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Gnat-line scuffle

the economistMié, 21/05/2014 - 19:35

ESTABLISHMENT Republicans can breathe easy after last night's results in Georgia. The candidate who said that Todd Akin was "partly right" that a woman's body "has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur" from a "legitimate rape" did not finish in first or second place, and so will not compete in the July 22nd runoff. Nor will the candidate—the only black candidate in the Republican field, by the way—who defended Cliven Bundy's musings that perhaps black Americans were better off enslaved. Neither will the candidate who raffled off an AR-15 (the gun used in the Sandy Hook massacre) to one of his supporters, and called embryology, evolution and the Big Bang Theory "Continue reading

Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference

Tom PetersMié, 21/05/2014 - 18:52

Logistics have always been important. No doubt of it. (My first slide is a quote from General Omar Bradley, commander of U.S. forces on D-day: “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics.” Incidentally, the 70th anniversary of D-Day is just two weeks away.) But, if possible, the role of the logistics—supply chain—exec is becoming […]

The post Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference appeared first on Tom Peters.

Good stories, strong campaigns

the economistMié, 21/05/2014 - 18:12

“I STARTED out driving a forklift,” said Tom Wolf, running as a Democrat for governor of Pennsyvania, in his first campaign ad. The ad went on to show his two daughters gently mocking him, while also bragging about his achievements: service in the Peace Corps, a doctorate from MIT, and a beat-up Jeep Cherokee in the driveway.

Mr Wolf launched this self-funded, multi-million-dollar advertising blitz back in January. Many said it was too early, but it worked. By February, the little-known businessman was leading in the polls, and on May 20th he won Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary with 58% of the vote.

He beat strong candidates who did not run good campaigns. Allyson Schwartz, an affable congresswoman, hoped to be the state’s first woman governor. But she and Rob McCord, the state treasurer, who had union backing, were unable to catch the white-bearded, bespectacled Mr Wolf.

Tom Corbett, the unpopular Republican incumbent, is now running scared. Mr Wolf is proving difficult to attack. He runs a successful kitchen-cabinet business and he shares 20-30% of the profits with his employees. When he served as state...Continue reading

You're not hearing me

the economistMar, 20/05/2014 - 18:47

APPELLATE courts are charged with correcting errors of legal interpretation in lower-court rulings; they are not supposed to meddle with the facts. Yet America’s final court of appeal, the Supreme Court, finds itself sorting through facts quite regularly, particularly in religion cases where "fact-sensitive" analyses are the norm. The justices do not always acquit themselves very well.

Over the past few decades, in sussing out violations of the constitution's ban on religious establishments, the court has found meaningful distinctions between a menorah and a nativity scene in a public holiday display (both are okay) and a stand-alone creche (verboten); it has said that the Ten Commandments violate the constitution when placed in a courthouse but are perfectly fine when installed outside a state capitol. In the ruling Continue reading

A fitting tribute

the economistVie, 16/05/2014 - 22:06

  • The National September 11 Memorial Museum opens on May 21st. Two tridents, steel supports from the original World Trade Centre, can be seen inside the museum Source: Jeff Goldblum
  • One World Trade Centre, formerly the Freedom Tower, rises above and behind the new museum and the memorial pools Source: Jeff Goldblum
  • Continue reading

Gowdy-amus igitur

the economistMié, 14/05/2014 - 20:52

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS had been ambassador to Libya for three months when he was killed on September 11th 2012 in Benghazi. His death, on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on America, was a reminder that the government cannot keep all of its people safe all of the time. 

For an ambassador to be killed while serving is rare, but attacks on embassies and consulates are not, and they have often resulted in deaths. Mr Stevens’s murder also coincided with the closing stages of a presidential campaign in which Barack Obama claimed to have al-Qaeda “on the run”. In the following days, White House officials said that Ambassador Stevens’s death was the result of a spontaneous protest, which is what the initial intelligence reports suggested, rather than a planned terrorist attack. They stuck to this line for longer than they should have. Security at the consulate was not as robust as it might have been.

Such are the facts of the case that is known in American politics simply as Benghazi. There have already been several investigations, as well as a bipartisan report issued by the Senate intelligence committee, which...Continue reading

Street Fight 2.0

the economistMié, 14/05/2014 - 19:37

ASKED last month to name his role model, Ras Baraka mentioned Marion Barry, a former mayor of Washington, DC best known for smoking crack and running a City Hall of staggering incompetence and corruption. Washingtonians remember Mr Barry as a terrible manager, but he sure gave a rousing speech. That is perhaps why Mr Baraka admires him. It is also why, on May 13th, Newark elected Mr Baraka as its new mayor with 54% of the vote.  

A charismatic speaker, he can quiet and excite a crowd like no one else in the city. “When I become mayor,” he often told voters, “we all become mayor.” How that would work in practice is unclear, but after his victory speech hundreds of his supporters marched down Broad Street to take City Hall. One exclaimed: “It’s ours again!”  

Mr Baraka (pictured), a school principal, is as close to African-American royalty as one can get in Newark. His late father was a poet who gave voice to the Black Power movement. In 2004, he helped broker peace between the Crips and the Bloods, two rival gangs. Spike Lee, a film-maker, and Lauryn Hill, a singer, supported him. So did Sharpe James, an...Continue reading

Playing favourites

the economistMar, 13/05/2014 - 18:25

JEROME FRANK, a mid-20th-century legal thinker, is said to have claimed that justice is a function of what the judge had for breakfast. Don’t let their black robes, serious miens and pledges of fealty to the law fool you, Mr Frank warned: judicial decisions are not cool applications of objective legal principles. Rather, they are manifestations of personal predilections and biases.

Mr Frank’s observation seems to apply all too well to today's Supreme Court. When ruling on big, controversial cases, the justices split fairly reliably along party lines dictated by their appointing presidents. It wasn’t always this way. Until 1937, as Adam Liptak of the New York Times reported last week, party simply wasn’t a factor in high-court decisions. Only in recent decades have party politics infiltrated the marble halls of the Supreme Court, and only in...Continue reading

Inc.’s Top 50

Tom PetersMar, 13/05/2014 - 16:43

On 12 May 2014, Inc.com posted a list of Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts. The purpose behind the listing was “to find out which people are globally the most popular management and leadership writers in the English language.” Tom makes it into the ranks at #12. Our thanks go to Inc.com for the commendation!

The post Inc.’s Top 50 appeared first on Tom Peters.

Chronicling the abuse of authority

the economistMar, 13/05/2014 - 02:27

THE disclosures of Edward Snowden constitute perhaps the most notorious leak in history. America’s National Security Agency was so secretive that for decades even its existence was classified. Insiders joked that its initials stood for “no such agency”. That a 29-year-old contractor was able to steal tens of thousands of classified documents is not only astounding, but also unprecedented. Only recently had it become possible to fit so much material on an inexpensive digital chip.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the story in the British newspaper the Guardian, has now published an account of how the story landed on his lap. “No Place to Hide”, out today, also outlines the disclosures and considers what they mean.

The tale of how a geeky high-school dropout infiltrated the NSA’s most secretive core makes fascinating reading. The extent of surveillance Mr Snowden unveiled is itself deeply troubling. And the back-story of how Mr Greenwald and others scrambled to make this information public is inspiring. 

Mr...Continue reading

Not so fast

the economistLun, 12/05/2014 - 17:28

LAST August police arrested Adam Bush, a construction worker, on charges that he broke into a bar in Hankinson, North Dakota, and stole some cash. Their theory was that he took a large safe from the bar, pulled it over to a kayak, floated the kayak to his car and drove away with the safe. There were no witnesses, and according to a local radio station, even the state's attorney admitted the case was "highly circumstantial". A jury acquitted Mr Bush in April. His car, however, was not so lucky. A judge ruled that despite the acquittal, county sheriffs were entitled to keep Mr Bush's car, which was seized when he was arrested.

That is because civil-asset...Continue reading

Rules for the new tools

the economistMié, 07/05/2014 - 20:36

WHEN the internet was gathering steam in the mid 1990s, White House policy wonks got together under President Clinton’s nerdy aide, Ira Magaziner, to find ways to support it. Principles emerged like the "tax free internet" (ie, no punishing tariffs on ecommerce). Today, with big data in the headlines, a new gaggle of policy geeks have put forward a plan to harness technology while preserving privacy.

The 79-page report released by John Podesta, a counsellor to the president, on May 1st, makes six concrete recommendations. The most notable proposal is a federal law requiring companies to notify people if their personal information has been breached, to replace a raft of state laws. The report also calls for amending a 1986 law governing electronic communications so that protections for e-mails and content in the cloud are as strong as those that exist for their analogue equivalents. This would resolve several oddball rules, like the way e-mail older than 180 days is accessible to police without a...Continue reading

The Obama doctrine

the economistMié, 07/05/2014 - 20:16

A cautious, cerebral president favours diplomacy over military force. But America's allies may prefer a stronger hand

Niggling distinctions

the economistMar, 06/05/2014 - 19:17

“IN LANDMARK decision,” Andy Borowitz wrote of the justices’ 5-4 ruling in a religion-infused tiff in upstate New York, “Supreme Court strikes down main reason country was started”. Permitting a town to kick off its monthly board meetings with Christian prayers, for Mr Borowitz and the dissenters in Town of Greece v Galloway, is an abandonment of the rule against the “establishment of religion”, the first command of the first amendment to America’s constitution. In the eyes of a majority of the Supreme Court justices, however, the town’s tradition simply pays homage to the nation’s hallowed heritage of prayer in legislative settings. Tevye would be proud.

Only in America would a two-minute benediction at sparsely attended town meetings inspire 80 pages of heated and starkly contrasting judicial...Continue reading

Not so smart

the economistMar, 06/05/2014 - 06:45

SINCE January 1st 3,551 people have been killed by gun violence in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The victims include Endia Martin, a 14-year-old girl, who was shot in the back in Chicago last week after an argument with a former friend over a boy. The weapon that was used to kill Martin, a .38 special revolver, began as a legal gun, reports the Chicago Tribune, but somehow it made its way to into this adolescent tussle, turning a flare up between young girls into a deadly tragedy.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands? Sure, second-amendment hawks aren’t terribly keen on comprehensive background checks for buyers, but what if there was a way to build such safety measures into the guns...Continue reading

Revenge of the tiger mother

the economistLun, 05/05/2014 - 20:59

WHEN measured in terms of academic achievement, Asian Americans are a successful bunch. Forty-nine percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. This compares favourably against white Americans (30%), African-Americans (19%) and Latinos (13%). These racial disparities can be seen in school as well, and they increase when postgraduate degrees are thrown into the mix.

Amy Chua, a self-declared "tiger mother" who became famous for promoting the benefits of harsh parenting, would put this down to culture. She has argued that Chinese-American children statistically out-perform their peers because they are pushed harder at home. This is an argument she reiterated in a recent book, “The Triple Package”, written with her husband Jed Rubenfeld, a fellow law professor at Yale, in which she ascribes the success of different cultures in America...Continue reading

What you didn't miss

the economistSáb, 03/05/2014 - 20:50

SINCE arriving in Washington to write about politics, I have spent much more time trying to explain to people why things are not happening than why they are. This week has been no different. A plethora of things did not happen: there was no movement on immigration reform, nothing was done to improve the country's long-term fiscal outlook or to mend its crumbling roads and underperforming schools. Among these non-happenings was the Senate vote on raising the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour. Democrats were unable to muster the votes to bring the question to the chamber, a disappointment softened by the knowledge that they can use Republican opposition on the campaign trail.

Raising the minimum wage is broadly popular: a Pew poll conducted last month found over 70% in favour of a rise to $10.10, as Democrats propose; a more recent Continue reading

Cruel, unusual and reprehensible

the economistJue, 01/05/2014 - 00:26

THE execution yesterday of Clayton Lockett (pictured), a man sentenced to death for a murder he committed in 1999, did not go as planned. What we know is this: Oklahoma officials injected Mr Lockett with an untested cocktail of drugs. He was declared unconscious ten minutes later, but three minutes after that he was seen struggling on the gurney. He lifted his head off the gurney, grunting and mumbling, calling out "Oh, man." He appeared to be in pain. Then the blinds to the execution chamber were lowered. They stopped the execution around 22 minutes after it began. Around 25 minutes later, he was pronounced dead, of a heart attack. The director of Oklahoma's corrections department said, "His vein exploded."

As we write in this week's paper, America is unusual among rich countries in that it still executes...Continue reading

Learning moment

the economistMié, 30/04/2014 - 17:28

IN THE bitter debate about charter schools, one of the myths perpetuated by critics is that charters are generously funded by rich donors. Steve Nelson, head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, mused in a recent op-ed that charter schools “claim to operate with more efficiency, but their budgets are augmented by an infusion of capital from billionaire philanthropists and hedge fund managers who know a lot about PR and very little about education.” Mr Nelson contends that charters are not more efficient with money, as charter proponents say, but just have more of it. 

This is wrong, and badly so. Research has been mounting that shows that charter schools have in fact less money than their public rivals. This financial imbalance is confirmed by a new report from the University of Arkansas, published in the Journal of School Choice. The study looks at the total available revenue for traditional and...Continue reading

There’s no app for that

the economistMié, 30/04/2014 - 16:01

SUPREME Court oral arguments, some scholars say, are all show. The justices don their robes, stroke their chins and lob their questions at silver-tongued lawyers for an hour, and then vote just the way they would have voted anyway. According to Jeffrey Segal and Harold Spaeth, political scientists who study the Court, judicial “attitudes”, not the subtleties of legal principles, matter most in the justices’ decisions. Oral argument does not “regularly, or even infrequently, [determine] who wins and who loses.”

If the justices entered the courtroom on April 28th sure of their votes in this year’s biggest and trickiest fourth-amendment cases, they hid their certainty brilliantly. After...Continue reading

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