Archive for February, 2008


Obamanomics – Patriot Employer Act

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting editorial today on a piece of legislation that Obama is apparently pushing, the Patriot Employer Act:

Mr. Obama’s proposal would designate certain companies as “patriot employers” and favor them over other, presumably not so patriotic, businesses.

The legislation takes four pages to define “patriotic” companies as those that: “pay at least 60 percent of each employee’s health care premiums”; have a position of “neutrality in employee [union] organizing drives”; “maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in the United States relative to the number of full-time workers outside of the United States”; pay a salary to each employee “not less than an amount equal to the federal poverty level”; and provide a pension plan.

In other words, a patriotic employer is one which fulfills the fondest Big Labor agenda, regardless of the competitive implications. The proposal ignores the marketplace reality that businesses hire a work force they can afford to pay and still make money. Coercing companies into raising wages and benefits above market rates may only lead to fewer workers getting hired in the first place.

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, “patriot employers” qualify for a 1% tax credit on their profits. To finance this tax break, American companies with subsidiaries abroad would have to pay the U.S. corporate tax on profits earned abroad, rather than the corporate tax of the host country where they are earned. Since the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, while most of the world has a lower rate, this amounts to a big tax increase on earnings owned abroad.

Put another way, U.S. companies would suddenly have to pay a higher tax rate than their Chinese, Japanese and European competitors. According to research by Peter Merrill, an international tax expert at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, this change would “raise the cost of capital of U.S. multinationals and cause them to lose market share to foreign rivals.” Apparently Mr. Obama believes that by making U.S. companies less profitable and less competitive world-wide, they will somehow be able to create more jobs in America.

This is a horrifically bad idea. One should hope that the Journal is somehow mis-construing what the Act really does. Because if it’s true, then the worst fears about Obama being a die-hard liberal are to be believed.

Read the whole thing here.

UPDATE: I should emphasize that even Charlie Rangel seemed to understand that America’s 35% corporate tax rate is simply too high. If Obama stands to the left of Rangel, then that’s really saying something.


Microsoft Fined $1.35 Billion

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

So the EU has fined Microsoft $1.35 billion for…

The commission said the company charged ‘unreasonable prices’ for access to interface documentation for work group servers prior to Oct 22 last year.

You know, I’m no fan of Microsoft, it’s products or its tactics, but this seriously wreaks of economic nationalism to me. I think the US needs to do something to tell the EU to back off. I’m not looking for a trade war exactly, but we can’t just let the EU loot American companies unabated.

Read more here.


Reader & Short Links

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Here goes:


If I Were John McCain

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

By now you’ve undoubtedly seen the picture of Barack Obama wearing traditional Somali attire, taken on a goodwill type of trip he made there some time ago. The Clinton campaign released the picture, with the excuse that “this is the type of things the Republicans will try to show to discredit Obama in the general election.” This is an attempt to make Hillary appear more vetted or some such thing (even though she refuses to release her tax returns)…

But the real person who should be taking offense here is John McCain. John McCain is the Republican nominee. So this isn’t some random guess at what the Republican nominee may do whomever he may be. Clinton is implying pretty directly that this is the type of tactic that John McCain would engage in in the general election should Obama be the nominee.

John McCain should take deep offense at this, and should issue a public statement to that effect, perhaps going so far as to demand an apology. McCain, you may recall, has adopted a daughter from Bangladesh. In the 2000 election, someone engaged in push polling against McCain, claiming his daughter was the result of an extramarital affair he had with a black woman. So McCain had been the object of these types of racially charged tactics, and can rightly claim the victim status here.

Were John McCain to come out and state that he too has an inter-racial family, that he too has had racial politics used against him, and that he takes enormous offense at it being insinuated that he, of all people, would play racial politics against Obama, he could crush Hillary’s campaign right now, and further rally the Republican base around him. It would be quite a way to steal the moment.

We’ll see if he’s savvy enough to do it, but I doubt it. My guess is his advisors are secretly hoping for Hillary to pull it out so that he’ll have an easier time in the general election. But that tactic is a mistake. Obama is the likely nominee at this point, and McCain ought to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase his family and crush Hillary now, while he has the chance.


Sullivan On Clinton

Monday, February 25th, 2008

This is too rich:

But we’ve learned something important these past couple of weeks.

