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Welcome!

Tom PetersMar, 04/03/2014 - 13:33

Our blog has been the central focus of tompeters.com for 10 years. Coudal Partners helped us shift from a static site to a blog-powered site. Now, it’s time for a change of pace. We want you to be able to easily access the wide variety of topics and formats in which you can find insights […]

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Beautiful minds

the economistSáb, 01/03/2014 - 02:00

THE health of American children is mediocre—they move too little and eat too much junk. But there was promising news this week when America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that obesity rates were flat for most children and dropped dramatically for those aged two to five. “I am thrilled,” declared Michelle Obama, whose “Let’s Move!” campaign has sought to fight childhood obesity. “With the participation of kids, parents, and communities in Let’s Move! these last four years, healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm.” Another less prominent report, however, brought more worrying news, not about the physical health of children, but about their mental health.

The Health Care Cost Institute, which pools data from insurers, reported broad spending trends for children covered by private insurance. Employer-sponsored private coverage is America’s single biggest source of health insurance. There are 43m children enrolled in company health plans. The institute examined insurance claims from 2009 to...Continue reading

The ham sandwich standard

the economistVie, 28/02/2014 - 23:10

WHEN the state accuses you of a crime and seizes your assets before trial, thus preventing you from hiring the counsel of your choice, what recourse do you have? That question is at the heart of Kaley v United States, a case the United States Supreme Court issued its decision on this week. The answer, worryingly, seems to be: None.

The case concerns an aspect of civil asset forfeiture (which we have written about before) that allows prosecutors to freeze an indicted defendant's assets before trial if they would be subject to seizure upon conviction. The question is whether defendants can challenge the forfeiture's legitimacy when it was based on a grand-jury indictment. A brief refresher: grand juries do not decide guilt or innocence; they simply decide whether enough evidence exists to charge a defendant with a crime, ie to indict him. Proceedings are usually closed to the public, and indeed to defense attorneys as well. Grand juries usually only hear...Continue reading

Long division

the economistVie, 28/02/2014 - 07:20

TIM DRAPER, a rich Silicon Valley investor who wants to divide California into six states, began his press conference this week with the word “Shit!”, as he toppled the microphones placed before him. That may also be how he ends his campaign. Even if he secures the 807,615 signatures he needs to place his idea on the ballot, and somehow manages to convince a majority of Californian voters to back it, it must still be approved by the Californian legislature as well as Congress. That will not happen.

Mr Draper, who made his fortune backing the likes of Skype and Baidu, is no fool; his motives in pursuing this quixotic dream are unclear. Still, even if his answer is silly, he is asking a good question. With 38m people of innumerable backgrounds working in sectors from marijuana to manufacturing, spread over 164,000 spectacularly diverse square miles, there is little to knit California together. Its icons—Hollywood, Silicon Valley, beaches—are regional, not statewide. The same goes for media markets and sports teams. There are vast health and income disparities across California; two of Mr Draper’s new states would...Continue reading

Inescapable truths

the economistJue, 27/02/2014 - 16:12

THE National Academies of Science (NAS) and the Royal Society—the elite scientific fellowships of America and Britain, respectively, respectively—released today a rather handy “Frequently Asked Questions” resource on climate change. It seems designed to act as a sort of counterbalance to op-ed pieces like this one by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, which take aim at “those scientists who pretend to know exactly what [carbon-dioxide emissions] will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years.”

The scientists of Mr Krauthammer’s scorn don’t actually exist: No one pretends to such precision. But no matter, Mr Krauthammer’s real complaint is more general. His target is anyone who believes that “science is settled”—a belief he tries to ascribe to Barack Obama. “There is nothing more anti-scientific,” he says, “than the very idea that science is settled, static,...Continue reading

Scaling down

the economistMié, 26/02/2014 - 20:44

THERE have been hints recently that the steady expansion of America’s waistlines might have slowed. In some groups and in some places, such as New York City and Anchorage, obesity rates even seemed to be dipping. Whether these were harbingers of broader change remained anyone’s guess. On February 25th America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) brought new, wider evidence of progress.

Most promising, there was a 43% drop in obesity rates among young children aged two to five. In 2003-04 13.9% children were obese; in 2011-12 this number went down to 8.4%. As for everyone else, between 2003 and 2012 there was no significant change in obesity rates. Depressing as it might sound, this is actually something of a victory. Steady obesity rates are much better than rising ones.

Nevertheless, America is hardly healthy. More than one in three adults and one in six children were obese in 2011-12. Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be obese than white ones. Extreme obesity is most common among middle-aged women and black people. For women...Continue reading

Stupid season

the economistMié, 26/02/2014 - 19:56

“I’M A very staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, but why talk about it?” said J. Allen Carnes in a recent interview with a state newspaper. “It has nothing to do with this job, unless you’re talking about hog eradication.” Similarly, he said, he would steer clear of the state’s debates about abortion and sexual ethics: “Abstinence doesn’t work for cows.” Mr Carnes is a farmer, the mayor of the small Texas town of Uvalde, and a candidate for state agriculture commissioner. He is also one of the few Republicans running in Texas this year who has not raced to convince voters of his far-right credentials in advance of the primary, which will be held on March 4th.

The Texas elections have drawn more national attention than usual this year, because Democrats have an unusually prominent candidate for governor in Wendy Davis (pictured), a state senator from Fort Worth who became a hero to the left last summer after filibustering a strict new abortion bill. In January...Continue reading

God damned it

the economistMar, 25/02/2014 - 17:24

THERE is a counter to every reformation, a backlash to every revolution, a yin to every yang. So it is no surprise that as gay rights march through the land, with same-sex nuptials now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and the Defence of Marriage Act defanged, that opponents of homosexuality are pushing back. Their fight to straighten America’s spine from its perceived slouch toward Gomorrah carries a whiff of desperation. Bills to permit private parties to refuse to do business with gays and lesbians have faltered in Kansas, Idaho, Tennessee, South Dakota and Maine. But last week in Arizona, the state legislature approved a bill, SB 1062, redefining religious freedom to permit businesses to discriminate against gay clients. No...Continue reading

You Take the Wheel …

Tom PetersMar, 25/02/2014 - 16:00

We can barely contain ourselves. The tompeters.com redesign is launching next week and we’re excited to share it with you! Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat, so to speak. One of the new features will allow you to browse Tom’s ideas by topic. So if you’re a Brand You fanatic, all […]

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You Take the Wheel ...

Tom PetersMar, 25/02/2014 - 16:00
We can barely contain ourselves. The tompeters.com redesign is launching next week and we're excited to share it with you!... Shelley Dolley http://shelleydolley.com

Revenge of the 99%

the economistLun, 24/02/2014 - 22:52

WHEN the news broke Friday that the bankrupt city of Detroit had filed its “plan of adjustment” for its creditors, many reacted with shock and horror. "A gut punch" is how AFSCME Council 25 described the cuts to their members' pensions. "Nonconfirmable" decried a committee that represents Detroit's retirees. It is not that there were any surprises, mind you. After all, many of the proposals had been hinted at and nobody doubts that the city cannot pay its debts. But expressing shock is all part of the art of the haggle. To act relieved is to undermine the prospect of a better deal.

General retirees are facing a 35% cut to their monthly pensions. Police and firefighters will face a smaller cut of 10%, as their pension pot is better funded. These figures will fall to 27% and 7% respectively if the two pension boards agree to back the plan. As bad as these figures sound, they fall well short of theContinue reading

Hit and run

the economistLun, 24/02/2014 - 19:41

MARISSA ALEXANDER says she feared for her life. Her husband, Rico Gray, had a history of violence. One tussle with him sent her to the hospital. In 2010 a heated argument in their home in Jacksonville, Florida, turned sinister when Mr Gray said “If I can’t have you, nobody going to have you.” So Ms Alexander ran to get her gun and fired a single warning shot at the wall. No one was hurt. Ms Alexander, a 31-year-old black mother of three, had never been arrested before, and she claims she shot her gun in self defence. Her lawyer invoked Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which defends the right for a person to “meet force with force, including deadly force” in a confrontation that seems life-threating. Yet the judge found “insufficient evidence” that deadly force was necessary. (The judge also refused to admit testimony from witnesses who could corroborate claims about Mr Gray’s violence). In 2012 Ms Alexander was charged with a felony assault with a gun, which earned her a mandatory 20-year prison sentence. The jury deliberated for 12 minutes. An appeals court has granted her a retrial, scheduled for July.

Compare Ms...Continue reading

Shale gas buys you happiness

the economistVie, 21/02/2014 - 06:59

"I'M depressed," complained Tony Soprano. That a macho, murdering mob boss could have pangs of existential angst was fascinating enough to sustain a television show. It also makes Tony a bit of an outlier in his home state of New Jersey, which has the lowest levels of depression in the country, according the latest State of American Well-Being Index, released on February 20th by Gallup, a polling company, and Healthways, a healthcare company. But while New Jersey may have fewer people checking out Sartre's "Nausea" from the library, the state ranks seventh in the country when it comes to how often residents feel angry—perhaps because of all the time spent sitting in traffic.

Based on interviews with more than 178,000 people from all 50 states, the Well-Being Index offers an interesting glimpse of the physical and mental health of the nation. It also spotlights the country's winners and losers. The results divide regionally, with Midwestern and Western states earning nine of the ten best scores in 2013, while Southern states have eight of the ten lowest. Massachusetts has the highest rate of residents with health insurance (which may bode well for Obamacare). Colorado, meanwhile, nearly always has the lowest obesity rate. 

Sitting pretty in first place now is North Dakota, which has...Continue reading

The threat to freedom

the economistJue, 20/02/2014 - 17:54

AMERICA and Europe, exhausted by futile wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and by their own financial crises, have over the past five years come to a tacit consensus that they lack the power and the political will to bring democracy to far-flung, failing authoritarian states. That seemed a sad but wise conclusion so long as those failing authoritarian states really were far-flung. Then, yesterday, the zone of failing authoritarian states arrived at our doorstep. The massacres of demonstrators in Kiev's Independence Square are as awful as anything that took place during the coup in Cairo last year or the initial crackdowns on demonstrations in Damascus two years ago. In Egypt and Syria, America and Europe have largely thrown up their hands, recognising that such states are simply too alien and too far away, in terms of political culture,...Continue reading

Darwin shmarwin

the economistMié, 19/02/2014 - 21:48

RICK BRATTIN, a Republican legislator from Missouri, offered a bill last month that would allow parents to pull their children out of high-school biology classes lest they be exposed to the concept of natural selection. Nearly 90 years since the public trial of John Scopes, a young schoolmaster accused of teaching evolution to Tennessee children, Missouri’s House Bill no. 1472 offers a more subtle, insidious approach to halting the spread of supposedly dangerous ideas.

Mr Brattin’s several previous attempts to battle the teaching of evolution did not survive initial hearings. Last year legislation to give “equal treatment” to the theory of intelligent design died in committee. It is hard to say whether this year’s salvo against Mr Darwin will gain more support. As a constitutional matter, at least, permitting parents to pull their kids out of class is less...Continue reading

Excellence. No Excuses!

Tom PetersMié, 19/02/2014 - 19:16

What started when Tom copied a few Twitter conversations and made them into a PDF has turned into a magnum opus. Now 52 parts, his “Excellence. No Excuses!” has been posted here before with the title “Some Stuff.” As he points out (p.20), “Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or […]

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Excellence. No Excuses!

Tom PetersMié, 19/02/2014 - 19:16
What started when Tom copied a few Twitter conversations and made them into a PDF has turned into a magnum... Cathy Mosca

Mind the gap

the economistMié, 19/02/2014 - 05:54

POLITICIANS rarely agree on anything these days, so it is impressive that so many are now rallying behind expanding pre-school (nursery, in British parlance). The benefits of early education are indeed striking, not least because children go through critical phases of development between the ages of three and five. Pre-school can help with numeracy, social skills and readiness for school. Many states now believe that early-learning programmes deliver better dividends than similar investments in university education—and the Continue reading

Stay safe, stay indoors

the economistMar, 18/02/2014 - 22:31

MUNSEY PARK, a well-to-do village on Long Island, has lots of rules for its 2,700 residents. Major changes to a house must be approved by the village trustees, an elected board. Trustees often decide what homeowners may build or place around their homes. No fences are allowed. Big plantings are a no-no. Even putting a basketball hoop in one’s own yard needs permission. And the trustees, having determined that street basketball is a menace, have now effectively banned it.

“It’s not about regulating play,” says Patrick Hance, the trustee who proposed the measure. “You can play [basketball] in your yard. Put a hoop in your yard or at the top of the driveway.” But residents may not erect a hoop, not even a roll-away one, near the kerb. The trustees do not want the picturesque tree-lined streets to be lined with basketball hoops. They voted unanimously for the ban on February 12th after one homeowner challenged the existing law, which allowed the trustees to grant permits on a case-by-case basis. The village says the measure is necessary for safety as well as aesthetic reasons.

Munsey Park is not alone. In July Ypsilanti Township in Michigan banned street basketball. Some hoops were confiscated. In December, citing safety concerns, a gated community in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, passed a bylaw banning street play. This seems slightly at odds with the...Continue reading

Hit the road, Jack

the economistLun, 17/02/2014 - 15:30

GOODBYE city, hello country. In recent years some of America’s biggest urban areas like Los Angeles, Chicago and the Northeast corridor have seen an outflow of people. At the same time, spectacularly beautiful places like the Southwest and Colorado have seen a massive influx.

These big demographic trends are visible in a map produced by statisticians at America’s Census Bureau (below). It shows internal migration on a county-by-county basis: blue represents people leaving, red means coming in. One clearly sees the degree to which people have fled Detroit and southern Florida. At the same time, the data and other charts in the report show much less churn in the central states.

Most Americans move to adjacent counties within states, often fleeing cities for bucolic climes just beyond. Surprisingly, more people have been leaving cities than moving in to them. (Though people are completely abandoning urban life for the burbs; the urbanisation trend is creating a spillover into nearby areas, perhaps because housing costs in cities are rising at an amazing rate.)

When the data are parsed by income and education, one sees that richer, more educated people tend to migrate to the coasts, California and New York (true to stereotype). And an interesting trend is that Latin Americans are embracing Los Angeles. The report is Continue reading

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