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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don't let Senate seat be vacant

I must take issue with your editorial advocating that the legislature accede to Senator Kennedy's request to allow the Governor to appoint an interim Senator until the special election has taken place if Senator Kennedy should retire (Don't let senate seat be vacant, Boston Globe, August 21, 2009).

In itself, it may not be a bad idea, but legislative changes of this type (including the original bill that stripped the Governor of the right to appoint a replacement) should only come into force after the next election cycle. That is, present incumbents cannot be allowed to benefit from these changes.

Too often in America, politicians (e.g. Bloomberg in New York, Democrats in New Jersey, Republicans in Texas) change the rules in mid stream so that they can benefit. This should not be acceptable.

Maybe we could get an independent redistricting commission too.

Sent to Boston Globe

Kennedy, looking ahead

Letter on Change in Senate Succession Law in Massachusetts

Friday, August 14, 2009

Assessing the Delphi Method

Published in The Psychologist, August 2009 Vol 22(8), page 654.

While I enjoyed the description of the Delphi technique by Susanne Iqbal and Laura Pipon-Young (The Psychologist, July 2009) I missed any detailed evaluation of its accuracy.

I noticed that they cited the Haggard and Haste 1986 piece forecasting the state of psychology in 2010. I would think an evaluation of the accuracy of that forecast a year early might have been

I also recall participating in a similar exercise (alas I forget the name of the principal
investigator) run by the BPS in 1971 or 1972 when I was at the London Business School.
How well did that forecasting exercise turn out?

Martin G. Evans
Cambridge, MA, USA

Editor’s note: We are indeed hoping to publish a follow up next year! The other exercise
was a 30-year delphi published by J.M. Smith in the Bulletin in 1975, so it might be one to
return to in 2035.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

States in Distress

Your editorial today misses the major economic point about the stimulus (New York Times, August 4, 2009: A18). It is supposed to compensate for the loss in aggregate demand due to consumers leaving the marketplace. As you say, much of the stimulus money is being used by states to reduce the amount they have to slash in terms of employment or services.

That is good as it prevents things from getting worse in terms of aggregate demand, but it does nothing to replace the reduction in demand due to individuals failing to make purchases of goods and services.

In addition to the current stimulus, we need direct aid to states so they will not continue to slash and burn. And, despite the political unpalatability, we need it now.

Sent to New York Times

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts

So while the Bank of America was in the process of laying off 30,000 employees, borrowing $35 billion dollars from the taxpayers (still not paid back), it was also paying out $3.3 billion dollars in bonuses to the very people that led it into financial disaster (Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts, New York Times, July 31, 2009: A1).

That is unconscionable.

If each of those about-to-be-laid-off employees had been earning $100,000 per year, these bonuses would have kept all, yes all, of them in employment.

How top management and the board of directors could make that trade-off, I will never understand.

Sent to New York Times

Military Criticized in Report of Soldier Electrocuted in Iraq

In your report on the tragic electrocution of a showering serviceman in Iraq (Military Criticized in Report of Soldier Electrocuted in Iraq, New York Times, July 28, 2009: A8), you report this comment from KBR's spokeswoman: "... the company maintains that it is not responsible. She said that KBR had informed the military of the absence of [electrical] grounding ... nine months before [the] death" and that the military did not instruct KBR to upgrade the facility.

If KBR had any pride in its workmanship, it would not instruct a spokeswoman to make this kind of comment. What kind of contractor would deliberately allow its own shoddy work to remain uncorrected until, as she put it, "that incident" occurred.

Yes, there is blame too for the army's inaction, but KBR must be held accountable for its mistakes.

Sent to New York Times

With Big Profit, Goldman sees Big Payday Ahead

Let us put these enormous bank profits in context (July 27, 2009). Last week Goldman Sacks reported a quarterly profit of $3.44 billion dollars. However, Goldman received full compensation ($13.0b)for its claims on AIG when other companies with similar claims were getting fifty cents or less on the dollar. AIG got the money to pay Goldman from us, the taxpayers. Without that, Goldman would have been billions of dollars in the red.

Those gross profits were earned by us, not by the clever trading strategies of the Goldman staffers. If anyone is to be rewarded, it should be the taxpayers for we made a bet that Goldman would be successful; shouldn't we share in the rewards.

Sent to New York Times