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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Profit From Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)

How to Profit From Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Your Life | Endless Innovation | Big Think: " . . . At the end of the day, the great promise of modernity was to smooth out all the little wrinkles in life. We want an economy that chugs along at a nice little pace every year, even if it means the Fed injecting the monetary system with cheap money every year. We want our personal health to remain fairly constant over time, even if it means consuming more and more pharmaceuticals and other unnatural ingredients. Yet, as Taleb explains throughout his book, it is exactly all these steps that we took to smooth out everyday risk that is making life even more fragile than at any time in history. Modernity is all about seeking out the sleek, smooth and efficient in life, while nature is jagged and fractal-like. Something has to give, especially since the world is so complex and interconnected these days. To profit from fear, uncertainty, and doubt you need to do more than to make yourself "robust" -- you need to make yourself "anti-fragile."

Washington needs to make itself anti-fragile!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Sequester Blame Game and Zero Leadership from Obama

Observing Obama and his mainstream media sycophants is a bit sickening--the sequester was Obama's idea!--

O’Hare, Midway travelers likely to feel the sting of sequestration - Chicago Sun-Times: " . . . This contrived crisis seem familiar? We just went through this over New Year’s and in order to avoid the Dec. 31 “fiscal cliff” — also a manufactured deadline — Congress postponed the “sequester” until March 1. There is an enormous amount of blame-gaming going on here, and Obama — with his popularity high — has been bashing congressional Republicans in general and the House leadership in particular for not wanting to compromise, figuring they have much more to lose. Congress in 2011 went along with a White House suggestion to install the draconian, across-the-board domestic and defense spending cuts as a way to force each side to bargain, figuring that sane, rational elected officials would stop the sequester. In hindsight, that’s a lot of LOL. . . "

Is there be a better way to get to a sane fiscal policy? Of course. But with dysfunctional Washington and zero leadership from Obama, I'm afraid the clumsy sequester may be the only way forward. People who run their own businesses and C-level executives around the country must be in shock at the inept inability of government bureaucrats and elected officials to prioritize, and cut spending without affecting essential programs and services. Almost all US companies have had to become leaner (and more profitable) since the financial crisis of 2008--cutting redundant products, services, and personnel, and yet, the US government (as bloated and inefficient as it is) is unable to effect the minor cuts required by the sequestration without affecting essential government services? LOL!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

President Armageddon Barack Obama

Washington FUD--

Review & Outlook: President Armageddon - WSJ.com: " . . . Flanked by emergency medical personnel, Mr. Obama made his usual threat of Armageddon if automatic spending cuts go forward on March 1. Americans can expect more such melodrama in the coming days, so as a public service we thought we'd break down the President's three biggest political tricks. The Washington Monument ploy. "If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place," he moaned, "it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job creating investments in education and energy and medical research." His parade of horribles went on for several minutes. All of this wreckage from a 5% cut to domestic agencies and a 7% cut to the military. Americans need to understand that Mr. Obama is threatening that if he doesn't get what he wants, he's ready to inflict maximum pain on everybody else. He won't force government agencies to shave spending on travel and conferences and excessive pay and staffing. He won't demand that agencies cut the lowest priority spending as any half-competent middle manager would. It's the old ploy to stir public support for all government spending by shutting down vital services first. Voters should scoff at the idea that a $3.6 trillion government can't save one nickel of every dollar that agencies spend. The $85 billion in savings is a mere 2.3% of total spending. The agencies that the White House says can't save 5% received an average increase in their budgets of 17% in the previous five years—not counting their $276 billion stimulus bonus. . . . "


Monday, February 25, 2013

Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

Great book out--

Pound Foolish - Helaine Olen: "Pound Foolish also disproves many myths about spending and saving, including: Small pleasures can bankrupt you: Gurus popular­ized the idea that cutting out lattes and other small expenditures could make us millionaires. But reduc­ing our caffeine consumption will not offset our biggest expenses: housing, education, health care, and retirement. Disciplined investing will make you rich: Gurus also love to show how steady investing can turn modest savings into a huge nest egg at retirement. But these calculations assume a healthy market and a lifetime without any setbacks—two conditions that have no connection to the real world. Women need extra help managing money: Product pushers often target women, whose alleged financial ignorance supposedly leaves them especially at risk. In reality, women and men are both terrible at han­dling finances. Financial literacy classes will prevent future eco­nomic crises: Experts like to claim mandatory sessions on personal finance in school will cure many of our money ills. Not only is there little evidence this is true, the entire movement is largely funded and promoted by the financial services sector."

In other words, forget about the financial gurus--they are just trying to sucker you into spending your money on their products and services!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jack Lew - better buy gold?

Review & Outlook: The Rookie - WSJ.com: " . . . Mr. Lew's confirmation hearing was a substance-free zone, including his own job history. He was a senior executive at the giant failing bank (Citigroup) before and during the financial crisis, but over several hours Wednesday he gave the impression he was there mostly to cash a paycheck. And when Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) ticked off the problems that afflicted the two Citi divisions that Mr. Lew oversaw as chief operating officer, the nominee seemed to know less about them than Mr. Hatch. "I don't recall specific conversations" about any of several Citi-run hedge funds that were imploding at the time, said Mr. Lew. "I was aware there were funds that were in trouble." Citigroup funds with high leverage crashed and burned, requiring a taxpayer bailout while sparking fierce debates at Citi over whether customers had been adequately informed. But the COO who oversaw legal affairs for some of these units says he formed no opinion. . . . "

Just another example of dysfunctional Washington. No wonder the Wall Street Journal article cited above ran the subtitle "If there's a crisis on Jack Lew's Treasury watch, buy gold."


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Google to BT and patent trolls: "don't tread on me"

Google is not naive to the ways of Washington (e.g., FTC), patent trolls, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, or anyone else--now BT is going to think twice before it sues Google again:

Google slugs BT with four-patent countersuit after telco 'armed trolls' | ZDNet:  "Google has filed patent infringement suits against BT in the US and UK after the telco "armed patent trolls". Google filed a complaint on Wednesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California over BT's alleged infringement of four patents, some of which Google has acquired recently from the likes of IBM and Fujitsu. . . . The move follows BT's complaint against Google in the US District Court of Delaware in December 2011, which claimed over a dozen Google brands, from search and Google Maps to DoubleClick and Gmail, infringed on six of its patents. BT's patent actions have forced it to countersue, Google said. "We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits. But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers — and they've also been arming patent trolls. When faced with these kind of actions, we will defend ourselves," Google said in a statement. . . ."


Friday, February 22, 2013

Chromebook Pixel is everything you need (and more)

Just a couple of weeks ago I posted How to Build a Better Chromebook. Now Google has brought to market just that--Chromebook Pixel. Finally, a performance Chromebook!

Google Chrome Blog: The Chromebook Pixel, for what’s next: " . . . Speed: Speed has been a core tenet of Chrome and Chromebooks since the beginning. For Pixel, it’s critical that the overall experience, everything from loading webpages to switching between apps, is near instant. Powered by an Intel® Core™ i5 Processor and a solid state Flash memory architecture, the Pixel performs remarkably fast. Connectivity: The Pixel has an industry-leading WiFi range thanks to carefully positioned antennas and dual-band support. Long-term evolution (LTE) is engineered directly into the machine, delivering fast connectivity across Verizon's network, the largest, fastest 4G LTE network in the U.S. (LTE model optional). It also comes with 12 free GoGo® Inflight Internet passes for those times you need to connect while in the air. Storage: Since this Chromebook is for people who live in the cloud, one terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage is included with the Pixel. This enables you to save, access and share photos, videos, documents, and all of your stuff from all of your devices, from anywhere. . . ."

Combine the above with the Google Apps and  Chrome browser's utility offline (see below) and you have everything you need (and more). Goodbye Microsoft and Apple!

Chrome launcher for offline apps comes to Windows | ZDNet: " . . . The feature, currently available only on Google's Chromebooks . . . is "a dedicated home for your apps which makes them easy to open outside the browser", Google said in a post on its Chromium blog on Wednesday. On Chromebooks, apps can be "pinned" to the launcher with a right-click for faster access to more frequently used apps. The feature is more of a desktop organisation tool, which, for other desktops and laptops, is designed to support a class of browser app that Google calls "Packaged Apps". These are written in HTML5, JavaScript and CSS but live outside the browser. . . ."

About Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline - Google Drive Help: "You're able to view Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations even when you don't have an Internet connection. You're also able to edit Google documents and presentations offline. It's really handy when you're on an airplane or train without wireless Internet! . . . "

Enable Google Docs Offline - Google Apps Help: "From the Google Apps control panel, you can allow your users to view documents and spreadsheets even when they don't have an Internet connection. To do this, you need to enable Google Docs offline. . . "


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama uses DOJ as political vendetta machine against S&P

Robert Samuelson: The vendetta against S&P - The Washington Post: "Until the bubble burst, few understood what was happening. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently admitted that he was caught off guard by the crisis. But the Obama administration holds S&P to a higher standard. There must be villains, and they must be punished. Someday this case may be settled. But for now S&P is a scapegoat, and the Department of Justice has become the Department of Blame."

Prosecutors subpoenaed millions of pages of S&P emails and other documents and grilled dozens of its employees, yet were unable to produce convincing evidence of a companywide policy to inflate ratings for profit. S&P denies wrongdoing and refuses to settle. S&P's assumptions about the health of the subprime market matched those of the Treasury and Federal Reserve. The agency and the government used similar forecasting models and came to the same rosy conclusions about the real estate assets before they became worthless in 2007 and 2008. (source Investors.com--see below)

First there is Fast and Furious, then Solyndra, then the Kim Dotcom case, then Aaron Swartz, and now--S&P--all evidence of a corrupt and politically motivated Department of Justice under Eric Holder and the Obama administration--

Ahead Of New Debt Showdown, Obama Threatens Agency That Downgraded - Investors.com: "Staring at a another debt ceiling crisis, the president's punishing the one credit rating agency that dared downgrade U.S. debt in the last crisis. And Wall Street analysts say the timing's no coincidence. Just weeks away from the next debt-limit showdown, the Justice Department filed a whopping $5 billion lawsuit against Standard & Poor's for alleged fraud. The case appears weak, but the message it sends S&P and the other independent rating agencies is clear: Don't downgrade anymore. "It's a foregone conclusion that no more downgrades will be coming," said Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff. Curiously, Attorney General Eric Holder can't explain why the administration is targeting only S&P in its unprecedented investigation of Wall Street's credit rating industry. S&P's subprime securities ratings were virtually identical to those of Moody's and Fitch, yet the government's singling out S&P for prosecution. The reason seems obvious: Unlike Moody's and Fitch, S&P embarrassed President Obama ahead of his re-election bid by downgrading U.S. debt to AA+ from AAA. . . ." Read More At IBD: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/020813-643819-obamas-sandp-lawsuit-political-payback-for-downgrade.htm#ixzz2KQ8SHZnu


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Harry Reid Problem (video)

from January 18th Wall Street Journal--but worth a second look

How Do We Solve the Harry Reid Problem?
Sen. Lamar Alexander comments on divisions in Congress. He also discusses preparations for Inauguration Day festivities. Plus, how is the U.S. involved in the roots of the Algerian hostage crisis?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Money is not Wealth

Thanks to Bernanke et al, it is no longer so hard to understand--money is not wealth--

RealClearMarkets - What Happened To All Of That Money?: ". . . .As hard as it is for most people in today's modern era to grasp, as evidenced by the coin gambit, money is not wealth. Money can represent wealth, and, at times, even become a workable but temporary substitute, but money will never be able to replace true wealth as the central object, subject and foundation of the capitalist system. Of course, the capitalist system has found itself fettered by this modern obsession with money (included in the usage of debt as a centralized lever of control) and the political approval of economic central management, but, by and large the developed world still finds itself in some hybrid form of capitalism. While every major system continues to move to disproportion away from free markets and into the heavy handed, centralized approach, what is needed is less hybrid and more capital. The central agency of true wealth is that it distributes economic success without the need for nudging or control. Debt, on the contrary, is the very embodiment of economic slavery - the overconsumption of current needs at the expense of encumbrance on future prosperity. Unfortunately for the developed world, that encumbrance began collecting rent in August 2007. . . .What is holding back recovery is not the recession of debt and credit, but the ongoing lack of genuine income streams and opportunities. Good assets, those that can and do generate positive and sustainable cash flow, are what remain in short supply. Recreating old channels for credit production does absolutely nothing to remedy that central economic problem. Sustainable jobs do not come from Wall Street speculation or London trading of derivatives and rehypothecated central bank certificates. . . . "


Monday, February 18, 2013

Bill Gates on the Importance of Measurement

Bill Gates on the Importance of Measurement - WSJ.com: "In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal—in a feedback loop similar to the one Mr. Rosen describes. This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right. Historically, foreign aid has been measured in terms of the total amount of money invested—and during the Cold War, by whether a country stayed on our side—but not by how well it performed in actually helping people. Closer to home, despite innovation in measuring teacher performance world-wide, more than 90% of educators in the U.S. still get zero feedback on how to improve. An innovation—whether it's a new vaccine or an improved seed—can't have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it. We need innovations in measurement to find new, effective ways to deliver those tools and services to the clinics, family farms and classrooms that need them"

What is being measured? What is not being measured? Why not? What can not be measured?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Boeing 787 and how not to manufacture

Boeing has hopefully learned a hard lesson--

James Surowiecki: The Trouble with Boeing’s 787 : The New Yorker: "In a fascinating study of the process, two U.C.L.A. researchers, Christopher Tang and Joshua Zimmerman, show how challenging it was for Boeing to work with fifty different partners. The more complex a supply chain, the more chances there are for something to go wrong, and Boeing had far less control than it would have if more of the operation had been in-house. Delays became endemic, and, instead of costing less, the project went billions over budget. In 2011, Jim Albaugh, who took over the program in 2009, said, “We spent a lot more money in trying to recover than we ever would have spent if we’d tried to keep the key technologies closer to home.”. . . "


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Apple, Europe, and Taxes

I've already written why there will be no tax reform in Washington or elsewhere because the big corporations pay such low tax rates currently--don't believe it when you are told we have a progressive tax system. The tax system in the US is grossly regressive--in fact, a flat tax system, with no personal deductions and corporate loopholes, would be much fairer than our present system. Just read the following--

No, Really, Apple Just Isn't Doing Any Tax Avoidance In Europe - Forbes: "Various of the English newspapers like to run stories on how the big tech companies are avoiding tax in the UK and Europe. Every week or two we get another piece saying that Facebook, or Amazon, Apple, have been avoiding tax and that this is an outrage, must be stopped etc. The sad thing about all of these stories is that the people writing them just don’t seem to understand the basics of the European corporation tax system. The latest story is the Sunday Times with Apple. That paper’s gated so here’s the Telegraph explanation of it:
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.
 . . . So, clearly, Apple has been tax avoiding, right? Sadly, no, that’s where the problem comes in. . . . What they’re actually doing is selling the hardware through their Irish company. This one, right here. They do have AppleStores in the UK, yes, and it’s the retail sales from those that provide that £1 billion turnover and that small tax bill. But if you buy online from Apple you get your kit from Ireland. If you’re a dealer, a reseller, a shop, an electronics chain, a telecoms chain, you get your kit from Ireland. As, more than likely, do the AppleStores get their machines through Ireland. Yes, Ireland has a much lower rate of corporation tax than other EU countries: but this still isn’t tax avoidance. For we now have to look at the “but did the lawmakers mean this?” test. And the truth is, yes they did. . . . "

So don't blame Apple and the other corporations--blame the governments!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Carmen Ortiz - more prosecutorial abuse and misconduct

We are also finding out that the Aaron Swartz case was NOT an isolated case--

Aaron Swartz Unlikely To Face Jail Or Conviction... Until Feds Decided To 'Send A Message' | Techdirt: " . . . . The report above also notes that Ortiz is in some additional hot water, as another one of her overreach cases, involving an attempt to seize a family-owned motel in Massachusetts by claiming that it was "facilitating drug crimes" has failed miserably, tossed out by the magistrate judge. Not only was it noted that there were only 15 drug-related incidents over a 15 year period (during which 196,000 rooms were rented out), but also, the motel owners worked closely with local police to deal with drug issues and that other local businesses that had drug incidents were not targeted by Ortiz."

Is anyone capable of stopping these out-of-control prosecutions? Is the whole DOJ this out of control?

By the way--who is ultimately in charge and responsible: Eric Holder or Barack Obama? Ever hear anything said about any of this from either? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz Unlikely To Face Jail Or Conviction Until Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann vendetta

More about Carmen Ortiz, Stephen Heymann and vengeance, mayhem, and prosecutorial abuse/misconduct--

Aaron Swartz Unlikely To Face Jail Or Conviction... Until Feds Decided To 'Send A Message' | Techdirt: "Things just keep looking worse and worse in the Carmen Ortiz/Stephen Heymann vendetta against Aaron Swartz. Now it's come out that state prosecutors, who were originally looking into the case had no interest in pursuing felony charges or prison time... until Carmen Ortiz and her team showed up. Instead, state prosecutors had focused on the initial charges: "breaking and entering in the daytime" which they expected "would be continued without a finding, with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner." Instead, the report notes: Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send “a message.”. . . "


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clinton (1996) vs Obama (2013)

What a difference 17 years makes! Note the substance and tone of Bill Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address, and compare it to the tack taken by Barack Obama--

President Clinton's 1996 State of the Union Address as delivered:

" . . . . We live in an age of possibility. A hundred years ago we moved from farm to factory. Now we move to an age of technology, information, and global competition. These changes have opened vast new opportunities for our people, but they have also presented them with stiff challenges. While more Americans are living better, too many of our fellow citizens are working harder just to keep up, and they are rightly concerned about the security of their families.

We must answer here three fundamental questions: First, how do we make the American Dream of opportunity for all a reality for all Americans who are willing to work for it? Second, how do we preserve our old and enduring values as we move into the future? And, third, how do we meet these challenges together, as one America?

We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means.

The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges we face together. Self-reliance and teamwork are not opposing virtues; we must have both.

I believe our new, smaller government must work in an old-fashioned American way, together with all of our citizens through state and local governments, in the workplace, in religious, charitable and civic associations. Our goal must be to enable all our people to make the most of their own lives -- with stronger families, more educational opportunity, economic security, safer streets, a cleaner environment in a safer world.

To improve the state of our Union, we must ask more of ourselves, we must expect more of each other, and we must face our challenges together.

Here, in this place, our responsibility begins with balancing the budget in a way that is fair to all Americans. There is now broad bipartisan agreement that permanent deficit spending must come to an end.

I compliment the Republican leadership and the membership for the energy and determination you have brought to this task of balancing the budget. And I thank the Democrats for passing the largest deficit reduction plan in history in 1993, which has already cut the deficit nearly in half in three years. Since 1993, we have all begun to see the benefits of deficit reduction. Lower interest rates have made it easier for businesses to borrow and to invest and to create new jobs. Lower interest rates have brought down the cost of home mortgages, car payments and credit card rates to ordinary citizens. Now, it is time to finish the job and balance the budget.

Though differences remain among us which are significant, the combined total of the proposed savings that are common to both plans is more than enough, using the numbers from your Congressional Budget Office to balance the budget in seven years and to provide a modest tax cut.

These cuts are real. They will require sacrifice from everyone. But these cuts do not undermine our fundamental obligations to our parents, our children, and our future, by endangering Medicare, or Medicaid, or education, or the environment, or by raising taxes on working families.

I have said before, and let me say again, many good ideas have come out of our negotiations. I have learned a lot about the way both Republicans and Democrats view the debate before us. I have learned a lot about the good ideas that we could all embrace.

We ought to resolve our remaining differences. I am willing to work to resolve them. I am ready to meet tomorrow. But I ask you to consider that we should at least enact these savings that both plans have in common and give the American people their balanced budget, a tax cut, lower interest rates, and a brighter future. We should do that now, and make permanent deficits yesterday's legacy. . . . "


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Revolving Door: Jon Leibowitz Resigns as FTC Chairman

Goodbye and good riddance--this is the guy who wasted almost 2 years and millions of taxpayer funds on a meritless case against Google search, hiring expensive outside counsel for that matter (what a sweetheart Washington insider contract!), and the result? 5-0: no action against Google. A complete waste of time and resources.

But as always, his tenure wasn't a complete failure (how could it be with the FTC super-sized staffing and budget?); here's an excerpt from the New York Times--

Jon Leibowitz Resigns as F.T.C. Chairman - NYTimes.com: "Other Democrats, including some consumer advocates, were less generous in their assessment, although none of them wanted to speak on the record. They noted, however, a few areas where the F.T.C. did not block merger actions, including a $2 billion proposal to join the Universal Music Group and EMI, two large record labels. Last year, the commission also approved the $29 billion merger of two of the nation’s largest pharmacy-benefit managers, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions. If only because it was his last big effort, however, the Google case is likely to be the one that is foremost in people’s minds over the next few years. Mr. Leibowitz sought the case, winning a cordial but tense battle with the Justice Department’s antitrust division over the right to investigate Google’s search practices."


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gross Injustice of American Justice

The following says it all on the lessons learned from the Aaron Swartz case--

The Death of Aaron Swartz - Clive Crook - The Atlantic: " . . . The prosecutor's bottom line, apparently, was that Swartz had to go to jail. In my conception of criminal justice, the prosecutor's role is to establish guilt, not pass sentence. Juries have already been substantially dispensed with in this country. (By substantially, I mean in 97 percent of cases.) If prosecutors are not only going to rule on guilt unilaterally but also, in effect, pass sentence as well, one wonders why we can't also dispense with judges. In recent years, as the Wall Street Journal has documented in a disturbing series of articles, Congress has enabled prosecutorial intimidation by criminalizing ever more conduct, passing laws that provide for or require extreme sentences, and reducing the burden of proof (through expanded application of "strict liability", where lack of criminal intent is no defense). "There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime," said John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor... "That is not an exaggeration." And if a prosecutor should turn his righteous all-powerful gaze on you, you're done for. In this system, everything depends on the moderation and good sense of prosecutors. We see how well that worked in the Swartz case. Most no doubt strive to live up to those standards, but what about the ones that don't? Where's the accountability? What about crusaders for "justice" with half their minds on their next career in politics? . . ."

Where indeed!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mobile Internet and the Disintermediation in Banking

The coming disintermediation in our financial system--

With Mobile Internet, Money Is Up for Grabs | MIT Technology Review: " . . . . Dwolla is working on a deeper fix to the problem—something Milne calls the company’s “real innovation.” Today, banks transfer money over ACH, an almost 40-year-old system that is run by the U.S. Federal Reserve and one private company. ACH is what makes it possible to deposit paychecks and pay utility bills electronically. The transfers are done in batches, which is why they often take three or four days. Dwolla needs those transfers to go faster. Working with 16 institutions, mostly corn-belt credit unions, the company has deployed software it calls FiSync that it says will let ACH transfers go through nearly instantly using Web-based software. Recently, Milne has been pitching the idea to bigger banks as well. “If you get the banks, you become an unavoidable part of the stack. You become the Internet connection,” he says."


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Coming Disintermediation of Money

I've written about the coming disappearance of cash and coinage, but the disintermediation of our financial system is likely to be opposed by banks and government--you know, the guys in government who baled out Wall Street, and the banks, governmental agencies and others who profit from the status quo--

Me, My Money, and My Devices | MIT Technology Review: " . . . Mobile payments, meanwhile, still seem to many an unnecessary complication. But the appeal of being in constant contact with your money—and information about your money—will prove irresistible. Back in the days when electronic devices were expensive, someone had the clever idea of giving dumb plastic cards to all of us and the more expensive card readers only to merchants. Now that we have a virtual card and card reader right in our pocket in the form of a smart phone, who will be content to carry a credit card we cannot ourselves read? Banks and card issuers profit from the status quo; Non-banks have stolen an early march on mobile payments in the United States. Google sees mobile payments as a rich new source of customer insight. For Apple, they have been central to building a vibrant developer ecosystem—you can buy an app with the press of a button. PayPal sees the opportunity to attach an account not only to every e-mail account but to every mobile number. The largest mobile payment program in the United States is currently run by Starbucks coffee shops. . . ."

I'll have more on this tomorrow.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure

Well worth watching--

Book Discussion on [The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure] - C-SPAN Video Library: "John Allison talked about his book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economy’s Only Hope, in which he argues that government incentives and regulation caused the 2008 collapse and says that to improve the economy we need to adopt pure free market policies. He responded to questions from the audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC."

Some of the points made--

Housing is consumption not investment;

Wall Street wasn't the problem--government was (Federal Reserve, SEC and regulatory agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, governmental policies, etc.);

Fannie and Freddie failed and were leveraged 1000 to 1, half their loans in sub-prime loans.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cashing Out of Corruption

As I wrote recently, cash and coinage will soon disappear, but who will object to this disappearance of paper money and coins? Why, of course, bureaucrats, corrupt government officials, and crooks--

Cashing Out of Corruption | MIT Technology Review: " . . . Although the Afghan government recently sought proposals to expand mobile payments, such efforts have moved slowly in part because of “determined” resistance from some bank and police officials, says Loretta Michaels, a Washington, D.C., consultant who worked in Afghanistan with Roshan to implement the mobile money system. Corruption is a sensitive diplomatic issue with U.S. troops exiting the country, even as tens of billions in aid still pours in. McGowan, the USAID analyst, says electronic payments have the benefit of rooting out graft without singling out specific officials or looking like an “anticorruption crusade.”. . ."


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Build a Better Chromebook

Now that HP has finally unveiled its own Chromebook, I hope that HP and others will start offering a premium Chromebook with SSD drive having at least 64GB of local storage, at least 3 USB ports (current HP model has that), at least 4GB RAM (current HP model comes with 2GB but can be upgraded to 4GB), and a quality Intel processor in non-touch screen hardware, supporting a mouse (current HP does this). I  do understand that some buyers are shopping on price alone. But I (and others), need performance. More and more people, companies, schools, government agencies and other institutions, are recognizing that a Chromebook is preferable for most users over a desktop or notebook running the Microsoft disaster known as Windows 8. If you get a Chromebook, insist on 4 GB RAM, and be sure to utilize the Chrome extensions. And yes, the Chromebook works offline and you won't have to put up with any more BS from Microsoft! (be sure to read the comments about Win8 at the preceding link)

Otherwise, we are going to have to put up with this--

Wolverton: Chromebook better, but still doesn't beat PC - SiliconValley.com: "The (Samsung) Chromebook, by contrast, struggled to keep up with even half the tabs I typically have open. As I flipped from tab to tab, it frequently would have to reload the nominally open Web pages. That was frustrating when I flipped to pages of news articles, not only because I had to wait for the pages to reload, but also because I typically would lose my place on the page."

The above has nothing to do with the Chrome OS, but the cheap hardware components Samsung used in that particular model. Come on HP, Samsung, et al, you can do better! All that being said, if I had to buy a Chromebook today, I'd get the HP with 4GB RAM.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Firms Keep Piles of Foreign Cash in US Tax Free

The need for comprehensive tax reform and the absurdity of the current tax code--

Firms Keep Piles of 'Foreign' Cash in U.S. - WSJ.com: "In the eyes of the law, the Internal Revenue Service and company executives, however, this money is overseas. As long as it doesn't flow back to the U.S. parent company, the U.S. doesn't tax it. And as long as it sits in U.S. bank accounts or in U.S. Treasurys, it is safer than if it were plowed into potentially risky foreign investments. In accounting terms, the location of the funds may be just a technicality. But for people on both sides of the contentious debate over corporate-tax reform, the situation highlights what they see as the absurdity of rules that encourage companies to engage in semantic games, legal gymnastics and inefficient corporate-financing methods to shield profits from U.S. taxes."


Monday, February 4, 2013

Hagel a wise Secretary of Defense for the 21st Century

As we all know, wisdom is in short supply in dysfunctional Washington. Wisdom results from having knowledge, and experience. Chuck Hagel has both, and as a result, Hagel has wisdom (and heart)--and would be a great Secretary of Defense--

Hagel Offers Endorsement of U.S. Military Might - NYTimes.com: "In an opening statement at his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Hagel presented a broad, forceful endorsement of American military power aimed at answering critics who say he would weaken the United States. He offered strong support for Israel, said he was fully committed to the president’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and said he would keep up pressure — through Special Operations forces and drones — on terrorist groups in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. “I believe, and always have, that America must engage — not retreat — in the world,” Mr. Hagel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Afghanistan, which Mr. Hagel called “the longest war, as we all know, in America’s history,” Mr. Hagel, a Republican and former senator from Nebraska, said he agreed with the president that there would only be two functions for the small number of American forces in Afghanistan after 2014: hunting down Al Qaeda and its affiliates and training and advising Afghan security forces."

Sounds like a "sound" person to be Secretary of Defense--so what's the problem? I think those who have a problem with Hagel, have a problem.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The principle of subtraction: adding by taking away

Less is more--

The Art of Adding by Taking Away
" . . . The author of “The Laws of Subtraction” says that success often comes from knowing what to leave out of a project or situation. -  "“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day,” it said, capsulizing teachings of Lao Tzu. “Profit comes from what is there, usefulness from what is not there.”. . .  While it hadn’t occurred to me to use subtraction in my own job, I realized that it is at the root of many professions. Scientists, mathematicians and engineers search for theories that explain highly complex phenomena in stunningly simple ways. Musicians and composers use pauses in the music — silence — to create dramatic tension. Athletes and dancers search for maximum impact with minimal effort. Filmmakers, novelists and songwriters strive to tell simple stories that foster both multiple meanings and universal resonance. The principle of subtraction carries over to the corporate world. . . . " Read the full story here.

Matthew E. May is the author of “The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything.” A version of this article appeared in print on January 20, 2013, on page BU7 of the New York edition of the New York Times with the headline: The Art Of Adding Through Taking Away.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cash and coins will soon be gone

Cash money and coins will soon be gone--money will just be represented in a digital format of numbers on a screen, accessible through your smartphone or other computer device, or by a chip embeded in a plastic card--

Iowa Government Partners With Dwolla to Make Paying Easier | MIT Technology Review: ". . . Taxpayers in Iowa could be doing this one day soon, as a result of a partnership with the Des Moines-based payment startup Dwolla (a portmanteau of “dollar” and “Web”). Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announced today that government officials would be exploring ways to use the service, including potentially collecting property taxes, issuing refunds, paying contractors, and renewing vehicle registrations. The announcement is interesting because of Dwolla’s disruptive aim to create an electronic form of cash and rewire a crucial hub of the U.S. financial system (see “With Mobile Internet, Money is Up for Grabs”). This allows for real-time money transfers without the delays of processing checks through the Automated Clearing House. It also means businesses could save on swipe fees they pay to credit and debit card providers. Dwolla only charges a flat 25-cent fee for transactions more than $10. . . ."


Friday, February 1, 2013

90 percent of enterprises will bypass Windows 8 Through 2015

As I've said before, Microsoft's Windows 8 is a massive Microsoft fail as an OS for desktops or notebook computers--

Handicapping 2013 technology predictions | ZDNet: ". . . .  a look at the 2013 predictions via Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer with a bit of a reality check. Through 2015, 90 percent of enterprises will bypass broad Windows 8 deployments. The gist is that enterprises will sit on the Windows 8 sidelines. . . ."

Why would anyone in his or her right mind, deploy Windows 8 in business for use as PC operating system?


The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects