Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Complete Mantra

While running for office, Obama regularly chanted out loud his campaign mantra. He also encouraged others to join in. Yes we can.

What we are learning during these transition days is that Obama's mantra has a second part, repeated silently after the first part. The complete mantra is: Yes we can... but no we won't.

Change We Can Believe In?

While running for office, Obama could hardly speak a single sentence without using the word change. Most troops will be home from Iraq by the middle of 2010... he pledged. There will be a fixed timetable... he pledged.
  • Barack Obama will responsibly end the war in Iraq:

    Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased.
But how likely is this to happen if Obama retains Robert Gates, who staunchly opposes a fixed timetable for bringing the troops out of Iraq? And, really, how credible was Obama's word on this, given his personal preference to send more US troops to Afghanistan? (Needless to say, sending more US troops to Afghanistan is a preference that Gates shares.)

Obama's spin on this is continuity. But so much continuity even surprises a skeptic like me. I doubt that McCain would have retained as much of the Bush legacy.

From all of the above, at least Obama's strategy for reviving the economy is getting clearer. And, no, there is nothing original - no change in substance or ethics - in that either.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rational Cost Cutting

As the bubble of capitalism has now burst, managers of large corporations are eager to improve their dismal decreasing profits by cutting costs. At first, they reduce perquisites, but soon they invariably resort to layoffs. Here I propose a rational, phase-wise approach to staff-related cost-cutting.

Phase 1: Reduce the salaries of high-level managers.
In this phase, reduce the salaries of such managers. Managerial bonuses and perquisites should be sharply reduced or even eliminated as the management goals clearly have not been met.

Phase 2: Consolidate high-level management.
In this phase, assign the duties of two or more such managers to a single manager. Managers who are relieved of their duties should be lowered in rank by one level, with the corresponding pay cut.

Phase 3: Reduce the salaries of middle-level managers.
In this phase, reduce the salaries of such managers. Managerial bonuses and perquisites should be sharply reduced or even eliminated as the management goals clearly have not been met.

Phase 4: Consolidate middle-level management.
In this phase, assign the duties of two or more such managers to a single manager. Managers who are relieved of their duties should be lowered in rank by one level, with the corresponding pay cut.

Phase 5: Consolidate staff on all levels.
In this phase, some employees will be laid off. Layoffs should be based on three factors: seniority, efficiency, uniqueness of contribution.

NOTE: This proposal is not a complete process of cost-cutting. Obviously, other methods may also be adopted simultaneously (for example, laying off anyone deemed to be responsible for significant profit loss and discontinuing product lines with minimum contribution to profitability). This proposal merely attempts to offer an efficient and humane approach to employee remuneration and job security.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout Needs A Bailout

Looks like Bush's bailout for the US economy needs a bailout.

The fact is that the US economy is a bubble overdue to burst. Just printing another $700 billion - based on little if any real wealth - is not going to solve anything. It will not restore confidence. It will only inflate the dollar.

Inflating the dollar might help a bit with exports... as long as prices do not go up as quickly as the dollar value goes down. But once the prices do go up, then the only effect will be that the purchasing power of US consumers will be reduced.

When consumer purchasing power is reduced, companies sell less. To increase or even just maintain profit, companies must offset their loss of income. For that purpose, they adopt cost-cutting measures like layoffs, reduced bonuses, hiring cheaper labor in another country, and so on. And that further reduces the purchasing power of US consumers.

Thus the downward spiral will continue.

Part of the solution to the problem is to maintain a more simple and transparent economy. This can be accomplished by tying the dollar value to bullion deposits and closing all speculative markets. But those measures are also only temporary stabilizers.

There is still one great problem to overcome. That problem is the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor that is inevitable under capitalism - a system where the individual's right to hoard vast portions of a finite aggregate wealth is largely unfettered.

The truth is that there is no fix for capitalism. The truth is that capitalism must be discarded. And so the US is fast heading toward a major social transformation. 1776 was a war of independence. Soon we will witness the real American Revolution.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mene Mene Tekel Uparsin

Israel gets 2 corpses. In return, it hands over 199 corpses. Okay, Israel gets the best of that part of the deal. No country needs extra corpses rotting in the ground. Indeed, burial space is at a premium in Israel, so much so that some politicians are even promoting cremation as a progressive alternative (much to the chagrin of the religicos).

But where is the prisoner exchange in all of this? Well, it seems that Israel must not only hand over 199 corpses, but... to pay for the service of clearing out their cemeteries... Israel must also hand over five captured enemies, including one callous child murderer whom the Lebanese - or, at least, the Lebanese Hezbollah supporters - will be welcoming home as a national hero.

So actually, there is no real prisoner exchange. There is only a prisoner gift. It is military madness. Can an army win a war when it trades captives for corpses? And, if that were not crazy enough, what justification can there be for carrying out such an uneven trade at a rate of more than 2 captives to 1 corpse? What sort of soldiers would give their lives for their nation... but only if their dead bodies are buried at home, regardless of how many compatriots must die to make that happen?

As with all other religious states throughout history and throughout the world, the writing is also on the wall here in Israel. The message is unchanged. Arrogant nation, your downfall is imminent.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Someone is sick...

... but who and why?

More kids using anti-psychotic drugs

American children take anti-psychotic medicines at about six times the rate of children in the United Kingdom, according to a comparison based on a new U.K. study. With scant long-term safety data, it's likely the drugs are being over-prescribed for both U.S. and U.K. children, research suggests.

Full Story:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Does A Body Good?

Researchers are experimenting with deep brain stimulation (DBS) to counter depression. According to CNN, "From the cerebral cortex, wires are tunneled behind the ear into the chest, where there's a power source for the electrodes that emit electrical impulses into the brain."

For now at least, this would not be used on people with only occasional and mild depression. Currently, this is only for people whose problem is not just severe but life-threatening - people for whom all other treatment (psychotherapy, drug therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy) has failed. But the possibility of this type of treatment does raise an interesting question about where we are heading.

In future, will each human body be tweaked with mechanical devices for better physical and mental performance? If so, what percentage will be mechanical? Will we even need a biological body?

Silver Rain

A major cosmopolitan center has a new, Conservative mayor with a penchant for elitist views. And two named men were just jailed there for blackmailing an unnamed royal.

Someone somewhere has to know
Silver rain was falling down
Upon the dirty ground of London Town
Paul McCartney & Wings

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama and Wright

Apparently, the Reverend Wright controversy is still dogging Barack Obama. It seems to be the number 1 topic on many talk shows. However, none of the panelists or interviewers that I have seen came to grips with the issue better than Jon Stewart when he asked Obama: "Should you become president, is it your intention to enslave the white race?" Obama's reply was: "No, it is not." But, then, what else could he have said?

Political campaigns are like religious proselytization. In the final analysis, voters are expected to make a leap of faith in the choice of a savior. Pardon me, but I neither get nor expect to get rapture from any of the main candidates.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Good Week for Supporters of the Pope and Conspiracy Theories

I would have titled it differently, but the terms, "papist" and "conspiracy theorist", are typically used in a disparaging fashion. Despite my personal skepticism in both directions, that is not my intent here.

From a distance, it seems that the Pope's visit to the USA has been successful. His well-planned - presumably well-scripted - diplomacy has gone smoothly, without a single gaffe that I have heard about. He has reached out to just about every segment of North American society, speaking compassionately about local issues, perhaps most notably pedophilia by priests. A Pope who before was largely unknown has now, to some extent at least, touched the hearts of the people.

Of particular interest to me is the somewhat socialist theme that threads its way through many of the Pope's pronouncements. That lends insight into the current strategy of the Vatican - a strategy that was necessarily revised after the fall of the Soviet Union, leaving Russia bereft of its superpower status.

Another development this week is a rekindling of interest in the RFK assassination. I cannot say much about the credibility of the arguments being made. I wait to hear a rebuttal from experts. But the main thrust of the argument seems to be that there must have been a second shooter - someone other than Sirhan Sirhan.

I wonder how much this really matters today, thirty years after the event. Of course, if Sirhan is innocent, it would matter to him. But another smoking gun would not prove Sirhan's innocence. On the contrary, it only makes it possible for Sirhan to remain legally guilty for the shooting of RFK in the back, even though Sirhan might never have been behind RFK (as has been alleged). Perhaps more important, proving that there must have been a second gun is still a long way from establishing who fired that gun.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

109 Million

"Clintons Earned More Than $109 Million Since 2000"

And they call it "public service". Seems more like big business to me.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

To What Standard?

When Chelsea Clinton was asked about the impact of the Monica Lewinsky scandal on her mother's campaign, her reply was "I do not think that's any of your business." I disagree entirely.

The question was valid, if somewhat insensitive. Personally, I would have asked a much broader question. And I would address that question to each of the candidates. My question is: To what standard of ethics should presidential candidates - and presidents - be held?

Dalai Lama On Violence In Tibet

It seems that the Dalai Lama is engaging in a metamorphosed sentimental politics.

He says that he does not support violence anywhere or at any time. A week ago, he said he would resign if the violence in Tibet continues. Then a bit later he said he would resign from his role as secular head of state in absentia. Then more recently he claimed to be "powerless" to stop the violence in Tibet. And now he wants to do some negotiation with China. He says that he does not want independence for Tibet - he just wants some sort of autonomy. But why should China negotiate over Tibet with a man who no longer accepts secular leadership of the country and who claims to be "powerless" to control the Tibetan protesters?

Obama's Race Speech

A long speech, well-delivered, but I would sum it up in two words - selling reformism.

Quite frankly, there were a lot of remarks in the speech that were certainly false, especially when Obama was talking about himself and why he does things. There were also a lot of remarks that were just an unabashed attempt to play on the sentiments of the audience. But at the heart of it all was Obama's pseudo-reformist strategy.