December 31, 2013

TeamObama's Big Question

President Obama's big question:

Does he recover by trying to work with Republicans in Congress or by confronting them heading into next year's midterm elections?"

Credit WSJ 12/31/13
I'm guessing he will confront and aggressively enter campaign mode.

December 21, 2013

New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class -

New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class -

The more I read about the failings of ObamaCare, not the website mess which can be fixed, but the underlying framework, the more I'm convinced it will fail. It is enormously complex with the net effect being higher costs for too many middle class people.

Perhaps it was constructed as an interim step destined to fail so that insurance companies would not suddenly fail. Was it designed with a small likelihood of success in an attempt to make single-payer a last resort option, which is what Obama, Dean, Shumlin and other liberal Democrats obviously prefer.

The political calculus in all this is fascinating to watch as it unfolds. The Democrats have a lot to lose in the 2014 election. The Republicans have a lot to gain, but being against ObamaCare is not by itself a winning strategy. They must come forth unified with a better plan. That should coalesce and be heavily promoted beginning in April with a solid strategy for implementation on the national level.

Without a viable plan they will fail to win the electorate. For me, any viable plan must include cost control. That means rationing and convincing providers and patients to accept it, a tall order.

"...An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income..."
The Republicans need to focus on fixing ObamaCare by strongly and truthfully promoting a rational solution. They  must win a majority in the Senate and retain control of the House with majorities to override potential vetoes by Obama in 2015 and 2016.

Single payer will not easily be accepted because trust in 'big government' is at an historic low, even among Democrats. The folks are unlikely to believe that they can pull off a single-payer plan.

I wonder if they're up to the task?

'via Blog this'

December 7, 2013

2013 Atlantic hurricane season wrap-up: least active in 30 years

2013 Atlantic hurricane season wrap-up: least active in 30 years:

Oops, the experts really missed this forecast. Most likely they are wrong about global warming, too. This failure reveals the inherent weakness of climate and weather modeling.

'via Blog this'

November 14, 2013

Review & Outlook: Escape From ObamaCare -

Review & Outlook: Escape From ObamaCare -
"The Affordable Care Act appears to be misfiring in every imaginable way, and Democrats are having second thoughts about serving as human shields for White House ineptitude. If they really want to make amends, they'll join Republicans in trying to repair some of the damage they caused."
The chaos that is ObamaCare is the direct result of failed leadership from TeamObama. Rep. Pelosi and Senator Reid have not stepped into the breach to repair the damage that their policies have caused. This failure is far more than a troubled website. It's the result of tinkering ineffectively with America's healthcare system and negatively affecting the lives and destroying the trust of Americans. This is a very big deal because it's so personal.

The real problem to be solved is the cost of America's healthcare and how to reduce it. This problem receives scant political attention.

This is an opportunity for Republicans to seize the advantage. I will watch keenly to see if they have a viable alternative.

Mr. Blow at the NY Times sums up the TeamObama catastrophe here.

November 12, 2013

Himmelstein Shumlin and Vermont Single Payer | Single Payer Action

In case you missed it...

Himmelstein Shumlin and Vermont Single Payer | Single Payer Action: "“No, no,” Himmelstein said. “I’m actually just saying what’s true. And that is, you can have a publicly financed program, and as Deb [Richter] said, it won’t be single payer. It will be enormous progress. But let’s not confuse it with single payer because you will give up much of the advantage of the single payer program.”
“Let me just say, I agree with you,” Shumlin told Himmelstein. “But I’m going to try to get the waivers to get everybody [in Vermont] in the pool — everybody. I want everybody in the pool.”"
“That of course will take an act of Congress,” Himmelstein answered.
“That’s right,” Shumlin said. “But if you help me get rid of those Tea Party nuts in 2014, I’ll get it done.”

'via Blog this'

October 21, 2013

How Doomed Itself By Screwing Startups | TechCrunch

The severity of the problems with the ACA Exchanges puts big government inefficiency on display. This piece argues that the nimble startup private sector may well have been in a better position to build and operate these exchanges.

Nevertheless, I suspect the most severe problems are to be found in the backend, connecting the various government legacy systems. Perhaps the exchanges are fatally flawed by the wrong systems architecture.

The fact that the CIA will spend $600 million with Amazon Web Services should be seen as a signal that big systems and big data may best be handled by smart people who can leap ahead of legacy systems many of which were designed in the last century

How Doomed Itself By Screwing Startups | TechCrunch: "These types of solutions will be entirely absent from California and New York. Ironically, the president’s chief technology officer, Todd Park, often espouses the principle of “Joy’s Law,” named for legendary founder of Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy, which states that “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people in the world work for somebody else.” 
For a year, Park has been reorganizing the entire federal IT system to put data in the hands of private developers, rather than have government websites be the central hub. It is bizarre that the president’s signature initiative would ignore its own principles."

October 15, 2013

On a New Jersey Islet, Twilight of the Landline -

The inevitable is upon us. POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is nearly dead

As George Gilder predicted in 1995 in his book Telecosm, the copper telephone network must/will die because of the dual drivers of rapid technological advances and the 'socialist' morass of subsidies and regulatory overburden that ruled the copper network fostering Universal Service in the U.S during the last 70+ years.

Gilder had this to say:
"The fact is that the universality of telephones is crucial to their usefulness; yet universal service using current technology is totally uneconomical and impractical. Snow and ice are the least of it. The basic problem is the architecture of the system, with a separate pair of lines, on average two miles long, devoted exclusively to each user. It simply does not pay to lay, entrench, string, protect, test and maintain miles of copper wire pairs, each dedicated to one household that uses them on average some 15 or 20 minutes a day."
...the idea persists that wireless telephony is an expensive supplement to the existing copper colossus rather than a deadly rival of it. The installed base of
twisted-pair wire still appears to many to be a barrier to entry for new competitors in the local loop, rather than a barrier to RBOC entry into modern communications markets.
The conventional wisdom sees the electromagnetic spectrum as a scarce resource. Few believe that it will soon emerge as a cheaper and better alternative to the local loop, in the same way that microwave emerged as a cheaper and better substitute for copper long-distance wires. 

The death throes will be played out in many locales typified by this example in Mantoloking, NJ.
On a New Jersey Islet, Twilight of the Landline - "Verizon’s move on this sliver of land is a look into the not-too-distant future, a foreshadowing of nearly all telephone service across the United States. The traditional landline is not expected to last the decade in a country where nearly 40 percent of households use only wireless phones. Even now, less than 10 percent of households have only a landline phone, according to government data that counts cable-based phone service in that category."

'via Blog this'

October 14, 2013

From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal -

This story in the NY Times, normally a strong supporter of this Administration, reveals that the the health portal rollout was and is a colossal failure. Meanwhile, TeamObama has obviously been lying to the American people about it, if we are to believe this story.

Having been associated with complex information technology systems over the years, I am not surprised.  This one is even more fragile because users are not trained in its use and had high expectations because of experience with other complex website that work.  This situation was made doubly worse because Administration officials failed to tell the truth and properly set expectations.

Thank God our military software systems are normally thoroughly tested before deployment and work as they should.

This mess is a direct result of the politics surrounding ObamaCare and the fact that so many people disapprove of it. The roll-out failure is sure to further drag down its popularity and rightly so.

Will it be soon that top Administration officials will be fired? I think it's likely that Secretary Sibelius will lose her job.

From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal - "Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles."

'via Blog this'

European utilities: How to lose half a trillion euros | The Economist

A fascinating story about the combined effects of government policy and renewable electricity technology in Europe. Good intentions and massive subsidies have produced very high electricity consumer prices and decimated the finances of the electric utilities. The future seems even more uncertain as the consequences of these policies are destroying wealth with no demonstrable environmental benefit.

Are the same consequences in store for America?

European utilities: How to lose half a trillion euros | The Economist: "Those goals are now harder to achieve. Renewable energy has grabbed a growing share of the market, pushed wholesale prices down and succeeded in its goal of driving down the price of new technologies. But the subsidy cost also has been large, the environmental gains non-existent so far and the damage done to today’s utilities much greater than expected. Europe in general and Germany in particular see themselves as pioneers of low-carbon energy. If they are genuinely to be so, they will need to design a much better electricity system that rewards low-carbon energy without reducing reliability and imposing undue and unnecessary costs."

'via Blog this'

October 10, 2013

Breaking News: House Republicans Discuss Plan for Short-Term Increase in Debt Ceiling - - Gmail

Seems the logjam will break. I suspected Congressman Ryan was up to something because he had been so quiet in this recent wrangling. Also, no mention of the ACA in this.

Breaking News: House Republicans Discuss Plan for Short-Term Increase in Debt Ceiling - - Gmail:

 "House Republicans gathered Thursday morning to discuss a plan to lift the government’s statutory borrowing limit temporarily to allow for negotiations on a package of deficit reduction and tax reform proposals that could lead to a reopening of the government and an end to the threat of government default."

'via Blog this'

October 9, 2013

Paul Ryan: Here's How We Can End This Stalemate -

Congressman Ryan's opinion piece suggests that budget negotiations are essential and some common ground may exist among Republicans and Democrats. And he makes no mention of the Affordable Care Act.

Paul Ryan: Here's How We Can End This Stalemate -

"Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office predicts discretionary spending—that is, everything except entitlement programs and debt payments—will grow by $202 billion, or roughly 17%. Meanwhile, mandatory spending—which mostly consists of funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—will grow by $1.6 trillion, or roughly 79%. The 2011 Budget Control Act largely ignored entitlement spending. But that is the nation's biggest challenge."

'via Blog this'

September 20, 2013

Global Warming Without Fear by Bjørn Lomborg - Project Syndicate

Lomborg makes more sense about climate change than most commentators

Global Warming Without Fear by Bjørn Lomborg - Project Syndicate:

"As a result, the likely outcome of the report’s (IPCC report due 9/26/13) release will be more of the same: a welter of scary scenarios, followed by politicians promising huge carbon cuts and expensive policies that have virtually no impact on climate change. 
Maybe we should try to alter this scenario. We should accept that there is global warming. But we should also accept that current policies are costly and have little upside. The European Union will pay $250 billion for its current climate policies each and every year for 87 years. For almost $20 trillion, temperatures by the end of the century will be reduced by a negligible 0.05ºC.
The current green-energy technologies still cost far too much and produce far too little to replace existing energy sources. To insist on buying these expensive non-solutions is to put the cart before the horse. What we need is investment in research and development to reduce green energy’s cost and boost its scale. When solar and other green technologies can take over cheaply, we will have addressed global warming – without the angst."

'via Blog this'

September 14, 2013

Jesse is Gone

We had to put Jesse, our 12 1/2 year old female Airedale Terrier, down yesterday. She refused to eat last Saturday and after several meds and trips to the vet this week, with no improvement or even a diagnosis, we decided with great difficulty to put her down. 

She had a very high white blood cell count which indicated a serious infection, but after many tests and xrays, they could not find the source. The vet came yesterday, 9/13/13 and euthanized her.

Needless to say, this was very difficult for both Carol and me. She was a champion companion, a brilliant and sensitive dog despite her dog-aggression tendencies.

We will miss her greatly.

September 11, 2013

Estlin, my grandson, featured in a University of Chicago publication. He's a talented, hard-working dude!

September 3, 2013

Not Really Labor's Day -

Not Really Labor's Day - "The lack of any fiscal stimulus aimed at lowering unemployment has contributed to this trend. Ironically, the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing to stimulate the economy and lower unemployment – which some Republicans tried unsuccessfully to outlaw — has probably also benefited those at the top more than those at the bottom. Lower interest rates have driven up the price of stocks, but left those dependent on less risky sources of investment income (such as savings accounts and bonds) stranded with low returns."

Accelerated adoption of digital technology (reduction in the labor component) and globalization (lower priced labor component) on the classical economic definition of productivity has favored capital investment and its returns. These megatrends have disrupted the expectations and requirements for workers.

This is why I believe the historic Keynesian economic theory that government 'stimulus' will goose the economy no longer works as it has in the past.

The Fed's stimulus efforts (low interest rates, QE, etc.) have fallen short of expectations and have benefited capitalists far more than labor because of the two mega-factors mentioned above.

Add to these difficulties the inertia of the education system and we have a dispirited workforce ill-prepared for today's and tomorrow's economy.

September 1, 2013

President Pulls Lawmakers Into Box He Made -

President Pulls Lawmakers Into Box He Made -

The President has no good options. The trick will be to muster enough votes in the House and Senate to approve what he intends to do. The risk of unintended consequences must be addressed in detail.

With all the talk of moral outrage, I think this Syria incursion, should we undertake it, is more about Iran.

What's missing in this discussion is the refusal of the President and the media to talk about the reality that this Middle East unrest is first and foremost a religious war within Islam. This is far less a political struggle than an Islamic sectarian conflict where radical Islamists seek to destabilize existing governments in the hopes of establishing a caliphate in the region. This is not merely a civil war.

TeamObama surely does not want to be seen as taking sides in the this ideological struggle, but he has boxed himself into a corner and whichever course is chosen in Syria will be interpreted by the Arab 'street' as interfering in Islamic affairs.

August 30, 2013

One Great Big War - (David Brooks)

One Great Big War - "What’s the biggest threat to world peace right now? Despite the horror, it’s not chemical weapons in Syria. It’s not even, for the moment, an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, it’s the possibility of a wave of sectarian strife building across the Middle East."

David Brooks hits the nail on the head. While most of the talking heads and commentators in the popular media seem to talk and bloviate about the problems in the Middle East as political with political solutions, it's patently clear that this is first and foremost an Islamist sectarian conflict that is based in their religious splintering.

Political boundaries of these Islamist countries mean little in this conflagration.  The battles are about religious ideologies, not borders and about religious belief and practice, not about economics or politics.

The West has precious few options, as Mr. Brooks points out.  I believe TeamObama has made a mess of it by believing naively that the revolutionary forces at work would produce democracies, when many of the rabid rebel forces prefer theocracies or caliphates.

Perhaps if we became energy independent, the U.S. could avoid being the policeman in that area, but what of the other Western nations that depend on the region's oil? And Israel?

July 3, 2013

Crucial Rule Is Delayed a Year for Obama’s Health Law -

Politics trumps policy!

Crucial Rule Is Delayed a Year for Obama’s Health Law - "WASHINGTON — In a significant setback for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, the administration on Tuesday abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in his health care law’s mandate that larger employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. The decision postpones the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections."

'via Blog this'

June 25, 2013

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs | MIT Technology Review

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs | MIT Technology Review: "­Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years."

I read Brynjolfsson and McAfee's book in 2011 and remain persuaded they are correct in their analysis. This piece in the MIT Technology Review is highly recommended reading and, of course, the hundreds of comments following in are equally insightful. Read the book if you have the inclination.

I am also convinced that nearly all our policy-makers and politicians are clueless about what to do about the job dislocations in the short term. Meanwhile, government policies are driven not by reality, but by perceived political power and gains. Traditional thinking that the Great Recession will end and things will improve for the U.S. based on past history is likely wrong, particularly so Keynesian economics which drives so much government policy and spending which does not produce the same results as previously. The fundamentals have changed.

Some experts argue (Harvard economist Lawrence Katz in this piece argues that this technological upheaval of the past two decades is merely part of a long term trend that began with the Industrial Revolution.) this is just a continuation of the technological progress of mankind

I think we are in a period of profound change driven primarily by advances in software and extremely capable and fast hardware that can mine and capture the value of 'Big Data.' The combination of technologies is creating capacity and capabilities that supplant the need for more and more human labor to produce goods and services that drive the economy.
"W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete."
The wild card of course is that the negative effects of technology on jobs is seen mostly in advanced economies and less so in the underdeveloped world where manual processes prevail. The big question is will these countries and peoples grab the advantages of these advances in technology and raise their living standards or will religious, ethnic and cultural factors retard economic gains and better living conditions?

From the Story:


Economic theory and government policy will have to be rethought if technology is indeed destroying jobs faster than it is creating new ones.

June 21, 2013

Our Broken Social Contract -

Mr. Edsall aptly captures the arguments that underlie the talking points of today's political class.

Unfortunately, we have no consensus about how to resolve this looming crisis principally because we have no agreement on the root causes.  It's in neither political party's interest to solve the problem because they would lose leverage and power by agreement on the factors that are driving the decline in values, income and the common good.

We have become mired in the narcissistic "What's in it for me?" approach to life and unwilling to embrace the 'common good,' assuming we could agree on what that is in today's world.

At bottom, we have the lost the 'glue' that binds a healthy society together.

Our Broken Social Contract -
"If these trends continue, and most evidence suggests they will, one of the central ironies of the Obama years will be that a Democratic administration committed to pushing back against the unjust distribution of resources and to the promotion of morally cohesive communities will in fact have overseen an eight-year period of social disintegration, inequality and rising self-preoccupation."

I strongly recommend reading the commentary by David Brooks, The Solitary Leaker, in the New York Times dated June 10, 2013. Brooks provides thoughtful insights into why Snowden acted as he did and the deeper societal problems spotlighted by his actions.

June 9, 2013

TINPOTI: Privacy and Anonymity Have Long Since Disappeared

For more than 10 years I have maintained there is no privacy on the Internet. When a person chooses to enter the electronic age, expectations of privacy and anonymity disappear. Yet Americans want to believe otherwise and politicians yammer and stammer, but have little or no control over metadata, thinking that passing laws to restrict access to the content of communications will insure privacy. NOT!
TINPOTI = There Is No Privacy On The Internet
"United States laws restrict wiretapping and eavesdropping on the actual content of the communications of American citizens but offer very little protection to the digital data thrown off by the telephone when a call is made. And they offer virtually no protection to other forms of non-telephone-related data like credit card transactions.
Because of smartphones, tablets, social media sites, e-mail and other forms of digital communications, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data daily, according to I.B.M.
The company estimates that 90 percent of the data that now exists in the world has been created in just the last two years. From now until 2020, the digital universe is expected to double every two years, according to a study by the International Data Corporation.
Accompanying that explosive growth has been rapid progress in the ability to sift through the information.
When separate streams of data are integrated into large databases — matching, for example, time and location data from cellphones with credit card purchases or E-ZPass use — intelligence analysts are given a mosaic of a person’s life that would never be available from simply listening to their conversations. Just four data points about the location and time of a mobile phone call, a study published in Nature found, make it possible to identify the caller 95 percent of the time."

May 25, 2013

Sailboat Bellissima from New Bern, NC to Shelburne Bay, VT 4/30/13 - 5/22/13

Distance and daily locations for Bellissima, a 42' sailboat, from New Bern NC to Shelburne Bay, VT 4/30/2013 - 5/22/2013. Bill Brown and Dave Usher, captain and crew.

From/To Distance (Nautical Miles)
New Bern, NC  - Norfolk, VA 180
Norfolk - C&D Canal (West) 197
C&D Canal   17
C&D Canal (East) - NYC 190
NYC - Troy Lock 134
Champlain Canal   60
Whitehall, NY - Shelburne, VT  63
841  (968 statute miles)

Apr 30 Tues  Set off into Neuse River to Pamlico Sound (ICW)
May 1 Weds  Albemarle anchorage (nasty NE winds; sailing until 2300)
May 2 Thurs  Albemarle - Coinjack Marina
May 3 Fri   Coinjack Marina - Portsmouth anchorage
May 4 Sat  Portsmouth Anchorage - Cape Charles Marina
May 5 Sun  Layover Cape Charles Marina (unfavorable winds)
May 6 Mon  Layover Cape Charles Marina (unfavorable winds)
May 7 Tues  Cape Charles to Cornfield Harbor anchorage
May 8 Weds  Cornfield Harbor anchorage- Poplar Island anchorage
May 9 Thurs  Poplar Island anchorage - Rock Hall Harbor Marina
May 10 Fri  Rock Hall Harbor Marina - Delaware Bay anchorage (Reedy Point)
May 11 Sat  Reedy Point anchorage to "18 Mile anchorage"
May 12 Sun "18 Mile anchorage" - Cape May, NJ anchorage
May 13 Mon  Layover Cape May (unfavorable winds)
May 14 Tues  Cape May to Sandy Hook anchorage (fish weir snarl 0415)
May 15  Weds  Layover Sandy Hook anchorage
May 16  Thurs  Sandy Hook anchorage to Haverstraw Marina 
May 17  Fri  Haverstraw Marina to NY State yacht basin (north of Poughkeepsie)
May 18  Sat  Yacht basin to Catskill Hop-o-Nose Marina (mast down)
May 19  Sun  Hop-o-Nose Marina to Champlain Canal, Mechanicville NY town dock.
May 20  Mon  Mechanicville NY town dock to Lock 12 wall tie-up in Whitehall, NY
May 21  Tues Lock 12 Whitehall, NY to Partridge Cove, 
NY anchorage 
May 22  Weds  Partridge Cove anchorage to Lake Champlain Yacht Club mooring in Shelburne Bay VT

May 24, 2013

A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall -

A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall - ""I don't know." "I don't remember." "I'm not familiar with that detail." "It's not my precise area." "I'm not familiar with that letter."

These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable."

This story may be behind the WSJ paywall, but Peggy Noonan is right on target. She recommends that an independent counsel be appointed and a full investigation of the IRS politically targeting conservative groups seeking non-profit status.

I agree this is needed. If the IRS is targeting groups , liberal or conservative, unequally for special scrutiny when they apply for non-profit status, how can we trust the IRS in other affairs, particularly now that they have additional authority under ObamaCare?

'via Blog this'

May 6, 2013

Laying-by Waiting for Better Winds

At Port Charles, VA on Chesapeake Bay.

Nice day as wind moves to East from NE. Shower and clean-up later in the day, then dinner at Kelly's pub. Off early in the morning for Cornfield Harbor on the west shore of the Bay.

March 23, 2013

Tight Deadlines and Lagging Funds Bedevil Obama Health Care -

Read this NYTimes story and you will see that ObamaCare is a slow motion trainwreck and the wheels are about to come off the tracks. There's no way this can be successfully implemented on the present schedule. I'll bet a dollar to a donut (maple flavored, of course) that the schedule will be extended. When more people are opposed than favor ObamaCare, you must believe we have a serious problem.

This is shaping up as a bureaucratic nightmare destined to fall/fail of its own weight and lack of sufficient support from the American people.

The supporters make a case that ObamaCare would control health care costs. Perhaps in the very long term, but not without rationing of care and global budgeting that would force systemic changes.

There are four payers of healthcare costs, the government, private insurers, self insured companies,and individual people. Unless costs are controlled for all of these payers, rather than shifted among them, reform will be a failure.

Tight Deadlines and Lagging Funds Bedevil Obama Health Care -

'via Blog this'

March 17, 2013

Corned beef and cabbage

Today's Amici luncheon of the VT Italian Club was held at the Rotisserie restaurant in South Burlington. They were quite busy but the corned beef and cabbage was not as good as last year's. It was a bit on the salty side.
Nevertheless, a dozen of us enjoyed the camaraderie reminding ourselves that St. Patrick had Italian parents.

4 key takeaways from Samsung's Galaxy S4

4 key takeaways from Samsung's Galaxy S4

So many new features on new high-end phones. What will we see with Apple's new iPhone later this year? And it's about time for a new Google Nexus and/or a Motorola blockbuster.
Meanwhile, I'm happy with my Motorola Droid Razr HD. (why such a long name, guys?)

March 13, 2013

Is Skype a Telephone Operator? France Will Investigate -

Is Skype a Telephone Operator? France Will Investigate -

A fine example of the long and arduous road to governments' desire to regulate everything they can in telecom. Reminds me of the arcane debates in the '80s and '90s about defining and regulating,or not, information services and enhanced services in the U.S. The lawyers loved it!

As technology continues upending traditional business and regulatory models, governments will run to catch up and tax/manage/control/subsidize various aspects of it. Infrastructure and services no longer comply with neat definitions of the past so government's job becomes more difficult.

The time will come, though, when the Internet will eventually and unfortunately be 'regulated.' But who will do it? NTU or some other international entity? Shudders abound at the thought. The good news is it will take a very long time.

'via Blog this'

March 6, 2013

The Professors’ Big Stage -

How we educate ourselves is changing rapidly at the same time that so many colleges University of Vermont included, have spent substantially on bricks and mortar. Will those schools without massive endowments survive this new paradigm?
What will it mean for K-12 learning which has also become unsustainably costly and weighs heavily on taxpayers in Vermont and elsewhere?
The Professors’ Big Stage - "The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know. And therefore it will not pay for a C+ in chemistry, just because your state college considers that a passing grade and was willing to give you a diploma that says so. We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency."

'via Blog this'

January 26, 2013

Our Deficit/Debt Problem in one Simple Chart

Hat tip to Barry Ritholz for the chart!

Unfortunately TeamObama and the Democrats generally wants to increase the blue dotted line rather than address the real problem of the red line which is excessive spending. 

In reality some of both will be needed. Will the real leaders in Congress willing to address this please stand up? Do not be overshadowed by TeamObama's political considerations ahead of the nations financial difficulties that must be addressed.

January 20, 2013

So Long, Lance. Here Comes 21st-Century Doping. -

It's clear to me that doping in sports cannot be stopped because the advances in technology and the extreme competitiveness of the best athletes insures that they will find ways to enhance their performance. There is so much money in sports as entertainment and advertising that the urge to participate in doping will defy any ethics constraints.

Dr. Miah's solution may be the most practical. I would watch the  the non-doped contests if I could be sure they were legitimate. How could that be proved, I wonder?
So Long, Lance. Here Comes 21st-Century Doping. - "Dr. Miah of the University of the West of Scotland and others have proposed holding enhanced sports contests, including an enhanced Olympics. “If the goal is to protect health, then medically supervised doping is likely to be a better route,” Dr. Miah told the journal Nature. “If athletes want to use these substances, they should be up front about it and compete just against each other,” said Dr. Linn Goldberg, a sports medicine doctor and researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University.
The question would then become: which version of sports would you watch — the natural or the enhanced?"

'via Blog this'

The Smartphone Have-Nots -

A reasoned piece about the two main theories to explain the increase in income inequality during the last couple of decades. I firmly believe that technology is at the heart of this phenomenon because the information technology revolution has empowered high skilled and highly motivated individuals to grab this golden ring.

Meanwhile, others with less intellectual capacity, motivation, skills, unwillingness to move, or inability to pay for educating themselves have not been able to keep up resulting in lower paying jobs.
Another factor at work is the super-rich have leveraged their higher incomes into investment portfolios that have resulted in substantial income from capital gains, dividends, etc, which are taxed at a lower rate.

Income inequality is not inherently evil unless it results in repression. Nevertheless, the democracy is at risk and politicians will continue to fight over its causes and remedies.

The Smartphone Have-Nots -

 "....After Mishel finished his presentation, David Autor, one of the country’s most celebrated labor economists, took the stage, fumbled for his own PowerPoint presentation and then explained that there was plenty of evidence showing that technological change explained a great deal about the rise of income inequality. Computers, Autor says, are fundamentally different. Conveyor belts and massive steel furnaces made blue-collar workers comparatively wealthier and hurt more highly skilled crafts­people, like blacksmiths and master carpenters, whose talents were disrupted by mass production. The computer revolution, however, displaced millions of workers from clerical and production occupations, forcing them to compete in lower-paying jobs in the retail, fast-food and home health sectors. Meanwhile, computers and the Internet disproportionately helped people like doctors, engineers and bankers in information-intensive jobs. [emphasis added] Inequality was merely a side effect of the digital revolution, Autor said; it didn’t begin and end in Washington......"

'via Blog this'

January 19, 2013

Mr. Lott's analysis shows the foolishness of Obama's, Feinstein's and the media's focus on guns as the problem and their desire to regulate them or eliminate them from public ownership if they could. The problem, so much more difficult to solve, is the identification and control of the crazies that perpetrate these heinous slaughters using guns. Guns aren't the problem; people are.

Facts have been subjugated in favor of political rhetoric.

Warning about "weapons designed for the theater of war," President Obama on Wednesday called for immediate action on a new Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He said that "more of our fellow Americans might still be alive" if the original assault weapons ban, passed in 1994, had not expired in 2004. Last month, in the wake of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) promised to introduce an updated version of the ban. She too warned of the threat posed by "military weapons."
After the nightmare of Newtown, their concern is understandable. Yet despite being at the center of the gun-control debate for decades, neither President Obama nor Ms. Feinstein (the author of the 1994 legislation) seems to understand the leading research on the effects of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. In addition, they continue to mislabel the weapons they seek to ban.
Ms. Feinstein points to two studies by criminology professors Chris Koper and Jeff Roth for the National Institute of Justice to back up her contention that the ban reduced crime. She claims that their first study in 1997 showed that the ban decreased "total gun murders." In fact, the authors wrote: "the evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that there was any meaningful effect (i.e., that the effect was different from zero)."
Messrs. Koper and Roth suggested that after the ban had been in effect for more years it might be possible to find a benefit. Seven years later, in 2004, they published a follow-up study for the National Institute of Justice with fellow criminologist Dan Woods that concluded, "we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence."
Moreover, none of the weapons banned under the 1994 legislation or the updated version are "military" weapons. The killer in Newtown used a Bushmaster .223. This weapon bears a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The call has frequently been made that there is "no reason" for such "military-style weapons" to be available to civilians.
Getty Images
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Yes, the Bushmaster and the AK-47 are "military-style weapons." But the key word is "style"—they are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, not in the way they operate. The guns covered by the original were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military, but semiautomatic versions of those guns.
The civilian version of the Bushmaster uses essentially the same sorts of bullets as small game-hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. The civilian version of the AK-47 is similar, though it fires a much larger bullet—.30 inches in diameter, as opposed to the .223 inch rounds used by the Bushmaster. No self-respecting military in the world would use the civilian version of these guns.
A common question is: "Why do people need a semiautomatic Bushmaster to go out and kill deer?" The answer is simple: It is a hunting rifle. It has just been made to look like a military weapon.
But the point isn't to help hunters. Semiautomatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles that require you to physically reload the gun may not do people a lot of good when they are facing multiple criminals or when their first shot misses or fails to stop an attacker.
Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report. By 2011, the murder rate fell to 4.7 per 100,000 people. One should also bear in mind that just 2.6% of all murders are committed using any type of rifle.
The large-capacity ammunition magazines used by some of these killers are also misunderstood. The common perception that so-called "assault weapons" can hold larger magazines than hunting rifles is simply wrong. Any gun that can hold a magazine can hold one of any size. That is true for handguns as well as rifles. A magazine, which is basically a metal box with a spring, is trivially easy to make and virtually impossible to stop criminals from obtaining. The 1994 legislation banned magazines holding more than 10 bullets yet had no effect on crime rates.
Ms. Feinstein's new proposal also calls for gun registration, and the reasoning is straightforward: If a gun has been left at a crime scene and it was registered to the person who committed the crime, the registry will link the crime gun back to the criminal.
Nice logic, but in reality it hardly ever works that way. Guns are very rarely left behind at a crime scene. When they are, they're usually stolen or unregistered. Criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind guns that are registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered guns are left at crime scenes, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved even without registration.
Canada recently got rid of its costly "long-gun" registry for rifles in part because the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Chiefs of Police could not provide a single example in which tracing was of more than peripheral importance in solving a gun murder.
If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple-victim public shootings, it's time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks: With just a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. Had some citizens been armed, they might have been able to stop the killings before the police got to the scene. In the Newtown attack, it took police 20 minutes to arrive at the school after the first calls for help.
The Bushmaster, like any gun, is indeed very dangerous, but it is not a weapon "designed for the theater of war." Banning assault weapons will not make Americans safer.
Mr. Lott is a former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, third edition, 2010).

January 15, 2013

Where Will People Work?

I highly recommend the book by these two academics, Race Against the Machine. I read it several months ago and was persuaded that their thesis is correct.

The segment below from a recent 60 Minutes show on CBS focuses on the massive upheaval that technology and robotics in particular is having on our manufacturing and service industries. The question remains...what will all the people do 10-25 years in the future? This is a huge question that policy-makers have not begun to address.