December 31, 2011

Questions About Organic Produce and Sustainability -

The 'organic' fad may not be sustainable as demand for products year-round seems to be creating an environmental strain in those areas where factory-scale organic farms supply U.S. supermarkets.

I think 'organic' foods have not been demonstrated to provide health benefits that justify their high prices. Instead, 'organic' serves mostly as emotional comfort food for those who can afford it.

Buying local, however, makes more sense whether organic or not because the purchase provides direct support for local farmers who work hard to make ends meet.
"...But even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.
The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here [Mexico's Baja Peninsula], for example, is putting stress on the water table. In some areas, wells have run dry this year, meaning that small subsistence farmers cannot grow crops. And the organic tomatoes end up in an energy-intensive global distribution chain that takes them as far as New York and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, producing significant emissions that contribute to global warming..."

December 27, 2011

The Anti-Entitlement Strategy -

Romney has set out his ideas about the role of government in our lives. Should Romney be the Republican candidate facing Obama, his stance of the proper role of (big) government will be a key element in the ideological battle to be waged.

With Romney as the Candidate, it'll be Wall Street Baron vs. Community Organizer and all the baggage those terms carry.

Already the liberal opinionators are setting out the opposite view which Obama is certain to include in his campaign. Here's the view of a professor at the Columbia Jounalism School, a liberal bastion. 

Here's another view, Beyond the Welfare State, by Yuval Levin

December 26, 2011

A Gloomy New Year and Beyond

Much of my current reading promotes little optimism for the future of the United States economy, at least as it is defined by job creation and employment. The viability of our present political system, long term, is doubtful. We seem to be dysfunctional in many domains including economic, political, and cultural aggravated by a leadership vacuum that portends little positive change for the foreseeable future.

Some of my reading:

...and of course the daily slurp from the Times, the Journal, the TV talking heads and other online sources.

I believe we are in the midst of a substantial economic dislocation driven by the rapid and pervasive creation and adoption of technology by businesses, large and small. This accelerating trend means that fewer workers are required to deliver higher productivity in our economy. The resulting systemic upheaval means that not only ours, but the world's economy can produce goods and services with far less human capital than has been required historically. The result of a declining need for workers and increases in output creates societal and political strains that may lead to massive changes that we are ill-prepared to cope with. Government aid and backstops may be insufficient to deal with the magnitude of this change.

I hope to write more on this topic before the start of the new year.

December 25, 2011

How Harvard Shaped Mitt Romney -

Could we read anecdotes and vignettes from President Obama's years as a college student? Are there none or are they being suppressed?
"...Invited to give a presentation on balancing work and family, he [Mitt Romney] began by telling students that they were like multinational corporations, recalled Clayton M. Christensen, who organized the event. “You have the same question as General Electric,” said Mr. Romney, then a young father and a management consultant. “Your resources are your time and talent. How are you going to deploy them?”"

December 24, 2011

The Browser Wars 2010-2011

What a difference a year makes in the browser world! I use Chrome mostly with occasional forays into Firefox and Internet Explorer. IE continues to lose market share to Chrome while Firefox and Safari are relatively stable.

December 21, 2011

BP abandons solar quest - MarketWatch First Take - MarketWatch

Smart business people make rational economic decisions. Kudos to BP. Meanwhile, politicians pander to the alternative energy proponents and spend our tax dollars to do it. A lump of coal for them this Christmas.
"...Despite all the negative fallout from its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP has had huge success developing deepwater oil fields around the world. This, combined with high oil prices, is the engine driving BP’s profits.
Bob Dudley, the current American-born CEO of London-based BP, is clearly taking the company back to its roots in the oil patch. And when sizing up China, vanishing government funding and a world apparently more alarmed about the economy than the environment, he’s found it hard to justify BP’s dabbling in solar power.
Some day the oil industry will have to revisit alternative energy in a big way. They all know it. But, just like in government, it’s easier to kick that can down the road for future generations to deal with.
But for the time being, old fashioned oil-field profits are just too good to get sidetracked by all that solar stuff. Besides, it will likely be many years before history shows whose vision was the right one -- Browne’s, Dudley’s or China’s..."

Tribe Believes that SOPA Violates the First Amendment

I haven't been following the ins and outs of the proposed SOPA legislation, but I hope to read this respected legal opinion when times are quieter. Tribe Legis Memo on SOPA 12-6-11 1

December 19, 2011

AT&T Drops T-Mobile USA Deal -

Do 'go-backward' plans exist? 'Go-forward' plans must be the current 'corporate speak.'

 "T-Mobile USA chief executive Philipp Humm urged his staff Monday to remain upbeat. "We have an opportunity to write our own future," he wrote in an internal memo. "The leadership team and I will be meeting intensively in the next few weeks on our 'go-forward' plans for the business.""

IBM's 2011 Big Five Predictions

December 16, 2011

Congress Occupied Wall Street First!

Think what you will about Sarah Palin who has taken a back seat to others in the media recently. Congress is a problem that needs a remedy. Here's the reasons why.

I have always laid blame with Congress rather than the President for our fiscal pain because they are in control of spending under our Constitution. 
How Congress Occupied Wall Street
Politicians who arrive in Washington as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires. Why?

Mark Twain famously wrote, "There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."
Peter Schweizer's new book, "Throw Them All Out," reveals this permanent political class in all its arrogant glory. (Full disclosure: Mr. Schweizer is employed by my political action committee as a foreign-policy adviser.)
Mr. Schweizer answers the questions so many of us have asked. I addressed this in a speech in Iowa last Labor Day weekend.
How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?
How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us?
How do politicians' stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers'?
I answered the question in that speech: Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.


The money-making opportunities for politicians are myriad, and Mr. Schweizer details the most lucrative methods: accepting sweetheart gifts of IPO stock from companies seeking to influence legislation, practicing insider trading with nonpublic government information, earmarking projects that benefit personal real estate holdings, and even subtly extorting campaign donations through the threat of legislation unfavorable to an industry. The list goes on and on, and it's sickening. [emphasis added]

Astonishingly, none of this is technically illegal, at least not for Congress.Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us. That includes laws that protect whistleblowers (nothing prevents members of Congress from retaliating against staffers who shine light on corruption) and Freedom of Information Act requests (it's easier to get classified documents from the CIA than from a congressional office).

The corruption isn't confined to one political party or just a few bad apples. It's an endemic problem encompassing leadership on both sides of the aisle.
It's an entire system of public servants feathering their own nests.

None of this surprises me. I've been fighting this type of corruption and cronyism my entire political career. For years Alaskans suspected that our lawmakers and state administrators were in the pockets of the big oil companies to the detriment of ordinary Alaskans. We knew we were being taken for a ride, but it took FBI wiretaps to finally capture lawmakers in the act of selling their votes. In the wake of politicos being carted off to prison, my administration enacted reforms based on transparency and accountability to prevent this from happening again.

We were successful because we had the righteous indignation of Alaskan citizens on our side. Our good ol' boy political class in Juneau was definitely not with us. Business was good for them, so why would they want to end "business as usual"? The moment you threaten to strip politicians of their legal graft, they'll moan that they can't govern effectively without it. Perhaps they'll gravitate toward reform, but often their idea of reform is to limit the right of "We the people" to exercise our freedom of speech in the political process.

I've learned from local, state and national political experience that the only solution to entrenched corruption is sudden and relentless reform. Sudden because our permanent political class is adept at changing the subject to divert the public's attention—and we can no longer afford to be indifferent to this system of graft when our country is going bankrupt. Reform must be relentless because fighting corruption is like a game of whack-a-mole. You knock it down in one area only to see it pop up in another.

What are the solutions? We need reform that provides real transparency. Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act like everyone else. We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year. All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.

We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws. Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren't really blind because they're managed by family members or friends.)

No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors.
No gifts of IPO shares. No trading of stocks related to committee assignments.
No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit.
No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session.
No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office.
No more revolving door, ever.

This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this.
The tea party's mission has always been opposition to waste and crony capitalism, and the Occupy protesters must realize that Washington politicians have been "Occupying Wall Street" long before anyone pitched a tent in Zuccotti Park.

Ms. Palin, a former governor of Alaska, was the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008.'

Amazon: We're selling over 1 million Kindles per week | Nanotech - The Circuits Blog - CNET News

Amazon seems to have struck a sweet spot with consumers, leading to rumors that Apple will launch a similar sized tablet sometime next year. I have a Kindle Fire and it performs as advertised. I can do what I want with it as long as I'm tolerant of its quirks. It's not fat finger friendly, but tolerable.

I don't regret shelling out the 200 bucks for it. It's quick, quirky and easy to use. Could it be improved? Of course, but at what price?

Amazon has a winner here.

 ""For the third week in a row, customers are purchasing well over 1 million Kindle devices per week, and Kindle Fire remains the #1 bestselling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on since its introduction 11 weeks ago," the company said."

December 14, 2011

Google Working On Siri Response Codenamed Majel; Aiming For End of Year Release

I love it! The computing horsepower provided by the cloud enables this wonderful world of voice activation for all that we seek to know and do!
Go Apple! Go Google! Go Microsoft!

"“Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just Computer.”"

Gmail Calling Stays Free Through 2012 | PCWorld

Wonderful, useful, and Google Voice remains FREE for another year! I love it.

"...The main difference between Gmail and Skype is that Google allows users to call mobile phones and landlines for free, whereas Skype only allows free calls to other Skype accounts. Skype, however, offers mobile apps for calling other users. Google doesn't offer any free voice calling on mobile phones. Both services charge for international calls...."

December 13, 2011

Speed of Light Lingers in Face of M.I.T. Media Lab Camera -

In the early 1960s, I worked in a laboratory that used Doc Edgerton's ultra high speed strobe lights to measure the elongation (and breaking strength via deflection of a pendulum of know mass and period) of nylon cargo parachute webbing. It was a simple method to capture stretching/elongation characteristics of the various webbing samples sent to us by the Army and the Air Force. 

We set up a camera in a pitch black room and fired a projectile from a compressed air gun into a V-shaped webbing sample. When the projectile struck the webbing, the strobe light flashed at a very high rate. This created multiple exposures on the film.

We developed the photographs and measured (with a ruler!) the elongation as the webbing stretched to the breaking point from the impact of the projectile. A simple but effective way to determine the 'stretch' of each sample.
"More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk.
Now scientists at M.I.T.’s Media Lab are using an ultrafast imaging system to capture light itself as it passes through liquids and objects, in effect snapping a picture in less than two-trillionths of a second.
The project began as a whimsical effort to literally see around corners — by capturing reflected light and then computing the paths of the returning light, thereby building images coming from rooms that would otherwise not be directly visible."

December 9, 2011

The Gingrich Tragedy -

Now that Mr. Gingrich has surged in the polls and is now the front runner, the gloves are coming off as the Republican 'establishment' aims to take him down a peg or two. Noonan in the Wall Street Journal today and here by David Brooks.

Fascinating to observe this pre-primary battle for the Republican nomination. Lots of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth as we watch Democracy at work! It is truly entrancing to watch grass roots Republicans/conservatives take on the 'establishment' Republicans/conservatives who clearly believe that Speaker Gingrich is unfit to serve as President.

"But they have very different temperaments. Romney, Levin observes, has an executive temperament — organization, discipline, calm and restraint. Gingrich has a revolutionary temperament — intensity, energy, disorganization and a tendency to see everything as a cataclysmic clash requiring a radical response.
I’d make a slightly similar point more rudely. In the two main Republican contenders, we have one man, Romney, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1950s, and another, Gingrich, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s. He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with ’60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form."

December 8, 2011

The Health Risks Of Being Left-Handed -

The Health Risks Of Being Left-Handed -

A fascinating story in the WSJ (may be behind the paywall) about the research and implications of left-handedness.
 "•Six of the last 12 U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush, have been lefties.
• Left-handed people earn on average 10% lower salaries than righties, according to a recent study. Findings of some earlier studies on income have been mixed.
•Despite popular misperceptions, lefties aren't more accident prone than right-handed people and don't tend to die at a younger age.
•Left-handedness has been linked to increased risk of certain neurodevelopmental disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD. Mixed-handedness is even more strongly associated with ADHD.
•Most people's brains have a dominant side. More symmetrical brains of mixed-handed people may explain the link to some neural disorders."

December 7, 2011

Blagovich Sentenced!

Bravo! Seems justice has been done.

from the Wall Street Journal (may be behind the paywall):
"A federal judge sentenced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison nearly three years after he was arrested and charged with a wide-ranging corruption spree that included trying to auction off President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Mr. Blagojevich, a onetime rising star in the Democratic party whose media-driven defense included stints on reality TV and a book tour, was convicted on 18 counts of corruption."

December 4, 2011

The Eurozone 's Stark Choices

Below is an excerpt from writings of John Mauldin, <> a financial analyst which sums up the choices facing the EuroZone. December 9 is shaping up as a very big day for Europe and world financial markets.

"...Merkel and Sarkozy have told us they will meet Monday and announce a plan on December 9, when the full eurozone meets. Forget bazookas, this needs the equivalent of a howitzer. They are seemingly intent upon rewriting the treaty, which is the only way that the Germans will go along with any major ECB action. But by my reckoning, a few hundred billion, or even a trillion, is not major action, at least not on the level of what will be needed.
The price for German acquiescence will be a loss of sovereignty and the ability to run deficits of any real size for any appreciable length of time for the countries of Europe. Will the peripheral countries go along? Heck, forget them; will Finland go along? This situation has been coming along since the foundation of the eurozone. The early founders acknowledged that a tighter fiscal union would eventually be necessary if the euro experiment were to survive. And eventually is now. As in this month. Time is running out if they want to forestall a credit crisis that would be worse than 2008.
The world is watching, as what happens in Europe will affect us all, in every part of the globe. It could easily tip the US into recession, and it will only be worse for the emerging markets. For Europe, the Endgame is now. We can only hope they come up with a plan that avoids disorderly defaults and a crisis far graver than 2008. They have no good choices, only difficult ones and disastrous ones. Let us hope they choose wisely.
(And for my fellow Americans, note that we will face the same consequences if we do not get our own house in order, and very soon. This is more than an academic observation.)" [emphasis added]

Internet Access and the New Divide -

This story begins with a recounting that Cyber Monday's online sales volume in 2011 exceeded that of Black Friday's retail sales setting a new record. I thought I'd read about the good news that America's online experience was only getting better. Nope. We've got to do better...
 "Such numbers may seem proof that America is, indeed, online. But they mask an emerging division, one that has worrisome implications for our economy and society. Increasingly, we are a country in which only the urban and suburban well-off have truly high-speed Internet access, while the rest — the poor and the working class — either cannot afford access or use restricted wireless access as their only connection to the Internet. As our jobs, entertainment, politics and even health care move online, millions are at risk of being left behind."
Now, further into the story, Ms Crawford suggests it's time for regulators to intervene and fix the digital divide.
"IT doesn’t have to be this way, as a growing number of countries demonstrate. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks America 12th among developed nations for wired Internet access, and it is safe to assume that high prices have played a role in lowering our standing. So America, the country that invented the Internet and still leads the world in telecommunications innovation, is lagging far behind in actual use of that technology.
The answer to this puzzle is regulatory policy. Over the last 10 years, we have deregulated high-speed Internet access in the hope that competition among providers would protect consumers. The result? We now have neither a functioning competitive market for high-speed wired Internet access nor government oversight.
By contrast, governments that have intervened in high-speed Internet markets have seen higher numbers of people adopting the technology, doing so earlier and at lower subscription charges. Many of these countries have required telecommunications providers to sell access to parts of their networks to competitors at regulated rates, so that competition can lower prices."

But how will this happen? Will regulation be combined with government subsidies to build fiber optic networks to every home, which Ms Crawford suggests is the 'right' technology? She doesn't describe the new economics underlying the regulatory policy she believes is necessary. Lot's of advocacy, but little detail and the devil is always in the details.

I can hear the screams now from many quarters, "Don't regulate my Internet"

The fact is that the costs of fiber to the home for all of America are just too high unless there is long term revenue to pay for it.

One only has to look at Burlington, Vermont (in my backyard) for an example of a first rate fiber-to-the-premise system, built and managed by a city of 40,000, that cannot support itself because the costs of construction far exceeded estimates and the take rate of cable, voice and high speed Internet services provides insufficient revenue to pay for the costs of construction (debt service) and operations.

It will be fascinating to learn what Google's experience will be in Kansas City where they will do a similar thing.

In America's last century, we built a nationwide telephone system as a tightly regulated monopoly with massive internal subsidies for high cost areas. That regulatory model won't be repeated in this century, so I'm at a loss to understand what 'regulatory policy' will build an 'affordable' fiber network to everyone's home. Please elaborate, Ms Crawford.

December 1, 2011

The Personal Computer Is Dead - Technology Review

A lawyer/technolgist's take on the swing to 'closed gardens' of smartphones, particularly Apple's practices and how different the present and future is from the 'old' days of the open PC. Will government step in or is competition sufficient to keep the markets open?
 "The PC is dead. Rising numbers of mobile, lightweight, cloud-centric devices don't merely represent a change in form factor. Rather, we're seeing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers on the one hand, to operating system vendors on the other—and even those who keep their PCs are being swept along. This is a little for the better, and much for the worse."

'via Blog this'

November 30, 2011

Stocks Surge After Central Banks’ Action on Debt Crisis -

Sounds like another big bank bailout to me! Let's see what all the talking heads have to say.

 "“They are trying to prevent them from seizing up global liquidity and capital flows and impacting banks and financial institutions throughout the world,” he said.
Burt White, the chief investment officer for LPL Financial, called the liquidity move “a Band-Aid.”
“It helps to prop up the banks for a while, which is going to buy time for Europe to fix the problem,” he said.
The jump in stocks was also an extension of the turmoil and volatility that have weighed on global markets for more than a year."

'via Blog this'

Radio Interview with a High School Classmate

A fascinating radio interview with a high school friend, Michael Manoogian, who went to the RI School of Design then moved to LA to become a first rate logo designer.

Listen to internet radio with Help 2 Succeed on Blog Talk Radio

U.S.Now a Net Exporter of Oil-Based Fuels

[This story is behind the WSJ paywall, so access may be limited]
An interesting and potent development for the U.S., a net importer of refined oil-based products for more than 60 years. I wonder about the economics of this. We are still a huge importer of crude oil at 9 million barrels per day. Yet, after refining, we turn an increasingly larger portion of that into exported products like gasoline and diesel fuel.
Does it make economic sense to ship crude oil here and then turn around and ship refined products abroad? If the prices remain high for refined products, transportation costs must be of less consequence than previously with efficient and massive supertankers. The exports to developing economies must be priced high enough to turn a profit or companies would not do it . Intuitively it seems to make more sense to build and operate refineries closer to the source of the crude oil supplies and the customers for refined products, for maximum efficiency and profitability.
"U.S. exports of gasoline, diesel and other oil-based fuels are soaring, putting the nation on track to be a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 for the first time in 62 years.
A combination of booming demand from emerging markets and faltering domestic activity means the U.S. is exporting more fuel than it imports, upending the historical norm.
According to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday, the U.S. sent abroad 753.4 million barrels of everything from gasoline to jet fuel in the first nine months of this year, while it imported 689.4 million barrels.
That the U.S. is shipping out more fuel than it brings in is significant because the nation has for decades been a voracious energy consumer. It took in huge quantities of not only crude oil from the Middle East but also refined fuels from Europe, Latin America and elsewhere to help run its factories and cars."
USEXPORTS"As recently as 2005, the U.S. imported nearly 900 million barrels more of petroleum products than it exported. Since then the deficit has been steadily shrinking until finally disappearing last fall, and analysts say the country will not lose its "net exporter" tag anytime soon."

