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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Larry Page with Eric Schmidt at Zeitgeist Americas 2011 (video)

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 Larry Page with Eric Schmidt at Zeitgeist Americas 2011 (video)
“trying to do new stuff rather than using the legal system to prevent people from doing things”


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Paul Krugman on highly educated ignorance

Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman - The Conscience of a Liberal - NYTimes.com: Yes, I've noted it before, but it's a real sign of the times we live in that one of the foremost "real experts" (Nobel prize winner in economics, Professor at Princeton, etc.) has this to say:

"Yes, the political world is deeply dysfunctional — but what’s equally remarkable is just how terrible the judgment of the supposed experts has been. It’s not just the complete failure to foresee this crisis. Fancy international organizations have been persistently offering disastrous advice, counseling austerity and interest rate hikes just as the recovery, such as it is, stumbles. Politicians say dumb things about monetary policy — but so does the ECB.
The point is that what we need are the right ideas, not the right sort of people. . . . and the dignified men in suits are often no better than the rabble-rousers."


Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodbye Greece and Goodbye Euro

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I wasn't planning on blogging today, but the Krugman and Roubini articles were too compelling and thought provoking. Europe, like the U.S., has a short-term problem and a long-term problem.  In the case of the U.S., the short-term problem is high unemployment and a stalled economy. The long-term problem is fiscal unsustainability (entitlement programs etc.). I'll write more on this on another day.

Europe's short-term problem, simply put, is Greece. Its long-term problem is that the Euro experiment failed to consummate a complete fiscal and monetary marriage between the participating sovereign nations--thereby leading to imbalances with no effective means of remedy--or at least the will to do so. In other words, Spain and Italy are not like Germany (or even France), when it comes to economic and financial practices and issues. The European Central Bank is not therefore in exactly the same position as the U.S. Federal Reserve (in its ability to manage monetary policy for all 50 states).

This leads to the situation where the participating Euro countries have been "shacking up" together without tying the matrimonial knot. In the United States, a very bloody Civil War was fought about 150 years ago that decided forever (among other things) that divorce--err--state secession is not an option (despite whatever Gov. Perry may say)--there is but one central federal government, which has sole control of the printing press and currency (and in effect the economy), for all 50 states. The participating countries in the Euro experiment never went so far, and never achieved full fiscal and monetary integration. Hence the Germans (and French) want Euro monetary policy consistent with what is in the best interests of Germany (and France)--not in the best interests of Greece (or Spain or Italy or Portugal, etc.) or even Europe as a whole.

Want proof? This is what Professor Krugman has to say today:
"I tried to lay this out a while ago. A reasonable estimate would be that Spain and other peripherals need to reduce their price levels relative to Germany by around 20 percent. If Germany had 4 percent inflation, they could do that over 5 years with stable prices in the periphery — which would imply an overall eurozone inflation rate of something like 3 percent.
But if Germany is going to have only 1 percent inflation, we’re talking about massive deflation in the periphery, which is both hard (probably impossible) as a macroeconomic proposition, and would greatly magnify the debt burden. This is a recipe for failure, and collapse.
Another way to say this is that the euro is going to have a chance of working only if the ECB delivers much more expansionary and, yes, inflationary policies than the market now expects. If you don’t think that’s a possibility, say goodbye to the euro project." (emphasis added)

So the euro project may be doomed long-term (without complete integration etc.). What to do about the short-term problem of Greece? Professor Roubini's answer--"Greece Should Default and Abandon the Euro: Greece is insolvent, uncompetitive and stuck in an ever-deepening depression, exacerbated by harsh and excessive fiscal consolidation. It is time for the country to default in an orderly manner on its public debt, exit the eurozone (EZ) and return to the drachma to rapidly restore solvency, competitiveness and growth. . . . .being stuck in a marriage of convenience that is not working any longer is more costly and painful for the couple and their offspring (children/future generations) than an orderly and civilized break-up. Once the pain and costs of the break-up are managed, both sides can look forward to a more friendly relationship and a brighter future." (emphasis added)

OK, so there you have it--goodbye Greece and goodbye Euro.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Petition to abolish the TSA

From:  http://goo.gl/f0ZGp


Abolish the TSA, and use its monstrous budget to fund more sophisticated, less intrusive counter-terrorism intelligence.
The Transportation Security Administration has been one of the largest, most expensive and most visible blunders of the post-9-11 homeland security reformation. It has violated countless constitutional rights of average Americans, caused miserable and expensive delays in an already-overburdened air travel system, and allowed multiple known instances of harassment, theft, extortion and sexual abuse by its employees. It has failed approximately 70% of undercover efficacy tests, and for all its excesses, has been unable to catch even a single terrorist since its creation. In our current economic situation, we can no longer afford to continue wasting taxpayer dollars on this kafkaesque embarrassment. Let us instead invest in saner, more effective solutions.
Created: Sep 22, 2011
If you support, go to:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A vote for Meg

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. . . . Ms. Whitman—a Silicon Valley veteran who turned eBay Inc. from a quirky start-up into an online auction giant—remains an influential figure in the technology scene as an H-P director and an adviser to a leading venture-capital firm. But the former eBay CEO also has little background in the hardware industry, never ran a company of H-P's size, made some missteps at eBay, . . .

So what? She's a lot better than the inept Leo Apotheker who I've written about here and here. Meg can calm a chaotic situation and bring some sanity to the technology giant. Meg may not be an aircraft carrier like Steve Jobs--but I think she will fool a lot of people and do just fine--and I wish her and HP the best!

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903703604576585142059755936.html#ixzz1Yi46fJoz


Google’s Business Principles

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I’ve written about Google and government issues before and also here, and previously noted Google’s ranking as the world’s most reputable company here: "Google's reputation platform is based on its great workplace environment, its open and transparent way of doing business, and its commitment to playing an active role in improving society." http://reputationinstitute.com/global-reptrak-pulse

Yesterday, I watched the Judiciary Committee hearing and later read Eric Schmidt’s written testimony in which he set out and elaborated on Google’s Business Principles:
(“These are the principles that have guided us from the beginning:”)

Do what’s best for the user
Provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible
Label advertisements clearly
Be transparent
Loyalty, not lock-in
Be open, not closed

You can read Eric Schmidt’s full statement (including his elaboration on the principles) here: http://judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/11-9-21SchmidtTestimony.pdf

Frankly, I don’t know of any other technology company with a better set of principles, and as a heavy Google user, I can attest that Google walks the talk.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Elvis has left the building - Quitting w/o notice

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How to Quit Without Giving Notice - Finance and Accounting Jobs News and Advice:

A recent article at fins.com explored the issue of whether to give two weeks notice before quitting a job: "If the decision is between starting tomorrow or the job doesn't exist, how could you not take the dream job?"

As is often the case, best content was in a handful of comments:

One of my co-workers, simply wrote "Elvis has left the building" on his whiteboard, and taped his badge and keys to the door of his office.  Drove HR nuts.

I left for my dream job. I gave my employer notice, and made sure everything was in good shape before I left. When my dream job turned out to be a nightmare, my old employer took me back.

Leaving without notice is a non issue at many major corporations, if you hold any position involved with proprietary information, which just about any position these days. When I gave 2 weeks notice at 2 of my last  employers they have instructed me not to come into the office and work from home because they do not want me to influence the other workers and do not want me to have the opportunity to see what is going on in the office. They want you gone asap once you announce your departure.

You will do permanent damaged to your image in the marketplace. It should be a process of negotiation, both with the previous employer and the new one - every situation is unique.
And about that 'dream job' - if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Rick Perry and Crony Capitalism: Guilty beyond reasonable doubt

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I’ve noted Rick Perry’s campaign for President previously, but yesterday, buried in a story on Michele Bachmann was this:

Before we bid adieu to Michele Bachmann, let’s look at her other charge against Perry: that the governor tried to start up a vaccination program because he got campaign contributions from the vaccine’s maker, Merck.

“If you’re saying that I can be bought for five thousand, I’m offended,” said Perry, in a response that will make a swell campaign ad. (“Vote for the Man Who Can’t Be Bought for as Little as $5,000!”)
Although Merck has apparently donated about $30,000. And at the time Perry made the decision, his former chief of staff was working for Merck as a lobbyist.

Rick Perry supports abstinence-only sex education in all Texas public schools. He doesn’t think kids should be taught about condoms. How many of you really think he would leap to the cutting-edge front of the war against sexually transmitted disease by inoculating 12-year-old girls simply because, as he put it, “I am always going to err on the side of life.”

Let me see a show of hands.

Sooner or later, even Michele Bachmann will turn out to be right about something. (emphasis added)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wall Street friends and public employee unions

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In a follow-up to my earlier post From Bad to Worse: the Impoverishment of the United States of America
I came across the following comment in the New York Times:

"I read recently that the number of people without health insurance has increased this year too. In spite of that grand sellout Obama made with the industry. Or maybe because of it? We know he was committed to bailing out his rich Wall Street friends and public employee unions. But has anything Obama put his hands on helped the ordinary people of this country?" (emphasis added)

Poverty Levels in 2010 Reach 52-Year Peak, U.S. Says - Readers' Comments - NYTimes.com

If the Republicans repeat in 2012 what happened in 2010, there should be no reason anyone on the Democrat side wonders why.

From Bad to Worse: the Impoverishment of the United States of America

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Number of poor hit record 46 million in 2010 | ReutersThe number of Americans living below the poverty line rose to a record 46 million last year, . . .The number of poor Americans in 2010 was the largest in the 52 years that the Census Bureau has been publishing poverty estimates, the report said, while the poverty rate was the highest since 1993.

This isn’t good news. We knew about the jobless—now this—despite extensions of unemployment benefits and “stimulus” in the billions.  Of course, we know the objectives of government action have mainly been to create and sustain “government jobs” at federal, state, and local levels, and bail out “Wall Street” (to hell with Main Street). At this rate, apparently, Washington is determined that average Americans go on some public payroll or become another government “entitlement” statistic. Then what?

Who’s to blame? Both Democrats and Republicans can take the honors--
The United States has long had one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. Among 34 countries tracked by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Chile, Israel and Mexico have higher rates of poverty. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/13/us-usa-economy-poverty-idUSTRE78C3YV20110913

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why the UK should thank Gordon Brown

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Paul Krugman in the New York Times today notes that in terms of debt projections, the UK  is in worse shape than Spain, yet markets are acting as if Spain is highly risky, while treating UK bonds as a safe haven like US or German bondswhat’s going on?

To some extent this may reflect the reality that British growth prospects are better because of the depreciated pound, and also the fact that Britain won’t have to deflate the way Spain will thanks to (Spain) being on the euro. But I believe that De Grauwe is right that the most important factor is that Britain, which can turn to the Bank of England for financing if necessary, doesn’t face the risk of a run by creditors the way Spain does.

What’s needed, clearly, is for Europe — and ultimately that probably means the ECB — to provide for Spain and Italy the kind of backstop countries with their own currencies can provide for themselves. Without that, the whole euro system is at risk of unraveling, not over the course of years, but over the course of a few weeks.

Oh, and Britain should give thanks to Gordon Brown, who kept them out of the euro. The Spanish Prisoner - NYTimes.com

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mayor Emanuel--one Democrat who "gets it"--explodes at Teachers Union president

Teachers union president says Mayor Emanuel ‘exploded’ at her - Chicago Sun-Times

If only more Democrats were like Mayor Rahm Emanuel--including President Obama--with a sorry 55% graduation rate, Chicago Public Schools have been failing for years. Thankfully, at last, someone is taking on the Teachers Union and putting children first:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says Mayor Rahm Emanuel “exploded” at her during a conversation in his office about his signature longer-school-day effort, pointing his finger at her, yelling and telling her, “F--- you, Lewis.”

“I just want to call it immense disrespect for me and the Chicago Teachers Union,’’ Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times Friday. “I didn’t appreciate the way he talked to me.
. . . .
Emanuel — long known for his salty rants — would not go into specifics Friday about the exchange, and said the meeting weeks ago ended with a hug from Lewis.

“I’m not going to get into a he-said, she-said. We had a good meeting. It was not a long meeting. We talked about a longer school day and we talked about focusing on elementary kids,” the mayor said.

“To tell the truth, she hugged me at the end of the meeting.” 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Krugman on "highly educated ignorance"

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I wrote about Paul Krugman’s observation of  “highly educated ignorance”  in economics, a couple of months ago - http://www.johnmpoole.com/2011/07/highly-educated-ignorance.html.
Now, Krugman has presented a full paper of how economists failed to see the crisis coming and more - The Profession and the Crisis  - which should be required reading for everyone in government and higher education. Excerpts:

. . . We’ve entered a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which much of the profession has lost its former knowledge, just as barbarian Europe had lost the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans. . . .  How did all this knowledge get lost? Well, being the age I am, I was able to watch the transformation of macroeconomics in real time, and I’d say that what happened was a runaway social process.

First, success in academic economics came from publishing “hard” papers — meaning papers that used rigorous and preferably difficult mathematics. This in itself biased publication toward equilibrium business cycle models, as opposed to the ad hoc modeling typical of what I consider useful macroeconomics. Graduate education, in turn, became increasingly focused on the kind of work that could get published and lead to tenure. Successive cohorts of students were trained only in the newly rigorous version of macro, which had lost touch with the field's previous intellectual achievements.

And as these cohorts became professors in their turn, they closed off both publication and promotion to anyone who questioned the dominant academic approach. Robert Lucas wrote more than 30 years ago — approvingly! — about how participants in seminars would “whisper and giggle” when someone presented a Keynesian analysis.(emphasis added)
. . . . There are also many calls for new economic thinking; there's even an institute dedicated to that project. Again, fine — but the biggest problem we had as a profession wasn't failure to keep up with a changing world, it was failure to remember what our fathers learned. (emphasis added)

What we really need is a change in the destructive social dynamics that brought us to this point. . . . .  http://www.palgrave-journals.com/eej/journal/v37/n3/full/eej20118a.html

In other words, political correctness and absence of diversity, led to “highly educated ignorance.”  The “social dynamics” that Krugman refers to is the systemic “group think” in academia, of which conservatives have complained for years. It’s a healthy sign that liberals like Krugman are finally “getting it.”

Free calls home from Gmail for all U.S. service members

Google Voice Blog: Free calls home from Gmail for all U.S. service members

If you or a friend or family member is serving in the U.S. military, good news from Google:

We understand that it’s not always easy or affordable for our troops serving overseas to call friends and family at home, so starting today we’re making it completely free for or all uniformed military personnel with valid United States Military (.mil) email addresses to call the United States, right from Gmail.

There are two easy steps to enable free calling from Gmail (detailed instructions):

1. Add your valid .mil email address to your Google Account

2. Click on the Call phone link at the top of the Gmail chat roster and install the voice and video Gmail plugin if you haven’t already.

And don’t forget that for friends and family at home in the U.S., calling troops abroad is as little as $.02/minute. Similar to free calling within the U.S., free calling to the US for service members will be available for at least the rest of 2011.

We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"3 days a week of mail, possibly in 15 years" - How about now?

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"3 days a week of mail, possibly in 15 years"-- How about now?
With all the angst going on in Washington about the US Post Office, I was struck a few weeks ago by the CBS News story-- Head of U.S. Postal Service says delivery could be scaled back to 3 days a week :

With Internet usage rising and mail volume steadily falling, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned the U.S. Postal Service is going to have to make significant cutbacks that could mean no more Saturday service and eventually lead to mail delivery just three days a week.
The Postal Service's "cashflow crisis is at a critical level," Donahoe told USA Today in an interview published Wednesday. Donahoe said eliminating Saturday mail would save around $3.1 billion a year for the cash-strapped agency, projected to lose $8.3 billion this year.
"At some point, we'll have to move to three" days a week of mail delivery, possibly in 15 years, he told the newspaper. . . .
15 years? How about now. No wonder Washington can’t get its fiscal house in order. For those in Washington who choose to continue to ignore the obvious, let me offer the following:
  • The United States Postal Service was never intended to be a “make work” program with overpaid government union workers doing unnecessary work at taxpayer’s expense.
  • Postal services worldwide are in decline because they are not needed anymore due to online banking and bill paying, email and other forms of electronic communication.
  • The USPS is a bloated, quasi-governmental service, costing billions every year in taxpayer subsidies to continue to prop up. Other than serving as a subsidy for commercial print advertising delivery, and to continue employing government union workers who in turn make political contributions to members of Congress, it serves a diminishing need—in business parlance, it’s a “dinosaur.”
  • The United States Postal Service is not a “green” industry.  The Postal Service, in order to justify its existence, now does everything it can to promote the generation of print material to be distributed by its fuel-burning vehicles.  Where are the environmentalists on this issue?—MIA. I thought they cared about the environment and the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels.

The money we're wasting on the USPS subsidies would be better spent on actual, needed infrastructure--which would provide additional employment.  In other words, it's time Washington started focusing on "money better spent" and reallocating according to priorities.

Friday, September 2, 2011

How a free economy can create jobs

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In the midst of all the doom and gloom on the economic front, the pundits have all been focused on Washington--Obama, Congress, and the Fed, when the truth is they can have very little impact (other than negative) on creating jobs in the private sector in the near term (and in view of the current political stalemate). Reforming the tax system would help--but it'll take a political miracle, so don't hold your breath. Less oppressive regulation?—Yes, by all means get government off the back of business, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

In the midst of it all, free enterprise (where unhindered by regulation and other governmental barriers) strives against the countervailing forces--here's one current example:

Topshop, the hipster clothing chain from Britain, plans to debut on the Mag Mile (Chicago) Sept. 8. The fashion chain is taking over the corner space formerly occupied by Borders book stores at 803 N. Michigan Ave. The 49,000-square-foot space will house Topshop in the basement and first floor. Topman, the men's division, will be located on the second floor. The store joins rivals H&M and Zara and Forever 21 on Chicago’s famous shopping boulevard..

No stimulus funding, no special tax package, just free enterprise at work. Oh and by the way, Topshop's current plans for further U.S. expansion? British news reports suggest that Topshop also plans to introduce outlets in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. http://www.vancouversun.com/life/cheap+chic+Topshop+fashion+retailer+open+Vancouver/5267618/story.html#ixzz1WotHI38d

The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects