Friday, October 31, 2008

Scofflaw Regime / Rogue State

Citizens of the USA, even those who often disagree with the government, do not typically recognize they live in a rogue state. But the Bush government has regularly broken international laws. They also have undermined and ridiculed the importance of international laws and covenants, which in fact are national laws - a clear and fundamental point from the US Constitution (article VI, paragraph 2) which they've sworn to uphold.

The Presidential Oath of Office, which officially begins the presidency, is short and clear: ''I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.''

This pledge is important. Just 35 words forms the basis for leadership.

National leadership of a great country; the actions of the USA have global consequences.

Legal basis for operations is important. George W. Bush disregarded law, perhaps following advice from others - he's been fundamentally misguided.

The Bush government, through unilateral decisions to ignore law and precedent and due process, has severely undermined the safety and security of all US citizens, our global investments, and our freedoms to interact with peoples of the world.

The indictment of crimes is extensive. Some bother me more than others. Invasion and continued occupation of Iraq. Long-term confinement and torture of people not promptly charged with crime. Terrible.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes Virginia: Thomson Reuters sues Zotero

An entrenched company, threatened by open-source free software, snaps back with a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Is this a storm in a teacup?

Thomson Reuters naturally wishes maximal profits from their proprietary programs, but... details of this lawsuit can be found here. A few marketing observations: the Thomson Reuters lawsuit draws attention to their nimble competitor. Seeking legal limits on what scholars can do with their own data, they risk seriously alienating their users.

Many users have invested time & resources in old Endnote software, but I'm no fan. Data storage always seemed unnecessarily obscure to me. The owners seemed to treat their software system protection as more important than my data - but I'm the customer. Why pay for deliberate confusion?

Even if Thomson Reuters win some damages with this case, they've chosen the Luddite path and can expect to be pityingly mocked by a growing segment of users & opinion leaders. I expect that the route they've chosen will cost them much more dearly than if they'd ignored their Zotero competition ( - the scholars friend). Thomson Reuters instead should work hard at innovation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Don't Waste Your Vote

I admire Ralph Nader. A little bit. I've never voted for him, and I would not. What I see as his biggest weakness is an inability to effectively forge coalitions. Why is he a perennial Presidential candidate? Why not seek to join others, and upgrade a local, state, or national platform? If he can't work well with others, he shouldn't be trying to run the country, because he can't do it alone. It is sometimes useful to snipe from the sidelines, but running for President is perhaps a poor vehicle for such a person's energies.

I'm also disappointed with both Nader and McCain for not understanding / recognizing the benefits of computers and the internet. I'm OK with slow food and walking to work, or people limiting their mobile phone usage. But access to the World Wide Web is great - those who don't understand it are missing a lot.

Nader's weaknesses

McCain's weaknesses and more here on McCain handicaps

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sachs of Wealth, but Voracious

Loan servicing "help"
Consolidate your troubles
Dumb small-fry / shark food

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No welcome Nippon!

Japan's Asahi newspaper recently reported the results of a Ministry of Internal Affairs government survey that found 38% of Japanese inns and hotels reported no foreign guests in 2007, and of those, 72% hoped no foreigners would come (thus 27% of the total). Multiple reasons were elicited for shunning foreign guests: "no expertise with foreign languages" (76%); "unsuitable facilities for foreigners" (72%); "uncertainty if a problem were to arise" (63%). The report was published a week after the newly-founded Japan Tourism Agency began promoting a Visit Japan Campaign to raise the number of international visitors from 8.35 million for 2007 to 20 million by 2020 (and 10 million by 2010).

Asahi (2008) "National Survey 2007: 30% of hotels & ryokan don't want foreign lodgers." (9 Oct 2008; in Japanese) 朝日新聞社. (2008) "「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査" (朝日新聞社).

What If?

The financial meltdown is trashing the legacy of the Bush Presidency. A lot of people are finding: "Golly, they sure were wrong with their economic policies and oversight."

Diverse citizens are confronted with misperforming products, and think "Damn! It's all wrong, but consumer protection's been gutted. They got my money -- I'm left with the trash."

Many people are also starting to recognize: "Gee - maybe our government was also wrong in leading the USA into war in Iraq... perhaps those nations that wouldn't participate weren't simply cowards..."

Some Americans are just now beginning to wonder: "Maybe our leaders have been wrong in torturing and imprisoning so many people for years without proper review or trial..."

A few Americans believe these are not problems of error; they are deliberate crimes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Down but Not Out

You've seen the movie:
Demonic creep is injured
Hero feels relief

Don't relax so soon!
Evil will attack your back!
Prepare to get bit...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Myku by Genki

Failed politicians...
Bankers in Treasury jobs...
Pick market winners

Housecleaning ignored
Gamblers keep their pay & jobs
Financial flim-flam!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Opinion Leaders or "Fringe People?"

The Washington Post reports: "Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects..." State Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan, speaking of the program operated by his predecessor, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee: "The names don't belong in there... It's as simple as that."

How bad is it to be labeled a troublemaker, or a terrorist?
It ain't good.

"The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins... said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists "fringe people.""

It is horribly wrong to label those working peacefully for a better society as terrorists. This seems a solid step toward cleansing the community of people questioning authority.

Remember past tyranny (or risk a repeat!):

When the USSR occupied eastern Poland in 1939, they took prisoner many local leaders, military officers and cultural people. In March of 1940 they decided to summarily execute 22,000 of these people in secret (memorialized as the Katyn massacres, after the first burial site discovered). The goal was to purge the region of potentially-troublesome future leaders / enemies.

When the Japanese occupied Malaya - Singapore in 1942, they tried to purge the region of "undesirables" -- community leaders featured on prepared lists of hundreds of people rounded-up and murdered (Sook Ching killings).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Citi Blues

The FDIC brokered Citigroup a sweet deal for Wachovia last Monday, but on Friday Wells Fargo jumped in with an agreement some seven times bigger. It's a good lesson that values change day to day (in a few days $2.2 billion became $15.1 billion). But the lesson is much more complex.

This was the first time the FDIC (Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation) used official fiat power to demand such a sale. A thus-far unused 1991 law required the concurrence of the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the US President; the US government forced Wachovia's sale to Citigroup.

The plan provided government bailout money for Citigroup losses above a certain limit. It provided a foundation for Wachovia to survive the week, and subsequently to find a sweeter deal.

Wachovia is the 4th biggest financial group in the USA. Why should government be ordering their sale to a rival? Exactly who in the government was the driver for this plan? At this moment it's unclear, but they've egg on their face(s).

(CEO Bob Steel joined Wachovia from the US Treasury Department last July; he & Treasury Secretary Paulson earlier were colleagues at Goldman Sachs; now reportedly Secretary Paulson subsequently is recusing himself from further involvement).

Government interference at this level is worse than confiscation - they forced a transfer, perhaps to cronies, with no transparency and at a value far below what the market clearly could offer.

Perhaps Citigroup is victimized as well. Already Citigroup reportedly is claiming $60 billion in damages. What a week's work! (thus financiers are under criticism)...

This is a lesson that politicos shouldn't be allowed to mess with individual firms.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Help the Flawed Bailout?

Why were Democrats so eager to help Bush and the bigwigs of finance with $700 billion dollars in bailout assistance? Much is wrong with the new act, and with the people who'll implement it. What's happening?

The original plan can best be remembered as Treasury Secretary Paulson's supreme act of chutzpah -- "give me the money; hurry up; forbid in advance any review of what I'll do."

This was not Mother Theresa asking for alms. Paulson is an extremely wealthy financier whose former firm (Goldman Sachs) is poised to benefit greatly from bailout funding and a revised rulebook. It's a cozy deal too much like the government insider relationship of VP Cheney & Halliburton...

I'd call Paulson a weasel and partly responsible for the financial mess and bad economy, but it's foolhardy to rile a dude with hundreds of billions of dollars in his pocket...

These economic troubles are foremost an indictment of the poor governance of President George W. Bush and his minions. Senator Obama's presidential campaign has been strengthened. So why the hurry among Democrats to assist the President? Why bailout Bush & the Republicans so near the election? Why not let him sink in his own excrement?

The Democrats use the word "bipartisan" and speak of helping America. I wonder if they are simply shortsighted: too-kindly fools who let the monster live (surely it thus will rise again).

It is tempting as well to imagine these politicians are corrupt, and that the rich financiers will fashion them a future payback. But truly I don't believe this is the main driver.

Perhaps the prospect of inheriting a greatly-damaged economy is too dire. Perhaps they are seriously concerned about the exposure of the most disadvantaged citizens (though they could help directly, instead of persisting with 'trickle down' schemes).

Perhaps they look forward to replacing Paulson with their own Treasury Secretary (a brief 108 days from now) and inheriting these new powers.

Perhaps "key allies" elsewhere are being fueled.

Perhaps Democrats don't like the plan, but figure some good will come of it (the revised act included $150 billion of assorted sweeteners), and anyhow it ain't their personal money.

Perhaps politicians fancy themselves financially astute. But top financiers have created an ungainly house-of-cards; it's now already falling apart.

Perhaps thus none of this will work -- they've simply wasted huge funds and made the nation weaker.

Perhaps they've been outmaneuvered strategically...