MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/wp-login http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Brian Williams Mess Pulls Government's Media Mogul Back to NBC News http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/andrew-lack-bbg-nbc-news-brian-williams <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On January 21, Andrew Lack, the media titan who at different times has headed Bloomberg, Sony, and NBC News, was sworn in as CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the troubled federal agency that oversees the five official US government-supported broadcasters, including the Voice of America. But, according to watchdog website <a href="http://bbgwatch.com/bbgwatch/bbg-watch-confirms-andy-lack-leaving-broadcasting-board-governors-exclusive/" target="_blank">BBG Watch</a> and the entertainment trade magazine <a href="http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/nbc-news-shakeup-1201444723/" target="_blank"><em>Variety</em></a>, Lack will be leaving the struggling agency after only 42 days on the job. He is <a href="http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/nbc-news-shakeup-1201444723/" target="_blank">reportedly</a> in negotiations to return to NBC, spurred by the network's own recent challenges, including the suspension of <em>Nightly News</em> anchor Brian Williams. BBG chairman Jeff Shell will fly to Washington on Wednesday to discuss Lack's departure with employees, says <em>BBG Watch</em>.</p> <p>As I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/bbg-voa-andrew-lack-international-broadcasting-board-of-governors" target="_blank">reported</a> last month, the BBG has suffered heavy criticism from former employees, government officials, and oversight agencies alike:</p> <blockquote> <p>In 2013, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, <a href="http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/broadcasting" target="_blank">testified</a> before Congress that the BBG was "practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell its message around the world." That year, the State Department Inspector General, charged with evaluating the BBG, interviewed board members, senior staffers, and outside observers, subsequently <a href="http://oig.state.gov/system/files/203193.pdf" target="_blank">reporting</a> that "the word most commonly used to describe the BBG was 'dysfunctional.'" The agency's "record of poor management of taxpayer-funded resources&mdash;financial, physical, and human&mdash;has undermined the confidence that Congress and the American public have in these efforts," Dan Robinson, a former Voice of America Chief White House correspondent, <a href="http://bbgwatch.com/bbgwatch/op-ed-robinson-transformation-is-upon-us-handwriting-is-on-the-wall/">wrote</a> in an op-ed last March.</p> </blockquote> <p>Lack, chosen after a year of deliberations at the BBG, was seen as the person with the media experience and visibility who could rejuvenate the organization and lead it out of its troubled state. He told <em>Mother Jones</em> in February, "I am lucky to join a great group of journalists and news professionals spread across the globe who care so deeply about our critical role in [the]&hellip;global war on information."</p> <p>Former employees, like Ted Lipien, who once worked at the Voice of America and has been an outspoken critic since he left and started <em>BBG Watch</em>, lauded Lack's appointment. "There were high hopes attached to Andy Lack," said Lipien, who told me that he met Lack just weeks ago at a BBG board meeting. He said Lack was "very engaging&hellip;talking about his plans," giving no indication that he was anything but committed to his new job.</p> <p>The news does not bode well for the terrible morale at the BBG: One employee told <em>BBG Watch</em> that hearing the news was "like a bomb had dropped." Without a CEO, the BBG will continue to suffer from a lack of desperately needed leadership, giving critics an opening to pass legislation that has already been crafted. This includes a bipartisan bill proposed by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) that would alter the entire structure of the BBG, turning the Voice of America into more of an explicit propaganda arm for US policy.</p> <p>The BBG did not respond to request for comment.</p> <p>"We all hoped that with his journalistic and managerial experience, Mr. Lack would be able to reform the BBG," Lipien told me. "His sudden departure is deeply disappointing."&nbsp;</p></body></html> Politics International Media Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Tue, 03 Mar 2015 23:25:59 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 271306 at http://www.motherjones.com How Hillary Clinton May Have Violated Government Rules on Emails http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/hillary-clinton-state-department-emails <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> set off a Clinton bomb when it <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/us/politics/hillary-clintons-use-of-private-email-at-state-department-raises-flags.html?_r=0" target="_blank">revealed</a> Monday night that Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, used a personal email account instead of a government account for all of her official business. The newspaper reported that Clinton had turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department&mdash;yet only after her aides had vetted the massive collection of emails and decided which ones to give to the agency. And it noted that the probable 2016 candidate "may have violated federal requirements that officials' correspondence be retained as part of the agency&rsquo;s record."</p> <p>Ka-boom. Another round in the Hillary wars. Her Republican antagonists pointed to this as a sign of Clinton antipathy toward transparency. The <em>Washington Post's</em> Chris Cillizza quickly <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/03/hillary-clintons-private-email-address-at-state-reinforces-everything-people-dont-like-about-her/" target="_blank">penned</a> a piece headlined, "Hillary Clinton's Private Email Address at State Reinforces Everything People Don't Like About Her." Clintonistas rushed to her defense. Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton outfit, zapped out talking points: She had followed State Department precedent with regard to the use of email; she knew her emails sent to State Department officials at their official accounts would be retained; she has fully cooperated with State Department requests to produce her emails; and Colin Powell used his personal email account when he was secretary of state. Some pro-Clinton observers pointed out that the <a href="http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/bulletins/2013/2013-03.html" target="_blank">federal regulation</a> instructing government employees to "not generally use personal email accounts to conduct official agency business" was not issued until September 2013, months after Clinton had left Foggy Bottom.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/03/hillary-clinton-state-department-emails"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Books Elections Hillary Clinton Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:30:48 +0000 David Corn 271291 at http://www.motherjones.com The Company That Made #TheDress Once Faced a Child Labor Scandal http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/03/dress-roman-originals-child-labor-2007 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The British retailer of the dress that whipped the internet into a frenzy last week&mdash;<em>is it blue and black, or is it gold and white?</em>&mdash;has big plans to cash in on its newfound fame. Roman Originals founder Peter Christodoulou <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/2015/02/27/meet-the-business-owner-behind-the-blue-and-black-white-and-gold-dress/" target="_blank">told the<em> Washington Post</em></a> that the dress&mdash;which is actually blue and black and <a href="http://www.romanoriginals.co.uk/">available online for about $77</a>&mdash;will soon be joined by a gold-and-white version. "We have received so many requests for a white-and-gold version," he said. "It takes about five months to do such a thing, but we're not going to disappoint our fans. I expect the white-and-gold dress to come out later this year." The day after the hoopla broke out, Roman Originals <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2015/02/27/thedress-for-available-for-purchase/Q5Zipuwimuf58FkbOKOtKO/story.html">told the <em>Boston Globe</em></a> that worldwide sales were up 560 percent.</p> <p>But while almost every possible aspect of the dress insanity has now been dissected, there's one part of the story that has so far been overlooked: Roman Original's labor practices record.</p> <p>A 2007 <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/apr/22/clothes.fashion">investigation</a> into Indian garment sweatshops by the British newspaper the<em> Observer</em> found children making clothing for Roman Originals and another UK retailer on the outskirts of New Delhi. While uncovering "a network of mud-bricked sweatshops" used by Indian garment makers, <em>Observer</em> journalists Dan McDougall and Jamie Doward discovered "dozens of children cramped together producing clothes for the UK." One of those sweatshops, the newspaper reported, was making garments for Roman Originals:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">In another sweatshop, <em>The Observer </em>found more children completing a major sub-contracted order for a British firm, the Birmingham-based fashion label Roman Originals, whose upmarket garments are popular purchases in English market towns.</p> <p>I reached McDougall, now a correspondent for the<em> Sunday Times </em>of London, in Thailand via Skype. He told me that the discovery of the Roman Originals subcontractor using child labor was inadvertent. "They weren't a big firm and they weren't particularly well known at the time," he said. "From memory they weren't on our radar at all. We were investigating a major US firm when we came across Roman Originals."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/romanoriginals-inline-630px_4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The original investigation, as it appeared in April 2007 in the <em>Observer</em>. According to the <em>Observer</em>, the photo above shows children making clothes for a different clothing company. </strong>The <em>Observer</em></div> </div> <p>At the time, Roman Originals issued a statement to the<em> Observer</em> saying that it hadn't previously been aware of the child workers and that it immediately canceled its contract with the supplier:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">"We were horrified to see these pictures and immediately launched an investigation into our suppliers," Roman Originals said in a statement, adding it had canceled its contract immediately. "We had visited the suppliers and were presented with an adult-only workforce and practices that satisfied our standards. It appears that our supplier sub-contracted a portion of the business and this is where the problem occurred."</p> <p>I also contacted Roman Originals with a series of questions for this article about where, and by whom, the now-famous dress was made, and what standards the company has in place to prevent child labor. I haven't received a response.