When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? -- John Maynard Keynes

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disarray the HP Way

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As a follow-up to my post of August 19, 2011 “HP's Leo Apotheker, Master of FUD,” http://www.johnmpoole.com/2011/08/hps-leo-apotheker-master-of-fud.html
I recommend the following:

Let's say you were given a year to kill Hewlett-Packard. Here's how you do it . . .

“I didn’t know there was such a thing as corporate suicide, but now we know that there is,” a former H.P. director, the venture capitalist Tom Perkins, told me this week. “It’s just astonishing.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/27/business/for-seamless-transitions-at-the-top-dont-consult-hewlett-packard.html

So why the dumb, rookie move? I have no idea, but it seems like Apotheker panicked - that he was willing to do pretty much anything to avoid another bad-news earnings call - and decided to stupidly pre-announce the news to put a positive spin on a terrible forecast. http://www.bnet.com/blog/ceo/hp-restructuring-smart-strategy-dumb-execution/8202?promo=540&tag=nl.e540 

 . .  . The decision to manufacture a second run, however, left analysts scratching their heads. . . .
Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said the temporary return of the TouchPad was likely a poorly thought-through decision."They did a lot of these moves in haste," Mr. Wu said. He said the move will likely create confusion among customers and application developers, which H-P is still trying to woo. . . .

Like I said, its just more "disarray, the HP Way."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear - you wanna know what is wrong with this country?

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Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear | Postmodern Times - WSJ.com: Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson's chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company's manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. "The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier," he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle . . . . It isn't just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next. . . . 

See comments of Michael Class: When do we put an end to the police state? http://goo.gl/kyO6G

and Mike Carroll:  I'm a piano technician and I have seen the end of piano manufacturing in the US. And do you think it will ever come back. Would any corporation ever locate in the US now. But you can bet the foreign corporations like Yamaha are sharpening up their sales projections for the US with Gibson going down. And they'll still use ebony and rosewood and the government won't say a thing to themhttp://goo.gl/eDrjI 

How to get $12 billion of gold to Venezuela--it's a real problem

How to get $12 billion of gold to Venezuela | Felix Salmon: "Venezuela would need to transport the gold in several trips, traders said, since the high value of gold means it would be impossible to insure a single aircraft carrying 211 tonnes. It could take about 40 shipments to move the gold back to Caracas, traders estimated.

“It’s going to be quite a task. Logistically, I’m not sure if the central bank realises the magnitude of the task ahead of them,” said one senior gold banker."

It's a real problem--a problem I'd like to have.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Apple, Microsoft et al have in common

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What Apple, Microsoft et al have in common?

Microsoft sues to prevent Motorola sales in US ( - Legal ): "These companies appear to be entering an era where increasing resources are spent battling in the courts at the expense of development and innovation, the aspects that made each of them world leaders in the first instance."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The difference between HP and Apple today

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Hewlett-Packard’s legend in Silicon Valley and the rest of the tech world is well-known. The company had iconic leaders of its own: Bill Hewlett and David Packard, the Stanford guys who started HP in a Palo Alto garage. But the company lost Hewlett and Packard a long time ago, and it has had many incarnations since then. It has become the world’s largest PC maker, but is now preparing to move away from the slower-growth and less-profitable industry. It is the same industry that has been disrupted by Apple’s newest products, which have helped push tech into the emerging post-PC world. What Googorola and HP’s shift have in common: Apple and Steve Jobs | Good Morning Silicon Valley
The difference between HP and Apple today? Obviously the quality of management and leadership.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Federal Reserve has some explaining to do

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The Federal Reserve has some explaining to do.

 . . . . the Fed issued $9 trillion in low-interest overnight loans to banks and other Wall Street companies during the crisis. The $1.2 trillion figure represents the peak amount of outstanding loans, which occurred on December 5, 2008, according to Bloomberg News. (Huffington Post)

The Federal Reserve tried to keep this information secret.

Bloomberg News was able to get this information only through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress.

Among other things Bloomberg uncovered, the Federal Reserve loaned  banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. 

Almost half of the Federal Reserve’s top 30 borrowers, measured by peak balances, were not even U.S. banks, but European firms! (Bloomberg)

The Federal Reserve tried to keep this information secret.

The Federal Reserve even  relaxed its standards for acceptable collateral. Typically, the central bank accepts only bonds with the highest credit grades, such as U.S. Treasuries. By late 2008, it was accepting “junk” bonds, those rated below investment grade. It even took stocks, which are first to get wiped out in a liquidation.

The Federal Reserve tried to keep this information secret.

The Federal Reserve even loaned money at below market rates to some firms. (Bloomberg)

Richard Herring, a University of Pennsylvania professor, said some banks may have used the program to maximize profits by borrowing “from the cheapest source, because this was supposed to be secret and never revealed.” Whether banks needed the Fed’s money for survival or used it because it offered advantageous rates, the central bank’s lender-of-last-resort role amounts to a free insurance policy for banks guaranteeing the arrival of funds in a disaster, Herring said. (Bloomberg)

Analysts say they fear the loans may have contributed to an atmosphere of complacency on Wall Street. Banks that received emergency cash infusions during the crisis may now believe the Fed will always be there to bail them out of trouble, the thinking goes. "It is a classic case of moral hazard," Dimitri Papadimitriou, president of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, told The Huffington Post.

The Federal Reserve tried to keep this information secret.

The Federal Reserve has some explaining to do.

Monday, August 22, 2011

If Washington was really serious about reducing unemployment

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If Washington was really serious about reducing unemployment, it would start by:

1. Allowing foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with graduate degrees have permanent residency upon graduation--In the long term, the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform. In the short term, policymakers should focus on reforms that are directly related to increasing the "brain gain" for the nation—creating new jobs and producing economic benefits—to produce tangible and achievable improvements in our immigration system.

2. Reforming the tax code--want an example? How about changing the stupid tax policy causing U.S. companies to relocate offshore--When A U.S. Company Redomiciles To The Cayman Islands, What Lesson Should We Learn?

None of the above is hard to comprehend, so why does Washington continue to do NOTHING?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It’s not just about the U

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Anybody who thinks that what may have happened at the University of Miami is unique, or different than what goes on, more or less, at all major university football programs today, is naïve.  It’s just that, in Miami’s case, a convicted squealer has turned against the program big-time. http://allabouttheu.wordpress.com

If any of the allegations are true, then what should the NCAA do about it?

But some experts say any change would need to include a profound cultural shift, because the pressure to win and the exorbitant salaries and compensation for coaches has created an environment that fosters rule-breaking. Today's athletic departments no longer focus on education; instead they use a "business model" designed to attract top athletes and raise money, said former NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey.

. . . "It's not that there's not an effort to try and do things the right way," . . . The ultimate challenge facing schools, however, is controlling the outside influences, Dempsey said. When one wealthy person gets involved, it can be difficult to police their actions. At this point, universities need to reexamine where the athlete fits into the higher education program . . . "the term 'amateur' has to be redefined. There's too much invested in the larger program today . . .  . Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, on the other hand, says players should be paid, even if it's just about $100 dollars a month. . . . http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-spt-0821-miami-ncaa--20110821,0,958754.story

Maybe it is time for the NCAA to recognize it is running a major business enterprise (providing employment and income and profits at all levels for all kinds of people and independent businesses) and that the players are (or should be) recognized as professionals, and compensated as such. Why is it that everybody but the players is making big-time money off major college sports today?

Friday, August 19, 2011

HP's Leo Apotheker, Master of FUD

I use a HP Pavilion laptop in my work every day—it is a beautiful notebook PC with great functionality. When I bought it last December, I didn’t spend more than 15 minutes looking at various HP notebooks on the HP website before making the phone call to HP and ordering exactly what I needed—loaded with 64-bit Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 (even though I am a heavy Google user, I still need and use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).

I knew from past experience I didn’t need to waste time looking at alternative manufacturers. Even others were impressed when they saw my new HP: “It looks like an Apple!” (Only I have a lot more power at less cost with my HP than I could ever get with an Apple.) I have been a long-time customer of HP and also have 2 HP printers in my personal office. I use a smartphone and I’ve looked at tablets (including the iPad) but they will not replace my notebook PC anytime soon.  I am just one of millions (if not billions) of similarly situated “knowledge workers” worldwide.

All of that good will and market advantage that HP once had, was swept aside in one fell swoop yesterday by Leo Apotheker, HP’s CEO:

In a sweeping change for Hewlett-Packard, Leo Apotheker, the technology giant's chief executive, said Thursday that he was considering spinning off the company's personal computer business.*

Today I have just one question for Leo Apotheker—at what point did you decide to “trash” your company and the product area in which HP has been #1 and gains “strategic advantage?”

Remember what HP said earlier this year:

As recently as February, Todd Bradley, H.P.'s executive vice president for the company's computer division, insisted in an interview that the PC was still a valuable part of H.P.'s business. He dismissed speculation that the company would dump the unit. "The PC business has been strategically important to H.P," he said. "The strategic importance hasn't changed as the leadership changes."*

I’ll say one thing for Leo—he’s the master at creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about a company and its offerings. I can’t imagine Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell (or for that matter anyone other than Carol Bartz) being so inept.

H.P. said it would take 12 to 18 months to decide what to do with the PC unit. Meanwhile, it will continue to run the business as usual.*

I’ve got news for Leo—there is no more “business as usual” for HP’s PC unit after what he did yesterday.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Crisis of Confidence in what?

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A "Crisis of Confidence;" a Crisis of Confidence in what?
Not the markets--that's just a symptom or result. What we're really talking about is a systemic crisis of confidence in governments—primarily in the U.S. and Eurozone. Tripped up by globalisation - FT.com --
Among the key points made by Jeffrey Sachs:

Neither the US nor Europe has even properly diagnosed the core problem, namely that both regions are being whipsawed by globalisation.

Jobs for low-skilled workers in manufacturing, and new investments in large swaths of industry, have been lost to international competition

The path to recovery now lies not in a new housing bubble, but in upgraded skills, increased exports and public investments in infrastructure and low-carbon energy. Instead, the US and Europe have veered between dead-end, consumption-oriented stimulus packages and austerity without a vision for investment. 

The full article can be found at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2b9dab2e-c817-11e0-9501-00144feabdc0.html  (registration required)

Good riddance Rod Beckstrom!

Head of Net’s Address System to Leave - NYTimes.com
This has to be the best news of the month for the internet and technology in general--"Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the Internet address system, plans to leave the organization next July."

Why? He has failed in his leadership of ICANN--most glaring is its latest foray to create chaos and legal minefields for users of the internet--

" . . . this year, Icann approved a plan for a vast expansion of so-called generic top-level domains — the letters that follow the last “dot” in an Internet address. Some governments say they were not properly consulted, while brand owners and others continue to oppose the plan.

“Icann’s potentially momentous change seems to have been made in a top-down star chamber,” Randall Rothenberg, chief executive of the United States Interactive Advertising Bureau, said in a letter to Icann this week. “There appears to have been no economic impact research, no full and open stakeholder discussions, and little concern for the delicate balance of the Internet ecosystem. This could be disastrous for the media brand owners we represent and the brand owners with which they work. We hope that Icann will reconsider both this ill-considered decision and the process by which it was reached.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/technology/head-of-web-address-system-to-leave-post.html

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Density Dynamic--pros and cons

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Everything Will Be Too Big to Fail - By John Seo | Foreign Policy  The Density Dynamic . . . in virtually every human endeavor, density pays. . . .But density has consequences . . . the cost of natural catastrophes of all kinds will rise dramatically.  . . . a decade and a half from now, a single hurricane or earthquake will come with a potential price tag of $1 trillion or more. . . We can look forward to bigger and more frequent financial catastrophes as well. Think of equity capital as land, industry segment as location, and financial risk as density. Concentrating all of these means greater productivity, but it also means that we are inviting ever more catastrophic financial hurricanes. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/08/15/everything_will_be_too_big_to_fail

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry? You're kidding?

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Not quite as good as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick--by the numbers --and he's not running for President.
What happened to all the good Republicans--where have they all gone?

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Options for Starbucks Wi-Fi Squatters - Technology Review

New Options for Starbucks Wi-Fi Squatters - Technology Review "Workspace-finding applications, such as Desktime, LiquidSpace, Loosecubes, and OpenDesks, are cropping up to help people in situations like these find good places to get things done. . . .More than 10 million people in the United States are entirely mobile workers, with no permanent office space outside the home, estimates Chris DiFonzo, founder and CEO of OpenDesks. Adding in those who are mobile at least three times a month puts the number above 40 million.
For a time, many of these mobile workers parked themselves in coffee shops, but, DiFonzo says, 'the café era is over.' "
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"Systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry"

Law Grads Sue Over Tuition - WSJ.com "Two lawsuits seeking class action status were filed in Michigan and New York on Wednesday against Thomas M. Cooley Law School and New York Law School.
The plaintiffs, who are graduates of the defendant schools, seek $250 million from Cooley and $200 million from NYLS in tuition refunds as well as other damages and reformed methods of reporting their graduates' employment numbers.
The plaintiffs—three against NYLS and four against Cooley—seek "to remedy a systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry and threatens to leave a generation of law students in dire financial straits," according to both suits."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is blogging free speech or terrorism?

Vietnam jails French-Vietnamese teacher over blogs - Technology - MiamiHerald.com: "Pham Minh Hoang, 56, was found guilty of trying to overthrow the government by posting 33 articles against the one-party Communist system, as well as of holding membership in the banned Viet Tan group and recruiting others to join it. It was the second high-profile dissident trial in just over a week.

U.S.-based Viet Tan says it is a nonviolent advocate of democracy, but Hanoi considers it a terror organization - a claim U.S. officials say they have not found any evidence to support."

Letter to prime minister requesting blogger Pham Minh Hoang’s release - Reporters Without Borders: "The Vietnamese justice system is going to try Mr. Hoang on a charge of trying to overthrow the people’s government because he wrote articles in his blog, gave extra-curricular training in leadership to his students and is a member of the Viet Tan pro-democracy party.

These activities are nonetheless guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 35, 50, 53 and 69 of your country’s Constitution. The only appropriate outcome to Mr. Hoang’s trial would therefore be his acquittal and unconditional release. Mr. Hoang must recover his complete freedom.

Vietnam is increasingly the target of criticism for its human rights violations . . ."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Government money is no good in today's stressed environment

Why This Crisis Is Different From the 2008 Financial Crisis - WSJ.com: ". . . current clamor for intervention by the monetary authorities—be it in the form of more liquidity injections (or 'QE3') by the Fed or the European Central Bank.
So 2008.
Even if the central banks were inclined that way, pumping more money into an economy already flush with cash would provide little solace."

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Making Obama look real good

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Paul Krugman on Tim Pawlenty (after citing Matt Yglesias):

"On economics, he has been awesomely clueless . . . he doesn’t understand anything about monetary economics . . . Maybe there are some subjects on which he isn’t an embarrassing ignoramus, but I’ve yet to see them. I mean, as far as I can tell he’s Sarah Palin in a suit."

Windy City Statuesque Blonde Bombshell

A Statuesque Blonde Bombshell - WSJ.com
Marilyn Monroe was always larger than life. But here in the Windy City, the bombshell's recent appearance, in sculptural form, is showing that some viewers like it hot . . . .

Saturday, August 6, 2011

ICANN plan: lawyers' dream and public nightmare

Advertisers slam Internet domain plan - The Hill's Hillicon Valley: "A group of advertisers in a letter on Thursday told the organization that manages the Internet's address system to reconsider its plan to allow for new domain names.

'Implementation of a Program with unlimited (top level domains) is economically unsupportable and likely to cause irreparable harm and damage,' Robert Liodice, president of the Association of National Advertisers, wrote to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

'At the same time, the Program contravenes the legal rights of brand owners and jeopardizes the safety of consumers.'

ICANN, a nonprofit organization, approved a plan in June to allow for the registration of new domain names in addition to traditional domains such as '.com' or '.org.' Beginning in 2012, organizations can register new addresses ending in almost any word or phrase."

U.S. loses AAA credit rating from S&P--a wake-up call to Washington

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It was only a matter of time, given the "mess" in Washington, but the credit downgrade from S&P should be a wake-up call to Washington for serious action to get the U.S. fiscal house in order--through tax reform, entitlement reform, and long-term spending reductions. The full S&P report is here. 
Key points:

· The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.
· More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
· Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics anytime soon.
· The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The First Amendment is still in effect--at least on Miami Beach

It's good to see that somewhere in this country, the First Amendment is still respected and observed:

"The settlement requires the City of Miami Beach to pay Strickland $75,000 which includes attorneys’ fees, as well as enact new policies regarding the reporting of police misconduct.
Among the changes mandated by the settlement is the inclusion of new training language for Miami Beach police officers, including the following: “Improperly prohibiting or punishing a citizen from observing, documenting, or reporting a police officer’s conduct violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” "
Read more here:  http://goo.gl/xMKAi 
The complaint filed in November of 2010 is available here:http://www.aclufl.org/Strickland-Complaint.pdf
A recording of Strickland’s 911 call is available here: 
(Please note that it may take a few minutes to download.)

Web Speed: what are your "pipe" and "code?"

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The web moves slower or faster, depending on your "pipe" and the "code"--
Google has launched Page Speed Service, which is designed to automatically speed up Web pages when they load. The service intervenes between Web servers and users, rewriting a Web page's code to improve its performance and applying other related tricks. In the meantime, the FCC reports that many Internet providers still advertise speeds higher than they deliver.

Q/A Massive cyber attack

Q+A: Massive cyber attack dubbed Operation Shady RAT | Reuters: "McAfee Vice President of Threat Research Dmitri Alperovitch said the attacker sought data that would give it military, diplomatic and economic advantage.

'If you look at an industry and think about what is most valuable in terms of intellectual property, that is what they were going after,' Alperovitch said. As examples, he cited email archives, negotiation documents and schematics for electronics.

Q. Who did it?

A. McAfee's Alperovitch said he believes that a nation state was behind the attacks, but he declined to identify it. He said the attacker is the same country that was behind other security breaches that McAfee has previously investigated.

Jim Lewis, an expert in cyber attacks with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was briefed by McAfee. Lewis said the presence of Taiwan and the International Olympic Committee in the victims list suggest China is most likely the perpetrator of the attack.

Q. How valuable is the data that was stolen?

A. 'This is the biggest transfer of wealth in terms of intellectual property in history,' Alperovitch said. 'The scale at which this is occurring is really, really frightening.'

'Companies and government agencies are getting raped and pillaged every day. They are losing economic advantage and national secrets to unscrupulous competitors,' he said."

Monday, August 1, 2011

The TSA’s Grand Failure Of Imagination - Marc Weber Tobias - The Travelgeek - Forbes

The TSA’s Grand Failure Of Imagination - Marc Weber Tobias - The Travelgeek - Forbes: "The Government Accountability Office keeps finding security failures at our airports. Maybe it is time to reevaluate how we protect the nation’s air transport system and at what cost to the government and the traveling public. All it takes is a little imagination."

The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects