Archive for November, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth About The Economy

[ music | Nine Inch Nails – Somewhat Damaged ]

A friend linked me to this article and he asked for my opinion. I’m flattered he think my view matters, and he asked me to blog it. In short, I think this guy’s way off base.

First, remember this. When it comes to investments, you haven’t lost, or gained a penny until you cash out. You paid a certain price to buy in, and until you sell, your losses and gains are theoretical because you don’t have the money on the board, you have slips of paper in the company that are worth that much but only if you sell. So unless you sell those slips when they’re worth less than you paid, you haven’t lost anything. That’s why investing is for the long term, and not for the faint of heart.

Also, what the writer there fails to acknowledge is that while the Euro may be a “stronger currency”, it’s very bad for Europe’s economy if people start flooding it with investment cash because that’ll inflate the value of the Euro, making their exports more expensive, and hurting their economy. A little investment at once, or a lot over the long term is good, but a big influx at once causes instability. Additionally, just a few years ago the European economy was stagnant. It took the Euro to bring some balance to the continental economy. And now that all those countries are using one currency, one bank, economic issues in individual countries are harder to address because each country can no longer adjust their own money supply as needed. The US can because the dollar supply is managed by the Fed via interest rates. It can make credit more or less expensive, making it harder or easier to get loans and managing how people use their own capital. The US economy is more flexible for this, and more stable because exactly one country controls the dollar, while dozens of countries are all in cooperation with the Euro. History says European countries don’t tend to agree on any one thing for extended periods of time.

China has SO much invested in the US they can’t AFFORD to pull out. We’re China’s biggest customer, they can’t afford for us to go under either. Note how he values China’s “$1.4 trillion reserves.” Not Yuan, not Euros, but Dollars. The dollar is still the international standard. China has a lot of US debt. There are very few countries who can afford to buy that much debt, so China’s diversification options are limited by who can afford it, and who wants to buy it. If we’re that bad an investment, no one will want it. If they have no shortage of buyers, then we’re not that bad off.

The building boom didn’t start in 2002, it really started back in the early 80s, maybe a little earlier. The real estate market has been in a bubble for 20 years. Donald Trump got bitten by a correction in the early 90s, but even he knows that even in a declining real estate market, there’s money to be made if you invest wisely. The bubble is bursting because people’s bad investments are finally no longer able to ride the coattails of cheap loans and blind faith that everything always appreciates without fail.

Further, it’s not the Fed, it’s Bush’s terrible economic policies finally catching up with us. Huge tax cuts, even bigger spending increases, a bad war… The deficit is more than double what it was when Clinton took office, and Bush’s spending exceeds even Reagan’s excessive deficit-laden budgets. At least Reagan knew that eventually all that debt had to be paid off. Bush doesn’t seem to know that, or maybe he just doesn’t care.

And it was Greenspan’s fault that the real estate market didn’t correct several years ago, during the dot com crash he dropped rates too much to keep people from feeling too much pain. That was a correction, too many people buying into thin business plans based on selling a $5 of dog food via the internet but forgetting people won’t pay $20 to ship that dog food when they can get the bag for the same price at the grocery store. He kept dropping rates too far too fast. That just allowed people to take their bad dotcom investments and shift them into bad real estate investments on borrowed money.

This is another correction. The entire world economy is an interdependent system. The system is very complex. No single player makes all the decisions, no single player can go down the tubes without causing a world of pain for the other players. Everyone feels some pain sometimes. Right now, this is out time to feel the pain. Ten years ago it was Japan. Ten years from now it might be China or India or Europe. It happens. The only way to survive it is to remain calm. We’re all in this together.

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The REAL Truth About Mozilla

[ music | Foo Fighters – Disenchanted Lullaby ]

Recently someone ran over to WordPress and started a blog about Mozilla stuff. Now, I might have linked to that blog a while ago, but the latest post (as of this date) is nothing more than a personal screed against Mitchell. I never met her personally, but I’ve hung around long enough to feel comfortable enough to say that I doubt she has any significant personal ambitions of wealth here. If she did she’d have left long ago. Have you read this woman’s bio?

