Showing posts from September 13, 2015

Evidence comes under attack: How Congress is quietly killing one of the best ideas in government.

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[Obviously, the electorate should see red flags going up every time politicians attempt to sweep evidence under the rug. In the US this is happening most fanatically in the areas of climate change, gun violence and healthcare. *RON*]

By Harry Stein, Politico, September 2015

“Every man has a right to his own opinion,” investor Bernard Baruch said in 1950, “but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”

Politicians are, of course, sometimes wrong on the facts, but the federal government is actually making significant progress to bring hard evidence into the policymaking process. It might sound obvious, but it’s actually one of the most promising ideas in governance: “evidence-based policymaking,” the use of credible research to drive public policy, and independent evaluation to decide which government programs work, and which don’t.

It’s also a rare case where the White House and the Republican Congress have found common ground, at least rhetorica…

More Closed-Door Meetings, a New Chief Transparency Officer, and Growing International Opposition to the Deal: What's Going on with the TPP

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[Amid speculation that the deal is in big trouble, the US Trade Representative holds closed door meetings, and "pretty much abandoned all remaining pretense of transparency in its consideration of these remaining policy issues." The announcement of a Chief Transparency Officer has met with a cynical response by Congress, "If it desired, USTR could grant greater access immediately, without fancy titles," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas. *RON*]
By Maira Sutton, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 11 September 2015

Over the past month, trade officials have been frantically working to resolve outstanding disagreements over provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the midst of speculation that the deal is in deep trouble. At this late stage of negotiations, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has pretty much abandoned all remaining pretense of transparency in its consideration of these remaining policy issues. Since the f…

The Tide of History Flows Left

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[It just flows really, really slowly!! *RON*]

By James HaughtPeace Voice / LA Progressive, 12 September 2015

One of my history-minded friends has a long-range political view summed up in three words: Liberals always win. Complex social struggles may take centuries or decades, he says, but they eventually bring victory for human rights, more democratic liberties, a stronger public safety net, and other progressive goals.

Look how long it took to end slavery. Generations of agitation and the horrible Civil War finally brought triumph for liberal abolitionists and defeat for conservative slavery supporters.

Look how long it took for women to gain the right to vote. In the end, liberal suffragettes prevailed, conservative opponents lost.

Look at the long battle to give couples the right to practice birth control. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was jailed eight times for the crime of mentioning sex – but she eventually transformed U.S. soci…

Safety Suffers as Stock Options Propel Executive Pay Packages

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[Stock options drive executive incentives that are, to put it mildly, not aligned with consumers' interests. They correlate significantly with product withdrawals by the Food and Drug Administration. *RON*]

By Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times, 11 September 2015

Outsize executive pay packages have frequently been a flash point for stock market investors. Lavish executive compensation at publicly traded companies should be a significant concern for consumers, too.

That’s the message of a new study by three academics at the University of Notre Dame. Their research focuses on companies that rely heavily on stock options in executive compensation. They have found a correlation between generous option grants and the incidence of serious product recalls.

Stock options have been the jet fuel propelling some of the biggest executive pay packages over the years. From an investor’s point of view, these instruments are problematic because they provide an…

The Doublespeak of the Gig Economy

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[Those who create today's McJobs strive to not be seen as employers. "Today’s knowledge economy is defined by a duplicitous charm in its categorical refusal to see work as labor," and never, ever to see a job as something that comes with benefits. The old words for describing labour such as “job,” “employment,” and “work” fail to capture the misery of the modern economy. *RON*]

Melissa Gregg, The Atlantic Monthly, 11 September 2015
Over the past 50 years, the main source of employment in the United States has shifted from the manual to the mental—from doing things with one’s hands to delivering a service or a feeling. As Enrico Moretti points out in his 2013 book The New Geography of Jobs, any given American is now statistically more likely to work in a restaurant than a factory. Not all mental work is equal, though: The divide between hospitality and knowledge work defines the new economy. Together, these two forces are proving tha…

14 Years After 9/11, the War on Terror Is Accomplishing Everything bin Laden Hoped It Would

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[Al Qaeda succeeded in goading the West into doing what it had neither the resources nor the ability to do. Fourteen years to construct a Brave New World that "would have stunned those running the totalitarian states of the twentieth century." *RON*]

By Tom Engelhardt, The Nation, 8 September 2015

Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

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Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a milit…

Stock sell-off reveals ‘major faultlines’ in economy, BIS says

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[A prolonged period of essentially free money has led the markets to float up to dizzying heights while actually doing little or nothing to build the real economy. Is this what is holding the economy back from a real recovery? Yet, if the central banks increase the rates now they may very well precipitate a major market crash (particularly in the developing world) while Wall Street struggles with the idea that they may have to get real jobs. *RON*]

Ferdinando Giugliano, Financial Times, 13 September 2015

The sell-offs rocking equity markets reflect the “release of pressure” accumulated along “major faultlines”, the Bank for International Settlements said, as it warned that investors should not expect central banks to ride to the rescue and solve such deep-rooted problems.

In a gloomy assessment of the turmoil that has shaken global stock markets in recent weeks, the BIS, which acts as the central bank of central banks, said emerging markets were p…

Are scientists who collaborate with industry tainted?

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[An interesting piece on the ins and outs of scientists who receive pay from industry or from environmental groups. *RON*]
By Nathanael Johnson, Grist, 9 Sep 2015
Kevin Folta, a plant biology professor at the University of Florida, has received money for travel expenses from Monsanto and other companies. Chuck Benbrook, until recently a research scientist at Washington State University, received funding for both travel and research from companies like Whole Foods and Organic Valley.

Neither of these facts is hugely consequential in itself. But these scientists work on opposite sides of today’s widening debate over the future of U.S. agriculture — the argument between “big” and “small,” conventional and organic, whether farming should go back to the land or back to the lab. Because of that, and thanks to a New York Times feature that hoisted them into the spotlight, they have become lightning rods for questions about research funding, conflicts of…