October 30, 2010

The Next Two Years - NYTimes.com

The Next Two Years - NYTimes.com:

David Brooks attempts to give advice to President Obama for the next two yewars to repair his sorrowful Presidency. His advice is good, but I fear TeamObama will not embrace it because they are ideologically and politically driven to foster government as the solution rather than the individual and do not embrace the idea or American exceptionalism.

For example, I doubt they understand or will respond to Brooks' third suggestion because their primary political base expects government largess and redistribution of wealth.

"Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America’s best days are behind it. The public’s real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy. Obama will have to propose policies that re-establish the link between effort and reward."

October 25, 2010

A Sensible Approach to Help People Trust Their Congress

This has been making the rounds on the Web for some time now. I have received it at least a half dozen times.  These simple words resonate with millions of people because people are fed up with Congressional excess.

I know it's not this simple and passing 'a law' will not cure abuses of power and ego-driven politicians. However, it's a position statement deserving an answer from all sitting and aspiring Congressmen/women. They should be asked to defend or reject it and their reasons for their position.

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

          1. Term Limits.
             12 years only, one of the possible options below.
             A. Two Six-year Senate terms
             B. Six Two-year House terms
             C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

          2.  No Tenure / No Pension.
          A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no
pay when they are out of office.

          3.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social
          All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the
Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social
Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

          4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all
Americans do.

          5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

          6. Congress loses their current health care system and
participates in the same health care system as the American people.

          7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the
American people.

          8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void
effective 1/1/11.
          The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.
          Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

October 22, 2010

Bloggers in the Middle East: Don't be too cheeky | The Economist

Bloggers in the Middle East: Don't be too cheeky | The Economist:

Islamic culture does not inspire openness, transparency or true democratic freedom of speech given the evidence of crackdowns on bloggers by governments in Muslim countries. China is another bad actor in this regard.

Repressive governments are afraid of dissent and losing control and power.

"Iran is far from alone in locking up bloggers. Governments across the Middle East are increasingly twitchy about their citizens’ online activities. As internet use in the region has soared—up 19-fold since 2000, compared with a fivefold rise in the rest of the world, according to Internet World Stats, which monitors global internet usage—so the number jailed for what they do on the web has shot up too."

October 14, 2010

U.S. Is Facilitating Afghan-Taliban Contacts, Say Officials - WSJ.com

U.S. Is Facilitating Afghan-Taliban Contacts, Say Officials - WSJ.com:

It's pretty clear to me that U.S. policy is shifting in Afghanistan so TeamObama will not have Afghanistan hanging around their necks as did the Johnson presidency with Viet Nam.

The equally, perhaps more, important consideration is Pakistan and the instability in that government. This is a very volatile part of the world and America must have an effective counter strategy to combat radical Islamic terrorists and their supporters should we find a way to make a quick exit from Afghanistan.

"U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have facilitated the passage of senior Taliban leaders to Kabul for talks with President Hamid Karzai's government, signaling a shift by the U.S. to more active support of Afghan reconciliation efforts.

The U.S. military has said in the past that Mr. Karzai's efforts to broker peace with the Taliban were premature.

But a senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization official said the allied force was now offering direct help for preliminary peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which has strong influence in big swaths of the country.

'We have indeed facilitated, to various degrees, the contacts between these senior Taliban members to the highest levels of the Afghan government,' the NATO official said."

October 11, 2010

Web Upgrade HTML 5 May Weaken Privacy - NYTimes.com

Web Upgrade HTML 5 May Weaken Privacy - NYTimes.com:

The cycle is never ending. New technology promises greater user convenience and capabilities. While we have an advertising model supporting the 'information wants to be free' expectation of the Internet, that convenience comes with a privacy price.

Please, gurus and privacy wonks, get this as right as you can. I certainly don't want government regulation of this domain. That will be worse than the abuses we may complain about.

"In the next few years, a powerful new suite of capabilities will become available to Web developers that could give marketers and advertisers access to many more details about computer users’ online activities. Nearly everyone who uses the Internet will face the privacy risks that come with those capabilities, which are an integral part of the Web language that will soon power the Internet: HTML 5."

October 9, 2010

Mobile Internet Will Rule Within 5 Years, Analysts Say

Mobile Internet Will Rule Within 5 Years, Analysts Say

Projections of future technology trends nearly always miss the mark when they become too specific, but this gathering momentum to embrace the mobile internet is right on the money. We want more mobile, convenient and powerful devices. Time to invest in battery technology and suppliers or is it too late??

October 5, 2010

The Fed is dead, maybe by 2012 Paul B. Farrell - MarketWatch

Farrell pulls no punches in this piece. His bottom line message:
"...So who can you trust? Nobody, not me, not even Taleb. Why? In the final analysis the Buddha said it best: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
Unfortunately, America is losing its capacity to reason, its common sense, its values, its vision of the future. More of us need to trust Taleb’s “simple metric.”

Taleb, who wrote the Black Swan (I highly recommend this book), has this yardstick:
Did someone predict the last crisis before it happened? ... If the answer is no, I don’t want to hear what the person says. If the person saw the crisis coming, then I want to hear what they have to say’.”
Farrell's dismal scenario [which fails to include other, possibly earth-shaking, dramatic events triggered by terrorism and the likely intensifying clash of Islam and other world religions]:
Stage 1: The Democrats just put the nail in their coffin confirming they’re wimps when they refused to force the GOP to filibuster Bush tax cuts for billionaires.
Stage 2: In the elections the GOP takes over the House, expanding its strategic war to destroy Obama with its policy of “complete gridlock” and “shutting down government.”
Stage 3: Post-election Obama goes lame-duck, buried in subpoenas and vetoes.
Stage 4: In 2012, the GOP wins back the White House and Senate. Health care returns to insurers. Free-market financial deregulation returns. Lobbyists intensify their anarchy.
Stage 5: Before the end of the second term of the new GOP president, Washington is totally corrupted by unlimited, anonymous donations from billionaires and lobbyists. Wall Street’s Happy Conspiracy triggers the third catastrophic meltdown of the 21st century that Robert Shiller of “Irrational Exuberance” fame predicts, resulting in defaults of dollar-denominated debt and the dollar’s demise as the world’s reserve currency.
Stage 6: The Second American Revolution explodes into a brutal full-scale class war with the middle class leading a widespread rebellion against the out-of-touch, out-of-control Happy Conspiracy sabotaging America from within.
Stage 7: The domestic class warfare is exaggerated as the Pentagon’s global warnings play out: That by 2020 “an ancient pattern of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies would emerge” worldwide and “warfare is defining human life.”
In this rapidly unfolding scenario, the Fed cannot survive. Why? Not because the Fed is at the center of America’s economic problems, beyond repair, a dying institution. But because the Fed is a pawn of Wall Street’s Happy Conspiracy, which is incapable of seeing the train wreck that it set up.
This out-of-control, conspiracy of greedy Wall Street bankers, corporate CEOs, corrupt politicians and Forbes 400 billionaires will, in the near future, trigger the third catastrophic meltdown of the 21st century, a collapse that paradoxically can transform America into a new, stronger post-capitalist economy … but only after a revolution and brutal class warfare. But few will talk about what’s coming.

October 3, 2010

Is Anything Pushing Consumer Confidence Buttons? -- Seeking Alpha

Is Anything Pushing Consumer Confidence Buttons? -- Seeking Alpha:

Watch the spin! The economy is not in good shape yet we are fed different views depending on the spinner's motive.
"Economists and Presidents expend effort to pump perceptions of the economy. One of President Obama’s initial errors was to bad talk the economy – and the equities market reacted accordingly. Leadership is unable to be candid about the economy. Data needs to be spun.

Even the economic analysis pumped out by the investing industry is spun to the point that the reader’s understanding is distorted. It might be that the population which does not read or listen to news might have a better understanding of economic conditions then those that listen to the news. Do the higher educated let distorted data override observation?"