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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

World is right to worry about US debt

Printing money may not be the answer--

World is right to worry about US debt - FT.com: "The idea that one should just ignore all these problems and apply crude Keynesian stimulus is a dangerous one. It matters a great deal how the government taxes and spends, not just how much. The US debt level is a constraint. A growing number of empirical studies, including my own joint work with Carmen Reinhart, suggest that the US has already reached a debt level that has been associated with slower growth in advanced countries. The fact interest rates are low today does not necessarily mean the US is an exception to this rule – take one look at stagnant Japan’s rates. The dollar’s reserve currency status buys America more room, but how much and for how long? A high debt burden is a problem precisely because it reduces a country’s capacity to deal with future shocks. The US remains an incredible franchise with many remarkable strengths. The world’s overwhelming presumption is that Americans will find a path to budget sustainability. Nevertheless, it is hard for many in the US to escape the nagging feeling that just maybe this time we won’t."


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Police, Not Prisons, Cut Crime

With the US having the highest incarceration rate in the world, I wonder if anybody is paying attention--

Police Have Done More Than Prisons to Cut Crime in New York - NYTimes.com: " . . . Whatever has made New York the safest big city in America, that feat has certainly not been accomplished by locking up more criminals. “The precise causes of New York’s crime decline will be debated by social scientists until the Sun hits the Earth,” said Michael Jacobson, a criminologist who ran the city’s Correction and Probation Departments during the 1990s and is now the president of the Vera Institute of Justice, a criminal justice research group. “But the 50,000-foot story from New York is that you can drive down crime while decreasing your jail and prison population — and save a huge amount of money in the process.” New York’s singular success has attracted attention across the country from public officials whose budgets have been strained by the prison boom. The 2.3 million people behind bars in America, a fifth of the world’s prisoners, cost taxpayers more than $75 billion a year. The strict penal policies were intended to reduce crime, but they have led to a historic, if largely unrecognized, shift in priorities away from policing. “The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”. . . "


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The History Trap

This is the most important essay I have read in a long, long time--Paul Kedrosky's History And Contingency--excerpt below--

Edge.org: " . . . History increasingly traps us, creating paths—and endowments and costs, both in time and money—that must be traveled before we can change directions, however desirable those new directions might seem. History—the path by which we got here, and the endowments and effluvia it has left us—is an increasingly large weight on our progress. Our built environment is an installed base, like an ancient computer operating systems that holds back progress because compatibility gives such an immense advantage. Writer William Gibson once famously said that the "The future is already here—it's just not very evenly distributed". I worry more that the past is here—it's just so evenly distributed that we can't get to the future."


Monday, January 28, 2013

This is why there is no tax reform

Tax reform is acknowledged as a priority need by almost everyone but nothing is getting done--in Washington or  elsewhere. Wonder why? Well the most powerful corporations have a great deal right now paying only about 2% tax rate (see below)--why would Apple et al want tax reform where they might have to pay their fair share? There are plenty of lobbyists and lawyers paid by big corporations to block true reform from ever taking place in Washington. Here's an excerpt of just one of many stories--

Apple Is Hiding Billions Of Dollars From The IRS - Business Insider: " . . . Technology giant Apple shuttled $11bn (£7bn) into offshore tax havens in the fourth quarter of 2012, an analysis of its corporate filings has revealed. The iPad maker has slashed its tax bill by paying less than 2pc on its overseas profits, as it moves money through offshoots in low-tax countries such as the British Virgin Islands. Apple's completely legal tax avoidance strategies bring the total the company has sheltered from the US tax authorities to $94bn, according to a Sunday Times analysis. Corporation tax on Apple's overseas operations amount to just 1.9pc of profits, compared with a tax rate of up to 24pc in the UK and 35pc in the US. Apple is estimated to have avoided more than £550m in tax in Britain in 2011. Its latest accounts show UK turnover at just over £1bn and profit at £81.3m, generating a tax bill of £14.4m.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-is-hiding-billions-of-dollars-from-the-irs-2013-1#ixzz2JDMJHpv7


