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Susan Rice Recounts Making Policy at the Highest Levels
Oct. 10, 2019 | The New York Times | By Abby D. Phillip.

TOUGH LOVE
My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For
By Susan Rice
Illustrated. 531 pp. Simon & Schuster. $30.

Tough Love is Susan Rice's memoir. Susan Rice doesn't allow herself to be defined by the events of September 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, after which she was demonized by the right-wingers in the U.S. ....Rice’s personal story is rooted partly in slavery in America and partly in economic migration to the United States.....Rice benefitted from privilege that gave her access to well-heeled private schooling, elite advanced degrees (i.e. Stanford University, and later was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford) and membership in the even more elite Washington society. Rice’s unflagging work ethic and drive stems from her family's belief that, "The only constraints we faced were our own ambition, effort and skill.” ......Early in her career at the National Security Council, Rice navigated some of the most difficult foreign policy challenges the country has faced in recent history, and in a pattern that continued into the Obama years her fate seemed constantly intertwined with Africa. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda provided an object lesson in the moral failures of inaction. Later, she dealt with another major crisis that would reverberate later in her career. The 1998 Nairobi embassy and Dar es Salaam embassy bombings.
Rice is clinical in her retelling of the foreign policy decisions of the Clinton and Obama administrations. And there is no attempt to neatly sew together an overarching narrative about her approach to foreign policy challenges based on her years of experience in government. In fact, that may be the lesson of her tale of “tough love.” Public policy, Rice argues, is pragmatic, and sometimes a little dark: “We did fail, we will fail. Our aim must be to minimize the frequency and the price of failure.”.....Rice's “assertiveness and relentlessness” has cost her reputation within the State Department as a difficult boss. Rice has considered--and ruled out--pursuit of elected office, preferring the comfort of policy-focused, behind-the-scenes roles.
African-Americans  APNSA  assertiveness  Benghazi  books  book_reviews  cost_of_inaction  failure  memoirs  NSC  Obama  policymaking  public_policy  relentlessness  Rhodes  Stanford  Susan_Rice  tough_love  U.S.foreign_policy  U.S._State_Department  women  work_ethic 
october 2019 by jerryking
Flood. Rinse. Repeat: The costly cycle that must end
May 07, 2017 | The Globe and Mail |GLENN MCGILLIVRAY, managing director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction

Once again, homes located alongside a Canadian river have flooded, affected homeowners are shocked, the local government is wringing its hands, the respective provincial government is ramping up to provide taxpayer-funded disaster assistance and the feds are deploying the Armed Forces.

In Canada, it is the plot of the movie Groundhog Day, or the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.....First, a homeowner locates next to the river, oftentimes because of the view (meaning a personal choice is being made). Many of these homes are of high value.

Then the snow melts, the ice jams or the rain falls and the flood comes. Often, as is the case now, the rain is characterized by the media as being incredible, far outside the norm. Then a scientific or engineering analysis later shows that what happened was not very exceptional.

These events are not caused by the rain, they are caused by poor land-use decisions, among other public-policy foibles. This is what is meant when some say there are no such things as natural catastrophes, only man-made disasters.

Finally, the province steps in with disaster assistance then seeks reimbursement from the federal government through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. In any case, whether provincial or federal, taxpayers are left holding the bag.....So what is the root of the problem? Though complex problems have complex causes and complex solutions, one of the causes is that the party making the initial decision to allow construction (usually the local government) is not the party left holding the bag when the flood comes.

Just as homeowners have skin in the game through insurance deductibles and other measures, local governments need a financial disincentive to act in a risky manner. At present, municipalities face far more upside risk than downside risk when it comes to approving building in high-risk hazard zones. When the bailout comes from elsewhere, there is no incentive to make the right decision – the lure of an increased tax base and the desire not to anger local voters is all too great.

Reducing natural disaster losses in Canada means breaking the cycle – taking a link out of the chain of events that leads to losses.

Local governments eager for growth and the tax revenue that goes with it need to hold some significant portion of the downside risk in order to give them pause for thought.
floods  catastrophes  natural_calamities  design  insurance  public_policy  disasters  relief_recovery_reconstruction  sustainability  municipalities  skin_in_the_game  disincentives  Albert_Einstein  complex_problems  land_uses  moral_hazards  man-made  hazards  downside_risks 
may 2017 by jerryking
Mapping Where Torontonians Bike and Run
FEBRUARY 2, 2015 | Torontoist | BY DAVID HAINS

Developers map out the world's most popular spots for walking, jogging, and cycling—and reveal where in this city Torontonians like, and don't like, to get outside and get active.

....the maps show pieces of a larger story. The most popular trails might seem simply like fun places for a run or merely the result of individual choices, but they’re part of a larger context that governs how the city works—how the built and natural environment, a community’s land-use mix, housing affordability, community health options, and other factors affect the way we relate to and use different parts of the city.
affordable_housing  cardiovascular  community_health  correlations  cycling  diabetes  green_spaces  health_outcomes  healthy_lifestyles  land_uses  mapping  neighbourhoods  parks  public_policy  ravines  running  Toronto  self-selection 
january 2017 by jerryking
The Danger of a Single Story - The New York Times
David Brooks APRIL 19, 2016

American politics has always been prone to single storyism — candidates reducing complex issues to simple fables. This year the problem is acute because Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the giants of Single Storyism. They reduce pretty much all issues to the same single story: the alien invader story....As in life generally, every policy has the vices of its virtues. Aggressive policing cuts crime but increases brutality. There is no escape from trade-offs and tragic situations. The only way forward is to elect people who are capable of holding opposing stories in their heads at the same time, and to reject those who can’t....As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in your head at the same time.”"
David_Brooks  storytelling  public_policy  single_action_bias  critical_thinking  history  philosophy  skepticism  tradeoffs  oversimplification  criminal_justice_system  incarceration  narratives  dual-consciousness  F._Scott_Fitzgerald 
april 2016 by jerryking
A rigorous Canadian innovation policy needs to be able to evolve and pivot - The Globe and Mail
BILAL KHAN
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Apr. 15, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++
But a big part of the problem is our knee-jerk reaction to expect governments to provide the solutions. Need corporate R&D? Ask Ottawa for more tax credits. Lacking venture capital? Insist tax dollars are put into a fund. Want more high tech? Demand provincial governments to spend more on university research.

Good public policies can certainly nudge us in the right direction, but it’s lazy to sit back and wait for government to solve the problem. The truth is that tax credits and research subsidies do not drive innovation. Curiosity drives innovation.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of “what policy can drive innovation?”, we need to ask “how can we become a society of inquisitive individuals?” That’s a more difficult question. It is too simplistic to call for more creativity in the classrooms, but surely strong literacy skills at an early age form the bedrock of curiosity and innovative thinking in adulthood. Children who are encouraged to read, to question, to wonder and to imagine will carry those abilities with them into adulthood.

++++++++++++++++++++++
innovation  innovation_policies  public_policy  agility  risk-taking  Todd_Hirsch  curiosity  organizational_culture  inquisitiveness  questions  bottom-up  hard_questions  asking_the_right_questions  tax_codes 
april 2016 by jerryking
Being John Ibbitson
August 1, 2006 | Ryerson Review of Journalism | Barry Hertz.

What his columns lack in personal detail, he makes up for in research. He is one of the few columnists who actually reports rather than simply sitting back and spouting his opinions. He noticed a weakness of his colleagues – too much analysis, not enough research – and began to emulate his favourite drama critic, Nathan Cohen. “He offered a good recipe for analyzing public policy as he did for theatre, which was just asking three questions,” explains Ibbitson. “What are you doing? How are you doing it? And, is it a good idea in the first place?”
John_Ibbitson  questions  worthiness  public_policy  columnists  discernment  think_threes  5_W’s 
april 2016 by jerryking
Shelters from the storm: Preparing cities for a changing climate – before it’s too late - The Globe and Mail
ALEX BOZIKOVIC
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jul. 17, 2015

Rising sea levels, epic droughts, massive flooding: the effects of climate change are already here. How do we adapt? From the Netherlands to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Alex Bozikovic explores the cutting-edge engineering – and cultural shifts – that could help
New_York_City  climate_change  cities  Hurricane_Sandy  floods  future-proofing  insurance  public_policy  disasters  Dutch  relief_recovery_reconstruction  FEMA  sustainability  natural_calamities  sea-level_rise 
july 2015 by jerryking
The test of true political leadership is to risk change - The Globe and Mail
BRIAN MULRONEY
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, May. 28 2015

The most essential ingredient for any “Big Idea,” however, is leadership.

Leadership that not only anticipates the need for change but is determined to implement change. Not in pursuit of popularity but to serve the national interest.

The test of true leadership hinges on judgments between risk and reward.

Change of any kind requires risk, political risk. It can and will generate unpopularity from those who oppose change. The choice for Canada or the United Kingdom in a fast-changing global environment is either to adapt quickly and take advantage of the changes happening or watch from the sidelines....As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us: “Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing fine or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith.”(jk: the importance of having a long-term vision & exhibiting faith in pursuing it).

It is in this perspective that great and controversial questions of public policy must be considered.

History tends to focus on the builders, the deciders, the leaders – because they are the men and women whose contributions have shaped the destiny of their nations, here and around the world.

From the bloodied sands of Afghanistan to the snows and waters of the High Arctic, the Canada of 50 years from now will be defined by the leadership we are given today.
Brian_Mulroney  speeches  Oxford  leadership  politicians  Cold_War  9/11  NAFTA  '80s  history  leaders  risks  transformational  courage  political_risk  fast-changing  free-trade  public_policy 
may 2015 by jerryking
You can’t predict a black swan - The Globe and Mail
KONRAD YAKABUSKI
The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 29 2015

The New York snowstorm that wasn’t, like the Swiss currency storm that was, are reminders that sophisticated computer models used to predict the future are useless in the face of the unpredictable. Instead of seeking a false assurance in the models, it’s better to prepare, to the extent possible, to weather any storm Mother Nature or man dishes up.

Black swans are “large-scale, unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence,” as defined by the author who popularized the term in a 2007 book. Given their unpredictability, says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the solution cannot lie in developing better predictive methods....Robust policy – such as sustainable public finances or effective bank regulations – must be designed to withstand black swans.
Konrad_Yakabuski  forecasting  weather  public_policy  reminders  modelling  unpredictability  assumptions  antifragility  Nassim_Taleb  black_swan  resilience  risk-management  policymaking 
january 2015 by jerryking
Drug-funding sob stories make for good reading, but we need hard evidence to set public policy
Mar. 16 2014 | The Globe and Mail | ANDRÉ PICARD.

the key question in public policy is always: What else could be done with the money that would provide more bang for the buck?

To fund or not fund drugs is not an easy discussion to have. But it is a necessary one. As compelling as the stories of suffering children may be, we have to make decisions based on evidence. We also owe it to ourselves to negotiate firmly with drug-makers.

We cannot continue to fall prey to emotional blackmail, no matter how much the headlines sting.
no_sob_stories  public_policy  André_Picard  pharmaceutical_industry  orphan_drugs  disease  opportunity_costs  evidence_based  emotional_blackmail  evidence  difficult_conversations 
march 2014 by jerryking
When it comes to innovation, Canada needs more inquisitive minds
Sept. 11 2013 | The Globe and Mail | by TODD HIRSCH.

There are solutions to Canada’s innovation deficit. The Conference Board of Canada, which prepared the Canadian analysis for the WEF report, makes several smart suggestions. Encouraging more spending on R&D, making better use of advanced technology, and increasing the research linkages between universities and industry all make sense.

But a big part of the problem is our knee-jerk reaction to expect governments to provide the solutions. Need corporate R&D? Ask Ottawa for more tax credits. Lacking venture capital? Insist tax dollars are put into a fund. Want more high tech? Demand provincial governments to spend more on university research.

Good public policies can certainly nudge us in the right direction, but it’s lazy to sit back and wait for government to solve the problem. The truth is that tax credits and research subsidies do not drive innovation. Curiosity drives innovation.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of “what policy can drive innovation?”, we need to ask “how can we become a society of inquisitive individuals?” That’s a more difficult question. It is too simplistic to call for more creativity in the classrooms, but surely strong literacy skills at an early age form the bedrock of curiosity and innovative thinking in adulthood. Children who are encouraged to read, to question, to wonder and to imagine will carry those abilities with them into adulthood.
bottom-up  Todd_Hirsch  economists  innovation  competitiveness_of_nations  Canada  Canadian  WEF  rankings  curiosity  counterintuitive  public_policy  inquisitiveness  literacy  reframing  problem_framing  children  parenting  fascination  asking_the_right_questions  questions 
september 2013 by jerryking
Absolutism in the Church of Green - The Globe and Mail
GORDON GIBSON

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Dec. 31 2012,

Our competitive edge in this world is no longer skilled labour and capital. The world is awash in both. We either responsibly exploit our natural resources or settle for less health care, education and lower pensions.

A choice of automatic opposition to resource development is one option, if that’s what we collectively want. But that choice should be understood as a public policy question with consequences, not as a religious one of no cost.
Absolutism  environment  green  natural_resources  resource_extraction  economic_development  public_policy  consequences  resource_development  anti-development 
january 2013 by jerryking
Why We Love Politics - NYTimes.com
November 22, 2012 | NYT | By DAVID BROOKS.

I hope everybody who shares this anti-political mood will go out to see “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.

It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical.

The challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gets this point. The hero has a high moral vision, but he also has the courage to take morally hazardous action in order to make that vision a reality.
Abraham_Lincoln  compromise  cunning  David_Brooks  hypocrisy  moral_hazards  movies  politics  political_expediency  public_policy  serving_others  tradeoffs 
november 2012 by jerryking
As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why - NYTimes.com
By JUSTIN GILLIS and FELICITY BARRINGER
Published: November 18, 2012

Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.... Lately, scientists, budget-conscious lawmakers and advocacy groups across the political spectrum have argued that these subsidies waste money, put lives at risk and make no sense in an era of changing climate and rising seas.

Some of them contend that reconstruction money should be tightly coupled with requirements that coastal communities begin reducing their vulnerability in the short run and that towns along shorelines facing the largest risks make plans for withdrawal over the long term. ... local governments have tried to use the money to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters, but they complain that they often run into bureaucratic roadblocks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For instance, after flooding from Hurricane Irene washed out many culverts in Vermont last year, many towns built bigger culverts to handle future floods. But they are still fighting with the agency over reimbursement.

W. Craig Fugate, the agency’s administrator, acknowledged in an interview that “as a nation, we have not yet figured out” how to use federal incentives to improve resiliency and discourage excessive risks.
floods  floodplains  flood-risk  insurance  public_policy  Hurricane_Sandy  disasters  relief_recovery_reconstruction  FEMA  sustainability  sea-level_rise  coastal 
november 2012 by jerryking
Is Algebra Necessary? -
July 28, 2012 | NYTimes.com | By ANDREW HACKER.

Peter Braunfeld of the University of Illinois tells his students, “Our civilization would collapse without mathematics.” He’s absolutely right.

Algebraic algorithms underpin animated movies, investment strategies and airline ticket prices. And we need people to understand how those things work and to advance our frontiers.

Quantitative literacy clearly is useful in weighing all manner of public policies, from the Affordable Care Act, to the costs and benefits of environmental regulation, to the impact of climate change. Being able to detect and identify ideology at work behind the numbers is of obvious use. Ours is fast becoming a statistical age, which raises the bar for informed citizenship. What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey....mathematics teachers at every level could create exciting courses in what I call “citizen statistics.” This would not be a backdoor version of algebra, as in the Advanced Placement syllabus. Nor would it focus on equations used by scholars when they write for one another. Instead, it would familiarize students with the kinds of numbers that describe and delineate our personal and public lives.

It could, for example, teach students how the Consumer Price Index is computed, what is included and how each item in the index is weighted — and include discussion about which items should be included and what weights they should be given.

This need not involve dumbing down. Researching the reliability of numbers can be as demanding as geometry. More and more colleges are requiring courses in “quantitative reasoning.” In fact, we should be starting that in kindergarten.

I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures. Why not mathematics in art and music — even poetry — along with its role in assorted sciences? The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet.
mathematics  algorithms  numeracy  infoliteracy  public_policy  CPI  liberal_arts  engaged_citizenry  quantitative  value_judgements  logic_&_reasoning  cross-disciplinary 
july 2012 by jerryking
When Schools Depend on Handouts - NYTimes.com
By MICHAEL A. REBELL and JESSICA R. WOLFF
August 25, 2011

Public education was built on the philosophy articulated by Horace Mann,
the Massachusetts reformer who pioneered the Common School: a system
“one and the same for both rich and poor” with “all citizens on the same
footing of equality before the law of land.” Today, that vision of
equality is in jeopardy....At least 23 states have made huge cuts to
public education spending this year, and school districts are scrambling
to find ways to cope. School foundations, parent-teacher organizations
and local education funds supported by business groups and residents
contribute at least $4 billion per year to help public schools
throughout the country....Although praiseworthy as a matter of personal
philanthropy, [donations by the mayor & others] is highly
distressing as a matter of public policy. It is disgraceful that
essential components of the public education system are now depend on
the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens.
austerity  cutbacks  equality_of_opportunity  handouts  Horace_Mann  philanthropy  public_education  public_schools  public_policy  school_districts 
august 2011 by jerryking
Black Empowerment Roils South Africa - WSJ.com
MARCH 9, 2011 | | By PETER WONACOTT

Mounting criticism of South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment policy
is coming to a head, putting black entrepreneurs amid a debate over how
to right history's wrongs without upending business. South African
Program Draws Fire. Critics Maintain Economic Policy for Black
Empowerment Benefits a Few Who Already Are Successful
South_Africa  affirmative_action  public_policy  entrepreneur  economic_empowerment 
march 2011 by jerryking
The City as a Problem - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
Mar 11 2011 | The Atlantic | Ta-Nehisi Coates. "Given that
Detroit story is now up, I wanted to give another shout out to two books
which really helped me find my way. The first is Thomas Sugrue's The
Origins Of The Urban Crisis. If you have any interest in the history of
cities, this book is required reading....I'd also toss in Robert Conot's
problematic American Odyssey. It's the best overall history of Detroit
I've read.
Detroit  cities  race_relations  urban_decline  racism  gentrification  Ta-Nehisi_Coates  origin_story  public_policy  books  root_cause 
march 2011 by jerryking
Obama Administration Begins Policy on Start-Ups - NYTimes.com
January 31, 2011, 5:19 pm
The Administration Starts Its Start-Up Policy
By STEVE LOHR
industrial_policies  public_policy  start_ups  Kauffman_Foundation  Obama 
february 2011 by jerryking
Don't Try This at Home
SEPT. / OCT. 2010 | Foreign Policy | BY MARGARET O'MARA. I've
met with officials from Bangalore, Barcelona, Chennai, Dublin, Fukuoka,
Helsinki, Shenzhen, Stockholm, and many American cities as well. They
all want to know the same thing: How did the Valley do it? And how can
we duplicate its success? Unfortunately, there are a lot of wrong ways
to go about building the next Silicon Valley...Yet I still have a hard
time convincing the never-ending delegations of urban planners of the
importance of the other, broader things government can do, like
liberalizing immigration rules and creating an environment full of
educational opportunities and start-up capital for untested young
entrepreneurs. This simply doesn't resonate for many of the would-be
silicon cities being constructed by the Russias and Chinas of the world;
with their long histories of centralized control, they are still
convinced they can order up success.
cities  public_policy  location  innovation  top-down  centralized_control  Russia  China  urban_planning  Silicon_Valley 
september 2010 by jerryking
It’s innovation that matters
June 11, 2010 | The Globe & Mail | by Roger Martin, Dean -
Rotman, U of T, Chair - Institute for Competitiveness &Prosperity.
Our public policies designed to increase innovation aren’t working –
and this is because we confuse “innovation” with “invention.” The terms
are actually very different. Invention can be defined as “creation or
discovery of something new to the world,” often producer-driven,
following an inventor’s curiosity or expertise. While new, inventions
may not have any real use. Innovation is customer-driven, providing a
new product or process that adds value to somebody’s life. Innovations
improve economic or social well-being. Innovations are often built from
inventions....Innovation creates value in several ways, such as enabling
consumers to do something that had been impossible or difficult, or at a
lower cost, either by delivering the same benefits as existing
offerings, but at a lower price, or by maintaining the price but
reducing the overall costs of use.
innovation  innovation_policies  Roger_Martin  Rotman  uToronto  Four_Seasons  Harlequin  Manulife  public_policy  inventions  customer-driven  demand-driven 
june 2010 by jerryking
Op-Ed Contributor - Moynihan’s Message - NYTimes.com
May 28, 2010 | NYT | By JAMES T. PATTERSON. FORTY-FIVE years
ago this month, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan
began quietly circulating a report he had recently completed, “The
Negro Family: The Case for National Action” , about the “tangle of
pathology” — out-of-wedlock births, fatherless households — damaging
low-income black families...."Meanwhile Moynihan’s pessimistic
prophecies have come true. In 1965, a quarter of nonwhite births in the
United States were out of wedlock, eight times the proportion among
whites. Today the proportion of nonmarital births among non-Hispanic
blacks exceeds 72 %, compared with a proportion among non-Hispanic
whites of around 28 %.

Only 38 % of black children now live with married parents, compared with
three-quarters of non-Hispanic white children. Many boys in fatherless
families drop out of school, fail to find living-wage work and turn to
idleness or crime. Many girls become poverty-stricken single mothers
themselves. "
op-ed  African-Americans  race_relations  public_policy  Daniel_Moynihan  poverty  fatherhood  out-of-wedlock  family_breakdown  low-income 
may 2010 by jerryking
National Affairs
The magazine, focuses on the bloody crossroads where social
science and public policy meet matters of morality, culture and virtue.
Recommended by NYT columnist David Brooks.
public_policy  government  popular_culture  economics  politicaleconomy  David_Brooks 
october 2009 by jerryking
Op-Ed Columnist - The Bloody Crossroads - NYTimes.com
September 7, 2009 | New York Times | by By DAVID BROOKS. “At
root, in almost every area of public concern,” James Q. Wilson wrote in
the 20th anniversary issue, “we are seeking to induce persons to act
virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants to public assistance,
would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials.”
David_Brooks  public_policy 
september 2009 by jerryking
Designs on Policy
July 19, 2009 | Allison Arieff Blog - NYTimes.com | Allison Arieff
design  policy  inspiration  ideas  public_policy 
july 2009 by jerryking
Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum - Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
April 2, 2009 | Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum

First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science (Paperback)
by Howard Burton (Author) . It's an account of how the Perimeter Institute was built from scratch.

This year’s testimonial dinner was held on April 2, 2009, and honoured several Canadian leaders, including Mike Lazaridis, Founder and Board Chair of Perimeter Institute, who conveyed the importance of long-term thinking by those involved with shaping policy relating to science and technology. The following text, building on those remarks as reported by the national media, shares the messages provided to the PPF.
+++++++++++++++

So imagine this story. A granting council has been tasked with driving the economy, really building commerce and commercializing technology and doing important things for the country. And so, of course, what are they thinking? They’re thinking we need more horses, we need better ways to clean up the streets, and we need to figure out ways to build better stagecoaches and carriages. Now this physicist comes into the room and he sits down. And they ask him, "Dr. Einstein, why are you here?" He says, "Oh, I’d like to have an office and a stipend." "For what?" they want to know. So he explains, "Well, I need a desk and blackboard and maybe a shelf for my books and my papers. And I need a small stipend, so I can go to a few scientific conferences around the world and have a few postdoctoral researchers." They ask, "Why?" And he says: "Well, I have these ideas about light and it’s very complicated, but light can …" And the council members start wondering, "What’s that got to do with horses?"

So, that gentleman actually had to go and get a day job. He went to work at a patent office, where he came up with, a few years later, the four most important papers of all time. Ideas that transformed everything we knew and put mankind in a new direction. He came up with one of the basic ideas leading to quantum technology, when he predicted the quantum properties of light, explaining an observation called the photo-electric effect. He came up with special relativity, a new understanding of space and time. He also discovered that mass and energy are the same thing at a fundamental level. By thinking and calculating the way he did, he came up with E=mc2, the most famous equation of all time. These discoveries, over time, led to nuclear energy, semiconductors, computers, lasers, medical imaging, DVDs and much more. The powerful ideas happened from pure thought and research by someone who basically would have had to give up a comfortable salary at the patent office to take a research or teaching position at a university.

Now let’s fast-forward to today. We have all these issues. We’re running out of energy any way you slice it. And the energy sources that we have today are changing our climate and the environment catastrophically and irreparably. At the same time, we have this enormous need for value creation because our financial system basically ran onto a coral reef. We’re taking on debt to try to get ourselves off the reef, and there’s all this need for value creation and innovation. It’s kind of staring us in the face.

We only have to flashback to that gentleman thinking about light to realize that we need to fund our scientists and our researchers and our students. We not only need to fund them imaginatively, we need to have faith that what they are doing is going to be important in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, and that we haven’t got a chance of understanding its relevance today.

And so we need to be very careful with policy, not to try to put everything in short-term context – not to try to figure out how something is only relevant today – because, if we do, we will make a mistake. We will go the wrong way. We will be investing in horses, carriages, and cleaning manure in the streets instead of fostering the research that can give rise to an idea or super technology that’s going to change the world.

Right now, there is some pandemonium in physics because we are running up against some paradoxes and some data that don’t make any sense. For example, Moore’s Law, which describes the miniaturization of computer chips, will reach its limit in 10 years. Everything we built our telecommunications industry and information age on is going to hit this limit, if we don’t find a new base. We need a new discovery. It’s going to happen, and we need to put major investments in these esoteric studies like quantum computing, quantum information science, quantum gravity, string theory and other areas, because I can guarantee you that one of the discoveries that will emerge is going to solve one of those scientific paradoxes and make sense of that weird data. And when that happens, 20 or 30 years from now, you won’t recognize things.
Albert_Einstein  Blackberry  books  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  first_principle  fundamental_discoveries  Mike_Lazaridis  miniaturization  Moore's_Law  paradoxes  Perimeter_Institute  physicists  public_policy  quantum_computing  RIM  semiconductors 
april 2009 by jerryking
globeandmail.com - As one experiment ends, a new one begins for Policy Wiki
Jan. 27, 2009 G&M article by Mathew Ingram touting the
Public Policy Wiki, a G&M joint venture with the Dominion Institute.
Web_2.0  UFSC  social_networking  MBAs  public_policy  public_sector  Mathew_Ingram 
january 2009 by jerryking
The renaissance of state intervention
September 19, 2008 G&M editorial on the U.S. government
being forced to be pragmatic and commonsensical in approach to dealing
with the banks.
crisis  editorials  Keynesian  public_policy  state-as-facilitator  state_capitalism 
january 2009 by jerryking
CD's Best of the Web / The piano man and the economic crisis
Rick Salutin op-ed piece on the irony of free market Steve
Harper running for office at time when government intervention is
becoming increasingly popular.
Rick_Salutin  Stephen_Harper  public_policy  state_capitalism 
january 2009 by jerryking
The return of regulation, and what a difference a decade makes
September 19, 2008 op-ed piece in the G&M by Eric Helleiner
on the changes to the financial world and the increased prominence of
the state.
economics  crisis  regulation  public_policy  state_capitalism 
january 2009 by jerryking

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