March 29, 2012


TINPOTI! (There Is No privacy On The Internet).

A friend sent me a summary of all the privacy invasions that are happening or now possible on the reply:

I never had expectations of any privacy. Hackers are too clever and corporations mine data to foster marketing and advertising. This has been going on since 'Al Gore invented the internet' and it was commercialized in the 90's.
The pace is picking up as technology improves dramatically and nearly everyone uses the 'net.
Think about the enormous power of the NSA software that can collect, manage, filter and comb through all the data and find actionable nuggets in the counter-terrorism effort. Think, also, how effective (so far)this massive effort has been in preventing a second 9/11 in the U.S.
How much privacy are we willing to trade for security? The answer doesn't matter much because, well...TINPOTI!

March 28, 2012

U.S. Outgunned in Hacker War -

 "Shawn Henry, who is preparing to leave the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau, said in an interview that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is "unsustainable.'' Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them, he said."
'Open Source' and 'Secure Networks' in the same sentence seems, well, oxymoronish! Brilliant hackers seem always one step ahead of the white hats. My view has been that some white hats are also grey/black hats on their own time.

Deficit Reduction Budget Proposals

(Chart from the WSJ March 28, 2012)

The House plans for deficit reduction make more sense than TeamObama's proposal, which is more a political creation than a fiscally responsible budget. Of course, all budgets in an election year are political, but the U.S. must reduce reliance on debt to fund programs and operations. The present course puts us in "Greek mode.'

Cuts are essential, but a revenue increase via a bold revision of the tax code and entitlements reform are necessary to change Congressional spending habits and expectations of Americans. I favor the House GOP Plan.

March 17, 2012

The Quest for Creating Jobs - Wrong Thinking

When Jim Clifton Chairman and CEO of Gallup (the polling people) author of The Coming Jobs War, was asked: What obstacles do leaders have when trying to create more jobs?"

"There are no real obstacles. Just wrong thinking, bad assumptions. When you build strategies and policies on wrong assumptions, the more you execute, the worse you make everything, which is what we are doing now. There are three wrong assumptions that cause all the current job creation attempts to not work.

1. "Innovation is not scarce. Entrepreneurship is scarce. We are spending billions and wasting years of conversations on innovation and it isn't paying off. Great business people are more valuable and rarer than great ideas.

2. "America has about six million active businesses. Ninety-nine percent of them are small businesses. An incalculably huge mistake leaders are making now is spending time, money, strategies, and especially policies for those who need 'help' getting a job. A useful way to look at any citizen is this, 'Can she herself create jobs or does she need a job created for her?' We are spending all our time on the cart and doing little or nothing on the horse. We have our assumptions and futurism that backward. 'The horse (small and medium business) stopped, so we fix the cart (jobs).' If we change all our strategies and policies to favor the job creators (small and medium businesses) the horse and cart will get moving again. We have our compassion right, but the logic is staggeringly stupid.

3. "It is wrong thinking to imagine that Washington has solutions. Job creation is a city problem. There is great variation in job creation by city in the United States. San Francisco and the greater Valley keep pumping away while Detroit isn't. Austin's cart works while Albany's doesn't. Cities need to look inwardly and say, 'What can I do to create great economic energy, to bring new customers for all existing companies and start-ups?'"

March 14, 2012

The power and reach of Pinterest is neatly captured in this infographic. I joined, but have hardly used it.

Pinterest Data You Can't Ignore: The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest [infographic]
Add caption

March 12, 2012

How Windows 8 Tablets Could Seriously Challenge the iPad

Microsoft has a lot riding on this launch of a new operating system. They'll need strong hardware manufacturers to adopt Windows 8 to create a compelling alternative to the new iPad. I think I'll wait for the new Win8 tablets.

I truly like the desktop PC experience, but for traveling and RVing, a new tablet would be handy. I'd want to be able to connect to a projector. Hopefully the new Win8 hardware will have appropriate I/O ports.

Meanwhile, I'm very pleased with my Amazon Kindle Fire and my smartphone for those times when I'm not chained to my desktop.

.."Could the tablet market’s dark horse be a Windows 8 device? It’s possible, but it hinges entirely on how consumers respond to the new user interface, Metro.
The thrust of Windows 8 — and why it’s such a big gamble my[sic] Microsoft — is that it brings the same UI to tablets and traditional PCs (desktops and laptops). Metro is ideally suited for touchscreens, but it works with a mouse and keyboard, too. (Here’s a full breakdown of Windows 8.)
There’s a reason Microsoft has done this, and it’s not really the spirit of bringing tablet features to your laptop. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In order to have any hope of succeeding in tablets, Microsoft has to convince its army of Windows developers to make software for those tablets. [emphasis added] But no one’s going to develop software for an unproven OS where the company has seen little commercial success (no current Windows tablet has significant market share)..."
"...Microsoft needs to get Metro 100% right if Windows 8 tablets are going to have any hope. If users like Metro, then the developers will follow, and a real ecosystem will emerge. If not, the iPad will probably be the only tablet worth talking about for a long, long time. "

Gas prices sink Obama’s ratings on economy; bring parity to race for White House - The Washington Post

Somewhere out there in the media cloud we'll read some speculation that high gas prices is a Republican plot from Big Oil interests designed to unseat TeamObama. Nasty speculators are obviously trying to orchestrate his defeat in this rabid election year.

Or, that Obama secretly likes high gas prices so that alternative energy zealots and environmentalists will be mollified and more subsidies can flow to the renewables industry to save the planet while more campaign contributions will flow to Obama's re-election coffers.
OTH, perhaps it's part of a normal economic cycle of supply and increasing world demand exacerbated by threats that the flow from Iran will be disrupted either by boycotts or military actions.

Ahhhh...the politics of economics, a never ending clash of campaign reality with the dismal science and fodder for pundits.
"Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement, and they highlight the political sensitivity of rising gas prices."

March 11, 2012

U.S. Energy Policy Sen. Leahy Correspondence

March 11, 2011
Dear Sen. Leahy,

Thanks for keeping me informed about your Senate votes and views on energy policy.

I respectfully disagree with your anti-fossil fuel stance. It's abundantly clear that oil, gas and coal will remain the primary energy sources in this country in our children's and grandchildren's lifetimes.

Advocating for more costly renewables that, if implemented with today's expensive and relatively inefficient technologies, will raise the energy bill for Vermont and the nation is an unsound trade-off while we seek an economic recovery. In my view, the promise of 'green jobs' is more political rhetoric than reality.

We have abundant supplies of fossil fuels on this continent and to deny their use is not in the best interests of this nation. The real technological advances have been in the oil and gas industries which accounts for the recent dramatic increase in domestic oil and natural gas production.  In the US, the oil and gas extraction sector grew at a rate of 4.5 per cent in 2011 compared to an overall GDP growth rate of 1.7 per cent. With a multiplier effect of ~3:1, that means this sector created 150,000 jobs. The sector’s highly skilled workforce is also well-paid compared to other sectors. That's a good thing but your policies would slow down that growth.

If you advocate that renewables will positively affect climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, then please let us know what the average global temperature should be, how much it will cost the world to get there, and what is our 'fair share.' Otherwise, you're simply whistling in the wind apparently for political rather than practical reasons.

If you're truly concerned about reducing CO2 emissions, we should build more nuclear power plants and you should persuade Sen. Reid that Yucca Mountain is a necessary repository for wastes. But an even better solution is recycling used nuclear materials where France has shown the way.

So, to sum up. Your views diverge from mine on energy policy and it's time we stop throwing subsidy dollars around rather than encouraging investments in a sound energy infrastructure, including the Keystone pipeline project.

Where we do agree is that efficiency has the best near term pay-off to reduce the nation's energy bill.


David Usher

On Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 17:08, Senator Leahy  wrote:

Dear Mr. Usher:

Because of your interest in the debate on national energy policy and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil refined from dirty tar sands in Canada, I thought you would want to know of the latest developments on Capitol Hill.  Yesterday the Senate defeated two Keystone-related amendments to the bill to reauthorize federal highway system investments, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2011.  These amendments – misleadingly described by their proponents as a remedy to the current run-up of fuel prices -- would have short-circuited the review and approval process to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline.  Both would have halted any further environmental impact studies, despite the fact that the route around a critical aquifer in Nebraska has yet to be identified.  I voted against both of these amendments, and I am glad to be able to report that both of them failed. 

Instead of focusing on the short-term jobs from the Keystone XL pipeline, we should be investing in sustainable energy sources that create long-term jobs in the emerging renewable energy economy in areas like manufacturing, transmission, research and development.  For our national security, the health of our environment, our family budgets and the strong economy we want and need, we must reduce our dependence not only on foreign oil, but on all fossil fuels.  For decades we have been putting too many eggs in the fossil fuels energy basket, to our detriment. 

At a time when domestic oil production is at its highest in almost a decade and foreign oil imports are at their lowest in 16 years, it is clear that speculation and world markets are driving up the price of oil.  We must forge and implement energy solutions and policies that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing fuel efficiency, developing renewable energy sources and curbing abuses by speculators who are unnecessarily driving up oil prices for their own short-term profits.  The answer is not pipelines and more of the same flawed choices that sacrifice our health, our safety, our environment and our future economic vitality.


United States Senator

Mayan Pyramids and The Old Swimming Hole

While at the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico last month (February), my son (in the photo) and I toured the Mayan ruins at Chechin Itza. [Map] More on the site here.

On the bus trip back to the coast we stopped for only 30 minutes for a swim in a cenote. It was a Sunday and this was a very popular place for people on the weekend. My son took this photo. 

Only a few from the tour group swam, but it was so refreshing after a hot day walking among the ruins.

While too brief, it was a wonderful experience, unlike any before. The closest was as a teen skinny dipping at abandoned granite quarries in our hometown. No vines there, though, and the water was much colder!

"...The Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no visible rivers; all the fresh water rivers are underground. Being porous, caverns and caves formed where the fresh water collects – hence the cenotes or water sinkholes. The water that gathers in these subterranean cenotes is a crystal clear turquoise color with a very pleasant temperature of 78° F (25.5º C). 

The stalactites and stalagmites that form inside the cenotes are true natural works of art. In many, holes in the ceiling allow the sunlight to filter into the cenotes, giving the scene a magical feeling..."

Energy Sector Recession?

(hat tip to Steven Hansen at Seeking Alpha)

Not a particularly healthy economic outlook even with the recent job growth. Energy sector heading toward recession because of high costs?? Will that drag the rest of the economy with it? Read more here.

"...If energy is removed from consumer spending, the growth trend lines are slightly positive over the last three months. In industrial production, the growth trend lines without utilities are positive.
Could it be the new normal economy is currently adjusting / re-balancing to changing energy inputs - and the degradation in the year-over-year growth is not a recession warning as the non-energy components appear relatively strong?..."

March 8, 2012

Motherboard TV: Doctor Teller's Strange Loves, from the Hydrogen Bomb to Thorium Energy | Motherboard

(Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz for the link)

In the late '70s I had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture by Dr. Teller while visiting Stanford for a course. He roamed across many topics, but one in particular stands out. America had just been through the 'oil crisis' with long lines at gas stations  in late 1973 and 1974 because of the Arab oil embargo. At the time of Teller's lecture we were in the midst of another oil crisis.

Teller proclaimed that there was plenty of oil that had not yet been discovered. He opined that we would have to drill deeper and in more exotic places to find it and because of this difficulty, it would be more costly, but plenty was there and we would eventually get it as the technology matured. As it turns out, he was absolutely correct.

While Teller is often vilified, he was definitely a genius and up to that point I had not been in the presence of one, although I had once seen Hans Bethe while at Cornell in a physics class. 

March 6, 2012

Google Play

Google Play 

Isn't competition wonderful, especially when they play in the clouds. Apple, Amazon and Apple are really going at it. So much happening in the cloud so fast.

Whither AOL and Yahoo?
"Entertainment is supposed to be fun. But in reality, getting everything to work can be the exact opposite—moving files between your computers, endless syncing across your devices, and wires…lots of wires. Today we’re eliminating all that hassle with Google Play, a digital entertainment destination where you can find, enjoy and share your favorite music, movies, books and apps on the web and on your Android phone or tablet. Google Play is entirely cloud-based so all your music, movies, books and apps are stored online, always available to you, and you never have to worry about losing them or moving them again...."

March 1, 2012

Fred Barnes: Ryan's Medicare Revolution -

Conservative idea or not, it's a good one for control of Medicare costs. We simply cannot afford the present open ended, fee-for-service system that will crash without serious reform.

Where's the Democrat alternative? ObamaCare isn't it unless you love service rationing imposed by government. It make far more sense to limit expenditures this way.

"Advocates of a single-payer health-care system are not happy. They like Medicare the way it is, a defined-benefit plan with no lid on costs and the government in full control. "Their vision of health care is the way Medicare is run today," says health-finance expert James Capretta. It points the way to a single-payer system.

Premium support doesn't. It is a defined-contribution plan, forcing insurers to be more efficient while making their product as attractive as possible. "It's the only way of saving Medicare without subjecting it to harsh rationing," Mr. Ryan says.

Mr. Ryan says the arrival of the large freshman class of House Republicans accelerated the drive for Medicare reform. But it's Mr. Ryan, 42, who deserves the bulk of the credit. He's the top Republican thinker on domestic issues. And he has a keen political sense. He's been on a roll since he took apart ObamaCare in front of Mr. Obama at the White House health-care summit in 2010.

Because of his tireless proselytizing, premium support has emerged as the most sensible way to reform Medicare."

According to this tidbit from today, some Vermont communities will have an advisory resolution in town meeting or on the ballot.
Let's hope rational thinking prevails to defend the First Amendment. Voting NO on these resolutions sends the correct message. Denying associations or corporations of any type, for-profit, non-profit, labor unions, etc., the ability to engage in political speech violates that bedrock principle that has the best hope of keeping America free.
Ideology is flawed that would deny certain Americans the freedom to speak on political issues, whether as groups or as individuals.
"On Town Meeting Day at least 50 Vermont communities will consider resolutions urging Congress to pass a resolution for a constitutional amendment banning corporate personhood. The list features some of the largest municipalities in the state, including Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, Williston, South Burlington and Winooski.
According to The Rutland Herald, 50 communities have developed some form of resolution in response to the Supreme Court Citizens United case. They include Albany, Barnet, Brattleboro, Bristol, Burlington, Calais, Charlotte, Chester, Chittenden, Craftsbury, East Montpelier, Fayston, Fletcher, Greensboro, Hardwick, Hinesburg, Jericho, Lincoln, Marlboro, Marshfield, Monkton, Montgomery, Montpelier, Moretown, Mount Holly, Norwich, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Ripton, Roxbury, Rutland City and Town, Sharon, Shrewsbury, South Burlington, Starksboro, Sudbury, Thetford Center, Tunbridge, Waitsfield, Walden, Waltham, Warren, Williamstown, Windsor, Winooski, Woodbury, Woodstock, Worcester, and Williston."