Sunday, January 27, 2013

£1bn Google London headquarters

What do you do when you have lots of cash (billions of $$) overseas you can't bring back to the US (without paying exorbitant taxes)? Real estate in central London is probably a smart investment--

Google to build £1bn UK headquarters at London's King's Cross | Technology | guardian.co.uk: "Google has completed a £1bn property deal to move its UK headquarters to a brownfield site in London's King's Cross area. The US technology giant has purchased a 2.4 acre site between King's Cross and St Pancras stations and plans to build a seven and 11 storey complex due to be complete in 2016. Google already has two central London offices – one in Victoria and one on St Giles High Street – from where staff are expected to be relocated. The move forms part of the regeneration of the King's Cross area following the opening of the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras in 2007. Organisations that have moved into the area since then include Guardian News & Media, publisher of MediaGuardian, and art college Central St Martin's. Google's purchase mirrors its property strategy in Dublin, where it bought a building outright for 2,000 staff in 2011."


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Obama still cleaning up the George W. Bush mess

Never in the history of the United States has a President had to spend so much time cleaning up a predecessor's mistakes, messes, and disasters--domestic, economic, and foreign--including military misadventures (let's always remember the completely unnecessary war in Iraq), etc.--

Obama: U.S. forces to move to Afghan support role in spring | Reuters: "Obama, during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said he will announce the next steps in the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan in coming months."

Somewhere in the future, the true costs of the George W. Bush Presidency will be calculated--and it will be mind-boggling.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as 'ridiculous, absurd'

DOJ prosecution of Swartz listed as "ridiculous, absurd" by members of Congress

Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as 'ridiculous, absurd' - The Hill's Hillicon Valley: " . . . Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says his Oversight panel will look into whether federal prosecutors acted inappropriately. Meanwhile, two other members of the House Judiciary Committee said prosecutors acted too aggressively. “The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) told The Hill. “It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else.” Polis called Swartz — a co-creator of Reddit who was accused of stealing articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a "martyr" for why Congress should limit the discretion of prosecutors. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the government's handling of the case was “pretty outrageous.”“Based on what I know, I think the Department of Justice was way out of line on the case,” she told The Hill.  All three lawmakers serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. The lawmakers worked with Swartz and his group Demand Progress last year to defeat online piracy legislation backed by the entertainment industry. . . . "

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/277353-lawmakers-blast-trumped-up-doj-prosecution-of-internet-activist#ixzz2IBZabr3E


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lofgren to introduce bill amending hacking law in honor of Swartz

Worth noting--although I doubt it will stop the prosecutorial misconduct rampant in the US:

Lofgren to introduce bill amending hacking law in honor of Swartz - The Hill's Hillicon Valley: "The California Democrat told The Hill earlier in the day that she briefly met Swartz when he was visiting Washington to speak out against the Stop Online Piracy Act on behalf of Demand Progress, the advocacy group he founded. Lofgren was a major opponent of the anti-piracy bill. Lawrence Lessig, a political activist and professor at Harvard Law School who briefly represented Swartz, cheered Lofgren for introducing the draft measure. "The CFAA was the hook for the government's bullying of [Swartz]. This law would remove that hook," Lessig said in a comment published on Lofgren's Reddit post. "Let's get this done for Aaron — now.""


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Davos and the broken Western state model

We must fix the broken Western state model - Telegraph: "what the Davos crowd should be focused on, as boldly stated by Paul Polman, the chief executive of consumer goods giant Unilever, in his extraordinary recent interview with my colleague Kamal Ahmed. Governments need to get used to lower spending levels… individuals need to get used to lower pensions and welfare payments… and businesses need to get used to the costs that come with it and bear their part," said Polman. Leaders of huge conglomerates exercise extreme caution when making public statements. So when the likes of Polman start breaking ideological taboos, the Western political classes – still locked in their "growth versus austerity" neo-Keynesian parlour game – need to recognise that the game is up. "People are realising in the West that our model is not a sustainable model," Polman continued. "The dynamics have now completely shifted but politicians don't want to explain that to peoplevested interests take too big a share of voice.""

