Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

People film with their phones and cameras during a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.
Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy. Above, people film with their phones and cameras during a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.


Shelter the focus at Venice Architecture Biennale, by Joel Dullroy

The Venice Architecture Biennale is usually a showcase of prestigious architecture projects from around the world, but Germany’s entry this year has taken a different angle, focusing instead on simple shelters used to house asylum seekers.

Emily Dickinson’s garden, “native” plants, and climate change, by Janet Marinelli

A plant from the homestead of poet Emily Dickinson is challenging basic precepts of conservation practice, such as what is the definition of “native”? Are climate refugees that hitchhike north via horticulture less worthy of protection than plants that arrive on their own? Do they pose a threat to existing native species? Should native plant gardening, the domestic form of assisted migration, be used to help plants stranded in inhospitable habitat?

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy, by J.R. Wu

On the anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on student-led protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Taiwan’s new president told China that democracy is nothing to fear, and Taiwan could serve as an example to China.


Hong Kong activists split over Tiananmen Square, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

For the first time, Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, eschewed the Victoria Park demonstrations over the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising and killings. Instead, it focused on democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

Polls: The good, the bad and the ugly, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda column

A few suggestions about what to watch out for in political polls: how you can tell a good one from a bad one, and why you never, ever, ever bet your house on one poll only.


Christopher Park/ ProPublica
Christopher Park/ ProPublica

Gunfight in Guatemala: and insider’s tale of Latin America corruption. By Sebastian Rotella

Big or small, leftist or rightist, rich or poor, with only a few exceptions, Latin American nations struggle with a crime problem that threatens political stability and security; many are in a struggle between the rule of man and the rule of law. This is one man’s story in the large, long-running war.



This fall’s US presidential election will affect the world. Barring a cosmic event or supernatural intervention, Republican Donald Trump will be pitted against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. A campaign milestone  —  the Democratic party primary in California — will occur Tuesday June 7. Some polls place Sanders and Clinton in a statistical tie. The latest developments include a remarkable letter released Friday by Green party contender Jill Stein urging Californians to support Bernie Sanders, unless already registered with the Green party,  to support “the agenda of economic and racial justice shared by Bernie’s and my campaigns.” Robert Reich, one of Sanders’ most vocal supporters, urged Democrats to put aside their differences no matter who wins. “I can’t criticize anyone for voting their conscience, of course. But your conscience should know that a decision not to vote for Hillary, should she become the Democratic nominee, is a de facto decision to help Donald Trump,” he wrote on his blog.

Follow the campaigns at these credible outlets: New York Times; Politico; Reuters; Bloombergthe BBC; the Guardian; the Economist.  Here are the campaign pages for Sanders, Clinton, and  Trump.  America’s two dominant parties are not the only ones in the running, though all others typically are ignored by pundits and political journalists and — in a Catch 22 — receive precious few votes. Here are the pages for the Green’s likely presidential candidate Stein, and for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party.


This is good: Muhammad Ali, a feature and a video documentary on the New York Times about the fighter who died this week.

“Muhammad Ali was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who transcended sports and helped define his turbulent times. He entertained with his mouth as much as his fists, narrating a life of brash self-confidence full of religious, political and social stances.”

And THIS is surprising, and important: A criticism of neoliberalism by, of all organizations,  the International Money Fund

Neoliberalism: Oversold? Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion….

There has been a strong and widespread global trend toward neoliberalism since the 1980s, according to a composite index that measures the extent to which countries introduced competition in various spheres of economic activity to foster economic growth….

“There is much to cheer … however:

“An assessment of these specificpolicies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:

•The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.­

•The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.­

•Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.­…

As Maurice Obstfeld (1998) has noted, “economic theory leaves no doubt about the potential advantages” of capital account liberalization, which is also sometimes called financial openness. It can allow the international capital market to channel world savings to their most productive uses across the globe. Developing economies with little capital can borrow to finance investment, thereby promoting their economic growth without requiring sharp increases in their own saving. But Obstfeld also pointed to the “genuine hazards” of openness to foreign financial flows and concluded that “this duality of benefits and risks is inescapable in the real world.” (my emphasis.)  Visit the IMF site to read the  analysis 


Note to our readers: F&O’s weekly blog post was delayed this weekend by a technical glitch. Thanks for your patience.

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