But he (or she) did make a few good points, but never got down to the root problems. Mozilla is full of brilliant people. sure, there are some rotten apples, but find me a single organization without them. No one at the top got there by being stupid. However, I think one issue still plaguing Mozilla to this day is management. But there’s another old saying that comes into play here, never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

Mozilla was founded by some people who had less than stellar social skills to start with, and they came from Netscape. Netscape was the golden child for a long time. Then MS came along and abused their position and ground Netscape down to nothing more than a sticker on the wall. A lot of the spirit of NS survived though, and that’s mostly good. But one thing I think that came along that shouldn’t have, and has survived like a virus, is an idea that once a decision has been made, it’s the right one. Arrogance, that used to be called. It is a phenomenon I am somewhat acquainted with. Humility doesn’t always seem to be in sufficient supply at Lizard Central.

Worse, this arrogance had a tendency to make Mozilla look aloof and smug to the community that supports it. The way Seamonkey was handled is a good example. Regardless of how the upper echelon actually felt, they came across as seeing Seamonkey as a bane, a ball and chain, an annoyance best shot and buried. I don’t actually think this is what they intended, but that’s how many people received the news. the Firebird name fiasco is an even clearer example. It wouldn’t have broken anyone’s back to say, “Hey, you know what, you’re right, we made a mistake, and while we can’t change it today, we assure you all that we’re working on the issue and it WILL be resolved within a few months.” The recent transition of Thunderbird was another example, although was handled a little better. But it was still handled poorly enough to give more fodder to trolls like Truthboy over at his WordPress blog.

However, I think there’s a glimmer of hope. They realized, were convinced, or planned all along and just really don’t know how to manage public relations, that Thunderbird is a very valuable property for both Mozilla and the world at large. A property with a lot of promise and potential if handled right. And they’re making some really good moves to help give that promise a chance to come true. I’m not sure this kind of thing would have happened 5 years ago. It shows that the success of Firefox, both in users, visibility, respect, and maybe even financially, has had a positive effect on the culture inside Mozilla.

So, what’s the real truth about Mozilla? They need more education about managing people, not developers. Some good old fashioned person-to-person human interaction across the board. I think that’s really the biggest issue anymore. Now, I know some will say, “Hey, anyone can speak their minds here.” The ability to do so, and feeling like one can are two different things. And I think they need someone to help temper some of the language in communications with the community. A little diplomacy goes a long way, internally and externally.

Take it from me. I’ve never said anything that could be construed as offensive or arrogant.

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USPS now another tendril of DHS…

[ music | Radiohead – Karma Police ]

When I checked my Post Office Box on Monday, I found a lovely photocopied letter amongst my mail. This is a large scan of the letter, and this is a smaller scan. The only edit I performed was to erase my PO Box number that had been hand written above where it says “ID only”. The “ID only” part was also handwritten, but is part of the photocopy, while my individual copy had my number written on it. I’ve also retyped the letter in it’s entirety letter for letter below so you can more easily read it.

Notice how this starts out as asking you for identification. That seems reasonable enough. However, when you read the entire document, you see it’s not really interested in your identity, it’s interested in your physical address. It’s quite specific about what they will accept as ID also, excluding documents many of us would reach for first. I asked the desk clerk about it, airing my dissatisfaction, and she said it’s all related to the PATRIOT Act, saying they all have to “jump through lots of silly hoops since 9/11.” Once again, the PATRIOT Act is being used as a crowbar for the gov’t to pry further into our lives. If a terrorist is using a post office box for illegal purposes, that alone is more than enough for USPS Investigators to be called in, and even to bring in the Feds. Further, if these “evildoers” need to be tracked to their base camp, asking them isn’t likely to provide truthful results. If these guys can get fake IDs and visas and whatnot, they can use those fake documents to fake out the USPS.

This is nothing but further encroachment of legitimate citizens’ rights that does nothing to stop terrorism or illegal activities whatsoever. I can’t imagine that this kind of security theater makes anyone feel safe, and I’m sickened that this kind of crap goes on still.



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