September 30, 2011

Amazon's Silk Browser Plays Another Role -

Amazon's SILK browser is a VERY big deal. Expect others who have committed to cloud computing to emulate it.

"...All this is possible now in part because Silk is only inside the Fire tablet, and connects to Amazon’s cloud. But in learning how better to manage cloud tasks — a little computing here in the hand, a lot of computing up there in the cloud — Amazon is gaining precious skills in newer forms of computer science brought on by the cloud era. For a long time, most programming problems were defined by how much processing power you had. That’s why you used to hear so much about powerful chips and now you don’t. With the advent of the cloud, the amount of processing power for most problems isn’t the issue; correctly apportioning tasks and making millions of servers work together is..."

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September 28, 2011

Vermont Tiger: Facing the Inevitable

Tom Pelham, Vermont’s budget commissioner in the Dean administration and tax commissioner in the Douglas administration, has it right in his advice to Congress and particularly, to Vermont's Congressional delegation. It's time for leadership, not politics to reshape our national fiscal insanity.

"...America needs leaders, of all political stripes, to accept responsibility for their accumulated budget deficits and enact remedies in scale with the problem. Tax reform, tax increases and budget cuts must come first, thus freeing Americans to look to the future knowing how much more of their cash, both corporate and individual, the government will take and how much will be left for investment and consumption that can reawaken the economy and create jobs.

Vermont’s Congressional delegation should reject President Obama’s American Jobs Plan. It’s a political prop diverting attention, effort and scarce tax revenues from the more essential task of right sizing our federal government and calming fears about a profligate and irresponsible Washington..."

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September 26, 2011

Vermont Tiger: "Electric Cars" - Still Shorted to Ground (cont.)

Well worth reading the full posting by Dan Foty. We simply cannot become victims to the hype that flows from the fervent advocates when reality tells a different story.

"The continuing attempts to overcome basic physics and basic engineering with ideology and money-throwing raise a deeper concern: Is this a serious symptom of a more-fundamental problem? One can be alarmed that we've reached a point now where we are overstaffed with people who have spent their entire adult lives cocooned in a world where pure talk is both the objective and the end - people who have never had to wrestle with real-world constraints and the limitations imposed by brute matter.... and who thus seem to believe that any nice-sounding outcome can be brought into being by fine talk and fervent wishing."

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September 25, 2011

Brutal Haqqani Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan -

From this article and other reports, I conclude that the chances of a political settlement in Afghanistan are negligible. We simply cannot deal with the radical Islamists, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because they have more to gain by waiting until we tire of the war.

So much agony and death, so few options.

"...But as Washington struggles to broker an endgame for the Afghan war, there is widespread doubt about whether the Haqqanis will negotiate, and whether their patrons in Islamabad will even let them. After a decade of war, there is a growing sense among America’s diplomats, soldiers and spies that the United States is getting out of Afghanistan without ever figuring out how a maddeningly complex game is played.

“Is there any formula for Pakistan to agree to stop supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and instead help broker and be satisfied with a political settlement?” asked Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as both America’s top military commander in Afghanistan and its ambassador to the country.

“We don’t know the answer to that question,” he said."

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September 24, 2011

The Weekend Interview with Robert Lucas: Chicago Economics on Trial -

A good piece by Mr. Jenkins well worth reading. The notion of 'rational expectations' rings soundly for me as a possible explanation why the economy remains in the doldrums.
"Let's face it, the "Chicago School" of economics—the one with all the Nobel Prizes, the one associated with Milton Friedman, the one known for its t

rust of markets and skepticism about government—has taken a drubbing in certain quarters since the subprime crisis.

Sure, the critique depends on misinterpreting what the word "efficient" means, as in the "efficient markets hypothesis." Never mind. The Chicago school ought to be roaring back today on another of its great contributions, "rational expectations," which does so much to illuminate why government policy is failing to stimulate the economy back to life..."

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More Trouble for Groupon IPO: Groupon Restates Revenue, COO Exits -

This announcement should alert investors to be very wary should Groupon initiate an IPO. Was this high flying company cooking the books?

"On Friday, Groupon said it would change what it books as revenue after discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It will now only count as revenue its commission on sales, rather than the total value of an online coupon. Previously, when it sold a restaurant gift certificate for $10, for instance, it would book the full amount, even though a portion went to the business owner.

That change reduces Groupon's stated revenue for 2010 to $312.9 million, down from the $713.4 million previously reported.

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September 23, 2011

Mullen - Pakistan’s Spy Agency Supported U.S. Embassy Attack -

Such bold and frank talk by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signals to me that the U.S. may be considering some bold move in Pakistan.

"“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani Army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence,” he said. “They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet.

“By exporting violence, they’ve eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being.”"

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September 21, 2011

Why Even Resolute Dieters Often Fail -

This article is well worth reading if you, as I,  struggle to manage body weight. I can relate to its advice and conclusions.

"If you’ve been trying for years to lose unwanted pounds and keep them off, unrealistic goals may be the reason you’ve failed. It turns out that a long-used rule of weight loss — reduce 3,500 calories (or burn an extra 3,500) to lose one pound of body fat — is incorrect and can ultimately doom determined dieters."

