 22 Republican governors declared on the same day that they would not accept any Syrian refugees in their state, in defiance of Mr Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians in America over the next year. There were reports that some were asking leading Republicans to insert a provision in December's speding bill that...Continue reading

Abu Dhabi

Tom PetersMar, 17/11/2015 - 10:30

The World Strategy Summit, being held in Abu Dhabi from 16–19 November, has the goal of helping government and business leaders become more effective at executing their projects. Tom was in good company as a keynote speaker, along with Reneée Mauborgne, Gary Hamel, and others. He was featured at the pre-summit master class on the […]

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The Supreme Court agrees to hear the biggest abortion case since 1992, in the middle of the presidential election

the economistLun, 16/11/2015 - 14:06

TWO and a half years ago, Wendy Davis (pictured above) stood in pink running shoes for 11 hours on the floor of the Texas Senate to speak against a bill that would shutter most abortion clinics in her state. “The alleged reason for the bill is to enhance patient safety,” Ms Davis said early in her presentation, but it “treat[s] women as though they are not capable of making their own medical decisions.” The bill violates “women’s constitutional rights to control their bodies,” she argued.

On November 13th, the Supreme Court announced that it will decide whether House Bill 2—which withstood Ms Davis’s extraordinary filibuster and passed the Senate 17 days later—is indeed unconstitutional. Continue reading

Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley talk national security

the economistDom, 15/11/2015 - 05:12

IF CLAP-O-METERS decided presidential elections, then a convincing case could be made that national security—and notably the struggle against the murderous fanatics of the Islamic State (IS)—is the biggest obstacle standing between Hillary Clinton and the White House. Mrs Clinton and the two other Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination met in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday night for a televised debate. It had been billed as a discussion of economic policy but was revised to begin with discussion of the horrifying attacks in Paris.

For 20 minutes Mrs Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, talked about how America needed to show leadership and wisdom and build alliances and share intelligence with foreign partners and generally pondered how “complicated” and “difficult” it would be to defeat IS. There were moments of chin-jutting near-bombast, as when Mrs Clinton said that IS “cannot be contained, it must be defeated.” Mr Sanders, who is running to Mrs Clinton’s populist left, chided his rival for supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when she...Continue reading

The Donald rips into his rival, and Iowa's voters

the economistSáb, 14/11/2015 - 04:01

DONALD Trump’s astonishing political ascent has been fuelled by his reputation for telling it like it is. But there must surely be a limit to how much truth (or Mr Trump’s version of it) voters want to hear. Over the course of a rambling, vitriolic rant in Iowa on November 12th, he may have touched that limit.

Speaking at Fort Dodge, Mr Trump derided Ben Carson, his mild-mannered, closest rival; voters, especially Iowans, whose intelligence he questioned; and the beliefs of evangelical Christians, who are largely for Mr Carson. On the face of it, this might seem par for the course. Among his many previous gaffes, Mr Trump has shamefully slandered Mexicans as rapists. His political demise has been predicted often—yet he has led the Republican field for three months. Here, though, are three reasons why his latest rant could have crossed a fatal line.

First, Mr Trump is often at least entertaining, but this performance was dreadful. Normally punctual, he turned up late, looking exhausted, having campaigned in three states in three days, and then rattled on for...Continue reading

32 Customer Entanglement Strategies

Tom PetersVie, 13/11/2015 - 13:29

There was no pressing need to write this. But write it I did. I admit to liking the term "Customer Entanglement." (Not to mention "WOW-ification.") Here goes: *Eye-popping customer SERVICE/PURCHASE PROCESS *Eye-popping customer SERVICE/SUSTAINED FOLLOWUP *Customer KINDNESS (K = R = P/Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.) *Fierce customer LISTENING!! ("Core Value" #1? NO KIDDING!!) […]

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Betting on change in Atlantic City

the economistMié, 11/11/2015 - 16:40

CHRIS CHRISTIE, New Jersey’s governor, has had a tough few days. He was excluded from the fourth main Republican presidential debate on November 10th and instead relegated to the tier-two crew. Not only is he faring poorly in national polls: in his home state a recent survey put him fourth—well behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Mark Rubio. Indeed, most voters in the Garden state want Mr Christie to drop his presidential aspirations. More than half of voters there are unhappy with the job he is doing as governor. And now he has angered the state’s lawmakers and casino industry.

On November 9th, Mr Christie vetoed most of a five-bill legislative rescue package for Atlantic City, saying the package, which would have ended the city’s fight with casinos over property taxes, failed to “recognise the true path to economic revitalisation and fiscal stability”. The proponents of the package argue it would have injected badly needed funds into the former gambling mecca, which has a $101m deficit. It would have set up fixed payments instead of taxes based on property valuations. The city’s budget for the fiscal year ending in December...Continue reading

Marco Rubio rises above the rest in Milwaukee

the economistMié, 11/11/2015 - 09:23

A LOT was at stake at the fourth televised Republican debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on November 10th. Jeb Bush was fighting for his political life in posing himself as a credible contender of the presidency. Marco Rubio had to try matching his outstanding performance at the previous debate and to fend off a possibly harsh attack from his erstwhile mentor, Mr Bush. Ben Carson was in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the veracity of his inspiring life story, which he has made into a lucrative, folkloric vehicle over the years. And Donald Trump had to demonstrate that he is more than a bombastic showman with a shaky grasp of essential policy questions.

Eight candidates were on stage at the Milwaukee theatre after Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, respectively the former governor of Arkansas and the governor of New Jersey, were relegated to the kiddies’ table: the one-hour “undercard” debate before the two-hour main debate. In addition to the two establishment candidates, Mssrs Bush and Rubio, and the two insurgent candidates, Mssrs Carson and Trump, there were Carly Fiorina, a businesswoman, Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas,...Continue reading


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