</p> <p>Adrian Fisk, a photojournalist who lived in India for eight years, accompanied McDougall into the maze of slums as they worked on the investigation. Speaking generally about the conditions he observed in various sweatshops while reporting the story, Fisk recalls a grim scene of poverty and deprivation. The reporting team would go into each sweatshop for just minutes at a time to collect photographic evidence of their operations as quickly as they could, knowing their activities could attract unwanted attention. "Generally, the ages probably were averaging about 13, 14, but we did see [children] as young as what we thought to be about seven," Fisk told me via Skype from London, where he is now based. The children he saw had "grown up too quickly&hellip;just not enough fun, not enough happiness," he said. "You can see it in the eyes, this slightly glazed, deadened look."</p> <p>The garment industry in India is notoriously dangerous and plagued by labor problems, as Dana Liebelson <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/11/india-garment-factories-sumangali" target="_blank">detailed</a> in a&nbsp;2013 <em>Mother Jones</em> feature. In India&mdash;like in other garment-producing countries&mdash;it's common for workers to be locked into exploitative conditions until they fulfill contracts.</p> <p>McDougall, an award-winning human rights journalist who has reported extensively on garment industry practices, says he's now worried that the global demand for the world's most famous dress&mdash;and for the forthcoming gold-and-white incarnation&mdash;will put massive pressure on the firm's operations outside the United Kingdom to get the garments made quickly.</p> <p>"There's no question in my mind that the firm will be all hands to the pumps to cash in on the publicity and turn around as many of these dresses as they possibly can. It's a marketing dream," McDougall said. "But what concerns me, from experience looking into many firms, is ordering huge amounts of garments on quick turnaround can place enormous pressure on supply chains. So I hope Roman Originals make a guarantee to everyone interested in ordering the dress that it will be produced in an ethical way."</p> <p>McDougall has a challenge for the retailer.</p> <p>"Perhaps they should go one step further and be transparent on the supply chain around it?" he said. "Rather than make it a poster child for color blindness, why don't they make the most famous dress in the world&hellip;the poster child for fair trade or sustainable production?"</p></body></html> Media Human Rights International Labor Top Stories Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:25:06 +0000 James West 271236 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama: Netanyahu's Speech Fails to Offer "Viable Alternatives" on Iran http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/03/obama-netanyahu-speech-no-viable-alternatives-iran <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama weighed in on Benjamin Netanyahu's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/netanyahu-speech-congress-obama-iran-israel" target="_blank">controversial address</a> to Congress on Tuesday, saying the Israeli prime minister's remarks did not provide any <a href="https://twitter.com/AP/status/572830765463044098" target="_blank">"viable alternatives"</a> to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.</p> <p>The Associated Press <a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_OBAMA_ISRAEL?SITE=AP&amp;SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT" target="_blank">reported</a> that after reading a transcript of the speech, Obama noted that Netanyahu used essentially the same language as when the United States brokered an interim deal with Iran, a deal the president said Iran followed through on by scaling back its nuclear program. White House officials also slammed the address:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Sr. administration official: "Literally, not one new idea; not one single concrete alternative; all rhetoric, no action."</p> &mdash; Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) <a href="https://twitter.com/jaketapper/status/572803683878084608">March 3, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu characterized the negotiations&mdash;which would ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on the country's nuclear program&mdash;as a "bad deal" that would inevitably strengthen Iran's nuclear capabilities, rather than stopping them.</p> <p>"I don't believe that Iran's radical regime will change for the better after this deal," Netanyahu <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/3/8140729/netanyahu-speech-iran-congress" target="_blank">said.</a> "This regime has been in power for 36 years and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would whet their appetite&mdash;would only whet Iran's appetite for more."</p> <p>In January, House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress without consulting the White House&mdash;a move that received widespread condemnation from <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/02/kagan-netanyahu-speech-blunder" target="_blank">Republicans</a> and Democrats as a clear attempt to undermine the president's authority. As many as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/02/elizabeth-warren-al-franken-netanyahu_n_6788136.html" target="_blank">60 Democrats</a> boycotted Tuesday's speech.