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A partisan cha-cha

the economistMié, 17/12/2014 - 20:43

THE American political world offered two rather different responses to the White House’s announcement on December 17th that full diplomatic relations with Cuba are to resume within months. One take was noisily partisan, with talk about what this might mean for the 2016 presidential contest, and complaints that the policy offers further proof that President Barack Obama is an “appeaser-in-chief”, as one Cuban-American Republican congressman ventured. The other response, which was relatively more muted, considered the merits of the policy itself. Some now wonder whether the American embargo with Cuba can be said to have worked, given that the Castro brothers remain in charge in Havana more than half a century after the two sides closed their respective embassies.

Renewed diplomacy with Cuba follows 18 months of secret talks hosted by Canada and the Vatican. It will be accompanied by the largest easing of travel bans and trade embargoes in 50 years. It was made possible by Cuba’s release of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development. Mr Gross has spent five years in prison in failing health,...Continue reading

Joy division

the economistMar, 16/12/2014 - 20:06

JEB BUSH, the former Florida governor, presidential son and brother, once said that he would only mount his own White House bid if he could do it “joyfully”. After months of speculation, on December 16th Mr Bush announced his decision to “actively explore the possibility” of running for president in 2016.

That half-entry into the race will trigger a torrent of analysis about what sort of Republican Mr Bush is. Those who remember his time running Florida from 1999 to 2007 recall a stern fiscal and social conservative, who cut billions of dollars from state tax receipts and passed a welter of pro-gun laws. More recently he has been a spokesman for his party’s pragmatic, pro-business wing. He is known for two positions, above all, that enrage conservative hard-liners: his support for the nationwide education standards known as Common Core (seen on the right as a liberal plot), and his belief that Republicans must embrace comprehensive immigration reform with enthusiasm and compassion, or face long-term irrelevance (many migrants arrive unlawfully in “an act of love” for their family, he said in April 2014,...Continue reading

Driving while nervous

the economistMar, 16/12/2014 - 14:59

IN AN unusual 8-1 split, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the lone dissenter, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday that whittles away at the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The case, Heien v North Carolina, involves a questionable traffic stop. Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the majority opinion, lays out the facts with characteristic crispness:

On the morning of April 29, 2009, Sergeant Matt Darisse of the Surry County Sheriff’s Department sat in his patrol car near Dobson, North Carolina, observing north-bound traffic on Interstate 77. Shortly before 8 a.m., a Ford Escort passed by. Darisse thought the driver looked “very stiff and nervous,” so he pulled onto the interstate and began following the Escort. A few miles down the road, the Escort braked as it approached a slower vehicle, but only the left brake light came on. Noting the...Continue reading

Surprise, Transformation & Excellence through “Spontaneous Discovery”:A Personal Saga

Tom PetersVie, 12/12/2014 - 18:23

FYI, this is a revision of an antique—but arguably more relevant than ever (PDF version also available): "Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You simply must ... Do things."—Ray Bradbury "By indirection direction find."—Hamlet, II. I "To be playful is to allow for unlimited possibility."—James Carse "No one […]

The post Surprise, Transformation & Excellence through “Spontaneous Discovery”:
A Personal Saga
appeared first on Tom Peters.

Unequally enforced

the economistVie, 12/12/2014 - 15:49

MERE hours before the midnight deadline last night, the House narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion federal budget agreement to fund the government through most of next year. The plan now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass in a matter of days. But this budget has a few questionable odds and ends lurking in its 1,600 pages (which we will cover in more depth in the coming week). One provision in particular has many in Washington, DC, wondering whether the city’s plan to legalise small amounts of marijuana—which seven out of ten voters backed in November—is about to go up in smoke.  

Pot is “potent stuff,” argues Continue reading

The perils of fast-tracking

the economistMié, 10/12/2014 - 17:27

LIKE Plato's early dialogues inquiring into the meaning of justice or piety, Monday’s oral argument at the Supreme Court ended with no clear answer to the central question: what, exactly, is Amtrak? In the case of Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads, for which oral arguments were heard on December 8th, the justices grappled with whether the nationwide passenger train service is or isn't part of the government, and whether it unconstitutionally steps on the toes of other train companies.

Amtrak, it appears, is an inscrutably indeterminate entity. But some facts are clear. With the rise of the automobile and commercial aviation in the 20th century, passenger rail service took a huge hit; by the late 1960s the Pullman Company and the Penn Central,...Continue reading

Crooning for votes

the economistMié, 10/12/2014 - 06:01

WITH the midterm elections done and dusted, everyone’s eyes are now on 2016. Aspiring presidential candidates are already jockeying for position—making bold speeches, raising big money and, lord help us, releasing campaign songs. “Stand With Hillary”, a political action committee (PAC) supporting Hillary Clinton, recently entered the fray with a YouTube video featuring what some are gleefully describing as the worst campaign song ever.

It’s “time to stand up with Hillary,” croons a dreamy young cowboy with a scruffy beard, soulful eyes and white Stetson. Wearing snug jeans and an unbelievably earnest expression, this sun-kissed rancher offers some down-home praise for the former secretary of state. “She’s a mother, a daughter and through it all she’s a loving wife,” he warbles, and then encourages listeners to “put your boots on and let’s smash this ceiling.” (To drive this subtle point home, our fair crooner dons a hard hat and swings a sledgehammer through a sheet of glass.) No American cliché goes unparaded: the video features fleeting images of farmers, a red barn, cattle, construction workers and the Statue of Liberty....Continue reading

A hard pill to swallow

the economistMar, 09/12/2014 - 23:14

JOHN MCCAIN, the senior Republican senator from Arizona, spent time in a Hanoi prison camp after fighting for his country in the 1960s and early 1970s. His speech, which followed the publication earlier today of the Senate intelligence committee’s report into torture by the CIA in the years after September 11th 2001, is thus worth paying attention to. Torture, he said, “compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies”; the CIA agents who used it “stained our national honor”.

That is a bold statement, but not necessarily a hyperbolic one. The Senate’s report, which looks into the use of torture roughly between the 9/11 attacks and the end of the Bush presidency in 2008, is devastating stuff for the agency. What is shocking is not only the sorts of things that CIA officers were apparently getting up to, but also the brazen way in which they recorded it, with limited oversight from either the Senate or the executive branch of government.

According to the report, which is based on thousands of internal CIA documents, the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a...Continue reading


Tom PetersMar, 09/12/2014 - 21:35

Herein the outline of my presentation to PAI Market Partners Conference on 05 December in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: 1. "Software is eating the world."—Marc Andreessen. "It" has been coming for a long time. But "wait 'til next year" is done. Radical—very radical—technology-driven changes, featuring robotics-executed surgery, algorithms that dominate the world's financial markets, the […]


A referendum on Rahm

the economistMar, 09/12/2014 - 14:54

WHEN Rahm Emanuel announced his re-election bid as mayor of Chicago on December 6th, he avoided talk of violent crime and pension liabilities, two of the city’s most pressing problems. Instead he crowed about the Chicago’s rising minimum wage, which will reach $13 by 2019 (from $8.25), and he empathised with the squeezed middle class, whom he says he is trying the help. Speaking at a film-production studio on the city’s west side, and against the faint chants of some protesters beyond the crowd (a couple of whom were dressed as $100 bills), he touted a record that includes introducing city-wide recycling and full-day kindergarten, and placing more police officers on the street. Since he assumed the office in May 2011, more students have begun graduating from high-school, too.

Mr Emanuel faces nine challengers in the election on February 24th, including Jesus Garcia, a Cook county commissioner, and Bob Fioretti, an alderman. He is not popular. A poll in August by the Chicago...Continue reading

Dominican Republic

Tom PetersVie, 05/12/2014 - 18:33

This may be the first time Tom has ever gone to the Dominican Republic. He‘s in a town beautifully named Punta Cana, speaking to a group from Payment Alliance International (PAI) at their 2014 Market Partner Conference. The PPT files can be downloaded here. Enjoy! PAI Market Partner Conference PAI, Long Version

The post Dominican Republic appeared first on Tom Peters.

Lessons from Camden

the economistJue, 04/12/2014 - 19:35

“I CAN’T breathe!” chanted hundreds of people throughout New York and around the country yesterday. The peaceful protests were in response to a grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a Staten Island police officer, for killing Eric Garner after placing him in a chokehold in July. The chant is a reference to Garner’s final words before he died. The chokehold—recorded on the mobile phones of bystanders—is a manoeuvre that is banned by New York police. For many protesters, Garner’s death and Mr Pantaleo’s freedom simply reinforce the view that America’s criminal justice system is racially biased.

The timing of the verdict, less than two weeks after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri, only burnishes this belief. Eric Holder, the attorney-general, has promised that the Department of Justice will investigate the Garner case....Continue reading

Pregnant pauses

the economistJue, 04/12/2014 - 01:43

WOMEN make up nearly half of America’s workforce and remain the only people capable of having babies. These dual roles can pose thorny legal questions. On December 3rd, in Young v United Parcel Service (UPS), the Supreme Court struggled to understand what duty employers owe to expectant mothers under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), a 1978 law. 

The case arose after Peggy Young, a driver for UPS, became pregnant in 2006. Ms Young’s midwife wrote a note stating that she should “not lift more than 20 lbs” for the first half of her pregnancy, and not more than 10 lbs thereafter. But when Ms Young requested “light duty”, a temporary release from lifting 70-pound packages, she was rebuffed. The company said pregnant workers were not included in the three categories eligible for alternate assignments. UPS “empathise[d] with her situation and would have loved to help her”, but put Ms Young on unpaid leave, during which she lost her pension and health benefits. 

Ms Young sued her employer for violating the PDA. UPS routinely reassigned workers who were injured on the job, disabled under the Americans With...Continue reading

Another verdict, more protests

the economistJue, 04/12/2014 - 01:09

LESS than two weeks after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri, another grand jury—this one in New York City—ruled on a similar case, and delivered a similar verdict. In Staten Island in July Daniel Pantaleo, a New York police officer in a plain-clothes unit, placed Eric Garner in a chokehold after Garner resisted arrest. Garner’s dying words were “I can’t breathe.” His alleged crime was selling “loosies”, or untaxed cigarettes, on a street corner. The incident was recorded by bystanders on their mobile phones, and it raised questions about racial profiling and aggressive policing in the city. Today a grand jury decided not to indict Mr Pantaleo. Some see this decision as merely another example of police invincibility regardless of circumstance.

“Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want,” observed Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, in a statement today. Garner’s father has asked that there be no violence in response. Peaceful protests against the decision were organised within hours, including a multi-racial “die-in” at...Continue reading

Little to 'like'

the economistMié, 03/12/2014 - 05:58

FIGHTS over free speech in America don’t always produce the loveliest poster children. Gone are the days when intellectuals had to turn to the first amendment as a shield against prosecution for distributing anti-war pamphlets or publishing socialist tracts. In recent decades, fights over the boundaries of protected speech have been waged mainly by racists, anti-Semitespornographersdogfight videographers, cross-burners and their kin.

The most recent crusader for free speech makes some of these characters look rather tame. Anthony Elonis, whose case the Supreme Court took up on Monday, is challenging his 2011 conviction and prison sentence for a series of Facebook posts a jury determined were “true threats” against his estranged wife, which are not...Continue reading

Podcast: Perspectives and Predictions

Tom PetersMar, 02/12/2014 - 22:32

From all reports, Tom had a good time talking to former associates and good friends Robert Thompson and Mike Neiss. The topic of the podcast was Perspectives and Predictions, and the talk got started with the subject of Social Business. That discussion led to a conversation with Cheryl Burgess, coauthor of The Social Employee. The […]

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Thanks for nothing

the economistMié, 26/11/2014 - 21:32

BAKING everyday might sound fun, particularly at this time of year. But for one recent graduate of the University of Georgia, working in a cake shop for six months quickly turned from sweet to sickly. At her birthday party recently she warned sweet-toothed friends that she just couldn't face another black forest gateau.

This was not the career she had in mind when she pursued a degree in linguistics, but getting a good job in the South is tough if you’re young. A new report from MDC, a non-profit based in Durham, says that more than 30% of those under 25 in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina are “underemployed”: they are either looking for a job, settling for part-time work or giving up on the search entirely. This is quite a bit higher than the overall underemployment rate in those states, which is less than 15%. This makes it hard to secure a return on the cost of tuition, particularly as the price of a degree continues to rise. Tuition costs at public universities in Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, for example,...Continue reading

Harvard under fire

the economistMar, 25/11/2014 - 23:00

IN 1978 the Supreme Court, in the Bakke case, struck down racial quotas in higher education. Summing up, Justice Lewis Powell called the undergraduate admissions policy at Harvard University an “illuminating example” of a better approach. The elite Ivy League institution did not reserve a specific number of places for poor minority candidates. Instead, it sought to promote campus diversity by considering race as one of several “plus” factors in a student’s file. Thirty-six years later, Harvard’s method of reviewing candidates is being challenged in a federal district court in Boston. The plaintiffs claim its admissions policy is a quota system in disguise that discriminates against Asian-Americans.

This is the latest legal challenge to affirmative action—and the first to target a private university—hatched by Edward Blum, an activist bent on dismantling Bakke. Mr Blum’s organisation, the Project on Fair Representation, recruits students who believe they have been unfairly rejected from universities that use racial preferences. In 2008 he helped launch the case of Abigail Fisher, a white woman with a 3.59 grade-point average (out of 4) who was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin. Ms Fisher lost her case. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider her...Continue reading

In black and white

the economistMar, 25/11/2014 - 20:45

HOW surprised should we be that a grand jury in Missouri failed to indict a police officer for killing an unarmed black man? In one sense, very surprised: it is very rare for grand juries to fail to indict a suspect when the state is doing its best to make a case. The standard of proof for an indictment is not that the state has made its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that there is probable cause to prosecute. According to the Missouri courts, "probable cause" exists where "knowledge of the particular facts and circumstances is sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a suspect has committed an offense". The 1996 case establishing that standard, State v Tokar, upheld a suspect's arrest for a murder committed during a burglary because the defendant and his girlfriend drove a yellow station wagon (which matched eyewitness descriptions of the perpetrators), and he had prior convictions for similar burglaries.

Given this standard, and the fact...Continue reading

Defiance and despair

the economistMar, 25/11/2014 - 17:54

“IT IS not as bad as they say,” insisted Kelly. At the Marley’s Bar & Grill, a place she runs with her husband Martin on South Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri, Kelly was quick to claim that media reports had overstated the problems of unrest in her hometown. Moments later Robert McCulloch, St Louis County’s prosecuting attorney, announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson last August. A crowd of people could be seen gathering in anticipation at the police station a few blocks away. Most of the bars and shops on South Florissant Road were boarded up in anticipation of protests and looting; Kelly and Martin defiantly stayed open. But as the evening wore on, and as peaceful protests descended into violent outbursts, it became all too plain that Kelly’s optimism was misplaced. The strife in Ferguson was indeed very bad. 

The jury’s verdict was not a surprise. Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, had declared a state of emergency earlier this week, and several armoured vehicles could be seen driving...Continue reading


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