"...According to the researchers, it is easy to gain weight unwittingly from a very small imbalance in the number of calories consumed over calories used. Just 10 extra calories a day is all it takes to raise the body weight of the average person by 20 pounds in 30 years, the authors wrote.
Furthermore, the same increase in calories will result in more pounds gained by a heavier person than by a lean one — and a greater proportion of the weight gained by the heavier person will be body fat. This happens because lean tissue (muscles, bones and organs) uses more calories than the same weight of fat..."

September 19, 2011

Obama Deficit Plan Cuts Entitlements and Raises Taxes on Rich -

Even without the partisan rancor surrounding this proposal, let's put TeamObama's deficit plan in perspective.

The Obama budget previously submitted to Congress for the ten years 2012-2021 totals $45.95 Trillion in spending which creates additional cumulative deficits of $7.2 Trillion. A $3 Trillion reduction amounts to a 6.5% reduction in total spending. The cumulative budget deficits would shrink to $4.2 Trillion and the national debt would rise to approximately $18+ Trillion.

Too bad the article didn't include this relevant information. But political rhetoric and often the media echo chamber fail to give us the full story in order to shape our views. 

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September 17, 2011

Stephen Moore: The Obama Promise—Then and Now -

When will politicians become leaders instead of over-promising their ability to accomplish massive goals to gain votes or schmooze their constituencies? As increasing numbers of people lose confidence in the promises of their 'leaders,' hope dwindles and the other party gains voters.

TeamObama has failed the country because they failed to understand the realities that David Brooks at the NY Times portrayed earlier in the week. He argues that Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t." [emphasis added]

Obama's inexperience and collectivist ideology fail him as a leader; his rhetoric has done him in.

"Barack Obama now faces perhaps his most politically crippling deficit of all: a credibility deficit.
That observation is reflected in the latest Bloomberg poll, which finds that on the heels of his big jobs speech last Thursday night, more than half of Americans (51%) do not believe the president's claim that this latest $447 billion spend-and-tax-or-borrow scheme will create new jobs.
"As the economy has gotten worse, people have stopped listening to Obama and his speeches are no longer an asset, they're a liability," concludes Kellyanne Conway, president of the Polling Company. That is because the gulf between three years of rhetoric and reality is so gigantic..."

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Windows 8: How Microsoft's PC Overhaul Will Take on Apple's iPad | PCWorld

This reviewer believes that Microsoft has a shot at becoming a serious Apple competitor with its new Windows 8 that will run on tablets and desktops. This may be so in the long run, but for the next two years, Android tablets will be the only competition for the iPad.

"Whereas iOS gets out of the way, Windows 8 wants to be part of the action, connecting apps in ways that the iPad does not. Whether that's actually useful depends on developers and the apps they create. At the very least, Windows 8 has gone in a different direction from the iPad's other competitors. It doesn't simply rely on having more apps than the iPad or a better interface for moving between them--as Apple's other competitors have proven, those battles are lost from the start. It instead tries to improve the very nature of apps by connecting them to each other, to the OS, and to the cloud."

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September 16, 2011

The Planning Fallacy - David Brooks NYT 09/16/11

David Brooks delivers an unwelcome but thoughtful message about the ability of government to manage and move a system as complex as the economy and the resulting disappointments of the governed. We are subjected to far too much political rhetoric these days that is based on the quest for power and control ignoring the reality of the economy's complexity. Brooks argues that, at its best, government is effective on discrete problems, but quick fixes to systemic issues with a myriad of influencing factors cannot be assured.

"...The key to wisdom in these circumstances is to make the distinction between discrete good and systemic good. When you are in the grip of a big, complex mess, you have the power to do discrete good but probably not systemic good.
When you are the president in a financial crisis, you have the power to pave roads and hire teachers. That will reduce the suffering of real people who would otherwise be jobless. You have the power to streamline regulations and reduce tax burdens. That will induce a bit more hiring and activity. These are real contributions.
But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.
Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t." [emphasis added]

September 14, 2011

Vermont's Infrastructure Repair Costs

News from The Associated Press:

The AP story excerpt below suggests the state infrastructure repair costs will be $300-500 million, not including local repair costs, according to Vermont's Secretary of Transportation. Let's say the total is ~$600 million to include local damage. This is a large number to be sure and the recovery will not be rapid given the widespread damage and cannot begin to measure the disruption in the lives of Vermonters.

But let's put this in some perspective. The news lately is replete with the immensity of the U.S. national debt and continued deficits as far as the eye can see. The $14 trillion debt required interest payments in 2010 of $413,954,825,362.17 . If Vermont's infrastructure repair costs are ~$600 million, that represents a mere 0.14% of last year's interest on the nation's debt. BIG is certainly in the eye of the beholder!

"MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Fixing the infrastructure carnage left by Tropical Storm Irene will cost between $300 million to $500 million, Vermont's transportation secretary told lawmakers Tuesday, giving the first public estimates of the cost of repairing dozens of bridges, roads and culverts wrecked in flooding."

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September 13, 2011

Passport Control at JFK

We returned to the U.S. on Monday, September 12 and were greeted very warmly by an officer who checked our passports. He asked how long we had been out of the country and when we told him three weeks, he replied: "Welcome back home. Well, you were lucky to have missed those Vermont floods." Yes, we were fortunate that Irene caused only minor damage at our home (one small tree down in the yard).

It was gratifying and refreshing that this officer (I didn't get his name) was warm, friendly and chatty. His attitude and demeanor reflected well on Homeland Security, unlike so many customs and immigration officials we have encountered here and abroad.