Clinton is a terrible manager of people. Coming into a campaign she had been planning for, what, two decades, she was so not ready on Day One, or even Day 300. Her White House, if we can glean anything from the campaign, would be a secretive nest of well-fed yes-people, an uncontrollable egomaniac spouse able and willing to bigfoot anyone if he wants to, a phalanx of flunkies who cannot tell the boss when things are wrong, and a drizzle of dreary hacks like Mark Penn. Her only genuine skill is pivoting off the Limbaugh machine (which is now as played out as its enemies). Her new weapon is apparently bursting into tears. I mean: really. […]

It seems obvious to me that the Clintons blew this because they never for a second imagined they could. So they never planned to fight it. Once put in a fair contest, they turned out to be terrible campaigners, terrible politicians, bad managers, useless executives, wooden public speakers. If you’re a Democrat, that’s good to know, isn’t it? All that bullshit about Day One and experience? In retrospect: laughable.

Whatever happens in this campaign, if it finally puts the Clintons in our rear-view mirror, it will have been worth a great deal. We’re not quite there yet, and the moment you feel any sympathy for a Clinton, they will use it to their own ends. But I’m enjoying the backward glance, however long it lasts. We’re nearly free of them. Nearly.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Read Andrew Sullivan.


Time For Hillary To Go

Monday, February 25th, 2008

The chorus begins its song.

Robert Novak:

Even before Sen. Barack Obama won his ninth-straight contest against Sen. Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin last Tuesday, wise old heads in the Democratic Party were asking this question: Who will tell her that it’s over, that she cannot win the presidential nomination and the sooner she leaves the race the more it will improve chances of defeating Sen. John McCain in November?

Jonathan Alter:

If Hillary Clinton wanted a graceful exit, she’d drop out now—before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries—and endorse Barack Obama. This would be terrible for people like me who have been dreaming of a brokered convention for decades. For selfish reasons, I want the story to stay compelling for as long as possible, which means I’m hoping for a battle into June for every last delegate and a bloody floor fight in late August in Denver. But to withdraw this week would be the best thing imaginable for Hillary’s political career. She won’t, of course, and for reasons that help explain why she’s in so much trouble in the first place.

This chorus will grow louder in the coming days, and will be deafening by March 5th.


The Wall Street Journal And Net neutrality

Monday, February 25th, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has been waging a war against net neutrality as of late. I’m not sure what’s behind it, if they have some stake in the game or if they’re just Internet ignoramuses. Regardless, it’s a bit stupefying. Observe:

Their arguments basically center on the idea that net neutrality consists of “regulating” the Internet, which would be bad. But that’s a gross misstatement of the facts, particularly coming from some of the figures authoring these op-eds, people such as George Gilder and Andy Kessler (admittedly, the Kessler piece is better than the others).

The basic problem is that the Internet is built on everybody utilizing the same playbook, that everybody understands and interprets the same instruction sets in the same ways. When you mess with that, you mess with the Internet itself. Net Neutrality is no more a destructive regulation than is requiring mortgage lenders to compute APR so that people know what they’re getting with a loan. It’s about standard setting, which is incidentally a power given to congress in Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution.

But perhaps more importantly, these free-market arguments are really invalid because there is not and never had been a free and open market for broadband ever in most of the United States. In most places, municipalities granted local monopolies to cable companies to lay down cable in exchange for goodies from the cable companies. The result is that in most of the Unites States, the consumer has no choice in provider. They can’t withhold their business from their cable company unless they wish to sell their house and move. Given that reality, it seems to me that there is an immediate need to regulate the broadband ISP’s as one would monopolies. And the most basic regulation should be some form of Net Neutrality.

I would also add to that a standard for measuring broadband, equivalent to the APR calculation method for mortgage lenders. Right now, there is no standard way to calculate what one means by Megabits per second. Does that mean average throughout the day, or highest throughput during non-peak hours, or what? Some clarity here would be appreciated.

And just to repeat myself, the best piece written on Net Neutrality was written by me back in January 2006. Read Rob Sama on Net Neutrality.


Reader & Short Links

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Reader & Short Links

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

iPhone Flash

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

This article is a doozy:

Apple Inc. and longtime partner Adobe Systems Inc. are at a flash point over the iPhone.

Since its debut in June, the iPhone’s mobile Web browser has been off-limits to nearly all videos delivered over the Internet. That is because the browser isn’t compatible with Flash Player, an Adobe-made media player used to view Internet videos.

Except for YouTube, of course. Apple has a separate application for watching those.

Videos for the iPhone have to be specially formatted to a file type that Apple endorses. Google Inc.’s YouTube is the only video provider now doing this, and only a handful of videos are available.

It’s an open video format, unlike Flash video, which is proprietary and owned by Adobe. No wonder Apple won’t play that game.

Adobe’s patience appears to be wearing thin. “No one aside from [Apple Chief Executive] Steve Jobs has any idea if or when it’s coming,” Ryan Stewart, Adobe’s chief spokesman for its Internet-based applications, wrote on his blog last week. “Everyone I talk to doesn’t know anything.”

In other words, it ain’t happening.

The iPhone’s history is already marked by Apple’s demands scaring off would-be partners, including Verizon Wireless, jointly owned by Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, and China Mobile Ltd. Now it appears the same tactics are straining Apple’s relationship with Adobe.

And how, exactly, does saying “I don’t want to do business with you any more” entail scaring anyone off? Saying “No” isn’t the same thing as being unreasonable. And evidently, Apple wasn’t so unreasonable as to not get a deal done. They got a deal with AT&T, and Verizon must deeply regret not getting that deal now. IN fact, all the telco’s are revamping their business models to revolve around data instead of voice. Too bad for everyone else the most popular mobile browser in the world is mobile Safari.

The standoff could be resolved by the end of the month, when Apple is due to release iPhone software tools that may include a way to make the iPhone compatible with Flash Player. That would cheer investors; any Adobe-iPhone tie-up would erase a lingering concern and likely give a lift to Apple’s shares. But the failure to end the stalemate raises the volume on the issue and puts even more strain on the companies’ relationship.

We threaten you with scary talk about dumping your shares for rejecting Adobe, but we might buy your shares if you do what Adobe wants.

Seriously, give it up.

Apple shares rose $1.64, or 1.3%, to $123.82 in 4 p.m. composite trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, well below a 52-week high of $202.96, reached Dec. 27.

Adobe, which had about $3.2 billion in sales in 2007, hasn’t disclosed how much of its business comes from Apple. Apple has a small share of the world-wide personal-computer market, however, so it isn’t Adobe’s biggest client. If the iPhone adds Flash, it could lift the pressure slightly on Adobe’s stock, down around 19% for the year.

Adobe has been locked out of the hottest new platform to come around in a decade because they acted like assholes to Apple in the past. Now they’re hoping for love because their stock price could use a boost.

The lack of Flash Player is an oft-cited reason for not buying the iPhone, according to a number of Apple online user forums.

Bullshit. Cite just one quote.

An Apple spokeswoman said the company values its relationship with Adobe but had no additional comment, other than to point to a comment by Mr. Jobs in July about eventually adding Flash. An Adobe representative echoed the same sentiments about the partnership but also had no additional comment.

Wow, lots of quotes about people holding back on buying an iPhone because of a lack of Flash. Wow.

With the companies generally keeping mum, it has been largely left to outsiders to suggest why the two seem at odds.

Here’s a hint. Flash for the Mac sucks, and Adobe took their sweet time in releasing Universal versions of their popular apps. I’d expect some serious tribute to be paid before Apple lets Flash come anywhere near an iPhone.

Andru Edwards, who writes for the Gear Live blog, says it is strictly an Apple business decision. He believes criticisms that the Flash Player uses too much processing and battery power are red herrings.

Another theory is that Apple may be developing its own player, given that Adobe’s products for cellphones are essentially the only choice now available.

What does that even mean? Only choice for what? Certainly not for video. Certainly not for creating games. Maybe she’s talking about intrusive strobe-light style advertising…

The companies have a history of strained relations. Several years ago, Adobe dropped support for Apple’s Macintosh computers and then introduced other software products that were only compatible with Microsoft Corp. software. Then, Apple made some product changes affecting the distribution of Adobe’s software products.

With the new tensions over the iPhone, it appears the two may be drifting further apart.

“They really needed each other 10 or 20 years ago. That’s clearly less important now,” said Jeffrey Tarter, former editor of software-industry newsletter Softletter.

Did we really have to read through that entire rotten article just to get to the truth tucked in at the end? Man…

I’m getting an iPhone at the end of March when my plan runs out. And if for some god-forsaken reason Apple chooses to make Flash available as a download I, for one, will be skipping on it.

Read the article for yourself here.