Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chinese Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S.

I never expected to be remarking on China, but the news still keeps on coming. The US is noted as being a technological powerhouse, so it is difficult to make the case that the US is "Losing It". But each insistence of another country surpassing the US in some sort of technological aspect is an indicator. The title for this post comes from the New York Times article: "Chinese Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S." The Times writes: "A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower."

To be consistent with the the theme of my prior posts concerning the coming brain-drain for so-called US "intellectual property"; the Times notes that: "And typically, research centers with large supercomputers are magnets for top scientific talent, adding significance to the presence of the machines well beyond just cranking through calculations."

The Times even notes the disturbing use of "proprietary" technology. "The United States has plans in place to make much faster machines out of proprietary components and to advance the software used by these systems so that they are easy for researchers to use. But those computers remain years away, and for now, China is king". (emphasis added) I even believe that the introduction of HDTV to the American consumer was purposely "delayed" by the content producers for several years to develop a DRM (proprietary) standard. HDTV technology existed and could have been deployed but was purposely withheld. The use of proprietary technology is a distraction from furthering technological progress.

I never meant to write this much concerning China, but the news is out. I hope that our Congress people are paying attention.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

China and US Fiscal Responsibility

The New York Times today carried "Chinese Telecom Giant in Push for U.S. Market". This article is also similar to the article: "What China Seeks in Chesapeake Shale Deal". In each of these articles, the Times raises the issue of national security: "Some in Congress and the national security establishment fear that Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese military might allow China to tamper with American communications gear." and "China’s $2.2 billion investment Chesapeake Energy involves a potential transfer of technology and intellectual knowledge to Beijing that some people in Washington may find uncomfortable, and that unease could trip up the deal." My concern is that our Congress people do not seem to make the connection that deficit spending is a national security issue.

If our Congress people find the transfer of US technology to Beijing to be potentially uncomfortable, balance the budget. What do our politicians expect China to due with our IOUs? As the Time's articles indicate, China will be buying US assets. And we have given China that money through deficit spending. According to the China Daily, China's holdings of treasury bonds rose slightly to $846.7 billion in July after two months of declines, the US Department of Treasury reported on Thursday."

Balancing the US budget in economic tough times is not simply a question of employment, it is also a national security issue. Time for our politicians to recognize this linkage and to act in a fiscally responsible manner.

PS: Protectionism is not the answer. US corporations buy foreign corporations and Chinese corporations should have the same entitlement.

Monday, October 25, 2010

China "We Own You, You Work for Us Now"

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has an extremely impressive ad.  It shows a Chinese professor conducting a class in 2030 reviewing before his students why the US civilization failed.  Link to Video Here.   Citizens Against Government Waste writes:
"On October 21, 2010, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) unveiled a national ad addressing our country’s spending addiction, the dangers of relentless deficits, and the corrosive nature of our national debt.
This new ad, which features a chilling look at one potential future scenario if America continues on its current destructive fiscal trajectory, is a 2010 homage to “The Deficit Trials,” a 1986 ad that was produced by W.R. Grace & Co.  For those who were able to view it, the ad caused a sensation; it was considered so controversial at the time that the networks refused to run it. "
The add pretty much carries the same production values and emotional punch of Apple's 1984 add introducing the Macintosh computer.  Link to Video Here.

Prior to seeing the add, I did not know about Citizens Against Government Waste , so I can't say whether it is good or bad organization. Regretfully, I can't even claim that Citizens Against Government Waste got it's idea from me, but it does point to a growing cacophony acknowledging that we are headed down an unsustainable path.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Verbal Hypocrisy

The recent firing of Juan Williams by NPR once again illustrates an astonishing dichotomy between what people say and what they actually do. The liberal left advocates free speech, yet they seem to be fall all over themselves in shouting down (censoring) anyone they deem to be expressing "right-wing" sentiments.  Olbermann Slams O'Reilly For 'View' Comments: 'Bigot And Islamophobe'. Court throws out Streisand's invasion of privacy lawsuit.  So much for freedom of speech.

So that I am "fair and balanced", the "right-wing" claims to be the champion of the free market and to insist that the free market will blossom if the government will only get out of the way and stop all that onerous regulation.  Seems that the "right-wing" unabashedly views freedom as a license to steal.  Witness the rise of the ponzi like Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) and the subsequent foreclosure crises. Not to mention disingenuously embracing regulations such as Copyright Term Extension Act and the Bayh–Dole Act.  I guess actually making money through real entrepreneurial work is to old-fashioned.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hand Writing on the Wall

A pleasant surprise from TechDirt noting that China is getting on-board with so-called intellectual property. TechDirt, in the article, "Once Again, Be Careful What You Wish For: China Learning To Use Other Country's Patent Systems" writes: 
"For years and years, US executives, politicians and diplomats have been berating China for "not respecting intellectual property." And, all along, we keep warning that those same folks are not going to like it if China actually did what they're asking it to do. ... Just wait until American companies, whose execs complained about China "not respecting intellectual property," start getting sued in East Texas for violating Huawei's patents."
I recently wrote on this developing issue "China and Chesapeake Energy - A Precursor to the Demise of the US?".  The US may be "top dog" for now, but constructing "bulkheads" (ACTA) to prevent the erosion of US intellectual property will eventually be self-defeating. Bulkheads in the long-run eventually succumb to natural forces. This will become a lesson in being careful of what you ask for.

Monday, October 11, 2010

China and Chesapeake Energy - A Precursor to the Demise of the US?

The New York Times carried this article today: "What China Seeks in Chesapeake Shale Deal". According to the article: "China’s $2.2 billion investment in the Texas oil patch may be small, but the deal with Chesapeake Energy involves a potential transfer of technology and intellectual knowledge to Beijing that some people in Washington may find uncomfortable, and that unease could trip up the deal." This deal, in of itself may not be a big deal; but it could be interpreted as one cut of many future cuts to come leading to the demise of the US. Death by a thousand cuts.

The Times, in asking itself the rhetorical why of this deal, writes: "Part of the reason is that it is simply a way to recycle its stockpile of hundreds of billions of dollars into an asset class other than United States Treasury securities." Though the Times uses the euphemism "recycle", the reality is that our deficit spending is allowing other countries to acquire the financial strength to purchase US businesses by using our own IOUs (treasury securities).  Will our entire country end-up being owned by foreign companies and foreign countries as we spend ourselves into oblivion with money we don't have?

The Times also writes: "But the main reason for this particular deal seems to be the transfer of lucrative shale drilling technology that China has been seeking in its bid to exploit its own shale reserves." While this may be politically unpalatable, the Times overlooked the deeper implications.  The US has been pushing for ever stronger protections for so-called intellectual property.  One example of this process for promoting stronger protections is the international "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA) which is currently in the process of being negotiated. The problem, in terms of a death by a thousand cuts, is that as foreign countries and foreign corporations in acquiring US assets will also be acquiring so-called US intellectual property, such as shale drilling technologies.  Also, as one commentator noted in a prior New York Times article, that foreign countries will soon be developing their own so-called intellectual property.  The US, by demanding strong protections for so-called intellectual property, will eventually be shooting itself in the foot as the foreign countries mimic US protection measures.  Seems that the US Trade Representative is not concerned with the repercussions that could occur should we lose our technological edge.

Deficit spending by the US is not simply a means of stimulating the economy, it also concerns the issuing IOUs that eventually have to be paid.  Those holding the IOUs can then use those IOUs to buy US companies. China's $2.2 billion dollar investement in Chesapeake Energy may only be a beginning.  A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step. (Lao-tzu)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

No Pay, No Spray? - Nanny State Limits

Today Fox news carried an interesting segment No Pay, No Spray? (link to video works, but no video), concerning the case where fighter fighters let a house burn because a $75 fee was not paid.  Now Fox News is not "Fair and Balanced" as they claim.  In fact their tease to the upcoming video segment  alluded to the typical rant of the evil government bureaucracy running amok because a trivial $75.00 was not paid.  I was quite pleasantly surprised when the segment got underway that it turned out not be an anti-government rant.

The panelists quickly dismissed  this as case of supposed government irresponsibility and placed the responsibility on the homeowner for failing to pay.  In fact the panelists even went further equating this with the breaking news that banks can't even prove that the mortgagees in foreclosure owe them money.  So what was the connection of the foreclosure crises to the burning house? Why should anyone act responsibly by paying their bills/taxes when society bails them out for being irresponsible. Congratulations to Fox News for getting the implications of this story correct.

The cartoon below came from Against Monopoly, and seems quite appropriate. If you don't want to pay your obligations for services provided by the government.  Be prepared to do it yourself. (Click on the image to see it better.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Verizon Wireless to Pay Millions in Refunds

Two stories, seemingly unrelated, illustrate how our free-market principles have been corrupted and polarized. David Pogue working in cooperation with the New York Times has exposed a disingenuous business practice by Verizon .  To summarize the issue, Edward Wyatt wrote: "In the last three years, the F.C.C. has received hundreds of complaints from Verizon Wireless customers who said they were charged for data use or Web access at times when their phones were not in use or when they mistakenly pushed a button that activated the phone’s Web browser."  David quotes Verizon: " Approximately 15 million customers who did not have data plans were billed for data sessions on their phones that they did not initiate,” the company said on Sunday."  Evidently, this scam has been going on for sometime.

This incident, once again raises the specter that these companies are purposely implementing underhanded "things" to separate the consumer from their money. Think of it this way, Verizon is a technologically sophisticated company selling very sophisticated smart phones.  So given all the technological expertise at their disposal, Verizon should be able to design a simple "safety switch" to prevent these "accidental" charges. The fact that they have not implies that the management of Verizon is purposefully and willfully promoting disingenuous business practices.

Concerning the second story. Adam Thierer of the Technology Liberation Front wrote an article: Problems in Public Utility Paradise, Part 14: Muni Wi-fi Postmortem. Sadly this article is simply another typical diatribe lambasting attempts by Municipalities to provide their citizens with Wi-Fi services. The theme of the Technology Liberation Front is "... the tech policy blog dedicated to keeping politicians' hands off the 'net and everything else related to technology." So what has this got to do with Verizon?

Verizon, as well as many other technology companies have been caught doing underhanded activities that are injurious to their customers. When companies pursue these strategies and piss-off enough people, regulations happen.  Furthermore, if companies truly want a free-market free of regulations; they need to realize that freedom also means responsibility. 

Unfortunately, many of the posts on the Technology Liberation Front are postured to vilify government without questioning the business practices of the private sector.  It's time for the Technology Liberation Front to look into the mirror  for some serious self-reflection concerning who is responsible for the ills in the American economy. If the Technology Liberation Front is truly championing the concept of keeping the politicians away, I would expect some of the commentators to expose bad corporate behavior and demand that the corporations clean-up their business practices.  It is a sad commentary on American culture when freedom is considered a right to steal and blogs supposedly defending the free-market, such as the Technology Liberation Front remain silent.  For a site based on Libertarian principles, this seems very un-Libertarian

As for me, if a company can't accept responsibility for the freedoms they enjoy, regulate.