November 29, 2011

Secret Fed Loans Helped Banks Net $13B - Bloomberg

A fascinating, well researched story by Bloomberg of the massive bailout of banks during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the secrecy surrounding it. Kudos to Bloomberg and their authors and editors for doing this. Clearly, the financial system was in jeopardy at the time and bold action was necessary. It's the secrecy that surrounded it that we find so egregious along with the fact that far too many bankers and the industry in general benefited to an unwarranted degree.

I'm no financial expert, but it seems to me that the finance industry and the Fed were in cahoots to keep Congress in the dark and, for the most part, impotent during this crisis. One could argue that haste was necessary and a dysfunctional Congress could not be trusted to do the right thing in a speedy fashion. Yet, what does it say about the resiliency of our democracy in time of crisis?

Sadly, these world-rattling events have further relegated Congress to irrelevancy in a time of financial crisis. We continue to see more of it with failure of the Super Committee to rationally rein in the deficits and debt, part of which arose from the frantic efforts to save the big banks and the financial system from collapse.

 "The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.
The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue."

'via Blog this'

November 26, 2011

Banks Build Contingencies for Euro Zone Breakup -

Markets rule, not Governments!
 "On Friday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Belgium’s credit standing to AA from AA+, saying it might not be able to cut its towering debt load any time soon. Ratings agencies this week cautioned that France could lose its AAA rating if the crisis grew. On Thursday, agencies lowered the ratings of Portugal and Hungary to junk.
While European leaders still say there is no need to draw up a Plan B, some of the world’s biggest banks, and their supervisors, are doing just that."

'via Blog this'

November 22, 2011

The Two Moons -

David Brooks provides a clear explanation of the political funk we're in, but fails to to offer a way out, except via a fiscal calamity.
 "...Ronald Brownstein summarized the underlying typography recently in The National Journal: “In Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor polls over the past two years, up to 40 percent of Americans have consistently expressed support for the conservative view that government is more the problem than the solution for the nation’s challenges; about another 30 percent have backed the Democratic view that government must take an active role in the economy; and the remaining 30 percent are agnostic. They are open to government activism in theory but skeptical it will help them in practice.”
In these circumstances, both parties have developed minority mentalities. The Republicans feel oppressed by the cultural establishment, and Democrats feel oppressed by the corporate establishment. They embrace the mental habits that have always been adopted by those who feel themselves resisting the onslaught of a dominant culture..."

'via Blog this'

xkcd: Money Chart

xkcd: Money Chart:

A hat tip to The Big Picture for this massive money chart. Check out website to see various comical stuff if you enjoy their humor.

November 21, 2011

How Do You Spell Dysfunctional?

BULLSHIT  is the proper noun for this statement from the co-chairs of the Select/Special/Super Committee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction in the next 10 years as reported in the WSJ (see below).

Obama is the easy target, but it's our Congress that has failed us. No visible leadership will stand up and vote what must be done to correct our fiscal path. The only credible voice, IMHO, is Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives. He speaks truth. Most of he rest speak nothing but empty partisan rhetoric. Will the real leaders please stand up?

Deficit Panel Leaders Fail to Reach Deal

"WASHINGTON — After one last bout of fitful but futile talks, Congressional negotiators conceded the obvious: that the joint Congressional committee charged with drafting a deficit reduction package would miss its deadline this week. But they did not quite give up the ghost of a chance that a solution might be found later.
“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” said a statement issued late in the afternoon by Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the panel’s Republican and Democratic co-chairs.
“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” they said. “We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”"

November 20, 2011

VJ Day Video in Hawaii

A special thank-you to my childhood friend, Mike, now an accomplished graphics artist, for sharing this superb video of the spontaneous celebration when the news broke in August 1945 that Japan had surrendered after years of of bitter warfare in the Pacific region.

As a child, I distinctly remember my father celebrating by blasting the leaves off a tree in the yard with his shotgun. America was ecstatic after so much bloodshed and sacrifice by the 'Greatest Generation' in WWII.

VJ Day, Honolulu Hawaii, August 14, 1945 from Richard Sullivan on Vimeo.

November 15, 2011

Search can't scale without social, and Bing has Facebook and Twitter on its side | TechRepublic

The massive amount of information that humankind creates is becoming evermore difficult for search engines to master. This story examines what Bing and Google are up to to.
" throughout all of human history up until 2003 we created 5 exabytes of data (five billion gigabytes). We now create that much every day. In 2011, we’ll create 1.8 zettabytes of data (a zettabyte is a 1000 exabytes). That’s up from 1.2 zettabytes in 2010, and we’ll be creating over 20 times that by 2020."

'via Blog this'

November 13, 2011

Face Recognition Moves From Sci-Fi to Social Media -

People have no inherent right to anonymity that I can find in our Constitution. Nevertheless, we all hope that we can have it in this electronic age. In my view, our anonymity evaporated the day we ordered Caller ID or began participating on the Internet. You can pretend to be anonymous, but that's a pipe dream given today's data mining technology.
 "...As SceneTap suggests, techniques like facial detection, which perceives human faces but does not identify specific individuals, and facial recognition, which does identify individuals, are poised to become the next big thing for personalized marketing and smart phones. That is great news for companies that want to tailor services to customers, and not so great news for people who cherish their privacy. The spread of such technology — essentially, the democratization of surveillance — may herald the end of anonymity..."
Facial recognition is but one more tool available, now to the masses of cell phone camera users, that drives the nail in coffin of Mr. and Ms Anonymity. Or I suppose we could all wear masks or burkas.

'via Blog this'

A Gold Rush of Subsidies in Clean Energy Search -

Corporate welfare based more on ideology than realistic economics is not good for America's fiscal health. Any policy that builds in a no-fail parameter is simply bad public policy, except for projects that are for the military, or health, or the environment, or... pick your favorite.

"...The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google..."

'via Blog this'

November 12, 2011

Scuffer Syndrome Ends

Our male Airedale Terrier, Scuffer (age 9), several years ago was infected with Lyme Disease. The primary symptom was an inability to walk normally. His rear end would not function properly and he would drag himself along with mostly his fore legs. This 2006 video shows how it affects him.He also will sometimes cry in pain when he moves. He had a few episodes of this starting in 2005, but for the past 2-3 years he showed no symptoms.

For the past few days, the 'Scuffer Syndrome' reappeared. Today, he's normal again. We remain puzzled as to what causes this and the vets are baffled, too. Even an MRI shows no abnormalities that would cause this behavior. I think it may be neurological triggered by episodic infections somehow associated with the Lyme disease.

But we are so thankful that he seems to have returned to normal. I took him for a short walk on leash this afternoon and he was the normal Airedale we love.

Italy Struggles with Austerity, Growth, Debt and New Leadership

Italy's politics are far more complicated than ours. This brief summary of the austerity and stimulus measures shows how deeply ingrained is patronage and spending. Italy would benefit enormously if people just paid their legitimate taxes. It's estimated that tax avoidance/evasion in the 'shadow economy' is 22.3% of Italy's GDP.( From this link"According to a 2007 paper by Austrian economist Friedrich Schneider, the shadow economy in Italy accounted for 22.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), that of Spain 19.3%; Portugal 19.2% and Greece a staggering 25.1%. By comparison, the U.S. shadow economy was 7.2% of GDP. A recent European Union report came up with similar figures.")

"...The measures are aimed at reducing Italy’s $2.6 trillion public debt and increasing growth by selling $21 billion worth of state assets and increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65 by 2026. It also would loosen the power of professional guilds, liberalize municipal services and offer tax breaks for infrastructure and companies that hire young workers..."

Click here for more details of the various changes that are being voted by the Italian parliament.

November 11, 2011

The Inequality Map -

I had never experienced the humorous side of David Brooks. This is hilarious AND poignant.

 "Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”"

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Obama Administration Delays Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline -

TeamObama punts an important decision, seemingly for political reasons. Will the real leaders please stand up?
"“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”"

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European economies: Europe's deepening crisis | The Economist

European economies: Europe's deepening crisis | The Economist:

Contains a map of Europe including the Euro zone and how other countries' currencies are connected ...or not. Norway, Switzerland and Great Britain seem less affected.

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November 10, 2011

Google Buys Contextual Rich News Browsing Startup Apture To Beef Up Chrome | TechCrunch

My blog incorporates Apture. Highlight a word or phrase and Apture will enable you to click on other media sources to increase the richness of the content. It's a really robust service. Google is wise to buy them and incorporate their technology.

 "Apture Highlights allows you to highlight any word or phrase on a page and instantly bring up search results in a window. The startup brings results from 60-plus sources including YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, Google and more for extra context around content. The browser add-on is available for Chrome, Firefox and Apple’s Safari browsers. In fact, more than a billion pages a month are enhanced with Apture, says Harris.
Apture’s business model also offered publishers a white-label version of Apture Highlights, which is being used by Scribd, The Financial Times, Reuters,, ScientificAmerican,, and Times of India. Publisher simply insert a line of Javascript code, and readers can then access an HTML-based overlay that acts like a minitiature browser that enables readers to find and explore related multimedia content without leaving the original page"

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The Affordable Housing Scam - Reason Magazine

The Affordable Housing Scam - Reason Magazine:

John McClaughry's excellent review of the recent book, Reckless Endangerment, provides a realistic appraisal of the leaders, groups and  and policies that moved the appealing notion of expanding home ownership as a part of the American Dream to the near-collapse of the banking system and the economy. This is well worth reading for a thumbnail sketch of how the mess unfolded. Good work, John.
 "The thesis of Reckless Endangerment is simple: In a rush to orchestrate affordable home ownership—and generate enormous profits—politicians, government-sponsored enterprises, pusillanimous regulators, greedy mortgage brokers, and profit-chasing Wall Street investment bankers combined to drive the American economy into its worst crisis in 70 years, saddling taxpayers with trillions of dollars of debt and leaving the financial landscape littered with the wreckage of ruined lenders, borrowers, and taxpayers."

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Taking Aim at Internet Rules -

The New York Times supports more regulation of the Internet pathways that are provided by private companies. Thankfully, they are not owned by the Government. These are not monopolies and the heavy hand of regulation is not needed. The term  'telecommunications services' that they argue includes the Internet is an artifact of a bygone age when voice communications were essentially a monopoly, thus needed regulation.
To bring back this anachronism and support regulation of the Internet is an unnecessary impediment. Should I be surprised given that the NY Times essentially has become a mouthpiece for TeamObama?
 "The Republican approach goes back to 2002, when the F.C.C., under the Bush administration, made the bizarre decision that broadband Internet communications were not, in fact, telecommunication services under the law. Last year, the F.C.C. had the opportunity to redefine broadband as a telecommunications service, which would allow greater regulatory oversight. Regrettably, it chose not to, and instead passed a limited set of rules that did not ban the practice of paying to move content faster and largely exempted wireless broadband services."

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November 8, 2011

Bailey: Are Super PACs to political parties as asteroids were to dinosaurs?

The fundamental truth in all this is that ‘money is the mother’s milk of politics.’ Always has been and will continue to be. The present system of political parties adds great comfort to the politicians and voters who embrace them. Politicians have a source of ideological and financial support and too many voters are relieved of the responsibility of thinking for themselves.

When information and money are no longer the exclusive domain of the traditional political parties, over time maybe we’ll see the end of partisan and ideological gridlock. Perhaps a new paradigm will emerge truly based on free speech and the money to distribute ideas and positions unhindered by antiquated party machinery. Such an unintended consequence may indeed benefit the Republic.

"We are all aware of the theory of unintended consequences. Most, if not all of us, have had a direct experience with this concept. Generally speaking, unintended consequences can be grouped into three categories:
  • Unexpected benefit.
  • Unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy.
  • A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended.
Depending on your perspective, each of the three may be happening due to the 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. In short, this decision allows unlimited spending during campaigns as long as that spending is done completely outside of an individual candidate’s campaign or in coordination with the political party that he/she is affiliated with."

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End Bonuses for Bankers -

I favor less regulation rather than more for most business activity, but the Wall Street bailouts by the Federal government have persuaded me that this has led to yet more severe excesses in the finance sector.

Taleb's simple proposal makes eminently good sense. The bonus excesses, particularly in 2010, simply are not warranted given the bailout these bankers received during the collapse of the risk markets in 2008/2009. 
 "The promise of “no more bailouts,” enshrined in last year’s Wall Street reform law, is just that — a promise. The financiers (and their lawyers) will always stay one step ahead of the regulators. No one really knows what will happen the next time a giant bank goes bust because of its misunderstanding of risk.
Instead, it’s time for a fundamental reform: Any person who works for a company that, regardless of its current financial health, would require a taxpayer-financed bailout if it failed, should not get a bonus, ever. In fact, all pay at systemically important financial institutions — big banks, but also some insurance companies and even huge hedge funds — should be strictly regulated."

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November 7, 2011

Excerpt: Mike Mayo's Exile on Wall Street -

A recently popular opinion from one of the few analysts who early on called out the banking sector for too-risky investments/activities and was chastised for it before the bottom fell out of bank stocks and the financial crisis precipitated by their house of cards.

"To fix the banking sector, should we rely more on government regulation and oversight or let the market figure it out? Tougher rules or more capitalism? Right now, we have the worst of both worlds. We have a purportedly capitalistic system with a lot of rules that are not strictly enforced, and when things go wrong, the government steps in to protect banks from the market consequences of their own worst decisions. To me, that's not capitalism."

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November 5, 2011

Milton Friedman on Capitalism and the Nature of Man

Milton Friedman understood the fundamental nature of man and his arguments for the economic/political system they should live under...capitalism... is only rebutted by idealists, who wish for something different, not realists. The argument is really about which worldview one embraces: a.) man is inherently good and with the proper governance, can become better; or b.) man is fundamentally wired to pursue his own self interest.

If the latter, then capitalism is the correct approach (as Russia and China have discovered). If the former, as present Europe situation portrays and the failed Russian and Chinese models have shown (socialism, communism), failure is inevitable, because it (the socialist state) is not affordable and, as history has shown, is doomed to fail.

United States Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions

This would appear to be good news, but how much of the carbon reduction is from the economic slowdown vs. serious efforts to reduce emissions?
"For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years."

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November 1, 2011

Growing-Gap-Between-Contributions-and-Benefits-for-Social-Security-and-Medicare-August-2011.jpg (809×452)

Despite the facts shown on the chart below, our Vermont Senator Bernie ('Outrageous') Sanders makes outlandish statements like this: "...The truth is that the Social Security Trust Fund has run surpluses for the last quarter century. Today’s $2.5 trillion cushion is projected to grow to $4 trillion in 2023. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, experts in this area, say Social Security will be able to pay every nickel owed to every eligible beneficiary until 2039...."

He implies that the 'Trust Fund' is in good shape neglecting to say that the assets have been loaned to the Government and used for other purposes. The assets are mostly IOUs from the Government. Unless spending is controlled in all areas of Government, the risk increases that these IOUs may not be paid in full because the country may not be able to meet all its obligations. The 'full faith and credit' of the U.S. is not as rock-solid as it was.

Much more here. Sen. Sanders' rhetoric does a disservice to reality.

Here's a link to a great chart on SS prospects in the years ahead from the Washington Post.

State officials say Irene transportation repairs will cost less than half what they anticipated

I have long maintained that Vermont's very high 'transaction costs' (the overheads including regulatory and environmental compliance, permitting, administrative and judicial delays for reviews, appeals, etc.) that are incurred to build anything of consequence in this state add unnecessary delays, expense and increase the costs of doing business here.

The exceptional work done recovering from Irene's damage shows that Vermont could be far more efficient in using tax and private dollars. A wise Legislature would revamp how Vermont does business and set the state on a path of economic growth by reducing the wasteful burden created by a ponderous and expensive process that adds little value to our investments.
"...The dramatic shift brings the overall estimate of Irene damage built into state estimates well below the roughly $900 million mark state officials were citing in mid-October. The new grand total is about $500 million and includes $250 million for new emergency and long-term highway repair costs, $50 million to construct a new Vermont State Hospital, $50 million for stabilizing the old state office complex and renovating or building new space, about $19 million in individual assistance and $140 million in repairs to town roads, bridges and public facilities..."
"...The state also saved millions of dollars by taking short cuts during the post-Irene emergency that normally would be prohibited under state and federal laws. The standard pre-construction procedures for road and bridge repair were abandoned in order to expedite the process, according to Sue Minter, deputy commissioner of the Agency of Transportation. The processes that are normally followed for transportation projects — federal and state permitting, environmental mitigation, design review, planning, right-of-way purchases – went by the wayside..." 
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October 31, 2011

Halloween Snowstorm in New London NH

At a friend's home for the weekend in New London, NH, we awoke to find that our cars had accumulated a February-like 'dusting.' No trick-or-treaters that night!

October 29, 2011

ARM CTO Predicts Chips the Size of Blood Cells | PCWorld

Technology gallops on, nano-technolgy and rapid advances in manufacturing processes yielding incredible miniaturization and capabilities. Now if we could only find a way to charge all those batteries effectively without wires...

"In less than a decade, that smartphone you're holding could have 32 times the memory, 20 times the bandwidth and a microprocessor core no bigger than a red blood cell, the CTO of chip design company ARM said on Thursday...."

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The Divider vs. the Thinker -

Sounds like a statement that thoughtful Occupy Wall Street folks could buy into and adopt as their own. But it comes from a conservative Republican who understands our national disease and speaks openly about it.
"Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are "corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society.""

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October 27, 2011

My Droid 2 Now Working with my Home WiFi

I previously reported problems connecting to my home Wifi network on a Motorola users forum.  My D2 worked fine on open WiFi or other encrypted networks tested. I determined, with help from several posts on the forum, that my D2 did not like the old (2003 vintage) WPA encryption on my Microsoft wireless router. I tried WEP and D2 didn't like that either. There were no firmware upgrades. MS got out of the WiFi hardware business years ago.

Today, I installed a Belkin 750 DB wireless router with WPA/WPA2 encryption and now the D2 connection is solid. Obviously, the recent upgrade to Gingerbread was the culprit...or Moto's implementation of it... because Froyo had no problems connecting on the MS hardware.

In any event, automatic smartphone software upgrades should be backward-compatible with all encrypted WiFi networks because there are so many of them out there.