Is Washington even listening?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Santa Clara County economy best performing

Santa Clara County economy ranked best performing - SiliconValley.com: ""The economy is impressive in the South Bay," said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific. "You not only have strong job growth, but you also have income growth in the South Bay." Silicon Valley may not produce as much tech equipment as it once did, but much of the world's output is envisioned and designed there, the report determined. The latest technology wave is powered by social media, mobile devices, clean tech, and "big-data analytics," the report stated. "Silicon Valley is still a powerhouse in Internet search, communications, networking, semiconductor and computer design, medical technology, telecom . . . ." Top 10 metro regions for 2012 in the Milken Institute report:
1. San Jose
2. Austin, Texas
3. Raleigh, N.C.
4. Houston
5. Washington, D.C.
6. Salt Lake City
7. Provo, Utah
8. Cambridge, Mass.
9. Charleston, S.C.
10. Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

The further down the list that Washington DC drops, the better the economy is performing.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Government's Biggest Tax Bite

Tom Sowell reminds us that the government can take our money in so, so many ways--

Sometimes Government's Biggest Tax Bite Is Taken Out Of Poor - Investors.com: "If you define a tax as only those things that the government chooses to call a tax, you get a radically different picture from what you get when you say, "If it looks like a tax, acts like a tax and takes away your resources like a tax, then it's a tax." One of the biggest, and one of the oldest, taxes in this latter sense is inflation. Governments have stolen their people's resources this way, not just for centuries, but for thousands of years. . . .If you put $1,000 in your piggy bank in 1960 and took it out to spend in 2000, you would discover that your money had, over time, lost 80% of its value. Read More At IBD: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-on-the-right/121012-636517-governments-steal-through-inflation.htm#ixzz2EnQeYxiB "


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Beginning of American Decline?

Will 2013 Mark the Beginning of American Decline? - Bloomberg: "So while no country will rise up to take America’s place as the world’s leading economy, its global position is indeed threatened -- by its own reluctance to have an honest conversation about the federal budget and by the unwillingness of its political leadership to confront powerful interests on Wall Street. Sooner or later, it will be America’s turn to fall out of favor with investors and to see its own interest rates rise. It is hard to know when that day will come, or precisely what pressures the country will face.  Let me only venture one forecast: We will not be ready.
(Simon Johnson is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is co-author of “White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You.” The opinions expressed are his own.)"

Read the full article above for more.  I disagree with the author on one thing. The beginning of American decline began with the administration of George W. Bush--what a disaster: 2 wars (1 completely unnecessary), vast expansion of government and government spending, government incentives that led to creation of economic bubbles and subsequent crash, lack of oversight, deficit spending, complete lack of discipline, stewardship, and wisdom--the most important ingredient of governance.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Windows 8 Is a Massive Microsoft Fail

Why Windows 8 will fail as a desktop OS--gorilla arm, finger grease, and the dumbed-down OS--

Why Touch Screens Will Not Take Over: Scientific American: ". . . the tingling ache that came from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm. Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s. (Another problem is finger grease. You can clean a phone's screen by wiping it on your jeans, but that's not as convenient with a 32-inch monitor.) . . . Windows 8 is actually two operating systems in one. . . the underlying Windows desktop has the too-small-targets problem. The angle and distance of PC screens are tougher nuts to crack. Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will be so attractive that we won't mind touching our PC screens, at least until the PC concept fades away entirely. Yet although PC sales have slowed, they won't be zero any time soon. My belief is that touch screens make sense on mobile computers but not on stationary ones. Microsoft is making a gigantic bet that I'm wrong."

Microsoft is losing that bet, big time.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

2012 Election not a Mandate for either Obama or the Democrats

Forget the "spin" (particularly that generated by the Obama-Mainstream Media which I am getting sick of hearing)--the 2012 election was not  a "mandate" for either Obama/Democrats or the Republicans--

2012 Turnout Dramatically Lower than 2008: "13 million fewer people voted in 2012 than in 2008. 131 million voters cast their ballots in the 2008 election in which Barack Obama defeated John McCain by a 53% to 46% margin. Obama received 69.4 million votes, while McCain received 59.9 million. In 2012, Obama defeated Romney by a 50% to 48% margin. Obama received 59.8 million votes, and Romney received 57.1 million votes -- 2.7 million fewer than Obama in 2012, but also 2.8 million fewer than McCain in 2008. . . President Obama's 2012 vote total -- 59.8 million -- was 100,000 less than the 59.9 million John McCain received in 2008."

