Dan on April 18th, 2014

Over a year ago ‘The Weev’ was convicted of a what was called ‘hacking’ when he exposed email addresses carelessly made available by AT&T.  At the time, it was described as being convicted for embassarassing AT&T.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/11/weev-is-free/

This conviction was finally overturned on a venue technicality by a federal appeals court.  In the decision, the appeals court openly challenges the hacking basis for the conviction.   According to the article author:

The argument is concrete enough that it makes you wonder how the lower court managed to come to its decision in good faith.

Agreed.

Dan on April 10th, 2014

A great article here on how solar energy could be on cusp of radically changing the world.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10755598/Global-solar-dominance-in-sight-as-science-trumps-fossil-fuels.html

Solar energy advances will have a huge impact on geopolitics if we experience global energy deflation.  We are seeing it now in 100% electric vehicles, and utilities building solar farms.  Don’t forget that solar energy has its own version of Moore’s law, where the cost is cut in half every few years.

How would the world look if clean energy was plentiful and cheaper than oil?  Who would be the big winners and losers?  As an investor, I don’t think its too late to invest in solar stocks (you just have to be sure and pick one of the companies that survive) – but there will be other winners out there.  Energy storage companies and  industrial big energy consumers (Aluminum companies come to mind).

In addition to cheap global labor and labor reducing technology advances, now we could have cheap energy.  How can deflation not be on the horizon.  Read this article, and give some thought to how the world could look 10 years from now.

Dan on March 29th, 2014

It seems like the US has been rattling more sabres in the direction of Russia, and I am not sure why that is.  The US position is that Putin is a madman intent on conquest – the Russians say they are just looking after their interests.  This morning I ran across this article which typifies the American slant.

Interestingly, there is no mention of what motive Putin would have to invade the Ukraine.  The insinuation is because Putin is a madman.  As is so often the case, the best analysis in the article was in the article comments:

 

unkraineandputin

We will find out soon enough who is right, and if Putin is the demon being portrayed by the US Government.  If he invades the Ukraine, then I will understand the  concern.  If he does not invade in the next month or so, then maybe the fear should be the military industrial complex is responsible for our foreign policy.

We shall know soon enough.

Dan on March 26th, 2014

In January I wrote a post on gaming advancements on the horizon, and thanks to Facebook it looks like virtual reality has taken a step forward.  Mark Zuckerberg must think virtual reality is the future of gaming and perhaps other applications, spending 2 billion on startup Oculus Rift.

I am a big fan of the future of virtual reality, but I can’t see how Oculus Rift justifies a 2 billion valuation.  The good news for non Facebook shareholders though is this will spur even more research and advancement into virtual reality because it can  attract big money.  One reason I don’t think the valuation is justified is Sony just introduced its own virtual reality headset for the Playstation.  So the Oculus rift is not the only game in town, and the competitors are likely not far behind.

The biggest mystery is how Facebook will integrate virtual reality into it’s experience.  If Facebook does want to pivot a bit and become the hub for a virtual reality community and game center – maybe Oculus Rift will be a bargain.  It could be that Mark Zuckerberg is thinking a few moves ahead of everybody else.

Dan on March 16th, 2014

This article is a good backgrounder on why we should be afraid of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) = a trade deal that is being brewed up in the Obama Administration.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/on-the-wrong-side-of-globalization/

The TPP has been called NAFTA on steroids, and there is concern among many economists as to its effect on labor and markets.  To me the greatest concern is how the TPP is being formed:

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a bill this year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

The TPP is being authored by multinational corporations in concert with the government. It appears obvious that the creators of this plan want to ensure as little public understanding and involvement as possible.  What could be the motive to fast-track this plan?  Is a partnership being negotiated since 2010 in need of a fast track?

This article provides some insight into the effects of NAFTA, pointing out that the effects of the TPP could be much bigger:

The Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which documents this trend, reads like a funeral program for the middle class. More than 845,000 workers have been certified under this one narrow and hard-to-qualify-for program as having lost their jobs because of offshoring of factories to, and growing imports from, Mexico and Canada since Nafta.  The result is downward pressure on middle-class wages as manufacturing workers are forced to compete with imports made by poorly paid workers abroad. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two out of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 saw wage reductions, most losing more than 20 percent.

The fair trade argument that trade partnerships will help the middle class by providing cheaper goods is also refuted:

They [Center for Economic and Policy Research] found that American workers without college degrees had most likely lost more than 12 percent of their wages to NAFTA-style trade, even accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods. This means a loss of more than $3,300 per year for a worker earning the median annual wage of $27,500.

Last year, 33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree.  Can entry level employees at the bottom of the pay scale afford a bigger free trade agreement?   Tack on the growing loss of jobs primarily on the lower end of the labor market due to technological improvements, and this portends a bleak future for middle America.

Hopefully coverage of the TPP and its secretive development will be exposed, and a grass roots effort will arise to bring this agreement and how it was developed for public discussion.  If not, this could have long term effects on furthering the deterioration of wealth inequality in the United States.

 

 

Dan on March 6th, 2014

I recently posted a new article on Seeking Alpha regarding my thoughts on free software and the new CEO.  Check it out at

http://seekingalpha.com/article/2068903-satya-nadella-knows-the-power-of-free

Dan on March 1st, 2014

I ran across a couple quick posts that shed some light on why people such as myself maintain blogs.  I have purposely not evaluated the cost / benefit of maintaining this blog, or how I would ever try to monetize  this (though feel free to support my advertisers!).

Sarah Peck had a post worth noting – that its not about the number of viewers -in fact perhaps in my case its best that readership stays small.

And James Clear  also had an interesting post about establishing a writing schedule, and not waiting for inspiration.   I think its a great point – too often I wait for inspiration – whereas I should just hunker down and not be afraid to create junk if I need to.

Writing for me is an ongoing learning process.  This blog has helped me frame thoughts and think about things differently. And thanks to the small readership, I have the luxury of posting whatever quality of content I have in a given week. No editors or deadlines.  What else could a writer hope for?

 

 

Dan on February 26th, 2014

I must admit I am conflicted on this whole minimum wage debate.  In a country that brings so much success to so many people, it seems that there should be a higher floor of support for every worker.  Some predict the planned raise of the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could cost 500,000 jobs, though I think that seems too high of estimate.  However, Seattle is considering a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour – what impact would that have on jobs?

Based on my observation, I think a $15 minimum wage would cost a lot of jobs.  As a guy who makes a living automating business processes, I would reap the benefit of budgets spent on automating clerical jobs.  I can think of several projects my clients have to streamline operations that are on the back burner – but if their cost of labor went up 50%, those projects would likely jump in priority.

Another example:  How about this robot replacing security guards :

Watch the video, and see if you can’t imagine this thing being as effective as a person at monitoring buildings.  The quoted cost of this thing is $1,000 a month for 1 eight hour shift a day – vs $2,400 a month for security guard at $15 an hour.  I fear raising the minimum wage will increase the replacement of low paying jobs with technology.

My proposal?  Tie the payroll tax to the unemployment rate.  Anybody earning lower than $10 or $15 an hour gets a payroll tax holiday. When the unemployment rate is high, make it a reverse payroll tax on the low end of the pay scale and higher on the high end.  As the unemployment rate comes down the rate flattens out across all pay levels.  This could be revenue neutral, and  would encourage so called ‘job creators’ to create jobs in order to reduce the tax on their pay.  Maybe even this will get us closer to a 35 hour work week.   In this time where the top 10% of earners are doing much better than the bottom 40%, it seems like this seems a better approach to provide a living wage yet not displace important entry level jobs.

 

Dan on February 14th, 2014

This whole Ukraine political situation has all the makings of another superpower proxy battle with the Russians on one site and the West on the other.  If you haven’t been following this story, the Ukraine was poised to be the centerpiece of the European Economic Union’s expansion east.   However, the Ukraine is is in fiscal turmoil (great summary here), and so the government took Russia up on a  to keep solvent – thus shifting the political balance to Russia’s side.  This gave rise to street protests, and political unrest and rising dissident factions.

This article provides another interesting perspective on the power struggle between east and west over the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Victoria Nuland’s diplomatic gaffe  shows  America has its own agenda with the Ukraine.  What could America’s interest be in the Ukraine?  Hmm.. looks like there is Oil in them thar hills.

Yep – lots of multinational interests and natural resources to boot.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Dan on January 24th, 2014

The thing I found most interesting out this Consumer Reports report on carcinogens in Pepsi was Pepsi’s defense:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/01/caramel-color-the-health-risk-that-may-be-in-your-soda/index.htm

Consumer reports found the levels of caramel coloring  in a can of Pepsi should require a cancer warning.

Pepsi’s defense?

 It [Pepsi] cited government consumption data that shows that the average amount of diet soda consumed by people who drink it is 100 milliliters per day, or less than a third of a 12-ounce can. For that reason, they believe that Pepsi One does not require cancer-risk warning labels—even if the amount of 4-MeI in a single can exceeds 29 micrograms.

So Pepsi is stating it can defend that its customers on average drink less than a third of a can a day (this argument is obviously flawed, because an open can of Pepsi goes flat in a couple hours..).  Perhaps they are thinking when people have a couple freinds together the split a can 3 ways.   Or,  maybe they are saying that the average customer drinks one can every three days.    Based on my not-to-scientific observations, I would say people either drink a lot of Pepsi every day or not at all.

So based on their defense – I consider them guilty as charged.