Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just for Fun: 10 Technological Failures

I caught this article detailing the "Top 10 Tech Failures" and thought I would put it here.

There are many reasons for their failures, and they reminded me of some that I saw when I was younger, as well as some I didn't know about. For the tech geeks among us, or simply the trivia geeks, take a look.

There may be a quiz later.

Understanding Technological Advancement

What is the next Facebook Killer? Pete Cashmore writes an interesting article with a pretty good understanding of how technological replacement happens.

Essentially, he argues that technological clones don't overtake something. Diaspora, for example, has sought to be just like Facebook only more private. Yet, it has barely gained any traction for all its efforts. It is too much like Facebook long after Facebook built its base.

Ironically, Cashmore argues Facebook may be the next Google Killer because of the amount of information it has about people in its own databases that Google doesn't necessarily have access to.

The point and reason I focused on this article was simply because I often push the idea that we must build new small businesses. Therefore, I wanted to give people a basic understanding: Business wins because it takes a different angle to do things better.

While Vonage is taking on traditional phone companies by trying to do the same type of thing: create a landline, only cheaper; the major companies went for the cellphones to undermine Vonage by making landlines obsolete.

While power companies are seeking to set up the fight over controlling alternatives to our current energies, they haven't embraced solar or wind power for a simple reason: to embrace it is to give up control over power because you could (and should) be building them on your roofs without them. They want a power source that is more efficient than oil/gas/coal and allows them to control it.

While e-mail certainly hurt mail, what is killing mail is not email but rather Facebook, Text Messages, and more that make the "letter" obsolete. We can now communicate so freely and easily that one has to wonder who writes letters anymore?

Then again, how much more significant is an actual hand written letter when you receive it, than say... a text or a poke?

GOP Holding Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage for the Rich

As the GOP hold legislative bill after legislative bill hostage, effectively shutting down anything the Democrats can do, it is important to realize what they are creating for you and me. One such important area is in tax cuts where the GOP will be holding our tax rates hostage in order to give the richest Americans their tax cuts, and they are willing to screw the rest of us in order to get it for them.

Now, I don't totally blame the GOP. After all, if my major cash donor was going to take a tax hike, I guess I would stand up for them too. I just wonder what the rest of Republicans are thinking.

One such program is the Making Work Pay tax cut in the Stimulus Bill that is set to expire. It is the tax cut most Americans got from the Obama Administration to give Americans $400 for single people and $800 for married couples. However, the GOP is holding it hostage as well as many other tax benefits that Middle Class Americans normally get.

Half the problem is the amount of lies and disinformation that is out there. Politifact has gone through and done a lot of myth debunking on both sides... take a look and send letters to your congresspeople to deal with the realities of the tax cut debate instead of the myths.

Tom DeLay: The Latest GOP Criminal, The Next GOP Super Hero?

Former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay couldn't avoid justice for committing money laundering under Texas law. There can be no liberal bias claims in this one. There can be no liberal witch hunt in this claim.

Yet, there is no doubt he will join other conservative felons in finding a high paying job for his actions. The conservative code of loyalty for "taking a bullet" for the party runs so strong that it is the major exception in their views on the Rule of Law. Loyalty over ideology.

I doubt that conservatives or liberals really think through what they are voting for, other than a party they believe represents their views more closely than the other. I doubt that conservatives ever really figure out that the people they vote for run on a platform based on the idea that government is corrupt and fails, then they elect them, only to find out their policies failed or were corrupt.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of realizing they are electing corrupt failures, they simply cite it as proof that government is horrible, and keep electing the same type of people, only to wonder if the problem can ever be solved.

Then again, as a society, we eat tons of fast food, find out it is killing us slowly through obesity, so we get upset and buy another extra large Big Mac Value Meal.

The problems in society aren't structural. They are us.

Drug Arrests Prove Border Fence was Waste of Money

A recent drug arrest indicates one more reason why a "border fence" was such a joke: Tunnels. The recent tunnels found were a half mile long, as deep as seventy feet below the surface, with light rail to move drugs through.

While the drug debate is another question, I have to admit when I first read the article, the first thing that came to mind was just how meaningless "The Wall" idea was to stop immigration.

Since the beginning of "The Wall" being put in place, I have seen video of people simply walking around it in three feet of water and numerous stories of people tunneling under it, showing how a billion dollar project can be simply a waste of time.

I remember talking about how a "Wall" would simply leave people wanting to illegally immigrate to find other ways of getting here. They said I was overreacting, the wall would work. Apparently, I wasn't.

Until there is more incentive to stay in Mexico than there is to migrate here, no wall, no Coast Guard, no "virtual fence" will keep illegals out. It is really that simple. To prove the point, just look to Canada. With an even more open border, we don't really have a huge Canadian illegal immigration problem do we?

The Left Must Stop "Feeling" and Start Thinking

Someone sent me a link for Alternet today, and while I had seen people post stories from there, I really never read many of their articles. I had a feeling it was a left leaning website, but had some interesting views, but I just never went there... until today that is.

I caught some interesting articles, and some had good points, but one common theme I seemed to find was the notion that the "rich" are "heartless" and corporations lack "compassion" and so on. The constant playing on "feelings" sounds whiny and pathetic honestly.

If your answer is don't cut Social Security because it is heartless... then cut it. If your answer is don't cut Medicare because it isn't compassionate... then cut it. If your answer is don't cut Unemployment Benefits because it is mean... then cut them.

You just have to do better than that. Those may be some of the worst arguments ever. Society can't make good policy decisions based on not being heartless anymore than based on Biblical reasons. Public policy just demands more thought on our part.

Social Security is a good idea not because it shows our heart, but because of a few reasons. First, it is a safety net for those who take risks and encourages risk takers to start new small businesses because they know that even if they fail, they will not be homeless. And those small businesses drive the economy. Second, it is good for business because no one runs a good business with homeless old people begging in front of their businesses. Third, it is good for government and taxes because it means old people don't get arrested for vagrancy and loitering costing taxpayers in jail time. Fourth, it is good for the economy because it doesn't drain consumers paying for their parents, so they can drive the economy in other ways.

Sure, it also has a heart, but that just isn't a good public policy reason for any policy. We need better policies. We need more thought in Washington and less emotionalism. Both sides would be better to learn that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Does Ahmed Ghailani's Conviction on 1 of 285 Charges Mean?

The case of Ahmed Ghailani's conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, but acquittal on 284 other charges has created a stir about President Obama's trial of Gitmo detainees in civilian court.

Some Republicans have indicated it is evidence that President Obama made the wrong decision about trying these criminals in civilian instead of military courts. They imply that Ghailani would have been convicted of more charges in a military court.

However, this does create some questions that we need to address as a society:

Do we determine the validity of a court system based on the outcome we want or the process that protects people? Remember, our court system was put in place because our founding fathers believed it was important because in a free society, people had to have the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof should be on the government. They wanted to make sure government did not have too much power to wrongfully imprison people for political outcomes. Were they talking about exactly this type of situation, where it is politically popular for convictions even if someone may be wrongfully charged?

What makes anyone thing military courts would convict at a higher rate than civilian courts? Sure, civilian courts have more rights than military courts, but in a post 9/11 world, does anyone really believe there is a civilian bias to free people charged of terrorists? The case was tried in New York City. Can anyone reasonably believe that New Yorkers have a desire to acquit terrorists? That claim is a bit outside the scope of rational thought, in this writer's opinion.

At some point, people need to move beyond emotionalism and a complete lack of rational thought, and stop buying into mindless talking points, and think about what is being said by talking heads. This may be one of those cases.

Is California on the Verge of Leading the World in Energy Innovation?

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes the case that California is leading the way in Green Innovation and Technology. Given that energy problems showed themselves most in California years ago when they had blackout problems due to energy company collusion, it isn't surprising they would rebel and seek to control their energy future.

Many remember the blackouts of California, but few remember the court decision that determined Texas energy companies colluded to create the power shortages. Power companies have been trying to lobby and campaign against alternative energies to stay in power, even promoting myths and unsubstantiated claims to undermine alternatives or scientific evidence. Many have bought into it, but some still remain as staunch advocates for controlling our energy future in sustainable ways.

While the energy revolution going on doesn't take away power from energy companies, it does shift to more sustainable means of powering, and creates new jobs, new technologies, that will be the foundation of a global economy at some point. Some places have required shifts to microgeneration of power on all new homes which will empower people to not pay massive energy companies for power, but not enough at this point.

We will be watching Governor to see if your energy revolution continues and what impact it has globally. However, it certainly has the potential to put California on the cutting edge of global energy technology, which could turn California around yet again to lead America and the world's economy. We will be watching.

Unemployment Benefits or Tax Cuts for the Rich: What does our choice say about us?

Congress is facing a decision about unemployment benefits and tax cuts which may reveal the changing priorities in America.

There is no doubt that unemployment benefits should not last forever. However, the question really is about how to address a large economic downturn that hasn't fully recovered. When almost 10% of Americans are unemployed, and even more are unemployed but outside the system's definition of unemployed, cutting things that prevent consumers from spending is generally a bad thing. Consumer spending drives our economy, so cutting it would hurt businesses, the jobs of other people, and the people who receive the cuts.

The budget deficit does need to be dealt with though. So the things we keep and the things we cut say volumes about us. The tax cuts being fought over are for those making over $250,000 a year currently. Certainly, not in economic trouble. And the debate is over about a 3% increase on the top margin of their taxes, not their entire taxes.

So the question is: Do we prioritize the richest among us or those who need our help the most in an economic downturn?

And what does it say about us when we make this choice?

How will GOP Freshman Deal with First Debt Ceiling Vote in a few Months?

With an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars and an economy still very fragile, not growing jobs, and with major concerns of a double dip; the debt ceiling is facing Congress in the next few months leaving freshman on the right in a difficult position: Do you vote to allow the debt to grow to keep government running while you campaigned against raising the debt ceiling OR do you vote against the debt ceiling raise and shut down government, kill vital services for people, and risk destroying the US economy almost overnight?

No one argues that the deficit needs to be addressed, however, how that is to be done is another question. Everyone likes the talk of shared sacrifice or cutting the budget or raising taxes depending on their views. However, they never seem to want it to be their taxes raised or their projects cut.

Additionally, while the deficit needs to be managed, to shut down government and refuse to allow any further spending so sharply could have several negative consequences, including crashing the economy very quickly as people suddenly and dramatically lose benefits and services.

To cut over a trillion dollars from government spending overnight would absolutely crush the economy too.

At some point, ideologues need to start dealing with reality. The question that concerns us should be: will we have to suffer from their naivity?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Obama in India: Day One-$10 billion in New American Business and Laying the Groundwork for the Future

President Obama's trip to India has resulted in $10 billion in deals for American businesses on Day 1. It turns out that President Obama has taken an unusual approach by bringing hundreds of American corporate officers with him to India to work on finding business opportunities for American exports to India, and American projects in India. While highly unusual, the approach of creating links between American businesses with foreign businesses and governments to create jobs in America may be one more notch in the Obama belt.

Demographically speaking, the largest generations of the American population are either preparing to retire, or are in school preparing to enter the economy. That means the bulk of American consumers are not in the prime of their spending on consumer products to grow the economy. To speed up the growth of the American economy, exports will be a key area. That is why continuing to develop alternate energy technologies is so important.

India has a massive population, but it also has significant goals for development. Both India and China have needs for energy in their most rural areas, but oil and gas will not meet those needs. There simply is not enough of it in the world, and adding so much demand for it will only increase the prices which are probably already too high for provincial people in the two countries. That means, they need alternative energies to develop.

India already has some projects whereby their students go to universities to learn how to build some technologies, and they are making them, and selling them in the provinces. The result is villages with reliable nighttime power for the first time. That means the child in the village no longer has to make a choice between working on the family farm to survive or doing homework for school. With light at night, the child can do both. It is creating new opportunities for Indians.

It is also creating opportunities for American companies who seek to meet the emerging needs of the Indian and Chinese consumers. Their workers are largely low skilled in the factories America outsources to. That means higher technology products and developmental products are industries that America has and can export to help India and China. It is a win-win situation.

These types of deals will increase production here, which also means increases in productivity and decreases in prices, and that benefits the American consumer. We will be able to purchase these goods at lower prices; and more importantly, alternative energies that are focused on microgeneration empower Americans to both live free of energy corporations, but also to minimize their monthly bills which allows them to spend in other areas.

Day One has been a big success for President Obama's trip. It is not enough to say all of our problems are solved, but it is a good start. Initial reports are that Day One will create about 50,000 jobs in America. Given some of the comments made on Day One, it may well lay the groundwork for far more jobs and far more business than we know at this point. It is good to see someone laying the groundwork for the future.

Texas Conservatives Ready to Turn Away Medicaid: Leave Intellectually Disabled and Children Without Care

In the wake of the election this week, Texas lawmakers that ignored the $25 billion budget shortfall during the election discussion, have now decided that to address that shortfall, they may elect to eliminate Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIPS).

The focus of Medicaid is for the poorest among us, but it also includes people with intellectual disabilities as well as other disabilities. In other words, the Texas Legislature, run by conservatives, wants to put the mentally retarded people out on the streets, without any funding to take care of those who can't take care of themselves.

Keep in mind, those that can take care of themselves, probably are not receiving Medicaid funds in Texas Supported Living Centers. The thousands and thousands of individuals who live in those centers, some of which have severe physical handicaps to go with the mental disabilities, would be put out in the streets to fend for themselves if they have no families (and many of them don't).

Keep in mind, many of them are in facilities because their families have either died, could not take care of them, or could not afford to take care of them. Their care is very expensive, but does that mean we should take our ideological conflicts out on them? Did they really have a choice? Or are these legislatures saying they don't deserve to live if they can't get a job to pay for themselves.

What are they going to do when some of them are put on the street, but are fed through tubes? Let them starve? Or let them die as they aspirate food into their lungs and die of pneumonia?

What are they going to do when some of them are put on the street, but are bed ridden and cannot walk? Leave them on the side of the road until someone runs over them or they die?

What about the children? Are we going to put the children in the middle of our ideological conflicts, leaving children to get sick and die if they can't find a job to make up for what their parents cannot afford?

At some point, Texas conservatives need to realize that while they are waging an "ideological culture war," they are also screwing Texans.

At some point, Texans need to start realizing what is going on instead of simply doing the same ole thing over and over, and still ranking last in the nation in education, and first in minimum wage jobs, and first in food stamps.

It is one thing to take it out on the intellectually competent poor, they chose to vote you into office. It is quite another to take it out on the intellectually disabled who don't vote, the children who can't vote, and both who are defenseless and innocent victims on your chosen battlefield.

I guess they will just call it collateral damage and ignore them. I don't know about you, but I can't ignore them. They deserve better. We owe it to them.

The Suspension of Olbermann Exposes MSNBC

Keith Olbermann donates $2400 to 3 candidates, and has been suspended indefinitely. Sean Hannity has given thousands to Republican candidates, but nothing. MSNBC says it is a sign that Fox is a political organization and MSNBC is a news organization that has higher standards.

It could just be me, but it seems as though MSNBC doesn't want to admit the same thing Fox fails to admit: Both are focused on political. To say that Olbermann is a "journalist" is a bit of a stretch. He is a pundit, an advocate, a critic from the left who openly goes after the right. To proclaim the suspension based on them being a "news organization" is to admit the deception, implicitly, that MSNBC is playing the same game as Fox, only from the other side.

If they had the integrity, they could have easily said "Olbermann is clearly an advocate with his show, and as such, is not bound by the policy of ethics our journalists have" and they would have actually saved the credibility of their journalists... but they chose not to.

MSNBC, in its prime time show selection, has shown the world it wants to be the left wing Fox. Olbermann is simply the antithesis of Hannity or O'Reilly on Fox. Sure, you can argue credibility issues to differentiate them, but they are each pundits or advocates for their parties. Let's not lie to ourselves and proclaim that Olbermann, Hannity, O'Reilly, etc., are objective journalists. They are pundits, advocates, and spending money for their cause probably increases their credibility with their audience, not decreased their credibility like it might with a journalist.