Look at the numbers. If the Democrat and Republican Presidential candidates in 2016 continue this trend at the same numbers (Democrat candidate gettting 10 million fewer votes in 2016 than in 2012, and the Republican candidate 3 million less)--the Republican will win by more than 4 million votes!

Mandate? LOL!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Low Will Microsoft Go?

Are there any limits to how low Microsoft will go?--

Behind Google's Antitrust Escape - WSJ.com: " . . . In a sign no Google effort was too small to go unnoticed by Microsoft, John Sampson, a director of Microsoft's federal politics operations, last year urged at least one member of Congress from Washington state not to support a Google event in Seattle last year called "Get Your Business Online" that catered to small businesses. Google spent millions of dollars on Get Your Business Online, a nationwide campaign that included multiday workshops in states such as Iowa and Texas in which Google helped local businesses set up websites and an online business listing tied to its search engine, free of charge. In an email to a congressional office in March 2012, Mr. Sampson said such events were partly aimed at soliciting small businesses to support Google. "Although these programs have an air of goodness," he wrote in the email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, "Google is in fact using this program to develop a grass-tops network" of small businesses they can "activate to their defense" if the FTC tries to bring a case. Some Washington lobbyists, including those who have done work for Google, said that the Get Your Business Online effort has perhaps had more impact on federal lawmakers than any lobbying done on Capitol Hill. A Google spokesman declined to comment. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Sampson's outreach efforts."

Really Microsoft, have you no shame?


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Social Security - Why It’s Worse Than You Think

Social Security and Dysfunctional Washington--

Social Security - It’s Worse Than You Think - NYTimes.com: " . . . For the first time in more than a quarter-century, Social Security ran a deficit in 2010: It spent $49 billion dollars more in benefits than it received in revenues, and drew from its trust funds to cover the shortfall. Those funds — a $2.7 trillion buffer built in anticipation of retiring baby boomers — will be exhausted by 2033, the government currently projects. Those facts are widely known. What’s not is that the Social Security Administration underestimates how long Americans will live and how much the trust funds will need to pay out — to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget — and that the trust funds will run out, if nothing is done, two years earlier than the government has predicted. We reached these conclusions, and presented them in an article in the journal Demography, after finding that the government’s methods for forecasting Americans’ longevity were outdated and omitted crucial health and demographic factors. . . ."


Monday, January 14, 2013

Obama Administration's "Finest Hour"

Whatever your political persuasion may be, the following will go down in history as the Obama Presidency's "finest hour"--

Velcro Feline: The UN’s ITU attempt to takeover the Internet at WCIT 2012: "The United States took the floor. Ambassador Kramer announced that the US would not be signing the new treaty. He was followed by the United Kingdom. Sweden said that it would need to consult with its capital (code in UN-speak for “not signing”). Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Kenya, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic all made similar statements before the Chairman cut the meeting short. At a later meeting that night, additional countries expressed their reservations. The EU issued a directive that the new human rights language was unacceptable, and therefore no EU country would be allowed to sign. An intensive overnight lobbying effort was launched. Once senior-level ministers got an earful from private sector representatives back in their own countries, they sent instructions to their delegations in Dubai not to sign the new treaty. All told, 89 countries signed while 55 did not." (more at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/12/behind-closed-doors-at-the-uns-attempted-takeover-of-the-internet/2/ )

Long live internet freedom!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

What is Driving US Health Care Spending

What Is Driving U.S. Health Care Spending? America’s Unsustainable Health Care Cost Growth | Bipartisan Policy Center: "This background paper provides a basic overview of the drivers of health care cost growth, and serves as an analytical starting point for BPC's work on health care cost containment. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is embarking on an effort to address unsustainable health care cost growth in the United States. With the leadership of former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bill Frist (R-TN), former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former Congressional Budget Office Director Dr. Alice Rivlin, the BPC Health Care Cost Containment Initiative will explore and evaluate strategies to contain health care cost growth on a system-wide basis, while enhancing health care quality and value. Our current health care system is rife with opportunities to reduce waste, deliver more effective, coordinated care, and improve the health and well-being of all Americans. BPC will prioritize effective cost-containment strategies with the greatest potential for bipartisan support and political success in 2013. . . ."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Microsoft sweating the assets?

Recent article (excerpt below) caught my eye--

Is Microsoft Now A Value Trap? So Says Barry Ritholtz - Forbes: "“sweating the assets” - " . . . The Windows, Office near monopolies are hugely cash and profit generative. So are the various back office products for large corporates. Bing loses a shedload, as do most to all of the various things Microsoft has tried to build by spending those Windows/Office profits. I wouldn’t want to have to prove this with a spread sheet but it is at least arguable that the shareholders would have made more money if instead of spending the profits on things that may or may not work (and usually don’t), those profits were just returned to the shareholders.And it’s a stronger argument from here into the future. Yes, Windows Phone might be a success, so might Surface. But there’s still many tens of billions of profits to be wrung from those two desktop near monopolies. Microsoft could sell all of the peripheral businesses and commit to simply upgrading those two pieces of software (and perhaps the enterprise stuff) into the future until they are entirely finished in the marketplace. It’s known as “sweating the assets” and as I say, it is at least arguable that this would produce the maximal return to investors. Which is the point of the whole game anyway. Just stop looking for new things to do and just gouge as much profit as possible out of the decline over the decades of those two hit products."

I'm, not sure it's a strategy that would work. My best guess--Windows and Office will be gone as "cash cows" a lot quicker that the author of the above article thinks--that's why Redmond is in such a panic and gushing cash on so many failures--including its latest--Windows 8.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Health Care Costs Driving Deficits

Recommend reading--

Nine charts tell the story of the United States in 2012. excerpt--

       graphic source: New York Times
"The explosion of the federal budget deficit since the turn of the century stems from multiple causes, including huge tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and rapid spending growth in many areas like defense, and later, the stimulus to combat the recession. But no budget-busting factor looms larger than the soaring cost of government-financed health care, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. In addition to driving current and projected deficits, the rise in spending has squeezed the resources available for other domestic programs. Often dismissed as wasteful government spending, these “discretionary” programs include important areas of investment, such as infrastructure, research and development and education. In reducing such investments, we are eating our seed corn."


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vitter: Harry Reid "an idiot" for Katrina comments (video)

Vitter: Harry Reid "an idiot" for Katrina comments - Political Eye - CBS News: "Sen. David Vitter, R-La, took to Twitter to slam Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for comments he made comparing Hurricane Katrina victims to superstorm Sandy victims. "Sadly, Harry Reid has again revealed himself to be an idiot, this time gravely insulting Gulf Coast residents," Vitter wrote today. . . . Katrina killed over 1,800 people and caused $145 billion in damage; 120 died after Sandy hit and the storm caused an estimated $80 billion in damage."


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You gotta problem with Hagel or Brennan?

The way to deal with the dysfunction of Washington (and the US at large) is to NOT attend the dysfunctional behavior.  As for President Obama's nomination of Hagel and Brennan--they are both qualified, and they are the President's choice.  There are no disqualifying objections as to either nominee (unlike Susan Rice whose own recent and past actions clearly brought about legitimate questions of her judgment, fitness, priorities, etc.). Memo to Republicans and Democrats: there are no perfect people; get over it; you weren't elected President.

If Obama will ride this out, he will end up with his choices, for Secretary of Defense and CIA director, being confirmed--and both gentlemen will do a fine job.

The US has a lot of serious problems that the Senate should be spending time on. Obama's nominees for Secretary of Defense and CIA director should be confirmed without delay.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Apotheker's Legacy of Wrecking HP Continues

Autonomy hasn't been the killer software product that HP pumped it up to be--Business Insider

Meg Whitman is doing all she can to set HP aright after all the damage Leo Apotheker did before he was finally fired (he should have never been hired in the first place--blame the HP board for that horrendous decision).  I just don't know how much more rough water HP is going to have to go through--PCs and copiers are not a booming market and Apotheker threw away webOS and hence destroyed HP's chance to compete in tablets and mobile--

" . . . the industry shift has rewarded upstarts like Amazon.com, which has become a premier cloud provider to business, and Apple, which reinvented itself with smartphones and tablets."(NYTimes)

If only HP had not hired Apotheker but a CEO who could have advanced webOS--HP: Replaces Autonomy Leader With Bill Veghte - Business Insider: "According to a recent report in Fortune, HP CFO Kathie Lesjak tried to stop HP from buying Autonomy for nearly $12 billion last summer, thinking the price was too high, but she lost that battle to then-CEO Leo Apotheker."--$12 billion down the drain. What a waste!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Antitrust, Politics, Economics

As a follow-up to my post yesterday Google Has Learned The Ways of Washington--Government Bureaucrats, Lawyers, Lobbyists, $$$, I couldn't pass up posting an excerpt from the following--

Jenkins: Al Gore Is Good at Rent-Seeking (and Microsoft Isn't) - WSJ.com: " . . . Microsoft still tries to make money by selling consumers products they want, though it has launched some stinkers in this regard . . . its latest stinker was more up Mr. Gore's alley: a multimillion-dollar investment in trying to foment a government antitrust crackdown on Google. That effort went conspicuously bust Thursday when the Federal Trade Commission let Google go with token remonstrances about its business practices. . . . As FTC chief Jon Liebowitz acknowledged this week, antitrust agencies live to bring "big cases." The FTC staff, whose revolving-door career interests would be enhanced by a Google prosecution, was an easy sell. Less so the agency's political appointees who must decide yea or nay. The media wasn't clamoring for a Google crackdown. Congress was less than enthusiastic. The Obama White House, known to be close to Google, was disturbingly mute. Antitrust is supposed to be entirely about clinical economics but never is. FDR's antitrust chief Thurman Arnold once said that antitrust was a collective squeal of resentment against businesses that annoy us with their success. Google hasn't been sufficiently annoying. Notice, by the way, that the astute Arnold went on to found Arnold & Porter, one of the great Beltway law firms . . ."


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Google Has Learned The Ways of Washington--Government Bureaucrats, Lawyers, Lobbyists, $$$

Washington DC produces nothing but deficits, legislation, regulations, and bureaucracy. But that vast ecosystem, which sucks money from the rest of the nation, is now the wealthiest metropolitan area in the USA--recession?--not in Washington where government continues to spend, and lobbyists and lawyers get fat and rich, while the rest of the nation has suffered through the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Also, Washington has taught everyone else a lesson--if you get too big and successful (like Google) then "we will bring you down"--if nothing else you will have to spend years explaining your business processes and industry practices to bureaucratic morons at agencies like the FTC which open investigations on meritless claims ("FTC never had compelling evidence against Google, and its lengthy and expensive investigation came up essentially dry"); the FTC even hired expensive, outside Washington counsel because (apparently) FTC staff counsel is too incompetent and inept. Nonetheless, Silicon Valley is wise to the ways of Washington, and hence Google knew it would have to pay the "tax" levied by the FTC and other inquiring agencies of the US government--the "tax" being the cost to hire lobbyists and lawyers (as well as the opportunity cost of diverting corporate resources to deal with and counter the FTC "investigation")--some might even call the FTC investigation a government-sponsored "shakedown"--after all, we all know the revolving door between government and law firms and lobbying firms in Washington D.C.--

How Google beat the feds - Tony Romm - POLITICO.com: "Google escaped from a nearly two-year federal antitrust probe with only a few scratches by proving that the best defense is a good offense. Instead of ignoring Washington — as rival Microsoft did before its costly monopolization trial in the 1990s — Google spent about $25 million in lobbying, made an effort to cozy up to the Obama administration and hired influential Republicans and former regulators. The company even consulted with the late Robert Bork and The Heritage Foundation and met with senators like John Kerry to make its case. In other words, these traditional outsiders worked the system from the inside."

The FTC Smartly Ends Its Imprudent Google Search Antitrust Investigation - Forbes: " . .  . Fortunately for Google, throwing money at the problem seemed to work really well . . . But is that really how the system’s supposed to work? Google wasn’t the only player spending like a drunken sailor. The FTC hired an expensive outside lawyer and invested countless staff hours. And Google’s enemies spent plenty of money themselves, both directly and through advocacy groups like Microsoft's "FairSearch."  For example, Microsoft has put on its own event (both in DC and in Europe), and see this San Jose Mercury News list of Microsoft-supported influencers (the article also tries to enumerate Google beneficiaries). With the FTC investigation over, we might project a recession in the legal industry when all of this money stops sloshing around. In the end, though the FTC reached the right result from its investigation, the money avalanche left me with a queasy stomach. As the cynical maxim goes, “he who has the gold makes the rules.” When titans clash over antitrust matters, it’s a fine line between justice being served and justice being bought."

Yes, unfortunately, that is how the dysfunctional Washington system works. And the sad thing is, the staff and Commission of the FTC probably think they are operating in the public interest--really! What a waste of resources. Another sign of America in decline.

There once were concepts of public service and stewardship of public resources (including taxpayer funds) in Washington. No more. Today, in Washington, it's just about feeding the Hogs at the Trough.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The FTC, Microsoft and Google

The comment excerpt to the Microsoft response to Google's victory before the FTC (an investigation which should never have been opened and was a monumental waste of taxpayer funds)--

The FTC and Google: A Missed Opportunity - Microsoft on the Issues - Site Home - TechNet Blogs"Microsoft, please stop complaining. Start innovating. The Internet is the most level, ultimate playing field. And just because you're losing doesn't mean you should try to paint the winner as evil."

and the following article says it all about how lame Microsoft is when it comes to competing with Google--

Google's FTC Settlement Is An Epic Fail For Microsoft"Microsoft had a pretty lousy year in 2012, putting out a string of big products – Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface tablet – that all turned out to be be disappointing. But those pale in comparison to what may be the biggest disappointment in Microsoft’s history — its failure to convince antitrust regulators to take action against Google. After a 19-month investigation and despite much prodding from Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Google that basically amounts to a slap on the wrist. This is a crushing blow to Microsoft, which has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and phony grassroots groups over the past several years hoping to land Google in hot water. Indeed, Microsoft’s obsession with Google doesn’t just border on crazy. It is crazy, and not just a little tiny bit crazy but full-blown, bunny-boiling, Ahab-versus-the-whale nutso. . . . "

Microsoft's idea of innovation and competing is to run to government agencies and get them to open investigations on competitors based on meritless claims. At some point, you would think the government would have enough sense to quit asking "how high" when Microsoft says "jump."


Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Ford C-Max Energi -- Car of the Year!

Car of the Year for 2013--Ford's got it!--

2013 Ford C-Max Energi Beats Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid in Overall Range: "Just the Facts:
The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid was certified by the EPA at a range of 620 miles, beating its chief rival, the 2013 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. The EPA certified the Prius plug-in hybrid at 540 miles of total range. The C-Max Energi also beats the Chevrolet Volt, which the EPA certifies at 380 miles of total range. . . Ford said in a statement on Tuesday that the C-Max Energi would deliver up to 21 miles in all-electric mode. "(This means) at least one leg of the average work commute — reportedly 20 miles each way — could be completed each day on electric battery charge only," Ford said."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

FTC Announcement Concerning Its Investigation of Google

FTC to Make Announcement Concerning Its Investigation of Google: ". . . regarding the specific allegations that the company (Google) biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission,” said Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the Commission. . . . the FTC’s mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google’s actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law.”"

Right decision--just a shame that the FTC wasted millions of dollars and 2 years investigating Google for meritless claims.


13 Predictions for 2013

Courtesy Ford Motor Company--and well worth taking time to read:



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Losers in the Political Realm

Mitt Romney’s New Year’s Resolution - Bloomberg: "Romney always thought he was going to win. For election night, he prepared not a concession speech but an eight-minute celebratory fireworks display over Boston Harbor. Romney wasn’t the sorriest player in this sorry political year. That title might go to former presidential candidate John Edwards, whose reputation was further degraded even though he was acquitted of violating campaign-finance laws; or General David Petraeus, who was forced to resign after an affair with his adoring biographer was revealed."

I'd add one more: Susan Rice (she didn't fool anyone for very long with her YouTube "story"). Good bye credibility. Good bye being Secretary of State.

Good bye Losers.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What you should know about the fiscal cliff deal

Fiscal Cliff Deal is Classic Washington--nothing really solved--little pain, little gain:

Wonkbook: Everything you need to know about the fiscal cliff deal: ". . . ”There are two facts you should know about the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal: One, it won’t reduce the deficit by much. Two, it won’t avert the fiscal cliff. Whatever deal gets worked out this week will be very narrow in scope, simply delaying major parts of the fiscal cliff and doing little to reduce the deficit.” --Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post."

The only real solution is comprehensive tax reform and comprehensive entitlement reform and less spending on wasteful, unnecessary programs. Washington still thinks in terms of "tax breaks" and "giveaways." Reality check: but for the printing press, the federal government is broke and insolvent; someday soon we will no longer be the "least dirty shirt."  We need to start over--make the system fair, equitable, with lower, flatter rates, eliminate all personal deductions except charitable contributions (capped at a limit at 20% of taxable income), exempt first $20,000 of taxable income. I wrote about it here--

The Payroll Tax - the problem and part of the solution

Fiscal Cliff Solution

US needs comprehensive tax and entitlements reforms

The House needs to re-write the bill along the lines above and send it back to the Senate. There's no better time to start real reform with real solutions, instead of the usual Washington-disease thinking.


Way to Go Microsoft! -- Windows 8 Adoption Rate Trailing Vista

Remember the Microsoft disaster known as "Vista"? Well it looks like the geniuses in Redmond have done it again--

Is Windows 8 Adoption Rate Really Trailing Vista's? | News & Opinion | PCMag.com: "Data compiled by Web analytics firm Net Applications put Windows 8's online usage share at just under 1.6 percent through Dec. 22 as measured in relation to all desktop and laptop PC operating systems. Microsoft made its next-gen PC and tablet platform available on Oct. 26. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer tabbed back through the data to find that Vista, after the same period of time following its 2007 release, had shown up on 2.2 percent of all Windows systems (you can access the same data by clicking back through the Net Application report.)"

Well I guess that is what happens when you decide to "dumb down" your OS to be mobile-ready (meaning built for smartphones and tablets)--and completely abandon your installed base of PC and notebook (non-touchscreen) users! Note to Redmond: I (and a lot of other PC users) do not need a touchscreen PC or notebook device--in fact, a touchscreen slows me down.

Many PC users are migrating to Apple, and a growing minority to Google Chromebooks. Here's my migration path history (1995 to present): Windows 95 - Windows 98 - Windows 2000 - Windows XP - Windows 7. Where from here (once my last Windows 7 notebook wears out)? I guess Google Chrome/Android since Microsoft has reportedly decided to change their future business model to primarily "subscriptions" for touchscreen devices. I need a keyboard and mouse for speedy, accurate content creation. Chromebooks and Android tablets support mouse devices (iPads do not). I use Word almost daily, but I can change (Google Docs anyone?). How about you?

Prediction for 2013: Apple and Google continue their global OS dominance in both smartphone and tablet devices, and increase their encroachment into the desktop/notebook sector previously dominated by Microsoft. It appears Microsoft is destined to be a distant third-place in the global OS competition for computing devices (smartphones, tablets, desktops, notebooks).

Long story short: Microsoft abandons its users, and its users in turn, abandon Microsoft.


The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects