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  • Samuel Culbert on Unions and Ineffective Performance Reviews Samuel Culbert  warns that by taking away collective bargaining rights from public unions, employees will be subject to unfair treatment; performance reviews are currently the gold standard for determining promotion, but Culbert, a professor at UCLA's management school, has studied them and found they are generally "subjective evaluations that measure how 'comfortable' a boss is with an employee, not how much an employee contributes to overall results." In the New York Times today, Culbert explains that instead of cultivating new ideas for production, performance reviews result in employees simply saying whatever they think will make the boss happy--and the boss's opinion of an employee is unlikely to change based on performance, but rather remains a subjective reflection of the boss's preference.  Culbert clarifies that while there may be economic justifications for limiting collective bargaining rights for such workers, "the idea that it will lead to a fairer system of rewarding employees, to the benefit of taxpayers, should not automatically be counted as one of them."
  • Peter Preston on Pakistan, the State Not Being Liberated  In the midst of feelings of hope for democracy in the uprising Middle East nations, the Guardian's Peter Preston brings the attention back to Pakistan, where democracy and hope are more diminished than ever in the wake of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani minister for minorities. Preston points out that Bhatti's murder is just one in a recent string of attacks against those who oppose Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws. "Taliban extremism claims more victims every day. But the real problem is that, across Pakistan, ordinary people taught by ordinary mullahs to reach extraordinary conclusions, have come to side with the blasphemy laws as well." he explains. Preston concludes grimly that no one will do anything to reverse the violent order of things in Pakistan and that "if Cairo adds a spoonful of hope, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad bring only the recipes of despair."
  • Martin Wolf on Predicting Oil Shocks in the Middle East At the Financial Times today, Martin Wolf notes just how unknown the outcome of the Middle East uprisings is. As oil is the main commodity for most of the countries currently tied up in turmoil, Wolf predicts a significant but brief oil shock, clarifying that "the long-run implications seem much more significant than the economic ones. But such optimism about the short-term economic effects depends, in part, on the assumption that the further spread of unrest is now contained." The fact that unrest actually has the potential to spread to the furthest reaches of the Arab world, and beyond, makes accurate prediction nearly impossible.
  • John Ackerman on Improving U.S./Mexico Relations Mexican President Felipe Calderon comes to Washington this week, and Ackerman, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, expresses concern over Mexicans' poor opinion of United States, partly a result of the U.S.'s passive role in drug-related violence there. "A recent global survey conducted by the BBC revealed that only 13 percent of the population has a 'mainly positive' view of the U.S.’s worldwide influence, while 49 percent has a 'mainly negative”' one," Ackerman reports, while "of the 28 countries surveyed only Pakistan and Turkey have stronger anti-American sentiment." He warns about the Mexican people's repudiation of the not only Calderon, but the United States, and suggests two solutions. Radical: "The reduction, or outright legalization, of the consumption of marijuana in the U.S." Practical: "The prohibition of the sale of assault weapons," which expired and was not renewed in Congress in 2004. Right now American supply of weapons and demand for drugs is getting Mexican civilians killed.
  • Brendan O'Neill on Charlie Sheen's 'Stand' Against the 'Therapy Police' Everyone wants a piece of Charlie Sheen, don't they? O'Neill doesn't mince words in The Telegraph: "Charlie Sheen is my hero...because he refuses to allow his behaviour to be psychologised." He's a "one-man army" against the "tyranny of therapy" that O'Neill thinks has the "twenty-first-century in its grip." He notes how everyone from journalists to doctors to have tried to diagnose Sheen from a distance. Says O'Neill:  "normal emotions and failings are relentlessly psychologised today." O'Neill argues that "Sheen is rebelling against the super-conformist modern narrative of weak individuals who need to be saved by psycho-priests." What does O'Neill think we can learn from this? "Sheen nicely reminds us that we alone are responsible for our behaviour, and that we alone can improve ourselves, when we’re ready."

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