</p></body></html> MoJo International Obama Top Stories Tue, 03 Mar 2015 21:27:49 +0000 Inae Oh 271281 at http://www.motherjones.com DOJ Finds Pervasive Racial Bias at Ferguson Police Department http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/03/justice-department-ferguson-police <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Department of Justice has concluded that the Ferguson Police Department&nbsp;engaged&nbsp;in racially biased practices, including disproportionately arresting African-Americans during routine traffic stops. The findings are the result of an investigation launched back in September, which found that systematic biased behavior, including "racist jokes about blacks" on police email accounts, have&nbsp;resulted in fractured race relations in the Missouri community and a deep mistrust of&nbsp;police officials. From the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/us/justice-department-finds-pattern-of-police-bias-and-excessive-force-in-ferguson.html?_r=0" target="_blank"><em>Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans made up about two-thirds of the city&rsquo;s population but accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.</p> </blockquote> <p>The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.</p> <p>The findings are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/01/no-civil-rights-charges-michael-brown-shooting-report" target="_blank">separate</a> from an FBI investigation focused on Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old&nbsp;Michael Brown&nbsp;last August. According to previous reports, the Justice Department is planning to clear Wilson of<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html" target="_blank"> civil rights charges</a>.</p> <p>Brown's shooting&nbsp;death&nbsp;and a Ferguson&nbsp;grand jury's decision not&nbsp;to indict Wilson sparked a national debate on police brutality and racist police practices.</p></body></html> MoJo Civil Liberties Race and Ethnicity Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:10:08 +0000 Inae Oh 271206 at http://www.motherjones.com Tea Party Loses Big in Today's Vote on Clean DHS Funding Bill http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/tea-party-loses-big-todays-vote-clean-dhs-funding-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It looks like the conventional wisdom <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/03/03/house-to-vote-on-new-bill-to-fully-fund-homeland-security/?hpid=z1" target="_blank">was correct:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The House will vote as soon as Tuesday afternoon on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year. The measure will not target President Obama's executive actions on immigration, giving Democrats what they have long demanded and potentially enraging conservatives bent on fighting the president on immigration.</p> <p>&hellip;The decision marks a big win for Democrats, who have long demanded that Congress pass a "clean" bill to fund DHS free of any immigration riders. For weeks, Boehner and his top deputies have refused to take up such a bill, as conservatives have demanded using the DHS debate to take on Obama's directives, which include action to prevent the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants.</p> </blockquote> <p>I thought the most likely course was a brief DHS shutdown (a week or two) just to save face, followed by a pretty clean funding bill. But I was too pessimistic. Apparently the House leadership wasn't willing to take the PR hit that would inevitably involve.</p> <p>I wonder if Republicans could have gotten a better deal if the tea party faction had been less bullheaded? Last week's debacle, where they torpedoed even a three-week funding extension, surely demonstrated to Boehner that he had no choice but to ignore the tea partiers entirely. They simply were never going to support anything except a full repeal of Obama's immigration actions, and that was never a remotely realistic option. The subsequent one-week extension passed only thanks to Democratic votes, and that made it clear that working with Democrats was Boehner's only real choice. And that in turn meant a clean funding bill.</p> <p>But what if the tea partiers had signaled some willingness to compromise? Could they have passed a bill that repealed some small part of Obama's program&mdash;and that could have passed the Senate? Maybe. Instead they got nothing. I guess maybe they'd rather stick to their guns than accomplish something small but useful. That sends a signal to their base, but unfortunately for them, it also sends a signal to Boehner. And increasingly, that signal is that he has no choice but to stop paying attention to their demands. There's nothing in it for Boehner, is there?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:00:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 271286 at http://www.motherjones.com The Koch Brothers Just Launched a Lobbying Campaign to Eliminate an Obscure Government Agency. Here's Why. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/koch-industries-export-import-bank <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Koch Industries has officially entered the contentious fight over the fate of the Export-Import Bank, the independent government agency that guarantees loans and provides financing to companies doing business overseas and foreign businesses buying American products&mdash;and that has recently become a target for conservatives and libertarians who decry big-government crony capitalism.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the industrial conglomerate run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch sent <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1679708-ex-im-letter-3-3-15.html" target="_blank">a letter to Congress</a> urging lawmakers to oppose the reauthorization of this obscure, 80-year-old institution, which otherwise will expire at the end of June. Signed by Philip Ellender, the president of Koch's government affairs arm, the letter signals the start of a Koch lobbying effort aimed at shuttering the New Deal-era agency. The Ex-Im Bank has been living on borrowed time since September, when Congress temporarily extended its charter. But now Koch Industries wants Congress to eradicate the agency for good.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/03/koch-industries-export-import-bank"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics 2016 Elections Corporations Economy Money in Politics Top Stories Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:11:18 +0000 Daniel Schulman 271231 at http://www.motherjones.com Netanyahu's Speech: Mansplaining Iran to Obama http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/netanyahu-speech-congress-obama-iran-israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress has been covered as a spectacle orchestrated (perhaps in a misguided fashion) by the conservative GOP-Likud alliance to undercut President Barack Obama's effort to reach a deal with Iran limiting that government's nuclear program. But this stunt did highlight a significant aspect of the the ongoing debate over Iran&mdash;Netanyahu's position is extreme and unworkable: Iran should yield completely, or there will be war.</p> <p>The ongoing negotiations between the United States and its allies and Iran have been a tough slog. But at the heart of the issue is a simple point: Will Iran be allowed to engage in any enrichment of uranium? Iran insists it is entitled to pursue a nuclear program, if only for civilian purposes. Netanyahu contends that if Tehran retains any nuclear program, there will be a risk that it can develop nuclear weapons with which it can threaten Israel's existence. Obama's aim is to impose severe restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to limit any ability to produce a nuclear bomb&mdash;and to ensure that if there were to be an Iranian breakout from an agreement that it would still take Tehran some time to make a bomb. Obama wants to minimize greatly the risk of Iran going nuclear; Netanyahu wants to eliminate the risk.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/03/netanyahu-speech-congress-obama-iran-israel"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Foreign Policy International The Right Top Stories Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:00:58 +0000 David Corn 271261 at http://www.motherjones.com Summers: Yes, the Robots Are Coming to Take Our Jobs http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/summers-yes-robots-are-coming-take-our-jobs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jim Tankersley called up Larry Summers to ask him to clarify his views on whether automation is hurting middle-class job <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_larry_summers.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">prospects. Despite reports that he no longer supports this view, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/03/robots-are-hurting-middle-class-workers-and-education-wont-solve-the-problem-larry-summers-says/" target="_blank">apparently he does:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Tankersley:</strong> How do you think about the effects of technology and automation on workers today, particularly those in the middle class?</p> <p><strong>Summers:</strong> No one should speak with certainty about these matters, because there are challenges in the statistics, and there are conflicts in the data. But it seems to me that there is a wave of what certainly appears to be labor-substitutive innovation. And that probably, we are only in the early innings of such a wave.</p> </blockquote> <p>I think this is precisely right. I suspect that:</p> <ul><li>Automation began having an effect on jobs around the year 2000.</li> <li>The effect is very small so far.</li> <li>So small, in fact, that it probably can't be measured reliably. There's too much noise from other sources.</li> <li>And I might be wrong about this.</li> </ul><p>In any case, this is at least the right argument to be having. There's been a sort of straw-man argument making the rounds recently that automation has had a big impact on jobs since 2010 and is responsible for the weak recovery from the Great Recession. I suppose there are some people who believe this, but I really don't think it's the consensus view of people (<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/robots-artificial-intelligence-jobs-automation" target="_blank">like me</a>) who believe that automation is a small problem today that's going to grow in the future. My guess is that when economists look back a couple of decades from now, they're going to to date the automation revolution from about the year 2000&mdash;but that since its effects are exponential, we barely noticed it for the first decade. We'll notice it more this decade; a lot more in the 2020s; and by the 2030s it will be inarguably the biggest economic challenge we face.</p> <p>Summers also gets it right on the value of education. He believes it's important, but he doesn't think it will do anything to address skyrocketing income inequality:</p> <blockquote> <p>It is not likely, in my view, that any feasible program of improving education will have a large impact on inequality in any relevant horizon.