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Sep 11, 2013
via The Great Debate

New York’s election suggests the waning of identity politics

To most Americans, the results of New York City’s local elections don’t matter much and often shouldn’t. Yes, there are City Hall occupants who manage to command a national stage, notably incumbent Mike Bloomberg, but in the 2013 race there have been no candidates even approaching his stature (or his wealth). The candidate who received the most votes in Tuesday’s primary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, is unknown outside New York City and until recently not well known inside it.

Yet there is an aspect of the 2013 campaign that might resonate well beyond New York’s five boroughs: voter behavior suggests that the era of identity politics may have ended or at least peaked.

May 10, 2013
via MediaFile

Music royalties and Pandora’s box

It is one of the oldest and thorniest questions of the digital music era: How much should artists and musicians be compensated for the Internet broadcast of their songs? And who gets to decide that rate?

You might think in the nearly two decades since music first began streaming over the Internet that some kind of consensus about paying artists would have emerged. But about the only thing most Internet radio stakeholders can agree on is that the current system makes no sense: Internet radio providers pay vastly different rates than their terrestrial, cable and satellite brethren, and even sometimes each other. Also, even a single company may pay a per-song fee in some cases, and a percentage of its revenues in others. Beyond that, there is vast disagreement, with the political fault lines forming an unusual pattern.

Sep 11, 2012
via The Great Debate

What exactly do we mean by ‘inequality’?

What do we mean by “inequality,” and why exactly is it bad for American democracy? Are we discussing inequality of wages within a given firm or industry? Or inequality in household income — i.e., the difference between the poor and the middle class, or between the rich and everyone else? What about political inequality — is it a cause or an effect of economic inequality?

These are not idle questions, and to contemplate even incomplete answers appears, on the basis of these two books, to reveal a kind of knowledge inequality. Unless you’ve got a PhD in economics or political science and what Princeton University political scientist Martin Gilens calls “a virtual army of research assistants,” there’s not much chance that you’re going to reach airtight answers on your own.

Jul 3, 2012
via MediaFile

Sheraton becomes a sommelier

Say you’re planning a business trip. If you knew you could get a very good glass of wine at your hotel at the end of the day, would that influence which hotel you book?

The people at Sheraton are betting that it will.

Earlier this year, Sheraton began holding “Sheraton Social Hour” events at a number of hotels, and 130 more Sheraton branches around the globe will add the social hours this week. From 5 to 8 PM, usually Tuesday through Thursday, Sheraton residents will be able to sample a selection of high-quality wines. At the larger Sheratons, such as New York’s, eight wines will be on offer, four scoring a Wine Spectator rating of 85 or higher and four scoring 90 or higher.

Jun 28, 2012
via The Great Debate

Leadership by the book

This piece originally appeared in Reuters Magazine

Every year publishers release dozens, if not hundreds, of books about leadership. These books range from how-to books written by tenured professors of management theory at Harvard Business School to inspirational tracts generated by motivational speakers and longtime high school football coaches. While it’s evident that an eager audience exists for leadership books, how useful could they actually be? After all, if it were possible to become an effective leader simply by reading a stack of books, then presumably there would be a lot more good leaders in the world.

Assuming it’s possible to learn leadership lessons from a book, it seems even more likely that one could glean authoritative wisdom from reading biographies of great leaders, people who were not only influential but who actually succeeded in changing the world. Biographies, moreover, have the advantage of being real stories and, unlike leadership self-help books, are often composed by excellent writers. They appeal to a much broader class of reader, including the kind of people who might once have read epic poems or romances, tales of gods and heroes and their mysterious ways. If it’s true that biographies of great leaders constitute a higher form of leadership literature, several questions remain: How do the biographers deal with the subject? Do they take lessons from leadership books or leadership theory? And do they agree—as many of the how-to books maintain—that leadership lessons can be distilled and presented independently of the leaders themselves, and transferred from one field of accomplishment to another? Seeking instruction, I turned to three distinguished biographers for guidance. Here are a few lessons I learned about leadership lessons.

Jun 15, 2012
via The Great Debate

What public unions and gay marriage have in common

The political fireworks in Wisconsin, culminating in the recent unsuccessful recall election of the Republican governor, Scott Walker, have a lot of people saying good riddance to public-sector unions. Last year, Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature enacted Wisconsin Act 10, stripping most – though crucially not all – of the state’s public unions of their most fundamental powers, including collective bargaining and the ability to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks. Many observers – and not only Republicans – have signaled their approval, arguing that public unions – representing teachers, bus drivers, healthcare workers – shouldn’t exist in the first place.

“Public sector unions have reached their high water mark,” a Forbes columnist cheered last week. “Let the cleanup begin as the red ink recedes.”

May 11, 2012
via The Great Debate

Should ExxonMobil be broken up?

This book review was originally published in the American Prospect, and is republished here with permission.

Even granting that testifying to congressional committees is not on the list of an oil CEO’s favorite things to do, when ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, known to his employees as “Iron Ass,” arrived at the Dirksen Senate Office building one morning in November 2005, he was in an especially reticent mood. Among other things, the Senate Energy Committee wanted to know about the corporation’s role in formulating policy with Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force. Raymond – who was chummy with Cheney and seven weeks away from his retirement, after 12 spectacularly profitable years at the helm first of Exxon and then Exxon-Mobil – did not think the committee needed to know. Thus when New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg asked Raymond whether he or any ExxonMobil executives participated in a 2001 meeting with Cheney, Raymond responded with a single syllable: “No.”

Apr 18, 2012
via Jack Shafer

Sadly, human trophies are as old as war itself

If you talk very long with soldiers who’ve seen combat, they’ll offer that death is a joke. Not a very funny joke, but one that never gets old. With every new war, with every new brigade of recruits, soldiers rediscover the death joke and retell it by taking battlefield trophies of enemy equipment, enemy personal effects and even staged photos with enemy body parts, as the Los Angeles Times reports today.

The Times obtained a series of 18 photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with enemy corpses and published two of them in a story that began on page one. The living posers are all grins and chuckles, indicating the high mirth that battlefield death brings. In one of the published photos, amused U.S. soldiers hoist two severed legs of a suicide bomber and mug for the camera.

Apr 17, 2012
via The Great Debate

Let’s stop talking about a ‘double-dip’ recession

Barely a day goes by without some expert publicly worrying whether or not the U.S. economy will fall into a “double-dip” recession. In a CNBC interview last September, investor George Soros said he thought the U.S. was already in one. Earlier this month, the former chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley cited an academic study to argue that “after every financial crisis there’s a long period of much slower growth and in almost every case you get a double dip.” Granted, this is a minority view; most economists are predicting sustained modest growth for the near future. Which makes sense, because while few are thrilled with the pace of comeback, the U.S. economy has grown for 11 consecutive quarters, beginning in mid-2009.

But given that the recovery is approaching its third birthday, how far away from the Great Recession do we need to get before another downturn would be considered not a “second dip” but simply a separate recession instead?

Mar 29, 2012
via Lucy P. Marcus

The secrets of winning startups

In a video produced by The Wall Street Journal, Lucy Marcus explains what she looks for in a new startup and what makes some succeed where others fail.

    • About James

      "James Ledbetter is the former op-ed editor of Reuters. He is the author, most recently, of "Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex," published in January 2011."
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