</p> <p>First, almost two-thirds of the labor force in 2030 is already out of school today. Second, most of the inequality we observe is within education group&nbsp;&mdash; within high school graduates or within college graduates, rather than between high school graduates and college graduates. Third, inequality within college graduates is actually somewhat greater than inequality within high school graduates. <strong>Fourth, changing patterns of education is unlikely to have much to do with a rising share of the top 1 percent, which is probably the most important inequality phenomenon.</strong> So I am all for improving education. But to suggest that improving education is the solution to inequality is, I think, an evasion.</p> </blockquote> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/robots-artificial-intelligence-jobs-automation" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" height="251" src="/files/robots_a_630_0.jpg" width="265"></a> <div class="caption"><strong>Also read Kevin's #longread all about this stuff: </strong><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/robots-artificial-intelligence-jobs-automation" target="_blank"><strong>Welcome, Robot Overlords. Please Don't Fire Us? </strong></a></div> </div> <p>This is the key fact. Rising inequality is almost all due to the immense rise in the incomes of the top 1 percent. But no one argues that the top 1 percent are better educated than, say, the top 10 percent. As Summers says, if we improve our educational outcomes, that will have a broad positive effect on the economy. But it very plainly won't have any effect on the dynamics that have shoveled so much of our economic gains to the very wealthy.</p> <p>The rest is worth a read (it's a fairly short interview). Summers isn't saying anything that lots of other people haven't said before, but he's an influential guy. The fact that he's saying it too means this is well on its way to becoming conventional wisdom.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Education Tech Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:58:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 271266 at http://www.motherjones.com Netanyahu and Obama Agree: Global Warming Is a Huge Threat http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/netanyahu-obama-climate-change-terrorism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Iran's nuclear ambitions, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The speech has caused a <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/2/8130977/netanyahu-speech-explained" target="_blank">considerable flap</a>, with Democrats criticizing it as an unprecedented affront to President Barack Obama.</p> <p>But while the president and Netanyahu might have vastly different visions for how to deal with the threat posed by Iran, they do seem to agree on one thing: the threat posed by climate change. Over the past few months Obama has repeatedly emphasized the dangers associated with global warming. In his State of the Union address in January, he said that "no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations" than climate change. And in a recent national security document, Obama called climate change an "urgent and growing threat." Despite GOP protestations to the contrary, Obama's concerns are legitimate: New research released yesterday, for example, found that man-made climate change was a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/climate-change-syria-obama-cpac" target="_blank">key factor in the Syrian civil war</a>.</p> <p>It seems Bibi had the same thought as early as 2010, when his cabinet approved a wide-reaching plan to reduce Israel's carbon footprint. At the time, the prime minister said that "the threat of climate change is no less menacing than the security threats that we face." From <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Enviro-Tech/Cabinet-okays-NIS-22b-to-reduce-greenhouse-gases" target="_blank">the</a><em><a href="http://www.jpost.com/Enviro-Tech/Cabinet-okays-NIS-22b-to-reduce-greenhouse-gases" target="_blank"> Jerusalem Post</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>At the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009, Israel pledged to reduce emissions by 20 percent from a "business as usual" scenario by 2020.</p> <p>"The recent dry months, including the driest November in the history of the state, are a warning light to us all that the threat of climate change is no less menacing than the security threats that we face. I intend to act determinedly in this field. In a country that suffers from a severe water shortage, this is an existential struggle," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting.</p> </blockquote> <p>Israel doesn't face the kind of political resistance from climate change deniers that is all too common in the United States, said Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of EcoPeace Middle East. But the country is struggling to meet its carbon emission and renewable energy targets because government spending is so heavily concentrated on defense, he said.</p> <p>"They've given the issue a great deal of lip service," he said, "but in practice none of these [targets] have been met."</p> <p>Still, Israel has been at the forefront of developing seawater desalination technology to confront drought. The country has the <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/534996/megascale-desalination/" target="_blank">biggest desal plant in the world</a>, and last year Netanyahu <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/06/3369351/california-israel-water-desalination-security/" target="_blank">signed a deal</a> with California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to share research and technology for dealing with water scarcity.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk International Obama Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:15:32 +0000 Tim McDonnell 271241 at http://www.motherjones.com